Blog

Google AIS Custom Search

search (67)

How mobile has changed the way we search, based on 10+ years of eye-tracking studies

How has the rise of mobile changed the way people view Google SERPs? Contributor Kristi Kellogg summarizes a session from SMX East in which Mediative's Chris Pinkerton discusses the results of eye-tracking studies.

Chris Pinkerton, the vice president of business development at Mediative, has been tracking the ways viewers look at the Google search engine results page (SERP) since 2003. In that time, Mediative’s eye-tracking studies have revealed major shifts in the way users consume the SERP.

At SMX East 2016, he explored the ways the proliferation of mobile devices have deeply impacted user search behavior on both mobile and desktop searches.

Pinkerton asserts that search activity, psychologically speaking, is mindless activity. It’s mindless because of the habits that form with the devices we use.

Chris Pinkerton

Habits are a very powerful thing to start to understand. Developing a habit of consuming information on a desktop in a certain way changes the way you consume content.

Looking back at 2003, Google became the dominant search engine because it drove people to find information faster than its competitors. That created habitual behavior — people found content the fastest on Google and kept coming back.

(As an aside, Bing has implemented programs to pay people for their search behavior in an attempt to break these deeply ingrained habits and introduce a new behavior.)

In 2005, there was a Golden Triangle pattern when it came to eyeballs on the Google SERP. But in 2016, this pattern is vastly different (see below), due in large part to mobile. It’s changed the way people consume the SERP and the speed at which they consume it. Users spot-scan and find what is contextually relevant for them.

Mobile devices have habitually conditioned searchers to scan vertically more than horizontally. This has translated to desktop search as well. People are viewing more search listings during a single session but are spending less time viewing each one.

Users are looking the front end of search listings, so make sure your main message comes first. While it used to take a user 2.6 seconds to consume a SERP, that time has been cut in half, to 1.3 seconds, Pinkerton said.

Regardless of mobile’s impact, the No. 1 organic listing captures the most click activity, regardless of what new elements are presented. However, it takes 87 percent longer for the No. 1 organic listing to be first seen on a mobile device vs. desktop, he said.

Statistics that will impact your digital marketing strategy

Knowledge Graph

  • With a Knowledge Graph panel on the SERP, almost 22 percent fewer clicks went to the top No. 1 organic listing.
  • 93% of searchers look at the Knowledge Graph panel.
  • 49% of searchers click on the Knowledge Graph panel.

View image on Twitter

Follow

MKTg Robot @themktgrobot

19% of mobile SERP clicks on average went to the top 2 sponsored ads, compared to 15% on desktop. #smx #sem @Mediative

3:58 PM - 28 Sep 2016

Local listings and map

  • 47% more clicks on the map and local listing occur when positioned above the organic listings.
  • 10% of clicks on local listing on average.
  • 51% more searchers view the local listings and map when positioned above the organic listings.

Star ratings

  • Listings with star ratings capture 24% of page clicks on average.

Sponsored listings

  • Top sponsored listings are viewed after 0.36 seconds on average.
  • 2% of clicks on the top two sponsored listings on mobile vs. 14.5% on desktop.
  • The top organic listing gets 10% fewer clicks when three sponsored listings are present vs. one sponsored listing.

Organic listings

  • Top organic listings capture the most search activity (33.2%).
  • 5% of searchers on average look at the top organic listing.
  • 57% of clicks go to the top four organic listings on average.
  • Only 7.4% of the clicks that occur are below the fourth organic listing on mobile vs. 16% on desktop.

Read Mediative’s full eye-tracking report (registration required). See how user behavior has changed in just the last two years with my reports from SMX East 2014 and 2015.

Source : http://searchengineland.com/mobile-impacted-way-search-based-10-years-eye-tracking-studies-260052?utm_source=marketo&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_content=scap&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTURJeU0yUm1NV00wTm1RMiIsInQiOiI2aUtEVXVQWWZHTEtkQkZIODNKR3ZzZDVrRkE1MDUxWUpyMGFtTW14MDEzVGxBSXNHYzA0QXp5TFRyVjFMQ1pxSXpZQzFLKzBuek1BZU5iMnZhNmdhNnV1cmdBRFlyc0FOMXgwZ3pDXC94Mkk9In0%3D 

Read more…

Why Long Tail Search Will Change Automotive SEO and Paid Search Forever

October 5, 2013

In SEO or paid search, long tail keywords are the key to gaining more traffic and more sales. This has become even more important with Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm update, signaling huge new opportunity in search engine optimization. This is an important automotive aftermarket trend for 2013 and beyond, if you sell online.

long tail SEO, paid search PPC resultsAuto SEO and long tail search keywords defined

First, let’s define what long tail searches are and why they’re important for automotive SEO and paid search, especially in the aftermarket.

Long tail keywords are phrases used in search using three or more words, such as “Audi performance parts” or “Acura Integra GSR turbo kits.” Long tail search keyword terms and phrases are important because they make up as much as 70% of all searches according to Moz.

Long tail search terms are the opposite of “head” search terms, or the one- and two-word search terms that are most commonly used. Head terms are estimated to account for around 19% of all searches, leaving the rest of the two-word search terms in the “chunky middle.”

As of a couple of years ago, Google reported about 1 out of 6 searches were new and had never been seen before. Considering the trillions of searches done every year, it is astonishing there is such a wide variety of searches…but you’ll see why there are so many a little farther down this page.

How long tail search is used by automotive aftermarket shoppers

Now that we know about 70% of searches are for long tail keyword phrases let’s dig into how automotive parts and accessory shoppers use these phrases. Long tail searches can be divided into two groups: pre-purchase and post-purchase.

Pre-purchase long tail searches show purchase intent and are used by consumers when making buying decisions: “turbo kits for Acura Integra” or “Audi A4 suspension upgrade.” These searches are looking for reviews, specifications, recommendations, prices, availability, and technical information.

Post-purchase long tail searches are done after the consumer bought a part, or after the decision has been made on what or where to purchase: “install Integra turbo kit B18B” or “installing Bilstein PSS10.” These searches are more technical in nature and are looking for how-to instructions, videos, or reviews.

Why long tail automotive search terms are important for paid search and SEO

Automotive parts and accessory shoppers are increasingly using long tail search terms and we’ll explain that trend at the bottom of the page. The main point about long tail search is, because it is increasing, many online retailers are missing out on their share of these long tail searches which instead send consumers to discussion web sites, magazine web sites, or to YouTube.

There are two reasons for this missed opportunity. One is because many online retailers  do not have their paid search campaigns optimized to capture these long tail searches. The other, in the case of organic search, is they do not have their websites structured with correct search engine optimization (SEO) to show up for these search results.

Many pre-purchase searches, where shoppers are looking for technical information, or are using verbs like “buy” and “purchase,” or use very specific combinations of year/make/model, take shoppers to enthusiast discussion sites. Many shoppers want to end up on discussion sites anyway but online retailers can get more traffic by showing up for some of these long tail searches.

This why it is so important to understand the concept of year/make/model, or automotive part types, in automotive paid search and SEO. It’s also (…shameless plug since we’re experts at this…) why campaigns set up by agencies outside the automotive aftermarket are often ineffective.

Post-purchase long tail searches end up at YouTube, magazine web sites, or sites where enthusiasts have posted a lot of installation-related content like videos or photos. Here again, online retailers can get more traffic after the sale by optimizing for these searches, where there’s an opportunity to sell related parts.

Long tail search trend explained

Google and automotive social media trends

Google recently rolled out Hummingbird, the first major complete replacement of their search algorithms since Caffeine in 2001.

Google recently announced their new Hummingbird algorithm, designed to produce better results for “semantic search,” which tries to understand searcher intent and the contextual meaning of search terms. You can see an example of this today by searching for “Chinese restaurant” on your phone and computer at the same time and looking at Google’s autocomplete phrases. Google’s suggestions for your search on your computer might include “Chinese restaurant near me” while suggestions on your phone might include suggestions for your city or surrounding cities since mobile searchers are probably on their way to a restaurant.

Google is obviously working hard to not only improve search results for us, but they’re anticipating the future increase in verbal searches from mobile devices and cars, spoken in natural language. As natural language and verbal search increases in the future, consumers will increase their use of long tail search phrases making this a more important trend in 2013 and beyond (and natural language search is a big reason why around 1 out of 6 searches have never been seen before).

Long tail searches produce more conversions: true or false

Many blogs on the Internet show a correlation between long tail search visits and higher conversion rates. Is the correlation true?

The answer is yes and no. It isn’t unusual to have lower conversions and higher bounce rates for long tail searches, if your site is not structured to take full advantage of these long tail visits. If you strategically plan with your digital marketing agency how shoppers should find your site today and in the coming years, and combine that with appropriate site content, you should be rewarded with an increase in qualified traffic as well as higher conversion rates and more sales.

It is important that you analyze your own site statistics to see if you are getting higher conversions for long tail search traffic. If you’re looking at long tail traffic from AdWords, make sure you know if you’re including your own brand term in your analysis and if your brand is one, two, or more words on its own, that will skew your analysis.

Source: http://hedgescompany.com/blog/2013/10/why-long-tail-search-will-change-automotive-seo-and-paid-search-forever/

Read more…

Inbound links still matter. Despite what you may here from SEO gurus around our industry, the power of high-quality, relevant, and natural inbound links to a dealer's website is still apparent. Google's Matt Cutts acknowledged that in the long run, this may not be the case.

That day, however, is not today.

Google is reportedly in the middle of a 10-year plan to discount links from the search algorithm. The best guess is that they're at about year 5 of this plan, which means that we still have another half-decade to make the adjustment. Many of us already are, but that does not mean that links should not be a part of the overall strategy.

Earn them. Use them appropriately. Avoid anything spammy or unnatural. Focus on incredible content that can get people to link to you rather than schemes or techniques for building them. That's what we do. That's what you should be doing as well.

Here's the video from Cutts answering the question recently about inbound links.

Read more…

I really don't know who I'm going to offend on this one. We've been researching so many vendors over the last couple of months that work with chat, lead-gen widgets, and website platforms themselves that we haven't taken the time to explore PPC vendors. Maybe that's why I was blindsided to find out that there are at least two vendors out there charging 20% and one that we found who is charging 25%.

Is it me or is this insane? We'll put aside the 25% vendor for now. I'm hopeful that it's some sort of accounting mistake or something. Focusing on the 20% charge, it really bugs me that this may be more common than I ever knew. I've always hung around the organic side of search, so PPC hasn't been a focus. With that said, I've managed dozens of PPC campaigns over the years and I could never imagine charging anything other than a flat fee.

To me (and again, I might be on the wrong side of this argument and would be very open to some education on this one), if a dealership is spending $10,000 per month on their PPC, $2,000 of it going to management seems high. If the software is driving the bidding and the feeds are generating the dynamic ads, wouldn't it seem that very little manual effort and development costs are going into the service on a monthly basis?

I've always been a fan of flat fee PPC management because of transparency. I want to be able to recommend to a dealer that they raise their budget without them wondering if I'm just trying to make more money and I want to be able to recommend that they reduce their budget without reducing my service fee. To me, adjusting a budget is a matter of changing a number or two in the backend and I cannot justify charging hundreds of dollars more per month for clicking a few buttons.

Here's the math:

  • 20% service fee
  • $10,000 per month initial budget
  • Dealer wants to raise to a $12,000 per month budget
  • Vendor clicks a few buttons, adjust some daily budgets
  • Additional monthly cost for clicking those buttons: $400/month
  • Yes, that's $4,800 a year for 5-10 minutes of effort

I'll say it again. I'm willing to hear why I'm wrong. I'd love to see the additional monthly effort that goes into a bigger budget. If that's not the case, I'm open to hearing why the cost is justified. If there are vendors out there charging a lower percentage or a flat fee that dealers (or vendors) are willing to recommend, I'd love to hear about those as well.

Someone, please set me straight on this issue. It's bugging me.

Read more…

One of the most amazing parts of my job is spending time reading, watching, and testing the practices of others. It's conceivable that the true secret to my success over the years has less to do with creativity and more to do with listening and deciphering. You have to listen to the channels like Google and Facebook. You have to listen to your customers. You have to listen to your customers' customers (if you're an agency like me).

The annoying part of my job is sifting through the recycled techniques and reinvented terminology that surrounds so many marketing practices. In most cases, it's the same old things repackaged into a different form or applied from a different angle. Those are valuable, but not gamechanging. Still, it's important to go through them all in order to find the hidden or not-so-hidden gems that arise. The best practices I've found over the years haven't been on the pages of Mashable, Search Engine Watch, or Social Media Today. The real winners have come from some of the least likely sources.

With all of that out of the way, let's get to the point. There are three types of marketing. Despite all of the various names - push and pull marketing, social media marketing, gravitational marketing, search marketing, influence marketing, content marketing - the easiest and arguably most pure way of looking at it is to tackle everything from a perspective of venue and intent. Where are the people going and what are they doing when they get there? It's important for me as well as business owners to look at it from this perspective because the collision of the various marketing types is forcing a holistic marketing model to outperform niche marketing techniques or specialized strategies.

In other words, if you look at venue and intent, you can craft your overall marketing strategy much more easily. We look at it as following the quest - what are they doing, why are thy doing it, and how can we be there to help them choose our clients. When people buy your products, they are fulfilling a quest. No, they're not slaying an actual dragon, but if they're on a quest to buy a car, then your dealership selling them a car is the culmination of that particular quest.

Here are the three types of marketing for 2014 (well, early 2014 at least - it changes so quickly) that we like to tackle:

Fulfilling the Quest

This is the easiest to understand and often the hardest to achieve because of the simplicity of purpose. Everyone knows that if someone is interested in buying a car, they're probably going to go to Google, Bing, or one of the various classified sites to start looking. They might go to review sites and OEM sites as well, but for the most part they're ready to seek the fulfillment of their quest, they're going to try to look for cars.

Search engine marketing of all types, whether it's SEO or PPC, gives you the opportunity to drive them to your website so they may fulfill their quest. They aren't searching for Honda dealers to have fun. They have a purpose. They're in buying mode. This is where you have to be in order to help them fulfill their quest.

Renewing the Quest

More businesses are starting to do this. Many of them tried to do it in 2009-2012 and failed miserably. Part of it was because the venues such as Facebook, banner advertisements, retargeting, and other forms of "passive" marketing arenas weren't developed to the point that they are today.

Now, the goals have come full-circle thanks to the overall availability of the internet. Mobile devices have made checking social media sites and reading websites the common activity when there are no activities to do. As people ride a bus, wait in line at the bank, or even perform other mundane activities like watching television, they are also surfing the internet. They aren't going to Facebook to buy things, but they're open to the concept. They're open to having their quest renewed.

When they go to Fox News to see what's going on and the retargeting ad pops up in front of them, they are reminded that they are still on a quest even if they aren't actively on it at that point. When the business they visited last week pops up on their Facebook news feed, they get that reiteration that they still need to buy something. It might take a dozen instances of seeing a brand and its message before they actually click through, but the statistics are showing that it's working. Not every sale is made through Google. In fact, some of the most important and actionable clicks come through other venues when they're not in active buying mode.

Creating the Quest

Of the three, this is the one that's ignored the most. It's the hardest to do and the least rewarding when not done right. However, it can be the most rewarding when companies are able to make it sing. This is one that we focus on in particular because in our industry, nobody is doing it right.

In many ways it's like good old fashioned advertising. No, it's not like the commercials that we see on television today. Think along the lines of the early days of television when brands were built by establishing a problem that people will see in the normal course of their day and then having that problem solved either in the middle of the initial marketing effort or after further research.

The reason that it's so hard today is because of attention span. We have seconds instead of minutes to get the message out through most advertising and marketing venues. There's no longer time to tell a story...

...or is there?

The art of creating the quest is about putting the right content on the right venues that will reach people and establish a need whether they're in the market right now or not. With this particular article already breaking the 1,000-word mark, there's not enough time to go into it in detail. We'll do that next time. Instead, watch the following video that shows two commercials that worked well in their day. Today, having a minute-long television commercial isn't practical for most businesses, but taking advantage of the various channels online to accomplish the same goal and better is something that we know will move the needle. It's hard. That's the point. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

More on that next time. For now, here's the video:

Read more…

The Truth About the Concept of Content Being King

If you've participated in automotive internet marketing for long enough, you've very likely heard the concept that "content is King." It was in play back in the days when I started researching search engine optimization all those years ago and it never really stopped. There was a dirty little secret that few of us in the SEO community ever mentioned, but it's been safe to say it for a little over a year now.

Content wasn't really king. It was important, but it wasn't king - not by a long shot.

When I started at TK Carsites in 2007, I wanted to prove that point. I was given a single website that belonged to the company that we wanted to rank for the important "used cars" keywords. They had a gameplan that included creating pages for every major metro in the country, populating them with tons of unique content, and playing the game the way that it's supposed to be played. I told them to hold off for a while. This was an opportunity to do some testing.

We didn't add the content... nothing. The homepage was flash and had three words in the title tag - two of them being "Used Cars". I then went through an extremely aggressive link-building process and started attacking dozens of cities. In less than two months, we were ranked in the top 3 for over 30 major metros and #1 for a dozen. These weren't easy keywords. "Baltimore Used Cars". "Dallas Used Cars". "New York City Used Cars". We Google-bombed the site and it paid off. Sadly, we didn't develop the site very much after that, but the point was made.

Fast forward about a year and we started recognizing that Google was changing the game. I was certain that they were heading towards a set of quality-control mechanisms that would make the spammy techniques obsolete. We started shifting towards a content model that included high-value sites, blogs, and guest posting. We still used some of the lesser link-building styles such as directory submissions, but we stopped all forms of footer/sidebar/signature link building. If it could be done in bulk, we weren't going to use it. Google was catching on. I was sure of it.

2009 came and went. No major change. Content was a little more important, but link-building still ruled. In fact, our high-touch, high-maintenance technique was working but not much better than the spammy techniques some were using that we had long-abandoned.

2010 - same thing. I was getting worried. I was sure Google was close. They had to be. Unfortunately, I was getting a little pressure from the SEO team because they were seeing that the techniques that I assured were evil were still working.

2011 - Panda. YAAAAY! No, wait. It didn't address the links. The spammy techniques were still working and my expensive strategy was having trouble fighting off the bulk players.

Then it happened. Penguin. April 24, 2012. The day that I thought would be coming in 2008 or 2009 finally arrived and all of the things I had hoped for came true. Some of our competitors fell of the map, Death-Star-style... "as if millions of SEO's cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

Today, the strategy, a content- and quality-based strategy, is alive and well. Finally.

So what was the point of all that? Today, content truly IS king, but not in the way that most perceive it. The reason that I built a new company that focuses solely on content, search, and social is that the three are now part of the same digital marketing strategy. You cannot do well with any one of them without doing well at the other two. Content is king because the quality necessary for pure link earning and social media marketing is finally bridging the gap. Unfortunately, that's bad news for the vast majority of dealers because the boilerplate content that populates so many dealer websites is hurting you. Chances are you're not really feeling it because you've never experienced the difference; if nearly everyone is doing it wrong, then "bad" is actually average.

Here is a good infographic that demonstrates many of the connections that are associated with content as part of SEO and thus part of the holistic digital marketing strategy, via automotiveseo.org. Enjoy!

Read more…

Where, What, and Why: The Content Marketing Trio

Having tracked data for the last seven years in the automotive marketing arena, I can tell you a few things that I've learned that have brought us to where the content marketing world is today. It's all about process and answering the questions that consumers are asking and it's something that, as I've said time and time again in the past, needs to be viewed holistically.

Rather than go into a long post about how to make it all sing properly (that's for future posts), it's important to understand the content marketing trio. No, they have nothing to do with the Three Stooges, but those who don't understand the consumers' mentality might ended up looking like stooges in 2014. This is that important.

To get this understanding, you have to put yourself in the consumers' shoes. You buy things. Take what you know about that and apply it to the mentality and process below.

 

Where

If they can't find you, they can't do business with you. This is a no-brainer. You can advertise on the various networks, get your branding in place through billboards and radio, put ads in third-party sites across the internet, and a dozen other ways to help people find you, but it's search marketing that truly answers all of the questions that start with "where".

Since content marketing can help your search engine optimization tremendously, it fits in as the first of the trio. Most people are probably finding your website by the name of your company. While this is fine, you don't need to be heavily optimized to be found for your name. It's the other people, the ones that are doing generic searches for you by product or service in your local area, that can have a double impact on your business. By being better optimized, you are moving yourself up in searches which means you are also moving a competitor down.

 

What

This is your website. "What" you're trying to sell should be easy to determine once visitors get there. The challenge is that having a website that's just like every other website in your market is silly yet so commonly practiced thanks to the mega-vendors and forced OEM adoption.

There is a psychology that goes along with websites that says, "different is usually better". If your customers visit five websites, four of which look pretty much alike and the fifth, yours, looks different, they'll wonder why. It will register, even if only on a subconscious level. If the design and content are compelling, you have an advantage.

 

Why

In industries such as automotive where the differences in price are measured in small percentage points, the "why" factor comes into play. Most have a page that's a variation of "Why Buy from Us" on their website but it gets very few visitors. It takes more than that to get a consumer to consider you over a competitor.

This is one of the many places where social media comes into play. When are people most likely to click on the social media buttons on your website? When they're done. In other words, they might visit a handful of websites and put in leads at two or three of them. Once they're done, there's a decent chance that they'll click through to your social media presence to see what you're up to from the human side of the company. What will they see? Will it be a ton of ads? Will it be a ton of "look at me" posts?

What if they saw your community involvement? What if they saw your happy customers? What if they saw the local community engaging with you and you engaging back with them? They might look at you and two of your competitors during the course of their browsing. Will you be the most compelling? Does you social media presence give them a good reason to want to buy from you rather than the store down the block that's posting boring or unauthentic content on their social media profiles?

Holistic

In future posts, we'll go into how the holistic method of content marketing can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, but it's important to understand that reasons that it's all tied together. Don't think search, websites, and social. Think where, what, and why.

Read more…

Orkut

For the last 7 years, I've been watching Google very closely. Sure, they are in the news all the time so it's not something that's exactly hard. What has been more challenging is keeping up with their long-standing obsession with social media and understanding why it's so.

They have some big wins (YouTube, Google+) as well as dozens of losses (Orkut and just about everything else that they've touched that smells social). They looked at Facebook before Microsoft jumped on first. They took a long, hard look at Digg during the social news site's heyday, then suddenly bailed out the moment they opened the books and saw the duct tape coding underlying the site.

Google knows two things very well about social media:

  1. If they have any chance of truly transcending beyond technology to gain a true understanding of intent and desires, they need to get a ton of social data.
  2. They haven't been able to crack into the type of data that Facebook has about people.

Google+ is similar to people, but does not hold the attention of its users. It will get there. It has to. It's Google's last, best hope for getting this data.

The reason they want it so badly is because just about everything they rely upon (search, advertising dollars, fulfilling the hopes and expectations of their customers, just to name a few) as a company would be exponentially improved by understanding true sentiment. They have all of the data that people want. They just don't have an easy way to perfect the delivery and usage of this data.

With this understanding, it's much easier to anticipate what Google will do with their advertising platform as well as their search engine. They are close to perfecting the latter, believe it or not. Most will point to the rapid pace in which Google makes changes to their search algorithm, but that's not an accurate characterization. They made major changes with Panda and Penguin. They made a minor (and completely overblown) change with their recent Hummingbird update. What we see now is close to the end game. Now, all they need to do is tweak it and wait for the next breakthrough.

They have achieved at plateau. Rather than major algorithm changes, they are now in the mode of perfecting the results by turning knobs rather than making the major changes that have hit every year since 2007. The holistic view of Google search that allows optimization to be broken down into the three major components (content, inbound links, and social signals) will not change until the reach a tipping point of understanding social data.

What's the point of all this? That part is harder to explain. For years, I've been reading and experimenting the best ways to market on Google. Now that they've reached a plateau, the anticipation game has changed. Those of us who try to stay on top of current algorithm trends while looking ahead to the changes can sit back for a while. What we see is what we're going to get for a while. It's all about the three components. However, there is one thing that hasn't manifested itself yet that technically changes everything.

The primary reason that Google wants to understand social data and personal sentiment is because they are on a quest for quality beyond the empirical data itself. The data is as good as it's going to get through pure technology. They cannot advance the understanding of sentiment any further until a breakthrough. Today, the great search marketer will be doing two things:

  1. Put out quality content with the proper mix of high-quality inbound links and social signals to improve rankings today.
  2. Put out quality content with the proper mix of high-quality inbound links and social signals with the understanding that once they achieve their goal of understanding sentiment, the quality component will make the search rankings soar.

As you can see, it's an approach that will kill two birds with one stone. There are challenges with the data that Google cannot reconcile today. For example, if someone wants to find a phone number for a business, they might search, click through to a website, find the number, and leave. This takes seconds and technically from Google's current perspective this wasn't a successful endeavor, especially if the searcher then clicks back to the search results and goes to a different site. Even though the mission was accomplished by the searcher, Google will count this as a bounce and a short time on site.

On the other hand, someone might be looking for something in particular, land on a page from a Google search, click around trying to find what they wanted, get frustrated when they can't find it, and leave. From Google's perspective, this was a good visit. From the searcher's perspective, it was an utter failure.

This is the type of sentiment that Google wants to understand. They want to know if you like what they presented to you. They want to know if their information was useful to you. They want to know if a website they "recommended" by having it listed first in the search engine helped you achieve a goal. Today, they can only guess. Tomorrow, they may be able to find out with a near certainty. At that point, we'll see the next major upgrade in search. One might even call it "quantum search" since it would probably take a quantum computer for them to make sense of all that data.

Thankfully for them, they're building a quantum computer right now.

Read more…

Mazda Keys

Content has been the big play for over a year now in the world of marketing. It’s the glue that holds social media marketing and search engine marketing together and it’s becoming so prevalent that the old ways (the ones everyone started using this year) are already starting to become obsolete.

Don’t get me wrong – the techniques themselves still work. The problem is that everyone is starting to get it. The competition level for content marketing at the small business level has gone from non-existent at the beginning of 2013 to hyper-competitive before the end of the year. It’s too easy, too important, and has too many people talking about it for most companies to miss.

Perhaps as bloggers, we did our jobs right. Now, we’re faced with a dilemma – taking it to the next level. Thankfully, the strategy is pretty much the same with an expansion into a two-style mode. By going with this format, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the competition that is starting to catch up to you.

 

Style 1: The Local Content

This is the easy part. For localized small businesses, it’s all about talking to to and about those in the local area in order to build buzz. The concept is this: post content that is enjoyable or useful to your potential customers and they will share it on social media as well as generate an occasional link or two.

It’s the style that everyone’s starting to get. Just in the automotive industry alone, we’re seeing multiple dealers in the same city making videos about how to change a Mazda key fob battery, writing articles about their first shipment of Chevy Corvettes, and bringing in local celebrities for interviews and discussions.

Just because so many are starting to do it doesn’t mean that you should stop. It means that you have to step up your game. You have to make your content better, get more people to share it, and post more often than your competitors. It means that you have to work harder than everyone else, but that’s one of the things that are necessary in order to stay ahead of the game.

 

Style 2: The Broader Content

The goal with all types of content is to become the authority on your topic. We have known for a while that localized content works, but it’s not able to stand alone anymore in most industries because of the competition level. To make it stand out ahead of the competitors, you need to hit the national arena.

This means that you can no longer just be the local authority. You have to get the type of content out there that can resonate with a broader audience. This is only possible if you’ve already mastered the local content style and you have a strong following for it.

Going broad is harder. It requires that the content have a more general appeal. It means that your local following will share it as well and that their friends and family from the rest of the country or world will see it and find value as well.

It could be reactions to national news about your industry. It could be universal help items that are not localized. It could be great videos, images, or infographics that anyone anywhere in the country can like.

It also requires a bit more professionalism than the localized content. An iPhone video might work for a quick walkaround of a new inventory item, but to get the national appeal, it has to be better made than that.

* * *

This is the type of thing that many people fear. Just when you thought you had localized content mastered, hearing that it won’t be good enough to keep the gap large between you and your competitors in 2014 can be disheartening. However, if you really think about it, every new challenge like this is an opportunity to shine above and beyond them.

Change is good as long as you’re on top of it.

Read more…

Social Signals Significance in Search

If you do a search on Google for “search marketing” and compare it to a search for “social marketing”, you’ll see that there are pretty much no similarities. The two disciplines have been separated for a long time and companies usually focus on one or the other (though it seems like everyone offers a little of both). As 2014 draws nearer, the need to keep these two disciplines separate is starting to fade.

In fact, talking about them separately is starting to become a huge mistake.

Search is getting more social. Anyone who is watching the way that Google and Bing present their results and determine rankings on keywords can see this. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (not to mention Google+, which is trying to seamlessly tie in search with social) are all becoming more prominent in search while continuing to improve their own internal search engines. These two facts are pushing us towards a collision course where search marketing and social marketing are becoming the same overall concept.

It is already a best practice to consolidate strategies around a singular overarching goal. That has been the case for years, even before the rise of social and the true harnessing of search. The change that is happening today and looking to intersect completely in 2014 is geared more around the activities that are required to make both sing properly for a business.

Search is looking to social

All that one has to do to truly see the importance of social signals from a search engine optimization perspective is to look at the most recent Search Engine Ranking Factors analysis from Moz. As you can see in the image above, three of the top are social. One may think that it’s a small portion compared to the number of factors, but with the majority at the top of the list having to do with inbound linking, it’s clear that those are all individual portions of the same basic factor.

In other words, if you break it all down properly, you’ll understand that page authority is #1, Google +1s are #2, inbound links are #3, and Facebook sharing is #4. Page authority is an abstraction of the following three plus the domain authority itself, so the actual actions that are at the top of the list would look like this:

  1. Get Google +1s
  2. Get inbound links
  3. Get Facebook shares

Two of the top three ranking factors that one can act upon to improve rankings in Google are social signals according to the survey that gets the opinions of the best of the best in search marketing. That’s significant.

Social is a part of search

It’s hard to do a search on either Google or Bing that does not pop up something from a social perspective. Bing recently integrated Pinterest directly into their image listings. Google+ pages are instantly added to any search where a business is associated.

Searching for companies by name will yield the company website first followed by a flurry of social and review sites. If the Facebook and/or Twitter accounts are active, they’re almost certainly listed on the front page of search results.

Taking it a step further, most social sites are working their own variations of internal search engines to make content on the sites themselves easier to find. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are constantly tweaking their search engines to show more, more, and more.

What it all means

There can no longer be two separate strategies for search and social. To try to separate them is like trying to serve portions of a meal at different times. Instead of giving them spaghetti and meatballs, you would be serving the spaghetti noodles first, then bringing out the sauce and meatballs on a separate plate when they were done with their noodles. It’s an odd analogy, but that’s really what many businesses and marketing agencies are doing with search and social.

The strategies must be unified. It has worked okay in 2012 and 2013 but as we draw near to 2014, the distances between the two disciplines must be removed. We cannot treat them as two different disciplines. They should be worked together with an overall strategy that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Read more…

Very Busy

The worlds of automotive social media and automotive search marketing are converging. We've known this for a while and I've been preparing for the collision in order to help our clients make the most out of the changes. The only thing I wasn't expecting was how tremendously complex it all was going to be.

For the last month, we've been pushing hard to help educate and assist dealers on both fronts, but social media has been my primary focus. Most know that I spent the early part of my career focused almost solely on search but the transition from search to social has been happening for a couple of years now. Today, I'm happy to say that the transition is complete and I'll be discussing more about the merging disciplines over the coming months.

To those who inquired, who were checking to make sure I hadn't fallen off the face of the earth, thank you for your concern and all is well. In fact, it's all very well. I'm continuing to explore new and innovative techniques that dealers can use to enhance their social media presence.

This leads me to the point of this post. I'm looking for participants, those willing to engage in case studies and discussions about the merging search and social marketing future that we all face. It can be dealers or vendors - I'm not picky. I just want to get some people together to bounce off ideas over email, at the upcoming conferences, on Google Hangouts - anything that works to make the industry better at the two most important components of marketing for 2014. If you're interested, contact me or leave a comment below.

The goal is to put out the best educational content available on the subjects. I'm not being completely altruistic with this - the more I learn, the better I can make our products. I've spent the last six years honing my skills in a bubble. Now it's time to take what I've learned and enhance it with what you all know. I look forward to seeing this move forward.

Read more…

Catch Me If You Can

There are always going to be those who are real experts offering real products or services with proven strategies and the ability to make changes to their techniques as the market and industries change. There are also always going to be those who put on the uniform, slide on the aviator sunglasses, and pretend like they know how to pilot a passenger jet. Sadly, the latter is starting to outnumber the former, particularly in the world of search marketing.

It happens in many industries, particularly ones where things get easier. For example, owning a custom computer shop was a nice, tight niche just a few years ago. Now, you can drop a paper airplane off a building and have a 50/50 chance of hitting someone who can build a custom computer. It isn’t that they are faking. It’s that the modular design and cross-compatibility of computer hardware components has made building custom computers as easy as building a LEGO house.

The arena of search marketing is different. In both PPC management as well as search engine optimization, there has been a tremendous influx of experts and services filling the ears and inboxes of prospective clients. It’s not that it is easier than it was in the past. In fact, it’s harder today than it has ever been in the past, particularly with the complexities, risks, and quality needs of SEO. The reason that it’s growing is because the pitch is easy. Search is obscure. It’s super easy to fall for the wrong pitch because they’re all starting to sound the same.

In Catch Me if You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio‘s portrayal of the infamous Frank Abagnale Jr. was an example of what I’m seeing more and more of today in the search marketing world. It’s a matter of being able to talk the talk and winging it when it comes to walking the walk. Everyone says the buzzwords. Unique content. Targeting competitors’ cities. Market coverage. Link building. Social signals. I’ve heard pitches from people who can barely spell “SEO” that made them sound like their services were rock solid until you asked them detailed questions or demanded more than one or two example of successes.

Therein lies the two biggest problems. Those who are buying SEO don’t know the right questions to ask or what the correct answers should be. More importantly, every vendor in the industry has at least a couple of examples of where their clients are ranking well even if they had no hand in making it happen. This happened to me first hand this week when a site that I had optimized to rank well two years ago was used as an example of search dominance by their website provider. Their rankings had fallen in the two years since we had optimized them but they were still good enough to be an example of this web provider’s excellence.

There’s really no way to fight this, unfortunately. For my own company, I’ll be collecting dozens of examples of SEO domination to give to the sales team, but what about the smaller companies that are doing it right? If they have a dozen clients and they’re all doing very well, they still look bad compared to the giant company with 2000 clients that has 8 examples of good performance. Is there a solution? Is there a way to wake up the industry and show them how to tell the difference between aggressive, solid search marketing and the type that isn’t worth a buck, let along hundreds or thousands a month?

I will be taking the comments from this post and applying them to the Automotive SEO Study.

Read more…

The Penguin has landed

Penguin 2.0 landed on May 23rd. So far I'm not impressed with what I am seeing. Dealer sites are dropping off the rankings. Most are blissfully unaware. They see their dealership in the map results and assume everything is OK. But the actual search results had entirely different people in them than a week ago. In some cases the dealership is still in the results but with their mobile site. One I was keeping an eye on dropped 65 spots, that's a 7 page drop from the #1 position. Luckily they are relaunching their site this week and should settle back at the top with their less spammy site.

Read more…
Google Penguin 2.0

There are two frames of mind amongst search marketing professionals when it comes to major updates such as the Google Penguin update last year and the upcoming Penguin 2.0 algorithm update. Some start to panic as they’ve seen these algorithm updates force companies to make major changes. In some cases, companies have had to close down because adjusting was just too much to bare. The other perspective is that these changes bring the game of optimization more in line with quality over quantity, strategy over brute force, and perhaps most importantly, art over science.

That’s what’s expected with the upcoming update based upon a mixture of common sense and some pointed Tweets by Google’s spam czar, Matt Cutts. The pursuit of quality links instead of having a large inbound link portfolio has been the focus of Google (and Bing) for over a year now and the coming update will likely be more of the same.

The art aspect of it all comes down to getting more value out of higher-quality content that can be enjoyed by real people versus meaningless links outside of content or on sites that have no real value to the search engines. Before, it was easy to stuff links on as many sites as possible to get the juice necessary for SEO. It made it to where the science was dominant – automated platforms, bulk link submission tools, and link generating scripts once ruled the search marketing world. Today, one strong article or infographic on a high-value website can get websites more coveted link juice than literally thousands of low quality links. This is where the artistry comes into play.

As businesses and marketing agencies continue to hone their skills and progress their strategies, it’s important that they understand this dynamic. It’s no longer a good thing to have dozens of link builders hitting up websites. Today and into the future, strong content creators with the connections to get their content placed on relevant and trusted sites are the most sought after resources in the industry. Everyone else is simply spamming up the system and Penguin 2.0 will punish those who do not adapt.

Read more…

Top Listing in Google

The statistic or something similar to it has dominated the sales pitches and marketing materials of search engine optimization companies for a very long time. I just saw a mention of it in an article from 2005 and it’s been reiterated again and again ever since. Nearly every study seems to come to the same conclusion. Nearly every study is wrong, at least from a business perspective.

If you torture statistics long enough, you can make them say anything you want. I could go into a long-winded breakdown of why this is a completely bogus statistic, but I’m going to appeal to common sense instead. If you take a second to think about it, the reality of search engine optimization becomes very clear.

If you include all searches, the number is probably accurate. The problem is that the majority of searches should not be considered when judging the importance of the top ranking in Google. They aren’t the type of keywords that need to be optimized. For example, the top keyword for 2012 was “Facebook”. It was searched for over 3 billion times a month in 2012. People wanted to go to Facebook, so they searched for it in Google. It’s the safest way to avoid the challenges of typos that take you to the wrong place, so they search for it. Guess what the first listing is for that keyword? What percentage of those 3 billion monthly searches do you think clicked on the top listing?

The second most searched keyword was “YouTube”, followed by “Hotmail”, and then “Google” (yes, people searched for Google in Google). Again, the top listing gets the lion’s share of those searches.

From a business perspective, the top keyword for the vast majority of companies will be by name. People who do a search for Dell with find dell.com at the top and that’s exactly what they’re going to click. People who search for “Richmond Ford” were looking for Richmond Ford and will click on the top listing which is.

The other searches, the important ones that people type in when they’re looking for something other than a specific company or website, are the money terms. They’re the ones that you will want to rank for in order to drive additional traffic to you website. These are the searches that drive down the numbers from being so high (near 100% when people do a search for Hotmail, for example) all the way down to 42%. Why? Because when people do these types of searches, they’re looking for choices. They’re not looking for a single website in particular. They’re looking for the right website. They will scan the listing and pick out pages that seem to match their needs.

People who are searching for “Richmond Ford” know what they want. People searching for “Virginia Ford Dealers” want options. It’s easy for richmondford.com to rank at the top for “Richmond Ford”, but the ability to rank at the top for “Virginia Ford Dealers” is the key to moving the needle. For those searches, the top listing does not get 42% of the clicks. The top listing gets more than the second listing, which gets more than the third listing, which gets much more than the fourth and fifth listings, which get much more than the next five listings. I’m not saying that being at the top isn’t important.

I’m saying that the right search strategy for the majority of businesses that have a diverse range of keywords that can drive relevant traffic to their site is to get the top spot for as many keywords as possible, but also top 3 listings for other keywords and even top 5 listings for others. Getting more keywords is more important than getting the top listing for fewer keywords.

The same effort that it takes to get the top listing for a challenging but semi-relevant keyword can be used to get top 3 or top 5 listings for dozens of other keywords. This is where the needle is moved. This is where the traffic is increased. Once the wide strategy is in place, it’s good to go back and move them up even further, but don’t get hung up on getting the top listing for single keywords. It’s good for ego but not necessarily for traffic.

Read more…

Hands Talking To Each Other

Let’s first take a moment to let the cover image of this story wear off a bit. It’s pretty freaky, I know. Once that’s done, let’s talk about how the evolution of search marketing has come to the point that we need to use freaky images to get your attention.

SEO and PPC are very different which is why for years it has been okay to have one company running one and another company running the other. They have always been complementary of each other but they didn’t necessarily have to talk to each other. The separation between paid and organic has for some time been considered a positive – trying to do both is hard because of the potential conflict in strategy and purpose.

Things have changed in 2013. The two must talk to each other. Whether it’s two different companies working each separately or through a single company that handles both with different departments, the best way to have a solid search marketing strategy is by making sure that efforts on both fronts are truly working together. When done properly, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Here’s why:

  • PPC Focus on Organic Weaknesses – SEO takes time. PPC is instant. When there are important keywords that are lagging from an organic perspective, the fastest way to bridge the gap is through PPC.
  • Organic Cannibalization – This is a debate that I would love to have with any search professional. If you’re ranked at the top organically for a mid-level search term, you don’t need to pay as much for it (or even buy it at all). Studies have shown that for the types of mid-level search terms that garner clicks based upon choice rather than position, PPC can take organic clicks away and yield the same basic results as not buying that keyword in the first place. In other words, the money is spent but the clicks don’t measurably increase. There is a very specific strategy behind identifying these types of keywords that would take more than this blog post to flesh out, but when the two sides are communicating, money is saved on the same number of clicks. In essence, ROI goes up as a result.
  • Double Down Principle – There are certain keywords with which it makes sense to dominate from both a paid and organic perspective. This is where having a shared understanding of the analytics driving both comes into play. For example, is a page ranks at the top organically, a consolidated strategy would have the paid listing pointing to a different landing page. When people click through to one, then the other, they’re greeted with two different types of propositions.
  • Rightsized Budgets – This is arguably the most important reason to have organic and paid talking to each other, even being the same entity. There are times when services should compete, but this isn’t one of those times. When the dollars are being managed separately, both sides want more of the budget to prove success. When the budgets are consolidated, the goals align to achieve the most high-value clicks for the amount of money being spent regardless of which hand is doing the spending. It’s the best path to achieve the highest ROI on search marketing spend.

Take a look at your paid and organic search companies. Are they talking to each other? Are either saying that they don’t need to talk to the other because they work independently? If so, it may be time to look at someone else because that sort of thinking is antiquated. Get the two hands talking to each other as soon as possible.

Read more…

SPONSORS