Friday, October 19, 2018

Why search marketing matters in 2018

First let me ask you: how many unread emails are in the “promotions,” “updates,” and “other” tabs of your inbox? When I got to work on Monday morning, there were 248. How many of those did I read, you ask? Three at best, and only because they were already my favorite news roundups. The others? Didn’t stand a chance. “Marked as read,” “deleted,” and otherwise wholeheartedly, happily ignored.

Long story short, consumers these days are drowning in emails. We have promotions, “we’ve missed you!”s, “rate our product!”s, and 100 other types of unread newsletters pouring from our inboxes and never getting close to our attention.

For a long time, it was businesses seeking out consumers

And while that obviously is still at play, the tides are shifting. It’s just too much content to keep tabs on. More and more, consumers are ignoring the bombardment and seeking out businesses on their own terms — when and where they want to look.

For a long time, SEO was a small group of nerds (*experts) sitting in a corner doing their thing, trying to convince everyone that search mattered and that there were ways to improve rankings.

For a long time, people kind of let them do their thing while not understanding what SEO actually was or fully grasping their value.

But now, the amount of content is suffocating. I don’t want to read 248 “other” emails to find the information I need. I want it know.

Where do I go? The place where 93% of online journeys begin: I search.

Now, businesses need to be found by searching consumers

As often happens when tech goes mainstream, all of a sudden businesses care a lot more about that group of nerds in the corner.

The question now turns to, “how can I make sure my business is found when and where my customers are looking?”

In a world of customer experience, I don’t want to bother consumers — I want them to happen “serendipitously” upon my product or service. I want to be there when they’re ready.

These days, customer journeys start not when a consumer walks into a store, or lands on my web page. Customer journeys start the second a consumer opens a search engine.

Desktop to mobile to voice

And to top it all off, the stakes keep getting higher. When I search on desktop, I probably look at the first ten results. On mobile, maybe I consider five. On voice? One gold spot at the top.

Exciting times for SEO and search marketing.

As such, we’re thrilled to host The Transformation of Search Summit today here in New York City, in partnership with ClickZ and Catalyst.

Topics to consider in search marketing

We’ll be covering all of these and more:

  • The new customer journey
  • Blockchain and the decentralized economy, and what they mean for search
  • Optimizing for voice search
  • Amazon and Amazon Marketing Services
  • Visual search and ecommerce
  • Strategies for search transformation

Needless to say, we’re pretty jazzed about the event. Speakers include some brilliant minds from SAP, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, LEGO, Hertz, Pinterest, Hilton, Conde Nast, and many more.

Mostly, we’re excited to see the continued rise of search marketing and how businesses adapt to better at being found by consumers.

This post also appeared on ClickZ.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The comprehensive guide to voice search keyword research

Informational keyword research is a subject that has been covered thousands of times across every SEO blog, publication, and web design company.

However, with voice becoming a more prominent way of searching, it’s important that it’s now taken into consideration. With voice usage growing, marketers need to understand how their audience is using this technology, and how they can adapt to this. Keyword research has been advancing dramatically over the last couple of years. No longer are the days of simply sorting by the highest search volume and creating a page; it comes down to much more than that. Semantics, categorisation, ranking difficulty vs reward, questions, featured snippets, people also ask. The list goes on.

A straightforward task has now become much more complex as well as time-consuming, and it’s important that it’s right the first time as keyword research will tend to influence your strategy, projections and, in some cases, KPIs.

We’ll be using a variety of paid and free tools within this guide. However, even without the paid tools it will give you a large dataset but will require a little more manual work.

Keyword Set

We’re going to be basing this on you already having a website that is established in some form or another, meaning you already have some rankings which can be used as an initial starting point. However, if this isn’t the case you’ll be able to simply skip these steps, although in some cases it could cause you to miss out on some smaller keywords.

Search Console

Underrated a lot of the time and critiqued heavily, however it’s a free tool that does give you lots of data, especially with recent updates; you’re able to obtain 16 months’ worth. It can sometimes be slightly inaccurate, however that’s much more data that you will be able to get from many paid tools.

To get the most out of this it’s best to try and filter down to the pages which are informational on your site – for example, your blog, a hub or guides.

This will give you a top list of URLs which you can then dig into and provide you with a list of keywords to expand on. We suggest taking a list of the main subjects you find here to be able to dig into them further later on.

Autocomplete

Another free tool that we can take advantage of? Autocomplete, or Google Suggest, has been around for 14 years now, which simply seems insane. The feature, created on a bus by Kevin Gibbs, has given us bundles of joy throughout the years as well as causing controversy in other instances but it does give us a great research tool.

This is something that we have created in-house tools to take care of, simply due to the nature of the task. However it’s something you can carry out manually by adding your keyword into the search box and grabbing the suggestions.

It’s worth noting here that the monthly search volumes, as well as CPC estimates, are all generated by the keywords everywhere tool which is a must have as it can give you instant feedback on how many people are searching for the keyword as well as commercial intent.

This is something that will work well for some industries but not all. Again, take down all of the keyword suggestions you find and place them into your list of ideas generated from Search Console.

Now, this is where we start to look at voice in more detail. We know that voice search is mainly used for asking questions – the whos, wheres and whats of the world. Having a list of these question modifiers allows you to take the Google Suggest keyword data even further.

  • Where
  • Should
  • Which
  • Is
  • Do
  • Can
  • What
  • Does
  • Why
  • Have
  • When
  • Was
  • Will
  • Are
  • How
  • Who

These question modifiers allow us to really dig down into the questions people are asking, as these may not always have a lot of search volume and be easily find-able. By using wildcards in the search queries alongside the main subject, you will expand the keyword set even further.

Some questions may not make sense and may not be keywords you want to go after. But, doing this for all of the questions modified, along with your key subjects, will give you a great starting position for your voice focused keyword research.

Related Queries & People Also Ask

Yes, we’re still on the same page yet there are more sections where we can continue to expand the keyword set. Related queries and people also ask are great free sources to further expand on what you already have.

If you do this with all of the question queries you have obtained from the initial search console and suggested search data, you will then have a huge list of questions people are asking about your chosen areas. This gives you a great starting point for targeting people searching via voice as well as normal typed searches.

Competitors

This isn’t anything new but is an important step in making your data set as fool-proof as possible. Entering your competitors into Ahrefs or SEMrush, filtering down by their informational areas, or simply anything with one of the question-related modifiers and adding this to your list is a very quick and simple way of making sure you aren’t missing anything the competition is doing.

Ahrefs

This is one of our favorite tools right now. It’s been proven to be one of the best at backlink exploration but is also great for keyword data, especially when building up a keyword set.

Creating a keyword list

First of all, you’ll need to set up your keyword list, based on the previous data you have gathered. This will then automatically pull through the search volumes, clicks, difficulty and many more data points.

It’s important to note that some of the data may not have been updated in some time. If this is the case you’ll need to use your credits to re-run this to gather new data.

Questions

As we know, voice search is all about questions. This is where we can further expand on the keyword set by using Ahrefs’ questions section.

This is going to be one of the most important areas of the keyword research. Ahrefs does only take the first 10 keywords from the keyword list though, so it may be worth inputting the main categories, to begin with, to find questions around those and gradually digging deeper once you have the main questions.

There are going to be a lot of long tail questions with very little search volume, depending on the niche. It’s worth filtering through these to see if they are in fact useful. If so keep them, if they don’t make sense, get rid.

Other data gathering tools

As well as the ‘normal’ keyword research tools there are many other places you can find data on questions people are searching for. Again, depending on the niche this may or may not be useful to you. Quora is a great place for gathering information around voice-based searches as it’s a platform for exactly that – asking questions.

This is simply the top five results for that seed keyword in the search bar. Search for some of your main topics, grab the lists of results and again feed them into your keyword set, either on Ahrefs or your excel sheet.

The same can be said for Pinterest. This is great for lifestyle and retail websites as Pinterest is, of course, a very visual platform.

This search has very quickly given me another list of suggested searches, which I can then take, expand on using the variety of different techniques already outlined and again add to the already extensive data set we have collated. Pinterest is great platform to find keyword ideas for retail, to inform both offline and online strategies.

Local intent keywords

Voice search is not only about content driven informational terms. Sometimes it may be as simple as asking for opening times, contact details or business history. It’s important that these are factored into your keyword sets. Also, if you aren’t a business with a lot of branded search volume it may be difficult to find specific keywords with tools.

However, data from GSC may still provide you some great insight. We would suggest having a separate document to make sure that any questions around your specific brand are answered. This may mean making sure your structured data is up to scratch, Google Local Listings are complete or the content on your site includes what people are looking for.

The Final Keyword Set

Doing a keyword research for voice is not much different to how you would normally carry out a keyword research for informational. However, there is much more of a focus on questions – not only high-volume questions but ones which could have 0-10 searches a month simply due to the long tail nature.

Running through this process multiple times, with your different seed keywords, will help build out an extensive list of questions and informational terms people are searching for. This will not only help influence your content strategy but your sales strategy – knowing what people are looking for is the first step in understanding your user or customer base.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

How voice queries are showing up in search data

The rise of voice search is no secret, and many companies are still wondering how to address it. When it comes to search data, how can we monitor which queries are from voice? In this article, Jason Tabeling shows how he finds insights into voice search from his own company’s data.

Alpine.AI estimates that there will be more than 1 billion voice searches completed in 2018.

At this point I’m sure that everyone has seen or done a voice search, even if you just saw an example in a Google Home or Amazon Alexa ad. The power of what can be completed with a voice command is growing by the day. This trend is already having a massive impact on consumer behavior and therefore needs to be a consideration when monitoring or optimizing our search accounts.  

Right now Google doesn’t provide specific information on how a search was started. For example, was it a Google home search, from the app, done via typing or voice.

However, I wanted to take a recent dive into our own search data from our company, BrandMuscle. I used Google Ads client data across all verticals, comparing the first nine months of last year with this year, dates 1/1/17-9/30/17 versus 1/1/18 – 9/30/18.

The data revealed some interesting trends that give insight into how voice searches might be showing up in the data we currently have available.

Looking at the length and type of queries

To start, I looked at the length of search queries. The thought is with voice search consumers are using a more natural language. So instead of searching for “car insurance” consumers might search for “cheapest car insurance for Toyota Camry.” Our data shows the average number of words in each query has increased for both mobile and desktop queries year over year. Desktop queries are up 7% year over year to 4.3 words per query. Mobile has increased 9% year over year to 4.14 words per query. With mobile increasing more rapidly I think this shows the impact voice is having, as well as larger devices enabling consumers to input longer queries.  

The other area I wanted to dig into was what types of search queries are consumers using. I think voice search has brought an increase of consumers asking questions in a more natural language. Therefore I looked into question modifiers like who, what, where, when, why, and how. The use of these terms indicate more conversational tones. Our data has shown an increase in these terms of 118%, and a majority of that change coming on mobile phones which is up 178%.  

So what actions should you take with the increase in voice search? Here are 3 considerations:

1. Build experiences for question based queries

One of the reasons why search is such a great marketing tactic is consumers are giving you specific clues as to what they want. This is even more true when a question modifier is included. For example the implications behind what type of information a consumer is looking for when they are searching for “Where” + Running Shoes vs. “What” + Running Shoes is very important. “Where” would indicate the consumer wants map or location information, where “what” indicates more research based content is needed. Having ad copy and landing page experiences that meet these specific demands will help increase conversion rates. 

2. Monitor your search query data

Some of you might be reading these and questioning if this data matches your own search accounts. I bet it’s directionally correct, but might vary significantly. The only way to know is to dig into your own data. See what insights you can derive. Are any queries that your ad appeared where it should not have? This should be a part of regular account maintenance as you update match types and negatives. 

3. Test voice queries that are important to your business

Putting yourself into the shoes of one of your customers is still a very helpful lens for account managers. We often take our eyes off what the consumer experience is considering how much focus and attention we put into the details of a good search program. However, sometimes it’s just as simple as seeing what the search query results look like as a consumer. Try a search on Google Home. Does it provide an answer? Is it an answer that was taken from your organic listing? What opportunities can you uncover with this information?  

Voice search is having a major impact on our lives as consumers and marketers. This change is happening quickly and will continue to evolve as the technology continuously gets better and better. Following a few of these quick tips to keep an eye on your data will be very helpful to staying ahead of this trend. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

7 common SEO mistakes most WordPress bloggers make

WordPress initially started out as a ‘blog-only’ platform and now that it has extended as a full-fledged Content Management System, it remains a popular blogging platform. WordPress.com blogs have over 409 million monthly viewers who looked at 22.4 billion pages per month this past year.

This standalone fact is enough to justify the popularity of WordPress as people’s favorite blogging platform.  

WordPress does provide a lot of helpful features for blogging enthusiasts who are looking to start their own blogging website. However, inexperienced bloggers do commit some mistakes in spite of all the online help available. In this blog post, we will review the most common SEO WordPress mistakes that bloggers commit out of either ignorance or sheer carelessness. Regardless of the reason, these mistakes affect the search engine ranking of their blogs and even their online reputation. 

So, let’s explore seven of the most common SEO mistakes made by WordPress bloggers. 

1. Not using the right SEO optimized blogging theme 

If you are new to blogging, you might have missed out on the information that WordPress offers SEO optimized themes for your blogs which are highly helpful when it comes to the quest of online rankings. If you are not using an SEO optimized blogging theme, you are obviously a step behind than the others who are relying on them. There are a lot of SEO optimized blogging themes for WordPress that you could choose from such as DiviMagPlusJevelin etc.  

2. Missing on an SEO optimized contact form 

Even if your WordPress blog is in its initial phase, it needs to provide a point of contact to its followers, even if they are less in the count than expected. A contact form serves the purpose just right. Your contact form is a conversion driver and optimizing it for the right SEO keywords will help your visitors easily find your blog, hence amplifying the traffic. 

3. Not buying a domain 

Are you running your free blog using WordPress with the default blog address you were allotted with? If the answer is ‘Yes’, you might not be pleased with what we are about to tell you. A blog or even a website runs well only when it runs as per the need of its target audience. A proper domain name provides an identity to your blog and prepares a path for the visitors to lay their expectations. Not buying a domain can damage the traffic expectations of your blog and kill its overall Search engine ranking. 

4. Not optimizing blog images 

A great blog comes to being only when its relevant content is paired with original and high-quality images. However, a lot of WordPress blog and website owners forget to tap the optimization of these images. It is very important to optimize the images you use in your WordPress blog. It helps your site load faster and even enhances your Google PageSpeed score. 

To optimize your blog images, you can seek help from WordPress image optimization plugins such as Smush ItEWWW Image Optimizer, and TinyPNG. These plugins will help you compress your images without affecting their resolution and also take care of their SEO optimization. 

5. Choosing the wrong keyword 

Your blog’s reachability depends entirely on the Keyword chosen by you for its Search Engine Optimization. Keyword Research might be a very extensive concept but it can do wonders for your blog’s SEO if done in the right manner. 

You have to work on an SEO Keyword strategy for your blog in a manner that you are using  Keywords that define the subject of your content, are low in competition yet are commonly used by visitors for finding the information they are looking for. Finding Keywords that fit the bill for all these requirements can be quite a task and might overwhelm certain users. As demanding they might be, they require your focus or the attention if you are looking to rank your blog well.  

6. Not focusing on loading speed 

Your online blog’s loading time will highly affect the traffic on it and also the site abandonment ratio that follows if your blog takes a lot of time to load for its visitors. A loading time above 2-3 seconds can lead to a lot of visitors abandoning your blog.

If you really are serious about your blog’s loading speed, you must get a Caching plugin for your blogs such as W3 Total CacheWP Fastest Cache or WP Super Cache. These plugins are easy to use and they make your WordPress blog speedy as well. You must also not refrain from investing in a reliable web hosting service because they tackle your blogging website’s server side issues and have their fair share towards your blog’s overall performance and speed.  

7. Not focusing on content and readability 

Probably one of the most important aspects of your blog is the content that you push through it. It needs to be of a top-notch quality when you are looking to commit no SEO mistakes in and around it. Make sure the following things about your blog’s your content: 

  • Create original content that is relevant as per the audience. 
  • Make sure that this content is readable and provides a ‘takeaway’ for the target audience. 
  • Blogging consistently will help you have a stable traffic on your blog. Use plugins like the Editorial Calendar to blog regularly. 

Conclusion

A lot of experienced blog owners do commit technical and onsite SEO errors and then look for SEO agencies and content marketers to take care of their blog’s SEO. However, the most common mistakes can be easily avoided by creating a checklist of the must-haves. 

Analyze your WordPress blog today and see if you are committing any of the mistakes mentioned above. Hopefully, you’ll be able to tackle them and remove them from your blog at the earliest. Once you have a solid SEO content strategy and a perfect plan of action for your blog’s SEO, you will definitely be able to refine and improve the overall SEO performance of your WordPress blog.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The end of Google+ after a data breach and how it affects us

Google has decided to shut down Google+ after discovering a data breach. How should we react to the news?

Not many of us were surprised to hear that Google+ will stop existing in a few months. The only surprise came in the way the news was revealed with Google announcing a data breach that led them to this decision.

Google has published a blog post last week mentioning that they discovered a bug in the API for Google+ that allowed third-party developers to access data of 500,000 users with unauthorized permission.

What’s interesting is that they didn’t disclose the breach back in March when they discovered it and they only brought it to the public after The Wall Street Journal covered it in a post.

The story became so big that Google knew that they had to respond to it.

They’ve provided more details in their recent blog post about the bug:

Underlining this, as part of our Project Strobe audit, we discovered a bug in one of the Google+ People APIs:

  • Users can grant access to their Profile data, and the public Profile information of their friends, to Google+ apps, via the API.
  • The bug meant that apps also had access to Profile fields that were shared with the user, but not marked as public.
  • This data is limited to static, optional Google+ Profile fields including name, email address, occupation, gender and age. (See the full list on our developer site.) It does not include any other data you may have posted or connected to Google+ or any other service, like Google+ posts, messages, Google account data, phone numbers or G Suite content.
  • We discovered and immediately patched this bug in March 2018. We believe it occurred after launch as a result of the API’s interaction with a subsequent Google+ code change.
  • We made Google+ with privacy in mind and therefore keep this API’s log data for only two weeks. That means we cannot confirm which users were impacted by this bug. However, we ran a detailed analysis over the two weeks prior to patching the bug, and from that analysis, the Profiles of up to 500,000 Google+ accounts were potentially affected. Our analysis showed that up to 438 applications may have used this API.
  • We found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any Profile data was misused.

They seem to use the word ‘bug’ making it clear that there is no evidence that there was a misuse of the data.

There was also an action to reassure users with the launch of more granular Google Account permissions through the individual dialog boxes.

Still, it seemed like the best time to shut down Google+, one of their least popular products the last few years.

The end of Google+

When was the last time you used Google+?

Not many of us can remember the last time we’ve had a meaningful interaction on Google+ or used it as part of our social media (or search) ROI.

Google’s attempt to launch its own social network was ambitious but the problem was that it never clicked with its audience.

The stats speak on their own and they come from Google’s latest blog post:

“The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”

Thus, users are only accessing Google+ by mistake or they simply find no reason to stay engaged.

On the contrary, there seemed to be a fit for enterprises using Google+ and they might even find new features to benefit from it:

“At the same time, we have many enterprise customers who are finding great value in using Google+ within their companies. Our review showed that Google+ is better suited as an enterprise product where co-workers can engage in internal discussions on a secure corporate social network. Enterprise customers can set common access rules, and use central controls, for their entire organization. We’ve decided to focus on our enterprise efforts and will be launching new features purpose-built for businesses. We will share more information in the coming days.”

Hence, the end of the consumer use may not necessarily mean the end of its enterprise users.

When will the platform shut down then for consumers then?

Google mentioned that there will be a 10-month period that you can still access the social network until it shuts down. This means that we will all say the final goodbye to Google+ at the end of August 2019.

What do all these mean?

Dr Ben Marder, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at University Edinburgh Business School was skeptical from the beginning of Google’s endeavor and the problem started from the network’s positioning:

“Google + was created with a promise that it would solve the ‘multiple audience problems’ an issue that has been shown to cause anxiety within network members as the content is consumed beyond those it is undesired. An issue that Facebook was highly criticized for. Though I commend the effort of Google, unfortunately, I believe it was these arguably good intentions that killed it before it was even born.

People will say that they want to keep their various different social circles separate, no doubt this was what was reported in market research when Google was designing their network. However, what people are reluctant to say is a key component of what makes social media so fascinating is seeing the posts maybe you shouldn’t have, the kind of posts that would spark interest and may be gossiped about. Google+ is best described, like a person you would rather not have a second date with, ‘nice but boring’. At least LinkedIn knows it is boring, but fulfills a specific niche, Google + was essentially a dull jack-of-all trades.”

You may be indifferent about Google+ as a user but you may have used it in the past as part of your marketing or SEO strategy. There used to be a time that Google+ was still relevant for professional reasons and it even brought some sort of ROI for some businesses, especially in niche industries and communities.

What does this change mean for marketers then?

Chances are that you haven’t used Google+ for at least a couple of years. However, it’s still interesting to explore how the social media landscape is evolving. Even Google’s power wasn’t enough to convince users to use its social platform.

It’s a lesson for all of us not to rely on one platform for our marketing strategy, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, as you can’t predict what the future holds.

It’s always a good idea to look into the future to ensure that your strategy is adapting to the changing consumer habits.

Moreover, another data breach, whether it’s called a breach or a bug, is a matter of concern for users who lose their trust on big tech giants. This is important when creating your next marketing campaigns to ensure that your brand and your messages comply with the audience’s needs. Trust will become key on social networks and we cannot ignore it anymore, especially after a year of multiple data breach scandals.

And what does this change mean for SEO professionals?

Social media and SEO can still make great allies. Google+ used to help companies boost their SEO with social playing as a useful ranking signal. Although it has never been an official ranking signal, it still contributed to online authority. However, as Google+ started losing its audience, it didn’t affect SEO even if it was Google’s own network.

YouTube can still impact your search rankings and of course, your popularity on other social channels can still affect your position in SERPs.

Still, social media is not the most important factor to your SEO strategy and Google+ certainly won’t be missed in 2018.

If you want to check your Google+ data you can visit Google’s Takeout where you can download the data from Google’s services.

Google will also provide more details soon on how you can both download and migrate all your Google+ data.