SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: What Matters Most in Mobile SEO with Cindy Krum was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Earlier this year, the landscape of SEO and Internet marketing shifted in a significant way when mobile search traffic overtook desktop search traffic. Mobile traffic will only continue to rise, and brands and businesses simply cannot afford to miss out on mobile opportunities. If you have not yet incorporated mobile SEO and mobile social strategy, the time is now.
Cindy Krum, CEO of MobileMoxie, travels the globe educating major businesses and brands on what matters most in mobile marketing, chiefly in the areas of SEO and social media. She’s also the author of “Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are.” She’ll be sharing her insights onstage at this month’s Search Marketing Expo (SMX) East 2014 in “What SEOs Should Be Doing With Mobile” on Oct. 1 at 9 a.m.
Read on to discover key insights from this mobile maven in her interview on all things mobile.
BCI: How can businesses can best shift into a mobile SEO and social strategy? Where do they start?
CK: Business management needs to start with themselves, or as the marketer, you need to push them. If you were to tell the CEO of your company that they had to complete the following three tasks from their mobile phone in the next 30 minutes (obviously pick the top three relevant conversions for your company), what would they say? Would they be able to do it? Would they get irritated if they found out how difficult it was?
It is also a good idea to really understand the mobile use cases that your brand needs to address – it might be a good idea to make a list. If you are a local business, then the use cases could be something like this:
- Someone is lost trying to find our store
- Someone wants the address, phone number or a map
- Someone wants to call ahead to place an order or check our inventory
- Someone wants to check specifications on a product before they drive to get it
This exercise will return different results for different types of companies, but it should help you organize the mobile strategy, and determine where your efforts should focus.
What are the biggest mobile SEO mistakes that are the easiest to fix?
“Mobile” gives developers, marketers and SEO’s a whole new list of potential mix-ups that are easy to miss if you are not paying attention. I usually find the most problems when I look at a “site:” query in Google, if it is a mobile specific site, or looking at an iPhone crawl, if it is built in Responsive Design.
What are the biggest mobile social mistakes that are the easiest to fix?
I am always surprised to see really advanced development teams relying exclusively on emulators and simulators. This is not OK. My company offers mobile emulators and simulators, and I can tell you from experience that they are hard to maintain, and keep accurate. We do our best, but if you are putting budget towards a development project, you should also put budget towards actual testing devices. I generally include 4 devices – an iOS phone and tablet and an Android phone and tablet. Checking that websites work on all four is critical. Testing apps on their native OS, on a variety of devices is also very important.
Brands are doing it well on mobile when their apps become a part of their users’ lives and solve a problem. I talk about good apps below, so let’s talk about good mobile websites here. When I am benchmarking good mobile design, I look at the ubiquitous brands like Facebook, Amazon, Google and to a lesser degree, eBay, Pinterest, Twitter. For a real branded example of a great mobile experience though, I would have to say Best Buy. Their mobile site is location aware, remembers who I am, and what I previously purchased. It lets me decide whether I want to ship an item or pay to have it pulled out at the store by my house, so I can just go over and pick it up in about an hour. This is stellar!
In thinking about the mobile websites that I use the most in my actual life … they are mostly utilities and shopping websites. My mobile behavior (and statistic show that I am not alone) is usually a multi-screen experience. I am generally either in front of a TV or computer, and sometimes, I am doing something on a phone, and something else on a tablet (It’s true – Yikes!). I use phones and tablets nearly interchangeably. I shop on Amazon while I watch TV (the apex of consumerism, I know), and I sometimes read industry news or watch short videos on my device, during commercials. (Honestly though, I don’t watch that much TV, so my multi-screen experiences are mostly while I work, using social networks, email and chat on my phone or tablet, and keeping work docs on my computer.
The websites I tend to search for the most on my phone are always informative, which indicates that the “Content is King” maxim still applies in mobile. One of my most common mobile searches actually illustrates many truths about mobile search and mobile web strategy: “Can dogs eat ______?” This is a query where I need information right away, because the dog is at my feet begging, and the food is in my hand or on my plate, continuing to entice the dog. If there is an app for this, it never ranks in my Google search results (which is a big deal for app marketing). I suppose I should see if there is an app, but there are lots of websites that do the trick just fine from the mobile search.
Do you need to be a big brand to succeed at mobile?
Quite the opposite! I think we are about to enter a time where having a mobile-friendly website will no longer be an option. In the same way most companies need a website, now, they need a website that works on a variety of different devices. Some companies can get away with having a limited mobile presence, but consumers are getting less forgiving when they reach for their phone and find that the website they want will not work, or is very difficult to use on their phones.
When does it make sense to create a mobile app?
I get this question a lot, and the answer is not what you would expect: I don’t love apps. Too many companies have built “branding” apps that are sub-par and offer no advantage over the mobile site. In my mind, there has to be a REALLY compelling reason to build an app for it to be worth the budget. (Remember, to reach your entire mobile audience, you really need to build two apps: one for Android and one for iOS). In general, if what you are doing in your app can 100 percent be done on a similar website, then there might not be a compelling reason to build an app. SitOrSquat and Baby BEDTIME are both great in terms of attempts to extend their brands into new aspects of people’s lives, but in efforts like this brands have to remember a couple things:
- Frequency and engagement count. If you want to stay on someone’s phone, you have to really be useful in the long term. I don’t have kids, so I can’t speak to the utility of the Baby BEDTIME app, but if it could be great if there is not a lot of competition in this space. If there is competition, Johnson & Johnson will need to be the best at what they do, in the app space, as well as in their product line.
- Thinking of an app as a brand extension is not enough. Apps must really be products that compete in their space in the app market; assets that the brand is really proud of, and that fill a compelling need. Just because it is for a phone doesn’t mean you can just “phone it in.”
When I see brands doing things really well, it is because they are linking the online and off-line world together in a seamless and useful way. The Amazon app lets me scan bar codes of products in a store, to see who has a better price, and/or what it will cost me if I want to have something NOW, versus waiting two or three days for Amazon Prime to get it to my door. That is insanely useful and seamless!
I don’t generally eat pizza, so this is not a big deal in my life, but I have heard that Pizza Hut has an app that lets me save my normal pizza order, address and nearest store, so placing my normal order takes less than 30 seconds, and does not involve talking to anyone, standing in line or waiting on hold. Brilliant!
It’s possible that I am not the norm, but I have looked at MANY people’s phones (snooping) and what people keep on their home screen is usually utilities and games. Even people who are very brand loyal are not compelled by bad or useless apps. When you are doing anything mobile, but especially an app, it is important to think about what problem you are solving, and how people are solving it now, without your app or mobile site. The solution you provide must be superior to the current solution, and must offer improvements above and beyond the addition of your company’s logo. “There are a billion weather apps out there, but this one is OURS” is actually not a compelling reason for someone to download your app.
What are your favorite do’s and don’ts when it comes to mobile?
What type of smartphone do you have?
I have many phones I use for testing, but the one I am currently using for daily communication is a Nexus 5. In some ways, it was a big adjustment from the iPhone 5; android apps are still inferior, and buggy, but the ones I actually use work fine. I like the Nexus 5 because it has Google Now, which I think is important for understanding the future of mobile search and interactivity.
What are your favorite apps on your phone?
I just took a look at my two most recently used phones; other than the stock apps, here are the ones I use, in the order of frequency that I use them: Facebook, Audible, Netflix, Skype/AIM/G+, Amazon, bank and credit card apps. Like I said, I don’t love apps, so they need to be pretty awesome to last long on my phones.
What do brands need to have in place by 2015?
- A mobile-friendly site, and lots of mobile testing devices!
- Analytics set up to report on mobile and tablet traffic
- Basic understanding of SEO and server issues related to your mobile traffic
The SMX East 2014 Speaker Series continues next week with Lisa Williams, followed by Joanna Lord and Bruce Clay himself. On Sept. 30, Virginia Nussey and I will commence liveblogging SMX East 2014. See our liveblog schedule here.
SMX East 2014: The Conference, The Liveblog Schedule & More was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Search Marketing Expo (SMX) East 2014 is right around the corner. In less than a month, Internet marketers will gather in the heart of New York for the much-anticipated conference. More than 100 SEO, SEM, social media and content marketing experts will share their top strategies and recommendations in tactic-packed sessions Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, Bruce Clay among them.
Where to Find Bruce
- Clay will lead his acclaimed One-Day SEO Training on Sept. 29 (it’s already sold out).
- Clay and fellow search leaders will answer questions from the audience in the “Ask the Search Engines & SEOs” panel (always a big hit) at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 2. Get there early — seats fill up fast when you Bruce and VIPs from Bing, Google, Ford and more take the stage.
- When evening falls on Sept. 29, Clay can be found at the SMX Meet & Greet. Bruce Clay, Inc. is the SMX Meet and Greet sponsor — come have a drink on Clay! Mix and mingle from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Inc Lounge (224 W. 49th St.).
- Throughout the entire conference, you can stop by booth #406 in the Expo Hall to meet Bruce and co.
SMX East 2014 Liveblog Schedule
Virginia Nussey and I will be liveblogging key sessions throughout SMX East 2014. Here are the sessions you can expect to see covered on the blog, as they happen!
Day 1: Tuesday, Sept. 30
|Time||SMX East Session||Blogger|
Search Marketing Boot Camp
|9 a.m.||Let’s Work Together: How SEO & SMM Can Help Each Other||Kristi|
|10:45 a.m.||Competitive Research for SEO||Kristi|
|1:30 p.m.||Search Marketing Boot Camp
|3:30 p.m.||Up Close with Twitter Cards & Facebook’s Open Graph||Kristi|
|3:30 p.m.||Search Marketing Boot Camp
|6 p.m.||Evening Forum with Danny Sullivan||Kristi|
Day 2: Wednesday, Oct. 1
|Time||SMX East Session||Blogger|
|9 a.m.||Breathing New Life Into a Tired Paid Search Campaign||Virginia|
|9 a.m.||What SEOs Should Be Doing with Mobile||Kristi|
|10:45 a.m.||25 Smart Examples of Structured Data You Can Use Now||Virginia|
|10:45 a.m.||Creating, Testing & Optimizing Paid Search Ads||Kristi|
|1:30 p.m.||Deconstructing Pigeon, Google’s New Local Search Algorithm||Virginia|
|1:30 p.m.||Tough Love: What I Wish CMOs Knew About Search Marketing||Kristi|
|5 p.m.||Keynote Conversation: Jonah Peretti, Founder & CEO of BuzzFeed||Kristi|
Day 3: Thursday, Oct. 2
|Time||SMX East Session||Blogger|
|9 a.m.||Keyword Research for Better Content & Audience Engagement||Kristi|
|10:45 a.m.||Conversion Rate Rock Stars||Kristi|
|1 p.m.||How to Secure Your Site for Google’s HTTPS Algorithm||Kristi|
|2:30 p.m.||Meet the Search Engines and SEOs||Kristi|
We’ll see you at the SMX East 2014! In the meantime, check out our SMX 2014 Speaker Interview Series.
Having a website without any analytics is like playing darts with your eyes closed. The odds of hitting your target are stacked against you. Online marketing and SEO is no exception. You need to be able to see how your website is performing so the odds of reaching your target goals are all in your favor. It starts with learning how to set up Google Analytics for your website.
It never ceases to amaze me how often I come across business owners who have websites, but no analytics installed on them. While they may understand the value of research and data in their decision making process, they don’t know how to collect that data. I love that I can solve that problem for them through the modern magic of Google Analytics. They’re excited to learn that after they add some simple code to their site they’ll be able to:
- Track and measure the results of their efforts
- See how many visits their website is getting and where visitors are coming from
- Access a clear vision of the role their website plays in the grand scheme of their business
Without this type of data to inform your business decisions, you are potentially wasting valuable time and resources on strategies and activities that do nothing to increase your bottom line. So, without further ado, here’s how to bring on the data! And know that BCI is standing by with supportive Analytics services including setup, data analysis and data-based optimization to boost your online efforts.
Setting Up Google Analytics
Now that you know how much more your website can do for you, it’s time to start collecting data so you can step up your online marketing game and optimize your website for SEO.
Step 1: Sign Up for Google Analytics
The process for setting up Analytics on your website is fairly simple. The first step is signing up for Google Analytics. If you’ve been using AdWords or already have a Google account, then you can use your existing Google account to sign up. Pretty simple and straightforward, right?
Step 2: Set Up a New Account
An Account is an organized way of managing your digital assets in a way that makes sense to you. Accounts are organized by Properties and Views. A Property would be a website, mobile application or other digital asset for which you’d like to collect data. A View would be your access point to the actual data on your website providing you with a unique perspective of an associated Property.
If you have more than one website you’d like to track, then you can add them all as a new Property under the same Account. You don’t need to create a new account for each website property unless they are unrelated. For example, if you are an SEO consultant with two clients, then you would have two separate accounts for each of your clients and their website properties.
By default, each Property comes with a standard View of all the website data for that particular Property. If you only want to see a specific portion of your data from a different lens, so to speak, then you would need to create a different View for that Property. For example, you can use one View to see unfiltered data, and another View to see data filtered by IP address so that you are not tracking your own website views from your computer.
Once you’ve signed up for Google Analytics (step 1), you’ll be prompted to set up your new account.
- For Account Name, enter the name of your business.
- For Website Name, enter the name of your website.
- For Website URL, type in your web address or copy and paste it from a separate browser window.
- For Industry Category, select the business category that best fits your website. If nothing is a good fit, then select Other.
- For Reporting Time Zone, select the time zone most relevant to your business.
Then scroll down and click the blue “Get Tracking ID” button.
Step 3: Install the Analytics Tracking Code
This is the part of setting up Google Analytics where most novices stop dead in their tracks and throw their hands in the air in exasperation. As far as you’re concerned, this tracking code might as well read like ancient hieroglyphics, but it’s actually a lot less intimidating than it looks. All you need to know is how to copy and paste.
If you use a content management system, like WordPress, to make updates to your website with minimal technical know-how, you have two options for adding the Google Analytics tracking code to your site.
Option #1: Copy and Paste Tracking Code into Your Site’s header.php File
Most CMSs used today allow you to modify the header.php file ━ that’s the top section of code that’s used on every page of the site. For WordPress sites, you can find your header.php file from the WordPress dashboard by navigating to Appearance, then Editor. From the Editor, you’ll see a long list of page templates along the right side of the screen. Select Header to open up the page template. Then click inside the template, and use CTL+F to search for the closing </head> tag near the top of the page template. Paste the tracking code immediately before the closing </head> tag.
There’s just one caveat. If you decide to update your theme or use a different theme altogether, this header.php file will most likely be replaced with a new or updated version, in which case you’d have to add the code again into the new file. If you have a different CMS than WordPress, you may need help from your webmaster to locate the header.php file to edit.
Option #2 (WordPress Only): Copy and Paste Tracking Code into a GA WordPress Plugin
If your CMS is WordPress, there are plugins specially designed to add the Google Analytics tracking code to the site header. Add a new WordPress plugin by navigating to Plugins, then Add New from the WordPress dashboard. Type in Google Analytics for WordPress in the search field, and click Search.
Google Analytics by Yoast is considered an industry standard plugin for tracking analytics in WordPress. Once installed, navigate to the plugin’s settings where you’ll be able to manually enter or copy and paste the tracking code in the provided field as shown below.
Once installed, it can take up to 24 hours for Google Analytics to update its servers. It usually starts tracking sooner than 24 hours, but if it takes longer, you may want to review your setup and try again.
In order to make Google Analytics really work for you once you’re ready to start collecting data, you’ll want to configure your filter settings so that the resulting reports are best aligned with your business needs. This instructional data from Google will introduce you basic filters you can use to narrow your views, transforming how data appears in reports.
Armed with the right data, you’ll be well on your way to measuring your online marketing and SEO efforts with great precision.
Bruce Clay, Inc. Sponsors Best SEO Campaign Category at US Search Awards at Pubcon was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
“And the award for 2014 Best SEO Campaign in the nation goes to …”
Bruce Clay, Inc. will proudly sponsor the Best SEO Campaign category at the 2014 US Search Awards on Oct. 8, 2014 during Pubcon Las Vegas at the Treasure Island Hotel.
Noted as the biggest celebration of search, PPC and digital marketing in America, the second annual US Search Awards honors and celebrates the innovative accomplishments of the most talented agencies and professionals across North America in 20 award categories acknowledging the best in SEO, PPC and digital marketing.
Bruce Clay Joins to Support SEO Standards of Excellence
After attending the inaugural US Search Awards last year, and presenting an award, Bruce wanted a larger role in the affair. “We believe it’s important to give credit where credit is due and to support forward thinking innovations in search marketing,” he told me. “We’re proud to align ourselves with other industry professionals who maintain as high of a standard of quality as we hold ourselves accountable to.”
Awards will be given for the best use of search in retail, finance, travel, and social enterprise as well as for the best campaigns in local and mobile search, integrated marketing, and paid search.
Pubcon Las Vegas Hosts Search Marketing Limelight
With so many of the industry’s leading experts in search and digital marketing gathered together in one place at the same time, Pubcon Las Vegas points the limelight to the many accomplishments and achievements of individuals and organizations. Pubcon Las Vegas and Marketing Signals are headline sponsors in addition to the award sponsors SEMPO, Distilled, Survey Monkey, Linkdex, and of course, Bruce Clay, Inc.
SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: What a Winning SEO Agency Looks Like According to Rhea Drysdale was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
When Rhea Drysdale, the CEO and co-founder of Outspoken Media, takes the SMX East stage on Oct. 2, I have a feeling it’s going to be a packed house. The award-winning New Yorker has a keen understanding of SEO, online reputation management and social media — all of which she’s going to share in “Long-Term SEO: How to Win for Years, Not Days,” alongside Internet marketing VIPs from Trulia, Intel and Ogilvy & Mather.
Today, the SMX East 2014 Speaker Series continues as Drysdale shares her insights on building an SEO team and agency that thrives, staying ahead of the ever-shifting SEO target, what the wins and risks of SEO look like and much more. DISCLAIMER: FURTHER READING MIGHT RESULT IN INCREASED MOTIVATION. CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK.
BCI: Your baby turns one, your business turns six and you recently won top 40 under 40. You are a mom-preneur and SEO aficionado, and you have caught a wave or two in your life. What are some lessons you have learned?
RD: Starting a business and growing one are two very different beasts. Some entrepreneurs live for ideas and don’t stick around for growth. Others like the challenge of having to build complex systems and procedures to scale.
Since founding Outspoken Media, I’ve learned that I’m a strategist — I live to solve problems, but I don’t possess much patience for details. Owning and operating an agency gives me the best of both worlds because I get to problem solve SEO and reputation management solutions daily without having to personally manage a sometimes tedious in-house implementation process. I’m happy to build a process, but once it’s built, don’t ask me to live in it, I’m onto the next challenge.
Thankfully, we have a team of incredible marketers at Outspoken Media who do much better with process and they leave me to the mad scientist work.
SEO is also an industry that changes often enough that I’m constantly pushing the limits of my capabilities. I thrive in an environment where I’m forced to innovate daily, communicate constantly, and build creative solutions to challenging business problems. Accepting these truths and learning to work productively in them has been key to surviving a lonely CEO road.
I’ve also learned we do so much more than SEO. This was difficult to grasp after spending years performing tactical SEO services. I recently hired one of my mentors, Al Bellenchia, who joined the team with decades of reputation and crisis communications experience. While sitting in on client presentations he was floored by the value, strategy, and management we give to our clients. We weren’t just providing SEO services, we were strategically improving their business by shaping brands and growth strategies.
I’m proud that we’ve unlocked a new area in SEO that only a few other agencies and consultants have achieved — trusted business advisers. Now we have to communicate that message — fortunately, we’re marketers!
On the subject of babies… there is nothing to compare the experience to. Nothing. I wrote one post (what to put on your baby registry) if any readers are expecting. Maybe I’ll post again. Maybe.
On the subject of waves… to be fair, I’ve literally only caught two waves. For years my world was entrenched in the northeast Florida surf community though and I was the chairman of our local Surfrider Foundation chapter, an international non-profit whose mission is to protect and enjoy our oceans.
What is your secret to success as a woman business owner in a male-dominated industry?
Getting pissed off.
I’m Scots-Irish and a redhead, so I was born angry. I let that fuel a lot of my decisions and persistence. I’ve had a lot of really horrible situations as a woman, but if I was a man those might have happened anyways. Whatever the reason, when I feel like something is unfair, unjust, or just immoral, I push hard to make something better. I push to be louder than the noise. Louder than the sexist remarks. Louder than bigotry. Louder than someone’s preconceived notions or bias.
It helps that I was raised not to take crap from anyone. My brother was ten years older than me and I quickly learned how to get the better of him in a fight. My father put me in karate class with adults. He also taught me how to do dishes by the time I was three and said I’d always have a job if I knew how to scrub a pot. It didn’t matter that I was a woman or that my grandmother put me in etiquette classes or that I only wore pink for a year — I was always the kind of kid who walked up to a group, sat down, and took charge.
I didn’t see gender as a hurdle until I was old enough to recognize or be affected by sexism in the workplace (or sexual advances), and I used that anger to fuel me further. I didn’t pursue legal actions, I just accepted that the world has a lot of jerks and I’m not going to be one of them. I surround myself with incredible people I trust and we get to work.
Thoughts on building today’s SEO team … what does it look like?
Teams in general require a special balance of attributes and skills wrapped in a culture burrito, so put anything I say into that context. The future of SEO demands that we evolve as marketers — that we better understand users, their experience, their technology, their needs, how they communicate, their expectations, their behaviors, etc. All of this looks like a combination of well-rounded marketers and specialists.
At Outspoken Media specifically, our needs change with the industry, our vision, and the demands of our clients. Today, we’re actively seeking individuals to fill many different roles. Interested? Contact us.
What does the right culture look like for today’s SEO team?
I can speak to an agency model — fast-paced, drama-free, flexible, work/life balance, education-centered, creative, and accountable to each other.
What advice do you give entrepreneurs and startups about SEO and building a site from the ground up?
SEO is just one channel in a more robust marketing strategy that has to support your brand and business objectives. If you aren’t clear on your brand and haven’t defined business goals, you’re not going to be able to structure a great content strategy that can support earned links and content that fits the need states of your target audience.
Many businesses lack clarity around their brand, value proposition, point of differentiation, values, and other core areas that any great business needs a stronger handle on to succeed. When these aren’t well-defined, marketers (which SEOs are!) are expected to operate blind and guess.
I don’t like to guess. I want data. I want to know who you are, which will fuel creativity and alignment for enterprise-wide campaigns and processes that are needed for successful marketing and reputation management strategies.
How do you keep yourself ahead of the SEO moving target?
I’ve seen enough to know that a reactionary approach is rarely a recipe for long-term SEO success. I’m not in this industry to ride ripples, I will wait for the right waves and enjoy them, feeling relatively calm and prepared.
We’ve seen this with our clients at Outspoken Media. Those who establish long-term relationships with us don’t get hit by updates. Not to say that they will never experience a negative drop, but they aren’t receiving manual actions or massive algorithmic changes to their positioning. We do still take on industry innovators, who accept great risk for a high reward, but they’re strategic and thoughtful in their approach and we only work together if we feel it’s something we can reasonably put our name to. They know they have a business to run and jobs that depend on measured, incremental success, not risky behavior.
Staying ahead is relatively simple — diversify your marketing strategy, stay informed (find a few sources you trust and can bounce ideas off of), set up your own barometers, and pay attention to trends.
How often should a business evaluate SEO and what’s the best way to go about it?
Businesses should always be evaluating SEO, just like any other major marketing channel. This doesn’t mean that it’s a daily task for some businesses, but certainly it needs to be a monthly consideration with good data to help you make informed decisions.
What exactly does it look like, in your opinion, to “win” at SEO?
Minimal/calculated risk to no risk (based on business needs) and steady growth in metrics that matter. Investment in quality assurance/monitoring and accountability to leadership. The latter requires enterprise-wide education. An SEO shouldn’t be left alone on an island with what is often one of the most important revenue drivers for a business. It is essential that leadership, boards and managers understand what you are doing, so that they can grasp the big picture and strategize long-term.
Can you share some obvious mistakes that brands make when it comes to SEO that are the easiest to fix?
- SEO is positioned under the wrong department or put on an island.
- Poorly defined metrics and KPIs.
- No internal education.
- No communication across an organization.
- No understanding of brand.
- No understanding of audience.
- No feedback loop/monitoring/quality assurance.
These might not be quick, tactical SEO tips, but they are among the most important problems brands face when it comes to SEO.
What are some of the biggest risks in SEO today?
Everything mentioned in the last question:
- Cutting corners.
- Cheap content.
- Duplicate content.
- Being overly reactive.
- Investing in a strategy without really understanding it (I know Kate Morris, our Director of Client Strategy, sees this often with international SEO strategies).
- Doing something because someone heard from that one guy at a thing to create a unique page for every country, state, region, ZIP code, city, and city-block.
What are some of the pitfalls that are practically impossible and most damaging to recover from when it comes to SEO?
Years of cutting corners with poor content and aggressive link development, paired with poor customer service (lack of proactive or reactive reputation management), and no broader marketing strategy or investment in other channels.
The lack of diversity in marketing, poor business reputation, and high-risk SEO often produces a combination of problems that a business can’t come back from. I’ve seen established companies work with multiple agencies and consultants for years and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars simply to conclude that they need to start over with their entire business and/or brand. It’s heartbreaking to witness.
At Outspoken Media, we find our recommendations often speak to much larger inefficiencies within a company and it’s our job to delicately uncover those and provide our clients with the resources, education, and data they need to change course.
How much should SEO pros know about social media and how much should social media know about SEO?
SEO and social media are both just individual channels in a much broader marketing bucket. SEOs, like any digital marketer, should be well-versed in both areas as well as other critical areas of marketing.
Just because I don’t technically know how to structure and run a PPC account, doesn’t mean I don’t understand industry best practices, how to structure a content strategy that can be effective for both SEO and PPC needs, and rely on the information we can share.
Social media is the same. We’re able to tap into some great information through social media, but this doesn’t mean the audience is the same as on-site. We should understand all channels, how they work together, and the data that’s available to us. We should be aware of trends and how users are receiving/sharing information. If we can’t intelligently speak to this, I don’t believe we’ve done our job well.
I will add a caveat to this that you will always need very technical SEOs who can implement broader digital marketing strategies. This doesn’t mean they have to be the person who defines the strategy, but communication should still be happening, so that they’re aware of the reasoning behind certain decisions.
The Lightning Round
Who are the top five people to follow on Twitter?
That’s a super broad question — there are so many reasons to follow someone. Let’s go with people who inspire me or folks I feel positively competitive with:
What’s your favorite blog?
I have difficulty sticking to a single blog — just like books, ideas, and people. I’m very utilitarian — I’m reading something for a very specific purpose and I have no use for it after that point. I now realize this is because I’m an ENTP personality type according the MBTI.
I’ve been on a big self-discovery kick the past few days. The research led me to a blog that’s now inactive, but for 16 glorious posts, it perfectly encapsulated what it’s like to live inside of my brain: http://entp-problems.tumblr.com/. Scary stuff, but everything single one of those is spot on.
This blog won’t give a lot of great industry insight to your readers, but the point is to be aware of what makes you tick and how you work best. Don’t fight your natural tendencies, learn to embrace and work with them.
Oh wait, there’s Greg Hoy’s blog over here that I’ve really been enjoying: https://the-pastry-box-project.net/baker/greg-hoy
What’s the last book you read?
“Champion: A Legend Novel” by Marie Lu. I like dystopian young adult literature. I mainly read YA and business books. It’s an interesting mix.
If I spend a lot of time thinking about why, it’s because YA seems to really embrace bada** heroines. Not like Bella in “Twilight.” That’s just a shame.
One of my favorite quotes is, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” So many girls don’t see strong women in their everyday life. When I was a kid She-Ra was my everything. She wasn’t a supporting character and her hair was 10 times better than He-Man’s bob.
I like continually reading literature where women save the world. It’s a small goal I have before I die — I want to leave a positive dent in the universe at the very least (a la Steve Jobs). That’s a lofty goal, but we all need dreams and I’d rather dream big.
What’s your goal for 2015?
Continued, responsible company growth; team development; best-of-industry benefits; and launch of our new reputation management offering.
Get more insights straight out of SMX East 2014 — check out interviews with Jason White, director of SEO at DragonSearch, and Jim Yu, CEO and founder of BrightEdge. Next week, the SMX East 2014 Speaker Series continues with Joanna Lord, VP of Consumer Marketing at Porch.com. The SMX East 2014 Speaker Series continues all this month. Follow Bruce Clay, Inc. and Kristi Kellogg on Twitter and be the first to know when the next interview is up.
SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: Jim Yu on the ‘Massive Mobile Shift’ was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Earlier this year, Search Engine Journal reported that the mobile market will generate an estimated $261 billion more in 2015 than it did in 2012. This is no surprise, considering that the average American now spends two hours a day on a mobile device.
It’s an undisputed fact that mobile optimization is a critical component of SEO, and Internet marketers are hungry for the latest tactics concerning mobile optimization. Later this month, you’ll find marketers gathered at Search Marketing Expo (SMX) East 2014, and one of the must-attend sessions of the conference is “What SEOs Should Be Doing With Mobile” (Oct. 1 at 9 a.m.), featuring SEO VIPs Jim Yu, Cindy Krum, Michael Martin and Gary Illyes.
Here’s a sneak preview of those mobile SEO insights as Yu, founder and CEO of BrightEdge, joins us for the second installment of our SMX East 2014 Speaker Series. Yu has made a name for himself in SEO, marketing and software development. Prior to founding BrightEdge, Yu led teams at Salesforce and IBM. He’s an in-demand speaker, sharing his knowledge at conferences around the globe. Today, he’s sharing them right here in an exclusive interview for the Bruce Clay, Inc. Blog.
BCI: BrightEdge just hosted its own conference called Share14. You focused on content, measurement and mobile optimization. How do these three cornerstones translate to your SMX East presentation?
JY: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk with you today. I am really looking forward to my session at SMX East this year and sharing further insights into how marketers can optimize for mobile.
As you mentioned, the theme this year at BrightEdge Share14 was content, measurement and optimization. Content marketing has developed to become the catalyst that has fueled the convergence of search, social and digital marketing disciplines. In parallel, mobile growth and adoption has skyrocketed to become one of the fastest-growing channels for driving revenue through consumer engagement.
In order for marketers to maximize their return on investment in mobile they must understand, measure and optimize their mobile search strategies. Mobile was a key talking point at Share14. You can watch my keynote address at Share14 and other highlights here.
Can you share some tips on content creation for the mobile user? What content works and what doesn’t?
What works and what does not work … That’s a great question. BrightEdge data tells us that mobile is outpacing desktop by 10 and, because of this massive shift, marketers have had to recalibrate their mobile strategies.
People now consume media across multiple mobile device types and hence each device type requires a different approach. The important thing to remember about mobile is that all mobile content is not created equally; what works and reads well on one device type (for example, mobile vs. tablet) may not work on another. The key to the success of mobile content lies in understanding the customer experience and serving content that serves a purpose and has meaning and value for the user. For this reason “mobile” can mean video and “mobile” can mean social. YouTube (who presented at Share14 on content, social and mobile) is the third largest search engine in the world and serves as a great example.
How can marketers best benchmark and measure for mobile? Do you have any dos and don’ts for measuring mobile?
Do: Utilize all mobile data at your disposal. Track, measure and optimize/optimize and measure. Your ultimate goal as a marketer is to measure conversion and ROI, and in order to do it, it’s vital to track the changing SERP (blended rank and mobile rank). Ensure that you measure mobile and local landing pages and build solid mobile campaign reporting dashboards.
Don’t: Take your eye off the SERP. Do not take a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile measurement. Conversions vary dramatically via device type, content type, location and industry!
Do: Keep on adding and testing content types and measuring the corresponding, multiple, mobile tracking variables.
As we head into 2015, what are some trends in mobile optimization that marketers need to know about? What optimization strategies should we leave behind?
As I mentioned earlier, leave behind the one-size-fits-all mobile approach. On average, 62 percent of organic searches show different results depending on whether the search was performed on a desktop or smartphone, according to BrightEdge research. Further BrightEdge research found that on average, 27 percent of websites were misconfigured for smartphone searches, which resulted in an average 68 percent loss of smartphone traffic to those websites. If these mobile sites were to regain the full potential of their traffic, it would equal a 212 percent jump from what they currently experience. As you can see, the mobile optimization opportunity is still massive!
In 2015 keep an eye out for new developments with regard to mobile app optimization and the integration of mobile and wearable technology.
Can you share your top recommendations for further reading on SEO-for-mobile matters?
Want more of the SMX East 2014 Speaker Series? Check out our interview with Jason White, director of SEO at DragonSearch — his rousing interview laid the groundwork for “stupid successful” keyword research and link development. The SMX East 2014 Speaker Series continues all this month. Follow Bruce Clay, Inc. and Kristi Kellogg on Twitter and be the first to know when the next interview is up. We have Joanna Lord, Cindy Krum, Rhea Drysdale and our own Bruce Clay on deck.
[VIDEO] Bruce Clay, Inc. Accepts Client’s ALS #IceBucketChallenge, Sponsors Walk to Defeat ALS was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
You knew this day would come. It was bound to happen one way or another. This is how it went down.
President of our long-time SEO client BenefitsCafe.com, Bruce Jugan, a board member of the ALS Association Golden West Chapter, nominated Bruce Clay and the “whole team” to partake in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. We’re believers in the power of social media memes to accelerate awareness. Challenge accepted! Video and pics below the fold!
Considering that California is in the state’s worst drought in a century, we brought the challenge to a local park where we could water the grass. In the spirit of ethical SEO (and ethical ice bucket challenges), we ran our plans by the Simi Valley Recreation & Park District and got their enthusiastic blessing.
At about 1:30 PM yesterday, eager Bruce Clay, Inc. team members met at Rancho Madera Community Park in Simi Valley where Bruce announced the company would be sponsoring the Los Angeles Walk to Defeat ALS at Exposition Park on October 19. As tradition goes, we challenged two organizations whom we know and love, aimClear and Pixelsilk. As for the rest, well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.
Funny story: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and marketing lessons gleaned from the viral phenomenon is the topic of yesterday’s SEM Synergy podcast. If you listen to the segment pre-recorded last week, you’ll hear Bruce proposing his own preferred interpretation of an ice bucket challenge, much like Patrick Stewart’s version but imagined days before that video hit the web. Sorry, boss! But your traditional take meant we all got to join in on the fun.
If you’re a fan of Bruce Clay, Inc., social media memes and Internet marketing, subscribe to our monthly SEO Newsletter email for SEO and Internet marketing news and education from a thought-leading organization in online marketing.
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.
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.
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
- Shopping Campaigns Upgrade 101: Where and how to start (beginner)
- Shopping Campaigns Upgrade 201: What to do now (advanced)
Help Center Resources
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.
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
- Best Practices for NEW Google Shopping Campaigns (Bruce Clay, Inc.)
- [Webinar Recording] 8 Tips To Optimize Your Google Shopping Campaigns (PPC Hero)
- Google Shopping Campaigns Transition Tips (Search Engine Watch)
- Do AdWords Shopping Campaigns Work? (Wordstream)
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 Campaigns “give 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.
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.
“Anything 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.
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 (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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
What are your tricks and tips do you have when it comes to making an online photo engaging? Share them in the comments!
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.
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.
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.
The 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:
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.
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.
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?
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!
Nowhere Left to Hide: Blocking Content from Search Engine Spiders was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
- If you’re considering excluding content from search engines, first make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
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.
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.)
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.
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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.
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. . .
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
With 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.
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.