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Greg Sterling – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Thu, 25 Apr 2019 20:21:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 Younger users rely on snippets and knowledge panel, often don’t click, survey says /younger-users-rely-on-snippets-and-knowledge-panel-often-dont-click-survey-says-315963 Thu, 25 Apr 2019 17:43:15 +0000 /?p=315963 Yet 'position zero' doesn't always win says survey, which reveals relatively discerning users.

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A new consumer survey about Google SERP engagement, from Path Interactive, finds organic search results still dominate user attention but younger searchers are more inclined to look to content in Featured Snippets and the Knowledge Panel without clicking through to third-party sites. This phenomenon has been dubbed “no-click” search results and is a worrying trend for many publishers.

The survey, which polled users from multiple countries (72 percent U.S. respondents), sought to determine how consumers today interact with the myriad components of the Google SERP. Overall, the findings are not clear cut; they’re either reassuring or alarming depending on your perspective (and level of cynicism). Respondents ranged from 13 to older than 70, the majority of whom classified themselves as “somewhat tech savvy.”

Source: Path Interactive (2019)

Organic results strongly favored. Asked about whether they primarily clicked on ads or organic search results, 72 percent said they favored organic results, with 47 percent saying they never or rarely clicked on ads. Another 19 percent said they clicked on ads and organic links equally.

Older users were more likely to look deeper or further than the top results. However, somewhat paradoxically, they were also less likely to discriminate between ads and organic links according to the survey.

Younger users were more likely to engage in “no-click” behavior when presented with Featured Snippets. Older users tended to look beyond Snippets for more information from other organic links. But nearly three-fourths (72.5 percent) of all respondents found Snippets trustworthy or semi-trustworthy.

Source: Path Interactive (2019)

Knowledge Panel and rich results. Responses were very similar for Knowledge Panel content. The overwhelming majority (92.1 percent) of searchers looked at Knowledge Panel results. Within that group, 55 percent continued looking at other links, but the remaining 37 percent said they “considered my search complete” with the Knowledge Panel — another no-click scenario.

Source: Path Interactive (2019)

Responses were also fairly consistent for rich results/answer boxes. Yet this time only a small minority (14 percent) felt the query was satisfied without further investigation. Another 43 percent used rich results along with other information on the page. And a surprisingly large 33 percent said they ignored these answers and focused instead on more traditional organic links.

Source: Path Interactive (2019)

Google criticisms. Asked whether they had any complaints about Google, 25 percent said they had none. Surprisingly, the remaining 75 percent offered varying criticisms, all provided in the form of multiple choice responses:

  • Google shows too many ads — 24.1 percent
  • Gives priority to information from large corporations (making it hard for SMBs to compete/appear) — 20.8 percent
  • Shows too many Google-owned assets or information (prefer the regular blue links) — 17.3 percent
  • Don’t like implications re how users may interact with Google’s content — 7.5 percent
  • Results are often low-quality, inaccurate or biased — 5.5 percent

Why we should care. These survey responses reveal a range of attitudes and behaviors, often tied to age, in reaction to the various elements of the Google SERP. Younger users are less interested in ads but more inclined to be satisfied by the content at or near the top of the page — often without clicking on links. Older searchers click on ads but are more diligent in seeking out additional information, sometimes beyond page one on Google. 

The results provide some ammunition to critics who claim Google’s Snippets, Knowledge Panels and other structured content discourage click-throughs to third party sites. But that doesn’t tell the full story of user behavior, which is becoming more varied and more discriminating to some degree, as the SERP evolves.

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App-marketer spending on Apple Search Ads Grew by 90% in less than a year /app-marketer-spending-on-apple-search-ads-equals-google-facebook-combined-315918 Wed, 24 Apr 2019 18:27:23 +0000 /?p=315918 The data come from Kenshoo's Q1 2019 Quarterly Trends Report, capturing trends from more than $6 billion in ad spend.

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Kenshoo has released its Q1 2019 Quarterly Trends Report. The report originally and erroneously reported that app marketers on the Kenshoo platform “spent roughly the same amount on Apple Search Ads as Google and Facebook combined.” Despite this error, the search and social marketing platform says client spending on Apple Search Ads has been very strong.

Growth in a very short time frame. Kenshoo reported that, since Q3 2018, spending on Apple Search Ads has grown by nearly 90 percent. As the chart below indicates, Kenshoo platform advertisers over-index for Apple Search Ads.

The data in the Kenshoo report is drawn from campaigns generating 500 billion impressions, 14 billion clicks, representing a total of $6 billion in ad spend. Apple Search Ads are billed on a CPI basis.

Source: Quarterly Trends Report (Q1, 2019)

The magic of paid-search. Kenshoo makes a relatively straightforward observation to explain Apple Search Ads’ growth: they’re shown in response to queries in the App Store and therefore are more strongly aligned with user intent than many competing channels. Earlier this year, AppsFlyer found that Apple was generally the third leading site/network for mobile app installs after Facebook and Google.

Source: Apple Search Ad for Expedia

Apple Search Ads originally launched in GA in October, 2016. They come in two flavors: basic and advanced. The former is a simplified product, which has no keywords or bidding. It’s intended for marketers with budgets under $10,000 per month (per app).

Why we should care. Apple doesn’t specifically disclose revenue associated with Search Ads. However, third parties have estimated that they will generate roughly $2 billion in revenue for the company by next year. By comparison, Amazon made nearly $10 billion in ad revenue last year. The latter is slated to become the number three ad platform after Google and Facebook.

Editors note: This story has been changed to reflect a Kenshoo update correcting a misstatement concerning the comparative ad spend on Apple Search Ads vs. Google and Facebook in the Q1 2019 Quarterly Trends Report.

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New European Google local SERPs prompt users to ‘find results on’ other sites /new-european-google-local-serps-prompt-users-to-find-results-on-other-sites-315822 Tue, 23 Apr 2019 15:49:34 +0000 /?p=315822 Google appears to be trying to prevent a formal local search antitrust complaint. 

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New SERPs are appearing in Germany that prompt users to try alternative directories or search engines for the same local query. This is part of Google’s ongoing effort to comply with the European Commission’s (EC’s) antitrust decision in shopping search.

New local SERPs. The screens below, however, concern local not shopping search results. The EC is in the process of considering a formal action against Google in local search.

Yelp already criticizing as inadequate. The prompt says “ergebnisse finden auf” (find results on). The three buttons are local search and directory sites in Germany. The screens were sent to us by Frank Sandtmann.

Yelp has already seen and criticized these screens as a return to Google’s “rival links” remedy that was presented in 2013 and 2014 and derided by Google competitors as inadequate to generate meaningful traffic. Below is a screen from an eye tracking study Yelp performed on these pages, arguing that the bulk of attention is not focused on the alternative provider buttons.

Eye tracking analysis of results on Google Search.

Why we should care. Google has appealed each of the EC’s multi-billion-dollar antitrust penalties against the company but must comply with the decisions in the interim. What we’re seeing above may be Google’s attempt to preempt a formal complaint in local that could lead to additional billions in fines.

Yelp and other Google critics argue these kinds of changes to the SERP are cosmetic and have an immaterial impact on traffic. They would like to see much more fundamental changes to the SERP. Yelp has produced one eye-tracking study; however, there should be more to determine the actual consumer impact of these pages.

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Google takes baby steps to monetize Google Assistant, Google Home /google-takes-baby-steps-to-monetize-google-assistant-google-home-315743 Mon, 22 Apr 2019 20:53:15 +0000 /?p=315743 There's a multi-faceted revenue model starting to emerge.

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Google isn’t concerned about making ad revenue from Google Assistant and Google Home right now. The company is more focused on gaining market share for the moment. Nonetheless, it’s starting to insert paid-search ads into Assistant results on Android smartphones; it’s also starting to monetize Google Home “traffic” as well – though, more tentatively.

Ads in Assistant results. In February, Google started testing ads in Assistant results on the phone. Then in early April, Google officially introduced ads in situations where there are web search results (vs. answers): “When relevant, these results may include the existing ads that you’d see on Search today.” The difference for the time being is fewer ads in Assistant results than general search.

Audio ads on YouTube Music. Last week Google also decided to give Google Home smart speaker owners access to the free version of YouTube Music, which is ad-supported. The premium version without ads is $9.99 per month.

One way to look at this is as a competitive response to free Amazon Music on Alexa devices. However, it’s also a way to upsell Google Home users to the premium version or, alternatively, generate ad revenue. The ad-supported version of YouTube Music is currently available on Google Home or other Google Assistant-powered smart speakers in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia.

Revenue from transactions. Two years ago, Google suggested it would monetize Google Home and the Assistant through fees tied to transactions. This was chiefly going to happen through Google Express ordering. However Google Express has struggled to gain momentum and recently lost Walmart as a customer, although it still has more than 1,000 retailers on its site.

Google Pay is another way the company could make money from Google Assistant or Google Home transactions. It currently doesn’t charge merchant fees; however, might change over time.

Local services. Google is exposing a subset of local listings in response to queries for local service providers on Google Home and Google Assistant. There are currently no ads returned for these queries. However, merchants must be certified through the Google Guarantee program (previously only available with Local Services Ads) or via Google partners Porch or HomeAdvisor.

While there are currently no ads in these local listings, it would be easy for Google to start charging a fee for a Google Guarantee certification or include Local Services Advertisers with a “sponsored” disclaimer to alert users they were advertisers (or both).

Google smart displays. Google is reportedly renaming its smart display “Google Nest Hub” and going to release a larger-screen version. It would be easy for Google to include sponsored search or display ads on the screen. In some ways, this is the model that would be least disruptive to users. This is not currently happening, but marketers should anticipate some form of on-screen advertising on Google smart displays in the relatively near future.

One analyst estimated that Google had sold more than 50 million Home Hub smart displays globally and 43 million in the U.S. Google’s smart display also appears to be one smart speaker category in which it’s outselling rival Amazon Echo.

Other types of ads. Roughly two years ago, Google appeared to run an audio ad for Disney’s live action film Beauty and the Beast, which was triggered by users asking about their daily schedules (“what does my day look like?”). Google denied that it was an ad, but it appeared to be a test of some sort of partner promotion. No similar promotions have appeared since that time.

Along these lines, there are some high-profile Google Home placements that might command a premium from brand advertisers if Google were to make them available. Again, this is hypothetical but one can envision selected ad placements on Google Home that would reach a large, TV-sized audience.

Why we should care. If we accept that Google Home’s market share is only 25 percent of the smart speaker market, in the U.S. that’s still 25+ million devices. When you include the Assistant on smartphones, the number of devices jumps to more than a billion globally.

As the recent inclusion of ads in Assistant results on Android phones indicates, Google does intend to generate ad revenue from the Assistant and Google Home. In addition to the actual and hypothetical ideas above, there are probably other options not listed. However, marketers should expect Google to test and introduce more advertising options for Assistant-powered devices by next year at the latest.

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Searching for facts, directions, local businesses are top digital assistant use cases, says survey /searching-for-facts-directions-local-businesses-are-top-digital-assistant-use-cases-says-survey-315641 Fri, 19 Apr 2019 20:41:03 +0000 /?p=315641 Smart speaker ownership jumped from 23 percent to 45 percent of respondents since last year's survey from Microsoft.

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Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of smartphone owners are using digital assistants, according to a new report from Microsoft. The findings are based on two surveys – one from mid-2018 that includes an international sample, and a 2019 follow-up involving 5,000 U.S. consumers. The study also found that 35 percent of the survey population had used “voice search” through a smart speaker.

Google and Apple tied for usage lead. In terms of usage market share, the report found Siri and Google Assistant tied at 36 percent, followed by Alexa (25 percent) and then Cortana (19 percent). The overwhelming majority of Cortana’s usage is on the desktop. These figures are not the same as device share. Google Assistant is available on more than a billion devices and Amazon dominates the smart speaker hardware market.

Top assistant use cases. Like many reports covering digital assistants, this one sometimes fails to make clear distinctions between smart speakers and smartphone usage. However, the report spends considerable time discussing smart speaker adoption and use cases.

In the context of that smart speaker discussion, Microsoft presents the following hierarchy of digital assistant usage:

  1. Searching for a quick fact — 68 percent
  2. Asking for directions — 65 percent
  3. Searching for a business — 47 percent
  4. Researching a product or service — 44 percent
  5. Making a shopping list — 39 percent
  6. Comparing products or services — 31 percent
  7. Adding items to a shopping cart — 26 percent
  8. Making a purchase — 25 percent
  9. Contacting customer service or support — 21 percent
  10. Providing feedback for a product/service — 19 percent

Some of the answers on this list (e.g., comparing products or services) suggest that respondents were commenting broadly about assistant usage – not just smart speakers. Indeed, the absence of responses such as “checking the weather” or “playing music” (answers common in other smart speaker surveys) suggests this as well.

The study found that 80 percent were “satisfied” with their digital assistant experiences (most likely on smart speakers this time), while 14 percent were “neutral” and only 6 percent were dissatisfied.

22 percent jump in ownership. In terms of smart speaker ownership, the 2018 survey discovered 23 percent of respondents had one. That number has jumped to 45 percent this year. Under the assumption that this is a U.S.-based population, that would mean roughly 112 million Americans today own at least one smart speaker, with an additional 26 percent saying they’re going to purchase one this year.

A very interesting finding surrounds brand-purchase intent. Amazon Echo has gained compared with 2018 and Google Home has lost share of intent to purchase. The number of people who said they want to buy a Google Home speaker declined from 58 percent in 2018 to 17 percent this year. It’s possible that the 58 percent bought Google Home devices, hence the drop. But the decline is noteworthy.

The Google Home Mini didn’t suffer the same decline in purchase intent. Finally, 26 percent of the audience said that they were interested in buying an alternative brand, which may include Sonos and the Apple HomePod, although that’s not clear from the report.

Digital assistant privacy concerns. A substantial minority (41 percent) of respondents said they had “concerns” about digital assistants — again, probably smart speakers here. Asked to elaborate, the top response was “that my personal information is not secure” (52 percent), followed by “that it is actively listening and/or recording me” (41 percent) and then “I don’t want my personal information or data used” (36 percent). These fears are not entirely unfounded, given recent revelations about Amazon employees listening to Alexa recordings — justified to improve voice recognition and understanding.

The surveys also asked about shopping using a digital assistant or smart speaker. Just over 41 percent said they had made a purchase through one or both channels (with 6.5 percent saying they didn’t enjoy it). The other roughly 59 percent had not made a purchase, with 27 percent in that group saying they that they were interesting making future purchases using assistants. More than half (54 percent) of respondents said they believed that digital assistants will help them make retail purchases within 5 years.

Why we should care. Both consumers and retailers expect smart speakers (and smartphone assistants) to become an important purchase channel in the next few years. The activities detailed in the list above argue that some search behaviors will transfer to voice channels over time.

There are clear implications for marketers, tied to voice optimization and other tactics. For example, if you’re a local service business there are specific things that must be done to appear in Google Home local listings. It’s also incumbent upon marketers to experiment with smart speakers to determine the most effective use cases for their brands and content.

Finally, certain shopping and commerce experiences may become common through smart speakers. Walmart’s updated voice grocery shopping experience represents a potentially successful voice-commerce model, involving list creation and reordering. 

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Google to offer browser, search-app choices in Android Europe set-up flow /google-to-offer-browser-search-app-choices-in-android-europe-set-up-flow-315582 Thu, 18 Apr 2019 14:41:53 +0000 /?p=315582 Users will be asked to choose from among five search and browser apps in randomized order.

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In a European antitrust decision last year, Google was ordered stop compelling phone makers to pre-install Google apps to gain access to Google Play. The decision came with a €4.3 billion (roughly $5 billion) fine, which Google is appealing.

New search, browser set-up. Despite the appeal, Google is complying with the decision. As part of that process, Google has created a new set-up flow for Android users that requires them to install search and browser apps. This is reminiscent of what Microsoft had to do years ago (2009) in Europe on the desktop, when it was required to offer “browser choice.”

In its blog post, Google previews what the new search and browser selection screens will look like.

These screens will appear “the first time a user opens Google Play after receiving an upcoming update.” Google explains each screen will have a total of five search and browser choices, including any apps that may already be installed.

The top five will appear. Google says, “Apps that are not already installed on the device will be included based on their popularity and shown in a random order.” In other words, the most popular apps will be the default selections but they will be ranked in a randomized order. Google will also prompt users after they download any non-Google search apps about whether they want to change Chrome’s default search engine (from Google).

Users will be able to install multiple apps in each category. The company said this will roll out in the coming weeks (but the implementation may evolve) and will extend to existing Android phones in Europe.

Why we should care. Google’s various competitors in Europe complained that the pre-installed privilege of various Google apps (i.e., search, Chome, Maps, YouTube) put them at a competitive disadvantage. This new set-up process will test that thesis and expose European smartphone users to additional choices.

It will likely drive an uptick in downloads and usage for some of these alternative apps. (Now is the time for them to be aggressively marketing themselves.) However, it is likely that Chrome and Google will continue to overwhelmingly dominate browser and search downloads. Many marketers should expect that Google’s paid search and other ad revenues in Europe will not be impacted by these changes.

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Google’s ‘Signed Exchange’ solution let’s publishers use their own URLs for AMP pages /google-announces-signed-exchange-solution-to-deliver-amp-speed-to-publisher-urls-315504 Wed, 17 Apr 2019 00:45:50 +0000 /?p=315504 Publishers will need to create a Signed Exchange but Cloudflare (and potentially others) promise to simplify the process.

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The loudest criticism of AMP has been that it doesn’t display publisher domain URLs. Instead, users have historically seen the “google.com/amp/” URL structure, which is required by AMP pre-rendering. Google has been trying to address that issue for some time and, in November, offered a developer preview of a solution.

Now it’s formally rolling out that solution, which will still deliver AMP speed to publisher URLs. It involves use of Signed Exchanges, a technical framework that, as a practical matter, enables browsers to display publisher URLs on cached AMP results. It’s currently only available for Chrome 73 or higher (soon Microsoft Edge).

A short history of AMP

Google created AMP in 2015 as an open source project to speed up page load times on mobile devices and “dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web.” Google was concerned about mobile apps eroding mobile web traffic and wanted to find a way bring people back to the mobile web. In February 2016, Google integrated AMP pages into mobile search results.

Because most publisher sites weren’t well optimized for the mobile web, AMP required a trade-off. In order to deliver faster pages, Google needed to pre-render everything and use the cached google.com/amp URL structure. That way Google could serve the mobile page more more quickly — although that was sometimes disputed.

Publishers will need to create a ‘Signed Exchange’

So what the heck is a “Signed Exchange”? Here’s how Google describes the technology:

Signed HTTP Exchange (or “SXG”) is a subset of the emerging technology called Web Packages, which enables publishers to safely make their content portable, i.e. available for redistribution by other parties, while still keeping the content’s integrity and attribution. Portable content has many benefits, from enabling faster content delivery to facilitating content sharing between users, and simpler offline experiences.

In order to take advantage of the new real URL option, publishers will need to create a Signed Exchange. That in turn requires getting a certificate, not unlike an SSL certificate (more on that process here.) Once accomplished, the cached AMP URLs will show the publisher domain URL.

Brand and analytics benefits

The first partner with Google on Signed Exchanges is Cloudflare, which outlined several of the anticipated benefits in its press release:

  • Brand integrity: publishers will be able to direct AMP traffic to their primary website domain
  • Simplified analytics: all visitors, AMP or otherwise, can coexist on the same domain
  • More space for content: publishers will have additional space at the top of their pages for branding or ads, through elimination of AMP “grey bar.”
  • Reduced bounce rate: site visitors may have more trust in publisher URLs and be more inclined to visit and remain on branded domains

Cloudflare is right now the only content delivery network (CDN) that works with AMP Signed Exchanges. However there are multiple competitors that will probably jump on this quickly.

Cloudflare said its current customers can “enable this feature with one-click on their dashboards” and promised that capability will be delivered in the next few weeks.

Why we should care

Google has finally delivered what publishers have been asking for since AMP was introduced. How easy will it be for them to implement and will the benefits listed by Cloudflare be realized? We’ll follow up on those questions in the near future. There’s also the question of whether this will come (and how quickly) to browsers not built on the Chromium platform (i.e., Firefox, Safari, DuckDuckGo).

All this remains to be seen but it appears that Google is finally going to be able to deliver “real URLs” at AMP speeds.

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How to appear in local services listings in Google Assistant and Google Home /how-to-appear-in-local-services-listings-in-google-assistant-and-google-home-315389 Mon, 15 Apr 2019 12:53:32 +0000 /?p=315389 Company serving only pre-screened local providers in most major markets.

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In the majority of major markets in the U.S., Google isn’t using its traditional search index or its mobile index to serve local service provider results (e.g., like locksmiths or plumbers) through the Google Assistant or Google Home devices. Instead, it’s using a subset of listings that are Google Guaranteed or pre-screened and certified by partners Porch or HomeAdvisor. Here is what you need to know.

Get listed

Only local listings that qualify will generally be served, although in isolated markets where there aren’t enough of these certified businesses Google may backfill with listings from its main indexes. Each individual listing carries a badge indicating the certifying entity.

Yext offers a direct data feed into Amazon Alexa results, so any third party publisher or marketing agency working with Yext receives the benefit of that distribution for its customers. However, there’s no comparable program for Google Assistant. Local providers must either work with Porch or HomeAdvisor or submit an individual listing directly to Google and meet the Google Guarantee criteria to be shown in Google Assistant results.

Get certified

Although it doesn’t directly mention Google Guarantee, this form is where local providers (or their marketing surrogates) can submit themselves for review. Google Local Services advertisers that have already received Google Guarantee certification are automatically eligible to appear in Google Assistant results.

In order to be Google Guaranteed, businesses must pass a background check and have their license and insurance details verified.

Until I spoke with Google about these requirements, I was completely unaware of them. I’m guessing that most local marketers are in the same position.

Get ready

In 2016 Google reported that 20 percent of mobile search traffic on Android devices was voice search. We don’t have an updated number or a sense of query volumes coming through Google Home or Assistant-powered devices. It’s a safe bet, however, that the numbers are increasing and the search volumes will ultimately be significant.

Because only a subset of local provider listings are served through the Google Assistant, there’s going to be somewhat less organic competition than in search on the desktop or in traditional mobile search. This is an opportunity that probably won’t last much longer.

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Smart speakers set to eclipse tablets globally by 2021 /smart-speakers-set-to-eclipse-tablets-globally-by-2021-315404 Mon, 15 Apr 2019 12:04:37 +0000 /?p=315404 Commerce, advertising or something else: The smart speaker model hasn't been figured out.

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By 2021, there will be more smart speakers in use than tablets according to a new global forecast from Canalys. The firm says that the worldwide base of smart speakers will grow from approximately 114 million units this year to 208 million next year. Other estimates put the installed base of U.S. (vs. global) smart speakers at more than 100 million already.

U.S. is largest market with Asia rising. Canalys projects that the U.S. will remain the largest single market for the devices, accounting for just over 42 percent of smart-speaker ownership. But the greater growth opportunity is in Asia and China in particular, where Google and Amazon currently don’t have a foothold.

While Apple has continued to sell millions of iPads annually — it sold roughly 43 million in 2018 — the market has been flat to declining for some time. The progressively larger size of smartphone screens has blunted demand for the devices.

No marketing model yet. Whether the smart speaker eclipse of tablets happens at the precise time Canalys predicts is immaterial; it will happen. It’s also significant because a marketing-related business model has yet to be found for the devices, despite the large number sold to date. And while smart speakers have helped build awareness and drive consumer purchases of smart home accessories (plugs, bulbs, thermostats), they have not emerged as an effective promotional channel for brands or direct response marketers. A potential exception (and emerging model) may be Walmart’s use of smart speakers as a grocery shopping and loyalty tool.

Bigger screen Home Hub coming. Google is slated to release a larger-screen version of its Home Hub, which could potentially change the dynamics of the market. While there are no firm figures, anecdotal evidence suggests Google’s Home Hub may be outselling Echo Show and could help Google gain share on Amazon, which currently dominates the smart speaker market.

Broader adoption of screen-based smart speakers could also bring internet-style search, display and video-advertising business models to the devices. However, that remains to be seen and depends on penetration levels going forward.

The smart display market should have been Apple’s to lose because of its iPad leadership; the company should have entered the market with an iPad mini mounted on a speaker. However, Apple was late and miscalculated by releasing an expensive product (the $349 HomePod), while Google and Amazon were driving adoption at the lower end with aggressive discounting.

Facebook was also late to the market with its Portal smart displays. Mixed reviews and the company’s successive privacy scandals may have adversely impacted demand for the product and permanently damaged its chances.

Why we should care. Retailer survey data from RetailMeNot reflects optimism about the opportunity for voice shopping. A majority of brands surveyed expect meaningful e-commerce revenues to materialize within the next three years.

Meanwhile, Amazon is promoting the fact that here are now more than 80,000 skills (voice apps) for Alexa. But there are no examples of real success, no “hits.” This is a missed opportunity for retailers and brands. Walmart may change that; we’ll know by the end of the year.

Marketers and brands should do more experimentation and not regard smart speakers as extensions of online ad or business models. Even if smart displays really take off, marketers should think expansively about how these devices can enhance or improve the customer experience — and how they might pair with smartphones to extend their capabilities — in order to fully take advantage of the new medium.

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Majority of SMBs doing SEO are in-housing /majority-of-smbs-doing-seo-are-in-housing-315232 Fri, 12 Apr 2019 14:01:48 +0000 /?p=315232 Nearly 80 percent expressed confidence about knowledge of best practices.

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A majority of small businesses (SMBs) surveyed understand they should be doing SEO but only 36 percent have an SEO strategy in place and are actively pursuing it. That’s according to a survey of 529 small businesses, between 1 and 50+ employees conducted by The Manifest.

Beyond the 36 percent, the survey found another 23 percent planned to pursue SEO in 2019, and 15 percent said that they intended to in “2020 or later.” Whether these good intentions translate into action is another matter. A 2018 survey conducted by the same company found 44 percent of businesses spend time or money on SEO. However, that survey included respondents from larger enterprises (up to 500 employees).

Majority DIYing SEO. Most SMBs said they rely on in-house efforts for SEO (54 percent), although a substantial minority (42 percent) used SEO consultants and freelancers. Another 28 percent said they were using an SEO firm or agency. And 50 percent said they were using SEO software and tools. I assume the overlap is between those using an “SEO agency” and “SEO consultants.”

Nearly 80 percent of these SMBs were either “confident” or “very confident” in their self-assessed understanding of SEO best practices. However, the fact that the top SEO tactic mentioned was “social media marketing” casts some doubt on that finding.

Top SEO tactics among SMBs. The survey asked SMBs currently pursuing SEO, “What SEO activities does your company currently invest in?” Erroneously, “social media marketing” was on list of tactics and captured the highest response (63 percent). More than half of SMBs said a mobile-friendly website and keyword research/targeting are top SEO tactics:

  • Mobile-friendly website: 54%
  • Keyword research/targeting: 51%
  • Creating high-quality content: 48%
  • Local search optimization: 45%
  • On-site optimization: 40%
  • PPC advertising: 35%
  • Link-building: 28%
  • Voice search optimization: 21%

It’s interesting and somewhat surprising to note that 21 percent said they were doing “voice search optimization.” It’s not clear what that means to these businesses, however.

Methods for tracking SEO success. When asked how they tracked SEO success, these SMBs said “search traffic.” That was followed by “leads and conversions,” while only 4 percent said they didn’t track their efforts:

  • Web traffic from search engines: 25%
  • Leads and conversions: 19%
  • Number and quality of backlinks: 14%
  • Keyword rankings: 13%
  • Impressions: 13%
  • On-site engagement: 12%
  • I don’t track metrics for SEO: 4%

PPC advertising frequency. The survey also asked those doing PPC advertising about budgets and frequency. The largest single group (33 percent) spent between 10 and 30 percent of marketing budgets on PPC ads. The next largest group (24 percent) spent between 31 and 50 percent. The majority (82 percent) said they were doing PPC either “consistently” (45 percent) or “monthly” (37 percent).

Why we should care. The survey shows that while only a minority of SMB respondents are actively engaged in SEO, a substantial additional percentage recognize they should be doing it. That’s an opportunity for third-party marketing service providers and agencies that serve SMBs. But SEO doesn’t generally yield immediate results, which often makes its value difficult to prove and perceive for SMBs who tend to impatient and want immediate results.

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