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Creating leads for your business through thought leadership content is one of the must-know marketing trends leading into next year. Phrases like “inbound marketing” and “content strategy” are being thrown around everywhere. How does this translate for a majority of small businesses?
Many small businesses are focused on churning out content on their blogs, measuring search engine optimization, readability and otherwise peppering their entries with the right mix of keywords. While the blogging strategy is an important part of a solid content marketing plan, it’s not the only tool at your disposal. There are other ways to generate thoughtful content that will impress fellow business owners in your industry and managers in completely new industries and generate leads without even encountering WordPress.
Here are some of the tools I’ve used and recommend:
It’s never been easier to self-publish an e-book online and market it to your followers. Authors, influencers and even industry leaders have taken to Kindle to self-publish an e-book for a relatively low cost. Not only does this act as another source of passive income through sales of your e-book, but also it has another, possibly more important effect.
Having a published e-book (even if you’ve published it yourself) signifies that you really know what you’re talking about. Writing your thoughts on a particular aspect of your industry or a couple hundred pages on a how-to can easily establish you as an expert within your field. And people trust experts and are more inclined to follow them and even purchase their products. In fact, the statistic of how much thought leadership contributes to building trust in a brand is often grossly undervalued, especially in B2B businesses. Only 50% of B2B marketers think thought leadership content helps build trust. However, their buyers find it’s closer to 83%.
Because of this, don’t publish an e-book lightly. If you regurgitate content that isn’t of use or is poorly written, it can be disastrous for your business and personal brand. Before undertaking authorship, carefully consider what your strengths are and where you really are a thought leader. Then, outline your book, and have a trusted friend in the industry look it over to make sure you’re hitting valuable notes.
Finally, invest in a good editor. While you may think your lengthy exposition on email campaigns is gold, your reader may be snoring. A quality editor will tidy up errors and parse unnecessary details to keep your thought leadership content to the point.
Most businesses are encouraged to create email marketing strategies and have email newsletter sign-up lists on their websites or blogs. However, it often pays to have some sort of deliverable, free treat or gift in exchange for the email contact information. Putting time and energy into crafting an attractive deliverable can impress your potential clients and associates and have the same effect as an e-book — you’ll come across as an expert voice.
For instance, consider crafting a five- to 10-page deliverable PDF that will go to your prospective clients’ inboxes when they sign up. Pay close attention to design and readability, as well as keeping the information you share valuable. You’re more likely to inspire goodwill and trust with your clients when you deliver them a thoughtful, well-researched guide on a topic using your own unique perspective. Generic tips that can probably be found anywhere else on the internet most likely won’t cut it.
Other examples of useful deliverables include:
• Infographics with relevant statistics or processes
• Sample drafts or formulas that will help deliver a promise when used
• A short course or webinar that teaches something of value
Did your mouth just get dry at the prospect of public speaking? Hear me out. Podcasts are a valuable tool to reach your potential clients, influencers, colleagues and the world during their free time. Many people listen to podcasts when they’re on the way to work, in the zone or trekking away at the gym. You have their full attention, and most of the time, listeners are fairly relaxed and in the right mindset to take in new and relevant information.
Launching your own podcast and publishing a few episodes here and there centered on your unique field of expertise can be a surprising and really delightful way to reach your base. If you don’t think you have enough content to sustain a podcast yourself, you can capture the same effect by becoming a guest speaker on existing podcasts. Sharing your unique perspective over the airwaves can help you get your knowledge out to the world and attract clients, customers and valuable contacts who like what you have to say.
No matter which type of content you choose, the most important thing is to create quality material with it. It’s better to create fantastic content in one sector — like podcasts or videos — rather than having a haphazard and mediocre strategy that tries to encompass it all. With more and more people investing in content marketing, one of the best ways to distinguish yourself in the new year is to provide deliverables and content that teach a useful skill or solve a pain point. Otherwise, content for content’s sake will diminish in value and begin to work against your company.
Written by Brandon Stapper – CEO of Nonstop Signs & Graphics, which has risen from humble beginnings to become a printing powerhouse
Let us know how your company creates engaging content in your comments below. We love hearing from all kinds of businesses just like yours. Share with us your favorite tools and how you are using content marketing to create amazing relationships with your customers.
Not sure why you’re not ranking #1 for your focus keywords in Google? You might just be making one of the mistakes a lot of site owners make. Many sites, from the small local businesses to the big corporate ones, are making similar mistakes. Here, we’ll give you an overview of the SEO issues we encounter most frequently and how to rank your site on google. Of course, we’ll also explain how to avoid or solve these SEO don’ts. Check this list and make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes!
#1: Forgetting that faster is better
The first thing we’d like to touch on is site speed. The faster your site, the more Google will favor it. There’s a very useful tool from Google itself to check your site speed: Google PageSpeed Insights. This tool gives you an overview of what aspects need improvement to boost the speed of a particular page.
One of the recommendations we frequently give is to optimize your images. A lot of websites have images that are relatively large, which take a lot of time to load. Resizing your images can speed up the loading time. If you have a WordPress site, you can do this easily by installing a plugin that does that for you.
Another tip is to enable browser caching and gzip compression. Both of them will speed up your entire site. The first makes your site faster to load for returning visitors and the latter compresses static files, which makes them faster to load into your browser.
In case of a WordPress install, we also recommend taking a good look at the plugins that are activated. Are you actually using all of them? Perhaps some of them can be replaced by another plugin that combines those functions? The best advice we can give you on this topic is that less is more. The fewer plugins that are activated, the faster your WordPress installment can be loaded.
#2: Trying to rank for the wrong keywords
If you want to rank in Google you have to make sure that you’re using the right keywords for every page. One of the biggest mistakes I frequently encounter is that site owners are optimizing for too generic keywords. If you are a relatively small business that wants to rank for ‘rental car’, you’re aiming too high. You should try to come up with something more specific than that. Otherwise, you’re competing with all the car rental companies all over the world, which is impossible to do! So at least make sure you add the area in which your company is located to the keyword. This will make the keyword more long tail, as we call it.
The longer and more specific the keywords are, the higher your chances of ranking for this keyword. Of course, this also means that the search volume for this keyword decreases, but you can compensate for this by optimizing a lot of pages on your site for different long tail keywords. Your site will eventually gain more traffic for all of these keywords combined, than it ever would if you optimized for one main keyword, for which you could never rank page 1 in Google.
#3: Failing to invite people to visit your site
Metadata is what appears on search engine result pages (SERPs) when a website comes up for certain queries. It includes the title of the page and its meta description. The page title is still one of the most important ranking factors for Google, so you have to make sure it’s optimized correctly for every page. This means adding the relevant keyword to each particular page and making sure that your page title isn’t too long. If your page title is too long (currently 400 to 600 pixels), it will get cut off in Google. You don’t want potential visitors to be unable to read the full title in the SERPs.
The meta description is not a ranking factor, but it does play an important part in optimizing your Click Through Rate (CTR). CTR gives some insight into how likely potential visitors are to actually click on your site in the SERPs. If you optimize your meta descriptions with clear and attractive extracts on what potential visitors can find on your site, it becomes easier for them to see if the information they’re looking for is on that page. The more likely potential visitors are to think your site will provide an answer to their search query, the more traffic a page will gain.
#4: Neglecting to write awesome content
We regularly write about writing awesome content on this blog, but we still frequently come across sites that do a poor job in writing content. It’s important to make sure every page of your site has decent content, at least 300 words. You can’t expect Google to see you as an expert on a certain topic when you have only written two sentences about it. This indicates to Google that your page probably isn’t the best result to match the search query.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to think of Google as your audience. You write for your visitors and not for Google. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and provide the best answers possible. Therefore, writing quality content for your audience is also something that will immediately lead to Google’s approval.
Writing quality content means writing original content. This is also important to avoid duplicate content with other sites. And it means that sites have to stop stuffing keywords into their texts. Your text has to be easy to read for your visitor. Obviously, your visitor doesn’t benefit from a keyword stuffed text, because this decreases the readability.
#5: No call to action for your visitors
Once visitors are on your site, an important goal is to keep them on your site. You don’t want your visitors immediately bouncing back to Google once they have read something on your site. This is why you need to encourage visitors to click through your site. The best way to do this is to create a call-to-action (CTA), which usually is a button that offers an action to your visitor. This can be, for instance, a ‘buy’ button on a product page, or a ‘sign up’ button for the newsletters.
Make sure that every page has one call-to-action, so the goal of the page is clear. If you add multiple buttons, you lose the focus of the page and your visitors won’t get where you want them to go. So think about what the right goal is for every page. Also, make sure that the CTA stands out from your design, so it’s clearly visible and cannot be missed. If the button blends into the design of your page too much, it will attract fewer clicks. So make it stands out: don’t be afraid to use a distinct color!
In 2018 Google switched to mobile-first indexing. This means that Google looks at the mobile version of your site to decide how high you should rank. So if the desktop version of your site is set up brilliantly, but your mobile site isn’t responsive at all, you have a lot of work to do!
A great way to test if your site is – at least – mobile friendly is to use Google’s mobile-friendly test. This gives you an indication if your site is fit for displaying on mobile devices. But don’t stop after checking this. The best advice we can give is to visit your site on your mobile phone. Browse your own site for a while and try to click on every button, image, and link to see what happens. Is everything working as expected? Can you actually purchase something on your site while using your mobile phone? Are all pages displayed correctly? You might find you’ll have some work to do!
As SEO consultants we’ve seen many sites making the same mistakes. Learn from the ones we’ve listed in this post: focus on site speed, write great content and optimize for the right keywords. If you make sure people want to visit your site, have great calls-to-action and prepare for mobile, you’re already on your way to a well-optimized website, the holistic way!
Google has changed a lot in 20 years. What started as an index of “just” a few million pages is now reaching into the hundreds of billions; what was once a relatively simple (if very clever!) search engine is now an impossibly complex brew of machine learning, computer vision, and data science that finds its way into the daily lives of most of the planet.
Google held a small press event in San Francisco today to discuss what’s next, and what it saw as the “Future of Search”.
Here’s everything they talked about:
The famously minimalist Google.com homepage is about to get a bit more crowded (at least on mobile.)
Google says that 1 in 8 queries in a given month are repeats — a user returning to search on a topic they care about. With that in mind, it’s going to start highlighting these topics for you before you start your search.
Google Feed (the content discovery news feed it’s been building out in the dedicated Google App and on the Android home screen) is being rebranded as “Discover” and will now live underneath the Google.com search bar on all mobile browsers.
Discover will highlight news, video, and information about topics Google thinks you care about — like, say, hiking, or soccer, or the NBA. If you want a certain topic to show up more or less, there’s a slider to adjust accordingly.
It’ll start rolling out “in the next few weeks”
Recalling past queries
In the same vein: Google will now learn to recognize when you’re returning to a topic you’ve searched for before, and try to start back up where you left off. When returning to a search topic, you’ll now see a card at the top of the results that’ll offer up a list of the pages you clicked through to before, and relevant follow-up queries people tend to search for next.
While Google keeping track of what you searched for is nothing new, finding that info generally meant digging through settings pages to find your history. With this, Google is attempting to play something that otherwise seems a bit creepy into a front page feature.
(And to answer what I imagine will be just about everyone’s first question: Google’s Nick Fox says you can remove the card, or “opt out of seeing it all together”.)
Trillions of searches later, Google knows what you’re probably looking for, and what you’ll be looking for next. And they can get pretty specific about it.
To use their example: if you’re searching for “Pug”, you’re probably looking for characteristics of the breed, or for images of well-known pugs. People searching for a longer haired breed like a Yorkshire Terrier, meanwhile, are often interested in things like grooming details — even if it’s not the first thing they search for.
With this in mind, Google’s knowledge graph will now dynamically generate cards for a given topic and present them at the top of the results page — basically, an all-in-one info packet of everything it thinks you’re looking for, or might look for next.
In a move that feels pretty Pinteresty, you’ll now be able to save search results into “collections” for later perusal. Google will look for patterns in your collections, and toss up suggested pages when it finds an overlap.
Now Google is “doubling down” (their words) on stories. AI will generate stories built up from articles, images, and videos on a search topic (starting with notable people “like celebrities and athletes) and incorporate them into search results.
Google Images Upgrades
Google Images is picking up support for Google Lens — the company’s computer vision-heavy solution for figuring out exactly what is within an image. Their example: in a search result for “nursery”, Google Lens could help to identify a specific type of crib or bookcase that you’ve highlighted in an image.
Whether you’re a blogger or you write articles for an online magazine or newspaper, chances are you’ll find yourself asking whether your article needs an image or not. The answer is always “Yes”. Images bring an article to life and can also contribute to your website’s SEO. This post explains how to fully optimize an image for SEO and provides some pointers on using images for the best user experience.
Always use images
Images, when used with care, will help readers better understand your article. The old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” probably doesn’t apply to Google, but it’s certainly true when you need to spice up 1,000 dull words, illustrate what you mean in a chart or data flow diagram, or just make your social media posts more enticing.
It’s a simple recommendation: you should add images to every article you write online to make them more appealing. What’s more, since visual search is getting increasingly important — as seen in Google’s vision for the future of search — it could turn out to provide you with a nice bit of traffic. If you have visual content it might make sense to put image SEO a bit higher on your to-do list.
Google Images was recently revamped with a brand-new interface. You’ll also find new filters, meta data and even attribution. The cool new filters show that Google increasingly knows what’s in an image and how that image fits into the larger context.
Google’s new interface for Image Search was released at the end of September 2018
Finding the right image
It’s always better to use original images – those you have taken yourself – than stock photos. Your team page needs pictures of your actual team, not this dude on the right or one of his stock photo friends. Off topic: never mind that dude needs a haircut.
Your article needs an image relevant to its subject. If you’re choosing a random photo just to get a green bullet in our SEO plugin’s content analysis, then you’re doing it wrong. The image should reflect the topic of the post or have illustrative purposes within the article of course. Try to place the image near the relevant text. If you have a main image or an image that you’re trying to rank, try to keep that near the top of the page, if it makes sense.
There is a simple image SEO reason for all of this: an image with related text ranks better for the keyword it is optimized for. There’s more about image SEO later.
If you don’t have any images of your own that you can use, there are other ways to find unique images and still avoid stock photos. Flickr.com is a nice image source for instance, as you can use Creative Commons images. Don’t forget to attribute the original photographer. I also like the images provided by sites like Unsplash. Our blogger Caroline wrote an awesome overview of where to get great images. Steer clear of the obvious stock photos, picking the ones that look (ok, just a bit) more genuine. But whatever you use, it seems like images with people in them always look like stock photos, unless you took them yourself. In the end, that’s always the best idea.
Obvious alternatives for photos could be illustrations, which is what we use, or graphs. An honorable mention should go to animated GIFs, as they are incredibly popular these days.
But even though animated GIFs are popular, don’t go overboard. It’ll make your post harder to read, as the movement of the image distracts your readers’ attention. They can also slow down your page.
Preparing images for use in your article
Once you have found the right image – whether an illustration, chart or photo – the next step is to optimize it for use on your website. There are a number of things you need to think about:
Choose the right file name
Image SEO starts with the file name. You want Google to know what the image is about without even looking at it, so use your focus keyphrase in the image file name. It’s simple: if your image shows a sunrise in Paris over Notre Dame Cathedral, the file name shouldn’t be DSC4536.jpg, but notre-dame-paris-sunrise.jpg. The main keyphrase would be Notre Dame, as that is the main subject of the photo, which is why it’s at the beginning of the file name.
Scale for image SEO
Loading times are important for UX and SEO. The faster the site, the easier it is to visit and index a page. Images can have a big impact on loading times, especially when you upload a huge image then display it really small – for example a 2500×1500 pixels image displayed at 250×150 pixels size – as the entire image still has to be loaded. So resize the image to how you want it displayed. WordPress helps by automatically providing the image in multiple sizes after upload. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the file size is optimized as well, that’s just the image display size.
Use responsive images
This one is essential for SEO as well, and if you’re using WordPress it’s done for you since it was added by default from version 4.4. Images should have the srcset attribute, which makes it possible to serve a different image per screen width — especially useful for mobile devices.
Reduce file size
The next step in image SEO should be to make sure that scaled image is compressed so it is served in the smallest file size possible.
Of course, you could just export the image and experiment with quality percentages, but I prefer to use 100% quality images, especially given the popularity of retina and similar screens.
Tools like JPEGmini can drastically reduce image file sizes without artifacts
While Google is getting better at recognizing what’s in an image, you shouldn’t rely on their abilities just yet. It all comes down to you providing the context for that image — so fill in as much as you can!
Now your image is ready to use, but don’t just throw it into your article anywhere. As mentioned earlier, adding it close to related textual content helps a lot. It makes sure the text is as relevant to the image as the image is to the text.
The image caption is the text that accompanies the image on the page — if you look at the images in this article, it’s the text in the gray box below each one. Why are captions important for image SEO? Because people use them when scanning an article. People tend to scan headings, images and captions as they scan a web page. Back in 1997, Nielsen wrote:
“Elements that enhance scanning include headings, large type, bold text, highlighted text, bulleted lists, graphics, captions, topic sentences, and tables of contents.”
“Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, so not using them, or not using them correctly, means missing out on an opportunity to engage a huge number of potential readers.”
Do you need to add captions to every image? No, because sometimes images serve other purposes. Decide whether you want to use yours for SEO as well or not. Bearing in mind the need to avoid over-optimization, I’d say you should only add captions where it would make sense to the visitor for one to be there. Think about the visitor first, and don’t add a caption just for image SEO.
Alt text and title text
The alt text (or alt tag) is added to an image so there will be descriptive text in place if the image can’t be displayed to the visitor for any reason. I can’t put it any better than Wikipedia:
“In situations where the image is not available to the reader, perhaps because they have turned off images in their web browser or are using a screen reader due to a visual impairment, the alternative text ensures that no information or functionality is lost.”
Be sure to add alt text to every image you use, and make sure the alt text includes the SEO keyword for that page (if appropriate). Most importantly, describe what’s in the image so both search engines and people can make sense of it. The more relevant information surrounding an image has, the more search engines deem this image important.
When hovering over an image, some browsers show the alt text as a ‘tooltip’. Chrome shows the title text as was intended. Title text for images is similar and a lot of people who use titles simply copy the alt text, but more and more people leave them out altogether. Why is that? Here’s Mozilla’s take:
“title has a number of accessibility problems, mainly based around the fact that screen reader support is very unpredictable and most browsers won’t show it unless you are hovering with a mouse (so e.g. no access to keyboard users).”
It is better to include such supporting information in the main article text, rather than attached to the image.
Adding structured data to your pages can help search engines display your images as rich results. While Google says structured data doesn’t help you rank better, it does help to achieve a more fleshed out listing in Image Search. There’s more, though. For instance, if you have recipes on your site and you add structured data to your images Google can also add a badge to your images showing that this image belongs to a recipe. Google Images supports structured data for the following types:
Google has a number of guidlines you need to follow if you want your images to appear rich in image search. Main takeaway is that the image attribute is mandatory and that your images should be crawlable and indexable. You can find them all Google’s Structured Data General Guidelines. Try out Structured data training if you want to learn how to add structured data to your pages!
OpenGraph and Twitter Cards
Earlier on, I mentioned using images for social sharing. If you add the following image tag to the <head> section in your page HTML like this:
That will make sure the image is included in your share on Facebook (and OpenGraph is also used for Pinterest, for instance).
Our Yoast SEO plugin has a Social section where you can set and even – in the Premium version – preview your Facebook and Twitter posts. Make sure you use a high-quality image, like the original image you used in the post, as the social platforms use higher quality/larger images more often than not. If you have set this up correctly, and it doesn’t work, try to flush Facebook’s cache in the URL Debugger. Twitter Cards do the same for Twitter and are also generated by our plugin.
This is one of my pet peeves: Images should never break the left reading line. I’m sure there are studies backing this up, but for me it’s personal. I just really don’t like it when text starts to the right of an image, only to jump to the left the next image down:
Maintain the left reading line; don’t align images to the left
If you use an image at the same width as your text column, that’s fine and it will even help emphasize the image more.
I’ll be honest: this has absolutely nothing to do with image SEO, but I saw the chance to express my opinion and used it! I think it’s bad for user experience. So, just to please me: don’t do this. Thanks, I appreciate it.
XML image sitemaps
If you are a web developer, you might wonder about XML image sitemaps. I’d prefer to describe this as images in XML sitemaps. Google is clear about this:
Every now and then, people ask us about XML image sitemaps. We don’t generate these in our plugin, but follow Google’s advice and include them in the page or post sitemaps. Just scroll down in our post sitemap and you’ll see we have added images to all our latest posts (there is a column just for that). Adding images to your XML sitemaps helps Google index your images, so be sure to do so for better image SEO.
Image SEO: summary
Image SEO is the sum of a number of elements. With Google getting better at recognizing elements in images every day, it makes sense to make sure the image and all its elements contribute to a good user experience as well as SEO. It would be foolish to try to kid Google.
Keep these things in mind when adding an image to an article:
Use a relevant image that matches your text
Pick a good file name for your image
Make sure image dimensions match the image size as displayed
Use srcset if possible
Reduce file size for faster loading
Add a caption, if appropriate, for easier scanning of the page
Use image alt text. Title text is optional
Add structured data to your images
Add OpenGraph and Twitter Card tags for the image
Don’t break the left reading line with an image – align images right or center
Use images in your XML sitemaps
Provide all the context you can!
Besides contributing to SEO and user experience, images can also play an important role in conversion!
When Google announced Showcase Shopping ads in 2016, two objectives were mission critical: to help shoppers discover what they wanted to buy and where they wanted to buy it.
Today, the ad format is still an important method used to capture shoppers using broad terms on Google. But the tech giant is doing more than just catering to upper funnel shoppers this holiday season. Recent updates have made Showcase ads appear for more specific queries while the addition of video is giving retailers a new, visual way to promote their brand.
A lot is happening in the world of Showcase ads ahead of the year-end retail rush. Let’s talk about Google’s latest updates, results we’re seeing, and what retailers can do to get the most out of Showcase ads during the holidays.
Here’s what is new
Showcase terms expand
Showcase ads were initially released as ads displayed for generic queries. Recent data from Sidecar (my employer) has shown that they’re also moving down the shopping funnel as the holidays approach. In addition to broad search terms, Showcase ads are now rendering for more specific and branded terms.
These terms, which now range from broad searches like “couch” or “sofa” to detailed searches like “KitchenAid mixer,” indicate Google’s willingness to test a wide range of search queries and determine the value of Showcase ads throughout the shopping journey. Engaging high-intent shoppers may lead to higher conversions and position Showcase ads as a full-funnel format.
In September, Google announced a new addition called video in Showcase ads. This feature allows retailers to include a video of any length along with their Showcase ad. Video is a vehicle retailers can use to differentiate themselves and serve captivating visuals to get shoppers’ attention. Google was strategic with its release, too: The rollout of video comes just in time for the holiday season.
Still a discovery-driven format? Look to the data
Showcase ads may soon be an effective way to drive purchases and find new customers, but the data suggests they are still mainly an exposure play for retailers. We took a look at Showcase ad performance over a 16-week period between July and October 2018. The data, based on a sample of over 50 U.S. retailers, shows that impressions and engagements increased significantly while conversions stayed relatively flat over that time.
Both impressions and engagements began to tick up in mid-September, with each reaching peak values in mid-October. Conversions, on the other hand, remained static over the 16-week trial, never seeing more than a 20 percent week-over-week increase.
Google’s expansion of Showcase terms to include specific queries may help bolster conversions over time, but for now, Showcase ads remain an exploratory ad format.
Tactics to employ this holiday season
Use Showcase ads to increase exposure
Discovery is key when it comes to Showcase ads. While it’s helped inform early-stage shoppers about new retailers and products, the expansion of Showcase terms targets shoppers in every stage of the shopping journey.
Use Showcase ads to get your name and products in front of as many shoppers as possible. It’s a powerful format that helps shoppers get more acquainted with your brand and the products you have to offer. Whether your ads appear to low-intent shoppers in the research phase or high-intent shoppers ready to buy, being visible to a wide range of shoppers can only benefit your business.
Keep an eye on specific and branded query performance
The growing number of Showcase terms expands the playing field to include shoppers who are further down the funnel. While it remains unknown just how well specific terms in Showcase ads perform, retail marketers should keep a keen eye on specific and branded searches — especially during the holidays.
Use query mapping to see which ad groups and keywords specific queries are being matched with. This will shed light on how well these lower-funnel searches are faring in Showcase ads. Stay close to shifts in performance from one campaign to the next and use this intel to inform spend on specific keywords.
Know the difference between negating keywords in Shopping and Showcase ads
When two or more Shopping campaigns promote the same product, a priority setting (low, medium, or high) can be set for each to determine which campaigns’ set of products should be bid on in auction. This setting can also help funnel certain keywords downward.
The process of segmenting keywords is different for Showcase ads. According to Google, campaign priority is not compatible with Showcase ads. If you create a low-priority Showcase campaign that only contains keywords you negated from the high-priority campaign, the low-priority campaign will pick up many queries along with the queries negated from the high-priority campaign.
Don’t look to your Shopping campaigns to inform your negative keywords for Showcase ads. Instead, simply negate the keywords you don’t want to appear for Showcase ads.
Build a campaign tree that excludes underperforming products
Showcase ads don’t allow you to bid at the product or product group level. Since this is the case, think about building a campaign tree to exclude certain products that don’t perform well. This will help you focus directly on promoting the products that move the needle for your business and achieve your Showcase ad goals.
If you’re focused on generic query performance, for example, you may exclude high price tiers so you’re showing products that are more affordable and approachable to a wider variety of buyers.
Use the search terms report to gauge the need for new ads
Let your query performance inform your campaigns. In Google Ads, use the search terms report to determine which queries are driving traffic to your site and which queries are performing poorly. Running this report helps you gauge the need to create new Showcase ads. For instance, if you have a kitchen appliance ad or ad group and are seeing queries roll in for coffeemakers, it may be a good idea to build a separate ad specifically targeting coffeemakers.
Develop a strategic approach to video content
Video in Showcase ads will be an important vehicle in maximizing brand exposure. Before deployment, however, retailers should give their development process careful consideration. Think about how your business can benefit from the addition of video and what its purpose will serve in each of your Showcase ads. These factors should serve as the backbone of your video production strategy.
Consider all that goes into the development of video for Showcase ads. From content ideation to creative execution, video requires collaborative thought from some resources. Create a content strategy for video that makes the best use of your time and team.
These tactics can play a big part in getting the most out your Showcase ads this holiday season. With these actionable items in place, your Showcase ads are set to take on the holiday retail blitz and beyond.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Steve Costanza is the Senior Analytics Consultant of Enterprise Customer Strategy at Sidecar. He analyzes digital marketing performance and strategic direction for large retailers across verticals, focusing on data visualizations and advanced account segmentation. He is responsible for deriving meaning from numbers and determining how to use those insights to drive marketing decision making. Steve is especially close to Google’s new innovations impacting Shopping and paid search. He has a master’s degree in data analytics and contributes to Search Engine Land as well as Sidecar Discover, the publication by Sidecar that covers research and ideas shaping digital marketing in retail.
Roughly a month ago European Commission (EC) competition chief Margrethe Vestager said that Google’s efforts in shopping search were making progress and that the company would likely be able to avoid additional antitrust penalties. However in a new open letter to Vestager, EU shopping comparison rivals argue that things are actually getting worse for them.
The backstory. In June, 2017 the EC fined Google roughly $2.7 billion for alleged abuse of market position in vertical (shopping) search. Following that decision, which Google is in the process of appealing, Google implemented a number of changes to provide “equal treatment” for rival Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) in Europe.
The major change Google made was to treat Google Shopping as a separate business unit with its own operating budget that would compete with other shopping sites to appear in Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs). It also said the business unit would operate at a profit. All parties would now theoretically compete on equal footing to appear in PLAs.
‘Harm continues unabated.’ According to the letter’s signatories, that’s not how things are playing out. Signed by the leaders of 14 CSEs, the letter states, “It has now been more than a year since Google introduced its auction-based ‘remedy’, and the harm to competition, consumers and innovation caused by Google’s illegal conduct has continued unabated.”
The letter argues there’s no material difference between the new approach and the previous system, which was found to violate EU antitrust rules, except that Google has to compete to appear in PLAs. However, the CSEs dismiss that change as “meaningless.”
The shopping sites object to the PLA auction itself, saying it compels them to “bid away the vast majority of their profit.” They dismiss Google’s participation in the auction, as an independent unit that has to achieve a profit, as “meaningless internal accounting.” They also argue that because users who click on their PLAs go directly to merchant sites and not the CSEs themselves, they have no opportunity to “derive value from the process.”
Rejecting the auction entirely. They also argue that the auction harms consumers because it is “all but eradicating” a “thriving [online] comparison shopping market in Europe.”
The letter concludes that, “As long as placement is determined by auction rather than relevance, it makes little material difference whether competitors occupy none, some, or even all of the available slots. In all cases, Google is the main beneficiary of any profits derived from these entries, and consumers are the main losers.”
Without specifying a desired alternative approach, beyond implying it should be based on “relevance,” the group encourages the EC “to enforce its Prohibition Decision by rejecting Google’s non-compliant ‘compliance mechanism’ and demanding an effective remedy that adheres to the principle of equal treatment set out in the Decision.”
Why it matters. The outcome of Google’s appeal in Europe could still be a couple of years off. In the interim it will have to comply with the EC’s decisions. And while Google and its stock have mostly been impervious to even multi-billion-dollar fines, the CSEs’ letter could put pressure on the EC to compel additional changes in shopping search results or an entirely new approach in Europe, which would certainly impact everyone across that 28 country market.
About The Author
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local SEO Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.
As more brick-and-mortar conglomerates bite the dust and online sales continue to climb, the ability of a smaller ecommerce brand to stand above the crowd will determine its life or death.
As many businesses know at this point, content marketing is the crucial ingredient for this task.
The landscape of content marketing is changing like crazy.
As the standards of SEO, web design, writing, etc. continue to evolve, businesses from all industries are continuously forced to refine their approaches.
The harsh reality is that some strategies can work like magic one day, then be completely obsolete the next.
Nowadays, the scope of what defines “good content” for ecommerce businesses is a layered concept that involves many elements.
Let’s discuss five ways ecommerce brands can establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
1. Prioritize E-A-T Score
One the most important recent changes to Google’s search quality ratings guidelines involved E-A-T score (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness).
There is now a strong focus on applying this score to individual content creators, rather than brands themselves. The idea is to refine the way content is ranked based on the source.
For example, if someone is producing content and weight supplements, they should have a strong E-A-T score in the medical field.
So how does this factor in for ecommerce brands?
Google’s algorithms are designed to mimic hypothetical human quality raters.
That being said, if you want your product pages to rank highly on the SERPs, you need to find ways to improve your E-A-T score.
You need to prove to the search engines (and the users) that you have a proven knowledge of the goods you sell.
As an ecommerce retailer, start by making sure that you work with highly reputable manufacturers.
If you make it a point to showcase that your suppliers/manufacturers have recognized expertise in your field, this is going to reflect on you.
Additionally, you can reach out to renowned figures with proven industry expertise to give you recommendations.
The functionality, aesthetics, and integrity of your website play a huge role in how experts will decide to recommend you and your products.
This is all about verifying Expertise.
In the ecommerce world, it’s easy for bigger companies that manufacture their own products (like L.L Bean and Nike) to be seen as highly authoritative.
Third-party sellers, on the other hand, need to have evidence that they are a verified merchant for certain products.
For example, if you have the Better Business Bureau logo linked to your website with verified affiliation, the page would likely rank higher.
Getting your product pages to rank well comes down to the concept of customer success. For instance:
Do your product pages answer potential questions or concerns a buyer might have?
Is it easy to get in contact with you?
Is the return process clearly explained?
Are there any unpleasant surprises in the checkout?
Are there verified user ratings?
Do the pages deploy HTTPS?
These are just a few pieces of the puzzle when it comes to building trust. Essentially, the more descriptive, intuitive, and secure your product pages are, the better they will rank.
E-A-T score has been building up in importance for some time now, and will continue to in the future. In order to get product pages ranked, these guidelines will need to play a key role in your content marketing strategy.
2. Integrate Video into Product Pages & Beyond
The biggest drawback of buying online has always been the inability to look at products in person. For the most part, you never really know what you are getting until it shows up on your doorstep.
Now, AR has been doing amazing things to remedy this problem.
However, most online brands aren’t IKEA – they don’t have the budget to spend on this flashy feature.
That being said, incorporating video into your product pages and content marketing plan should be a must. It’s no secret that the internet loves video content. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 75 percent of all online traffic is video.
Starting with product pages, video does wonders to give buyers a visual understanding of what they are buying.
Seeing a real human handling the product is about as close as they can get to seeing it in person.
Take a look at this one from Saddleback Leather:
This video does a fantastic job of giving viewers everything they need to know about the product, along with some personal insight.
Simply put, images and descriptions of products can only get you so far.
Now, outside of the product page, you can use video to discuss the latest trends in your industry, compare items, bring in guests, etc.
Keep in mind, the search engines and social media (Facebook especially) favors video in their ranking algorithms.
Using video across the entire scope of your ecommerce content marketing plan does a lot to solidify your brand voice and values, as well as gives potential buyers all the information they need.
3. Focus on Qualified Reviews from Google Partners
Nearly everyone who has ever bought something online knows how much customer reviews can influence purchasing decisions.
Reviews are validation from a third-party source with no ulterior motives. That’s why reviews are extremely powerful in convincing people to buy.
Unfortunately, many companies and review services took advantage of this and would produce phony reviews in an attempt to increase customer confidence.
Over time, both consumers and the search engines wised up to this shady practice.
Reviews have been a ranking signal for a while, but Google has made it a point to favor those that are left via a verified Google Review Partner.
Partner platforms like Trustpilot and Yotpo do a lot to ensure all reviews are authentic and timely, and for that, Google sees them as credible resources. These verified reviews can do a lot to improve your Google Seller Ratings.
Accounts with 1,000 followers or less normally see an 8 percent like rate, whereas this number drops to about 4 percent in followings of 1,001-9,999.
The takeaway is that smaller followers tend to be more focused on the message. When it comes to influencer marketing, engagement will always be more important than the number of followers.
A couple of years ago, Banana Republic did a great job choosing micro-influencers to promote their products on Instagram.
By using a diverse set of industry influencers for different styles and hashtags, they were able to reach a plethora of different audience segments for relatively cheap!
So, instead of dumping all your budget on a single big name, you are wise to choose several different micro-influencers. Your engagement rates will likely be much higher and give you a better ROI.
5. Do It for a Cause
Cause marketing has been a huge buzzword in recent years. In the realm of content marketing, it can do wonders to create a more loyal and devoted customer base.
According to Edelman, 64 percent of consumers buy on belief, and will choose, switch, boycott, or avoid brands based on their standing in relation to a social issue.
Now, cause marketing can be a small as a monthly or annual contribution to a cause.
Or, the cause can define the brand itself.
Patagonia has been doing this successfully since day one.
As an ecommerce brand looking to get the ball rolling in cause marketing, several key factors come into play.
First and foremost, you need to choose a cause that has parallels with your business goals. If there are no congruencies, it will look like a cheap PR stunt.
KFC’s “Buckets for a Cure” campaign is a prime example of this type of failure. A few years back, KFC paired with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research and donated $0.50 for every bucket of chicken sold.
In terms of money raised, it was a great success. However, from a PR standpoint, it missed the mark horribly. This is because fried chicken simply has nothing to do with breast cancer.
Many would argue that greasy fast food can actually increase the risk of cancer! The lesson here is to choose a cause wisely and prove that you have a strong business devotion.
Next, once you’ve chosen a fitting cause, you need to figure out the details of how you will contribute.
Will a portion of a purchase go toward the cause?
Will it be a “buy one give one” deal?
Will it be action-driven where customers can get involved themselves?
There are several types of cause marketing to consider. Be critical in your choice and understand how it will benefit both parties.
In a nutshell, cause marketing shows customers that their money is going to something greater than both themselves and the seller.
One of my favorite examples is TOMS’ One-for-One campaign.
When a customer purchases a pair of shoes from TOMS, the company donates a pair to children in developing countries. The campaign has given more than 35 million pairs of shoes to children in need.
Now, something like this might not be feasible for a small ecommerce operation. The most important thing is that you prove you are devoted and promote the fact that buying your product is making the world a better place.
There’s no denying that ecommerce businesses have it tough these days.
After all, they are going up against one of the biggest business giants to ever grace the world: Amazon.
If you look at all the successful ecommerce brands out there (aside from Amazon and eBay), the biggest common thread is that they produce and distribute stellar content.
If you are looking to gain traction for your ecommerce store, keep these five strategies in mind.
You also don’t have the same internal resources to create the “10X content” every other article on link building says you need in order to get links.
And because you’re small, it’s simply not as easy for you to attract links as a big, well-known brand.
However, link building is not impossible. Like everything else that’s hard, it just takes time and effort.
When you’re a small business with limited time and resources, you need to make sure that any time you devote to link building is spent on tactics that will actually work.
Good news: all of the below link building ideas really work. I’ve personally tried all of them with my own clients, many of whom are small businesses. Let’s dig in.
1. Support Your Local Community
Charitable organizations and nonprofits are always looking for sponsors. At least one sponsorship tier will include backlinks to a sponsor’s site.
Think about what organizations you can sponsor in your town. Do they host fundraising events?
Don’t limit yourself to traditional charities. Consider schools and for-profit events as well. Anyone in need of a sponsor is a potential backlink candidate.
Ideally, the sponsorship should make sense for your brand — by either aligning with your physical location or your industry.
To uplevel this tactic, sponsor something that your target customers actually care about, instead of sponsoring anyone who will give you a link.
The goal with link building should never focus solely on links; you want those links to translate to traffic, too.
This tactic does require a monetary investment, but it can take less upfront effort than other link building ideas.
Typically, you don’t have to build a strong relationship with event sponsors or convince them of why you’re worthy of a link.
Send them the money for your sponsorship tier, and you’ll get everything that’s included.
2. Connect with Local & Niche Bloggers
Who are the popular bloggers who cover your city or industry?
These content creators are expected to drive constant content for their readers. Like any content manager, they run out of ideas from time to time. Be the hero that gives them an idea.
Follow these folks on social media and subscribe to their blog. Comment or reshare their pieces when you find them interesting. Build a genuine relationship.
Over time, this can translate to natural mentions.
In the meantime, pay attention to what they write about, and review where it might make sense for them to include you.
If you’re a florist, you might ask to be included in their roundup blog of local gift ideas.
If you sell accounting software, you might ask a personal finance blogger if they want your CEO’s top tips for getting a tax refund.
The key here is to share something of real value for their readers. These bloggers are influential because their content helps their audience. Help them do that, and they’ll want to help you.
As a small business, you’ll have better luck going after smaller bloggers. These so-called micro-influencers may not have the domain authority of a celebrity blogger, but their niche focus makes their backlinks highly relevant for your website.
3. Run a Scholarship
Sponsoring local organizations are one way to give back. College or high school sponsorships are another — and there’s an excellent way to earn juicy .edu backlinks.
I’ve covered this before on Search Engine Journal, so you can read my step-by-step walkthrough for this kind of link building campaign there.
The idea is to create a scholarship for college or high schools students that are relevant to your small business.
If you’re a realtor, ask students to write an essay response hypothesizing the future of the housing industry.
Then, reach out to the financial aid offices at schools and ask them to share it with their students.
You will need to set aside some budget for this, but it’s one of the most effective link building campaigns I’ve ever run, and it really helps students in need.
As a small business, I recommend limiting your campaign to the local regions where you operate or focusing on schools with a major department that matches your industry.
Plus, after you select a winner, you can always run a press release for additional coverage and potential backlinks.
4. Guest Post for Industry-Relevant Sites
You’ve seen this suggestion multiple times before, and that’s because it works.
Guest blogging takes real effort, perhaps the most out of any tactics on this list.
You have to:
It’s a lot of work, but it’s commensurate with the return you get.
Guest posts provide much more than a backlink. When you land a guest post on a site your target audience frequents, they can drive qualified traffic your way.
Plus, having a byline on these sites helps elevate the status of your brand.
Small businesses often run into roadblocks when they pitch guest posts to popular sites. Instead of going after the biggest sites you’ve ever heard of, pitch articles to sites that are smaller, but relevant, to your industry.
Using our accounting software example, you might go after personal finance blogs with engaged readerships, rather than publishing behemoths like the Wall Street Journal.
If your small business regularly partners with other companies from complementary verticals, consider pitching them a guest post, too.
They’re already in the habit of referring customers your way, so there’s a clear fit there.
How can you write a post for their site that provides value to their readers, while making it natural for them to contact you?
For instance, a short-term rental management company might partner with a local maid service. The maid service could write a guest blog providing tips for cleaning your home in between Airbnb rentals.
5. Offer Case Studies or Testimonials
This is one easy link building tactic I don’t see being used nearly as often as it should.
What vendors or software products does your business use? If you’re happy with them, offer to take part in a case study or provide them with a testimonial.
It’s customary practice for brands to link to the business featured in the case study or testimonial, in gratitude for their social proof.
You don’t want to go into this asking for the link, and you should only do this for brands you’re sincerely satisfied with.
Contact your sales rep. Let them know how much their product or service has helped you, and that you’d be willing to provide a testimonial for them. You’re going to make their day.
Set up free Google Alerts for “[your brand name goes here]” and “[yourdomain.com]”, as well as the names of any prominent members of your leadership team.
Whenever a website mentions you without including a link, reach out.
This is a friendly audience who already thought you were worth mentioning to their readers. It’s only natural for them to include a link to your site, so their readers can learn more about you.
Pro tip: Review every mention before you reach out. If a site mentioned your business in a negative way, do not consider that your opening to ask them for a link. Instead, consider it an opportunity to evaluate their feedback and how you may need to adapt your business, if at all.
7. Promote Your Content Far & Wide
You’re already writing blogs and sharing advice on your small business website. Are you doing anything else to promote that content, besides the obligatory share on social media?
Take to the internet. There are many popular online blogs that allow you to syndicate your content (like Medium, LinkedIn, and others). Simply due to their massive size, these sites are much more likely to rank for your target keywords than you are.
Don’t get frustrated by that; use it to your advantage instead.
Rewrite a compelling intro for your blog, or rewrite in its entirety, and post a canonical link back to your website.
This tactic is known as content syndication, and fellow SEJ writer Ben Jacobson wrote a great piece on it right here.
You can also share links to your content in social sharing sites and online message boards like Quora and Slideshare.
Monitor the threads that are relevant to your business. Show off your business expertise and provide real value in your response – before pointing users to a piece of content on your website for additional information.
Do this regularly enough, and you’ll start to build a name for yourself as an authority in the space. Users on these sites may start to follow you specifically to see your answers. That translates to traffic.
Speaking of traffic, this tactic usually (but not always) results in unfollowed links. While less valuable from a link equity perspective, nofollow links can be just as valuable for driving traffic — and that’s the ultimate goal of link building, really.
Links are just one way to boost your search rankings. Traffic is what you really want.
Link Building for Your Small Business
Link building can work for small business. In fact, it can work really well.
You just have to be thoughtful about where you put your efforts. Spend your time on tactics that work, and you’ll start to see results.
Welcome to another edition of Ask an SEO! Today’s question comes from João B. in Portugal. He asks:
Should I disavow from my backlink profile (with GSC) a link that comes from a site with very low DA, but that is related to the theme of my company (no signal of spam) and that sends a lot of traffic?
Could you help us with this?
I want to congratulate you; I’m pretty sure this is the only question we’ve ever gotten that doesn’t have an “it depends” answer.
The answer is absolutely not. Don’t disavow a link unless it is spam.
Remember, any link value from a third-party tool (DA is Domain Authority and is specific to the Moz link tool), is an estimate of the link’s relative value. In most cases, this is determined by the links into a site.
Just because a site doesn’t have a good link rating doesn’t mean it’s a bad site. If the site is relevant to your business and sends quality traffic, it’s a good site.
SEO people worry so much about search guidelines sometimes that they forget to use common sense. You’re not alone in this at all.
But there are other things besides search traffic. And there are lots of reasons to make decisions other than SEO.
Think about it this way:
If you had a guy who came into your store every day wearing something embarrassing – maybe clown shoes – but every time he came in, he bought 10x what the average person does, would you ask him not to come in anymore?
Of course, you wouldn’t.
Similarly, you shouldn’t turn down a free source of good traffic. Just because they have no links now doesn’t mean they always won’t.
If anything, it’s great to have a solid source of traffic outside of Google.
Google may send 80 percent or more of your traffic, but that may not always be the case. Anyone who is significantly reliant on Google traffic should try to diversify.
Rather than think about whether you should disavow traffic from a source like that, you should be thinking about how you can increase traffic from that source or convert that traffic better.