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Date: Friday, 29 Aug 2014 19:46

Complete PPC PLA Shopping Campaign Crash Course ─ Conversion Deadline Sunday! was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Before you start packing up and traveling with family, remember that August 31, this Sunday, is the last day to upgrade your Product Listing Ad (PLA) campaigns.

Don’t panic!

mycatkins-lightbulb-clouds-text-overlay-small

Photo by Mycatkins (CC by 2.0), modified

In efforts to make this weekend much more enjoyable for you, here are some tips on upgrading to Shopping Campaigns I think will shine light on the “phases” that take effect in September if you do not upgrade your PLA campaigns.

lightbulb Tips for AdWords Shopping Campaign Conversion

  • If you haven’t already upgraded your PLA campaigns, the Google team, announced a new tool earlier this month, to help you create a Shopping Campaign from your existing PLA campaigns. The new campaign will include your campaign structure and bids based on your existing PLA campaign(s) and on their historical performance. Trust me, this tool will help you a lot of time! Note: Although the purpose of this tool is to help you upgrade your PLA campaigns instantly, not all campaigns will be compatible. If your campaign includes AdWords labels or “groupings” in your product targeting, you have to update your data feed with customs labels before any upgrading can take place.
  • Check out the AdWords Blog, where the Google team has provided the advertising community a great list of resources to reference for upgrading and optimizing your Shopping Campaigns. In efforts to save you the time and get your weekend started as soon as possible, review the following resources below:

Shopping Campaign Tutorial Videos

Instructional Hangouts on Air

Help Center Resources

lightbulb What Happens If You Don’t Transition Your PLA Campaigns?

Last week, Google AdWords shared another piece of news with the advertising community. If advertisers do not upgrade before Monday, the following two phases will take place during September.

  • Phase 1: Limited functionality of all regular PLA campaigns. You will not be able to make any edits to product targeting, max CPC bids, promotional text and destination URLs. The only thing you will be able to edit is campaign status and budgets.
  • Phase 2: Auto-upgrade to Shopping campaigns. If you do not upgrade your campaigns before deadline, your PLA campaigns will be auto-upgraded. Sounds easy right? Well not entirely. Although your campaigns will auto-upgrade during the month of the September, some settings and bids might not be included in the transition into the new campaign, due to “technical limitation” as described by Google. Once your PLA campaigns have been converted, your regular PLA campaigns will stop serving and remain paused.

Final Thoughts

To really enjoy this Labor Day weekend, make sure to upgrade your regular PLA campaigns before Monday. Avoid the forced phases and limited functionality of the automatic upgrade option. Also remember that although your PLA campaigns will be auto-upgraded if you don’t do it yourself before September, not all elements for your existing regular PLAs will transfer over. So, make this Friday count and dedicate some time to not only upgrade but also optimize your new Shopping Campaigns to receive the best results! And, if you find out about the transition a little too late or want some help cleaning up your campaigns once they’ve reached the phase stage, feel free to reach out to me and the BCI SEM services team where we’ve been busy transitioning multi-campaign PLAs for clients across a variety of verticals.

Resources to Help You Transition from PLAs to Shopping Campaigns

Author: "Diana Becerra" Tags: "Paid Search/Online Ads, AdWords, Google,..."
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Date: Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 21:02

Preparing Your Holiday PPC Campaigns ━ AdWords Changes Since Holidays 2013 was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Ho ho ho! ‘Tis the season to be campaigning. It’s that joyous time of year again to start planning and preparing for Cyber Monday, Black Friday and other holiday campaigns. For marketers and retailers across the globe, the holiday shopping season is upon us. And your holiday PPC campaigns need to be ready long before your customers start to get their shopping and bargain hunting on. In case you’ve been hibernating in a bat cave since Valentine’s Day, here’s a rundown on everything that’s changed in PPC since last Christmas when you gave your ad dollars away.

Goodbye PLAs, Hello Shopping Campaigns

Advertisers loved Shopping Campaigns so much, Google decided to do away with regular product listing ad (PLA) campaigns altogether and will be transitioning all PLA campaigns to Shopping Campaigns by the end of August. There’s even a new upgrade tool that makes it easy to convert regular PLA campaigns to Shopping Campaigns for those who want a head start. BCI SEM Manager Michael Shore explains that Shopping Campaignsgive advertisers more granular reporting capabilities all in the AdWords UI. It also allows for more granular targeting and more control over the products in your feed. All-in-all easier to manage.”

Two New Tools Make Campaign Management Easier

Shopping campaigns streamline how you organize, bid and report on your ads with the addition of two new tools that make managing your campaigns a whole lot easier. With bulk uploads, you can download editable reports, edit your bids within the report, and upload it right back to your account where all your changes will apply automatically. The AdWords editor helps you efficiently manage multiple campaigns and long lists of keywords so you can make changes online or offline.

Get Better ROI With Upgraded Search and Display Campaign Type

Starting September 16, Search and Display Network campaigns are getting automatically upgraded to the Select campaign type. This has been in the works since last November when Google announced it would be phasing out the old campaign type in favor of the new one, reporting higher click-through rates and a better return on investment. This new and improved campaign type makes it easier to manage campaigns and lets you customize based on desired campaign performance. (Update 8/28: Thanks to Matt Van Wagner’s comment, we’ve corrected erroneous wording in this paragraph.)

New and Improved Ad Extensions

When Google first introduced enhanced campaigns a year ago, the goal was to connect more businesses with the right people using the right ads based on user context such as location, device and time of day without having to set up and manage separate campaigns for each case scenario. Ad extensions add more value to enhanced campaigns with additional pieces of information that drive conversions. With new and improved ad extensions, advertisers now have more options for influencing their ad position, improving ad visibility, and increasing click-through rates.

Consumer Rating Annotations Boost Click-Through Rates

In the age of social media, opinions have never mattered more than they do today. With so many choices at the click of a button, people are relying more heavily on the opinions and experiences of others before investing in a brand, product or service. In consideration of this evolving consumer marketplace, Google launched Consumer Rating Annotations, a new ad format that highlights your best ratings based on data from Google Consumer Surveys. This new ad extension has been known to boost click-through rates by an average of 10 percent and complements previously-released extensions, including seller ratings and review extensions, designed to create more trust and transparency in search ads.

Google My Business Helps Your Business Stand Out

Google has replaced Google Places for Business with Google My Business and has already upgraded everyone previously using Google Places for Business and the Google+ Dashboard to manage their business information. This full-utility dashboard makes it easy for you to manage your business information across all Google products from one centralized location. Got multiple business locations? No problem. You can upload them all at once using the bulk upload tool. It’s free to use and makes managing your brand’s Google presence a whole lot easier.

Upgraded Location Extensions Deliver More Value When It Matters Most

Location extensions allow businesses to include local business information in search ads at the campaign level. The new upgrade to location extensions offers a simpler way to manage your business locations in AdWords by linking Google My Business to your AdWords campaigns. “In the past, we’d have to link individual campaigns to Google My Business accounts in order to display local store information under our PPC ads. With account-level location extensions, we can link an entire account (and all campaigns) to a client’s Google My Businesses account which eliminates the manual work of having to maintain our location extensions on a per-campaign basis,” says Shore.

Dynamic Sitelinks Increase the Relevancy of Your Ads

Sitelinks have been around for a while as a way to help users find exactly what they are looking for by linking them to specific pages on your website straight from your ad. This year, after a series of evolutions, Google rolled out with dynamic sitelinks to help optimize ad performance. These auto-generated sitelinks guide users to your most relevant pages based on their their most recent search activities. This makes it easier for users to find exactly what they are looking for. The ad extension can be disabled, but before you do so just know that the sitelinks you set up will always show up first unless Google thinks dynamic sitelinks will perform better for a given query.

New Conversion Reporting Features

You holiday PPC campaigns are useless without conversion tracking to help you make the most of your online ads. In an effort to give advertisers and marketers more insight on which campaigns drive conversions, Google has introduced a variety of conversion reporting features, including estimated total conversions across multiple devices. Earlier this year, Google introduced a new way to count AdWords conversions and, most recently, a way to identify clicks on your website that lead to calls.

Flexible Conversion Counting

Flexible conversions makes it easier to count conversions based on your specifications. After all, not all conversions are created equal. Some conversions lead to sales while others just lead to the next stage in the buying cycle. With flexible conversions, you have the option to track all conversions or unique conversions according to your business needs. This new reporting feature replaces the original one-per-click and many-per-click conversion columns with converted clicks and conversion columns instead helping you really understand the value of every click that leads to a specific type of conversion.

Website Call Conversions

Considering how many mobile users have called a business after viewing an ad, it was only a matter of time before Google introduced a way to track website call conversions too. By placing a snippet of code on your website, Google creates a dynamic forwarding number that works in conjunction with call extensions and allows you to view details of a call and count them as conversions. This helps advertisers and marketers determine the value of a call and figure out which keywords generate the most valuable calls.

A lot has changed since the last time you worked on your holiday PPC campaigns — all for the better. New shopping campaigns make campaign management easier. New and improved ad extensions help your business stand out in search more than ever before. And new conversion reporting features help you track ads that are working or not working. Are your ready for the holidays? It’ll be here before you know it.

Author: "Niki Payne" Tags: "Paid Search/Online Ads, AdWords, PPC"
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Date: Monday, 25 Aug 2014 20:11

SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: Jason White’s ‘Stupid Successful’ SEO Guide to Keywords, Link Cleanup and Personal Success was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Search Marketing Expo (SMX) East 2014 is fast-approaching. In preparation for the acclaimed Internet marketing conference, I’ve invited a handful of distinguished speakers (Bruce Clay among them) to sit down for an interview. First up is Jason White, the director of SEO at DragonSearch. The New York native has graced the SMX stage before and has also shared his vast SEO knowledge with the next generation of Internet marketers as a guest lecturer at New York University. White’s writing has appeared on Search Engine Journal, WordStream and the Marketology Blog.

Jason White SMX EastAnything that requires some strategy and a burning desire to figure out the why tends to be what gets me revved up,” White said. “More than anything I like to make my clients stupid successful.”

White will be speaking in two sessions at SMX East: “Earning Authority: Successful Link Acquisition & Auditing Advice” and “Keyword Research For Better Content & Audience Engagement.” Accordingly, I picked his brain on keyword best practices, content marketing success stories, link management and more.

Can you share a must-do and a must-don’t when it comes to keyword research?

Gather data from as many sources as you can and don’t use just the Keyword Planner. Go offline and talk to the sales team, listen to sales calls and flag the terminology and words that are being used. If the client is using PPC, mine all of that information including the negative keywords. If everyone is using the same tools for their keyword research, juke  and go with a different current, the opportunity is away from the pack. Long-tail keywords have been steadily diminishing so you need to be willing to consume other forms of data and hunt.

What mistakes are SEOs making when it comes to managing and/or disavowing links?

I’ve seen brands get hit by Google’s Penguin and submit the disavow with Bing. I’ve also seen marketers disavow YouTube and Facebook links. I’ve encountered people who had a manual penalty and were fearful of submitting a reconsideration request. These are extreme examples but it’s insanity. The misinformation is absolutely mind-boggling.

If you’re about to embark on a Penguin cleanup campaign, the best thing you can do for your client is to deep dive and do the research. If you have questions, reach out to people and ask — there is a lot of snake oil in our little industry but there are even more caring, knowledgeable people who are willing to share and help.

Can you share some examples of brands doing it right when it comes to content?

The International Space Station’s Instagram feed is fantastic. It’s bringing back the romanticism of our space program. Keeping with the government theme, the TSA’s blog is an example of what can be done when you work with what you have and I like how it’s humorous yet educational.

What is your philosophy on building your individual brand?

Being myself and sharing my knowledge freely has opened magnificent doors. I coach my team to understand that the best personal opportunities will come when they’re overworked and feeling like they are at their limit, but they should ignore those feelings and do the work, and push a little harder when someone presents an opportunity for them to seize. There is a Buddhist proverb that says something to the effect of ‘the urge to quit is strongest the moment before success is achieved.’ This is something that has become a bit of a mantra for me. At the same time, when the zombie apocalypse comes, the sum total of the work I’ve produced will be meaningless … which is something else I remind myself often.

TLDR? —> Give. Work a little harder than your perceived limit but don’t take yourself too seriously.

You’re an avid participant in #SEOchat, the weekly chat discussing all things SEO (Thursdays at 10 a.m. PT). What’s the value of staying connected with your fellow SEOs and sharing knowledge?

It’s all love. Love the people around you and be interested in their success, they’ll pay it back in spades.

In addition to #SEOchat, how do you stay on top of Internet marketing news? Blogs, books, hangouts – tell us anything and everything.

I have a very select group of people who I follow on Twitter and Google+. I attempt to get out of the echo chamber as much as I can so that I can get new ideas and concepts whenever possible.

I follow different people for different reasons; I like following Eric Enge on Google+ because of the wacky times I’ll get invited to one of his awesome Google Hangouts. It’s stupid, but I’m hell-bent on figuring out if the timing is completely random or if there is science behind it. It’s almost to the point where I’m expecting to unravel his strategy and earn the keys to the universe. Almost.

I read a lot of content from Amazon, I love the ESPN digital blog and I lurk on a lot of black hat forums. I also stalk some select verticals to earn new ideas but the who and how will only be admitted after a few beers. I like IPA.

Who are your top three favorite Twitter users and why?

  • Ian Lurie. He’s free and giving with his knowledge, has tested most everything or it at least appears that way and I appreciate his humor.
  • Mike King. He just gets it done with no bull and is interested in marketing which is something I feel that many SEOs are missing the boat on.
  • Bill Slawski. I value his ability to connect random facets from different periods of time. The ability to recognize unrelated opportunities is where magic happens and Bill seems to have this as a sixth sense.

When you’re not directing SEO, what are your favorite ways to spend your time?

Making sure my little human is growing up as a well-adjusted person, fixing my old house and telling my wife how much appreciate her for dealing with my brand of crazy. Occasionally the stars align just so and I get to ride my bike in the mountains which is something I really enjoy.

Author: "Kristi Kellogg" Tags: "Conferences and Events, Content Marketin..."
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Date: Friday, 22 Aug 2014 23:28

Make an Online Photo Engaging: Tools and Rules to Help Edit Images was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

According to eye-tracking research, people actually look at online photos only 42 percent of the time, and the images they look at only hold their attention for less than a second. After extensive eye-tracking research, Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice concluded that there were clear factors that attract and repel online readers.

“There are some very creative, captivating images … graphics that evoke emotion, graphics that relay a message far better and faster than words, and graphics that illustrate a process or instructions. People look at and respond positively to these graphics. But generic and pointless images are about as compelling as a garden slug.”

When creating blog posts or web pages, images are a critical factor for both reader engagement and search engine optimization Make an Online Photo Engaging(think ethical ALT attributes and optimized file names). Readers love images. Photos draw them in and make them want to read the content. Pick up any magazine or newspaper and notice that every article and ad speaks to this. Photos can work to inspire a feeling or clarify a concept, and they can be useful in making a page more interesting just by breaking up the text.

There are hundreds of thousands of artwork options available online — but not all photos are created equally. If you want your images to have maximum impact, consider these five factors when making your selection.

5 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Photo

1. Quality

Quality matters. One quick fix approach to improved aesthetic quality is increased contrast. According to eye-tracking research, people gravitate towards crisp images with high contrast.

Try This

You may have noticed when editing your own photos that dialing up the contrast nob using a simple image editor can improve the visual impact. Those images can be in color or black and white, so long as the contrast is stark.

“This is no reason to avoid black and white. Although a punch of color can attract the eye, a sharp black-and-white image can get a lot of attention as well. But shades of gray tend to have weaker contrast and attract the eye less,” wrote Nielsen and Pernice.

Also Consider File Types

Another important aspect of image quality is file type. Different types of images necessitate different types of files. Johnny Lin, web design manager at Bruce Clay, Inc., explains the use of .gif, .jpg or .png, depending on the image.

  • Save your online image as a .gif when the image has details and more solid colors, as is the case with clip art and most logos
  • Save as a .jpg extension when using a standard photograph
  • Save as a .png when the image has transparent shadows or multiple layers

2. Clarity

Any pixelation is too much pixelation. Make sure the photo you’re using is large enough for the space. That being said, you also have to be mindful that the photo is not too large. Because file size affects page load time, it’s important to keep file sizes as minimal as possible without sacrificing quality, i.e. if you have a file that is 4 MB, you can safely shrink it. Even if you’re using it for a banner image, it’s unlikely that the photo would ever need to exceed 100 KB.

Try This

You can reduce an image’s size in any photo editing software — or even Microsoft Paint. In Microsoft Paint, for example, choose the “Resize” option at on the toolbar (which also comes up when you hit Control-W). From there, you can reduce the photo by percentage or pixel. Make sure to select “Maintain aspect ratio” or you will skew the photo.

Also Consider DPI

When it comes to dots per inch (DPI), Lin recommends always keeping your DPI between 72 and 96 for online photos.

3. Focus

Eye-tracking research indicates that people prefer to look at images that are easy to understand. If the photo is too busy, readers don’t really look at it. Select pictures that have a clear focal point.

Try This

You can use photo editing software to create your a focal point if you’ve found (or snapped for yourself) an image with a background that’s too busy. In addition to professional software like Photoshop, you can also create focal points and adjust depth of field with free online software like Pixlr Express (using the Focal tool).

4. The Subject

The actual content of a photo matters — not all subjects are created equally. Action shots are better than posed photos; when possible, get a photo that shows people mid-action. When you use a photo that captures the moment, you capture your audience.

People as subjects are also a strong choice. In “Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals,” Bruce Clay and Murray Newlands state that “the best subjects are faces smiling, or (as in the above factor) people or things in action that capture a sense of the moment … People are more likely to have a positive impression of a (brand) if there is a person alongside it.”

Try This

Are you taking photos at events and gatherings? When your team gets together for a birthday or happy hour, is someone on camera duty? Not everyone likes to be be a photographer, but there’s a good chance there’s an amateur photographer or two among you, people who actually like capturing special moments. If your boss is making a presentation, reach out to someone you know in the audience to see if they could take a few photos and send them to you. Think of every public outing as a photo opportunity and grow your image library of people in your organization from which you can pull pictures when you need them.

5. Relevance

The image should complement the content, not detract from it. Nielsen and Pernice found that “many images that appear on pages are simply not related to the main ideas the page is trying to convey, and users ignore or barely look at them. People look at unrelated or somewhat related images just 14 percent of the time … Users look at images that are related to content about twice as often — 29 percent of the time.”

A photo should exhibit all of the above characteristics (action, people, quality, focus and clarity), but if it’s not relevant to the content it supports, it doesn’t belong.

Try This

Sometimes you have to get creative when it comes to relevance. Paula Allen recently wrote an article on “The State of SEO in Europe.” “SEO in Europe” is not exactly something you can just search for on a stock image site and get a result. At times like these, you need to think outside the box to find a photo that works. Allen chose this photo of a train station in Milan and used a text overlay to create relevance. The text she added makes the photo not just about Europe, but about SEO in Europe.

Milan train station

Photo by JasonParis (CC BY 2.0), modified

Another option when you’re stumped for finding a photo is creating a grid. In an article promoting Bruce Clay’s latest book, “Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals,” special attention was paid to each of the twelve expert contributors. We didn’t, however, have a photo of all twelve of them together — so we created this collage, and voila: relevant image.

content marketing all starsWhat are your tricks and tips do you have when it comes to making an online photo engaging? Share them in the comments!

Author: "Kristi Kellogg" Tags: "Blogging, Content Marketing"
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Date: Friday, 22 Aug 2014 22:50

A 6-Step Guide for Repurposing Content was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

People consume content in a myriad of ways: they can read it, they can hear it, they can watch it. And everyone has a preference for how they’d like to consume their content. So, marketers, are you creating content in the format your audience prefers?

Not only does repurposing content generate media for consumption across your audience’s preferred channels, it also makes it easy to produce more content with minimal effort. You can save a lot of time and energy in the content creation process by repurposing content. Repurposing content is taking a piece of content and changing it to suit a different purpose or switching up the format to reach a new audience based on their media consumption preferences.

Why Repurposing Content is Worth it

There are several great benefits that come from repurposing content:

  • It saves you time in the content creation process. You only have to do the research once.
  • It creates new SEO assets for driving targeted traffic to your website.
  • It extends the life and reach of your content to new audiences using different mediums.
  • It turns one idea into many, creating a month’s worth of content around the same topic.

As Derek Halpern of Social Triggers has been quoted many a time, “You don’t have to create content, day in, and day out. You just have to work on getting the content you already have in the hands of more people.”

Getting your content in the hands of more people means communicating with them using content formats they’re more likely to be receptive to. Most people are visual learners and thus prefer content that engages them with images and graphics. Some people are auditory learners and prefer content they can listen to and hear. Other people are more kinesthetic learners and prefer content that engages them in a more interactive way.

6 Steps to Repurposed Content Creation

Repurposing content might be easier than you think. Here’s how to do it in six simple steps:

Step 1: Write an article or blog post on a topic related to your business.

Optimize your blog content with the appropriate keyword terms and phrases just as you would normally. Don’t forget to add an image or graphic to make your blog content stand out.

Step 2: Turn your blog content into a slide presentation.

Create a “CliffsNotes” version of your article, highlighting each key point in its own slide accompanied by eye-catching images and graphics that further illustrates the point. Then upload it to Slideshare, which you can sync to your LinkedIn profile to cross-promote your content on both platforms. You can use Google Drive or Microsoft Office to create the slides and download them into to a file format supported by Slideshare. You can also use an online tool like Haiku Deck to create a set a slides, embed them into your blog post and export to Slideshare directly.
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Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Step 3: Turn your blog content into an audio file.

Record yourself reading what you wrote using a smartphone or digital voice recorder. You can also use audio recording software such as Garageband or Audacity to record and edit audio files. Once you’ve edited the file, then you can upload it to an audio sharing website like Soundcloud and embed the audio clip right into your blog post. Another easier way to give your content a voice is with a WordPress plugin such as Odiogo which turns readers into listeners with a text-to-speech solution. You can also use audio to supplement your content with added  insights and new commentary on the subject. Stay tuned for an upcoming episode of our podcast SEM Synergy where we look at this exact topic with our listeners.

Step 4: Turn your blog content into a video presentation.

Combine your audio and slide content into a short video you can post on YouTube, which you can sync up with Google+ for more cross-promotions between two additional social media platforms. You can hire someone to do this for you or do it yourself using Youtube’s video editor tool, which allows you to upload your slide images and overlay it with audio clips provided by YouTube using easy-to-use, drag-and-drop features. Or, conduct a Google+ Hangout On Air on the topic, which is saved as a video on YouTube following the live presentation.

Step 5: Turn your blog content into an infographic.

For a snack-sized piece of content you can promote via social media, create an infographic to supplement your blog post. You can use it to add new insights, share related statistics or re-emphasize parts of the blog post you want readers to remember. You can hire someone on Fiverr to make one for you or do it yourself with one of the free infographic maker tools online. The following infographic was created using Piktochart.


Step 6: Promote, promote, promote.

Tell everyone you know about your content, and how they can get it in a way that is most convenient for them. They can read it on your blog. They can get the CliffsNotes on Slideshare. They can listen it it in a podcast format. Or the can get the best of all the mediums in a video format. The choice is theirs.

Isn’t it amazing how you can turn one idea can turn into five different forms of media? You’re essentially creating four additional pieces of original content by taking one idea and repurposing it to fit the myriad of ways people are consuming content on a daily basis.

Deliver a variety of content to reach different segments of your audience based on their media consumption habits. It also improves the user experience drastically to give users options. They can read it. They can hear it. Or they can watch it. People learn and engage in different ways so make it easy for them to consume content in different ways. Doing so makes it easier for them to connect with your brand.

Author: "Niki Payne" Tags: "Content Marketing, How To"
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Date: Friday, 22 Aug 2014 21:13

Could Disappearing Author Photos in Google SERPs Signal Coming Author Rank? was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

When John Mueller announced Google was “simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count,” he asserted that this change was simply an effort to de-clutter the search engine results page (SERP). Prominent Internet marketers, however, had their own theories on Google’s latest bold move.

Here we evaluate some of the theories posed by industry thought leaders about why Google has cut author photos from SERPs. We also explore how the removal of author photos from SERPs may actually portend Google’s intent to add author reputation as an algorithmic ranking factor.

Background on Google Authorship and Author Rank

First, a refresher on the Google Authorship program and when to apply authorship code to a web page.

Google Author RankThe only place authorship markup should appear is on pages that offer educational, unique or otherwise useful information, created by a true author. Authorship markup should not appear on product pages, for example. Think of a magazine — bylines don’t belong on advertisements; they belong on articles. Google has historically used authorship markup to create a special display, or rich snippet, in its search results that may include an author’s name and head shot.

For more on what Google authorship markup is and how to correctly implement it on a website, read Claiming Your Authorship on the Web.

It’s also necessary to understand how Google may now or eventually use an individual author’s reputation as a ranking signal. Author Rank is industry jargon for an algorithm that gauges the authority of an author so that higher rankings can be given to content written by more authoritative authors. This concept is called “Agent Rank” in one Google patent for a system that quantifies author authority.

Google confirmed that author authority was a ranking signal within In-Depth Articles results. It’s not known if author reputation is used as a ranking signal in other contexts, but there has been indication from Google reps that the search engine would like to use author authority in appropriate contexts if it can be trusted as a clean signal — that is, if the ranking factor can’t be easily spammed.

Abuse of Authorship Markup

Since Google authorship photos debuted in 2011, there have been many reports of increased click-through rates (CTR). A Catalyst Search Marketing case study, for example, found SERP results with author photos saw a 150% CTR increase.

History has shown that known ranking signals become targets of spam and abuse. Ecommerce sites have inappropriately implemented authorship markup on product pages that don’t qualify as “authored” content.

In December 2013, Matt Cutts announced a change that would reduce the appearance of authorship photos in SERPs by 15 percent. This was likely motivated by Google’s interest in cleaning up the signal, weeding out unauthoritative and inappropriate authorship markup. Some have theorized that the latest removal of author photos altogether can also be viewed as a move by Google to stop abuse of authorship markup.

“Google has a vested interest in eliminating people who are using authorship markup just to get their picture in SERPs for an enhanced CTR — people who aren’t really authors or interested in writing true content,” said Bruce Clay, Inc. Senior SEO Analyst Rob Ramirez. “Now that Google has removed photos, i.e., the reward, we’ll see a cleaner SERP.”

In a nutshell, by removing the incentive to abuse authorship markup, Google may be moving closer to using author authority as a ranking factor.

Consider also how Google has experimented with including photos and bylines and a mix of not having one or the other. Google has been selective when including photos and bylines, not always including author bylines despite proper authorship markup implementation. Yet, since Google removed photos completely, we now see author bylines in SERPs consistently. That is, while author photos have been removed altogether, we can now trust that bylines will show up (where authorship markup is set up). Before, it was up to Google’s discretion whether a result would be enhanced with any author info.

Noted Google-authorship expert Mark Traphagen reported:

“Qualification for an authorship byline now is simply having correct markup. This was a bit of a surprise given Google’s move last December to differentiate and highlight authors with better quality content who publish on trusted sites. But in a Google Webmaster Central Hangout on June 25, 2014, John Mueller indicated that now as long as the two-way verification … could be correctly read by Google, a byline would likely be shown.”

With the return of bylines for all authors and the removal of authorship photos, it seems like Google is experimenting with authorship rich snippets as it moves toward an increased emphasis on authorship and a fully realized Author Rank.

Ramirez expects that moving forward, SEOs will continue to see changes within authorship:

“The next thing that we might see Google do is clean up those authors who aren’t really publishing content. How often someone publishes content might start to become a factor. If, for example, authorship is set up one time and it hasn’t budged since that date, that might indicate to Google that this ‘author’ is not, in fact, a real author. In such cases, the user might lose any kind of benefit of authorship. Now that they’ve gotten rid of the photo enhancement in the SERP, they have the problem of cleaning up the people that were spamming it before. That has to be a next step before they go to Author Rank.”

Did Google Remove Author Photos Because the Images Competed with Ads?

On the day of Mueller’s announcement, noted search industry speaker Rand Fishkin (of SEO tools company Moz) tweeted: “the compelling explanation for Google removing profile pics from search is that it distracted from ads, and cost advertisers clicks” and that he was “frustrated [by John Mueller] saying that it will not cost CTR. Either Google lied about the increase in CTR with photos, or they’re lying now.”

In his announcement regarding the removal of authorship photos, Mueller said experiments indicated that CTR would remain steady despite the change to the SERP. Fishkin was not alone in his disbelief; Larry Kim of search advertising software company WordStream tested the theory by turning to analytics data. By his analysis, the CTR of a WordStream ad targeting “negative keywords” gained a 44% increase after the removal of author photos.

“We tested this data rigorously, and the difference we observed is statistically significant with 99% confidence due to the high number of daily ad impressions (thousands) for this keyword,” Kim wrote. “It’s clear to us that based on this data, it’s not realistic to say the deletion of Google authorship photos has no impact on the CTR of other elements on the SERP.

Even if the removal of authorship photos impacts CTR on ads, Ramirez doesn’t think ad revenue was Google’s main catalyst for this change.

“Things are rarely that black and white when it comes to Google’s motives. I don’t think that Google is hurting for money — they don’t need to make those kind of decisions,” Ramirez said.

Instead, Google’s motivation is most likely tied to improving results and encouraging a cleaner signal for author authority. In the following video, Ramirez shares more of his thoughts on the changes in Google authorship in an exclusive interview:

Author: "Kristi Kellogg" Tags: "SEO, Google"
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Date: Thursday, 21 Aug 2014 17:46

Hangout on Recent Google Updates: Panda, Penguin and HTTPS was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Do you have an action plan now that Google says HTTPS is a ranking signal?

Are you eager for the next Penguin Update?

Have you ingested the newest version of Google’s Quality Rating Guidelines and integrated them into your optimization approach?

As web marketing professionals, Google keeps us on our toes, and August has been a busy month on the Google organic algorithm front. There’s been:

  • A mini Panda update
  • Confirmed progress on a coming Penguin update
  • And a new ranking signal, SSL encryption

In this Hangout you’ll hear what we’re doing and recommending for our clients in light of the recent Google updates. Our SEO manager, Mindy Weinstein, and our senior lead SEO analyst, Rob Ramirez, video chat about those three big changes to Google’s organic ranking algorithm and touch on takeaways from our reading of the 160-page Google Quality Rating Guidelines version 5. Listen to our conversation and read the highlights below.

SEO industry insiders, has Panda, Penguin or HTTPS got you thinking about a new approach?

Unconfirmed Mini Panda Refresh

A rankings shake-up in early August is suspected to have been caused by an adjustment to Google’s Panda algorithm (evaluation of content quality). Another theory is that the highly volatile Google rankings over the last week were due to the tweaking of multiple ranking signals at once ━ a multi-pack update, as it’s sometimes called.

As Hangout moderator, I thought we’d break the ice with this subject. But to be honest, things got more interesting as we broached topics with more critical and unknown implications. Like … could a Penguin backlink refresh be a bad thing for a lot of websites?

Overdue Penguin Update In the Works

In a Google Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller confirmed that engineers are working on a Penguin refresh, and while some outcry from the community suggests SEOs are eager for the update, John explained it’s not as simple as flipping a switch. Rob said there’s speculation that recent fluctuations in SERPs could be Google live testing the effect of Penguin elements and looking at what those SERPs will look like in the wild if they were to flip those switches.

Rob said he suspects the delay to refresh Penguin can probably be traced in part to the massive amount of data that’s been generated from disavow files. If Google wants to use that data, and presumably they do, there are so many domains that have been disavowed that it’s hard for Google to filter out the signal from the noise. Rob suspects that, from its tests to see what SERPs look like if they account for all the disavow data, Google doesn’t like what it sees. Read more about Rob’s criticism of Google’s Penguin refresh delay in Does Google Have a Responsibility to Refresh Its Penguin Algorithm?

Mindy asserted that we don’t know what the next update is going to look like, and that it might actually make things harder for many businesses, rather than better. With each update Penguin gets a little stricter, and so while the SEO community anticipates the refresh, it’s an unknown that could be as much of a risk as a benefit.

What’s our recommended action plan if a client is playing the waiting game against Penguin’s cold shoulder?

  • Work on improving your site, your user experience.
  • Engage in a campaign to build traffic and visibility, and while you may not see your efforts reflected in the rankings, work to make the site as strong as it can be so it’s ready when Penguin is refreshed.
  • Prove your pages’ value and make your site more engaging and likely to convert visitors once Google recognizes your backlink clean-up effort.

Minor Ranking Signal Introduced in HTTPS

HTTPS is a confirmed ranking signal, albeit minor, as of August 7. Page encryption is not as highly valued as other signals, probably because it’s not an option that makes sense for every website. In our discussion, Rob described SSL certificates and encrypted connections as a best practice for sites that accept money and have a payment gateway. However, doing it across all pages is cost prohibitive, especially for sites with hundreds of thousands of pages and sites hosted in the cloud. There’s also the matter of implementing HTTPS properly; if you don’t redirect pages and define canonicals, you can end up with duplicate pages in Google’s index and an SEO clean-up hassle.

Mindy recalled SMX Advanced in June, when Google explained its reasons for recommending encrypted and secure sites. Now, months later, Google has indicated that encryption is a minor ranking signal. Mindy said she considers this the beginning of an ongoing progression toward increased emphasis on site security by Google.

Here’s another thing to consider about the implications of this new ranking signal. It puts businesses that can afford expensive SSL certificates at an advantage and may disadvantage smaller businesses that aren’t able to buy top-of-the-line certificates.

But Google, Rob reminded us, wants to make sure their algorithm doesn’t punish local, mom-and-pop businesses that are focused on their goods, services and customers. A lot of those businesses aren’t going to change their sites so they’re fully encrypted ━ only a small percentage of websites even pay attention to SEO. Google has to balance that reality with its desire to support initiatives for online security via HTTPS as a ranking factor.

One other consequence of a fully encrypted site that Rob mentioned is that it removes Google’s need to encrypt searches and thus filter keyword referral data, known as “Not Provided.” If Google is pointing to an encrypted page on an encrypted site from SERPs, the search engine doesn’t need to hide the referral data from prying eyes. Right now the decision to encrypt a site requires consideration of the cost and effort involved, and whether the benefit is worth that cost. If Google were to return keyword referral data for encrypted sites, Rob would certainly advise his clients to secure their sites.

Google Quality Rating Guidelines

I’d scheduled our Hangout for 30 minutes and we had a few minutes to spare, so I asked Rob and Mindy what stood out to them in their reading of  the May 2014 Google Quality Rating Guidelines that were leaked this summer.

Mindy was struck by the fact that the guidelines instruct human raters to look off-site to get a sense of a site’s reputation. A brand’s or business’s reputation is an important consideration in Google’s rankings, and that means that rankings take into account realities apart from that brand’s carefully curated and owned presence, its website.

Yes, to show you’re an expert, your website needs to align with your subject of expertise. But a true expert’s expertise is reflected in what others say about them. Mindy encouraged online businesses to consider the roots of marketing — getting your business in front of people and getting people to talk about your brand.

Rob pointed out that there is a classification of websites that Google holds to a higher standard, known as YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages, which deal with finances, legal issues and health, and sites that accept payment. For these pages especially, Google looks for signals that show time and care have been taken in writing the content, laying out the website, and making information about the business available for customers’ benefit. Contact Us pages, a privacy policy, terms of use, and disclaimers have been identified by Google as necessary trust signals for sites in spaces where a user’s livelihood is directly affected.

Google Hangout with Bruce Clay, Inc. Experts

Final Analysis

The long and short of our chat on the latest Google updates is that there has never been a shortcut that works long-term, only actions which truly earn rankings. For businesses waiting for the Penguin algorithm to refresh, there’s work to do to improve the site so that when the refresh happens and rankings lift, your site is engaging, sticky and better at converting visitors. If you’re considering HTTPS for your site hoping to get a rankings boost, weigh this factor against the cost and effort of implementation and target areas or pages on your site for which extra security serves a purpose. And, finally, don’t overlook the value and trust signals conveyed by general “about” type pages on your site and your reputation as conveyed by what other sites say about you online.

Author: "Virginia Nussey" Tags: "Internet Marketing Optimization, SEO, Ha..."
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Date: Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 16:18

Google Author Rank is Coming; ClearVoice is Ready was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Google Author Rank is coming. Author Rank is an algorithmic analysis of an author’s authority which is used as a search engine ranking signal. When Google Author Rank comes, you’ll want to be ready, having firmly established yourself as a trustworthy authority. Now is the time for authors, journalists, bloggers and other content creators to evaluate themselves as authors in the way a search engine would. With last month’s disappearance of author photos from the SERP, we believe we’re closer than ever to the actualization of Google Author Rank. This means it’s time to evaluate your authority as an author by:

  • Looking at Google Analytics to determine the traffic, bounce rate, and time-on-page to articles on your site
  • Looking at data on when, where and how your articles (across sites) are being shared
  • Consistently monitoring your content to see where it is ranking for its intended keywords
  • Looking at how you align with prominent authors in your area of expertise; i.e. are you as prolific? As in-depth? As followed? As shared? As socially influential based on Klout score (read more on Klout here)?

In the search marketing industry there’s high demand for tools that can evaluate an online presence against metrics like those above, and tools built specifically for analyzing author authority are now coming to market. One such tool that calculates an authority score is ClearVoice, a free platform which has already indexed more than 100,000 authors since it’s launch last month.

Authoritative writers are finally being digitally recognized by readers as trusted sources. It’s only natural that search engines would weigh the importance not only of the source of content but the voice behind it to showcase content authority,” said Joe Griffin, co-founder of ClearVoice.

How is the ClearVoice Score Determined?

Screenshot of Kristi Kellogg's ClearVoice score.

With the ClearVoice Score, content creators have access to an objective measurement of their authority as an author. The ClearVoice Score is calculated by an algorithm that evaluates content that has been marked up for Google Authorship or for Twitter social cards. The ClearVoice Score is then calculated based upon factors including:

  • The amount of websites the author contributes to
  • The domain authority and reach of those websites
  • How often the author publishes content
  • How much each piece of content is shared

Authors will then be given a score between 1 and 100 (100 is the top possible score). The average ClearVoice Score is 45.7, and 25% of writers score between 40 and 50. The top .01% of writers have a ClearVoice Score above 90. These numbers, of course, can fluctuate as more and more content creators are evaluated.

This metric is imperative in today’s influencer marketing economy. If, as a brand or publisher, you’re looking for a writer with a strong voice in a particular vertical that not only can produce compelling content but can also amplify that content, ClearVoice is a powerful tool for identifying those top-tier voices,” explained ClearVoice PR Director Allison Freeland.

Freeland also points out that ClearVoice is the first platform to use Twitter social card markup for authorship validation. ClearVoice studied the habits of 500 major media outlets and found that 40.8% of articles are marked up for Twitter social cards and 33.4% are marked up for Google Authorship. Knowing that, ClearVoice thought it would be valuable to identify content creators via their “digital signature” on Twitter as well as Google+.

How to Leverage Your ClearVoice Score

There’s a reason we look at metrics; as with traffic reports, ranking reports, follower counts and more, they provide us empirical data of where we’ve been and where we’re going. Is ClearVoice an absolute indicator of your worth as a content creator? Or course not — but it’s a tool to help you gauge your reach and grow by identifying how and where you can improve. That way, when Google Author Rank comes (and we believe it will), you will be ahead of the game!

Author: "Kristi Kellogg" Tags: "Blogging, Content Marketing, Internet Ma..."
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Date: Monday, 18 Aug 2014 22:44

Nowhere Left to Hide: Blocking Content from Search Engine Spiders was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

TL;DR

  1. If you’re considering excluding content from search engines, first make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
  2. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you can hide content in a language or format the bots won’t comprehend; that’s a short-sighted strategy. Be up front with them by using the robots.txt file or Meta Robots tag.
  3. Don’t forget that just because you’re using the recommended methods to block content you’re safe. Understand how blocking content will make your site appear to the bots.

When and How to Exclude Content from a Search Engine Index

A major facet of SEO is convincing search engines that your website is reputable and provides real value to searchers. And for search engines to determine the value and relevance of your content, they have to put themselves in the shoes of a user.

Now, the software that looks at your site has certain limitations which SEOs have traditionally exploited to keep certain resources hidden from the search engines. The bots continue to develop, however, and are continuously getting more sophisticated in their efforts to see your web page like a human user would on a browser. It’s time to re-examine the content on your site that’s unavailable to search engine bots, as well as the reasons why it’s unavailable. There are still limitations in the bots and webmasters have legitimate reasons for blocking or externalizing certain pieces of content. Since the search engines are looking for sites that give quality content to users, let the user experience guide your projects and the rest will fall into place.

Why Block Content at All?

when to block search engine spiders

Photo by Steven Ferris (CC BY 2.0), modified

  1. Private content. Getting pages indexed means that they are available to show up in search results, and are therefore visible to the public. If you have private pages (customers’ account information, contact information for individuals, etc.) you want to keep them out of the index. (Some whois-type sites display registrant information in JavaScript to stop scraper bots from stealing personal info.)
  2. Duplicated content. Whether snippets of text (trademark information, slogans or descriptions) or entire pages (e.g., custom search results within your site), if you have content that shows up on several URLs on your site, search engine spiders might see that as low-quality. You can use one of the available options to block those pages (or individual resources on a page) from being indexed. You can keep them visible to users but blocked from search results, which won’t hurt your rankings for the content you do want showing up in search.
  3. Content from other sources. Content, like ads, which are generated by third-party sources and duplicated several places throughout the web, aren’t part of a page’s primary content. If that ad content is duplicated many times throughout the web, a webmaster may want to keep ads from being viewed as part of the page.

That Takes Care of Why, How About How?

I’m so glad you asked. One method that’s been used to keep content out of the index is to load the content from a blocked external source using a language that bots can’t parse or execute; it’s like when you spell out words to another adult because you don’t want the toddler in the room to know what you’re talking about. The problem is, the toddler in this situation is getting smarter. For a long time, if you wanted to hide something from the search engines, you could use JavaScript to load that content, meaning users get it, bots don’t.

But Google is not being at all coy about their desire to parse JavaScript with their bots. And they’re beginning to do it; the Fetch as Google tool in Webmaster Tools allows you to see individual pages as Google’s bots see them.

screenshot of Fetch as Google Webmaster Tool

If you’re using JavaScript to block content on your site, you should check some pages in this tool; chances are, Google sees it.

Keep in mind, however, that just because Google can render content in JavaScript doesn’t mean that content is being cached. The “Fetch and Render” tool shows you what the bot can see; to find out what is being indexed you should still check the cached version of the page.

screenshot of how to find your site's Google cache

There are plenty of other methods for externalizing content that people discuss: iframes, AJAX, jQuery. But as far back as 2012, experiments were showing that Google could crawl links placed in iframes; so there goes that technique. In fact, the days of speaking a language that bots couldn’t understand are nearing an end.

But what if you politely ask the bots to avoid looking at certain things? Blocking or disallowing elements in your robots.txt or a Meta Robots tag is the only certain way (short of password-protecting server directories) of keeping elements or pages from being indexed.

John Mueller recently commented that content generated with AJAX/JSON feeds would be “invisible to [Google] if you disallowed crawling of your JavaScript.” He further goes on to clarify that simply blocking CSS or JavaScript will not necessarily hurt your ranking: “There’s definitely no simple ‘CSS or JavaScript is disallowed from crawling, therefore the quality algorithms view the site negatively’ relationship.” So the best way to keep content out of the index is simply asking the search engines not to index your content. This can be individual URLs, directories, or external files.

This, then, brings us back to the beginning: why. Before deciding to block any of your content, make sure you know why you’re doing it, as well as the risks. First of all, blocking your CSS or JavaScript files (especially ones that contribute substantially to your site’s layout) is risky; it can, among other things, prevent search engines from seeing if your pages are optimized for mobile. Not only that, but after the rollout of Panda 4.0, some sites that got hit hard were able to rebound by unblocking their CSS and JavaScript which would indicate that they were specifically targeted by Google’s algorithm for blocking these elements from bots.

One more risk that you run when blocking content: search engine spiders may not be able to see what is being blocked, but they know that something is being blocked, so they may be forced to make assumptions about what that content is. They know that ads, for instance, are often hidden in iframes or even CSS; so if you have too much blocked content near the top of a page, you run the risk of getting hit by the “Top Heavy” Page Layout Algorithm. Any webmasters reading this who are considering using iframes should strongly consider consulting with a reputable SEO first. (Insert shameless BCI promo here.)

Author: "John Alexander" Tags: "SEO, Google"
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Date: Friday, 15 Aug 2014 17:12

POLL: Does Google Have a Responsibility to Refresh Its Penguin Algorithm? was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

And so we wait. . .

In the past 2 years we’ve had an increase in clients that come to our firm because they have been affected by an algorithmic or manual penalty. We offer many of these clients what we call Penalty Assessments, which are a series of deep-dive engineering documents that identify the type of penalty that the site is suffering from, offer a road map for recovery from the penalty as well as actionable recommendations for mitigating future risk. We work with penalized sites of all sizes, some attached to large corporations, others belonging to small to mid-sized businesses.

We’ve become really good at tasks like penalty identification and backlink profile clean up. We’ve gotten a number of clients out from under the revenue depressing weight of algorithmic and manual penalties alike. But lately, a number of our penalized clients are becoming impatient. It’s not anything we’ve done, and it’s not due to anything we can do. We, along with the rest of the SEO industry, have been waiting 10 months for the next Google Penguin update.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

As professionals in the search marketing field are aware, in order to truly recover from a Penguin penalty, Google needs to refresh the specific elements that manage that portion of their algorithm. Google has refreshed the Penguin algorithm twice yearly, approximately every 6 months:

  • Penguin 1.0 – April 24, 2012
  • Penguin 1.1 – May 26, 2012
  • Penguin 1.2 – October 5, 2012
  • Penguin 2.0 – May 22, 2013
  • Penguin 2.1 – Oct. 4, 2013

Typically Penguin refreshes have stuck to a general May/October refresh schedule. However, the last refresh occurred more than 10 months ago. Reactions from vocal contingents in the SEO industry have run the gamut, with many expressing frustration on behalf of their penalized clients, while others defend Google’s right as a private company to tweak their product as they see fit.

Add your voice to the debate through the poll above.

With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility

There are a number of very opinionated and strong arguments to support a position that Google owes the webmaster community a refresh, and soon. To say that Google dominates online search share is an understatement. At last check, Google’s reported search market share was near 68% but most industry pundits believe Google’s true search market share is north of 80% — 90% in some verticals.

There are also many who believe that Google aims to make cheaters pay for their crimes with an unforgettable punishment, and that this delay does just that, especially if there is no update until 2015. Google is essentially the only game in town when it comes to online marketing. Some argue that diversifying your online income funnels is the key to removing yourself from under Google’s thumb, but I see no viable second option to the visibility that Google can offer a business.

lady justice with scales

Photo by Dan4th Nicholas (CC BY 2.0), modified

Even more frustratingly, Google has seemingly passed judgment on webmasters everywhere by framing their algorithmic changes in an ethical light. While “ethics” and “morals” both relate to right and wrong, ethics are the guiding principles enforced on an individual by an external source (think religion, government or in this case, Google). For that external source to enforce an ethical standard on a community, it needs power. In this case, that power is being given to Google by its widespread use. Whether fair or intentional or not, the profitability of too many businesses and the livelihoods of too many individuals hinge on the fluctuations of Google’s search algorithms.

Google seemingly embraces this role by using language like that which appeared in Matt Cutts article announcing the original Penguin update in April 2012 entitled “Another step to reward high-quality sites.” In the article, Cutts explained that Google is interested in rewarding the “good guys” on the Internet:

“The goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs. We also want the ‘good guys’ making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded.”

Clearly, here Google has framed the conversation regarding their algorithmic updates in black and white. Do good and be rewarded; try to cheat Google’s algorithm and you’ll be singled-out and punished. Google’s corporate motto “Don’t be evil” aspires to be more than a mission statement and instead serves as a moral code which they have placed at the heart of all they do. Indeed, Google even offers the penalized webmasters an avenue for confessing their sins and receiving penance, having outlined the process for recovery in their Help Forums.

However, if Google is going to offer this remedy, then don’t they have a responsibility to hold up their end of the bargain and reward the contrition of the offending websites?

How many businesses, anticipating a refresh in May, have done their due diligence in scrubbing their link profiles spotless, doing Google the huge favor of helping to clean the Internet of inorganic links in the process, only to still be under penalty after nearly a year’s time, their business’ profits decimated in the interim?

The Dark Unknown of a Refresh

I would speculate that Google’s inability to refresh its Penguin algorithm is not based on intentional malice. It is much more likely that as they incorporate the data from the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of disavow files that they’ve acquired over the past year, that trial SERPs are getting markedly worse, not better. This is an almost predictable result of the blind disavowing that many webmasters (and SEOs) engaged in after being penalized. If it’s Google’s intent to use the disavow data to identify low-value sites and improve SERPs, they have quite a task ahead of them.  Google now has the unenviable task of sorting through this mess, trying to return the best search results possible in a post-Penguin world.

It should also be noted that even worse than this current climate of frustration is the possibility of the unknown. Those who expect to see a benefit from their link pruning efforts are eager for the algorithmic refresh, but it’s possible we’ll see another unexpected outcome altogether. What if when Google hits reset on its backlink calculations it makes a number of other changes at the same time? With each Penguin iteration Google’s webspam classifier becomes more restrictive. There’s a good chance it will happen in the next refresh, with Google moving the line and lowering its tolerance for what is an acceptable backlink profile.

If this happened along with a refresh, would everyone who hopes to see gains be satisfied? And if it were to happen now, just as the holiday marketing season is set to begin, what kind of panic and chaos would we witness? Perhaps the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know.

Predictions and speculation aside, all we can do is wait for Google, who first allowed sites to be rewarded for building links, but later penalized those same links (and sites) for being a bit too effective at influencing rankings. And we have thousands upon thousands of businesses who have had their profits decimated by Penguin penalties, either through ignorance of the guidelines or through their intentional manipulation, devoting substantial time, effort and resources to link pruning in the hopes of lifting the penalty and returning to Google’s good graces. We can only hope that when we do one day see the payoff of our link pruning work, our sites are deemed the better for it.

“Do no evil” implies the power to forgive when a website “repents” for their sins. Sites have worked hard to repent. They have learned their lessons. They want and need to be forgiven.

And so we wait. . .

Author: "Robert Ramirez" Tags: "SEO, Google"
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Date: Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 17:02

Automatic Bidding vs. Manual Bidding: What’s Best for Your Business? was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

“What’s best for my account, automatic bidding or manual bidding?”

I’m Michael Shore, the SEM manager at Bruce Clay, Inc., and it’s a question our PPC team hears all the time. The answer? It depends!

Automatic Bidding Michael Shore

Most people do not like hearing that answer. Trust me, I wish I had a more definitive answer, but it really does depend on many factors. Before I continue, we all must accept one of the universal truths of PPC management — every client is unique. What works for one client may not work for another. This applies to almost every aspect of a PPC campaign, especially bid and budget management.

What I can provide is a detailed explanation of automatic bidding and manual bidding, and a detailed look at the pros and cons of each. This guide can help you make a more informed decision when it comes to deciding which is the right option for your business.

What is Automatic Bidding?

Automatic bidding is the process of allowing a rule or algorithm to control ad group and/or keyword-level bids based on performance and goals.

Automatic Bidding Pros

  • Automatic bidding can save you a lot of time by taking over the bulk of bid and budget control.
  • It’s usually ideal for large, complex accounts.
  • If utilized correctly, it can be very effective in managing campaign budgets in addition to bids.
  • It can adjust for the ad marketplace’s high frequency of change. For example, BCI’s CPA Optimizer bid and budget management tool makes adjustments every 30 minutes throughout the day, 24/7 — something a human cannot easily do.
  • The more data, the better. Automated tools love data, as they are able to make more absolute and efficient changes.

Automatic Bidding Cons

  • Automatic bidding is not truly “automatic.” It still requires an experienced human to oversee everything and make sure nothing goes haywire. A tool is only as good as the person controlling it.
  • There’s a lack of flexibility at times. Depending on the tool you’re using, it could take some time and effort to onboard new campaigns, change budget allocations or goals.
  • The more data, the better. Wait, isn’t this also listed under “Pros”? If you are managing a small account with very low volume (say, less than one conversion per day on average), automatic bidding may not be the best option for you. (See manual bidding.)

Keep in mind that not all automatic bidding tools are created equal. Each have their own intricacies. For example, some tools make rule-based decisions, while others utilize algorithms. Some automated tools update bids and budgets once per day, others (like our CPA Optimizer) do it 48 times per day.

What is Manual Bidding?

Are you starting to see a pattern here? As the name suggests, manual bidding is the process of adjusting bids and budgets the good ole’ fashioned way – by hand!

Manual Bidding Pros

  • You maintain complete control over bids and budgets.
  • Changes can be made on the fly.
  • It’s typically sufficient for smaller accounts (smaller keyword sets, budgets, etc.).
  • There’s no extra investment needed for a third-party tool.

Manual Bidding Cons

  • It may not be the best option for larger, complex accounts with large keyword lists and budgets.
  • It takes time away from other important account management tasks.

What’s Best for Your Business?

So what’s the best choice for your business? It depends. You must take into account client goals, resources available, account size, competition and other factors in order to determine the right bidding strategy. Regardless of whether you choose automatic or manual bidding, you must have a process in place that is tailored to either one, ensuring you are in the best position to achieve your campaign goals.

Have a question about automatic bidding and manual bidding? Talk about it with our PPC specialists in the comments.

Author: "Michael Shore" Tags: "Paid Search/Online Ads, cpa optimizer, p..."
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Date: Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 19:05

E-A-T Alert! Run a Market Survey, Discover the Missing Statistic, Become the Go-To Source was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Of the many types of content available to marketers, the humble market survey may be one of the least used. After all, surveys take a lot of planning; they require lots of people’s participation; they need technology to make them work; and results require some scientific analysis. And those steps are just the beginning, to give you something to talk about!

With so much work involved, can running a marketing survey be worth it?

Content marketer Andy Crestodina says the answer is a resounding yes — if you apply what he calls the “Missing Statistic Theory.” Having just completed a massive survey of 1000+ bloggers for Orbit Media Studios, Andy talked to us about what he learned in a Hangout On Air this week. In the conversation he gives lots of practical insights for running a successful survey and explains how a marketing survey can make a website THE go-to source in an industry for years to come.

Hangout with Andy Crestodina

Applying the Missing Statistic Theory for Surveys

The results of the recent “1000+ Bloggers” survey have been widely discussed. Copyblogger called the survey “great research, great content.” But nowhere has anyone talked about the why and how of the survey itself — until now. In our discussion, Andy reveals what he considers the key factor to making a survey with lasting marketing value as link-worthy, authority-building content.

The Missing Statistic Theory boils down to this: “Every industry has conventional wisdom: statements that people say a lot, but haven’t necessarily been supported or proven.” These statements are the missing statistics for that industry. If you design a survey that discovers the answer (based on data) and then publish the results, you become the go-to source and authority for that statistic.

For its recent survey of bloggers, Orbit Media Studios chose the conventional wisdom statement “blogging takes time” and designed a market survey that would find out how much time. By including such a large survey population, with more than 1000 bloggers, the results credibly answer the question. The survey proved the truth of the statement “blogging takes time” and actually discovered how much time — an average of 2.5 hours per post.

Expect the Orbit Media Studios stat to be quoted in presentations, blog posts and infographics from here on out. This is exactly the kind of content that demonstrates expertness, authority and trustworthiness (coined E-A-T in Google’s latest quality rating guidelines) that Google is so hungry for.

Finding Your Missing Stat

For every industry there are bound to be similar “frequently asserted by rarely supported” statements that can be surveyed and turned into content-marketing gold. Some examples Andy shared during the Hangout:

  • Optometry: A conventional wisdom statement might be: “People don’t get their eyes checked often enough.” A survey could ask people, “When was the last time you had your eyes checked?” The results could be shared that though getting an eye exam every 12 months is recommended, “patients on average only get their eyes checked every X years” — which could be used to support all of the services your optometry business provides.
  • Skin care: For the statement “people don’t wear enough sunscreen,” a skin care company could survey dermatologists and come up with a statistic such as “8 out of 10 dermatologists surveyed said people do not wear enough sunscreen.”
  • Gum: For many years, Trident ran television commercials advertising their gum that ended with the statement, “4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum.”

When you use data to support your claims, it makes everything else you say seem stronger. Yet marketers frequently forget this basic truth. What are the “frequently asserted but rarely supported” statements in your industry? They could be the seed for your next successful marketing survey that will not only back up your own marketing offers, but also attract links, and raise your authority as an industry source.

Tips for Running a Successful Marketing Survey

Andy shares many practical tips on how to do a survey right, based on his experience. Here are a few — watch the full video conversation (embedded below) to hear more!

  • Choose a survey topic with industry value: Follow Andy’s Missing Statistic Theory and you’ll be golden.
  • Keep it short & sweet: Limit the number of questions and make them straightforward. You want to set the bar low so it’s easy for people to participate.
  • Include space for comments: For at least some of the questions, provide an optional text box for participants to write a longer response in addition to the quantifiable yes/no or multiple-choice answers.
  • Build a participant list: Use LinkedIn to build your list of qualified respondents. (TIP: Tag them to make follow-up easier.)
  • Invite people individually, if necessary: Andy calls this using “brute force” — contacting potential respondents with handwritten emails, one at a time, in a massive manual outreach. It’s time-consuming, but addressing people personally increases the chance they’ll participate and builds the relationship.
    “Anytime you interact with people, you should make it as high-touch and high-quality as possible.” – Andy Crestodina
  • Quote participants in the results: By including some of the best comments in your results with the people’s names (and pictures, if possible), you instantly make them co-creators and allies in promoting your content.
  • Think about promotion: From the very start, consider how you plan to promote your survey results. For instance, Orbit Media Studios surveyed bloggers because they would naturally be inclined to write about and promote the results.
    “The best content is created with the promotion process in mind.” – Andy Crestodina

Watch the full interview to find out more:

Author: "Paula Allen" Tags: "Content Marketing"
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Date: Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 17:06

SEM Synergy Returns to WebmasterRadio.FM was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

After almost three years since its last episode, SEM Synergy is making a comeback to WebmasterRadio.FM. It’s the Internet marketing podcast you don’t want to miss hosted by leading search marketing expert Bruce Clay, president and founder of Bruce Clay, Inc.

SEM Synergy Internet Marketing PodcastWith new episodes starting July 16 (THAT’S TODAY!) at 11 a.m. Pacific time, 2 p.m. Eastern time, Bruce Clay will be joined by co-hosts Virginia Nussey and Mindy Weinstein. Together, the trio will bring Internet marketers and business owners a weekly dose of news and commentary with interviews from the brightest minds in SEO, like next week’s guest Duane Forrester of Bing and past guests that have included Matt Cutts, Bryan Eisenberg and Avinash Kaushik.

Picking up right where they left off in 2011, Bruce and hosts will be talking about all the different puzzle pieces that make SEO come together synergistically from branding, content marketing and social media to paid search, analytics and conversions. In the first episode of the relaunched radio series, listen in as they discuss Panda 4.0, updates to Google’s Quality Rating Guidelines, the disappearance of author photos in search results, and Matt Cutts’ leave of absence.

Panda 4.0

Described as a kinder and gentler version of Google’s latest algorithm update, Panda 4.0 targets sites with little content or low-quality content on their web pages. In a Google+ Hangout on Air recorded shortly after the news of Panda 4.0 broke, Weinstein discussed why this was a good thing for Internet marketing. On today’s show the discussion turns to how SEO strategies have transformed over the past several years and how Bruce approaches website rankings in a post-Panda world.

New Quality Rating Guidelines

A sixth generation of the Google Quality Rating Guidelines was just recently “leaked.” The guide is given to human reviewers to give Google feedback on the quality of pages in relation to search queries. SEOs can use this document to evaluate the quality of their site and pages as Google might. Bruce, Mindy and Virginia discuss what the new guidelines entail. They also answer questions like: How will these guidelines affect your rankings? And if Google doesn’t trust your website, will your visitors?

Vanishing Authorship Photos

There has been speculation from many in the industry on why Google removed author photos from appearing in search results. One theory is that author photos weren’t a valid sign of authority as originally intended. But is this true, or is there something bigger at play going on here? Get the scoop on how to approach authorship markup moving forward on today’s episode of SEM Synergy.

Matt Cutts Takes Personal Leave

Google’s leading spokesperson to the search marketing industry is taking a leave of absence. After 15 years of working with Google since the very beginning, this will be the longest amount of time he will be taking off from his role as head of Google’s webspam team. But where will we get our all-important SEO updates during his absence? Bruce, Mindy and Virginia look at life outside of SEO and SEO news without Matt Cutts.

It was interesting to learn while listening to the show that Bruce Clay has been doing SEO since 1996; meanwhile Google didn’t hit the scene until 1998! SEM Synergy aims to offer weekly coverage of the newest marketing strategies, emerging technologies and search marketing news affecting the daily work lives of Internet marketers and business owners across the globe.

Tune into SEM Synergy with Bruce Clay and co-hosts every Wednesday at 11 a.m. Pacific on WebmasterRadio.FM or through the WebmasterRadio.FM mobile application for iOS and Android devices. Listen to past episodes of SEM Synergy on-demand by visiting the archives under the Search Engine Optimization channel at WebmasterRadio.FM.

Author: "Niki Payne" Tags: "Industry News, SEO, SEM Synergy"
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Jul 2014 22:57

8 Common Mobile Website Pitfalls to Avoid for SEO was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

With mobile Internet usage at an all-time high, Google has been cracking down on websites with poor mobile experience. Mobile web design and user experience must be addressed as part of any effective online strategy.

The way a site handles traffic from mobile devices can directly affect that business’s presence in search results. Just this month, Google announced it was adding a disclaimer beneath mobile search results that redirect smartphone users from the page they click on in the SERP to that site’s home page. From Google’s perspective, this disclaimer improves its mobile experience; meanwhile webmasters should be concerned if their mobile websites are ill-equipped to handle the growing number of mobile queries.

Update: Hours after this post was published, Google announced another change to SERPs related to warning mobile users about sub-optimal user experience. Websites that use Flash will include a disclaimer that the site listed in the results “Uses Flash” and “May not work on your device.”

The pressure is on for websites to provide a user-friendly mobile experience as the number of mobile queries surpassed desktop queries this year.

search result redirect

Google’s example of how it will handle mobile SERPs when a site listed in results may redirect users to the home page.

Mobile browsing isn’t a here-today-gone-tomorrow fad. The mobile web has given rise to a new way of life for consumers. Mobile design is no longer an option, but a necessity in a world where mobile-friendly websites turn visitors into customers.

According the Pew Research Center:

  • 90 percent of American adults own a cell phone.
  • ⅔ of Americans with cell phones use their phones to go online.
  • ⅓ of Americans with cell phones use their mobile device as their primary access point to the Internet.
  • Since 2012 smartphone adoption has grown by 69 percent.

 

mobile-friendly website conversions

So, is your mobile website experience up to par? To help business owners and Internet marketers stay current with mobile trends, lead SEO analyst at Bruce Clay, Inc., Ty Carson, reports the most common pitfalls in mobile website design.

Mobile Website Technology

Avoiding the most common pitfalls in mobile web design begins first and foremost with choosing the right technology to build your mobile website. Without an IT or web developer background, how do you know which technologies are more search-engine friendly than others?

Carson suggests business owners consult with an SEO company first before deciding on which technology to use. He also recommends building mobile websites using crawlable, static HTML pages rather than AJAX-based technologies. If AJAX happens to be your preferred technology, you can help Google properly index your website by following Webmaster Guidelines for making AJAX applications crawlable. But know that, as Carson says, “Search engines have trouble accessing dynamically-served JavaScript, so you’re better off avoiding AJAX or JS technologies altogether.”

Mobile Web Design Options

Once you’ve decided on which technology you’re going to use to build your mobile website, the next important factor to consider is which of the three smartphone configurations that Google supports works best for your website:

  1. Responsive web design
  2. Dynamic serving
  3. A separate mobile site

BCI SEO Analyst John Alexander covered the pros and cons of each option in a BCI blog post titled A Cheat Sheet for Mobile Design. Read the full post for details on the benefits and drawbacks of each, but at a high level know that:

  • Responsive design is Google’s preferred smartphone configuration for mobile websites. However, this may not always be a practical solution depending on the size and layout of your website.
  • Dynamic serving is another great option for mobile web design, but it can be a little tricky to implement and may result in unintentional cloaking issues if not implemented correctly.
  • A separate mobile site is a fairly common option, particularly among websites with lots of pages, but requires double the maintenance with a whole separate website in the mix.

Whichever configuration you choose to work with, or have already implemented, there’s still a chance you could be losing 68 percent of mobile traffic if these mobile solutions are not implemented correctly.

Common Problems With Mobile Sites Built In HTML

Want to make it easier for your customers to find you no matter where they are or what device they are using? Keep reading to find out if you’re committing one of these cardinal sins of mobile web design as seen through the eyes of our lead SEO analyst who has conducted more than his fair share of mobile site SEO reviews.

Pitfall #1: Faulty Redirects

A website should correctly detect user agents and direct the visitor to the desired page of a desktop website or mobile website, as appropriate. In order for the server to properly direct visitors coming from a variety of devices, the mobile site must have corresponding equivalent pages for every page on the desktop site. This issue is the instigating factor for Google’s new handling of search results that redirect users to the home page, as described above.

Pitfall #2: Missing (or Wrong) Alternate

This issue can be a problem for site’s with a separate mobile site. As a general rule of thumb, every desktop page should point to a corresponding mobile page. This can be done by including a rel=”alternate” tag on desktop pages. Most importantly, the mobile page you point to needs to be a page that closely matches that of the desktop page. This creates a better search experience for mobile users. There’s nothing more disappointing for mobile users than to click on a seemingly promising result only to discover that the page doesn’t really exist … at least for a mobile device user.

Pitfall #3: Missing (or Wrong) Canonical

Here’s another issue that can arise when using a separate mobile site. For every mobile page with a corresponding desktop page that points to it, website owners should be including a rel=”canonical” tag that points to the corresponding desktop page. While the rel=”alternate” tag on mobile pages improves mobile search experience, the canonical tag prevents duplicate content issues and lets search engines know which version of the page should be indexed.

Pitfall #4: Cloaking to Change Content Based on User-Agent

This is a common issue among dynamic serving mobile websites as well as sites using technologies the search engines have trouble accessing like Flash and JavaScript. Cloaking is a direct violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and refers to the practice of presenting users with one version of the mobile site while the search engines are getting an entirely different version. The best way to fix this issue is by making sure that all user-agents and search engine bots are getting the same source code as mobile users.

Pitfall #5: Mobile Website Speed

According to data from Google Analytics, the average web page takes about 10 seconds to load on a mobile device, and yet most mobile users have a significantly shorter attention span than that. Google recommends cutting page loading time down to one second or less for optimal mobile user experience. Use tools like Google Page Speed Insights or W3C Mobile Validator to run site speed tests and identify different ways to improve your mobile site’s page loading times.

Pitfall #6: Large Image and File Sizes

Related to issue #3 above, image-heavy websites with large file sizes are major issues that can cause your web pages to load a lot more slowly. The longer it takes for your page to load, the more likely you are to lose visitors. Slow page loading times can also result in slower crawl rates, which means less of your mobile pages getting indexed. The solution: Use compressed images and smaller file size to reduce the time it takes mobile search engines to render your page.

Pitfall #7: Missing Meta Tags

When it comes to delivering search results, Google treats mobile and desktop quite differently when user behavior and intent are factored into search results. That’s why you want to optimize your website for mobile search the same way you would for desktop search. The easiest fix for missing Meta tags on your mobile pages is to pull them from their corresponding desktop pages and make sure they match what the mobile user is searching in Google for a seamless user experience.

Pitfall #8: No Mobile Sitemap

If you have a separate mobile site, you need a separate sitemap. Without a sitemap for your mobile site, you’ll only make it harder for search engines to quickly identify what your site and pages are all about. The sitemap also clues them in on additional pages on your website that may have been missed during the normal crawling process. A sitemap.xml file should be created containing all of the static pages that should be crawled and indexed by search engines and reside in the root directory for your m.domain site.

Avoid the most common pitfalls in mobile design by installing website analytics and verifying ownership of both your desktop and mobile website through Webmaster Tools. This will help you identify and fix errors that may be hindering the mobile experience for users.

Get mobile SEO tips and so much more by checking out the Bruce Clay, Inc. Blog. If you’re interested in a mobile site SEO review, get in touch with us for guidance on how to improve your mobile site experience.

Author: "Niki Payne" Tags: "Internet Marketing Optimization, SEO, We..."
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Date: Monday, 14 Jul 2014 18:06

3 Enhancements to Bing Ads Manager Rolling Out Now was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

A few changes to the Bing Ads user interface are rolling out and we got a walk-through of them earlier this week. If you’re managing paid search campaigns on the Yahoo Bing network, expect to see these tweaks to your UI in the coming weeks.

Exclude 0-Click Terms in Search Terms Report

What it is: Faster report running time and a more refined data set in the returned report as the filter will return only search queries which resulted in clicks

Why we like it: This can be useful for those interested in only looking at search queries that received clicks. As far as speeding up things, it really depends on the amount of data you are trying to look at. This will not make a big difference to most, but for those who need to see (or not see) 0-click data, it can be more convenient than having to download a spreadsheet and manipulate it in Excel.

Bid Estimation Workflow Enhancements

What it is: Three new non-default columns in the keywords grid for easier consumption

  1. Estimated Mainline bid
  2. Estimated Front Page bid
  3. Estimated Top Page bid
Bing Bid Estimation Workflow Enhancement screenshot

Click to enlarge screenshot

Why we like it: The major advantage of having estimated bid data is it gives advertisers an idea of the estimated bid levels necessary to achieve the desired ad position in the SERPs. For example, if an advertiser has a valuable keyword that they’d like to show ads for at the top of the page, they’d be able to get a good idea of how much they’d have to bid (and spend) to achieve the “Top of Page” position. If they have a keyword that is not as important, or if they simply can’t afford to show at the top of the page and pay a premium CPC, they might want to utilize the “Mainline” or “Front Page” bid estimate, so they are at least visible in the SERPs but not paying a ton for position.

New Delivery Statuses

What it is: Two new delivery status types for keyword entities under “Eligible – Limited”

  1. Low search volume
  2. Low quality score
delivery-status-bing-ads

Click to enlarge screenshot

Why we like it: Delivery status basically tells us whether or not there are any issues with the keyword being able to serve. For example, an “Eligible” keyword is eligible to show ads that are triggered by searchers, with no issue. Sometimes, if the Quality Score is too low, the deliver status will tell us that there is an issue (Low QS) that might cause our ad to not run. This information has been available in AdWords for a while. This information is significant because it simply gives us more in-depth ability to troubleshoot serving issues, specifically for individual keywords. This way, we can diagnose and fix any problems.

We’re currently seeing the bid estimation workflow enhancements and new delivery statuses in our Bing Ads manager but not yet seeing the 0-click terms in search reports. What data or enhancements you’d see in your ads manager if Bing was taking requests? Let us know in the comments.

Author: "Michael Shore" Tags: "Internet Marketing Optimization, Paid Se..."
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Date: Friday, 11 Jul 2014 17:18

Best Practices for NEW Google Shopping Campaigns was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Yesterday morning the Google Shopping Team, including Partner Education Manager, Nicole Premo, and Product Specialist, Chris Azalde, held their second Google+ Hangout where they discussed best practices for Shopping campaigns and AdWords Editor support.

nicole-premo-google-shopping-hangout

Nicole Premo

chris-azalde-google-shopping-hangout

Chris Azalde

During the informational session, the Shopping Team reviewed a few items to keep in mind when managing the new replacement of PLAs and Shopping Campaign benefits. Whether you’re new to Product Listing Ads or a PLA master, the following takeaways and recommendations will help you with the Shopping campaign transition taking full effect in late August.

Below you’ll find takeaways from the Google+ Hangout including:

  • Best practices for implementing a Google Shopping campaign feed
  • A heads-up on updated data feed attributes
  • Shiny new features coming to the AdWords Editor (version 10.5!)

And, if you’re interested in talking about how Bruce Clay, Inc. can help you manage your Google Shopping or other paid search campaigns, let’s get in touch!

Best Practices for an Optimized Shopping Campaign Feed

Ensure “product data is complete, fresh and accurate”

  • Upload data regularly to keep information current
    • Once a day, or depending on changes, schedule frequent uploads
  • Feeds should be kept updated to reflect any new price changes and availability
  • “Product eligibility can improve your impressions”
  • Match the data feed to the information found on your website
  • Submit Unique Product Identifiers

Keep “titles, descriptions and images user-friendly”

  • Use high-quality, clear images for products
    • Use white, gray or light gray backgrounds
    • Avoid watermarks and logos
  • “Relevancy can improve your click through rate”
    • Use Search Query Reports to hone relevancy of products’ keyword lists
  • No keyword stuffing

Keep “product type and custom labels in good shape”

  • “Bid based on your product group’s relative value”
  • Organize your inventory by product type for easy management of your shopping campaigns
    • Create a product catalogue or taxonomy
  • Five custom labels are available and they make management control of new and old products that much easier
    • Each product can be assigned up to 5 labels

Resource: AdWords Best Practices Series on Search Engine Land

Updated Specifications for Data Feed Attributes

  • Landing Page Policy
  • Image Quality Recommendations
  • Attribute Character Limits

Resource: Google Merchant Center Product Feed Specification

Note: The Google Shopping Team will be reviewing feeds on Google Merchant Center.  Google strongly recommends reviewing the Feed Summary Page for any warnings or messages. GST also mentioned to update account contact information to receive email notifications. You will be hearing from them this summer if your account is in need of any immediate changes.

google-shopping-updates

google-shopping-updates-2

Note on “is_bundle”: A good example for the best use of this attribute is a bundle including a camera and case. Clearly, the camera is the dominate product in the bundle.

NEW! 10.5 AdWords Editor Features

  • Manage and edit campaigns offline
  • Bulk Management: Bids and URLs of Product Groups
  • Bulk Management: Negative Keywords
  • Update promotional text for many Ad Groups

Note: Shopping campaigns or product groups cannot be created or deleted.

Things to Consider

  • Adding negative keywords to your Shopping campaigns directly from the Search Query Report is currently not available, but, like PLAs, you can still add keywords lists also available for bulk management
  • Review your Search Query Report to see how your customers are searching
  • Backend Auction Activity and Algorithm remains the same and has not changed
  • How can you get your product to be displayed for highly competitive keywords?
    • Submit Unique Product Identifiers
    • Update titles and optimize by relevancy
    • Submit Product Group Category

RECOMMENDED REFERENCES

AdWords Best Practices Series” for checklists, whitepapers and more!

Author: "Diana Becerra" Tags: "Paid Search/Online Ads, Google"
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Date: Thursday, 10 Jul 2014 21:11

3 Factors of a Standout SEO Resume + 1 Bonus Off-page Factor was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Your resume is the first thing a hiring manager is going to see when you apply for a job — is your SEO resume optimized to make a good first impression? Our SEO Manager Mindy Weinstein shared three factors that make for a standout SEO resume:

  • Experience
  • Training
  • Results

And beyond the SEO resume itself, she emphasized an off-page factor she considers when hiring a potential SEO analyst: attitude.

SEO Resume Factor 1: Experience

seo resumeWhen it comes to experience, an SEO analyst should have at least one to two years of experience. A senior SEO analyst should have three or more, with experience interfacing with clients and managing projects. For those without SEO experience, however, there are internships, apprenticeships and associate SEO positions where aspiring analysts can get valuable experience.

“If someone is coming with no experience, I focus mainly on communication and time management abilities. SEO can be taught, but great communication is harder to learn. I try to relate his or her past work experience with what I know applies to an SEO’s job,” Weinstein said.

SEO Resume Factor 2: Training

Because Internet marketing is a relatively new industry, ways in which SEOs have been trained vary widely (read more in Learning SEO and the Future of SEO Education). Weinstein said she weighs experience more heavily than training. That being said, if a prospective analysts lists a reputable course or certification program on his or her SEO resume, it stands out.

SEO Resume Factor 3: Results

“One of the first things I look for on an SEO resume are results. It’s one thing to say you have experience optimizing web pages and increasing keyword rankings,” said Weinstein. “Backing those statements up with specifics, such as ‘moved primary keyword rankings to the first position in search results and doubled organic traffic,’ is a whole lot more powerful.”

Off-page Factor: Attitude

A standout SEO resume can get you an interview, but your personality and ability to articulate yourself is going to seal the deal. While experience, training and results are key factors, so is your attitude.

“I pay close attention to how a prospective analyst is able to articulate thoughts,” Weinstein said. “I also watch for signs of a positive attitude. For example, if the candidate is very negative when talking about past work experience, it is usually a red flag.”

Put Your SEO Resume to the Ultimate Test

Do you have what it takes to catch Bruce Clay and Weinstein’s attention? Bruce Clay, Inc. is looking for talented SEO analysts to join our team. We have two open positions right now, in fact. Find out more and apply here.

Author: "Kristi Kellogg" Tags: "SEO"
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 20:01

PPC 101: 3 Musts of Catchy Paid Search Ad Copy was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

You have been handed a new account to manage. Congratulations! Freaking out? Don’t! No need to start pulling out your hair. In this post, we will cover a few 101-level PPC tips to get you writing ads that draw eyeballs and clicks. Note that these methods are applicable for new accounts and accounts with historical data alike.

ppc ad copy tips

Writing creative ad copy is an important skill for the small business managing their own paid advertising as well as a company who hires an agency to manage their account(s) for them. The skill of writing ad copy that gets clicks is one that is honed through repetition, testing and seeing what works with practice. But to give you a boost I’ve distilled the vital qualities into three key points that when kept in mind can help you obtain the results you want from your ad copy.

But First, Research

Going back to our scenario presented in the beginning, you have just been handed a new account to manage. Yet, before creating any content for your ad copy, you need to do your research first. Research includes:

  • Identifying the target audience
  • Identifying existing competitors
    • Are they running any paid advertising?
  • Keyword research to identify potential search volume and estimated cost relatable to your client’s product or service
  • Identifying the conversions
    • Conversions are anything from form submissions, e-commerce transactions, or any other goal identified by the client

Once you know the information mentioned above, you are ready to get started with ad creation!

3 Qualities of Effective Ad Copy

  1. Calls to Action
  2. Following Editorial Guidelines
  3. Presenting Features and Benefits

Calls to Action

  • Sign-Up for your Free Trial”
  • “Big Savings – Call Us Today!”
  • Subscribe for Weekly Auction Updates”

Straight-forward, right? Yet, it’s interesting to see a handful of advertisers forget this key feature of an ad. Without a calls to action, your potential consumer or lead might not click on your ad. Why? Well for starters, the viewer doesn’t know what will possibly follow after the click. Yikes! You just lost a possible customer, where it gets recorded as an impression for the related search query and not a click. Remember, too many impressions with very few clicks are one of the factors that will contribute to a low CTR. When creating your amazing ad copy, you have to remember to give the ad a purpose and put yourself as the viewer while asking yourself, “is the action or message clear”?

Not sure where to start or experiencing writers block? Don’t freak out! Remember in the beginning, you did the research, specifically keyword research. Find out what ads are showing for your search query and review the ads on the first handful of search pages. What are some “Call to Actions” you see being used? Another key point when evaluating other competing ads, would be to ask you yourself, “How can I stand out”? Stand out you must, like our friend Yoda might say. While you are reviewing the ads being displayed, keep in mind that being unique will work in your benefit. If all the ads being displayed look or read the same, wouldn’t you think a different verbiage would help the viewer find more interest and prefer the unique ad instead?

Following the Search Engines’ Editorial Guidelines

Yes, following the rules, especially editorial guidelines for Google AdWords or Bing Ads, will benefit you when creating compelling ads. Why? Because by following guidelines you will:

  1. Reduce the likelihood of your ads being disapproved for not following policy, and
  2. Contribute to writing a clear message to lead potential viewers to your converting landing page.

If you have done your research, you have a clear understanding of who your client wants to reach. Next, you need to know the limits of the ad format so you can craft an ad with the appropriate number of characters, use of punctuation and content verbiage as allowed on the platform.

Knowing the limits of the ad type, develop ad copy that reads with flow and is consistent with your other channels of communication.

Google AdWords Character Limits:

Ad Copy Areas Character Length
Headline 25
Description 1 35
Description 2 35
Display URL 35
Destination URL 2,048

Bing Ads Character Limits:

Ad Copy Areas Character Length
Ad Title 25
Ad Text 71
Display URL 35
Destination 1,024

 

Highlighting Features and Benefits

Let’s say that your new client is an online computer store that wants to advertise laptops in hopes of growing profits. How can you attract the right customer? This comes down to the message you send through the text of your ad. Let’s get more descriptive with our example.

In your preliminary research you identified the targeted audience, your ideal customer. This computer store client wants to target college students, and as it’s mid-summer, you want to sell as many laptops as possible to freshmen beginning their academic school year in August. So, what do you include in your message? Yes, features and benefits!

The features in your ad act as the information the student needs to know about the laptop. Possible features to focus on include how much memory it has, its size or dimensions, its weight, etc. The benefits in your ad highlight, why the feature, specifically the product, is worth the purchase. Here are some examples.

Product: X Laptop

Features Benefits
16 GB of Memory Math class just got easy. With 16 GB of memory compute and analyze calculations in no time. Time saver!
Built-in webcam X Laptop comes with a built-in webcam to help you stay in touch while studying out of state.
13-inch wide screen Don’t strain your eyes while studying. Enjoy a comfortable 13-inch screen and give your eyes a rest.
Weight: 1.53 pounds Textbooks are heavy enough, your laptop doesn’t have to – weighing only under 2 pounds! (OR) A laptop under 2 pounds will make running across campus for class a breeze.

Still not sure what features and benefits to use? See what others are doing, and then improve on those while being unique!

Like everything, especially in the area of creating effective ad copy, it takes time, practice and continuing education. Just how the internet continues to change every day, we as progressive marketers should also continue to keep updated and not forget the foundation of effective account management.

RECOMMENDED READINGS AND REFERENCES

8 Actionable AdWords Tips for PPC Managers” by Diana Becerra

12 PPC Tips from the Experts to Start 2014 with a Bang” by John Gagnon, Bing Ads

Tips for Creating Successful Text Ads” in Google AdWords support

Author: "Diana Becerra" Tags: "Paid Search/Online Ads"
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Date: Monday, 07 Jul 2014 18:44

Recap of SEO Course in Italy: 4 SEO Tips to Remember was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

While many Americans enjoyed getting their head out of work during last week’s holiday, a room full of Europeans dove into SEO practices for online business as taught by one American.

Bruce Clay, an expert on natural search engine optimization, came to Milan, Italy, to teach a sold-out, special two-day SEOToolSet® Training hosted by Bruce Clay Europe. During the advanced SEO course held July 2–3, 2014, I took note of some valuable SEO tips arising from the numerous questions he answered.

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1. Penalties will continue”

In 2014, Google will continue to increase its penalties, and the next update may be the heaviest, coming possibly by the end of summer. At SMX Advanced (in June 2014), there was talk of a spam update that will impact about 30% of organic results. Website owners can prepare for this by cleaning up all inbound links and pruning the low-quality ones.

2. Responsive design is Google’s preference for mobile sites”

Often the question arises whether it is better to redo the site in a mobile version (such as m.domain.com) or with responsive design. Today Google has in its index 60 trillion pages, 90% of which were created for your desktop. The increase in mobile usage forces companies to make sites that are suited to smartphones and other mobile devices. If everyone created a mobile version of their site today, tomorrow there would be 120 trillion pages. This would have a severe economic impact on Google. It’s understandable why Google prefers responsive design, which enables a website to work across devices by adapting to the size of the user’s browser window. Google will save a tremendous amount of server capacity if everyone implements this approach. For more information on mobile design choices, see our post in English or download this mobile SEO Guide in Italian.

3. If your SEO might damage the UX on Google, DON’T DO IT”

Often when you’re doing SEO, you encounter unexpected questions. The criteria to figure out if what you’re doing on the SEO side goes in the right direction is simple: if you do could harm to the economic interests of Google or the user experience, you’d better not do it. Google does not want its users to go on Bing due to poor search results.

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4. Having a lot of data is not the same as understanding it”

Bruce Clay restated it this way: “Data is different than wisdom.” You have to be careful to draw the right conclusions from your data, not the wrong ones.

SEO training in the shadow of the Cathedral was attended by 43 digital marketing professionals from 7 countries. At the end of the course I asked some of the participants on-the-fly for their opinions (translated here):

“I liked the course, but most of all the interesting content quality and level of exposure. I’m really glad I made this choice.” – Vincent Gengaro of Punto.Net

“The course of Bruce Clay, Inc., offers a complete and professional project for the construction of a concrete and effective SEO. It provides a 360 degree understanding with insights focused on the basics, which are often overlooked in favor of myths. Bruce, on the other hand, is an experienced and credible voice, sometimes out of the choir, to trust without delay. I recommend this course for everyone, experts and others, to better understand and rethink their own experience in the matter.” – Alexander Vriale, Online Specialist Multinational Electronics

Note: Original version in Italian is published at http://www.aleagostini.com/recap-corso-seo-milano-04072014.html

Author: "Ale Agostini" Tags: "SEO, Bruce Clay Europe"
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Jul 2014 21:19

15 Questions to Ask When Hiring a PPC Agency was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Shopping for the right PPC management agency can be just as tough as managing PPC campaigns themselves. In an industry that is becoming increasingly flooded by PPC “agencies,” how do you find the right one for you? I’m the SEM manager at Bruce Clay, Inc., and over the years I’ve worked with dozens of companies, many with horror stories of prior experiences with sub-par PPC agencies.

Clients who have worked with other PPC agencies have shared tales of wasted spend due to poor quality keywords, poor campaign setup, failure to track to conversions and more — choosing an unqualified PPC agency is a costly mistake. The awesome thing is you can save a lot of time, headache and money by thoroughly vetting PPC agencies. Read on to discover the questions you should be asking in order to find the right PPC agency.

The Track Record

Research the PPC agency. Ask questions and do your own research to determine the PPC agency’s strengths and weaknesses. Find out how long they’ve been around and what reputation they’ve earned. Get answers to the following questions:

  • When was the PPC agency established?
  • Are they recognized as a thought leader?
  • Do they attend conferences? Speak at conferences?
  • What books or articles have they written?
  • Who are their key players, and are they quoted and referenced in outside publications?

The Client Roster

In order to be an industry leader in PPC management, you must have a wide array of experience, across industries and business functions. It’s a good sign if an agency has work examples of various types of PPC programs.

  • Does the PPC agency’s experience align with your business type?
  • Do they have a solid track record of working with e-commerce and lead generation clients? B2B, B2C?
  • What types of budgets do they manage? Small, local clients with monthly ad budgets in the low thousands? Fortune 100’s with millions of dollars of ad spend? Most importantly, have they managed budgets similar to yours?

The Project Resources

Understanding how the PPC management agency is able to adequately support your account is vital to understanding whether or not they can deliver what you need. From personnel to tools, you need to determine if their resources cater to your needs.

  • Does their internal team structure make sense to you?
  • Do they use any industry-leading, or proprietary tools?
  • Do they have one person, or multiple people trained and working on your account?
  • What types of resources are available to you?

At BCI, each PPC client receives a project manager and a dedicated team of at least two analysts that are cross-trained on accounts. We find this allows for optimal client communication and account management, which leads to results.

The Client Retention Rate

It’s one thing to be able to acquire new business, but does the prospective agency retain their clients? A high client retention rate is indicative of an agency that is able to continuously meet their clients’ PPC goals. Hint: The higher the CRR, the better! The best PPC management agencies usually have at least a 90% CRR.

  • What is their CRR?
  • What’s the average client length of engagement?
  • What percentage of their client base have been with the agency for 2+ years?

The Proof

Last but not least, don’t just take a PPC agency at their word. Case studies can be extremely helpful in providing insight into how prospective agencies are able to move the needle. Not all agencies have these materials readily available, but they should at least be able to provide examples of successful PPC projects.

Are you interested in learning more about the PPC services offered at Bruce Clay, Inc.? Contact us — we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions (including the ones listed above!).

Author: "Michael Shore" Tags: "Internet Marketing Optimization, Paid Se..."
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