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How upskilling your paid advertising skills will tackle economic downturns

September 29, 2022 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Marketing budgets are often the first to be slashed in a downturn – upskilling your existing team with digital marketing techniques can provide huge efficiencies and minimize the impact of cuts
  • Creating an upskilling program does not need to be expensive or time-consuming if a well-thought-out strategy is adopted and results are constantly measured
  • Nurturing your own in-house talent pool also increases business resilience, improves marketing innovation and creativity, and reduces reliance on third-party operators
  • Choosing the right skills for your team to acquire depends both on your immediate goals and long-term business strategy – done right you can steal a march on your competitors
  • Sarah Gilchriest, Global COO of Circus Street, discusses the key skills brands need to cultivate to stay competitive during an economic downturn

We’re entering what is likely to be a pretty tough global recession. As consumer sentiment worsens, brands will increasingly look at ways they can cut costs to protect their bottom line. Unfortunately, we all know that marketing is usually one of the first budgets to be slashed.

It is seemingly much easier to stop a campaign or give an agency notice than it is to sack a developer or reduce infrastructure costs. However, more often than not, cutting marketing is a false economy that worsens the impact of a downturn by slowing a company’s growth. So, is there a way for brands to instead maximize their digital marketing output while also freezing or reducing costs?

The answer may be found in upskilling.

Training while cutting costs?

Now, your first reaction may be that training programs are expensive luxuries that make little sense if your goal is to cut costs. There are a few things to unpack here –

  1. Size and scope of training matter. You can make an outsized impact by training one or two individuals who then share their knowledge with their wider team. The right strategy (which I’ll discuss further below) can lead to a highly targeted program that gives the most critical skills to those who will be best placed to use them immediately.
  2. Next, there are a lot of freely available supporting resources that can significantly reduce costs and help to embed learning.
  3. Finally, let’s put costs in perspective. The ROI on a well-executed training scheme pays for itself and the initial outlay pales in comparison to most other business functions. Put simply, you get a lot of bang for your buck. 

Why paid advertising skills?

Paid advertising makes a lot of sense to focus on for a number of reasons. Generally, compared to other marketing fields, paid advertising is characterized by the sheer diversity of skills and techniques needed to fully execute a campaign. It is incredibly fast-moving and often requires you to leverage a number of different tech platforms. Consequently, many brands outsource this functionality to a network of agencies and freelancers. Those that don’t usually rely on one or two individual ‘power users’ or worse, skills are haphazardly spread among a range of departments leading to bottlenecks and single points of failure.

As such, digital advertising is usually the prime area where efficiencies, greater innovation, and marketing effectiveness can occur via upskilling. It is where your business can do much more for less. 

Identifying the right skills

Getting the right skill mix is where the rubber meets the road. A mixture of creativity, data analysis, platform knowledge, development techniques, and marketing expertise are all needed. To get started the best approach is to fully understand what capability your team has in-house. The crucial element is to remember that a lot of ability might be hidden because it is not used on a day-to-day basis. You would be surprised at how quickly a business ‘forgets’ about the previous experiences of team members after they have been hired.

Auditing team skills should expand beyond the marketing department

You don’t know what gems are lurking in other areas of your business until you start to look. This is also the perfect opportunity to identify both the potential of your employees to acquire new skills and also their individual aspirations. It is much easier to upskill someone who has a professional and personal investment in learning that particular expertise. The audit itself does not need to be complex – a simple matrix that enables people to categorize their proficiency and outline the areas where they would like to develop will suffice.

When you know what you have to work with, then it’ll become much easier to define the best way forward. Deciding the best skill mix comes down to first working out how to fulfill your most immediate needs. For example, taking a costly service in-house, plugging a weakness – where a team member’s departure would severely hamper your ability to function, or obvious gaps in ability that prevent you from undertaking certain digital advertising activities.

Build on the compatibility between your employee’s aspirations and your commercial objectives

This is then overlaid by areas where your marketing output can most obviously be improved and your future aspirations in line with your commercial objectives. For example, if in the future you want to more heavily target users on particular social media platforms or ‘exotic’ platforms like IoT devices and digital boards. Perhaps you can see the financial benefits of adopting headless CMS tech and would like to put in place the skills needed to make that transition after the recession. Maybe you want your team to have the insight to tell you whether the Metaverse has any potential for your business.

This may sound complex but once you get started the hierarchy of skills you need more often than not becomes very obvious. Remember, one of upskilling’s great strengths is its flexibility – if your needs change or you feel you have chosen the wrong skills – it’s very easy to change track.

Getting started in a cost-efficient way

How you train your team is very much up to individual preferences – everyone learns in different ways. Speaking to your employees and specialists will enable you to build a tailored teaching structure. It can be a combination of in-house learning, online tutorials, accredited programs, or book learning. You do not have to go all in on a full program straight away. Piloting can remove a lot of the risk. Start small – one team or a handful of individuals from across your company – and continually assess the impact.

A mistake to avoid

A common mistake businesses make is they wait too long to get their team to use their new knowledge. This can hold up the process and damage ROI. The best way to embed new skills is to apply them. Ensure that your team has an opportunity to practice their newfound expertise on real initiatives. Then keep a close eye on your business metrics – including team and customer feedback – to determine the impact. Unlike many other departments, digital marketing can have very clear outputs. This will let you know quite quickly if it is working. From there, you can decide on how to roll out your training scheme. 

Marketing doesn’t end with the marketers

As I’ve mentioned, diversifying the skillset of your team builds resilience and promotes more innovation. The reason is simple, if you only have marketing skills in your marketing department, you are naturally limiting the number of people who can provide useful insights that fuel innovation. You reduce oversight and feedback loops, and your marketing output will suffer from a lack of outside perspectives. 

By making your teams multidisciplinary and cross-functional you can spread useful skills throughout your business. Customer service teams can learn the fundamentals of digital marketing, marketers know how to do the basic dev and data work to enable their day-to-day, and your data teams can think like marketers if they need to.

Preparing for the worst doesn’t mean losing capabilities

If the worst does happen and you do need to make cuts to your team, having key skills shared across your business means that the damage to core functions will be limited.

To finish – I should highlight that much of what I’ve discussed applies equally to business owners as it does to individual freelancers. A downturn can be a daunting prospect if you are a sole trader. Upskilling can be one of the best ways to increase your value to clients now and future-proof your business.

If you have seen business drop off, the time you now have available could be best dedicated to more training. This may sound obvious, but a mistake many people make in their careers is failing to adapt to how demand for skills can quickly change or technology can come along that makes them obsolete. Adding more skill strings to you and your company’s bow is never a bad thing.

Sarah Gilchriest is the Global COO of Circus Street.

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The post How upskilling your paid advertising skills will tackle economic downturns appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch

An SEO strategy flywheel to win leadership buy-in and drive results

September 17, 2022 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • From my experience, every SEO has struggled to get buy-in on a recommendation at some point
  • An SEO’s job has changed a lot in a decade. Now, prioritization is mandatory for success
  • To have proper prioritization in your roadmap, you need a framework that builds in opportunity analysis, discovery, and measurement
  • It can be challenging to win-over stakeholders because there is skepticism against advertisers—and SEOs can have competing interests if we don’t get early buy-in and speak in terms of business KPIs rather than SEO KPIs
  • The SEO Strategy Flywheel outlined below is your ticket to unlocking SEO roadmaps that get implemented

In today’s SEO industry, human challenges far exceed technical challenges. Our job as SEOs has evolved dramatically in the last 10 years. To show value a decade ago, SEOs manually audited sites and created a laundry list of SEO action items to fix. Prioritization wasn’t imperative to success because marketing teams were limited, websites were smaller, and SEO didn’t have an obvious home…should SEO live with development, content, creative, or marketing? As we love to say, “it depends.” 

In the decade since we’ve learned that SEO does require meaningful prioritization to get buy-in from all stakeholders. Prioritization is now mandatory for two reasons:

  1. Resources are finite—as SKUs and sites grow, the SEO resources usually don’t
  2. Tools have replaced the need for manual audits but cannot replace human expertise in prioritizing against business needs and objectives

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, even says this on Reddit:

As an SEO, a part of your role is to take all of the possible optimizations and figure out which ones are worth spending time on. Any SEO tool will spit out 10s or 100s of “recommendations”, most of those are going to be irrelevant to your site’s visibility in search. Finding the items that make sense to work on takes experience.

However, modern SEO success also requires more than just excellent prioritization. We’ve agreed on a common belief that regardless of where SEO sits within an organization, it is marketing! SEO = marketing. And, whether we like it or not, that makes us as SEOs advertisers. SEOs = advertisers.

Unfortunately, I have bad news for you: people despise advertisers, according to Gallup polls.

Advertisers aren't people's favorite

So this presents obvious challenges for us as we try to win over folks like business executives, developers, content writers, etc., with this inherent bias against us as advertisers. 

Introducing: The SEO strategy flywheel

The SEO strategy flywheel was hard-fought through my personal experience. The best part is that this flywheel can be used by in-house SEOs, freelancers, and agencies! 

As Myriam Jessier says to SEOs, “Heart surgeons use checklists. You are not above them.”

To take this further, we are not above process either – and in today’s world, the process must go beyond traditional SEO expertise. SEOs must use processes to overcome human and technical challenges. Processes can feel mundane, boring, and possibly even robotic. Far too often have I witnessed SEOs painfully living in chaos with no defined roadmaps, processes, or regular workflow cadence. But the truth is: we are not above process and it does not turn us into robots. 

Rather, creating process makes us more human. It eliminates the need to focus on “survival” tactics and reserves bandwidth to focus on more impactful strategic initiatives. 

Having a team and various stakeholders commit to a process improves efficiency, allows for more collaboration, and ensures we can see our recommendations implemented. 

Introduction to the SEO strategy flywheel

1. Opportunity analysis – Build confident humility into your process

Step one is our opportunity to reassess our strategic vision, layered against the new competitive landscape from the previous quarter. 

Too often, we as SEOs are either too stubborn in our strategic vision or too passive to make recommendations that may be experimental or challenging to get approved. This leads to either armchair-quarterback syndrome where you’re blinded by hubris or imposter syndrome where you’re too meek to make difficult cases compelling. The goldilocks spot is what Adam Grant calls, “Confident Humility” in his book ‘Think Again’

The opportunity analysis commits all teams to consistently review site performance, and analyze and prepare for any industry/vertical change. In short, the opportunity analysis forces confident humility. And confident humility is how we get better—quarter after quarter. 

Most important in the opportunity analysis is to ensure that there is an “outside” perspective from another SEO expert to ensure that your findings are sound. At Brainlabs, this includes check-ins and QA with the Group Account Director and VP of SEO. This outside perspective allows us to help narrow in on the most impactful findings for our recommendations. 


  • Doing an audit, you will find someone somewhere along the line made a mistake (for example, unimplemented content, wrongly implemented schema, and the other). Make sure to rectify this before the Discovery Meeting where you recap findings so you don’t burn a bridge with an important stakeholder like a developer. 
  • Always put the opportunity in business KPIs, not SEO KPIs. 

2. Discovery meeting – Get buy-in from stakeholders early

The most collaborative part of the process is my personal favorite and the most influential: the discovery meeting. The discovery meeting is our time to build relationships with all stakeholders—and understand available resources and appetite for change. Put simply, robots can’t build relationships–that’s still something we have over any SEO auditing technology. 

Having meaningful questions to ask stakeholders is part of the reason why the Opportunity Analysis is the first step—you don’t want to go to this meeting empty-handed. The questions I like to ask can be grouped into 4 buckets: Partnership, Business, Industry/SEO, and Resources. While templated questions are a great start, you should always tweak the questions to be relevant to the brand. 

Example questions include:


  • What project has been your favorite so far? Should we do more of that?


  • Are there any changes in your industry or business that can/will impact the website or marketing efforts? 


  • Is there anything in the backlog of projects that you’re excited about? What can we provide to make a case for implementation?


  • With the economic uncertainty, will resources stay the same on your side? 


  • This meeting can be folded into a QBR-esque meeting or, if you can swing the time, it can stand alone on its own, which is my preference. 
  • Invite stakeholders from multiple teams to get perspective (for example, developers, execs, content, brand marketing, and other relevant members)
  • If time allows, have a mock call to ensure that the questions and presentation are well-crafted and the team is comfortable delivering them.

3. SEO roadmap creation – Put rubber to the road

Most SEOs try to skip directly to this step first. But—be warned from my experience—it is a costly mistake (in both time and political capital). Beginning your SEO project with a roadmap results in a long list of unprioritized recommendations and little implementation, and the end result is a loss of trust and frustration with stakeholders. 

The roadmap, when preceded by proper opportunity analysis and an effective Discovery meeting, will successfully accomplish three things:

  1. Lay out projects with enough detail for early buy-in
  2. Identify participants for each activity to avoid a collective action problem
  3. Act as an activity log which makes measurement easier

The sheet below is an example of an SEO quarterly roadmap. We define each project and quantify the impact on the business using relevant SEO KPIs and business terms (outlined in pink). 

Next, we include a RACI model (outlined in blue) to define project participants by who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. 

Lastly, once the Roadmap is approved we add the middle Project Status section (outlined in black), and track each activity so we can measure pre- and post-implementation success. 


  • Exercise ongoing confident humility with the roadmap and know when to pivot a project
  • Continuously update the roadmap and use this to guide status calls
  • Use the roadmap to define resource allocation and project management—that is, new projects to be added must be done in place of something else

4. Implementation – Get sh*t done

While site implementation may fall to different teams, the important part is being able to assess who needs approval for which implementations early on. That way, by the time each recommendation is finalized then it can immediately be ready for implementation. 


  • Since you have a roadmap with defined timelines, get development tickets submitted early so the implementation team can prepare resources for them in an upcoming sprint
  • QA all implementations to ensure that the final result matches your recommendation
  • Use a site change tracker tool to see when stuff gets implemented

5. Measurement – Identify winning efforts to scale

Step five is where this framework turns into a flywheel: Measurement. Having an activity log in your roadmap allows you to easily identify pre- and post-implementation impacts. Being able to tie performance back to a specific subset of optimizations allows you to scale those efforts to yield the compounding effects of SEO. 

There’s no better way to win influence over a site’s development team than by following up and sharing the results of their work.  Make sure they see the post-implementation report and watch how easily SEO projects get added to the development roadmap in future sprints!


  • Make sure implementation dates are accurate (including site adjustments)
  • Ensure to account for seasonality in your analysis
  • Track pre and post-measurement from the soonest crawl date after implementation, rather than implementation itself as it can take upwards of three months for a page to be recrawled
  • Use an SEO A/B testing tool for testing ranking/traffic impact—like SearchPilot for large sites—and/or a conversion testing tool like Google Optimize to test for engagement/conversion impact
  • Set up tracking for SEO KPIs as early as possible to get enough pre-implementation data

Process = Success

The SEO strategy flywheel allows you to dedicate your SEO team’s time and resources to SEO rather than reactively resolving prioritization conflicts. Committing to this process builds confident humility into your work, gets stakeholder buy-in early, and easily allows you to scale winning efforts. I encourage you to modify this process to fit in with your existing workflows and share your modifications with others in the comments for inspiration. 

Next quarter’s planning is right around the corner—go get it!

Travis Tallent is the VP, SEO at Brainlabs overseeing the SEO product to ensure account teams have the right talent, tools, tech, and process to do their jobs well. Travis spends time enjoying nature, playing saxophone in a local band, and volunteering for LGBTQ+ organizations. Follow Travis on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Search Engine Watch

The new YMYL guidelines and what this means for marketers

September 9, 2022 No Comments

The new YMYL guidelines and what this means for marketers

30-second summary:

  • Your money or your life (YMYL) guidance has been updated to give more clarity on what Google is looking for within its quality rater guidelines
  • Focusing on reputation, both of the person creating the main content and the website hosting the main content, is key
  • YMYL trust isn’t just built on-site, off-site digital PR and link acquisition can also play a key role in building trust
  • Google also helped to clarify which websites/content might fall into the YMYL categories and how this is defined
  • E-A-T continues to play an important role across the board, alongside matching user intent and purpose and creating great, reputable content for users

In late July, Google updated its Page Quality Rater Guidelines. It does this from time to time to reinforce the key principles that it looks for when evaluating the quality of a page. While Google has held the concept of expertise, authority and trust close to the center of these guidelines for a long time, one of the major changes or updates was related to the definition of “Your Money or Your Life” websites. There was also more insight into how these pages are rated, which is ideal for anyone working in these sectors looking to better understand how Google rates their websites.

The concept of Google having very high Page Quality rating guidelines for ‘Your Money or Your Life’ (YMYL) websites isn’t new, but the definition of what falls into this category has changed. Previously the definition covered “pages (which) could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.” This has been updated to cover “pages (which) have a high risk of harm because content about these topics could significantly impact the health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society.” This is a much broader scope of websites with potentially a much more significant impact.

As such, for many SEOs this means re-examining the guidance to ensure that our websites are ready for potentially enhanced scrutiny.

So what are the new guidelines and what does it mean?

The new guidelines for YMYL go much further than just the definition update above. They actually go into detail around how a particular topic could and couldn’t fall into the YMYL categorization, Google has even put it in a handy table for us so we can clearly understand:

Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines - YMYL

Source: Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

It’s also not just YMYL categories that have seen the updates, but many elements that go into rating YMYL pages. Along with enhancements to key E-A-T definitions and what Google is looking for, we can also see key updates to sections that focus on “low-quality pages” or what we should try to avoid. As marketers, we’ve never had so much information available to us about what Google is looking for in a quality website. This means that Google is likely to be getting very serious about its Page Quality Rater Guidelines and as SEOs, we should be too.

Content is as important as ever

Content will already be at the forefront of many SEO minds given that Google’s “Helpful Content” update has already started rolling out. Additionally, the updates to the YMYL guidance have demonstrated that your on-site content is a key contributor to how the pages are evaluated for expertise, quality, and authority.

Google highlights in section 4.2 that the “quality of the MC is one of the most important criteria in Page Quality rating.” So we know that the main content on the website is something Google is looking at with close scrutiny, especially if your website falls into that YMYL category. Having a reasonable amount of good quality main content plays a key role in this, but so do the page’s functionality and features. Don’t just rest at making sure your content is great, ensure that any features on the website such as calculators, checkouts, and interactivity are also created to a high standard.

Content that falls into YMYL sectors is, of course, held here to a higher standard. Google gives the example that, “high E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed and updated, on a regular basis.”

If you find yourself in a YMYL category, then regularly updating, reviewing, and editing your content to ensure that it’s up to date will play a role here.

Enhancing key E-A-T signals

For most businesses refreshing your ‘About Us’ page might seem like the most unimportant task, but when you are trying to tell users about who you are, showcase your expertise and give users that sense of trust and security, this can actually be one of the most important elements of your website. In section 2.5.3 of the guidelines, Google highlights that this can be one area of your website where raters go to find information about who owns the site, which can be a key element of establishing a good reputation.

Your reviews also fall into this category and that’s not just reviews on your own website, but also reviews on external sources. In fact – the word “reviews” is mentioned 66 times in the guidelines alone. While reviews on your own website are important and it’s definitely worth promoting these, one tip I picked up from the guidelines (section 2.6.4) is to do a quick reputation search. You can then evaluate if there are any other external website reviews or reputation signals that you need to be aware of. You can do this by using a negative site search i.e. for Google you would use [google] which would search for the term “Google” on all sites except Doing this for your business can help identify how others may view your reputation.

Reputation matters

Two of the five most important factors in Page Quality Rating relate to reputation and information; that is, information about who is responsible for the main content and the reputation of that person and the website itself..-We knew from the Medic Update that authoring and author profiles have grown in importance, and as the guidelines now turn to focus on the reputation of both the websites and the authors, this has become an even more important facet of showcasing your expertise and authority.

In sections 2.6 and 2.6.1 of the updated guidelines, Google talks about reputation research around both the user and the website which has provided the main content. It also talks about the type of reputation information that is available and how applicable it is within certain industries, for example, how applicable product reviews would be in the finance sector. It’s clear that building strong reputation information that is relevant to your brand/industry would add value here.

Finally, for websites that are smaller or perhaps don’t have a huge amount of visible reputation information, Google does state that “this is not indicative of positive or negative reputation… for these smaller businesses and organizations, lack of reputation should not be considered an indication of low page quality.”

Trust is built on-site and off-site

Trust and authority are two of the key elements which go into rating a page’s quality and these are key for great YMYL. However, this doesn’t just come down to content and updates on the site, it’s also very much about what is available off-site. Digital PR has seen unprecedented growth in recent years as a great way of growing a website’s reputation as well as building high-quality, authoritative backlinks back to a website.

Whether it’s looking for reputation information or key signals about your brand, one of the biggest places people are searching is on websites that aren’t yours. That’s where digital PR can have the biggest impact on improving your reputation, expertise, and overall authority. Digital PR can help to build your website and your author reputation by sharing thought leadership or data expertise. This is a great way to build up these core YMYL factors while also gaining great coverage for your brand.

Keeping the user in mind

Regardless of whether you are looking to devise a digital PR strategy, improve your on-site content or make changes to the structure of your website, with the new guideline updates and YMYL changes, it’s clear that Google wants to see and understand the reputation of your website and its content creators.

Keeping these elements and the user in mind will help to ensure that you’re creating a great user experience that naturally demonstrates expertise, authority, trust, and any other signals that Google is looking for. As Google continues to improve and update its guidelines, this will become more important than ever.

Amanda Walls is the founder and Director of Cedarwood Digital, an award-winning Digital Marketing agency specializing in SEO, PPC, and Digital PR.

With 12 years of Digital Marketing experience under her belt, Amanda founded the business six years ago which was recently named the UK Small Ecommerce Agency of the year in 2021.

An expert in all things digital, Amanda has worked as a trainer for Google’s Digital Garage in the North West and has delivered digital marketing training to thousands of marketers across the region.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

Join the conversation with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Search Engine Watch

Is user data truly protected in the Google Analytics universe?

September 2, 2022 No Comments

Is user data truly protected in the Google Analytics universe

30-second summary:

  • Fair data collection is when people are willing to share segments of their digital selves without giving away the whole picture
  • Google’s data empire seems to backfire on its presence in Europe as Italy  joined France and Austria in ruling that Google Analytics is overstepping boundaries
  • Whispers soon became shouts when the Italian Data Protection Authority (DPA) found that Google wasn’t in fact doing enough to mask these IP addresses, meaning users could be easily identified
  • What impact will this have on the SEO industry and will more countries join this revolt?

Think of your online data like pieces of a jigsaw. All assembled, these make a crystal clear picture of you – your IP address, interests, name, and so on. Look at one or two pieces at a time though, and you can’t get much from it.

This is what is considered fair data collection. You’re willing to share segments of yourself, but not the whole picture.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is partly about making sure businesses like Google don’t get enough individual pieces to see the whole of you. This is also why their Analytics service is getting some bad press at the moment, particularly in Europe. 

The service is used to track both quantitative and qualitative information about people on a website, such as how many active users there are and what their gender may be. Financial information like revenue or advertising ROI is also available if relevant to your website. In terms of user data, there is not enough to identify someone specifically, but there is enough to help businesses understand their demographics.

However, Italy recently joined France and Austria in ruling that Google Analytics is overstepping the boundaries of ‘fair collection’ and breaching GDPR rules.

While Google does anonymize data to a certain extent, there were always whispers that the IP addresses of users were easily accessible. These whispers soon became shouts when the Italian Data Protection Authority (DPA) found that Google wasn’t in fact doing enough to mask these IP addresses, meaning users could be easily identified.

At this point, the empire of technology they’ve built is almost working against the search giant. When they collect so much data, those jigsaw pieces start to pile up quickly and when they have all the tools to put the jigsaw together, that’s when countries like Italy have to put their foot down.   

The argument of Italy, and soon to be many other regions, is that Google simply has too much information that isn’t masked properly. This is far beyond the typical fingerprints, people leave as they use the internet. As the data used on Google Analytics must travel through servers on American soil, they also consider this a further violation – citing the 2020 Schrems II ruling in particular. 

A lot of questions still remain. How will this affect the SEO industry in these countries? With GA4 still a fair way off, should business owners put in place a different solution? Which other countries will follow suit – Japan, California, or any other EU country?

I’ve teamed up with Laura from Ruler Analytics to bring you some tips and facts to help you both understand, and deal with, what’s going on.

Move to GA4, the sooner the better

Google Analytics is set for change. As of July 2023, Universal Analytics will no longer be available. What exactly Google Analytics 4 will finally look like is uncertain at this point. 

But what we do know is that you need to create a GA4 account sooner rather than later. 

By setting it up now, you’ll have the historic data you need to apply new tools and features too down the line.

Remember, Google Analytics 4 will only offer you data retention for 14 months. Setting up GA4 now and learning how to use the platform will pay dividends in the future and keep you prepared for the change. 

Even though the cookie death is in 2024, move away now

Invest in first-party cookies. As we saw with iOS 14.5, advertisers like Google and Facebook are hugely impacted when it comes to data tracking with third-party cookies.

First-party cookies are cookies that you own, that live on your website. The data you collect and create is your own. And that means you have unbiased data that can’t be removed at a whim’s notice.

Data autonomy, while still respecting GDPR rules, is absolutely paramount for marketers. 

Manage the trust of your customers but also collect the data you need to create personalized, trackable customer journeys. 

Once the cornerstone of paid advertising, third-party cookies will soon be redundant with platforms like Facebook and Google scrambling to create a replacement that still works for their advertising models.

Stop relying on Google Analytics for more than web analytics

Google Analytics is a web analytics platform. And a really good one at that too.

What Google Analytics is not, is a visitor-level revenue analytics tool. 

That means you can’t access data like: 

  • Individual full customer journeys
  • Accurate marketing source 
  • Closed revenue or pipeline generation 

But as Google is continually looked upon unfavorably from a data protection standpoint, it’s possible that we might see more countries fight against it. 

To prepare for this, you need to sort your data. 

Look at the tools you’re currently using and how you can make your tools work smarter for you.  

Google Analytics will continue to be a great tool for understanding your website analytics. While it might see tighter restrictions on the data it uses and shares, you should still get access to general website metrics. So, when it comes to accurately track users from your website and connecting them to closed leads and revenue, you need to be looking elsewhere.

Marketing attribution is one such tool that can help. It uses first-party cookies on your website meaning you have total autonomy over your data. 


To wrap up, the next steps are clear. How we use data is changing. And more importantly, how tech giants like Google are being regulated on data is changing as well. 

To get ahead of it, set up a Google Analytics 4 account first and foremost. Next, look at what data you’re collecting and how you’re collecting it. Revaluate your data-capturing journey and practices. 

If you are tracking data like lead conversions, or crave more insight on touchpoint data, then you need to reevaluate your marketing tech stack.

Be prepared for the fact that you might lose insight into website visitor data and start looking for alternatives to make sure you continue to feed your tools the data they need.

Matthew Rogers is Head of Campaign Management at the top Manchester-based digital market agency Add People and has over 14 years of marketing experience. You can follow him on LinkedIn here. He is also a long-standing member of the Click Z Collective Advisory Board.

Laura Caveney is Head of Marketing at Ruler AnalyticsLaura has over 6 years of experience in delivering end-to-end marketing campaigns and discusses the trials and tribulations marketers face day to day on her LinkedIn channel.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

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Why organic SEO might be your best option during high inflation

August 25, 2022 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Content that provides genuine answers to people also ask (PAA) questions attracts consumers to a brand’s owned media
  • Be an early adopter that considers experimenting with the ever-changing social media features
  • Creating thought leadership content is key to your organic SEO initiatives
  • International content marketing requires an in-depth discussion of the brand’s business plan in each region

In today’s digital-first world, the connection between a consumer and a brand is continually changing, mostly due to the rise of search engines and, most recently, user-generated content (UGC) on social media. Search engines and social platforms make virtually all of the world’s information readily available to users.

Now, recovering from a global pandemic and being on the verge of another probable recession are hardly the ideal economic conditions imagined. Advertisers are still eager to expand their reach through paid media but the inflated prices are not delivering the same results as they did, say a year ago, even if they increase investment.

A more sustainable alternative to combat the situation brands currently find themselves in is to invest in organic assets, including organic social, and consider initiatives that generate long-term gains. This can help alleviate the need to spend high amounts of money on paid media. Brands may reap long-term benefits by capturing increased traffic online and will be in a far better position when things get back to normal. In a nutshell, consolidating your brand in overall organic assets is always a smart idea.

And while investing in organic means you can’t control every Google search or every time that your name is mentioned on social media, you can start building your brand and earning a positive reputation by sticking to some organic best practices.

Consider what ‘People also ask’ (PAA)

In order to get the most out of their content, brands should create copy that answers the most frequently asked questions online. The PAA in a Google search or frequently asked questions on other websites are excellent places to get ideas. Content that answers these questions in a real way not only attracts consumers to a brand’s owned media (website, blog, social media, ecommerce site), but also offers them valuable information, and that’s a great way to build brand loyalty.

As an example, consider how a brand selling summer dresses may approach this. They would be smart to explore the PAA questions that show when searching for “beautiful summer dresses,” such as “what makes a summer dress flattering?” or “what are the latest trends in summer dresses?” This brand should put time and money into creating content such as articles that answer these questions directly. That will make it easier for people to find you on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Make the most of the latest social media features

Social media is always evolving, so being open to making adjustments before moving forward is critical for success in organic reach. Finding out what works best for you and your audience can be done in many ways, from varying the length of your posts to experimenting with different types of imagery.

And with every new update comes a tremendous opportunity to be an early adopter and establish yourself as the brand that embraced the changes first.

Organic social media may seem like shouting into space at times, so doing something unique to stand out is more important than ever. Consider testing and experimenting with the ever-changing social features, from Instagram Reels and Twitter’s new “Notes” option, this will allow your audience to interact with your brand in new ways and increase social reach.

Thought leadership can accomplish what paid cannot

Thought leadership pieces, Digital & SEO services, content writing, are key to these organic initiatives, The trustworthiness of the content impacts the SEO visibility of a business. As a result, companies should arm themselves with a diverse set of thought leaders and focus on increasing their online inventory of useful content.

This is particularly true when inflation is high, as it is right now. Provide your consumers and followers with helpful information that can help them make the best use of your goods or services in their everyday lives. Help your consumers spend their money wisely. This will strengthen your relationship with them in the long run.

Organic and international markets

A greater number of opportunities may be available to brands with a presence in multiple markets. For example, fashion retail brands find Italy and the Netherlands to be especially attractive markets with greater market revenue per capita but smaller total audience sizes. This means less competition but higher overall spending. Even though the market share in these regions is likely to be small, the potential for development using approaches that may be overused in more established markets is considerable. It’s possible to get an advantage over the competition by being the first to identify untapped markets with a high volume of generic traffic.

A brand’s content strategy must be comprehensive and adaptable if it wants to expand its reach throughout the globe. International content marketing requires a more in-depth discussion of the brand’s entire business plan in each international region in addition to the normal organic tactics. For example, it’s critical to create localized content since every region has its own unique set of idioms, dialects, and subtleties.

It is possible that these initiatives may not have returns that can be measured right away. But it’s wise to invest in long-term initiatives that will help brands emerge from this time of financial difficulties when consumer spend is ready to rebound.

Tom Mansell is Director of Organic Performance at the global, award-winning agency, Croud. Tom is responsible for the UK SEO team and overarching strategy, delivering bespoke, collaborative organic search campaigns for a range of clients. Tom has over 10 years of client and agency-side experience, working across verticals including automotive, finance, retail, and FMCG.

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How do videos help your SEO strategy?

August 12, 2022 No Comments

Everyone is talking about creating and marketing videos these days. The marketing benefits are clear: Videos spread well, generate engagements on social media and are able to still attract attention in our world of information overload.

But can videos also enhance your SEO strategy? 

Well, we don’t know everything about Google’s ranking signals, so we cannot be sure if there’s a direct factor there. Whether Google “likes” pages with videos on them more than pages without videos remains a secret.

But there are more indirect SEO benefits that are contributing here:

1. SERP real estate

Videos are taking a lot of real estate within Google’s search result pages, both on mobile and desktop. Google uses so-called “video carousels” to display related videos for many search queries.

In fact, on a mobile device, a video carousel takes the whole screen, and for many search queries it takes quite some time to scroll past:

videos rank better in SERPsImage source: Screenshot by the author

According to Mozcast, video carousels appear for the third of search queries. That’s a lot of SEO opportunities to dominate your target SERPs!

If you brand your video well and optimize your video Youtube page, one of these videos in a carousel will remind your target customer of your brand and increase your chances of conversion.

2. Rich snippets

A video-rich snippet is an enhanced search snippet that displays a video thumbnail next to your link. It is a good way to make your search snippet stand out.

video rich snippetsImage source: Screenshot by the author

Video rich snippets are also surprisingly easy to get.

Unlike video carousels, video rich snippets send traffic to your site, versus the YouTube video page. To make this easier:

Video rich snippet Video Carousel
Does it need a video? Yes Yes
Is it part of organic results? Yes No
What does it generate? Clicks to your site Video views
(clicks to the video page)

The best-case scenario is when you manage to grab both: A rich video snippet on page one of organic results and your video inside the video carousel on the same page:

Image source: Screenshot by the author

This will help you generate more brand awareness through a video thumbnail and generate both video views and clicks.

To increase your odds of getting a video rich snippet, you need to:

  • Embed a video on your page. This doesn’t really have to be your video but mind that Google will display the channel name below your snippet om desktop, so it makes sense to use your brand’s channel
  • Use video schema. Here’s a handy video schema generator for you to do that. There are also quite a few plugins that make this step easier.

video schemaImage source: Screenshot by the author

For desktop video rich snippets, mind that they also pull the date when you uploaded the video, so make sure your video is fresh to avoid your snippet looking outdated.

When embedding a video on your page, don’t forget to double-check your page load time. Surprisingly, Youtube videos do negatively impact page performance when you embed them, even though Youtube belongs to Google (so publishers usually assume it is optimized for Google by default).

To demonstrate the impact, here’s my page score without a YouTube video embedded on it:

page score with and without YouTube video embedImage source: Screenshot by the author

And here’s the same page with a Youtube video added:

Image source: Screenshot by the author

You can cope with this by using the trick described here which worked wonders in my case above. 

One of the unexpected benefits of using that method was the related videos Youtube shows at the end of each video when you embed it. Using the steps in that tutorial, I found those related videos disappear and my own video showing up instead.

Finally, don’t forget to use Google’s Search Console to find out how your video rich snippets are behaving.

In your “Performance” section, create a new filter “Search Appearance: Videos” to see which queries are triggering rich snippets for your site and monitor your CTR for those queries.

3. On-page engagement

There’s no official confirmation that Google uses on-page engagement as a direct ranking signal. In fact, I believe they denied using such a signal.

And yet, getting people to take a pause and do something on a page has a lot of marketing benefits that are normally part of an SEO strategy. These include:

  • Higher chances of a conversion
  • Lower chances of them bouncing or returning to search results (which, again, may or may not be a direct ranking signal)

Videos make great on-page engagement boosters, so if you feel like your page is failing to trigger some sort of action, try embedding a video on it. Again, mind your core web vitals when you do.

4. Referral traffic

Just like on-page engagements, referral traffic has never been confirmed to be a direct SEO signal. We know that Google likes when a link is clicked but we don’t know whether a page with 0 referral traffic from external sources  has lower authority in Google’s eyes than a page with high-quality referral traffic.

And yet, referral traffic increases a page’s chances to get backlinks and shares. And well-converting traffic is always good, whether it is coming from organic search or another site.

Youtube doesn’t make it easy to build referral traffic from your videos. You can have your clickable link in the video description which is rarely read or even seen (especially on mobile).

You can also link build direct traffic using Youtube by giving your domain name in the video intro and outro. Here’s how to create an engaging Youtube outro.

But then again, one should really find your video relevant and/or awesome to type your domain name in the address bar after seeing it in the outro.

That being said, Youtube does send traffic to a site but only if you are doing a great job creating outstanding videos and then using verbal CTAs inside the video to encourage clicks from the video description or direct type-ins.

A great thing about Youtube traffic is that, while it is hard to get, it’s highly relevant, so you will see highly engaged clicks that become your subscribers and customers:

Image source: Screenshot by the author


Using videos is a solid way to help your SEO strategy. While there may be no confirmed direct signals involved here, there are a few indirect SEO benefits of investing into video creation and marketing.

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Marketing during a recession: Critical choices to preserve your pipeline

August 4, 2022 No Comments

While nothing is guaranteed in the business world, the current economic uncertainty has companies scrutinizing their bottom line, and pressuring marketing teams to produce outsized results with scaled-down resources.

So, how do you navigate the changing economic landscape and protect your lead pipeline? First, let us talk about why marketing matters in a turbulent economic environment. Then, we will focus on the strategies and tactics you can count on to survive and thrive when times are tough.

Why market during a recession

For evidence that supports the importance of smart marketing during financial uncertainty, look no further than the Great Recession of the early 80s.

According to a literature review of existing research, seven studies found that preserving campaign budgets could increase sales during and after an economic downturn. Most notably, one study concludes companies that refused to reduce ad spending increased sales by almost 340% within four years of the economic recovery.

Other studies strike a similar chord — if you fail to feed your sales pipeline, your revenue generation will lag during the economic recovery.

There are two overarching reasons that continued marketing activities will help your business stay the course during economic turbulence.

You cannot seize the lion’s share

If your competitors have abandoned their marketing campaigns to garner short-term savings, now is your time to shine. By maintaining (or increasing) your marketing spend, you position your business to leverage the white space competitors leave unclaimed when they recede into the background during an economic downturn.

Ready for recovery

Marketing during a recession builds resilience, allowing for a quicker bounce-back post-recession. While your competitors are still resuscitating dormant marketing plans, you will have increased your momentum and be heading to market dominance.

How to market during a recession

Whether you are seeing economic indicators of a recession or an industry-wide lull, prepare to justify your marketing budget and share your proactive marketing plans with key stakeholders.

Focus on high-ROI activities

While cost-cutting may be front-of-mind for decision-makers, present a case for saving your budget by offering a plan that doubles down on high-ROI activities. Focus your strategy on leveraging the opportunities rather than mitigating the liabilities in a challenging market.

For example, a search-optimized website can increase traffic and conversions, which are instrumental for revenue growth. We have seen SEO campaigns exponentially increase organic search traffic to a customer’s website, pulling companies back from the brink of disaster.

Make data-driven decisions

Creating more revenue with a smaller budget is tougher but not impossible. If you are tasked with producing outsized results with a downsized budget, center your plans around high-ROI activities.

When it comes to digital marketing, for example, you may find that SEO has a better click-through rate and higher ROI than PPC campaigns. Scaling back advertising spending to re-allocate funds to SEO could yield better long-term and short-term results.

Does SEO work during a recession?

Yes, SEO is a worthwhile investment during a recession. Since SEO works by funneling organic traffic from relevant search terms to your website, you can benefit from a robust search engine optimization strategy regardless of the economic climate.

Optimizing your website content around particular keywords and following technical SEO best practices increases your chances of ranking well in search results. Data demonstrates a direct correlation between Google page rank and organic traffic, meaning an ascension in search engine results generally leads to more organic traffic to your website.

Seize the opportunity to rank

Not only will SEO work during a recession but focusing on search engine optimization strategies during an economic downturn may help you snap up keywords your competitors have been dominating. If you continue creating SEO content and participating in link-building activities while others cut back, you can usurp their keyword positions.

Competitors who “stop” SEO create a white space that businesses who double down on SEO can take advantage of. Essentially, you can reap the benefits of short-term gains with long-term reach. Then, when economic indicators turn around — which they’ll inevitably do — your competitors will be in the unenviable position of needing to catch up to you.

How a family-run travel business came back strong post-Covid

Before the start of the pandemic, we partnered with a family-owned and operated tourism company to help boost their search visibility. When global lockdowns paralyzed the travel industry, we would have understood if they opted to put their campaign on hold. Instead, they doubled down on their SEO efforts, creating content specifically targeted to address traveller uncertainty during this time. Immanuel Tour’s organic traffic more than doubled during the first year of the pandemic, and they captured valuable keywords that continue to bring high-quality traffic to their site.

This story demonstrates an important point. While SEO activities can yield long-term results, there’s no way to “lock in” rank. If your top-ranking competitors cut their SEO budget, you have a critical opportunity to capture new customers in a less competitive environment.

Learn more about how SEO can amplify your other marketing activities and pinpoint how much to spend on SEO.

Find a partner you can trust

Economic events can have lasting effects on consumer behavior and generate big opportunities for marketers bold enough to recognize and act on them. Step forward into the whitespace created by competitor cutbacks and maximize your SEO potential now to yield compounding results that will pay dividends in the future.

At Victorious, we can help you identify high-impact opportunities to generate the highest ROI on your SEO campaign. Schedule a free site analysis, and we’ll talk about your goals.



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Search Engine Watch

Five must-haves of a conversion worthy ecommerce website

July 19, 2022 No Comments

Five must-haves of a conversion worthy ecommerce website

30-second summary:

  • Getting traffic to a website can be difficult, so you need to make sure that visitors are as likely to convert as possible once there
  • Quality site search implementation can increase conversion rates by 5-6x, and including elements like CTAs or a system that accounts for spelling mistakes can have a considerable impact
  • When working with an online store, think about category pages like aisles and sub-categories like shelves within those aisles
  • Breadcrumbs can not only help enhance the user experience but also improve rankings as they help search engines understand how your site structure and relevance

By many estimates, there are over twelve million ecommerce websites on the internet. That’s a lot of online stores, covering a lot of different niches. Getting traffic to these sites is one of the main struggles for businesses, so it’s important that once someone does land on the website, they have the best chance of converting as possible.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your site is, if the commercial pages are poor then you may be throwing leads away.

By ‘commercial pages’, we mean anything that leads to the generation of revenue, like the product, category, and service pages – even the checkout. What may seem like a minor change can have a huge impact on revenue for these pages.

For example, would you have guessed that simply adding a video to a product page would make users 144 percent more likely to add a product to their cart?

In this article, I take a look at five ways ecommerce websites can take their traffic – but most importantly, conversions – to the next level. We’ll start with the largest, and most underappreciated one, first.

1. Prioritise your site search

According to Econsultancy, up to 30 percent of ecommerce visitors use the internal site search available to them. This level of engagement means there is a higher level of purchasing intent, which needs to be capitalised on. Why?

Due to the increased level of purchasing intent from these searchers, they’re known to be 5–6x more likely to convert than the average visitor that doesn’t use the site search. 

If someone invented a tool that reliably increased conversion rates by 5x, they’d be incredibly wealthy – and the tool would be very expensive. Instead, this is available on pretty much all site builds, but lies unutilized in most cases, even if site search optimization has led to conversion rate increases of 43 percent.

So, how can you optimize your search functionality?

First, include a CTA (call to action) in the search bar by default that encourages users to search, or even just explains what the bar is for more basic users. Below are some examples from major online brands:

Boots example of adding a CTA to the search bar - must have for conversion worthy ecommerce websites

Source: Boots

Depop example of adding a CTA to the search bar - must have for conversion worthy ecommerce websites

Source: Depop 

ebay example of adding a CTA to the search bar - must have for conversion worthy ecommerce websites

Source: ebay 

In the first word of each of these, they are both educating the user on what the bar is for and are also encouraging them to use it. They also give people an insight into what they provide beyond just products, whether that’s services for Boots or styles for Depop. The eBay example is also great copywriting as it supports the brand’s character that you can buy and sell anything you want there; they’re not limited to brands or styles, you can search for anything!

A great site search would also be able to handle misspellings. For example, a website may have items listed as “red t-shirt”, but there are a lot of people that would simply search “red tshirt”. If your site search doesn’t show the same products for either, you’re likely losing out on sales. 

You also want to make sure that generating new searches and applying filters don’t create new, indexable URLs. To test this, run a search on your website and then find what the search string URL looks like – basically everything in the URL before your search. Paste this into Google and see if these pages are being indexed/are appearing in the search engine results page. 

It may be that every search is being saved as a new page (which we’ve seen many times before), which can lead to a huge crawl bloat. Consider search engines like Google as having a really short attention span. You don’t want to distract them with pointless pages like these, so make sure you no-index them. 

Options like Fact Finder, Doo Finger, and SLI Systems are flexible choices that work fairly easily out of the box. These are great for smaller businesses with tighter resources. For larger businesses that need more from this functionality, Elastic Search and Solr are strong open source options but require a lot of work. This means that they can become totally bespoke, but that it may be overwhelming for businesses without the time and resources. 

2. Have a Plan B for when a product is out of stock

Most products sold online are finite. Whether you have a lot of stock or a limited amount, almost every product runs the risk of becoming out of stock. This is the nature of an ecommerce business and is often a sign that something is selling well, but you should have a plan for when this happens. 

It’s easy for a potential sale to end when they see that ‘out of stock’ message. However, the truly great ecommerce stores will know this isn’t the end of the customer’s journey – just because the product they originally wanted isn’t available doesn’t mean they can’t be sold on another. 

After all, if you were doing your online grocery shopping and the usual meat feast pizza you buy isn’t available, that probably doesn’t mean you’re just not eating pizza anymore. Instead, you’d likely look for a similar meaty pizza from a different brand. This mindset works for other products, too. 

First, you should consider related products on out of stock pages as absolutely essential. Take this example from John Lewis:

Add similar products in case of no stock to have a conversion worthy website

Source: John Lewis and Partners

In this case, the outdoor set is out of stock, but they are straight away suggesting similar products that would scratch the same itch the customer has. They’re also high up the page, which is important. If people see a product they want is out of stock, they may click away very quickly, so having similar products above the fold means you have a good chance of grabbing their attention before they move away. 

As well as including related products, there should also be a channel for communication with the customer so you can contact them when the product comes back in stock. You can’t just assume that they’ll remember your website to check again in a few more weeks. It’s much more likely they’ll just find the product on a different website and give them their money instead. 

While you can’t stop them from looking elsewhere, a section asking for their email address means that you can now communicate with them directly for marketing purposes but also let them know as soon as the product becomes available. This means that not only can you draw the customer back to the page for a purchase, but you could also sell them on more products over email! 

Finally, if a product is out of stock and you don’t ever plan to restock it again, then consider removing it from your sitemap. For example, if you sell a calendar designed for 2018, this may very well be out of stock and very unlikely to come back in stock. With this in mind, deleting it from your sitemap would mean that search engines don’t bother looking at it and can instead focus on pages of yours that you actually want the likes of Google and Bing to be looking at. 

3. Build a category structure that makes sense

A considered and effective category/sub-category structure is essential for online stores. Not only does this help search engines understand what it is you sell and what your most important pages are, but it also helps the user.

If there were no aisles in a supermarket, customers would be searching blindly for what they need. There’d be no structure and no space for using initiative. Instead, there are frozen aisles, canned aisles, fresh aisles; if you need some frozen french fries or some fresh peppers, you know where to go. Once you’re in that aisle, there are then shelves which can help you get even more specific. There likely wouldn’t be a tomato aisle, but a tomato shelf in the fresh aisle makes sense. 

When working with an online store, think about category pages like aisles and sub-category pages like shelves within those aisles. Shopping online should be as seamless as this. 

Consider what your biggest categories are and ‘zoom in’ smaller and smaller so you can find what your sub-categories are. It may be that you don’t have enough products to necessitate a sub-category.

Toby Dean, the Associate Director of SEO at Add People, believes that “As a rule of thumb, if there are more than 25-30 products in a category, you may want to sub-categorise that down to improve relevance, rankings and UX.” 

Just like how people rarely click on page nine of Google search results, customers will rarely look at page nine of a category. Sub-category implementation will give them a better guide as to where they can find the products they want. For a clothing store, this might look like this:

Clothing > Men > Jumpers > Roll Neck Jumpers

Not having these is the equivalent of a supermarket having all of their food in one humongous aisle. Good luck trying to find what you need in there! 

4. Include breadcrumbs 

Breadcrumbs aren’t on every category or product page, but they should be. They essentially show the user’s journey from the root category page to whatever page they’re on at that point. Using the example above, if you were on a product page for a roll neck jumper, you might see the “Clothing > Men > Jumpers > Roll Neck Jumpers” as a breadcrumb near the top of the page.

Each of these should be clickable, giving the user a chance to go as far back as they would like to in their journey. This massively improves navigation on these pages and means that if they end up down the wrong path, they can quickly ‘turn around’ and go back the way they came. This helps increase conversions and lower bounce rates.

Habitat, an online furniture provider, use this to good effect on their pages:

Add bread crumbs to pass link equity throughout all the pages and guide consumers - must have for ecommerce site that converts

Source: Habitat 

From a search engine perspective, it also helps pass link equity throughout all the pages. The more internal links something like Google detects going to a page, the more it will consider that page important. With that in mind, including breadcrumbs means that you will be linking to many pages at once. This means that they will quickly develop an understanding of how your website is structured, which should make ranking for relevant terms even easier. 

Everything else

These tips below don’t need a whole section to explain, but could still be key movers for your traffic and conversions. 

  • Include trust points and reviews on product pages

According to a BrightLocal survey, 91% of 18 to 34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This means that your product pages should include reviews of the item and the rest of your website should include testimonials from customers alongside your ratings on services like TrustPilot or Google. 

  • Use photos and videos to sell to the customer

Shoppers expect more than one photo per product now. They want to see it from different angles and in use, in both a photo and video format ideally. One study found that those shoppers who saw videos on product pages were 144% more likely to add a product to their cart.

  • Add filters and sorts to pages

While some popular ecommerce platforms have this as a basic feature, plenty still don’t. With that in mind, make sure that you can apply filters that are relevant to your products. If a website sells shoes, it may need a size filter. If a website sells food, it may need a vegetarian-friendly filter. Regardless of the niche, all pages should also have the ability to sort by price and ratings. 

  • Include optimized copy

After a recent Google update saw some websites crash in rankings, it became even more apparent that optimized copy is crucial for ecommerce-focused pages. By including keywords and matching the intent of the typical customer, you can draw in organic traffic and help them convert while they are there; all while appeasing search engines and assuring them that you’re relevant to the searches your customers are making. 

  • Consider brand-focused pages

If you’re getting a lot of brand-focused searches and interest, you may want to create a dedicated page for that brand and connect all the relevant products to it. This will help establish your relevance for these searches, while also collecting all of the products people are interested in to one place.

Matthew Rogers is Head of Campaign Management at the top Manchester-based digital market agency Add People and has over 14 years of marketing experience. He is also a long-standing member of the Click Z Collective Advisory board.

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Switching from Google Analytics—here’s what you need to know

June 8, 2022 No Comments

Google has dominated the data analytics marketplace for so long that it might feel daunting to switch. You may have reservations about an alternate platform because you have been conditioned to think there is no other tool that can live up to Universal Analytics.

We are here to reassure marketers that is not the case—switching has never been easier. Especially since Google recently announced they would be sunsetting their Universal Analytics platform.

If you made it here, you are likely to have already done your research on the pitfalls and limitations of Universal Analytics’ successor, Google Analytics 4. If not, it is worth reading ‘Google Analytics 4: drawbacks and limitations—is it worth sticking around?.

Chances are, you have taken notice of the laundry list of issues with Google Analytics 4 and are considering jumping ship. This could be because of data quality or limitations, a lack of privacy-friendly features, or transparency in handling data.

As a marketer or analyst, you need to make an informed decision and choose the platform whose feature sets fit your organization’s needs to process user-level data while building trust with visitors. This article will help relieve some of the cognitive dissonances you may be experiencing. Let’s get into it:

Which is better, a free plan or a paid one?

It all comes down to the compromises and limitations you can accept depending on your project. Here are some key differences:

Free plan

Free web analytics platforms always have constraints—whether it is reduced performance, lack of solid privacy features, or sampled data. Nevertheless, a free web analytics platform can help you run your projects successfully.

Certain platforms ensure an easy upgrade from free to paid and more advanced versions. They also let you keep the setup, data, tags, etc., so you do not have to start collecting data from scratch. Others just eliminate the limitations and lift the price.

Paid alternatives

Paid alternatives overcome the limits of their free forerunners and grant more options for data collection and analysis. This includes the performance of the analytics platform, data protection, and extensive customer support.

For many organizations, the standard data safeguards of public clouds are sufficient. However, those operating in jurisdictions with strict data privacy regulations or highly regulated industries, like finance or healthcare, might require a private cloud or on-premises hosting. This is when having a paid plan would be necessary.

Piwik PRO offers both a free and paid plan so different kinds of organizations can get the service tailored to their needs.

Which is better, public, private cloud, or a self-host cloud?

Storing data on in-house servers used to be the gold standard for executing analytics safely and securely. Though, cloud-based analytics platforms have been steadily gaining market share.

Here is how they differ:

Public cloud

Public cloud is the most widely used model on the market. Storage space is shared between all the organizations that lease the environment from the same company. Public clouds are recommended for small and medium-sized organizations since they are more cost-efficient and quicker to deploy than the other options.

A drawback of public clouds is storing data on the external provider’s servers. The responsibility for data security rests with the provider. While this may be convenient, it limits how you can protect your data.

Some companies need to comply with strict internal data protocols or data residency regulations. With Piwik PRO, marketers can choose between four cloud hosting options— Germany, the Netherlands, the U.S., and Singapore.

Private cloud

Another type of deployment is through a private cloud. This model is often called “company cloud” or “organization cloud” because it is built exclusively for one organization. Companies that want to, or must separate their data from other cloud users who choose private cloud. This gives them the convenience of using the a public cloud with better data security.

A downside of a private cloud is the cost is significantly higher than a public because it requires the building of new infrastructure. Additionally, the installation time for private cloud is typically longer than with public cloud. For example, with Piwik PRO, the technical onboarding for private cloud clients takes about two weeks.

On-premises (self-hosted)

In an on-premises model, the infrastructure is built and managed by the company or organization, with employees having physical access to all resources. The company stores the data on its own servers or servers that they rent or lease from third parties.

Storing data in a chosen location and having full physical access to the infrastructure allows companies to process personal data securely. However, the costs related to the on-premises solution are significant and building and running your own data center is a long and complicated process.

Myths vs. Facts about switching analytics platforms

Despite the advancements of alternative platforms, some organizations are hesitant to make the move away from Google Analytics. To help dispel common fears and bring awareness to other platforms, here are the common misconceptions about switching:

I’ll lose historical data

This is a fact, but not for long. Some alternatives have developed data importers in the wake of Universal Analytics being deprecated. 

Alternatives are not integrated with Google

This is a myth. Alternatives are designed to work seamlessly with other Google solutions and partner products.

I miss some reporting capabilities

This is false. Each alternative has unique reporting capabilities, and some are very flexible, allowing for more transformations and data exports than Universal Analytics.

Switching from GA4

It is easier to run advertising campaigns with Universal Analytics

This is true. There is deep integration with Google Analytics and Google Ads/Google Marketing Platform, which gives access to an extensive repertoire of data.

I’ll lose my rank in Google Search

This is a myth. Alternatives’ customers do not report a lower rank in Google Search. Make sure your site is fast, mobile-friendly, popular (links), and with complete metadata.

Where should you go from here?

As the importance of compliance with regulations is growing, marketers should consider analytics platforms that offer a full set of privacy features.

Our intention with Piwik PRO Analytics Suite has always been to give clients powerful analytics capabilities along with key privacy and security features.

While we cannot tell you exactly what platform is right for your organization, we can help with your research.

If you’d like to learn more about Google Analytics alternatives or get more information on the Piwik PRO Analytics Suite, visit

The post Switching from Google Analytics—here’s what you need to know appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Three critical keyword research trends you must embrace

May 19, 2022 No Comments

Three critical keyword research trends you must embrace

30-second summary:

  • Exact-match keywords are useful for researching patterns and trends but not so much for optimization purposes
  • When optimizing for keywords, optimize for intent and solve problems, don’t just match your page to the keyword
  • Brand-driven keywords should be your top priority because you cannot control SERPs but you can rank assets that will drive people back to your site
  • Instead of focusing on keyword strings, research your niche entities and find the ways to associate your business with those through on-site content and PR/link building efforts

If you ask an SEO expert to name one SEO tactic that has changed the most over the years, they are likely to confidently answer “link building.” Some will point out to “technical tasks”, and very few will ever think of “keyword research.”

The truth is, most SEO tasks look completely different these days but few SEO experts have changed the fundamental way they do keyword research and optimize content for those keywords.

Yes, we seem to have finally left keyword density behind (unless Google forces it back) but fundamentally nothing has changed: We run keyword tools, find relevant keyword strings and use them as much as we can throughout a dedicated page.

In the meantime, Google’s understanding and treatments of keywords has changed completely.

1. Exact-match keywords are getting obsolete

Google has a long history of trying to understand search queries beyond matching word strings in them to the documents in the search index.

And they succeeded.

It started years ago with Hummingbird being first quietly introduced then officially announced in August of 2013.

Yet, few SEOs actually understood the update or realized how much of a change to everything they knew it was.

With Hummingbird Google made it clear that they were striving for a deeper understanding of searching journeys and that would ultimately fix all their problems. As they manage to know exactly what a searcher wants and learn to give them that, no fake signals or algorithm manipulations will impact their search quality.

Hummingbird was the first time Google announced they wanted to understand “things” instead of matching “strings of words.” In other words, with Hummingbird exact-match keyword strings started becoming less and less useful.

Then, after Hummingbird came BERT that helped Google to enhance its understanding of how people search. 

Exact match keywords becoming obsolete after the Google BERT updateImage source: Google

There’s a short but pretty enlightening video on the struggles and solutions of Google engineers trying to teach the machine to understand the obvious: What is it people mean when typing a search query?

That video explains the evolution of SEO perfectly:

  • Context is what matters
  • Google is struggling, yet slowly succeeding at understanding “context, tone and intention”
  • Search queries are becoming less predictable as more and more people talk to a search engine they way they think
  • Stop words do actually add meaning, and are often crucial at changing it.

The takeaway here: Keyword research tools are still useful. They help you understand the patterns: How people tend to phrase a query when looking for answers and solutions in your niche.

But those keywords with search volume are not always what people use to research your target topic. According to Google, people search in diverse, often unpredictable ways. According to Google, on a daily basis 15% of searches are ones Google hasn’t seen before.

Every day Google encounters 15% of completely new search queries. That’s how diverse searching behaviors are.

Moving away from keyword matching, Google strives to give complete and actionable answers to the query. And that’s what your SEO strategy should be aiming at doing as well.

Whatever keyword research process you’ve been using is likely still valid: It helps you understand the demand for certain queries, prioritize your content assets and structure your site.

It’s the optimization step that is completely different these days. It is no longer enough to use that word in the page title, description and headings.

So when creating an optimization strategy for every keyword you identify:

  • Try to figure out what would satisfy the search intent behind that query: What is it that searcher really looking for? A list? A video? A product to buy? A guide to follow? Even slight changes in a searchable keyword string (e.g. plural vs singular) can signal a searching intent you need to be aware of.
  • Search Google for that query and look through search snippets: Google is very good at identifying what a searcher needs, so they generate search snippets that can give you lots of clues.

Notice how none of the high-ranking documents has that exact search query included:

Ranking resources for diverse keywords vs exact match keywordsImage source: Screenshot made by the author

2. Branded keywords are your priority

More and more people are using search to navigate to a website, and there are several reasons for that:

  • A few strongest browsers allow people search from the address bar (those include Safari on both desktop and mobile and, obviously, Google Chrome)
  • People are getting used to voice searching, so they just speak brand names to perform a  search.

Ranking for branded keywords to funnel target audience to assets

Image source: Screenshot made by the author

In other words, your customers who likely know about your brand and are possibly ready to make a purchase – those hard-earned customers are forced to search for your brand name or for your branded query.

And what will they see?

It is astounding how many companies have no idea what comes up for their branded search, or how many customers they lose over poorly managed (or more often non-existent) in-SERP reputation management.

There are three crucial things to know about brand-driven search:

  • These are mostly high-intent queries: These searchers are typing your brand name intending to buy from you
  • These are often your existing, returning customers that tend to buy more than first-time customers
  • Both of the above factors make these your brands’ top priority.

And yet, you don’t have control over what people see when searching for your brand. In fact, monitoring and optimizing for those brand-driven queries is not a one-time task. It is there for as long as your brand exists.

  • Treat your brand name as a keyword: Expand it, optimize for it, monitor your site’s rankings
  • Identify deeper level problems behind your customers’ brand-driven searching patterns: What is it you can improve to solve problems behind those queries?

Identifying customer pain points for keyword researchImage source: Screenshot made by the author

Your branded search queries should become part of your sales funnel – everything from About page to product pages and lead magnets should capture those brand-driven opportunities.

In many cases, when you see a large amount of brand-driven keywords, you may need a higher level approach, like setting up a standalone knowledge base.

3. Entities are key

Entities are Google’s way to understand this world.

Entities are all proper names out there: Places, people, brands, etc.

Google has a map of entities – called Knowledge Graph – that makes up Google’s understanding of the world.

Entities help Google understand the context and the search intent.

Using entities and semantic searchImage search: The beginner’s guide to semantic search

Being Google’s entity means coming up in searches where you were implied but never mentioned:

Using Google entities for keyword researchImage source: Screenshot made by the author

Through entity associations, Google knows what any search is about.

Entities should be the core of your keyword research process: What are known entities is your niche and how do you associate your brand with those entities?


Search engine optimization is evolving fast, so it requires an agile strategy for brands to keep up. If you are doing keyword research the old, exact-match, way, your business is about 10 years behind!

Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

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