The best-kept secret to maintaining and defending the top spot with paid search
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The best-kept secret to maintaining and defending the top spot with paid search


30-second summary:

  • Let’s admit it, the line between paid search and organic search is getting blurred.
  • A lot of businesses simply assume that paying more than the competition assures a piece of the most trusted real estate in Google and Bing’s SERPs.
  • While an aggressive paid strategy can certainly get you a piece of it, too often brands overlook the equally important defensive strategy of paid search monitoring.
  • CEO of BrandVerity, Dave Naffziger, helps you learn the essential techniques for maintaining your position one in paid search listings.

What’s the best way to ensure your brand is at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for a branded search? For many, the answer seems pretty straightforward — simply pay more than the competition. And while an aggressive paid strategy can certainly get you a piece of the most trusted real estate in search, too often brands overlook the equally important defensive strategy of paid search monitoring.

With brands investing unprecedented amounts into paid search, and the line between organic and paid listings becoming even more blurred, it’s more important than ever for organizations to keep a watchful eye over their campaigns in order to defend them from unscrupulous third parties, infringing ads, poor customer experience and resource drain.

Understanding the basics

On the surface, paid search monitoring is what it sounds like. It involves actively watching to see who is bidding, how often they are advertising, and when infringing ads are identified, removing them by notifying search engines or contacting the party responsible for the ads. 

However, unless you are well-versed in search engine trademark rules, it can be tricky to tell the difference between an infringing and compliant ad. And in many cases, an ad may be allowed by search engines but can run counter to a brand’s partnership and affiliate agreements.

All major search engines allow brand bidding — where a partner or even a competitor bids on your branded terms. The search engines also permit trademark use in paid ads that go to legitimate resellers or informational websites.

The two main rules that limit trademark term use in paid search

1. Trademark terms may not be used in the text or title of an ad

Trademark terms may not be used in the text or title of an ad if the ad takes the user to a site where it is unclear if the advertiser is a reseller or an informational site.

In the example below, the Yahoo search engine is using the VRBO trademark to divert traffic. Someone could easily click on the ad thinking they are going to VRBO. But the ad takes you to a Yahoo search engine results page, with more ads, thus providing a poor user experience for the consumer looking to book through VRBO. 

paid search example VRBO

This is a textbook example of search arbitrage, which happens when an ad primarily leads to additional ads. The arbitrager pockets the difference between what they paid for the traffic and what they get paid for the ad clicks. This type of ad should be submitted to the search engine for a take-down.

2. You can’t use trademark terms in ad texts or titles in a competitive way

In the example below, Joss & Main, a competitor to homeware brand Restoration Hardware, bid on the term “restorationhardware.” Customers looking for Restoration Hardware’s homepage may mistakenly click on the ‘Joss & Main advertisement’ at the top of the SERP and find themselves on a different website than they intended.

paid search example Joss Main

This is the type of competitive use of a trademark that Google and Bing don’t allow, and this ad would also be subject to removal.

Taking steps to protect your position

Once you understand what trademark infringements look like, you need to establish a process to find them. Teams can do this manually by searching a list of priority keywords across several search engines once a week, and then contacting the trademark abusers directly or submitting take-down requests manually to search engines.

While this is certainly a good step to take, since many infringers use evasive techniques like geotargeting (running ads in locations where the advertiser believes the merchant won’t see them) and dayparting (setting ads to run during times of day when they believe the merchant won’t monitor them), manual monitoring can be time-consuming and ineffective. This is where automated solutions can help find and take action on trademark infringements at scale.

Another critical step that can help you defend your numero uno spot

Another critical step that teams can take is establishing and enforcing clear partner and affiliate agreements. Documenting what you will and won’t allow these various parties to do will help you stay consistent in how you handle violations and will reduce trademark infringement and affiliate abuse.

Protecting your investments and relationships

Branded keywords are the most valuable and highest converting search traffic, making them a tempting target for partners, competitors, and third parties to run ads on. However, when they don’t play by the rules bad actors can drive your cost-per-click through the roof and run your clickthrough rate into the ground. Aside from impacting your campaign ROI, these actions also negatively impact your customer experience. 

Search is the front door to your brand online. How customers find you on the SERP impacts the overall customer experience, and ultimately, your bottom line. It’s simple. Customers who can easily find your brand after a branded keyword search are more likely to buy your products and services, while those that unwittingly click on a competitor or partner’s website at the top of the page are less likely to buy directly from you.

By taking the appropriate measures to defend their SERP position, brands can optimize online investments, strengthen relationships with good partners and safeguard their customers’ online experiences.

Dave Naffziger is the CEO of leading online brand protection company BrandVerity.



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Matt Southern
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Pinterest Adds a New ‘Shopping’ Tab to Search Results


Pinterest is expanding its shopping capabilities with upgrades to existing features and new shopping tabs throughout the platform.

Pinterest is introducing new ways to shop from pins, on pin boards, and in search results.

Here’s more about all the new features announced today.

New Pinterest Shopping Features

Shop From Boards

Users can now find a ‘Shop’ tab on their own boards.

Pinterest Adds a New ‘Shopping’ Tab to Search Results

Pinterest Adds a New ‘Shopping’ Tab to Search Results

For example, users can visit their fashion board, click on the Shop tab, and browse through a selection of products featured in the board.

“Just as if a shopping list has been created for their boards,” Pinterest says.

This feature is compatible with fashion and home decor products.

Pinterest notes that it will display in-stock products only.

Shop From Search Results

A new ‘Shop’ tab will appear in Pinterest’s search results.

This will make it easy for users to shop in-stock products when searching for generic terms like spring outfits”, “office decor,” or “kitchen remodel”.

Users who are looking for something more specific will have the option to filter search results by brand.

Another new filter has been added that will let users sort search results by price.

Shop From Pins

Pinterest’s visual search feature has been upgrading with shopping capabilities.

Visual search lets users look for products by uploading an image or taking a picture.

Pinterest will the do its best to return pins with that product in it.

Now, when conducting a visual search, users will see a new option to “shop similar.”

Clicking on this option will show related in-stock products for fashion and home decor items.

Shopping From Anywhere on Pinterest

With these enhancements Pinterest is defining itself as the social network for shopping – a place where users can buy just about product they see on the screen.

That’s something Pinterest is keeping users aware of at every turn.

There’s now a subtle call-to-action inviting users to shop on nearly every screen they’re likely to look at.

Whether that’s the search results, their own pin boards, or within shoppable pins throughout the network.

That’s not only more convenient for users, many of whom come to Pinterest with shopping intent, it’s beneficial for retailers.

Businesses of all sizes have the potential to benefit from these updates, as 97% of top searches on Pinterest are unbranded.

Pinterest’s data shows that users primarily search for generic terms and not specific brands.

As the company puts it, it’s “leveling the playing field for businesses of all sizes to be discovered.”

Trending Shopping Searches on Pinterest

These updates come at a time when many people are at home and spending more time on their devices.

Pinterest notes that searches for shopping inspiration and supporting small businesses are on the rise lately.

Within the last two weeks, searches for “help small businesses” are up three times compared to the prior two weeks.

Many people are looking for ways to setup their new work-from-home spaces and makeshift offices.

Searches for “home office setup” are up by 70%.

Employers are looking for ways to reward their employees and show appreciation during these times.

There’s been a 4x increase in searches for “employee gift” over the past two weeks.

Searches for “care package ideas” have doubled.

Other Pinterest Shopping Statistics

The number of shoppable product pins on Pinterest are up 2.5x since last year, which drove 2.3x more traffic to retailers.

The number of users engaging with shopping on Pinterest is up 44% over last year.

On average, Pinterest users spend 1.6x more than people who don’t use Pinterest.

Over 80% of Pinterest users have purchased something shown in pins from brands.

Users are 3x more likely to visit a retailer’s site after discovering them on Pinterest compared to other social networks.

Pinterest Adds a New ‘Shopping’ Tab to Search Results

Source: Pinterest Newsroom





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Matt Southern
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Google May Be Forced to Reveal its Search Algorithm to an SEO


Google is involved in a lawsuit that has the potential to result in the company revealing its long-guarded algorithm secrets.

As part of the lawsuit, Google has been given an ultimatum by UK courts to either withdraw evidence to its defence or disclose the details of its search algorithm.

Not only would Google have to hand over the details of its algorithm, it would have to hand them over to a working SEO consultant.

Google Has Two Choices

For obvious reasons, Google does not want to give up its algorithm secrets.

However, Google also doesn’t want to withdraw evidence which is vital in helping the company win the lawsuit.

Those are the only two choices Google has right now when it comes to fighting the lawsuit.

The only other choice would be to settle the lawsuit, which would reportedly involve millions in damages.

Not to mention that a settlement creates the perception of Google admitting to doing something wrong.

The best case for Google right now is if the company opts to withdraw evidence and somehow still wins the case.

How Did Google Get in This Situation?

We glossed over a plethora of details up to this point – we’ll get into them now.

This whole situation stems from a lawsuit against Google by a company called Foundem dating back to 2012.

That’s the year the lawsuit was filed, but actual events pertaining to the lawsuit date back to 2006.

Foundem alleges it was the victim of anti-competitive practices by Google.

According to Foundem’s claims, Google deliberately ranked its own products ahead of Foundem in search results starting in 2006.

Foundem is seeking damages for the loss of business it incurred as a result being ranked down in Google search.

What Happened to Foundem?

Foundem was a vertical-search engine for finding the lowest online prices.

It was initially only available to a limited group of users before being opened up to everyone.

Prior to being available for everyone, Foundem still appeared in search results.

Foundem appeared quite prominently in search results, in fact, often appearing on the first page for shopping-related searches.

In only two days after launching to everyone, Foundem was buried in Google’s search results.

Foundem dropped from the first page of search results to dozens and, sometimes, hundreds of pages lower.

What makes this suspicious is Foundem’s search rankings only dropped in Google. It still ranked well in other search engines.

That’s what lead Foundem to the notion that this was a deliberate effort to stifle competition against Google Shopping.

Google’s Algorithm is Now a Court Exhibit

Foundem filed a lawsuit against Google in 2012, which is still being fought to this day.

In an effort by Google to prove it didn’t engage in anti-competitive practices it provided confidential documents to the UK High Court.

The documents were filed as court exhibits by Google engineers Cody Kwok and Michael Pohl.

The judge presiding over the case says the documents aim “to explain the operation and aims of Google’s ranking algorithms, and how they have been applied to shopping comparison sites generally and Foundem in particular”.

Foundem Demands An SEO Expert

The details of Google’s search algorithm would be too technical for lawyers to understand, Foundem argues, so it wants to bring in an SEO expert.

Specifically, Foundem wants to bring in Philipp Kloeckner to interpret the details of Google’s algorithm.

Google argues that giving its algorithm information to an SEO would compromise the integrity of its ranking process:

“The integrity of Google’s ranking processes relies upon all webmasters or website owners having the same degree of access to information about Google’s ranking… This will no longer be the case if information of this kind is made available to some individuals offering commercial services to assist companies to improve their Search ranking.”

Not satisfied with this response, Foundem suggests Google could simply withdraw the documents in question so no one ever has to see them.

Google then argues the documents are vital to proving its defence.

In other words – without these documents there is no case.

The Ultimatum

That brings us to where we are now.

In order to move the case along, the judge stepped in and said Google can either withdraw the documents or let them be seen by Philipp Kloeckner.

Now here’s where it gets really interesting.

If Google stays firm on neither withdrawing the documents or providing them to Kloeckner, the judge will grant Kloeckner the permission to view the documents himself.

The judge is giving Google “reasonable time” to make a decision, which surely can’t be an easy one to make.

We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out for Google. We could be on the verge of an historic event in search history.

Sources: The Register, The New York Times





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Coronavirus and the paid search sector: How businesses are gearing up to come out the other side
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Coronavirus and the paid search sector: How businesses are gearing up to come out the other side


Over the past couple of weeks, paid search specialists Adthena have been sharing some fascinating insight into how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the paid search sector in markets around the globe.

I spoke to Adthena’s VP of marketing Ashley Fletcher about the questions C-level executives are asking, their plans in the short and longer-term, and what he is observing in the data.

We’re past the shock stage

C-level executives now want to see the lay of the land amidst the coronavirus outbreak. Retailers, for instance, want a view of who’s moving out and many are asking:

  1. What’s happened to strategy?
  2. How are markets reacting?
  3. How do we now adjust?

Paid search is a fantastic window on all of this. While our offline lives have been massively disrupted by the coronavirus, the paid search sector is comparatively ever-present. We see customers switch to the channel when they can’t use others and we have good segmentation within data across products and more business verticals.

“Search intelligence offers not only remarkable clarity but also a real-time lens into market movements, trends, and opportunities across verticals and in close to real-time”,

Fletcher writes at the Adthena blog.

“PPC is a stable, transparent refuge every marketer needs to be leveraging right now to keep the oars in the water.”

There is positivity even in industries that have been hardest hit

One of the surprises for Fletcher is that the sentiment among marketers he is speaking to is not all doom and gloom.

Coronavirus hit paid search sector still industries positive

“Businesses like the UK travel sector (we’re seeing this with some of our hotel chain clients) have been the hardest hit. But the positive aspect of this is we are already seeing this sector with eyes on their recovery and looking at where they go next”,

Fletcher said.

“People are prepared to lower spend now, but are gearing up for coming out the other side.”

Data showing significant feats of agility

It is not only the travel sector which has had to change track quickly.

“In the food vertical, many brands have been seen to suspend some generic ads, but they are keeping the lights on for brand traffic”,

Fletcher said.

“Managers are coming to the paid search data asking: What’s my brand looking like while competition might be able to take more capacity?”

This is particularly visible as vast numbers of users seek to use delivery services offered by the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s in the UK, as well as Coles in Australia (see below).

Coronavirus effect on paid search trend

Digital-first brands like Amazon, Catch, and Hello Fresh are jumping into the gaps created when the legacy supermarkets have quickly hit capacity for food grocery deliveries.

We can also see Amazon shifting paid ad priorities to essential products, which is creating further gaps. This means other companies like Best Buy have then been able to garner clicks for things Amazon has had the monopoly on till date – such as TVs, kitchenware, and mobile phones.

Fletcher is seeing this agility being demonstrated in other sectors too – from online banking to online betting.

Takeaways for digital marketers

The paid search sector gives us a fascinating glimpse into the disruption at play across the global business. But the positivity, agility, and resolve on display is heartening too.

The real-time data available to paid search marketers answer three key questions

  1. How consumer habits sometimes shift rapidly
  2. How their brands are retaining visibility in the melee
  3. How competitors are changing strategy and focus in order to adapt

In some cases, we can certainly see prices go up and clicks go down as users and brands change their ways. The flipside of this is that gaps and opportunities are opening up in surprising places as big names shift their focus to specific products and services. Smart marketers will be observing those gaps and acting on them.

Yet, the most important takeaway from Adthena’s data is a long-term strategy

Here in the UK and US, we may still be in the beginning stages of this global event, but while many businesses have been forced to make some quick near-term changes, some are already making plans as to what their priorities will be when coronavirus is behind them.

Marketers can expect that business and consumer habits may well be altered entirely, but in the very least the value of search and data will continue to be vital. In order to remain agile and competitive in the markets of tomorrow, it’s likely to become even more important.



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Search specialist shares five ways to adapt your search strategy in uncertain times
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Search specialist shares five ways to adapt your search strategy in uncertain times


The events of the last few weeks have had a dramatic effect on millions of people’s lives. Uncertainty over health, childcare, work, food and the wellbeing of loved ones has dominated all of our thinking over the past few days.

Not only has it changed the way we’re shopping and interacting with others, an expert at online search specialist Epiphany, Paul Norris, has looked at how it has impacted what users are turning to the internet for and advises how businesses can adapt their search strategy during this tricky time.

The Prime Minister’s speech on 13th March 2020 served as a catalyst for many to search for “working from home essentials” with searches such as computer chairs increasing by 185%.

As a nation, we also considered our options for emergency deliveries, including “wine delivery” services, which nearly tripled in just one week.

search strategy and trends in tricky times

As people’s searches change to reflect new (increasingly home-based and socially distant) situations, it’s important that marketers adapt to the shifts in search behavior.

Here are a few ways to navigate the next few weeks and to prepare for when we emerge from the current situation:

1. Identify and capitalize on emerging trends

Monitor your search query reports closely – look for increased use of convenience and supply modifiers as availability and fulfillment is valued more. Searches containing “near me” have started to fall as queries for “online” services have increased.

If your business offers quick deliveries (and can still fulfill them), ensure it’s prominent in messaging, listings and on-site. Searches for next and same-day delivery will only continue to grow.

2. Listen to your visitors – use your site search reports and Hotjar polls

Your on-site search function is an absolute gold mine in times like these – demand and behavioral changes from your visitors are picked up directly. Use the Site Search report in GA (found under “Behaviour” on the left-hand side) as a listening board.

closely monitor site search reports to effectively work on your search strategy

Surface the most-searched-for products and services on relevant high traffic pages. Rethink, test and measure your carousels and other key product and service listing elements where relevant. Enabling Hotjar (or similar) polls can also enable you to get more specific insight.

3. Shift budget into investment channels

If you’re pulling back on sales activation because demand is dropping, look to move that budget and resource into a medium and longer-term activity that will pay dividends when demand picks up. With the previous points in mind, conduct a meta-data review and weave more highly valued services such as next day delivery into titles and descriptions. Has content taken a back seat? There are some definite benefits to content strategy, planning, and creation with the headspace you’re afforded when working from home.

4. Bypass dev queues and do what you can from your CMS

Prioritizing your activity in a busy dev queue can be difficult at the best of times. If dev time is booked up because the team is completely promo and sales activation focused, do what you can. Are you able to edit content and optimize existing pages in the CMS? Can you create new landing pages in your CMS without tech intervention? If so, now is the time to utilize those capabilities.

5. Maximize performance where demand is strong

Identify where demand remains strong (or has even picked up) and do what you can to capture and convert it. Your top landing pages and product reports are a good first port of call and can provide you with some quick wins. Segmenting and analyzing site performance by product/area/service (depending on your sector) can help you identify and capitalize on bigger emerging trends. If you’re a retailer, think about splitting out essential and non-essential products.

Paul Norris is Senior Strategist & Head of London Operations at Epiphany.



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How to Query the Google Search Console API
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How to Query the Google Search Console API


If you’ve been an SEO for even a short time, you’re likely familiar with Google Search Console (GSC). It’s a valuable tool for getting information about your website and its performance in organic search. That said, it does have its limitations.

In this article, you’ll learn how to get better-connected data out of Google Search Console as well as increase the size of your exports by 400%.

Google Search Console limitations

While GSC has a number of sections, we’ll be focusing on the “Performance” report. From the GSC dashboard, there are two ways you can access this report:

Once inside the “Performance” report, data for queries and pages can be accessed:

This reveals one of the issues with GSC: Query and page data is separated.

In other words, if I want to see the queries a specific page is ranking for, I have to first click “Pages,” select the page, and then click “back” to “Queries.” It’s a very cumbersome experience.

The other (two-part) issue is with exporting:

  • Performance data for queries and pages must be exported separately.
  • Exports are limited to 1,000 rows.

We’ll look to solve these issues by utilizing the GSC API.

What is the Google Search Console API?

Now we know the GSC user interface does have limitations: Connecting query data with page data is tricky, and exports are limited.

If the GSC UI represents the factory default, the GSC API represents our custom settings. It takes a bit more effort, but gives us more control and opens up more possibilities (at least in the realm of query and page data).

The GSC API is a way for us to connect to the data within our account, make more customized requests, and get more customized output. We can even bypass those factory default settings like exports limited to 1,000 rows, for instance.

Why use it?

Remember how I said earlier that query and page data is separated in the “vanilla” GSC UI? Well, with the API, we can connect query data with the page that query ranks for, so no more clicking back and forth and waiting for things to load.

Additionally, we saw that exports are limited to 1,000 rows. With the API, we can request up to 5,000 rows, an increase of 400%!

So let’s hook in, make our request, and get back a more robust and meaningful data set.

Setup

Log in to the appropriate GSC account on this page (upper right corner). For instance, if my website is example.com and I can view that Search Console account under [email protected], that’s the account I’ll sign into.

Enter the URL of the appropriate GSC account:

Set up your request:

  1. Set startDate. This should be formatted as: YYYY-MM-DD.
  2. Set endDate.
  3. Set dimensions. A dimension can be:
      • query
      • page
      • device
      • and/or country
  4. Set filters (optional). A filter must include:
      • dimension (a dimension can be: query, page, device, or country)
      • operator (an operator can be: contains, notContains, equals, notEquals)
      • expression (an expression can be any value associated with the dimensions)
    1. Set the rowLimit. With the GSC API, you can request up to 5,000!
    2. The page shared in step one makes all of this setup pretty easy, but it can be tedious and even confusing for some. I’ve done all the fussing for you and have created JSON you can edit quickly and easily to get the API return you’d like.

      Unfiltered request

      The following request will be unfiltered. We’ll set our preferred dates, dimensions, and a row limit, and then make our request.

      The order in which you place your dimensions is the order in which they’ll be returned.

      The API will return data for desktop, mobile, and tablet, separated out. The numbers you see in the GSC user interface — clicks, for instance — are an aggregate of all three (unless you apply device filtering).

      Remember, your dimensions can also include “country” if you’d like.

      {

      “startDate”: “2019-11-01”,

      “endDate”: “2020-01-31”,

      “dimensions”:

      [

      “query”,

      “page”,

      “device”

      ],

      “rowLimit”: 3000

      }

      Filtered request

      This version of our request will include filters in order to be more specific about what is returned.

      Filters are stated as dimension/operator/expression. Here are some examples to show what’s possible:

      • query contains go fish digital
      • page equals https://gofishdigital.com/
      • device notContains tablet

      It looks like you can only apply one filter per dimension, just like in the normal GSC user interface, but if you know differently, let us know in the comments!

      {

      “startDate”: “2019-11-01”,

      “endDate”: “2020-01-31”,

      “dimensions”:

      [

      “query”,

      “page”,

      “device”

      ],

      “dimensionFilterGroups”:

      [

      {

      “filters”:

      [

      {

      “dimension”: “device”,

      “operator”: “notContains”,

      “expression”: “tablet”

      }

      ]

      }

      ],

      “rowLimit”: 3000

      }

      Choose a template, unfiltered or filtered, and fill in your custom values (anything after a colon should be updated as your own value, unless you like my presets).

      Execute the request

      So there you have it! Two request templates for you to choose from and edit to your liking. Now it’s time to make the request. Click into the “Request body”, select all, and paste in your custom JSON:

      This is where you could manually set up your request keys and values, but as I stated earlier, this can be tedious and a little confusing, so I’ve done that work for you.

      Scroll down and click “Execute.” You may be prompted to sign-in here as well.

      If everything was entered correctly and the request could be satisfied, the API will return your data. If you get an error, audit your request first, then any other steps and inputs if necessary.

      Click into the box in the lower right (this is the response from the API), select all, and copy the information.

      Convert from JSON to CSV

      Excel or Sheets will be a much better way to work with the data, so let’s convert our JSON output to CSV.

      Use a converter like this one and paste in your JSON output. You can now export a CSV. Update your column headers as desired.

      Query your own data

      Most SEOs are pretty comfortable in Excel, so you can now query your request output any way you’d like.

      One of the most common tasks performed is looking for data associated with a specific set of pages. This is done by adding a sheet with your page set and using VLOOKUP to indicate a match.

      The API output being in a spreadsheet also allows for the most common actions in Excel like sorting, filtering, and chart creation.

      Get more out of Google Search Console

      GSC offers important data for SEOs, and the GSC API output offers not only more of that data, but in a format that is far less cumbersome and more cohesive.

      Today, we overcame two obstacles we often face in the standard GSC user interface: the query/page connection and limited exports. My hope is that utilizing the Google Search Console API will take your analyses and insights to the next level.

      While my JSON templates will cover the most common scenarios in terms of what you’ll be interested in requesting, Google does offer documentation that covers a bit more ground if you’re interested.

      Do you have another way of using the GSC API? Is there another API you commonly use as an SEO? Let me know in the comments!



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Five tips to establish a successful content creation process Search Engine Watch
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Five tips to establish a successful content creation process Search Engine Watch


Five tips to establish a successful content creation process

In this digital age where around 90% of all digital marketers use content marketing, there is no shortage of content that is flowing around, even in niches you probably never heard of.

Unfortunately, a big chunk of that content is a spammy mess that exists only to build a link, promote things we do not need, and push an agenda that doesn’t care about facts.

Despite all of that, there is always room for more quality content that can put your business on the map. To do that effectively, you need two things – consistency and a strategic approach to content creation.

Why should you have a consistent content publishing schedule?

If you are pumping out mediocre content on a regular basis to try and “trick” Google into favoring you over other domains, you are probably wasting your time. That’s if you want to listen to Google’s own John Mueller.

Now, here’s why this discussion doesn’t really matter. On one side, there is a whole list of stronger search ranking factors to focus on. On the other hand, even if publishing frequency doesn’t directly affect your rankings, there are plenty of other reasons you want to be consistent with your content creation and publishing process.

Some do it because they want to run a newsletter, others simply want to keep their blog fresh and have something to share on their social channels. However, most marketers that look to run content consistently are those who want to grow their businesses with content marketing.

For them, creating consistent content with a purpose is not an option, it’s a necessity. In continuation of this article, we’ll take a look at five tips on how to do exactly that.  

1. Do the groundwork

What does it mean to create quality content? I believe most of us know how to intuitively recognize it, but some would have trouble coming up with a clear definition. 

Here is a snapshot from the guidelines we share with all of our writers that represent how we look at quality content:

Writing to the right audience and solving their problems with actionable advice is hard to do if you only have a vague idea of who you are targeting. That’s why it is crucial to properly research your target audience. Go to Quora and Reddit, visit niche forums, run surveys among existing customers and subscribers, follow top blogs in your niche, analyze your competitors.

If you’re planning to create content consistently, it pays to know both big and small problems your target audience is running into on a regular basis.

If you do extensive research, you should have a substantive list of issues to cover. However, not all of those issues are worth covering on your blog. Creating personalized content is great, but spending 20 hours on a piece that solves an issue exactly three people have is just not worth it.

This is where keyword research comes into play. Using tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Ubersuggest, and even Google Trends is a great way to find out what is the scope of the issues you identified and which are, subsequently, worth covering.

If you’re a start-up looking to grow through content marketing efforts, keyword research and target audience analysis are the foundation to build upon. For brands with an already active blog, they can expand this preparation step by also doing content audit and content gap analysis.

2. Create content with a purpose

I do not know about you, but we like to publish content with a certain goal in mind. In an ideal situation, content should satisfy the following criteria:

  1. It talks about a real problem your target audience has
  2. It can be optimized around a keyword with a worthwhile monthly search volume
  3. It aims to generate brand awareness, nurture gathered leads or has another specific purpose listed below

Now, there are only so many content pieces that will be able to check all three boxes, and that’s just fine. Since you plan to create content consistently, you will have to branch out anyway at some point. The trick is not branching out too far. Always look that your content satisfies at least two of the stated criteria.

One example of content with a purpose that satisfies “only” two criteria (but is still worth creating) is content for nurturing your hard-earned leads.

Depending on who you ask, the sales funnel can have between three and six phases. For the purpose of this example, we can hold on to the version with four that is on the illustration above.

Let’s assume that, during your audience research, you defined four different target audience personas you want to cover. Let’s also assume that you decided to create two different pieces of content for every persona at every stage of the funnel.

This leads us to four personas x four funnel stages x two content pieces for each = 32 content pieces! 

Some of those 32 pieces will not bring you any organic traffic but they will be an integral part of your email sequences, your Facebook funnels and/or any other strategy that uses content for lead nurturing. 

3. Plan three months in advance

The key point of this section is planning ahead, the number of months is up for discussion. If you have enough resources and the ability to stick to the schedule, you can plan six months ahead or more. For many businesses, however, that is not necessary.

For example, we push out one to three content pieces each month and our average time to produce a piece (involves keyword research, outline, writing, polishing, custom images, promotion plans, SEO optimization) is about three weeks (but keep in mind that people don’t work on the content every day).

Considering our available resources, time to produce a single piece, and the number of pieces we publish each month, planning two months ahead is enough to keep everything on track. By “keeping everything on track” I mean ensuring we never end up in a situation where: 

  • We do not have anything to publish because a single article got delayed
  • We do not have resources to schedule in an additional content piece that shares important company news or discusses nig industry trends/news that just popped up  

As you scale up those numbers, you should look to plan three-plus months ahead, especially if you are doing a lot of research, round-ups, longer video content, and interactive content. 

These types of content pieces are more likely to get delayed and increase your average production time, which means they should be scheduled well in advance.

4. Watch what you outsource

At some point, you might wish to scale content production or realize that you just don’t have enough resources to create content consistently on your own. While outsourcing can work well when done properly, if you are working with the wrong people, it will waste you a ton of time you don’t have. 

To anyone that looks to outsource part of their content creation process, here are two important tips:

A. Do not be satisfied with mediocre talent

Even if it takes a long time, run job posts until you find people that meet all of your requirements. Otherwise, you will spend more time reviewing and editing the content than you would spend on creating it yourself in the first place. So if a platform like Upwork fails you, run paid adds on another one like ProBlogger or similar platforms until you find a good match.

B. Give the advantage to people with actual experience in your niche

There are many people out there that can write pretty well. A chunk of those has good research skills and can create a decent piece on almost any topic. However, there usually aren’t that many people with a lot of personal experience that can actually give actionable advice.

I put a lot of value in personal experience because of one thing – authenticity. If the only thing you have to say is just a rehash of what other people said, you are not bringing anything new to the table and it limits the ability to provide actionable tips. That will undoubtedly be reflected in the reduced engagement of your content pieces. 

Since we are talking about outsourcing, I’d also like to point out that there are some content types that I would recommend producing internally whenever possible such as:

  • Pieces that describe a step-by-step process of how your service/product works
  • Pieces that contain a lot of screenshots/videos/graphics that have to be produced internally
  • Very specific pieces where you have to give the freelancer so many details you’re better of doing it yourself

I’m not saying that there aren’t amazing freelancers out there who can cover even promotional pieces to the level you need them to, but I am saying that they are hard to find and small business owners can rarely afford them.

5. Don’t discard guest contributors

Many blogs decide not to publish content from guest contributors because they believe that the average quality of the pieces that are sent over does not justify the time you need to put into managing the whole process. 

While that is true to a certain extent, there are ways to streamline the process to actually be cost-effective. I know that because we have implemented it on our blog. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Setup “write for us page” that outlines what kind of content you are looking for. 
  2. Create a guest contribution form people need to apply through and include it somewhere on the write for us page. You can reply only to people you want to work with which eliminates a lot of unnecessary email communication. 
  3. Create detailed writing guidelines that you send to every guest author. 
  4. Do not be afraid to say “no”. Do not waste time on contributors that do not match your requirements or do not respect your guidelines.

Using questions like the ones you can see on the screenshot below, you will be able to filter out bad submissions fairly quickly. 

If you want to take this a step further, you can even prepare content briefs. For example, guest authors that apply to our blog and are open to writing on a topic we suggest, get a list of primary and secondary keywords to orient their posts around and a list of major sections the article should discuss. 

As long as you have a reasonable linking policy and at least a moderate site authority, good pitches will come. Why not use them to help you push out content more consistently?

Ensuring content quality

One thing that tends to suffers when you put focus on volume is content quality. That is natural, but it can be easily avoided.

The best way to enforce consistent content quality is to set up detailed guidelines (and stick to them). These rules include (but are not limited to):

  • Tone of voice
  • Target audience
  • Linking policy for outgoing links 
  • Formatting guidelines
  • Visual guidelines and the use of rich content
  • Focus on examples and actionable advice

The above guidelines allow you to run every piece through a simple checklist and see if anything needs to be improved before the content goes live. 

When all of this is done as a part of a strong content marketing strategy, it is going to make you happy, it is going to make your customers happy, and it is going to make your bottom line very happy.

Dario Supan is a content strategist and editor at Point Visible, a marketing agency providing custom outreach and link building service.

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Matt Southern
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Google’s John Mueller: We Do Not Use W3C Validation in Search Results


Google’s John Mueller recently stated in a webmaster hangout that W3C validation has no impact on search results.

Mueller was asked whether W3C validation errors could slow down the time it takes to download a page.

In response, Mueller says W3C validation has no impact on the time to download a page, and has no impact on a website in search results in general.

“No, this does not affect time to download a page. Time to download a page is purely the time that it takes from Googlebot asking your server for a URL, to your server having provided that full content to Googlebot.

What is on that page is totally irrelevant, other than maybe if you have a lot of text then maybe it will take a long time to transfer. But HTML errors are totally irrelevant for that.”

As it relates to search results, Mueller says this about W3C validation:

“In general, the W3C validation is something that we do not use when it comes to search. So you don’t need to worry if your pages kind of meet the validation bar or not. However, using the validation is a great way to double check that you’re not doing anything broken on your site.”

Although there is no impact on search results, Mueller does recommend using the W3C validator for other reasons. One reason that Mueller didn’t mention, however, is there are laws around website accessibility in the United States.

Here’s why Mueller recommends using the W3C validator:

“So, in particular, for other kinds of devices for people who need accessibility features, the W3C validator is a great way to kind of get a confirmation that the markup you’re providing is pretty reasonable, and is something that most consumers of markup will be able to understand well.

So I definitely recommend checking out the validator tool and trying it on your pages and seeing what the results are, and then trying to improve things so you’re a little bit more in line with valid HTML.

That generally makes things a lot easier when it comes to displaying your pages, when it comes to understanding the content on your pages for things like screen readers. All of that makes it a lot easier if you have reasonable HTML.”

See: 6 Reasons Why Google Says Valid HTML Matters

Hear Mueller’s full response below, starting at the 42-minute mark:





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Five social media trends that are shaping 2020 Search Engine Watch
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Five social media trends that are shaping 2020 Search Engine Watch


Five social media trends that will matter most in 2020

Every year the social media marketing community turns into fortune tellers — we collectively try to predict what trends, features, and innovations will take place in the upcoming year. Of course, trying to predict social media trends is much more trustworthy than fortune-telling even if you’re using astrology as a framework for that. 

Most social media predictions stand on the existing trends and research, which makes them highly likely to actually be accurate. It’s a common truth that social media platforms are constantly changing, they come up with new features, change algorithms, review their respective policies, and it all affects the way we do marketing on social. But it’s not like these changes come out of nowhere — they are all the results of social media company’s vision and business model or external circumstances. 

To identify trends that will dominate social media this year we need to consider all of these internal and external circumstances. And that’s exactly what I did to make up this list of five major trends that will be prominent in 2020. In addition to simply describing what to expect in 2020, I also give some recommendations on how to use these trends to your brand’s advantage.

1. Let data analysis lead your strategy

Social media trends using data for social listening

 

Source: Screenshot from social listening tool, Awario

Knowledge is power, and social media companies want to empower their users and brands, or rather attract more investments. That’s why they are giving social media managers more and more access to insights and data analytics. Facebook is constantly expanding Creator Studio’s and Facebook Insights’ functionality, Twitter is adding more insights to Media Studio, and Pinterest is adding Pinterest Trends to inform brands on user behavior. 

This year we are likely to see more ways to access user trends on different platforms and tap into this data for marketing and social media research. At the same time, due to trend number three on this list, brands might have to change the way they used to do social media marketing, especially with targeted advertising. There are ethical and unethical ways to use data, and the upcoming year will probably be the time to rethink these terms. That may encourage brands to get more involved in the research of the publicly available data with the help of social listening, for example.

How to be on-trend

  • Make sure your social media strategy is based on insights gained through data research, not a blind guess. Use the insights provided by platforms like Facebook and Instagram Insights, Twitter Analytics, and so on to find what content performs best, when you should post, and what resonates with your audience. Your KPIs should respond to your goals – if you are raising brand awareness, pay attention to the number of followers, if you’re focusing on community building, keep track of the engagement metrics. 
  • Collect and analyze publicly available data, this is the most ethical way to conduct marketing research without invading anyone’s privacy. Social monitoring and listening tools such as Awario or Brandwatch break down the sentiment, reach, demographics, and user behavior trends behind any phenomenon you want to research on social media. 

2. Make your communication more private

Making social media more private

In 2019 Mark Zuckerberg claimed that “the future is private”. This was a surprising turn of events for the company which started out as a service to meet people and connect strangers. Facebook’s CEO announced that from now own the platform will prioritize ways to build and sustain smaller communities and tet-a-tet communication meaning more focus on Groups and Messenger as well as WhatsApp. And it’s not just Facebook, social media apps have been introducing more privacy-driven features lately including Instagram’s “Close Friends” list, various updates to DMs functionality for Twitter and Instagram, more ways for brands to manage social messaging. With the upcoming redesign of Facebook feed (expected to be fully rolled out in Q1 and the new ability to limit replies to your tweets, it’s obvious that 2020 will be the year of private social media. 

The turn to private communication is, of course, motivated by user behavior. People simply got much more into messaging their friends and interacting in small interest-based communities. Social media companies took notice of that and are now giving people what they want. However, taking into consideration how many privacy scandals we had in the last couple of years, it’s easy to imagine that the turn to privacy was also prompted by the intent to improve ones’ reputation, especially when we are talking about Facebook. 

How to be on-trend

  • If you don’t have a Facebook group for your customers yet, it’s high time you start one. 
  • Use the “Close Friends” list on your Instagram account to share exclusive content with your most engaged followers. 
  • Go beyond the big three by looking into smaller communities on Reddit and Quora for better opportunities to engage with the audience.

3. Take up more social responsibility

Taking up more social responsibility will be a social media trend

Source: Twitter

This will probably be the most prominent theme in the news coverage of social media companies for 2020. Once again, it’s not a new trend — the pressure to sort out the issues with spamming, misinformation, manipulation of the algorithm, and the social media impact on users’ mental health has been there for a while. 

In 2020 we can expect more regulations on ads, more sophisticated algorithms for discovering spammers and bots, and more ways for users to control what they are seeing on the timeline. In 2019 we saw some actions taken not just by the platforms themselves but also by the state — there were several court cases around creating fake engagement and selling followers and likes that could become precedents for creating legislation around this matter. 

Both Facebook and Twitter CEOs publicly stated that the ultimate framework for dealing with misleading ads and handling users’ data should come from the governmental actors and independent expert committees, not the social media companies. California Consumer Privacy Act is the first attempt at such legislation. This will certainly affect the way brands advertise on social and conduct marketing research (see trend number one).

Social media companies also face a bigger challenge – how to avoid locking people in their own social media bubbles and creating echo-chambers that skew their view of the world? Admittedly, this is a broader challenge for our society in general. However, we can’t ignore the fact that social media contributes to exacerbating the political and social divide between people, and it might be the time for platforms to rethink the core functionality and algorithms behind them.

Another area where social media companies are encouraged to take on more responsibility is mental health. By now it is obvious (and confirmed by research) that social media can have a negative effect on users’ self-esteem and mental health, especially among teenagers, and social media companies need to take notice of that. Some platforms have already made steps in the right direction by informing users about how much time they are spending on the app. The next big change will concern vanity metrics (see below). In 2020, it’s expected that there will be more platform regulations that aim to protect users from abuse and bullying and more ways for users to filter the information they don’t want to consume.

How to be on-trend

  • Make sure your ads comply with the platform regulations.
  • Discard sketchy growth hacks such as buying followers or using third-party tools for follow-unfollow tactics in favor of genuine engagement and community building.
  • To make interactions with your audience actually genuine, understand when those interactions are welcome. The best way to start engaging with people on the internet is by commenting and replying to their public posts: and of course, your comments should be meaningful and relevant. You can find people and posts to engage through social media monitoring — simply monitor keywords and phrases appropriate for your niche.
  • Use social listening, competitor and hashtag research to find accounts related to your niche and engage them in the comments. Offer your expertise or start conversations discussing relevant topics. 

4. Focus less on vanity metrics

Less focus on vanity metrics
This trend is partly related to the previous one. In 2019, we saw several experiments around hiding vanity metrics, mainly like count, on Facebook and Instagram. Twitter’s CEO has also been vocal about his desire to move away from vanity metrics. Moreover, both Instagram and Twitter have slightly tweaked their design to put less emphasis on the number of followers an account has. The rejection of like count is probably motivated both by moral and practical reasons, comparing your number of likes to someone else’s is proven to damage one’s self-esteem.

Hiding vanity metrics from anyone could eliminate the pressure of competition people feel and make social media less stressful. Instagram has also revealed that during the tests they discovered that discarding like count leads to more content on the platform and that’s what any social media company wants. 

That’s the logical outcome of the previous point, if people feel less pressure to get the most likes, they will feel more at ease with posting. All in all, prepare to say goodbye to like counts in 2020.

How to be on-trend

  • For social media managers, discarding vanity metrics means new ways of doing competitor and influencer research. You can use Facebook’s native functionality (Brand Collabs Manager, Insights) or social media analytics tools to compare your brand with your competitors or find and evaluate influencers relevant to your niche. 
  • Track the number of followers, engagement rate, and ads placed on Facebook through “Pages to Watch” and “Ad Library”.
  • Use social listening to compare your social media Share of Voice with your competitors.

Share of voice of top 10 UK universities calculated

Source: Screenshot from social listening tool, Awario

5. Try TikTok

Social media trends - try TikTok advertising

In 2019 TikTok became one of the most downloaded apps in the app store. The swift rise of the social media app drew a lot of attention from social media marketers, and will surely draw even more attention this year. The greatest thing about TikTok is its feed algorithm which allows you to reach a significant number of users right from the get-go, without having to gain followers for a long time. 

The platform is tailored for viral content: easy sharing, trends, and challenges enable you to easily create videos with a huge potential reach. Moreover, the platform is constantly developing its business capabilities, just recently TikTok rolled out the ability to run ads on the platform for everyone. 

TikTok is the app to keep an eye on, as it is one of the fastest-growing social media networks, it surely has bigger plans for the upcoming year.

How to be on-trend

  • If you’re not TikTok yet, create an account right now.
  • See what trends could be useful for your industry, check out what your competitors are doing, examine the latest trends. A lot of TikTok’s content is focused on viral songs, dance challenges, and certain editing techniques. So you should research those if you want to create popular content.
  • Try advertising on TikTok! TikTok Ads is not the only way to promote your product, you can also partner up with TikTok creators to reach new audiences.  

In conclusion

Social media trends don’t just pop out of nowhere and it’s not difficult to predict what will happen in the upcoming year. However, knowing something is only half the battle — you need to actually adjust your social media strategy to the ever-changing circumstances to get the best results. 

In this article, I tried to demonstrate the broader trends but also shared actionable tips to implement in your work. Some of the trends that will play out in 2020 may seem like an impediment for social media marketers, you can’t use targeting, you can’t see how many likes an influencer gets, and people are getting harder to reach since they are all hanging out in private communities. But it’s actually a chance for building genuine and trusting relationships with your audience — and you can do it by using these trends to your advantage.

Aleh is the Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. He can be found on Twitter at .

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Coronavirus disrupts search, digital ad budgets
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Coronavirus disrupts search, digital ad budgets


Analysts expect Google and Facebook will experience ad revenue declines in travel and other industries most affected by global efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus. On the ground, marketers and media buyers have been re-evaluating their near-term advertising strategies.

Loop Capital Markets analyst Rob Sanderson expects Google will see a 15% year-over-year decline in travel ad revenue in the first quarter and a 20% drop in the second quarter due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last week, Needham analysts Laura Martin and Dan Medina said there is evidence of lower spending in travel, retail, consumer packaged goods and entertainment, which together, they estimate, represent 30% to 45% of Facebook’s total revenue.

Media buyers we heard from Wednesday shared a range of scenarios, with some not seeing any changes yet, to others making dramatic adjustments to near-term budgets. Some are even raising digital budgets.

Supply chain and demand concerns

Supply chain impact on inventory is starting to be felt in advertising spend. Scott Wright, senior PPC consultant at London-based e-commerce consultancy and agency Vervaunt, said a client with production in China began to grow concerned about inventory in February but expected to run ads for a couple of more months based on current stock. “As the situation hasn’t improved in regards to their supply chain,” said Wright, it’s expected “that this month some key products will go out of stock, so [Google Search and Shopping budgets] have been cut by 40% in the UK and Europe this month in anticipation.”

A luxury international travel business has cut budgets by more than 50% from previous months across all digital channels, said Michelle Morgan, director of client services at Louisville-based digital agency Clix Marketing. Morgan says the agency still has the flexibility to allocate the remaining budget to the channels and campaigns that are most effective, there’s just less to work with for now.

Some businesses have put a full stop on their digital ad budgets. “We’ve had two clients pause spending due to coronavirus,” said Tom Shurville, managing director of UK-based digital agency Distinctly. The clients — in hospitality and events industries — expect to keep advertising turned off until the coronavirus is no longer affects gatherings.

Feeling Jittery

The uncertainty of it all has businesses of all types on edge.

Another Vervaunt client, a luggage retailer, hasn’t seen demand drop, but “the trends coming out of Italy has them cautious,” said Wright. The agency manages Search, Shopping, Amazon and Social for the client. Last week, Amazon revenue was down, but Wright said it isn’t clear yet if that is a trend. They expect to be pulling back on most of the client’s prospecting campaigns through this week, though the amount isn’t confirmed yet. Budgets will be managed daily on an ad hoc basis depending on how things look.

Alabama-based paid search consultant Josh Yates said his clients haven’t changed course yet, but that many are feeling nervous. Even those in sectors that would appear to be unaffected. One, an e-commerce brand with manufacturing in the U.S. and no expected inventory challenges, called to say, “Be ready to pull back spend.”

Bucking the trend

Not everyone sees budget-cutting as the answer.

As the tradeshow circuit dwindles, some exhibitors are looking for other ways to fill their sales pipelines. “[I] just talked with one client who is seeing several tradeshows get canceled, and wants to put more into digital to make up for the lost leads they usually pick up at events,” said Tim Jensen, PPC campaign manager at Clix Marketing.

Amalia Fowler, director of marketing at Vancouver-based Snaptech Marketing, said one of her clients, an upstart food tour business, is raising rather than pulling digital budgets. With aggressive growth goals for the year, including a new tour to promote, the company increasing search budgets in the face of a downturn. “It is giving them an edge on the big travel companies,” said Fowler, “so it may end up working.”

WARC still projects an annual increase of 7.1% in global media spend this year. That’s based on an expectation that marketers will simply shift budgets to the second half of the year, which will drive up competition and prices for media. That means advertisers may continue to feel a squeeze long after coronavirus fades.


About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, running the day to day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin writes about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.





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