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MarketingSherpa Podcast #5: Ten things you should think about before you do your next website redesign

Tips for avoiding some serious potholes on your journey while taking on a website redesign
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Why we shouldn’t forget about PageRank in 2019





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Google Unveils Stadia Game Streaming Platform and is Dead Serious About Eliminating Barriers and Making High-End Gaming Accessible for Everyone

Google CEO Sundar Pichai unveiled their Stadia game streaming platform at the 2019 Game Developers Conference in San Fransisco today. Stadia is designed to bring high-end gaming to Chrome and other devices and aims to eliminate the many barriers to gaming. It will likely be a subscription service similar to Netflix but focused on games that can be played without a console right in Chrome or other devices.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, introduces Stadia, Google’s new streaming gaming platform at the 2019 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco:

Biggest Impact of Gaming is How it Pushes Technology Forward

Perhaps the biggest impact of gaming is how it pushes us to make big leaps in computing and networking power, high fidelity graphics, and the infrastructure that supports it all. All of it is pushing computing and technology forward and I find it really exciting. At Google, we have always believed that technology should adapt to people. Not the other way around. We’ve been building towards this vision for some time. For example, when we launched Chrome a decade ago we envisioned that it could be a modern platform for web applications. We wanted to bring the power of the web to everyone including use cases that seemed impossible at that time like high-quality games.

Finally, we are making progress towards that goal. In fact, over the last two years, we’ve been hard at work on game streaming technology. Last Fall, we launched our first public test with Project Stream. But a technical test wasn’t the whole view of our ambition. It was probably the worst kept secret in the industry. Internally, we were actually testing our ability to stream high fidelity graphics over a low agency network. We learned that we could bring a triple-A game to any device with a Chrome browser and an internet connection, using the best of Google to create a powerful game platform.

Google Committed to Paying Billions to Game Developers

When we say best of Google, it always starts with our cloud and networking infrastructure. Our custom server hardware and data centers can bring more computing power to more people on planet Earth than anyone else. Today, we are in 19 regions, and in over 200 countries and territories connected by hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber optic cables. The best of Google also includes our open platforms that allow us to reach billions of people. With Google, your games will be immediately discoverable by over two billion people on a Chrome browser, Chrome Books, Chrome Cast, Pixel Devices, and we have plans to support more browsers and devices over time. That’s in addition to all of the people playing and watching games across YouTube and Google Play.

When we build these ecosystems, we always take the approach that we only succeed when our partners do. Collectively, our partners across web, Google Play, and YouTube have earned more than $ 110 billion over the last four years alone. We are committed to this approach here as well. So now, we have focused on our next big effort, which is to build a game platform for everyone. And, when we say for everyone, we really mean it. It is one of our most cherished values as a company. Be it Android or Chrome or AI, we are dead serious about making technology accessible for everyone.

Google is Dead Serious About Eliminating Barriers

But, if you think about games, there are a lot of barriers for users to play high-end games. Beautiful graphics really need high-end consoles or PCs. And games don’t have instant access. Think about the way the web works. You can easily share a link and it works seamlessly. We want games to feel that way too. Instantly enjoyable with access for everyone.

I think we can change the game by bringing together the power and creativity of the entire community, people who love to play games, people who love to watch games, and people who love to build games. That means all of you. We are really excited to work with you. We want to build a platform and we want you to show us what’s possible. And together, I think we can create a new games experience powered by best of Google and built for everyone.

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5 Reasons Legacy Brands Struggle With SEO (and What to Do About Them)

Posted by Tom.Capper

Given the increasing importance of brand in SEO, it seems a cruel irony that many household name-brands seem to struggle with managing the channel. Yet, in my time at Distilled, I’ve seen just that: numerous name-brand sites in various states of stagnation and even more frustrated SEO managers attempting to prevent said stagnation. 

Despite global brand recognition and other established advantages that ought to drive growth, the reality is that having a household name doesn’t ensure SEO success. In this post, I’m going to explore why large, well-known brands can run into difficulties with organic performance, the patterns I’ve noticed, and some of the recommended tactics to address those challenges.

What we talk about when we talk about a legacy brand

For the purposes of this post, the term “legacy brand” applies to companies that have a very strong association with the product they sell, and may well have, in the past, been the ubiquitous provider for that product. This could mean that they were household names in the 20th century, or it could be that they pioneered and dominated their field in the early days of mass consumer web usage. A few varied examples (that Distilled has never worked with or been contacted by) include:

  • Wells Fargo (US)
  • Craigslist (US)
  • Tesco (UK)

These are cherry-picked, potentially extreme examples of legacy brands, but all three of the above, and most that fit this description have shown a marked decline in the last five years, in terms of organic visibility (confirmed by Sistrix, my tool of choice — your tool-of-choice may vary). It’s a common issue for large, well-established sites — peaking in 2013 and 2014 and never again reaching those highs.

It’s worth noting that stagnation is not the only possible state — sometimes brands can even be growing, but simply at a level far beneath the potential, you would expect from their offline ubiquity.

The question is: why does it keep happening?

Reason 1: Brand

Quite possibly the biggest hurdle standing in the way of a brand’s performance is the brand itself. This may seem like a bit of an odd one — we’d already established that the companies we’re talking about are big, recognized, household names. That in and of itself should help them in SEO, right?

The thing is, though, a lot of these big household names are recognized, but they’re not the one-stop shops that they used to be.

Here’s how the above name-brand examples are performing on search:

Other dominant, clearly vertical-leading brands in the UK, in general, are also not doing so well in branded search:

There’s a lot of potential reasons for why this may be — and we’ll even address some of them later — but a few notable ones include:

  • Complacency — particularly for brands that were early juggernauts of the web, they may have forgotten the need to reinforce their brand image and recognition.
  • More and more credible competitors. When you’re the only competent operator, as many of these brands once were, you had the whole pie. Now, you have to share it.
  • People trust search engines. In a lot of cases, ubiquitous brands decline, while the generic term is on the rise.

Check out this for the real estate example in the UK:

Rightmove and Zoopla are the two biggest brands in this space and have been for some time. There’s only one line there that’s trending upwards, though, and it’s the generic term, “houses for sale.”

What can I do about this?

Basically, get a move on! A lot of incumbents have been very slow to take action on things like top-of-funnel content, or only produce low-effort, exceptionally dry social media posts (I’ve posted before about some of these tactics here.) In fairness, it’s easy to see why — these channels and approaches likely have the least measurable returns. However, leaving a vacuum higher in your funnel is playing with fire, especially when you’re a recognized name. It opens an opportunity for smaller players to close the gap in recognition — at almost no cost.

Reason 2: Tech debt

I’m sure many people reading this will have experienced how hard it can be to get technical changes — particularly higher effort ones — implemented by larger, older organizations. This can stem from complex bureaucracy, aging and highly bespoke platforms, risk aversion, and, particularly for SEO, an inability to get senior buy-in for what can often be fairly abstract changes with little guaranteed reward.

What can I do about this?

At Distilled, we run into these challenges fairly often. I’ve seen dev queues that span, literally, for years. I’ve also seen organizations that are completely unable to change the most basic information on their sites, such as opening times or title tags. In fact, it was this exact issue that prompted the development of our ODN platform a few years ago as a way to circumvent technical limitations and prove the benefits when we did so.

There are less heavy-duty options available — GTM can be used for a range of changes as the last resort, albeit without the measurement component. CDN-level solutions like Cloudflare’s edge workers are also starting to gain traction within the SEO community.

Eventually, though, it’s necessary to tackle the problem at the source — by making headway within the politics of the organization. There’s a whole other post to be had there, if not several, but basically, it comes down to making yourself heard without undermining anyone. I’ve found that focusing on the downside is actually the most effective angle within big, risk-averse bureaucracies — essentially preying on the risk-aversion itself — as well as shouting loudly about any successes, however small.

Reason 3: Not updating tactics due to long-standing, ingrained practices

In a way, this comes back to risk aversion and politics — after all, legacy brands have a lot to lose. One particular manifestation I’ve often noticed in larger organizations is ongoing campaigns and tactics that haven’t been linked to improved rankings or revenue in years.

One conversation with a senior SEO at a major brand left me quite confused. I recall he said to me something along the lines of “we know this campaign isn’t right for us strategically, but we can’t get buy-in for anything else, so it’s this or lose the budget”. Fantastic.

This type of scenario can become commonplace when senior decision-makers don’t trust their staff — often, it’s a CMO, or similar executive leader, that hasn’t dipped their toe in SEO for a decade or more. When they do, they are unpleasantly surprised to discover that their SEO team isn’t buying any links this week and, actually, hasn’t for quite some time. Their reaction, then, is predictable: “No wonder the results are so poor!”

What can I do about this?

Unfortunately, you may have to humor this behavior in the short term. That doesn’t mean you should start (or continue) buying links, but it might be a good idea to ensure there’s similar-sounding activity in your strategy while you work on proving the ROI of your projects.

Medium-term, if you can get senior stakeholders out to conferences (I highly recommend SearchLove, though I may be biased), softly share articles and content “they may find interesting”, and drown them in news of the success of whatever other programs you’ve managed to get headway with, you can start to move them in the right direction.

Reason 4: Race to the bottom

It’s fair to say that, over time, it’s only become easier to launch an online business with a reasonably well-sorted site. I’ve observed in the past that new entrants don’t necessarily have to match tenured juggernauts like-for-like on factors like Domain Authority to hit the top spots.

As a result, it’s become common-place to see plucky, younger businesses rising quickly, and, at the very least, increasing the apparent level of choice where historically a legacy business might have had a monopoly on basic competence.

This is even more complicated when price is involved. Most SEOs agree that SERP behavior factors into rankings, so it’s easy to imagine legacy businesses, which disproportionately have a premium angle, struggling for clicks vs. attractively priced competitors. Google does not understand or care that you have a premium proposition — they’ll throw you in with the businesses competing purely on price all the same.

What can I do about this?

As I see it, there are two main approaches. One is abusing your size to crowd out smaller players (for instance, disproportionately targeting the keywords where they’ve managed to find a gap in your armor), and the second is, essentially, Conversion Rate Optimization.

Simple tactics like sorting a landing page by default by price (ascending), having clicky titles with a value-focused USP (e.g. free delivery), or well targeted (and not overdone) post-sales retention emails — all go a long way to mitigating the temptation of a cheaper or hackier competitor.

Reason 5: Super-aggregators (Amazon, Google)

In a lot of verticals, the pie is getting smaller, so it stands to reason the dominant players will be facing a diminishing slice.

A few obvious examples:

  • Local packs eroding local landing pages
  • Google Flights, Google Jobs, etc. eroding specialist sites
  • Amazon taking a huge chunk of e-commerce search

What can I do about this?

Again, there are two separate angles here, and one is a lot harder than the other. The first is similar to some of what I’ve mentioned above — move further up the funnel and lock in business before this ever comes to your prospective client Googling your head term and seeing Amazon and/or Google above you. This is only a mitigating tactic, however.

The second, which will be impossible for many or most businesses, is to jump into bed with the devil. If you ever do have the opportunity to be a data partner behind a Google or Amazon product, you may do well to swallow your pride and take it. You may be the only one of your competitors left in a few years, and if you don’t, it’ll be someone else.

Wrapping up

While a lot of the issues relate to complacency, and a lot of my suggested solutions relate to reinvesting as if you weren’t a dominant brand that might win by accident, I do think it’s worth exploring the mechanisms by which this translates into poorer performance.

This topic is unavoidably very tinted by my own experiences and opinions, so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Similarly, I’m conscious that any one of my five reasons could have been a post in its own right — which ones would you like to see more fleshed out?

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What Elephants, Rats, and Apex Predators Can Teach Us about Creating Durable Businesses

There is a tendency in nature for apex species to get larger and larger. But there is a counterbalance where…

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7 things you might not know about Google My Business categories





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3 Ways to Persuade People Thinking about Buying from You

You shouldn’t think about growing your audience. Actually, let me rephrase that: You shouldn’t focus on growing your audience. Especially…

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Why You Should Think Twice about Writing How-To Posts

“Write what you know.” It’s an old adage you’ve probably heard before. And many bloggers and content writers have taken…

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How Wrenches Changed the Way I Think about Digital Tools

About a year and a half ago, I made up my mind to rebuild a motorcycle. I had no mechanical…

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Oculus Exec Yelena Rachitzky Talks About How VR Can Move Beyond Gaming

Most virtual reality products are aimed at gamers because there is an automatically understood natural fit. Can VR move beyond gaming? Oculus executive produce of experiences at Oculus offers her insights.

Yelena Rachitsky, Executive Producer, Experiences at Oculus, a virtual reality technology company owned by Facebook, was recently interviewed by TechCrunch writer Lucus Matney:

It’s Not Just About Content, Technology is Making it Easier

We’re focusing a lot more on more highly interactive content and marrying concepts that were understanding from gaming into more narrative approaches. Instead of shooters and strategy, how do we use these mechanics of understanding on how our body works, natural intuitive mechanics to create pieces that people actually want to come back to, pieces people actually enjoy and don’t feel like they are playing a game necessarily.

So we’re marrying that knowledge also with the form factors, I think a few people have mentioned Quest which is something we’re super excited about, so it’s not just the content it’s also the technology that’s coming and making it easier.

Technology is Also Working to Make Things More Intuitive

A lot of technology is also working just to make things much more intuitive. It’s a combination of how we’re approaching content being more compelling, more intuitive, more interactive, more emotional, with the form factors in the hardware. The thing I’m really interested in is how we approach experiences that have very more natural intuitive interactions versus a lot of button pressing.

I gave this talk at Oculus Connect recently about embodiment and what makes us feel like something’s ours when they connect with an object and there’s this reality, our Facebook Reality Labs research talks about something called object believability, and we really believe that we’re picking up an object if it’s something that we recognize that we’ve done in the real world.

The Hard Part of VR is That We Are Holding Controllers

The hard part about VR is that we’re actually holding controllers in our hands. So how do you make your brain believe that you’re actually picking up those objects? People have approached this in different ways. With  Job Simulator (by Oculus) you have big hands that you press with really really big buttons. There’s something very rewarding about that. Then there’s a game that the studios’ team did called Lone Echo which they put a lot of effort into how the hands formed themselves around objects because if you’re seeing your hands actually shift in the way that they should in real life your brain believes that and it becomes super rewarding.

With a lot of the projects we’re creating we’re still experimenting, we still don’t know a lot of this stuff, but we’re going all the way from fully interactive to still slightly linear. There’s not a magic formula to it, everything’s just about the intent that you want to create and then all the tools that you use for VR that push forward that intent.

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