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Half of Page-1 Google Results Are Now HTTPS

Posted by Dr-Pete

Just over 9 months ago, I wrote that 30% of page-1 Google results in our 10,000-keyword tracking set were secure (HTTPS). As of earlier this week, that number topped 50%:

While there haven’t been any big jumps recently – suggesting this change is due to steady adoption of HTTPS and not a major algorithm update – the end result of a year of small changes is dramatic. More and more Google results are secure.

MozCast is, of course, just one data set, so I asked the folks at Rank Ranger, who operate a similar (but entirely different) tracking system, if they thought I was crazy…

Could we both be crazy? Absolutely. However, we operate completely independent systems with no shared data, so I think the consistency in these numbers suggests that we’re not wildly off.

What about the future?

Projecting the fairly stable trend line forward, the data suggests that HTTPS could hit about 65% of page-1 results by the end of 2017. The trend line is, of course, an educated guess at best, and many events could change the adoption rate of HTTPS pages.

I’ve speculated previously that, as the adoption rate increased, Google would have more freedom to bump up the algorithmic (i.e. ranking) boost for HTTPS pages. I asked Gary Illyes if such a plan was in the works, and he said “no”:

As with any Google statement, some of you will take this as gospel truth and some will take it as devilish lies. While he isn’t promising that Google will never boost the ranking benefits of HTTPS, I believe Gary on this one. I think Google is happy with the current adoption rate and wary of the collateral damage that an aggressive HTTPS ranking boost (or penalty) could cause. It makes sense that they would bide their time..

Who hasn’t converted?

One of the reasons Google may be proceeding with caution on another HTTPS boost (or penalty) is that not all of the big players have made the switch. Here are the Top 20 subdomains in the MozCast dataset, along with the percentage of ranking URLs that use HTTPS:

(1) en.wikipedia.org — 100.0%
(2) www. amazon.com — 99.9%
(3) www. facebook.com — 100.0%
(4) www. yelp.com — 99.7%
(5) www. youtube.com — 99.6%
(6) www. pinterest.com — 100.0%
(7) www. walmart.com — 100.0%
(8) www. tripadvisor.com — 99.7%
(9) www. webmd.com — 0.2%
(10) allrecipes.com — 0.0%
(11) www. target.com — 0.0%
(12) www. foodnetwork.com — 0.0%
(13) www. ebay.com — 0.0%
(14) play.google.com — 100.0%
(15) www. bestbuy.com — 0.0%
(16) www. mayoclinic.org — 0.0%
(17) www. homedepot.com — 0.0%
(18) www. indeed.com — 0.0%
(19) www. zillow.com — 100.0%
(20) shop.nordstrom.com – 0.0%

Of the Top 20, exactly half have switched to HTTPS, although most of the Top 10 have converted. Not surprisingly, switching is, with only minor exceptions, nearly all-or-none. Most sites naturally opt for a site-wide switch, at least after initial testing.

What should you do?

Even if Google doesn’t turn up the reward or penalty for HTTPS, other changes are in play, such as Chrome warning visitors about non-secure pages when those pages collect sensitive data. As the adoption rate increases, you can expect pressure to switch to increase.

For new sites, I’d recommend jumping in as soon as possible. Security certificates are inexpensive these days (some are free), and the risks are low. For existing sites, it’s a lot tougher. Any site-wide change carries risks, and there have certainly been a few horror stories this past year. At minimum, make sure to secure pages that collect sensitive information or process transactions, and keep your eyes open for more changes.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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33 Mind-Boggling Instagram Stats & Facts for 2017

Launched in 2010 and acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram has taken the mobile photo-sharing niche by storm, with no signs of stopping soon.

Thinking about using Instagram to market your business? Want to become Instagram famous? Here are the coolest, most surprising Instagram statistics and facts to know for this year.

Instagram Demographic Statistics

1. 80% of Instagram users are outside of the US.
2. Most Instagram users are between 18-29 years old.
3. Six in ten online adults have Instagram accounts.
4. Female internet users are more likely to use Instagram than men, at 38% vs. 26%.
5. 32% of teenagers consider Instagram to be the most important social network.
6. 32% of Instagram users attended college.

College Instagram
7. 26% of Instagram users make more than $75,000 per year.

Instagram Usage Statistics

1. After Instagram itself, Selena Gomez has the most followers with 117 million. Cristiano Ronaldo has 97 million and National Geographic has 75 million.
2. Beyonce holds the record for the most liked Instagram with her pregnancy announcement which garnered almost 11 million likes.

Most Liked Instagram Post

3. There are over 600 million Instagrammers.
4. Of that 600 million, 400 million are active every day.
5. There are 16,600,000 Google searches for “instagram” per month.
6. There are 165,000 searches per month for “kylie jenner instagram”
7. 51% of Instagram users access the platform daily, and 35% say they look at the platform several times per day.
8. 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram per day.
9. Over 40 billion photos and videos have been shared on the Instagram platform since its conception.

Instagram Business Statistics

1. There are 8 million registered businesses using Instagram business profiles.
2. Instagram has 1 million monthly active advertisers—up from just 200,000 in March 2016.
3. 60% of the top brands on Instagram use the same filter for every post.
4. In March 2017, over 120 million Instagrammers visited a website, got directions, called, emailed, or direct messaged to learn about a business based on an Instagram ad.

Instagram Advertising Statistics

5. Instagram is estimated to have brought in $1.53 billion in global mobile ad revenue in 2016, which is a 144 percent increase year-over-year and would amount to 8.4 percent of Facebook’s global mobile ad revenue according to International Business Times.
6. eMarketer projects that Instagram’s global mobile ad revenues will reach $2.81 billion this year, accounting for over 10 percent of parent company Facebook’s global ad revenues.
7. This year, 70.7% of U.S. companies will use Instagram for marketing, edging out Twitter for the first time.
8. 50% of Instagram users follow at least one business.
9. 60% of users say that they have learned about a product or service on the platform.

Instagram Content Statistics

1. 100 million users use the “stories” feature daily.
2. Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than those without.

Instagram Advertising Statistics

3. The best time to post on Instagram for the most engagement is at 5 PM on Wednesdays.
4. As of December 2016, there were over 282 million selfies on Instagram.
5. The most used emoji is the heart ❤
6. 23.4% of Instagrammers report having been cyberbullied on the platform.
7. Pizza is the most widely Instagrammed food, directly ahead of steak and sushi.
8. The most popular filters are Clarendon, Gingham and Juno/Lark.

Know any important Instagram statistics that we missed? Let us know!

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Large Site SEO Basics: Faceted Navigation

Posted by sergeystefoglo

If you work on an enterprise site — particularly in e-commerce or listings (such as a job board site) — you probably use some sort of faceted navigation structure. Why wouldn’t you? It helps users filter down to their desired set of results fairly painlessly.

While helpful to users, it’s no secret that faceted navigation can be a nightmare for SEO. At Distilled, it’s not uncommon for us to get a client that has tens of millions of URLs that are live and indexable when they shouldn’t be. More often than not, this is due to their faceted nav setup.

There are a number of great posts out there that discuss what faceted navigation is and why it can be a problem for search engines, so I won’t go into much detail on this. A great place to start is this post from 2011.

What I want to focus on instead is narrowing this problem down to a simple question, and then provide the possible solutions to that question. The question we need to answer is, “What options do we have to decide what Google crawls/indexes, and what are their pros/cons?”

Brief overview of faceted navigation

As a quick refresher, we can define faceted navigation as any way to filter and/or sort results on a webpage by specific attributes that aren’t necessarily related. For example, the color, processor type, and screen resolution of a laptop. Here is an example:

Because every possible combination of facets is typically (at least one) unique URL, faceted navigation can create a few problems for SEO:

  1. It creates a lot of duplicate content, which is bad for various reasons.
  2. It eats up valuable crawl budget and can send Google incorrect signals.
  3. It dilutes link equity and passes equity to pages that we don’t even want indexed.

But first… some quick examples

It’s worth taking a few minutes and looking at some examples of faceted navigation that are probably hurting SEO. These are simple examples that illustrate how faceted navigation can (and usually does) become an issue.

Macy’s

First up, we have Macy’s. I’ve done a simple site:search for the domain and added “black dresses” as a keyword to see what would appear. At the time of writing this post, Macy’s has 1,991 products that fit under “black dresses” — so why are over 12,000 pages indexed for this keyword? The answer could have something to do with how their faceted navigation is set up. As SEOs, we can remedy this.

Home Depot

Let’s take Home Depot as another example. Again, doing a simple site:search we find 8,930 pages on left-hand/inswing front exterior doors. Is there a reason to have that many pages in the index targeting similar products? Probably not. The good news is this can be fixed with the proper combinations of tags (which we’ll explore below).

I’ll leave the examples at that. You can go on most large-scale e-commerce websites and find issues with their navigation. The points is, many large websites that use faceted navigation could be doing better for SEO purposes.

Faceted navigation solutions

When deciding a faceted navigation solution, you will have to decide what you want in the index, what can go, and then how to make that happen. Let’s take a look at what the options are.

“Noindex, follow”

Probably the first solution that comes to mind would be using noindex tags. A noindex tag is used for the sole purpose of letting bots know to not include a specific page in the index. So, if we just wanted to remove pages from the index, this solution would make a lot of sense.

The issue here is that while you can reduce the amount of duplicate content that’s in the index, you will still be wasting crawl budget on pages. Also, these pages are receiving link equity, which is a waste (since it doesn’t benefit any indexed page).

Example: If we wanted to include our page for “black dresses” in the index, but we didn’t want to have “black dresses under $100” in the index, adding a noindex tag to the latter would exclude it. However, bots would still be coming to the page (which wastes crawl budget), and the page(s) would still be receiving link equity (which would be a waste).

Canonicalization

Many sites approach this issue by using canonical tags. With a canonical tag, you can let Google know that in a collection of similar pages, you have a preferred version that should get credit. Since canonical tags were designed as a solution to duplicate content, it would seem that this is a reasonable solution. Additionally, link equity will be consolidated to the canonical page (the one you deem most important).

However, Google will still be wasting crawl budget on pages.

Example: /black-dresses?under-100/ would have the canonical URL set to /black-dresses/. In this instance, Google would give the canonical page the authority and link equity. Additionally, Google wouldn’t see the “under $100” page as a duplicate of the canonical version.

Disallow via robots.txt

Disallowing sections of the site (such as certain parameters) could be a great solution. It’s quick, easy, and is customizable. But, it does come with some downsides. Namely, link equity will be trapped and unable to move anywhere on your website (even if it’s coming from an external source). Another downside here is even if you tell Google not to visit a certain page (or section) on your site, Google can still index it.

Example: We could disallow *?under-100* in our robots.txt file. This would tell Google to not visit any page with that parameter. However, if there were any “follow” links pointing to any URL with that parameter in it, Google could still index it.

“Nofollow” internal links to undesirable facets

An option for solving the crawl budget issue is to “nofollow” all internal links to facets that aren’t important for bots to crawl. Unfortunately, “nofollow” tags don’t solve the issue entirely. Duplicate content can still be indexed, and link equity will still get trapped.

Example: If we didn’t want Google to visit any page that had two or more facets indexed, adding a “nofollow” tag to all internal links pointing to those pages would help us get there.

Avoiding the issue altogether

Obviously, if we could avoid this issue altogether, we should just do that. If you are currently in the process of building or rebuilding your navigation or website, I would highly recommend considering building your faceted navigation in a way that limits the URL being changed (this is commonly done with JavaScript). The reason is simple: it provides the ease of browsing and filtering products, while potentially only generating a single URL. However, this can go too far in the opposite direction — you will need to manually ensure that you have indexable landing pages for key facet combinations (e.g. black dresses).

Here’s a table outlining what I wrote above in a more digestible way.

Options:

Solves duplicate content?

Solves crawl budget?

Recycles link equity?

Passes equity from external links?

Allows internal link equity flow?

Other notes

“Noindex, follow”

Yes

No

No

Yes

Yes

Canonicalization

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Can only be used on pages that are similar.

Robots.txt

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Technically, pages that are blocked in robots.txt can still be indexed.

Nofollow internal links to undesirable facets

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

JavaScript setup

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Requires more work to set up in most cases.

But what’s the ideal setup?

First off, it’s important to understand there is no “one-size-fits-all solution.” In order to get to your ideal setup, you will most likely need to use a combination of the above options. I’m going to highlight an example fix below that should work for most sites, but it’s important to understand that your solution might vary based on how your site is built, how your URLs are structured, etc.

Fortunately, we can break down how we get to an ideal solution by asking ourselves one question. “Do we care more about our crawl budget, or our link equity?” By answering this question, we’re able to get closer to an ideal solution.

Consider this: You have a website that has a faceted navigation that allows the indexation and discovery of every single facet and facet combination. You aren’t concerned about link equity, but clearly Google is spending valuable time crawling millions of pages that don’t need to be crawled. What we care about in this scenario is crawl budget.

In this specific scenario, I would recommend the following solution.

  1. Category, subcategory, and sub-subcategory pages should remain discoverable and indexable. (e.g. /clothing/, /clothing/womens/, /clothing/womens/dresses/)
  2. For each category page, only allow versions with 1 facet selected to be indexed.
    1. On pages that have one or more facets selected, all facet links become “nofollow” links (e.g. /clothing/womens/dresses?color=black/)
    2. On pages that have two or more facets selected, a “noindex” tag is added as well (e.g. /clothing/womens/dresses?color=black?brand=express?/)
  3. Determine which facets could have an SEO benefit (for example, “color” and “brand”) and whitelist them. Essentially, throw them back in the index for SEO purposes.
  4. Ensure your canonical tags and rel=prev/next tags are setup appropriately.

This solution will (in time) start to solve our issues with unnecessary pages being in the index due to the navigation of the site. Also, notice how in this scenario we used a combination of the possible solutions. We used “nofollow,” “noindex, nofollow,” and proper canonicalization to achieve a more desirable result.

Other things to consider

There are many more variables to consider on this topic — I want to address two that I believe are the most important.

Breadcrumbs (and markup) helps a lot

If you don’t have breadcrumbs on each category/subcategory page on your website, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Please go implement them! Furthermore, if you have breadcrumbs on your website but aren’t marking them up with microdata, you’re missing out on a huge win.

The reason why is simple: You have a complicated site navigation, and bots that visit your site might not be reading the hierarchy correctly. By adding accurate breadcrumbs (and marking them up), we’re effectively telling Google, “Hey, I know this navigation is confusing, but please consider crawling our site in this manner.”

Enforcing a URL order for facet combinations

In extreme situations, you can come across a site that has a unique URL for every facet combination. For example, if you are on a laptop page and choose “red” and “SSD” (in that order) from the filters, the URL could be /laptops?color=red?SSD/. Now imagine if you chose the filters in the opposite order (first “SSD” then “red”) and the URL that’s generated is /laptops?SSD?color=red/.

This is really bad because it exponentially increases the amount of URLs you have. Avoid this by enforcing a specific order for URLs!

Conclusions

My hope is that you feel more equipped (and have some ideas) on how to tackle controlling your faceted navigation in a way that benefits your search presence.

To summarize, here are the main takeaways:

  1. Faceted navigation can be great for users, but is usually setup in a way that negatively impacts SEO.
  2. There are many reasons why faceted navigation can negatively impact SEO, but the top three are:
    1. Duplicate content
    2. Crawl budget being wasted
    3. Link equity not being used as effectively as it should be
  3. Boiled down further, the question we want to answer to begin approaching a solution is, “What are the ways we can control what Google crawls and indexes?”
  4. When it comes to a solution, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. There are numerous fixes (and combinations) that can be used. Most commonly:
    1. Noindex, follow
    2. Canonicalization
    3. Robots.txt
    4. Nofollow internal links to undesirable facets
    5. Avoiding the problem with an AJAX/JavaScript solution
  5. When trying to think of an ideal solution, the most important question you can ask yourself is, “What’s more important to our website: link equity, or crawl budget?” This can help focus your possible solutions.

I would love to hear any example setups. What have you found that’s worked well? Anything you’ve tried that has impacted your site negatively? Let’s discuss in the comments or feel free to shoot me a tweet.

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10 Powerful Tips for Better Travel Marketing This Year

Want to get away? If so, you aren’t alone. Spring is the time of year when many people start researching and booking their summer travel plans.

travel marketing tips

People are already searching for cheap travel deals, family vacation ideas, flights, hotels, or their favorite theme park or cruise line. And advertisers are ready:

travels ads google

Competition will be higher than ever this year, with consumers expected to spend $381 billion on leisure travel in 2017. So how can you win over consumers?

Here are 10 ideas to improve your travel marketing strategy using PPC this year.

1. Travel Search Stats: A 30,000-Foot View

According to Google research, 55 percent of leisure travelers go on just one or two trips a year. But they do a lot of research before booking those trips.

travel marketing stats

Every month, millions of people are searching using a variety of travel keywords. As Bing research found during a recent six-month period:

  • 33 million people searched for airline tickets or reservations.
  • 29 million people searched for hotel or motel reservations.
  • 16 million people searched for vacation packages.
  • 14 million people searched for car rentals.
  • 10 million people searched for cruises.

And many of those people are buying:

  • 24 million people bought airline tickets or reservations.
  • 22 million people booked hotel or motel reservations.
  • 11 million people rented a car.
  • 6 million people bought a vacation package.
  • 3 million people booked a cruise.

Travel Marketing Tip: Many travel consumers plan far ahead. Make sure you have offers that appeal to people who are ready to book long before they travel, as well as last-minute travelers.

2. Understand the Traveling Customer’s Journey

Wouldn’t it be great if someone did a search, saw your paid search ad, clicked, and immediately converted? Unfortunately, today’s customer journey is often far more complex.

In fact, as detailed by Think With Google, one person can have hundreds of interactions with brands while researching their travel. In one case, a woman named Amy did 34 searches, watched five videos, and visited 380 web pages while researching her trip to Disney World.

mobile travel marketing

Google identified four key moments where you need to win over travelers:

  • Dreaming: People who are thinking about traveling are doing searches to find ideas and inspiration – where to go and what to do.
  • Organizing: People are deep in consideration mode, deciding which hotel or airline to book, based on details like location, cost, and timing.
  • Booking: People have made their decision and make their reservations.
  • Experiencing: People are searching for things to do and new places to visit near them on their trip.

Travel Marketing Tip: People are thinking about and researching trips all the time. Think about all the key moments that you can influence during the customer’s journey that will ultimately lead to a conversion.

3. Define Your Target Audience

The demographics of the customers you want to reach should be your first consideration. Who are they?

For example, we know from the same Bing travel industry research that women conduct 68 percent of [family vacation ideas] searches and account for 69 percent of clicks. In fact, women account for 59 percent of all travel-related searches and 62 percent of clicks.

travel marketing demographics

Bing also broke down the percentage of family travel searches by age group:

  • Age 35 to 49: 41 percent
  • Age 50 to 64: 31 percent
  • Age 25 to 34: 16 percent

Based on this research, if your target market is family travel, we know that we want to primarily target women between the ages of 35 to 49. Your demographics will vary, obviously, depending on your goals and target audience.

Travel Marketing Tip: Write from the perspective of buyer personas to create emotional ads that speak to your target market to get more people to click and convert.

4. Give Them What They Want

Once you know who you’re targeting, it’s time to focus on what this audience wants.

For example, the biggest [vacation ideas] search trends, according to Bing’s research, include all-inclusive resorts, family-friendly vacations, and cheap vacations.

Here are more trending searches in this space:

travel marketing keywords

Our persona is continuing to take shape. We know she is between the ages of 35 to 49 and wants to find ideas for a cheap summer family vacation.

Travel Marketing Tip: Make sure your offer clearly tells people that you have what they want or need for their trip. That could mean tailoring your messaging for people who need affordable deals, want an all-inclusive resort, or are seeking outdoor activities.

5. Get Them Where They Want to Go

Summer is a great time to go on road trips and cruises, head to national and state parks or amusement and theme parks, or visit international destinations.

vacations

Via New Old Stock

Where are the 42 percent of Americans who plan to take a vacation this year planning to go? AAA identified a few key travel trends.

For one, people will be heading to beaches and other warm weather destinations. Popular destinations in the U.S., according to AAA:

  • Orlando, Florida
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Anaheim, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Las Vegas, Nevada

People will also be leaving the U.S. Here are the hottest international destinations this year, according to AAA:

  • Rome, Italy
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • London, England
  • Nassau, Bahamas
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Canada is another popular travel destination this year, along with Ireland and Iceland.

Travel Marketing Tip: Now we’re past the ideas and inspiration stage. People know where they want to go, which means they have higher purchase intent. So get them there – push your hard offers and deals.

6. Pay Attention to How People Search for Travel

People are switching between mobile and desktop. In general, most mobile travel searchers are looking for ideas and to compare prices, while the majority of desktop travel searchers are ready (or nearly ready) to purchase or book a reservation.

Although people are primarily searching for travel on mobile, Google’s research found that 75 percent of travelers ended up purchasing on a desktop or laptop. (A different Google study said 90 percent of bookings happen on desktop.) Nearly two-thirds of people double-check flight prices and half double-check hotel prices on a computer after shopping on a smartphone.

mobile travel searches

Travel Marketing Tip: Target your campaigns for the right audience on the right device. Your mobile ad copy should inspire travelers and generate demand, which you can later convert via your offers on desktop.

7. Reach Travelers at the Right Time

Now is the best time to start winning the hearts, minds, and wallets of consumers. Specifically: spring time.

Search volume for [vacation ideas] peaks in April, according to Bing’s travel research. But search demand varies depending on where people want to head for their travel:

  • Cruises: Search demand peaks in January
  • Beaches: People visit beaches year-round, but search demand is highest during the winter months through spring.
  • Theme parks: Search demand is strongest in the winter and peaks in July.
  • National and state parks: Search demand is highest in the spring, peaking in June.

cruise travel keyword searches

Travel Marketing Tip: Make sure you have a strategy that keeps you visible during your most valuable season. If consumers don’t know you or can’t easily find you, they can’t buy from you.

8. Embrace Facebook Ads

Search ads are great for harvesting existing demand. But you can also create new demand, using Facebook ads.

Here’s how it works on Facebook, according to WordStream founder Larry Kim:

  • Promote: Your brand promotes inspirational and memorable content designed with your target audience in mind.
  • Bias: People see the Facebook ad, but don’t necessarily take action right away. However, they do become biased.
  • Win: When people have a need that your product/service can solve, people will either do a branded search for you, or they’ll do a non-branded search – but because they’ve heard of you, they’re more likely to click on your organic search result or PPC ad (and convert).

travel industry rlsa tips

Travel Marketing Tip: Use Facebook ads now to drive interest and generate the brand affinity you’ll need later to drive more searches, more clicks, and higher conversion rates.

9. Bid On Your Brand Terms

Bidding on your brand terms means more clicks for you and fewer clicks on your competitors. Even if you have great organic search visibility, there’s a chance that people could click on and buy from your competitor if you aren’t running PPC ads.

You can see up to a 44 percent lift in incremental paid and organic clicks when you bid on your own brand terms. Bing Ads goes into this in detail in its Brand Term Bidding study.

Brand terms are incredibly important for theme parks and cruise lines, as the Bing travel study pointed out. Check out the top branded searches for theme parks:

branded travel searches

And for cruises:

keyword research for travel marketing

Travel Marketing Tip: It was previously suggested in 5 Data-Driven Travel Marketing Tips here on the WordStream blog, and it’s worth repeating: Bid aggressively on brand terms to make sure you maximize your visibility in the SERPs.

10. Close the Loop with Remarketing

If we know a customer’s journey can include dozens of searches and visits to hundreds of web pages, then remarketing can be your most valuable weapon. Remarketing ensures that one interaction someone has with your brand isn’t the only interaction.

As WordStream has shown in the past, remarketing is incredibly valuable.

People who know and like your brand will be more receptive to your future messaging, and they’re also more likely to convert. Conversion rates are 2x-3x higher for repeat visitors than first-time visitors:

travel marketing conversion rates

Travel Marketing Tip: The travel purchase cycle can be a long and winding road. Use remarketing to make sure consumers can always find their way back to you!

About the author

Danny Goodwin is an editor and writer. In addition to editing for Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal, he has been writing about SEO, PPC, content marketing, social media marketing, and the search industry for more than 10 years. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2pg2sro

[Case Study] How We Ranked #1 for a High-Volume Keyword in Under 3 Months

Posted by DmitryDragilev

This blog post was co-written with Brad Zomick, the former Director of Content Marketing at Pipedrive, where this case study took place.

It’s tough out there for SEOs and content marketers. With the sheer amount of quality content being produced, it has become nearly impossible to stand out in most industries.

Recently we were running content marketing for Pipedrive, a sales CRM. We created a content strategy that used educational sales content to educate and build trust with our target audience.

This was a great idea, in theory — we’d educate readers, establish trust, and turn some of our readers into customers.

The problem is that there are already countless others producing similar sales-focused content. We weren’t just competing against other startups for readers; we also had to contend with established companies, sales trainers, strategists, bloggers and large business sites.

The good news is that ranking a strategic keyword is still very much possible. It’s certainly not easy, but with the right process, anyone can rank for their target keyword.

Below, we’re going to show you the process we used to rank on page one for a high-volume keyword.

If you’re not sure about reading ahead, here is a quick summary:

We were able to rank #1 for a high-volume keyword: “sales management” (9,900 search volume). We outranked established sites including SalesManagement.org, Apptus, InsightSquared, Docurated, and even US News, Wikipedia, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We managed this through good old-fashioned content creation + outreach + guest posting, aka the “Skyscraper Technique.”

Here are the eight steps we took to reach our goal (click on a step to jump straight to that section):

  1. Select the right topic
  2. Create bad-ass content for our own blog
  3. Optimize on-page SEO & engagement metrics
  4. Build internal links
  5. Find people who would link to this content
  6. Ask people to link to our content
  7. Write guest posts on leading blogs
  8. Fine-tuning content with TF * IDF

Before we start, understand that this is a labor-intensive process. Winning a top SERP spot required the focus of a 3-person team for the better part of 3 months.

If you’re willing to invest a similar amount of time and effort, read on!


Step 1: Finding a good topic

We wanted three things from our target keyword:

1. Significant keyword volume

If you’re going to spend months ranking for a single keyword, you need to pick something big enough to justify the effort.

In our case, we settled on a keyword with 9,900 searches each month as per the Keyword Planner (1k–10k range after the last update).

That same keyword registered a search volume of 1.7–2.9k in Moz Keyword Explorer, so take AdWords’ estimates with a grain of salt.

One way to settle on a target volume is to see it in terms of your conversion rate and buyer’s journey:

  • Buyer’s journey: Search volume decreases as customers move further along the buyer’s journey. Fewer searches are okay if you’re targeting Decision-stage keywords.
  • Conversion rate: The stronger your conversion rate for each stage of the buyer’s journey, the more you can get away with by targeting a low search volume keyword.

Also consider the actual traffic from the keyword, not just search volume.

For instance, we knew from Moz’s research that the first result gets about 30% of all clicks.

For a keyword with 9,900 search volume, this would translate into over 3,000 visitors/month for a top position.

If we could convert even 5% of these into leads, we’d net over 1,800 leads each year, which makes it worth our time.

2. Pick a winnable topic

Some SERPs are incredibly competitive. For instance, if you’re trying to rank for “content marketing,” you’ll find that the first page is dominated by CMI (DA 84):

You might be able to fight out a first-page rank, but it’s really not worth the effort in 99% of cases.

So our second requirement was to see if we could actually rank for our shortlisted keywords.

This can be done in one of two ways:

Informal method

The old-fashioned way to gauge keyword difficulty is to simply eyeball SERPs for your selected keywords.

If you see a lot of older articles, web 1.0 pages, unrecognizable brands, and generic content sites, the keyword should be solid.

On the other hand, if the first page is dominated by big niche brands with in-depth articles, you’ll have a hard time ranking well.

I also recommend using the MozBar to check metrics on the fly. If you see a ton of high DA/PA pages, move on to another keyword.

In our case, the top results mostly comprised of generic content sites or newish domains.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Moz’s Keyword Explorer gives you a more quantifiable way to gauge keyword difficulty. You’ll get actual difficulty vs. potential scores.

Aim for a competitiveness score under 50 and opportunity/potential scores above 50. If you get scores beyond this threshold, keep looking.

Of course, if you have an established domain, you can target more difficult keywords.

Following this step, we had a shortlist of four keywords:

  1. sales techniques (8100)
  2. sales process (8100)
  3. sales management (9900)
  4. sales forecast (4400)

We could have honestly picked anything from this list, but for added impact, we decided to add another filter.

3. Strategic relevance

If you’re going to turn visitors into leads, it’s important to focus on keywords that are strategically relevant to your conversion goals.

In our case, we chose “sales management” as the target keyword.

We did this because Pipedrive is a sales management tool, so the keyword describes us perfectly.

Additionally, a small business owner searching for “sales management” has likely moved from Awareness to Consideration and thus, is one step closer to buying.

In contrast, “sales techniques” and “sales forecast” are keywords a sales person would search for, not a sales leader or small business owner (decision-makers).


Step 2: Writing a bad-ass piece of content

Content might not be king anymore, but it is still the foundation of good SEO. We wanted to get this part absolutely right.

Here’s the process we followed to create our content:

1. Extremely thorough research

We had a simple goal from the start: create something substantially better than anything in the top SERPs.

To get there, we started by reviewing every article ranking for “sales management,” noting what we liked and what we didn’t.

For instance, we liked how InsightSquared started the article with a substantive quote. We didn’t like how Apptus went overboard with headers.

We also looked for anomalies. One thing that caught our attention was that two of the top 10 results were dedicated to the keyword “sales manager.”

We took note of this and made sure to talk about “sales managers” in our article.

We also looked at related searches at the bottom of the page:

We also scoured more than 50 sales-related books for chapters about sales management.

Finally, we also talked to some real salespeople. This step helped us add expert insight that outsourced article writers just don’t have.

At the end, we had a superior outline of what we were going to write.

2. Content creation

You don’t need to be a subject matter expert to create an excellent piece of content.

What you do need is good writing skills… and the discipline to actually finish an article.

Adopt a journalistic style where you report insight from experts. This gives you a better end-product since you’re curating insight and writing it far better than subject matter experts.

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet to speed up the writing part — you’ll just have to grind it out. Set aside a few days at least to write anything substantive.

There are a few things we learned through the content creation experience:

  1. Don’t multi-task. Go all-in on writing and don’t stop until it’s done.
  2. Work alone. Writing is a solitary endeavor. Work in a place where you won’t be bothered by coworkers.
  3. Listen to ambient music. Search “homework edit” on YouTube for some ambient tracks, or use a site like Noisli.com

Take tip #1 as non-negotiable. We tried to juggle a couple of projects and finishing the article ended up taking two weeks. Learn from our mistake — focus on writing alone!

Before you hit publish, make sure to get some editorial feedback from someone on your team, or if possible, a professional editor.

We also added a note at the end of the article where we solicit feedback for future revisions.

If you can’t get access to editors, at the very least put your article through Grammarly.

3. Add lots of visuals and make content more readable

Getting visuals in B2B content can be surprisingly challenging. This is mostly due to the fact that there are a lot of abstract, hard-to-visualize concepts in B2B writing.

This is why we found a lot of blog posts like this with meaningless stock images:

To avoid this, we decided to use four custom images spread throughout the article.

We wanted to use visuals to:

  • Illustrate abstract concepts and ideas
  • Break up the content into more readable chunks.
  • Emphasize key takeaways in a readily digestible format

We could have done even more — prolific content creators like Neil Patel often use images every 200–300 words.

Aside from imagery, there are a few other ways to break up and highlight text to make your content more readable.

  • Section headers
  • Bullets and numbered lists
  • Small paragraphs
  • Highlighted text
  • Blockquotes
  • Use simple words

We used most of these tactics, especially blockquotes to create sub-sections.

Given our audience — sales leaders and managers — we didn’t have to bother with dumbing down our writing. But if you’re worried that your writing is too complex, try using an app like Hemingway to edit your draft.


Step 3: Optimize on-page SEO and engagement metrics

Here’s what we did to optimize on-page SEO:

1. Fix title

We wanted traffic from people searching for keywords related to “sales management,” such as:

  • “Sales management definition” (currently #2)
  • “Sales management process” (currently #1)
  • “Sales management strategies” (currently #4)
  • “Sales management resources” (currently #3)

To make sure we tapped all these keywords, we changed our main H1 header tag to include the words definition, process, strategies, and resources.

These are called “modifiers” in SEO terms.

Google is now smart enough to know that a single article can cover multiple related keywords. Adding such modifiers helped us increase our potential traffic.

2. Fix section headers

Next, we used the right headers for each section:

Instead of writing “sales management definition,” we used an actual question a reader might ask.

Here’s why:

  • It makes the article easier to read
  • It’s a natural question, which makes it more likely to rank for voice searches and Google’s “answers”

We also peppered related keywords in headers throughout the article. Note how we used the keyword at the beginning of the header, not at the end:

We didn’t want to go overboard with the keywords. Our goal was to give readers something they’d actually want to read.

This is why our <h2> tag headers did not have any obvious keywords:

This helps the article read naturally while still using our target keywords.

3. Improve content engagement

Notice the colon and the line break at the very start of the article:

This is a “bucket brigade”: an old copywriting trick to grab a reader’s attention.

We used it at the beginning of the article to stop readers from hitting the back button and going back to Google (i.e. increase our dwell time).

We also added outgoing and internal links to the article.

4. Fix URL

According to research, shorter URLs tend to rank better than longer ones.

We didn’t pay a lot of attention to the URL length when we first started blogging.

Here’s one of our blog post URLs from 2013:

Not very nice, right?

For this post, we used a simple, keyword-rich URL:

Ideally, we wouldn’t have the /2016/05/ bit, but by now, it’s too late to change.

5. Improve keyword density

One common piece of on-page SEO advice is to add your keywords to the first 100 words of your content.

If you search for “sales management” on our site, this is what you’ll see:

If you’re Googlebot, you’d have no confusion what this article was about: sales management.

We also wanted to use related keywords in the article without it sounding over-optimized. Gaetano DiNardi, our SEO manager at the time, came up with a great solution to fix this:

We created a “resources” or “glossary” section to hit a number of related keywords while still being useful. Here’s an example:

It’s important to make these keyword mentions as organic as possible.

As a result of this on-page keyword optimization, traffic increased sharply.

We over-optimized keyword density in the beginning, which likely hurt rankings. Once we spotted this, we changed things around and saw an immediate improvement (more on this below).


Step 4: Build internal links to article

Building internal links to your new content can be surprisingly effective when promoting content.

As Moz has already written before:

“Internal links are most useful for establishing site architecture and spreading link juice.”

Essentially, these links:

  • Help Googlebot discover your content
  • Tell Google that a particular page is “important” on your site since a lot of pages point to it

Our approach to internal linking was highly strategic. We picked two kinds of pages:

1. Pages that had high traffic and PA. You can find these in Google Analytics under Behavior –> Site Content.

2. Pages where the keyword already existed unlinked. You can use this query to find such pages:

Site:[yoursite.com] “your keyword”

In our case, searching for “sales management” showed us a number of mentions:

After making a list of these pages, we dove into our CMS and added internal links by hand.

These new links from established posts showed Google that we thought of this page as “important.”


Step 5: Finding link targets

This is where things become more fun. In this step, we used our detective SEO skills to find targets for our outreach campaign.

There are multiple ways to approach this process, but the easiest — and the one we followed — is to simply find sites that had linked to our top competitors.

We used Open Site Explorer to crawl the top ten results for backlinks.

By digging beyond the first page, we managed to build up a list of hundreds of prospects, which we exported to Excel.

This was still a very “raw” list. To maximize our outreach efficiency, we filtered out the following from our list:

  • Sites with DA under 30.
  • Sites on free blog hosts like Blogspot.com, WordPress.com, etc.

This gave us a highly targeted list of hundreds of prospects.

Here’s how we organized our Excel file:

Finding email addresses

Next step: find email addresses.

This has become much easier than it used to be thanks to a bunch of new tools. We used EmailHunter (Hunter.io) but you can also use VoilaNorbert, Email Finder, etc.

EmailHunter works by finding the pattern people use for emails on a domain name, like this:

To use this tool, you will need either the author’s name or the editor/webmaster’s name.

In some cases, the author of the article is clearly displayed.

In case you can’t find the author’s name (happens in case of guest posts), you’ll want to find the site’s editor or content manager.

LinkedIn is very helpful here.

Try a query like this:

site:linkedin.com “Editor/Blog Editor” at “[SiteName]”.

Once you have a name, plug the domain name into Hunter.io to get an email address guess of important contacts.


Step 6: Outreach like crazy

After all the data retrieval, prioritization, deduping, and clean up, we were left with hundreds of contacts to reach out to.

To make things easier, we segmented our list into two categories:

  • Category 1: Low-quality, generic sites with poor domain authority. You can send email templates to them without any problems.
  • Category 2: Up-and-coming bloggers/authoritative sites we wanted to build relationships with. To these sites, we sent personalized emails by hand.

With the first category of sites, our goal was volume instead of accuracy.

For the second category, our objective was to get a response. It didn’t matter whether we got a backlink or not — we wanted to start a conversation which could yield a link or, better, a relationship.

You can use a number of tools to make outreach easier. Here are a few of these tools:

  1. JustReachOut
  2. MixMax
  3. LeadIQ
  4. Toutapp
  5. Prospectify

We loved using a sales tool called MixMax. Its ability to mail merge outreach templates and track open rates works wonderfully well for SEO outreach.

If you’re looking for templates, here’s one email we sent out:

Let’s break it down:

  1. Curiosity-evoking headline: Small caps in the subject line makes the email look authentic. The “something missing” part evokes curiosity.
  2. Name drop familiar brands: Name dropping your relationship to familiar brands is another good way to show your legitimacy. It’s also a good idea to include a link to their article to jog their memory.
  3. What’s missing: The meat of the email. Make sure that you’re specific here.
  4. The “why”: Your prospects need a “because” to link to you. Give actual details as to what makes it great — in-depth research, new data, or maybe a quote or two from Rand Fishkin.
  5. Never demand a link: Asking for feedback first is a good way to show that you want a genuine conversation, not just a link.

This is just one example. We tested 3 different emails initially and used the best one for the rest of the campaign. Our response rate for the whole campaign was 42%.


Step 7: Be prepared to guest post

Does guest blogging still work?

If you’re doing it for traffic and authority, I say: go ahead. You are likely putting your best work out there on industry-leading blogs. Neither your readers nor Google will mind that.

In our case, guest blogging was already a part of our long-term content marketing strategy. The only thing we changed was adding links to our sales management post within guest posts.

Your guest post links should have contextual reference, i.e. the post topic and link content should match. Otherwise, Google might discount the link, even if it is dofollow.

Keep this in mind when you start a guest blogging campaign. Getting links isn’t enough; you need contextually relevant links.

Here are some of the guest posts we published:

  • 7 Keys to Scaling a Startup Globally [INC]
  • An Introduction to Activity-Based Selling [LinkedIn]
  • 7 Tips for MBAs Entering Sales Management Careers [TopMBA]

We weren’t exclusively promoting our sales management post in any of these guest posts. The sales management post just fit naturally into the context, so we linked to it.

If you’re guest blogging in 2017, this is the approach you need to adopt.


Step 8: Fine-tuning content with TF * IDF

After the article went live, we realized that we had heavily over-optimized it for the term “sales management.” It occurred 48 times throughout the article, too much for a 2,500 word piece.

Moreover, we hadn’t always used the term naturally in the article.

To solve this problem, we turned to TF-IDF.

Recognizing TF-IDF as a ranking factor

TF-IDF (Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency) is a way to figure out how important a word is in a document based on how frequently it appears in it.

This is a pretty standard statistical process in information retrieval. It is also one of the oldest ranking factors in Google’s algorithms.

Hypothesis: We hypothesized that dropping the number of “sales management” occurrences from 48 to 20 and replacing it with terms that have high lexical relevance would improve rankings.

Were we right?

See for yourself:

Our organic pageviews increased from nearly 0 to over 5,000 in just over 8 months.

Note that no new links or link acquisition initiatives were actively in-progress during the time of this mini-experiment.

Experiment timeline:

  • July 18th – Over-optimized keyword recognized.
  • July 25th – Content team finished updating body copy, H2s with relevant topics/synonyms.
  • July 26th – Updated internal anchor text to include relevant terms.
  • July 27th – Flushed cache & re-submitted to Search Console.
  • August 4th – Improved from #4 to #2 for “Sales Management”
  • August 17 – Improved from #2 to #1 for “Sales Management”

The results were fast. We were able to normalize our content and see results within weeks.

We’ll show you our exact process below.

Normalization process — How did we do it?

The normalization process focused on identifying over-optimized terms, replacing them with related words and submitting the new page to search engines.

Here’s how we did it:

1. Identifying over-optimized term(s)

We started off using Moz’s on-page optimization tool to scan our page.

According to Moz, we shouldn’t have used the target term — “sales management” — more than 15 times. This means we had to drop 33 occurrences.

2. Finding synonymous terms with high lexical relevance

Next, we had to replace our 28+ mentions with synonyms that wouldn’t feel out of place.

We used Moz’s Keyword Explorer to get some ideas.

3. Removed “sales management” from H2 headings

Initially, we had the keyword in both H1 and H2 headings, which was just overkill.

We removed it from H2 headings and used lexically similar variants instead for better flow.

4. Diluted “sales management” from body copy

We used our list of lexically relevant words to bring down the number of “sales management” occurrences to under 20. This was perfect for 2,500+ word article.

5. Diversify internal anchors

While we were changing our body copy, we realized that we also needed more anchor text diversity for our internal links.

Our anchors cloud was mostly “sales management” links:

We diversified this list by adding links to related terms like “sales manager,” “sales process,” etc.

6. Social amplification

We ramped up our activity on LinkedIn and Facebook to get the ball rolling on social shares.

The end result of this experimentation was an over 100% increase in traffic between August ‘16 to January ‘17.

The lesson?

Don’t just build backlinks — optimize your on-page content as well!


Conclusion

There’s a lot to learn from this case study. Some findings were surprising for us as well, particularly the impact of keyword density normalization.

While there are a lot of tricks and tactics detailed here, you’ll find that the fundamentals are essentially the same as what Rand and team have been preaching here for years. Create good content, reach out to link prospects, and use strategic guest posts to get your page to rank.

This might sound like a lot of work, but the results are worth it. Big industry players like Salesforce and Oracle actually advertise on AdWords for this term. While they have to pay for every single click, Pipedrive gets its clicks for free.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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The 10 Best Facebook Advertising Features Right Now

Facebook advertising: We now know it bolsters the reach of your organic posts, and using the planet’s most ubiquitous social media platform to drive leads or sales also has its perks.

Engaging ad formats. An unrivaled suite of targeting options. Enough campaign types to help you achieve virtually any marketing objective.

They all add up to one thing: massive advertising opportunity for businesses of all sizes.

 top ten facebook advertising features

This is not a hot take: it’s consensus. Facebook’s 1.8 billion users spend about an hour per day bouncing between Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram. Whether you sell shoelaces or legal services, there are people using the platform who might someday become your customers. IF they know you exist.

Luckily, Facebook makes it relatively simple to a) identify your ideal audiences and b) incite conversions through aesthetically pleasing ads.

With that said, here are the top 10 Facebook advertising features you need to be using if you want to reach your future customers today.

#1: Carousel Ads

Visual content and storytelling are the flavors of the month, and Facebook has found a way to combine both two elements with Carousel Ads. Think of them as the twisty soft-serve of digital marketing.

You can use Carousel Ads to explain the features of a product you sell (or an entire collection), showcase your brand’s USP, or highlight a promotion you’re running.

Using this Facebook ad type, you can leverage:

  • Up to 10 images or videos
  • Headlines (for each image/video)
  • Links
  • A Call to Action

facebook carousel ads

Check out this example from Target. The retail giant encouraged people to scroll through its Carousel Ads to preview a new colorful range of products: all of which can be purchased online or at your local Target. I especially dig the way the model appears to walk between the frames of the video; Facebook describes this as “immersive panoramic.” I’d simply call it a kick-ass way to stand out from the competition.

Show off your creativity, highlight what makes your brad unique, and boost engagement metrics: what’s not to love?

#2: The Facebook Pixel

There are a handful of certainties in life. Death. Taxes. The Patriots winning the Super Bowl. Oh, and if you’re not using the Facebook pixel, you’re wasting your time.

Folks, you need to use the Facebook pixel. It’s how you measure conversions, optimize your ads and targeting, and gain insights about the Facebook users who visit your website.

 facebook advertising conversion pixel

Without it, you can’t make use of Facebook’s insane remarketing and lookalike audience features. You may as well be lighting wads of cash on fire.

To use implement the Facebook pixel, simply go to Ads Manager, create a pixel, name it, create it, copy the code onto your web pages to start tracking actions, and you’re done.

Now, you can track the actions people take, such as viewing your content, adding items to their shopping cart, or making a purchase, and use those insights to move prospects down the funnel and discover (then advertise to) users who share traits with your existing customers.

For more about the Facebook pixel, you can read the illustrious Brett McHale’s awesome post here on the WordStream blog, The Ultimate Guide to Tracking, Targeting, and Driving Conversions on Facebook.

#3: Website Conversion Campaigns

Once you’ve implemented your Facebook pixel, it’s time to start running Website Conversion campaigns.

The objective of a Website Conversion campaign is self-evident: get people to take a specific on-site (or in-app) action after viewing your ad.

 website conversion campaign

“Action” can be defined as, well, almost anything. It could mean driving people to your website (or a specific page), someone adding an item to a shopping cart, a visitor completing a purchase, or some custom parameter you’ve established a means by which to measure the value of an action taken on your website.

Important note: to use Website Conversion campaigns, an ad must meet a minimum threshold of 15 to 25 conversions during the conversion window you specify; if you don’t usually see 15-25 conversions in a week, consider optimizing for impressions or reach instead.

#4: Behavior Targeting

You want to target the people who are interested in your stuff. Duh!

Facebook’s behavior targeting is all about reaching people based on past purchase behavior, purchase intent, device usage, travel preferences, and other behavioral characteristics.

WordStream’s Facebook ad targeting options infographic compiled all of the behaviors you can target on Facebook. Here they are:

 facebook advertising behavioral targeting

Facebook has collected oodles of user-behavior data, and any data Facebook can’t track itself is obtained from its third-party data partners.

Use behavioral targeting to ensure that you get in front of the right audience segments at the right time.

#5: Interest Targeting

In the same vein, interest targeting allows you to reach your target audience based on the things they’re interested in (not very subtle, that Zuckerberg fella). This could be activities, hobbies, the pages they have liked, or a host of other things.

WordStream also compiled all of the possible interests you can target on Facebook in that same infographic. Here those are:

facebook advertsing interest targeting 

Facebook has collected its data on interests from:

  • Information users provide in their profile updates
  • Content they share
  • Keywords related to pages
  • Apps someone has used and liked
  • Ads they’ve clicked on in the past

Facebook will suggest interests in the ad tool, or you can search or browse for interests by yourself.

Use interest targeting to ensure that you get in front of the people who are likely to be interested in your product or service.

#6: Demographic Targeting

Facebook also offers some impressive demographic targeting options for advertisers. Look for yourself:

facebook advertising demographic targeting 

Location, age, gender, relationship status, education level, work, life events, political affiliation – they’re all here as you’d expect, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

Perhaps the most interesting demographic targeting feature available to you on Facebook is the financial option. Being able to ensure that the people who see your ad can afford the products or services you’re selling is a great way to trim wasted ad spend. (If you’re targeting an affluent marketing, check out my post on luxury marketing strategies.)

#7: Custom Audiences

Remarketing is incredibly valuable. This is not news.

People who see your remarketing ads are, on average, twice as likely to convert and three times more likely to engage. In other words, it’s a no-brainer.

facebook advertising custom audiences 

Facebook’s version of remarketing is called Custom Audiences. This gets your ads in front of three groups of people:

  • Website visitors: People who have visited your website or specific pages within a certain period of time. (Another reason you need the Facebook pixel!)
  • Contact lists: People who have shared their email or phone number with your company (e.g., they’ve signed up for your newsletter or attended one of your webinars). You upload this list to Facebook.
  • App users: People who have used your app.

Because these people already know your brand, you’ll want to use Custom Audiences to push your hard offers and to try to force these people to take an action. That could mean signing up for something, downloading an eBook, or booking a consultation.

Want to learn more? Check out our Ridiculously Awesome Guide to Facebook Remarketing.

#8: Engagement Ads on Wall Posts

Who’s more valuable to your business than the people who are the most likely to engage with your post?

That’s what I thought.

Facebook allows you to reach the people who react, comment, or share your stuff with Engagement Ads. 

facebook advertising wall engagement ads 

Wanna see those Facebook ad benchmarks?! They’re right here

Now, you must understand that these people are just a small-ish subset of your entire Facebook audience. Usually 10 percent of your followers account for 80 percent of all your engagement.

A lack of customer interaction may look funny to potential customers when they’re checking you out. Really, it’s probably just because only 5 percent of your followers will ever see your organic posts thanks to Facebook’s algorithm.

But by spending no more than $25 on engagement ads, you’ll reach your super fans. They’ll react and comment on your posts.

You’ll look amazing. And you just might win over those people who visit your page and discover an awesome, engaging business.

#9: Video Ads

Users watch 100 million of video on Facebook every day. Video isn’t just the future of Facebook – it’s huge right now.

You want to create memorable and inspirational videos so that people remember you when they’re in the market for your products or services. Video ads help bias people toward purchasing from your brand.

Oh, and the best part? Video ads are incredibly cheap. Views can cost you as little as a penny.

Now, if you don’t think your audience will be willing to engage with full length videos, consider leveraging the power of Facebook GIF ads: they’re just as dynamic, but infinitely more digestible.

facebook video ads 

Check out The Complete Guide to Facebook Video Ads for more on how to create an optimize your movin’ pictures.

#10: Lead Ads

Last but definitely not least, Lead Ads are super cheap and insanely effective (oh, and before I forget, lead ads are now available over on LinkedIn, too). This type of ad is great solution if you want prospects to:

  • Sign up for your company’s email newsletter.
  • Claim deals or discounts.
  • Receive price estimates.
  • Request a follow-up phone call.
  • Make appointments.

 facebook lead ads

Thanks to Lead Ads, people never leave Facebook to become a lead, eliminating an entire stage (the site visit) from your conversion funnel.

The worst thing you can do is send people to a painfully slow and needlessly complicated mobile landing page, where the odds of conversion are around 2.35 percent. People using smartphones don’t want to type in a bunch of information. They want solutions to their problems NOW.

Use Lead Ads to make it easy for you to acquire potential customers’ valuable contact information.  If you’re interested in creating your own, check out our guide to making high-converting Facebook lead ads.

About the Author

Allen Finn is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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The Best Types of Content for Local Businesses: Building Geo-Topical Authority

Posted by MiriamEllis

bestcontentlocalbusiness.jpg

Q: What kind of content should a local business develop?

A: The kind that converts!

Okay, you could have hit on that answer yourself, but as this post aims to demonstrate:

  1. There are almost as many user paths to conversion as there are customers in your city, and
  2. Your long-term goal is to become the authority in your industry and geography that consumers and search engines turn to.

Google’s widely publicized concept of micro-moments has been questioned by some local SEOs for its possible oversimplification of consumer behavior. Nevertheless, I think it serves as a good, basic model for understanding how a variety of human needs (I want to do, know, buy something, or go somewhere) leads people onto the web. When a local business manages to become a visible solution to any of these needs, the rewards can include:

  • Online traffic
  • In-store traffic
  • Transactions
  • Reviews/testimonials
  • Clicks-for-directions
  • Clicks-to-call
  • Clicks-to-website
  • Social sharing
  • Offline word-of-mouth
  • Good user metrics like time-on-page, low bounce rate, etc.

Takeaway: Consumers have a variety of needs and can bestow a variety of rewards that directly or indirectly impact local business reputation, rankings and revenue when these needs are well-met.

No surprise: it will take a variety of types of content publication to enjoy the full rewards it can bring.

Proviso: There will be nuances to the best types of content for each local business based on geo-industry and average consumer. Understandably, a cupcake bakery has a more inviting topic for photographic content than does a septic services company, but the latter shouldn’t rule out the power of an image of tree roots breaking into a septic line as a scary and effective way to convert property owners into customers. Point being, you’ll be applying your own flavor to becoming a geo-topical authority as you undertake the following content development work:

Foundational local business content development

These are the basics almost every local business will need to publish.

Customer service policy

Every single staff member who interacts with your public must be given a copy of your complete customer service policy. Why? A 2016 survey by the review software company GetFiveStars demonstrated that 57% of consumer complaints revolve around customer service and employee behavior. To protect your local business’ reputation and revenue, the first content you create should be internal and should instruct all forward-facing employees in approved basic store policies, dress, cleanliness, language, company culture, and allowable behaviors. Be thorough! Yes, you may wear a t-shirt. No, you may not text your friends while waiting on tables.

Customer rights guarantee

On your website, publish a customer-focused version of your policy. The Vermont Country Store calls this a Customer Bill of Rights which clearly outlines the quality of service consumers should expect to experience, the guarantees that protect them, and the way the business expects to be treated, as well.

NAP

Don’t overlook the three most important pieces of content you need to publish on your website: your company name, address, and phone number. Make sure they are in crawlable HTML (not couched in an image or a problematic format like Flash). Put your NAP at the top of your Contact Us page and in the site-wide masthead or footer so that humans and bots can immediately and clearly identify these key features of your business. Be sure your NAP is consistent across all pages for your site (not Green Tree Consulting on one page and Green Tree Marketing on another, or wrong digits in a phone number or street address on some pages). And, ideally, mark up your NAP with Schema to further assist search engine comprehension of your data.

Reviews/testimonials page

On your website, your reviews/testimonials page can profoundly impact consumer trust, comprising a combination of unique customer sentiment you’ve gathered via a form/software (or even from handwritten customer notes) and featured reviews from third-party review platforms (Google, Yelp). Why make this effort? As many as 92% of consumers now read online reviews and Google specifically cites testimonials as a vehicle for boosting your website’s trustworthiness and reputation.

Reviews/testimonials policy

Either on your Reviews/Testimonials page or on a second page of your website, clearly outline your terms of service for reviewers. Just like Yelp, you need to protect the quality of the sentiment-oriented content you publish and should let consumers know what you permit/forbid. Here’s a real-world example of a local business review TOS page I really like, at Barbara Oliver Jewelry.

Homepage

Apart from serving up some of the most fundamental content about your business to search engines, your homepage should serve two local consumer groups: those in a rush and those in research mode.

Pro tip: Don’t think of your homepage as static. Change up your content regularly there and track how this impacts traffic/conversions.

Contact Us page

On this incredibly vital website page, your content should include:

  • Complete NAP
  • All supported contact methods (forms, email, fax, live chat, after-hours hotline, etc.),
  • Thorough driving directions from all entry points, including pointers for what to look for on the street (big blue sign, next to red church, across the street from swim center, etc.)
  • A map
  • Exterior images of your business
  • Attributes like parking availability and wheelchair accessibility
  • Hours of operation
  • Social media links
  • Payment forms accepted (cash only, BitCoin, etc.)
  • Mention of proximity to major nearby points of interest (national parks, monuments, etc.)
  • Brief summary of services with a nod to attributes (“Stop by the Starlight tonight for late-night food that satisfies!”)
  • A fresh call-to-action (like visiting the business for a Memorial Day sale)

Store locator pages

For a multi-location businesses (like a restaurant chain), you’ll be creating content for a set of landing pages to represent each of your physical locations, accessed via a top-level menu if you have a few locations, or via a store locator widget if you have many. These should feature the same types of content a Contact Us page would for a single-location business, and can also include:

  • Reviews/testimonials for that location
  • Location-specific special offers
  • Social media links specific to that location
  • Proofs of that location’s local community involvement
  • Highlights of staff at that location
  • Education about availability of in-store beacons or apps for that location
  • Interior photos specific to that location
  • A key call-to-action

For help formatting all of this great content sensibly, please read Overcoming Your Fear of Local Landing Pages.

City landing pages

Similar to the multi-location business, the service area business (like a plumber) can also develop a set of customer-centric landing pages. These pages will represent each of the major towns or cities the business serves, and while they won’t contain a street address if the company lacks a physical location in a given area, they can contain almost everything else a Contact Us page or Store Locator page would, plus:

  • Documentation of projects completed in that city (text, photos, video)
  • Expert advice specific to consumers in that city, based on characteristics like local laws, weather, terrain, events, or customs
  • Showcasing of services provided to recognized brands in that city (“we wash windows at the Marriott Hotel,” etc.)
  • Reviews/testimonials from customers in that city
  • Proofs of community involvement in that city (events, sponsorships, etc.)
  • A key call-to-action

Product/service descriptions

Regardless of business model, all local businesses should devote a unique page of content to each major product or service they offer. These pages can include:

  • A thorough text description
  • Images
  • Answers to documented FAQs
  • Price/time quotes
  • Technical specs
  • Reviews of the service or product
  • Videos
  • Guarantees
  • Differentiation from competitors (awards won, lowest price, environmental standards, lifetime support, etc.)

For inspiration, I recommend looking at SolarCity’s page on solar roofing. Beautiful and informative.

Images

For many industries, image content truly sells. Are you “wowed” looking at the first image you see of this B&B in Albuquerque, the view from this restaurant in San Diego, or the scope of this international architectural firm’s projects? But even if your industry doesn’t automatically lend itself to wow-factor visuals, cleaning dirty carpets can be presented with high class and even so-called “boring” industries can take a visual approach to data that yields interesting and share-worthy/link-worthy graphics.

While you’re snapping photos, don’t neglect uploading them to your Google My Business listings and other major citations. Google data suggests that listing images influence click-through rates!

FAQ

The content of your FAQ page serves multiple purposes. Obviously, it should answer the questions your local business has documented as being asked by your real customers, but it can also be a keyword-rich page if you have taken the time to reflect the documented natural language of your consumers. If you’re just starting out and aren’t sure what types of questions your customers will ask, try AnswerThePublic and Q&A crowdsourcing sites to brainstorm common queries.

Be sure your FAQ page contains a vehicle for consumers to ask a question so that you can continuously document their inquiries, determine new topics to cover on the FAQ page, and even find inspiration for additional content development on your website or blog for highly popular questions.

About page

For the local customer in research mode, your About page can seal the deal if you have a story to tell that proves you are in the best possible alignment with their specific needs and desires. Yes, the About Us page can tell the story of your business or your team, but it can also tell the story of why your consumers choose you.

Take a look at this About page for a natural foods store in California and break it down into elements:

  • Reason for founding company
  • Difference-makers (95% organic groceries, building powered by 100% renewable energy)
  • Targeted consumer alignment (support local alternative to major brand, business inspired by major figure in environmental movement)
  • Awards and recognition from government officials and organizations
  • Special offer (5-cent rebate if you bring your own bag)
  • Timeline of business history
  • Video of the business story
  • Proofs of community involvement (organic school lunch program)
  • Links to more information

If the ideal consumer for this company is an eco-conscious shopper who wants to support a local business that will, in turn, support the city in which they live, this About page is extremely persuasive. Your local business can take cues from this real-world example, determining what motivates and moves your consumer base and then demonstrating how your values and practices align.

Calls to action

CTAs are critical local business content, and any website page which lacks one represents a wasted opportunity. Entrepreneur states that the 3 effective principles of calls to action are visibility, clear/compelling messaging, and careful choice of supporting elements. For a local business, calls to action on various pages of your website might direct consumers to:

  • Come into your location
  • Call
  • Fill out a form
  • Ask a question/make a comment or complaint
  • Livechat with a rep
  • Sign up for emails/texts or access to offers
  • Follow you on social media
  • Attend an in-store event/local event
  • Leave a review
  • Fill out a survey/participate in a poll

Ideally, CTAs should assist users in doing what they want to do in alignment with the actions the business hopes the consumer will take. Audit your website and implement a targeted CTA on any page currently lacking one. Need inspiration? This Hubspot article showcases mainly virtual companies, but the magic of some of the examples should get your brain humming.

Local business listings

Some of the most vital content being published about your business won’t exist on your website — it will reside on your local business listings on the major local business data platforms. Think Google My Business, Facebook, Acxiom, Infogroup, Factual, YP, Apple Maps, and Yelp. While each platform differs in the types of data they accept from you for publication, the majority of local business listings support the following content:

  • NAP
  • Website address
  • Business categories
  • Business description
  • Hours of operation
  • Images
  • Marker on a map
  • Additional phone numbers/fax numbers
  • Links to social, video, and other forms of media
  • Attributes (payments accepted, parking, wheelchair accessibility, kid-friendly, etc.)
  • Reviews/owner responses

The most important components of your business are all contained within a thorough local business listing. These listings will commonly appear in the search engine results when users look up your brand, and they may also appear for your most important keyword searches, profoundly impacting how consumers discover and choose your business.

Your objective is to ensure that your data is accurate and complete on the major platforms and you can quickly assess this via a free tool like Moz Check Listing. By ensuring that the content of your listings is error-free, thorough, and consistent across the web, you are protecting the rankings, reputation, and revenue of your local business. This is a very big deal!

Third-party review profiles

While major local business listing platforms (Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp) are simultaneously review platforms, you may need to seek inclusion on review sites that are specific to your industry or geography. For example, doctors may want to manage a review profile on HealthGrades and ZocDoc, while lawyers may want to be sure they are included on Avvo.

Whether your consumers are reviewing you on general or specialized platforms, know that the content they are creating may be more persuasive than anything your local business can publish on its own. According to one respected survey, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations and 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews to form a distinct impression of your business.

How can local businesses manage this content which so deeply impacts their reputation, rankings, and revenue? The answer is twofold:

  1. First, refer back to the beginning of this article to the item I cited as the first document you must create for your business: your customer service policy. You can most powerfully influence the reviews you receive via the excellence of your staff education and training.
  2. Master catching verbal and social complaints before they turn into permanent negative reviews by making your business complaint-friendly. And then move onto the next section of this article.

Owner responses

Even with the most consumer-centric customer service policies and the most detailed staff training, you will not be able to fully manage all aspects of a customer’s experience with your business. A product may break, a project be delayed, or a customer may have a challenging personality. Because these realities are bound to surface in reviews, you must take advantage of the best opportunity you have to manage sentiment after it has become a written review: the owner response.

You are not a silent bystander, sitting wordless on the sidelines while the public discusses your business. The owner response function provided by many review sites gives you a voice. This form of local business content, when properly utilized, can:

  • Save you money by winning back a dissatisfied existing customer instead of having to invest a great deal more in winning an entirely new one;
  • Inspire an unhappy customer to update a negative review with improved sentiment, including a higher star rating; and
  • Prove to all other potential customers who encounter your response that you will take excellent care of them.

You’ll want to respond to both positive and negative reviews. They are free Internet real estate on highly visible websites and an ideal platform for showcasing the professionalism, transparency, accountability, empathy, and excellence of your company. For more on this topic, please read Mastering the Owner Response to the Quintet of Google My Business Reviews.

Once you have developed and are managing all of the above content, your local business has created a strong foundation on the web. Depending on the competitiveness of your geo-industry, the above work will have won you a certain amount of local and organic visibility. Need better or broader rankings and more customers? It’s time to grow with:

Structural local business content development

These are options for creating a bigger structure for your local business on the web, expanding the terms you rank for and creating multiple paths for consumer discovery. We’ll use Google’s 4 micro-moment terms as a general guide + real-world examples for inspiration.

I want to do

  1. A homeowner wants to get her house in Colorado Springs ready to sell. In her search for tips, she encounters this Ultimate Home Seller’s To-Do Checklist & Infographic. Having been helped by the graphic, she may turn to the realty firm that created it for professional assistance.
  2. A dad wants to save money by making homemade veggie chips for his children. He’s impressed with the variety of applicable root vegetables featured in this 52-second video tutorial from Whole Foods. And now he’s also been shown where he can buy that selection of produce.
  3. A youth in California wants to become a mountain climber. He discovers this website page describing guided hikes up nearby Mount Whitney, but it isn’t the text that really gets him — it’s the image gallery. He can share those exciting photos with his grandmother on Facebook to persuade her to chaperone him on an adventure together.

I want to know

  1. A tech worker anywhere in America wants to know how to deal with digital eye strain and she encounters this video from Kaiser Permanente, which gives tips and also recommends getting an eye exam every 1–2 years. The worker now knows where she could go locally for such an exam and other health care needs.
  2. A homeowner in the SF Bay Area wants to know how to make his place more energy efficient to save on his bills. He finds this solar company’s video on YouTube with a ton of easy tips. They’ve just made a very good brand impression on the homeowner, and this company serves locally. Should he decide at some point to go the whole nine yards and install solar panels, this brand’s name is now connected in his mind with that service.
  3. A gardener wants to know how to install a drip irrigation system in her yard and she encounters this major hardware store brand’s video tutorial. There’s a branch of this store in town, and now she knows where she can find all of the components that will go into this project.

I want to go

  1. While it’s true that most I-want-to-go searches will likely lead to local pack results, additional website content like this special gluten-free menu an independently owned pizza place in Houston has taken the time to publish should seal the deal for anyone in the area who wants to go out for pizza while adhering to their dietary requirements.
  2. A busy Silicon Valley professional is searching Google because they want to go to a “quiet resort in California.” The lodgings, which have been lucky enough to be included on this best-of list from TripAdvisor, didn’t have to create this content — their guests have done it for them by mentioning phrases like “quiet place” and “quiet location” repeatedly in their reviews. The business just has to provide the experience, and, perhaps promote this preferred language in their own marketing. Winning inclusion on major platforms’ best-of lists for key attributes of your business can be very persuasive for consumers who want to go somewhere specific.
  3. An ornithologist is going to speak at a conference in Medford, OR. As he always does when he goes on a trip, he looks for a bird list for the area and encounters this list of local bird walks published by a Medford nature store. He’s delighted to discover that one of the walks corresponds with his travel dates, and he’s also just found a place to do a little shopping during his stay.

I want to buy

  1. Two cousins in Atlanta want to buy their uncle dinner for his birthday, but they’re on a budget. One sees this 600+ location restaurant chain’s tweet about how dumb it is to pay for chips and salsa. Check this out @cousin, he tweets, and they agree their wallets can stretch for the birthday dinner.
  2. An off-road vehicle enthusiast in Lake Geneva, WI wants to buy insurance for his ride, but who offers this kind of coverage? A local insurance agent posts his video on this topic on his Facebook page. Connection!
  3. A family in Hoboken, NJ wants to buy a very special cake for an anniversary party. A daughter finds these mouth-watering photos on Pinterest while a son finds others on Instagram, and all roads lead to the enterprising Carlo’s Bakery.

In sum, great local business content can encompass:

  • Website/blog content
  • Image content including infographics and photos
  • Social content
  • Video content
  • Inclusion in best-of type lists on prominent publications

Some of these content forms (like professional video or photography creation) represent a significant financial investment that may be most appropriate for businesses in highly competitive markets. The creation of tools and apps can also be smart (but potentially costly) undertakings. Others (like the creation of a tweet or a Facebook post) can be almost free, requiring only an investment of time that can be made by local businesses at all levels of commerce.

Becoming a geo-topical authority

Your keyword and consumer research are going to inform the particular content that would best serve the needs of your specific customers. Rand Fishkin recently highlighted here on the Moz Blog that in order to stop doing SEO like it’s 2012, you must aim to become an entity that Google associates with a particular topic.

For local business owners, the path would look something like when anyone in my area searches for any topic that relates to our company, we want to appear in:

  • local pack rankings with our Google My Business listing
  • major local data platforms with our other listings
  • major review sites with our profiles and owner responses
  • organic results with our website’s pages and posts
  • social platforms our customers use with our contributions
  • video results with our videos
  • image search results with our images
  • content of important third-party websites that are relevant either to our industry or to our geography

Basically, every time Google or a consumer reaches for an answer to a need that relates to your topic and city, you should be there offering up the very best content you can produce. Over time, over years of publication of content that consistently applies to a given theme, you will be taking the right steps to become an authority in Google’s eyes, and a household brand in the lives of your consumers.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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23 Facts to Pull Out When Someone Says Content Marketing Doesn’t Work

There are few guarantees in life beyond death and taxes, but one thing’s for certain – some people love to dunk on good ideas.

 Content marketing stats

Case in point, content marketing. Despite being a reliable, proven way to drive traffic to your site and increase leads and sales, some people just can’t help but talk smack about content. It’s too hard, it doesn’t work, there’s no point – all favored arguments of the content marketing naysayer.

Shame they’re all false.

Next time somebody says content marketing is a waste of time, why not pull out one of these 23 content marketing stats and facts to prove them wrong? You might change their mind – but if not, at least you’ll have the satisfaction of putting them in their place, and who doesn’t love that?

1. Content marketing is incredibly cost-effective and offers amazing ROI. Compared to traditional marketing programs, content marketing costs 62% less and generates approximately three times the volume of leads. (DemandMetric)

2. Content drives conversions like gangbusters. On average, conversion rates are six times higher for companies and brands using content marketing than those that aren’t, at 2.9% vs. 0.5%, respectively. (Aberdeen Group)

3. The biggest brands in the world realize that content is the future. Coca-Cola, for example, spends more money on content creation than it does on television advertising. (Contently)

4. Interactive content is big business – and getting bigger. Of content marketers currently using interactive content (like this interactive timeline of the history of Google AdWords), 75% plan to increase their budgets to produce more interactive content in the coming year. (SnapApp)

5. Marketers are shifting toward longer, more in-depth content. The average length of blog posts is getting longer, with the typical word count of a blog post increasing from 808 words in 2014 to 1,054 words in 2016. (Orbit Media Studios.)

6. Competition in content is fierce – but marketers are meeting the challenge head-on. Almost two thirds of marketers – 60% – produce at least one new content asset every single day. (eMarketer)

7. When it comes to content, longer is better. On average, long-form blog posts generate nine times more leads than short-form posts. (Curata)

Content marketing stats blog post length by industry 

8. It’s how decision-makers prefer to learn about you. 80% of executives and business owners prefer to receive information about a company through articles rather than advertisements. (Stratabeat)

9. All the cool kids are doing it. 88% of B2B marketers in North America use content marketing as part of their wider digital strategies. (Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs)

10. Buyers trust content. An overwhelming majority of B2B service and product buyers – 95% – consider content as trustworthy when evaluating a company and its offerings. (DemandGen)

11. Content can help prospective customers at every stage of their journey. Almost half – 48% – of marketers support between three and five of their customers’ purchasing stages with specialized content. (LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community)

Content marketing stats segments 

12. Content compliments traditional sales techniques perfectly. Approximately half of marketers – 49% – are producing content to align closely with various stages of the typical consumer sales cycle to aid sales teams and increase cross-departmental sales enablement. (LookBookHQ

13. Prospects WANT content – especially white papers. Approximately 78% of buyers relied on white papers to make a purchasing decision within the past year. (Curata)

14. Content is becoming crucial to the purchasing process. Nine out of 10 B2B product or service buyers say that online content has had a moderate to major impact on their purchasing decisions. (Lenati)

15. Content is incredibly valuable to many organizations. More than half of marketers – 58%  – said that “original written content” is their most important digital asset, more so than visual assets such as infographics and video content. (Social Media Examiner)

Content marketing stats popular content formats 

16. For many marketers, content remains a primary focus. Approximately 81% of marketers say that they plan to use more original written content in their campaigns in the future. (Ibid.)

17. Content can be amazingly versatile and reusable. Almost 60% of marketers reuse and repurpose content between two and five times. (LookBookHQ)

18. Content has become vital to many companies’ lead generation pipelines. Lead generation, sales, and lead nurturing are the top three organizational objectives for content marketing, at 85%, 84%, and 78%, respectively. (Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs)

19. Many companies are turning away from traditional advertising in favor of content. Approximately 28% of marketers say they have reduced their digital advertising budgets in order to produce more content assets. (Gartner)

Content marketing stats Gartner data 

20. Content offers amazing long-term ROI. One in 10 blog posts are “compounding,” meaning that organic search steadily increases traffic to these posts over time. (HubSpot)

21. Exceptional content delivers exceptional results. Compounding blog posts generate 38% of all blog traffic, and one compounding blog post generates as much traffic as SIX regular posts. (Ibid.)

22. Content aligns perfectly with shifts in media consumption habits. Almost three-quarters of marketers – 72% – believe that branded content is significantly more effective than traditional magazine advertisements. (Custom Content Council)

23. Content has become a digital marketing powerhouse. The median annual spend on content marketing in 2015 was $1.75 million, with roughly one in six enterprise-level organizations spending more than $10 million on content annually. (Content Marketing Institute)

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The Retirement of Google Site Search: An Advertiser’s Survival Guide

If you’re one of the thousands of sites using Google Site Search (GSS), you may have heard that Google is retiring the product later this year, and you’re likely wondering what’s happening to your in-site search tool.

Short answer: it’s being replaced with Custom Search Engine (CSE), and you’re being opted into the new tool come April 1, 2018. This change has sparked the attention of the SEO and SEM communities alike, and there are definite pros and cons to this change for both sites and advertisers.

The Old Google Site Search

google site search sunset

In-site search purely organic

Currently, sites can pay $100 a month to have a white-labeled in-site search function that allows users to search for content within their domain. No ads are served in these results and users have no idea Google is behind the search function of their favorite sites.

Additionally, advertisers who opt to advertise on the search partner network give up the ability to select specific placements, because they know the search partner network consists of a well curated network of content providers who opt into hosting Google search results.

What’s coming soon

google retires site search tool

In-site search will include ads

In the future, sites will no longer have the freedom to pay $100 per month for ad-free site search powered by Google. If they wish to continue using the Google solution, they will have an “ad-powered” in-site tool, that is branded by Google.

The search partner network will now represent a mixture of ecommerce and content oriented sites. Picking specific placements is still not available in AdWords (in Bing you’ve always been able to bid up, or exclude placements).

This is a pretty big deal – site owners are going to have to choose between a search experience that could drive users off their site via ads, or migrating to a new site search solution. There are pros and cons to both options, and advertisers need to pay attention so they know how to engage with Search Partner Network.

Staying with Google’s Custom Search Engine – The Pros

One of the biggest advantages to staying with CSE is how easy it is to use. CSE is designed to be a seamless way for websites to serve up content. It also clocks in at the very affordable “free” price.

As an advertiser, there’s a delicious victory in appearing on a competitor’s site and stealing away their traffic as the consumer was attempting to search for a product. This change opens the floodgates for all kinds of competitive sabotage, and requires no more thought than opting advertising spend into the search partner network.

excellent

The search partner network stands to increase overall market share. Traditionally, the search partner network has been mostly premium content sites (name-brand media and blogs). Auto-opting into ecommerce sites will add a more transactional flavor to the search partner network.

Staying with Custom Search Engine – The Cons

While it’s nice that you’ll be able to show up on competitor sites and steal their traffic, they’ll have the same access. By staying with CSE, you are opting into the very real possibility that competitor products will outrank your own and steal customers away.

There is no more white-labeling, which means the seamless brand experience is gone. It will be very clear Google is powering search on your site. Depending on your brand, this may cheapen the experience.

Last quarter, WordStream customers saw an average CTR of 2.91% (including all networks). With the increase in possible Search Partner Network impressions, there is an inherent risk that the quality will diminish. While it’s possible this change will mean more qualified impressions, it is equally possible budget will be diverted from the transactional Google SERP, to these third-party SERPs.

The good news is this change won’t be fully rolled out till April 2018. There’s time to decide if the pros of having an easy in-site search tool outweigh the cons. Should you decide you want to switch, there’s a few options:

Switch to a different in-site search provider

custom search engines

If potential competitors on your domain is a deal breaker, there’s plenty of time to switch providers. While there will be inherent costs (site downtime, development efforts, and the subscription fee), brand security is worth every penny.

Keep CSE and set up an AdSense account

Ads might be coming to your in-site search, and you can absolutely profit from it. AdSense can be profitable for high-traffic sites, and if you stay with CSE, you will be eligible to set up an AdSense account to profit off the ads in your in-site search.

AdSense is paid out based off of CPM (cost per thousand impressions). While there are stories of sites “hitting it big” with AdSense, most folks see somewhere between $1-$5 a day. It’s helpful to call out that your site is supported by ads, so your customers/prospects aren’t caught unaware by the sudden appearance of ads in your in-site search.

search partner network

Advertiser Tests: Turn off Search Partner Networks if you have been running it

If you’ve kept Search Partners active, consider a two- to four-week test of turning it off in your campaigns. If you see click-through rate (CTR) pick up, or the cost of your clicks go down, it’s a sign that the search partner network might not be for you anymore. If you see drop-offs, we may want to continue to capitalize on the search partner network.

Advertiser tests: Turn on Search Partner Networks in Q3/Q4

By the summer, enough folks will have rolled over to CSE that it would be worthwhile to test the new Search Partner Network market. Consider a 2-4 week test if your account is established (3-6 months old), or a longer test if your account is on the younger side (1-2 months). The goal should be a decrease in your average CPC, and conversions that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. If this doesn’t happen, Search Partner Network can be excluded again.

Are you excited about the change? Nervous? Tell us in the comments!   

Data sources

Average CTR figure is based on a sample of 2,708 WordStream client accounts across all verticals advertising between January 1 and March 31 2017. All campaigns included had search and search partner network enabled during this time.  

About the author

Navah Hopkins is part of the Customer Success and Thought Leadership team at WordStream, with a passion for innovation and all things data. Connect with her on twitter (@navahf) and linkedin.

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Launching a New Website: Your SEO Checklist – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Hovering your finger over the big red “launch” button for your new website? Hold off for just a second (or 660 of them, rather). There may be SEO considerations you haven’t accounted for yet, from a keyword-to-URL content map to sweeping for crawl errors to setting up proper tracking. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers five big boxes you need to check off before finally setting that site live.

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SEO checklist when launching a new website

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 going to talk about launching a new website and the SEO process that you’ve got to go through. Now, it’s not actually that long and cumbersome. But there are a few things that I put into broad categories, where if you do these as you’re launching a new site or before you launch that new site, your chances of having success with SEO long term and especially in those first few months is going to go way up.

1. Keyword to URL map for your content

So let’s get started with number one here. What I’m suggesting that you do is, as you look across the site that you’ve built, go and do some keyword research. There are a lot of Whiteboard Fridays and blog posts that we’ve written here at Moz about great ways to do keyword research. But do that keyword research and create a list that essentially maps all of the keywords you are initially targeting to all of the URLs, the pages that you have on your new website.

So it should look something like this. It’s got the URL, so RandsAnimals.com, targeting the keyword “amazing animals,” and here’s the page title and here’s the meta description. Then, I’ve got http://ift.tt/2nLC0oW, which is my page about lemurs, and that’s targeting “lemurs” and “lemur habits.” There’s the title.

You want to go through these and make sure that if you have an important keyword that you have not yet targeted, you do so, and likewise, that if you’ve got a URL, a page on your website that you have not yet intentionally targeted a keyword with, you make sure to do that as well. This can be a great way to go through a small site in the early stages and make sure that you’ve got some terms and phrases that you’re actually targeting. This will be also helpful when you do your rank tracking and your on-page optimization later on.

2. Accessibility, crawl, and UX

So what I want you to do here is to ask yourself:

I. “Are the pages and the content on my website accessible to search engines?”

There are some great ways to check these. You can use something like Screaming Frog or Google Search Console. You could use Moz Pro, or OnPage.org, to basically run a scan of your site and make sure that crawlers can get to all the pages, that you don’t have duplicate content, that you don’t have thin content or pages that are perceived to have no content at all, you don’t have broken links, you don’t have broken pages, all that kind of good stuff.

II. “Is the content accessible to all audiences, devices, and browsers?”

Next, we’re going to ask not about search engines and their crawlers, but about the audience, the human beings and whether your content is accessible to all the audiences, devices, and browsers that it could be. So this could mean things like screen readers for blind users, mobile devices, desktop devices, laptops, browsers of all different kinds. You’re going to want to use a tool like a browser checker to make sure that Chrome, Firefox, and… What’s Internet Explorer called now? Oh, man. They changed it. Microsoft Edge. Make sure that it works in all of them.

I like that I think that there’s a peanut gallery who’s going to yell it out. Like you’re watching this at lunch and you’re thinking, “Rand, if I yell it to you now, it won’t be recorded.” I know. I know.

III. “Do those pages load fast from everywhere?”

So I could use a tool like Google Speed Test. I can also do some proxy checking to make sure that from all sorts of regions, especially if I’m doing international targeting or if I know that I’m going to be targeting rural regions that my pages load fast from everywhere.

IV. “Is the design, UI, visuals, and experience enjoyable and easy for all users?”

You can do that with some in-house usability testing. You could do it informally with friends and family and existing customers if you have them. Or you could use something like Five Second Test or UsabilityHub to run some more formal testing online. Sometimes this can reveal things in your navigation or your content that’s just stopping people from having the experience that you want — that’s very easy to fix.

3. Setup of important services and tracking

So there’s a bunch of stuff that you just need to set up around a website. Those include:

  • Web analytics – Google Analytics is free and very, very popular. But you could also use something like Piwik, or if you’re bigger, Omniture. You’re going to want to do a crawl. OnPage or Moz Pro, or some of these other ones will check to make sure that your analytics are actually loaded on all of your pages.
  • Uptime tracking – If you haven’t checked them out, Pingdom has some very cheap plans for very early-stage sites. Then, if you get bigger, they can get more expensive and more sophisticated.
  • Retargeting and remarketing – Even if you don’t want to pay now and you’re not going to use any of the services, go ahead and put the retargeting pixels from at least Facebook and Google onto your website, on all of your pages, so that those audiences are accessible to you later on in the future.
  • Set up some brand alerts – The cheapest option is Google Alerts, which is free, but it’s not very good at all. If you’re using Moz Pro, there’s Fresh Web Explorer alerts, which is great. Mention.net is also good, Talkwalker, Trackur. There’s a number of options there that are paid and a little bit better.
  • Google Search Console – If you haven’t set that up already, you’re going to want to do that, as well as Bing Webmaster Tools. Both of those can reveal some errors to you. So if you have accessibility issues, that’s a good free way to go.
  • Moz/Ahrefs/SEMRush/Searchmetrics/Raven/etc. – If you are doing SEO, chances are good that you’re going to want to set up some type of an SEO tool to track your rankings and do a regular crawl, show you competitive opportunities and missteps, potentially show you link-building opportunities, all that kind of stuff. I would urge you to check out one of probably these five. There are a few other ones. But these five are pretty popular — Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush, Searchmetrics, or Raven. Those are some of the best known ones certainly out there.
  • Social and web profiles – Again, important to set those up before you launch your new site, so that no one goes and jumps on the name of your Facebook page, or your Pinterest page, or your Instagram profile page, or your YouTube page, or your SlideShare page. I know you might be saying, “But Rand, I don’t use SlideShare.” No, not today. But you might in the future, and trust me, you’re going to want to claim Rand’s Animals on YouTube and SlideShare. You’re going to want to claim whatever your website’s name is. I’ll go claim this one later. But you’ve got to set all those up, because you don’t want someone else taking them later. I would urge you to go down the full list of all the social media sites out there, all the web profiles out there, just to make sure that you’ve got your brand secured.

4. Schema, rich snippets, OpenGraph, etc

Optimization in general, more broadly. So this is where I’m essentially going through these URLs and I’m making sure, “Hey, okay. I know I’ve targeted these keywords and I already did sort of my page title meta description. But let me check if there are other opportunities.”

Are there content opportunities or image search opportunities? Do I have rich snippet opportunities? Like maybe, this is probably not the case, but I could have user review stars for my Rand’s Animals website. I don’t know if people particularly love this lemur GIF versus that lemur GIF. But those can be set up on your site, and you can see the description of how to do that on Google and Bing. They both have resources for that. The same is true for Twitter and Facebook, who offer cards so that you show up correctly in there. If you’re using OpenGraph, I believe that also will correctly work on LinkedIn and other services like that. So those are great options.

5. Launch amplification & link outreach plan

So one of the things that we know about SEO is that you need links and engagement and those types of signals in order to rank well. You’re going to want to have a successful launch day and launch week and even a launch month. That means, asking the question in advance:

I. “Who will help amplify your launch and why? Why are they going to do this?”

If you can identify, “These people, I know they personally want to help out,” or, “They are friends and family. I have business relationships with them. They’re customers of mine. They’re journalists who promised to cover this. They are bloggers who care a lot about this subject and need stuff to write about.” Whatever it is, if you can identify those people, create a list, and start doing that direct outreach, that is certainly something that you should do. I would plan in advance for that, and I would warn folks of when you were going to do that launch. That way, when launch day rolls around, you have some big, exciting news to announce. Two weeks after you launch to say, “Hey, I launched a new website a couple weeks ago,” you’re no longer news. You’re no longer quite as special, and therefore your chances of coverage go down pretty precipitously after the first few days.

II. “What existing relationships, profiles, and sites should I update to create buzz (and accuracy)?”

I would also ask what existing relationships and websites and profiles do you already have that you can and should update to create buzz and actually to create accuracy. So this would be things like everything from your email signature to all your social profiles that we’ve talked about, both the ones you’ve claimed and the ones that you personally have. You should go and update your LinkedIn. You should go and update your Twitter page. You should go and update Facebook. All of those kinds of things, you may want to go and update. About.me if you have a profile there, or if you’re a designer, maybe your Dribbble profile, whatever you’ve got.

*Then, you should also be thinking about, “Do I have content that I’ve contributed across the web over the years, on all sorts of other websites, where if I went and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a new site. Could you point to that new site, instead of my old one, or to my new site that I’ve just launched, instead of my old employer who I’ve left?'” you can do that as well, and it’s certainly a good idea.

III. “What press coverage, social coverage, or influencer outreach can I do?”

The last thing I would ask about are people who are maybe more distant from you, but press coverage, social coverage, or influencer outreach, similar to the, “Who will help you amplify and why?” You should be able to make a list of those folks, those outlets, find some email addresses, send a pitch if you’ve got one, and start to build those relationships.

Launch day is a great reason to do outreach. When you’re launching something new is the right time to do that, and that can help you get some amplification as well.

All right. Hopefully, when you launch your new site, you’re going to follow this checklist, you’re going to dig into these details, and you’re going to come away with a much more successful SEO experience.

If you’ve launched a website and you see things that are missing from this list, you see other recommendations that you’ve got, please, by all means, leave them in the comments. We’d love to chat about them.

We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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