Tag Archive | "Match"

Google Ads announce more changes to match types – Challenges and opportunities

Google Ads has recently announced that it now allows ads to be served for queries that it understands to share the same meaning on broad modified and phrase match keywords.

For bigger advertisers, this is probably not a huge concern, as they are not limited by budget. Being visible for a wider range of search terms without having to add thousands of keyword variations can only be a good thing.

But what about those with limited budgets, and those in niche industries that need to target very specific keywords?

While there will undoubtedly be challenges to overcome in light of these changes, there are also likely to be opportunities.

Challenges

1. Spend may increase

An increase in impressions is likely to equate to more clicks, which is fine if these clicks go on to convert. But with Google determining how relevant a search term is to the keywords in your campaigns, just how much could spend skyrocket if left unchecked?

Neil Andrew from AdTech startup PPC Protect, says:

“These changes are definitely going to result in a massive increase in irrelevant and even invalid traffic on Google Ads accounts that aren’t actively managed/monitored. Our internal analysis on this shows up to 20% increases in budget usage from the change in broad/phrase match keywords, the vast majority of which isn’t relevant to a conversion action. As a SaaS platform provider, we are in a unique position to analyse this.

We have over 35,000 Google Ads accounts connected to our system currently, and we have had a number of users notice an uptick in both wasted spend and irrelevant traffic. We’ve also seen a large share of this traffic be invalid – mostly from bot activity and competitor clicking activity. It seems like narrow niche targeting is getting tougher to achieve by the day.”

2. Impressions may be wasted on irrelevant search terms

If you’re using a target impression share bid strategy, now might be the time to review it as this might impact impression share metrics.

Impressions may now include ads triggered by keywords that Google determines to have the same meaning (unless they are added as negatives). Just how much impression share is Google going to give to variants, rather than the keywords actually in the campaign?

3. Irrelevant terms/keywords would need to be revisited and reviewed

Ads showing for irrelevant terms/keywords that are already in the account that were tested earlier and paused due to poor performance are a major bugbear of mine.

I’ve noticed keywords that have been tested previously, and paused, can still be shown as a close match. So if you have keywords that you’ve paused because they historically haven’t worked well, you’ll now need to check if Google is still serving ads for the keyword and exclude it.

This means you’ll end up with keywords that state both added and excluded.

4. More time will need to be spent on analyzing search term reports and building negative keyword lists

Yes, analyzing search term reports is absolutely something that all PPC managers should be doing on a regular basis. However, having to check search term reports daily to exclude the keywords an advertiser doesn’t want to serve ads for is going to be time-consuming, especially on large accounts, taking time away from managing and optimizing other aspects of a campaign.

Sam Kessenich, Chief Digital Officer, RyTech, is already noticing impressions ramp up.

“Regarding the most recent changes to keyword targeting, without a doubt, these changes will increase impressions and clicks across almost every campaign. We’re noticing an increase across all search campaigns due to this change, and are being forced to do daily or weekly negative keyword additions when keywords don’t match goals. Proper negative keyword research and search term monitoring is the most effective strategy we can do before accounts launch and as accounts are running.”

5. Building ad groups with single keywords just got a lot more difficult

A great way to have control over a campaign at a very granular level is to build single keyword ad groups (SKAG). This strategy allows for highly focused ad copy and landing pages, and as a result, quality scores for this type of campaign are high.

Carolina Jaramillo, Paid Media Manager at POLARIS explains why this strategy will no longer be as effective.

“I’m a big fan of creating SKAG structured campaigns, and this new change might make it more difficult to protect the single keyword ad group structure. Consequently, due to this new change, how will we be able to optimise ad copy for a single keyword when this keyword is liable to match a wide range of different queries? Although I am interested to see how Google will look for opportunities to expand our reach to serve ads for relevant queries as they say in their update, and as they state 15% of searches we see every day are new, we will have to wait and see how this change will affect our clients’ Google Ads campaigns.”

So, can any good come of these changes?

Opportunities

1. May reveal new keywords that were not previously targeted which actually convert

Not everyone searches the same. So coming up with a comprehensive keyword list that captures every single potential search term a user might enter to find your products and services is nigh-on impossible. Keyword research can only take you so far.

With this in mind, showing ads for searches that share the same intent may provide a great opportunity to track down some high converting keywords, which may have otherwise been overlooked.

Haley Anhut, PPC Manager at Clean Origin thinks there are benefits of Google showing not only for close variants but also conceptually related keywords.

“I have already seen some very smart close variants triggering existing keywords. Whether these keywords can be left alone, included within an existing ad group or a new ad group created around those keywords for highly targeted ad copy; all offer a great way to expand your campaign reach and performance. The greater the awareness of a consumer’s journey to conversion, and how that journey functions within the search funnel, allows for a highly tactical approach when reaching consumers. With more data at our fingertips, we can enhance campaign optimization strategy and expand reach through relevant searches.”

2. Will save time creating granular ad groups

As Google is capable of understanding when search terms mean the same thing, and will serve ads as a result, you no longer need to worry about including the keywords within that ad group in the ad copy. While it’s not yet clear how showing ads for close match and intent-based variations of your keywords will impact metrics like ad relevancy, this catch-all approach could save time when it comes to creating granular ad groups containing just a couple of keywords for every campaign.

Coupled with a feature like keyword insertion, this could be a powerful way of increasing reach on low impression campaigns while making the ads more relevant to the user’s search term with minimal effort.

3. Top tips and advice from PPC managers

Rather than panic, you should be proactive in preparing for this change and keep a very close eye on your accounts as it begins to roll out.

“Broad and phrase match CPCs are increasing because there are more campaigns competing for the same keywords now. A good tactic is to allocate a portion of the daily budget to the new phrase match and broad match parameters and see which keywords are resulting in low CPCs and high CTRs. Those keywords can then be optimized into ‘exact matches.’ Overall, this change makes keyword research much more important now because a higher value will lie in ‘exact match’ keywords.”

Haris Karim, Lead Digital Strategist at MAB.

“To avoid the negative effects of unwanted reach, skew towards more specific match types like exact match, although exact match already allows same-meaning close variant targeting so that is not as specific as it once was, too. In addition to this, make sure you are using a robust negative keyword strategy to avoid showing for unwanted queries. Lastly, review your search term reports regularly to ensure your impressions are relevant to your ad group keywords, ads, and landing pages.”

Timothy Johnson, SMB Solutions and PPC Lead at Portent Digital Agency.

“I would say that if you still have some ad groups built around different match types, you should consolidate those ad groups into one. For instance, if you have an ad group dedicated to exact match keywords, and another ad group dedicated to phrase match, the phrase match keywords (which now are showing for more phrases) will cannibalize all of that exact-match traffic unless the exact-match keywords have higher bids and ad rank.”

Adam Gingery, Digital Strategy and Paid Search Manager at Majux Marketing.

“I feel like Google is trying to make our lives easier with this latest change, but it’s actually just making them harder. Yes, there will be opportunities for the big spenders to get more exposure from the lower volume terms that they may not have thought of or come across yet, but for the smaller players that need to spend their limited budget very wisely, it means more time needs to be spent constantly monitoring search term reports and adding more and more negatives. So my tip for those smaller advertisers would be to focus on negative keywords. Regularly check search term reports and add negative phrases straight from there, but also take the single terms within the longer phrases that are wrong, and add those as broad match negatives to stop Google showing ads for another phrase containing that term, if it will always be wrong.”

Ashleigh Davison, Head of Biddable Media, Browser Media.

“The obvious suggestion here to minimize impact is to focus on negative keywords, especially if you can do this preemptively before they start costing you money. So instead of just thinking of all the most obvious negatives that a business would want to avoid, you will now need to start thinking about close variations of your products or services that you may want to add.”

Ryan Scollon, PPC freelance consultant.

What do you think the impact will be? We’d love to know your thoughts.

Victoria is Account Director at Browser Media. She can be found on Twitter @VikingWagon.

The post Google Ads announce more changes to match types – Challenges and opportunities appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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5G Reality is Going to Match the Hype, Says Cisco CEO

“We have done a study and we believe that by 2022 there will be over 400 million 5G connections,” says Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins. “This is one of those great examples where the reality is going to match the hype building up to this.” Robbins adds: “If you think about what this is going to create, we believe in 2022 the amount of new traffic created in that year will actually exceed all of the traffic that has been created since the inception of the internet.”

Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, discusses how technology is now defining enterprise strategy and how 5G is going to impact connectivity in an interview on Fox Business:

Technology is at the Heart of the Strategy

This technology is at the heart of the strategy of our customers. It is no longer enabling their strategy. They’re taking the technology and then they are defining their strategy based on what it makes possible. A lot of the focus over the last decade has been around consumer tech. If it’s on your phone you know what it does. If you use a social media app then you know what it does. What we do isn’t that clear to the everyday investor.

The technology that we are building are really enabling our enterprise customers and public sector customers to digitize and really take advantage of new methods of revenue stream. In the case of the public sector, new ways of delivering citizen services. Putting video connectivity out into rural areas and delivering citizen services virtually. There are all these things that are happening that are leading to continued demand.

5G Reality is Going to Match the Hype

We’ve been talking about 5G for many years. The trials are beginning this year. This is one of those great examples where the reality is going to match the hype building up to this. The fundamental difference that this technology is going to bring is (massive). In 2022 you’re going to see speeds that average 4-5 times more than we get today. If you think about what it enables, not only higher speeds and lower latency for mobile devices, but we are going to get connectivity into rural areas that we haven’t been able to because the cost of digging trenches and laying fiber has just been prohibitive. Now we can do this with 5G.

We are going to be able to connect people who have not been connected before. We have done a study and we believe that by 2022 there will be over 400 million 5G connections. What happens is when you get to a place where you have all of this high bandwidth capacity out at the edge of the network then the core infrastructure has to be updated to actually accommodate that. That’s one of the big roles that we are going to play is delivering innovation that actually allows our customers to deal with all this traffic.

5G is going to provide everything from the ability to connect IoT devices to things in your home and vehicles, all the way to connecting enterprise branch locations. The whole notion of lower latency is really what’s required to do real-time video applications. If you think about what this is going to create, we believe in 2022 the amount of new traffic created in that year will actually exceed all of the traffic that has been created since the inception of the internet.

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Evolving Keyword Research to Match Your Buyer’s Journey

Posted by matthew_jkay

Keyword research has been around as long as the SEO industry has. Search engines built a system that revolves around users entering a term or query into a text entry field, hitting return, and receiving a list of relevant results. As the online search market expanded, one clear leader emerged — Google — and with it they brought AdWords (now Google Ads), an advertising platform that allowed organizations to appear on search results pages for keywords that organically they might not.

Within Google Ads came a tool that enabled businesses to look at how many searches there were per month for almost any query. Google Keyword Planner became the de facto tool for keyword research in the industry, and with good reason: it was Google’s data. Not only that, Google gave us the ability to gather further insights due to other metrics Keyword Planner provided: competition and suggested bid. Whilst these keywords were Google Ads-oriented metrics, they gave the SEO industry an indication of how competitive a keyword was.

The reason is obvious. If a keyword or phrase has higher competition (i.e. more advertisers bidding to appear for that term) it’s likely to be more competitive from an organic perspective. Similarly, a term that has a higher suggested bid means it’s more likely to be a competitive term. SEOs dined on this data for years, but when the industry started digging a bit more into the data, we soon realized that while useful, it was not always wholly accurate. Moz, SEMrush, and other tools all started to develop alternative volume and competitive metrics using Clickstream data to give marketers more insights.

Now industry professionals have several software tools and data outlets to conduct their keyword research. These software companies will only improve in the accuracy of their data outputs. Google’s data is unlikely to significantly change; their goal is to sell ad space, not make life easy for SEOs. In fact, they’ve made life harder by using volume ranges for Google Ads accounts with low activity. SEO tools have investors and customers to appease and must continually improve their products to reduce churn and grow their customer base. This makes things rosy for content-led SEO, right?

Well, not really.

The problem with historical keyword research is twofold:

1. SEOs spend too much time thinking about the decision stage of the buyer’s journey (more on that later).

2. SEOs spend too much time thinking about keywords, rather than categories or topics.

The industry, to its credit, is doing a lot to tackle issue number two. “Topics over keywords” is something that is not new as I’ll briefly come to later. Frameworks for topic-based SEO have started to appear over the last few years. This is a step in the right direction. Organizing site content into categories, adding appropriate internal linking, and understanding that one piece of content can rank for several variations of a phrase is becoming far more commonplace.

What is less well known (but starting to gain traction) is point one. But in order to understand this further, we should dive into what the buyer’s journey actually is.

What is the buyer’s journey?

The buyer’s or customer’s journey is not new. If you open marketing text books from years gone by, get a college degree in marketing, or even just go on general marketing blogs you’ll see it crop up. There are lots of variations of this journey, but they all say a similar thing. No matter what product or service is bought, everyone goes through this journey. This could be online or offline — the main difference is that depending on the product, person, or situation, the amount of time this journey takes will vary — but every buyer goes through it. But what is it, exactly? For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on three stages: awareness, consideration, & decision.

Awareness

The awareness stage of the buyer’s journey is similar to problem discovery, where a potential customer realizes that they have a problem (or an opportunity) but they may not have figured out exactly what that is yet.

Search terms at this stage are often question-based — users are researching around a particular area.

Consideration

The consideration stage is where a potential consumer has defined what their problem or opportunity is and has begun to look for potential solutions to help solve the issue they face.

Decision

The decision stage is where most organizations focus their attention. Normally consumers are ready to buy at this stage and are often doing product or vendor comparisons, looking at reviews, and searching for pricing information.

To illustrate this process, let’s take two examples: buying an ice cream and buying a holiday.

Being low-value, the former is not a particularly considered purchase, but this journey still takes place. The latter is more considered. It can often take several weeks or months for a consumer to decide on what destination they want to visit, let alone a hotel or excursions. But how does this affect keyword research, and the content which we as marketers should provide?

At each stage, a buyer will have a different thought process. It’s key to note that not every buyer of the same product will have the same thought process but you can see how we can start to formulate a process.

The Buyer’s Journey – Holiday Purchase

The above table illustrates the sort of queries or terms that consumers might use at different stages of their journey. The problem is that most organizations focus all of their efforts on the decision end of the spectrum. This is entirely the right approach to take at the start because you’re targeting consumers who are interested in your product or service then and there. However, in an increasingly competitive online space you should try and find ways to diversify and bring people into your marketing funnel (which in most cases is your website) at different stages.

I agree with the argument that creating content for people earlier in the journey will likely mean lower conversion rates from visitor to customer, but my counter to this would be that you’re also potentially missing out on people who will become customers. Further possibilities to at least get these people into your funnel include offering content downloads (gated content) to capture user’s information, or remarketing activity via Facebook, Google Ads, or other retargeting platforms.

Moving from keywords to topics

I’m not going to bang this drum too loudly. I think many in of the SEO community have signed up to the approach that topics are more important than keywords. There are quite a few resources on this listed online, but what forced it home for me was Cyrus Shepard’s Moz article in 2014. Much, if not all, of that post still holds true today.

What I will cover is an adoption of HubSpot’s Topic Cluster model. For those unaccustomed to their model, HubSpot’s approach formalizes and labels what many search marketers have been doing for a while now. The basic premise is instead of having your site fragmented with lots of content across multiple sections, all hyperlinking to each other, you create one really in-depth content piece that covers a topic area broadly (and covers shorter-tail keywords with high search volume), and then supplement this page with content targeting the long-tail, such as blog posts, FAQs, or opinion pieces. HubSpot calls this “pillar” and “cluster” content respectively.

Source: Matt Barby / HubSpot

The process then involves taking these cluster pages and linking back to the pillar page using keyword-rich anchor text. There’s nothing particularly new about this approach aside from formalizing it a bit more. Instead of having your site’s content structured in such a way that it’s fragmented and interlinking between lots of different pages and topics, you keep the internal linking within its topic, or content cluster. This video explains this methodology further. While we accept this model may not fit every situation, and nor is it completely perfect, it’s a great way of understanding how search engines are now interpreting content.

At Aira, we’ve taken this approach and tried to evolve it a bit further, tying these topics into the stages of the buyer’s journey while utilizing several data points to make sure our outputs are based off as much data as we can get our hands on. Furthermore, because pillar pages tend to target shorter-tail keywords with high search volume, they’re often either awareness- or consideration-stage content, and thus not applicable for decision stage. We term our key decision pages “target pages,” as this should be a primary focus of any activity we conduct.

We’ll also look at the semantic relativity of the keywords reviewed, so that we have a “parent” keyword that we’re targeting a page to rank for, and then children of that keyword or phrase that the page may also rank for, due to its similarity to the parent. Every keyword is categorized according to its stage in the buyer’s journey and whether it’s appropriate for a pillar, target, or cluster page. We also add two further classifications to our keywords: track & monitor and ignore. Definitions for these five keyword types are listed below:

Pillar page

A pillar page covers all aspects of a topic on a single page, with room for more in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page. A keyword tagged with pillar page will be the primary topic and the focus of a page on the website. Pillar pages should be awareness- or consideration-stage content.

A great pillar page example I often refer to is HubSpot’s Facebook marketing guide or Mosi-guard’s insect bites guide (disclaimer: probably don’t click through if you don’t like close-up shots of insects!).

Cluster page

A cluster topic page for the pillar focuses on providing more detail for a specific long-tail keyword related to the main topic. This type of page is normally associated with a blog article but could be another type of content, like an FAQ page.

Good examples within the Facebook marketing topic listed above are HubSpot’s posts:

For Mosi-guard, they’re not utilizing internal links within the copy of the other blogs, but the “older posts” section at the bottom of the blog is referencing this guide:

Target page

Normally a keyword or phrase linked to a product or service page, e.g. nike trainers or seo services. Target pages are decision-stage content pieces.

HubSpot’s target content is their social media software page, with one of Mosi-guard’s target pages being their natural spray product.

Track & monitor

A keyword or phrase that is not the main focus of a page, but could still rank due to its similarity to the target page keyword. A good example of this might be seo services as the target page keyword, but this page could also rank for seo agency, seo company, etc.

Ignore

A keyword or phrase that has been reviewed but is not recommended to be optimized for, possibly due to a lack of search volume, it’s too competitive, it won’t be profitable, etc.

Once the keyword research is complete, we then map our keywords to existing website pages. This gives us a list of mapped keywords and a list of unmapped keywords, which in turn creates a content gap analysis that often leads to a content plan that could last for three, six, or twelve-plus months.

Putting it into practice

I’m a firm believer in giving an example of how this would work in practice, so I’m going to walk through one with screenshots. I’ll also provide a template of our keyword research document for you to take away.

1. Harvesting keywords

The first step in the process is similar, if not identical, to every other keyword research project. You start off with a batch of keywords from the client or other stakeholders that the site wants to rank for. Most of the industry call this a seed keyword list. That keyword list is normally a minimum of 15–20 keywords, but can often be more if you’re dealing with an e-commerce website with multiple product lines.

This list is often based off nothing more than opinion: “What do we think our potential customers will search for?” It’s a good starting point, but you need the rest of the process to follow on to make sure you’re optimizing based off data, not opinion.

2. Expanding the list

Once you’ve got that keyword list, it’s time to start utilizing some of the tools you have at your disposal. There are lots, of course! We tend to use a combination of Moz Keyword Explorer, Answer the Public, Keywords Everywhere, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Google Ads, ranking tools, and SEMrush.

The idea of this list is to start thinking about keywords that the organization may not have considered before. Your expanded list will include obvious synonyms from your list. Take the example below:

Seed Keywords

Expanded Keywords

ski chalet

ski chalet

ski chalet rental

ski chalet hire

ski chalet [location name]

etc

There are other examples that should be considered. A client I worked with in the past once gave a seed keyword of “biomass boilers.” But after keyword research was conducted, a more colloquial term for “biomass boilers” in the UK is “wood burners.” This is an important distinction and should be picked up as early in the process as possible. Keyword research tools are not infallible, so if budget and resource allows, you may wish to consult current and potential customers about which terms they might use to find the products or services being offered.

3. Filtering out irrelevant keywords

Once you’ve expanded the seed keyword list, it’s time to start filtering out irrelevant keywords. This is pretty labor-intensive and involves sorting through rows of data. We tend to use Moz’s Keyword Explorer, filter by relevancy, and work our way down. As we go, we’ll add keywords to lists within the platform and start to try and sort things by topic. Topics are fairly subjective, and often you’ll get overlap between them. We’ll group similar keywords and phrases together in a topic based off the semantic relativity of those phrases. For example:

Topic

Keywords

ski chalet

ski chalet

ski chalet rental

ski chalet hire

ski chalet [location name]

catered chalet

catered chalet

luxury catered chalet

catered chalet rental

catered chalet hire

catered chalet [location name]

ski accommodation

ski accommodation

cheap ski accommodation

budget ski accommodation

ski accomodation [location name]

Many of the above keywords are decision-based keywords — particularly those with rental or hire in them. They’re showing buying intent. We’ll then try to put ourselves in the mind of the buyer and come up with keywords towards the start of the buyer’s journey.

Topic

Keywords

Buyer’s stage

ski resorts

ski resorts

best ski resorts

ski resorts europe

ski resorts usa

ski resorts canada

top ski resorts

cheap ski resorts

luxury ski resorts

Consideration

skiing

skiing

skiing guide

skiing beginner’s guide

Consideration

family holidays

family holidays

family winter holidays

family trips

Awareness

This helps us cater to customers that might not be in the frame of mind to purchase just yet — they’re just doing research. It means we cast the net wider. Conversion rates for these keywords are unlikely to be high (at least, for purchases or enquiries) but if utilized as part of a wider marketing strategy, we should look to capture some form of information, primarily an email address, so we can send people relevant information via email or remarketing ads later down the line.

4. Pulling in data

Once you’ve expanded the seed keywords out, Keyword Explorer’s handy list function enables your to break things down into separate topics. You can then export that data into a CSV and start combining it with other data sources. If you have SEMrush API access, Dave Sottimano’s API Library is a great time saver; otherwise, you may want to consider uploading the keywords into the Keywords Everywhere Chrome extension and manually exporting the data and combining everything together. You should then have a spreadsheet that looks something like this:

You could then add in additional data sources. There’s no reason you couldn’t combine the above with volumes and competition metrics from other SEO tools. Consider including existing keyword ranking information or Google Ads data in this process. Keywords that convert well on PPC should do the same organically and should therefore be considered. Wil Reynolds talks about this particular tactic a lot.

5. Aligning phrases to the buyer’s journey

The next stage of the process is to start categorizing the keywords into the stage of the buyer’s journey. Something we’ve found at Aira is that keywords don’t always fit into a predefined stage. Someone looking for “marketing services” could be doing research about what marketing services are, but they could also be looking for a provider. You may get keywords that could be either awareness/consideration or consideration/decision. Use your judgement, and remember this is subjective. Once complete, you should end up with some data that looks similar to this:

This categorization is important, as it starts to frame what type of content is most appropriate for that keyword or phrase.

The next stage of this process is to start noticing patterns in keyphrases and where they get mapped to in the buyer’s journey. Often you’ll see keywords like “price” or ”cost” at the decision stage and phrases like “how to” at the awareness stage. Once you start identifying these patterns, possibly using a variation of Tom Casano’s keyword clustering approach, you can then try to find a way to automate so that when these terms appear in your keyword column, the intent automatically gets updated.

Once completed, we can then start to define each of our keywords and give them a type:

  • Pillar page
  • Cluster page
  • Target page
  • Track & monitor
  • Ignore

We use this document to start thinking about what type of content is most effective for that piece given the search volume available, how competitive that term is, how profitable the keyword could be, and what stage the buyer might be at. We’re trying to find that sweet spot between having enough search volume, ensuring we can actually rank for that keyphrase (there’s no point in a small e-commerce startup trying to rank for “buy nike trainers”), and how important/profitable that phrase could be for the business. The below Venn diagram illustrates this nicely:

We also reorder the keywords so keywords that are semantically similar are bucketed together into parent and child keywords. This helps to inform our on-page recommendations:

From the example above, you can see “digital marketing agency” as the main keyword, but “digital marketing services” & “digital marketing agency uk” sit underneath.

We also use conditional formatting to help identify keyword page types:

And then sheets to separate topics out:

Once this is complete, we have a data-rich spreadsheet of keywords that we then work with clients on to make sure we’ve not missed anything. The document can get pretty big, particularly when you’re dealing with e-commerce websites that have thousands of products.

5. Keyword mapping and content gap analysis

We then map these keywords to existing content to ensure that the site hasn’t already written about the subject in the past. We often use Google Search Console data to do this so we understand how any existing content is being interpreted by the search engines. By doing this we’re creating our own content gap analysis. An example output can be seen below:

The above process takes our keyword research and then applies the usual on-page concepts (such as optimizing meta titles, URLs, descriptions, headings, etc) to existing pages. We’re also ensuring that we’re mapping our user intent and type of page (pillar, cluster, target, etc), which helps us decide what sort of content the piece should be (such as a blog post, webinar, e-book, etc). This process helps us understand what keywords and phrases the site is not already being found for, or is not targeted to.

Free template

I promised a template Google Sheet earlier in this blog post and you can find that here.

Do you have any questions on this process? Ways to improve it? Feel free to post in the comments below or ping me over on Twitter!

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SearchCap: Google PageSpeed Insights update, exact match PPC & account analytics

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.



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SearchCap: Google’s exact match close variants, EU copyright, Google goofs on hurricane Florence & more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.



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Phrase match is dead. Long live phrase match!

Reports of the demise of phrase match have been greatly exaggerated, finds contributor Steve Cameron. It turns out that there are certain situations in which it comes in pretty handy.

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SearchCap: Google AdWords Sitelinks, phrase match & AR

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on and from other places across the web.

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SearchCap: DMOZ officially closes, Google dilutes Exact Match in AdWords & more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

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Google to further dilute exact match in AdWords; will ignore word order & function words

Not just for plurals anymore, close variants will extend to include word ordering and function words in inexact match keywords.

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Match Your Local SEO to Your Business Type with the Local SEO Checklist

Posted by MiriamEllis

[Estimated read time: 13 minutes]

Is your brand visible to potential customers? If you’re a local business and you haven’t nailed down your local SEO, you’re missing the opportunity to be seen when that customer searches on desktop or on mobile.

But local SEO isn’t some mysterious entity. It’s a series of concerted steps. And we can help you tailor those local SEO efforts to your business model. Simply find your business type on the following illustration and follow the steps that are specific to your needs.

Local SEO by business type

Local SEO for all business types

But wait! You aren’t done yet. There are some local SEO steps that work for businesses of all kinds. Use the checklist below to make sure you’re ticking all the boxes to get seen in the SERPs. To jump ahead to a section, use these links:

If you’re a paper and pen type (or just want to save your checklist for later), download your very own copy of the Local SEO Checklist here:

Download checklist as a PDF

Technical website criteria

Everything that applies to traditional SEO also applies to local SEO.

Regardless of business model, every local business website needs to be indexable, error-free, multi-device-compliant, well-structured, and properly optimized. See the complete technical checklist.

In addition to the above, local website optimization requires that you:

If you have 10 or less locations, the complete name, address, and phone number of each should be in the sitewide footer element.

Use Schema markup of your location data. See Adding Schema Location Markup to Your Website and Local Business Schema Q&A with David Deering for basic and advanced knowledge.

Your phone number is highly visible on your website and clickable on mobile devices.

Your name, address, and phone number (NAP) is consistent everywhere it is mentioned on your website. Beware of naming discrepancies for any business or mixing up NAP elements between multi-location companies or multi-practitioner businesses.

All location pages are linked to from a high-level navigation menu.

If you want to keep your street address private, don’t publish it on your website, but do be sure you’re providing a phone number that is staffed during stated business hours.

Getting local content right

Content is an important part of any SEO effort, so make sure you’re not tripping yourself up with thin or duplicate content. Here’s a list of common content mistakes followed by a checklist of ways to increase the local SEO impact of your content.

Content mistakes to avoid

  1. Don’t scrape content from other websites, even from the websites of manufacturers or authorities, unless you are publishing an attributed quote within your own, unique content.
  2. If you offer the same services or products in multiple cities, think carefully about attempting to create a unique page for every possible city/keyword combination. Only embark on this plan if you know you have sufficient resources of time, money, and talent to create truly high-quality pages for each combination. Avoid publishing thin or useless pages. If you know you don’t have the resources, it’s better to go with just a strong page for each city and a strong page for each service, rather than creating lots of thin or duplicate city/keyword combo pages. See this complete resource on developing city landing pages.
  3. Think long and hard before deciding to take a multi-website approach, even if your company offers multiple services or has multiple offices. Numerous experts agree that it is almost always better to build a single, powerhouse website that promotes your brand and all of its services and branches rather than dividing up time, funding and talent between multiple websites. For more on this, see this community discussion.

Ways to create unique, user-, and search-friendly content

Utilize testimonials from customers in your service cities to make your city landing pages unique.

Use unique testimonials from customers who have used specific products or services for related product and service pages.

Build an on-site blog to continue to develop your library of content once your basic, static web pages have been built. Freshness can help you rank for an ever-growing number of terms that relate to your business.

Videos and images are page content, too. Use appropriate tags to label them in real text and consider writing out transcriptions.

Offer city-, service-, or product-specific specials, schedules, or calendars to differentiate what you do in one location vs. another. For example, a schedule of yoga classes at one branch vs. another or a special on tree trimming that rotates from one service city to another, ensuring unique, interesting content on different pages.

Include bios of different staff at different locations to introduce customers to the people who will be serving them.

Sponsor events, teams, or organizations in different cities and write about those sponsorships.

Host or participate in events in different cities as an opportunity for unique content.

Interview experts within or outside of your company to create city- or product-specific content.

Offer tips that apply to specific geographic or demographic audiences.

Citations

Citations are complete or partial references to your name, address, phone number or website (NAP+W) anywhere on the web. Learn more.

Citation basics

Build a unique set of citations for every physical office and be sure the name, address, phone number and website URL are absolutely correct on each citation you build.

Variance in abbreviations from platform to platform is normal (street vs. st. or # vs. suite). Know the acceptable abbreviations.

Only build citations for real physical locations. P.O. boxes and virtual offices are not acceptable.

Understand how local business data moves through the local search ecosystem, because a problem on one platform can lead to replications of the problem elsewhere.

For multi-location or multi-practitioner businesses, point the website link on all citations to the correct corresponding landing page on the website. For example, point your Chicago citations to your Chicago landing page on the website and point Joe Miller’s citations to Joe Miller’s page on your law firm website.

Most local businesses will want to be listed on the same set of major local business data platforms to start with, but beyond this, build citations on additional platforms that are specific to your industry or geography, such as the Chamber of Commerce, a contractor’s association, or the local newspaper.

If you don’t want your address to be public anywhere, as in the case of many service area or home-based businesses, you can still build citations, but only on those platforms which support hidden addresses.

Beware of duplicate citations — see Duplicates section, below.

Automated or manual citation building: your choice

Building manual citations

You can choose to build all citations manually, keeping track of their existence, status, and progress in a spreadsheet. The main benefit of this path is more direct control over your listings; the main drawback is the considerable amount of time manual creation and management involves, including time involved to update all citations if a business re-brands or moves. If you’d like to try manual management, these resources will acquaint you with top citations you will want to build:

Automated citation building

You can choose to pay for either manual or automated citation building instead of doing the work yourself. The main benefit of this path is a savings in time and ease of making updates across multiple citations at once if a business moves or re-brands; the main drawback is that not all services are of equal quality and some may cause problems rather than resolving them.

With most citation services you will have somewhat less direct control over your local business listings, but if the product is good, this is not normally a major problem. The main thing is to be sure that any service you consider is building important citations rather than selling fluff and that there are not known problems being alleged regarding the way the service is sold or managed.

If you are considering purchasing a citation building service, read this comparison guide.

Even if you do pay to have citations built for you, in some cases, you may want to augment this by building some citations manually on specific niche sites that aren’t offered in agency packages.

Duplicate listing clean-up

Duplicates sap your listing strength so detecting and resolving them is key. Use these tools and tips to get those duplicates cleaned up:

Make basic duplicate listing detection on a variety of platforms easier with the use of a free tool like Moz Check Listing.

Advanced detection of Google duplicates requires special efforts. A combination of paid tools + knowing how to write query strings, as described here, should help you surface as many Google duplicates as possible.

You have several options for resolving Google-based duplicates, but Map Maker may be your best bet. Read more.

Earning reviews

Given their power as a ranking and conversion factor, reviews are must-haves for every local business. Follow these steps to earn reviews:

Be sure your business is properly listed on the main review platforms, including the majors like Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook.

Be sure you haven’t overlooked industry or geography-specific review sites and are properly listed there.

Google reviews are believed to have the greatest impact on Google local rankings. Generating a shareable Google review link can be challenging, but these tips will teach you how.

Before you start asking for reviews on any platform, be sure you know its guidelines. Here you’ll find links to major platform guidelines. Do pay close attention to the guidelines of Google and Yelp, which are very particular!

Be sure you’ve considered every possible way you might earn reviews from your customers. These tips will help.

Don’t set up a review station/kiosk at your place of business to ask for reviews. Always have customers leave reviews under their own accounts, using their own devices.

Don’t confuse reviews with testimonials. Think of reviews as content on third-party websites and testimonials as content you publish on your own website. On-site testimonials can be published on your website on behalf of customers, but Google reps have stated that they prefer these not to be marked up with review Schema. Or, you can add a review widget to your website to have customers directly leave their own reviews.

Don’t ask for too many reviews at once, at any time. A sudden influx of reviews can lead to filtering on some platforms. A slow, steady trickle over time is better than a sudden wave.

Understand that review acquisition is an ongoing process you’ll be engaged in for the life of your business online. It’s not a set-and-forget project.

Know that nearly every business will receive at least some negative reviews at some point in its history. Your greatest preventative measure against negative reviews is your consistent dedication to excellent customer service and excellent work. Be sure you are monitoring all review sites for red flags that quality has fallen off. Do respond to negative reviews with accountability and professionalism (these tips will help), and do respond to positive reviews, as well, taking time to publicly thank your loyal customers.

Social media for local businesses

Avoid wasting effort and money by identifying the right social platforms for your business’s clientele. Maximize the return on your investment:

Consider the most popular social media sites.

Bear in mind that Google Plus has gone through a major overhaul and is currently being promoted as a purely social, rather than local, platform.

Try these tips for identifying which social platforms are already popular with your customer base.

Designate a person or persons on your staff whose regular duty it is to monitor and participate on your chosen sites. Don’t let profiles stagnate.

99% of your job as a social media participant is to help others, not to sell to them. Work to identify opportunities to be helpful, whether that’s answering a question, offering a resource, or brightening a day for somebody.

Know that social media can be a hit-and-miss experience for any business. You will likely try several platforms and strategies before finding a niche that works for you. Get inspired by the success stories of others.

Out there in the real world

All online local efforts are but a reflection of offline realities and goals. Be sure you’re getting it right where it counts most by remembering:

No amount of marketing can replace good business practices. Don’t hire employees without committing to train them in basic communication, customer service and the specs of your products and services. Don’t let any employee represent your business who hasn’t been trained to represent it well. Given the power of online reviews, the costs of a lack of training are too high.

Implement quality controls to keep on top of emerging issues. As the business owner, you must know your products and services, know of customer complaints, and be physically present in your place of business to monitor how your staff is serving the public. Hold regularly-scheduled meetings to correct problems, reinforce policies, and offer new education.

Learn how to deal with conflict while maintaining your self-esteem, and teach this to your staff, too. Whether you are dealing with an unrealistic, crazy customer or one who is justifiably disappointed in some aspect of your business, know that you can apologize and make amends without that meaning you are a bad person. Making peace with customers and making things right for them actually makes you a very cool, adept person, indeed!

Local Search has often been touted as the total replacement of all older forms of offline advertising, but this is not true for all businesses. Yellow Pages, billboards, local radio, and local TV advertising are still viable and lucrative forms of advertising for some industries and some geographies.

Remember that everything you do, whether online or off, is unified by a single goal: to make your brand the one that comes to a neighbor’s mind when he or she needs a product or service you offer. Don’t limit yourself to the basics of website development, citation building, earning reviews, or participating in online social environments. Building local brand awareness can also be achieved through your physical participation in community events and organizations. Get out there and meet your neighbors by attending meetings and conferences, contributing to celebrations, sponsoring teams, and making local newspaper headlines with your outreach into the community.

Summing up

There are many theories about “effective frequency” — the number of times a person needs to be exposed to advertising before making a response to it. Some say the golden number is seven, but not everyone agrees.

What you can feel confident about is that all of the above steps represent efforts you are making to put your brand out there for the consideration of your potential customers, and the golden opportunity for local businesses is that their competition is limited by specific geography.

You don’t have to compete against the whole world, but rather be a consistent, reliable resource for your own neighbors. Be in the right places at the right times, pair that with great service, and your local business has every chance of succeeding.

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