Using popular culture to drive local positioning

Using popular culture to drive local positioning

Local search columnist Lydia Jorden delves into how businesses can utilize hot trends in news and popular culture — like Pokémon Go — to drive SERP positioning and a presence in the local digital ecosystem.

The post Using popular culture to drive local positioning appeared first on Search Engine…

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Source: Search Engine Land

Search in Pics: Bill Murray at Google, SEEOO glasses & Google pride boat

Search in Pics: Bill Murray at Google, SEEOO glasses & Google pride boat

In this week’s Search In Pictures, here are the latest images culled from the web, showing what people eat at the search engine companies, how they play, who they meet, where they speak, what toys they have and more. Google Pride Boat: Source: Twitter Bill Murray at Google: Source: Google+…

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Source: Search Engine Land

SearchCap: Google link tool bug, Search Engine Land awards & more

SearchCap: Google link tool bug, Search Engine Land awards & more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Google link tool bug, Search Engine Land awards & more appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Source: Search Engine Land

The 2016 Search Engine Landy Awards finalists are…

The 2016 Search Engine Landy Awards finalists are…

With nearly 200 entries in the second annual Landy Awards presented by Search Engine Land, this year’s competition was filled with incredible efforts by search marketers across the globe. We are thrilled to announce this year’s list of finalists.

The post The 2016 Search Engine Landy Awards…

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Source: Search Engine Land

The 4 daily habits of the most successful SEOs

The 4 daily habits of the most successful SEOs

Want to be great at search engine optimization? Columnist John Lincoln believes that this requires more than just deep SEO knowledge — it’s about building good habits, too.

The post The 4 daily habits of the most successful SEOs appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Source: Search Engine Land

Why links are still the core authority signal in Google’s algorithm

Why links are still the core authority signal in Google’s algorithm

Link metrics have been the foundation of Google’s ranking algorithm since the beginning, but could anything ever surpass links as a ranking signal? Columnist Jayson DeMers speculates.

The post Why links are still the core authority signal in Google’s algorithm appeared first on Search Engine…

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Source: Search Engine Land

Local SEO without the Local Map: What Is It?

Local SEO without the Local Map: What Is It?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jg_photo_art/5142967906/

Google is still in the early stages of injecting ads into the Google Maps 3-pack.  Google never met an ad it didn’t like, so the only question is when (not if) the map pack will become Times Square.

The thought of a pay-to-play local map scares the bejeezus out of many local business owners and local SEOs.

Will you lose your seat at the Local Feast to a big dumb corporation that can shovel more money into AdWords than you can?   Or, if helping people with local SEO is your business – and you don’t do PPC – will you be lying in chalk?

No and no.  Not if you apply a strategy (more on that in a second) that’s based on a few truths:

1. As long as there are local customers, local businesses, and the Web, there will always be local SEO. It’ll just continue to morph over time, as it always has.

2. Your “Google Maps” visibility has a huge amount of overlap with other areas of online marketing – particularly with your organic-search visibility (read: your links and content) and with how good you are at earning reviews on a variety of sites.

3. The local map is not the holy grail. Keep in mind that I make a living in large part by helping businesses get visible there, so I’m the last guy to say it’s not important.  But I’ve seen people dominate the local pack and not get any new business.  Also, Google can always mess it up (even more), lose the trust of searchers, and reduce the potential payoff.  If your one source of leads is your Google local-pack rankings, you are mooning a lion.

4. Local SEO is not just about rankings (duh). When you need something, do you automatically hire whomever ranks #1?  Neither do most people.  Local searchers are not a captive audience.  Most of them will dig until they find a business they trust.  Visibility in Google is only one part of becoming that business.

Fine, but what do you do if Google’s local map becomes prohibitively expensive, or worthless, or disappears entirely?  What’s left?  Is it Van Halen without David Lee Roth?

Local SEO wouldn’t be lessened, or even all that different.  If we write off the map results, your local SEO campaign becomes a combination of your work on the following:

  • Branded search results.  When people look up your business by name, can they immediately tell your site belongs to you and not to a sound-alike competitor?  Are they impressed by your customers’ reviews of you on all the review sites that show up on page 1 for your name?  Have you received any local press?  Are you listed on niche sites?

  • Organic visibility.  It’s usually the business with the best organic visibility that ends up ranking best on the local map.  Often, that comes down to strength of your links.  But you may also want to write blog posts on extremely specific topics in your industry or city, or create good “location” or “city” pages, or both.  Arguably even now you’re not necessarily better off if you rank well in the local pack but not in the organic results; they’re neck-and-neck.  But if the local pack becomes a total trash heap, your organic visibility pays off even more, because people will go back to looking there for all non-ads search results – just as they did before Google Places came onto the scene.
  • Barnacle SEO.  Getting your Yelp, Facebook, YouTube, or other non-company-website, non-Google online properties to rank for “local” keywords can help you haul in more leads, even when your other rankings aren’t so good.
  • Facebook.  It’s slowly waded about shin-deep into the local pond, but there’s no reason to think the shirt isn’t coming off.  It’s only getting more important, and there any many ways to use it to get more local customers.
  • Other local search engines: Apple Maps and Bing Places and Yahoo.
  • Local directories or review sites. Not the rinky-dink ones, but rather places like Yelp, Angie’s List, and maybe even nasty old YellowPages.
  • Industry-specific directories or review sites. Zillow, Avvo, HealthGrades, TripAdvisor, DealerRater, etc.  Those are the big names, but even small niches have directories, and you should pay attention to them.
  • Sites and apps not yet created. Local search in general has gotten bigger over the years, not smaller.  It’s become more of a part of everyone’s life, and will continue in that direction.

If Google’s local map results change significantly or go away, it’s not the beginning of the end, but maybe just the end of the beginning.

Now, I would be surprised if the local map ever becomes 100% pay-to-play, and I’m certain that it won’t change to that overnight.

But you still want a bunker plan.  That means you need to stock up the bunker with MREs and batteries and road flares and ninja throwing stars and whatever else before all hell breaks loose.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/13476480@N07/16671969110/

That’s why, even if the local map-pack remains free and a meritocracy at least in theory, I suggest you work on the things I just described no matter what.

What are some important non-Google-Maps aspects of local SEO?

What’s in your “bunker plan,” in case the local map gets too pay-to-play?

Leave a comment!

Local SEO without the Local Map: What Is It?
Source: Local Visibility System

Google Shoehorns Critic Reviews into Desktop Local Search Results

Google Shoehorns Critic Reviews into Desktop Local Search Results

Google’s hustled on this one.  Less than a week ago, reviews from “critics” started appearing in the local search results on mobile devices.  Now they’re showing up in desktop search results, too.

Right now, “Critic” reviews only show up for restaurants and the like.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it remains that way, but I could imagine Google doing the same for hotels.

This latest tweak is a number of things: a bite out of Yelp’s pie, possibly a sign that Google knows it’s got quality-control issues with Google reviews, and definitely a test to see whether users click on and read and trust “critic” reviews more than those written by the unwashed masses.

Of course, it’s all part of an effort to jack up AdWords use in one way or another – whether or not anyone outside of Mountain View knows yet exactly how.

One thing that puzzles me about this update (or swiftly rolled-out test) is it’s not clear how Google might extend “critic” reviews to showing up in the local search results for industries where business owners really lay down the Benjamins for AdWords – legal, medical, home-improvement, realty, insurance, etc.  Most restaurateurs aren’t big on PPC.

What do you make of “critic” reviews?

Are you seeing them in any non-dining search results?

Leave a comment!

Google Shoehorns Critic Reviews into Desktop Local Search Results
Source: Local Visibility System

Advanced Google Shopping: Is price a proxy for Quality Score in product ads?

Advanced Google Shopping: Is price a proxy for Quality Score in product ads?

Columnist Andreas Reiffen shares insights about price sensitivity and user behavior in Google Shopping, based on an analysis of 15,000 conversions across the German, UK and US markets.

The post Advanced Google Shopping: Is price a proxy for Quality Score in product ads? appeared first on Search…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Source: Search Engine Land

Digital Strategy Basics: The What, the Why, & the How

Digital Strategy Basics: The What, the Why, & the How

Posted by CraigBradford

Chemical bonds.png

Strategy is hard enough if you understand it. It’s even harder if you don’t.

If you understand it, you realize it’s made up of many moving parts. If you don’t, the best you’ll come up with is some version of operational efficiency: building more links, writing more blog posts, making more video. Those activities aren’t strategies — and if you fail to differentiate your plan, you’ll find yourself forever chasing those who started before you, or falling behind better-funded competitors.

I enjoy strategy, both on the academic and theoretical side of things and in more practical opportunities helping our clients at Distilled. Below are some of the things I’ve learned along the way that you might find useful, especially if you’re a business owner, setting up marketing strategies, or a consultant. If you’re in more of an individual contributor role, you’ll receive the background and basis you need to understand how it all fits together and create a personal development plan towards building strategy.

Read on and you’ll have a better understanding of what strategy means, what type of strategy you need and how to make good decisions. For each section, I’ve included a reading list too.

What is strategy?

Good strategies are compounds, not elements.

Start here:

A good starting point for understanding strategy is an infamous article by Michael E. Porter – “What is Strategy?” It’s quite academic, but covers a lot of the key points. I recommend reading it a few times; it’s worth it.

To understand what strategy is, I like to use a chemical analogy of elements and compounds. A compound is a combination of two or more elements. In the case of a strategy, the activities would be the elements and the strategy would be the compound. I like this analogy for a few reasons:

Reverse-engineering a compound can be challenging

Many people fall into the trap of trying to copy a competitor’s strategy. This is bad for a number of reasons, but one in particular that I’d like to highlight: even if you think you know what a competitor’s strategy is from the outside, it can be very hard to copy successfully unless you know all of the individual details.

Much like a chemical reaction, different quantities of the same elements combined in different ways can produce very different results. Often, when people try to copy a strategy, they’re really just copying an element or activity.

Compounds are only as strong as their weakest link

Different strategies take different levels of energy to crack. In What is Strategy?, this idea is referred to as “activity systems” and “fit.” The example used is Southwest Airlines. Some people would try and describe a strategy as a slogan: “Southwest Airlines services price- and convenience-sensitive customers.” That might be true, but there’s not anything particularly advantageous about that idea. The competitive advantage comes from how they integrate:

“Through fast turnarounds at the gate of only 15 minutes, Southwest is able to keep planes flying longer hours than rivals and provide frequent departures with fewer aircraft. Southwest does not offer meals, assigned seats, interline baggage checking, or premium classes of service. Automated ticketing at the gate encourages customers to bypass travel agents, allowing Southwest to avoid their commissions. A standardized fleet of 737 aircraft boosts the efficiency of maintenance.”

This is what those individual pieces look like as part of a system:

Click to open a larger version in a new tab

The more stable the compound, the slower it reacts

A stable compound with lots of bonds, while strong and hard to copy, is slow to adapt if the market changes unexpectedly. Change forces managers to dismantle their existing resource systems and reassemble them in new strategic positions.

“For example, Liz Claiborne, an apparel company, relied on a positioning strategy in which production, distribution, marketing, design, presentation and sales resources were all tightly linked. But when the industry changed, the company’s relationships with department stores were disrupted. In an effort to adapt, Claiborne executives changed resources such as their “no reordering” process that had antagonized department stores. But since this process was synergistically entwined with other resources like overseas logistics and distant manufacturing locations, the “no reordering” process could not be undone without damaging system coherence. Financial performance sank precipitously. Only after Claiborne executives dismantled their existing resources and started reconnecting new ones did positive performance begin to return.”
Source

All of the above is to say that the key to an effective and sustainable strategy is to focus on the integration of activities. Operational efficiency alone isn’t a strategy. A good way to sanity-check this is by asking why you’re doing an activity.

I like this slide from fellow Distiller Rob Ousbey, which puts some of theory into context in marketing strategy:

Making marketing strategy easier

What type of strategy do you need?

Start here:

The type of marketing strategy you use can (and should) change as the business requirements change. Two questions that are a good place to start:

  1. How predictable is your market?
  2. How malleable is the market (can you influence demand, needs, etc.)?

Based on your answers to those questions, there are choices. I like the wording from “Which Strategy When?”:

  1. Position (fortress) – Positional-based strategies are best when you’re trying to defend a long-term position in the market. Strategies in this space involve deepening the activities and resources that you have within a particular area. This is best in markets where there isn’t a lot of change.
  2. Leveraging strategy – Leveraging strategies are useful in markets where you have some influence on how the market moves and there’s less predictability. A chess analogy is a good one, since it’s not just about having the right pieces; it also requires making smart moves. A recent example that I love is the example of Google using Deepmind AI to reduce data center costs by 15%. That’s a pretty big deal.
  3. Opportunity (surfing) – Opportunity strategies can be compared to surfing and waves; it’s hard to predict when they’ll come or how long they’ll last. Timing is important, and occasionally you get a good one. Being set up in a way that allows you to capitalize on opportunities as they arise is crucial.

It’s possible, probably recommended, to have some mix of all three. I like the graph that our R&D team use to explain this, shown below. The idea is that there are always trade-offs between the chance of success and reward.

Final - Craig Bradford - Searchlove Boston - Creating Digital Strategy copy (Craig’s MacBook Pro's conflicted copy 2015-04-30).001.jpeg

Click to open a bigger version in a new tab

Picking a strategy and making decisions

Start here:

Closely related to the difficulty of strategy is the necessity to make choices. Strategy forces you to make decisions and explicitly cut off options. This can be difficult for a number of reasons. I talked about this in depth in my SearchLove Boston presentation, Creating a Digital Strategy:

Final - Craig Bradford - Searchlove Boston - Creating Digital Strategy copy (Craig’s MacBook Pro's conflicted copy 2015-04-30).001.jpeg

One of the hardest things about strategy? Resisting the urge to do it all. The most obvious way this happens is by getting distracted by competitors. In the book The Secrets of Consulting, the first chapter introduces the idea of the law of strawberry jam: “the wider you spread it, the thinner it gets,” which is a nice way of saying that you can’t do it all. Every service or feature you add to your business has a cost of some kind. Trade-offs are a critical part of making sure your strategy is sustainable, because they protect from competitors trying to straddle multiple markets.

To go back to the previous example of Southwest Airlines, someone that tried to spread it far and thick was Continental Lite. By trying to copy Southwest and offer a low-cost airline solution while still trying to compete as a full-service airline:

“The airline dubbed the new service Continental Lite. It eliminated meals and first-class service, increased departure frequency, lowered fares, and shortened turnaround time at the gate. Because Continental remained a full-service airline on other routes, it continued to use travel agents and its mixed fleet of planes and to provide baggage checking and seat assignments.”
Source: What is Strategy?

If you haven’t made some trade-offs, your position probably isn’t sustainable and is open to imitation.

“Trade-offs ultimately grounded Continental Lite. The airline lost hundreds of millions of dollars, and the CEO lost his job. Its planes were delayed leaving congested hub cities or slowed at the gate by baggage transfers. Late flights and cancellations generated a thousand complaints a day. Continental Lite could not afford to compete on price and still pay standard travel-agent commissions, but neither could it do without agents for its full-service business. The airline compromised by cutting commissions for all Continental flights across the board. Similarly, it could not afford to offer the same frequent-flier benefits to travelers paying the much lower ticket prices for Lite service. It compromised again by lowering the rewards of Continental’s entire frequent-flier program. The results: angry travel agents and full-service customers.”
Source: What is Strategy?

Other academic theories as to why copying competitors is a bad idea are covered in the Innovator’s Dilemma, which I also recommend reading.

The short version is that when competitors copy each other, the only person that wins is the customer. Over the long term, the more competitors converge, the more they look like each other and customers default to price to help choose between options. This drives prices down and squeezes margins.

To draw comparisons to the search space, I see this taking place in processes like keyword research. So many companies make a big list of keywords, then churn out average content that looks the same as every other article online about that topic. Don’t waste your time.

Advice for choosing a digital marketing strategy

Start here:

Don’t turn it into an optimization problem. There’s more than one right answer in the majority of cases. I like the advice Scott McNealy gives (he was a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and its CEO for 22 years). When asked how he makes decisions, he said:

“It’s important to make good decisions. But I spend much less time and energy worrying about ‘making the right decision’ and much more time and energy ensuring that any decision I make turns out right.”
Source

What an amazing attitude! You can see how this applies at the later stage in strategy. Once you’ve gone through all of the possible scenarios, validated the ideas, and narrowed it down to the last couple, this is the stage where analysis paralysis takes effect and people naturally want to turn strategy into planning. Just pick one and focus on making sure it turns out a success. Another way to think about this: strategy is about placing bets and shortening odds of success. Remember that you can course-correct; strategy isn’t sniping. You can take more than one shot and iterate, so don’t be afraid to change.

With that in mind, I’ll wrap it up. Hopefully this was useful to some people. For a deeper dive into this, take a look at my SearchLove presentation, Creating Your Digital Strategy, which covers all of the above and in a more practical, process-driven way.

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