Friday, 11 January 2019
Thursday, 13 September 2018
For a small business, gaining steam on social media is undeniably an uphill battle. You have to contend with algorithms that make it nearly impossible to get discovered until you achieve a certain level of visibility. This situation puts you in a catch-22: you can’t get anyone to view your content until you get engagement, which requires views!
Nevermind the fact that social media overwhelmingly prefers silly or opinionated content—two things that really don’t gel with the average business’s branding. Sure, you can gain thousands of shares by posting ridiculous cat videos, but there’s a slim chance all that attention will aid your business goals.
Despite all these challenges, putting your business out there on social media isn’t just worth it; it’s necessary. According to research from Stone Temple, 63 percent of all web traffic in 2017 came from mobile devices. In the U.S., 87 percent of mobile internet time is spent in apps. What are the most common apps? Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, to name a few.
Following this logic, people on the internet spend the majority of their time looking at social media apps on their phone. While Google Search is another top app—meaning SEO is also critical for businesses—social media is by far the most common way people discover content. Consider that two thirds of U.S. adults say they get their news from social media.
Put simply: if you aren’t on social media, you will have an incredibly hard time gaining brand recognition for your business. You will also have a tough time getting attention for your laboriously crafted content.
So how can you climb uphill to earn engagement and, eventually, legions of fans? Start by following these six tips below.
Talk About Your Audience, Not Your Business
No one logs into social media to talk about you! Okay, that may be an unfair exaggeration, but our point is that most people enjoy social media because it’s all about me, me, me.
You should use that tendency. Instead of talking about your business, talk about your industry in a way that people can relate to. Suddenly, you’re not just promoting. You’re conversing. Or, you’re informing. Sometimes, you might even be commiserating.
Here’s an example: consider a post written by a local dry cleaner that says, “Our new powercleaning process can bust the deepest stains! Come in today and mention this post for $5 off.”
While the offer may be tempting and the service may be useful, people may tune them out. Instead, the business can say, “Got a piece of clothing hiding in your closet because you can’t remove a stubborn stain? Bring it to us! With our new powercleaning process, your favorite outfits can find new life. Get $5 off your service when you mention this post!”
The difference is all about perspective. When you write content, don’t just subtly hint at relevance to your audiences. Instead, write things for them that subtly steer them towards your business services. Flipping your thinking around can be a quick path to more consistent conversions.
Cover Interesting Industry Topics Rather Than Just Your Brand Alone
Another way to branch away from overpromotion is to be a font of news and information for your industry. A restaurant can discuss exciting new culinary movements. A healthcare provider can offer self-care tips and the latest studies on which health practices are most effective. A local gym can share stretches and exercises people can do at home to start feeling better.
When done right, this content earns your audience’s interest without your business appearing like it wants something in return. You also round out your subject matter pool to include topics that are universally interesting and helpful to people in your target market.
Participate in Discussions in Groups and Trending Hashtags
What if your brand were a really helpful person? That’s the approach many of the most successful social media marketers take when they’re trying to build an audience. They get proactive, reaching out to target audiences in the social niches they occupy.
For example, the same hypothetical dry cleaner mentioned above could join laundry and housecleaning groups. As long as they are not overtly promoting or stealing focus from other discussions, the business can become a valuable contributor to the group. After all, who better to offer expertise than the experts?
When building your initial audience pool, try to be very active in Facebook groups and public discussions. Avoid coming across too opinionated, but don’t be shy about setting facts straight. With enough effort, you can gain some initial followers—and maybe even customers!
Aim for Emotional Content That Tells a Story About Your Customers
Going back to one of the main drawbacks of social media marketing for small businesses: only certain types of content seem to excel on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These popular content categories include humorous content, content that impresses/amazes, content that sums up people’s feelings succinctly, content that isn’t afraid to state a strong opinion and content that stirs emotions.
Of all these options, emotional content can be the easiest for a small business to pin down. While getting an emotion out of your audience may seem like a tall order, it’s actually fairly hard to fail completely at it. An attempt to make a joke or be “cool” might go over like a lead balloon. Being controversial is never a good idea since it, well, stirs controversy. But no one can 100 percent fail at communicating emotion as long as they’re sincere.
Think from your heart, and start by telling stories either about your customers or related to their lives. Get to the emotional core of what your product or service offers. If you’re an event caterer, you’re offering strong memories and good times. If you’re an IT and cybersecurity services provider, you’re providing reliability and peace of mind. If you’re a dry cleaner, even you offer customers an emotion: a feeling of control over their lives and the ability for them to wear what they need when they need it.
When using a storytelling approach, start small. Highlight a customer whose day you made. Or, mention the emotional benefits of whatever information your content offers, such as information to help make people’s day less stressful.
From there, you can learn more about how to combine images and text in a way that stirs people’s souls.
Consider Gatorade’s mini film “The Boy Who Learned to Fly,” which earned the sports beverage company 15.3 million views and over 68,000 “likes” on YouTube. It told a powerful story that ranged from exciting to tragic to joyous in just seven minutes.
You may not have the budget for something that ambitious, but at the very least you can be inspired by businesses able to tell a story where they’re just a supporting character or an outside observer.
Engage Your Social Media Marketing Audience Directly by Asking Them Questions
There is probably no more powerful social media marketing phrase than “What do you think?”
Arguably, all of social media is just one big pile of people telling others what they think. When they share art or humorous content, they’re really saying, “This is the type of thing I like!”
“People like to think things through,” explains Barry Feldman on Hubspot. “They like to hear from other thinkers. Certainly, they want other people to know what they think.”
Soliciting opinions is a surefire way to get your audience talking. Try to avoid controversial topics, and moderate comments that include vulgar, hostile, harassing or otherwise off-brand statements. Having someone mad at your business for deleting your comment is a whole lot better than being the business that let someone attack others in their comment section.
The beauty of asking others for their opinion is that it can be done with just about every post. If you’re a cybersecurity company talking about the dangers of weak passwords, you can ask people for some of the worst passwords they’ve ever seen. Or, if you’re a restaurant writing about the best foods from around the world, throw in a question on your post asking your audience about the best meal they’ve eaten abroad.
Soliciting opinions is easy, and it can reliably earn engagement. Just be wary of doing it too often, especially if no one’s taking the bait. You don’t want to be the brand that gets mocked for throwing a poll that absolutely no one clicks on.
Research Your Audience’s Interests and Influencers
All of the above tactics work well on their own, but you turbocharge their effectiveness by doing a little digging and documentation on your audiences. Try to identify the types of content topics they seem to be most interested in. Look at influencers they frequently interact with, and try to write content you think that influencer would share.
Above all else, write down your strategy, measure your results, and experiment to find better performance over time. The nice thing about social media marketing is that your engagement numbers are easy to track! Keep an eye on your graphs, and let your “likes” point the way to a bigger, more interactive audience.
Monday, 10 September 2018
Modern digital ads can have a huge relevancy problem, and using a retargeting strategy is one of the best ways to solve it.
While the abilities of retargeting sound creepy—and they definitely can be eerie when the practice is done incorrectly—most retargeted ad campaigns are actually doing consumers a favor. Instead of showing them irrelevant ads for things they may never buy, such as an expensive luxury car, you’re showing them ads for things they’ve directly looked at before.
At its core, retargeting strategies are all about that relevancy. The idea is that someone has already entered into your sales funnel or taken the first steps of the customer journey. Retargeted ads should ideally be a nudge a little further along that path.
When done right, it works! One company reportedly achieved an average ROI for their retargeting campaigns of 488 percent to as much as 2054 percent. That’s hundreds to thousands of dollars in revenue for every dollar they spend!
If you’re ready to try a retargeting strategy for your digital ad campaigns, dig into the information below for a deeper analysis of what makes retargeting effective, along with six tips to help your campaigns find success.
What, Exactly, Is Retargeting, and How Does It Work?
The easiest way to think of retargeting is that it rewrites how traditional ad targeting according to demographics works. Under normal ad targeting, demographics like location, age, gender, household income and even parental status could be considered. A car dealer could target everyone within an hour’s drive of their dealership lot, for instance. Or, the dealership could choose an age range and income bracket that closely matches the most common traits of their best customers.
Retargeting takes the same approach, but instead of looking at static demographics for its targeting list, it looks at browsing behaviors. Specifically, what pages of your site users stopped on the longest or the last page they viewed before they left.
Retargeting campaigns build these lists by applying what’s known as a “tracking pixel” to their page. A list gets built from everyone who viewed the page based on their browser’s cached data.
For example, if someone searches for desk lamps in their area, finds the local office supply store you own, clicks on the product page, and then later closes the tab to do something else, a “tracking pixel” can register the person’s initial visit. Then, they get added to your list of everyone else who visited that page, and they get served an ad for the exact same lamp they were just looking at.
In theory, the ad serves as a reminder for someone who may be willing to buy eventually but just hasn’t committed yet. Say, for instance, that they were browsing through your office products as a way to kill time during their lunch break and weren’t really intending to buy anything just yet. But if they have a chance to think about it again in a few days, they may decide to finally commit to a purchase.
Pixel Tracking by Page Allows Your Campaigns to Be Perfectly Segmented According to the Visitor’s Behaviors
Serving ads according to who ends up on your pixel tracking list allows for a number of different strategies.
You could potentially place a pixel on every page within your site; many companies actually do. This approach allows you to serve personal-feeling ads tailored to the exact pages someone browsed.
Someone who looks at several different versions of the same product, maybe even adding one to their cart, could see an ad for the exact same item. Or, someone who browses many products in a single category but never bothers to add any to their cart could see ads for general items in that category.
Finally, people who visit non-product pages on your website, such as the home page or your blog, could receive more general ads that give examples of your most popular products.
You could even just serve them ads that say general positive things about your brand. Customer testimonials work really well for this type of trust- or awareness-building campaign.
In this way, you have content aimed at different people in the buying funnel that can be optimized towards getting to the next step.
An excellent example of this practice in action would be a retargeting campaign aimed at previous buyers. Someone who checked out of your ecommerce website for an expensive purchase, like a smartphone, isn’t likely going to purchase the exact same device again. If you put a pixel on the “Thank You for Your Purchase” or “Order Confirmed” page, then you can filter these individuals out and avoid showing them ads for a product they already bought.
Better yet, your ad can attempt to cross-sell them a related product, increasing their customer lifetime value. After all, it’s often easier to get someone to make a repeat purchase than to convert a brand-new customer lead to a sale.
6 Tips for More Effective Ad Retargeting Campaigns
Ad retargeting campaigns have a track record of extremely reliable conversions. The average retargeting ad is 76 percent more likely to earn a click compared to a non-retargeted ad. Thirty percent of consumers also have either positive or very positive sentiments towards retargeted ads.
On the other hand, 11 percent of people had negative reactions to ads that appear to “follow them around” while they browse the internet. The majority of people — 59 percent — felt “neutral.” You absolutely don’t want your retargeted ads to trigger a negative reaction. You also want to avoid having a neutral impact.
To improve the effectiveness of your retargeting campaigns, put some or all of the following strategies into action:
- Start Small and Branch Out—Retargeting may sound sophisticated, but platforms like Facebook and Google’s AdWords make it easy. Start off your campaigns on these networks, and then move on to more complex platforms, such as the Google Display Network (GDN).
- Use Frequency Capping—Frequency capping limits the number of exposures people have to a single ad or a retargeting campaign in general. Since you don’t want to annoy people, consider putting some sort of upper boundary on all of your campaigns.
- Limit Your Retargeting Window According to Average Buy Cycles—Most retargeting platforms limit your campaigns to 180 days (about 6 months) after their last tracking pixel was registered. But if you have a product category with a shorter buying cycle, such as retail goods under $50, then you may want to end your retargeting campaigns after just a few days. For more expensive products with a longer buying cycle, such as cars, showing people similar ads for months makes more sense.
- Use Limited Offers and Urgency to Clinch Bottom-of-the-Funnel Leads—If someone appears close to making a purchase, sometimes a personalized offer is all the nudge they need to commit. Use retargeting pixels to serve special offers to people who browsed for certain products or product categories. Or, use these lists to serve up ads any time your business is doing a big sale.
- Be Diligent About Brand Safety—Retargeting campaigns can often find people on thousands of different sites. However, you may not want your brand associated with certain content. Someone snapping a screenshot of an ad for your family-friendly brand on an adult website is a recipe for an instant PR crisis. Review the policies of your ad partner, and use tools like Google Safe Browsing to avoid this scenario.
- Study Your Performance Data, Test, Experiment and Optimize—Like so much of digital marketing, your work is far from over when a retargeting campaign launches. Use the data the campaign generates to tell which practices work and which don’t. Experiment and A/B test to find even more effective conversion techniques. Gradually, you should become better and better at making effective campaigns based on past discoveries, successes and failures.
Ad Retargeting Is Easy to Get Started But Difficult to Master
The above tips are just the warm-up for even more in-depth and sophisticated ad retargeting practices. If you can keep the consumer’s experience in mind and establish best practices based on your data, the sky is the limit for how complex and effective your retargeting campaigns can be.
Friday, 31 August 2018
Writing’s really hard. Even people who do it for a living admit that. Not only do you have to know how to string together sentences that keep people’s attention, but you have to make some sort of blasted “point” out of the whole thing. It’s maddening!
All silliness aside, content writing and blog writing are really complex acts that can appear deceptively simple on the surface. Structure and rhetorical knowledge can help make your point clear, but you also need to be engaging. Add SEO best practices to the mix, and you have even more issues to deal with.
Getting it right takes either a lot of practice or a lot of time spent revising. Even a business owner who happens to be an excellent writer will need help making it all happen on a deadline.
So that’s when you turn to outside help. It can be a freelance writer or a content marketing agency, but the goal is to find a writer (or several) who can meet your guidelines and turn things in on time.
Locating a writer like that is exactly as hard as it sounds! Luckily, there are five tips you can use to make your search easier and ensure you find just the writer you’re looking for.
Always Request Samples and a Trial Draft
You can find great writers you enjoy working with no matter where you turn as long as you follow one simple rule: check out their writing before you commit. That means requesting samples of their prior work. It also means paying them to write a first draft of what you need that you may or may not ever use.
That’s right: you’re likely going to have to invest in crummy writing to find your diamond in the rough. Ideally, you’re paying several writers at the same time to write the same prompt or a similar one, so you can compare the talents of each person.
While it may seem like money down the drain to receive samples you won’t ever use, it’s better than the alternative of hiring a writer for a multi-blog project only to find out they aren’t a good fit.
Also, be very specific about the types of samples you request. You may wish to see live, published blogs, since these prove that a writer’s work actually gets used. Be warned, though: many freelancers are also ghost writers. You are either going to have to take their word for it that a sample with someone else’s byline is their work, or you will have to go through the effort of contacting the client and hoping they will reveal who wrote their blogs.
If someone sends you samples that you like but that don’t quite hit the mark, ask for more work! Far too many bloggers get passed up not because their samples weren’t good, but simply because they couldn’t read the mind of the job offerer as to what they were looking for.
Avoid Typical Job Listing Sites Since You Get What You Pay For
In the business world, quality and convenience don’t typically mix. If you want to find a patio chair at the same place you buy your kids’ breakfast cereal, you are going to have to lower your standards on how long that chair will last.
Similarly, if you go to the absolute first place you think of when looking to find your content writer, you’re going to end up with low quality.
The biggest problem? Labor pools from non-native English speakers. They may charge just a few cents a word, but their end product will likely be riddled with broken grammar and be all but incomprehensible. Since Google specifically recommends that you use proper spelling and grammar, having an unreadable blog likely works against your SEO and branding goals.
So as a rule, skip Craigslist, Monster and Indeed unless you really don’t know where else to turn. Definitely don’t just Google “content writer” and hire a person or company that ranks first. You want to know that you can get a decent level of quality, and sifting through the bargain bin is not a good place to find it.
Hunt Down Content Writers in the Spaces Where the Pros Lurk
Well, our vocal and hypothetical friend, there are several specialty project-related websites where you can find freelancers:
- ProBlogger—ProBlogger is dedicated to writers and editors, and it also has an amazing community of professionals. Posting your listing costs money, but you’re highly likely to get responses from mid- to high-level talent.
- WriterAccess—WriterAccess straddles the line between full-service referral agencies we’ll mention below and simpler job listing sites. The site does a handy job of organizing writers by experience and quality, however, and you do get a personal account manager in the upper tiers.
- Contently—Contently acts as a broker to find you the perfect writing talent or team for your project needs. Yes, that’s as expensive as it sounds, which is why the platform is mainly aimed at enterprises with larger content budgets.
- Freelance Writing Gigs—A simple, no-frills job listing site that happens to have a dedicated community.
- Upwork—The world’s largest freelancer platform happens to be quite picky about letting job-takers aboard. That means you have access to a higher caliber of writers. Note that Upwork also allows agencies to apply to your project offers by default.
- Guru—Guru is far less choosy about who it lets on its platform, so you will end up with applicants that may not have the firmest grasp of English. Nevertheless, the platform makes a name for itself by having an integrated project management and payment system.
There are dozens—if not hundreds—of other websites like these where you can post project listings and track down decent writers. These are just the top ones you might want to consider during your hunt.
However, you definitely don’t want to overlook your best option: getting referrals.
Ask Fellow Professionals for Referrals
Referrals are always your best source of freelance writer leads for a few reasons.
First, the best writers out there aren’t actively posting on or looking through job boards. They’re hard at work, hammering out content for their clients. But they may be persuaded to take on a larger workload if the details and the price are right.
Secondly, you can get personal testimonials from people you know and trust. Someone who can appear like a perfect fit online could turn out to be awful with deadlines or bad at following instructions.
Since not every business engages in content marketing, start by asking people whether they have a regular SEO or blogging contract. If the answer is “yes,” follow up by seeing what agency or writer they work with.
If their answer is “no,” then you may have to do some probing. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, though. Not every company works with content writers, but those who do will likely have strong opinions about who to recommend or avoid.
Track Down Popular Writers from Their Online Work
If you have the budget for working with a top-caliber freelancer, then the place you should start your search is on publication sites rather than a job board.
Start by taking a second to look back at enjoyable industry niche articles you’ve shared or read recently. Keep an eye out for pieces that get a high level of shares and don’t have controversial pushback from commenters. Then, simply find the writer’s byline.
Make a list of several authors using this method. Research to see if they have their own personal website and whether they are accepting freelance contracts. If they are looking for work, reach out to them with a “pitch” for your project needs. Preferably, this pitch includes an offer, details on the level of depth the work will require and a rough timeline for everything to be completed.
Since making a name for yourself as a professional writer these days is tough, expect some sticker shock if they reply! But if quality is really what you’re after, you can likely find a way to work long-term with someone whose reputation and published work you admire.
Work With a Reputable Content Marketing and SEO Agency
All of the tips above pertain to finding an individual, but you also have the option of hiring a content marketing agency to satisfy your SEO needs.
The same rules above apply: pay for samples, avoid bargain bin job listings and look for referrals. But your search should be easier, considering marketing agencies often do a decent job at marketing themselves!
Plus, you can work with several writers at once and have the security of a guaranteed contract. That means you aren’t left hanging if your writer leaves the project; you can simply work with someone else in the agency. You also have access to scale, meaning you can get a higher volume of projects accomplished at once that would normally take a single writer weeks.
In the end, the search for your content writer is all about finding a good fit and knowing where to look. If you fail at first, don’t get frustrated! There are tens of thousands of writers out there who can do good work but don’t have enough of it right now.
Tuesday, 28 August 2018
Hello! Is this thing on? We just wanted to make sure you heard us loud and clear when we said: “Voice search is the most significant development to hit SEO since Google debuted.”
That may sound like a hot take, but statistics describing the growing usage of voice search resoundingly back it up. Twenty percent of all online searches in 2016 were voice searches, according to a Mary Meeker report. Comscore predicts that half of all searches will be made through voice commands by 2020.
Searching using a voice function instead of a keyboard has huge ramifications for your organization’s SEO strategy. For starters, usually only one result is brought up, meaning you have to know exactly what it takes to earn that coveted spot. Secondly, the technical SEO best practices that make you more likely to rank in voice search are fairly different from the typical approach.
Don’t worry, though, because we’re here to break it all down for you. You’ll learn how and why people use voice search to gain insight on how you can meet their needs, and then you’ll learn how to implement voice search SEO best practices that can help boost your rank. Let’s get talkin’!
How Do People Use Voice Search in 2018?
The first rule of SEO is to always put the search user’s need for information over your need to rank.
Sure, you can climb the ranks the cheap way using grey hat SEO tactics, but those gains won’t last. Inevitably, Google, Bing and Alexa will change how their algorithm works and knock you back down. But if you consider the user’s needs foremost, you have a better chance at staying on top even when big search engine changes come through the pipes.
Firstly, the home is where the majority of consumers make their voice search queries. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 43 percent of people say they most frequently use the feature in their home, versus 36 percent who use it mostly in their car and 19 percent who say they most often use it “on the go.”
This statistic tells you two things:
- Those 90 million smart speakers sold annually are changing the way we interact with devices, opening new channels and opportunities that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
- The idea that people are mostly going to be using voice search as a hands-free option in their car is partially untrue. Voice search has a number of other benefits that compel people to use it beyond just driving without distraction.
What are the benefits hinted at in No. 2? While 61 percent of people do agree that searching using voice commands is “useful when hands/vision” are occupied, 30 percent say that it leads to “faster results.” Twenty-four percent say they have “difficulty typing on certain devices” and 12 percent say they want “to avoid confusing menus.” Twenty-two percent say they use voice search because it’s “fun/cool,” so those suspicious that it’s a novelty are fairly correct.
These insights paint a broader picture of how and why people use voice search, though. Namely: they want quick answers, and they don’t feel like they need to actually touch a device to get them.
In response to these needs, the gist of all the voice search SEO tips below is this: give people easy access to the information they want, and you’re more likely to rank.
So, how do you accomplish that goal? Here are some of those voice search tips in detail.
Focus on Semantically Related Keywords Over Exact Query Matches
Take a moment to think about how you would speak an online search query out loud versus how you would type it.
When we type, we often want to be get our query as specific as possible while using the fewest possible words. So, we might write something like “best laptop backpack” to find out which bag is most worth buying, and then we’ll likely click around or search again to find the best deal on said backpack.
But when we talk, we want to be specific without using awkward words or phrasings. As a result, we naturally gravitate towards strings of simple, descriptive words that may seem like a long phrase but that are easy to say out loud. We also want to avoid pulling up results that do a different action than we intended, since we can’t click or navigate as easily.
For example, we might say, “Siri, what is the best laptop backpack according to reviews?” Or, if we already know what we want, we might say, “Ok Google, find laptop backpacks by North Face under $200 near me.”
According to Google, 70 percent of voice queries the company handles use natural language, which means actual sentences rather than jumbles of words. One self-study by a smart speaker user found that the average word count of their queries was four.
In response to these trends, your keyword strategy should be less about shoehorning an exact match keyword in and more about covering all of the bases of your topic. Try to include phrases that you might think are things people would ask about your topic or product. Think more about long tail queries in sentence form, and try to include these in a natural way.
Also, get straight to the information. Emphasize the six big question words: when, what, who, why, where and how.
If you think you’re better off adopting the old SEO strategy of making a new content page for each query type, think again. According to Backlinko, very few voice query results have exact keyword matches in their titles, meaning context is more important than verbatim matches.
Write Good, In-Depth Content, but Use Pithy, Quotable Phrases
Referring again to Backlinko’s study, the average voice search result was only 29 words in length. Yet, the average word count of a voice search result page was 2,312 words!
That may sound frustratingly paradoxical. Why go through all the trouble of writing thousands of words about something if a search engine’s just going to yank out a tiny sliver of that?
The answer is that the best content often covers several bases, as we suggested above. They go in-depth, explore lots of angles and reveal lots of information. A voice query, however, only needs a small part of that information. Accordingly, content that has voice results pulled from it tends to have pithy, quotable phrases.
So, as an example, this article will be well over 1,500 words by the time we’re done. If we wanted to offer up a voice assistant a juicy quote to sum up the answer to “what is voice search SEO?” we would say:
Voice search SEO is a strategy for ranking highly on voice searches using natural-sounding content that’s packed with information and focused on search intent.
Google may not grab that answer, but here’s hoping!
Because quotable “sound bites” are the preferred information to pull results from, FAQ (frequently asked questions) absolutely rule for improving your voice search rank. To make these pages, you can source common questions about your industry or your business from the following:
- Google’s “Other People Searched” and “Searches Related to ___” suggestions
- Long-tail keyword suggestions from keyword planning tools
- Your own customers! Write down questions as you hear them, or look to resources like emails, feedback forms or HR reports.
Don’t Neglect Bing, Which Has a Bigger Share of Voice Search than Google!
Bing has always been mentioned second to Google—or not at all—when it comes to search engine optimization discussions. That makes sense in a text-based world, where Google handles an estimated 75 percent to 90 percent of all written queries.
The voice assistant world has changed everything though! Some of the most popular devices pull their search results from Microsoft’s Bing or Yahoo platform. These include:
- iPhones and other Siri-enabled Apple products
- Microsoft computers and mobile devices
- Microsoft Xbox One gaming consoles
- Amazon Alexa devices
- Connected cars powered by Alexa, including all BMW, Mini, Toyota, Lexus, Volvo and others.
So, pretty much any device that doesn’t run Android or doesn’t have a Google logo on it will be using Bing!
Luckily, Bing SEO isn’t that different from Google SEO. You just need to ensure that you have the tools to perform analytics on your Bing results and display your content properly in their search page.
Other Voice Search SEO Tips
The information above covers the basic essentials of voice search SEO, but here are a few more helpful tidbits before we send you on your way:
- 70 percent of Google Home results use HTTPS instead of HTTP, so get your certificate!
- Authoritative domains tend to earn more results, so try to earn backlinks (ethically) through guest posting and social media amplification.
- The best-performing content tends to have high social media engagement, especially Facebook shares.
- Aim for a 9th grade reading level so your content is easy for a voice assistant to parse and read out loud.
- Earning a featured snippet makes you more likely to rank, but Schema markup isn’t necessarily important.
Beyond these tips, simply focus on creating great content that answers people’s questions quickly, and you could see improved voice search results!
Of course, it never hurts to create a more vigorous strategy and test whether your voice search optimization worked as intended. If you want to work with a voice SEO expert to help you get in good with the likes of Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google, then get in touch with us today!
Monday, 27 August 2018
The internet is a mobile- first world now, and your website needs to embrace this shift to avoid missing out on opportunities. By prioritizing your mobile experience with user friendly design principles and an always on-the-go approach to content, you can reap bigger rewards from referral channels and compete more effectively for visibility.
There’s no understating just how much of an impact smartphone devices have had upon the online landscape. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. adults (≈250 million) now own a smartphone, according to Pew Research, and only 17 percent of people own a cell phone but not a smartphone. Even more interesting, there are 6.5 million more smartphone owners than desktop/laptop owners, and 65 million people depend entirely on their smartphones for internet access.
The shift from large, stationary computers to pocket-sized touchscreens has had a huge impact on not just website design but also how online content is consumed in general. Understanding just how much the mobile first mindset has affected the website design process can help your business learn how to build a better website that’s aware of mobile’s center stage presence in our modern tech culture.
What Does Mobile First Design Mean?
The term “mobile first” may sound like a buzzword or industry jargon, but it’s actually quite descriptive despite its simplistic name. People use the term “mobile first” because it instantly separates their design philosophy from older, non-ideal approaches to mobile website design and optimization.
To explain the differences in design philosophy, let’s start with a history lesson. Our journey through time begins in the late 1990s, when pocket-sized devices like organizers and cell phones first began to have internet connectivity.
The thing about the internet back then was that it could be janky and unreliable. People were still figuring out how to make it work properly across a range of computers and connection types. Few people had home access to a reliable and relatively speedy internet connection.
To compensate, web designers would build two versions of a website. One version would be the fully-featured design intended to run on a standard desktop or laptop computer. Then, a mobile website team would strip down this design as much as possible to its barest components. That version would be loaded when a mobile signal was detected.
At first, most early mobile internet adopters would be forced to navigate to a different URL with an “m.___” added to the domain, such as “m.yourbusinesssite.com” instead of the normal “yourbusinesssite.com” they would find when searching from a desktop computer.
Then, developers and devices advanced so that the exact same URL could load different content for mobile versus desktop/laptop users. This approach was called “dynamic serving.”
Now, most developers have moved onto “responsive design,” which uses the same HTML code for all users. Instead of serving up a few different tiers of content, all content scales automatically. That way, people with different device screen sizes can automatically have the best usability.
During the transition from separate URLs to dynamic serving to responsive design, overall mobile internet use surpassed desktop laptop traffic. In response, designers and developers stopped treating mobile websites as an afterthought or something that is built off of a secondary version of their site. Instead, they considered mobile first, and their designs for larger screens were advanced off of those basic blueprints.
“Progressive Advancement” Versus “Graceful Degradation”
Another way to conceptualize the difference between “mobile first” as opposed to “mobile sometime later” is through the above two terms.
“Graceful degradation” was the old standard operating mode for designers. Their desktop/laptop website was the development priority, and it’s what most of their resources went towards. Then, once most or all of the desktop-focused design was complete, a team would try to scale down the website’s size and complexity while sacrificing as little of the original experience as possible.
“Progressive advancement,” on the other hand, refers to that approach in reverse. The design team comes up with the perfect set of design principles and layout ideas built around a small screen. This design is optimized so that mobile phone users across a broad range of screen sizes and processing powers could still have an amazing experience. Then, a desktop/laptop team would consider how to expand that core design and take advantage of larger screens, more precise navigation (aka non-touchscreen controls) and heftier processing power.
Mobile users get two main benefits out of progressive advancement:
- The website was built from the ground up to look great and be usable on mobile
- They never feel as if they are having to make sacrifices to view a website on their mobile device; the larger site version just adds bells and whistles
A further consequence of progressive advancement is that most of the creativity and effort behind a website goes into the mobile experience. Instead of thinking, “how do we change this menu so that people without a mouse pointer can actually use the darn thing?” the team says, “what would a menu perfect for touchscreen controls look like?”
The consequences of such a mindset switch are huge, and they can have a direct impact on your bottom line.
How a Mobile First Website Approach Benefits Your Business
We’ve talked at length about how the mobile first approach evolved over time and how it makes life better for the average smartphone user. But what about how these changes bring your business more opportunities and more money?
Here are a few of the biggest benefits you’ll notice when you make the switch:
- Better Search Engine Ranking and Visibility
In April of 2015, Google decided to finally put their foot down regarding websites that ignored the needs of mobile users. From that point on, websites that met their mobile-friendly design guidelines would get a ranking boost for all mobile searches.
The change effectively punished sites that weren’t able to keep up with their expectations. There wasn’t a huge penalty, but the difference was enough to create a gap that potentially lead to lost leads and revenue.
Furthermore, since behavior signals like click-through rate and overall traffic can help or hurt your rank, building a solid experience gives you a competitive SEO advantage.
- Improved Website Experience Leads to More Customer Conversions
People don’t want to give their money to businesses that make it difficult or impossible to access their website via mobile. According to one Google study, 61 percent of people who have trouble accessing a mobile website leave and never return. Forty percent of these lost lead opportunities will then visit a competitor’s website instead.
Ignoring the needs or convenience of mobile users can therefore literally drive customers away from your sales funnel and into your competitor’s arms.
- A Mobile First Approach to Design and Content Now Means a Softer Learning Curve
Make no mistake: mobile audiences are the dominant driving force behind all online innovation and evolution. Data usage and website visits across the entire internet have gone up—both per-person and overall. Yet, traffic from tablets and desktop/laptop devices has declined.
This scenario tells you that smartphones are the main driving force behind growing online use. Our obsession with social media and browsing on-the-go is changing the way we approach the internet as a whole.
- Locally-focused content is getting a boost because people are searching for business options while already en route.
- People are consuming more video because it’s easier to view on small screens than text, leading to a huge spurt in mobile video advertising.
- Content, in general, has moved towards shorter paragraphs and more prominent visuals because blocks of text look ugly and are hard to parse on a mobile screen.
All of these changes are important now and will only become more important in years to come. If your business keeps kicking the can down the road, you could quickly find that your strategies are hopelessly dated, leading fewer opportunities and lower conversion rates.
Make the switch now. Start thinking “mobile first” with everything you do, because smartphones are no longer the sideshow; they’re the main event. Contact Us to know more.
Sunday, 26 August 2018
Attention content creators: Google reads everything you write! Well, not “reads” in the literal sense, but its algorithms are now sophisticated enough to pick up on unnatural language and poor formatting—both of which send strong negative signals that hurt your ability to rank.
In fact, Google’s approach to ranking has gotten so sophisticated that they’ve learned that content quality matters more to search users than the presence of any particular keyword phrase. As a result, you may find a No. 1 search result that doesn’t contain an exact match keyword anywhere in the body.
We’re serious! In an exhaustive study of 600,000 keyword phrases, 18 percent of the domains that ranked position 20 or higher didn’t have the keyword in the text at all. Instead, these sites had a few things in common: website visits, user behavior signals and the number of links to the content all influenced Google to rank them near the top. All of these signals tell Google one thing: people seem to like this content.
In addition to these behavior-based markers of content quality, Google and other search engines actively sift through content to see signals of quality within the text itself.
After all, Google’s main objective isn’t getting your website traffic; it’s giving people good search results.
Thankfully, the company’s own guidelines are fairly specific and helpful. We’ll point you towards the exact markers of “high quality” Google is looking for.
What Are the Red Flags for Poor Content Quality?
On the other hand, you can fairly quickly point out factors that immediately signal poor quality.
It’s like baking cake. There are a million different types of cakes out there and as many ways to prepare them. Flour, sugar, eggs and milk may be your raw ingredients, but you can make thousands of different types of delicious cakes. Also, “the right cake to bake” differs according to the context and circumstances. You can have a moist cake that’s yummy, or you could have a more solid cake that still does the trick.
But you can’t put sand in your cake. That’s a no-no. And it’s an automatic recipe for an inedible cake.
Similarly, Google highlights some markers of poor quality that instantly flag a page as having content not worth ranking:
- Spamming keywords, especially if they’re irrelevant
- Creating content that’s mostly copies of existing content
- Typos, bad spelling, grammar errors
- Sentences or paragraphs that never seem to end
- Content that has little to no formatting, leaving just a dense chunk of text
- Going crazy with links that aren’t relevant to the content at hand
- Dropping lists of keywords somewhere in your page, especially if you’re hiding them with text color choices
- Content that is excessively thin, especially for pages like blogs that promise substance
There are also a number of ways to get instantly deindexed by Google that go beyond content quality. Since that’s something you likely want to avoid, they’re well worth reviewing!
Google’s SEO Guide Considers Content Quality, Navigation Ease More Important Than Keyword Use
If you go and take a look at Google’s SEO starter guide, you’ll find that suggestions for how to use keywords properly don’t come up until around halfway through. Before that point, they take a moment to repeat four times that you shouldn’t overuse keywords or stuff them into your technical SEO elements.
Once they do mention keywords, they simply advise that you tailor your keyword strategy to your audience. For instance, people who watch soccer regularly might expect “FIFA” or “football” to be in the content they read, while casual users may expect more generic terms like “soccer playoffs.”
Immediately after that, they go back into quality. “Avoid writing sloppy text with many spelling and grammatical mistakes,” they suggest, as well as “awkward or poorly written content.”
To truly hammer the point home, Google spends far more time writing about ease of navigation and quality of life improvements for website visitors. Based on how the information is organized, Google cares more about your site map than your keyword usage when deciding rank.
“The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want,” explains the search giant. “It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important.”
All of this information can be summed up thusly: search engines aren’t dumb. They know the things that make life easier for their users and content better to read in general. They pay far more attention to these elements than how you use keywords.
In fact, with voice search on the rise, search engines have had to get smarter than ever about interpreting keyword intent and finding semantically related terms. That way, someone searching for “best places to eat near me” can pull up a list of “top-rated restaurants” without having to first sift through unhelpful results that contain exact keyword matches.
5 Tips for Writing Higher Quality Content
To steer you in the right direction, here are a few general tips that can boost the quality of all content.
- “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”
This rule comes directly from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It’s actually the very first thing they say under “Basic Principles.”
The search giant even suggests you ask yourself “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?” when making a decision on how your website operates. Those questions definitely apply when writing new content.
So foremost, determine an audience need based on a keyword search, and write to answer that need. The better able you are to satisfy someone’s search intent, the better behavior signals your site receives, and the more likely you are to rank.
If you’re at a loss for how to connect a keyword to user needs, do a little research. Plug in the keyword yourself, and try to find questions related to it.
Or, if the keyword is directly related to an “I want to purchase something or research a purchase” intent, take notes on the content that ranks highest. Chances are good that the page offers excellent examples of site organization, layout clarity and overall usability in addition to some solid text content.
- Edit Your Writing, and Push Yourself to Improve
Like good cake, good writing is definitely in the eye of the beholder. But at the same time, you wouldn’t bank on your cake getting top votes if all you did was use a box mix.
In other words, if you want to write better, you’re going to have to learn from others. We suggest reading publisher sites related to your industry that get high traffic, and cover topics similar to what you want on your blog.
Some general guidelines for improving your writing include:
- Use less “being” and “linking” verbs in favor of strong action verbs. If you find yourself writing words like “is, was, are and be,” go back and see if you can identify the true subject of the sentence and what it’s doing.
- Structure your writing like you would an outline. Tell people what they’re going to learn from your post as soon as possible, and then delve into each smaller point one at a time until you’re finished.
- Write casually but not unprofessionally. Aim for a “friendly, conversational tone with a clear purpose—somewhere between the voice you use when talking to your buds and that you’d use if you were a robot,” suggests Search Engine Land’s paraphrasing of Google’s own Developer Documentation Style Guide.
- Edit your writing! Far too many people don’t go back and reread. Watch out for sentence and paragraph transitions that could make people have trouble following your logic. Ask people for their opinion on how readable everything is. If they have a complaint, see if you can break the excerpt down into its most simple parts and reconstruct it.
- Read, Read, Read and Read Some More
Reading teaches you how words and sentences form ideas. We take a lot of this stuff for granted, but it’s quite complex. Fortunately, others have mastered it and can teach you techniques to add to your repertoire.
- Pay Attention to Your Audience’s Behavior Signals
What content pages get the most views? Which ones get the best responses or the most engagement in comments or on social media? Where do people tend to spend the most time?
Look to your own Google Analytics data, and try to identify patterns. People tell you what they like without ever having to say a word.
- If You’re Struggling to Write Good Content, Go Back to the Basics
You may feel hesitant about writing on simple topics, such as “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO” or something like “Why People Buy Things,” but these are actually great topics. Yes, they’ve been done to death, but they help people learn.
Also, you might put things in a certain way that makes an extremely deep or complex subject click for your audience.
Above all else, articles like these teach you the fundamentals of writing for your audience. You learn how to break big concepts down to their bare components and communicate complex ideas with clarity.
Next to reading, writing down the basics is the best way to teach yourself how to craft better content.
Stop Obsessing Over Keywords and Start Writing Better
The writing’s on the wall: Google and online audiences are sick of bad content, keyword stuffing and deceptive practices aimed to help websites rank but that make readers miserable.
Put content quality factors like readability, grammar and topic organization as a higher priority than keyword use. People will know what you’re talking about, even if you don’t use an exact keyword match—and now search engines will too.