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Chatting About Chatbots with Virginia Nussey [PODCAST]

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More and more brands now consider using chatbots as a part of their marketing strategy.

The documented use cases prove that using chatbots can be extremely effective in doing business online.

In this Search Engine Nerds episode, I interviewed Virginia Nussey, Director of Content Marketing at MobileMonkey and creator of Botgirl.io, to discuss how businesses and marketers can make the most out of chatbots on Facebook Messenger.

Chatting About Chatbots with Virginia Nussey

You have an extensive experience in the SEO space before working for MobileMonkey. What were some of the things that you experienced that was unique to you going into the chatbot space?

Virginia Nussey (VN): What I think SEOs or marketers, in general, can be aware of is that there are always new channels and platforms emerging.

I know from my own perspective, there’s a lot of risk in jumping in a new platform. You have to learn it, understand it, and build out all new funnels.

There’s a big learning curve. Does your time really make sense to dedicate to that when you’ve got a lot of other initiatives?

But essentially it’s not about marrying a channel. It’s about finding where people are, your audience, and communicating to them there, especially if it’s where they prefer to get messaging and communications.

I guess that’s what I would say is my big evolution for myself as a marketer, since entering the chatbot space. Being open to understanding where the audience is and where they want to communicate with you.

What are the different uses for chatbots right now that you’re seeing?

VN: Probably the most exciting for me is sending essentially direct messages to people.

About 78 percent of millennials today would prefer getting a chat message than an email from brands that they follow. That’s the progression of the way that communication is flowing.

Brent Csutoras (BC): Are you seeing an actual pick up and an actual traction from chatbots by providing a short quick message instead of a newsletter?

VN: Totally. It’s a lot more lightweight. It has the ability to be more personal and engaging.

Comparatively, if you expect 20 percent open rate with email, if you’re fighting for that every time you send out an email blast, well you can look to get 50 to 80 percent in a Facebook Messenger marketing blast. That’s a big lift there.

What are some of the others areas we’re seeing chatbots roll out and what problems are they solving?

VN: Along the lines of the newsletter replacement, it’s a great way for a publisher to just hook up their RSS feed and have a direct line if they already have people who want to subscribe to updates in that sense.

For anyone who’s in ecommerce, you could send promotional messages like, “We’re having a sale.”

BC: I think you can even make purchases, right?

VN: Yeah. You could have product helper bots.

Say if you want to get this cool new skateboard, but I don’t know what size this, the bot will help you pick the product that’s right for you based on your height, goofy footedness, etc.

What are some of the considerations that a company needs to finalize before they start building a chatbot?

VN: The first step in any kind of initiative like this is figuring out what your goal is. If you are trying to do a product recommendations bot, or if you’re trying to get more webinar signups, whatever your goal is that will help you.

Some organizations write their bot from scratch, they have a whole developer team and they will write a custom bot. But not everybody is equipped for that.

So, for organizations to decide that they would rather have an easy visual chatbot building platform, then they can go to MobileMonkey.com and sign up there.

Facebook Messenger is where a lot of these bot building platforms are built on. In 2016, it opened up an API that allows tools like MobileMonkey to create visual editors.

Just like MailChimp or WordPress, it’s a visual editor that allows you to interface and create some content that you can send off to your audience.

And then so a chatbot builder that’s visual is something that you probably want to consider.

You’ll want to learn about the Facebook ads integrations because if you’re running ads on Facebook, you’re probably spending more than you need to be for leads to your website. Chatbots can help with that.

You should also understand the different analytics capabilities of your chatbot building platform.

Find out whether you can integrate it with your other business applications so that you can get leads from Messenger, and then automatically port them into your CRM or email marketing platform, or any other kind of notification system that you have.

What are the key advancements or changes on chatbots in the past year that people should be aware of?

VN: There are a number of rules that are unique to Facebook Messenger.

In email marketing, you always have to have an unsubscribe message and you can only message people that opted in for messaging. There are rules but there’s not really any central regulation for email marketing, though.

With Facebook Messenger, there is a central regulator, and you can potentially receive warnings, get banned, or have your permissions restricted if you don’t follow the rules. It is good to be aware of them.

There are three different types of messaging that you should be aware of:

  • Standard messaging.
  • Sponsored messaging.
  • Subscription messaging.

If you fall under standard messaging, you get 24 hours to message somebody who first got in touch with your bot.

I would recommend that you use that first 24 hours to try to opt them into subscription messaging, which gives you more of an unlimited ability to send follow-up messaging in the future, and that’s just basically how you get on the list.

BC: What happens after that 24 hour time period?

VN: Technically, the rule is “24+1.” After that 24-hour time period, you get one more follow-up message at any point, and that would be your last chance to get them into subscription messaging unless they engage with your bot.

So, if they send any kind of response, if they click your button or click your link or ask you a question, that’s an engagement and that resets the 24+1 clock.

What is the process to get people to subscribe?

VN: Engagement is key as with all things, but especially on Messenger.

In the first 24 hours, you can send as many messages as you want, pretty much unlimited. They can be promotional or they can be non-promotional.

I would say you set up a drip campaign. When somebody enters this audience, then I’ll send them this sequence of messages.

In the first 5 minutes or whatever it is, you are welcoming them to your bot experience. This is the time when you want to get the user to understand the value of what you’re able to provide there in Messenger. It’s a very personal experience.

It’s kind of like just text messaging with a friend. We’re asking people to become a contact in a way that we get direct push notifications.

How does sponsored messaging work?

VN: Sponsored messaging allows you to send a promotional message anytime to anybody who’s ever engaged with your Facebook Messenger chatbot. This is done through the Facebook Ads Manager.

Basically, you’re limited by people who’ve already messaged your bots, that’s the number one thing.

But it is allowing you to send a promotional message which you can’t normally do unless you follow the other rules.

You can also layer, on top of all of your contacts, the normal Facebook ad audience targeting ability, i.e., demographics, interests or your own custom audiences list.

To listen to this Search Engine Nerds Podcast with Virginia Nussey:

Think you have what it takes to be a Search Engine Nerd? If so, message Loren Baker on Twitter, or email him at loren [at] searchenginejournal.com. You can also email Brent Csutoras at brent [at] alphabrandmedia.com.

Visit our Search Engine Nerds archive to listen to other Search Engine Nerds podcasts!


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

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How to Optimize AMP Stories for Google Search Results

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Matt Southern


An official set of recommendations concerning SEO for AMP stories is now available from the AMP Open Source Project.

AMP stories are similar to stories on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The key difference is they can be indexed and displayed in Google Search results.

See: AMP Stories Now Have a Dedicated Section in Google Search Results

AMP stories are just like other web pages in the sense that they have a URL on your web server, they are linkable, and they can link out to other web pages.

Flavio Palandri Antonelli, a Software Engineer at Google, states:

“In particular, just like other pages on your site, make sure your Stories are linked from within your website so that your users and bots can actually discover them. If you are using a sitemap, make sure to include your Stories in that sitemap. If you are posting your regular web pages to social media, post your Stories as well. We could go on here, but the gist really comes down to: Follow the best practices you’re already applying to the rest of your website.”

See: Official AMP Plugin for WordPress Now Supports AMP Stories

AMP stories should be optimized like any other page on your website. What works for regular web pages will also work for AMP stories

With that said, there are some SEO tactics specific to AMP stories that can be utilized as well.

Specific SEO Tactics for AMP Stories

Here are the SEO tactics specific to AMP stories. Keep in mind these tactics aren’t comprehensive and should be utilized in conjunction with the standard SEO work being done for your web pages.

  • Metadata: AMP stories have a built-in mechanism to attach metadata to a story. This ensures maximum compatibility with search engines and other discovery features that take advantage of metadata.
  • Internal linking: Site owners should generously link to AMP stories from other pages, such as linking to them from the homepage or category pages where applicable.
  • URL format: There is no need to indicate in the URL of a story that it is using the AMP stories format. Follow the same URL format as other web pages on your site.
  • Page attachments: Page attachments can be used to present additional information in classic article form alongside your story.
  • Image descriptions: Use meaningful alt text where appropriate.
  • Video subtitles: Consider providing subtitles and/or captions for the videos in your Stories.

Source: blog.amp.dev



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How Hackers May Be Hurting Your SEO

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Natalie Hoben


It is oftentimes rather easy to sometimes grow complacent as an SEO when it comes to site security, or put all of the responsibility on I.T. departments when it comes to any form of cybersecurity or hacking prevention practices.

It’s a debatable topic amongst many, however, this is defiantly true:

Website security, or the absence of it, can directly and critically impact a site, and that includes the site’s organic performance.

For this reason, website security should not be ignored when it comes to digital marketing plans.

But first, let’s gain a deeper understanding of what hacking, it itself, is, in order to connect the dots on why it should not be neglected.

What Is Hacking?

Hacking occurs when an individual gains access to a specific website or computer network, sans permission.

Unwarranted hacking most often occurs when people are trying to gain access to sensitive or private information, or to redirect users to a specific hacker’s website.

What Are Some Common Tools Utilized by Hackers?

Malware

Malware is specifically designed to damage or disable a specific network, with the goal usually being a data breach.

The potential after-effects of a malware attack can be great, including extensive financial losses for an organization.

Spamming

Website spamming usually occurs when a hacker adds hypertext to a webpage that, when clicked on by a user, will link to the hacker’s chosen destination.

Adding spammy links to a hacker’s website on websites that have a high amount of traffic to them has a chance of increasing search engine rankings.

It is essentially a way to shortcut the system of solidified, ethical SEO work.

Effects of Hacking

The ramifications of hacking can be significant and far-reaching. There are a few more common things that can happen when a website is hacked.

SEO Spam

GoDadddy conducted a study a few years ago where they concluded that over 73% of hacked websites were hacked due to SEO spam reasons.

Something like this could be planned and deliberate, or an attempt to scrape a website that is authoritative and capitalize on strong rankings and visibility.

In most cases, legitimate sites are ultimately turned into link farms and visitors are tricked with phishing or malware links.

Hackers may also employ that use of SQL injections, where a site will be turned over with spam and recovery may be very difficult.

Malicious Code

This can potentially put your website in the sandbox if Google detects it.

If detected, Google will display a warning message when users try to navigate to the site, and therefore encouraging them to stay away.

It can also potentially result in the complete removal of a site from search engines in an effort to safeguard users.

This will both, directly and indirectly, influence SEO value:

  • Visits: Overall organic site traffic will most likely drop significantly.
  • Engagement metrics: Metrics such as time on site, pages per session, and bounce rate will most likely be negatively affected, which will send negative signals to Google in terms of user experience factors.
  • Mistrust: Users who know that your site may be less enticed to visit again if they know that your site has had one or multiple security issues, thus also affecting your traffic, and ultimately, your bottom line.

Unplanned Redirects

Oftentimes, hackers will implement redirects when a website is hacked.

These will send users to a different website than the one that they navigated to initially.

When users are directed to this separate web address, they will usually find that the site contains:

  • Malicious forms of content such as duplicate content that isn’t true.
  • Other types of scams like phishing where users are enticed to click on a spammy link and ultimately reveal sensitive information.

If Google follows your site that has been redirected and sees that it contains questionable content, it may severely hurt overall organic visibility in search.

Backlinks

Search engines carefully assess the overall reputation and value of domains and links that link to one another.

During a hack, links will oftentimes be added to a site, and most likely ones with low value, which can negatively affect SEO efforts.

Your website may ultimately be flooded with backlinks from questionable sources, which will most likely decrease the level of trust Google or other search engines has in a site.

Blacklisting

Being hacked can put a site at a serious detriment in Google’s eyes. This can affect a site’s presence in SERPs and also result in potentially several manual actions in Search Console if Google flags it.

The kicker is, is that oftentimes they do not. This usually only leads to more attacks, such as via malware, without the webmaster knowing, and puts the site at risk for an even greater loss, both from a visibility and revenue standpoint.

This creates a bit of a conundrum. Being flagged or blacklisted for malware essentially depletes your site’s visibility across the board, at least until the site is analyzed and cleaned and penalties removed.

Yet, not getting flagged when your site contains malware can result in greater risk and penalization.

Common Risks & How to Prevent Attacks

There are a few more common things that put your site at a greater risk of getting hacked:

Installing Plugins or Other Tools From Untrusted Sources or Not Updating Them

Many plugins, such as those used in a CMS such as WordPress, are not all secure.

Hackers are consistently searching for sites that use insecure or outdated plugins and then finding ways to exploit the site.

As a best practice, it is recommended to research a plugin and read reviews before installing it on your site.

Sharing a Server May Also Pose a Risk in Terms of Site Security

This is because someone could easily upload a spammy or malicious file, or even grant access to other hackers.

Non-Secure Credentials May Also Pose a Risk for Data Security

It is recommended that secure passwords are created for online accounts and make them difficult to guess.

Another more advanced method to prevent an attack is through penetration testing. This analyzes and tests your network’s security and any potential vulnerabilities within it.

Conclusion

Everyone is affected by web security. When building a partnership with a website or client, SEOs should be able to provide some advice when it terms to overall security.

If you’re responsible for the SEO effectiveness of a site, part of your role is to ensure that there are security measures in place to protect it.

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A Definitive Guide to Mobile SEO

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A Definitive Guide to Mobile SEO


3. Technical Aspects of Mobile SEO

Now let’s look at the technical aspects of mobile SEO.

When you optimize the SEO elements on a page, you should start with title tags, H1 headings, content, image alt text, URLs, and meta descriptions, just as you would doing standard SEO on your desktop site.

Pay special attention to your title tags and meta descriptions.

Mobile search results pages don’t display as much information as desktop SERPs, so your titles and descriptions will be truncated to a much shorter length.

Use those marketing skills to write shorter, more compelling titles and descriptions, so you’ll make a better impression when you show up in mobile searches.

It’s critical that you don’t block CSS or JavaScript. Older devices didn’t support CSS or JavaScript, so it was common practice to block them – less code ensured faster load speeds.

Now, Google’s spiders want to crawl your site as humans see it. And if CSS and JavaScript are blocked, Google can’t see what your page actually looks like, so you might experience visibility problems.

Make sure you don’t have any popups on your mobile site – they’re incredibly annoying.

Think about what you do when you’re browsing the web. When you get to a site and a giant popup appears, you get frustrated and close it immediately.

Your customers do the same thing.

A Definitive Guide to Mobile SEO

Make sure you’re using schema markup. You should be using schema anyway, but it’s even more important when you consider the size of mobile screens.

And if you manage to get a rich snippet in search results, you’re even more likely to stand out when people are searching for you.

And finally, never, ever use Flash on your website! If you want your site to have animations or special effects, use HTML5 instead.

4. User Experience

It’s more convenient to search on a mobile device, but because of that convenience factor, user experience is critical to success.

So let’s talk about the things you should optimize to make your user experience stellar.

One of the most important UX issues on mobile sites is click size.

Whether it’s a menu button or a clickable element, you need to make sure the clickable area is large enough for finger taps.

Along the same line, pay attention to the distance between clicks. If your clickable areas are too close together, users will get frustrated when they can’t click what they’re trying to click.

Frustrated users are bad for business – they’re probably going to bounce.

Make sure your phone number is easy to see and is coded with a click to call link. Far too often, we see sites with unclickable phone numbers.

Why do you have your number on your site?

Because you want customers to call you!

So make things easy for them – add the click to call link.

A Definitive Guide to Mobile SEO

Make sure your mobile menu is easy to navigate. If you’ve crammed a bunch of buttons into your menu, they’ll stack vertically on mobile, and might not fit on the screen – users will have to scroll to see them all.

If it’s too hard for users to find what they’re looking for, they’re going to bounce and find the answer or the product elsewhere.

Another massive mobile UX headache is forms. Most business owners and marketers don’t put much thought into their mobile forms, thinking that the responsive site solves everything.

The forms need to fit well on the screen, and they need to be easy to use. If the fields are too small, it’s tough to click them to select them.

But the biggest issue of all is the keyboard you use for your forms. There are several mobile keyboards available, and it’s important to connect the right keyboard to each field.

If a user needs to type in their name, you’re cool with the standard keyboard. When the user needs to type in a phone number, set that field to pull up the number keypad instead of the standard keyboard.

It’s a simple code change that will drastically influence the number of form completions you’ll see on mobile.

Font size is also important. Pull up your site on your phone – is it easy to read? Is there enough space between lines?

Don’t try to use a smaller font to squeeze in more content on the smaller screen – in fact, you most likely need to do the opposite. Make it easy to read and your users will be happy.

Make sure you’re serving different image sizes on mobile.

A full-screen image on a desktop is much larger than a full-screen image on a mobile device, so use your website code to serve up different images based on screen size.

Don’t load in huge images that you don’t need to. If you’ve got a slideshow, serve mobile-specific images for it, making sure they fit on the screen of a mobile device.

5. Mobile Site Speed

Page load speed is a Google ranking factor – and since it’s using a mobile-first algorithm, we know that mobile load speed is what matters.

It’s important, but note that your page load speed is really only going to affect your rankings if you’re in the bottom range.

The extremely slow sites get penalized – but once you’ve got a site that’s loading within a few seconds, shaving another half second off your load time isn’t going to help you rank any better.

It will help you convert more customers, though.

When you’re browsing sites on your phone, there’s nothing worse than going to a site that loads so slowly you feel like you’re going to die.

If that’s the case, your users will bounce and go to your competitors instead.

Most business owners and marketers have heard of Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. It shares incredibly valuable insights into how you can speed up your site, but it doesn’t really tell you how long your site takes to load.

Use it for the suggestions it provides, but opt for another speed testing tool to tell you the actual load time.

Now, we’re going to share eight tips that will help your site to truly rock in terms of page load speed.

A Definitive Guide to Mobile SEO

  • Find quality hosting. Server response time has a massive effect on your page load speed, so get your site on a host that’s optimized for fast performance. We’ve seen WordPress sites get moved to a better host and the load time is nearly cut in half immediately.
  • Be careful with your site plugins. It only takes a few, especially chat and social media, plugins to slow down your site drastically. If you have any, try disengaging them and testing your “naked” site speed.
  • Prioritize the loading of above-the-fold content. In other words, load what the users see first. Make sure you’re not render-blocking anything above the fold.
  • Optimize your images before you load them. A 3-megabyte PNG file could be converted to a 210-kilobyte jpg image that looks the same on your users’ screens. Imagine how much faster your site will be if you could do that for every image. It’s also important to use responsive code to serve the right image size for the screen being used to view your content.
  • Be careful with redirects. Too many redirects can slow down your site – and so will redirect chains. Only use them if they’re absolutely necessary.
  • Optimize your site code. Make sure your HTML, CSS, and Javascript are clean and without any bloat. Minify the code to compress the files and reduce file size.
  • Use site caching. If you’re unfamiliar with caching, you set the browser to basically remember the site in its final configuration. That way, it can simply display the page without having to load the HTML, apply the CSS, load the images, and then fire off the JavaScript.
  • Use a CDN. CDN stands for Content Delivery Network, and it’s a collection of geographically different locations that serve your content. When a page is requested, its assets are served by the CDN server that’s closest to the user’s location.

6. AMP & Apps

We can’t talk about mobile page speed without mentioning AMP and PWAs, which are two alternative options for providing faster-loading content for your users.

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, which are created with a special coding language that is based on a stripped-down version of HTML and CSS and loads almost instantly.

AMP tends to be mainly for news sites and wouldn’t make much sense for many businesses, as those pages don’t look as appealing as fully designed pages. Even worse, the AMP pages are stored on Google servers, and you get limited analytics data.

If you’re looking for a fast, streamlined user experience, apps are another option. Native apps allow you to do things that aren’t possible on a website.

There’s a bit of a barrier to entry, though – there’s no point in having an app if your customers and potential customers don’t download it.

You’ve also got to get the app approved by the App Store or Google Play.

A progressive web app, or PWA, gives you the best of both worlds. A PWA is a hybrid between a mobile website and an app.

You can download it directly from your browser without going to the App Store (or worrying about App Store approval).

It looks like an app on the user’s phone, but functions basically like a mobile website. PWAs are incredibly fast.

Thanks to data caching, once the PWA has been used one time, users can load and use the app without even being on a network. It can even send push notifications and access other functions on the device – just like native apps.

There’s even a newer hybrid combo of PWAs and AMP, commonly called PWAMP, which are progressive web apps built on AMP pages.

So, should you use one or the other, or any of the options at all?

Each business is different, so there’s no right or wrong answer.

It also depends on your customers and audience, on how users find you, and on how they engage with you once you’ve been found.

7. Optimizing for Local

Let’s finish up with talking about how to optimize your site for local.

Mobile searches are inherently local. Google knows you’re searching from a mobile device, and if that search has anything to do with local businesses, it’s going to show localized results.

A Definitive Guide to Mobile SEO

A Google study showed that 76% of users who searched for something nearby visited a related business within 24 hours of searching.

Even better, 28% of those visits resulted in a sale. If you haven’t heard of it before, Local SEO is going to be your new best friend.

You need to be sure your content is localized – it needs to reference the local area, and you should be including your city name in your content.

Don’t stuff the city name in, mention it conversationally. It’s also helpful to write locally focused blog posts – they allow you to talk about specific information about the local area.

You also need to be sure that your NAP information is displayed on every page of your site. NAP stands for name, address, and phone number. Make sure your phone number is click to call.

Your NAP information needs to be marked up with Local Business schema – a type of code that shows Google that you’re a local business.

You should also use local optimization tactics when you’re optimizing the important SEO elements on your pages.

Include your location keyword phrase in your title tag, in your H1, and in your image alt text. Don’t just add it to the end – try to make it conversational.

Most website platforms allow you to customize your URLs, so include your location keywords in your URLs wherever possible.

Finally, include your location keyword in your meta description. It won’t help you with ranking, but since it appears under your blue link when you show up as a search result, it’s helpful to include the location info to boost the likelihood of a clickthrough.

You’ll also want to shift your link building strategy and start targeting links from local businesses. Google’s local algorithm values links from local businesses, even if the authority metrics are lower than what you’re used to seeing.

You’ll need to be sure your Google My Business profile is claimed and fully optimized. It’s a direct interface with Google that allows you to supply specific details about your business, and it’s the first thing customers will see when searching for your business.

Reviews play a big part in the local algorithm as well, so if you haven’t been paying attention to reputation management, it’s time to start working on getting more reviews.

Citations are also important to the local algorithm. Citations are mentions of your NAP information on other websites. Basically, they’re your directory listings.

They’re a foundational Local SEO signal, and Google expects to see the same NAP listed every time it sees your information on another site.

Want to learn more about mobile SEO? Take this course at SEMrush Academy. You’ll learn how to start thinking mobile first and top the rankings in mobile searches!



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