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Once again, MozCon lived up to, and exceeded my expectations. After what felt like a bit of a slow start on Day 1, the presentations and speakers consistently presented exceedingly useful material. The topics continued to broaden out from SEO and inbound marketing; touching on public relations, social media, analytics, and PPC. Given that many small agencies work on inbound marketing and PPC, I was very happy to see that topic given some attention this year.
For this blog post, I'm summarizing 4 presentations that I thought were most relevant to Apokrisis and our clients. It was very challenging to narrow down my list to these 4, but each of these presentations touched on topics that I believe are on the horizon or were items that we have experienced first hand with our clients.
Rand Fishkin presented 5 Big Trends from the Last Year in Web Marketing
1. We May Be on the Verge of RegulationSeveral trends in Europe and the United States indicate that regulation is on the horizon: the cookie law, the right to be forgotten law and legislation that was being developed in the U.S Senate this May. Google may have staved off regulatory action by their aggressive lobbying efforts (2nd largest in the U.S.).
2. “Inbound Marketing” terminology is losing ground to “Content Marketing”
3. Google’s Penalties have taken a toll on spam, but hurt many businesses too.
4. We are nearing the end of “SEO” as a job title.
2011 – Present: “SEO is part of my job”
5. Google is shortening the searcher’s journey. This may appear to hurt publishers, but the reality may be more complicated.
Mobile SEO Geekout: Key Strategies and Concepts
Speaker: Cindy Krum
Mobile usage has grown faster than Google expected. It’s expected to surpass desktop usage very soon (later in 2014 or in 2015). With desktop traffic (and searches) flattening out or declining, you will miss out if you ignore mobile.
Mobile search rankings are very different than the desktop experience. There is much less room above the fold, so it’s imperative to rank high (top 2 positions), otherwise, you won’t be seen. It’s important to note that branded searches are much more common on mobile, and a branded search often triggers a drop down option with additional links to your site. Have you checked those links in the search results? Audit these branded searches on mobile and test your landing pages.
There are also many more universal-style results on mobile (images, video, news, etc.). These often look great and encourage users to touch them. Does your site make use of images, video, and/or news for greater visibility on mobile devices?
Technical considerations are critical for mobile. Audit your mobile site and focus on errors and speed. While Google has publicly supported responsive design, it is often a slower performer on a mobile device, which can be problematic. To improve your mobile performance, make use of Google Pagespeed and the Chrome plugin to find recommended efficiencies. Remove unnecessary code for mobile, minify all (images especially), and consolidate round trip requests.
Considering the user experience, keep in mind that social and mobile are “twins.” So maximize social sharing opportunities on mobile. Also consider designing your sites for mobile first, and then consider the design for tablets and desktops.
Bad Data, Bad Decisions: The Art of Asking Better Questions.
Secondly, break down big concepts into tangible pieces. When asking for feedback on a product or service feature, break them out against a 5 point scale.
For those sensitive questions, save them for the end of survey, after you have built trust. Use ranges for demographic information. To help avoid boredom, set expectations up front, and show their progress in completing the survey.
You are so Much More than an SEO
Instead focusing on SEO tactics, focus on delivering a holistic, end-to-end strategy. Don’t get pigeon-holed and stop being the custodian (expected to clean up everyone’s mess/mistakes). Instead of allowing the focus being on outputs (creating content, optimizing pages, getting links, etc.) shift the focus on business outcomes. As a marketer, shift your focus on making the clients’ customers happy.
Focusing on the searchers’ user experience requires social media. Relationships are fragile and multi-touch – are you willing to fix that experience? Show that you genuinely care about the customer and really help them out (even if it doesn’t directly mean a sale). Social done wrong is why clicks don’t turn into customers, but social done right makes every channel more profitable.
- Be more than an SEO, think critically about your Internet marketing and the customers’ journey.
- Use data and analytics to tell a story.
- Use testing (A/B tests) and surveys to test and measure your efforts (and make sure you are using good data). Learn from the past efforts and improve upon them!
Google has begun a major shift to encrypting all non-paid (organic) search activity, while continuing to provide keyword data for ad clicks. Within Google Analytics (or other Analytics platforms), this query data was lumped into the (not provided) segment. Anyone involved with online marketing or tracking their website performance with Analytics is likely well aware that this segment of "not provided" keyword data has been growing. Google has confirmed that it has begun shifting all searches to encrypted search, and many marketers have noticed a huge spike of (not provided) this month (Sept. 2013).
A Brief History of Not Provided
Since October of 2011, Google began encrypting search queries for people who were logged into their Google Account. Initially, Google stated that the percentage of keyword data lost to marketers would be in the single digits. Over time, more searches were encrypted, including search boxes & from the Address/URL bar of the Chrome, Apple's Safari browser in iOS6 and Firefox browsers. Marketers began to track the percentage of not provided and finding ways to adapt to the situation.
The Shift from Tracking Keywords to Landing Page Performance
Given the increasing percentage of not provided keyword data since 2011, the quality of the remaining keyword data from Google organic search has been questionable at best over the last year or so. Instead of evaluating your site's Google organic traffic via the associated keyword data, it's time to shift your tracking to a landing page metric. Based upon the landing pages of your site's visits from Google organic traffic, one can infer the type of keyword phrases that were likely used to find each landing page.
Other Options for Adapting to Not Provided
Fortunately, Bing still passes on the keyword data for organic search visits. Bing also provides a very high quality set of Webmaster Tools, complete with keyword research tools and SEO recommendations. Unfortunately, due to their small market share, gleaning data for small niche markets can be difficult.
Since keyword data is still passed onto advertisers, one can use Google AdWords to acquire paid keyword data through CPC advertising. One can measure impression and click through data for a variety of branded and non-branded keywords, and track a site's progress over time.
Google Webmaster Tools provides data on the search queries, impressions, average position, and click data for your website. Currently, Google provides 90 days worth of data, but plans to provide up to one year of historical data in the near future.
Time to Think Beyond the Keywords
In many ways, Google is pushing online marketers and website owners to think beyond the keyword and trying to rank well. If you are not already, it's time to focus on what really matters: the entire experience of your users. Can they find what they are looking for on your website? Are you providing unique, remarkable content to hold their attention? Will they keep your business in mind when they consider all their options?
While I don't buy Google's arguments of protecting users' privacy by withholding organic keyword data while providing keyword data for paid ads, that's the world we live in now.
For the second year in a row, Apokrisis has sent me to MozCon, an annual conference focusing on SEO and Inbound Marketing in Seattle. Over the three days of sessions and networking opportunities, I was exposed to a huge volume of excellent information. I will not attempt to completely summarize every day, but pick out some my personal highlights. Overall, I felt that over 80% of the presentations ranged from Great to Awesome (paraphrasing the categories from post-conference survey here).
The day started with Rand Fishkin providing an excellent review of current situation and the top five trends to watch for in SEO and marketing in the coming year. Richard Baxter demonstrated a method to target top influencers in a field, and Avinash Kaushik wowed the crowd with an entertaining and energetic presentation on how to Simplify Complexity for Higher ROI. Afterwards, I was lucky enough to thank him for the presentation and for my experience with his Market Motive Analytics course last year (yes the class is absolutely awesome and you should take the class if you work with web analytics). Among my personal highlights and takeaways from the afternoon sessions included actionable tactics for link building, the imperative to make everything mobile friendly, and a summary of the Moz SEO Ranking Factors 2013 survey and correlation study.
Day 2 started off with an excellent presentation by Phil Nottingham on Video Marketing Strategies – Phil provided everything one needs to get started on utilizing video in online marketing strategies. Joanna Lord’s presentation on Customer/Brand Loyalty followed up on the importance of building your brand, which I felt was one of the overall themes & takeaways from the conference. Other excellent presentations covered eCommerce SEO, relationship building, optimization and testing, dealing with the loss of keyword KPIs, local search, and the future of user experience.
For day three, there were many excellent presentations, but I will focus only on three that felt the most critical to me. Dr. Pete Meyers presentation on the future of rankings was a startling wake up call that if all you know is where you rank, you don’t really know anything. Eyeballs and attention are being kept on Google whenever possible (many answers often provide directly or in the Knowledge Graph). Of the 10,000 SERPs that they track for theMozCast, only 15% have no rich information. Said another way, only 15% in this sample are in the generic “10 Blue Links” format.
Wil Reynolds knocked it out of the park (again!) in his presentation “The Internet Hates Us. Can RCS Change That?” If you are unfamiliar with the RCS term, check out the Real company stuff… It’s a struggle slidedeck from Wil’s presentation at the 2012 Mozcon. My key takeaways from the presentation were: respecting other disciplines, get out of the SEO echo chamber, create things that add value for the long term (build the brand); and most importantly – learn to do these things before other agencies learn how to do SEO and Inbound Marketing better.
Rand Fishkin brought it all together for me with “The Secret Ingredients of Better Marketing.” The key takeaway for me was the value of being transparent, honest, authentic, open & generous. To paraphrase a key point: if all you do is mimic your competitors, then you’ve already lost.
The other speakers on day 3 were excellent as well, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll end my day 3 summary there.
My Personal Takeaways for SEO and Inbound Marketing
The shift is on at Google and Bing to entity based search, and those of us in the search marketing industry must pivot accordingly. Building brands and authenticity will be critical to establish visibility across a variety of channels. I was inspired by the strategic emphasis at the conference and I hope to put what I’ve learned to use in the coming year. Thanks again to Moz for putting MozCon together and the shining examples of leadership displayed by the speakers. I cannot wrap this up without mentioning that a huge benefit of the conference is the opportunity to meet so many great people in the industry, from all over the world, no less!
Spending time in Seattle is another highlight as well - great food, coffee, sightseeing, and culture. A heart-felt thank you to Moz for another great conference. I plan on going back in 2014!
Other MozCon 2013 Resources
Google AdWords has begun a major update/upgrade known as Enhanced Campaigns. These new campaigns are being promoted to simplify and reduce the number of campaigns within an AdWords account. The changes within the new Enhanced Campaigns are in response to new reality that many people are connected to the Internet, wherever they go, via multiple devices (smart phone, tablet, or laptop/desktop). Along with this change, one can argue that the line between "online" and "offline" activity is blurring.
Marketing in a Constantly Connected World
Billions of searches are being conducted on all devices, these searches indicate when people are searching for location, general information, or a way to find the solution to a need or problem. Google indicates that mobile searches often provide advertisers the opportunity to better understand the context and intent of the user. In addition, multi-screen users often begin a search on mobile or tablet, and then follow up later on a PC.
Given the wide variety of devices and campaign strategies to target various devices and locations as separate campaigns, a business running large and extensive PPC advertising program could end up creating dozens of campaigns target devices and people differently in the current AdWords system.
The Benefits of Enhanced Campaigns
Powerful Bidding: improvements that allow one to manage bids seamlessly across locations, times and device types. For example, a business could bid higher for searches that are conducted on a smartphone, nearby a store, during the times that the store is open.
Smarter Ads: that are optimized for varying user contexts. One can show the right ad, site link, app or extension based on user context and device capabilities. Example: Different sitelinks can be shown to highlight special offers during specific days or times, and according to device type. So perhaps a restaurant will show special offers for specific days to coincide with slow and/or busy times.
Advanced Reporting Metrics: advertisers will immediately have access to detailed call reporting with free Google forwarding numbers and conversion metrics. New conversion types will include phone calls and digital downloads.
What will Change for PPC Advertisers?
Fewer Device Targeting Options: Desktops, laptops and tablets are being grouped together as one group and mobile devices will grouped together as another group/device segment. All devices within these different segments must be targeted, there will be no more targeting (or "opting out") by a specific device (i.e. iPad only campaigns) or device type (no way to opt-out of all tablets, for example).
- Mobile devices will be targeted by default in the new Enhanced Campaigns. PPC managers can raise or lower bids based on the mobile device type. Apparently, one can also eliminate mobile device advertising by dropping the bid amount to -100%, but one cannot create a "Mobile Only" campaign. Tablets and PCs could be heavily de-emphasized by negative bids.
- Targeting by separate operating systems will no longer be available.
Sitelinks at the AdGroup Level: The additional sitelinks that can be placed at the bottom of text ads will be set at the AdGroup level, with improved tracking and reporting features. Also, the sitelinks can be changed according to time of day or device type.
More Bidding Options/Settings: Default bids will be set at the desktop/laptop/tablet level. PPC managers will be able to increase or lower bids based on device, location and time. The multitude of bidding options will be extensive for large campaigns.
Calls & Digital Downloads to be Counted as Conversions: Advertisers will be able to count generated calls from a campaign, over a certain duration, as a conversion. Digital downloads will also be available for goal/conversion tracking.
Increasing Mobile Adoption: The rollout of Enhanced Campaigns will push more advertisers to including mobile devices in their PPC campaigns (many may not realize that mobile can be heavily de-emphasized with lower bids or eliminated with "-100%" bids). More websites will likely be forced to adopt responsive or mobile sites to target more devices and people more effectively.
Timeline for Rollout: Advertisers are beginning to receive notifications that Enhanced Campaigns are available now, and all campaigns will be upgraded in June of this year.
What do PPC Managers and SEM Experts Think?
The reaction has been mixed, with many pros and cons debated within the community. While the new campaigns may be easier to manage in the long-term, or simply reduce the number of campaigns, many people in the Search Engine Marketing community agree that the conversion will require a great deal of time and work. The lack of control over device targeting frustrates some managers and large advertisers, but many also feel that it will make campaign management easier for small and medium sized businesses.
Scott Thomas is the Search Marketing Manager at Apokrisis.
What is a Content-Centric SEO Strategy?
A content-centric SEO strategy involves making a business or organization's website the central core for inbound marketing and engaging with visitors. The website should be the primary location for creating new and engaging content through blogging, news pieces, articles, photos, videos, and so on. From this central core, the content can be shared via social media.
Invest in Your Brand: Dont' Chase the Algos
Search engines are becoming very sophisticated and are rewarding websites that are working to build up their brand. Attempting to chase the latest tricks or means to game the system are not worth the risks and are counter-productive. As mentioned by Google reps in Congressional hearings, Google made 516 updates in 2010, and over 13,000 updates were tested. Given Google's constant testing and updating cycle, trying to chase the latest algorithmic change is fruitless and risky. A social media or link building scheme that a competitor is using may be working today, but it's likely that eventually, the effectiveness of such schemes will fail.
Share and Engage via Social Media, but your Website is the Foundation
We believe the foundation to you online success is building and owning your content. Engaging your fans, site visitors, and customers through social media is important, but don't expend all your time and energy where your content is not truly yours. Are you sending people to your website or blog or only referring to your presence on Facebook or another social media site? Engagement via social media can be extremely useful, but don't forget to encourage people to visit your website, and consider what you have to offer. Trying to use social media as an acquisition source of new customers is impractical for many small businesses. We encourage our clients to work on their foundation first - their website - and then as resources allow, engage with the social media channels that make sense for them.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Our experience with SEO and inbound marketing indicates that a long-term investment in developing your brand and quality content is the most sustainable approach. Plan for a five year return on you investment in your online marketing efforts; build your brand and don't be blinded by today's rankings or the latest get-to-the-top-quick schemes that may come along.
Scott Thomas is the Search Marketing Manager at Apokrisis.
Nearly a month ago, on April 24, Google announced that they were updating their results with a new algorithm specifically targeting webspam. Typically, when it’s a large algorithmic change, the update is given a name, and this one has been dubbed Penguin. In particular, the Penguin update targets and penalizes sites that are violating their quality guidelines. While Google won’t divulge the particular factors that may cause a site to be penalized, there are some clear trends:
- Some sites targeted by Penguin received warnings through Google Webmaster Tools.
- This update penalizes sites that appear to be engaged in link spam. In short, purchasing or exchanging links for the purposes of ranking better/higher in the search engine results. In the past, Google was discounting the value of the links and penalized the sites that sold links.
- If a site has a high percentage of links that use a small number of anchor text links that focus on a commercial product or service, such as 'Alaska cruise', then it’s likely the site will be hit by the Penguin penalty.
- If a site drops out of the top ten results when one searches for the brand name, then it’s likely the site has been penalized.
If you have a site that has survived the Penguin update and other recent algorithm changes, such as the likely discounting of links from low-quality free directories, you are not out of the woods just yet. Link schemes of any type and unnatural 'over-optimization' are in the cross hairs of the Google webspam team. If you have participated in link building schemes, it's your site's best interest to actively remove these obviously unnatural links.
As white hat SEO practitioners, we support Google’s efforts to penalize and/or remove sites that participate in link building schemes. In the long run, high quality, genuine content will produce more satisfied website visitors than chasing the latest way to game the search algorithms.
- Google's Blog Post on Rewarding High Quality Sites
- The Google Algorithm Change History from SEOMoz
- Search Engine Land: Google Penguin Update
One of the biggest challenges some of our clients face is resizing photos and optimizing them for their website. When there is not a Photoshop jockey on staff, this can to some be a daunting task. At the same time, adding freshness to your site with new photos is a critical way to keep your site active and alive.
We have not used all of them, but here is a list of tools that we have been looking at:
Here is another great article on services that resize and compress images - the two critical tasks for making images web ready.
Has anyone used some of these? Thoughts? Reviews? Let us know!
Apokrisis is growing! We are seeking a freelance SEO Specialist who is willing to dig in and help grow our clients' online businesses. See our full job posting here on our employment page.
A newly redesigned website was launched this week for the Quilted Raven - a quilt shop featuring fabrics with Alaska themes or made by Alaska artists. The site features the Business Catalyst Content Management System (CMS), e-commerce shop, secure extranets and an email marketing system.
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