Archives February 2020

SEO Agency Week: When to Employ an SEO Agency – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: SEO agencies are lifesavers when an organization’s SEO efforts lull and website performance dips, but not every organization needs, or is well suited for, agency services. Join host Ben as he continues his Agency Week discussion with Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson Stockton who shares his expertise on when a company should hire a SEO agency, how they work with companies and when organizations should avoid seeking agency services.

Summary

  • The best time to consider working with an SEO agency is for temporary projects where hiring a full-time employee doesn’t make sense for your business plan or to bring in an industry expert to provide direction to your team.
  • Another excellent reason to bring in an agency is when your SEO efforts or performance plateaus. Bringing in an expert who can look at a situation with fresh eyes and present new strategies can drastically improve your efforts.
  • One aspect to consider before hiring an agency is to determine if it will fit in with your organization’s long term strategy and decide whether it’s best to build out an internal team to fulfill long-term goals or maintain a longer agency partnership.
  • A common misconception with agencies is that they can deliver results in just weeks. In reality, it can take weeks or months for web crawlers to comb your website and is important to keep in mind if an agency promises results in less than a month.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                 Welcome to Agency Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this week we’re publishing an episode every day covering what you need to know to master the relationship between agencies and in house SEOs. Joining us again for Agency Week is Tyson Stockton who is the director of services at Searchmetrics. And today Tyson and I are going to continue Agency Week by helping you understand whether you need an agency or not. Okay. Here’s the third installment of Agency Week with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ director of services. Tyson, welcome back to Agency Week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:              Thank you Ben. Hump day. Halfway through.

Ben:                 Happy Wednesday. Happy hump day. So far, we’ve talked about what are the different types of SEO agencies, what are some of the products and services and how do you figure out whether an agency is credible or not? I think one of the most important things about finding the right agency for you is understanding whether you need an agency and what’s the problem that you’re trying to have them solve. How do you make the build versus buy decision? When you’re thinking about your SEO strategies, when should you be bringing an agency on board to help you?

Tyson:              Yeah, there’s a few different reasons why I think it makes sense for companies to bring in an agency and those are going to vary drastically. There’s going to be some, there’s pretty obvious pieces, and then there’s other ones that just come with some of the nuances or quirks to just like corporate structure and yeah, what resources people have available. So the obvious ones are … I think a really good example is maybe it’s a temporary project, so it’s something that you’re, I may be going through this migration, I’m anticipating that I’m going to have X amount of additional work that needs to be done. It doesn’t make sense for me to hire another full time employee because once the migration is complete, I don’t anticipate it being there. Therefore this is a great opportunity to bring in someone from the outside and leverage them for their expertise. It could also be, and that could be both in skillset or bandwidth of your team.

Ben:                 So the scope of the relationship, and you know a lot of the times you have projects that are time-bound, if you’re working on something that’s project based, you don’t want to bring somebody on that’s full time just to have to get rid of them. What are some other places and times when you need an agency?

Tyson:              Yeah. The other ones too is like if it’s specific gaps amongst the team and that may not be a full kind of like resource gap as well. And so that could be in the scenario of, “Hey, I have SEO team members, but I still have this gap in SEO strategy.” So I mean to bring in someone and I want to leverage them for their expertise and industry knowledge to help give direction to my team. And so that could be a specific need for it. Another one, which is like, it’s not as much of a need or makeup on initiatives that you’re working on, but it’s something that I think a lot of, especially enterprise businesses run into, that you could have companies that have freezes or holds on head counts. They don’t necessarily have the same restrictions on their budget. So you have companies that are like, hey, I can’t get a head count for it, therefore I’m going outside and I can use budget for these efforts, but I don’t have the analysis.

Ben:                 I always thought that was the funniest thing. When I worked at eBay, it’s been a decade. I have no idea how they staffed their business now, but there was like 50% of the floor on the marketing team was contractors and 50% were in house employees and we were all one team and some of the contractors had been there for years, maybe even close to a decade. They were just lifers at eBay, but they were hired through some sort of a staffing agency and were consultants. I always thought that was funny and I guess the rationale there is you don’t have to pay your agency member the same type of benefits and you also get to classify them as a marketing expense. That part of the workforce, which helps you essentially manage to the street a little better.

Tyson:              And think that latter piece is one that is a lot more calm than I think a lot of people realize that that is something … It’s not unique to any one company. A lot of these larger tech companies in particular are faced with that same piece. And I think sometimes it’s rather clever for individuals that are managing those efforts to be able to kind of work around it in that way. And I think agencies in this conversation are to that point is sometimes a card that they have to play in this whole kind of resource battle that you see in a lot of these larger businesses.

Ben:                 There’s also agencies that can help you improve your overall horsepower. When you’re sitting there and saying, “Hey, we’ve got a team. We’re doing pretty well in SEO, it’s a priority.” At what point do you say, “Look, there’s also other expertise that’s out there that can help us overcome some obstacles and hurdles.” When does it make sense to just amplify what you’re already doing well?

Tyson:              Well Ben, and I think one of the realities that a lot of businesses face is you do hit those plateaus and sometimes having a fresh set of eyes or having a new skillset or an expert within a certain area can oftentimes help you kind of get past those plateaus or hurdles when you’re starting to see your own performance lull and you’re not … What you’re doing obviously isn’t necessarily working. So maybe your previous strategies and tactics are not having the same yields coming in, new perspective, new set of eyes. It can oftentimes get you back on track and see something that may be missed because your team had just been looking at the same problem again and again or there’s a bias from past performance.

Ben:                 Yeah, I think there’s one other component to that, which is sometimes your goals change and you might have a high performing team, but the expectations just become astronomic and sometimes you’ve got to call in the cavalry and whether that be improving your strategy, bringing on more horsepower, agencies can also help you boost that as well. Tyson, having worked with lots of agencies and having managed them as well, what’s the flip side of the coin? When don’t you need an agency and where have you seen companies bring agencies in house where they were better off actually developing the capabilities in house?

Tyson:              There’s a few different situations. I think one there’s some on the more nuanced side is sometimes you might have a company culture that does not mesh as well with having outside voices and outside parties join and that is something I’ve seen in the past too, so knowing your organization and your culture, that’s like a big aspect.

Tyson:              And then I think another one is also how does it fit with your long term strategy? And I think this is a really critical piece because when we’re looking at SEO there’s always like the immediate, but you have to at least have a few people in the organization. They’re thinking about SEO from a very high level strategic three, five years down the road. And when you’re looking at that, there are sometimes benefits of having the investment and building infrastructure internally that then is going to be paying dividends, not just for that immediate year for future years to come.

Tyson:              And I think different agencies have different approaches to this. You can certainly also use agencies as almost like a Band-Aid or a transition model for that. So if you don’t want to sacrifice waiting a couple of years to actually build out and get the team lined up. But I think that’s one element that companies need to think about is how does using an agency also fit with the long term strategy of how they’re staffing and planning their own internal pieces.

Ben:                 So if you go to the other side of the table and you’re thinking from the agency and the service providers perspective, when do you think an agency relationship doesn’t make sense for the agency? How can you tell? What are the relationships that are just going to be a pain in the butt not valuable, just not going to work.

Tyson:              Two big areas is going to be expectations and also internal resources. And what I mean by this is expectations. If on a client side someone expects a 50% growth in two months, that’s not likely. I mean it’s not impossible but very unlikely just because the time that it takes to deploy then crawlers, I mean everything that we kind of know this general SEO performance, those short windows are just unreasonable expectations that usually set things up not for success because you’re going to get frustrations and it’s usually not a good thing for either side of the table. The other big one which I think is like more common and then a little bit harder to pinpoint is internal resources. So oftentimes with specifically SEO agencies, you have, like we mentioned in one of the earlier episodes, that does it all, so they have a program or they have a UX person.

Tyson:              Then they can actually push the changes live to your site. But a lot of SEO specialist agencies may not be providing the actual resources of deploying code. And personally, that’s also something that I would typically always recommend to keep in house, if you’re a large company. If you have an agency that’s making recommendations and identify and lining up the work that needs to be done, or you have one developer in house that’s shared across all facets of the business and SEO is not only your number one priority, there’s no way that that development resource is going to keep up with the agency and therefore one, you’re not going to get the yield, that real partnership that you want, but it’s also going to be like a poor use of funds because you’re investing more in the time and delivery from the agency than your team’s actually able to absorb.

Tyson:              So I think this is something that in the kind of goes back a little bit to scoping the right elements of engagement but you have to make sure that the rate or the speed that your internal team working with the agency and the rate or resources that the agencies dedicating to your business, that has to be a match. And if that’s not a match, that’s when you’re going to see slow progress. You’re going to have frustrations, overspend, underspend also in some cases, and that’s going to, I would say it’d be like the most common issue in starting off the engagement but also just like something that should be avoided and it can be avoided if you have the right scoping organization.

Ben:                 At the end of the day an agency relationship is really about the relationship, so clearly communicating what the expectations are with the resources are upfront is really going to help you figure out whether you’re a right fit for each other and we’re going to talk more about this and thinking about how to evaluate which agency is right for you tomorrow.

Ben:                 So that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, director of services at Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is, Tyson underscore Stockton. Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast head over to voicesofsearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests.

Ben:                 You can send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is voices of search on Twitter and my personal handle is Ben J. Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed and we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week, including tomorrow when Tyson and I talk about how to evaluate if an agency is right for you. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.


Up to 50% Of Potentially Converting Keywords Show No Volume in 3rd Party Tools

DAN, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO US?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Sorry, friend. But it just has to be this way.

For those who haven’t been playing along at home, I did a comparison study on using 3rd party tools for search volume data against native Google data. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest checking it out before continuing.

In the discussion that ensued, I got a great idea 💡on how to dive deeper into my comparison via looking at the terms that were EXCLUDED from each data source. Here is a link to Conrad’s thread.

The Test

This test uses the same data set as my previous post above.

Just as a quick reference:

  • I looked at pages that converted in Q4 2019 for a B2B SaaS client (calendar year 2019)
  • I gathered all the terms that drove at least one click to those converting pages from Google Search Console (2,187 terms)
  • I looked to see how many of these terms WERE NOT in the data sets of AHREFs, SEMrush & Keywordtool.io (“no volume” search terms)

I was going to include Moz’s Keyword Explorer in this test, but the 2,187 keywords were more than I was allowed in a list for a demo account ($179/mo tier). Have I mentioned I wish this tool was easier to get access to?

Big Yikes and Fun Surprises

Let’s just dive right into the data.

Can you guess the big yikes and the fun surprises?

Let’s break down the numbers:

AHREFs SEMrush Keywordtool.io
102 1459 22

SEMrush was missing approximately 67% of keywords that drove traffic to a page that converted in Q4!!!

On the flip side, Keywordtool.io only missed 22 keywords, which is an astonishing 1%.

Meanwhile, AHREFs only missed 102 terms for an incredibly respectable ~5%.

But What Does This Mean?

Well, first of all, it means that research is good because sometimes it can change your mind. For example, after my last piece, I was considering cancelling our Keywordtool.io subscription as we use it almost exclusively for search volume and less than the other tools. Def won’t be doing that now.

Second, we use SEMrush a lot for keyword discovery right now. Next week we are incorporating AHREFs’ API into our discovery pipeline 🙃

Third, I have a lot of ideas about how to better approach 3rd party keyword data. Expect more posts around this topic from me in the future.


Google Update February 2020: Background and Analysis

The first quarter of 2020 has been a turbulent time in the Google SERPs, with the search results being affected by both layout alterations and algorithm updates. The latest Google Update was first observed on the 7th and 8th of February 2020, and has led to SEOs, webmasters and Google search enthusiasts reporting huge changes in their rankings and traffic. Unlike the previous major Google Updates  – the February Update was not announced via Google’s official search liaison Twitter channel. Yet reports suggest that Google has definitely been twiddling the knobs on its search algorithm. Read on for background and analysis.


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Summary: Google Update February 2020

On Sunday, the 9th of February 2020, Barry Schwartz published an article on Search Engine RoundTable where he reported on “really big, maybe even massive” changes taking place in the Google search results. Over the weekend of 7th and 8th of February, reports emerged around the web of sites experiencing significant drops and spikes in their organic traffic.

Here are a few of the main points taken from Schwartz’ report and readers’ comments:

  • Update not officially confirmed by Google
  • Update affects many different niches, and websites with very different profiles – i.e. no clear pattern to websites impacted
  • Some sites losing and then gaining traffic – possible sign of Google testing
  • Some speculation, though considered unlikely, as to whether the fluctuations observed are connected to layout/HTML changes in the SERPs
  • Update clearly not affected everyone (yet), as some readers comment that they have not observed any change.

February Update Remains Unconfirmed

Since the Core Update in March 2019, it has been Google’s practice to announce (or even pre-announce, as it did in June 2019) major updates to its core algorithm via its Search Liaison Twitter account, run by Danny Sullivan. However, since this change in communication policy, introduced in an attempt to increase transparency and prevent some of the wild speculation around updates, there have still been instances of major fluctuation in the Google search results, providing strong evidence than an update has been released unannounced. One such example last year was the November 2019 Update, which was not pre-announced and only commented on by Google sometime after many SEOs had seen their rankings affected.

“Some have asked if we had an update to Google Search last week [in November]. We did, actually several updates, just as we have several updates in any given week on a regular basis.” – Google comments following the November Update.

The ranking changes being observed in February 2020 were also not-preannounced by Google. And as of writing, there has been no official statement from Google via Danny Sullivan or any other source. The somewhat delayed confirmation by Google in November 2019 also did not mention one specific Core Update, but referred to “several updates”. This could be an indication that, while Google is happy to confirm what it considers major algorithm changes, it continues to experiment and make alterations to its search algorithm, some of which clearly have a bigger impact on rankings than others. This unconfirmed update in February 2020 is likely a result of such experimentation.

SERP Turbulence in Q1 2020 – Layout changes, Featured Snippets and Core Updates

After the BERT Update in late 2019 was dubbed the biggest change to the Google search algorithm of the past five years, Google hasn’t been dragging its heels this year. Early 2020 has already seen a number of alterations to the Google SERPs – both affecting the way the algorithm evaluates pages and the way the ranked results are displayed to users. Here is a quick run-down of the biggest causes of SERP turbulence of the year so far.

January 13th – January 2020 Core Update

Google continued its tradition, established in 2019, of announcing major changes to its core algorithm via its Search Liaison account on Twitter. The roll-out of the January 2020 Core Update was followed by the usual commotion in the SEO community, with reports of large spikes and/or drops in traffic. There was no consensus regarding the precise impact of the update, with fluctuation observed in the health sector (as is often the case following Core Updates), and for dictionary sites.

January 13th – SERP Layout Changes and Favicons

On the same day as the January Core Update, Google announced that it was changing its SERP layout to include websites’ favicons and place the breadcrumbs – not the URL – above the meta description.

This apparently superficial alteration was a major change to the look of the SERPs, and it also coincided with a change in the way paid AdWords listing were displayed, now marked by a bold “Ad” in front of the web address.

January 23rd – Removal of Double Listing for Featured Snippet Results

The changes kept coming in January, with Danny Sullivan announcing that there would no longer be duplicated results for URLs that occupied the Featured Snippet box in “position zero”. Initially, the organic rankings for position zero URLs seemed to move to the top of page two of the search results, though this did not happen consistently, and Danny Sullivan clarified that this was not a deliberate feature of the change to Featured Snippets.

 January 24th: Favicon rollback and ongoing experimentation with SERP layout

The layout changes introduced earlier in the month were not universally well received, with some blowback in the SEO community regarding the attractiveness and usability of the new design. In particular, there was some criticism of the new-look AdWords results, which some said were now more difficult to distinguish from organic results. This visual history of Google AdWords describes it as a “blurring of ads and organic listings”.

Google’s response came in a tweet on 24th January that they had listened to feedback and would experiment with different layouts, and try out different placements of favicons. As of today (11th of February), testing is ongoing. Somtimes, the bold “Ad” is gone, with AdWords are marked by Ad in a green box. Sometimes, AdWords are indicated by the bold “Ad“. For organic results, the breadcrumbs are still above the snippet, but the favicons have been removed.

bouquet-example-serp

bouquet-example-serp

mardi-gras-example-serp

Google’s advice regarding the majority of its updates (with the exception of those that look at a specific aspect of a website like page speed), is to focus on high-quality content. Following the last several Core Updates, Google has repeatedly referred to its guidelines for webmasters. Rather than offer specific details on the nature of any particular update, this blogpost contains general best practice tips regarding website content, quality and expertise that webmasters should follow if they want to be rewarded by Google’s search algorithms.

These points, together with Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, are certainly vital reading for any SEO looking to understand how to build high-quality content. However, they don’t necessarily answer the question of how to respond to any specific update. At Searchmetrics, we believe that the first step to making correct decisions is gaining an understanding of what is happening. Our (long-read) guide to understanding Google Updates explains how to analyze the data around a Google Update, how to cut through the noise and how to avoid jumping to false conclusions. In any case, short-term, knee-jerk reactions are likely to bring, at best, short-term benefits, whereas a long-term strategy grounded in fundamental, data-driven principles is your pathway to sustainable success in Google search.


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TikTok: The next marketing platform for brands

TikTok, it’s the social media platform that’s taking the world by storm. Gen Z is all over it, and even millennials are joining in on the fun. Can brands be far behind? But what is TikTok, and is it lucrative enough for brands to include in their 2020 marketing plan?

We look at the growing popularity of the channel, what it means for brands, and how companies can maximize their TikTok marketing.

The rise of TikTok

TikTok is a mobile video app much like the now-defunct Vine, created by parent company ByteDance, a startup based in Beijing, China. Launched in 2016, the app currently boasts over 500 million active users and is popular in India, China, and the US.

Users create short, fun looping videos, from 15 seconds to a minute long that’s usually set to music available from the vast TikTok library. The app also offers effects like split screens and filters much like in Snapchat and Instagram. It also provides live streaming.

Alongside the videos that users can create, they can also remix songs and create playlists, in the same vein as Spotify. Like most other social platforms, there is a certain level of interaction between members on the app, such as liking, commenting, hashtagging, and sending hearts.

TikTok recently incorporated paid advertising, which has encouraged brands to join the app and promote themselves.

Why brands should join TikTok

The number of users on TikTok and the app’s potential to grow should be sufficient enough reason for brands with a mobile marketing strategy to join.

But there is reason to seriously consider whether or not it is worth joining the app. For one, the majority of TikTok users are Gen Z, with a few millennials thrown in for good measure.

If your target audience is Gen Z, TikTok may be the next platform to try while Instagram and Snapchat also cater to this demographic, TikTok is centered entirely on them. 

A presence on TikTok could help you boost the reach within this demographic with ease.

On the other hand, if you aren’t exclusively catering to Gen Z – though most marketing trends suggest you should, TikTok may be superfluous to your social media strategy. 

There is no point in stretching yourself thin if the other platforms are doing the job of improving your reach and conversions.

Additionally, take a look at how important video content is to your marketing strategy. Ask yourself, are you creating videos for your channels regularly? If yes, then TikTok could be a good fit.

You also need to ascertain whether your niche will be well represented on TikTok since the app is very entertainment-focused and takes a whimsical approach to content.

Can you mimic that tone in your content and will it be appropriate for your audience? If you answered, “yes” to those questions, then you should be joining TikTok.

How to market a brand on TikTok

Now that you’ve decided that TikTok is the platform for you and will help you reach your target audience of under-30s, how do you market your brand on the app?

Because of how new the app is as compared to the popular platforms of today, it’s difficult to define a TikTok strategy. However, there are a few methods of engagement that you can use on the platform that we will outline below.

1. Behind the scenes

TikTok is a great channel to showcase life behind the scenes, take your followers through an intimate look at the workings of your organization.

A number of entertainment and news brands are making TikTok videos of their brainstorming sessions or inside writers’ rooms.

You can show how a product is conceived and goes through the stages of production until it’s finally ready to be launched for customers.

Note: You may want to consider how you’d want to do this without giving away crucial or business-sensitive information.

But remember, this is not the place to be overly sales-y as we have mentioned earlier, TikTok is about entertainment. If you can make this content fun and quirky, then it can earn you views and followers on TikTok. If you can’t accomplish this, don’t post content on the app.

2. User collaborations

A handful of TikTok users consistently create such entertaining and unique content, that they have already earned millions of followers. These creators are akin to the influencers on Instagram and Snapchat, and it is worth looking into setting up collaborations with these individuals.

Brands are still considered interlopers on TikTok, which is why creative individuals we have mentioned are the real draw.

Instead of trying to appropriate the platform with content that may not be right for the audience, partner up with creators who already know the lay of the land to make promo videos.

3. Duets

Another type of collaborative content that brands can create on TikTok is duets. These are videos where users can add a new video to an existing piece of content. The final product looks like a split-screen video. If executed well, the result can be incredibly entertaining.

Creating a video that can easily be spliced into another is a great way to boost engagement on the app and improve follower numbers.

4. Hashtag challenges

By far the most popular way to engage users on TikTok and to go viral is – to join or issue hashtag challenges. 

These challenges are social media contests usually based on a particular topic or subject, and users are encouraged to send in responses to the challenge as quickly as possible.

TikTok hashtag challenges draw in millions of users and views—if you have a creative enough challenge to share, you can see some serious engagement. 

5. Paid advertising

TikTok advertising is still a new concept but some major brands like Nike and Disney have already managed to create successful ad campaigns on the platform.

However, TikTok advertising may not be for everyone, ad campaigns need businesses to spend at least $500, and the cost of a campaign could number in the hundreds of thousands.

One can see why only mega brands have tried it, making it thus far for smaller businesses, native videos, and challenges that may be the way to go.

If your company does have the budget for a TikTok ad campaign, you will need to create a TikTok Ads account.

Once you have been verified, you can set the parameters for your ad, similar to how one would create a Facebook Ad campaign.

6. Reaction videos

Similar to duets, TikTok’s reaction videos are another way to create interactive and engaging content. These videos prompt reactions from people, which they can share via video.

Unlike most other platforms that only give users the option of leaving comments or likes as reactions to posts, TikTok allows users to create a reaction video that can be embedded in the original content.

Creating content that will evoke reactions strong enough for users to leave a reaction video is a good way to boost your follower numbers.

7. Branded stickers

Snapchat has had branded stickers for a while, and TikTok recently released the ability to create your own stickers, alongside importing them from Giphy.

Branded stickers, like the brand emojis on Twitter, can improve your brand awareness on the app. They don’t need to be elaborate, just fun.

However, try to keep the stickers as relevant to the popular TikTok hashtags as possible to increase the possibility of them being used.

Summing up

TikTok is new and exciting but it may not be for everyone. With a large Gen Z following and their quirky video output, TikTok is as niche as a social platform can get.

Brands need to ask themselves whether this is the audience they need to reach and whether they can commit to creating the kind of content that is popular on the app. Because TikTok is gaining popularity every day and it’s targeting the crowd that knows what is on-trend before anyone else knows it. TikTok could be the channel that sends your marketing strategy through the stratosphere. But it may be too much hard work for your team right now so you might want to keep it on your mind for the near future.  

Look at the history of the app and its niche, as well as the content channels available to brands, and make a decision about whether it is right for you or not.

Ronita Mohan is a content marketer at the online infographic and design platform, Venngage.

The post TikTok: The next marketing platform for brands appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide

SEO copywriting is both a key element and a big challenge in every SEO strategy. As search engines crawl web pages, the content of your website should be fine-tuned to the – ever-changing – algorithms of search engines. In addition to that, you should write clearly so that your audience both enjoys and understands your website. After all, we know that readability ranks.

This complete guide to SEO copywriting takes you through the process of keyword research as well as the 3 stages of the writing process. It will also help you write the readable and SEO-friendly articles your website needs! And last, but not least, we’ll give you some insights into writing content for international sites, and the challenges that come along with that.

This guide to SEO writing covers:

SEO copywriting and holistic SEO

At Yoast, we practice what we call ‘holistic SEO’. This means that our primary goal should be to build and maintain THE BEST possible website. Ranking in Google will come automatically if your website is of extremely high quality. The reason for that: Google wants to serve its customers what they want. Their mission is: to index all the world’s information and make it universally accessible. In addition to this, Google, of course, wants to make money, but they’ll have to show people results they are looking for – otherwise, people stop using Google. So, we can agree Google wants to show people the best results. If your website is the best in your niche market, Google wants to rank it high up in the results.

Holistic SEO

Holistic SEO is an interdisciplinary marketing strategy aimed at making the best website in a specific niche market. In order to do so, the technical design of your website should be excellent, the UX of your website flawless and all security aspects covered. Most important, however, is that the content of your website should be well-written and targeted at the audience your website serves. This approach requires rather advanced SEO writing skills.

Write the best copy!

To make sure your website is the best in your sector, the text on your websites should be nice and easy to read. Without making any concessions to the quality of your content, you should tweak and fine-tune your text to the specific demands of search engines. The process of SEO copywriting is very much like the process of writing anything else, so it’s hard work and inevitably some of us have more writing talent than others. Unfortunately, we can’t all be Ernest Hemingway, but with a little training, anyone should be able to write better SEO copy.

Read more: 5 tips to write readable blog posts! »

Before writing: always start with keyword research

The very first step of SEO copywriting has little to do with writing. First, you need to decide what you’re going to write about. Which topics do you want to be found for? You’ll need to use the keywords you want to rank for in your copy, so the first step of SEO copywriting is keyword research. Keyword research is what you do in order to list the keywords and keyphrases which you want to rank for.

Proper keyword research consists of these three steps:

1. Formulate a mission statement

Before starting the actual keyword research, you should think about your mission statement. This is what makes you stand out from the crowd. While formulating your mission statement, you should consider questions like: who are you and what is your blog about? What makes it unique? Take your time to formulate and write down your mission statement. For more information on creating mission statements, read our post about the mission of your website.

2. Make a list of relevant keywords

Once you have formulated a clear mission statement, you can start making a list of all the search terms (keywords) you want your website to be found for. Once your mission is clear, you should have little trouble coming up with search terms that apply to your niche market and your unique selling points. These will be the keywords you want to be found for.

In order to come up with good terms, you really have to get inside the heads of your audience. How are they most likely to find you? What would they search for on Google? At the end of your keyword research, you should have a list of all the relevant search terms people might use. Also, think of combinations and variations of these terms. There are a few tools that can make keyword research easier. Read our post about keyword research tools and the post about how to choose your perfect focus keyword for more practical tips.

Create an overview

Eventually, you should have a useful overview, which will be a great help in your SEO copywriting process. It helps to create a table of your keywords to summarize the information. Try to come up with combinations of keywords as well, then order the keywords by some kind of priority. Which of these keywords are particularly important to rank for and closest to your mission statement, and which ones less so? When choosing which keywords to tackle first, you should also consider how likely it is that your pages will rank for that specific keyword. In many cases, focusing on less popular and less competitive keywords can be a good strategy at first. Read our posts about why you should focus on long-tail keywords if you would like to know more about the importance of less competitive keywords.

3. Look at search intent

SEO strategies should, nowadays, largely revolve around answering the questions people have. Whenever someone enters a search query into a search engine, they are on a quest for something. There are 4 kinds of intent searchers can have:

  • Informational intent: to find information on a specific topic.
  • Navigational intent: to access a specific website by entering the term in a search engine.
  • Commercial intent: to buy something sometime soon and are doing research before making a purchase.
  • Transactional intent: to buy something after doing their commercial intent searches.

In your keyword research, you need to find out which kinds of intent apply to your keywords and try to match these search intents. Which intent you’re targetting should also affect your writing style, we’ll go into that later in this guide.

4. Construct SEO landing pages

The final step of keyword research is to create awesome landing pages for the keywords you want to be found for. A landing page is a page that is tailored to draw in visitors who found your blog through a specific keyword. This could be a dedicated page or a blog post optimized for a specific keyword. Do make sure your visitors can navigate your blog from every landing page. And make sure you have a landing page for every relevant keyword you come up with.

Your keyword research will give you a good idea of what to blog about. Then, you’ll have to unlock content around a specific word. A word is not a topic though. Next to a keyword (or keyphrase), you will need an angle, a specific story around that keyword. Read our tips on how to come up with ideas for your blog if you would like to know more.

Three phases of writing an article

Once you’ve decided upon a topic or a story you want to write, the actual SEO copywriting begins! The SEO writing process consists of three stages: preparing, writing and correcting (or editing).

Phase 1 of the writing process: Preparing your text

The first phase of the actual SEO copywriting process is planning your piece. Before you put pen to paper (or fingers on the keyboard), take some time and think about what you’re going to write. You’ll have a topic in mind, by now, but before you start writing, you should have clear answers to the following questions as well:

  1. What’s the purpose of your article? Why are you writing? What do you want to achieve?
  2. What will be the main message of your post? What’s the key question you want to answer?
  3. Who is your audience? What are they looking for?
  4. What information do you need to write your piece?
  5. In what order will you present your information? What will be the structure of your article?

In our post about preparing a blog post, you can read all about how to come up with proper and clear answers to these questions.

The purpose of your text and search intent

The first question in the list is: what’s the purpose of your article. It’s important to think about that beforehand, because it affects how you should write your article. Do you want to inform users? Amuse them? Or persuade them to do something on your site? The preparation step is also when you should consider your visitor’s intent. If your keyword research clearly demonstrated that intent behind a certain query is informational, and you want to write a persuasive, sales-focused page for that keyword, that’s not a great match. Of course, if you’ve given your keyword strategy some thought, this won’t be a problem.

In any case, you need to think about your user’s intent before you start writing, simply because an informative text is written differently from a persuasive text. The language you’ll use when writing an informative text should be clear and focused, whereas persuasive language will usually be very positive, with more focus on the reader. And amusing texts tend to use more informal language, wordplay or exaggerations.

Keep reading: Why the purpose of your text is important for SEO »

Text structure

An important element of planning your article is setting up its structure. The structure of the text on your site is vital for SEO copywriting. If your content has a clear structure, you have a better chance of ranking well in Google.

It really pays off to think about the structure of your piece before you begin. Because the structure is the skeleton of your text: it will help the reader grasp the main points of the article.

Posts and pages with a clear structure will also result in higher conversions on your website. You have a better chance that your visitors will buy your products or return to your website if they understand your message properly. For practical tips on how to set up the structure of a piece of writing, you should read creating a clear blogpost structure.

Phase 2 of the writing process: Writing your text

Now you can start the actual SEO writing process! This only takes about 20% of the total time you spend on your article.

Just write!

The most important tip for this phase of SEO copywriting is to just write. People often have trouble coming up with the first sentence (or the first paragraph for that matter). But, at this stage, you can skip writing that first paragraph altogether. Just put down a couple of words referring to the content that your first paragraph should contain and start writing the second paragraph. Beginnings and endings are easier to write once you’ve fleshed out the main body of your post.

If a sentence isn’t grammatically correct or sounds awkward, just keep going and don’t worry about it just yet. You can rewrite these things in the next phase, which is editing. In the writing phase, it is important to stay in the flow of writing.

Stick to the structure of your text

While writing, use the structure you created in the preparation phase as an outline and write the paragraphs according to that plan. Make sure you write clear paragraphs. Start each paragraph with the most important sentence, then explain or elaborate on it. Your readers will be able to grasp the most important content from your article, by just reading the first sentences of your paragraphs.

Make sure your text is readable

Reading from a screen is hard, so if you want your readers to read your entire blog post, you need to make it easy to read. Posts that are nice and easy to read will result in more returning visitors and a higher conversion rate. Most importantly, make sure your text is pitched right for the audience you’re writing for.

To read more tips on writing readable texts, read our post with tips on how to make blog posts more readable and our post with tips on how to improve the typography of your blog. These tips will really help you fine-tune your SEO copywriting process.

A few ways to improve your writing style

Some people are natural writers and don’t need any tips for their SEO copywriting – they are able to write an attractive, fun, readable article in a few minutes. Others lack that skill. But, while attractive writing is a matter of talent, practice surely helps! Let’s look at some tips to improve your writing style, as well as two writing styles to experiment with.

Tip: Read a lot!

If you want to develop an attractive writing style, it really helps to read a lot. Reading (novels, blogs, magazines, whatever) will inspire you to write your own awesome articles. It will teach you how other people form their sentences and build their paragraphs. It teaches you how to use humor and how to play with language. Plus, it allows you to develop a gut feeling about what makes a nicely readable article. If you want more tips on how to develop your writing style, read our blog post about how to achieve an attractive writing style.

The inverted pyramid style

A well-known writing style in journalism, the inverted pyramid basically means you put your most important information upfront. You don’t bury your key point halfway down the third paragraph, but tell the complete story in the first paragraph. Of course, you can elaborate in the following paragraphs. But you get your main message across right away. This writing style holds up pretty well for some types of articles. It especially comes in handy now that web content is increasingly used to answer every type of question a searcher might have.

Read on: Writing content with the inverted pyramid style »

Storytelling

Everyone loves a good story, and most people can probably also tell a good story -especially from personal experience. Great news: you can use the power of stories in your SEO copy! Whether it’s in blog posts or on product pages, including a (relevant) story will go a long way in catching your reader’s interest. Stories can provide more clarity and could even help your readers remember you more easily.

Keep on reading: What is storytelling and why should you use it? »

Take a break every now and then

SEO copywriting can be a fairly intense process. If you write for long periods of time, you’ll find that concentrating becomes harder. The exact time span, however, will be different for every individual. If you find that your mind has started to wander, that’ll be the time to take a break.

Personally speaking, I’m not able to write for more than 20 minutes at a time. But to be honest, my attention span is quite short. At that point, I get up to take a walk, look at my Facebook timeline or make a cup of tea. Even a minute-long break can be enough to return to your writing with a fresh and renewed level of concentration and creativity.

Phase 3 of the SEO writing process: Editing your text

Once you’ve finished writing your piece, you’ll have the first draft of your article. This first draft is the thing you will improve upon in the final phase of writing. The final step will still take quite a lot of time.

The editing phase is the phase of the SEO copywriting process in which you should ‘kill your darlings’. Don’t be afraid to throw stuff out. You should read and re-read and re-re-read your post and correct any awkward sentences, unclear phrasing, and jumbled paragraph structures. Here are five steps to take in order to thoroughly edit your article.

Step 1: Read slowly (and out loud)

You can start this phase by reading your piece slowly (and even out loud, this can really help). Each sentence should be grammatically correct and the spelling must be flawless. You need to be very critical of your own work.

Step 2: Focus on sentences

Start by making sure each and every sentence is correct. Focus on the spelling of words and rephrase awkward formulations. Make sure sentences are grammatically correct and check for readability: make sure your sentences aren’t too long.

Step 3: Focus on paragraphs

If all sentences in one paragraph are approved, look at the structure within a paragraph, focusing on that first sentence. Does that first core sentence really capture the thing you wanted to say in that specific paragraph? Are the sentences within a paragraph presented in a logical order? Do you use transition words in order to make the connection between sentences clear?

Step 4: Check text structure

Check whether the structure between paragraphs is clear. Are the topics in your article presented in a logical order, or do you need to make some changes?

You should also check your headings and subheadings. Make sure your focus keyword is in one of those headings and subheadings. But equally important, make sure the headings help your readers to grasp the structure of your text. In the article on how to use headings on your site, we explain how to use them.

Step 5: Ask for feedback

The very final step in your SEO copywriting process is getting feedback. After editing your text, you should ask people for feedback. At Yoast, all the posts we write are read by at least two of our colleagues before we publish them. Feedback allows for the perspective of someone other than the writer and almost always leads to vast improvements in the post.

It would also be useful to let someone from your audience proofread your post to test whether the message is communicated properly. Also, feedback from someone with professional writing and grammar skills, such as an editor, will help you improve your blog post even further.

Use Yoast SEO

While editing your text, you will find our Yoast SEO plugin really useful for SEO copywriting. Because it helps to optimize your text for search engines and to make your text more readable. For a detailed overview of how to use Yoast SEO when optimizing your content, you should read our post about the content analysis feature in Yoast SEO.

SEO copywriting for international sites

Writing well is hard, writing well in multiple languages is even harder! If you own websites for multiple regions and languages you know this is true. Translating content can be a tricky business, because of the phenomenon of false friends in different languages. False friends means that words look alike in two different languages, but actually mean something different.

Creating content for your multilingual sites is not easy. It’s doable though, and we think there are 3 ways to go about this:

  • translate the content;
  • create new content for that market ;
  • transcreate content: a combination of both.

Getting translations probably is the easiest. But it’s also the most tricky one. Are you sure your translation sends the same message and has the same tone of voice as your original article? That’s hard to judge if you’re not a native speaker. Therefore: always have a native speaker check the copy. At least.

Creating new content by your local team is the safest choice, with probably the highest quality result. However, it is very time consuming and you’re not taking full advantage of the content that’s already there.

Therefore we’d advise to “transcreate”: take what you already have as a basis, but rework it so it fits the local target group. Make sure native speakers that know the local market create this content. If you’d like to know more about this, read my article on creating great copy in multiple languages.

Conclusion: SEO copywriting is a process

SEO copywriting works best when you follow a defined process and make sure your text is as good as possible. While not everyone is a natural writer, SEO writing is something everyone can get better at with practice.

Read more: The ultimate guide to content SEO »

The post SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide appeared first on Yoast.


SEO Agency Week: The Products and Engagement Strategies Agencies Provide – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: SEO agencies offer plenty of services to get your website operating at a competitive level with other brands, but determining which services you need to accomplish those goals can be overwhelming and time consuming. Join host Ben as he continues Agency Week with Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson Stockton, discussing the types of services and engagements agencies offer and useful strategies to determine what services your organization needs to be successful.

Summary

  • How to determine the services that are right for your organization begin with analyzing what gaps exist in your business, whether you need more expertise to fill knowledge gaps or adding consultants to increase bandwidth and production.
  • Another way to determine what services you need is to perform an audit of your website that will provide more insight to how your site is performing, how search engines are responding to it, etc.
  • When identifying opportunities from an audit, it’s best to break things down to a granular level to determine what agency services can achieve your greater goals.
  • For SEO agencies it takes weeks and months to truly understand and evaluate a client’s scaled website. Consider how an agency applies its solutions to problems you’re trying to solve as you consider hiring an agency.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                 Welcome to Agency Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’re publishing an episode every day covering what you need to know to master the relationship between agencies and in house SEOs. Joining us for agency week is Tyson Stockton, who’s the Director of Services at Searchmetrics. Today, we’re going to continue Agency Week by talking about what are the projects and types of engagements you can expect from your agency providers. Okay, here’s the second installment of Agency Week with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ director of services. Tyson, welcome back to Agency Week.

Tyson:              Thanks, Ben. Let’s keep it going.

Ben:                 Glad to have you here. Yesterday we talked about the different types of agencies and really there’s a couple of ways that you could think about what are the types of agencies, what’s the size of the agency, what’s their area of focus, are they specializing in SEO, are they digital marketer, and also what are the services that they’re going to provide to you. We’re going to double click into talking more about the products and services that you can expect from agency providers today. There’s backlinking. There’s technical SEO. There’s content audits. Help me think about what you can expect and should be asking an agency to provide.

Tyson:              I think that question gets down to really at the core of like what your need is, and I think that’s something that … I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily just overlooked, but I think the focus a lot of people think about is like “I want to get to here, so therefore I need someone to help me get there.” But I think a better way to start is to reflecting more internally onto your own team and your own business. The first piece that I always recommend looking at and being very, very honest about this is what are the current gaps. Are you dealing with expertise and you need specific knowledge set, or do you need bandwidth and you need more actual people that are shipping and getting stuff live to site?

Tyson:              I think those are the two most common areas, and those are the most critical pieces to have like a really strong pulse on because that’s how you’re going to have like the most successful and most beneficial interaction and engagement with a partner.

Ben:                 What’s the thought process and how do you think about figuring out if you need a strategy focused SEO agency, if you need an operational SEO agency? There are some agencies that focus on technical optimization, content optimization. How do you go through the self-auditing process to figure out which type of vendor and service is right for you?

Tyson:              Say like you’re a company and you’re, “Hey, I know everything that needs to be done. I need to just have whether it’s link building, content, et cetera.” It’s like that would be someone that I would say is a little bit farther along guessing or making an assumption to. It’s going to be someone or a team that has a stronger grasp around what needs to be done for SEO. Their knowledge in SEO is probably already going to be a bit higher, and then they’re looking to fill in specific skillsets and targeting, “Hey, this agency’s great at X, Y and Z. Therefore, they’re going to be a good fit.”

Tyson:              The other side of it too and it’s something that that does happen is sometimes you have a missing piece within your SEO team or even some cases like maybe you just have one SEO person and it’s like what else do they need to be successful? I think that’s where it gets a little … Gets more of the gray area because then you could be looking at an array of is it more of like an SEO analyst skillset that I’m looking for an agency to bring in the resource or support on? Am I looking for someone that’s more at a higher, maybe a strategic level where they’re giving me the strategy and the overall direction that I should be moving in? That is also going to depict a different type of engagement depending on where and what type of SEO work is needed to be done.

Ben:                 As you think of making this decision, obviously there’s this self-audit and you have to evaluate what capabilities you have on your team, are there any sources of data that you can look at to figure out whether you have a content problem, a linking problem, a technical problem that an agency can help you solve?

Tyson:              I mean, one other kind of approach that I think a lot of companies will use and we even do this sometimes with our clients is, is we’ll start out with having like a more thorough audit of the site, which is ranging from technical, SEO, content, site performance. It’s really doing like a thorough analysis of the entire website, how it’s functioning, how search engines are responding to it. Then that is essentially putting the foundation of your roadmap that then the partnership is going to be working towards. That’s assuming, “Hey, I don’t know what needs to be done. I just need to grow traffic. How do I do that?”

Tyson:              Then other companies, maybe they’ve already been able to go through that and they have a more seasoned SEO on the team or several seasoned SEOs on the team that are able to identify the works and the needs that need to be done. But I’d say regardless if you’re having the agency come in to have those identification of like these are the big rocks that are going to drive the biggest change in performance, or if you’re doing that internally, that has to be the foundation piece that then is going to lead and depict what your roadmap and what your initiatives are.

Ben:                 They all too often offered SEO audit, something that I think all agencies generally start with, agencies and consultants. Either they’re sending you spam emails and saying they’re going to get you some backlinks, or they’re saying, hey, we will look at your site. When you are going through the SEO audit process and agencies are starting to come up with suggestions, how do you figure out what is actually true and what’s just BS in a way for them to add additional dollars and resources onto their quotes?

Tyson:              That’s a very tough challenge for businesses because oftentimes when companies are bringing in these resources, they might not have the expertise on the team to actually determine are they blowing hot air at me or…

Ben:                 It’s like bringing your car to the mechanic. What do you mean I need new brakes? I just got them replaced six months ago. True story. It just happened to me.

Tyson:              Yeah. I think that’s in the previous episode, I said too, it’s like you oftentimes get these polarizing opinions of agencies and that to me is a key reason for it. I mean, really I would say the two reasons is that element, which you do run into, and then also the other element is not scoping and kind of defining what the engagement or the partnership’s objectives and roadmap is. But those are the two areas that I feel like oftentimes creates this frustration. I think you could say the soft skill size of having an agency that has a good reputation and personal referrals from other companies that they’ve done business with and you have kind of like that soft side almost like background check, the same thing that you do if you’re about to hire someone to join your team.

Tyson:              But then there’s also like the piece of like digging into the specifics during the process. I think that’s also the area with the audits because audits you have such a range of like just because two agencies do an SEO audit, there’s no guarantees that what you’re going to get back is going to be even close to being on the same level. Having the line of sight of what does the end result look like, what am I going to get back from that, and then what level of granularity is it going to be. A perfect example of this, a lot of times people are going to say, “Hey, you have an opportunity in site speed. You have bad site speed or site performance. You need to improve that to improve your rankings.” Excellent. That is a massive-

Ben:                 Excellent. You could say that about every website, but go on.

Tyson:              It’s something like that. Then you’re going back to your development team and just saying, “Improve site performance.” It’s like I guess my recommendation or what I would advocate for is digging into those specifics and what level of granularity are we going to get to. Are we going to break down all the individual pieces within site performance and then have a priority of how those are impacting SEO and then what individual tasks go within each of those, or are we just going to be leaving it at, “Hey, you have a problem in site performance?”

Ben:                 I think in general when you think about the audit, A, some of the conclusions might be useful, some of them might be padding and fluff. What to me is useful when you’re going through the audit is to understand the thought process that an agency goes through and understand how you’re going to be able to communicate. Because at the end of the day, the agency partners are really going to be advising you on things that most likely you should be doing to improve your performance or you should be giving the green light on what the strategy is. Figuring out what the thought process is, how do they communicate, do you just bottom line understand what they say and what the rationale is?

Ben:                 That ends up being to me the most valuable part of the audit is here’s how you would work together and the level of detail that you’re going to go into and what the working relationship would look like, not necessarily, “I spent two hours looking at your site and now I know the whole thing.” It takes weeks and months to be able to understand and truly evaluate a scaled website. You should be thinking about how the agency is approaching the problem you’re trying to solve more than do they have the right answer.

Tyson:              That’s a huge piece. I mean, breaking out that last part into a couple of additional items, I would have one area being what’s the communication plan, so cadence, stakeholders, objectives of those individual tracks, those are all things that I want to have fleshed out from day one, and then also ownership of it. I think this is something that’s really important is tying owners to the work that’s being done, not just on the agency side, but also on the internal side. Who’s going to be informed, consulted on, responsible, accountable, and having that alignment at the start of the project or the engagement?

Tyson:              My experiences also leads to the best end results because that’s where things can also like kind of fall off the rails and your communication schedule, like prioritization of initiatives and strategy, that’s essentially going to be the framework that’s going to help keep things going the right direction.

Ben:                 Very rarely is there anything called an SEO whisperer. Very rarely can somebody just look at your site for a few hours and say, “This is what’s going to make the biggest change and start driving traffic that you didn’t know existed.” Most of the time it’s about small ongoing optimization. The more that you’re able to understand whether you can communicate effectively with an agency, understand what they’re promising, the timeline and how they’re going to deliver, the more successful that relationship’s going to be. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ Director of Services. We’d love to continue this conversation with you.

Ben:                 If you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is Tyson_Stockton. Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, just head over to voicesofsearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions, or you could even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is VoicesOfSearch on Twitter and my personal handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P.

Ben:                 If you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, in addition to the third part of my conversation with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ Director of Services, when we talk about whether you need an agency or not, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week. Hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.


How to Structure Your Account for Smart Bidding Success

Yay, You’ve Picked An Automated Bidding Strategy

And the client is on board to test! But before hitting start on your campaign experiment, ask yourself if your account is structured for success.

Automated bidding strategies are more sophisticated than ever, whether you are managing your campaigns directly from the search engines or using a third-party bid management tool such as Kenshoo.

Benefits of automated bidding include multi-day bid changes, aligning your bid strategy to business objectives and more (read here about why you should be leveraging smart bidding to hit your business goals). Additionally, while the algorithm is determining the right bid based on user intent signals from across the web, account managers have more time to focus on overarching strategy, ad copy, and landing page testing and betas to leverage. All of these enable us to get ahead of the competition and save clients money.

pasted image 0 41

Smart Bidding uses signals combined, per auction. All signals are measured and optimized per auction and query, including thousands of signals exclusive to Smart Bidding (Source: Google)

While these benefits sound great, advertisers should first confirm their accounts are set up in alignment with business objectives to deliver concise results and maximize performance efficiencies for clients.

Doing this legwork before starting will allow managers to continuously test and optimize bid strategies rather than seeing muddled results that might prevent future automated bidding tests from moving forward. At Seer, we always recommend testing into new campaign structures and bidding strategies so we can measure the value of these efforts and return for clients.

To improve machine learning, surpass clients’ business objectives and have more time for strategic planning, ask yourself the questions below and follow our recommendations for account structure alignment.

Account Structure Considerations

Is targeting (keyword, audience or location) with separate business goals broken out into their own campaigns?

By structuring your campaigns by objectives, you can easily align each campaign with the right bidding strategy to help achieve your goals. Use cases might be:

  • Targeting with different purchase intent (brand versus non-brand)
  • Varying lifetime value by product/service or higher competition for certain business offerings.

For example, a client has products available for sale on their website where they have revenue-based goals, and they also want to leverage keyword targeting to drive lead form submissions at a target acquisition cost. By breaking the keyword targeting into separate campaigns, you can easily pick the appropriate bid strategies to achieve competing objectives. Remember to keep each bidding test simple and focused on one KPI for more conclusive results.

Does my campaign have enough data?

First off, if you do not have conversion tracking set up for your account, set it up before launching smart bidding so the machine has something to learn and optimize off of. If you cannot set up conversion tracking, limit your attention to the Maximize Clicks and Maximize Impression Share strategies where conversions and/or revenue are not a prerequisite.

When testing performance-based smart bidding strategies, more conversion data means greater confidence and faster results. If you are only testing certain campaigns to start, then choose the campaign with the highest volume that you’re comfortable experimenting with. There are also conversion minimums for certain bid strategies, such as Target CPA and Target ROAS, so the algorithm can make bidding decisions to hit your efficiency targets and to decrease the initial learning period.

For example, because of the additional consideration of revenue in the Target ROAS strategy, Google recommends at least 30 conversions in the past 30 days. See the chart from Google below to see how conversion volume can impact both CPA variance and duration of the learning timeframe:

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(Source: Google)

When thinking about the data being fed into smart bidding strategies, search managers should use Non-Last Click attribution to assign credit to all touchpoints that occur on the Search Network, and whenever possible use Data-Driven attribution (note, there are minimum data thresholds). The more robust attribution data will help the machine behind the bidding understand the importance of all targeting as it has a more holistic view of a user’s search journey to conversion.

It’s also important to ensure all audiences are layered onto campaigns that Smart Bidding doesn’t automatically use (RLSA, Customer Match, Similar) to increase the number of signals that the machine can leverage to determine intent and use for bid optimization. RLSA audiences should be built out based on pages visited and actions taken on-site, but with Smart Bidding, you do not need to segment by list duration.

Are my campaigns limited by budget?

Smart bidding performs best when campaigns are not limited by budget. Limited budgets can prevent ads from showing throughout the day—when there might be better performance—and restrict the amount of data the machine has to learn and optimize from. If the campaign you want to test is limited by budget, consider reallocating shared budgets from other campaigns or pausing underperforming targeting in order to increase budgets to 20-30% higher than daily spend to fully fund campaigns you are testing.

Account managers should limit the number of changes they make to campaigns once smart bidding has launched since updates to budgets or targeting will impact the learning phase and can cause performance fluctuation.

Thinking through campaign budgets and reallocating in advance of launching a test will streamline the testing time frame and maximize the auction data the algorithm is optimizing bids off of.

Are there campaigns with shared location targeting and budgets that can be consolidated?

If you have an account that is still using the SKAG (single-keyword-ad-group) structure, you should consider simplifying and consolidating your campaigns and ad groups. Due to the advanced machine learning using numerous intent signals (location, time of day, audience, device and more), the algorithm is not focused on match types and is instead focused on user intent. And with the rollout of close variants in 2019 to phrase and broad match modifier keywords, account managers no longer have to build out exhaustive keyword lists to capture every misspelling, plural or synonym variation.

Advertisers should instead focus on simplifying their ad groups by keyword theme to maintain relevance (and quality scores) for ad copy and landing page testing. Match types and same-meaning keywords can be consolidated within an ad group theme to increase the volume of data, which will also improve the speed and confidence of learning for smart bidding strategies. Another added bonus is that ad managers will have more data available at a faster rate for ad and landing page testing results, so that while the algorithm is determining the right bid for the right user we are also serving the right messaging.

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Google recommends giving the system as much data as possible when setting up campaign structure (image from Google)

While this may be hard to digest for old school PPC experts, at Seer we too have been using the robust SKAG approach for years as a “best practice” to improve quality scores and to control which search queries ads are shown for. While we are starting to move away from these historical “best practices”, we always test into new account structures and automated bidding so we can determine the value of these efforts and maximize return for clients. Learn more about how we are testing into consolidated account structures.

If you don’t have the hours needed to first complete a consolidated match type and close variant restructure, there are other options available. In both Google Ads Manager and third-party tools such as Kenshoo, account managers are able to group campaigns under a shared portfolio bid strategy (previously referred to as “flexible bid strategies” on Google). Seer recommends this tactic as long as the campaigns have the same business objective.

Are there account expansion opportunities?

If you are in a scenario where you have an excess budget with your current targeting and are worried about becoming ‘too efficient’ with automated bidding, consider testing Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) if not currently utilized. DSA determines which searches to show ads for based on your client’s website, and customizes the ad copy and landing page based on what people are searching for.

With ~15% of daily searches on Google considered new, DSA can help you reach customers that you are not currently reaching only with keyword-based campaigns. Even if you’re not looking to expand current campaign targeting, DSA can help identify new search queries related to your business and related conversion data, to ensure your targeting is evolving as the way users search changes over time. For indexed websites, account managers can create a catch-all DSA campaign to capture any additional traffic your campaigns might be missing and measure incremental results. If you want to keep reporting or budgets consolidated within product or category campaigns, then there is now the option to create a new DSA ad group within your keyword-based campaigns.

DSA and smart bidding strategies are a natural fit because the algorithm is able to match a user’s query to the most relevant site and ad content while also determining the right bid based on their intent. If your client wants to maintain control over ad messaging and landing page destinations, RSAs (Responsive Search Ads) can similarly leverage machine learning to match the right message to the right user at the right bid.

Takeaways

While smart bidding results are exciting—one Seer Max Conversion experiment drove 94.44% more conversions with 17.38% less spend compared to it’s Manual CPC counterpart—before launching headfirst into your automated bid strategy tests, consider your account structure and any optimizations you should make in advance.

Bidding algorithms can only work with the data we’re providing, and advertisers should follow Google’s recommended best practices to maximize performance efficiencies and to set up tests for success.

And remember: automated bidding does not mean set it and forget it. We recommend testing into automated bidding—and to keep testing— to hit and surpass clients’ performance targets.

Think you might need the guidance of a data expert? At Seer, our PPC auditors can evaluate Google’s smart bidding features on your account to make sure you’re getting the most out of every ad dollar. Give us a shout to see if a PPC Efficiency Audit can help you find the best bidding strategy for your account and identify efficiencies to take your account to the next level.


How to Use APIs in Screaming Frog

Using APIs in Screaming Frog

Anyone that is making data-driven decisions is typically looking at more than one data source. Data gives us the power to tell stories, but nobody likes an incomplete story. Luckily, for us digital marketers, Screaming Frog comes equipped with APIs from popular tools to help you cut down on collecting data sources from various tools to compile into one place. Whether you are joining data in Power BI, Tableau, Google Sheets, Excel, or any other tool, these APIs in Screaming Frog will help you be more efficient with your time.

What is an ‘API’?

Before explaining how to use the APIs in Screaming Frog, you should know what an API is.

An ‘API’ (Application Programming Interface) is defined as a set of functions or procedures allowing the creation of applications that access the data or features of an operating system, application or other service.

APIs Available in Screaming Frog

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • PageSpeed Insights
  • Majestic
  • Ahrefs
  • Moz

Once you have figured out how to use one API in Screaming Frog, you’ve figured out how to use them all. To help, I am going to share how to use my 2 favorite APIs available in Screaming Frog – Ahrefs and Google Analytics.


Important Note: Before using this API you have to have a subscription to the tool.

Step 1: Choosing the API

Navigate to “Configuration” > “API Access:\” > “Ahrefs”

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Step 2: Generate an API Access Token

Once you click “Ahrefs” from the previous step you will be directed to the screen below. Simply click on the “generate an API access token” and log in to Ahrefs to get access!

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Step 3: Copy Your Access Token & Connect

When you complete Step 2, you will be directed to Ahrefs to login and get your access token. Once you have it, paste it into Screaming Frog.

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Step 4: Choose Your Metrics

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Step 5: Start Your Crawl!

Once you’ve completed steps 1-4 you can start your crawl with the extra data coming right in through Screaming Frog, ready for you to export.

Step 1: Choosing the API

Navigate to “Configuration” > “API Access:\” > “Google Analytics”

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Step 2: Log In To Your Google Analytics Account

Once you click “Google Analytics” from the previous step you will be directed to the screen below. Simply click on the “Connect to New Account” and log in to Google Analytics to get access!

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Step 3: Choose The Account, Property, View & Segment

When you complete Step 2, you will be able to choose from the Accounts, Properties, Views and Segments that you already have set up in Google Analytics.

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Step 4: Choose Your Date Range, Metrics & Dimensions

When choosing a date range, be cautious of how large the data range is and try to avoid sampling as much as possible.

As a best practice, spot-check what you get from Screaming Frog and actually looking in Google Analytics to see how accurate the data is.

Step 5: Start Your Crawl!

Once you’ve completed steps 1-4 you can start your crawl with the extra data coming right in through Screaming Frog, ready for you to export.


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