Today’s customer decision journey is so complex but AI can help

Today’s customer decision journey is so complex but AI can help

Myth: “The customer journey is not as complex as it’s made out to be.” One thing is for sure – the consumer decision journey is more complex than ever before. The average consumer now owns three to four devices and uses multiple online and offline channels throughout their shopping journeys. The game is changing as marketers turn to artificial intelligence, agencies and data to help them navigate new consumer behavior. Every marketer today needs to be addressing these challenges as the CDJ itself is disrupting the digital landscape.

For instance, consumers are increasingly turning to mobile devices throughout their journey to gather coupons, compare prices and read about products. Nearly 60% of shoppers research products and prices via mobile while in store and 87% of shoppers think brands need to build a more seamless shopping experience.

Consumers are also researching online and then converting in-store. In fact, according to a recent Harvard Business Review study, 73% of the shoppers studied used multiple channels throughout their journey. Consider these stats:

  • 50% of shoppers expect to make a purchase online and pick up in-store.
  • 71% of shoppers agree that it is important or very important to be able to view inventory information online for in-store products.
  • 45% of shoppers in-store to be knowledgeable about online-only products.
  • 87% of customers want a seamless experience and think brands need to put more effort into providing one.
  • Nearly 60% of shoppers use their mobile phones to look up product information and prices in stores.

You can see from these stats, omnichannel is here to stay as consumers jump between devices and online/offline activity. To make things even more complicated, at any point, consumers could be on the verge of conversion on one device while receiving early-funnel messaging on another. Today’s marketers must embrace omnichannel fundamentals, such as offering in-store pick-up online and optimizing mobile campaigns for a variety of KPIs such as downloads and views.

The new CDJ takes shape

While early marketing efforts and attribution models (first-click/last-click/linear/time decay) tended to oversimplify the CDJ, that is certainly no longer the case. The new CDJ has evolved to look less like a straight line and more like an intergalactic star with more data points than a single person could count. For example, this is an actual representation of just one data set of recent search queries on Bing related to “enterprise cloud software.”

When zooming in, one can see the myriad of keyword searches in color-coded clusters.

AI is no longer an option, but a requirement for experiencing success with today’s CDJ.

Here are some tips for creating hyper-personalized touchpoints in modern journeys:

  • Leverage cloud platforms and share data across all departments for greater customer insights.
  • Bring together first-party and third-party data signals to create holistic views of the customer.
  • Partner with technology providers and advertising platforms that can analyze the impact of online advertising to offline conversions.
  • Focus less on a path-to-purchase and more on an evolved path-to-identity.
  • Make all touchpoints shoppable (Instagram/chatbots/local inventory ads).

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

​Christi Olson is a Search Evangelist at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington. For over a decade Christi has been a student and practitioner of SEM. Prior to joining the Bing Ads team within Microsoft, Christi worked in marketing both in-house and at agencies at Point It, Expedia, Harry & David, and Microsoft (MSN, Bing, Windows). When she's not geeking out about search and digital marketing she can be found with her husband at ACUO crossfit and running races across the PacificNW, brewing and trying to find the perfect beer, and going for lots of walks with their two schnauzers and pug.

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SMX Replay: How to use data storytelling to earn top-tier media coverage

SMX Replay: How to use data storytelling to earn top-tier media coverage

Getting your brand’s content referenced — or even linked to — by major media outlets can help to establish it as an authority within your industry and increase its visibility. However, that kind of coverage is something most businesses can only dream of.

At SMX Advanced this year, Amanda Milligan, marketing director at Fractl, explained the techniques she used to create data-driven content that resulted in coverage for her client from the likes of CNN, the Today show, NPR and many others.

Listen to her full Insights session above, then keep on reading for her tips on how to pitch your content to publishers. The full transcript is also below.

When pitching your content to publications, Milligan recommends that you keep the following in mind:

  • Consider both the authority of the publisher and its target audience. Reader interest is ultimately what publishers will consider when making decisions about running your content. In your correspondence, include why their readers would find your information intriguing or valuable.
  • Find out how frequently a reporter or publisher posts content. If it’s monthly, for example, you have a much lower chance of getting published than if it’s daily or weekly. Also, look at the type of content they publish (text-only, infographics, interactives, videos, etc.) and make sure your content aligns with that.
  • Don’t be generic. Reporters and editors get tons of pitches every day, and many of them are still based on templates. Take the time to do research about the writer and the publication and reach out in a real, “human” way — it’s a person you’re reaching out to, after all. Think about what you’d say in real life and apply it to your online communication.

More from SMX Advanced 2019

Can’t listen right now? Read the full transcript below

Introduction by George Nguyen:
Wouldn’t you love to have your content referenced by leading publications like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or even Search Engine Land? Well, we can’t guarantee you that; but, we can light up a path to help get you there. Welcome to the Search Engine Land podcast, I’m your host George Nguyen and you’re about to hear from Amanda Milligan, marketing director for Fractl.

At SMX Advanced, she delivered an Insights session on how to use data storytelling to earn premium media coverage for your brand. We hope it sparks some ideas, and if it does, do us a favor and pass this podcast around to your team. Enough from me, here’s Amanda…

Amanda Milligan:
Hello everyone. First of all, I want to apologize. My voice is a little hoarse. Apparently, that’s what happens when you choose to go to karaoke after the Search Engine Land Awards. I don’t regret it, though, so bear with me. I’m Amanda Milligan. I work at an organic growth marketing agency called Fractl, and today I’m going to talk to you about how to get really high tier links and brand coverage through data storytelling.

So, before I jump in, I want you to think about that one publisher you would love your brand to be mentioned in. Okay, think about that. We’re going to come back to it. But, when I say, “high,” “top tier,” “high authority,” — when we talk about it internally, we’re thinking typically those are publishers that have a domain authority of at least 70-ish. But, really what I’m talking about is the names, you know, right?

It’s the CNNs, the Washington Posts, but it’s also in different verticals, the publishers you’ve heard of, right? You can look at this list and say, “Yeah, I’ve read an article by them. People know who they are. That’s where I would love to get coverage for my brand, for my client’s brand, etc.” And, we did a report recently — this is kind of our bread and butter at the agency where we create data-driven campaigns — and we pitch them with our digital PR team. We wanted to see, we knew it was working in the short term, but we didn’t always have data about years past. We did a report recently. We took our four best performing campaigns and we saw that 50% of the links came in in the first month, but the other 50% was in years following. So, this type of strategy might be twice as effective as we have even realized, which was pretty exciting to see.

So, I’m going to take you back to three years ago, because this is where the example I want to present started. We had a client called Travelmath, I was actually on this account, so I love talking about this because their campaigns are really fun. They’re in the travel space and we did a variety of campaigns for them that were data-driven. We did “hygiene campaigns” as we like to say. We sent people out to swab different parts of airplanes and hotels and spoiler alert: the dirtiest part of an airplane is the tray table, so keep that in the upright position when you fly home. But we did a few others too. We even took data that already existed about airports, like the TSA, how annoying TSA was, how much the delays were for different airlines and we ranked the best and worst airports; we did a bunch of campaigns like this. And we were able to get coverage like this for them. And this is just a snapshot.

These are what I would consider pretty top tier, right? I just heard our name on NPR, we didn’t even pitch that, they just were talking about it because it was covered by some of these other places. We were also able to get some more of their industry too — the top names in their industry, so Lonely Planet, Travel and Leisure, etc. So, the reason why I’m saying all of this is not, I mean it is, it’s sexy, right? You love to report like, “Oh, we were just featured in this awesome site,” everybody wants to do that. But, it’s really the impact that happens after, too.

When you get coverage like that, we continue to see, in the following two years, coverage happening because we were generating these new studies, these new reports based on data and people naturally wanted to talk about it. They saw it covered on these other publishers and they wanted to use it too. And there wasn’t really anything else for them to link to that was like it. Amazingly, and I had just looked this up a couple of months ago, this year — we have done nothing, I have not looked at any of this in years — these reports, these hygiene campaigns, they’re still being covered. And, take a look at how they’re talking about them: they say, “study,” “according to,” “conducted research,” and that type of language is building authority for the brand. And this is all happening naturally because of our initial efforts when creating these types of campaigns. So, this is the fun little graphic we like to use.


We say, “Okay, we get this top tier coverage. It naturally syndicates.” If you get sites that big publishing your content, it will naturally syndicate to other sites and then you get all of that inherent engagement for years sometimes, but then it’s also building your backlink portfolio, which is getting you better organic traffic and it’s increasing your brand awareness naturally.

So there’s just a lot of benefits to this and now you’re like, “Okay, I get it, it’s great, but how do we do it?” Fair enough. This is what I would say — if we’re going to take anything away today, it should be this — this is our mental checklist whenever we’re coming up with content. If it meets these three criteria, you’re much more likely to be successful.


We’re talking about data-driven stuff, it’s already going to be original — if it’s your internal data, even better. But, if you’re coming up with new reports or you’re taking data out there and you’re distilling it and presenting it in ways that people haven’t seen, that’s still new, even though the information is out there. I mean, how many people just lookup databases and check out spreadsheets about things? We’re not doing that. People want you to take it and make it make sense to them.

Widely appealing: I’m going to talk about this in a second, but if you’re really on brand all the time, you might have kind of reached your threshold about the types of publishers you’re able to get on, right? Because you’re not appealing to a wide enough audience. A lot of these publishers want you to give them content that is going to be relevant to most of the people who read their publication. And then, we did a study several years ago about the emotions that are most associated with viral content. Surprisingly, positive emotions actually were more impactful than negative, which I was not expecting, but more specifically, surprise — surprise was key. If you’re surprised by something, you’re more likely to be interested in it, and more likely to share it. It performs really well. And, we saw that with the hygiene campaigns because people are like, “Oh my God, these parts of the hotel, or you know…” they were freaked out. They shared with everybody; it was really effective. So, whenever you’re creating a piece of content, make sure it meets these three criteria.

But then, you have to ask yourself three questions because you can know that those three things work, but you still have to come up with the initial ideas, right? They don’t just come out of nowhere. So, three things I say you should think about: the first one — and this goes back to not wanting to be too on-brand all the time — if you want to get a little more tangential about it, which means it’s still relevant to your target audience, but it might not be directly what your product or service is about. And this is how we recommend doing that. So, take home repair an example: broaden it out to the home, because that’s still around the same type of topic you’re discussing. And then our team would say, “Okay, well what other topics are relevant to the home?” Your family, the living arrangements, the relationships in the house, cooking is often associated with the home and the outdoors, right? But then you can go even further for family. There’s traditions in your family, there’s parenting, right? So, make this map about your niche. Think about all these other subtopics maybe you haven’t ever approached or talked about and start here. This is a really good first list of how to broaden the scope of what you’re doing.

Then, once you have all the subtopics you’re thinking, “Well, what do people care about in these subtopics?” Especially if you’ve never even considered these subtopics before, you have to do the research to see what are people asking about it, what are they interested in?

These are some of my favorite tools to use that are either free or very low cost. Keywords Everywhere lets you do keyword research right in Google, I highly recommend it, it’s a plugin for Chrome and Firefox. Buzzsumo and Answer the Public both have questioned analyzer tools. You type in the subject and it just gives you all the questions people are asking all around the internet. These are great places to start.

And then finally, once you have these subtopics and all the questions people have within those subtopics, you have to figure out how am I going to find the data to answer those questions. And this is the fun part and the part where a lot of people have not done this work, so when you do this work, it will pay off. And there’s a lot of different ways to do that.

If you have internal data, that’s probably one of the best scenarios because you’re having the authority of being able to use your own internal data. But, if you don’t, don’t stop there. There are many other ways. We’ve done all kinds of methodologies and think outside the box. You know, we’ve scraped social media, we’ve looked at government sources that are already out there. There are all kinds of opportunities like that.

And then I asked one of our best creative people on the team, “How do you find data sets when you have nowhere to start?” He said, “It sounds obvious: literally just type in your subject and the word ‘data’ in Google and it literally will reveal databases that you didn’t even know existed.” If you haven’t done this yet, check it out. It’s useful. It takes literally two seconds.

So, I know you’re going to get the deck after. I provided some starter resources. I pulled those from our actual ongoing list of places that we have store to look for data and then also some data visualization tools, which I’m not talking about too much today, but once you have all that information and you’ve analyzed it and distilled it down, you have to present it in a way that makes sense; in a visually appealing way that publishers actually want to talk about, right? We use Tableau and Flourish a lot. There’s some great tools in here. Even if you’re a beginner like me, I’ve no idea what I’m doing in terms of design. Check these things out.

So, from my insights, these are the three things I would say: Think about tangential content here — so, not something that’s specifically related to your brand and know that if you’re able to do that, you’re going to break that threshold of where you’ve been able to get coverage in the past. Just ask yourself, if a publisher read this, if I pitched it to them, would they say, “Yeah, that makes sense that they did that study?” That’s where you want to operate and you don’t want to get to irrelevant. Then it’s like nobody’s going to really understand why you did the study in the first place and it’s not going to come across as authentic.

Then, like I said, the keys to content that performs well are these three things: widely appealing, new — which, if you’re using data, tends to be — and surprising. Make sure your content has all three of those things. And then finally ask yourself these questions: the subtopics, what people want to know on those subtopics and how can you — especially your brand’s unique voice — answer those questions.

Like I said, my name is Amanda. I love talking about this and I talk really fast, but if you want to chat after, I would love to talk about either the content creation part of the process, but also the promotions, which I didn’t talk about at all — that’s a whole separate probably hour long presentation. But, yeah, please feel free to find me after. Thank you.

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

Google aims to make it easier for SMBs to start using its products

Google aims to make it easier for SMBs to start using its products

Google announced a new website Thursday with resources aimed at helping small businesses get started with Google products. The launch coincides with International Small Business day.

The site, Google for Small Business, includes “personalized plans” with recommendations of Google products based on a company’s answers to several prompt questions such as whether the business is online, offline a hybrid and its selected goal to either stand out online, reach more customers or work more efficiently.

The recommendations include a mix of free and paid solutions, such as setting up setting up a Google My Business profile, trialing G Suite and creating a YouTube channel.

Google also offers in-person Grow with Google workshops to educate small businesses about its products and how to use them.

Why we should care. Cracking the small business sector well and at scale has been a challenge for Google. The products can feel confusing to business owners and staff just getting started. Kim Spalding, global product director for Small Business Ads at Google, and former small business owner herself, was brought on a couple of years ago to help reframe the company’s approach to working with SMBs.

On the ads front, Google has built on its original AdWords Express technology for SMBs, launching Smart Campaigns last year. The automated campaign type is meant to offer a simplified entry point to Google Ads for new advertisers. Local Services ads, available in the U.S. and Canada, are also aimed at small businesses. A standalone app is designed to enable verified local service providers in certain sectors to promote their businesses with ads in Google search and manage leads and customers that come in through the app. Last week, Google added new branding tools, including @shortnames, to Google My Business, and has been surveying businesses about potentially making it a paid service (it suffers from millions of fake and spammed listings).

About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media's Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

How to spin a bad site migration into higher traffic and conversions

How to spin a bad site migration into higher traffic and conversions

Site migrations can be a daunting task because of all the things that can get lost or overlooked during the move. If not properly planned and executed, a site migration can result in a frustrating experience and kill your organic visibility, traffic and revenue.

A botched site migration was the situation performance agency Merkle was brought in to resolve for its client, a leading electronics manufacturer. The team found ways to recover traffic and achieved better performance than pre-migration levels, increasing conversions and revenue. The effort earned Merkle the Search Engine Land Award for Best B2B Search Marketing Initiative in the SEO category this year.

The task

On this particular campaign, the agency was brought in to recover organic traffic after a full site replatforming and migration to HTTPS. The site was losing nearly 50% of its organic traffic compared to the year prior.

Merkle composed a strategy that involved identifying which areas of the site lost traffic, conducting a technical audit of the new platform and optimizing for keyword signals.

The challenges

Because the team was not involved in the migration, it was harder to understand some of the nuanced changes in the site build. During the migration, many URLs had changed, making page-level performance difficult to compare. To add to that, a large percentage of the client’s organic traffic originates from specific model number searches and, due to frequently changing inventory, individual keyword-level performance evaluation was also impossible.

Fixing organic performance also meant untangling intertwined sections of the client’s B2B and B2C divisions on the site. The B2B division existed as a subfolder of the company’s main site, and some products were sold through both, resulting in heavy competition on search results pages.

To add to the complexity, the new site uses several JavaScript-driven components, server-side URL rewrites, hreflang tags for almost every country and a dynamic mobile design.

Technical and on-page remedies

Addressing redirect errors and lengthy chains — some in excess of five redirects — was one of Merkle’s top priorities and resulted in steady indexing and improved rankings. From there, the team rewrote the robots.txt file, which had been blocking crawls of APIs that the new platform uses to call critical on-page content. Merkle fixed sitemap issues, such as adding missing URLs and removing non-indexable ones, to grow sitemap indexation from 5% to almost 90%.

The client’s new platform’s templates used <h1> tags in multiple locations on a majority of pages. Merkle revised the templates to recode unnecessary header tags as h1 classes. It fixed link errors, which peppered the site’s navigation, added noindex tags, canonical tags or redirects to all thin and near-duplicate content. Further, it updated contextual links, the HTML sitemap and even its footer to send a cohesive signal to search engines.

A sitewide keyword strategy encompassing meta tag, anchor text and internal links was also implemented. Through testing, Merkle identified ways to encourage sitelinks to show for rich snippets in search results and applied these techniques to flagship campaigns, increasing visibility by hundreds of thousands of impressions per campaign.

The hreflang problem was resolved by optimizing tags for top pages to realign signals to the correct country pages, reducing traffic headed to the incorrect version of the site.

The payoff

For its efforts, Merkle increased the number of keywords ranked on page one by 30% versus pre-migration levels, which equates to a rise of 79% when compared to the initial migration decline. Overall, total ranking keywords rose 9% (up 26% after the initial migration decline).

The site’s organic traffic from Google now exceeds pre-migration levels, increasing by 112%. More importantly, the fixes resulted in a 56% year over year increase in long-form completions, which was the client’s primary conversion metric.

Every site migration is a bit different, and unfortunately bad ones are still all too common, but this award-winning case study is proof recovery is possible with the right approach. Merkle Marketing Director Cheryl Sansonetti and Marketing Coordinator Andrew Galuppo said the Search Engine Land award is the result of a team effort. “It recognizes and celebrates the great work that our employees and clients do together, our teams work hard and we like to celebrate that in many ways,”

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

Yelp offering more paid profile upgrades for business owners

Yelp offering more paid profile upgrades for business owners

Yelp is introducing a range of new paid-promotional tools for business owners to give them more control over how they appear to users. They are also non-advertising, revenue-generating products for Yelp. The new products are intended primarily to help business owners but also bring more value and utility to consumers as well.

This comes on the heels of a Google announcement that introduced new GMB promotional tools for business owners last week.

Verified license redux. The first of the Yelp offerings, Yelp Verified License, was actually introduced in March. Yelp manually checks whether companies are licensed in their respective categories and in good standing. Listings with a verified license carry a prominent blue badge, which appears on their profiles. This costs $1 per day. 

The company says that businesses with the Verified License badge see more engagement, including clicks, calls, and map lookups. Verified License is still only available in selected categories and states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, Texas and Washington.

Business Upgrades: Verified License, Highlights, Portfolio

Yelp Business Page Upgrades

Business Highlights and Portfolio. The other two new profile features being introduced are “Business Highlights” and “Portfolio,” shown above.

Business Highlights enable owners to pick from roughly 30 icons that describe or help promote their businesses. Two self-selected icons will appear in Yelp search results. The idea here is to help the business differentiate and enable newer businesses without many reviews stand out and gain consideration. Among the options are “family owned,” “results guaranteed,” “years in business,” “veteran owned” and “free wifi,” among others.

Google My Business offers a number of similar “attributes,” though not as many as Yelp is now presenting.

The third new product is Portfolio, which allows business owners to showcase projects they’ve done, such as home remodeling or landscape design. Yelp is allowing unlimited project photos for subscribers. There’s also request a quote and chat functionality connected with these pages. The project images allow for custom descriptions.

More customization and bundled pricing. Yelp says and believes this will help business owners more effectively promote their work but also better qualify customers by proving more content and information. Portfolio and Business Highlights each cost $2 per day. However, there’s bundled pricing with multiple products. (A forthcoming self-service profile customization flow with additional options is shown in the video below.)

Business owners can access these new subscription products on the Yelp for Business Owners site.

Why we should care. Google and Yelp are both enabling more customization for business owners. In Yelp’s case, this is a revenue-generating option (it may become one for Google). In the absence of bundled pricing, a business buying Verified License, Business Highlights and Portfolio would be paying roughly $1,000 a year, not a significant amount for the business owner but in the aggregate a potentially meaningful new revenue source for Yelp.

As more business owners opt for paid customization to stand out, it will put pressure on their competitors to do so as well.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

Millions of fake Google Maps listings hurt real business and consumers

Millions of fake Google Maps listings hurt real business and consumers

Google Maps carries approximately 11 million illegitimate local listings, with hundreds of thousands more getting created each month, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. These fake listings push real businesses further down the local search results, impacting their ability to reach customers and make unsuspecting users easy targets for scammers.

Google says it is aware of the problem and that it has plans to do more to combat spammers and scammers taking advantage of local listings. It’s not in the company’s interest to jeopardize user trust, yet as many marketers point out, it stands to profit as local businesses turn to paid ads to regain search visibility.

“Duress vertical” scams and spammy business names

First, a look at the problem. The majority of car repair, towing, electricians, contractors, attorneys, movers and other service categories aren’t located at the addresses shown in Google Maps, according to a survey of experts conducted by the WSJ. Internally at Google, the paper reprted, these categories are termed “duress verticals,” for their proclivity to scams built to ensnare victims when they’re most vulnerable.

These bogus businesses flood local search results by setting up fake profiles in Google My Business (GMB), the free service that powers the business listings in Google Search and Maps. This dilutes search visibility for legitimate business listings, robbing them of potential customers, and puts users in a position to be scammed.

Google’s failure to take down fake business listings and verify real ones is a frustration for many business owners and marketers. Joe Youngblood, an SEO and digital marketer, has been vocal about the problems legitimate businesses face with Google My Business. “Hey @GoogleMyBiz still have several real businesses with suspended accounts, meanwhile fake spam companies with Virtual Office addresses are popping up everywhere. It’s been almost a full week, can you please respond to these??,” Youngblood tweeted this week.

The problem isn’t always as black and white as fake and real local listings, either. As digital marketer Itamar Blauer pointed out, real businesses are also stuffing keywords into their Google My Business profiles in order to rank higher on generic local searches (e.g., “oil change” or “personal injury lawyer”).

Google’s guidelines state, “Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers.” It also instructs businesses to include details like address and service area, business hours, and categories of the other sections of your business.

“The underlying concept of this is that there don’t seem to be consequences for keyword stuffing in GMB listings, as Optimise London have shown that even after Google accepted my edit – they simply added the keywords in again,” Blauer said.

The impact of this manipulation isn’t limited to local search results either. The screenshot below shows that, by adding “SEO Agency” to its business name in GMB, an agency managed to get featured in a knowledge panel for the generic search term “digital seo agency.”


The top screenshot shows how an agency was able to gain a knowledge panel for the non-brand search term “digital seo agency” by putting “SEO Agency” in its GMB profile. Even after the spammy name was reported, the knowledge panel remained, as shown in the second screenshot.

“Now the knowledge graph picks up their GMB for ‘Digital SEO Agency,’ which shouldn’t be allowed and is only the case because of their GMB title,” Blauer explained. Even after the listing was corrected, the company’s listing remained in the knowledge panel, despite ranking seventh in the standard organic listings.

“Right now the name of the business has a huge impact, and fake listings just use target keywords, leading to massive gains,” Youngblood explained. Last year, he ran an experiment that revealed that on average, spamming or keyword stuffing the GMB business name helped a location improve by at least 9.53 ranking positions.

How Google got into this situation

Some marketers say Google didn’t take the problem of listing authenticity seriously enough from the start. “As those of us in the YP [yellow pages] industry watched Google enter into providing local business information, we thought they had quite a bit of hubris,” Chris Silver Smith, formerly a technical liaison for a deal between Superpages and Google Maps and now president and strategist at Argent Media, said.

“There was a naivete in much of their approach that translated into all sorts of goofs and errors over time. Instead of hiring people who were highly familiar with the issues inherent, they primarily hired computer science grads, fresh out of school, and treated the database with less seriousness at the beginning than should have been the case — far more priority was placed on the user experience than virtually anything else.”

Silver Smith also said that Google has over-emphasized having brick-and-mortar locations in their ranking algorithm — despite the fact that many service providers don’t need office space because they work on-site at their customers’ locations. According to Silver Smith, the heavy weighting of that factor makes it makes it more difficult for service providers that don’t need a physical location to achieve high rankings, ultimately incentivizing them to set up fake listings just to be represented equivalently to businesses with street addresses.

Google’s responses

In 2017, a Google-sponsored study by researchers from the University of California, San Diego concluded that just 0.5% of the local searches they looked at contained false listings. Search consultant Mike Blumenthal called the results “meaningless,” partially due to the limited and skewed data that Google provided. Danny Huang, the study’s lead author, who was also a paid Google intern at the time, acknowledged, “All I was doing was eyeballing in a scientific manner.”

Shortly after the WSJ article was published, Google emphasized in blog post its ongoing efforts to address Maps spam and scammers, saying it has taken down over three million fake business profiles, of which more than 90% were removed before they could be seen by users. It also stated that it is donating settlement funds from lawsuits against bad actors to organizations that educate consumers and businesses about fraud, and reiterated that users can flag profiles for removal.  

The company added that it’s developing new ways — both manual and automated — to fight scammers, but kept specifics under wraps, explaining “we can’t share too many details about these efforts without running the risk of actually helping scammers find new ways to beat our systems—which defeats the purpose of all the work we do.”

The company has also signaled it may start charging for Google My Business features. In April, it sent a survey to some local businesses asking if they would be willing to pay a monthly subscription fee.

The winners and losers

“The winners are pretty clear, it’s Google and the spammers,” said Dan Leibson, vice president of search for Local SEO Guide Inc., pointing out that spammers are siphoning off customers and Google is cashing in on ads bought by businesses trying to get their listings to appear above the spammers’.

“Everyone else is losing in some way. The least affected type of business is probably large, multi-location brands as simple spam signals will have a hard time outranking the true relevance and prominence of these businesses,” Leibson continued, stating that a fabricated series of “hardware stores near me” listings would be unlikely to supplant The Home Depot from search results.

The frequency of fake listings may also impact consumer preferences. Customers who might otherwise support local businesses may instead choose to play it safe by patronizing larger, more well-known companies, making reaching new customers even more of an uphill battle for small or emerging brands.

Legitimate local businesses also have to compete with each other for whatever customers are left. It’s possible that the practice of adding keywords to a GMB profile was initially a method to regain organic visibility and fend off fake listings, but it has also put other small businesses in a worse position — especially if they want to play by the rules.

What we can do and what needs to be done

“Standing out in a sea of fake listings will be all about building a brand and diversifying your local presence,” Youngblood advised, “I typically recommend clients focus on Google, Bing, Facebook, Yelp, at least one vertical, and of course their own website.”

“We also recommend that clients engage locally. Find popular social media accounts in the local area and engage with them (not necessarily ‘influencers’), support non-profits such as community radio, dog rescues, theaters, and homeless charities,” Youngblood said, adding that, “You never know when Google or another platform will suspend your listing, so making sure you’re gaining reviews on other sites consumers might find while researching is important.”

“The best way businesses can stand out is to outrank the spammers and have a legitimate brand,” Leibson concurred, concluding that (in addition to reporting fake listings and being vocal) users and businesses can even raise the issue with their elected representatives — an increasingly viable option as Google continues to make headlines for anti-competitive behavior.

Of course, Google can better enforce its current policies and change its algorithms to hinder current spam tactics. Marketers and SEOs are also quick to offer solutions ranging from deemphasizing GMB profile names within search algorithms to requiring vocational licenses as part of the registration process to having users upload a proof of purchase before they can leave a review.

“Google’s success and market dominance mean that it bears a higher responsibility than merely throwing together jumbles of business listings on maps and leaving it up to consumers to discern which may be real or false,” Silver Smith said.

The company’s dominance stems from its search algorithms and the services and systems built around them. As long as those systems exist, there are those that will seek to exploit them at the expense of honest participants. Fortunately, there are solutions. Marketers and business owners must continue pushing Google to prioritize them.

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

Automation layering: How PPC pros retain control when automation takes over

How to Create Professional Promo Videos the Low-Cost Way using a Marketing Video Maker

Have you ever thought about the simplicity of marketing? Marketing has never been easier than it is on our free video maker online. Our online animation maker is the simplest to use since it has a straightforward user interface without hitches. In other words, no technical knowledge is required for you to create interestingly designed videos using our animated video maker. Instead of spending lots of money to hire video production companies' services, you can use low cost and even free video creation websites and get yourself a video that is worth investing in.


Videos help you inform and even educate your audience about your brand and the products and services your company offers. Most people prefer watching videos rather than reading tens of lines of text. Using a marketing video maker such as, you can market your company with professional videos and reach more people for a price anyone can pay. Moreover, intro creator templates give you an option to add video clips, text lines, and even a logo image to the videos you want to produce. This, therefore, means that you can pass the information you want to your target audience effectively.


Business Slideshow videos help in the Search Engine Optimization of your main web pages. This is because search engines prioritize videos since they are considered high-quality content. Search Engine Optimization of your brand's main web pages will help increase the traffic you get on your website. This means that incorporating a 3D intro maker in your brand will increase the earnings you get from Search Engine Optimization due to increased traffic on your website.


Promo videos help your brand remain competitive. This is because, in the videos, you can compile all the necessary information to pass to your target audience and within a short time. You can tell your audience all they need to know about your brand. Enlightening your audience helps in developing interest in them towards your brand. Moreover, the videos that you post on social media platforms have a room where people can comment. This section is handy since it will help keep you informed about your brand's image in the market.


Importance of video marketing for your brand


There are numerous marketing video creators. You should try them all out and pick the ones that best suit your marketing needs and business type. The quality varies a lot, but they all have nice video templates to pick from. Quality in your marketing campaigns is of great importance. Compromising the quality is a thing of the past because technology has made anyone a pro video producer using video templates. Since you want the best videos for your brand's effective marketing, choose a slideshow maker with the templates you like the most.


We have researched the internet and tried almost every video maker there is. All of them offer some form of free video creation tool, and of course, we did a lot of video production without even taking the credit card out of our pockets. But they all had watermark and was low-resolution videos. You have to purchase to get the Full HD quality. And really, for most businesses, this is very affordable.

Google testing carousel of text ads on mobile

Google testing carousel of text ads on mobile

It’s already hard to tell how your text ads will render these days — two headlines or three, how many extensions, etc. Now, Google is testing a carousel of text ads on mobile.

Spotted by SEMrush, the ads carousel appears under a “People also considered” heading below the first ad. Note, this is appearing on a brand query for “xfinity” and Xfinity’s own ad does appear at the top, with a full set of extensions.

The ads in the carousel appear with two headlines a truncated description line and no ad extensions.

Why we should care. This likely looks pretty scary to a lot of advertisers thinking this could tank performance for ads that aren’t in the absolute top position — particularly with the carousel ads getting served in this truncated format. Though, f you’re Xfinity (or another brand with competing ads showing in the carousel, you might be pretty pleased). Google will be watching the impact on click volume and click-through rates with this treatment. And it’s not clear if this is also being tested on non-brand terms. The removal of average position metric makes even more sense now.

Shopping ads have appeared in a carousel format for some time now — as have various text ad extensions. All of the Shopping ads are in the carousel, though, and you’ve likely noticed they’ve gotten much, much bigger over the years.

“We’re always testing new ways to improve our experience for our advertisers and users, but don’t have anything specific to announce right now,” a Google spokesperson told us.

About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media's Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

SMXcast: Tactics to improve your YouTube video ad performance

SMXcast: Tactics to improve your YouTube video ad performance


For search marketers, YouTube offers access to 1.9 billion logged-in global users per month, making it the second largest search engine. And, Google reports that advertisers buying YouTube video ads in addition to search ads see, on average, 8% higher search conversion volume, 3% higher search conversion rates and 4% lower search CPAs (compared to advertisers who only run search ads).

However, YouTube’s automated bidding algorithm isn’t right for everyone. At SMX Advanced, Ashley Mo, regional director for 3Q Digital, discussed a few intelligent tactics that can improve your video campaign performance. Listen to her full Insights session below and head to the bottom for the full transcript.

Mo also provided Search Engine Land readers with some additional tips on automated bidding:

  • If you don’t have any conversion history for YouTube campaigns in your account, start with Max Conversions bidding and switch to Target CPA after the account has generated at least 30 conversions.
  • Wait at least 7-10 days prior to making bid changes. It is normal for performance to fluctuate, but over a 30 day period following an initial learning period, performance should be more stable. Use volume as an indicator of whether to change bids.
  • Campaign structure – separate different targeting types at the campaign level. As much as you may be tempted to, don’t change ad group level bids when making optimizations, always change at the campaign level.
  • Don’t overlay targeting on top of Custom Intent. This will reduce reach for users who have already expressed intent through their search behavior.
  • Consider testing micro-conversions like pageviews or an intermediate conversion if volume is limited.
  • Use different call-to-actions (with the same video creative) to see if you can improve CTR.



This is the Search Engine Land podcast and I am your host George Nguyen. What you’re about to listen to, in particular, is an edition of SMXcast — content that comes straight from our SMX conference speakers and attendees.

You’re about to hear from Ashley Mo, a regional director at 3Q Digital. At SMX Advanced in Seattle, she delivered an Insights session on outsmarting YouTube’s automated bidding to drive more conversions. Enjoy and happy advertising.


Hi everyone. My name is Ashley. I have a lot of experience working with clients across verticals and specifically in YouTube. We’ve been working on trying to make it work for direct response, not just awareness and have managed to do that successfully with over $5 million in YouTube investment and hopefully a lot more. And, last year we took home Google’s premiere partner award in video innovation and, lucky for you all today, I’m going to share all of my secrets.

So to start off, the biggest news to YouTube is really that Google released TrueView for action into public beta this year. Some of you may have tested it last year, but now anyone can test it. So, by quick show of hands, who here has already run YouTube TrueView for action campaigns? Okay, it looks like maybe 5%, which is great that you’re here because I’m about to talk to you about why you should be testing it.

So, first, what is TrueView for action? So, if you are watching videos on YouTube, you’ve probably already been seeing these videos. This is an example of an ad and notably there’s this call to action overlay, which is designed to take someone outside of YouTube. So, that’s really the biggest difference here is before YouTube was focused on having branding campaigns and they wanted people to stay engaged and stay within the platform. And now they’re trying to monetize it and they realize that for advertisers to be successful, they need to be able to drive people to their landing page or to their app, because then they have a chance to take action. Whereas if they’re watching a video, maybe they’ll convert later. It’ll be a view through conversion. It’s hard to measure. So, by creating TrueView for action with a call to action overlay and the companion banner on the side, it’s making it easier for people on desktop, on mobile, on tablet to click on the ad and to engage and potentially convert.

So, why as search marketers, should we care about YouTube? It is a different platform even though it’s still available in the same Google Ads UI. So, a couple of statistics, there’s a ton of people on YouTube watching videos. I mean who here watches videos on YouTube? Probably everyone, right? So 1.9 billion people, 1 billion hours is a completely difficult to fathom and you might not think of YouTube as a search engine, but it is, and it’s actually the second largest search engine right after Google, so a great place to expand from search. And then based on some research that Google has done, they’ve seen that advertisers who run YouTube in addition to search ended up seeing an 8% higher search conversion volume and 3% higher search conversion rate. So there is actual incrementality by running both campaigns. And I can say anecdotally, we worked with a video streaming client and we used to run keywords on videos in their library. No one was searching for those, period. Sometimes those keywords wouldn’t even serve. And then when we started to promote them heavily on YouTube, we started to see searches for those and conversions. So it definitely does drive impact and with TrueView for action, it’s going to be easier to measure what happens after someone sees your ad. So that’s why you should care about YouTube.

And then the next question is, well, how exactly do I make it work for me? How do I drive conversions? This is really the tough part. So I have three tips for you today, but please come talk to me after if you want to learn more. I could talk for hours about YouTube. So my first tip is that contrary to what Google tells you, I think you should actually limit your reach when you first launch a campaign. Especially nowadays you have to use target CPA, which is automated bidding, with a TrueView for action campaign. It’s machine learning, so it takes time to learn. And if you allow it to target anyone across or the video partner network on desktop or mobile, it could very easily spend hundreds of dollars, not drive many conversions and you’ve already used up a large portion of your budget before you even gotten meaningful results. So I would say that you should always start conservatively. Think about what works for you on search. I think, for the most part, desktop-only targeting is going to work better than mobile as well as opting out of video partners. I can say that from experience, the traffic is premium. We see people click at a much higher rate and convert at a much higher rate. So just make sure you go through all of your campaign settings when you set up your campaign to make sure that you’re not — uncheck a lot of the things that Google defaults to, to make sure you’re kind of limiting the scope of it. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever run on mobile, because that is where over half of the YouTube views are. But, once you see that performance is consistent and that the target CPA stabilizes, then you can use that as an option to expand for scale.

So next tip is — this is pretty exciting for anyone who’s new to running on YouTube — you can actually use some of your insights from your search campaigns on YouTube with the new custom intent targeting, which is only available with TrueView for action. So you can actually target people who are actively researching your brand or your competitors or even non-brand keywords with video ads. You just pump in all the keywords and it creates an audience and then you can target that group. And some of the best practices here are going to be the same as search: You wouldn’t put all your different keyword types into one campaign. You’d want to separate them out so you can more easily measure performance. So I’d recommend setting up different buckets based on different categories like your search campaigns: so brand, competitor prospecting, etc. And that way, after you launch, you can kind of see how the audiences perform relative to each other.

So final tip is about creative. So anyone who’s run any type of video campaign knows that created is the most important thing and that’s what’s going to be key to success. And I know a lot of times it can be hard when you don’t have a lot of bandwidth or creative resources. I can’t tell you how many times clients say, “Oh, we just have this one video. Just go and run with it.” And the problem with that is that if that video doesn’t work well, then well then what do you do, right? You can have the best targeting and the wrong video and you’re not going to hit achieve any success on YouTube. So you should at least have multiple creatives. And that way you can compare performance. And then when your campaign, if it doesn’t do well, then you can see, well, did the view rate vary between the videos? Did the click through rate vary? You have something to compare. Another point about creative is that you don’t necessarily need a high-production video. I’ve seen clients have success with kind of low production where they take still images and kind of create this slide show. There are a lot of great tools out there, like Shakr is one of them, where they have pre-built templates and you can plug in existing images and assets and create a video. So definitely look into those options if you are having trouble coming up with multiple videos.

It is important that you’re captivating your audience very early on. Even though your goal with this campaign is not going to be — your number one goal is going to be at least click through rate; maybe conversion rate. But, if you have a low view rate on your video, then it’s not engaging, so make sure that you’re getting their attention right away.

So, just to recap this very short presentation: number one, limit your traffic to desktop traffic only on, and then make sure that you are using existing knowledge you have from search, testing that in YouTube, and make sure you have more than one creative. Thank you.

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

Review your website performance because every second matters

Review your website performance because every second matters

A few years ago, Amazon reported that for every 100-millisecond increase in the speed of their website, they noticed an increase in revenue by one percent. This was followed by Google’s announcement that a website’s page load speed was a factor for a site’s ranking in Google’s search results.

The process of optimizing your website’s page load speeds can be a never-ending process, much like running on a treadmill. Page speed optimization will always have room for improvement and will, therefore, never be entirely satisfactory. That said, here are some steps to increase your load speeds.

Minimize HTTP requests

According to a release by Yahoo, 80 percent of a page’s load time is spent downloading the various parts of a webpage viz, stylesheets, images, scripts, etc.

Since an HTTP request is made for every single one of these elements, the more on-page components a page has, the longer it takes for it to render.

The initial step when attempting to minimize requests is to narrow down and benchmark on the number of requests and how many requests the site actually completes.

With Google Chrome, the browser’s developer tools allow users to view the number of HTTP requests made by a site. To see the number of HTTP requests a site makes users can:

  1. Right-click on the page that needs to be analyzed and select Inspect.
  2. Click the Network tab.

In case the Network tab is unavailable, you may need to drag the left border further to the left and expand the sidebar.

The Name column denotes the files located on the page. The size of each file is shown under the Size column and the estimated time to load each file is indicated under the Time column.

The bottom left corner of the page displaces the total number of requests that the site has made. Users will be able to speed up the load time of their website by reducing this number. The most straightforward way is to review the set of files and identify those that can be deemed unnecessary.

While it may take some time to observe a noticeable difference, a few files can easily be considered as prime candidates for consolidating.

Use scripts for asynchronous loading

Scripts such as JavaScript and CSS can be loaded in two separate ways – synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous loading involves loading the snippets one at a time, in the same order as they are displayed on the screen. In asynchronous loading, scripts are loaded simultaneously, which helps speed up the process. Users can also prioritize the loading of specific elements without having to wait for external sources to load.

If the browser finds an asynchronous CSS file or a JavaScript, page load will pause until the relevant archive is completely loaded. However, for asynchronous data, the browser will continue loading the other page elements.

For WordPress, users can check options besides Render-blocking CSS/JS when using WP Rocket’s Static Files tab.

You can also load CSS or JS files directly using the async or defer functionality in Javascript. Below is an example of the async option:

<script async src=”script.js”></script>

Save changes will allow users to verify that everything loads as intended.

Reduce server response time

One of the significant factors in determining how quickly a web page loads is the time it takes for the Domain Name System lookup. A DNS lookup is the process of identifying a specific website name on record. It can be imagined as a computer referencing the phone book for a contact number.

The time taken for this step depends on how quick the user’s DNS provider is. If users find that this is not fast enough, it might be time to change to a faster DNS service provider. To help choose a DNS provider, you can consult a DNS speed comparison report, like this one from SolveDNS, which provides monthly updates ranking the speed of different providers.

Make use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Hosting media files on a CDN is one of the best ways to increase the speed of a website. This process alone can save up to 60 percent of the bandwidth and decrease the number of requests made by the site by 50 percent.

A CDN works by hosting files over an extensive network of servers across different geographic regions. Therefore, when a site receives a visitor from a particular region in the world, it downloads files from the server that is located closest to them. Since the bandwidth is spread across an extensive network of servers, the load on a single server is considerably reduced. This also protects websites from spikes in traffic and DDoS attacks.

Caching can help, but be careful

An efficient method of speeding up a website is to make use of caching. A cache is the short-term memory of a site. When you visit a site for the first time, a copy of the requested files is saved. These “cached” files are displayed during future visits.

However, users need to be careful when considering this option. Given that caching displays a previously saved version of the site to repetitive visitors, there is a possibility that they may contain outdated information. Dynamic sites that include aspects such as a shopping cart or social media feeds, like eBay and Twitter, can be especially problematic.

Fortunately, most plugins automatically clear the cache at regular intervals; however, users may need to do this task manually now and again. If a server is using Varnish Caching, this task can be easily accomplished via the free Varnish HTTP Purge plugin.

Decrease file size for image and video optimization

Images and media files are among the biggest drains on a site’s resources. HTML5 Video players and the related media files can help you greatly compress the size of the files. While they do go a long way in making a website look appealing and can supplement textual content, they also need a larger share of bandwidth and server space. This is especially noticeable when considering sites such as online stores or portfolio that may contain a number of HD images.

Image optimization is a natural process to implement and compresses an image’s size minus any noticeable adverse effect on its quality. The method can also be completely automated. Users can try using TinyPNG for image optimization. The tool is easy and free to use.

For video compression, you can use the modern HTML5 video players that have inbuilt compression capabilities. There are tons of open-source video players that allow you to perform these actions like Plyr, Video.js, Afterglow, etc.

Minify and compress website files

Minification is a process that makes the code of a site more efficient by removing unnecessary content. This reduces the memory required and helps speed up the execution of the code.

With the right tools, you can easily achieve minification without having to interact extensively with the code. Examples of online tools include CSS Compressor and Minify, which offer numerous features and intuitive UI.  


While attempting to increase the page load time can be a challenging task, the outcome will be a significant improvement in the overall performance of the website.

While some of the suggestions in the list above may seem relatively minor, each small step towards decreasing page load time can make a difference in the long run. As noticed by Amazon, every second saved can lead to conversions, revenue and success.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Ixia, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

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