Tuesday, November 21, 2017

AMP-lify Your Digital Marketing in 2018

Posted by EricEnge

Should you AMP-lify your site in 2018?

This is a question on the mind of many publishers. To help answer it, this post is going to dive into case studies and examples showing results different companies had with AMP.

If you’re not familiar with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), it’s an open-source project aimed at allowing mobile website content to render nearly instantly. This initiative that has Google as a sponsor, but it is not a program owned by Google, and it’s also supported by Bing, Baidu, Twitter, Pinterest, and many other parties.


Some initial background

Since its inception in 2015, AMP has come a long way. When it first hit the scene, AMP was laser-focused on media sites. The reason those types of publishers wanted to participate in AMP was clear: It would make their mobile sites much faster, AND Google was offering a great deal of incremental exposure in Google Search through the “Top Stories news carousel.”

Basically, you can only get in the Top Stories carousel on a mobile device if your page is implemented in AMP, and that made AMP a big deal for news sites. But if you’re not a news site, what’s in it for you? Simple: providing a better user experience online can lead to more positive website metrics and revenue.

We know that fast-loading websites are better for the user. But what you may not be aware of is how speed can impact the bottom line. Google-sponsored research shows that AMP leads to an average of a 2X increase in time spent on page (details can be seen here). The data also shows e-commerce sites experience an average 20 percent increase in sales conversions compared to non-AMP web pages.

Stepping outside the world of AMP for a moment, data from Amazon, Walmart, and Yahoo show a compelling impact of page load time on metrics like traffic, conversion and sales:

You can see that for Amazon, a mere one-tenth of a second increase in page load time (so one-tenth of a second slower) would drive a $1.3 billion drop in sales. So, page speed can have a direct impact on revenue. That should count for something.

What do users say about AMP? 9to5Google.com recently conducted a poll where they asked users: “Are you more inclined to click on an AMP link than a regular one?” The majority of people (51.14 percent) said yes to that question. Here are the detailed results:

This poll suggests that even for non-news sites, there is a very compelling reason to do AMP for SEO. Not because it increases your rankings, per se, but because you may get more click-throughs (more traffic) from the organic search results. Getting more traffic from organic search, after all, is the goal of SEO. In addition, you’re likely to get more time on site and more conversions.


How the actual implementation of AMP impacts your results

Before adopting any new technology, you need understand what you’re getting into.

At Stone Temple Consulting, we performed a research study that included 10 different types of websites that adopted AMP to see what results they had and what challenges they ran into. (Go here to see more details from the study.)

Let’s get right to the results. One site, Thrillist, converted 90 percent of their web pages over a four-week period of time. They saw a 70 percent lift in organic search traffic to their site — 50 percent of that growth came from AMP.

One anonymous participant in the study, another large media publisher, converted 95 percent of their web pages to AMP, and once again the development effort as approximately four weeks long. They saw a 67 percent lift in organic search traffic on one of their sites, and a 30% lift on another site.

So, media sites do well, but we knew that would be the case. What about e-commerce sites? Consider the case of Myntra, a company that is the largest fashion retailer in India. Their implementation took about 11 days of effort.

This implementation covered all of their main landing pages from Google, covering between 85% and 90% of their organic search traffic. For their remaining pages (such as the individual product pages) they implemented a Progressive Web App, which helps those pages perform better as well. They saw a 40% reduction in bounce rate on their pages, as well as a lift in their overall e-commerce results. You can see detailed results here.

Then there is the case of Event Tickets Center. They implemented 99.9% of their pages in AMP, and opted to create an AMP-immersive experience. Page load times on their site dropped from five to six seconds to one second.

They saw improvements in user engagement metrics, with a drop in bounce rate of 10%, an increase in pages per session of 6%, and session duration of 13%. But, the stunning stat is that they report a whopping 100% increase in e-commerce conversions. You can see the full case study here.

But it’s not always the case that AMP adopters will see a huge lift in results. When that’s not the case, there’s likely one culprit: not taking the time to implement AMP thoroughly. A big key to AMP is not to simply use a plugin, set it, and forget it.

To get good results, you’ll need to invest the time to make the AMP version of your pages substantially similar (if not identical) to your normal responsive mobile pages, and with today’s AMP, for the majority of publishers, that is absolutely possible to do. In addition to this being critical to the performance of AMP pages, on November 16, 2017, Google announced that they will exclude pages from the AMP carousel if the content on your AMP page is not substantially similar to that of your mobile responsive page.

This typically means creating brand-new templates for the major landing pages of your site, or if you are using a plugin, using their custom styling options (most of them allow this). If you’re going to take on AMP, it’s imperative that you take the time to get this right.

From our research, you can see in the slide below the results from the 10 sites that adopted AMP. Eight of those sites are colored in green, and those are the sites that saw strong results from their AMP implementation.

Then there are two listed in yellow. Those are the sites that have not yet seen good results. In both of those cases, there were implementation problems. One of the sites (the Lead Gen site above) launched pages with a broken hamburger menu, and a UI that was not up to par with the responsive mobile pages, and their metrics are weak.

We’ve been working with them to fix that and their metrics are steadily improving. The first round of fixes brought the user engagement metrics much closer to that of the mobile responsive pages, but there is still more work to do.

The other site (the retail site in yellow above) launched AMP pages without their normal faceted navigation, and also without a main menu, saw really bad results, and pulled it back down. They're working on a better AMP implementation now, and hope to relaunch soon.

So, when you think about implementing AMP, you have to go all the way with it and invest the time to do a complete job. That will make it harder, for sure, but that’s OK — you’ll be far better off in the end.


How we did it at Stone Temple (and what we found)

Here at Stone Temple Consulting, we experimented with AMP ourselves, using an AMP plugin versus a hand-coded AMP web page. I’ll share the results of that next.

Experiment No. 1: WordPress AMP plugin

Our site is on WordPress, and there are plugins that make the task of doing AMP easier if you have a WordPress site — however, that doesn’t mean install the plugin, turn it on, and you’re done.

Below you can see a comparison of the standard StoneTemple.com mobile page on the left contrasted with the default StoneTemple.com page that comes out of the AMP plugin that we used on the site called AMP by Automatic.

You’ll see that the look and feel is dramatically different between the two, but to be fair to the plugin, we did what I just said you shouldn’t do. We turned it on, did no customization, and thought we were done.

As a result, there’s no hamburger menu. The logo is gone. It turns out that by default, the link at the top (“Stone Temple”) goes to StoneTemple.com/amp, but there’s no page for that, so it returns a 404 error, and the list of problems goes on. As noted, we had not used the customization options available in the plugin, which can be used to rectify most (if not all) of these problems, and the pages can be customized to look a lot better. As part of an ongoing project, we’re working on that.

It’s a lot faster, yes… but is it a better user experience? Looking at the data, we can see the impact of this broken implementation of AMP. The metrics are not good.

Looking at the middle line highlighted in orange, you’ll see the standard mobile page metrics. On the top line, you’ll see the AMP page metrics — and they’re all worse: higher bounce rate, fewer pages per session, and lower average session time.

Looking back to the image of the two web pages, you can see why. We were offering an inferior user interface because we weren’t giving the user any opportunities to interact. Therefore, we got predictable results.

Experiment No. 2: Hand-coded AMP web page

One of the common myths about AMP is that an AMP page needs to be a stripped-down version of your site to succeed. To explore whether or not that was true, we took the time at Stone Temple Consulting to hand-code a version of one of our article pages for AMP. Here is a look at how that came out:

As you can see from the screenshots above, we created a version of the page that looked nearly identical to the original. We also added a bit of extra functionality with a toggle sidebar feature. With that, we felt we made something that had even better usability than the original page.

The result of these changes? The engagement metrics for the AMP pages on StoneTemple.com went up dramatically. For the record, here are our metrics including the handcrafted AMP pages:

As you can see, the metrics have improved dramatically. We still have more that we can do with the handcrafted page as well, and we believe we can get these metrics to be better than that of the standard mobile responsive page. At this point in time, total effort on the handcrafted page template was about 40 hours.

Note: We do believe that we can get engagement on the AMP by Automatic plugin version to go way up, too. One of the reasons we did the hand-coded version was to get hands-on experience with AMP coding. We’re working on a better custom implementation of the AMP by Automatic pages in parallel.


Bonus challenge: AMP analytics

Aside from the actual implementation of AMP, there is a second major issue to be concerned about if you want to be successful: the tracking. The default tracking in Google Analytics for AMP pages is broken, and you’ll need to patch it.

Just to explain what the issue is, let’s look at the following illustration:

The way AMP works (and one of the things that helps with speeding up your web pages) is that your content is served out of a cache on Google. When a user clicks on the AMP link in the search results, that page lives in Google’s cache (on Google.com). That’s the web page that gets sent to the user.

The problem occurs when a user is viewing your web page on Google’s cache, and then clicks on a link within that page (say, to the home page of your site). This action means they leave the Google.com page and get the next page delivered from your server (in the example above, I’m using the StoneTemple.com server.)

From a web analytics point of view, those are two different websites. The analytics for StoneTemple.com is going to view that person who clicked on the AMP page in the Google cache as a visitor from a third-party website, and not a visitor from search. In other words, the analytics for StoneTemple.com won’t record it as a continuation of the same session; it’ll be tracked as a new session.

You can (and should) set up analytics for your AMP pages (the ones running on Google.com), but those are normally going to run as a separate set of analytics. Nearly every action on your pages in the Google cache will result in the user leaving the Google cache, and that will be seen as leaving the site that the AMP analytics is tracking. The result is that in the analytics for your AMP pages running on Google.com:

  • Your pages per session will be about one
  • Bounce rate will be very high (greater than 90 percent)
  • Session times will be very short

Then, for the AMP analytics on your domain, your number of visitors will not reflect any of the people who arrive on an AMP page first, and will only include those who view a second page on the site (on your main domain). If you try fixing this by adding your AMP analytics visit count to your main site analytics count, you’ll be double counting people that click through from one to the other.

There is a fix for this, and it’s referred to as “session stitching.” This is a really important fix to implement, and Google has provided it by creating an API that allows you to share the client ID information from AMP analytics with your regular website analytics. As a result, the analytics can piece together that it’s a continuation of the same session.

For more, you can see how to implement the fix to remedy both basic and advanced metrics tracking in my article on session stitching here.


Wrapping up

AMP can offer some really powerful benefits — improved site speed, better user experience and more revenue — but only for those publishers that take the time to implement the AMP version of their AMP site thoroughly, and also address the tracking issue in analytics so they can see the true results.


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Monday, November 20, 2017

Geomodified Searches, Localized Results, and How to Track the Right Keywords and Locations for Your Business - Next Level

Posted by jocameron

Welcome to the newest installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, our fearless writer Jo Cameron shared how to uncover low-value content that could hurt your rankings and turn it into something valuable. Today, she's returned to share how to do effective keyword research and targeting for local queries. Read on and level up!


All around the world, people are searching: X sits at a computer high above the city and searches dreamily for the best beaches in Ko Samui. Y strides down a puddle-drenched street and hastily types good Japanese noodles into an expensive handheld computer. K takes up way too much space and bandwidth on the free wireless network in a chain coffee house, which could be located just about anywhere in the world, and hunts for the best price on a gadgety thing.

As we search, the engines are working hard to churn out relevant results based on what we’re searching, our location, personalized results, and just about anything else that can be jammed into an algorithm about our complex human lives. As a business owner or SEO, you’ll want to be able to identify the best opportunities for your online presence. Even if your business doesn’t have a physical location and you don’t have the pleasure of sweeping leaves off your welcome mat, understanding the local landscape can help you hone in on keywords with more opportunity for your business.

In this Next Level post, we’ll go through the different types of geo-targeted searches, how to track the right keywords and locations for your business in Moz Pro, and how to distribute your physical local business details with Moz Local. If you'd like to follow along with this tutorial, get started with a free 30-day trial of Moz Pro:

Follow along with a free trial

Whether your customer is two streets away or gliding peacefully above us on the International Space Station, you must consider how the intertwining worlds of local and national search impact your online presence.


Geomodified searches vs. geolocated searches

First, so you can confidently stride into your next marketing meeting and effortlessly contribute to a related conversation on Slack, let’s take a quick look at the lingo.

Geomodified searches include the city/neighborhood in the search term itself to target the searcher’s area of interest.

You may have searched some of these examples yourself in a moment of escapism: “beaches in Ko Samui,” “ramen noodles in Seattle,” “solid state drive London,” or “life drawing classes London.”

Geomodified searches state explicit local intent for results related to a particular location. As a marketer or business owner, tracking geomodified keywords gives you insight into how you’re ranking for those searches specifically.

Geolocated searches are searches made while the searcher is physically located in a specific area — generally a city. You may hear the term “location targeting” thrown about, often in the high-roller realm of paid marketing. Rather than looking at keywords that contain certain areas, this type of geotargeting focuses on searches made within an area.

Examples might include: “Japanese noodles,” “Ramen,” “solid state drive,” or “coffee,” searched from the city of Seattle, or the city of London, or the city of Tokyo.

Of course, the above ways of searching and tracking are often intertwined with each other. Our speedy fingers type demands, algorithms buzz, and content providers hit publish and bite their collective nails as analytics charts populate displaying our progress. Smart SEOs will likely have a keyword strategy that accounts for both geomodified and geolocated searches.

Researching local keywords

The more specific your keywords and the location you’re targeting, generally, the less data you’ll find. Check your favorite keyword research tool, like Keyword Explorer, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. In this example, I’m looking at search volume data for “japanese noodles” vs. “japanese noodles london.”

"Japanese noodles"

"Japanese noodles London"

So, do I toss this geomodified keyword? Hold on, buddy — while the Monthly Volume decreases, take a look at that Difficulty score — it increases. It’s an easy search term to dismiss, since the search volume is so low, but what this tells me is that there's more to the story.

A search for “japanese noodles” is too broad to divine much of the searcher’s intent — do they want to make Japanese noodles? Learn what Japanese noodles are? Find an appetizing image?… and so on and so forth. The term itself doesn’t give us much context to work with.

So, while the search volume may be lower, a search for “japanese noodles london” means so much more — now we have some idea of the searcher’s intent. If your site’s content matches up with the searcher’s intent, and you can beat your competition in the SERPs, you could find that the lower search volume equates to a higher conversion rate, and you could be setting yourself up for a great return on investment.

Digging into hyperlocal niches is a challenge. We’ve got some handy tips for investigating hyperlocal keywords, including using similar but slightly larger regions, digging into auto-suggest to gather keyword ideas, and using the grouping function in Keyword Explorer.

Testing will be your friend here. Build a lovely list, create some content, and then test, analyze, and as the shampoo bottle recommends, rinse and repeat.


Localized ranking signals and results

When search engines impress us all by displaying a gazillion results per point whatever of a second, they aren’t just looking inwards at their index. They're looking outwards at the searcher, figuring out the ideal pairing of humans and results.

Local rankings factors take into consideration things like proximity between the searcher and the business, consistency of citations, and reviews, to name just a few. These are jumbled together with all the other signals we’re used to, like authority and relevancy. The full and glorious report is available here: https://moz.com/local-search-ranking-factors

I often find myself returning to the local search ranking factors report because there's just so much to digest. So go ahead bookmark it in a folder called “Local SEO” for easy reference, and delight in how organized you are.

While you may expect a search for “life drawing” to turn up mostly organic results, you can see the Local Pack is elbowing its way in there to serve up classes near me:

And likewise, you may expect a search for “life drawing london” to show only local results, but lookie here: we’ve also got some top organic results that have targeted “life drawing london” and the local results creep ever closer to the top:

From these examples you can see that localized results can have a big impact on your SEO strategy, particularly if you’re competing with Local Pack-heavy results. So let’s go ahead and assemble a good strategy into a format that you can follow for your business.


Tracking what’s right for your business

With your mind brimming with local lingo, let’s take a look at how you can track the right types of keywords and locations for your business using Moz Pro. I’ll also touch on Moz Local for the brick-and-mortar types.

1. Your business is rocking the online world

Quest: Track your target keywords nationally and keep your eye on keywords dominated by SERP features you can’t win, like Local Packs.

Hey there, w-w-w dot Your Great Site dot com! You’re the owner of a sweet, shiny website. You’re a member of the digital revolution, a content creator, a message deliverer, a gadgety thingy provider. Your customers are primarily online. I mean, they exist in real life too, but they are also totally and completely immersed in the online world. (Aren’t we all?)

Start by setting up a brand-new Moz Pro Campaign for your target location.

Select one of each search engine to track for your location. This is what I like to call the full deck:

Another personal favorite is what I call the "Google Special." Select Google desktop and Google Mobile for two locations. This is especially handy if you want to track two national locations in a single Campaign. Here I’ve gone with the US and Canada:

I like to track Google Mobile along with Google desktop results. Ideally you want to be performing consistently in both. If the results are hugely disparate, you may need to check that your site is mobile friendly.

Pour all your lovely keywords into the Campaign creation wizard. Turn that keyword bucket upside-down and give the bottom a satisfying tap like a drum:

Where have we found all these lovely keywords? Don’t tell me you don’t know!

Head over to Keyword Explorer and enter your website. Yes, friend, that’s right. We can show you the keywords your site is already ranking for:

I’m going to leave you to have some fun with that, but when you’re done frolicking in keywords you’re ranking for, keywords your competitors are ranking for, and keywords your Mum’s blog is ranking for, pop back and we’ll continue on our quest.

Next: Onward to the SERP features!

SERP features are both a blessing and a curse. Yes, you could zip to the top of page 1 if you’re lucky enough to be present in those SERP features, but they’re also a minefield, as they squeeze out the organic results you’ve worked so hard to secure.

Luckily for you, we’ve got the map to this dastardly minefield. Keep your eye out for Local Packs and Local Teasers; these are your main threats.

If you have an online business and you're seeing too many local-type SERP features, this may be an indication that you’re tracking the wrong keywords. You can also start to identify features that do apply to your business, like Image Packs and Featured Snippets.

When you’re done with your local quest, you can come back and try to own some of these features, just like we explored in a previous Next Level blog post: Hunting Down SERP Features to Understand Intent & Drive Traffic

2. Your business rocks customers in the real world

Quest: Track keywords locally and nationally and hone in on local SERP features + the wonderful world of NAP.

What if you run a cozy little cupcake shop in your cozy little city?

Use the same search engine setup from above, and sprinkle locally tracked keywords into the mix.

If you’re setting up a new Campaign, you can add both national and local keywords like a boss.

You can see I’ve added a mouthwatering selection of keywords in both the National Keywords section and in the Local Keywords field. This is because I want to see if one of my cupcake shop’s landing pages is ranking in Google Desktop, Google Mobile, and Yahoo and Bing, both nationally and locally, in my immediate vicinity of Seattle. Along with gathering comparative national and local ranking data, the other reason to track keywords nationally is so you can see how you’re doing in terms of on-page optimization.

Your path to cupcake domination doesn’t stop there! You’re also going to want to be the big player rocking the Local Pack.

Filter by Local Pack or Local Teaser to see if your site is featured. Keep your eye out for any results marked with a red circle, as these are being dominated by your competitors.

The wonderful world of NAP

As a local business owner, you'll probably have hours of operation, and maybe even one of those signs that you turn around to indicate whether you’re open or closed. You also have something that blogs and e-commerce sites don’t have: NAP, baby!

As a lingo learner, your lingo learning days are never over, especially in the world of digital marketing (actually, just make that digital anything). NAP is the acronym for business name, address, and phone number. In local SEO you’ll see this term float by more often than a crunchy brown leaf on a cold November morning.

NAP details are your lifeblood: You want people to know them, you want them to be correct, and you want them to be correct everywhere — for the very simple reason that humans and Google will trust you if your data is consistent.

If you manage a single location and decide to go down the manual listing management route, kudos to you, my friend. I’m going to offer some resources to guide you:

3. You manage multiple local businesses with multiple locations

Quest: Bulk-distribute business NAP, fix consistency issues, and stamp out duplicates.

If you are juggling a bunch of locations for your own business, or a client’s, you’ll know that in the world of citation building things can get out of hand pretty gosh-darn quick. Any number of acts can result in your business listing details splitting into multiple fragments, whether you moved locations, inherited a phone number that has an online past, or someone in-house set up your listings incorrectly.

While a single business operating out of a single location may have the choice to manually manage their listing distribution, with every location you add to your list your task becomes exponentially more complex.

Remember earlier, when we talked about those all-important local search ranking factors? The factors that determine local results, like proximity, citation signals, reviews, and so on? Well, now you’ll be really glad you bookmarked that link.

You can do all sorts of things to send appealing local signals to Google. While there isn’t a great deal we can do about proximity right now — people have a tendency to travel where they want to — the foundational act of consistently distributing your NAP details is within your power.

That’s where Moz Local steps in. The main purpose of Moz Local is to help you publish and maintain NAP consistency in bulk.

First, enter your business name and postcode in the free Check Listing tool. Bounce, bounce...

After a few bounces, you’ll get the results:

Moz Local will only manage listings that have been “verified” to prevent spam submissions.

If you’re not seeing what you’d expect in the Check Listing tool, you’ll want to dig up your Google Maps and Facebook Places pages and check them against these requirements on our Help Hub.

When you’re ready to start distributing your business details to our partners, you can select and purchase your listing. You can find out more about purchasing your listing, again on our Help Hub.

Pro Tip: If you have lots of local clients, you’ll probably want to purchase via CSV upload. Follow our documentation to get your CSV all spruced up and formatted correctly.

If tracking your visibility and reputation is high on your to-do list, then you’ll want to look at purchasing your listings at the Professional or Premium level.

We’ll track your local and organic rankings for your Google My Business categories by default, but you can enter your own group of target keywords here. We account for the geographic location of your listings, so be sure to add keywords without any geomodifiers!

If you want to track more keywords, we’ve got you covered. Hop on over to Moz Pro and set up a Campaign like we did in the section above.

4. You’re a dog trainer who services your local area without a storefront

Quest: Help owners of aspiring good dogs find your awesome training skills, even though you don’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront.

At Moz HQ, we love our pooches: they are the sunshine of our lives (as our Instagram feed delightfully confirms). While they’re all good doggos, well-trained pooches have a special place in our hearts.

But back to business. If you train dogs, or run another location-specific business without a shop front, this is called a service-area business (or SAB, another term to add to the new lingo pile).

Start by tracking searches for “dog trainer seattle,” and all the other keywords you discovered in your research, both nationally and locally.

I’ve got my Campaign pulled up, so I’m going to add some keywords and track them nationally and locally.

You may find that some keywords on a national level are just too competitive for your local business. That’s okay! You can refine your list as you go. If you’re happy with your local tracking, then you can remove the nationally tracked keywords from your Campaign and just track your keywords at the local level.

Pro Tip: Remember that if you want to improve your Page Optimization with Moz Pro, you’ll have to have the keyword tracked nationally in your Campaign.

In terms of Moz Local, since accuracy, completeness, and consistency are key factors, the tool pushes your complete address to our partners in order to improve your search ranking. It's possible to use Moz Local with a service-area business (SAB), but it's worth noting that some partners do not support hidden addresses. Miriam Ellis describes how Moz Local works with service-area businesses (SABs) in her recent blog post.

Basically, if your business is okay with your address being visible in multiple places, then we can work with your Facebook page, provided it’s showing your address. You won’t achieve a 100% visibility score, but chances are your direct local competitors are in the same boat.


Wrapping up

Whether you’re reaching every corner of the globe with your online presence, or putting cupcakes into the hands of Seattleites, the local SEO landscape has an impact on how your site is represented in search results.

The key is identifying the right opportunities for your business and delivering the most accurate and consistent information to search engines, directories, and your human visitors, too.


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Friday, November 17, 2017

How Google AdWords (PPC) Does and Doesn't Affect Organic Results - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

It's common industry knowledge that PPC can have an effect on our organic results. But what effect is that, exactly, and how does it work? In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the ways paid ads influence organic results — and one very important way it doesn't.

How Google AdWords does and doesn't affect Organic Results

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're chatting about AdWords and how PPC, paid search results can potentially impact organic results.
Now let's be really clear. As a rule...

Paid DOES NOT DIRECTLY affect organic rankings

So many of you have probably seen the conspiracy theories out there of, "Oh, we started spending a lot on Goolge AdWords, and then our organic results went up." Or, "Hey, we're spending a lot with Google, but our competitor is spending even more. That must be why they're ranking better in the organic results." None of that is true. So there's a bunch of protections in place. They have a real wall at Google between the paid side and the organic side. The organic folks, the engineers, the product managers, the program managers, all of the people who work on those organic ranking results on the Search Quality team, they absolutely will not let paid directly impact how they rank or whether they rank a site or page in the organic results.

However:

But there are a lot of indirect things that Google doesn't control entirely that cause paid and organic to have an intersection, and that's what I want to talk about today and make clear.

A. Searchers who see an ad may be more likely to click and organic listing.

Searchers who see an ad — and we've seen studies on this, including a notable one from Google years ago — may be more likely to click on an organic listing, or they may be more likely if they see a high ranking organic listing for the same ad to click that ad. For example, let's say I'm running Seattle Whale Tours, and I search for whale watching while I'm in town. I see an ad for Seattle Whale Tours, and then I see an organic result. It could be the case, let's say that my normal click-through rate, if there was only the ad, was one, and my normal click-through rate if I only saw the organic listing was one. Let's imagine this equation: 1 plus 1 is actually going to equal something like 2.2. It's going to be a little bit higher, because seeing these two together biases you, biases searchers to generally be more likely to click these than they otherwise would independent of one another. This is why many people will bid on their brand ads.

Now, you might say, "Gosh, that's a really expensive way to go for 0.2 or even lower in some cases." I agree with you. I don't always endorse, and I know many SEOs and paid search folks who don't always endorse bidding on branded terms, but it can work.

B. Searchers who've been previously exposed to a site/brand via ads may be more likely to click>engage>convert.

Searchers who have been previously exposed to a particular brand through paid search may be more likely in the future to click and engage on the organic content. Remember, a higher click-through rate, a higher engagement rate can lead to a higher ranking. So if you see that many people have searched in the past, they've clicked on a paid ad, and then later in the organic results they see that same brand ranking, they might be more likely and more inclined to click it, more inclined to engage with it, more inclined actually to convert on that page, to click that Buy button generally because the brand association is stronger. If it's the first time you've ever heard of a new brand, a new company, a new website, you are less likely to click, less likely to engage, less likely to buy, which is why some paid exposure prior to organic exposure can be good, even for the organic exposure.

C. Paid results do strongly impact organic click-through rate, especially in certain queries.

Across the board, what we've seen is that paid searches on average, in all of Google, gets between 2% and 3% of all clicks, of all searches result in a paid click. Organic, it's something between about 47% and 57% of all searches result in an organic click. But remember there are many searches where there are no paid clicks, and there are many searches where paid gets a ton of traffic. If you haven't seen it yet, there was a blog post from Moz last week, from the folks at Wayfair, and they talked about how incredibly their SERP click-through rates have changed because of the appearance of ads.

So, for example, I search for dining room table lighting, and you can see on your mobile or on desktop how Google has these rich image ads, and you can sort of select different ones. I want to see all lighting. I want to see black lighting. I want to see chrome lighting. Then there are ads below that, the normal paid text ads, and then way, way down here, there are the organic results.

So this is probably taking up between 25% and 50% of all the clicks to this page are going to the paid search results, biasing the click-through rate massively, which means if you bid in certain cases, you may find that you will actually change the click-through rate curve for the entire SERP and change that click-through rate opportunity for the keyword.

D. Paid ad clicks may lead to increased links, mentions, coverage, sharing, etc. that can boost organic rankings.

So paid ad clicks may lead to other things. If someone clicks on a paid ad, they might get to that site, and then they might decide to link to it, to mention that brand somewhere else, to provide media coverage or social media coverage, to do sharing of some kind. All of those things can — some of them directly, some of them indirectly — boost rankings. So it is often the case that when you grow the engagement, the traffic of a website overall, especially if that website is providing a compelling experience that someone might want to write about, share, cover, or amplify in some way, that can boost the rankings, and we do see this sometimes, especially for queries that have a strong overlap in terms of their content, value, and usefulness, and they're not just purely commercial in intent.

E. Bidding on search queries can affect the boarder market around those searches by shifting searcher demand, incentivizing (or de-incentivizing) content creation, etc.

Last one, and this is a little subtler and more difficult to understand, but basically by bidding on paid search results, you sort of change the market. You affect the market for how people think about content creation there, for how they think about monetization, for how they think about the value of those queries.

A few years ago, there was no one bidding on and no one interested in the market around insurance discounts as they relate to fitness levels. Then a bunch of companies, insurance companies and fitness tracking companies and all these other folks started getting into this world, and then they started bidding on it, and they created sort of a value chain and a monetization method. Then you saw more competition. You saw more brands entering this space. You saw more affiliates entering. So the organic SERPs themselves became more competitive with the entry of paid, and this happens very often in markets that were under or unmonetized and then become more monetized through paid advertising, through products, through offerings.

So be careful. Sometimes when you start bidding in a space that previously no one was bidding in, no was buying paid ads in, you can invite a lot of new and interesting competition into the search results that can change the whole dynamic of how the search query space works in your sector.

All right, everyone, hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to your thoughts in the comments, and we'll see you again next week for another edition. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Left is Right & Up is Down

Probably the single best video to watch to understand the power of Google & Facebook (or even most of the major problems across society) is this following video about pleasure versus happiness. In constantly seeking pleasure we forego happiness. The “feed” based central aggregation networks are just like slot machines in your pocket: variable reward circuitry which self-optimizes around exploiting your flaws to eat as much attention as possible. The above is not an accident. It is, rather, as intended: “That means that we needed to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever … It’s a social validation feedback loop … You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology … [The inventors] understood this, consciously, and we did it anyway.” Happy? Good! Share posed photos to make your friends feel their lives are worse than your life is. Outraged? Good! Click an ad. Hopeless? Good. There is a product which can deliver you pleasure…if only you can…click an ad. The central network operators not only attempt to manipulate people at the emotional level, but the layout of the interface also sets default user patterns. Most users tend to focus their attention on the left side of the page: “if we were to slice a maximized page down the middle, 80% of the fixations fell on the left half of the screen (even more than our previous finding of 69%). The remaining 20% of fixations were on the right half of the screen.” This behavior is even more prevalent on search results pages: “On SERPs, almost all fixations (94%) fell on the left side of the page, and 60% those fixations can be isolated to the leftmost 400px.” On mobile, obviously, the attention is focused on what is above the fold. That which is below the fold sort of doesn’t even exist for a large subset of the population. Outside of a few central monopoly attention merchant players, the ad-based web is dying. Mashable has raised about $46 million in VC funding over the past 4 years. And they just sold for about $50 million. Breaking even is about as good as it gets in a web controlled by the Google / Facebook duopoly. :D Other hopeful unicorn media startups appear to have peaked as well. That BuzzFeed IPO is on hold: “Some BuzzFeed investors have become worried about the company’s performance and rising costs for expansions in areas like news and entertainment. Those frustrations were aired at a board meeting in recent weeks, in which directors took management to task, the people familiar with the situation said.” Google’s Chrome web browser will soon have an ad blocker baked into it. Of course the central networks opt out of applying this feature to themselves. Facebook makes serious coin by blocking ad blockers. Google pays Adblock Plus to unblock ads on Google.com & boy are there a lot of ads there. Format your pages like Google does their search results and they will tell you it is a piss poor user experience & a form of spam - whacking you with a penalty for it. Of course Google isn’t the only search engine doing this. Mix in ads with a double listing and sometimes there will only be 1 website listed above the fold. I’ve even seen some Bing search results where organic results have a “Web” label on them - which is conveniently larger than the ad label that is on ads. That is in addition to other tricks like… lots of ad extensions that push organics below the fold on anything with the slightest commercial intent bolding throughout ads (title, description, URL) with much lighter bolding of organics only showing 6 organic results on commercial searches that are likely to generate ad clicks As bad as either of the above looks in terms of ad load or result diversity on the desktop, it is only worse on mobile. On mobile devices organic search results can be so hard to find that people ask questions like “Are there any search engines where you don’t have to literally scroll to see a result that isn’t an advertisement?” The answer is yes. DuckDuckGo. But other than that, it is slim pickings. In an online ecosystem where virtually every innovation is copied or deemed spam, sustainable publishing only works if your business model is different than the central network operators. Not only is there the aggressive horizontal ad layer for anything with a hint of commercial intent, but now the scrape layer which was first applied to travel is being spread across other categories like ecommerce. Ecommerce retailers beware. There is now a GIANT knowledge panel result on mobile that takes up the entire top half of the SERP -> Google updates mobile product knowledge panels to show even more info in one spot: https://t.co/3JMsMHuQmJ pic.twitter.com/5uD8zZiSrK— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) November 14, 2017 Here are 2 examples. And alarms are going off at Amazon now. Yes, Prime is killer, but organic search traffic is going to tank. Go ahead & scroll down to the organic listings (if you dare).And if anyone clicks the module, they are taken away from the SERPs into G-Land. Wow. :) pic.twitter.com/SswOPj4iGd— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) November 14, 2017 The more of your content Google can scrape-n-displace in the search results the less reason there is to visit your website & the more ad-heavy Google can make their interface because they shagged the content from your site. Simply look at the market caps of the big tech monopolies vs companies in adjacent markets. The aggregate trend is expressed in the stock price. And it is further expressed in the inability for the unicorn media companies to go public. As big as Snapchat & Twitter are, nobody who invested in either IPO is sitting on a winner today. Google is outraged anyone might question the numbers & if the current set up is reasonable: Mr Harris described as “factually incorrect” suggestions that Google was “stealing” ad revenue from publishers, saying that two thirds of the revenues generated by online content went to its originators. “I’ve heard lots of people say that Google and Facebook are “ruthlessly stealing” all the advertising revenue that publishers hoped to acquire through online editions,” he told the gathering. “There is no advertising on Google News. Zero. Indeed you will rarely see advertising around news cycles in Google Search either. Sure it is not the ad revenues they are stealing. Rather it is the content. Either by scraping, or by ranking proprietary formats (AMP) above other higher quality content which is not published using the proprietary format & then later attaching crappier & crappier deals to the (faux) “open source” proprietary content format. Google keeps extracting content from publishers & eating the value chain. Some publishers have tried to offset this by putting more ads on their own site while also getting further distribution by adopting the proprietary AMP format. Those who realized AMP was garbage in terms of monetization viewed it as a way to offer teasers to drive users to their websites. The partial story approach is getting killed though. Either you give Google everything, or they want nothing. That is, after all, how monopolies negotiate - ultimatums. Those who don’t give Google their full content will soon receive manual action penalty notifications Important: Starting 2/1/18, Google is requiring that AMP urls be comparable to the canonical page content. If not, Google will direct users to the non-AMP urls. And the urls won’t be in the Top Stories carousel. Site owners will receive a manual action: https://t.co/ROhbI6TMVz pic.twitter.com/hb9FTluV0S— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) November 16, 2017 The value of news content is not zero. Being the go-to resource for those sorts of “no money here” news topics also enables Google to be the go-to resource for searches for [auto insurance quote] and other highly commercial search terms where Google might make $50 or $100 per click. Economics drive everything in publishing. But you have to see how one market position enables another. Google & Facebook are not strong in China, so Toutiao - the top news app in China - is valued at about $20 billion. Now that Yahoo! has been acquired by Verizon, they’ve decided to shut down their news app. Unprofitable segments are worth more as a write off than as an ongoing concern. Look for Verizon to further take AIM at shutting down additional parts of AOL & Yahoo. Firefox recently updated to make its underlying rendering engine faster & more stable. As part of the upgrade they killed off many third party extensions, including ours. We plan to update them soon (a few days perhaps), but those who need the extensions working today may want to install something like (a href=“https://www.comodo.com/home/browsers-toolbars/browser.php”>Comodo Dragon (or another browser based on the prior Firefox core) & install our extensions in that web browser. As another part of the most recent Firefox update, Firefox dumped Yahoo! Search for Google search as their default search engine in a new multiyear deal where financial terms were not disclosed. Yahoo! certainly deserved to lose that deal. First, they signed a contract with Mozilla containing a change-of-ownership poison pill where Mozilla would still make $375 million a year from them even if they dump Yahoo!. Given what Yahoo! sold for this amounts to about 10% of the company price for the next couple years. Second, Yahoo! overpaid for the Firefox distribution deal to where they had to make their user experience even more awful to try to get the numbers to back out. Here is a navigational search result on Yahoo! where the requested site only appears in the right rail knowledge graph. The “organic” result set has been removed. There’s a Yahoo! News insert, a Yahoo Local insert, an ad inviting you to download Firefox (bet that has since been removed!), other search suggestions, and then graphical ads to try to get you to find office furniture or other irrelevant stuff. Here is how awful those sorts of search results are: Yahoo! was so embarrassed at the lack of quality of their result set that they put their logo at the upper right edge of the page. So now they’ll be losing a million a day for a few years based on Marissa Mayer’s fantastic deal with Firefox. And search is just another vertical they made irrelevant. When they outsourced many verticals & then finally shut down most of the remaining ones, they only left a few key ones: On our recent earnings call, Yahoo outlined out a plan to simplify our business and focus our effort on our four most successful content areas – News, Sports, Finance and Lifestyle. To that end, today we will begin phasing out the following Digital Magazines: Yahoo Food, Yahoo Health, Yahoo Parenting, Yahoo Makers, Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Autos and Yahoo Real Estate. And for the key verticals they kept, they have pages like the following, which look like a diet version of eHow Every day they send users away to other sites with deeper content. And eventually people find one they like (like TheAthletic or Dunc’d On) & then Yahoo! stops being a habit. Meanwhile many people get their broader general news from Facebook, Google shifted their search app to include news, Apple offers a great news app, the default new tab on Microsoft Edge browser lists a localize news feed. Any of those is a superior user experience to Yahoo!. It is hard to see what Yahoo!’s role is going forward. Other than the user email accounts (& whatever legal liabilities are associated with the chronic user account hacking incidents), it is hard to see what Verizon bought in Yahoo!. Categories: yahoo from SEO Book http://www.seobook.com/left-right-down via IFTTT from Local SEO Guru http://localseoguru.tumblr.com/post/167569540723 via IFTTT
from Tumblr http://tomeucapella.tumblr.com/post/167571026790/left-is-right-up-is-down
via IFTTT

Left is Right & Up is Down

Probably the single best video to watch to understand the power of Google & Facebook (or even most of the major problems across society) is this following video about pleasure versus happiness. In constantly seeking pleasure we forego happiness. The “feed” based central aggregation networks are just like slot machines in your pocket: variable reward circuitry which self-optimizes around exploiting your flaws to eat as much attention as possible. The above is not an accident. It is, rather, as intended: “That means that we needed to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever … It’s a social validation feedback loop … You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology … [The inventors] understood this, consciously, and we did it anyway.” Happy? Good! Share posed photos to make your friends feel their lives are worse than your life is. Outraged? Good! Click an ad. Hopeless? Good. There is a product which can deliver you pleasure…if only you can…click an ad. The central network operators not only attempt to manipulate people at the emotional level, but the layout of the interface also sets default user patterns. Most users tend to focus their attention on the left side of the page: “if we were to slice a maximized page down the middle, 80% of the fixations fell on the left half of the screen (even more than our previous finding of 69%). The remaining 20% of fixations were on the right half of the screen.” This behavior is even more prevalent on search results pages: “On SERPs, almost all fixations (94%) fell on the left side of the page, and 60% those fixations can be isolated to the leftmost 400px.” On mobile, obviously, the attention is focused on what is above the fold. That which is below the fold sort of doesn’t even exist for a large subset of the population. Outside of a few central monopoly attention merchant players, the ad-based web is dying. Mashable has raised about $46 million in VC funding over the past 4 years. And they just sold for about $50 million. Breaking even is about as good as it gets in a web controlled by the Google / Facebook duopoly. :D Other hopeful unicorn media startups appear to have peaked as well. That BuzzFeed IPO is on hold: “Some BuzzFeed investors have become worried about the company’s performance and rising costs for expansions in areas like news and entertainment. Those frustrations were aired at a board meeting in recent weeks, in which directors took management to task, the people familiar with the situation said.” Google’s Chrome web browser will soon have an ad blocker baked into it. Of course the central networks opt out of applying this feature to themselves. Facebook makes serious coin by blocking ad blockers. Google pays Adblock Plus to unblock ads on Google.com & boy are there a lot of ads there. Format your pages like Google does their search results and they will tell you it is a piss poor user experience & a form of spam - whacking you with a penalty for it. Of course Google isn’t the only search engine doing this. Mix in ads with a double listing and sometimes there will only be 1 website listed above the fold. I’ve even seen some Bing search results where organic results have a “Web” label on them - which is conveniently larger than the ad label that is on ads. That is in addition to other tricks like… lots of ad extensions that push organics below the fold on anything with the slightest commercial intent bolding throughout ads (title, description, URL) with much lighter bolding of organics only showing 6 organic results on commercial searches that are likely to generate ad clicks As bad as either of the above looks in terms of ad load or result diversity on the desktop, it is only worse on mobile. On mobile devices organic search results can be so hard to find that people ask questions like “Are there any search engines where you don’t have to literally scroll to see a result that isn’t an advertisement?” The answer is yes. DuckDuckGo. But other than that, it is slim pickings. In an online ecosystem where virtually every innovation is copied or deemed spam, sustainable publishing only works if your business model is different than the central network operators. Not only is there the aggressive horizontal ad layer for anything with a hint of commercial intent, but now the scrape layer which was first applied to travel is being spread across other categories like ecommerce. Ecommerce retailers beware. There is now a GIANT knowledge panel result on mobile that takes up the entire top half of the SERP -> Google updates mobile product knowledge panels to show even more info in one spot: https://t.co/3JMsMHuQmJ pic.twitter.com/5uD8zZiSrK— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) November 14, 2017 Here are 2 examples. And alarms are going off at Amazon now. Yes, Prime is killer, but organic search traffic is going to tank. Go ahead & scroll down to the organic listings (if you dare).And if anyone clicks the module, they are taken away from the SERPs into G-Land. Wow. :) pic.twitter.com/SswOPj4iGd— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) November 14, 2017 The more of your content Google can scrape-n-displace in the search results the less reason there is to visit your website & the more ad-heavy Google can make their interface because they shagged the content from your site. Simply look at the market caps of the big tech monopolies vs companies in adjacent markets. The aggregate trend is expressed in the stock price. And it is further expressed in the inability for the unicorn media companies to go public. As big as Snapchat & Twitter are, nobody who invested in either IPO is sitting on a winner today. Google is outraged anyone might question the numbers & if the current set up is reasonable: Mr Harris described as “factually incorrect” suggestions that Google was “stealing” ad revenue from publishers, saying that two thirds of the revenues generated by online content went to its originators. “I’ve heard lots of people say that Google and Facebook are “ruthlessly stealing” all the advertising revenue that publishers hoped to acquire through online editions,” he told the gathering. “There is no advertising on Google News. Zero. Indeed you will rarely see advertising around news cycles in Google Search either. Sure it is not the ad revenues they are stealing. Rather it is the content. Either by scraping, or by ranking proprietary formats (AMP) above other higher quality content which is not published using the proprietary format & then later attaching crappier & crappier deals to the (faux) “open source” proprietary content format. Google keeps extracting content from publishers & eating the value chain. Some publishers have tried to offset this by putting more ads on their own site while also getting further distribution by adopting the proprietary AMP format. Those who realized AMP was garbage in terms of monetization viewed it as a way to offer teasers to drive users to their websites. The partial story approach is getting killed though. Either you give Google everything, or they want nothing. That is, after all, how monopolies negotiate - ultimatums. Those who don’t give Google their full content will soon receive manual action penalty notifications Important: Starting 2/1/18, Google is requiring that AMP urls be comparable to the canonical page content. If not, Google will direct users to the non-AMP urls. And the urls won’t be in the Top Stories carousel. Site owners will receive a manual action: https://t.co/ROhbI6TMVz pic.twitter.com/hb9FTluV0S— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) November 16, 2017 The value of news content is not zero. Being the go-to resource for those sorts of “no money here” news topics also enables Google to be the go-to resource for searches for [auto insurance quote] and other highly commercial search terms where Google might make $50 or $100 per click. Economics drive everything in publishing. But you have to see how one market position enables another. Google & Facebook are not strong in China, so Toutiao - the top news app in China - is valued at about $20 billion. Now that Yahoo! has been acquired by Verizon, they’ve decided to shut down their news app. Unprofitable segments are worth more as a write off than as an ongoing concern. Look for Verizon to further take AIM at shutting down additional parts of AOL & Yahoo. Firefox recently updated to make its underlying rendering engine faster & more stable. As part of the upgrade they killed off many third party extensions, including ours. We plan to update them soon (a few days perhaps), but those who need the extensions working today may want to install something like (a href=“https://www.comodo.com/home/browsers-toolbars/browser.php”>Comodo Dragon (or another browser based on the prior Firefox core) & install our extensions in that web browser. As another part of the most recent Firefox update, Firefox dumped Yahoo! Search for Google search as their default search engine in a new multiyear deal where financial terms were not disclosed. Yahoo! certainly deserved to lose that deal. First, they signed a contract with Mozilla containing a change-of-ownership poison pill where Mozilla would still make $375 million a year from them even if they dump Yahoo!. Given what Yahoo! sold for this amounts to about 10% of the company price for the next couple years. Second, Yahoo! overpaid for the Firefox distribution deal to where they had to make their user experience even more awful to try to get the numbers to back out. Here is a navigational search result on Yahoo! where the requested site only appears in the right rail knowledge graph. The “organic” result set has been removed. There’s a Yahoo! News insert, a Yahoo Local insert, an ad inviting you to download Firefox (bet that has since been removed!), other search suggestions, and then graphical ads to try to get you to find office furniture or other irrelevant stuff. Here is how awful those sorts of search results are: Yahoo! was so embarrassed at the lack of quality of their result set that they put their logo at the upper right edge of the page. So now they’ll be losing a million a day for a few years based on Marissa Mayer’s fantastic deal with Firefox. And search is just another vertical they made irrelevant. When they outsourced many verticals & then finally shut down most of the remaining ones, they only left a few key ones: On our recent earnings call, Yahoo outlined out a plan to simplify our business and focus our effort on our four most successful content areas – News, Sports, Finance and Lifestyle. To that end, today we will begin phasing out the following Digital Magazines: Yahoo Food, Yahoo Health, Yahoo Parenting, Yahoo Makers, Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Autos and Yahoo Real Estate. And for the key verticals they kept, they have pages like the following, which look like a diet version of eHow Every day they send users away to other sites with deeper content. And eventually people find one they like (like TheAthletic or Dunc’d On) & then Yahoo! stops being a habit. Meanwhile many people get their broader general news from Facebook, Google shifted their search app to include news, Apple offers a great news app, the default new tab on Microsoft Edge browser lists a localize news feed. Any of those is a superior user experience to Yahoo!. It is hard to see what Yahoo!’s role is going forward. Other than the user email accounts (& whatever legal liabilities are associated with the chronic user account hacking incidents), it is hard to see what Verizon bought in Yahoo!. Categories: yahoo from SEO Book http://www.seobook.com/left-right-down via IFTTT from Local SEO Guru http://localseoguru.tumblr.com/post/167569540723 via IFTTT
from Tumblr http://tomeucapella.tumblr.com/post/167571026790/left-is-right-up-is-down
via IFTTT

from Network Coaching http://thenetworkcoaching.blogspot.com/2017/11/left-is-right-up-is-down.html
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How to Make Your Website More Secure (So Google Doesn't Punish You)

Posted by lkolowich

Thanks to the buzz around website hacking and personal data theft in recent years, most Internet users are aware that their sensitive information is at risk every time they surf the web.

And yet, although the personal data of their visitors and customers is at risk, many businesses still aren’t making website security a priority.

Enter Google.

The folks over at Google are known for paving the way for Internet behavior. Last month, they took a monumental step forward in helping protect people from getting their personal data hacked. The update they released to their popular Chrome browser now warns users if a website is not secure – right inside that user’s browser.

While this change is meant to help protect users’ personal data, it’s also a big kick in the pants for businesses to get moving on making their websites more secure.

Google’s Chrome update: What you need to know

On October 17, 2017, Google’s latest Chrome update (version 62) began flagging websites and webpages that contain a form but don’t have a basic security feature called SSL. SSL, which stands for “Secure Sockets Layer,” is the standard technology that ensures all the data that passes between a web server and a browser – passwords, credit card information, and other personal data – stays private and ensures protection against hackers.

In Chrome, sites lacking SSL are now marked with the warning “Not Secure” in eye-catching red, right inside the URL bar:

imdb-not-secure.gif

Google started doing this back in January 2017 for pages that asked for sensitive information, like credit cards. The update released in October expands the warning to all websites that have a form, even if it's just one field that asks for something like an email address.

What’s the impact on businesses?

Because Chrome has 47% of market share, this change is likely noticed by millions of people using Chrome. And get this: 82% of respondents to a recent consumer survey said they would leave a site that is not secure, according to HubSpot Research.

In other words, if your business’ website isn’t secured with SSL, then more than 8 out of 10 Chrome users said they would leave your website.

Ouch.

What’s more, Google has publically stated that SSL is now a ranking signal in Google’s search algorithm. This means that a website with SSL enabled may outrank another site without SSL.

That’s exactly why anyone who owns or operates a website should start taking the steps to secure their website with an SSL certificate, in addition to a few other security measures. Businesses that don’t take care to protect visitors’ information might see significant issues, garner unwanted attention, and dilute customer trust.

“In my opinion, I think security is undervalued by a lot of marketers,” says Jeffrey Vocell, my colleague at HubSpot and go-to website guru. “Almost daily, we hear news about a new hacking incident or about personal data that has been compromised. The saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ clearly isn’t true here; or, at the very least, the marketer that believes it has never had to live with the fallout of a data breach.”

With Google’s Chrome update, those visitors will see a warning right inside their browsers – even before they’ve entered any information. This means businesses face the potential of losing website visitors’ trust, regardless of whether a cybersecurity incident has actually occurred.

If you’re ready to join the movement toward a more secure web, the first step is to see whether your website currently has an SSL certificate.

Do you know whether your site has SSL?

There are a few ways to tell whether your website (or any website) has SSL.

If you don’t use Google Chrome:

All you have to do is look at a website’s URL once you’ve entered it into the URL bar. Does it contain “https://” with that added “s,” or does it contain “http://” without an “s”? Websites that have SSL contain that extra “s.” You can also enter any URL into this SSL Checker from HubSpot and it’ll tell you whether it’s secure without having to actually visit that site.

If you do have Chrome:

It’s easy to see whether a website is secured with an SSL certificate, thanks to the recent update. After entering a URL into the URL bar, you’ll see the red “Not Secure” warning next to websites that aren’t certified with SSL:

star-wars-not-secure.png

For websites that are certified with SSL, you’ll see “Secure” in green, alongside a padlock icon:

facebook-secure.png

You can click on the padlock to read more about the website and the company that provided the SSL certificate.

Using one of the methods above, go ahead and check to see if your business’ website is secure.

Yes, it does have SSL! Woohoo!

Your site visitors already feel better about browsing and entering sensitive information into your website. You’re not quite done, though – there’s still more you can do to make your website even more secure. We’ll get to that in a second.

Shoot, it doesn’t have SSL yet.

You’re not alone – even a few well-known sites, like IMDB and StarWars.com, weren't ready for Google's update. But it’s time to knock on your webmasters’ doors and have them follow the steps outlined below.

How to make your website more secure

Ready to protect your visitors from data theft and get rid of that big, red warning signal staring every Chrome user in the face in the process? Below, you’ll find instructions and resources to help you secure your website and reduce the chances of getting hacked.

Securing your site with SSL

The first step is to determine which type of certificate you need – and how many. You might need different SSL certificates if you host content on multiple platforms, such as separate domains or subdomains.

As for cost, an SSL certificate will cost you anywhere from nothing (Let’s Encrypt offers free SSL certificates) to a few hundred dollars per month. It usually averages around $50 per month per domain. Some CMS providers (like HubSpot) have SSL included, so check with them before making any moves.

(Read this post for more detailed instructions and considerations for SSL.)

Securing your site with additional measures

Even if you already have SSL, there are four other things you can do to make your website significantly more secure, according to Vocell.

1) Update any plugins or extensions/apps you use on your site.

Hackers look for security vulnerabilities in old versions of plugins, so it’s better to take on the challenges of keeping your plugins updated than make yourself an easy target.

2) Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

One trick hackers use to take down websites is through a DDoS attack. A DDoS attack is when a hacker floods your server with traffic until it stops responding altogether, at which point the hacker can gain access to sensitive data stored in your CMS. A CDN will detect traffic increases and scale up to handle it, preventing a DDoS attack from debilitating your site.

3) Make sure your CDN has data centers in multiple locations.

That way, if something goes awry with one server, your website won’t stop working all of a sudden, leaving it vulnerable to attack.

4) Use a password manager.

One simple way of protecting against cyberattacks is by using a password manager – or, at the very least, using a secure password. A secure password contains upper and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers.

Suffering a hack is a frustrating experience for users and businesses alike. I hope this article inspires you to double down on your website security. With SSL and the other security measures outlined in this post, you’ll help protect your visitors and your business, and make visitors feel safe browsing and entering information on your site.

Does your website have SSL enabled? What tips do you have for making your website more secure? Tell us about your experiences and ideas in the comments.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How to Build the Right Content Marketing Strategy for SEO Growth

Posted by AlliBerry3

Delivering content that best serves the needs of users is certainly top-of-mind for many SEOs since the Hummingbird algorithm update and subsequent buzz around RankBrain. It sounds easy enough in theory, but what does that actually mean in practice? Many SEOs believe that they're already doing this by driving their content strategy by virtue of keyword research alone.

The problem with solely using keywords to drive your content strategy is that not all of your audience’s content needs are captured in search. Ask your nearest customer service representative what questions they answer every day; I can guarantee that you won’t find all of those questions with search volume in a keyword research tool.

Keyword research can also tempt you to develop content that your brand really shouldn’t be creating because you don’t have anything unique to say about it. Sure, you could end up increasing organic traffic, but are those going to be converting customers?

Moving away from a keyword-first-driven content strategy and into an audience-centric one will put you in a better place for creating SEO content that converts. Don’t get me wrong — there's still an important place for keyword research. But it belongs later in the process, after you've performed a deep dive into your audience and your own brand expertise.

This is an approach that the best content marketers excel at. And it’s something that SEOs can utilize, too, as they strive to provide more relevant and higher-quality content for your target audiences.


How is an audience-focused content strategy different from a keyword-focused content strategy?

A content marketing strategy starts with the target audience and dives deeper into understanding your brand’s expertise and unique value proposition. Keyword research is great at uncovering how people talk about topics relevant to your brand, but it is limiting when it comes to audience understanding.

Think about one of your prospective customer’s journey to conversion. Is search the only channel they utilize to get information? If you are collecting lead information or serving up remarketing ads, hopefully not. So, why should your audience understanding be limited to keyword research?

A content strategy is a holistic plan that tackles questions like:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What are their pain points and needs?
  • What types of content do these people want to consume?
  • Where are they currently having conversations (online or offline)
  • What unique expertise does our brand offer?
  • How can we match our expertise to our audience’s needs?

Finding your unique content angle

The key to connecting with your audience is to develop your unique content angle that finds intersections between what your brand’s expertise is in and your audience’s pain points. The Content Marketing Institute refers to this as a "content tilt" because it involves taking a larger topic and tilting it in your own way. Defining your brand’s expertise can be more difficult than it appears on the surface.

It isn’t uncommon for brands to say their product is what makes them unique, but if there is a competitor out there with the same general product, it’s not unique. What makes your organization different from competitors?

Here's an example

When I worked for Kaplan Financial Education, a professional licensing and exam prep provider brand under Kaplan Professional, finding our tilt was a real challenge. Kaplan Financial Education has a lot of product lines all within financial services, but the audience for each is different. We needed a tilt that worked for the entire Career Corner content hub we were creating. What we realized is that our core audience all has a big pain point in common: entering the financial services industry either through insurance or securities (selling stocks and bonds) has low barriers to entry and high turnover. Everyone entering that job market needs to know how to not only pass their licensing exam(s), but also be successful as professionals too, both in the early years and also in the years to come.

Kaplan Financial Education’s biggest content competitors create very factual content — they're websites like Investopedia, Wikipedia, and governing bodies like FINRA and state government departments. But Kaplan Financial Education has something going for it that its competitors do not: a huge network of students. There are other licensing exam prep providers that compete with Kaplan Financial Education, but none that cover the same breadth of exams and continuing education. It's the only brand in that industry that provides licensing education as individuals progress through their financial careers. "From hire to retire," as the marketers say.

We made our content tone more conversational and solicited input from our huge student and instructor network to help new professionals be more successful. We also used their quotes and insights to drive content creation and make it more relatable and personalized. All of our content tied back to helping financial professionals be successful — either as they're getting licensed or beyond — and rather than simply telling people what to do, we leveraged content to allow our current students and instructors to teach our prospective students.

You may be thinking... so I can only write content that fits in this tilt? Isn’t that limiting?

As SEOs, it can be really hard to let go of some keyword opportunities that exist if they don’t fit the content strategy. And it’s true that there are probably some keywords out there you could create content for and increase your organic traffic. But if they don’t fit with your target audience’s needs and your brand’s expertise, will it be the kind of traffic that's going to convert? Likely not. Certainly not enough to spend resources on content creation and to distract yourself from your larger strategy objective.


How to build your content strategy

1. Set your goals.

Start at the end. What is you are ultimately trying to accomplish? Do you want to increase leads by a certain percentage? Do you want to drive a certain number increase in sales? Are you trying to drive subscribers to a newsletter? Document these goals first. This will help you figure out what type of content you want to create and what the calls-to-action should be.

If you're a business like Kaplan and leads are your ultimate goal, a proven strategy is to create ungated content that provides good insights, but leaves room for a deeper dive. Have your calls-to-action point to a gated piece of content requiring some form of contact information that goes into more depth.

A business like a car dealership is going to have a primary goal of getting people into their dealership to buy a car. Their content doesn’t necessarily need to be gated, but it should have a local spin and speak to common questions people have about the car buying process, as well as show the human elements that make the dealership unique to establish trust and show how customers will be treated. Trust is especially important in that industry because they have to combat the used car salesman stereotype.

2. Identify your primary audience and their pain points.

The next step is to identify who you're targeting with your content. There are a lot of people at your disposal to help you with this part of the process. Within your organization, consider talking to these teams:

  • Customer Service
  • Sales
  • Technical Support
  • Product Management
  • Product Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing

These are often the people who interact the most with customers. Find out what your audience is struggling with and what content could be created to help answer their questions. You can also do some of this research on your own by searching forums and social media. Subreddits within Reddit related to your topic can be a goldmine. Other times there are active, related groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. If you’ve ever been to the MozCon Facebook group, you know how much content could be created answering common questions people have related to SEO.

3. Determine your brand’s unique expertise.

Again, dig deeper and figure out what makes your brand truly unique. It likely isn’t the product itself. Think about who your subject matter experts are and how they contribute to the organization. Think about how your products are developed.

Even expertise that may seem boring on the surface can be extremely valuable. I’ve seen Marcus Sheridan speak a couple of times and he has one of the most compelling success stories I’ve ever heard about not being afraid to get too niche with expertise. He had a struggling swimming pool installation business until he started blogging. He knew his expertise was in pools — buying fiberglass pools, specifically. He answered every question he could think of related to that buying process and became the world thought leader on fiberglass pools. Is it a glamorous topic? No. But, it’s helpful to the exact audience he wanted to reach. There aren’t hundreds of thousands of people searching for fiberglass pool information online, but the ones that are searching are the ones he wanted to capture. And he did.

4. Figure out your content tilt.

Now put your answers for #2 and #3 together and figure out what your unique content angle will look like.

5. Develop a list of potential content topics based on your content tilt.

It’s time to brainstorm topics. Now that you know your content tilt, it’s a lot easier to come up with topics your brand should be creating content about. Plus, they’re topics you know your audience cares about! This is a good step to get other people involved from around your organization, from departments like sales, product management, and customer service. Just make sure your content tilt is clear to them prior to the brainstorm to ensure you don’t get off-course.

6. Conduct keyword research.

Now that you’ve got a list of good content topics, it’s time to really dive into long-tail keyword research and figure out the best keyword targets around the topics.

There are plenty of good tools out there to help you with this. Here are a few of my go-tos:

  • Moz Keyword Explorer (freemium): If you have it, it’s a great tool for uncovering keywords as questions, looking at the keyword competitive landscape, and finding other related keywords to your topic.
  • Keywordtool.io (free): One of the only keyword discovery tools out there that will give you keyword research by search engine. If you are looking for YouTube or App Store keywords, for instance, this is a great idea generation tool.
  • Ubersuggest.io (free): Type in one keyword and Ubersuggest will give you a plethora of other ideas organized in a list alphabetically or in a word cloud.

7. Create an editorial calendar.

Based on your keyword research findings, develop an editorial calendar for your content. Make sure to include what your keyword target(s) are so if you have someone else developing the content, they know what is important to include in it.

Here are a couple resources to check out for getting started:

8. Determine how to measure success.

Once you know what content you're going to create, you’ll need to figure out how you'll measure success. Continuing on with the Kaplan example, lead generation was our focus. So, we focused our efforts on measuring leads to our gated content and conversions of those leads to sales over a certain time period. We also measured organic entrances to our ungated content. If our organic entrances were growing (or not growing) disproportionate to our leads, then we’d take deeper dives into what individual pieces of content were converting well and what pieces were not, then make tweaks accordingly.

9. Create content!

Now that all the pieces are there, it’s time to do the creation work. This is the fun part! With your content tilt in mind and your keyword research completed, gather the information or research you need and outline what you want the content to look like.

Take this straightforward article called How to Get Your Series 7 License as an example. To become a registered representative (stockbroker), you have to pass this exam. The primary keyword target here is: Series 7 license. It’s an incredibly competitive keyword with between 2.9K–4.3K monthly searches, according to the Keyword Explorer tool. Other important semantically related keywords include: how to get the Series 7 license, Series 7 license requirements, Series 7 Exam, General Securities Registered Representative license, and Series 7 license pass rate.

Based on our content tilt and competitive landscape for the primary keyword, it made the most sense to make this into a how-to article explaining the process in non-jargon terms to someone just starting in the industry. We perfectly exact-match each keyword target, but the topics are covered well enough for us to rank on the front page for all but one of them. Plus, we won the Google Answer Box for "how to get your Series 7 license." We also positioned ourselves well for anticipated future searches around a new licensing component called the SIE exam and how it’ll change the licensing process.


Once you've created your content and launched it, like with any SEO work, you will have a lag before you see any results. Be sure to build a report or dashboard based on your content goals so you can keep track of the performance of your content on a regular basis. If you find that the growth isn’t there after several months, it is a good idea to go back through the content strategy and assess whether you’ve got your tilt right. Borrowing from Joe Pulizzi, ask yourself: "What if our content disappeared? Would it leave a gap in the marketplace?" If the answer is no, then it’s definitely time to revisit your tilt. It’s the toughest piece to get right, but once you do, the results will follow.

If you're interested in more discussion on content marketing and SEO, check out the newest MozPod podcast. Episode 8, SEO & Content Strategy:

Listen to the podcast


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