The SEO industry is growing rapidly—estimated to balloon to $79 billion by 2020. Even though you may already be doing great with SEO marketing, you should not ignore the potential benefit of a virtual private network (VPN) on SEO strategies. A VPN is a solution that helps connect two parties on the internet anonymously and using an encrypted network that is private. It is mainly used to protect your online privacy and access content that is not available in a particular zone.
So, how does a VPN benefit SEO? Let’s get started.
Understand local SEO using a VPN
There are many locations that a company might want to target. For example, you can be in Australia and want to target India. However, if you do a quick Google search, it will show local results from Australia—not a specific result for India that you wanted. As an SEO specialist, you may want to know what the people of India are searching for. Moreover, you would also want to know about the competition around those areas. If that’s the case, you should use a VPN.
A VPN can seriously change how you do research about a local market. By using a VPN, you can trick Google into thinking that you are from India (or any region that you are trying to learn about). This also means you can do a local search and learn about the local audience needs and try to understand what queries they are using. All this information can change how you perform in other areas.
Why use a VPN when you can always use targeted ads? Well, first, you need to learn about what the local audience searches for. Clearly, there is an added advantage in knowing local searches. Moreover, you can also see competitors local ads and learn how they are targeting the audience.
Last, but not the least, you can also know how your ads are being served in local areas.
Protect privacy when working
SEO is a competitive market. To succeed, you need always to be ahead of your competitors. This means hiding your steps when you visit your competitors or when you mimic/modify their strategies.
All of this sounds good, but the competitors can easily track your IP and know about you ahead of time. This can lead them to your site which turn will open up the possibility of them copying your strategy. As competition is high, you should always try to hide your steps or at least hide your strategy from the competitors as much as you can.
That’s not the only problem. Google can also track you if they find anything suspicious. They can know if you are buying backlinks—not good.
The solution for all these problems is to use a VPN. It doesn’t matter if you are running a website that is new or old, you should always hide your digital footprint as much as you can. With a VPN, you can do your research and stay hidden at the same time. This will improve your chances to grow in the market.
Do remote SEO work
With the rise in remote work, there is no denying that we need to protect our privacy when working online. Also, as an SEO specialist, you need to have access to the different tools which might be restricted due to the location from which you are trying to access it. For example, China blocks most of the Google services. But if your main focus is SEO, you must have access to Google.
That’s why you should use a VPN to have stress-free access to any tool, website, or service you want. This will improve your productivity, and you won’t have to think twice when working.
Get past the Google’s search query reCAPTCHAs
Working as an SEO specialist, you are always expected to to keep a tab on certain SEO stats and keywords that are relevant to your project. Not only that, but you also need to search for new keywords every now and then. However, Google might flag you for doing too many searches too often. If you are flagged, you will constantly be redirected to Google reCAPTCHAs.
You may also get a different error which might say that there is unusual traffic from this network. Now to proceed further, you need to solve a reCAPTCHA every few searches. This can lead to a loss of productive work. Also, it is no fun to fill reCAPTCHAs all the live long day.
To solve the issue, you must use a VPN. A good VPN can change IP addresses, making you work with a flow. VPNs are also useful in building a blog, and that’s why you will see good blogging guide always encourage new bloggers to use a VPN.
Why should I use a VPN when I can use proxy?
One of the common questions that we receive is why use a VPN when a proxy can be used to the same effect? That’s partially true, but there are many advantages of using a VPN over a proxy. With a VPN, you can:
What do you think about using VPNs for SEO benefits?
Back in May, Search Engine Watch asked me to write a piece about alternatives to Google. This research was enlightening. It gave me another perspective on the search industry across the global context and how it varies from market to market.
This has prompted a series of more in-depth posts which have helped me speculate how search – even within the Google framework – may well evolve over the next few years. My piece on Ecosia looked at the environmental cost of digital activity and suggested that we might see search leaders work to be more transparent about the ecological ramifications of everyday internet activities right down to individual searches. A subsequent piece on DuckDuckGo celebrated the search tool which puts user privacy before sellable ad data – a USP which is all the more valuable as growing numbers of internet users get tired of creepy online tracking and privacy breaches.
Today we look to Baidu – China’s leading search engine.
The ‘Google of China’
According to Alexa, Baidu is the fourth most popular website globally (behind Google, YouTube and Facebook). StatCounter indicates it currently reaches around 70% of search engine users in its home country. That’s a whopping 448 million people if we base user numbers on the latest CNNIC report.
Baidu’s similarities to Google are plenty. It dates back to the 1990s, boasts a range of digital products and is currently leading the charge in AI development and self-driving cars. But it is arguable that while Google dominates search in the west and looks likely to continue doing so for some time, Baidu’s dominance in China during 2018 has looked somewhat less stable.
Let’s look at why.
China is mobile
By the end of 2017, there were 772 million internet users in China according to CNNIC. To give us some European perspective, that’s more than the whole of our continent. For US audiences, that’s around double the amount of netizens in North America.
The really important fact, however, is that internet use in China is overwhelmingly done on mobile. Again, the CNNIC reports that 97.5% of Chinese internet users are going online via mobile devices.
It is in the mobile context where most searching occurs in China and, crucially, growth is still significant. Between December 2016 and December 2017, mobile search user numbers grew 8.5% and reached 624 million people.
Baidu is losing share
Baidu boasts a perfectly functional mobile search offering, but there have been a number of new companies entering and disrupting the market in recent years. Unsurprisingly, this has caused Baidu to lose share.
Since August 2016, Baidu’s mobile search share has fallen from 87% to 69%. Other well-established domestic search engines Sogou and Haosou are having an impact. But most of this land grab has been won by Shenma, a relative newcomer to China’s search scene. Since being founded in 2014, it has grown to account for 21% of the market.
Shenma: China’s ‘mobile only’ search option
Shenma’s unique selling point is that it is only available on mobile. But the companies who are behind the tool are certainly very visible across Chinese desktops and laptops too. Alibaba is the umbrella conglomerate under which such brands as Taobao and AliPay sit, while UCWeb is the internet company which owns UC Browser, the third biggest browser in the world.
The influence of both of Shenma’s parent companies is quite obvious when we start to look at the functionality of the service. In the first place, the tool is very geared towards shopping, with app purchases as important to the model as physical products, alongside local search and a unique ‘novel search’ aimed at users who enjoy reading books on their devices.
Shenma has also been able to leverage the market presence of UC Browser – the search engine included in its mobile offering – and goes some way to explaining the success of the young company in the face of such stiff competition.
Can Baidu respond to Shenma’s advancements?
While Shenma still lags some way behind Baidu in search share, it is clearly doing something right by providing a service which is tailored precisely to the needs of China’s mobile audience, and its growth goes to proving that. In order to respond, Baidu perhaps needs to do more to reverse-engineer its already well-established search tool to be even more mobile-centric. That is, to make it less desktoppy and more geared to on-the-go searching and the capabilities of the mobile devices themselves.
In some ways it is doing this. Recent news from the Baidu Video arm of the company has seen a fresh round of investment totaling $100m. In light of this increased funding, one of the aims now is for the business to become the biggest professional generated content (PGC) video provider in China. Another aim is to develop its short video services, which will further see it appeal to viewers watching this content on mobile devices.
Is Google set to re-enter the fray too?
Shenma isn’t the only threat to Baidu’s hold on the Chinese mobile search market. Google has spent 2018 negotiating with key digital companies based in the country, including a patent cross-licensing agreement with Tencent (owners of QQ and WeChat) and a partnership with e-commerce company JD.com.
These deals preceded the very recent news that Google is also gearing up to launch a mobile-centric search platform in China which links mobile phone numbers to search terms and plans to adhere to the country’s strict censorship laws. Despite criticism being leveled at the company from some corners, a poll from Weibo indicates that there is a healthy appetite among a majority of Chinese netizens for Google to enter the market since the search giant was banned in 2010.
Perhaps the expectation that Google will return to China with their new partnerships, their mobile-specific tool, and their already leading mobile web browser (Chrome is the most popular browser in the country, as it is worldwide) leaves Baidu little choice but to look elsewhere in their development and evolution. Its plans to push its video offering may suggest this. Mobile video is a growth sector in China too – and their position in that vertical may be more solid.
Another theory may simply be that Baidu is awaiting Google’s return to see how this affects the domestic search market at large. After all, it is likely that the next year or so will not be plain sailing for Shenma either if Google’s mobile search platform arrives and disrupts the market again. One thing is certain, though: mobile search in China is fascinating – and I think it could take some surprising turns in the not too distant future.
We’re all scrambling to keep up with digital transformation, navigate which new technology is right for us, and nail that elusive “omnichannel, seamless, ultimate customer experience.”
Yet in all the hustle, we may be missing one of the most important pieces of the transformation process: bringing our internal teams with us. Before we can transform our digital prowess, we need to transform our company culture.
Last week we spoke with Siddarth Taparia, SVP and Head of Marketing Transformation at SAP. He argues that digital transformation is preceded not by technology but by people, and shares what SAP is doing to ready themselves for the future.
As a sidenote, Siddarth will be giving the keynote at the Transformation of Search Summit in NY on Oct 19. We touch on some of his views on the future of search in this conversation.
ClickZ: Tell us a bit about your position and what you work on.
Siddarth Taparia: I’m responsible for all marketing from a transformation perspective: how we need to transform, what role technology is playing in our transformation, and behavioral changes we work on.
SAP as a company has close to 400,000 customers worldwide. We operate in over 100 countries, and have roughly $28 billion in revenue every year. We have one of the largest ecosystems of partners, ranging from large technology companies like Microsoft and Amazon, to services partners like EY, to all our hundreds of channel partners.
CZ: You’ve got one of the largest companies in this space. How do you understand which technologies are right for you? How are you structuring your transformation?
ST: When I think about transformation, I’m not thinking about technology first.
That may sound a little counterintuitive because we’re a technology company. And to this day, technology remains a tool that is powering transformation. But the transformation itself is about two things: it’s about business results, and it’s about people.
When you bring those things together, that’s what brings transformation.
Change is hard—often what we’ve found is that changing the technology is the easy part. Changing the behavior of people takes a lot longer. We don’t think about the technology first. We think about what business results we’re trying to drive. Then we think about what technology.
I’m a big believer in what Peter Drucker said: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” We can have the best strategy in the world. But to drive it into real change, we need to bring about a cultural change—that’s the hard part. Change management is not to be underestimated in any of this.
CZ: Could you give us an example of how SAP manages change?
ST: One of the big changes we’re in the process of driving right now is “how do we create a highly personalized experience for our customers when they come in?” Technology works best when it disappears. We want to make sure our technology disappears and our customers get a beautiful, personalized experience.
In order to make that happen, we have to drive a lot of internal change. We have to break a lot of silos between sharing of data. We have to look at what we know about our customers from other sources and how we can integrate it. That oftentimes means we have to change our internal processes.
In this case we’ve had to make sure we’re thinking about the customer journey first—before thinking about our internal organization and systems. We’ve had to look at the journey and say “here’s where the customer comes to us, here’s where they make certain decisions, here’s what the rest of their journey looks like, let’s optimize for that.”
Oftentimes, marketing teams are set up by certain structures: brand, events, advertising, digital. But it turns out the same customer is coming to an event, looking at an ad, going to sap.com, and having a one-on-one conversation with a salesperson. We’ve had to turn our systems and processes inside-out so we can have integration of data.
So first and foremost, we need to educate our employees about what we’re doing and why. Every employee in SAP marketing right now can tell you what we mean when we say customer journey. Then we think about how we can work with employees to provide better connectivity across our own systems. How do we change our technology and processes so that they’re not visible to the customer, but they accomplish what the customer cares about: when I go to your website or go to an event, you know enough about me to pick up the conversation from where it was left off last, so I’m not repeating information or having an experience that’s not highly relevant to me.
We’ve been working through this challenge for quite some time, especially as new technologies like AI and machine learning come in and are playing such a big role in terms of providing a much more personalized customer experience.
CZ: From a theoretical or strategic standpoint, that all makes perfect sense. But from a technological side, can you talk about what steps you take? How do you find the right technology?
ST: This is an ongoing journey for us—we’re in it right now. We have almost daily conversations on how to streamline our processes, how to make our CX better, and how to use technology to make that happen.
Right now, we’re looking at how we can send fewer emails to our customers and instead have them naturally come in and find us when they have a need.
None of us wants more emails in our inbox. What is the combination of products that serves us best to be able to be found when customers are searching? We’ve looked at third-party solutions, emerging solutions, and in this case—we’re lucky being a tech company—at our own products. Naturally we have a content marketing strategy so our content is relevant and can be found on Google at the point of need. Not proactively pushing it into inboxes, but ready to be found when the customer is looking. Once they find us, we can engage with them and continue to advance their journey.
If our goal is to improve CX, what are the specific actions we want to take? We want to move away from pushing out marketing messages like email, and toward letting customers come to us and engage at their point of need.
Then we ask what type of technology we need. That could turn into a broad discussion about if we need to change our content marketing strategy, or about how we nurture our customers and provide them the right information. Once we’ve identified those big blocks, we look at the specific technology pieces.
Then the business case kind of builds itself. You’re saying this is what we want to do, this is how we want to do it, and these are the technologies we need to deploy it.
A big part of it is working with our business—operations, sales, front end of customer journey—and leadership team to make sure what we’re doing aligns.
Once we’ve done all that, that technology implementation is the relatively easy part in this day and age. The challenge becomes working with people and educating them on new ways of defining things.
So for instance, that sending fewer emails will improve customer experience and drive better results. There’s always skepticism involved.
People say, “I’m sending out 1000 emails with a 1% open rate and we’re getting a certain return from that. Why do I need to change it?” The conversation at that point is, “it may be working well today, but look at the trends: people are opening less email, paying less attention to information being pushed to them, and using more search and social recommendations to go find information they need.”
We have to educate and enable our people so they can go through the journey with us.
And then of course one of the most important pieces is being able to provide results: how was our email working before vs our end-to-end personalization programs now?
CZ: Can you give any other examples of what SAP does to make sure employees are drivers of technological transformation, rather than reticent toward adapting it?
ST: Our leadership is very in tune with asking, “why are we doing this?” and always bringing it back to a business objectives. When we’re able to explain it internally, then usually we’re able to explain it to our employees very well—it will drive leads, revenue, etc.
Marketing changes almost every 18-24 months completely. The key is bringing employees along on that journey.
Right now, we’re putting in place a heavy duty training program for our employees, so they can build up their digital skill sets for the future. Those skill sets change every 2-3 years, because the market is moving so fast. We want not just our leadership, but every single employee in SAP marketing to be thinking about the skill sets of the future, technologies of the future, and new ways of doing business to drive results.
Change requires a big amount of culture and mindset shift.
In the old world, SAP used to sell on-premise software. The customer would buy their own server, their own computers, and deploy the software. They would pay for the software once and then use it forever. Now, that model has completely changed. With cloud and SaaS, customers are paying a subscription—they’re essentially renting it as they go, which is a huge shift in the market.
From a marketing standpoint, focusing on the point of sale is now just the first step in the customer journey. What used to be kind of the last step—the customer bought the software—has become the first. Now, they need to deploy it, they need to be productive on it, and they need to continue to use it, or they’ll go to your competition. They don’t have a big investment in it, and can just change providers. The care of a customer after they’ve bought something from us is now tremendously important for a company like SAP. That’s a huge shift in mindset for employees—now thinking about the entire customer life cycle.
We started an initiative called Customer First, thinking about how we can have customers for life. Where are our customers in their journey? Are they productive? Are they making use of it? Are they getting business value from it? That’s been a big change for us.
So again, we focus on educating employees on what the new business model is and why it’s changing, and what new technologies they need to think about.
With that, it’s also changing the internal KPIs and metrics we use for success. Now we think about how marketing contributes to adoption and customer lifetime value. KPIs, employee mindsets, technologies we use, and processes we follow internally all have to shift. That’s a big change we’ve driven internally in marketing over the last couple years.
CZ: Search is obviously a key channel to be able to pick up on customer signals without sending a bunch of emails. What’s your view on the changing role of search, and the role of search as part of the broader marketing transformation?
ST: To me search is the most important starting point for any conversation you’re going to have in the future with a customer. Forget B2B and enterprise technology, the business that we’re in. In our personal lives, if you’re thinking about buying a new exercise machine or a new book, where do you go? You go to Google, or Bing, or DuckDuckGo, or whatever your preferred search engine is. That’s the starting point of the customer journey today.
From our perspective, it’s incredibly important to think about how we show up on search. We’ve made a lot of investments in paid search, but we also think about SEO for our own content. Our content strategy is highly based on search—we make sure that our content, thought leadership, research, and the work we’re doing actually ends up being seen by customers. The way to do that is through search.
It’s the ultimate editorial of our time. If you don’t show up on the first page of Google search results, you might as well have called it a day and gone home, because it’s never going to be seen by your customers. From our standpoint, one of the most important things is to make sure that each of our products shows up in the search results for their categories. We make sure our owned, earned, and paid efforts align with our search strategy. This is a change that’s been around for quite some years. We’ve been working with Google, Bing, and others. Search engines have been highly relevant to us for more than five years now in terms of thinking about search as a logical starting point in the customer journey.
CZ: As things like voice search increase, for example, what’s your view on that?
ST: I think of it in two parts. Already in the last couple years, with a large volume of search moving from desktop to mobile, the relevance of the number of search results became much more important. You could see maybe fifteen results on your desktop, but you only see five on your mobile. That’s point 1. Point 2 is that when you then go to voice, it goes from five to maybe one result.
Not only do you have to have a proactive search engine strategy, you also have to have a very proactive brand strategy.
We as a company are one of the most valuable brands in the world—the 17th most valuable according to the latest brand rankings. We’re one of the most valuable brands in Europe. That helps us stand out from the crowd. It helps us get recognized.
Voice search is highly relevant—we’re thinking about it every single day. The number of results is shrinking, and people are paying attention to fewer things.
A combination of a more proactive search strategy and a stronger brand—we’ve gone from #21 to #17 just this year—both of those things help our rankings. Some people see our results and can’t tell a difference from one company to another. As consumers we tend to go with brands that are recognized, trusted, and have been in the business for a long time. The value of brand is not to be underestimated in this day and age.
Having your own full-fledged website and running it through good rankings is quite an accomplishment. Obviously, there are all kinds of webmasters who resort to adopting the various way to boost their site rankings. These ways can be ethical as well as unethical based on the past experiences of the site owner. However, making these rankings happen without facing recurrent Google Penalties might seem impossible.
One of the most common ways of boosting the rankings of a website is through link building. A great link-building strategy makes sure that your website is receiving ample amount of traffic through all the inbound and outbound links present on your site and other websites that you are exchanging links with. However, a lot of us end up getting penalized by Google for these links or their performance.
These Google Penalties always mean a disadvantage for your business website and an advantage for your competition. So, what are these Google Link penalties exactly and how can one avoid them when implementing new link strategies on their own website?
Let’s find out.
Excessive reciprocal linking
It is an obvious step to reciprocate some favor to a website source that has been linking to your website for quite some time now. This value exchange, however, now has become more of a link building strategy where two website owners might agree to swap links for their mutual benefits. In anyone’s right conscience, this is a bad link strategy that might end up getting penalized. If not meant for value exchange, you must avoid excessive reciprocal linking for your website at all costs, especially if you are new to blogging.
Manual link spam penalty
Google bots are the usual elements that play cops to faulty or wrongful link building practices. However, there are fair chances of someone from Google’s webspam team reviewing your site for its link profile and handing you a manual penalty. This might not be the case always but is always good to stay alert.
Well, the manual penalty can be quite a task and you might wonder how can someone from the Google team end up on your website and penalize it? Call it bad luck but it could also be a spam report from a competitor that can have caused the team to look into your site’s link profile. A report from a Googlebot can also lead to a manual review and hence, the penalty.
Low-quality link penalty
The whole point of organic link building is to promote ethical link building practices. Earning your links the right way will help you have a better shot at earning better ranks. However, people don’t get the point when they become desperate for links and count in links from almost all sources, regardless of their quality.
Earning your backlinks coming from reputable sites helps you build value for their audience as well as yours. These links testify that your site’s content is so good that it is of value to even other websites and their audience. If you get into the practice of getting your backlinks from low-quality websites, Google can penalize you for them.
Algorithm link spam penalty
When your website is penalized for an action by an algorithm and not a manual action, it is termed as an Algorithm Link Spam Penalty. Under Google’s Penguin Algorithm, these penalties are levied on websites that come around as spam and mostly due to buying links or obtaining them through link networks. Once penalized by this one, your website will see a significant drop in its organic traffic and it might even be completely de-indexed. So, it is better to avoid such practices.
Unnatural outbound link penalty
If your website entertains guest blogs or posting, you must carefully review the content before it goes out for publishing on your website. This content is usually laced with links pointing back to the guests’ sites and can negatively affect your site’s link profile.
Make sure that you check the submitted content to identify any links from low-quality websites or the spammy ones. Don’t allow ‘Nofollow’ links in user-generated content. Always manually review and approve the links in the content that these posts contain.
Unnatural links to and from your site
Every website that features a link from your site or to your site must have a natural inclination in relation to the niche of both the websites. However, in an attempt to boost the Search engine page rankings, some websites adopt the way to exchange, buy or sell these links for money or other ranking favors. No matter how smart of a webmaster you are, you are definitely not safe from the prying eyes of Google bots or the manual review team.
Both these penalties are the most common types and are levied when there is a clear violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines. Once you are penalized, you will be notified by Google for a penalty for “unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound links.”
To fix the unnatural links to your website penalty, you can try identifying the presence of the links on your website that violate linking guidelines. To do so, you can download the links to your site from Google Search Console and audit them. Once you have figured them out, remove them right away and if you can’t, you can disavow them. To follow up, you can ask the team to reconsider your link profile for the removal of the penalty.
For unnatural links from your site, you can remove or modify the identified links by adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute. To follow up, ask the team to reconsider.
Private blog network
You can get to the safe zone by avoiding this particular common penalty. If you are not aware of what exactly is a Private blog network, it is a network of blogs/websites that are owned by you and you pretty much use them to link to each other on this network. A highly risky move for a webmaster, this unethical practice isn’t worth the effort because sooner or later, your websites will get penalized. A PBN is manipulative in nature and can cause a lot of damage to your sites’ online reputation when once caught and penalized by Google.
Getting penalized for your website’s link profile can have quite a negative effect on your site’s reputation in the viewpoint of the Google’s guidelines. No matter how you end up with a penalty, the effort should always be around avoiding them to your best and to go by the most ethical link building practices.
With these references to the most common types of Google Link Penalties, we hope that now you will be able to build a robust link profile for your own website and rank well for them as well.
Search marketing is undergoing rapid transformation driven by new technologies. Artificial Intelligence, Voice Search, Visual Search, Amazon, and Blockchain all impact how we search for information and buy products and services online.
The Transformation of Search Summit, which takes place in New York on October 19, combines the expertise of ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, in partnership with Catalyst (part of GroupM), along with speakers from Hertz, Hilton, Condé Nast, LEGO, and more, to dissect the current landscape and provide a deep-dive into actionable steps to future-proof and protect your strategy.
This week we sat down with Juan Felipe Rincón, Global Lead of Trust & Safety Search Outreach at Google, to discuss his role at Google. He’ll be participating in a panel discussion with Google, Amazon, Bing, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Adobe.
ClickZ: Tell us a bit about your role?
Juan Felipe: I lead global team of outreach experts who help website owners build high quality and secure websites that also comply with Google’s webmaster guidelines. We are part of Google’s Trust & Safety team, and my team’s overall goal is to provide clarity and transparency regarding how our product policies work.
CZ: What are your key priorities over the next 12 months?
JF: We have a few primary long-term goals:
CZ: What is your biggest challenge in achieving these?
JF: Education and scale. To make a dent in these, we need to make sure our messages reach the right people, and then we need to ensure they take action. This is across the web, in 20+ languages and across millions and millions of websites—and sometimes, particularly when we address issues of gender
equity, helping people overcome societal dynamics that make acting more difficult. Doing this combines some of the most challenging parts of awareness marketing and product education marketing.
CZ: What’s your advice to those who may be facing a similar challenge?
JF: Go back to theory. The problems of driving behavioral change at scale have been studied for centuries, and there are practices and methods that have been well studied to understand all aspects of what Everett Rogers called the technology adoption lifecycle. Secondly, have patience and understand that you will not always be able to attribute changes to your efforts. This mostly helps reminds me that we are using time-tested techniques, and that these big changes take time, and that if the changes ultimately happen, everyone benefits, whether or not my team gets the credit for it.
CZ: What’s the most interesting trend you’re seeing in the market right now?
JF: It’s been going on for many years, but it still takes me aback just how different the notion of a “webmaster” is now than it was 15 years ago. The huge number of tools that make it easy for anyone to create a fantastic website without requiring a technical background is great, and super powerful.
It also means that we need to change how we think about our standard solutions for content creators, from everything to how we let people know how their websites work on organic search to how we speak about concepts like mobile optimizations, structured data markup, page speed and other topics that are very user-focused but currently discussed in very technical terms.
CZ: How is this going to change in the medium and long term?
JF: We’re all going to have to become more comfortable assuming that our audiences do not have a technical background, and we’ll also have to demystify a lot of the technology so that people who have already done difficult things like learn to set up a business, hire employees, manage supply chains,
learn accounting concepts and deal with inventory realize that there’s nothing magical or mystical about the technical concepts they should master to really be successful online.
CZ: Do you have a daily routine?
JF: There are certain things that happen every week that must happen at a specific time, but for the most part, I try not to make my days routine if only because most things about my work would cause that routine to fall apart anyhow.
I do make a strong point of blocking out time in my calendar at least 3 times a week for power-lifting training. It’s the one way I’ve found to do something like meditation without meditating, which I find very difficult to do. It helps me control anxiety and keep at bay the early signs of stress and depression.
CZ: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
JF: I never knew how to answer that question, but the most consistent memory of what I thought I’d be is a university professor with a PhD in something impressive-sounding.
Juan Felipe is the Webmaster Outreach Lead & EMEA User Advocacy Lead within Google’s Search Quality team, and his team’s mission is to help Webmasters create great online content and make it accessible to users. Prior to joining Google, he spent the better part of the previous 15 years in the mobile and wireless industry, focusing on developer evangelism back when building mobile apps involved trying to put things on tiny little flip phones.
Join the discussion and meet 300 other senior marketers trying to solve the same problems. Be sure to check out the full agenda here.
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Q4 is right around the corner, and that means digital marketers need to be on top of their game in planning, building, executing, and converting. But when you are looking to really scale revenue and new customers this holiday season, you’ll have to incorporate some branding strategies.
Now, I work for a performance digital marketing agency, so everything we do is always tied back to the question, ‘Well, is it improving performance?’ So when I say branding, I’m talking about the avenues that will allow you to get very targeted so that you can be sure you are hitting relevant audiences for your business. Better yet for performance marketers, there is a way where (to some extent) you can measure the effects these branding plays have on performance (I’ll get to that in a bit).
In this post, I’ll break down channels to test for branding, and then I’ll talk about how to measure the performance of those branding channels/campaigns. Let’s get started.
This channel has huge reach, and it’s a great way to cast a wide net and get exposure for your brand. The biggest downside with YouTube is that, if you’re not careful, you can spend a lot of your budget ineffectively.
Here are a few targeting recommendations to effectively get in front of the right audiences and have a positive impact on performance:
What makes Instagram’s stories feature so great is that it takes advantage of all of Facebook’s granular targeting capabilities, which means you can get right in front of the specific personas you want to target (including interests, demographic, behavioral, as well as lookalikes and custom audiences). You can also get specific with the devices you want to target, so if you know, for instance, that your core purchasers are typically iPhone users, you can limit targeting to those devices.
I would recommend initially starting off with your top-performing Facebook audience and refine testing from there.
Native is a great way to deliver your ads to massive audiences who are in the mindset of consuming content. Native offers tons of channels: Outbrain, Taboola, Yahoo Gemini, etc. My recommendation is to start with Yahoo Gemini – in particular, the following ad types.
Yahoo mail ads appear within your Yahoo mailbox. You can leverage Yahoo’s capabilities to target by age, gender, interests, and custom audiences. Typically, I recommend targeting users interested in your competitors as they would be highly relevant; that, coupled with layering on age/gender data, will get you close to the personas you want to go after.
Additionally, as you test across Yahoo’s wider network with native, one highly recommended ad format to use would be carousel ads, which come in either desktop or mobile format.
Desktop carousel ads allow advertisers to show a more premium format for their ads:
Mobile carousel ads allow advertisers to use up to 5 images to tell a visual story:
One caveat: not all sites are set up to take carousel ad formats. The sites that are set up for carousel ads tend to be higher-quality properties, so it’s a nice bit of self-selecting when you put carousel ads into play.
How to measure branding performance
Okay, now that you’re casting a wide net and building awareness for your brand, how can you quantify the value of those efforts? Although it’s not easy to assign value to every aspect, we’ve found some strategies to be helpful.
One technique we use is by tagging our ads with utm parameters, indicating the channel, campaign, targeting and ad that a user is coming through on when they click the ad.
Then we develop remarketing campaigns or ad sets specifically targeting our brand awareness efforts. (For example, we remarket specifically to those who have clicked on our Instagram Story ad.) This separates our brand awareness efforts within our remarketing campaigns, which allows us to quantify conversions (and conversion rates) of those who have been exposed to our brand via our broader branding initiatives. It’s not perfect, but it helps us define how successful our branding efforts are.
With users brought in through branding campaigns, it’s important to remember that the buying journey can be longer – even if you’re a retail brand in Q4. If you’re looking to capitalize on your user base for the holiday season, there’s no time like the present to bring in this new audience and get the nurture/remarketing engine running.
The unstable and unofficial relationship between social media and SEO has been bothering every digital marketer for some time. I wasn’t left behind in these debates and, like many others, realized after a while that social media is needed for a full and healthy SEO strategy. But in what way? How can we get the most out of social media while not getting sucked in and spending half of the working day scrawling through Twitter? I’ve found the answer: with the help of social listening.
What is social listening?
For those who don’t already know, simply put, a social media listening/monitoring tool crawls the internet and social platforms and finds mentions of your brand/company/product/CEO or any other valuable keyword. It collects the found mentions in a handy dashboard in real time, so that you can reply, engage, follow the author, or do anything else of your choice with those mentions almost instantly. Social media listening tools like Awario, Brand24, Mention, and such can help a lot with streamlining the process.
Social listening is famously used for a great number of things: improving customer service, increasing brand awareness, preventing social media crises, building the brand’s reputation online, and better understanding the customers (market research). The connection between social listening and SEO isn’t quite that straightforward.
Before we get to it, let me emphasize all the comments on how social media is not a ranking factor. Yes, I won’t claim in any part of this article that social media is one. Since Gary Illyes’ statement in 2016, we are pretty sure that Google doesn’t take social into account directly into their algorithm. So there’s no real controversy on this topic at the moment, even though we never know what they might do in the nearest future. However, firstly, social media affects ranking indirectly in a number of important ways, and secondly, social listening tools aren’t just about social media. Let’s dig in.
1. Keep an eye on the sentiment (just as Google does)
At the State of Search event in 2017, Gary Illyes was quoted as saying that Google uses sentiment analysis for search rankings. Sentiment analysis must include social media. Think all these complaints on Twitter. Think a social media crisis that means mass complaints on social media. Any sentiment analysis would pick up on that. Now, of course we can’t be sure, but seems very likely that:
Now to the best part. Social media listening tools often have sentiment analysis as one of their features. If you’re using one, you can keep an eye on the sentiment of your brand on all social media platforms as well as news, blogs, forums, and other places where it may be picked up by Google. You’ll spot any problem within minutes and will be able to prevent it from growing large enough to possibly affect your rankings.
2. Turn linkless mentions into links
Social media listening tools aren’t just about social platforms. As mentioned before, they find mentions of your brand or any other keyword on blogs, forums, news sites – all the pages that Google definitely crawls. With a social media monitoring tool, you can find these mentions and contact site owners or the authors of the article to add a link to your site. Given that they’re talking about your brand already, they may not mind helping you out with your link building strategy.
3. Find influencers of your industry
Online influencers are users that became popular in a specific category (e.g., technology, makeup, cooking, etc.) and build a large following of people who listen to their every word on that specific category. Finding the relevant influencers is a great idea for a large number of reasons, most of which are about product promotion and word-of-mouth. However, it’s about link building too (which is not surprising, since all these things are madly connected).
When you search for industry keywords with a social media monitoring tool, you get a list of people that the tool considers to be influencers. These are people with the largest following or website traffic, who have mentioned your keywords a number of times. Choose people from this list and refer to them in your blog or a social media post, linking to their site. They’ll might notice this and return the favor, and you’ll get a link from a site visited by your target audience. No one values this sort of online relationships and mutual link building quite like influencers – they’ve often built a career this way. If they miss your efforts, reach out and ask for a link directly. If you’re humble and polite, you’re most likely to get one.
4. Increase website traffic
The most obvious result from a reach social media campaign is the increased website traffic. Website traffic is one of the most important SEO factors and one should strive to achieve it in any possible way, including social media. In times when the organic reach of Facebook and Twitter posts is gradually getting lower, a social media monitoring tool is probably the most effective way to get more clicks. Here’s how:
There are thousands of people online looking for any kind of product. Social media, especially Twitter, has become a land for getting advice, voicing opinion, spreading word-of-mouth, and connecting people. By the latter one, I don’t mean the old Nokia slogan. I mean, you can directly talk to movie stars, politicians, and brands. And they can, and often do, talk to you. Isn’t that absolutely magical if you think about it?
In terms of marketing and website traffic this gives us tons of opportunities. Fire up a social media monitoring tool, find mentions that look for your product (use keyword queries such as “Can anyone recommend X”; “looking for Y alternatives”; “looking for new X”, etc.) and reply to them on social media with a link to your website. Not only the author of the tweet will check it out (if your product is relevant, of course), but also many others if the author’s reach is large enough. To know about the magnitude of the following, i.e. whether it makes sense for you to send a link for the SEO purposes, you can check the number of the author’s followers in the tool’s dashboard. That’s not an option in all of them, but all the best ones have it.
5. Keep an eye on linkless mentions
Finally, let’s go back to the initial purpose of a social media tool. It’s there, first of all, to keep an eye on linkless mentions. After all, you can find links with any SEO tool, and you can find social mentions directed at your brand with Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/etc notifications. It’s linkless mentions that these kinds of tools are after. They show you how their growth changes over time, where they come from, what their sentiment and demographics are, and so on. How is it important for SEO?
We have enough information to know that Google values linkless brand mentions. In his unique style, Gary Illyes said in his keynote at Brighton SEO in September 2017: “If you publish high-quality content that is highly cited on the internet — and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding, crap like that. Then you are doing great.” If this doesn’t sound convincing enough, which it doesn’t, look at Google’s Panda patent. It refers to “implied links,” i.e. mentions as a signal that could be equal in weight to backlinks.
By using social listening, you find all these mentions, you grow their number by engaging with the authors, you see what they depend on (some specific type of a marketing campaign, blog topics, etc.), and control what they are and what they say.
In the SEO timeline, we’re somewhere in between. We haven’t moved away from link building yet: it’s not dead, it’s not even feeling unwell. However, we’ve moved far enough from it to consider the reality of the Internet. And the reality, of course, isn’t something as technical as links. It’s good content that gives people the answers they want, and it’s social media with its huge worldwide use, its buzz about brands, and the type of this buzz. Make sure you don’t miss out on any of these factors.
Search spend now accounts for almost a third of advertising spend in the UK, and has grown consistently since 2001. Balancing the marketing mix is a huge challenge facing any CMO or marketer, and it’s no different in the world of search. It can be difficult for brands to find the right blend of PPC and SEO, ensuring that marketers are getting the most out of both. It’s one of the more nuanced choices marketers have to make.
Too much of one or too little of the other and marketers could be in the position of unnecessarily wasting valuable budget or, on the flip side, marketers could be in the position where they are not delivering the results search could be yielding for their brand.
Forward3D’s application and understanding of data has helped to advise clients on their best strategy for success. By having using an integrated approach to strategy, appropriate recommendations can be made to allow marketers to balance activity. For one major airline client, aggregated performance data enabled us to make the recommendation to turn off PPC for brand keywords meaning they could deploy that significant marketing budget for acquisition purposes elsewhere.
So, with this in mind, how do you approach the seemingly complicated relationship between PPC and SEO to yield the best results?
Setting up for success
Without aligning PPC and SEO teams, it’s difficult to implement an appropriate strategy. Although it may seem obvious, many companies still report on search as two separate channels when an aggregated view can add a much greater value. This visibility into integrated search performance is crucial to understanding what impact individual channels have on the overall performance mix.
For example, if paid search click-through rates (CTR) increase then organic traffic might well be expected to drop. However, if marketers report this at search engine marketing (SEM) level, they’ll find that total brand traffic is likely to be flat, as it’s the proportions (and costs) per channel that are actually shifting. Teams need to have visibility and understand how changes in performance at this granular level can impact the entire business as this information is critical when planning budgets or future activity.
Understanding the problem
Creating a joint strategy can allow you to more effectively tackle particular problems a business is trying to solve. While it’s still possible to do effective paid search with a sub-optimal website, it’s much more straightforward when site performance is being guided and prioritized by SEO. This is because it benefits from the site speed, conversion rates, and relevancy being driven by tech and content which paid teams can’t usually influence.
For example, an advertiser in a highly competitive paid search auction might be able to achieve some incremental gains from keyword, ad copy, and bid optimization but working with SEO could give them a greater competitive edge. For example, prioritizing page optimization—either from a technical or content standpoint—can ultimately improve both user experience and landing page relevance which not only benefits conversion rates but can lower CPCs too.
Likewise working with content teams helps paid search marketers think more about planning and executing around events rather than reacting to traffic changes. It can also lead to a more collaborative testing strategy whereby Organic teams work with Paid to prioritize long term keyword and ranking opportunities based on first party or performance data to indicate higher profitability or lifetime value rather than relying on traffic. Through ongoing testing and adjusting traffic across these terms it may end up that Paid activity becomes an evolving test bed for high value terms which over time get transitioned to organic.
Taking a long-term view
Ultimately, finding the balance required to run strong search campaigns is largely impacted by planning, budgeting and investment. Long term investment in SEO is more likely to benefit all channels, but short to medium term there may be spikes in interest or particular products that suit a paid search investment. Brands need to correctly identify this balance and budget accordingly, which ultimately determines search success.
By hiring the right talent or working with the right partners who understand the data and nuance around both organic and paid search, businesses can start identifying where investment is best placed. By understanding this process, the teams can produce meaningful, actionable insights, which benefit customers and businesses alike.
Neil Morse is Associate Director, Paid Search Strategy at Forward3D.
One thing that causes many businesses abandon efforts to succeed in online marketing is that it’s extremely overwhelming.
How many SEO reports have you seen? I’ve seen hundreds of them. They may be indepth, insightful and totally to the point but very few of them are organized to the point when they can be actually actionable or useful.
In many cases even bigger businesses with large in-house marketing teams give up on an idea to ever get digital marketing organized. There’s usually a well-defined goal and even a solid strategy but there’s rarely an actionable step-by-step actionable roadmap that would allow that strategy to ever be realized.
The thing is, digital marketing can be quite overwhelming: There are too many interconnected pieces to put together and there are too many simultaneous processes to keep an eye on, especially prior and during the launch or a project or a new campaign.
I am a big believer in getting organized, so here are a few tools for you to go from planning into implementing:
Productive Planning: Agendas, Checklists, and Due Dates
I don’t like marketing meetings. Not only because it’s a major time waster (taking away my time from actually getting things done), but also because meetings seldom give anyone an actionable plan of where to go from there.
It’s true that marketing meetings are necessary evil though: You need to hear other team members’ perspectives, brainstorm together and discuss possible outcomes from anything you have planned. But to make those meetings at least somewhat productive, you always need to have an agenda.
1. Instant Agenda
Instant Agenda is a great tool to start with:
Instant Agenda is also a must-have tool if you are managing a remote team because it allows you to effectively collaborate with everyone including those outside of the office.
One of my favorite SEO platforms, Serpstat has recently come out with a new feature set allowing marketing teams to better organize their efforts. As I am a huge fan of to-do lists and checklists, I was pretty excited with the update.
Serpstat checklists allow you to break your SEO tactics into actionable steps. Checklists are tied to your projects and you can also get your team collaborate on creating them.
To get you and your team inspired, there are a few pre-built templates you can choose from and edit. You can also save any of your own checklists as a template to replicate the same to-do list throughout all your projects.
Using the feature, you are likely to improve your current SEO routine as well as discover tasks you haven’t thought of before.
There are other task managing tasks I often recommend, but none of them is marketing-focused. Still, the other two to-do list and collaboration tools I often use to organize my projects are:
Both of the tools above allow you to set due dates which is something I highly recommend doing. There’s never getting things done unless the due date is approaching.
Productive Monitoring: Reports, Growth, Transparency
From experience, making a team part of business growth monitoring is the best way to incentivize everyone involved. If you make this process as transparent and scaled as you can, you will find your team much more motivated and ready to come up with creative ideas.
Cyfe (Disclaimer: This is my content marketing client) is multi-feature business management dashboard that can be used to monitor all your marketing efforts. Simply put, it’s a Swiss knife of your marketing monitoring because you can customize it the way you want.
There are dozens of pre-built widgets inside Cyfe. I always recommend setting up a separate clutter-free marketing monitoring dashboard and share it with your team. This way they will see all the important graphs and trends within one page: No scrolling through reports or opening dozens of tabs.
A few useful widgets you’d want to set up for that include:
Alternatively, you can create a robust monitoring dashboard right inside your WordPress dashboard but may require some development skills.
While your team members or employees can get too busy to ever remember to open the reports, emails are hard to miss. Whatagraph is the nicest way to keep your team updated on your traffic stats. It visualizes marketing reports and sends you a weekly email with a nice infographic detailing how you are doing.
Whatagraph supports all key digital marketing tools including Google Analytics, Facebook ads, MailChimp campaign reports, etc. This is a perfect solution for everyone who doesn’t need to dig deep but wants to keep an eye on the overall trend.
There are many more articles on how to get your whole team on board with your marketing efforts. So in case you are looking for more tools and ideas, here is some further reading:
Which tools are you using to organize your marketing efforts? Please share in the comments!
Globant released a recent report on the rise of voice-activated technology in 2018. In this post, Globant CTO Diego Tartara shares data from the report and insight into what businesses can do to adapt to voice technology.
Voice-activated technology is here and more accessible than ever before. Thirty-nine million Americans already own smart speakers, and we’re witnessing voice drive evolution in areas outside of personal gadgets. GE, for instance, recently introduced a line of voice-connected home appliances.
But the widespread popularity of voice-activated technology for consumers has an unexpected side effect. Consumers are also employees, and their personal excitement about voice solutions now has organizations considering how to best implement the technology internally. In fact, one–third of companies believe voice will be their biggest differentiator in 2018.
However, stakeholders cannot let their personal feelings or fascination with voice – or that of their peers – stand in the way of intelligent investments that improve internal logistics and enhance experiences for end users (customers and employees).
The role of voice in personal and professional settings
Eagerness to implement voice technology is often rooted in a common goal – staying competitive. Seventy-five percent of decision makers view companies that offer voice interactions as more sophisticated than those that cannot, and there’s a clear link between emerging solutions like voice and feeling prepared for the future.
That’s a fair assumption. Modern technologies like voice, AI, and blockchain are positioned to help organizations engineer digital experiences that account for new expectations and desires. But decision makers only earn the sophistication they’re after when their organizations implement new solutions with a great deal of critical thinking and planning. Otherwise, adding experiences like voice can actually do more harm than good.
Sometimes, critical thinking and planning can get pushed down the list of priorities when employees are personally energized about voice-activated technology. Currently, 87% of decision makers use voice in their personal lives, compared to just 67% who use the technology at work. The frequency of use is also quite telling. Nearly the same number of people use voice solutions in their personal lives daily (45%) as do weekly in professional settings (53%).
Enthusiasm for voice integrations among employees at all levels of an organization isn’t necessarily a problem. But it can quickly become one when enthusiasm is not balanced with research about where voice experiences can make changes that end users desire and will actually use. A narrow focus on personal feelings about voice may lead decision makers to ignore the solution’s full spectrum of benefits and can create a false sense of readiness – a major reason why just half of organizations (55%) say they’re prepared to add voice-activated technology in ways that improve internal operations.
Turn personal excitement about voice into workplace improvements, not problems
Again, personal excitement around voice-activated technology is never something your organization should discourage. However, your company stakeholders must pursue strategies and practices that allow these positive feelings to be correctly cultivated.
To mitigate negative outcomes when considering voice applications, pay attention to:
Personal familiarity with voice is a valuable springboard to build enthusiasm toward new solutions early on, but how you feel about voice-activated technology cannot be the sole factor informing your integration plans at work.
Organizations must be even more ready to address voice’s popularity in our home lives in the near future. Twenty percent of households that use virtual personal assistants (VPAs) in the year 2020 will have two devices, and 5% will have three or more, according to Gartner research. The enhanced role of voice in our personal lives ups the ante for companies to follow suit, rewarding organizations that proactively develop strategies to harness all the excitement.
And while Siri and Alexa may feel like they have all the answers, your employees and customers are the best sources to determine where and how voice solutions can inspire a more intelligent, efficient professional environment.
Diego Tartara is CTO Latin America, Globant
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.