When expanding internationally, there is common misconception that SEO, and in particular technical SEO, should be done once the website has been built. However, by implementing any SEO recommendations after a website has been translated, there could be extensive rework which will delay a website launch and impact on budgets. There are also some aspects in a site’s infrastructure that are essential to optimize in advance to avoid extensive rework later. So, how do you go about building this into the translation process?
The old approach to translation
For a while now, companies have been aware of the need for a local language website when targeting new global markets. Back in 2014 a Common Sense Advisory report stated “75% [of web visitors] prefer to buy products in their native language. In addition, 60% rarely or never buy from English-only websites.” Competing in global markets with a non-translated website is no longer seen as a viable option if a company wants to compete against local business.
The traditional approach has been to focus on translation only, with the key debate being around whether you should use a human translator or machine translation, such as Google Translate.
This approach is now shifting as companies have begun to realize the benefits of localizing their content and website for their target markets. Instead of a single piece of content being translated word for word, companies are now adapting the content to resonate and engage, allowing them to compete more effectively against local competitors. This is known as transcreation, where marketing messages are adapted to different cultures and languages whilst maintaining the original context and intent of the messaging.
However, localization and transcreation are still not enough to succeed globally. Customers need to be able to find your website and the only way to do that is to increase your online visibility. This is where integrating SEO into translation workflows comes in.
A new approach to succeeding globally
To succeed in new markets, you need to maximize the visibility of your products or services. To do this SEO needs to be woven into the translation process, but it needs to be adapted to different markets. The key elements to consider are localized keyword research, site structure and hreflang implementation.
Localized keyword research
Many companies simply translate domestic keywords in the hopes of ranking well in new markets. The problem with this strategy is it doesn’t take account of the search volume in different markets or country-unique keywords that may have high search volume but no domestic equivalent terminology.
The only way to ensure you are targeting the right relevant keywords is to use a vendor with native linguists who also understand the process of keyword research. However, many believe keyword research is enough to help you rank in new markets. This process needs to occur alongside technical SEO, two elements of which we will now discuss.
Site structure – which domain?
When it comes to site structure, it is important to consider future expansion plans and ensure the option you pick is future proofed for your needs.
There are three main options to consider:
In general, this is the preferred domain option when expanding internationally. By using the ccTLD you’re not only sending a strong signal to search engines that you are targeting a specific country, but you are also establishing trust with the user, which will result in a better click-through rate from the SERPs. For example, users in France are notoriously swayed by .FR websites and will be more likely to click on these than generic domains such as .com
The downside to ccTLD is there is no sharing of link authority from any parent top-level domain. In essence, you’re building up the link authority of these sites from scratch, which can make it harder to rank. There is also the potential for your domain to be unavailable in new markets.
The main benefit of using the sub-folder approach is the shared link authority of the top-level domain. Any links built across all the country sites will benefit each subsequent site because that link authority is held within the top-level domain. This can have a real ranking benefit for all your regional sites, even if they are relatively new.
The downside is it creates less trust than using a ccTLD structure and as a result, this may impact on the click-through rate. It is also a weaker location signal to search engines compared to ccTLD and using a sub-domain structure.
This approach sits between the other two in terms of pros and cons. Firstly, there is a degree of location signal given to search engines because you can host separate sub-domains in separate countries, which could potentially give you a ranking boost in that country. There is also some sharing of the authority of the main domain, but certainly not as much as you would see with the sub-folder approach.
The downside is that there will still be some linking activity required because you won’t benefit from all of the link authority of the ccTLD. The location signal is also not as strong as you would get with a unique ccTLD.
It is important to choose a domain structure that is right for your business and future expansion plans. ccTLD is the ideal structure but for some companies it may not be possible, or you may decide the sharing of link authority is more important and opt for a sub-folder structure. Whichever option you chose, it is important to consider site structure before building a website, not after.
Hreflang is an HTML tag that you can add directly to the source code of a page when you have duplicate content in multiple languages. It helps search engines understand the language of a piece of content and therefore help ensure it’s served to the right users in the right market. Correct implementation of hreflang is essential to ensure your localized websites are ranked correctly.
A key element to consider is how to implement hreflang correctly for two bits of same-language content that target two different countries e.g. French for France versus French for Canada. By incorrectly implementing the hreflang code you could not only affect your chances of ranking organically in an entire market but also affect the original and other connected sites.
One vendor or two?
When it comes to integrating SEO and translation into one workflow, a big consideration is whether to have one vendor who specializes in search engine-optimized website translation or two vendors, one an SEO specialist and the other a professional translation company.
If you already have agency support for SEO as part of your integrated digital marketing strategy, deciding to just outsource the translation element may seem like the easiest option. However, managing two vendors can become a tricky task and it is difficult to weave the SEO into the translation process this way. Also, some digital agencies may be experts in SEO but they may not have the same expertise when it comes to international site structures or international keyword research. Finally, every time you update content, there is also a potential for previous SEO work to be overwritten and this can lead to large costs as previous SEO work will have to be redone having implications not only on project costs but also search traffic to your site.
Having one vendor allows you to manage the process much more easily. The workflows of the language service provider should be refined to weave SEO in throughout and there should be one upfront cost for the SEO work, which should save you money in the long run. Having one vendor also helps with ensuring keyword research has been carried out that is relevant to the new market rather than a simple translation of domestic keywords.
So, what next?
The translation industry has changed a lot in the last few years, moving from just accurately translated content to localizing content to resonate and now optimizing on a local level for increased organic visibility. Whilst incorporating SEO is a big step in the right direction, there is still more that can be done to increase the chances of success in new markets. The next step for companies is to consider the cultural elements when they expand internationally. This includes the best payment methods, delivery options and trust signals for those markets. By incorporating this with SEO, you will improve your online visibility, conversion rates and ultimately your overall ROI.
Nicola Carmyllie is the managing director of Translation Laboratory, an optimized website translation company.
When taking a website international, one of the most important technical SEO elements to get right is the Hreflang tag. When you add into this process the unique challenges of managing an e-commerce website such as seasonal changes of products and stock availability this process can increase in complexity. At this month’s BrightonSEO I’ll be covering this in more detail but here’s a teaser of what I’ll be talking about.
Why are Hreflang tags so important?
Hreflang tags help search engines understand which version of your content to show to which audience.
Google has been moving away from relying on ccTLDs as the main indicator of location. Instead it is making decisions on serving content, based on user settings of location and language, thus increasing the importance of the Hreflang tag.
Anyone who has taken a well-established brand international will have tales of the original high authority site appearing in the search results in their new international market.
What are the most common issues with Hreflang tags?
Over the years we’ve reviewed thousands of Hreflang tags, and time and again we’ve seen the same types of errors occurring. Hopefully, after reading this you’ll know what to avoid.
One of the most common issues is the use of made up language or country codes. Often, the official codes are different for the language and the country, so your tags are different.
Good examples of this include:
You don’t have to remember these codes, as you can easily find a list of the two types of code online:
Incorrect coding of the Hreflang tag
Another area that can result in issues with Hreflang tags is the way in which these are coded.
For e-commerce websites we recommend adding the Hreflang tags to the sitemap of your website, as these are dynamic and so it’s easier to keep up with stock available and product changes.
The use of the syntax is one of the most common things we see as an issue with either on-page Hreflang tags or those implemented in the sitemap.
There are three simple rules to help with this:
Missing self-referencing Hreflang tag
When listing all the Hreflang tags, whether it’s on-page or in the sitemap file, make sure that you include a tag for the current language. So, if you are providing Hreflang tags from a German page or sitemap make sure that there is a German Hreflang as well as the other markets.
Conflicts with canonical tags
Make sure that the self-referencing tag uses the same URL as the canonical tag on the page when adding Hreflang tags. If the two tags conflict it will just confuse the search engines.
Hreflang tag URLs which aren’t correct
This might be a URL which redirects or a page which isn’t live any more. The best example of this we’ve ever seen was a website using a translation proxy which was creating Hreflang tags for the original English page names. All of these tags, site wide, then redirected. An example would be something like this:
English URL www.example.co.uk/womens
German URL www.example.de/damen
<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.example.co.uk/womens” hreflang=”en-gb” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.example.de/womens” hreflang=”de-de” />
No return errors in Google Search Console
These errors are created when the pages listed in the tags don’t link to each other reciprocally. If you only put the Hreflang tags on the UK version of your website and not on the French version, this will cause this error. It can also be the result of pages being mapped incorrectly, an issue such as the above redirecting URL problem, or because the pages just don’t match.
How can e-commerce websites get their Hreflang tags right?
As mentioned, the most successful way of delivering Hreflang tags for e-commerce websites is in the sitemap.xml files.
As your site will have regular changes to products, owing to new products arriving or old ones being discontinued, or have stock availability differences from market to market, it’s considerably easier to keep Hreflang tags up to date when you do this in the sitemap.xml file. These files are mostly generated automatically now, so this means that they are more likely to be able to see the most up to date stock availability from market to market.
Getting your Hreflang tags right can cause some headaches, but it’s not that hard when you know what you are looking for.
Join my talk at BrightonSEO on April 27th at 10.00am, Auditorium 2, to find out how you can correct your Hreflang tags.
Emily Mace is Head of International SEO at Oban International.
SEO mistakes can be easy to make, especially when you’re just starting out – either as a new SEO, or as a fledgling business.
By being keenly aware of specific pitfalls that new businesses and SEO rookies can fall into when attempting to optimize their site and their content, you can steer clear of the most common mistakes and oversights, implement best practices, and fast track your search visibility success.
Here are eight missteps you’ll want to avoid:
1) Not starting SEO sooner
Businesses can (and too often do) invest years creating compelling content that is exactly what its target audience is looking for. However, even the best content won’t do much good if its intended audience can’t find it or doesn’t know it exists.
Engaging in SEO to ensure that content is visible and prominent – not buried beneath other search results – can be as critical to success as the content itself. Smaller businesses in particular tend to prioritize content creation over SEO strategy, but the two really need to go hand-in-hand. The best time to begin SEO is earlier than many companies think.
2) Not choosing low-competition keywords
Emerging websites are not likely to have enough pull to earn high search rankings on competitive terms. Expect this to remain true for some time, even if following every best practice in the book; starting out in any new endeavor means working your way up, and this certainly rings true for SEO.
Unfortunately, many new businesses make the mistake of focusing exclusively on high competition keywords out of the gate and fail to achieve results as far as how they rank in results.
A better strategy is to begin by finding and focusing on low-competition keywords. Doing so makes it more feasible to climb the rankings and grow the site’s traffic and reputation. That, in turn and with a little time, will help fuel success on those more competitive keywords.
3) Not understanding the audience and their search intent
There’s a misconception that SEO success is all about fooling the algorithms. In reality, the single most important SEO best practice is to create content that is compelling to your audience.
Any tactics that address the needs of search engines should come second – and in many cases practices that satisfy searchers and search engines are one in the same. The key is to understand your audience’s search intent: what are people trying to accomplish when they search on certain terms? They may want information, or to find or buy something specific.
When the content on your webpages fulfills that search intent, both your audience and search engines will reward your site. What’s good for the audience is almost always what’s good for the algorithms.
4) Targeting broad search terms instead of the long-tail
SEO beginners may believe that focusing on broad and basic search terms is the natural place to start. Conversely, more specific and detailed long-tail terms usually prove much more advantageous.
When someone inputs a broad term into their search engine of choice, a couple assumptions can be made.
One, they are probably early in the process of learning about a subject on which they don’t yet have a lot of knowledge. Two, even if the terms clearly relate to a specific product or service, those searchers are oftentimes not yet ready to make a purchase.
Also, broad search terms are usually high competition keywords, as discussed above. Search engine results pages for broad terms also tend to have more ads at the top, pushing organic listings down (generally making them less valuable as a consequence).
5) Forgetting about “under the hood” webpage details
For many getting started in SEO, it can be all too easy to forget about the SEO-enhancing details that must be added to every webpage on your site – page titles, meta descriptions, image file names and alt text, URLs, etc. – because they aren’t visible on the surface of your content.
However, these elements are essential in shaping how search engines – and therefore the audience you’re seeking – view your pages. The title tag, slug (page URL), and meta description for a webpage control the text that is displayed on a search engine results page and when shared on social media.
Though invisible on the pages themselves, this text serves as a kind of ad for your site where it does appear. SEO beginners also shouldn’t be shy with continual testing to determine what text yields the best click-through rates.
A few under-the-hood components to pay attention to
6) Thinking that keyword stuffing will help
Keyword stuffing is the practice of using as many keywords as possible on a page to win favor with search engines. The result is awkward content that creates a bad user experience.
While many beginners think keyword stuffing will be a shortcut to ranking, search engines frown on this practice. The algorithms are too clever to be fooled by keyword stuffing, and search engines are increasingly finding and penalizing sites that try to do it.
Again, producing content that legitimately satisfies an audience’s search intent is the best and most successful SEO technique.
7) Forgetting to build out internal links
Once you’ve succeeded in bringing someone to your site, you want to keep them there – both for SEO and, of course, your own business purposes. Give your audience easy access to other pieces of content that logically flow from the page they are on.
8) Not measuring results
Finally, SEO newcomers are most likely to implement new practices without properly tracking results to inform whether they are effective or not. SEO is a highly data-driven endeavor, and the analytics tools to keep track of SEO success are readily available and need to be used early on.
Example showing the aggregated organic share of voice of a set of competitive sites, which helps show how SEO strategy (in its entirety) is doing relative to competitors. You’ll also want to track and measure this on a keyword-by-keyword basis.
Kim Kosaka is the Director of Marketing at Alexa.com, whose tools provide insight into digital behavior that marketers use to better understand and win over their audience.
While the web has offered the businesses the huge number of new marketing opportunities, it has also brought an increased insecurity.
It’s too easy to lose your web traffic (which in many cases constitutes 80% of your leads) in one day. Besides, business presence is subject to other major risks including ruined reputation and data leaks.
In many cases, these threats are directly imposed by your competitors who cannot find more effective ways to build online exposure or want to steal your customers.
Here are five major shady competitors’ tactics and how to protect your business from them:
How does it work?
Your competitor is paying other people to post negative reviews about your products or services across the web.This one is real and the bad news is that businesses are poorly protected, even when the attack is obvious.
One of the most ridiculous attacks in my experience was this case where a local business’s Facebook page got slammed with negative reviews and there was nothing to be done. The reviews had no comment (so they couldn’t be flagged or reported) and even the fact that they all came from Brazil (the local business is in Texas) couldn’t convince Facebook support that they were not legit.
How can you protect yourself?
Monitor your brand mentions through Mention.com and fight back as much as you can. This includes flagging reviews where possible, posting official replies, contacting the platform customer support, etc.
In the worst cases try to turn the situation into big news (this could be a great PR opportunity). Contact news outlets, get in touch with journalists, ask your loyal customers to defend your reputation, etc. In the end, this might be a good PR and community building opportunity for you. Never give up!
How does it work?
Your competitor buys a software or hires a cheap service to click your PPC ads in search results to drain your PPC budget. It’s a well-known and old tactic to try and get rid of competitors in search results.
While Google is good at identifying and blocking any unnatural clicking activity, you are still encouraged to monitor invalid clicks on your own end to keep on the safe side.
How can you protect yourself?
ClickCease is an advanced solution for companies investing large budgets into their PPC campaigns. It comes with detailed reporting, fraud recording (of how people (or bits) interacted with your site after clicking your AdWords ads), click fraud prevention and more.
How does it work?
Your competitor buys a low-quality service to send thousands of backlinks to your page(s). This is intended to trip Google’s unnatural link building filters for Google to tank your rankings (automatically or via a manual penalty).
With the birth of link building penalties, this weird tactic has made its way into our world. It’s still one of the most arguable negative marketing tactics (in terms of its alleged efficiency) because investing in low-quality link building can potentially boost a web page rankings (there are still lots of websites with questionable backlink profiles ranking high in search results) but it is nonetheless a cause of huge concern.
One word of caution for businesses looking to protect themselves against this type of attack: Lots of SEO companies are using this term to sell their link monitoring services, so stay away from companies with questionable reputation. There are too many companies trying to earn money by fueling the fear.
How can you protect yourself?
Majestic offers a nice “Link alerts” feature that sends you an email of new links they find. This is a good way to keep an eye on your link profile in-house. You’ll get notified of any unusual activity by email to be able to promptly take a necessary action (i.e. update your Disavow file).
How does it work?
A competitor buys a software that scrapes your site content and publishes it around the web. The idea is that Google will devalue your content for duplicate content issues.
This is the least effective of all. First of all, there’s no such a thing as duplicate content penalty. Secondly, Google is quite good at identifying the source and it’s likely to simply filter the copies out.
However, hiccups may happen and it’s essential that you keep an eye on this possible threat.
How can you protect yourself?
Once you start seeing your content is being scraped, monitor your rankings more closely to see if any of those copies get ranked. Start sending those DMCA notices whenever anything comes up in search results. Here’s a handy guide in case you are new to those.
How does it work?
This is the scariest of all, and in many cases, the most damaging. There are a lot of types of malicious attacks that can infect a website, steal private data or wipe it out from the web completely. All of those may be very damaging to the business bottom line and the brand reputation in the long run.
How can you protect yourself?
There’s no one solution here. Keep an eye on your Google Search Console (they are very prompt at alerting you whenever your site is infected) and use tools like Pingdom (they send an instant alert whenever your site is down).
Have you been attacked by competitors? Tell your story!
SEO is often a long and convoluted process which takes time, dedication and expertise.
Therefore, anything that can simplify or speed up aspects of a campaign are welcome additions: cue plugins! If your website is hosted on a WordPress CMS, then you are fortunate enough to have access to a plethora of handy plugins.
But with over 54,000 plugins to choose from, selecting the most appropriate and effective plugins for your SEO needs can seem a bit overwhelming. Luckily for you, in this article we have picked out the 14 WordPress plugins which we believe are essential for improving SEO.
From general all-rounder SEO plugins to those engineered for more specific tasks, our recommendations will cover a range of SEO needs.
1. Yoast SEO
We’ll start with the all-rounder SEO plugins and arguably the most well known of the lot. Yoast SEO is an exceedingly popular plugin for fulfilling SEO needs, and is suitable for total newbies and seasoned pros alike.
Yoast is easy to use and intuitive, making it possible for anyone to work with. Its traffic light system provides detailed guidelines, which is perfect for those who are new to SEO.
Its only main downside is that sometimes the plugin does not analyze the entire page – if, for example, part of the content for a particular page sits elsewhere within the CMS. Not an issue in itself but can cause clients to have a temporary meltdown when they see a sea of red alerts.
Nevertheless, with its powerful content analysis abilities, Yoast is my personal recommendation for an all-rounder SEO plugin.
2. All in One SEO Pack
A popular alternative to Yoast, the All in One SEO Pack plugin was actually created prior to Yoast, and therefore built up a dedicated fanbase in the initial years. It provides much the same tools and features as Yoast, but the general consensus is that All in One SEO Pack is slightly less user-friendly than its main rival.
Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. Many people are a fan of the traffic light system deployed by Yoast, as it provides a whole host of handy, actionable tips for you to implement.
Alternatively those red, orange and green lights may drive you up the wall, in which case you may want to consider the All in One SEO Pack, or even our third suggestion…
3. The SEO Framework
The SEO Framework is an alternative to Yoast and All in One SEO Pack. It provides an automated and fast SEO solution, plus it is unbranded, meaning a clean interface. Many users find it less bloated than Yoast, therefore arguably more efficient for the user.
This particular plugin is not quite as accessible as Yoast, but it is by no means difficult to use. Accordingly, it may pay to have at least a basis of SEO knowledge for this plugin.
In short, stick to Yoast if you’re a complete beginner, but if you’re confident with the basics, The SEO Framework is a viable alternative.
Setting up redirects for broken links or deleted pages is key in maintaining a solid user experience.
Redirection is a useful plugin that allows you to handle all kinds of redirects from one easily accessible place. Quickly create new redirects, manage your current redirects and tidy up any loose ends.
5. Smush Image Compression and Optimization
Page speed is probably one of the biggest headaches when optimizing a website and image size is the most common reason for slow loading times. However, if you have a website that is extremely image-heavy, then the thought of manually compressing each image is probably enough to make you want to quit your job.
Well, don’t do that. Because a plugin called Smush exists and aside from being the best-named plugin on this list, it’s also incredibly useful. Smush Image Compression and Optimization compresses all images on your site at the touch of a button.
You also have the option to resize them while you’re at it. It’s perfect for increasing that pesky page speed with minimal effort.
6. W3 Total Cache
Continuing the theme of page speed, W3 Total Cache reduces load time, increases download speed and improves conversion rates. As a result, it helps to improve the overall performance and speed of your site.
With the stamp of approval from numerous high profile websites and industry leaders, what more do you need to know? It’s a no-brainer.
Another tool for helping you with a website spring clean. WP-Optimize cleans up your WordPress database, making space and improving its overall efficiency. A more efficient database means a better performing and faster site.
8. Google XML Sitemaps
An XML sitemap helps the search engines to crawl your site. Anything that makes life easier for the search engines is generally worth doing. The Google XML Sitemaps plugin allows you to create a sitemap quickly and easily, without the need for using a third-party tool.
9. Broken Link Checker
It’s in the name – the Broken Link Checker identifies any broken links on your website.
Broken links can undermine your overall link structure and provide a frustrating user experience. This plugin allows you to uncover any broken links and take the necessary steps to fix them.
10. All In One WP Security & Firewall
Search engines take site security very seriously. The worst kind of user experience would be one which ends in a virus or other form of malware. If your site gets hacked, then it could have a highly detrimental effect on your rankings.
The aim of the All In One WP Security & Firewall is to prevent this happening and keep your website as safe as Fort Knox. On a related note, make sure you invest in an SSL certificate while you’re at it.
11. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP)
Search engines take into consideration how quickly users leave your website. It’s therefore worth spending time trying to lower your overall bounce rate. As part of this, you should ensure clear call-to-actions and provide somewhere for users to naturally go once they are finished with a particular page or post.
For blog content, related posts are perfect for retaining users. Ideally, this functionality would be integrated into the design of your blog.
However, if not, then the Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) is a handy alternative and uses an algorithm to determine the most effective related posts. Great for user retention and lowering that bounce rate.
12. All In One Schema.Org Rich Snippets
Schema markup can bring some serious SEO points your way. Although there is no evidence that the markup itself is a ranking factor, just the appeal of having a more enticing appearance in the SERPs through rich snippets should be enough.
It is normally best to implement schema manually, without the use of a plugin. However, the All in One Schema.Org Rich Snippets plugin can help bridge the gap in the meantime until you get around to it.
I know it’s one of those tasks that gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list, but there’s no time like the present!
Akismet is the most popular plugin to deal with spam comments and is useful in preventing those weird and wonderful comments. From an SEO perspective, it stops potentially harmful links appearing in the comments on your site.
Too many of these links could associate you with bad neighborhoods, as although the links are in the comments, they are still coming from your website. They are therefore best avoided at all costs.
14. AMP for WP
With the news of Google’s mobile-first index and the knowledge that over half of website traffic is via mobile, you need to implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP for short) if you haven’t already. The AMP project is an open-source initiative that provides an easy way to generate web pages which will load quickly and smoothly on mobile.
The AMP for WP plugin automatically adds Accelerated Mobile Pages functionality to your site, therefore making it faster for mobile users. It’ll save you a lot of hassle.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of plugins to improve SEO, but these are our personal recommendations. It’s important to remember not to go overboard with plugins. Avoid cutting corners by choosing to use a plugin over achieving better results manually.
Nevertheless, installing and activating a selection of carefully chosen plugins can make the SEO process more accessible, fast and effective.
Finding a competitor in position 1 for your brand terms can be frustrating. If this happens to you, here is what you can do.
Many advertisers consider bidding on competitor terms an easy win, especially if they are unmarked and the truth is, it can be. It is after all your most valuable search engine traffic, consisting of mostly new or existing customers.
Whether rightly or wrongly, Google (and other search engines) allows competitors to bid on each other’s brand terms. This means technically your competitors could keep it up forever, and if left unresponded to, they will end up taking a significant share of your valuable traffic.
So if you find yourself on the receiving end of competitor bidding, what can you do?
The good news is there are several things, and once done, you may find your competitors take down their ads, or alternatively you make it less attractive for them to continue.
Here’s what to do, in a suggested order of action:
1. Beat them on your own brand terms
If you have not started bidding on your own brand terms already, this is your reason to start, and not only on Google -check Bing too. Take back control of what your potential customers see when they search for your brand, wherever they search.
Beating competitors on home ground won’t be a problem. You should be able to instantly claim position 1 on your brand terms, and achieve a quality score of nine or 10.
As a result your cost-per-click will be lower than your competitors, usually very cheap, and by being in the auction, their CPCs will in turn increase significantly.
If you don’t have a quality score of nine or 10 on your brand terms, improving this should be a priority. It will reduce your CPC and is definitely achievable. After all, what could be more relevant to your brand term, but your brand! If you are unsure how to, read this article on how to improve your quality score.
A high quality score will ensure you are in position one all the time, with 100% search impression share, ensuring you swiftly win at your own brand terms.
You can see here how Ralph Lauren dominate the ads for their search terms, whereas Wrike are taking Trello’s top spot.
2. Launch a trademark complaint
If you have a trademark and your competitor is using it in their ads, submit a trademark complaint and Google will disapprove their ads. If authorized to do so, agencies can do this on behalf of the trademark owner.
There is a strong possibility your competitors either won’t notice their ads have been disapproved, or won’t realize they can still bid on your keywords, meaning they stop appearing for your brand terms. A kind of win by default, but a win nonetheless!
If your competitors already have ads without your trademark in them, or they produce them after the complaint is successful, there is a small win here nonetheless. They cannot use your trademark in their ads and so their quality score will suffer, and their CPCs will be notably higher than yours as a result.
3. Reach out to your competitors
Reaching out to competitors and asking them to remove their ads obviously does not always work, and you might rightly assume your competitors will never remove their ads, but in any case, the worst outcome from reaching out to them is that they ignore your email or say no.
Given that, surely it is definitely worth a try, you never know, you might be surprised.
Once a of ours instructed us to bid on their competitor’s brand terms. A few days later they received this email (names changed of course):
I’m Anthony, Chief Marketing Officer at the Cool Company.
I just wanted to know if you would consent to withdraw your Adwords ad on our brand queries (see image attached). It would be a shame to have to bid on each other’s names to get traffic to our respective websites.
Please let me know if you agree with this request.
Have a nice day.
It worked; our client appreciated the polite outreach, and asked us to turn off our ads bidding on “cool company” terms. The email is simple, but the solution is attractive to both sides.
4. Bid on their terms
This is the last option here, and last on purpose because frankly it is not an attractive one. Reacting by launching ads on your competitor’s brand terms is unlikely to end well.
At best, it encourages them to take down their ads on your terms, and so done well this could work. However the more likely outcome is that you start a bidding war, with rising CPCs on either side as both parties grapple for control over the other’s terms, all to no one’s benefit except Google. Who by the way, loves it!
If an initial email is ignored, it might be worth dipping your toes into your competitor’s brand terms and reaching out again – this time with evidence as to why it is worth both parties stopping, which is mostly avoiding that bidding war. They should notice their CPCs increase as you start bidding on their terms.
Competitors bidding on your brand terms is allowed and so potentially unstoppable. However if it happens to you, there are several steps you can take to minimize, if not remove, this risk.
Firstly, make sure you dominate your brand term ad space before reaching out to discuss with your competitor. It is in both parties’ interest to avoid competing brand ads spiraling out of control.
Sam Martin-Ross is the Founder and Managing Director of Digital Uncut, a PPC & SEO agency based in London.
Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) were the talk of the town in 2017. There were 435 ICO projects deemed successful in 2017, raising an average of $12.7 million. In total, over $5.6 billion was raised in 2017, a 40-fold increase from the $96.3 million raised in 2016. ICO’s are rapidly replacing the traditional forms of venture capital raising and already hundreds of ICO’s are scheduled for 2018.
Yet not every ICO is a success story. Only 48% of ICO’s raised the capital they set out for and the 10 largest ICO’s represented 25% of the total money raised in 2017. There are over 1,500 cryptocurrencies being traded on over 200 exchanges. In an increasingly competitive and regulated world, how you market your ICO in 2018 will be the difference between success and failure. It is not unreasonable to say that your ICO marketing strategy is more essential to your projects’ success than the actual product itself. After all, your product may well change, but you can never change a first impression.
Your website as a shop window
Your website should be the centre point of your ICO marketing strategy. It represents your project and very often, provides that all-important first impression. Your website must be clear, easy to navigate and present as much information as possible about your project and the team behind it. People want and expect transparency, it builds trust. Short explainer videos are a nice touch, but the white paper, team, roadmap are a must and without them the ICO might be “attacked” by crypto experts and or investors. Without a solid serious professional white paper, team and a clear roadmap, the chances for a successful ICO are very low.
The website should also have a clear CTA (Call-to-Action) that attracts investors to become whitelisted (‘an exclusive list’ of potential contributors) or invest in any pre-sale. Don’t make promises you are unable to keep and don’t rush into building a website. Carefully plan the layout, the content and the message and make sure the design matches the expectations of a cutting-edge product. There should be a lead capture form on the website, which must also be optimized for SEO.
Start your ICO SEO strategy from day one
The SEO strategy should be the bedrock of your ICO marketing campaign but often gets wrongly overlooked in the immediacy of an ICO. An intelligent and researched on-page and off-page SEO strategy will have a clear path from day one on the routes needed to ensure a good long-term source of organic search traffic.
Your branding, your online reputation management, and SEO strategy can be managed with intelligent content generation and a well-researched link building plan. These, of course, all can be performed in-house but is not recommended. As more and more restrictions get applied to ICO advertising, the need for a professionally done long-term on-page and off-page SEO plan as part of an ICO marketing strategy becomes increasingly important in 2018.
If there is no SEO optimization or strategy is in place, it is a sure sign there is only a short-term focus for the ICO. This will ring alarm bells to the more knowledgeable investor, which is something you definitely want to avoid. Too often there is only a focus on the now when it comes to marketing an ICO, but for your ICO to be a long-term success, you have to think beyond the ICO launch and invest in ways to deliver quality and growth post-ICO. A professionally SEO optimized website with an intelligent off-page link building plan together with a strategy for online reputation management will ensure continued viability and visibility long beyond the launch of your ICO project. A well-researched and carefully implemented SEO plan must feature prominently in any ICO marketing campaign.
PR and media outreach
So, the website is up and now you are faced with the task of telling the world about your ICO. Press releases are a traditional but very effective method of getting your message across and providing wide-reaching exposure for your ICO project. They form an important part of an ICO marketing strategy and although there is a DIY approach possible, the only way to really optimize this essential channel is through the use of a professional PR agency.
There are a number of top-tier websites where you can get your press release published, some very specific to the crypto sphere. Whilst there are some good free sites, the best sites will charge a premium amount to publish your press release, but overall press releases should be budgeted for and be part of any ICO marketing strategy.
Guest blog posts published in the popular crypto and news media outlets are another great method of publicizing your ICO and getting SEO backlinks. There are many outlets, some top-tier, that will publish quality, well written content that adds value to their own site for free, but in many cases a premium is charged for the exposure.
The PR and media outreach is best handled by the professionals. They know how to get your message out there and what the message should be. It costs a premium but the expertise in communication they bring to the table could be invaluable to your ICO.
Social media and community management
An integral part of any successful ICO marketing strategy is in the community and social media management. How your ICO is communicated and to whom can make or break an ICO, such is the power of social media and community channels. The most popular and powerful channels that are free are:
Reddit: The Reddit community is probably the hardest nut to crack. Knowledgeable and unforgiving, the Reddit community offers a high level of exposure which can be tapped into with quality subreddits or commenting on other threads.
Facebook: Although no longer able to advertise your ICO on Facebook, there are numerous groups and pages that discuss all things blockchain, cryptocurrencies and ICOs. Facebook also presents a great opportunity to build and regularly update your own community,
Quora: Providing quality well-written content on Quora and keeping active in threads has proven to be a good, targeted source of high exposure. Threads such as https://www.quora.com/topic/Initial-Coin-Offerings-ICO gets your message in front of the right people.
Specialized Forums: There are plenty of forums or internet discussions to tap into and specialized forums can prove to be a great method to communicate your ICO to wide, interested audience.
LinkedIn: Groups on LinkedIn covering the whole blockchain, ICO and cryptocurrency spheres with tens of thousands of members can be tapped into free of charge. Groups such as https://www.linkedin.com/groups/6580131/profile give you direct communication with your target audience.
Twitter: Similar to Facebook in that you can no longer advertise there, Twitter is popular with the crypto community, with targetable Twitter influencers with followers running into hundreds of thousands.
Telegram: The new kid on the block as far as technology is concerned but getting larger and more influential as each day passes. Telegram was warmly embraced by the whole blockchain and crypto communities from its very outset and an important channel for exposure
One of the more conventional methods of marketing that can be an effective part of an ICO marketing strategy still in 2018. Sending unsolicited emails ‘spam’ could do more harm than good. It will damage the reputation of your company, incur a financial penalty and hamper your ability to send emails in the future.
The restrictions seen in social media are being seen more in email providers, Mailchimp is one of the higher-profile mail service providers to ban crypto and ICO advertising. However, there are other providers are still supporting crypto and ICOs and an email marketing plan should still form part of your overall ICO marketing strategy.
Building your own email list takes time, but in the long term provides an interested base in which to communicate to. Agencies provide opted in lists which can be a good, often highly targeted, source of exposure.
Having already been banned on Facebook and Twitter a ban on ICO advertising by Google is set to come into effect in June 2018. There are still plenty of crypto sites, relevant blogs, news sites, and networks that offer banner advertising with package deals for banners, content and emails offered by some larger networks. PPC (Pay Per Click) was big business in 2017, but with just a few months of Google PPC available, other banner placement channels will need to be explored and expanded in 2018 and beyond.
Getting bounty programs right
Based on incentives and rewards, ICO Bounty programs are forming a central part of an ICO marketing strategy. They are an effective method to attract investors and keep stakeholders, with strategies need for pre-ICO and post-ICO.
Free tokens, or Airdropping, can boost an ICO marketing strategy, but should be handled carefully. No rewards or too little and you may not be optimizing your campaigns. Give away too much, your ICO could be viewed as a scam or a project that isn’t financially viable
Listing your ICOs
Top-tier sites will list your ICO and provide high level exposure in the all important pre-ICO stage. The most popular sites charge a premium to be listed but there are still plenty of sites you can get your listed on for free.
Events and conferences to communicate your ICO in person
Blockchain and cryptocurrency conferences and events are popping up all over the world and a great marketing channel to communicate your ICO face to face. The costs of conferences and events, sponsorship or attendance, can be quite high especially if there is a lot of travel involved, but overall events and conferences usually generate good ROI within your ICO marketing strategy.
It is highly recommended that the founder(s) attend many conferences and events before the ICO and during the ICO as possible. Getting in front of people is the best way to build trust and communicate your message. Big deals are closed at crypto conferences, road shows, and events. By not attending, you are not giving your ICO the best opportunity to succeed, so, make sure that within an ICO marketing strategy, there are resources allocated to crypto and blockchain events. Without a visible presence in the events calendar, put simply, your ICO is doomed to fail.
Challenges and opportunities
ICO’s are quickly becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry. More and more ICOs are being planned and launched in 2018 and the competition has never been fiercer. The battle to get your ICO the attention it deserves is made harder with regulation changes and advertising restrictions. The expertise needed over so many channels to successfully market your ICO pre and post-launch, make the services of ICO marketing agency, who can formulate and manage a multi-faceted marketing strategy, an expensive but justified investment.
There is, of course, the DIY approach, but with such a fine line between success and failure in an ICO, could you afford not to make that all-important first impression and optimize your ICO project potential.
On Yavin is co-founder and CMO at Cointelligence.
People rarely take SEO recommendations seriously, especially when there are no direct repercussions of not following them on the horizon.
So, when in 2014 Google confirmed HTTPS as a ranking signal – that is, recommended that all websites should migrate to HTTPS for the sake of their users’ security – few website owners took it as a direct instruction.
According to research conducted by Stone Temple Marketing in 2014 which analyzed the security of 200,000 websites, only a tiny minority of 0.3% switched to HTTPS at that time.
For several years after that, the speed of HTTPS adoption was slow, and yet Google kept sending out the message about the need for a more secure web. So, on September 7th 2016 Google made another announcement: beginning in January 2017, they are going to mark all the non-secure websites visited via Chrome browser.
What that meant was that a warning would be displayed on HTTP websites in the following cases:
A brief history of HTTP warnings
Keeping its promise, Google implemented this feature in a form of a grey warning message in the Chrome address field. Once the user navigated to a website, they were warned that this website was not secure.
The final step that Google will take is to mark those messages red. This way, the warning is way more noticeable, and sends a clear signal to the user: leave or you risk exposing your personal data.
I’m sure I don’t need to spell out what effect this has on a site’s reputation and bounce rate.
But Google didn’t stop there. For almost a year now, they have been testing a way to mark non-secure websites right on the SERP. This feature was implemented in several locations in the US, and had the effect of a huge red flag on the website’s search snippet.
At this moment, users only see that a website is non-secure when they visit it. But when the new SERP warnings are implemented worldwide, website owners are going to face unmissable CTR drops.
My advice is to take action right now and migrate to HTTPS as soon as possible, before your CTR hits rock bottom. Especially because most websites are already doing it.
The benefits of HTTPS
First of all, HTTPS benefits user trust. When adapting to modern security requirements, you demonstrate that you are trustworthy, and you work on your reputation. Your users feel safer visiting your website, which works in your favor.
Second is the obvious pro of security and privacy. When your site is secure, there is less chances that your users will lose their data.
The third thing is what concerns the webmasters all around the world — a small ranking boost. There are many opinions on how HTTPS influences rankings, which I will examine in detail later in this post.
And last, but not least is the ability to see referral traffic in Google Analytics. If your website runs on HTTP, all your referral traffic will be seen as direct.
The rate of HTTPS adoption
According to a ranking factors study conducted by SEMrush in 2017, 65% of websites ranking for high-volume keywords are already secure. So, with two thirds of websites having migrated to HTTPS, it is very hard to compete for high-volume keywords without it.
In less competitive niches the situation is slightly different: only around half of websites are secure. But if in a high-volume niche it is an obvious necessity, it is a competitive advantage if you rank for keywords with lower volume.
The trend is clear. According to Google itself, more and more websites are migrating to HTTPS each year to protect their users’ data.
Over 75% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac OS is now protected, up from 60% on Mac and 67% on Chrome OS a year ago.
HTTPS adoption rate by country
The percentage of sites which adopt HTTPS differs slightly from country to country, averaging somewhere in the region of 70%. In SEMrush Sensor, a tool for tracking daily changes in Google rankings, you can see the average HTTPS adoption rate for websites from the top 10 and top 20 results served.
The overall usage of HTTPS among the top 100,000 websites has increased tremendously since 2014. From 7.6% in 2014 it grew to 31.5% in 2017, making the trend as clear as ever: the secure web is the future.
HTTPS adoption rate by industry
The speed with which websites are migrating to HTTPS also differs by industries. Among Fortune 500 companies, the Business Services and Finance sectors appear to be the vanguard of the HTTPS migration movement.
The rest of the sectors, in which over 50% of websites are already secure, include Technology, Telecommunication, Transportation and Wholesalers. So, if your website belongs to any of those sectors and you don’t yet have an HTTPS version, you might want to think about catching up.
Common mistakes of the HTTPS migration
Although many websites have switched to HTTPS, some still haven’t, and there are numerous reasons behind it. One of them is that migration is a complicated process with a lot of details, and we all know that devil usually hides in there.
As you may have noticed, I mention a lot of SEMrush studies. This is because we trust data, not speculations, and in an industry as full of rumors as search marketing, real data is precious. So, having a great amount of data at our disposal, we regularly conduct research studies that help us better understand the tendencies in today’s search market and perfect our tools.
One of our studies included the most common mistakes of the HTTPS migration. We analyzed 100,000 websites, 45% of which supported HTTPS, and saw the following statistics:
Detecting those issues is a task for a comprehensive site audit tool.
How does HTTPS influence search rankings?
A secure website version could mean the world to the users, but the true webmaster carrot is the potential ranking boost. Since HTTPS was officially acknowledged as a ranking signal in 2014, there have been a lot of discussions about the strength of this signal and its contribution to the higher rankings.
Search experts agree on the effect HTTPS has on the rankings of the website. As a sole measure of website optimization it won’t make your traffic skyrocket and blow up your servers. Usually, HTTPS migration is just a part of an ongoing SEO optimization, that influences other factors that impact rankings: page load speed, fixing technical issues, on-page optimization etc.
For this reason, it is often hard to distinguish the exact effect HTTPS has on the rankings, though the overall tendency is positive.
But more to the point, not having an HTTPS version is an issue. With an increasing speed of HTTPS adoption and the forthcoming Google updates, the owners of non-secure websites risk a massive decline in click-through rate.
Tools for HTTPS migration
The secure web is here to stay. It will soon become extremely complicated to compete with secure websites in case you don’t have an HTTPS version. So, to prepare your site for migration and to fix the issues that inevitably arise during this process, you might need a tool to assist you.
The functionality of the tools available on the market differs, but their main feature is the ability to detect the issues of migration and help you timely solve them.
The bottom line
HTTPS migration is definitely a change that you will want to make in order to stay competitive on the market. Whatever your niche is, there is a clear trend towards switching to HTTPS. With Google planning to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure, having a secure version is no longer an advantage but a necessity.
Gearing up with the proper set of tools will help you avoid the most common migration issues and prevent your users from seeing those annoying non-security warnings. After all, your main asset is not the rankings, but your users’ trust. Rankings usually follow.
Here at Search Engine Watch we have covered the evolution of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) across numerous posts since the project’s launch in earnest in 2016.
The Google-led framework gives web developers the means to optimize their sites for faster, cleaner, and more efficient delivery on mobile.
Of course, this is good for user experience and visibility in the SERPs. So it is understandable that many well-known sites – including eBay, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Medium, and Pinterest – have incorporated AMP across their pages.
I thought I’d use this post to draw together some helpful guides for getting started with AMP – with an eye on the basics, as well highlighting recent announcements and upcoming new opportunities for using the framework in 2018.
It seems logical to start this list by turning to the AMP team’s dedicated site: ampproject.org
This, fairly simple, six-step tutorial introduces the required AMP HTML mark-up, with links out to schema that will make your site more Google friendly and optional metadata to make your site look good on other platforms such as Twitter.
Required AMP mark-up checklist from ampproject.org
It also highlights how to mark up images to make them AMP-suitable, as well as tweaking the presentation of your new AMP-optimized site to ensure it’s in keeping with the style of your original domain.
When it comes to layout, AMP requires things to be somewhat less flexible, but there is some room for modification. The tutorial then walks you through previewing and validating your site, linking between AMP and non-AMP pages, and publishing.
My Search Engine Watch colleague Christopher Ratcliff published this evergreen guide on implementing AMP on sites running the WordPress CMS towards the end of 2016.
Back then critics were not unanimously convinced that AMP would stick around for the long haul. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s safe to say it has. And we can predict with some confidence that it will have further longevity.
Additionally, Christopher highlights at the time that AMP itself isn’t a ranking signal. As we will see later, Google is making moves to give AMP-optimized sites more weight in the SERPs.
Anyway, as Christopher’s tutorial shows, implementing AMP into a WordPress site is more than just adding the Automattic AMP plug-in.
Christopher’s WordPress website example before and after using Automattic’s AMP plug-in (before tweaking to get colors and fonts correct)
Some knowledge of other available plug-ins and setting aside some time to experiment in the settings is needed to get things looking right.
Christopher also talks us through using Search Console and the AMP validator tool, which help ensure your AMP-optimized WordPress site is being delivered to mobile searchers.
Often I find video can be the most helpful online medium for learning about new development and SEO techniques.
Thankfully, the official AMP team have their own dedicated YouTube channel which includes tutorials, Q&As and presentations.
Their playlist from their recent AMP Conf 2018 in Amsterdam is a good example of the breadth of content there; including lectures ranging from AMP optimization and SEO, to a case study of implementing AMP specifically on AirBnb.
I found it a bit futile to try and select a specific guide from here, but the channel is worth following and the AMP Conf playlist is well worth checking out.
The development of AMP Stories was one of several announcements at AMP Conf 2018 as another way publishers can use the framework to make their content more suitable for the mobile audience.
While the amp-story component is still at an experimental stage, at ampproject.org there is already a tutorial for developers to practice using this special story framework before it is available in its final iteration (you can also sign up to be part of the original trial to publish stories).
Aside from pages, developers working with stories also need to understand the requisite layers and animating elements which finish the pieces off.
It is really useful if you are publishing news or magazine style content specifically for mobile – and it is a good illustration of what future AMP components will blend into the digital content landscape of tomorrow.
This guide by my colleague Rebecca Sentance is not exclusively about AMP, but helps put into context why the framework is important for search in the future.
On their blog (also discussed at AMP Conf 2018) back in January, Google announced that from July page speed will be an official ranking factor in mobile search.
Of course, one of the key virtues of AMP is that it is streamlining content and thus delivering it faster.
Google is not saying that if we use the AMP framework we will rank higher in the mobile SERPs. Rather, it is bringing in this algorithm change and highlighting that if you improve the user experience of your pages by making them load quicker, that attribute of your site will be factored into your ranking success.
Accelerated Mobile Pages are certainly a viable option, therefore, for optimizing your page speed and improving your chances at being deemed rank-worthy by Google.
Rebecca goes into further detail of steps you can take with or without AMP to get your mobile pages loading faster and ready for July’s speed update.
AMP is already a highly visible part of the mobile search landscape
The lightning logo is recognizable to many, but I think we can expect the framework to play a bigger role as mobile content continues to reach a wider audience.
We will continue to cover AMP here at Search Engine Watch and to share other important updates from this initiative which is inherently cross-platform and open-source.
Meanwhile, if you want to learn even more about AMP, here are some other interesting articles and guides:
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.