In 2017 we cant as small businesses we cant afford to stay in the sidelines and watch as this mammoth takes over and ruins our local small businesses for good. The state of technology and its advance, cripples us that are not in the know, and catching up is costly and time consuming.
Whilst I know that this video is not local to South Africa, the battle to educate is real, and it doesnt change, no matter what country you are in. The truth is that we access the internet via Google, Facebook, Twitter, the list goes on… And if we are not going to be thinking like you and me, and accessing our niche market via the same means we use those platforms then we are doing something wrong.
You have to know that not every paid online advertising model is a perfect fit, for example, a roofing company will have to follow a completely different solution to a blanket manufacturer. Such is the same for a publisher vs a marketplace. Im not saying that you wont need to advertise online, it really depends if youre growing a following or selling something. If youre wanting to do both, then you need to be looking at an earned media and paid for strategy.
All in all this is a great clip that highlights the conundrum from both sides.
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Google unpacked a prominent update to its search results page for ads. Google will no longer be listing ADS down the right hand column, for desktop queries like before. The Ads units have been increased from 3 ad blocks per search results page, and the fourth will be at the bottom of the page if Google determines as “highly commercial queries.” Only 2 exceptions to this new rule apply, those are the product listing ads (PLA) boxes and the ads inside the Knowledge Graph.
This is a major change that will affect organic search. In as many ways! Like most moguls, Google is not blind to the upsurge of mobile traffic that has occurred over the last 24 months, in fact its growing faster than the advent of the web. The new layout of desktop search results will look like that of a mobile SERPS, is said to facilitate better accurate mobile search results (aligned to your intent) like Instant Answers and provide better performance for the advertiser’s ads.
What’s not unclear is that Google are the masters of this thing called “intent” and the true nature of search is such: Users actively ask google a question, “what is, where is, how do I?, best recipe etc.” add to this The Knowledge Graph which determines the understanding of the difference between an informational query VS a transactional query.
If a consumer searched to purchase something like an IPad, Google would see it as a bad user experience for that consumer, for if the searcher/consumer had to sift through the organic listings first to only to get to user manuals and other irrelevant listings.
The value proposition is entirely suited to Google’s Programmaticadvertising product AdWords, suited to the mobile consumer, and after years of Matt Cutts from Google stressing about the value of content for ranking purposes, its quite evident now, that this no longer applies.
Already in mobile results we have started seeing that there aren’t any organic listings above the fold! Try searching this from your mobile, “makeup brushes” and you will see that there are now 7 ad spaces, 4 above the organic listings (that are below the fold), and 3 at the bottom of the page. See Below Image.
Mobile search results
The new ad layout model predicts organic SERP genocide, as per the above, excluding the impact that Instant answers will have on search results, we also have to compete with the move on Googles part around local search (most chrome browsers in SA now auto redirect to google.co.za) coupled with a local competitive search result type (Part 3) that will now be positioned after Instant answers, or before that if noinstant answer content exists, and before organic listings. You may feel that the coverage of the screen won’t have a that much of a dramatic impact, but, displaying 4 – 7 ad units on nearly all mobile queries will undoubtedly have an effect on all advertisers.
The key here is not to lose your marbles and throw in the towel, but rather take the time and research what changes have been made to search algorithms, how these will affect your marketing efforts and what the level of importance is, such as the causation for your online business if the search platforms are updating 600 odd times a year, and your online tactics are not. If all else fails, get a reputable SEO to assist you.
In the last part of this article, I will be outlining the last reason you should give up on ranking #1 organically in google search.
The blatant audacity that this article suggests, probably doesn’t site sit well with those of you still chasing that elusive position of organically ranking at #1 in Google, or those of you who have paid an agency or SEO to rank you at #1.
Firstly, this practice directly contravenes the SEO code of ethics, and in my book, utterly unethical. So if that is what you have been sold or are selling, the truth is, the game has changed and the opponent is now a Google AI algorithm.
Let’s examine the Google “snippet review” or more accurately “instant answer” the new artificial intelligence algorithm that answers what appears to be fairly simple questions:
Nifty isn’t it? Especially for the consumer experience on Google right? And what about those mobile searches for the answer you don’t need to search for, fabulous for the consumer….But this means something totally different for us who operate in this market.
The anatomy of the helpful yet equally damaging instant answer is broken down like this:
The “intent / preposition” of the person (asking for information)
The best answer for the query is determined by Google bots, and unbelievably they are not even closely related to previous metrics like DA, organic rank or SEO
Wikipedia is the unintended “provider” of the most information due to the structure of their content and the mass of content they have
Why is this bad for us? The causation here is that although Wikipedia denied it at first, it has subsequently lost considerable direct traffic due to Knowledge graph, almost as much traffic as the links that rank in position 2, 3 under the instant answer, will have no doubt lost.
Why so? The searcher not only gets an instant answer, but instant gratification too! Google answers the question, quantifies that answer down the right hand column, so great for the mobile user looking for an instant answer.
But what about marketers? While its clearly a move to support mobile first, for Google, and I’m not saying I’m against it, it was bound to happen, the reality is that this presents an issue for marketers online, as most websites don’t lift their “skirts” and bear all, the strategy is generally designed to get the user to their site before the user is rewarded with the answer / solution / product.
This new algorithm kind of throws that ranking first thing on its head now doesn’t it. Although this seems fatalistic there is a key learning here, instant answers are not available for all queries, not by a long shot. But it won’t be that way for long, that much you can be assured of.
You would be best advised to create key content pieces that provided useful information and “structured” information, and if done correctly your content could be selected by “Instant answers” and while no data exists yet for the CTR on instant articles, or the digital brand lift if any on the source sites, what I can tell you with certainty is that all things being equal if your social and site was optimised correctly, you had this valuable content I’m talking about, you optimised “everything” you posted, had a solid strategy, then ranking for number #1 would be obsolete as featuring in the instant answer box essentially means that you are the new #1.
In conclusion, and this is not a declaration, rather it’s a thought I can’t help pondering, let’s assume that Google Knowledge Graph and Instant Answers do have a devastating impact on Wikipedia traffic and manage to unintentionally squash the giant that is Wikipedia, what does that then imply about the power that Google has…. Or the ability for us to compete in an environment that is now clearly biased and of course Google answering the questions for us.
Content is the only answer, content is the very lifeblood of the internet, without that we have nothing but a newspaper insert section of useless advertising online.
In my next article Ill be discussing the next reason why you won’t be ranking in position number 1 in a hurry.
At any given moment (micro moment) people are searching for content online based on their intent. It’s no longer about the best TV campaign, the best banner campaign, homepage takeover, the best AD campaign, it’s not about the biggest billboard or the or the best radio campaign, it’s all about a brands OMNI PRESENCE and the searchers / consumers INTENT.
Many retailers are feeling as if their business is under siege, some even going as far as saying its retail apocalypse. In essence however it is an opportunity for brands and business to shift with the times, and break free of the old way of marketing and thinking. I’m not saying ditch your hard earned skillsets, just expand on them.
I’m also not negating the historically inspirational tactile experience that you get when you actually go shopping at a store you love. I doubt mobile will eradicate going to a store, but it definitely adds something new to the mix of marketing tools we have available.
Mobile and Retail Converge
It’s as if the smartphone has become the sales assistant. Deep down in the core of it, mobile retail experiences CAN provide that all time feel good, especially when finding deals directly in line with the consumers INTENT and or purpose.
There are a fair amount of retailers and coders that are upping the game and turning our smartphones into the all-time instant gratification, discovery and inspirational tools under the sun, therefore evolving the (dare I say it) “traditional experience”.
The rapid increase of, shopping apps, online video, gaming and online platforms like social media has most people glued to their devices. People are no longer meandering the isles and isles of goods in stores, they no longer go from shop to shop by foot or car.
The reality of local retail and search
We have learned this last year, is that the relationships have changed between digital and retail stores, and there are 3 new realities that are peeking their heads into consumer data understanding, and these realities are predicted to drive retail from a digital perspective though out 2016 and beyond.
1: The in-store shop assistant IS the smartphone
2: In store traffic CAN be driven via digital
3: An Omni presence approach will help brands tackle the various shopping styles and habits thereby locking in consumers
What’s evident, and key to understanding this, is that there are some techno savvy retailers that are reaching their customers by focusing on the online conversion journey and not so much on where that sale happens.
The “on-the-go” consumers, do their research online, averaging about 15 hours per week. In the search data game we call them “snack shoppers” they like to take things at their pace, and research across all devices, smartphones, tabs and desktop, at any time they find convenient, even in front of the TV.
So iteratively, all the data tells us to focus on the journey of the consumer, be there for the consumer at every turn, be helpful, be present, be authentic, but be there. And by there I mean omnipresent.
It’s a common misunderstanding and myth that if a searcher finds something online that they want to purchase that they will inevitably want an online store to do so, but local search data tells us a different story.
Local online information can motivate instore visits, let’s look at what the data says about the information the consumer finds helpful in making a purchasing decision.
3 out of 4 searchers who find local information results are more likely to visit the actual store
42% of IN STORE shoppers search for information IN STORE
64% of those use search engines
75% would like the price of the item at a local store
74% would like to know what’s in stock at a local store
66% would like the location of the nearest store with said item
63% would like details about the store like hours of operation and phone number
59% would like a map showing the stores that hold said item
56% what else is available at the store that carries the said item
Here’s the slammer, ALL research for a consumer begins with a search engine, VS an app or a mobile site, immediacy and proximity are very important as 69% of searchers expect the store / product / business to be located within 8 – 10 kms of them, and more than 50% want instant gratification and want to purchase within the hour, a micro moment showing its head again. Mobile influences the consumers purchase decision, as data shows that 93% go on to buy!
The new consumer is so spoilt for choice, the new tech has delivered new opportunities, but this surplus also means that the new mind set has implications, according to a study done by Google, TNS and Ogilvy.
The new consumer mind set shop with the same purpose that they consume content. Bringing us back to the user’s intent. Purpose equals purchase, they want sustainability, media that virtually matches the purpose they lead their lives with, and this perspective in turn helps the consumer fulfil their interests, needs, wants and desires. This study also revealed that 42% of the “new consumers” chooses brands that actively engage with them on their passions and interests, VS those who did not.
Humbly we say goodbye to the feel good tactics that brands used to use in the past, who’s love affair with TV was scheduled around the seasonal happenings, split by the time of the day and totally dependent on broadcast media.
The learning here is simple, digital is a powerful metric of connection for the brand / store and the consumer, retailers should use online presence that is amplified by solid SEO and tools such as; mobile CRM, mobile apps, mobile ads, video, search data, geo targeting, and local ad inventory to best position themselves for the dawn of generation C and the millennial age.
There is much ado about programmatic buying and advertising in the arena lately, it’s a little like teenage sex, everyone is talking about it but nobody is doing it right… yet.
The attraction to programmatic cannot be denied, from purely a pricing perspective the efficiency that it harnesses must be appreciated, its ability to bring immediate returns and showcase how messaging is optimised is awe invoking and it also offers scalabality never before seen.
That being said, there are some flaws with programmatic that nobody wants you to know about, it’s not a bed of roses or pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and here is why:
By now we all know that transparency is the key, there is a severe lack of transparency in its pricing model, and agencies and businesses alike want more insight regarding the “agency Std” vs the costs of media and the technology. So a lot of businesses are taking programmatic in house to try and bridge this gap.
So while efficiency is apparent, transparency is not. In many a way this in turn makes the whole process of transacting ad inventory a “grey area” particularly with location data, and especially when there is a mistrust of programmatically transacted ad inventory that has location data attached. This is because there are a million ways that data is collected for programmatic and we never always know where that data is coming from. A certain degree of trust is required between the DSP and DMPs working with the buyer.
The PVT marketplace
We have seen of recent the buzz around this programmatic solution, that it offers the buyer and seller a pvt marketplace to sell their inventory, however not mush is said about the incredibly difficult task of getting this to work. It’s not a plug and play solution to save costs, its knee deep in data alignment, in-fact if done wrong it can plummet your savings and increase your costs!
Let’s look at the complexity that lies before us with programmatic, the fore running problem we have is finding the right people with the right skills if you are to run this in house. The next issue is that the problems only start once the technology is all set up and ready to go, as absolutely everyone needs to be involved from the very beginning, IT, Creative, Operations etc., next is the issue of marketers who don’t know how to use the data, and should probably be looking to build profiles they are looking at targeting further down the line, rather than exploit them.
You will need a DMP once your audiences are segmented and defined, and again someone inside the business or agency to run programmatic for you.
Mobilegeddon & Social Media
Programmatic behavioral targeting is only possible through tracking cookies which as we know are non-effective on mobile. This in turn limits the ability of brands and agencies wanting a cross device campaign.
Social media networks have something that programmatic does not and that is login data, that allows them to connect with a user’s identity across any device! Additionally, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are buying up programmatic AD serving tech, this means we can be sure that the big boys are playing hard for this space.
URL masking is a prevalent fraud practice when it comes to programmatic, typically a publisher will list their site in the ad exchange as a much more reputable one, and the buyer never knows where these ads are being served.
Some programmatic platforms have access to TV and Radio, but for now, programmatic is not the most desirable plan for branding, yet it it most appropriate for direct response campaigns. If the environment the message lives in is as important as the message itself, you will get more consistent successful results if you attack it from a direct buying angle.
Programmatic is not viable on mobile, nor with social media, so it really only leaves you with desktop users.
Programmatic will also never be able to replace the human or the human touch, something we see is getting more important to consumers every single day.
There are many articles and info hubs online that offer you all the very best advice on SEO, the on page, the off page, the H1, the user journey, the meta this, meta that, oh, blah blah fish paste!
In reality we are all looking for that hack, right? That “one button fixes it all” thing. The hack that defies the need for you to be a rocket scientist. We want instant gratification. Whilst it may look as though I am defeating the ends of justice here, or that this magician is revealing her dark arts, the fact is that these dirty little hacks are totally within your control. Totally.
So here it is, the low down dirty SEO hack guide:
Content is and always will be king. If you have crap content, nothing on this list is going to serve you in any way. Create valuable, informative, rich content and Google will not penalise your search rankings for low quality content. Research has shown that long form content is working better on desktop than this short snackable formats we have become accustomed to. Title your content with short enticing yet descriptive titles, like this article.
Alt Tabs and Descriptions:
When loading content, make sure that you fill in all the area’s, IE: The name of the piece, the description and the ALT tag, as this allows for content to rank for different keywords and terms, as I’ve mentioned before in previous articles.
If your content is authentic and relevant to your audience, your keywords will naturally populate your content, Google has a myriad of checks in an algorithm, and keyword stuffing falls directly under their radar, so make sure your keywords are only mentioned 3-5 times in a copy.
Tech Stack Compliance:
Now this one is a killer, there are so many web developers out there, all offering the most amaze graphic design and artwork, with no idea about SEO, search visibility, google algorithms, code & language, and how this affects search visibility. What I mean is this, if you go to a building contractor and say “build my shop here”, he is not going to enter into a conversation about foot trade and parking, entrances and exits to the roads is he? No, he is going to build what you tell him to. Same applies for web developers. Make sure your sites technology stack is Google friendly, if not, most of this list is probably obsolete for you.
Hmmm, yes the sitemap is very important, without this guy, Google spiders are lost, and the result is the site is literally “lost” in search results. The sitemap makes sure that all of the links and content on your site are indexed in a manner the bots understand and easy to find and follow, the low down dirty hack here is that it should be at the bottom footer on your website for a prime “crawlable” presence.
It’s not as hard as you think, and it’s not a dark art, it’s a geographical locational listing, called Google My Business. It’s a simple process: Go to your browser, search for Google My Business, and follow the instructions. Google will send you a personal code in the post, you go online to the address given and enter code, VIOLA! You can set up your business on Google.
Site Speed & Mobile Readiness
Google are issuing a bright red “SLOW” tag to all sites that are too slow to load, this is very visible from search results especially from a mobile search. As you probably suspect this is in aid of mobile search, dominating search globally, so make sure your site loads fast and that it is either responsive, mobile or you have a mobi version. The dirty on this one is, make sure your site loads in milliseconds, and Google bots wont penalise your site in desktop or mobile search results.
These are what we call Accelerated Mobile Pages and these are pages that are designed to the mobile page’s load much faster, and now with the emphasis on speed and user experience, AMP’s will definitely have an influence on search results. If you’re a WordPress user, there is a plugin for AMP, check it out.
Internal Search Data
This is a wealth of juicy data, the pot of gold, that will allow you to craft the content related to the user’s actual search terms on your site. Need I say more?
Social search is taking the globe by storm, and as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, Tweets can now be found in search results by adding a # to your search term. In Facebook the same applies, if you add a # to a term and a reader click’s on that, that user is taken to all the hash tagged content in that category and or topic! So use your social media platforms to generate site traffic and SERP’s, by staying on top of social media like Twitter, and having valuable share worthy content, you would have achieved what most hope for in search visibility.
As we can divulge, there really is no quick fix to SEO, no low down hacks, but there definitely are simple and effective processes one can do to have a positive effect on your SEO.