The line between subdomain leasing and alternative revenue strategy

The line between subdomain leasing and alternative revenue strategy

Sites operating under a subdomain or subfolder of another brand are attracting attention from SEOs as well as search engines. This trend has most recently involved coupon sites that use a subdomain of well-entrenched media outlets, but could potentially be applied to any number of industries.

nike_coupon_codes

Global Savings Group’s CNN and Business Insider coupon sites rank first and third organically for the query “nike coupon code” — above competitors RetailMeNot and Groupon.

Whether this practice is incentivized or discouraged by search engine algorithms has huge ramifications for the main site owner, third parties as well as their competitors that do business on their own domains.

Subdomain leasing

Third parties may publish content onto a subdomain that is owned by another brand, with an unclear amount of involvement from the main site owner. Take coupons.cnn.com, for example — there’s even a banner stating, “CNN Coupons is a destination that provides deals and discounts for online retailers. It is a collaboration between CNN Digital and Global Savings Group. CNN news staff is not involved. When you make a purchase, CNN earns a commission.”

Coupon sites operating under this model are very common. Global Savings Group, which also runs a coupon site using a subdomain of businessinsider.com as well as dozens of similar properties on subdomains and subfolders of European websites, is a major player in the online coupon arena.

“We work closely with all of our partners to connect their different offerings like news, tips, recommendations or coupons to ensure that their user experience remains top of mind,” Andreas Fruth, co-founder of Global Savings Group, explained in a statement to Search Engine Land. This may be the case with some of Global Savings Group’s media partners, but the banner on CNN Coupons is somewhat at odds with this statement — after all, how closely could you work with a news outlet if their news staff is not involved?

The main site owner’s level of involvement and the relevancy to the purpose of the main domain are key factors in determining whether such an arrangement is actually a partnership or just a ploy for third parties to gain an unfair search advantage and publishers to make a quick buck.

How does it work?

The third-party content operator (such as, but not limited to, coupon platforms) rents a subfolder or subdomain from a publisher (such as a reputable media outlet) in an attempt to piggyback off of the trust that search engines extend to the publisher’s content. 

This, in turn, gives the third-party content a questionable advantage over competitors in the search results, which may lead to more visitors and more revenue, which is then split with the main domain owner. This strategy has mainly been applied to coupon sites but could potentially be applied to any unrelated third-party content.

Third-party content operators may seek partnerships with media outlets, in particular, because of their credibility with search engines; however, Fruth cites the history of coupons in print media as part of the precedent for this relationship.

“Different types of commerce content (such as coupons) have always been part of newspapers’ offerings in the print world. As newspapers look to diversify their revenue streams, given the challenge of falling CPMs on online advertising and the subscription plateau, building a dedicated commerce content strategy is a fundamental pillar for most media companies out there.” 

The comparison isn’t quite apples-to-apples as traditional newspapers don’t rely on search engine algorithms to get their coupons in front of potential customers. And, as evidenced by Google’s many updates, algorithms can be manipulated.

Partners or domain landlords and subdomain tenants?

It is unlikely that these sites perform so well organically based on their own merit. They do not exactly offer unique content — many feature the same coupons and are even structured very similarly.

If SimilarWeb’s data on coupons.businessinsider.com is representative of subdomain coupon sites as a whole, then it’s also unlikely that backlinks play a major role as referrals account for less than 0.5% and 94% of traffic comes by way of search.

There are dozens of other factors at play, but the elephant in the room is the connection, if any, these sites have to the main site’s purpose.

“As they [publishers] are building up their portfolio of new content, some of that content they create and produce remains in-house (e.g., [Business Insider’s] Insider Picks, CNN Underscored), while other content is being amplified with the support of specialized 3rd parties, such as us,” Fruth explained, reiterating, “the core message: this is part of a dedicated strategy of the media company.”

If this is the case, we might expect to see more cohesion between the coupon site and the main site; however, coupons.cnn.com ditches the news category header navigation present on cnn.com and neither of Insider Picks or CNN Underscored’s e-commerce content appears on their coupon subdomains.

“The success of partnerships between large media brands and specialized technology and content partners, like the Global Savings Group, is not based solely on the strength of associated domains,” Fruth said, keen to distinguish between his company’s business model and what is typically referred to as “subdomain leasing.” “Our team of around 400 employees worldwide, together with the editorial and commercial teams of each of our partners, works hard to negotiate exclusive, high-quality deals for our partner’s users and to create valuable content to improve the overall user experience.”

“It has been shown that consumers prefer to receive their commerce content (e.g., coupons) from brands they know and trust,” Fruth added. “This is easy to see if you compare CTRs on comparable positions between the coupon offerings of a large media brand, with higher brand equity, with the offerings of a standalone site without the same recognition.”

The scale of the situation

Anonymous Twitter account @theloish first blogged about this phenomenon as it pertained to European publications in June, 2018. In their Medium post, they estimated that discountcode.dailymail.co.uk’s annual revenue was roughly £8 million (about $9.7 million) per year. Discountcode.dailymail.co.uk is a partnership between Global Savings Group and the Daily Mail; it is unclear what percentage of revenue each partner receives.

User @theloish has also compiled a Google Sheet of over 220 coupon-related subdomains and subfolders, along with their operators and traffic estimates. Discountcode.dailymail.co.uk receives more traffic than the vast majority of the sites listed, but it’s safe to assume that the revenue generated from these sites, for their operators and their media partners, is considerable. That also suggests that the potential loss of revenue for dedicated coupon sites that exist on their own domains is likely to be significant, although some dedicated coupon sites may not profit from coupons submitted by users.

The reaction

Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller fielded a question regarding this issue during the Google Webmaster Central office hours session held on June 28.

“Maybe the right approach is to find a way to figure out what is the primary topic of this website and focus more on that, and then kind of leave these other things on the side,” he said, elaborating, “When it comes to quality, we try to look at the quality of a website overall. So, if there are particular parts of a website that are really low quality …. then overall, that could be degrading the quality of that site a little bit.”

Google also addressed the practice via a three-part tweet from its Google Webmasters account on August 14. It stated: “We’ve been asked if third-parties can host content in subdomains or subfolders of another’s domain. It’s not against our guidelines. But as the practice has grown, our systems are being improved to better know when such content is independent of the main site & treat accordingly. Overall, we’d recommend against letting others use subdomains or subfolders with content presented as if it is part of the main site, without close supervision or the involvement of the primary site. Our guidance is if you want the best success with Search, provide value-added content from your own efforts that reflect your own brand.”

User @theloish and other members of the SEO community have noticed a substantial dip in traffic amongst some of these coupon sites, such as coupons.businessinsider.com, which has seen its visits decrease by nearly a third between June and July 2019, and gutscheine.focus.de, which experienced a 30% decrease between March and July 2019 (both according to data from SimilarWeb). Not all coupon subdomains are experiencing traffic decreases and it is unclear whether they are a result of actions taken by Google or other search engines.

Members of the SEO community have also been monitoring these sites as they spring up, which has facilitated conversations about the relevance of such sites and the ethics surrounding how they operate.

Some agree with Global Savings Group’s position that coupons and news publications provide value for all parties involved. Others point to the nature and accessibility of coupons that make it ripe for this type of arrangement between third parties and publishers. The tweet below even attributes the traffic reduction to the aforementioned @theloish’s publicizing of the issue, and the link within it accuses @theloish of “denouncing competitors as a last resort to seek justice for failure in the market.”

The implications

Whether coupon sites are relevant to media publications and serve their audiences is just one scenario, and search engine algorithms will have to compare a countless number of match-ups across numerous industries.

For third-party content creators, where search engines draw the line may necessitate a new business model, or open the floodgates for a proliferation of subdomains with tenuous relationships to the main domain.

For site owners, renting out a subdomain to an unrelated, unsupervised third-party may have consequences on your own organic visibility, which may impact revenue. If it doesn’t, then we’re witnessing a new way for publishers to generate revenue — and, perhaps, a method for those publishers to use their influence in one sector to gain a questionable search advantage in other sectors.


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

Refurbishing Top Content - Best of Whiteboard Friday

Refurbishing Top Content – Best of Whiteboard Friday

You’ve got top-performing content on your site that does really well. Maybe it’s highly converting, maybe it garners the most qualified traffic — but it’s just sitting there gathering dust. Isn’t there something else you can do with content that’s clearly proven its worth?

As it turns out, there is! In this ever-popular episode of Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s Senior SEO Scientist, Britney Muller, shares three easy steps for identifying, repurposing, and republishing your top content to juice every drop of goodness out of it.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Britney Muller, Moz’s SEO and Content Architect, and I’m so excited to talk to you today about refurbishing your top content. Any of you watching likely have top content, either on your site or a client’s site, that does really, really well. Whether that’s getting the most traffic or converting the most users, it does really well. The problem is that we let it just sit there, and we’re not getting the amplification that we could out of that content. So I’m going to talk to you today about how to sort of funnel in more qualified leads. So how do we do that?

Step 1: Identify your site’s top traffic pages.

Analytics is so great for this and to further evaluate which of those pages are converting the highest, have the most engagements, and are bringing in most of your traffic.

It’s super important to keep in mind that there are other forms of content. It’s not always necessarily just a page on your website. It could be a video somewhere, it could be a really great podcast, it could even be a printout, and I’ve run into this a few times where the information isn’t currently digital, but they use it in a clinic or in an office setting that could do really great things for the website. So keep that in mind.

Step 2: Simplify and repurpose

For the sake of our example, I’m going with a long-form content of how to choose the right college. Maybe this brings in lots of applicants for a particular school or university. So what could they better be doing with this piece of content? So that brings us to step two, which is simplify and repurpose. We all want to consume information differently. There are different use cases, you name it. So to take a long-form piece of content and to put it together in a PowerPoint, really simplify it and break it up into slides. From there, you can use those slides or take new raw footage to make a really, really powerful video on how to choose the right college.

If you have these two steps done, you’re kind of set up for success for images. You could either take images from your PowerPoint or your video and have really great informational text below it.

Lastly, audio, how easy would it be to take this long-form piece and to make it into an audio option or a podcast even, allowing your visitors maybe another option when they get to this page? So it’s fun to experiment with that as well.

You can interweave some of these other forms of content back into the original piece, and now you’re learning a lot more about your audience and a lot more about how they want to consume your content.

Step 3: Publish on popular platforms

I can already feel people getting really squeamish about this, but you shouldn’t. Let me say there are two big reasons why you should be taking advantage of this. One, these are all really, really powerful sites. They rank really well. Two, they have a huge audience, and their audiences are actively seeking information that you’re providing on your site. So if you’re not going to be providing expertise and information on these sites, someone will, right? So you want to take advantage of that, and you want to take the opportunity.

So you could take your PowerPoint and upload it to SlideShare. SlideShare ranks so, so well. You could take your video and upload it to YouTube, with the caveat of putting it on Vimeo or Wistia first. You want to make sure that you are self-hosting for up to three months, and then you can transfer your video to YouTube. That way you’re getting the authority of that video, and Youtube.com isn’t ranking first for it.

Instagram is great for those images, but, again, I would always put the text below it and keep your images really clean and not have too much text on them, and then to obviously hashtag appropriately.

Then Pinterest, Quora, people are actively asking questions that you have all the answers to, so to be the expertise in the field and to take advantage of people asking, “How do I choose the right college?” Reddit and LinkedIn are other options to further amplify.

Step 4: Measure the referral metrics

Measure the impact of republishing on these sites. There are a couple of ways to do this. These are some of my favorite engagement metrics. So you have number of viewed pages, you have time on site, bounce rate is always good to look at, and, obviously, conversions. So this really starts to paint a picture of: Where are you seeing the qualified leads? Where is your qualified traffic coming from?

Then the next time you go to a new content strategy, maybe you leave out these three because you didn’t get much traffic from them, but maybe you saw a bunch of qualified leads from SlideShare. So that brings you to pivot, like the “Friends” episode. It allows you to pivot.

So now, we have a strategy moving forward. We know what platforms work best for your website or your business, and you’re kind of setting yourself up for success down the road.

I would love, love, love to hear if you have experimented with these strategies, what has worked for you, what hasn’t. Also feel free to ask me any questions down below. Thank you so much for joining us for this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and I will see all again soon. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Vertaald van MOZ

Google now showing competitor ads on local business profiles

Google now showing competitor ads on local business profiles

Google has been slowly ramping local search monetization over time. It introduced local search ads in early 2017, which put ads in local packs, and began putting ads in local Knowledge Panels roughy two years ago. Now, the company is starting to show competitor ads in local business profiles.

A ‘Local Campaign’ placement. Part of Local Campaigns, the ads are designed to drive visits to local businesses and retail locations. These fully automated units run across Google properties, including search, Maps, GDN and YouTube.

Ben Fisher first noticed this development last week. Here’s his smartphone screengrab:

The business listing is for a Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep dealer in California. The ad is for Valley Hi Toyota, approximately an hour away from the Chrysler dealer by car.

I was not able to recreate this example or find another comparable one on my own.

Can’t pay to remove the ad. Discussion about the ad unit on Twitter refers to this as the local Knowledge Panel but it is technically the local business profile. There’s also speculation that Google is gearing up to charge business owners to remove the ad. However I confirmed with Google that businesses will not be asked to nor can they pay to have the ad removed.

In April, Google fielded a survey to business owners, which some agencies also received, asking about potential future features and capabilities for GMB. This was a test and most of these things probably won’t materialize. However, one of the proposed items was “get leads from competitor profiles.”

The ad unit above is not that proposed feature but is consistent with its spirit. Much of local SEO reaction and conversation that follows Fisher’s original Tweet is critical of the move.

People I’ve spoken to about this in the local SEO community feel generally that Google shouldn’t be putting ads for direct competitors on business profiles. Further, some argue it may also be confusing to consumers looking for specific businesses.

Why we should care. There’s a sense that the GMB profile is “owned” by the business. However that’s not correct; it’s Google’s property, just as Facebook owns and controls local Facebook Pages. This is something that businesses should be sober about. However, Google must also be mindful of too-aggressive monetization of local. Some SEOs are saying this is such an example.

It’s probably better that businesses can’t pay to remove these ads because that would be perceived as a form of “extortion,” something Yelp has been accused of — it’s advertisers don’t have competitor ads on their profiles.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

3 Trends from Prime Day 2019 to guide your Black Friday and Cyber Monday Amazon strategy

3 Trends from Prime Day 2019 to guide your Black Friday and Cyber Monday Amazon strategy

While shoppers may be thinking “back to school” for sellers, September means it’s time to set a strategy for key Q4 sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, if you haven’t started already. To help marketers get a better handle on how to maximize their sales and profit over these high-traffic periods, my colleagues and I examined Prime Day 2019 sales activity across our client base of thousands of Amazon sellers. The results showed that the biggest trends to watch are the increase in volume not matching cost-per-click increases, product discounting not being a barrier to revenue growth and the impact of organic sales.

The data below is based on two separate studies comparing Prime Day and non-Prime Day performance. Vertical-specific data is derived from sales and advertising activity across more than 1,300 products sold by our clients in each of the “Clothing Shoes and Jewelry,” “Health and Household” and “Home and Kitchen” categories on Amazon.

Non-vertical specific data is reflective of sales and advertising performance data across more than 1,100 products sold by our clients.

In both data sets, the Prime Day period represents data collected on July 15 and 16, 2019. The “non-Prime Day” period represents data collected over the four Mondays and Tuesdays prior to Prime Day. Specifically, these ‘non-Prime Day’ dates were averages across June 17, 18, 24 and 25, along with July 1, 2, 8 and 9. Finally, all products included in the study averaged at least one weekly sale over the ‘non-Prime Day’ period.

Expect markedly higher volume – but not (necessarily) CPCs or conversion rates

Events like Prime Day obviously generate a massive increase in traffic and sales on Amazon, but the corresponding increase in advertising activity doesn’t necessarily cause cost-per-clicks or conversion rates to rise at the same rate. Within the “Clothing Shoes and Jewelry” category, conversion rates stayed the same, and cost-per-clicks actually dipped 5.7% on Prime Day, despite ad spend rising 33% and revenue rising 540%.

Of course, this does vary a bit by category. Within the “Health and Household” and “Home and Kitchen” categories, cost-per-clicks did rise in the low-double-digit percentages with conversion rates close behind. Yet it’s worth noting that these higher costs of advertising dovetailed with significantly larger revenue increases – to the tune of several hundred percentage points.

These stats underscore why marketers should increase budgets during high-traffic events like Prime Day. There is a unique ability during these events to drive large double- to triple-digit increases in daily sales figures through advertising across key search terms, with a minimal increase in cost on a cost-per-clic basis. Prime Day is no secret to sellers, but despite the obvious marked increase in competition from an advertising perspective, the increase in the ‘supply’ of users buying on Amazon during these high-traffic periods is outpacing advertising activity.  

Don’t sleep on organic sales

In the same vertical-specific data set for Clothing Shoes and Jewelry, it’s worth noting the substantial increase in organic sales on top of advertising-derived sales. The average change in TACoS (total advertising cost of sale), which combines ad-derived and non-ad derived sales, was -64%, while the average cost of sale only decreased by an average of -3%. We saw similar trends in other verticals as well.

TACoS is important to track because of the nature of Amazon’s algorithm. Activity generated by a paid listing impacts organic ranking, on top of behavior like consumers beginning with an unbranded search within a product category, seeing a brand in a paid listing, and then immediately doing another search for that brand’s products.

In this way, the fact that organic sales jumped more than ad-derived sales actually bolsters the case for aggressively advertising leading into high-traffic periods – even if this means pulling back on budgets earlier to save up for that big push. Advertising a product on key unbranded terms can have effects that help drive increased organic sales during these lucrative events.

It’s not ‘discount or die’

Out of the more than 1,100 products we studied across a wide variety of categories over the Prime Day period, 94% saw revenue increases compared to the prior four Monday and Tuesday average. But importantly, while discounted products saw the largest average period-over-period revenue increases (+820%), the roughly 59% of products in the sample that were not discounted over Prime Day still saw average revenue growth of +496%.

The data above illustrates how discounts do help in generating higher sales over events like Prime Day, but also that consumers coming to Amazon during these times are in the mood to shop generally. While they may be bargain hunting for some items, it’s clear a sizable percentage are buying products which are not discounted, and rising overall sales volume.

As there is revenue growth across the board, you should be strategic in terms of what products in your catalog should be discounted or promoted via a Prime Day or similar deal in order to generate the best outcome for their business. Maintaining margins can absolutely be taken into account, alongside maximizing sales volume. Depending on your situation, this could mean, for example, discounting a soon-to-be deprecated product to move as much volume as possible, or discounting a brand new product to maximize sales, relevancy, and reviews to feed long-term visibility on Amazon.

Pulling back a bit, talking to sellers we generally saw companies that employed aggressive advertising strategies have the biggest sales bumps on Prime Day. Granted, in nearly every one of these cases, the seller was focusing its budget and discount efforts on specific, strategic product lines, rather than an entire catalog. Expect this to also be the case during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 


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

Andrew Waber is the director of insights at retail optimization platform (ROP) provider Teikametrics. In his current role, Andrew manages the analysis, editorial direction and strategy for Teikametrics’ reporting on online retail advertising and the larger online retail marketplace. Prior to his time at Teikametrics, Andrew served as the manager of data insights and media relations at Salsify, the manager of market insights and media relations for advertising automation software provider Nanigans, and as the market analyst and lead author of reports for Chitika Insights, the research arm of the Chitika online ad network. Andrew’s commentary on online trends has been quoted by the New York Times, Re/Code and The Guardian, among other outlets.

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Bing Webmaster Tools allows site verification via Google Search Console

Bing Webmaster Tools allows site verification via Google Search Console

Bing has launched a beta feature that allows site owners to import their sites from Google Search Console to its own Webmaster Tools. After logging into Bing Webmaster Tools, site owners may be presented with an option reading, “Already verified on Google Search Console?Beta Skip verification by importing your site.”

The option to import your site via Google Search Console presented after login.

Why we should care

Although Bing’s share of the search market pales in comparison to Google, it is still the world’s second-largest search engine (as of April 2019, the latest data available at the time of publishing).

For larger brands that are sensitive to the slightest of traffic fluctuations, having the tools necessary to address SEO issues as efficiently as possible may directly impact revenue. Being able to import your sites from Google Search Console decreases the friction (or inertia) involved with monitoring for those potential issues on a second frontier.

More on Bing and Bing Webmaster Tools

Here are a few resources to help you determine how much of a role Bing might play in your brand’s overall SEO strategy.


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

The importance of an effective review management workflow

The importance of an effective review management workflow

Whether it’s finding accommodation, booking a restaurant, choosing a new car or upgrading software for your business, reviews will impact your purchase decision.

Indeed, nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase, which will have a huge impact on website conversion rates. It’s therefore vital that marketers know how to harness user–generated reviews to their advantage through a proactive review management workflow.

Customers are reading your reviews – don’t ignore them

With the rise of social networks and online review platforms, customers are now more informed than ever before on brands and what others are saying about them. There’s now a plethora of information available to users conducting a quick Google search for “[A BRAND] reviews” which will impact their decision to either get in touch or make a purchase.

Third-party review websites covering various topics are businesses in themselves. Trustpilot, HomeAdvisor, Feefo, Yelp and many more review aggregators make money from businesses who pay a small fee to actively manage what customers are saying about them online. Add to this the fact that most online stores feature customer reviews of any given product and you start to appreciate the impact they can have on customer trust and website conversion rates.

Indeed, 93% of customers are now using reviews to assess the quality of local businesses (BrightLocal), while 72% of customers reportedly don’t take action until they’ve read reviews of a product or service (Testimonial Engine). Instead of leaving review management to your customer service team, reviews should be treated as a marketing conversion lever and managed accordingly.

How then can you keep tabs on what users are saying about your business? All companies are to a certain extent at the mercy of third-party review management sites, so it’s important to monitor and manage this process as best you can. Not forgetting the techniques you can employ on your own web properties to boost trust in your brand through displaying testimonials, client logos and so on.

Create a proactive review management workflow

The review economy relies on consumers willingly sharing their experiences. For customers to write reviews, we need to understand why any consumer would take the time to provide their thoughts on the experience they had with a product or service.

Most reviews are triggered by exceptionally positive or negative customer experiences. These customers will look for a place to share their experiences if they’re not addressed by the company in question to their satisfaction.

Oftentimes, customers just need a gentle push to leave a review. According to BrightLocal, 68% of customers have reportedly left a local business review after being asked to do so. Power Reviews finds approximately 80% of reviews originate from email requests for customer reviews.

Proactively requesting reviews is one way of negating the risk of negative reviews happening in the first place while at the same time encouraging positive customer reviews.

As an example, the following review management workflow could be used to funnel customers into a post-sale or service first-party review process. This means you manage the collection of the ratings as a first step, enabling you to funnel negative customer experiences directly to your customer service team, and encourage customers who have left favorable ratings to go online and spread the word.

One benefit of managing your own review workflow is that you’ll be able to funnel customers toward whichever review platform tends to hold the most weight in your niche, and the platform which gains most visibility when users are searching for your brand name and “review” queries in Google search.

While this type of workflow can be set up at scale using major CRM and email marketing platforms, you can also achieve this using free email tools such as Mailchimp, proving a cost effective method of encouraging customer reviews for small business owners.

Google Alerts

Google alerts is a free tool used to monitor a selection of keywords, which in this case (review and reputation monitoring) would be your brand name.

While it’s not as refined as many paid for reputation management tools, it’s another cost–effective method of keeping on top of what people are saying about your brand online.

Setting up Google Alerts for your business is really simple to do, but don’t forget that you can refine your search terms by using:

  • Quotation marks (“”): Specific words or phrases
  • (Site:): To be notified of new content on specific sites of high value
  • Minus (-): To filter out articles containing certain keywords

Paid tools for reputation management

In addition to the DIY solutions you can create to effectively manage your online reviews, there are a number of paid tools you can utilize if you have the budget.

There are some less expensive tools out there to keep on top of what people are saying about your brand specifically on social media, including Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.

However you decide to monitor your online reviews, ensuring you respond to reviews is vital – 53% of customers expect businesses to reply to their online reviews within seven days (Review Trackers) and your lack of response could have a negative impact on your brand perception, especially on social media.

Sign up to review platforms

As the volume of dedicated review platforms expands, it’s important that you claim and maintain a presence on each of the major platforms in your location and niche.

Major platforms such as Yelp and Google My Business are necessary for all types of businesses and should be claimed and updated as a basic first step for all business owners.

You’ll notice that Google My Business dominates the review landscape for the vast majority of navigational and local queries on Google. Just type your brand and a local keyword into Google and you’ll almost always see Google My Business listings (the “local pack”) complete with reviews returned first.

Remember, your customers will more often than not use Google to search for reviews, so once you’ve worked through the more basic platforms, carry out some research of other review platforms that tend to appear when typing in your brand and “reviews” as well as your service or product and “reviews” search queries into Google.

Displaying reviews and testimonials on your site 

It’s important to not only rely on third party review platforms to help convert your customers. Reviews are an important trust signal that you should utilise wherever possible on your website to boost your conversion rate, and there are a number of different review formats you can utilise to do this:

  • Customer testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Service specific reviews
  • Product specific reviews
  • Third-party reviews and ratings

Don’t forget that 73% of consumers have more trust in a local business after seeing positive reviews, so don’t just rely on off-site reviews, ensure that potential customers have visibility of your reviews directly while browsing your site.

Responding to negative reviews

However well you manage your reviews, inevitably a few poor reviews will make it into the public domain. But don’t fear, the important part is how you respond and manage to them.

Responding to reviews gives the perception that you really care about your customers, and you should be prepared to not only thank customers for their positive reviews, but respond publicly to negative reviews in a proactive manner.

If you’re wondering how to respond to negative reviews, it depends a lot on the severity and nature of the review, but there are some guiding principles:

  1. Never be confrontational
  2. Address the root cause of the issue (listen to what your customers are saying!)
  3. Always respond and apologize
  4. Offer to make things right
  5. Say thanks
  6. Respond in a timely fashion

Conclusion

If you weren’t proactively managing your reviews before reading this post, hopefully some of these stats have changed your mind.

No matter what else you do to attract customers to your website or how much money you spend on advertising, customer reviews will play a role in your customers decision making process, so ignore them at your peril!


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

Ben Wood is the Digital Director at UK based agency Hallam. Ben specializes in SEO, paid search and web analytics. In his spare time, Ben is an experienced ice hockey player, currently representing the Nottingham Lions in the English National League.

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Google moves to simplify, standardize content policies for publishers

Google moves to simplify, standardize content policies for publishers

Google is reorganizing how it presents publisher content policies, and standardizing its content policies and restrictions across AdSense, AdMob and Ad Manager.

Google content policies will soon be divided into two categories: Google Publisher Policies and Google Publisher Restrictions. The Google Publisher Policies page will outline the types of content that cannot be monetized and the Google Publisher Restrictions page will outline specific content types that do not violate policies, but may not be appealing to all advertisers, such as alcohol or tobacco-related content.

The updates are scheduled to go live in September and are aimed at creating a simplified experience for publishers in terms of understanding what content can be monetized.

Why we should care

Brands and marketers have long been pushing for digital ad platforms to create more transparent and brand-safe environments. In the process, many of the content policies from ad platforms have been difficult to follow and understand for publishers — knowing what content cannot be monetized versus the types of content that can be monetized, but may not fit an advertiser’s branding standards. With this update, Google is making it easier for publishers to follow the rules.

“One consistent piece of feedback we’ve heard from our publishers is that they want us to further simplify our policies, across products, so that they are easier to understand and follow,” writes Google’s Director of Sustainable Ads Scott Spencer on the Inside AdSense blog.

It’s worth noting, Google isn’t updating any of its actual content policies, only restructuring the framework around how they are presented.

More on the news

  • The new Google Publisher Policies page will outline content that cannot be monetized, such as illegal content, dangerous or derogatory, or sexually explicit content.
  • The Google Publisher Restrictions page will list the specific types of content that doesn’t necessarily violate content policies, but may not be appealing for some advertisers: “Publishers will not receive a policy violation for trying to monetize this content, but only some advertisers and advertising products will bid on it.”
  • Google reports it removed 734,000 publishers and app developers from it ad network last year for violating publisher policies.

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

How to Use Keywords in Your Blogging Strategy

How to Use Keywords in Your Blogging Strategy

Even though blogging has been around for a while, it looks a lot different today than it did in the early 2000s. In those days, people read your blog because they followed it (anyone else have a few old .blogspot blogs floating around out there?) or subscribed to your RSS feed.

Online behavior has changed since then. While some people might stumble onto a blog they like and subscribe to its email list for updates, many people discover blog content through search engines. With more people searching than ever before, it’s a great time for bloggers to explore using keyword research in their content strategy.

This post was written for those that may be new to blogging, as well as those who have been blogging for some time but are just now starting to explore keyword research.

Ready? It’s time to dive into the beginner’s guide to keyword research for bloggers!

What are keywords?

Keywords are the words someone types (or speaks!) into a search engine.

People use search engines for all sorts of things — things like looking up movie times, seeing what the day’s weather will be like, or getting their local pizza place’s number. Every search is a quest for information, and the goal of search engines like Google is to supply the searcher with a satisfying answer as quickly as possible.

What does this mean for you as a blogger? It means that if you want to write for these searchers, you’ll need to know the questions they’re asking (keywords) and deliver the answer in your blog posts.

How will keywords change my blog strategy?

Blog posts developed on the basis of keyword research are different from other types of blog posts in that they focus on answering an existing question.

Contrast this with something like a blog post about a personal experience, or a post introducing a completely new idea — in both these scenarios, because your content doesn’t answer an existing question, it likely won’t get much traffic from search engines like Google, simply because no one is searching for it.

Does that mean you can only write to answer existing questions? Not at all! Even topics with no search demand could get great engagement and traffic on other channels like Facebook or Twitter, but if you want long-term free traffic, the best place to get it is from Google, and the best way to get Google to send you that traffic is to build your blogs on the foundation of keyword research.

Where do I find keywords?

A keyword research tool like Moz Keyword Explorer will do the trick!

This tool allows you to find new keyword ideas two main ways: by typing in a word or a phrase and getting back related keywords (the “Explore by Keyword” feature):

Gif of someone searching fried tofu recipe by keyword in Keyword Explorer

…or by typing in a page/website and getting back keywords that page or website ranks for (the “Explore by Site” feature):

Gif of someone searching moz.com by root domain in Keyword Explorer

Another great feature is the filter for “are questions” — this allows you to see only keywords that are formatted as questions. Since answering your audience’s questions is such a key component of optimizing your content for search, this is a great tool to give you insight into what your audience wants to know.

What keywords do I pick?

Just because you found a keyword in a keyword research tool doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it in your blogging strategy. Once you have a list of keywords, it’s a good idea to whittle it down. Here’s how.

Choose keywords that match your audience

Knowing your audience is a prerequisite for keyword research because it helps you filter out keywords that, although technically related to your topic, are a mismatch for your audience.

If you haven’t done so yet, document an ideal audience for your blog. For example, if you run a fitness blog, you could write down something as simple as “fitness enthusiasts.” You could also go a bit deeper and create audience personas, full profiles of your ideal audience that include things like age, demographics, and interests.

The deeper your understanding of your ideal audience, the easier it will be to detect which keywords out of the bunch they would have searched for.

Evaluate each keyword’s difficulty score

You may also want to whittle down your keyword list to leave only those with an appropriate Difficulty Score, which Keyword Explorer will assign to every keyword. That score is determined by the strength of the pages that are currently ranking on page 1 for that keyword.

If you’re just getting started blogging and you have a fairly low Domain Authority (which you can check by downloading the MozBar plugin or using the free version of Moz Link Explorer), you may want to start with keywords that have a Difficulty Score in the 20-30 range, or even lower. For more on how to use Difficulty Score in your keyword research, check out this write-up from Rand Fishkin.

Look at each keyword’s search volume

Search volume gives you an estimate of how many people are searching for that keyword every month. It’s great to choose keywords that lots of people are searching for, but remember that quantity doesn’t always equal quality. You may opt for a lower-volume keyword because it’s much more relevant to your audience and your goals.

How do I use the keywords on my page?

When Google’s algorithm was less mature than it is today, it was easy to get your page to rank at the top of search results for certain phrases by repeating that keyword many times on the page.

Over the years though, Google has gotten better at ranking pages that answer the query, rather than just repeat it on the page. This is important to keep in mind because it’s tempting to think that all you have to do with your keyword list is add those words to your pages. To perform well in search engines though, you have to provide an answer to those queries that’s better than anything else out there.

Here are some tips for using keywords to guide your blog content:

  • Keywords are the input. You’re creating the output. Instead of asking yourself “How can I include this keyword on my page?” ask yourself, “How can I answer this question?”
  • You don’t have to have a separate page for every keyword you want to rank for. If you’re writing a blog post about “choosing the best running shoes,” for example, it makes perfect sense to answer multiple questions related to that topic within the same post, such as “road vs. trail running shoes” and “running shoe features.”
  • Check out the pages that are currently ranking for your target keyword and think about how you can create a page better than that.

Where do I go from here?

The best thing to do next is to dive in and try it for yourself! As with most things, keyword research gets easier once you start to apply it.

A huge part of growing your blog effectively is developing a content strategy. There’s a fantastic free video course from HubSpot that walks you through developing your own content strategy, including how to use Moz Keyword Explorer for your keyword research. If you’re a visual learner like me, you should find it helpful!

Take the free course!

The most important thing to remember is that offering the right content tells you what your audience wants to know. As a blogger, this insight is invaluable! Write to answer their questions, and they’ll be more likely to find your content in search engines. 


Vertaald van MOZ

Review fraud: Hijacked Amazon reviews a big problem says Consumer Reports

Review fraud: Hijacked Amazon reviews a big problem says Consumer Reports

Amazon’s fake reviews problem is apparently getting worse. But most consumers are unaware of the problem, let alone its size and scope.

Amazon, review graders battle over size of problem. FakeSpot and ReviewMeta, which analyze Amazon reviews, have published studies that argue majorities of reviews in specific product categories (e.g., electronics) are fraudulent. Amazon has previously disputed this and argued that the companies profit from trying to “instill” and exploit consumer distrust. Some Amazon sellers express ambivalence or skepticism about these companies.

Hijacking a significant problem. Now, Consumer Reports has published the results of its own investigation and analysis of a sub-species of review fraud, called “review hijacking,” which it says is widespread on Amazon. Review hijacking happens when the seller of a product is able to associate positive reviews from another, unrelated product with its own to deceive potential buyers.

Consumer Reports goes into detail about how this is accomplished, often using Amazon’s own back-end seller tools. A meaningful percentage of review hijacking apparently originates in China or with Chinese sellers.

Limited consumer investigation. Most consumers look at review counts, star ratings or point totals and read isolated reviews. They typically don’t look closely at enough reviews to determine whether there’s any fraud lurking in the shadows. This is why companies such as FakeSpot and ReviewMeta say they need to exist.

For its part, Amazon says it takes the problem of review fraud seriously and devotes significant resources to address it. Periodically the FTC has gotten involved in particularly egregious cases of review fraud on Amazon and elsewhere.

Despite a general lack of consumer awareness of the extent of the review fraud problem, there does seem to be some erosion of trust happening. A survey of 2,000 adults from CPC Strategy found that only 17% of respondents said they “fully trust” reviews on Amazon. After that, there were varying degrees of distrust (e.g., “somewhat”) expressed.

Why we should care. Fake review generation and other review-fraud tactics are a kind of blackhat SEO for Amazon, which helps those products gain search visibility and consumer credibility. Consumer Reports says enough fake, positive reviews can also trigger the coveted “Amazon’s Choice” badge, which drives sales.

Honest Amazon sellers are at a disadvantage vs. unscrupulous competitors that can generate or otherwise collect fake positive reviews. As Amazon has become the leading destination for product search, the incentives to cheat have only grown for black hat sellers. The problem of fake reviews is distressing and widely discussed on Amazon seller forums.

Given the sheer scale of Amazon, it’s not entirely clear how the company could effectively address fake reviews — if it were vigorously trying to eradicate them. Perhaps it could and should adopt a “verified purchaser” only review policy. But even then the system could probably still be gamed.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.

Dit artikel is vertaald van Search Engine Land

Kindness as Currency: How Good Deeds Can Benefit Your Local Business

Kindness as Currency: How Good Deeds Can Benefit Your Local Business

“To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give.” – Taisen Deshimaru, Buddhist philosopher


A woman stands in a busy supermarket checkout line. The shopper in front of her realizes that they don’t have enough money with them to cover their purchase, so she steps in and makes up the balance. Then, when she reaches the checkout, her own receipt totals up higher than she was expecting. She doesn’t have enough left in her purse.

“No proble

A bystander snaps a photo and posts the story to Facebook. The story ends up on local radio and TV for the grocery storeNational news takes notice. A scholarship foundation presents a check to the clerk. When asked how he felt about it, the clerk said:

“Personally, I think it’s undeserved attention. Because she did something so good … I felt like it was my responsibility to return the favor.”

In the process, if only for a moment in time, an everyday supermarket is transformed into a rescue operation for hope in humanity. Through the lens of local SEO, it’s also a lesson in how good deeds can be rewarded by good mentions.

Studying business kindness can be a rewarding task for any motivated digital marketing agency or local brand owner. I hope this post will be both a pick-me-up for the day, and a rallying cry to begin having deeper conversations about the positive culture businesses can create in the communities they serve.

10+ evocative examples of business kindness

“We should love people and use things, but sadly, we love things and use people,” Roger Johnson, Artisan

As a youngster in the American workforce, I ran into some very peculiar styles of leadership.

For instance, one boss gruffly told me not to waste too much time chatting with the elderly customers who especially loved buying from me…as if customer support doesn’t make or break business reputations.

And then there was the cranky school secretary who reprimanded me for giving ice packs to children because she believed they were only “trying to get attention” … as if schools don’t exist to lavish focus on the kids in their care.

In other words, both individuals would have preferred me to be less kind, less human, than more so.

Perhaps it was these experiences of my superiors taking a miserly approach to workplace human kindness that inspired me to keep a little file of outbreaks of goodwill that earned online renown. These examples beg self-reflective questions of any local business owner:

or pay a customer’s $200 tab because they saw them hold open a door for a differently-abled guest?

  1. What good things might happen in a community you serve if you started out postcards promoting positivity?
  2. What if you gave flowers to strangers, including moms, on Mother’s Day?
  3. How deeply are you delving into the season of giving at the holidays? What if, like one business owner, you opened shop on Thanksgiving just to help a family find a gift for a foster child? You migt wake up to international fame on Monday morning.
  4. What if visitors to your community had their bikes stolen on a road trip and your shop gifted them new bikes and ended up on the news?
  5. One business owner was so grateful for his community’s help in overcoming addiction, he’s been washing their signage for free. What has your community done for you and how have you thanked them?
  6. What if all you had to do was something really small, like replacing negative “towed at your own expense” signs by welcoming quick stop parking?
  7. What if you, just for a day, you asked customers to pay for their purchases with kind acts?

I only know about these stories because of the Julien Hilgeman (online references to a local business) they generated. They earned online publicity, radio, and television press. The fame for some was small and local, for others, internationally viral. Some activities were planned, but many others took place on the spur of the moment. Kindness, empathy, and gratitude, flow through them all like a river of hope, inviting every business owner to catch the current in their own way. One easy way for local business owners to keep better track of any positive mentions is by managing and monitoring reviews online with the New Moz Local.

See your online presence

Can kindness be taught in the workplace?

In Demark, schoolchildren learn empathy as a class subject. The country is routinely rated as one of the happiest in the world. At Moz, we have the TAGFEE code, which includes both generosity and empathy, and our company offers internal workshops on things like “How to be TAGFEE when you disagree.” We are noted for the kindness of our customer support, as in the above review.

According to Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki, people “catch” cooperation and generosity from others. In his study, the monetary amount donors gave to charity went up or down based on whether they were told their peers gave much or little. They matched the generosity or stinginess they witnessed. In part two of the study, the groups who had seen others donating generously went on to offer greater empathy in writing letters to penpals suffering hard times. In other words, kindness isn’t just contagious — its impact can spread across multiple activities.

Mercedes-Benz CEO, Stephen Cannon, wanted employees to catch the kindness bug because of its profound impact on sales. He invited his workforce to join a “grassroots movement” that resulted in surprising shoppers with birthday cakes, staff rushing to remote locations with spare tires, and other memorable consumer experiences. Cannon noted:

“There is no scientific process, no algorithm, to inspire a salesperson or a service person to do something extraordinary. The only way you get there is to educate people, excite them, incite them. Give them permission to rise to the occasion when the occasion to do something arises. This is not about following instructions. It’s about taking a leap of faith.”

In a 2018 article, I highlighted the reviews of a pharmacy that made it apparent that staff wasn’t empowered to do the simplest self-determined acts, like providing a chair for a sick man who was about to fall down in a long prescription counter line. By contrast, an Inc. book review of Jill Lublin’s The Profits of Kindness states:

“Organizations that trade in kindness allow their employees to give that currency away. If you’re a waitress, can you give someone a free piece of pie because the kid at the next table spilled milk on their foot? If you’re a clerk in a hotel, do you have the authority to give someone a discounted rate because you can tell they’ve had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?”

There may be no formula for teaching kindness, but if Zaki is right, then leadership can be the starting point of demonstrative empathy that can emanate through the staff and to its customers. How do you build for that?

A cared-for workforce for customer service excellence

You can find examples of individual employees behaving with radical kindness despite working for brands that routinely disregard workers’ basic needs. But, this hardly seems ideal. How much better to build a business on empathy and generosity so that cared-for staff can care for customers.

I ran a very quick Twitter poll to ask employees what their very most basic need is:

Unsurprisingly, the majority of respondents cited a living wage as their top requirement. Owners developing a kind workforce must ensure that staff are housing-and-food-secure, and can afford the basic dignities of life. Any brand that can’t pay its staff a living wage isn’t really operational — it’s exploitation.

Beyond the bare minimums, Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2019 Survey of 7,300 executives, HR experts, and employees highlighted trending worker emphasis on:

  • Flexibility in both hours and location to create a healthy work/life balance
  • Ethics in company technology, practices, and transparency
  • Equity in pay ratios, regardless of gender
  • Empathy in the workplace, both internally and in having a positive societal impact with customers

It’s just not very hard to connect the dots between a workforce that has its basic and aspirational needs met, and one possessing the physical, mental and emotional health to extend those values to consumers. As I found in a recent study of my own, 70 percent of negative review resolution was driven by brands having to overcome bad/rude service with subsequent caring service.

Even at the smallest local business level, caring policies and initiatives that generate kindness are within reach, with Gallup reporting that SMBs have America’s happiest and most engaged workers. Check out Forbes list of the best small companies of 2019 and note the repeated emphasis on employee satisfaction.

Kindness as currency, with limitless growth potential

“I wanted a tangible item that could track acts of kindness. From that, the Butterfly Coin emerged.” Bruce Pedersen, Butterfly Coins

Maybe someday, you’ll be the lucky recipient of a Butterfly Coin, equipped with a unique tracking code, and gifted to you by someone doing a kind act. Then, you’ll do something nice for somebody and pass it on, recording your story amongst thousands of others around the world. People, it seems, are so eager for tokens of kindness that the first mint sold out almost immediately.

The butterfly effect (the inspiration for the name of these coins) in chaos theory holds that a small action can trigger multiple subsequent actions at a remove. In a local business setting, an owner could publicly reward an employee’s contributions, which could cause the employee to spread their extra happiness to twenty customers that day, which could cause those customers to be in a mood to tip waitstaff extra, which could cause the waitstaff to comp meals for hungry neighbors sitting on their doorsteps, and on and on it goes.

There’s an artisan in Gig Harbor, WA who rewards kindnesses via turtle figurines. There are local newspapers that solicit stories of kindness. There are towns that have inaugurated acts-of-kindness weeks. There is even a suburb in Phoenix, AZ that re-dubbed itself Kindness, USA. (I mentioned, I’ve been keeping a file).

The most priceless aspect of kindness is that it’s virtually limitless. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be quantified. The Butterfly Coin idea is attempting to track kindness, and as a local business owner, you have a practical means of parsing it, too. It will turn up in unstructured citations, reviews, and social media, if you originate it at the leadership level, and share it out from employee to customer with an open hand.

Vertaald van MOZ

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