Stone Temple Consulting Blog

Why You Must be Prepared for Visual Search – Here’s Why #216

Images SEO in visual search has been around for a long time, but why is it becoming more important to marketers?   In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Jess explains changes Google has made to their search result pages to show more visual content and how it may impact rankings.   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 at 20: A Shift from Text to Images See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: So, Jess, images SEO in visual search have been around for a long time. Why are they becoming more important now? What’s changed recently?  Jess: In a macro sense, the technology surrounding image hosting, image recognition, visual search, and that kind of thing has really improved. Image processing has become faster and you can get better quality images. And Google has noticed. In the “Next 20 Years of Google Search” post, Google signaled a switch from text to a more visual way of search. You can see this with their commitment to a much more visual mobile SERP (Search Engine Result Page).  Eric: A lot of these changes have happened over the last year. What changes have you seen most recently?  Jess: Some major changes have been with Google Lens, SERP experiments and changes, the Google Discover feed, and Google Collections.  Eric: Tell us about Google Lens.  Jess: Lens is Google’s built-in image recognition and search product. It’s accessible through the Google app and it lets you search for objects, image first. Say I want a version of a shirt—I can just take a picture of it on my phone and search for it online.  Eric: And we’ve also seen it in Discover and Collections. Both are services used by Google. Discover shows a feed of topics related to what the user’s interests are, and Collections lets the user save search results to boards. It’s kind of like Pinterest in that way. Both display search results with large visuals, titles, and then short amounts of text. They’re usually extremely visual-first, especially compared with traditional SERPs. So how is this showing up in the SERPs?  Jess: We’ve seen massive fluctuations in visuals in the SERP results. Image thumbnails, increased importance of images on the page, all that kind of thing. But the million-dollar question is, “Does this impact rankings?”  Eric: Probably. Maybe. Well, we don’t know directly, and we don’t know how much, especially when compared with other ranking factors. But recently, I did have a chance to talk with Bing’s Fabrice Canel, who confirmed the concept that a page with a high-quality relevant image on it could be seen as a higher-quality page, as a result. And as for Google, we know they also care about a user’s experience. Having relevant, well-optimized images can create a much better experience than just a big block of text. We do know that speed is a ranking factor and is clearly very important to Google. Won’t images slow down your page? Maybe that would impact rankings.  Jess: You can use good compression and next-gen image formats like WebP and JPEG 2000. But you can also think about the speed of the information making its way to the user. In that way, images are speed.  Eric: Can you explain?  Jess: You can explain what the Mona Lisa is in 1,000 words, or you can just show what the Mona Lisa looks like.  Eric: If images are important, how can publishers best implement images on their pages?  Jess: The usual rules for image optimization still apply. Make sure your images are a good size, that you use alt text correctly and accurately, and make sure that your images are a good quality. Beyond that, for speed, you can try implementing lazy loading while still making sure Googlebot can see your images. Try next-gen image formats and use unique images. And even run your images through the Google Image Recognition API to see if it sees what you want it to see.  Eric: Images can be useful in different ways for different niches. You have to think about how your images can be used, for users to find you—and then how they can help your user when they have found you. E-commerce sites, for example, should make sure their products are discoverable using a reverse image search. Financial pages should use images and visual storytelling to help their users understand their text, as well.  Jess: Yes, exactly. You can use images to stand out in the SERPs, help your users take advantage of visuals and take advantage of search features like Collections and Google Discovery.  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 Enge’s interview with Fabrice Canel

Fabrice Canel is a Principal Program Manager at Bing, Microsoft where he is responsible for web crawling and indexing. Today’s post is the transcript of an interview in which I spoke with Fabrice. Over the 60 minutes we spent together we covered a lot of topics.   During our conversation, Fabrice shared how he and his team thinks about the value of APIs, crawling, selection, quality, relevancy, visual search, and the important role the SEO continues to play.  Eric: What’s behind this idea of letting people submit 10,000 URLs a day to Bing?  Fabrice: The thought process is that as our customers expect to find latest content published online, we try to get this content indexed seconds after the content is published. Getting content indexed fast, is particularly important for content like News. To achieve freshness, relying only on discovering new content via crawling existing web pages, crawling sitemaps and RSS feeds do not always work. Many sitemaps are updated only once a day, and RSS feeds may not provide full visibility on all changes done on web sites.  So instead of crawling and crawling again to see if content changed, the Bing Webmaster API allows to programmatically notify us of the latest URLs published on their site. We see this need not only for large websites but for small and medium websites who don’t have to wait for us to crawl it, and don’t like too many visits from our crawler Bingbot on their web sites.   Eric: It’s a bit like they’re pushing Sitemaps your way. And the code to do this is really very simple. Here is what that looks like:  You can use any of the below protocols to easily integrate the Submit URL API into your system.     Fabrice: Yes, we encourage both, pushing the latest URLs to Bing and having sitemaps to insure we are aware of all relevant URLs on the site. Pushing is great but the internet is not 100% reliable, sites goes down, your publishing system or our system may have temporary issues, sitemaps is the guaranty that we are aware of all relevant URLs on your site. In general, we aim to fetch sitemaps at least once a day, and when we can fetch more often most sites don’t want us to fetch them as often as every second. Complementary to freshness, RSS feeds is still a good solution for small and medium sites, but some sites are really big, and one RSS can’t handle more than 2500 URLs to keep its size within 1 MB. All of these things are complementary to tell us about site changes.  Eric: This means you will get lots of pages pushed your way that you might not have gotten to during crawling, so it should not only enable you to get more real time content, but you’ll be able to see some sites more deeply.  Fabrice: Absolutely, every day we discover more than 100 billion URLs that we have never seen before. What is even scarier, these are the URLs that we normalized– no session ids, parameters, etc. This is only for content that really matters and it’s still 100 billion new ones a day. A large percentage of these URLs are not worth indexing. Some simple examples of this include date archives within blogs or pages that are largely lacking in unique content of value. The Bing mechanism for submitting URLs in many cases is more useful and trustable than what Bingbot can discover through links.  Eric: For sites that are very large, I heard you make reference that you would allow them to form more direct relationships to submit more than 10,000 URLs per day.  Fabrice: You can contact us, and we’ll review & discuss it, and how it bears on business criteria of the sites. please don’t send us useless URLs, as duplicate content or duplicate URLs, so we won’t send fetchers to fetch that.  Eric: How will this change SEO? Will crawling still be important?  Fabrice: It’s still important to ensure that search engines can discover your content and links to that content. With URL submission you may have solved the problem of discovery, but understanding interlinking still matters for context.  Related to that is selection, SEOs should include links to your content and selection. The true size of the Internet is infinity, so no search engines can index all of it.  Some websites are really big, instead of adding URLs to your sites to get only few of the URLs indexed, it’s preferable to focus on ensuring the head and body of your URLs are indexed. Develop an audience, develop authority for your site to increase your chances of having your URLs selected. URL submission helps with discovery, but SEOs still need to pay attention to factors that impact selection, fetching, and content. Ultimately, your pages need to matter on the Internet.  Eric: So, even the discovery part, there is still a role for the SEO to play, even though the API makes it easier to manage on your end.  Fabrice: Yes, for the discovery part there’s a role for the SEO to remove the noise and guide us to the latest content. LESS IS MORE. The basics of content structure still matter too.  For example, you:  still need titles/headers/content still need depth and breadth of content still need readable pages still need to be concerned about site architecture and internal linking  Eric: On the AI side of things, one of the things I think we’re seeing is an increasing push towards proactively delivering what people want before they specifically request it– less about search, and more about knowing preferences & needs of users, serving up things to them real-time, even before they think to do a search. Can you discuss that a little bit?  Fabrice: You might think of this as position “-1”, this is not only to provide results, but to provide content that may satisfy needs of the people, information that is related to you and your interests, within the Bing app or Bing Home page. You can set your own interest via the Bing settings and then you will see the latest content on your interest in various canvas. I am deeply interested in knowing the latest news quantum computing… what’s your interests?  Instead of searching for the latest every five minutes, preferable to be notified about what’s happening in more proactive ways.  Eric: So Bing, or Cortana, becomes a destination in of itself, and rather than searching you’re getting proactive delivery of content, which changes the use case.  Fabrice: Yes. We prefer surfacing the content people are searching for based on their personal interests. To be the provider of that content, to have a chance to be picked up by search engines, you have to create the right content and establish the skill and authority of that content. You must do the right things SEO-wise and amplify the authority of your site above other sites.   Eric: There’s always the issue of authority, you can make great content, but if aren’t sharing or linking to your content, it probably has little value.  Fabrice: Yes, these things still matter. How your content is perceived on the web is a signal that helps us establish the value of that content.  Eric: Let’s switch the topic to visual search and discuss use cases for visual search.  Fabrice: I use it a lot, and shopping is a beautiful example of visual search in action. For example, take a picture of your chair with your mobile device, upload the image to the Bing Apps and bingo you have chairs that are matching this model. The image is of a chair, it’s black, and the App will find similar things that are matching.  Visual search involves everything related to shopping, day to day object recognition, people recognition, and extracting information that is matching what your camera was capturing.  Eric: For example, I want to know what kind of tree that is …  Fabrice: Trees, flowers, everything  Eric: How much of this kind of visual search do you anticipate happening? I’d guess it’s currently small.  Fabrice: Well, yes, and no. We use this technology already in Bing for search and image search– understanding images we are viewing on the Internet– images with no caption or no alt text relating to the image, if we are able to recognize the shapes in the image, people may put in text keywords, the image may have additional meaning, extracting information that can advance the relevance of a web page.  Going beyond Bing and search, this capability is offered in Azure and articulated in all kinds of systems across the industry, this is offering enterprises the ability to recognize images, also camera inputs, and more. This can also extend into movies.  Eric: You mentioned the role images can play in further establishing the relevance of a web page. Can visual elements play a role in assessing a page’s quality as well?  Fabrice: Yes, for example you can have a page on the Internet with text content, and within it you may have an image that is offensive in different ways. The content of the text is totally okay, but the image is offensive for whatever reason. We must detect that and treat it appropriately.  Eric: I’d imagine there are scenarios where the presence of an image is a positive quality identifier, people like content with images after all.  Fabrice: Yes, images can make consuming the content of a page more enjoyable. I think in the end it’s all about the SEO, you need to have good text, good schema, and good images, Users would love to go back to your site if it’s not full of ads, and not too much text with nothing to illustrate. If you have a bad website with junky HTML people may not come back. They may prefer another site with preferable content.  Eric: Integration of searching across office networks is one of the more intriguing things we’ve heard from Bing, including the integration with Microsoft Office documents. As a result, you can search Office files and other types of content on corporate networks.  Fabrice: When you search with Bing and you are signed up to a Microsoft/Office 365 offering enabling Bing for business, Bing will also search your company data, people, documents, sites and locations, as well as public web results, and surface this search results in a unified search results experience with internet links. People don’t have to search in two three places to find stuff. Bing offers a one-click experience, where you can search your Intranet, SharePoint sites for the enterprise, and the Internet all at once. You can have an internal memo that comes up in a search as well as other information that we find online. We offer you a global view. As an employee, this is tremendously helpful to do more by easing finding the information.  Need to find the latest vacation policy for your company? We can help you find it. Need to know where someone is sitting in your office? We can help you find that too. Or, informational searches that we do can seamlessly find documents both online and offline.  Eric: Back to the machine learning topic for a moment – are we at the point today where the algorithm is obscure enough it is not possible for a single human to describe the specifics of ranking factors.  Fabrice: In 15 minutes it can’t be effectively done. We are guided through decisions we are taking in terms of quality expectations and determining good results vs. not so good results. Machine learning is far more complicated, when we have issues, we can break it down, find out what is happening per search. But it’s not made up of simple “if-then” coding structures, it’s far more complicated  Eric: People get confused when they hear about AI and machine learning and they think that it will fundamentally change everything in search. But the reality is that search engines will still want quality content, and need determine its relevance and quality.   Machine learning may be better at this, but as publishers, our goal is still to create content that is very high quality, relevant, and to promote that content to give it high visibility. That really doesn’t change, it doesn’t matter whether you’re using AI / machine learning or a human generated algorithm.  Fabrice: That will never change. SEO is like accessibility where you need common rules to make things accessible for people with disabilities. In the process of implementing SEO you’re helping search engines understand the thing, you need to follow the basic rules, you can’t expect search engines to do magic and adapt to each and every complex case.  Eric: There’s an idea that people have that machine learning might bring in whole new ranking factors that have never been seen before. But it’s not really going to change things that much is it?  Fabrice: Yes, a good article is still a good article.  Eric: A couple of quick questions to finish. John Mueller of Google tweeted recently that they don’t use prev/next anymore. Does Bing use it?  Fabrice: We are looking at it for links & discovery, and we use it for clustering, but it is a loose signal. One thing related to AI, at Bing we look at everything, this isn’t a simple “if-then” thing, everything on the page is a hint of some sort. Our code is looking at each and every character on each and every page. The only thing that isn’t a hint is robots.txt and meta noindex (which are directives), and everything else is a hint.  About Fabrice Canel  Fabrice is 20 years search veteran at Bing, Microsoft. Fabrice is a Principal Program Manager leading the team crawling, processing and indexing at Bing, so dealing with the hundreds of billions of new or updated web pages every day! In 2006, Fabrice joined the MSN Search Beta project and since this day, Fabrice is driving evolution of the Bing platform to insure the Bing index is fresh and comprehensive and he is responsible for the protocols and standards for Sitemaps.org and AMP on Bing. Prior to that MSN Search, Fabrice was the Lead Program Manager for search across Microsoft Web sites in a role covering all aspect of search from Search Engines technology to Search User Experience… to content in the very early days of SEO.

Why Pagination is Important – Here’s Why #215

Google’s John Mueller confirmed that Google has not made use of rel=prev/next tags for some time. But should we still implement pagination? In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains why pagination is still important and how you should implement it.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Pagination Canonicalization & SEO: Your Technical Guide See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript So recently, Google’s John Mueller tweeted that Google has not made use of rel=prev/next tags for some time. But my assessment is that the reason they did this is because the quality of the tagging web developers were using was probably poor on average. This is actually a parallel to what happened with rel=author tags back in 2014, when Google discontinued support for those. Back at that time, we actually did a study on how well those were implemented by people at the time. We’ll share that in the show notes below. This study shows that 71% of the sites with prominent readership made no attempt to implement authorship or implemented it incorrectly. Many of those who had implemented it didn’t understand exactly how to do it and they just got it wrong. That said, what should we do to support paginating page sequences now? If you have prev/next tags, you could still use them on your page if you want. Google won’t use them. Bing might use them—we don’t actually know for sure. But if you are going to keep them on your pages, make sure they are implemented correctly. You do have to take the time to learn how to follow the specs carefully and get it right. Putting aside the prev/next tags for a moment, let’s think about how you should implement pagination otherwise on your page. Our first preference is to implement that pagination in clean HTML tags that are visible in the source code for the pages on your site—something that is easy for the search engines to parse. The second choice would be to implement it in a way that isn’t clinging to the source code, but you can actually see it in the DOM or the Document Object Model. That means that your links are going to be anchor tags with a valid href attribute, not span or button elements with attached JavaScript click events. Paginated pages should also canonical to themselves—that’s a good reinforcing signal. These are the things that you need. The reason why this is still important is that pagination is something that still matters to users. If you’ve got 200 products in a particular category, you probably don’t want to show 200 products on one single page. Breaking that up into many pages is actually a very good way to make the content more parsable and readable and usable for users. This is really why pagination is still important. But make sure you get that pagination implemented the correct way as I’ve outlined in today’s video. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why. 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

Top Takeaways from Next10x Digital Marketing Conference 2019

On May 2, 2019, Perficient Digital hosted the third annual Next10x conference in Boston. The one-day agenda was packed with relevant, valuable digital marketing and SEO information and networking breaks. It included 12 industry speakers and had a strong focus in two areas: The future of digital marketing Things that you can do right now to grow your business Many of the industry’s top speakers came and shared their knowledge, expertise and insights. Didn’t get a chance to join us this year? No worries – today’s post will provide you with a recap of the top takeaways from the day. Sign me up to stay in the loop about Next10x 2020 Top 5 SEO Opportunities Eric Enge, General Manager, Digital Marketing, Perficient Digital SEO is about giving Google what they want — a great user experience based on intent. Our learnings from the algorithm updates show that consistent updates raise the rankings of sites that meet user intent. It’s in our interest as publishers to align with Google’s goals. As a result, here are the five biggest opportunities for SEO in 2019: High-quality content – Google recognizes that user needs are complex and unique to each use, and its algorithm updates are focused on surfacing sites that offer a depth and breadth of content likely to satisfy those needs. In short, publishing high volumes of content (when compared to competition) can cause your organic search traffic to soar. Promote content effectively – You can have the world’s greatest web site, but you won’t get much traffic if no one knows about it. Promote your site, drive high levels of visibility to what you’ve created, and get cited and referenced across the web. Links still matter a great deal, and they remain a big key to SEO success. Speed matters – A one-second mobile delay can reduce conversions by up to 20%, and 53% of users abandon pages that take more than three seconds to load. Yet, the average page takes more than 12 seconds to load on mobile. Find ways to speed up your site and you’re likely to see great results. One approach to consider is to implement accelerated mobile pages (AMP), a progressive web app (PWA), or both (a PWAMP!). Publish original, high-quality images – Searching with a camera is the next big phase of search. Original, large, clean, and optimized images directly related to the site will offer users a better experience with your content and open the door to new traffic opportunities, such as traffic from Google Discover. Invest in voice – Users are becoming more and more comfortable speaking to their devices. Personal assistants will be the driving applications behind voice usage. As a publisher, the biggest opportunities are for those who create personal assistant apps, such as an Alexa Skill or an Actions on Google app. These will advance from the scripted conversations available today to fully cognitive conversations. Make Your Mobile Site Fly with AMP Ben Morss, Developer Advocate, Google Speed is everything. It matters to users across the globe. It is even more critical in a world where most users have 3G connections or slower (40% of connections worldwide are 2G). Here in the U.S., delays in page load times significantly impact user engagement and conversions on your site. AMP is an open source program that provides an industry-standard approach to speeding up your pages. Based on a collection of web components built off HTML, AMP provides some JavaScript functionality like menus and image carousels. AMP also includes these key aspects: AMP discourages/bans features that slow speed, provides a stable layout that eliminates distracting ads, and only loads content when it’s needed. Originally, site owners that adopted AMP created an HTML/JavaScript version of their site and then an AMP version that was used as an alternate mobile experience. Today, more and more implement AMP as the standard (and only) version of their mobile pages. In general, most sites can largely be re-created in AMP, which can support visually rich experiences. Some exceptions remain but are rare. Checkout pages are one of the few pages that still usually require too much JavaScript to translate to AMP pages. Ben shared a case study of an e-commerce site in India that saw a 60% improvement in speed and a 40% reduced bounce rate. PWAs create an app-like experience on the web, and adoption of these is spreading. Microsoft is actively looking for PWAs to feature in their app store and Chrome has started launching PWAs for PCs, with Macs hopefully soon to follow. Consider the key aspects of PWAs: If your site is developed with a PWA, your normal web pages behave like a smartphone app when accessed via your phone, eliminating the need to develop a separate code experience for phones. This drives rapid adoption — since all users who access your site get the PWA, maintenance and development are simplified. A core component of the PWA is the Service Worker, which actively preloads content prior to a user requesting it. As a result, the page they access next is often preloaded onto their phone even before they request it, resulting in great increases in speed. The Future is Conversational and Visual Duane Forrester, VP of Industry Insights, Yext Trends are driven by platform change. It’s important to have these new devices and platforms in your life to understand how users are searching and what content they are consuming. Smart speakers and personal assistants are integrating with everyday life, including in houses, cars, and during a user’s day-to-day routine. Your brand has numerous audiences and consumer touchpoints. Search engines want consistent and reliable data across touchpoints to determine how to serve up a reasonable and expected answer. Seventy-three percent of high-intent traffic (someone intending to enter a business/make a purchase) happens off-site. Most customers never visit a homepage because search intent takes them to other channels and specific landing pages. It’s important to manage entities (companies, events, people) as users become more thoughtful about their spending power. The customer journey usually begins with a question, but it involves a series of questions and answers before the goal is completed. As a result, search is moving from keywords to questions. Developing a questions catalog can help drive content creation to enable your business to be a part of the conversation. To be a trusted and valued brand, businesses must structure data across entities and platforms and provide answers for all stages of this journey. Knowledge graphs are key for a business to develop an authentic relationship with consumers. Using “best” in a query automatically filters out any business with less than a four-star rating, so cleaning up and responding to feedback is more critical than ever. The world is having a conversation, whether you’re in it or not. It’s best to be in it. For example, do you look at your reviews? Do you respond to the bad ones and try to resolve the issue? Conversations are more authentic. An organization must understand the complex intent behind questions and get to what the user means to better advertise to a group. This is especially effective when you overlay demographic data — one of the things that makes psychographic marketing on Facebook so interesting. Spicy Content Marketing that Warms Up Cold Calls Chris Brogan, CEO, Owner Media Group It’s critical for marketers to put humanity back into content. Attention is at an all-time low because of the junk content cluttering the space, especially for email marketers. Over 2,000 words may get you linked and bookmarked, but quick content gets you actions. As a result, it’s important to match the content you produce to the user needs you’re trying to address and the results you hope will come from it. Two types of users exist – browsers and searchers. Both start their query because of an event, followed by awareness, and then an evaluation of the results. Marketers need to get smarter about the customer journey and recognize that trying to reach the masses won’t reach anyone. Instead, we need to go after multiple specificities. For example, consider Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad about disabled gamers. It is very targeted, yet has broad audience appeal at the same time. At the heart of this type of approach is understanding that specificity makes us take an interest because we feel connected. In addition, email marketing needs to be worth forwarding and worth keeping in an inbox. Don’t waste the opportunity of a newsletter with poorly planned content — make sure it resonates. Don’t send it from inhuman email addresses that shut down conversation (donotreply@ addresses). Invite the responses and respond back to them. Create a conversation. When reviewing content, don’t just focus on the technical aspects of writing like grammar, word count, and links. Review the content for tribalism and consider the social flux. Speak to audiences that are developing their voices when you have a compelling reason. Business is about belonging — fitting in is what you do when you don’t belong. In terms of creating a connection, video is underutilized and underappreciated: People read, on average, 19 minutes a day. On average, they spend six hours online consuming content, but text is no longer a driver. Video puts a human face in front of human faces. Panel: Case Studies This panel had four speakers covering several different topics: Susan Wenograd, Account Group Director, Aimclear Grant Davies, Agency General Manager, Perficient Digital Jordan Silton, Director of SEO Marketing, Apartments.com Shawn Tyler, Senior Director of Marketing, SEO, Affiliate and Social, BOLD Brand Awareness Case Study Susan Wenograd, Account Group Director, Aimclear Aimclear tried to prove the impact of a Facebook video ad campaign on brand awareness by testing a two-market strategy for six weeks. For this test, they determined the measurement for increased awareness would be a lift in traffic. The test focused on scalable tactics for the travel vertical for two cities, one of which would operate as a control group. The client created how-to videos with long wind ups that achieved an average watch of two seconds. Aimclear provided aspirational videos rooted in the emotions of travel and received an average watch time of 10 seconds. Aimclear scaled the project and achieved a 41% lift year over year (YoY) for the test group over the control group. The emotional connection helped with engagement that stimulated a retargeting campaign featuring product details. The key is to capture attention in the first couple of seconds. Mobile Case Study Grant Davies, General Manager, Perficient Digital Apps account for 80% of time spent on mobile devices. Businesses are doing the work to get users to their mobile experiences but aren’t emphasizing work to keep them there. Fifty percent of consumers are put off by a bad mobile experience, and 40% will turn to a competitor after a bad mobile experience. Grant shared a rental equipment case study that found a change in user needs within their industry. His team found that users wanted to make phone calls and talk to a person rather than go through an app. Once this was realized, new ways to chat and personalized features, like active notifications and chatbots, were developed. Identifying the actual needs of the consumers changed the way the business prioritized work.   Grant also added some thought on the future of mobile: We will see more microtransactions from users that are willing to sell data when properly informed of the use and personal benefits. There will be improved accessibility for those with disabilities. Healthcare services will increasingly leverage mobile. Voice assistants with actual intelligence will emerge. Contextual Linking Case Study Jordan Silton, Director – SEO Marketing, Apartments.com Apartments.com is a large and complex site with many opportunities for natural interactions between their pages. Yes, the problem of implementing contextual linking was a tough one – it’s hard to do it in an easily scalable way. Using artificial intelligence (AI), Apartments.com created a scalable method for adding accurate, quality links to test. The method correctly identified entities and the correct links, but the cost to parse the content wasn’t scalable. Apartments.com couldn’t easily prioritize entities that mattered to them. As a result, Apartments.com started with a database of their entities. They used regular expressions to match entities within content with content to link to. This method allowed them to effectively narrow down on local entities and the content they were linking to. Using this method, the contextual links on their site update automatically. Takeaways from the experience: Data science is key. Simple solutions can be more effective. When you dream big and push the envelope, you find your most creative solution and accomplish more. Managing a Mature Product Case Study Shawn Tyler, Senior Director of Marketing, SEO, Affiliate and Social, BOLD Shawn shared an enterprise’s approach to assessing and evolving a mature online property. His presentation focused on years of building up a successful site – when some of the strategies stop working, how can you change direction without risking what is still working well? Some key takeaways were: Realizing that catching and strategically addressing technical errors is essential. Utilizing multiple tools to track and differentiate their properties is important. This helps prioritize what content to emphasize or devalue and collect and evaluate backlinks. The need to stablish KPIs across sites and develop content and technical QA processes. Technical SEO and How It Can Benefit Your Business Martin Splitt, Developer Advocate, Google Technical SEOs are the link between developer and marketer. They need to understand the challenges of developers and investment interests of marketers to help both achieve their goals. Some key aspects of this include: Supporting development teams so they are thinking about SEO when you are not in the room and can keep pace in an agile workflow. Testing and monitoring for technical issues to build a strong foundation rather than after the fact. This is more costly and time intensive than catching issues early on. Advocating for site performance in a sea of competing priorities. Sixty-six percent of customers judge a company based on website performance. The four most important aspects of technical SEO: Be discoverable This comes down to good links (use the <a> tag) and limited JavaScript – if the JavaScript fails or connectivity is lost during load, it will ruin the link. Parsers can understand JavaScript links but can’t run them. Knowing when to use buttons vs. links. If it takes the user to different content, use a link. The History API runs code when URLs change. This helps to avoid tricking browsers with fragment identifiers. Be crawlable Crawl budget is based on crawl rate, and demand is determined by the server. Changes to the server include migrations and changing pages. Crawlability has nothing to do with ranking. Update your robot.txt file very carefully. Be indexable Googlebot understands JavaScript but processes it in a deferred manner. Using semantic HTML markup helps search engines understand the page. Make sure you’re making a reasonable number of requests. Reduce render-blocking JavaScript. If the JavaScript comes before the content in the code, search engines must download and execute the JavaScript before it, or the users, can understand the page content. Be usable An obvious title and snippets are a must. Website performance and mobile friendliness must be a priority. Use tools to verify this. Measure speed by the time it takes to load the content users have come to the site to find. Understand the limitations of your framework. Panel: Demystifying Analytics This panel had two speakers: Kathryn Bogen, Analytics Director for Perficient Digital Jenny Halasz, Founder, CEO for JLH Marketing. Analytics Governance and Documentation Kathryn Bogen, Analytics Director, Perficient Digital Some of the top requirements for a successful analytics program include: Expertise to understand tools and resources. Centralized tracking to promote accuracy. Constantly onboarding new talent and tools. Learning to trust the tools and the data they collect. Reducing reliance on development and deployment. Since the number of people involved in analytics programs is often small, even at large enterprises, one of the biggest challenges these organizations face is staff turnover. As a result, the approaches used, specifics of how things are setup, needs of the stakeholders receiving information, and all other aspects of the program need to be thoroughly documented. Businesses also need to clearly define their analytics goals and how to measure results for each project so tools, goals, and staff knowledge are accessible by those who need it. Google Data Studio Jenny Halasz, President and Founder, JLH Marketing Google Data Studio (GDS) is a program designed to make the process of creating compelling views of data easy to setup and use. Key to its success is that GDS plugs into many sources of data, including Google Analytics (GA) and Google Search Console (GSC), to enable the processing of data from those sources simple to setup.  GDS supports far more than GA and GSC, including data from non-Google sources. More companies are creating connectors for GDS all the time. Additional key points about GDS: Corporate governance tracking and tagging make it easier to understand where data is coming from with custom channels and channel rollups. GDS makes it easy for businesses to figure out analytics goals and tie them to business goals. Sharing data and controlling risks can also be easier. It’s recommended that you make a copy of free templates and existing reports so you have copies of original data. A Bigger, Braver, Bolder 2019: What to Stop, Where to Double-Down, How to Kill It Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs Email is vastly undervalued. It’s the only place where people, not algorithms, are choosing to receive content. It is a place to build trust and brand affinity by projecting who you are. Email content needs to build trust and affinity. Don’t underinvest in the value of that content. Ninety-two percent of surveyed businesses use email, but how many actively think about the value of the email content? Seventy-three percent of businesses are producing more content than the previous year, but 35% know their content isn’t hitting the mark. Ninety percent met user’s needs, 94% value creativity and craft, and 96% say their audience finds them a credible resource. Businesses need to ask these four questions about content: What are we communicating, and more importantly, how? The content is less important than how the news is conveyed. Personal style increases trust and affinity and should have a human at the other end. Content should be a conversation between the brand or, preferably, a human face for the business. What kind of letters do we most love to get? Include less promotion and more information. Make it more about the subscriber. Write with “here is my reason for writing to you” in mind. Generate a feedback loop to better understand the audience and engage in an intimate and social way. Don’t fret about an audience that isn’t a fit for your content. Focus on your targets. Does your marketing feel like marketing? Don’t tell me what to do, tell me why it matters to me. Ask yourself what your audience wants. How does this content only come from me? Lose the marketing voice and talk to your audience. Businesses need to establish an embedded style that conveys who you are in your content If your logo disappeared from the web, would anyone be able to attribute your website to the brand? Summary Overall, the day was a great success. In our follow-up survey to attendees, on a scale of 1 to 5, the overall conference got a rating of 4.5. We are already starting to plan for Next10x 2020. Interested in receiving updates for next year’s event? Sign me up to stay in the loop about Next10x 2020

Why Your Content Must Be Created by Subject Matter Experts – Here’s Why #214

Consumers want accurate, reliable, easy-to-understand information. Can they trust your content? In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains why It matters who creates your brand content.  Publishing Note: Starting with episode #215 scheduled to publish on May 20th, the series will feature Eric Enge and a variety of select industry guests. After episode #215, the publish schedule will be every other week. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why. 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, why do we always say that our content needs to be created by subject matter experts? Eric: That’s a great question, Mark. I think the big key is understanding what the content is being used for. At Perficient, our focus is usually on developing content for content marketing purposes, to build our reputation, increase our rankings in search, and increase our audience. With all those things in mind, you have to realize that the kind of thing we’re trying to do is really thought leadership oriented. You can’t just expect anybody to create that content for you. You need someone who actually knows the topic really well, or else our audience won’t accept it. Mark: You’re saying you should never use just copywriters? Eric: First of all, not exactly. I mean, there are plenty of good roles for copywriters. There’s maybe a lot of content on your site which is really simple, product descriptions or something like that, where you don’t need a true subject matter expert. I think the big key, in that case, is to give them the time to research the topic and be able to write intelligent stuff about whatever they’re addressing. But you can’t expect them to do thought leadership level content in whatever your marketplace is. You can’t just give someone 60 minutes of time, and suddenly, they’re a leading expert on the topic. It really doesn’t work that way, but there are still many ways to leverage the skills of copywriters. Mark: Okay. Can you give an example where SME, subject matter expert level writers are required? Eric: Sure. One is, if you’re trying to build a section in your site, like a content hub with thought leadership level advisory content. These really work best if you answer common user questions and address their needs related to whatever your market space is. This typically requires a pretty high level of expertise to execute really, really well, particularly if you want to create a resource that others might actually link to. So, this might be a wide array of great, helpful articles or a video series, like “Here’s Why”. Hmm, that sounds like a great idea! Or user surveys or other types of research. This level of content really requires a subject matter expert level of, well, expertise. Mark: Okay. How about another example? Eric: If you engage in some level of off-site content marketing–so for example, I publish regularly on Search Engine Land, a column. This provides great visibility for our brand, which is awesome, but Search Engine Land isn’t going to let me publish on their site unless I know something about the topic. So, this is a case where guest posting really makes sense. It’s good for visibility and really getting exposure to your target audience. You’ve got to use this tactic with care, though, because there can be too much of a good thing. So, focus your efforts on publishing in places that have sizable audiences, that are direct interest for your business to be in front of.   Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why. 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 We Live in the Age of Voice Assistance (And What That Means for Search) – Here’s Why #213

More and more people are comfortable interacting with devices using their voice. How does that change the world of marketing? In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen shares key insights from Google on how voice assistance is changing our world.  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 Eric: Mark, usually I’m the one talking about the rise of digital personal assistants and voice interactions with devices, but you had the opportunity to cover a keynote session on this topic at SMX West. Share with us what you learned. Mark: We heard from Marco Lenoci, who’s the head of Google Product Partnership for the Google Assistant product, and he not only shared with us what Google Assistant can do now and what they’re working on for the future, but also the implications of the rise of voice assistance for search marketers. Eric: I think one of the important things for people watching this show to be clear on is where we are with the volume of voice interactions with devices, which I call it rather than voice search, by the way, because it’s not all really search. We’re not at the point where voice has taken over the world yet, and it’s important to understand that, but by 2020, it should be a significant percentage, which might be 5% or 10% of interactions with devices. That’s enough to matter to a lot of brands, and if you’re going to be ready for that, you have to get going on it now. With that context, why don’t you go over some of the implications? Mark: Okay, the things Marco shared with us. So, he gave us five key insights at the end of his talk, and that’s what I want to concentrate on. I think one of the most important things is that we’re seeing that voice is about action. You said it before, it’s not all search, and that’s true. In fact, Google data shows that there’s 40 times more action-oriented interactions in voice than in search. So, people using voice with devices are about doing things, getting things done. It’s not about finding the coffee, which is what you would be looking for on search, but ordering the coffee and expecting it to be ready when you arrive at the coffee shop. So, start to think about the actions your customers want to take: less passive discovery, more action to completion. People also expect more conversations with their devices. In fact, Google data shows 200 times more conversations going on in voice assistance and voice-assisted devices than in search. So, this means we’re moving from keywords to something more dynamic. Keywords are still important, search is still so important, but in this world… Well, let me give you an example. Doing a traditional search, you’d be searching for something like ‘weather’, and then your zip code, right? But now, we’d ask things to a voice-assisted device or a digital personal assistant like, “Do I need an umbrella today?” We expect that device to understand, when we say, “Do I need an umbrella today?”, I’m asking a question about the weather. There’s also an expectation that the location is understood. Your device knows where you are, so the assistant should know where you are, and what time of day it is, and as I said, that ‘an umbrella’ implies, “Is it going to rain today?” Marco told us that there are actually 5,000 ways users can ask for an alarm to be set on Google Assistant, just as an example. Also, he told us that smart screens are changing everything, and by smart screens, we mean devices that interact by voice but still have a display of some type. Google says that nearly half of the people who are using voice also use touch input on a screen together with it. So some things still need to be seen. We still live in a multi-modal world. That’s the way we interact as humans. That’s the way we expect these devices to interact. The fourth insight is that daily routines matter. These devices are becoming more and more able to know things like the time of day, where I am, this is what I’d usually be doing that time of day. For example, this is the time I usually drive home, so do I want to hear my favorite podcast? Developers need to be thinking in terms of day and time to be there when users need them most. The concept of micro-moments in marketing takes on a whole new context in this. The fifth and final insight is that voice is universal. We already know how to do it. Keyboards and tapping are still not totally natural for humans. Voice is. Eric: Yes, that’s really interesting, and some of the research that I dug up in my investigations into voice shows just how universal voice is. People don’t realize, for example, that a baby in a mother’s womb can recognize the mother’s voice as distinct from other voices. So, it’s actually something that’s innate. Anyway, cool insights overall. What practical actions should we be taking as digital marketers? Mark: Lenoci shared three takeaways. The first is, show up. Be there. Be involved with this. Make sure your content, services, and apps are available on Google and across its various services, including developing things for Google Assistant, like we’ve been doing at Perficient Digital, and Amazon Alexa, and all these different things that we’re working with now. The second is, speed up. Don’t just create experiences. Think about the micro-moments where you can assist. So, “I want to know, I want to play, I want to buy this, I want to go here,” being present at those moments. How can you make that easier and faster for your customers and prospects? And the third takeaway is, wise up. Take advantage of the info coming out from Google and others who are involved in this marketplace about how to build for that world. Eric: Thanks, Mark. And your suggestion about the focus on helping people in the moment, right now, is a really important one. That’s how these technologies get adapted by people or adopted by people, really, is when the technology makes it so much easier than the alternatives. 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

A Content Marketing Conversation with Ann Handley and Eric Enge

Technology makes it easier than ever to market to the individual at scale, but if you don’t truly understand your audience, your content could be perceived as generic and impersonal. Automated personalization helps, but it’s no longer enough. Customers want and expect useful, valuable, and relevant content that feels like it was created just for them. How can you deliver that? To help answer this, I interviewed Ann Handley from MarketingProfs. We discussed why marketers need to think about content marketing as a one-on-one conversation with customers and the best ways to execute this strategy. Check out our conversation in the video below, or scroll down to read the transcript.  Original Live Webinar aired on Monday, April 18, 1:00 PM Transcript What is personalization, from a marketing standpoint? Eric: What we want to talk about today is really personalization and content marketing together, and I think we should start the conversation with an opening question. What do we really mean by personalization? Are we talking about dynamic content optimization, or using data for automated content, or user-generated content, or tone of voice? What do we mean? Ann: I think that the short answer, Eric, is a yes, right? It’s all of that. I think in marketing over the past few years, obviously we’ve had the opportunity to use data and technology to be able to deliver increasingly personalized experiences to the customers and the prospects that we’re trying to attract. But as you just said, I think it’s so much more than that, too. I think it’s how we’re communicating—so, the tone of voice that we’re using through our emails, through our social channels, and all across the digital space. But I think it’s also things like, are you bringing your customers and their voice into your own marketing? And then from a company standpoint too, are you personalizing who you are as a brand? Are you going behind the scenes a little bit? Are you showing your customers and your prospects who you are as much as you’re letting them know that you know who they are? So that’s how I think about it. I think of it maybe a little bit more broadly beyond just, you know, the sort of textbook definition of personalization. I don’t think it’s just about data and technology. I also think it’s about being human and really putting the “person” in personalization, from both a brand as well as an audience standpoint. Eric: Yes, and I think a big thing that a lot of people miss, to put it in my own words, is having your own personality associated with your brand or the people representing the brand. Really projecting that well and giving something that people can attach to is as important as figuring out how to interact with them. Ann: Yes, exactly. And I think that’s the “person” in personalization—you want to use your personality. You also want to make sure that you’re using personalization to create an emotional connection. You’ve probably heard this, but one of the biggest problems, I think, with personalization is that it does veer into the creepy lane sometimes. We’ve all had those experiences where we’re shopping for something online, or we’re looking at something on Instagram, and the next thing you know, this thing is following you all over and you’re getting an email that says, “Hey! Did you mean to put this in your cart?” That’s where I feel, as brands, we tend to go immediately. We tend to think about the technology first—let’s chase these people, let’s let them know, let’s harass them through personalization. But at the same time, I think the opportunity is so much greater than that. Like you just said, it’s really thinking about your personality as a brand and connecting in a very human, emotional way to the people you are trying to attract. Eric: Yes. One kind of side topic, but I want to bring it up anyway, is that this really parlays itself into nearly every environment you’re communicating in. I did a presentation not too long ago with Duane Forrester about the evolution of voice interactions.  It starts with voice search, but more broadly covers just voice interactions between brands and their customers. You’ve got to project your persona even at the voice level, even if that’s the only element that you have in the entire picture in the communication. This has shown itself everywhere. Ann: And I guess that’s sort of what we mean by omnichannel, right? I kind of hate that word as much as I love it because it feels so buzzword-y. But really what it means is, are you presenting the same way on social media as you are in your blog, on your website and voice communications—you know, across everything? And it’s interesting that you bring up voice, because I think there’s a lot of unexplored territory there. We’re really just at the beginning of figuring it out. How do we leverage that channel as part of this omnichannel experience? How do we bring all those touch points together? And so I think, you know, sort of the next challenge for brands is not just in voice, but how do you actually align all the pieces so that it is sort of a coherent, cohesive customer experience, so to speak. Eric: Absolutely. Personalization at scale for marketing Eric: So, what about this though? Is personalization really the enemy of scaling, because everybody wants to scale? That’s what everybody thinks about. You know what I mean? Ann: I don’t think it’s necessarily the enemy of scaling if you think about just the technology we have available that allows you to scale personalization and that allows you to use personalization at scale. But I also think that using things like our brand voices—that’s something that we can all do at scale. What’s your take on that, Eric? Eric: One of the things that I like to think about is when people say scaling, my fear is that they’re at the point where they want to be all things to all people, and they’re trying to address every single audience. Here’s a slide just to capture this concept, right? To me, effective scaling and personalization both start with really identifying your target audience and learning how to deliver your persona or your personality to that target audience, which means excluding others. And that’s actually a good thing. If you’re really trying to grow your business and you try to address everybody, you’ll fail. That’s the path to mediocrity. Ann: Yes, 100%. I totally agree with that. I think there is a default in marketing that we want to get as many people into in the B2B world—the top of the funnel, so to speak. We want to appeal to as many people as possible and then, you know, nurture the heck out of those people throughout our content, at campaigns, throughout our everything that we’re doing right over time. But I think that’s the wrong approach. I think it is much smarter and more efficient long term to figure out who it is we’re actually talking to. And that’s one way, I think, to do that. One way to figure out how to weed out those people that aren’t going to be a good fit for us is through things like the content that we’re publishing and the tone of voice that we’re using. You’re automatically going to attract the people to you if you know who you’re talking to. You’re going attract those people to you as much as you will repel the people who are not a great fit for your brand. So, I think to the degree to which we can figure out who we are as brands and think through our personality and persona, and who we are as a company, and who we are as people, and why we are doing what we’re doing—that is number one. And then, who is the best fit for our products and services, and who are they, and really having a conversation with those people and approaching your marketing more in that way. Versus just brand to target, I think it’s much more efficient and effective to think about marketing in a human way to the people we’re trying to connect with. So again, it’s putting the “person” in personalization and not thinking about target audiences as much as actual people, because that’s what we are, right? Which sounds so elementary, but I don’t see enough of it really, especially in the B2B space. Eric: I couldn’t agree more. This whole thing about connecting and having a connection—that really is, sort of, at its heart. There’s this one-on-one aspect to it. Now brands can accomplish it with the right kind of personalization, sometimes operating in scale depending on how you do that, just by understanding who they’re trying to connect with, what those people are like and what they might respond to, and focusing on those things. And as we’ve both said, now it necessarily means you’re shutting some other people out. And that’s actually a good thing. Ann: Yes, I think so. I was just thinking as you were talking. The spring has been kind of a crazy spring for me, and I’ve been at just a string of marketing conferences and marketing events. A big theme of a lot of the events that I’ve been to recently has been about this customer experience. Marketers and marketing leaders are really feeling this pressure to really execute on the customer experience, to really put the customer at the heart of everything that they do and that the organization does. Which again sounds super elementary, like, aren’t we already doing that? But I don’t think we are. Like, I think we’re still communicating as brands versus trying to think about what the customer actually needs from us. So, I think that another mandate, as part of the customer experience, is really thinking through your personalization strategy and how you actually connect with people as individuals. Eric: Absolutely. Personalized content marketing Eric: So, what are some things that marketers should change to make content marketing a more personalized conversation? Ann: So, I’d like to show some tidbit of research from the content marketing study of 2019 that MarketingProfs did. We’ve done it every year with the Content Marketing Institute. I think this is the ninth year that we’ve done it, or something like that. Eric: Awesome study by the way. Anybody out there who hasn’t looked at this study, you need to go get this data. It’s amazing insight about B2B focus, and you do B2C versions too, for content marketing. It’s just fantastic stuff, but I’m sorry. Please go ahead. Ann: Thanks for that plug. And if anybody here wants to pick it up, you can go to the MarketingProfs SlideShare channel, and you can grab a copy there. It’s ungated, it’s free. You can pick it up. But you know, the beauty of the study is that it does give brands a sense of what’s going on in content marketing. It’s sort of the state of the industry and content marketing from a B2B and B2C perspective. And it’s interesting because over time—like I said, this is the ninth year I think that we’ve done it—it does really give you a sense of sort of where we’re at in the industry. So, just pull the numbers up just one more time again so I can just talk through them. Sorry, I went a little too long in the preamble, maybe. Eric: Let’s look at the data from the study that you mentioned earlier. Ann: Yes, we were talking about opportunities. So basically, how do you start to think about personalization through your content marketing from a content marketing point of view? What that top step there says is 42% of the marketers are actually talking to their customers to understand their needs—that’s only 42%. I mean, that to me spells enormous opportunity that, you know, so many more of us I think could actually be talking to our customers to figure out how it is that we can serve you better. What information is useful to you? How do you make decisions? Where do you get your information from? All those things, like trying to get a sense of who it is they were actually talking to. Who is it they were marketing too? And then that second step there is really talking about how only 23% of us are using any sort of audience participation. So, things like user-generated content and really getting your customers into your marketing as part of the conversation. So, I think again, an enormous opportunity there as well. So, I just wanted to share those because I think when you ask where to start, I think those are two really great places to start talking to your customers and really gathering insight on a regular basis. And it doesn’t have to be super complicated. It can be a survey, it can be a phone call, it can be coffee with a customer—it can be any of those things. I still don’t think that marketers are talking to customers enough. And then secondly, try to bring new voices to the table. Bringing the voices of your customers directly into your marketing, I think, is a super effective way to think about personalization. Eric: Absolutely. And one of the really neat things that’s happening more broadly, from an SEO perspective and what Google is doing these days, is Google is investing so much of their energy into who they’re sending people to from their search results, around the goal of really what ends up being the best customer experience for the people that they send to a given website. So, if you invest in the right kind of content marketing strategies, not only are you doing really great stuff from a traditional content marketing point of view, but you’re probably also driving the crap out of your SEO. It’s an amazing amount of opportunity that Ann has just really given us a sense of. Yes, it can be a big investment—we’ll talk about that more in a second. But the fact of the matter is, your competition probably isn’t doing it. That’s how I spell opportunity. Ann: Right. And actually, I don’t think it needs to be a bigger investment necessarily. I think, like we talked about, it’s thinking about how it is that you are communicating and really understanding and nailing those elements first. That’s not a massive investment.  I mean, certainly the more you dig into the data and the tech side of it and being able to do things like dynamic content and being able to customize customer journeys and all that kind of stuff—that can get expensive. But I don’t think that it has to be, and I also feel like there are ways to do it. There are ways to personalize your brand and personalize who you are as a company that really don’t cost you anything at all aside from maybe a lot of brainpower. Eric: Right. Projecting your own persona, right, should be fairly straightforward, for example. And I agree, you don’t necessarily have to invest a ton of money to make this work. And also, if you’re a small local business, the way I’m trying to think about it is, am I doing a better job at it than the people I’m competing with? And if I’m a small local business and I’m not competing with some Fortune 200 company, I just have to be able to do something that’s at the scale that works for my size of business and make sure that I’m standing out well compared to the people I’m competing with. So, what’s the coolest example of personalized marketing you’ve seen of late? Ann: I have a couple of favorites that I pulled ahead of time to share with you today. You know I’m a writer, right? I’m a real content nerd, and one of the brands that I use on a regular basis, I have a browser extension. It’s called Grammarly, and essentially what Grammarly does is it helps me improve my writing and my communication. Whatever I’m creating, it’s kind of like a spell check on steroids. It’s like a spell checker with an editor kind of wrapped into one. I don’t think it’s a substitution for an actual, live editor because I use one of those, too. But Grammarly is kind of—I think of it like my first pass. And so, what you’re looking at here is a copy of an email. Every single week, they send me an email with my statistics, right? So, they tell me sort of where I compare as compared to the rest of the Grammarly audience. And again, I’m kind of a nerd, right? So, I love getting this email because there’s something that makes me kind of proud about seeing whether I’m more productive then the rest of the audience or how many different words I use. They give me all these sort of touch points or all these different benchmarks, I mean, just to tell me, like, where I am. And it just kind of gamifies it for me, but the way they deliver it is incredibly personalized. Now obviously, Grammarly has all of this data on me because it’s their own data that they’re collecting, but the way they deliver it is just very fun. The other thing that they do is that they use my usage of their program to reward me. So, they’ll deliver badges to me. When I do a particular thing, like when I’ve been using Grammarly for so many weeks, I get a badge. When I’ve used complicated words more than other users of the Grammarly product, I get another badge. So, I’m unlocking all of these badges. And this is so goofy and it’s completely meaningless, but it keeps me engaged with the Grammarly product, because I think it’s fun and I like to see, oh, where am I at? What am I doing? How have I done this week? Super silly, but again, just sort of a fun way I think to keep me engaged with their product and to remind me just how valuable Grammarly is to me on a consistent basis. Eric: Well, the thing is, you call it super silly and of course, the way they present it to make it fun and so on. But come on, they’re feeding that self-improvement, self-measurement, make-myself-better kind of mentality. An uber-geeky, highly-driven person will just dive in headfirst. Ann: Right! But they’re using data, and they’re making it fun and accessible because they know that some of the people who use their platform, right, and who use their software are writing geeks like me. And so, I love to see that the words that I’m using are just more unusual than say, I don’t know, 90% of people who use Grammarly. It’s sort of like, yes, it’s silly. But it’s a fun way to keep me engaged. Eric: Absolutely. So, you’re going to be joining us in a few weeks’ time on May 2nd at our Next10x Conference at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston. Can you tell us a little bit about what you plan to be talking about? Ann: Oh, yes. When is it? Eric: May 2nd. Ann: May 2nd. Fantastic event. One of my highlights of last year. I was there last year. I’m very excited to be back this year. I’m going to be talking about just, you know, sort of what’s new, like some of the opportunities that I see from a content marketing standpoint in marketing but also some things that I think we can safely avoid, at least for right now. So, doing more of what matters and kind of ignoring the rest. Fantastic event. So please join us. And this is completely unsolicited. These guys did not tell me to say any of this, but truly it’s a very special event and it’s just a fantastic experience. Everyone at Next10x just really knows how to make the experience really great for the people who are attending. So please join us. Eric: Thank you so much for that, Ann. For my part, I’m going to be talking about what I see the biggest opportunities are in digital marketing. There’ll be a little bit of an SEO bed to that but also some content marketing things and leading into some conversations about voice. So, we have great speakers. Chris Brogan will join us, and Duane Forrester, Ben Morris of Google, and Martin Splitt from Google. Ben and Martin are fantastic speakers. So, if you’re interested, here’s the Next10x Conference website. But now, let’s spend a few minutes and take some questions. So, if you have any questions for Ann or me, you know, please feel free to put those in the chat. We’re a very much looking forward to seeing what those of you out there want us to pontificate on. Ann: While we’re waiting for questions, I wanted to show you another one of my favorite examples. Eric: Okay, sure. Let’s do that while we’re waiting for questions. Ann: So, as I’m talking to you here today, I have a 15-year-old—she’s almost 15 years old—Cavalier King Charles spaniel, a little dog, underneath my desk. She’s, you know, she’s a fantastic dog. She’s my heart. She’s such a great girl, but BarkBox will forever be cemented in my brain as one of my favorite brands, because they do such a great job personalizing their email, right? So, they know that my girl is an old girl, and they send me offers on a regular basis to add to her quality of life and make sure that she’s living the best life she possibly can live, and that we can make it as long as we possibly can. They know that Abby is almost 15, so they’re detailing that. But, we were talking about tone of voice and how important that can be just from a brand perspective to personalize the experience for your customers. BarkBox does such a great job because the email is hilarious. It’s so well written now. It’s not hilarious for everybody, but for dog people like me especially, you know, older dog people or people with older dogs—yes, that’s what I wanted to say. You know, it’s just, it’s such…it delivered such a great experience to me, like that top photo right there of Carl, who’s 72 years old. The copywriting on there, the tone of voice that they’re using—it just completely grabbed me. And yes, I absolutely did fetch some hip and joint treats for her because it really just spoke to me as the owner of an older dog, not only because they were targeting me through their promotion, but the way that they wrote this email and the voice that they used, not just in this email but across everything. It just…they do such a nice job with it. So, that’s my second-favorite example of personalization. Eric: That’s awesome. And basically, again, back to the tone of voice and how well they did with all of that. But while we’re waiting for questions to come in, I’m going to actually just expand a little bit on the voice conversation, because I mentioned the joint presentation I did with Duane Forrester a while back. And leading into that, what we did is we did some research into effectively what research has been done around voice and how humans respond to voice. This was actually spawned by the advent of Interactive Voice Response Systems way back in the ’80s and ’90s, and they found things like we’re really wired as human beings to respond to voice. For example, a baby in the mother’s womb can recognize their mother’s voice, and we know that because their heart rate goes up when their mother talks and the heart rate goes down whenever anyone else talks, which is a really interesting thing. And then there’s other data points that show that people who are introverted respond more to introverted voices. Men respond more to men and women respond more to women. Those associations have been proven through extensive research for people who want to dig into that more. There’s a very famous researcher guy called Clifford Nass that led a lot of this work. But it is offered because it just shows how the breadth of personalization really impacts us. It looks like we do have a question here. First question is from Katie Goh. Eric, you mentioned that personalization can boost SEO. How can you leverage SEO within your personalization strategy if Google can’t always read dynamic content? So, on pages, emails, custom dashboards? Eric: So, I’m actually going to relate that back to what you said in the very beginning and the response to the first question. It’s not really about the level of personalization you saw on the BarkBox example or on the Grammarly example that Ann shared, but more in the way that you appropriately identify your audience, broadcast your personality to that audience, and create a good match between that persona you’re broadcasting and your target prospects. And if you do that effectively, that’s what will draw a good SEO response. The more individualized personalization is at a whole other level, so not something that Google necessarily responds to. So, this question is from Ateeq Ahmad. Is scale all that important for small businesses? Don’t they need to personalize anyway just even to basically survive? Ann? Ann: Well, to the second part of that, yes. And I also think that for small businesses, the idea of personalization, especially in how they’re communicating, is a whole lot easier.  I talk to big brands all the time who really struggle with things like communicating in a human way and having a real human voice through all their social channels and all across every way that they’re reaching out to customers. And so, I think that challenge is so much easier for smaller brands. I don’t think you necessarily have to scale, but I absolutely do think that you need to personalize the experience that you’re delivering to customers. And again, I think it’s a lot easier for smaller brands. At least, that’s my take on it. Eric: Yes. It’s hard for them to find the time, but as I said earlier, if you’re a smaller business and you’re competing with other small businesses, you’re not talking about having to put out content every single day, probably. You take things in a more entry level. One more question here. What are some of the metrics that Google uses to measure customer experience on a website? Google has a lot of patents published about potentially measuring and evaluating customer experience and user experience, but there is nothing currently confirmed about what they’re doing, so it’s actually a very difficult question to answer. I think the way I would answer is that we know that Google cares a great deal about this. So even if the only thing you cared about in the world was SEO—and it shouldn’t be the only thing you care about in the world—but if it were, you should therefore still care about customer experience and user experience. It’s an incredibly important part, even if it just plays itself out and is how you get links, how people refer to your content, or how people share your content. That’s reasonable enough. And by the way, it drives conversion at the same time, too. So, there’s just so many reasons to do this. 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Why On-Page and Off-Page SEO Together Create Success – Here’s Why #212

What are the fundamental practices that create SEO success?   In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge shares a case study that demonstrates the effectiveness of “blocking and tackling” 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 Case study: On-page + off-page SEO working together = success See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, have the most important fundamentals of effective SEO really changed much?   Eric: You know, the basic hard work of technical SEO combined with a content and promotional strategy is really still fundamental to success. So, I’d say not really.   Mark: How about an example of where those fundamentals paid off for a business?   Eric: Sure, I am happy to do that. The example I’m going to use is an online travel company that we worked with that was looking to differentiate itself from big players. It’s actually a new entry in the market.   A few years back they were trying to figure out how to carve out their own niche even though they were a late entrant. How they did that is with more authoritative local content and a really user-oriented experience around each marketplace.   One of the fun things they did is they didn’t try to cover the whole globe or even the whole US. They targeted specific regions of the globe and went very, very deep and created awesome experiences around those marketplaces. That included things like partnerships with local tour guides and getting better content from those people.   What they really illustrated very well is that it’s better to be excellent at a few things than mediocre at many. So, rather than thinking that you have to cover the entire marketplace, that focus that they brought was really, really great for them.   They also structured their content in a way where they started small and scaled it over time. So, the local experts, as I mentioned, we’re driving the content creation and really putting out the kind of stuff you’d never get from a garden-variety travel writer.   And, of course, they did the basic SEO fundamentals really well. They had good site audits repeated regularly. They continue to look at the right site structure, the right taxonomy. So, the basics of their SEO underpinnings were really sound.   Because of the localized content, they were able to attract attention in local markets really well. That resulted for them in links from within the specific countries that they were recovering because they were writing about stuff that other people weren’t doing.  Mark: Great, but did the plan produce any measurable results?   Eric: You know, it really did. So, it had a really steady growth in organic traffic as you see here on the chart we’re showing right now.   I think the basic SEO fundamentals really worked very, very well, but in this world today, some things are a little bit different. The level of commitment you need to your user experience and user value as a primary focus is probably more than we might’ve thought about 10 years ago. But the underpinnings— sound site architecture, creating great content, an effective outreach and promotion plan—to be honest, are the same as they ever were.  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 Three Priorities Should Guide Your Content Marketing – Here’s Why #211

Content marketing is a complicated and relatively young practice. What really matters to achieve success?  In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen gives you the three top priorities to get ROI from your content strategy.   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 Your 3 Top Content Marketing Priorities for 2019 Why You Should Build Content Marketing Bridges See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: Mark, content marketing is a complex topic. What would you say are the most important things content marketers should be pursuing right now?   Mark: I have three priorities that I try to follow myself. Number one is to balance quantity and quality, two is to prioritize content hubs, and three, build content bridges.   Eric: All right, let’s take those one at a time then. Start with balancing quantity and quality in your content.   Mark: In the old days, the conventional wisdom was to create as much content as you can. In an upcoming video in our “Here’s Why” series you’re going to talk a little bit more in detail about what that means and what that looks like in terms of balancing those two things.   Let’s talk for a moment about why it seemed to used to make sense to just create as much content as you possibly can.   Before social media, for example, almost all content had a short lifespan. Most people got their content through an RSS feed or email notification and that was it; it was gone forever. Now with social media, if you’re doing it right, you can take your best content, your evergreen content, promote it again and again and again so more people see it.   Also, Google hadn’t yet shifted its focus fully to content quality and user-value. All the traditional signals are still there in Google, but these are things that they’ve done a lot better with in recent years. So having really great quality content now can become evergreen in search where Google keeps promoting it even if it’s older, if it’s still relevant.   And finally, everyone was playing catch up back then because most brands lacked sufficient quality or quantity of content. I think those are the reasons why they concentrated on quantity. Now Google’s shift to machine-learning driven content quality has swung the pendulum the other way where content quality has become more of a priority.   So the ideal I think is—and this is if you have the capacity and the resources to do this—is to put as much as you can toward that high-quality user-focused, highly-relevant content. If you have the capacity, fill that in with shorter posts in between other kinds of content so that you keep top of mind but you’re giving lots of context around your content.   Eric: Let’s talk about the importance of content hubs.  Mark: Yes, and this is something I learned from you, and I love it now because I see what it does in our own content and that of our clients, for sure. So, once you get a quality content mindset, content hub creation is the next step.   Let’s talk about what a content hub is. At the most fundamental level, it’s a centralized curation of your content around one of your main topics.   You can have multiple content hubs on your site, but each one is centered around one of the things you really want to be known for. So blog content we know gets pushed down and disappears. A hub creates a better user experience, because everything that the user wants to know about that topic they can find in that one place, but it also helps search engines to see what you should be known for.   Examples on our site include our hubs built around our research studies. Because of those, we’ve got number one ranks for over a year now for “mobile versus desktop,” “digital personal assistants,” and many other high–volume keywords that are really important to our business.   Eric: Right. And I think what most people don’t realize is that in a blog construct—this is a little bit of research work I did—75% of the content that goes in a blog are things that Google really shouldn’t index. And like you said, that content gradually disappears over time as it descends in the hierarchy.  Mark: And it should, right?  Eric: Yes. But in a content hub, you have the big advantage of really controlling where everything shows up which is great.   But the last priority you mentioned is building content marketing bridges. What do you mean by that?   Mark: First of all, I have a lot more detail about that in another “Here’s Why” episode and also a blog post that I published about it, but let’s talk about the basic idea.   A content bridge means bridging the gulf between brand goals and consumer wants and needs. I see the most successful content has the right balance of both. You can be out of balance either way too much, trying to engage consumers but little about your products or services or what your brand is really about, or the other way of just trying to sell, sell, sell that people don’t want to see with no helpful informational content.   So you want to find the bridge, the balance between those two.  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 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

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