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https://relativityseo.com/seo-services/ George Nguyen – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Mon, 06 Jul 2020 14:06:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 What will publishers do when Google lifts the AMP restriction on Top Stories? [Video] /what-will-publishers-do-when-google-lifts-the-amp-restriction-on-top-stories-video-337120 Thu, 02 Jul 2020 14:50:48 +0000 /?p=337120 If publishers can become eligible for Top Stories by optimizing their mobile sites for users, that’s a twofer that may signal the end of AMP.

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As Google lifts the AMP restriction on its Top Stories section in favor of page experience factors next year, it will also open up the framework’s exclusive benefit to all sites: eligibility for increased visibility and traffic from the Top Stories carousel. Maintaining AMP pages requires resources, and with less incentive to commit those resources, it may just be a matter of time before publishers begin abandoning AMP en masse.

During our AMP session of Live with Search Engine Land, Matt Dorville, SEO manager at BuzzFeed, discussed how this scenario may play out and the factors that will determine if and when publishers begin moving away from AMP.

Testing is key. “I think what’s going to happen is eventually people are just going to test by putting the canonical on their mobile site,” Dorville said, adding, “After that, if they see that there is not a drop in the amount of traffic that they’re getting from Top Stories, then they’re just going to make the shift and just let [AMP] go.”

If traffic does decline while testing non-AMP pages, publishers are likely to continue with AMP, at least until they can improve their mobile site performance. “If you are looking at . . . an AMP site that does very well with all the metrics that are shown, it’s going to be difficult to not just ride that out for a while,” he said.

It’s not always about the Top Stories. There are other benefits to using AMP aside from the visibility and traffic boost from the Top Stories carousel: “If you’re getting a lot more engagement from your users when they’re coming to the site via AMP, and it’s just providing a better benefit for the user, then I would think that you would want to keep it,” said Dorville.

It will also depend on your bandwidth. “If you’re going through a major change like a CMS migration, then you’re going to really weigh the amount of impact that’s going to have with the amount of time you’re going to have to put into moving over AMP with it,” he said.

The availability of staff and resources is a key consideration even when significant site changes aren’t on the horizon: if there isn’t enough internal bandwidth to improve the mobile user experience to a point where it matches the AMP experience, publishers may opt to maintain AMP until those resources open up.

Why we care. Organizations have invested resources into creating AMP versions of their pages for the traffic and mobile experience payoffs. However, once the traffic boost from the Top Stories carousel becomes available without AMP, site owners stand to address both issues in one fell swoop by optimizing their mobile sites. This too may require a resource investment, but once site owners are in a position to dedicate those resources, the cost of maintaining AMP will then outweigh the benefits.

Want more Live with Search Engine Land? Get it here:

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What publishers need to consider before dropping AMP [Video] /what-publishers-need-to-consider-before-dropping-amp-video-337037 Wed, 01 Jul 2020 18:05:40 +0000 /?p=337037 BuzzFeed’s Matt Dorville shares what his publication is thinking about ahead of Google’s Page Experience update.

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Next year, Google will lift the AMP restriction on its Top Stories section and instead use page experience factors to determine what content shows up in the Top Stories. This news has publishers reevaluating AMP and their mobile strategy. During our AMP session of Live with Search Engine Land, Matt Dorville, SEO manager at BuzzFeed, shared some important considerations for publishers ahead of the change.

Wait and see. How the Page Experience update affects the Top Stories carousel and competitors’ visibility will be vital information for publishers thinking about moving away from AMP.

“When Top Stories becomes available to publishers that don’t have AMP, we’re wondering where they’re ranking; how many times AMP shows in Top Stories versus [non-AMP pages]; we’re also wondering if the visibility of certain publishers that go off AMP changes in a monthly time frame,” Dorville said of the factors that will influence whether BuzzFeed continues using AMP.

Meeting UX standards without AMP. “The great thing about AMP is it does provide a really good experience for people going and browsing, reading a quick article and then going to something else, so we’re going to want to match that,” he said.

The majority of AMP pages already perform well across page experience factors, Google’s Rudy Galfi told Search Engine Land. Mobile sites that already match or exceed the page experience of their AMP counterparts may be more prepared to handle the transition away from AMP without losing visibility in the Top Stories carousel, as where sites that haven’t reached that benchmark may want to continue using AMP, at least until they’re able to improve their mobile user experience.

Related: Top SEOs on Google’s Page Experience update and what you need to know

The internal bandwidth factor. Maintaining AMP versions of pages consumes internal resources, but so might optimizing your mobile user experience to a point where you can step away from AMP.

“It’s been a really, really tough time to say, ‘We’re going to put a priority on certain things, like tickets for our site that will help speed, that will help things in the page experience,’ but at the same time we have less engineers, we have less bandwidth, we have less people on staff to go and do that,” Dorville said, noting that many publishers may be operating with less staff and tighter budgets due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ad revenue vs. AMP. “We have to weigh the pros and cons of having a website that relies on advertising for revenue which, at times, doesn’t give us the [performance] metrics we would like,” Dorville previously told Search Engine Land.

Removing AMP enables advertisers to explore more opportunities to generate ad revenue, but those opportunities may also result in longer load times, which could negatively impact visibility in the search results.

Why we care. The Top Stories carousel can provide a significant visibility and traffic boost for publishers, which also facilitates their revenue. Since so much is at stake as Google moves to lift the AMP restriction, publishers should take their mobile site experience, internal resources, revenue model and competitor performance into account as they create their own plans to navigate the change.

Related: Will publishers drop AMP when it’s no longer a requirement for Top Stories?

Want more Live with Search Engine Land? Click here for our full list of Live with Search Engine Land sessions.

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The pillars of successful link building /the-pillars-of-successful-link-building-336860 Wed, 01 Jul 2020 11:00:00 +0000 /?p=336860 Create linkable assets and identify relevant opportunities to reach a wider audience.

The post The pillars of successful link building appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Creating high-quality content can strengthen your business’ branding and facilitate conversions, but not if your audience is never exposed to that content. Link building can help boost content visibility via other websites and in the search results.

Michael Johnson, sales manager at Page One Power, explained how to create and leverage linkable assets, identify relevant linking opportunities, communicate with site owners in a way that compels them to link to your content and what to do after you’ve acquired a link during his talk at SMX Next (free registration) last week.

Create audience-focused, linkable assets

“Your links will be as good as your content,” Johnson said, explaining that the more valuable your content is to your target audiences, the more likely you’ll be able to attract links to that content.

Michael Johnson’s guidance on linkable assets from his session at SMX Next.

Johnson cautions against requesting links to lower-value promotional content or product pages as they may come across as paid links, which may also discourage users from clicking through.

Identify relevant, valued and trusted sites for links

Johnson uses the following criteria to evaluate which sites are right for any given link building campaign.

Relevance. Your link should be relevant with respect to both the context of the page it appears on as well as the page’s audience.

Value for users. The page you’re interested in getting a link from should receive traffic and engage and provide value to an audience. And of course, be sure the anchor text in the link helps set user expectations when they click through.

Trust and authority. “Look at the backlinking neighborhood of the website that you’re reaching out to,” said Johnson, “If you see that they are linking out to a lot of spam or are posting low quality content on their website, those are red flags that mean you should probably avoid that website.”

Tools and metrics. To help gauge site authority, Johnson suggests looking at metrics such as Ahref’s Domain Rating, Moz’s Domain Authority and Majestic’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow. With a caveat: “I cannot stress enough, do not get too hung up on Domain Authority,” Johnson said, explaining that, while these third-party metrics are useful for getting a general idea of the kinds of sites to reach out to, they are not used by Google and fixating on them can result in lost opportunities.

Vet every site. Thoroughly investigate each site you want a backlink from. “Always ask yourself the question, ‘In a world without Google, would I still want this link?’” he said, adding, “If the answer is no, then you have to question whether or not that’s an organic link.”

Get creative with your link building outreach

“Sites don’t link, people link,” Johnson said, emphasizing that there are people behind every step of the link building process. “When you’re creating content, think about the people behind that . . . When you’re outreaching to that site, think about who you’re connecting with,” he said.

Sending sincere, personalized outreach can make your communications more memorable and increase the likelihood of building a mutually beneficial connection with another site. One way to approach this is to connect with site owners outside of email, via social media or through a direct phone call.

You should also let site owners know how linking to your content benefits them and their users. This is where having informative, audience-focused content is essential: “If you don’t have a great piece of content, if you’re not really building that connection, they’re going to ask for money, and we don’t want to pay for links,” said Johnson.

“You can also learn from not getting responses,” Julie Joyce, owner of Link Fish Media, wrote in her contributed article Why isn’t my fabulous content attracting quality links?, recommending that link builders take a look and compare the subject lines of emails that got opened with the ones that didn’t.

Related: Is link building dead? Depends on who you talk to

Keep the momentum after the link

After acquiring a link, link builders should send a followup communication thanking the site owner. “If you send a thank you, it really does foster goodwill between your brand and theirs,” Johnson said.

Link builders should keep track of the links they’ve acquired so that they can periodically check on their status. “It’s totally acceptable to follow up and say, ‘Hey, I saw that my link is no longer on the page,’” he said. Finding out why your link was removed may enable you to get it back or signal that it’s time to update your content.

Johnson also recommends paying attention to the internal linking of the page that earned the backlink. Since product or promotional pages are unlikely to garner many of their own backlinks, internally linking those conversion-based pages to pages with a stronger backlink profile can help you funnel link equity to them, Johnson said.

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How in-house SEO teams and enterprise tech can boost organizational efficiency /how-in-house-seo-teams-and-enterprise-tech-can-boost-organizational-efficiency-336424 Tue, 30 Jun 2020 11:00:36 +0000 /?p=336424 SEO shouldn’t be a solo endeavor — how to break down silos and make SEO a part of every team’s toolkit.

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SEO teams are often tasked with improving the organic visibility of an entire organization, yet any given member of that organization can make changes to the site that undo the work of their SEO colleagues. Conversely, when silos are broken down and SEO data and education are provided to every team, businesses stand to increase efficiency across the board.

“SEO done alone gets lonely results”

“You need to actually be engaging other stakeholders within the company who don’t necessarily always have the same KPIs as you,” said Conductor co-founder Stephan Bajaio in a talk during SMX Next last week. The most common reason organizations don’t succeed with SEO is because of these siloed systems in which each team is focused only on their own performance metrics, he said

Bajaio said there are benefits to having SEO managed in-house. “The value of having an in-house SEO team is that they can react faster and [take] action much quicker because they know who to go to very quickly,” he said, adding that, while third-parties can still be useful partners, they can slow down the process in this regard.

Members of other teams may make changes that inadvertently affect your site’s visibility. In-house SEO teams are positioned to prevent this by educating their colleagues on how a little awareness and effort may substantially improve your organization’s overall optimization, says SMX speaker and in-house SEO advisor for Search Engine Land Jessica Bowman.

“SEO done alone gets lonely results,” Bajaio said. Brands should approach SEO with a collaborative mindset that bridges all their teams. Doing so will not only increase the efficiency of your SEO efforts, but also provide other teams with more insights that can help them reach their own KPIs.

Build a culture of SEO by contextualizing it for other teams

Attempts to teach other team members about SEO don’t always stick because they may come off as a one-sided proposition. “If it looks like it’s self-serving . . . [then] you might be wasting time,” Bajaio said, adding, “What you really need to be doing is showing them, in their own context, how the things you’re providing the content team [for example] are going to make their content show up more, which is a KPI for them.”

This approach, which Bajaio referred to as “the internal marketing of SEO,” is more likely to resonate with other colleagues because it empowers them with data and appeals to their respective priorities.

“The SEO team has access to a lot of great data resources, such as Google Search Console, and we build dashboards or ad-hoc reports to share with the engineering team to show the impact of our projects,” Jenny Jiang, SEO developer at Autodesk, previously told Search Engine Land, adding, “Using data to show the impact is really beneficial for improving the relationship between the SEO team and the engineering team.”

The benefits of interdepartmental collaboration aren’t limited to the teams that work intimately with your website, either: Teaching the product team, for example, to use naming conventions based on keyword data can increase the number of units sold. Similarly, sharing the search terms that lead customers to your site can enable customer service teams to work with you on adding FAQ schema, which may decrease the number of calls they’re fielding.

Related: At enterprise companies, SEOs cannot ‘do’ most of the SEO (An article to forward to non-SEO teams in your company)

Evangelizing what SEO can do for other teams, using language and outcomes that they can understand, is how organizations can move towards internalizing SEO as part of their company’s culture rather than a tactic employed by a single team. “When we only contextualize it by SEO and SEO alone, we make it about us and not about them,” Bajaio said.

Use a platform that benefits all your teams

While an SEO-specific tool may aid an individual team’s work, an enterprise platform that can connect the dots between technology, data and teams can increase your organization’s efficiency across the board, Bajaio said.

Giving all your teams access to the insights SEO can yield enables them to incorporate that data into their own projects and may help foster understanding between teams. “Great SEO technology should be able to break down those silos for you and be a common place by which you can have a discussion using data and actually come together as opposed to siloing information,” he said.

Additionally, an efficient enterprise platform can help merge data sets, reducing time spent cobbling together point solutions so that team members can accomplish more of the real work. To increase adoption, Bajaio also recommends that your enterprise platform integrate with the project management tools that your teams are already using; this will bring more of your staff into the fold by supporting their existing workflow instead of introducing a new one.

Register for SMX Next for free to watch Bajaio’s full session on-demand. Here are some additional resources that can help you break down silos and make SEO a cornerstone of your company’s culture:

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Bing brings visual search to product ads /bing-brings-visual-search-to-product-ads-336653 Thu, 25 Jun 2020 21:30:36 +0000 /?p=336653 Currently available for clothing and shoes, users can upload an image or click on a product result to shop for visually similar items.

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Bing has added new visual search features to its sponsored Shopping results, the company announced Thursday. Users can click on the visual search icon in the Shopping search bar or in a product result to search for visually similar items. This feature has launched for clothing and shoes, with an expansion into home decor planned for the near future.

Clicking on the visual search icon in a product result presents the user with a range of similar items. Source: Bing.

Why we care

For retailers managing Microsoft Shopping Campaigns, this feature may increase their product discoverability on Bing’s platform. On the flip side, it may also facilitate comparison shopping, creating a more competitive environment for similar products.

More on the announcement

  • Within Bing’s sponsored Shopping results, the visual search icon appears on product listings and can be used to find other products that are visually similar to that listing.
  • By clicking on the visual search icon within the Bing Shopping search box, users can upload an image or paste an image URL to search for similar products.
  • On certain product results, Bing Shopping also includes a “Goes Well With” section that recommends complementary apparel items.

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How to diagnose and fix a search rankings dip /how-to-diagnose-and-fix-a-search-rankings-dip-336635 Thu, 25 Jun 2020 21:00:55 +0000 /?p=336635 SEO tools and a process to determine what was hit and how to fix it.

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When your rankings decline, your brand’s visibility decreases. That may also be accompanied by less traffic and, for many businesses, that means less revenue. Swiftly identifying the affected areas of your site and the factors that may have resulted in the decline can enable you to reclaim or even improve your rankings.

Holly Miller Anderson, former SEO product manager for Macy’s Tech, detailed her systematic approach and the tools she relies on to diagnose and fix rankings drops in a talk during SMX Next (free registration) this week.

The tools and resources Anderson uses to get to the bottom of rankings declines.

Why your rankings might have fallen

Anderson noted the three possible causes for rankings declines and addressed how to diagnose each. “It’s either something that changed on your site, Google changed something or external factors are affecting your rankings,” she said.

Related: Essential SEO Guide: How to master the science of SEO

Something changed on your site. “This can take the form of a folder getting moved, code was updated or pushed live that broke something, your dev teams unknowingly created redirects, Googlebot is being blocked from crawling and indexing important pages or parts of your site because there was a change to the robot.txt file, maybe something happened to the site map,” she provided as examples of site changes that could negatively affect rankings, adding that these issues are generally easy to resolve.

Google changed something. An algorithm update may also cause ranking volatility. “Broadly speaking, if you notice a sharp decline in your rankings and traffic, it’s a good indicator that you need to dig in and find out where Google feels your site is falling short of expectations,” she said. If competitors within your sector also lost rankings, there may be a commonality that needs to be addressed, she added.

The Google Search Liaison Twitter account and Google Algorithm Update History page from Moz are two resources that Anderson recommends to verify whether an algorithm update actually occurred. Was There A Google Update, created by Search Engine Land News Editor Barry Schwartz, can also be used to surface algorithm update news based on date.

External factors in the market. These factors can range from competitors launching content that is more authoritative or comprehensive than yours to breaking news shaking up the search results for a given term to search behavior swings due to COVID-19, for example.

In the case of a competitor overtaking your rankings, SEOs can revisit their content to improve it. However, there are other scenarios, such as the coronavirus pandemic, in which things are “just out of our control,” she said.

Pinpointing the cause of a rankings dip

Anderson recommends using an enterprise software platform, Google Analytics, Google Search Console and the following checklist of questions to narrow down the possible causes behind a rankings decline.

Which high volume search terms lost rankings? If your high volume terms lost rankings, it may have been caused by a site change that made your page less relevant. Keeping a record of what changes were made and when can enable you to identify and resolve the issue.

Alternatively, your site may have been affected by an algorithm update. Keeping an eye on your competitors’ rankings can validate this explanation.

Did your rankings drop while direct competitors’ rankings increased? “The key here is to look for the isolated incident of your URL rankings dropping, while other competitors remain steady — that speaks more to something that was done on your site that can be rectified to regain those rankings,” Anderson said, noting that this may be tricky to navigate in verticals where expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) factors are at play, such as in the financial, medical or other Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) sectors.

A rankings decline might be a result of your internal teams changing one of the items listed above.

Did any indirect competitors overtake you in rankings? If this is the case, and you have not made any site changes, then those indirect competitors may have made investments in their content or improved their site architecture. Using enterprise software can help you get a better overview of any indirect competitors’ online visibility to determine if this is one of the causes.

Did your domain and your direct competitors’ domains lose rankings? An algorithm update may affect similar sites in your vertical, decreasing rankings across those sites. “At this point, you want to start researching what other SEO industry professionals are seeing in their data to better understand what the algorithm was targeting and how you can take steps to recover your rankings,” said Anderson.

Which specific area of your domain lost rankings? “Getting the answer to this question will help you backtrack to understand if rankings are suffering due to on-page content that was updated or if it has to do with technical limitations on your page,” she said, recommending that SEOs work with other internal teams to compare what changes might have led to the rankings dip.

An algorithm update may also result in a rankings decline for particular pages on your site: “For instance, when the Penguin update was released, it targeted pages where there were hundreds of links on the page,” said Anderson.

Identifying external factors that could affect your rankings

The search results page may change to accommodate what users are looking for. What users are looking for also changes as their priorities shift due to trends, disruptions in their daily lives or breaking news. Here are some tools and resources that Anderson uses to help determine whether a rankings decline may be associated with such shifts.

  • Google Trends can tell you how popular a search term is and how popular it has been historically.
  • Twitter is useful for recognizing events that may be affecting your customers and their buying behavior.
  • SparkToro is an audience insights tool that can help you understand what organizations may be outranking you and which organizations or people you may want to collaborate with to increase your visibility.
  • Glimpse is a tool that tracks emerging trends and can help inform your content strategy for greater relevance.
  • Pinterest Trends provides insights on trending topics across Pinterest. It’s currently in beta testing.
  • eMarketer provides market research as well as data on trends and how consumers are responding to them.

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Content marketing in times of disruption /content-marketing-in-times-of-disruption-336288 Wed, 24 Jun 2020 17:30:00 +0000 /?p=336288 What brands need to consider to produce timely content and stay relevant during market upheavals.

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The coronavirus pandemic and response to racial injustices have greatly impacted what audiences are prioritizing and how they view brands. While these, and other future disruptions, are capable of driving a wedge between businesses and their customers, they also provide brands with opportunities to distinguish themselves through empathetic content marketing that supports both audiences and business goals.

At SMX Next, I addressed ways that brands can seize these opportunities and avoid some of the potentially tragic pitfalls of marketing during such turbulent times. I’ve outlined some of the major takeaways below, but you can watch the full keynote and access all the other sessions for free by registering for SMX Next.

Create a rapid response workflow to navigate marketing disruptions

Over the course of 2020, we’ve seen customers engage with brands that have empathetically and creatively responded to what their audiences are experiencing, while organizations that hesitate or make missteps have been met with criticism. Creating a rapid response team or workflow is one way to set your brand up for success when current events take an unpredictable turn.

Marketers need to audit their existing processes to clearly define what each member of their team is responsible for, what it would take to halt automated messaging, how to get a hold of stakeholders and which channels will be used to deliver those responses.

In addition, each team member should be familiar with your organization’s stance on current events and the issues affecting its customers. Having these conversations ahead of time can expedite the response process, instead of slowing it down with internal debates.

Getting all the members of your organization on the same page about polarizing issues ahead of time can facilitate faster responses and avoid potential missteps.

CrossFit faced this issue in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, ultimately leading to its CEO making comments that he would eventually resign over, and resulting in over 1000 gyms distancing themselves from the brand, taking their affiliate fees with them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ben & Jerry’s tweeted its initial response less than two days after the incident, pointing followers to its blog post Why Black lives matter, published in 2016. In the four weeks following, it published over half a dozen more posts regarding racism. Instead of fracturing its reputation and community, CrossFit might have been able to unite its audience if it had prepared by discussing these issues in advance and delivering its stance in a more timely manner.

Convey empathy in your tone and messaging

In addition to advancing your business priorities, your brand must also strive to achieve the appropriate tone, given your audience and the circumstances we’re marketing in. Some might see this as a compromise, but tone is an important component of messaging, which brings brands closer to their goals — these objectives are one and the same. The difference nowadays is that audiences are likely to be more sensitive to tone given the global pandemic, its economic fallout and movements for racial equality.

Make it a two-way conversation. Directly engaging with customers allows them to tell your organization what their concerns and priorities are, enabling you to better support them. Businesses can use their social channels, SMS, live website chat or other methods to get in touch with their audiences and find out how they’re affected by COVID-19 or other disruptions to their daily lives. In addition to assisting your customers this way, you can also use this opportunity to source more content marketing ideas as well.

Online musical instrument retailer Sweetwater sends individual emails to their customers to ask if there are ways it can assist them.

Scale back your assumptions. A more subtle way to adjust your tone and messaging is to evaluate your creative to identify where assumptions are being made. Many marketing efforts use personas based on data and assumptions as a foundation, but it’s not always advantageous for those assumptions to come across in your messaging. Conveying an incorrect assumption about your audience is more likely to set your brand back during times when people are highly sensitive to current events.

After protests broke out following George Floyd’s death, Suitsupply presumably thought its audience would be receptive to models dressed in suits and superimposed on backgrounds with protestors. The caption also failed to convey what the brand itself would be doing, if anything, to further the Black Lives Matter movement. The images above were removed from Suitsupply’s Instagram within hours after they were posted and the brand issued an apology the following day.

But, don’t resort to generic messaging. Resorting to safer, generic messaging may help you sidestep sensitive subjects, but it also means your messaging is unlikely to resonate with anyone in particular. In addition, audiences are becoming increasingly skeptical as corporations put out nebulous responses to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Brands can be more memorable and strike the right notes with their audience by demonstrating how they’re taking action to help their customers or society at large. Ford, for example, did this by working with 3M and the United Auto Workers Union to produce respirators.

Related: Empathetic content marketing falls flat without authenticity [Video]

Combine search data and creativity to inform your content strategy

COVID-19 has dramatically affected search behavior and, consequently, search results have also shifted to accommodate what users are now looking for. As parts of the country begin to reopen, and as people navigate other seismic issues, search behavior patterns may dramatically deviate from years prior. That does not mean that search data is no longer useful — it just means that more creativity and research are required before making content strategy decisions.

Right after stuff hits the fan. In the short-term after major news breaks, audiences are likely prioritizing their own livelihood and that of their family or community. This is also the period in which search behaviors are shifting as people look for resources and solutions to how current events are affecting them personally, which introduces more variables into the mix and makes search behavior potentially more difficult to interpret.

During this sensitive time, anything brands can do to address their audiences’ urgent questions or concerns will have a higher chance of being well received and any messaging that strays from that purpose will probably be considered noise.

Carefully scrutinize whether your messaging helps your audience, or society at large, with what they’re currently navigating. If you’re unable to serve them at this time, then it may be best to avoid distracting them and instead publish your organization’s response on its website where people can access it when they’re ready. One of the worst, avoidable things a brand can do is alienate customers by taking this opportunity to center itself.

After the initial shock. As audiences adapt to the new status quo, search behaviors will also settle into more predictable patterns (at least until the status quo changes again). At this point, customers may be looking to return to some of their previous habits or take up new interests to help them get through this period, creating opportunities to combine some creative marketing with trends and search data. Here’s an example of these factors coming together:

Interest in the search term “dog adoption” between January, 2004 and June, 2020.

During the six-week-period after the coronavirus pandemic was declared a national emergency, searches for “dog adoption” hit an all-time high. Life Kit, NPR’s podcast about health, money, and other life skills, released an episode providing considerations for prospective dog owners and repurposed that information for an accompanying blog post and YouTube video.

In addition to trends and search data, marketers should be listening to what their audience is feeling, either through direct communication, surveys or monitoring social media. The emotions members of your audience express and the conversations they’re having with one another may help you discover pain points that your content can address.

DoubleTree by Hilton showed that it was in tune with its customers, who were canceling reservations due to COVID-19, by sharing its official chocolate chip cookie recipe. “We hope families enjoy the fun of baking together during their time at home, and we look forward to welcoming all our guests with a warm DoubleTree cookie when travel resumes,” said Shawn McAteer, the hotel chain’s senior vice president and global head. This campaign empathetically supported disappointed travelers by providing them with a safe activity that promotes DoubleTree’s brand while helping it to maintain some relevance at a time when people are traveling less than ever.

Different audiences are affected by marketing disruptions in a myriad of ways, so the right mixture of creativity and data will vary from sector to sector. So long as your content is on-brand, strikes the right tone, attempts to support your customers and is appropriate for the times, it is probably something your audience will appreciate.

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Replay: BuzzFeed SEO lead talks the future of AMP /next-on-live-with-search-engine-land-the-future-of-amp-and-what-to-consider-before-google-lifts-the-top-stories-requirement-335940 Mon, 22 Jun 2020 17:45:00 +0000 /?p=335940 What SEOs need to consider before Google lifts the AMP restriction on the Top Stories carousel.

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Next year, AMP will no longer be a requirement for content to appear in Google’s Top Stories section. This announcement carries substantial traffic and ad revenue implications for major publishers. To provide SEOs with an overview of the news, factors to consider and an inside look at how BuzzFeed is approaching the situation, Matt Dorville, SEO manager at BuzzFeed, joined me for our AMP session of Live with Search Engine Land.

During the session, we discussed Google’s Page Experience update, how abandoning AMP may free up more revenue opportunities, AMP’s uncertain future and more. Here is the complete list of topics we discussed, with corresponding timestamps:

  • 1’00”: Summary of the Page Experience update and AMP restriction removal.
  • 4’25”: How important is it to get your content into the Top Stories carousel?
  • 6’30”: Is the Page Experience update actually news?
  • 9’22”: Top considerations for continuing to use AMP.
  • 12’30”: How does using AMP currently restrict ad revenue?
  • 19’05”: How shifting to a new CMS may impact AMP adoption.
  • 21’35”: Agency and in-house SEOs are reevaluating AMP differently.
  • 24’50”: How BuzzFeed is rethinking AMP.
  • 29’32”: How seriously is BuzzFeed considering Google’s Core Web Vitals?
  • 31’50”: What does AMP’s future look like?
  • 36’00”: Considerations for using AMP as a canonical.
  • 38’30”: What will happen if AMP goes away?
  • 40’30”: What would need to happen for AMP to maintain relevance?
  • 42’10”: BuzzFeed’s branding strategy beyond the Top Stories carousel.
  • 45’05”: What will the AMP removal process be like?
  • 47’00”: What SEOs can do to prepare ahead of the AMP change.

For a more detailed discussion on the Page Experience update, which accompanied the AMP news, watch our Page Experience session of Live with Search Engine Land, hosted by Search Engine Land News Editor Barry Schwartz, featuring Aja Frost, head of content SEO at HubSpot, Marty Weintraub, founder of Aimclear, and Mike King, founder and managing director of iPullRank.

We at Search Engine Land hope this series of live discussions, presentations, tutorials and meetups will help everyone stay sharp and up to date on tactics and best practices. If you have an idea for a session or would like to join a panel, email kbushman@thirddoormedia.com.

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How to track free Shopping traffic from Surfaces across Google [Video] /how-to-track-shopping-listings-traffic-from-surfaces-across-google-video-336128 Thu, 18 Jun 2020 16:11:13 +0000 /?p=336128 Combine UTM parameters and Google Analytics to see how shoppers behave after they click through on your Shopping listings.

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Surfaces across Google enables merchants to display their product listings for free in Google Search, Google Images, the Shopping tab, Google Maps and Google Lens. Google Merchant Center reports click data from free listings, but that’s it. During our Google Shopping session of Live with Search Engine Land, ZATO Marketing’s Kirk Williams and Smarter Ecommerce’s Mike Ryan discussed how to track free product listing traffic in Google Analytics.

Related: FAQ: All about Google Shopping’s free and paid product listings

Without tracking, Surfaces across Google traffic will show up as google/organic in Google Analytics. With a bit of work, you can segment it, though. “All you do is you go into Feed Rules in Google Merchant Center to append your new UTM parameters,” said Williams, who quickly came up with a solution to track visits from Surfaces across Google listings in Google Analytics.

To get started, create the UTM parameters to add to your feed that will distinguish this traffic in your reporting. Google Analytics’ Campaign URL Builder can help.

The next step is to append the new UTM parameters to your products’ links using Google Merchant Center’s Feed Rules. Once this has been added and saved, you’ll need to re-process your feed.

Clicks on Shopping ads will continue to be tracked normally as long as you don’t have UTM tracking set to override auto-tagging in Google Analytics. “Make sure that you’re not allowing your UTM parameters to override Google’s auto-tagging, otherwise when [users] do click through, even on Shopping Ads, it’ll come through as Google Surfaces traffic,” Williams said. To do this, verify that your Google Ads account is set to auto-tag and that the “manual tagging (UTM values) to override auto-tagging” option in Google Analytics’ property settings remains unchecked. Merchants using third-party tracking software likely will not be able to take advantage of this solution, Williams said.

Why we care. Although clicks for unpaid Shopping listings are already tracked in Google Merchant Center, routing this information through Google Analytics enables merchants to track user behavior after the click. This provides merchants with more data on how users are interacting with their sites, which can be used to inform their marketing strategies.

Want more Live with Search Engine Land? Get it here:

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The data problem in Google Smart Shopping campaigns [Video] /the-data-problem-in-google-smart-shopping-campaigns-video-336087 Wed, 17 Jun 2020 16:32:43 +0000 /?p=336087 Smarter Ecommerce’s Mike Ryan discusses why ROAS isn’t a performance metric and why Google limits data insights for Smart Shopping campaigns.

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Smart Shopping and standard Shopping campaigns provide various degrees of control and flexibility to merchants advertising on Google’s platform. However, advertisers need to be aware of the limited insights inherent to Smart Shopping campaigns, as well as what the metrics provided actually convey.

During our Google Shopping session of Live with Search Engine Land, Mike Ryan, product management lead at Smarter Ecommerce, discussed what advertisers need to be mindful of with regards to these potential problems.

Smart Shopping campaigns, which use machine learning to automate bidding and placements, are a convenient option for advertisers and merchants that don’t have the bandwidth to manage standard Shopping campaigns and also offer exposure on multiple channels. The drawback, though, is that Smart Shopping campaigns don’t provide insights into search terms, audiences or placements.

“If they would be supplying more data and reporting options, the challenge is that it would agitate users because it would raise questions in their minds: they’d want to touch things, they’d want to fix things or change things,” Ryan said, paraphrasing what he heard from a Google employee during the Google Shopping Expert Series in Vienna. Even if they were given more data, advertisers would not be able to make adjustments to Smart Shopping campaigns because all adjustments are automated.

Related: Smart Shopping campaigns: How to test and extract more value from automated campaigns

Return on ad spend, or ROAS, is one of the smart bidding strategies available in both standard Shopping and Smart Shopping campaigns. Optimizing on ROAS, however, is challenging, because it doesn’t actually indicate how profitable your campaigns are. “[It] is just like an efficiency metric,” Ryan said, arguing that ROAS conveys efficiency similarly to how fuel economy describes efficiency for cars, yet many advertisers treat the metric like a steering wheel for their campaigns. “This is like some kind of a false comparison when people think, ‘Oh, I have good ROAS, my campaigns must be profitable’; it’s a big assumption and there’s a huge difference,” he said.

Why we care. Knowing what particular metrics convey allows advertisers to evaluate them appropriately and make better campaign decisions. In addition, being aware of what data isn’t being provided can also enable advertisers to get creative and find ways to extract more value from their automated campaigns.

Want more Live with Search Engine Land? Get it here:

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