Olga Andrienko, head of global marketing for SEMrush
SEATTLE — A new study has found 80% of the answers delivered by Google’s voice assistant came from the three top results in search engine results pages.
Even more, 60% of the results came from featured snippets and 70% overall came from SERP features.
The study, conducted by SEMrush, was unveiled at SMX Advanced in Seattle on Wednesday.
In addition to correlating voice results with SERP, SEMrush found a common link between answer length and use as a voice result.
“If you think of optimizing the paragraph for the intent of voice, make sure it’s around 42 words,” said Olga Andrienko, head of global marketing for SEMrush during her presentation at the conference.
The study also found the average voice result is at a level understandable to a 15-year-old.
SEMrush said it analyzed more than 50,000 queries across three devices: Google Home, Google Home Mini and Google Assistant being used on a Xiaomi Redmi 6 Android Phone.
On the technical SEO side, SEMrush found schema was indeed in use in the vast majority of results, but 36% of the answers given by the Google Home devices contained no Schema at all.
“There are so many types that we found no type of schema particularly helps,” Andrienko said.
Page speed, on the other hand, does. SEMrush found that the result used for a majority of the answers chosen loads significantly faster than the average page in the SERP.
Backlinks were also a factor, as SEMrush found backlinks anchors and title keywords were more prevalent in answers delivered by the voice assistants.
The data is important for SEOs to understand as we continue to think through the rise of voice since it suggests the key to performance is high SERP placement, site speed, content readability and high-quality backlinks. That’s good news, since SEOs are already optimizing for those factors.
Ignite Visibility CEO John Lincoln
The business case for voice
While it’s good news that optimizing for voice may not be so dramatic for SEOs, don’t let that stop you from taking voice search seriously for marketing and business, said Ignite Visibility CEO John Lincoln.
Also speaking at SMX Advanced, Lincoln said marketers must first establish a business goal for voice, “As with anything, is this actually going to make you money? Is it worth investing in it?” he said.
If the answer is yes, the next steps are about cementing your strategy. Choose the assistant or searches with the biggest possible return. Select a system to integrate with it. And integrate with data integration or an approved app.
Lincoln suggested SEOs should get comfortable with Dialogue Flow, a Google-owned development tool that lets you build actions and skills for voice assistants.
“Are you e-commerce? You’re going to spend more time on the Amazon side. Are you a publisher? So you’ll be spending more time on Google? Think about that,” said Lincoln.
More from SMX Advanced 2019
About The Author
Henry Powderly is vice president of content for Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than a decade in editorial leadership positions, he is responsible for content strategy and event programming for the organization.
SAN JOSE – With more advertisers and bigger budgets crowding onto Facebook and Instagram, acquisition costs are climbing. Advertisers can make their social ad dollars go further by re-thinking campaign fundamentals.
“You need to make sure you’re scaling your available inventory for click-through rates, mirroring your audience, and being dynamic,” 3Q Digital’s Senior Strategy Development manager Madeline Fitzgerald said in sharing tips for lowering CPAs across Facebook at SMX West Thursday.
Deconstructing Facebook CPCs
Audience size: bigger is usually better. CPCs on Facebook are affected by audience size, account structure, and click-through rates (CTR). The narrower and smaller your target audience, the more competitive your bid will need to be, Fitzgerald explained. The competition in the auction will ultimately impact the CPC outcome.
“If you’re noticing that your CPCs are really high, one of the first things you should do is check your audience sizes. If you’re seeing that [it’s] getting too specific, see if there are any other interests, behaviors, demographics that we can add.” Doing so, she explained, will help to broaden the target pool and give the Facebook algorithm more options to show your ads.
If you’ve reached a ceiling, broad targeting might be the next step. “If you already have a mature account, don’t go straight to this if you’re still early on in your testing phases. But if you’re trying to get to that next level, broad targeting is great way to do so,” Fitzgerald explained.
Account structure and segmentation. Account structure and the way we segment our ad sets can also determine the available ad inventory. Ads can run across a range of Facebook properties – from News Feed and Messenger to Stories and Instagram feeds. When we add segmentations like placements or geographies, the audience pool becomes restricted and advertisers might miss out on more efficient inventory.
“The algorithms are smarter than we are,” she reasoned. “Let the robots have it on factors like devices and placements. A couple of years ago, we laughed at everyone who did that. But we’re actually seeing a 13% lower CPA with some of our clients who [no longer segment those].”
Segmentation can be valuable when focusing on the funnel stage – i.e. audience personas, creative, and destination pages. But Fitzgerald recommends skipping demographics, geographies, devices, and placements — any of the factors you can’t edit after you set them up.
Campaign budget optimization. Soon, ad set budgets will be going away, in favor of campaign budget optimization (CBO), which uses machine learning to automatically serve ads to the target audience based on predictive analysis.
“I think the biggest way to figure out how to work this into our strategy is to think about the language Facebook is using to tell us about how the algorithm operates. Facebook tells us that CBO looks at the available opportunities – which is a combination of audience size and the audience’s propensity to actually convert into billable opportunities.”
Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes volume over potential for conversion,
which is why CBO works, she explained. Marketers can group together audiences with
similar potential reach or size and the budget optimization tool will see more
conversion potential for larger audience within the budget.
Conversions are in the creative
Mirror your audience. “As advertisers, it’s our job to help users see themselves
and their goals – what they want to accomplish – in our creative. We need to
make sure we’re making it very obvious for them,” said Fitzgerald.
Compelling ad creative should be able to clearly visualize
the value proposition of what’s being promoted. And it’s not just about getting
more users in the door, it’s about getting the right users in the door
because they were drawn to your creative.
Engage audiences with video. Facebook has been pushing advertisers
to use animation and video for some time now, but Fitzgerald argues advertisers
still aren’t doing enough with it.
“A lot of advertisers take existing creative and put a slow
zoom on it, or pull a three-minute explainer video and think that counts as an
ad. But that’s not really what we’re being called to as advertisers here,” she said.
“It’s our job to figure out how to leverage movement in a more disruptive way,
and think about new original ways to talk to people.”
Highlight clear value in the copy. Effective copy isn’t about being brand heavy. It’s about
making users comfortable with clicking on an ad. Fitzgerald explained that advertisers
can build that trust and comfort by keeping ad copy directly tied to the value of
what you’re selling.
“We want to make sure users don’t need to go through any guesswork to figure out what’s going to happen next,” Fitzgerald said. “People don’t want to have to read through your whole website to understand why they should engage with your brand.”
This story first appeared on Marketing Land. For more on digital marketing, click here.
About The Author
Taylor Peterson is Third Door Media’s Deputy Editor, managing industry-leading coverage that informs and inspires marketers. Based in New York, Taylor brings marketing expertise grounded in creative production and agency advertising for global brands. Taylor’s editorial focus blends digital marketing and creative strategy with topics like campaign management, emerging formats, and display advertising.
In April 2019, Google was experimenting with a new local SERP that highlighted alternative directory sources for the same query. At the time, we saw an example in the wild for Germany. Now, an updated version of the SERP featuring branded directory buttons appears to be live in the UK, Belgium, Spain, Greece, and France – if not already throughout Europe.
A more prominent directory box. Below is an example screenshot from a UK search, showing directory links above the map and local pack.
SERP showing results for ‘asbestos removal Halifax UK‘
This change in the SERP grows out of Google’s continuing effort to comply with the European Commission’s antitrust decision in shopping search. It’s also an attempt by the company to preempt a separate antitrust action in local search.
Yelp previously criticized these types of screens as a return to Google’s “rival links” remedy, which was originally proposed in 2013 and ultimately rejected by the European Commission.
UK SERP showing a local carousel above the map
How are the directories selected? One obvious and immediate question is how are the displayed directories chosen? This isn’t an ad unit, in contrast to the solution implemented in shopping search. In the latter context, comparison shopping engines and Google Shopping bid against one another for placement in PLAs. However, there’s no comparable “sponsored” or “ad” label in the directory box or carousel above.
We must assume that Google is algorithmically choosing the directories to display. In the UK example above, clicking on the directory box links takes users to a category page in the case of Yell but a business profile page in the case of Cylex. Other searches (e.g., “dentists, London”) show a carousel with multiple, alternative directories.
In some cases, the directories appear on the first page of the organic results, below the map. In other cases, they do not.
Why we care. It remains to be seen whether this approach is acceptable to the European Commission. Part of that will depend on whether the buttons drive meaningful traffic to these publishers. If so it could revive the fortunes of at least some of them (think “barnacle SEO”), which have continued to see declining traffic as Google My Business and zero-click search grab more user focus and engagement.
About The Author
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.
E-commerce category pages represent a larger opportunity for ranking and driving organic search traffic than product detail pages, according to research unveiled at SMX West 2020 on Thursday.
Across nearly 30 top U.S., e-commerce sites ranking for more than 25 billion keywords, category pages outperformed product detail pages, driving more keyword rankings and estimated traffic, as well as showing higher potential to capture additional traffic with optimization.
The data – culled by JumpFly and seoClarity from Google’s rankings in the U.S. – highlight the outsized role that category pages play in upper-funnel marketing efforts to drive brand awareness and interest.
Specifically, e-commerce category pages – which include parent category, subcategory and product grid pages with faceted navigation – ranked for 19% more keywords on average than product detail pages ranked for. The additional keywords they ranked for drove an estimated 413% more traffic, based on the keywords’ search demand and the pages’ ranking position. With optimization, those ranking category pages also showed the potential to drive 32% more traffic.
Even though category pages drove strong traffic, there’s a significant amount of room to improve ranking performance. On average, each captured an estimated 9% of the share of voice in its search results page. That means that the other ranking pages captured an estimated 91% of the clicks. Product detail pages, by contrast, captured just 2% of the share of voice.
E-commerce sector trends
The strong-category-page trend was most apparent across sectors that naturally target more generic head and torso keywords. For example, sites that sold cordless hammer drills, table lamps and cowboy boots drove stronger performance with category pages, including fashion, home goods and home improvement, as well as department store sites.
Interestingly, the results varied for one sector tested: electronics. One likely reason that product detail pages perform more strongly in this sector could be that electronics keyword themes tend to contain more concrete product attributes than those in other e-commerce sectors. For example, common TV searches include specifics like the size, display technology, resolution, brand and whether it’s “smart” or not. Product names for electronics also tend to contain some of those attributes to differentiate the many similar products available. Therefore, the relevance between a detailed search query and the details in the product name is higher than it would be for other sectors.
Regardless of sector, however, the direct-to-consumer space drove the strongest category-page results, with category pages ranking for 356% more keywords than product detail pages. These brand manufacturers selling their own products on their sites – like Apple, IKEA, The Gap and Nike – drove an estimated 202% more traffic with category pages, and had the potential to drive 233% more traffic.
Marketplaces and auctions
No e-commerce story is complete without a look at marketplaces and auctions. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a strong consensus among the sites in either group.
Behemoth Amazon bucks the trend with product detail pages ranking for an incredible 21,847% more keywords: 34 million keywords compared to the meager 155,000 keywords that its category pages ranked for. Amazon’s product detail pages also drove an estimated 57.5 times more traffic, and had the potential to drive 275.7 times more traffic.
This makes a certain amount of sense based on Amazon’s strength in media and electronics sales. Both sectors are more focused on the types of keywords that product detail pages would naturally win – book and movie titles, and product attributes. In fact, one of Amazon’s best practices for product detail pages involves placing as many product attributes as possible into its 50- to 250-character product names.
Conversely, the product names, and consequently the title tags that are typically based on them, tend to be very short and vague on most e-commerce sites. One luxury jewelry site, for example, has more than 10 products named simply “Ball Ring.”
Walmart’s smaller marketplace system acted more like Amazon with product detail pages that ranked more strongly. Though technically classified as a marketplace since its Target+ expansion to include third-party sellers last year, Target’s much smaller network acted more like a department store with stronger category pages.
On the auction side, eBay acted more like a department store with slightly stronger category pages, while Etsy drove more rankings with its product detail pages.
Why it matters
This research suggests that category page optimization is a valuable area to prioritize to boost your organic search rankings and traffic.
Category pages form the backbone of an e-commerce site as the clickable representation of the site’s taxonomy. Every category page naturally targets a series of keyword themes that form a path through the funnel. The head keyword sits at the mouth of the funnel, while the related, more detailed themes step lower to form the torso and long tail that move toward the tip of the funnel. Traditionally, the product keywords sit at the very tip of the funnel, converting the customer to a sale.
For example, an e-commerce site that sells clothing could have the following click path through a series of five category pages: women’s clothing > dresses > maxi dresses > black maxi dresses > XL black maxi dresses. Each of those five pages targets a unique keyword theme with a place in the sales funnel. Optimizing category pages enables you to capture those searching customers as they explore their purchase options.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Jill Kocher Brown is a 14-year SEO consultant, author, speaker, and editor. She loves data-driven decisions, scalable SEO strategies, e-commerce and technical SEO. A veteran of five agencies and in-house twice, Jill can be found these days at digital marketing agency JumpFly, Inc., where she’s pioneering the SEO practice.