Searchlove San Diego 2017 Highlights

search marketing conference

We found our favourite conference. SearchLove San Diego was on point with speakers, tips and actionable tactics for technical search marketers. Also, and I cannot say this loud enough….it’s at a beach resort in San Diego in February!

Here’s a few of our favourite presenters and takeaways.

 

Larry Kim

This was one of my favourite talks of the conference. Larry took a look at quality in content marketing and how click rates influence organic position, decrease paid costs, and give you something to use for years. The payoffs of high-engagement content are huge.

One of his big points was about how one piece of content can sometimes do more than all of your other pieces combined. In the slide below, you can see how one of Inc’s pieces of content flourished while all of its others were left floundering. We’ve seen this a lot with heavy content sites and draws the conclusion that the ideal strategy should be to find the few winners, rather than think all of your content pieces will be winners.

 

Wil Reynolds

Wil is well known in the SEO world for being complete fire and he didn’t disappoint.

He focused on how digital marketers consistently throw users into buckets rather than treating them like humans. Ranking for keywords doesn’t matter much if you can’t match the user’s intent with what you have. Match psychology and decision making. SEOs should be marketing using emotions, not just click rates.

He put emphasis on visiting where your clients or customers are. Talk to them, understand them, and see what their real life pain points are. Then you’ll be able to understand how to fix them by giving them what they need online. Relying on search volume won’t solve human problems.

Further to the point of intent – if Google puts an image in the results that should be a trigger that people don’t understand the product or service. His example of how people looking for “cloud computing” are bidding extremely high on the search term, but the fact that Google is putting images in the results means that people are looking for definitions, not to buy something.

 

Rob Bucci

Rob’s the best. He runs the keyword ranking software STAT in Vancouver. His talk surrounded the research he did on consumer intent and where Google will place you based on that intent. Whether it’s informational, commercial or transactional. The results were fantastic and one of his slides summed it up nicely:

“Intent beats identity. Immediacy beats loyalty. “

There’s waaaay too much to mention here so I recommend requesting and going through the slides here if you’re a search marketer: Using Search Intent to Connect with Consumers.

 

Rand Fishkin

Rand’s been a long time supporter of 10x content. The idea is, in essence to stop churning out cheap and fast blog content and focus your attention on building stronger pieces that will get attention and last. It’s an ROI-positive method that I’ve been supporting for years.

His presentation focused on great examples of 10x content, along with some that have completely missed out because they ignored SEO. A little keyword research goes a long way.

 

Annie Cushing

She is famous for having extremely actionable talks around analytics. If she talks at a conference you’re attending, you get your money’s worth.

Here’s a few of the big takeaways:

  1. Always use “site down” notifiers such as downnotifier.com
  2. Configure a few Analytics custom alerts in case of traffic drops or your site isn’t working
  3. Configure more of those custom Analytics dashboards that make sense for your business
  4. There’s low cost dashboards that take in several external data such as cyfe.com

 

Greg Gifford

Greg spends his days pushing local rankings for car dealers in the US. His presentation was around genuinely strong tips for local SEO. It was refreshing to hear tactics around hyper local targeting. Many of his tips debunked what industry experts recommend. For example, he suggests local links with low authority might actually be better than high authority links with no specific location attached.

Greg also dropped some Facebook ad tips like throwing a bit of budget at ads with tight a tight geo radius. That way you can advertise at an NFL game for $100.

 

Ross Simmonds

Ross’ talk was great because it centred around real examples of big success. His Instagram account currently sits at 114k followers. It’s nice to see someone talk about action and then show exactly how well it did. The takeaway from this was to market your content like a scientist: experiment, experiment, experiment.

 

Tom Capper

This may have been the most important talk of the entire conference. Tom had a really strong argument of how influential inbound links are, which several presenters debated. A lot of campaigns are driven only to acquire links, and Tom’s research found that they’re important, possibly important, or not at all. Crucial information for those of us SEOs that are digging for links day in, day out.

 

Adwords Will Now Show Your Phone Numbers Automatically

Adwords Mobile Auto Phone

Google has recently pushed out an email stating that they’ll begin scraping your landing pages for phone numbers and automatically putting them in mobile ads. This could be beneficial or possibly very detrimental if you’re unaware of this small change.

There are a lot of advertisers that want calls, and some that absolutely do not. Some businesses work really hard to cut down on phone calls because online cuts down on errors and staff workload.

The Fix! Follow these steps to turn them off:

  1. Go to the Ad Extensions tab
  2. Automated extensions report
  3. Automated extension options (advanced)
  4. Click “Edit”
  5. Uncheck “Automatic call extensions” under “Do not use specific automated extensions in this account”

Voila! No more automatic phone numbers placed in your mobile ads.

They’re implementing this for a good reason. From Google:

This year, mobile search engines are predicted to drive nearly 33 billion clicks-to-call to businesses globally, almost 19% more calls than from mobile landing pages alone. 

Getting phone calls are generally much stronger leads for companies in the B2B world. In the B2C world, this is rarely the case and they’re about to get a lot more phone calls if they haven’t noticed this change from Google.

Canada Mapped by Trails, Roads, Streets, Highways

⚡ Google’s New AMP Pages ⚡

google amp

Google has announced their modified html called AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages – will be visible to users in results pages. The AMP pages are indicated by a little lightning bolt⚡. It’s an attempt at creating faster mobile load times and is not to be confused with ExactTarget’s AMPscript language.

The rundown:

1) It’s extremely similar to html with a few small changes

2) You define the document by using the lightning emoji ⚡ which is pretty great.

3) You can set what content gets loaded first. This is super helpful for the user, because currently many sites do not define whether ads or share buttons get loaded before content.

4) It sets the size of items on the page so there’s no resizing while reading content. This makes things quicker and prevents content from jumping around.

5) It doesn’t affect SEO rankings – but maybe it does? From Search Engine Land:

I spoke with Google’s VP of Engineering David Besbris yesterday. He told me that AMP pages will not receive a ranking boost, though Google has suggested in the past load time and page speed are (or will become) mobile ranking factors.

6) There will be two pages – one desktop and one mobile.

7) AMP pages are 4x faster and use around 10x less data than non-AMP.

This is a huge development for publishers with a lot of content and ads. Many larger publishers have already adopted it – eBay, Reddit, etc. Google, of course, sells and distributes a lot of display advertising for these large publishers, so it makes sense they want a more harmonious experience.

The only problem is that it is kind of taking a step backwards in order to move forwards. Responsive sites eliminated the need for a mobile version and a desktop version of the site which looks like what is happening again. Anybody in dev will have to take a close look to see whether the benefits will outweigh the need to manage two sites again. Then again, AMP pages are way faster and use way less data so it looks like it might happen no matter what.

Here’s Google Developer’s video Intro to AMP.

New Adwords Expanded Ad Format

Google announced yesterday that an update is coming for its Adwords ad format.

adwords-expanded-ad

It may not seem like a momentous change, but the real estate that ads will take up in search results is going to increase. There will now be space for 10 more characters in total. This update comes on the heels of a graphic that is being shared a lot on Twitter by Ginny Marvin.

google-adwords-history

The rationale for the change is to cater to the mobile user. Using more headline space than paragraph text helps to optimize ads for handheld screen sizes.

As Adwords ad extensions have become larger and more frequent, this is probably a move to minimize the noise below the link and allow the user to make better decisions based on the first thing they see.

What to do about it? Simply write amazing headlines – it’s that easy!

New Adwords Price Extension

adwords price extension

Price extensions are coming! The above image shows an example of one advertiser using them in Adwords. This new feature in Google Adwords will be available to most advertisers in most countries very soon. Each product or service will link to a unique landing page similar to Sitelink Extensions.

Price comparison shopping is very common and knowing the price of something is a very strong reason to click. We expect this new feature to play an enormous role in competitive Adwords campaigns.

The list of Adwords extensions currently sits at:

  • Callout extensions
  • App extensions
  • Call extensions
  • Location extensions
  • Review extensions
  • Sitelink extensions
  • Callout extensions
  • Consumer ratings
  • Previous visits

Bing: The Laserdisc of Search Engines

bing seo dancing

(Bravo to the person that animated Chandler Bing on the Bing logo)

It’s the search engine that nobody talks about unless it’s brought up as a joke. It’s the Laserdisc of search engines. I try to bring up Bing professionally and the conversation quickly derails into questions about my sanity–even though it’s up to 20% of the market share in the US!

Here’s what I’ve found Bing to be completely helpful with.

  1. Older demographics.
    Younger, tech-savvy people have an easy time switching browsers and arranging preferences. Older folk seem to stick with the defaults on their PC.
  2. Bing Webmaster Tools.
    Why not have more data to comb over?
  3. Interaction Rates.
    Our Bing Ad campaigns have higher interaction rates than Google Adwords ones. Why is that? It might just be a more focused audience with less to click on.
  4. It’s Cheaper.
    Google Adwords is an extremely competitive marketplace for many industries. Many people can slide into a Bing campaign and benefit from low cost per clicks.
  5. Ad Demographic Targeting in Search
    This isn’t available in Adwords. Bing will allow (when available) bid increases for certain groups.

 

 

Google’s new ad layouts: was the panic legit?

It’s been a few weeks since Google switched up the ad layout on its search results pages. If you missed the news, here’s a recap: the ads that used to be on the right-hand side of the search results are now on the top and bottom of the search pages, bordering the search results like  bread in a sandwich.

By cutting out the right side ads, Google has created room for knowledge graphs and product listings, as seen here in this screenshot of a sample search.

SEO results - running shoes

Keep in mind these changes only affect desktop browsing. In mobile view, the ads look the same as they did before.

Why did Google switch it up? Some people are claiming Google wanted to make its layout consistent for all screen sizes. And some people are saying the big G just wanted to pull in more profits: by reducing the amount of ads available, the competition for ads will be fiercer, and, so the theory goes, the top spot could end up costing more.

Whenever Google makes a change, the internet is full of commentary, and this is no exception. We’ve seen mild predictions that it won’t matter very much in the end and dramatic predictions that it’s the end of small businesses forever.

If you’re in the latter camp, take heart. Be buoyed by these facts:

  • These changes only affect desktop views. As we all (or should by now) know, more and more people are using mobile, and desktop searches are steadily taking up less and less of the total search numbers.
  • We broke the news before, but take some time and let this soak in: the new desktop ad layouts, with ads before and after the organic listings, are pretty much the equivalent of what mobile users have been seeing for a long time.
  • It doesn’t have to mean your cost per clicks (CPCs) go through the roof. Just like marketing pro Nitin Kumar said in this article on the Business 2 Community site, your CPC will go down if you have stellar copy, keywords and landing pages.

So, grasshoppers, just like when the Henny Pennys  of the web wrung their hands over Mobilegeddon and we took the “wait and see” approach, we are going to sit tight and wait for more data. Just like we had a much gentler interpretation of Mobilegeddon, we’re expecting to stay rather Zen about these changes too. In the meantime, take a deep breath and keep focused on the basics.

SEO: How to Rank Keywords in 2016

seo keyword rankings

 

The question used to be:

“What’s our rank?”

Now, the question should be:

“What’s our click through rate?”

Organic keyword tracking is not the beacon it used to be. Rankings are now scattered across an ever expanding amount of places. These days, it doesn’t matter if you’re third or fifth, but it does matter how many people are clicking on your links. Here’s a quick guide to ranking your keywords.

 

 How to Track Your Google Traffic

1) Get Google Search Console Data

It’s the most relevant keyword data available, and is somehow often overlooked. Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) tells you what your keyword click through rate is. It indicates how much traffic is being lost, which is the first metric you should be looking at. Ranking first is great, but how often are those people clicking on your link? Are paid, local and knowledge graph getting 80% of the clicks? Keyword rankings is a competitive game, so the first measurement should be against what others are getting.

2) Include Paid

Dr. Pete Meyers tweeted a search result (we’ve posted it below) that has 4 Adwords ads rather than the traditional 3. This dominates the page real estate. Paid and organic are arguably the same medium, and they all come from the same place: Search. Considering that Adwords is dominating the same search results as organic, shouldn’t it be included in rankings? Why separate the two if it doesn’t matter to the user?

google paid results with 4

 

3) Of Course, Track Keywords

Knowing their historical position explains a lot, but isn’t the beginning and end of organic. A few good keyword trackers we’ve seen lately are Accuranker and STAT.

Watch Your Keyword Locations

Rankings in New York are different than rankings in Vancouver. It’s common to first panic at a low average position in Google Search Console until you localize the filter. If you have a restaurant and rank for the term “restaurant,” people from all over the world may be influencing your overall position.

Google also does a great job of localizing searches. You may rank highly in Edmonton, Alberta but low in Hong Kong. Make sure you know your rank in the city you’re targeting. Authority Labs has postal code level targeting.

Mobile vs. Desktop

We’re seeing slight differences in rankings between mobile and desktop. They’re not the giant discrepancies that people were afraid of when Google announced the Mobile Update in April, 2015, but there are some inconsistencies between the two. This is a key factor to consider because if you’re #1 on desktop and #5 on mobile, you’d have to consider yourself as #3.

Google’s New Logo

google logo

 

You’ve probably noticed by now that Google’s logo looks a little bit different. The search giant revealed its new look last week: a serif-free, open-faced font that loses the embossed look and replaces its icon—formerly a lower-case ‘g’—with an upper-case, multi-coloured letter. It’s also a heck of a lot lighter (around 300 kb as compared to the old logo’s 14,000 kb load).

As with any branding change, the new logo has been met with some very mixed opinions. In ditching the serifs, Google has been accused of “filing off its dignity” with letters that look like refrigerator magnets, while a poll by Mashable  reports that just over half of respondents in a 3,000-person survey  actually like the change.

 

Google logo

In a blog post about the update, Google says the old logo was built in the days when “Google was one destination that you reached from one device: a desktop PC” and states the new look reflects the fact that users interact with Google via many different platforms.

What does the Status Bureau crew think of the new look? It’s about time! We see the Google logo around 200 times per day, and in our books, this is a fantastic update. The old logo was designed more than 15 years ago, so it was definitely time for an update, and Google did the right thing by refreshing the logo rather than redesigning it. Simplifying and modernizing is always safer than a total overhaul. Brand recognition is a valuable thing, and Google’s logo is still recognizable.

The simplicity that comes with a lightened graphic load means it’s going to undoubtedly resemble other logos, which is unfortunate, but remember, logos are often not good or bad on their own: the organization’s performance feeds into the meaning. See Nike and Coca-Cola: bad logos from a design perspective, but the crowd still goes wild. So we can debate and dismiss all we like, but in the end, the only real judge is time itself.

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