Wendy Almeida – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 19 Jun 2019 13:49:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 SMX Overtime: When to use automation to improve account performance /smx-overtime-when-to-use-automation-to-improve-account-performance-318363 Tue, 18 Jun 2019 17:50:11 +0000 /?p=318363 PPC expert Duane Brown answers questions from SMX Advanced about what works, and what doesn't, in smart shopping campaigns, automated bidding and third-party automation tools.

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Although a scheduled presenter for “Automation – The Next Generation,” PPC expert Duane Brown of Take Some Risk was ill and with much regret missed this session at SMX Advanced, he was happy to answer some questions from attendees as well as share a helpful resource for Google Ad scripts.

How long should it take before a third-party platform should be helping your account performance improve? When should we cut?

This is nothing different than running an A/B test on your ad account. You need to know what success looks like before you go into the process of picking a third-party tool. You also need to understand why you are using the tool (is it to help with your CPA or grow revenue). If you don’t know what success looks like, then you can not determine if you should cut a tool or not. To start, I would test a new tool. The first month shouldn’t be a huge change but as we get into months two and three… if I don’t see a performance boost in our account, I will start to ask why. Odds are it is time to cut. Any tool should ideally save you time and money while also growing your revenue.

If you work in an environment where frequent testing is the norm, how do you get over the fluctuations you’ll see due to the learning period of an automated bidding strategy and have stable performance quicker?

You could test less. Sometimes running six tests in a month is better than trying to run ten tests. The other option would be to figure out how you get more data. Most bidding strategies do better with more data to help Google understand what is going on. With any testing, you have to deal with fluctuations and accept that as part of doing business. Even when something fails, you would have learned something from the experiment.

What are your thoughts on smart shopping campaigns? And how to make it perform better?

Smart shopping is great when you have tons of data to back the algorithm. The challenge we face is that you grow revenue and maybe lower your CPA but then plateau in performance. Limiting your performance and growth potential is not always worth doing smart shopping. Also, the black box of data and ads showing outside your target region does not always make it the best option for an e-commerce brand.

It’s the end of the quarter and my boss says: “We need to increase conversions during this last week.” Now that I’m using Target CPA, I find I can’t as quickly ramp conversions. Any suggestions for getting faster results when using machine learning bid strategies?

If you are asking this question, does this mean it happens a lot? If so, it sounds like a communication and education issue. You are not always going to be able to ramp up performance as you see fit. Your boss should know they can’t just come to you and ask in the last week to make it rain for them, especially if another area of the business is hurting performance wise. I would be finding out sooner than the last week of the month if we need to see a higher performance.

How do you know the right third-party automation tool to pick? Are there any studies doing a side-by-side of the top services?

Most studies are either going to be biased and/or take into account nuances that may not apply to you when it comes to using any tool or even picking a rule or scripts. I always start with why am I doing this job and what am I hoping to get out of it. Then I look for tools that can help do the job and maintain the quality of work that we want. It’s also ok to only automate 70% of your work and still have a few manual steps. Automation does not need to be 100%.

What should we consider when determining the right attribution model? DDA does not provide any data.

The right attribution model should move your business in the right direction. There is no right attribution model and it’s a test-and-learn approach as you understand how your attribution model and using that data affects your business. This is not a set and forget it process either.

Need some help with Google Ad scripts? Here’s a good resource.

Here is a helpful resource to check out  – a library of references for 142 unique scripts for Google Ads.

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SMX Overtime: Starting fresh with new match types and account structures /smx-overtime-starting-fresh-with-new-match-types-and-account-structures-315463 Tue, 16 Apr 2019 14:32:25 +0000 /?p=315463 PPC expert Adam Seybold offers advice on how to use dynamic search ads and why first-party data is critical for SEM in 2019.

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Senior Paid Media Manager Adam Seybold of DEG Digital was one of the SMX West speakers for the “Starting Fresh with Match Types and Account Structures” session. Attendees asked questions about SKAG variations, dynamic search ads and bidding strategies so Adam took the time after the event to answer a few of them for us.

How do you address plurals and variation in SKAGs? Do you create a separate plurals ad group?

Addressing plurals, variations and misspellings within an account featuring a SKAG-led architecture is determined by the volume of activity on those types of unintended searches. If the plurals, variations and misspellings account for 20 percent or more of the activity on a keyword, then it should be optimized and added to your account. However, if it’s lower than 20 percent I recommend letting the activity occur since the “juice is not worth the squeeze.”

How would the seller of the red t-shirt on Google shopping keep it off the searches for the blue shirt?

Query-mapping shopping campaign ad groups to relevant searches are how you eliminate the disconnect between what a user searches on Google to what product an advertiser serves on that search. If you, the advertiser, sells both blue and red men’s t-shirts then the creation of both a “blue men’s t-shirts” and “red men’s t-shirts” ad group is recommended. From there, negating the keyword “blue” from the “red men’s t-shirts” ad group and vice versa are how to close the loop and direct traffic properly in your account.

Where should Dynamic Search Ads fit within an account’s structure?

Dynamic Search Ads can be used flexibly to fit the needs of the advertiser. For a majority of retail e-commerce advertisers, DSAs (dynamic search ads) allow the mass amount of products available online to be turned into keywords for targeted keyword mining. Also, for advertisers with a large brick and mortar footprint over 500 locations, those location detail pages can be easily turned into bidding against “brand + location” searches on Google.

Is there a preferred bidding strategy if you breakout your high-performing exact match keywords?

No, but the use of automated bidding supplied by Google Ads gives the ability to bid against certain dimensions that are not possible under max CPC bidding. Account architecture with an audience strategy is way more valuable than a manual bidding strategy in 2019.

What structure and bid tips for searches from either first-time visitors or repeat visitors?

Do it! Use of first-party data is critical for search engine marketing in 2019. Create ad groups specifically for each audience that you want to optimize for your campaigns. It’s recommended to create ad group labels as well for each audience applied to the ad group for ease of reporting and management.

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SMX Overtime: Evaluating and managing your ad options /smx-overtime-evaluating-and-managing-your-ad-options-314690 Thu, 28 Mar 2019 12:00:36 +0000 /?p=314690 PPC expert Sean Murphy offers advice on taking advantage of extra ad space, getting clients onboard with responsive ads and finding untapped click potential.

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Paid Media Director at Red Ventures, Sean Murphy, spoke at the SMX West session, “The Text Ad Reboot: How To Evaluate & Manage Your Current Options” in San Jose. Questions emerged about how to win clients over with responsive ads as well as experimenting with new ad formats and trying new things with hard-close ads so he took the time to answer a few post-event.

How do you get clients comfortable with the idea of responsive ads, when they’re used to approving specific copy?

Murphy: It can be tricky to get clients comfortable with responsive search ads, but I suggest following this process to move forward:

  • Show the Value: Find case studies of RSA’s performing well from elsewhere in your agency or the industry.  You want your client to be an advocate for this new feature.
  • Understand the True Concerns:  Show you are willing to meet their advertising concerns
    • Ensure that claims and their ‘disclaimers’ all live in the same description, so they can’t be disconnected.
    • Pin required headlines to ensure they show in the appropriate spot.
  • Commit to Reviewing Served Ads: Address their concerns by committing to show what ad combinations are most commonly showing with them after the ads are live. Seeing what ads are appearing in the wild can help ease their concerns.

How important is it to reach stat sig (95 percent) when testing new ad formats?

Murphy: Not at all, with optimized ad rotation, the champion ad is dead. You’re not testing a single new ad format to expecting it to be uniformly better than previous ad formats. There’s too much machine learning optimization on top of whatever “statistically significant” A/B test you run. Instead, embrace the move to ad personalization and provide ad platforms with a wide variety of ads to choose from.

See also How Not To Run an A/B Test by Evan Miller.

With so much more space should we push a harder close? Book now! Inventory is running low!

Murphy: Love the thought process: What can we do differently now than before, taking advantage of extra ad space? Hard-close ads have a place in an optimized ad portfolio, where the engine can choose which customers are ready to respond to that messaging. Depending on the search term, they won’t typically stand alone as the most-served ad, but providing an ad for people in that stage of the customer journey is important variety that should improve performance.

Is there more pressure to bid for position 1 with Expanded text ads considering that they take up more real estate?

Murphy: How much your CTR scales with position will vary based on your brand and the competitiveness of the landscape. I’ve been in non-brand accounts where CTR triples from the 2.5 to the 1.5 and where it increases much more modestly. Understanding that is key to choosing bids that maximize value and ROI.  Lean on new metrics like click share and impression absolute top % to help you understand what click potential is still untapped.

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SMX Overtime: How to use customer segmentation to test new value propositions /smx-overtime-how-to-use-customer-segmentation-to-test-new-value-propositions-314633 Wed, 27 Mar 2019 12:00:34 +0000 /?p=314633 SEM expert Seth Meisel shares a real-time reason why stakeholder diplomacy is important. He also delves into 'proof of concept' with testing customer segmentation in Google Ads Customer Match.

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Senior Digital Marketing Manager at ThriftBooks, Seth Meisel, offered his insight as a performance marketer for B2C e-commerce websites during the “Aligning Your Marketing With Your Customer’s Journey” session at SMX West. He also offered a first-hand experience about how working with multiple stakeholders with differing agendas and goals can be a lesson in diplomacy.

Do you trust your Google rep?

Meisel: I answered this during the Q&A part of the session and believe I said that I’d had multiple Google reps over my 12-plus years in paid search. In some cases, previous reps had pitched inefficient upper funnel products that didn’t fit well with our overall business goals. I did mention that our current rep is great because they’re recommending strategies or new products that align well with our current business goals. I’m glad I remained somewhat diplomatic though with my answer because a member of our Google account team ended up being in the audience!

How long did your A/B test take and what statistical confidence level did you use?

Meisel: The IF Function Test highlighted in my talk was more of a “proof of concept” for being able to segment messaging by new and repeat customers by utilizing Google Ads Customer Match and the IF Function in text ads. The test we did went 11 days, so it didn’t go long enough to reach statistical significance. We’re continuing to test different new and repeat value props in this way and look at other customer segmentations on our site like members of our loyalty program ReadingRewards. We also hope to expand this IF Function test into our Bing Ads account, but it requires breaking duplicating campaigns in Bing Ads currently.

How granular do you get with your audiences? Is reversing that funnel to re-format the website (the architecture, CTA location, etc.) important?

Meisel: We didn’t get very granular with the audiences utilized in this test. We used a two-year buyer file and two other AOV segmentations to segment ad messaging buy customers who have purchased from us versus users who haven’t been to our site or purchased from us. But overall, we have around 20 automated audiences via Salesforce Marketing Cloud and a similar amount for Bing Ads via Liveramp. Bing Ads has also released a feature called Ad Customizers for Expanded Text Ads, which will enable advertisers to customize ad copy based on whether they’re in a specific audience or not. At the end of the presentation, I laid out some next steps like expanding this test by utilizing audiences who have completed certain actions. For example, utilizing a customer match audience that is part of your loyalty program

To create audiences for Google Ads, must you have customer email addresses, or can you upload cookie data or other session data so you can target people who have even visited your site vs. non-visitors?

Meisel: Brad Geddes corrected me during the Q&A that in addition to emails, you can utilize RLSA / Website Visitor cookie data to create audiences in Google ads. Additional audience creation options include emails, phone numbers and mailing addresses as matchback data. Also, mobile device IDs as matchback options for customer match audiences. Google also offers audience creation options based on app users, Youtube users and custom combinations of website visitor, customer lists and similar audiences. Google is giving advertisers a lot of other audience creation options other than just email address!

Do you prefer setting up conversions directly in Google Ads or setting up Goals in Google Analytics and importing? Why?

Meisel: I don’t have a preference here and in my current role we utilize conversions via Google Ads. I believe Google Ads counts more absolute conversions when compared to comparable time periods in Google Analytics.

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SMX Overtime: 3 tips to maximizing visual search potential /smx-overtime-3-tips-to-maximizing-visual-search-potential-314592 Tue, 26 Mar 2019 16:05:53 +0000 /?p=314592 Digital agency CEO and author Kristopher Jones offers tips on making budget-friendly video and why formatting images correctly matter for page speed.

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Kristopher Jones, founder and CEO of the digital marketing agency LSEO.com, shared his expertise during the “Maximizing Visual Search Potential” session at SMX West. Jones offers tips for making budget-friendly videos and why indicators point to good visual design leading to higher search rankings.

Making videos is expensive. Please share some quick tips to make good effective videos at a lower cost.

Jones: Too many marketers fail to leverage video as a primary marketing tool because they mistakenly believe that making videos is expensive. The truth is that you can create quality videos with your IOS or Android device and use free or low-cost video editing apps like iMovie, Clips, or PowerDirector to edit your video for length and quality. You can also elevate the quality of your video production with an investment under $750 all-in by purchasing an HD camera ($400 – $600), tripod (under $30), and photo / video light and green screen kit ($150) from BestBuy, Amazon or a similar big box retailer. The key is to think through how and where you want to shoot the video. Consider space with natural light and that shows off whatever message you are trying to communicate (i.e., if you are talking about your business consider shooting video with your place of business as the backdrop). If you are a small business or solopreneur it’s not about how much you spend on your video production, but instead how you can outcompete larger businesses by leveraging video to produce as much high-value video as possible that more effectively communicates with prospective customers, while ranking well on search engines like Google, YouTube, and Vimeo.

Do you foresee “good visual design” becoming part of search algorithms?

Jones: Proper UI / UX design is central to SEO best practices. As Google’s machine learning algorithm becomes increasingly sophisticated, there is increasing evidence that good visual design leads to higher organic search rankings. Simple, responsive design coupled with fast page speeds leads to greater user experience and will kill it on mobile rankings.

How do you balance creating a site with a lot of images with Google page speed rankings that penalize slow sites?

Jones: First off, you can take a lot of the strain off your website and web browsers by reducing image sizes, enabling compression and using proper image formats. Images and page speed are both important to conversions so striking a balance can feel tricky. Fortunately, Google Page Speed Insights provides great tips to help you diagnose page speed problems related to images and other back-end elements. By following SEO best practices, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem developing a website that balances image heavy content with optimal page speed.

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SMX Overtime: Learn the difference between mobile-first indexing and mobile-friendly SEO /smx-overtime-learn-the-difference-between-mobile-first-indexing-and-mobile-friendly-seo-314582 Tue, 26 Mar 2019 12:00:30 +0000 /?p=314582 SEO expert Eric Enge explains that displaying information on responsive sites is not enough in for mobile strategy. Here's what you need to consider.

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General Manager of Perficient, Eric Enge, explained how to construct a mobile-friendly SEO site with good UX during the “Mobile First Indexing & Mobile Friendly SEO” session at SMX West. Attendees wanted to know about page speed, ranking, interstitials penalties and how SEO for the mobile-first index is different from traditional SEO.

Doesn’t designing a responsive site to the best of the search engine guidelines do away with building a site for “mobile first?” Aren’t we just building “sites” now?

Enge: It is true that with a responsive site you’re seemingly building a single site. But, that’s not entirely true. Most likely, you’ll be creating three different sets of style sheets. These enable you to deliver a different version of the site for desktop, tablet and smartphone users.

How you manage and display information within these style sheets is actually very important. For example, your content font size may be too small, or links too close together so they are not easily “tappable.” You may also want to take large blocks of text content and implement tabs, accordions or drop down boxes to manage how they display on a smartphone device.

So there are many things that still need to happen to be mobile first. Simply being responsive is not enough!

In the case of a dedicated mobile website, passed in mobile-first, is it relevant to keep canonical from mobile to desktop as usually done? And do we change the instruction (from mobile to desktop)?

Enge: You should still leave the rel=alternate and rel=canonical tags in place. I think it’s still useful. However, Google has stated many times there is no need to reverse them in the mobile-first world. From their perspective, while they could ask webmasters to change the direction of these tags, the reality is that it would take publishers years to switch them correctly.

In case all our desktop pages are not available in mobile, do you think it is more relevant to create them in AMP instead of a mobile version?

Enge: You can create pages “natively” in AMP. That means you can have your mobile pages simply be in AMP instead of having traditional HTML/Javascript pages.

How do you balance user experience with your statement that you need to have the same amount of content on your mobile site as you do with your desktop site? Google says it values the experience of a user and a content overloaded mobile page can kill that and potentially decrease your conversion rate if they are swamped in text.

Enge: Let’s look at a scenario contrary the one that you outlined. Imagine that you just learned you have diabetes. Would you be looking for a web page that has four sentences of content and a way to buy their diabetes pills? Or would you prefer as much information as possible in order to learn as much as you could about it?

The point is that the idea that “less is more” on web pages is not always true. In fact it’s often not.

Another example: A user searches for a “Ford Focus.” The right thing to do to have a page full of listings and show only the year, the mileage and the price. But what if they want an S Sedan, SE Sedan, SEL Sedan, or Titanium Sedan? Do you think the color matters? How about the powertrain The exterior options? The interior options? What about the accessories? I think you get my point. Users WANT choices.

At a more fundamental level, if you have a desktop page that offers a Ford Focus SEL Sedan with power heated exterior mirrors at 36,000 miles from 2015, and the user searched that specified the year and the desire for heated exterior mirrors, the desktop page would show up for that search.

However, if the mobile version of that page does not include the mirror information and the year information after a user performs the same search, there is no way for Google to know that you have a vehicle that meets that need. That means you won’t show up for that search.

So yes, you need to include that information. What leaves you with is a CX/UX challenge. Winning sites will present designs that offer the same level of information and use design to make for a great mobile experience.

For the sites that you audited to see desktop vs. mobile, were they m dot sites or responsive sites that had the huge discrepancy in desktop vs. mobile?

Enge: During my presentation at SMX West I showed sample data from sites that used subdomains for their mobile sites. For example, one of those sites had over 700 pages on the desktop version of their site, and the mobile version of their site had only three pages. What this illustrates is that many sites that use a subdomain for the mobile version of their pages have large differences between their mobile and desktop site.

It’s OK to use a mobile subdomain if that’s your preference. But make sure you invest the time to make sure that the site is equivalent in content to your desktop site!

You mentioned Google penalizes interstitials. Has there been any widespread impact to site rankings with the implementation of GDPR in the EU and potentially with the California Consumer Privacy Act, since many sites need to have an immediate display and acceptance of cookies?

Enge: I have not seen any indication that Google has made GDPR and the CCPA – and whether or not your support it – a ranking factor. Over time they could potentially do that, but I’m not sure they will.

Are interstitials that pop up but disappear as soon as the user taps out of it, ok? Or are all mobile interstitials bad? (Working in the multi-family/apartment housing industry for context.)

Google’s main problem with interstitials is if they interfere with the user getting the content with the initial page load. So an interstitial that is in the way of a page load would be a problem for Google, even if it was easy for the user to make it go away. A more progressive way to handle this would be as an interstitial that pops up only when the user moves the mouse cursor towards the address bar of the browser or towards the “x” to close the window.

Which is better – client-side rendering or server-side rendering in regards to speed and ranking?

Enge: I believe there are a few factors that impact the answer to this. The two most important ones are the memory and speed of the web server, and the memory and speed of the client computer. That said, client-side rendering as done by most single page applications will generally be faster after the initial page load. This is because key components of the site are already residing on the client computer and don’t need to be downloaded again.

Angular JS question, you had mentioned that prerender IO could help with indexing, is that similar to Phantom JS?

Enge: No, they are different. What pre-rendering does is take a web page that contains Javascript and execute all those instructions to create the full rendered page exactly the way that a user would see it. That full rendered web page is stored separately. When Google comes to see the content of the page, it gets delivered in the pre-rendered version instead of having to try and execute the Javascript to render the page.

This is very helpful because Google can’t always execute all the javascript successfully, and that can mean that it won’t otherwise see all the content of the web page.

In contrast, Phantom JS is just the way to simulate a web browser in your own programs. So you can use it to attempt to render pages, whereas with prerendering we’re trying to save Google from having to do that.

If your site is an example being mobile indexed because it is mobile indexing ready, but is not mobile friendly (i.e. responsive, but won’t be a good consumer experience), will it be penalized in search rankings?

Enge: It could be. It depends on just how bad an experience it is. But for example, if you have a page where all the links are not tappable, the site might be pretty well unusable on mobile. As a result, it may be a poor page for Google to show in the search results.

We have both non-amp and AMP pages on our website. The non-AMP page is still receiving mobile traffic based on Google Analytics, is it okay? How can we prevent this?

Enge: Yes, this is OK. If the percentage of traffic to the non-AMP pages is high (greater than 25 percent) it may mean that Google is not confident of the quality level of the AMP pages. That may be something that you want to investigate. But, I have not yet seen any sites where the AMP pages get 100 percent of the traffic.

On the case study, what is it about AMP that would lead to improved metrics that wouldn’t appear to be related to page speed (ex session time)?

Enge: I think the primary thing it would be page speed, but not as a direct ranking factor. Users may enjoy the lightning fast and it may make them have far engagement with the site. There may be some aspect of that which Google sees as a ranking signal. That would make the speed an indirect factor. It’s not the speed of the site that Google measures, but the other aspects of the user behavior that improve because users like faster sites.

Even after mobile first, does Google still keep an eye on the desktop version?

Enge: Yes, Google has said that they will still look at the desktop version of a site from time to time. However, the primary source of information Google will use for ranking the site will be the mobile version.

What is considered “fast and “slow” when it comes to analyzing your page speed results from Google PageSpeed Insights?

Back in 2010 Google released a YouTube video with Maile Ohye where she said: “Two seconds is the threshold for ecommerce website acceptability… At Google, we aim for under a half second.”” Sadly, most of the web has not gotten any faster since then, so two seconds is a good initial target to shoot for.

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SMX Overtime: Enterprise SEOs explain tactical approaches for large implementations /smx-overtime-enterprise-seos-explain-tactical-approaches-for-large-implementations-313999 Thu, 14 Mar 2019 16:42:05 +0000 /?p=313999 Senior Director of SEO at Apartments.com offers advice about managing taxonomy changes, keyword research, event tracking and the importance of industry collaboration.

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Senior Director of SEO at Apartments.com, Jordan Silton, was a panelist during the SMX West “Enterprise SEOs, Unite!” session. Tactical and technical approaches for large enterprises were discussed during this session and attendees had a lot of questions. Jordan took the time to answer some of them for us.

Q: What’s the best way to augment internal SEO knowledge with external experts?

Silton: We have a knowledgeable team of SEO experts at Apartments.com and across CoStar Group overall. One thing I like to do to expand our SEO perspective is to collaborate across internal teams and learn from each other. We have teammates that work on a variety of marketplaces including commercial real estate, businesses, land and international real estate. Each team has distinct perspectives that are helpful, so we dedicate time to check in with each other, problem-solve together, and I find myself learning a lot in the process and coming up with new ideas. In addition to our wealth of SEO knowledge internally, we do partner with specific agencies or consultants to come up with new ideas for us, or approach a challenge where they are uniquely positioned to help. You may be surprised how willing your peers are to connect and share ideas when you form a mutually beneficial relationship. I particularly enjoy connecting with other talented SEOs in related, yet non-competing, companies and find this to be an underrated opportunity.

Q: How do you handle listings that are no longer available? Do you redirect them, no-index them, keep them live with an expired message or something else?

Silton: There is likely no perfect way to handle inactive listings. We approach this challenge differently on a variety of our marketplaces. We have had some success at preserving inactive listings and still providing a compelling and helpful user experience. Multifamily apartment communities often have unit availability changes daily. For example, an individual community may have no availability on a given day, but that the community would still be relevant for a prospective renter that wants to move in a few months. We have seen inactive listings earn significant organic traffic to our site, and we have also seen renters have a great experience arriving on an inactive listing then navigate via the options we provide to find a place to rent and reach out to a community to schedule a tour or get started on a lease.

Q: What SEO tests that you’ve done have been most meaningful for your business? What did you learn?

Silton: Testing is fundamental for our SEO strategy, and we are actively running several tests on our site. One noteworthy test we ran recently involved breadcrumbs. We noticed that breadcrumbs take a lot of space at the top our site both on desktop and mobile devices and also observed that some industry-leading sites in other industries moved breadcrumbs lower on the page, particularly in their mobile user experience. So, we tested it and found there was no statically significant impact when we moved breadcrumbs to a different location on the page. We were able to maintain organic traffic and UX metrics while also saving some space to use for other product features to further improve renter experience on our site.

Q: How much do you rely on dashboards for proving (or just analyzing) your results? If you do use dashboards, do you recommend Data Studio or something else?

Silton: We like to use dashboards to monitor the health and performance of our site at a high level. For example, I have a weekly dashboard that I review to the organic search performance of Apartments.com and our network of rentals marketplaces. This helps us stay on top of recent algorithm changes, major releases that impacted traffic, and even changes to conversion rates and related performance metrics. From there, we tend to dive deeper for ad-hoc analyses to explore hypotheses and dig deeper to reveal insights and make a recommendation. In terms of dashboarding and data visualization tools, we use several tools for different purposes. Google Data Studio is quite good at connecting to Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and BigQuery for simple visualizations, so that’s a worthwhile free option to explore.

Q: What keyword research tool do you use?

Silton: We use them all. For example, we like using the SEMRush Keyword Magic tool since it’s easy to add positive and negative matches to your list. Ahrefs does a good job with questions and topics. Our team also uses Answer The Public for topic clustering and related keyword visualizations. Moz has a robust tool too. Finally, Google’s Keyword Planner does a good job at breaking the tie if we get conflicting signals from a couple of other tools. You can get value from any or all of them.

Q: In regards to testing, do you use something like Google Optimize to do specific A/B testing?

Silton: We leverage Google Analytics as our analytics platform, and it connects well to Google Optimize. Although we don’t use Google Optimize to configure our tests and run the back-end logic, we do use it for reporting. Google Optimize experiment IDs match up well in Google Analytics, and that enables us to perform statistical analysis in BigQuery or other tools leveraging the existing event tracking and goals that we already have in Google Analytics, which simplifies our A/B testing tracking configuration.

Q: How would you manage taxonomy changes and guidelines for changing category names, URLs, etc.?

Silton: We are quite careful when adjusting taxonomies since even a small change can have ripple events throughout a large website. Especially As a site scales, changing a name on only one or a handful of categories can impact thousands or millions of pages on a site. Keeping URLs the same should help to minimize disruption, particularly if the name change is close. For example, we have a filter on our site for low-income housing, which is also known as affordable housing or income-restricted housing. These terms are all synonyms and we changed the way we labeled the filter to help renters find the appropriate housing options. Even though we made changes, we kept the URL consistent. This helped us capitalize on the name changes by labeling the page appropriately while also keeping things consistent for search engines without a bunch of redirects or a whole new set of pages.

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SMX Overtime: What really matters for SEO success /smx-overtime-what-really-matters-for-seo-success-313660 Fri, 08 Mar 2019 13:00:11 +0000 /?p=313660 SEO expert Lily Ray offers advice on how small websites can build credibility, why depth above breadth is a good philosophy and the reason ad transparency is important.

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Director of SEO at Path Interactive, Lily Ray, was one of the SMX West speakers for the “Machine vs. Man: What Really Matters For SEO Success” session in San Jose. A lot of questions around credibility, authority and ad transparency were submitted by session attendees, so Lily took the time to answer them for us.

Everyone mentioned that author is important to build trustworthiness. What should we do if we have a small website (15 pages) and our content writers aren’t a well-known author?

Ray: The best thing to do is to try to cultivate your authors’ profiles, even if it means starting from scratch. Start by building author bio pages that give context into who your authors are, and why they can be trusted to write about these topics. Establish links between these author bio pages and any related author websites or social media profiles, especially LinkedIn and Twitter. If the owner of your company has more expertise than your authors on the topics they write about – especially YMYL topics (medical, legal, financial, etc.) – then consider disclosing on the page that the owner reviewed the authors’ content for accuracy.

If you have a very credible author, but their online or social footprint is minimal, will search engines not view them as trustworthy?

Ray: In this kind of situation, I don’t think search engines will view them as “not trustworthy,” but rather I don’t believe you will get the added boost of having your content written by well-known, reputable authors. I think any effort to disclose who your authors are and give some background into who they are is a good thing, even if that author doesn’t have a large online footprint yet. (This is, of course, assuming that the author doesn’t have a pre-existing bad reputation and is considered not trustworthy.

If the best content is identified as best because it provides unique value, does that argue for focusing content efforts on niche topics more than broad topics? So go more for depth than breadth?

Ray: I believe that “depth above breadth” is a good philosophy if your goal is to create content that ranks well organically. Because there is so much competition in the search results, if your content is not one of the top 10 best articles on the topic, it’s not going to earn any organic visibility. Therefore, offering robust, highly thoughtful articles that offer deeper expertise than that of competing pages is a strategy likely to produce better results than spreading your content strategy too thin. Furthermore, given Google’s increased focus on expertise and authoritativeness, focusing on niche topics and providing value on specific topics is more likely to result in your writers being perceived as subject matter experts.

Clearly disclosing how you monetize your site seems to be an overarching theme for success. What’s the best way to do that?

Ray: Transparency is key. For most companies, an “About Us” page as well as clear “Terms and Conditions” should be sufficient to indicate to users what the purpose is of your website and how your company makes money. However, if your site runs ads or collects and sells leads, it’s important to make these facts obvious to the user. Disclose where advertisements are located on the page, and/or consider including a discreet disclaimer that explains what happens when the user clicks on the links that make your company money. This can be written as a blurb toward the bottom of the page, contained in the footer, or mentioned in the Terms and Conditions.

On the slide where we were asked to identify the ads: Does this mean that native ads, even those ran though Google, are on the way out? It’s my understanding that native ads are intentionally designed to blend in.

Ray: I don’t believe native ads are on the way out. Google understands that many sites rely on ad revenue as a means of existence. However, I do think Google is becoming stricter around the quality and placement of native ads. Ads should be distinguishable from the main content of the page, and shouldn’t deceive the user into thinking they’re part of the main website experience. Most reputable ad networks have built-in functionality to indicate which links are ads. It is also important to ensure you can vouch for the subject matter of what is displayed in your ads. They should not offend or shock users, and their content should generally align with the main purpose of your website.

We have products on our website that are discontinued by the manufacturer. We turn off the ability for the customer to buy the product. The customer can still lookup the product online and it generates traffic to our site. Does this cause our rank to go down?

Ray: If the product is permanently discontinued, it’s a good idea to 404 the page to avoid a poor user experience. Leaving the pages active can be classified as “Soft 404s” in Google Search Console because Google doesn’t want to serve pages where the product is not available to searchers looking to purchase that product. However, many SEOs have seen success by keeping these types of pages live, but offering other valuable content on the page, such as purchase history or links to related products – especially if the product will be coming back in stock.

How do the algorithms decide which sites are authorities on trust? For example, does the AI determine that BBB is trustworthy, or is the algo fed that information?

Ray: Despite being asked a similar question many times, Google has declined to describe the exact process the algorithms use to analyze trustworthiness, or which sites it specifically looks at in making these determinations. However, Google does recommend that its quality raters look at the following websites as part of their assessment of reputation information: Yelp, BBB, Amazon, and Google Shopping. Evidence from many sites impacted by recent algorithm updates indicate that perceived trustworthiness across a variety of reputable sources appears to currently be a ranking factor. Several well-optimized websites with great site architecture, great page speed and strong on-page optimizations saw enormous traffic declines for reasons that appear to be tied into external trustworthiness.

After the [Medic] algorithm update on Aug. 1, what are the main areas for an e-commerce health site to update, improve, modify? 

Ray: A site that is both health-related and e-commerce could face a double-whammy of E-A-T issues. On the one hand, since you offer health content, it’s crucial that your site presents accurate, unbiased medical information; cites its sources; works with medical professionals to review the content, and is FDA-compliant. Beyond those health-related considerations, it’s also important to follow best practices for e-commerce E-A-T compliance: offering a secure check-out process, good customer service, clear information on returns and exchanges, and good external reviews.

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Year in Review: Top 10 expert PPC columns of 2018 /year-in-review-top-10-expert-ppc-columns-of-2018-309822 Thu, 27 Dec 2018 13:00:49 +0000 /?p=309822 Here's a roundup of the most read paid search columns this year.

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Keeping up with new releases, PPC experts shared their advice and expertise to help the larger search marketing community find ways to manage campaigns with the nuances of match types and more this past year. Here’s a look at the 10 most read paid search columns of 2018.

  1. If you’re not using Remarketing Lists and Similar Audiences for Search, you’re leaving money on the table by published on Sept. 21
  2. Are you ready for the attribution changes coming to Google AdWords? by  published on March 1.
  3. 5 things Google Ads can now do automatically by  published on July 3
  4. Say goodbye to low Quality Score with this Google Ads script by 
  5. Google is right; click-through and conversion rates kinda don’t matter by published on Sept. 17
  6. How keyword match types work after the new close match variants change by  published Sept. 12
  7. No search volume? No problem! 3 ways to improve low-traffic AdWords campaigns by published March 29
  8. Look Ma, no keywords! Phrase-free AdWords campaigns are here by published April 26
  9. Intent-based keyword research: Let Google be your guide by published April 26
  10. 30 questions to ask that so-called PPC ‘expert’ before hiring him/her by   published March 6


What’s in store for PPC in 2019? Ginny Marvin identified nine big areas of change this past year that will shape the way paid search marketers work in the year ahead. Read more about the changes that will have the biggest impact on advertisers in 2019.

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Ask an SMXpert: New approaches in customization can build better analytics reports /ask-an-smxpert-new-approaches-in-customization-can-build-better-analytics-reports-309720 Thu, 27 Dec 2018 13:00:43 +0000 /?p=309720 Data-driven digital marketing expert Simon Poulton outlines opportunities in various solutions to customize dimensions for more focused analytics reporting.

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Simon Poulton SMXpert graphic

Data-driven digital marketing expert and senior director of digital intelligence at Wpromote, Simon Poulton, was one of the SMX East speakers during the “Making Your Analytics Work Harder And Smarter” session. There were a lot of questions during this popular program so Simon took the time to answer a few more. Here are five questions submitted by session attendees and his responses.

Do you have experience linking Google My Business Insights data into Data Studio in combination with Google Analytics?

Poulton: Yes, there are various solutions available here. If you’re just getting started, you can simply export the data from GMB Insights and pass this into a Google Sheet that has been synced as a data source within Data Studio.

For those looking for a more automated solution here, you can make this connection using a pre-built connector (Supermetrics released one earlier this year) or develop for the API yourself to pass this data into a sheet or a database that can be connected to Google Data Studio.

As far as I’m aware, there is no simple method to displaying this data coming from Google Analytics, and it would be challenging to tie this data to other user interactions on site, making it simpler to go with a GMB > Database (or Sheets) > Data Studio approach.

Any tips for integrating data that isn’t built into Data Studio automatically? For example, a call tracking platform that is not built into Google Data Studio.

Poulton: There are a number of platforms that do not natively connect to Data Studio – although based on how we’ve seen the number of connectors grow, I’d imagine more companies are looking to add a connection here. Many of these platforms – especially in the call tracking space, do have a native integration with Google Analytics where they pass back Event data to Google Analytics that can be tied to Client IDs and be unified with the rest of the user’s journey onsite. This is incredibly powerful and allows for the ability to connect these user actions with other data like an attributable source that can easily be visualized in Data Studio.

This is as simple as passing the Events for calls into Google Analytics from the 3rd party platform and visualizing these within Data Studio like you would with any other Event data. In general, if you can find a way to automate passing data into Google Analytics or Google Sheets, then there is a simple way to have this automatically update in Data Studio.

Can you import first-party audiences (e.g., loyalty members) into GA and/or Data Studio?

Poulton: On the surface – no, you cannot import first-party PII into Google Analytics or Data Studio. However, there is a method that you can use to append this type of data to users identified on your site using the Client ID.

Out of the box, Client ID is not an accessible dimension for matching to imported data. However, you can create this as a Custom Dimension, and work with your developers to push in the Client ID that Google Analytics has already created for you. The next step is to push this value as a hidden field with your conversions and create a list of key pairs where you identify the user within your CRM, along with the client ID and the customer state (Loyalty Member or not) – once you have this, you can upload this data using the Data Import function in Google Analytics to append this value to users. It’s important to note however, this is not retroactive and can only go back as far as you’ve been tracking Client ID as a custom dimension.

Once this has been configured, you can refresh your GA Data Source in Google Data Studio (to ensure you’re bringing in this new custom dimension) and start to bring this data into Google Data Studio. You can use it as a report itself showing the difference between loyalty and non-loyalty customers or you can use it as a Segment to isolate data for specific reports.

This is very similar to the pCLV Cohort Import example that I provided during our session on Making Your Analytics Work Harder & Smarter.

Have you tried using the “compare to” toggle for scorecard vs. blending data?

Poulton: No – and I’m not entirely sure what this would achieve. As far as I’m aware the “compare to” toggle is for time-based comparisons only. When blending data, we are using a key to join two similar data sets that make sense to be viewed together. If you’re looking at the difference between the two sources, then it likely wouldn’t make sense to blend them within a scorecard format.


Search Engine Land’s SMX West, the go-to event for search marketers, returns to San Jose Jan. 30-31. The agenda, packing more than 50 world-class speakers, teaches you actionable search marketing tactics you can implement immediately to drive more awareness, traffic and conversions.

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