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New Education Q&A structured data help document from Google

Google has released another new help document to its search developer documents today – named Education Q&A. This technical help document explains how to add Quiz structured data to your flashcard pages to appear in the Education Q&A carousel in Google Search results, Google Assistant, and Google Lens results.

Supported page types. Google said these two page types currently support this type of structured data:

  • Flashcard page: A page that contains flashcards that typically have a question on one side and an answer on the other side. To mark up flashcard pages, continue reading this guide to learn how to add Education Q&A schema.
  • Single Q&A page: A page that only contains one question and is followed by user-submitted answers. To mark up single Q&A pages, add QAPage markup instead.

Technical requirements. Google listed out these technical requirements for the Education Q&A structured data:

  • Put structured data on the most detailed leaf page possible. Don’t add structured data to pages without questions.
  • All questions must use the Flashcard value for the eduQuestionType property. Pages that contain other question types are not eligible for the Education Q&A carousel. For pages with other question types, consider using Practice Problems.
  • Ensure that your host load settings allow for frequent crawls.
  • The questions on your site should be immediately visible to users on the page, meaning that the questions aren’t held only in a data file or PDF.
  • If your page has only one question followed by several user-submitted answers, use QAPage markup instead.

English only. This seems to only be available right now for English language queries, Google said the Education Q&A carousel is available in English when searching for education-related topics on desktop and mobile.

Opt out. Google you can opt out of showing up in this search feature by using this form.

More. There is lot more detail including the technical structured data samples, how to test and monitor the results, and even this screenshot.

Why we care. Anything you can do to differentiate how your content is displayed in Google Search may improve your visibility in Google Search and thus your click through rate from Google to your site. Of course, you should test it and see if the results are worth the effort and the clicks drive more conversions.

The post New Education Q&A structured data help document from Google appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 5 days ago from searchengineland.com

The secret to achieving omnichannel success

A sublime customer experience allows customers to move from channel to channel without losing their place or the information they’ve entered. To successfully deliver these experiences, brands must meet current data, security, and personalization challenges with ambitious strategies and first-rate technology.

Join seasoned experts from Redpoint Global in a live webinar and learn how you can creatively collect first-, second- and third-party data to engage and retain consumers.

Register today for “Data-Driven Answers to Achieve Omnichannel Success” presented by Redpoint Global.

The post The secret to achieving omnichannel success appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 5 days ago from searchengineland.com

Outrank in organic search with these 5 SEO tactics

Not all SEO tactics are created equal. In fact, many SEO teams spend time working on issues that rarely move the needle.

If you want to generate impression share, drive clicks and bring intent-driven traffic to your site, you need to learn and implement these five core SEO tactics today. 

To learn more, register today for “Outrank in Organic Search with These 5 Core Tactics,” presented by Strategic SEO Solutions.

The post Outrank in organic search with these 5 SEO tactics appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

Google’s Responsive Display Ad go vertical for a better mobile experience

The popular automatic display ad type Responsive Display Ads (RDAs) will be undergoing a major transformation in the second half of this year. RDAs have been the default display option since 2018 and these new enhancements are geared toward a better mobile offering for advertisers.

Portrait images and videos now welcome. The versatility of RDAs has the ability to flex images to display on mobile devices, but Google will allow for portrait images and videos to be used.

RDA using a horizontal image (left) vs RDA with new portrait image (right)

Previous options required a landscape or a square image while using machine learning to fill in the gaps for mobile ads. This new upgrade should be a welcomed option as it gives advertisers more control over their mobile appearance.

Auto-generated vertical video. If you are an advertiser that doesn’t have vertical videos handy, Google will now be able to help create those assets for your RDAs. Google is leveraging machine learning to use existing assets to create vertical video for campaigns.

Google is using “machine learning to speed up the design and iteration process, you can deliver engaging display ads faster than ever.”

If you are an advertiser that has tight branding/brand standards, you may want to view automated vertical videos before testing, as some advertisers have been dissatisfied with auto-created videos within Performance Max campaigns.

Image uncropping, powered by machine learning. A unique addition coming to RDAs is the ability to “uncrop” images via machine learning. Google said this “automatic improvement lets your products shine by seamlessly expanding to fill the available space.”

RDA using different images in the current state (left) vs RDAs using the uncropping technology (right)

As you can see in the sample image, this does look to be a big improvement with big bold images and less white space. This shouldn’t be a problem if all ad sizes are uploaded, but it should help those advertisers who are missing sizes. 

Creative inspiration. If you are an advertiser looking for inspiration with your assets, Google has a new home for you. Creative inspiration is a filterable tool that allows you to surface some of the best ad creative from around the globe.

The filtering includes a helpful “Ad Format” option to allow for browsing by ad type. 

For more information on the improvements, see the full release and stay tuned for more after the May 24 Google Marketing Live event.

Why we care. Google said its advertisers see “2X more conversions, on average, when adding a responsive display ad to an ad group with a static display ad.” This additional image size and vertical video support should allow advertisers to deliver more specific messaging by device.

The filterable additional creative inspiration center is a nice touch for advertisers looking for new ideas. Additionally, the uncropping of images should help advertisers with a hodgepodge of image sizes in their ad groups. These tools should be warmly welcomed by advertisers everywhere.

The post Google’s Responsive Display Ad go vertical for a better mobile experience appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

How to gain insider expertise as an outside SEO vendor in 4 steps

You’re an expert in SEO, but when you engage with a new client, you aren’t an expert in what they do. But you do need to learn fast.

Hopefully, the client is a subject matter expert with tens of thousands of experience hours under their belt. As an SEO agency or consultant, you do not need their level of expert knowledge.

But you do need to know what they are saying. In most cases, you need to gain some level of insider expertise if you’re going to earn their trust and make a real difference in their business.

To do that, you need to:

  • Get to the heart of why the business stands out in the marketplace.
  • Get into the mind of the customer to gain an intimate understanding of their needs.
  • Know what makes the website tick.
  • Understand the competition, their edge and their SEO strategies.

Let’s look closer at each of these steps that will take you from novice to expert in no time.


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1. Client research 

To learn about your new client, your primary and most available resource is the people running the client’s business. Your client will be a treasure trove of expert information, from the executives to the customer service call reps.  

Start your expert learning process with an in-depth discovery interview with those who oversee the business’s marketing, product development and customer service. You may do this on the project kick-off call, or you might break it up into a series of calls with different folks in the company.

Conversations with customer service can be extremely valuable. Knowing what’s important to their customers can help you make recommendations on everything from content holes to site navigation. Answering common questions is one way to create compelling SEO content for a website.

Regardless, you need to create a template of questions for your client research. You want to make sure that you ask every new client about their business and what they do.

Get intimately familiar with their products and/or services. You can even ask them to onboard you like they would a new hire.

2. Customer research 

It’s important to know everything you can about the people your client sells to or interacts with. After all, a good SEO strategy is all about being able to reach these people with the right messages on the web.

A good place to start is to create audience personas with the client. Even better if they already have them. Knowing the audience will set you up for the next step in customer research: keyword research.

I like to say that to catch fish, you need a few things: the bait the fish are eating, to fish where the fish are and hungry fish. Personas help quite a bit. BTW, many people think they have personas well defined… like:

  • Highly intellectual
  • Advanced degree, hopefully, PhD
  • Respected
  • Extremely theoretical
  • Curious to a fault
  • Can invent when called upon
  • “White hair” studious

So beyond defining personas, keyword research is an important exercise in getting to know how the audience you are targeting searches for what you have to offer. This is a cornerstone of your SEO strategy; you want to show up for those searches in the search results with the best information possible.

3. Website research

A good SEO strategy is only as good as the website. So you need to understand the state of the client’s website and what could be hindering search engine rankings. Usually, the best way to do this is through an SEO audit. 

There are several levels of SEO audits out there, but the best SEO audit is an in-depth technical audit. This takes many hours (ours can take over 100 hours) but offers the most thorough look at a website from the technical back end to on-page optimization and beyond.

And beware, free tools are exactly that, and they often waste time focusing on things that do not matter. 

“Any SEO tool will spit out 10s or 100s of ‘recommendations,’ most of those are going to be irrelevant to your site’s visibility in search. Finding the items that make sense to work on takes experience.”

– Google’s John Mueller

4. Competitor research 

SEO is about beating the competition in search results. And to beat them, you should know:

  • Who they are.
  • What they are doing right and wrong with their SEO strategy. 

That’s why competitor research is critical. And there’s quite a bit to it.

Start with your target keywords and then analyze who shows up for them on Page 1 in Google. 

In competitor research, you might look at:

  • The market competition to assess your strengths and weaknesses against theirs.
  • The online competition, including everything from on-page and off-page factors to link profiles to the technical health of their websites to the content and much more.
  • What keywords they rank for and the extent of content on their site. Often, this exercise identifies keyword gaps on your client’s site.

Spying on your client’s competitors is one of the best ways to improve your client’s SEO strategy and how you present the client online.

Rinse and repeat

Even as you go from novice to expert on your client, there’s always going to be more to learn.

Establish a process for staying up to date and keeping the listening channel open. Or else your SEO strategy could get stale.

And invite feedback from your client so you stay on top of their evolving needs.

The post How to gain insider expertise as an outside SEO vendor in 4 steps appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

Why SEO is a great investment, not just a cost 

Companies make investments all the time. The intention of any investment is to fund something now that will deliver a return later.

So why is the investment not there for an acquisition channel like SEO?

My theory:

Investments in SEO are compounding in nature. It can be difficult to “see” the results of increases in traffic and revenue because the growth is much more visible when measured over time, often up to a year later.  

But who wants to return to leadership 12 months later saying, “Hey, look, we did it!”

Alas, that’s the nature of organic results. They take a while to produce.

This article will discuss some of the main inputs that drive organic growth, as well as the kinds of outputs to expect. Specifically, how SEO needs investments in:

  • People: Building teams to develop and oversee the SEO strategy that drives business results. 
  • Content: Creating and optimizing content that’s supported by a strong, technical foundation that drives the consumer’s journey and decision to trust and transact with your business over another. 
  • Tools: For SEO and content practitioners alike. In the same way a sports team needs a ball and equipment to play, tools are needed to find the many micro-optimizations that drive the macro impact.  

A huge misconception: SEO is “free” 

There’s no such thing as “free traffic.”

Earning consistent, quality web traffic is not free. It never has been.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a startup, enterprise brand or a company of some other type or size.

What matters is getting the best possible ROI.

That requires investing in the components that contribute to traffic growth.

Another huge misconception: SEO ‘just happens’

At its core, SEO is a long-term strategy. SEO requires an ongoing investment.

Results are realized over time as the amount of improvements compounds.

Just having a website full of content or products to sell won’t make organic traffic magically materialize.  

The reality: any traffic acquisition strategy, especially one involving growing organic traffic, requires funding.

  • People are needed to manage the strategy and daily operations.
  • Writers are needed to create and optimize content.
  • Engineers are needed to code and release improvements to the technical architecture of a website.

Practically every team in an enterprise organization touches the website or app, which means they need to be aware of how to help contribute to SEO efforts (and not unknowingly harm them). 

SEO involves multiple teams and it works best with continuous improvements. 

SEO that delivers real business value requires an ongoing, intentional investment in people, content and tools.

Organic traffic is a sustainable source of customer acquisition. SEO becomes your unfair, competitive advantage once your website outpaces its competitors.

What is an SEO investment?

At a minimum, resources for SEO teams look like this: people, content, and tools.

Businesses can choose to go “all in,” investing in building the team internally, or externally using agencies and consultants, or fund a mix of both.

The only “correct” answer here is what works for the business.

Let’s look at each. 

People

In many ways, the biggest asset a business has is its people. In SEO that means bringing on knowledgeable search engine professionals to manage the ins and outs of maintaining a website (or a group of sites).

This can range from one subject matter expert to, ideally, a team of SEOs each with a specialized skill set or unique experiences they bring to the table (think of any superhero movie where they combine their powers).

Since the success of SEO relies on the coordinated outputs of multiple teams, the investment can also include staffing people on complementary teams who are copywriters, engineering resources, strategists, web analysts, data scientists, product managers and UX professionals. 

Alternatively, if the team is not in-house, the investment costs can go toward outsourcing the work to an agency or specialized consultants. The key here is that there is a team of subject matter experts who create the right SEO strategy for the business based on its resources. They prioritize the work and collaborate with different teams to make periodic releases of SEO improvements. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention the acquisition of knowledge. In a dynamic field like SEO and digital marketing, it’s important for a business to also carve out a budget for continuous learning and development (L&D) for your SEO team.

That can mean anything from supporting their leadership development (e.g., online courses, regional SEO meetups and industry conferences that offer learning and networking opportunities). 

Content

The investment in content can take a few forms – from hiring an internal SEO content strategist to oversee a team of writers to outsourcing the work to an agency or consultant.

Bottom line: no matter how SEO content teams are structured, the key to success is having the capability to upload and publish optimized content on the website. 

It’s uncommon for a single SEO, who is dedicated to running the day-to-day SEO operations, to also be able to consistently write and publish content (those are called unicorns).

It’s also unrealistic to expect a single person to produce content at scale for a business of any size. That kind of output takes a dedicated team of specialized writers working from an editorial calendar.

Websites can’t rank without great, relevant content. This is why this type of investment is key for businesses operating online. 

Tools 

Physical writers and SEOs need tools for content creation, optimization and performance tracking.

The costs involved here? It largely depends on what the business needs and where the gaps are.

It could be volume: how many pages will be published and at what rate? How big is the team that needs access to the tool (some charge by number of “seats”). There’s also varying levels of cost with the software tools themselves ranging from basic keyword and URL rank tracking to enterprise level with more robust data for large websites that need crawling and analysis capabilities at scale. 

There are so many options for teams of all different sizes and budgets. If you’re a marketer making the decision on tools for your teams and resources, it’s best to self-educate and self-evaluate the best approach for the business.  

Paid vs. earned media (or: investing now vs. later)

Paid search and SEO (earned media) are among the two biggest traffic acquisition investments that both basically require funding of people, content and tools.

Many feel the investment in both channels should be more equally distributed. However, the reality is the results are produced in different timelines.

  • Money that goes toward a paid search campaign generates a more immediate result because campaigns can be managed daily – even hourly – which is why SEM often gets a bigger share of the budget. 
  • The ROI for an SEO investment is realized over a longer timeline; it can be months or years before a page (or pages) of optimized content are indexed by search engines and start ranking well enough to drive measurable visitors to a website.  

Think of the investment timeline in this way; you have a garden and want to grow tomato plants. To get the garden to produce that vegetable you must do all the things involved with growing that type of plant which inevitably will take a certain amount of time. 

But if you need tomatoes tomorrow, you would need to buy a fully developed tomato plant and plant it in your garden. That’s Paid Search. 

So if you want tomatoes tomorrow, and if you haven’t been properly tending to your garden, they won’t be there because gardens don’t produce immediate results. That’s SEO.  

Using this example, one can see it’s not sustainable for a business to be overly reliant on a channel like paid search to drive customers to its website. The budget will eventually run out or you will get priced out of the market in a bidding war. 

SEO cannot deliver immediate results like paid search because it doesn’t operate that way. But SEO is like a garden that will bear an abundance of fruit year after year, as long as it’s properly cared for season after season. 

Investing in an SEO team  

Google made more than 5,000 changes to search just in 2021.

That alone is reason enough to have an experienced team overseeing every aspect of SEO. 

Say you’re a director or manager and tasked with growing your SEO team. You have to look at your internal resources and what kind of expertise the business needs.

Maybe it’s an e-commerce site where a technical SEO with e-commerce experience would benefit the business. Maybe your business needs to double down and update its content.

Find whatever type of SEO skills and experience is needed for the business. 

The point is that every company will need a different mix of SEO skills.

A bare-bones in-house SEO team at the enterprise level and estimated salary range (USD) looks something like this: 

  • Director of SEO: $150,000+
  • Senior SEO Manager: $120,000+
  • SEO Product Manager: $120,000+
  • Technical SEO Lead: $120,000+
  • Content SEO Lead: $110,000+
  • SEO Analyst: (specializing in data science and mining the company data for insights) $150,000+
  • Platform specialist: (enterprise sites are built on solutions at scale like Salesforce or they’re bootstrapped together; what matters is that you have an SME that can make technical changes to the site based on the platform it’s on) $150,000+

Remember, you can’t just build the team and not equip them with the right tools. A great football team isn’t just made up of only players – you also need different types of coaches, equipment and gear, training facilities and more.

This is why SEO is considered a long-term investment. Hiring talented and experienced individuals to oversee and improve upon the content and technical architecture of a website is an investment that requires upfront funding and pays dividends later. 

It’s similar to the investment involved in owning a home. A homeowner needs to proactively set aside a budget for home improvement projects and general upkeep of their property. Doing proper repairs over time means when the house is on the market, it’s attractive to a buyer and will sell for top dollar thereby netting a return for the homeowner.  

In the same way that it is financially more prudent to upkeep a property over time than it is to do a full rehab, a business needs SEO professionals to look after and improve upon the website as a whole. 

SEO is profitable: the ROI of SEO

The main SEO KPIs are traffic and revenue. 

How much can SEO increase traffic? That can be tricky to pin down because it depends on a number of factors related to output like:

  • How often are you releasing improvements to your site?
  • What kind of improvements are they?
  • Are they ones that will move the needle?

As a starting point, one way to approach this calculation is to frame it like this: take the baseline of your existing level of yearly organic traffic (from your traffic source, like Adobe or Google Analytics). From there, ask “what does a 1% improvement look like?” And, subsequently, “if we did nothing, what would a hypothetical 1% decline in traffic look like?”

That’s your  +/- baseline where you can then extrapolate up to 5% in either direction as an estimation of improvement or decline in site visits.

For context: “doing nothing” means releasing no technical SEO improvements or updates to existing content or publishing new content.

Important: Doing nothing can sometimes cost more than a marginal investment in SEO. 

Measuring the ROI of an SEO investment

SEO should be more widely viewed as an investment because it doesn’t yield direct results for dollars spent from day one.

Think about the reason it’s considered financially sound to invest money into a 401K account, is that the expectation is that the funds will grow over time and be greater when you need them in the future. That happens because of continued investment in the fund and compound growth.  The same is true for SEO. 

Savvy marketers know Search is an attribution channel that grows over time as improvements are made to the site. 

“Search is a critical part of website traffic, as can be seen clearly from almost any Google Analytics account you might look at,” says Krista Seiden, Founder & Principal Consultant, KS Digital. “Whether it’s last click attribution or a multi-touch path to conversion, organic search is a key driver for a majority of businesses out there, and therefore, an important reason to invest in the channel itself.” 

Content optimizations are another measurable SEO investment that requires funding up front and pays dividends down the road. Let me explain. 

Most marketers should be familiar with the stages of the buyer’s journey:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

It turns out that customers seek out different types of content based on where they are in the process of their evaluations. The key is to meet the customer’s search intent with your content.

This fantastic illustration from Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media highlights what types of content a business would need to have in order to attract, inform and convince someone to buy their product:  

Now, think about how many types of content your business has, or doesn’t have, from each section on that list. When was the last time that content was updated? What content is missing that you’d need to create that would make your offer more competitive? 

Let’s say you do a content audit on your site and determine you don’t have any how-to content.  Hypothetically, it might cost $500 to $1,000 to get a 1,500-word article written and published on your site so that when people search for something like “how to replace an LG water filter” you have an article that can appear at the top of the SERPs. 

If done well, the article is comprehensive about the topic, relevant for a number of terms people are searching for and maintains its ranking on the first page of Google for months if not years. The result is that the initial, one-time cost to create the article contributes to multiple sales thereafter.  

That, in a nutshell, is how investing in content optimization delivers value year after year.  

SEO Investments based on business size

Now let’s look at how it can be profitable at different levels. Take this with a grain of salt; these are ballpark estimates for the sake of evaluating what an SEO investment breakdown could look like based on annual revenue and company size.

Startup, SMB

  • Headcount: 5-50 full time employees
  • Annual Revenue: <$50M 
  • Rough SEO Investment: $1-$5K/month, $60K/yr.
  • Revenue from SEO channel: between 2-5%

At the startup and small business level, an investment in SEO is best once a product market fit has been determined. Most startups are in need of acquiring paying customers quickly. Once there’s stability from customers and recurring revenue, SEO can come in and improve upon the existing site content and performance to help cast a wider net thereby amplifying the product and attracting more prospects. 

Most small businesses should invest in SEO but they often don’t because it’s expensive and there often isn’t anyone besides the business owner to update the website. Investing a small amount in SEO services will help drive foot traffic to retail locations.

Agencies and/or specialized consultants in the local SEO space are great resources because they can often shoulder the resource load to make the website mobile-friendly and optimize the content for things like Google Maps and a Google Business Profile listing. 

For SMBs hiring an SEO should be like hiring a trusted, licensed professional to do your taxes. It’s not something every business owner can or needs to do on their own. Hire an expert that will look out for your SEO needs as it relates to your business.   

My recommendation for SMBs would be to start allocating at least $1,000/month towards SEO services. Take it out of your advertising or marketing budget for 3 months and see what you can get done.

Mid-size 

  • Headcount: 50-250 full time employees
  • Annual Revenue: $50M-$1B
  • Rough SEO Investment: $10-$20K/month, $240K/yr
  • Revenue from SEO channel: between 5-10%

Mid-sized businesses should invest in SEO because it’s a more cost effective way to acquire customers long term and they to benefit the most from SEO investments because they typically have some resources to afford supporting their in-house SEO lead with external agency services and/or consultants. At this level, an investment in SEO can mean the difference between being able to drive efficiencies at scale and pull ahead of competitors or being left behind. 

At mid-size companies and agencies it’s usually the marketing team’s responsibility to oversee the website. An SEO specialist can be part of that team but, still both technical and content resources can be scarce.

The midsize level is where SEO can really grow a business. But without a knowledgeable expert that’s overseeing the technical aspects of your site and optimizing your content for what real people are searching for that relates to your business, you’re missing out. 

Enterprise organizations

  • Headcount: 1,000+
  • Annual Revenue: 1M+
  • Rough SEO Investment: at least $1M/year
  • Revenue from SEO channel: between 5-20%

At the enterprise level, SEO results rely on investment in addition to consistent outputs of multiple teams. Enterprise SEO is more about establishing processes so that different cross functional teams can each improve upon the technical aspects like architecture, internal linking and crawl and index efficiencies.

On the content front, it’s about partnering with internal brand and content teams to write and publish content optimizations at scale that deliver a better user experience than competitor sites. 

Large sites often require more than fixing issues flagged in an SEO audit. Because SEO is inherently a cross functional discipline, if a business wants to be able to thrive off of its organic traffic, it requires strategic oversight to prioritize and collaborate internally across many different teams delivering on the SEO work; product, engineering, QA, delivery managers, content, UX, and design teams just to name a few.

“[To] see SEO results you need more than SEO investment – SEO relies on product, technology and content. It’s a hybrid, complex domain that is interdependent on other resources, teams and outputs.”

– Tom Critchlow in his email newsletter SEO MBA

SEO success depends on cross-functional teams, especially the outputs of engineering and content. If you cannot publish code or content, don’t expect to see your SEO traffic improve. 

The Benefits of SEO

Even a small investment in maintaining a website’s performance, content and user experience can accumulate over time to provide the business with a return, year after year.  

SEO is always a great investment because humans are naturally curious; we’re always searching for ways to solve our problems, new places to eat, directions to where we’re going–we are engineered to ask questions and that handy, mobile device in our pocket that’s connected to the internet 24/7 is ready to answer any and every query. 

Here are some key SEO statistics:

  • 93% of the time, an online session begins by searching keywords on a search engine.
  • As of 2021, 53% of all website traffic (worldwide) clicks on organic results.
  • Google alone processes more than 40,000 keyword searches every single second. That’s over 3.5 billion searches in a single day and 1.2 trillion per year!
  • 16-20% of keywords searched on Google in any given day have never been searched before.

These compelling stats point to the fact that search isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

In addition to curious humans, another benefit of investing in SEO is that it addresses many of the same challenges associated with the need for making websites easier to navigate for the percentage of the population that has a disability. This practice is known as accessibility.

It’s not a 1:1 match but there are many principles of technical SEO that also translate into enabling those that must navigate websites with a screen reader (data shows 8.1 million Americans have a vision impairment) to have a better user experience. 

On top of that, SEO with accessibility labels used in the QA automation process makes things even more efficient since those labels make testing automation easier. That’s a nice win for multiple in-house teams contributing to SEO and driving business value. 

SEO Tactics to invest in 

Page speed 

In 2022, the North Star of investment is improving website speed and performance according to measurements from Google known as Core Web Vitals (CWV). These are aspects that help a website load quickly for both search engines and users.

Many teams are organizing around: 

  • LCP (largest contentful paint): loading the heaviest assets first so the rest seems seamless. 
  • CLS (cumulative layout shift): minimizing the elements that “jump” or move around the screen while it loads. 
  • FID (first input delay): the time when users first interact with the page and can accomplish what they came to do.

Fundamentally, your website pages should load quickly. Speed became a ranking factor in July 2018 and it’s what users expect. But speed alone won’t result in increased traffic. 

Relevant and authoritative content 

Improving content (either updating existing content or pruning underperforming pages) is one of the best investments for SEO dollars.

Why?

Google is getting better at determining user intent. Which means it’s table stakes to stay on top of your content making sure it’s helpful, accurate and relevant. 

It’s worth investing in overhauling your content to improve your E-A-T signals

  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness 

The generic searches that occur at the top of the funnel (TOFU) is largely where SEO is most efficient for enterprise businesses. Big brands can usually afford a larger budget for paid search but over time it benefits the business greatly if the amount of incoming, new visitors arrive at the website due to the efforts of a strategic, ongoing investment in well-written, relevant content. 

Technical SEO outputs

This relates to the velocity, or speed, at which engineering and product teams can collaborate with SEO teams to fix the technical aspects of the site. A consistent level of output will contribute to a healthy and strong technical foundation.

Generally speaking, if a site goes 6 months or more without releasing any technical improvements it’s at risk of losing meaningful rankings and therefore traffic because it’s not able to be as competitive online against other teams who are focused on testing and learning to improve upon the SEO results they’re seeing. 

A few reasons not to invest in SEO

Let’s say you’re a:

  • Startup that hasn’t found a product market fit. 
  • You’re an affiliate site only trying to generate revenue. Keep reaching out to influencers… 
  • You’re under the illusion link building is the only way to go. Have fun with that. 
  • You have a target number of users to hit for investors which means you should look to paid search to acquire customers quickly, then use SEO to keep them. 
  • If your business has limited engineering resources or none at all. SEO relies on partnerships with engineering and content teams and their frequent output. 
  • When you can’t afford to pay a knowledgeable consultant or agency for their services. Worldwide, SEO providers charge $112.22 on average per hour and 50% of SEO providers worldwide have a monthly retainer minimum under $3,000 per month.

For SEO to deliver, it requires investment and collaboration   

Make no mistake: SEO is two things. It is work and it is worth it!

Ever hear the saying “Anything worth having is hard or requires work?” The same is true for SEO.

A site that loads quickly, is secure for processing transactions, and has relevant and helpful content –those are the table stakes that need looking after in order to be competitive online. 

The fallacy that organic traffic “just happens” and doesn’t cost anything is flat out wrong. It takes a level of investment to develop organic traffic into a meaningful marketing channel furthermore driving a sustainable return. 

A steady flow of organic traffic is one of the strongest foundations a business can have.

SEO investments are worth it because every human on the planet searches for products, services and information to make their lives easier. Your business needs to be the solution at the top of customers’ consideration list.  

It’s crucial for businesses to invest in SEO because it’s a discipline that’s uniquely designed to optimize the technical aspects of a website for search engines so that real humans searching online are able to find it when looking for great products and solutions. 

Remember, the ROI of SEO is not immediate; it compounds over time. Whereas paid search is either on or off. When your budget for PPC ads runs out, what then?

SEO is a channel that will always deliver. You just have to keep investing.

The post Why SEO is a great investment, not just a cost  appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

Protect the Hours of Operation on Your GBP from Unwanted Google Edits

Image credit: Bart Maguire

Over the next six months, Google is going to employ machine learning and AI to alter the hours of operation on twenty million Google Business Profiles as part of their project of creating a “self-updating map”. Some experts estimate that this is roughly one-fifth to one-sixth of all GBP listings, meaning the chances are strong that you or one or more of your clients could experience these edits.

Google has good reason for pursuing accuracy in their local index, but local business owners have even better reason to be on top of this announcement and proactively safeguard the validity of their own data. Today, we’ll show you what to do to take charge on these vital listings which, while they belong to Google, represent your business.

Why is this happening and is this new?

Google is right in observing that the chaos of COVID-19 has affected the accuracy of their local business index. Updating GBP hours to reflect changes may not be at the top of the to-do lists of business owners struggling with so many challenges.

However, Google’s description of how they plan to alter business hours is raising some alarm, due to the peculiarity of their disclosed methods. Some processes are sound. For example, Google mentions use of Duplex to actually phone business owners directly to ask what their current open hours are, which makes excellent horse sense. Additionally, asking Local Guides to validate this information could also help if an owner is unreachable, for some reason, and the guides being tapped are civic-minded instead of just playing for points. All fine and good.

Where we get into murkier waters is in Google saying they will use the hours of other related local businesses to “predict” what the hours should be for the business you are marketing. The example they use is determining what the hours of Liam’s Lemonade Shop should be by looking at the hours of other nearby lemonade shops. In other words, if Larry’s Lemonade Emporium is open from 9-5, Google assumes that Liam’s Lemonade Shop shop should be, too, which will come as a surprise to him if he runs a late night citrus spot. I’m not the only one finding Google’s logic less than exemplary on this.

Another process Google mentions is that of deriving information from Street View, which I am dubious about, given that many places I visit via this service have not been updated in more than a year, and in some cases, in more than a decade:

If Google’s thinking is that harried business owners have not had the free time necessary to keep their hours updated throughout the past two years, then trying to glean this information from random snapshots in time of whenever a Google vehicle last passed through town seems like a rather fuzzy solution. The hours of your business in 2022 may be quite different from what they were a year ago, or five years ago.

If some of Google’s ways and means accompanying this big announcement have a familiar ring to them, it’s because what they are describing is not, in fact, totally new. Since the beginning of local search history, Google has crowdsourced information and implemented it in their listings, and all of that time, local SEOs and local business owners have been suggesting that this is not a good substitute for getting information directly from the companies Google is representing and monetizing via their system. We basically have to view this development from Google as an acknowledgement of three things:

  1. Your listings belong to Google.

  2. Google has never reached the level of direct local business owner engagement they actually need to maintain the quality of their index.

  3. In the absence of this, they substitute crowdsourcing and technology in hopes of achieving enough accuracy to maintain a certain degree of public trust necessary to be able to keep monetizing SERPs and having them seen and used.

So, take a deep breath. This is the Google we already know, putting a high tech spin on a historic communications failure, but don’t overlook this announcement. It’s a strong message from the search engine that you have to stay on top of your own listings if you don’t want Google to completely take over and edit your data based on random information. Fortunately, there are specific things you can do to take charge!

How to proactively protect your GBP hours

Here’s a short list of your five best options for signaling to Google that, yes, you are staying on top of your own hours and don’t require assistance.

  1. Be sure the hours of operation on your website are accurate. Google says this is one of the places they investigate.

  2. Sorry for the pain-in-the-neck, but if you manage your listings manually, you now need to regularly check all of them to see if Google has altered their hours. I’d recommend checking at least every month (as if you don’t already have enough to do). Moz Local customers have a much easier option. Just check the Profile Suggestions section of your dashboard to see, at a glance, whether Google or anyone else is trying to edit your hours, even if you have hundreds of listings. Being alerted when data changes are suggested should provide so much peace of mind, and you can accept or reject edit suggestions. Whew!

  3. Thirdly, take some time this week to edit your hours, even if the edit is small. For example, you could go into your listings today to set special hours for the winter holidays in advance, proving to Google that you are well aware of your own schedule and that your hours of operation are not neglected.

  4. Remember our recent discussion of the QRG and how Google employs human quality raters to get a sense of your business from what others are saying about it? Be sure all of your local business listings across your local search ecosystem are up-to-date with correct hours (another thing Moz Local makes so much easier!) so that quality raters aren’t encountering complaints from customers who came to your business and found it closed when it was listed online as being open for business.

  5. Finally, for brick-and-mortar brands, do step outside today and be sure the hours displayed on your windows, doors, and street level signage are accurate, just in case a Google Maps Car or a local guide is heading your way.

Google is telling us, yet again, that local business listings aren’t a set-and-forget asset

A local SEO myth that I see surfacing frequently is that you can build out your listings and then forget about them. This is simply not true! Ongoing, active management of all of your listings has always been essential for three core reasons:

  1. Incorrect information on neglected listings has been proven to lead to negative reviews from inconvenienced customers, and negative reviews undermine conversions/transactions. If your real-world hours change and you don’t update your online listings across the local search ecosystem, customers will complain in reviews and the low-star rating they assign you will influence the impressions and actions of other potential customers. Meanwhile, remember that wrong hours in one place can then be distributed to multiple local business listing platforms and apps in the absence of active management. Customer care is the number one reason why you can’t neglect your listings.

  2. It isn’t just Google which can decide they know better than you about key fields of your listing. Any member of the public, including competitors and spammers, can suggest edits to your profiles that you will be unaware of if you are not paying attention.

  3. It’s an outdated perspective to view local business listings as static entities. Year-over-year, Google Business Profiles, in particular, are becoming increasingly interactive and transactional. Competitive local businesses must have a solid strategy for continuous management of photos, reviews, Q&A, messaging, bookings, shopping and more. Far from being a one-and-done scenario, listings management is central to local business operations.

Given that Google shows no signs of ceding total control of listings to business owners, your best strategy is to take as much charge as you can and be as proactive as possible in publishing dynamic information to your listings. With Google’s latest announcement fresh in all our minds, today might be a good day to check out Moz Local to simplify your local to-do list.

Reblogged 6 days ago from moz.com

Google now allows virtual food brands to have Google Business Profiles

Google has updated its Google Business profile guidelines page under the “guidelines for chains, departments & individual practitioners” to allow virtual food brands to be listed with “conditions.”

One of the more popular virtual food brands is MrBeast Burgers, a popular YouTube creator has deals with local burger shops to sell his own branded burgers but MrBeast does not have any official burger shop or workers. You buy virtual branded food items made by the local shop. Joy Hawkins said with these updated guidelines “Mr. Beast would be allowed listings and should set them up as service area listings (without an address).”

Updated guidelines. The updated guidelines now say “virtual food brands are permitted with conditions.” It goes on to write out those conditions:

Co-located food brands offering pick-up

  • Food brands that are co-located each must have permanent separate signage. They should display their address only if they offer pick-up to all customers.
  • Delivery-only brands (no-pick up option) out of shared kitchens must hide their address and add service areas to that specific brand to avoid confusing their customers.

Delivery-only food brands

  • Delivery-only brands (i.e. those operating out of virtual kitchens) are permitted if they have distinct branded packaging and a distinct website.
  • Multiple virtual brands operating out of one location are permitted, but are subject to additional verification steps.
  • Delivery-only brands must add their service areas and hide the address on their business profile to avoid confusing their customers.
  • If there is a partnership where a food brand has authorized the virtual kitchen as a verified provider of the food, the virtual kitchen may manage each authorized brand’s business profile once the authorization is confirmed.
  • The facility that houses the delivery-only brands, i.e. Doordash Kitchens, is permitted to have its own separate business profile. Only someone affiliated with the facility can claim and verify this profile.

Virtual food brands in local search. Yes, MrBeast Burgers, a virtual food brand, does indeed show up in Google local search results:

Why we care. So now Google is allowing virtual food brands to have listings in Google Business Profiles and thus Google Maps and local search results. If you have any clients that offer virtual food brands or you run your own, you can now technically show up in the local search results in Google Search and Google Maps. This is even when the address is technically not listed and there is no physical presence of that business outside of another business slapping on a new label on the product.

The post Google now allows virtual food brands to have Google Business Profiles appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

So you think you’re a martech genius?

Marketing is more complex than ever. And its evolution is accelerating. Agile, automation, blockchain, attribution… web3, DMP, CDP, DKIM… the metaverse

Keeping up is essential. Are you? Test your martech IQ with our fun and informative 10-question quiz!

Once you’re done, share this quiz and challenge your friends!

The post So you think you’re a martech genius? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

When and How To Use Plain Text Emails

Plain text emails are a minimalist marketer’s best friend. And while they are sometimes viewed as “old school,” text-based emails are still read and sent all the time. You’ve probably been sending some yourself.

So if paring your email messages down to their simplest form, or making your emails readable on devices like Apple watches sounds interesting, keep reading. This article will cover:

What is a plain text email?

A plain text email is what it sounds like: It’s an email message that only includes text. There are no images or graphics and no formatting. All the links are written out.

Here’s an example of a plain text email:

An example of a plain text email.

And here’s the HTML version of that same email:

An example of an HTML email

The difference between plain text and HTML emails

As you can see in the examples above, plain text emails look like… plain text. HTML emails look more like a website page, complete with an image, a colored background, and embedded links – all the visual elements most marketers want to have in their emails. 

Maybe most marketers, but not all of them. One survey of email marketers showed that only 20% of marketers prefer to send only HTML emails. 62% prefer to send a hybrid HTML/plain text email, and 16% actually prefer to send only text-based emails. 

Most email marketers send two versions of every email: a plain-text email and an HTML email.

This is consistent with email marketing best practices. It’s also fairly easy to do. Almost all email marketing services let people send two versions of their emails – text and HTML. And many email services will automatically create a text version of every email

When two versions of an email are sent (using “​​multi-part MIME format,” if you want to get geeky), each subscriber’s email client will show either the HTML or the plain text version, depending on the settings in the subscriber’s email client. 

For the email senders who expressly want to send only text emails, many email service providers allow them to set up their email campaign so it only goes out as plain text.

This is why you’re probably sending plain text emails already – because your email service provider automatically makes a text version of every email you send. 

When to use a text-based email instead of an HTML email

So why do some email marketing services automatically create text-only emails? Is there ever a good reason to send only a text-based email?

Those are all great questions. 

Plain text emails still have their place. Here are five reasons to use them:

  • Plain text emails have a smaller file size than HTML emails, so they load faster

Text-only emails are great if your subscribers happen to have a slow internet connection. So… say you’re sending emails to hikers in the backcountry or to people in other remote places. If you sent them a text-only message, they’d be more likely to be able to read it without having to wait a long time for it to load. 

  • Text-only emails can be read on more devices.

Plain text emails can be read by “internet of things” sort of devices like Apple Watches, or even by apps that can read people’s emails to them while they’re driving. 

This also means they’re better for accessibility. For those that depend on text-to-speech readers, these emails are easier to be read aloud for those with vision impairments.

  • Plain text emails can have a more personal feel.

Sometimes copywriters, coaches, or consultants will send text-only emails because they want their emails to appear more personal. And a plain text message does look more like a message you’d get from a friend. 

How well this tactic will work will depend on your audience and your copywriting skills. Once all the pretty pictures and design are gone, all that’s left is your copy.

  • Text-only emails can be a good format for transactional emails

One other instance where you might see a text email now is if you’ve placed an order online. Not all ecommerce websites send text-only transactional emails, but many do. 

You won’t be able to include product photographs or social media icon links if you use a plain text email, but if you’re just getting started with your business, sending a plain-text email is a good enough start. 

  • Some ecommerce consultants say that “ugly” (aka plain) emails convert better than “pretty” (HTML) emails

Why? They say because ugly emails stand out in the inbox better. There are also reports that ugly emails work better for fundraising as well.

The jury’s out on this – but you might want to test the theory. Create a split-test of a few ugly emails and test them against your prettier HTML emails. Let us know what you find out!

Ugly emails sometimes convert better than prettier, HTML emails.

Do text emails improve email deliverability?

No. But a few years ago, there was some discussion online about whether or not plain text emails improved email deliverability. Ultimately, it wasn’t true. 

AWeber email deliverability expert Chris Wong suggests that any worry about HTML versus plain text email delivery is misplaced. He suggests,


The better questions to ask are the following:

1 – Who are your subscribers (are they Gmail, Yahoo, etc, users, or are they B2B users)?

2 – Has the user subscribed to be mailed and provided their consent to be mailed, and are they expecting your messages?

3 – Are the messages being sent engaging to the user or are they being ignored, or worse, users are complaining about them?  Regularly look at your engagement rate trends.

There are various signals involved that contribute to whether messages go to the Inbox.  Depending on who you are mailing and the Mailbox Provider they reside with, that will dictate where your focus should be.  Major Mailbox Providers will heavily weigh user engagement, both positive and negative.  The assessment from those will have a strong influence on where the messages go.   

Be wary of what’s in your messages as well.  After paying attention to your engagement rates and bounce rates, then check if any link domains are blocklisted, or if there are particular words or phrases that might be contributing to spam detection.  This will entail testing your message, trying different variations, as well as performing split-testing, which can be helpful to test subject lines and message content, providing insight into what performs best.   


So set that email marketing myth aside. There are good reasons to send plain text emails, but email deliverability isn’t one of them. 

How to make text-only emails look better

Plain text emails can be “dressed up” a bit more than just plain text. This is especially important for scannability and calls to action.

As you probably know, most people don’t read all the copy on a page (you aren’t the only one who skims!). We can’t stop this behavior, so we have to adapt to it. Even pro copywriters will make their copy easy to scan. 

To make your emails easier to scan, try:

  • One-line or very short paragraphs
  • Bullet points 
  • Simple characters to emphasize text
  • Putting your call to action on a line by itself
  • Using a postscript to highlight the key message of your email
  • Occasionally using all caps (please use sparingly)


This text email from email copywriting master Ben Settle employs many of those best practices, including one-line paragraphs, the call to action on its own line, and a few words in all caps.

Many copywriters prefer plain text emails because they appear to be more like a letter to a friend than HTML emails.

Clean up auto-generated plain text emails 

So you probably have already been sending plain text emails, because most email marketing services send both text and HTML versions of every email.

But have you ever checked how your plain text emails look?

Sometimes auto-generated text emails get a little garbled, so it’s not a bad idea to do a quick spot check of your emails before they go out. You’ll probably only have to add a few line breaks, but it will make your emails easier to read. This is especially true if you tend to send HTML emails in a two or three-column layout.

Here’s how to do this within an AWeber account. This is the view of the message editor. It shows the HTML version of an email message. To edit the plain text version, just click on the plain text icon in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.

Here's where to click to edit the text-only version of your emails in your AWeber account.

After you click that, you’ll see the text version of your email. 

It's a good idea to clean up the automatically generated text-only version of your emails.

Even now, plain text emails have their place

So that’s the 411 on plain text emails. They deserve more attention than they get. Depending on your audience and your email marketing goals, they might work really well for you. And if you have any results to share about plain text emails that outperformed HTML emails, we’d love to hear about them in the comments. 

The post When and How To Use Plain Text Emails appeared first on AWeber.



Reblogged 1 week ago from blog.aweber.com