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MarTech Today’s “Enterprise SEO Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide” has been updated for 2018. Compiled from the latest research, this 55-page report is your source for the latest trends, opportunities and challenges facing the market for SEO software tools as seen by industry leaders,…

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Sergei Eisenstein Google doodle honors Soviet film director known as the ‘Father of Montage’

Eisenstein’s technique of editing film to create fast-paced sequences made him a cinema legend. The post Sergei Eisenstein Google doodle honors Soviet film director known as the ‘Father of Montage’ appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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New Year, New Outlook: TopRank Marketing’s 2018 Integrated Digital Marketing Predictions

The new year is barely underway and already we’re already seeing significant shifts in digital marketing.

Facebook recently announced their decision to favor friends over brands in news feeds and YouTube has tightened the reins on what channels can be monetized. And this is just within the first few weeks of the year.

Undoubtedly, digital marketing tactics like content marketing, SEO, paid, influencer marketing and social media will all face changes in the coming year. Some of which we’ll be able to predict, and some of which we won’t.

However, today’s best marketers know that individual marketing tactics do not stand alone. Which means that integrated, “best answer” digital marketing strategies will reign supreme. That is why instead of focusing our team’s predictions on how individual tactics will evolve in 2018, we’ve uncovered how the role of each tactic will change as part of the overall digital marketing mix.

The State of Digital Marketing in 2018

Lee Odden
CEO

As we head into the heart of Q1 2018, marketers are just as overwhelmed with tactics as buyers are with content. This paradox of choice at scale incurs costs that range from dissatisfied customers to ineffective marketing programs.

With increasing demands, fewer resources and greater complexity in marketing that now includes smart speakers, VR/AR, IoT, AI and all forms of disruptive technology, marketers are looking for the universal truths that will keep them on track and effective.

In my book, Optimize, I talked about a customer centric approach to digital marketing that emphasized search, social and content. The truths about how customers engage content to make decisions outlined then are equally true in 2018 and for nearly any kind of platform.

Those content truths are: discovery, consumption and action.

Discovery: Where do buyers look for solution information? What do they say to their Echo or Google Home device? What do they search for on their phone or tablet? What sources do they subscribe to for updates on their smart watch? Of course laptop, tablet and mobile search and social media behaviors are still relevant.

Consumption: What are your buyers’ preferences for engaging with the content they find? Do they read/watch/listen on the discovery platform or save/subscribe for later? Are there preferences for experiencing or interacting with content vs. simply read/watch/listen? Images vs. videos vs. audio vs. interactive on various devices is still relevant.

Action: What triggers will inspire action? Do buyers need content personalized on the fly or are they willing to exchange contact information to be fed personalized content? What will it take to motivate share, subscribe, inquire, transact or refer? All still relevant.

Marketers in tune with truths about how customers find, engage with and take action on information will reveal whatever technology, platform, media format and experience buyers need. As part of an ongoing effort to optimize marketing with a customer focus, these truths can help architect successful marketing programs in 2018 and for years to come.

Content Will Experience a Shift in Focus

Nick Nelson
Content Strategist

There’s a distinct movement taking place in content marketing, with the focus increasingly shifting from quantity to quality. With so much volume out there, it only makes sense to spend our time creating fewer assets that will truly stand out, as opposed to larger amounts of unremarkable material. Since content is already integrated with basically every aspect of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy (or should be at least), I foresee this change in mindset applying to every corner — social, paid media, lead nurturing, data analysis, and so forth.

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence

Ashley Zeckman
Director of Agency Marketing

For years marketers have been talking about the importance of customer experience. And for years, marketers have struggled to uncover the information that makes it possible to create a stellar customer experience.

The game changer in 2018? The emergence of Artificial Intelligence.

In 2017, AI finally began to become more mainstream which allowed platforms to begin harnessing its true power for marketing. In 2018, it will become essential that marketers use data collected by AI to make smarter marketing decisions that will allow them to personalize content, create more data informed social media marketing plans and better target SEO keywords.

SEO & UX Will Overlap

Joe Manier
Digital Advertising Manager

What does UX and good design have to do with SEO? Good UX keeps people on the page when they arrive to your site. The same holds true for good copywriting. It’s a one-two punch as people’s search process involves quick scans of copy and page design as they’re determining which result will best serve them.

This is all due to RankBrain, which has been around for a while, but it’s sinking in just how important it is being the 3rd most critical ranking signal. So in 2018, look for SEO to further overlap with UX teams and copywriters as they team up to boost the two main RankBrain components of page dwell time and SERP CTRs.

The Integration of Influencers & Sales

Rachel Miller
Influencer Marketing Manager

I think influencer relations will take on an increasingly bigger role affecting not just marketing but also sales and support. Partnering with the right people gives businesses unfiltered and holistic feedback that when combined with other key data points makes planning and decision making more effective. This increase in importance will require influencer marketing tools, tactics, and practitioners to bring nothing but their A-game.

Content Will Bolster Existing Relationships

Caitlin Burgess
Senior Content Marketing Manager

From compelling ad copy to best-answer blog posts to video on social media — content is the foundation of any digital marketing strategy. Period. And I think we can all agree that won’t change anytime soon. But one thing I see on the rise for content marketing in 2018 and beyond is a refocusing on developing content that aims to bolster and grow existing client/customer relationships.

We’ve all heard the stats on just how much it costs to acquire a new customer versus keeping an existing customer, but content marketing has largely been leveraged to move prospects through the funnel and get that first sale. I think it’s high time marketers developed more robust strategies to nurture after the first check clears. After all, more often than not, B2B and B2C companies alike are more than just one product or service offering—but many of your current customers and clients may not know just what you’re capable of. So, show them.

The Ad Viewing Experience Will Have to Improve

Stephen Slater
Senior SEO & Digital Advertising Manager

Ad blocker adoption grew 30% in 2016 (numbers for 2017 aren’t out yet, but I’m sure they will show continued adoption) and even browsers are getting in on the action.

So, instead of killing display ads as a whole, I predict that this desire to block ads is going to actually help the industry and drive display ad spend. Projections show that display ad spend should grow by about $ 5 billion in 2018.

Why would people spend all of that money on display ads that will possibly be blocked by their audience? Two reasons:

  1. Targeting is drastically improving. Programmatic targeting, account based targeting, interest and affinity targeting, and retargeting are all improving and driving more qualified impressions and clicks at a much lower CPC than search ads and most social platforms (for now).
  2. Display advertising placements have to/and will stop being so awful and intrusive. Publishers that offer ad space have to do better. If they don’t they run the risk of losing traffic. In January 2017, Google penalized sites that have “intrusive interstitial ads” and Google’s amp project is already shaking up ads on mobile devices. If publishers don’t comply they run the risk of losing traffic and losing ad revenue.

So what does this all mean? Even though users will attempt to block ads the CPC, targeting, and improved ad viewing experience will allow display ads to become a bigger piece of the digital marketing mix in 2018.

Content Will Fuel Digital Marketing

Anne Leuman
Copywriter

Content marketing, if it isn’t already, will be driving the digital marketing mix in 2018. After all, the foundation of the internet and the genesis of search were both inspired by content. With this in mind, each component or tactic within the digital marketing mix will need content behind it. This includes influencer marketing programs, social media campaigns, video, events, etc. and anything else you might be adding in the year ahead. Each piece of the mix needs content to fuel it.

Instead of asking how does our content fit in the mix, we’ll be asking how the mix supports our content.

The Combination of Influence & ABM Strategies

Amy Higgins
Strategic Account Manager

The root of influencer marketing is “influence”. You add marketing to the mix, and it leads to how can someone influence a person’s buyer behavior.

I believe that in the next year, we will begin to see that signal of influence move down the funnel and into ABM strategies. Currently, influencer marketing addresses mostly top of the funnel marketing initiatives. In order for this change to happen, marketers need to look at their influencers as extensions of their teams, more community based with deeper collaboration and strategies that benefit all sides of the equation — from the customer to the company, and to the influencer. Influencer marketers will begin to use community growth and acquisition strategies in order to see the largest benefit from their network of influencers. For example, influencer exclusive events influencer newsletters, and community forums are just a few of the tactics that marketers will use when approaching influencers. After all, influencer marketing is a two-way street.

Social Media Can’t Be an Afterthought

Debbie Friez
Influencer Marketing Strategist

First of all, if you don’t have social media as an integral part of your overall digital marketing mix, you need to start now.  You can no longer afford to make social media an afterthought.

Social media will share a place at the table with the other areas of the digital marketing mix.

  • Influencer Marketing. Everyone wants to do it, but to do it effectively, you need to interact with your influencers on social media. If you are jumping into influencer marketing, you will need to step-up your social media performance.
  • Lead Generation. Looking to increase conversion rates? More marketers will utilize Facebook and LinkedIn paid offerings for driving more leads. They have a key advantage, because people like to stay on their preferred social channels.
  • Content Marketing. Successful digital marketers will utilize social media in creative ways to drive traffic to their optimized content.  
  • SEO. Looking to really drive traffic to your website? Integrating social will be necessary to get the most from you overall strategy.

Getting noticed in the digital age can be hard. Social Media is consistently offering new ideas and avenues to stand-out. Let’s see what 2018 will bring us!

What Is Your Digital Marketing Prediction for 2018?

What each of these predictions tell us is that every digital marketing tactic is essential, and has its place. But we’re beyond the point in time where integration is a want, and is now a necessity.

Which of the digital marketing predictions above do you think will have the biggest impact on your 2018 marketing strategy? Tell us in the comments section below.


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An Investigation Into Google’s Maccabees Update

Posted by Dom-Woodman

December brought us the latest piece of algorithm update fun. Google rolled out an update which was quickly named the Maccabees update and the articles began rolling in (SEJ , SER).

The webmaster complaints began to come in thick and fast, and I began my normal plan of action: to sit back, relax, and laugh at all the people who have built bad links, spun out low-quality content, or picked a business model that Google has a grudge against (hello, affiliates).

Then I checked one of my sites and saw I’d been hit by it.

Hmm.

Time to check the obvious

I didn’t have access to a lot of sites that were hit by the Maccabees update, but I do have access to a relatively large number of sites, allowing me to try to identify some patterns and work out what was going on. Full disclaimer: This is a relatively large investigation of a single site; it might not generalize out to your own site.

My first point of call was to verify that there weren’t any really obvious issues, the kind which Google hasn’t looked kindly on in the past. This isn’t any sort of official list; it’s more of an internal set of things that I go and check when things go wrong, and badly.

Dodgy links & thin content

I know the site well, so I could rule out dodgy links and serious thin content problems pretty quickly.

(For those of you who’d like some pointers on the kinds of things to check for, follow this link down to the appendix! There’ll be one for each section.)

Index bloat

Index bloat is where a website has managed to accidentally get a large number of non-valuable pages into Google. It can be sign of crawling issues, cannabalization issues, or thin content problems.

Did I call the thin content problem too soon? I did actually have some pretty severe index bloat. The site which had been hit worst by this had the following indexed URLs graph:

However, I’d actually seen that step function-esque index bloat on a couple other client sites, who hadn’t been hit by this update.

In both cases, we’d spent a reasonable amount of time trying to work out why this had happened and where it was happening, but after a lot of log file analysis and Google site: searches, nothing insightful came out of it.

The best guess we ended up with was that Google had changed how they measured indexed URLs. Perhaps it now includes URLs with a non-200 status until they stop checking them? Perhaps it now includes images and other static files, and wasn’t counting them previously?

I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s related to m. URLs or actual index bloat — I’m interested to hear people’s experiences, but in this case I chalked it up as not relevant.

Appendix help link

Poor user experience/slow site

Nope, not the case either. Could it be faster or more user-friendly? Absolutely. Most sites can, but I’d still rate the site as good.

Appendix help link

Overbearing ads or monetization?

Nope, no ads at all.

Appendix help link

The immediate sanity checklist turned up nothing useful, so where to turn next for clues?

Internet theories

Time to plow through various theories on the Internet:

  1. The Maccabees update is mobile-first related
    • Nope, nothing here; it’s a mobile-friendly responsive site. (Both of these first points are summarized here.)
  2. E-commerce/affiliate related
    • I’ve seen this one batted around as well, but neither applied in this case, as the site was neither.
  3. Sites targeting keyword permutations
    • I saw this one from Barry Schwartz; this is the one which comes closest to applying. The site didn’t have a vast number of combination landing pages (for example, one for every single combination of dress size and color), but it does have a lot of user-generated content.

Nothing conclusive here either; time to look at some more data.

Working through Search Console data

We’ve been storing all our search console data in Google’s cloud-based data analytics tool BigQuery for some time, which gives me the luxury of immediately being able to pull out a table and see all the keywords which have dropped.

There were a couple keyword permutations/themes which were particularly badly hit, and I started digging into them. One of the joys of having all the data in a table is that you can do things like plot the rank of each page that ranks for a single keyword over time.

And this finally got me something useful.

The yellow line is the page I want to rank and the page which I’ve seen the best user results from (i.e. lower bounce rates, more pages per session, etc.):

Another example: again, the yellow line represents the page that should be ranking correctly.

In all the cases I found, my primary landing page — which had previously ranked consistently — was now being cannabalized by articles I’d written on the same topic or by user-generated content.

Are you sure it’s a Google update?

You can never be 100% sure, but I haven’t made any changes to this area for several months, so I wouldn’t expect it to be due to recent changes, or delayed changes coming through. The site had recently migrated to HTTPS, but saw no traffic fluctuations around that time.

Currently, I don’t have anything else to attribute this to but the update.

How am I trying to fix this?

The ideal fix would be the one that gets me all my traffic back. But that’s a little more subjective than “I want the correct page to rank for the correct keyword,” so instead that’s what I’m aiming for here.

And of course the crucial word in all this is “trying”; I’ve only started making these changes recently, and the jury is still out on if any of it will work.

No-indexing the user generated content

This one seems like a bit of no-brainer. They bring an incredibly small percentage of traffic anyway, which then performs worse than if users land on a proper landing page.

I liked having them indexed because they would occasionally start ranking for some keyword ideas I’d never have tried by myself, which I could then migrate to the landing pages. But this was a relatively low occurrence and on-balance perhaps not worth doing any more, if I’m going to suffer cannabalization on my main pages.

Making better use of the Schema.org “About” property

I’ve been waiting a while for a compelling place to give this idea a shot.

Broadly, you can sum it up as using the About property pointing back to multiple authoritative sources (like Wikidata, Wikipedia, Dbpedia, etc.) in order to help Google better understand your content.

For example, you might add the following JSON to an article an about Donald Trump’s inauguration.

[           {             "@type": "Person",             "name": "President-elect Donald Trump",             "sameAs": [               "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki\Donald_Trump",               "http://dbpedia.org/page/Donald_Trump",               "https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q22686"             ]           },           {             "@type": "Thing",             "name": "US",             "sameAs": [               "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States",               "http://dbpedia.org/page/United_States",               "https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q30"             ]           },           {             "@type": "Thing",             "name": "Inauguration Day",             "sameAs": [               "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_inauguration",               "http://dbpedia.org/page/United_States_presidential_inauguration",               "https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q263233"             ]           }         ] 

The articles I’ve been having rank are often specific sub-articles about the larger topic, perhaps explicitly explaining them, which might help Google find better places to use them.

You should absolutely go and read this article/presentation by Jarno Van Driel, which is where I took this idea from.

Combining informational and transactional intents

Not quite sure how I feel about this one. I’ve seen a lot of it, usually where there exist two terms, one more transactional and one more informational. A site will put a large guide on the transactional page (often a category page) and then attempt to grab both at once.

This is where the lines started to blur. I had previously been on the side of having two pages, one to target the transactional and another to target the informational.

Currently beginning to consider whether or not this is the correct way to do it. I’ll probably try this again in a couple places and see how it plays out.

Final thoughts

I only got any insight into this problem because of storing Search Console data. I would absolutely recommend storing your Search Console data, so you can do this kind of investigation in the future. Currently I’d recommend paginating the API to get this data; it’s not perfect, but avoids many other difficulties. You can find a script to do that here (a fork of the previous Search Console script I’ve talked about) which I then use to dump into BigQuery. You should also check out Paul Shapiro and JR Oakes, who have both provided solutions that go a step further and also do the database saving.

My best guess at the moment for the Maccabees update is there has been some sort of weighting change which now values relevancy more highly and tests more pages which are possibly topically relevant. These new tested pages were notably less strong and seemed to perform as you would expect (less well), which seems to have led to my traffic drop.

Of course, this analysis is currently based off of a single site, so that conclusion might only apply to my site or not at all if there are multiple effects happening and I’m only seeing one of them.

Has anyone seen anything similar or done any deep diving into where this has happened on their site?


Appendix

Spotting thin content & dodgy links

For those of you who are looking at new sites, there are some quick ways to dig into this.

For dodgy links:

  • Take a look at something like Searchmetrics/SEMRush and see if they’ve had any previous penguin drops.
  • Take a look into tools Majestic and Ahrefs. You can often get this free, Majestic will give you all the links for your domain for example if you verify.

For spotting thin content:

  • Run a crawl
    • Take a look at anything with a short word count; let’s arbitrarily say less than 400 words.
    • Look for heavy repetition in titles or meta descriptions.
    • Use the tree view (that you can find on Screaming Frog, for example) and drill down into where it has found everything. This will quickly let you see if there are pages where you don’t expect there to be any.
    • See if the number of URLs found is notably different to the indexed URL report.
  • Soon you will be able to take a look at Google’s new index coverage report. (AJ Kohn has a nice writeup here).
  • Browse around with an SEO chrome plugin that will show indexation. (SEO Meta in 1 Click is helpful, I wrote Traffic Light SEO for this, doesn’t really matter what you use though.)

Index bloat

The only real place to spot index bloat is the indexed URLs report in Search Console. Debugging it however is hard, I would recommend a combination of log files, “site:” searches in Google, and sitemaps when attempting to diagnose this.

If you can get them, the log files will usually be the most insightful.

Poor user experience/slow site

This is a hard one to judge. Virtually every site has things you can class as a poor user experience.

If you don’t have access to any user research on the brand, I will go off my gut combined with a quick scan to compare to some competitors. I’m not looking for a perfect experience or anywhere close, I just want to not hate trying to use the website on the main templates which are exposed to search.

For speed, I tend to use WebPageTest as a super general rule of thumb. If the site loads below 3 seconds, I’m not worried; 3–6 I’m a little bit more nervous; anything over that, I’d take as being pretty bad.

I realize that’s not the most specific section and a lot of these checks do come from experience above everything else.

Overbearing ads or monetization?

Speaking of poor user experience, the most obvious one is to switch off whatever ad-block you’re running (or if it’s built into your browser, to switch to one without that feature) and try to use the site without it. For many sites, it will be clear cut. When it’s not, I’ll go off and seek other specific examples.

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