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How to safeguard your privacy while building your digital business

April 22, 2022 No Comments

How to safeguard your privacy while building your digital business

30-second summary:

  • The need to become a public persona in order to be a successful business owner is overrated
  • Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to create an anonymous digital entity while using a majority of efficient marketing strategies
  • The problem arises when you already have your personal data published and want to delete it – it is neither easy nor possible (given all the variety of archiving tools that are publicly accessible these days)
  • So how do you keep your life private while owning a successful online business?
  • How do you navigate this conundrum as your private content may still become public at any moment?

The internet is both, a boon and a bane, depending on – how you use it, and how others use it to interact with you. A lot of new businesses and side hustles emerged post the pandemic, while brick and mortar businesses started digitizing themselves. This has raised well-being challenges around how business owners and senior executives can separate work from their personal pockets over the internet. How can they ensure their privacy and online safety are strong while building a digital business footprint?

Here are a few things you should know about safeguarding your online identity from the internet:

1. Making your site anonymous

Digitizing your business while remaining anonymous is difficult but doable. Here are all the steps you need to take to create an anonymous blog. In essence:

  • You need to come up with an online pseudonym (a moniker as we used to call it back in the days when we were using forums and never used our real names around the web)
  • Set up a new email address and create your new public social media profiles representing your business
  • In addition, you will need to pay for domain privacy protection to prevent your phone, email, and address from being tied to your domain. Domain privacy protection replaces personal information with proxy info in the public WHOIS directory.
  • Make sure you are using an SSL certificate (which you can do for free)

I know we have been talking about transparency and authenticity and building your personal brand too much, so creating a successful anonymous site without exposing yourself seems almost like an unpopular choice.

Well, I believe there’s still a place for anonymity in social media, and you can still succeed without the cost of compromising your personal details to the public. You just need to take careful steps when using all kinds of marketing tactics – like blogging and social media marketing – in order to keep your private life – well – private.

Of course, that means, not posting family pictures on Instagram, and not telling personal stories, but there is still a wealth of opportunities, from SEO to PPC ads. With more personal tactics, like blogger outreach, you will likely have to come up with an alternative identity as no one likes anonymous emails or emails coming from a business.

There’s one thing to note here: For both ecommerce and SaaS businesses creating an anonymous business entity is doable. Of course, some of your customers may be curious who is behind your brand but if you have working contact information, it is not a huge issue. It is, of course, more challenging for a freelancing business, as most freelance marketplaces require your real name in order to join.

Some may argue about the possibility of anonymity in the context of E-A-T but in reality, it isn’t common knowledge how exactly Google translates its E-A-T requirements into a ranking algorithm. So far, I’ve seen plenty of websites with no humanized ‘About’ pages ranking, and ranking high. Besides, you can tell the story of your business without telling the personal story of its founder. 

The need to become a public persona in order to be a successful business owner is overrated. It is still a matter of choice. Technical SEO and high-quality backlinks, as well as the quality of content and properly performed keyword research – remain the three pillars of solid organic visibility. A well-done ‘About’ page can exist without personal branding as long as it conveys your business’ proposition, origin story, and conveys values that will resonate with your target consumers/audience.

2. Delete your public content from third-party platforms

Chances are, you have been contributing to several third-party platforms using your real name. It is only natural because there are a few powerful social media players (like Facebook and Quora) that have real-name policies in place preventing users from maintaining anonymity.

If at some point you decide that you don’t want that content to come up in search when anyone is searching for your name, what are your choices?

The hard truth is that removing your own content that you added to a third-party site is a challenge. Some platforms don’t even have tools for mass-deleting content from the platform. In the case of Quora, you will probably need to delete your own account in order to get rid of your content.

In some cases, like Reddit and Tumblr, even deleting your own account won’t help as your content will remain there assigned to a removed entity.

In case you are curious, here’s a break-through of major third-party content-based networks and how you can wipe your content off them in an easier way:

Third-party content- driven platform Any Way to Mass-Delete Content? Will the content be gone once you delete your entire account?
Reddit No No
Quora No Yes
(except for questions which are mostly anonymous)
Instagram Yes
(You can also make your profile private)
Twitter No
(However, you can make them all private/protected)
Yes
Facebook No (But you can make them all private/hidden) Yes
Pinterest No Yes
(but NOT re-pins other people make from your pins)
Tumblr Yes
(Using the mass post editor)
Not all
(Your group blog contributions will be kept)
Yelp No Yes
(But not instantly)
YouTube Yes
(You can mass-delete your comments and mass-hide your videos)
Yes

In summary, deleting your content from the web will take some work, and in some cases, it will not happen instantly. But it is better than saving future hours trying to block and delete spam communications targeted toward you and your business.

You can, of course, change your username on most of these networks to hide your real name but mind that your previous name will be still visible through the Wayback Machine and similar archiving tools, should anyone take the time to research.

3. Make your remaining accounts private

If you think going off the grid is an extreme sport and want to maintain some sort of social media presence to stay in touch with friends and family, simply make your accounts private. But remember that your name and profile picture may still be public and findable through Google, even when a profile is set to private.

Here’s an example of a private account on Instagram which still makes your name, username, description, profile picture, and website public, even for a non-logged-in viewer:

Safeguard your personal identity over the social media while growing a digital business- making your account private still keeps some parts of your profile visible

Generally, when a social media account is set to private, neither logged-in nor unregistered people cannot access your content or your friend list.

The culture of spontaneous sharing is going too strong: People publish and share private information without much consideration or without meaning any harm.

And let’s not forget about an always possible data breach risk that can land your personal information in the possession of hackers. From the past incidents, it is quite clear a social media platform is unlikely to even let their users know about the breach (they may do that but months after it happened, months after your private data may have ended up in the wrong hands).

That being said, deleting your accounts is probably a better – still not a perfect – option.

Conclusion

The truth is, once we start opening up our lives to the digital world, that private content gets wings of its own. It becomes very difficult to bring it under control and can easily spread without you even being aware.

If this is something of a concern to you, take at least some steps now: When starting a new business or digitizing your current one, keep your anonymity options in mind and make an informed decision as to what you want your customers to know about your personal life.


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

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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The post How to safeguard your privacy while building your digital business appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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How to avoid SEO penalties in algorithm-stricken industries

April 8, 2022 No Comments

When trying to rank on Google through search engine optimization, there are some industries which are far more competitive and prone to algorithm updates than others.

Industries such as casinos, insurance, loans, hosting, and FX are highly competitive, and many SEO practitioners will turn to black hat techniques to secure Page 1 positions.

Google is the most popular search engine used by consumers; it makes regular weekly algorithm changes. As a result, firms may find their initial SEO progress is shot down by a penalty which can ultimately lead to a significant loss of traffic and revenue.

The guide below gives some vital tips when trying to rank in the most penalty-stricken and volatile search results on Google.

Choose a good domain

 When trying to rank for a highly competitive keyword, SEO professionals might look at selecting a domain which is very similar to the ‘big money’ keyword. There is certainly evidence that having a domain with competitive keywords in it will give you an SEO boost. For example, carinsurance.com or onlinecasinos.com

However, in today’s marketing landscape, this is not as essential, and Google looks more at brands rather than just keywords within a domain name.

Firms which have an exact match domain or partial match domain (i.e. loans or insurance is in the domain name), will need to be a little bit cautious, however. This is because there will likely be a higher mention of ‘danger’ words, like insurance and loans, a lot more in the content, the meta-data, and the links acquired.

SEO professionals need to be aware of keyword stuffing, or over-use of sensitive words, their brand’s anchor text as this is likely the first thing Google will look at if they are going to penalize a business.

Strong competitor analysis

 Competitors are a good starting point for any SEO professional. Those which rank on the first two pages of Google’s search results will provide insight into what works and what does not.

Not only can SEOs then emulate the right kind of techniques for said industry, but they can also see who has potentially fallen within the search rankings and been hit most by algorithm updates and penalties.

Since the casino and insurance sectors are known to have their own kind of algorithms, SEO’s working in these markets will need to play close attention to whether the landing page, or homepage, is used to rank. Consideration will also need to be given to URL structures, meta titles, and how frequently is a keyword mentioned on a page.

With language in mind, SEOs will also need to take heed of what kind of rhetoric and language is being used within competitor sights, as well as what links are used.

As a result, looking at competitors is essential for ranking in a highly specialized and competitive industry. Firms which are well established in the market are likely to have gone through the motions and have overcome penalties in the past in order to secure such strong positions.

Using low risk link building strategies

 SEOs assisting firms in more penalty-ridden industries will need to be more careful with the links built and acquired.

For starters, getting brand name links to a homepage is always going to be low risk. Spreading these links across several resourceful blogs and guides, will help build a business up as an authority, while appearing organic.

Linking to homepages and guides is much harder to penalize than if links are embedded within ‘money pages’ of hyperlinked to words like casino or loans. However, firms need to ensure their content is not thin and includes real statistics, graphs and images which validate their resources.

It is important, therefore, for SEO professionals to review what percentage of links go to their organization’s homepage, money pages and guides; looking at competitors and their split can be very useful here. In fact, using tools like Majestic can show you this immediately.

Be cautious with link anchor text

 When choosing the anchor text of a links, SEOs should ideally be on the cautious side. In general, no legitimate site will offer hyperlinks of ‘car insurance’ or ‘best casinos’. Instead, SEOs should look to hyperlink to phrases like ‘find more information here’ or ‘check your eligibility’.

Hyperlinking to phrases which can be actioned – like ‘quotes from $ 300 per month’ – is also likely to be more effective. Using a mix of these techniques will look more organic within money pages.

The use of synonyms can also be helpful when considering which phrases to hyperlink. The word ‘car insurance’ can easily be interchanged with ‘motor insurance’, for example. Rephrasing is also a popular technique used by SEO professionals – instead of ‘car insurance policies’, try ‘insurance for your car’.

Avoiding abbreviations is also a common technique used by SEOs. Instead of saying ‘VPNs’, ‘virtual private networks’ can be used to anchor text more naturally.

 Patience is key 

Overall, the competitive industries mentioned within this article are so valuable that they attract a lot of attention from SEO practitioners, and this means black hat techniques who are trying to game the system and generate some quick traffic.

Whilst cautious techniques will take several months to have an impact, firms can have peace of mind they you will sustain good quality rankings and traffic and avoid future penalties.

Firms which make sure they look carefully at competitors and avoid overusing the big keywords in their content and links should be good to go!

The post How to avoid SEO penalties in algorithm-stricken industries appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Payday loans algorithm update 2022

March 17, 2022 No Comments

The payday loans algorithm continues to challenge search engine optimization (SEO) practitioners across the world, notably in the US and UK – the two largest markets for payday loans.

In 2012, UK’s payday loan market was worth around £2 billion and was so sought after that Google’s entire first page for payday loans was dominated by black hat results.

In response, the tech giant created a dedicated algorithm – which was revised in 2018 – known today as ‘payday loans 2.0’. The purpose of the algoritm was target what Google deemed “spammy queries”; never before had Google devoted an entire algorithm for one particular product or service.

The payday loan market in the UK is now heavily regulated and no longer as lucrative. But SEO professionals looking to help promote payday loan companies are still hoping to land on a search engine’s first page in order to access very high converting products with over 100,000 monthly searches.

Drawing on Tudor Lodge’s findings from the 2019 and 2021 algorithm, we look at how the payday algorithm has developed in the UK and US, and what techniques are succeeding in 2022.

 Frequency of updates

 Payday loan companies looking to rank their sites higher on search engines may fine they are struggling to make progress, even with the help of SEO practitioners. When this progress will appear, may also seem uncertain.

In the UK, Google infrequently updates its SEO algorithm which means a company with ‘good’ SEO could result in it ranking highlight for months or even a year, without having to change very much. This means companies can ‘ride the wave’ of their previous good SEO work.

There is an age-old SEO assumption that Google takes the techniques used by websites on page 1 of its search and uses these techniques as the basis for the algorithm. Therefore, companies which copy the links and style of content of page 1 should be successful.

In the US, however, the frequency of SEO changes for payday loans is significantly quicker, with the search results changing far more regularly and competitors having to be consistent to maintain those results.

This could reflect the more competitive environment in the US and how state-specific lenders, such as those from Florida or Ohio, might suddenly start to rank higher due to demand in those areas.

Role of exact match and partial match domains

 Traditionally, having the word ‘payday’ in a business’ domain name was a strong ranking signal to secure a page 1 position, but this seems to be less relevant as time goes on.

Filtering by the UK’s geography, only one website appears on Google’s Page 1 search results page with the word payday in the businesses’ domain name; it is one of the oldest payday lenders in the market. The same occurs when filtering for the US market, only in this instance, the firm has used a black hat technique.

As a result, companies looking to set up a website in this market do not need to include the word ‘payday’ within their domain name to be successful.

Popular techniques and red flags

There are a couple of techniques, however, which will stand businesses looking to gain traction in the payday loan market in good stead.

  1. Careful phrasing is one of these techniques. Companies looking to improve their payday loan SEO should look carefully at the phrasing used by websites which rank on page 1 in the UK and US.

These websites tend to use the following terms: “direct lenders”, “bad credit”, and “alternatives”. Other popular phrases include payday loans online used by Dime Alley and include the word “instalment”.

Tudor Lodge’s previous investigation into the algorithm suggests these phrases push websites up the ranking because Google wants to: provide “alternatives” rather than expensive payday products; ensure “direct lenders” are promoted over brokers; and appeal to “bad credit” which is the real use of the product.

  1. Another technique to be considered is the use of Google Business, a free service which allows organizations to manage and optimize their businesses’ profile on Google. In recent years, the platform has gained more exposure in the SERPs for payday loans.

Arguably this is not surprising since figures show Google Business clicks are surpassing normal clicks on Google for the first time ever this year. This is particularly relevant in the US where there are over 23,000 payday stores and the role of local listings is far more important than in the UK where the industry is mainly online.

For SEO practitioners, having a populated Google Business account with images, descriptions and organic reviews will only help to secure more exposure and clicks, even for new entries.

And of course, making sure the address and contact details on your website are very clear on the footer and contact us page. Without any contact details or address on your website, you are pretty much a ghost in Google’s eyes.

  1. Another important detail for SEO practitioners and payday loan companies to think about is ensuring there is an explanation of how their product works. Customers need to know how to apply for a payday product listed on a website.

Websites listed on Page 1 of Google’s listings all ensure this copy is clear and concise, whether it be through a steps process – as demonstrated by Pheabs – or a dedicated ‘how it works’ page.

 In addition to best practice, there are a number of techniques which are now grossly out of fashion.

  1. Long content and landing pages are one example. Whilst I personally have always been a fan of long content, and nice strong landing pages, there are several strong examples on Google’s Page 1 which seem to defy this.

These websites, some with limited content (but a strong backlink profile) and others just including a ‘how it works’ page and some strong FAQs on their homepages, have managed to maintain their top spots. This might suggest backlinks are stronger than content in this market.

  1. Another faux pas is having multiple pages on a payday website. It could be assumed that having pages dedicated to each product, service and question would help the consumer journey, the sites that have multiple pages have declined and been penalized in 2021. This suggests companies should approach their website through the lens of having one, focused page which discusses different locations on said.

 Where do links fall into this algorithm?

 Links are always so vital for SEO, and Tudor Lodge’s studies show that acquiring links is likely to make a company’s website rank quicker in in the payday market, than adding more content would.

The role of PBNs is still evident with SEO professionals buying links and this is having a positive correlation on rankings, unless hit with a penalty. Some of the best ranking sites can leverage links from ‘gov.uk’ and ‘.edu’ by offering sponsorships and associating with good causes.

 Long SEO articles on third party sites

 Finally, there has been a surge in the US of companies who are ranking third party articles, rather than individual sites.

The SEO professional is writing very long and detailed pieces about payday loans and including lots of relevant keywords such as “no credit check” and “bad credit” – then listing their 4 or 5 favourite sites or clients in the text to generate leads.

Using third party sites, often regional or state press sites with domain authorities of 80 or higher, ensures these articles rank well and gains instant exposure via Google News. This technique is often underrated by the industry but has gained a lot of visibility in recent years.

It is innovative and well executed and essentially just SEO by any other name.

The post Payday loans algorithm update 2022 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Six data-driven SEO strategies that optimize conversion rates

February 22, 2022 No Comments

Six data-driven SEO strategies that optimize conversion rates

30-second summary:

  • Since Google now focuses heavily on user experience, using data as a pillar to uncover consumer insights will drive your digital marketing success
  • However, marketing teams still need to understand these sources and their areas of impact on the consumer’s experience
  • Atul Jindal helps you cover the ground with his advice and case studies

Studies have shown that businesses using data-driven strategies experience five to eight times higher ROI. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a process that largely depends on data. The core focus for most CRO strategies is to use consumer data to make their customer journey smoother and experience better.

With search engines also increasing emphasis on user experience, we find a point where SEO strategies start to complement CRO strategies.

But your SEO tactics can truly augment your CRO efforts when driven by data.

In this article, I share six data-driven SEO strategies to supplement your CRO efforts.

From content audit to website personalization, read till the end to find out how you can boost your search engine rankings and conversions altogether!

Data-driven SEO strategies to supplement CRO

Data-driven strategies are online marketing tactics fueled by consumer data. Unlike traditional marketing strategies, data-driven strategies are based on data-backed hypotheses rather than assumptions.

This reliance on solid data makes such strategies the star of the modern marketing world.

Here are six data-driven SEO strategies to make your CRO efforts more promising:

1. Website analysis and optimization

Website analysis is a process through which you test various elements of your website. It analyzes the overall performance of your website and highlights areas of improvement.

The elements that web analysis takes into account include the website’s on-page optimization and technical SEO, finding out about the keywords it ranks for, and what rank it has for different keywords.

Using various web analytics tools, this process also uncovers sources where your website gets traffic from, highlights the flaws in your website’s usability and UX, and provides the basis for the website’s load speed optimization.

Through all of these elements, it helps in enhancing your website’s overall user experience and contributes towards conversion rate optimization.

Additionally, it also provides your web traffic’s demographic and interest data, enabling you to optimize the website for a more relevant user experience.

Google Analytics is the most comprehensive and reliable tool to support your website analysis and optimization efforts. It integrates with your website and tracks all the data you need to optimize your website for an enhanced user experience.

A leading marketing automation software company experienced 10x higher conversion rates when they integrated their native real-time personalization tool with Google Analytics to use the personalization data. This was paired with the Google Analytics information to serve personalized remarketing ads through Google AdWords.

Not only did they experience higher conversion rates, but with the effective use of web analytics data, like demographic and behavior information, they also experienced a 107 percent YoY increase in qualified leads.

2. Content analysis and optimization

Content analysis is similar to website analysis, but instead of testing your website’s technical elements, it analyzes your website’s content and overall content strategy to uncover areas of improvement.

Conversion rates are almost six times higher for businesses that invest in content marketing. But results like this manifest only when your website brims with optimized content.

The purpose of your content is to compel users to take the desired action, or in other words, convert.

Content analysis finds out how well it serves this purpose.

You can uncover various metrics with content analysis, like which content type is the most popular among your audience, which content is bringing you closer to your marketing objectives, and which needs more work.

For example, a marketing optimization software company may have blogs and case studies in its content strategy. Their web analytics may reveal that case studies drive more conversions while blogs get the most social shares.

With its content marketing objective being increased conversions, content analysis will help them focus more on publishing more case studies.

An effective content analysis will also uncover whether or not your content matches the search intent of your target search queries. And therefore, whether or not you need to find new SEO keywords and re-optimize. If your content doesn’t match the search intent perfectly, even if it gets traffic, those users will not convert.

So, in essence, content analysis will help increase conversions by helping you create content that is proven to drive results. It will also help save time and resources from being spent on less-profitable strategies.

Here’s a case study discussing how changing content on your website can reflect a spike in revenue.

Brookdaleliving.com, a website offering community living solutions for the elderly, had a disappointing website conversion rate. But then, their website had nothing that would drive conversions.

The digital marketing experts they hired revamped their website and tested two different content types on their landing page – an image and a testimonial video – to see which one performs better.

Ironically, the web page with an image drove 3.92 percent higher conversions than the original page. This may seem like a small increment, but it resulted in additional revenue of $ 106,000.

3. Website design optimization

Tests like usability testing and A/B testing provide the data that drives website design optimization to improve a website’s design and enhance its user experience.

The purpose of CRO is to make the user journey smoother and experience better.

Website design optimization supports CRO by removing frictions in the buyer’s journey and making it easier for them to accomplish their goals.

But there are a couple of best practices the website design must adhere to to ensure that it really contributes to your CRO efforts.

  1. The design should be simple and somewhat similar to what the users are accustomed to
  2. The navigation bar should be designed intuitively, with the user’s search intent in mind, so they can quickly find what they came looking for
  3. The content arrangement should follow proven design techniques that enhance content readability and value delivery

For your web design to truly serve your business, you will have to continue to test various combinations of website elements, their placements, and designs.

Regardless of how you go about your web design, making the target audience’s journey easier should be at the heart of all your efforts.

Trucker Reports, a trucker’s community that helps truck drivers find jobs, struggled with low conversions.

The CRO experts they hired performed a web design audit and discovered multiple opportunities. Based on these opportunities, they tested different hypotheses.

They tested three different designs against the original ones in their final test and found out that the final design had 79.3 percent higher conversions.

Do you know why?

Because this last design had the least friction and made it easier for the users to convert.

4. Audience analysis

Audience analysis, commonly known as audience research, is the process through which you dig up information about your prospects so you can develop targeted marketing campaigns.

Since user experience is a massive part of SEO and CRO alike, audience analysis holds an important place as a data-driven SEO strategy for conversion rate optimization.

This process uncovers a wide variety of data, from core demographic information like age, gender, marital status, income, education, etc., to online behavior, internal and external challenges, and more.

Audience analysis helps develop a buyer persona, which then becomes the foundation of a highly-targeted marketing campaign.

Audience analysis is a core element of a successful CRO campaign because it makes your website relevant to the users. You find out about their pain points and struggles and are better equipped to address them through your content.

This shows that you care about your customers and inevitably builds trust between your brand and its prospects. Given that the modern customer prioritizes their connection with the brand when making purchase decisions, this bond of trust and reliability results in higher conversions.

Data-backed audience analysis also allows you to segment your audience based on their demographic information and interest. With this level of segmentation, you spend your efforts and resources on people you know matter to your business.

This is why studies indicate a 56 percent reduction in marketing costs for businesses that use audience analysis as a basis for all their marketing efforts.

5. Testing and optimization

Testing is the life of conversion rate optimization. You put samples of your content and design arrangements to test to see which one performs better and optimize using the results of these tests.

These tests are all data-driven, that is, they are based on hypotheses generated from existing data and provide insights into how valid the hypothesis is.

For example, data may show a higher conversion rate on websites with explainer videos. This forms the hypothesis of your test. So, you develop two different landing pages, one with a video and another with an image, to see which performs better. If the videos result in higher conversions, you know what to continue optimizing with!

You can perform different kinds of tests when optimizing websites for conversions. Two of the popular ones include usability testing and A/B or split testing.

Search engines also recommend A/B and multivariate testing for SEO as it improves user experience, which search engines pursue in the websites they index.  

NatureAir performed A/B testing on their landing page to increase conversions. One of the samples had a CTA on the side, while the other had a CTA prominently placed in the content area.

Once the test results were in, they found that placing CTA in the content area increases conversions by 591 percent!

That’s how potent A/B tests can be!

6. Website personalization

According to Google, 90 percent of marketers believe personalization results in business profitability. And why shouldn’t it? In an era with so many similar websites, a web page that offers a customized experience deserves to make better revenue.

Website personalization is a relatively complex process through which you can serve a unique experience to each visitor. These experiences are designed based on consumer data, including their demographic data, interests, search history, and online behavior.

75 percent of consumers prefer that online sellers use personal information to enhance shopping experiences.

People want you to make shopping easier for them, adding a personalized product recommendation on your website will help improve your user experience and could boost sales. They don’t want to go out and search for what they want. They want you to know what they need and bring it to them. And that’s what website personalization empowers you to do.

It improves overall website experience, lowers bounce rates, boosts SEO, and of course, increases conversions.

Serving dynamic content makes the customer’s experience more intuitive and relevant. It lets you put out the content that interests them the most, and hence, contributes to better revenue.

Conclusion

The goal of an SEO and a CRO campaign have become somewhat similar ever since search engines have started giving value to user experience.

There are many SEO strategies focused on improving UX. And these strategies, when backed by data, can lead to increased conversion rates.

Therefore, I have discussed some of the most promising data-driven SEO strategies that can drive conversions in this article.

But the true results of a strategy depend on how well you implement it. So, ramp up your data analysis game, derive insights, implement them, and optimize your strategies for better results.


Atul Jindal is a web design and marketing specialist, having interests in doing websites/apps optimized for SEO with a core focus on conversion optimization. He creates web experiences that bring conversations and transform web traffic into paying customers or leads.

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.

The post Six data-driven SEO strategies that optimize conversion rates appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Is your business optimized for Google Discover? This guide is for you!

February 17, 2022 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Would you turn down an opportunity to acquire new customers without breaking the bank?
  • Google Discover currently supports 800M users in exploration and is a great way to attract new audiences
  • Joe Dawson covers the “why” and “how” in this comprehensive Google Discover optimization guide

Even though spending on SEO plays such a major role in the online business sphere, most web admins spend their lives attempting to crack Google’s organic page ranking algorithms. As SEOs may or may not lose sleep over the latest updates, Google Discovery is surely a dreamy-eyed way to win more audiences.

What is Google Discover?

Discover is the brainchild that replaced Google Feed in 2018 and helps around  800M monthly active users with content exploration. Discover aims to push hand-selected news and articles directly to user feeds without the need for searching. Google builds a profile of users and supplies them with content considered relevant to individual interests.

Nothing is anonymous online, and we all leave digital trails of our fundamental interests. Just as your website offers opportunities to glean first-party data, so does Google. With the average person estimated to make at least three to four searches per day, that’s plenty of information to harvest.

Google Discover - a quick look

Source: Google Search Central

Google plays their cards close to their chest about how they build consumer profiles. Experts believe that the following are factored into the creation of these blueprints:

  • Search history unique to Google
  • Browser history of websites visited
  • Activity on any installed apps
  • Location, assuming this information has not been barred in settings

That’s certainly enough material to understand what a user may be interested in. Much like social media targeted advertising, Google knows what your audience wants to see and will do all it can to meet such desires through Discovery. It’s your responsibility to optimize your Discovery presence and ensure that your content is chosen to be pushed.

Why optimize Google Discover?

Discover attracts a loyal, returning audience to your website. It allows users to follow a particular brand or business, ensuring their content will always appear on their smartphone. Naturally, you need to earn this loyalty. The usual caveats apply here. Work to attract your target audience by speaking their language, delivering content that shows your brand can be relied upon.

Deliver content that shows people can rely on your brand - Google Discover optimization guide

Source: Marketing Charts

Perhaps more pertinently, Discover knows what users want to hear about – and delivers this in spades. Imagine that a user’s five most visited websites are for their local NFL team, a health food store in their town, a website specializing in tips for joggers, a website that sells running shoes, and a food blog packed with recipes. This suggests that the user in question enjoys sports and fitness. This individual’s Google Discovery feed will reflect this lifestyle.

Somebody with more sedentary hobbies may receive articles on the latest comings and goings on Netflix or technology and gadget news. If you optimize your content for Discover, it could be your website and articles that are pushed onto a smartphone. As Discover has an enviable CTR, this is not an opportunity to pass up.

How to optimize your website for Google Discover

Now that we’ve established that Discover fast-track site traffic, and by extension, conversions – how do you achieve this optimization? This fifteen-point checklist covers hints and tips to enhance your success rate.

1. Comply with Google’s policies

First thing’s first. Do not forget that Discover is a Google property, which means abiding by the search engine’s usual rules and regulations. In essence, that means continuing to follow organic SEO and page ranking practices.

As much as keeping on top of Google’s regular algorithm updates can sometimes feel like a full-time job, it remains necessary. To optimize the potential of Discover, your website must maintain standard white hat SEO protocols. If your dedication to improving page ranking and quality score slips, your content is less likely to be selected by Discover.

2. Create a Google My Business account

Here’s another quick and simple hack to help produce tangible results. Google always wants to provide users with the finest and most relevant connections. If you’re using Discover for ecommerce, the big G will consider a GMB account as a seal of quality. You’re likelier to be selected by Discover if you have an active profile – especially one that boasts organic, positive reviews.

3. Ensure mobile compatibility

When investigating different web design possibilities, highly prioritize mobile compatibility. This sounds like a no-brainer as Discovery is a mobile-centric tool, but you may be surprised at how many fall at this hurdle. Use Google’s Mobile Usability Report to check how your site is doing.

If you build your website through WordPress, consider taking advantage of the Web Stories plug-in. This is made for use on Google – after all, Web Stories even have their own segment on the search engine’s home page – and will often pique the curiosity of Discovery.

4. Feature larger images to create compelling UX and boost CTRs

You can even feature your card images in a large format by using the robots meta tag max-image-preview setting. This is a great way to gain more screen space and win audience attention that will drive CTR. According to Google, this increased a food blog’s CTR by 79 percent and drove a weekly magazine’s clicks by 332 percent across six months.

Google Discover optimization guide - use large images to drive CTR
Google Discover optimization guide – use large images to drive CTR

Source: Google Search Central

5. Find a unique niche and demonstrate your knowledge

Like when bidding for a plum PPC spot, popular keywords can create an extremely competitive environment in Discovery. Unless you’re among the major players in your industry, you risk being muscled out by more prominent names. For example, if you’re writing about sports, ESPN is always likelier to be selected to discuss the playoffs and significant incidents in a game.

That doesn’t mean that Discover is pointless, you’ll just need to think outside the box. Come up with a topic that could be less commonplace within your niches, such as a particular player, team, or set of stats. Discuss these at length, appealing to the regulations of the E-A-T algorithm, and the results will come.

6. Consider your target audience

Discover is designed to match the ideal content with the perfect audience. That needs to be considered when creating blog posts and similar copy. Take the time to build a picture of your target audience and use analytics to ensure you are appealing to them.

Based on the results, you may need to adjust your approach. For example, emotive language may attract one type of reader but deter users likelier to convert. Equally, you may find that you need to use less prose and more images to draw users you really want.

7. Master your headlines carefully

Over 14 percent of all Google text searches include a question. Embrace this in your headlines. If you pose a question, you’re likelier to be selected by Discovery and attract an audience’s attention.

All the same, never lose sight of Google’s quest for relevance. That means not trying to pull a bait and switch. A blog headlined “how to hire an app developer” needs to discuss the trials and tribulations of this very process. An article that says, “don’t bother – here is a DIY mobile app design guide to save money,” will not be embraced by Discovery.

8. Ensure your content is of the highest quality

We’ve just established that Google Discover has limited patience for clickbait, but you may be able to slip some of this material through the net.

You’ll quickly lose their trust and struggle to attract followers. The same applies to content that has not gone through a quality check process and is littered with typos and errors. Quality matters, so do not try to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes. Another way to create compelling, relevant content for your audience is by checking your Google search traffic and keyword research. This will help you distinguish and craft top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content for key segments of the search journey and align it with the sales funnel.

9. Keep your finger on the pulse

News and current events are the bread and butter of Google Discover. On paper, Google will always look to deliver the latest and greatest news articles to users. Criticism has been leveled at Discover, claiming that it has been top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), but it still pays to remain relevant when attempting to appeal to algorithms.

Anecdotal evidence claims that Discover ranks some search terms that SEO does not, opening new opportunities. That does not mean that you should throw together a hot take on the latest Twitter controversy and wait for the clicks to roll in. If that flies in the face of your brand values, you’ll suffer in the longer term. Just avoid shying away from existing talking points that would add value to your audiences. Also, don’t hop on this bandwagon unless you have something valuable to say as a brand.

10. Encourage users to ‘heart’ you

If you have a captive audience outside of Discover, encourage them to follow you on this platform. Discover offers a heart icon that matches the purpose of a Facebook like, which is a direct way to show appreciation for the material.

If somebody follows an article from your site in their areas of interest, it will be noted on their Google profile. They are then likely to receive more content on the same subject from your brand – as are other, unrelated users that Google considers to have similar interests.

11. Increase your brand awareness

As an extension of the point above, users are prone to discover – and follow – your Discover profile if they are aware of your brand. Use your marketing campaigns to raise your Google Discover profile, steering people toward following you on here.

12. Regularly create and post new content

Discover is often looking for the newest insights and articles to share with users. As a result, a freshly published blog is much likelier to be selected than something penned weeks, months, or years previously – assuming it meets the quality standards we previously mentioned. Evergreen content occasionally gets picked up, but not as often.

Just be aware that articles selected by Discover tend to have a shorter shelf life than something penned with organic SEO in mind. You can still look to appeal to both markets. Discover can be just as helpful for an inbound marketing strategy. Just do not expect your blog to remain on the platform longer than three or four days.

13. Include images and videos in your content

Regardless of whether a picture is truly worth a thousand words, there is no denying that Discover looks to curate variety in its content. Websites that included images and video in their blog posts saw a much greater uptake in selection by Discover than those that relied on pure prose.

Quality matters just as much as quantity here. A quick video shot on your smartphone and shoehorned into your content will not cut the mustard. Discover looks for crisp, high-definition image quality in moving and static pictures alike, so always opt for the greatest resolution you can that retains mobile friendliness.

14. Interact on social media

Discover loves social engagement. As with organic SEO, Discover is likely to select and push content that attracts comments and shares on social media. This creates a chicken and egg scenario. Will your content go viral on social media because it was picked up by Discover, or did Discover push the content because it was gaining social media traction?

In truth, the order of events matters little. Discover can sit neatly alongside the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to bolster awareness of your content and amass an army of new followers. As always, this creates a snowball effect – the more followers you gain, the more strangers will have your content pushed to their appliances.

15. Track your analytics – and improve where necessary

Finally, as with your SEO performance, you should always keep an eye on your Google Discover traffic analytics. You’ll find this in your Search Console. Do not be alarmed if your Discover traffic looks low. It takes a couple of days for these visits to hit the report so things may change in time.

Discover may not be essential if you are still attracting attention through other means. But no website should ever turn down an opportunity to boost website traffic! So if your numbers are tracking lower than anticipated, revisit points one through fourteen and implement what you can to improve performance.


Joe Dawson is Director of strategic growth agency Creative.onl, based in the UK. He can be found on Twitter @jdwn.

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How to win at content creation, Esports, gaming, and web3 markets with SEO

February 9, 2022 No Comments
How to win at content creation, Esports, gaming, and web3 markets with SEO

30-second summary:

  • SEO is vastly underutilized in the content creation industry
  • How can internet marketing lead to success in Esports and gaming?
  • Anthony DiMoro discusses the needed innovation during the content, gaming, and web3 boom

Despite a strong track record and success model within the digital marketing world, for multiple decades, SEO still finds itself almost entirely abandoned in the new age markets of content creation, Esports, gaming, and web3 related properties.

But, why is that? Why would businesses, brands, and creators operating in these spaces, reliant on success in a digital marketplace completely ignore SEO?

Let’s explore why, and how things need to change as 2022 continues to show that the boom of these is not slowing down, but is also rapidly evolving.

1. Content creation and streaming

There is no rhyme or reason as to why content creators (which includes streamers) fail to utilize SEO, considering the fact that their entire brand relies on success within the digital marketplace.

Instead, creators seem to often lean into the following troubling trends, and solely rely on these recycled methods:

Automation and inauthenticity

There is no social platform that has not experienced, in some form or fashion, a form of automation. But content creators, particularly in the streaming sector (like Twitch and YouTube) use this to the point of “overkill”.

“Going LIVE” posts flood timelines, and when they are the majority of what a particular creator posts, it flatlines engagement. While it may seem like a “bot”, it actually is more a real strategy for creators. While informing your audience that you are going live is important, it shouldn’t be or appear, inauthentically posted or automated.

Going further down the rabbit hole will see a more aggressive form of automation in DMs and messages. DMing a new follower or connection is a solid tool for networking when done organically, but the second a bot steps into the chat, your chances skyrocket of someone not only disregarding your content completely but also unfollowing you altogether.

Authenticity is key in proper brand building, especially when you’re being looked at by a potential business or collaborative opportunity.

If you’re heavy into automation and inauthenticity, why would a brand or business spend money on your content or brand? They would, rightfully, assume that is how you do business.

Farming and cycling (aka Botting)

Every few years a new app or platform pops up promising to help creators and streamers reach milestones of affiliate or partner, but are, more often than not, simply a recycling of hacky, spammy, models

Follow for Follow systems have plagued the niche, and have fueled an even more robust “sub for sub” system, but not view churning. This is becoming a more prevalent issue.

Cycling content clips and/or highlights can be an engagement factor for a feed and can help keep your audience engaged, but when in a collective of other cycles, coupled with any incentivizing to push engagement is something completely different.

Some of these models try to divert away from appearing to be a clear violation of, for example, Twitch’s Terms of Services, but it’s all a mirage.

Take it right from Twitch’s TOS page:

Fake engagement is artificial inflation of channel statistics, such as views or follows, through coordination or 3rd party tools. This behavior is characterized by the creation of incidental or duplicitous views or follows. One common form of this activity is often referred to as view-botting. Another, when done in a coordinated manner, is sometimes identified as “Follow 4 Follow” (F4F), “Lurk 4 Lurk” (L4L), or Host 4 Host (H4H), which involve a mutual exchange of interaction intended to increase the visibility of both channels over those with legitimate interaction. Using services that promise higher visibility in exchange for lurking in a large number of channels or viewing streams on pages with several unrelated, active embedded streams, is considered a form of fake engagement and is not permitted on Twitch services.”

Does the app or platform you use have instances where members are motivated to pop into someone’s channel to say “hello, I am here from PLATFORMNAME” and then leave? Are you a part of a system where videos are cycled to generate views and inject this behavior?

Then you may be, in essence, engaging in a form of view botting, albeit a more human version, and also engaging in fake engagement.

Let’s look further into how Twitch defines these things:

Artificial engagement and botting limit growth opportunities for legitimate broadcasters and are damaging to the community as a whole. False viewer growth is not conducive to establishing a career in broadcasting because the ‘viewers’ do not contribute to a healthy, highly engaged community.

As a reminder, fake engagement and artificial inflation of channel statistics are violations of our policies. Participating in, organizing, and/or running these services will lead to an enforcement issued on your account, including and up to indefinite suspension”

Why run the risk? Furthermore, why try to “game” or “cheat” the system to inorganically generate some form of success?

Sure, it can be a good confidence booster, but you’re looking to monetize this, or even make it a career, rather than protecting your analytics and ensuring they are transparent is key, and could make or break a financially rewarding opportunity or deal with a business who will, assuredly, do their due diligence.

Community toxicity

One big issue in the industry, overall, is toxicity and how many creators and viewers engage in this at varying levels. But to take things further, many communities and platforms fuel this behavior or lead the charge.

Association is key, and if you’re aligned or using a service or platform, ensure how they interact, specifically when criticized, aligns with your brand and is something you would not mind a potential business partner or collaborative partner seeing.

Whether a member of the community leaves or someone reports an unsuccessful experience, a brand’s reaction and the behavior/conduct of their prominent members/admins speak volumes in the world of business.

The solution

Explore more viable outlets, look for services more rooted in things such as SEO and internet marketing, and lean into those service offerings and/or benefits. 

There is a reason why influencer marketing and even things as minute as Twitch SEO are gaining impressive traction.

Because, with effort and a professional, dedicated, and intuitive approach, businesses can work in areas that really matter. They can take you outside of the box that a platform’s discoverability model may keep you contained in. It can make you more appealing to businesses.

Explore and re-invent the way you do business. If you’re investing hard-earned money into your equipment and also pouring hours into creating, you owe it to yourself to be efficient with your branding and marketing.

2. Esports

The Esports boom is not slowing down and you can expect the industry to expand further as there is considerable buzz around the college Esports industry in 2022.

The projected boom shouldn’t come as a shock, in fact, it was projected back in 2019 when a report from Estreme Networks and eCampus News “which surveyed 281 technical and administrative leaders across K-12 and higher education in North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East, found that –

  • one in five schools already have an esports program
  • 71 percent were considering or might consider adding an esports program in the future

Fast Forward to 2021, and the State University of New York (SUNY) reported that 2,077 students enrolled in a SUNY esports program in the 2021 fall semester, compared to 636 students that enrolled in the 2020 fall semester, and those numbers are going to grow in 2022.

This creates a more competitive marketplace driven by greater revenue opportunities, meaning that Esports teams, players, casters, and businesses need to gain an edge to keep up and scale.

So, where does that come from? Esports SEO.

Let’s backtrack to my article back in August 2021 and what eUnited’ Matt Pothoff said regarding the importance of SEO:

“eUnited does use elements such as SEO to increase visibility when selling merchandise or showcasing new sponsors. Additionally, we help players revise their stream titles and descriptions for better chances of obtaining new viewership when users are searching for different topics on Twitch”

Now, let’s circle back to the here and now, and an interview I did on Gamactica Portals with  Christian Bishop, Director of Twitch Properties:

“SEO and working through the Google machine is incredibly important,” Bishop said.

“This can very much make or break the success of a website or piece of content. Investing in SEO has been one of the most fruitful and rewarding decisions I have made with my media companies. I would love to see creators do more around SEO to drive traffic to their channels and content.

Discoverability and growth can be hard for a lot of creators, SEO might be one of the angles to break through.”

The fact is, internet marketing and SEO are proving to be differentiators in many layers of the industry, including esports, and making it a huge part of the foundation of your team, career, or your organization is more vital than ever.”

There is no denying this need within the esports landscape yet it remains vastly unutilized by many organizations and teams.

3. Video games (Developers and publishers)

Regardless if you’re a big named studio, an indie team, or a solo developer, video game SEO should be a big part of your strategy, because the industry is seeing a rapid YoY increase in revenue flow.

Take this infographic from Statista, demonstrating the market size (in US dollars, billions) from 2010 to 2021 and it speaks for itself.

Statista graph on the size of gaming industry - 2010 to 2021

The influx of revenue means that it demands a more competitive and fluid marketing approach that reaches an exact target market. Given the number of game genres and considering that markets aren’t always the same, you cannot always approach it broadly. For instance, fans of Animal Crossing may not like your FPS game.

4. The new markets of web3, cryptocurrency, and NFTs

Regardless of where you stand on cryptocurrency or the controversial Non-Fungible Token (NFT), they aren’t going anywhere. If you operate in the gaming and streaming industries they are likely already operating in your space.

So, you can choose to disassociate them completely from your brand or be open to working with businesses that operate with them. Regardless of where you lean, you should understand the niches and network with the brands and names within them – they will, more often than not, overlap in your niche.

Marketing will likely do the same and you have probably already seen it exist, in some fashion, in your favorite game, or on a platform you use (such as Twitter), and with the birth of NFT SEO and Crypto SEO, these sectors are going to be pushing even more efforts into penetrating your market space.

Business owners in these spaces will need to rely more on these methods, as a shiny, new-age-looking website will only take you so far.

The importance of marketing and targeted networking will only continue to scale upwards, and those who either don’t use it or refuse to use it all together will either be making their track to success or a much more difficult path.


Anthony DiMoro is CEO of Gamactica. He can be found on Twitter @AnthonyDiMoro.

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How you can embrace paid search automation to maximize outcomes

February 3, 2022 No Comments

How you can embrace paid search automation to maximize outcomes

30-second summary:

  • Automation is a hot topic within digital marketing, and Google has more options than ever before for search practitioners to utilize
  • However, there’s still a level of discomfort with handing the keys to the kingdom over
  • As a long-time skeptic myself, I make the argument for automating core components of search campaigns and share the areas where marketers should instead focus their energy and attention for success in 2022

“Automation” it’s a word of constant focus for search marketers these days – and rightfully so. There are more components to search than ever before, and automation is a critical tool that enables us to optimize campaigns at scale and frees us to focus on what can’t be automated.

Google has released automated solutions to nearly every aspect of account management, but how do we know when it makes sense to hand over control and where we should maintain a strong level of influence? I see 2022 as a year for search practitioners to reimagine and rework their approach to search engine marketing (SEM) with Google, striking a new balance between automated solutions and customer-focused, business-driven oversight.

Handing over the keys (or at least some of them) in a reimagined relationship

Google Ads has become a one-stop-shop for marketers looking to engage customers across platforms up and down the funnel. It’s not just about search and shopping anymore – practitioners can also buy Discovery Ads, YouTube, Local Ads, etc.

With a more holistic Google Ads, an interesting dynamic emerges with what I call “a tale of two Googles.” On one side, there’s Google’s highly sophisticated suite of flexible, powerful technology tools that are built for advanced users – people and brands who obsess over the next level and the ability to capture it. But now, there is a second side of Google Ads that’s geared toward the masses, with superb out-of-the-box automated solutions.

As a marketer, it’s time to reimagine your approach and embrace these solutions that have been historically shunned by expert search practitioners. And you should do it with pride and intention – let go and let Google automate your campaigns. Then you can focus on core marketing tactics and engaging your customers more effectively. Let Google maximize keywords, placements, bids, and budget levels toward your goals, and make sure that once a user lands on your site, you’re ready to deliver the best experience for them.

A reworked approach to search management

Making the decision to automate is one thing but actually leaving the machine to do its job is another entirely. How do you trust Google automation and its work? Over-engineering and tinkering may actually be detrimental to some programs and instances. Choose tweaks and changes wisely! For years, we overengineered our campaigns, obsessed over keyword funneling in single-keyword ad groups, and took pains to ensure our campaign structure was dialed into the nines.

In 2022, there needs to be a little less control and a little more letting go. For those in the “old guard,” this translates to a trust fall. Google is quite good at understanding intent and matching that intent with the right answer at the right moment. Too much tinkering and intervention is a recipe for disaster and sets the machine up to fail before it can even get started.

With automation in place, where do we focus our energy?

Fear not – there is an abundance of important work to be done, even with core components of a search program automated. Search automation gets elevated by extreme focus on customer experience. You need to figure out how to use technology and data in a privacy-safe way to become more helpful and meaningful as a brand. You need to know your customers so you can speak to them personally throughout their journey. In travel, for example, there are many known preferences, such as window or aisle seat, meal choice, favorite hotel pillow type, etc. Your customers expect you to know these things, and you don’t want to restart the conversation with them every time they open a new browser.

Get closer to understanding your data

Focusing on data science and analytics is a critical piece of search success in 2022. There’s so much data available to analyze, and it’s critical to cut through the clutter by defining your customer-centric business goals, aligning metrics, and reporting appropriately. There’s also a new responsibility for search traffic to help replace data lost from third-party cookie deprecation. Better models will be essential to enable the use of search traffic as a catalyst for scientific remarketing.

Master your customer engagement and first-party data strategy

Privacy is a key focal area as well. Search practitioners need to have conversations about how to scale known customer engagement and how to use advertising technology in a compliant way that supports the business by driving customer experience and performance. You need to evaluate your first-party data strategy and look for ways to layer that data into the search experience, whether it’s through messaging, bidding, or other avenues. Google knows a lot about users, but there is information unique to the business that you can use to elevate automation.

Refine your site and landing page experience

Ownership of landing page experience and site content optimization also lie entirely with brands as important components of successful search programs. Search has become a visual battleground – just close your eyes and imagine a Google results page. Five years ago, you would have pictured ten blue links on a screen, and now to think of that feels archaic! Today, you probably imagined a mix of images, shopping listings, maps, videos, and more. As a practitioner, that means your content needs to be optimized to deliver the right information to customers, regardless of the landscape for their unique query. Then, when the user lands on your site, you need to be ready to deliver the information they need to take the next step in their journey.

Conclusion

For years, we needed to re-engineer the game inside of Google Ads because we didn’t have another choice. Now, instead of getting ahead that way, marketers that excessively tinker will fall behind and lose ground on the components that need the utmost attention – analytics, first-party strategy, and customer experience. It’s time for all of us to reimagine and rework our focus as practitioners toward those new realities.


Matt Mierzejewski is SVP of Performance Marketing Lab and Search at Merkle Inc.

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A must-have web accessibility checklist for digital marketers

January 14, 2022 No Comments

A must-have web accessibility checklist for digital marketers

30-second summary:

  • Accessibility underpins stellar user experience and positive brand perception, the key factors that appeal to value-driven consumers
  • According to WebAIM, 98 percent of US-based websites aren’t accessible
  • Though not a sparkly aspect of digital marketing strategies, there are multiple layers to “why?” and “how?” brands must be accessible across the internet

Marketers develop and execute numerous strategies to broaden their business reach. But one critical factor that most marketers neglect is web accessibility. And this neglect leads to their business being closed off for a large majority of potential customers.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility ensures that the internet is accessible, usable, and beneficial for everyone alike. It considers all possible disabilities to ensure marketing messages are delivered to every kind of audience and get the most value out of the website.

As important as it may seem right now, web accessibility is often the last thing marketers think of when building a website. And then, too, it is often brushed under the rug.

Despite the World Wide Web Consortium, commonly known as W3C developing dedicated web content accessibility guidelines to make the internet more accessible, digital inclusivity remains a rarity.

And this unfortunate reality acts not only as an accessibility barrier, but a growth barrier as well.

The value of web accessibility in modern marketing initiatives

Acknowledging and adopting web accessibility enhances the customer experience, opens new doors for your business, uplifts marketing outcomes, and boosts revenue in more ways than just one.

1. Extends your market reach

15 percent of the world’s population is disabled and belongs to a highly valuable market segment with strong spending powers.

With a digitally inclusive web presence, your business interacts with an increased volume of people who it would’ve missed otherwise. In this way, web accessibility brings a whole new community of prospects you can interact with, win as customers and boost your revenue.

2. SEO benefits

Search engines prefer to rank websites that are secure, accessible, and valuable to all kinds of users. Moreover, they perceive digitally inclusive websites as authentic sources of information and favor them in rankings.

As a result, enhancing web accessibility undeviatingly supplements your online marketing with an SEO boost, helping you get to the coveted top position in SERPs. It opens another channel for web traffic that connects you with your target audience.

3. Enhanced user experience

User experience is at the heart of your digital presence as it relates directly to conversions. The basic principle of UX optimization dictates that you research what your target audience wants and deliver it.

In the case of differently-abled audiences, it’s common sense that they would want you to deliver a website they can interact with and benefit from.

By optimizing your website’s accessibility, you boost its usability which is a core element of user experience.

If all other elements of UX are optimized, enhanced usability wins customer satisfaction and gives the prospect a final push towards conversion, contributing to your revenue.

4. Positive brand perception

Web accessibility enables your brand to appear as a strong advocate of digital inclusivity and works to build positive brand perception. Now isn’t that a critical outcome of modern marketing?

Today where people seek a business’s values before engaging with it, a concrete stance on digital inclusivity reflects your values of empathy, compassion, and equal opportunities for all. This builds your community of like-minded people who then contribute to your revenue.

Five-point checklist to get started with web accessibility

For maximum effect, web accessibility should be considered a priority rather than an afterthought and must be included in your digital and marketing strategy.

Following are a few ways through which you can uplift your digital inclusivity and leave a larger impact:

1. Multilingual SEO

Web accessibility not only aims at eliminating accessibility barriers for people with permanent, temporary, or situational disabilities. It also removes linguistic barriers, so people from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds can have equal access.

Given that English is spoken by a meager 4.83 percent of the world’s population, multilingual SEO eliminates linguistic barriers and helps searchers from all linguistic backgrounds to benefit from the internet.

Here’s a guide I created on multilingual SEO to get you started.

2. Voice search

The introduction of smart assistants such as Alexa has pioneered a new era of voice search ubiquity and the consequent web accessibility.

As an excellent avenue to pursue for businesses looking to be more digitally inclusive, voice search unlocks your website’s chances of interaction with people who cannot search the conventional way.

Here are some best practices to optimize voice search SEO:

  • Use long tail keywords that are specific, descriptive, and natural for users’ language
  • Serve up content that gives direct answers
  • Optimize your ‘Google My Business’ account
  • Create voice search FAQ pages
  • Implement schema which is a code that you can add to your website that improves search visibility

For more depth, check out this voice search SEO guide for trends and best practices.

Example of schema that improves web accessibility
Example of schema that improves web accessibility

3. Alternate (Alt) text

Alt text helps visually impaired visitors understand what a web image depicts. Hence image optimization allows web visitors to absorb the information your website offers in its totality and ties back to enhanced user experience.

Tips for using alt text:

  • Keep it descriptive and keyword specific, this will show up in case your page loads slow or if there was an audio description needed
  • For ecommerce sites, make good use of structured data to give the search engine more specific details about your products’ color, type, size, and a lot more

If you need more details, here’s an evergreen image optimization guide.

4. Hierarchical organization or content using H tags

Hierarchical layout shapes your web content in an easy-to-read structure. A critical part of web accessibility (and SEO), a hierarchical organization can make your website usable and understandable for users with certain cognitive disabilities and people with short attention spans, boosting their satisfaction and your websites’ overall UX.

Check out this guide on optimizing meta tags.

5. Color contrast

Color contrast involves adjusting the color of foreground web elements (for instance, fonts) against the color of the background elements to ensure that the foreground elements, which bear value, stand out and are easily readable for people with visual impairment.

The Bureau of Internet Accessibility has identified a color contrast ratio that ensures that your website is visible and readable for people with color-related visual impairments.

Conclusion

Web accessibility is a necessity, but unfortunately, it doesn’t get the same limelight as other digital marketing avenues that promise increased reach, better perception, and higher revenue.

This reality can work in your favor if you capitalize on the lack of web accessibility and gain a competitive edge by adopting digital inclusivity.

There are numerous marketing benefits of web accessibility, most significant of which may be the development of positive brand perception in an era of value-driven shoppers.

Inclusive marketing initiatives are commendable. But they are only valuable when backed by conscious efforts of enhancing your business’s digital accessibility. So, endeavoring to actualize web accessibility strategies can help you become the pioneer of an internet era where digital inclusivity is a priority.


Atul Jindal is a web design and marketing specialist, having interests in doing websites/apps optimized for SEO with a core focus on conversion optimization. He creates web experiences that bring conversations and transform web traffic into paying customers or leads.

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Wrapping up 2021 with our top 10!

December 31, 2021 No Comments

Wrapping up 2021 with our top 10!

30-second summary:

  • 12 months, several curveballs, and some masterstrokes
  • If you missed out, today is a great day to look through the Search Engine Watch lens for the year gone by
  • Key themes that were front of mind in 2021 – Google’s updates, cookie death counter-strategies, mastering customer experience elements, trust-building, and alternatives for search marketing and ranking

As the world, people, and of course businesses motored through a year of uncertainties – these crackers of articles gave your strategies an unfair advantage.

#1 – Google Page Experience update is all set to launch in May 2021 – Webmasters, hang in there!

You asked, “What is Page Experience, anyway? Do we really need to have an overflowing to-do list?” – and we answered everything around this enigma. This piece touched upon every aspect, angle, and action point that SEOs needed to know.

#2 – The search dilemma: looking beyond Google’s third-party cookie death

The ad tech and search industry continued to remain precarious that Google will use the cookie deprecation as a new way to establish market dominance to feed its own interests. Google expert, Susan Dolan drew from her rich experience and detailed realities of the search scape. She also shared insights and predicted future key themes that rose out of the 3p cookie death.

#3 – Everything you need to know about the Google MUM update

As the industry bid farewell to BERT, Google’s Multitask Unified Model (MUM) update in June 2021 opened new search experience dimensions. The cranked-up competition for search visibility between businesses and advertisers – left SEO practitioners and agencies with yet another burning question, “How will we win MUM’s good graces?” Joe Dawson’s comprehensive guide left no stone unturned.

#4 – Why killing your content marketing makes the most sense

“Kill your darlings”, yes, we said it! Though it sounded outlandish, this piece held wise and valuable advice from best-selling author Joe Pulizzi on why this could be one of the best business decisions you could’ve made in 2021.

#5 – Quora and Reddit: Powerhouses for SEO and marketing in 2021

Everyone is obsessed with Google, but did you know Reddit is the seventh most popular website in the US while Quora has a DR of 91? This guide shone a light on how your search strategy could take advantage of these platforms with diversification, tap into great brand-building opportunities, and enhance your E-A-T standing.

#6 – Now is the best time to stitch your search marketing loopholes before 2022

The third-party cookie still stands at a crucial intersection between digital marketing, SEO, paid media, web design, and several business tangents. The industry needed to think hard and think differently for a contingency plan. SEO pioneer, serial entrepreneur, and best-selling author, Kris Jones helped weave a tight SEO and search marketing strategy way ahead of 2022. Why? Because a stitch in time saves nine.

#7 – Seven first-party data capturing opportunities your business is missing out on

The internet continued zigging in a privacy-focused direction as a response to consumers’ increasing demand for a transparent, responsible, and ethical outlook towards their data. First-party data became indispensable and consumer trust, invaluable. While the playing field inched closer to the great reset, we revealed some hidden first-party gems every business could use to redesign their search marketing strategies.

#8 – UX: an important SEO ranking factor

The story of SEO and UX began almost 20 years ago with both making a foray into the market in the 1990s. Since then, SEO practitioners saw seasons change and the Page Experience, paired with data analysis finally etched UX as a key ranking factor. Atul Jindal condensed years of his experience working with fortune 50 companies into this SEO guide to help you win at SEO and search experience.

#9 – Cross-channel marketing: why you shouldn’t put all your eggs in the Google basket

The pandemic didn’t let us forget that while every business is unique, budgets too took a hit, making allocation stringent. But why did so many businesses still stick to the “big guns” when allocating spending? Adzooma CEO Rob Wass and Cambridge University’s Akanshaa Khare joined forces to challenge this notion. They produced some truly unique insights that would make stakeholders rethink their media spending habits.

#10 – Core Web Vitals report: 28 Ways to supercharge your site

Everyone remembers the chaos surrounding the Core Web Vitals in early 2021. SEO folks were keen to get ahead on optimizing their site and Twitter threads were full of speculation. Armed with information, we shared a 28-point checklist on action items to spot, optimize, and embrace the inevitable rollout of these new ranking factors.

Thank you for being valuable supporters throughout our journey. Team Search Engine Watch wishes everyone a happy year-end and an adventurous 2022!

*Ranked on page views, time on page, and bounce rate.


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The post Wrapping up 2021 with our top 10! appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Zero click search: the new consumer comfort zone

December 20, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Zero click search presents advertisers with the opportunity to pro-long budgets during periods when the paid search landscape is hypercompetitive
  • Brands can cash in on zero click searches for the organic element of their overall search strategy to gain visibility and drive conversions
  • Barilla Group’s global digital & search marketing manager, Nitin Manhar Dhamelia advises on zero click search optimization and measurement

Historic context

Back in 1998 when Google was founded, it served 10,000 searches per day and by 2012 it was 3,500,000,000 searches per day.​ And in 2021, search volumes continue to explode with Google serving around 5,600,000,000 searches globally per day.​

Google Search volume stats 2021

Its success in becoming a transitive verb was borne when Google tasked itself with bringing order to the chaos of the world’s knowledge. It knew that to achieve this magnitude of top-of-mind awareness, the key would be to create a window to the web that was inclusive, accessible, and easy to understand for the general population; it knew that inclusivity would accelerate adoption. Even today, the search giant is always working on improving the consumers’ search experience and 2021 saw several key algorithm updates roll out – passage ranking, page experience, page titles, MUM, mobile-first indexing, and more.

Not too far ahead in the future, Google is going to make it even easier for consumers to access information about brands.​ But why?

Micro funnels

Because people visit Google in key decision-making moments along the buyer journey – essentially, each Search session can be deemed a micro funnel. In fact, after the pandemic, there is no undoing the great reset. Nearly, 15 percent of Google search queries Google attended were first of their kind. And 81 percent of consumers discovered new brands online during the pandemic.

“There isn’t a world where people revert back to their 2019 behaviours, and part of that is now a part of their comfort zones.” – Corie Barry, CEO, Best Buy

Google’s own recent retail report identified four key consumer insights:

  1. Dynamic demand: People’s buying patterns will continue to change in response to unpredictable times
  2. Digital inspiration: People will use the internet to be inspired
  3. Convenience: People will prioritize convenience while shopping
  4. Supportive spending: People will be more mindful of how and where they spend their dollars with “values” playing a major influencer

Even though less favored by advertisers, zero click searches are pockets of opportunity for brands to focus on as part of their branded search strategy.

With great power comes great responsibility

With its always-on innovation focus, Google is constantly expected to eclipse itself (for the better) and the way it aims to achieve that is by presenting information in ever more easy-to-digest consumer-friendly formats.​

Its solution? Bringing convenience and comfort to their searcher’s online journey with zero click search. This means redesigning the search experience to align with a lucid consumer journey, which in some cases implies that – the journey both starts and ends in Google, and without a single click in the search results:

Squid Game Google zero click search

In terms of how this translates into volumes of searches, take a look at the data from an industry study below:

Zero click search data

What does this mean for brands?

In my own research the split of traffic between the core search marketing channels for a keyword that has a “need” intent, calculates to:

  • Paid: 6.5 percent
  • Organic (above the fold): 31.5 percent
  • Organic (below the fold): two percent
  • Zero Click Searches: 60 percent

Extraordinarily, the last number isn’t too far off an original 2020 study that was made of a sample size that is far greater than most brand marketers might have immediate access to.

However, when smaller, localized in-house studies surface very similar results it drives the conversation forward into where we need to focus a proportion of our overall search budgets: creating data-driven content that contributes to adding value and top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) to consumers.

Tips for brands to optimize and measure zero click search

The people also ask (PAA) feature in Google (essentially website content derived FAQs in Search results) are around six times more likely to appear in a search results page versus featured snippets.  And therefore, PAA should not be underestimated as a branding tool. So the first tip is to create editorial content that resides on your website and optimize for PAA – using long-tail search data.

And the second tip is to optimize your content for featured snippets across brand and partner websites – your keyword traffic or search traffic insights could help prioritize this activity internally.

Another interesting insight that stood out was – regardless of the industry, most “big” brands will trigger a PAA.

PAA box visibility stats

Measuring zero-click performance

Gauging the impact of zero click search remains a frequently asked question itself and a continued enigma that has hampered brands from focusing on this highly important search facet. These are some valuable avenues for search marketers to track the zero click search features’ performance:

1. Understand relativity

Understand the relationship between impression volume and average ranking for a target keyword(s) in the Google search console to create insights into where branded content can trigger a zero click search result.

2. Track soft metrics

This is where the soft metric shines – so by focusing on zero click SERP features for brand vs competitor domains, it’s possible to create an index to track the outcomes and evolution of a soft metric such as ‘share of intent’. This will help you grow product or service awareness/consideration via the zero click search element of your Search Strategy.

Piecing all this information and tailoring it to your brand will positively add a new dimension to your search marketing strategy.


Nitin Manhar Dhamelia is the global digital & search marketing manager at Barilla Group. Nitin has a 15-year track record of global B2B/B2C team management, governance, commercial experience, across Americas, EMEA, APAC.

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.

The post Zero click search: the new consumer comfort zone appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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