Visual search technology is continually improving, while visual search usage is expanding across various platforms.
With new, intelligent, visual search technology being incorporated into branded apps and websites as well as improved visual search functionality being built into platforms such as Pinterest, Bing, and Google, visual search is changing the search marketing landscape as we know it.
Pinterest’s CEO Ben Silbermann has previously said that “the future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords.”
Indeed, recent advancements in visual search technology from the likes of Pinterest, Target, and ASOS are already making it much easier for users to snap an image and either buy the product captured or search for similar items.
This post details everything search marketers need to know about how the emergence of visual search technology could shape search habits over the next few years and what brands can do to adapt and compete.
The Growth of Visual Search
Visual search technology is much more complex than text-based search, as with visual search the image itself is the query.
While voice search usage has been increasing over the last few years, so has a visual search. We can now search based on part of an image, search with our cameras, and search via augmented reality applications.
A 2017 report by Jumpshot and Moz confirms that visual search is on the rise, with 27 percent of all searches across 10 major properties being for images.
Pinterest has reported that their users carried out more than 600 million combined monthly searches using their Lens technology in February 2018 and there are now more image results than ever being returned by Google.
Clearly, visual search is growing rapidly.
Let’s explore how people are using visual search, what the technology is capable of, and how it might develop in the future.
How Are Users Engaging with Visual Search?
Based on these usage statistics, it would seem that brands operating in the fashion and home decor industries are those with the biggest opportunity to capitalize on visual search demand right now.
Fashion brands such as ASOS have already been implementing proprietary technology into their web properties, thus allowing shoppers to snap an item they like in a shop and find similar items on Asos.com.
It’s convenient use cases like this that are driving the growth of visual search across the web.
Notable Visual Search Platforms
With a growing number of visual searches taking place, let’s now take a look at the top visual search platforms available today and the technology behind them.
Pinterest has allowed its users to highlight specific sections of Pins to find visually similar Pins to a selected area since 2014, two years ahead of Bing, who only introduced that functionality to its mobile image search in July 2016.
Pinterest has since rolled out a search function that aims to match discovery to images, not words. Pinterest Lens “lets you use the camera in your Pinterest app to discover ideas inspired by objects you see out in the real world.”
Naturally, I wanted to give this a try and I actually found the technology worked quite well.
Pinterest is using this technology to help build its user base and thus boost its ability to make more money as an advertising platform.
A recent report showed 90 percent of weekly Pinterest users’ purchase decisions are influenced by things they’ve encountered on Pinterest.
To capitalize on this demand, Pinterest has released ‘Shop the look’ pins for advertisers to list fashion and home décor Pins, which users can find by selecting specific parts of an image and ‘shopping the look’.
Unlike Google which has a variety of different search products and features to maintain, Pinterest is able to focus 100 percent of its effort on the development (and monetization) of its visual search engine.
Like Pinterest, Bing has developed smart web-based image search and image search based on photos taken by your camera.
While not revolutionary, Bing’s visual search is still a useful tool that has significantly enhanced their image search offering over the past couple of years compared to Google’s current offering.
Bing now allows users to select portions of images and focus in on specific items to further refine their search.
ing also claim that when shopping intent is detected behind a query they provide related products with pricing information, however having tested this feature extensively I’ve still not managed to trigger the option to buy an item I’ve selected!
Compared to Pinterest’s visual search, Bing’s offering is still a bit hit and miss. I found that it often failed to recognize selected items and would instead return items based on color, despite the fact they were totally different objects.
Google has made a series of moves designed at making image search simpler and more accessible, including launching their own camera-based search, Google Lens.
The latest version of Google Lens (May 2018) will be native to numerous Android smartphone cameras, meaning it won’t need to be operated within a similar app. Presumably, this will increase the usage of this compared to Pinterest and Bing enabling Google to further monetize their image results.
Google Lens will have a ‘Style Match’ feature, similar to Pinterest Lens, and in line with the other big players in visual search, the emphasis on shopping will give users a link to buy what they’ve snapped or browse related items.
In the same vein, Google has also updated their app and mobile results to include badges for image search as well. Now, in searches made within the app, users see a badge in the bottom left corner of an image.
For example, badges such as “recipe” or perhaps the most significant badge – “product” – shown if the item is available for purchase online.
How Can Brands Leverage Image Search?
Image search presents a huge opportunity for online retailers, so how can brands leverage the technology currently available?
1. Focus on Organic Image Visibility
The rise in visual search means that competing in image search results needs to receive a greater SEO focus. Where previously optimizing images has been an afterthought, it may now receive increased attention.
There are some basic steps brands can take to optimize their images to boost visibility which you can read about here.
2. Build Image Search Into Web Inventory
In the past year, Pinterest rolled out its visual search technology into Target’s apps and websites. As part of the deal, Target will reportedly increase ad spend with Pinterest and test new Pinterest ad formats.
Recent research from L2 found that only 8 percent of retail brands have built visual search capability into their web inventory and I’d certainly expect this to grow over the next couple of years.
3. Advertise on Pinterest
As mentioned earlier, there are reportedly 600 million Pinterest Lens searches every month, a figure which has seen sustained growth since the technology was released.
Add to this the stat that half of Pinners have already made a purchase after seeing a Promoted Pin and Pinterest advertising seems a no-brainer for e-commerce retailers.
Thanks to Pinterest’s core visual search technology and advanced image recognition, brands will get the benefit of their ads automatically showing up next to visually related products.
In addition to promoted pins, e-commerce brands will have a huge opportunity with the expansion of Pinterest shopping over the next year.
What’s Next for Visual Search?
Visual search will continue to become more accurate and widespread as time goes by. I can imagine various possibilities for visual search going forward, with the most natural evolution incorporating augmented reality.
I don’t foresee visual search replacing text-based searches altogether anytime soon. But it certainly opens up a ton of opportunities, mainly for fashion and home decor brands – it’s certainly safe to assume that the future of visual search will be retail-dominated.
In the offline world, people, companies, and the traditional media act as backlinks, promoting and endorsing various services and products. The more people recommend a certain brand, the more popular it becomes.
The same logic applies to the way Google operates: the more websites with good reputation refer to your site, the higher your website appears in the SERPs.
In an effort to explain the benefits of investing your resources in link building, this article will focus on the advantages of link building for SEO, its basic definitions, and other fundamental components of this process.
1. Why Link Building Matters, or Why Links Are Worth It
Have you ever wondered why Wikipedia ranks so well in Google?
These types of links direct users to various pages or material within your site. As part of their navigational purpose, such links also play a significant role in SEO and can improve a page’s organic search rankings.
3. Link Building vs. Link Earning
Getting links organically can increase your website authority, drive traffic, and expose your brand to more people.
That’s exactly the type of link that Solis received. On a general note, linking to a site might only happen if you’re talking about this brand. So PR plays an important role in this instance and so does general brand’s visibility.
In fact, that’s the reason why a lot of companies are heavily investing in building relationships with influencers because the latter are helping companies to acquire links, directly and indirectly.
Manually Created Links
These links are mostly generated through an outreach process.
If you’er trying to build authority for a specific page or piece of content to help it rank well in Google, you can acquire such links via:
Manual outreach: This is my favorite strategy. Not only are you getting links, but you’re also building relationships with industry bloggers, influencers, or journalists. However, this approach is extremely time-consuming.
Automated outreach: Automated outreach implies sending the exact same template to every blogger. Typically, link builders do some legwork first to put together a substantial list of emails, and only then will they push the ‘send’ button. Even though this strategy seems to be more scalable from a business perspective, it has a lot of downsides, such as your email hitting a wrong person’s inbox.
Self-Created, Non-Editorial Links
Such links aren’t considered to be of good quality so we highly recommend avoiding building them. In the past, self-created links were massively abused by the SEO industry. As a result, Google began devaluing them or even penalized sites that had too many links of that kind.
Blog comments that are not moderated.
Press releases that have links with specific keywords.
Another type of link you should avoid is paid links. This one is risky and can get you penalized.
Either you pay another site to link to yours or you agree to link to a site in exchange for payment. This is against Google’s guidelines.
Learn more in Link Building Techniques: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Jeremy Knauff.
5. Which Inbound Links Are Most Valuable for Your Site and Why
There are many types of inbound links. But which ones are the most valuable?
Without a doubt, the best type of links are those that are placed on sites with traffic-generating potential. This is because those links aren’t just simple links, they’re bringing you potential new clients/customers/users.
User-generated content has the potential to drive significant traffic to your site.
The best examples of this are Quora and Reddit. Both sites have tons of topics where users exchange their opinions and share links to sites that they believe are relevant and helpful.
6. Quantity vs. Quality
Are you better off acquiring easy-to-get links from less authoritative sites, or will a few links from credible websites help more?
Tony Wright says that quality links are more important than the quantity.
In the quantity vs. quality debate, it really depends on your situation – your industry/niche, what kind of links your competitors has, and many other factors.
Personally, I try to keep a balance between having links from smaller sites and highly popular ones. It’s better to have a few links from sites that aren’t as frequently visited as Wikipedia is, rather than spending sleepless days and nights on trying to achieve something unattainable.
7. Anchor Text & Anchor Cloud
A diverse and natural-looking anchor text distribution plays a role in your site’s rankings.
If done correctly, you’ll be on the first page of search results. If you over-optimize your anchor text for keywords, you will likely feel the wrath of Google (either in the form of a manual action or an algorithmic ranking downgrade).
The textual part of the anchor (your anchor text) indicates the subject of the content you’re linking to. The anchor also has an href attribute with the specified target link. A lot of people also refer to an anchor as an anchor tag.
8. Link Relevance
Google understands the content we create and classifies sites, which means we have to deal with another factor:
For example, a link from Wikipedia on a specific topic can be relevant for any type of site. On the other hand, a link from SEJ will be more beneficial for a site in SEO or digital marketing.
9. Link Authority
The best links come from domains within your niche and that have the highest authority.
Authority in our case is a combination of different metrics (e.g., popularity, number of referring domains and their quality).
For instance, a link from Wikipedia is obviously much more powerful than the majority of links out there because this site has a gigantic backlink profile and attracts tons of traffic.
Learn more from Jenny Halasz in Link Relevance vs. Authority: Which Do You Want?
10. How to See Which Sites Link to Yours (Your Backlink Profile)
The most effective and accurate way to learn about sites that are referring to you is to use Google Search Console.
However, there are a couple of issues with the data Google provides:
You get to see a list of all websites that have ever linked to your, so you can’t tell whether a link was removed.
You can’t check pages that are linking back to you because Google doesn’t display such information.
Because you can’t check which pages are referring to Google, you don’t know what anchor texts are being used. You can only see an overview of this.
If you’d like to find the missing part of the data, then you can use tools such as Majestic, Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz.
All of them allow you to see what kind of pages are linking to your site, links that no longer exist, information about anchor texts, and tons of other useful insights.
This article has covered some of the basic philosophies of link building and link earning.
While the industry is continuously changing – as are the strategies and tactics we use to get links – never forget that stellar content without links won’t get you far.
Source: Search Engine Journal | 10 Essential Link Building Concepts You Must Know
One aspect of content writing that is rarely mentioned is writing on-brand content that is both SEO-friendly and appeals to your target audience. Form that perfect marriage, and you are well on your way to driving more conversions — one of the primary goals of SEO — whether you are doing it for yourself or your clients.
In this article, you’ll get the lowdown on why on-brand content is so important — as well as how to curate the right message for the right audience at the right time.
SEO copywriting: What’s branding got to do with it?
I like to say “2018 is the year of personal branding” given the trends I’m seeing. Though larger-scale business branding is important, I am finding more and more customers are looking to put a “face” to the business they want to work with. It’s not enough to simply drive traffic to your site or share a ton of articles on social media. You have to build a connection with your audience that encourages trust and establishes you as an authority in your niche.
Great SEO copywriting involves much more than simply writing for Google, or even writing for your target audience. It is a beautiful balance of both, and to do it effectively, you often have to think outside the box.
To break it down, SEO copywriting is a way of writing that is both SEO-friendly and speaks to your audience in a way that attracts and converts them. It is NOT a means of simply plugging in keywords and walking away.
In fact, people often ask me about keyword density when it comes to my writing, and in reality, that metric hardly ever pops into my mind.
If you are truly sharing high-quality, accurate and informative content that answers a question your audience may have, it’s already on its way to being SEO-friendly. You then just need to do the research to confirm that those terms have the search traffic and competition level that you are after.
As I mentioned above, your brand message is an important component of SEO copywriting — as is often overlooked by copywriters and SEO experts alike. It plays a huge role in how you write, who you are writing for, the action you want them to take and more.
So, how do you harness your brand message to write SEO content?
How to find your brand message
Establishing a brand message is an important step in starting a business, even though many business owners skip this step. Perhaps they have looked at the marketplace, homed in on their target audience and know what they offer, but they haven’t rolled it all together cohesively.
The result is often website and marketing copy that reads flat. It ends up being a lot of generic jargon and doesn’t truly capture the essence of what the business is about.
What’s the consequence? Well, even if potential clients make it to their site, they won’t get a solid idea of what the site is about and how the services apply to them. If they don’t see the connection, they won’t convert.
In order to find the brand message of a business, there are a few fundamental questions to ask. Here are some questions that will help get the wheels turning when it comes to figuring out the right message for your particular audience.
1. What is it about your service or product that makes it unique?
First, you must define what it is that you offer that makes you stand out from your competition. Even if they have highly similar services/products, it is likely that there is at least one thing that sets you apart.
For example, it could be that you “don’t cut corners” when it comes to SEO, or that the products you offer are “locally sourced and organically grown.” Whatever it is, knowing what that one thing is that makes you different will help you attract the kind of audience that is wooed by your unique offer.
2. What value do you provide to your customers or clients?
Think beyond surface-level value (such as money or giving them a product), and really get down to what value your business offers.
For instance, it could be the convenience of outsourcing their digital marketing needs. Or it could be the relief of working with a trustworthy SEO agency that has their back. If you think about it, both of these offers could be taglines in and of themselves.
A lot of times you will find that your audience isn’t necessarily looking for more money — but much more than that. It is likely that your competitors are pitching “more sales,” but how can you sweeten the deal?
3. Who is your ideal customer/client?
When I ask clients this question, the usual answer is something like “small business owners,” “digital marketing professionals,” or even “creative entrepreneurs.” The problem with these answers is they give you very little information to go on when it comes to creating a brand message that appeals to your “ideal client.”
You’ll want to create a more holistic profile around who this person/people are by asking:
What kind of small business owner are they?
What are their problems?
What are their interests?
What are they like?
The more you know about them, the easier it will be to figure out what they want and how to reach out to them. This is the information you will incorporate into your SEO content.
4. What’s the #1 goal you have when it comes to your website?
Typically, the goal of your website is to drive conversions. But again, that’s not quite specific enough. You should have a plan for how you want users to engage with your website.
Do you want them to visit your blog and get more information about a certain topic?
Do you want them to purchase items from your sales page?
Do you want them to fill out a contact form to schedule a free consultation with you?
All of these actions are a bit different, and thus, each calls for a different kind of message. The idea of what actions you want users to take and your brand messaging should work together cohesively to help drive conversions through a website.
5. What problem(s) do your services/products solve for your clients/customers?
Similar to Question 2, this question serves to dig deeper into what you actually do for your clients or customers.
If your business is to sell computers, the problem isn’t “My customer needed a laptop, and now they have one.” A better answer would be “My customer wasn’t able to work from home without a laptop. I was able to provide them with one at an affordable price.” See how you are then recognizing a more specific problem and how you were able to solve it.
You may even want to make a list of the most common questions or struggles of your potential and past clients. How can you make business and life easier for them? The answers to these questions pose opportunities for content on your website.
6. What style/tone appeals best to your target audience?
A lot of business owners get sucked into the marketing jargon they see online and apply it to their own sites. This may work for some businesses, but not all. Your website copy should be less about what appeals to you and more what appeals to your target audience.
If you have fully answered Question 3, you may have a solid idea about this already. You should know what tone and style fit best with their personality and what they are after.
Test, test and test again!
An important component of writing great SEO content is testing different versions and styles of copy.
There are many ways to do this, but perhaps the most well-known and easiest way is through A/B testing. With A/B testing, you test two (or more) versions of your content to see which performs best.
For example, you may have two nearly identical posts, but you want to test the effectiveness of two different headlines. You would then circulate both posts and see which performed best (looking at traffic, conversions, clicks and so on.) The results of this test should tell you what kinds of headlines resonate with your audience.
You can make variations on nearly anything. The most common are:
I suggest making only one or two changes so you can pinpoint which element was the deciding factor in making your content perform better or worse.
If you don’t have time for A/B testing before you publish content, you can always make incremental edits over time and track the performance metrics.
For example, if the page is not performing well (trafficwise or on social networks), and you change the title and those metrics improve, it’s safe to assume one variation was the culprit.
There is no problem in trying out different kinds of copy to see what works best with your audience. In fact, I highly recommend it! As an added measure, you can even create a questionnaire of sorts for prospects or past customers to assess the impression and effectiveness of your content.
If you are able to answer these questions in depth, you are well on your way to creating a cohesive brand message. On-brand SEO copywriting is really about incorporating these different components into your copy so that it is focused on your ideal customer and what they want/need. If you can do that, they will see the value in what you have to offer and be more likely to buy.
Optimizing your landing/service pages
Similar to your home page, landing pages and service pages can be the first thing users face when they come to your site.
For that reason, these pages should be optimized for both conversions and SEO. Meaning, they should not be an afterthought and should serve your business as much as any other page on the site.
The difference with these pages is that you will likely be addressing only one topic or pain point, rather than covering a range of benefits like you did on the home page.
You should make it very clear early on what issue you are trying address for your customers/clients, what information can be found on that page and what action they should take to contact you or obtain more information.
A compelling H1 tag is the first step in this process. Like the home page example, it should relate directly to what users are looking for, all while containing the focus keyword for that page, if possible.
Outline the page in a way that encourages users to keep reading and looking for more information. Having a wall of text with little to no organization will leave users yawning, or worse, cause them to bounce off the page.
Your H2 and H3 tags are your best friends here, as they can lead users on that journey through thought-provoking questions, descriptive headings and more. They are also an opportunity for more keyword usage.
Finally, like the home page, you will want to include CTAs (calls to action) throughout and at the bottom of the page. That way, you can catch users at the end of the page if they decide they are ready to contact you.
Your landing and service pages should be well-organized and intentionally written. They are not a place for stuffing keywords, huge blocks of text or obnoxious sales copy. Your main purpose here should be to address a very real struggle or concern your audience has, and then convey how you are a unique and effective solution to that problem.
Many SEO experts and business owners alike make the mistake of using blog posts as filler content. I feel if you are going to spend time or money on a piece of content, it should be working for you in some way. This could be by generating organic traffic, promoting a content upgrade or providing value to your audience.
I am a proponent of longer informative content over short blog posts. Your brand messaging matters a lot here. If your blog posts don’t work cohesively with the rest of your web copy, users will be left feeling confused and even uneasy. If your blog content is disjointed, it makes it harder for your audience to trust your knowledge and feel you are the best fit for them.
Listen to your audience, and create content that answers their queries and addresses their concerns. Even if you aren’t well-versed in SEO, you can still rest easy knowing that this is content your audience wants to read.
Blog posts, if done well, can sell on their own. If you provide enough value, your audience will be enticed to learn more, opt in for a freebie, sign up for your newsletter.
Here are a number of tips to help optimize blog posts:
Use italics and bold font, photos, videos, GIFs and more to keep them engaged.
Include references to other posts and pages on your site through internal links to lead them down that rabbit hole of information.
Make your blog posts interesting, easy-to-read and fluff-free.
Stay on-brand and use terminology your audience will relate to and understand.
Overall, your blog posts are another opportunity to relate to your audience, so don’t waste it! By incorporating your brand messaging into your posts, you can address the real concerns of your audience and provide even more value, which helps build trust.
Include your existing SEO strategy, and then your content is better suited for both search engines and your potential customers/clients.
Your brand messaging matters
Though an often overlooked aspect of SEO content writing, brand messaging is important when it comes to driving conversions through your web copy.
Your home page, landing pages, and even blog posts are all opportunities to relate to your target audience and convey what your business is really about. It gives them a glimpse into what your business stands for, what it provides, and why you may be the best fit for them.
If your web pages are generating organic traffic but aren’t converting, it could be that you haven’t yet found the right message for your audience. Home in on this, incorporate it into your content and be in awe of the results.
Source: Search Engine Land | How to drive conversions with on-brand SEO copywriting
Google is out with an update to its search quality rater guidelines that includes some new areas of focus for raters. Google contracts with over 10,000 search quality raters worldwide to evaluate its search results. Raters are given actual searches to conduct, drawn from real searches that happen on Google. They then rate the quality of pages that appear in the top results — hence the “quality rater” name.
According to Jennifer Slegg, who has observed and written about the changes to the quality rater guidelines over the years — including a deep dive this year — and has spoken at SMX Advanced on rater guidelines, there are several new notable areas Google wants raters to focus on.
“The most noticeable for content creators is that Google wants their raters to not only look at the reputation of the website itself, but also the content creators themselves,” she wrote in an email responding to questions about the update. “This is one area that many sites fall down on. They might have an ‘About Us’ page, but the bios of their authors are sorely lacking. It also means that those accepting contributions from those not working for the site in question need to keep an eye on the reputation of their contributors as well.
“If content is created by someone with a great reputation, it makes sense for Google to rank that content higher than from someone with a bad reputation since it is generally a better user experience for the searcher. But it means many will also need to brush up on their bios, too. It is also worth noting that this doesn’t apply just to written content, but other types of content as well, such as videos and social media.
“Google’s focus with this addition is on wanting to ensure content that is created by creators with great reputations is ranking well, especially in a world of fake news and conspiracy theories. Great for those creators with great reputations, but does mean some work for those without a great reputation or a limited one.”
Google also appears to be taking aim at more refined, subtle forms of spam that seem to be on the increase. “Google is clearly fighting the war against clickbait, and they are asking raters to rate sites as low where the title is too sensational or doesn’t match the actual content. If it is in the guidelines, Google is looking for a way for their algos to counter clickbait, either currently or in future algos.”
Another big change that Google wants raters to focus on is what it calls “beneficial purpose” of content. “So many sites create content solely for Google, without the user in mind. They just want their content with ‘keyword keyword keyword’ to rank well, and hope the person converts when they get there, whether by clicking an ad or affiliate link or perhaps going deeper into the site. But Google wants their raters to think about whether a piece of content has a beneficial purpose or not, and this is something that any site owner, content creator or SEO should think about when writing new content or auditing current content on a site.”
Quality raters cannot alter Google’s results directly. A rater marking a particular listing as low-quality will not cause that page to be banned or lose ranking.
Instead, the data generated by quality raters is used to improve Google’s search algorithms, an automated system of ranking pages. Over time, that quality rater data might have an impact on low-quality pages that are spotted by raters, but the algorithm will also impact pages that weren’t reviewed.
Google first made these guidelines public in 2015 and has revised them several times since. Recent changes have focused on topics such as spotting fake news, biased or upsetting content and other factors that Google perceives as problematic when included in search results.
Source: Search Engine Land | Google updates its search quality rating guidelines
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a busy and dynamic market. As search engines regularly change their algorithms to take new factors into account when calculating a website’s rank, positioning sites is becoming more challenging.
Today, SEO is no longer about low-quality content spiked with keywords to please search engine crawlers.
In reality, the smartest approach to SEO comes in the form of content marketing. For SEO to work, we need a human touch, but also financial and creative resources.
Fortunately, SEO experts can take advantage of tools that were designed to match these new requirements. One of them is a content marketing platform called marketin9 which helps marketers streamline the process of publishing sponsored articles on websites.
Read on to find out how SEO and content marketing can work together to make a website successful.
Is content marketing about to replace SEO?
Some say that content marketing is on its way to overtaking SEO completely. That claim is clearly exaggerated. It just doesn’t make sense to pull SEO and content marketing apart when they go together so seamlessly — and with such amazing results.
While SEO is a narrow and technical discipline, content marketing suggests a more holistic approach and is generally broader (includes many types of content: blog posts, videos, infographics, presentations and more).
But that doesn’t mean they should be separated. In fact, they converge smoothly. We get the technical specifications from SEO and implement them in our content marketing campaign, ensuring its success. That success translates to both fields, bringing websites not only a higher rank, but also new traffic, higher engagement and a conversion rate boost.
Here’s how content marketing and SEO fit one another:
SEO can’t work without content. It needs keywords, words and articles. Content marketing supplies that, bearing in mind the requirements first established by SEO. Think of content marketing as a practical application of SEO in the form of content.
SEO is based on keywords. SEO experts dedicate a lot of time to researching and utilizing keywords. But how can they apply these keywords? Stuffing websites with keywords doesn’t lead anywhere; search engines are perfectly aware of these tactics and often punish sites that do so. The safest solution is content marketing. Content marketing means producing content which is written for humans to enjoy but also targeting particular keywords.
SEO needs backlinks. One of the most powerful SEO tactics is link building. Having a high-authority website or portal include a link to your site is a huge boost. There are two ways in which you can get backlinks: by writing amazing content and hoping someone links to it or by using platforms like marketin9 that help reach publishers successfully.
If you’re still not convinced that content marketing plays an essential role in SEO, here’s a case study from our team to show you what good content can do to a website’s rank.
Case study: Insurance company in the UK
To illustrate the results of regular publication of content on quality domains, here’s an example of a client who used the potential of marketing platform.
A company operating in the insurance industry in the UK. This industry is among the most expensive when it comes to PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, generating rates between $2.00 and $6.00 per click. It’s also one of the most competitive in terms of SEO, which results from a huge market fighting for a very limited number of converting phrases.
The insurer’s marketing department reached out to marketin9, asking for help in developing and implementing a long-term strategy to obtain links and create content that would result in an increase of its position on the most important and high-converting phrases. The goal was increasing traffic from organic search results, which in turn was supposed to increase sales through the website. Until now, by means of intensive SEO activities, the company managed to get to the top 10 results for two phrases. However, that result did not provide the company with the conversion rate they wanted.
Thanks to the support of the marketin9 platform, the company published over 300 publications on websites with very high authority within 12 months. Each month, there was an increase not only in its position in search rankings, but also in website traffic.
Targeting the B2C sector, the publications were not limited only to advertising the insurer’s services, but mainly served to communicate curious facts, latest industry trends, education and advice for the users of smartphones, laptops, tablets and other types of the latest technologies.
Thanks to that focus, it was possible to extend the subject of domains on which the publication was placed and to reach a wider range of users through not only technology-related websites, but also general-information and local portals.
Already, two months after the start of the campaign, there was a visible improvement of the organic results situation, which, together with the peak months in the e-commerce industry, resulted in a significant increase in traffic on sub-pages, generating more sales inquiries.
Here’s a table presenting the number of clicks from organic results on subpages only related to these phrases – excluding other traffic channels, as well as the home page and subpages that were not taken into account when running campaigns and obtaining links.
The peak of traffic and sales happened initially during the holiday season in December and January, due to the initial rise in position. To sum up the campaign, after 12 months, the number of inquiries tripled (over specific months) and the company achieved a 187 percent increase in traffic compared to the peak.
We achieved the best results on three priority phrases: mobile phone insurance, phone insurance and iPhone insurance, which significantly contributed to the increase in traffic and sales despite their high difficulty.
Here are the average positions, together with the number of impressions and clicks, month to month.
As a result, the campaign achieved the ROI of 255 percent at the end of 2017. The company reduced the average cost of user acquisition and made the sale partially independent of investments in PPC. Another benefit the company noted was the increased brand awareness. The mentions appearing in publications translated into increased traffic on brand phrases and direct visits to the site, in addition to direct visits from links included in publications.
Invest in content marketing now
Five years ago, only the most prominent brands with multimillion-dollar marketing budgets could afford content marketing. They published on high-authority websites and portals as a way to acquire valuable links. Back then, that type of promotional campaign was well outside the financial reach of small and mid-sized businesses. An average marketer or SEO expert could only dream about such sophisticated link-building strategy.
But today, the situation looks completely different, and getting in touch with publishers is easier than ever, thanks to dedicated tools like marketin9.
Marketin9 is a platform that helps companies reach the right publishers and offers easily. Companies launching content marketing strategies can use the platform to order sponsored content, choose publishers by category and get discounted pricing when placing a larger order from particular publishers. The cost of publishing a sponsored article can be up to 50 percent lower than if the advertiser contacted such a website directly.
Content marketing is of great value to link building as a proven and fail-safe way of acquiring quality backlinks. If you’ve been considering investing in a content marketing strategy, now is the best time.
Source: Search Engine Land | Here’s why you should start thinking of content marketing as an SEO strategy
spend a lot of time trying to figure out why some content ideas get links and why some don’t.
There can be many reasons for a lackluster campaign. Sometimes you can figure out why things didn’t go well, sometimes you can’t. One thing I always look into is how well a content idea was executed.
Bringing an idea to life and having it succeed is very satisfying. Of course, not every link-building campaign nets a lot of links, but even if you have a weak idea or one with no “hook,” you can still make the campaign fly if you execute in a stunning or different way.
Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding how to bring your content ideas to life and explore parts of the process in turn. We’ll look at:
Something we teach our team here at Aira (my company) is that there is a big difference between a good idea and a good idea that gets links.
For the purposes of this post, let’s assume you have a solid idea which is relevant to your business and has a good chance of getting links. There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind to make sure that your idea comes to life in the best possible way.
First, you need to distill your idea down to the core point you’re trying to make. Then, take this core point and do everything you can to ensure that it doesn’t get lost throughout the execution. This includes making sure it sits prominently in your design or copy brief and giving feedback if you see it getting lost at any point. Remember that up until this point, it only existed inside your head, and while it may be clear to you, others need to fully understand it, too. Be clear and share as many details as possible.
Second, you need to make sure the execution of the campaign doesn’t overshadow the idea. This may be hard for you to control, since the execution is more than likely going to rest in the hands of a designer.
For me, this is where having a great designer on your team is absolutely crucial and demonstrates the difference between a good content designer and a great content designer. The key is to keep things simple and minimalistic, which is hard for some designers to do. If you want to keep clear a single core point in your content, you need to be prepared to not overcomplicate a design with unnecessary icons, copy or images.
2. Execution resources
It can be easy to get carried away and dream up really elaborate ways to bring your idea to life, but you also need to be realistic with what resources you have, as well as the budget at your disposal. If you are thinking your idea needs to be an interactive data visualization but have no budget or front-end development resources, then you need to know this upfront.
Typically, you’ll need to think about allocating time and budget to the following resources:
Copywriting. Depending on the complexity of the idea, you may need a specialist copywriter or someone who is particularly good at headlines. If you’re keeping the copy to a minimum, perhaps you or one of your team can handle it. But don’t underestimate the importance of good copy, particularly when you’re likely to be pitching this content to journalists or industry experts who will notice anything when something isn’t right.
Design. Chances are that you’ll need a designer. You may have one on your team already, or you may work with freelancers. If you have access to multiple designers, take some time to understand their strengths and weaknesses and align ideas with them accordingly. One designer may be particularly good at interactive data visualizations while another may be better at flowchart/timeline-style graphics.
Development. If your idea requires interactivity, even at a basic level, you’re likely to need a web developer to help. For most content pieces, a good front-end developer is probably going to be able to do the job. If you’re accessing live data via application program interfaces (APIs) or working with interactive databases, you may also need to consider working with a backend developer.
You need to factor this time in and give the client a fair amount of notice when you’ll need this development resource, particularly if, like many development teams these days, they work on a sprint cycle.
Whatever resource you have, be aware of it from the very start of the project so you choose an execution process that will go smoothly and not affect the chances of the piece succeeding.
3. The timeline
Another key factor to consider when choosing how to execute the campaign is how much time you have and how flexible the client can be. The flexibility issue will often depend on your relationship with your client, if they trust you and results thus far have been good, they are more likely to give you some wiggle room when it comes to timelines.
I can share a good example here. We had been working with a company for about nine months and launched several good campaigns, each going off about every six weeks or so. It was a good schedule, the budget was right, and to a point, they were happy with our work.
As we worked along, one of our team members had an idea for a content piece which would have required more time and resources than normal. In particular, it would need much more data collection and analysis, as well as a more complex design and development brief. This not only increased the campaign’s cost overall but also increased the time it took to launch a project from six to 10 weeks.
We pitched the idea to the client because we felt that the extras would be worth it. We felt the new project would show a marked increase in links, media coverage and traffic. It took a bit of back and forth, but the project was signed off on and eventually became the most successful campaign we did for this company.
The point here is that this would never have happened if we didn’t already have the client’s trust and confidence. But having their trust gave our team the confidence to come up with a bigger idea which was well executed. When the cycle of trust is continued, success is usually maintained.
There are a couple of other things to keep in mind when it comes to timelines.
First, if you’re centering an idea around an event or awareness day, you’ll need to be confident that the method of execution you choose can be complete and uploaded to a website in plenty of time. We’ve learned this the hard way and once launched a piece of Christmas-themed content just a few days before Christmas. It got a few links, but most journalists had already left for the holidays, and those who hadn’t already had their editorial schedules sorted.
The other thing to keep in mind is syncing with other teams, especially at another agency. You need to be aware of the team’s activities and be prepared to choose an execution strategy that allows you to play your part in the overall picture. Don’t be upstaged!
Try to keep things running smoothly when working with your in-house team. When a campaign starts to slow down or runs late, this affects other parts of the execution being handled by different parts of your team. If you’re late, they will be late and ultimately, unhappy. Keep things moving!
4. Format ranges
There are a lot of ways to execute link-building ideas, and I can’t cover them all, but I wanted to share the most common tactics and talk about how they may affect your ability to attract links.
Static infographics. I think infographics have gotten a bad rap in recent years. Many years ago, infographics were highly regarded when it came to link-building, and the SEO community loved the tactic and used it regularly. So what happened?
Too many infographics were created, with many with poor designs and bad messages. The effect they had as link magnets wore off, and the concept suffered overall.
Bad infographics are a bad idea. But overall, a good infographic that has been well executed can be a link goldmine. There are plenty of examples out there of infographics with value.
From an execution point of view, static infographics are relatively straightforward, since they only need a designer and access to a content management system (CMS) to upload them.
Interactive infographics. When you “soup up” a static infographic by making it interactive in some way, you get an “interactive infographic.” This allows a user to interact with the content in some manner, perhaps via hovers, pop-ups or entering information into the content and getting a customized response.
This type of content will almost certainly require help from a developer and will need more time, resources and a lot of testing at the quality assurance (QA) stage.
GIFs. Good old .gifs are a fun but simple execution. They’re a nice way to get something that looks a little bit interactive but doesn’t require development time. A good designer can make a gif that presents an idea or story well.
The decision as to whether to use a .gif execution or not lies in the idea itself and the core point that you’re trying to make. If the point is to show how something looks, a .gif may fit the bill nicely.
Finally, how does the execution of a link-building campaign influence its success? You may have a great content idea that has been well executed, but are people actually linking to it? Even the best ideas hit a brick wall now and then. Let’s look at the reasons why your campaign may fail.
Embedding your content. When it comes to interactive content, many websites looking to host your content may want to have a working version of your content on their website versus linking to it.
Given that it’s not possible to give them all the content outright and let them upload it to their site, a good alternative is to offer an embed code which allows the content to be seen on their site but is still located on your own server. If possible, get your developers to create an embeddable version of your content and provide an embed code to sites that want to host the content.
Options for a variety of CMSs. Sometimes, even a good embed code won’t be enough because the person you are negotiating with for link space may have a limited CMS which doesn’t allow for embed codes to be used.
WordPress is notorious for stripping out hypertext markup language (HTML). If the person you’re working with isn’t particularly code-savvy, they may not know how to fix this and could just walk away.
As a solution, consider having a static version of any interactive content piece you’re using as link bait. This doesn’t need to be a whole new design; it can be a simple screen shot of one key part of the interactive piece users can click on to see the full interactive version on your site.
Style/design. If someone is embedding your content on their page, either an interactive or a static piece, they may have some concerns about the style of your content complementing their site or blog. This is a fair concern, but I wouldn’t bend over backward to make changes.
When you are doing outreach for a link-building campaign and offering content as the hook, have your designer create the content in a simple, minimal design. Design issues are less likely to happen this way, and if they do? Offer extra copy points in the form of quotes or extra data to the host site instead. This means they can create an article which isn’t visual but still has value.
Keep these content execution tactics in mind, and you’ll spend less time wondering if your link-building campaign will take off and more time counting links.
Source: Search Engine Land | Smart content execution will net a lot of inbound links
Question: How much of an impact will homonyms, accents, and stressed words have in voice search?
Upasna: The automatic speech recognition capabilities of the voice search system have become intelligent enough to understand accents, dialects, and stressed words, as well as decipher context of homonyms.
Google Assistant Group Product Manager Brad Abrams recently discussed this in the Voicebot Podcast, as he highlights (17:00 mark) how accents do pose problems within a country with regional variations, but that localization involves a lot more than just accents.
This challenge can be addressed in two parts: automated speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU). Speech and accent recognition fall under the ASR segment, while understanding intent, slang, grammar variants and colloquial expressions all need NLU.
When Google added 30 new language varieties last year, they worked with native speakers to collect speech samples by asking them to read common phrases in their own accents and dialects. This process trained their machine learning models to understand the sounds and words of the new languages and improve the accuracy of the system when exposed to more sound samples over time. Neural translation has worked a lot better than the old phrase-based system because it now translates full sentences at a time, instead of fragments of a sentence.
To incorporate 30 new language varieties, we worked with native speakers to collect speech samples, asking them to read common phrases. This process trained our machine learning models to understand the sounds and words of the new languages and to improve their accuracy when exposed to more examples over time.
By using this broader context, it can figure out the most relevant translation, which is then rearranged and adjusted to be more like a human speaking with proper grammar. Google search has already existed and functioned in all of those languages for such a long time, which has provided a powerful source of intelligent data to build voice search capabilities that are able to understand user queries and serve relevant answers.
Google speech recognition now supports 119 languages at impressive accuracy rates.
Question: What about Siri? Should we use the same rules as Google voice search?
Upasna: I don’t like the rigidity of the word “rules” when we’re speaking about such a dynamic landscape, so let’s say “best practices.”
Yes, the same best practices can and should be applied, because like Google voice search, we understand how Siri works by understanding how ASR works. Apple already has a lot of ASR models in production, which support 21 languages in 36 countries (perhaps even more now).
Apple has also been working on refining their ASR language models over the past several years and has caught up despite getting a late start in the game.
Question: When creating content for voice search, does it make sense to have a whole page of questions and answers, or is it better to integrate a question/answer into each content piece?
Upasna: The best practice would be to create a clear information architecture within your FAQ section. Create a top-level FAQ page, then group similar questions together within a sub-page to create topical authority and provide long-form answers. Understanding and answering hyper-specific questions is key for voice search, especially for purchase-driven queries.
For example, a voice search user is much more likely to search for “what’s the best waterproof fitness tracker of 2018 that can sync with my iPhone” or “best waterproof fitness tracker for surfing” than just “best fitness tracker.”
In just the last four weeks, my team and I have noticed drastic changes in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for these queries, where the hyper-specific query being searched is providing results in the form of product carousels within the featured snippet and a knowledge graph panel pulling in a specific, single product to answer the question.
The more precisely we can answer these specific questions, the better we can serve the user and gain organic visibility. If you’re not using it already, I recommend you tap into the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool’s “question” filter.
Question: How do you foresee the adoption of voice search in other countries?
Upasna: Google’s goal is to make the web more inclusive, which means bringing down as many language barriers as possible. I think this has already directly impacted the rate at which voice search is adopted in other countries, and will continue to do so.
The rate of adoption in India is a great example of this progression. According to Rajan Anandan, Google Vice President and Managing Director, South East Asia and India, as of December 2017, 28 percent of search queries in India are conducted by voice and Hindi voice search queries are growing by over 400 percent.
As I mentioned earlier, last year, Google launched voice search capability for 30 new languages, nine of which were Indian languages. The Indian subcontinent itself has 22 official/major languages, 13 different scripts, and over 720 dialects. We can only imagine the challenge of bringing something as complex as voice search to this country, but it is happening.
A speaker of regional Indian languages like Punjabi or Tamil used to have difficulty finding accurate and relevant content in their native languages, but last year, Google brought its new Neural Machine Translation technology to translations between English and nine widely used Indian languages (Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Malayalam, and Kannada) – languages that span the entire country.
We know it’s easier to learn a language when we already understand a related language (as is the case with Hindi Punjabi, or Hindi and Gujarati, for example), and Google also discovered their neural technology speaks each language better when it learns several at a time. Because Hindi is the national language and spoken across the country, Google has a lot more sample data for Hindi than its regional relatives Marathi and Bengali. Google has realized that when the languages are trained all together, the translations for all improve more than if each one was trained individually.
We see this in practice with Chrome’s built-in translate functionality. More than 150 million web pages are translated by Chrome users through the magic of machine translations with one click or tap every single day.
The first step is to establish your baseline by establishing where your traffic is coming from and how much you’re getting. Be sure everyone is using the same data and is looking at it in the same manner. Ideally, have a dashboard that’s shared by all, so everyone who needs to can look at the numbers whenever they want.
For example, for a warm weather-based product, perhaps your sales peaked from June to August and then dipped from November to March. A retail product may peak over the holiday season and dip for the rest of the year. Average these trends over the data periods, and remove any outliers, such as your atypically lower numbers for one month in 2016 when a large portion of the site was noindexed during a site relaunch.
Next, look at how traffic to your site has been growing year to year over the last few years. If your typical growth is 5 percent year to year, that’s what you should most likely expect as a baseline growth. Look at your history to see what projects were done over the years to get an idea of the impact they may have had, above and beyond the baseline trending.
Now you have expected numbers based on both annual and seasonal trending. They are the numbers you should work to hit unless you have a major project come along.
Obviously, no one can predict the future, but if you have projects in the wings and some you want to implement, you should take them into account when forecasting traffic.
Based on past project performance, you should have an idea how long it would take them to generate traffic once a project was implemented and what the growth pattern should look like. When adding upcoming projects to the baseline traffic model, think about a best-case scenario and an expected scenario. These two scenarios give you a range you can use to project traffic numbers.
Of course, those traffic numbers could still be suffixed with “it depends,” as there are a number of factors you have no control over that can adversely impact the actual numbers, like internal staffing changes and economic impacts.
Another key point about forecasting project traffic: If you have an idea of which projects brought in the most traffic, you will have a good idea which projects you want to implement in the future or drop from the planning schedule. No sense in repeating poor performance.
Search engine algorithm updates
Search engines change their algorithms constantly in their continuing effort to improve search results. These changes may negatively impact your traffic. If you’re doing something against their webmaster guidelines, then you may expect this to happen, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the search engines change how they present data in order to improve user experience, which may impact how your pages are displayed, ranked and clicked on.
If your web pages are negatively impacted by a search engine update, all you can do is examine what’s changed and see if there’s a way to recover the traffic you’ve lost.
Your competitors can change their sites at any time and try to copy your SEO efforts by optimizing for the same keywords or creating similar content. This can have a negative effect on your traffic stream.
This is a primary reason why an SEO can never stand still. You must keep an eye on your competitors, as well as your site and traffic, to identify opportunities or changes early on. Best to be proactive rather than reactive.
Mistakes happen to all of us, that’s a given. When something is missed in the quality assurance process, changed in an update or a third-party tool malfunctions, traffic has the potential to drop. This is another reason why proactively monitoring all elements of a site is very important.
There will always be an element of “it depends” when projecting SEO traffic levels, that’s a given. But establishing a baseline and understanding historical traffic trends will give you an idea of what to expect and alert you when traffic levels fall.
Source: Search Engine Land |How to project SEO traffic levels and avoid saying, ‘It depends’
Businesses of all sizes are investing more time, resources, and money into content creation than ever before.
Almost every organization that I speak with understand the potential return on investment that great content can deliver, and yet disproportionately few companies are spending anywhere near enough focus on making existing content work harder toward current and changing business goals.
What follows are my three favorite tactics that work to leverage the value of your existing content and support greater historical and existing content contribution toward your business goals.
To clarify, my focus here is about getting more bang for your buck. There are other great reads on Search Engine Journal if you are looking to solve other specific content needs (like making your content stand out from the crowd).
1. Reinforcing Content Purpose & Deriving More Value
Every piece of content that is created and added to your website needs to have a clear purpose.
However, the purpose, positioning, and pitch of content can – and likely will – change over time. Plus, there are often industry or search changes that provide new opportunities for extra visibility targeting.
High-quality content isn’t enough unless there is a valid reason for the content to exist in the first place.
Common Content Purpose Updates
How can you revisit and reinforce purpose into existing content?
There are many ways.
Common content purpose includes:
Informing and educating.
Driving users through a buying cycle.
Expediating time to purchase.
Reinforcing trust and expertise.
Encouraging herd mentality.
Selling products and services.
Positioning the brand.
Once you’re happy that the content is serving it’s intended purpose, the next action is to maximize and grow its value.
Some of the tactics that I regularly deploy to maximize the value derived from purposeful content (in this case the purpose being to “educate and inform”) include:
Expanding the onsite authority passing to key topical pages.
Use of mixed content types.
Content Purpose Updates in Action
Here’s an example of this exact approach in action (disclosure: this is based on work I do with WorldFirst).
Some of the characteristics used for educating and informing people (in this case tied to foreign exchange) can be seen below.
Answering the most relevant user questions, informational barriers, and positioning content within a framework that supports Google rich result inclusion, as well as driving the user through an informational journey.
Increasing the topical coverage and depth of standalone page value to encourage single destination solutions for the website visitor.
Incorporating mixed content types to support alternative and preferred user content, the inclusion of content within other verticals (in this case image search, plus integrated search result pages), and perceived content quality.
Independent segment value specific to solving identified audience needs.
2. Increasing Your Domain’s Topical Authority
When businesses are looking to expand into new areas, add new products and services, or generally solve audience dilemmas, frequently they will add a single topical page onto the website. They assume doing so will be enough for Google (and other search engines) to associate this topic with the authority of the website.
This simply isn’t the case.
For search engines to attribute any tangible levels of expertise, trust, and authority to a new business and/or website focus area, the content needs to facilitate a number of trust and expertise factors plus demonstrate value above that seen with long-standing content coverage areas.
Increase the scale of on-site topical content coverage with a tiered approach to content creation. This can include alternative content types and targeted blog posts discussing key intent areas on the topic. The goal is to associate the site more effectively with the topic when comparing it to other established topics.
Improve internal linking to topic pages (primarily to the main topic landing page or hub) passing page views, engagement, and authority.
Promote external trust signals with external brand mentions on the topic as well as backlinks pointing to key topic pages. A focus here needs to be fresh backlink signals from topically relevant externally trusted and authoritative ranking, non-competing sites.
Fuel social engagement, social sharing, and engagement with topic-specific influencers and generally with your established audience. Building buzz, PR, and new topic-based social awareness will help speed up the relevance of the brand to new areas of interest.
Leverage important website navigational areas to reinforce the value and relevancy of the topic to the business. This can include persistent sub-navigational elements like footers as well as the primary navigation. This will help place the topic higher up in the perceived site hierarchy and importance.
3. Refresh, Revisit, Refine
Content will never live up to its full potential unless you put in place measures to:
Revisit the content based on latest data sets.
Refine and update the content reflecting the ways in which it is being discovered, interacted with, and its general functioning.
Each piece of content added to a website should be given enough time (2-3 weeks) to build authority, generate impressions and traffic, and generally begin to build up a data set large enough to make an informed decision on potential modifications.
Some of the questions you need to answer with new content include:
Does it fulfill its purpose?
Can you get more value from it?
How is it performing compared to your other content and compared to other competing external content?
Are people enjoying the content – reading it, sharing it, clicking on links, completing intended outcomes?
What is working well?
What can work better?
Does the content reflect the search queries people are using to discover it?
Can the content deliver more value to the user?
Are there underperforming metric areas that can be targeted for improvement?
Your content can always work harder.
While it is true that “‘SEO never sleeps,” it’s equally correct to assume that “content is never complete.”
Every new data point, user interaction, and search query is an opportunity to act on and improve when it comes to content.
My three easy actions to make content work harder and deliver extra results sooner are:
I’ve done this by hosting a blogger focus group for a new menu. And, afterwards the bloggers shared articles on their sites and on social about our new menu. They also became long-term influencers that continued to work with the brand for months.
Here are some simple ways to take your link building into your local community: