Facebook Unveils (Then Veils) New Custom Audience: Link Sharers!

There’s a new reason to start cranking out quality content, folks. Facebook appears to be close to launching a brand new targeting method, one that will allow advertisers to target users who share your on-site content on Facebook.

Yesterday, Facebook advertising wunderkind Jon Loomer blogged about his experience with this new custom audience. It appeared randomly and disappeared soon thereafter:

facebook custom audiences

Normal Custom Audience Options – Engagement

link sharing custom audience

Jon Loomer’s Options

This means advertisers who allow site visitors to share content on Facebook through the use of on-site plugins will have the ability to target an incredibly valuable audience: brand evangelists.

According to Loomer, the feature (in its current form, at least) allows for an audience duration of up to 30 days and lets advertisers create new audiences based on people who either share a specific URL, group of URLs, or, more generally, anything from your site to Facebook. The combination of duration and ability to target users based on exactly what they shared means you can create really granular audiences (which translate to better Lookalikes).

What does this mean for your digital strategy?

For small businesses with little content or relatively sparse engagement, this feature might not seem exciting. If you’re in this camp, get motivated: let the fact that the Link Sharing feature seems to have faded into the ether (for now!) serve as a kick in the pants. Start putting a content plan together and make sure you give your audience the ability to share the valuable, engaging, entertaining resources you create with their friends.

For those of you creating and sharing incredible stuff daily, this new custom audience represents a way for you to blend your content and paid social marketing strategies in a mutually beneficial way.

facebook releases link sharing audience targeting

Benefits to Your Facebook Ad Campaign

This is pretty obvious: you’ve got a new way to serve ads to the people who value what you say or do enough to share it with their network of followers and friends.

By creating an ad set in which you target an audience of those who share your posts to Facebook, but negate previous converters, you can market to a subset of individuals who identify with your brand but haven’t pulled the trigger.

In a broader sense, while the link share audiences will be small, the ability to create Lookalikes of the people who promote specific posts could serve as a useful strategy for introducing new prospects to your brand.

***

The addition of Link Sharing within the “Engagements on Facebook” subset of custom audience parameters adds even more incentive to create amazing content. It also represents an intersection of two major marketing channels: on-site content creation and paid social. If Facebook is experimenting with new ways for advertisers to blend thought leadership and paid efforts, who knows what else could be on the horizon…

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Brand Ambassadors: Choosing and Maintaining a Relationship with the Right Person

Brand Ambassadors: Choosing and Maintaining a Relationship with the Right Person written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Brand Ambassadors: Choosing and Maintaining a Relationship with the Right Person - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit: Underwear for Men

Brand ambassadors are a great way for any company to grow its online and offline business. A brand ambassador is defined as someone who is passionate about a brand or product and shares their love on their own accord.

As more business transactions are conducted online, the consumer journey gets further fragmented. Having a strong brand ambassador program has become an increasingly important part of your marketing campaigns for two reasons:

  1. Even in the digital age, people want to do business with people. A brand ambassador adds a human element to your marketing initiatives and offers someone your prospective and current customers can relate to when they see and hear your messaging.
  1. To effectively grow and maintain a social media presence it takes a lot of content and requires a great deal of engagement to ensure the people that matter actually see your messaging. A brand ambassador can help support content creation, broaden your reach and even add credibility to your brand.

The following outlines best practices for choosing and maintaining a relationship with the right brand ambassador.

How to Select a Brand Ambassador

A brand ambassador’s sole purpose is to present your company in a positive light. A brand ambassador should be someone that gets people excited about your company and gets them drinking your brand’s Kool-Aid.

When the right person is selected, a brand ambassador will increase overall brand awareness and sales. If your brand ambassador is going to be the face and the voice of the company, select someone that represents your customers. The ambassador has to be someone they can relate to.

If you want your brand ambassador to help grow your social media presence, select someone with a large network of active social media followers, but make sure those followers represent your customers too.

Since not all marketing budgets allow for top dollar endorsements deals, a brand ambassador isn’t just someone you hire to be your spokesperson. A brand ambassador program can include your customers and employees.

When targeting your customers to become brand ambassadors, it is important to define what you want them to do. Brand ambassadors can appear in ad campaigns, give testimonials, attend corporate events, write content, submit photos featuring your products, and so much more.Brand Ambassadors: Choosing and Maintaining a Relationship with the Right Person - Duct Tape Marketing

Once you determine the role, invite your customers to participate in the evolution of the brand. You can do this by sending email blasts, and by posting messages on your website and social media profiles.

At the start of the year, my company created a contest to search for our next brand ambassador. To find someone that truly represented our customers, we leveraged our Facebook fans. We quickly discovered our customers were thrilled to submit photos and videos that we could use in our marketing efforts. The program continues to evolve and now includes a dedicated page on our website that allows customers to submit photos and videos in return for discounts and complimentary product.

In addition to customers, another great place to find ambassadors is within your company. The person at the top, the person who answers the messaging apps, and the person who makes the sales calls, has the power to be an effective brand ambassador, once you arm them with the right tools.

By meeting regularly, you can ensure everyone says the same things about the company. Share corporate success stories and anecdotes so they can craft a message that is natural for them to share while they are going about their day. Encourage them to support all of your social media efforts by publishing a calendar of key dates and promotions.

What Should You Expect to Pay

When hiring someone an ambassador, in addition to compensation for duties, it is typical for a company to pay travel expenses (i.e., flight, hotel and rental car) to and from events. Some ambassadors require first class flights and per diem. Be sure to create a contract outlining everyone’s expectations.

While brand ambassadors can be paid for their work, not all require compensation. Some do it because they simply love your brand. If you are compensating for participation, evaluate the investment the same as any other form of media — what you put out should be proportional to what you put in. If you are not compensating for participation, make sure your brand ambassadors have access to free product and other perks you can throw their way.

Maintaining a Relationship

Maintaining a relationship with a brand ambassador requires relationship building. You should regularly check in with your ambassadors to ensure they are still “excited” about your company. Once a month is a good place to start to ensure you are not over or under-communicating

It is very important for your ambassadors to know what is expected of them. In the contract outlining your expectations, include a work and event schedule. If they are generating content for your website, make sure they know the deadlines and send reminders. If they are attending events, make sure they know what to wear, who to talk to, and what to say.

When someone knows they are helping move the needle, it motivates them. Be sure to send event follow-ups and clippings (photo and video recaps). Make sure they are the first ones to know about company news.

The key to growing any corporation lies in having a strong team that can execute with results. Whether you decide to hire an outside spokesperson, engage customers or leverage employees, it comes down to consistency and dependability. If the messaging is consistent and the promises made are things your customers can depend on, your brand ambassadors’ efforts will generate results.

John PolidanJohn Polidan is the Chief Executive Officer of Underwear For Men and regularly offers advise to startups and entrepreneurs on business leadership, marketing, prototypes, patents and lean manufacturing. To read John’s startup story, visit: www.ufmunderwear.com. For his LinkedIn profile, visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-polidan-42936715

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Link Building Mistakes and Penguin 4.0: Weekly Forum Update

seochat-wmw-cre8asite-threadwatch-roundup-768x576The aftermath of Penguin 4.0 has been…surprisingly peaceful! In the days after Penguin was announced last Friday, many members of WebmasterWorld reported that instead of a hurricane, all they got was a stiff breeze.

But Penguin 4.0 also seems to be a slow beast – Gary Illyes only recently announced on Twitter that the penalty-lifting part of Penguin should be taking effect soon.

So I hope you’re ready to follow the news for the next couple of weeks! It could be a bumpy ride, and our communities are a great place to get caught up.

Everything We Know About Google Penguin 4.0 So Far

If you were asleep or on vacation last week and missed the announcement, Penguin 4.0 is here. You can catch up with the above article by my colleague, Ann Smarty. She’ll be updating it as new questions and answers arise. You can also get links to news and discussion in SEO Chat’s Penguin 4.0 discussion thread.

If WebmasterWorld is more your style, the experts are watching their sites like hawks as Penguin continues to leave its impact.

September 23rd, when Penguin was announced, ryandiscord and ThomasHarvey of SEO Chat were looking at the SEO weather forecasts. As ryandiscord phrases it, “Nothing crazy,” was happening. But the theory of Penguin 4.0 was appreciated. Ryan also wrote,

“What I like about this update is that the results of a clean up can happen much sooner. I think it may even be easier to spot which links are being caught if it is page level.”

Users on WebmasterWorld had a similar reaction. SnowMan68 wrote,

“Well that was underwhelming. WTF!”

Ebuzz lent credence to the idea that Penguin is rolling out slowly. They wrote,

“I’ve not seen ANY change in my Penguin hit sites. It might as well not even be announced,”

on September 25th. Robert Charlton had exciting news to share on September 29th, though:

“Gary Illyes in ongoing discussion with Barry at SERoundtable, as clarified that the algo has been rolling out in phases, and that the phase in which demotions will be removed started late yesterday afternoon, ie Sept 28, 2016.”

Penguin 4.0: Some Things Change, Some Things Stay the Same

So webmasters haven’t noticed many changes to the health of their sites yet. There are other things about Penguin which haven’t changed with 4.0. You can take a look at all the things that have stayed the same in this Threadwatch update. Disavow files, for example, should still be used.

Everyone at Google is firm about the fact that Penguin will not do disavows for you. Google was also quick to add that manual link-based penalties will still be given out to sites that Penguin doesn’t quite apply to.

Link Building Mistakes of the Pros and Newbs

With Penguin rolling out, now is the perfect time to talk about link building techniques!

This is an AWESOME thread from WebmasterWorld where users are talking about what techniques don’t work and what tactics are mistakes in the modern era. I can’t tell you how many newbie SEOs ask on SEO Chat,

“What are the best practices for link building in 2016?”

You can answer that, and more, with this thread. I dunno about you, but I’ll be sharing this link far and wide – and probably for years. So what are some techniques that don’t work? Martinibuster cites “publishing your actual outreach template in an SEO article” as one of them.

“Being transparent makes some people feel good about what they do… However, publishing search strategy specifics in public has been known to cause a response from Google.”

Graeme_p writes that

“One thing I did many years ago was to put footer links in free WordPress templates. People used them and I did get links that helped at the time. It worked for a while…but later on it probably looked spammy.”

Keyplyr agrees:

“I did that back then as well and many years later it has come back to bite me.”

Here’s one of my pet peeves that engine and martinibuster discuss: chasing PR and DA! Martinibuster writes

“Nowadays I know there are many who are chasing DA, even though Rand Fishkin discourages the practice of using Domain Authority for judging a site’s worth, describing it as the number one link building myth…”

Bing Academic and Movie Search Has an Intelligent Autocomplete

Bing has developed an intelligent autocomplete for its academic article and movie database searches. This intelligence

“…understands the intent [of a search], and generates suggestions based upon the user input. It won’t give a response until it reaches a trigger point of understanding the intent,”

writes WebmasterWorld’s admin, engine. It’s a pretty neat paper! We take Google’s autocomplete function for granted, and this paper will help you understand that as Bing details the specifics of its development.

What’s really interesting is that this technology may be the first step in analyzing the web beyond links. Give it a read!

Is AI Getting in the Way of Google Understanding Your Site?

This is an interesting thread from WebmasterWorld, a spin-off of their Penguin discussion. As part of their announcement, Google said that they wouldn’t be commenting on future Penguin refreshes. MrSavage writes that Google’s behavior could be creating too wide of a disconnect between engineers and their product.

“…Perhaps it’s as simple so the staff don’t have to field…questions anymore…They are hardly concerned about whatever results are showing. The fact you can search something and get a number 1 or 2 result that are articles completely void of one or more of your typed in search terms tells me they don’t give a S behind closed doors…”

We see webmasters, all the time, who use automated tools and are then unable to fix the mistakes they create. Is Google doing the same thing?

Perhaps integrating Penguin into the core algorithm and creating RankBrain are the first steps towards an automated (and ultimately inhuman or outdated) search engine. How important is the human element? Share your thoughts!

SEO: So, What DOES Work?

Several discussions on SEO Chat have been popping up in this same vein. SEO is changing – the things that used to work don’t, and the things that do seem to create very small returns.

This is especially true in local SEO. Gazzahk writes,

“Manipulating Google SERPs is an increasingly difficult thing to do. My website used to dominate all my SERPs both locally and globally. Heaps of links to link bait made my money pages dominate…”

Today, though, he ranks better outside of his local area than he does inside of it. Besides content and links, what are the keys to great local rankings?

One thing that KernelPanic, an SEO Chat mod, brought up in an earlier discussion is reviews. Maybe, some day, local reviews will eclipse links in importance. What do you think?

Design Your Marketing Emails For Being Opened on a Smart Phone!

On Cre8asiteforums, user earlpearl tells the story of a recent email campaign they ran.

“On a recent large email blast our email provider gave us info I hadn’t seen before: Percentage of Opens by Device. On that blast 92% were opened on a smart phone…KABOOOM!!”

It was a revelation – turns out that the recent emails were unreadable on a smart phone! The tiny screen shrunk the text down and scrambled it into gibberish.

“Next job: Change ALL the emails. ALL of them!”

earlpearl writes. User iamlost has a TON of great suggestions for how to optimize your responses, newsletters, promos, and more for smartphones. Check this thread out for a mobile UX wakeup call!

The post Link Building Mistakes and Penguin 4.0: Weekly Forum Update appeared first on Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog.

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How to Build an Unbreakable Brand Culture

How to Build an Unbreakable Brand Culture written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

How to Build an Unbreakable Brand Culture - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit Pexels

Within every company, big or small, brand and culture must unite to create a solid foundation for a lasting, successful business model. Individually these concepts serve a different purpose, but when combined, they are a driving force that enables long-term and sustainable growth.

Creating a brand culture isn’t easy. It takes a great deal of hard work, time commitment, and patience in order to create an identity that will endure the test of time, especially in today’s ever-changing society. However, there are several steps which business owners can take to invent their brand’s culture:

Step 1: Define (your brand)

A brand is one of the most valuable assets a company has. A strong sense of branding will lead to a stronger sense of pride for current employees, as well as a stronger presence for both prospective staff and customers. Your brand is what you stand for and what you offer to consumers and, in order to be successful, it needs to be unique.

For example, any pizza place can brand itself as a shop that sells pizza, but a truly unique brand has something to offer that others don’t. Whether it’s a unique pizza delivery model, one-of-a-kind toppings or unbeatable prices–they can easily entice people to eat their pizza over other pizza, and they capitalize on it.

What makes your company special? What sets you apart from your competitors? Define this and own it.

Step 2: Write (your mission, vision, and values)

Once you’ve defined your new brand, write down your company’s mission, vision, and values. These should align with the brand and become the words each employee lives by. Companies that develop these laser-focused, non-negotiable values tend to see higher customer and employee satisfaction, as well as increased revenue.

Take note: your company’s values must be committable in order to be effective. Zappos, an online shoe and clothing store, has excelled at this. The company has a list of 10 core values, one of which is simply to “be humble.” In this video, CEO Tony Hsieh discusses these values and how they were ingrained into the company to create its unique culture.

Step 3: Create (your identity)

Utilizing your new brand, mission, vision, and values, you can now create your company’s identity – or how your company will be presented to the public. This includes the visual statement (color schemes, designs, slogans, etc.) that exemplifies the business’ services, employees, and overall philosophy.

While creating it, remember that this identity will become the permanent lens through which your company views itself. It must clearly and accurately portray everything that has been created so far – your brand’s mission, vision, and values.

As an example of a clear and effective identity, take a look at Treadwell, a small flooring company that specializes in building practical, durable floors. Treadwell partnered with Perky Bros, a creative branding agency, to create its entire brand identity – including logo and website design – with only one request: That the identity is centered around “standing upright and walking the walk” to help their clients feel confident in their product. The result? A combination of dark, bold colors with solid geometric lines that embody the strong and confident look Treadwell hoped for.

Creating this identity isn’t always an easy task. If you’re struggling to translate your brand into your corporate identity, a brand activation agency might be something worth looking into.

Step 4: Educate (your employees)

An employee’s personality and character have a tremendous impact on company culture. Employees are often your brand’s biggest advocates, and building a vibrant culture allows employees to thrive and personify your brand in a positive way.

For that reason, each employee needs to be educated and fully understand the company’s mission, vision, and values beyond just memorization; they must understand why each one exists and what it means to the company, its employees and the public. To truly build the culture you desire, these values should be ingrained in each of your employees and apparent in their daily work.

Step 5: Hire (your best-fit prospects)

Beyond educating any current employees, hiring new employees who fit within your company’s culture and share your company values is vital to building an honest brand. Does your company value cross-department collaboration? Do you have a culture where encouragement and empowerment are the driving force for the company?

If an individual’s personality or work style contradicts it, you are effectively poking a hole in the bottom of the ship that is your brand’s culture. A ship cannot float unless all of its pieces work together, and your culture will sink if the wrong tools are utilized.

In addition, hiring top talent improves employee retention, reduces turnover, and increases productivity. According to a recent study completed by Columbia University, job satisfaction and employee turnover are directly affected by satisfaction with workplace culture.

Step 6: Tell (your story)

Now that you have found your brand, identity, and the right employees, it’s finally time to present your brand and its culture to the public. What’s the best way to do this? Storytelling.

A story has the ability to capture its audience by engaging them and evoking emotion. Without a story, it is impossible to hold the attention of the people watching – or, in this case, the customers who are considering purchasing your product or service.

Your job is to tell the story with all that you have built; tell a story that will captivate and convince your audience (consumers) that they cannot live without your products and services.

Result

The brand culture you create should translate directly to the products or services you offer, and how your company interacts with clients. Each piece should line up strategically and creatively to have the maximum impact. When you establish a clear brand culture, and hire individuals who will complement it and carry it forward, your company is more likely to see the steady, long-term and sustainable growth small businesses can only hope for.

Alyssa ArmstrongAlyssa Armstrong is a digital marketing coordinator at Sparxoo, an integrated digital marketing agency based in Tampa, Florida. At the Xoo, Alyssa helps bring her clients’ brands to life with social media management and content creation. She works with clients of all sizes in industries ranging from education and technology to sports and entertainment.

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New AdWords Data, Hot Social Trends, and Other Top Stories from September

I spent entirely too much time deciding on how to open this post. Should I try to cram a Dune gag about pumpkin spice in there somewhere? A little dated, maybe. How about a poetic observation of autumn’s natural beauty? Probably not. Maybe something about the highly civilized, not-at-all-distasteful U.S. presidential election?

Hell no.

 Best of the WordStream Blog: September 2016

I’m sure I’m not alone in my shock that it’s nearly October already. While September may have flown by in the blink of a proverbial eye, it was a very busy month here at the WordStream blog. Today, for your reading pleasure, we’ll be taking a look at the top stories from September, so kick back, sip your pumpkin spice latte (sorry), and enjoy the most popular posts of the month.

1. NEW in AdWords: Demographic Targeting for Search Campaigns

When Google announced that the kind of demographic targeting options that display advertisers have enjoyed for some time would be coming to search campaigns in AdWords, marketers were understandably excited. Check out everything you need to know about these awesome new targeting options in our most popular post of September, courtesy of Mark Irvine.

2. 5 Insights from Analyzing Half a Billion Dollars in Ad Spend [New Data]

Half a billion dollars is a lot of money. So much, in fact, that you could buy New York City’s most expensive condo – a four-floor, 11,000 square-foot quadruplex at 220 Central Park South worth $250 million – twice.

 CTR distribution statistics

Half a billion dollars is also how much advertising spend WordStream has analyzed with its AdWords Performance Grader (which recently celebrated its 1 millionth report!), so Larry Kim dove deep into the data to find out exactly what that ad spend could tell us.

Packed with original data, visuals, and research, this is essential reading for AdWords advertisers.

3. 10 Dos and Don’ts for Sitelink Extensions

In Erin’s words, sitelink extensions are “the king of all AdWords extensions.” They’re so powerful, that in Google’s estimation, they can lift click-through rates by as much as 10-20% – and even as much as 50% on branded searches.

However, as powerful and versatile as sitelink extensions can be, there are several things that you, the advertiser, have to do in order to see that kind of improvement. Find out exactly what you should – and shouldn’t – be doing with sitelink extensions in this post by Erin.

4. The Complete, Digestible Guide to AdWords Budgets

AdWords budgeting certainly isn’t the sexiest topic in PPC, but it’s among the most important. The more effectively you plan and execute upon your AdWords budget, the greater the potential return. However, knowing precisely where and how to get started with AdWords budgeting can be intimidating.

 Traffic intent Venn diagram

Fear not, loyal reader, as Allen Finn has got your back. In this comprehensive but accessible guide, Allen walks you through everything you need to know about how to plan and maintain a solid AdWords budget.

5. 5 Big New Social Media Marketing Trends

Keeping up with what’s going on in social media can be a full-time job, and even experienced digital marketers often find themselves overwhelmed trying to keep up. This can result in missed opportunities to engage with your audiences in new ways, and in our fifth-most popular post of September, Margot examines five of the latest and hottest trends in social media.

6. 7 Things I Still Hate About LinkedIn Ads

We all had a good giggle when, shortly after writing about how much he hated LinkedIn Ads more than a year ago, Larry received an invitation to visit LinkedIn to chat. Despite suspecting the ominous undertones of the invitation (not really), Larry did indeed visit LinkedIn to talk about the social network’s ad platform.

Larry Kim LinkedIn Ads office visit tweet 

Unfortunately, Larry still doesn’t like LinkedIn Ads. In this follow-up post, Larry explains exactly what he thinks about the service and highlights the persistent shortcomings of LinkedIn Ads as an ad platform – shortcomings that could be transformed into lucrative opportunities if they were implemented.

Presumably Larry will be heading off to beautiful Mountain View, California, again at some point in the near future.

7. 7 PPC Trends to Stay Ahead of the Curve in 2016 & Beyond

It’s never too soon to start thinking about how the (frequent, constant, overwhelming) changes in PPC could affect your campaigns, especially as we move into fall. In this guest post, Nancy Kapoor explores seven PPC trends you should be aware of to keep up with the competition for the rest of this year and into 2017.

8. Bing Expanded Text Ads: 5 Things You Need to Know

As many PPC experts predicted, Bing Ads announced that Expanded Text Ads would be coming to Bing in the coming months. While this is great news for Bing Ads advertisers, it’s also an opportunity to get started on the right foot and use Expanded Text Ads in Bing correctly.

 Expanded Text Ads Bing

In this post, Erin highlights five crucial elements of Bing Ads’ ETAs, and how their introduction could affect your campaigns.

9. AdWords Extends Timeline for Transition to Expanded Text Ads

By now, it’s clear that Expanded Text Ads are among the most powerful tools at advertisers’ disposal to dramatically lift click-through rates and improve the performance of their ads. That said, many advertisers are confused about what the transition to this exciting new ad format could mean for existing campaigns. To put your mind at ease, Mark explains exactly what the extension of the transition to ETAs in AdWords means for you, as well as what you can expect during the rollout.

10. Mobile Advertising Statistics & Trends [Infographic]

Did you know that clicks from mobile devices account for more than half of all ad clicks? In our final post of this month’s round-up, Mary offers up a fascinating infographic about the current state of mobile advertising, packed with juicy stats and figures that prove – in case you hadn’t heard by now – mobile is the way forward in PPC. 

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Optimizing for RankBrain… Should We Do It? (Is It Even Possible?) – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

If you’ve been stressing over how to optimize your SEO for RankBrain, there’s good news: you can’t. Not in the traditional sense of the word, at least. Unlike the classic algorithms we’re used to, RankBrain is a query interpretation model. It’s a horse of a different color, and as such, it requires a different way of thinking than we’ve had to use in the past. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand tackles the question of what RankBrain actually is and whether SEOs should (or can) optimize for it.

http://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/7ync4qge3g?seo=false&videoFoam=true

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about RankBrain SEO and RankBrain in general. So Google released this algorithm or component of their algorithm a while ago, but there have been questions for a long time about: Can people actually do RankBrain SEO? Is that even a thing? Is it possible to optimize specifically for this RankBrain algorithm?

I’ll talk today a little bit about how RankBrain works just so we have a broad overview and we’re all on the same page about it. Google has continued to release more and more information through interviews and comments about what the system does. There are some things that potentially shift in our SEO strategies and tactics around it, but I’ll show why optimizing for RankBrain is probably the wrong way to frame it.

What does RankBrain actually do?

So what is it that RankBrain actually does? A query comes in to Google. Historically, classically Google would use an algorithm, probably the same algorithm, at least they’ve said sort of the same algorithm across the board historically to figure out which pages and sites to show. There are a bunch of different ranking inputs, which we’ve talked about many times here on Whiteboard Friday.

But if you search for this query today, what Google is saying is with RankBrain, they’re going to take any query that comes in and RankBrain is essentially going to be a query interpretation model. It’s going to look at the words in that query. It’s potentially going to look at things possibly like location or personalization or other things. We’re not entirely sure whether RankBrain uses those, but it certainly could. It interprets these queries, and then it’s going to try and determine the intent behind the query and make the ranking signals that are applied to the results appropriate to that actual query.

So here’s what that means. If you search today — I did this search on my mobile device, I did it on my desktop device — for “best Netflix shows” or “best shows on Netflix” or “What are good Netflix shows,” “good Netflix shows,” “what to watch on Netflix,” notice a pattern here? All five of these searches are essentially asking for the very same thing. We might quibble and say “what to watch on Netflix” could be more movie-centric than shows, which could be more TV or episodic series-centric. That’s okay. But these five are essentially, ” What should I watch on Netflix?”

Now, RankBrain is going to help Google understand that each of these queries, despite the fact that they use slightly different words and phrasing or completely different words, with the exception of Netflix, that they should all be answered by the same content or same kinds of content. That’s the part where Google, where RankBrain is determining the searcher intent. Then, Google is going to use RankBrain to basically say, “Now, what signals are right for me, Google, to enhance or to push down for these particular queries?”

Signals

So we’re going to be super simplistic, hyper-simplistic and imagine that Google has this realm of just a few signals, and for this particular query or set of queries, any of these, that…

  • Keyword matching is not that important. So minus that, not super important here.
  • Link diversity, neither here nor there.
  • Anchor text, it doesn’t matter too much, neither here nor there.
  • Freshness, very, very important.

Why is freshness so important? Well, because Google has seen patterns before, and if you show shows from Netflix that were on the service a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, you are no longer relevant. It doesn’t matter if you have lots of good links, lots of diversity, lots of anchor text, lots of great keyword matching. If you are not fresh, you are not showing searchers what they want, and therefore Google doesn’t want to display you. In fact, the number one result for all of these was published, I think, six or seven days ago, as of the filming of this Whiteboard Friday. Not particularly surprising, right? Freshness is super important for this query.

  • Domain authority, that is somewhat important. Google doesn’t want to get too spammed by low-quality domains even if they are publishing fresh content.
  • Engagement, very, very important signal here. That indicates to Google whether searchers are being satisfied by these particular results.

This is a high-engagement query too. So on low-engagement queries, where people are looking for a very simple, quick answer, you expect engagement not to be that big. But for something in-depth, like “What should I watch on Netflix,” you expect people are going to go, they’re going to engage with that content significantly. Maybe they’re going to watch a trailer or some videos. Maybe they’re going to browse through a list of 50 things. High engagement, hopefully.

  • Related topics, Google is definitely looking for the right words and phrases.

If you, for example, are talking about the best shows on Netflix and everyone is talking about how hot — I haven’t actually seen it — “Stranger Things” is, which is a TV program on Netflix that is very much in the public eye right now, well, if you don’t have that on your best show list, Google probably does not want to display you. So that’s an important related topic or a concept or a word vector, whatever it is.

  • Content depth, that’s also important here. Google expects a long list, a fairly substantive page of content, not just a short, “Here are 10 items,” and no details about them.

As a result of interpreting the query, using these signals in these proportions, these five were basically the top five or six for every single one of those queries. So Google is essentially saying, “Hey, it doesn’t matter if you have perfect keyword targeting and tons of link diversity and anchor text. The signals that are more important here are these ones, and we can interpret that all of these queries essentially have the same intent behind them. Therefore, this is who we’re going to rank.”

So, in essence, RankBrain is helping Google determine what signals to use in the algorithm or how to weight those signals, because there’s a ton of signals that they can choose from. RankBrain is helping them weight them, and they’re helping them interpret the query and the searcher intent.

How should SEOs respond?

Does that actually change how we do SEO? A little bit. A little bit. What it doesn’t do, though, is it does not say there is a specific way to do SEO for RankBrain itself. Because RankBrain is, yes, helping Google select signals and prioritize them, you can’t actually optimize for RankBrain itself. You can optimize for these signals, and you might say, “Hey, I know that, in my world, these signals are much more important than these signals,” or the reverse. For a lot of commercial, old-school queries, keyword matching and link diversity and anchor text are still very, very important. I’m not discounting those. What I’m saying is you can’t do SEO for RankBrain specifically or not in the classic way that we’ve been trained to do SEO for a particular algorithm. This is kind of different.

That said, there are some ways SEOs should respond.

  1. If you have not already killed the concept, the idea of one keyword, one page, you should kill it now. In fact, you should have killed it a long time ago, because Hummingbird really put this to bed way back in the day. But if you’re still doing that, RankBrain does that even more. It’s even more saying, “Hey, you know what? Condense all of these. For all of these queries you should not have one URL and another URL and another URL and another URL. You should have one page targeting all of them, targeting all the intents that are like this.” When you do your keyword research and your big matrix of keyword-to-content mapping, that’s how you should be optimizing there.
  2. It’s no longer the case, as it was probably five, six years ago, that one set of fixed inputs no longer governs every single query. Because of this weighting system, some queries are going to demand signals in different proportion to other ones. Sometimes you’re going to need fresh content. Sometimes you need very in-depth content. Sometimes you need high engagement. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you will need tons of links with anchor text. Sometimes you will not. Sometimes you need high authority to rank for something. Sometimes you don’t. So that’s a different model.
  3. The reputation that you get as a website, a domain earns a reputation around particular types of signals. That could be because you’re publishing lots of fresh content or because you get lots of diverse links or because you have very high engagement or you have very low engagement in terms of you answer things very quickly, but you have a lot of diverse information and topics on that, like a Dictionary.com or an Answers.com, somebody like that where it’s quick, drive-by visits, you answer the searcher’s query and then they’re gone. That’s a fine model. But you need to match your SEO focus, your brand of the type of SEO and the type of signals that you hit to the queries that you care about most. You should be establishing that over time and building that out.

So RankBrain, yes, it might shift a little bit of our strategic focus, but no, it’s not a classic algorithm that we do SEO against, like a Panda or a Penguin. How do I optimize to avoid Panda hitting me? How do I optimize to avoid Penguin hitting me? How do I optimize for Hummingbird so that my keywords match the query intent? Those are very different from RankBrain, which has this interpretation model.

So, with that, I look forward to hearing about your experiences with RankBrain. I look forward to hearing about what you might be changing since RankBrain came out a couple of years ago, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Build Your Online Reputation with Small Business Review Websites

Online review sites can make or break your small business’s online reputation.

small business review sites

Creating a positive online reputation for your small business is within your control all you need are a few simple guidelines and formulas.

The quickest way to incite a heated debate among business owners is to bring up the topic of online reviews. While opinions and feelings greatly vary, business owners are able to agree on one thing: customer business reviews are an influential factor in a customer’s journey.

Research shows that 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, making it absolutely essential that you have a strong presence across multiple business review sites.

Whether you are too busy, or not interested in doing the heavy lifting, your business’s online reputation is too important not to monitor. Vivial helps thousands of businesses manage their online reputation, whether that is repairing damage, collecting reviews for a newly incorporated business or getting happy customers to provide you with more positive feedback.

This article will provide you with all the information you need, including the best review sites, to ensure your reputation on business review websites is one that opens doors for your business (and doesn’t close them).

The importance of online review sites

There are many different types of business review websites and many have a particular industry that they resonate with: Yelp is popular with restaurants; Angie’s List, which provides information on service providers; TripAdvisor will give you insights for your next vacation.

However, any website where your business has a presence and encourages customers to provide ratings and reviews can be used in your online review marketing strategy — whether you are a quick-service restaurant that is part of a national franchise, a single location fashion boutique or a sole-proprietor who provides services to clients.

Kurt Abrahamson, CEO of ShareThis, told The Atlantic, “Recommendations have more of an impact than brand or price…[our research] found that highly positive online shares can generate an almost 10% increase in purchase intent, and negative reviews can also have a correspondingly negative impact, [reducing purchase intent by] 11%.”1

Digital word-of-mouth marketing

Word of mouth marketing

Online ratings and reviews are the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing, everyone’s favorite type of viral marketing (that is, if it’s a positive recommendation).

Word-of-mouth marketing is when someone (who isn’t prompted) talks about a business (either in a positive or negative manner) to family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, etc. Both online ratings and reviews and word-of-mouth marketing are free, which is a contributing factor to its popularity as a promotion vehicle.

While the low price point is most certainly a pro, the primary reason that local business review sites are popular is because of the authority they yield.

As mentioned earlier, research shows that people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and that it directly influences their purchase decisions. In fact, shoppers read an average of 10 reviews before making a purchase, proving how powerful reviews on websites can be for businesses.2

Receive customer feedback (for free!)

Large enterprise companies pay top dollar to conduct focus groups to get customer feedback; business review sites give you that feedback for free.

One of the best things you can do with the feedback you get from review sites for businesses is to take it to heart and try to incorporate it into your strategy. While not all customer feedback is valid (there will be complainers and people who don’t understand your products/services), being open to constructive criticism will ensure your products and services evolve and continue to be popular with customers.

While not every online rating or review will be game-changing, it is important that you take the time to respond to the reviewer and thank him/her for sharing feedback.

Reach shoppers with a high purchase intent

Online reviews are a great way to reach customers when they are researching for products and services — and getting ready to make a purchase.

online business reviews high purchase intent

Even before they make contact with you, potential customers know a thing or two about your business because they searched for your business online.

Remember, shoppers read an average of 10 reviews before making a decision, so you should try to have 10-15 current reviews up on the three major review sites (Facebook, Google and Yelp) at all times.

Online reviews are only increasing in popularity, thanks to widespread adoption of sites like Google and Facebook. While it’s important to place your business in front of those with a high purchase intent, it’s also crucial for those in the discovery phase. If you aren’t monitoring online review websites, you can’t be 100% sure what is being said about your business online.

Increase your search engine page rank

Online reviews can also help you boost your small business’s SEO.

To see a bump in your page rank, you should strategically integrate keywords related to your small business into your business listing information on review sites. The addition of keywords will increase your business listing in the search results both internally (on the review site itself) and externally (search engines, like Google, Yahoo and Bing).

A lot of businesses avoid managing their online reputation because they worry that Internet trolls will visit their page and bad-mouth their business, which is simply not true! 75% of reviews are positive. And even if you do get a few bad eggs, if you actively respond to the review, you have a 33% chance that the negative review will turn positive.

If the reviewer doesn’t want to revise their post, don’t stress — you responded and that shows potential customers that you value your customers.

The post Build Your Online Reputation with Small Business Review Websites appeared first on LocalVox.

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