Tag Archive | "Beyond"

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.

The post Oculus Exec Yelena Rachitzky Talks About How VR Can Move Beyond Gaming appeared first on WebProNews.


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Internal Linking & Mobile First: Large Site Crawl Paths in 2018 & Beyond

Posted by Tom.Capper

By now, you’ve probably heard as much as you can bear about mobile first indexing. For me, there’s been one topic that’s been conspicuously missing from all this discussion, though, and that’s the impact on internal linking and previous internal linking best practices.

In the past, there have been a few popular methods for providing crawl paths for search engines — bulky main navigations, HTML sitemap-style pages that exist purely for internal linking, or blocks of links at the bottom of indexed pages. Larger sites have typically used at least two or often three of these methods. I’ll explain in this post why all of these are now looking pretty shaky, and what I suggest you do about it.

Quick refresher: WTF are “internal linking” & “mobile-first,” Tom?

Internal linking is and always has been a vital component of SEO — it’s easy to forget in all the noise about external link building that some of our most powerful tools to affect the link graph are right under our noses. If you’re looking to brush up on internal linking in general, it’s a topic that gets pretty complex pretty quickly, but there are a couple of resources I can recommend to get started:

I’ve also written in the past that links may be mattering less and less as a ranking factor for the most competitive terms, and though that may be true, they’re still the primary way you qualify for that competition.

A great example I’ve seen recently of what happens if you don’t have comprehensive internal linking is eflorist.co.uk. (Disclaimer: eFlorist is not a client or prospective client of Distilled, nor are any other sites mentioned in this post)

eFlorist has local landing pages for all sorts of locations, targeting queries like “Flower delivery in [town].” However, even though these pages are indexed, they’re not linked to internally. As a result, if you search for something like “flower delivery in London,” despite eFlorist having a page targeted at this specific query (which can be found pretty much only through use of advanced search operators), they end up ranking on page 2 with their “flowers under £30” category page:

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If you’re looking for a reminder of what mobile-first indexing is and why it matters, these are a couple of good posts to bring you up to speed:

In short, though, Google is increasingly looking at pages as they appear on mobile for all the things it was previously using desktop pages for — namely, establishing ranking factors, the link graph, and SEO directives. You may well have already seen an alert from Google Search Console telling you your site has been moved over to primarily mobile indexing, but if not, it’s likely not far off.

Get to the point: What am I doing wrong?

If you have more than a handful of landing pages on your site, you’ve probably given some thought in the past to how Google can find them and how to make sure they get a good chunk of your site’s link equity. A rule of thumb often used by SEOs is how many clicks a landing page is from the homepage, also known as “crawl depth.”

Mobile-first indexing impacts this on two fronts:

  1. Some of your links aren’t present on mobile (as is common), so your internal linking simply won’t work in a world where Google is going primarily with the mobile-version of your page
  2. If your links are visible on mobile, they may be hideous or overwhelming to users, given the reduced on-screen real estate vs. desktop

If you don’t believe me on the first point, check out this Twitter conversation between Will Critchlow and John Mueller:

In particular, that section I’ve underlined in red should be of concern — it’s unclear how much time we have, but sooner or later, if your internal linking on the mobile version of your site doesn’t cut it from an SEO perspective, neither does your site.

And for the links that do remain visible, an internal linking structure that can be rationalized on desktop can quickly look overbearing on mobile. Check out this example from Expedia.co.uk’s “flights to London” landing page:

Many of these links are part of the site-wide footer, but they vary according to what page you’re on. For example, on the “flights to Australia” page, you get different links, allowing a tree-like structure of internal linking. This is a common tactic for larger sites.

In this example, there’s more unstructured linking both above and below the section screenshotted. For what it’s worth, although it isn’t pretty, I don’t think this is terrible, but it’s also not the sort of thing I can be particularly proud of when I go to explain to a client’s UX team why I’ve asked them to ruin their beautiful page design for SEO reasons.

I mentioned earlier that there are three main methods of establishing crawl paths on large sites: bulky main navigations, HTML-sitemap-style pages that exist purely for internal linking, or blocks of links at the bottom of indexed pages. I’ll now go through these in turn, and take a look at where they stand in 2018.

1. Bulky main navigations: Fail to scale

The most extreme example I was able to find of this is from Monoprice.com, with a huge 711 links in the sitewide top-nav:

Here’s how it looks on mobile:

This is actually fairly usable, but you have to consider the implications of having this many links on every page of your site — this isn’t going to concentrate equity where you need it most. In addition, you’re potentially asking customers to do a lot of work in terms of finding their way around such a comprehensive navigation.

I don’t think mobile-first indexing changes the picture here much; it’s more that this was never the answer in the first place for sites above a certain size. Many sites have tens of thousands (or more), not hundreds of landing pages to worry about. So simply using the main navigation is not a realistic option, let alone an optimal option, for creating crawl paths and distributing equity in a proportionate or targeted way.

2. HTML sitemaps: Ruined by the counterintuitive equivalence of noindex,follow & noindex,nofollow

This is a slightly less common technique these days, but still used reasonably widely. Take this example from Auto Trader UK:

The idea is that this page is linked to from Auto Trader’s footer, and allows link equity to flow through into deeper parts of the site.

However, there’s a complication: this page in an ideal world be “noindex,follow.” However, it turns out that over time, Google ends up treating “noindex,follow” like “noindex,nofollow.” It’s not 100% clear what John Mueller meant by this, but it does make sense that given the low crawl priority of “noindex” pages, Google could eventually stop crawling them altogether, causing them to behave in effect like “noindex,nofollow.” Anecdotally, this is also how third-party crawlers like Moz and Majestic behave, and it’s how I’ve seen Google behave with test pages on my personal site.

That means that at best, Google won’t discover new links you add to your HTML sitemaps, and at worst, it won’t pass equity through them either. The jury is still out on this worst case scenario, but it’s not an ideal situation in either case.

So, you have to index your HTML sitemaps. For a large site, this means you’re indexing potentially dozens or hundreds of pages that are just lists of links. It is a viable option, but if you care about the quality and quantity of pages you’re allowing into Google’s index, it might not be an option you’re so keen on.

3. Link blocks on landing pages: Good, bad, and ugly, all at the same time

I already mentioned that example from Expedia above, but here’s another extreme example from the Kayak.co.uk homepage:

Example 1

Example 2

It’s no coincidence that both these sites come from the travel search vertical, where having to sustain a massive number of indexed pages is a major challenge. Just like their competitor, Kayak have perhaps gone overboard in the sheer quantity here, but they’ve taken it an interesting step further — notice that the links are hidden behind dropdowns.

This is something that was mentioned in the post from Bridget Randolph I mentioned above, and I agree so much I’m just going to quote her verbatim:

Note that with mobile-first indexing, content which is collapsed or hidden in tabs, etc. due to space limitations will not be treated differently than visible content (as it may have been previously), since this type of screen real estate management is actually a mobile best practice.

Combined with a more sensible quantity of internal linking, and taking advantage of the significant height of many mobile landing pages (i.e., this needn’t be visible above the fold), this is probably the most broadly applicable method for deep internal linking at your disposal going forward. As always, though, we need to be careful as SEOs not to see a working tactic and rush to push it to its limits — usability and moderation are still important, just as with overburdened main navigations.

Summary: Bite the on-page linking bullet, but present it well

Overall, the most scalable method for getting large numbers of pages crawled, indexed, and ranking on your site is going to be on-page linking — simply because you already have a large number of pages to place the links on, and in all likelihood a natural “tree” structure, by very nature of the problem.

Top navigations and HTML sitemaps have their place, but lack the scalability or finesse to deal with this situation, especially given what we now know about Google’s treatment of “noindex,follow” tags.

However, the more we emphasize mobile experience, while simultaneously relying on this method, the more we need to be careful about how we present it. In the past, as SEOs, we might have been fairly nervous about placing on-page links behind tabs or dropdowns, just because it felt like deceiving Google. And on desktop, that might be true, but on mobile, this is increasingly going to become best practice, and we have to trust Google to understand that.

All that said, I’d love to hear your strategies for grappling with this — let me know in the comments below!

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Beyond the Hype Cycle: It’s Time to Redefine Influencer Marketing

It's Time to Redefine Influencer Marketing

It's Time to Redefine Influencer Marketing

Every marketer should consider getting a tattoo of Gartner’s Hype Cycle, as a reminder to keep us from chasing shiny objects.

The Hype Cycle goes like this:

  1. A new hotness emerges. It could be new technology, a new strategy or tactic, some new thing.
  2. There are wild predictions about how the thing will revolutionize the world.
  3. People scramble to get on board with the thing before they even understand it.
  4. The new thing doesn’t measure up to elevated expectations.
  5. People get disillusioned with the thing and decide it’s worthless.
  6. People actually learn how the thing works, get sophisticated in using it.
  7. The thing turns out to be pretty awesome and is used productively.

Marketers are just as susceptible to the hype machine as anyone else is. More so, even. Think of content marketing: We went from “content is king” to “content shock” in just a few years, and we’re just now hitting the plateau of productivity.

Now it’s influencer marketing’s turn to ride the downhill slope to the trough of disillusionment. It’s inevitable. We started with high expectations, a ton of hype, and a lot of investment before people really knew what worked.

Now the backlash is hitting. The latest Sprout Social Index is particularly sobering. Only 46% of marketers are using influencer marketing. Only 19% said they had the budget for an influencer program. And on the consumer side, people say they’re more likely to take a friend’s recommendation on social media than take an influencer’s word for it.

In other words: The party’s over. Now the real work begins. It’s time to redefine influencer marketing, get more sophisticated, and get productive. Here’s how to get out of the trough:

#1 – Redefining Influence

In the B2C world (and even in the B2B realm), influence and celebrity are often treated as synonyms. Whether it’s Rhianna or Matthew McConaughey or Pewdiepie, it’s people who have audiences in the millions. There’s some differentiation for relevancy — this YouTuber does makeup tutorials, that one is a gamer — but it’s mostly a numbers game. It’s paying people with huge followings to throw some attention at your brand.

As Ursula Ringham, Head of Global Influencer Marketing for SAP*, told us in a recent interview on social and influencer marketing:

“People often think that influencer marketing is all about celebrities hawking a product. It’s truly not about that—especially in the B2B realm. It’s about highlighting experts who have real experience on the business challenges a brand’s audience faces.”

To become more sophisticated, you need to rethink what it means to be influential. Sure, a mega-star with a huge following is great — if they are relevant to your specific target audience and if their participation doesn’t break the bank.

However, you can get amazing results working with influencers like:

  • Thought leaders in the industry with a small but prestigious network
  • Experts with radical new ideas who are poised to become thought leaders
  • Subject matter experts within your own company
  • Prospective customers from influential brands you want to work with
  • Employees who will advocate for your brand given direction and material

That last one is crucial. Inspiring your internal influencers can give your content a massive boost in reach — LinkedIn* estimates that the average employee has a network 10x bigger than the brand’s social reach. Sprout says, in the key findings of their report:

“Social marketers in 2018 see the value in employee advocacy as a cost-effective, scalable alternative to influencer marketing.”

I would say “addition” rather than “alternative,” but it’s definitely an undervalued tactic.

Our experience is that a combination of industry and internal influencers can yield the most effective results. SAP Success Factors incorporated industry influencers, internal subject matter experts, partners and clients on a program that exceeded the lead generation goal by 272% with a 66% conversion rate.

The bottom line is, when evaluating influencers, look beyond their follower count. Their industry reputation, group affiliations, and level of engagement are all indicators influence, too. And don’t forget to include your customers, prospects, and employees in your potential influencer pool.

[bctt tweet="When evaluating influencers, look beyond their follower count. Their industry reputation, group affiliations, & level of engagement are all indicators influence, too. - @NiteWrites #RedefiningInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]

#2 – Redefining Compensation

The rising cost of influencer marketing is another factor that has led to the trough of disillusionment. The majority of influencer marketing, especially in B2C, has been exclusively transactional. Big brands swept up top-tier influencers, the payments kept getting bigger for smaller results, and eventually the bubble had to burst.

To reach the plateau of productivity, that compensation model must change. At TopRank Marketing, we focus on building relationships with influencers and invite them to co-create with us. While there are instances in which financial compensation is part of the partnership, most often the compensation is the same both for our client and the influencer:

  • A cool, valuable asset to share
  • Cross-promotion to each other’s audiences
  • Boost to thought leadership
  • Access to a community of thought leaders

The relationship model is far more sustainable than a transactional-only approach. Again, if there is an influencer who prefers a transaction, and is of high value to the client, we’re not opposed to financial compensation. But these cases should be the exception, not the norm.

#3 – Redefining Measurement

Proving ROI is a crucial part of making your influencer marketing more sophisticated. Without the ability to show what your influencers have accomplished for the brand, it’s hard to sell management on continued investment.

It all starts with measurable goals and KPIs that hold your influencer marketing to the same standards as every other tactic you use. Tracking performance against those goals is the next step. We all have access to the tools and tech for this kind of measurement. We just need to use them more effectively to show how influencers are effective throughout the entire buyer’s journey.

Right now, marketers tend to focus on the top of funnel metrics, because they’re easy to measure: Social reach, influencer participation, engagements, likes, comments.

You need to get more granular than just those raw engagement numbers. You need to get from engagement to action. When you’re ready to amplify, give each influencer a custom URL to share. Then you can measure which influencers are actually inspiring people to leave social media and check out the asset you’ve created. From there, you can measure how those clicks convert to a lead capture, and track the lead through your pipeline.

[bctt tweet="We all have access to the tools & tech for better measurement of #influencermarketing #ROI. We just need to use them more effectively. - @NiteWrites #RedefiningInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]

Redefining Influencer Marketing

It’s time for influencer marketing to graduate from the Hype Cycle and become a trusted part of your integrated marketing strategy. To get to the plateau of productivity, we must discard what doesn’t work, keep what does, and refine our approach for continued improvement.

It starts with reconsidering just what influence means and who has it. Once you find your true influencers, it’s about developing relationships and building communities, rather than ever-more-expensive transactions. Finally, it requires making your measurement as sophisticated as it is for the rest of your marketing tactics.

We have found that influencer marketing beyond the Hype Cycle is an indispensable part of our marketing mix. The proof is in the pie: Read how our Easy-As-Pie Guide to Content Planning drove a 500% increase in leads for client DivvyHQ.

*Disclosure: SAP and LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post Beyond the Hype Cycle: It’s Time to Redefine Influencer Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Beyond Youtube: Video Hosting, Marketing, and Monetization Platforms, Compared

Posted by AnnSmarty

A few weeks ago I did a step-by-step article on building up your YouTube presence. When writing the article, I immediately had a follow-up idea on expanding my tips beyond YouTube. Since then, some of the comments have confirmed the need for this follow-up.

The increasing interest in video marketing and diversifying your efforts is not surprising: According to HubSpot’s research 45% of web users watch an hour or more of video per day. That’s a lot if time our customers spend watching videos! And it’s projected that by 2020, 82% of all consumer web traffic will be video.

Obviously, if you are seriously entering the video marketing arena, limiting yourself to YouTube alone is not a smart idea, just like limiting yourself to any one marketing channel is probably never a good way to go.

With that in mind, what other options do we have?

More video hosting options

YouTube is not the only major video hosting platform out there. There are a few solid options that you want to consider. Here are three additional platforms and how they fit different needs:

YouTube

Vimeo Pro

Vimeo Business

Wistia

Cost

Free

$ 20 /m

$ 50 /m

$ 99 /m

What’s included

Unlimited videos

20GB per week

5TB per week

10 videos a month

Lead generation

No

No

Yes

Yes

Customizable player

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Collaboration

No

No

Yes

No

Publish native to Facebook & Twitter

No

Yes

Yes

No

Clickable links

No(*)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Domain-level privacy

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Analytics

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes (**)

Video schema

No

No

No

Yes

Customer support

No(*)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Cons

Crowded, no good way to send viewers to your site…

Often has issues with bandwidth; videos load slower. If you are looking for organic visibility, it’s quite niche-specific (artists, etc.)

Most expensive

Best for

Anyone

Filmmakers

Agencies

Businesses

  • (*) Unless you become a YouTube Partner (which is next to impossible for new and medium-scale channels)
  • (**) I (as well as many reviewers) consider Wistia analytics much better than that of YouTube and Vimeo

Bottom line:

Choosing a video hosting platform is overwhelming but here are a few easy-to-digest takeaways from the above comparison:

  • YouTube is beyond competition. If you are into video marketing, you need to be there, at least for the sake of being discovered through their search and suggested videos. However, a YouTube account is only good for promoting the YouTube account. There’s little chance to drive leads to your site or build solid income there. You do need to be there for branding, though. Besides, none of the other options will offer an opportunity for such a powerful organic spread.
  • If you are into creative film-making (artists and storytellers), you’ll want to give Vimeo Pro a try. There’s a big community there and you want to be part of it to find partners/clients.
  • If you are a video marketing agency, Vimeo Business may be your platform of choice (thanks to their collaboration and multi-user support)
  • If you mostly need videos to embed on your landing pages, Wistia will save you tons of time. It’s the easiest to use and understand. No extra training needed. You don’t have to be an experienced filmmaker OR marketer to understand how it works and use its analytics.

Video courses and on-demand video

These days, anyone can create their own on-demand video channel. Isn’t it awesome? It’s also a very smart way to monetize your videos without forcing your viewers into clicking any ads or buying any affiliate stuff you didn’t create.

When consolidating your video marketing efforts into your own on-demand video channel, there are important goals to keep in mind (targeting at least several at a time being the smartest approach):

  • Creating a knowledge base around your product
  • Positioning your brand as a knowledge hub in your niche
  • Building up an additional conversion funnel (for those people who are not ready to buy yet)

To me, creating a video subscription channel seems to be a perfect way to monetize your video creation efforts for two very appealing reasons:

  1. You create a product of your own which you are able to sell. With that comes an ocean of opportunities, from enhanced branding to an ability to expand your reach to many more platforms where you can sell your product from.
  2. You build and nurture your own micro-community, which (if you do things right) are able to spread your word, refer more people to join and support you in your other endeavors.

With that in mind, which options do we have to create our own video course?

Not surprisingly, there are quite a few platforms that fall into two major groups:

  • Revenue sharing platforms. The power of those is that they are interested in selling your courses and there’s usually a community to market your course to. That benefit also creates one major drawback: Expect these platforms to dictate you how to format and market your course. Udemy is the best known example here: I started using it mostly for branding and quickly got discouraged due to their multiple restrictions and poor customer support. Still, it’s a good place to start.
  • VOD (video-on-demand) platforms. These will charge you a monthly fee but they will come with awesome marketing features and integrations, as well as total freedom as to what you want to do with your content and your audience. Like with anything, you get what you pay for.Uscreen is a big player here: You can choose your payment model, use your own domain, brand your course the way you want to, send email marketing emails to your students, and even create a custom smart phone app to give your students an alternative on-the-go way to consume your brand-owned content:

Uscreen course

Bottom line:

Like with video marketing platforms, there’s nothing preventing you from using both of the above options (for example, you can sell a lighter version of your course on Udemy and keep a more advanced, regularly updated version for your own domain) but just to give you an idea:

  • Udemy is best if you are very new to course creation and have no budget to start. It also makes it easy to keep an eye on competitors and understand your audience better by watching what and how they rate and review
  • Uscreen is a logical step further: Once you get more comfortable and have accumulated some videos you may want to bring it to the next level, i.e. create your own branded spot to engage your community better and build an alternative source of income.

Live streaming

Live streaming refers recording and simultaneously broadcasting your video to your audience in real time.

Live streaming has been getting bigger for a few years now and there’s nothing that would signal an upcoming slow-down.

The biggest players here are:

  • YouTube Live
  • Facebook Live
  • Periscope

All the above options are very interactive and engaging: You can see your viewers’ comments and reactions as you are streaming the video and you are able to address them right away.

In this case, your choice depends on your own marketing background: Stick to whatever channel currently works best for you in terms of follower/subscriber base and engagement.

Personally, Facebook is my preferred way to stream videos, not because of the actual audience size but because Facebook audience is more engaged. Besides, Facebook sends a notification to my friends whenever I go live which always results in more views.

But it’s possible that we don’t have to choose…

There are a couple of services that claim to stream “simultaneously” to several of the major platforms which is something I haven’t tried yet but I am definitely planning to. If you like the idea, here’s what I have been able to find so far:

Vimeo Live

Crowdcast Multistreams

Supported platforms

“Vimeo and Facebook, YouTube, or your favorite RTMP destinations”

“Facebook Live, Periscope, YouTube Live, and more”

Cost

$ 75 per month

$ 89 per month

Extra Pros

Comes with all Vimeo Business features (analytics, collaboration, hosting, etc.)

Comes with nice webinar hosting features

More tools to amplify your video marketing

In my previous article I listed lots of video creation and marketing tools and I didn’t want to leave you with no tools here as well.

If you have read up to this point, you must be very serious about your video marketing efforts. So to award you, here are a few awesome tools you may want to take note of:

Create: Lumen5

Here’s a nice tool I failed to mention in my previous post: Lumen5. If you are looking for an easy start for your video marketing campaign, take a look at this tool. It turns blog posts into videos and the result is pretty awesome.

lumen5

I don’t mean to say this tool is enough for a well-rounded video marketing campaign but it’s definitely a nice way to re-package your text content and broadcast your articles to video-only channels, like Youtube and Vimeo.

Monetize: Patreon

Apart from selling your videos as a separate project, there’s another cool way to monetize your video activity.

Patreon is nice platform aiming to help independent video creators: Set up your page and invite your social media followers to support your video creation efforts by a small monthly subscription. If you don’t want to sell anything, that’s a nice way to earn your living by engaging your supporters:

patreon

You can learn more on how it works from its current user here.

Monitor: Awario

There’s never one perfect method of doing marketing. There’s always a need to try different tools, formats and platforms. Monitoring your competitors is one great way to discover more of those tactics to play with.

Awario is a great solution to use for competitive multi-channel monitoring. They support all major media including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, blogs and more. You can easily filter out any channel to clear out clutter. YouTube monitoring is a life saver when it comes to keeping an eye on what your competitor is doing video-wise:

awario

When it comes to video marketing, I am not aware of any other solution for monitoring video content.

Conclusion

  • You don’t have to limit yourself to YouTube for video hosting, but you cannot really do without YouTube altogether.
  • When it comes to YouTube, it’s a powerful video discovery engine but there’s not much you can do to direct those viewers to your own site. You need to be there to be discovered, though.
  • When it comes to other video hosting platforms, every solution serves its own purpose, so choose one that will serve your needs best.
  • If you want to consolidate your video marketing efforts (which is a smart and logical step further), create your own on-demand video channel. These days it’s pretty easy and affordable.
  • Video live streaming is a great way to earn organic social media visibility. Choose your platform to stream based on your current level of engagement and reach. Or, try paid solutions that allow to stream to multiple platforms simultaneously

Are there more tools and platforms you are using? Let us know in the comments!

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Looking Beyond Keywords: How to Drive Conversion with Visual Search & Search by Camera

Posted by Jes.Scholz

Let’s play a game. I’ll show you an image. You type in the keyword to find the exact product featured in the image online. Ready?

Google her sunglasses…

What did you type? Brown sunglasses? Brown sunglasses with heavy frame? Retro-look brown sunglasses with heavy frame? It doesn’t matter how long-tail you go, it will be difficult to find that exact pair, if not impossible. And you’re not alone.

For 74% of consumers, traditional text-based keyword searches are inefficient at helping find the right products online.

But much of your current search behavior is based on the false premise that you can describe things in words. In many situations, we can’t.

And this shows in the data. Sometimes we forget that Google Images accounts for 22.6% of all searches — searches where traditional methods of searching were not the best fit.

Image credit: Sparktoro

But I know what you’re thinking. Image SEO drives few to no sessions, let alone conversions. Why should I invest my limited resources into visual marketing?

Because humans are visual creatures. And now, so too are mobile phones — with big screens, multiple cameras, and strong depth perception.

Developments in computer vision have led to a visual marketing renaissance. Just look to visual search leader Pinterest, who reported that 55% of their users shop on the platform. How well do those users convert? Heap Analytics data shows that on shopping cart sizes under $ 199, image-based Pinterest Ads have an 8.5% conversion rate. To put that in context, that’s behind Google’s 12.3% but in front of Facebook’s 7.2%.

Not only can visual search drive significant conversions online. Image recognition is also driving the digitalization and monetization in the real world.

The rise of visual search in Google

Traditionally, image search functioned like this: Google took a text-based query and tried to find the best visual match based on metadata, markups, and surrounding copy.

But for many years now, the image itself can also act as the search query. Google can search for images with images. This is called visual search.

Google has been quietly adding advanced image recognition capabilities to mobile Google Images over the last years, with a focus on the fashion industry as a test case for commercial opportunities (although the functionality can be applied to automotive, travel, food, and many other industries). Plotting the updates, you can see clear stepping stone technologies building on the theme of visual search.

  • Related images (April 2013): Click on a result to view visually similar images. The first foray into visual search.
  • Collections (November 2015): Allows users to save images directly from Google’s mobile image search into folders. Google’s answer to a Pinterest board.
  • Product images in web results (October 2016): Product images begin to display next to website links in mobile search.
  • Product details on images (December 2016): Click on an image result to display product price, availability, ratings, and other key information directly in the image search results.
  • Similar items (April 2017): Google can identify products, even within lifestyle images, and showcases similar items you can buy online.
  • Style ideas (April 2017): The flip side to similar items. When browsing fashion product images on mobile, Google shows you outfit montages and inspirational lifestyle photos to highlight how the product can be worn in real life.
  • Image badges (August 2017): Label on the image indicate what other details are available, encouraging more users to click; for example, badges such as “recipe” or a timestamp for pages featuring videos. But the most significant badge is “product,” shown if the item is available for purchase online.
  • Image captions (March 2018): Display the title tag and domain underneath the image.

Combining these together, you can see powerful functionality. Google is making a play to turn Google Images into shoppable product discovery — trying to take a bite out of social discovery platforms and give consumers yet another reason to browse on Google, rather than your e-commerce website.

Image credit: Google

What’s more, Google is subtly leveraging the power of keyword search to enlighten users about these new features. According to 1st May MozCast, 18% of text-based Google searches have image blocks, which drive users into Google Images.

This fundamental change in Google Image search comes with a big SEO opportunity for early adopters. Not only for transactional queries, but higher up the funnel with informational queries as well.

kate-middleton-style.gif

Let’s say you sell designer fashion. You could not only rank #1 with your blog post on a informational query on “kate middleton style,” including an image on your article result to enhance the clickability of your SERP listing. You can rank again on page 1 within the image pack, then have your products featured in Similar Items — all of which drives more high-quality users to your site.

And the good news? This is super simple to implement.

How to drive organic sessions with visual search

The new visual search capabilities are all algorithmically selected based on a combination of schema and image recognition. Google told TechCrunch:

“The images that appear in both the style ideas and similar items grids are also algorithmically ranked, and will prioritize those that focus on a particular product type or that appear as a complete look and are from authoritative sites.”

This means on top of continuing to establish Domain Authority site-wide, you need images that are original, high resolution, and clearly focus on a single theme. But most importantly, you need images with perfectly implemented structured markup to rank in Google Images.

To rank your images, follow these four simple steps:

1. Implement schema markup

To be eligible for similar items, you need product markup on the host page that meets the minimum metadata requirements of:

  • Name
  • Image
  • Price
  • Currency
  • Availability

But the more quality detail, the better, as it will make your results more clickable.

2. Check your implementation

Validate your implementation by running a few URLs through Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. But remember, just being valid is sometimes not enough. Be sure to look into the individual field result to ensure the data is correctly populating and user-friendly.

3. Get indexed

Be aware, it can take up to one week for your site’s images to be crawled. This will be helped along by submitting an image XML sitemap in Google Search Console.

4. Look to Google Images on mobile

Check your implementation by doing a site:yourdomain.cctld query on mobile in Google Images.

If you see no image results badges, you likely have an implementation issue. Go back to step 2. If you see badges, click a couple to ensure they show your ideal markup in the details.

Once you confirm all is well, then you can begin to search for your targeted keywords to see how and where you rank.

Like all schema markup, how items display in search results is at Google’s discretion and not guaranteed. However, quality markup will increase the chance of your images showing up.

It’s not always about Google

Visual search is not limited to Google. And no, I’m not talking about just Bing. Visual search is also creating opportunities to be found and drive conversion on social networks, such as Pinterest. Both brands allow you to select objects within images to narrow down your visual search query.

Image credit: MarTech Today

On top of this, we also have shoppable visual content on the rise, bridging the gap between browsing and buying. Although at present, this is more often driven by data feeds and tagging more so than computer vision. For example:

  • Brahmin offers shoppable catalogs
  • Topshop features user-generated shoppable galleries
  • Net-a-Porter’s online magazine features shoppable article
  • Ted Baker’s campaigns with shoppable videos
  • Instagram & Pinterest both monetize with shoppable social media posts

Such formats reduce the number of steps users need to take from content to conversion. And more importantly for SEOs, they exclude the need for keyword search.

I see a pair of sunglasses on Instagram. I don’t need to Google the name, then click on the product page and then convert. I use the image as my search query, and I convert. One click. No keywords.

…But what if I see those sunglasses offline?

Digitize the world with camera-based search

The current paradigm for SEOs is that we wait for a keyword search to occur, and then compete. Not only for organic rankings, but also for attention versus paid ads and other rich features.

With computer vision, you can cut the keyword search out of the customer journey. By entering the funnel before the keyword search occurs, you can effectively exclude your competitors.

Who cares if your competitor has the #1 organic spot on Google, or if they have more budget for Adwords, or a stronger core value proposition messaging, if consumers never see it?

Consumers can skip straight from desire to conversion by taking a photo with their smartphone.

Brands taking search by camera mainstream

Search by camera is well known thanks to Pinterest Lens. Built into the app, simply point your camera phone at a product discovered offline for online recommendations of similar items.

If you point Lens at a pair of red sneakers, it will find you visually similar sneakers as well as idea on how to style it.

Image credit: Pinterest

But camera search is not limited to only e-commerce or fashion applications.

Say you take a photo of strawberries. Pinterest understand you’re not looking for more pictures of strawberries, but for inspiration, so you’ll see recipe ideas.

The problem? For you, or your consumers, Pinterest is unlikely to be a day-to-day app. To be competitive against keyword search, search by camera needs to become part of your daily habit.

Samsung understands this, integrating search by camera into their digital personal assistant Bixby, with functionality backed by powerful partnerships.

  • Pinterest Lens powers its images search
  • Amazon powers its product search
  • Google translates text
  • Foursquare helps to find places nearby

Bixby failed to take the market by storm, and so is unlikely to be your go-to digital personal assistant. Yet with the popularity of search by camera, it’s no surprise that Google has recently launched their own version of Lens in Google Assistant.

Search engines, social networks, and e-commerce giants are all investing in search by camera…

…because of impressive impacts on KPIs. BloomReach reported that e-commerce websites reached by search by camera resulted in:

  • 48% more product views
  • 75% greater likelihood to return
  • 51% higher time on site
  • 9% higher average order value

Camera search has become mainstream. So what’s your next step?

How to leverage computer vision for your brand

As a marketer, your job is to find the right use case for your brand, that perfect point where either visual search or search by camera can reduce friction in conversion flows.

Many case studies are centered around snap-to-shop. See an item you like in a friend’s home, at the office, or walking past you on the street? Computer vision takes you directly from picture to purchase.

But the applications of image recognition are only limited by your vision. Think bigger.

Branded billboards, magazines ads, product packaging, even your brick-and-mortar storefront displays all become directly actionable. Digitalization with snap-to-act via a camera phone offers more opportunities than QR codes on steroids.

If you run a marketplace website, you can use computer vision to classify products: Say a user wants to list a pair of shoes for sale. They simply snap a photo of the item. With that photo, you can automatically populate the fields for brand, color, category, subcategory, materials, etc., reducing the number of form fields to what is unique about this item, such as the price.

A travel company can offer snap-for-info on historical attractions, a museum on artworks, a healthy living app on calories in your lunch.

What about local SEO? Not only could computer vision show the rating or menu of your restaurant before the user walks inside, but you could put up a bus stop ad calling for hungry travelers to take a photo. The image triggers Google Maps, showing public transport directions to your restaurant. You can take the customer journey, quite literally. Tell them where to get off the bus.

And to build such functionality is relatively easy, because you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are many open-source image recognition APIs to help you leverage pre-trained image classifiers, or from which you can train your own:

  • Google Cloud Vision
  • Amazon Rekognition
  • IBM Watson
  • Salesforce Einstein
  • Slyce
  • Clarifai

Let’s make this actionable. You now know computer vision can greatly improve your user experience, conversion rate and sessions. To leverage this, you need to:

  1. Make your brand visual interactive through image recognition features
  2. Understand how consumers visually search for your products
  3. Optimize your content so it’s geared towards visual technology

Visual search is permeating online and camera search is becoming commonplace offline. Now is the time to outshine your competitors. Now is the time to understand the foundations of visual marketing. Both of these technologies are stepping stones that will lead the way to an augmented reality future.

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Customer Satisfaction Segmentation: Customer expectations extend beyond the end users of your products

Only when you determine each type of individual’s varying expectations can you determine if your marketing is making the right promise and if your marketing is delivering on that promise.
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Back to the basics: Beyond ranking factors

Ranking factors are important, but is that really what you should be focusing on? Columnist Garrett Mehrguth believes marketers need to first turn their attention to design, audience research, content and attribution.

The post Back to the basics: Beyond ranking factors appeared first on Search…



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5 Future-Proofing TipsThat Will Keep Your Brand Relevant in 2018 and Beyond

Consumer trends move at such a dizzying speeds that companies have to work double time just to keep up with the changes. It’s understandable that company owners and marketers don’t want to be left behind. After all, there seems to be more competition for attention every year, more technological advances to absorb, channels to be active in, and higher expectations from customers.

Now more than ever before, companies need to future-proof their business and marketing strategies in order to stay relevant in 2018.

Understanding the Importance of Future-Proofing

“Future-proofing” describes a technological system, a product, or a service that would have to be updated as technology changes and improves.

In business terms, future-proofing means that you’ll need to implement a sound strategy to keep up with changes in your industry and the needs of your clients before they happen.

It should be pointed out though that regardless of preparation, you can’t really future-proof something 100%. However, companies can plan how they’ll adapt their systems in order to connect with their clients on the correct channels, using the most relevant content at the right time.

5 Strategies to Keep Your Brand Relevant

1. Always Listen and Touch Bases With Your Customers

Today’s marketing is all about dialogue, and it appears that this will remain true in the foreseeable future. Your company has to be able to communicate with your client in order to remain relevant. It’s also vital that you listen to customer feedback.

Image result for importance of online reviews statistic 2017

Graphic via StartupGuys.net

Regardless of whether you’re conducting a survey, using live chat to talk or reading customer reviews you have to pay attention to your audience and try to spot upcoming trends. The insights you get from listening and having a dialogue with them can help improve the marketing campaigns you presently have and those that you’re planning for in the future.

2. Make it a Habit to Learn New Things Regularly

Always stay on top of upcoming trends and why they’re important. Learn new things by studying vital and new marketing resources from reputable researchers and companies. Whether you’re outright studying a course, listening to content or just reading and watching new trends and technologies, always be open to learning about it.

3. Invest Smartly With Your Marketing

It’s never a good idea to blow your entire marketing budget on one strategy. The risk of losing is simply too high. A better move would be to invest small but smarter. Companies can try alloting small amounts of time, money and resources and invest them in various areas of marketing just to see which sectors perform well and which don’t. It’s also a good way to gain exposure and experience in different marketing techniques.

This approach will also be valuable if a particular marketing medium becomes more profitable or relevant over time. If that happens, you already have a foothold and have the right knowledge and experience to drive results in your expected direction.

4. Build a Pro-Active Team

Your team is just as important as your strategy. Build a team that’s pro-active and understands the importance of future-proofing the company’s marketing efforts.

It’s important that your team is comfortable and adept with changes. A good team is one that questions the company’s processes and strategies in a bid to improve them. They should also be aware of what’s happening outside the businesses and its impact.

5. Mentor Millennials

Millennials will dominate leadership roles in the future and you want your staff to be prepared. This generation prefers formal training and mentoring in order to learn the system and feel engaged. Design a program where a younger employee is paired with a mentor. Provide onboarding programs that will help this key group better understand your company better and their present and future role.

[Featured image via Pixabay]

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Going Beyond Google: Are Search Engines Ready for JavaScript Crawling & Indexing?

Posted by goralewicz

I recently published the results of my JavaScript SEO experiment where I checked which JavaScript frameworks are properly crawled and indexed by Google. The results were shocking; it turns out Google has a number of problems when crawling and indexing JavaScript-rich websites.

Google managed to index only a few out of multiple JavaScript frameworks tested. And as I proved, indexing content doesn’t always mean crawling JavaScript-generated links.

This got me thinking. If Google is having problems with JavaScript crawling and indexing, how are Google’s smaller competitors dealing with this problem? Is JavaScript going to lead you to full de-indexing in most search engines?

If you decide to deploy a client-rendered website (meaning a browser or Googlebot needs to process the JavaScript before seeing the HTML), you’re not only risking problems with your Google rankings — you may completely kill your chances at ranking in all the other search engines out there.

Google + JavaScript SEO experiment

To see how search engines other than Google deal with JavaScript crawling and indexing, we used our experiment website, http:/jsseo.expert, to check how Googlebot crawls and indexes JavaScript (and JavaScript frameworks’) generated content.

The experiment was quite simple: http://jsseo.expert has subpages with content parsed by different JavaScript frameworks. If you disable JavaScript, the content isn’t visible — i.e. if you go to http://jsseo.expert/angular2/, all the content within the red box is generated by Angular 2. If the content isn’t indexed in Yahoo, for example, we know that Yahoo’s indexer didn’t process the JavaScript.

Here are the results:

As you can see, Google and Ask are the only search engines to properly index JavaScript-generated content. Bing, Yahoo, AOL, DuckDuckGo, and Yandex are completely JavaScript-blind and won’t see your content if it isn’t HTML.

The next step: Can other search engines index JavaScript?

Most SEOs only cover JavaScript crawling and indexing issues when talking about Google. As you can see, the problem is much more complex. When you launch a client-rendered JavaScript-rich website (JavaScript is processed by the browser/crawler to “build” HTML), you can be 100% sure that it’s only going to be indexed and ranked in Google and Ask. Unfortunately, Google and Ask cover only ~64% of the whole search engine market, according to statista.com.

This means that your new, shiny, JavaScript-rich website can cost you ~36% of your website’s visibility on all search engines.

Let’s start with Yahoo, Bing, and AOL, which are responsible for 35% of search queries in the US.

Yahoo, Bing, and AOL

Even though Yahoo and AOL were here long before Google, they’ve obviously fallen behind its powerful algorithm and don’t invest in crawling and indexing as much as Google. One reason is likely the relatively high cost of crawling and indexing the web compared to the popularity of the website.

Google can freely invest millions of dollars in growing their computing power without worrying as much about return on investment, whereas Bing, AOL, and Ask only have a small percentage of the search market.

However, Microsoft-owned Bing isn’t out of the running. Their growth has been quite aggressive over last 8 years:

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about one of the market pioneers: AOL. Do you remember the days before Google? This video will surely bring back some memories from a simpler time.

If you want to learn more about search engine history, I highly recommend watching Marcus Tandler’s spectacular TEDx talk.

Ask.com

What about Ask.com? How is it possible that Ask, with less than 1% of the market, can invest in crawling and indexing JavaScript? It makes me question if the Ask network is powered by Google’s algorithm and crawlers. It’s even more interesting looking at Ask’s aversion towards Google. There were already some speculations about Ask’s relationship with Google after Google Penguin in 2012, but we can now confirm that Ask’s crawling is using Google’s technology.

DuckDuckGo and Yandex

Both DuckDuckGo and Yandex had no problem indexing all the URLs within http://jsseo.expert, but unfortunately, the only content that was indexed properly was the 100% HTML page (http://jsseo.expert/html/).

Baidu

Despite my best efforts, I didn’t manage to index http://jsseo.expert in Baidu.com. It turns out you need a mainland China phone number to do that. I don’t have any previous experience with Baidu, so any and all help with indexing our experimental website would be appreciated. As soon as I succeed, I will update this article with Baidu.com results.

Going beyond the search engines

What if you don’t really care about search engines other than Google? Even if your target market is heavily dominated by Google, JavaScript crawling and indexing is still in an early stage, as my JavaScript SEO experiment documented.

Additionally, even if crawled and indexed properly, there is proof that JavaScript reliance can affect your rankings. Will Critchlow saw a significant traffic improvement after shifting from JavaScript-driven pages to non-JavaScript reliant.

Is there a JavaScript SEO silver bullet?

There is no search engine that can understand and process JavaScript at the level our modern browsers can. Even so, JavaScript isn’t inherently bad for SEO. JavaScript is awesome, but just like SEO, it requires experience and close attention to best practices.

If you want to enjoy all the perks of JavaScript without worrying about problems like Hulu.com’s JavaScript SEO issues, look into isomorphic JavaScript. It allows you to enjoy dynamic and beautiful websites without worrying about SEO.

If you’ve already developed a client-rendered website and can’t go back to the drawing board, you can always use pre-rendering services or enable server-side rendering. They often aren’t ideal solutions, but can definitely help you solve the JavaScript crawling and indexing problem until you come up with a better solution.

Regardless of the search engine, yet again we come back to testing and experimenting as a core component of technical SEO.

The future of JavaScript SEO

I highly recommend you follow along with how http://jsseo.expert/ is indexed in Google and other search engines. Even if some of the other search engines are a little behind Google, they’ll need to improve how they deal with JavaScript-rich websites to meet the exponentially growing demand for what JavaScript frameworks offer, both to developers and end users.

For now, stick to HTML & CSS on your front-end. :)

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Local SEO & Beyond: Ranking Your Local Business in 2017

Posted by Casey_Meraz

In 2016, I predicted that ranking in the 3-pack was hard and it would continually get more competitive. I maintain that prediction for 2017, but I want to make one thing clear. If you haven’t done so, I believe local businesses should start to look outside of a local-SEO-3-Pack-ONLY focused strategy.

While local SEO still presents a tremendous opportunity to grow your business, I’m going to look at some supplementary organic strategies you can take into your local marketing campaign, as well.

In this post I’m going to address:

  • How local search has changed since last year
  • Why & how your overall focus may need to change in 2017
  • Actionable advice on how to rank better to get more local traffic & more business

In local search success, one thing is clear

The days of getting in the 3-pack and having a one-trick pony strategy are over. Every business wants to get the free traffic from Google’s local results, but the chances are getting harder everyday. Not only are you fighting against all of your competitors trying to get the same rankings, but now you’re also fighting against even more ads.

If you thought it was hard to get top placement today in the local pack, just consider that you’re also fighting against 4+ ads before customers even have the possibility of seeing your business.

Today’s SERPs are ad-rich with 4 paid ads at the top, and now it’s not uncommon to find paid listings prioritized in local results. Just take a look at this example that Gyi Tsakalakis shared with me, showing one ad in the local pack on mobile ranking above the 3-pack results. Keep in mind, there are four other ads above this.

If you were on desktop and you clicked on one of the 3-pack results, you’re taken to the local finder. In the desktop search example below, once you make it to the local finder you’ll see two paid local results above the other businesses.

Notice how only the companies participating in paid ads have stars. Do you think that gives them an advantage? I do.


Don’t worry though, I’m not jaded by ads

After all of that gloomy ad SERP talk, you’re probably getting a little depressed. Don’t. With every change there comes new opportunity, and we’ve seen many of our clients excel in search by focusing on multiple strategies that work for their business.

Focusing on the local pack should still be a strong priority for you, even if you don’t have a pay-to-play budget for ads. Getting listed in the local finder can still result in easy wins — especially if you have the most reviews, as Google has very handy sorting options.

If you have the highest rating score, you can easily get clicks when users decide to sort the results they see by the business rating. Below is an example of how users can easily sort by ratings.

But what else can you do to compete effectively in your local market?


Consider altering your local strategy

Most businesses I speak with seem to have tunnel vision. They think it’s more important to rank in the local pack and, in some cases, even prioritize this over the real goal: more customers.

Every day, I talk to new businesses and marketers that seem to have a single area of focus. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing to do one thing really well, the ones that are most successful are managing a variety of campaigns tied to their business goals.

Instead of taking a single approach of focusing on just free local clicks, expand your horizon a bit and ask yourself this question: Where are my customers looking and how can I get in front of them?

Sometimes taking a step back and looking at things from the 30,000-ft view is beneficial.


You can start by asking yourself these questions by examining the SERPs:

1. What websites, OTHER THAN MY OWN, have the most visibility for the topics and keywords I’m interested in?

You can bet people are clicking on results other than your own website underneath the local results. Are they websites you can show up on? How do you increase that visibility?

I think STAT has a great tracking tool for this. You simply set up the keywords you want to track and their Share of Voice feature shows who’s ranking where and what percentage of visibility they have in your specific market.

In the example below, you can see the current leaders in a space I’m tracking. Notice how Findlaw & Yelp show up there. With a little further research I can find out if they have number 1–2 rankings (which they do) and determine whether I should put in place a strategy to rank there. This is called barnacle SEO.

2. Are my customers using voice search?

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it strange to talk to my computer. That being said, I have no reservations about talking to my phone — even when I’m in places I shouldn’t. Stone Temple recently published a great study on voice command search, which you can check out here.

Some of the cool takeaways from that study were where people search from. It seems people are more likely to search from the privacy of their own home, but most mobile devices out there today have voice search integrated. I wonder how many people are doing this from their cars?
This goes to show that local queries are not just about the 3-pack. While many people may ask their device “What’s the nearest pizza place,” other’s may ask a variety of questions like:

Where is the highest-rated pizza place nearby?
Who makes the best pizza in Denver?
What’s the closest pizza place near me?

Don’t ignore voice search when thinking about your localized organic strategy. Voice is mobile and voice can sure be local. What localized searches would someone be interested in when looking for my business? What questions might they be asking that would drive them to my local business?

3. Is my website optimized for “near me” searches?

“Near me” searches have been on the rise over the past five years and I don’t expect that to stop. Sometimes customers are just looking for something close by. Google Trends data shows how this has changed in the past five years:
Are you optimizing for a “near me” strategy for your business? Recently the guys over at Local SEO Guide did a study of “near me” local SEO ranking factors. Optimizing for “near me” searches is important and it falls right in line with some of the tactical advice we have for increasing your Google My Business rankings as well. More on that later.

4. Should my business stay away from ads?

Let’s start by looking at a some facts. Google makes money off of their paid ads. According to an article from Adweek, “During the second quarter of 2016, Alphabet’s revenue hit $ 21.5 billion, a 21% year-over-year increase. Of that revenue, $ 19.1 billion came from Google’s advertising business, up from $ 16 billion a year ago.”

This roughly translates to: “Ads aren’t going anywhere and Google is going to do whatever they can to put them in your face.” If you didn’t see the Home Service ad test with all ads that Mike Blumenthal pointed out, you can check it out below. Google is trying to find more creative ways to monetize local search.
Incase you haven’t heard it before, having both organic and paid listings ranking highly increases your overall click-through rate.

Although the last study I found was from Google in 2012, we’ve found that our clients have the most success when they rank strong organically, locally, and have paid placements. All of these things tie together. If potential customers are already searching for your business, you’ll see great results by being involved in all of these areas.

While I’m not a fan of only taking a pay-to-play approach, you need to at least start considering it and testing it for your niche to see if it works for you. Combine it with your overall local and organic strategy.

5. Are we ignoring the featured snippets?

Searches with local intent can still trigger featured snippets. One example that I saw recently and really liked was the snowboard size chart example, which you can see below. In this example, someone who is interested in snowboards gets an answer box that showcases a company. If someone is doing this type of research, there’s a likelihood that they may wish to purchase a snowboard soon.
Depending on your niche, there are plenty of opportunities to increase your local visibility by not ignoring featured snippets and creating content to rank there. Check out this Whiteboard Friday to learn more about how you can get featured snippets.

Now that we’ve looked at some ways you can expand your strategies, let’s look at some tactical steps you can take to move the needle.


Here’s how you can gain more visibility

Now that you have an open mind, let’s take a look at the actionable things you can do to improve your overall visibility and rankings in locally centric campaigns. As much as I like to think local SEO is rocket science, it really isn’t. You really need to focus your attention on the things that are going to move the needle.

I’m also going to assume you’ve already done the basics, like optimize your listing by filling out the profile 100%.

Later last year, Local SEO Guide and Placescout did a great study that looked at 100+ variables from 30,000 businesses to determine what factors might have the most overall impact in local 3-pack rankings. If you have some spare time I recommend checking it out. It verified that the signals we put the most effort into seem to have the greatest overall effect.

I’m only going to dive into a few of those factors, but here are the things I would do to focus on a results-first strategy:

Start with a solid website/foundation

What good are rankings without conversions? The answer is they aren’t any good. If you’re always keeping your business goals in mind, start with the basics. If your website isn’t loading fast, you’re losing conversions and you may experience a reduced crawl budget.

My #1 recommendation that affects all aspects of SEO and conversions is to start with a solid website. Ignoring this usually creates bigger problems later down the road and can negatively impact your overall rankings.

Your website should be SEO-friendly and load in the 90th percentile on Google’s Page Speed Insights. You can also see how fast your website loads for users using tools like GTMetrix. Google seems to reduce the visibility of slower websites, so if you’re ignoring the foundation you’re going to have issues. Here are 6 tips you can use for a faster WordPress website.

Crawl errors for bots can also wreak havoc on your website. You should always strive to maintain a healthy site. Check up on your website using Google’s Search Console and use Moz Pro to monitor your clients’ campaigns by actively tracking the sites’ health, crawl issues, and domain health over time. Having higher scores and less errors should be your focus.

Continue with a strong review generation strategy

I’m sure many of you took a deep breath when earlier this month Google changed the review threshold to only 1 review. That’s right. In case you didn’t hear, Google is now giving all businesses a review score based on any number of reviews you have, as you can see in the example below:
I know a lot of my colleagues were a big fan of this, but I have mixed feelings since Google isn’t taking any serious measures to reduce review spam or penalize manipulative businesses at this point.

Don’t ignore the other benefits of reviews, as well. Earlier I mentioned that users can sort by review stars; having more reviews will increase your overall CTR. Plus, after talking to many local businesses, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that consumers are actively using these scores more than ever.

So, how do you get more reviews?

Luckily, Google’s current Review and Photo Policies do not prohibit the direct solicitation of reviews at this point (unlike Yelp).

Start by soliciting past customers on your list
If you’re not already collecting customer information on your website or in-store, you’re behind the times and you need to start doing so immediately.

I work mainly with attorneys. Working in that space, there are regulations we have to follow, and typically the number of clients is substantially less than a pizza joint. In pickles like this, where the volume is low, we can take a manual approach where we identify the happiest clients and reach out to them using this process. This particular process also creates happy employees. :)

  1. List creation: We start by screening the happiest clients. We then sort these by who has a Gmail account for priority’s sake.
  2. Outreach by phone: I don’t know why digital marketers are afraid of the phone, but we’ve had a lot of success calling our prior clients. We have the main point-of-contact from the business who’s worked with them before call and ask how the service they received was. The caller informs them that they have a favor to ask and that their overall job performance is partially based off of client feedback. They indicate they’re going to send a follow-up email if it’s OK with the customer.
  3. Send a follow-up email: We then use a Google review link generator, which creates an exact URL that opens the review box for the person if they’re logged into their Gmail account.
  4. Follow-up email: Sometimes emails get lost. We follow up a few times to make sure the client leaves the review…
  5. You have a new review!

The method above works great for low-volume businesses. If you’re a higher-volume business or have a lot of contacts, I recommend using a more automated service to prepare for future and ongoing reviews, as it’ll make the process a heck of a lot easier. Typically we use Get Five Stars or Infusionsoft integrations to complete this for our clients.

If you run a good business that people like, you can see results like this. This is a local business which had 7 reviews in 2015. Look where they are now with a little automation asking happy customers to leave a review:

Don’t ignore & don’t be afraid of links

One thing Google succeeded at is scaring away people from getting manipulative links. In many areas, that went too far and resulted in people not going after links at all, diminishing their value as a ranking factor, and telling the world that links are dead.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you need good links to your website. If you want to rank in competitive niches or in certain geographic areas, the anchor text can make a big difference. Multiple studies have shown the effectiveness of links to this very day, and their importance cannot be overlooked.

This table outlines which link tactics work best for each strategy:

Strategy Type Link Tactic
Local SEO (3-Pack) Links to local GMB-connected landing page will help 3-pack rankings. City, state, and keyword-included anchor text is beneficial
Featured Snippets Links to pages where you want to get a featured snippet will help boost the authority of that page.
Paid Ads Links will not help your paid ads.
“Near Me” Searches Links with city, state, or area anchor text will help you in near me searches.
Voice Search Links to pages that are FAQ or consist of long-tail keyword content will help them rank better organically.
Barnacle SEO Links to websites you don’t own can help them rank better. Focus on high-authority profiles or business listings.

There are hundreds of ways to build links for your firm. You need to avoid paying for links and spammy tactics because they’re just going to hurt you. Focus on strong and sustainable strategies — if you want to do it right, there aren’t any shortcuts.

Since there are so many great link building resources out there, I’ve linked to a few of my favorite where you can get tactical advice and start building links below.

For specific tactical link building strategies, check out these resources:

If you participate in outreach or broken link building, check out this new post from Directive Consulting — “How We Increased Our Email Response Rate from ~8% to 34%” — to increase the effectiveness of your outreach.

Get relevant & high-authority citations

While the importance of citations has taken a dive in recent years as a major ranking factor, they still carry quite a bit of importance.

Do you remember the example from earlier in this post, where we saw Findlaw and Yelp having strong visibility in the market? These websites get traffic, and if a potential customer is looking for you somewhere where you’re not, that’s one touchpoint lost. You’ll still need to address quality over quantity. The days of looking for 1,000 citations are over and have been for many years. If you have 1,000 citations, you probably have a lot of spam links to your website. We don’t need those. But what we do need is highly relevant directories to either our city or niche.

This post I wrote over 4 years ago is still pretty relevant on how you can find these citations and build them with consistency. Remember that high-authority citations can also be unstructured (not a typical business directory). They can also be very high-quality links if the site is authoritative and has fewer business listings. There are millions of listings on Yelp, but maybe less than one hundred on some other powerful, very niche-specific websites.

Citation and link idea: What awards was your business eligible or nominated for?

One way to get these is to consider awards where you can get an authoritative citation and link to your website. Take a look at the example below of a legal website. This site is a peanut compared to a directory like Yelp. Sure, it doesn’t carry near as much authority, but the link equity is more evenly distributed.


Lastly, stay on point

2017 is sure to be a volatile year for local search, but it’s important to stay on point. Spread your wings, open your mind, and diversify with strategies that are going to get your business more customers.

Now it’s time to tell me what you think! Is something I didn’t mention working better for you? Where are you focusing your efforts in local search?

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