Tag Archives: SOCIAL

A search marketer’s guide to using paid social media

The battle between those who specialize in certain marketing practices is prevalent throughout the industry. Individuals, departments and indeed agencies are all involved.

After all, they are often competing for the same budget, beating their chests and promoting their own channel as the most valuable. It is understandable. We all need to make a living.

But in reality they should all be working together to deliver economies of scale. Fully integrated campaigns can deliver far better results than the sum of its component parts.

SEO and social media would at first appear to be very different practices, especially when taking into account paid social advertising. However, there are significant SEO benefits to be gained from utilizing social media advertising as both an outreach platform and also as an analytics platform. Let’s jump straight into it.

We are assuming a certain level of knowledge when it comes social media advertising. For those not ‘in the know’, you can be pretty darn specific in regards to your demographics when advertising on major platforms such as Facebook.

Make the most of your content

For years now content has been one of the major focal points of SEO campaigns, giving birth to potentially the most irritating and overused saying in SEO: “Content is King”! Jayson Demers noted back in 2015 that SEO is now synonymous with content marketing and that as a result SEO teams are investing heavily in content creation.

Let’s assume you are doing all the right things. You have a solid grasp of your buyer personas and inbound funnels. You have thoroughly researched content opportunities within your specific market, using this research to help influence your strategy. You’re also ensuring that your on-site optimization for each article is top notch so that you attract that ever growing portion of traffic from long tail keywords.

This is great, genuinely it is. Although are you missing a trick by not integrating additional marketing channels into your content strategy? Email is awesome at disseminating content to both prospective and current clients, but what of social media advertising?

To paint an industry with an awfully large brush, content creation is sometimes too heavily focused on gaining traffic directly from search engines due to the user intent associated with those actively searching, and the fact that often this is what the client is basing payment of their invoice on!

However, taking a quick step back, if this content is aligned to your conversion funnel then surely getting in front of as many eyes as possible (via other channels) should therefore still have a significant benefit. SEO teams can utilize social media advertising platforms to push this content to users that fall within their buyer persona profiles which should ultimately produce conversions (it may require a few more touch points, but you get the point).

Of course the advertising spend would have to be included in your cost per acquisition calculations but hopefully the following points show how you can use social media advertising to make your investment into content pay a higher rate of dividends.

Keep them coming back

Inbound marketing often works best through multiple touch points during the buyer’s journey. If your traffic is converting to customers directly from a single piece of content then that’s awesome, good for you! For the rest of the world that aren’t unicorns we need to keep our readers coming back in order to help them find their way down our own sales funnels.

Re-targeting the traffic to your website via social media with awesome content is one such tactic to keep your traffic returning. Use retargeting tools on social media to maintain your touch points with users, building brand authority and trust.

Some friendly persuasion

Sometimes people just need a little nudge. Ultimately you don’t want people clicking on your retargeting posts, consuming your content and then leaving time and time again. That can be a costly ego boost. Eventually you want them to convert!

Assess how your content strategy aligns with your sales funnel. Do you have set pieces of content that lead on from one another which will help you become more specific with your retargeting? Does this pathway eventually lead to a conversion?

Your conversions may not be in monetary form. They may involve the user providing some additional contact information in order to download a brochure or them signing up to a free trial. Whatever that conversion looks like, don’t be afraid to ask the question. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. When the time is right, your social retargeting campaigns should include conversion related posts that relate to said individual’s status in your sales funnel.

We all love a good link

We covered the benefits that social media provide for a link building campaign in a recent article, so jump over there for a deeper look.

Suffice to say that again, if you are investing heavily in content, then why not use social media to spread the net even wider and potentially earn links? Paul Shapiro had an interesting tactic for Marketing Land of targeting employees at specific publishing companies as a link building tactic!

Gain analytics insights!

When it comes to analytics tools for SEO, data from the website and SEO specific platforms steal the limelight. The likes of Google Analytics, Search Console and those offered by Moz, SEMrush and Majestic may be the first ones off the tongue but we should also be using analytics gained from other channels in our decisions. You guessed it, social media advertising can be particularly useful in this respect.

In fact, you don’t even need to be using social advertising to get these insights but the specific demographic targeting within social advertising should help provide a higher level of actionable data.

Understanding how to drive clicks

In much the same way as Google Adwords, via Facebook Insights or other social media analytics tools, you can view your click-through rate per post. Whilst this is also influenced by other factors such as time of post, engagement or demographic targeting, you can also draw insights into what content is proving most popular with your audience.

  • Is the subject matter performing or does the content strategy need to be revisited?
  • Are titles really attention grabbing or lack the ability to drive enthusiasm?

This type of data can be used to influence your content strategy, even if it is as simple as creating article titles that increase click through rates.

Just starting out?

Some content pieces can be spectacularly well researched and written but receive far less traffic than expected. There are additional factors that will dictate the ability of your website’s content to rank in search engines including the overall authority of your website, the link profile of that article or load speed.

More often than not a lack of traffic will mean that the analytics associated with that content piece becomes less reliable, subsequently preventing you from really fine tuning your content strategy.

Social media advertising can be incredibly valuable in driving ‘pay per play’ traffic to your content and therefore allowing you to capture that all important data. It doesn’t need to be specific to your content either. Conversion rate optimization is an important part of any digital marketing campaign so you can also capitalize on social traffic to help identify opportunities within your website’s user flow.

So there you have it. Yet another reason to make sure that your social media and SEO teams are working together.

Of course, you don’t need to try to implement of the above points at once – in fact we would advise taking them one step at a time. The most important point? Move away from marketing channels operating within their own silo.

Integrate your marketing, share data, use content across multiple channels and collaborate to increase your results across the board!

What are the SEO benefits of social media?

How does using social media benefit your efforts with SEO?

Back in 2008, Search Engine Watch published the article ‘Social Media and SEO – Friends with Benefits‘, and I’d highly recommend reading it back now for a stark reminder of how far the digital world has progressed in the last nine years.

Some of the key statistics and points featured in the article (although contemporary at the time) may seem somewhat archaic in 2017:

  • Facebook having 140 million active users (when they are now over 2 billion)
  • LinkedIn having 30 million users (less than 10% of their current user base)
  • Popularity of now defunct social platforms like Digg (which sold for just $500,000 back in 2012)
  • MySpace being mentioned in the same breath as Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit and Twitter (ha!)
  • Use of ‘SEO friendly’ anchor text when linking from social profiles (ahem… ‘money keywords’)

Nobody could have guessed what social media would become in such a short amount of time. Nearly a decade later and Facebook is nothing short of a social media superpower, Instagram has grown from zero to over 700 million users in the space of just seven years, MySpace has fallen out of popularity into the depths of dated pop-culture references, and using ‘SEO friendly’ anchor text is a very dangerous game to play in light of Google’s almighty Penguin updates.

It’s safe to say that everything is very different now, and as the social media landscape changes so too does its relationship with search engines and SEO practices. But what exactly is this relationship in 2017?

Social media and SEO: It’s complicated

In the past, Google have made contradictory statements regarding the role of social media in their ranking algorithm. On the one hand, they have stated that social media pages are indexed in the same manner as other web pages, and that social links therefore count as links.

But on the other, they have stated that social metrics do not constitute direct ranking factors. Over at Microsoft, the guys behind Bing have said that they too consider the authority of social media profiles (e.g. Twitter profile metrics) and mentions across numerous social platforms in their search engine.

As per usual, Google keeps their cards close to their chest. Research from the likes of Neil Patel show what Matt Cutts referred to in 2014 as a correlation but not necessarily a causation.

All very confusing indeed.

Can we 100% say that social metrics have a direct impact on search engine rankings? Probably not. However, if we look at the potential of social media’s influence on search engine rankings the story is different.

My personal opinion is that we should not be worried about whether links from social media platforms are valued in the same way as a link from a high quality and highly relevant website. Instead we should look at the benefits of utilizing social media to help boost ranking signals that we know search engines care about.

We should also bear in mind the impact of social media on the landscape of the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Focusing on any one particular ‘SEO metric’ is as old school as MySpace. SEO has evolved into far more than just keywords and links. Great SEO acts as a core function to any holistic, integrated digital marketing campaign.

We should consign the days of marketing departments operating independently to the history books and focus on the often significant benefits of integrated campaigns. Having said that, there are a few SEO metric-specific boosters that social media can provide.

Link earning

The holy grail of any link-building campaign. Link earning has the power to gain multiple links from a single piece of content compared with the individual links gained from more one at a time traditional guest posting tactics.

It is link-building on steroids, but unless your website’s content has a large amount of visitors or subscribers your link earning potential is significantly reduced.

Enter stage left: social media.

The great thing about social media in 2017? Almost everyone you know will have a profile, most likely with hundreds of connections. This provides a platform through which promotion of content can not only be distributed instantly to hundreds of people, but the more people engage and interact with your content, the more people outside of your direct network see your content.

Viral. How I hate that word. It sets often unrealistic expectations. Viral to me means millions of views, akin to the hard to grasp concept of Gangnam Style’s frankly insane popularity and near 3 billion views on Youtube.

It’s great if your content does go viral, but you don’t need millions of views and tens of thousands of shares on social for social media to have an impact on search rankings. Quality over quantity, my dear.

If you have even tens or hundreds of people engage with your post and content via a platform such as LinkedIn you can bet that the quality of those engagements is pretty high. If done correctly, those views of your content on social media will result in other content creators citing your content in their articles. Your content has just earned links, which has a direct impact on search rankings.

Front of mind: Co-citation and co-occurrence

As a brief follow-on to link earning, your dissemination of content via social will provide touch points with your brand across multiple platforms. To use another word that falls into my dislike category, your brand remains ‘front of mind’.

In turn, this can lead to mentions across the web in what is likely to be highly relevant content, therefore increasing your co-citation and co-occurrence metrics.

Brand authority and CTR

Social can be utilised to build not only awareness but also brand authority. Sure people are more wary about fake information and news on social media compared with a few years ago but that does not mean that engaging in a well thought out, high quality social media campaign will not develop your brand in the eyes of the public.

Guess what? When they go to search for a product they may even search directly for your brand name or associated search terms which are directly related to your brand. Failing that, if your brand name is the one result that they know within the search results, it can increase your click-through rates from search.

Social media in search results

Social media profiles are delivered within the SERPs, along with tweets due to Twitter’s provision for Google to access their “firehose” of real-time tweets. As a result, your social media presence does have an impact on your SERP presence.

Admittedly, the majority of social links within the SERPs appear for branded search terms, but this should not be discounted. If we are in fact looking at marketing as a more holistic practice in the digital age, then we have to ensure that your branded search terms result in high click-through rates from search.

Ever been freaked out by a company or individual’s lack of social presence? This can be especially poignant for newer businesses or non-household names. In today’s society where follower numbers, likes and shares have a real impact on authority, the fact that social media results appear in branded searches should not be underestimated, not only in click-through rates from SERPs but also future conversions.

Will social metrics ever be a direct ranking factor?

From our research, it is clear that there are some pretty large problems associated with search engines using social metrics as a direct ranking factor. These include limited access for robots to crawl the platforms and therefore understand social authority, and the prevalence of fake profiles or ‘bought likes’ which are likely to be viewed in the same light as paid links.

In short, there is currently too much provision for manipulation of these metrics for search engines to bank on them. Will this change in the future?

Considering that Google and Facebook are two of the largest companies in the world, vying for the attention of us all, we don’t see them joining hands, opening their doors and singing Kumbaya around a campfire together any time soon.

Social media has its own benefits

Whether or not Google or Bing count social metrics as direct ranking factors is somewhat of a moot point. Social media and SEO should be working together, sharing content or utilizing engagement metrics as data for future content creation.

Lest we forget, businesses can benefit from revenue generated directly from social media regardless of its influence on search rankings. Social media campaigns should be focused primarily on generating their own success, with SEO considerations as a secondary (but still important) consideration.

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Pinterest moves into paid search: What you need to know

Pinterest has announced its long-awaited move into the self-serve paid search space, after a period of trial campaigns with select partners. With innovative visual search technology and an ambition to corner the ‘discovery’ phase of search, this could prove an enticing complement to AdWords for many brands.

So, how does Pinterest PPC work, how does it differ from other paid search options, and how can advertisers get started?

Pinterest Ads Manager is now open to all businesses who have opened an account and uploaded at least one Pin. In what is a fiercely competitive space, Pinterest is hoping that its offering can both provide something new and still deliver on the core performance metrics marketers have come to expect from Google AdWords.

This announcement comes at the end of a lengthy campaign to get the product right, with early partners including eBay, Target, and bid management platform Kenshoo. The newly released self-serve paid search platform provides the same experience these early partners have enjoyed, without the need to go through Pinterest or a third party to get started. The Ads Manager allows brands to create and optimize their promoted Pins and will also track and report on campaign performance.

Pinterest has been clear in its desire to monetize the discovery phase of search, when a user does not yet have a defined product in mind but is open to suggestions. The uniquely visual nature of this social network makes it ripe for this approach, but it brings with a host of accompanying challenges.

As a result, Pinterest has invested heavily in image recognition and object detection technologies, culminating in the launch of the impressive Pinterest Lens visual search tool.

Feedback on their advertising offering has been positive so far, but this will be put to a much more rigorous test now that advertisers can launch and optimize their own campaigns through the Ads Manager.

Why should advertisers take notice of Pinterest PPC?

Although some will be keen to trial Pinterest paid search in the hope of gaining the early adopter’s advantage, others may require some convincing before they view this social network as a genuine platform for selling their products. Nonetheless, Facebook faced the same resistance and ultimately, the numbers will do the talking.

For now, Pinterest is understandably touting some statistics to try and get advertisers excited. We covered many of these benefits in our visual guide to Pinterest advertising, but some of the key points are:

  • 97% of Pinterest searches are non-branded
  • There are now over 200 million Pinterest users (up from 150 million in 2016)
  • More than 2 billion searches take place on Pinterest each month
  • 75% of all Pins saved by users come from businesses

In an era of ad blockers and decreasing consumer trust in brands, Pinterest aims to offer a native feel to its promoted Pins. Through highly targeted ads that fit both aesthetically and conceptually alongside organic posts, brands can potentially attract much higher engagement rates.

In fact, the official announcement of self-serve Pinterest ads promises more sophisticated targeting than the competition, both in terms of its keyword options and the granularity of its audience data.

Moreover, it is not a significant enough departure from AdWords to require a completely new set of skills to get the most out of Pinterest PPC campaigns. That may entice some advertisers to trial the platform, which will give Pinterest the opportunity to prove its worth.

Some ideas borrowed from AdWords

The tech giants are not shy about borrowing each other’s ideas, and it would be fair to say that Google’s own image search interface has become more Pinterest-esque this year.

It is therefore not surprising that Pinterest’s move into PPC advertising involves some familiar concepts from AdWords. Google has mastered the art and science of delivering a great search experience and making a lot of money from the data, so AdWords is an obvious reference point for a new entry to the PPC market.

For example, the keyword targeting options are broad match, phrase match, and exact match. Advertisers can define their list of negative keywords that they do not want to be shown against, and can download a search query report to see how they have performed on a keyword level. This approach has served Google very well, so perhaps we should not expect a smaller player to waste resources by trying to improve on it.

It is also possible to move a keyword-based account structure from other PPC platforms directly into Pinterest Ads Manager, although the social network does not advise this due to the different nature of user search behavior on the platform.

The new features announced last week include an autotargeting option, which will automatically place ads for relevant keywords, even if they are not within the brand’s keyword target list. Imagine AdWords’ Dynamic Search Ads on Pinterest and you’ve pretty much got the gist of it. Autotargeting is driven by the Taste Graph, which contains over 100 billion Pins and employs machine learning technologies to identify patterns and trends, which in turn help improve the accuracy of search results.

Pinterest will be hoping its proprietary features and the unique nature of its database will suffice to differentiate it from Google’s advertising behemoth.

What will make Pinterest paid search successful?

Pinterest is in an enviable position, in some senses. The paid search market is mature enough now to provide plentiful data on consumers and the competition. By hiring two senior engineers from the Google image search team, as Pinterest did last year, they have also been able to tap into some of the most extensive knowledge the industry has to offer.

In addition, Pinterest can approach the market with a challenger mindset. Google and Facebook can almost be viewed as victims of their own success, with advertisers craving new options for their digital budgets.

Simply mimicking these two giants would reap little reward, so Pinterest is sticking to its inherent USPs. As a social network, it functions rather differently to Facebook and, as a search engine, it is distinct from Google. The combination of a new slant on the saturated social network space and the technology to capitalize on such a vast quantity of search data could be a winning one.

Pinterest moves into paid search: What you need to know

Pinterest Lens sits at the heart of this strategy. The visual search technology turns a user’s smartphone into a discovery tool, identifying objects and serving related search results. In our recent comparison of the best visual search technologies out there right now, Pinterest emerged the clear winner.

Conversely, Pinterest is late to the party, and the onus will be on them to prove that the platform can deliver a positive return on ad spend. Creating a self-serve product with similarities to AdWords may ease the transition for new users, but it also sets their expectations at a high level. AdWords, after all, remains unsurpassed as a means of generating online revenue.

Pinterest ads require a blend of creativity and analytical nous, which will demand collaboration between paid search and social media teams to make the most of the opportunity. People use this platform differently; advertisers need to tailor both their creative assets and their targeting strategies to reflect this.

There is a fine line to be trod here, of course, and there are few guarantees of success.

However, if Pinterest can deliver on the twin promises of creating a new, sophisticated form of PPC advertising and delivering great results against essential metrics like cost-per-acquisition, it could allow advertisers to capitalize on a previously untapped stage of the search purchase journey.

It will be fascinating to see the early results now that the self-serve platform is open to all marketers.

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Google Posts: Growing under the radar

Google Plus has risen from the dead! No we’re only joking, that’s highly unlikely.

Google have now rolled out their Posts function for all small businesses with a Google My Business account.

No idea what Posts are? You’d be forgiven for being confused, managing your business information on Google calls for some deciphering of the difference between Google My Business and Google+, which can lead to some serious head scratching.

Hence why we are taking the time to explore what Google Posts are and what they mean for small businesses (and celebrities, big businesses and Twitter).

Google has also refrained from making a big song and dance of Posts – so the amount of information out there is particularly limited on this occasion. To add to the confusion, the term ‘Google Posts’ or ‘Posts on Google’ is not actually the official name given to this feature, as per some of the Google search algorithm updates, Posts has been named as such by the wider community.

The term Google Posts was presumably born out of the language used by Google when describing the feature, e.g ‘post with Google’.

Let’s start from the beginning: What are Google Posts?

Originally tested during the 2016 US elections, Posts offered candidates the ability to submit updates that would appear directly in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and Google Maps.

These posts were also categorized with dropdowns, further helping users to access critical information. In 2016, selected businesses and individuals, including musicians, were used to trial Posts. Apparently these test results were good enough for a wider roll out in 2017.

The posts appear as cards in the SERPs with various calls to action including ‘more’ and social sharing to Facebook, Twitter and Google.

The big G state that:

“Posting on Google is a new way to share relevant, fresh content with the people who are searching for you. Use image, videos and even animated GIFs to engage your audience, and ad inline links to drive traffic to specific content. This enhanced format allows searchers to hear directly from the primary source – you – and complements existing results from across the web.”

How to use Google Posts

First things first, if you’re based in London like us, Google haven’t fully rolled posts out to everyone so you have to join the waiting list. In our opinion it is definitely worth registering.

Once you have been approved, the format appears to be reasonably simple. Simply log on to your GMB account, select ‘Create a Post’ and follow the options.

Google Posts: Growing under the radar
Image credit: Google. (Very telling that Google are using mobile screenshots, reinforcing their mobile first approach)

You can use Google Posts in a variety of formats including events (with dates and times), image based, video, animated GIFs and text based posts.

Google say that each post will be removed after 7 days, after the date for an event has expired “to ensure that posts are timely”

Impact on SEO

Click-Through Rate

In a case study last year on Search Engine Watch, Rebecca Sentance noticed that Google Posts were appearing for search terms such as ‘engagement rings Buffalo’, i.e non branded search terms. This was particularly exciting, however upon investigation it would appear that Google has now backtracked on this decision to have Posts.

Probably a good thing – it would be a safe bet that the underbelly of the SEO world would look to spam Posts should they appear for transactional terms. Regardless, as discussed in a previous blog post, SEO is more than just onsite, content and links.

Great SEO also takes into account the whole user flow, including improving click-through rates from results pages, which Posts should contribute to.

We will have to wait for a wider roll out to see the real effect that Google Posts will have on CTR. However, it does not take a huge leap of faith to bet that, if used properly, Posts will draw the eye and add to credibility and subsequently improve CTR.

The fact that you can incorporate autoplay GIFs into Posts that appear in search adds another dimension to your appearance in the SERPs. We believe that early adopters could gain a critical edge over competition in the SERPs, especially for those in 2nd, 3rd or 4th place who could differentiate their listing from those above them.

Finally, let’s face it, Google has an assumed level of authority with most internet users. That’s what makes them so profitable – people trust Google’s search results. They may not trust them as a brand, but that’s slightly different.

Accompanying your Google Posts is a nice blue tick next to your name, giving your brand a boost in terms of social verification. Google has endorsed you. If that doesn’t have an effect, then we can all forget about the influence of status in all walks of life.

Google Posts: Growing under the radar

Mobile vs desktop

This is where there is a big difference for Posts. The long and short of it is that Posts are almost immediately viewable when scrolling on mobile (just under the maps result) whereas for branded search on desktop they are on the right hand side Knowledge Graph, below all of your other GMB information.

Desktop:

Google Posts: Growing under the radar

 

Mobile:

Google Posts: Growing under the radar

With Google’s push towards mobile-first indexing and AMP, Posts take a prominent position in the SERPs on mobile. Does this dictate that they will be considered a ranking factor? Not necessarily. However, expect businesses to receive higher levels of engagement and CTR from mobile when compared with desktop, especially for branded searches.

On the other hand, this advantage could be neutralized for non branded searches where the Post carousel is appearing directly beneath the search result, rather than under the business’ GMB profile.

How do Google Posts influence your ranking?

Considering the almost stealthy roll-out of Posts, we do not expect Google to comment on whether Posts will be taken into account as a ranking factor in search. For the moment, therefore, we would recommend concentrating on utilizing them as a feature to improve CTR, and therefore traffic, to content.

Posts are certainly not a social network in the traditional sense, when compared with the major platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Furthermore, we only need look at the ambiguous information out there on how social media may or may not affect ranking ability to guess that Google will not be commenting on the influence of Posts on SERPs for some time – if ever.

Are posts a spin off of Google Authors?

Posts appear to be somewhat of a spin off of the now defunct Google Authorship experiment, but with more functionality, i.e. the ability to advertise events in Posts. Much like Google Authorship, Posts will provide almost instantly indexable content and another dimension to search results.

Businesses will be able to drive traffic through search results to specific pieces of content or key calls to action from Posts, adding further options for users compared with the more standard main search link or associated sitelinks.

Top stories and Twitter carousel

Again, we will need to see this roll out fully to see the impact on search results, but it is an interesting conundrum for Google. Currently big brands will tend to have Google’s ‘Top Stories’ and a Twitter carousel appear in search results. Add Posts to this equation and it raises interesting questions. Which takes priority? Content published directly to their GMB page, or Twitter/news outlets?

One would imagine that Google would look after their own interests, but their recent record €2.4 billion fine by the EU for essentially providing biased Google shopping results may influence their decisions on this matter.

Posts do seem to compete more directly with the Twitter carousel due to their time-sensitive nature, which is not exactly great news for the already presumably very sweaty and sleep deprived team at Twitter. Especially considering the language used on Google’s page explaining Posts: “Your Presence on Google, Fresher than Ever”.

Google Posts: Growing under the radar

Moving forward

We are actually quite excited about the potential of Posts. It adds another dimension to our role as SEOs, and we can see early adopters using it to significantly boost content marketing efforts.

Interestingly – and a topic which has been briefly touched upon by Search Engine Watch – the way in which businesses utilize Posts could be a substantial influencing factor on their effectiveness. Businesses will have to be conscious of whether they use it to promote new products, events, provide key information (e.g guides), or a blend of content.

First impressions count, even before the user has clicked on your search result. Subsequently, early adopters should look to define their strategy for Posts quickly rather than being an early adopter for the sake of it.

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How to effectively combine online and offline lead generation

We have two primary forms of leads: online and offline. This article talks about how to combine online and offline marketing for more efficient lead generation.

In today’s world we are mostly narrowing in to online leads, thanks to the Internet essentially opening up the entire world for us to peruse. But offline leads should still be a factor we consider moving forward.

Looking at the two it is easy to see that online leads are going to be the more important source of generation. It produces the most, after all.

That isn’t an excuse to ignore the harder work involved in offline lead curating, as that will ramp up your marketing benefits by leaps and bounds. Especially in terms of B2B interaction – something that we should all be trying our best to take advantage of.

Bringing offline and online lead generation together

Finding ways to combine offline and online leads isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. Actually, the two really help the other to succeed.

Here are some ways you can start making each work for the other, making your marketing strategy more effective than ever before.

Online lead generation helps more informed offline marketing decisions

Cold calling has got too old. Online marketing has turned the things around: These days you can make sure your lead is ready (and even waiting) for your sales call. Here are a few examples of how your online lead generation efforts can lead to more “offline” deals.

Leadfeeder lets you identify companies behind your website logs and provides you with detailed contact information for you to build that connection further. Normally, a combination of online and offline relationship building works best. For example, you can engage with the lead on social media and then bring that connection offline by giving them a call.

Offering free downloads or a free product prior to getting in touch could be even more powerful. For example, at Internet Marketing Ninjas, we give away free case studies and whitepapers and have a nice private dashboard where we can see what exactly was downloaded by a particular lead. This helps our sales team to put together a more targeted proposal before giving this lead a call.

Giving away freebies (free services or products) is another effective option here, and it can be less work than you may think. As an example, SE Ranking allows marketing companies to install a lead generation widget for visitors to request a free report. The free report will be generated, white-labeled and sent to the prospect automatically by SE Ranking and as a result you have a qualified lead with no work done (apart from attracting that visitor with your content).

From here on out, you can get in touch with the customer by phone and hopefully get a deal:

How to effectively combine online and offline lead generation

Salesforce provides more ways to qualify your leads automatically before you reach out to them offline. Once leads begin to respond to nurturing efforts and their scores increase, you can automatically assign them to sales for follow up.

How to effectively combine online and offline lead generation

Use social media listening to better under understand your customers

Social media provides a lot of opportunities for businesses to understand their customers better and thus build their offline lead generation strategy accordingly. What questions do your customers ask on social media? What do they think about you or your competitors? How can you design their offline experience to serve them better?

Brand24 is one of the most powerful social media listening platform allowing you to find online leads, identify where to promote your products and find customers before they find you. It provides one of the most powerful sentiment analyses on the market – and lets you snatch leads from your competitors by being the first to engage with their unhappy customers.

It also integrates nicely with Slack allowing your whole team to better engage with social media leads more efficiently (and learn more about your customers too!).

How to effectively combine online and offline lead generation

Make your offline marketing materials link to your online assets

Let’s say you create a stack of physical brochures that you are giving out at a trade show. You don’t want to make people work to find you online… make it easy for them! Or maybe you have business cards to give out. Your website should be right there, easy to see, the URL clear.

Businesses have been utilizing this marketing tactic for ages now. Yet, many of them still need a reminder. Here’s an old Mashable post encouraging businesses to design social-media-friendly business cards, for example.

Canva is an easy way to design online marketing materials which you can also re-use offline:

How to effectively combine online and offline lead generation

Social media pages are also a great inclusion, as it ties in all your sources of leads nicely. If you give out other promotional items, such as pens, magnets, keychains, etc., make sure they also reflect your online presence.

Start looking for community outreach opportunities

Recently there was a local art fair put on downtown in my city. The booths were mostly local companies and artists, but among them were some huge names in the telecom, financial and medical business. They were giving away free items, holding contests and answering questions from people visiting their booths.

I have seen these same brands at other community events such as library gatherings, unveilings, and charity auctions. All of them promoted those appearances heavily online ahead of time and used the chance at being face to face to take photos and run social media contests. It is great PR.

To get you inspired, here’s a neat example of an “offline” event utilizing Twitter marketing: in 2015 Pubcon organized “Pregame Twitter Tailgate Party” contests, giving away prizes for the best tweets promoting the conference.

Online tools provide a great way to organize and funnel those leads before you reach out to invite them to become part of your competitor. I use Salesmate to organize leads that integrate well with my favorite online apps:

How to effectively combine online and offline lead generation

Get to those conventions on social live feeds

This is my favorite tip on this list. Social media sites like Youtube, Twitter and Facebook allow you to livestream. So the next time you are at a big convention or floor show, make sure you are showing your followers.

Hype up a hashtag to follow for a couple of weeks in advance, take questions or run interviews and show your followers what is going on. It is a great way to catch some attention where otherwise you might have been ignored. Plus it shows people at the convention who you are, as well.

There’s a great guide over at Convince and Convert on how brands are using streaming video for conference marketing. As an example, Nissan streamed the launch of its 2016 Maxima at the New York auto show and Dunkin Donuts summer music effort across seven platforms, including Periscope and Spotify.

Beautiful together

Online and offline lead generation are not at odds. They are a chance to combine your efforts for greater value! Start including both in your marketing campaigns and you will be amazed at how much more productive those efforts will be.

Have a tip for combining online and offline leads? Let us know in the comments!

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The 2-step guide to driving sales with Pinterest

There are millions of people on Pinterest, searching, pinning, and sharing – so it’s important to recognize its potential for building awareness and filling the top of the funnel, particularly for ecommerce companies.

This blog will discuss a couple of recommended targeting types within Pinterest to help fill the top of the funnel and essentially build up your audience. From there, once your audience is built out, we’ll run through how to actually capitalize on these new users to drive sales.

Let’s jump in.

Use Pinterest to fill the funnel

Pinterest has some specific features that are highly effective for building your audience. These include:

Keyword targeting

You can leverage user intent by targeting specific keywords that users are searching within Pinterest.

For example, if you are a trendy clothing brand that sells sweaters, you may want to target “trendy sweaters” and have your ad (in Pinterest lingo, your promoted pin) show up in the search results and related pins.

Interest targeting

Pinterest will determine a user’s interest based on the pins they have engaged with and saved. Your ad (promoted pin) will show up in the user’s home feed or relevant topics feed.

A Promoted Pin on Pinterest

“Actalike” targeting

This is similar to Facebook’s lookalike targeting; you can upload a customer list and Pinterest will target audiences similar in behaviors, traits, and characteristics as that customer list. Our recommendation is to start off with your top customers – for example, your highest-LTV or AOV audiences.

I would initially recommend prioritizing the Actalike and keyword targeting as they tend to be more effective at getting in front of highly relevant audiences. But by leveraging any or all of the targeting options, you’re discovering and engaging with new, relevant audiences and driving them to your site.

That said, make sure your expectations are aligned. You should not expect to see Pinterest as a lever for immediate purchases, but more as a longer-term play where you’re developing an awareness and building your audience to hit later via a few different methods below to actually drive the sale.

That said, let’s talk about how to…

Convert Pinterest engagement into sales

Now that you’ve engaged with your audiences via Pinterest, you should be capturing those audiences for remarketing purposes.

First, to be smart with your remarketing efforts and truly understand the value of Pinterest, you should make sure every link on your Pinterest ads include a tag that labels it as Pinterest. You can use UTM parameters or anything else, but essentially you want to make sure that you can identify these audiences that have come through from Pinterest and segment them out.

You can then create specific audiences within both Google and Facebook (for example) that have come in through Pinterest. (E.g. url contains ‘utm_source=pinterest). Now you can separate out these audiences, and as you use them in your retargeting strategies, you can understand if the Pinterest audiences you have built are actually converting into sales.

Speaking of converting, I’d recommend the following methods:

RLSA (remarketing for search ads)

Layer your Pinterest audiences onto existing search campaigns and add a higher bid modifier. These audiences have already visited your site and developed a familiarity with your brand. If they end up searching for your product, you want to make sure your ad appears high in the search results to remind them of your brand, pull them to your site, and entice them to convert.

One RLSA strategy I’d recommend is to create a separate “broad” RLSA campaign where you can bid on head terms, and broader but still relevant terms that you normally wouldn’t be able to afford.

For example, you typically may not bid on a term like “womens clothing” because it is so generic and has heavy competition, but given the user has already visited your site, you can create an RLSA campaign, layer your Pinterest audiences, and bid on the term.

The 2-step guide to driving sales with Pinterest

The thought behind this is that by serving your ad on this more generic keyword, you are reminding them that you sell women’s clothing. Since the users have been to your site, they’ll have a sense of if it’s worth visiting. Essentially, this is way of getting in front of relevant eyes without doing significant harm to overall efficiency.

Dynamic remarketing

You can do this on both Facebook and GDN where ads include the product the user has visited on the site (as well as other relevant products). The usual segmentation caveats apply; you want to make sure you’re segmenting by time lapsed since the visit and depth of site pages reached and bid accordingly.

Remarketing for shopping

Make use of your audience list by layering it onto your shopping campaigns. Again, the goal here is to bid more aggressively so you can ensure your ad shows up for the audiences who have engaged with your Pinterest ad, visited the site, and developed familiarity with the brand. You’ll typically see higher CVRs for these types of audiences.

The main takeaway here: if you’re not investing in Pinterest, you’re missing out on engaging a robust, potentially high-ROI audience. The platform itself has come a long way in adding marketing-friendly features and reporting capabilities to position itself as a long-term player. Get on board now; the traffic’s not getting any cheaper.

Good luck!

 

For more on how to integrate Pinterest into your sales strategy, check out our visual guide to Pinterest advertising.

promoted-pin.png

The 2-step guide to driving sales with Pinterest

There are millions of people on Pinterest, searching, pinning, and sharing – so it’s important to recognize its potential for building awareness and filling the top of the funnel, particularly for ecommerce companies.

This blog will discuss a couple of recommended targeting types within Pinterest to help fill the top of the funnel and essentially build up your audience. From there, once your audience is built out, we’ll run through how to actually capitalize on these new users to drive sales.

Let’s jump in.

Use Pinterest to fill the funnel

Pinterest has some specific features that are highly effective for building your audience. These include:

Keyword targeting

You can leverage user intent by targeting specific keywords that users are searching within Pinterest.

For example, if you are a trendy clothing brand that sells sweaters, you may want to target “trendy sweaters” and have your ad (in Pinterest lingo, your promoted pin) show up in the search results and related pins.

Interest targeting

Pinterest will determine a user’s interest based on the pins they have engaged with and saved. Your ad (promoted pin) will show up in the user’s home feed or relevant topics feed.

A Promoted Pin on Pinterest

“Actalike” targeting

This is similar to Facebook’s lookalike targeting; you can upload a customer list and Pinterest will target audiences similar in behaviors, traits, and characteristics as that customer list. Our recommendation is to start off with your top customers – for example, your highest-LTV or AOV audiences.

I would initially recommend prioritizing the Actalike and keyword targeting as they tend to be more effective at getting in front of highly relevant audiences. But by leveraging any or all of the targeting options, you’re discovering and engaging with new, relevant audiences and driving them to your site.

That said, make sure your expectations are aligned. You should not expect to see Pinterest as a lever for immediate purchases, but more as a longer-term play where you’re developing an awareness and building your audience to hit later via a few different methods below to actually drive the sale.

That said, let’s talk about how to…

Convert Pinterest engagement into sales

Now that you’ve engaged with your audiences via Pinterest, you should be capturing those audiences for remarketing purposes.

First, to be smart with your remarketing efforts and truly understand the value of Pinterest, you should make sure every link on your Pinterest ads include a tag that labels it as Pinterest. You can use UTM parameters or anything else, but essentially you want to make sure that you can identify these audiences that have come through from Pinterest and segment them out.

You can then create specific audiences within both Google and Facebook (for example) that have come in through Pinterest. (E.g. url contains ‘utm_source=pinterest). Now you can separate out these audiences, and as you use them in your retargeting strategies, you can understand if the Pinterest audiences you have built are actually converting into sales.

Speaking of converting, I’d recommend the following methods:

RLSA (remarketing for search ads)

Layer your Pinterest audiences onto existing search campaigns and add a higher bid modifier. These audiences have already visited your site and developed a familiarity with your brand. If they end up searching for your product, you want to make sure your ad appears high in the search results to remind them of your brand, pull them to your site, and entice them to convert.

One RLSA strategy I’d recommend is to create a separate “broad” RLSA campaign where you can bid on head terms, and broader but still relevant terms that you normally wouldn’t be able to afford.

For example, you typically may not bid on a term like “womens clothing” because it is so generic and has heavy competition, but given the user has already visited your site, you can create an RLSA campaign, layer your Pinterest audiences, and bid on the term.

The 2-step guide to driving sales with Pinterest

The thought behind this is that by serving your ad on this more generic keyword, you are reminding them that you sell women’s clothing. Since the users have been to your site, they’ll have a sense of if it’s worth visiting. Essentially, this is way of getting in front of relevant eyes without doing significant harm to overall efficiency.

Dynamic remarketing

You can do this on both Facebook and GDN where ads include the product the user has visited on the site (as well as other relevant products). The usual segmentation caveats apply; you want to make sure you’re segmenting by time lapsed since the visit and depth of site pages reached and bid accordingly.

Remarketing for shopping

Make use of your audience list by layering it onto your shopping campaigns. Again, the goal here is to bid more aggressively so you can ensure your ad shows up for the audiences who have engaged with your Pinterest ad, visited the site, and developed familiarity with the brand. You’ll typically see higher CVRs for these types of audiences.

The main takeaway here: if you’re not investing in Pinterest, you’re missing out on engaging a robust, potentially high-ROI audience. The platform itself has come a long way in adding marketing-friendly features and reporting capabilities to position itself as a long-term player. Get on board now; the traffic’s not getting any cheaper.

Good luck!

 

For more on how to integrate Pinterest into your sales strategy, check out our visual guide to Pinterest advertising.

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The most effective ways to respond to negative reviews

Customer reviews are one of the most important pieces of your marketing campaign, and research has indicated they may have significant impact on your ranking in search.

In fact, 84% of consumers trust an online review as much as they would a personal referral. However, not all reviews are positive. At some point throughout the history of your business, you’re going to run into negative reviews.

Fortunately, this doesn’t always have to be a bad thing – negative reviews can work in your favor as a business opportunity if you know how to react. Read below to learn the most effective ways to respond to negative online reviews.

Stay positive

Anyone who’s ever worked customer service knows how difficult it can be when a customer is attacking you. A negative review may get you upset, and as a human being your first instinct is to go on the defense, but that doesn’t mean you should become a keyboard warrior and attack the reviewer (unless you’re Wendy’s, of course, who recently spouted off Twitter battles with McDonald’s and customers alike). Unless you’re a multimillion-dollar fast food company, we don’t advise getting snarky.

Approach all negative reviews with a calm, positive attitude. Let the customer know you’ve heard their concerns, but never point fingers. Even if you’re not in the wrong, you shouldn’t make the customer feel like the victim.

It also doesn’t do you any good to simply ignore the review. The general public would prefer you respond than simply ignore the situation. Responding with a positive comeback will show that your business cares about its customers.

Offer a solution

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Sorry won’t cut it”? This is the case when you’re responding to negative comments or reviews. Simply offering an apology to your customer won’t do – a customer will want a solution to their problem. When you’re responding to a negative review or comment, let the customer know how you’ll fix the problem.

Below is an example of a great response that offers a solution. A JetBlue customer tweeted that their in-flight TV was not working. JetBlue immediately responded with this:

This response shows that JetBlue is empathetic towards their customer’s concerns. Then they follow up with an immediate solution.

It’s safe to say this customer appreciated the time this company took to solve their problem in a timely manner. They instantly redeemed themselves and showed their customer’s happiness is their priority.

Reiterate your company’s policies

You may fear that a negative review will make your company look bad. This is only the case should you ignore the review entirely. When you respond to a negative comment, flip the negative to a positive. Use this as an opportunity to reiterate your company’s good qualities.

For example, you can respond by saying, “We’re sorry you had a poor experience. We’ve been doing business for several years and most of our customers leave happy. We’re sorry we didn’t meet your expectations this time around.”

Take the conversation offline

When you receive a negative review online, you should always respond immediately on the same platform. This not only satisfies the original poster, it’s also a public place that all your potential customers will see.

However, some things can’t be addressed online. Issues involving a customer’s personal information, for example, should be discussed in person or over the phone. When addressing these types of negative reviews, provide a direct contact for your customers.

Taking the conversation offline shows that your business will go the extra mile to resolve any customer complaints or issues. However, you should only use this method for severe cases.

Does your company have a customer service line? This can also be a great way to incorporate an offline conversation. In your response, give the customer the line to your customer service department to resolve any issues that can’t be taken care of online.

Approach the customer as a real person

We’ve all experienced the nightmare that is automatic bots. Calling into a customer service line and hearing a robot on the other end is one of the most frustrating situation a customer can go through. Consider this when you’re responding to your customers. Leave out all the industry jargon, and speak to them like they’re a real person – because they are!

When you use plain language and speak to the customer as a human being, you’ll sound more genuine. Chances are, your customers will see you as a human as well, and not just as a business.

Google has also taken measures to ensure that you, the business owner, isn’t dealing with automated customer reviews. This solution is called verified customer reviews, and I’ve previously written about ways that you can use the feature to come out on top.

Ask for an update

If you’ve responded to the customer’s review and solved the problem, don’t hesitate to ask for an updated review. Often times customers will take this upon themselves and either delete or update their negative review. Here’s an example of an updated review after an issue was solved:

The most effective ways to respond to negative reviews

As you can see, many review sites, like Yelp, will show that this is an updated review. Once you’ve solved the customer’s issue, politely ask them if they’ll update the review online.

Having trouble thinking of a nice way to ask? Once you’ve followed up with the customer, ask them something such as, “We appreciate your feedback, and would like other customers to know how we’ve solved your issue. Would you mind updating your review to reflect this?”

Always make sure you thank them for their feedback, regardless if they update the review or not.

The takeaway

As soon as you see a negative review, your heart instantly sinks. But no matter how stellar your business is, you’re not going to make everyone happy. A few negative reviews won’t be the end of your business. Use these reviews as an opportunity to showcase your company’s outstanding customer service.

The sooner you rectify any issues your customers have, the sooner you’ll build better rapport with your customer base.

What tactics would you add to this list? Let us know the comment section below.

 

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for HigherVisibility, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda at AmandaDiSilvestro.com.

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Three strategies for cracking the B2B code on Facebook

When most people think Facebook advertising, they think B2C marketing.

Many tend to assume that B2B marketing on Facebook doesn’t make sense or would not be effective – because it would be too hard to get in front of professionals, decision makers, and the right industry positions, and even if you do, they’re not in the mood to think about business if they’re browsing Facebook.

These assumptions, however, are quite inaccurate – and with the right strategies and targeting in place, Facebook can indeed be an effective B2B platform. Below are three key strategies for how to make your B2B marketing successful on Facebook.

Build a layered Lookalike strategy

Lookalike audiences are one of Facebook’s most efficient targeting capabilities. First off, here’s a quick refresher: Lookalike targeting is where you can leverage your first-party data (e.g. customer lists, audience lists, etc.) as a seed audience and Facebook will take that list and target users who are very similar in characteristics, behaviors, and traits as that audience.

The capability is super-powerful, but rather than taking your entire customer list and using it as a seed list, you need to be smart about how to segment and leverage your first-party data.

1. Think about your customer list and how to segment it

To create an effective seed list, think about your customer list and whether you can segment that list into groups of identifiable characteristics. For example, let’s say you are a B2B cybersecurity company that sells cybersecurity to a variety of companies in different industries.

You may want to segment out your customer lists by the industries they are in – tech, medical, education, financial, etc. Keep in mind you’ll need a seed list of between 2K-5K users to be effective.

2. Upload the seed list you’ve developed to Facebook

Next, upload that seed list into Facebook and develop your lookalikes off of it. In most cases, I’d recommend that you build an audience of the 1% most relevant users, which tends to be the audience closest in similarities, characteristics, and traits.

However, for this strategy, you should keep your audience size fairly large in order to layer additional targeting to refine the list. I recommend a LAL 5% (LALs go from 1% to 10%), as a 5% will still find users similar to your seed list – but rather than receiving an audience size of 2M, you are going after a larger pool of 10M.

I know, you must be thinking that 10M sounds way too big!! Don’t worry – refinement is coming!

3. Start building your ad set

As you start building your ad set, you’ll be using your LAL 5% audience as your base audience to target. In other words, rather than targeting all of Facebook’s uses, you’re starting off with a more qualified audience given they are similar to your customers.

You’ll layer Facebook’s targeting options on top of this audience by selecting job/title targeting to find the decision makers in a company likely to be interested in your product.

You have now just leveraged Facebook’s various targeting capabilities to ensure that you are going after audiences similar to your customers and targeting true decision-makers.

Take advantage of third-party data

Remember that third-party data providers are your friend! You should consider partnering with third-party data providers such as Axciom and Datalogix in order to leverage their relevant lists.

Similar to what you can find within Facebook, you can also leverage their third-party lists and get in front of specific industry professionals and decision makers. This is a quick and easy way to identify relevant audiences and target them.

Engage users with video

Think about your business. Do your customers need to be educated? Are they conducting lots of research before they purchase? This is often the case with B2B companies who need to build a strong, long-term case to justify high price points.

An efficient tactic to avoid excessive clicks, yet get the job done on educating your audiences, is to leverage video ads. You’ll want to keep in mind that 30 seconds or less is the recommended time given people’s short attention spans – but that’s more than enough time to inform the users and get them into your funnel.

And Facebook automatically builds audience lists based on how long users have viewed your video (e.g. 50%, 75%, 100%), so you can segment by level of interest.

Next, you can create an ad set and remarket with static and carousel ads towards specific audiences who have viewed 100% of the video. Introduce more value props to the folks who showed serious interest; pull the users onto your site, push them down the funnel, and ultimately convert.

Are these strategies guaranteed to make Facebook a successful platform for your B2B company? Of course not. But we strongly recommend testing these three strategies to see what kind of traction you can get; otherwise, you’re letting your competitors grab all the eyeballs on one of the most biggest, most engaging platforms in digital marketing.

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Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

The search engine results page recently saw the return of Google Posts, the part-social, part-publishing feature that was launched by Google a little over a year ago during the US Presidential Election.

Billed as “an experimental new podium on Google”, Google Posts has attracted a lot of attention from marketers, search specialists and Google enthusiasts thanks to its prominent place on the SERP – appearing in the form of an eye-catching carousel of cards – and its mysterious deployment.

Over the year since it was first released, it has appeared in and disappeared from search results a number of times with no apparent pattern or explanation. Brands who wanted a shot at being part of Google’s new podium were forced to “Join the waitlist” and cross their fingers.

But last month Google suddenly announced that it would be opening up Posts to “museums, sports teams, sports leagues, and movies” in the United States, and all of the above groups along with musicians in Brazil – prompting a renewed flurry of interest from marketers. At the same time, the relaunched Posts became more visually eye-catching with the addition of embedded GIFs and videos.

 

One person, however, doesn’t believe that Google Posts is worth the hype. Michael Bertini, Online Marketing Consultant and Search Strategist at iQuanti, told Search Engine Watch why he thinks that Google has gone off half-cocked with Posts, and why marketers would be better off expending their energies elsewhere.

Google Posts: where is the value?

“I don’t think Google will admit that they made a mistake with this whole Posts thing,” says Bertini.

“Google already has a lot of great products and search results features on the page; to add Google Posts to that clutters up the results page unnecessarily. And I don’t think it offers much value to the end user.”

It’s true that while there has been a lot of excitement from brands and marketers around the prospect of publishing directly to the SERP, few of us have considered its usefulness to users. Google is still first and foremost a search engine; when users enter a search query, they are presumably looking for information.

While people Googling candidates in the run-up to the US Presidential Election would undoubtedly have been interested in what those candidates had to say about certain issues, subsequent versions of Google Posts have moved further and further away from a feature that is useful to the end user.

Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

Few people searching for “Boston Red Sox” are looking for pseudo-social updates from their favorite sports team; they’re more likely to be looking for match scores, game tickets, or perhaps a link to the team’s website.

A lot of the interest around Google Posts thus far has been driven by sheer novelty, with people Googling ‘Andrews Jewelers’ or ‘Escape Pod Comics’ simply to see how the businesses had been using Posts – rather than because they featured useful information. In and of itself, how much value does Posts provide to the searcher?

“I don’t think anybody should put a strict focus on getting into Posts – or any one Google feature,” says Bertini. “What I’ve noticed throughout my career is that people who make it a specific focus to get into an area of Google – let’s use Google’s Answer Box as an example – ultimately, they’re left with content that doesn’t fit the end user’s needs. And then it dies.”

“If someone did want to get involved with Google Posts, they should write content that really answers the search query, and then of course request access on posts.withgoogle.com. But that’s all.”

Everything is a test

Based on the fact that Posts has already come and gone from the SERP several times before this most recent, wider launch, does Bertini think that Posts is finally here to stay?

“Everything Google is about testing,” Bertini replies. “Even after they launch it to market, what they would consider ‘permanent’ is not really what we would consider permanent. Personally, I think it’ll last up until the third quarter of 2017, and then they’ll mix it up with something else.

“If Posts get a really high CTR, then Google might invest more in it and add more features. But at the moment, it’s still very much in testing. It still lacks features – there’s no real social interaction, for example.”

Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

Google Posts currently allows for limited social sharing, but doesn’t provide a way for users to truly interact with or respond to Posts.

If Posts, ultimately, is still in testing, it explains why it has disappeared and reappeared with so little fanfare – Google doesn’t want to attract a lot of attention to a feature that may not even be launched on a wider scale.

Bertini agrees that the lack of promotion speaks volumes about Google’s intentions – or lack thereof – for the feature. “If Google had complete confidence in this feature, they would be promoting it more.”

He goes on: “If I ran my own business, and I wanted to get more searchers to my site, there are better ways to do that than to focus on GIFs and videos to get into Google Posts.

“For example, if I were making videos already, I would create pages for my videos, transcribe that content, and optimize it for search – that would be a better use of resources than focusing on getting into Posts.

“Ultimately, people are going to invest time and effort into Posts, when Google itself has not yet perfected this feature.”

Google Plus revisited?

Given the pseudo-social nature of Google Posts, a lot of comparisons have understandably been drawn between Google Posts and Google Plus, Google’s last ill-fated venture into social networking. And it could be that Google Plus provides a blueprint for what to expect from the future of Google Posts.

“If we look back at Google Plus – when it first launched, Google’s idea of what Plus would be is not what it is today. And like everything Google, Google will never admit that they made a mistake, or that the product didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to be.

“But I think the search marketers who used Google Plus as a social platform are very disappointed today – if they invested a lot of time and money into building up their profiles and optimizing their Google Plus. It’s not used the way it used to be used, any more. I think it’s going to be the same with Google Posts.”

Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

Remember when Google Plus was a big deal?

Bertini believes the aim of introducing Google Posts to the SERP is to encourage more user interaction with the search engine results page. This would tie in with the recent addition of rich results for podcasts to the SERP, allowing searchers on smartphones and Google Home to play podcasts directly from the search page.

“Google is trying to make a different version of social [with Posts], which is social interaction with the search engine results page, where a user can interact with the search page itself. It’s just very early on at the moment.”

If Google can succeed in expanding the function of the search results page in this way, it would definitely be a means of keeping users inside its own walled garden for longer.

But without value to the end user, Google Posts could be a Plus-style flop, and Bertini thinks that Google would be better off focusing its attention on perfecting existing features of the SERP that have more value to searchers.

Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

“Google is constantly trying to mix things up, when – once again, personal belief – I think that they should focus on good products that they’ve launched like Answer Box, which is already effective. Or ‘People Also Ask’ – they launched this section, and it’s still not perfect, but it’s good.

“I think this is what Google should devote its energy to, rather than – I don’t want to say get rid of Facebook or Twitter, because I don’t think that will happen – but rather than trying to make the search results page a social platform.”

The future of Google Posts

Google Posts, as it stands, still lacks a lot of functionality. So an ideal world, what would a fully-featured Google Posts look like?

“One, people search for something; two, a Post feature comes up; three, there would be a rating system for whether or not the Post matches the search query.

“Then there would be a sharing function where the user can share the Post via social media. You could also have a Hangouts-style feature integrating chat into Posts, allowing people to chat about what they’ve just read.”

It remains to be seen whether Google will try to keep integrating more functionality into Posts or whether it will once again disappear quietly from the SERP.

But one way or the other, marketers should keep sight of the importance of catering to the end user – not just to the newest Google feature.