Archives January 2019

Yoast SEO 12.8: Fixes and enhancements

Welcome to another year of helping you achieve your goals with your site! Today, it’s time for the first in a long line of releases planned for 2020: Yoast SEO 12.8. In this release, you’ll find a number of bug fixes and performance enhancements. Let’s get to it!

Enhancements

A while ago, a developer called Alex Bouma reached out to us on GitHub with an interesting performance-enhancing improvement. He suggested a better way of retrieving the options inside Yoast SEO. We tended to call these a lot — which led to a less than optimal performance. After careful testing and slightly adjusting the methodology, we came up with a good solution that works. This is one of many performance-enhancing improvements we’re rolling out this year.

Schema identifiers

We offer a lot of flexibility for developers who want to integrate with our Schema structured data implementation. In our Schema documentation, you’ll find everything you need to get going. In Yoast SEO 12.8, we’ve made the implementation a bit more flexible by making it possible to look for a public class property named identifier. This makes it possible to integrate in a situation where the class isn’t named WPSEO_Schema_* or is using a namespace.

Paging comments in Health Check

In Yoast SEO 12.8, we moved the notice from paginated comments from the dashboard to WordPress’ Health Check. Should you paginate comments — not needed for most sites, due to SEO and UX concerns —, you can find a new notice on your Health Check dashboard.

Activating paging comments used to trigger a dashboard notification, but we’ve moved this to Site Health

Bug fixes

As always, this release features a number of bug fixes and other improvements. We’ve also improved the documentation for the Schema structured data HowTo block (thanks to Tim van Iersel) and the Breadcrumbs file, thanks to Alfio Salanitri.

Some of the bugs we fixed concerned incorrect icon placements, styling issues, incorrectly generated Schema for breadcrumbs and one where the images alt attribute SEO assessment in the Classic Editor didn’t work properly. We’ve also fixed a bug where author archives for authors without posts would show up in the search results, even though the “Show archives for authors without posts in search results?” option was enabled. See the full changelog for a detailed overview of all the fixes and enhancements.

Update to Yoast SEO 12.8

And there you have it: the first release of 2020! In this release, we made a number of improvements to enhance the performance of the plugin. Please review the changes and update to Yoast SEO 12.8 whenever you’re ready.

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Seer Goes to Hogwarts

Harry Potter and the Missing Scarf

It’s tough to accurately describe Seer’s culture in a way that others can understand. Our team is just as ambitious, driven, and competitive as it is supportive, kind, and nurturing. But at the end of the day, we’re all a bunch of nerds. And we really like Harry Potter. And data.

It all started when a member of the team (we’ll call him “Ryan” to protect his identity) discovered a lost scarf in the office and sent a photo to the office group chat in an attempt to find the owner.

Seer Loves Harry Potter

The photo of Ryan wearing the lost scarf immediately became fodder for Photoshop, where his head and scarf were placed upon the body of a Quidditch player from Harry Potter.

Seer Loves Harry Potter

Naturally, this resulted in a company-wide inquiry: was “Ryan” really a Slytherin? Lacking access to a magical sorting hat, there was only one way to find out – the internet.

The Sorting Hat

Time Magazine’s Harry Potter Sorting Hat Quiz provided the answers we all needed. If you’re not familiar with Harry Potter, there are four houses into which students are sorted based upon personality traits.

  • Gryffindor: Students are known for being brave, loyal, and adventurous. Gryffindors are likely to stand up for others and to do the right thing.
  • Ravenclaw: Known for their intelligence, wisdom, and for valuing brains over brawn. These people are often the smartest in the room.
  • Hufflepuff: Students value hard work, are kind to others, and are known for being patient and loyal. Hufflepuffs enjoy making others happy and doing what is nice.
  • Slytherin: Known for being clever, ambitious, and determined. Slytherins are proud of their achievements and will do what is necessary to get ahead.

Who Works at Seer?

As more team members took the quiz and shared their results, we realized we needed a way to capture all of the data. By the end of the day, over 100 team members had submitted their results, and we were ready to do some data analysis.

Seer Hogwarts House Data

Most witches and wizards will not simply have the personality traits associated with one single house, but will demonstrate a mix of traits associated with different houses. The quiz classifies each participant according to the overall percentage of relevant traits they demonstrate for each of the houses at Hogwarts.

If you know anything about Seer, you’ll know that we love data visualization. A member of our Data Strategy team (we’ll call him “Michael” to protect his identity) plugged our data into a box plot so we could take a look at our results.

Seer Hogwarts House Data

Overall, the majority of the Seer team was sorted into Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff. This tells me what I already know to be true – we’ve got a team of super-smart, inquisitive people who love to learn, and we’re also incredibly friendly, nice, and willing to share our knowledge. Just look at the rest of this blog for proof of how much we love to share what we know!

Very few of our team members were sorted into Slytherin, which is not surprising, since many of us tend to struggle with imposter syndrome and not taking as much pride in our kick-ass work as we should.

Join Our Team!

Still waiting to get your Hogwarts letter in the mail? Join our team of data wizards and business intelligence witches! Sign up for our newsletter below to get access to the magical work we’re doing, and check out our open positions to see if you could be a good fit for our team.


Google Has Updated Quote Searching to Focus on Videos

Searching for Quotes has shifted at Google with an Updated Continuation Patent

In August of 2017, I wrote the post Google Searching Quotes of Entities. The patent that post was about was called Systems and methods for searching quotes of entities using a database.

I noticed that this patent was updated last year (February 2019) with a continuation patent. I like comparing the claims in older patents with the claims from newer continuation patents – it is a message saying, “We used to do something one way, but we have changed how we do it now, and want to protect our intellectual property by updating the claims in this patent with a newer version of it.”

Reviewing the Patents on quote searching

It appears that this patent is showing us that Google is paying more attention to indexing audio, and that shows in this updated patent.

Here is a comparison of the claims from the patents.

The first claim from the 2017 versionSystems and methods for searching quotes of entities using a database:

1. A computerized system for searching and identifying quotes, the system comprising: a memory device that stores a set of instructions; and at least one processor that executes the set of instructions to: receive a search query for a quote from a user; parse the query to identify one or more key words; match the one or more key words to knowledge graph items associated with candidate subject entities in a knowledge graph stored in one or more databases, wherein the knowledge graph includes a plurality of items associated with a plurality of subject entities and a plurality of relationships between the plurality of items; determine, based on the matching knowledge graph items, a relevance score for each of the candidate subject entities; identify, from the candidate subject entities, one or more subject entities for the query based on the relevance scores associated with the candidate subject entities; identify a set of quotes corresponding to the one or more subject entities; determine quote scores for the identified quotes based on at least one of the relationship of each quote to the one or more subject entities, the recency of each quote, or the popularity of each quote; select quotes from the identified quotes based on the quote scores; and transmit information to a display device to display the selected quotes to the user.

The first claim from the 2019 versionSystems and methods for searching quotes of entities using a database

1. A method comprising the following operations performed by one or more processors: receiving audio content from a client device of a user; performing audio analysis on the audio content to identify a quote in the audio content; determining the user as an author of the audio content based on recognizing the user as the speaker of the audio content; identifying, based on words or phrases extracted from the quote, one or more subject entities associated with the quote; storing, in a database, the quote, and an association of the quote to the subject entities and to the user being the author; subsequent to storing the quote and the association: receiving, from the user, a search query; parsing the search query to identify that the search query requests one or more quotes by the user about one or more of the subject entities; identifying, from the database and responsive to the search query, a set of quotes by the user corresponding to the one or more of the subject entities, the set of quotes including the quote; selecting the quote from the quotes of the set based at least in part on the recency of each quote; and transmitting, in response to the search query, information for presenting the selected quote to the user via the client device or an additional client device of the user.

If you want to read about how this patent was originally intended to work, I detailed that process when I wrote about the original granted patent that was granted in 2017. The continuation patent was filed in 2017 and was granted last spring. The first version tells us about finding quotes looking at knowledge graph entries. The phrase “knowledge graph” was left out of the newer claim, but it also tells us that it is specifically looking for audio content, and performing analysis on audio content to collect quotes from entities.

Takeaways

What this update tells me is that Google is going to rely less upon finding quote information from knowledge base sources, and work upon collecting quote information from performing audio analysis. This seems to indicate a desire to build an infrastructure that doesn’t rely upon humans to update a knowledge graph but instead can rely upon automated programs that can crawl content on the web, and analyze that information and index it. This does look like an attempt to move towards an approach that can scale on a web level without relying upon people to record quotes from others.

I am seeing videos at the top of results when I search for quotes from movies, and that have been reported upon in the news. Like President Trump referring to a phone call he had with the leader of Ukraine as a “perfect phone call.”

quote searching using videos

Note that Google is showing videos as search results for that quote.

I tried a number of quotes that I am familiar with from history and from Movies, and I am seeing at or near the top of search results videos with those quotes in them. That isn’t proof that Google is using audio from videos to identify the sources of those quotes, but it isn’t a surprise after seeing how this patent has changed.

Has Google gotten that much better at understanding what is said in videos and indexing such content? It may be telling us that they have more confidence in how they have indexed video content. I would still recommend making transcripts of any videos that you publish to the web, to be safe in making sure content from a video gets indexed correctly. But it is possible that Google has gotten better at understanding audio in videos.

Of course, this change may be one triggered by an understanding of the intent behind quote searches. It’s possible that when someone searches for a quote, they may be less interested in learning who said something, and more interested in watching or hearing them say it. This would be a motivation for making sure that a video appears ranking highly in search results.


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20/20 Vision: Increasing Zero-Click SEO Positioning – Jordan Koene // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: SEO experienced massive changes throughout the 2010s with the rapid development of new technologies, which forever changed the ways we shop, conduct business, search and connect with each other. As we enter a new decade, SEOs everchanging nature guarantees the industry will undergo more changes well into the 2020s, but what those changes will look like remains uncertain. Join host Ben and Searchmetrics’ CEO Jordan Koene as they kick off the first episode of the new year with 20/20 Vision week as they predict the increase of zero-click positioning in 2020.

Summary:

  • Google is enhancing the position zero concept by answering user queries with concise top-of-SERP answer box experiences, eliminating the need for users to click links and visit websites.
  • The change is partially inspired by voice search queries and increasing the mobile usability experience.
  • A seamless voice search experience is still several years away, but Google aims to improve the utility of queries and provide opportunities for more detailed experiences.

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Ben:                 Welcome to SEO Predictions Week on the Voices of Search Podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro. And this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering our bold SEO predictions for 2020.

Ben:                 But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. Searchmetrics is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise-scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. And to support you, our loyal podcast listeners, they are offering a complimentary trial of their services and software. That’s right. You can try the Searchmetrics Research Cloud Suite and the Content Experience Tool to optimize all of your content risk-free, no credit card required by going to searchmetrics.com/trial. That’s searchmetrics.com/trial.

Ben:                 Okay. On with SEO Predictions Week where we’re talking to Jordan Koene who is the lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. And today Jordan and I are going to talk about his prediction that there’s going to be an increase in zero click SEO positionings, aka brand SEO.

Ben:                 Welcome to the 2020 edition of SEO Predictions Week on the Voices of Search Podcast.

Jordan:             All right. Happy New Year, Ben.

Ben:                 Hey buddy, happy New Year. How are you doing?

Jordan:             I’m great. I’m great. I’m excited about this.

Ben:                 It’s amazing. We’re doing this again. It’s our second year of SEO predictions. I’d say we should go back and review our old predictions, but I’m not sure any of them are right. So let’s just skip it and get on to what we think is going to happen for this year.

Jordan:             Yeah, accountability is very questionable right now.

Ben:                 Do you remember what our predictions were for last year?

Jordan:             I do recall. I think I made a prediction that something along the lines at Google Search Console was going to change more, but I think that’s the only one I got right.

Ben:                 I think we said something about GDPR and there being more regulations to something about voice search. Something like that happened.

Jordan:             Make a prediction about like the government clamping down on Google, which didn’t happen either.

Ben:                 California passed the regulations. There’s stuff coming.

Jordan:             CCPA just is coming into effect as January.

Ben:                 Look everybody, we may or may not know what we’re talking about, but it’s going to be real entertaining. Stick with us. Jordan, let’s get onto your first prediction for 2020. You said to me that you think there’s going to be an increase in zero click SEO positioning, aka brand SEO. What does that mean?

Jordan:             Yeah, so this is really Google continuing to push the position zero concept. More or less it’s the answer box lag experience. It is the ability for Google to answer the question at the top of the SERP without there being a need for the consumer to click. So providing ordered lists, providing diagrams, providing complete recipes within an answer box like experience. That means that the user doesn’t need to actually visit the website. They got all their needs met right at the top of the SERP without having to do anything.

Ben:                 So, here’s the big concern I have if you’re right from marketer’s perspective, not specifically just an SEO perspective. If you rank at position zero, you’re going to show your content. You’re not going to have attributable traffic coming from it. There is no click. You’re just sharing information. So how are SEOs going to take credit for their work? If position zero becomes more prominent, doesn’t that create a problem for Google that SEOs are … They’re basically going to hurt the SEO community by, let’s call it stealing some of their content.

Jordan:             Yeah, I mean I think this does get really tricky. And let’s break this down in a couple of different sections. There’s the stealing content component. Let’s table that for just a second here. But I also believe that there’s a huge value add here that is often overlooked, which is the concept of brand SEO. SEOs don’t spend a lot of time talking about branding or brand positioning, but I do believe that as Google moves more and more to this single focus answer like experience, there’s going to be a critical need for brands to focus on their ability to secure these high value exposure positions.

Jordan:             And what I mean by that is that, look, Google needs to become more and more specific about what they’re telling consumers. This is partly due to voice search, but this is really quite frankly, the demand of users. Users are looking for this. And so at the end of the day, I believe that SEOs, in order for them to really actually measure this, they’re going to need to look at brand SEO from a whole new lens. They’re going to have to look at impressions, search volume, positioning in a whole new way than they ever have before. And it’s not going to be the classic keyword rank tracking exercise, but it’s going to be more of like how much brand exposure am I getting? How many users am I reaching out to? How many local users am I able to connect with through these positions and provide reporting and analytics at that level?

Ben:                 I think if your prediction is right, it changes the KPIs, which SEOs should evaluate themselves on, right? We’re not just looking at average rank positioning, we’re not looking at traffic at conversions. We’re starting to look at more brand centric message, and I guess the thing that comes to mind is if I’m a performance marketer, I look at the brand marketing team and I say, “You guys aren’t accountable for jack. All you have to do is get somebody to see our name and you get credit. I have to get somebody through the entire funnel to get credit.” Now, the SEOs are now somewhere in between there where it’s like, “Hey, we want to get credit for showing the content and having a brand impression, but we also want to be able when there is a click to attribute the value.” SEO is essentially being positioned in between brand performance marketing then.

Jordan:             It absolutely is, and I believe that one of the key transitions in this is going to be due to the fact that Google has over the last decade or so needed to find ways to appease consumers in a faster way. This really started with mobile and like mobile usability and the ability to show an experience that provided enough information on mobile. But now as we move into voice search, the ability to attribute and to track that is going to become increasingly more difficult, and ultimately SEOs are going to have to put on their brand identity hats in order to be successful if Google invests in this more aggressively.

Ben:                 Yeah, and I think that’s the answer to why is Google doing this. You mentioned a couple of different factors. One, they don’t have to send somebody to anybody else’s page if they can just present the information on Google. So it’s a little market share grabbing. We can take your content, we can show it, enjoy the brand impression, but that’s all you get from us because we can. Then two, Google is gearing up for voice search.

Ben:                 One thing I wanted to say before I let you go, we’ve talked a little bit about this offline, how all of the predictions that we’ve been seeing for 2020 is voice search, voice search, voice search. Voice is taking over. People are only going to talk to their Alexa and not their spouses, right? Google Home is going to run your entire life. You and I disagree. Why?

Jordan:             We disagree, I mean, largely because I don’t believe that the average consumer has really identified where the full value is for voice search. There are key like pain points that are being addressed with voice and voice search, but there isn’t the full scope being addressed yet. You don’t buy your Amazon products seamlessly with voice search. You don’t research your health needs with voice search. And so quite frankly, I don’t see Google making a massive investment in voice search changes just for the sake of voice search. It’s really a bunch of changes that help users identify what they need and in some cases it’s being influenced by voice search.

Ben:                 I think you hit the nail on the head. What we’re going to see with voice search is we’re going to see a refactoring of how Google identifies and prioritizes content. We saw that a lot this year. There’s the sentiment analysis and the updates and the natural language processing and then the rise of position zero. All of those position zero topics are great for voice search responses, and what we’re going to see on the utility side is a couple of scenarios where your Google Home is going to ask you a couple of questions when you talk to it. It might be, “Hey Google, tell me where there’s a flight to Miami.” And it could say, “What time? What type of seat do you want?” There’s going to be a couple specific experiences where you can go deep and actually have more utility.

Ben:                 And Google will start plugging and playing these just like what they did with search where they took maps and they put it on the SERP, where they took Wikipedia answer boxes or whatever, a very format and type of content. They’re building experiences around that before we really see a massive change in the utility and usability of voice search, Google needs to do a lot of experimentation on what people want and how it works.

Jordan:             Precisely. Precisely and I think one of the first steps into that is the ability for search to become more brand centric and in so doing, that’s where Google can then make more precision-like questions and understand what’s going on because there’s a clear say brand winner that Google knows is controlling the real estate on this particular topic. And then they can decide for whether or not there’s a destination or transaction or more information that needs to be provided.

Ben:                 Absolutely. The brand SEO, the position zero all points to the direction that voice search is going to be incredibly impactful. I think it’s more of a 2020 decade prediction than it is a 2020 the year prediction.

Jordan:             Right, right.

Ben:                 And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, CEO and lead SEO strategist at Searchmetrics Inc. we’d love to continue this conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is @JTKOENE. J-T-K-O-E-N-E. Or if you have general marketing questions, if you’d like to talk to me about this show, if you’re interested in being a guest on the Voices of Search Podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes. You could send me a tweet @BenJShap. But we also created a Twitter handle for this podcast, which is @voicesofsearch.

Ben:                 If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial for your complimentary trial of the Searchmetrics suite and content experience platform. And if you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow to discuss another one of our 2020 predictions. We’re going to be talking about how we’re going to see an increase in featured elements from Google.

Ben:                 Okay. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.


What impact will voice search have on SEO in 2020?

With every year seeing new technological developments that shift the boundaries of business, working to take advantage of the new opportunities can be a challenge in digital marketing. One of these transformations in the market has been caused by the widespread adoption of voice search technology and its effects on internet usage.

As a consequence, this has had an impact on search engine optimization, where following SEO best practices is essential for most businesses in the current era. Internet voice search could be set to disrupt SEO conventions, so businesses would be well-advised to stay informed of the changes and plan accordingly.  

The rise of voice technology

The introduction of IBM’s Watson in 2010 paved the way for voice technology devices. Watson is a powerful voice recognition question-answer computer system that stunned the world as a super-intelligent, thinking, and speaking robot that was able to beat Trivia grandmasters on the TV quiz show, ‘Jeopardy’. In the following year, Google launched its Voice Search and Apple released Siri for the iPhone 4S, the first digital personal assistant. 

This was followed in 2014 by Cortana from Microsoft and Amazon Echo, a voice speaker powered by the personal assistant, Alexa. Google Assistant was launched in 2016, as well as the smart speaker Google Home. Initial figures showed Amazon Alexa to be leading the market, though Google Home is forecast to take the lead by 2020. Other prominent digital assistants on the global stage include Alice from Yandex, and AliGenie from Alibaba.  

Voice recognition technology has significantly improved since its inception. Google claims 95 percent accuracy, while the Chinese iFlytek speech recognition system has an accuracy of 98%. 

Voice technology has also spread to devices that fall under the umbrella term, the Internet of Things (IoT), such as a smart TV, a smart thermostat or a home kit. While it may be possible, internet voice search doesn’t have direct applications for most of these devices yet, and by far the greatest share of searches are currently made on either a smartphone or a smart speaker.

Twenty percent of queries on Google’s mobile app and Android devices are made with voice, while 31% of smartphone users use voice at least once a week, according to Statistica. 

Media analytics firm Comscore predicts that half of all online searches will be made through voice by 2020, while Gartner predicts that in the same year, 30% of online searches will be made on devices without a screen. This suggests an enormous rise in voice search, as well as the increased adoption of smart speakers. Earlier this year, Juniper Research predicted that 3.25 billion voice assistants were in use – a figure they forecast to reach eight billion by 2023. 

The effects of voice on SEO

Voice is, therefore, transforming our approaches to technology and the internet, but what impact is it having on search engine optimization?

Natural language

With improved and reliable voice recognition systems, voice technology is well adapted to follow everyday language use, so users can give commands as if they were speaking to a human. For any areas of potential confusion, emerging technologies are seeking to improve the user experience. The 2018 Internet Trends Report by venture capitalist and internet trends specialist, Mary Meeker, found that 70% of English language voice searches were made in natural or conversational language. 

Keyword length

Spoken language usually isn’t as concise as the written word, so queries will be longer than the three or four keyword searches more common to graphical user interfaces (GUI). Voice searches currently average 29 words in length, according to Backlinko. SEO strategists will need to adjust by using more long-tail keywords, with the added benefit that the longer the keyword phrases are, the higher the probability of conversion. 

Graph showing voice search query phrase length

Source: Neilpatel.com

Question words

Voice searches will more frequently include the question words who, which, when, where, and how, that are usually omitted in written searches. Marketers need to ensure content can deliver accurate and relevant answers to voice search queries, and distinguish between simple questions and those that require more comprehensive answers. Queries that can be answered with very short responses typically won’t generate traffic to a website because Google will often provide the required information via featured search snippets. 

According to SeoClarity, 20% of voice searches are triggered by just 25 keywords. These include question words and other commonly used verbs, such as make, do and can, as well as key nouns and adjectives, including a recipe, new, easy, types and home. These can be worked into SEO strategies, and question-form queries can show user intent to a higher degree. Marketers are therefore able to optimize content according to questions of a higher value. 

Search query trends by Bright Local

Source: Brightlocal.com

Semantic search

As opposed to lexical searches that look for literal matches of keywords, semantic searches attempt to find the user’s intended meaning within the context of the terms used. This understanding can be aided by user search history, global search history, the location of the user and keyword spelling variations. 

Google’s RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system designed to recognize words and phrases in order to improve internet search outcomes. This independent thinking quality of RankBrain helps it take query handling to a more sophisticated level. Hummingbird is another Google technology that helps natural language queries. It helps search result pages be more relevant based on context and intent, causing relevant pages to rank higher. 

Local search

Voice technology has brought an increased emphasis on the use of local search. Consumers are three times more likely to search locally when searching by voice. Research carried out over the last year shows that 58% of consumers find local businesses using voice search, and 46 percent use voice technology to find information on local businesses daily. Marketing strategies should account for this change and optimize for “near me” queries. 

SERPs

Around 75% of voice search results will rank in the top three positions in search engine results pages (SERPs). Most voice searches are answered by Rich Answer Boxes shown at the top of results pages. Featured snippets are included in 30 percent of Google queries. These are extracts from any website on the first page of SERPs, and brands are given credit in voice search as well as usual GUI searches. Brands only need to be on the first page to be used in featured snippets, rather than position zero.

Ecommerce

Ecommerce is especially impacted by voice, as consumers are much more likely to use voice to make purchases. Sixty-two percent of voice speaker owners have made purchases through their virtual assistant, and 40 percent of millennials use voice assistants before making online purchases. Digital assistants – and the best ways to optimize for them – should, therefore, be a priority for online retailers. 

Adapting to voice search

With voice technology impacting SEO in various ways, here are a few recommended steps brands can take to adapt accordingly.

  1. Google Voice prioritizes quick-loading websites, so brands should ensure images are optimized, files are compressed, response time is reduced, and the site is fully responsive. 
  2. Content should be optimized with long-tail keywords that reflect popular queries used in voice search. Focus on natural language. 
  3. Featured snippets are summary answers from web pages that may be used in position zero. To optimize content for this, include identifiable extracts to be featured and make content easier for Google to read by using H-tags and bullet points. 
  4. Structured data and schema markup provide more information about a brand and drive traffic. They help pages appear in rich snippets, which will increase the chances of being the first result delivered in voice searches. 
  5. Local information for your brand should be provided to meet the increased search volume for local businesses with voice – using Google My Business will help.  
  6. Increasing domain authority will help with search rankings – this can be improved by including high-quality links.

The impact of voice technology on SEO is certain. Given the huge rise in the adoption and use of voice, the impact on businesses will be considerable. Those brands that can anticipate and stay ahead of the changes before they happen will surely reap the benefits in years to come.

Roy Castleman is founder and managing director of EC-MSP Ltd., a London-based IT support organization focusing on small and medium-sized businesses.

The post What impact will voice search have on SEO in 2020? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


Why You Should be Leveraging Google Smart Bidding

As a digital marketer, you’re used to being strapped for time. We get it! That’s just one more reason to leverage Google’s ever-evolving Smart Bidding.

Across the PPC division at Seer, we’re leaning into automation as much as possible. This includes testing various bid strategies in our paid accounts in an effort to reach our client’s goals and also get us back time to work on bigger picture strategy and optimizations.

While smart bidding does take away a layer of control from an account team, leveraging the engine’s machine learning allows us to work faster, work smarter, and win more. Further, these strategies help get us closer to performance goals, without surpassing financial limits you may have.

Decide Which Smart Bidding Strategy to Test

First, examine the bidding strategies available and determine which is best for your client based on past performance.

💡  In our case, we considered:

  • This account has pretty aggressive CPA goals that we’re admittedly not too close to hitting at the moment! Because of this, we want to test a strategy that will help us get closer to those numbers.
  • Are you or your client extra aware of any metric in particular? In this case, CPC is a factor we keep a close eye on. Keeping this in mind will help you make more thoughtful recommendations.
  • Look at each of the active campaigns and see what performance is like (conversions, CVR, CPA). From there, recommend bid strategy tests that will help us move the CPA needle closer to where we need to be. This could be tCPA, Max Convs, etc.

💡  Taking the above into account, we determined the following strategies would be best to test:

  • Max Conversions: Drives as many conversions as possible within the specified budget.

  • Target CPA: Attains as many conversions as possible, while maintaining our target CPA.

  • Enhanced CPC: eCPC helps you get more conversions from manual bidding by automatically adjusting manual bids for clicks that seem more or less likely to lead to a sale or conversion on your website.

At the time we pitched these strategies to our client, our NonBrand campaigns were set to eCPC due to conversion tracking issues we were remedying. Before this switch, our campaigns were running on Target CPA. You’ll see in the below graphic that while eCPC is semi-automated and a great starting point, conversions start to increase significantly when a campaign is switched to one of the three smart bidding strategies.

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For several campaigns, we recommended a 50/50 split test to run for 30 days. Especially if budget is on the lower end, focusing on increasing efficiencies is the best place to focus your efforts. See our recommendations below:

Launch Campaign Experiments

Smart Bidding

Once the client reviewed our recommendations, we ended up implementing the following strategies in four campaigns:

seer icon writingTest a 50/50 experiment for Manual CPC and Max Conversions bidding strategies

Analyze Performance to Determine Next Steps

Things to Keep in Mind with Smart Bidding:

  • It typically takes ~2 weeks for the algorithms to calibrate for a newly implemented strategy.

  • You’ll want to limit the number of changes made to the campaigns once transitioned to smart bidding

Once your experiments have run for some time (we recommend 30 days), it’s time to dig into performance and decide the best next steps.

Insights:

  • Since launching on 10/4, Campaign 1’s experiment (Max Conversions) spent 14.38% less than its Manual CPC counterpart but drove a similar conversion volume at a 6.01% lower CPA.
    • CVR was 10.61% higher with Max Conversions, and CPCs were almost the same.
    • While we felt confident about Max Conversions being the right bidding strategy for Campaign 1, we recommended running for one more month to see if the experiment’s performance could continue to grow past evergreen’s Manual CPC.
  • Similar to Campaign 1, Campaign 2’s Max Conversions experiment spent 17.38% less than its Manual CPC counterpart but drove 94.44% more conversions.
    • This makes the experiment significantly more efficient, spending less ad budget while achieving greater results.
      • CPA in the experiment is 95.41% lower than the evergreen Campaign 2 campaign, while CVR is 1,572.79% higher.
      • With results this strong, we recommended ending the test and moving this campaign to be fully Max Conversions.

Google Continues Evolving and Improving Smart Bidding

Gain More Insight into Your Bid Strategy with Top Signals

Google recently added a Top Signals section in the Bid Strategy Report within the UI. This shows signal combinations that are more or less likely to convert. This could be helpful for reporting on bid strategy performance or generally explaining performance improvements if you’re using tCPA or Max Conversions. Learn more here.

Wanting to learn more about smart bidding? Reach out and our Paid team would be happy to chat! Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on upcoming Seer events, industry updates, and all things digital.


How to Use SuperMetrics in Google Sheets to Identify Bad Ad Placements

I recently wrote about uncovering a bunch of low-quality parked domains within the Google Search Partners network using Supermetrics. I’m now going to walk through how to pull your own Google Ads data. I’d love to hear how much you uncovered was being spent on these domains!


Step 1: Get a 14-day free trial for Supermetrics (…but the paid version is SO worth it if you manage a lot of accounts!)

I use the Google Sheets plug-in which starts at $99/month per user. Unless you know how to extract data directly from the Google Ads API, this is a great connector to get the data with limited knowledge of the Google Ads API. It has many more use cases than what I will review in this guide.

Step 2: Once installed, create a new Google Sheet and launch the Supermetrics sidebar

After you create a new Google Sheet, you can launch Supermetrics under the “Add-ons” drop-down menu.

Step 3: Select your data source, accounts, date range, metrics, attributes, and segment

You can play around with some of these but here are my recommendations:

  • Data source: Google Ads (required)
  • Account: select whichever ones you want to analyze
  • Dates: select whatever date range you want to analyze
  • Metrics: these are key to identify placement quality, and you can calculate other metrics like CTR and Conversion Rate
    • Impressions
    • Clicks
    • Cost
    • Conversions
    • Conversion Value (optional if you’re tracking revenue)
  • Split by: these are how the report will split up by rows
    • Campaign name: where are you targeting Search Partners
    • Placement URL: displays actual website URL where your ad was displayed
    • Network (with search partners): will show if that placement is within Google Display Network, Google Search Partners or Cross-Network which includes placements from campaigns like Smart Shopping and Discovery
  • Filter: feel free to filter by “Network (with search partners)” if you want to focus solely on Search partners
    • “Network (with search partners)” contains “search”

Step 4: Get Data to Table!

Once you’ve set up the appropriate items listed above, hit the blue “Get Data to Table” button to begin the query. Note: this can take a LONG time if you are pulling a large data set. This could be a long date range or an account that has gained a lot of traffic from these networks. When I was pulling this data across all of our clients, I had to do so in 7-day intervals because the data set was too large and the query would timeout.

get data to table

You’ll see a pop-up once you click that shows the progress of the query:

query

Step 5: Analyze (…and exclude!)

Now you can see exactly where your ads are displayed and how they performed on those list of Google Search Partners sites. What I did was visited the domains listed to see how many were parked domains vs. legit sites (most were NOT legit!). You must decide whether you want to keep targeting Google Search Partners or exclude Parked Domains.


Ready to try this out and have questions? Be sure to reach out! Also, don’t forget to sign up for the Seer newsletter to stay up to date on all things digital marketing.


7 Tips to Ask Better Questions

Regardless of your role or circumstance, asking great questions is a fundamental way to up your communication skills. A great question has the power to shift the dynamic of a conversation, help you gain clarity on a situation, or bring out the best in others. Here are 7 tips that you can use to start asking better questions.

Depending on who you are dealing with, you could have a very different goal for your communication. With a client, your goal could be to build rapport and help them effectively hit their KPI’s. With a member of your team, your goal might be to coach them to solve problems independently.

Keeping your goal in mind will allow you to be very intentional with your questions and to keep them focused on a purpose. This “why” will serve as your guiding light, especially in tough scenarios.

It is important to avoid asking questions that result in the other party simply saying “yes”. A “yes,” answer doesn’t provide you with any additional information, and often just confirms your preconceived biases. Additionally, “yes” doesn’t always mean “yes”. “Yes” can also mean, “yes, but I’m just saying this to get you off my back,” “yes, but the answer is actually no,” or “yes, but I don’t intend to follow through on my commitment.”

Instead, if you are asking a yes/no question, “no,” is actually a more powerful and useful answer. “No,” reduces the potential for other options and allows you to follow up with clarifying questions. We tend to fear “no,” but “no,” empowers our counterpart and makes them more comfortable to speak openly.

Beyond yes/no lies the power of the open-ended question. By definition, open-ended questions leave the floor open for the respondent to elaborate. These are usually the most powerful questions because the answers can often surprise you. Instead of a yes/no, where there are only two potential responses (both of which you have already considered), an open-ended question has infinite possibilities. They’ll often result in your respondent solving the problem for you (or for themselves). Some great open-ended questions include:

  • How do you expect me to do that? (In response to a demand)
  • What have we decided on today? (Recap a meeting, hear another’s point of view)
  • What could I have done to improve this deliverable? (Solicit feedback)
  • Have you ever seen a situation where the opposite was true? (When dealing with someone who thinks they’re 100% right)

Mirroring is the simple concept of repeating someone’s words back to them, but phrasing them as a question. For example, if a client told you that they “were unhappy with the most recent report”, you would simply repeat “unhappy with the report?”. This accomplishes three very important things: it makes your counterpart feel heard (you are explicitly repeating what they said), it buys you some time if you are caught off guard, and it asks a very open-ended question that allows them to elaborate on their point.

It feels unnatural to mirror at first, but it works almost every time. Just be cognizant of the amount of mirroring that you are doing relative to other communication (don’t be a parrot), and be genuine in your curiosity.

Labeling your counterparts’ emotions is an extremely effective way to quickly build trust and set up great questions. A label starts with an observation, ie: “it seems like”, or “it feels like”, then the label itself, ie “our report didn’t live up to your standards”. It is crucially important to start with an observation, because a direct statement, ie: “our report didn’t live up to your standards”, can feel much more like an accusation and put your counterpart on the defensive. Sometimes your label will be incorrect, but by framing it as an observation it will allow your counterpart to elaborate either way.

Labels are a fantastic way to set up for an open-ended question. For example, “it seems like our report didn’t live up to your standards (label)… what could we do better next time? (open-ended question)”. By using the label, you’re defusing the emotion related to the response by showing that you are tuned into their feelings and allowing for an effective response.

With regards to asking better questions, silence really is golden. Imagine you’ve applied a beautiful label with an open-ended question, and the other line is silent. Instead of waiting for a response, you follow up with, “is that accurate?”, a yes/no question, effectively bringing you back to square one. Sometimes asking good questions can be uncomfortable, but the best thing that you can do is to just be quiet and wait for a response. If the question is truly thought-provoking, your counterpart is going to need some time to think of an answer. Give them the time, and let the silence work its magic.

So far we’ve been focused on the words to say, but words are actually only a small fraction of how humans communicate. In fact, Albert Mehrabian coined the “7-38-55 Rule”, which states that words account for merely 7% of our personal communication, while tone and body language account for 38% and 55%, respectively. Because of this, it is imperative that you consider not just what you say, but how you say it. The best thing to do is to always keep your goal in mind, and be genuine whether it be with peers or clients. Smile (even on the phone) if you are working to establish rapport or delivering good news. Use a more serious, downwardly inflected tone when necessary to get your point across.

Do you have any tips or great questions that you love? Let us know!