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Updated: 10 hours 17 min ago

Structured Data Gets a Face Lift

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 13:47
New Schema.org Vocabularies and Terms Introduced

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Schema.org, essentially the Dewey Decimal-style organization governing how the Internet categorizes and distributes both digital and real-world information, has been hard at work expanding its full hierarchy of structured data types. Since Schema.org, comprised of Internet experts from Google, Bing, and Yahoo, started back in June 2011, many industries and groups have requested the organization expand its support database to include specific terms to categorize real estate, product, finance, medical, bibliographic, and other kinds of information. Due to this growing demand for new structured data vocabularies, Schema.org has now announced changes to the way they govern, grow, and manage these vocabularies.

 

What You Need to Know

Schema.org has made some exciting updates, with undoubtedly more to come in the near future. Here’s the complete list thus far.

 New Public Forum: Schema.org formed W3C the Schema.org Community Group, a forum for architects, developers, and marketers alike to stay up to date and/or actively participate in structured data’s evolution. Why join? At the very least, for quick access to new extensions, discussions, and up-to-date news.

New Extension Mechanism – This new extension mechanism is designed to enable groups and industries to extend Schema.org terms to fit their custom use cases. Huh? Yes. Let me explain with this handy example:

Schema.org has designated “ShareAction” as a schema type used for identifying an element which can be shared. However, on certain platforms, like let’s say Pinterest, folks do not share. They pin! You see, sharing and pinning in this context mean the same thing, except pinning is a more precise type of action that means sharing relative to this particular platform. Tricky, tricky.

Due to these types of linguistic relationships, Schema.org has introduced extensions enabling us to extend any schema type – in this case, making “Pinning” an extension of “Sharing”. Look for more extensions to come as more industries and groups embrace schema.org (this is why you should join the working group!).

Publically Present Schema.org Issues on GitHub – In the spirit of the open Internet, Schema.org has moved documentation of their issues and milestones to GitHub. Here, you can see, comment, and review upcoming releases.

New Versioning or Snapshots of the Entire Vocabulary – This page lists the updates rolled out with every release. Details include fixes and examples, site improvements, and new vocabularies.

New Automotive Vocabulary – Schema.org launched the Automotive Ontology Community Group to advance the use of shared conceptual structures in the auto industry across the Internet. What this means is although every car manufacturer may use varying terminologies for each particular item they sell, for example a car door can also be a car hatch, every consumer and manufacturer knows what a car door is – even if it’s a rear hatch, it is still a door. Applying structured data around information such as doors, cargoVolume, fuelCapacity, fuelEfficiency, fuelType, etc. will allow everyone – consumers, developers, car manufacturers – to connect the most meaningful data points at the right times.

 

Why Should Brands Care About All of This?

Because this is where the Internet is headed. Google and other tech and Internet groups are hard at work assisting their users in getting the exact information they need to optimize with structured data. In fact, at this years’ Google I/O Developers conference, Aparna Chennapragada, Director of Google Now, showcased her team’s current project, which leverages entities such as the ones discussed above in schema.org.

Ultimately, Google is moving towards creating a conversational search engine where queries will move from explicitly stated names to implicit context. In order for Google to return the appropriate answers to your customers’ questions, you need to help it understand the entities contained in your webpage or app.

 

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Mobilegeddon was the Quake, App Installs are the Aftershock

Thu, 04/30/2015 - 10:19
Google Rolls Out App Install Button in Search Results

Amidst the ado, hubbub, and general hullabaloo concerning Mobilegeddon, Mopocalypse, or whatever you want to call it, Google quietly rolled out a smaller, separate mobile update a week prior to April 21st. Well, “smaller” in terms of scope, but perhaps not in terms of importance. Google’s App Indexing specifications have been around for some time now, but they’ve never been as impactful as they are now. Back in February, Google announced that information from indexed apps was a ranking factor for signed-in Android users with the app already installed. Then, on April 16th, Google took this even further, announcing that…

  1. App Indexing is now a ranking signal for all Android users, not just those who have the app installed.
  2. When App Indexing is implemented, app install buttons may now appear in search results for Android users who do not have the app installed.

That’s right, you can now drive app installs from Google search results through App Indexing. This means you can actually acquire new users and drive even more engagement with your app right from Google search results. Once the app is installed, users will be taken directly to the app content that is relevant to their search.

 

Coming Soon to iOS?

 

So Android users are covered, but what about iOS users? While Android has a much larger market share than iOS, iOS does come in second, and together they made up 96.3% of the smartphone OS market in 2014. Is it only a matter of time before Google supports App Indexing for iOS apps? A couple of signs indicate that this may be on the horizon. The first, a response from the Google’s Mariya M. on the Google Webmaster Help Forum, feels like a strong hint. She writes, “Indeed, as has already been mentioned, app indexing is supported only for Android for now. Stay tuned for updates,” (emphasis mine).

Additionally, some larger sites have already gone as far as to add deep links to their iOS content. You can see this across HuffingtonPost.com. The back end of their homepage boasts the following code,

Just below the deep link to their Android app, there is a deep link to their iOS app. While this snippet of code may serve no purpose yet, as far as I know, it seems likely that it will be the way to get iOS app content indexed in the future. HuffPo is including it to get a jump on the competition if/when Google does start supporting App Indexing for iOS apps. Google has not yet provided guidelines for deep linking to iOS app content, but progressive sites like HuffPo apparently feel it is worth taking the initiative to get a head start on this.

 

What About Apps Without Corresponding Web Pages?

 

In June of 2014, without much fanfare, Google introduced its new App Indexing API. One feature of the API is that it allows apps without corresponding web pages to notify Google of their deep links, allowing that content to be indexed and surface in Google search results.

Taken together, all of this means that Google is equipped to be your app search engine, even without the formality of a website as a middleman. App content can rank even if the user does not have that app installed and there is no website associated with that app. Add iOS App Indexing and the service will be even more complete. In a way, the level of engagement could be even deeper than what comes out of app store searches, because the actual in-app content will ideally line up exactly with user intent.

 

Brand Takeaways

 

If you’ve already implemented deep linking of app content on your site, you’re in good shape! That’s all Google needs to start displaying the app install button in search results. If your app does not have a corresponding website, you’ll need to use the App Indexing API to get your content indexed. It would also be prudent to start thinking about deep linking of your iOS app – being prepared will pay off if and when Google does start supporting this. You’ll be ahead of the curve.

 

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Is Search Getting Too Personal?

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 12:54

In the days of yore, SEO was a very different creature compared to what it is today—part panda, part penguin, part hummingbird, and let’s face it, part human. With each evolutionary development, search marketers find themselves scrambling to keep up.

Keeping up with these changes can sometimes feel like walking into a crime scene. You see the outcome immediately, but the cause is hardly ever staring you straight in the face. You first have to dig for clues (data). Then you have to try to piece them together (analysis), come up with a theory, and find the evidence to back it up (test).

One particular development that’s been causing a stir lately is personalized search. Much to most users’ delight, search engines like Google and Bing are increasingly serving up more personalized results pages than ever before.

We see personalization in a variety of ways, including the search results, query Autocomplete, and People Also Ask, which Google is testing right now. The query suggestions and results we see are not just based on what’s popular or trending; they’re also heavily influenced by our personal search history, social behavior, likes, and location. What that means is that no two people are going to have the same search experience for the same query.

To demonstrate this, I typed in the following query as myself (logged in to Google, with my history and cache preserved) and as someone who is not me, using Private Search in Firefox. You can also use Chrome incognito. Here’s what we see:

 Personalized Google Autocomplete:

Private Google Autocomplete:

My personalized suggestions are more robust, based on what Google knows about me based on my search history—that I like cats, clothing, and entertainment. What’s interesting to note is that both types of searches yield “Catalina” related suggestions. That’s most likely because I happen to live in Los Angeles, and regardless of whether or not I’m searching as myself or in private, Google still knows what my IP address is.

Using a different query this time (“swimsuits”), let’s look at the SERPs. The differences are slight, but they’re there. The top seven organic results are the same, but they appear in different order, thus proving that personalization can affect page rank:

Personalized Search Private Search    

 

Again in this example, it’s apparent that my personal search history is affecting the SERPs. While I might not actually ‘shop’ at Nordstrom.com (too pricey for me), I do browse their site quite a bit. This could explain why Nordstrom beats out Kohl’s for the #2 spot in my personalized search.

If you try this out yourself, you may find the differences quite subtle, but that may change very soon as Google continues to push more towards a more personalized, unique search experience. In fact, Matt Cutts recently suggested that perhaps “SEO” should stand for Search ‘Experience’ Optimization because search has become so much more than it was before—it’s all about what resonates with the individual—it responds to users on a more intimate level.

 

Brand Takeaways

So this is all great news for consumers searching online, but what does it mean for brands that want to ensure their pages are still ranking? Good question. With personalized search becoming the trend, brands should be more concerned with ‘who’ they’re ranking for rather than ‘how high’ they’re ranking. If your page is ranking #1 for the wrong audience, what good does that do you?

Here are a few pro tips for navigating personalized search:

  • Get to Know Your Audience – Brands should focus their time and effort on getting to know their target audience, determining that target audience’s wants and needs, understanding how they search, and discovering what they respond to. Armed with the right information, brands can focus on crafting an SEO strategy that’s aimed at reaching the right people, in the right place, at the right time.
  • Link Content with Strategy - A big part of that strategy should focus around content—on page, video, images, meta data, and so on. Every piece of content should be written with specific users in mind, which means it should speak their language, sympathize with their needs, and offer credible, tangible solutions. The desired results for implementing a strategy like this would not only be a favorable page rank, but more importantly, increased click-through and conversion rates.

With personalized search becoming the SEO trend to follow, search marketers will find themselves relying less on page rank to measure SEO success and instead transitioning toward a more holistic approach to analytics. If I may be so bold as to take Mr. Cutts’ notion a step further, when determining how effective your Search Experience Optimization is, don’t think so much in terms of page rank, but rather, brand authority.

 

Be Future-Proof

How Google measures brand authority may always be a bit of a mystery, but what we do know is that, since its last Quality Rating Guide was released in the summer of 2014, Google is making an undeniable shift towards using brand-related metrics—expertise, authority, and trustworthiness—to determine which pages get the most visibility in the search results.

Staying connected and engaged with your existing and target customers will not only improve your online presence; it will also strengthen brand awareness as a whole. SEO aside, brand building should always be top-of-mind in any marketing strategy; whether it’s online or offline – that’s just Marketing 101. In the old days of SEO, this basic rule of thumb fell by the wayside. But the truth is, personalized search demands that we start thinking like traditional marketers again. This way, no matter what updates Google throws our way in the future, we can protect our brands, pages, and websites by ensuring we always have a solid connection with our audience.

 

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Build Brand Awareness with Social Media

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 09:52

When in doubt, socialize! Building an engaged social media audience is a great way to grow your brand’s online presence. We recently partnered with a beverage industry retailer to grow their online presence with a Display media campaign on Facebook.

Check out our latest case study about the partnership, detailing how we…

– Grew 100,000+ Facebook page Likes

– Systematically tested their entire creative portfolio to identify top-performing online assets to use in present and future campaigns

– Gathered qualitative data from newly engaged audience members about their product line to then feed back into production – incorporating real customer feedback into product creation to further align what the brand provides with what customers actually want.

Engaging with your customers online, whether with social media marketing, content marketing, or search marketing, can open all kinds of doors, giving you the data necessary to make smarter decisions about how to grow your business.

Introducing Google Mom – The Only Knowledge Graph You’ll Ever Need

Wed, 04/01/2015 - 09:26

Today, Google introduced what may be the ultimate implementation of the Knowledge Graph – Google Mom. Using its inherent understanding of our preferences, history and unrecognized talents, Google Mom produces Now cards and search results tailored specifically to us, the users, each unique in our own special ways.

“We’ve traditionally sought to understand people based on search history, geolocation, emails and purchase habits. Now Google Mom takes that mission a step further, replicating the neural networks found in mothers around the world, helping us get to know you better than you know yourselves,” Google engineer April Fuls told attendees at a morning press conference.

“Our old algorithm may know when you were born,” she continued, “But Google Mom? She was there.”

Google is expected to roll out the feature globally over the next few days, but Fuls gave the media a sneak peek this morning.

Queries about weather were met with replies suggesting specific outfits searchers received during the past holiday season, such as “Why don’t you wear the jacket Aunt Linda bought you?”

Attendees saw the feature used in the wild when Fuls’ presentation was interrupted by a reminder about an eligible bachelor in her hometown. “Why don’t you give him a call?” prompted Google Mom, “You got along so well as kids.” A clickable “Call” button promptly followed.

Visibly embarrassed, Fuls’ attempts to close the reminder further displayed Google Mom’s semantic abilities. “I guess you don’t have time for your Google Mom,” read a message on the screen. “I bet Siri’s installed user base doesn’t treat her this way.”

Struggling to get back on track, Fuls demonstrated Google Mom’s integration with Maps. The application now removes listings for restaurants and bars that serve food that’s too spicy or have ever had to call the police for disorderly patrons.

“Google Mom also works to add your own actions to the Knowledge Graph,” Fuls continued. “For example, everyone in my address book now knows that I bought tickets to see One Direction,” she sighed.

Fuls added that Google Mom will soon be joined by Google Dad, slated to answer all queries with a consistent “ask your mother.”

As reporters filed out of the theater, a final message appeared on-screen: “You did your best, and that’s all that matters.”

How Hard Will Google’s Mobilegeddon Hit Your Site?

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 11:45

Google’s massive mobile update is on its way, slated to start a little less than a month from now – on April 21st. A member of the Google Webmaster Team just announced this update will be significantly larger than Panda and Penguin. This warning, coupled with the blog post Google released nearly two months ahead of the update, further underlines the impending extensiveness of this algorithmic change. If we take a second to think about how large Panda and Penguin already were – Panda docked all websites engaging in sub-standard page quality practices (it specifically checked the content quality of a page) and Penguin docked websites engaging in sub-standard linking practices – an update even more widespread than these will surely be disruptive. Mobilegeddon will dock all websites not yet optimized for mobile usability. But how much of an impact will this update have on your website?

To answer this, we leverage the performance and mobile error data Google has provided to determine an approximate hit to Impressions, Clicks, CTR and Average Position. In this post we’ll help you prepare for the worst by showing you how to:

  1. Determine which data to use
  2. Download and organize mobile usability data
  3. Download Top Pages performance data
  4. Combine Top Pages Performance data with mobile usability data
Pick Your Poison – Determine Which Data to Use

Your first step in this analysis? Select the GWT (Google Webmaster Tools) profile corresponding with your non-mobile optimized pages. Here’s how to tell which one to pick:

  1. If your site can only be accessed by one domain (www), then choose www as you have no other choice.
  2. If your site uses www for desktop and m. for mobile, choose the www version. I’m going to assume – read “pray” – that your m. is mobile optimized. If it is not, you will need to perform this analysis against that profile as well.
  3. If you have mobile in a directory such as example.com/mobile/…

a. Shame on you and why?

b. This should have its own profile in GWT to track performance against mobile pages only. If you don’t have that setup…

c. Shame on you again and follow these instructions on how to setup subdirectories to Google Webmaster Tools.

One of the websites I’m currently working on for a client is NOT mobile optimized and only on a www. Let’s see how much mobile traffic we’re getting before the update…

Yep. I’m no rocket scientist, but that looks like we can expect an approximate 20% hit in traffic. Next step? Let’s see what types of usability errors are currently present on our pages.

Get Organized – Download and Organize Mobile Usability Data

Head over to the Mobile Usability section in GWT and download, one at a time, each mobile usability error report. Here’s how:

1. Select the first named error, and view its report.

2. From there, click to download the report. No need to show additional rows as this one will download up to 1,000.

*I’m not sure if these 1,000 are chosen at random, most important, visited, etc. However, we can use what is here to draw conclusions later on.

3. Repeat this process until all reports have been downloaded.

4. Combine the reports into one file with each report in its own tab then rename as you see fit.

 5. Add a column to the end of each data set and identify the type of error.

6. Combine all data to view the amount of errors present at the URL level.

a. Select ALT+D, then P. This will bring up the PivotTable Wizard.

b. Select multiple consolidation ranges and PivotTable (or also chart if you please), click next.

c. Select create a single page field for me, click next.

d. Select Add and go through each tab, select your entire data set one tab at a time then add the next tab until you have all tabs combined, click next.

e. Now we have our pivot table summarizing every error at the URL level. Just filter out “Last Detected” as this information is not as relevant to our analysis.

 

Great, now we know how many errors we have total, and which URLs the update will specifically affect. Looking at this list of errors you’re probably thinking… Okay, I have work to do, but where do I even start? To answer this question, let’s figure out how much traffic is currently coming into your site from each URL, how much of an impact we stand to lose overall from this update, and prioritize our workload accordingly.

Pro Tip: At this point, you might get lucky and spot trends signaling a specific template causing the brunt of your site’s errors and make a quick fix. If not? No sweat. We’ll simply continue onto our next step, prioritizing our optimization efforts by the amount of traffic a page garners instead of what type of page or template it uses.

What’s the Prognosis Doc? – Download Top Pages Performance Data

Here’s how we’ll assess what’s at stake for your website, performance-wise, once Mobilegeddon hits.

  1. Head over to the top pages report, set the filter to mobile to show all top pages in the mobile SERPs – If you wish, extend your date range to include the last three months of data.
  2. Add the parameter “&grid.s=500” to the end of your URL to get all your top pages. Change the 500 to however many rows you need.
  3. Click to download this table.
  4. Add this GWT Data to your working file in its own tab. You should now have a file which looks something like this:

All Together Now– Combine Top Pages Performance Data with Mobile Usability Data

Now it’s time to combine the data!

1. Copy the headers for the columns in the Pivot tab and paste right next to your GWT data so it looks something like this:

2. Apply a VLOOKUP to find if a URL in the GWT tab matches one in the Pivot summary tab, return the value. You’ll need to apply this same formula across the row, however you’ll need to change which column it checks.

3. Fill in the formula across the row and change the second to last number in each formula to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and so on. Here are some examples… =IFERROR(VLOOKUP($A2,Pivot!$2:$8,2,0),””), =IFERROR(VLOOKUP($A2,Pivot!$2:$8,3,0),””), =IFERROR(VLOOKUP($A2,Pivot!$2:$8,4,0),””), etc.

4. Drag and fill these formulas down.

And just like that… you now have mobile usability error data matched up with GWT performance data!

From here you can apply a filter to exclude URLs with no errors and see if there are similarities in the types of pages affected. You can also calculate the sum of Impressions and Clicks, which you can then compare to your overall numbers to get an idea of what percentage of traffic this group of pages typically accrues.

Tight on Resources? – If you are tight on developer resources, tackle the pages which garner the most traffic first, then move down your list accordingly. At this point in the game, it’s better to do as much as you can to protect your top traffic-driving pages than to wait months to do an entire mobile overhaul all at once.

Follow these steps, and you’ll brave Google’s mobile-friendly update like a champ. Mobilegeddon? Shmobilegeddon!

 

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Facebook Exiling Spammers Once and For All

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 10:01

Phone spammers that is.

In a report published over the weekend, Android Police caught what appears to be a new phone app on the horizon from Facebook. The app, appropriately called ‘Phone’, seems like it will provide enhanced information about numbers on your incoming phone call log, much like current caller ID apps. What differentiates this new app from its predecessors? Its connection to Facebook’s vast and detailed data set, which grows exponentially more diverse each day via people and businesses’ constant uploads and interactions. With ‘Phone’, Facebook could, for example, use its data, as indicated in the report, to block commonly blocked phone numbers throughout user networks. If this is the case, the app stands to only improve overtime, as users continuously report spammers and unsolicited cold calls. Here are a few other ways we’re thinking ‘Phone’ could work in the future.

7 Possible Facebook ‘Phone’ Features
  1. Expand ‘Click-to-Call’ Functionality: The app could provide phone numbers in both mobile and desktop ads. When you ‘click-to-call’ on a desktop, the app could send your request to your ‘Phone’ app and start your call.
  2. Block Spam: With this app, Facebook could gain the ability to identify businesses tied to spammy phone numbers and use that information as ranking or quality signals across all of Facebook.
  3. Improved Advertisement Targeting: If this app knows your phone number, it might also be able to identify your service carrier. With this knowledge, the app could track your call usage and provide ads for better calling plans.
  4. Measure Engagement: Facebook could track your call duration and frequency through this app as engagement metrics to enhance your newsfeed.
  5. Sync Facebook Actions with Real-World Actions: If you make a call to a business or vice-versa that you are not yet connected with on Facebook, Facebook could track that interaction with ‘Phone’ and show you an ad to Like that business page after your real-world interaction. The same could probably be true for personal phone calls, after which Facebook could send you friend request recommendations based on your call history and current Friend status or lack thereof.
  6. Improved Security: Using this app, Facebook could identify unwanted personal numbers and cross-reference them with their identified Facebook user to sync your personal off-Facebook blocking preferences with those on Facebook.
  7. Personalize Your Facebook Contacts: Facebook may quite possibly be able to use ‘Phone’ to sync the contact label data on your phone with your Facebook profile. For example, if my mother’s number is labeled as “Mom” in my phone, Facebook could suggest I mark her as such on Facebook to enhance my social graph. Furthermore, if I have both cell and work numbers listed for my mom in my phone, Facebook could cross-reference those with business data and now it knows where my mom works.

Of course, I’m not sure what Facebook’s exact plan is for this ‘Phone’ app, but I doubt the social network is only interested in blocking unwanted callers. Everything Facebook does is designed to enhance the vast set of engagement data on its social graph, enabling the social network to use that data to provide hyper-targeted ads to its users. Lucky us?

The Write Stuff: How to Reverse-Engineer Your Content Strategy

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 13:39

Content marketing has become such a cliché topic that even articles declaring it cliché are old hat. Many companies have bloggers publishing on a daily basis – I’m sure there’s a light-switch manufacturer out there with a very compelling listicle about dimmer switches. Google has been forthright about the importance of having quality content on your site, and that’s why so many businesses feel obliged to go beyond the simple product listing page.

Along with this opportunity comes the danger of creating content that no one (including the search engines) is interested in consuming. A search for “dimmer switches” doesn’t return any listicles on the first page of results. Google hasn’t seen users dive into editorial content for this query, and so product landing pages are getting the attention. Take the hint.

 

When content marketing is aimed at improving organic rankings, its intent must match the search engine’s identified intent for the keyword in question.

For example, if you’re selling a book about Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic crossing, “flights to Paris” would be a poor keyword choice. That query is obviously going to deliver airfare listings. Don’t shoot arrows into the dark and hope someone finds them, or even worse – you hit a potential customer and lose the sale.

To this end, marketers can perform a bit of due diligence to reverse-engineer a content strategy that focuses on the right themes and formats to earn organic traffic.

To show how it can be done, let’s imagine a telescope shop. Right now the retailer’s website is mostly product pages with minimal editorial content. The owner would like to get some traffic on queries about telescopes, but doesn’t know where to start. He needs a content strategy.

If we perform the broadest possible search using the keyword “telescope”, we get a SERP dominated by major manufacturers. Five of the links go to transactional pages, while three lead to educational and/or informative pieces. Just like our example with dimmer switches, Google has determined that “telescope” is a query with strong purchase intent. The search engine is favoring product pages over editorial content. The SERP is also leaning heavily towards major manufacturers, and that’s bad news for our humble shop.

Dive inside Your Customer’s Head

Our hypothetical retailer is not out of luck – he just needs to find more fertile ground to plant his content. Here we borrow a bit from long-tail keyword targeting. An experienced hobbyist will be familiar with the lingo, and may search for “refracting telescope” to hone-in on the instrument he/she wants. The Google SERP for this query looks much different:

Users are presented with both an explanatory box of scraped Wikipedia text, as well as images. The first three organic links are informational. Only four of the nine results are for merchant sites, and they’re down-page. In this case, Google has clearly decided that those searching for “refracting telescope” are looking for some level of detailed information. Though merchant listings rank lower in this instance, that doesn’t mean traffic is limited to high school students doing research. Rather, consumers conducting these kinds of specific searches may be further along in the customer decision journey, comparing and contrasting their options.

What does this have to do with content marketing? A savvy telescope retailer will recognize that his pages on refracting telescopes cannot simply consist of dozens of product listings – the site will struggle to compete with the informational content currently occupying the SERP. A listicle on “10 Telescopes That Look Like Steve Buscemi” probably won’t do the trick, either.

Instead, content that provides a decent rundown of how a refracting telescope works, a bit of history, and the pros and cons versus other types of instruments could add enough editorial heft to satisfy the threshold Google has set for this keyword.

That listicle about Steve Buscemi might be successful on Facebook or Twitter, where you’ll pop-up in people’s feeds. It’s attention-grabbing and entertaining. However, Google will probably be confused by the association of two disparate entities.

So I Don’t Need a Blog?

You still need a blog, or somewhere to host your content offerings. Remember, we’re just talking about getting content to show up in organic rankings. Galleries, videos, and quizzes may excel on other platforms.

I’d Like Another Example, Please

Sure. A search for “how to change windshield wipers” reveals a SERP with a Quick Answer Box ahead of two YouTube videos. The familiar blue links are below that. The obvious takeaway for a content marketer is that this query deserves a video. If you don’t have budget for that, a nice list will do just fine. That simple format, paired with the authority of the site, earned Allstate the Quick Answer Box. In fact, all the other organic links go to some form of list, sometimes in gallery form. This content needs structure, which makes sense for a “how-to” query.

The internet is full of content that no one is reading. That’s fine if you’re sharing poetry on your personal blog. However, if someone is paying you to create a piece intended to improve their brand visibility in the SERPs, the least you can do is make sure the ship is headed in the right direction. With any luck, you’ll hit on both topics and templates that connect with your prospects and earn the attention you need to compete.

 

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Display Retargeting for the B2C Marketer

Mon, 03/02/2015 - 11:54

 

Last week, we explored how B2B marketers can best benefit from display retargeting campaigns. This week, let’s take a deep dive into B2C display retargeting campaign strategy.

The B2C Marketer

The prime asset all marketers, B2B, B2C, and beyond, must develop prior to launching their display retargeting campaigns is a diverse set of creative copy. By nature, display retargeting serves customers ads over and over and over again. To avoid becoming monotonous droll, you want to diversify your assets to serve customers as many different versions of ads as possible.

With this goal in mind, B2C businesses in particular are perfectly teed up to thrive with display retargeting, especially if they run product-centric campaigns. B2C businesses typically sell many different products – i.e. subject matter for all sorts of ads. Create one ad per product sold and suddenly, B2C marketers immediately afford themselves an entire display retargeting campaign comprised of a slew of different ad possibilities they can then use to promote each product individually, emphasizing individual product awareness, while also keeping messaging varied and diverse. The real trick? Show people the products people show you they want.

Visualize on the Prize

All great display retargeting campaigns start with great creative. But great creative does not just magically appear. How is great creative generated? By visualizing the thought process behind the buy. Rather than simply trying to sell a consumer a product, said product can be presented in a way that makes it a necessary part of that customer’s lifestyle. How would someone use this product? What problem could a customer have that using this product solves? Appealing to an audience’s personal desires and/or traits is crucial for this strategy’s success.

Stylistically, the most successful B2C display retargeting ad copy uses more playful, light language. Experiment with the unexpected. Nowadays, internet searchers are vastly immune to the ads running along the top and right rails of their screens, but will engage with exciting copy. Build ads that grab your customers’ attention.

While last week, we emphasized promoting brand education as key in our proposed B2B display retargeting strategy, that same goal is less effective for driving B2C sales. B2C marketing requires less of an emphasis on audience rapport; the diversity of products makes up for this. In many cases, B2C brands are retail brands slated with keeping consumers abreast of the many changes in SKUs as well as promotions. Promoting this kind of messaging should be B2C marketer’s top priority.

Set Up for Success

So now that we’ve established what it takes to create successful B2C retargeting campaigns, let’s get down to the specifics. We need to establish strict guidelines for this to achieve optimal success. To start, observe the on-site behavior of your audience and visitors. Consider variables like, how far down the purchase path did these individuals go? Did they simply get to the landing page? Explore the website? Add something to their shopping cart? Knowing how they interacted with your site and brand is crucial to your retargeting strategy, as messaging can be tailored to any individual’s specific actions. You could even incentivize the buyer to complete their purchase by throwing a promotion their way. Ultimately, any promotions success comes back to good visualization and messaging.

Frequency Cap

Once your brand has accumulated this kind of user interaction data, you can further refine your campaigns through frequency caps, which determine how often a banner can be served to an individual within a set time period. How often you want to serve your consumers with personalized messaging depends on the length of the buying cycle and the type of purchase at hand. Impulse purchases have shorter buying cycles; a consumer is likely to grab this item very soon after they first see it. Accordingly, your display retargeting campaign should emphasize having a much higher frequency within the first few days of the cycle. Large purchases should implement the reverse of this strategy; the frequency should be spread out over the course of the buying cycle.

Go Dynamic

Dynamic retargeting is also a crucial part of a B2C marketer’s arsenal. B2C retailers are constantly changing SKUs and promotions, and it’s necessary for customers to be aware of these changes. With a proper dynamic retargeting strategy in place, it becomes very easy for B2C marketers to reach potential customers based on timeliness and where they are in the conversion funnel. Dynamic retargeting also increases efficiency, as marketers no longer need to worry about creating banners for every possible product and/or promotion. If, for example, a special promotion is about to end, a customer could receive a banner depicting that end date. In the case of a client within the travel vertical, a banner could be delivered to the customer that depicts their booking date, or the date of their flight. Customized creative and copy can go a long way toward gaining a customer’s trust and ultimately getting them to convert.

Engage Your Audience

B2C brands should make in effort to build audience engagement. This can be done through your messaging strategy. Build relevant conversations tailored around your products. For example, do you sell any culturally relevant items? Engage in those cultural conversations, tying in your products’ relevancies to make products more significant to the average consumer and help these customers see exactly when and how your products become useful in their lives.

Read the Signs

Whether you are a B2B or B2C marketer, once you’ve launched your display retargeting campaign, you’ll start accumulating data. Dig into that data to discover how your strategy is performing. Are you targeting the right people? Are people engaging with your ads? Are different demographics responding to your ads that you hadn’t previously considered? Feed these insights back into your campaigns, further refining your efforts into lean mean retargeting machines.

As we move into 2015, retargeting is a must-have strategy for marketers across all spectrums. With display retargeting campaigns, you get to serve messaging directly linked to customer behavior. There is perhaps no better way to directly engage with your customers and hone your distinct brand voice, ultimately increasing conversions. Just remember, before implementing your strategy, learn the differences between different approaches to retargeting, and use these tools to build the best plan for your brand.

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Display Retargeting for the B2B Marketer

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 09:49

Last year, display retargeting became the major player in online marketing. According to a report commissioned by Adroll, the majority of US brands committed 10-50% of their budgets to retargeting in 2014. This staggering percentage shows just how drastically the digital marketing industry is shifting toward reengaging customers via tracking. Just tracking customers isn’t the only ingredient making up the recipe for display retargeting success though – you also need to strategize.

Any brand launching a display retargeting campaign must first develop a targeted strategy tailored to the products and services they offer, which may vary significantly for companies offering B2B vs. B2C goods. Knowing how to implement a display retargeting strategy specific to your business model can play a key role in your brand’s long term growth and success.

This week, we’ll focus on B2B display retargeting strategies.

How Should B2B Marketers Use Display Retargeting?

Typically, display retargeting campaigns are product based and the best campaigns continuously serve customers many different kinds of ads. However, B2B brands rarely offer diverse product sets. Rather, these kinds of companies typically push a limited number of products or services for big returns. So, doing the math here, if B2B brands only offer a select few products and display campaigns are generally product based, requiring many different kinds of ads to succeed, won’t implementing this kind of strategy cause these brands to keep pushing the same few products over and over again? Probably. Couldn’t that become quite monotonous? Probably. So then… B2B marketers should just not use display retargeting? Actually, quite the contrary!

While a product-based display retargeting campaign may not be appropriate for the B2B marketer, this is not the only display retargeting strategy available. Instead, B2B marketers should implement display retargeting strategies focused on building rapport with their clients and expanding brand awareness. Here’s how…

Push Your POV

B2B products are typically big budget items. Swaying another business to sign over that kind of hefty sum requires more than just a catchy slogan. How do you win that kind of deal? Use display retargeting!  Display retargeting campaigns provide B2B marketers the unique opportunity to repeatedly communicate why their products and services are unique – automated rapport building.

TIP – In the B2B landscape, display retargeting ad copy should not necessarily push product, but rather, communicate how a brand approaches the work they do – what are their values? Their point of view? Authentically communicating this information repeatedly with a retargeted display ad ingrains that philosophy in the customer’s mind, building a relationship deeply rooted in shared belief – the strongest bond in existence, also known as the connection that helps those sales just sell themselves.

Specify Messaging

Display retargeting campaigns are only as effective as the responses they illicit. So how can marketers get the responses they want? By developing a killer messaging strategies, of course! As far as creative messaging goes, B2B display banners should…

  • Catch the viewer’s eye
  • Mirror the brand’s internal personality
  • Educate the customer on brand philosophy as well as products and services offered
  • Offer a clear call to action
Get Dynamic

Dynamic display retargeting takes the retargeting game a step further. Instead of just serving static ads, now brands have the capability to set copy in their ads to change dynamically based on customer history. Whoa!

TIP – Build copy based on available actions. This way, you can more appropriately talk to each consumer based on where they are, at that moment, in the conversion funnel.

Ready, Set, Strategize!

As previously stated, killer display retargeting strategies come from diversifying your efforts. Flood the marketplace with as much and as many messaging components as possible. Success typically materializes for brands who serve a variety of different display banners across a wide range of platforms and websites. Display retargeting is a brand investment; the greater the messaging diversity, the more conversion chances you are affording your brand.

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Google’s Non-Mobile Friendly Warnings Will Affect Businesses, Big and Small

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 09:52

Recently, Google sent warning notifications via email and Google Webmaster Tools, warning webmasters that web pages need to be optimized with a mobile-friendly design or face losing rankings in search engine results pages. While Google has not formally announced any changes to its mobile ranking algorithm, these warnings suggest that one is likely on its way. If all signs indeed point toward that truth, then websites ignoring their mobile experience will most certainly pay a price. Google’s motivation for this change makes perfect sense considering A) Mobile search has officially supplanted desktop search as the more popular way to scour the web and B) This change falls directly in-line with their objective for search users – provide the best online experience by providing the best content possible.

Essentially, these warnings are wake-up calls, alerting trend-trailing businesses and webmasters to start taking mobile optimization seriously. By exclusively providing mobile-friendly websites, Google will now ensure it serves its users easily accessible content, optimized for consumption on any device, at any time. However, with every new edict comes inevitable fallout…

Even though many brands are already ahead of the curve with their mobile experiences, this change still stands to have a profound impact on businesses of all sizes; both the mobile and non-mobile optimized.

 

What This Means for Big Business The Little Guys are Catching Up

At this point, most of the larger, higher-earning businesses have already optimized for mobile simply because these kinds of brands generally have more resources to invest in their mobile SEO. Until now, simply having a mobile site was enough of an advantage for these heavyweights to stay ahead of any smaller-scale competitors. However, with these changes in place, staying ahead in the mobile game may become a bit more complex.

Now that Google is,in a sense, forcing webmasters to create a mobile friendly experience–pushing businesses who may not have invested in their mobile web design to go that extra mile; the search engine is leveling a previously skewed playing field and eliminating the advantage big brands had by simply launching a mobile site. With more brands entering the mobile playing field, just having a mobile-friendly experience won’t cut it anymore. Moving forward, to win the search game you won’t just need a mobile site, you’ll need a better mobile site.

 

What This Means for Small and Medium Sized Businesses Mobile Searches to Increase

Two facts are true.

1)     Many small and medium sized business are presently not optimized for mobile.

2)     People like easy things.

By strongly encouraging all brands to provide easier and, hopefully, more enjoyable mobile experiences for online searchers, the number of mobile-friendly experiences available is likely to increase, giving people what they like… something easier. This combination of factors will likely result in the number of mobile searches increasing. With the amount of mobile search users trending upwards already, we can conclude that it is now more damaging than ever for businesses currently neglecting the mobile component of their websites, turning their backs on viable organic traffic, to continue refraining from optimization.

Small and medium sized businesses who lack the resources to optimize their mobile experiences will definitely feel this warning’s hit hard. Thus, to keep pace with the competition, small and medium sized businesses must be willing to invest in their mobile SEO in some capacity. Luckily, Google provides step by step guides to help webmasters convert their web pages to a mobile friendly design. However, before embarking on implementation, it is important to first understand the reasons Google has flagged your website before taking the appropriate steps to remedying these issues. Here are the most important architectural and content elements commonly neglected in the mobile experience:

  • Keep it simple – A simple layout and design that clearly displays the page helps users more easily view and interact with content. With mobile, less is usually more.
  • Simple navigation with large buttons – Remember, people are navigating with their thumbs on a small space. Ensure that buttons are large enough so other buttons are not mistakenly hit. People generally prefer vertical scrolling to horizontal scrolling.
  • Keep content clear and concise – Many mobile users are using their device on the go. Too much text creates clutter where the most important messages can be lost. Again, less is more.
  • Speed is key – Page load speed is a big factor. It is important to ensure media files are optimized for mobile.
  • Make contact information easy to find – Again, mobile users are often on the go and looking to find store hours and phone numbers. Make contact info highly visible and include click-to-call for phone numbers.
  • Responsive web design – This route ensures your mobile display is consistent across all types of devices. Read more about responsive web design implementation here.

 

With Big Changes Come Big Opportunities

Google updates its search algorithm rapidly, and typically makes no formal announcements when changes occur. Since Google has been so open about this particular update, personally warning offending webmasters, we can surmise mobile is an issue especially hot in the company’s mind. Any loss in time, money, and effort in updating your website will be gained back when you retain and strengthen your mobile SERP visibility.

Regardless of the size of your business, or the industry you’re in; it is more important than ever to provide users with a satisfactory mobile experience. Google’s improved mobile SERPs will further encourage web surfers to search the web via their mobile devices. Anyone ignoring mobile, or thinking their mobile experience is “good enough,” will surely lose out in the long run.

Perhaps the best way to view mobile strategy is by taking a more holistic approach. From this viewpoint, it is important to consider your mobile experience as more than a simple redesign of the existing desktop site. The mobile user is different from the desktop user. Mobile users may be surfing your website from anywhere at any time; as well as have entirely different mindsets and needs over desktop users. Use data to uncover who your prospective mobile users are and how they’re interacting with your website differently on a mobile device to provide yourself with a better foundation for formulating an effective mobile strategy.

For more in-depth information about improving your mobile design, check out Google’s guide to mobile design. Here you can test your website, and find information about fixing errors and optimizing for mobile.

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