Tag Archives: Industry

job-field-v-gender.png

IWD 2018: Eight SEO ladies give their advice on being a woman in search

Like many tech and tech-adjacent industries, SEO is a largely male-dominated field.

Relatively few statistics exist on the exact gender split within the search industry, but a Moz 2015 Online Marketing Industry Survey put the percentage of men working in SEO at close to 70%.

SEM was a little more even gender-wise with around 60% men working in search marketing, while PPC was even more male-dominated, with the survey finding that some 80% of PPC professionals were men.

Image: Moz

Even without the numbers, it’s fairly obvious to anyone who works within SEO that it’s a majority male industry – from the speaker line-ups at events, to the rosters at companies, to the bylines on industry blogs.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of hugely successful and brilliant women working in SEO, because there are. But there are still comparatively fewer of them.

What do the women who work in SEO think about the gender division within the industry? Do they notice it or feel that it affects their work? Do they think that women in SEO need to do anything differently to stand out? And what advice would they give to other women working in the field?

In honor of International Women’s Day 2018, we wanted to highlight the perspectives of women working in SEO, and how – if at all – they think gender affects the industry and the work that they do. Search Engine Watch spoke to eight successful ladies in SEO to find out their thoughts and advice on being a woman in SEO.

Sam Charles, Founder of Float Digital

IWD 2018: Eight SEO ladies give their advice on being a woman in searchSam Charles is an SEO consultant with more than seven years’ experience working in the digital industry.

In 2016 she founded her own agency, Float Digital, which aims to demystify the art of SEO for businesses, particularly small businesses. She has been nominated at the UK Search Awards, and featured in The Drum’s ‘50 under 30’ list in 2017, which celebrates young women making waves in digital industries.

Charles got her start in SEO in her early twenties after studying advertising at university, working first at a branding design and web development agency, before moving on to manage the marketing at Australia’s largest professional haircare and skincare company.

“Nobody really told me what SEO was but my daily tasks revolved around blogger outreach and creating content based on keywords,” Charles recalls. “Once I moved back to England in 2012, I picked up the first copywriting job I could find, and it was only then, I was introduced to the lovely world of SEO, and suddenly everything I had been doing made sense.”

Charles says that she didn’t initially notice the gender disparity in digital marketing, as her first few jobs were at companies that had plenty of women on their payroll. “It was only when I moved away from content creation and focused on improving my technical SEO skills, that I felt I was in a male-dominated industry,” she says.

“Attending events such as Brighton SEO and engaging with communities online, it’s clear there are more men working in SEO than women.”

However, Charles doesn’t feel as though her gender has been a hindrance in the industry – possibly because her name makes people assume that they’re working with a man. “Too many times I’ve turned up to a meeting or answered the phone and I’ve been greeted with “I thought you were going to be a man”.”

With that said, she emphasizes: “People’s respect for you isn’t based on gender. The last few agencies I’ve worked in have celebrated women, and this sentiment is echoed in online circles, too.”

Charles says that the advice she would give to women in SEO wouldn’t be any different to the advice she would give anyone else getting started in the industry. “There’s no tips or advice I would give to women in SEO because we, as women, are no more or less than our male counterparts.

“Male or female, if you work in SEO there are two pieces of advice I’d offer: learn every day and be completely fearless when it comes to engaging with online communities, speaking at events or chasing clients.

“That said, to me, there’s nothing more empowering than meeting other women in search. There are meetups and lunches especially for women in business, digital or SEO. If this sounds like something you’d benefit from, do a quick search in your area and go along to one. Every event like this I’ve been to has been so welcoming.”

Dewi Nawasari, European Head of SEO at Monster

IWD 2018: Eight SEO ladies give their advice on being a woman in searchDewi Nawasari is a hugely experienced SEO with close to twelve years of industry work under her belt. She jumped straight into SEO as a graduate with a degree in Business Supply Chain Management, landing a job as a Natural Search Optimization Analyst doing link-building for an agency. From there, she worked her way up the industry, and is now the European Head of SEO at recruitment company Monster.

Nawasari reflect that SEO was “not the easiest industry to start in” as a woman. “I remember at the earlier years of my career, coming to any industry event and being one of the few women who attended.

“There were occasions when I was not heard or taken as seriously as the men in my then-workplace, who had formed their exclusive circle of authority. But by the same token, I was really lucky to have also came across men in the industry who confided in my ability purely as a person. They are now some of my dearest friends.

“Do I think women have to do anything differently in order to stand out? The answer is yes and no.

“Yes, because I think women have to stop selling themselves short and start communicating their brilliance and expertise with one hundred percent confidence. Being willing to make mistakes or say something wrong is the only way to find success!

“No – because women should just be women. Never think that you have to fulfil certain stereotypes in the industry.

“Women tend to be quite humble about our achievements, and refuse credit beyond what we feel we deserve. This quality truly brings balance to any workplace because when women are part of the team, they make sure that the team work together to a high standard of performance.”

Nawasari’s advice for other women trying to make their way in the industry is, “Being credible, humble and over-communicating are your weapons.

“Even when you have a slightly rough start to the career, always ensure that you research, analyse, and know your work inside-out before presenting it to anyone. Once you have presented your work, share and over-communicate it – do not sell yourself short! Keep at it and you’ll be incredibly proud when you climb the ladder because of pure merit.

“Oh, and of course, don’t forget to congratulate and clap hard when you see a fellow woman succeed!”

Amanda DiSilvestro, Writer for HigherVisibility and Marketing Manager at Discover Corps

IWD 2018: Eight SEO ladies give their advice on being a woman in searchAmanda DiSilvestro has spent seven years working in the marketing industry as a content editor, writer and marketing manager, and is one of the most popular and prolific writers here at Search Engine Watch.

She got her start in the industry through content marketing and worked her way up to a management position in SEO. “While it took several years, I found it to be a great foundation and path forward,” DiSilvestro says.

“I have found throughout my career that ghost writing opportunities are plentiful, and while this is a great way to really dig into SEO and learn the industry, it’s important to balance ghost writing with writing under your own byline. In short, don’t get too comfortable writing for other people – I see this happen all the time!

“Big websites like Search Engine Watch can seem intimidating, but if you reach out and express your passion for the topic and desire to write with your own byline, even if you don’t have years and years of experience, you will find success. At a certain point, it turns into a domino effect and you get more and more opportunities to show off your expertise through content writing.

“The community of women SEOs is great as well, so don’t be afraid to reach out to those you admire.”

Lexi Mills, Managing Partner at Shift6

IWD 2018: Eight SEO ladies give their advice on being a woman in searchAs a specialist in both PR, a typically female-dominated field, and SEO, a largely male-dominated field, Lexi Mills has a unique perspective on gender in her professional life – she is simultaneously in the majority, and the minority, in both of her intersecting fields.

A digital marketing expert who has won multiple awards in the course of her career, Mills got her start in digital marketing as a graduate working in the Brighton nightlife industry, who convinced the company director to let her manage the company’s marketing and promotion online.

“I learned SEO way before I even knew what SEO was,” she recalls.

Working as a woman in the digital marketing industry, Mills says that she wasn’t always aware of whether people were biased against her because of her gender. “I have a couple of other biases that I have to champion – I’m very petite, I’m female, and I used to look very young for my age.

“Ageism was probably a bigger issue for me – when you’re someone who has worked super hard to get super good at something, and you walk into a room, people think, ‘I don’t want a kid working on this.’ Those were far bigger issues for me.

“I’m sure there was gender bias, but I tended to put things down to those issues a lot more.”

When she ran up against bias in her work as a professional SEO, Mills says that she found it more effective to approach the situation with gentle humor, which tended to be more successful in swaying people’s unconscious prejudices.

“By choosing to believe that people meant well, that they didn’t mean to be biased – even when they were – it changed how I dealt with them.

“I would walk into a meeting room with a client, and someone would say, ‘Oh, I’ll have a tea! And I’ll have a coffee, two sugars!’

“I would go and get the teas and the coffees, come back in, put the tray down, and say, ‘Guys, I specialize in SEO and PR, but I’ve done my very best with the tea and coffee.’

“And these guys would look mortified! But then I’d giggle, and I’d laugh with them – because the reality is, their assumption that their SEO specialist was going to be male and older is actually statistically correct; and these are statistically-driven people. You could say it was gender bias, but it was a statistically accurate assumption to make.

“And instead of me getting angry about it, if I made them giggle, there was a bond that formed – because they didn’t mean it. Or I chose to believe that they weren’t intending to be biased. And they probably came out not thinking that the next time they walk into a meeting room, they’re going to order tea and coffee off a young female, presuming that they’re not the specialist.”

Mills stresses that she has never identified as a “woman in search” or a “woman in tech”, preferring to think of herself as a “person who works in search”. Nevertheless, she believes that women in the industry have to be more aware of how they present themselves, as this can sometimes cause them to meet with more resistance professionally.

“At least five years ago, if you got up on stage wearing a bright pink dress, that would have caused a bunch of fairly unpleasant tweets,” she says. “It makes you look different.

“And while there’s nothing wrong with someone wanting to wear very feminine clothing – at all – it might mean they have to fight a little harder. And maybe they want to put that energy into doing such awesome work that they’re subconsciously changing people’s perception of women.”

She also advises women in the industry to “recognize when it’s time to move rooms. If the room you’re in is biased – go make a better room.

“I move between different projects with different clients, and sometimes I’ll fight that battle, but other times I just think, ‘Hey. I’m going to go to your competitor and kick ass.’”

“As women, the way we’re socialized from a young age means that we develop different language behaviors, different ways of doing things – and that’s okay. You should take those advantages, and play to your strengths.

“Take stock, give back, help others, and be fierce.”

Chelsea Blacker, Co-Founder and Managing Director of BlueGlass

IWD 2018: Eight SEO ladies give their advice on being a woman in searchChelsea Blacker is a hugely experienced digital marketer and the Managing Director of SEO and content marketing agency BlueGlass.

She has worked in SEO for more than 10 years, and got her start in the industry doing SEO for a small personal blog at university, before becoming the assistant to an SEO consultant – at which point, she says, “I was hooked!”

On gender in the SEO industry, Blacker observes, “The SEO community is extremely fair compared to other industries like investment banking or entertainment.

“People respect each other for sharing knowledge, explaining findings, and asking boundary-pushing questions. I have never worried that being female has a negative correlation to thriving in SEO.”

Her advice to other women working in SEO is to make sure their voices are heard – and on a practical level, to not shy away from the technical side of SEO.

“If you’re the only woman in a room, it’s a good room to be in. Participate with value added words (not chat) to prove your voice is worth listening to so you don’t get left out of conversations.

“Celebrate technical learning, don’t avoid it; if you feel out of your depth, it’s a good place to keep swimming until you re-emerge at a higher level of performance. Learn to code, how major tools work and how to break down complex data sets in Excel.

Blacker’s other piece of advice to anyone wanting to stand out in SEO is to specialize. “SEO is well established now, and it’s more difficult to become a thought leader in an industry that’s been around for 15 – 20 years.  I would recommend finding an optimization niche in an emerging industry to develop as a thought leader of tomorrow.”

Hannah Thorpe, Managing Director at White.net

IWD 2018: Eight SEO ladies give their advice on being a woman in searchHannah Thorpe has become a well-known name in the search industry, particularly the UK search industry, in the four years that she has been working in digital. She regularly presents at industry events including SMX Advanced, Search London and Brighton SEO, and last year won Young Search Professional of the Year at the UK Search Awards.

On being a woman in SEO, Thorpe believes that, “SEO is SEO regardless of your gender, like in any industry. I genuinely think that if you enter into the industry passionate about what is we’re all working on, then you’ll be successful regardless of gender.

“The more you try to act differently because of a perception that you have to fit in with the male-dominated crowds, the harder you’ll find it. I love what I do, but I still want to have long fake nails, wear outrageous sparkly shoes and drink champagne, rather than beers.

“That doesn’t make me bad at my job – and if you’re a woman who doesn’t like any of those things, then equally, you should be able to embrace that.

“So much of the pressure to be a certain way is something we are putting on ourselves or creating by segregating into ‘women in SEO’ versus ‘men in SEO’.  I would love for our industry to stop thinking of ourselves as male-dominated and to just think about everyone as individual people.”

Ann Smarty, Founder of ViralContentBee and Brand & Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas

IWD 2018: Eight SEO ladies give their advice on being a woman in searchAnn Smarty is a marketing consultant with more than 10 years’ experience, and is another one of our most popular and respected authors here at Search Engine Watch, sounding off on content marketing, keyword research, marketing tools, video optimization and much more with authority.

She is the former Editor-in-Chief at Search Engine Journal, founded social media and content marketing platform Viral Content Bee, and is the Brand & Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas.

When it comes to being a woman in SEO, Smarty says that, “I have never felt that I was in any way treated differently than men in this industry.

“I think our niche offers equal opportunity to both men and women, and I have to guess that the reason why it may be male-dominated is possibly that women shy away from it.

“Likewise, there are probably more men in the IT industry, not because men do anything special to influence that but probably because women just don’t like playing with numbers and computers that much. I don’t have any studies to support my thoughts here, but it’s the feeling that I get.”

Jennifer Jackson, Digital Manager at Sawday’s Canopy & Stars

IWD 2018: Eight SEO ladies give their advice on being a woman in searchJennifer Jackson is another hugely experienced digital marketing expert with close to ten years’ experience working in the industry. She first got into SEO through a university work placement, writing search-optimized content to answer questions that people were asking over the phones.

Even at this early stage in her career, she was successful – “My piece I wrote for them still ranks #2 for ‘data protection act summary’, so even my first venture is doing well!”

As a woman working in search, Jackson hasn’t encountered a lot of negative bias. “I personally have never felt that being a woman has been an issue. I’ve found the SEO industry to be full of brilliant brains and not as many egos as you might find elsewhere.

“But maybe I’ve been sheltered by being on the client side, where I can call more shots because I’m paying the bill.

“I personally don’t think women have to do anything differently to other colleagues. I’m naturally quite vocal and not afraid to be the one to ask what might be a stupid question, so maybe that has helped me.

“I also love to understand as much of the technical details as possible so that I can confidently communicate with more technical roles, which has probably helped me too – but anyone can do this, not just women.”

“At the end of the day, every team needs different brains, and having female input in a room full of males can be truly invaluable – especially when lots of research shows in many categories the buying decision in a heterosexual household are made by the female!”

Jackson says that her best advice for women working in SEO would be the same that she’d give to anyone: “Learn and don’t stop learning. Sign up to industry newsletters; find the answers to things you don’t know; read around the technical jargon so you understand it.

“Don’t be put off when you’re faced with a room of ‘experts’, and don’t be afraid to ask the stupid questions, as you’ll always find someone else saying ‘I was thinking the same thing’.”

ranker-voting.png

Ranker: How to make a Google algorithm-proof website

Any SEO or webmaster who has ever had a website affected by a Google algorithm change – or feared being affected by one – has probably wished that they could find a way to make their website “algorithm-proof”.

Still, surely there’s no such thing as a website that’s never impacted by Google algorithms, right? As long as your site is indexed by Google, it’s at the mercy of the algorithms that Google uses to determine website ranking, all the more so if you happen to rely heavily on organic search traffic for your business.

The art – or science – of search engine optimization is about determining as best you can what those algorithms are looking for, and giving it to them.

Yet one website believes it has found the formula for making its content “Google algorithm-proof”. Ranker is a website made up of dynamic, crowdsourced lists that users can vote on, about everything from pop culture to geography, history to sports, celebrities to science.

And according to its CEO, Clark Benson, Ranker has never suffered a negative effect from a Google algorithm change, growing its traffic steadily without interruption over the course of eight and a half years.

Search Engine Watch caught up with Benson to find out Ranker’s secret to success, and whether there is a formula for creating an algorithm-proof website.

Rankings, not review sites

So what is Ranker, exactly?

“Ranker’s primary reason for being is to crowdsource anything that makes sense to rank,” says Benson. “Any topic that people are really interested in.

“The unique angle that we’ve pursued is that instead of having this being one 23-year-old blogger’s opinion of the best new TV shows of the year, or whatever it happens to be, we would have a dynamic list that visitors could vote on, potentially add items to, and re-rank.

“The end result is a very wisdom-of-crowds-based answer which is always changing and dynamically moving along as tastes change, and as more people vote on things.”

Voting on a list of ‘Historical events you most want to go back and see’ on Ranker

Lists have been a time-honored draw for magazines and other print media over the years, but it was when the internet came along that they really exploded – spawning dozens of list-oriented viral websites and the much-mocked listicle, which became a staple of online journalism. However, Benson – a self-described “lifelong list nerd” – was frustrated by the fact that these lists only ever represented one person’s opinion.

In a similar vein, he found review websites unhelpful, as user-generated reviews represented a single person’s subjective opinion in a format that wasn’t conducive to making a decision.

“Part of the reason to build Ranker was my frustration with review sites, because when I’m looking for an answer to something, like which TV show to watch, I don’t want to read a lot of text reviews.

“I also feel that in typical five-star rating systems, everything tends to be clustered around three and a half to four stars, so you don’t get any true granularity on what is best.”

In a world increasingly “cluttered with choices”, therefore, Benson was convinced that rankings were “the simplest way to dissect a choice in a category, without losing the credibility of the answer”. And so he built Ranker as a website where the wisdom of the crowd could determine the ultimate ranking for any list of items, on any topic.

The secret to Ranker’s SEO success: Content freshness

Since Ranker’s launch in 2009, the site has amassed more than 100,000 rankings across dozens of broad categories, encompassing almost any topic that people could have a passion for.

When the website first launched, however, it had very few resources, and Benson explains that he had to learn SEO from scratch in order to give the website a strong foundation.

Luckily, earning traffic was never a problem for the site, because the type of content published on Ranker was uniquely suited to catering to Google’s algorithms.

“We’ve never been hit by any algorithm changes – we’ve always grown our organic search traffic year over year over year, steadily, for the eight and a half years we’ve been live.

“You never exactly know what works in SEO, because Google doesn’t tell you what works, but I’ve always believed that the best intelligence on what to do comes from the public statements Google makes – their best practices.

“And one of the key factors that Google says is in their index is freshness of content. Content has a lifespan. In our case, because our rankings are dynamic and always changing – people are adding things to them, voting things up and down – this makes for perpetually fresh content.

“We have a lot of content that is six, seven, even eight years old that is still doing as well as it was years ago, and in some cases it’s even growing in traffic.”

Ranker: How to make a Google algorithm-proof website

One of Ranker’s most evergreen pieces of content is a list ranking the ‘Best Movies of All Time’ – which is more than 5,000 items long.

“Obviously that’s a topic that there’s a lot of passion and a lot of competition for [in search rankings]. And in the last few years, we’ve been on the top three or so results on Google for that term.

“We’ve watched that page just grow in rankings over the span of seven or eight years. I can only guess it’s because the page is always changing.”

User-curated content

At the time of writing this article, Ranker’s front page is currently spotlighting a list of best-dressed celebs at the 2018 Oscars, a best TV episode names ranking, and a list of possible game-changing deep space observations to be made by the Webb Telescope.

Anyone can add an item to a list on Ranker, although Ranker’s content is not purely user-generated. Ranker has an editorial team which is made up of people who, in Benson’s words, “have a mind for cataloging things” rather than people who specialize in writing a lot of prose.

Lists are typically started off by one of Ranker’s editors, and when a user wants to add a new item to a list, it’s cross-referenced with Ranker’s database, a huge data set made up of more than 28 million people, places and things. If the item isn’t found in the database, it’s added to a moderation queue.

Rather than UGC (user-generated content), therefore, Benson thinks of Ranker’s lists as something he terms UCC – user-curated content.

Ranker: How to make a Google algorithm-proof website

How did Ranker build such a huge data set? Beginning in 2007, a company called Metaweb ran an open source, collaborative knowledge base called Freebase, which contained data harvested from sources such as Wikipedia, the Notable Names Database, Fashion Model Directory and MusicBrainz, along with user-submitted wiki contributions.

This knowledge base made up a large part of Ranker’s data set. What’s interesting is that Freebase was later acquired by none other than Google – and is the foundation of Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Additionally, not every list on Ranker is crowdsourced or voted on. Some lists, such as Everyone Who Has Been Fired Or Resigned From The Trump Administration So Far, don’t make sense to have users voting on them, but are kept fresh with the addition of new items whenever the topic is in the news.

Can other websites do ‘Ranker SEO’?

Benson acknowledges that Ranker’s setup is fairly unique, and so it isn’t necessarily possible to emulate its success with SEO by trying to do the same thing – unless you just happen to have your own crowdsourced, user-curated list website, of course.

With that said, there are still some practical lessons that website owners, particularly publishers, can take away from Ranker’s success and apply to their own SEO strategy.

First and foremost: content freshness is king

As you’ve no doubt gathered by now, the freshness of Ranker’s content is probably the biggest contributing factor to its success in search. “We’re convinced that the dynamism of our content is what really lets it just grow and grow and grow in search traffic,” says Benson.

“While our approach is somewhat unique to the way Ranker works – we have a bespoke CMS that makes lists out of datasets – I’m positive that there are other ways to apply this kind of thinking.”

To put content freshness front and center of your content marketing efforts, make sure that your publication or blog is well-stocked with evergreen content. For those articles or posts that are more time-sensitive, you can still publish a refreshed version, or look for an up-to-date spin to put on the old content, for example linking it in with current events.

According to research by Moz, other factors which can contribute to a positive “freshness” score for your website as a whole include:

  • Changes made to the core content of your website (as opposed to peripheral elements like JavaScript, comments, ads and navigation)
  • Frequency of new page creation
  • Rate of new link growth (an increase in links pointing back to your site or page)
  • Links from other fresh websites, which have the ability to transfer their “fresh value” (Justin Briggs dubbed this quality “FreshRank” in 2011)

Internal links trump external links

Other than content freshness, Benson attributes Ranker’s SEO success to one other big factor: its intricate network of internal links, which Benson believes are far more valuable to SEO than an impressive backlink profile.

“I think a lot of people who are new to SEO focus too much on trying to get outside links, versus optimizing their own internal infrastructure,” he says.

“We have a very broad site with millions of pages – not just lists, but a page for every item that’s included in a list on Ranker, showing you where it ranks on all of our different lists.”

Ranker: How to make a Google algorithm-proof website

The Ranker page for Leonardo da Vinci

“We made the mistake early on of leaving all of those pages open to Google’s index, and we learned over time that some of them are very thin, content-wise. New links are added to them, but they’re thin pages. So we quickly adopted a strategy of noindexing the thinner pages on our site – so they have utility, but they don’t necessarily have search utility.

“We’ve really focused a lot on internal link structure and on interlinking our content in a very intelligent and vertical-driven, page-optimized way. We’ve put a lot of engineering and product resources towards building a robust internal link structure that can also change as pages become more valuable in search.

“Outside links are very important, but they’re increasingly difficult to get. If you have good, unique content, and a strong internal link structure, I think you can get by with far fewer backlinks. Ranker has a lot of backlinks – we’re a big site – but we’ve never tactically gone out to build backlinks. And we get more than 30 million organic search visits per month.”

Ranker: How to make a Google algorithm-proof website

Think about how your content will appear to searchers

Benson emphasizes the importance of paying attention to basic on-site optimization like crafting good title tags and meta descriptions. These elements dictate how your website appears in the SERP to users when they search, and so will form the first impressions of your content.

“When it comes to creating new content, our editorial team definitely focuses on best practice with regards to title tags and meta descriptions – the basic stuff still applies,” says Benson. “Anyone doing editorial still needs to think about your content from the lens of the searcher.”

Optimizing for Google’s rich results and using Schema.org markup are additional ways that website owners can make sure that their website listing appears as attractive as possible to a searcher encountering it on the SERP.

The future is psychographic

What plans does Benson have for the future of Ranker? Up to now, the site has been concentrating mostly on search and social distribution (Facebook is another big source of organic traffic), but are now beginning to focus more on ad sales, media tie-ins and getting the brand name out there.

“We’re always focused on growing traffic, and we’re certainly investing a lot more into our brand,” says Benson.

However, the most exciting future project for Ranker is something called Ranker Insights – a psychographic interests platform which makes use of Ranker’s thousands of data points on what people are interested in and like to vote on.

Ranker: How to make a Google algorithm-proof website

Drawing connections between people’s interests on Ranker Insights

Big data on anything is extremely valuable in marketing, but big data on the things that people like is near enough invaluable – particularly in a world where psychographics (classifying people according to their attitudes, aspirations, and other aspects of their psychology) are increasingly more important than demographics (classifying people according to things like age, gender, race and nationality).

“The marketing world in general is steering a lot more towards psychographics rather than demographics,” says Benson. “Netflix doesn’t care what country you live in – when it comes to marketing or even recommendations, all they care about is your tastes. They stopped using demographics entirely years ago – and clearly they’re doing something right.

“We feel that in an interconnected world, what you like says at least as much about you as your age or your gender.

“And in a world where what you like tells people how to market to you and how to reach you, we have very, very granular, deep data on that front. There’s a lot of different applications for insights like this in a very data-driven world.”

Chart.png

Mystified by martech? Introducing the ClickZ Buyers Guide series

Search Engine Watch sister site ClickZ has just launched the first report in its new series of buyers guides, which aims to to disentangle and demystify the martech landscape for marketers.

The guide, which focuses on bid management tools, covers a range of market leading vendors and draws on months of research and more than 1,600 customer reviews.

This will be the first in a series of guides created using the collective knowledge of the ClickZ and Search Engine Watch communities to help our readers arrive at more informed technology decisions.

The modern martech landscape is complex and competitive, making it difficult for marketers to cut through the noise and select the right technology partners.

Our buyers guides are created with the objective of providing a clear view on the areas in which vendors excel, in order to allow our readers to establish successful relationships with the most suitable platforms.

What sets our guides apart is the use of a customer survey to hear directly from current clients of each software package. For the bid management tools guide, we received more than 1,600 survey responses, which has provided a wealth of valuable data across our six assessment categories.

 Graphs in the report are interactive to allow comparison.

The series of guides begins with bid management tools because of the importance these technologies hold in the modern martech stack. Along with deriving maximum value from the $92 billion spent annually on paid search worldwide, these platforms also help marketers manage their display advertising and social budgets, with some even providing support for programmatic TV buying.

This creates a varied landscape of vendors, with some focusing on the core channels of Google and Facebook, and others placing bets on the potential of the likes of Amazon to provide a real, third option for digital ad dollars.

Though the vendors we analyzed share much in common, there are subtle distinctions within each that make them suitable for different needs. A combination of customer surveys, vendor interviews, and expert opinion from industry veterans has helped us to draw out these nuances to create a transparent view of the current market.

Within the guide, you will gain access to:

  • Tips on building a business case for investing in a bid management platform
  • Questions to ask of potential bid management tool partners
  • Profiles of the six vendors we analyzed
  • The ClickZ and Search Engine Watch customer survey results

Follow this link to download the Bid Management Tools Buyers Guide on Search Engine Watch.

 

Pricesearcher-Illustration-1024x205.png

Pricesearcher: The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of

“Hey Siri, what is the cost of an iPad near me?”

In today’s internet, a number of specialist search engines exist to help consumers search for and compare things within a specific niche.

As well as search engines like Google and Bing which crawl the entire web, we have powerful vertical-specific search engines like Skyscanner, Moneysupermarket and Indeed that specialize in surfacing flights, insurance quotes, jobs, and more.

Powerful though web search engines can be, they aren’t capable of delivering the same level of dedicated coverage within a particular industry that vertical search engines are. As a result, many vertical-specific search engines have become go-to destinations for finding a particular type of information – above and beyond even the all-powerful Google.

Yet until recently, one major market remained unsearchable: prices.

If you ask Siri to tell you the cost of an iPad near you, she won’t be able to provide you with an answer, because she doesn’t have the data. Until now, a complete view of prices on the internet has never existed.

Enter Pricesearcher, a search engine that has set out to solve this problem by indexing all of the world’s prices. Pricesearcher provides searchers with detailed information on products, prices, price histories, payment and delivery information, as well as reviews and buyers’ guides to aid in making a purchase decision.

Founder and CEO Samuel Dean calls Pricesearcher “The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of.” Search Engine Watch recently paid a visit to the Pricesearcher offices to find about the story behind the first search engine for prices, the technical challenge of indexing prices, and why the future of search is vertical.

Pricesearcher: The early days

A product specialist by background, Samuel Dean spent 16 years in the world of ecommerce. He previously held a senior role at eBay as Head of Distributed Ecommerce, and has carried out contract work for companies including Powa Technologies, Inviqa and the UK government department UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).

He first began developing the idea for Pricesearcher in 2011, purchasing the domain Pricesearcher.com in the same year. However, it would be some years before Dean began work on Pricesearcher full-time. Instead, he spent the next few years taking advantage of his ecommerce connections to research the market and understand the challenges he might encounter with the project.

“My career in e-commerce was going great, so I spent my time talking to retailers, speaking with advisors – speaking to as many people as possible that I could access,” explains Dean. “I wanted to do this without pressure, so I gave myself the time to formulate the plan whilst juggling contracting and raising my kids.”

More than this, Dean wanted to make sure that he took the time to get Pricesearcher absolutely right. “We knew we had something that could be big,” he says. “And if you’re going to put your name on a vertical, you take responsibility for it.”

Dean describes himself as a “fan of directories”, relating how he used to pore over the Yellow Pages telephone directory as a child. His childhood also provided the inspiration for Pricesearcher in that his family had very little money while he was growing up, and so they needed to make absolutely sure they got the best price for everything.

Dean wanted to build Pricesearcher to be the tool that his family had needed – a way to know the exact cost of products at a glance, and easily find the cheapest option.

“The world of technology is so advanced – we have self-driving cars and rockets to Mars, yet the act of finding a single price for something across all locations is so laborious. Which I think is ridiculous,” he explains.

Despite how long it took to bring Pricesearcher to inception, Dean wasn’t worried that someone else would launch a competitor search engine before him.

“Technically, it’s a huge challenge,” he says – and one that very few people have been willing to tackle.

There is a significant lack of standardization in the ecommerce space, in the way that retailers list their products, the format that they present them in, and even the barcodes that they use. But rather than solve this by implementing strict formatting requirements for retailers to list their products, making them do the hard work of being present on Pricesearcher (as Google and Amazon do), Pricesearcher was more than willing to come to the retailers.

“Our technological goal was to make listing products on Pricesearcher as easy as uploading photos to Facebook,” says Dean.

As a result, most of the early days of Pricesearcher were devoted to solving these technical challenges for retailers, and standardizing everything as much as possible.

In 2014, Dean found his first collaborator to work with him on the project: Raja Akhtar, a PHP developer working on a range of ecommerce projects, who came on board as Pricesearcher’s Head of Web Development.

Dean found Akhtar through the freelance website People Per Hour, and the two began working on Pricesearcher together in their spare time, putting together the first lines of code in 2015. The beta version of Pricesearcher launched the following year.

For the first few years, Pricesearcher operated on a shoestring budget, funded entirely out of Dean’s own pocket. However, this didn’t mean that there was any compromise in quality.

“We had to build it like we had much more funding than we did,” says Dean.

They focused on making the user experience natural, and on building a tool that could process any retailer product feed regardless of format. Dean knew that Pricesearcher had to be the best product it could possibly be in order to be able to compete in the same industry as the likes of Google.

“Google has set the bar for search – you have to be at least as good, or be irrelevant,” he says.

PriceBot and price data

Pricesearcher initially built up its index by directly processing product feeds from retailers. Some early retail partners who joined the search engine in its first year included Amazon, Argos, IKEA, JD Sports, Currys and Mothercare. (As a UK-based search engine, Pricesearcher has primarily focused on indexing UK retailers, but plans to expand more internationally in the near future).

In the early days, indexing products with Pricesearcher was a fairly lengthy process, taking about 5 hours per product feed. Dean and Akhtar knew that they needed to scale things up dramatically, and in 2015 began working with a freelance dev ops engineer, Vlassios Rizopoulos, to do just that.

Rizopoulos’ work sped up the process of indexing a product feed from 5 hours to around half an hour, and then to under a minute. In 2017 Rizopoulos joined the company as its CTO, and in the same year launched Pricesearcher’s search crawler, PriceBot. This opened up a wealth of additional opportunities for Pricesearcher, as the bot was able to crawl any retailers who didn’t come to them directly, and from there, start a conversation.

“We’re open about crawling websites with PriceBot,” says Dean. “Retailers can choose to block the bot if they want to, or submit a feed to us instead.”

For Pricesearcher, product feeds are preferable to crawl data, but PriceBot provides an option for retailers who don’t have the technical resources to submit a product feed, as well as opening up additional business opportunities. PriceBot crawls the web daily to get data, and many retailers have requested that PriceBot crawl them more frequently in order to get the most up-to-date prices.

Between the accelerated processing speed and the additional opportunities opened up by PriceBot, Pricesearcher’s index went from 4 million products in late 2016 to 500 million in August 2017, and now numbers more than 1.1 billion products. Pricesearcher is currently processing 2,500 UK retailers through PriceBot, and another 4,000 using product feeds.

All of this gives Pricesearcher access to more pricing data than has ever been accumulated in one place – Dean is proud to state that Pricesearcher has even more data at its disposal than eBay. The data set is unique, as no-one else has set out to accumulate this kind of data about pricing, and the possible insights and applications are endless.

At Brighton SEO in September 2017, Dean and Rizopoulos gave a presentation entitled, ‘What we have learnt from indexing over half a billion products’, presenting data insights from Pricesearcher’s initial 500 million product listings.

The insights are fascinating for both retailers and consumers: for example, Pricesearcher found that the average length of a product title was 48 characters (including spaces), with product descriptions averaging 522 characters, or 90 words.

Pricesearcher: The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of

Less than half of the products indexed – 44.9% – included shipping costs as an additional field, and two-fifths of products (40.2%) did not provide dimensions such as size and color.

Between December 2016 and September 2017, Pricesearcher also recorded 4 billion price changes globally, with the UK ranking top as the country with the most price changes – one every six days.

It isn’t just Pricesearcher who have visibility over this data – users of the search engine can benefit from it, too. On February 2nd, Pricesearcher launched a new beta feed which displays a pricing history graph next to each product.

This allows consumers to see exactly what the price of a product has been throughout its history – every rise, every discount – and use this to make a judgement about when the best time is to buy.

Pricesearcher: The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of

“The product history data levels the playing field for retailers,” explains Dean. “Retailers want their customers to know when they have a sale on. This way, any retailer who offers a good price can let consumers know about it – not just the big names.

“And again, no-one else has this kind of data.”

As well as giving visibility over pricing changes and history, Pricesearcher provides several other useful functions for shoppers, including the ability to filter by whether a seller accepts PayPal, delivery information and a returns link.

This is, of course, if retailers make this information available to be featured on Pricesearcher. The data from Pricesearcher’s initial 500 million products shed light on many areas where crucial information was missing from a product listing, which can negatively impact a retailer’s visibility on the search engine.

Like all search engines, Pricesearcher has ranking algorithms, and there are certain steps that retailers can take to optimize for Pricesearcher, and give themselves the best chance of a high ranking.

With that in mind, how does ‘Pricesearcher SEO’ work?

How to rank on Pricesearcher

At this stage in its development, Pricesearcher wants to remove the mystery around how retailers can rank well on its search engine. Pricesearcher’s Retail Webmaster and Head of Search, Paul Lovell, is currently focused on developing ranking factors for Pricesearcher, and conceptualizing an ideal product feed.

The team are also working with select SEO agencies to educate them on what a good product feed looks like, and educating retailers about how they can improve their product listings to aid their Pricesearcher ranking.

Retailers can choose to either go down the route of optimizing their product feed for Pricesearcher and submitting that, or optimizing their website for the crawler. In the latter case, only a website’s product pages are of interest to Pricesearcher, so optimizing for Pricesearcher translates into optimizing product pages to make sure all of the important information is present.

Pricesearcher: The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of

At the most basic level, retailers need to have the following fields in order to rank on Pricesearcher: A brand, a detailed product title, and a product description. Category-level information (e.g. garden furniture) also needs to be present – Pricesearcher’s data from its initial 500 million products found that category-level information was not provided in 7.9% of cases.

If retailers submit location data as well, Pricesearcher can list results that are local to the user. Additional fields that can help retailers rank are product quantity, delivery charges, and time to deliver – in short, the more data, the better.

A lot of ‘regular’ search engine optimization tactics also work for Pricesearcher – for example, implementing schema.org markup is very beneficial in communicating to the crawler which fields are relevant to it.

It’s not only retailers who can rank on Pricesearcher; retail-relevant webpages like reviews and buying guides are also featured on the search engine. Pricesearcher’s goal is to provide people with as much information as possible to make a purchase decision, but that decision doesn’t need to be made on Pricesearcher – ultimately, converting a customer is seen as the retailer’s job.

Given Pricesearcher’s role as a facilitator of online purchases, an affiliate model where the search engine earns a commission for every customer it refers who ends up converting seems like a natural way to make money. Smaller search engines like DuckDuckGo have similar models in place to drive revenue.

However, Dean is adamant that this would undermine the neutrality of Pricesearcher, as there would then be an incentive for the search engine to promote results from retailers who had an affiliate model in place.

Instead, Pricesearcher is working on building a PPC model for launch in 2019. The search engine is planning to offer intent-based PPC to retailers, which would allow them to opt in to find out about returning customers, and serve an offer to customers who return and show interest in a product.

Other than PPC, what else is on the Pricesearcher roadmap for the next few years? In a word: lots.

The future of search is vertical

The first phase of Pricesearcher’s journey was all about data acquisition – partnering with retailers, indexing product feeds, and crawling websites. Now, the team are shifting their focus to data science, applying AI and machine learning to Pricesearcher’s vast dataset.

Head of Search Paul Lovell is an analytics expert, and the team are recruiting additional data scientists to work on Pricesearcher, creating training data that will teach machine learning algorithms how to process the dataset.

“It’s easy to deploy AI too soon,” says Dean, “but you need to make sure you develop a strong baseline first, so that’s what we’re doing.”

Pricesearcher will be out of beta by December of this year, by which time the team intend to have all of the prices in the UK (yes, all of them!) listed in Pricesearcher’s index. After the search engine is fully launched, the team will be able to learn from user search volume and use that to refine the search engine.

Pricesearcher: The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of

The Pricesearcher rocket ship – founder Samuel Dean built this by hand to represent the Pricesearcher mission. It references a comment made by Eric Shmidt to Sheryl Sandberg when she interviewed at Google. When she told him that the role didn’t meet any of her criteria and asked why should she work there, he replied: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”

At the moment, Pricesearcher is still a well-kept secret, although retailers are letting people know that they’re listed on Pricesearcher, and the search engine receives around 1 million organic searches on a monthly basis, with an average of 4.5 searches carried out per user.

Voice and visual search are both on the Pricesearcher roadmap; voice is likely to arrive first, as a lot of APIs for voice search are already in place that allow search engines to provide their data to the likes of Alexa, Siri and Cortana. However, Pricesearcher are also keen to hop on the visual search bandwagon as Google Lens and Pinterest Lens gain traction.

Going forward, Dean is extremely confident about the game-changing potential of Pricesearcher, and moreover, believes that the future of the industry lies in vertical search. He points out that in December 2016, Google’s parent company Alphabet specifically identified vertical search as one of the biggest threats to Google.

“We already carry out ‘specialist searches’ in our offline world, by talking to people who are experts in their particular field,” says Dean.

“We should live in a world of vertical search – and I think we’ll see many more specialist search engines in the future.”

2017-ShopStyle-STL-GTM-03_0.jpg

Pinterest Lens one year on: Where is Pinterest’s visual search tool now?

It’s been a year since Pinterest announced the launch of Lens, its new visual search tool. How has it evolved since then?

When Pinterest Lens launched in 2017, it was the latest – and boldest – step in Pinterest’s evolution from a visual social network into a powerful visual search tool.

Pinterest knew that there was great potential to blend its “inspiration”-focused online platform, full of enticing DIY, craft, beauty and recipe ideas, with the offline world to help its users make their ideas into reality. The goal was to offer a camera search that helps you discover online what you come across in the offline world.

The idea seemed ambitious, but Pinterest made it clear at the time that its Lens technology was still developing, encouraging users to help it build a powerful tool:

“Lens is still learning, and doesn’t always recognize exactly what you’re looking for.

Lens will stay in beta as it gets even better at recognizing all the things. And that’s where you come in!

If you get results that feel a little meh, tap the new + button to add feedback and help Lens get better at finding ideas inspired by whatever you just Lensed. As more and more people help teach Lens about more and more objects, soon it will earn its way out of the beta zone.”

A year on from this announcement, how has Pinterest’s visual discovery evolved – and what has the impact of Pinterest’s Lens tool been on the wider industry?

The evolution of Lens

In a news post celebrating the one-year anniversary of Lens, Pinterest revealed some significant stats about the growth of Lens:

  • There are now twice as many Pinterest users who use Lens every day, compared to 6 months ago
  • People carry out more than 600 million visual searches with Lens every month, which marks an increase of 140% year-over-year

According to Pinterest, the more people searched, the better Lens got. Several new developments over the past year have also contributed to Lens’ growth:

  • Lens was moved to the front of Pinterest’s app and they have also created shortcuts to facilitate the fast search
  • Pinterest introduced Pincodes, a QR-code-esque technology, to help users seamlessly switch between Pinterest and the offline world
  • Lens your Look has also been launched to “bring together text and image searches in one query”, and encourage people to use Pinterest for outfit inspiration
  • A partnership with Samsung brought the Lens to the latest smartphones worldwide, while Target activated visual search to their products
  • The visual search technology now understands more than five times as many things as it did a year ago. This means that you can now search for recipes, clothes, and countless objects for your home with increasing accuracy.

What’s next for Lens

Pinterest Lens one year on: Where is Pinterest’s visual search tool now?

Pinterest has announced that their next step includes an enhanced image search that also allows you to include it in your text search. Starting with iOS apps, people will be able to include an image to their text search to make their discoveries easier.

This will help users find exactly what they’re looking for by benefiting from all the elements of a consideration journey. They can start with an object they’ve come across in an actual shop, they use Pinterest’s Lens to discover it and if they are not able to purchase it directly through a pin, they can use the image to include text search and find more details about it.

This feature is also expected to roll out to Android users soon and it aims to make visual search even more useful. It is a clever way to include the benefits of visual and text search to help both the consumers, but also the retailers in strengthening their customer journey between the online and the offline world.

The future of visual search

Pinterest Lens one year on: Where is Pinterest’s visual search tool now?

The growth of Pinterest Lens shows how visual search is steadily gaining traction as a genuine tool and not just a novelty. Pinterest is also not the only player in this space: three months after the launch of Pinterest Lens, Google debuted its own version of the tool, Google Lens.

Soon afterwards, Bing released an update to its visual search capabilities which allowed users to search for a specific object within images – a noticeably Pinterest-like feature. 

Pinterest is clearly blazing a trail in the visual search space which has left the other big players in search scrambling to catch up.

Pinterest Lens one year on: Where is Pinterest’s visual search tool now?

Pinterest Lens one year on: Where is Pinterest’s visual search tool now?

Above, Pinterest’s “search within image” feature, and below, Bing’s strikingly similar capability

Pinterest seems to be aware of its product’s value, and is heading in the right direction to make it profitable.

Pinterest already had a strong business proposition which capitalized on the fact that its users would come to its platform for inspiration on everything from fashion to design, food to furniture. With the introduction of Shoppable Pins, Pinterest was able to monetize this, allowing users to actually buy the components of their new dream house, garden or outfit. 

Now, Pinterest Lens has made that possible in the offline world, too.

Business Insider has foreseen a bright future for mobile visual search technology, releasing a new report which cites “strong evidence that mobile visual search technology will take off in the near future, including growing access to technology, strong usage rates of camera-related apps, and early indication of potential revenue growth”.

By getting into the visual search space early and investing heavily in developing the technology, Pinterest has put itself in an excellent position to be the leader in visual search going forward.

While visual search has yet to truly cross over into the mainstream, the foundations have been laid, and the statistics shared on Lens’ one-year anniversary paint a positive picture for the future.

2018-02-14_0931.png

Everything you need to know about the Google Chrome ad blocker

Google launches a new version of its Chrome web browser today (February 15), which will include an in-built ad blocker to try and eradicate intrusive ads from the browsing experience.

There are some clear standards and some unanswered questions relating to this new approach, so what exactly do marketers need to know?

Google announced last year that certain ad types would be blocked automatically within Chrome. This seemingly seismic update is due to go live today in the latest upgrade to the world’s most popular web browser.

The integration of an ad blocker within Google Chrome is just a small part of a much bigger movement to improve the quality of online advertising, however.

This has been driven by consumers, who are increasingly frustrated with ads that interrupt and distract them from the content they want to view. As people spend more time on mobile devices and advertisers invest more in video, that tension has only heightened. 

The survey results in the image above tally with the findings from Google’s own research. Axios revealed recently that Google has found two concerning trends when analyzing user behavior on Chrome:

  1. One-in-five Chrome feedback reports mentions annoying/unwanted ads
  2. There were 5+ billion mutes from people using Google’s “mute this ad” feature in 2017

Of course, this has led to huge growth in the adoption of ad blockers over the last few years. Consumers have found these to be an easy and convenient solution, but this is not a permanent stance.

There is a widespread acceptance that if advertisers can provide some value to consumers, the latter will be much more receptive to the messaging.

Everything you need to know about the Google Chrome ad blocker

Worryingly for advertisers and publishers, the growth in mobile ad blocker usage has been very notable and that trend has been particularly marked in the Asia-Pacific region over the past 12 months.

Many publishers have implemented “ad block walls”, which do not allow access to their content for users with an ad blocker installed. That approach is only a stop-gap measure and does not strike at the heart of the issue, however.

It is pretty clear which way the wind is blowing, so Google is aiming to take a modicum of control over the prevailing trend rather than ignore it altogether. Third-party ad blockers, after all, might also end up blocking ads from the Google Display Network.

Moreover, Chrome accounts for 62% of the mobile browser market and 59% of desktop, so it certainly has the clout to make a difference.

And yet, there is a fine balance to strike here between permitting the ads that fuel so much of the digital economy, while precluding those that are overly intrusive. Google, of course, has much to lose if it adopts an overzealous approach, but much to gain if it can become the arbiter of the correct standards for digital advertising.

Which ads will be affected?

The standards by which the Chrome ad blocker will operate are based on the guidelines set by the Coalition for Better Ads. Google is on the board that sets these regulations, but so are many other influential bodies, including the Association of National Advertisers, Unilever, and Facebook.

This collective set out to pinpoint the ad experiences that consumers found to be overly negative when browsing. The research (which can be viewed here) revealed certain types of ad that are most typically tied to negative experiences.

The desktop web experiences that will be affected are:

Everything you need to know about the Google Chrome ad blocker

While the mobile ad types that will be affected are:

Everything you need to know about the Google Chrome ad blocker

Of course, these are broad categories and there are levels of sophistication within each. Google has added the stipulation that publishers have a 7.5% non-compliance threshold before their ads are blocked.

There is also an element of common sense to be applied here. We have all been subjected to the kinds of ads that this initiative targets, whether they are full-screen auto-play videos or pop-up ads that feel impossible to close.

How will Google enforce this?

Significantly, Google estimates that just 1% of publishers will be affected in the short-term by the new ad blocker. It would be fair to say that the approach to cutting out sub-par ads has more in common with a scalpel than an axe. After all, Google knows better than anyone that advertising supports the vast majority of what we see online.

Wes MacLaggan, SVP of Marketing at Marin Software, commented to Search Engine Watch that:

These new standards are meant to create a better user experience for consumers, and ultimately encourage fewer ad blocking installations. In the short term, we’ll see some ad formats and advertisers shut off. These advertisers and publishers will need to invest in more quality ads, while publishers will no longer be able to rely on monetizing with intrusive formats.

Google will also alert sites that are at the “warning” or “failing” level on its scale, to provide an opportunity to clean up their ads. The search giant reports that 37% of sites that were initially in violation of their standards have since made changes to improve the quality of their ads.

Websites that violate the new standards will be given 30 days to remove the offending ads from their sites or Google will block their ads.

Everything you need to know about the Google Chrome ad blocker

How will this affect advertisers and publishers?

It is a sign of how much the industry has changed that this is not quite the doomsday scenario it would have been for many just a few years ago.

The business model that drives so many publishers has been under threat for some time now. The move to a digital-first publishing world could only really be supported by a revenue model based on digital advertising, but unfortunately it has proved highly challenging to square this with the consumer’s best interests.

The ultimate aim for Google, via Chrome, is both ambitious and idealistic: to work with publishers and advertisers to create a customer-centric browsing experience. There are some clear statements on this from the Coalition for Better Ads, including the following:

The Coalition encourages advertisers, publishers, and advertising technology providers to review its research and the initial Better Ads Standards, as part of their efforts in the marketplace to improve the online ad experience.

  • Advertisers can use the initial Better Ads Standards to inform campaign development and execution
  • Publishers can use the initial Better Ads Standards to develop improved experiences for their audiences
  • Ad technology platforms can use the initial Better Ads Standards in the development process for new ad experiences
  • Providers of measurement technologies can use the initial Better Ads Standards to develop new ways to assess marketplace prevalence of the ad experiences preferred by consumers

Wes McLaggan of Marin Software has some further advice for advertisers as they take stock of how this update may affect them:

High quality, relevant ads are always going to perform better than those shouting to get a user’s attention. Marketers should leverage all targeting options to put the right ad in front of the right person. Ads should also reflect the user’s frame of mind when they are on that platform. There isn’t a one-size fits all approach for in-stream video on Facebook, Instagram Stories and display ads on a website. In short, digital advertisers should let user engagement, relevance, and ad quality be their guide.

Although an in-built ad blocker that initially affects 1% of publishers will not drive a fundamental shift in digital consumer-advertiser relationships on its own, it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

The 2018 guide to free SEO training courses online

Over the past decade SEO has been growing into its position as a critical marketing channel for businesses.

You might be new to this environment, or you may have new team members that need to be trained up on search engine optimization.

Before you go handing over your gold coins to a training consultant, we suggest you read this article where we have outlined some of the best (and importantly, free) SEO training courses and websites to take your knowledge to the next level in 2018.

This is an update to a guide written by Chuck Price in 2016, with many of his suggestions still holding value so after you’ve finished with this article we would recommend jumping over there for some additional pointers and a look at some of the skill sets needed to become a skilled SEO.

Google – Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide and Google Webmasters Learning

It’s a favored description by the doubters and the uninitiated: SEO is all tricks, underhand manipulation and most importantly, guess work. In actual fact, good SEO is far from guess work. Google may not give us complete visibility into the workings of their search algorithm but they more open than the doubters think!

What better place to start than with two guides provided by Google, the globally dominant search engine and therefore the target platform for lots of SEOs worldwide.

Starter guide

Updated in December 2017 Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide is an up to date resource from the Big G, targeted at those starting right from the very beginning.

Be warned, Google may have trendy offices but their guides lack the same personal touch. Their starter guide is dense and rather dry, but useful nonetheless.

Interestingly you may gain more value reading it first and then coming back to it once you have had certain aspects explained in a less matter of fact manner.

Webmasters learning page

This web page overlaps with Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide to an extent. However, this resource provides a wider breadth of information including web developer specific advice. In fact, the initial module titled ‘Webmaster Academy’ has now been replaced with the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

The information and links on this page are applicable to marketers, designers and developers alike, with Google providing useful YouTube, Blog and forum links to turbocharge your learning.

Moz – Beginner’s Guide to SEO

Moz is one of the most well known platforms and information sources within the SEO industry. The clean aesthetics of the website and easy to understand language make digesting the information presented much easier than for Google’s Starter Guide.

Made up of 10 chapters on critical areas of SEO (such as how search engine operate or myths and misconceptions) this guide is full of analogies which can be a real benefit for the newbies to formulate their own mental map of the SEO ecosystem.

A must-read, and one of the most frequently-mentioned recommendations for those discussing SEO guides online!

Quick Sprout – The Advanced Guide to SEO

Neil Patel loves long-form content, and he’s rather good at it. Heavily researched and highly detailed, his Advanced Guide to SEO makes no apologies for being a continuation for those who no longer gain value from the more basic guides. Through 9 chapters Neil will take you through his course, tackling more advanced link building theories or technical items.

Much like Moz’s guide, Neil speaks to you as a person, using more colloquial language than more corporate led guides. The plethora of screenshots and infographics also help you to tackle each chapter in a step by step, linear process

HubSpot’s Certifications

The guides by Google, Moz and Quick Sprout are great for those looking to learn the ropes of SEO and gain an understanding of the specific elements that make up an SEO campaign. For newcomers, the guides above will certainly have an impact on your site’s rankings when implemented.

However, to really make the most of your SEO efforts, you need to look at the bigger picture. SEO has a habit of sucking you in and making you focus on the minutiae – take the time to really understand your audience and buyer personas, subsequently creating a long term strategy that delivers greater results.

HubSpot are inbound marketing specialists that offer a range of free online learning tools, all engineered to help you create more effective inbound funnels and deliver conversions. Resources include an onsite SEO template, a variety of ebooks and free digital marketing courses that will earn you a certificate when complete

They’re simple and easy to understand. We would recommend starting with the Inbound Certification which provides a general structure for your inbound sales funnels and content strategies.

Both video content and transcripts come in multiple chapters, with a multiple choice test at the end and certificate. They also take it further than just SEO, training you on sales techniques so that your customers get the very best experience possible, are delighted, and become promoters for your business.

Continuous learning

Gaining an understanding of the SEO ecosystem and the basics of on-site optimization, content creation, link-building and analytics is critical in ensuring that you set off on the right path. The courses above are very valuable in providing this initial overview, but you also need to make sure that you are keeping up to date and adapting your campaign strategy accordingly.

The ‘goal posts’ for user-focused campaigns rarely change, but updates do occur which you need to be aware of in order to react. We have included below some of the main SEO-specific sites that you can bookmark and follow on social media, not only to keep up-to-date, but also to build on your foundations.

Search Engine Watch

At Search Engine Watch we provide a blends of tips, industry news and how-to guides to help you further your knowledge around search engine optimization. With a blend of in-house expertise and industry contributors, we publish articles regularly.

Make use of our checklists (such as Christopher Ratcliff’s Technical SEO Checklist) to methodically ensure that you have covered all bases. We may be biased, but it’s a rather good resource!

Embrace the community

There are a plethora of sites on the web publishing helpful (and not so helpful) SEO related content and guides. Some of the most popular being Moz Blog, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal.

However, there are a number of individuals and businesses that you should follow on their blogs or social media to utilize multiple sources throughout the SEO industry:

  • Rand Fishkin
  • Larry Kim
  • John Mueller
  • Neil Patel
  • Danny Sullivan
  • Barry Schwartz
  • Vanessa Fox
  • Bill Slawski

These individuals (amongst others) will crop up time and again as you dive deeper into the SEO world. It is also valuable to follow the various platforms available to businesses.

The content produced by these organizations are often heavily focused around utilizing analytics to improve campaigns:

  • Ahrefs
  • BuzzSumo
  • SEMRush
  • Kissmetrics
  • Searchmetrics
  • Backlinko

This is not an exhaustive list, but is a great place to start. It takes a certain amount of research to understand which individuals, businesses and organisations produce content that is most applicable to your requirements and current level of knowledge.

We would, however, advise that utilizing as many courses, guides and sources as possible will give you a well rounded view of SEO and allow you to make your own decisions, draw relevant insights to your campaigns and get great results.

What we believe you will find is that the SEO industry is actually reasonably open in terms of disseminating guides and discussing techniques or new updates.

This provides an environment in which a newcomer can learn a substantial amount about running a successful SEO campaign just by reading and engaging with the online SEO community.

AI-machine-learning.png

Looking through the artificial intelligence mirror: insights and automation

We have entered a new era of search where SEO and content marketing have converged.

AI technologies are providing a whole new world of insights so marketers can make impactful – data-informed – decisions. The AI revolution is here and now, and early adopters in SEO and content marketing are already one step ahead of the competition.

Artificial intelligence

While Artificial Intelligence has slowly become a part of everyday lives, growing all around us. It was only when Google introduced RankBrain in 2015 when search marketers started to see the potential use cases for AI and machine learning. As Albert Gouyet wrote in his recent piece, ‘Artificial intelligence and machine learning: What are the opportunities for search marketers?‘:

  • Artificial intelligence is the science of making machines do things requiring human intelligence. It is human intelligence in machine format where computer programs develop data-based decisions and perform tasks normally performed by humans.
  • Machine learning takes artificial intelligence a step further in the sense that algorithms are programmed to learn and improve without the need for human data input and reprogramming.

Machine learning is all around us and has been part of people’s everyday lives for many years now. The most relevant examples for SEOs are based around voice-enabled technologies that are used in more than 20% of mobile queries.

When people are on their way to work, they use voice search to send messages and navigate via their in-car system. When people are at work, they use voice search on their laptops to manage diaries and schedules. At home, people may use Amazon Echo or Google Home and watch films on Netflix.

The two key AI and machine learning benefits I want to focus today on are centered around:

Insights that are accurate, actionable, and impact revenue

Automation of labour-intensive tasks and programmatic scale.

I: Data-driven insights

Marketing today is very labor-intensive, often requiring marketers to dig through too much data that may not even be giving them the bigger picture they need to make impactful business decisions. More than 80 percent of the world’s data is unstructured–for example, data from text, video, images, and user-generated social and blog content–and marketers need to break this down into structured formats that they can act on.

To do this effectively and in a manner that produces impactful business results, requires planning, process discipline, and advanced technology. By leveraging AI and machine learning systems that leverage both historical and real-time data, SEO and content marketers can map out in advance what types of content will perform best.

Marketers can use these insights in so many ways to blend the best of search marketing and content marketing practices in two key ways.

1. Targeting demand: Discovering new data patterns and industry and competitive trends

Targeting demand requires a deep understanding of your audience and AI-based insights help marketers decide which channels and types of content consumers are searching for. Data-driven insights into consumer demand set marketers up for success with a content marketing strategy built specifically for their target audience.

Intent data offers in-the-moment context on where customers want to go and what they want to know, do, or buy. Organic search data is the critical raw material that helps you discover consumer patterns, new market opportunities, and competitive threats.

2. Personalizing the customer experience: Producing content that resonates, engages and delights customers

This is one of the areas where AI and machine learning can have the biggest impact. Rich (deep) data-led insights can help incorporate content and present people with choices and promotions at the right time based on their past preferences. This is where deep learning can have a massive impact.

Deep learning is the next generation of machine learning where massive data sets are combined with pattern recognition capabilities to automatically make decisions, find patterns, and provide accurate insights that help drive SEO and content marketing strategies.

Deep learning is particularly important in search, where data sets are large and shifts are dynamic. Deep learning allows you to identify patterns and trends in real-time. SEO and content marketers can immediately turn these insights into a plan to win.

A: Machine Learning and Automation

Being armed with smart insights to uncover potential topics that are hyper-relevant to their target audience and automation allows SEO and content marketers to scale their programs and maximize working efficiency.

Speed will be a critical part of getting ahead of others within your market space, and automation will be the foundation of achieving this goal.

Automation allows marketers to:

  • Act on recommendations faster
  • Get content in front of their audience before the competition
  • Ensure that content is optimized from the moment it goes live.

For example, Kraft used a combination of machine learning and insights to optimize their content creation process. Kraft tracked more than 22,000 different audience characteristics then used these insights to inform their content creation process. The result was a 4x increase in ROI from content, when compared to targeted ads.

Automation is helping marketers do more with less and execute more quickly. Routine SEO and content tasks can be implemented with little effort, allowing SEO and content marketers to focus on high-impact activities and accomplish their personal and professional objectives at scale.

Conclusion

AI, machine learning and deep learning is going to transform how SEO and content marketers operate via the utilization of data-driven insights and give marketers the competitive edge to formulate impactful content marketing strategies.

Source: Marketing in the Machine Age

Marketers will use AI to respond to complexity and rapid change that is beyond the normal human capabilities, like the search algorithm changes and evolution of the layout of the SERPs.

AI will improve marketers’ agility–having the flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in the market and change content strategy in line with competitive market trends. This includes having the ability to scale content marketing efforts effectively through entire organizations.

In addition, AI will help marketer capture and satisfy customers by optimizing customer experience and content personalization, issues that present dozens to hundreds to thousands of combinations to satisfy  a range of customer personas at different points on the lifecycle.

Providing users with highly relevant, optimized, and engaging content tailored to the customers’ expectations, needs and goals will improve all marketing metrics.

Promotion-Extensions.png

Automation, AdWords and Amazon: Ashley Fletcher on the future of paid search

In 2017, Google rolled out 43 separate updates and changes to its AdWords platform. 

From showing local information to display ads to the launch of Smart Display campaigns to visibility over landing page performance, each update from Google – whether big or small – has an impact on the way that PPC practitioners and search marketers go about their craft.

Going by the major announcements we’ve already seen from Google in January, with the roll-out of an Actions directory for the Google Assistant, home hubs with smart screens, and a significant update to its mobile algorithm to take page speed into account, 2018 is going to be an even bigger year for Google all round. AdWords is likely to be no exception to that.

Meanwhile, there’s another key player on the horizon: Amazon. With the saturation of the Google Shopping landscape, Amazon Shopping is opening up as a potentially lucrative new avenue for retail search marketers.

I caught up with Ashley Fletcher, VP of Marketing at Adthena and former Product Manager at Google, to talk about what we’re likely to see from AdWords and paid search in 2018. Ashley Fletcher has been in the industry for 12 years, with five of those spent at Google working on a range of products including Google’s Compare products, Google Express, and Google Shopping in its infancy.

Fletcher shared his thoughts with me on the overarching trends in paid search, why PPC still needs a human touch, and why search marketers should be getting in early with Amazon Shopping.

Keeping up with the pace of change

Last November, Google unveiled a revamped version of its AdWords product just in time for the holidays. The new AdWords platform was redesigned in Material Design, Google’s design language, and built on top of a new infrastructure, meaning faster-loading pages and a cleaner look.

The redesigned AdWords also brought with it custom intent audiences to help marketers reach people as they’re making a purchase decision, and promotion extensions that serve up special offers for products and services.

Image: Google Inside AdWords

I asked Fletcher how advertisers can get the most out of AdWords in light of the November redesign, and other recent updates.

“My overarching feeling is that it’s highly customizable,” says Fletcher. “That plays into the advertiser’s hands, because you can shape the metrics and views to your needs.”

This is important as advertisers now are working with increasing amounts of data from different sources, making it crucial to have that level of customizability and flexibility in visualizing it all.

“Advertisers are accessing increasing amounts of data via APIs,” Fletcher explains. “More and more advertisers are getting comfortable using something like Data Studio to ingest all of the AdWords metrics, plus all of the metrics from an independent source like ours, and overlay them onto their day-to-day KPIs.”

Not all advertisers are comfortable with using APIs, however, and for AdWords – as well as for external tools like Adthena – there is a need to strike the balance between making great data insights available via an API, versus adding more bells and whistles to the interface.

The metrics that advertisers are working with can often shift partway through the year as Google rolls out an update. For example, in October 2017 Google uncapped the daily budget in AdWords, making it possible for advertisers to spend up to twice the daily budget that they had allotted. This type of change directly affects the metrics that go into an advertiser’s dashboard.

But rolling with the changes has become par for the course in paid search. “There’s a huge dependency on the part of AdWords advertisers to keep up with the pace of change,” says Fletcher. “There’s always something else to learn and adapt to.”

On the topic of change, what does Fletcher believe is on the horizon for AdWords in 2018?

AdWords and automation

“The first thing I would say is that we can expect more automation,” says Fletcher. “Google has been focusing a lot on developing its AI and machine learning capabilities, and we’re likely to see that continue.”

He pointed to the example of Dynamic Search Ads, which is heavily reliant on automation to help users scale their campaigns. DSA have seen widespread adoption amongst advertisers, and Fletcher predicts that this particular feature is likely to evolve over the coming year.

Display is another area in which Google has ventured into automation, launching smart display campaigns in April 2017. These seem to have been positively received, although Fletcher observes that automation can be a contentious topic among advertisers.

“How comfortable advertisers feel about [automation] is really 50/50 – some people like to go hands-on, others like to go hands-off. Working with advertisers over the Black Friday period, a lot of them opted to go with manual bidding because they felt they needed that control.”

Automation, AdWords and Amazon: Ashley Fletcher on the future of paid search

Marketers may need to become comfortable with increasing automation in PPC – but there will still be room in the industry for the human touch

Given that the trend in the industry seems to be veering towards increased automation, does Fletcher believe that advertisers will need to become more comfortable with it in future?

“Yes. But any kind of automated feature also needs to be clearly measurable, and give advertisers the transparency they need. If you’re going to opt in to these features, you need to know what they’re triggering on, and what the content is.”

However, this is not to say that search marketers are going to be losing their jobs to the machines any time soon, as Fletcher believes firmly in the value of the human element in PPC, as does Adthena.

“We need to utilize machine learning to do the legwork and work out the smarts for those insights,” says Fletcher. “But the human piece will always be to action and verify those – and to pivot to bespoke business needs. One may be around cost-saving, one may be around entering new markets, one may be around customer acquisition.

“You need the human element to pivot to those goals – but I would certainly leverage the machines to give me the insights to go and action. It’s a fine balance you need to achieve between being hands-on with search and search advertising, and using machine learning where it’s suitable.”

The rise of Amazon Shopping in retail search marketing

Meanwhile, in retail search marketing, a different kind of shift is taking place – between two industry titans.

Since Fletcher started working at Google, he has observed the Google Shopping landscape becoming increasingly saturated and competitive, to the point where an additional half a percent of performance can be key.

“When I started at Google, Google Shopping was really taking off – the ad unit was getting bigger, and exposing on new queries. Now, Product Listing Ads trigger on 58% of all retail queries – which is huge. It’s a very big shift there.

“Meanwhile, Amazon Shopping has become a destination site, and that’s changing behavior.”

Automation, AdWords and Amazon: Ashley Fletcher on the future of paid search

Amazon Shopping has become a destination site, which is changing both shopping and advertising behavior

We’ve covered this trend previously on Search Engine Watch, with studies showing that more than half of consumers begin their online product searches on Amazon instead of on Google.

“Amazon’s Shopping product is currently on the rise – CPCs are low, advertisers are enjoying really good ROI; but it’s only a matter of time before that landscape becomes saturated, too.”

Fletcher believes that the low CPC and high ROI currently available through Amazon Shopping makes now a perfect time for retailers to get in on the platform.

And Amazon is still expanding into new marketplaces across the world – Fletcher points to Australia, where Amazon launched for the first time in December 2017. Because we’ve seen Amazon launch and expand in more than a dozen countries over the years, it’s possible to predict with relative certainty how events will unfold, and so search marketers in those new markets need to be aware of the trends.

“We have the data points to say, ‘This is what will happen to your market’ – we’ve seen the market share that Amazon takes from search in the UK and the US, and we can forecast what’s likely to happen to Australia, in turn.”

Does a competitor intelligence platform like Adthena have the same level of insight on Amazon as it does on Google’s platforms? “We actually have more,” says Fletcher. “We can do a huge amount with Amazon, in terms of mapping out the market.”

Google Home: Coming soon to an AdWords set near you?

Overall, Fletcher believes that we’ll be seeing growth in automation products in AdWords over the next year, with Google continuing to develop what’s working well. He is confident that AdWords will continue to set the bar for campaign reporting, encouraging best practice in attribution across the paid search industry.

Following the announcement of smart screens for the Google Home at CES 2018, Fletcher also predicts that this year will be the year that Google offers campaign targeting for smart home hubs in AdWords.

“To me, screens seem like the first step towards monetizing smart home hubs. I think Google needs the screen in order to execute that, because it’s hard to see how else you would advertise on a voice device without completely messing up the user flow.”

Automation, AdWords and Amazon: Ashley Fletcher on the future of paid search

Smart screens on the Google Home could be the first step towards making campaign targeting available for smart home hubs

Certainly, the closest thing we’ve seen to advertising on Google Home thus far – a possible plug for the Beauty and the Beast live-action film which Google denies was intended as an ad – was very jarring, and received a great deal of backlash from Home users, suggesting that Google needs to tread carefully if it wants to make monetization on the Google Home work.

“It’s still very early days – maybe Google was testing something with that, and maybe they weren’t. But if I were an AdWords advertiser, I wouldn’t expect it to be long before these devices feature in your set. By the end of 2018, I expect AdWords to have campaign targeting, or something like it, for Home devices.”

Goggles-Fail-617x1024.png

The future of visual search and what it means for SEO companies

The human brain has evolved to instantly recognize images.

Visual identification is a natural ability made possible through a wonder of nerves, neurons, and synapses. We can look at a picture, and in 13 milliseconds or less, know exactly what we’re seeing.

But creating technology that can understand images as quickly and effectively as the human mind is a huge undertaking.

Visual search therefore requires machine learning tools that can quickly process images, but these tools must also be able to identify specific objects within the image, then generate visually similar results.

Yet thanks to the vast resources at the disposal of companies like Google, visual search is finally becoming viable. How, then, will SEO evolve as visual search develops?

Here’s a more interesting question: how soon until SEO companies have to master visual search optimization?

Visual search isn’t likely to replace text-based search engines altogether. For now, visual search is most useful in the world of sales and retail. However, the future of visual search could still disrupt the SEO industry as we know it.

What is visual search?

If you have more than partial vision, you’re able to look across a room and identify objects as you see them. For instance, at your desk you can identify your monitor, your keyboard, your pens, and the sandwich you forgot to put in the fridge.

Your mind is able to identify these objects based on visual cues alone. Visual search does the same thing, but with a given image on a computer. However, it’s important to note that visual search is not the same as image search.

Image search is when a user inputs a word into a search engine and the search engine spits out related images. Even then, the search engine isn’t recognizing images, just the structured data associated with the image files.

Visual search uses an image as a query instead of text (reverse image search is a form of visual search). It identifies objects within the image and then searches for images related to those objects. For instance, based on an image of a desk, you’d be able to use visual search to shop for a desk identical or similar to the one in the image.

While this sounds incredible, the technology surrounding visual search is still limited at best. This is because machine learning must recreate the mind’s image processing before it can effectively produce a viable visual search application. It isn’t enough for the machine to identify an image. It must also be able to recognize a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns the way the human mind does.

The technology surrounding visual search is still limited at best

However, it’s difficult to recreate image processing in a machine when we barely understand our own image processing system. It’s for this reason that visual search programming is progressing so slowly.

Visual search as it stands: Where we are

Today’s engineers have been using machine learning technology to jumpstart the neural networks of visual search engines for improved image processing. One of the most recent examples of these developments is Google Lens.

Google Lens is an app that allows your smartphone to work as a visual search engine. Announced at Google’s 2017 I/O conference, the app works by analyzing the pictures that you take and giving you information about that image.

For instance, by taking a photo of an Abbey Road album your phone can tell you more about the Beatles and when the album came out. By taking a photo of an ice cream shop your phone can tell you its name, deliver reviews, and tell you if your friends have been there.

The future of visual search and what it means for SEO companies

All of this information stems from Google’s vast stores of data, algorithms, and knowledge graphs, which are then incorporated into the the neural networks of the Lens product. However, the complexity of visual search involves more than just an understanding of the neural networks.

The mind’s image processing touches on more than just identification. It also draws conclusions that are incredibly complex. And it’s this complexity, known as the “black box problem”, that engineers struggle to recreate in visual search engines.

Rather than waiting explicitly on scientists to understand the human mind, DeepMind — a Google-owned company — has been taking steps toward programming the visual search engine based on cognitive psychology rather than relying solely on neural networks.

However, Google isn’t the only company with developing visual search technology. Pinterest launched its own Lens product in March 2017 to provide features such as Shop the Look and Pincodes. Those using Pinterest can take a photo of a person or place through the app and then have the photo analyzed for clothing or homeware options for shopping. 

The future of visual search and what it means for SEO companies

What makes Pinterest Lens and Google Lens different is that Pinterest offers more versatile options for users. Google is a search engine for users to gather information. Pinterest is a website and app for shopping, recipes, design ideas, and recreational searching.

Unlike Google, which has to operate on multiple fronts, Pinterest is able to focus solely on the development of its visual search engine. As a result, Pinterest could very well become the leading contender in visual search technology.

Nevertheless, other retailers are beginning to catch on and pick up the pace with their own technology. The fashion retailer ASOS also released a visual search tool on its website in August 2017.

The use of visual search in retail helps reduce what’s been called the Discovery Problem. The Discovery Problem is when shoppers have so many options to choose from on a retailer’s website that they simply stop shopping. Visual search reduces the number of choices and helps shoppers find what they want more effectively.

The future of visual search: Where we’ll go from here

It’s safe to assume that the future of visual search engines will be retail-dominated. For now, it’s easier to search for information with words.

Users don’t need to take a photo of an Abbey Road album to learn more about the Beatles when they can use just as many keystrokes to type ‘Abbey Road’ into a search engine. However, users do need to take a photo of a specific pair of sneakers to convey to a search engine exactly what they’re looking to buy.

The future of visual search and what it means for SEO companies

Searching for a pair of red shoes using Pinterest Lens

As a result, visual search engines are convenient, but they’re not ultimately necessary for every industry to succeed. Services, for instance, may be more likely to rely on textual search engines, whereas sales may be more likely to rely on visual search engines.

That being said, with 69% of young consumers showing an interest in making purchases based on visual-oriented searches alone, the future of visual search engines is most likely to be a shopper’s paradise in the right retailer’s hands.

What visual search means for SEO

Search engines are already capable of indexing images and videos and ranking them accordingly. Video SEO and image SEO have been around for years, ever since video and image content became popular with websites like YouTube and Facebook.

Yet despite this surge in video and image content, SEO still meets the needs of those looking to rank higher on search engines. Factors such as creating SEO-friendly alt text, image sitemaps, SEO-friendly image titles, and original image content can put your website’s images a step above the competition.

However, the see-snap-buy behavior of visual search can make image SEO more of a challenge. This is because the user no longer has to type, but can instead take a photo of a product and then search for the product on a retailer’s website.

Currently, SEO has been functioning alongside visual search via alt-tagging, image optimization, schema markup, and metadata. Schema markup and metadata are especially important for SEO in visual search. This is because, with such minimal text used in the future of visual search, this data may be one of the only sources of textual information for search engines to crawl.

Meticulously cataloging images with microdata may be tedious, but the enhanced description that microdata provides when paired with an optimized image should help that image rank higher in visual search.

Metadata is just as important. In both text-based searches and visual-based searches, metadata strengthens the marketer’s ability to drive online traffic to their website and products. Metadata hides in the HTML of both web pages and images, but it’s what search engines use to find relevant information.

The future of visual search and what it means for SEO companies

Marking up your images with relevant metadata is essential for image SEO

For this reason, to optimize for image search, it’s essential to use metadata for your website’s images and not just the website itself.

Both microdata and metadata will continue to play an important role in the SEO industry even as visual search engines develop and revolutionize the online experience. However, additional existing SEO techniques will need to advance and improve to adapt to the future of visual search.

The future of SEO and visual search

To assume visual search engines are unlikely to change the future of the SEO industry is to be short-sighted. Yet it’s just as unlikely that text-based search will be made obsolete and replaced by a world of visual-based technology.

However, just because text-based search engines won’t be going anywhere doesn’t mean they won’t be made to share the spotlight. As visual search engines develop and improve, they’ll likely become just as popular and used as text-based engines. It’s for this reason that existing SEO techniques will need to be fine-tuned for the industry to remain up-to-date and relevant.

But how can SEO stay relevant as see-snap-buy behavior becomes not just something used on retail websites, but in most places online? As mentioned before, SEO companies can still utilize image-based SEO techniques to keep up with visual search engines.

Like text-based search engines, visual search relies on algorithms to match content for online users. The SEO industry can use this to its advantage and focus on structured data and optimization to make images easier to process for visual applications.

Additional techniques can help impove image indexing by visual search engines. Some of these techniques include:

  • Setting up image badges to run through structured data tests
  • Creating alternative attributes for images with target keywords
  • Submitting images to image sitemaps
  • Optimizing images for mobile use

Visual search engines are bound to revolutionize the retail industry and the way we use technology. However, text-based search engines will continue to have an established place in industries that are better suited to them.

The future of SEO is undoubtedly set for rapid change. The only question is which existing strategies will be reinforced in the visual search revolution and which will be outdated.