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What link builders really want you to know

Our job is rough. I have done many things in SEO, and none have even come close to being as mind-numbing and frustrating as link building. It’s been even rougher than usual lately, and that notion is one shared by many of my link-building peers. After doing this for so many years, I can tell you that the summer months can be really, really difficult. Everyone’s on holiday, response rate goes way down, and then if you actually do negotiate a link, you can wait weeks for it to go live (because, again, everyone’s on holiday)!

Unless you’re a magician (or a charlatan), you cannot look at a site and make a concrete determination about how many links are required to obtain the desired rankings and traffic numbers. You can’t look at a target site and accurately gauge how getting a link on it will impact your site. You can look at two comparable sites, one performing well (Site A) and one not so well (Site B), and see that Site A has roughly 5,000 links while Site B has 300. From there, you can recommend that Site B build some more links, because that is obviously an issue. However, that’s kind of where it ends, and that’s what we want everyone to understand.

We know that quality matters more than quantity when it comes to link building, yet we’ve all seen sites ranking well when they shouldn’t. Sometimes sites with tons of spammy backlinks are outranking those that have played by the rules, and this is a major point of frustration for many business owners.

And you know what? It frustrates us, too. The fact of the matter is that link building just isn’t as simple as “build X links and you’ll outrank the competition.” There are a lot of factors that make link building a complex and difficult process, and below are just a few things we link builders wish everyone understood better.

The numbers

We calculate a lot of annual numbers, and one that stands out is the average number of hours it takes us to secure one link. That’s taking everyone on the team into account. That number used to remain steady at around four hours per link, but it went up after Penguin — way, way up. Currently, it’s hovering right around eight hours per link, and while that may not sound bad, remember that this is an average. So it might take 30 minutes to get one link and 40 hours to get the next one. I stopped really caring about this hourly number once I realized how wild the fluctuations really were.

numbers

Some links happen almost instantaneously when you’re intentionally going after them. I’ve had some great links go live within 15 minutes. I’ve also had links go live after months of back-and-forth negotiating with webmasters who go on holiday and forget you, then only respond to your emails once every few weeks. I’ve had many links go live, and they are not even remotely what I wanted or hoped for.

Just finding good sites to contact is definitely the hardest part of our job. I can go through 100 pages of search results and find two sites worthy of a contact. I can spend a whole day finding three good sites for a client. I can also luck out and get on a great roll finding amazing sites, but again, this whole process fluctuates like you can’t even imagine.

When you’re the client

If you’re the client or business owner, here’s what I hope you can realize: we can’t perform miracles. Your site might not be nearly as amazing as you think it is. Your products may not be that great, either. You may have a less than stellar reputation.

However, even if you are 100 percent amazing, it’s still tough to build good links! It can also be mind-numbing and tedious, and maybe our creative juices aren’t flowing eight hours a day. We can’t force a link out of anyone. It’s not because we don’t care about our jobs or you, it’s because sometimes we just can’t make it happen, and that’s not your fault or ours.

spam

http://flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/14010924432

We also can’t control what people do after our negotiation takes place. We may be promised a link as soon as the webmaster can get to it. We may see it live and say thank you and then the next day it’s down. We may go look at it again in four months, only to find that a competitor has come along and had the webmaster swap it out. The article where the link was placed may have been pristine when we placed it, and now, a year later, it is full of obviously paid and spammy links.

Sometimes we can fix these issues. Many times, there’s nothing we can do — and that’s really no one’s fault but the webmaster’s.

When you’re the webmaster

If you’re the webmaster, yes, we realize you are possibly annoyed by unsolicited emails. However, there really is the potential that the link we’re proposing you add to your site may be seen as beneficial by your readers. I’m not saying that’s always true, of course, but providing links to good resources does make for happy readers.

We realize you may get really, really annoyed if you make a mistake and the link doesn’t actually work, or you’ve sent it to a page that we hadn’t asked you for as a target, or you decide to code the anchor text in gigantic light blue font because you are a Carolina Tarheels fan. We want our clients to be happy, but we also just really want the link to be correct for you and your audience, too. Our clients have very little to gain if no one wants to click on the links we place, and if no one wants to click on your site’s links, they may not keep returning because they won’t trust you.

When you’re the web developer

If you’re the web developer, then I have one main request. It’s critically important, so I’ll keep it short and simple: Don’t let pages 404 when we’re building links to them, please.

404

I really had no idea how complex link building was until I did it. When we started our agency, I didn’t build links as I oversaw the work and dealt with clients. I thought some of the reasons my employees gave me for poor performance were just excuses for laziness until I jumped in and did the work myself. You don’t get to fix a technical problem and walk away. You don’t get to rewrite all your titles and move on to something more fun. You don’t get to have seasonal consistency when you can’t get links if everyone’s preoccupied with holidays or vacations.

With link building, it’s a never-ending process that can be frustrating but gratifying, especially when your efforts are appreciated and your issues understood.

The post What link builders really want you to know appeared first on Search Engine Land.

20 Jun 2017
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Watch the SMX Advanced keynote: Google’s Jerry Dischler talks current, future SEM trends

In a wide-ranging keynote discussion at SMX Advanced in Seattle, Wash. last week, Google’s head of search ads, Jerry Dischler, talked new products and features and what the newest innovations reveal about where search marketing is headed. (Watch the full interview below.)

Asked what the big themes or trends were that drove many of last month’s product and feature announcements at Google Marketing Next, Dischler said changing consumer expectations and shorter sessions on mobile manifested itself in three key areas: audience, AMP and attribution.

Attribution: Supporting the move away from last click

The new Google Attribution product is the company’s answer to upper and mid-funnel blind spots created by last-click attribution. “Attribution is particularly important with mobile because in a last-click environment, marketers could be over-weighting desktop for example, relative to other channels,” said Dishler. “Marketers are saying 2017 is really the year of moving away from last click, and we want to be able to support that.”

Data-driven attribution, Google’s machine learning-powered attribution modeling, is emblematic of how the company is thinking about and incorporating machine learning into core background processes and marketing functions. When enough data is available, the solution automatically chooses an attribution based on numerous signals.

Machine learning: Less drudgery, more strategy

Asked about the role of machine learning and the inherent tension between automation and control, Dischler said, “In general we want to use machine learning to make advertisers’ jobs easier.” Advertisers can spend less time in the drudgery of manually setting bids and instead think strategically: What’s the most effective messaging? What are the highest value customer segments? How do we support new product lines and initiatives? How do we make the website better?

From a job perspective, search marketers will be able to move faster from looking at transactional value to customer lifetime value. “A lot of companies have not been able to get to that point because they are still so caught up in the mechanics of doing online advertising at scale.”

The industry has been discussing and experiencing the impact of automation for several years now, but the rate of pervasiveness of machine learning in search advertising has accelerated rapidly over the past year. For marketers that had been used to having a lot of manual controls and been the guinea pigs for machine learning, trusting the system and the algorithms can be difficult.

Don’t expect to see how the sausage is made

“We try to have controls when possible and transparency in reporting,” explained Dischler, “but not everything can be reported on. With deep neural nets, you can’t explain everything that’s going on. This is not just for search advertising, but is pervasive in industry. We’re going to have to be able to get comfortable with looking at inputs and outputs and not necessarily what’s going on in the middle. … If we do this right, we can arrive at better outcomes.”

As an example of this, Dischler pointed to the recent change to close variants for exact match. In testing that, Google says it was able to deliver 3 percent more conversions at a similar ROI. “We have to make these kinds of changes because it’s good for everyone. It’s better for users because they get better ads. It’s better for advertisers. And it’s better for Google.”

Audience ‘works for search’

Dischler said there has been a natural progression in using search data for targeting: RLSA, customer match, similar audiences, and now in-market audiences. “The reason why is because audience works for search.”

Asked what was in store for audiences in search, Dischler said there are a few other things in the works we’ll be hearing about, but also that Google has a lot of runway with current features — offering more in-market segments, building on similar audiences in terms of data to make them more actionable and flexible, for example. Google will be building on these existing offerings over the next six to 12 months.

AMP: ‘It pays to be fast’; improved tracking coming

“The idea of AMP,” said Dischler, “is to make the mobile web as responsive as apps — or more responsive than apps — while being a whole lot more flexible. And we want it to work for advertisers, too.”

How should advertisers be thinking about AMP versus responsive? “First and foremost, advertisers should have great mobile pages. Focus on that first. Then look at how long it takes for mobile pages to load. What does your bounce rate look like? What does your mobile conversion rate look like? It pays to be fast,” said Dischler.

There are several functions still to be supported in AMP, including some conversion tracking. In a current beta, advertisers can point their mobile search ads to AMP landing pages. Dischler says they are working to make all forms of conversion tracking work within AMP. “We have some work to do on the Google Analytics side, and we’re working through that, so expect to see some launches soon over the next few months.”

For those wondering if or when they should get started with AMP, Dischler encouraged advertisers to start experimenting with AMP with a fraction of their site to see how it does. On average, pilot advertisers saw 5x to 7x improvements in page load time and increases in conversion rates. “Granted, it’s more work in terms of landing pages, but it can be worth it.”

Online-to-offline attribution: Mapping ad clicks to store visits & purchases

Dischler discussed the two ways the company is measuring and reporting on store purchases linked to ad clicks. One is when retailers upload loyalty or other customer email lists to map ad clicks by signed-in users to purchases in aggregate. The other is a solution introduced last month that is only offered in the US. It matches Google data with financial partner data in an encrypted fashion that enables Google to extract aggregated numbers of store purchases and transactional value by store location. Those conversions will automatically show up in advertiser accounts when there is sufficient data.

That automation also occurs with store visits data. Google has measured more than 5 billion store visits to date and aims to get more granular. “Our goal with this is to make it available to more and more advertisers. As the stores get smaller and smaller and the transactional values get smaller and smaller, we want to do a couple of different things. We want to make it available in more countries. We’re deploying bluetooth beacons at scale so we can increase confidence levels that people are in a particular location.” This is something Google has been working on for more than a year now.

New Safari attribution challenges?

Earlier this month, Apple announced it will be building on its efforts to block third-party trackers in the next version of Safari. (I believe the change could potentially benefit Google.) Asked what impact that might have on advertisers generally and Google specifically, Dischler made the following points:

It’s early days, so we’re still working through it internally, as well as with Apple.
In terms of Google Analytics, “… it’s one-key tracking, so you’re in good shape” if you’re using that. We’re still trying to figure out what to do with AdWords and DoubleClick conversion tracking and remarketing
“From an industry perspective, Apple has been very clear about why it wants to do this, but there are unintended consequences. Cookies are a mechanism that gives users a high degree of choice. There are alternatives to cookies that give users no choice, like fingerprinting. We believe users should have a choice. The action from Apple is putting a lot of pressure on publishers and advertisers who are trying to run their business within a framework that works pretty well. I think it’s reasonable for advertisers to be able to track conversions, and I think it’s reasonable for advertisers to be able to access their customers on other sites. We’re going to try to work it out with Apple.”

Change is OK: The new AdWords interface

If you’ve recently received access to AdWords Next, the new interface, and found the change hard, stick with it, says Dischler. (And I agree from the experience I’ve had with it over the past year.)

“We wanted to be able to build a platform that on top of it we could build assistive flows to make it easier to do core tasks,” Dischler says. “We cleaned up core work flows, improved reporting and added new features.”

Dischler says advertisers find they can get work done faster. My favorite aspect so far are the visualizations in the Overviews that make it much faster to get insights; Dischler says to expect more of that. “We want to do more proactive and assistive things to offer a better experience and make it easier for people to do their jobs.”

Watch the full interview below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0vdNYuqxP4?feature=oembed&w=500&h=281]

The post Watch the SMX Advanced keynote: Google’s Jerry Dischler talks current, future SEM trends appeared first on Search Engine Land.

20 Jun 2017
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Engage to Win, a Blueprint for Success in the Engagement Economy

In a blog post earlier this year, I introduced the concept of the Engagement Economy, which is the digitally connected world we live in that demands we, as marketers and brands, communicate with buyers in ways that resonate and are meaningful. In the Engagement Economy, our customers are in charge and they are more informed than ever because of the informational convenience and convergence of search, social, blogs, video, and hundreds more easily accessible digital touchpoints. Buyers are forming opinions, reaching conclusions, and influencing others well before we as marketers have a chance to “make our pitch”.

Beyond the buyer, our existing customers today want to feel wanted and understood. They want to build long-term relationships and align with brands that care about them and connect with them on a personal level across every channel and touchpoint. The point is this: Customers want to be engaged! With that said, it’s worth exploring what that really means for us as marketers. More to the point, how we can shift our marketing strategy and effort to more engagement?

Value Over Volume

True customer engagement is the whole idea behind the book that I am writing entitled, Engage to Win, which is my call to arms to all marketers to challenge their views about what it means to really “engage with” and not “market to” their buyers. I believe that many of the digital tools we have at our disposal—email, digital ads, social media, web, mobile, and more—make it easier than ever before to automate how we understand, connect with, and communicate to our customers. Improper use, or coordination, of these digital tools is where we often falter as marketers. We prioritize volume metrics over value metrics and we miss a huge opportunity to forge meaningful relationships with our buyers. To illustrate the types of relationships that I’m referring to, let me share two examples.

TOMS shoes has become successful in large part because of what it stands for. You buy a pair of shoes and they donate a pair of shoes to children in need. Everyone who wears TOMS shoes knows TOMS has built a movement and invited their customers to be a part of it. Thus, it has created an unpaid army of tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of “brand advocates” who spread the word about the company and the passion they have for the brand to their friends and followers across channels including social media.
Amazon has taken just about all the things people hate about retail—limited selection, slow delivery, a cumbersome checkout process and turned them into competitive advantages. You can order anything you want including clothes, movies, pet food, or automotive supplies and get it in two days or less. They started with books, but with the acquisition of Whole Foods, it’s fairly clear that Amazon wants to become the more engaged version of Walmart before Walmart becomes the more engaged version of Amazon!

These are examples of companies that connect with us as buyers in a profoundly more meaningful way than the repetitive pop-up ads that appear when you visit a website or the relentless emails you get from a retailer for which you have little interest!

The Nine Commandments of Engagement

In the precursor to my book, I offer nine “commandments” as rules of engagement that every marketer can follow to build customer relationships based on shared values and trust. These new rules start with listening to and learning from your customers before acting on what you find. They include tips that will help us as marketers be the best ambassadors we can be for our brands. The truth is that we have to curate the values associated with our brands. With that, here’s an excerpt:

ONE: Listen. Develop the discipline of continually listening to your customers via every channel you possibly can.

TWO: Learn. Take all that data you collect from customers and potential customers and turn it into insights.

THREE: Act on those insights, by dealing with your customers the way they want you to, when they want you to.

FOUR: Never forget you don’t create the engagement journey, your customers do. (You can curate it though!)

FIVE: Don’t let anyone other than you define what your organization stands for.

SIX: Everyone in the company has the opportunity to influence the engagement process—for good or evil. Choose good.

SEVEN: Never let anyone define your personal brand. Your organization must stand for something. You, as a human being, must as well. (And, of course, what you stand for will reflect on your organization).

EIGHT: No outbound content for your customer, whether it is an email, a video, whatever, should ever leave your company without being vetted by some type of focus group or feedback pool. In today’s age of hyper-reactivity, this is a requirement.

NINE: The world is evolving at an unprecedented, accelerated pace in terms of norms, tastes, preferences, beliefs, biases, and on and on and on. You cannot assume that what you believed to be true yesterday, literally yesterday, is true today. You and your organization need to accept that fact at the very DNA level of your being. It’s an absolute.

To help you put these suggestions into practice and sketch out your own engagement plans, we’ve developed a workbook that takes you through a set of provocative questions that will help you to take a critical look at where you are and where you’re going. I encourage you to take some time to work through it —possibly as a team activity—to help you shape your collective path forward in the Engagement Economy.

With that, I’ll leave you with one thought. It is our responsibility to engage our customers, not market to them. We must engage them early, engage them everywhere, and do so in meaningful ways at all times. But it’s your choice. You can choose to engage, choose to demonstrate that you understand the values of your customers, and choose to let them know you want them as a customer, or take the easy way out, and risk becoming irrelevant. I hope the choice is clear.

Engagement Economy Workbook

The post Engage to Win, a Blueprint for Success in the Engagement Economy appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.


20 Jun 2017
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Google’s job listings search is now open to all job search sites & developers

It’s now official: Job listings are coming to Google’s search results in a much more prominent way. And the company is now offering a formal path for outsiders to add job listings to the new feature in Google search.

Google announced this morning that they are now opening up job listings within Google search to all developers and site owners. The new jobs display within Google search doesn’t have a formal name. However, it’s part of the overall Google for Jobs initiative that Google previewed last month at the Google I/O conference.

At that time, Google did not say how to get your job listings into this feature. Well, now Google has published a guide to job posting structured data that gives clear advice on what developers need to do to get their job listings into this new Google for Jobs search feature.

There are two basic steps you need to take:

(1) Mark up your job listings with job posting structured data.
(2) Submit a sitemap (or an RSS or Atom feed) with a date for each listing.

If you have 100,000 job openings on your site or you process 10,000 job listing changes per day, then you can apply to use the “high change rate” feature by filling out this form.

The job search structured data can be validated with the structured data testing tool, and you can even preview those listings. Google also promised to add a new filter to the Search Analytics report in the Google Search Console specifically to track how well your job listings are doing in Google search.

Here is a screen shot of the feature in web search:

Google has more technical documentation on how this works over here.

The post Google’s job listings search is now open to all job search sites & developers appeared first on Search Engine Land.

20 Jun 2017
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What advanced SEOs need to know about algorithm updates

Times have changed. Gone are the days of yearly algorithm updates that would upend the search results and leave us scrambling. These days, it’s common to see ranking and traffic changes on a daily or weekly basis — and when it comes to algorithms, Google rarely even confirms updates. In fact, according to Olga Andrienko, Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush, of the 28 updates SEMrush tracked this year, only two have been confirmed by Google.

What does this mean for SEOs? Without guidance or transparency from Google, how should we react to ranking changes or possible penalties, and what should we be aware of?

Search experts at SMX Advanced last week tackled these questions in a session titled, “Dealing With Algorithm Updates: What Advanced SEOs Need To Know.” Andrienko and fellow panelists Marie Haynes (Owner, HIS Web Marketing) and Jeff Preston (Senior Manager, SEO, Disney Interactive) provided some tips and checklists to help SEOs better identify penalties, assess traffic drops and take action when needed. Let’s take a look.

It’s not you, it’s me

According to the panelists, just because you saw a big traffic or rankings loss on a day where an algorithm update hit, that doesn’t mean you were penalized. In fact, it’s probably not a penalty at all.

As both Haynes and Preston noted, there are a number of things that can lead to a sudden decrease in traffic: site redesigns, site updates, analytics adjustments, and more. When in doubt, it’s probably you, not Google.

Before assuming you were penalized, identify any changes that were made on your site. Talk to the QA team, check tech team activity, talk to the content team — whoever has the power to make updates to the site should be your first line of communication.

Speakers also noted that it’s important to know your data to be able to make a true assessment. Haynes gave us a checklist of things to look into:

Check Search Console. If you are assessed a manual penalty, you’ll see it in there.
Determine which pages saw traffic drops. If you are just seeing one page being impacted, it’s not an algorithm change.
Check all organic traffic data. If you were impacted by an algorithm update, you should only see an impact in Google.
Look at your competitors. Did your competitors see any changes? Algorithm updates tend to target certain types of search results and industries. Take a look at competitor rankings.

At the end of the day, you may not have been hit with a penalty at all, and it’s important to look at all of the other factors that might lead to a drop in traffic first.

Tools can guide us

If you work in the SEO space, you know there are tools for just about everything, including SERP volatility. And as Andrienko pointed out, they all have a number of benefits.

But tools can only take us so far. We have to account for the fact that some industries simply fluctuate more than others, or that mobile results tend to fluctuate more than desktop. As Andrienko showed, sports results are almost always different depending on what’s happening that day. The same goes with entertainment and news.

Tools are a good way to track site performance, and while it’s always interesting to see the changes in SERPs, make sure you are looking at the big picture. Look beyond your own site to see how your overall industry is performing and being impacted. And as noted above, just because a tool shows us SERP fluctuations, it doesn’t mean you were penalized.

Be liked & be valuable

If Google can figure out which sites you like, why can’t they figure out what sites everyone likes? I loved this idea from Haynes and what it implies: Google wants to provide users with the best possible experience. It wants to give users what they are looking for, and the updates we are seeing now are geared to do that.

Case in point: Preston noted Disney removed 80,000 low-quality pages and got a boost in organic traffic. Most sites that remove content don’t see a jump in organic; however, because the majority of these pages were low-quality and receiving ~1 visit per month, they weren’t helping the site in any way.

Haynes also focused on E-A-T (Experience, Authority, Trust) and noted that if you don’t pursue these things, you are going to be outranked by competitors who do.

She also discussed the idea that certain people and/or brands have EAT for certain ideas, and Google is looking to put those things together.

Wrap-up

The speakers did a fantastic job covering what to look for, how to find information and what to do if you are penalized. But one of the key pieces of advice throughout it all was to talk your industry friends. If you are seeing changes or weird occurrences, ask others in the search space, and they’ll likely be able to point you in the right direction.

And at the end of the day, just make your site better. If you think you are doing something that might drive a penalty, stop and fix it. If you think your site can be improved, work on that. The search engines want to serve up quality, and it’s your job to give them that.

Couldn’t make SMX? Be sure to check out the presentations from each of the speakers below:

Algorithm changes and My Sites By Jeff Preston from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

Traffic Drop Assessments By Marie Haynes from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

Making Change Predictable: Tools That Track Google Volatility By Olga Andrienko from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

The post What advanced SEOs need to know about algorithm updates appeared first on Search Engine Land.

19 Jun 2017
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7 changes by Facebook that make it a real local search player

The race to steal market share from Google in local search has been futile. Google dominates search with over 63 percent market share, and in mobile, where the growth is, Google almost holds a monopoly at 95 percent. The dark horse in the race is Facebook — the one who can match Google’s Goliath size, audience and resources.

Yet it has never seriously challenged Google in search, and both companies have seemed somewhat satisfied to retreat to their respective corners of strength — Facebook deferring in the area of search, and Google shelving its Google+ social network.

With its huge base of users and volume of personal data on them, Facebook has great potential for helping users in their search for local products/services and helping businesses get found. All the components are there: millions of business pages, location data, behavior data, demographic information, social networks and engagement.

Yet despite the potential, Facebook hadn’t in recent years been able to effectively compete with the likes of Google in local search. Facebook is a great place to engage with existing customers and reach targeted audiences with sponsored posts in news feeds. However, customers still largely left the platform to find local businesses and information.

The Local Search Association (disclosure: my employer) recently released a report about how consumers in 12 cities of varying populations look for local business information. Search engines still dominate local search at 80 percent usage, compared to 48 percent for social networks.

But Facebook seems to be steadily improving its search function, preferring to move at a deliberate pace in developing its own proprietary technology instead of contracting with others (as it did previously with Bing).

About 18 months ago, I looked at Facebook’s search capability and concluded that it lacked complete and accurate data, returned poor search results and generally offered a bad user experience. It just didn’t work.

Since then, Facebook has made huge strides in improving that experience and is further beta testing some functions that incorporate social media data into local search to return results in a way even Google can’t match. And that might make Facebook search a threat to Google.

Below are seven ways Facebook is changing the way search works on its platform that may alter the local search landscape.

1. Facebook is using location much more effectively

Location is at the heart of local search, as reflected by Google’s emphasis on proximity and physical address in ranking local search results. Facebook now prominently highlights maps and directions at the top of local business pages on both the Home page and the About page.

Many searches from the top search box also automatically return results based on the user’s location – truly local search results. In earlier test searches, when location was not specified in a general search for “Italian restaurants,” I received results from India and New York. Today, only restaurant listings within two miles of me are listed, and the results include an address and map location. Clicking through to see all results opens the Places tab and provides more results all within three miles.

Below is a comparison of screen shots from November 2015 and June 2017 of results for Italian restaurants in Frisco. This illustrates the difference location information makes to a listing.

 

2. Places is given priority

Not only is location being used more effectively, but places are given much higher priority. Previously, the functionality of the Places tab was sorely lacking, indicating the low priority Facebook had assigned it. In my earlier test, a search for “Lawyers in Frisco” returned only one result: Tupy’s. If Tupy was once a lawyer, he answered a greater calling: He’s been serving tasty Mexican food in the Dallas area for over 60 years.

Facebook Places today is not only highly functional, it is the first information provided when relevant (i.e., when a search is made that implies a place or local business). For example, a search for “Texas Beaches” or “Plumbing services” returned Places results at the top, followed by pages of local businesses. And Facebook recognizes when location is not relevant — a search for “Wonder Woman movie” returned videos, news and a Wikipedia page.

3. Search results are much more robust and complete

The single non-relevant result in the search for lawyers described above was a common problem with many searches 18 months ago. That search for lawyers in Frisco today? It now returns 48 results of attorneys and law firms within 4.5 miles.

The results are not only much deeper, but they provide more valuable information. The lawyer listings show profile pictures, address, distance from me, whether it is still open, and star rating. The listings even describe what type of law the firm or attorney practices, such as family law, criminal law or estate planning.

4. Facebook improved indexing of its information

Another problem that Facebook had with search was poor indexing of information. I’d visited a pizza vendor in Washington, D.C. called Jumbo Slice Pizza. It’s not a small unknown joint — it’s been profiled by the Travel Channel and is the source of frequent posts by Facebook users showing off slices of pizza that are three times the size of the talking head about to consume it. Yet a search for “Jumbo Slice Pizza DC” didn’t pull up the place, or even my post from when I’d checked in at the restaurant.

Today, Facebook has fixed that indexing problem. It also helped improve its search function by adding suggested search terms that show up when a user is typing in the search box. These suggested search terms frequently pull up business categories that Facebook offers its business users to identify what kind of business they are. Thus, Facebook helps the searcher use search terms that will provide better results as indexed on the platform.

5. Facebook is beta testing new features, including integrating friend posts and local search

Facebook needs to make its search unique, not a lesser version of Google search. It’s doing that by incorporating its social media data with search results. First identified by TechCrunch, Facebook is testing with some users including mini profile pics below place listings of friends who have checked in or posted about the place or business.

This extra bit of information could make a world of difference for Facebook search. Word of mouth has long been considered the best lead generator for quality leads and conversion. It’s like reviews on steroids.

Consumers trust their friends, and that relationship provides important context for the review. They know whether this friend is a bargain hunter or enjoys the finer things; whether the friend has similar or different taste; whether he or she is analytical or jumps head-first into decisions. Knowing a friend you trust chose the business means that oftentimes, words aren’t even necessary. With the number of users and volume of information that Facebook has, this could be a game-changer in local search.

Facebook also is integrating interactive maps with pins for business locations.  Previous map results provided only a static map. While this isn’t an innovative development, given the importance of location to local search, this is a necessary addition to Facebook’s search function. The map functions much like Google or Apple Map local searches, providing business listings with pin locations on the map that can be pinched in or zoomed out.

6. Facebook is using crowdsourcing to build out its database

Facebook has one of the largest crowds on the planet, so leveraging that manpower for free seems like a pretty good idea. Google does it via its “local guides,” so it’s a somewhat proven idea.

Some users are being asked to provide input into details about places that they’ve checked into via Facebook Editor. When the user checks in or tags a place, a series of yes-or-no questions are asked, such as “Does this place have parking?” or “Is this the right location on the map?” or “Is this the same place as [another name]?”

Based on the information that I’ve been asked to verify, it appears that Facebook does have a fair amount of inaccurate information — leftovers from allowing users to create new place listings themselves. What appears to be a selective “trusted” editor function is an attempt to rectify that, but it also is making some users unhappy. Facebook didn’t ask users to be editors and just automatically asks those questions once a new post is created. A Google search for Facebook editor suggests searches for “delete Facebook editor,” “remove Facebook editor” and many other similar search terms — so it’s unclear how long Facebook will essentially force its users to help clean up its database.

Nevertheless, more accurate and comprehensive information would help further improve Facebook’s search function.

7. Facebook introduced City Guides

One subject users love to post about is travel. In fact, it’s been suggested that social media is helping boost travel, food and entertainment spending as users seek out experiences that they can share with friends and that reflect positively on themselves.

Facebook created City Guides that provides information on popular places such as restaurants and sights for frequently visited cities. Its distinguishing feature is a list of friends that have been to the city, and tapping on each friend brings up a list of places they’ve visited. Next, the City Guide lists “local favorites.” USA Today reports 56 percent of vacationing Americans prefer local dining experiences, so users are likely to find this information very helpful. The guides have a TripAdvisor feel that is more personalized or targeted and adds a rich surf-and-discover function to Facebook’s local search experience.


How to make sure you’re found on Facebook search

All of the above improvements to Facebook’s search function give users more reason to stay on Facebook, spend more time on the platform and consume more content. Facebook is finally making a realistic foray into local search and has the potential to significantly grow usage, which in turn can help small businesses that already love the engagement it provides to existing customers.

Thus, it makes sense for a local business to review its business page “About” section and the way its information shows up in search results to make sure it captures the increasing search traffic Facebook hopes to deliver. Here are a few tips to get started:

Review your Facebook business profile and make sure it is complete. This is similar to the Google My Business (GMB) profile that includes contact information, details about your business and interactive functions you can adopt.
Verify that location information is accurate and returns a physical map location that shows up at the top of your business profile when your page is displayed. While the map pin should be automatically generated when you provide an address, I have seen some businesses that do not display the location or map even when an address was provided.
Add business categories that further describe your business. Although you are only asked for one business category when you create your Facebook page, you can return and edit the “About” section to add two more business categories that may help improve visibility, depending on the search terms used.
Activate buttons that Facebook offers, such as call-to-click and appointment schedulers that help convert traffic to your page.
Don’t leave blanks in any section that might trigger Facebook to crowdsource answers. Your answers will be the most reliable answers, even if you answer, “No,” or you indicate the question doesn’t apply to your business.

In closing, Facebook is making significant strides in local search, particularly in melding social media data with local search results. This may be enough to start turning the tide toward making it a major local search player as users discover and enjoy the search experience. Keep an eye out for even more developments, as Facebook’s unique data set will continue to allow it to provide more targeted and customized results. Will we see Facebook AdWords or Facebook SEO any time soon? I wouldn’t bet against it.

The post 7 changes by Facebook that make it a real local search player appeared first on Search Engine Land.

19 Jun 2017
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Searching for a call analytics platform?

Enterprise Call Analytics Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide from Martech Today is your source for the latest call analytics information as seen by industry leaders, vendors and their customers.

Included in this 39-page report are profiles of 12 leading call analytics vendors, pricing charts, capabilities comparisons and recommended steps for evaluating and purchasing. In this report you will learn:

Who the leading players are in enterprise enterprise call analytics platforms
What you should look for in a call analytics solution
How much call analytics platforms cost
About the capabilities enterprise call analytics platforms provide

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download “Enterprise Call Analytics Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide.”

The post Searching for a call analytics platform? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

19 Jun 2017
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SearchCap: Cortana on Android, SEO algorithm updates & Facebook local search

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

From Search Engine Land:

No more ‘OK Google’: Cortana can now be the default assistant on Android
Jun 19, 2017 by Greg Sterling

It’s Cortana you’ll get when you long-press on the home button.

7 changes by Facebook that make it a real local search player
Jun 19, 2017 by Wesley Young

Columnist Wesley Young looks at recent improvements Facebook has made — and functionality being tested — that may position the social media giant to compete with Google in the area of local search.

What advanced SEOs need to know about algorithm updates
Jun 19, 2017 by Casie Gillette

Columnist Casie Gillette recaps a session from SMX Advanced on how to identify and respond to algorithm updates in an era where they are rarely announced or confirmed by Google.

Father’s Day 2017 Google doodle brings back the cactus family from Mother’s Day
Jun 18, 2017 by Amy Gesenhues

Google’s Father’s Day doodle shares the same cactus-themed artwork that was used for its Mother’s Day doodle in May.

Susan La Flesche Picotte Google doodle pays homage to first American Indian to earn her medical degree
Jun 17, 2017 by Amy Gesenhues

Google is giving the public health advocate known as “Dr. Sue” prominent placement on their home page on what would have been her 152nd birthday.

Recent Headlines From Marketing Land, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Internet Marketing:

Customer engagement in the age of mobile, social and messaging
For Interbrand’s CMO, the path to the top began in a Madison, Wisconsin farmers market
Salesforce’s ‘State of Marketing’ Report: Customer experience takes center stage
Pega, Merkle launch Unified Data Management Platform
The State of Digital Advertising 2017

Search News From Around The Web:

Local & Maps

Google Maps goof hurting the town of Stanley, KTVB.COM
These Cool 3D Maps Visualize The Topography Of Your Favorite Coastline, fastcodesign.com

Searching

Answer: What’s difficult for YOU to find?, SearchReSearch
How To Trigger A Google Suggested Clip Video Answer, Search Engine Roundtable
Pinterest Marks LGBTQ Pride Month With Some Colorful Search Features, Adweek

SEO

3 Ways to Secure the SEO Budget You Need, Online Marketing Blog
Google Hints They May Be Messing With Algorithm Tracking Tools, Search Engine Roundtable
Google Site Move With New Rebranded URL Can Take 3 Months, Search Engine Roundtable
Googlers Give Feedback On Interesting Google Directive Chart, Search Engine Roundtable
Ranking Factors Debate: Experts Share Practical Evidence #semrushchat, SEM Rush
SEO Knowledge Interview Questions: Common SEO Mistakes, PPM
This is the URLs with the largest number of ranking keywords on Google.co.uk, SISTRIX
Top 10 SEO Trends in 2017, MarTech Advisor

SEM / Paid Search

How to Make Sure PPC Gets All the Credit, PPC Hero
How we Used PPC Ad Data to Design Successful Organic Search Snippet Experiments, MarTech Advisor

The post SearchCap: Cortana on Android, SEO algorithm updates & Facebook local search appeared first on Search Engine Land.

19 Jun 2017
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No more ‘OK Google’: Cortana can now be the default assistant on Android

The newest update for Cortana for Android enables users to make it the default assistant on Android devices, displacing the Google Assistant. A prompt when Cortana is initiated takes users through the quick setup process (below).

Once installed, a long press on the home button brings up Cortana instead of the Google Assistant. Users will no longer be able to simply say “OK Google” to access the Google Assistant, although the latter can still be initiated via the Android home screen search box and mic. Cortana cannot be summoned in a hands-free way on Android phones, however.

Previously, Microsoft made Cortana available on Android’s lock screen. This move makes it even more native to Android devices; however, it’s not clear how many people will bother to make it the default assistant. I suspect this is aimed at people who use Windows PCs but have Android phones, enabling a cross-platform assistant experience.

Microsoft says that Cortana has nearly 150 million users across its ecosystem, which includes Windows 10, Android, iOS and the Xbox. It also has an SDK strategy to make it the virtual assistant for third-party hardware devices.

Despite this large audience, Cortana is fighting something of an uphill battle against Siri and Google Assistant because of their built-in position on the iPhone and Android. Accordingly, Cortana is trying to raise its profile and innovate around features to differentiate. One example is the recently introduced Cortana price notifications/comparison tool for the Microsoft Edge browser.

The post No more ‘OK Google’: Cortana can now be the default assistant on Android appeared first on Search Engine Land.

19 Jun 2017
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How to Build an Unbreakable YouTube Brand

One billion hours of video.

That’s how much content is viewed each and every day on YouTube!

That translates to 46,000 years of content annually.

Another amazing thing about YouTube is the amount of time users spend on it.

Believe it or not, the average YouTube session is 40 minutes.

That dwarfs the amount of time people spend on Instagram and Twitter.

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Talk about engagement!

Here are a few other ridiculous stats that demonstrate YouTube’s potency:

Youtube Statistics

But here’s what I find really interesting.

Only 9% of US small businesses have a YouTube channel.

That’s kind of crazy if you think about it.

I mean YouTube is second only to Facebook in terms of users.

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You would think more brands would be taking advantage of it.

But this is a good thing and means that YouTube offers plenty of opportunity.

You just have to seize that opportunity.

But how do you go about building a YouTube brand?

Furthermore, what are some of the similarities among top YouTube channels?

I’d like to share with you some key strategies that have worked for some of the biggest YouTube brands.

I’ve developed some sort of a template, and following it will help you build a successful, unbreakable YouTube brand that’s distinctly your own.

Come up with a unique angle

One of the most popular channels of all time is Epic Rap Battles of History (ERB).

They’ve featured rap battles that range all the way from Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates:

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to Mr. T vs. Mr. Rogers:

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It’s pretty hilarious.

ERB has completely killed it and has a massive following.

They had well over 14 million subscribers as of mid-2017.

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I’m not saying you have to be as original as ERB, but you definitely need a unique angle.

To decide on an angle, you have to first identify your core audience.

What kind of content would appeal to them?

Would they go for humor and sarcasm?

A lot of the top channels implement humor to some extent.

YouTube is also a place where people openly embrace their weirdness, so it’s generally okay to be a little out there.

Or should you be professional and go for an educational angle?

It depends on your demographic and its collective taste.

I recommend doing some brainstorming to decide on a basic direction to take.

Of course, this will evolve organically over time, but you’ll need to establish a core identity and preferably one that stands out.

Also keep in mind that most people use YouTube for one of two reasons.

They either want to be entertained or informed, and in some cases both.

Make sure you have a mission and a clear idea of the direction you’re going to take right from the start.

Create a killer “home video”

There’s a path that most YouTube users take when learning about a brand or channel.

They’ll first land on an individual video.

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They’ll watch it, and if they like it enough to want to learn more about you, they’ll click on the link to your home profile.

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Your home video will automatically play there.

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This will basically make you or break you in terms of gaining subscribers.

Either they’ll be compelled to subscribe to your channel, or they’ll head elsewhere.

So, you need to completely crush it with your home video.

More specifically, it needs to encapsulate what your brand and channel are all about.

There are a few ways to approach this.

You could:

create a video specifically for your homepage, describing your channel and telling viewers what they can expect
feature one of your top videos that captures the essence of your brand/channel
create a compilation of the top highlights of previous videos

Whatever approach you take, just be sure you connect the dots for first-time viewers so they know what to expect if they subscribe.

Make full use of the About section

Every YouTube channel has an About section that explains the concept of the channel.

Many first-time viewers will check this out to learn more about you.

The information you include in this section will influence whether or not they choose to subscribe.

Don’t haphazardly or carelessly fill out this section.

You want to explain the details and highlight any points potential subscribers should know.

Here’s a good example of a rock solid About section from Fine Brothers Entertainment:

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Notice that it gives a clear, succinct description and also mentions the posting schedule.

Here’s another good example from The Needle Drop, one of the most popular music review channels:

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This is yet another opportunity to build a homogeneous brand identity and pique the interest of those unfamiliar with you.

Don’t overlook the About section.

Create consistency

“It takes five to seven impressions for someone to remember a brand.”

In order to make your brand both recognizable and memorable, it’s super important to have consistency on your channel.

There are two main ways to accomplish this.

First, your channel should feature recurring characters and themes.

You want to become familiar to your audience to build connections with them over time.

Second, you should strive to stick with a consistent posting schedule.

In order to keep your audience interested and dialed in, you should give them a rough idea of when they can expect new content.

I know I get a little irked and lose interest in channels that go MIA all of a sudden.

It’s generally considered best practice to upload at least one new video a week.

However, two or three videos is even better.

I find the one to three video mark tends to be ideal.

It’s the sweet spot that keeps subscribers interested without fatiguing them with excessive content.

In terms of the best time to post, there’s an article from Tube Filter that offers some good advice on this.

According to their research, these are the best hours to post a video each day:

youtube best posting times days of the week

There’s also evidence suggesting viewership begins rising on Thursday and spikes on Saturday.

youtube sample viewership frederator

And this makes sense if you think about it.

Unlike most other social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where you can casually scroll through your feed with minimal time investment, YouTube requires a larger commitment, where users often view content in larger blocks.

This makes the weekend the ideal time for viewing.

Plus, people can be stealth about checking most of their social sites at work, but YouTube is trickier.

Usually, they’ll need to wait until they’re off work to indulge.

Keep this in mind when establishing a posting schedule for your videos.

Make live video part of your repertoire

Live streaming is a fairly new concept on YouTube.

But it’s starting to spread like wildfire.

According to Mediakix, “YouTube Live video views have grown by 80% and livestreams increased by 130% between 2015 and 2016.”

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And here’s the thing about live video.

It’s absolutely perfect for brand building.

There’s a certain closeness viewers experience with brands through live streaming. There’s an intimate vibe to it.

You can even answer questions and respond to comments in real time and interact with your audience in a way that’s not possible with any other medium.

Research from Livestream also found that

live video is more appealing to brand audiences: 80% would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts.

This is definitely something to experiment with if you haven’t done so already.

However, there is one caveat.

You must have at least 1,000 subscribers to be eligible for live video.

But this number has actually dropped dramatically, considering the minimum number was 10,000 earlier in 2017.

Collaborate with relevant YouTubers

What’s one of the quickest ways to crank up the exposure of your blog/website and bring in an influx of traffic?

One word: guest-posting.

Collaborating with other awesome YouTubers is basically the equivalent of guest-posting via video, which can boost your brand dramatically.

I’ve had success with this strategy.

Take for instance the time I appeared on Tai Lopez’s channel.

That one video generated over 275,000 views:

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If you really want to expedite the growth of your YouTube brand, I highly recommend reaching out to relevant YouTubers in your niche.

It’s really easy.

Find a person’s contact information on their About page, and click on “Send message:”

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Introduce yourself, tell them how much you like their channel and explain your idea for a collaboration video.

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You don’t even need to do the video face to face—you can record footage, interacting remotely through FaceTime, Skype, etc.

This way, you can leverage someone else’s subscriber base to quickly grow your own following.

Conclusion

It’s really hard to beat YouTube as a brand-building platform.

The massive built-in audience (1.3 billion users as of March 2017) combined with the intimacy that comes with video is the perfect recipe for building your brand from the ground up.

And like I mentioned earlier, fewer than 10% of US businesses have a YouTube channel.

So, competition is still low.

If you can consistently deliver epic content that informs, entertains or both, you’re way ahead of the game.

Not only can you build an audience, you can build a unique, successful brand your competitors won’t be able to replicate.

What methods have you used to establish your YouTube brand?


19 Jun 2017
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