Search

Don’t Look Over Instagram Reels for Your Marketing in 2021

I remember the first few times I saw a friend post a Reel on Instagram and thought “well, that’s a weird knock-off of Snapchat and Tik-Tok” and wondered how or if my clients should even know about (or bother) with it.

Then in November, we also got word from Instagram that major changes were coming to how they promoted content in a much search-friendlier way (without having to use hashtags!).

Those two combined together means that Instagram with its 2 billion active users and built-in affinity groups shouldn’t be overlooked in 2021.

Use Reels for whatever you’re marketing or trying to message about and don’t skip over the functionality there.

2021 is going to be the year of 15 second videos.

Engagement umbers are already through the roof with Reels and that’s only going to continue to increase.

To further help Instagram categorize your account, you want to consistently post content that’s relevant to your niche. To illustrate, if you run an Instagram account for your dog training business, you’ll want to focus on posting content about dog training and avoid content that strays into an unrelated category. Other ways to help you show up in search within your category include following other similar accounts and adding a relevant keyword to your name in your bio (i.e., Alexa | Dog Trainer).

To compete with the rise in popularity of TikTok, Instagram launched Reels, a new form of video content delivered in 15–30 seconds to create quick, attention-grabbing moments in a creative and entertaining way. Instagram’s new UI update, which put IG Reels front and center, should hint to marketers that Instagram Reels will be here to stay in 2021.

Source: Social Media Marketing Trends for 2021: Predictions From the Pros : Social Media Examiner

Google’s Ads Updates in Search Results

We manage a number of Google Ads campaigns for clients. We’ve definitely noticed an uptick in desktop CTR’s since the updates (same as what happened with mobile last year). But a Google Ads campaign is only as good as the conversions it drives. If the quality tanks b/c of more junk clicks, ad spends will go elsewhere. All that to say, I don’t view this as cynically as the article here states:

Last week, Google began rolling out a new look for its search results on desktop, which blurs the line between organic search results and the ads that sit above them. In what appears to be something of a purposeful dark pattern, the only thing differentiating ads and search results is a small black-and-white “Ad” icon next to the former. It’s been formatted to resemble the new favicons that now appear next to the search results you care about. Early data collected by Digiday suggests that the changes may already be causing people to click on more ads.

Source: Google’s ads just look like search results now – The Verge

Keyword Research Tips

Good overview of keyword research here. Too many people neglect the usefulness of thinking through important terms and keywords in their web site’s content or blog posts. If you ask a Googler how to rank better in their search engine, they’ll tell you to “write great content.” That’s true but deliberately thinking about your “main ideas” and including those terms in your content also helps that aspect of discovery marketing.

The one pushback I have is the need for landing pages focused on particular keywords… that was certainly true a few years ago, but recent Google algorithm changes have made that pretty much a waste of time and resources if the landing pages are being created with the direct purpose of keyword rankings…

Keyword research is the first step in the SEO copywriting process and an essential part of any SEO strategy. Before you write your website content you need to think about which search terms you want to be found for and this means getting inside people’s heads to find out which words they use when searching. Then you can use these exact terms in your content so that you start ranking for them. This is keyword research and this ultimate guide will take you through the many steps involved.

Source: Keyword research for SEO: the ultimate guide • Yoast

What is Local SEO?

Here’s a good read on the thinking behind “local SEO” and how to implement some of the strategies on your website. We do this for a number of clients when we build or revise their sites, particularly churches and nonprofits (and small businesses) who really depend on local search traffic in fundraising or awareness campaigns.

Local SEO is about how to optimize your website to rank better for a local audience. A website gives you the opportunity to target the entire (online) world. But if the target audience for your business is actually located in or near the city you have your office or shop, you’ll need to practice at least some local SEO as well. You need to optimize for your city name, optimize your address details. In short: you need to optimize so people know where you are located and are able to find you offline (if required). In this post, we will try to explain what local SEO is, so you can optimize your local site as well!

Source: What is local SEO? • SEO for beginners • Yoast

“How can I get on the first page of a Google Result?”

SEO still matters as a part of your marketing mix. This helps, though…

Google has introduced infinite scrolling to mobile search results pages.

Where there used to be page numbers at the bottom of SERPs there is now a “more results” button. Tapping on the button will trigger more search results to load within the same page.

Source: Google Switches to Infinite Scrolling Mobile Search Results – Search Engine Journal

Why Some Services Cost More Than Others (Education)

“Holistic local SEO campaigns are the best for providing long-term value because the results won’t disappear immediately if you stop working with the agency. They also offer an element of education that you could argue is the most valuable of all.

While these services can seem a bit costly, they’re worth their price in every aspect. They’re highly targeted campaigns run by thoughtful local SEO technicians who know how to focus on getting results. The investment into these campaigns typically ranges from $899 to $ 1,999 per month depending on the company, their specific offerings and the business’s overall goals.”

Source: Why costs for local SEO campaigns vary

We work with a number of businesses, organizations, and even churches on what can be defined as “holistic” SEO programs to increase their site’s effectiveness at reaching desired potential customers or interactions at the local level.

There are some great “automated” services where you can “set it and forget it” and pay a monthly fee to do your search optimization as the article points out (Moz Local, Synup, Yext etc). We’ve steered a few of our clients in that direction given their budget, goals, or scope of demographics. The same goes with building a site… there are great solutions such as Squarespace or even WordPress.com for building your own website on the cheap, and sometimes that’s a better solution (I’d stay away from Wix or Weebly because of the way those site generators perform in Google searches, but that’s just me).

However, if you want the real trifecta of successful results, you have to hire an expert (which is what we do):

  1. Education from Expert Consultations (most important)
  2. Focus on Real Results for Long Term
  3. Customization for Your Specific Goals

You simply can’t get that with DIY programs.

I often see advertisements for website builders or newsletter delivery solutions or business card designers / makers that promise “ease of use” and “success” for small businesses or organizations working on shoestring budgets. It’s tempting to consider using those, especially when you are starting out or looking to make the jump to the next plateau. Sometimes, that’s a wise move. More often than not, you realize a few months into your endeavors that it would have been better to “hire an agency” or an expert to help you both clarify your goals as well as implement a site or newsletter or business card design that is both professional and custom to your needs.

Don’t discount the education component of marketing. I don’t expect my clients to run out and pass a Google Search Exam after a few months or years, but nothing makes me happier than when a client understands the value of their marketing investment and starts brainstorming with our team or even wants to learn more about how web design really works.

I’m a teacher at heart, I guess.

Card Cataloging and What Comes After Google

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I was always in the 900’s as a kid and teenager…

000 – General works, Computer science and Information
100 – Philosophy and psychology
200 – Religion
300 – Social sciences
400 – Language
500 – Pure Science
600 – Technology
700 – Arts & recreation
800 – Literature
900 – History & geography

Then I got to Yale and they used the Library of Congress system and I was all sorts of messed up for a few months.

And now we have Google. Better?

In some ways yes, in some ways no. Cataloging knowledge has been a human pursuit since the beginnings of writing in Sumeria. I wonder if we will keep turning that over to the algorithms or if whatever some kid in a basement is working on now that will eventually replace Google will return us to human curated cataloging of knowledge?

Mobilegeddon for Websites

Honestly, most of the sites that are going to be adversely affected by Google’s algorithm change to favor mobile-friendly sites don’t rank well already.

I see it everyday in my work with churches and non-profits whose sites date back to 2006 or 2007 and are mostly using static designs or a host that charges extra for mobile-friendliness. They don’t rank well in Google and want to know why.

So, do your due diligence and you’ll be fine…

THE timing is awkward, to say the least. On April 21st Google, the world’s biggest online-search engine, will start implementing another major overhaul of its mobile-search algorithm. This is likely to penalise many websites, which is why some have called the change “mobilegeddon”. This comes less than a week after the European Union accused the firm’s search engine of systematically giving favourable treatment to Google Shopping, its price-comparison service.

via Google: Mobilegeddon | The Economist.

Google Starts Ranking Your Site Based on Mobile Friendliness

We’ve known for a few months that Google was going to start ranking websites based on their ability to be displayed on mobile devices such as phones and tablets as well as traditional laptops and desktops. Looks like April 21 is the big day to have made the switch to a mobile-friendly site:

Big news from Google today: beginning April 21, the company will increase the ranking of sites that are mobile-friendly.

via Google Will Rank Your Site Higher If It’s Mobile Friendly.

Why is this important for non-profits, churches, religious groups, and community orgs in addition to startups and small businesses (most of our clients)?

Because even though search has had to share the limelight with social networks in terms of being “found” and “discovered” on the web, it’s still incredibly important to rank as well as you can in Google as search is still dominant.

You simply can’t afford to have a website that doesn’t display properly on an iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone etc after April 2015.

Google’s Hummingbird and the Importance of Social Signals

Google’s new Hummingbird engine for search is finally starting to give us some clues as to what Google is prioritizing in its algorithms now (mainly mobile and contextual).

Here are a couple of good sources and videos for you to ponder while you plan out your site’s marketing strategy.

Both links and social signals are forms of social proof, but they have different aspects to how they work and what is involved. For that reason, I expect there will be differences in how they are applied by Google. Regardless, building your reputation across many platforms and getting lots of different types of social proof signals is the heart of online marketing these days.

via What Everybody Missed About Hummingbird: Social Signals.

We can focus on the root of the matter: the major reason that Google has rolled out Hummingbird is because it wants to offer relevant and helpful results to conversational, voice searches. By creating content that is suitable for mobile users, you can optimize it for the Hummingbird algorithm.

via Six Vital Google Hummingbird Questions Answered.

While the Panda and Penguin updates were more punitive in nature, Google is giving out prescriptions for webmasters now. Namely, make sure your content is relevant to mobile users and more easily found in a “conversational” context.

Yoast SEO Plugin and Modified Headers

 

I’ve used Yoast’s SEO WordPress plugin a great deal in the past when I needed a “set it and tinker when necessary” on a client site or affiliate site we’ve developed. I decided to give it a go with the fresh WordPress install we’re using for CostPerNews and discovered something that I’ve heard others complain about in the past… dual sitename titles both in the browser and in the meta.

So, a little googling turned this up:

I have taken a liking lately to Yoast’s SEO plugin.  So far, it just plain works.  Now I am not the type of guy to worry too much about this stuff.  I apply little tweaks here and there and maybe it helps.  But the plugin offers a lot of things I like, like bread crumbs, and easy access to my .htaccess file, and robots.txt.  Only a few things have to change to enjoy this plugin.  Let’s dig in to this.

via Modify Header.php to Get the Most Out of Yoast’s SEO Plugin in a TwentyTen Child Theme – VoodooPress

Basically, clean up your site’s title tags and you’re good to go.

Again, Yoast isn’t for everyone (interesting discussion in the comments if you’re into this type of thing). However, it’s free and is a nice helper when you’re looking for an optimization plugin for your affiliate site that is quick, generates clean sitemaps (necessary for hooking your site up to Google Webmaster Tools, which you should do regardless) or even optimizing your breadcrumbs (always good for SEO!) and cleaning up rel=author issues.

Google Keyword Tool Replacements

Google has removed access for its Keyword Tool that was a part of its AdWords platform. So now what do you do?

With Keyword Planner, we’ve combined the functionality of Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator to make it easier to plan search campaigns. That’s why Keyword Tool is no longer available. You can use Keyword Planner to find new keyword and ad group ideas, get performance estimates for them to find the bid and budget that are right for you, and then add them to your campaigns. We’ve also added several new features with Keyword Planner.

If you’ve done anything with keyword research for search campaigns, you are probably well aware that this isn’t too much of a bad thing (a la Google killing Reader) as Google is replacing Keyword Tool with Keyword Planner. The trick is that you have to sign in to your AdWords account to have access to the Keyword Planner. Again, that’s not a big hassle for anyone who has already done even the beginnings of a search campaign.

However, the removal of Keyword Tool has sparked a couple of interesting conversations on Twitter and in email today for me. Mostly, industry friends are using this as a chance to trade notes on their favorite keyword research tools beyond Google’s offerings.

I have my own personal favorites but let’s look at a few other suggestions.

For example, Bill Hartzer points to Bing Ads Intelligence, SEMrush and the veritable Keyword Discovery tool. All three are good tools but in my opinion SEMrush stands out here. Bing Ads Intelligence is definitely a nifty tool. However, it’s an .exe download that isn’t compatible with Mac OSX (yet). As a recently re-converted Windows user I do use Excel for keyword research, so BAI works well for me. However, I find that I do so much of my research and work in the browser that it’s one of those tools I just don’t use that often. Keyword Discovery is good at what it does, but I haven’t spent enough time there lately to have much of an opinion. In its heyday it did provide good insight. There are certainly lots of other great tools out there, so feel free to add your suggestions in the comments if you have any favorites.

For me the linchpin of keyword research at the moment is a blend of Google’s own Keyword Planner and SEMrush (in conjunction with WordTracker). From there, I use Moz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool (subscription req’d but there’s a free trial). Then I top all of that off with a version of Seer’s Keyword Research Tool (a handy Google template they’ve created) that I’ve forked and made very custom for my own needs. I add in some extra variables like my own keyword difficulty ranking formula and that’s my finished product (usually in a set of Excel sheets).

It’s a convoluted system in an age when something like keyword research can (and maybe) should be drop dead easy to perform. Many of the agencies who I work with that focus on just social media like to poke fun at my setup and brag about how easy it is to do similar keyword or demographic buying on Facebook or Twitter. Nevertheless, I enjoy getting my hands dirty and having to do keyword research much like an archaeologist might work in a complicated Tell going cm by cm through the dirt. It’s slower than Indiana Jones style archaeology, but the results are usually better.

What Does Google’s New Personalized Search Mean for Marketers?

When working with our clients on search campaigns, one of the most common conversations I have is about the nature of Google searches and how, if you’re signed in to your Google account, things aren’t universal (despite the “universal search” term).

To drive this home more, Google is now blending its (awesome) Google Now type features with the search engine:

Google today announced a number of search features that make it easier for you to find your own personal information through Google Search. The search engine can now find information about your upcoming flights “Is my flight on time?”, hotel or OpenTable reservations, package delivery information “When will my package arrive?”, your purchases and what’s on your calendar. Just like on Google+, you can also now use the regular Google search to find your own photos through queries like “Show me my photos of beaches.”

via Google Search Gets More Personal, Now Lets You Find Your Flight Info, Reservations, Photos And More | TechCrunch.

Google is quickly living up to its promise to index all of the world’s info (or at least yours). Translating and understanding what that means for SEO and paid search is becoming increasingly more detailed.

However, advertising and marketing always improve as the variable of relativity is increased. While the Panda and Penguin updates Google brought to its search algorithms over the past year have made it seemingly more difficult for some marketers to keep their search traffic flowing, there is great benefit for the agencies and companies willing to go to the whiteboard and figure out how best to use Google as a tool instead of relying on decade-old understandings.

Google has also performed a number of upgrades and changes to its AdWords tool (including the keyword tool) and Analytics package (adding a real-time API for one). It’s increasingly pushing publishers and companies to make sure they are using Google Webmaster Tools. In other words, Google understands these changes can be seen as damaging to their base of advertisers (their main monetary stream, of course).

This trend towards personalization is ushering in a new age of search marketing that is still shaking out and will take years to fully comprehend. In the meantime, keep an eye on Google’s updates to AdWords, Analytics and Webmaster Tools and do your due diligence on how search marketing is changing (for the better).

Facebook Kills EdgeRank

From The Next Web:

One of the key pieces of technology Facebook relied on in the past to aid in content discovery was EdgeRank. It was revealed that this form of technology is no longer in use. The company utilized this algorithm that looked at a post’s affinity, weight, and time decay to help determine what post should be at the top of the News Feed for an individual user.

Facebook’s new search algorithm details are definitely interesting. However, the apparent death (in name and brand at least) of the EdgeRank name is completely fascinating to me.

Given Twitter’s recent announcements regarding its (monumental) shift in the approach to search, Facebook had to do something. I just don’t see an algorithm tweak to surfacing user posts as enough.

Be Careful With Your Clever Domains

Google’s Matt Cutts with a clear warning about using clever domains ending in country codes such as .es, .io, .li etc:

Another reason we like to stick with .com, .net or .co!

Affiliate Sites and Mobile Traffic

Mobify has a great post with a few informative links and stats about mobile traffic and its implications for marketing on the web in 2013…

13 Stats to Convince Your Boss to Invest in Mobile in 2013 | Mobify: “To help you pitch your boss and frame the situation from their perspective, we’ve prepared a collection of the most exciting numbers around the mobile web. It will help you get the attention of any skeptic, be it your manager, your client, or your mom.”

Mobile has been a massive traffic source since Android, iPhone, etc came along and that trend only continues to grow. However, a lot of our industry has been slow to adapt to that change and is still catching up. If you’re not analyzing where your traffic comes from on your sites (things like Google Analytics are great for this) and optimizing accordingly, you’re missing out on important traffic that can ultimately lead to conversions. In other words, if your site doesn’t work well on mobile, you’re losing money.

Affiliates need to stay on top of their game and be optimizing their sites and apps for mobile. Responsive design (we love Squarespace for this) is a great way to optimize your sites. iPads, Android tablets, and smartphones (think iPhone, Android, Windows Phone) are accounting for an increasing number of pageviews across the web. Especially if you rely on referred traffic from social media, you need to be thinking about and making changes as needed to make sure your site works well on mobile.

In 2013, there’s no excuse for horrible mobile themes or having to pinch-and-zoom a million times. Also, you’re probably losing some search traffic to sites with optimized designs.

Mobify’s slide deck also has some good pointers and excellent statistics that elaborate on what mobile means and why you should be optimizing your sites accordingly:

50 Must-Know Mobile Commerce Facts and Statistics from Mobify

Debunking Facebook’s Graph Search

TechHive has a good post up today on what Facebook’s Graph Search (beta) does and what it means to us as users:

How to use Facebook’s Graph Search (and why you would even want to) | TechHive: “Once Graph Search is on, Facebook prompts you to ‘search for people, places, and things.’ Start typing. Graph Search is supposed to recognize natural language and try to guess what you’re looking for, though that feature is hit or miss at the moment. You’ll quickly learn the phrases that will help you get to some sort of result: ‘Friends who listen to Daft Punk and live in San Francisco’ or ‘Friends of my friends who work at TechHive.’ It’s not exactly a conversational way to search.”

I’ve been playing with the service a little and while I’m impressed, I’m also a little spooked by the privacy factor of it. Graph Search indexes just about everything you’ve ever done on Facebook, which might put a lot of people at a disadvantage if they don’t regularly clean up their Likes, etc. I’m guessing a lot of folks will be doing some spring cleaning of their Timelines to hide some things they don’t want to show up in Graph Search when full functionality rolls out to all users.

Nonetheless, the service is looking very intuitive and could be very useful for businesses in the future. I tried a few search terms and the results are pretty solid. For example, if I do a search for “my male friends who live in Spartanburg, South Carolina” (it’s not rocket science but it’s the first thing I could think of), that’s a pretty big demographic (>100 friends) since I’ve lived there for the past 3 years and know people from there:

You can also narrow it down to some other stuff like “my friends who have been to Washington, DC,” that narrows it down to fewer than 100 (makes sense).

Creepy but nifty.

Facebook also has a pretty good video outlining what Graph Search is and what it does:

https://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=10200156550214780

Strange days indeed.

Google’s Matt Cutts on Link Building and Memorable Websites

Matt is right… create an experience and work towards the big picture rather than just make something for the moment…

Link Building Is Not Illegal (or Inherently Bad) with Matt Cutts: “Their goal should really be to make a fantastic website that people love and tell their friends about and link to and want to experience. As a result, your website starts to become stronger and stronger in the rankings.”

Go read the whole interview and pull your own conclusions from it. It’s not a short read, but it’s worth it.

Be unique and do your best work in all that you do.

“How Can I Get Free Advertising on Google?”

It’s a question we hear all the time, and a very good one for small businesses looking to make the most of their budget. Fortunately, Google has done a lot of the heavy lifting for you already and offers a ton of resources on its “Think Insights” portal.

For instance, here’s a link to their “Marketing Objectives” sub-category, which contains thousands of helpful articles, videos and case studies on various marketing topics related to small (and large) businesses:

Marketing Objectives – Think Insights – Google

If and when you’re ready to spend a money on AdWords, let us know. We’re a Google Engage partner and would love to help you out.