Stone Temple Consulting Blog

Why You Must Publish Frequently (But Keep Quality High!) – Here’s Why #210

One of the age-old debates in SEO is whether or not it matters how much content you publish or how frequently.  In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge shows evidence that having more content can be an advantage, but you must never sacrifice quality to get there.   Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, here at Perficient Digital, we’ve developed advanced content marketing strategies for major brands that drive brand awareness and consumer interests, but we also use that content to gain big SEO wins for those businesses. Now, a question I hear a lot about that is, “Does it matter how frequently a company publishes content, at least for SEO purposes?” Eric: Sure. It can make a difference, but it’s not the only factor. Mark: What do you mean by that? Eric: To answer that, let me tell you a tale of four sites, all in one single marketplace. The chart that you’re looking at right now shows the number of content updates in a year for four companies in the same industry. So, site one in this chart, even though the bar looks really, really tiny, is actually publishing three pieces of content a month, and site two is actually publishing 16 pieces of content a month, which most people would consider a lot. I certainly would. But, site three published almost 100 articles a month, while site four was publishing 500 articles per month. Now, let’s look at the next chart. This is a Searchmetrics search visibility chart over the past two years, and the green line is the brand that published five times more than the others, the biggest volume brand. It started out at last place. In fact, its site launched two years ago and by August 2018 had established itself as the dominant player in the market. I believe that was solely on the back of the volume of content they were publishing, and their coverage of the marketplace with a great deal of depth and breadth. Mark: That’s it then. That’s it, folks. The magic secret to SEO, outpublish your competitors. We’ll see you… Eric: Not so fast. Let me tell you the rest of the story. When you look at this chart, in September of 2018, the site that was publishing 500 articles a month suddenly sees a big drop in its SEO visibility. So, it looks like that the September/October updates hit this site really hard. And like the rest of the updates that Google put out in 2018, there seemed to be this continual focus on content quality and how well you met user intent and those sorts of things. Mark: So, they were cranking out a lot of content, but it wasn’t necessarily all that great? Eric: Exactly right. So, I think what we see here is with the volume of content, they rode that wave up, but because it wasn’t good enough quality content, they kind of took the hit in the September/October updates, since Google continued to adjust their algorithms. So, I think it’s really important to understand that hey, volume is great, content breadth and depth is great, but it better be good stuff. Mark: Got you. So, what lesson can we take away from all this? Eric: I think you have to have a lot of content on your site and really think about covering your market area in breadth and depth, if your goal is to have a strong role in the SEO results for Google. But, if you don’t have the right level of quality, it will bite you in the end. So, now you have to set the balance between, “How do I get that coverage in depth and breadth, and really get a volume of stuff going out there so I get that coverage, but keep the quality really, really high?” Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Mobile vs Desktop Traffic in 2019

Latest update April 4, 2019 — This is the latest edition of our study on the state of the mobile web. This update demonstrates the growth of the mobile web last year (2018) versus the desktop. I’ll also compare the latest data to usage levels in 2016 and 2017. The stats in this and our prior studies were pulled from SimilarWeb and reflect U.S. traffic across the web. Where is the Mobile vs. Desktop Story Heading? In 2018, 58% of site visits were from mobile devices. Mobile devices made up 42% of total time spent online. Mobile Bounce Rate came in at 50%. The details are in the charts below. For reference, here are our prior years’ studies: Mobile vs. Desktop 2017 (published 2018) Mobile vs. Desktop 2016 (published 2017) Changes to Our Data Collection Methodology for 2018 During 2018, SimilarWeb made some shifts in their data sources. For that reason, the charts below show the 2018 data separated from the 2016 and 2017 data. The new sources in 2018 have slightly lower mobile usage, but this does not reflect an actual drop in mobile usage—just a change in the data sources used. Nonetheless, SimilarWeb has one of the largest data samples on the web, and was picked by Rand Fishkin as the best tool for getting data on web traffic. For that reason, we will continue to use SimilarWeb as the data source for this study on an annual basis. Aggregated Stats: Desktop vs. Mobile The most common stat that people talk about is the percentage of their visits that comes from mobile devices. Here is a look at the percentage of visits sites get from mobile vs. desktop for 2016, 2017, and 2018: The data continues to show that for most sites, the majority of their traffic comes from mobile devices. This is a critical fact of life for all business and media web sites. It’s also interesting to consider total time on site. Here is what we see across the three years: Bear in mind, that’s the percentage of total aggregated time across all visits for mobile, compared with that of desktop. The total time users spend on sites when using desktop devices is still larger than the total time for mobile. This suggests that the time per visit must be longer, as we see here: Next, let’s take a look at bounce rate. Here is what we saw for 2016, 2017, and 2018: With the new data sources from SimilarWeb, the mobile bounce rate is back up a bit, but still higher than it was in 2016. As I said in last year’s study, I believe that mobile site experiences are improving, and users are getting more comfortable with it. However, desktop still has the lead over mobile as it relates to bounce rate, and that’s not likely to change. For one thing, the use cases for people on mobile devices often involve the need to look something up quickly while they are on the go. Let’s now take a look at the total page views between desktop and mobile devices: Because of the new data sources from SimilarWeb, we see a drop in the percentage of total page views from mobile devices vs desktop, but this number is still higher than it was in 2016. To wrap this section up, let’s also take a look at page views per visitor: The page views per visitor remain significantly higher on desktop than mobile. This is consistent with the differences in time on site and bounce rate data shown above. Stats by Industry Category As we did in the last two years’ studies, we also broke the data down by industry category, to determine which industries are the most mobile-centric. The variance between categories remains significant: In 2016, the adult industry was the leader, with 73% of the visits coming from mobile devices. In spite of that, it was the biggest gainer this year, jumping up to 86% of all traffic coming from mobile. The other fascinating thing is that the finance category and arts & entertainment categories are the only industries that still see more traffic on desktop, by narrow 52% to 48% and 51% to 49% margins, respectively. By next year, these should also get most of their traffic from mobile. Next up, let’s look at time on site by industry category: Here we see that every industry has a longer time on site for desktop over mobile, except for books and literature. The latter is probably due to people reading on mobile devices such as tablets. Let’s look at bounce rate next: The desktop bounce rate is lower than the mobile bounce rate in every single industry, though the margin is quite small for these two categories: Recreation and Hobbies Books and Literature. Last, but not least, let’s look at page views per visitor: Page views per visitor remained higher in every industry for desktop than mobile. Four Takeaway Recommendations How can we use this data to inform our digital marketing strategy? Here are four of my top observations and ideas: Mobile Experiences are Continuing to Improve: Mobile user interfaces are improving, and users are getting more accustomed to them. Being mobile friendly is important in all industries—it’s the largest source of traffic in nearly all of them. This means designing your mobile site before you design the desktop site. Instead of coding your desktop site and then writing style sheets to shrink it into a smartphone form factor, design your mobile site first. Then you can figure out how to leverage the larger screen real estate available on a desktop platform as a second step. Important note: I’m not saying this because desktop is dead; it’s not. It’s still very important, but it’s far easier to take a mobile UI to the desktop than take a desktop one to a smartphone. Desktop Remains Very Important: Other industry data still suggests that more conversions continue to happen on desktop in most industries, so continuing to pay a lot of attention to your desktop site makes a great deal of sense. And, if you’re in an industry where 75% or more of your conversions come from desktop, you may even want to offer users on mobile devices the option to provide contact information, save shopping carts, or implement other functionality that allows them to defer the actual completion of a conversion to a later time (perhaps on a desktop). The rationale is that users may not want to deal with complicated forms on a mobile device, and/or may not want to enter their credit card there. Following up with them later lets them come back on a desktop device and convert at a more convenient time. If you’re open to this idea, I’d urge you to test it thoroughly first, to see which gets better results for you. Compare Your Site’s Behavior to Industry Norms: If the average percentage of mobile visitors in your industry is 60%, and your site is at 35%, that may indicate a problem like a very slow mobile site. See how you compare to industry norms; if there is a large delta with your site, take the time to understand why. Pay Attention to Site Speed: Consider implementing AMP. Here is our study on AMP, which thoroughly explains how effective AMP is in accelerating site speed, as well as our detailed guide to implementing AMP. AMP is not the only way to speed up your site, of course, but it’s an open source standardized way to do it, so it deserves consideration. Wonder why page speed is so important? See our Page Speed Guide.  

Why These 3 Elements Are Critical for Content Marketing Success – Here’s Why #209

What are the most essential elements necessary for a successful content marketing campaign? In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge reveals how to win at content marketing. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, what are the key elements of successful content marketing?  Eric: That’s a big question and obviously it depends on the exact goals of the campaign and stuff like that, but all campaigns have some common elements to them.   Mark: What are those common elements?   Eric: Still a great question.   The first one is actually user value. You have to be adding value to the user. That can mean many different things, but in all cases you have to be adding value to the users and creating a sense of connection with your brand.   The second one is differentiation. What makes your content unique and is it something that many other people have written about already? You want to be doing something unique, and then figure out what you can do to bring a new angle.   Also, think about the depth and breadth of your content.  Mark: What do you mean by that term depth and breadth?   Eric: The basic idea is to provide unusually deep coverage of a topic area. For example, your competition might have five articles on a topic. What if you did the extra research and wrote 10? How about 20? That could be a great value to users. Would the result be the best resource on that topic in the entire market? That’s not necessarily a bad place to be.   Mark: Okay. Before we go, do you have anything else you want to add about making a campaign successful?   Eric: Sure.   First of all, don’t overlook the promotion side of things. Once you create the amazing content you do need to tell the world about it. You need to plan your promotional campaign even before you start creating content. One of the things that might happen is in looking at the places where you’re thinking about promoting, you might get more good ideas for what to write because now you kind of know what’s going on in their brains and you can design your content to fit something that’s eminently promotable.   Then figure out how to contact the people that have written about the related topics that you researched in putting together your content plan and figure out how to pitch them in a way that might cause them to reference your stuff.   Really incredibly important that your pitches be customized to every single individual. No mass mailings, please. And then follow-up with an effective outreach campaign to get the word out there.   Mark: Thanks, Eric.   Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Google at 20: A Shift from Text to Images

When Google celebrated its 20th birthday in 2018, the tech giant took the opportunity to introduce several important updates and transitions to how it performs its most essential functions. The company announced that users could expect a fundamental shift “from text to a more visual way of finding information.” If you’ve been keeping tabs on Google’s updates and changes, this announcement didn’t come as a surprise. Google has been working to improve and expand its image search capabilities, adding new features like visual search engine results pages (SERPs) and Google products that focus on images. Here are a few ways Google is prioritizing images. Algorithm Updates. Some of Google’s newest algorithm updates emphasize images in search results. Google has also updated the Google Image algorithm recently– the new updated Google Images algorithm will prioritize pages that display searchable images more prominently and higher up on the page. Google will also prioritize images that come from authoritative websites. At a January 2019 Google NYC meetup, John Mueller also said that image search will be a “bigger topic” this year. Thumbnail images. Over the last year, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of thumbnail images featured on SERPs, especially on mobile devices. With more than 50 percent of Google searches now coming from mobile devices, the company is betting that adding a visual element will make it easier for users to find the information they need more quickly.   Image-based searches. Imagine seeing the perfect pair of shoes in a movie or magazine page but having no way to translate that into a fruitful Google search. Searching for “blue high heels” won’t help, but what if you could just snap a photo and use the image itself? With new developments in AI, products like Google Lens may be able to help you figure out exactly where to buy the shoes (or couch, or car) of your dreams. Google’s image-focused shift is aimed at increasing user accessibility and creating new ways to present content. Until now, search has been fundamentally text based; shifting to a more visual way of providing information opens the door to helping users who have language processing issues or other problems with reading text. The company is hoping to meet users where they are, inviting them to learn more about topics that are relevant to them. An image-focused way of finding information is one important component of forming that invitation. For their part, content creators who want to benefit from Google’s visual initiatives will need to anchor their pages with unique, highly-relevant images. Companies that want to achieve and maintain high visibility on Google will benefit by devoting more attention to the images they use in online content. The use (and usefulness) of images might change between businesses, so it can be useful to think about how to use images in your specific vertical. Some of those use cases might not be intuitive. Clear graphs and charts, product images, graphics, and more, can help illustrate concepts and values. One of the best ways to appreciate this visual shift is to see it in action. Sites like Waypoint, Slate, and Bon Appetit all have very different audiences, but they are all incorporating fresh new ways to use visual features. Waypoint, owned by VICE, is a site devoted to gaming culture. Waypoint has some really cool examples of beautiful, brand consistent imagery, that’s also unique to the site and eye-catching to human users. Slate uses interesting photo editing techniques to create eye catching and unique visual experiences. Bon Appetit has a very specific strong food photo aesthetic that reflects well in recipe mobile SERP results. This evolution from words to images offers exciting opportunities for businesses to create compelling web pages that utilize both images and text. Creative images that connect clearly with the text on a page will make that page more interesting, but they can also help boost search result rankings and visibility.

Why Your SEO Should Include a User Needs Analysis – Here’s Why #208

In 2018 Google seemed to be rewarding sites with depth and breadth of content more than ever. Does your site measure up? In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains why a user needs analysis can reveal content gaps that are hurting your SEO and show you how to perform such an analysis for your site.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Why the Chrome User Experience Report Can Help You Retain More Users Why Google Is Hungry for Comprehensive Content See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, what is a user needs analysis? Eric: Great question, Mark. So, the basic idea when the user needs analysis is to try to assess in detail what users are looking for on a site like yours. So, what are their real needs.  This goes much deeper than researching the top keywords that people search on. The concept instead is to focus on developing a very broad and deep content experience on your site that meets a wide range of user needs. Mark: Eric, I’ve heard you say in the past that much of this has to do with the Google algorithm updates in 2018. Can you elaborate on that a little bit? Eric: Sure, happy to. First of all, Google did many very important updates in 2018, beginning all the way back in March and throughout the year. One of the big areas they focused on was better understanding user intent. So, I have a classic example where looking at a digital camera search result in February versus what it looks like in October, we had a shift that had two digital camera review sites versus two e-tail sites, and by the end of the year was just four e-tail sites, massive change in the overall intent. So, that’s one of the things that Google did. But they also changed a lot, in my opinion, on how they’re evaluating the breadth and depth of content. I saw many sites that saw huge upticks in traffic. And these were sites that were publishing a really significant volume of quality content. And then we saw some sites take a major beating. And these were sites that in our opinion lost because of the quality of their content. Mark: Can you expand on the rationale behind this analysis? Eric: Sure. Imagine that you have 100 users come to your site after entering a keyword at Google. Let’s for example say the keyword is “Digital Cameras.” If you asked them all to provide the top five to ten things they’re looking for, some might mention storage, others might discuss zoom capabilities, some might have a specific brand in mind. Yet others may be more concerned with reviews or learning about photography even. Chances are that no two people will provide the exact same list. And if you summed up all the different choices people make, I bet you’re going to get about 500 different choices. Mark: Probably. Eric: The right idea from a planning point of view is to produce content that addresses a large array of those needs. Mark: How do you perform the analysis that you’re talking about? Eric: There are many good data sources to tap into. First, model the personas of your target audience. Get a sense for who they are and how they think. So, a small business owner versus somebody in a large corporation in a marketing department versus consumer: they all have very different mindsets. Understand what your customer base is like. Then talk to your product designers; figure out what was in their brain when they were making their decisions. Next talk to your customer service people and find out what the most common user questions are. Also, just to get old fashioned about it from an SEO perspective, go to Google, type the phrase in, and look at Google Suggest and the People Also Ask results and see what you see there. Oh, and by the way, if you could do the survey I suggested at the beginning, do it. Mark: What do you do with this analysis once you have it? Eric: You’re going to use it to inform your content plan. You want to build out a map for your content, an editorial calendar that covers as large an array of all the identified needs as possible. Get related content created by true subject matter experts and make it really easy for people to find on your site. And of course, like in all good content marketing, make sure the world knows about it. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

SEO is Dead, Long Live SEO: Understanding the Hows and Whys of Google’s Visual Evolution

In its 20 years as a company, Google has revolutionized the way we find information. The search engine giant is in the midst of rolling out even more changes – it’s moving from answers to journeys, shifting away from queries, and, now, the shift to visual searching. Strings to Things to Concepts One easy way to understand Google’s search technology evolution is through three main ideas: strings, things, and concepts. As we move into the concepts phase of internet search, it’s helpful for us to review the steps that came first. 1. Strings When Google began, it was all about keywords. Those were the “strings”—the words (and sets of words) that helped Google provide users with the most relevant, high-quality information. We can’t overstate how revolutionary keyword technology was, but keyword-based search placed most of the responsibility on the user to find the right information. If you didn’t enter the right keywords, you wouldn’t see the search results you wanted to see. 2. Things After a while, Google’s algorithms got smarter. With the launch of the Knowledge Graph in 2012, Google began to understand what people meant when they used fuzzy search criteria, and began to steer them toward the stronger searchable terms and relevant information. Put simply, it was a progression from basic keywords to semantically related keywords and ideas. The Knowledge Graph enabled Google to aggregate millions of search queries to understand what users were actually interested in when they used certain search terms. This 2012 blog post laid out Google’s hopes for the future: “We’ve always believed that the perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you want. And we can now sometimes help answer your next question before you’ve asked it, because the facts we show are informed by what other people have searched for.” 3. Concepts In 2018, Google announced it would be focusing not just on words, but also on images and other visual content. With this shift, Google hopes to move from answering users’ questions to being their personal assistant. Instead of just responding to your searches, Google will pick up where you leave off, taking users on an information journey. One of the biggest changes since 2012 is that more than half of all Google searches are coming from mobile devices. The visual shift we’re seeing specifically targets those mobile users. In 2018 we also saw Google’s understanding of content and query intent reach a whole new level. Good Content vs. Great Content We know now that Google is moving in a more visual direction, focusing on the mobile experience and integrating images, videos, and other visual content. But what does this mean for SEO? The good news is that the fundamentals remain the same: High-quality content Relevancy Authoritative perspective Answering users’ questions useful Google’s algorithms will only continue to sharpen their accuracy in finding the best, most relevant visual content. This is still about finding content that addresses user needs the best. This visual shift means that SEO experts will need to help content creators create and maintain relevancy. It will also be critical that content creators put out fresh content on a regular basis, as the algorithms will prefer sites that are frequently updated with highly query relevant text and visual information. Google’s understanding of content appears to be exponential in nature, not linear. In other words, their algorithmic abilities tend to leap rather than crawl, and the next few years will see dramatic improvements in those abilities. This advanced understanding means good quality content won’t cut it anymore. Rather, sites that want to perform well in search rankings will need truly outstanding content written by experts. In some industries, this expert-level content is already necessary. Next Steps for SEO As Google paves the way for a drastically different search experience, here are a few concrete steps SEOs can take to stay relevant in search. 1. Understand the basics This means having a thorough understanding of how to create high quality and relevant titles, H1 tags, and body content. For visual content, context is key. Stock photos likely will not cut it anymore; you’ll need images that are highly related to your specific content and unique on the web. 2. Consider the user’s journey Create Content that includes visuals that are optimized for search. Include captions for your visual content that show how those images are a core component of your content. This will help your images/photos perform better in image searches and help users find the information they want quickly and easily. 3. Build visually For higher visibility and accessibility, optimize your product images for Google Lens. Don’t rely on a user’s ability to type in specific search terms to find your product online. Google Lens shows users relevant images automatically, especially ones with direct links back to product pages. Google is also building its own AMP stories—AI-constructed visual experiences that immerse the user in text, video, and photos. With highly optimized visuals and text, Google may pull your authoritative content into one of these stories. Differentiating between good and truly world class content used to be a person’s job. Now it’s the purview of intelligent and powerful algorithms. As we move into the future of search, SEO experts need to stay rooted in the basics of high-quality content, all while remembering that “content” is much more than just words on a page.

Why Ranking Content Quality Analysis (RCQA) Sharpens Your Keyword Research – Here’s Why #207

Which keywords should get first priority in your SEO campaigns? Which will bring the quickest wins (and which will be the biggest challenges)? In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains how a Ranking Content Quality Analysis can help you answer those questions and shows you how to perform one.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: So Eric, what is a ranking content quality analysis or RQCA? Eric: Boy, that’s a mouthful. So, the basic concept is to actually see what Google thinks of your site by going through the process of pulling all the keywords that you currently rank for and doing an Ngram analysis around the words in those keywords. That sounds like a mouthful too! But you might actually end up seeing something like this. Mark: Okay. So why is that helpful? Eric: It tells you what types of queries you’re most likely to rank for based on the words that you see in these queries here, and you can use this to prioritize your SEO campaign efforts going forward. So, let’s say you have a sports site, and you want to rank for some specific college basketball related terms. I’m just making the example up here. If you’re currently ranking for many pro basketball related terms but not many college ones, achieving your goals might actually be pretty challenging. Mark: How do you do that analysis? Eric: You take your Ngram analysis below, and you look through that to see what phrases you rank for, and actually each of the individual words in those phrases. In this particular example we’re showing right now, the analysis shows a high volume of keywords ranking with the word “green” in them. I’m obviously not doing a college basketball example. But note the far smaller number of instances that contain the word “blue” in them. This suggests that it will take far more effort to rank for new blue-related terms–just because Google hasn’t quite bought that for your site yet–than it will be to rank for new green-related terms. And if you’re looking for easy wins then this can actually tell you where you should focus. Mark: So does that mean you don’t pursue those blue-related terms at all? Eric: No, not necessarily. It might be strategic and very important for you to consider chasing those terms anyway. But the big insight from an RQCA analysis is a better appreciation for how much work it will take you to win on those terms. Mark: Thanks, Eric. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why You Should Be Building Social Media Partnerships- Here’s Why #206

We know we should use social media to promote our content and engage with our customers, but what about strategic partnerships?  In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen explains why building strategic partnerships that can boost our brand and energize our content may be one of the best investments of our time on social media.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Social Media Strategies You Can Use to Boost Your SEO See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Eric: Mark, you’ve been heavily involved in social media for many years now, but the field has recently been changing a lot. What are you doing differently these days because of that?   Mark: It’s certainly true there’s been a whole bunch of disruption in the past year. The field’s always like that, but more than I’ve ever seen before.   Some examples:   Organic reach is at an all-time low. It’s been going down for years, but it’s almost nonexistent for some brands now.   More restrictions on automation, especially Twitter, but all the networks are pulling back on how much we can do to automate.   And privacy concerns, reducing targeting options, making it harder to do certain things that you used to always be able to do before.   I think it’s still important to keep the time-tested fundamentals going, things like promote your content—obviously– engage with your audience, the stuff you always hear. But you know, Eric, there’s another powerful use for social media that many overlook.   Eric: What’s that?   Mark: Using social media to build strategic partnerships to help spread your brand message.   Eric: What exactly do you mean by that?   Mark: A couple of things, Eric.   First of all, the strategic partnerships that we’re talking about here are noncompetitive resources with whom you can work cooperatively. So, these could be influencers, as we always say, but they don’t have to be.  It’s anyone with whom you can cocreate things that are better than the sum of the parts, or it could be anyone who could provide you an opportunity to be seen by their audience.   Eric: Got you. Why is social media such a great place to find or foster these kinds of partnerships and how do you do it?   Mark: Don’t forget that social media is “social” media. We always think about that in terms of engaging with our customers or prospects. But the more personally active you are in social media, like, the more opportunities you have to discover potential partners.   It’s also a great place to nurture those real-world acquaintances that you’ve met at conferences, meetups, and other places, into relationships that can become partnerships. So, there are many ad hoc opportunities to be helpful or just social, in order to get on their radar screen.   Let me give you a personal example. You know Steve Rayson of BuzzSumo.  Eric: Yes  Mark: I spent years developing a relationship with him online through social media, and that led to me being able to get the opportunity to break the news of BuzzSumo’s groundbreaking study of the decline of social sharing over the last several years. That was such a great opportunity, and my article for Search Engine Journal went viral and actually helped them promote their study. So, it was a mutual, cooperative thing.   Eric: That’s awesome.   What are your key takeaways to help us build partnerships like that through social media?   Mark: I’d advise that in this year you switch more of your social media time and strategy to intentional partnership building. Keep doing those fundamentals but do more partnership building. Keep an updated list of the strategic relationships that are most important to you and make sure they get regular attention, and remember you’ve got to give to get.  

Why Social Media Builds Your Brand SEO – Here’s Why #205

Can the way people talk about your brand online actually affect the things Google will rank you for? In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen explains how Google might use mentions of your brand in social media to discover more of what your brand is about.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources 3 Social Media Strategies You Can Use to Boost Your SEO Does Google Use Online Brand Mentions for Search Ranking? – Eric Enge with Gary Illyes at Pubcon 2017 See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: Mark, there’s little doubt that social media is a great way to increase awareness for your brand, but can that have an effect on your SEO? Mark: It’s tough to say for sure, but there’s some good hints it might. You did an onstage keynote with Gary Illyes of Google at Pubcon. I remember he said two ways that brand mentions might be used by Google.   One of those was it could alert Google that the brand is an entity worth paying attention to. But it could also help Google know what you should rank for; maybe things that you’re not currently ranking for. If a lot of people are talking about you for that thing, maybe that’s something Google should be looking for. Eric: Did you just say that mentions of your brand on social media can help you rank higher? Mark: No, I didn’t say that. And the distinction is subtle but important. Let’s get the exact quote here from Gary Illyes. The context in which you engage online and how people talk about you online, actually can impact what you rank for. “What you rank for.” Notice that’s the word, not how high you rank. So Google may use the context of online mentions to discover things you should have a shot at ranking for that you currently don’t, as I said. Eric: So, what can you do then as a brand to take advantage of this? Mark: First, I would build a real audience of true brand fans. You want to cultivate the people who are going to talk about you in the ways that you want them to, the positive ways that will give Google those clues. Then fan the flames of that audience. Create conversations. Keep them going. And then create and promote content that comprehensively covers what your brand is about. Give Google every possible clue who you are, what you should rank for. Eric: Thanks, Mark. This is part two of a three-part series on social media and SEO. Watch for the other two episodes to learn more. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

31 Must Know Voice Usage Trends for 2019

How comfortable are real people with using voice commands on their devices? For the third year in a row, we asked over 1,000 people (1,719 this year) how they use voice, when they use voice, and why. If you’re looking to get a snapshot of how voice is used by people today, then you’ve found it. Why do we care? It’s simple: The voice revolution is coming, and it’s coming fast. In just a few years, it’s likely that you will spend as much, or more, time interacting with devices that have no screen as you do with devices that have screens, such as laptops and smartphones. This has the potential to drive huge changes in the market, including new winners and losers—and you want to be one of the winners. (Well, I know I do!) For reference, here are links to the two prior versions of his study: 2017 Voice Usage Survey 2018 Voice Usage Survey For many of the survey questions shown as bar charts, we asked participants to rate whether or not they are willing to do something on the following scale: Very Likely Likely Neutral Unlikely Very Unlikely Unless specified otherwise, these charts show the totals of the “Very Likely” and “Likely” responses. In addition, for many of the other survey questions shown as bar charts, we asked participants to answer how often they do something as follows: Very Frequently Frequently Occasionally Rarely Never Unless specified otherwise, these charts show the totals of the “Very Frequently” and “Frequently” responses. In What Environments Do People Use Voice? This block of 12 questions is meant to break down how various public and private situations impact people’s willingness to use voice commands. This data reveals the general trend for voice usage over time. The message from the data is clear: People’s comfort with using voice commands with their devices is growing. In particular, using voice commands with devices in front of others, including in public, continues to grow at a significant clip. This documents what you might expect: as more and more devices become voice enabled, the stigma of talking to your devices (such as a smartphone) is disappearing. Here is a look across all survey participants: Note that the percentages for speaking to devices “In a Public Restroom” (27.8%) and “In a Theater” (26.1%) seem stunningly high.  How did these numbers change from last year? Well, let’s take a look: 2019 was up in 10 out of the 12 categories over 2018. The only exceptions were “In the Office” (51% to 49%) alone and “On Public Transportation” (dropped from 36% to 30%). Study shows willingness to interact by voice with devices continues to rise over the past 3 years, even in public situations.Click To Tweet However, on the other side of things, “In a Restaurant with Friends,” “At the Gym,” “At a Party,” and “In a Theater” were all up by more than 3%. And that all important “In a Public Restroom” category was also up from 25% to 28%. We also measured how men and women differ with regard to using voice commands. Just as the prior two years’ survey showed, we still see that men are far more likely to use voice with their devices: This gap looks to be about the same last year, where men were 1.59 times more likely to use voice than women. In our 2019 data that was 1.54 times. Study shows men are more likely than women to use voice interaction with devices.Click To Tweet Data from 2017, men were 1.43 times more likely to use voice than women. This year that rose to 1.54 times. Next up, let’s examine how age influences the level of usage. Here is what we saw: For the second year in a row, the 25-34 age group was the most likely to use voice commands with their smartphone, and they were 20% more likely to be comfortable using voice with their device than the youngest age category of 24 and under. 25 to 34 year olds are the most likely to feel comfortable with voice interaction with devicesClick To Tweet Marital status also seems to matter. Here’s a look at the data: Married people are more likely to use voice in every single category. Married people were 1.46 times more likely to use voice than those that are single, up from last year’s 1.12 times. Are married people more likely to interact with devices using voice? This study has the answer!Click To Tweet For the third year in a row we captured income levels of the participants. Here is what we got: Just as in 2017 and 2018, the $50K -$99K and $100K+ income categories were the most likely to use voice with their smartphone, with the $100K+ earners having the edge by a 47.5% to 44.9% margin. New to this year’s survey, we captured information on the region where people are located. Let’s see how this impacts voice usage levels: If we aggregate all these categories, we can see what region is most likely to use voice commands. Here are the regional rankings: It’s not entirely surprising that the top two regions for voice usage are the Northeast and the West. Of note, 35% of people in the West use voice commands in public restrooms. The Midwest ranked last in eight of the 12 categories. For the second year in a row, we captured information on the education level of the participants. Here’s the data from 2019: It looks like people who have done some postgraduate work and those who have a postgraduate degree are the heaviest users. In fact, voice usage seems to scale with education level:   As you can see, in both 2017 and 2018, the comfort with using voice commands goes up as education goes up. In addition, 2018 levels of comfort were up across the board, with a very noticeable leap upward for those with some post grad work or a post graduate degree. This is consistent with the trend towards higher income groups being heavier users of voice. How People Use Voice with Their Smartphones In this next section, we explore how people use voice, as well as other ways they interact with their smartphones. Our first question explored how people conduct searches. The phrasing was, “When I need to look up information, I am most likely to … (Please rank your top three choices).” These are the choices we gave them: Use voice search Type the question into the search window of my phone Type the question into search engine apps Open a mobile browser such as Safari or Google Chrome, and type the question Ask a friend via text or messaging app We asked them to select their “First Choice,” “Second Choice” or “Third Choice.” Two choices remained unranked for each participant. First, let’s look at the breakout of what people said was their “First Choice” for how to use their phone to perform a search: Mobile browser remains the leader here, but voice search made a big leap upwards in 2018. Voice search on mobile is gaining ground on searching with a browser. Click To Tweet Next, let’s look at the distribution of what people selected across all three of their choices: Even though voice search was second most common “First Choice” for users, it only placed fourth overall. That suggests that those who engage with voice search at all often consider it their top choice. Taking a deeper look at texting and messaging, you can see a clear trend of usage by age, as shown in this graph: This chart reflects the selection of texting/messaging apps as a first choice. While the total texting usage level is down, you can see that this skews heavily towards those that are younger. There is actually some real interaction between these two trends. In the next question we asked people, “Which of these applications have you controlled with voice commands? (Please select all that apply).” Responses were as follows: In 2018, texting came in at 56% as the number one app that people use voice for. While this dropped into the number two spot in 2019, it still comes in at a strong 44%. The number one application is making phone calls. Also of interest is that men are higher in usage than women in all but two applications: Most notably, men are more likely to play music via voice commands than women by a 42% to 27% margin. But women are more likely to text by voice than men, by a 46% to 33% margin (women are also more likely to use voice for online searches). The next question explored when people were most likely to use a voice command. The way we phrased the question was, “In which of these situations would you be more likely to use voice commands on your smartphone instead of using your hands? (Please check all that apply).” Here are the results we obtained: “Hands full” (50%) and “While driving” (42%) were the top two responses. Here is a look at the gender breakout: Men also lead most categories here, but 46% of women use voice while driving, compared to 38% of men. We dove a bit more deeply into this area, and asked participants, “How often do you use voice commands while driving?”: Combining the “Very Frequently” and “Frequently” categories of responses, we get 31%, whereas combining the “Rarely” and “Never” categories returns 41%. This skews towards men, who chose “Very Frequently” or “Frequently” 40% of the time, whereas women did so only 24% of the time. Women chose “Never” or “Rarely” 47% of the time and men only chose one of those 35% of the time. Why are people reluctant to use voice commands while driving? We asked them: “Do you think using voice commands while driving is distracting?” The responses were as follows: Men are more concerned about this than women by a 56% to 45% margin. Of course, if the law in your state prohibits you from dialing numbers by hand, that may encourage you to use voice for dialing. To find out about that, we asked: “Is there a hands-free driving law in your state?” This is what the participants said: It’s a bit concerning to see a full 32% indicating that they don’t know. Most states with these laws plaster their highways with signs to make people aware of the law. In fact, there are 16 states that have hands-free restrictions for drivers and their phones. For our next question, we asked our participants: “How often do you use voice commands with devices other than your phone (e.g. laptop, smart TV, watch, a virtual assistant)?” Here is what they said: 30% of people use voice on other devices “Very Frequently” or “Frequently” (up from 22% last year), and 50% do so “Rarely” or “Never” (down from 58% last year). Interestingly enough, among those who make $100K or more per year, 46% do so “Very Frequently” or “Frequently,” and for the $50K-$99K income range, this still comes in at a strong 39%. This may be due to the growth of the smart speaker market segment. The male bias here is very strong as well, with men outpacing women by a 39% to 22% margin. We then asked people: “What is your preferred method of sending a text message?” and got the following responses: Typing by hand dominates this question (73% of people picked “Type By Hand,” down from 77% in 2018 and 80% in 2017) but using voice to enter in your text is used by 20% of people. Sending your text as a recorded voice message is preferred by 7% of users (up by 4% from last year). We also wanted to explore basic smartphone usage behaviors. One of the questions we used to do that was: “(Please select all that apply)?”. Results were as follows: Voice actually came in fourth for this question, with 22% of respondents selecting it. This was a surprise to me, as using voice commands to make calls is a great way to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while driving. The next question along these lines explored: “How do you usually talk on the phone (Please select all that apply)?”. Here is what the survey said: Phone to Ear wins this question at 68%. 43% of people indicated that they use their phones in speakerphone mode, and wired headsets still score well at 28%. Men are far more likely to use a wired headset than women by a 34% to 21% margin. People over 45 are the least likely to use a headset of any kind (21%) compared to their younger counterparts (54%). Our next question was: “When using a search engine or a personal assistant (Google Assistant, Siri or Cortana) on your smartphone, what do you like most about using voice commands (Please rank your top three choices)?” The results were as follows: “It’s Fast” was the number one response, with 67% of people selecting it as one of their top three choices.  “Accuracy,” “No Typing” and “Answer is Read Back” all scored very close to each other (50%, 49%, and 47%, respectively). Interestingly enough, people with incomes over $100K cited “It’s Fast” as their number one reason 49% of the time (up from 43% last year). Next up, we asked people about the quality of speech recognition: “How well do your built-in personal assistants on your phone, such as Google Assistant, Cortana, and Siri, understand you?” Here is what we got: “Very Well” and “Well” came in right at 53%, and when you add “Not Bad,” the total goes up to 74%. The $100K+ income category was at 61% here, and the $50K-$99K category came in at 59%. Men also felt better than women about their devices understanding them by 59% to 48%. The follow-up question was: “How comfortable are you accessing Siri or Google Assistant by holding down your home button?” Respondents replied as follows: This suggests something interesting about the levels at which people are using personal assistants such as Google Assistant and Siri.  43% of respondents indicated that they are comfortable or very comfortable accessing the phone this way, and only 13% indicated that they are uncomfortable or very uncomfortable. For users that indicated discomfort, we asked them to clarify why. Responses were as follows:   The number one answer? It’s annoying, with a score of 31%. Women are more annoyed by this feature than men by a 37% to 26% margin, whereas men are more concerned about privacy, 35% to 23%. For our next question, we asked: “Would you use voice to unlock your phone if it were an option?” The responses were as follows: Nearly half say yes, at 48%, with one-third saying no. Higher-income people are much more amenable to this with 59% of people that make $50,000 or more saying that they would use this functionality. One of the holdups is the reluctance to bother others when we do it. To explore just how real that fear is, we asked, “Do you agree with this statement? I feel annoyed when I hear someone use voice commands on their phone in a public setting.” Here is what people said: Among respondents, 46% either agree or strongly agree, with only 25% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. These scores are very similar to last year (at 45% and 25%), so there is still some stigma that remains. This is in spite of the data we presented at the beginning of this report suggesting that people are becoming more comfortable with using voice with their devices in front of others. This question skews toward higher incomes in a big way, as 61% of those who make $100K+ get annoyed, and 57% of those who make $50-$99K do. You can see the clear trend in this chart: However, it stands to reason that the reason why it’s attractive to use voice commands is that it is convenient. To find out what people thought of that, we asked, “Do you agree with this statement? Voice commands make using my smartphone easier.” Here are the results: Higher earners appear to see the value more, with 63% of those who make $100K+ strongly agreeing or agreeing with the statement, along with 61% of those in the $50K to $99K income category. We also wanted to explore what features people want most from their personal assistants in the future. That led us to ask: “When using a search engine or a personal assistant on your smartphone, what features related to voice commands would you like in the future? (Please select all that apply).” This is what the respondents said: “More Direct Answers” was the winning response in 2016 and 2017, but dropped to second place behind “Customized Voice” in 2018. For our second-to-last question, we asked, “Are you comfortable activating/accessing Siri or Google using your voice commands, such as Hey Siri, OK Google, or Alexa?” Most people (80%) are pretty comfortable with these commands. Our final question was grounded in a mistaken impression on our part. We asked people, “Are you aware that all your conversations are recorded when you have ‘Hey Siri,’ ‘OK Google’ or ‘Alexa’ enabled?” Before presenting the answer, I should clarify that both Amazon and Google have publicly indicated that the recordings of what you say are only kept locally on the device, and they are discarded after six months. This information is not sent back to their data centers. The only information they receive are the actual commands that you provide to the personal assistant. With that clarification, here were the responses: For reference, here are articles that provide some background on the information retention policies of Amazon and Google: Can Amazon Testify Against You? Relax, Your Amazon Echo Isn’t Recording Everything You Say How Google Home’s ‘Always on’ Will Affect Privacy Finally, many may assume that smartphones are the most common internet-connected devices today, but that is far from the truth: Summary That was a lot of data to read (and to process!), but as a digital marketer, it’s important to understand how quickly the voice revolution is coming. There are four primary trends driving this: People are becoming accustomed to using voice commands with their devices. Our voice usage studies have shown this progressing steadily for the past three years. The rise of the Internet of Things. 77% of all internet-connected devices will be something other than a tablet, PC or smartphone by 2020. Many of these devices will be browser-less. The rise of digital personal assistants. Apple has announced that Siri is used on over 500 million devices, and Google has indicated that it has active users for Google Assistant on 400 million devices. As their usefulness grows, adoption will scale, and the presumptive interface will be voice.  The rise of smart speakers. Sometimes a revolution needs a spark to start it, and the smart speaker market explosion now in progress may be just that. Here are the figures on smart speakers’ level of penetration, according to comScore. How fast will we reach a billion users who view voice as one of the primary methods for interacting with their devices? I believe we’ll be there in less than five years. This is a large and disruptive market change, so the time to start thinking about this is now.

Why Social Media Creates Link Building Opportunities – Here’s Why #204

Unfortunately, search engines don’t put much weight on social media as a provider of reliable ranking signals. But that doesn’t mean social media isn’t important to your SEO strategy. In this episode of the popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen explains how to use social media to increase your chances of earning natural links to your content page. This is part one in a three-part series on social media and SEO.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources 3 Social Media Strategies You Can Use to Boost Your SEO See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: Mark, as we kick off this series on how social media can boost SEO, let’s ask the big question first. Do social media engagement metrics and links directly impact SEO? Mark: The short answer to that is no. There are reasons behind that, and those reasons really lead me (and I think they’ve lead you as well) to believe that Google is telling the truth when they emphatically state, as they have for years, that they don’t use social as a signal. Now, what are some of those reasons? One of them would be social is just a very weak and unreliable signal overall. For one thing, Google doesn’t even try to index all of social media. So it’s an incomplete signal, and Google doesn’t like incomplete signals. They don’t know if they’re getting the information they need from it. It’s much harder to trust the authority of a profile versus that of a site in the way that Google relies on sites from links and things like that. And engagement doesn’t really communicate anything definite. We see Facebook backing away from “likes” as an indicator of something that should be promoted to its own users. Also I think it’s very significant that most of the major social sites no longer pass on engagement metrics through their API to our sites. We can’t even show those numbers in many cases. So if they don’t think it’s important, it’s probably not important. Finally, links are the big thing in SEO still, and almost all social media links are no-follow. So, again, they don’t even pass on any authority. Eric: If links and social media posts aren’t direct ranking signals, why do you say social media can still be an effective link building strategy? Mark: Sites won’t link to content they’ve never seen, right? And social media is still an effective way to promote your content. You need to get it seen? Use social media to get it seen. That doesn’t mean just posting randomly in social media. There’s the importance of building the right audience. You want an audience that matters to you. You want to use paid social to target people like journalists, bloggers, other media figures, and influencers who when they see your content might see it as the kind of thing they want to share with their audiences, again increasing the opportunities for links. Eric: Got it. So, what are some specific things people should do then on social media to increase their chances of earning links to their content? Mark: Never publish a piece of content without a plan for how it would be promoted on social media. Keep a constantly updated list of your evergreen content and share it different times and days on different networks to maximize the exposure. And foster strategic relationships with influencers and writers in your niche. In another video of this series I’m going to talk more about that. Eric: Thanks, Mark. Watch for parts two and three of this series on how social media can boost your SEO. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines Matter to Content Marketers – Here’s Why #203

Google publishes regular updates to its Search Quality Raters Guidelines. What should content marketers take from them? In this episode of the popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen explains what the guidelines are and how their recommendations can help you do better content marketing.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines (PDF) See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: Mark, why don’t you start by explaining what the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines are? And since that’s a mouthful, maybe we’ll just refer to it as SQRG for the rest of this video. Mark: That sounds like a great idea, Eric. For a number of years now, Google has contracted a group of people who are trained to evaluate the quality of the top search results for a given query. The SQRG is the training manual and handbook for those raters. It helps them understand what Google thinks is a high-quality page that completely satisfies the needs of the reader. Eric: Do we have access to those guidelines? Mark: We do now. We didn’t always; they used to be considered top secret. But a copy always somehow kind of leaked out. Many of us suspected that Google allowed the leaks because they really wanted to be nudging us toward the standards in those documents. But in any case, starting a few years ago, they’ve made available a public copy of the document each time it’s updated. Eric: And what are the search quality raters actually doing? Mark: Their job is to help Google search ranking engineers evaluate how their algorithms are doing at providing us with the best search results. Their feedback helps those engineers to know where they might need to tweak an algorithm to get better results that will satisfy real human users. Eric: Do the guidelines tell us Google’s ranking factors, at least as far as content on the page is concerned? Mark: No, they don’t. I mean, at least not in any direct way. The guidelines are not meant to delineate specific ranking factors. In fact, Google’s John Mueller emphasized this in a recent webmasters hangout when he said, “It’s not the case that we take the quality rater guidelines and, one-to-one, turn them into a code that does all the ranking.” However, I think they are still highly useful to any of us who do content strategy or creation for two reasons. First,hey tell us about the kind of pages and content Google aspires to have ranking highly in their results. Now, as John Mueller put it in that same video, they give some idea of where we would like to hit with regards to search. So even if you can’t map things in the guidelines, one-to-one, with specific ranking factors, if you’re striving to improve those things, you’re closer to becoming a site Google wants to rank well. Second, we should always remember that bringing in organic search traffic isn’t the only job for our content. It’s just as important, and maybe even more important, that our content pages are truly useful, helpful, complete, easy to use for our real human site visitors. Our content is often the first impression someone has of our brand. It’s your first salesperson. You should want to present your best face, and the SQRG is really an excellent tutorial on creating high-quality web pages for real humans. Eric: To finish up, can you share one insight from the guidelines that would help our viewers create better content? Mark: There’s a concept that flows throughout the entire document that I think sums up Google’s take on quality content, that’s known by the acronym E-A-T, or EAT, which stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. Google is clear that they don’t use that all the time. It’s more important on sites that are your money/your life type sites, but I still believe that focusing on those standards is the most important goal you can have for your content marketing. Let’s start with expertise. Your content creators need to know what they’re talking about. In the internet age, it’s way too easy for people to discover errors or miss directions. Next, work to build authority in your space. This takes time because you have to build a track record of content that both influencers and regular people come to rely on. And finally, be trustworthy. Don’t take any shortcuts that could compromise your reputation. Respect your audience, and they will repay you with their attention. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why User Discovery Experience Is Now Vital to SEO – Here’s Why #202

Google is no longer just a search engine; it’s a discovery engine as well. The question for brands and sites today is: are you worth discovering? In this episode of the popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains what a discovery engine is and why SEOs should be optimizing not just for keywords but as useful, valuable entities as well.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Solving Complex SEO Problems Requires a New Discovery Approach See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, what do we mean by user discovery experience? Eric: User discovery experience is about Google’s increasing shift for many queries from being a search engine to a discovery engine. Mark: What’s the difference? Eric: Traditionally a search engine provides the user with a large number of links to web pages that might satisfy the user’s query. A discovery engine is more about helping users to find or explore things that they may not have been explicitly searching for, but which have a good chance of being of interest to the user. Google is becoming a discovery engine, helping people find content that might interest them before they search for it.Click To Tweet Mark: What are some examples of Google’s discovery engine at work? Eric: As SEO Hannah Thorpe explained at SMX East, the most obvious example is Google’s own discovery feed on its mobile app, which displays articles and news items about topics Google thinks are of high interest to the user. We’re looking at an example of that feed right now. But Google is also helping users with discovery in more subtle ways such as neural matching. Mark: What is neural matching? Eric: According to Google’s Danny Sullivan, neural matching is an AI method that attempts to connect words to concepts. For example, as we see here, a user doesn’t know the name for a specific phenomenon. He or she searches using a very human description like, “Why does my TV look strange?” Google’s AI neural matching knows that this fits with something called the “soap opera effect” and so displays results for that even though the phrase and the query may not actually appear on those pages. Mark: It’s kind of like me saying, “Did you see that movie? Oh, you know, the one where a bunch of rebels are fighting against an evil galactic empire? What’s the name of it?” Eric: Star Wars, Mark. Mark: Nice neural matching there, Eric. Where else is Google helping with user discovery? Eric: One fascinating area is Google’s interest in entities. Mark: Entities? Eric: Entities are identifiable things in the world. They could be people, places, organizations, or even concepts. Google is building an ever-expanding database of such entities. We see a direct display of entities in Google when it displays a knowledge panel directly in the search results, like the one we see here for Yorkshire Terrier. Mark: Okay. Now let’s get practical with this. What should SEOs do as Google increasingly tries to create a user discovery experience? Eric: First of all, don’t for a moment think that the traditional search methods are going away. Actually, as Hannah Thorpe explained, search and discovery each have their own unique value depending on the query and the user intent. In discovery, the entity holds the value, while in search, the domain is the valuable thing. So discovery is not query-based; discovery is all about a journey–a user journey–while search is the quest for a single best answer. Mark: Each has its value to the end user. Eric: Exactly. As SEOs, we’re pretty experienced on the search side of things. We know to optimize for popular keywords that are relevant to your business, but we need to learn also how to optimize as entities to show up more on the discovery side of things. Winning businesses in the future will be high performers in both search and discovery. So, while you need to keep working hard at ranking for your keywords, you also need to work to earn Google’s respect as a relevant, respected, authoritative brand entity that Google users will be glad to discover. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Does AMP Improve Rankings, Engagement, and Conversion?

Studies show that AMP drives more revenue and positive ROI. This includes prior analysis done by Stone Temple (now Perficient Digital) as shown in our canonical guide to AMP. In addition, a Forrester economic-impact study outlines how greater page-load speed increases conversions, traffic and pages per visit. There’s a lot of positive, individual-use cases for how websites are succeeding with AMP, but there are also stories out there where things didn’t go so well. In my experience, that’s usually because the implementation was poor, resulting in a crappy UX. Going from a slow site with great UX to a fast site with crappy UX is probably not a win, in my opinion.

Why Content Marketing Works (and How) – Here’s Why #201

More companies than ever are using content marketing, but do we have any proof that it actually works?  In this episode of our award winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen shares some interesting stats from a study that show just how effective content marketing can be in bringing in and retaining customers. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Does Content Marketing Actually Work? The Data Says Yes! See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: Mark, content marketing has been all the rage for several years, but how do we know it works? Mark: It may seem like something you have to take on faith, but now thanks to some research by metrics firm ProfitWell, we have some solid data on its effectiveness. They took a deep dive into 3,000 businesses that subscribe to their service, some of which use content marketing and some that don’t. They also had access to the behavior of 30,000 consumers who use those sites. Eric: And what did they find? Mark: To start, they showed that while content marketing might seem like an expensive investment, it is cost effective compared to other forms of marketing. For example, they found that content marketing is about 30% less expensive than paid channels in terms of cost of customer acquisition. They also stated that companies with blogs get 67% more leads. Companies with blogs get 67% more leads than those that don't.Click To Tweet Eric: Content can be effective in bringing in new customers, but does it help a site retain customers? Mark: According to the ProfitWell data, it does. They saw a 5% to 10% better retention rate for companies that deploy content. But obviously, the biggest benefit is on the customer growth side. In fact, the companies that consistently use content see about a 30% higher growth rate than those that don’t. Eric: Those are some pretty amazing stats. Mark: I do think we need to provide a caveat here. No one should take from these results that simply posting content in and of itself will make this magic happen. I think it’s a safe bet that the companies in the data sample that drove the positive results up employ a well planned and executed content strategy that does a great job of covering the whole buying cycle. ProfitWell’s stat that almost half of buyers view three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep seems to back that up. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why You Too Can Earn Valuable Featured Snippets – Here’s Why #200

Google featured snippets boost your page above all the search results for a query, and they can drive significant traffic to your site. The good news: there are concrete steps you can take to make your content more likely to earn a featured snippet. In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge shares his observations on content most likely to earn a featured snippet, based on his tracking of over a million search queries for the past three years.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Featured Snippets Resource Center See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, just in case anyone watching doesn’t know, let’s start with what a featured snippet is. Eric: Good idea, Mark. A featured snippet is a search feature where Google takes an extract or snippet from a website and places it in the featured box at the top of search results as a direct answer to a user query.   Mark: If the answer is right there in the featured snippet, why do featured snippets still drive a lot of traffic to the sites from which they’re taken? Eric: That’s a good question, because it seems counterintuitive. But in many cases, the snippet shown does not completely answer the question. For example, a site’s answer to a how-to question may have 10 steps, but the featured snippet only shows the first six. In other cases, the answer may be complete but too brief, and people click through to learn more. And one more scenario to call out: in some cases the users have asked a direct question and Google provided a direct answer, and maybe they got all of the direct answer, but it’s pretty rare that that’s really the only question the user has related to that topic, and they often want more information. Mark: Okay. If featured snippets can boost your page to the top of search results and they can actually drive traffic to your site, you probably want to be in as many of them as you can. So how do we earn them? How to Earn Featured Snippets Eric: Of course, Google doesn’t tell us the criteria for selecting which page to use in a featured snippet, but after several years of tracking over a million queries that have displayed them at one time or another, I’ve been able to discern some patterns common to pages that earn featured snippets. Mark: I know you gave eight things site owners should do to increase their chances of earning featured snippets in the comprehensive featured snippets resource center you created on our site. Can you share with us a few of them? Eric: Sure. Make a list of the most commonly asked questions about your business or your areas of expertise and then filter these down to the most popular queries. If the question isn’t searched for very often then it probably isn’t that interesting to get a featured snippet for it. Next is to realize that your page doesn’t have to be the number one position on Google to get a featured snippet, but it does need to be in the top 10. So for each query you decide to target for a featured snippet, either choose a page already ranking in the first page of Google results or create one worthy of such a ranking. Finally, make sure you thoroughly answer the question on your page, but also expand the content to answer all the related questions that users have on that topic. In other words, be as comprehensive as you possibly can. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why You Should Build Content Marketing Bridges – Here’s Why #199

The dismal truth is that most brand content marketing fails. It performs poorly because it can’t bridge the gap between brand goals and prospect needs and desires. In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen shares how to build bridges to your target market with content marketing.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources The Content Marketing Bridge: Linking Brand Goals to Prospect Needs See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: Hey, Mark, what’s a content bridge? Mark: Eric, it’s a metaphor I use for a key characteristic I’ve observed about the most effective content marketing. And by effective, I mean content that actually produces results for the business publishing it. Eric: Why a bridge? Mark: If you have two pieces of land, separated by a chasm, you need a bridge to move people from one to the other. In marketing, every business starts with a chasm between the goals of the business, what the business wants to achieve, and the prospects that want to reach. Effective content successfully builds a bridge between the two that not only allows prospects to cross over it–in other words become qualified leads or customers–but encourages them to do so. Successful content marketing builds a bridge between business goals and prospect needs.Click To Tweet Eric: How do you build content marketing bridges then? Mark: Let’s start with the main goals of the two land masses the bridge is supposed to connect. Now, on the one side is your business. I call this Brand Island. Brand Island is populated by the purpose, intention, and reason for existence of your brand. It’s why your business exists. That goes beyond to make money and into the specifics of your products and services, what you bring uniquely to the marketplace. Now, across the water is Prospect Island. Here dwell the needs wants, hopes, dreams, and desires of your prospective customers. Eric: And your content needs to be able to bridge those two islands? Mark: Yes. Most content that fails to produce desired business results tends to be anchored on one or the other island but fails to reach across the gap. The content may be stuck on Brand Island if it is too salesy, or talks too much about your product or service without linking it to what your prospects actually need. On the other hand, content that is stuck on Prospect Island tries too hard to grasp the hearts and minds of potential customers while failing to make a strong association with the brand and what it sells. For example, a brand that sells shoes might post a pop culture quiz that goes viral, but few consumers will remember that it had anything to do with a shoe seller. The key is to always have both islands in mind as you create your content, your business goals and brand identity on the one side and the needs and desires of your prospects on the other. Then find a link between the two. Often that link will be emotional at its core, but it must strongly associate the emotional response with the brand. A great example of this is the clothing retailer Patagonia. You and I have used them as example often, and in this case, their environmentally conscious content. That creates a strong connection with the brand’s affluent, socially conscious outdoors enthusiast customers while emphasizing that Patagonia shares their values. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why Bing Continues to Innovate as a Search Engine – Here’s Why #198

We spend a lot of time focused on innovations at Google, but we should never forget that one of the drivers of innovation is competition. In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains how Bing continues to drive innovation in search engine technology and application.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources SMX Advanced Recap: Bing’s Fabrice Canel keynote See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, you covered the SMX Advanced keynote of Bing’s Fabrice Canel. Why don’t you start by telling us who he is?   Eric: Fabrice Canel is the Principal Program Manager for Microsoft’s search engine Bing. In particular, his team works on Bing’s abilities to crawl, process and index the web.  Mark: Great. What’s one area of innovation Bing is pursuing these days?  Eric: They’re working to make search more intelligent. For example, they’re getting better at sentiment analysis, a practical application that is giving different results to someone searching for ways in which video games are good for you than for someone who wants to know why they are bad for you.   They’re also serving up more multi-perspective results, realizing that for some queries there’s no one right answer. For example, you’re looking at a Bing featured snippet right now showing articles with opposing viewpoints on video games.  Mark: That’s great, but what about when the user’s query doesn’t contain an obvious sentiment or intent?  Eric: In those cases, Bing is serving up more and more clarifying questions to quickly get to the user’s actual intent. In this example that we’re showing now, the user has just entered “stress management.” Bing responds with a question, ” What do you want to know about this treatment?” And then provides a series of tappable boxes with various approaches to stress management.  Mark: Okay, now we know Google Search is making big strides in the area of artificial intelligence, is Bing working on that too?   Eric: They sure are, but not just in the things that are visible to users. For example, Bing is using AI to build a more intelligent crawler. This is needed because content on the web is just not simple; it may change frequently or be removed or hidden. Bing has to be able to detect and decide what to do with things like duplicate content, JavaScript. CSS, mobile versus desktop presentations, and more.   A particular innovation of this past year was Bing’s announcement of support for Schema implemented in JSON-LD and then support for debugging the same in Bing’s webmaster tools. And, Bing as also extending its support for AMP or the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project.  Mark: It sounds like a lot is going on at Bing and both users and SEOs should not count them out.  Eric: Not at all, and in fact, I’m glad to see that there is still some competition that drives innovation in search.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Links as a Ranking Factor – Still Going Strong

In today’s post, I’ll share the results from the fourth of our “Links as a Ranking Factor” studies. We conducted the first of these studies in May 2016 and have been tracking the same query set over time to measure any material shifts in the role of links. In this year’s study, we also looked at different market sectors to see how the role of links may vary by market sector. We have also increased the number of queries we’re examining over time. We did that to make sure that we had enough data for the market sector analyses to be meaningful. The breakout of the month for each of our studies, and the number of queries examined per study, is as follows: May 2016 – 6K queries Aug 2016 – 16K queries May 2017 – 16K queries August 2018 – 27K queries Each of the query data sets includes the original query sets from the earlier studies, so I’ll show an apples-to-apples comparison of those results, as well as the larger-scale results from this year’s study. As a bonus, I’ll also comment on the increase in scope and quality of Moz’ Link Explorer. The Results As with our prior studies, we received the gracious support of Moz by allowing us to access Link Explorer to pull the data for our study. Link Explorer went into Beta in March 2018 and represents an ambitious effort by Moz to expand the size of their index. In short, it looks like they succeeded: For the link study itself, the first set of charts that we will look at are based on the total number of links pointing to the ranking page. For these, we calculated the Quadratic Mean Correlation score. Jump down to the methodology section to see what a “Quadratic Mean Spearman Correlation Score” value actually means. Here is a look at that data for 6K queries across all four instances of the study that we’ve run to date: Note that the same 6,000 queries for this chart were used in all four data sets. While this looks like it shows some level of decline, the reality is that this movement is within normal statistical variance. For all intents and purposes, this already shows a strong correlation between total links to its page and its ranking. Beginning with the second study, we upped the query count to 16,000 queries. We carried that same set of 16K queries through to this year’s edition of the study. Here are the correlation scores for those three datasets of 16K queries: Once again, all three sets show strong results, and the variance is within normal ranges of statistical variance. In this latest version of the study, we updated the query count to 27K queries. This comes in at a solid value as well: One of the more notable findings is that for the first time in all the studies that we’ve done, we see that the Moz DA and the Moz PA are better predictors of ranging than the total link count! The data for this is as follows:   As with prior studies, we compared the total link correlation for commercial and informational queries: Next up, in this year’s study, we evaluated how links might vary as a ranking factor across market segments. In this first view, let’s look at that for commercial queries, divided into Medical, Financial, Technology, and Other segments: This data shows that links are a much bigger ranking factor for financial queries then for other types of queries. Before we draw a final conclusion for that though, let’s also look at a sector analysis for informational queries: Starting with the first study, we also aggregated the normalized link counts (see the methodology section below for an explanation of what that is) by ranking position. The reason this view is important is that relevancy and quality are very large ranking factors, as they should be. In addition, there are many other factors such as Google’s need to show diversity in the SERPs (see the section titled “Why Aren’t the Non-Aggregated Correlation Values Higher?” for more detail on this). In the aggregated link analysis, we get a summarized view of the impact of links spread across a large array of search results. Here is what we saw looking at the 6K query set across all four studies: Here is the data for the 16K query set across the last three studies: Here is the data for the 27K query set for this latest study: In summary, our aggregated view shows a very powerful correlation between links and ranking position.

Why Search Ranking Studies Need Better Interpretation – Here’s Why #197

Many SEOs have become wary of search ranking factor studies. Do they have any value? In this episode of the popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains why they do, IF you are willing to dig deeper and use good principles of data interpretation.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Ranking Factors Session Recap from SMX 2018 See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, you covered the ranking factors session at SMX Advanced in 2018. Back in November you and I chatted about the basics of what the panelists shared. Today let’s dig deeper and get into the lessons we can learn from them. Eric: As always, we had a great panel of people sharing from their own testing and experience what they’d observed about search rankings over the past year.   We started with Marcus Tober of SearchMetrics. Marcus took on what has become a really hot issue in SEO and that is correlation studies. These are studies that look for things that correlate highly with higher search engine rankings.   Those studies have come under some fire because well, as we know, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. But some people always jump to conclusions from correlation studies that really aren’t always warranted.   Mark: What did Marcus Tober have to say about all that?    Eric: Marcus thought that there was value in looking closely at microdata usage for certain niches and comparing them to each other. For example, here are his results when comparing sites about dating, recipes, and divorce.   As you can see, there is no clear correlation between the number of microdata integrations and rankings in search, but it is clear that recipe sites use microdata much more than the others.   Mark: Probably because the value to them is clear. I mean, since Google often gives recipe pages special search features triggered by microdata.   Eric: Right, but now look at this graph for three niches and their use of videos. Here, we have two takeaways.   First, fitness sites use way more video than divorce or wine sites. And second, there appears to be a pretty strong correlation for fitness sites between the number of videos they use and getting a top position in search.    Mark: And that might make some sense since people seeking fitness information probably want to see videos about topics like how to do an exercise correctly.  Eric: Right. Marcus also looked at things like the number of paragraphs on a page and the amount of social signals the page had, again, comparing them across several niches. For the former, there was no ranking correlation while for the latter, social signals showed a high correlation, but only for a certain niche where social engagement was more likely than the other niches investigated.   Mark: What should be our takeaway from Marcus Tober’s data?   Eric: I think he did a great job of showing how correlation or even lack of correlation in and of itself doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Often, a deeper dive into the data will reveal other possible reasons that show the correlated factor may not necessarily be the reason for the higher ranking.    Next up was Morty Oberstein from Rank Ranger. Morty chose to investigate the rate of change in search results over time. He looked at the top five search results for five niches since 2015.LOL  Within a year, only 27% of the results were the same sites in the same order. And by 2018, that had dropped to 10%.  Mark: A lot of volatility there.   Eric: Yes. He also showed several examples of niches where the change in search results over time seemed to be driven by Google shifting what it saw as the primary intent for a query. That results is what I call ranking slots.   For example, let’s say you have an e-commerce site where you’re able previously to get on the first page for your keyword. But at some point, Google decides that query is more informational than commercial in intent. So they now give four of the top 10 available ranking slots to informational pages. That means your e-commerce page is now competing for just one of six available positions instead of the 10 they were before.   Mark: And how about Jeff Preston from Disney? I think he was the last panelist.  Eric: He was. And Jeff concluded the session with a higher level view on how we interpret data.   He used two very powerful stories from the world of flight navigation technology. The first story was about the tragic Air France flight 447. Flight 447 plunged directly into the Atlantic Ocean because the pilots blindly trusted readings from a broken sensor, and that was not a good result obviously.   In contrast, Jeff told us about a Qantas flight where the cockpit suddenly erupted with 58 error messages and 100 alarms going off all at once. In that situation, the plane landed safely because the pilots ignored the obvious noise and trusted their training instead.   The takeaway for search marketers looking at data is that while data is a great thing, too much data can overwhelm you and give you false conclusions. Sometimes, you have to take a deep breath and lean back into your own testing and experience as well as your awareness of good case studies from other SEO sources you trust.   Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel


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