Subscribe to The Search Agents Feed feed
Online Marketing Intelligence
Updated: 5 hours 57 min ago

News and Media Sites Slow to Deliver the News in The Search Agency’s New Mobile Experience Scorecard Report

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 10:39

This week, The Search Agency published its most recent edition of the Mobile Experience Scorecard report, focusing this time on the print news and media industry. Thanks to The New York Times Innovation Report release earlier this year, we were clued into this industry’s effort to not only digitize, but also mobilize their content. Using a list of top visited print news and media sites from Experian Marketing Services, we scored these news outlet websites on both user experience and SEO factors, measuring their successes and failures accordingly. Here are a few key findings:

  • Page Speed Matters: None of the most visited print news and media sites scored were able to pass Google’s recommended 5 second load time threshold, though 30% served Google-encouraged responsive web design (RWD) serving sites. This indicates that while many brands are attempting to answer Google’s call for RWD, those that are reformatting still struggle with proper implementation – resulting in long page load times and, therefore, a poor mobile experience.
  • Social is a Struggle: The shareability factor is key for print news and media sites to best serve both user experience and PR needs of news and media today. While 100% of the websites we reviewed exhibited some level of social markup, only 56% provided social media functions directly from on their homepages.
  • Meta Data Matters: Of the 45 sites the spider was able to crawl, 89% were missing meta descriptions.While the absence of a meta description will not necessarily directly affect where on the SERP a site ranks, it absolutely undermines user experience and click-through rate, which in turn impacts rankings.
  •  Large Page Size Handicap: Of the 45 sites the spider was able to crawl, 51% showed large page size warnings, indicating that over half of these crawlable sites exhibited pages with source code larger than 250k. These page size issues most likely contribute to why our page speed test proved so difficult for websites in this vertical to pass. Content of this nature takes longer to load, consequently increasing the overall load time of your website and potentially increasing user bounce rate.

For more on these insights, plus other key findings, download your free copy of our full report here.

If It’s Too Late to Optimize, Retarget & Capture Conversions with Display Ads

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 09:33

The week before Thanksgiving, there are about as many articles on retail optimization tips as there are early Black Friday sales. Realistically though, brands should have been preparing for Black Friday, retail’s kick-off into its biggest earnings season of the year, since before this past summer. Budgets are set, campaigns in place, so with these limitations in mind what can you do to continue optimizing your marketing tactics during this busy season? Use display retargeting!

‘Tis the season to comparison shop, and repetition breeds familiarity

With all the audience targeting available to marketers, display ads can be used to introduce your products to researching shoppers with (ideally) captivating images and relevant copy. With retargeting, advertisers can keep their shoppers engaged with the brand, harnessing the powers of repetition. Increasing your brand visibility online increases the likelihood of your products making shoppers’ top picks lists, and ultimately pushes you closer to those holiday season conversions. So how can you implement this tactic on a tight timeline? That depends on whether or not you are already running display retargeting.

Is your Brand already Running Display Retargeting Campaigns?

You are already ahead of the game. Here are a few ways you can improve the ads you are already running to make sure you capture that Black Friday traffic.

  1. Stay Relevant: During Black Friday time, people are looking for Black Friday deals. In preparation, swap out any generic ad copy or creative you may already be running for super-specific Black Friday deals jargon, using the timeline of when consumers are shopping to dictate when these Black Friday-specific ads will appear. Throw in reminders like “incredible deal coming up next week!” into the mix, specifically telling customers where and when to return to your site for that amazing deal they just can’t refuse.
  2. Communicate Clearly: Right now, shoppers are hunting. Use your ad copy to be as clear and concise as you can to communicate the deals your brand is offering and where they can get them fast. Offer digestible and useful messaging to effectively help consumers track their holiday grabs.
  3. Use Retargeting More than Just Direct Site Conversions: Do you have deals only available in-store? Use retargeting to point your audience to where they need to be to get those deals whether that location is online or in-store. Maybe you’re running a sweepstakes on Facebook? Why not tell your potential shoppers about how they can sign up through paid social ads? Maybe they will even spread the word about it to their friends. Remember that Display Retargeting can live outside the 300×250 box.

Not Running Display Retargeting Already? Not to Worry!

It’s never the wrong time to start a display retargeting campaign. This holiday season is the perfect time for your brand to start observing its site traffic, shopper behavior, and building up its audience lists for 2015 retargeting campaigns. Set up both general and page specific remarketing lists, segmented by the various navigation or conversion paths that are available to the shoppers. With tracking in place, you’ll start collecting data about your segmented audience lists to use during communication with 2015 retargeting campaigns. You can also:

  • Note the upstream and downstream websites visited by your customer prior to landing on your brand website.
  • Figure out which other types of content customers engage with the most or least.
  • Run reports on your growing audience lists to see what 3rd party behavior segments they fall into (i.e. Custom Audience Models)

Why wait though? Why not just set up the pixels and retarget now?

While it is possible to quickly get tracking in place, design relevant creative, and launch a retargeting campaign for this upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you may not experience the same impact as the advertisers that have already been collecting and optimizing their audience lists.  Feel free to launch away, but manage expectation accordingly. You can use this week as a way to learn for future promotional campaigns. After all there are still December and January sales to look forward to!

Note: Choose a platform that can give you the ability to make the adjustments in real time, in bidding, budgeting, and targeting. These features give marketers the most control over their campaigns at any given time.

All in all, everyone is making their list and checking it twice. Make sure your products are visible on that list by taking advantage of display advertising in real time. There’s never been a better time to retarget prospective customers for conversions this shopping season and into 2015.

The Search Agency CEO David Hughes Named a 2014 ‘Southern California’s Ones to Watch’ by socalTECH

Fri, 11/07/2014 - 14:31

Today, socalTECH named our CEO, David Hughes, one of its 2014 socalTECH 50, also known as Southern California’s Ones to Watch. According to socalTECH, this list encompasses “the top 50 people in the technology industry, who are most likely to create the next big thing, produce the next big exit or to influence the industry in a significant way.” If that doesn’t describe David, then we don’t know what does! In celebration of this honor, we sat down with David to gather a few insights into The Search Agency’s beginnings and how the company plans to significantly influence the online marketing industry in the near future.

What makes The Search Agency’s approach to online marketing unique?

The Search Agency, founded in 2002, was one of the earliest online marketing companies who adopted the use of data – way before big data was a buzzword – to drive decision making in a better and smarter way. The outcome of this strategy more than a decade later is that we’re now the largest independent agency in organic and paid search in the US.

Speaking of buzzwords, local search is another key phrase floating around the online marketing world. How has The Search Agency contributed to the small and local business online marketing strategy? 

We’ve been building cutting edge technologies over the last decade. Most notably, we’ve built AdMax Local, the most automated SEM platform for small and local businesses for the desktop and the mobile world. It is the best “do-it-for-you” platform for the local business market today. A local business using this platform can have a website and be marketing online through Paid Search in minutes with absolutely no knowledge or expertise in online marketing. 

The Search Agency recently acquired a few new properties. How does the agency plan to leverage these acquisitions for future growth?

We have made two acquisitions over the past two and a half years, and we are seeking more acquisition opportunities to continue expanding our business worldwide. Recent acquisitions include the purchase of The Acquisition Agency, a Toronto-based digital marketing firm, strengthening the company’s reach into the Canadian market, and in July of this year, MoFuse, the leader in mobile web solutions for small and local businesses. The MoFuse platform, integrated with our AdMax Local technology, now enables businesses to build and drive traffic to high quality mobile sites.

How else has The Search Agency been investing in its future?

We are also making significant investments in our data warehouse and attribution efforts as we launch our version 2.0 of our data analytics suite. This allows us to provide more insight and strategic direction to our partners and is keeping us at the forefront as the digital market continues to evolve.

Many congratulations to David! This recognition is well deserved, and not in the least bit surprising. You can find the complete list of this year’s socalTECH 50 here.

 

State of Paid Search Q3 2014

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 09:24

Last week, we released our quarterly State of Paid Search report for Q3 2014. After analyzing our data, we found that overall, clicks, spend, and CTR each experienced year-over-year (YoY) growth. Clicks increased 12.6% YoY, spend saw a 6.8% lift YoY, and CTR jumped 41.3% YoY. We saw an overall decline in impressions (20.3%) and CPCs (5.1%) YoY.

Increased advertiser focus on mobile devices drove much of the growth documented this quarter, for both tablets and smartphones. Spend on mobile devices continues to climb year over year, with overall mobile spend increasing 27% this quarter.

Overall impressions are on the decline due to a combination of causes. More people are searching on mobile, so spend has naturally followed towards this favored device. However, as increased spend pours into mobile channels, decreased ad real estate on mobile SERPs amplifies bidding competition. Brands must retool their bidding strategies and tailor ad copy specifically for the mobile experience if they want to boost overall impressions in this increasingly mobile-dominant paid search landscape. Knowledge graphs are taking up more room on desktops. We’ve also seen a higher percent of PLA impressions on mobile, which take up valuable screen space.

Secondly, brands are transitioning away from broad match and toward exact match strategies, due in large part to a YoY 24% CPC increase for broad match. Retooling strategies this way, brands accumulate fewer, more targeted impressions. This shift reinforces that brands should not base their whole strategy on impressions fluctuation, as impressions are not necessarily the most important metric.

Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) impressions doubled YoY in the third quarter, with half of PLA click share coming from mobile devices. Constant connectivity, by which consumers can comparison shop online while in store, is making PLA investments on mobile devices more important than ever, especially as the holiday season rapidly approaches.

In the coming months, we expect to see more growth for mobile devices as their increasing prominence in the marketplace continues to reshape the foundations of consumer search behavior.

Check out our full State of Paid Search Report for Q3 of 2014 for more graphs and insights tracking the latest industry trends.

Conference Insights and Big Ideas from the Internet Marketing Association

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:29

In September, I had the unique pleasure of attending the annual IMPACT14 conference hosted by the Internet Marketing Association. This conference is their premier leadership event, focused on sharing issues, insights and improvements regarding how marketers can better approach internet marketing.  The IMA was established 15 years ago due to a lack of preexisting groups in the digital marketing space. Membership is free and the group now boasts 1,000,000+ members worldwide (myself included) representing 111 countries—their website is translated into 5 different languages!

Nearly 1,000 attendees descended upon two ballrooms within the Aria Convention Center in Las Vegas—where else would you host the biggest conference of the year?

Pour yourself another hearty cup of joe because this year’s presenters tapped into the top trends shaping the way Marketers work today:

 

We’re in the Era of Engagement…and the Action’s happening on Mobile

As new technologies and advertising platforms emerge in the marketplace, there’s always a tipping point at which old strategy begs for a facelift. Presently, Joe DeMike, Principle Marketing Consultant, Advertising & Commerce, Google Global Business explained we’re approaching that “inversion point”, which will be the point at which your brand’s mobile traffic will exceed its desktop traffic. DeMike remarked on how Google witnessed this trend begin to develop nearly two years ago with its Google maps component. The lesson?  Marketers and companies alike need to be ready with a mobile strategy.

But how should marketers approach mobile strategy creation?

Consumers increasingly rely on the mobile web for research and discovery.  Responding to this growing trend, DeMike provided a thorough list of optimizations and principles for mobile site design, useful in delighting users and driving conversions. Consider that consumers will give your brand even less time on a mobile device than they will if they were using a desktop.  DeMike advised marketers to let visitors explore their brand and offer content before asking users for something, be it for information, a conversion, or so on; the same goes for allowing customers to make a purchase as a guest. His best tip was in relation to cross platform conversions, whereby marketers should offer their customers a way to resume their journeys if they, for example, happen to be interrupted on a mobile device but wish to continue their searches later on a different device. Emailing the consumer a link to bring them back to the same place or a save-to-cart functionality is ideal. Bonus points for also acquiring the customer’s email!

Mobile devices have given rise to the “second screen” phenomenon, where consumers are multitasking by using any variety of devices at home and/or on the go.  Sanay Dholakia, CMO, Marketo highlighted these “new rules” of marketing as the following:

  • Rule #0 (because it’s sexier to have only 5 goals) Be found. Create content that’s informative and useful.
  • Rule #1: Think Behavioral. Shift from demographic to behavioral communication, where “what I do is more important than what I am.”
  • Rule #2: Communicate 1:1. Shift from mass advertising to 1:1 communication based on knowledge of user preferences.
  • Rule #3: Listen first. Then talk. Shift from “point in time email blasts” to continuous relationships.
  • Rule #4: Integrate your brand channels. Once there were few channels. Now, there are integrated channels. Use them.
  • Rule #5: Automate. Switch from intuitive decision making to data-driven automation.

In this era of engagement marketing, marketer’s are essentially taking intangible data points about customers, piecing together pictures of individualized persons, and fostering real-time, personalized relationships.  However, always remember that humans know best how to connect with other humans.  While the data we acquire will show how consumers act online and their tendencies over time, marketers still have to apply that human element on top of this information by developing strategies for how best to reach their customers at each Consumer Decision Journey touch point as well as how best to move with consumers quickly across various channels.

Another key element of the mobile discussion was apps.  Brent Hieggelke, CMO, UrbanAirship theorized about apps, saying they’re now the epicenter of brand strategy. Everything is pointing to the app–even social.  He used his own brand as an example, citing that UrbanAirship drives push notifications on mobile towards apps as,  “apps can eliminate fragmentation”.  Furthermore, mobile’s domination comes at a time when we’re on the verge of having smart watches enter the marketplace.  If people check their mobile phones roughly 200 times a day, imagine how that number will increase by way of having your phone as a watch on your wrist. As marketers, we need to switch our mindset into ownership of this important channel. Apps are definitely an avenue worth exploring and if done right, the consumer will keep your app on their phone and you’ll be able to tap into data that will allow you to customize like never before.

For a taste of what the future holds, Kreg Peeler, CEO of SpinGo referenced a clip from “Minority Report” (2002) noting that the challenge to marketers will be in finding ways to make future devices contextually aware and precise enough in order to supply the best user experience possible.

 

Authentic Storytelling Will Give Rise to Meaningful Sharing

Stories have the power to influence opinions and sway decisions.  As Val-Pierre Genton, VP & GM, Audience Business, BrightTALK advised, the trick is with incorporating storytelling authentically into your marketing strategy is to non-evasively insert your brand,  into those high value story opportunities. Consumers want brands to help them continue their self-education and self-guided development.  Satiate these desires by offering easily accessible regularly developed thought leadership material without pushing for the sale.

Keith Laska, CEO at EUXmedia, echoed this challenge as it relates to viral videos. The reality is there’s no real planning when it comes to viral videos, they just happen. However, he did point out that “by steadily pushing your brand story across all media and channels,” marketers have a better shot at amplifying the message of their videos and reaching those viral heights.

At the intersection of the physical and digital words lives the experiential space. To this point, Alex Sapiz, Head of Sales and Partner Engagements and Recognition at Cisco Systems talked about the challenge of bringing together nearly 20,000 employees for Cisco’s annual sales and employee training. In addition to offsetting connectedness within the Cisco family, the physical training sessions enabled attendees to actually touch and feel the equipment. Alongside Cisco in this endeavor was long-time experiential event partner Tim Dempsey, VP, Strategy + Planning for George P. Johnson Experience Marketing, who synchronized app and WiFi technology to see where people were on a consistent basis throughout the conference. Using this information, the event team facilitated certain sessions when they were full and activated repeat sessions as needed.  This technology also aided in the flow of logistically moving a large number of people through the event area and training sessions. Overall, Cisco found a lot of value in physically bringing their employees together, rather than simply hosting online sessions. Sapiz remarked by combining digital and in-person training, the conference elicited a higher confidence for selling as well as connectedness within the entire Cisco community.

Similarly, empowering your community is a great approach to telling stories that resonate. David May, Director of Web and Interactive Marketing at Chapman University is doing just that with an ‘audience generated’ approach to the university content.  David remarked how Chapman has developed their own algorithm based on a three-tiered system, whereby the university encourages their existing user base of faculty and alumni to contribute content for the university blog. The algorithm acts as a weighting system percolating the most engaging content (ie. shares and page views) up to the next level. This system enables the team to identify the stories that are most relevant to their community, and ultimately better curate the featured content on their .edu home page. Interestingly enough, the team has seen faculty members use the platform the most for sharing research and publishing insights.

Finally, Christoph Trappe, Chief Storyteller, The Authentic Storytelling Project invited us to re-imagine marketing with the task of telling authentic stories. Trappe remarked, “search algorithms change but valuable content continues to be valuable. Consumers will always need compelling and informational content” the likes of which solve their problems and answer their questions.

 

What Can Marketers Do To Prepare for 2015?

It’s actually fairly simple: get focused on creating the best user experience across multiple devices. Start by making sure the hub of your brand’s informational sourcing is designed responsively and serving up appropriate content based on the device in use. Keeping up with your consumers in a digital, real-time world means acknowledging that consumers are deciding when they want to talk with marketers and on what device. As  Kevin Akeroyd, General Manager and SVP at Oracle Marketing Cloud said, “consumers are now the ones driving the conversation.”  The real key is going to be engaging with consumers in a dialogue across all devices and channels such as paid, earned and owned. Marketers have the unique ability to facilitate this dialogue as they are the conduit between aligning the consumer’s own journey with the business goals of the internal organization. Accordingly, Frank Holland, CVP of Advertising & Online at Microsoft  gave all marketers at the IMA conference a new title; “Chief Make It Awesome Officer.” Marketers now have unprecedented tools to know what’s relevant to our  consumers based on device and preference. But let’s be invitational! Let’s engage in an aggregate way and ask customers to be part of the journey (as they move with our brand across multiple screens) and not just a stopping point along the way.

There are obstacles internally, it’s true. Lisa Arthur, CMO at Teradata echoed this sentiment when she said marketers need to dig in and “untangle the data hairball.” Data needs to deliver marketing relevancy and optimization insights to the customer experience. Arthur poignantly stated, “our consumers are not going to accept that we [marketers] won’t get out of our own way to give them the best experience. Marketers need to be the ones tearing down the silos because it can’t be done alone. We need to be the ones to foster better collaboration with sales, IT, and the C suite.”

The task of taking on the brand vision and aligning it with the Consumer Decision Journey is going to force us to ask questions like “do we have the data necessary to do our jobs?” As marketers, we can start small by making metrics our mantra, advised Arthur. Marketers should champion the cultural shift inside their organizations because ultimately, “process is the new black,” meaning marketers need to automate whatever can be automated in order to gain nimbleness.

In closing, the rules of marketing have changed, yet again. We’re in an era of engagement which demands that we develop frictionless marketing strategies that coordinate across different devices and channels, in order to better track consumers and their journeys of discovery and interaction with our brand. Responsive Web Design is highly encouraged, so that any site can appropriately serve up device-specific content accordingly (insider tip: Google is pushing on the telecom providers to provide faster speeds so brands that implement RWD can actually deliver the best experience). In the wake of all these technological advancements and data abundance, remember to establish moments where the physical and digital worlds meet in the experiential arena. On the whole, marketers should tap into authentic storytelling from within their organization to create content that results in meaningful sharing.

The official IMPACT14 gallery of images can be viewed and enjoyed here.

For more information – including videos of presentations and the like – on the conference, please visit: www.imanetwork.org

True Lies, or “Hey, Google! You’re Trying Too Hard!”

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 14:35

Much has been written recently about the peculiarities of Google’s Quick Answer Boxes. Many site owners are concerned that content is being scrapped and showcased on Google itself, while SEOs are puzzling over why some boxes come with a citation, while many do not. Then there’s the pesky question of whether or not Quick Answer Boxes are even part of the proper Knowledge Graph. After all, how is scrapping a page particularly intelligent?

I recently devoted time to poking and prodding this feature. What I found suggests that Quick Answer Boxes are less than ideal for certain types of queries, and are sometimes featured when organic results would better serve the user.

Example 1: Don’t Know Much about History

When it comes to search, Google is only as good as its sources. Unfortunately, plenty of people post things on the internet that just aren’t true (I know, Grandma – it shocked me, too!). Malicious lies aside, let’s consider an example regarding what many accept as common knowledge. Below is the answer box I was served for the query, “when was the declaration of independence signed”:

Google is confident in the July 4, 1776 answer, and has displayed text scrapped from History.com to back-up this assertion. However, those who take the time to read the paragraph will realize they’ve been misled. History.com is actually reporting that the document “wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776.” Many other sites also call attention to this misconception, so why has Google accepted the “common knowledge” answer?

My suspicion is that there are two culprits at play: bias and verb confusion. When I search for the exact statement, “The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776”, Google returns 37,100 results. Meanwhile, when I run the same search with the date historians believe is correct, (August 2, 1776) I only get 12,200 results.

If Google is simply crawling pages for an answer, July 4th would seem to be the safe bet. Most users are probably satisfied with this result, as it is the nationally celebrated birthday of our great nation. Due to this misconception, there are probably few behavioral signals to indicate to Google that the result is, in fact, wrong.

I repeated the original query several days later. While the same date was displayed, the accompanying text and source changed:

Here we have Archives.gov writing that the document was “adopted” on July 4, 1776. The delegates “began signing it” on August 2, 1776. At least in this case, “adopted” and “signed” seem to be close enough to keep the erroneous answer front and center. Google failed to understand the less straightforward line with the correct answer: “on August 2, 1776, delegates began signing it.”

I wanted to test the verb confusion hypothesis with another date, so I searched for “when was the magna carta signed”. The following answer box is courtesy of Wikipedia:

While the date isn’t served up top, it is bolded. What I find interesting is that there’s no version of the verb “signed” in the text. Instead, it was “sealed under oath” on 15 June 1215. I have no idea if anyone actually signed the Magna Carta, but Google has made the assumption that this is a satisfactory answer.

This is a case where the Quick Answer Box does a disservice to the user by jumping to conclusions. Simply presenting the organic results would’ve allowed users to consider the controversy, while bolding July 4, 1776 misleads them.

If the Knowledge Graph is ever to reach its full potential as an answer engine, it will need to be sensitive to conflicting results that require a human tie breaker. Sometimes “I don’t know” is the right answer.

Example 2: Welcome to Jurassic Park?

Misconceptions aren’t the only things Google has to be concerned with. Humanity has created fictional people, places, and things which have become integral parts of our culture. L. Frank Baum wrote dozens of books about the magical world of Oz, and, if you take films at face value, Indiana Jones was a thorn in Hitler’s side.

While our brains are powerful enough to consider contextual clues, a skill which makes distinguishing fact from fiction a cinch, Google’s not quite there yet.

To further prove this point, I tried my luck using Google to find a fictional location. Like many of my 30-something peers, I’m a big Jurassic Park fan. So I asked, “where is jurassic park”. Much to my surprise, I got a straightforward answer:

The culprit is actually WikiTravel.org, a seemingly upstanding site that decided to create a page for Jurassic Park on April Fools’ Day. Unfortunately, Google didn’t get the joke. The Jurassic Park page does contain a disclaimer at the bottom. I suppose that the content was so well-suited to my query, Google returned it without seeking corroborating evidence from other travel sites.

When I tried the same query on Bing, I was initially served information about the film. However, Bing offered a search suggestion for “Where is Jurassic Park located?” When I clicked on that, I received a suitable answer:

Bing managed to avoid the WikiTravel trap and determined that, unfortunately, I cannot book a trip to Jurassic Park after all (sorry for getting your hopes up, teenage me).

Regarding Google, this seems to be yet another case where the search engine was eager to please me with a Quick Answer Box. As a result, it assigned undeserved weight to a single source. While the ultimate goal of the Knowledge Graph – and advanced search in general – is to classify entities according to their relations, any search tool needs the ability to understand when an answer is ambiguous or contested. In fact, the examples above suggest that good, old-fashioned organic results are sometimes the best way to go.

As engineers build out the Knowledge Graph and Quick Answer Box, I’d remind them that it’s OK to ask for help. Humans create fiction and misconceptions, so bringing us back into the loop is often the best way to shake-out the truth.

In the end, this is not an indictment of the Knowledge Graph or search algorithms. Instead, we’re brought to the realization that human knowledge is strangely ambiguous, and until computers can integrate this into their structured knowledge bases, there will always be room for people to weigh in.

 

 

3 Ways to Adjust Your SEO Strategy in the Wake of Pigeon

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 11:34

A few weeks back, our Search Agents scoured the SERPs, investigating the effects of Google’s yet-to-be-confirmed-or-denied Pigeon update. While Google still has yet to offer any definitive remarks on the matter, no search marketer can refute that U.S. local SERP results have changed dramatically. Like every Google update before it, Pigeon’s landing certainly begs the question, what do we need to do to adjust our strategy?

Yelp and Google Business Listings are Dominating Local SERPs

Problem: Yelp and Google-owned entities are heavily competing with their main page counterparts.

Solution: Think like Yelp.

Engage with your customers. Yelp is all about reviews, ratings and comparisons. Add reviews or testimonials page(s) onto your site with your customer’s name, rating, date, and other relevant information – after obtaining consent, of course. Including a widget on your Yelp page can also remedy this problem.

Another fix? Improve your pages’ semantic markup. For example, the reviews on your site can be marked up as “reviews,” which can help stand out with star ratings in the SERPs like Yelp. Schema.org is the preferred data markup method by Google, Bing, and Yahoo!.

These fixes aside, managing profiles in Google My Business and Yelp are no longer optional if SMBs want to compete in local SERPs. In short, get chummy with Yelp and Google+ for SERP success. Customers are rating your business on these sites, so keep active profiles, engage with reviewers, and attempt to resolve issues for repeat business. Businesses should apply these same practices to other influential local directories such as TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, and OpenTable.

Maps Are Hyper Local

Yes, SERP maps seem to be getting more localized under Pigeon’s reign. However, Pigeon shouldn’t change your local content strategy, just the way Google ranks that strategy. The new local search algorithm has been tied to more traditional Web standards, so sites still need quality, natural content with a strong backline profile to build domain authority and rank locally.

 Here are some optimizing tips for new local searches:

  1. Make sure your business is verified, along with the right contact information, business description, hours, website URL, and more through Google My Business.
  2. Do you have multiple locations? Create dedicated local pages, each with unique, relevant content targeting your specific city/state in the meta data.
  3. Beware: Do not duplicate content across your location pages with the city/state as the only unique factor, as these duplications will not rank post-Panda. Each page should have standalone value to a user.

Optimize for the Local Carousel

Unlike local listings packs, Google’s local carousel was not affected by Pigeon, but remains a local ranking opportunity for businesses. Google derives these results from a combination of Google My Business and Zagat (a Google-owned property) listings, so maintain an active profile with a high-quality photo and positive reviews on both sites. Results are not sorted by name, rating, or price, but rather by the most relevant query result. However, the listing’s image and rating affect CTR, since we’re talking side-by-side competitors.

At the end of the day, Google’s going to change. Regularly. However, any impending changes will undoubtedly be instated to police the search engine in favor of marketers producing quality, responsible, creative content. The less marketers lean into exploiting new Google developments, and instead focus attention on improving content quality, the lower the likelihood of Google slamming those marketers with any future updates.

It’s pesky for SEO marketers but, ultimately with Pigeon, Google continues refining the user experience…with Google products.

Are You Ready for Shopping Campaigns?

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 14:16

In Cinderella’s story, at the stroke of midnight, her carriage turns back into a pumpkin. Online advertising is no Cinderella story, unless Google’s involved. Google sets fairy godmother-style deadlines for all its upgrades and transitions, such as the upcoming Shopping campaign deadline. Basically, if you do not manage this upgrade by manually transitioning your PLA campaigns to Shopping campaigns, Google will flick its wand and change your campaigns for you. However, this change is better made manually. Here are the top 3 reasons why:

Structure

Google has offered to upgrade your PLA campaigns to Shopping campaigns automatically. However, when your PLA campaigns automatically upgrade, they may not upgrade in your desired structure. Right now, before Google’s automatic September 3rd switch date, is thus a good chance for you to change your campaigns manually. Put together your thoughts based on past performance and future strategy, to define the structure of your Shopping campaign yourself. Do you want to base your campaign on brands, ROI, or Product Type? Use a whiteboard. Draw a flowchart. Plan out the structure.

Settings

One of the new features of Google’s Shopping campaigns are their ‘Low’, ‘Medium’ and ‘High’ priority settings. These settings allow users to tell Google which campaign or bid to prioritize when running multiple campaigns for the same product groups. For example, if you set up a campaign with ‘Medium’ or ‘High’ priority, Google will select the bids in that campaign over bids in ‘Low’ priority campaigns. This feature could be especially useful for sales, promotions, and even seasonal campaigns.

Important to Note: Google’s default setting is ‘Low’. Thus, make sure you alter the priority setting tabs for each of your campaigns, setting ‘High’, ‘Medium’, and ‘Low’ campaigns accordingly before implementation, as otherwise all of your PLA campaigns will be set at ‘Low’ priority with the automatic upgrade.

Negatives

Automatically upgraded campaigns may not include any proactive negative additions. However, assuming that the structure of your campaign changes, consider proactively checking for negatives to add over the first few weeks, so that costs do not build up on irrelevant terms. Again, in this case, if you were setting up the campaigns manually, you will know what to exclude in terms of both keywords and product groups.

Fun Fact: Using Shopping campaigns, you can no longer find search terms in the Keywords tab. You can, instead, find them under Dimensions, by clicking on View by Search Terms.

With these tips in mind, design your structure, define your negatives, and plan out your settings before the clock strikes 12. Then just wait patiently on your pumpkin until Google strikes back with another deadline for a new upgrade.