Tag Archive | "Factor"

Content accuracy is not a ranking factor

Google’s Danny Sullivan explained that its systems rely on topic relevance and authority to rank content.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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3 Surprising Benefits of Chatbots (No Creep Factor Required)

When you hear the word “bot,” what goes through your head? For me, it’s a toss-up: Election sabotage, death threats on Twitter, or the Cybermen. Not an awesome list of associations. But late last week, I happened to catch a session with Andrew Warner at Social Media Marketing World on how to use chatbots to
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The post 3 Surprising Benefits of Chatbots (No Creep Factor Required) appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Is the New, Most Powerful Ranking Factor "Searcher Task Accomplishment?" – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Move over, links, content, and RankBrain — there’s a new ranking factor in town, and it’s a doozy. All kidding aside, the idea of searcher task accomplishment is a compelling argument for how we should be optimizing our sites. Are they actually solving the problems searchers seek answers for? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains how searcher task accomplishment is what Google ultimately looks for, and how you can keep up.

Searcher Task Accomplishment

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re chatting about a new Google ranking factor.

Now, I want to be clear. This is not something that’s directly in Google’s algorithm for sure. It’s just that they’re measuring a lot of things that lead us to this conclusion. This is essentially what Google is optimizing toward with all of their ranking signals, and therefore it’s what SEOs nowadays have to think about optimizing for with our content. And that is searcher task accomplishment.

So what do I mean by this? Well, look, when someone does a search like “disinfect a cut,” they’re trying to actually accomplish something. In fact, no matter what someone is searching for, it’s not just that they want a set of results. They’re actually trying to solve a problem. For Google, the results that solve that problem fastest and best and with the most quality are the ones that they want to rank.

In the past, they’ve had to do all sorts of algorithms to try and get at this from obtuse angles. But now, with a lot of the work that they’re doing around measuring engagement and with all of the data that’s coming to them through Chrome and through Android, they’re able to get much, much closer to what is truly accomplishing the searcher’s task. That’s because they really want results that satisfy the query and fulfill the searcher’s task.

So pretty much every — I’m excluding navigational searches — but every informational and transactional type of search — I mean, navigational, they just want to go to that website — but informational and transactional search query is basically this. It’s I have an expression of need. That’s what I’m telling Google. But behind that, there’s a bunch of underlying goals, things that I want to do. I want to know information. I want to accomplish something. I want to complete an activity.

When I do that, when I perform my search, I have this sort of evaluation of results. Is this going to help me do what I want? Then I choose one, and then I figure out whether that result actually helps me complete my task. If it does, I might have discovery of additional needs around that, like once you’ve answered my disinfect a cut, now it’s, okay, now I kind of want to know how to prevent an infection, because you described using disinfectant and then you said infections are real scary. So let me go look up how do I prevent that from happening. So there’s that discovery of additional needs. Or you decide, hey, this did not help me complete my task. I’m going to go back to evaluation of results, or I’m going to go back to my expression of need in the form of a different search query.

That’s what gives Google the information to say, “Yes, this result helped the searcher accomplish their task,” or, “No, this result did not help them do it.”

Some examples of searcher task accomplishment

This is true for a bunch of things. I’ll walk you through some examples.

If I search for how to get a book published, that’s an expression of need. But underlying that is a bunch of different goals like, well, you’re going to be asking about like traditional versus self-publishing, and then you’re going to want to know about agents and publishers and the publishing process and the pitch process, which is very involved. Then you’re going to get into things like covers and book marketing and tracking sales and all this different stuff, because once you reach your evaluation down here and you get into discovery of additional needs, you find all these other things that you need to know.

If I search for “invest in Ethereum,” well maybe I know enough to start investing right away, but probably, especially recently because there’s been a ton of search activity around it, I probably need to understand: What the heck is the blockchain and what is cryptocurrency, this blockchain-powered currency system, and what’s the market for that like, and what has it been doing lately, and what’s my purchase process, and where can I actually go to buy it, and what do I have to do to complete that transaction?

If I search for something like “FHA loans,” well that might mean I’m in the mindset of thinking about real estate. I’m buying usually my first house for an FHA loan, and that means that I need to know things about conditions by region and the application process and what are the providers in my area and how can I go apply, all of these different things.

If I do a search for “Seattle event venues,” well that means I’m probably looking for a list of multiple event venues, and then I need to narrow down my selection by the criteria I care about, like region, capacity, the price, the amenities. Then once I have all that, I need contact information so that I can go to them.

In all of these scenarios, Google is going to reward the results that help me accomplish the task, discover the additional needs, and solve those additional needs as well, rather than the ones that maybe provide a slice of what I need and then make me go back to the search results and choose something else or change my query to figure out more.

Google is also going to reward, and you can see this in all these results, they’re going to reward ones that give me all the information I need, that help me accomplish my task before they ask for something in return. The ones that are basically just a landing page that say, “Oh yeah, Seattle event venues, enter your email address and all this other information, and we’ll be in touch with a list of venues that are right for you.” Yeah, guess what? It doesn’t matter how many links you have, you are not ranking, my friends.

That is so different from how it used to be. It used to be that you could have that contact form. You could have that on there. You could not solve the searcher’s query. You could basically be very conversion rate-focused on your page, and so long as you could get the right links and the right anchor text and use the right keywords on the page, guess what? You could rank. Those days are ending. I’m not going to say they’re gone, but they are ending, and this new era of searcher task accomplishment is here.

Challenge: The conflict between SEO & CRO

There’s a challenge. I want to be totally up front that there is a real challenge and a problem between this world of optimizing for searcher task accomplishment and the classic world of we want our conversions. So the CRO in your organization, which might be your director of marketing or it might be your CEO, or maybe if your team is big enough, you might have a CRO specialist, conversation rate optimization specialist, on hand. They’re thinking, “Hey, I need the highest percent of form completions possible.”

So when someone lands on this page, I’m trying to get from two percent to four percent. How do we get four percent of people visiting this page to complete the form? That means removing distractions. That means not providing information up front. That means having a great teaser that says like, “Hey, we can give this to you, and here are testimonials that say we can provide this information. But let’s not give it right up front. Don’t give away the golden goose, my friend. We want these conversions. We need to get our qualified leads into the funnel,” versus the SEO, who today has to think about, “How do I get searchers to accomplish their task without friction?” This lead capture form, that’s friction.

So every organization, I think, needs to decide which way they’re going to go. Are they going to go for basically long-term SEO, which is I’m going to solve the searcher’s task, and then I’m going to figure out ways later to monetize and to capture value? Or am I going to basically lose out in the search results to people who are willing to do this and go this route instead and drive traffic from other sources? Maybe I’ll rank with different pages and I’ll send some people here, or maybe I will pay for my traffic, or I’ll try and do some barnacle SEO and get links from people who do rank up top there, but I won’t do it directly myself. This is a choice we all have.

How do we nail searcher task accomplishment?

All right. So how do you do this? Let’s say you’ve gone the SEO path. You’ve decided, “Yes, Rand, I’m in. I want to help the searcher accomplish their task. I recognize that I’m going to have to be willing to sacrifice some conversion rate optimization.” Well, there are two things here.

1. Gain a deep understanding of what drives searchers to search.

2. What makes some searchers come away unsatisfied.

Once they’ve performed this query, why do they click the back button? Why do they choose a different result? Why do they change their query to something else? There are ways we can figure out both of these.

To help with number 1 try:

Some of the best things that you can do are talk to people who actually have those problems and who are actually performing those searches or have performed them through…

  • Interviews
  • Surveys

I will provide you with a link to a document that I did around specifically how to get a book published. I did a survey that I ran that looked at searcher task accomplishment and what people hoped that content would have for them, and you can see the results are quite remarkable. I’ll actually embed my presentation on searcher task accomplishment in this Whiteboard Friday and make sure to link to that as well.

  • In-person conversations, and powerful things can come out of those that you wouldn’t get through remote or through email.
  • You can certainly look at competitors. So check out what your competitors are saying and what they’re doing that you may not have considered yet.
  • You can try putting yourself in your searcher’s shoes.

What if I searched for disinfect a cut? What would I want to know? What if I searched for FHA loans? I’m buying a house for the first time, what am I thinking about? Well, I’m thinking about a bunch of things. I’m thinking about price and neighborhood and all this. Okay, how do I accomplish all that in my content, or at least how do I provide navigation so that people can accomplish all that without having to go back to the search results?

To help with number 2 try:

Understanding what makes those searchers come away unsatisfied.

  • Auto-suggest and related searches are great. In fact, related searches, which are at the very bottom of the page in a set of search results, are usually searches people performed after they performed the initial search. I say usually because there can be some other things in there. But usually someone who searched for FHA loans then searches for jumbo loans or 30-year fixed loans or mortgage rates or those kinds of things. That’s the next step. So you can say, “You know what? I know what you want next. Let me go help you.” Auto-suggest related searches, those are great for that.
  • Internal search analytics for people who landed on a page and performed a site search or clicked on a Next link on your site. What did they want to do? Where did they want to go next? That helps tell you what those people need.
  • Having conversations with those who only got partway through your funnel. So if you have a lead capture at some point or you collect email at some point, you can reach out to people who initially came to you for a solution but didn’t get all the way through that process and talk to them.
  • Tracking the SERPs and watching who rises vs falls in the rankings. Finally, if you track the search results, generally speaking what we see here at Moz, what I see for almost all the results I’m tracking is that more and more people who do a great job of this, of searcher task accomplishment, are rising in the rankings, and the folks who are not are falling.

So over time, if you watch those in your spaces and do some rank tracking competitively, you can see what types of content is helping people accomplish those tasks and what Google is rewarding.

That said, I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Why We Can’t Do SEO WIthout CRO from Rand Fishkin

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Proximity to Searcher is the New #1 Local Search Ranking Factor

Posted by Whitespark

Have you noticed that a lot of local pack results don’t seem to make sense these days? Almost every time I search Google for a local search term, the pack results leave me wondering, “Why are these businesses ranking?”

For example, take a look at the results I get for “plumbers”:


(Searched in an incognito Chrome browser on PC in Edmonton)

Here’s a quick summary of the basic local ranking factors for the businesses in this local pack:

Notice that:

  • None of the businesses have claimed/verified their Google listing.
  • None of the businesses have any Google reviews.
  • Only one of the businesses even has a website!

Surely, Google, there are more prominent businesses in Edmonton that deserve to rank for this term?

Here’s the data table again with one additional point added: proximity to the searcher.

These business are all so close to me that I could walk to them in about 8 to 15 minutes. Here’s a map of Edmonton with pins for my location and these 3 businesses. Just look at how close they are to my location:

After analyzing dozens of queries that my colleagues and I searched for, I am going to make a bold statement:

“Proximity to searcher is the new #1 ranking factor in local search results today.” – Darren Shaw

For most local searches these days, proximity appears to be weighted more than links, website content, citations, and reviews in the local pack rankings. Google doesn’t seem to value the traditional local search ranking factors when determining which businesses to rank in the local pack. The main consideration seems to be: “Which businesses are closest to the searcher?” I have been noticing this trend for at least the last 8 months or so, and it seems to have intensified since the Possum update.

Evidence of proximity-based local rankings

Whitespark has team members that are scattered throughout Edmonton, so four of us ran a series of searches from our home offices to see how the results differ across the city.

Here is a map showing where we are physically located in Edmonton:

On desktop, Google doesn’t actually know exactly where we are. It guesstimates it based on IP, WiFi, and mobile data. You can figure out where Google thinks you’re located by doing the following:

  1. Open an incognito browser in Chrome.
  2. Go to maps.google.com.
  3. Search for a local business in your city.
  4. Click the “Directions” button.
  5. Enter “my location” into the top field.

In order to give you directions, Maps will drop a circle on the spot that it thinks you’re located at.

Here’s where Google thinks I am located:

As a team, at approximately the same time of day, all four of us searched the same 9 local queries in incognito browser windows and saved screenshots of our results.

The search terms:

Non-geo-modified terms (keyword):
plumbers
lawyers
coffee shops

Geo-modified terms (keyword + city):
plumbers edmonton
edmonton plumbers
edmonton lawyers
lawyers edmonton
coffee shops edmonton
edmonton coffee shops

Below are the mapped results for 9 local queries that we each searched in incognito browsers. Rather than dumping 24 maps on the page, here they are in a Slideshare that you can click through:

Proximity is the New Top Local Search Ranking Factor from Darren Shaw

As you click through, you’ll see that each of us get completely different results, and that these results are generally clustered around our location.

You can also see that proximity impacted non-geo-modified terms (“plumbers”) more than the results for geo-modified terms (“edmonton plumbers”). The differences we’re seeing are likely due to relevancy for the geo-modified term. So for instance, the websites may have more anchor text targeting the term “Edmonton plumbers,” or the overall content on the site has more references to Edmonton plumbers.

How does proximity impact local organic results?

Localized organic results are the blue links that list businesses, directories, etc, under the local pack. We’re seeing some very minor differences in the results, but relatively consistent local organic rankings across the city.

Generally, localized organic results are consistent no matter where you’re located in a city — which is a strong indication of traditional ranking signals (links, reviews, citations, content, etc) that outweigh proximity when it comes to local organic results.

Here are screenshots of the local organic results:

Proximity is the New Top Local Search Ranking Factor from Darren Shaw

Some observations

  1. Non geo-modified searches (keyword only) can pull results from neighboring cities. In the new local packs, proximity to searcher is not affected by the city you are in, but by the radius of the searcher. This does not appear to be the same for a geo-modified term — when you add a city to the search. This tells us that the #1 local search ranking factor from the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, “Physical address in city of search,” may no longer be as important as it once was.
  2. Results sometimes cluster together. Even though there may be businesses closer to the searcher, it seems like Google prefers to show you a group of businesses that are clustered together.
  3. Google would rather show a smaller pack than a 3-pack when there is a business that’s too far away from the searcher. For example: I only get a 2-pack of nearby businesses here, but I know there are at least 5 other businesses that match this search term:
  4. Probably obvious, but if there aren’t many businesses in the category, then Google will return a wider set of results from all over the city:

Why is Google doing this?

Why is Google giving so much ranking strength to proximity and reducing the impact of traditional local search ranking factors?

To sell more ads, of course.

I can think of three ways that this will increase ad revenue for Google:

  1. If it’s harder to get into the organically driven local packs, then businesses will need to pay to get into their fancy new paid local packs.
  2. Back in the day, there was one local pack per city/keyword combo (example: “edmonton plumbers”). Now there are thousands of local packs across the city. When they create a new pack every mile, they drastically increase their available “inventory” to sell ads on.
  3. When the results in the 3-pack aren’t giving you what you want, then a click into “more places” will bring up the Local Finder, where Google is already displaying ads:
  4. (Bonus) And have you noticed that the new local ad packs focus on “nearby”? The local ads and the local pack results are increasingly focused on how close the businesses are to your physical location.

Though I don’t think it’s only for the additional ad revenue. I think they truly believe that returning closer businesses is a better user experience, and they have been working on improving their technology around this for quite some time.

Way back in 2012, Whitespark’s Director of Local Search, Nyagoslav Zhekov, noted in the 2012 Local Search Ranking Factors survey that proximity of business location to the point of the searcher was his top local ranking factor. He says:

“What really matters, is where the searcher is physically located and how close the potentially relevant search results are. This ranking factor is getting further boost by the importance of local-mobile search, where it is undoubtedly #1. For desktop search the factor might not be as important (or not have any significance) if searcher’s location and the location for which the search is intended differ.”

It is interesting to note that in today’s results, as we can see in the examples in this post, proximity is now a huge ranking factor on desktop as well. Google has been going “mobile-first” for years, and I’m starting to think that there is no difference in how they process mobile and desktop local results. You just see different results because Google can get a more precise location on mobile.

Furthermore, Bill Slawski just published a post about a recently approved Google patent for determining the quality of locations based on travel time investment. The patent talks about using quality measures like reviews (both user and professional) AND travel time and distance from the searcher (time investment) to rank local businesses in search results.

One excerpt from the patent:

“The present disclosure is directed to methods and apparatus for determining the quality measure of a given location. In some implementations, the quality measure of a given location may be determined based on the time investment a user is willing to make to visit the given location. For example, the time investment for a given location may be based on comparison of one or more actual distance values to reach the given location to one or more anticipated distance values to reach the given location. The actual distance values are indicative of actual time of one or more users to reach the given location and the anticipated distance values are indicative of anticipated time to reach the given location.”

The patent was filed in May 2013, so we can assume that Google may have been experimenting with this and incorporating it into local search for at least the past 3 to 4 years. In the past year, the dial seems to have been cranked up on this factor as Google gets more distance and travel data from Android users and from users of the Google Maps app on other mobile platforms.

These results suck

It seems to me that in most business categories, putting so much emphasis on proximity is a pretty poor way to rank results. I don’t care if a lawyer is close to me. I am looking to hire a lawyer that’s reputable, prominent in my city, and does good work. I’m perfectly happy to drive an extra 20 minutes to go to the office of a good lawyer. I’m also looking for the best pizza in town, not the cardboard they serve at the place down the street. The same applies for every business category I can think of, outside of maybe gas stations, emergency plumbers, or emergency locksmiths.

In my opinion, this emphasis on proximity by Google seriously downgrades the quality of their local results. People are looking for the best businesses, not the closest businesses. If this is the new normal in Google’s local results, I expect that people will start turning to sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Avvo, Angie’s List, etc. when searching for businesses. I already have.

So what about local rank tracking?

Most local rank trackers set the location to the city, which is the equivalent of setting it to the centroid. It is very likely that the local pack and local finder results reported in your rank tracker will be different from what the business or client sees when they search. To get more accurate results, you should use a rank tracker that lets you set the location by zip/postal code (hint hint, Whitespark’s Local Rank Tracker).

You should also realize that you’re never going to get local rank tracking reports that perfectly match with what the person sitting in the city sees. There are just too many variables to control for. The precise proximity to the searcher is one thing a rank tracker can’t exactly match, but you’ll also see differences based on device used, browser version, personalization, and even time of day as results can and do change by the hour.

Use your rank tracking reports as a measure of general increases and decreases in local visibility, not as an exact match with what you would see if you were searching from within city.

How does this affect local SEO strategies?

Local SEO is not dead. Far from it. It’s just more competitive now. The reach your business can have in local results is smaller than it used to be, which means you need to step up your local organic and optimization efforts.

  • Local search practitioners, if you’re seeing traffic and rankings going down in your local SEO reporting and you need to answer to your clients on this, you’re now armed with more info on how to answer these questions. It’s not you, it’s Google. They have reduced the radius that your business will be shown in the search results, so you’re going to be driving less traffic and leads from local pack results.
  • If you want your business to rank in the pack or local finder, you will need to crank up the dial on your optimization efforts.
  • Get on those local organic opportunities (content and links). There is less pack real estate for you now, but the localized organic results are still great city-wide opportunities. The local organic results are currently localized to the city, not the searcher location. We can see this in all the terms.
  • Look for outliers. Study the businesses that are getting pulled into the local rankings from a far distance from the searcher. What are they doing in terms of content, links, reviews, and mentions that helps them appear in a wider radius than other businesses?
  • Diversify your local optimization efforts beyond Google. Make sure you’re on Yelp, BBB, TripAdvisor, Avvo, Angie’s List, etc, and that your profiles are claimed, optimized, and enhanced with as much information as possible. Then, make sure you’re driving reviews on THESE sites rather than just Google. If the local pack results are crap, a lot of people will click Yelp’s 10 Best XYZ list, for example. You want to be on that list. The more reviews you get on these sites, the better you will rank in their internal search results, and as people desert Google for local business recommendations because of their low-quality results, you’ll be ready and waiting for them on the other sites.

The tighter radius might mean less local search pie for the more dominant businesses in the city, but don’t despair. This opens up opportunities for more businesses to attract local search business from their local neighborhood, and there is still plenty of business to drive through local search if you step up your game.

Have you also noticed hyper-localized local pack results? I would love to hear about your examples and thoughts in the comments.

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Online Marketing News: Google Goes ABC.XYZ, Twitter Without Limits, Search Factor Findings

Effectively Use Visual Storytelling

How to Effectively Use Visual Storytelling for Your Brand (Infographic) – According to a new infographic from Widen, you only have 8 seconds to capture the reader’s attention with great creative before they scroll away. Check out the infographic to learn more ways to integrate visual storytelling into your brand’s marketing. Widen

The Moz 2015 Search Engine Ranking Factors Study – Moz announces the results of their biannual Search Engine Ranking Correlation Study and Expert Survey, a.k.a. Ranking Factors. Moz

Google Moves Under Umbrella Company Alphabet – Google is listening to Wall Street, while also trying to keep its innovation going. The Silicon Valley behemoth is reorganizing under a new name — Alphabet — and separating its moneymaking businesses from the moonshot ones. Google

Survey: 80 Percent Of Mobile Marketers Using Location, Mostly As Audience Proxy – Most mobile marketers today are using location-based advertising. That’s a key finding from a new survey of marketers from mobile ad platform xAd. However uncertainty about ROI and campaign performance is holding back more enthusiastic adoption. Marketing Land

Smartphones Now Account For Half of US Adults’ Digital Media Time – Connected adults in the US spent 49% of their digital time in March 2015 using smartphone applications (43%) or browsers (6%), reports comScore in a new study. MarketingCharts

Only 2% of Marketers Have ‘Very Effective’ Content Strategy [Study] – According to a new study by the CMO Council, content marketing is on the rise – but less than half of B2B marketers think their strategies are at least somewhat effective. ClickZ

Pre- or Post-Sale, LinkedIn Is Tops for B2B Customer Engagement – LinkedIn is business-to-business (B2B) firms’ social go-to for product launches, and recent research indicates that it’s also huge for engaging customers throughout the sales process. eMarketer

Twitter Launches Full Archive Search API To Give Enterprises Instant Access To Every Tweet – Expanding on historical products offered by its Gnip service, Twitter is now offering social management platforms real-time access to full Twitter stream. Marketing Land

Facebook Extends Autoplay Video Ads, E-Commerce Ads to Others’ Apps – Facebook is bringing its autoplay video ads to third-party mobile apps that sell ad space through Facebook’s mobile ad network Audience Network, the company announced on Tuesday. Advertisers aren’t able to buy ads specifically to run on the mobile ad network; instead it’s like an overflow room, where Facebook takes the ads that run on the social network and syndicates them to others’ apps based on the advertiser’s defined targeting parameters. Ad Age

Twitter Removes 140-Character Limit From Direct Messages – If you’ve checked your Direct Messages today, you may have noticed that something’s missing: the limitation of 140 characters. You can now chat on (and on) in a single Direct Message, and likely still have some characters left over. Twitter

Periscope Users Watch 40 Years’ Worth Of Video Per Day – Periscope has released its first company report since launching in March, and the numbers are impressive: The streaming video service boasts more than 10 million accounts, and says its users watch the equivalent of 40 years’ worth of video every day. Back in April, Twitter shared that Periscope had reached 1 million users just 10 days after launch. Fast Company

Facebook Adds High Performing Ad Units To Audience Network – The social network is now offering autoplay video in native app advertising and dynamic product and carousel ads in full-screen interstitials. Marketing Land

From our Online Marketing Community:

In response to Study: Content Marketing Inefficiencies Cost BtoB Companies Nearly $ 1 Billion, Olivia Smith commented, “Nice article.Content management is of course very important , it was really shocking to hear one had to shed 1 billion for this…”

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Widen


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Is Brand a Google Ranking Factor? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

A frequently asked question in the SEO world is whether or not branding plays a part in Google’s ranking algorithm. There’s a short answer with a big asterisk, and in today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains what you need to know.

Is Brand a Google Ranking Factor Whiteboard

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I’m going to try and answer a question that plagues a lot of marketers, a lot of SEOs and that we ask very frequently. That is: Is brand or branding a ranking factor in Google search engine?

Look, I think, to be fair, to be honest, that the technical answer to this question is no. However, I think when people say brand is powerful for SEO, that is a true statement. We’re going to try and reconcile these two things. How can brand not be a ranking factor and yet be a powerful influencer of higher rankings in SEO? What’s going to go on there?

What is a ranking factor, anyway?

Well, I’ll tell you. So when folks say ranking factor, they’re referring to something very technical, very specific, and that is an algorithmic input that Google measures directly and uses to determine rank position in their algorithm.

Okay, guess what? Brand almost certainly is not this.

Google doesn’t try and go out and say, “How well known is Coca-Cola versus Pepsi versus 7 Up versus Sprite versus Jones Cola? Hey, let’s rank Coca-Cola a little higher because they seem to have greater brand awareness, brand affinity than Pepsi.” That is not something that Google will try and do. That’s not something that’s in their algorithm.

However, a big however, many things that are in Google’s ranking algorithm correlate very well with brands.

Those things are probably used by Google in both direct and indirect ways.

So when you see sites that have done a great job of branding and also have good SEO best practices on them, you’ll notice kind of a correlation, like boy, it sure does seem like the brands have been performing better and better in Google’s rankings over the last four, five, or six years. I think this is due to two trends. One of those trends is that Google’s algorithmic inputs have started favoring things that brands are better at and that what I’d call generic sites or non-branded sites, or businesses that have not invested in brand affinity have not done well.

Those things are things like links, where Google is rewarding better links rather than just more links. They’re things around user and usage data, which Google previously didn’t use a whole lot of signals around that. Same story with user experience. Same story with things like pogo sticking, which is probably one of the ways that they’re measuring some of that stuff.

If we were to scatter plot it, we’d probably see something like this, where the better your brand performs as a brand, the higher and better it tends to perform in the rankings of Google search engine.

How does brand correlate to ranking signals?

Now, how is it that these brand signals that I’m talking about correlate more directly to ranking signals? Like why does this impact and influence? I think if we understand that, we can understand why we need to invest in brand and branding and where to invest in it as it relates to the web marketing kinds of things that we do for SEO.

One very clearly and very frankly is links. So when we talk about the links that Google wants to measure, wants to count today, those are organic, editorially earned links. They’re not manipulative. They weren’t bought. They tend not to be cajoled, they’re earned.

Because of that, one of the best ways that folks have been earning links is to get people to come to their website and then have some fraction, some percentage of those folks naturally link to them without having to do any extra effort. It’s basically like, “Hey, you made this great piece of content or this great product or great service or great data. Therefore, I’m going to reference it.” Granted, that’s a small percentage of people. There’s still only maybe two or three out of a hundred folks who might visit your website on the Internet who actually have the power or ability to link to you because they control content on the web as opposed to just social sharing.

But when that happens, in a lot of cases folks go and they say, “Hmm, yeah, this content’s good, but I’ve never heard of this brand before. I’m not sure if I should recommend it. It looks good, but I don’t know them.” Versus, “Oh, I love these folks. This is like one of my favorite companies or brands or products or experiences, and this content is great. I am totally going to link to it.” Because that happens, even if that difference is small, even if the percent goes from 1% to 2%, well now, guess what? For every hundred visits, you’re earning twice the links of your non-branded competitor.

Social signals

These are pretty much exactly the same thing. Folks who visit content, who have experiences with a company, with a product, or with a service, if they’re familiar and comfortable with the brand, if they want to evangelize that brand, then guess what? You’re going to get more social sharing per visit, per exposure than you would ordinarily, and that’s going to lead to a cycle of more social sharing which leads to visits which probably leads to links.

User and usage data

It’s also true that brand is going to impact user and usage data. So one of the most interesting patents, which we’ll probably be talking about in a future Whiteboard Friday, was brought up recently by Bill Slawski and looked at user and usage data. It was just granted to Google in the last month. It talked about how Google would look at the patterns of where web visitors would go and what their search experiences would be like. It would potentially say, “Hey, Google would like to reward sites that are getting organic traffic, not just from search, but traffic of all kinds on a particular topic.”

So if it turns out that lots of people who are researching a vacation to Costa Rica end up going to Oyster.com, well, Google might say, “Hey, you know what? We’ve seen this pattern over and over again. Let’s boost Oyster.com’s rankings because it seems like people who look for this kind of content end up on this site. Not necessarily directly through us, through Google. They might end up on it through social media, through organic web links, through direct visits, through e-mail marketing, whatever it is.”

When you’re unbranded, one of the few ways that you can get traffic is through unbranded search. Search is one of those few channels that does drive traffic, or historically anyway did drive traffic to a lot of non-branded, less branded sites. Brands tend to earn traffic from a wide variety of sources. If you can start earning traffic from lots of sources and have the retention and the experience to drive people back again and again, well, probably you’re going to benefit from some of these potential algorithmic shifts and future looking directions that Google’s got.

Click-through rates

Same story a little bit when it comes to click-through rate. Now, we know from experience and testing that click-through rate is or appears to have a very direct impact on rankings. If lots of people are performing a search and they click on your website in position number four or five, and they’re not clicking on position one, two, or three, you can bet that you’re going to be moving up those rankings very, very quickly.

Granted there is some manipulative services out there that try and automate this. Some of them work for a little while. Most of them get shut down pretty quick. I wouldn’t recommend investing in those. But I do recommend investing in brand, because when you have a recognizable brand, searchers are going to come here and they’re going to go, “Oh, that one, maybe I haven’t heard of it. That one, I’ve heard of it. That one, I haven’t heard of it.”

Guess what they’re clicking on? The one they’re already familiar with. The one they have a positive association with already. This is the power of brand advertising, and I think it’s one of the big reasons why you’ve seen case studies from folks like Seer Interactive, talking about how a radio ad campaign or a billboard ad campaign seemed to have a positive lift in their SEO work as well. This phenomenon is going to mean that you’re benefiting from every searcher who looks for something, even if you rank further down, if you’re the better known brand.

So is brand a ranking factor? No, it’s not. Is brand something that positively impacts SEO? Almost certainly in every niche, yes, it is.

All right. Looking forward to some great comments. I’ll try and jump in there and answer any questions that I can. If you have experiences you want to share, we’d love to hear from you. Hopefully, we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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30 Ways to Build the “Know, Like, and Trust” Factor that Grows an Audience

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Your content is good. You know your material. You know how to put words together in a way people want to read.

You’re nearly there.

But the game isn’t won yet.

No matter how strong a writer you are, you won’t grow the vibrant audience that supports your business until you fit one more piece into place.

Let’s take a look at what that might be …

The reality is, your audience won’t pick up real momentum until you’ve mastered the “know, like, trust” factor.

Face to face salespeople have known this for decades, but some content marketers are still struggling to get it right. Unlock this reader response for more comments, social shares, and followers. For invitations to guest post. And for a transformation in your blog, your business, and your reputation.

Interested?

I hope so, because I’ve got 30 ideas for you …

10 ways to get known online

If you’re a Copyblogger reader, you know that high-quality content marketing attracts attention and builds your reputation — it lets people see who you are and why you’re worth listening to.

Your audience grows in proportion to the quality of content that you create and deliver.

How do you “become known?”

  1. Get clear on who you’re talking to: Don’t talk to “everybody”. Identify your buyer persona and tightly position your content for that buyer.
  2. Assert expertise in your niche: Use content to position and prove yourself as an authority. Give your ideas names and labels, and present formulas alongside empirical evidence. This approach has far more impact than simply spouting your opinion.
  3. Create the right content: Research, ask questions, and dig deep to ensure you create content your target niche wants to consume.
  4. Develop a valuable free product: Use it as an incentive to build your email list. Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks is an excellent example. First discover what’s keeping your audience up at night, then offer a detailed solution packaged in an eBook, special report, or white paper.
  5. Encourage sharing to a wider audience: This expands your network and helps more people get to know you. Social media simplifies the mechanics of sharing, but to leverage its power you must be remarkable in some way … thought-provoking, engaging, stimulating, entertaining, etc.
  6. Build relationships with key influencers: In the authority stakes (as in all of professional life), who you know is almost as important as what you know. Use social networking and blog post commenting to attract the attention of influencers in your topic. Don’t be a suck-up, but do be smart and tactical. After all, you won’t be the only one vying for attention!
  7. Create a popular blog: Focus on your topic, express your personality, and use it as a base to express your unique perspective. Some great advice sites are out there to help you get better at this. I like Pushing Social and Boost Blog Traffic.
  8. Interview the experts. This proven technique lets you tap into the audience of an influencer (and cheekily position yourself with them).
  9. Guest blog: If you write articulate, interesting, and unique guest posts for relevant blogs, you can tap into a whole new audience. It’s the quickest way to get known by more people.
  10. Get creative: Content marketing isn’t all about the written word. You can explore webinars, product reviews, podcasts, infographics, white papers, ebooks, and video to name a few. What would appeal to your audience?

10 actions to build likeability online

Imagine two people with an identical product and an identical price.

One person comes across as boring and impersonal. The other is charming, interesting, and makes you feel good. Which one would you rather do business with?

A high profile alone is not enough to convert prospects into customers. You must also build relationships to nurture your likeability.

Here are ten ways to become better-liked online …

  1. Be authentic and express your unique voice through your content.
  2. Be real: If you come across as a dull, faceless company you’ll simply turn people off. Instead boost your popularity by writing with passion, sharing your stories, and getting personal.
  3. Be nice! It sounds obvious but unfortunately it isn’t. Don’t annoy or badmouth people. Be helpful, responsive, and generous with your time and your attention. Your audience will love you the more for it.
  4. Initiate a two-way conversation: Invite your audience to engage and interact with you. Invite comments on your blog posts and ask questions in your autoresponder sequence.
  5. Be relevant: Listen, research, and ask questions to discover your audience’s pinch points. Package your ideas into thought-provoking blog posts, share solutions on a webinar, or drip ideas through an autoresponder.
  6. Be visible: While the written word is powerful, it’s not the whole package. Incorporate video interviews, Google+ hangouts, and podcasts into your content marketing strategy. Allow your audience to hear you speak and see your body language.
  7. Put your face to your name: Remove the egg from your social media profile, display an engaging picture on your website, and tell your business story in a captivating way on your About page.
  8. Get your social media ratio right. Remember the 95% relationship building, 5% selling formula.
  9. Be generous: Share content and promote other people. Don’t expect people to share your stuff if you don’t demonstrate a commitment to do the same.
  10. Deliver social proof: If your numbers are good, show the tweets and shares of your articles or publicly state your subscriber numbers. Content that has attracted a lot of attention will attract even more.

10 factors that build trust with your audience

While you’re delivering your truly valuable content, you’re not selling, but you are paving the road to eventually selling a product that’s related to your content down the line. When it comes to selling online, authority and likeability alone are rarely enough — you need to become truly trusted.

Here’s ten ways to gain trust online …

  1. Give away (some of) your best stuff: The web is swamped with free content. If you want to stand out, even your free offers must be remarkable.
  2. Don’t disappoint: If you say you’ll post an article every day, post an article every day. Break your promises and your credibility evaporates.
  3. Be consistently good: Train your audience to expect a certain level of quality from you and constantly deliver. When you do, they’ll come to you first rather than going elsewhere.
  4. Incorporate testimonials: Let a third party vouch for you by sharing their experience of your work in their own words. It’s a great way to demonstrate how you deliver a positive experience.
  5. Use case studies: Real-world stories give examples (and proof) of your work and demonstrate your capability.
  6. Don’t steal: While it’s wise to be open to ideas that you tweak to make your own, never plagiarize. It’s wrong. (It’s also stupid and counterproductive.)
  7. Avoid jargon and pompous language: Keep it simple, be approachable, and cut the rubbish. We have inbuilt BS detectors and are adept at sniffing out the bad eggs.
  8. Apologize when you need to: You’re not always going to get it right. When you make a mistake, put your hand up, acknowledge the error, and state plainly that you’re sorry. Your audience will respect you far more than that futile attempt to hide it away.
  9. Give your audience space: Use content to allow your audience to choose you — in their own time. Whether they come to you in a day, a week, or a decade, you’ll get far more respect than that sleazy salesman who just won’t go away.
  10. Offer guarantees. When your audience is ready to buy, reduce their risk. For example, offer a 30-day trial, or money back guarantee. Your sales will benefit.

Over to you …

When you combine the elements of know, like, and trust to your content and actions, magic ignites. You become an authority on your subject, and you build a tribe of fiercely loyal followers who can ultimately become loyal customers.

But results like these take time and effort. You need to put the work in — to fight hard for your space. And you can never give up.

I’m game.

How about you?

About the Author: Georgina El Morshdy is a UK copywriter and content marketing consultant at Gem Writing. You can also catch her at the Micro Business Hub where she helps busy micro business owners grow their business with ideas that work.

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