Tag Archive | "Branded"

SEO 2018 is All About Branded Search Queries

SEO pioneer and Moz co-founder Rand Fishkin was recently asked about the future of SEO and how SEO agencies and marketers should adjust to these changes. Rands says that SEO has changed to the point that the traditional SEO focus on generic related keywords for your products and services is becoming obsolete because of how Google now displays search results.

See below for highlights from Rand’s thoughts on the changing SEO landscape:

There is definitely this problem in the SEO space where the amount of opportunity in SEO (is lessened), because of Google entering all these business sectors and taking away of a lot of the clicks and trying to solve the searchers’ query before they ever click.

This means that you just don’t have as much opportunity to earn search clicks from this search engine anymore.

Branded Search Queries

How can we overcome that? I think the answer in SEO is pretty clear, which is the one thing that Google is not taking away from us, branded search queries. If somebody searches for StatBid or they search for Moz or they search for the North Face, that is a searcher telling Google to take me to this companies website. That’s a very very powerful undeniable signal that they want to reach your site. You’re getting 90% plus click-through rates on those.

If you can increase the number of people searching for your brand instead of drawing a smaller and smaller percentage of the people who search for outdoor jackets, because Google’s placing all these ads above the fold and trying to say these are the best outdoor jackets and having an instant answer and a featured snippet and all this type of stuff, yeah that’s that’s a big win.

Combining Classic SEO with New Stuff

I think for CMO’s and for marketing departments it’s going to be a combination of classic skill sets in SEO. First, how do we rank? How do we make sure that our site is technically optimized? How do we make sure that we’re doing good keyword research and keyword targeting? How do we create good content around all these things and solve searchers problems?

Then I think it’s also going to be some new forms of marketing that SEO’s are not generally familiar with, at least not historically. Those are things like creative that draws attention and eyeballs and interest. I think it’s a lot of storytelling. Great brands are built on the back of great storytelling and that is traditionally a big weak spot for SEO.

SEO Teams Need to Get Retooled

So yeah, I think there’s going to be a combination of new and old. That could mean that some (SEO & marketing) teams need to get retooled or new people need to be added. It could mean that agencies will have to upgrade those practices and I’ve already seen some agencies in the SEO world start to do that. I think serving existing demand is going to long-term not be as exciting as creating more demand.

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Reputation Management SEO: How to Own Your Branded Keywords in Google – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

A searcher’s first experience with your brand happens on Google’s SERPs — not your website. Having the ability to influence their organic first impression can go a long way toward improving both customer perception of your brand and conversion rates. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand takes us through the inherent challenges of reputation management SEO and tactics for doing it effectively.

Reputation management SEO: How to Own Your Branded Keywords in Google

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are chatting about reputation management SEO.

So it turns out I’ve been having a number of conversations with many of you in the Moz community and many friends of mine in the startup and entrepreneurship worlds about this problem that happens pretty consistently, which is essentially that folks who are searching for your brand in Google experience their first touch before they ever get to your site, their first experience with your brand is through Google’s search result page. This SERP, controlling what appears here, what it says, how it says it, who is ranking, where they’re ranking, all of those kinds of things, can have a strong input on a bunch of things.

The challenge

We know that the search results’ content can impact…

  • Your conversion rate. People see that the reviews are generally poor or the wording is confusing or it creates questions in their mind that your content doesn’t answer. That can hurt your conversion rate.
  • It can hurt amplification. People who see you in here, who think that there is something bad or negative about you, might be less likely to link to you or share or talk about you.
  • It can impact customer satisfaction. Customers who are going to buy from you but see something negative in the search results might be more likely to complain about it. Or if they see that you have a lower review or ranking or whatnot, they may be more likely to contribute a negative one than if they had seen that you had stellar ones. Their expectations are being biased by what’s in these search results. A lot of times it is totally unfair.

So many of the conversations I’ve been having, for example with folks in the startup space, are like, “Hey, people are reviewing my product. We barely exist yet. We don’t have these people as customers. We feel like maybe we’re getting astroturfed by competitors, or someone is just jumping in here and trying to profit off the fact that we have a bunch of brand search now.” So pretty frustrating.

How can we influence this page to maximize positive impact for our brand?

There are, however, some ways to address it. In order to change these results, make them better, Minted, for example, of which I should mention I used to be on Minted’s Board of Directors, and so I believe my wife and I still have some stock in that company. So full disclosure there. But Minted, they’re selling holiday cards. The holiday card market is about to heat up before November and December here in the United States, which is the Christmas holiday season, and that’s when they sell a lot of these cards. So we can do a few things.

I. Change who ranks. So potentially remove some and add some new ones in here, give Google some different options. We could change the ranking order. So we could say, “Hey, we prefer this be lower down and this other one be higher up.” We can change that through SEO.

II. Change the content of the ranking pages. If you have poor reviews or if someone has written about you in a particular way and you wish to change that, there are ways to influence that as well.

III. Change the SERP features. So we may be able to get images, for example, of Minted’s cards up top, which would maybe make people more likely to purchase them, especially if they’re exceptionally beautiful.

IV. Add in top stories. If Minted has some great press about them, we could try and nudge Google to use stuff from Google News in here. Maybe we could change what’s in related searches, those types of things.

V. Shift search demand. So if it’s the case that you’re finding that people start typing “Minted” and then maybe are search suggested “Minted versus competitor X” or “Minted card problems” or whatever it is, I don’t think either of those are actually in the suggest, but there are plenty of companies who do have that issue. When that’s the case, you can also shift the search demand.

Reputation management tactics

Here are a number of tactics that I actually worked on with the help of Moz’s Head of SEO, Britney Muller. Britney and I came up with a bunch of tactics, so many that they won’t entirely fit on here, but we can describe a few more for you in the comments.

A. Directing link to URLs off your site (Helps with 1 & 2). First off, links are still a big influencer of a lot of the content that you see here. So it is the case that because Yelp is a powerful domain and they have lots of links, potentially even have lots of links to this page about Minted, it’s the case that changing up those links, redirecting some of them, adding new links to places, linking out from your own site, linking from articles you contribute to, linking from, for example, the CEO’s bio or a prominent influencer on the team’s bio when they go and speak at events or contribute to sources, or when Minted makes donations, or when they support public causes, or when they’re written about in the press, changing those links and where they point to can have a positive impact.

One of the problems that we see is that a lot of brands think, “All my links about my brand should always go to my homepage.” That’s not actually the case. It could be the case that you actually want to find, hey, maybe we would like our Facebook page to rank higher. Or hey, we wrote a great piece on Medium about our engineering practices or our diversity practices or how we give back to our community. Let’s see if we can point some of our links to that.

B. Pitching journalists or bloggers or editors or content creators on the web (Helps with 1, 4, a little 3), of any kind, to write about you and your products with brand titled pieces. This is on e of the biggest elements that gets missing. For example, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle might write a piece about Minted and say something like, “At this startup, it’s not unusual to find blah, blah, blah.” What you want to do is go, “Come on, man, just put the word ‘Minted’ in the title of the piece.” If they do, you’ve got a much better shot of having that piece potentially rank in here. So that’s something that whoever you’re working with on that content creation side, and maybe a reporter at the Chronicle would be much more difficult to do this, but a blogger who’s writing about you or a reviewer, someone who’s friendly to you, that type of a pitch would be much more likely to have some opportunity in there. It can get into the top stories SERP feature as well.

C. Crafting your own content (Helps with 1, a little 3). If they’re not going to do it for you, you can craft your own content. You can do this in two kinds of ways. One is for open platforms like Medium.com or Huffington Post or Forbes or Inc. or LinkedIn, these places that accept those, or guest accepting publications that are much pickier, that are much more rarely taking input, but that rank well in your field. You don’t have to think about this exclusively from a link building perspective. In fact, you don’t care if the links are nofollow. You don’t care if they give you no links at all. What you’re trying to do is get your name, your title, your keywords into the title element of the post that’s being put up.

D. You can influence reviews (Helps with 3 & 5). Depending on the site, it’s different from site to site. So I’m putting TOS acceptable, terms of service acceptable nudges to your happy customers and prompt diligent support to the unhappy ones. So Yelp, for example, says, “Don’t solicit directly reviews, but you are allowed to say, ‘Our business is featured on Yelp.’” For someone like Minted, Yelp is mostly physical places, and while Minted technically has a location in San Francisco, their offices, it’s kind of odd that this is what’s ranking here. In fact, I wouldn’t expect this to be. I think this is a strange result to have for an online-focused company, to have their physical location in there. So certainly by nudging folks who are using Minted to rather than contribute to their Facebook reviews or their Google reviews to actually say, “Hey, we’re also on Yelp. If you’ve been happy with us, you can check us out there.” Not go leave us a review there, but we have a presence.

E. Filing trademark violations (Helps with 1 & 3). So this is a legal path and legal angle, but it works in a couple of different ways. You can do a letter or an email from your attorney’s office, and oftentimes that will shut things down. In fact, brief story, a friend of mine, who has a company, found that their product was featured on Amazon’s website. They don’t sell on Amazon. No one is reselling on Amazon. In fact, the product mostly hasn’t even shipped yet. When they looked at the reviews, because they haven’t sold very many of their product, it’s an expensive product, none of the people who had left reviews were actually their customers. So they went, “What is going on here?” Well, it turns out Amazon, in order to list your product, needs your trademark permission. So they can send an attorney’s note to Amazon saying, “Hey, you are using our product, our trademark, our brand name, our visuals, our photos without permission. You need to take that down.”

The other way you can go about this is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protocols. You can do this directly through Google, where you file and say basically, “Hey, they’ve taken copyrighted content from us and they’re using it on their website, and that’s illegal.” Google will actually remove them from the search results.
This is not necessarily a legal angle, but I bet you didn’t know this. A few years ago I had an article on Wikipedia about me, Rand Fishkin. There was like a Wikipedia piece. I don’t like that. Wikipedia, it’s uncontrollable. Because I’m in the SEO world, I don’t have a very good relationship with Wikipedia’s editors. So I actually lobbied them, on the talk page of the article about me, to have it removed. There are a number of conditions that Wikipedia has where a page can be removed. I believe I got mine removed under the not notable enough category, which I think probably still applies. That was very successful. So wonderfully, now, Wikipedia doesn’t rank for my name anymore, which means I can control the SERPs much more easily. So a potential there too.

F. Using brand advertising and/or influencer marketing to nudge searchers towards different phrases (Helps with 5). So what you call your products, how you market yourself is often how people will search for you. If Minted wanted to change this from Minted cards to minted photo cards, and they really like the results from minted photo cards and those had better conversion rates, they could start branding that through their advertising and their influencer marketing.

G. Surrounding your brand name, a similar way, with common text, anchor phrases, and links to help create or reinforce an association that Google builds around language (Helps with 4 & 5). In that example I said before, having Minted plus a link to their photo cards page or Minted photo cards appearing on the web, not only their own website but everywhere else out there more commonly than Minted cards will bias related searches and search suggest. We’ve tested this. You can actually use anchor text and surrounding text to sort of bias, in addition to how people search, how Google shows it.

H. Leverage some platforms that rank well and influence SERP features (Helps with 2 & 4). So rather than just trying to get into the normal organic results, we might say, “Hey, I want some images here. Aha, Pinterest is doing phenomenal work at image SEO. If I put up a bunch of pictures from Minted, of Minted’s cards or photo cards on Pinterest, I have a much better shot at ranking in and triggering the image results.” You can do the same thing with YouTube for videos. You can do the same thing with new sites and for what’s called the top stories feature. The same thing with local and local review sites for the maps and local results feature. So all kinds of ways to do that.

More…

Four final topics before we wrap up.

  • Registering and using separate domains? Should I register and use a separate domain, like MintedCardReviews, that’s owned by Minted? Generally not. It’s not impossible to do reputation management SEO through that, but it can be difficult. I’m not saying you might not want to give it a spin now and then, but generally that’s sort of like creating your own reviews, your own site. Google often recognizes those and looks behind the domain registration wall, and potentially you have very little opportunity to rank for those, plus you’re doing a ton of link building and that kind of stuff. Better to leverage someone’s platform, who can already rank, usually.
  • Negative SEO attacks. You might remember the story from a couple weeks ago, in Fast Company, where Casper, the mattress brand, was basically accused of and found mostly to be generally guilty of going after and buying negative links to a review site that was giving them poor reviews, giving their mattresses poor reviews, and to minimal effect. I think, especially nowadays, this is much less effective than it was a few years ago following Google’s last Penguin update. But certainly I would not recommend it. If you get found out for it, you can be sued too.
  • What about buying reviewers and review sites? This is what Casper ended up doing. So that site they were buying negative links against, they ended up just making an offer and buying out the person who owned it. Certainly it is a way to go. I don’t know if it’s the most ethical or honest thing to do, but it is a possibility.
  • Monitoring brand and rankings. Finally, I would urge you to, if you’re not experiencing these today, but you’re worried about them, definitely monitor your brand. You could use something like a Fresh Web Explorer or Mention.com or Talkwalker. And your rankings too. You want to be tracking your rankings so that you can see who’s popping in there and who’s not. Obviously, there are lots of SEO tools to do that.

All right, everyone, thanks for joining us, and we’ll see again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Google Buys FameBit, Sees Branded Content as Essential to YouTube

Google has purchased FameBit, a technology and marketing platform that helps brands link up with social media stars on YouTube and Twitter. This is part of a growing trend where Google and others realize that preroll video ads are not the future and that marketing integration into content is the smart way to reach millennial’s and even younger audiences.

Ironically, that’s how television started in the 1950′s, where every show was brought to you by a product and often that product was integrated into the content.

“We believe that Google’s relationship with brands and YouTube’s partnerships with creators, combined with FameBit’s technology and expertise, will help increase the number of branded content opportunities available, bringing even more revenue into the online video community,” noted Ariel Bardin, Vice President, Product Management at Google.

FameBit provides a modern version of this, telling marketers that it will grow your customer base via tutorials, comedic skits, mentions, routines, DIY videos, game plays, lookbooks, vlogs and hauls. What this means is that FameBit, and now YouTube, will connect your brand with YouTube stars and help popular YouTuber’s make additional revenue in the process.

“Every year, more and more brands are making YouTube essential to their marketing strategy,” said Bardin. “In fact, in the last year alone, the top 100 advertisers have increased their spend on YouTube video ads by 50 percent.”

Google knows that even though brands have increased their marketing on YouTube, what they really want are deeper connections with YouTube stars and through extension their fans.

“As brands continue to embrace the value of YouTube, they’re also taking their investments one step further, partnering with creators on branded content opportunities such as product placements, promotions and sponsorships,” he said. “As we look to the future, we want even more creators and brands to come together and realize the benefits of these creative collaborations.”

Unlike Google search, YouTube video is not inherently a lead generation opportunity, but rather is more like TV, promoting brand recognition and brand favorability. Fortunately for Google, that’s what Madison Avenue sells and Google wants to tap into more of their dollars.

According to eMarketer TV ad spending will be $ 72.01 billion in 2016 with digital ad spending just slightly under that. But with advertising in video formats from YouTube, Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter, etc…, digital ad spend will increase as a percentage. By 2020, it’s predicted that digital ad revenue will be 37% higher than TV.

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-4-02-25-pm

Of course, digital delivery of TV is also on the rise, replacing the cable middlemen and ultimately making digital the primary way to consume video content.

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How to Influence Branded Searches and Search Volumes to Earn Big Rewards – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

What have you been doing with branded searches? If the answer is “not much,” it may be time to shift your focus a bit. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explores the huge benefits of turning some of your unbranded searches into branded and offers some key tactical advice.

How to Influence Branded Searches and Search Volumes to Earn Big Rewards Whiteboard

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about how to influence branded search and get a load of benefit out of that. Some of these things that I’m going to talk about today are more theoretical. Like we think they work. We’ve experimented. We’ve seen some other folks experiment. We’re pretty sure. Then some of them are solid. We know that these things influence. Regardless, I think I can persuade you that trying to turn more of your unbranded search into branded search is a hugely positive thing. Generating more branded search in general is also hugely positive. Let me show you what I mean with some examples first.

Non-branded search

Non-branded search, these are essentially the search terms, the queries and phrases that we are all pursuing. We’re trying to rank for them. This is searchers who have not yet expressed a brand preference. They’re searching. Let’s say we’re talking to a chemist or a lab instructor at a school and they’re trying to put together all their materials for their lab. So they’re searching for things like test tubes and lab equipment and chemical safety goggles. They’re trying to figure out the best prices and the best products, the ones that’ll be the safest, the ones that’ll be best for their class. Those are unbranded. They have expressed no brand preference. They haven’t said, “Oh I want this kind and I know that.”

Branded search

Branded searches are more like, “Oh I know I want a Fisher test tube, Fisher Scientific.” Fisher test tubes is what I’m looking for, or lab equipment from Thermo. Thermo Scientific makes a bunch of lab equipment that you can buy prepackaged, kind of all together. Or chemical goggles, “I know I want the 3M variety.” 3M has, like, these awesome chemical goggles. They’re very safe, very good for this stuff.

These branded searches are preferable in many ways for the brands that own and control these companies than the non-branded searches. Here’s why.

A. Increase ease of ranking and conversion

Obviously it is way, way easier to rank well for “3M chemical goggles” if you are 3M than ranking for just “chemical goggles” if you’re 3M. You’re competing against far fewer folks. A lot of people won’t even use your brand name. Even the people who do, like maybe on Amazon.com, you’ll still get some benefit from that because they’re searching for your brand.

It also increases the propensity to convert, meaning that if someone performs that branded search, they’re more likely to actually buy that product. They’re generally speaking further down the funnel. They’ve sort of decided to at least investigate your brand, and now you have a chance to pitch them. They’re familiar. They know your brand name at least. That’s a real positive thing.

B. Affecting search suggest

The second thing that’s nice is you can affect search suggest, meaning that if lots of people, for example, started searching for “3M chemical goggles” instead of “chemical safety goggles” or “chemical goggles,” it would actually be the case that over time what you’d see Google do is in the dropdown box for “chemical safety goggles,” 3M, the word, would start to be associated with it. You’d see that in search suggest. It might be at the very bottom.

For example, if you do a search for “whiteboard,” today in Google, Whiteboard Friday is somewhere on that list, but it’s usually way down towards the bottom. In some geographies it’s probably not there at all. Over time if we get more and more people searching for Whiteboard Friday, it’ll move up in search suggest. So that means people will be more likely to perform that query. At least they’ll see it and say, “Oh that must be a brand,” or “I must have some association with that, or maybe I’m supposed to,” or “I want to investigate that, I’m curious about it.”

C. Improve rankings for non-branded queries

This is one of those speculative things. We believe that right now search volume for branded terms does have an impact on ranking for the non-branded version of the query.

We saw Google file some patents around this, but we also saw some tests in this direction that looked promising, basically saying that if . . . Let’s do Fisher for this one. Let’s say people start searching for Fisher test tubes a lot more. Google might say, “You know, I think Fisher is very relevant to the search query ‘test tubes.’ Let’s move Fisher up in the rankings for just the unbranded phrase ‘test tubes,’ because that volume is suggesting to us that this brand is more relevant to this query than maybe we initially presumed.” That’s huge as well. If you can drive up that search volume, now you can start to get benefit in the non-branded rankings.

D. Appear in “related searches” feature

You can appear in the related search feature. Related searches is usually somewhere between the middle of the page and the very bottom of the page, most of the time at the very bottom of the search page. That’s a powerful way for those 10% to 20% of people that scroll all the way to the bottom before making a click selection or before deciding to change their query, those related searches are a powerful way to suggest, just like search suggest is, that they should, instead of searching for the non-branded term, search for your branded query. The related searches, by the way, is also we think influenced by content, which I’ll talk about in a second.

E. Create an association between your brand and a keyphrase

Create an entity-style association. This is essentially the idea of co-occurring keywords. If Google is crawling the web and they see tons of documents, high-quality, trustworthy documents that contain the word “test tubes” that also contain the word “3M,” oftentimes in close proximity to the word “test tubes,” they’ll over time start to associate the word “test tubes” with the word “3M.” That can impact suggest. It can impact related. It can impact rankings. It has a bunch of positive potential impact. That can make you more relevant for all sorts of things around search that are just awesome.

F. Affect future searches and personalization

Then the last one, which is also cool and powerful, is that this can affect search personalization, meaning, for example, let’s say someone does a search for “3M chemical goggles.” They click on 3m.com. Maybe they buy them. Maybe they don’t. Next time they do a search, for example let’s say “chemical aprons,” well it turns out that Google already knows that person has visited 3M in the past. They might see that behavior and, because they’re logged into their account, they might show them 3M higher up in the rankings. They might show them 3M higher in the search suggest as they start typing. That personalization is another powerful way that you’re getting benefit from branded search.

There are all these benefits. We want to make this happen. How do we do it?

What are the tactics that an SEO can actually use?

It turns out SEOs, we’re going to have to work pretty cross-departmentally in our marketing teams to be able to make this happen because some of the best tactics require things that SEO doesn’t always own and control entirely. Sometimes you do, sometimes not.

The first one, if we can create curiosity and drive search volume via brand advertising, that’s an awesome way to go.

You’ve seen more and more of this. You have seen advertisements probably on television and YouTube ads. You’ve seen branded ads on display ads. You’ve probably heard things on the radio that say search for us, all that kind of stuff. All that classic media, everything from billboards to radio — I know I’m drawing televisions with rabbit ears still. There are probably no TVs in the US that still have rabbit ears. Magazines, print, whatever, billboards, all of that brand advertising can drive people to then be curious about the brand and to want to investigate them more. If you hear a lot about 3M goggles and the cool stuff they’re doing, well, you might be tempted to perform a search.

You can embed searches as well.

Be careful with this one. This can get spammy and manipulative and could get you into trouble. You can do it. If you do it in authentic white hat ways, you’ll probably be okay.

The idea is basically telling customers like, “Hey, if you want to research us, learn more about 3M’s goggles, don’t just take our word for it. Search Google. Go find what people are saying, what reviews are saying about our product.” You see I think it was LG or Samsung ran a big one of these where they were suggesting people do a Google search, because it turns out their phone had been very, very highly rated by all the top folks who’d done a review of them. You can do that in email. You could do it over social networks. You could do it in content. You’re essentially driving people directly to the Google search result page. That could be an embedded link, or it simply could be a suggestion to search and check people out.

You can also use public relations and content marketing, especially guest contributions and content marketing.

You can use events and sponsorship, all of that stuff to essentially drive latent interest and curiosity, kind of like we did with brand advertising but in a little more organic fashion. If The New York Times writes a piece about you, if you speak at a conference . . . This is me wildly gesticulating at a conference. It looks like I’m very dangerously, precariously perched to fall into the crowd there. Guest contributions on a website, maybe something like a Fortune.com, which takes some guest posts, driving people to want to learn more about the brand or the product that you’ve mentioned.

Then finally, you can create those keyword associations that we talked about, the entity-style associations, through word proximity and co-occurrence in web documents.

I put just web documents here, but really it’s important, trustworthy web documents from sources that Google likes and trusts and indexes. That means looking at: Where are all the places potentially on the web that lab equipment is talked about or would be talked about maybe in the future? How do I influence those authors, those creators, those publications to potentially consider including my brand, Thermo Scientific, in their documents? Or how do I create content for places like these that include my brand and include the unbranded term “lab equipment?”

Bunch of tactics, bunch of great opportunities here. I’d love to hear from you folks about what you’ve done around influencing branded search and how you’ve seen it affect your SEO campaigns overall. I’ll look forward to catching up with you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Facebook Updates Policy on Branded Content, Provides New Tool

Facebook announced updates to its branded content policy that will enable verified Pages to share branded content on Facebook, potentially opening up the social network as a way for publishers (and others) to better monetize content. Branded content for Facebook purposes includes text, photos, videos, Instant Articles, links, 360 videos, and Live Videos that mention or feature a third-party product, brand, or sponsored.

As Facebook notes, this stuff is typically posted by media companies, celebrities, or other influencers. They’re also providing a new tool that makes it easy to tag a marketer when publishing branded content. Facebook says publishers and influencers must use this tag for all branded content.

“This update is something that media companies, public figures, influencers, and marketers have been asking for, as branded content is a growing and evolving part of the media landscape,” Facebook’s Clare Rubin and Nick Grudin say in a blog post. “People will now be connected to more of the content they care most about on Facebook as publishers and influencers gain an incentive to share more quality content — of all kinds — with their fans. We know that many of our partners have existing partnership deals with marketers, and this update gives them the ability to extend their branded content business onto Facebook.”

“For brands and businesses, the new tool will introduce more transparency and allow them to better understand how their marketing initiatives are performing across Facebook,” they add. “Additionally, marketers can now leverage branded content creative for ads and actively engage in sponsorships to ensure their campaigns are useful, interesting, and entertaining to their target audiences. We are committed to ensuring that the branded content experience is engaging for people on Facebook and that the ecosystem thrives for our partners and marketers.”

To use the new tool, you can get started here. You can view the new branded content policy here and the updated ads policy here.

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How to Optimize for Competitors’ Branded Keywords

Posted by randfish

It’s probably crossed your mind before. Should you optimize for your competitors’ branded keywords? How would you even go about it effectively? Well, in today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains some carefully strategic and smart ways to optimize for the keywords of a competitor — from determining their worthiness, to properly targeting your funnel, to using third-party hosted content for maximum amplification.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about optimizing for your competitors’ branded terms and phrases, the keywords that are your competitors’ product names or service names. This gets into a little bit of a dicey area. I think it’s challenging for a lot of SEO folks to do this and do it well, and so I’m going to take you through an approach that I’ve seen a lot of folks use with some success.

A strategic approach

So to start off with, let’s go to the strategy level. Is it actually the case — and sometimes it’s not, sometimes it is not the case — that branded keywords are driving high enough volume to actually be worth targeting? This is tough and frustrating, but basically one of the best thing that I can recommend in this case is to say, “Hey, if we are…”

I’m going to pretend for the purposes of this Whiteboard Friday that we’re all working together on the SEO campaigns for Wunderlist, which is a to-do app in the Google Play and iPhone app stores, bought by Microsoft I think a little while ago. Beautiful app, it looks really nice. One of their big competitors obviously is Evernote, certainly an indirect competitor but still.

Are branded keywords driving high enough volumes to be worthwhile?

Essentially what you might want to do here is actually go ahead and use AdWords to bid on some of these keywords and get a sense for how much traffic is really being driven. Can you draw any of that traffic away? Are people willing to consider alternatives? If there’s almost no willingness to consider alternatives — you can’t draw clicks here, you’re not getting any conversions, and it is the case that the volume is relatively low, not a lot of people are actually searching for Evernote, which is not the case, there are tons of people searching for Evernote and I’d probably tell Wunderlist they should go ahead. Evernote is actually bidding on Wunderlist’s terms, so turnabout is fair play. Bidding on AdWords can answer both of these questions. That can help them get us to:

What do you need to solve?

All right, now what is it that we need to solve? What are potential customers doing to compare our products or our services against these folks, and what are they interested in when they’re searching for these branded names? What makes them choose one versus another product?

Related searches can help us here, so too can normal forms of keyword research. So related searches is one form, but certainly I’d urge you to use search suggest, I’d urge you to check out Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool, if you like keywordtool.io or if you like Huballin or whatever it is that you think is a great keyword tool, check those out, go through those sources for your competitor’s keywords, see what’s coming up there, see what actually has some real volume. Obviously, your AdWords campaign where you bid on their branded terms can help tell you that too.

Then from there I’d go through the search results, and I’d see: What are people saying? What are the editorial reviews? For example, CNET did this Wunderlist review. What does their breakdown look like? What are people saying in forums? What are they saying on social media? What are they saying when they talk about this?

Ask the same questions of your competition

So if I’m seeing here’s what Wunderlist versus Evernote looks like, great. Now let me plug in Evernote and see what everyone’s saying about them. By the way, you don’t just have to use online research. You can go primary source on this stuff, too. Ask your customers or your audience directly through surveys. We’ve used here at Moz Google Custom Audience Surveys, and we’ve used SurveyMonkey Audience’s product. We like both of those.

Once you’ve got this down and you say, “Hey, you know what? We’ve got a strategic approach. We know what we need to talk about in terms of content. We know the keywords we’re targeting.” Great. Now you get to choose between two big options here — self-hosting some content that’s targeting these terms, or using third-party hosting.

Self-hosted content

With self-hosted content we’re going to try and go after those right terms and phrases. This is where I’ve seen some people get lost. They essentially go too high or too low in the funnel, not targeting that sweet spot right in the middle.

1. Target the right terms & phrases

So essentially, if someone’s searching for “Evernote review,” the intent there is that they’re trying to evaluate whether Evernote is good. Yeah, you know what? That’s right in the middle. That’s right in the sweet spot, I would say that is a good choice for you targeting your competitors’ keywords, anything around reviews.

“Evernote download,” however, that’s really at the bottom of the funnel. They’re trying to install at that point. I don’t think I’d tell you to go after those keywords. I don’t think I’d bid on them, and I don’t think I’d create content based on that. An Evernote download, that’s a very transactional, direct kind of search. I’d cross that one off my list. “How to use Evernote,” well, okay that’s post-installation probably, or maybe it’s pre-installation. But it’s really about learning. It’s about retaining and keeping people. I’d probably put that in the no bucket as well most of the time. “Evernote alternative,” obviously I’m targeting “Evernote alternative.” That is a great search phrase. That’s essentially asking me for my product. “What is Evernote,” well okay, that’s very top-of-funnel. Maybe I’d think about targeting some content like, “What do apps like Evernote, Todoist and Wunderlist do?” Okay. Yeah, maybe I’m capturing all three of those in there. So I’d put this as a maybe. Maybe I’d go after that.

Just be careful because if you go after the wrong keywords here, a lot of your efforts can fail just because you’re doing poor keyword targeting.

2. Craft content that delivers a superior user experience

Second is you need to craft that content that’s going to deliver a superior user experience. You’re essentially trying to pull someone away from the other search results and say, “Yeah, it was worth it to scroll down.

It was worth it to click and to do the research and to check out the review or check out the alternative.” Therefore, you need something that has a lot of editorial integrity. You need that editorial integrity. You can’t just be a, “Everything about them is bad. Everything about us is great. Check out why we kick their butt six ways from Sunday.” It’s just not going to be well-perceived.

You need to be credible to that audience. To do that, I think what’s smart is to make your approach the way you would approach it as if you were a third-party reviewer. In fact, it can even pay in some cases to get an external party to do the comparison review and write the content for you. Then you’re just doing the formatting. That way it becomes very fair. Like, “Hey, we at Wunderlist thought our product compared very well to Evernote’s. So we hired an outside expert in this space, who’s worked with a bunch of these programs, to review it and here’s his review. Here are his thoughts on the subject.”

Awesome. Now you’ve created some additional credibility in there. You’re hosting it on your site. It’s clearly promoting you, but it has some of that integrity.

I would do things like I’d think about key differentiators. I’d think about user and editorial review comparisons. So if you can go to the app stores and then collect all the user reviews or collect a bunch of user reviews and synchronize those for folks to compare, check out the editorial reviews — CNET has reviewed both of these. The Verge has reviewed both of these. A bunch of other sites have reviewed both of them. Awesome. Let’s do a comparison of the editorial reviews and the ratings that these products got.

“Choose X if you need…” This is where you essentially say, “If you’re doing this, well guess what? We don’t do it very well. We’d suggest you use Evernote instead. But if you’re doing this, you know what? Wunderlist is generally perceived to be better and here’s why.” That’s a great way to do it. Then you might want to have that full-feature comparison breakdown. Remember that with Google’s keyword targeting and with their algorithms today they’re looking for a lot of that deep content, and you can often rank better if you include a lot more of those terms and phrases about what’s inside the products.

3. Choose a hosted location that doesn’t compromise your existing funnel

This is rarely done, but sometimes folks will put it on their main homepage of their website or in their navigation. That’s probably not ideal. You probably want to keep it one step away from the primary navigation flow around your site.

You could conceivably host it in your blog. You could make it something where you say, “Hey, do you want to see comparisons? Or do you want to see product reviews?” Then we’re going to link to it from that page. But I wouldn’t put it in the primary funnel.

3rd-party hosted content

Third-party hosted content is another option, and I’ve seen some folks do this particularly well recently. Guest content is one way to do that. You could do that. You could pay someone else, that professional reviewer and say, “Hey, we want to pitch this professional reviewer comparing our product against someone else’s to these other outlets.”

Sometimes there are external reviewers who if you just ask them, if you just say, “Hey we have a new product or we have a competing product. We think it compares favorably. Would you do a review?” A lot of the time if you’re in the right kind of space, people will just say, “Yeah, you know what? I’ll put that on my schedule because I think that can send me some good traffic, and then we’ll let you know.” You kind of knock on wood and hope you get a favorable review there. You could contribute it to a discussion forum. Just be open and honest and transparent about who you are and what you’re doing there.

Native ads

Today you can do sponsored content or what’s called native ad content, where essentially you’re paying another site to host it. Usually, there’s a bunch of disclosure requirements around that, but it can work and sometimes that content can even rank well and earn links and all that kind of stuff.

Promotion & amplification

For promotion and amplification of this content, it’s a little trickier than it is with your average content because it’s so adversarial in nature. The first people I would always talk to are your rabid loyal fans. So if you know you’ve got a community of people who are absolutely super-passionate about this, you can say, “Hey, guess what? We released our comparison, or we released this extra review comparison of our product versus our competitor’s today. You can check it out here.”

You can pitch that to influencers and pundits in your space, definitely letting them know, “Hey, here’s this comparison. Tell us if you think we were honest. Tell us if you think this is accurate. Tell us if this reflects your experience.” Do the same thing with industry press. Your social audiences are certainly folks that you could talk to.

Give them a reason to come back

One of the key ones that I think gets too often ignored is if you have users who you know have gone through your signup flow or have used your product but then left, this is a great chance to try and earn their business back, to say, “Hey, we know that in the past you gave Wunderlist a try. You left for one reason or another. We want you to see how favorably we compare to our next biggest competitor in the space.” That can be a great way to bring those people back to the site.

Consult your legal team

Last thing, very important. Make sure, when you’re creating this type of content, that you talk to your legal professional. It is the case that sometimes using terms and phrases, trademarked words, branded words, has some legal implications. I am not a legal professional. You can’t ask me that question, but you can definitely ask your lawyer or your legal team, and they can advise you what you can and cannot do.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we will see you again next week. Take care.

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What’s Going On with Our Branded Organic Traffic?

Posted by RuthBurr

We've been experiencing an interesting pattern in our branded organic traffic over the last few months. I know SEOmoz can't be the only ones experiencing this trend, so I want to call out what I've been seeing in the SEOmoz data.

We've been seeing gentle but steady organic growth in 2012, along with a small seasonal dip in early summer:

SEOmoz Organic Traffic 2012

However, when we look at just our branded organic traffic, we're seeing a different story altogether:

Branded Organic Traffic 2012

Branded organic visits are taken from an Advanced Segment I've set up in Google Analytics. It captures any organic traffic that comes in via keywords including our brand terms (seomoz, open site explorer, etc.) and variations on our brand terms (seo moz, seo mox, OSE, etc.).

Digging into this data a bit, I compared visits from April 2012 (the first available 30-day month of the year) with September 2012 in GA and got the following results for our top four branded terms:

  • "seomoz" declined 26.26%
  • "open site explorer" declined 37.04%
  • "opensiteexplorer" declined 28.16%
  • "seo moz" declined 33.10%

Is interest in our brand declining?

I was pretty sure that the decrease in branded traffic wasn't a decrease at all. Instead, our drop in branded keyword tracking was a casualty of Google masking keyword data for some users.

However, I needed to make sure we weren't losing brand equity. Reduced search volume for our branded terms would be a bad sign for us. I put together a test to make sure our branded organic traffic (probably) wasn't actually declining.

I took a look at Google Trends data for the four terms listed above and found that while some of them have seen some volatility in interest over the course of 2012, none of them has seen a significant decline in search volume when comparing April to September (note the drop at the end from this week's incomplete data).

The term "seomoz" remains very steady:

seomoz interest over time

 

"open site explorer" saw dips in interest in April and July, but had returned to the 80-100 level by September:

open site explorer interest over time

 

"seo moz" has seen the most significant decline, but by removing the three outlying peaks from this cart, we can see interest remaining fairly steady (especially since July):

seo moz interest over time

 

"opensiteexplorer" has actually seen an increase in interest since late July:

opensiteexplorer interest over time

 

For one last sanity check, I exported our rankings history from 2012.  I was pretty sure I'd have noticed if SEOmoz properties had slipped from #1 for these terms, and sure enough, they haven't.

What is going on with our branded traffic?

I'm confident that I cracked the case in regards to our branded traffic. If search volume hasn't declined and we are still ranking the same, it's a reasonable assumption that our branded organic traffic has not, in fact, fallen off.

The culprit is our old pal, (not provided).

In the same period that we saw the decline in branded traffic listed above, we also saw a 42.02% increase in (not provided) traffic. In September, (not provided) accounted for 63% of our organic search traffic, compared to 51.7% of our organic traffic in April. Remember when (not provided) was only supposed to affect 5% of searches? That was fun.

Since (like most sites) our branded terms are also our most popular overall organic terms, it stands to reason that a large portion of that (not provided) traffic is made up of branded organic traffic. SEOmoz is harder-hit by this than some other sites because we have such a tech-savvy audience: our users are more likely than some other demographics to be using Firefox or signed in to Google Accounts.

What kind of increase have you seen in (not provided) traffic since the beginning of the year? Is it affecting your branded terms?

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