Category Archives: Marketing

Participating in the conversation: 10 ways to generate traffic WITHOUT Google

Back in 2014 my colleague Chuck Price published The 10 Best Ways to Generate Traffic WITHOUT Googlehere at Search Engine Watch.

Much like the world of search and the perpetually updated algorithms of Google, the landscape of non-Google marketing sees techniques, platforms and priorities change over time.

What hasn’t changed is the importance of understanding how to generate traffic without Google. Google is big, but it is not good to concentrate all your efforts into just one referrer.

Recent data (from Shareaholic) sees search engines account for around 40% of website referrals. This compares to around 20% for social media – a smaller but notable chunk of potential traffic. These percentages are always fluctuating. And, of course, there’s more to non-Google traffic than social.

I thought I’d use today’s post to update Chuck’s 10. As you’ll see, some methods are still around, some are absent, and others are more important than they were four years ago.

I also want to throw in a new over-arching theme, by way of a question I believe is more important for content and search marketers now than it has ever been:

Am I participating in the conversation?

In short, you should be. The key to succeeding with the following 10 non-Google traffic sources is by honest participation and engagement, as opposed to spamming and dropping links to your website around the internet. It is a question we’ll return to throughout.

1. Blogs

Blogging?! Nothing new here! I hear you say.

Perhaps, but I want to deal with blogs first because for me they are the first step to ‘participating in the conversation.’ And, today, there is more to blogging than simply having a part of your website dedicated to regularly updated posts.

Onsite

Blog posts on your site are great for non-Google traffic of course. You can publish at will and with more authorial control than you might get from an offsite blog. You can then use that content to entice visitors to come and read your posts via social channels etc.

Guest posts

Blog-writing is not a skill that only serves your own blog, though. Guest blogging is still a good way to further establish authority in your industry and to potentially get visitors of those blogs to click through to your site.

Offsite blog platforms

Offsite blogging platforms such as Medium are ever-improving the ways they promote articles (via email digests and at the foot of article pages) to users depending on the topics they choose to follow. Follow authors related to your niche and participate in the communities that exist there.

Comments

Don’t have time to write a full post? You can also ‘participate in the conversation’ by adding to blog comments. Be sure to prioritize adding value to the page over merely leaving a link.

The commenting engine we use on SEW, Disqus, allows commenters to have a weblink visible within their user profile when readers click their username. I’d argue it’s better practice to use this than dropping a URL in the comment itself.

2. Facebook

So you have a great piece of content – perhaps a blog post – on your website. Where are you going to share it?

Facebook is still the biggest social referrer online. According to Shareaholic, more than 18% of website referrals were from Facebook in the latter half of 2017. This is a drop from the year before, but the wedge is still huge. There are more than 2.1b monthly active Facebook users globally.

As Chuck notes, useful and fun content is the best type to share on the platform. And the best time to share on Facebook traffic-wise is around 12:00pm according to Revive Social.

3. YouTube

Although not as big on the social referral numbers as Facebook, I’ve included YouTube because it is still the second biggest social networking site globally with 1.5b monthly active users.

Like Google, YouTube uses a vast number of factors when deciding how to rank videos. These include keyword relevance in titles and descriptions, number of views, comments, likes, shares, and backlinks.

Going back to our participating in the conversation mantra, our ‘best practice’ aim with any YouTube content needs to focus on ensuring videos are valuable to those interested in your niche – whether from an entertaining or an educational standpoint (or both).

Traffic-wise, it is expected for users to be able to click-through to additional relevant information via links in the description under YouTube videos. And it can be a great referrer.

4. Instagram

I’m highlighting Instagram because in recent years it has risen to become the third most popular social channel (800m monthly active users) and it is still growing significantly as a referrer (up 890% between 2016 and 2017 according to Shareaholic).

Of course, Instagram really lends itself best to brands with the potential to produce strong visual content.

There is a heap of truth in the cliché that the platform is awash with pictures of food. It is an ideal place for chefs and restaurants to show-off their skills, use hashtags to align their posts with similar images, and to persuade viewers to click through to their website to find full recipes or directions to their establishment.

It works for other brands too. And is a great platform for inviting your audience to participate.

5. Pinterest

Pinterest, like Instagram, is highly visual.

Again, for certain niches it can drive a lot of traffic. Shareaholic actually ranks it as the second best social referrer with 7.53% share in the second half of 2017.

A majority of people who come to Pinterest are looking for shopping ideas – including for fashion, events and holidays. So it is a great platform for ecommerce sites in particular. You can even incorporate buy buttons directly into pins.

From a traffic perspective it is clearly working too. Brands can embed URLs at the top of their profile page. Participation is also fundamental to the mechanics of the site, with users re-pinning each other’s pins to their own curated boards.

6. Twitter

Twitter still holds its own as a leading social network and a key referrer of traffic.

It remains a great place to follow and converse with others who occupy your niche. If the tweets you send are a valuable mix of insight, retweets, links to other relevant content and occasional links to your own site – then you should find yourself able to generate good traffic when you do the latter.

But, again, valuable participation is key. Users will not follow you if your timeline is simply a stream of URLs to your site. Add to the conversations that occur there. And be sparing with self-promotion.

7. Reddit

Reddit continues to be a great place to interact with relevant communities related to many sectors.

How accepting the site is to redditors’ own links depends on the relative rules of each community and their moderators – with some being fairly open to it, others accepting a percentage of posted content to link out, and others not allowing it at all.

I’d argue that the best subreddits are those that are more strict about not letting users flagrantly post links. I prefer the conversational/forum elements over the bookmarking aspect.

New users need to devote time to adding to these communities and learning how they operate before even considering posting links back to your own site. But traffic can certainly be obtained from Reddit, particularly if the content you produce appeals to the unique wants of its users.

8. Forums

Like Reddit, forums are also great places to share your knowledge and to participate in the conversation.

And like Reddit, you need to spend some time engaging with other users and learning about the protocol for linking out to relevant content before tentatively offering links to your own site.

That said, forums can be great for gaining traffic. Fundamentally, users are not visiting such sites to be sold and marketed to – but many conversations do occur around looking for more information on products, services and answering questions. Does the content on your site offer such information?

9. Quora

Of course, questions and queries posted by web users can be a good opportunity for you to participate in the conversation and to offer up your expertise.

Users aren’t just asking questions on Google and Facebook. Specialist Q & A sites such as Quora see users ask hundreds of questions and the community offer even more answers.

See if your niche is being discussed, set up a profile page with a link to your site, and if you start answering these big questions knowledgeably and honestly, you might see users wanting to click through to know more about what you do.

Again, participation should be the priority. Authority and visibility in your niche is a great win, and any traffic is a bonus.

10. Email

Email remains a significant traffic source and is continually improving as a way to let your most engaged customers know about products, services, and new content that is increasingly tailored to them.

It differs from some of the other methods already mentioned because if users are already signed up to your mailing list, it is likely they are more engaged with your product or brand – especially compared to, for example, someone you might be chatting to in a forum or on Twitter.

Of course, you still need to offer value – and it’s best practice to do so at the outset of your message to not waste their time before enticing them to click through to your freshest and most relevant content.

And this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be…

Participating in the conversation

All the methods I’ve listed are great opportunities to share value with the online ecosystem. It is very likely that your business has a niche of followers online chatting and seeking information across a range of platforms.

It is also very likely that you may have some unique perspective or insight about that industry which others will find of value.

Participating in the conversation is good practice for ranking in Google, as well as driving traffic from other sources. And the more diverse the platforms you use, the more visibility you have across the board.

 

How to set up event tracking in Google Analytics

Step one: Enable built-in click variables

You’ll need GTM’s built-in click variables to create your tags and triggers, so start by making sure they are enabled. Select “Variables” in the sidebar and click the “Configure” button.

Enabling built-in click variables, step one

Then make sure all the click variables are checked.

Enabling built-in click variables, step two. Source

Step two: Create a new tag for the event you want to track

Click “Tags” on the sidebar. Then click the “New” button. You’ll have the option to select your tag type. Choose “Universal Analytics.”

Creating a new tag in Google Tag Manager

Step three: Configure your tag

Set your new tag’s track type to “Event.” Fill in all the relevant information – category, action, label, etc. – in the fields that appear underneath, and click “Continue.”

An example of how to configure a new tag in Google Tag Manager. Source: Analytics Help

Step four: Specify your trigger

Specify the trigger that will make your tag fire – for instance, a click. If you are creating a new trigger (as opposed to using one you’ve created in the past), you will need to configure it.

Types of triggers that you can choose in Google Tag Manager

An example of how to configure a trigger. This one fires when a certain URL is clicked. Source: Johannes Mehlem

Step five: Save the finished tag

After you save your trigger, it should show up in your tag. Click “Save Tag” to complete the process.

A tag that is ready to go. Source: Analytics Help

The takeaway and extra resources

Event tracking is one of the most useful and versatile analytics techniques available – you can use it to monitor nearly anything you want. While this guide will get you started, there’s a lot more to know about event tracking with Google Analytics, so don’t be afraid to look for resources that will help you understand event tracking.

Courses like the 2018 Google Analytics Bootcamp on Udemy (which I used to help write this article) will give you a solid grounding in how to use Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager, so you’ll be able to proceed with confidence

5 YouTube optimization tips to improve your video rankings

Just how big is YouTube these days? According to a really cool infographic that was released earlier in 2017, there are some pretty incredible statistics:

YouTube is available and used in 88 countries around the world
It is the second largest social media platform with over 1.5 billion monthly users, second only to Facebook (2 billion) and more than twice the number of Instagram (700 million)
500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
Mobile viewing makes up half of the site’s streaming.
In other words, YouTube is HUGE. Not only has it been steadily growing since its initial launch in 2005, it has become the single biggest and most important video service on the web. While there are others that have come in is wake, none have reached the same level of popularity.

With that it mind, it is no wonder that so many people are looking to boost the effectiveness of their content on the platform. However, with so much use comes other struggles, like being seen in the crowd. If 720,000 hours are uploaded a day, you have to do everything possible to stand out and be noticed.

Here are five optimization tips for your YouTube channel and videos that will help you to start doing better in search, get recommended, and gain more traction.

Find the sweet spot with your video title length
There are several things to consider when coming up with the video title:

How engaging and catchy it is for the eye
How many important keywords you use within your title (those keywords are going to help you rank that video in both YouTube and Google search)
Which part of the title is immediately visible when people search YouTube or see your video thumbnail in YouTube-generated related videos.
Youtube suggested

Taking all of the above in the account, the sweet spot for your video title is going to be around 100 characters. That is enough to give a unique, descriptive title while still showing in search without a cut off.

Make sure that title not only describes what is happening in the video and contains key phrases you have already researched, but it is also attention grabbing enough that people will want to click on it.

When crafting a video title, consider including the following:

Include the important names and entities (your interviewee, event name, branded hashtag, featured brand name, etc.)
Location (especially if you are targeting a specific locale)
Your important keyword you’d like the video to show up for.
To distinguish that important keyword, use keyword clustering technique that allows you to see core phrases behind obscure keyword variations. My own trick is to use Serpstat’s clustering feature that allows you to group keywords by how many identical URLs rank in Google for each specific query:

Clustering

You can read more on how Serpstat clustering feature works in this guide.

You may also to match each keyword group to appropriate keyword intent to make sure your future video content will cover the immediate need and prompt engagement.

Make your descriptions longer
Video and channel descriptions are another valuable resource for drawing traffic to all of your content. YouTube allows up to 5,000 characters, which is between 500 and 700 words.

The rule of thumb is obvious: The more original content you have below your video, the easier for search engines it is to understand what your video is about and what search queries to rank it for.

Not every description needs to be that long, but aiming for around 2,000 characters for videos and 3,000 for channels is a good place because it gives you the space necessary to optimize your keyword use and give some context to viewers. More is fine, but make sure you aren’t filling it with a lot of pointless fluff.

Make the first 150 characters of a description count
Of the words you write, the first 150 characters are the most important. That is because YouTube cuts it off with a (More) tag after the point, so the viewer has to specifically opt in to reading the rest. Not all of them are going to do that.

You should make sure those first characters tell the viewer what they really need to know in order to connect with what they are reading. From there you can focus more on keywords and the rest of the description, as it will still count the same towards searches.

It is also a great place to link out to other channels, your website, etc. Make sure your call to action (CTA) is in the first words, such as liking, subscribing, learning more, etc.

Reddit – An untapped market? $1000+/month guide

Hello guys,

Today I would like to tell you about the potential of reddit + adsense and some tips & tricks. I have thought about using $$$ in the title, because that is what everyone is looking for. Just remember, it’s all up to you. You can make just $100 or $100 000 a month, or nothing at all. It’s all up to you, your dedication and your skills.

The Traffic

According to similar web, reddit is 36th most visited website in the world with 40% of the traffic coming from the US. Reddit receives monthly 1.7 BILLION traffic. As many of you know, US traffic has the highest CPC in Adsense.

Niche

I will exactly tell you which niches bring easy traffic and money. It is „Technology“, „Cryptocurrencies“, „Political news“, „Uplifting news“.

Age

Age is very important. Both the website you are going to promote and the reddit account you are using should be old. The age of the domain should be atleast 3 months, but the older, the better. Same with the reddit account – older the account, the higher chance of your upvotes getting counted and higher chances of getting to the front page of your subreddit.

„Aim low“

You always hear to „aim high“ but in this case the opposite is better. You should aim to get to the front page of subreddits rather than whole reddit (/r/all). Most websites can’t handle the „reddit hug of death“ because of their cheap hosting. If you are low on money, you wouldn’t be even able to afford such an expensive hosting and it would be waste from the beggining. Aim to rank on subreddits rather than getting to the front page and upgrade your hosting and buy/send more upvotes later when you have made your money.

The top subreddits to post in are, /r/Futurology, r/The_Donald, /r/UpliftingNews/, /r/Cryptocurrency (and other crypto related subreddits). These subreddits have a lot of traffic and they are open to „unknown“ websites (like yours). Other subreddits with so many subscribers accept links just from big websites like bbc, cnn and so on.

Upvotes

There are two ways to boost your link. If your content is good, it will start getting hundreds of upvotes in these subreddits, but you should boost your link initially. You can either buy upvotes or buy accounts and upvote yourself. You do not need proxy for each account, you can just use VPN to switch between IPs. Do not forget to clear cookies between each upvote, log off the account before changing IP and so on. The more popular sub you target, the faster (and more often) you can upvote your links. However, to be safe, you should NOT upvote your link more than 10 times before the 10 minute mark or it will get instantly removed. Accounts do NOT need to have comment history to have their upvotes count.

Adsense isn’t the only option

Even though Adsense pays the most (especially with the niches I wrote about earlier) not everyone can get their Adsense account approved or has problems getting paid. I suggest using native ad networks alongside adsense (or instead of it, if you are really unable to get adsense account). They will make your website look „larger“ with ad posts, they are easier to get accepted to and they often pay to paypal too.

It is also possible to promote ecommerce websites or CPA websites, but it is so much harder. Your average redditor is tech savvy and will understand that you are just trying to sell something right away and downvote your content. That’s why I suggest using adsense and native ads.

Obviously, your content must be good, unique. Just look at the past posts that have reached the front page of your chosen subreddit and try to imitate the style of the article and website.

I will attach screenshots of traffic and earnings that came from reddit.

Happy earnings!

Are keywords still relevant to SEO in 2018?

What a useless article! Anyone worth their salt in the SEO industry knows that a blinkered focus on keywords in 2018 is a recipe for disaster

.

Sure, I couldn’t agree with you more, but when you dive into the subject it uncovers some interesting issues.

If you work in the industry you will no doubt have had the conversation with someone who knows nothing about SEO, who subsequently says something along the lines of:

“SEO? That’s search engine optimization. It’s where you put your keywords on your website, right?”

Extended dramatic sigh. Potentially a hint of aloof eye rolling.

It is worth noting that when we mention ‘keywords’ we are referring to exact match keywords, usually of the short tail variety and often high-priority transactional keywords.

To set the scene, I thought it would be useful to sketch out a polarized situation:

Side one:
Include your target keyword as many times as possible in your content. Google loves the keywords*. Watch your website languish in mid table obscurity and scratch your head wondering why it ain’t working, it all seemed so simple.

(*not really)

Side two:
You understand that Google is smarter than just counting the amount of keywords that exactly match a search. So you write for the user…..creatively, with almost excessive flair. Your content is renowned for its cryptic and subconscious messaging.

It’s so subconscious that a machine doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Replicate results for Side One. Cue similar head scratching.

Let’s start with side one. White Hat (and successful) SEO is not about ‘gaming’ Google, or other search engines for that matter. You have to give Doc Brown a call and hop in the DeLorean back to the early 2000s if that’s the environment you’re after.

Search engines are focused on providing the most relevant and valuable results for their users. As a by product they have, and are, actively shutting down opportunities for SEOs to manipulate the search results through underhanded tactics.

What are underhanded tactics? I define them by tactics that don’t provide value to the user; they are only employed to manipulate the search results.

Here’s why purely focusing on keywords is outdated
Simply put, Google’s search algorithm is more advanced than counting the amount of keyword matches on a page. They’re more advanced than assessing keyword density as well. Their voracious digital Panda was the first really famous update to highlight to the industry that they would not accept keyword stuffing.

Panda was the first, but certainly not the last. Since 2011 there have been multiple updates that have herded the industry away from the dark days of keyword stuffing to the concept of user-centric content.

I won’t go into heavy detail on each one, but have included links to more information if you so desire:

Hummingbird, Latent Semantic Indexing and Semantic Search
Google understands synonyms; that was relatively easy for them to do. They didn’t stop there, though. Hummingbird helps them to understand the real meaning behind a search term instead of the keywords or synonyms involved in the search.

RankBrain
Supposedly one of the three most important ranking factors for Google. RankBrain is machine learning that helps Google, once again, understand the true intent behind a search term.

All of the above factors have led to an industry that is focused more on the complete search term and satisfying the user intent behind the search term as opposed to focusing purely on the target keyword.

As a starting point, content should always be written for the user first. Focus on task completion for the user, or as Moz described in their White Board Friday ‘Search Task Accomplishment’. Keywords (or search terms) and associated phrases can be included later if necessary, more on this below.

Writing user-centric content pays homage to more than just the concept of ranking for keywords. For a lot of us, we want the user to complete an action, or at the very least return to our website in the future.

Even if keyword stuffing worked (it doesn’t), you might get more traffic but would struggle to convert your visitors due to the poor quality of your content.

So should we completely ignore keywords?
Well, no, and that’s not me backtracking. All of the above advice is legitimate. The problem is that it just isn’t that simple. The first point to make is that if your content is user centric, your keyword (and related phrases) will more than likely occur naturally.

You may have to play a bit of a balancing act to make sure that you don’t up on ‘Side Two’ mentioned at the beginning of this article. Google is a very clever algorithm, but in the end it is still a machine.

If your content is a bit too weird and wonderful, it can have a negative impact on your ability to attract the appropriate traffic due to the fact that it is simply too complex for Google to understand which search terms to rank your website for.

This balancing act can take time and experience. You don’t want to include keywords for the sake of it, but you don’t want to make Google’s life overly hard. Experiment, analyse, iterate.

Other considerations for this more ‘cryptic’ content is how it is applied to your page and its effect on user experience.

The rise of personal searches: How can content marketers take advantage?

As marketers in the ever-changing world of digital, success depends on knowing what consumers want and expect from us. After all, it’s the only way we can deliver.

So, it’s interesting to see that a recent data release from Google tells us that personalized search is becoming more and more prominent among internet users.

No longer are they turning to friends and family for personal advice and recommendations, but search engines too.

Of course, we already knew that… that’s why we work so hard at getting to know our audience and understanding their micro-moments and pain points, delivering the right content at the right time, in the right way.

But what Google is telling us is that rather than searching, “How often should you wash your hair?”, we are now searching “How often should I wash my hair?”. Changing those two little words is making the way that we use search engines far more personal than ever before.

And the data suggests that consumers now truly trust that their most specific needs can be answered by content on the web. In fact, in the last two years Google has reported that mobile searches using “…for me” has grown by a huge 60% over the last two years.

On top of this, they have also seen an 80% increase in mobile searches including “…should I?”. As a result, we really are treating search as one of our best, most trusted friends.

And that’s great news for content marketers.

For those of us working in motor, beauty, finance, fitness and pet care, it seems that this new insight is especially relevant – these are the industries in which users are most frequently turning to Google to solve their personal pain points.

How can we prepare and optimize our content for these types of search?

Tools

Creating calculators and tools is a brilliant way of targeting personal search terms and providing our users with the personalized response they are looking for. Let’s use a fitness example to demonstrate this:

This recent data circulation from Google suggests that users are starting to search for something like, “how much water should I drink each day?” in higher volumes than something like, “how much water should you drink per day?”.

Now, most of us know that the answer to this question will depend on a number of different factors including gender, body composition, activity level and so on.

What our audience is expecting from this search is a personalized answer that takes all of these things into consideration and tells them exactly how much water they should personally be drinking each day.

A water consumption calculator would do this well, and if the user wants the specificity of an individual result, they will be willing to fill in the necessary personal details to retrieve it. A blog post that simply states the average recommended fluid intake for a man or a woman as recommended by the NHS is no longer user focused enough.

Case studies and testimonials

Providing personalized content will not always be easy, and at times users may need encouragement to spend a little longer on a page to find the personalized answer they are looking for. In this instance, case studies and testimonials are a great way to push users further through their journey in the right direction.

For example, “How much money do I need to retire?” is a more complex question than our fitness example. There are so many variants that could alter the accurate and personalized response to this question, so it’s difficult to answer it quickly in a personalized way.

However, if we provide users with a testimonial or case study at the right stage in their journey – one that was created after a lot of persona research and uses someone or a situation that will resonate with them – they are likely to engage with the content.

Creating engagement via a case study will increase the likelihood that they’ll enquire with your brand for a more personalized answer, continuing their journey on their way to the personalized answer they are looking for.

Seasonal SEO and evergreen URLs: How to drive seasonal traffic year-round

Now that Christmas and the New Year are well and truly behind us, it’s time to think about next year!

While it might seem like an odd time to start planning for the holidays, this time of year is the perfect occasion to reflect on what went well during the last holiday season, how to build on it, and the steps you can take to drive seasonal traffic all year round.

Why is seasonal traffic so important?

Seasonal website traffic isn’t just a gimmick or something that can be considered a few months before the event. Many companies rely on these peak buying periods to help balance their books and flatten out their averaged revenue across the year – therefore it requires a dedicated strategy.

Interest around shopping online continues to increase year on year, with a greater swing towards mobile devices and shopping ‘on the go’. Connection speeds are faster and websites are optimizing for speed.

They’re prioritizing mobile viewing in many cases and the experience is often so rapid and easy that the concerns around clunkiness and security that once plagued online sales are quickly diminishing (if not non-existent for savvy users).

A blend of great discounts, quick deliveries, press coverage, advertising buzz and good timing has meant that events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday (ironically both now dominated by online sales in the UK) are now cornerstones in many businesses’ revenue streams.

In this article, we’ll look into how some of the basics can help you slip ahead of competitors.

Permanent (evergreen) URLs

Staying active all year round plays a vital role in the success of many seasonal and time sensitive campaigns. We so often hear:

  • “Should I set up a new page for XYZ event?”
  • “We’re offering 20% off this weekend – do we need a new page?”
  • “Performance is up, so we thought… more categories!”

Well, it’s not always just a quick answer, there are plenty of factors that need to be taken into account to provide a considered (and correct) response. The trick is, this isn’t just about SEO – it rarely ever is! You have to consider all the below factors (and more) when making a new URL:

  • Time taken to manage and tag products appropriately
  • What do you hope it will rank for?
  • Will it cannibalise other keyword targeting categories?
  • Does it need to be indexed or is it for PPC/Email campaigns?
  • Will you add internal links to it – where will they go post-season?
  • Is the page going to generate backlinks?
  • Can the page be used all year (for example /clearance instead of /2018-aw-sale)?
  • Will you be printing this URL on brochures/leaflets, etc?
  • Can it be short and snappy?

What is an evergreen URL?

An evergreen URL is an address on your site that doesn’t need to change – see it as a permanent addition to your site’s internal architecture. A good example of this is a /sale page. The associated event may not always be active – but the equity of the page is not sporadically redirected to other URLs on the site throughout the year.

The dreaded dated URL

Avoid dating the URL – fashion sites are often the worst offenders for /aw16 or /ss17 (with the abbreviations standing for Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer respectively). How about just /new-arrivals, or going super short with /new-in (for example http://www.next.co.uk/women/new-in)?

But it’s not just category URLs that need attention and stability. There are a variety of pages that benefit from a carefully planned approach – next we’ll take a look at one of the most successful pieces of seasonal marketing (across multiple platforms) and how it impacts potential organic performance.

The search impact of Christmas adverts

Christmas adverts in the UK are a sign that the festive season is here… or they may just be a premature annoyance that definitely didn’t make me cry that one time!

Regardless, there are a few lone examples of where using a carefully considered (permanent) URL can be a viable source of generating natural links and help sell a story (…plus some merchandise).

John Lewis Christmas advert

The widely anticipated release of John Lewis’ Christmas advert is an annual event that is fast rivaling the Coca Cola lorries in terms of seasonal buzz. Other retailers have since latched onto its success and diluted the impact of these emotional shorts, but for the last three years John Lewis did something that really worked.

The below graph from Ahrefs shows how the URL http://www.johnlewis.com/christmas-advert received links from referring domains. Many of the links came from large influential sites including The Guardian, Huffington Post, BBC and HubSpot.

Naturally, these links occur shortly after the release of each year’s advert. This not only provided the site with authority and trust, but also provided a large amount of referral traffic.

The drop-off from these links is minimal and the pages themselves were well-crafted. What’s more, the URL itself never changed – no 404s, no redirects.

Something was missing this Christmas…

2017 saw a change to John Lewis’ approach with a separate sub-directory for content. The URL is far less marketable and the Christmas advert is less prominent. There seems to be a focus on the more commercial aspects of Christmas and event ideas, which is both a shame and a lost opportunity as the new URL has received far less buzz (as you might expect).

Competitors and other big brands have attempted a similar execution but are also being held back by inefficient URLs and a need for a little more magic. Some of the best near misses can be seen below (if any 404 or redirect to the homepage when you’re reading this, it only backs up my point!):

Everything you need to know about the Google Chrome ad blocker

Google launches a new version of its Chrome web browser today (February 15), which will include an in-built ad blocker to try and eradicate intrusive ads from the browsing experience.

There are some clear standards and some unanswered questions relating to this new approach, so what exactly do marketers need to know?

Google announced last year that certain ad types would be blocked automatically within Chrome. This seemingly seismic update is due to go live today in the latest upgrade to the world’s most popular web browser.

The integration of an ad blocker within Google Chrome is just a small part of a much bigger movement to improve the quality of online advertising, however.

This has been driven by consumers, who are increasingly frustrated with ads that interrupt and distract them from the content they want to view. As people spend more time on mobile devices and advertisers invest more in video, that tension has only heightened. ads

The survey results in the image above tally with the findings from Google’s own research. Axios revealed recently that Google has found two concerning trends when analyzing user behavior on Chrome:

  1. One-in-five Chrome feedback reports mentions annoying/unwanted ads
  2. There were 5+ billion mutes from people using Google’s “mute this ad” feature in 2017

Of course, this has led to huge growth in the adoption of ad blockers over the last few years. Consumers have found these to be an easy and convenient solution, but this is not a permanent stance.

There is a widespread acceptance that if advertisers can provide some value to consumers, the latter will be much more receptive to the messaging.

ad_blockers

Worryingly for advertisers and publishers, the growth in mobile ad blocker usage has been very notable and that trend has been particularly marked in the Asia-Pacific region over the past 12 months.

Many publishers have implemented “ad block walls”, which do not allow access to their content for users with an ad blocker installed. That approach is only a stop-gap measure and does not strike at the heart of the issue, however.

It is pretty clear which way the wind is blowing, so Google is aiming to take a modicum of control over the prevailing trend rather than ignore it altogether. Third-party ad blockers, after all, might also end up blocking ads from the Google Display Network.

Moreover, Chrome accounts for 62% of the mobile browser market and 59% of desktop, so it certainly has the clout to make a difference.

And yet, there is a fine balance to strike here between permitting the ads that fuel so much of the digital economy, while precluding those that are overly intrusive. Google, of course, has much to lose if it adopts an overzealous approach, but much to gain if it can become the arbiter of the correct standards for digital advertising.

Which ads will be affected?

The standards by which the Chrome ad blocker will operate are based on the guidelines set by the Coalition for Better Ads. Google is on the board that sets these regulations, but so are many other influential bodies, including the Association of National Advertisers, Unilever, and Facebook.

This collective set out to pinpoint the ad experiences that consumers found to be overly negative when browsing. The research (which can be viewed here) revealed certain types of ad that are most typically tied to negative experiences.

The desktop web experiences that will be affected are:

desktop ads

While the mobile ad types that will be affected are:

Of course, these are broad categories and there are levels of sophistication within each. Google has added the stipulation that publishers have a 7.5% non-compliance threshold before their ads are blocked.

There is also an element of common sense to be applied here. We have all been subjected to the kinds of ads that this initiative targets, whether they are full-screen auto-play videos or pop-up ads that feel impossible to close.

How will Google enforce this?

Significantly, Google estimates that just 1% of publishers will be affected in the short-term by the new ad blocker. It would be fair to say that the approach to cutting out sub-par ads has more in common with a scalpel than an axe. After all, Google knows better than anyone that advertising supports the vast majority of what we see online.

Wes MacLaggan, SVP of Marketing at Marin Software, commented to Search Engine Watch that:

These new standards are meant to create a better user experience for consumers, and ultimately encourage fewer ad blocking installations. In the short term, we’ll see some ad formats and advertisers shut off. These advertisers and publishers will need to invest in more quality ads, while publishers will no longer be able to rely on monetizing with intrusive formats.

Google will also alert sites that are at the “warning” or “failing” level on its scale, to provide an opportunity to clean up their ads. The search giant reports that 37% of sites that were initially in violation of their standards have since made changes to improve the quality of their ads.

Websites that violate the new standards will be given 30 days to remove the offending ads from their sites or Google will block their ads.

5 Powerful Tips For SEO On A Budget

 

In  my early days as a marketer, I used to dream about having an unlimited budget to implement all my ideas. OK, let me be honest: I still do that sometimes. I do it for my own digital marketing agency, Idunn, as well as for clients whose businesses I truly believe in.

But unlimited budgets are just that: a dream.

Even the biggest corporations in the world have a limited budget (albeit the limit is quite high).

So I snap out of it and work on coming up with the best strategies within the budget our clients or I have.

And you know what?

It’s actually quite rewarding!

I love looking back on how much we managed to achieve with so little. We work with a lot of bootstrapping startups, so we actually have a knack for making things work on a tight budget.

SEO on a budget is by far one of the most challenging and common issues of small and medium-sized companies. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

5 tips for excellent SEO results on a budget

Let’s take a look on how we can maximize optimization even with budget constraints.

1. Take a close look at your keyword strategy

I wrote a lot about choosing the right keywords here, but let me summarize this for you: try to go for keywords that are both easy to rank for and relevant for your business.

Here’s an example: it’s hard to rank for “hotel in Paris”, but you can rank for “hotel near the Eiffel tower” much easier. This comes with the added bonus of sending you qualified leads aka the people who are most likely to book your hotel.

Granted, you will get less visitors than if you rank for “best hotel in Paris”. But the strategy above won’t cost you an arm and a leg. And, after all, why should you care about the visitors who don’t turn into customers anyway?

2. Make sure all your information is correct

This is vital for local businesses, but also very important for any type of company. Make sure that your address, phone number, email address, contact person and ZIP code are identical on every platform you use, from Yelp to Facebook and your own website.

Make a Google My Business listing for an added bonus. This way, when people near you search for your products or services, Google will return your page as a result.

3. Write for humans

Yes, keywords are important. But not as important as keeping your readers engaged. If you take a look at the 17 factors that impact ranking, you will see that most of them speak about a great user experience.

Bounce rate, source of traffic, time spent on page and many others indicate that an unnatural writing style will chase off your visitors.

This not 2010. Google bots now understand user intent. And, thanks to innovations like Alexa and Siri, search has become more conversational.

A user is more likely to search “how do I make a chocolate cake from scratch” than “chocolate cake” today. That’s because they also know that the latter search may send them to a bakery shop. If users get specific, you have no reason not to.

4. Outsource SEO tasks

I know what you’re thinking: outsourcing means paying. And we’re on a tight budget, remember?

Of course I do!

But the kind of writing that gets you on the good side of search engines isn’t embodied by 500-word blog posts anymore. You need to go long form and in-depth. This means tons of research and a lot of time spent putting together memorable and informative pieces of 1500+ words.

And time is money. If you get this done in house, you are still paying an employee for it.

Most of the copywriting clients we work with say the same thing: it’s much cheaper to outsource to a reliable agency than to pay a full-time employee for it. Plus, it’s more easily scalable. When your budget runs out, you can pull the plug or limit your investment in content – without firing anyone.

5. Optimize and link everything

It’s quite common to have a superbly optimized blog post and forget about the smaller things. Meta descriptions, alt tags, image tags and more are equally important.

They tell Google bots that your content is relevant for the keyword you chose more clearly than an extra paragraph in your copy.

The same goes for linking. If you’re on a budget and links from other domains are an issue, make sure you do a lot of inbound linking.

It’s perfectly free and incredibly powerful. Whenever you write a new blog post, link to some of your previous ones. Ideally, the anchor text should be the same as the keyword of the article in question.

This is how you signal to search engines that your article is relevant for a certain keyword. The more links to it, the better its ranking.

Conclusion

Great SEO is not something that happens overnight. It’s something that you have to work on continuously. Even if you had an unlimited budget, you’d still have to constantly add new texts and review your links.

The key here is being patient. It may take you a while to see tangible results, but they will come if your work is up to par.

Whatever you do, don’t try black-hat techniques. It may be appealing to hire someone who promises to help you rank on the first position for the most competitive of keywords for a measly $200. But you won’t be ranking high for more than a week! After that, Google will bury your website so deep that you’ll have to buy a new domain in order to get another chance at visibility

How to Set Up Custom Intent Audiences in AdWords

Custom Intent Audiences in AdWords.

“Consumers are more curious, more demanding, and more impatient than ever. . . AdWords has been redesigned to help you reach these mobile-first consumers in faster and easier ways. Today, we’re introducing more innovations available only in the new experience.” –Anthony Chavez, Director of Product Management, AdWords

Last summer, Google added an array of new features to the AdWords platform including a new interface that Google noted was, “. . . the most powerful change [they’ve] made to how advertisers visualize and manage their campaigns in over 15 years.”

Following such bold changes, Google introduced exciting new AdWords features like promotion extensionsad variations, new opportunities to meet business goals.

What has many excited, however, is the new custom intent audiences.

In mid-November Google announced a variety of new sales-driving AdWords components, including custom intent audiences.

Custom intent audiences enables businesses to leverage the Google Display Network (GDN) to, “…make it easy for you to reach people who want to buy the specific products you offer–based on data from your campaigns, website and YouTube channel.”

Google explained the effects of the new audience option as followers:

The system works by employing machine learning technology to analyze a user’s current or previous AdWords efforts to produce a custom audience to target.

The automatically generated audience is comprised of the most frequently surfed URLs and keywords for a given product or service search.

While this may sound like a wholly automated marketing solution, users do have some sovereignty over the process as custom intent audiences can be automatically created by Google.

Custom intent audiences give both novice and expert advertisers the tools to successfully expand beyond the bounds of Google Display Network’s canned audience groups.

No matter which option you feel more comfortable using, each presents the distinct potential for entering scads of new, prospective consumers into a business’s sales funnel.

Where to Find Custom Intent Audiences

Once you have navigated to the Display campaign portion of the interface, you can head to the audience page to see both types of custom intent audiences.

Start by creating or selecting an ad campaign to run. Next, select the “Targeting” button just below that.

From here, you will be able to select “Intent;” this can be found sandwiched between the “Affinity” and “Remarketing” options.

Now you will be asked to choose between the automatically generated custom intent audience or to create your own.

Auto-Generated Custom Audiences

While crafting a custom audience is within the wheelhouse of some marketers, others might not feel so confident in the process.

For these folks, utilizing the automatically created audience is likely to be more their speed.

After selecting “Custom intent audiences: auto-created,” users will be presented with a myriad of possible audience options.

This is the defining feature of customer intent audiences, as opposed to the topic or placement-based options Display Network users have had up until this point.

Creating A Custom Audience

If you have opted to craft your own audience, after selecting the “Intent” option, click the blue “+” icon found near the words, “New Custom Intent Audience.”

With all your URLs and keywords in place, select “Create.”

You will then be taken back to the previous screen; here you can analyze your campaign’s estimated reach.

Feel free to play with your audience criteria until you have generated a reach you find suitable.

This high level of audience detail and identification provides business owners with a much more refined method for reaching prospects.

Get familiar with this new feature now, as it can help your brand earn tons of new leads and sales.

Will your business opt to leverage custom intent audiences? If so, do you plan on creating your own, or will you let Google do the heavy lifting?