George Nguyen – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 22 Sep 2021 14:31:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Staying virtual; Wednesday’s daily brief /staying-virtual-wednesdays-daily-brief-374620 Wed, 22 Sep 2021 14:00:00 +0000 /?p=374620 Plus, how to set up Google Analytics 4 using Google Tag Manager.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, being in-person isn’t worth anyone’s well-being.

That’s why we’re planning to continue virtual SMX and MarTech events in 2022. I want to be amongst my fellow search marketers as much as anyone, but there are very compelling reasons to continue with virtual conferences until we can be absolutely sure that we’re not compromising on safety. Chris Elwell, CEO of Third Door Media (Search Engine Land’s parent company), laid out these reasons in a two-part series of posts:

  • There’s no predicting the future of COVID with certainty, and that affects all the other reasons below.
  • The travel industry has been disrupted. Airlines are having a hard time rebounding, which means fewer, more expensive flights for the foreseeable future.
  • Over the last 18 months, virtual conferences have been successful for us. Search marketing conferences have translated well to the digital space.
  • Fewer in-person attendees means lower ROI, which any marketer should be able to appreciate.
  • The cost of participating in in-person events will rise. “Convention centers, decorators, caterers and all of the other participants in the ecosystem will be paying more to provide the appearance of safety,” Elwell explained. “Those costs will be passed on. Exhibitors will end up with the bill.”

When it’s safe to gather the way we all want to, I hope to be the first person to welcome you back to SMX, but until then, we’ll keep providing professional development opportunities via our virtual conferences. SMX Next will be kicking off on November 9, register and join us for actionable tactics to overcome today’s challenges and forward-thinking strategies that can help you prepare for 2022.

George Nguyen,

SEOs experiencing delays in data on Search Console performance reports

“We’re currently experiencing longer than usual delays in the Search Console performance report. This only affects reporting, not crawling, indexing, or ranking of websites,” said the Google Search Central Twitter account on the morning of Tuesday, September 21.

Many SEOs have noticed the change in their Search Console reports yesterday morning and have taken to social media to ask if they’re the only ones seeing the issue — clearly, they’re not. Based on chatter from the SEO community, the last day of data seems to be September 17 or 18.

Why we care. If your data isn’t updated, don’t worry just yet. The glitch will likely be fixed soon, but make sure to inform your clients and adjust your weekly reporting to ensure no misunderstandings or data mistakes. If you’re using the Search Console API, you maybe also see 404s until the glitch is remedied. Google assured SEOs that the glitch does not affect how sites are seen or indexed, just how the data is being relayed back to them. It’s also a good reminder to go into Search Console regularly to check your data and not just rely solely on tools that may pull the data into automated reports.

Read more here.

How to set up Google Analytics 4 using Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager (GTM) provides an easy, templated route to install GA4 on your site as well as create custom events. To help you get started, Tim Jensen, campaign manager at Clix Marketing, has shared how he gets GA4 tracking in place via GTM, as well as some basic customization options.

  • Step 1: To start, create a new tag with a Tag Type of “Google Analytics: GA4 Event.” Choose your GA4 ID under “Configuration Tag.”
  • Step 2: Next, enter the Event Name that you’d like to appear within the Google Analytics interface. In this case, we’re using “scroll” to align with the existing “scroll” event that GA4 tracks.
  • Step 3: Click on the Event Parameters section to expand it. Here, we can add a custom parameter to send further details about the event to Google Analytics. In this case, we’ll send through percentage values for when people scroll to specific points on a page.
  • Step 4: We’ll use “scroll_depth” for the Parameter Name. Next, the value will be {{Scroll Depth Threshold}}, a variable within GTM that will pull in the scroll percentages as people interact with the page and data is sent back in.
  • Step 5: We’ll need to create a trigger to determine the values we want to track. Click in the bottom Triggers section to start a new trigger, and select Scroll Depth Trigger. With the variety of screen sizes people may be browsing from, the percentage option is likely your best bet here. Add the numbers for the scroll points you want to track, separated by commas.
  • Step 6: Save the trigger, save your tag, and publish it live. You should now see more detailed scroll data populate when you look at the Events section in Analytics.

You can use the same basic model presented above to fire additional events into Google Analytics. Use the event name you’d like to populate into Google Analytics, and use parameters to populate further details. 

Read more here.

Product rich results without reviews, the Google Maps ghost and share of voice in modern marketing

Reviews aren’t necessary to use product schema for rich results. “You need either review, aggregateRating, or offers. If you have the product for sale (an ‘offer’) then that works,” Google’s John Mueller said. It may be difficult for lesser established brands to garner reviews, so at least now we know there are other ways to go about it.

“Sounded like a deep man’s voice with a slight Indian accent.” Some Google Maps users have reported that their voice navigation suddenly and briefly switched over to what sounds like a man with a slight Indian accent. This has happened to me as well, but I’m not sure I heard the same accent. Google says it’s aware of the issue and working on a fix, so there’s no need to fear…unless you believe in ghosts.

“Share of voice” in digital channels. Share of voice became a marketing staple decades ago, but the rise of digital muddied the waters. “This has led to renewed attention and debate around additional or alternative metrics.  Les Binet has been researching the value of share of search, which some like Mark Ritson advocate as a potential replacement and others like Shann Biglione at Zenith see as a different tool altogether,” said Marketoonist creator Tom Fishburne.

What We’re Reading: Maintaining your team’s productivity as the pandemic drags on

Are you more or less productive so far this year than you were in 2020? There seems to be no semblance of a consensus between my friends, colleagues, my partner or myself. “Well, I had a baby last year, so I was productive in different ways, I think,” Carolyn Lyden, our director of search content, told me. As for me, I’m not so sure — I worked hard last year, but I’m so much more efficient now that we’ve had over a year of pandemic life and virtual conferences under our belt. See? It’s not such an easy question to answer.

A HubSpot survey found that 39% of employees would say that their productivity level is the same as it was last year. A slightly smaller proportion (37%) said they are either a bit more or much more productive, and nearly a quarter (24%) consider themselves a slightly less or much less productive. There’s no explanation of survey methodology, so I have to assume it’s an internal survey — at any rate, Caroline Forsey, the manager of HubSpot’s marketing blog, sought to address these disparate experiences with a list of practices and strategies that managers can use to respond to changing productivity levels. Below are a few of the highlights.

  • Find daily or weekly activities your team can do together: This could be something as simple as a game of Two Truths and a Lie, a question of the day or collaborating on a themed music playlist. “Building a strong team culture is a critical component for increasing productivity, as it helps your employees feel more engaged at work and increases team morale,” Forsey wrote.
  • Paint a clear vision for your team’s future: The “unprecedented” part of the pandemic hasn’t totally faded, but at this point, we have a rough idea of what the near-term future looks like. “Employees had to adapt to a new working world, and now that they’ve adjusted, you need to paint an attainable future for them to work towards rather than ambiguity and uncertainty,” said Clint Fontanella, marketing manager at HubSpot.
  • Foster trust and boundaries: In remote environments, a lack of trust can turn into micromanagement. Without boundaries, remote work can quickly bleed into our leisure hours, which can be equally detrimental to productivity.
  • Acknowledge that productivity looks different for everyone: Here’s a personal example — Barry Schwartz can write and publish breaking industry news before I can finish reading it. While I also share that responsibility, I typically focus on longer, evergreen content. That means a lot of time spent communicating with professionals and companies and rounds of editing. Comparing us to one another simply doesn’t make sense. This is also true for employees that like to work 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with no breaks and ones that need to leave for a few hours to drop their child off at daycare, for example.

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Google rolls out ticket booking links, ‘Things to do’ ads and an eco-certified badge for hotels /google-rolls-out-ticket-booking-links-things-to-do-ads-and-an-eco-certified-badge-for-hotels-374626 Wed, 22 Sep 2021 13:00:00 +0000 /?p=374626 Google’s new travel and leisure products are meant to help businesses bounce back after over a year and a half of disruption.

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Google is introducing new organic and paid features for travel and leisure businesses, including ticket booking links and pricing in search results, new “Things to do” ads and an eco-certified badge for hotel listings, the company announced Wednesday.

Ticket booking links. In addition to showing general information when users search for attractions, such as the Statue of Liberty or Tokyo Tower, for example, Google will now also show booking links for basic admission and other ticketing options (when available). 

Image: Google.

The company also has plans for a wider rollout of this feature: “In the months ahead, we’ll also begin showing information and booking links for experiences in a destination, like wine tasting in Paris or bike tours in California,” the search engine said.

Ticket booking links can be promoted at no cost. Attractions, tours and activities operators that want to participate can learn more over at Google’s Help Center.

Introducing Things to do ads. Google is also introducing a new paid product for travel and leisure businesses: Things to do ads (shown below).

Image: Google.

These ads will appear above the search results when users search for tours, activities and local attractions on Google Search. They show details such as images, reviews, pricing and include a booking link for the activity, and are shown to users based on their search terms, location and other related details.

Things to do ads are an automated format that use data from your inventory feed based on the ad group label. Advertisers can designate a budget and target users based on their country of residence and device type. Except for target impression share, all bidding strategies available for Search campaigns are also available for Things to do campaigns. Google’s Help Center has more details on how to get started with this new offering.

Eco-certified badges for hotel listings. Beginning this week, hotels that are certified for high standards of sustainability from certain independent organizations, such as EarthCheck or Green Key, will have an eco-certified badge next to their name, in the search results.

The eco-certified badge in search results and sustainability information in hotel profiles. Image: Google.

Additionally, users can view more information about a hotel’s sustainability efforts in the “About” tab of the hotel’s profile, as shown above. Hotel listing managers can add these attributes to their business profile by signing into Google My Business or by contacting Google My Business support.

Why we care. As the world gradually moves away from the pandemic, these offerings could help travel and leisure businesses bounce back from over a year and a half of disruption.

Ticketing booking links in search results may help attract reservations or sales for ticket sellers with competitive prices. In its announcement, Google drew similarities between this feature and free hotel booking links: “While it’s still early days, we’ve found that free hotel booking links result in increased engagement for both small and large partners,” the company said, “Hotels working with the booking engine WebHotelier saw more than $4.7M in additional revenue from free booking links this summer. With more than 6,000 active hotels, WebHotelier shared that they were ‘pleasantly surprised to receive reservations right from Google at no additional cost,’” the company said.

The new Things to do ad format is another tool that attractions operators can use to reach travelers that have shown an interest in a particular destination and can be a nice supplement to organic marketing efforts.

And, the eco-certified badge for hotel listings may distinguish business profiles in the search results, which can be a unique selling point for environmentally conscious travelers.

While Google’s competitors in the travel sector may release (or already have) similar features available, these offerings strengthen Google as a travel platform by leveraging the company’s ecosystem of services and products, making it easier for users to plan their trips in one place.

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Mozilla tests Bing as the default search engine for 1% of users; Tuesday’s daily brief /mozilla-tests-bing-as-the-default-search-engine-for-1-of-users-tuesdays-daily-brief-374560 Tue, 21 Sep 2021 14:00:00 +0000 /?p=374560 Plus, ads proliferate in Amazon search results as ad prices surge.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, do you remember, the 21st night of September?

I associate that Earth, Wind & Fire track with the final days of summer/early days of autumn, when the heat waves get fewer and further between and life seems to settle into a more relaxed pace.

It looks like the weather isn’t the only thing changing, though: In Q1 2021, Expedia Group brought in three times more traffic from paid search on U.S. desktops than Airbnb, Tripadvisor and combined, according to a Bernstein report. It also attracted one million more visits from paid search in March of this year than it did in March 2019.

You may recall that Expedia Group once characterized Google as its biggest competitor, and CEO Peter Kern has been open about wanting to reduce the company’s dependence on the search engine. But, travelers responded to the pandemic by seeking out vacations they could drive to, often away from urban areas. Seizing this opportunity, the company focused on markets like the U.S. and poured ad money into promoting Vrbo, its Airbnb competitor. “Vrbo generated 2.1 million display ad visits during the first three months of 2021,” Dennis Schaal wrote for Skift, “double that of sister company, Tripadvisor,, and Airbnb combined.”

Diversifying your traffic sources remains important and can help keep your business stable, instead of being at the whim of whatever platform you may be reliant on. However, circumstances can change unexpectedly and when there’s an opportunity on the table, it may make sense to act. Being able to adapt in a timely fashion is critical and search marketers should prioritize that over any single strategy at any given time.

George Nguyen,

Mozilla tests Bing as the default search engine for 1% of users

Mozilla is conducting an experiment in which 1% of Firefox desktop browsers get set to Bing as the default search engine. The test will run until early 2022 but Mozilla has not disclosed more information, such as why it’s running this experiment or why it’s doing so with Bing.

Last August, Google and Mozilla reached a deal in which the former reportedly paid the browser company between $400 and $450 million per year for the privilege of being Firefox’s default search engine in most regions. It is possible that Mozilla is looking to set up a backup plan for when its contract with Google runs out in 2023.

Why we care. Many SEOs forego Bing optimization in favor of their higher traffic counterpart, but this is another reason to diversify your target search engines. It’s also another reason to potentially invest in Microsoft Advertising. While 1% of users isn’t a lot right now, if the Google deal falls through, having a Bing/Microsoft strategy may be beneficial if Mozilla makes it the default search engine.

Read more here.

Ads proliferate in Amazon search results as ad prices surge

“For consumers looking for toothpaste on Amazon, getting to unpaid results requires two full swipes up on the mobile app,” Annie Palmer wrote for CNBC. The e-commerce platform used to feature two or three sponsored products at the top of its results, but now, there may be as many as six ads that appear above any organic listings — and, there are even more promotions as you scroll down.

Sponsored product ads accounted for about 73% of merchants’ ad spend on Amazon in Q2, according to Merkle. And, the CPC for Amazon search advertising was $1.27 in August, a 47% increase from a year ago, according to a survey of 300 Amazon merchants conducted by Canopy Management. Last year, Marketing Land (now known as MarTech), conducted a survey in which 81% of Amazon advertisers said they planned to increase their ad spend on the platform over the course of 2020 — it looks like that trend won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Why we care. On Amazon, more ads means less visibility for unpaid listings. This creates a tough environment for merchants that aren’t able to advertise on the platform. The situation only gets worse for sellers in product categories that Amazon has entered, with its “Amazon Basics” line of products, for example.

Higher CPCs also mean that brands with bigger budgets may have an advantage. There are no dedicated ad slots in the search results, an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC, which may be a mixed blessing: more ad slots may make ads less expensive, but they’ll also take up space that might have gone to unpaid results. 

Carousels and publishing anonymously: Not unless you can help it

Brands that arbitrarily publish blog content anonymously, hear me now. When asked how publishers should handle E-A-T best practices when authors don’t want to reveal their real names due to safety concerns, Google’s John Mueller replied that it’s best to add author names where you can. “If you can’t do it for any content, and it’s all basically ‘trust us’, then I don’t know how users are supposed to deal with that,” he added. Safety is number one, but if that’s not your reason for publishing without author bylines, just know that it could hurt your organic visibility.

Should you use a carousel? No, not according to I hate/like that carousel the information is displayed on is a bit too fast for me to read, which, I suspect, is common for many others as well. Tip of the hat to Myriam Jessier for bringing this to our attention.

Google’s automotive search features disrupt the industry. Google seems to have launched new car-related search features that provide detailed specifications about models, including pricing, sale listings, configurations and so on. “In a lot of cases, OEMs also don’t provide all the data you see so we need to look for other sources to fill the gaps. This manual work results in our data team working year-round to add all this data in a categorized structured format,” Matt Smith, executive director of SEO at, said on Twitter, adding, “We add all the schema or we won’t get search features or knowledge graph rankings. Google then takes our hard work and shows it however they want… But what are you going to do, lose your snippets?”

What We’re Reading: ‘Outcomes > input’: The hustle culture fallacy

As a child, I once told my father I wanted to be rich. “How?” he asked me — I told him I’d work hard. He disapproved, telling me that I needed to work smarter, not harder. Seemed like generic advice at the time, but with the glorification of “hustle culture,” I can better appreciate the wisdom.

In Rand Fishkin’s blog post for SparkToro, the search industry veteran scrutinized some of the principles that underpin hustle culture, like the belief that anyone can get ahead if they work hard (which downplays socioeconomic privilege) or that those who work hard are simply better.

“The logical move is to either A) work genuinely hard or B) pretend and posture as though I work hard. We can easily rule out C) honestly share that my journey, like most successful entrepreneurs, is 80% luck, 20% talent, maybe less,” Fishkin wrote.

The takeaways are that, if he had slowed down in his earlier years, he probably would’ve still achieved the same level of success, if not surpassed it. And, that there are other factors that contribute to success, like luck — it’s just a lot less flashy to brag about how fortunate you are.

When I was a radio journalist, I worked a lot harder than I do now. But, that career was relatively short (only a few years) because I ultimately burned out and was desperate for something more sustainable. I really think I got lucky with my current role — without my knowledge, a colleague had vouched for me before I had even completed interviews. If you’ve been similarly fortunate, consider paying it forward.

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Google provides some reasons why it won’t use your HTML title tags; Monday’s daily brief /google-provides-some-reasons-why-it-wont-use-your-html-title-tags-mondays-daily-brief-374535 Mon, 20 Sep 2021 14:00:00 +0000 /?p=374535 Plus, Instagram tests ‘Map Search’ and last-minute holiday shopping SEO tips.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, autumn officially starts on Wednesday (if you’re in the northern hemisphere).

But, in my neighborhood, the fall and Halloween decorations started popping up over the weekend, which reminded me that many marketers are in the midst of preparing for the holiday shopping season.

Last Thanksgiving, online sales increased 20% YoY, hitting a record consumer spend of over $5 billion. And, nearly half of those transactions happened on smartphones, which was another record. Though we wished the pandemic would’ve receded by now, it’s still around and consumers may now be even more accustomed to e-commerce or hybrid shopping options.

I haven’t done any of my holiday shopping yet (and I expect many others, as well), so there’s still time to promote your goods and hopefully tap into the most profitable time of year for merchants. If you’re looking for ways to increase the organic visibility of your products, here are a few resources to bookmark and share with your team:

George Nguyen,

Google explains why it made the title change to the search results

For the past few weeks, Google told us it was using the designated HTML title tag 80% of the time. But, on Friday, the company said it is using as-is title tags 87% of the time, a seven-point increase: “Title elements are now used around 87% of the time, rather than around 80% before,” Google wrote.

The company listed the following as common reasons why it won’t use your HTML title tag:

  • Empty or half-empty titles (”        | Site Name”)
  • Obsolete titles (“2020 admissions criteria – University of Awesome”)
  • Inaccurate titles (“Giant stuffed animals, teddy bears, polar bears – Site Name”)
  • Micro-boilerplate titles (“My so-called amazing TV show,” where the same title is used for multiple pages about different seasons)

The SEO community is still mixed on this: Some are optimistic that Google will improve in this area, while others are asking for an option to opt out. If you noticed changes to your click-through rate from the Google search results, it may be related to these changes. Hopefully, the changes are positive since it is a win-win for Google to provide titles that its searchers want to click on. If not, Google said it will keep making improvements. It’s critical that SEOs continue to provide feedback on the adjustments to the title tag system, as well as any changes that play out in real-time.

Read more here.

Instagram is testing ‘Map Search’ in Australia and New Zealand

Image: SocialMediaToday.

Instagram has launched “Map Search” as a test for its users in Australia and New Zealand, according to SocialMediaToday. This new feature enables users to discover businesses and other locations of interest via the in-app map (shown above), which can be accessed via the map icon in the Discovery tab. Selecting a location on the map shows users a business’ information, public posts tagged at that location and the associated Instagram account for that business (if applicable).

Why we care. If this feature rolls out more widely and hits the right notes with users, it could help local businesses connect with more potential customers, many of which are likely to be nearby and looking for places to visit, shop or dine at. This may also mean that local business owners will have to pay more attention to curating their presence on the platform.

Instagram has steadily added more e-commerce support over the years. One would hope that e-commerce support would be integrated into map listings, offering even more flexibility for local businesses.

Accessibility that won’t ding your SEO, independent reviews mentioned in GMB profiles and considerations for starting your own agency

“I don’t see a problem.” Google’s John Mueller says the search engine doesn’t take issue with hidden text if it’s for accessibility, “partially because the accessibility elements usually aren’t the keywords you’re trying to rank for,” adding that, “If they were the only mention of your main keywords on your pages, that would be trickier.”

“Reviews on independent sites” seen on GMB profiles. There have been more and more reports of GMB profiles that include text like “200+ reviews on independent sites.” Tip of the hat to Joy Hawkins, who first brought this to our attention. We’ve reached out to Google to see if it’s willing to provide any details.

7 things to know before starting a PPC agency. Kirk Williams, owner of ZATO Marketing, shares three reasons why starting an agency in 2022 may be harder than ever, and four reasons why it may be easier than ever.

What We’re Reading: Documents reveal Facebook’s weak response to human traffickers and drug cartels on its platform

“Scores of internal Facebook documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show employees raising alarms about how its platforms are used in some developing countries, where its user base is already huge and expanding,” Justin Sheck, Newley Purnell and Jeff Horwitz wrote, “They also show the company’s response, which in many instances is inadequate or nothing at all.”

Facebook employees have flagged human traffickers operating in the Middle East, luring women into abusive employment situations or sex work. In Ethiopia, armed groups used the platform to incite violence against ethnic minorities. The article goes on to discuss organ selling, pornography, cartels recruiting teens to attend hit-man training camps and more.

“The company took down some offending pages, but took only limited action to try to shut down the activity until Apple Inc. threatened to remove Facebook’s products from the App Store unless it cracked down on the practice,” Sheck, Purnell and Horwitz wrote, explaining that Apple’s threat was in response to a BBC story about maids for sale.

Facebook’s attitude on these issues seems to be that it is “simply the cost of doing business” in those regions, according to Brian Boland, a former Facebook vice president in charge of partnerships with internet providers in Africa and Asia. This claim seems to be substantiated by the documents the WSJ reviewed: “In an internal summary about the episode, a Facebook researcher wrote: ‘Was this issue known to Facebook before BBC enquiry and Apple escalation?’ The next paragraph begins: ‘Yes.’”

The article goes on to explain a few reasons why this has been allowed to happen, language being one of them. If anything, these excuses work to highlight the company’s priorities, which apparently don’t include the safety of its users in those regions.

Why we care. Facebook is suffering in more ways than one: Its reputation has taken hit after hit since 2016 and it only seems to have gotten worse with COVID misinformation last year. In January, the company revealed that it actually lost daily active users in the US in Q3 and Q4 last year, despite a pandemic that forced more people online. Average time spent on Facebook by US users has also been on a steady decline (from 41 seconds in 2017 to 37 seconds in 2021), according to eMarketer.

For brands that rely on Facebook, this may mean that your target audience on the platform is shrinking and that there may be fewer opportunities to reach those individuals. This might get worse before it gets better as more users are following their beliefs and refusing to support companies that are complicit with human rights violations. And, I have to imagine that the users in these regions are associating the social media network with such violations, which may hinder its growth abroad.

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How to test your content site strategy for continued improvement /how-to-test-your-content-site-strategy-for-continued-improvement-374471 Thu, 16 Sep 2021 15:39:08 +0000 /?p=374471 Forecasting, documenting and analyzing your content initiatives can help grow your brand’s visibility and your skills as an SEO.

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Assessing the effectiveness of your content strategy is an integral part of growing your organic visibility as well as furthering your skills as an SEO. Techniques like forecasting can help you estimate the value a new piece of content or site change may generate for your business, but failing to record the real-life performance associated with those changes and comparing them with your forecasts may mean that you’re overlooking takeaways that can be used to improve future initiatives.

At SMX Convert, Alexis Sanders, SEO director at Merkle, shared the tactics that she uses to analyze site strategies for continued improvement. While the techniques mostly pertain to content, they can also be applied to other aspects of a site, like user experience.

Potential roadblocks to experimenting and testing your strategy

Experimentation can help you figure out what works best for your brand and its audience, but only if you’re able to ensure the integrity of your experiments and overcome the challenges associated with them.

High level of effort. Forecasting can require a high level of effort, skill, comfort with analytics and time. You’ll also have to determine a model to work with and formulate an approach that ensures consistency. Fortunately, the effort involved may decrease over time: “You can become better at it, but it takes extra time and it takes time away from the action and so that’s one of the challenges that a lot of people have to face,” Sanders said.

Multiple moving pieces. Large sites also typically have many people working to implement different things across the site. An e-commerce site, for example, may have different teams dedicated to merchandising, inventory, updating pricing and development. “So, extrapolating a driver can be very challenging on a large site, and making sure to have that accurate record of what is actually going on is absolutely critical,” she said.

Time. In order to get an accurate depiction of how your changes are impacting your site or business, it’s crucial to record your findings over time. “How often are you going to be reporting on things? When are you ultimately going to see an effect?” Sanders asked, “One of the solutions that we’ve seen at Merkle is by recording at different times and reporting 15 days, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days after a particular event has occurred and making sure you maintain a record of that.”

Search engines’ reactions. How search engines respond to your content may also present an unexpected challenge: “You may think your content is the best content in the world,” Sanders said, “It may satisfy your users, but search engines, it is their prerogative to determine what is the actual best result … and so there’s a certain level of lack of control that we have over that variable.”

Data infrastructure limitations. “If you’re interested in whether or not users are clicking a specific button or going through a specific path, and you’re not actually recording that information, then you’re not going to be able to report on it,” she said. For those facing these limitations, it’s necessary to set up the appropriate tracking and analytics moving forward so that you can eventually compare data over time.

Backburner burn. With the various action items that SEOs have to tend to on a regular basis, clearing some time in your schedule to report and communicate issues can be difficult. Nevertheless, it’s something that should be prioritized: “If it’s work that you’re doing, if it’s things that can make you more valuable within your organization, it’s something that should be prioritized for both your career and for future SEOs,” Sanders said.

Analyzing the effectiveness of new content

To determine how your audience will perceive your content, “We’re ultimately going to have to rely on is forecasting, to start off with, because that’s going to be our hypothesis,” said Sanders. For this, she recommends relying on historical data, such as case studies and competitor insights, and findings from qualitative tests, which you can conduct on a sample of your target audience.

Case studies. Sanders recommends maintaining a record of your internal case studies and links to relevant articles about case studies for initiatives that you may want to attempt in the future. Accumulating all this information will help you get a better idea of how your proposed content may perform. “Potential KPIs that we’ll be looking at may include revenue, traffic, visibility metrics like impressions, rankings and user engagement metrics,” she added.

Competitive research. Competitors’ rankings, estimated traffic (which may be correlated to rankings) and search volume are going to be the most useful metrics for forecasting. Tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, BrightEdge, Conductor, AWR and Similarweb can provide you with insights on how your competitors are performing. “This can be really useful if you want to do a specific initiative that is sort of similar to what a competitor is doing,” Sanders said, “You can see how they’re currently performing and then guess whether or not you will outperform them in certain areas based on what you’re actually going to be doing and your level of authority within the space.”

Pre-reads. A pre-read is when you ask a small group that represents your target audience to react to a piece of content. You can interview the group members for their opinions or provide them with surveys. Interviews with screen recordings “can be particularly useful if you’re looking at a site in general, or a functionality, but you can also use it for content,” Sanders said, adding, “What you’re looking for is: Do people have strong opinions about things? Do they have a strong affinity towards a piece of content? What is the ease of reading with this piece of content? Is it accessible to people? Those can be really useful for providing initial feedback and refining what you’re actually going to do with this new piece of content.”

Biological reactions. If your content deals with tough topics, observing your sample audience’s biological reactions, such as eye movement patterns and perspiration, can also be helpful for testing your content strategy. Tools like EyeQuant can help you document how users respond to your content.

Forecasting. Clickthrough rate curve estimates can help you predict incremental traffic lift. “We [calculate] that using the search volume multiplied by the clickthrough rate of our forecasted rank subtracted by our current rank,” Sanders said.

Estimated traffic lift = Search Volume x (Forecasted Rank’s CTR – Current Rank’s CTR)

“This can be really useful if you’re trying to show potential for ranking for certain keywords or keyword sets, or if you’re looking at a large group of keywords, you can just say what would be our incremental value if we increase by one ranking on all these keywords,” she added.

Quantifying the search value of content updates

Trends data.Sometimes it makes more sense to update existing content rather than start from scratch. In this scenario, trends data can also be used to predict performance (in addition to the above-mentioned clickthrough rate curve estimates).

To utilize historic trend data to create forecasts, “We would take a certain model — like Facebook Prophet, a machine learning model, whether it’s linear regression, a SARIMA model, a long/short-term memory recursive neural network machine model — and we would use that by feeding it time-series data of what we currently have of any metric (revenue, traffic, impressions, whatever you want to feed it) and that time series would project out into the future,” Sanders said. Those projections can be combined with findings from your internal case studies to give you an idea of how your content will perform.

Split testing. In certain scenarios, such as testing UX changes, split testing can help you find out what works best to facilitate your users and increase conversions. “For SEO, generally, we don’t want to have duplicate content, so if you’re introducing more than one URL, what you’re going to want to do is ensure that the bots are getting the appropriate experience,” she said, adding, “Or just don’t change the URL at all — ultimately, preserving the URL is generally going to be the best course of action.”

If there is the potential for search engine bots to find one of your alternative experience URLs, it’s best to 302 redirect to the main URL or simply exclude the bot if the test is over a short period of time.

In terms of analysis, user engagement metrics can tell you if users are taking the actions you want them to and whether they’re doing so efficiently (compared to the control experience). Tools like Google Analytics can reveal how your new experience compares in terms of bounce rate, time on page and so on.

Launch and learn. This approach is as simple as it sounds — just launch the proposed change and see what happens.

“A lot of times when you launch, you can basically look at any metric that you’re recording,” Sanders said, “Some of the core ones are going to be the user engagement metrics: How are users acting on your site? Are they completing actions that you want them to do, like clicking buttons, completing forms, are they staying on the site appreciably long?”

The KPIs to look at include revenue, conversions, traffic, visit sessions, organic clicks and impressions, ranking information and so on. Social media engagement can also tell you whether your audience is engaging with a piece of content.

Best practices for experimenting and testing your strategy

“The number one tip I have for you is to maintain an accurate record of events,” Sanders said, “Significant updates, good and bad, are absolutely critical to record — it is what allows us to have indifference towards the results and it’s something that also allows us to quantify risk later on.”

Likewise, it’s important to record site updates or anything else that happens on the site that may affect performance. Industry news and seasonality are also factors worth making note of, as well as search industry-related news, like core algorithm updates that may impact rankings.

As you conduct your experiments, the tips above can help you turn your findings into case studies that serve your team and your stakeholders.

As a final piece of advice, Sanders touched on the mindset necessary to conduct experiments that yield trustworthy results: “Be open to qualitative feedback and insights from your core audience members, they may tell you things that you didn’t even think about, which can be really useful for refining a new piece of content or modifying an existing one.”

“Results indifference is absolutely critical to refining your understanding,” she emphasized, “So, make sure you go into it with a lack of caring as to whether or not the content performs but more interest in learning what you can from that.”

Want to see the whole session? Sign up to watch the entire SMX Convert learning journey on-demand.

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Google Ads will combine Smart and standard Display campaigns /google-ads-will-combine-smart-and-standard-display-campaigns-374449 Wed, 15 Sep 2021 16:42:06 +0000 /?p=374449 The new Display campaign type will have the same controls that standard Display campaigns currently offer.

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Beginning this month, Google Ads will combine standard Display campaigns and Smart Display campaigns into a single option, the company announced on Wednesday. In addition, Google Ads will also be introducing optimized targeting to Display campaigns.

The new Display campaign type. “In this new Display campaign experience, you’ll have all of the reach and performance you’re used to, with the ability to choose the level of automation you prefer in bidding, creatives and audiences,” Bonnie Pericolosi, director of product management, Google Display ads, wrote. During the campaign setup process, advertisers can choose what to automate or control manually, and they can change their automation choices at any time without having to create a new campaign.

“No action is needed: Existing Smart & Standard Display campaigns aren’t affected by this change at this time. Once this update is rolled out in your account, you’ll see the new Display campaign type option and workflow when you create a new campaign,” Ginny Marvin, Google’s ads product liaison, said on Twitter. 

Optimized targeting will be available for Display campaigns. Along with this change, Google Ads will also introduce optimized targeting, which treats audience settings as signals to find audience segments that may improve campaign performance, to Display campaigns. Previously, this option was only available on Smart Display campaigns. Note: Optimized targeting is automatically enabled for all campaigns.

Why we care. Soon, there will be just one option to create Display campaigns. The new Display campaign type will have the same controls for bidding, ads and audiences that standard Display campaigns currently offer. And, as Marvin stated, existing Smart and standard Display campaigns aren’t affected by this change at this time.

“It’s hard to tell from the announcement, but hopefully there won’t be a major near-term impact,” Greg Finn, partner at Cypress North, told Search Engine Land, “Additionally, some advertisers will be able to test the power of Smart Display automation without having to create a one-off ‘Smart’ campaign.”

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Your communications shouldn’t feel like marketing; Tuesday’s daily brief /your-communications-shouldnt-feel-like-marketing-tuesdays-daily-brief-374396 Tue, 14 Sep 2021 14:00:00 +0000 /?p=374396 And, California’s challenge to Amazon’s labor algorithms carries potential ramifications for merchants.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, do you think of yourself as a brand?

“Thinking of ourselves too much as brands can take away from what’s human and real,” wrote Marketoonist creator Tom Fishburne. “If everyone acts too much like a personal brand manager, all communication can start to feel like marketing.”

Promoting yourself on places like LinkedIn or Twitter can help you further your career and open up new opportunities, but, “Communications that ‘feel like marketing’ is something that marketers work to avoid all day, every day, regardless of channel,” Chris Wood, my colleague and editor at MarTech, added.

“There’s a line between personal branding and self-promotion,” Fishburne said. “I think it’s less about what you say about yourself and more about what you do.” In a space where so many organizations and professionals rush to share their messaging about the latest industry news or current affairs, I can only recall two groups: the ones that totally botched their responses and the ones that actually went out there and did something.

If you’re interested in promoting yourself or your business and learning more ways to successfully engage on LinkedIn, Darryl Praill, CRO at VanillaSoft, will be leading a session on exactly that at our MarTech Conference, kicking off tomorrow at 11am ET. You can register for free for that session and much more, including sessions on marketing in the search-first era and proven methods for improving onsite search effectiveness.

George Nguyen,

Messy SEO Part 2: The importance of canonicalization

What do you do when you’ve merged two sites only to find that there are now a large number of canonical URLs pointing to now-non-existent pages? They don’t directly affect users like redirects do, which was what Corey Patterson, content and SEO manager for MarTech and Search Engine Land, covered in the first installment of our Messy SEO series. However, Google and other search engines rely on them to ensure that search results are up to date and meet users’ needs.

In the case of Marketing Land and MarTech Today, which we merged into back in May, Corey analyzed the URLs on each page via the Yoast SEO plugin and replaced the canonical URLs with the newly consolidated URL.

“​​This leaves many URLs out there, both in the SERPS and on the MarTech site itself,” Corey wrote, “Fortunately, the Third Door Media [our parent company] team already put in redirects from these domains to the new MarTech site, sending a pretty strong signal to search engines. But, with a domain as large as ours, it’s taken months for the index to cull the old URLs.”

Read more here. 

Microsoft Advertising is switching to a new feedback platform

Beginning in October, Microsoft Advertising will move to a new first-party feedback platform, the company announced Monday. Microsoft Advertising also plans to bring over existing feedback, status and votes from UserVoice, the platform it’s currently using, as part of the transition.

In addition to allowing advertisers to share their feedback and vote on feedback from other users, “This new feedback platform will enable [Microsoft Advertising] to listen and act on customer feedback in new and exciting ways,” Juan Carlos Ousset and Aaron Lauper wrote, although they didn’t provide any examples of what these “new and exciting ways” might be. Advertisers can still submit feedback via the existing platform until September 30, and all feedback will be migrated over.

Why we care. Feedback matters — that’s how Google knew that advertisers weren’t thrilled when it limited search terms reporting, and that led to the recent addition of more query data for impressions without clicks. The search marketing community on Twitter is often generous with its feedback, but (as many of you have probably experienced yourselves), screenshotting a social media post and putting it into a report for your client or boss may not be as effective as feedback submitted through proper channels.

Featured snippets links, cover songs and worthy causes

Google is testing links in featured snippets (again). In November, Google was spotted testing contextual links in featured snippets and many SEOs were keen to highlight the new opportunities and risks that came with this potential change. Now, Google is at it again, but Brodie Clark, who first brought this to our attention, has said that, this time around, the links all go to Wikipedia or an internal page. If this is closer to the final version — if there even is a rollout, that is — publishers may have less to worry about, since the links won’t be going to competitors (unless you count Wikipedia as a competitor).

The Beatles x Google Ads. ETA, we are sad to see you go away… Kirk Williams busts out his guitar for a PPC-centric rendition of Yesterday. Kirk, if you’re reading this, we need the full version of the song.

Celebrate your colleagues and diversity and inclusion in marketing. As a person of color, I can’t tell you how much it means to me to feel welcomed in the search industry, but sadly, not everyone is met with that experience. That’s why I’m so proud to announce our second annual Search Engine Land Award for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Search Marketing. Last year, Women in Tech SEO founder Areej AbuAli earned the accolade for her inspiring contributions to the industry. This time around, she’s a guest judge. There are a lot of advocates and organizations that deserve to be recognized for their allyship — if you know one, recognize them by submitting a nomination.

What We’re Reading: California’s challenge to Amazon’s labor algorithms carries potential ramifications for merchants

Last week, the California Senate approved AB 701, a bill that “would block Amazon and other companies from punishing warehouse workers who fail to meet certain performance metrics for taking rest or meal breaks,” Makena Kelly wrote for The Verge.

With numerous outlets reporting that warehouse employees are known to skip bathroom breaks in order to meet performance quotas, Amazon’s labor practices have been under intense scrutiny over the last few years. But, the bill doesn’t just affect Amazon, in fact, it doesn’t even explicitly name the company; however, “both Republican and Democratic lawmakers recognize that the e-commerce giant would be greatly affected by the enactment of the legislation,” Kelly wrote.

For businesses that use Fulfillment by Amazon, that may eventually mean a slower fulfillment process in California. If similar bills get passed in more states, the online retailer may have to rethink its labor practices on a larger scale. That’s potentially bad news for merchants that are reliant on Amazon, but Amazon isn’t the only platform out there — the new legislation could skew the math as retailers weigh their options, assessing not only fulfillment times but also seller fees, user bases and so on.

If signed into law, the bill would also force companies to be more transparent with their performance algorithms, revealing the quotas to regulators as well as employees, which should be…enlightening. Last Wednesday, after getting approved by the California Senate, AB 701 was sent back to the assembly for minor changes before it will be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom, who hasn’t signaled whether he’ll sign the bill.

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How to drive the funnel through content marketing and link building /how-to-drive-the-funnel-through-content-marketing-and-link-building-374343 Fri, 10 Sep 2021 17:34:44 +0000 /?p=374343 “It isn't so much about what you want to tell your audience, it’s what you understand they want to learn and what's going to be helpful for them.”

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Businesses turn to content marketing because it can be an effective method for building brand awareness and guiding customers through their sales funnel. Yet, many have been unable to capitalize on their content marketing initiatives because they haven’t covered all aspects of the customer journey, didn’t keep track of their assets and wasted resources on duplicate content, failed to create unique content or were simply unsuccessful with their outreach efforts.

In her session at SMX Convert, Eve Sangenito, director at Perficient, shared her comprehensive content strategy to engage potential customers at every point in their journey and generate backlinks for greater discoverability and higher rankings.

Understanding the customer and mapping their journey

Your content should exist to serve your brand by serving your audience — that should always be at the center of your planning and execution. “It isn’t so much about what you want to tell your audience; it’s what you understand they want to learn and what’s going to be helpful for them to learn more about your solutions and/or about your industry as a whole,” Sangenito said, adding “Just knowing where they’re coming from is one of the key elements you should be focused on.”

Mapping the journey that a customer typically goes through can also help you build your audience personas while identifying opportunities to answer common questions at each phase of the journey.

“From your business’s standpoint, you want to think about how the customer lifecycle plays into the sales funnel because you’re trying to build relationships with target audiences and target buyers,” Sangenito said.

What audiences typically search for at each stage of the funnel. “We tend to see informational queries when someone is in their awareness phase,” she said, providing the following examples of questions a consumer at the top of the funnel may be asking: “What are the options available to me? What are people saying about those options? How are other people in the market feeling about the information that’s put forth by this organization?”

In the next stage of the funnel, consumers typically seek to educate themselves via how-to articles, studies and influencers. When a potential customer gets to the consideration and evaluation phases, they’re narrowing their options, reading reviews or case studies and comparing prices.

The customer lifecycle continues after the purchase as well. Teaching your customers how to make the most out of your products or services can enrich their experience and providing accessible support via FAQs or videos, for example, will also help to maximize your chances of turning a first-time buyer into a loyal customer.

An example featuring the considerations a homebuyer might have from the start to the end of their journey.

Once you’ve mapped the journey for a particular persona, you should leverage that map to develop pillar and supporting content topics. This “content topic universe” (more on that below), will help you steer clear of irrelevant topics that may end up leaving your audience with more questions rather than guiding them further down the funnel.

Developing your content topic universe

The personas you’ve created can act as the locus of the content topic universe, enabling you to brainstorm themes that are specific to that type of customer.

“What are some of the common questions based on where they are in their life stages?,” Sangenito asked, using prospective home buyers as an example, “Are they buying a home for retirement? Are they buying a home for the first time?” Marketers can create variations of those topics for different personas and branch out to answer follow-up questions that customers are likely to ask.

Cut down on wasted resources by managing your assets. Taking and maintaining an inventory of your existing content helps you understand what assets you already have at your disposal. This can minimize resources wasted on duplicate content by, for example, helping you distinguish what assets can be updated versus what needs to be created from scratch. “Also, knowing what you have allows you to see the gaps and where your editorial calendar can go in the future,” Sangenito said.

Injecting your brand and goals into the content. Brand and market insights can inform how you actually create the content and, consequently, help to shape what that content does for your business: This is where you can insert your brand’s guidelines to ensure a consistent tone across your content marketing. You can also address topical issues in your industry, differentiate your offerings or tailor your content for a specific purpose (like social sharing), for example.

Creating unique, optimized content

Validate your topic. Before you start writing or creating the content, you’ll first need to confirm that the topic is relevant and of interest to your audience. You can validate your topic while conducting keyword research by looking at the search volume associated with the keywords you’d be targeting.

Align with search intent. Understanding intent for your target keywords is also a critical step: “You can look at the SERP and you can start to understand what kinds of content are being surfaced for someone who’s searching for this topic and you can see whether or not that would fit what you’re trying to accomplish,” Sangenito said. This is also an opportunity to do some research on the competition and how they’re performing in the search results: “[If] what’s being featured [in the search results] is all coming from a single set of organizations, there might be an opportunity to diversify by having your organization produce content on that [topic],” she added.

Differentiating your content. Emulating the top-performing search result is a pitfall you’ll want to avoid. Your competitive analysis should reveal ways to go beyond what’s already out there, enabling you to differentiate your content and your brand. Getting quotes from experts, hiring writers that specialize in the topic or even formatting (an infographic might appeal to your audience more than a listicle, for example) could be meaningful ways to differentiate.

After you’ve compiled your content brief (informed by your personas, journey map, keyword research and competitive analysis), it’s time to pass it on to your content writer or creator. “Make sure that your authors have the knowledge and expertise to write about those topics because the nuances of how they write about it versus the generalist who’s just doing research on their own can really come through and affect the content,” Sangenito said.

Optimizing and editing. Once you have your draft, SEO best practices, such as internal linking, title tag optimization and structured data, can be applied so that your audience can find more information related to your content and continue to move along the customer journey. It’s also important to conduct an editorial review before publishing to ensure that your content conveys professionalism, adheres to your brand tone and serves your business and your readers the way it should.

Building links for more traffic and better rankings

Determine what’s link-worthy. When building backlinks, it’s best to focus on promoting the most relevant and highest quality content for the audience you’re trying to tap into.

Sangenito recommends that marketers ask themselves the questions that the people they’re outreaching to are probably asking: “What’s the scope and scale? How relevant is this content that you want me to link? How many people does it potentially affect or how engaged is the base of people that it will affect and how much will they want to read it? What is that impact potential?”

Content that is able to engage audiences on an emotional level can also be an important factor in whether or not you earn the backlink.

Timing can influence how many backlinks you’re able to attract, as well. “There’s relevance to linking out to both evergreen content or seasonal content, but thinking about that in terms of when you actually publish content to generate organic links, or outreach for it, is something that you should keep top-of-mind,” she added.

Link building strategies. Link building can help you expand your discoverability, drive traffic to the most valuable assets on your site and create a sense of trustworthiness for your brand if you’re able to earn backlinks from authoritative publications. There are numerous ways to approach link building — Sangenito highlighted a few strategies, as shown below.

“You can do tactical elements, like understanding if you have broken inbound links and seeing if you can outreach to the sites that are linking to you to see if they could be updating them,” Sangenito said, adding that PR coverage may be another opportunity to turn a brand mention into a link if it isn’t one already. Reviewing your competitor’s backlinks can reveal sites that may also be open to linking to your brand as well.

Resource-based link building, which involves promoting an existing piece of content that might add value for users of other sites, can also be an effective approach depending on the quality of your content and your outreach skills.

Content marketing isn’t a “one-and-done” tactic

Once the content is created and the backlinks are earned, you’ll want to keep your momentum going by periodically auditing your content inventory and updating assets when appropriate. This will help keep the content that you’ve worked so hard to create and earn backlinks for up-to-date. That way, the content will continue to serve your audience and you can keep performing outreach for that particular asset, further strengthening your brand’s reputation, which should also mean more conversions for your business.

Want to see the whole session? Sign up to watch the entire SMX Convert learning journey on-demand.

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Google search terms report adds historical query data for impressions without clicks /google-search-terms-report-adds-historical-query-data-for-impressions-without-clicks-374323 Thu, 09 Sep 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=374323 And, on February 1, 2022, Google Ads will be removing historical query data (collected before September 1, 2020) that no longer meets its privacy thresholds.

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Beginning today, Google Ads will show advertisers historical data for queries that received impressions but no clicks in the search terms report for Search and Dynamic Search Ads campaigns, the company announced Thursday. “Historically, the report only ever showed queries that resulted in a click,” Pallavi Naresh, senior product manager at Google, told Search Engine Land, “We knew that advertisers wanted more data and we had to make investments in our tech stack to show this magnitude of data in Google Ads.”

And, on February 1, 2022, the company will remove historical query data collected before September 1, 2020 (the day before the company initially limited search terms reporting) that doesn’t meet its privacy thresholds.

“Still only providing reporting for terms that a significant number of users have searched.” Last year, Google used the following message to notify advertisers that it would limit search terms reporting: “We are updating the search terms report to only include terms that were searched by a significant number of users. As a result you may see fewer terms in your report going forward.” The new query data still only includes “terms that were searched by a significant number of users.”

“It’s important to note there have been no changes to policy definitions or privacy thresholds that have contributed to making this change possible,” Naresh said, “We are still only providing reporting for terms that a significant number of users have searched for across all Google searches.”

Additional data from February 1, 2021. The additional data shown in reports will be for queries advertisers received starting on February 1, 2021.

“We started saving queries that received impressions but no clicks starting on February 1 while we were simultaneously upgrading our tech stack,” Naresh said when asked why the data starts on that particular date.

Reporting for historical query data will be limited after February 1, 2022. After February 1, 2022, historical query data collected prior to September 1, 2020, and that doesn’t meet Google’s “current privacy threshold,” will be removed from search terms reports.

“Most advertisers will continue to see most of their queries prior to Sept 1, 2020,” Naresh said, reiterating, “We are only removing historical queries that did not meet the new thresholds for search query reporting that we established in September 2020. We are removing this data as part of our ongoing effort to make our privacy thresholds consistent across Google.”

Why we care. Advertisers are gaining access to some new data, but this update is not a reversal of the September 2020 change that initially limited search terms reporting. The additional data is for queries that received impressions but no clicks and the data is still only for “terms that were searched by a significant number of users.”

Nevertheless, this new information could be quite useful for many advertisers. The additional query data could reveal what’s failing to attract the right audience. Advertisers can use this information to build out their negative keyword lists to improve their campaign efficiency.

With regards to historical query data, the company is giving us nearly five months to export all data collected before September 1, 2020. Advertisers should grab this data while they still can so they can continue to reference it — after the February 1 cutoff date, Google will be removing the portion of that data that doesn’t meet its privacy thresholds.

And, Google is saying these changes are a result of feedback from the community. While it’s certainly not a return to the level of data transparency that paid search marketers had prior to September 2020, it is an improvement. For the foreseeable future, it looks like Google is not backing down on reporting only for “terms that were searched by a significant number of users.”

More on limited search terms reporting:

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Incorrect business listings deter 63% of consumers; Thursday’s daily brief /incorrect-business-listings-deter-63-of-consumers-thursdays-daily-brief-374312 Thu, 09 Sep 2021 14:00:00 +0000 /?p=374312 Plus, the Google News app will show non-AMP content and Microsoft Advertising announces optimization score in the Recommendations tab.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, I spent last week in a cabin near the woods in New York.

The lack of distraction gave me time to think about some of the things that are holding me back, so I thought I’d share one with you: While on a hike, I found myself frustrated because we had been lost for some time. Apparently, that’s a given when you go hiking in a new area, but that wasn’t of much comfort to me. I couldn’t shake the need for progress, even though “progress” wasn’t the point of the hike.

The next day, I wrote “permission to change” in my notepad (read: diary). It’s to remind me that the next decision doesn’t have to be related to the previous circumstance or emotion. I didn’t need to continue to be frustrated just because I was already frustrated. Likewise, the way you do your job, teach your kids, communicate with your partner and so on doesn’t have to be dictated by your history — especially the negative patterns that may pepper that history.

It’s a cliché to say you can change whenever you want. I think you have to give yourself that permission to change and tell yourself it’s okay to try something new, which can be scary and may require some vulnerability.

Now, back to all the search marketing news you need to get your day started.

George Nguyen,

Google News app will display non-AMP content and send readers to publisher pages

As part of the page experience update, Google News will be displaying both AMP and non-AMP web content, the company announced in an email to publishers. The platform will no longer render article text from RSS feeds in the Google News app; instead, it will send readers directly to publishers’ webpages.

Why we care. We’ve known for some time that the Top Stories carousel would be open to non-AMP content, but now we know the same will go for the Google News app. The AMP requirement for Google News may have been a barrier for some publishers, but now that it’s going by the wayside, those publishers may want to get their content onto the platform to attract more readers potentially.

And, as Google stated in the announcement, the Google News performance reports in Search Console are unaffected, and your ability to track and measure traffic from Google News remains unchanged.

Read more here.

SEO tools among those marketers replaced last year

In a year when digital engagement became paramount, can you believe some marketers ripped and replaced search marketing tools? It’s true. About 16% of respondents to this year’s MarTech Replacement Survey said they replaced SEO Tools in the past year. While that’s a smaller proportion than those that said they replaced their marketing automation tools (24%), it sat right in the middle in the range of tools replaced. Get the full report here and grab your free pass to next week’s MarTech, when we’ll talk more about the results in detail.

See you at MarTech.

Microsoft Ads announces optimization score in Recommendations tab

Optimization Score is now available on the Recommendations tab in Microsoft Ads, according to the latest announcement from the company. The new scoring system helps improve advertisers’ account optimization status and potential, help advertisers spend their time more efficiently and to prioritize the optimization actions with higher impact, and track their optimization efforts over time. 

To check Optimization Score in Microsoft Ads, visit the Recommendations page in Microsoft Advertising. “You’ll see a percentage score in blue (see below). Each category of recommendations is shown with an aggregated score uplift from the recommendations belonging to it, and each recommendation is indicated with a score uplift in an ellipse on the top right of the card with a value from 0.1% to 100%, representing its estimated impact on your account or campaign performance,” wrote Cui and Ventura. If you apply or dismiss a recommendation, your score will adjust accordingly.

Read more here.

63% of consumers say incorrect information on a business listing would stop them from choosing that business

Image: BrightLocal.

A BrightLocal study of 1,141 US-based consumers found that, over the last 12 months, 76% of consumers said they have arrived at a business too early or too late because its opening hours were wrong online. An even greater proportion (77%) said that they found conflicting information on business information sites.

Why we care. Inaccurate business information has become alarmingly common since the pandemic began, and the newly established prevalence only adds to the frustration for customers. The study also found that 63% of consumers would be deterred from using a business if their listing contained inaccurate information. That’s a huge proportion of potential customers that your local business could be opening itself up to by simply maintaining accurate details across the platforms that audiences use to find them. 

I’m not crying…someone must be cutting some Brand Onions…

Your “Brand Onion.” “The Brand Onion rarely passes the ‘Factory Floor Test’ — could you share it outside of the Marketing Ivory Tower without being laughed out of the room?” said Marketoonist creator Tom Fishburne, “The strongest business communication is just plain English.” 

20% of Bing results offer direct answers.  A Financial Times article (that was mainly about Google’s MUM) from a few weeks ago reads: “The ability to extract answers from text has already enabled Bing to offer direct answers to 20% of the queries it gets, according to Ribas.” Jordi Ribas is the CVP of search and AI at Microsoft Bing, and it sounds like he’s saying that Bing serves direct answers for 20% of all queries conducted on Bing. Tip of the hat to Glenn Gabe for bringing this to our attention.

Start is Microsoft’s answer to Apple News, Google News. Microsoft Start is the company’s new, personalized news portal. It’s available as both a website and mobile app. Readers can provide feedback on the personalization algorithm via a thumbs up/down or manually add/remove interests. It’s ad-supported and began rolling out on Tuesday. Now, the questions are: Will Microsoft be able to attract users? And, will it provide value for publishers?

Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” tech is coming to Whole Foods

Amazon is testing technology that enables shoppers to walk right out of some Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh stores in two Whole Foods locations: Washington DC and Sherman Oaks, California.

This is the first time a major grocery chain is implementing this type of solution. Although it’s a long way away from getting adopted in most convenience stores, this trial will likely provide some critical takeaways for local businesses.

For example, how will consumers react to the new workflow, which requires them to sign in with an app? Chances are it’ll go well for Whole Foods, which has a cashback app integrated with its parent company. But, other grocery store chains may not have a customer base that’s used to opening an app every time they walk in. Also, how will employee count be affected? Will employees need to be re-trained for other duties?

Amazon has licensed its “Just Walk Out” technology to third-party retailers. If the company can demonstrate that it improves the customer experience, it might compel local businesses to give it a try. Perhaps that will afford local business owners more time to provide better customer service or simply find other ways to improve their business.

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