Tag Archives: SEM

Search Engine Land Awards Gala spotlights top performers in the SEO & SEM industry

Here's the full list of winners from last night's third annual awards event, sponsored by Google, Acronym Media and Stone Temple. The post Search Engine Land Awards Gala spotlights top performers in the SEO & SEM industry appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Faster & smarter: Moving from manual to automated SEM campaign management

Automating SEM campaigns is a smart move, thanks to the benefits you reap from eliminating drudge work, but also from the reductions in potential execution errors. Google has consistently built new tools that help with automation, and has recently beefed up capabilities within AdWords. As Frederick...

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How to make sure your local search marketing is up to scratch

For local businesses, having a strong presence in local search results is fundamental to those all-important conversions.

Just to be clear, a “local business” refers to any business that has either a physical location that offers face-to-face contact with the customer, such as a showroom or shop, or one that offers a face-to-face service within a certain area.

When it comes to local search, it’s simple: if searchers can’t find you on the web, then frankly, you don’t exist. It’s the way of the modern world.

It’s all very well dominating the SERPs for your more general target keywords, but if you fail to rank highly for location-specific terms then you are missing an almighty opportunity.

When users are searching for a local term, they are far more likely to be looking for a service or product. Hence why the conversions on local search tend to be higher, and why you need to ensure that your local search engine marketing is up to scratch.

Of course all the usual SEO 101 stuff applies. Offer an unrivaled user experience, nail your on-site optimization, provide exceptional content and build quality links.

Those fundamentals will set you up for ranking well for local search terms, but there are extra steps you must take to differentiate yourself from the competition and really bolster your local SEM strategy.

Local business listings

The first place to start is with local business listings. Ensure that your business is included in all the major directories (Yell, Yelp, Thomson Local, etc.), as well as any industry specific ones. Some listings may already exist, and it may just be a case of claiming your business so that you can take ownership of the listing.

We recommend keeping track of all your business listings in one comprehensive spreadsheet to save you repeating or forgetting any entries. It also enables you to be consistent (more on this in the next point) in your information across all listings.

Remove all duplicated entries, as multiple listings for one business or location can become confusing, both to potential customers but also to Google. And we certainly don’t want to be confusing the Big G.

Be thorough but don’t be reckless. Avoid spammy directories as these could have a detrimental effect on your SEO. Deploy a spot of common sense to identify the spammy directories but if you are really unsure then it’s worth checking the spam score via Moz’s Open Site Explorer or via other similar tools.

Google My Business

So this technically falls under business listings, but it’s so important we’ve given Google My Business it’s own subheading. Arguably the most important business listing because, well, it’s Google. Remember to implement the following:

  • Claim your business via a verification process
  • Include accurate information: contact details, location and opening hours
  • Carefully select a small number of highly relevant categories to represent your business
  • Ensure up-to-date branding, such as in any images of logos or premises
  • Use high quality images to represent the business

Be comprehensive and accurate in the information you provide in order to strengthen your Google My Business profile and improve your chances of being featured in Google’s three-pack.

For further information, have a read of Google’s guidelines on representing your business. Don’t forget to also cover off the equivalent for Bing and Yahoo with Bing Places and Yahoo! Local.

NAP consistency

NAP consistency sounds a like a fancy term but the concept is very simple. NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone number, although it is sometimes expanded to NAP+W to include website address too. As mentioned above, it is crucial that your business information appears consistently across the web.

This is particularly important to consider if your business has changed address, contact details or even rebranded. Any mentions of your business will need to be checked and updated to ensure accuracy.

Simply google your business name (do the same with your previous business name if you have undergone a name change) and work your way through the listings. Maintain a spreadsheet of your progress so you can keep track.

Reviews

Reviews can bring both utter joy and absolute misery to any business owner. Unfortunately you cannot simply ignore them, as reviews are indeed used as ranking signals in the eyes of the search engine. This is especially true for your Google My Business reviews.

Not only are reviews important in terms of local rankings, they are also key in terms of click-through rates. According to a recent study by BrightLocal, 74 per cent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.

Apart from providing the most incredible customer service you can muster, how else can you seize some control over your reviews? No, this isn’t about getting your mum, brother and great-nan to write a review for your business. It’s about a bit of gentle encouragement and managing a bad customer experience before it reaches the review stage.

It is also important to check the rules and regulations of each review platform, as they all have very different policies on asking customers for reviews and responding to them.

We’ve had several clients who have received a negative one-off, anonymous review that is either quite clearly spam, or in some cases, a bitter competitor or personal enemy. These situations can get a bit sticky, but sadly there isn’t an awful lot you can do.

Generally people won’t be deterred by one bad review, and the best course of action is to encourage other happy customers to get reviewing. This will push the bad review down and push the average star rating back up.

Many review platforms allow you to reply to reviews. This can be a good opportunity to set the record straight but you have to be careful about it. For this reason, sometimes it is best to get someone who is not as emotionally invested in the business to either write the response or edit it before it gets published. Be professional, remain calm, and kill them with kindness.

Location pages

If you don’t already have location pages on your website, then you could be missing a valuable opportunity to target all the relevant locations. For each key location that your business operates within, create a page dedicated to that location on your website. This is easier if you have a unique physical address in each location, as it is important to include as much location-specific information as possible.

Where there is a physical location, be sure to include an interactive map and images to further enhance the page. If you do not have separate physical addresses, try including testimonials and case studies relevant to each location.

This will help you to avoid duplicating content across your location pages; it’s a fine art to differentiate the copy, but do it right and it can have seriously good effects on your local SEM strategy.

Schema markup

Once you have your location pages set up, the cherry on the cake is schema markup. The whole concept of structured data can sound very daunting to markup newbies, but it’s easier than it sounds. Schema markup simply helps search engines to understand what your website is about.

This is particularly important for local information, as it will help those spiders crawl your location pages and you’ll benefit as a result.

According to a study by Searchmetrics, pages with schema markup rank an average of four positions higher in search results. Now that’s a pretty good incentive. Get your head around schema markup and you’ll have that crucial advantage over your competitors in the local search results.

Ensuring your local search marketing strategy is up to scratch needn’t be difficult or convoluted. Follow the above steps and obey the usual SEO rules. With some hard work and perseverance, you’ll start dominating those coveted top spots and see your conversions skyrocket in no time.

How to use demand generation channels to effectively expand your reach

As Q4 approaches, it’s crucial that you plan to capitalize on all the traffic that comes with it.

We all know how effective search is, but it’s also limited to those already in the hunt for what you’re offering.

To continue to scale, you need to effectively get in front of audiences that aren’t yet interested – but could be! – in your service/product. That’s where demand generation comes in, and marketers have more (and better) options for demand generation than ever.

As we head full-steam into Q4, here’s a list of demand generation channels, considerations of when to make use of them to expand your reach, and best practices we’ve honed across clients of all budgets.

Google Display Network

Once rather maligned, the GDN provides a number of targeting options that allow you to leverage the thousands of data points they collect on users across the web. Among the most effective targeting options when it comes to both demand generation and direct response are:

Keyword contextual targeting

Choose your top 10-15 keywords and let Google place ads accordingly.

My strong recommendation is to start off with content-based keyword targeting first; this gives you more control over what is being targeted (websites relevant to your keywords). When you select “audience”-based keyword contextual targeting, you end up targeting a significantly larger group of users where the targeting is not only websites relevant to your keywords but also audiences who may be interested.

This gives Google a lot of power to find users – but it also opens you up to more risk. By starting out with content, you are taking a low-risk approach to GDN. As you see success and build up conversion history, feel free to experiment with audience targeting.

In-market audiences

Based on audience behavior, Google determines users who are currently shopping for different products/categories. The feature combines search intent with display’s reach, and it’s definitely worth testing.

Custom affinity audiences

If you provide Google with competitor websites or industry-relevant domains, CAA will analyze the types of audiences visiting those sites (demographics, interests, website topics) and target audiences similar to them. I recommend that you test by starting off with your top 5 competitors.

As you build conversions – about 40+ conversions is a good benchmark – I would strongly recommend switching your bidding style to CPA optimizer and allowing Google to leverage its thousands of data points and optimize towards your target CPA. We’ve had a lot of success with this option.

Facebook/Instagram

The Facebook/Instagram duo offers powerful audience targeting capabilities. We’ve seen two strategies work consistently:

Make use of lookalike targeting and base your seed lists off your customers

Rather than taking your full customer list, however, segment by identifiable characteristics. I typically recommend high LTV or high AOV, or segmenting by category/type depending on the product or business. If you have a big enough seed list, start by testing a 1% audience, as those users will be most similar to your existing customers.

Use interest/behavior targeting and insights from the platform’s Audience Insights tool

Upload your top customers to Audience Insights and analyze the valuable demographic, interest-based data. Now begin building various personas of audiences you want to target (each ad set should represent a different persona).

When selecting your targeting options within Facebook, layer in demographic data from the Insights tool to make these audiences more relevant.

Pinterest

I recommend this fast-growing channel more for ecommerce than B2B. Remember that Pinterest is somewhat intent-driven, as users are typing in keywords to look for relevant pins. Start off with your top keyword list and test from there, and focus on strong creative that can stand out among the many other pins.

Your Pinterest creative should be eye-catching, high quality, and include compelling images of the product. Write detailed descriptions highlighting the most compelling aspects of the product and inviting users to click on ad, and leverage text overlays on your pins to help any core message stand out.

Twitter

Twitter tends to perform well for B2B or more technical businesses. I recommend that you leverage lookalike targeting on your top-performing customer segments; you can also try targeting followers of certain influencers who may be core to your brand or followers of competitors in the industry.

Last general recommendation: begin leveraging these options ASAP so you can build up a retargeting audience to engage when purchase motivation is higher. Cast a wide net now, and you’ll have more fish to land in the holiday season.

What is SEM?

If you are coming to this article as a novice, I know what you are thinking. “Not another damned 3 letter acronym! Don’t we have enough?”

Well, apparently not, and unfortunately there isn’t all that much we can do to stop the ever growing database of aforementioned acronyms.

We must therefore get accustomed to not only knowing what they stand for (Search Engine Marketing, in case you were wondering) but also what they actually mean.

The first one is pretty easy. You now know what SEM means in its most basic form – “search engine marketing”. However, the issue is that even those in the SEM industry will disagree on what the component parts of search engine marketing are or what the main focus of SEM is.

At Search Engine Watch we have covered this topic back in 2014, but much has changed since then. We’re going to take a slightly different tack with this one. Instead of looking at what major organisations and websites define as SEM we’re going to look at what could possibly be encompassed by the term SEM.

So let’s dive straight in.

The main consensus

As per the original article on this topic, if you had to pick one overall consensus it would be that the major factor in SEM has traditionally been paid search. For the sake of argument let’s refer to paid search as Google Adwords. This is somewhat linked to the more traditional pay to play advertising association with the word ‘marketing’, and therefore AdWords gets the nod in front of SEO.

However, over the years SEO has made up significant ground in terms of its visibility in the marketing world (and to clients). As such, whilst some may say that SEO comes in a close second as part of the SEM umbrella, there are many that would say that SEO is now a legitimate stand alone practice. In the second scenario this would mean that SEM is somewhat dominated by its association with Google Adwords.

Our opinion? SEM has far stronger links to paid search than paid and organic together, but that’s just us.

The broad approach

It could quite rightly be argued that SEM encompasses anything that improves a website’s visibility via search engines. On the face of it, Adwords and SEO would be the dominant pair here.

However, as our relationship with Google becomes ever more entrenched and complex (both as users and marketers) the list of potential factors that could be included in SEM expands. Let’s look at some of the major ones below:

Adwords and SEO

I think you guys get the point on this one. The Federer vs Nadal of the SEM conundrum.

Roger Federer playing in the US Open 2012, crouching down low to hit the ball with his racket.

Image by Christian Mesiano, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

Local search

Yes, this should be an element of any comprehensive SEO campaign, but many would argue that this will more and more become its own discipline. When Google Maps are displayed for a search query, they take a dominant position in the results page.

Further to this, since 2014 mobile search has continued on its stratospheric trajectory and with the Google Maps app on smartphones everywhere, it is a significant channel through which visibility on search engines can be increased.

Google Shopping

Here come the trolls: “Google Shopping is pay per click and is therefore included under PPC”. Riddle me this, troll, why do you think we were specific about Paid Search referring to Adwords – and if they were so similar, why are they managed via different platforms?

The recent record EU fine for Google’s actions surrounding Google Shopping may have dented their ego but it does not stop Google Shopping from being a popular source of product browsing and subsequent purchase. A well-managed Google Merchant Centre account can be a fruitful form of SEM, used by blue chips and independent retailers alike.

PR or link building

Seriously? Yes, seriously. Search engines are sources of information and not all searchers are super specific. A prime example of this is someone searching for ‘Wine Bars in London’. Whilst you may expect Google to return the likes of Humble Grape or Gordon’s Wine Bar in the results, you will actually find that the main results are dominated by lists.

Google understands that the searcher is looking for options. What better way to give value to the user than by returning curated lists of wine bars from the likes of Time Out or Design My Night?

If this is the case (which it is), in a slightly roundabout way and not directly increasing visibility on the search results, exposure on these types of sites via a PR campaign will still influence your visibility via search engines.

The focus is still on Adwords

Indeed. Google Adwords is the star player of SEM and will continue to be so for more than just 2017. Hopefully the above has demonstrated that there are a number of factors that could legitimately fall under the term SEM; we haven’t even looked at image search, the news feed, or the Knowledge Graph.

In the end, we would argue that the term SEM is falling out of favor. People have realised that the digital ecosystem is more complex than it was and practices such as Google Adwords or SEO are stand-alone services.

Ultimately, clarity is key. If you want to talk about Adwords, refer to it as Adwords. If you want to talk about SEO, say SEO.

For those providing a service that could be incorporated under the SEM umbrella, or are actively using the term during talks with prospective clients or with existing clients and insist on using SEM as a term, it is advisable that you look to define exactly what your definition of SEM is. In fact, if we looked honestly at ourselves as an industry, we have a tendency to throw about acronyms and terminology that can be mighty confusing to those instructing agencies!

Be aware of what you might deem as an ‘assumed level of knowledge’; clients will appreciate clarity, and you can evade any easily avoidable misunderstandings!

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5 remarketing strategies to prep for Q4

Remarketing is always one of the most powerful tools in an ecommerce marketer’s belt, but it takes on added importance in Q4.

With the holidays fast approaching, you can do a good amount of prep work now to put yourself in a great position to capitalize on the holiday rush. I’ve outlined my five favorite remarketing strategies below.

1. Dynamic product ads (Facebook & Google)

If you’re an ecommerce company with a significant number of products and you aren’t remarketing with dynamic product ads, you are making a big mistake.

Over and over in our accounts, DPAs have proven to be among the more successful ecommerce remarketing ad types. These ads basically show and remind users of products they have seen on your site, along with similar products they may be interested in.

If you haven’t set these up yet, make sure to prioritize this initiative, as feeds can get technical and should be addressed before you’re crunched for time.

2. Audience creation by depth

An amateur mistake of those launching remarketing campaigns is that they typically blanket all audiences and remarket to anyone who has visited the site but not converted.

They may have taken things a step further by also creating an audience for users who have added products to cart but not converted, but that’s still leaving plenty of room for refinement.

Remarketing to one or two audiences just doesn’t take advantage of the varying intent of audiences that have visited your site. Segmenting your audiences by depth of interaction even further (product category pages, about page, initiate checkout page, audience time on site, etc.) will allow you to understand the performance of each type of audience; from there, you can bid more aggressively to reach those with a higher likelihood of purchasing (vs. those perhaps in the research phase).

Additionally, you can start working with your creative team to develop specific visuals for these different audience segments (e.g. for audiences that viewed female clothing, creative can show gender-specific products, etc.).

3. Sequential remarketing

In addition to developing audiences by how far they’ve gotten to your site or how they’ve interacted with your site, you’ll also want to develop audiences by time they last visited the site (e.g. a day ago, a week ago, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, etc.).

After you create these segments, you can implement sequential remarketing and show these audiences different creative and messaging.

Instead of showing the same audience the same creative and messaging over and over, you can test different creative and messaging as time goes on (try further incentivizing users as time goes on to push them to convert).

4. Remarketing lists for specific dates

One tactic we’ve used with success is creating audiences for specific holidays – for example, develop an audience that came to your site during Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

These audiences will include visitors who may not be your typical customers (and might be purchasing gifts). You can then leverage these audiences in Q4 to remind them to purchase gifts for their loved ones.

5 remarketing strategies to prep for Q4

5. Broad RLSA strategy

Given that you have so many audiences developed (right?), you’ll definitely want to layer these segments onto your existing search campaigns.

This will allow you to bid more aggressively for higher-intent audiences who have visited your site but not converted and are still searching for they types of products or services you have to offer. Since they are already familiar with your site, your goal should be to bring them back and get them to complete the conversion.

Additionally, you can create a separate campaign with broad or highly competitive/expensive terms you typically wouldn’t bid on, and layer those campaigns on your remarketing lists. Because you are going after an audience that is already aware of your site/service/product, you’ll see higher CVRs and should be able to bring CPAs for those terms within reach.

The sooner you put all of these into play, the more data you’ll have at your fingertips for quick and efficient optimization when traffic gets hot (and more expensive). Good luck!

3 days of SEO and SEM tactics at the lowest rates. SMX East prices increase next week!

Super early bird rates expire next week for SMX East, the East Coast’s largest search marketing conference. Attend for three days of actionable, cutting-edge search marketing tactics presented by experts that will leave your competition in the dust. Here’s what to expect October 24–26 in NYC:...

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7 reasons to enter the 2017 Search Engine Land Awards

Find out why you should be entering the competition to earn recognition for your achievements in SEO and SEM. The Search Engine Land Awards are the highest honors in search marketing. The post 7 reasons to enter the 2017 Search Engine Land Awards appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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SMX East agenda is now live! Check out the SEO & SEM sessions in store for you.

Feed your obsession for SEO & SEM with actionable and proven tactics by attending Search Engine Land’s SMX East, October 24-26 in New York City. The agenda is packed with 50+ sessions and led by search marketing experts in paid search advertising, search engine optimization, conversion and...

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SEM growth hack #4: Grow ROI with cross-channel optimization

Columnist Lori Weiman explains how a holistic, cross-channel strategy can help search marketers direct their efforts towards the channel where they will have the greatest impact. The post SEM growth hack #4: Grow ROI with cross-channel optimization appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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