Want to increase your sales from Amazon in 2020? Make Amazon advertising a part of your strategy!
Amazon Expands Advertising Options with New Betas
Since ads were first introduced on Amazon in 2008 with Sponsored Products, ad options have grown to include Sponsored Brands (formerly headline ads) and Sponsored Display (still in beta).
Not only are the campaign types expanding, but so are the beta options inside each of the campaign types. It can be hard to keep up with all of the changes, but understanding all of your options will allow you to build the best Amazon Ads strategy.
You’ll learn about all three ad types below plus pro tips to enhance your Amazon Ads in this post.
Amazon Ad Campaign Types
Sponsored products are the original ads of Amazon.
These ads show on the search results page and on product pages. If you’re looking to increase sales on Amazon, adding Sponsored products to your strategy can help achieve that. Sponsored ads require no ad copy so making sure the product title and main image are optimized is an important part of your ad success.
3rd party sellers, vendor sellers, KDP sellers, and book vendors can use Sponsored Products. In order for your ad to show, you must currently be winning the Buy Box. Your ad will automatically not enter the auction if someone else has the Buy Box for that particular product. There are two types of sponsored product campaigns:
These are similar to Google Shopping ads. You input the product(s) you’d like Amazon to advertise, and Amazon’s algorithm will pick what keywords and products to show your ad on.
Use the search term report for manual campaign keyword research. This report will show you how Amazon’s algorithms are categorizing your product.
If the keywords in your search term do not align with your products, work on updating your backend keywords, descriptions, and titles (this will help with your SEO too!). If a keyword does not relate, add it as a negative keyword to both your automatic and manual campaigns.
🛑 Caveat: you cannot add ASINs as negative keywords.
Want to learn about Seer’s proprietary tool, “Saving Ben” to find negative keywords and lower wasted PPC spend? Click here!
There are two types of targeting for manual campaigns:
1) Keyword targeting: Manual campaigns are very similar to CPC search campaigns. Create ad groups themes, pick out keywords related to themes, and manually adjust budgets on a keyword by keyword basis. Just like in Google Ads and Microsoft Ads keyword types include exact, phrase, and broad match.
💡 Pro Tip: Keywords on Amazon will vary from keywords on Google. Perform Amazon-specific keyword research using tools (such as Sonar, Keyword Tool for Amazon, Unicorn Smasher, and more!) Amazon will also provide suggested keywords when setting up your ad group, take time to review if these keywords make sense for your campaign or not.
2) Product targeting: Amazon’s newest targeting feature allows you to target specific products, categories, and brands. If you target individual products you have a variety of ways to create that targeting list including using Amazon’s suggestions; searching by product name, ASIN, or SKU; entering a list; or uploading a CSV file using Amazon’s template. If you target categories, you can refine your targeting as seen in the screenshot below.
💡 Pro Tip: If you’re a part of Amazon’s brand registry, use Amazon’s Brand Analytics reports to create product targets. The Item Comparison and Alternate Purchase Behavior allows you to view which products are most viewed with your product and which product the customer ultimately chooses after viewing your product. Steal back market share!
Sponsored Brands have ad types that vary in set-up and targeting. However, driving brand awareness is a top goal for all three ad types.
Unlike the other Amazon Ad campaigns, Sponsored Brands include 50 character headlines that you write yourself. The ads will either go to a landing page that is created automatically, to your store, or to a designated landing page on your store.
Don’t have a store created? Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to create a Product Collection Sponsored Brand, however, we recommend brands build out stores to take full advantage of Sponsored Brands (plus a bunch of other perks!)
💡Pro Tip: Sponsored Brands shows New To Brand (NTB) orders! Amazon does not currently provide New To Brand information elsewhere, so take advantage of this data.
1) Product Collection: allows you to highlight multiple products at once. On desktop three products will show in the ad, on mobile one to three images may show. These ads require a 50 character headline and can be sent to your Amazon store (including subpages) or a new product list page. If you chose a new product list page, Amazon will automatically create that page based on the products you choose. Just like Sponsored ads you can choose keyword or product (beta) targeting.
💡Pro Tip: You can now add a custom image for mobile placement highlighting your collection. We also recommend opting into Amazon’s new “Optimize your ad” feature — Amazon’s algorithm will automatically pick which products to include in your ad based on the shopper’s search.
2) Store Spotlight (beta): is a mobile-only ad type. Set-up is the same as Product Collection, however, instead of picking which products to show in the ad, you pick which pages from your store you’d like to highlight. You must write a 50 character (max) headline as well as 40 character (max) display names for each page. You are also able to pick out one product image per page that will show above the display name.
💡Pro Tip: Utilize your store analytics data to understand which landing pages perform best.
3) Video (beta): is a mobile-only ad type that uses keyword targeting. Your video automatically plays (on mute) on the mobile search results page, you only pay if a user clicks your ad, videos click through to a product display page.
Make sure your message is clear without sound — these ads will default to playing on mute (🔇).
Sponsored Display (beta)
Sponsored display ads, currently in beta, have three different options which vary in bid strategy and reach. You can only use one bid strategy per Sponsored Display campaign.
1) Views: Amazon refers to remarketing as ‘views’. You select the products you’d like Amazon to show and Amazon will automatically build a remarketing audience using both viewers of your product page and viewers of similar product pages (think of this as Google merging re-marketing and similar audiences). These ads are shown off of Amazon. Views use a Cost Per Click bid strategy.
💡Pro Tip: Do not add all of your products to one ad group. Separate by theme, target ROAS, or target CPC. This will allow you to set appropriate bids and adjust the ad group accordingly.
2) Searches: These ads are shown both on and off Amazon and target people who searched on Amazon for products similar to your product. Searches use a Cost Per Impression bid strategy.
💡Pro Tip: Separate ad groups by keyword theme to analyze performance and search terms more efficiently.
3) Purchases: These ads are shown both on and off Amazon to customers who have previously purchased your products on Amazon. Unfortunately, Amazon does not provide insight on when customers are added to this list. Purchases use a Cost Per Impression bid strategy.
💡Pro Tip: Start with a limited budget and monitor ROAS closely for this campaign type.
Amazon Attribution (beta)
Amazon Attribution is for any advertising you are doing off Amazon.
Whether you’re driving consumers to your Amazon product page from email, social media, Google Ads, or Microsoft Ads you’ll want to add Amazon attribution to ad URLs. Amazon attribution allows you to append tracking to your URLs so you can directly see the impact your marketing efforts have on driving revenue on Amazon.
If you use Google Analytics, this is similar to UTM/ tracking parameters. We recommend using Amazon attribution any time you are linking to your Amazon products.
From increasing sales to branding and remarketing Amazon now has options for every part of the marketing funnel. Understand your business’ 2020 goals and how Amazon factors into them, with clear objectives and KPIs you can build an Amazon ad strategy that helps you achieve those goals.
Have questions about Amazon Ads? Drop them in the comments our PPC team is happy to help!
On January 13, 2020, Google announced that a new site design would be rolling out on desktop devices, presenting site domain names and brand icons prominently on organic results, along with a bolded “Ad” label for ads.
Why this change?
This is the same design Google launched on mobile back in May 2019 and has now broadened to desktop. Google said this format will help people “better understand where the information is coming from” and “more easily scan the page of results and decide what to explore next.”
For paid text ads, the Ad symbol has changed from green to bolded, with the display URL now appearing more dominantly above the headlines, so users can quickly identify who is presenting the information in the ad. Below is a sample side by side view of the changes that took effect on mobile devices in 2019:
For organic listings, the site name and breadcrumbs have also changed from green text below the title to black text next to the favicon and both display above the title link. Google has also removed the gray line below the organic titles and ad headlines so each card looks more like a single unit.
Google is allowing site owners to define their favicons by following these instructions.
Greenlane’s Point of View
As with all changes coming from Google, there is a bit of a grace period before the impact of those changes can be fully understood. With the line between paid text ads and organic listings now blurring, there is anticipation that clickthrough rates will shift from organic results to paid ads. Greenlane will be monitoring our clients’ accounts closely over the coming months. Once we have a clearer understanding of how searchers are interacting with the new design, recommendations for changes in organic or paid listings will be communicated.
To skip sections or jump around between them – you can use the links below:
How the Facebook Pixel Changed
With the release of Facebook Analytics (analytics.facebook.com) back in late 2018, it was clear that Facebook had one goal in mind for the future of social tracking – burn everything that wasn’t scalable.
What many business page owners don’t know, is that Facebook had fundamentally altered the way to set up the Facebook Pixel during the same time this platform went live.
Required you to trigger events based on information available on each specific page of your website. The new implementation does not require you to do that unless you are hardcoding events onto every page of your website manually.
If you are using a tag manager and your Pixel tag is using Triggers to fire conversions and event activity – this method of implementation is no longer supported.
If you are using a tag manager and you have more than 1 tag set up to fire the Facebook Pixel base code independent of your conversion or event activity tags – this method of implementation is no longer supported.
The new method of implementation can track events automatically without code.
The Facebook Pixel can find and report on valuable website events, such as purchases or registrations, based on your site traffic, button text and page metadata. This feature can help you set up events without having to install code. You can choose to turn this functionality on or off.
Getting Started with the Facebook Pixel
Now that you’re all squared away on what’s changed, let’s get started with the setup!
The Facebook Pixel is made up of:
Your Facebook Pixel
The base code
The standard event code(s)
Facebook Pixel Deployment Options
Your options include 1) deploying the Facebook Pixel code via the Partner Integrations, or 2) manually placing the code.
One method is scalable, easy for anyone to update, and doesn’t require development work. The other method is less scalable and often prone to errors … plus it requires development work. I’ll give you a few guesses as to which one is which.
This means your developer places the code into your website source files.
Paste the Facebook pixel code between the <head> and </head> tags of your web page. You may already have other existing code between the head tags, so just place the pixel code underneath that, but above </head>.
Requires web development – access, knowledge, and resources
Select the appropriate Facebook page in the top left-hand corner dropdown
Make sure you are in the Data Sources tab, and then click Add New Data Source
Select Facebook Pixel.
Choose out of the 3 deployment options. Remember our cautions above, and make sure you choose wisely.
We recommend choosing Google Tag Manager if you have a GTM container already installed on your website. Otherwise, you can choose from a list of supporting integrations:
You’ll get the gist of what the Google Tag Manager integration entails in the next screen which includes information about Automatic Event tagging. Click Continue when you are sure this is the best method for you.
The next few screens will ask you to connect a GTM account by signing into it with Google. This means you are allowing Facebook to publish the Facebook Pixel automatically for you upon confirmation of the account integration.
In your Google Tag Manager container, check to make sure Facebook published with the right account ID and information.
Note: You will have to look at Published Version History. This is because once you’ve enabled the integration, the container is automatically published on your behalf in the Default Workspace. If you have another workspace already that is added to GTM unpublished, Facebook creates a new workspace and publishes that one instead. That way there’s no tracking interferences.
Upgrading an Existing Facebook Pixel
If you start fresh: Follow the above instructions – create a new ad account and Pixel ID from scratch. Enable the partner integration needed and set up the Pixel with best practices. Once you test and debug your new implementation, you’ll need to ask your developer to entirely remove the old, outdated code from all pages of your website.
If you upgrade your existing Pixel: Add a new Partner Integration to your current pixel implementation like so:
Facebook Pixel Events
Standard Event Codes
Events are actions that happen on your website. Standard events are predefined by Facebook and can be used to log conversions, optimize your advertising for conversions and build new audiences.
See below for a list of standard events:
STANDARD EVENT CODE
Add payment info
The addition of payment information in the checkout flow (ex: click, landing page on billing info)
Add to cart
The addition of items to a shopping cart (ex: click, landing page on Add to Cart button)
Add to wishlist
The addition of items to a wishlist (ex: click, landing page on Add to Wishlist button)
The submission of a registration form (ex: complete subscription, sign up for a service)
A telephone/SMS, email, chat or other type of contact between a customer and your business
The customization of products through a configuration tool or other application your business owns
The donation of funds to your organisation or cause
A web or app search for one of your business locations that suggests intention to visit
When someone enters the checkout flow (ex: click, landing page on checkout button)
When someone expresses interest in your offering (ex: form submission, sign up for trial, landing on pricing page)
Purchases or checkout flow completions (ex: Landing on “Thank You” or confirmation page)
Confirm which standard events you’d like to track, and simply add them as a new line to your Facebook Pixel base code. That’s about it!
Event Setup Tool
If you want to create new events without updating your base code and/or customize the standard events already added to your base code, use the “Facebook Event Setup Tool”.
This tool is available via Facebook Pixel > Events > Set Up (as shown below).
You should then be able to select a method of setting up events, choose the Facebook Event Setup Tool for the purposes of this tutorial.
Add your Pixel’s website URL for creating and testing the new events via the Event Setup Tool like so:
There are several components and features of this tool. When you open your website URL, you’ll see the following. Follow the instructions below for setting up events.
The Event Setup Tool will allow you to click anywhere that’s highlighted on the page to set up a new event.
You’ll see that there’s multiple options highlighted, but the blue highlighted image at step 2 indicates I’ve clicked on that button to track.
Set up an event based on the event options that come through in the dropdown. You can also set up events based on page URL “equals” matches or “contains” matches. This is very useful for defining standard events in order to later track them specifically as conversions.
That’s about the gist of the Event Setup Tool. Easy, right? You can find the full manual from Facebookhere.
Facebook Pixel Conversions
Now that you have set up standard event tracking and might have even customized certain events using the Event Setup Tool, it’s time to define which ones should be counted in Facebook and Instagram Ads as “Conversions”.
Creating Custom Conversions
While in the Events panel, go to “Create Custom Conversion”.
You can set up conversions manually by setting rules in the Conversion Tool or you can simply select a standard or custom event from the dropdown like so:
Your conversions will be now counted within the Ads Manager. That’s all you have to do to get crackin’ on launching your paid campaigns!
How to QA Your Facebook Pixel Setup
You can easily test to see which events are firing and which aren’t via the Test Events Debugger in real-time. See below for a screenshot, but check out the testing section later in this post as well:
Troubleshooting Events with the Debugger
In addition to testing your events in real-time within the Facebook Events Manager, you can easily check the Diagnostics panel, to get the insights surfaced for you and an explanation of the cause (if Facebook has it). You can send it to your developer for troubleshooting if that’s needed as well.
Using the Pixel Helper Chrome Extension
Make sure to test your events and conversions are working properly within Facebook tools. But a nifty tool you can use to get a higher level idea of what’s tracking via this Chrome extension. Download it for checking tracking in your browser.
That wraps things up! You should now be armed with a squeaky clean implementation of the Facebook Pixel. What do you think? Are you bookmarking this guide or do you think you’ve got it down?
Let us know in the comments below and make sure to send any questions our way as you dig into the process.
Last year Google announced an update to cross-site cookie standards as part of an ongoing effort to improve data privacy and security. The new standards go live with Chrome 80 on February 4, 2020. Firefox and Edge have support planned, but no ETA.
What’s changing on February 4th is that cross-site (a.k.a. third-party) cookies must explicitly declare themselves as cross-site (details) and use HTTPS exclusively (details).
Industry Impact of SameSite
The SameSite update, on its own, does not impose any new restrictions. The only direct effects of this are:
a healthy dose of overconcern from dev-adjacent folks
a small bit of research for all web developers, and minor code updates for some
a shedding of old unused third-party cookies, saving marginal bytes of bandwidth across the internet-verse
SameSite adds zero functional benefit (or obstacles) on its own, but will be a foothold for more impactful updates. The first of which concerns security and is arriving simultaneously…
By requiring cross-site / third-party cookies to be encrypted, some hacker attack vectors are negated (e.g. CSRF). It’s yet another move by Google to push the percentage of the web on HTTPS even higher. And moving to HTTPS is always a win for platform security and user privacy!
I’d wager the SameSite cookie attribute will also be a stepping stone for future changes from Chromium’s Privacy Sandbox, which seems to be the thoughtful and diverse approach needed (*cough* ITP) to protect users while also enabling providers.
Some Things Will Break
If all goes well, end-users won’t see any changes on February 4th. But in reality, we may run into a hiccup or two in our everyday tools as end-users ourselves. There will surely be services, scripts, features, and plugins that are less actively maintained that will break, partially or entirely. And there’s always the chance of a major provider fudging their update!
As an end-user, if something breaks on February 4th:
Clear your cookies and retry.
Inform the provider.
If you don’t want to wait for the provider to roll out a fix, you can “fix” it for yourself by disabling the new SameSite cookie restriction in Chrome: chrome://flags/#same-site-by-default-cookies (Not a long-term solution, but can be handy in a pinch to get that website widget or browser extension or Trello power-up working again!)
As a provider, read on to make sure sure your applications don’t break for your users!
Are You Ready For SameSite?
Most third-party cookie usage are third-party tracking or authentication platforms. Do not worry about those, because those vendors will make the necessary changes on their end, if they haven’t already.
If you see SameSite warnings in the console on your site, look at the domain it’s for. If it’s not your domain, that’s the domain of a vendor who has yet to make the correction (i.e.GTM).
Our team at Seer will continue to keep you updated on the latest news in digital marketing. We’ll report back on the impact of SameSite over the developing months. In the meantime, check out some of the other recent updates rocking the industry:
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Episode Overview: Google wasted no time entering 2020 with a bang, releasing a core algorithm update and updating their Google Shopping Experience within the same week. Join Ben and Searchmetrics CEO Jordan Koene as they review and analyze the immediate impact of Google’s first update of 2020 and offer key advice on how to best strategically react.
The update visibly affected SERPs, refining the ability to select sub-categories and expanding knowledge graphs in the right-hand rail for broad topics.
The improvements indicate Google is trying to expand its influence by acquiring more online real estate with their Shopping Experience and upgrade the user experience overall.
SEOs and search analysts should focus on ranking data, taking screenshots of SERPs and testing key results and sets. Documenting and saving these records to analyze the history of changes Google makes is paramount to tracking and formulating SEO strategies.
GUESTS & RESOURCES:
Ben: Welcome to an emergency Google core update edition of the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’re going to reevaluate the changing landscape of Google Search post the January core update. Joining us today is Jordan Koene who is the lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc., and today Jordan and I are going to pull back the curtain on what we’re calling the selection and filtering update.
Ben: But before we hear from Jordan, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise-scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a free trial of Searchmetrics’ software. That’s right, you can use Searchmetrics’ Research Cloud, Software Suite and Content Experience tools for free, no risk, no credit card required. To try the free trial, go to searchmetrics.com/freetrial.
Ben: Okay. On with the show. Here’s my conversation with Jordan Koene, lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc.
Ben: Jordan, happy new year. Welcome to our first episode together on the Voices of Search podcast.
Jordan: Yeah, it’s a crazy start to the new year. I guess little patience from Google on getting us going right off the bat.
Ben: Google did not get the message that the new year’s party has ended. Google, you’re drunk. Go home. Seriously.
Jordan: Okay. Please come back in May.
Ben: And we call these emergency updates. I’m going to start calling them Tuesdays. There’s been so many updates lately, they’re like a weekly thing.
Jordan: Yeah. Well, one of the interesting things is that, hey, that at least they’re telling us that this is happening, as opposed to previous years where nothing, just crickets from them. So hey, it’s an upside.
Ben: All right, so Google is at least doing a better job of communicating, but man, they are launching these algorithm changes quick, fast and easy. Let’s talk about how this was communicated and what we can tell so far.
Jordan: Sure, absolutely. So on January 13th Google updated through Twitter, through the traditional channel of Google Search Liaison’s Twitter handle, that they were going to be releasing what they call the January 2020 core update. The reality is that they didn’t give us a ton of additional context, they pointed us to a previous blog post that was relevant to the September core update, so really didn’t actually add any new content outside of the fact that they were going to be releasing a broad core update in January.
Ben: All right, so Google has an Easter egg, they’ve got a little surprise for us there. They have an update. They didn’t give us much information about what’s happening. And it’s only a few days after the update. Actually right now as we’re recording, it’s only a day after the update. So Jordan, what did you and the crack team at Searchmetrics discover in terms of what has been different with Google search?
Jordan: Yeah, I mean it’s still really early days. But we’re analyzing some big changes to the SERP, in particular what we’ve identified is a considerable amount of improvements to refining in the SERP. So refining our things like when it comes to featured elements or featured snippets, the ability to sub-select category, especially say you take an image carousel and then you provide users with the ability to sub-select certain topics that they might want to see images for, so like being able to sub-select by color or transparent so you’re looking at an image and you want the image to have a transparent background.
Jordan: So, those are some experiences on the SERP that we’ve seen increase post this update. We’ve also seen some changes to the knowledge graph, so the knowledge graph has been expanded, especially in the right-hand rail when looking at really broad topics, especially in desktop, this is broad topics like Eiffel Tower or brand names. What we’re seeing is just additional information with more carousels, trending data that Google’s providing for some of these. So Google is just making a steeper claim on the real estate that they already own within the SERP.
Ben: So, to reiterate what Jordan’s saying, a couple of different things that are somewhat thematic. Google is trying to help their users have better ability to filter what they’re seeing and have the right selection. You mentioned image filtering, there’s also more real estate in knowledge graph. So this goes along with the theme of: A, Google is trying to take more real estate and have more of the Google experience takeover, as opposed to linking off to third party sites. And B, it’s also a user experience adjustment when it’s related to the search. It’s not something like how Google is processing natural language filtering or like what we saw with the BERT update.
Jordan: Exactly, yes. So right now at this particular juncture we’re not seeing the same level of volatility from the BERT update or the September core update where it’s rank position shifting for particular brands. We have seen four really strong brands an increase in brand results. So what I mean by that is a user is searching, say, Walmart and a specific product, Walmart’s actual domain showing up more frequently in the search results. Now, let’s all be candid, I don’t think that this is a monumental traffic driver. Walmart already usually controls the top two to three positions for that branded keyword search, having positions six through 10 really doesn’t add a ton of value. But that was one of the additional things that we noticed in our data. But again, if Google was testing this a few weeks ago, we’re still in the early days of understanding what exactly has transpired at the SERP level.
Ben: So how much do you think this plays into a larger strategy from Google? There’s been a sequence of updates. They’ve been coming fast and hot. Do you think that there’s some theme? Is Google just implementing some of the things they were testing with the previous updates? Or why is all of this happening all at once?
Jordan: Well, I think that this is a sequence of events, right? Let’s just say it’s like a detective trying to track down a serial killer. And what we have here is a pattern of behavior where Google is continuously expanding their influence when it comes to elements within the SERP that they can control: knowledge graph and desktop, carousels, not sure other featured elements within the SERP. So no surprise that they keep trying to really push the envelope here and identify ways to improve the user experience, use that data they have to improve the user experience within the SERP.
Ben: Hey Jordan, give me an example of some companies or some industries where you see this trend taking place.
Jordan: Absolutely. So one of the most unique is in mobile experiences around health-related topics. So searching for any, say, infection disease, what you’re going to notice is that there’s a really heavy expansive use of the featured snippet. Google is showing the ability for the user to refine based on different treatment options, based on different brands that may provide treatments, as well as a much deeper knowledge graph around that topic. So we’ve always seen the knowledge graph that Google has used around the medical topics, but Google, again, expanding the use of that and leveraging the data that they have from various sources, which I think is incredibly valuable to consumers, but maybe not the traffic driver that we all anticipated to be right now today. So that’s one category.
Ben: You said something similar twice, but it’s maybe not the traffic driver as we’re seeing Google put similar results at the top of the page in a few different circumstances. Is this just Google basically protecting against clicks that shouldn’t actually be happening that are irrelevant? Or they’re basically just giving more coverage to what they are pretty sure is the content people are looking for and that’s just taking up the entire SERP?
Jordan: You’re absolutely right, Ben. This is giving consumers options and choices at the top of the SERP that they may not have had before. Another great example of Google thinking on that track when it comes the SERP is what we call the PAP, or the people also ask, which is the related questions. And again, we’ve seen this grow exponentially over the last six months. We’ve seen it basically at the same volume, through the January update here. But this is another way for Google to allow users to stay engaged on Google and find the ultimate answer they’re looking for.
Ben: So, where does this update have an actual impact? You’ve mentioned a couple of times that we’re not seeing this as something that’s going to impact performance. Why is Google doing this update and what does it impact?
Jordan: Yeah. So I think that from an impact standpoint for brands, the thing to recognize the most here is this continued traction that Google is making when it comes to featured snippets. So their traction and investment here is one that we should all be mindful of. We predicted this, Ben, you and I when we were talking about our 2020 predictions, we said this is going to be one of the areas where Google invest heavily. And I believe that it’s the case because Google has to, right? I mean Google has to be able to provide more visual search, more voice search, and more mobile experiences that allow users to quickly identify the content they want without it being another text-based search. And so that’s why these experiences are so valuable for Google and Google’s using all this data to justify the expansion of these experiences.
Ben: So how do brands address that?
Jordan: Yeah, Ben. So that’s the tough part, right? I think back on the Wikipedia days when it was just the knowledge graph, right? 10 years ago you just had Wikipedia, a little tiny faded blue color, a mention of Wikipedia. And so I think that by and large Wikipedia is always a big winner in the fact that they were getting their content exposed, they were getting their brand exposed. And I believe that the big investment that brands need to take here is identifying ways in which they can become hyper-relevant in these experiences. If you’re not winning the featured snippet or the answer box, that’s okay. Can you win in the image carousel? And can you control multiple placements within the image carousel? If you’re not winning even on the first page, can you control the video carousel and have a video that is shown on the first page.
Jordan: So, there’s new ways to really think about your SEO strategy. It’s almost like a three dimensional focus versus this two dimensional focus of just being on positions one through 10. And I think that that’s one of the components that brands need to think about a lot. And the best way to start is by looking at what kind of content assets you have, ensuring that you’re using the right markup on your pages to highlight that you have these video assets, image assets. And ultimately it’s about the user experience. Are those valuable resources for their consumers who may find them, whether they’re be in a video carousel image carousel or other placements within the SERP
Ben: So, I think at the end of the day it’s obviously early and it’s hard to tell exactly what the impact of this update is. We’re seeing lots of changes with how Google is taking real estate, what information they’re presenting to the users and also how they’re flushing the results that they don’t want to present down the page. Jordan, any last thoughts as we continue to look at the long-term ramifications of this update?
Jordan: Yeah, so for our listeners who are still on this episode, don’t just focus on your traffic data, go look at your ranking data, go test some of the key results and results sets, take a screenshot of what that SERP looks like, store that away. I expect there to be a lot of changes and you’re going to want to save that record so that when you we’re sitting here in December, you can go back and you can see what the SERP look like a year ago. I really want to encourage people here in the beginning of the year, right off the bat Google made a change, I expect there to be a lot of evolution here. And that evolution isn’t going to just be in the blue links that show up in the results, but in these other experiences. So start building your repository so that when you’re analyzing data in the future, you have something to go back on to reference. So I think that that’s just a really valuable point for our listeners to start tracking that data and insight early.
Ben: We talk about this podcast going over the ever-changing view of Google and its search algorithm. The landing pages are obviously something related to that. They’re going to change. They’re going to continue to evolve. So you need to keep track of that as much as you do your performance.
Ben: And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan, lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes, or you can contact him on Twitter where his handle is JTKoene, it’s J-T-K-O-E-N-E.
Ben: If you have general marketing questions, if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes. You can send me a tweet at BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. Or you can try our new Twitter handle, which is Voicesofsearch.
Ben: If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial for a complimentary trial of their Searchmetrics’ software and content experience service.
Ben: And if you liked this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed later this week. All right, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.
How to learn SEO competition research or in fact anything at all? Well, there’s actually doing it, of course. But doing it without knowing what to aim for and what’s actually working doesn’t do you much good. There’s, of course, reading about it. But as far as I’m concerned, the most effective way to learn to do something is to watch somebody do it well.
A large part of SEO efforts is about monitoring what actually works for other people in your particular niche.
So you need to keep an eye on the people that rank higher than you. Then, using specialized tools you’ll be able to reverse engineer the strategies they used. From then on, you’ll be able to implement those same things in your own campaigns.
What do we talk about when it’s about competition research?
Doing SEO competition research means analyzing your competitors’ SEO efforts in order to augment your own. So how to actually research your competition? Generally, it all boils down to the following steps:
Picking the right competitors — people from your own niche, that consistently rank higher than you.
Figuring out what you’re looking for — from researching their ranking keywords to backlinks, there’s a bunch to discover, and you have to know what it is that you want to find out.
Using a tool to extract the data you’re interested in.
Applying those insights to your own website.
Where in the world are your SEO competitors?
So this might seem like a trivial point. Anybody can name six to eight competitors off the top of their head, right? But, as usual, it’s not quite as easy as it appears.
For any SEO campaign, what you need first (if not foremost) is a list of main keywords you want to rank for. That’s the most basic function of conducting keyword research. Create a so-called “semantic core” for your website and its pages.
Your overall business competitors might not necessarily be the same as your SEO competition. SEO competition research is a part of competition research in general, sure. But SEO competitors are specifically those websites and pages that receive traffic targeting the same keywords as you.
Once you’ve settled on a list of keywords, you can research who in the world is already ranking for them. Those will be your main competitors. Now, you can, of course, use Google and type in all of the different keywords you want. Then you can monitor who’s ranking on Google yourself, no tool involved.
For some this “sans tool” approach works, sure. But for those of us monitoring dozens, if not hundreds of keywords? And those of us who don’t actually relish an opportunity to spend ten hours doing research one keyword at a time? This sounds exceedingly inconvenient.
The “topic” competitors — the pages and websites that are ranking for the keywords you are interested in.
The “domain” competitors — those websites that come up in a search for the whole cluster of keywords that are associated with your entire domain.
1. Topic competitors
Those are simply the pages that currently rank in the top 10 for the specific keyword(s) that you want to target with a particular page. Those competitors should be researched before actually creating a piece of content. Try and figure out which keywords in what order work best for this particular topic right now. Look at the headings and subheadings, the keywords they put in bold, and what is a “de rigueur” of this topic, that is – what absolutely must be mentioned for Google to consider that content helpful. A great tool to use when preparing to create a page is TF-IDF.
It analyzes the competition currently holding the highest rankings and gives you a list of ideas for keywords and topics that you should include. For instance, if you’re writing an article on competition research, TF-IDF might reveal that all of the ranking pages have a point about keyword gaps. That is a signal that Google considers “keyword gaps” an important part of the topic, and you should also put something about it in your piece. Or maybe you’ll need to restructure your entire piece. Let’s say that you see in your analysis that your top competitors for a particular page are all galleries with little text. That’s an indication that Google considers this topic to be in its most “user-friendly” form as a gallery.
Alternatively, if you see a competitor for your particular topic in a Featured snippet, look up what they’re doing and try to get position zero too. That’s what competitive research is really all about: there are best practices out there for everything. Organic search is a lot of things, but never random. Using the best working practices on the web, you can beat your competition much easier.
2. Domain competitors
Those are the domains that rank for the overall keywords you’ve collected, for your semantic core. Those are not just your “ad hoc” competitors. Your site is targeting a certain topic, and those are the websites that specifically aim at the same niche. With any competitor analysis tool, you will get a list of domains ranking for the same cluster of keywords you are aiming at. You can compare not just the amount of keywords you have in common, but also how your website performs against other websites covering your topic in general.
By this point, you’ve put together a manageable list of your main competitors. From then on, you can start analyzing them to find out why they are getting your traffic in organic search.
Analyzing your competitors’ SEO
Once you’ve got a list of your main SEO competitors, you can start working on looking up what goes into their rankings.
This part of competitor research consists of
Looking up your competitors’ overall SEO health
Seeing your competitors’ ranking keywords
Analyzing your competitors’ backlinks both to their entire domains as well as to any webpage in particular
So let’s start from the beginning — analyze your competitors’ overall SEO health
Before you start going into specifics, you first need to get an overview of your competition’s SEO success. This will serve as a foundation for your future efforts – you’ll know immediately if they outdo you in terms of backlinks, get information on their domains, and so on.
Different tools represent this “overall SEO health” parameter by different metrics, but nearly all of the modern market heavyweights give you an opportunity to look it up. So Rank Tracker indicates this by the term “domain strength”, while Moz chose “domain authority”, and so on.
Get a list of your top competitors’ domain strengths compared to your own. From social media signals to the number of pages currently indexed by different search engines, there’s a whole lot of information you need to collect about your competitors’ domains.
From here on, you can start drilling down into the details of your competitors’ ranking pages.
Fill the keyword gaps
A very important thing to take care of are your keyword gap competitors. What is the keyword gap? Those are the keywords that your competitors are already targeting, that you aren’t.
By identifying the keywords that your competition is using on their pages, you are seeing what particular topics they are currently targeting that you aren’t.
You should try and find the keywords for which you could start ranking or start ranking better than you already are.
Then you’ll know which keywords you should be adding to the pages you already have, and even formulate a precise content plan that is based on the keywords that your niche competition is already ranking for.For precision, you should perform analysis on a page by page basis. Check any of your pages and compare them to your competitors’ pages ranking for similar keywords.
This will show, in a very direct way, what exact keywords you should be using on your page. You’ll also get pretty detailed information on the actual keywords, so you will be free to decide which ones are a “must”, and which ones could be just a “maybe”.
Look up your competitors’ backlinks
You are, of course, free to disregard things like PageRank, which, for the record, still matters.
But we all know how important your backlink profile really is. As far as rankings are concerned, getting more quality backlinks is one of the best things you can do. That goes for your website in general, and for any page in particular.
Having quality backlinks is so vital, on my blog we even ran a guide on how to find an expired domain with some quality backlinks “built-in”. But of course, that’s for new website owners only.
How to make it work? Well, in reality, niche websites that already partner with your direct competitors might gladly provide you with a backlink as well!
So how to find what websites link to your competitors’ pages? This is one of the points which you can’t really do manually and will have to resort to a tool’s help.
An especially important metric to monitor here is the amount of “dofollow” links, as those links actually directly impact your rankings. The importance of nofollow links for rankings is moot, but we definitely know that dofollow links are paramount to ranking.
But by far the most important feature that is needed for proper competitor research is a list of your competitors’ intersecting links. Those are the linking domains that a few of your SEO competitors have in common, which link to a number of them but not to you yet.
I prefer using SEO SpyGlass for this since I’m its developer and can vouch for its functionality. In the tool you’ll get to see all of the domains linking to your one or a number of your competitors, but not to you.
If you find a certain source that links to two-to-four of your competitors in your niche, there’s a pretty high chance that you’ll also get an opportunity to partner with them if you do some outreach.
Monitor the opportunities presented by your competitor research and seize on them in your own SEO efforts.
Keep an eye on their backlink history
There’s another great angle to analyze your competitor’s pages. Try and look up when exactly your competitors received which backlinks for their content.
If you see a sudden rise, that could mean, for example, that the page has been updated. Checking out the page itself you might see that your competitor has stumbled upon a viral topic that ranks very highly right on.
You can seize on that opportunity and update your existing content. Or, if you consciously didn’t cover a certain topic thinking that it would not be relevant, and you find that it’s now become viral, you can create some new material.
There are different tools that can be used to boost your SEO success. Getting into the top of Google’s organic search requires quite a lot of analysis, and work.
Along with keyword and backlink research, link building and website audits, competition research is a fundamental part of a successful SEO campaign.
Aleh is the Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. He can be found on Twitter at @ab80.
Reporting is a tricky thing that can either make or break your entire marketing process. Whether you prepare a report for your client, your boss, or a colleague, there is always a risk of drowning in the data, drawing the wrong conclusion, and going in the wrong direction. We put together 9 examples of marketing reports for daily, weekly, or monthly use.
Affiliate marketing is when you promote other companies’ products. When someone buys through your affiliate link, you get a commission.
As an affiliate, you’re a salesperson for the company. You help to make a sale, the company rewards you.
The best thing about affiliate marketing is that you can do it at scale. A typical salesperson only sells products from one company. As an affiliate marketer, you can promote products from many different companies and earn commissions from all of them.
How does affiliate marketing work?
The merchant gives each affiliate a unique link so they can track who was responsible for a sale. The link will usually look something like this:
When someone clicks that link, a small file called a cookie gets stored on their device.
An affiliate cookie does two things:
It helps the merchant attribute the sale back to the right person;
It (usually) holds an expiration date, so you get paid even if the buyer delays their purchase.
Here’s an example of how this works.
Imagine that a reader visits your post about the best winter jackets. They click on one of your affiliate links, leading them to a product on Amazon.
But they realized they have to pick up their daughter from school. So they leave their house, pick up their daughter, have dinner, and then finally go back to Amazon where they find the product again.
Since they’re already shopping on Amazon, they decide to purchase some ski gear too.
Here’s the good news. Earlier, they clicked on your affiliate link and a cookie was stored on their device. Because Amazon has a 24-hour cookie duration, you get compensated for both the winter jacket and ski gear—even though you didn’t promote the latter.
How much money can I make as an affiliate marketer?
The simple answer is that there is no limit. It depends on your niche and the amount of work you put in.
The most successful affiliate marketers make six or seven figures a month.
For example, Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income made over $100,000 in affiliate commissions in December 2017.
That’s what I did when I built my first site. Instead of talking about “dance” or “hip hop,” I decided to limit myself to just breakdancing. Despite not knowing anything about SEO back then, I managed to rank for a few key terms and generate ~3,000 organic visits per month.
My site’s search traffic before I let the domain lapse
Later on, as you cover the bulk of this category and build traffic to these pages, you can expand into other areas.
Now, if you’re going to be the main content creator, choose something you’re interested in.
Many affiliate sites die due to a lack of consistency. So at the very least, if you’re passionate about a topic, you’ll find it much easier to press on when the going gets tough.
Don’t worry if you’re not an expert in the field. As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, “document, don’t create.” Documenting what you’ve learned can make great content and attract people who are interested in following your progress.
If you’re outsourcing the content, then it’s better to work with seasoned experts in the niche. Experts can help you create high-quality, trustworthy work, which can lead to more traffic, engaged visitors, and more affiliate sales.
Step #3: Find affiliate programs to join
There are three types of affiliate programs to choose from.
A. High-paying, low-volume affiliate programs
These are affiliate programs for niche products with high payouts.
For example, ConvertKit’s affiliate program pays almost $700 per month if you send just 80 customers their way. However, as they sell CRM software for small business owners, there’s a limited pool of buyers.
ConvertKit’s affiliate program.
There also tends to be more competition for programs with high commissions. Since you’re probably just starting, it’ll be quite challenging to make a meaningful amount of money competing against skilled marketers with deep pockets.
B. Low-paying, high-volume affiliate programs
These are affiliate programs for products with low payouts but mass appeal.
For example, take PS4 games. Lots of people play PS4, but the average cost of a game is only around $50, and affiliate commissions are usually in the single digits. This means you’ll earn $2–3 per sale if you’re lucky.
The redeeming quality of these types of programs is that they usually offer tons of products to sell. Take Amazon’s affiliate program, for example. You can earn up to 10% commissions on almost anything Amazon sells.
The other good thing is that you often get commissions on the entire value of the purchase rather than just the product you recommended.
To make these types of affiliate programs pay, you’ll need lots of traffic.
C. High-paying, high-volume affiliate programs
These are affiliate programs for products with mass appeal, which also pay high commissions.
All these acronyms strike fear in a digital marketer’s heart. After all, most of us don’t have a law degree.
Privacy and data is a combination that has been a concern since the advent of digital marketing, and only continues to grow in discussion and regulation.
How do we as digital marketers navigate these constantly changing seas of data and legality to make sure we’re complying while still innovating and doing right by our customers? How do we answer our legal team’s questions?
We do what we do best.
Ask our own questions
Do some research! Read up on policies such as CCPA
Be curious about the legal aspects and ask questions of your lawyers for mutual understanding
Team up! Talk to other analysts and your company’s legal counsel
Look at the data!
Examine your data. Do you store Personally Identifiable Information (PII)? What countries and states are you doing business in that are affected by these policies? Which policies fall under your jurisdiction?
How to Answer Common Data Privacy Questions from Legal Teams
Your legal counsel / legal team are the experts on the law. You are the expert on Analytics and how it’s being used at your company. Put those heads together, share openly, and know that you’re working towards the same goal: an ethically data-driven company.
If you are an Analytics consultant or working with an Analytics consultant, the decision for a company on what to do is up to the client and the client’s legal counsel. Consultants can advise on what is possible, but as far as how companies interpret the laws and what to do is up to the companies themselves.
This stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and is an information request between a server and client. Browsers use HTTP to move information like images / text between a web server and your computer.
Out of the box, Google Analytics stores data points such as:
Referrer (how a user came to a site)
Time on site
User Type (new vs. returning)
What data is not stored in Google Analytics?
Google Analytics uses anonymized data of how users interact with the site. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is against Google’s policy, and if found in your data, should be stopped at the source.
Google doesn’t take PII lightly, and points out that “Your Analytics account could be terminated and your data destroyed if you use any of this information.” in their documentation.
For example, for a lead generation site, a team can track users who have submitted lead generation forms, where they have dropped off on the form, and what the conversion rate of that form is. Finding users’ form information such as names and emails is an example of PII that should be taken care of immediately.
This is shown below:
Data itself is used so we can see how users are coming to the site, what users are doing on site, and what marketing tactics work. We use this intelligence to make smart business and marketing decisions, understand how to better serve current and potential customers, and also help find the right people.
That’s up to each team’s data policies! You can retain the data for as long or as little as you like. We recommend chatting with your legal team to find the settings that works best for your company. Data retention can be changed for data that’s associated with user identifiers, cookies, or advertising identifiers.
Google Analytics provides the following options:
Do not automatically expire
Google Analytics also provides the option to toggle on “Reset on new activity”. When this setting is toggled on, it means that if a user comes to your site, the user identifier will reset the retention period.
For example, if your user retention is set to 50 months, and a user visited your site 10 months ago, they will have 40 months left until their data is no longer retained. However, if they come back to your site in that 10th month, their retention will be reset for another 50 months.
If requested to delete data from Google Analytics, there are ways to do that. You can review the Google documentation on how to find data deletion requests in GA Property Settings here or see the below instructions.
Depending on the need for deletion, there are a few options:
Handling your social media is a necessary part of any marketing strategy, but it’s also a vital part of any good SEO strategy. The popularity of social media has risen and probably will keep doing so. That means Google and other search engines can’t ignore them, and you probably shouldn’t either. You even see recent tweets popping up in search results now! So let’s discuss: how does social media influence SEO?
Customers are looking for you
SEO is about being found, so let’s start with the basics. If people are looking for you, make sure they find you! Customers that have heard about your brand might look for you on social media, or even through Google. As a professional company or brand, they expect you to be there. You don’t want them to come up empty, or worse: stumble on another business with a similar name while thinking it’s you. For that reason, it’s a good idea to claim your profiles. Even if you’re not planning on using the platform right now, you might want to in the future.
If you do register on a social platform and are not planning to actively maintain the profile, let your visitors know. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have the option to pin a tweet or post right at the top of your profile. In that post, explain that while you are not actively present there, they did find the right brand and yes, they can reach you. Point them to other means of communication, like email, make it easy for them! Another plus of claiming profiles: If in the future you do decide to start using a platform, you’re ready to go. Social media is ever-changing, so you never know if you might.
Setting up your social media accounts
When you register with social media platforms, do so seriously. Use a high-quality logo and fill out all the fields offered. If you have physical stores: add them, and their opening hours. A Google My Business account is especially valuable for this! In general, make sure your profiles look professional and up to date. And: be consistent. Use the same brand name across platforms, so people (and search engines!) know it’s you.
Social accounts showing in search results
Did you know that your social accounts can show up when people search for your brand name in search engines? For example, in Google’s Knowledge Panel. Here’s an example of what that looks like:
What we think is really cool is how Google regularly show an account’s latest tweets, right up there between other search results. Here’s an example of a so-called tweet carousel that shows when you search Google for [yoast].
This is a great way to showcase your business and what you’re all about, while enticing people to visit your profile and follow you for more.
Claim your space in the search results
What’s also important: content like tweet carousels take up (way) more place in the search results! The same goes for your actual social accounts: they show up too. The more space you claim in the top search results, the more you push down other results. It definitely increases the chances of people clicking through to any of your places on the web!
More traffic to your website
Now you understand the actual benefits of claiming (and preferably regularly updating, but more on that in a later blog post) your social media accounts, how does that tie into your SEO strategy? The idea is quite simple: if people are talking about you, online or offline, you’re relevant. As you might know by now, that is what search engines are looking for: Google wants to present users with the most relevant results. They love serving up search results that they know others find interesting.
So if you offer awesome content on your website, why not spread it even further by referring to it in other places, like on Facebook? It’s your content so it’s yours to share. Help people discover you! By convincing people to click to find out more, read on, etc., your social media posts could seriously increase traffic to your website.
Brand awareness through social media
Having success in social media also increases brand awareness. If you’re sharing great content, people will connect that positive experience to your brand name and experience. They might share your content or even just ‘like’ it. Either way, they’re helping you reach a new audience. Social media algorithms like content that other people like, they’ll help spread it further. Now, if these new people see and enjoy your content, they might start following you! They’ll get to know you and your products, services, or whatever it is you want them to know about.
Social media and SEO
Wrapping up: we wouldn’t say that just the fact that you are on social media has a direct impact on rankings. But, as with many ranking factors, it can help indirectly. An increased brand awareness, more traffic, people enjoying your content, all of those could help your website’s success.
So you know that it can pay off to use social media for your brand. But one of the hardest, if not the hardest, things of social media is: what do you ‘do’ on them? What kind of content are you supposed to share? How do you make a social media plan for your business or blog? How much time will it take? Is it worth it? We’ll cover setting up a social media strategy in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned!