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LinkedIn: Social Advertising Workshop Recap

I recently attended Impart Social’s LinkedIn Marketing workshop in downtown LA to learn more about the popular platform’s performance capabilities. What I learned and experienced was more than I expected. We took some time to cover the basics of attending your personal profile, as well as covering all the different tools that LinkedIn offers, for example: utilize LinkedIn Pulse, Groups, Sponsored Ads and Updates, and Analytics. The importance of these was lost on me until this workshop. Here’s what I learned:

The more you utilize all of LinkedIn’s tools like Pulse, Groups, and Analytics, the more you are able to build out your group of followers. And I’m not just talking numbers, but building up your quality as well. And this is where it can have an affect on your ad performance: the more eyes on your brand means the more eyes on your sponsored updates.

Upon discussing paid advertising options it became clear that sponsored updates are better than sponsored ads. Sponsored Ads differ from updates in a few small ways:

Sponsored Ads

  • Ads appear within the top right bar
  • Images must be 50×50 in size

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.51.01 AM

Sponsored Updates

  • Updates appear within the news feed versus top right bar
  • Receives up to 20% more clicks than ads
  • Allows more characters for headline and description

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.51.52 AM

After analyzing the very interesting pros and cons between the two types of advertising, we dove into budget and targeting, which most of us were already familiar with. However, our speaker Nori eloquently discussed budget management, as well as a few really interesting LinkedIn-specific advertising specs like:

  • The minimum daily budget is $10 on LinkedIn
  • Budget for 100 clicks a day to ensure a large sample size for LinkedIn analytics
  • Ads are delivered at different rates during the day depending on your target audience’s activity on LinkedIn

Overall Impart Social offered an all-encompassing class that was education on both high- and low-levels to give us attendees a firm understanding as well as foundation to build up our personal and business pages on LinkedIn.

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A Smorgasbord of Social Media: Facebook Gets Moving and Twitter is Everywhere

This week, watch Facebook continue down the path of video content (well, GIFs and musical slideshows) and get ready to see much more of Twitter – even if you’re not on Twitter.

 

TWITTER

Tweets – Now Appearing On Google Desktop Searches

Twitter’s not the only place to see live tweets anymore. In a playful announcement on – of course – Twitter, Google announced it would be displaying relevant tweets on its search engine result pages (SERPs). Google has been testing this on mobile devices since May but now the feature has expanded to desktop displays around the world.

Twitter on Google SERP

So far, Tweets are appearing on branded searches such as “Wpromote” or “eBay” (as long as the brands are active on Twitter). In some cases, Tweets appear based on non-branded but trending searches such as “WCW” on a Wednesday. However, non-branded searches like “Hawaii vacation deals” do not show Tweets on Google SERPs.

 

You’ve Got A Message!

More specifically, you’ve got a direct message.

Another way Twitter might be affecting your desktop experience is with direct message (DM) notifications. As long as you have Twitter open somewhere on your computer, you’ll see a popup notification for each new DM. You can read and reply to the message without leaving your current browser window.

Twitter desktop notification

You can go to twitter.com/messages to enable this feature. If you want to disable it later, do so in your Twitter settings.

 

FACEBOOK

Pages Get The Gift Of The Gif

Earlier this year, Facebook started allowing personal profiles to share GIFs. Now, Facebook is rolling this feature out to a select number of Pages. Wendy’s was one of the first to show off this eye-catching content.

gif

If you’re one of the lucky Pages that can publish a GIF, remember to paste the link to a third-party source (Wendy’s used Tumblr, for example). GIFs uploaded directly into Facebook won’t display properly!

 

Facebook Moments Are In Motion

Facebook Moments is a relatively new development out of Facebook’s Creative Labs initiative, and it’s already got a big update. The photo-sharing app now lets users create “music videos” out of your shared moments.

Facebook moments

For example, if you share a moment consisting of six or more photos with a friend, you’ll be able to customize it with music and share it with the rest of your Facebook network. But before you start dreaming of Taylor Swift-enhanced moments, know that there is only a selection of 12 musical options.

 

That’s it for now, tune in next time!

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B2B and the Power of Mobile Digital Commerce

Being a digital Commerce Agency and priding ourselves on that title, we at Wpromote take the concept of commerce in a digital space very seriously. It’s our job day in and day out to monitor the way commerce is growing online, and how that effects businesses both brick-and-mortar and digital only. The impacts on traditional, product-focused Ecommerce have been fairly visible, and the subject of countless news articles across the business world detailing the rise of streamlined purchasing funnels, the impact of social media on buying habits, and so much more. Buying and selling goods on the Internet is becoming ever more sophisticated, and the online marketing that promotes this business has scaled accordingly along with the changing times.

However, the impact of an ever more powerful and omnipresent Internet on B2B commerce has been murkier to determine. B2B business models certainly have changed as more and more customers, be they small business owners or huge enterprises, have relied largely or even solely on the Internet for all their needs. But when your business doesn’t have a shopping cart to check out, what do you need to do in order to keep up with a rapidly evolving digital marketplace? The answer, of course, is to go mobile.

Did you know that mobile now accounts for 50.3% of all Ecommerce traffic? Increasingly, customers of all kinds are turning to their mobile devices for their shopping needs, and this extends to B2B and B2C transactions as well. eMarketer research from April of this year demonstrates that the time spent on mobile devices, in terms of hours per day, has officially surpassed the time spent on desktop computers. The Time of the Mobile Device is upon us, and businesses in all verticals and industries are feeling the effects.

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A new report from Forrester Research, titled “Digital Is Busy Transforming B2B Commerce,” has demonstrated this tectonic shift. The report notes that the majority of B2B customers now start their research online, particularly on mobile devices, where they will in fact go on to make their purchases. In a joint survey conducted with Internet Retailer, Forrester also showed that half of all B2B companies that sell their services online expect that half or more of their entire customer base will buy from them online in the next three years. B2B and B2C companies will need to sit up and pay attention to the mobile space as much as retailers already do if they wish to stay competitive and continue to bring in ROI.

What this means is a fundamental shift in strategy away from traditional, analog B2B models that focused simply on the sale and then on the maintenance of service. At the heart of engaging the potential B2B customer and keeping the repeat B2B customer is a new model: the constant creation of worthwhile content. Content marketing is the way of the future, generating new traffic and leads as well as building invaluable brand equity with consumers. Striking the right content marketing balance can be challenging enough, especially in industries that may not seem to lend themselves well to fun content like infographics and blog posts, and ensuring that this content is mobile friendly as well only increases the difficulty factor. Wpromote’s own research into and experience with content marketing has led us to develop a number of best practices that any B2B company could benefit from when implementing their online marketing. A few examples include:

  • Informative and engaging infographics
  • Blog posts written to to be engaging and instructive, not sales pitches
  • Fun contests that engage consumers old and new
  • Constantly updated FAQs designed to teach and answer questions quickly
  • Organic testimonials and reviews

All of these tactics can be implemented in the mobile space. A mobile friendly site makes huge strides towards cementing any business’s presence in the Ecommerce space, and ensuring all the content and pages developed are streamlined for that mobile site – a feature called mobile responsiveness – will ensure that mobile browsers who find your site will stay there, instead of bouncing to a site that they can more easily navigate from their phones or tablets.

In order to join the future, every company is going to have to embrace not just the digital space, but the mobile digital space. Engaging in mobile digital commerce and doing so intelligently, though expertly crafted content marketing, is the surest way to succeed as an online business.

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Interning in SEO: What it Means in 2015

Today is (unfortunately) the last day of my internship here at Wpromote before I return to USC for my senior year. I’ve had the opportunity to intern at a wide array of companies during my time in college, but this has been an experience like no other. I’ve never been one to accept a given role without, in some way, tweaking it until I am happy with the value I am adding. Often my attempts at changing and improving my role were met with mixed reviews from leadership. In spite of past experiences, I had every intention of continuing to push the expectations here. To my surprise, outside-the-box thinking was not just accepted at Wpromote, but encouraged.

Here, I have been given wide latitude as an intern. While I’m yet to take this to its extreme (the goal is to get a full time offer, after all), it has made this internship unlike any other. While I could elaborate for hours about the remarkable company culture – read: Mondays Suck Less – I want to focus on interning in this industry instead.

I’ve always been interested in online marketing because of its relative youthfulness. I recall a particularly inspiring quote from our COO at the internship panel where I met him. (Sorry if I butcher this, Block.) He said, “One of the reasons I love this industry so much is because of how new it is. I’m not an old guy and still, no one can say to me, ‘Hey I’m right, I’ve been doing this for longer,’ because that’s virtually impossible.”

Lo and behold, I start working for Wpromote, ready to take on the digital marketing space. Because, hey, the industry is young, the leadership is young, and I’m young.

Upon entering the workspace, I would soon learn that I am, in fact, not young, but rather an infant in this industry. SEO moves at a ludicrous speed. There are people that have been immersed in SEO since its beginning. There are people who got their start just a few (long) years ago. And then there are (sometimes) interns. We have read an outdated book, maybe taken a class, and come into our roles eager and ready to learn. We scour the Internet, read everything Rand Fishkin has to say, and yet, this dynamic industry allows for constant innovation despite your background, title, or tenure.

The fact of the matter is, nobody knows everything. That’s the point. And that’s the game. So what makes great SEO? What have I learned during my time here? I’ll summarize in a few quick hints that are rooted in SEO, but that I feel should have a role in every marketing campaign.

1) Google is smart. Make your users’ lives easy and Google will do the same for you.

That’s not to say technical details don’t matter. In fact, they matter tremendously, but SEOs can easily get lost in the technical aspects—page speed, for example. I do not care that page speed is a “ranking factor.” That is not why page speed is important. Page speed is important because if users have to wait more than three seconds to see your webpage, they’re going back to the SERPs and clicking on your competitor. Goodbye sale. Goodbye lead. Goodbye conversion.

2) Don’t build links, earn them.

I have seen far too many clients come in with penalties because of linking tactics, yet today we still hear about agencies and in-house teams using questionable means just to fill a report with “acquired links.” Link-Building-vs-link-EarningSure, links factor into rankings, but remember why links were originally factored in? They were meant to be votes of confidence expressing the authority of your site. Getting your link on a cringe-worthy blog shows little value to your users and even less to Google. I think you forgot to read point number one.

3) Make great content. Don’t say, “make great content.”

If you’re reading this post, then you’ve undoubtedly heard a million things about the need for great content. Well, here’s a million and one. My biggest issue with the rush to create content is exactly that—the rush. Crafting content relevant to your demographic should be a no-brainer, but it has to go further than that. We need to make content that will blow their minds.

Don’t search BuzzSumo or Google Trends for what’s been popular in the past; make something new! The audience of your skateboard shop doesn’t want to read “The Top Ten Tricks You Need to Know!” They know them all. They want to discover new music, find new spots to skate, or have the ability to customize a board on your site. Generic content doesn’t drive traffic, but content with clear intent does.great-content-LOLcats-wikipedia

By no means is this a comprehensive guide to SEO, but rather an effort to share some of my biggest takeaways from interning in this rapidly evolving industry. The truth is, as an intern, you never know what you’re going to get (typically, it’s coffee). But every once in a while, you land a gig where you truly feel you’ve made an impact, and I’m (hashtag) blessed to have found one.

It has been an honor and a privilege to work at Wpromote and I hope I will have the opportunity to come back. Thank you everyone!

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A Smorgasbord of Social Media: Content Consumption

Welcome back to another Smorgasbord of Social Media, your weekly roundup of all things social. This week’s post focuses on what content Millenials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers consume most, as well as what Facebook is doing to keep up!
content-type-preferences

 

OTHER

The Content Divide: How 3 Different Generations Consume Content

Did you know that this year Millennials are expected to pass Baby Boomers as the largest living generation?

After reading that, do you think Millenials or Baby Boomers consume the most content online? Millenials, right? Wrong! Baby Boomers consume more content online than Millenials and Gen Xers, and they tend to do so earlier in the day.

This finding, and more, was revealed in a study conducted by Fractl and BuzzStream, which surveyed 1,200+ Millennials (born 1977–1995), Generation Xers (born 1965–1977), and Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964).

Other interesting and surprising findings include:

  • Blog posts (like this one!) are the most consumed content by all three generations
  • Everyone likes short content
  • Facebook is the preferred content sharing platform across all three generations

 

FACEBOOK

Noted

Remember Facebook Notes? Maybe you copied and pasted those ’50 Facts About Me’ into a Facebook note (Myspace style) while procrastinating on homework a few years ago. Ring a bell?

Well, Notes still exist and they may be getting a major facelift soon, the first in 5 years. Facebook is testing a new Notes design that looks more like a blog post than the current long-ignored blurb design.

So far, the update has only been seen by a few users and Facebook hasn’t announced yet if they will be rolling out the new design to everyone. But this test comes hot on the heels of new updates including Instant Articles and live video, both of which support Facebook’s major emphasis on content that keeps users engaged and on Facebook.

Screen-Shot-2015-08-17-at-12.27.36-PM-640x362

 

 

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Acquiring & Converting Shoppers in the Ecommerce World

You have generated a lot of traffic to your Ecommerce website. Now what?

Operating and strategically growing a successful Ecommerce business requires several cohesive and dynamic components. With this in mind, there are three primary objectives that every Ecommerce company must strive for: acquiring new customers, converting customers at the shopping cart, and retaining your existing customers for repeat purchase. Each one of these strategic objectives has a multitude of equally important and complex challenges that facilitate the need for creative and innovative marketing programs, but let’s focus on acquiring and converting for now—we’ll talk about loyalty in the next article.

The first objective is ensuring steady acquisition, which requires successfully driving qualified traffic to a client’s site. While this “foot traffic” is essential for the success of any Ecommerce site, the ability to nurture it is just as necessary. Once customers arrive on a site, what steps must an Ecommerce business take to convert this traffic into engaged, satisfied, and paying customers and advocates of your brand?

In order to convert customers in the digital space, a business needs to utilize digital marketing tools that work both in-store and online, delivering a seamless user experience by making the shopping and checkout process less complicated.

 

Every year, approximately $4 trillion is lost due to shopping cart abandonment.abandoned-cart

Shopping carts are abandoned due to a variety of reasons that range from a lack of valuable information about the product to distractions and difficulties during the checkout process. Some shoppers may be just starting their shopping process, researching products, comparing prices, and gathering information. Others might be impulsive buyers who abandon their carts when they are forced into a lengthy account creation and checkout process. Meanwhile, some shoppers may have gone elsewhere in search of more product information, product images, and customer reviews and feedback.

Luckily, with the right tools, nearly 60 percent of the $4 trillion lost in abandoned shopping carts can be recovered.

 

The Impulse Buyer

One of the biggest reasons impulse shoppers abandon their online shopping carts is that they get distracted during a lengthy checkout process that forces them to create an account before they can complete the purchase. Impulse shoppers are by nature not just invested in the product they want and need, they are impatient and despise lengthy complicated buying processes. So, the more barriers they face—namely lengthy account creation requirements—the more likely they are to drop out of the checkout process, even if they have developed some interest in buying the product. So, how do you make the checkout process fast enough in order to convert your impulse shoppers while still being able to collect valuable customer demographic information and contact details?

Social login gives your customers the option to create an account on the fly using their favorite social media profiles. The ease of registering on any site by using a social media profile increases conversion for new shoppers, while the elimination of password fatigue increases the likelihood of conversion for returning customers. Vision Critical, a market research technology provider, predicts that up to 80 percent of web users will choose social login if  the feature is available. Social login increases the likelihood of converting customers while allowing you to collect valuable social graph data.

 

The Casual Browser

Some people treat online shopping like window shopping. They gather information and check out their options even when they aren’t quite ready to buy. They browse your site because they may have bought something from you in the past and had a good experience, but with so many options, they take their time to research different products, price, manufacturers, and brands. Research has shown that most window shoppers look for inspiration for their next purchase. So, how do you make sure that your website’s shopping and merchandise browsing experience keeps customers engaged and inspires ideas in them so they return to you when they are ready to make a purchase? The answer is visual commerce.

Visual commerce utilizes the power of images and video generated by you and by your customers to engage, inspire, and satisfactorily answer questions to help convert your website visitors to paying customers. Research has shown that 44% of people are more likely to engage with brands online if they post pictures of their products. Visual commerce features such as trending products not only enrich your customers’ online shopping experience, but also allow you to learn more about your customers and how your products fit into their lives. Smart Image Ranking Algorithm (SIRA) uses transactional and social data associated with each picture and video and uses their value to prioritize which pictures and videos to display first in a product gallery.

 

The Careful Shopper

One of the biggest challenges in retail is to build your customers’ confidence and trust in your SocialMediacompany and its products and to reassure them that your brand is worthy of their money. This challenge is further amplified in the online world because consumers do not have the opportunity to experience the products in real life. Consumers don’t get to evaluate the product quality by touching it, or trying it out. Having trust in your product goes a long way and this trust comes from learning about experiences that other shoppers had with your products and services.

User generated content gives consumers a clearer and more trusted view of the products they are looking to purchase. Whether it’s through Ratings & Reviews or Questions & Answers, this type of content provides unadulterated opinions by fellow shoppers, which is much more credible to customers than product information provided by brands and manufacturers. A Better Business Bureau report showed that 75 percent of reviews posted on websites are positive, and the same report showed that 82 percent of consumers considered user generated reviews valuable. So customers advocating for your brand in the form of Ratings & Reviews is proven to be a powerful, low-cost form of advertising that deepens the trust in consumers’ minds. Lastly, since ratings & reviews are considered real-time content that gets added to your website, your site gains SEO points in the search engine results pages.

 

Complete Social Commerce Solutions

As Ecommerce companies have rushed to adopt social commerce tools to respond to market demand, they end up implementing tools from multiple vendors and platforms. This creates silos of data, raises issues typically associated with integrating products from multiple vendors, and results in sparse business intelligence; in other words, this lack of cohesion is a nightmare. However, savvy Ecommerce companies should strongly consider using a single vendor whose services cover all the aspects of social commerce in order to produce concrete ROI results.

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Why is My Direct Traffic Increasing? Dark Search, Probably.

If you look at your Google Analytics metrics as often as I do, you have probably noticed a steady increase in your direct traffic over the past year or so. And if you’re like me, it drives you crazy. Why the increase you ask? Well, this is because when traffic is reported as direct, we can’t see how it’s being acquired. Part of my job as an SEO Manager is to drive traffic to a client’s website and tell them how its being done. We SEOs rely on these metrics to make informed decisions on our campaign strategy, and direct traffic is the equivalent to “not provided” keywords: we can’t do anything about it. Or we couldn’t, until now.

image1

Direct traffic, why!?!?!?

 

Marshall Simmonds of Define Media Group had a great presentation at MozCon 2015, one of his main topics being this idea of “dark traffic.” Dark traffic is actually comprised of three points: Dark Search, Dark Mobile, and Dark Social, but this post is specifically about Dark Search, and what it means for us SEOs.

 

Let’s first define what dark traffic is: it’s a URL that cannot be tracked because it doesn’t pass along a referrer string. When this happens, Google Analytics doesn’t know what to do with the visit and dumps it into Direct Traffic. When does this happen? More often than you think. Referral strings are stripped when users go from a secure site to non-secure, links are clicked in apps, under specific browser conditions, and more.

image2

 

You might be thinking, “ok this is interesting, but why should I care?” Well, the traffic that’s “dark” and being reporting as direct could actually be organic or the result of a successful social campaign. As SEOs our jobs depend on giving our clients results, and dark search is skimming off the top of our hard work. We need to know how to talk to our clients and bosses about these surges in direct traffic, and how they could actually be a result of our campaigns.

 

Through a segmentation process, Simmonds was able to find that out of 215 million page views about 18% of direct traffic was pointed to a deep link that users wouldn’t actually reach directly.

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That’s 18% of direct traffic that could be organic, social referrals, or even incorrectly tagged paid search. 18% of traffic that was “Dark Traffic.” How was Simmonds able to find this out? Let’s dig into his process.

 

1. Pull Your Direct Traffic – Remember, dark traffic is reported as direct. You won’t find it anywhere else.

 

2. Remove Your Homepage And Section Fronts

image5

 

Your homepage probably gets legitimate direct traffic from people typing in your URL or bookmarking your page. The same goes for section fronts, or pages within your navigation menu. These are (hopefully) some of your more popular pages, and should be excluded based on the likelihood of being bookmarked or having an easy-to-type url. Use advanced filters in Google Analytics to accomplish this.

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Filters are your friends!

Remember to exclude, not include, and use “Exactly Matching” to remove data from only that page. You don’t want to accidentally exclude an entire directory.

 

3. What’s Left Is “Dark Social”

Dark Social is one of the three major buckets of Dark Traffic. This traffic is “direct traffic” reaching deep links that may not be commonly bookmarked or reached by an exact match URL. Dark Social includes Dark Search traffic in it, which is why it has to be mentioned, but again this is focusing on Dark Search. To segment out the social and get search, we need to take this a few steps further.

 

4. Compare Filtered Links With Social Campaign Metrics

The reason why this bucket is Dark Social is because some social sites use HTTPS, rather than HTTP. We have to cross reference our social campaigns against the URLs found after our filters are implemented. Most major social media platforms have some type of referrer tag implemented, but you always want to double check.

 

5. Filter For New Users

Filtering for new users will remove users that may have bookmarked your site and returned recently, or memorized a URL and re-typed it in. After this last filter is done, what’s left is dark search.

 

6. I Have My Dark Search, Now What?

Analyze all of your leftover long tail URLs. There’s a good chance that these URLs were not typed in directly, and were not tied to a social campaign, so how else could a user have reached it? There are quite a few possibilities, but the point is you ruled it out being direct or social traffic, which leaves us with Organic or some unknown referral source (we are assuming your Paid Search manager is properly tagging their campaigns). Let your client know about this section of traffic, especially if you have seen major increases in direct traffic as of late or during a period that correlates with a specific marketing campaign.

 

I ran some of our client’s data through this process, and found that 11% of 33 million page views were dark traffic pointing to a deep link.

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Traffic pulled from actual accounts.

I unfortunately couldn’t cross reference every account with each social campaign, but the data is still pretty significant. This 11% is traffic that our social media managers or SEO managers can speak to as being “dark” and not actually direct.

Dark Traffic can’t be prevented (yet) but there are some steps we can take as online marketers to cut this number down.

 

1. Tag All Of Your Marketing Campaigns Correctly – Whatever your preferred tagging method is, make sure any URLs you’ve built that are pointing to your site are tracked.

2. Look For Correlations In Your Marketing Campaigns And Direct Traffic – You can’t go back and tag old traffic, but you can analyze spikes in direct, and look for possible causes of dark traffic.

3. Suggest Switching To HTTPS – Although this is a lot of work and should be thoroughly vetted before implementing, referral strings are passed from one HTTPS site to another.

 

There you have it! This is what’s (probably) going on with your direct traffic. Always remember to double check your metrics and look for possible bot traffic as well. Hopefully you can now speak to your clients, boss, or in-law about Dark Traffic in confidence.

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A Smattering of SEO News – ABC…Easy as 123…

Welcome to the Smattering my friends! The big, massive, huge, mondo super duper news this week — that surprised everyone — is that Google is now part of a larger conglomerate corporation called Alphabet. While Google will be more focused on search and its various properties like YouTube, Maps and so on, Alphabet will take some of the other stuff Google was doing and separate it out. Neat, huh? Check it out and more below!

Google News

  • shutterstock_280249064-760x400Google Restructures Under New Alphabet Corporate Umbrella – Well this was a huge surprise earlier this week, to be sure. Google just went through a seriously massive restructuring, which includes both a new CEO – Sundar Pichai – and a new umbrella company called Alphabet. Google, thankfully, will still have control of things like search, Gmail, YouTube and so on, while Alphabet will broaden to other ventures. This includes Wing, their drone delivery system, as well as Calico, an anti-aging company. It’ll be fascinating to see what lies ahead for this new conglomerate. If you want more information, check out Google’s blog post on the matter.
  • Google Local Pack Drops From Seven Listings To Three – In what surely will be felt by many local retailers who use the services of Google Local to drive business, this week Google limited the Local Pack a bit. Whereas before this change, Google’s Local Pack had seven listings, they now will only find three. Other things removed included phone numbers, replaced with the hours of the business. Thankfully users can still expand the Local Pack to show up to twenty listings, but this is still going to be a blow to businesses below that top three.
  • shutterstock_248465470-760x400“Watch Time” Patented As A Ranking Factor – A recent patent granted to Google this past week proposed methods of ranking content – video or otherwise – via “watch time.” The patent explains that this patent covers algorithmic systems which can adjust a site’s rankings based on how long a user watches video content, but can also apparently be used for other types of content as well. It’ll be interesting to see when this goes into effect. Also interestingly, Google has a document on optimizing for watch time, so this isn’t exactly a new idea, but the patent itself is decidedly new.
  • Illyes: 404s Don’t Impact Panda – Less in the “news” and more in the “neat to know” column is the fact that earlier this week, Google’s Gary Illyes was asked if pages with 404 error codes have an impact on Panda. His answer? “Nope.” Seriously, that was it.

General News

  • Moz Ranking Study: Links Still Rule – Moz recently released their Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015 study, and it’s their most detailed yet. In asking around 150 SEO experts to rate over ninety ranking factors, the largest factor – in their opinion – is domain-level link features such as trust, page rank, quantity and so on. Falling just shy of that, in second place, is anchor text and referring domains. Google might try to tell us otherwise, but apparently in the minds of many SEOs, links are still super important.Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 10.06.27 AM
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How to Implement Hreflang Correctly

Hreflang was introduced by Google in 2011 to help site owners serve the correct language or country-based language variation to users around the globe. All country-based Google search engines, as well as Yandex, support hreflang. If you’re targeting Bing, you’ll have to use language meta tags instead.

Google gives us some examples where rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” is recommended:

  • The entire website is fully translated in another language, i.e. one version in Spanish – http://www.examplesite.com/es and one version in German http://www.examplesite.com/de.
  • You have regional variations within a single language, i.e. one version in Spanish for users in Mexico – http://www.examplesite.com/es-419-mx and one version in Spanish for users in Spain – http://www.examplesite.com/es-es.
  • Your site is partially translated with the main content being in a single language i.e. sites with translated site temple only (navigation menu/footer). This is very common on user-generated sites like forums and discussion boards.

 

So, how does an SEO implement hreflang correctly? Google gives us three methods:

1. HTML Link Element In Header

In the HTML <head> section, add a link element pointing to the language or language/country version of that webpage:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”http://www.examplesite.com/es/”>

Note: If your site is targeting multiple languages or language/region variations, the hreflang tag should include each variation. This is crucial so that search engines understand the relationship between each URL variation and serves the right content to users.

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”http://www.examplesite.com/es/”>

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”http://www.examplesite.com/de/”>

 

2. HTTP Header For Non-HTML Files Like PDFs

Indicate a different language or language/country version of a URL in the HTTP Header:

Link: <http://www.examplesite.com/es/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”

Note: To specify multiple hreflang values in a Link HTTP header, separate the values with commas like so:

Link: <http://www.examplesite.com/es/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”, <http://www.examplesite.com/de/”>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”de”

 

3. XML Sitemap

Instead of using markup, you can submit language or language/country version information in an XML sitemap.

The example sitemap below is from Search Console Help forum and describes a site that has pages equivalent to the English version (www.example.com/english/) targeting worldwide German-speaking (http://www.example.com/deutsch/) users and German-speaking users in Switzerland (http://www.example.com/schweiz-deutsch/). This would require you to have one XML sitemap for the entire website.

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There’s a few things you should be aware of:

  • The country is optional, the language is not. Hreflang works independent of the country. You can specify a language version of your site or you can specify language & country. For example, using the HTML link header method – this is a site that has a default version for Spanish language users worldwide, but also offers a version of the URL for Spanish language users in Mexico:

 

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”http://www.examplesite.com/es/”>

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es-419-mx” href=”http://www.examplesite.com/es-mx/”>

 

  • Search engines support ISO 639-1 for language codes and ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 for the region. For language script variations, the script is derived from the country itself. For example, the language code for Portuguese (Brazil) is: pt-BR and for Portuguese (Portugal) it is: pt-PT.

The hreflang tags in this case would be: pt-BR-br and pt-PT-pt. Search Console Help refers you to ISO 15924 for language scripts but the explanation is not that clear.

  • Although not listed in Search Console, Google also seems to support IETF language tags as supported language values. I found this by reviewing the hreflang tags used on Google properties like Android.com. For example, the language code for Spanish (Latin America & Caribbean) is es-419. 419 is the regional code used by the United Nations and one of the components of IETF language values.
  • You should only use one out of the three methods to implement hreflang. If you’re using more than one method, this creates redundancy.
  • One method is not better than the other but Google does recommend the HTTP header method for non-html files.
  • X-default hreflang is a tag you can use to identify a page that doesn’t target a specific language or region. This is most commonly used on country-selector homepages.

The Android site has a version of their website that doesn’t target a specific language or region and therefore utilizes x-default hreflang site-wide.

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In 2014, Google Search Console (then Google Webmaster Tools) added a feature to identify issues with the rel-hreflang-implementation on your site.

The most common mistakes site owners make when implementing language/country annotations are the following:

  • No Return Tags – If page A links to page B, page B must link back to page A. Annotations must be confirmed from the pages they are pointing to. Google gives site owners insights as to where the error was detected and where the return link should be.

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  • Invalid Country or Language Codes – in the example below, the site uses JP to specify Japanese, however the correct ISO 639-1 code is actually JA for Japanese. Google also provides examples on how to fix this in your site’s Google Search Console dashboard.

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So What Happens If I Implement Hreflang Incorrectly?

If you implement hreflang incorrectly, search engines will not be able to interpret the tag and will ignore it. Don’t believe me? Check out what Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes had to say…

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So at this point you’re probably thinking… “Zetus Lupetus Mariel! My site has thousands of pages in over a dozen languages, and my URLs structures vary from country to country. This seems like a lot of work. What’s the big deal with hreflang anyway?”

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And you’re probably right. Depending on the website, hreflang can get very complicated…very fast. But keep in mind that the language of your users and their location are two of the biggest influencing factors in Google’s search algorithm. Besides delivering the best user experience to your site visitors globally, recently at SMX Advanced 2015, Cyrus Shepard at SearchMetrics identified a correlation between organic rankings and the use of properly implemented hreflang tags.

 

Below are some tools for hreflang tag implementation. Please note that these tools still require manual work. For example, the hreflang tag generator requires you to input every single url and language/country variation. If you’re going with the sitemap, remember that you’ll need one XML sitemap for the entire website. These tools may not be feasible depending on the extent of your site and resources.

 

Questions? Please follow me on Twitter @marieldoesseo.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Email!

Just as important as getting the shopping list ready for the perfect holiday party is getting your email marketing calendar ready for the holidays! They’ll be here before you know it, and in order to successfully pull in additional revenue, preparation is key.

 

Last year we saw a 15% growth in total revenue for the holiday season, and with all the data from 2014 at our fingertips, I have compiled 5 surefire tips you’ll need to know while planning your calendar.

 

1. Plan Early!

The National Retail Foundation has reported that over 40% of retail shoppers started their holiday shopping before Halloween! To capture these early birds, you need to have your holiday calendar up and running as soon as possible this fall. Last year, marketers deployed more emails earlier in Q4 2014 than they did in 2013, which got an impressive 46% increase in open rates! Clearly, customers respond to early holiday preparation. Sneak peek or pre-holiday emails have proven, for some retailers, to be more successful than the actual day of shopping email.

 

2. Decide What To Serve

iStock_000021583116_LargePass the turkey! One of the biggest YoY growth spurts we saw was for Thanksgiving Day Ecommerce shoppers at 32%. Thanksgiving is a hot opportunity for retailers, especially as demand for Thanksgiving Day deals grows. Be sure to spotlight creative ways to highlight those aggressive Turkey Day deals.

Or how about a steak? A “sweepsteak,” if you will! Running a holiday sweepstakes throughout the season is a great way to drive engagement and revenue.

 

3. Target Mobile Users

It’s no secret that mobile shoppers are increasing every day. But last year, there was a huge surge in mobile shopping. Mobile sales grew over 27%, with smartphones representing 28.5% of total traffic and tablets 12.5% of total traffic. This presents a huge opportunity to retailers with mobile savvy. Make sure your emails and your site are mobile friendly to lower bounce rates, increase open and conversion rates, and help keep those shoppers shopping!

 

4. Make Up Your Guest List

The question of who to invite to your holiday party can be a tough one. Will everyone you invited come? To ensure that most of your guests attend the festivities, segment your database by purchase history, location, gender, and so on to ensure your messaging is positively received. Have messaging created for those customers that have not opened emails in the last 3-6 months to encourage them to shop.

Worried about no-shows? Be sure to set up some great holiday promos aimed at all those customers that bounce off your site or abandon their cart before making a purchase.

 

5. Bring Some Gifts

Gift-themed emails are a great way to showcase entire product lines to specific audiences. By catering to specific interests that your audiences are likely to want to engage with, you also increase your chances of higher email open rates and boosted email conversions. You’ll score even better with those early bird shoppers who are trying to get all their holiday gift shopping done early! So be sure to give them what they’re most interested in: gift lists.

If you have a weekly promotion such as stocking stuffers or gift ideas, try setting those emails up on an automated basis to be sent out regularly. They’ll become a set it and forget it ROI generator for your business.

 

With these tips, you should be all set to make your holiday email campaigns sparkle with all the magic of the season!