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Five search opportunities to act on now

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30-second summary:

  • Search marketing is evolving at lightning speed alongside the consumer. 
  • One company’s challenge can be another’s opportunity. 
  • Activating search and market insights has become mission-critical for brands. 
  • Brands need to stay on top of what’s happening with both the consumer and the SERP. 
  • Creating and optimizing content that enhances a consumer’s experience is key.  
  • Jim Yu shares five search opportunities you’ll want to have your eye on as you strategize for the rest of 2020 and beyond. 

Late in 2019 and just around the new year, the anticipated SEO trends for the coming year focused on voice search, featured snippets, BERT, experiential content, and new networks like TikTok. Who could have guessed that midway through 2020, that things would have changed so rapidly?   

The marketing calendar planned out 12 months ahead is shot, and some brands have had to pivot the entire business, offering new pandemic-inspired products and services, while others are still trying to navigate how to do business in keeping with the social distancing and contact-free needs of increasingly stressed consumers. Stimulus funding, unemployment, remote work challenges, childcare/schooling and more are all wreaking havoc with consumer behavior. 

Of course, as with all change in the search world, one person’s challenge is another’s opportunity. You can bet that at least some competitors are going to rely on their traditional, time-consuming decision-making methods, leaving a lane wide open for agile and innovative first-movers. 

Who are having to learn their market all over again? Perhaps this is why search interest in SEO itself, which was largely stagnant from mid-2017 to early this year, has ballooned. In fact, searches for SEO are at a five-year high. Companies need to know—how can I get back in front of the customers most in need of products and services like ours? 

Check out these five search opportunities you’ll want to have your eye on as you strategize for the rest of 2020 and beyond. 

1. Rebuilding your understanding of key markets – consumer-first marketing

Prior to the pandemic, the percentage of CPG purchases made online versus at brick-and-mortar stores was already at 11% and on a growth trajectory. Now, markets are rapidly shifting not only to online buying and e-commerce but to hybrid models such as buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS), order in-app for contactless delivery (think UberEatsGrubHub), subscription-based (HelloFresh), and others.

If you’ve tried purchasing clothes in-store lately, it can be a stressful and not at all rewarding experience. With in-store capacity limits, mask and social distancing requirements, directional arrows to guide traffic, and no changerooms in many places, ordering online has become more attractive. The risk inherent to purchasing online is that an item may not fit—well, now you may not be able to try it on anyway. Might as well stay home and try it on when it arrives. 

All of this change is costing brands a lot as more staff are needed for increased sanitization, partitions and other safety barriers are installed, hand sanitizer is provided, and more. What’s more, COVID highlighted serious shortcomings in global supply chains that provide many types of goods to Americans from overseas. Companies are having to rethink every aspect of the business through this new lens of rising costs and the on-location experience not being what it was just a few months ago. 

Search insights can be helpful here as you try to navigate the new market. We’re seeing that it’s not a temporary shift; analysts and experts now speak of COVID-19 restrictions in terms of months and seasons rather than days or weeks. Having your ear to the ground, so to speak, is more important than ever.  

 2. Staying on top of search trends in your vertical – keeping ahead of the competition

We studied the impact of COVID on search behavior by vertical and found that businesses have been similarly affected across four broad categories. 

Apparel retailers, baby and maternity sellers, beauty brands, and data centers are among the first business is rebounding from the impact of COVID. There was an initial shock in these markets as lockdown took effect and the worst of the economic uncertainty took hold. However, people continue to need these products and services and they are readily available via ecommerce, BOPIS, and more. 

SEO search trends second half 2020 Brightedge

Some verticals actually accelerated. Digital marketing, pet adoption, and garden and patio goods are all among this category. As social events were canceled, loneliness set in and pet adoption became a logical solution. Face with spending more time at home, people began investing in improving their outdoor living spaces. 

In the stabilizing category, we saw consumer electronics, gaming, grocery, and telehealth explode in popularity near the beginning of the pandemic. As people learn to live with the uncertainty of what has become quite a lengthy issue, these industries are stabilizing and those companies involved need to really build on their strengths to stand out. 

 Of course, some industries took a real hit and it could be months or even years before they recover. Airlines, hotels, concert venues, and the related product and service providers there—these brands need to transform and prepare to weather these conditions for some time. 

Whatever your vertical, it is critical that you understand what people are searching for right now and that your content is optimized for those terms. In banking, for example, searches for drive-thru ATMs have become incredibly popular. For groceries, people want to know if they can buy online and pick up in-store. Searchers are looking for contactless payment and delivery from restaurants and meal providers. 

Spend time on research and check out the attributes available to your business category in Google My Business, and simply spend a bit of time searching your competitors to see how they’re adapting.  

3. Reconsidering consumers’ content needs – optimizing for experiences

As McKinsey puts it, we have “covered a decade in days” as far as the adoption of digital goes. COVID-19 has caused a surge in ecommerce, declines in discretionary spending, reduced shopping frequency and a shift to shopping closer to home as consumers have sought to limit the number of trips they make to brick and mortar stores. Consumer satisfaction and ongoing viral infection rates will continue to cause dramatic fluctuations in consumer behavior.  

As Kelly Askew, Managing Director of Accenture Strategy for Canada, recently told Retail Insider,

“People are saying they expect that those new behaviors are going to continue into the foreseeable future. We think that those behaviors may persist as long as a decade. The crisis is causing consumers to consider the impact of their shopping choices more closely when it comes to things like health and the environment.”  

When it comes to the impact on how people search, we’ve seen that consumers’ appetite for information is as voracious as ever. One of the first behavioral changes we noted due to COVID-19 was an intense focus on quality information. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the dangers of misinformation and bias on the web. When sharing out COVID-related information, brands need to cite and link to reputable, top-quality sources. Make it clear to readers (and to Google) that your company is committed to that expertise, authority, and trust that the search engine wants to see in the results it prioritizes for searchers. 

Personalization is more important than ever. Dynamic content can help you mirror consumer intent when they are searching for or exploring your site for just the right solution for their unique needs. 

4. Staying on top of search engine updates – adapting to the SERP

Probably the lowest hanging fruit in the search world is simply paying attention to what it is that search engines are looking for and focussing on delivering there. Updates and new features can tell us a great deal about how to optimize content. The whole concept of entities, for example, gives us a peek behind Google’s curtain at what it wants to see.  

Google needs to be able to understand how different entities are related. Through RankBrain, it decides how important each signal that factors into that relationship really is. Google is getting more sophisticated in its ranking algorithm but at the end of the day, this is nothing new or earth-shattering for brands. It has always been the search marketer’s job to help the search engine understand why any particular webpage is a better answer to any given query than another. 

There are multiple ways to demonstrate to Google how your page and your company as an entity relates to your target market searcher’s query. And again, these aren’t necessarily new.

You are going to write high-quality, focussed content. You are going to:

  1. Link to reputable sources and share your own expertise in an effort to try to get other reputable publishers to link to you. And again, these aren’t necessarily new
  2. Write high-quality, focussed content.
  3. Link to reputable sources and try to get other reputable publishers to link to you
  4. Use the proper schema markup
  5. Going to optimize your images properly to facilitate accessibility and also hope the search engines understand the content of those graphics

Mobile continues to be increasingly important, especially as emerging markets come online with a large proportion of the population being mobile-only. Knowing this, brands need to be looking at an even more mobile-centric future in 2021 and beyond. Mobile is no longer just alternative web design for the desktop website. Mobile is an entire experience with its own customer journey, content needs, and rich search results. 

We need to be looking to voice, too, as consumers become more reliant on their voice-enabled and IoT devices. Again, we are not just adapting content for being read out loud. We are seeing entirely different types of queries when people use voice search. Content for voice search results needs to take into account the zero interface nature of the searcher. How can you deliver an exceptional experience to someone without a screen? 

Brands need to be developing the strategies and at least have these issues on the horizon. You may be in crisis mode at the moment, but that is not a place you can stay forever. 

5. Leveraging technology – empowering the AI assist

While many firms are now using AI-enabled tools in some way, new applications and possibilities are still developing every day. Artificial intelligence enables SEOs to not only automate tasks but to derive greater insight, make smarter decisions, and deliver on consumer needs in near to real-time at scale.  

Content optimization, competitive research, SERPs analysis, keyword research, and more can all be made more efficient and effective when powered by AI. Look for solutions that provide intelligent automation and enable human SEOs on the team to focus on the more creative aspects of each campaign. It’s not about replacing people, but augmenting their performance and giving them better data and more accurate insights on which to base their decisions. 

SEO will lead the way through COVID recovery for businesses of all kinds. Ecommerce, BOPIS, local business discovery, and evaluation—whatever the product or service, and whatever the service delivery model, consumers take to search engines to find the information needed to make their purchasing decisions. If anything, this trend has picked up as a result of COVID, and consumers’ need for content will continue to grow as the Coronavirus continues to impact our way of life. 

Those in position to be agile and focused on getting in front of the most current opportunities in search will win the clicks—and the lion’s share of new business.

Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of BrightEdge, the leading enterprise SEO and content performance platform.



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The anatomy of a negative SEO attack

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30-second summary:

  • SEO can just as easily destroy websites’ rankings as it can build them up.
  • Newer websites or startups with smaller backlink profiles are the most vulnerable to negative SEO attacks.
  • Webmasters need to regularly monitor their backlink profile to make sure their site is not keeping company with any questionable web properties.
  • Negative SEO can be remediated through manual outreach or Google’s disavow tool, but high-quality link building campaigns are the best way to minimize the impact of low-quality links.

In the early days of search engine optimization, a variety of black-hat techniques allowed SEOs to dominate the first page of search. Cloaking, keyword stuffing, backlink spam, and other strategies could catapult websites to the first page. But those days are long gone. Google’s algorithms are extremely powerful and can easily result in a negative SEO attack. Not only will black-hat strategies no longer work – they will destroy your site’s rankings and even prevent your domain from ranking permanently. 

So for those out there on the internet who are not interested in seeing your domain move up the first page, black hat SEO is an easy way to harm your website. Many new site owners are so eager to get any backlinks that they can, they allow low-quality links to populate their profile without ever thinking about where those links are coming from, or why those other site owners linked to them in the first place. 

Negative SEO attacks are real. I’ve helped many clients recover from them. They can come from competitors, hackers, or seemingly out of nowhere, but without a quick response, a website’s reputation with search engines can be permanently harmed. 

Although Google algorithm updates or technical issues with your website can impact your keyword rankings, an unexpected drop could be a sign of negative SEO. The good news is, the anatomy of a negative SEO attack is clearly recognizable. If you take quick action, you can protect your website and minimize the damage.

The websites that are most vulnerable to SEO 

The reality is, every time your site moves up a spot in the SERPs, you knock another site down. It’s not fun to imagine that other people would use negative SEO to harm your efforts, but if you offer great service or product that could take business or traffic away from someone else, then your site is at risk.

Any website can experience a negative SEO attack, but local businesses and startups with less than 300 referring domains are the most vulnerable. The smaller your backlink profile, the more impactful any low-quality or unnatural links will be. If 50% of your links are spammy and you’re a brand new site, Google crawlers are going to look at your backlink profile and assume your site is trying to cheat your way to the top. 

For new webmasters, in particular, it’s critical to pay close attention to every backlink you acquire. This is also true when you pay for the services of a link building company. Some site owners are hesitant to pursue link building because they have had negative experiences with SEOs in the past who engaged in these spammy techniques that ended up tearing their site down rather than building it up. 

As your backlink profile grows, spammy links will not have as much of an impact on your domain authority or rankings. Still, it’s good to keep an eye on the referring domains and anchor text diversity of your backlink profile.

How to identify a negative SEO attack

There are a variety of common negative SEO techniques that people may use to harm your website. After handling negative SEO attacks with my own clients, these are the most common types I’ve come across and that I encourage webmasters to be on the lookout for.

1. Toxic backlinks

Backlinks from low-quality sites that have low domain authority, little relevance to your industry, or very little site traffic should always be suspect. If you receive a large influx of these low-quality links, they may be coming from a link farm that has the infrastructure to build a massive amount of links quickly. If you’re a new site with a large percentage of toxic links, Google will likely assume you’ve been participating in black hat manipulation.

A negative SEO attack can be cause by toxic poor quality backlinks

2. Comment spam links

One way SEOs used to manipulate their site authority was by leaving backlinks in the comment section of blogs or forum sites. If you suddenly receive backlinks in the comment section of older blogs with no relevance or traffic, someone might have placed them there maliciously. If it’s an SEO agency that placed the link and you paid for it, fire them immediately. Google indexes those links in the comment section, and it will not look favorably upon your site if you have a lot of these unnatural backlinks.

Spam comments could cause a negative SEO attack

3. Exact match or unnatural anchor text

Natural anchor text will most often include your brand name, the services or products your business offers, or more generic wording like, “Click Here.” If all of your anchor text has the exact keyword you’re trying to rank for, that will come across as manipulation to Google. If the anchor text is irrelevant, it will confuse Google bots about the content of your site. It’s important to pay attention to the most common ways that other sites link to yours so if new links don’t share at least some similarity, you can investigate them accordingly.

4. Fake negative reviews

Although negative reviews don’t have as drastic of an impact on your site authority as your backlink profile, Google does crawl and render those sites when considering whether to rank web pages. Local and small businesses with bad reviews, in particular, will not rank, so in addition to reviewing your backlink profile on a regular basis, site owners should also be monitoring the important review sites in their industry. Most major review sites allow you to report reviews if you have reason to believe they are fake.

There are other types of negative SEO that I haven’t listed here such as content scraping, links hidden in images, and more, but the above are very easily identified using Google Search Console or any type of backlink analyzer. Familiarizing yourself with the many ways that others may try to link to your site in a harmful way will help you be able to identify those problematic links right after they show up in your backlink profile.

How to perform negative SEO remediation

Digging yourself out of a negative SEO attack is never fun, but it can be done. If you’re being a responsible webmaster and monitoring your backlink profile regularly, you should have a solid understanding of what a healthy backlink profile for your website looks like, and will therefore be able to recognize the moment that something appears off.

If you believe that the influx of links is indeed the result of nefarious intentions, you have a few options to repair the damage, and hopefully, before Google penalizes your site. Some of these options are more expensive than others, but if you’re not an experienced webmaster, it is probably best to get the guidance of an SEO expert. If you remove the wrong links, you can end up performing negative SEO on your own website by mistake.

1. Request removal

The first step with any link is to reach out to the webmaster to ask for the link to be removed. Admittedly, this is not always successful. However, before you move on to option two, you want to make sure you have exhausted every effort to have the link removed before requesting Google to get involved. If the link was the result of comment spam, the owner of the blog may be willing to moderate or delete the comment. There have been webmasters who have charged my clients a fee to have links removed. Depending on the price you’re willing to pay, you can choose to do so or move on to other options.

2. Disavow file

In 2012, Google added the disavow tool in Google Search Console to give webmasters more agency in their off-site SEO. The reality is, no one can fully control the websites that choose to link to theirs in a harmful way, so it’s not really fair for search engines to penalize your site as a result. Google recognized this and created the disavow tool, however, they still advise site owners to use it sparingly.

A disavow file is essentially a list of links that you want invalidated on your domain, or that you don’t want Google to consider when evaluating the quality of your website. There are detailed instructions on how to submit a disavow file in the Google Search Console help center. Take note though that these links aren’t actually removed, Google just no longer takes them into consideration the next time they are crawled and indexed. If you’re using an SEO software that measures the quality of your backlink profile, you will likely have to submit the disavow file there as well if you want their metrics to accurately reflect how Google understands your site.

3. Link building campaigns

High-quality, contextual link building is different from black-hat SEO in that it uses original content to earn links on relevant, industry-specific publications. The best SEO agencies will increase site authority the right way, through techniques that are Google compliant and don’t harm your rankings in the long-term. If you are not actively trying to earn high-quality links for your website, not only are you missing out on the opportunity to improve your overall keyword rankings, you place your site in a more vulnerable position. If you pursue consistent link acquisition and build up a healthy backlink profile before a negative SEO attack occurs, you are more well-positioned to avoid a Google penalty.

It is certainly frustrating and unfair when negative SEO occurs, but there is really nothing that a webmaster can do to prevent it. So in the case of negative SEO, preparation is the best medicine. Knowing what to look for will help you be more prepared to take immediate action and minimize the damage. 

Manick Bhan is the founder and CTO of LinkGraph, an award-winning digital marketing and SEO agency that provides SEO, paid media, and content marketing services. He is also the founder and CEO of SearchAtlas, a software suite of free SEO tools. You can find Manick on Twitter @madmanick.





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7 changes make a big difference with your Digital Marketing Strategy

We know that the face of marketing has changed from past few years as people are more informed while making purchases, thanks to the information available online. These people become potential customers, and so companies prefer digital marketing over all other forms of marketing.

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We know that the face of marketing has changed from past few years as people are more informed while making purchases, thanks to the information available online. These people become potential customers, and so companies prefer digital marketing over all other forms of marketing. Businesses need a robust digital marketing strategy since they are not harnessing the full power of this online trend. For companies to be successful in 2020, digital marketing needs to be more than just posting on Facebook. They will need to improve their existing digital marketing continually.

2020-State of Digital Marketing

Online and digital media has changed – it is no longer a world of random things and what is hot now may change later. However, there are a few simple facts that we need to consider your general digital marketing efforts:

Newcomers will enter, but there will not be new social networks every other day.

Digital marketing strategy should rely on current and upcoming new data.

Why you need a robust digital marketing strategy

It will help you focus and come up with a plan to determine how many followers you want and by how much you need to increase the conversion rate

A strategy will inspire you to get your digital marketing game healthy and be in competition.

A well-written plan will regularly check in on your current methods and see if they are working as per plan. You can optimise and adapt accordingly.

A digital marketing strategy will limit the duplication of content or resources.

It will help you experiment with new approaches to gain and keep customers.

By creating a strategy, you will be able to understand what your customers want and provide services accordingly.

Let us discuss in detail some changes that can make a big difference to your Digital Marketing strategy in 2020

1) Plan new SEO friendly content

One of the best ways of improving SEO is to create new content regularly. The content should be mapped to relevant keywords . Include an SEO friendly title that will directly impact the quality score and ranking. You need to ensure that the material consists of researched keywords in the first 100 words of an article to follow best practices and get credit for your business.

2) Revamp your social media presence

One way to engage your audience and refresh your social media presence is to leverage the trends and bring your brand’s personality to life. We can do it in the following ways

Evaluate your content and ask yourself these questions: How is it different? What engaging content can I create?

Moreover, start conversations with influencers, research for relevant topics and provide insight on articles concerning your brand.

With social media, you can keep on trying to get the best content mix, and with platformance analytics, you can understand the what is working and what is not.

3) AdWords and Content Shock

AdWords is one of the most effective methods of online advertising since the business of all sizes can use it to increase leads and customers. With AdWords, you can spend less and still understand how your audience is searching. AdWords is similar to SEO which takes time to evolve your keyword research and strategy to yield results. Google will reward you with an increase in leads to your site if you stick to it. When the creation and distribution of content are costly than the ROI it generates, it is known as Content Shock. It becomes a great asset for small players since they don’t reach the big numbers from the start. Hence, it becomes the tremendous start for small players as they do not need to scale up their digital marketing strategy.

4) Use Analytics to inform A/B testing

Analytics drives digital strategy, and one of the most important things to do with analytics is to engage in A/B testing. You can use the incoming data to apply A/B testing strategy. Finally, A/B testing is the best way to understand your customers. Resources like Google Analytics, Social Media and AdWords, are the best way to improve your digital efforts.

5) Understand the changing environment

Your biggest enemy when it comes to digital marketing is complacency. Due to changing consumer views, marketers need to identify obsolete strategies and adjust accordingly. The brand now focuses on providing content when the user needs it instead of creating content hoping users will need it. This approach requires a strategy. For a full proof strategy in 2020, marketers need to focus on three main elements: Artificial Intelligence, Social Media and Customer. If you look closely at these elements, they influence all the trends like augmented reality, influencer analytics, video marketing, personalisation, native advertising and content marketing.

6) Encourage personalised interactions

Based on a report, 73% of customers will do business with your company if you provide a customised experience. Personalising your communication helps to engage with your customers. Sending personalised emails, modifying templates, using recipient’s name, personally responding on social media and segmenting the email list based on persona are a few ways that can work very well.

7) Build your network

Try to gain information and experience of others in your field. By building your network, you can predict and work as per changing times. The network will help you prepare for challenges in future.

Your 2020 Digital Marketing strategy needs to be like the playbook which is tailored to the team and team’s competition. A simple principle in the digital world is if you don’t establish a baseline of where your company stands concerning the competitors, you will have no idea of the areas you would need to focus on beating them. Your company will really benefit if you make little changes in your digital marketing strategy by keeping track of upcoming trends and changes in the environment. If this seems like a lot, give VajraGlobal a call.

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Why SEO is important for your online success?

A famous saying about SEO is, ‘Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first’. There are some SEO importance statistics which resonates the same.

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A famous saying about SEO is, ‘Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first’. There are some SEO importance statistics which resonates the same. According to a popular report, about 93% of online experiences commence with the search engine. But even then, for a lot of people, SEO is an afterthought, which should not be the case. Instead, SEO is the base, unlike a mere topping on the pizza. Whether you are looking at the importance of SEO for small businesses or a bigger business, the rule of the thumb is to have an SEO strategy right at the beginning. The reason is SEO is all about improving user experience. While you design your SEO strategy, do not forget that search engines measure the overall user experience and decide whether a particular site can go up the search results.

What is SEO?

Before you understand the importance of SEO for small businesses and all the hype that is created around SEO, you would like to understand more about SEO, right. Let us see if we can develop a fair idea about SEO and the important SEO factors.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the method of optimizing your content so that a search engine likely shows it up as a top rank after users search for a specific keyword. As per Neil Patel, SEO is that magic that you must perform on your content so that Google includes it as one of the top results when someone performs a keyword search. The SEO importance statistics are enough to highlight the essence of SEO to survive in an online venture.

Why SEO is Important for Online Success?

Now that we have a fair idea about SEO let us understand why SEO is important for online success? In simple words, amateurs might say that it offers greater searchability and visibility, but the truth is it provides a lot more value than that.

SEO helps to get targeted visitors: Among important SEO factors, bringing in targeted prospects plays a critical role. With SEO, you can attract the exact audience you are looking at. Along with apt keywords, quality content, and good backlinks, SEO helps bring in the target audience to your website. The chances of conversion are higher.

Good SEO also ensures a better user experience: Most often, it is seen that businesses want more visibility and higher rankings, but they forget about optimal user experience. Google, which holds a 75% market share in the search engine market, can differentiate between a good and bad user experience. When you invest in quality SEO, you are investing in good user experience. 

SEO impacts the buying cycle: The importance of SEO for small businesses is that it affects the buying cycle. With good SEO, you can convey your messages about the great deals that you are offering to your customers or the uniqueness of the products or services that you are selling to your customers. If done right, it can have a positive impact on the entire buying cycle, thereby contributing to the online success of a business.

SEO is cost-effective: Running a business in itself is a costly affair. To add salt to the wound, marketing costs add to the daily expenses. However, if you are thinking to stretch your marketing costs a bit, then SEO is the economic way to go about it. SEO is a long-term strategy wherein you will get the results after investing the time and effort. 

SEO builds brand awareness: If you are looking at brand building, then SEO has a crucial role to play. One SEO importance statistics : 33% of the average visitors share the first organic search result that Google brings. Few go to the second and from then the numbers dwindle. Ranking high on the search engine helps you build a brand amongst your customers as well as competitors.

Are you still wondering if SEO is essential for online success? If you are, then the answer is, yes it is, Period! People need to find you first to buy your product or services, right?

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