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9 Important SEO Habits You Should Adopt Now

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Want to improve your SEO strategies and skills to move the needle even more for your organizations and clients?

Then it’s time to ditch the bad habits and start creating new habits – or enhancing existing ones.

Although we typically gravitate toward specific areas of SEO (technical, on-page, off-page), based on our interests or familiarity, usually we can’t focus on SEO 100 percent of the time.

Our focus is spread thin.

Here’s how you can build habits that help you broaden your scope of context- and content-driven SEO – without working twice as many hours!

1. Research Deeper

The word “research” means different things to different people.

In our industry, it often relates to keywords, competitors, and links.

As SEO focus continues to shift more to focus on the whole rather than the granular details, it is as important as ever to have good processes and habits for performing research.

While I have worked to pivot and use terms like “audience” rather than “keyword” when pertaining to my research processes on the front end of SEO campaigns, I find that some of the deep insights for terms and topics come from concentrated efforts to use tools and available data.

I’m using more tools, spending more time in the SERPs, and focusing on finding ways to understand the audience in greater detail than in the past, while not abandoning the principles of old-school keyword research as well.

We know we have to go deeper while also keeping in mind that mining for that one long-tail keyword is short-sighted in the context-based era of SEO that we’re in.

2. Measure More

I’m willing to bet that 9 out of 10 people in charge of SEO for their company or clients would admit that we spend less time in Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and other analytics tools than we wish.

The time is now to find ways to get numbers coming to you or dedicating time nearly daily to jumping into the numbers.

The more time we spend in the data, the more we can measure, add custom dimensions, adjust attribution models, and find insights that we won’t get if we just drop in weekly or monthly to produce a report.

3. Learn Daily

We have great go-to sources like Search Engine Journal to use when we need to find an answer or learn about what is happening in the SEO world.

That isn’t enough!

With the speed of change in website technology, trends, and digital marketing, we have to find ways to learn daily.

A great way to build this habit is finding ways to follow favorite industry sources and have the news come to you.

I get my daily learning in through article feeds delivered by email and in social channels.

I have found that subscribing and following selectively in channels that aren’t as cluttered with noise helps me focus in on the articles I need to see without having to go out to each of the sites individually – which won’t happen organically my day goes too fast for that kind of free time.

4. Work Backwards

We’re getting better at this because we have to.

SEO is part of the digital marketing mix and has a seat at the table.

However, we’re competing against channels and noise about blockchain, AI, voice, chatbots, and more.

We have to stick to what our stakeholders care about – how search meets business goals.

To make sure we’re on point, we have to start with business goals and work backwards to our metrics.

When we start with our KPIs (e.g., rankings, average position, traffic) first, we lose the important message of sales, leads, revenue, and ROI that the C-suite and clients care most about and gain the opportunity to educate them along the way.

5. Truly Focus on Context

If you’ve been in the SEO world for a long time or if you’re only doing it part-time as part of a broader role, plus a host of other reasons, it is easy to focus on old tactics or small updates.

While I can speak to specific case studies of updates to a single tag and ranking improvements, they are rarer than in the past.

Getting context right and focusing on relevance and authority status for topics as a whole is critical to SEO success.

If you’re stuck on old tactics or just dropping in from time to time to make small updates, you’re going to fight an uphill battle.

Shifting to a context mindset is important and thinking with context first and keywords, technical, and links second will help drive the right priority in your SEO plan.

6. Stay Technically Sharp

Now that I have talked about context, I have to balance that out with making sure that we stay sharp on the technical aspects of SEO.

While it is possible to pump out a ton of content or build a lot of links and rank well, the nuances of technical SEO still play a factor.

Even if you’re more of a content and creative-minded SEO, there are aspects of technical SEO you can master.

Navigating issues with duplicate content, canonicals, indexing, disavowing bad links, page speed optimization, and other aspects of technical SEO are still important.

In fact, it seems that technical SEO skills are fading a bit.

7. Engage Stakeholders

Unless you’re a designer, writer, coder, and IT person in addition to your SEO role, you can’t do your job alone.

Bring others into your strategy and your circle. Engaging those you depend upon can help you get exactly what you need.

Additionally, find ways to involve product teams, marketers from other channels, sales people, research, PR, the C-suite, and actual customers to help you learn and evolve your strategy.

I’m not saying to give people control or say over how SEO is done, but you can:

  • Educate them.
  • Learn any insights they can provide on your competition and target audiences.
  • Know your customer’s journey.
  • Use that valuable information to shape your plan.

8. Integrate with Other Marketing Channels

We can learn a lot and leverage what is working in other areas of marketing and advertising. It is often easy to link up with paid search and share keyword data.

Push beyond your comfort zone and find ways to gain insight from traditional marketing, print, and offline experiences.

We can do a lot to support the other channels, which can help us with content, links, and other the external factors that we can’t normally influence to fuel our SEO.

9. Balance Your Focus Across SEO

We’re all admittedly strong in some areas and weaker in others. Or, maybe you’re a unicorn or rock star that is awesome at everything.

Even if that’s the case, there are aspects of SEO that we like more than others.

Regardless of whether we’re stronger on or prefer content over technical, technical over off-page, off-page over on-page, etc., we have to create habits that balance out our focus.

Yes, you can focus on one thing, do it really well, and produce results. However, that’s a risky strategy that can backfire when a major algorithm update comes out or when a competitor shifts focus or enters your industry and has a balanced approach that crushes you.

Make sure you’re focused on all aspects of SEO and make intentional choices on why you are focusing on certain aspects and in what priority order.

Build enough balance and redundancy in your strategy to mitigate risk.

Conclusion

Many elements go into SEO. While this is a simple statement, it’s also very true.

So start building new habits now. Fill in any gaps you have in your knowledge or routines.

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FTC smacks down anti-review ‘non-disparagement clauses’ in form contracts

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There are numerous studies circulating that show how important reviews are to consumer purchase decision-making. To protect the integrity of online reviews Congress passed The Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) in 2016. This was largely modeled on an earlier California law.

CRFA makes non-disparagement clauses illegal. The intention of CRFA was to “prohibit the use of certain clauses in form contracts that restrict the ability of a consumer to communicate regarding the goods or services offered in interstate commerce that were the subject of the contract, and for other purposes.”

These terms are typically called “non-disparagement” clauses and have been used periodically by professionals and corporations to pre-empt and prevent negative reviews. They often provide financial penalties or the right to sue for their violation. But they’re illegal.

Trying to get away with it anyway. Apparently quite a few businesses didn’t get the memo. Last week the FTC announced that it had settled administrative complaints with five firms using these illegal clauses in their customer contracts:

  • A Waldron HVAC
  • National Floors Direct
  • LVTR LLC
  • Shore to Please Vacations
  • Staffordshire Property Management

The FTC administrative complaints were originally announced in May and June. (The Yelp blog has some additional factual detail about the companies and circumstances.) It’s not clear if these contracts have just been in use for years (pre-dating the CRFA) or whether the companies got bad legal advice.

Must notify all their customers. Each of these firms must now notify all consumers who signed their agreements that the contractual provisions in question are not enforceable. There are other multi-year reporting and compliance requirements that the FTC orders impose as well.

In addition, Shore to Please Vacations apparently sued a vacation renter, who had written a negative review, in Florida civil court. It must now dismiss the private lawsuit for breach of contract.

Why we should care. Any marketer, brand or business owner contemplating any scheme to prevent or preempt negative reviews needs to stop thinking this way immediately. These efforts invariably backfire and cause more damage to the business’ reputation than anything contemplated by the non-disparagement clause.

Marketers need to follow review best practices and treat reviews and responding to them as just an ordinary part of doing business. It’s also important to remember that businesses that have some critical reviews ultimately have more credibility than those with only five star reviews.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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7 Expert Tips to Boost Your PPC Performance Today

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Over the last decade, the number of account and campaign parameters to consider has shot up almost 20 times.

How are PPC specialists expected to know which actions to choose for the best results?

And what exactly do you need to do to continually increase performance while staying ultra-competitive in the marketplace?

On August 14, I moderated a sponsored SEJ webinar presented by Adzooma’s Puneet Vaghela and Sal Mohammed.

They shared seven essential PPC optimization strategies that are proven to boost ROI, save time, and reduce spend.

Here’s a recap of the webinar presentation.

 Adzooma’s Puneet Vaghela and Sal Mohammed share seven essential PPC optimization strategies that are proven to boost ROI, save time, and reduce spend. From set up, budgeting and account structure, to the use of data, technology integrations and audience settings, this valuable webinar will cover it all.

So much has changed in the paid search landscape in the past few years. Today, it has become a complex ecosystem with:

With all of this to consider, it’s essential to determine what actions to take through all the clutter of managing a PPC account.

Here are seven areas to consider when optimizing your paid search campaigns if you want to bring the greatest returns.

1. Account & Campaign Settings

No one has an infinite marketing budget, therefore it’s important to find efficiencies wherever possible in your account.

There are three different settings in your account and campaign that you can easily change to boost PPC performance.

Locations

Location targeting

It’s important to use location targeting in your PPC campaigns to drive efficiencies and identify geographic areas with a higher propensity to convert.

It’s one of the best ways to actually reduce wastage in ad spend. Make sure to target your audience in the areas they’re searching.

If you don’t use location settings, you’ll be wasting budget showing ads to people who have no interest in your business.

Location settings also allow you to see in which areas you have the most traction. Therefore, you should concentrate budgets in these areas to maximize the effectiveness of your PPC spend.

Make sure you select the country you want to target when you set up your campaigns initially and then drill down and create campaigns for specific locations for the top-performing areas.

Devices

Device targeting

Ensuring you’re targeting the correct devices is also key to success.

Google has said that about 30–50% of searches on mobile have local intent.

If you’re a business or a high street store, you should be increasing bids on mobile targeting to reach people in the right place, at the right time.

People also interact on devices differently so use the data within your search engine to see which devices are driving the strongest KPI performance and modify bids accordingly.

Don’t worry about bidding too high, the data you gather will help inform you in your most profitable areas moving forward. That extra you spend in the beginning will just help you further down the line.

Ad Copy Rotation

Ad copy rotation

This is something that a lot of people just leave to Google to do for them.

But a lot of advertisers do like rotating ads evenly so they can optimize it themselves.

If the aim of your campaign is for branding, then this works. You can use tag lines from other media channels to support your messaging and then test it. Learn their ad copy to make sure you’re using the right one.

However, if you’re running a direct response campaign, then you should be trying to maximize the number of clicks or conversions coming to your site.

It would be a good idea to allow the system to actually optimize the ads for you based on the best click-through rate or conversion rate.

2. Automated Bid Management

Bid Management in the Engine

You should be using bid management in Bing or Google Ads to make your ads work as hard as possible for you.

Firstly, you need to analyze your data from the engine or analytics to see how many searches people take to convert with you. You need this to know which bidding works best.

You can then set up automated bidding in the engine based on the last-click conversion model if your conversion length is small.

If your conversion length is high, set it up based on a many-per-click conversion model so you can capture all the keywords required for someone to convert.

Bid Management Using Rules

You can also use automated rules to ensure your account is performing to the standards you expect using third-party bid management platforms, such as Adzooma.

When you’ve analyzed the data in your account, you’ll have identified how many impressions, clicks and conversions you need to drive profitability or hit your target KPI.

With this knowledge, you can set up automated rules to make changes to your account based on these criteria and help drive greater performance on your account while saving you time.

Bid management is generally a good strategy, particularly if you’re new and you don’t know which bids you should be putting in and how to manage them.

If you’re a large-scale advertiser and you’re inundated with different campaigns that you’re running, it is also another great thing you can use.

3. Data Integrations

Data integration is vital to any marketing team. There’s an easy way to integrate your analytics data with your search data in one platform.

Google Analytics, even if it’s the free version, is an important tool for marketers as it allows you to make more informed decisions on your PPC spend.

To link Google Ads and Google Analytics, you’ll need administrative access to Google Ads account and edit permission to a Google Analytics account.

Once you actually have the two platforms linked, you’ll be able to see a number of metrics you couldn’t before including:

  • How many of your clicks resulted in new visitors to your site.
  • How long people are spending on your site from PPC.
  • And, using goals in analytics, what actions people are actually taking on your site from PPC.

Using this data, you can see which keywords are working best for site engagement and optimize accordingly based on your KPIs.

If you’re running a branding campaign, you want more people to spend more time on your site and visit more pages if you’re running a direct response campaign, you want more people to interact with specific goals on your site and probably convert at the same time.

With an analytics integration, you can also start creating audiences based on people’s on-site behavior which is really important.

4. Audience Data

Paid search is based on keyword intent – targeting people based on what they are looking for at all times. It’s been like this since the start.

However, today’s climate is very busy with multiple channels, devices, locations, seasonality, increasing competition, and more data than ever been before.

So how do you sort through the clutter to make sure you’re targeting the people most likely to convert with you and thereby maximize the utilization of your marketing budget?

Why You Should Be Using RLSA

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs) were introduced by Google in 2013 and have grown to become one of the most important strategies available to marketers.

Identifying where people are interacting with your site and gauging who are most likely to convert with you is key to increasing efficiency in your ad spend and improving your conversion rate and cost per acquisition or cost per lead.

In Google Ads and Bing Ads, you can create audiences based on which URLs people have visited on your website and then retarget them when they search for other relevant terms to either:

  • Ensure your ad is appearing in front of them (particularly good for generic keyword efficiency).
  • Or show people different messaging to entice them.

You can also use other data, like demographic data, to make your ads even more targeted. However, this is just one aspect of remarketing with audiences.

How to Create More Enhanced Lists for RLSA

Moving further along, you should also be integrating any CRM data with your search platforms to create customer match lists which are audience lists based on the email addresses within your database.

This allows you to target people you know have already interacted with you and creates similar audience lists to target people similar to people who have already engaged with you and should play a part in your CRM strategy.

Linking your analytics platform with Google Ads allows you to use other on-site metrics to create audience lists. Time on-site, bounce rate, goals, pages visited, etc. are all very important in creating audience lists.

This will let you retarget people, not only based on what pages they visited on your site, but also how long they spend. This means you have another engagement aspect you can layer into your audience strategy.

Why is this important?

Audiences allow you to narrow down your targeting ratio.

This means that rather than spending your budget guessing who might interact and convert with you, you can use this data to:

  • Make informed decisions on which groups of people have the highest propensity to convert.
  • Target them specifically – increasing the effectiveness of your media budget.

That’s really important because acquiring a customer can cost five times the amount of retaining a customer.

If you find someone who’s gone to your site and shown interest, then creating a strategy that can reengage or similarly find more people like that user is something you should be leveraging.

Demographic targeting is also key. It enables you to reach a specific audience based on age, gender, parental status, household income, and multiple other variables.

5. Generic Keyword Efficiency

With generic keyword being so expensive, it’s important to use them properly.

Generics are higher in the funnel, used more for research purposes. Conversion rates on generic terms tend to be very low, and far lower than brand terms.

It’s an ineffective way to drive business goals based on a last-click conversion model.

How to Use Generics Properly

You can use generics as a retargeting mechanism – targeting people in your audience lists when they search for generic terms are after visiting your site.

They will have already engaged with you and so they will be familiar with your brand. Thus, when they widen their search, keep your brand at the forefront of their minds and get them back to convert, either through:

  • A different messaging (i.e., put an offer into the ad copy).
  • Or by increasing your bids on your audiences so that you appear more prominently on generic terms at a time when people are more likely to convert.

This will allow you to concentrate your generic keyword budget to an audience with a higher propensity to engage which will drive higher click-through rates (and hopefully conversion rates), reduce impression wastage, and allow you to use your budget more effectively.

Using scripts can make the use of generics a lot easier. If you ensure your generic keywords are only live during certain moments or triggers, it increases their value to your business and makes the use of them more efficient.

One example is if you sell ice cream, use generic terms when it’s really hot to increase the likelihood of people purchasing your product rather than wasting money showing your ad when it’s cold.

How to use generics properly

To run a strategy like this you can either write a weather script in Google ads using an API connection from a weather information source or you can use a third-party platform that already has the API connection set up.

This will allow you to automate the process of activating ads for specific generic keywords based on the trigger you decide.

This strategy can be used with a multitude of triggers such as TV ads, programs, social posts, news articles, stock market fluctuations, pollution levels, sports, and even other events.

Basically, anything that you can get an API connection to, you can feed that back into Google Ads to trigger into a strategy like this.

6. Effective Account Structure

Your account structure forms the foundation of your entire account and how well it will performs.

A broad structure will lead to impression wastage.

A granular account structure may take longer to set up in the short run but will benefit you with more accurate data and bid management capabilities moving forward.

Ensure Your Campaigns Are Split by Products or Categories

Don’t lump random keywords together. This will allow you to write more relevant ad copy based on the keywords in your ad groups and campaigns.

Some people like to use their websites as a touchpoint on how to structure their account and that’s a good idea.

However, if it’s a particularly large website, it can get quite difficult to use so just make sure that you are splitting your products and categories into the keywords that they should be by a group.

If You’re Covering Your Main Brand Term, They Should Have Its Own Campaign

This will allow you to manage the daily budget for this keyword much more accurately than if it’s fighting for budget with other keywords.

The same here comes into effect for your highest performing terms as well, even if they’re generics.

Create Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs), Where Possible

For your top-performing keywords, keep them in their own ad groups to:

  • Make the ad copy as accurate as possible for testing and learning.
  • Give you the ability to manage their daily budgets and bids separately so all your other keywords in your account.

Split Your Campaigns by Match Types

Using the following match types is recommended:

  • Exact match for traffic generation.
  • Broad match modifier to identify new keywords to add to your account.

Why avoid other match types?

  • Using broad match can cause impression wastage and your budget can get depleted quickly.
  • Broad match modified basically can cover all phrase match plus can harness a large net for harvesting new keywords.

This will allow you to manage your traffic drivers more effectively and allocate the correct budget levels to them and then use your remaining budget to invest in broad match modifier terms to harvest new keywords

By following these tips to building a strong foundation in your account, you’ll be able to initially identify your optimal bidding levels and you can then allow the bidding algorithms within the engine or third-party tool you’re using to optimize activity for more secure base.

Once you’re happy with your account structure, you can use numerous review tools to check how it’s performing and benchmark against that.

Using Adzooma’s free Google Ads Health Check tool can help you quickly spot 47 automatic areas on your account to see if it is set up the correct way.

7. Attribution

When most people think about attribution, they think about a complex user journey and having to use a data science team to translate what the numbers mean into actionable marketing ideas.

But attribution doesn’t have to be time-consuming or something only data scientists can do.

Using Google Ads, you can use data-driven attribution to report on your performance and see which touchpoints along the user journey are leading to the conversions on your site.

You can also use it to inform your bidding rules – which keywords to bid on – not based on the last-click model, but based on the effectiveness of each keyword in the journey.

This means that rather than just pausing a keyword because it didn’t result in a conversion, you can now ensure that:

  • You’re visible on keywords that help in driving conversions throughout the user journey.
  • You’re optimized towards the ones which have the greatest impact at the beginning and in the middle of the journey

Data-driven attribution is different from the other attribution models in that it uses your conversion data to calculate the actual contribution of each keyword across the conversion path.

Each data-driven model is specific to each advertiser.

There’s a caveat, however.

Data-driven attribution requires a certain amount of data to create a precise model of how your conversions should be attributed.

Because of this, not all advertisers will see an option for data-driven attribution in Google Ads.

As a general guideline, for this model to be available you must have at least 15,000 clicks on Google search and conversion action must have at least 600 conversions within 30 days.

If you don’t have this volume of data, you can use attribution modeling in Google Analytics to identify your keyword values through the funnel, analyze that manually, and then attribute it back to your activity.

7 Key Takeaways

  • Push some simple change to your account that will make a big difference.
  • Automate the way you manage bids and improve performance.
  • Integrate data to enhance your bidding strategies.
  • Know why audience data is so important and how to use it.
  • Make generic keywords work harder for you.
  • Boost performance quickly with simple account structure changes.
  • Deploy data-driven attribution that drives performance.

[Video Recap] Improve Your PPC Performance Starting Today with These 7 Expert Actions

Watch the video recap of the webinar presentation and Q&A session.

Or check out the SlideShare below.


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, August 2019



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Are your Google text ads getting truncated? Here’s what to consider

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This week, Andrea Cruz, digital marketing manager at KoMarketing noticed text ad headlines and descriptions getting cut off and wondered if is new.

I looked back at some older screenshots of search results and didn’t see truncation happening very often. But now I’m easily able to replicate the kind of result Andrea saw, including in the first text ad position, as in the example below.

Truncated headlines and descriptions in expanded text ads aren’t new, but it could be that it’s happening more often lately with certain ad renderings, which frequently include no ad extensions. Is the pendulum swinging back to simpler ads?

Why does ad truncation happen?

One thing to keep in mind is that truncation is about pixels rather than a specific character count, and wider characters use more pixels. In 2016, when expanded text ads were introduced, Google said advertisers should consider limiting headline length to 33 characters to keep them from potentially being truncated. That’s still the suggested length in the help center, even since Google added the third headline option:

“In some situations, Google Ads needs to shorten your text, usually with an ellipsis (“…”). This could happen if your ad text frequently uses wider characters (like “m”) instead of narrower characters (like “i”), because your headline text could be wider than the space available for it on some browser sizes. With most Latin languages, you can avoid this effect by limiting your line’s overall character count to 33 characters total.”

Additionally, if the ad preview in Google Ads shows the full headline, Google says it will generally render completely.

For descriptions, Google doesn’t give specific guidelines, and the preview tool won’t show truncation. Again, pixels will matter. In several results I looked at, description truncation happened between 84 to 86 characters, but a description with 91 characters displayed in full on one line because it had a lot of narrow letters.

Is ad truncation happening more often?

It may appear that truncation is happening more often because of the way Google often displays text ads now. The text ads above the organic results often show with just one description line, particularly on desktop.

Consider this screenshot of a results page for the query “car loan” captured last year in July 2018:

A Google search result from 2018.

Now, compare that to a results page served today in which the ads in positions two to four include just one line of description copy (the last ad’s description is truncated) and no ad extensions below them:

In a result from today, only the first ad shows ad extensions. The other ads show just one line of description copy.

I see this shorter ad rendering regularly across various queries, particularly on desktop. And the lack of ad extensions is interesting. Ads at the bottom of the page on mobile and desktop tend to show more description copy as well as ad extensions than ads above the organic results.

Ad rendering changes are constant

Google is always experimenting with the way it displays ads, even within the same results page. In the mobile example below (from today), notice the Expedia ad in the second position has a description that gets truncated and no ad extensions showing with it.

After refreshing that search result page later in the day, Expedia’s ad, still in the second position, appears with a description followed by callout extensions and an app extension, while the Hotwire ad in position three shows with just a description.

We don’t have control over how Google chooses to display our ads from one search result to the next, and it will vary based on device, browser and other contextual signals. It also decides when and what ad extensions to show. But we do have some control over truncation. If you want to avoid having your titles and descriptions cut off, experiment with length.

Something more interesting to watch may be the frequency with which your ad extensions show. It’s interesting to often see simpler ad treatments above the organic results these days.


About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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