Anyone who takes a deep dive into the world of SEO content creation knows that there are many, many factors at play when it comes to making content search-friendly and click-worthy.
From choosing the right keywords, to conducting audience research, to writing engaging titles, it can be a long, painstaking process to create content that outranks your top-ranking competitors.
This desire to create bigger and better content has led to this often cringe-worthy trend: turning every article into an “ultimate guide”.
Is There Such a Thing as an ‘Ultimate’ Guide?
“Ultimate guide” implies that your content is the best, right? That no one else can top it. That it’s the blog post to end all blog posts.
The issue is that with so many articles claiming to be “ultimate guides”, throwing this into your post title has started to lose its meaning. Claiming that your article is the best doesn’t make it so.
If we remember that the purpose of your SEO content is to attract traffic and generate clicks, we’ll see that the magic if creating an “ultimate guide” is not in the title or even the length.
It’s in the value.
Here’s how to create a true ultimate guide – the right way – in order to attract more organic traffic and get readers raving about your content.
An Ultimate Guide Is More Than Just a Listicle
Many content creators and SEO professionals approach content with the belief that longer is better – despite the numerous studies that have shown diminishing returns on content that is too long.
There’s a sweet spot for every topic and niche, and simply adding more bullet points for “top tips” to your ultimate guide does not necessarily mean you are adding more value.
Your goal in creating an ultimate guide is to provide better information than all of the top-ranking posts for your chosen focus keyword.
You do that not by making it longer (necessarily), but by doing your research to determine what the existing articles offer that your guide has to have.
Step 1: Have a Purpose (Beyond Ranking)
I get it. It’s enticing to go after those sweet money keywords when you see an opportunity to outrank your competitors.
But beyond rankings, there’s typically the ultimate goal of getting readers to take action – by subscribing, by buying a project, or by filling out a form.
That’s why it’s short-sighted to create an ultimate guide for the sole purpose of targeting a particular keyword. Instead, it’s best to have a strategy that works to drive conversions through your content.
Before writing your ultimate guide, consider what action (if any) you want readers to take. Are you:
- Simply aiming to inform readers about a topic?
- Trying to build brand trust?
- Trying to generate subscribers or leads?
It’s essential that you know your end goal.
Having a clear objective in mind will help you determine what value you need to provide and how. It will keep you focused on writing content that serves to not only attract traffic but also make the most of that traffic.
When it comes to marketing content, its success should be measured in terms of the return on your investment (ROI). Writing with conversions in mind will help you get the ROI you are looking for – in the form of subscribers, phone calls, leads, and sales.
Step 2: Choose Your Keyword(s)
Not every keyword is suited for an ultimate guide.
Just because your goal is to provide more value than the content that’s already ranking, doesn’t mean throwing “ultimate guide” in front of it is the move. It may be better suited for a different type of content (like a standard blog post or a listicle).
“Ultimate guide”-type keywords are ones that warrant a well-thought-out, in-depth piece of content. They should be topics that necessarily require a comprehensive guide in order to leave readers feeling sufficiently informed.
Relatively broad topics are a great fit an ultimate guide because they require many sections, explanations, examples, and actionable steps.
“Best places to visit in Thailand” can be summed up in a relatively concise listicle. “How to travel in Thailand” leaves much more room for elaboration.
Consider whether an ultimate guide would do your chosen keyword justice, or whether a different type of content would be a better fit instead. Some things to consider are:
- What is the user intent behind the keyword?
- Could you answer the user’s primary question in a relatively short (or standard-sized) article?
- Can you effectively write a comprehensive guide about the topic without stuffing it full of fluff?
- Are there already tons of “ultimate guides” about this topic?
- Are you confident that you can at least offer 2X the value of the top-ranking articles?
In summary, choose keywords that warrant a comprehensive piece of content.
If you feel that in order to create an ultimate guide you’ll have to chock your content full of useless facts and tips, you should probably take a different approach.
Step 3: Scope out the Not-So-Ultimate Guides
Not all ultimate guides are created equal.
If you’ve decided that your focus keyword warrants an ultimate guide, then your next step should be to look at what’s already ranking. Chances are, you’ll find some existing “ultimate guides”.
In this step, you’ll want to look at what your competitors are doing right and wrong.
- Are they simply regurgitating the same-old information?
- Are they bringing anything unique to the table?
- How can you learn from them and make your content 2X better?
Since your competitors are ranking for that keyword, they must be doing something right.
Look for similarities and characteristics that you think may be giving them a competitive edge. Then, looks for gaps in information that you can fill with your ultimate guide.
Your ultimate guide – as the name implies – should aim to be the best of the best. That means capitalizing off of what your competitors are doing right and then making your content even better.
Step 4: Survey Your Audience
Want to know what your audience really wants to read? Ask them!
The best way to provide the most value in your ultimate guide is to ask your readers what they are interested in.
You can survey your audience casually (by asking them questions on social media) or by sending them an official survey (directly or via email). Their answers will help you determine what information to include in your guide.
Here are some questions you can ask your audience:
- What is your top struggle when it comes to dealing with [ topics/problem ]?
- What are three questions you have about [ topic ]?
- What do you wish other brands knew about [ topic ]?
- What are some solutions you have tried to solve [ problem ]?
- What’s your top tip when it comes to [ topic ]?
In SEO content, it’s best to avoid making guesses when you can get your answers straight from the source.
By asking your audience directly, you can be sure to write content that answers their most burning questions, thoroughly covers the topic, and provides the value that your particular audience is looking for.
Step 5: Include Case Studies, Examples & Statistics
Any claims that you make in your ultimate guide should be supported by case studies, examples, or statistics.
Including this information serves to provide value to your readers in a variety of ways:
Including sources shows your readers that you know what you are talking about.
In other words, it helps establish you as an authority on the topic.
Rather than making baseless claims, you can back up all of your information with facts.
Referencing sources helps build trust with your audience.
When people are confident that the information you are providing is accurate, they are more likely to buy from you.
Including examples helps readers make the connection between the information in your ultimate guide and how they can apply it to their lives or businesses.
Examples prove that the tips or strategies you are sharing work and that by taking action readers can see similar results.
“E-A-T” is a principle in SEO that stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
Google’s Danny Sullivan has suggested that the secret to better rankings is better content. And the key to better content? You can find that in the quality raters guidelines, which talks in great detail about E-A-T.
By including case studies, examples, and sources in your ultimate guide, you’ll indicate to search engines that your content is valuable, accurate, and comes from a reputable source.
Following this step is another way to provide value where your competitors may be coming up short.
Step 6: Make It Actionable
If you know the search intent behind the keyword you are targeting with your ultimate guide, then you should be able to make a guess about what users are trying to achieve by reading your content.
Most times, their goal is to get their most pressing questions answered. Why? Because they are likely experiencing an issue that needs fixing, or want to learn more about a topic.
Your best bet in creating your ultimate guide, then, is to make the information you provide actionable in some way. You want to do your very best to help them fix whatever problem they are experiencing and answer every question they may have.
If your ultimate guide is about “how to plan a honeymoon”, you’ll likely want to include tips like:
- Where and how to hire a travel planner.
- How to choose the best hotel.
- How to prepare for international travel.
- How to budget for a honeymoon.
- Best places to book affordable airfare.
Even better, these actionable steps all provide an opportunity for you to link to other related content on your site. Either way, you are giving the readers the information they need to apply your tips to their lives.
Not only will making it actionable put your guide miles above competing articles, but it’ll make it more likely that your guide will drive conversions.
If you are able to offer all of the information they need on your site, it’ll be easy to direct them to your products and done-for-you services.
Step 7: Make It Pretty
Creating an ultimate guide takes time – and, often, money. To truly make an “ultimate” guide, you won’t want to cut corners.
Make the most of the work and resources you are putting in by making your guide attractive and eye-catching, as well as informative. It’ll be worth it to employ a graphic designer and/or web developer to create a sleek, on-brand looking guide.
Including various types of media – like videos, infographics, and images – will also help you repurpose your content across multiple platforms. You can build out an entire content marketing strategy from a single piece of content.
Further, engaging graphics will make your guide more memorable and likely to be shared by readers. You can capitalize on this momentum to generate even more traffic and, hopefully, leads.
Step 8: Add a Content Upgrade
Assuming your content is optimized to the nines and starts generating organic traffic, you’ll also want to be sure you are making the most of that traffic.
Beyond including links to your product pages or adding calls-to-action, you can incorporate a content upgrade to get readers to join your email list.
Content upgrades work great because they entice readers with even more valuable content than what you are already offering in your ultimate guide. If the upgrade is irresistible, users will hand over their email addresses in exchange for more juicy content.
Some possible content upgrade ideas include:
- A free downloadable ebook.
- A link to an exclusive expert interview.
- A free sign-up for a 5-day email course.
- A discount code for a paid product.
- An expanded ultimate guide (e.g. “Get the rest of the tips here!”).
- A free design or strategy template.
By adding a content upgrade to your ultimate guide, you can capture some of that traffic coming in and remarket to them later.
You’re essentially giving users multiple ways to opt-in (convert) – ensuring that you are making the absolute most of the traffic your content is generating.
Examples of Ultimate Guides That Get It Right
If you want to create the ultimate “ultimate guide”, it’s recommended that you learn from those that are already doing it right.
After following the tips above, look to some of these examples to find ways to make your guide even better.
Create Your Ultimate ‘Ultimate Guide’
Think you have what it takes to create a true “ultimate guide”?
Remember that your primary objective is to provide even more value than what’s already ranking.
Do that, and you’ll have a good chance of not only rising above your competitors but also converting readers into genuine leads.
Simply calling your guide an “ultimate guide” isn’t enough.
Follow the steps above in order to target the best keyword, create content your audience truly wants to read and provide accurate, actionable information that grabs users’ (and Google’s) attention.
In-Post Image: Pexels
All screenshots taken by author, August 2019
Eight great ways to audit your ecommerce site’s SEO
30-second summary: Optimizing your ecommerce site’s SEO is essential to maximizing your ecommerce site’s traffic and revenue potential. Improve your SEO by structuring your website and page in a way that is easy for Google to understand. Pagespeed optimization is a necessity, not an option, with the upcoming algorithm change. Writing a relevant, informative blog […]
- Optimizing your ecommerce site’s SEO is essential to maximizing your ecommerce site’s traffic and revenue potential.
- Improve your SEO by structuring your website and page in a way that is easy for Google to understand.
- Pagespeed optimization is a necessity, not an option, with the upcoming algorithm change.
- Writing a relevant, informative blog on your ecommerce site will help increase organic traffic.
A recent statistic shows that 33% of global ecommerce traffic comes from organic searches. In other words, you will be missing out on a significant portion of potential traffic if your ecommerce site is not optimized for SEO. Although some SEO components are not entirely within your control, you can still do many things to improve ecommerce site’s SEO.
In this article, we’ll go over eight ways you can audit and improve on your ecommerce site’s SEO health.
Additionally, we will discuss why it’s now more important than ever to optimize your page speed for the algorithm update in the coming months.
Let’s get started.
1. Canonical tags for filtered pageviews
In most ecommerce sites, you can filter product types based on different categories, such as color, fit, and size.
If your ecommerce site has many filtered pages, you want to use canonical tags in your filtered pages to avoid duplicate content.
Having duplicate content on your site can make it difficult for Google to rank your page since your duplicate page will compete for the top spots in search results.
The image below shows filters on the Underarmour website. You can also see that the URL comes with the “/shoes” text at the end when you filter based on shoes.
By placing the canonical tags on your filtered pages, you tell a Google crawler which page is the main page you want to rank.
In this case, the canonical tag on “underarmour.ca/en-ca/d/mens/shoes” points to the “underarmour.ca/en-ca/d/mens” URL.
This lets Google know that the latter URL is the primary URL you want to rank. You will also prevent your site from potentially receiving a duplicate penalty from Google.
2. Optimize a meta description for each page
Does each one of your pages have a unique meta description?
Writing a relevant and unique meta description for each page increases the likelihood of people clicking your link.
Since click-through-rate (CTR) is an important ranking factor in Google search results, you will be jeopardizing your search ranking if you fail to optimize a meta description for your page.
That said, you may find it difficult to implement this in practice if you have hundreds and thousands of pages on your ecommerce site.
In such a case, I recommend you start optimizing meta descriptions for pages currently making you the most revenue and moving down in the order.
3. Keyword placement
While you certainly want to avoid stuffing your page with your target keywords, it’s a good idea to strategically include them throughout your page to let Google know what keywords you are targeting.
You will want to include a few keywords in your URL, title, description, and alt image text to ensure your page is relevant for your target keywords.
Here is an example.
And an example of keywords in the description.
4. Breadcrumb trails
Breadcrumb trails help website visitors navigate through your website and help organize your site in a well-structured manner.
Additionally, breadcrumbs make it easy for Google crawlers to understand your page better, which, in turn, may help your page rank better.
Moreover, search results will show breadcrumbs instead of your page’s permalink, which is another clue that Google emphasizes breadcrumbs for SEO.
You don’t need to overcomplicate things when implementing breadcrumb navigation. Just make sure to follow the standards of good practice, such as using breadcrumbs only when it makes sense and progressing from highest to lowest level.
5. Optimize your ecommerce site for sitelinks
Here is an example of sitelinks that appear in search results for a well-optimized site.
Google states that they only show sitelinks for structured websites that allow their algorithms to find good sitelinks.
Sitelinks improve click-through-rates and help searchers quickly see pages that are relevant to their interests.
Furthermore, they add credibility to your sites. Google doesn’t show sitelinks for websites that aren’t well optimized and not trustworthy.
If Google trusts your website enough to give a large space on search results, you can sort of view that as a seal of approval from Google.
At the very least, you can assume Google doesn’t see your website as untrustworthy and scammy.
While you can’t fully control whether your ecommerce site shows sitelinks in search results, there are a few things you can do to increase your chance.
- Enable breadcrumbs and a sitelink search box
- Structure your website clearly
- Use anchor text for your internal links
6. Do you have reviews on your product page?
Reviews on your product page serve several purposes.
First, they give useful information to people who visit your website and help them make better purchasing decisions.
Furthermore, your page can show a star rating in search results, which will help your search result stand out and improve your CTR.
As a matter of fact, a study done by CXL found that review stars can improve CTR by as much as 35%.
You can check out documentation from Google to learn how best to structure your page so you can maximize your site’s chance to display review snippets in search results.
7. Optimize your site speed
You’ve probably heard about the importance of website speed optimization.
But with Google confirming that page loading speed will become a ranking signal in the coming months, it’s now more important than ever to optimize page speed on your website.
According to Moovweb, 87% of ecommerce sites do not meet the page experience standards set out by Google.
You can also see this as an opportunity for your site to gain a competitive edge over others.
There are many things you can do to improve your page speed, such as:
- Get a better hosting service
- Use lazy loading, so your image only loads as users scroll down
- Remove large elements on your page
You can use PageSpeed Insights from Google to determine what elements on your page are slowing down speed.
Here is an article with more good advice on optimizing your page speed for the upcoming algorithm changes.
8. Does your website have informational content?
Finally, it’s always a good idea to write blog posts around keywords that your target audience is searching for.
A study shows that 61% of online shoppers in the US are more confident about purchasing from recommendations that they read in blogs.
Blogging for your ecommerce site can help your business in several different ways.
- Build trust with your audience by providing helpful content
- Establish your brand as an expert in the field
- Improved search engine ranking with relevant, high-quality content on your blog
A blog post you publish today isn’t going to bring an impressive result by tomorrow. But it’s a long-term investment that will help your ecommerce site generate more traffic and build trust and authority with the audience in your niche in the long haul.
Improving SEO for your ecommerce site is rarely ever a quick, easy process.
This is especially true if your site has hundreds of pages that need to be optimized.
In such a case, it would be wise to start with pages that are generating the most amount of traffic and revenues.
Start optimizing from the best-performing pages and move down in the order as your time and effort allows.
Your results with SEO won’t be instantaneous, but you will be glad you put extra effort into optimizing your site’s SEO down the road.
Jin Choi is a writer at the MoneyNam blog.
How to use XPath expressions to enhance your SEO and content strategy
- As Google increasingly favors sites with content that exudes expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), it is imperative that SEOs and marketers produce content that is not just well written, but that also demonstrates expertise.
- How do you understand what topics and concerns matter most to your customer base?
- Can you use Q&As to inform content strategies?
- XPath notations can be your treasure trove.
- Catalyst’s Organic Search Manager, Brad McCourt shares a detailed guide on using XPath notations and your favorite crawler to quickly obtain the Q&As in a straightforward and digestible format.
As Google increasingly favors sites with content that exudes expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), it is imperative that SEOs and marketers produce content that is not just well written, but that also demonstrates expertise. One way to demonstrate expertise on a subject or product is to answer common customer questions directly in your content.
But, how do you identify what those questions are? How do you understand what topics and concerns matter most?
The good news is that they are hiding in plain sight. Chances are, your consumers have been shouting at the top of their keyboards in the Q&A sections of sites like Amazon.
These sections are a treasure trove of (mostly) serious questions that real customers have about the products you are selling.
How do you use these Q&As to inform content strategies? XPath notation is your answer.
You can use XPath notations and your favorite crawler to quickly obtain the Q&As in a straightforward and digestible format. XPath spares you from clicking through endless screens of questions by automating the collection of important insights for your content strategy.
What is XPath?
XML Path (XPath) is a query language developed by W3 to navigate XML documents and select specified nodes of data.
The notation XPath uses is called “expressions”. Using these expressions, you can effectively pull any data that you need from a website as long as there is a consistent structure between webpages.
This means you can use this language to pull any publicly available data in the source code, including questions from a selection of Amazon Q&A pages.
This article is not meant to be a comprehensive tutorial on XPath. For that, there are plenty of resources from W3. However, XPath is easy enough to learn with only knowing the structure of XML and HTML documents. This is what makes it such a powerful tool for SEOs regardless of coding prowess.
Let’s walk through an example to show you how…
Using XPath to pull customer questions from Amazon
Pre-req: Pick your web crawler
While most of the big names in web crawling – Botify, DeepCrawl, OnCrawl – all offer the ability to extract data from the source code, I will be using ScreamingFrog in the example below.
ScreamingFrog is by far the most cost-effective option, allowing you to crawl up to 500 URLs without buying a license. For larger projects you can buy a license. This will allow you to crawl as many URLs as your RAM can handle.
Step one: Collect the URLs to crawl
For our example, let’s pretend we’re doing research on the topics we should include in our product pages and listings for microspikes. For those unaware, microspikes are an accessory for your boots or shoes. They give you extra grip in wintry conditions, so they are particularly popular among cold-weather hikers and runners.
Here we have a list of 13 questions and answer pages for the top microspike pages on Amazon.com. Unfortunately, there is some manual work required to create the list.
The easiest way is to search for the topic (that is, microspikes) and pull links to the top products listed. If you have the product’s ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) handy, you can also generate the URLs using the above format, but switching out the ASIN.
Step two: Determine the XPath
From here, we need to determine the XPath.
In order to figure out the proper XPath notation to use to pull in the desired text, we have two main options:
- View the Source-Code
- View the rendered source code and copy the XPath directly from Chrome’s Inspect Element tool
You’ll find that the expression needed to locate all questions in an Amazon Q&A page is:
Here is XPath notation broken down:
- // is used to locate all instances of the following expression.
- Span is the specific tag we’re trying to locate. //span will locate every single <span> tag in the source code. There are over 300 of these, so we’ll need to be more specific.
- @class specifies that //span[@class] will ensure all <span> tags with an assigned class attribute will be located.
- @class=”a-declarative” dictates that //span[@class=”a-declarative”] only locates <span> tags where the class attribute is set to “a-declarative” – that is, <span class=”a-declarative”>
There is an extra step in order to return the inner text of the specified tag that is located, but ScreamingFrog does the heavy lifting for us.
It’s important to note that this will only work for Amazon Question and Answer pages. If you wanted to pull questions from, say, Quora, TripAdvisor, or any other site, the expression would have to be adjusted to locate the specific entity you desire to collect on a crawl.
Step three: Configure your crawler
Once you have this all set, you can then go into ScreamingFrog.
Configuration -> Custom -> Extraction
This will then take you to the Custom Extraction screen.
This is where you can:
- Give the extraction a name to make it easier to find after the crawl, especially if you’re extracting more than one entity. ScreamingFrog allows you to extract multiple entities during a single crawl.
- You can then choose the extraction method. In this article, it is all about XPath, but you also have the option of extracting data via CSSPath and REGEX notation as well.
- Place the desired XPath expression in the “Enter XPath” field. ScreamingFrog will even check your syntax for you, providing a green checkmark if everything checks out.
- You then have the option to select what you want extracted, be it the full HTML element or the HTML found within the located tag. For our example, we want to extract the text in between any <span> tags with a class attribute set to “a-declarative” so we select “extract text.”
We can then click OK.
Step four: Crawl the desired URLs
Now it’s time to crawl our list of Amazon Q&A pages for microspikes.
First, we’ll need to switch the Mode in ScreamingFrog from “Spider” to “List.”
Then, we can either add our set of URLs manually or upload them from an Excel or other supported format.
After we confirm the list, ScreamingFrog will crawl each URL we provided, extracting the text between all <span> tags containing the class attribute set to “a-declarative.”
In order to see the data collected, you just need to select “Custom Extraction” in ScreamingFrog.
At first glance, the output might not look that exciting.
However, this is only because a lot of unneeded space is included with the data, so you might see some columns that appear blank if they are not expanded to fully display the contents.
Once you copy and paste the data into Excel or your spreadsheet program of choice, you can finally see the data that has been extracted. After some clean-up, you get the final result:
The result is 118 questions that real customers have asked about microspikes in an easily accessible format. With this data at your fingertips, you’re now ready to incorporate this research into your content strategy.
Before diving into content strategies, a quick word to the wise: you can’t just crawl, scrape and publish content from another site, even if it is publicly accessible.
First, that would be plagiarism and expect to be hit with an DMCA notice. Second, you’re not fooling Google. Google knows the original source of the content, and it is extremely unlikely your content is going to rank well – defeating the purpose of this entire strategy.
Instead, this data can be used to inform your strategy and help you produce high quality, unique content that users are searching for.
Now, how do you get started with your analysis?
I recommend first categorizing the questions. For our example there were many questions about:
- Sizing: What size microspikes are needed for specific shoe/boot sizes?
- Proper Use – Whether or not microspikes could be used in stores, on slippery roofs, while fishing, mowing lawns, or for walking on plaster?
- Features: Are they adjustable, type of material, do they come with a carrying case?
- Concerns: Are they comfortable, do they damage your footwear, do they damage the type of flooring/ground you’re on, durability?
This is an amazing insight into the potential concerns customers might have before purchasing microspikes.
From here, you can use this information to:
1. Enhance existing content on your product and category pages
Incorporate the topics into the product or category descriptions, answering questions shoppers might have pre-emptively.
For our example, we might want to make it abundantly clear how sizing works – including a sizing chart and specifically mentioning types of footwear the product may or may not be compatible with.
2. Build out a short on-page FAQ section featuring original content, answering commonly asked questions
Make sure to implement FAQPage Schema.org markup for a better chance to appear for listings like People Also Ask sections, which are increasingly taking up real estate in the search results.
For our example, we can answer commonly asked questions about comfort, damage to footwear, durability, and adjustability. We could also address if the product comes with a carrying case and how to best store the product for travel.
3. Produce a product guide, incorporating answers to popular questions surrounding a product or category
Another strategy is to produce an extensive one-stop product guide showcasing specific use cases, sizing, limitations, and features. For our example, we could create specific content for each use case like hiking, running in icy conditions, and more.
Even better, incorporate videos, images, charts, and featured products with a clear path to purchase.
Using this approach your end product will be content that shows expertise, the authority on a subject, and most importantly, addresses customer concerns and questions before they even think to ask. This will help prevent your customers from having to do additional research or contact customer service. Thanks to your informative and helpful content, they will be more ready to make a purchase.
Furthermore, this approach also has the potential to lower product return rates. Informed customers are less likely to purchase the wrong product based upon assumed or incomplete knowledge.
Amazon is just the tip of the iceberg here. You can realistically apply this strategy to any site that has publicly accessible data to extract, be that questions from Quora about a product category, Trip Advisor reviews about hotels, music venues, and attractions, or even discussions on Reddit.
The more informed you are about what your customers are expecting when visiting your site, the better you can serve those expectations, motivate purchases, decrease bounces, and improve organic search performance.
Brad McCourt is an Organic Search Manager at Catalyst’s Boston office.
Five must knows for advertisers and marketers
- 2020 set the stage for one of the most disruptive and fluid years search has ever seen.
- Local search and Google My Business (GMB) set to be key focal areas for search advertisers and marketers amid shifts in COVID era search activity.
- Google continues to make moves at further integrating ecommerce into search.
- Manual Text Ads look to be on shaky ground as we move into 2021.
- Ashley Fletcher, VP of Marketing at Adthena, shares five must-knows for search in 2021.
From algorithm changes to shifts in search activity as a result of COVID-19, 2020 was one of the most disruptive years that the search industry has ever seen. And although positive movements have been made in helping to rein in the COVID-19, a “return to normal” still seems a long way off. However, with the COVID-19 vaccine raising the possibility that “non-COVID era” search habits may return, search professionals are hard at work trying to determine which industry changes are here to stay, and which may fade away, as the world begins to get long overdue COVID relief. This means the landscape of search in 2021 is likely to see just as unpredictable of evolution as it did in 2020.
With that in mind, here are three key areas search advertisers and marketers should pay close attention to as we move into, and through, 2021.
Doubling down on GMB and local search
Remember when Google My Business (GMB) was just a helpful little tool for search advertising and marketing? Those days are now behind us.
Accounting for 33% of how local businesses are ranked, GMB is now a huge factor when it comes to SEO. Moreover, as local continues to become a bigger part of the search environment as more users are opting to stay close to home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, advertisers and marketers need to optimize their search strategies appropriately and stay abreast of any enhancements to GMB.
Greater consideration for voice search
With 157 million Amazon Echos in homes around the US at the start of 2020, voice search is poised to continue being a massive player in search moving forward. And given how easy it is, the fact that more smart speakers are set to be purchased in the years to come, voice search is likely to go from a secondary voice channel to a primary one in short order. Therefore, with this new avenue opening up and PPC having to be rethought as a result, advertisers should begin thinking about how to optimize their searches from traditional keyword search logic to spoken word-centric phrases.
Direct buy on Google? Amazon beware
E-commerce is set to be one of the most intriguing areas of search in 2021 as Google continues to indicate that shopping will be a key goal for its platform moving forward. For years, Google has been signaling that shopping and e-commerce are key focal areas for its platform. And through the rollout of features such as Smart Shopping — among other things — Google has never been in a better position to drive sales directly from its SERPs. This means that not only should Amazon be on high-alert, but traditional retail search advertisers need to seriously consider their search strategies in the year ahead.
The end of the text ad?
Could 2021 be the end of the road for text ads? This has been the question on search pros minds particularly since Google briefly scrapped the ability to create text ads in October — not to mention when the ability to create ETAs disappeared from Google Ads dropdown menus on a smaller scale in August. Plus, given the added emphasis being placed on Smart Bidding, it seems that manual text ads could have a limited lifespan at best, and 2021 could be the year where we see this search staple wound down entirely.
Being OK with uncertainty
Search advertisers are used to adapting to continuously evolving circumstances. But 2021 could push the term “evolution” to an extreme. From better understanding search patterns during the COVID era to figuring out which trends are here to stay and which are just passing fads, 2021 is going to be a very hard year for search professionals to get their heads around — let alone always get it right. With that in mind, it has never been more important for search professionals to lean into both technology and teamwork to make sense of what lies ahead. Moreover, search professionals need to move into 2021 with a whole new perspective on flexibility. Simply put, search advertising is set to chart completely foreign waters in 2021, and by embracing the fact that uncertainty is the new normal search professionals will likely have a much easier time adapting to these new circumstances.
While 2020 presented the search industry with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty, 2021 could represent a period of even greater unpredictability as several foundational changes seem to be set to take place within the space. However, by keeping an eye on these emerging areas and game planning now, search advertisers and marketers will not only be able to avoid potential headaches and growing pains but be able to put themselves in a position to drive success as soon as possible.
Ashley Fletcher is VP of Marketing at Adthena.
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