Why Google Going to the Dark Side Is Bad for Advertisers

Over time, the simplicity of Google’s results page has clearly eroded. In the beginning, Google’s clear user interface was beloved to search users for its ease of access and clarity. It was easy to spot ads, because they were clearly marked. The Google SERP today is visually very noisy, with lots of distractions.

Over time, the simplicity of Google’s results page has clearly eroded. In the beginning, Google’s clear user interface was beloved to search users for its ease of access and clarity. It was easy to spot ads, because they were clearly marked. The Google search engine results page today is visually very noisy, with lots of distractions.

Google rolled out its new UX on mobile several months ago, and — in mid-January — applied the changes to desktop search. Contrary to the company’s claims that the new design “puts a site’s brand front-and-center, helping searchers better understand where information is coming from, more easily scan results and decide what to explore.”

But the change, in fact, blurs the user’s ability to easily differentiate ads from organic listings. These most recent changes have taken the desktop search engine results page into the dark side, for its UX exhibits “dark patterns” in how it differentiates advertising from organic results. This has a significant downside for advertisers, organic search marketers, and their audiences.

Dark Patterns

Coined by Harry Brignull, a London-based UX designer in July 2010, “dark patterns” are user interfaces that are carefully crafted to trick users into taking an action. Although the current layout places a bold “Ad” indicator next to text ads, and shows favicons next to organic brand listings, it is easy for the user scanning a search page quickly to overlook the ad notation or confuse the ad notation with the similarly placed favicons. Many users choose not to click advertisements, preferring to skim the listings for the page that most clearly suggests the answer to their search query. Savvy users know that the ad may not, in fact, deliver the most relevant page for their query and are wary of paid advertisements.

Google has made it harder for the user to rapidly differentiate, particularly on noisy desktop pages, paid ads from organic content. This new layout is not as distracting on mobile, where the small screen makes each listing stand out. The smaller screen visually reduces the clutter, forcing the user to focus on each result card.

A single search for “high heels shoes” on a desktop yields a cluttered page that includes “sponsored” shopping ads, ads (marked with bold Ad indicator), a set of accordions with “People also ask,” a map and local listings box, and finally organic results.

With all of this distraction, the user is likely to click unintentionally on a poorly differentiated ad. In the future, it will be easy for Google to slip more ads into the pages without creating user awareness of the volume of ads being served.

Why Is This Bad?

When the user cannot clearly differentiate an ad from an organic listing, the advertiser pays for clicks that are unintentional. This depletes the advertiser’s budget, without delivering sales conversions. It is too early to tell the exact levels of the unintentional clicks, but it is my clear bet that there will be a significant volume of them.

Contrary to claims, the new UX is not good for the user. It forces the user to slow down to avoid making a perhaps erroneous decision. Rather than enhancing the user experience, the user will be less satisfied with the results delivered.

For organic search marketers, the redesign makes it imperative to have a favicon that works and clearer branding in the search Titles and Descriptions — because the actual link has been visually downgraded. It is now above the Title.

It is expected that Google will continue to test new ways to demarcate ads from content, but the continued blurring of paid and organic results only really benefits Google.

An SEO Consultant’s 4-Point SEO Holiday Wish List for Santa

This year, I want to take a more childish approach and write an SEO wish list for Santa. Here are four things that I want from Santa. These wishes are not big, so I hope Santa can deliver this list.

As I write this post, Thanksgiving and the rush to the end of the year are upon us. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, for it is filled with good cheer, good eats, and no expectation that gifts will be exchanged.

In the past at Thanksgiving, I have written about gratitude. But this year, I want to take a more childish approach and write an SEO wish list for Santa. Here are four things that I want from Santa. These wishes are not big, so I hope Santa can deliver this list:

  • Make all of my clients’ sites super-speedy
  • Teach all of my client teams how to write unique, valuable content — faster
  • Make all client structured data instantly accurate, complete, and error-free
  • Fix all mobile search/usability problems, immediately

Why Is This My Wish List?

Although each of these wishes are for client sites, this is, in fact, a selfish wish list. Fast sites are still the gold standard — table stakes for good SEO results. If Santa will supercharge all of my client sites, then the other SEO tactics that I recommend will have a firm and fast base to run from. It is foolish, read borderline delusional, to assume that a slow or marginally fast site is going to deliver a successful search optimization project.

Content Team Challenges Grow

Today, the message that high-quality content is an SEO must-have has finally seeped deeper into organizations, beyond just the SEO team. As the understanding the impact of content on SEO results grows, it is this SEO’s expectation that content teams will be tasked with creating more and more high-quality content. To meet the demand, content development teams will need to create more content, faster. This wish benefits the SEO consultant and the client.

Structured Data — A Key to Stronger Results

Structured data provide information that search engines can use to understand a site’s content and provide the best search results possible. Adding Schema markup to the HTML improves the way a page displays in search results pages (SERPs) by enhancing the rich snippets that are displayed beneath the page title. The rich results give searchers cues that a page may, in fact, address what they are searching. Clearer signals will result in improved results, but the structured data vocabulary is still evolving. My wish for instant, accurate, complete, and error-free structured data for client sites is a wish for an easier path.

Unaddressed Mobile Problems Are a Brake on Results

Mobile is firmly entrenched as the device of choice for a growing majority of searchers. To deny the importance of mobile is to fly in the face of reality. If a site has mobile issues that are flagged by Google’s Search Console, then it is fair to say that these will act as a brake on the search optimization program’s results. Mobile errors are — to use a sports metaphor — the equivalent of unforced errors. Quickly fixing mobile search/usability problems limits the damage; hence, my wish.

Perhaps, if you believe in Santa, you may get your wishes granted. I know Santa will bring me these four little wishes, because I’ve been very good this year. Maybe?

The Challenge of a (Really) Short-Form Direct Response Ad

It’s challenging for direct response marketers to fit all of the key elements of a good direct response ad into the space of a Facebook ad, Instagram ad, or Twitter post.

It’s challenging for direct response marketers to fit all of the key elements of a good direct response ad into the space of a Facebook ad, Instagram ad, or Twitter post.

Students in my direct marketing class at Rutgers were tasked with finding direct response advertisements in different media and detailing what made the ads direct — as opposed to general awareness advertising. Things like targeting, personalization, call-to-action, specific offer, etc.

Because their media consumption is almost exclusively online — social media, SMS, YouTube, and sometimes email, it’s not surprising that their examples showed the limitations of the media they consume.

The unlimited palette of the traditional direct mail kit, where repetition could be used to hammer home benefits and stimulate response, is all but extinct for this target audience. Even the traditional short-form, 120-second commercial has given way to shorter YouTube pre-roll ads that can be skipped after 5 seconds. (Make sure you get your main benefit and CTA out quickly.)

The examples students provided came mostly from their Instagram or email accounts, and many were limited to a simple illustration of the product, a brief description, and a “Shop Now” button. Although one student did provide a link to a classic DR spot for Flex Seal that made me laugh out loud (that’s long-form for lol). Over the course of two

direct response ad example
Credit: Chuck McLeester

minutes, Flex Seal was described as liquid rubber in a can, handyman in a can, and last but not least, the Hoover Dam in a can. There were several demonstrations, including one where the bottom of a small boat was replaced with a screen door coated with Flex Seal — no leaks, at all. This tried-and-true formula for DRTV sales doesn’t work in 280 characters; although, the ability to embed video into a tweet can overcome that limitation. The content of this short-form broadcast ad might make an interesting series of Instagram ads, but it would take four to five different episodes to include all of the content and demonstrations.

Reaching a young audience with direct response advertising is challenging, but not impossible. The best example of incorporating all of the essential elements of good direct response was provided by a female student from her Instagram feed. All of the elements are there: targeting, benefits, offer, and call-to-action — Girls Night. Delivered.

Shout out to Amazon Prime.

7 Steps to Advertising to the Emerging Gen Z Consumer

Advertising to the emerging Gen Z consumer is both as challenging and simple as it has ever been, which is an oxymoron in itself. But it perhaps explains the complexity of this 32% of the global population, which is edging out Millennials.

Generation Z, the post-Millennial group of digital natives born after 1997 who have an insatiable desire for instant gratification and personalization in all aspects of their lives, is arguably the most unique generation to come. Advertising to the emerging Gen Z consumer is both as challenging and simple as it has ever been, which is an oxymoron in itself. But it perhaps explains the complexity of this 32% of the global population, which is edging out Millennials.

Before we get into methods for marketing to Gen Z, it’s important to understand who this generation is and the qualities that make them unique. Generation Z has never lived in a world without the web. The Internet has always existed for Gen Z; though it has evolved into an entire entity in the last decade or so, life without an online presence is but a vague and distant memory to them. In this day and age, 96% of Generation Z members own a smartphone and, on average, they spend more than three hours a day perusing their devices. Social media is the beast that lies within these smartphones and has proven to be a powerful tool highly utilized by this generation.

For some, reaching Generation Z may seem difficult for this very reason — from the outside in, they are seemingly out of touch with the real world. For advertisers, however, it has made Gen Z more reachable than any preceding generation. Making a connection has a whole new meaning in advertising, due to the realm of social media and smartphones. Here are best practices on how to reach and engage with the Gen Z audience:

Reaching the Gen Z Audience

While Gen Zers have earned a reputation as arduous customers, there are various methods advertisers can tap into to successfully sell their brands/products to this tenacious bunch. As a well-informed and arguably opinionated generation, they generally respond well to brands that earn their loyalty as customers. This is unique to Gen Z, as other generations have typically chosen what they consume based on tradition. And just how can advertisers earn their loyalty? Sell the all-encompassing brand and its story to give it a sense of relatability.

Authenticity

When determining how to best reach this demographic, one word should be kept top of mind: authenticity. Research shows that 63% of Generation Z want marketing from “real” people, as opposed to celebrity endorsers. I put “real” in quotation marks, because this category does not stop at trusted friends and family of Gen Zers. A trusted source or friend can be found anywhere from an inner circle to their favorite social media influencers and bloggers. Influencer marketing has proven successful with this generation, because hearing about a product from an average, everyday person (with 10,000-plus social media followers, that is) resonates more deeply with Gen Z than seeing a high-profile celebrity endorse everyday items.

Influencers

Influencers are more trusted by Generation Z because they don’t seem like they’re trying to persuade; rather, they’re just filling their audience in on something they enjoy. In turn, influencer marketing does not feel like corporate manipulation. Furthermore, their followers are just that: people who follow and are invested in their lives. They are already sold on the person, which makes it easy to trust their opinion.

Keep Reaching Out/Retargeting

Online retargeting is key in engaging this generation and staying top of mind. Once Gen Zers begin researching a brand, it is vital to remain relevant to them, and retargeting is one of the best ways to do so. It is an easy way to take them through the buying process, so they end up as loyal brand advocates. As a generation obsessed with fast-paced, instantaneous moments, it can be easy to forget about something if it’s not reinforced. Retargeting — by means of social media and banner and display ads — is paramount to success with Gen Zers.

With the power of online retargeting, however, it is important to put a cap on the frequency, as to not fatigue the potential buyers. If a member of this group sees an ad too frequently, it can wind up in lost interest. They may feel it is being pushed too hard on them — which is quite the opposite of feeling authentic and caring.

Authentic Reviews

Online reviews are another important factor when Generation Z considers a product. Creating a space where they can hear from people of a similar background in a written or spoken testimonial to the product can make all the difference. Reviews get customers involved and allow their voices to be heard, tying in an element of personalization. In order to receive genuinely positive and highly regarded reviews from Gen Z, it’s important a company is honest, maintains the quality it guarantees, and makes them feel special throughout the process. They don’t want to be considered another number; rather, they’d like to feel included and impactful.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Generation Z also cares deeply about brands that have a positive social or environmental impact. It is of the utmost importance for a brand to come across as one that cares — in all aspects. Though Gen Z can seem like they lack character or substance, because they spend so much time disconnected from the world around them, this group actually has a tendency to express their values online and want to vocalize those beliefs. Therefore, they appreciate when a company does the same. Voicing inclusivity, social justice, and sustainability can majorly impact a Gen Z target while they determine whether a brand is worthy of their purchase. Typically, members of this generation look at a brand from a holistic standpoint before deciding to become a customer or not. This is why a company’s social media presence is one of the most important upkeeps. Serving as a place to express oneself, it’s the prime method to communicate a brand’s the progressive values.

Engagement

Ultimately, the best way to engage with Gen Z and make them purchase is to foster a connection that does not feel contrived. They love realness above all and prefer that a company is upfront with what it has to offer and what it values holistically. With technology at the tips of their fingers, Gen Z members have almost always done their research before purchasing. This is why marketing to them is more crucial than ever: the way a brand portrays itself online and the decisions it makes can make or break its profitability. Advertising geared toward Gen Z should always pique their interest and keep that interest alive until they decide it’s time to buy. The initial point of contact in getting this audience’s attention will push them to look further into a brand to ensure it’s something they’re interested in putting their money toward. As such, it is vital to a company’s success to maintain strong marketing and advertising tactics — from start to finish, throughout the buying process.

Brands: Show You Care About Gen Z

The bottom line of advertising to the Generation Z audience is that you should always sell the brand as one that cares not only about its own success, but also about the success and ultimate happiness of its customers. Maintaining happy customers, at the end of the day, is the main driving force behind the success of any Gen Z-focused company.

The 1-2-3 Guide to Ace Mobile App User Acquisition

Acquiring users for your native mobile app isn’t a new challenge, but it keeps getting harder. The number of apps on the market keeps on rising, and competition in every app sector keeps increasing.

Acquiring users for your native mobile app isn’t a new challenge, but it keeps getting harder. The number of apps on the market keeps on rising, and competition in every app sector keeps increasing.

Last year, over 6,000 apps were released every day on average in the Google Play store alone.

App marketers are working in a saturated market, competing for a limited number of users, who are becoming more discerning when it comes to the apps they install and use.

Without an enormous budget, there’s no choice but to get creative with user acquisition if you want your app to get you any meaningful usage among your customers. It’s time to master some new tactics in order to make sure your app remains a center of growth for your business, while keeping your cost per acquisition (CPA) in check.

1. Get Creative With ASO

App Store Optimization (ASO) remains a key pillar of any good user acquisition program. Careful use of keywords is still crucial to get your app to rank highly in app store searches and on app charts, with 65% of downloads on the iOS app store still coming through organic search, as per App Annie’s “State of Mobile in 2019” report.

App marketers continue to use updates to the app’s name, description, and icon as their go-to methods for improving ASO, although updates to app name and description dropped slightly in 2018.

app user acquisition chart
Credit: AppAnnie.com

However, ASO tactics have evolved and improved. Working ASO to the max in 2019 means using seasonal keywords, images, and branding to take advantage of yearly events, like winter holiday sales; whether it’s something geography- or culture-focused like Singles Day, or a global shopping hype machine like Black Friday.

App marketers are also seizing the opportunity to use tentpole marketing to adapt ASO to sporting or cultural events, like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, as a way of attracting more users. High-profile feature launches are another window for ASO updates that bump your app’s visibility in app stores. For example, Progressive Insurance created a game called Super Duper Bingo, created from ads of the previous years and marketing clichés to air during the 2016 Super Bowl.

app user acquisition example
Credit: Brandchannel.com

What’s more, today’s app marketers also update screenshots and videos on a regular basis, in order to keep app branding consistent across all touchpoints. For iOS apps, updates to keyword banks and promotional text copy also provide important potential for ASO.

2. Make Mobile Affiliate Marketing Measurable

Affiliate marketing may have a bad reputation in some circles, but it’s going through a rebirth for app marketers.

Some marketers are starting to approach affiliate marketing as they would any other type of performance marketing, by vigilantly measuring conversion lift using more sophisticated attribution solutions.

With smarter measurement in place and less risk of fraud, marketers can allow influential affiliates to promote their products with social media posts, native paid advertising, and sponsored on-site content, as well as traditional affiliate marketing ads and UTM-enabled links.

The more holistic approach to affiliate marketing channels leads through a trackable and measurable process that makes it easier to optimize each stage of the user journey. Because you only pay after a lead has converted, affiliate marketing is a great way to keep your CPA down and improve ROI.

Succeeding at affiliate marketing for increasing app users requires plenty of research into finding the right third-party partners to help extend your reach to new audiences. You’ll also need to tread the fine line between developing an attractive affiliate program, with healthy commissions and low barriers to entry, and keeping it cost-effective so that you aren’t paying over the odds for each lead.

3. Drive Revenue With Retargeting Ads

App retargeting ads are still among the most effective ways to drive conversions and revenue uplift. Over the last two years, one out of every four conversions was enabled by retargeting programs, and apps running retargeting ads enjoyed nearly 50% more revenue uplift over those that did not. That’s according to a recent study from mobile attribution analytics company AppsFlyer, based on its analysis of 4.5 billion retargeting conversions.

app user acquisition graph
Credit: AppsFlyer

 

Thanks to the availability of more sophisticated retargeting engines from the various ad networks, app marketers are better able to identify and build ad targeting audiences of potential users who have shown interest in the app, but failed to convert to paying users.

These are prime leads for retargeting ads that remind people about the benefits of the app and convince them to return, to upgrade to a paid license, or to make in-app purchases.

New segmentation tools also allow marketers to develop focused retargeting ads that are shown only to those leads who are likely to deliver the highest revenue, improving ROI. This should be combined with advanced personalization techniques, drawing on your existing data on lead behavior and interests to make retargeting ads more relevant and more effective.

4. Get All the Reviews You Can

The importance of reviews is old news for app marketers, but many still seem to overlook just how significant reviews and ratings can be. About 95% of people read app reviews, and 80% say they trust them, per a BrightLocal survey, making app reviews highly influential for success in acquiring users.

Many app marketers focus on app reviews on third-party sites, and fail to bring in enough reviews on the app site itself. After the app store, the most likely place that potential users will look for reviews is your app download page. Plenty of app reviews and a high customer satisfaction ranking impacts on your app’s overall scores for ASO, significantly improving download and installation rates.

Frequently, marketers who bring in user reviews don’t gather enough of them. Your app needs around 60 reviews to get an average rating, and around 150 reviews to be ranked as one of the top apps in the app store. So it’s imperative to constantly find new ways to bump up the number of your reviews.

app user acquisition example two
Credit: MobileAppDaily.com

And don’t forget that your reviews need to be authentic to potential users. If you have dozens of reviews that are all positive and uncritical, visitors will dismiss many of them as fake and won’t take them seriously. So resist any temptation to pay for positive reviews or to make them up yourself.

Combine Multiple Tactics

App user acquisition isn’t easy — and it can be very expensive — but using the right tactics can help you get more downloads, installs, and in-app time without spending a fortune. Retargeting ads for interested leads who haven’t yet converted, fine-tuning your ASO in creative ways, gathering enough authentic reviews, and advancing affiliate marketing networks are all critical pillars of a successful user acquisition campaign.

By mixing and matching these smart tactics, you’ll be able to create an app user funnel with multiple entry points that keeps your app profitable.

The Search Marketer’s Challenge — Striking the Right Balance

Today, the digital marketer has at-hand a veritable arsenal of tools to reach potential customers. There is email, organic search, paid search, and display advertising, all on a dizzying array of platforms.

Today, the digital marketer has at-hand a veritable arsenal of tools to reach potential customers. There is email, organic search, paid search, and display advertising, all on a dizzying array of platforms.

Each platform is busily competing for the marketer’s precious dollars. In the past, organic search has been a dependable, albeit difficult to manage, source of traffic. The Merkle Q2 2019 “Digital Marketing Report” shows that overall in Q2, organic search visits declined by 6%. DuckDuckGo was the only major U.S. search engine to deliver site visit growth in Q2 2019. Organic search produced 23% of all site visits and 21% of mobile site visits in Q2 2019, a substantial share of the market. The sharp focus placed on SEO mobile is aptly placed, because phones and tablets produced 59% of organic search visits.

How are marketers to react to a declining volume of organic search visits when, for so many years, it has been on a nearly continuous rise. In the face of overall search volume declines, marketers must work harder to make sure that they are optimizing not just their organic results, but also the overall mix of platforms and media used: paid and organic search, social, and shopping.

What Are the Drivers?

The answer to what is creating the change in organic search visitors is complex, but one of the answers easily visible to mobile searchers. The small screen is now cluttered with display ads, and the user is likely to not scroll deeply into the results. Those who do and make that click into a site are seldom rewarded with an easy to navigate screen. All too often, the mobile site leaves the user wishing for a better solution.

It is vicious cycle.

A bad user experience discourages the user from making another attempt. Additionally, as users develop favorite sites, where they can dependably navigate and find what they want, they are more likely to direct navigate to them. Amazon is one of these go-to sites; therefore, I have strongly advocated developing a search strategy for Amazon.

In a nutshell, display and paid search, coupled with direct navigation, are creating the environment for decline.

What to Do!

As they say in auto parlance, your mileage may vary.

If you are doing SEO for a site that is in a market sector that does not lend itself to display or is underutilized for paid search, your experience may be different. Declining search results cannot be attributed to the structural changes noted above. A slightly deeper analysis is needed to determine if your decline is driven by SEO mistakes, algorithmic changes, or even market changes. An SEO audit will highlight both SEO mistakes and where algorithmic changes have impacted the site; however, you can easily check for market and consumer preference changes.

Try popping your “money keywords,” those which are key to your business success, into Google Trends using the drop-down to broaden the length of time out from five to 15 years (the max) and then examine the peaks. You may find that the terminology has changed and that you need to revisit your keywords, a tactical solution. If your market has changed, then the challenge shifts from tactical to strategic.

How Tech-Savvy Kids Are Wrecking the Effectiveness of Google Ad Campaigns

Are your Google ad campaigns being wasted on kids accidentally clicking ads on their mobile phones? If you’re targeting Google’s Display network, then there’s a good chance you’re wasting a lot of your ad budget. Learn how to put an end to this today.

If you were a kid during the ’80s or the early part of the ’90s, you likely didn’t realize that you were the last of your kind. Every generation of kids going forward will, outside of an apocalyptic event, never know a world not driven by technology. When creating your Google ad campaigns, think about how often you see kids as young as five or six absorbed in playing games or watching videos on a mobile device.

What does any of this have to do with your meticulously crafted Google Ads? If they end up running on the same apps on which those kids spend a lot of their time, plenty.

How Mobile Apps Throw Off Your Numbers

The Display Network provides the capability of allowing your ad to reach 93% of online users. That includes websites, videos, and apps. The potential created can be limitless, but so can the damage that can be wrought by your ad’s inclusion in a mobile application.

It makes sense for marketers to have their ads seen on websites relevant to their product, and that is where Google Ads can be of real benefit. The problem comes in when those same ads appear in the latest version of a child’s favorite mobile game.

The Fat Finger Problem

Think about your actions when playing a game on your phone or some other mobile device. The only ads you will click on are those appealing to your interests, and you likely close the rest. Sometimes your finger placement is wrong, and you end up accidentally clicking through an ad.

Those accidental clicks go up exponentially when children close out ads. All those accidental clicks fool you into thinking you are getting lots of interest in your product, thanks to strategic ad placement. That makes it hard to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and figure out where you may want to make changes.

How to Avoid Miscounting Random Clicks From Mobile Apps

The following steps outline how you can examine your campaigns and see where your ads are placed.

  1. Select a specific ad campaign from your Google Ads dashboard.
  2. Click “Placements” from the left navigation sidebar.
  3. Click “Where Ads Showed” from the top navigation.

You should see a listing of previous ad placements for that campaign. Enter “mobile” into the search box to narrow the results down to mobile apps.

Excluding Mobile Apps

The Google Ads platform gives you the ability to opt out of having your ads displayed within mobile applications. You can do this by:

  • Clicking the checkbox to the left of the placement, then
  • Clicking “Edit” and
  • Selecting “Exclude from ad group” or “Exclude from campaign.”
  • Next, click “Exclusions” from the top navigation to view all the placements you’re excluded from.
  • Click the blue edit button to add more to campaigns or ad groups.

A Matter of Money

Business owners can benefit the most from completely excluding their ads from all mobile applications. The extraneous clicks could end up costing them quite a bit, as they will not result in the desired conversion.

They can do this by adding “App categories > All Apps” to the Exclusions list within your Display network campaigns.

Pulling It All Together

Not all clicks lead to the promise of a conversion, especially unintentional ones done by kids on mobile apps. You can review your ad placements in the Google Ads platform by clicking on the “Placements” button in the left navigation sidebar.  This will show you the placements you’re targeting.  Click “Where Ads Showed” to see where else your ads were displayed and determine if you need to exclude any of those additional placements.

Most businesses should exclude “All Apps” to save yourself a lot of headaches and reporting issues.

Want more tips to improve your Google Ads campaigns? Get your free copy of our “Ultimate Google AdWords Checklist.”

 

3 Reasons Why Achieving Organic Search Success Has Gotten Harder

If you think that it has gotten harder to achieve organic search success, you may be right. Most marketers recognize organic search’s tremendous value as an acquisition channel and focus on optimizing for organic search.

If you think that it has gotten harder to achieve organic search success, you may be right. Most marketers recognize organic search’s tremendous value as an acquisition channel and focus on optimizing for organic search.

Even if you are following all of the guidelines and work hard to keep your site in tune with the current demands, you may still be watching your results falter or not grow at levels that had once been easy to achieve. The rewards are still there, but organic search success has gotten harder.

This article will explore three reasons why, despite best efforts, achieving significant search traffic gains may be eluding you. The reasons are structural, outside your site: increased competition for top organic listings; more screens, each with its own demands; and changing consumer expectations.

More Players, Smaller Field of Play

Early adopters of search were richly rewarded. Many online businesses that recognized the potential of search cashed in by optimizing their sites.

At the same time, the search industry landscape was more diverse than it is today. The technology was also much less complex and easier to game. Although there were more search engines to consider in building an optimization plan, there were more baskets to put eggs in.

As the landscape changed and Google became increasingly dominant, search marketers had to focus their efforts toward pleasing an ever-more-sophisticated algorithm. The unfortunate side effect is that a mistake or a misbegotten tactic could and would catastrophically impact a site’s results. Add in that it was no longer a secret that search really works, and the number of businesses seeking those top results grew exponentially.

With the continued growth of e-commerce and the stumbling of bricks-and-mortar retailers, such as Sears, retail has rushed into the organic space. The increased competition of more players seeking the top spots on just a few engines has increased the amount of effort that must go into successful search optimization. This view assumes that the site owner is making all the right moves to meet the improving technology. In short, it is harder — net technology advances.

More Screens, Less Space

The growth of mobile and its impact on organic search cannot be underestimated.

Previous posts have discussed mobile rankings and Google’s own move to a mobile-first index.

Mobile makes the work and the chances for success harder for several reasons. Many sites are still developed in ways that make them mobile hostile – too-small text, color schemes that are hard to see on smaller screens, buttons that are too small, layouts that are difficult to maneuver around.

In moving to a mobile-first index and ranking scheme, Google has upped the ante for search success. Additionally, by rewarding content creation in the algorithm, site owners must balance the demands of the small screen and content presentation. The real downer is that on the small screen, the organic listings are pushed below the fold, off the screen, more readily.

With the recent announcement of new Gallery and Discovery ad formats, it remains to be seen how much screen real estate will be available for organic results. Being No. 1 never had greater valance than it does today.

Consumer Expectations Drive Search

Consumers drive search — they always have. Gone are the days of clunky keyword-stuffed copy (written to impress an algorithm, not a human). Deceptive titles and descriptions are a thing of the past.

Their role has been reaffirmed. Consumers are savvy enough to click away from a page that does not meet the expectation stated in the search result. Google’s use of snippets is a measure of how well or how poorly your page matches user queries. If Google is always pulling a snippet and never using your description, then it may be time to rethink your scheme for writing metadata.

As consumers grow more demanding, it is essential that we, as marketers, provide what they want. As consumer wants change, so we, too, must change.

Change is hard. And today, it is harder than ever to create and execute organic search strategies that work.

Does Google Really Need Your Website? Well, How Mobile-Friendly Are You?

In the last two months alone, two significant updates have occurred to the Google algorithm — creating volatility in the search results. The second update happened around March 15, and was a major update — a Core Algorithm Update.

In the last two months alone, two significant updates have occurred to the Google algorithm — creating volatility in the search results. The second update happened around March 15, and was a major update — a Core Algorithm Update.

These core updates occur several times a year. Recovering from rankings drops created by a core algorithmic change is not about fixing a page. I contend that just fixing a few pages is an exercise as fruitful in arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Instead, you site owners should ask yourselves, honestly, does Google really need the website? The answer is often “no,” so Internet management teams avoid the question and pour their efforts and funds into fixing pages in response to algorithmic updates.

The way to avoid making fixes is to think like long and big. Think like Google, and use its learning on search and user intent to make your site valuable.

Why Should Google Want Your Site?

With its proclaimed intent to index all the world’s knowledge, it could be argued that Google needs your site to fulfill this mission.

But just being included does not mean showing up in the top results. What brings a site to the top of the results? It is the user and whether your site answers the intent of the user’s query.

If a page and, by extension, the entire site addresses the user’s intent per the query and provides clear expert, authoritative and trustworthy (E-A-T) content, then it will show up in the top results.

There is an added wrinkle. With Google moving to a mobile-first, mobile-focused environment, your mobile site must meet the user’s intent.

As I write this post, I am working at a laptop linked to a large monitor, the typical configuration of an Internet worker. This is not where the searchers are. They are on mobile devices.

If your analytics don’t show more than half your visitors are mobile, then you are an outlier.

If you are looking to fix your search results, think mobile. I would suggest getting away from the monitor at your desk and using your mobile device to conduct a series of searches your typical user might perform. You may find yourself frustrated. If you typically chase rankings, you may find lots of reasons why you are not in the top search rankings.

How Do You Fix the Problem?

Because SEO success is tied to meeting the user’s search intent, then it is imperative to attach more significance to a creating successful user experience for mobile users.

This does not push aside all of the other elements of good SEO, it simply creates a delivery system for meeting the user on the user’s terms.

Getting there goes beyond simply doing searches on a mobile device. It forces a rethinking of how and why data is presented. Begin by reading. Here are several points of departure. If you love deeply technical information or suffer from insomnia, spend some time reading Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. (Opens as a PDF) These are the guidelines that Google’s team of human evaluators use to determine the quality of sample pages. The results from the evaluators are used as part of the training data that flow into creating the algorithm.

Here, you will quickly see what makes a page good. This is just the first stop on the tour.

Then, check out the much more user-friendly and readable UX Playbooks available for various types of sites. The retail playbook is eye-opening. (Opens as a PDF)

First, all of the examples and screenshots are mobile.

For an even longer view of where Google Search is headed in the future, read Ben Gomes’s blog post on “Improving Search in the Next 20 Years.

Instead of worrying about fixing pages in response to updates, consider how well you and your site will fit with what Google wants now and into the future.

6 Ways to Use the 2019 USPS Promotions to Your Advantage

USPS promotions are back for 2019. Do you have a planned marketing strategy to not only save money on postage, but really stand out? There are a variety of programs to choose from, so you should be able to find at least one that is a good fit for you.

USPS promotions are back for 2019. Do you have a planned marketing strategy to not only save money on postage, but really stand out? There are a variety of programs to choose from, so you should be able to find at least one that is a good fit for you.

If you are planning mailings in 2019, why not participate in a promotion and save money on postage?

Let’s take an in-depth look at each program:

6 Direct Mail Postage-Saving Promotions

  1. Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Promotion — This program runs from Feb.1 to July 31. Use this program to highlight special finishing technologies that engage the senses. Some ideas are special visual effects, sound, scent, texture/tactile coatings and even taste. In addition, you can create interactive mail pieces, such as pop-ups, infinite folds or other dimensional aspects. This is a really fun one that can only be done with print marketing.
  2. 2019 Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion — This program runs from March 1 to Aug. 31. Use this program to engage customers and prospects by use of mobile technology in direct mail. This can be done with QR Codes, augmented reality, NFC, video and more. This is a very powerful way to create a longer connection and increase the effectiveness of your message.
  3. 2019 Earned Value Promotion — This program runs from April 1 to June 30. This will have a more limited application, because it is only for companies that use reply mail. If you use reply mail, use this program to save postage on each piece of business reply mail and courtesy reply mail you get sent to you.
  4. 2019 Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion — This program runs from July 1 to Dec. 31. Use this program to add color marketing messaging on your bills and statements. Turn transactional mail into promotional pieces, also.
  5. 2019 Mobile Shopping Promotion — This program runs from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31. Use this program if you are selling products during the holiday shopping season. By adding mobile technology to your mail that allows your customers or prospects to make a purchase or pursue other online shopping experiences, you can qualify to save on postage.
  6. 2019 Informed Delivery Promotion — This program runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30. Use this program of Informed Delivery, which will send an email to people with a color picture of your mail piece to let them know what is coming in their mail box that day. You can even provide a clickable link so that people can start purchasing right then.

Each of these promotions provides a 2% postage discount at the time of mailing, except for the earned value — which provides 3 cents, per piece returned. You can participate in as many of the promotions as you would like. Each promotion requires registration to participate and reporting after the mailing is complete, but they are worth the savings. Are you ready to get started?