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AdWords Event Tracking Made Easy: How to Track Custom Conversions

Custom event tracking is an amazing way to quantify all those valuable actions taken on your website that regular old conversion tracking can’t capture.

In most instances, tracking form fills on your website as conversions is as simple as using the URL from a “Thank You” page and setting up a goal in Google Analytics or AdWords that says “hey, this was a valuable action.”

In some cases, though, a valuable action—something you might want to track as a conversion—occurs on a single page; no “Thank You” page means no URL change, and that makes conversion tracking tricky.

adwords custom conversion

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is where custom event tracking comes into play. It allows you to measure the results of some on page action (like, say, a form fill in a light box or a product added to a shopping cart) by wrapping that action in code; upon completion, a conversion is recorded without bringing your prospect to a new page.

It’s super versatile and, in some cases, necessary for account success.

In this post I’m going to walk you through the complete process of setting up custom event tracking for your AdWords account, from establishing and importing Google Analytics goals to creating your custom event code and, finally, implementing it on your site.

Custom Event Tracking: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Event tracking is a way to record certain user interactions on your website. Depending on your business, some of these actions could be worth optimizing for in AdWords. Some examples of events that can be tracked are:

  • Button clicks (the most common, and the once we will be discussing today)
  • Downloads
  • Log-ins
  • Adding an item to a shopping cart
  • Social sharing

Setting up a custom event to track conversions is not as easy as setting up a Goal using a destination URL (the way most lead gen conversions are recorded) but it isn’t as scary as it sounds.

If you use a lightbox or any other type of dynamic on-page pop-up as the host for a form fill, you’ve certainly asked yourself how to track form fills that are not pushed through to a “Thank You” page. Here is an example of a lightbox form fill pop-up that does not push through to a “Thank You” Page when filled out:

example of a light box form fill with no landing page

Screenshot courtesy of EveryUSB

Now, some would argue that they do not have a need to create a goal on form fills because they can track leads in their CRM.

While it is important to pull this data into your CRM to collect leads, I would argue that it is equally (maybe even more) important to be able to track these leads as conversions in your Analytics & AdWords accounts. This is what will allow you to make those essential data backed decisions in your AdWords account. So basically I’m saying…

Please don’t not implement custom events.

If you’re capturing value (whether that’s new leads or purchases) without the use of “Thank You” pages, custom events are the only way to record vital data that represents performance and, as a result, the success of your business. Once you’ve set up a custom event goal in Analytics and added its code to your site (more on that in a minute), you will be able to track this information in AdWords. This provides direction as to which areas of your account are successful already and which ones are falling short. Since you’re spending money on advertising, this is, you know, pretty important.

With that…

Building and Implementing Your Custom Event Tracking Code

There are a few options when it comes to creating custom event tracking templates but Raven Tools is my favorite (and it’s free $$). Head on over to their free GA Event Tracking Code page to get started.

Don’t be intimidated by the custom form fields: you could literally type in anything you wanted to and it would work. I would recommend inputting text that can help you identify the specific goal you’re creating. This will help avoid any confusion in the future if you happen to build out multiple events.

event tracking code builder for custom events

Only the first two fields, “General Category” and “General Action,” are required for you to be able to move on to the next step.

In my example (above) I used “Form Fill” as the General Category because…you guessed it… I’m tracking a form fill as the conversion. Feel free to use anything you think would help identify the goal. In the past I have used; “Submit,” “Lead Capture,” “Form Submission,” Etc.

In the “General Action” field, I used “Click” because this is the action being taken to trigger the conversion.

The 3rd section, “General Label,” is optional and not needed to move on to the next step. It is helpful however if you have multiple landing pages and you want to track individual goals in Google Analytics  for each landing page. It can also be helpful if you offer more than one service/product and want to segment goals out accordingly. In my example I just wrote “Landing Page XYZ.” Try using something that will help you identify the landing page where the goal is taking place.

identify landing page-free events to create custom conversion tracking for

The “General Value” field is one that I rarely use but can come in handy in certain situations (like, say, Ecommerce). For this example, we will be leaving this blank because each form fill (event action) will be worth the same value to us.

The final field is a drop down that will give you the option to count the click as an interaction or to make the event a “non-interaction.” I always count my event clicks as interactions because, well, what’s the point otherwise?

When all the required fields are completed (or at least the first 2) you will see a code generate directly underneath where you were just inputting your text. It’ll look something like this:

custom conversion code for button instead of lp

As you can see, your fields have been dynamically added into the snippet of code that will be used on your website.

After this code is generated it needs to be sent off to your developer or whoever oversees the changes to the backend of your website. If you are the implementer of new code, leave this tab open and hang tight.

The code needs to be built into the actual submit button in the form that you are tracking (see the red box below).

adwords custom event tracking example of button for code

Once implemented, this will allow you to track every time someone clicks that submit button as a conversion in AdWords. Well, as soon as you turn that new, actionable button into a goal in GA, that is.

Creating a Custom Event in Google Analytics

The hard part is over! We built out the code and passed it on to your developer. Smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Head on over to your Analytics account and click on the “Admin” tab in the bottom left-hand corner.

google analytics custom event tracking admin tab

Go all the way over to the right-hand side of the page and look for a flag symbol with the word “Goals” next to it.

google analytics custom event tracking goals tab

Once in here click on “+ New Goal.” In the next step we want to ignore all of the fancy pre-set templates that are offered to us and we want to go down and select the “Custom” option and click continue.

cutom conversion creation in google analytics

Go ahead and name your goal and then go down and select the “Event” option.

goal description in google analytics for conversion action

In the next step we are going to have to refer to the Raven Tools window that I told you to keep open. You didn’t close it, did you? (If you did, no matter: just make sure you know the values you entered into the form fill verbatim).

Go ahead and copy the fields that you original filled out in the Raven Tools builder and paste them into the Google Analytics Goal you’re creating so it looks like this:

custom conversion parameters google analytics

Note that the text you are entering in Google Analytics must be identical to the text that you or your developer added to your CTA button. This is VERY Important. This is the only way the event will trigger.

Importing Your Custom Google Analytics Goals into AdWords

First, you’ll need to make sure that your Analytics and AdWords accounts are linked.

Once linked, open up your AdWords account, click “Tools”, and then “Conversions” from the drop-down menu.

google adwords new conversion creation tab

Once you’ve clicked the “Conversions” button you will be taken to a section that shows all your conversion actions currently in the account. On the left-hand side of this page you will want to click on “Google Analytics” to move on to the next step.

adwords google analytics integration

You should see any goals that you have just created as well as any other goals in your Analytics account that you have not imported. Select the ones you would like to track inside of your AdWords account and click “Import”.

adwords custom conversion import from google analytics

Annnnd that’s it: You just successfully imported your custom event conversion goal from Analytics in AdWords! Go to your website and run a test conversion to see if it triggers inside of Google Analytics and AdWords, respectively (note that the sync can take up to 24 hours: be patient before you start troubleshooting).

Final Thoughts

Between regular URL-based conversions and custom events, you should now be able to track most of the valuable actions being taken on your site.

The more data you have in your AdWords account the easier it will be for you to optimize and reduce wasted spend; custom event tracking is a scary looking—but relatively simple—way to give yourself more ammo for account optimization. And who doesn’t need that?

Let’s recap. Today you have…

  • Built the tracking code for a custom event
  • Implemented it on the button for your conversion event (or asked your developer to do it for you)
  • Created a corresponding conversion goal in Google Analytics
  • Imported it into AdWords so that you can start tracking leads

And now, you’re ready to start optimizing for more—and more complex—conversion actions. Good luck!

About the Author

Griffin is an award winning Senior Paid Search Strategist on the Managed Services team at WordStream. He has been with the company for over 3 years and loves troubleshooting account issues with his teammates. When he is not at work he is either bonding with his 2 doggos Tyson & Mookie, playing video games, or taking on his next ten minute hobby. Follow him on Twitter @GriffinNauss.

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How to Deal with Fake Negative Reviews on Google

Posted by JoyHawkins

Fake reviews are a growing problem for those of us that own small businesses. In the online world, it’s extremely easy to create a new account and leave either a positive or negative review for any business — regardless of whether you’ve ever tried to hire them.

Google has tons of policies for users that leave reviews. But in my experience they’re terrible at automatically catching violations of these policies. At my agency, my team spends time each month carefully monitoring reviews for our clients and their competitors. The good news is that if you’re diligent at tracking them and can make a good enough case for why the reviews are against the guidelines, you can get them removed by contacting Google on Twitter, Facebook, or reporting via the forum.

Recently, my company got hit with three negative reviews, all left in the span of 5 minutes:

Two of the three reviews were ratings without reviews. These are the hardest to get rid of because Google will normally tell you that they don’t violate the guidelines — since there’s no text on them. I instantly knew they weren’t customers because I’m really selective about who I work with and keep my client base small intentionally. I would know if someone that was paying me was unhappy.

The challenge with negative reviews on Google

The challenge is that Google doesn’t know who your customers are, and they won’t accept “this wasn’t a customer” as an acceptable reason to remove a review, since they allow people to use anonymous usernames. In most cases, it’s extremely difficult to prove the identity of someone online.

The other challenge is that a person doesn’t have to be a customer to be eligible to leave a review. They have to have a “customer experience,” which could be anything from trying to call you and getting your voicemail to dropping by your office and just browsing around.

How to respond

When you work hard to build a good, ethical business, it’s always infuriating when a random person has the power to destroy what took you years to build. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit upset when these reviews came in. Thankfully, I was able to follow the advice I’ve given many people in the last decade, which is to calm down and think about what your future prospects will see when they come across review and the way you respond to it.

Solution: Share your dilemma

I decided to post on Twitter and Facebook about my lovely three negative reviews, and the response I got was overwhelming. People had really great and amusing things to say about my dilemma.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Whoever was behind these three reviews was seeking to harm my business. The irony is that they actually helped me, because I ended up getting three new positive reviews as a result of sharing my experience with people that I knew would rally behind me.

For most businesses, your evangelists might not be on Twitter, but you could post about it on your personal Facebook profile. Any friends that have used your service or patronized your business would likely respond in the same manner. It’s important to note that I never asked anyone to review me when posting this — it was simply the natural response from people that were a fan of my company and what we stand for. If you’re a great company, you’ll have these types of customers and they should be the people you want to share this experience with!

But what about getting the negative reviews removed?

In this case, I was able to get the three reviews removed. However, there have also been several cases where I’ve seen Google refuse to remove them for others. My plan B was to post a response to the reviews offering these “customers” a 100% refund. After all, 100% of zero is still zero — I had nothing to lose. This would also ensure that future prospects see that I’m willing to address people that have a negative experience, since even the best businesses in the world aren’t perfect. As much as I love my 5-star rating average, studies have shown that 4.2–4.5 is actually the ideal average star rating for purchase probability.

Have you had an experience with fake negative reviews on Google? If so, I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment.

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7 Ways to Stop Burning Your AdWords Budget

Every brand wants optimum visibility in the search results. Try though they might, most fail.

Because of the obvious value of appearing atop the first page of search results pages, the war to rank your homepage, landing pages and key pages of your website is furious.

burning money in adwords

The competition expands relentlessly while more often than not, the onscreen real estate you covet has shrunk to a piece of glass with dimensions roughly the size of a half slice of bread.

More bad news: achieving top spots on organic search generally requires owning one of the most authoritative website in your industry. Achieving as much now takes years of commitment to creating remarkable content and optimizing it better than the rest of the pack.

I’ll segue to paid search now, and ask you to realize one last hurdle: atop most Google search engine results pages (SERPs) users discover ads.

For searches such as these, the greatest blog post, ebook, study, video, infographic, or product page in the world does not outrank the AdWords listings.

Pay-per-click ads usually rule the top of search results.

Now for the good news…

You can pay for the privilege to get a link to your page to appear there. But don’t let the casual pay-per-click (PPC) proponent fool you. It’s not easy to justify continuously investing marketing dollars in the program.

You have to get good at it. You have to make more than you spend.

Let’s look at seven ways to avoid burning money on AdWords, so you can prosper from the world’s most used ad network.

1. Squash click fraud

If not contained, click fraud can murder your PPC budget. Last year, CNBC reported alarming stats on the matter:

  • Nearly 20 percent of total digital ad spend was wasted due to click fraud in 2016.
  • Click fraud will cost brands $16.4 billion globally in 2017.

Whoa.

Search engines tell you they do everything in their power to combat click fraud and invalid traffic, but you’d be foolish to rely on their measures only.

The way to protect your budget is to respond proactively with a tool such as ClickCease expressly designed to enable you to combat click fraud.

Fueled by insights from activity logs, AdWords buyers can identify IP addresses, referring websites and geographic territories where fraudulent activity comes from and adjust accordingly.

stop click fraud

You can also drastically reduce click fraud on the Display Network by using exclusions and managed placements.

2. Focus on buyer intent

All searches are not created equal. With CPCs rising every year, search marketers can no longer afford to think of all searches for specific keywords as quality buyer intent signals.

saving money in adwords

Ignoring signals can severely diminish performance. Understand the ways prospects engage with your brand at different stages of the sales funnel to align your campaign accordingly and make the most relevant offer at each level of search intent.

3. Bid on branded keywords

Is it wise to trim your budget by not bidding on searches for your brand or products? Many would say, “Yes, we’ll rank for those phrases anyway.”

But realize this: if you don’t control the ads that appear when your brand name is searched, one or more of your competitors will. That’s dangerous.

branded searches in adwords

“The number one reason to bid on your own brand name is to make sure your competitors don’t have an ad that ranks higher than your organic result and steal valuable clicks in the process,” writes Joe Putname of iSpionage. (Note: their service notifies you when competitors bid on your brand terms.)

Another thing to understand is branded clicks tend to be inexpensive. You can expect super high Quality Scores for branded terms, which keeps your click costs very low.

Your average CPC is likely to be just a fraction of the price you pay for other keywords. And they convert well too.

4. Beware of broad match

Understand the difference between broad match and exact match.

With broad match—the default setting for AdWords buys—your ads will be shown for searches that are related to your keywords, not specifically the precise keywords.

Broad match is the way to go when you want to reach the widest audience possible. However, “banking” on broad match hits your bank account harder.

save money with more refined adwords match types

You get more impressions that are less targeted. Inevitably, you wind up paying for clicks from people who don’t align well with your offer.

For example, you may be tempted to use a keyword like “guitar,” but because it’s so broad, you may generate clicks (and charges for those clicks) far from searches you covet, such as “learn how to play finger style guitar.” That’s not likely to result in a sale.

It should be easy to see how buyer intent enters into the formula and how the match type you select can affect your spend.

5. Use negative keywords

Choosing what not to target is another key to curbing costs and realizing superior ROI in AdWords.

Use negative keywords for your AdWords buys to eliminate unwanted traffic and the costs it incurs. With negative keywords, you dictate to Google specific words that appear in user searches for which you do not want to serve your ad.

adwords negative keywords

Negative keywords are one of the most commonly neglected areas in paid search

Look for search terms similar to your keywords, but likely to cater to customers searching for a different product, service, or content.

For example, if you sell birthday cakes, you might consider using negative keywords such as “birthday cake ideas” or “birthday cake recipes,” keywords that suggest searchers are looking to learn or DIY instead of purchase.

According to ClickCease, “free”, “cheap”, and “wholesale” are prime contenders for your negative keywords lists (unless your products are one of those things).

6. Aim lower

What I’m talking about here sounds odd, doesn’t it? Aim lower? Whether you’re learning paid or organic search, you’ve grown accustomed to gathering advice about ranking in the highest possible position.

With AdWords, you pay more to be number one. Consider NOT being number one.

This tip comes from Oribi, where blogger Asi Dayan writes, “Being in the first position usually requires a much higher bid compared to what it takes to be second or third, even if you have a high Quality Score, and in most cases will dramatically increase your CPA, up to the point that it is not cost-effective.”

Dayan goes on to explain by focusing on average positions lower than number one, your ads will still be seen and clicked on in high volumes, but your spending will be reduced.

7. Measure your results

A cardinal sin in the PPC arena—and a sure way to burn through ad dollars—is failing to closely monitor results. And please note, clicks do not equate to results; conversions do.

There are a number of nuances to conversion tracking over which you have extensive control. If the process sounds daunting you, check out this informative four-minute tutorial video from Google to understand the basics for getting started.

The video also explains how to use your conversion data to improve your cost-per-click (CPC) and overall results by raising your bids on keywords and ads that are more likely to convert.

Make AdWords pay

Clearly, buying into the Google AdWords program is a shortcut to appearing atop the search engine results pages that can contribute to the growth of your brand.

However, your pursuits in PPC won’t last long if your investments are not paying you back. You may have the luxury of having the budget to allow for some ramp time to achieve positive ROI, but the longer the time frame is, the more expensive and dangerous it is.

In the interest of cashing in on one of modern media’s most prominent channel, you need to learn how to avoid making costly mistakes, reduce customer acquisition costs and make AdWords pay.

About the author

Barry Feldman is the founder of Feldman Creative and author of several marketing books including The Road to Recognition. He’s a content marketing strategist, copywriter, creative director, podcaster, and speaker. Barry educates digital marketers on his blog, The Point, and many other sites across the web. Follow him on Twitter @FeldmanCreative.

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The Google Ranking Factor You Can Influence in an Afternoon [Case Study]

Posted by sanfran

What does Google consider “quality content”? And how do you capitalize on a seemingly subjective characteristic to improve your standing in search?

We’ve been trying to figure this out since the Hummingbird algorithm was dropped in our laps in 2013, prioritizing “context” over “keyword usage/frequency.” This meant that Google’s algorithm intended to understand the meaning behind the words on the page, rather than the page’s keywords and metadata alone.

This new sea change meant the algorithm was going to read in between the lines in order to deliver content that matched the true intent of someone searching for a keyword.

Write longer content? Not so fast!

Watching us SEOs respond to Google updates is hilarious. We’re like a floor full of day traders getting news on the latest cryptocurrency.

One of the most prominent theories that made the rounds was that longer content was the key to organic ranking. I’m sure you’ve read plenty of articles on this. We at Brafton, a content marketing agency, latched onto that one for a while as well. We even experienced some mixed success.

However, what we didn’t realize was that when we experienced success, it was because we accidentally stumbled on the true ranking factor.

Longer content alone was not the intent behind Hummingbird.

Content depth

Let’s take a hypothetical scenario.

If you were to search the keyword “search optimization techniques,” you would see a SERP that looks similar to the following:

Nothing too surprising about these results.

However, if you were to go through each of these 10 results and take note of the major topics they discussed, theoretically you would have a list of all the topics being discussed by all of the top ranking sites.

Example:

Position 1 topics discussed: A, C, D, E, F

Position 2 topics discussed: A, B, F

Position 3 topics discussed: C, D, F

Position 4 topics discussed: A, E, F

Once you finished this exercise, you would have a comprehensive list of every topic discussed (A–F), and you would start to see patterns of priority emerge.

In the example above, note “topic F” is discussed in all four pieces of content. One would consider this a cornerstone topic that should be prioritized.

If you were then to write a piece of content that covered each of the topics discussed by every competitor on page one, and emphasized the cornerstone topics appropriately, in theory, you would have the most comprehensive piece of content on that particular topic.

By producing the most comprehensive piece of content available, you would have the highest quality result that will best satisfy the searcher’s intent. More than that, you would have essentially created the ultimate resource center for everything a person would want to know about that topic.

How to identify topics to discuss in a piece of content

At this point, we’re only theoretical. The theory makes logical sense, but does it actually work? And how do we go about scientifically gathering information on topics to discuss in a piece of content?

Finding topics to cover:

  • Manually: As discussed previously, you can do it manually. This process is tedious and labor-intensive, but it can be done on a small scale.
  • Using SEMrush: SEMrush features an SEO content template that will provide guidance on topic selection for a given keyword.
  • Using MarketMuse: MarketMuse was originally built for the very purpose of content depth, with an algorithm that mimics Hummingbird. MM takes a largely unscientific process and makes it scientific. For the purpose of this case study, we used MarketMuse.

The process

https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

Watch the process in action

https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

1. Identify content worth optimizing

We went through a massive list of keywords our blog ranked for. We filtered that list down to keywords that were not ranking number one in SERPs but had strong intent. You can also do this with core landing pages.

Here’s an example: We were ranking in the third position for the keyword “financial content marketing.” While this is a low-volume keyword, we were enthusiastic to own it due to the high commercial intent it comes with.

2. Evaluate your existing piece

Take a subjective look at your piece of content that is ranking for the keyword. Does it SEEM like a comprehensive piece? Could it benefit from updated examples? Could it benefit from better/updated inline embedded media? With a cursory look at our existing content, it was clear that the examples we used were old, as was the branding.

3. Identify topics

As mentioned earlier, you can do this in a few different ways. We used MarketMuse to identify the topics we were doing a good job of covering as well as our topic gaps, topics that competitors were discussing, but we were not. The results were as follows:

Topics we did a good job of covering:

  • Content marketing impact on branding
  • Impact of using case studies
  • Importance of infographics
  • Business implications of a content marketing program
  • Creating articles for your audience

Topics we did a poor job of covering:

  • Marketing to millennials
  • How to market to existing clients
  • Crafting a content marketing strategy
  • Identifying and tracking goals

4. Rewrite the piece

Considering how out-of-date our examples were, and the number of topics we had neglected to discuss, we determined a full rewrite of the piece was warranted. Our writer, Mike O’Neill, was given the topic guidance, ensuring he had a firm understanding of everything that needed to be discussed in order to create a comprehensive article.

5. Update the content

To maintain our link equity, we kept the same URL and simply updated the old content with the new. Then we updated the publish date. The new article looks like this, with updated content depth, modern branding, and inline visuals.

6. Fetch as Google

Rather than wait for Google to reindex the content, I wanted to see the results immediately (and it is indeed immediate).

7. Check your results

Open an incognito window and see your updated position.

Promising results:

We have run more than a dozen experiments and have seen positive results across the board. As demonstrated in the video, these results are usually realized within 60 seconds of reindexing the updated content.

Keyword target

Old Ranking

New ranking

“Financial content marketing”

3

1

“What is a subdomain”

16

6

“Best company newsletters”

32

4

“Staffing marketing”

7

3

“Content marketing agency”

16

1

“Google local business cards”

16

5

“Company blog”

7

4

“SEO marketing tools”

9

3

Of those tests, here’s another example of this process in action for the keyword, “best company newsletters.”

Before:

After

Assumptions:

From these results, we can assume that content depth and breadth of topic coverage matters — a lot. Google’s algorithm seems to have an understanding of the competitive topic landscape for a keyword. In our hypothetical example from before, it would appear the algorithm knows that topics A–F exist for a given keyword and uses that collection of topics as a benchmark for content depth across competitors.

We can also assume Google’s algorithm either a.) responds immediately to updated information, or b.) has a cached snapshot of the competitive content depth landscape for any given keyword. Either of these scenarios is very likely because of the speed at which updated content is re-ranked.


In conclusion, don’t arbitrarily write long content and call it “high quality.” Choose a keyword you want to rank for and create a comprehensive piece of content that fully supports that keyword. There is no guarantee you’ll be granted a top position — domain strength factors play a huge role in rankings — but you’ll certainly improve your odds, as we have seen.

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The Biggest Mistake Digital Marketers Ever Made: Claiming to Measure Everything

Posted by willcritchlow

Digital marketing is measurable.

It’s probably the single most common claim everyone hears about digital, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen conference speakers talk about it (heck, I’ve even done it myself).

I mean, look at those offline dinosaurs, the argument goes. They all know that half their spend is wasted — they just don’t know which half.

Maybe the joke’s on us digital marketers though, who garnered only 41% of global ad spend even in 2017 after years of strong growth.

Unfortunately, while we were geeking out about attribution models and cross-device tracking, we were accidentally triggering a common human cognitive bias that kept us anchored on small amounts, leaving buckets of money on the table and fundamentally reducing our impact and access to the C-suite.

And what’s worse is that we have convinced ourselves that it’s a critical part of what makes digital marketing great. The simplest way to see this is to realize that, for most of us, I very much doubt that if you removed all our measurement ability we’d reduce our digital marketing investment to nothing.

In truth, of course, we’re nowhere close to measuring all the benefits of most of the things we do. We certainly track the last clicks, and we’re not bad at tracking any clicks on the path to conversion on the same device, but we generally suck at capturing:

  • Anything that happens on a different device
  • Brand awareness impacts that lead to much later improvements in conversion rate, average order value, or lifetime value
  • Benefits of visibility or impressions that aren’t clicked
  • Brand affinity generally

The cognitive bias that leads us astray

All of this means that the returns we report on tend to be just the most direct returns. This should be fine — it’s just a floor on the true value (“this activity has generated at least this much value for the brand”) — but the “anchoring” cognitive bias means that it messes with our minds and our clients’ minds. Anchoring is the process whereby we fixate on the first number we hear and subsequently estimate unknowns closer to the anchoring number than we should. Famous experiments have shown that even showing people a totally random number can drag their subsequent estimates up or down.

So even if the true value of our activity was 10x the measured value, we’d be stuck on estimating the true value as very close to the single concrete, exact number we heard along the way.

This tends to result in the measured value being seen as a ceiling on the true value. Other biases like the availability heuristic (which results in us overstating the likelihood of things that are easy to remember) tend to mean that we tend to want to factor in obvious ways that the direct value measurement could be overstating things, and leave to one side all the unmeasured extra value.

The mistake became a really big one because fortunately/unfortunately, the measured return in digital has often been enough to justify at least a reasonable level of the activity. If it hadn’t been (think the vanishingly small number of people who see a billboard and immediately buy a car within the next week when they weren’t otherwise going to do so) we’d have been forced to talk more about the other benefits. But we weren’t. So we lazily talked about the measured value, and about the measurability as a benefit and a differentiator.

The threats of relying on exact measurement

Not only do we leave a whole load of credit (read: cash) on the table, but it also leads to threats to measurability being seen as existential threats to digital marketing activity as a whole. We know that there are growing threats to measuring accurately, including regulatory, technological, and user-behavior shifts:

Now, imagine that the combination of these trends meant that you lost 100% of your analytics and data. Would it mean that your leads stopped? Would you immediately turn your website off? Stop marketing?

I suggest that the answer to all of that is “no.” There’s a ton of value to digital marketing beyond the ability to track specific interactions.

We’re obviously not going to see our measurable insights disappear to zero, but for all the reasons I outlined above, it’s worth thinking about all the ways that our activities add value, how that value manifests, and some ways of proving it exists even if you can’t measure it.

How should we talk about value?

There are two pieces to the brand value puzzle:

  1. Figuring out the value of increasing brand awareness or affinity
  2. Understanding how our digital activities are changing said awareness or affinity

There’s obviously a lot of research into brand valuations generally, and while it’s outside the scope of this piece to think about total brand value, it’s worth noting that some methodologies place as much as 75% of the enterprise value of even some large companies in the value of their brands:

Image source

My colleague Tom Capper has written about a variety of ways to measure changes in brand awareness, which attacks a good chunk of the second challenge. But challenge #1 remains: how do we figure out what it’s worth to carry out some marketing activity that changes brand awareness or affinity?

In a recent post, I discussed different ways of building marketing models and one of the methodologies I described might be useful for this – namely so-called “top-down” modelling which I defined as being about percentages and trends (as opposed to raw numbers and units of production).

The top-down approach

I’ve come up with two possible ways of modelling brand value in a transactional sense:

1. The Sherlock approach

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Sherlock Holmes

The outline would be to take the total new revenue acquired in a period. Subtract from this any elements that can be attributed to specific acquisition channels; whatever remains must be brand. If this is in any way stable or predictable over multiple periods, you can use it as a baseline value from which to apply the methodologies outlined above for measuring changes in brand awareness and affinity.

2. Aggressive attribution

If you run normal first-touch attribution reports, the limitations of measurement (clearing cookies, multiple devices etc) mean that you will show first-touch revenue that seems somewhat implausible (e.g. email; email surely can’t be a first-touch source — how did they get on your email list in the first place?):

Click for a larger version

In this screenshot we see that although first-touch dramatically reduces the influence of direct, for instance, it still accounts for more than 15% of new revenue.

The aggressive attribution model takes total revenue and splits it between the acquisition channels (unbranded search, paid social, referral). A first pass on this would simply split it in the relative proportion to the size of each of those channels, effectively normalizing them, though you could build more sophisticated models.

Note that there is no way of perfectly identifying branded/unbranded organic search since (not provided) and so you’ll have to use a proxy like homepage search vs. non-homepage search.

But fundamentally, the argument here would be that any revenue coming from a “first touch” of:

  • Branded search
  • Direct
  • Organic social
  • Email

…was actually acquired previously via one of the acquisition channels and so we attempt to attribute it to those channels.

Even this under-represents brand value

Both of those methodologies are pretty aggressive — but they might still under-represent brand value. Here are two additional mechanics where brand drives organic search volume in ways I haven’t figured out how to measure yet:

Trusting Amazon to rank

I like reading on the Kindle. If I hear of a book I’d like to read, I’ll often Google the name of the book on its own and trust that Amazon will rank first or second so I can get to the Kindle page to buy it. This is effectively a branded search for Amazon (and if it doesn’t rank, I’ll likely follow up with a [book name amazon] search or head on over to Amazon to search there directly).

But because all I’ve appeared to do is search [book name] on Google and then click through to Amazon, there is nothing to differentiate this from an unbranded search.

Spotting brands you trust in the SERPs

I imagine we all have anecdotal experience of doing this: you do a search and you spot a website you know and trust (or where you have an account) ranking somewhere other than #1 and click on it regardless of position.

One time that I can specifically recall noticing this tendency growing in myself was when I started doing tons more baby-related searches after my first child was born. Up until that point, I had effectively zero brand affinity with anyone in the space, but I quickly grew to rate the content put out by babycentre (babycenter in the US) and I found myself often clicking on their result in position 3 or 4 even when I hadn’t set out to look for them, e.g. in results like this one:

It was fascinating to me to observe this behavior in myself because I had no real interaction with babycentre outside of search, and yet, by consistently ranking well across tons of long-tail queries and providing consistently good content and user experience I came to know and trust them and click on them even when they were outranked. I find this to be a great example because it is entirely self-contained within organic search. They built a brand effect through organic search and reaped the reward in increased organic search.

I have essentially no ideas on how to measure either of these effects. If you have any bright ideas, do let me know in the comments.

Budgets will come under pressure

My belief is that total digital budgets will continue to grow (especially as TV continues to fragment), but I also believe that individual budgets are going to come under scrutiny and pressure making this kind of thinking increasingly important.

We know that there is going to be pressure on referral traffic from Facebook following the recent news feed announcements, but there is also pressure on trust in Google:

While I believe that the opportunity is large and still growing (see, for example, this slide showing Google growing as a referrer of traffic even as CTR has declined in some areas), it’s clear that the narrative is going to lead to more challenging conversations and budgets under increased scrutiny.

Can you justify your SEO investment?

What do you say when your CMO asks what you’re getting for your SEO investment?

What do you say when she asks whether the organic search opportunity is tapped out?

I’ll probably explore the answers to both these questions more in another post, but suffice it to say that I do a lot of thinking about these kinds of questions.

The first is why we have built our split-testing platform to make organic SEO investments measurable, quantifiable and accountable.

The second is why I think it’s super important to remember the big picture while the media is running around with hair on fire. Media companies saw Facebook overtake Google as a traffic channel (and then are likely seeing that reverse right now), but most of the web has Google as the largest and growing source of traffic and value.

The reality (from clickstream data) is that it’s really easy to forget how long the long-tail is and how sparse search features and ads are on the extreme long-tail:

  1. Only 3–4% of all searches result in a click on an ad, for example. Google’s incredible (and still growing) business is based on a small subset of commercial searches
  2. Google’s share of all outbound referral traffic across the web is growing (and Facebook’s is shrinking as they increasingly wall off their garden)

The opportunity is for smart brands to capitalize on a growing opportunity while their competitors sink time and money into a social space that is increasingly all about Facebook, and increasingly pay-to-play.

What do you think? Are you having these hard conversations with leadership? How are you measuring your digital brand’s value?

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New AdWords Remarketing Features in WordStream Advisor Are Here!

Hi there, my name is Rachael. As part of the Product Marketing team of two here at WordStream, I am happy to share my first post to this blog with you! Sharing ways we are enhancing your online advertising experience is what I’m here for, so in the future you can expect to read more product updates like this from me. Now onto the latest and greatest in product news…

Our customers rely on our software to manage all their online advertising campaigns, while providing them with a seamless and streamlined workflow to put time back in their day and save them money along the way.

To add to the cross-platform capabilities Advisor already supports, search (for AdWords and Bing) and social (Facebook and Instagram), we are happy to announce NEW capabilities to support remarketing with AdWords.

With the power of remarketing in AdWords, WordStream Advisor users can now stay connected with their target audience, beyond direct website interaction and emails. Plus, remarketing ads have much higher engagement (both click-through rates and conversion rates) than typical display ads – bonus!

So how exactly does WordStream help? Let’s break that down…

WordStream Supported Display Campaign Types

The intuitive workflow of the Advisor platform enables you to easily create and manage AdWords remarketing campaigns with a simple step-by-step process to cut out the clutter and target the audiences you want to reach. Now in Advisor, you can create Display campaigns with existing remarketing lists to target website visitors, customer email lists, and “similar to” lists.

wordstream advisor remarketing

By creating display remarketing campaigns, you are able to show enticing visual ads to your recent website visitors or customer lists even as they browse other parts of the web, thus gaining brand exposure, raising trust, and becoming more recognizable to your target audience.

And if that doesn’t get you excited to jump on the display remarketing wagon, these types of campaigns can dramatically increase your conversion rates and ROI, since past site visitors who are already familiar with your brand are much more likely to become customers or complete other valuable actions on your site.

Smart Ads for Responsive Display Ad Creation

Building creative assets for use on the Google Display Network is complicated, time-consuming and – if you opt to hire someone – expensive! But now, you can become your own creative manager without opening a design application or hiring out.

By combining machine-learning with your website and Facebook business pages, Advisor’s Smart Ads suite automatically turns your existing images into agency-caliber creative to produce appealing and attractive responsive display ads.

wordstream smart ads for display ad creation

With the functionality to pre-populate and auto-crop images from your website or Facebook Business page, you no longer need to create specific ads for all display sizes. All your existing creative is at your fingertips to pick and choose from to create ads you can be proud of.

Centralized Place for your Targeting Efforts

With cross-platform capabilities, Advisor allows you to manage all your advertising campaigns in one place for quick access and a comprehensive view of your online advertising efforts.

This means that you can edit your AdWords remarketing targeting and exclusion lists on one page, and within two clicks, change the age range for a Facebook remarketing campaign. Or, you can see where all your spend is going per platform and adjust your budget between AdWords, Facebook and Bing, to get the most out of your advertising dollars.

wordstream remarketing cross platform capabilities

Between the Performance Dashboard which offers an overall view of your spend, conversions, CPA, clicks, and CPC per platform, and the customizable, auto-generated Cross-Platform Success Reports, you are sure not to miss a metric or key insight for all of your accounts.

Getting Started with the New Remarketing Features

WordStream customers: Make sure you’ve added the AdWords remarketing pixel to your website so that visitors can get added to your AdWords remarketing audiences through browser cookies, then simply log-in to Advisor to get started!

While in the “Manage” section, you can access the “Campaigns” Tab to create and manage new Display Campaigns, or review your current targeting efforts in the new “Targeting” tab.

new wordstream remarketing features

Not using Advisor yet? Start a free trial and take these AdWords remarketing features for a test drive.

More to Come

Check back often as we will continue to enhance our AdWords remarketing and Display Network capabilities in the coming months. In the meantime…

Whether you are trying to decide if display remarketing is right for you or looking for a single software solution to help you manage all your online advertising needs, the WordStream experts are here to help. We LIKE giving demos! Contact us here to set one up.

Do you have product ideas and feedback? Send them to ProductFeedback@wordstream.com!

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Using the Cross Domain Rel=Canonical to Maximize the SEO Value of Cross-Posted Content – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Same content, different domains? There’s a tag for that. Using rel=canonical to tell Google that similar or identical content exists on multiple domains has a number of clever applications. You can cross-post content across several domains that you own, you can benefit from others republishing your own content, rent or purchase content on other sites, and safely use third-party distribution networks like Medium to spread the word. Rand covers all the canonical bases in this not-to-be-missed edition of Whiteboard Friday.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/qsmvv6edgb?seo=false&videoFoam=true

https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

Using the Cross Domain Rel=Canonical to Maximize the SEO Value of X-Posted Content

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 chat about the cross-domain rel=canonical tag. So we’ve talked about rel=canonical a little bit and how it can be used to take care of duplicate content issues, point Google to the right pages from potentially other pages that share similar or exactly the same content. But cross-domain rel=canonical is a unique and uniquely powerful tool that is designed to basically say, “You know what, Google? There is the same content on multiple different domains.”

So in this simplistic example, MyFriendSite.com/green-turtles contains this content that I said, “Sure, it’s totally fine for you, my friend, to republish, but I know I don’t want SEO issues. I know I don’t want duplicate content. I know I don’t want a problem where my friend’s site ends up outranking me, because maybe they have better links or other ranking signals, and I know that I would like any ranking credit, any link or authority signals that they accrue to actually come to my website.

There’s a way that you can do this. Google introduced it back in 2009. It is the cross-domain rel=canonical. So essentially, in the header tag of the page, I can add this link, rel=canonical href — it’s a link tag, so there’s an href — to the place where I want the link or the canonical, in this case, to point to and then close the tag. Google will transfer over, this is an estimate, but roughly in the SEO world, we think it’s pretty similar to what you get in a 301 redirect. So something above 90% of the link authority and ranking signals will transfer from FriendSite.com to MySite.com.

So my green turtles page is going to be the one that Google will be more likely to rank. As this one accrues any links or other ranking signals, that authority, those links should transfer over to my page. That’s an ideal situation for a bunch of different things. I’ll talk about those in a sec.

Multiple domains and pages can point to any URL

Multiple domains and pages are totally cool to point to any URL. I can do this for FriendSite.com. I can also do this for TurtleDudes.com and LeatherbackFriends.net and SeaTees.com and NatureIsLit.com. All of them can contain this cross-domain rel=canonical pointing back to the site or the page that I want it to go to. This is a great way to potentially license content out there, give people republishing permissions without losing any of the SEO value.

A few things need to match:

I. The page content really does need to match

That includes things like text, images, if you’ve embedded videos, whatever you’ve got on there.

II. The headline

Ideally, should match. It’s a little less crucial than the page content, but probably you want that headline to match.

III. Links (in content)

Those should also match. This is a good way to make sure. You check one, two, three. This is a good way to make sure that Google will count that rel=canonical correctly.

Things that don’t need to match:

I. The URL

No, it’s fine if the URLs are different. In this case, I’ve got NatureIsLit.com/turtles/p?id=679. That’s okay. It doesn’t need to be green-turtles. I can have a different URL structure on my site than they’ve got on theirs. Google is just fine with that.

II. The title of the piece

Many times the cross-domain rel=canonical is used with different page titles. So if, for example, CTs.com wants to publish the piece with a different title, that’s okay. I still generally recommend that the headlines stay the same, but okay to have different titles.

III. The navigation

IV. Site branding

So all the things around the content. If I’ve got my page here and I have like nav elements over here, nav elements down here, maybe a footer down here, a nice little logo up in the top left, that’s fine if those are totally different from the ones that are on these other pages cross-domain canonically. That stuff does not need to match. We’re really talking about the content inside the page that Google looks for.

Ways to use this protocol

Some great ways to use the cross-domain rel=canonical.

1. If you run multiple domains and want to cross-post content, choose which one should get the SEO benefits and rankings.

If you run multiple domains, for whatever reason, let’s say you’ve got a set of domains and you would like the benefit of being able to publish a single piece of content, for whatever reason, across multiples of these domains that you own, but you know you don’t want to deal with a duplicate content issue and you know you’d prefer for one of these domains to be the one receiving the ranking signals, cross-domain rel=canonical is your friend. You can tell Google that Site A and Site C should not get credit for this content, but Site B should get all the credit.

The issue here is don’t try and do this across multiple domains. So don’t say, “Oh, Site A, why don’t you rel=canonical to B, and Site C, why don’t you rel=canonical to D, and I’ll try and get two things ranked in the top.” Don’t do that. Make sure all of them point to one. That is the best way to make sure that Google respects the cross-domain rel=canonical properly.

2. If a publication wants to re-post your content on their domain, ask for it instead of (or in addition to) a link back.

Second, let’s say a publication reaches out to you. They’re like, “Wow. Hey, we really like this piece.” My wife, Geraldine, wrote a piece about Mario Batali’s sexual harassment apology letter and the cinnamon rolls recipe that he strangely included in this apology. She baked those and then wrote about it. It went quite viral, got a lot of shares from a ton of powerful and well-networked people and then a bunch of publications. The Guardian reached out. An Australian newspaper reached out, and they said, “Hey, we would like to republish your piece.” Geraldine talked to her agent, and they set up a price or whatever.

One of the ways that you can do this and benefit from it, not just from getting a link from The Guardian or some other newspaper, but is to say, “Hey, I will be happy to be included here. You don’t even have to give me, necessarily, if you don’t want to, author credit or link credit, but I do want that sweet, sweet rel=canonical.” This is a great way to maximize the SEO benefit of being posted on someone else’s site, because you’re not just receiving a single link. You’re receiving credit from all the links that that piece might generate.

Oops, I did that backwards. You want it to come from their site to your site. This is how you know Whiteboard Friday is done in one take.

3. Purchase/rent content from other sites without forcing them to remove the content from their domain.

Next, let’s say I am in the opposite situation. I’m the publisher. I see a piece of content that I love and I want to get that piece. So I might say, “Wow, that piece of content is terrific. It didn’t do as well as I thought it would do. I bet if we put it on our site and broadcast it with our audience, it would do incredibly well. Let’s reach out to the author of the piece and see if we can purchase or rent for a time period, say two years, for the next two years we want to put the cross-domain rel=canonical on your site and point it back to us and we want to host that content. After two years, you can have it back. You can own it again.”

Without forcing them to remove the content from their site, so saying you, publisher, you author can keep it on your site. We don’t mind. We’d just like this tag applied, and we’d like to able to have republishing permissions on our website. Now you can get the SEO benefits of that piece of content, and they can, in exchange, get some money. So your site sending them some dollars, their site sending you the rel=canonical and the ranking authority and the link equity and all those beautiful things.

4. Use Medium as a content distribution network without the drawback of duplicate content.

Number four, Medium. Medium is a great place to publish content. It has a wide network, people who really care about consuming content. Medium is a great distribution network with one challenge. If you post on Medium, people worry that they can’t post the same thing on their own site because you’ll be competing with Medium.com. It’s a very powerful domain. It tends to rank really well. So duplicate content is an issue, and potentially losing the rankings and the traffic that you would get from search and losing that to Medium is no fun.

But Medium has a beautiful thing. The cross-domain rel=canonical is built in to their import tool. So if you go to Medium.com/p/import and you are logged in to your Medium account, you can enter in their URL field the content that you’ve published on your own site. Medium will republish it on your account, and they will include the cross-domain rel=canonical back to you. Now, you can start thinking of Medium as essentially a distribution network without the penalties or problems of duplicate content issues. Really, really awesome tool. Really awesome that Medium is offering this. I hope it sticks around.

All right, everyone. I think you’re going to have some excellent additional ideas for the cross-domain rel=canonical and how you have used it. We would love you to share those in the comments below, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How Will Chrome’s New Ad Blocker Impact Your Ads?

The short version: it won’t!

On February 15th, Google is set to launch a more robust ad filter for Chrome. Its goal is simple: to scrub the web of interstitial riff raff and other invasive advertising experiences. Now, advertisers have stared down the barrel of the almighty ad blocker before (and most lived to tell the tale), but this is the first ad blocker baked directly into the most popular browser on the planet.

chrome is the most popular browser in the world 

Per Statista

It would appear that the primary purpose of this fright-inducing new feature is to combat and eradicate poor mobile browsing experiences. This aligns with other recent Google innovations, like, say, the AMP Stories we talked about earlier in the week and the so-called Speed Update.

Here’s what the new Chrome ad filter is actually going to do (and how it’s going to do it).

Why is Google Releasing an Ad Filter for Chrome?

Per Google, “While most advertising on the web is respectful of user experience, over the years we’ve increasingly heard from our users that some advertising can be particularly intrusive.” While third-party tools have been banging this drum for a minute now, Google’s finally decided to work its own solution directly into its browser. Google’s blog post on the new ad filter update goes on to state that, more often than not, the problems stem from issues with ad delivery on third-party sites, not the advertisements (and by extension, the advertisers) themselves.

the coalition for better ads 

Google’s shiny new ad blocker is a product of some extensive research conducted by the Coalition for Better Ads (an altruistic watchdog group that combats heinous browsing experiences), specifically, a survey that polled 40,000 internet users and inquired as to which advertisements they felt most impeded their ability to do everything from online shopping to to inhaling spicy takes.

As you can imagine, the Coalition’s research revealed that distracting flash-animated banner ads, autoplaying video pop-ups, and those absolutely dreadful full-page monstrosities that make browsing completely impossible are some of the greatest offenders. That being said, there are plenty of other culprits that the filter will work to root out.

 bad desktop ad experience 

How Will Chrome’s Ad Blocker Work?

This is a bit over my head, but here’s my understanding of it…

Chrome’s ad blocker is all about pattern matching. There isn’t a little dude in a bunker checking out pages in search of awful browsing experiences. Instead, the filter cross-references websites against a list of sites known to fail the Better Ad Standards.

 google chrome ad filter

A site’s inclusion on the list is determined by an evaluation process. Sample pages are reviewed and, depending on the number of violations uncovered, the site is assigned a status: Pass, Warning, or Fail.

If a site’s on the list, the filter digs into images and JavaScript on the page a searcher has navigated to in an attempt to detect “ad-related URL patterns.” If there’s a match, Chrome hits the ads on said page with a big stiff arm to the chin and sends the searcher on her merry way, free to browse obstruction-free.

For those browsing on a desktop, ad block notifications will look as they currently do on Chrome; if you’re using an Android device, you’ll see a message bar at the bottom of your browser that looks something like this:

 chrome ad blocker mobile display

Let’s take a closer look at the types of ads that Google has deemed problematic.

Ad Blocker: Desktop Edition

In keeping with the general theme of mobile centricity (from mobile-first rankings to page speed updates designed to improve site experience on hand-held devices), it makes complete sense that Chrome’s new ad blocker doesn’t do much to kill bad ads on desktop.

 desktop ad formats blocked by chrome's ad filter

That being said, the Coalition for Better Ads has identified the following desktop ad experiences as problematic:

  • Pop-Up Ads
  • Auto-Playing Video with Sound
  • Prestitial Ads with Countdown
  • Large Sticky Ads

If you’ve ever had the unfortunate luck to come across one of these suckers, you know how annoying they are. I’m particularly stoked that large, sticky ads have been deemed too disruptive to exist; you can click out of a pop-up, but without an ad blocker there’s no way to escape a big stupid bar that follows you as you read.

Thanks, Google!

Ad Blocker: Mobile Edition

And now for the piece de resistance…

 mobile ad formats blocked by chrome ad filter

As you can see in the diagram above, Google’s focus on cleaning up the mobile browsing experience is glaring. The ad formats that the Coalition for Better Ads and Google deem bothersome enough to block on mobile devices moving forward are as follows:

  • Pop-Up Ads
  • Prestitial Ads
  • Ad Density Higher than 30%
  • Flashing Animated Ads
  • Auto-Playing Video Ads with Sound
  • Postitial Ads with Countdown
  • Full-Screen Scrollover Ads
  • Large Sticky Ads

Outside of preroll/midroll video ads, inoffensive banner creative, native ads, advertorials, and, of course, search ads, sites that host ads will now be pretty restricted in their ability to serve up valuable on-screen real estate to paying customers.

Will Chrome’s Ad Blocker Impact Your Paid Search & Social Advertising?

…Nah!

Chrome’s ad blocker will not interrupt your paid search advertising in the slightest (unless Google’s willing to call a handful of ads on a mobile SERP 30% saturation. Somehow, I don’t see that happening). If you’re prospecting or remarketing on the Display Network, it’s possible that your ads will be blocked due to issues with your placements; a site serving too many ads via AdSense could very well be penalized, but you won’t be forced to pay for their indiscretion.

This is due to the fact that Google has not made its own network exempt from the pattern-scanning that underpins Chrome’s ad blocker. It’s also worth noting that, at this time, there’s no way for you to view a potential ad placement’s pass/warning/fail status and use that information to exclude non-compliant sites.

Now, if you use AdSense to generate revenue on your site by hosting Display ads, you’re going to want to ensure that you don’t have banners all over the screen (particularly on mobile devices).

In terms of other ads you might be running on your website (those you sell privately or are affiliated with another programmatic network), you can use the new and improved Google Search Console to view your site’s Ad Experience Report. If you’ve got beef, you can hit Google with a request for a re-review. Provided you remedy what Chrome has deemed non-compliant, you should be fine to run ads moving forward.

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4 SEO Survival Tips for the Voice Search Revolution

Voice search isn’t a fad, and if you haven’t yet incorporated it into your 2018 SEO strategy, then you need to. Now.

optimizing for voice search seo

In 2017, there were 33 million voice search devices in circulation, with 40% of adults using them every day. In fact, Google’s voice search tool received 35 times more search queries in 2016 compared to when it launched in 2008.

Now with Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana, any smartphone user can physically ask their phone a question. This has also extended to the home, with the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home cropping up in houses across the world.

ComScore has predicted that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be via voice; and 30% of searches will take place without a screen.

So, what does this mean for SEO? Here, we’ll take a look at four ways you can optimise your website to help you rank highly for voice searches.

1. Aim for Featured Snippets

voice search seo featured snippets

Google Home and Google Assistant currently read out featured snippets when they answer voice search queries, so it makes sense that you aim for the elusive “position zero”.

Whilst there is no definitive answer as to how you gain that top spot, plenty of research has been undertaken to figure out how. The below works pretty well as a set of guidelines, and is worth bearing in mind when writing your content:

  • Answer Specific Questions: Use Answer the Public to find common questions on your chosen subject, and use that as a basis to create your copy. Include the question as an H2, and answer it in the body text directly below.
  • Answer Questions Concisely: You don’t want to use a load of jargon that people won’t understand. Google wants to feature the best answer, so make sure yours is clear and easily digestible. Answers in the form of lists have fared particularly well in featured snippets.
  • Write Engaging and Interesting Copy: 99.58% of featured snippets come from a page that ranks in the top 10. It goes without saying you should already be ensuring your page is well-optimised: your content should be engaging, your meta data optimised, and your internal and external link building game strong.

Remember: voice search queries will be more conversational than written queries. Make sure this is reflected in your tone of voice, to help you climb the rankings.

2. Perfect Your Local SEO

39% of voice search users are looking for business information; so it’s never been a more important time to optimise your local SEO.

local seo for voice search

Ensure your Google My Business Page is up to date, with the correct address, contact details and opening hours listed.

After all, if a user is asking “where’s my nearest hairdresser”, you want to ensure you’re in the top position (provided of course, you’re actually a hairdresser!).

Similarly, if a user is asking what time your store shuts, you want to make sure the correct information is provided, otherwise they’ll be misinformed, and you could miss out on a sale.

Other ways to optimize for local searches include building your online reviews and using structured data markup (Schema).

3. Improve Your Site Speed

page speed for voice search seo

Voice search is almost exclusively used on mobile, and it goes without saying that your website should be mobile-optimised. If it’s not, then users will simply bounce back, which will harm your rankings. A page that takes five seconds to load is 90% more likely to suffer from bounce backs, compared to a page that loads in just one second.

Google found that bounce rates on mobile are 9.56% higher than on desktops. Mobile users – and especially those using voice search – are likely to be on-the-go, and won’t have time to hang about.

Not sure if your mobile website is up to scratch? Try out Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to see if it’s deemed acceptable.

From there, you can check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which will provide you with advice on how to make your mobile site faster.

4. Get Inside the Minds of Searchers

Google has mentioned that it’s looking at including voice search data in Search Console, with the idea being that these searches will be separated from keyboard queries, much like desktop and mobile search data is currently separated.

The issue with this – and why it hasn’t been implemented sooner – is because voice searches are naturally longer tail search queries, due to the conversational nature of speaking out loud. Therefore, the volume of each specific query is likely to be so low that Search Console automatically excludes them.

There hasn’t been a specific announcement or deadline set for this, but it’s certainly one to watch out for. Once launched, you’ll be able to see which voice search queries are driving traffic to your pages, enabling you to optimise your site and climb the rankings further.

voice search trends data

Via KCPB

In 2018, you really can’t afford to discount the power of voice search. The market is set to be worth $601 million by 2019; and if you don’t start to optimise your website now, you’ll be missing out on a lot of traffic in the long term.

Looking for more advanced tips? Check out WordStream’s in-depth guide to optimizing for voice search.

About the author

Elle Pollicott is an Owned Media Executive at digital marketing agency Hallam Internet. She graduated from the University of Manchester with a BSc(Hons) in Management & Marketing of Fashion Textiles in July 2014. Elle has over three years’ experience in digital marketing, having worked in a range of industries including fashion, travel and finance.

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2Gge95A

Reading Between the Lines: A 3-Step Guide to Reviewing Web Page Content

Posted by Jackie.Francis

In SEO, reviewing content is an unavoidable yet extremely important task. As the driving factor that brings people to a page, best practice dictates that we do what we can to ensure that the work we’ve invested hours and resources into creating remains impactful and relevant over time. This requires occasionally going back and re-evaluating our content to identify areas that can be improved.

That being said, if you’ve ever done a content review, you know how surprisingly challenging this is. A large variety of formats and topics alongside the challenge of defining “good” content makes it hard to pick out the core elements that matter. Without these universal focus areas, you may end up neglecting an element (e.g. tone of voice) in one instance but paying special attention to that same element in another.

Luckily there are certain characteristics — like good spelling, appealing layouts, and relevant keywords — that are universally associated with what we would consider “good” content. In this three-step guide, I’ll show you how to use these characteristics (or elements, as I like to call them) to define your target audience, measure the performance of your content using a scorecard, and assess your changes for quality assurance as part of a review process that can be applied to nearly all types of content across any industry.


Step 1: Know your audience

Arguably the most important step mentioned in this post, knowing your target reader will identify the details that should make up the foundation of your content. This includes insight into the reader’s intent, the ideal look and feel of the page, and the goals your content’s message should be trying to achieve.

To get to this point, however, you first need to answer these two questions:

  1. What does my target audience look like?
  2. Why are they reading my content?

What does my target audience look like?

The first question relies on general demographic information such as age, gender, education, and job title. This gives a face to the ideal audience member(s) and the kind of information that would best suit them. For example, if targeting stay-at-home mothers between the ages of 35 and 40 with two or more kids under the age of 5, we can guess that she has a busy daily schedule, travels frequently for errands, and constantly needs to stay vigilant over her younger children. So, a piece that is personable, quick, easy to read on-the-go, and includes inline imagery to reduce eye fatigue would be better received than something that is lengthy and requires a high level of focus.

Why are they reading my content?

Once you have a face to your reader, the second question must be answered to understand what that reader wants from your content and if your current product is effectively meeting those needs. For example, senior-level executives of mid- to large-sized companies may be reading to become better informed before making an important decision, to become more knowledgeable in their field, or to use the information they learn to teach others. Other questions you may want to consider asking:

  • Are they reading for leisure or work?
  • Would they want to share this with their friends on social media?
  • Where will they most likely be reading this? On the train? At home? Waiting in line at the store?
  • Are they comfortable with long blocks of text, or would inline images be best?
  • Do they prefer bite-sized information or are they comfortable with lengthy reports?

You can find the answers to these questions and collect valuable demographic and psychographic information by using a combination of internal resources, like sales scripts and surveys, and third-party audience insight tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Audience Insights. With these results you should now have a comprehensive picture of your audience and can start identifying the parts of your content that can be improved.


Step 2: Tear apart your existing content

Now that you understand who your audience is, it’s time to get to the real work: assessing your existing content. This stage requires breaking everything apart to identify the components you should keep, change, or discard. However, this task can be extremely challenging because the performance of most components — such as tone of voice, design, and continuity — can’t simply be bucketed into binary categories like “good” or “bad.” Rather, they fall into a spectrum where the most reasonable level of improvement falls somewhere in the middle. You’ll see what I mean by this statement later on, but one of the most effective ways to evaluate and measure the degree of optimization needed for these components is to use a scorecard. Created by my colleague, Ben Estes, this straightforward, reusable, and easy to apply tool can help you objectively review the performance of your content.

Make a copy of the Content Review Grading Rubric

Note: The card sampled here, and the one I personally use for similar projects, is a slightly altered version of the original.

As you can see, the card is divided into two categories: Writing and Design. Listed under each category are elements that are universally needed to create a good content and should be examined. Each point is assigned a grading scale ranging from 1–5, with 1 being the worst score and 5 being best.

To use, start by choosing a part of your page to look at first. Order doesn’t matter, so whether you choose to first check “spelling and grammar” or “continuity” is up to you. Next, assign it a score on a separate Excel sheet (or mark it directly on the rubric) based on its current performance. For example, if the copy has no spelling errors but some minor grammar issues, you would rank “spelling and grammar” as a four (4).

Finally, repeat this process until all elements are graded. Remember to stay impartial to give an honest assessment.

Once you’re done, look at each grade and see where it falls on the scale. Ideally each element should have a score of 4 or greater, although a grade of 5 should only be given out sparingly. Tying back to my spectrum comment from earlier, a 5 is exclusively reserved for top-level work and should be something to strive for but will typically take more effort to achieve than it is worth. A grade of 4 is often the highest and most reasonable goal to attempt for, in most instances.

A grade of 3 or below indicates an opportunity for improvement and that significant changes need to be made.

If working with multiple pieces of content at once, the grading system can also be used to help prioritize your workload. Just collect the average writing or design score and sort them in ascending/descending order. Pages with a lower average indicate poorer performance and should be prioritized over pages whose averages are higher.

Whether you choose to use this scorecard or make your own, what you review, the span of the grading scale, and the criteria for each grade should be adjusted to fit your specific needs and result in a tool that will help you honestly assess your content across multiple applications.

Don’t forget the keywords

With most areas of your content covered by the scorecard, the last element to check before moving to the editing stage is your keywords.

Before I get slack for this, I’m aware that the general rule of creating content is to do your keyword research first. But I’ve found that when it comes to reviews, evaluating keywords last feels more natural and makes the process a lot smoother. When first running through a page, you’re much more likely to notice spelling and design flaws before you pick up whether a keyword is used correctly — why not make note of those details first?

Depending on the outcomes stemming from the re-evaluation of your target audience and content performance review, you will notice one of two things about your currently targeted keywords:

  1. They have not been impacted by the outcomes of the prior analyses and do not need to be altered
  2. They no longer align with the goals of the page or needs of the audience and should be changed

In the first example, the keywords you originally target are still best suited for your content’s message and no additional research is needed. So, your only remaining task is to determine whether or not your keywords are effectively used throughout the page. This means assessing things like title tag, image alt attributes, URL, and copy.

In an attempt to stay on track, I won’t go into further detail on how to optimize keywords but if you want a little more insight, this post by Ken Lyons is a great resource.

If, however, your target keywords are no longer relevant to the goals of your content, before moving to the editing stage you’ll need to re-do your keyword research to identify the terms you should rank for. For insight into keyword research this chapter in Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is another invaluable resource.


Step 3: Evaluate your evaluation

At this point your initial review is complete and you should be ready to edit.

That’s right. Your initial review.

The interesting thing about assessing content is that it never really ends. As you make edits you’ll tend to deviate more and more from your initial strategy. And while not always a bad thing, you must continuously monitor these changes to ensure that you are on the right track to create a highly valued piece of content.

The best approach would be to reassess all your material when:

  • 50% of the edits are complete
  • 85% of the edits are complete
  • You have finished editing

At the 50% and 85% marks, keep the assessment quick and simple. Look through your revisions and ask the following questions:

  • Am I still addressing the needs of my target audience?
  • Are my target keywords properly integrated?
  • Am I using the right language and tone of voice?
  • Does it look like the information is structured correctly (hierarchically)?

If your answer is “Yes” to all four questions, then you’ve effectively made your changes and should proceed. For any question you answer “No,” go back and make the necessary corrections. The areas targeted here become more difficult to fix the closer you are to completion and ensuring they’re correct throughout this stage will save a lot of time and stress in the long run.

When you’ve finished and think you’re ready to publish, run one last comprehensive review to check the performance status of all related components. This means confirming you’ve properly addressed the needs of your audience, optimized your keywords, and improved the elements highlighted in the scorecard.


Moving forward

No two pieces of content are the same, but that does not mean there aren’t some important commonalities either. Being able to identify these similarities and understand the role they play across all formats and topics will lead the way to creating your own review process for evaluating subjective material.

So, when you find yourself gearing up for your next project, give these steps a try and always keep the following in mind:

  1. Your audience is what makes or breaks you, so keep them happy
  2. Consistent quality is key! Ensure all components of your content are performing at their best
  3. Keep your keywords optimized and be prepared to do additional research if necessary
  4. Unplanned changes will happen. Just remember to remain observant as to keep yourself on track

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