Career Day: Avinash Conda, retail high-flyer and SEO expert shares his path to success

Episode Overview

Amateur pilot, marketing expert, sought-after speaker, and Director of SEO for Williams-Sonoma, Avinash Conda shares his insights on how search engine optimization has evolved over time. For Avinash, a core premise is data and having the right infrastructure and tools to test consistently. Learn about his journey and his SEO strategies for creating brand success.

  • What are the biggest challenges of consumer-facing companies that are multifaceted multi brands?
  • What drives SEO success for smaller versus large businesses?
  • How do you tailor pricing strategy around the needs of the client?
  • How do you handle technical debt?
  • How much of SEO is art and how much science?
  • How does one combine being self-taught with the necessary fundamentals in computer science and IT?
  • What was it like to immigrate from India to the American south?

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Episode Transcript

Ben:                             Welcome to Career Day on the Voices of Search podcast. Today, we’re going to learn about the skills accumulated and the lessons learned from a great SEO throughout the various stops on his career. Joining us for Career Day is a high-flying expert in SEO for consumer brands. Avinash Conda is the Director of SEO for Williams-Sonoma, which is a specialty retailer of high-quality products that owns a family of brands that includes Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, West Elm, and my personal favorite, Rejuvenation. Outside of his work at Williams- Sonoma, Avinash is also an amateur pilot.

Ben:                             But before we hear from Avinash, 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 complimentary digital diagnostic where a member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content, and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to Searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.

Ben:                             Okay. Here’s our interview with Director of SEO at Williams-Sonoma, Avinash Conda. Avinash, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Avinash:                       Thank you. Thanks a lot, Ben. It’s really nice being on this show.

Ben:                             It’s great to have you here. I’m excited to talk about someone that has a wealth of SEO experience, we said that specifically with consumer brands, but first and foremost I have to talk to you about your experience as a pilot. Tell me a little bit about what it’s like to be 20-30,000 feet in the air with your hair on fire doing twists and turns?

Avinash:                       Absolutely. Well, it’s a slight exaggeration, but sometimes I don’t do a lot of it. I am a private pilot. So I fly small planes, not the high performance ones. The smaller four-seater and two-seater Cessnas. It’s absolutely great. It’s always been my passion to fly. After I moved to California from New York, I thought it was the best time. I also had ample time on my hands to do that. So just took it up as a hobby. I don’t fly really actively anymore. It’s just a once in a while thing. But it feels absolutely great.

Ben:                             Rumor has it you’re also an amateur model. So what I’m picturing is that you’re the Indian version of Tom Cruise.

Avinash:                       Not exactly. I’ve done a few shoots before, but again, it was just out of curiosity. Again, like I said, it was a side passion project kind of a thing. But yeah, nothing big.

Ben:                             So, the SEO is still paying the bills, but a man of multiple interests. Let’s talk about your career today. Let’s first off just start off by telling us how you got into SEO.

Avinash:                       Yeah. And again, I don’t think this will be any different from most SEOs is one thing people don’t go to college for SEO. Nowadays there’s a bunch of courses which people can take, but when I was starting off in that field 12-13 years ago, it was all being self-taught. So I’d say I actually started off more in this by accident. I was going to college for computer science, information technology, was working on smaller websites who also wanted, developed a website and also have them ranked on Google. And back then it was not as complicated as now. So I started off doing basic SEO stuff as a web developer, and that’s how I initially started off doing SEO. And this is 2006, 2007.

Ben:                             So, talk me back in 2006, 2007, you mentioned you’re working with smaller sites. What are some of the SEO strategies that you were implementing? How simplistic was it and how easy was SEO back in the day?

Avinash:                       Every single strategy I used what, 10, 15, 12 years ago is pure black hat today. So I don’t think I should be calling out those strategies. But what I say is it was pretty straightforward. Google was looking at three major, major, major metrics on site. Title tag, description tag and the keyword tag. Back in the day that was really big. And the only missing piece for most businesses was links coming in. So those were the only four aspects I was concentrating on back in the day, right from building the website to adding title tags and description tags. Again, more or less keyword stuffing. I guess that’s exactly what most people did back then.

Ben:                             You know, let’s call that gray hat. I think the dividing line for me is if you’re putting white keywords on white text to keyword stuff, then you’re maybe getting into the darker part of gray hat. But that was just sort of table stakes for SEO 10, 15 years ago. I see that on your LinkedIn page you started as a SEO data analyst early on in your career. Tell me about the organization, and how did you land the job?

Avinash:                       Yeah. So this was precisely during the depression. I graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a degree in computer science. So after my college I was still thinking about which profession I should take up. I knew I wanted to stay in technology, but never had a thought that I would go back to doing SEO. I got a job at a company called consultwebs.com, and this is which actually targeted very niche markets. They did digital marketing just for lawyers. They’re still around by the way actually. So I started out doing reports and data analytics for them. In my first few months I was an intern. And then got inducted full time. I worked with them for a little over a year doing on page SEO for most of their large clients.

Ben:                             So, you’re doing SEO for specific vertical of websites. You’re focused on SEO optimization for lawyers. What was the reason for leaving that company? And you eventually moved on to a search engine optimization and social media role at Path Interactive.

Avinash:                       Yep, yep. Again, it was a big change. Moving from India to the United States was one big change. So I went to Kentucky and from Kentucky to New York was actually like moving to another country. The simple answer to why I moved was growth. I was looking for a bigger challenge, a better role, more responsibility. And I was also planning on moving to a bigger city. So that’s how I landed the job at Path Interactive. Great company. They’re still around in an SEO agency, digital marketing agency. When I started I think I was employee number 14. 13 or 14. It was a small startup, only started two years before I joined. Back then, now they are a pretty big size company in terms of SEO agencies.

Avinash:                       I started out doing small to mid-sized businesses there. Although I had a focus on lawyers, I got to work with different business. It was also the first time I started working on e-commerce websites at Path Interactive. So it was a pretty good move, not just in terms of my role but also in terms of the location. New experiences, new people, new clients. It was a much more client-facing role as well. So that’s how I ended up at Path Interactive.

Ben:                             So, there’s obviously a lifestyle component to moving from Kentucky to New York City, for better or for worse. So you mentioned that you had moved on from focusing specifically on professional service businesses for lawyers to starting to do e-commerce. As you’re thinking about the SEO strategies, what are the differences between e-commerce and focusing on professional services?

Avinash:                       There’s a huge difference. Again, the sheer scale is different when you’re doing professional services versus e-commerce. When it comes to technical SEO, it’s very different. E-commerce has different site structures. KPIs are also different when you are measuring and reporting. One big element which most SEOs at bigger companies don’t necessarily have a strong say in, which is user experience site structures, site speed, mobile experience, when it comes to professional services, because they are mostly smaller websites, it’s much more easier. They’re more agile changes. When it comes to e-commerce, it’s actually more important to bridge these technical gaps, but it’s really hard to do that just given the size of the site. I work with some smaller sites too, but just given the sheer complexity, the entire dynamic of SEO changes when you’re working with both of them.

Ben:                             Yeah, it sounds like my guess is that a lot of the professional service businesses are also very locally focused, less competition, and e-commerce has a broader reach. So you’re going to have a lot deeper competition.

Avinash:                       That’s a good point. I agree to an extent. There is one other aspect is, when you mention competition, I think even with local businesses there is definitely competition. Because there’s not too many places you can rank your local website on. Obviously, there’s a local track, much smaller than the regular Google search engine three to four results at the most. Back in the day it was two to three at the most. And there was heavy competition, definitely. But you’re right. When you look at e-commerce overall, you’re competing with a smaller set of audience. For a smaller real estate as well.

Ben:                             So, you mentioned that you were working with sort of smaller, or let’s call them growth stage, businesses when you were at Path Interactive. When you were working with these types of companies that are smaller in terms of budget, probably in terms of resources, what did you find that drove success for your clients?

Avinash:                       So, the thing is, a very good question by the way. I think every business has a specific need. Tailoring the strategy to your client is absolutely necessary. I think that’s where I found success. Most agencies, back when I was working in New York, what they were offering was we have a similar package, a gold package, a platinum package. You get X number of hours, X number of back links. They were really steps within the contract. We were tailoring our strategy of pricing around the needs of the client. There were even times when we signed up for the number of leads we would generate in a month. So, tailoring the strategy based on the website, the competition, the target audience and the they were targeting was what I think drove success. Again, this is a step even before we get into the SEO strategy, but I think it is a crucial step everyone has to take in terms of tailoring what you’re taking to your clients. That was one thing which was very unique to what we were doing at Path Interactive.

Ben:                             I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but my guess is that this is a lesson that you learned with your client-facing experience which started at this role.

Avinash:                       Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.

Ben:                             Okay. So eventually you make a pretty dynamic shift again. You’re in New York City. You’re working for an agency. You’re focused on a wide variety of brands. And then you decide to go in house across the country. You move to the San Francisco Bay area and you work for Shutterfly, one of the longer career stints that you’ve had. Tell me about the rationale for another big move and what drove you to be excited about the Shutterfly opportunity?

Avinash:                       Yeah, yeah. Great question again. So by trade my qualification, I’m an engineer. So when I was working with smaller companies, I thought I didn’t necessarily use all of my technical skills. And when it comes to SEO and technology merging with each other, I thought a bigger site would be that place. But most of the sites we were working used a CMS, mostly frontal network. Also a couple or three of the e-commerce sites I was working on did not have a very complex structure where I needed to use all of my technical skills. At Path Interactive I got an opportunity to speak at multiple conferences. I was teaching a course at New York University for SEO. But again, going back to the word I used before, growth, that’s what I was looking for in my career. And at this time I thought I’m done with the agency life for now, ready to move to a much more focused larger band where I could not just use my SEO but also the technical skills.

Avinash:                       So Shutterfly was that opportunity. They had a huge technical debt back when I joined. It was a newly created role. They wanted someone to come in but also help them build a technical road map for the next two or three years. So that’s how I got that opportunity, and it was a big move, you’re right. But the opportunity looked right. I thought I could learn a lot as well as contribute a lot. It was a great balance, so I took up the role.

Ben:                             So, talk to me, once you had gone in house, what did you realize was the difference between working at an SEO agency and being an in house SEO?

Avinash:                       Yeah. I had my own questions. I knew a few people working at bigger companies back then and I always asked them, “What do you do?” Like you go in the morning and optimize the same website for the whole day and then go back to work the next day? Because it was really hard to even think about or imagine what a full-time SEO engineer or SEO analyst at a bigger company would do. Once I joined it was a completely new experience. For me it was a completely new experience for me. Processes, something which I was not really habituated to. Much more stronger processes, working cross functionally, many more stakeholders involved. Even right from a smaller change all the way to a bigger change. Many more stakeholders involved. The grand element, which never strikes you hard when you are working with smaller companies, will strike you really hard.

Avinash:                       SEO obviously is most related to the part of what is visible on the site. So anything you touch, anything you change needs multiple levels of approvals. Obviously with bigger sites they’re more complex. Each one is on a different stack. Again, at Shutterfly we have multiple bands. I’ve worked on all of them. All of them were on different back end stacks when I was working there. It was different working with different bands within the same company. And the biggest change, I would say, was tech SEO. That’s when I first I think stretched my limits in terms of tech and SEO. Before that it was mostly on front end, but then that’s where at Shutterfly I learned most of my technical abilities for SEO.

Ben:                             So I want to talk a little bit more about the technical SEO components, but before we get there, I’m interested to hear as somebody who was a senior manager of SEO and eventually moved into a director of internet marketing at Shutterfly, I’m assuming that you were taking on responsibility for not only your work as an individual contributor, but also starting to manage a team. So as you are now in a nuanced, relatively matrixed organization and you’re a team manager, how does that contrast with some of the earlier experiences you had as an individual contributor? And how did you balance the additional responsibility, not only for your team, but also to manage a more complex set of problems?

Avinash:                       Yeah, honestly it was more fun for me working in a team than being an individual contributor. Even at Path Interactive I’ve had instances where I was managing teams at different stages and based on the band width and the scale of projects that we had, but at Shutterfly I did have a full-time team. If you ask me, most of the challenges I’ve faced are the very common challenges most people managers face. There’s no red flags coming out of that. But when it comes to just speaking about SEO and a team, I think it’s a great idea. SEO is a mix of art and science. It’s a trial and error kind of a strategy. And when you’re working in teams, your ideas come from all directions. And that was a really, really good learning experience for me. I had a really great team, brightest people on my team. I was lucky enough to have really strong execution as well as thought leaders on my team. Different experiences, people coming from agencies and other bigger companies, people bringing new things to the table.

Avinash:                       So rather than looking at it as a top down team, I would say we were more collaborative and in terms of what it did for a search SEO enhancing strategy, we played devil’s advocate. Agree, disagree, tested our theory. I think that’s very crucial for any SEO team.

Ben:                             I think that very little is certain in SEO, right? It’s a constantly changing landscape. That’s one of the reasons why having access to the data and having an infrastructure and a set of tools to be able to test consistently is important. One of the reasons why Searchmetrics has a business to be able to not only provide data but tools and expertise to SEOs, one of the things that you mentioned, it is an art and a science. It’s also a very misunderstood practice of marketing. So as you find yourself in more of a leadership role, eventually move from being a senior manager to a director of internet marketing, not just a director of SEO, how did you manage to articulate the value of SEO, and how did you get across what your needs, requirements and why it should be prioritized? You know, working with your technical teams and the other aspects of marketing and finance?

Avinash:                       Yeah. This is one of the most common challenges most SEOs face is they have to consistently sell SEO internally or sell SEO to their boss or the executives in the company. You’re right. It is often the most misunderstood. Because it is that way. There’s no lift and ship strategy, lift and ship, each site is different. We did this for one site, why can’t we do the same thing for the other? There are questions like that. And the second biggest challenge is how do you quantify it? In a world where SCM gets four dollars, you get $1.50 on display Facebook where you just throw money and within a day, sometimes even within an hour, you see money coming back. It’s really hard to quantify SEO. Not some of the time, but most of the products have issues. Now I’ll give you an example.

Avinash:                       If I have to go to site map, a website doesn’t have a site map, Google webmaster it takes a lot of work for a bigger company to build a site map and automatically populate it on a weekly or a daily basis. What is the revenue of site for that project? Now how do you quantify that? Doing an analysis after the fact might be a little more easier because you already have the data, but focusing these kinds of projects is where the challenge comes in. And selling that becomes even harder. So I think most SEOs will agree to this part.

Ben:                             Yeah, absolutely. I’ll play devil’s advocate a little or talk through this. Just as a general marketer, as a marketing strategist and a consultant, the way that I describe SEO as opposed to paid acquisition challenges, it is the more that you continually invest, the more that you’re building towards your future. It is a slow-growing channel that if done correctly never gives that value back. As opposed to it is eating your broccoli instead of eating candy. You can eat a piece of candy, you get a sugar rush right away. You eat a piece of broccoli, you develop good habits. You do that consistently over time, you build muscle mass and you have energy for days and years.

Avinash:                       That’s great. That’s the first time I’m hearing something like that. I agree. I think that’s of it.

Ben:                             You know, and that’s something that I struggle with consulting clients and describing SEO to even people like my mom and dad. What’s the difference between a marketing channel is when you put a dollar into a project in SEO, the goal is to get a return of a dollar a day six months from now. It is not necessarily focusing on a real time return, but if you’re patient over time and continue to invest, you build this wonderful infrastructure that you can live off of. So without me talking too much about the value of SEOs, tell me about some of the technical things that you were working on Shutterfly. What were some of the problems you faced, and what were some of the skills that you learned?

Avinash:                       Yeah, so when coming to work at a bigger company, any new product the business launches is in some or the other way tied to SEO. You think about any marketing channel who’s launching. Any new tech front end work, even if it is related to the promo engine, even if it’s related to the navigation structure, the site structure, internal links, you are building your responsive site, almost every product which touches the front end is directly or indirectly related to SEO. So as you become the stakeholder at multiple projects, inevitably it’s not like SEO has an exclusive road map, which it actually does. Even outside of that, SEO kind of has a consulting role in most of the other projects. That’s one thing I learned a little earlier in my job, that it’s not like you have these full products, you need to go to the product engineering team and get it done. They’re already working on maybe 14 other products out of which you have stakes in eight of them. Some of your existing products will have easier fixes with the product they’re already working on.

Avinash:                       So just given the depth of what all SEO touches on a website, I think that level of diversity, I don’t think any other channel has that level of diversity. When I say channel, I mean other marketing channels.

Ben:                             So Shutterfly was your first experience at a consumer-focused brand when you were an in-house marketer. You’ve now moved on from Shutterfly and are the director of SEO at Williams-Sonoma, so you own multiple brands. And you went back into an SEO-specific role. First off, tell me what it is that you like about working on consumer-facing brands that are multifaceted multibrands? What are some of the challenges that you’re facing as well?

Avinash:                       Absolutely. I love retail. I mean I’ve come to love retail. When I started working at Shutterfly, just how the market is evolving, how the consumers are evolving in terms of consuming content. The purchase behaviors, the consumer journey. I think it’s really fascinating how advertising works, how a paid channel works, how organic plays a major role in connecting the dots. When it comes to multidevice, multitouch models, I think each channel adds more value than the numbers actually speak to. How they all tie in together, how can we bring in a customer, how can we reach them, how can we have them come back? I think the whole idea of retail is really exciting to me. You’re right, at Shutterfly I have worked on multiple channels, being the biggest channel I’ve worked on outside of SEO. I’ve done some display. Some of my previous jobs I’ve also done SCM. But big piece which was missing, again my personal opinion which was missing at Shutterfly was I wanted to work closer with the technology arc. Although I did have an opportunity to work with them pretty closely, I wanted to have an opportunity to work even closer.

Avinash:                       Williams-Sonoma gave me that opportunity. I actually the product technology arc. So outside of just SEO strategy, I worked really closely with a couple of strong teams on building the road map for the next two years, also getting them executed. So this is what I was looking for and spent six holiday seasons at Shutterfly. I thought that was enough. Again, it was great experience.

Ben:                             Spoken like somebody who works in retail. You don’t count the years, you count the holiday seasons.

Avinash:                       Yes, absolutely. And I thought it was a good time for a change, and for a really long time. My wife is a fan of Williams-Sonoma and I’ve been a customer. I love the brand. I already have some history with them because I’ve done some competitive analysis when I was working at Shutterfly. So when I had the opportunity, I just took it.

Ben:                             So, it sounds like one of the motivating factors for you to move towards Williams-Sonoma, A, you had some brand affinity. But it also gave you the ability to go back to your roots in some capacity where you are still focused on SEO but exclusively focused on SEO, but also working very closely with the technical teams. Talk to me about some of the challenges you’re facing and some of the responsibilities you’ve taken on in your current role.

Avinash:                       Yeah, again, Williams-Sonoma is over 60 years old now. So it comes from brick and mortar retail. So the top down view is not necessarily the same as how a Wayfair or eBay might think. Who are purely tech-focused, website-driven, and that’s how they start and finish their jobs with. Here it’s a little more, obviously more than 50% of the revenue comes from. The other 50% comes from brick and mortar retail. The focus is slightly more divided. Obviously the business realizes that digital is the next big thing, I mean is the big thing, in terms of growth. And in the process of migrating from model to online retail to actually being one of the biggest online retailer, I think from an SEO standpoint, I can definitely speak to that. There having and that’s where I come in to close.

Avinash:                       So, when compared to some of these smaller, newer businesses who have a very easy code base, not too complicated, built in recent times, have a strategic advantage in adapting to the changes Google is making. Again, this is not just for Williams Sonoma. I think I can speak for most big older sites like Macy’s, Walmart, JC Penney. All of these guys have the same problem. Adaptability to the pace at which Google is changing is the biggest challenge they have to face in terms of technical SEO.

Ben:                             I think it’s an interesting and complex type of organization. You mentioned you’re dealing with a fair amount of code debt like other mature brands are. So from a technical perspective it’s complex. But there’s also the notion of, you talked about multitouch attribution. But there’s also the idea that your digital advertising can drive somebody to a brick and mortar conversion. How are you thinking about using SEO tactics and the impact that they have on actual brick and mortar conversions?

Avinash:                       That’s a very good point. Not a lot of people have been able to figure out how to measure. There are a few models, custom-built models how to do that. Local SEO, that’s the easiest and the biggest way, most easily measurable way to actually drive foot traffic to the stores. We have over 650 stores all over the United States. And people definitely do search before they go to a store, local SEO. Pretty big. When you’re searching for most terms, be it branded or even nonbranded terms, Google is going heavier. Most of these searches happen on mobile. Google is going heavier with local impact. And there’s a huge opportunity to drive foot traffic to the stores.

Ben:                             Interesting. So as you’ve moved from working in small agencies in Kentucky to a larger agency eventually to focusing on a digital retail brand like Shutterfly and now to a digital and brick and mortar retail brand, as you reflect on all of your experiences, what advice do you have for SEOs who are earlier in their career who are interested in breaking into your career path that are a little more technical and are interested in the retail industry?

Avinash:                       Sure. I think a good SEO should have a decent technical understanding of how search works. Most SEOs I meet today; good SEOs follow Google religiously. But usually the gap with most SEO analysts or pressures I’ve seen today is lacking the technical studies. And obviously that’s not something you can acquire overnight. And that’s not necessarily what Google is posting or writing bout on a daily basis. These are problems which happen at a company. You have to identify and fix them in real time. So technical expertise is one area which I would suggest new SEOs focus on. That is where Google is heading. That’s where retail is heading. That’s where most of the industry is heading, and building expertise there will give you an advantage over the others.

Ben:                             So, the interesting thing to me about what you’re saying is that even at a company that is not traditionally a tech company, brushing up on your technical capabilities as an SEO is still the first thing that you think provides value and leads people to success. So Avinash, let me just say it was great to hear about your career. Congratulations on your success, on the move to Williams-Sonoma, and we’re excited to have you as our guest on the podcast.

Avinash:                       Thank you. Thank you. It was great. I really enjoyed talking to you, and thanks for having me on the show.

Ben:                             Okay. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Avinash Conda, director of SEO at Williams-Sonoma. If you’d like to learn more about Avinash, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes, or you can send him a tweet at avinashconda.If you have general marketing questions or if you want to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet at BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. 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/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team. If you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast application, and we’ll be back in your feed next week.

Ben:                             Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Okay. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.

 


Don’t let unwanted automated ad extensions keep you up

It’s three a.m. You’re uneasy, but you don’t really know why. You’ve recently audited your accounts, you’re on top of your routine maintenance, and you’re actively testing ways to increase efficiency and grow your account.

You’ve done your due diligence, so why the nagging feeling that something’s wrong? Since you can’t sleep, you decide to check up on your ads in the wild and run a live search to put yourself at ease. That’s when it hits you. Your ads are showing with extensions you didn’t specify. Even worse, some of them don’t even really make sense.

What are these, and where did they come from?

By default, campaigns on Google and Bing are automatically eligible to show dynamic extensions, ranging from site links, callouts, structured snippets, call extensions, and app extensions. Additionally, Bing offers “Dynamic Ad Enhancements” which are anything from dynamically generated ad description texts to badges highlighting promos and deals.

The content of these extensions is based on your landing pages, ad copy, information from your domain, your Google My Business profile, and third-parties in the case of reviews and seller ratings. The exact logic Google and Bing Ads use to determine when automated extensions show is a closely held secret, as is the content of those extensions themselves. Only performance metrics associated with the type of extension is viewable in each interface.

Depending on how your site is indexed and crawled by each platform, wildly different data is available to populate these extensions. That could lead to showing outdated information or content from irrelevant pages with your ad. Seeing an extension driving particularly strong performance without being able to see what that extension actually is is incredibly frustrating, but seeing an irrelevant or outdated addition to your ads on a live search is even worse. Even more so if your client happens across one before you do.

While each platform is heavily invested in improving overall user experience and improving ad experiences, automated extensions are far from perfect. Further, SEM managers frequently need to maintain control over ad messaging for legal compliance and client needs. Some examples would be adherence to branding guidelines, highlighting specific events and promotions, and using particular approved language. These make automated extensions a non-starter regardless of performance.

Measuring the impact of extensions

Both Google and Bing warn against the potential negative performance impact of opting out of automated extensions. If your account doesn’t have specific branding or compliance requirements, you should gauge automated extension performance against your existing extensions before opting out of anything. There will be clear winners and losers in every account. As automated extensions are frequently changing, their performance is likely to ebb and flow. Hopefully, dynamic extensions that don’t resonate with users get weeded out of the mix by the ad platforms.

When you find something that works, it’s nice to be able to build on it. Similarly, if you find something doesn’t work, it’s a great time to stop doing that. Unfortunately, both ad systems seem determined to make certain extensions work, even when their performance doesn’t merit keeping them around. And, since both the underpinning logic behind automated extensions serving as well as the content of those extensions is a mystery, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get a good handle on what exactly is driving those decisions.

To quantify the impact extensions have on your account in Google, analyze ad performance segmented by click type to determine which part of an ad unit users are interacting with. To determine how individual extensions perform on the ad level, segment your data with This Extension vs Other. In Bing, there are multiple ad extension reports available within the Reports tab just not directly in the interface.

How do I get rid of these?

To manage your dynamic extensions in the Google Ads interface, click into the “Ads & Extensions” tab, and then click into the “Advanced Options” menu on the far right-hand side of the screen.

Screenshot showing how to remove an unwanted ad extension

In the Bing Ads interface, you’ll need to click into the “Ad Extensions” tab and select the dropdown menu to choose “Automated Extensions Report”. From there, the “Manage Automated Extensions” button is clearly accessible.

Screenshot of action extensionsScreenshot of all but deleted extensions

As soon as you get to the appropriate section in both platforms, opting out of undesired extension types is as simple as checking a few boxes.

Screenshot of choosing how you want automated extensions to work for your account

Screenshot of managing automated extensions

As your settings are updated in the interface, they should roll live in the same amount of time it takes any other change, which is usually within 15 minutes.

As always, performing a periodic live search to verify if ads are serving appropriately is a life saver. Make a note on your calendar to include checking your automated extensions settings periodically when you move through your deeper account health checks.

Now that you’ve regained some control over your account, you can breathe a sigh of relief, and look forward to restful slumbers. But when you wake in the morning, we think that’d be a great time to audit your current extensions. Make sure everything serving is timely and applied to the appropriate campaigns. Ad extensions are key to boosting the success of your campaigns, assuming they’re strategically implemented. While automated extensions show some promising results, they’re far from perfect just yet.

Blake Lucas is an SEM Coordinator at PMG.

The post Don’t let unwanted automated ad extensions keep you up appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


Google Lighthouse Success Stories: Improving Performance with Technical Optimization

With Google Lighthouse, you can quickly and easily assess the technical performance of any URL. Detailed tests measure load times, accessibility and web security and, at the same time, reveal potential for improving the technical infrastructure of a website. In this blogpost, I’d like to share some examples of companies that have successfully used Google Lighthouse to help boost their online performance. Find out how the Asian marketplace Carousell used Lighthouse to generate 63% more organic traffic, how TripAdvisor and Expedia’s Lighthouse performance scores correlate with Google rankings, and more.

If you’re looking for an overview of what Google Lighthouse is and how relevant it is for search engine rankings, then you can start by reading our Searchmetrics whitepaper, “Google Lighthouse Ranking Factors 2019”. The paper analyzes the current state of optimization of top-ranking websites on Google.com, based on data from over 15 million Google Lighthouse audits. Download the whitepaper here:

Google Lighthouse Ranking Factors 2019

Success Story 1: How Asia’s eBay raised its Lighthouse Performance from 17 to 84 points

Our first Lighthouse case study comes from Asia’s answer to eBay, the marketplace carousell.com. The Singaporean platform relies primarily on mobile traffic and, with a view to expanding to other Asian countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, they were looking for a way to increase the mobile load time of their Progressive Web App: “Having a web page take more than 15s to load over 3G (as ours did) is unacceptable if we wanted to acquire and retain our new users”, explains Stacey Tay, Web Tech Lead at Carousell, in a blogpost on Medium where he describes how Carousell approached the technical performance optimization of their site.

To start with, Stacey explains, the results of their initial Lighthouse audits were a wake-up call – the Performance score was just 17 points, and the results in the Progressive Web App and Accessibility categories were very mediocre. Only the scores in two categories, SEO and Best Practices – which focuses on security aspects of a website like HTTPS or safe JavaScript libraries – were satisfactory.

Based on these results, the optimization was primarily targeted towards improving results in the Lighthouse categories of Performance and Progressive Web App. The before/after comparison of carousell.com’s Lighthouse scores shows how much progress was made in these areas:

Carousell Lighthouse Before-After

The technical optimization measures were carried out in 2018 – at the end of October, Stacey Tay documented the success on Medium. If we look at the SEO Visibility of carousell.com in its home country of Singapore, then we can see a clear improvement in performance:

Before implementing the tasks necessary for optimization, a clear mission goal was established:


Stacey-Lead“We wanted to give new users a delightful experience from the start because performance is user experience. To do this, we designed a new, performance-first web experience.” Stacey Tay, Web Tech Lead bei Carousell


This mission set the foundation for the technical optimization of the website. Importantly, this wasn’t treated as a side project, it was prioritized highly and given a dedicated performance budget. With this mission in place, Stacey writes, it was easier to motivate the team, to convince management of the project’s importance and to justify the investment by demonstrating the project’s success.

After agreeing the budget, targets were established, based on scores in Google Lighthouse audits:

Lighthouse Ranking Factor Target value/score
Critical path Resources 120 KB
First Contentful Paint 2s
Time to Interactive 5s
Lighthouse Performance Score > 85

As mentioned earlier, the Performance score prior to optimization was just 17 points. After optimizing the homepage of carousell.com, they got this up to a score of 84 points. Aspects of the site’s infrastructure that were addressed included setting up a more effective caching system with workbox precaching and service workers, compressing images, and applying CSS inlining. Together, these measures contributed to the creation of a fast, user-friendly Progressive Web App – and this is how the page loads now:

Carousel - Page Load Animation Before-After

Hard evidence for the success of Carousell’s performance optimization can be found in the numbers. As well as reducing load time by 65%, the most noteworthy improvement can be seen in the increase in traffic. Since the optimization, Carousell’s organic traffic has gone up by 63%:

Carousell - Lighthouse Results in Page Load Time and Organic TrafficResults of carousell.com’s Google Lighthouse Performance optimization. Source: medium.com

Read the Google Lighthouse Ranking Factors 2019

Success Story 2: How Staples and Walmart used faster load times to drive up conversions

When talking about optimization of load times, there are some Google statistics that are frequently used as points of reference. For example, as load time increases, so too does the likelihood of a mobile user bouncing back to the search results. If load time rises from one to three seconds, then the bounce rate probability increases by 32%; if the load times goes from one to five seconds, then the bounce probability goes up by 90%.

The page-speed analysis tool GTmetrix investigated the concrete benefits of reducing load times, looking at a wide range of retail websites. The examples include heavyweight retailers like Staples and Walmart, and demonstrate the clear correlation between faster load times and increased conversion rates.

Lighthouse - Walmart Staples Conversion IncreasesStaples and Walmart boost conversions by speeding up load times. Source: gtmetrix.com

Read the Google Lighthouse Ranking Factors 2019

Success Story 3: How Douglas cut load times in half

Now we turn to the German perfume giant, Douglas, who used Google Lighthouse to make huge improvements in their website performance. Their success story goes back to Black Friday 2017, when the huge spike in traffic meant that the page was unavailable for some users. The Google Lighthouse Performance scores at the time also showed clear room for improvement. Michael Singer, a Munich-based freelance Tech SEO Consultant who worked on the project for douglas.de and, from May 2018, coordinated operations between IT and SEO, explains, “Before the optimization, the Time to Interactive on 3G was over 20 seconds – now we’ve got it down to around 8 seconds.”

To achieve this imprssive result in the Google Lighthouse audit, significant changes were made under to hood of the perfume retailer’s website. “We went through more than 200 technical tickets,” Michael explains, and recalls numerous changes that were made: The mobile subdomain was deactivated; mobile users now land at Douglas’ responsive main www-domain. Also, douglas.de was converted to use JS React, which lowers the number of nodes and requests, compresses HTML and reduces image sizes. The database latency was also reduced and several cache optimizations were implemented.


Michael-Singer“The focus of our work is the user, who should be able to use the website as quickly as possible. The aim of our page-speed optimization was to get down to a first interactive time of 4 seconds. This, together with the switchover to JS React and moving to a single responsive website version, led to significant growth in our SEO Visibility, higher traffic and increased turnover.” Michael Singer, Freelance Tech SEO Consultant


These optimizations, using Google Lighthouse Performance scores, resulted in a notable improvement in page load times. “To verify the metrics, we run real-time speed tests with Instana that show us long-term effects. In April 2018, the desktop values were still over 8 seconds. In October 2018, we were often hitting the 4-second mark.” Last but not least, the technical availability of the website was also improved, so that traffic peaks like the one experienced on Black Friday can now be handled better.

This performance optimization brought an immediate turnaround in the SEO Visibility of douglas.de. Between May 2018 and May 2019, the domain saw an increase of 25% organic visibilty.

Of course, Searchmetrics SEO Visibility is just one initial indicator of a website’s performance on Google. Michael Singer provides further insight into other KPIs that have been impacted by the optimization of douglas.de. “The visits have gone way up, and turnover has seen strong growth too,” says Michael. The conversion rate has also increased by a similar proportion, not least because SEO is the channel that brings douglas.de the most turnover.

Results of Douglas’ optimization at a glance:

  • Page load time -50%
  • SEO Visibility +25%
  • Large increase in visits, conversions and turnover.

Read the Google Lighthouse Ranking Factors 2019

Success Story 4: How URL Performance influences Google Rankings for TripAdvisor and Expedia

To investigate the relationship between Lighthouse Performance scores and real Google Rankings, I decided to conduct an analysis within the travel industry. I collated 3,500 travel-related keywords around the topics of hotels, flights and caravans, and analyzed the ranking pages on Google.com, as well as looking at the ranking positions of TripAdvisor and Expedia for these keywords. The result: TripAdvisor and Expedia rank highly when their Google Lighthouse Performance is also high:

Why is there such a clear connection here? The online travel industry is highly competitive, with numerous big players fighting it out. As well as TripAdvisor and Expedia, you’ve got Booking.com, Hotels.com, FlightRadar etc., all of whom have a high level of trust and are well-established, popular brands. At the same time, it is difficult to differentiate between the different brands. In many cases content, e.g. a hotel description, will be very similar – this makes it hard for a website to stand out with a major USP. And if several ranking signals are largely the same – similarly-sized brand, similar interface, similar features, similar content – then the website performance is likely to be the decisive factor when determining rankings.


Nils KattauA fast load time is hugely important for a good user experience. Every interruption when interacting with a website creates a small frustration, and the user’s frustration grows the more interruptions occur. If the load time increases by just a few seconds, then numerous  websites show an increase in the bounce rate – which ultimately leads to a drop in the conversion rate.” Nils Kattau, Conversion Specialist


To find out how relevant Google Lighthouse results are for your market, you can work with customized Searchmetrics Ranking Factors. We analyze Google Lighthouse data for your relevant market, combine it with our own Searchmetrics ranking data and provide concrete, actionable recommendations for your website’s technical optimization. Request your personal report today:

Request a Customized Searchmetrics Lighthouse Audit


How to become a top seller on Amazon using the latest SEO techniques

Episode Overview

On Amazon’s highly competitive platform, what does it take to have greater visibility and sell more product? In this episode of the Searchmetrics Voices of Search podcast series, Adam Weiler, founder of Sunken Stone shares his essential search optimization techniques, so your products can rise to the top of customer searches. Adam is a Premier Amazon Channel Partner with over 10 years of experience helping companies create profitable and sustainable business success selling on Amazon.

You’ll learn:

  • How to do an analysis of the competition
  • What are the best strategies for creating listings, including the front and back end and titles?
  • Navigating the Amazon ecosystem, how do you research search terms, balancing out rankings and volume?
  • What are the different strategies for commodity products like a coffee mug versus a new and innovative product?
  • What is the difference between being in the top spot at Amazon compared to Google?
  • How do you navigate duplication of listings?

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Episode Transcript

Ben:                             Welcome to non-Google search month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re going to turn the spotlight to how you can optimize your SEO efforts on some of the most important search engines that don’t start with the letter G.

Ben:                             Joining us today is Adam Weiler who is the founder of Sunken Stone, which is a performance-based Amazon management agency that is a premier Amazon Channel partner with over 10 years of experience helping eCommerce companies create sustainable business success selling on Amazon.

Ben:                             And today Adam is going to talk to us about his strategies for increasing organic visibilities of products on Amazon. But before we hear from Adam I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Search Metrics; 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 complimentary digital diagnostic, where a member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content, and SEO strategies can all be optimized.

Ben:                             To schedule your free digital diagnostic go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.

Ben:                             Okay, on with the show; here’s my conversation with Adam Weiler, the founder of Sunken Stone. Adam, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Adam:                          Ben, thanks for having me.

Ben:                             It’s great to reconnect with you, you’ve been on my other podcast, the Martech podcast, a couple of times talking to me about Amazon, and I’m excited to have my go-to Amazon expert here on the Voices of Search to talk a little SEO and content optimization.

Adam:                          As always, honored.

Ben:                             Just to give everybody some context, tell us a little bit about your work and tell us a little bit about Sunken Stone and who are your customers?

Adam:                          I have been selling on Amazon for about 11 years now, or 12 years now, and I started with HDMI cables. I started selling those in Q4 of 2007, and then quickly moved to other product; eventually, about 4 years ago, realized the talent that I and my team possess can be applied to other brands, and it’s so much easier working with a brand with some kind of momentum already.

Adam:                          So, we went into a full done-for-you turnkey Amazon service. Right now we’re managing about 75 brands on the Amazon channel, and that includes, and when I say managing we’re talking about four major inventory management and logistics, marketing, which is the Amazon ad platforms, content, how to build a great listing and customer service; how to get great reviews and keep your customers happy.

Ben:                             So, when you say that you’re working with 75 different brands, give me a sense of how many skews, at any given time, your company is optimizing?

Adam:                          We’re managing– I think the last time I saw it was around 1400 skews. We really specialize in a smaller skew count catalog, something that we can ring maximum value out of each skew, you know? Our secret sauce and our steps and processes works really well when we can hone in and extract maximum fills out of one or two or 10 skews versus a ten thousand skew catalog that you can’t really give that love and attention to.

Ben:                             Okay, so there’s a pretty wide variety of products, a wide variety of categories, and you’re managing multiple thousands of listings, which on some level makes you an expert to talk about how to optimize the listings for Amazon. You mentioned that there are four different categories that you’re working with, you’re helping with inventory management, customer service and paid media; I want to focus in specifically on the listing creation, and just get your take on the strategy that you apply when you’re creating a listing. Where are you figuring out how to source your content and keywords?

Adam:                          Great question. When you’re talking about listings there’s the front end of the listing and then there’s the back end of the listing, and I’ll break this up into sections; so, front end of the listing is title. It is images; it’s bullet points, it’s description, potentially video or enhanced brand content on the page. The way it works with us is let’s say we’re onboarding a brand; we’re going to get a Dropbox or Google Drive folder of all of their content. So, we’re going to get, “Here’s a million images, or ten thousand images; here’s lifestyle shots, here’s how we sell the stuff on our website, here’s how it’s sold in stores.” And what our team does is sorts through it and looks to see how it’s positioned.

Adam:                          First, we’re going to take a look at competition on the marketplace. I think for today– it’s always easier if we have a sample product that we’re running through this process, then I can even plug that into some tools that we’re using. How about a cappuccino machine? Or espresso machine?

Ben:                             I got a better one for you.

Adam:                          What’s that?

Ben:                             I want to sell a box, here’s my new product; I want to sell a box that I can buy an Amazon Echo, a Google Home and an Apple Siri Home kit or whatever the Apple one is called-

Adam:                          Yeah, Apple Home.

Ben:                             I want to put them all in one box, put a light on top of it and whenever one of them talks that light goes off, so I can just talk to Apple, Siri, Google, Alexa, whoever, and somebody responds back to me.

Adam:                          All right. I’m going to imagine that we’ve cleared all the trademark hurdles with Amazon, Google and Apple already. I’m assuming that we’re good to go because what happens, as we’re going to get further down this, you start putting some trademark– let’s say we put Amazon Alexa in our backend keywords, could be flagged, so we want to avoid that stuff.

Ben:                             Yeah, no, we’re on the up-and-up; they all know we’re putting their products in one box, what’s wrong with that?

Adam:                          Awesome. Okay, so first thing we’re going to do is take a look at the competition; in the cases that there isn’t direct, direct competition, we’re going to look at tangential. So, in that case we’re going to look at smart home; we’re going to look at the Alexas; we’re going to look at the Google Homes.

Ben:                             Speakers, Sonos, right?

Adam:                          Yeah, smart speakers, Sonos’, and what we’re going to do is compile this huge list of the products, the ASINS; ASIN is how Amazon classifies their products. And then we’re going to start running them through some tools. Helium 10 is one we subscribed to, I like it just for ease of use, and it’s called this reverse ASIN lookup; you’re going to put a product in, let’s say you put Google Home in their products, or I don’t think Amazon even sells Google Home because they’ve got a weird, but imagine it’s on there, we grab the ASIN, we run it through and this is going to spit out a list of a bunch of keywords.

Adam:                          And it’s also going to spit out what they call their ‘IQ score’, or their cerebro IQ score. It’s like trade-off, like, yeah how hard is this going to be to rank, but also the volume that it’s getting in search terms. These are all weird, crude, rudimentary tools– it’s not the same or whatever tools you’re used to on Google; that stuff does not exist on Amazon. So we’re playing it a little different, we’re playing into different ecosystems and Amazon doesn’t like sharing some data, so you either have to piece it together from experience, or you’ve bought data on their ad platform, and you can use that for another product, or you scrape it together with the best tools out there. Helium 10 is a great one, I recommend it.

Adam:                          So, instead of running competition, you can run a bunch of competitor products and then based on that you’re looking at what you want to rank for; I would say we’re going to go for smart home products, because the issue is if you’re not selling a commodity product, like coffee mugs, for example– people are searching for coffee mugs, so you can optimize for coffee mug or orange coffee mug. The issue is something that’s a little different is we’re going to have to find a bucket to put it in.

Ben:                             So that’s an important distinction; let me just chime in here and echo what you’re saying is that Amazon, when you’re trying to optimize your listing, if you’re working with a commodity product, something that already exists, it is a different strategy to do your content optimization as opposed to– likely a fair amount of the Amazon listings are not necessarily coming onto the platform to compete in a category that already exists; if you’re doing something new and innovative, you’re creating a new product, you’re basically looking for similar categories, and you’re creating your own niche.

Adam:                          Exactly. You might never be able to rank for smart speaker, but you’ll show up on a couple of long– you want to show up in a bunch of long tail searches. Amazon will give you bottom of page 1 or page 2 or page 3 ranking for a bunch of those related keywords.

Ben:                             Just anecdotally, do you have a sense of how being in the top spot at Amazon compares to being the top spot in Google?

Adam:                          For sure; you want to be above that fold and in the top couple first spots of any keyword search result. Now, if you were coming into market and targeting smart speaker, that’s going to be a competitive search term, and it’s going to take a while for you to get there. I’ve heard it’s very similar, around 30% click to the first spot, and then cascades down from there, very similar to how Google ranks.

Adam:                          You want to be above the fold just like in Google.

Ben:                             Okay, so SEO’s can think of the value of the position similar to how they think about it in Google when they’re optimizing a listing for Amazon?

Adam:                          Exactly. The 1st position is always going to get the most clicks. Especially in mobile when screen real estate is limited.

Ben:                             Essentially what I’m hearing is when you’re starting a new category, like this home speaker collaboration we’re talking about, if that’s what we want to call it, you’re probably not going to be landing on the first page right out of the gate; you’re going to end up being on a fair amount of long tail keywords.

Ben:                             Talk to me about how you put your keyword list together, and is there even a keyword list?

Adam:                          Yeah, it really is a keyword list. So front end you can put keywords in a title; obviously you want to target that and Amazon very heavily. You can put keywords in your image file names and Amazon will index those; you can put keywords in your bullet points; you can put keywords in your description. People leaving reviews for you, they can put keywords and rankings on those. That’s the front end.

Adam:                          Backend, Amazon– it’s so weird. Amazon has five blanks or blank spots for you to figure out your keywords; now, they’re always changing this, the most recent I heard was 250 bytes of data, or 250 characters, it changes all the time. There’s tools out there where you can run your keyword list through, and they’ll verify that you’re not going over the data, because apparently if it’s 250, and you go 251 Amazon reads it as 0, which doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know why they wouldn’t just not look at the most– the last keyword on there.

Ben:                             So when you say there’s five spaces on the backend, this is essentially where you’re writing the equivalent of a meta tag description; something that can’t be seen by the end user, but is still trying to provide a sense of how you would like your product to be ranked or described to the platform.

Adam:                          Exactly, if it’s a really important keyword that is in the title and description and bullet points. You can also add it to the back end for a little extra boost. There’s conflicting opinions about that, some people say, “don’t duplicate,” some people say it’s okay to duplicate. Or there are some use cases or really long tail keywords or niche keywords that you would never put in your title or description, but you still want the product to potentially for. This is a great spot for that.

Ben:                             So, for example, in the case of us putting the combination of all the different voice speakers together in one box, we might put the keyword “Tim Cook” or “Jeff Bezos” in our keyword description, because somebody might be looking for something that’s Apple related and those are keywords that we think are long tail keywords that could be relevant.

Adam:                          Perfect example.

Ben:                             Other than we’re totally going to get in trouble, and it’s totally copyright infringement, but we’re ignoring that.

Adam:                          Yeah, we’re already getting sued, [delicate, we’re a chip in sales].

Ben:                             Okay, so you have your front end listing, your, “consumer content” let’s call it, and then you have the equivalent of your meta tags where there are five spots to put something like 250 characters, maybe it’s 250 bytes of data, which you can feed Amazon a little extra juice for how you’d like to be positioned.

Adam:                          Exactly. When it comes to listings, a strong backend.

Ben:                             Okay we had a little technical issue in the recording side, Adam’s headphones died, so he’s going to rejoin us on the call. It’s going to sound a little different here, but Adam, now that we have you back; we were talking about our listing for our box that has all the voice assistants in one, and if we’re getting some performance, we’re seeing that the people are clicking, are converting at a high rate, but we’re not getting a ton of organic traffic, and let’s say we don’t have the budget to do a lot of paid, what are you doing to optimize a listing that you’re seeing is performing well in terms of conversions, but not getting a lot of visibly on Amazon.

Adam:                          Yeah, great question. I would start by tracking your keywords, so when you use Helium 10 for a keyword tracker there’s plenty of other can see the overall trend for your specific keywords that are in your title, that are in your front end, that are in your back end. The thing about Amazon, they don’t give you, unlike Google Analytics, they’re not giving you info on where a customer comes from, fewer data.

Adam:                          So, if it’s just an organic sale, you don’t know what keyword triggered that sale, which is unfortunate. I don’t know why they don’t share it; they like to hold onto that data. Eventually they’re loosening up, but internally you can track your keyword ranking, and typically how it works is Amazon is a flywheel, so if you’re selling well, through a specific keyword you’re going to see better rankings for that keyword.

Ben:                             So basically, when you start a listing, and you’re getting your initial performance, if you’re seeing strong conversions, the expectation is that you will continue to see organic listing growth. You’re going to have better placements because Amazon is seeing that that listing is performing. So you have to be patient and just wait for your placement to increase.

Adam:                          Yes, be patient; obviously there’s other things that we can do, and we’ll get into those, but you also want– Amazon, if you think about it logically, Amazon is a virtual mall and yes, they have unlimited shelf space, but really they have limited screen real estate for a specific keyword.

Adam:                          So someone typing in ‘smart speaker,’ Amazon only has five spots above the fold, and only 11 spots on that front page. So, Amazon– it’s in Amazon’s best interest to show the product that’s going to result in a sale, or the highest revenue per pixel artist, or whatever method you prefer anyway.

Adam:                          So they want to go show something that’s going to help being a consumer and get them to keep coming back to Amazon, and give them a good experience. So if they think– they do this over time by fluctuating your keyboard rankings. To test. So, on page 3. Amazon might try you on page 2, and if you keep out-executing and out-selling that other product listing for that keyword, you’re going to keep rising in that rank.

Ben:                             So, the expectation is that your placement, your ranking, is going to bounce around a fair amount initially as Amazon tries to evaluate your revenue per pixel, revenue per inch, revenue per listing KPIs. What are some of the triggers that you can pull to try and maximize that value, and then secure a higher listing placement to get more traction?

Adam:                          It used to just be… you throw up a listing, and they came, and they will come. Now, not so much. You really got to spend some money, whether it’s internal traffic or external traffic to get that needle moving, and to show Amazon that they should be ranking you higher per specific keywords.

Ben:                             And by internal traffic and external traffic, I’m assuming you mean using Amazon’s ad platform to drive people within Amazon to your product, and then external traffic being, driving traffic outside of Amazon to your listing. Did I get it right?

Adam:                          Exactly.

Ben:                             Okay. So you can use paid placements to try to drive more traffic to your listing with the hopes that it will boost your conversion rate?

Adam:                          Not necessarily boost your conversion rate; and you don’t have to do this. You can just set your product and if it’s a great product, and a great product marked as fit, people are going to find it and eventually just move up over time. We call these, “naturals” in our company, like this cup, this product that just doesn’t even have an optimized title, doesn’t even have an optimized listing, that’s just somehow is a great product and people love it and people return to it and Amazon keeps rewarding that.

Adam:                          But, if you don’t have five years to wait around, or 2 years to wait around you kind of want to see better results now or of your products going to be a success on Amazon. You have to start throwing eyeballs at it and seeing what happens.

Ben:                             So is there any impact that paid advertising has on the performance of your listing organically, is it, you know, does it drive more reviews; does it– more eyeballs on the page and Amazon knows you’re serious, so they’re going to send you more organic traffic, talk to me about the impact paid has on organic traffic.

Adam:                          All of the above. So there is something called the “Halo” effect, where, if you are bidding on the keyword, if you’re paying for the keyword for smart speaker or smart home speaker, and you start getting conversions through that ad. Amazon is actually going to notice that and start ranking organically for the same keyword. It makes sense from their perspective, they’re like, “Hey, this guy is paying,” and they know they’re getting a good response from the audience, so why would we reward them organically for that.

Ben:                             So, you can essentially expedite the pace of Amazon evaluating your product for a specific keyword by using their paid tools to buy traffic for that keyword?

Adam:                          Yeah, and unfortunately it seems to be — unless you have a huge list, like an email list or Facebook list or Instagram list, it seems to be the only way now to expedite that.

Ben:                             How often do you go back and edit the keyword lists and optimize the title? When you get some data, and your listing isn’t performing, is it something that is valuable to you to go back and take a second look, or do you just find that you do one iteration of the product, title, description, bullets, the back end data you have, and you just said it and forget it.

Adam:                          Great question. So, what we’re looking at internal KPIs, we’re looking at conversion rate for the product, and our internal metrics, if we’re not at 30% conversion rate, something is up, like Amazon has a higher conversion rate that a typical website, and we want to get that higher up. We’ve had products with 75% conversion rate.

Ben:                             And conversion rate — you mean when somebody gets to the listing page, they’re actually buying the product.

Adam:                          Exactly. They’re buying. Yeah, Amazon’s biased, it’s way different than a typical website conversion rate. So what we’re doing, we’re taking a look, we’re seeing if– and we’re evaluating this not on a daily basis, because there’s not enough data coming in and not enough changes, but maybe every week, every two weeks we’re taking a look and seeing if there’s– what good converting words or phrases in those advertising campaigns that for some reason weren’t in the title, weren’t prominent in the description.

Adam:                          And if we’re finding those gold nuggets then we do want to update the front end, or the back end with those keywords, because obviously people are searching for that keyword, our ad is showing to them, and they’re buying. But it’s not even in our listing, so that’s some goals right there.

Ben:                             That’s the interesting part to me about Amazon, is that you could do your keyword optimization, and you’re doing competitive research and trying to be strategic and use some data to figure out how to create your listing and how to place it so Amazon will rank it appropriately. But the biggest signal that you have on Amazon is what the performances of your paid advertising, and that is influencing your organic strategy, which is dramatically different than how we think about organic listings in SEO where there is very little, if any, impact when somebody advertises on Google.

Ben:                             That does not affect where they rank in Google organic search, and you’re saying, look, not only can we seed Amazon to ask them essentially to rank us for specific keywords by buying the ads, but then when we buy ads, we will then go and put those keywords back into the listing to try to drive our traffic back up.

Adam:                          Kind of crazy, yeah.

Ben:                             Interesting. So there’s a deep connection and collaboration between Amazon’s paid activity and their organic strategy. Adam, any other last tips for optimizing organic traffic to Amazon?

Adam:                          Yeah. I would say if you don’t want to spend money on Amazon, on their advertising platform, but let’s say you had a thousand, or a million person email list, you had a great Facebook community or Instagram community, you could actually drive traffic to Amazon, assuming they’re going to convert at a high rate. Give up your eCommerce sales, give up your retail sales for a day or a week or some scheduled period, drive them to Amazon, and then you’re going to rank organically for those front and backend keywords, because Amazon loves external traffic going to Amazon from other social networks and Facebook and email.

Adam:                          They really reward that. It’s like, “These guys are doing something, let’s reward them four keyword ranks.”

Ben:                             Interesting. So, Amazon’s algorithm that figures out where a listing should be placed organically, how you should rank, is not only influenced by the paid advertising platform on Amazon, but you could drive traffic to your listing; which basically can be generic traffic, and as long as Amazon sees that your page is performing, that’s going to help boost your organic listings, it’ll help you rank higher.

Adam:                          Yes, and big caveat: don’t just send a million Facebook bot likes; don’t send garbage traffic to it because that’s actually going to do the inverse, like, you’ll go down for your keyword rankings. You’re just going to waste a bunch of money and hurt you. You want to send high quality traffic, you want to send your raving fans to the listing, because they’re going to buy. They’re going to buy probably at a higher conversion rate than the typical Amazon shopper, and Amazon likes a high conversion rate, and they’re going to reward you with higher search rankings.

Ben:                             So at the end of the day, the Amazon algorithm, easily influenced by some of the other marketing activities that you can do; so the more traffic you can drive that’s going to be performant, anything that’s going to drive a conversion, whether it be using Amazon’s platform, using your email list, your social network following, whatever ability you have to point the fire hose towards your Amazon pages is going to inevitably help your organic listings on Amazon.

Adam:                          Well put.

Ben:                             Let me ask one question: have you seen the Amazon pages people are creating for their listings help drive any traffic outward? We know we can drive inward traffic to Amazon to boost a product listing on Amazon. Can you use a high-ranking product listing on Amazon to try to boost your Google rankings?

Adam:                          Anecdotally, yes, because what’s going to happen== that’s a flywheel we talk about, a model we talk about. So, you’re ranking well for Ben’s Smart Home Speaker, that’s your brand name, you’re ranking well for that. What’s going to happen is we’re going to start ranking organically for smart speaker– – that never knew about our brand, but they’re going to the generic smart speaker keyword, and some of them are going to the website, and they’re going to buy. Some of them are going to bounce out and go look for reviews elsewhere on the internet, so yes, some people like to go to Amazon, but some people like to buy from manufacturers’ website, and we’re going to benefit. It really is a rising tide.

Ben:                             So, there is a brand lift for you having a prominent placement on Amazon as well, which inevitably helps your Google rankings.

Adam:                          Definitely.

Ben:                             It’s a virtuous cycle. Adam, let me just say, thank you for coming out to the podcast, great to reconnect and thanks for telling the SEO audience a little bit about how they can optimize for Amazon.

Adam:                          Anytime Ben, thanks.

Ben:                             Okay, that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Adam Weiler, the founder of Sunken Stone. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Adam you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes, or you can visit his company’s website, which is sunkenstone.com.

Ben:                             If you have general marketing questions or if you want to talk about this podcast you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you could send me a tweet at BenJShap. And 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/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team.

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 next week.

Ben:                             Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast, and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Okay, that’s it for today, but until next time remember: the answers are always in the data.


Google News Digest: Google I/O Updates, Google Marketing Live 2019 and More

Google News Digest: Google I/O Updates, Google Marketing Live 2019 and More

This digest covers all the big announcements Google made during two of its biggest annual events: Google I/O and Google Marketing Live 2019. We have tried to review every notable update from these events, including the new AR feature in Google Search and Images, new capabilities in Lens (Google‘s image recognition technology), new tools for App promotion, new ad units, and much more.


Should you keep old content?

Writing a blog post can be a challenge. It is hard work, but afterwards, you’re probably proud of what you have created. No way you are ever going to throw those beautiful articles away, right? But what should you do with blog posts that are really, really old? Should you keep all of those?

In this blog post, I’ll explain why you cannot keep all of your old content. Also, I’ll explain what types of content you should keep on your site and which kinds of articles should be deleted.

Why you cannot keep all your content

Even if your content is really awesome, you need to do some cleaning. Otherwise, you’ll be hurting your own chances of ranking in Google. You see, there are only a limited number of places in Google’s search results pages. Google will only show 1 or 2 results from the same domain in the search results for any specific query. If you’re a high authority domain, you might get away with three results.

If you have written 3 articles focussing on the same – or very similar – keywords, you are competing with yourself for those limited spaces in the search results. You’ll be confusing Google. That’s why you cannot blog endlessly about the same content and leave it be. You need to do some content management.

Read more: What is keyword cannibalization? »

Update, delete or merge?

There are three things you can do with old content. You can keep it, you can delete it or you can merge it. Not sure what to do? It all depends upon your content.

1. Update valuable content

Is an article still very valuable? Does it get a lot of traffic from Google? Is the post still in line with your site and your company? Old content that is still very valuable should, of course, be kept on your website. Do make sure that this content is updated on a regular basis. Your most important articles should never contain any outdated information. Setting reminders for yourself to update those evergreens every now and then is a great way to make sure your content is always up to date. 

Solve it with site structure

Keeping content on your website does come with a price, especially if you write a lot about similar topics. Make sure you add some structure and hierarchy to your website. If one of your pages or posts is much more important than the other one, you should treat it as such. Place that important page higher in your hierarchy. Link from less important pages to your most important page. that way you’ll be telling Google which article you want to rank highest with and you can keep both articles.

Keep reading: How to set up a cornerstone content strategy? »

2. Delete (and redirect) outdated content

Is an article outdated? Does it contain invalid information? Does it contain information that’s no longer informative? Every now and then you write about an upcoming event or you announce something new. After some time, these articles are pretty much useless. These types of articles should be deleted. Do make sure to redirect the article to something similar (or to the homepage if you cannot find an alternative).

3. Merge content

Have you written multiple articles about the same topic? Are they pretty much the same? Are they ranking for the same topics? These types of articles should be merged. Make one really awesome article out of the two (or three) you have written. Then delete (but do not forget to redirect) the old articles. I would write the new merged article on the URL that attracted the most traffic from Google.

Conclusion: continue to clean up

Checking, updating, structuring and deleting old content should be part of a process. Just like you need to clean up your kitchen closet every now and then, you also need to clean up your old content. As your site grows, you need to clean out the content and maintain the structure. This really needs to be a core element in every SEO strategy.

The post Should you keep old content? appeared first on Yoast.


How to do a one-page analysis in Google Analytics

I often get a request from our Blog team about one of their pages. Sometimes they want to know if the page has gotten more pageviews or they notice something weird and they want me to find out what’s going on. And this time they wanted more insight in the performance of one particular page. I want to share with you how I deal with this request.

So the other day I got a request to check the performance of our Blog homepage. We want to optimize that page so it fits better with the need of our audience. If you have an idea about that, you can leave your feedback in the comments section below this post.

Page level analysis

The first thing I had a look at is how ‘popular’ the page is and if it’s worth the effort to spend time and resources on this page. I went to the All pages report in Google Analytics, which you can find under Behavior –> Site content and did a cmd+F or ctrl+F search for the page https://yoast.com/seo-blog/. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for; it’s because it probably isn’t within the first ten results. So you need to expand your table first; you can do this on the right bottom of the table.

search for a page in Google Analytics

I notice it’s at position 32 if you look at the number of pageviews, which is a reasonably high position and thus worthy of further investigation. I also notice that in 6,327 of the cases it’s an entrance page, this means it’s in 35,3% of the cases the first page of the session (6,327 / 17,931 * 100).

You can also search for a specific post in the search bar to see just the metrics of that page but sometimes other pages show up as well.

Search for one page in Google Analytics

If the page is in blue letters, it means you can specify even further when clicking on it because it’s a link. Or you can use regex; regex stands for “regular expression”. Lunametrics made this fun regex guide that shows you how you can use regex in Google Analytics. It may sound a bit scary, but if you know the basics, it’s quite doable and will make your Google Analytics life a whole lot easier. Here’s how a regex would look if I just wanted the SEO blog homepage:

^yoast\.com\/seo-blog\/$

Use regex in the search bar in Google Analytics

But in this case, you can just as well click on the page to see just the metrics of that page. Try to understand what the metrics are saying and how it compares to the site’s average. In this case, for a page that’s built to guide people to blog posts of their interests, a bounce rate of 50.48% is fairly high. That means that in half of the cases, people didn’t do anything on that page! That’s not what the page is designed for.

I was also curious to see if this page gets a lot of mobile traffic, so I added a secondary dimension with the Device category. I then checked what the metrics told me.

Adding secondary dimension: device category in Google Analytics

About 10% of the page views come from a mobile device. You can see it has a higher bounce rate so checking the mobile experience is a good idea.

Trend analysis

And, I was curious to see how the page developed over time, so I added a wider timeframe to check if I saw something unusual. You can adjust the graph you’re seeing. Perhaps you’re interested if Bounce rate declined or not. You can select this metric and you’ll see the trend of the bounce rate of that page.

Adding a wider time frame in Google Analytics

Session level analysis

I then looked at this page from a page level. But, I had more questions about this page. If people are entering our site through this page, where are they coming from? So, I had a look from a session level perspective. I went to landing pages and did the same search as in the All pages report.

Finding a landing page in Google Analytics

It’s at position 65 and obviously has 6,327 sessions since we saw that in the All pages report at entrances. I once again looked at the metrics and tried to understand what they’re telling me. The number of pages per session, the bounce rate and the number of ‘new’ users. And I had a look at conversions.

I then dove in further, clicked on the page and added a secondary dimension: medium, so I could quickly see where traffic is coming from. I noticed that we have a lot of traffic that we don’t know the source of. So that’s something to explore further. In second position comes our plugin and third is organic search traffic. Which is interesting to see because I’m curious with what keywords people end up on that page and if we rank properly on that keyword or keyphrase. With that information, we can improve the SEO of that page even further.

Again, I had a look at bounce rates, pages per session, number of new users and possible conversions. Thinking about if the page is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Google Search Console analysis

I needed to go to Google Search Console to find information about the keywords or keyphrases the blog homepage ranks for. You go to your Google Search Console account and click on Search results. Then you set a filter that exactly matches the URL of your page, in our case: https://yoast.com/seo-blog/.

Adding a page filter in Google Search Console

You now see the queries and position of that page. Take a look at the metrics and try to understand what’s going on. It’s especially interesting if you have a lot of impressions but a low clickthrough rate (CTR).

Results of page filter in Google Search Console

Conclusion

What can we learn from this analysis? For one is that it’s worth the while to put some time and effort into this page. I learned that we can optimize the SEO of that page even further and that we can put some more effort into ranking for the keyword SEO blog.

I also noticed that it’s quite a popular page, but the bounce rate is too high for my taste. Especially when the goal of the page is to guide people to a blog post of their interest. So, there needs to be interaction with this page. We need to find out what people expect to find on this page. So, therefore, extra information is needed. That’s why we added a simple poll on this page, using Hotjar. We also created a heatmap with this tool to get a better understanding of how people behave on the page.

Combining data gives you a far more holistic view and will make sure you can draw more reliable conclusions. Data we can use to optimize the blog homepage even further. The perfect dataset doesn’t exist but we can try to get as far near perfection as possible.

The post How to do a one-page analysis in Google Analytics appeared first on Yoast.