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Apr
03

Social media for business

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Social media for business | connective3

71 per cent of consumers would recommend a brand if they have a good social media experience with them. (Source) 

Social media is a communications channel that cannot be ignored by businesses and marketers. Having a strong social presence allows brands to demonstrate expertise, build a loyal fan base and drive converting traffic to your site at a relatively low cost when compared to traditional channels. 

One of the common misconceptions surrounding social media for business is the value that the activity generates. Knowing how to measure the results can help highlight the return, proving its worth to the wider business. 

Is the investment worth it? 

The 2017 social media marketing report by social media examiner questioned marketers on the benefits social media has had on their business. A staggering 52 per cent of business reported improved sales, while 66 per cent reported that social generated more business leads. 

 

So, what are the challenges facing social media managers? 

According to research conducted by Smart Insights, 24 per cent of social media managers claim that their biggest challenge on social media is no formal strategy (source). 

Creating this strategy can be daunting, but investing time into formulating the best plan for your business will enable you to create a social media strategy that really works.

To help guide you, I have detailed four top-line tips to ensure you are turning that social traffic into revenue! 

 

Know your social media history 

Before you start any social strategy, you need a way of measuring and understanding historical activity. A social audit is a great way to gain this understanding and will allow you to use the learnings to create a social strategy. 

Firstly, you will need to find all of your existing social profiles and detail them within the audit. Often it is the case that responsibility for your social media profiles will have changed hands multiple times, so there may be profiles already created and simply forgotten about. An easy way to find any existing profiles is to use a tool called Namechk. It allows you to search a variety of social channels for accounts that contain your brand name. 

Top tip: search for different variations of your brand name to make sure none are missed and that you gain the full picture. For example, Branded3 and Branded_3. 

Once you have identified all the accounts, have a look at how they are performing. Which do you need to keep? Can any be removed or deleted permanently? Once you’ve done this, you will be left with a complete list of suitable profiles, for which you can create a full strategy.

Do your research 

Once you have a list of all your profiles, it is time to dig deeper into their analytics and your website’s overall analytics. 

If you have correctly set up Google Analytics you will be able to see the difference between paid and organic post referrals. Use this data to look at conversions that have come from social media: when and why did we get these? And from what channels? This will allow you to prioritise your efforts and see where you need to focus the strategy.

Quick help: Check for organic social traffic through the following steps:

Log into Google Analytics >> Choose the correct time frame >> Click source/medium >> Search for the social channel you require >> Add a secondary dimension as “campaign”. 

Any campaign titled ‘(not set)’ should reflect organic referrals.

Know what content is currently working 

By researching what content is currently working, you can build out your strategy from there. One really easy way to find this content is to use a tool called Buzzsumo.

Buzzsumo will allow you to see what is currently getting shared (and what content isn’t!). These learnings can then feed in to your social media content plan.

The content plan will be based on the analysis of each social account. What’s working, what’s not? When is the best time to post? Who are you targeting? Only when we have all this information will we be able drive real growth for your business. 

Why not try: Using Buzzsumo to check out your competitors too. Find out what content works well for them and whether you have any gaps in your own.

Set impactful KPIs

Any social activity should drive real business change and impact your bottom line. We often see brands who follow all the correct steps but then fail at the final stage when it comes to setting KPIs. They often focus on “fluffy” metrics such as likes or followers, which can be easily manipulated. While these absolutely should be monitored, more tangible indicators such as revenue and traffic should be set as these are the real figures that will impress in the boardroom.

Many brands run competitions on their social channels as a way of increasing their follower numbers. Although this tactic works, it is worth being aware that the community you’re building may be more interested in the competition than you as a brand. This can be a short-term boost, but they are less likely to convert in the long run.

via Social media for business

 

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Mar
27

Brands vs Ads

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Brands vs Ads | SEO Book

Brand, Brand, Brand

About 7 years ago I wrote about how the search relevancy algorithms were placing heavy weighting on brand-related signals after Vince & Panda on the (half correct!) presumption that this would lead to excessive industry consolidation which in turn would force Google to turn the dials in the other direction.

My thesis was Google would need to increasingly promote some smaller niche sites to make general web search differentiated from other web channels & minimize the market power of vertical leading providers.

The reason my thesis was only half correct (and ultimately led to the absolutely wrong conclusion) is Google has the ability to provide the illusion of diversity while using sort of eye candy displacement efforts to shift an increasing share of searches from organic to paid results.

Shallow Verticals With a Shill Bid

As long as any market has at least 2 competitors in it Google can create a “me too” offering that they hard code front & center and force the other 2 players (along with other players along the value chain) to bid for marketshare. If competitors are likely to complain about the thinness of the me too offering & it being built upon scraping other websites, Google can buy out a brand like Zagat or a data supplier like ITA Software to undermine criticism until the artificially promoted vertical service has enough usage that it is nearly on par with other players in the ecosystem.

Google need not win every market. They only need to ensure there are at least 2 competing bids left in the marketplace while dialing back SEO exposure. They can then run other services to redirect user flow and force the ad buy. They can insert their own bid as a sort of shill floor bid in their auction. If you bid below that amount they’ll collect the profit through serving the customer directly, if you bid above that they’ll let you buy the customer vs doing a direct booking.

Adding Volatility to Economies of Scale

Where this gets more than a bit tricky is if you are a supplier of third party goods & services where you buy in bulk to get preferential pricing for resale. If you buy 100 rooms a night from a particular hotel based on the presumption of prior market performance & certain channels effectively disappear you have to bid above market to sell some portion of the rooms because getting anything for them is better than leaving them unsold.

“Well I am not in hotels, so thankfully this won’t impact me” is an incomplete thought. Google Ads now offer a lead generation extension.

Dipping a bit back into history here, but after Groupon said no to Google’s acquisition offer Google promptly partnered with players 2 through n to ensure Groupon did not have a lasting competitive advantage. In the fullness of time most those companies died, LivingSocial was acquired by Groupon for nothing & Groupon is today worth less than the amount they raised in VC & IPO funding.

Markets Naturally Evolve Toward Promoting Brands

When a vertical is new a player can compete just by showing up. Then over time as the verticals become established consumers develop habits, brands beat out generics & the markets get consolidated down to being heavily influenced & controlled by a couple strong players.

In the offline world of atoms there are real world costs tied to local regulations, shipping, sourcing, supply chains, inventory management, etc. The structure of the web & the lack of marginal distribution cost causes online markets to be even more consolidated than their offline analogs.

When Travelocity outsourced their backend infrastructure to Expedia most people visiting their website were unaware of the change. After Expedia acquired the site, longtime Travelocity customers likely remained unaware. In some businesses the only significant difference in the user experience is the logo at the top of the page.

Most large markets will ultimately consolidate down to a couple players (e.g. Booking vs Expedia) while smaller players lack the scale needed to have the economic leverage to pay Google’s increasing rents.

This sort of consolidation was happening even when the search results were mostly organic & relevancy was driven primarily by links. As Google has folded in usage data & increased ad load on the search results it becomes harder for a generically descriptive domain name to build brand-related signals.

Re-sorting the Markets Once More

It is not only generically descriptive sorts of sites that have faded though. Many brand investments turned out to be money losers after the search result set was displaced by more ads (& many brand-related search result pages also carry ads above the organic results).

The ill informed might write something like this:

Since the Motorola debacle, it was Google’s largest acquisition after the $676 million purchase of ITA Software, which became Google Flights. (Uh, remember that? Does anyone use that instead of Travelocity or one of the many others? Neither do I.)

The reality is brands lose value as the organic result set is displaced. To make the margins work they might desperately outsource just about everything but marketing to a competitor / partner, which will then latter acquire them for a song.

Travelocity had roughly 3,000 people on the payroll globally as recently as a couple of years ago, but the Travelocity workforce has been whittled to around 50 employees in North America with many based in the Dallas area.

The best relevancy algorithm in the world is trumped by preferential placement of inferior results which bypasses the algorithm. If inferior results are hard coded in placements which violate net neutrality for an extended period of time, they can starve other players in the market from the vital user data & revenues needed to reinvest into growth and differentiation.

Value plays see their stocks crash as growth slows or goes in reverse. With the exception of startups funded by Softbank, growth plays are locked out of receiving further investment rounds as their growth rate slides.

Startups like Hipmunk disappear. Even an Orbitz or Travelocity become bolt on acquisitions.

The viability of TripAdvisor as a stand alone business becomes questioned, leading them to partner with Ctrip.

TripAdvisor has one of the best link profiles of any commercially oriented website outside of perhaps Amazon.com. But ranking #1 doesn’t count for much if that #1 ranking is below the fold. Or, even worse, if Google literally hides the organic search results.

TripAdvisor shifted their business model to allow direct booking to better monetize mobile web users, but as Google has ate screen real estate and grew Google Travel into a $100 billion business other players have seen their stocks sag.

Top of The Funnel

Google sits at the top of the funnel & all other parts of the value chain are compliments to be commoditized.

  • Buy premium domain names? Google’s SERPs test replacing domain names with words & make the words associated with the domain name gray.
  • Improve conversion rates? Your competitor almost certainly did as well, now you both can bid more & hand over an increasing economic rent to Google.
  • Invest in brand awareness? Google shows ads for competitors on your brand terms, forcing you to buy to protect the brand equity you paid to build.

Search Metrics mentioned Hotels.com was one of the biggest losers during the recent algorithm updates: “I’m going to keep on this same theme there, and I’m not going to say overall numbers, the biggest loser, but for my loser I’m going to pick Hotels.com, because they were literally like neck and neck, like one and two with Booking, as far as how close together they were, and the last four weeks, they’ve really increased that separation.”

As Google ate the travel category the value of hotel-related domain names has fallen through the floor.

Most of the top selling hotel-related domain names were sold about a decade ago:

On August 8th HongKongHotels.com sold for $4,038. A decade ago that name likely would have sold for around $100,000.

And the new buyer may have overpaid for it!

Growing Faster Than the Market

Google consistently grows their ad revenues 20% a year in a global economy growing at under 4%.

There are only about 6 ways they can do that

  • growth of web usage (though many of those who are getting online today have a far lower disposable income than those who got on a decade or two ago did)
  • gain marketshare (very hard in search, given that they effectively are the market in most markets outside of a few countries like China & Russia)
  • create new inventory (new ad types on image search results, Google Maps & YouTube)
  • charge more for clicks
  • improve at targeting through better surveillance of web users (getting harder after GDPR & similar efforts from some states in the next year or two)
  • shift click streams away from organic toward paid channels (through larger ads, more interactive ad units, less appealing organic result formatting, pushing organic results below the fold, hiding organic results, etc.)

Six of One, Half-dozen of the Other

Wednesday both Expedia and TripAdvisor reported earnings after hours & both fell off a cliff: “Both Okerstrom and Kaufer complained that their organic, or free, links are ending up further down the page in Google search results as Google prioritizes its own travel businesses.”

Losing 20% to 25% of your market cap in a single day is an extreme move for a company worth billions of dollars.

Thursday Google hit fresh all time highs.

“Google’s old motto was ‘Don’t Be Evil’, but you can’t be this big and profitable and not be evil. Evil and all-time highs pretty much go hand in hand.” – Howard Lindzon

Booking held up much better than TripAdvisor & Expedia as they have a bigger footprint in Europe (where antitrust is a thing) and they have a higher reliance on paid search versus organic.

Frozen in Fear vs Fearless

The broader SEO industry is to some degree frozen by fear. Roughly half of SEOs claim to have not bought *ANY* links in a half-decade.

Anonymous survey: have you (or your company) purchased backlinks – of ANY quality – for your own site, or any of your clients’ sites, at any point in the past ~5 years?— Lily Ray (@lilyraynyc) October 24, 2019

Long after most of the industry has stopped buying links some people still run the “paid links are a potential FTC violation guideline” line as though it is insightful and/or useful.

Some people may be violating FTC rules by purchasing links that are not labeled as sponsored. This includes “content marketers” who publish articles with paid links on sites they curate. It’s a ticking time bomb because it’s illegal.— Roger Montti (@martinibuster) October 24, 2019

Ask the people carrying Google’s water what they think of the official FTC guidance on poor ad labeling in search results and you will hear the beautiful sound of crickets chirping.

Where is the ad labeling in this unit?

Does small gray text in the upper right corner stating “about these results” count as legitimate ad labeling?

And then when you scroll over that gray text and click on it you get “Some of these hotel search results may be personalized based on your browsing activity and recent searches on Google, as well as travel confirmations sent to your Gmail. Hotel prices come from Google’s partners.”

Ads, Scroll, Ads, Scroll, Ads…

Zooming out a bit further on the above ad unit to look at the entire search result page, we can now see the following:

  • 4 text ad units above the map
  • huge map which segments demand by price tier, current sales, luxury, average review, geographic location
  • organic results below the above wall of ads, and the number of organic search results has been reduced from 10 to 7

How many scrolls does one need to do to get past the above wall of ads?

If one clicks on one of the hotel prices the follow up page is … more ads.

Check out how the ad label is visually overwhelmed by a bright blue pop over.

Defund

It is worth noting Google Chrome has a built-in ad blocking feature which allows them to strip all ads from displaying on third party websites if they follow Google’s best practices layout used in the search results.

You won’t see ads on websites that have poor ad experiences, like:

  • Too many ads
  • Annoying ads with flashing graphics or autoplaying audio
  • Ad walls before you can see content

When these ads are blocked, you’ll see an “Intrusive ads blocked” message. Intrusive ads will be removed from the page.

The following 4 are all true:

And, as a bonus, to some paid links are a crime but Google can sponsor academic conferences for market regulators while requesting the payments not be disclosed.

Excessive Profits = Spam

Hotels have been at the forefront of SEO for many years. They drive massive revenues & were perhaps the only vertical ever referenced in the Google rater guidelines which explicitly stated all affiliate sites should be labeled as spam even if they are helpful to users.

Google has won most of the profits in the travel market & so they’ll need to eat other markets to continue their 20% annual growth.

As they grow, other markets disappear.

“It’s a bug that you could rank highly in Google without buying ads, and Google is trying to fix the bug.” – Googler John Rockway, January 31, 2012

Some people who market themselves as SEO experts not only recognize this trend but even encourage this sort of behavior:

Zoopla, Rightmove and On The Market are all dominant players in the industry, and many of their house and apartment listings are duplicated across the different property portals. This represents a very real reason for Google to step in and create a more streamlined service that will help users make a more informed decision. … The launch of Google Jobs should not have come as a surprise to anyone, and neither should its potential foray into real estate. Google will want to diversify its revenue channels as much as possible, and any market that allows it to do so will be in its sights. It is no longer a matter of if they succeed, but when.

If nobody is serving a market that is justification for entering it. If a market has many diverse players that is justification for entering it. If a market is dominated by a few strong players that is justification for entering it. All roads lead to the pile of money. 🙂

Extracting information from the ecosystem & diverting attention from other players while charging rising rents does not make the ecosystem stronger. Doing so does not help users make a more informed decision.

Information as a Vertical

The dominance Google has in core profitable vertical markets also exists in the news & general publishing categories. Some publishers get more traffic from Google Discover than from Google search. Publishers which try to turn off Google’s programmatic ads find their display ad revenues fall off a cliff:

“Nexstar Media Group Inc., the largest local news company in the U.S., recently tested what would happen if it stopped using Google’s technology to place ads on its websites. Over several days, the company’s video ad sales plummeted. “That’s a huge revenue hit,” said Tony Katsur, senior vice president at Nexstar. After its brief test, Nexstar switched back to Google.” … “Regulators who approved that $3.1 billion deal warned they would step in if the company tied together its offerings in anticompetitive ways. In interviews, dozens of publishing and advertising executives said Google is doing just that with an array of interwoven products.”

News is operating like many other (broken) markets. The Salt Lake Tribune converted to a nonprofit organization.

Many local markets have been consolidated down to ownership by a couple private equity shop roll ups looking to further consolidate the market. Gatehouse Media acquired Gannett & has a $1.8 billion mountain of debt to pay off.

McClatchy – the second largest domestic newspaper chain – may soon file for bankruptcy:

there’s some nuance in this new drama — one of many to come from the past decade’s conversion of news companies into financial instruments stripped of civic responsibility by waves of outside money men. After all, when we talk about newspaper companies, we typically use their corporate names — Gannett, GateHouse, McClatchy, MNG, Lee. But it’s at least as appropriate to use the names of the hedge funds, private equity companies, and other investment vehicles that own and control them.

The Washington Post – owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – is creating an ad tech stack which serves other publishers & brands, though they also believe a reliance on advertiser & subscription revenue is unsustainable: “We are too beholden to just advertiser and subscriber revenue, and we’re completely out of our minds if we think that’s what’s going to be what carries us through the next generation of publishing. That’s very clear.”

Future Prospects

We are nearing inflection points in many markets where markets that seemed somewhat disconnected from search will still end up being dominated by Google. Gmail, Android, Web Analytics, Play Store, YouTube, Maps, Waze … are all additional points of leverage beyond the core search & ads products.

If all roads lead to money one can’t skip healthcare – now roughly 20% of the United States GDP.

Google scrubbed many alternative health sites from the search results. Some of them may have deserved it. Others were perhaps false positives.

Google wants to get into the healthcare market in a meaningful way. Google bought Fitbit and partnered with Ascension on a secret project gathering health information on over 50 million Americans.

Google is investing heavily in quantum computing. Google Fiber was a nothingburger to force competing ISPs into accelerating expensive network upgrades, but beaming in internet services from satellites will allow Google to bypass local politics, local regulations & heavy network infrastructure construction costs. A startup named Kepler recently provided high-bandwidth connectivity to the Arctic. When Google launches a free ISP there will be many knock on effects causing partners to long for the day where Google was only as predatory as they are today.

via Brands vs Ads

 

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7 Ways COVID-19 Is Affecting Search Traffic & How SEOs Can Respond

7 Ways COVID-19 Is Affecting Search Traffic & How SEOs Can Respond

The question on just about every SEO’s mind right now is “How is the Coronavirus impacting SEO metrics?”

No surprise here. The answer, as always, is “it depends.”

Because search reflects human behavior, COVID-19 is affecting each industry differently.

For example, just as people are forming lines outside grocery stores, ecommerce sites that sell those same essentials are likely experiencing a huge surge in traffic.

This is also changing as news unfolds. For example, impressions and traffic for “non-perishable food” spiked when things like social distancing and shelter-in-place were announced.

As SEOs, we’ll need to respond accordingly.

I’ve been able to look at the data for a few sites across multiple verticals.

I’m also drawing from the information I’ve seen shared from other SEOs.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, here are seven ways COVID-19 seems to be affecting SEO metrics, and how we should consider responding.

1. Ecommerce Sites That Sell Essentials Are Surging Up

I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s seen ecommerce sites (at least the ones that sell essentials) with huge spikes in impressions and traffic.

That’s coming from people looking for toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, thermometers… clearly product searches that are related to the pandemic.

This huge surge in demand, as well as product shortages, have even created new queries like “toilet paper near me” and “hand sanitizer near me.”

On the flip side, I’ve seen non-essentials like makeup experiencing drops in traffic, as well as products tied to travel, like luggage.

But things that are non-essentials one day can become essentials the next.

Around the same time gyms started closing, we saw impressions and traffic spike for things like “ring fit” and other indoor fitness options.

Or how about when employers started mandating work-from-home?

Yep – that’s around the same time surges for things like “office chair” and “office desk” started popping up in the query data.

How to Respond

Demand is high right now, but that demand has shifted largely to products that people need to avoid and/or deal with the pandemic.

Ecommerce SEOs might consider creating a segment of high-demand product pages, based on your impressions/traffic data, to watch closely. Crawl those pages for errors often.

Monitor log files to ensure they’re not serving search engine bots errors. Make them easy to find in the site navigation.

Watch the query data for those pages to ensure your content reflects the most up-to-date searcher intents.

2. Health & Wellness Sites Are Surging Up

The health and wellness vertical is no stranger to volatility.

Recently, Google has been cracking down on content that provides advice and information on things like medical issues (a “Your Money or Your Life” topic, according to their quality rater guidelines), holding it to a very high standard.

As a result of COVID-19, the health and wellness sites I’ve looked into are experiencing an overall surge in impressions and traffic.

It looks like that’s primarily being caused by queries like “coronavirus symptoms.”

On the flip side, people seem to be caring a lot less about things like intermittent fasting.

There also seems to be an uptick in queries for natural remedies like “antiviral herbs,” “antibacterial essential oils,” and “antiviral foods.”

How to Respond

Striving for expertise, authoritativeness, and trust with this type of content is more important now than ever.

People are turning to search engines to answer their medical questions, a responsibility that can’t be taken lightly.

3. Recipe Websites Appear to Be Experiencing a Slight Uptick

The recipe websites I’ve been able to look into so far have experienced an increase in impressions and clicks, although not quite as drastic as essentials retailers or health sites.

This is likely because more people are cooking at home as opposed to eating out.

This may continue to increase the longer restaurants are closed or operating at reduced capacity.

How to Respond

Use recipe structured data to enhance the way your recipes show up in search results to capture some of that increased demand for recipes.

Consider publishing or promoting recipes that utilize fewer ingredients and ingredients that are easier to get right now.

4. Travel Website Traffic Is All Over the Place

On the surface, you might think that travel websites are taking huge traffic hits due to travel restrictions and social distancing.

However, I’ve seen impressions and traffic surge up.

My first inclination was that this must be attributable to people looking to cancel, reschedule, or get refunds for their bookings.

Turns out, it seems to be a bit more complicated than that.

I’ve actually noticed impressions and traffic surges for queries like “cheap flights” – potentially because with all the cancelations, people are assuming airlines will be selling seats at super discounted prices.

Hotel queries seem to be trending down, especially in locations that are closed off like Disneyland or San Francisco.

Unsurprisingly, it seems like cruise-related queries are also trending down.

The travel industry is diverse, encompassing flights, hotels, cruises, and more.

The specific impact is going to vary depending on the sector.

Overall though, the travel industry is definitely feeling the impact.

How to Respond

As Kevin Gibbons said, travel companies are likely largely shifting to customer support and reputation management, not acquisition.

1) Some sectors are clearly more affected than others:
– Travel is badly hit, focus is on managing customer support / reputation, not acquisition.
– Retail, store closures are now wide-spread, there’s a shift to online, but mindful of changing buying behaviours / stock levels.

— Kevin Gibbons (@kevgibbo) March 18, 2020

Travel SEOs can help this effort by closely monitoring their query data to see where their audience’s demand is shifting, and using that to inform support and PR efforts.

5. Publisher Websites Are in Incredibly High Demand

This will surprise no one, but publisher websites are experiencing huge surges in impressions and traffic.

People are looking for updates in all forms, from “coronavirus map” to how coronavirus is impacting the stock market.

One thing’s for sure, we’ve all been glued to the news as of late (for better or for worse).

How to Respond

As journalists continue to report on coronavirus news and updates, publisher SEOs can offer support in a few ways.

They can:

  • Watch their log files to ensure AMP pages aren’t serving errors.
  • Monitor pages by publish date to make sure search engine bots are crawling new pages as soon as possible.
  • Use search data to inform where the public interest is at any given time.
  • Coordinate evergreen content to compensate for seasonal and news-based volatility.

6. Restaurants Are Having to Pivot

While I haven’t been able to look at any data from restaurant sites directly, the effects are apparent.

In many locations, restaurants are operating at limited capacity.

In many others, (including my home county of Los Angeles) restaurants and bars are closed completely.

That means queries local restaurants may have relied on pre-COVID are trending down.

However, interest in alternatives like “curbside pickup” (an option many restaurants are starting to offer), is going way up.

Third-party delivery services like UberEats, Postmates, DoorDash, and Grubhub are also trending up.

Thankfully, those companies are temporarily waiving fees they charge some restaurants in order to help them stay afloat during this time.

How to Respond

If you do local SEO for a restaurant that’s had to close due to COVID-19, use holiday hours on Google My Business (GMB) to indicate that you’re closed instead of removing your store hours completely (tip courtesy of Masaki Okazawa).

GMB tip if you’re an SMB that has to close bc of COVID-19: Use Holiday Hours to indicate that you are closed instead of removing your store hours completely.

Removing hours marks your business listing as “Open Now”, which can mislead customers in times of panic. pic.twitter.com/9NZjsDtw9m

— Masaki Okazawa (@saksters) March 18, 2020

You can also add a GMB Question & Answer around your restaurant’s status during COVID-19 and get as many people as possible to upvote it so it appears as the main question in your knowledge panel (tip courtesy of Darren Shaw).

A1: Suggestion 4 of 4: Add a top Question & Answer about your status, then get many people to upvote it so it appears as the main question right on your knowledge panel #CallRailChat https://t.co/RkoNsJXKqG

— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) March 17, 2020

Dana DiTomaso is also recommending that local businesses use Google Posts to point to any updates.

A1 We are recommending that people use Google Posts to point to any updates, here is an example from a client of ours – this post leads to their blog post about their response. #CallRailChat https://t.co/Ieq0Hzb6li pic.twitter.com/Xe1JXHI4vw

— Dana DiTomaso (@danaditomaso) March 17, 2020

7. Volatility Is Present in Websites Across the Board

Times are uncertain, but one thing’s for sure – the current volatility is impacting just about every website I’ve looked into.

In these times of volatility, empathy and your own website’s data are king.

Benchmarks can be helpful, but make sure you’re looking at your own query data.

This will give you a window into your audience’s needs.

Are you meeting those needs, or not?

At a time when brands are having to reduce their campaign spend, there’s one acquisition channel that doesn’t turn off during budget cuts… organic search.

Although things are currently in a state of major flux, SEO may be more important now than ever.

via 7 Ways COVID-19 Is Affecting Search Traffic & How SEOs Can Respond via @Kammie_Jenkins

 

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I love tools and I have a pretty solid collection of tolls I am using daily. In this article I share my most recent SEO software that I really love.

[Disclaimer: I may be paid a commission if you buy the premium subscription after clicking some links below. Or I may be not]

All-in-One Marketing Dashboard Tools

There are a few comprehensive SEO suites that report on anything under the sun, from on-page issues to rankings and backlinks. Surprisingly, none of them is enough for me, so I use these four depending on the tasks I am dealing with:

Ahrefs Semrush Serpstat Spyfu
Features Ranking analysis, keyword research, on-page audit, position monitoring, SERP analysis, competitive analysis, backlink research
Price $99 $99.95 $19 $39

They all have free trials, so you can totally check each of them before you decide which one you like best.

Here are my favorite features inside each platform (and actually why I have to use all of them):

Ahrefs: Advanced Keyword Research and Analysis

Ahrefs most powerful feature is their Keyword Explorer. Not only will it extend your keyword and calculate keyword difficulty (i.e. how high the organic competition is), it will also suggest related keywords. This helps a ton in finding alternative, less competitive keywords to focus on:

Ahrefs

Advanced Keyword Research and Analysis

Semrush: Multi-Feature Position Tracking

Semrush is my very first SEO dashboard I’ve ever used. They have a ton of historical data and their tools are simply awesome. My favorite one is their ranking position tracker. I love the fact that you can track positions inside “Featured Snippets” and “People Also Ask” sections:

Semrush

Multi-Feature Position Tracking

Serpstat: Keyword Clustering

Serpstat‘s Clustering feature is one of its kind. It helps you organize your keyword lists by relevancy, make sense of thousands of queries, understand your niche better and optimize for several keywords at a time. It’s a must-use feature for every topic research because it shows you how you can optimize one page for several queries.

Serpstat cluster

Keyword Clustering

Spyfu: Indepth Position History

Spyfu is one of the oldest all-in-one marketing dashboards out there. Initially focusing on PPC tracking, the tool has successfully expanded into organic SEO. My by far favorite feature there is their organic history feature visualizing which pages were ranking for a give query throughout the years:

Spyfu marketing dashboard

Indepth Position History

Marketing Productivity and Collaboration Tools

I’ve tried hundreds tools to get organized and I’ve worked with many of them on a continuous basis, including Zoho, Trello, etc. Here I am featuring my currently favorite productivity and collaboration tool but I may expand the article with more options going forward.

Zenkit is the to-do list and mindmap builder with cool collaboration features. Zenkit is your marketing productivity Swiss knife: You can use it to organize just about anything, from content marketing editorials to a project timeline. Zenkit offers several ways to organize your lists, including lists (checkboxes), tables (my favorite one because I love tables!), calendars, and Trello-style Kanban view:

Zenkit

Marketing Productivity and Collaboration Tools

You can switch between layouts with one click of a mouse, copy-paste your to-do lists from excel or doc files, share your lists with your team, etc.

Social Media Promotion Tools

The only tool I am currently using for social media promotion is Viral Content Bee, and yes it’s my own tool and the fact that I can totally recommend it as a secret social media marketing weapon makes me incredibly proud.

Viral Content Bee

Viral Content Bee for Social Media Promotion

For every project I am promoting through Viral Content Bee, I make sure to:

  • Retweet every VCB-driven tweet (to push it into my Twitter stream)
  • Like as many VCB-driven updates on Linkedin, Pinterest and Tumblr

This way Viral Content Bee builds both my traffic and my social media interactions in a most meaningful way.

Content Marketing Tools

There are lots of tools I am using for inspiration and topic research, including Google of course. Here are two of those tools I am using on a daily basis:

TextOptimizer: Content Optimization and Research

TextOptimizer is the semantic search tool that extracts related topics and entities from Google’s SERPs and lets you better research and optimize your content. It directs and empowers your writing and helps you structure your content in a most efficient way too. You can check my detailed review of Text Optimizer here.

TextOptimizer

TextOptimizer: Content Optimization and Research

Buzzsumo: Competition Research, Influencer Marketing, Content Inspiration

Buzzsumo is another tool that can be used in so many ways and improve so many processes.

My favorite features inside Buzzsumo are:

  • “Content alerts” sending you emails whenever anyone mentions your keyword (e.g. your brand name in-content)
  • Content Analyzer allowing you to see (recently) popular content around any keyword
  • Question Analyzer allowing you to see questions around any keywords that are being asked in the discussion boards (including Reddit, Quora and Amazon Q&A)
  • Backlink Analyzer allowing you to see people behind backlinks (there’s really no alternative to that!). You can also filter backlinks by date which gives you a solid list of bloggers to reach out to:

Buzzsumo Backlink Analyzer

Competition Research, Influencer Marketing, Content Inspiration

Link Research Tools

Apart from the all-in-one SEO suites that are described above that include backlink research feature, there’s a free tool that lets you explore your competitor’s (or your own) backlinks: Your Free Backlink Checker Tool

It works incredibly smoothly: Simply put your domain or URL and use filters to dig through the referring URLs, anchor texts, link types (follow/nofollow), etc.:

Your Free Backlink Checker Tool

via Digital Marketing Tools: Best New SEO Software I Use

 

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Optimization scores, recommendations and their impact on Google Partner agencies

Are agencies going to be expected to “manage to the recommendations”? That’s among the concerns I heard from many marketers after Google announced the performance portion of the Google Partner program requirements will be evaluated based on manager account optimization scores starting in June, with the added focus on Google’s automated recommendations.

This change, in particular — and reaction to it — strikes at the tension between the benefits and limitations of automation and marketers’ relationship with the platforms designing the automation. There are the positives of big data insights, time-saving efficiencies. And yet, the systems don’t have the full view of an individual business, they are still training (on advertisers’ dime) and there are the inherent conflicts of interest concerns when the algorithms are designed by the very platforms that advertisers are paying to serve their campaigns.

Optimization score. Google shows an optimization score at the manager account, individual account, and campaign levels. It’s defined as “an estimate of how well your account is set to perform.” Google already evaluated agency performance, but it was never explicit about what criteria were being evaluated. The idea for using optimization score as an external gauge is to offer more transparency about what is being evaluated and how to improve.

Agencies must have an optimization score of at least 70% for Partner status Google clarified since first announcing the change in mid-February. It also added a note stating that its internal data shows “advertisers who increased their account-level optimization score by 10 points saw a 10% increase in conversions, on average.”

If agencies fall below the 70% threshold (or fail to meet the other requirements), they’ll be notified and given suggestions for meeting the requirements and have 60 days to get back in good standing before losing their badge. Agencies can regain their badge when they meet the requirements again.

Source: Google help page on Partners badge requirements.

“Over the years, we’ve all seen various automated scorecards used by aggressive SEO or PPC agencies when they audit a company’s marketing efforts. Typically these things are meant to find fault and to achieve a specific goal [that’s] not 100% aligned with the client’s objectives,” said Andrew Goodman, founder, and president of digital marketing agency Page Zero Media, which has Google Premier Partner status. “Google’s scorecards are a highly sophisticated version of the same phenomenon. Recommendations as aids to busy / stretched account managers are certainly a good idea.” His concern comes in using them to judge account or agency performance. That “is jumping the gun, IMO,” said Goodman.

Bad recommendations. Google offers dozens of auto-generated recommendations in Google Ads accounts that range from keyword additions and removals to budget changes to bid strategy switches to feature adoptions. They have improved as Google’s machine learning has matured, but they’re by no means perfect. Since the announcement, I’ve spoken with numerous Google Partner agency representatives — at SMX West last week and since — about the changes, and routinely heard complaints about bad recommendations. Poor keyword suggestions; pushes to adopt dynamic search ads, and smart bidding strategies that don’t align with the business goals.

“Working alongside the Google team can bring many, many benefits. From access to beta, programs to know about updates and changed to the ad platform is a huge benefit to CMI and our clients,” said Justin Fried, EVP growth and innovation at CMI/Compas. “With that being said, it is important to remember that they are publicly traded company and while the titles of [the] team you work with may not say ‘sales,’ the team does have specific goals to get their clients to increase spend and adopt new features. Knowing this, we have to assume some of the optimization recommendations coming from the Google team are self-serving. So when we receive recommendations, we ensure anything we implement is in the best interest of our client.”

For some, the optimization score criteria were the final straw. “The recommendations, for the most part, are not helpful to good agencies, or anyone that should be fully trained and at ‘Partner’ status,” said Greg Finn CMO and partner at digital marketing agency Cypress North.

Finn has been outspoken about his frustrations over the change and what it says about the value of the Partner badge. The agency has dropped its badge and replaced it with an alternative “ClientPartners” badge it created for agencies to show “that you won’t put Ad Platform profit over client performance.” Finn also questions why Google is dropping the requirement for agencies to have proven experience in Google Ads of at least 12 months. “You can now set up an account… take that test…apply all recommendations and you are a partner.”

Are agencies expected to manage to the recommendations? Will they be forced to either accept recommendations that will have a negligible or negative impact on performance)? That’s a big concern. Google says it understands not all recommendations will be appropriate and that the leeway in the 70% underscores this.

“Optimization score is one of the best signals for partners to determine if their campaigns are reaching the right customers for their clients effectively,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land. “Agencies will continue to have the control and autonomy to make the right choices from the recommendations page for their clients while benefiting from the efficiencies the optimization score brings.”

The spokesperson added, “We are committed to helping our partners who currently do not meet the necessary new requirements, including how to best use the recommendations page and maintain a 70% optimization score, with a suite of training and tools.”

Analysis in the age of automation. Automation requires a healthy level of skepticism, an understanding of how the various optimizations are designed to work and savvy analytical skills to determine whether the automation is working as intended. But in the end, everything goes back to business fundamentals.

Goodman points out, for example, that the 10% lift in conversions cited by Google from accepting recommendations might not benefit the bottom line. “No cost figure is cited, so this 10% increase in conversions could have come with a 10% or even a 25% increase in cost. Who knows?” said Goodman. “The second flaw is simply that it could skew towards highly under-managed, clumsily-optimized accounts.”

“The score is divorced from business growth and profitability metrics; we’ve retained and delighted clients precisely because we leave no stone unturned to help their businesses grow profitably, rather than optimizing to perverse or unrelated metrics.”

Will it change how agencies manage campaigns? What was clear in my discussions is that agencies are not expected to manage their campaigns solely via the Recommendations tab nor that they should accept recommendations that don’t make sense for the business. Dismiss or simply ignore those that you determine aren’t good for the account.

Some Partner agencies had already made reviewing recommendations part of their account management routines.

“In an account with hundreds of campaigns, the Recommendations page gives me a place to start my optimizations. I like how easy it is to apply simple suggestions and to dismiss other recommendations that may not be relevant to my account,” said Carrie Albright, director of services at Hanapin Marketing.

WPromote has done the same, seeing the recommendations as a kind of system check when making big changes to accounts. “We wanted an additional set of eyes on our account performance to roll out any changes at scale,” said Angelo Lillo, general manager of paid search, at Wpromote.

Whether reviewing recommendations is part of their workflow or not, the marketers I spoke with said the new requirements won’t affect how they approach client work. “We will not change how we operate,” said Fried. “Our clients are our main priority and we will only implement optimizations that support their overall goals and move their business in a positive direction.”

Most acknowledged they’ll pay closer attention to the recommendations and their optimization scores after this change, but the approach to clients won’t and shouldn’t be affected.

“It is OK to put extra rigor behind our analysis of the recommendations,” said Fried. “We will continue to review the recommendations and only implement things that are in the best interest of our client.”

via Optimization scores, recommendations and their impact on Google Partner agencies

3 tips for optimizing paid social campaigns for seasonality

Planning your paid social campaigns well ahead of your peak periods — whether seasonal, holiday or promotional — help ensure you hit your goals. Michelle Stinson Ross, marketing operations director at Apogee Results, offered tips on how advertisers can get the most out of seasonal social ads at SMX West in San Jose last week.

As part of a deep focus on digital commerce marketing, speakers discussed ways social commerce and shoppable media are transforming the way online retailers approach digital marketing.

Stay top of mind

“Paid social sits much higher in your sales funnel than paid search does. Just think about it… Are human beings really able to search for something they’ve never heard of before? No, probably not,” said Stinson Ross.

It’s the reason why paid social advertisers need to be thinking about social in the same vein as “old school” forms of mass media: newspapers, radio, or television. “These are all exposures to audiences that may have never heard of us,” she added.

Social media as a marketing channel may not present an “intense moment of buying,” Stinson Ross said, but it could provide an opportunity to remind or introduce consumers to your brand and how it can benefit them.

Early exposure also means you’ll be able to build up audiences to remarket to when your seasonal periods hit. “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn – all of them have retargeting options so that [brands] can remind them – hey, there’s a sale coming up,” she said. Effective retargeting works best when advertisers can segment top-of-funnel visitors from those already familiar with your brand and tailor the messaging accordingly.

Remarketing is also an opportunity to cross-sell and upsell to past customers, said Stinson.

Target seasonal behavior

Timing is everything and targeting seasonal behavior is key for online retailers. Surf gear ads in the winter and ski gear ads in the summer aren’t likely to resonate. That said, the trends and consumer behaviors may surprise you. Look at search trends data and your own analytics to be able to anticipate — and get ahead of — your seasonal upticks.

Take cues from brick-and-mortar retailers, suggests Stinson Ross. “We can pay attention to competitors and other retail outlets as to when is that signal going out to customers that it’s time to start thinking about the next holiday. We can begin to target that in social.”

Connecting throughout the customer journey

Retargeting becomes especially important when advertisers can return to audience pools generated through broader campaigns, Stinson Ross said. Commerce advertisers can bolster social retargeting efforts by building lists of social visitors to target with Search campaigns.

When it comes to measurement, marketers should beware of measuring paid social’s impact based on last-click attribution.

“While you may get them to go to that page and consider that product, they may not buy-in that particular moment. But that’s where PPC can pick them up, finish the process and get them to the sale in the end,” Stinson Ross concluded.

via 3 tips for optimizing paid social campaigns for seasonality

 

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