Cyber Monday may be over but the promotions certainly aren’t. This week, many retailers announced extensions of their Cyber Monday deals via social media channels, dedicated emails, homepages, and the search engine results page (SERP). Interestingly, advertisers have begun promoting what appears to be a new shopping trend on the horizon: Cyber Week. The recent repetition of the phrase “Cyber Week” in retail ad messaging sparked our interest, so naturally, we investigated.
On Wednesday, we performed a Google search for “Cyber Monday” which returned paid search ads from Best Buy, Target, Kohl’s and a handful of others boasting Cyber Week sales. The ad copy reflected weeklong sales rather than the infamous Monday mega-sale. Even retailers who weren’t using the term “Cyber Week” were attempting to extend their promotional efforts, offering Cyber Monday deals throughout the whole week.
This doesn’t seem to be a mere shift in semantics – it represents the desire of online retailers to capture as many consumers as possible by prolonging the post-Thanksgiving shopping spree. While Cyber Monday has become one of the most infamous shopping days of the year, it seems as though Cyber Week is beginning its eventual rise to the top. According to Google Trends, search interest in the term “Cyber Week” had minimal traction in the mid-2000s but exploded in 2013, with interest increasing 5x year over year. Clearly, large retailers are looking for new ways to drive sales during the busiest shopping time of the year, and Cyber Week seems to be catching on.
And the increased attention to online sales makes perfect sense after recent reports reveal that this year’s Black Friday sales were sluggish (not to mention hectic). Even with earlier open times (8pm on Thanksgiving day for some retailers) and bigger deals, Black Friday promotions could not compete with Cyber Monday deals that allow consumers to shop from the comfort of their home. Moving promotions to the online space may serve as the tentative answer for improving sluggish sales, especially considering that 47% of consumers list the “internet” as their favorite shopping destination, but does Cyber Week make sense in the long term?
According to Grant Simmons, Director of SEO and Social Product, the extension of Black Friday/Cyber Monday into a weeklong sale event may not have the intended effect advertisers are looking for. “By increasing the number of days that consumers can get ‘special’ promotional prices, the overall profit does not necessarily increase,” said Simmons. “It is merely spread out across the course of the promotions period as consumers wait for an offer they want, or feel less urgency to grab the best bargain on an individual day.”
With that said, trends demonstrate that Cyber Week is gaining popularity. It will be interesting to see how retailers and consumers adjust to weeklong sales. Will this be a new shopping trend in the recent future? Will smaller retailers adopt the new cyber week trend? We’ll be watching to see how retail advertisers react.
In this week’s episode, Grant is ranting about the foolish Facebook feed!
With an influx of ads, edge-ordered posts, less (apparently) relevant content, and a move to serve corporations before individual users, Grant is not a happy (Facebook) camper. Sure it’s free, but shouldn’t it be useful too?
Which begs the question… “What the hell is going on with Edge Rank and Facebook’s monetization strategy?”
Google recently announced an update to Google Trends that will make it easier to explore and compare trending topics and entities. It can now compare trending topics based on the type of entity, making it easier to measure the trending interest of the topic that actually matters to you. For instance, Google provides different data for the search query “rice” depending on whether or not the user intended to search for Rice (Cereal) or Rice (University).
In an earlier blog post, David Carrillo, Manager of Earned Media, highlighted the benefits of using Google Trends as a key tool for generating ideas for content. The new capabilities of Google Trends not only provide more insight into trending topics but also echo other major changes that Google has undergone throughout 2013. David adds:
“It’s interesting because this update to Google Trends gives better data for known entities, presumably through the advancements made with the Knowledge Graph and Hummingbird, which in theory allows marketers to make better decisions in cases where there’s some ambiguity of words with multiple meanings. I don’t think there will be a huge impact on content generation as a whole, but it is important in the general sense because it’s another indicator that Google has and will continue to do a better job of understanding the context of user queries.
It now knows, at least more than it did a few years ago, how many people are looking for information on technology products when searching for “windows” as opposed to information about the opening in a structure or vehicle.
Google Trends currently has 700,000 unique topics in its publicly available dataset—which means it has a lot more data behind the scenes—and this number will only continue to grow. As we’ve been saying about nearly every Google update these days, if you’re writing good content and developing a strong brand, you have nothing to worry about.
If you’re doing lazy SEO, it’s only going to get harder to penetrate the SERPs.”
Google is increasingly finding ways to associate entities with particular topics, allowing the search engine to more intelligently infer a user’s intent based on a simple search query. With Google Trends, the benefits are passed on to marketers, who can harness the data to stay on top of what is current and trending.
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In August, Google launched a new SERP feature called in-depth articles which feature long-form content about broad search terms. Currently, this block of results appears at the bottom of the SERP and consists of three results, each with an image, title, publisher, and description. In order to give content a chance to appear in this section, Google advises implementing schema.org markup, authorship and publisher markup, pagination and canonicalization, and First Click Free for restricted content.
In the brief time that in-depth articles have started appearing, it appears that Google’s algorithm heavily favors authority signals when serving in-depth results. Some publishers that frequently appear include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Huffington Post. One question that remains, however, is what purpose these results are serving. After a few quick searches, in-depth articles appear to miss the mark in providing results that match user intent. Take for example a basic search for the word “candy.” Below are the in-depth articles that Google serves:
A user interested in “candy” might be looking for a broad definition or a historical background. Instead, they get an interview with Ryan Gosling, a restaurant review for a place called Dirt Candy, and an article about a cheat to use in the game Candy Crush. Not a single result is actually about the confections known as candy! Because all the results are from highly authoritative publishers, each article is likely to be well-researched and well-written, but none of this matters because none of the results are relevant. This lack of relevant results isn’t exclusive to “candy.” Take as another example a search for “jazz.”
The first result might be relevant, but the second two are most likely not. One is a personal essay and the other is a highly specific article about one group’s historical hatred of jazz. It’s unlikely that users who entered the extremely broad query “jazz” were looking for any of these results – the Wikipedia article at the top of the SERP, which provides broad information, would likely satisfy their search intent before they reach the bottom of the page. However, Google appears to be specifically targeting broad terms when serving in-depth article results. These queries aren’t reserved to single word queries, as demonstrated by Moz’s analysis on in-depth articles, but these broad queries require the search engine to make wild guesses about a user’s intent.
In-depth articles served for broad term search queries, such as “fish” generally have vastly different kinds of results featuring specific pieces published across a wide range of dates. In the example below, the search results provide users with fish-related articles ranging in focus from economics to neuroscience to ecology.
There doesn’t appear to be any underlying theme connecting the various topics represented in the in-depth results. Instead, Google seems to be carpet bombing users with a wide variety of long-form content, hoping to capture their intent based on an otherwise unclear search query.
What’s more compelling is that the in-depth results that appear for each given query appear to remain constant no matter how many times a user performs the same search. Searching for “fish” provides users with the same three results in the same order every time the search is performed. It will be interesting to see if Google starts to swap in-depth article results as they learn more about the user and are better able to serve results that satisfy individual search intent.
At this point, however, the algorithm for in-depth articles appears to put too much weight on the prestige of the publication at the expense of the article’s topical relevance. In a sense, Google is attempting to use authority signals as a proxy for both high quality and relevant content. They may have nailed the high quality aspect, but relevance may be harder to achieve. At present, it seems a little too ambitious. It would be interesting to see what sort of click-through rate these results are getting on the SERP to determine if users are actually responding to these results. Until then, it’s difficult to ascertain what sort of explicit SEO value the in-depth results have for brands and marketers who are not writing for major publishers.
In this week’s episode, Grant is ranting about the recent suggestions webmasters gave in response to Matt Cutts’ asking for Google’s Webmaster Tools’ improvements. Among the most common suggestions from webmasters was better control of sitelinks selection. However, Grant suggests that increased control over sitelinks would result in decreased user experience and, potentially, lazy webmasters.
“Not me and Matt Cutts.” – Grant
Faux disclaimer: No association, affiliation or other knowledge of each other is inferred, implied or presumed, (unless you call hanging out on different sides of SMX & SES Conferences “best mates”), nor is the photo a representation or visualization of any potential relationship between Mr. Cutts, me, or a cardboard cutout of me. (Though I’m always up for a beer Matt, if you’re buying.)
Google recently hosted a hangout to provide feedback on sites that webmasters submitted for review. Although the hosts John Mueller and Pierre Far didn’t actually review sites individually, they did highlight example issues they found within the submitted sites and provided generalized advice on how to resolve some of the more common problems they discovered.
As the hosts described their process for reviewing sites, they first listed the areas they would examine that often cause problems for webmasters. They also made a point to mention the areas they would NOT examine, areas which they no longer consider problematic as a result of Google’s improved ability to assess and ignore certain issues. The list of elements Google said to ignore was rather surprising.
Although we’ve listed a few of the highlights below, it’s important to keep in mind the caveats that accompany each of these, typified by the word “usually.” For instance, lack of HTML validation “usually” isn’t a problem for the Google bots, and Google can “usually” compensate for mixed up 301 and 302 redirects. However, “usually” by definition isn’t “always,” so webmasters should continue their optimization efforts in these areas whenever possible, adhering to best practices and common sense.
With this necessity in mind, what does Google say you don’t need to worry about?
If anything, by indicating certain elements that webmasters usually don’t need to worry about, Google provides insight into some of the incremental improvements that the crawling system has made over the years. These changes make it easier for Google to identify common technical issues, potentially removing some of the burden from webmasters who are optimizing their sites.
Check out the archived recording of the hangout to get the whole story and to learn from some of the common mistakes made by other sites. The hosts also indicated that they planned to hold more site review hangouts in the future where they might delve into individual sites to provide a deeper level of insight.
Google recently rolled out a new feature in the Google Display Network in AdWords that can target visitors whose online behaviors indicate that they are in the active-consideration process of making a purchase. This new segment is called “In-Market Buyers” and is located under Interest Categories. Essentially, Google has come up with a way to identify consumers who are ready to make a purchase based on their behaviors, and the In-Market Buyers segment allows advertisers to target these highly qualified consumers directly. Unlike retargeting, the In-Market segment doesn’t require that a user visit an advertiser’s website in order to start receiving display ads from that site. Instead, once a user visits a site and exhibits behavior indicating an intent to purchase, that user can start to see ads from another site that sells similar products. While Google hasn’t officially announced this new behavioral targeting feature, it has been running in beta for a while with reasonable success.
Tamar Dilsizian, Manager of Display Media, says that investing in the In-Market Buyers segment has already garnered positive results for advertisers who are targeting buyers in a particular market. However, she adds that “similar to retargeting, the In-Market segment goes after consumers closer to the end of their decision journey, which may be efficient but not necessarily a high volume opportunity.”
Cassandra Caswell-Stirling, Campaign Manager for Display Media, adds that the In-Market Buyers feature has also “proven a success for B2B advertisers, a commonly tricky segment to capture on the web. Volume is going to be more limited than the more upper funnel targeting options, but if a client is looking for lower funnel users–and who wouldn’t be?)–then In-Market is something to test.”
In-Market Buyers represents another new way to achieve more precise targeting in order to get the right ads to the consumers who are most likely to make a purchase. Evidence of its early success indicates that it will prove useful to a variety of advertisers, and it will be interesting to see what effect it has in the future.
This week, The Search Agency sits down (in a Chicago airport) with Angie Schottmuller, Director of Interactive Strategy and Optimization at Three Deep Marketing, to learn more about her search marketing career. Angie tells us about her take on SEO and provides an awesome analogy between search and Star Wars.
Hi there, would you mind saying who you are, who you work for, and what you do?
My name is Angie Schottmuller (@aschottmuller), and I head up interactive strategy and optimization for Three Deep Marketing in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. My role includes big picture strategic planning for client accounts along with ROI and optimization direction for SEO, social media, and landing page campaigns. I’m also a Search Engine Watch columnist and regular speaker at major marketing conferences like SES, SMX, and Conversion Conference.
That’s great, so I wonder if you can tell me how you got into search?
I began my career in IT, working as an application developer for over 10 years before transitioning into an e-business role. I saw a need for marketers to better understand technology potential to truly maximize ROI and user experience. Some of my first SEO endeavors involved site search optimization for complex corporate intranets. In 2008, I officially transitioned my career focus to online marketing, though I still routinely geek-out on code. Search — regardless of intranet, extranet, or Internet environment — is basically user experience problem solving. And that’s something that engages my heart and mind.
So would you say that you are a geek, a marketer, or a user experience person?
D. All of the above.
So, what is it that you like most about what you do?
When it comes to SEO, I love the problem solving aspect along with all the geekiness and all the Star Wars analogies I can use!
Real SEO isn’t obsessing over keyword rankings or backlinks; it’s about understanding a user’s search query intent and helping connect them to the best answer. When content strategy is thought of as proving one page as the *best answer* for a targeted keyword phrase, it helps simplify the complexity of algorithm updates and search ranking factors. A web page with numerous reviews, recent user-shared photos, a well-written description and a supporting video is clearly a “better answer,” that’s more relevant and authoritative, than most pages. We don’t need Google to tell us that.
So you mentioned Star Wars. Maybe you can give us a little bit of background on how that influences what you do in a different way from just wielding a lightsaber of SEO. How do you use that analogy?
When working with clients (or presenting at conferences), I like to using movie analogies to help communicate complex principles in a simple, fun, memorable fashion. Some recent themes I’ve used include Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, MacGyver, Mission Impossible, and, of course, my beloved Star Wars. I’ve found Star Wars to be a dominant gene in the technology geek persona, so the analogy resonates well with most online marketers — especially for black hat white hat SEO wars. At the end of the day, aren’t we all just trying to “wield the Force” of magnetic content to persuade search engines and users that our websites are worthy?
[Darth Vader:] “Search your feelings; you know it to be true!”
By the way, my article on SEO lightsabers describes 6 unique types of SEO’s and their respective lightsaber color according to the original Jedi code. It’s important to identify folks with each lightsaber, so you have a comprehensive “team” of SEO’s from which to consult for strategy and execution. My SEO lightsaber is yellow, with blue as my back-up. That means I’m a specialist, typically technical SEO, with primary strengths in content strategy, link building, and offensive tactics to improve search rankings, experience, and conversion.) Folks should check out their SEO lightsaber color if they haven’t already. The analogy is spot on and lots of fun!
I’m a hardcore SEO Jedi (a.k.a. inbound marketer) and believe the key to good marketing is focusing on providing relevant, credible, value-added content that helps users make an informed decision on the journey to achieving their goals. There are some marketers – I call SEO Siths – drawn to the power of “beating of the algorithm.” Their efforts focus more on the search engine than users, which is the first indicator of being tempted or falling to the dark side.
So if you’d have to say, what is the Darth Maul of SEO right now? What concept or tactic what would that be?
I don’t want to tempt any SEOs with black hat tactics, so I’d prefer not to discuss them in a case where it would be documented.
Oh, so they move towards the dark side?
Exactly. I don’t want to lure anybody to the dark side.
<Bad Yoda voice> Move to dark side you will. </Bad Yoda voice>
[Laughter] I’m up for tackling grey hat SEO though, which is actually more prevalent than black hat. It’s the fuzzy area that true white hats would typically consider black hat, and vice-versa. Grey hat tactics are generally frowned upon, but there’s usually nothing technically wrong that would solicit a search engine penalty. Many SEOs are self-taught — picking it up from what they’ve seen. With the influx of novice SEOs the past several years, there’s unfortunately lots of bad grey hat tactics out there being replicated. Sadly, most folks don’t even know they’re doing it wrong.
As one grey hat example, I routinely see cases where an individual has copied the entire transcript of an article including images and published it on their own site. (Aside: This particularly ticks me off when people do it with my own content and the author by line is the thief’s name with no credit to the actual source.) Regardless of whether there’s a backlink and credit, “scraping” and duplicating someone else’s original content as your own is BAD. (It’s often copyright infringement as well, but few folks pursue charges.) So let’s move out of grey territory and over to white hat. The correct and better approach would have been to only copy a small intro snippet of the article and then (A) add your own personal commentary or (B) find 2 or more similar articles to also feature as part of an aggregate post. (Make sure you include backlinks and credit to the author and site.) In both cases, you’ve basically improved upon the original article by adding fresh, unique, relevant, value-added content. Now there’s reason for someone to link or reference your article over the original.
So that’s the grey side of the Force, what is the positive side of the force? What is it you think everyone should be doing?
The most important thing for marketers to focus on now is creating the “best answer” with their content. Quality trumps quantity. There’s no point in driving traffic that leads to a dead-end or traffic jam. Content should be purpose-driven. Every page should provide an answer to a question/query or serve as a “traffic cop.” To effectively optimize for both search and conversion, prove your content as the best answer.
“One page. One purpose. One targeted keyword phrase. One best answer.”
- Angie Schottmuller
We call that “intent to content” – with context!
I like that!
So my last question: Apart from SEO, which is obviously a passion, and Star Wars, which is also a passion – what else do you like to do, and what else do you want people to know about you?
I like the great outdoors and nature photography. I love underwater photography and scuba diving too, but most of my travel these days goes toward speaking conferences. I’m not up for diving in the creepy, limited visibility lakes or rivers of Minnesota. (Side note to conference planners: Please host an event someplace warm where we can scuba dive! =) This summer I really got into macro photography (super close-up photos) and fell in love with Instagram (@aschottmuller). On a marketing note, I think there’s a huge audience of amateur photographers on Instagram just waiting to be tapped for their talents… at virtually no charge! Companies needing good, authentic photos of their products should take note.
You’re really good about avoiding talking about yourself. I’ve noticed that.
Thank you Angie, great information
Thank you, Grant!
In September, Google shook up the search marketing industry with news of a substantial update to their algorithm infrastructure, known as Hummingbird. As one of the largest changes to the algorithm since 2010, Hummingbird is projected to affect 90% of all searches. In response to this massive change, our team of SEO experts recently published an in-depth POV on Hummingbird with details on how this change will affect the search landscape.
While the exact mechanics behind the new algorithm remain shrouded in mystery, Hummingbird appears to use semantic and conversational cues to accurately interpret search queries. This represents a foundational shift away from a primarily keyword based matching system to a more intelligent, context-driven system.
The uber-detailed POV provides keen insight into the new search landscape and covers the following points:
Ready to start reading? Download your free copy of the POV here.
Recently, we published our second Mobile Experience Scorecard, which evaluated the mobile sites of 100 of the largest multichannel retailers in the United States. Overwhelmingly, these multichannel retailers opted to implement dedicated mobile sites rather than responsive web design (RWD). Of the 100 companies, 91 used dedicated mobile, just 1 used responsive web design, and the remaining 8 used the desktop version of their site.
These results are not unlike those from our previous Mobile Experience Scorecard report evaluating the Fortune 100, which demonstrated a similarly low proportion of sites using responsive web design, at just 9%. This is surprising because RWD is Google’s recommended configuration for rendering websites across different devices. RWD’s SEO benefits are plentiful, so what is preventing companies both large and small from adopting it? In an earlier blog post, we suggested that companies were slow to implement responsive web design because of slow load times. Both of our reports provide data demonstrating that average load time for responsive design sites was significantly slower than for dedicated mobile sites.
According to SEO architect Kirby Burke, companies are “slow to adopt RWD for a number of reasons, most of which are external and have little or nothing to do with the SEO value of RWD.” To elaborate on Kirby’s point, consider these challenges:
However, RWD is still the best solution and this is why Google endorses it. Implementing RWD is ‘future proofing’ your site. As devices continue to grow and change, maintaining one fluid site is absolutely necessary. This ensures a positive user experience for users on current devices as well as devices that have yet to be released. RWD also reduces the burden on developers because they only have to maintain one site instead of several.”
Dedicated mobile sites may perform well now, but future changes in technology could render these mobile sites obsolete. The choice between dedicated mobile sites and RWD is the choice between instant and delayed gratification. While responsive web design is costly to implement initially and often leads to longer load times, it represents a greater return on investment in the future. Slow load times can also be mitigated through the use of a few key strategies outlined by Kirby in an earlier blog post.
Check out our most recent Mobile Experience Scorecard on Multichannel Retailers to see how some of the top multichannel retailers ranked and to find best practices for optimizing your site for mobile.
In this episode of Grant’s Rants, Grant conveys his appreciation for Google Analytics AND his frustration that Google has changed the interface so drastically. According to Grant, the recent updates to the interface have caused headaches and heartaches for geeks that aren’t marketers and marketers who aren’t geeks.
Earlier this year, we published our first mobile experience scorecard report that evaluated the mobile sites of the Fortune 100 companies, and recently, we replicated the study to assess the state of mobile among 100 of the largest multi-channel retailers. Our findings reiterated the notion that retailers are generally more mobile-savvy than the Fortune 100 companies, producing interesting results when comparing the two groups.*
As expected, multichannel retailer mobile sites performed substantially better on average than the Fortune 100 sites. The average score for multichannel retailers was 3.17 out of 5, while the average score for the Fortune 100 was 2.31. The two types of companies also differed in average load time. The multichannel retailer sites loaded in an average of 3.62 seconds, while the Fortune 100 took 5.05 seconds.
Variations also appeared for the types of formats the companies used. Among the Fortune 100 companies, 9% of the sites used responsive web design, 47% used dedicated mobile sites, and 44% used the desktop version of the site. However, only 1% of the multichannel retailers used responsive design, while a whopping 91% chose dedicated mobile sites and the remaining 8% used the desktop version of the site.
The report also revealed that multichannel retailers, on average, were more likely to publicize their online presence by linking to social media channels and apps. Out of 100 multichannel retailers, 58 featured social media on their sites compared to 46 of the Fortune 100. Furthermore, 35 of the multichannel retailers offered apps, compared to 19 of the Fortune 100 companies.
These results are not entirely surprising. Multichannel retailers make up a very specialized group of consumer-oriented businesses that depend on making sales both online and within physical stores. The Fortune 100, on the other hand, consists of a highly diverse group of businesses with widely varying business models. Despite these differences, industry best practices demonstrate that nearly all businesses benefit from creating mobile friendly site and thereby demonstrating competence and innovation in the technological age.
*There is slight overlap between the two lists, as a few of the multichannel retailers are also on the Fortune 100 list.
The full reports are available in our research library.
The holiday season is rapidly approaching and consumers are not only shopping earlier but are also relying heavily on mobile devices as an aid to their holiday shopping. According to Google’s review of cross-device usage during the 2012 holiday shopping season, 63% of shoppers used multiple devices for holiday shopping purposes.
It is clear that mobile devices are increasingly becoming an integral part of our daily lives now that 62% of American adults own smartphones. Smartphones play an especially critical role in the shopping process – according to recent research from Google, 94% of smartphone users look up local information on their phones, and 84% have taken an action as a result, such as visiting a business or making a purchase. The average consumer expects multi-channel retailers to provide an efficient, frictionless mobile experience. Businesses that fail to offer optimized mobile experiences for their visitors may suffer losses, as 57% of smartphone users report they would not recommend a website that had a poorly designed mobile site.
To better understand the current state of mobile readiness among multichannel retailers, The Search Agency used its Mobile Experience Scorecard to evaluate the mobile sites of 100 of the largest multichannel retailers in the United States. This report scores each of the retailers on seven criteria that either impact their organic search rankings and/or their customers’ onsite experience. Each company is assigned a score out of five on seven different factors: page load time, site format, store locator, search box, social media presence, app presence, and click-to-call. These scores are then averaged according to The Search Agency’s weighting factors to arrive at a total score out of five for each of the retailers in our survey.
Here are some of the most interesting findings from our report:
Check out the full Mobile Experience Scorecard report to see how other companies scored and to read about the best practices for improving your site’s mobile experience.
Can you give us a little back-story on how you ended up in search?
I have always worked in advertising and marketing. Over the years I have developed a greater focus on digital, and search is a part of that. In my current role as VP/Business Leader U.S. Digital Marketing at MasterCard, I have my hands in all facets of digital marketing, part of which is search.
What are your primary digital marketing objectives?
We’re really focused on getting consumers engaged with our brand. If they engage with our brand, then hopefully they will become loyal to our brand. Engagement is also key with our Issuing Bank and Merchant audiences as well. Social media plays a big role in engaging with our various audiences.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing your industry?
I think Google’s most recent algorithm overhaul, Hummingbird, really hit anyone in digital marketing. Everyone focused on search needs to rethink their respective search strategies and adjust accordingly. Even on the social side, the landscape is constantly changing. Marketers need to stay up to speed on industry changes that will impact their owned and paid social efforts.
What opportunities have you seen recently in your industry?
What’s becoming more important to digital marketing is exploring all the different opportunities to engage with your audience. Years ago, digital marketing was about your website. Now it’s about finding all the ways to engage with your audience in a meaningful and relevant way on different devices: desktop, mobile and tablet.
What is your advice to people out of college looking to get into digital marketing?
It’s pretty competitive out there, so it is important to be up to speed on the industry. Changes are happening at all times and you don’t want to be in the position of playing catch up. The best way to learn is to engage yourself in search, social, etc. as a consumer.
Thank you Elaine, and congratulations on your Stars of Search Award!
Google recently announced that it will start indexing content in Android apps. This development enables the search engine to provide results that give the user the option to either view content on a website or on an app that the user has already installed.
For users, this provides a more seamless mobile experience by giving them the option to view content in the form that most appeals to them. For webmasters, it represents an opportunity to promote their mobile apps. Unsurprisingly, it also represents an opportunity for Google.
According to Waleed Rashid, Senior Account Manager, Google’s app indexing “opens up a possible secondary revenue opportunity within the apps. In the end, Google wants to provide the best possible experience for its users while simultaneously establishing the best revenue opportunities for itself. Native apps tend to work far more effectively than mobile websites (even if optimized), so the consumer experience is better. By securing ad space on those apps Google guarantees itself an additional revenue source for a long time to come.”
According to Grant Simmons, Director of SEO, this also means better tracking and more data. “Being able to index across devices and platforms transcends the traditional session-based approach to user tracking. App indexation opens up new opportunities for cookie-less tracking through logged in users, which will create a larger pool of data so that (ultimately) Google and other platforms can more precisely target ads and messaging. For SEO folk, this means additional opportunities to increase visibility of app content in the search results, better attribution for SEO efforts, and greater data to support strategic and tactical decisions.”
Google’s new app indexing most certainly demonstrates the growing importance of mobile search, and it serves as a healthy reminder that websites need to optimize their online presence for the entire spectrum of devices and search venues that are now available to searchers.
Today we are continuing our series of interviews with the winners of our Stars of Search award. Today’s interview is with Jeb Griffin, Director, Product Strategy & Development at RE/MAX.
Can you give us a little back-story on how you ended up in search?
Sure. Back in ‘95 or ’96 I was working in the tech sector, mostly consulting. I ended up relocating to Colorado to work in the real estate technology industry. After working in marketing and training, I began working with RE/MAX in technology training. My role was focused on getting agents and brokers up to date on technologies, before I eventually ended up in product development.
Recently RE/MAX embarked on a huge undertaking of redesigning our entire website, which is massive. Part of the redesign was obviously migrating all existing data and content, and we realized that the migration presented the opportunity for RE/MAX to create a very optimized site from the ground up, which is why we sought out the expertise of The Search Agency. Through the process, I became very involved in search.
How did you come to realize that search engine optimization was a priority?
In the past, RE/MAX’s priority has always been listings; we wanted to display listings first. When we set out to redesign REMAX.com, a totally new user experience was our main goal. But as we began this huge undertaking, Search and SEO became increasingly more important priorities. We realized that we had been thinking too reactionary, instead of proactively, by getting sidetracked with an innovative user experience, and putting data and listings on the backburner.
We understood that our competitors were making great strides in their web experiences, and that putting Search at the forefront of our new site would make RE/MAX successful and competitive in our space. For us, our site migration was a clean slate. SEO really came into play with our main migration of data on the back end, and the front-end design is really focused on the user experience. Ultimately in the end, we were able to fulfill goals of both an engaging user experience, and an SEO structurally sound site.
How would you define your role at RE/MAX?
Honestly, I’m more of a product strategy guy. While I don’t have a traditional search background, this whole website migration project has been beneficial and I have learned so much working with The Search Agency this past year. RE/MAX didn’t have the in-house resources we needed, so we were looking for someone we could give a seat at the table with the knowledge to implement the infrastructure. I am currently managing projects, products, and focusing on work with our technology strategy officer to take a more holistic approach to our offerings, for both consumers and agents. As such, I helped facilitate RE/MAX’s entrance into the world of Search.
Are there any industry developments that you feel have impacted your Search strategy?
There’s a lot going on right now, but really it’s all about data, data, data. How you get that data, where you get that data, and how you present that data. All of our traditional competitors, any real estate brand, are competing with the exact same data set. They are looking at, and presenting, the same data as RE/MAX. From a website perspective, the way to be competitive is to present a better user experience with that same data.
Of course we have to keep our eyes on Trulia and Zillow; they’ve grown so much in such a short amount of time. But at the end of the day, consumers are brand agnostic with real estate searches, so we’re trying to figure out where consumers are going, and why. We realize that the key is to understand our own traffic, and how to grow it. Data is something we can use to direct that effort.
In your current role, what are best practices or philosophies you live by?
I think the one thing RE/MAX really focuses on is doing it right it the first time. We don’t want to cut corners. Our team wants to make sure whatever we do; we have a thorough understanding of potential enhancement or impact.
If you were to speak to someone just getting started, what advice would you give?
I would advise leveraging resources and knowledge bases, whether they are people or publications. It’s just so important to get a basic understanding of Search best practices; no matter what industry you enter. It doesn’t need to be extensive, just a basic understanding.
Thank you Jeb for joining us in the Search Studio and congratulations on your Stars of Search award!
Today, Google+ introduced 18 new features that will improve Google+ Hangouts and Photos. The updates are designed to make it easier for users to integrate their lives with the social media platform. For instance, Google+ Hangout now supports location sharing and SMS, and also allows animated GIFs to play inline. As for photos and videos, Google+ introduced a whole set of new ways to manage and optimize photos, from allowing users to backup their photos to offering options for enhancements and filters.
David Carrillo, Manager of Earned Media, adds that the new changes “seem less focused on typical social network functionality and more on integrating with everyday life – which is Google’s aim.
Google+ wasn’t designed to be a social network to compete directly with Facebook and Twitter. It is a social layer that sits on top of all other Google products and services, tying them together via a single human login that aggregates and collects data about the individual. And the more hooks Google has into an individual— through email, calendar, photo sharing and yes, social networking—the better data it can collect about that person and individuals with similar interests in aggregate for ad targeting.
Google wants to keep people within the Google eco-system for as many of their daily tasks as possible, which is exactly what these latest features are designed to do. Why leave Google to Photoshop when you have Snapseed? Why leave Google to SMS when you have Hangout? Google is making itself a valuable user platform on the web and in mobile, and any traction it gets as a social network is just an added bonus.”
By expanding the functionality of Google+, Google is giving its users more of a reason to use Google as a base of operations, or in other words, as a site that can integrate all of their daily online needs into one destination. In the era of big data, that’s not a bad strategy to have.”
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, Google recently introduced shopping campaigns as a new way for advertisers to manage and optimize their PLAs. Shopping campaigns are already rolling out in the US but will become available globally by early next year. The new retail-friendly shopping campaigns allow advertisers to manage their product inventory directly within AdWords. Products can now be divided into “product groups” that more closely resemble the organization of the retailer’s website. Shopping campaigns offer advanced reporting featuring performance data by product or by product attribute, making it easier to optimize PLAs more precisely. Advertisers also have access to competitive performance data, providing insight into how their products are performing against the average CTR or maximum CPC for similar products.
According to Erin Banks, Creative Editor and Channel Management, shopping campaigns represent an exciting opportunity for advertisers: “For so long, we have essentially been flying blind, relying on repeated testing of feed attributes to see what performs well and what doesn’t. Of course we have best practices, but that will only take you so far. Feeds are definitely the future of search and, as Google makes feed capabilities available to a wider range of advertisers, having better data to analyze feed and PLA campaign performance is critical to advertiser success.”
Ranil Wiratunga, Senior Director of Paid Media, adds that “the better visibility and optimization levers will allow for easier optimization going into the holiday season. One possible disadvantage, however is that by commoditizing PLA tools, shopping campaigns allow less savvy advertisers to enter the PLA arena and potentially disrupt certain segments of ecommerce. Ecommerce advertisers will need to focus more heavily on the optimization of their feed and their account structures to accommodate for this potential increase in competition.”
Shopping campaigns are just one of many ways that Google is reshaping PLAs for the upcoming holiday season. Amidst all the other changes Google is making to Adwords, we are closely tracking the impact of shopping campaigns on retailer performance as we head into the busiest shopping season of the year.