As the Coronavirus pandemic surges on, consumers are purchasing and doing business online more than ever, so it’s even more important to tighten up your SEO and paid search game right now. But if you’re thinking, “Great! I have a service/product that people really need right now so I’ll just bid on coronavirus-related keywords and watch the orders start rolling in!”, unfortunately you have another thing coming.
Google has blocked the use of all Covid/pandemic-related keywords in PPC ads. While this is a smart move in order to prevent people from using those keywords for the wrong reasons (you can read Google’s full policy and reasoning here), you may have a really valuable offering that directly relates to pandemic-related needs, like e-learning, telemedicine, cleaning supplies, online meeting software, or food delivery services, just to name a few! How can you make sure that you’re reaching the customers that need what you’re selling without the ability to use terms like Covid-19, pandemic, or Coronavirus? Here are 5 tips to help you stay on top of your search game during the pandemic:
We hope these tips help you navigate the uncertain landscape with a bit more search marketing confidence. If you’d like some help making your paid search budget work for you, there’s never been a better time to reach out for a little help from a PPC expert.
You want your site to rank well on Google and other search engines. You want to drive your target customers to your site. You want those visitors to turn into actual customers once they arrive. Makes sense to us! So how do you make this happen effectively and efficiently?
The obvious answer is three little letters – SEO (search engine optimization). But how do you know what to focus on? You know keyword stuffing is bad, but how much keyword density is okay? Meta keywords used to be a big deal, are they still? What about hidden text? If you’re not an SEO expert (like us!), here are 5 SEO myths we’ve busted to help give you a little guidance on helping your site get better rankings.
SEO Myth #1: Meta Keywords Matter
Google officially stopped looking at the meta-keywords tag in 2009, but likely gave little to no weight to it on SERPs as far back as 2000. So, if the meta-keywords tag has been dead for 20 years, but you can technically still enter it in, should you put keywords in there just in case? No. Nope. Say goodbye and don’t look back.
Does this mean SEO keywords in general aren’t important? NO WAY. Using keywords strategically in your URL, browser title, header tag, content, and internal links is still very valuable and should be an important piece of your overall SEO strategy.
*While we are in meta land, did you know that search engines will often completely ignore your carefully crafted meta description? It's still a best practice to have a nice, tight description of your page with a call to action, but if Google, etc. sees something that it thinks more closely matches the query within your content, it will oftentimes pull that in as a meta description instead! It's one of those search engine "nudges" vs. a directive.
SEO Myth #2: Hidden Text Works
Hidden text means placing chunks of keyword-dense text on your website in sneaky ways to try to cram extra SEO juice into it under the radar. This might mean making the text the same color as the background, hiding it behind an image, using CSS to push it off-screen, setting the font size to 0, or hiding URLs by making characters like periods or other punctuation the only character with a hyperlink. As you can imagine, this is a spam tactic and violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
When creating content for your page, keep this rule in mind: What’s good for the user is good for SEO. If the user can’t see or easily read your text, that’s going to be a red flag.
SEO Myth #3: There’s a Keyword Density Sweet Spot
You may have heard that there’s a certain magic percentage to strive for when including your target keywords in your site text that will make search engines favor you, generally 1-2%. The truth? There is actually no magic number whatsoever!
Use your target keywords naturally throughout the content (and make sure your content is high quality, readable, and provides value to the reader). Whether your keyword density is 1% or 5% or 0.5%, none of that will guarantee you a #1 spot on Google. And as always, be careful not to unnaturally plug so many keywords into your content that you are penalized for keyword stuffing.
SEO Myth #4: Google Changes the Algorithm Too Often to Keep Up
This myth holds a partial truth in that Google’s mysterious algorithm changes frequently. However! It's mostly to combat sites trying to game the system. If your site is following best practices for creating high quality content, using your target keywords responsibly, and not following any shady techniques (like hidden text), you are likely to be fairly unaffected by algorithmic changes.
In addition to combatting the sneaky sites, algorithmic changes are also intended to show sites that are the most authoritative on any subject. Being easy to crawl, creating good content, and executing a solid keyword strategy are still fundamentally the best ways to rank.
SEO Myth #5: SEO Doesn’t Matter Anymore
You may think with so much change and so many older ‘tricks’ not working anymore that SEO in general doesn’t matter. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
SEO is the ONLY thing that matters (jk) but it does usually make up the bulk of the traffic to many websites AND it's usually one of the best converting sources of traffic.
Sure, you can pay for PPC/social media advertising, and that’s a topic for another day that we can certainly write many posts about! But having a solid SEO strategy and measuring and iterating are key to establishing and growing the best traffic to your site. The best part? The more you contribute to your site’s content and refine your strategy over time, the more your authority builds and the more clear and targeted your visitors become. Naturally!
Bonus SEO Myth #6: You Should Do it All Yourself
Ok, you probably saw this one coming, but unless you’re interested in spending your valuable time becoming an SEO expert in addition to all of the tasks you do to keep your business growing, chances are your time and money are best spent in getting a capable strategy team to get the results you want as painlessly as possible. That’s where Simple Search comes in.
Whether you want help with a strategy that you run with, or want everything done hands-off start-to-finish, we’re ready to help you ethically improve your rankings and turn qualified traffic into paying customers. Ready to get started?
You’ve got a great product or service. You know you could make a lot of customers really happy, if only you could get their attention! A great product is nothing without proper sales and marketing. At Simple Search, we help our customers optimize their websites and develop paid search strategies to attract the right traffic, but there’s more to an SEM strategy than ads and clicks. Once a visitor comes to your site, you still have to close the deal, and that comes down to effective copywriting.
Don’t consider yourself ‘a writer’? Not to worry! We’ve got 5 simple steps to compelling content that speaks directly to your target customer, and, more importantly, converts.
Copywriting Tip #1: Know What You Want
Do you actually know what you want? This sounds so simple you may think, why waste my time with this question? I want my customer to buy my stuff! Of course you do. But a good marketing strategy uses several roads leading toward your ultimate goal. Is your customer going to know how to make that journey without your guidance? Assume that they won’t and that you need to tell them exactly what you want them to do.
Decide right away what the goal of your webpage is in terms of what you want to get from your customer. Do you want them to fill out a contact form? Sign up for your email newsletter? Purchase a product from your online store? Complete a purchase after they abandoned their cart? Learn something new and share what they learned? Build trust and brand awareness? Schedule a free demo or consultation with your sales team?
Pick one result you want to have happen when your customer visits your page and keep that in mind as you create your content.
Copywriting Tip #2: Talk to One Person
Who is your target customer? It’s easy to want to say “well…everyone!” or to imagine many different types of people using your product or service (which there well may be!), but imagine just one person in your mind who embodies the most compatible customer, and speak directly to them as if you were having a one-on-one conversation. Notice we did this in the opening lines of this very post. We’re talking to you!
Beyond demographics like age, gender identity, location, try to really get inside their head to imagine what their daily life is like, the way that they interact with the world around them, their likes and dislikes, and their fears and anxieties (more on this in a moment). If you have a clear idea of who you’re talking to, it will be much easier to maintain a consistent ‘voice’ in your writing, to make your visitors feel like you care, and to ensure that you’re attracting the most promising prospects.
Copywriting Tip #3: No Pain, No Gain
Remember that tidbit about knowing your ideal prospect’s fears and anxieties? It’s time to really zero in on that. Not to be a sadist, but because that provides you with the real problem that you are in the position to solve.
Why didn’t we say “figure out what problem you need to solve”? Because that puts us in a mindset of looking at logistical benefits, when your writing is actually addressing emotions, not situations. We want to get to the feeling underneath the problem in order to understand how to best present a solution in writing.
For example, let’s say you’re a mechanic that offers hours on Sunday. You know you’re providing convenience that other businesses may not, so that sets you apart. Convenience is good, sure. But why can’t your ideal customer wait until Monday? Maybe their car breaks down on Sunday and they aren’t able to coordinate dropping it off during the week due to a hectic work schedule, but also can’t get to work without their car, and they’re afraid of losing their job if they can’t get it fixed. This would have a domino effect on their entire life and imagining it puts them in a panic. Suddenly you are in the position of offering more than just ‘convenience’.
Copywriting Tip #4: Offer the Solution
Now that you’ve identified your customer’s deep-seated fears, or “Pain Points”, and you’ve communicated that understanding through your writing, you’ve set yourself up in the perfect position to provide the relief from that anxiety through your offerings.
In the case of our mechanic example, instead of simply ‘fixing their car’, you’re really eliminating the other life consequences that would happen if their car couldn’t be fixed right away. You’re saving their job. You’re replacing an imagined future of catastrophe with hope and safety. Knowing all of this, how might you pitch your services to them now?
It’s safe to assume you are not actually a mechanic reading this article. But you can take this technique and apply it to your own situation. What underlying emotions are you addressing and what problems are you really solving? Frame the ways that your product or service address these problems for your target customer and you’ll be lightyears ahead of your competition.
Copywriting Tip #5: Close the Deal
Remember that point about customers needing to be told exactly what you want them to do? Here’s your final chance to get that result to happen with a clear call to action (CTA). You may have more than one instance of your call to action on your page (e.g. several opportunities throughout your copy to click a ‘buy now’ or ‘subscribe’ button), but make sure it’s clear what the customer is doing when they click, and don’t be shy about making the ask!
If you’re concerned about your customer trusting you, this is also a good place to offer supporting credentials like testimonials, certifications, e-commerce security logos, endorsements, etc. Depending on your industry and offering this will look different. But the premise is the same – your copy builds the bridge to the trust needed to turn visitors into customers. The 5 tips you’ve just read will help you do that, and you can start today.
Or... you can let us do it for you!
Better rankings, better business, better you – it’s Simple! See what Simple Search can do for your business with our elite team of SEO, PPC, and copywriting experts. Contact us to get started!
Some big news in the SEO world over the past few weeks, including Google's descriptively named March Core Algorithm Update and Moz's Domain Authority 2.0 Update. In terms of the Google update, it's too soon to tell exactly which kinds of sites are impacted, so help your fellow SEOs figure out exactly what sites are being targeted, by filling out this Search Engine Land survey.
The Domain Authority 2.0 update is much easier to understand and explain! This often misunderstood (and perhaps maligned) ranking predictor from our friends at Moz has been updated and released. They've put out a lot of great info & blog posts on what it is & why it's important. Here's our TLDR version:
What is Domain Authority?
1. Bigger Link Index: Now, domain authority has 35.5 trillion links to play with!
2. New Machine Learning Model: Now part of Domain Authority looks at Google rankings and uses machine learning to try to understand how rankings are stacked.
3. Spam Score Incorporation: Now incorporates spam link detection by looking at a bunch of on-page factors, of linking sites.
4. Detects Link Manipulation: Can better identify when people are buying and selling links.
5. Daily Updates: The old Domain Authority used to update about approximately every month
Neat! Have I mentioned that I might be checking clients' domain authority every day now? It's a shiny new toy for SEOs. Probably best to look at on a weekly/monthly basis, though, like one does with keyword positions, in order to identify any real trending. Enjoy!
Everyone wants to know "what trends will we see with SEO in 2017?"
Well, we have some ideas that we'd like to frame through the idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Google's original mantra/marching orders (in addition to "do no harm") is to reward websites that offer a good user experience. We'll outline exactly what this means below for SEO and what you can look for in ensuring that you've got a solid SEO strategy.
What is SEO in 2017?
SEO is neither dying, nor dead, nor a synonym for content marketing. :) This may sound cheeky, but too many marketers assume that if you build it they will come; and, they can't be blamed - content marketing has become its own lucrative industry. BUT, truth is you can create all the content in the world, and if it's not easy to find and easy to index by the engines, you might as well be sending it through the USPS. To that end, we'll discuss the SEO predictions we have for technical SEO, content-based SEO, and off-site SEO for 2017 below.
Predictions for Technical SEO in 2017
We predict algorithm updates with continued favoritism for sites that are easy to navigate, fast, mobile friendly and secure.
If you are paying attention, important items with SEO implications come through loud and clear in the Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console. We just got a warning, for example, that a site we manage may be in trouble because it collects email addresses on a few pages that haven't been ported to the secure part of the site. (now fixed)
Pay attention to these warnings - they're the closest thing you'll get to pre-emptive advice on how to improve your website for SEO from Google.
Prediction for Content SEO in 2017
Content is king, but SEO is its queen. All SEO engagements should begin with a comprehensive keyword strategy that is developed with user personas, pain points, business propositions and differentiators, and competitive analysis. This exercise is usually a great proxy for companies to identify where they're strong in content and where they're lacking.
If you've done a good job with your website, it's likely that you already have some good stuff to work with. What happens after you've optimized existing content though? We always recommend leveraging existing content (even if it lives/is trapped in an email campaign, gated whitepaper, or infographic) to build out new sections to capture demand, but new content creation based on demand (keyword search volume) is a worthwhile activity - especially if you can use analytics to prove its value.
Finally, blogging is still a worthwhile endeavor. Our clients are always surprised at the organic traffic going to blog posts (some of which are old). Blogging is really the easiest way to 1. meet Google's desire to reward websites with fresh content, 2. Create content that doesn't fit neatly into your website's static navigation, and 3. convert visitors! Yes, I said blogs could be a source of conversions. Truth is, most of us - myself included- don't treat blog posts as a conversion opportunity and don't provide users a logical path to go deeper into the topic on the website itself. One of our 2017 resolutions is to take better advantage of our blog traffic!
Prediction for Off-Site SEO in 2017
Branded search results and "off site" SEO go hand in hand. The Google algorithm rewards websites with a strong digital footprint. So what does that mean? Go search for your brand and look for a few things.
1. Is your domain appearing for your brand? This kind of goes without saying but technical SEO snafus have caused many websites to not appear for branded search.
2. Do you have control over most of the properties that come up related to your brand? Have you claimed your social profiles, is your Wikipedia profile well built out and truthful, do you have good 3rd party reviews? Great! This has proven to benefit the organic search of many clients we've worked with.
3. Are competitors showing up for your brand in paid search or organic search? This deserves a closer look and a competitive strategy.
4. Is your brand represented positively and consistently? You can and should control this on your claimed digital properties.
Once you've looked at these elements, don't stop. We really see this as an emerging area of opportunity for brands to make sure that all the hard work they've done on branding is carried through into search results. We recommend both tracking branded keywords and regularly checking search results for your branded terms to identify threats and opportunities (and just to make sure that your site is indeed showing up!)
Closing thoughts on SEO Predictions for 2017
Finally, we predict that in 2017, the importance of SEO will reach a tipping point in its journey up the B2B ladder. Most websites get anywhere between 50-75% of their traffic from organic search and when this goes bad, traffic and leads suffer. SEOs need to move away from focusing on keyword positions as a means to an end and focus on the real business results when reporting out and up.
Clients and execs are more likely to respond to organic KPIs that impact the bottom line - quality leads and sales. For SEOs, this should be like shooting fish in a barrel since typically, organic search traffic produces the "best" on site visits in terms of time on site, bounce rate, leads, sales, etc.
Thanks for reading and happy new year!
According to Google, there are more than a billion Google searches each day, and an active user searches on average 25 times per day. More importantly, for this article on RankBrain and SEO, Google says that 15-25% of daily searches are new. What's a Search algorithm to do?
Today, Google's algorithm relies on 200+ signals to determine how to rank a website in organic search results. These include standard SEO checkbox items like content quality, easy to navigate site, and links, as well as recent major updates to reward sites that are mobile friendly, secure (using https), and load quickly.
In 2015, Google's RankBrain was confirmed as a new(ish) part of the algorithm. This is one of the 200+ elements mentioned above, but it only kicks in when it "sees" a search query that has never been used before, so approximately 15-25% of the time (which isn't that infrequent, actually).
How Does RankBrain Work?
There are many sophisticated articles about machine learning, artificial intelligence, and RankBrain, but all marketers really need to know is that RankBrain uses machine learning algorithms to try to predict what a better search result might be based on historical data. RankBrain evolved into this use from its original purpose of query analysis.
What Queries Trigger RankBrain to Kick In?
The 15-25% of new queries are almost exclusively long tail queries, which is not surprising considering how precise and refined our search behaviors have grown over the years.
RankBrain's Implications for Marketers
Although keyword optimization is still a key component of SEO, and even for PPC Quality Score improvements, marketers should continue to focus on creating high quality content that addresses customers' pain points, that is written in the customer's style of speaking. This useful content for the end user will naturally be optimized with long tail search queries.
Are you offering information your audience craves on your website? It's clearly an important element of Internet marketing/content marketing and even more so in the era of RankBrain.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. So it goes in life and in SEO! To simplify SEO, we've put together some best practices for 2017. The first post about general SEO best practices got really long, so we are going to break it out into multiple posts, the first of which is keyword research best practices.
SEO Keyword Selection Best Practices
Deciding which keywords to target organically is an art (research, reading and hypotheses) and a science (keyword volume, analytics and conversion data).
The art part (aht paht if you're from Boston) requires a deep competitive review, as well as an awareness of your own product and how your customers talk about it (looking "outside in" in marketing speak). It can actually be a fun exercise to go to Google search and see what longer tail terms show up when using some of your core keywords with Google's autocomplete. For example, if you offer accounting services, you could go see what people are actually searching re: this:
This is a good place to start, but which SEO keywords are really "worth it"? Well, that depends on your business and whether you have the content to support it (note: keyword research is a data-driven way to identify content development needs and strategies - use it!).
After free-associating with the Google autofill tool, get ready to use the SCIENCE piece of the puzzle and find keyword data for the keywords you think are the best fit. To find search volume, competition and expand your list, use the free Google AdWords keyword research tool or others from paid subscriptions to Moz, BrightEdge, Authority Labs, Spyfu, etc.
Once you have a list, we recommend separating keywords for SEO targets into categories and subcategories.
Keyword Funnel for SEO Keywords - Best Practices
We like using different types of keywords in our SEO strategies to target people in three broad funnel categories from interest-seeking to ready-to-buy. (side note: if you're also using the list for PPC, make sure the terms align to your PPC KPIs - likely further down in the funnel)
Best Practices for Measuring SEO Keyword Success
After creating your master SEO keyword list (which we like to call a universe), upload it into Moz, Authority Labs, BrightEdge, or whatever your chosen keyword tracking tool is. This is really important to measure success. Establish a baseline by running an SEO keywords rankings report prior to making any optimizations.
After you make your optimizations, you should check these rankings reports regularly to measure how search engines accept your SEO efforts. You ought to be able to see a correlation between an improvement in keyword SEO positions and traffic to the ranking page (and hopefully conversions!) with a good SEO strategy. A way to prove this out is to look in Google Webmaster Tools for the Pages report and view the queries that have led to that page.
Click here to see our next post about SEO in 2017 - SEO Predictions for 2017.
Google has so many awesome secret weapons - many of them living within the Google AdWords platform. Semi-recent additions like Expanded Text Ads, all kinds of ad extensions, and the ability to build image ads and dynamic ads right within the platform have cemented AdWords as a force to be reckoned with - even for huge publishers.
But, real time Google Ads? We saw this in our weekly Think With Google email last week and had to save it to take a deeper look. Here's a brief synopsis:
Google's Art, Copy & Code project used existing programmatic ad technology to create a prototype ad unit that pulled highlight clips from a hockey game that were uploaded to YouTube and served them to a targeted group of fans with the advertiser's overlay. The link sent users to the Rogers NHL GameCenter LIVETM site - a subcription site for watching NHL games to "sample the goods" as it were.
By serving this proprietary content that already exists to an audience that wants more access to this type of content, the advertiser found that the users spent on average 63 seconds in the ad, which was about 4X the time spent in a more traditional expandable ad. Additionally, they saw a 30% year-over-year increase in subscriptions during the period the ads ran.
You Have the Goods, Show Them Off
We love this because it blends existing exciting content with targeted delivery. Repurposing is a beautiful thing! Especially when marketers are expected to deliver multichannel strategies with limited budgets. Any type of asset you create is an opportunity for multi-channel marketing and lead generation.
One of our mantras is "if no one can find it, it doesn't exist". Maximize the visibility of your hardest working assets with SEO, Social, PPC, and Display to magnify impact. The return on one asset may be exponential and is provable with Google Analytics or other Analytics suites.
We all know that videos, images, and locked assets aren't great (in and of themselves) for SEO, but when they are presented on a website alongside descriptive content that's findable by search engines, their organic power is amplified - both on the website and in social profiles and posts. As well, paid search can drive to a landing page where an asset is teased for a lead capture. Finally, the dynamic, "real time" Google ads referenced in this article shows that Display can drive serious increase in conversions when it uses exciting, proprietary content as a hook.
Are your assets working as hard as they could be? It's worth a test for sure.
Time decay, linear, data driven attribution models. The options are many, but some are definitely better than others. We've experimented with all attribution models, and are seeing some really interesting things in the data driven option in Google Analytics Premium.
Let's take a step back for a minute, though, and talk about what an attribution model is. From Google "Data-driven attribution reveals the real path-to-purchase, allowing you to fine-tune strategies based on real customer behavior."
There are 3 traditional buckets of "rules based" attribution models which include: single touch (credit assigned to one source), even (conversion attributed across all touchpoints), and custom (assigns more credit to first and last touchpoints, but also gives some credit to the middle points). A few years back, Google introduced data driven attribution, which is algorithmic and dynamically builds attribution models based on actual conversion path data. This is really the gold standard now. Consider the opportunity:
So, what do YOU need to get started with data driven attribution? Google recommends making sure you have a strong internal champion to ensure the attribution program is set up properly, and who can analyze and disseminate findings.
Data Driven Attribution Model Requirements for Success:
1. Define Goals - what are the true conversions, a sale? a lead? Nail these down and make sure you are tracking them.
2. Cross Departmental Budget - Since multiple sources will be credited with driving conversions, it's critical to be able to have some fluid budget allocation to optimize performance.
3. Cross Departmental Buy-In - You're going to need cooperation from marketing channel owners and their trafficking/tagging folks (if a different group) as well as from IT to make sure data is clean and accessible.
4. Mechanism to Disseminate Information - show your stakeholders that their contributions matter and how.
Google states that "industry standard assumptions suggest that returns on an attribution solution will typically be 10x the cost of the solution", so it's almost a no-brainer to begin understanding your customer journey(s) better, and to ensure your marketing mix is best in class.
A report from the Harvard Business Review, sponsored by Google, hit my inbox the other day and quantifiably confirms that marketers who use data to inform and influence campaigns see the biggest payoff. A quote from the article that I really like is "the biggest challenge that companies face isn’t talent. It’s the ability to move from data to action." Getting buy-in from the top is key.
The types of Analytics the report considers, include:
1. Digital analytics, including customer journey analysis
2. Marketing analytics, including demand forecasting, attribution models, budget optimization
3. Customer analytics, including lifetime value, propensity to buy and segmentation
4. Sales analytics
5. Consumer surveys & research analytics
It's all well and good to measure and report after the fact, but we believe (and this paper proves) that using data prior to campaign execution promises an undeniable ROI. We are huge proponents of Google Analytics and have used it to unlock information about the customer journey, channel attribution, customer/audience data, and so much more.
What is key to measurement with any Analytics is knowing what counts as a true, valuable conversion. Once this is set up in a tool like Google Analytics, it's remarkably straightforward to trace the path (even down to the search query) that led to the purchase, sign up or lead, both on and off the website.
How can companies deepen customer relationships in the age of commoditization?
The report also said that "many companies are not gaining competitive advantage from analytics because they are still focused on product-centric strategies." Netflix is highlighted as being successful in turning the product-centric model on its head. Instead of casting a wide net like traditional cable companies, it has used viewer data to create series like House of Cards that fulfill the desires of their "best" customers, cementing the company's quality reputation.
Customer relationships are really important in healthcare (obviously), so HCA Healthcare's digital marketing team has used analytics to measure the impact of online marketing on new patient growth. Also, they use tools to analyze social chatter about their properties, leading to improvement in many areas from parking to patient accomodations. Measuring all of this has also empowered the digital marketing team to create replicable best practices in managing patient acquisition and satisfaction.
What to do with all this data?
The report has lots of great graphs and anecodotes about how companies are dealing with data, but we will end with a good point from the article: "Instead of building data science capabilities, companies often bring on increasing numbers of analytics specialists" This results in what Peter Fader from Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) calls a “data firehose”. Companies are beginning to understand this, moving data analytics specialists onto the BUs and teams that need specific data to drive marketing objectives and report success or pivot strategies. We are on board with this!
Our mantra has always been "measure what you need", so let us help you get on the right track. Get in touch.
See the whole report here.