For SEO Success in 2018 – Be Relevant and Reputable

With SEO, the adage holds that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Searchers are still looking for answers, so these are key for SEO success in 2018. But what is a high-quality answer?

With SEO, the adage holds that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Searchers are still looking for answers and have become increasingly accustomed to and impatient to receive high-quality results. So high-quality answers are key for SEO success in 2018.

What is a high-quality answer? This is not a tricky question. It is a result that answers the searcher’s query and is from a reputable source.

This seems so simple, but it takes complex search algorithms to identify the best and highest-quality answer for each search from a veritable blizzard of information online. A page may be relevant and have information that addresses the query, but the question of quality must be addressed through other means than what is on the page itself.

In the past, SEO practitioners focused on “link building” to get other sites to in effect vouch for the page’s quality. To game the system, SEO tacticians engaged in link farming, selling of links and other abuses. Each of these practices has been discredited. Some SEOs have gone so far as to say that link-building and by extension links are not valuable signals for search.

This could not be further from the truth.

You Can’t Teach a Pig to Sing

Link-building is not an isolated SEO tactic that will magically transform a weak page on a poor-quality site into a page worthy of a number 1 ranking. This just doesn’t happen anymore. Once upon a time, it was possible to game the system and make magic happen. It is much harder today, hence the premature obituaries for links were written.

Today, for a page to rise to the top of the listings, it must be relevant, authoritative and trustworthy. The page must contain an adequate amount of high quality content to satisfy the relevancy requirement.

Many SEOs have latched on to content creation and curation as the solution that will propel pages to the top. In a vacuum, this might work. The SEO environment is not a vacuum so unless the page provides information that shows expertise on the topic, it will not by itself move up. The website must be viewed as a trustworthy, authoritative expert source. If your site and its pages do not meet these requirements, you will be passed over.

This does not absolve you from having a fast, technically sound site. This is simply that edge that can make a huge business difference.

Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

A few high-quality links will do wonders for your performance; whereas, numbers of poor-quality links bring little value. Quality links having staying power. Some high-quality links may still be shining authority on your site years after they were acquired, so they are worth the effort. It takes time and effort to cultivate quality links, just like building your business network. If you treat link-building as networking for your site, you will not go wrong.

How do you get quality links? You create content that shows your expertise. Do this often enough and you will become an authority in your domain.

It is my contention that all of us who are in business are experts within some domain. It is up to the site owner to determine what is the business’ domain of expertise and project and inject it into the site and its pages. Some of the ways might include creating solid content that the sources you want will use such as original research or analysis. You might consider creating a stunning infographic that clearly shows you as an expert in your field.

Once you create your work, don’t hide your light under the proverbial bushel, reach out to the sources you want to link to your site. As your network of links builds, you will be rewarded with more top placements for your site’s pages.

A Simple Guide to Building Backlinks Via Outreach

Backlinks are the backbone to good SEO, and they have been since the earliest days of Google. There’s no better way to establish a website’s credibility than to see which other sites link to it. In a sense, a backlink is a tacit endorsement of another website’s content. Build up enough of them, and your search rankings will flourish.

Backlinks are the backbone to good SEO, and they have been since the earliest days of Google. There’s no better way to establish a website’s credibility than to see which other sites link to it. Think of it like buying a new book — are you more likely to pull a random title off the bookstore shelf, or do you want to read the latest New York Times bestseller? In a sense, a backlink is a tacit endorsement of another website’s content. Build up enough of them, and your search rankings will flourish.

That said, building a substantial number of backlinks is easier said than done. It doesn’t happen without a process. You need to know which websites to approach and how to deliver your pitch. Plus, you must have quality content. Read on to learn more about how to start developing a network of high-quality backlinks to boost your site’s SEO.

First, a Warning: Don’t Game the System

Back in the olden days of SEO, unethical marketers got big-time results by spamming blogs, forums and defunct websites. This created the appearance of an expansive network of backlinks – but without any real quality or credibility.

Don’t think for a second that this approach still works. Not only will Google ignore your website’s fraudulently large link network, but your website will likely be penalized for attempting to game the system. There are no more shortcuts to building high-quality backlinks. It’s extremely important that you build links the right way.

Start by Making a List

Before worrying about sales pitches and content generation, make a list of all the different websites where backlinks could help your SEO. A good way to start is by searching Google or Google News for the keywords most relevant to your business. Then, ask yourself the following questions when determining a website’s potential value:

1. Is the website authoritative?

Backlinks from credible, authoritative websites are far more valuable than backlinks from low-traffic websites. Look for websites that have higher domain authorities. You can find free tools available online to measure domain authority.

2. Is the website relevant?

Domain authority is important, but so is content relevance. If you sell used cars, then don’t seek backlinks from websites about home improvement or cosmetics. An exception to this rule is getting a backlink from a journalistic organization such as the Wall St. Journal or the Washington Post. If you can get linked by a credible, regional or national news organization, then by all means, do it.

3. Is the website local?

If you operate a brick-and-mortar business, then you’ll benefit from getting backlinks in local business organizations such as a chamber of commerce. Your city or county media is also a great resource for localized backlinks.

Research Names and Contact Information

Going one-by-one down your list of websites, start finding email addresses for people to contact. Your goal is reaching people with influence or decision-making power. Editors and managers are best. However, bloggers and journalists usually hold fair amounts of sway as well.

Personalization: What’s in It for the Customers?

Too many marketers are personally annoying their customers in the name of personalization. For that reason alone, I am looking for an alternative word for “good” personalization.

personalization-aiAny salesperson would know that remembering a few personal details about a customer or prospect is the first step toward building a relationship. Of course, one shouldn’t be too “salesy,” as anyone can see through manufactured friendliness. Going too far in the wrong direction, the seller can even be seen creepy. That rule equally applies to all types of 1:1 marketing. Just because you know “something” about the person, it doesn’t mean that you “know” the person.

Personalization should be gentle nudges toward relevant products and services for the customers, and it should never be bombardments of seller-centric marketing messages through all imaginable channels. No one deserves such abuse just because she forgot to uncheck some pre-populated checkbox about future marketing messages at some point in the distant past. I bet even marketers feel abused when they open their personal email boxes.

Too many marketers are personally annoying their customers in the name of personalization. For that reason alone, I am looking for an alternative word for “good” personalization.

If marketers think that they are still in control just because they got to have a few tidbits about their customers in some fancy Big Data platform, well, they are utterly wrong. They are not in control at all any more. In the age of multichannel marketing, consumers are trained to ignore things that look even remotely salesy. Age of mobile? Forget that, too. You don’t own that customer just because he downloaded your app a long time ago and forgot to purge it. How many apps do you routinely use on your smartphone?

Modern human beings look at six to seven types of screens every day — as big as a billboard and as small as a wristwatch. Marketers may think that all of those new channels may provide new opportunities to sell. Well, maybe. But only if they do it right. When was the last time an invention of a new channel actually increased demand of certain products (other than the medium, such as the smartphone itself)? During the first dot.com boom, many thought that the Internet would sell more things magically. Now we know better — that people do not buy extra TVs, jeans or sporting equipment, just because there is a new channel through which they can shop.

Yet, most companies created new divisions to handle new channels, as if mastering each domain would attract more customers. No. Maybe they are just annoying their customers using new technologies. Unfortunately for one-track minded marketers, human brains have evolved to ignore unnecessary information from their “personal” point of view.

Our brains do not process all of the things that our eyes see. Case in point? When you land on a familiar Web page, you don’t always notice most banners that are on the right-hand side. You already know where information you seek is located on a certain page. If all of the banners were removed all of a sudden, you would know that the page looked somewhat empty. But that’s it. Like you would notice a piece of furniture was removed, but wouldn’t know what exactly was missing.

The game is about how we gently make people aware that we may have something that “they” may care for. It is about them, not us. To do that, we have to show them something that is relevant to “them.” To do that, we have to know what they are about. To do that, we need to know who they are, and rearrange all of the information that we have around them. And to do that effectively and holistically, we have to fill in the gap — as we will never know everything about everyone — using modeling techniques. Only then, we can stay relevant to them at any time, and we may deserve some of their attention, if only briefly.

The first breakdown in this chain of events is often the fact that we don’t even know who they are, really. Not necessarily in terms of personal identification, but any ID or proxy of a person that binds personal trails of information. Now, since a cookie, IP address or email address do not really represent a person, we should not give up the efforts to collect personally identifiable information and consents from the target individuals. And that is where the question of “what is in it for the customers?” comes in

Surely, no one would give up cherished PII if she know that she was indeed signing up for all of those irrelevant marketing messages. To most of the consumers, “You will occasionally receive relevant offers from us and our respected partners” really means that “You will have to delete a whole bunch emails from us and anyone who purchased information from us on a daily basis, until you explicitly opt out of every one of them separately.” So, just stating that the messages will be relevant isn’t enough. We should really mean it. And it is really hard to personalize every message to everyone through every channel. It involves lots of work regarding data, analytics, content and various technologies (refer to “Key Elements of Complete Personalization”).

On top of the promise of relevancy, the collection of PII should be a beneficial transaction for the customers. Why should they give up their private information? For future savings? Loyalty points? Coupons for the next purchase? An extra 10 percent discount, right now?

I’ve seen retailers who boast of collection rates over 90 to 95 percent for PII and related behavioral data. The trick? There is no trick. They see the value of personal information in this personalization game, and they are just willing to pay for it. That type of investment, of course, only comes to fruition if the organization has the commitment, means and ability to carry out necessary data, analytics and technology work for complete “customer-centric” personalization. And the first step toward that kind of commitment is to share the benefits of increased marketing efficiency — and the right to exist as a seller in this multichannel environment — with the customers.

We came a long way from “Fill-in everybody’s mailbox with seller-centric mailing offers,” by way of “No emails unless you have double-opt-in,” to “Keep bombarding every customer through every channel until they explicitly opt out.” Modern consumers, who are much savvier in terms of digital technologies, are willing to share their information if, and only if, it benefits them. They will let you know who they are, what they are about, where they are, what they are about to do and even what they are thinking. This is the age of social media, after all.

But if they even remotely feel that they are being taken advantage of in any way, if they think a marketer is acting creepy, or if they think their privacy is violated even implicitly, they will sever all ties with the company in question immediately. Some may even go as far as posting damaging images and other content on social media, or seeking legal action against the violators of real or perceived trust in the data exchange. A healthy relationship is founded on the fair exchange of values, and they will determine what is fair or not.

Marketers are not in control of data and technologies when it comes to personalization. Customers are. Marketers are only temporary custodians of information about their customers. And they have to pay a lease on such information, in the form of real value. Further, they have to act like that lease won’t renew all by itself, either. If the customers feel that there is nothing to gain from that relationship — even without a clear violation of privacy — they will cut it out mercilessly. That is how relationships work.

Like every relationship counselor will say, if you want to maintain a good relationship with anyone, first start listening to her and make the relationship mutually beneficial. Then maybe, just maybe, the customers may allow marketers to talk to them once in awhile.

And figuring out how often is often enough and what is most relevant to each customer? That is the key job of analysts in the age of abundant data.

Should You Really Bother With Personalization?

If you weren’t a marketing professional, you’d probably find it hard to believe that there is a debate of sorts in rather large organizations about personalization in marketing. In many cases, it’s less of a debate than an absence of one — or serious consideration, or a plan to get there.

Database & CRMIf you weren’t a marketing professional, you’d probably find it hard to believe that there is a debate of sorts in rather large organizations about personalization in marketing. In many cases, it’s less of a debate than an absence of one — or serious consideration, or a plan to get there.

You’d probably say or think something such as, “It’s common sense … why wouldn’t they do it?!”

Yes, the great “unwashed” have high expectations of the brands that wish to share in their discretionary income.

When IBM’s Watson can carry on a conversation of sorts with Bob Dylan in a TV commercial, and beat a grandmaster in chess, why can’t it send a postcard reminding you to get your oil changed?

These all sound like reasonable expectations to the “Valued Customer,” as we’re referred to by the non-personalized brands we have all engaged with. Don’t they seem reasonable?

For the longest time, Amazon stopped sending “people who bought X also bought Y” emails. Granted, Amazon’s personalization is part of it’s “all of the above” strategy — the company literally invests in everything it sees value in.

Moving Beyond the Basics

Yet most organizations have limited dollars and are fixated on “covering the basics” in their outbound communication. As a result, personalization has been limited in the vast majority of cases. The low costs and high performance of emailing have kept many brands from investing in higher-value touches with consumers — even as the CRM waves hit ever higher crests.

Why? Personalization alone doesn’t add enough value. And the reason is that personalization without relevancy doesn’t work. The basics of personalization in email marketing have been around for years. The consumer is accustomed to it and, in some cases, may expect it.

Relevancy, however, is harder to come by.

“Thank you for your purchase, Mike” works. “Mike, to get the best performance from your new time-trial bike, try using Rock N Roll Gold oil to protect your chain from rust and dirt.” works better.

In order to accomplish this level of personalization and relevancy, you’d need to know a few things. You would need the dexterity with this data to get it into your communication easily. If you know I’ve purchased a time-trial bike, then you need to know about bicycles. This could be challenging for mass/big box retailers like Amazon or Jet. But consider that Amazon is already providing “video shorts” on the categories you spend time in — and obviously, the ideas in those videos fit perfectly with their inventory.

Relevancy can also mean things that personalization isn’t often used for. More often than not, personalization still means “insert variable here.” On the other hand, relevancy can mean very important things that shape and influence a customer relationship … like recognition.

Simple and Powerfully Effective

I’ve found that a simple “thank you” message to the most valuable customers a brand has, thanking them for being loyal, and choosing them ― even without an offer ― generated incremental sales upon open and in the following several days.

Think it doesn’t pay to show the customers you know them and appreciate them? Think that’s not relevant? Think again.

Yet, when was the last time you had any brand thank you? Brands I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars with have provided not-so-much as an email’s-worth of recognition.

How about the “profitability problem” that comes with one-time buyers? Does your favorite brand thank you when you make that all-important first repeat purchase? These individuals are categorically more profitable, and materially more likely than “one-and-done” buyers to buy the brand again and again. A little recognition establishes the context of their relationship — and the fact that they even have one with the brand … goes a long way.

Personalization can be easy without being valuable to the customer. Relevancy can be more challenging, especially if you don’t have your data house in order. Relevancy requires a strategy — but relevancy works, big-time.

Putting Relevancy and Personalization Into Action

Some examples of relevancy in action …

  • Announcing a Sale in a category consumers bought in previously, when they “missed” an expected purchase
  • Social Proof — don’t just say it’s the best product, show them how many stars it was ranked and by how many people. Show them a review from someone most like them. This is more doable than many brands realize — and the “content” is simply … free.
  • Localize — Instead of promoting product, promote Gene Smith in the golfing department (to folks who bought golf equipment). Not only will the employee morale increase, your customers can be nudged into multichannel buying. Think that doesn’t make a difference? Multichannel buyers spend more and spend more often in virtually every category.
  • Product Recommendations are “old news” — but they still work. Don’t leave this out. But combine it with social proof and watch conversion climb.

Personalization is important, but not without building relevancy to an ever-greater level. Consider the simple fact that the less relevant your communications are with your customer, the less they’ll find your brand relevant … and irrelevancy is where brands go to wither and die.

The Bottom Line: Relevancy Is the Value in Personalization

The upside to personalizing can be real. While blanket, low-grade personalization may have become passé, an authentic dialog based on relevancy is an investable business strategy. This requires having your data, your strategy and your knowledge of the customer, and the numerous cohorts that undoubtedly exist in every business.

The bottom line is simple: Personalization without a workable strategy may not be a good business value, and therefore may not be warranted.

Delivering relevancy to your customer experience, however, is priceless.

 

Taking Personal Relevance Beyond the Message

Personal relevance is still mission-critical, but in a much different way. We don’t need to have customers’ names in lights or all over a direct marketing piece as much as we just need to deliver information about products and experiences that are timely and meaningful to them via channels and at times that are relevant, as well.

relevant contentYears ago, we got excited when digital printing technology enabled us to personalize direct marketing letters, self-mailers and pretty much anything else that could be printed on a Xerox iGen, which merged individual customer data into the copy and even the graphics of pretty much anything that could be printed. We’d open a #10 envelope and see our name in the header, at least one sentence in every paragraph, and sometimes even in the graphics, like on an image of the product the sender was trying to sell us. It made us feel recognized and valued.

A few years later, we enjoyed getting personalized videos that were “all about me,” too. And then, well, it just became standard to see our names on everything, even M&Ms and the covers of catalogues for our favorite brands. It just wasn’t a big deal any more; and in many cases, neither were the results.

However, personal relevance is still mission-critical, but in a much different way. We don’t need to have customers’ names in lights or all over a direct marketing piece as much as we just need to deliver information about products and experiences that are timely and meaningful to them via channels and at times that are relevant, as well.

This means that we need to have relevant content that inspires consumers to engage with our brands, purchase our products or just have a conversation with us. This content can be ads, promotional offers, white papers, invitations to join a cause and such. And this content must be adapted for every consumer segment or persona we target, and it must be delivered frequently enough to keep our brands top-of-mind, and on the channels that consumers use the most, which are not just a few any more.

Add it up, and we marketers need to develop and distribute a lot of content to a lot of customers a lot of times. And that’s the challenge to personalized, relevant marketing today.

Think about it. You want to promote a special offer for a limited time across all your market locations and you need to use all channels – print, digital, social, point-of-sale displays – and you want to do it in French, English and Spanish. And all elements have to be in place at the same time, as it is a limited-time promotion and you want to measure the impact of various channels and which locations and segments did the most business with you as a result. If you take that promotional ad or digital banner you created and manually adapt it for each segment or persona that won’t respond unless it reflects some aspect of how they see themselves, and you then manually adapt each of those for each channel, format and language needed, that’s a lot of time. And if you use an agency, that’s a lot of billable time. But you have to do it.

In many cases, customizing content such as that described above can increase your campaign costs substantially, according to Perry Kamel, a leader in the content management technology field and CEO of Elateral, a cloud-based content hub designed to manage and deploy content in all formats, digital and print, across all channels.

A key aspect of marketing relevance then is to have a system in place that enables you to adapt your content and get it ready for multichannel distribution in record time, while customers are thinking about your category, product and brand, and before you competitors get their “personalized” content out. Doing both requires content management processes and systems that enable you to create content frequently, quickly adapt to all channels and formats, and get it ready to send out via your CRM platforms quickly.

When you can adapt your content for multiple channels quickly, the impact of your programs go up, and often by a lot. Following are some real-world examples of cost and time savings realized by some of Elateral’s clients:

  • 89 percent unit cost reduction for marketing materials
  • 95 percent faster time to market
  • $5 million savings after first campaign flight

These numbers reflect the reality of relevant marketing today. Content must be relevant, the channels used must be relevant, and the frequency of content distribution must be, too. It’s not just about the message and its psychological or emotional appeal and impact.

Some tips to consider:

  • Time to market is critical for any campaign; just as much as the direct relevance of your offer and message to the persona and segments you are targeting. The more time it takes to get your content adapted for every channel is likely enough time for your competition to intervene and get the sale before you do.
  • Consumers expect messages and marketing images to reflect who they are and align with their lifestyles and aspirations. Content for ads, emails, social posts and point-of-sale displays that don’t line up with who they are or want to be likely won’t influence behavior as effectively, and there simply is not time to waste.
  • Every time you have to manually change a headline, language, image or size of shape of a marketing piece, you spend time getting it done, and that can be costly in terms of paying outside suppliers to do it for you. You need to find a system and process for getting your content adapted as cost-efficiently as possible so you can lower costs and improve your advertising ROI.

Take away: Relevance is not just about the message or offer, or how it appeals to each persona you target. Relevance must address the timing with which your message is delivered, the frequency and the channels that are most meaningful to your consumers.

Personalization Framework

In the age of constant bombardment with marketing messages, staying relevant to prospects and customers is not just good practice in the manual; it is a matter of survival.

personalizationIn the age of constant bombardment with marketing messages, staying relevant to prospects and customers is not just good practice in the manual; it is a matter of survival.

Recipients of marketing messages are more immune to generic offers than ever, and a relentless series of emails and we-will-follow-you-to-the-end-of-your-journey attitude literally trained them to ignore anything that even resembles commercial messages.

You want to stand out in this world of omnichannel marketing? Try to stand out by making it about “them,” not about “you.”

Personalization

Personalization is not just another buzzword that came after the Big Data hype. It actually is something that marketers must care about.

According to Gartner Research, “By 2018, organizations that have fully invested in all types of online personalization will outsell companies that have not by more than 30 percent.”

I am not sure how they boldly put such a numeric prediction out. But in this case, I honestly think that the gap could end up being even larger, because the winners in this zero-sum game are moving at light-speed, while others still stubbornly carry that “If you keep reaching out to them, they will respond” attitude.

Being Clueless

I’ve actually met marketers who asked me how many more emails they should send out each week to compensate for an increasing number of non-responders.

They actually asked me if they can poke their customer base even more frequently. (They were sending uniform messages to everyone more than six times a week.) That means they had been diligently training the customers to ignore their emails.

I bluntly told them they just can’t mail their way out of that trouble. They should think about contacting their targets less frequently, and staying relevant as much as possible.

Do Unto Others

It is not difficult to sell the concept of personalization to marketers. They, too, are recipients of irrelevant marketing messages, and I bet that they mercilessly purge them out of their personal inboxes on a daily basis.

Surely, there are enough conference tracks, webinars, whitepapers and articles about this subject. But how are they supposed go about it? Do we even agree what that word means? (Refer to “What Does Personalization Mean to You?”)

Based on all of the client meetings that I’ve been to, the answer unfortunately is a hard “no.” And that conclusion was not solely drawn from some rudimentary practices being conducted by many marketers in the name of personalization, either. Because of available data and in different stages of customer relationship development, we do need to differentiate various types of activities under that all-inclusive personalization banner.

We Can Get There From Here

There are many personalization frameworks out there, listing various endeavors, such as collaborative filtering (as in “if you bought that item, you must be interested in these products as well”). Then there’s customer segmentation, and personas development based on predictive modeling techniques, usually in that sequence. If you add technical elements in terms of ability to show different things to different people, multiplied by content generation and content management pieces, things get complicated quite fast.

In any case, I do not agree with such sequential framework, as that is like saying the patient cannot be admitted to the operating room unless the doctor’s exhausted all of the simpler forms of treatments. Needless to say, some patients need surgery right away.

Likewise, when it comes to maximizing the value of data assets for personalization, marketers should not avoid predictive modeling by habit, just because it sounds complicated. That shouldn’t be the way in this age. If you want to be sophisticated about personalization, you’ve got to get serious about analytics without resorting back to simper, often ready-made, options. Unless of course, you as a consumer think that seeing offers for similar (or the same) products that you’ve just purchased for next couple of months is an acceptable form of personalization. (I don’t.)

Nuts and Bolts

Then, what should be the not-so-sequential data framework for personalization? Allow me to introduce one based on activity type and data availability, as no marketer can be free from data scarcity issues at different stages of customer relationship development.

Google Gives 10-15 More Characters to Organic Results

Google actually increased the space available for your title and description. This change should make it just a bit easier to obtain good results for relevant pages.

Girl WatcherOldies music fans may remember the 1968 top hit entitled “Girl Watcher.” This beach music classic’s chorus often spins through my head. The chorus — “I’m a girl watcher, I’m a girl watcher, watchin’ girls go by, my, my, my” — is for me: “I’m a Google watcher … watchin’ changes come by, my, my, my.”

Most organic SEO practitioners are Google watchers and we are seldom disappointed, as more changes just keep coming by — my, my, my. The changes often make our job of obtaining solid search results for sites more difficult.

For example, a recent change to the space allocated to advertising on the desktop search results page (SERP) had a significant impact on organic visibility. In a recent post, I noted a major change — the removal of ads from the right rail of the page — and outlined how this would make organic marketing more difficult.

Google watchers have not had to wait long for another change to come by. Google has changed the display of the organic search results, the coveted lines that determine what searchers see about your pages. The company actually increased the space available for your title and description. This change should make it just a bit easier to obtain good results for relevant pages.

What’s the Change?

Google has increased the width of its main search results column. This will provide more real estate for search marketers to make their cases through compelling titles and descriptions.

Google has increased the space available from 500 to 600 pixels. This is a significant increase, and here is why it is important:

  • Titles Get 10 to 15 More Characters in SERPs. When a title or description is too long, Google simply truncates it and places ellipses at the end. Google uses proportional spacing, and SEOs think in terms of characters, which means that SEOs must develop carefully constructed recommended character lengths that take into consideration the composition of the keywords and phrases used predominantly in their target content. The change from 500 to 600 pixels translates into approximately 10 to 15 more characters available for titles. This will allow SEOs to include more phrases, more branding and enable us to make the title more compelling.
  • Descriptions Get 16 to 20 More Characters in SERPs. The length of the description has been impacted, too. Descriptions increase by about 16 to 20 characters per line. That makes the new length per line approximately 100 characters. But do note that Google still is truncating descriptions longer than 150 to 160 characters. Google watchers expect this to adjust, because descriptions are for the most part two lines. If your descriptions are less than 100 characters, yours will be only one line — resulting in a loss of real estate on the page.
  • Mobile Results Get More Love. These changes do not just apply to desktop searches. Google has increased title tag lengths for mobile search results even more than in desktop results. Google has now increased the maximum length of the mobile title tag to approximately 78 characters. This is an extra eight characters beyond the desktop display. This will speed users to the most relevant result faster. In my own experience using mobile search, nothing is worse than having to search multiple times to get a desired result on my mobile. A more detailed result will shorten the process.

It Is Not Enough to Win Just the Relevancy Battle

Organic search success requires that your pages not only win the relevancy battle — that is to say, the pages are deemed relevant by Google for the searcher’s query — but the search result also must resonate with the searcher enough to make the searcher want to click on the listing.

This oversimplification of a very complex process points out how important it is to be mindful of what the searcher sees as your pages are delivered. It is not enough to create compelling relevant content, if you fail to create a title and description that draws that next click.

The most recent changes provide an opportunity to revisit how well your current schematic for titles and descriptions is working. It also begs for a review of the role of mobile search traffic. You may find that you need to reconsider how you are crafting these elements. This is what I am doing for my clients.

This change is an opportunity for better results for good pages.

6 Tips for Optimizing Google AdWords Keywords

SEO KeywordsOptimizing keywords is an ongoing task for anyone who uses Google AdWords. While there’s certainly a right way to research your initial keyword list, the simple truth is that no one knows for sure which keywords are going to perform the best until you test.

And that’s why we must optimize. Don’t panic if you realize that several of your keywords are underperforming — in online marketing, that’s par for the course. What matters more is that you constantly work on your keyword list to weed out the weak links. In the long run, this is how you’ll put your ads in front of the most appropriate, likely customers.

Here we’ll review the six most important tips when optimizing Google AdWords keywords lists.

1. Don’t Rush to Judgment
It’s tempting to hit the panic button when your ads go live and you don’t get the results you want. However, getting enough data to gauge the effectiveness of your keywords takes time. Even the best keywords have stretches when they’ll underperform. Nobody wants to spend money on ineffective advertising, but you won’t do yourself any favors by killing off keywords too soon.

Instead, relax and give your campaigns time to collect data. You’re better off setting a modest advertising budget if you’re worried about wasting money. But you can’t optimize your keywords without a good amount of data, and you won’t get that by making premature changes to your campaigns.

2. Find the Most Relevant Keywords
Everyone loves relevant keywords. Perfectly relevant keywords help online shoppers find the goods and services they want most, and that’s what makes Google’s search engine so valuable for Web users. And when Google rewards relevance with cheaper costs per click, then that’s great for online marketers like you — not to mention you’re more likely to connect with more customers.

Review your keyword list and add potential long-tail keywords, which are keyword phrases (often three to five words) that shoppers are likely to search for verbatim. Focus on buyer-intent keyword terms that include words such as “buy,” “find” or “deals,” these tend to be used by potential customers who are looking to make purchases. Focusing on relevance can help you convert your Web traffic into sales.

3. Make Sure Your Keywords are Relevant to Your Landing Pages
Sometimes, a perfectly viable keyword can be hamstrung by your website. When people who search for that keyword in Google click your ad, are you showing them the most relevant page of your site?

If your answer is “no,” then you have two options: You can revise your landing page content to be more relevant to your keyword, or you can move your keyword to a more appropriate ad group. The best way forward depends entirely on your keyword list. Be careful about making changes to your landing pages that might diminish the relevance of other strong performing keywords.