5 Steps to a Successful Brand Bidding Strategy

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This article will give you the answer to the most emotionally charged question of paid search:

Should your business bid on its brand terms?

Few topics are so divisive.

What other issue can infuse a technical, data-driven marketing channel with the emotional sensibilities of an eighth-grade drama club?

Amid the debate, some marketing teams “pick a side” that sabotages their profits without realizing it. Others ignore that there’s a decision to be made and get subpar results.

Take a deep breath, because on the other side of all the controversy is the five-step strategy that will keep your head cool and your marketing profitable.

What You Need to Know About Brand Bidding

Brand bidding is the practice of bidding on one’s own brand terms on the SERPs. (Not to be confused with brand awareness activities that introduce or reinforce your brand.)

According to Google policy, your competitors are free to use your trademarked terms in their own keyword lists.

In most cases, they can’t use your brand name in their ads, but your competitors can run ads that encourage people to click their ads rather than yours:

competitors running google ads against brand terms

A brand’s site may rank well organically, but competitors have more real estate than ever to promote their offer and crowd out other results.

Today, Google text ads are up to 270 characters – that’s nearly 3x the characters of standard text ads that reigned from 2000 to 2016. That doesn’t even include the multiple ad extension options. Up to four ads can show on top of the search results.

And as Google’s SERP evolves, being the first “blue link” organic listing for your brand doesn’t guarantee that your site will be first, “above the fold,” or anywhere near the fold, as seen here:

1st organic result for cool sculpting is far below the fold

In addition to text and Shopping ads, there are local packs, related questions box, and a dozen other features that can push organic listings further down the page. – Read more

12 Reasons Why Every Link Campaign Is Unique

My Post (26).pngOver the years, I have worked with more than 150 clients and close to 200 unique link campaigns.

Not one of them has been the same as any of the others.

Sure, they all have similarities.

Everyone wants relevant links that will improve their rankings, send traffic, and give them conversions.

What’s different?

No one is starting from the exact same point.

1. Traffic vs. Rankings vs. Conversions

All clients want to increase traffic, improve rankings, and up their conversions by 1,000000%.

Not all of them really consider all three when it comes to wanting links though.

That’s why it’s critical to define your objectives before you build links.

Some clients are fine with getting a link on a site that has a high DA or DR (or whatever metric they are using) even if that site only gets 10 visitors a month because they think that will improve their rankings.

I’ve had a few clients who think that any site they get a link on should have roughly the same amount of traffic as their site because they think that increases their chances to get their links clicked on and hopefully convert.

2. Competitors

Some clients want to be found where their competitors are. Some don’t. Some like to track everything their competitors do and replicate it.

We’ve had clients who specifically want to have their links placed in articles that mention their competitors, as long as they have a link that’s higher up on the page.

I’ve had many clients who have sent me sites where they’d like a link because they saw their competition on those sites even though the sites were not ones I’d ever reach out to because they were so spammy.

Thinking about competitors can blind people at times.

3. Industry Competitiveness

If you have five brand new sites that have zero links and they’re in five different industries, each one will require a different amount and quality of links (among other things) in order to start ranking well.

One might not get into the top 100 with a year of link building while one might slide into the top 10 in a month.

If you’re going to try to break into an industry like finance, it’s going to be a lot harder than if you’re trying to rank well in the Rockingham County pet sitting space. – Read more

Why Technical SEO & On-Site SEO Are Rarely Enough

My Post (25).pngLet me start by saying that there is objective and significant value to have from well-done technical and on-site SEO.

Technical SEO refers to optimizing your site and site structure for search engines to crawl, index, and understand your site quickly and efficiently.

Having poor technical SEO while the rest of your site is optimized is like driving a shiny new Lamborghini without an engine.

On-site or on-page SEO refers to optimizing your content both for search engine rankings as well as for users (you want them to see you in the SERPs and be attracted to what you may have to offer).

With that said, you should view them both as a foundation to be expanded on. Without the basics, you’ll be stuck on an endless treadmill of mediocrity.

They Do Matter, But…

My frustrations stem from the idea that they are all you need or that “advanced” technical SEO course for three easy payments of $999 is going to make a significant difference for you.

This may be the case in some specific scenarios, but for the large majority of sites, they simply will not propel you ahead of the competition or fix your more important underlying issues (like poor content quality or a weak link profile).

What They Can & Can’t Do

Viewed as a foundation, there are a number of highly important components of technical and on-site SEO.

Here are the main pieces that can make a tangible difference:

  • Crawl/indexability
  • Site speed
  • Site structure/architecture (and strong internal linking)
  • Schema (in some cases)
    • Review and rating schema, pricing, sitelinks, NAP for local businesses, miscellaneous others (primarily those that can assist in displaying additional content in the SERPs)
  • Canonicals
  • Proper redirects
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Good meta content
  • Optimized H1s/H2s and body content
    • Avoiding “over-optimization”
    • Topics > keywords

It’s these “basics” that have the most impact – investing significantly in improving beyond this will often not make enough of a difference to warrant it as a primary focus.

Schema, for instance, is a great tool to have in your arsenal and employ strategically, but going overboard and tagging every single page with every schema element possible will simply not make a difference in your search rankings. Don’t let “industry experts” convince you otherwise.

Schema is not even a direct ranking factor that we know of (right now).

There are some great capabilities with structured markup, but you aren’t going to make your site rank out of thin air with it. – Read more

12 Ways to Build a Winning SEO Strategy on a Small Budget

My Post (24).pngWe’ve read the blogs, we’ve heard the talks, we’ve seen the case studies.

Big brands are winning at SEO.

They’ve got:

  • A team of experts working on fine-tuning their tech.
  • A world-class agency planning their next digital PR campaign.
  • A fund for stationery that rivals your entire year’s marketing budget.

It can feel demoralizing as a marketer with a small SEO budget to hear those stories. Their success can feel completely out of reach.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

If you are working with a small SEO budget for your brand or your agency’s client you can still have success.

The key to building a winning SEO strategy when you are low on funds is learning to prioritize.

Read on to learn the top 12 ways you can prioritize, structure, and run SEO campaigns that will bring exceptional ROI from your small budget.

1. Identify How Your Budget Limits You

This is a crucial first step. A small budget often means you are having to compromise in some areas. Regardless of whether you are working in-house, in an agency or as a freelancer, small budgets often mean:

Lack of Time

If your client has a small marketing budget then you are likely to be very limited in how much time you can dedicate to their SEO each month.

Similarly, if you work in-house for a brand with a small budget then your time is probably shared amongst other channels, too.

A small budget often means you are not given enough time to do all of the work you want to.

Less Resources

If you are working with a small SEO budget you might not have access to all the fancy tools you think you need. Extensive keyword trackers, backlink identifiers and log-file analyzers can be quite expensive.

If you are working for an agency you may have access to these, but in-house marketers on a small budget are unlikely to.

Knowledge

If you have a limited SEO budget as a brand marketer, chances are you don’t have an array of SEO experts at your fingertips.

Even as an agency marketer working with clients who don’t have much budget means your SEO team is probably not highly specialized. This can leave serious gaps in your knowledge that could be hampering your SEO efforts.

Money for Assets

A lack of money often means that you don’t have the budget for work outside of your skill-set. If you want to plan an outreach campaign, for example, you may feel blocked by the cost of asset creation.

For instance, you might have felt a designer, media producer and content manager would be crucial to get your idea off the ground.

Identifying what your SEO budget is, and is not, translating to in terms of your resources and knowledge gives you a good idea of what you should be prioritizing. It also helps you to stop wandering down paths that aren’t going to yield results.

2. Fill Those Gaps

If you know your budget means you cannot afford the best tools you may need to look at cheap or free alternatives.

There are ways to track rank, identify backlinks, and analyze log files without spending a fortune.

The options are usually just a little less shiny and require a bit more manual labor to get the same level of intel.

If it is time that you are short on then you may need to have a conversation with your team or your client about getting more.

I’ve heard of agencies who will sell SEO packages in at 3 or 4 hours a month. This is, in my opinion, hard to work with.

You may need to speak to your client about the limitations such a small commitment to SEO gives and perhaps show the possible increase were they to invest more.

Some in-house bosses are also unaware of how much time SEO analysis and implementation takes to carry out well.

If there is really no option to increase the time you have allocated to spend on SEO then you will need to be laser-focused on the work you do. See point 5 for more advice on that.

If it is a knowledge gap that you feel is holding you back then you need to know what your weaker areas are.

It may be that you are an excellent copywriter and feel that digital PR is your jam, but the technical side of SEO is still a bit baffling to you. This can be your opportunity to develop your skills. – Read more

PPC & CRO Synergy: 6 Tips for Success

My Post (20).pngPaid search advertising (PPC) and conversion rate optimization (CRO) are both great for boosting business performance in their own right.

Going a step further and combining their insights, however, can make them greater than the sum of their parts.

By sharing your findings between the two to combine paid search and CRO into one strategy, you can drive the very best results.

While they may be separate digital marketing activities, there is considerable overlap in implementation.

Both incorporate extensive data analysis, analyzing past account performance to make predictions going forward. They also rely on testing – trialing out changes and using the successes to incrementally boost your KPIs.

Most importantly, PPC and CRO both work primarily towards the same aim: conversions. That might be calling your call center, filling in a web form, or buying the product you’re selling.

Combining these two digital marketing powerhouses together you can really help supercharge your conversion rate.

The Power of CRO

If you aren’t already doing CRO, you really should be.

It aims to decrease “friction” along the customer journey by making landing pages more user-friendly and relevant.

By making the path to conversion more appealing, CRO is one of the most powerful tools for boosting digital marketing performance. One client at my agency saw a 47% uplift in conversions from the introduction of a CRO strategy alone.

It’s well known that CRO improves your PPC performance. This is because an increase in conversion rate lowers your cost per acquisition (CPA).

Put another way, if your costs remain the same but you win more conversions, you increase your efficiency of spend.

If you use CRO to make your landing pages more relevant to your search ads, you will also raise your Google Ads Quality Score.

This, in turn, lowers cost per click (CPCs) and increases spend efficiency – you would get the same number of clicks at a cheaper price tag.

The Power of PPC

If you know how to properly apply your PPC insights, this relationship can work the other way around, too.

Paid search data revolves around who your customers are and what they’re looking for, so you should absolutely be using this information to tailor their experience on your website.

Not sure where to start?

Here are my top five tips for feeding your PPC insights into your CRO strategy. – Read more

Now is the time to position your site for a successful start to 2020

My Post (19).pngIf your strategy has a heavy focus on link acquisition, the end of the year is a good time to shift some of your efforts to other areas.

It is the holiday season again, and you know what that means… the year is almost over and it’s time to start preparing our SEO strategies for next year!

Along with eggnog frappuccinos, cooler weather, and people putting Christmas lights up (way too early), the end of the year signifies a time for reflection – and this rings true for SEO as well.

As your current SEO strategy winds down, now is the time to position your site for a successful Q1. Specifically, if your strategy has a heavy focus on link acquisition and manual outreach, the end of the year is the perfect time to shift some of your efforts to other areas – response rates to outreach are traditionally lower in November and December as people are away from their emails on holiday vacations.

I want to share some of the ways you can use this “downtime” to invest in strategies that will lay the groundwork for a successful start to next year.

Prioritizing the future

First off, I am in no way saying you should abandon your current link building strategy – backlinks are just as valuable in December as they are in March.

However, you should know website owners (the people who would link to you) are typically less responsive during the holidays and your time is better spent on activities that will prepare your site for links in the future.

Rather than making a desperate push to squeeze the last bit of ROI out of this year, I suggest investing in long-term initiatives that will pay dividends down the road. These initiatives include:

  • Competitive analysis and review
  • Content planning and creation
  • And auditing technical and onpage SEO issues.

Optimize your end-of-year SEO efforts by prioritizing activities that will impact the long-term future of your website.

Competitive analysis and review

As the year comes to a close, it’s a great time to check in on competitors and review what they’ve been up to in terms of search.

A good place to start is with your competitors’ content, analyzing which pages are helping them earn organic visitors. Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush make it easy to compile a list of the top pages on competitor sites. Review these pages to determine if it would be viable or necessary to create similar pages on your own site. During your review, consider:

  • Is this topic relevant to my audience?
  • Do I already have an existing page that covers this topic?
  • What type of traffic would come from ranking for this term (top, middle, bottom)?
  • Do I have the resources and time to invest in creating a page that will compete?

It’s important to ask these questions rather than simply copying your competitors – not all top competitor pages will make sense for your site, audience and goals.

You can also use these tools to track keyword movement for your competitors over the past year. Comparing this data with your own site’s performance can help you identify areas where the competition might be overtaking you.

SEO isn’t just about earning new keyword rankings and sources of organic traffic. Search results are always changing, and if you don’t defend your rankings you will lose them. Keeping an eye on competitor keyword growth will help you spot potential threats before they become losses. If you see competitors making gains in areas where you’re slipping, consider:

  • Updating your existing page with fresh content and more depth
  • Optimizing onpage factors
  • Reviewing internal linking opportunities
  • Manual promotion for external backlinks

Whether you uncover new opportunities or identify potential problems, reviewing competitor strategies will provide valuable insight, and the end of the year is an ideal time to conduct this analysis. – Read more

10 Ecommerce Landing Page Examples That Maximize Sales

My Post (15).png The best ecommerce landing pages don’t just convert better—they make you more money. (Cha-ching!) Take a look at some of the best-selling examples from other marketers in the biz, and see how you can get more shoppers to click on that “Buy Now” button.

Why Not Just Use Product Pages for Your Ecommerce Campaigns and Promotions?

Pairing ads with product pages can lead to some pretty underwhelming results. According to Monetate, visitors convert half as often when they’re on a product page compared to a custom landing page experience.

That’s because most product pages don’t follow ecommerce best practices. They have boilerplate copy and design that tries to target everybody at the same time (and doesn’t sync up with your paid advertisements). Even worse—most product pages are stuffed with shiny links that end up distracting shoppers and keep them browsing instead of buying.

With landing pages, you can focus a visitor’s attention on a single product or offering and lead them on a personalized journey to purchase. They’re more targeted, customizable, and twice as likely to convert.

10 Ecommerce Landing Page Examples

  1. LIV Watches
  2. TRIBE
  3. Ascent Footwear
  4. BoxyCharm
  5. Thistle
  6. waterdrop
  7. Infinite Moon
  8. Solo Stove
  9. Nathan Sports
  10.  Meowbox

Example #1: LIV Watches

Industry: Apparel
Model: Storefront
Page Type: Click-Through

Ecommerce Landing Page: LIV Watches
Image courtesy of LIV Watches. (Click to see the whole thing.)

What This Ecommerce Example Reveals: You Need to Show Off Your Product in Different Ways

Typical online storefronts have a pretty standard approach to showing off their products. There’s probably a carousel of images at the top of the page and… well, that’s about it. But this example from LIV Watches shows how powerful it can be to spotlight your product throughout the page in multiple ways.

In this case, LIV is featuring a special edition wristwatch in partnership with pro cyclist TJ Eisenhart. Notice how, as you scroll down, they show the watch featured in different lights, different scenery, and different situations. You get to see a video overview of the watch, close-ups of the various features, and even a pretty slick side-profile that really shows off the craftsmanship.

It’s a great example of how ecommerce marketers can break the mold of “traditional” product landing pages to show customers the details they actually want to see.

What Else We Love About This Landing Page:

  • LIV creates a sense of urgency with this limited edition product. If you want this particular wristwatch, you know that you need to make a purchase decision fast. (Tick, tock.)
  • This brand is—in part—about lifestyle. That really comes through in the video, which explores idealistic sentiments like passion, aspiration, and truth to oneself.
  • All of the photography (along with the video and additional animations) really gives customers an up-close look at the craftsmanship, so they know exactly what they’re buying.

Read more

Google Offers 2 Tips for Improving Web Content

My Post (14).pngGoogle’s John Mueller was asked in a Webmaster Hangout about improving web page content focus. Mueller shared two tips on how to do that.

How to Improve Content Focus?

The question was asked about poorly indexed Product Description Pages (PDP). The publisher asked if making the content more prominent would help.

“Do you think moving the images down and the relevant text up would help Google better interpret the focus of each of these pages?”

Somewhat surprisingly, John Mueller answered no, that’s not how to improve content focus.

Then he explained why:

“So just shifting the location of content within an HTML page I don’t think that plays a big role at all.”

Content Tip #1: Proper Use of Headings:

Headings are Not Keyword Wish Lists

A common misconception about headings (H1, H2, etc.) is that they are important as ranking factors. Because of that, a common error made by SEOs and publishers is to use headings as place to add important keywords for which they want the page to rank for.

Essentially, SEOs in 2001 and even today use the heading elements as a wish list for all the keywords they’d like to rank.

That used to be the way to rank a page back in 2001 and thereabouts.

Modern Search Engines Have Evolved Headings Use

How Google uses heading tags has evolved several times over the years. Today, heading tags are important but not as a way to tell Google which keywords you want to rank for.

What Headings are Useful For

Heading tags are useful for indicating what a section of content is about.

A web page is about a topic. In a well constructed web page, each section of a web page is about a sub-topic of that web page.

So when a user queries Google about a product the information needs they bring to your page might include images of the product, pricing, size, color, review and a comparison.

If your page is informational then the informational need for a page of content might be the usefulness of tools for accomplishing a goal (like the right pan for a recipe) or other supplementary information that together satisfies the users needs. – Read more

Local SEO Strategy Guide: How to Rank Where It Counts

My Post (13).pngLots of user traffic from every corner of the world!

Is it always as good as it sounds?

The answer is no.

This is the catch about traffic: if it doesn’t convert to customers and revenue, you are clearly doing something wrong. And this rule is especially true for websites run by local businesses.

For example, does a London cafe’s website need to rank high somewhere in Germany?

Of course not; how would such a site be of any use or relevance to German users?

It’s a waste of time and effort – both of which are worth real money themselves.

That’s why local businesses should optimize their sites to rank locally rather than globally, and why SEO has a specialty called local SEO.

Strap in, this is going to be a long ride.

Who exactly needs optimization for local search?

At first glance, it’s obviously those who want customers to walk through their doors physically.

But those, who conduct business without meeting people face to face, are still going to need local SEO as long as there’s a benefit and opportunity to attract customers from a specific area (whether it’s a single town or an entire country).

Many businesses fool themselves into thinking that, because their products or services are available to a worldwide market, there’s no benefit in specifically doing well in the region where they are located. This is often a mistake.

At its core, local SEO is about two things:

  • Placing your site in the most visible spots in local search.
  • Gaining your target audience’s trust.

And both are perfectly within your reach.

So, is your mind ready for some work? Have you armed yourself with high-quality SEO tools?

Let’s do it, then.

1. Use Local Keywords

Normal search can be described as “find me this thing”. Local search adds an extra component: location.

Users tell the search engines “find me this thing in this place”, and all other places are recognized as irrelevant and filtered from the results.

What remains?

Results that are relevant since they are about that thing in that place.

And because websites rely on keywords to be found via search queries, you can imagine that not just any keywords will do. They will need that extra component.

Examples of local search-friendly keywords:

  • Buy bicycle in London
  • Bicycle store near me
  • Bicycle store near The Ritz
  • Closest bicycle store

You can also try to include local jargon in your keywords. It’s a way to localize them without explicitly naming the place.

That’s how local keywords are different from normal keywords.

What else do you need?

A way to pick the best from the lot.

There are two major factors.

  • Search volume: The number of monthly searches by users. The higher this number, the more users you can potentially attract through search engines, so aim as high as you can.
  • Search intent: A good keyword clearly represents what the users are trying to find. Local keywords are already more specific about that thanks to including a location, but you can increase your chances to attract the users you need by doubling down on details. Compare these two keywords: “buy bicycle in London” and “buy mountain bike in London”. Adding an extra detail signals to potential customers that you have exactly what they want.

Now, with all of the above in mind, all that’s left to do is find the best local keywords for your site. There is a keyword finding tool that can do just that: Keyword Suggestions.

Local SEO Strategy Guide: How to Rank Where It Counts

Type your keyword ideas into the bar and press Search.

The tool will display information on the keyword you entered and suggest many other potential keywords you could use.

It will be up to you to decide which are the best for you.

2. Create Optimized, High-Quality Content

Search engines rank websites based on their overall authority – their reputation, if you will. It’s the sum of all factors that indicate a website’s value to users.

However, users rarely think about most of those factors and only focus on a site’s content. That’s what they see most of the time, after all.

So the question is: what kind of content is valuable and the most likely to make money?

  • Useful: It must offer users solutions to their problems.
  • Informative: It must provide as much information as users might need.
  • Convincing: It must be able to convince users to become your customers.
  • User-friendly: It must be simple to view and use.
  • SEO-friendly: It must be optimized to rank in search engines.
  • Unique: Every page on your site must be one of a kind and not copied from anywhere – not from another site, and not from your own.

You can find all these traits in content that ranks on Google’s first page. The closer it is to the coveted position #1, the more apparent these traits become.

There is no standard to create high-quality content – making a really successful piece often requires inspiration and ingenuity. But there are general tips for SEOing your content that everyone can use.

Help search engines and users understand what your content is about.

Put your keywords in these places on your site’s pages:

  • URLs. Make your URLs short and readable.
  • Page title. It must be unique for every page.
  • Meta description. It, too, must be unique for every page.
  • H1-H4 headings. Don’t just use a slogan without keywords as an H1 tag.
  • Image titles, captions, and ALT attributes.
  • Other text.

If there are poorly optimized pages on your site, find them with the On-Site Issues Overview tool. – Read more

5 audiences you should exclude from your PPC campaigns

My Post (12).pngNegative audiences help reduce wasted spend and prevent shoppers from being retargeted with products too many times.

With the blurring of match type accuracy, PPC has become more about audience targeting than ever before. Ad platforms offer almost infinite ways to slice and dice audiences to reach the perfect customers for your brand.

As you build an audience strategy, identifying the people you don’t want to target is just as important as finding the people you do want to reach. Negative audiences help reduce wasted spend, ensure people see the right messaging at the right stage of the funnel, and prevent weary shoppers from being retargeted with products too many times.

In this article, I’ll share five audiences you should consider excluding from some or all of your PPC campaigns.

Job seekers

If job applicants are coming to your outdoor gear site simply to look for open positions, chances are they’re probably not in the market for a new backpack. So you don’t want to waste retargeting spend showing them ads for your latest sale.

You can generally identify these people by building a URL-based audience for the Careers page on your site. If you link to a third-party site for job applications, see if you can pixel that site, or track clicks to that site as a Google Analytics event to then build an audience for exclusion.

Current customers

Current customers fall under the PPC industry’s favorite “it depends” category. Depending on your business model, you may want to exclude current customers from all campaigns.

You can create the audience for exclusion by uploading a customer match list of emails associated with customers. In addition, if your product offers a web-based login, you can build a retargeting audience based on people who have accessed pages that would indicate their status as a paying customer.

In some cases, you may want to continue to target existing customers. For instance, some software clients I work with have opportunities to upsell current customers on additional features. You may want to segment customers so they aren’t included in campaigns related to Product A, which they already pay for, but include them in campaigns related to Product B.

Along the same lines, e-commerce brands often find value in recurring revenue from people who bought in the past. You can segment past purchasers into their own audiences to see how these individuals perform and bid accordingly.

Support seekers

If people are browsing support pages, they’re more than likely existing customers looking for help using your product, not shopping for your product. You can build retargeting audiences based on URLs associated with the support section of your site and exclude these from campaigns.

Of course, nuances apply, as in other instances, where you may want to target existing customers in some cases. For example, people looking for support with one product could be upsold on an additional add-on. Or if you offer premium support you can promote that opportunity through remarketing.

Past converters

Your strategy for targeting or excluding past converters (not necessarily customers, but people who have engaged with a conversion action such as submitting a contact form) will also depend on your business goals. As one example, say you have a multi-step funnel for working people up to the point of sales.

At the initial point of contact, people are offered an asset in exchange for their information. After submitting the form, you can then add them to a retargeting list based on hitting the “thank you” page for that asset.

Next, you exclude them from the asset campaign, since they already have the asset in hand, but add the audience to another campaign where the call-to-action is to schedule a product demo. You can then ensure you’re not duplicating messaging for something they’ve already seen (annoying them and likely wasting your money) but instead moving them to take the next step of raising their hand for interest in your product. – Read more