Blockchain Tech for SEO: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Will Change Search

The Search Agents Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 09:29

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably at least heard of bitcoin by now. Traditional investors and analysts have been predicting its downfall for years, repeatedly calling it a bubble and comparing it to the tulip mania of the 1600s. In spite of this, for eight years bitcoin has constantly shattered expectations and led a revolution in how many world problems are being solved. The secret isn’t in bitcoin itself, but rather the technology it ushered in: the blockchain. Whether bitcoin itself ultimately succeeds or fails as a currency, blockchain technology is here to stay.

 

What is a blockchain?

 

Put simply, a blockchain is a decentralized digital ledger that keeps track of value exchange. Through the use of peer-to-peer technology, every transaction is verified in a way that prevents manipulation and ensures integrity and availability without requiring trust in a central authority. “Value” can be exchanged in the form of economic transactions (i.e. payments), as with bitcoin, or it can represent something more abstract, such as spare hard drive space or a vote for a political candidate. Value is often passed through the exchange of a cryptocurrency, of which bitcoin is an example.

Just as value can be abstracted to represent something other than money, cryptocurrencies can be used for purposes other than financial transactions. Take Siacoin, a currency that provides access to a blockchain that serves as a decentralized cloud service. Sia claims to provide cloud storage for 10 percent of the price of traditional cloud storage providers.

People who volunteer as hosts can provide hard drive space to the Sia network, which leads to payment in Siacoin. Siacoin has monetary value and can be exchanged for US Dollars on a cryptocurrency exchange, or it can be used to purchase storage on the Sia network. In a similar manner to how US Dollars might be seen as an abstract representation of labor, Siacoin is an abstract representation of storage space.

 

Blockchains and the future of marketing

 

So what does this all have to do with marketing and SEO? Everything. Everything we do centers around the exchange of value. Whether it is the purchase of digital advertising, the flow of link equity, actual conversions that happen on a site or the coordination of a network of machines to process complex crawl data, there are myriad problems that can be solved through the application of blockchain technology.

Take keyword research as an example. Google’s search results pages are now so complex that it is difficult to accurately assess the actual position of any given search term. It will vary by the searcher’s location, device type and all sorts of other factors. Now imagine that someone invented a cryptocurrency called SERPcoin that allows you to track average keyword positions across a wide variety of devices and locations.

Users could add their devices to the network and allow the SERPcoin client software to perform searches in the background, based on requests placed by marketers using the service. Results from tens of thousands of nodes could be returned very quickly, with more participation resulting in better accuracy. Marketers would place requests using units of SERPcoin, which would then be paid out to users, incentivizing participation.

This is a relatively small-scale example. In reality, I expect that we will see blockchains representing full-scale digital marketing analytics suites that can provide better data than any of today’s services provide. We are already seeing the beginning of this with services like Kochava, which has created a blockchain for ad insertion orders, and AirFox, a startup developing a blockchain-based ad network. See also IAB Tech Lab’s Blockchain Working Group, which was created with the mission of “…[investigating] the application of blockchain technology to address challenges in the digital advertising space.”

These examples are just the beginning of a larger revolution within the arena of digital marketing. Whether or not any of the aforementioned services capture the full potential of these new technologies, it’s almost certain that blockchain technology is going to be a game changer for service providers within the digital marketing industry. The companies that learn how to best harness this technology first are likely to become the new giants that pave the way in the years to come.

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The ABCs of AdWords’s New UI

The Search Agents Feed - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 09:14

Google announced the AdWords interface facelift last year, which is currently in beta and will roll out to all advertisers by the end of this year. The new AdWords may look and feel different, but campaigns will run the same as today with no upgrades or migrations.

Here’s a rundown on the differences between the new and old interfaces.

 

Visual Aspects

 

a. The new interface has a vertical navigation tab layout compared to the old layout, which is at the top of the page.

b. An Overview tab has replaced the old home screen. The snapshot of sortable tables with customized metrics makes it easier to analyze the data quickly and even gives in-depth details when you hover over them.

 

 

c. All the graphs and charts come with multiple filtering options. So, the data can be sorted, and metrics can be picked. It helps in easy visualization. Also, some filters are very useful. Case in point: the filter for “keywords of good quality but low traffic” in the Keywords tab.
d. Ads and extensions are consolidated together now in the new interface.
e. Change History also comes with data visualization. Charts are expandable and collapsible, too.
f. Locations Targeting UI is useful as it shows targeting and exclusions in a map.

 

 

New Features

 

The new AdWords interface doesn’t quite have feature parity with the legacy AdWords interface as it’s still in beta, but here are the few exclusive features only available in AdWords’s new UI.

 

a. Demographic Target now includes Household Income.
b. Calls are now listed as interactions, so advertisers can adjust bids between -90 percent and +900 percent. Metrics provide insights like interaction coverage so you can see how your bid adjustment affects reach.
c. Promotion extensions show up as an additional feature in the new UI.
d. The Landing Page tab is a particularly useful new addition. This tab gives data on landing page performance along with mobile-friendliness of the website. Mobile-friendly click rate and valid AMP click rate show the percentage of clicks received on those types of pages.

 

Reports

 

This is definitely a section worth exploring. It allows you to create reports with tables and bar, line and scatter charts. There is emphasis on visualization for data digestion that is very intuitive. So every level of metric or detail is a drag and drop feature.

Analyzing data using these reports is is superior to the old interface. For example, the search term report has a graph with word clouds. Hover over a word and you will see a list of search queries that contain it and metrics related to each. The darker the border around a word or phrase means more impressions (or any other metric selected).

 

 

Custom dashboard creation is a great new addition, too. The feature appears to be still in the works but looks like it will allow you to create custom reports with graphs and charts with refreshable data that can be downloaded as a PDF.

 

Conclusion

 

The new interface seems to be a work in progress but is moving in the right direction in terms of making data more visual and digestible. It scores higher in terms of ease of use and speed but still has a few compatibility issues (as of mid-November). Some features like Display Planner, AdWords Lab and Google Merchant Center are still unavailable in the new interface.
Like any other major change, the new UI will take some time getting used to. Let’s hope it achieves its objective of making AdWords as relevant for the next 15 years as the first 15.

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Treating People Well Matters, Part II

The Search Agents Feed - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 07:31

In this day and age, where tolerance for different opinions seems to be unfortunately waning, it’s important to take a step back and think about what it means to treat people well when you disagree with something they say, do or believe. We all have different opinions and different management styles, but it’s important to welcome these differences. I frequently don’t have the “right” answer and very often I don’t believe there is a “right” answer, so eliciting opinions and feedback from people is an essential part of ongoing improvement. While it’s nice to get opinions from people who might think similarly to me (a little validation for the ego), I find it very valuable to get opinions from people who have a different perspective to open my mind to varied solutions that hopefully drive better results.

Science seems to support this view of the benefits of diversity. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Sheen Levine and David Stark wrote about a study they conducted where people in diverse groups were 58 percent more accurate on a series of tests than those in less diverse groups. There are multiple studies reported in Scientific American and other periodicals that support that diversity drives better business outcomes.

To create an environment where diversity can flourish, it’s very important to provide people a safe platform to express opinions that might deviate from the norm. So, how can that be done effectively? I have found three key techniques that, when used well, can help create diversity of opinion in an organization.

 

1. Don’t attack

 

Way too often, particularly in the public discourse of the day, we encounter people with differing perspectives attacking each other on a personal level. Rather than debating the merits of different ideas or perspectives, we see an enormous number of personal attacks in social media and elsewhere designed to de-legitimize an opposing view. How often have you read or heard someone say that the other person they disagree with is fat, lying, ugly, etc.? What that has to do with the merit of their ideas is unclear and hopefully will be rejected and not become the American norm.

Inside an organization attacking people typically results in numerous negative consequences:

 

  • Lowering morale for both those attacked and those who witness personal attacks
  • Developing more silos as people try to avoid/not work with people who attack
  • A “head-down” culture where people are afraid of contributing
  • Worse economic results for the organization over time

 

2. Disagree only with the idea if you have a different opinion

 

Diversity naturally generates different views, and in an organization like The Search Agency, is essential as we constantly seek better ways to deliver results for our partners. One of our core values is that “there is always a better way,” and for us to discover these ways, we must be open to new ideas; in fact, they must be constantly encouraged.

Doing this will surface differing opinions but hopefully this diversity will drive better end results. If you don’t agree with something, I recommend the following:

 

  1. Listen to the idea or opinion and try to make sure you understand what is being said
  2. Ask questions to clarify and probe to classify how it fits with or diverges from your own perspective
  3. Ask for supporting facts or documentation to back up the opinion
  4. If you still don’t agree, solicit feedback from others
  5. Finally, be openly willing to change your mind and go with the “better way”

 

3. Don’t get emotional when dealing with conflicting ideas

 

Finally, I try hard not to let emotions take control when debating with someone on a particular idea. When I do, I regret both how it makes me feel and my personal actions. Below are several techniques I use to help keep emotions in check when encountering an opposing view:

 

  1. Step back and listen more carefully–maybe I’m missing something
  2. Don’t raise my voice–it never helps the situation
  3. Walk away if needed–no disagreement is worth ruining a friendship or damaging the work environment
  4. Change topics–move on to other areas where we have common ground
  5. Agree to disagree–we will never agree on everything all the time, and that’s okay.

 

I’m not always successful in following all these ideas, but I find when I do, I feel better about myself and usually better things happen.
 


Learn the importance of practicing active listening in the first installment of this series, “Treating People Well Matters, Part I.”

The post Treating People Well Matters, Part II appeared first on The Search Agency.

How to Be Ready for Mobile-First Indexation

The Search Agents Feed - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 10:32

For over a year, Google has continued to discuss its imminent transition to mobile-first indexation. In an endeavor to make its results more useful, it hopes to primarily use the mobile version of a website’s content to rank pages. When no mobile version is available, Google will continue to assess the desktop version of a website.

This change will finally reflect an ongoing change in user behavior: more Google searches taking place on mobile devices than on computers. However, Google’s ranking system still typically looks at the desktop version of a page’s content. Google’s decision to change to mobile-first indexation is to ensure that its index better serves this majority of searchers.

 

Mobile-First Indexation Best Practices

 

With their announcement, Google provided a number of recommendations to help webmasters prepare for the transition towards a mobile-first index. Below is a summary of the recommendations and how to test them now, prior to the complete roll out of mobile-first indexation that we can expect next year.

 

Content

 

Consistency is key, if you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything. This is because, in most instances with these types of sites, content and markup is identical for mobile and desktop users.

If a website is configured so that content and markup is different for mobile and desktop users, changes will need to be made. Structured markup needs to be included on both the desktop and mobile version of a website.

Structured Data

 

Google’s structured data testing tool be used to assess what markup is included on both the desktop and mobile versions of websites. If the mobile version contains less structured data this will need to be resolved, ensuring Google has all the information needed to best populate its results pages. Additionally, webmasters should ensure that only the necessary structured data is added to each page, markup that is not relevant to a specific page should be avoided.

 

Accessibility

 

Content also needs to be accessible on the mobile version of the website, otherwise the content will not be assessed for relevancy when indexed. If there is a difference in the quantity of content on the mobile and desktop versions of a website, Google is more likely to only view the mobile content. This is why opting for a responsive or dynamic site is a better option, because the mobile content is identical to that on the desktop version.

Using Google’s fetch and render tool to request a URL with the mobile Google bot will clearly identify what content is displayed on the mobile version of a page. If content is not displayed correctly, or if the page is inaccessible, changes will need to be made. Alternatively, using Screaming Frog’s JavaScript rendering tool is a quicker way to view a mobile version of a website’s pages at a much larger scale.

If separate URLs are used for the mobile version of a website, the way in which the relationship between these pages is indicated does not need to change. Annotations in both the HTML and sitemaps can remain the same.

If you need support to ensure that your website is ready for mobile-first indexation when it is rolled out entirely, you can view our full list of Search Engine Optimization services and get in touch with us today.

The post How to Be Ready for Mobile-First Indexation appeared first on The Search Agency.

Streamline Your Audience and Device Targeting Strategies with IF Function Ad Customizers

The Search Agents Feed - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 07:06

In the past, advertisers have had several different types of formulas they could use within single ads to make them dynamically show desired messaging. This goes as far back as simple dynamic keyword insertion, feed-based ad customizers and countdown ads.

Google AdWords’s IF function formulas are relatively new. They’ve been available for almost a year, but advertisers are still testing their full capabilities. IF function formulas allow the creation of a single ad, which will serve differently depending on who is searching or what they’re searching with. IF function formulas allow us to customize ad copy by both audience and device.

IF function ads for audiences specifically allow us to customize copy to any valid user list in our account. This includes things like customer email lists, remarketing lists and the new In-market audience lists. Until recently, creating custom messaging by audience would have probably required that we create duplicate campaigns, using different targeting, and create two separate ads for each of these campaigns. Now all we need is one campaign, one ad group and one ad created using the formula seen below.

Let’s say my pretend client, the Greg Hotel, wants to use one type of messaging for people who are members of their rewards program and different messaging for new visitors to the site, both on the same search queries for their Dallas location. All that’s needed in this scenario is the one “Greg Hotel – Dallas” location campaign and the single ad group, with the one ad seen here with this long, complicated-looking formula:

 

 

If a rewards member found in the email list “LoyaltyMember” searched the keyword “dallas hotel,” then the formula would make it serve this ad which pushes several member benefits:

 

 

If a new visitor to the site, or one not found on that email list, searched the same keyword, then the formula would simply make it serve the more generic ad introducing the property:

 

 

Another interesting audience you could send varied messaging to are past purchasers on your site. Take, for example, a second fake client — the Boysan Appliance Dome — which specializes in selling kitchen appliances and typically tries to sell entire high-end kitchen suites. Customers who make a purchase receive a 20-percent-off coupon to use towards a future purchase. So, in your “Dishwasher” campaign/ad group, you could launch this one ad containing the IF formula:

 

 

If a visitor who had never been to the site searched on the term “dishwasher,” then the formula would trigger the more standard ad for the Rub-a-Dub Dishwasher model:

 

 

If the same term is searched by a visitor who falls into the remarketing list of past purchasers of a refrigerator (“FridgePurchaser”) at the Boysan Appliance Dome, then they would be served something a little more tailored to their experience:

 

 

As I mentioned above, we can also use IF function ads to customize messaging across different devices. Let’s use a third fake client, Carpet Diem, for this example. Carpet Diem makes and sells custom rugs, and they primarily want to push an in-store experience because there are physical samples as well as consultations involved in their business. In an in-store-specific campaign, on the search query “rug stores near me,” we might assume that someone doing a mobile search (within a specific GEO radius, and/or during a specific time of day) might be close to one of their stores. If we want to make walking into the store the call-to-action, we can use this as our one IF formula ad:

 

 

If user is out and near the store and using their phone, then they’d see the following ad:

 

 

Whereas, if a user is on their desktop, then they would see Carpet Diem’s regular local ads which urge them to make an appointment for their eventual store visit to Seize the Rug.

IF function ads for mobile are also a good way to have more control over how your messaging might be truncated when showing up on Google’s mobile search results page. Ads can be inadvertently shortened and may not make sense, so why not shorten them ourselves to get the exact messaging we want?

The Search Agency has launched IF function device ads in several accounts and it has shown us some substantial wins: Within one month of launching these ads for one (non-pretend) client, mobile CPCs decreased 7.5 percent, conversions improved by 30.8 percent and CPA went down 18.5 percent!

We’re moving closer and closer to customizing user experiences and developing entire campaign strategies around specific audiences. We’re also in an ever-changing industry that requires instant optimizations and streamlined processes. Google’s IF function formula can help us fulfill both of those needs almost perfectly.

The post Streamline Your Audience and Device Targeting Strategies with IF Function Ad Customizers appeared first on The Search Agency.

When Retargeting Gets Unruly: Signs You May Need to Wrangle Your Remarketing Programs

The Search Agents Feed - Thu, 11/02/2017 - 09:54

By this point in the evolution of digital marketing, we’ve all gotten a glimpse of retargeting programs “in the wild.” My first experience was when I had browsed Zappos looking for a gym bag and I stumbled upon a bright pink Nike duffle. Perhaps I spent too much time looking at the bag. Maybe I visited that page more than once, or maybe I just accidentally clicked into the product to bounce right back to the results page. Whatever the case, that pink Nike duffle bag refused to quit, following me around the web for a number of months, and unfortunately for Zappos, my interest in heading to the gym doesn’t seem to last more than a couple of days.

Although multiple years have passed since that pink bag stalking, I still see companies struggle when implementing retargeting campaigns. Frequently, I’m asked about what can be done to improve the end user’s experience or how investment can be optimized to improve return. Here are some of the common problems reported and recommended solutions:

 

“I see my ad everywhere, on practically every page load, and sometimes multiple times! It seems like we are overdoing it.”

 

This is one of the most common concerns about retargeting I’ve heard voiced by marketers and is amplified by the number of auctions that occur on a single page. Unlike paid search, where a single auction occurs, in the world of display, each page load can have several independent auctions happening simultaneously. To minimize or eliminate this problem, several steps are recommended.

 

1. Avoid running retargeting through multiple platforms at the same time.

 

Sure, it seems like a good idea to set up a bake-off between retargeting platforms, but this fundamental configuration sets you up for reduced control (and less-than-optimal efficiency), which causes the above problem.

When two separate retargeting programs are run concurrently, the frequency of how often a user is exposed to your ad is less controllable. One platform may have a frequency cap of three impressions per day and the other may have a cap of three per day, too. Since they aren’t communicating, that user can be exposed to six impressions per day. By running your remarketing through a single platform, you will take one step towards reducing undesirably high frequencies.

 

2. Use a system that allows for multiple levels of frequency caps.

 

As retargeting technology and audience strategy have evolved, campaign structure has become more complex. Oftentimes, this complexity is realized through multiple platform line items set to target sub-segments of your retargeting pool. For example, you may be targeting cart abandoners in one line and then retargeting FAQ page visitors under a separate line. If your system supports line item frequency caps, you again could have a frequency cap of three impressions per user on each line, resulting in six impressions per user -– an undesirable result.

However, if you implement a platform that supports frequency caps across the structure hierarchy, you can introduce line item, campaign-level and, in some systems, universal frequency caps, reducing or eliminating this problem completely.

 

3. Determine an audience priority logic and implement audience suppression.

 

As in the above example, a user might be a member of several different retargeting audiences. They could be in the homepage visitor, FAQ page visitor and cart abandoner audiences all at the same time. They could also be part of audiences defined by how recently the action occurred, for example, audiences based on activity in the last one, seven or 30 days.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of segmenting your audiences in this way, the likelihood that you have a campaign structure to treat these audiences differently is probably high. Minimize the chance of over-serving an individual by developing a targeting priority or waterfall, suppressing audiences accordingly.

 

4. Finally, use a system that supports frequency caps over the smallest period of time possible.

 

To minimize seeing multiple impressions on a single page load, make sure you’ve followed the above three tips. Beyond that, run your remarketing through a system that provides frequency cap functionality at the smallest time increments possible. While the ideal would truly be less-than-millisecond frequency caps to account for the load speed and multiple auctions taking place on a single page, look for minutes or seconds, if available.

 

“I already purchased that product; I don’t need that product anymore. Why is it still following me?”

 

This is another classic challenge that advertisers face. At several industry conferences, I’ve heard speakers or panels publicly call out marketing campaigns where this sub-optimal user experience runs rampant. Here are a few ways to prevent and minimize this problem:

 

1. Activate your purchase data and suppress.

 

This is certainly the most obvious action to take. If a user has made a purchase on your site or in your store, develop custom audiences from web activity and onboard offline data sets to suppress buyers from your program. Dependent on your business model, however, you may consider altering this straightforward approach.

In the case of retail and e-commerce advertisers with multiple SKUs, you may want to collect SKU-level data of buyers. This would enable you to stop showing the previously-purchased product, but continue to target users with complementary or recommended products.

In the case of lead generation programs, like in enterprise B2B sales, you may want to suppress lead form completions from lead-focused retargeting programs while intentionally setting up separate campaigns to nurture with alternative proof points, case studies and calls-to-action.

 

2. Implement more stringent retargeting durations.

 

If a user viewed a product 30 days ago, think about whether it is appropriate to serve them a message with that specific SKU. If I looked at a gym bag 30 days ago and you’ve already served me 30+ impressions showing that product, isn’t there a point where you might assume I’m no longer interested in buying? Alternatively, I may have purchased elsewhere and no longer have a need for your product or service.

Step back and think about this from the consumer perspective to qualitatively evaluate. Leverage your frequency, time lag and performance data to quantitatively evaluate. Once you’ve assessed both sides, put a plan in place to alter your targeting duration and messaging.

 

“I’ve seen multiple ads with two different offers. It’s confusing and it’s not what I intended.”

 

Regardless of whether you’ve taken the steps above, if you aren’t thinking about your program holistically, you may be leaving yourself vulnerable to this sub-optimal user experience and reduced program efficiency. How does retargeting fit into your larger digital marketing program?

 

1. Consolidate and suppress.

 

Similar to the retargeting platform consolidation discussed above, programs that are managed in isolation of each other have no way of communicating to reduce or eliminate the overlap. A user can fluidly move from being eligible for a prospecting auction to a retargeting auction, but their experience with your brand is not divided by rows on a budget spreadsheet.

By consolidating audience strategy, either by working with a sophisticated audience-focused partner and/or by investing in a data management, campaigns can be configured more effectively to reduce overlap for a single user. Suppressing retargeted audiences from prospecting campaigns will allow for greater control over the messages served to your audience and improve how funds are allocated to maximize program return.

Overall, the introduction and evolution of retargeting has equipped marketers with several dynamic and flexible options to reach previously engaged users. It is up to us as marketers to leverage the technology more effectively to maximize program return, and more importantly, eliminate historically unfavorable and intrusive practices to provide prospects with more relevant and meaningful brand experiences.

The post When Retargeting Gets Unruly: Signs You May Need to Wrangle Your Remarketing Programs appeared first on The Search Agency.

Knowing Which Road to Follow: SEO vs. Landing Page Content

The Search Agents Feed - Wed, 10/25/2017 - 08:46

Thousands of years ago, the brilliant Greek mathematician, Archimedes, declared that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And indeed, that is true. But as we all know, the journey to digital marketing success is not so simple. In our world, the path from point A to point B is fraught with swerves and stops, U-turns and lane-changes and seemingly endless forks in the road.

I like to think of those forks in the road as each of the different disciplines that play a unique role in online marketing: SEM/PPC, SEO, Display Advertising, LPO (also referred to as CRO) and so on. And within each of those roads are multiple lanes, each representing a separate function that work and move in tandem, like content, analytics and account management. These separate functions most often exist across multiple roads, but they are by no means the same.

If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed and thinking about slamming on the brakes, please don’t! For the purpose of this article, I’m going to focus on just one function as it pertains to two separate disciplines — content for SEO and paid landing pages [or LPO (landing page optimization)].

 

The Difference Between SEO and LPO

 

While there are some similarities between SEO and landing page content, let’s begin by pointing out some of the major differences between the two. First and foremost, SEO is organic and LPO is most often paid. The point here being that in order for your webpage to even rank well in the SERPs, certain, very distinct elements come into play. From an SEO content perspective, getting a page to rank requires well-optimized meta data and body content — not just for one particular page, but for the website as a whole. On the other hand, a paid landing page’s rank depends on how closely the content is aligned to the ad copy, but it can also be easily manipulated by bid amount.

To drive this point further, let’s talk about goals. The goal of SEO content is improve page rank, drive traffic, engage audiences and ultimately lead to conversions. The goal of landing page content is to convert. Period. Therefore, SEO content is written for the user before and after they click on the page, while landing page content is written for the user once they’ve clicked on the page.

 

Goals

 

SEO Content Landing Page Content Rank Convert Traffic Convert Engagement Convert Convert Convert

 

The type of content used—how it’s constructed, its tone and voice, the length and language—is what sets SEO and landing page copywriting apart from each other and what ultimately helps each achieve its unique goals.

 

SEO Content

 

Think of SEO content as a big picture strategy. While the content on each individual page of your site should be focused on a specific topic and audience, its immediate goal isn’t always conversion. A website is made up of multiple pages, all meant to address your audience’s needs at varying stages of the consumer decision journey (CDJ). Therefore, the objective when writing SEO copy is multi-faceted.

First, you must identify your target audience as well as their needs and pain points. From there, through keyword research, you have to figure out how they’re searching online to find the information, products or solutions they’re seeking. Then, you have to carefully craft content and meta data that fits those criteria. If your content and website are optimized well enough that users click through to your page, that’s great, but you’re not done.

From there, it’s a matter of ensuring that visitors stay on your site and keep coming back. SEO content should give readers exactly what they’re looking for, engage them and guide them through the CDJ. It’s a cyclical process that’s designed to capture new visitors, turn them into customers and nurture them into becoming loyal brand ambassadors so that they will become both return customers and advocates for your company.

Research shows that longer form content works best for SEO. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing and formulaic copy. While there’s no doubt that SEO content should be written for search engines, it’s just as important that it’s also written for the reader. Therefore, it should flow naturally and speak in a voice that appeals to its target audience. It can be informative and descriptive when needed or it can be entertaining and conversational. Either way, it should always include links and calls-to-action that guide the user through your site to find exactly what they’re looking for.

 

SEO Content Is…

 

  • Organic
  • Written for the user and search engines
  • Longer form
  • For reading
  • Descriptive
  • Informative/Conversational
  • Engaging
  • Natural
  • For every stage of the CDJ
  • Designed for navigation throughout site and social channels
  • May contain multiple CTAs
  • Keyword focused
  • Audience focused

 

Landing Page Content

 

While landing page content does have some similarities to SEO content—audience and keyword targeted, engaging and informative—there are still vast differences between the two. The primary reason for this is because the goal of landing page content is to always, always, always lead to a conversion.

To achieve this goal, whether it be a purchase, subscription sign-up, or request for more information, landing page copy must be tantalizing, persuasive and easy to follow. The moment a visitor lands on your page, you have just mere seconds to engage them, so the way in which you construct your landing page is also extremely important.

As with SEO content, landing page content should be structured in an organized fashion, with headlines, sub-headlines, images and a call to action that are informative, yet concise. In order to quickly grab the reader’s attention and keep them engaged, it’s best to communicate your message in a clean, easy-to-scan format. Bogging your page down with lots of copy is not only going to clutter the page, but it could distract the reader from what’s most important or overwhelm them. We recommend using the following content layout:

 

  1. Headline
    1. Sub-headline
      1. Body content (short paragraph or bullets)

 

The call-to-action (CTA) must be prominent and clear, and visuals, like photos or videos, should be used to support your message and guide the reader toward conversion.

 

 

The main heading of your paid landing page is arguably the most important piece of content you’ll write. It is the hook that pulls the reader in enough to make them want to read on. And while catchy headlines are fun to write, if your landing page headline doesn’t clearly state how you can give your reader exactly what he/she wants in one brief sentence, you’ve missed your mark. Sub-headlines are optional, but if used, they should help communicate the headline.

 

Landing Page Content Is…

 

  • Paid
  • Written for the user
  • Short form
  • For scanning
  • Persuasive
  • Informative
  • Engaging
  • Concise
  • Focused
  • Designed strictly for conversion
  • Includes a singular CTA
  • Keyword focused
  • Audience focused

 

Final Thoughts

 

As we’ve shown, the differences between SEO content and landing page content are not so black and white. In order to be effective, each must incorporate many similar characteristics, such as being audience-focused, engaging and organized. What sets them apart the most are their goals and the language, tone and online experience required to achieve them.

The post Knowing Which Road to Follow: SEO vs. Landing Page Content appeared first on The Search Agency.

Wikipedia and Your Content Visibility

The Search Agents Feed - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 09:23

When the everyday internet user seeks information on a topic, Wikipedia often appears at the top of organic listings. Wikipedia is the world’s leading crowd-sourced encyclopedia, and search engines lean on it for many informational queries. In fact, Wikipedia is the fifth most-visited site, outperforming behemoths like eBay, Instagram and Twitter. Wikipedia, while not the first or only online encyclopedia, took off after many reputable websites began linking to it as a reference. Wikipedia is now available in 280 languages, earns 1.6 billion organic visits a month and enjoys over 5 billion backlinks to 83.9 million indexed pages.

 

Source: SEMRush.com

 

 

Conductor.com observed 2,000 informational and transactional queries and found Wikipedia on page one for 60 percent of informational and 34 percent of transactional searches. With a presence like that, it should be viewed as your No. 1 competitor and ally simultaneously. Yet with all its rank authority, content marketers are not sufficiently familiar with its scripting and user policies to effectively incorporate it as a part of their online presence.

Here are a couple important guidelines and insights for how you can tap into Wikipedia as a partner in generating online awareness without having to worry so much about your contributions being pulled.

 

Background to Wikis You Should Know

 

For the newer content marketer, Wikipedia offers many features you may not realize:

 

1. Wikipedia is free to join and Wikis are free to create and edit by anyone.

 

 

Searching a topic that does not yet exist provides a prompt to “Create the page”. Topics that already exist can be updated via an “Edit” tab in the upper right of the page. Your name and IP will be tracked when you edit. Too many spam entries can get your IP entirely blocked from Wikipedia. So be especially cautious and only submit high-quality entries or edits.

 

2. Collaboration on topics happens often and is encouraged, especially if the topic is important and referenced in other Wikipedia articles. A “Talk” tab and “View History” tab exist so users can communicate about changes and see previous page edits. If you want to draw the attention of administrators to a question on the “Talk” tab, enter:

 

 

A summary box also exists on the “Edit” tab to explain what sort of edit was made. Users are also granted Sandbox areas so when creating a new Wiki, you can hold off publishing or update it in sprints after other editors can review and approve before going live.

 

 

3. Wikis, because of their domain authority and focused content, are so SEO-friendly that search engines like Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo will reference their information directly in the search results as Knowledge Graph Panels or Answer Boxes.

 

 

4. “Wikitext,” “wikicode” or wiki markup is used to create and update articles. Wikipedia still deploys a WYSIWYG visual editor so writers can create clean article layouts without needing to inject code.

 

Other things you should be aware of:

 

    • Wikipedians do not tolerate spammy posts or anything nonsensical on the website. Your purpose should be to make Wikipedia better, not start a link farm or praise a company or idea. If you are posting anything which appears promotional, biased, libelous or unsubstantiated, it will often be removed within 24 hours — links included. There is no minimum or maximum size to avoid this. Other important issues that can flag an article for deletion are:
      • Too many statements needing clarification or that are confusing.
      • The topic is too ambiguous.
      • The article is duplicative or a topic is already covered elsewhere.
      • Violates copyrights or plagiarizes.
      • Has major cleanup issues in its formatting or quality.
      • Support for the article is controversial or resulting in an “edit war.”

 

  • Wiki editors with insufficient knowledge or bad intentions can (and do) alter Wiki articles. “Wikiality” (from The Colbert Report), a play on “reality,” refers to perceptions and beliefs that are altered due to something referenced on Wikipedia. This vulnerability is the primary reason Wikipedia is viewed as a non-academic resource. The point mentioning this here is to demonstrate just how important external references are in sustaining the prevalence of a Wiki article.

 

Here are some things to get you started…

 

Getting Your Wiki On

 

User Name and Profile Setup

 

This may sound arbitrary, but your name is critical to establishing the first record of you being impartial and unaffiliated. If you create a username that is attached or associated with a business profile, a clear industry focus or an easily discovered content creator online, chances are you are not going to be allowed to submit content without that content being scrutinized, if not pulled down entirely. To make sure your profile always appears unbiased, edit “Talk” pages and apply multiple accepted contributions to other Wikis. A good place to find where contributions might be lacking is on the Wikipedia Database Reports page. The more trusted edits you perform, the more reliably you can create pages and make significant contributions stick.

 

Share

 

You are going to want to have another fresh set of eyes read your copy. If there is any sense of bias or commercial slant to your text, you will often not see it as clearly as others may. Get a second sign-off first before the tedious process of coding it to Wikipedia. Wikipedia also makes available a chat function.

 

Formatting

 

There are a bunch of guides like this one built to help one get started formatting their content to appear properly. But a common way newbies begin applying the wiki markup to copy is by “borrowing” code from existing pages. Grab the text, paste it into a .txt file, and then replace inputted values with everything you have ready.

 

Commit the following five code pieces to memory; you’ll use them a lot in your Wikipedia entries:

 

==Headings== and ===Subheadings===

 

These basically operate as H2 tags and H3 tags which are incredibly helpful for search engines to identify keyword topics.

 

[[Link title]]

 

This will hyperlink a word with a related Wiki page inside your copy. Use as often as possible for the first appearance of an important word.

 

{{Infobox company
|name = Company Name, Inc.
|image = company_logo.jpg
|caption = Comp Name

|website = http://www.example.com/
}}

 

The above sample script is what delivers the summary box in the upper-right of most Wiki articles. This piece is commonly what search engines like to adapt to Knowledge Box placements.

 

[http://www.example.com link title]

 

This will hyperlink a keyword or keyword phrase that will point to a supporting page external to Wikipedia in your ==External Links== area. Do not apply this link in your written paragraph content. Leave it for the final section. Also, make sure the linked page is to something clearly on-topic and is not something that was generated to sell ads/products or requires the visitor to log in somewhere to access more information. This backlink is also “nofollow,” so while it is as good as any nofollow link can possibly get, it is still not sending link value, so do not overdo them or you will look like a spammer.

 

Apply Markup to Create Your Internal Bibliography

 

To do this, use:

 

{{cite web|url=http://example.com/|title=Title|last=AuthorsLastName|first=AuthorsFirstName|publisher=NameOfThePublisher|date=Month 1, 20XX|accessdate=Month 1, 20XX}}.

At the end of the article enter:

 

== References ==
{{reflist}}

 

This will be very helpful to tabulate your bibliographic references at the bottom. Make sure these are abundant and varied from many sources. Also, apply the same thinking here as you would to the ==External Links== area.

 

Additional Linking

 

To really get the most bang for your buck in Wikipedia, don’t just launch your article and move on: It will be considered an “orphaned” page if no other entries are linking to it. You need to make sure other Wikis have made note of your subject. This means finding places in Wikipedia through an internal search that could point to your page because (a) they carry the term mentioned or (b) their subject matter is very closely related. This is achievable often in the form of categorizations or subcategorizations.

 

Images

 

Images can obviously say things words may not and including them shows an even greater effort was applied to getting your Wiki together. But you should only use images that you own or that are a part of the Creative Commons so you don’t run afoul of copyright laws. Wikipedia offers an easy image file upload wizard to get the image online and ready for use.

 

Important Wiki Tactics

 

Dead Links

 

Wikipedia is a gold mine for filling in a lot of gaps where it indicates “citation needed” or “dead link.”

 

 

Source: Wikipedia.org

 

You should prioritize finding these and strategizing how you can support the information that is poorly sourced with a better link or another supporting Wiki reference. Wikipedia tabulates these places frequently. Finding specific details about these places is easier than you think. WikiGrabber is great for showing dead links or missing citations, or you can just visit Google directly and type:

 

site:wikipedia.org [Target Term] “dead link”

 

OR

 

site:wikipedia.org [Target Term] “citation needed”

 

Using tools like Majestic.com or ahrefs.com on dead links in Wikipedia can also reveal opportunities to correspond with webmasters to update their own dead links, which can encourage them to link to your citations or related posts.

 

Wikidata

 

 

Answer Boxes are often sourced from Wikidata to fulfill answers to longer-form questions. An example would be:

 

“When was McDonald’s founded?”

 

Source: Google.com.au

 

The question posed in the graphic specifically asked “when,” yet Google will often supply additional information about a topic if these details are listed on its Wikidata page.

 

If you are in pursuit of markup optimizations to support internationally relevant concepts within foreign language directories, Wikidata.org is what you should leverage. According to Ewan McAndrew of Wikimedia UK, of the 5 million articles in the English language version of Wikipedia, only about 30% percent will appear in some form within other Wikipedia language directories. Wikidata serves as a repository where information can be sourced to foreign language search queries.

 

 

Creating or updating a Wikidata item can likewise be done freely by anyone that abides by the terms in good faith. Contribution history is tracked and can work to establish your credibility as a contributor.

 

Wikinews

 

 

Wikinews, another sister site of Wikipedia, is a collaborative repository for news events that can be cross-referenced, linked from and categorically organized by subject matter. Like other Wikis, it is free to join and update and operates with the same wikimarkup as Wikipedia. For websites that operated in the sphere of online journalism, updating reported events and creating news posts in Wikinews can be an invaluable source for building awareness of your own published news articles as well as establishing spiderable content to be sourced within search engine result pages.

 

For Your Next Content Strategy Session…

 

Wikis should NOT be the cornerstone of your content strategy, but instead for raising topic awareness or visibility of your brand online. Executed properly, a Wikipedia or Wikidata entry can earn you prime real estate on search engine results pages worldwide. So, when preparing to publish a new Wiki article, be sure to have an editor on standby who’s comfortable working on them, as well as monitoring them once live. This final task can become a very time- and resource-intensive process if your team members have never written one before and more edits and revisions are requested. A Wiki article will likely not be considered “complete” by Wikipedia moderators in its first iteration. And if left to “die on the vine,” recovering your rejected submission will not be possible. Making the effort to come back immediately to Wikipedia to collaborate and re-work what was published previously is the best safeguard for making sure your hard work will remain online. Most likely, Wikipedia moderation is going to come back saying your article isn’t citing enough or that your point of view has bias. If you are cognizant of this and prepared to remedy it, a back-and-forth or risk of article removal can be avoided.

 

For acquiring a qualified Wiki editor, Upwork is full of individuals with levels of expertise in this field, all with job success rates and hours logged to validate their success with publishing. However, having an internal member confident in their abilities with Wikis in the long run will be invaluable. Often, this confidence and expertise only derives from being active on Wikipedia already.

The post Wikipedia and Your Content Visibility appeared first on The Search Agency.

The Gate Escape: Rescuing Your Best Content from a Life Behind Lead-Gen Forms

The Search Agents Feed - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 09:41

Many companies create whitepapers and reports based upon original research. These unique assets have the potential to capture organic traffic. All too often, though, the content is kept behind lead-generation forms, an impenetrable barrier for search engines. As SEOs, we find ourselves trying to pull some gated content out into the light of day. Clients often resist this, as their sales and marketing departments rely upon forms to build leads lists.

How can SEOs convince clients to loosen the reins a bit and make high-quality content available to the masses -– and search engines? A strategic approach is key. Here are five ways to identify which gated content deserves to be set free, and how to frame your argument.

 

1. Focus on content that encourages conversions

 

First, set aside ranking position, CTR and bounce rates for a moment — most clients are focused on conversions. It makes a lot of sense, then, to liberate content likely to attract clicks from prospective customers. These bottom-of-the-funnel assets tend to cover topics of little interest to the layman.

Think about the person who would search for “data validation best practices.” At the very least, he or she is probably in the IT field. They may even be in a position to purchase software. A cloud-computing company would want this prospect to be aware of their products. An SEO could easily make the case that it’s counterproductive to gate a report on cloud computing if a higher ranking could put the company in front of more leads.

 

2. Target rankings that are rightfully yours

 

Second, there’s a good possibility that someone else has already “leaked” your client’s gated content in the form of an article or blog entry. Writers register for the report, then cite the facts and figures on their own website. They get the ranking based on your client’s hard work –- and there’s not much you can do about it. If this is the case with one of your client’s assets, sharing the offending article should remove all objections to keeping the source material hidden away.

 

3. Bring Featured Snippets into the conversation

 

Winning a Featured Snippet can help your content punch above its own weight. Review gated content for assets that lend themselves to a Featured Snippet. The prospect of ranking at position zero could be attractive enough to make your client think twice about hiding a whitepaper away. Also, it’s a tangible accomplishment that they can show to their boss.

 

4. Get more mileage from “old” assets

 

Next, review gated content from past years that might still have value. It’s probably fallen off the client’s radar. Allowing full access to a report from 2014 lets search engines crawl the asset and gives users a taste of what to expect if they register for the latest version. Many clients are more willing to share older assets that aren’t the focus of a current campaign.

 

5. Split the difference

 

Just because we prefer a certain approach doesn’t mean it’s the correct course of action for the client. Push too hard against gated content, and they may dig in their heels. Luckily, there’s a middle-ground that doesn’t require handing over an entire asset, no questions asked.

Creating a high-quality blog post about a recent report may help you earn rankings that would be lost behind a lead-gen form. Include excerpts, bulleted lists and/or infographics that get the main point of your research across. Do not write a 300-word sales pitch and post it — nobody wants to read that. The blog entry is meant to convince visitors that registering for the full report is worth their time and effort.

Putting your best content on display is often a high-wire act of balancing good SEO with business goals. Taking a strategic approach to showing off unique assets can help improve a site’s rankings and convince users that your reports -– and products -– are worth their time.

The post The Gate Escape: Rescuing Your Best Content from a Life Behind Lead-Gen Forms appeared first on The Search Agency.

The Gate Escape: Rescuing Your Best Content from a Life Behind Lead-Gen Forms

The Search Agents Feed - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 08:56

Many companies create whitepapers and reports based upon original research. These unique assets have the potential to capture organic traffic. All too often, though, the content is kept behind lead-generation forms, an impenetrable barrier for search engines. As SEOs, we find ourselves trying to pull some gated content out into the light of day. Clients often resist this, as their sales and marketing departments rely upon forms to build leads lists.

How can SEOs convince clients to loosen the reins a bit and make high-quality content available to the masses -– and search engines? A strategic approach is key. Here are five ways to identify which gated content deserves to be set free, and how to frame your argument.

 

1. Focus on content that encourages conversions

 

First, set aside ranking position, CTR and bounce rates for a moment — most clients are focused on conversions. It makes a lot of sense, then, to liberate content likely to attract clicks from prospective customers. These bottom-of-the-funnel assets tend to cover topics of little interest to the layman.

Think about the person who would search for “data validation best practices.” At the very least, he or she is probably in the IT field. They may even be in a position to purchase software. A cloud-computing company would want this prospect to be aware of their products. An SEO could easily make the case that it’s counterproductive to gate a report on cloud computing if a higher ranking could put the company in front of more leads.

 

2. Target rankings that are rightfully yours

 

Second, there’s a good possibility that someone else has already “leaked” your client’s gated content in the form of an article or blog entry. Writers register for the report, then cite the facts and figures on their own website. They get the ranking based on your client’s hard work –- and there’s not much you can do about it. If this is the case with one of your client’s assets, sharing the offending article should remove all objections to keeping the source material hidden away.

 

3. Bring Featured Snippets into the conversation

 

Winning a Featured Snippet can help your content punch above its own weight. Review gated content for assets that lend themselves to a Featured Snippet. The prospect of ranking at position zero could be attractive enough to make your client think twice about hiding a whitepaper away. Also, it’s a tangible accomplishment that they can show to their boss.

 

4. Get more mileage from “old” assets

 

Next, review gated content from past years that might still have value. It’s probably fallen off the client’s radar. Allowing full access to a report from 2014 lets search engines crawl the asset and gives users a taste of what to expect if they register for the latest version. Many clients are more willing to share older assets that aren’t the focus of a current campaign.

 

5. Split the difference

 

Just because we prefer a certain approach doesn’t mean it’s the correct course of action for the client. Push too hard against gated content, and they may dig in their heels. Luckily, there’s a middle-ground that doesn’t require handing over an entire asset, no questions asked.

Creating a high-quality blog post about a recent report may help you earn rankings that would be lost behind a lead-gen form. Include excerpts, bulleted lists and/or infographics that get the main point of your research across. Do not write a 300-word sales pitch and post it — nobody wants to read that. The blog entry is meant to convince visitors that registering for the full report is worth their time and effort.

Putting your best content on display is often a high-wire act of balancing good SEO with business goals. Taking a strategic approach to showing off unique assets can help improve a site’s rankings and convince users that your reports -– and products -– are worth their time.

The post The Gate Escape: Rescuing Your Best Content from a Life Behind Lead-Gen Forms appeared first on The Search Agency.

When Good Analytics Goes Bad

The Search Agents Feed - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 14:37

Try as we might, sometimes data tracking doesn’t work the way we expect it to. I sat down with our technical account manager extraordinaires, Roberto Reyes and Abhiram Bhagwat, to ask about the most common mistakes they see with pixels, data tracking, attribution and what they recommend doing to avoid errors in tracking that could result in inaccurate reporting.

 

Problems with Pixels

 

Pixels are the backbone of analytics, but they are not as simple to implement as it seems. Multiple vendors use different formats for their pixels, and require different implementations, even if they’re tracking the same event. When implemented improperly, pixels may not fire, misfire or cause a conflict with another pixel.

The knowledge of the person implementing the pixel is often the most important factor in making sure it works properly. Sometimes a developer will assume one pixel is the same as another pixel, and put it in the wrong place. Or sometimes the person implementing the pixel will assume one pixel has similar installation requirements as another, and not install it properly. Pixels aren’t cookie cutters, so we see the best outcomes when the account manager and tech team work together to make sure the pixel is installed properly in the right place.

 

Deciding What Data to Track

 

Pixels are one piece of the entire data-tracking system, but they are not the most important element. The most important part of data analytics and pixel placement is figuring out which events to track in the first place. Some clients want to track everything, which results in data overload. Other clients only want to track the sale, but that doesn’t provide the full picture of how customers move through the conversion process.

We recommend finding a middle ground between tracking every micro-conversion and tracking only the final conversion. Part of that decision stems from strategy. Abhiram and Rob prefer to see a strategy for each channel that will be tracked to make sure there is consistency between naming conventions and tracking processes for each.

 

Attribution Varies Across Platforms

 

In the old days, clicks were attributed only to the last source of the conversion. Now there are multiple attribution models, and multiple platforms on which to view them. Further compounding the challenge is the fact that each platform sees the data slightly differently.

Each person viewing the data needs to understand how to read it and how to compare two different data sources. Don’t try to compare exact numbers, because they won’t always match. But you should be able to see similar trend lines on each platform with the same attribution model. If one is out of whack, then you know there’s a problem with the tracking — which brings us to our next point.

 

Marketing Automation Headaches

 

Marketing automation is the hot topic in analytics circles, but it’s easier said than done. The key to marketing automation is consistency. For example, if the team can identify patterns in URLs, then they can create rules in Google Sheets to manage your tracking. If each URL follows a different pattern, then everything must be manually created.

Obviously, marketing automation saves time, money, and effort, but you must consider your data tracking needs from the beginning of the development process to achieve that goal. Pixels should not be the last piece you insert. If you build in scalable hooks, everyone will be happier.

 

Communication and Planning Save the Day

 

Communication is the biggest area of failure that Abhiram and Rob encounter. Always maintain communication with the technical account management team. They can help you figure out whether changing something in the middle of the path will break the tracking at the end. They can also help you ensure that what seems like a minor change won’t disrupt the whole process and make troubleshooting easier. For example, if a developer changes a function, but the same function is used in other areas of a site, it could affect how other pixels fire and the analytics team may not be able to quickly identify that as the source of the error. However, if you tell them the plan before making the change, they could tell you what to watch for.

Planning is the second component of effective communication. Use a project plan for every campaign and make sure analytics is a part of that plan. Talk early and often about the plan and what elements need to be considered.

 

Back-up Systems Save the Data

 

Each client needs multiple data-tracking systems as a back-up. Back-up systems help in two ways:

 

  • Ensuring data doesn’t get lost
  • Identifying the source of the problem if one system is different from the others
  •  

    By having a backup, you can quickly see if a pixel is misfiring on a single system. You can also verify reporting to ensure the rest of the data tracks properly, or fill in the errors produced by that misfiring pixel.

     

    Above All: Be Vigilant

     

    Abhiram and Rob’s top tip is to remain vigilant. Analytics is not a set-it-and-forget-it enterprise. One small change can change everything. Avoid errors by:

     

  • Conducting regular audits, quarterly at a minimum
  • Setting up rules and alerts so you will know the second an error occurs
  •  

    In a perfect world, analytics would always work seamlessly, but as long as people are managing the process, there will be errors. We hope these above tips will help your team avoid some of the simplest mistakes that make good pixels go bad.

    The post When Good Analytics Goes Bad appeared first on The Search Agency.

    When Good Analytics Goes Bad

    The Search Agents Feed - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 13:04

    Try as we might, sometimes data tracking doesn’t work the way we expect it to. I sat down with our technical account manager extraordinaires, Roberto Reyes and Abhiram Bhagwat, to ask about the most common mistakes they see with pixels, data tracking, attribution and what they recommend doing to avoid errors in tracking that could result in inaccurate reporting.

     

    Problems with Pixels

     

    Pixels are the backbone of analytics, but they are not as simple to implement as it seems. Multiple vendors use different formats for their pixels, and require different implementations, even if they’re tracking the same event. When implemented improperly, pixels may not fire, misfire or cause a conflict with another pixel.

    The knowledge of the person implementing the pixel is often the most important factor in making sure it works properly. Sometimes a developer will assume one pixel is the same as another pixel, and put it in the wrong place. Or sometimes the person implementing the pixel will assume one pixel has similar installation requirements as another, and not install it properly. Pixels aren’t cookie cutters, so we see the best outcomes when the account manager and tech team work together to make sure the pixel is installed properly in the right place.

     

    Deciding What Data to Track

     

    Pixels are one piece of the entire data-tracking system, but they are not the most important element. The most important part of data analytics and pixel placement is figuring out which events to track in the first place. Some clients want to track everything, which results in data overload. Other clients only want to track the sale, but that doesn’t provide the full picture of how customers move through the conversion process.

    We recommend finding a middle ground between tracking every micro-conversion and tracking only the final conversion. Part of that decision stems from strategy. Abhiram and Rob prefer to see a strategy for each channel that will be tracked to make sure there is consistency between naming conventions and tracking processes for each.

     

    Attribution Varies Across Platforms

     

    In the old days, clicks were attributed only to the last source of the conversion. Now there are multiple attribution models, and multiple platforms on which to view them. Further compounding the challenge is the fact that each platform sees the data slightly differently.

    Each person viewing the data needs to understand how to read it and how to compare two different data sources. Don’t try to compare exact numbers, because they won’t always match. But you should be able to see similar trend lines on each platform with the same attribution model. If one is out of whack, then you know there’s a problem with the tracking — which brings us to our next point.

     

    Marketing Automation Headaches

     

    Marketing automation is the hot topic in analytics circles, but it’s easier said than done. The key to marketing automation is consistency. For example, if the team can identify patterns in URLs, then they can create rules in Google Sheets to manage your tracking. If each URL follows a different pattern, then everything must be manually created.

    Obviously, marketing automation saves time, money, and effort, but you must consider your data tracking needs from the beginning of the development process to achieve that goal. Pixels should not be the last piece you insert. If you build in scalable hooks, everyone will be happier.

     

    Communication and Planning Save the Day

     

    Communication is the biggest area of failure that Abhiram and Rob encounter. Always maintain communication with the technical account management team. They can help you figure out whether changing something in the middle of the path will break the tracking at the end. They can also help you ensure that what seems like a minor change won’t disrupt the whole process and make troubleshooting easier. For example, if a developer changes a function, but the same function is used in other areas of a site, it could affect how other pixels fire and the analytics team may not be able to quickly identify that as the source of the error. However, if you tell them the plan before making the change, they could tell you what to watch for.

    Planning is the second component of effective communication. Use a project plan for every campaign and make sure analytics is a part of that plan. Talk early and often about the plan and what elements need to be considered.

     

    Back-up Systems Save the Data

     

    Each client needs multiple data-tracking systems as a back-up. Back-up systems help in two ways:

     

  • Ensuring data doesn’t get lost
  • Identifying the source of the problem if one system is different from the others
  •  

    By having a backup, you can quickly see if a pixel is misfiring on a single system. You can also verify reporting to ensure the rest of the data tracks properly, or fill in the errors produced by that misfiring pixel.

     

    Above All: Be Vigilant

     

    Abhiram and Rob’s top tip is to remain vigilant. Analytics is not a set-it-and-forget-it enterprise. One small change can change everything. Avoid errors by:

     

  • Conducting regular audits, quarterly at a minimum
  • Setting up rules and alerts so you will know the second an error occurs
  •  

    In a perfect world, analytics would always work seamlessly, but as long as people are managing the process, there will be errors. We hope these above tips will help your team avoid some of the simplest mistakes that make good pixels go bad.

    The post When Good Analytics Goes Bad appeared first on The Search Agency.

    How to Be Efficient in Paid Search with Automation

    The Search Agents Feed - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 11:30

    It is said that time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters. This stands true even when it comes to paid search management and optimization.

    In that regard, relying on manual control is sometimes not very helpful as it either leads to errors or is simply too time-consuming. When we figure out smart ways of automating work, we can finish more in less time and with higher accuracy.

    Let me list out some of the ways in which we have been automating paid search management both successfully and effectively.

     

    Automated Rules

     

    Most paid search platforms now allow you to set up automated rules. Some are basic like those that allow you to activate/pause ads, keywords and campaigns. Others even help you automatically change bid strategy and budgets based on conditions you set. For instance, you could set an automated rule to move keywords automatically to a “Target CPA”-based bid strategy based on performance. Or you could shift keywords to a “Position”-based bid strategy if the average position is greater than the required one.

     

    Scripts

     

    When it comes to the use of scripts, unfortunately, only AdWords allows you to set those up. This feature is not yet available on Bing. The developers’ page of AdWords provides the technical details on creating and implementing scripts. There are some sample scripts available, too. However, if you have a technical resource with JavaScript knowledge, you could customize your script, as well. These could help you run basic checks like those for 404 errors with landing pages, finding queries mapping incorrectly to keywords, tracking quality score changes and more. What also helps is that you can set these up on a recurring frequency, so monthly optimization tasks can be run without you having to spare time to run these checks.

     

    Custom Formulas

     

    Again, this is a feature that quite a few platforms provide. The secret lies in knowing how to use it. The most basic custom formulas could be used to calculate weighted conversions based on what’s important to a client. For instance, if you are tracking multiple touchpoints on a website ranging from those who sign up for a newsletter to those who create an account, you could assign weights based on importance. If, based on client conversations, you realize that 20 percent of those who sign up for a newsletter end up creating an account, you could create a “Total Conversions” column that assigns a 20-percent weightage to the conversion point. That way, you can measure the true value of paid search better. You could even use advanced custom formulas that help notify/send alerts based on performance. For instance, The Search Agency uses a formula that measures ROAS changes over a 7-day period compared to 30-day averages. If there is a drop in the ROAS based on the criteria we set (e.g. more than 25 percent), it sends an alert. This can be done for any metric like impressions, clicks, CPA, transactions and more.

     

    Ad Customizers/Sales Countdowns

     

    AdWords has done an impressive job in terms of allowing you to customize ads based on feeds or sale date. Let’s say you’re a real estate company offering different price ranges based on geo. Now, instead of creating customized ads for every geo and highlighting the price range, you can upload a feed in “Business Data” section of AdWords that pulls in the right price range based on the geo. All you need to do is create ads with the right syntax and upload an updated feed sheet regularly. Needless to say, the time savings are huge. Similarly, if you had to set up ads that show the number of days remaining for a sale to end, you wouldn’t want to do that daily. Sales countdown ads allow you to do just that, creating ads on their own based on the details you initially provide.

     

    Web Queries/Macros

     

    Each platform today provides tools to create automated reports. Some, like DoubleClick, help you create web queries that, when inserted into Excel, pull refreshed data. This has saved us hours of work in terms of running manual reports for daily, weekly and monthly account summaries. DoubleClick also has a feature called Executive Reports that allows you to create customized reports with beautiful graphs and charts. Again, all you need to do is create one template and then run it based on requirement. It pulls in the latest data on each run and feeds it automatically into graphs and charts. In cases where platforms don’t have these features available, having a resource with VisualBasic skills helps a lot. This resource could help create advanced reports with macros that automate these reports for you. We use one that does a thorough check on the account’s health and outputs reports segmented by device, brand/non-brand, day parting, geo analysis, etc. Imagine running these individually on each of your accounts!

    The benefits of these automated tools/features cannot be emphasized enough. Using these are essential to stay on top of the game when it comes to smart account management.

    The post How to Be Efficient in Paid Search with Automation appeared first on The Search Agency.

    How to Be Efficient in Paid Search with Automation

    The Search Agents Feed - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 08:18

    It is said that time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters. This stands true even when it comes to paid search management and optimization.

    In that regard, relying on manual control is sometimes not very helpful as it either leads to errors or is simply too time-consuming. When we figure out smart ways of automating work, we can finish more in less time and with higher accuracy.

    Let me list out some of the ways in which we have been automating paid search management both successfully and effectively.

     

    Automated Rules

     

    Most paid search platforms now allow you to set up automated rules. Some are basic like those that allow you to activate/pause ads, keywords and campaigns. Others even help you automatically change bid strategy and budgets based on conditions you set. For instance, you could set an automated rule to move keywords automatically to a “Target CPA”-based bid strategy based on performance. Or you could shift keywords to a “Position”-based bid strategy if the average position is greater than the required one.

     

    Scripts

     

    When it comes to the use of scripts, unfortunately, only AdWords allows you to set those up. This feature is not yet available on Bing. The developers’ page of AdWords provides the technical details on creating and implementing scripts. There are some sample scripts available, too. However, if you have a technical resource with JavaScript knowledge, you could customize your script, as well. These could help you run basic checks like those for 404 errors with landing pages, finding queries mapping incorrectly to keywords, tracking quality score changes and more. What also helps is that you can set these up on a recurring frequency, so monthly optimization tasks can be run without you having to spare time to run these checks.

     

    Custom Formulas

     

    Again, this is a feature that quite a few platforms provide. The secret lies in knowing how to use it. The most basic custom formulas could be used to calculate weighted conversions based on what’s important to a client. For instance, if you are tracking multiple touchpoints on a website ranging from those who sign up for a newsletter to those who create an account, you could assign weights based on importance. If, based on client conversations, you realize that 20 percent of those who sign up for a newsletter end up creating an account, you could create a “Total Conversions” column that assigns a 20-percent weightage to the conversion point. That way, you can measure the true value of paid search better. You could even use advanced custom formulas that help notify/send alerts based on performance. For instance, The Search Agency uses a formula that measures ROAS changes over a 7-day period compared to 30-day averages. If there is a drop in the ROAS based on the criteria we set (e.g. more than 25 percent), it sends an alert. This can be done for any metric like impressions, clicks, CPA, transactions and more.

     

    Ad Customizers/Sales Countdowns

     

    AdWords has done an impressive job in terms of allowing you to customize ads based on feeds or sale date. Let’s say you’re a real estate company offering different price ranges based on geo. Now, instead of creating customized ads for every geo and highlighting the price range, you can upload a feed in “Business Data” section of AdWords that pulls in the right price range based on the geo. All you need to do is create ads with the right syntax and upload an updated feed sheet regularly. Needless to say, the time savings are huge. Similarly, if you had to set up ads that show the number of days remaining for a sale to end, you wouldn’t want to do that daily. Sales countdown ads allow you to do just that, creating ads on their own based on the details you initially provide.

     

    Web Queries/Macros

     

    Each platform today provides tools to create automated reports. Some, like DoubleClick, help you create web queries that, when inserted into Excel, pull refreshed data. This has saved us hours of work in terms of running manual reports for daily, weekly and monthly account summaries. DoubleClick also has a feature called Executive Reports that allows you to create customized reports with beautiful graphs and charts. Again, all you need to do is create one template and then run it based on requirement. It pulls in the latest data on each run and feeds it automatically into graphs and charts. In cases where platforms don’t have these features available, having a resource with VisualBasic skills helps a lot. This resource could help create advanced reports with macros that automate these reports for you. We use one that does a thorough check on the account’s health and outputs reports segmented by device, brand/non-brand, day parting, geo analysis, etc. Imagine running these individually on each of your accounts!

    The benefits of these automated tools/features cannot be emphasized enough. Using these are essential to stay on top of the game when it comes to smart account management.

    The post How to Be Efficient in Paid Search with Automation appeared first on The Search Agency.

    The Exact Match Conspiracy

    The Search Agents Feed - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 09:35

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (or roughly three years ago), Google decided to do away with exact match keyword targeting. You can still bid on exact match terms in AdWords, but you can’t stop AdWords from opting you into closely-related queries in the process. AdWords got rid of the option to opt-out of close match variants on keywords in the fall of 2014. The reasons, no matter what side of the aisle you sit, can be debated ad nauseum. But what cannot be debated are the effects that this has on keyword matching.

     

    Impact on keyword matching

     

    A few months ago, when looking into my clients’ campaigns, I noticed a change in queries associated with exact match terms. They seemed less like variants of the keywords I was bidding on and more like broader, similar-intent-based keywords. Queries like “car rental” on exact match were now matching to “rent a car.” Granted, the intent is the same, but the advertiser’s lack of control seems to have grown larger.

    Looking through the last 12 months of search queries on exact match terms, I noticed a slight change over time. Based on observations of a couple of my accounts, May 2017 is when advertisers’ reins seemed to loosen a little more. For other accounts, this occurred as far back as last fall. What was once a running list of plurals and misspellings being deemed close variants slowly became a list of similar-intent queries with misspellings around the original keyword and the broader intent of that keyword. Is this a case of the algorithm getting smarter and being able to understand a person’s intent and better accommodating that? Or is this Google finding ways to create larger auctions with more advertisers?

    It used to be that advertisers had to keep a close eye on the accounts they manage, diving deep into search query reports for relevant keywords to expand into, tightly controlling pure broad match terms to mine for relevant keywords and spending time combing through Google’s keyword planner for the right set of keywords. Advertisers still need to keep a close eye on their accounts — Google has simply taken a couple of those things off their plate. With keywords automatically opted into close match variants, Google’s machine learning will find similar auctions that your keywords can show for. As the reins of keyword matching have been eased, so too has our own oversight.

    Advertisers have had little choice but to allow Google to place more people in more auctions over time through its close variant matching. This helps all three participants in an AdWords auction: AdWords sees an increase in the number of advertisers trying to get into an auction, thus making it more competitive and expensive; advertisers gain a wider range of auctions available to them with less work to be done on their end; finally, the user who has typed in the query is served more advertisers that are relevant to his or her search intent. Again, who benefits more is merely a matter of on what side of the aisle one sits.

    The good news in this new, intent-based, close variant world is that there is always a better way. With proper vigilance by the advertiser, this unspoken easing of close variant keyword matching can be navigated and properly managed.

     

    Taking back the reins

     

    It is important to ensure that you have tightly-knit ad groups. The smaller the keyword set within the ad group and the more similarly intent-based that keywords within the set are to each other, the easier they will be to manage. I used to be of the mindset that all keywords within an ad group should be similar in intent, but that you can have 10 to 12 keywords and their close variants within the same ad group. No longer is that possible. Ad groups should not contain more than six to eight keywords at most, with the majority of ad groups having even smaller keyword sets than that.

    Once these ad groups are set up in this structure (with smaller, tighter-knit keyword sets), search query reports are a must. Weekly search query reports should be run for the first three to four weeks to ensure that the basics are covered. Once the ad groups reach a level of stability, set a cadence of once every three to four weeks to look for close match variants that your exact match keywords are matching with. Set up exact match forced negatives in those ad groups to negate them. If they perform, have those keywords in their own ad groups.

    The key is to have ad group-level forced negatives to ensure that you are only bidding on terms within the account and all queries are being properly funneled to the appropriate ad group. Since the slightly looser definition of “exact match” took hold on a few of my accounts this past May, I discovered several instances of queries within campaigns matching to multiple keywords. That means, in those instances, I was potentially bidding up against myself, driving up my own CPCs.

    This new, similar-intent world can easily be managed with some initiative to get ahead of your keywords and negatives list, followed by the vigilance to constantly monitor it once it’s stable. It’s easy to let exact match terms go unnoticed in search query reports, but it’s important to monitor those, as well, as that could mean a significant difference to overall performance. If 80 percent of your account comes from 20 percent of your keywords, most of which are exact match, it would serve you well to ensure that those are always up to snuff.

    The post The Exact Match Conspiracy appeared first on The Search Agency.

    The Exact Match Conspiracy

    The Search Agents Feed - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 02:31

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (or roughly three years ago), Google decided to do away with exact match keyword targeting. You can still bid on exact match terms in AdWords, but you can’t stop AdWords from opting you into closely-related queries in the process. AdWords got rid of the option to opt-out of close match variants on keywords in the fall of 2014. The reasons, no matter what side of the aisle you sit, can be debated ad nauseum. But what cannot be debated are the effects that this has on keyword matching.

     

    Impact on keyword matching

     

    A few months ago, when looking into my clients’ campaigns, I noticed a change in queries associated with exact match terms. They seemed less like variants of the keywords I was bidding on and more like broader, similar-intent-based keywords. Queries like “car rental” on exact match were now matching to “rent a car.” Granted, the intent is the same, but the advertiser’s lack of control seems to have grown larger.

    Looking through the last 12 months of search queries on exact match terms, there was a slight change over time. For a couple of accounts, May 2017 is when advertisers’ reins seemed to loosen a little more. For other accounts, this occurred as far back as last fall. What was once a running list of plurals and misspellings being deemed close variants slowly became a list of similar-intent queries with misspellings around the original keyword and the broader intent of that keyword. Is this a case of the algorithm getting smarter and being able to understand a person’s intent and better accommodating that? Or is this Google finding ways to create larger auctions with more advertisers?

    It used to be that advertisers had to keep a close eye on the accounts they manage, diving deep into search query reports for relevant keywords to expand into, tightly controlling pure broad match terms to mine for relevant keywords and spending time combing through Google’s keyword planner for the right set of keywords. Advertisers still need to keep a close eye on their accounts — Google has simply taken a couple of those things off their plate. With keywords automatically opted into close match variants, Google’s machine learning will find similar auctions that your keywords can show for. As the reins of keyword matching have been eased, so too has our own oversight.

    Advertisers have had little choice but to allow Google to place more people in more auctions over the course of time through their close variant matching. This helps all three participants in an AdWords auction. AdWords has an increase in the number of advertisers trying to get into an auction, thus making it more competitive and expensive. Advertisers have a wider range of auctions available to them with less work to be done on their end. Finally, the user who has typed in the query has more advertisers that are relevant to his or her intent. Again, who benefits more is merely a matter of on what side of the aisle one sits.

    The good news in this new, intent-based, close variant world is that there is always a better way. With proper vigilance by the advertiser, this unspoken easing of close variant keyword matching can be navigated and properly managed.

     

    Taking back the reins

     

    It is important to ensure that you have tightly-knit ad groups. The smaller the keyword set within the ad group and the more similarly intent-based that keywords within the set are to each other, the easier they will be to manage. I used to be of the mindset that all keywords within an ad group should be similar in intent, but that you can have 10 to 12 keywords and their close variants within the same ad group. No longer is that possible. Ad groups should not contain more than six to eight keywords at most, with the majority of ad groups having even smaller keyword sets than that.

    Once these ad groups are set up in this structure (with smaller, tighter-knit keyword sets), search query reports are a must. Weekly search query reports should be run for the first three to four weeks to ensure that the basics are covered. Once the ad groups reach a level of stability, set a cadence of once every three to four weeks to look for close match variants that your exact match keywords are matching with. Set up exact match forced negatives in those ad groups to negate them. If they perform, have those keywords in their own ad groups.

    The key is to have ad group-level forced negatives to ensure that you are only bidding on terms within the account and all queries are being properly funneled to the appropriate ad group. Since the slightly looser definition of “exact match” took hold on a few of my accounts this past May, I discovered several instances of queries within campaigns matching to multiple keywords. That means, in those instances, I was potentially bidding up against myself, driving up my own CPCs.

    This new, similar-intent world can easily be managed with some initiative to get ahead of your keywords and negatives list, followed by the vigilance to constantly monitor it once it’s stable. It’s easy to let exact match terms go unnoticed in search query reports, but it’s important to monitor those, as well, as that could mean a significant difference to overall performance. If 80 percent of your account comes from 20 percent of your keywords, most of which are exact match, it would serve you well to ensure that those are always up to snuff.

    The post The Exact Match Conspiracy appeared first on The Search Agency.

    The Exact Match Conspiracy

    The Search Agents Feed - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 02:30

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (or roughly three years ago), Google decided to do away with exact match keyword targeting. You can still bid on exact match terms in AdWords, but you can’t stop AdWords from opting you into closely-related queries in the process. AdWords got rid of the option to opt-out of close match variants on keywords in the fall of 2014. The reasons, no matter what side of the aisle you sit, can be debated ad nauseum. But what cannot be debated are the effects that this has on keyword matching.

     

    Impact on keyword matching

     

    A few months ago, when looking into my clients’ campaigns, I noticed a change in queries associated with exact match terms. They seemed less like variants of the keywords I was bidding on and more like broader, similar-intent-based keywords. Queries like “car rental” on exact match were now matching to “rent a car.” Granted, the intent is the same, but the advertiser’s lack of control seems to have grown larger.

    Looking through the last 12 months of search queries on exact match terms, there was a slight change over time. For a couple of accounts, May 2017 is when advertisers’ reins seemed to loosen a little more. For other accounts, this occurred as far back as last fall. What was once a running list of plurals and misspellings being deemed close variants slowly became a list of similar-intent queries with misspellings around the original keyword and the broader intent of that keyword. Is this a case of the algorithm getting smarter and being able to understand a person’s intent and better accommodating that? Or is this Google finding ways to create larger auctions with more advertisers?

    It used to be that advertisers had to keep a close eye on the accounts they manage, diving deep into search query reports for relevant keywords to expand into, tightly controlling pure broad match terms to mine for relevant keywords and spending time combing through Google’s keyword planner for the right set of keywords. Advertisers still need to keep a close eye on their accounts — Google has simply taken a couple of those things off their plate. With keywords automatically opted into close match variants, Google’s machine learning will find similar auctions that your keywords can show for. As the reins of keyword matching have been eased, so too has our own oversight.

    Advertisers have had little choice but to allow Google to place more people in more auctions over the course of time through their close variant matching. This helps all three participants in an AdWords auction. AdWords has an increase in the number of advertisers trying to get into an auction, thus making it more competitive and expensive. Advertisers have a wider range of auctions available to them with less work to be done on their end. Finally, the user who has typed in the query has more advertisers that are relevant to his or her intent. Again, who benefits more is merely a matter of on what side of the aisle one sits.

    The good news in this new, intent-based, close variant world is that there is always a better way. With proper vigilance by the advertiser, this unspoken easing of close variant keyword matching can be navigated and properly managed.

     

    Taking back the reins

     

    It is important to ensure that you have tightly-knit ad groups. The smaller the keyword set within the ad group and the more similarly intent-based that keywords within the set are to each other, the easier they will be to manage. I used to be of the mindset that all keywords within an ad group should be similar in intent, but that you can have 10 to 12 keywords and their close variants within the same ad group. No longer is that possible. Ad groups should not contain more than six to eight keywords at most, with the majority of ad groups having even smaller keyword sets than that.

    Once these ad groups are set up in this structure (with smaller, tighter-knit keyword sets), search query reports are a must. Weekly search query reports should be run for the first three to four weeks to ensure that the basics are covered. Once the ad groups reach a level of stability, set a cadence of once every three to four weeks to look for close match variants that your exact match keywords are matching with. Set up exact match forced negatives in those ad groups to negate them. If they perform, have those keywords in their own ad groups.

    The key is to have ad group-level forced negatives to ensure that you are only bidding on terms within the account and all queries are being properly funneled to the appropriate ad group. Since the slightly looser definition of “exact match” took hold on a few of my accounts this past May, I discovered several instances of queries within campaigns matching to multiple keywords. That means, in those instances, I was potentially bidding up against myself, driving up my own CPCs.

    This new, similar-intent world can easily be managed with some initiative to get ahead of your keywords and negatives list, followed by the vigilance to constantly monitor it once it’s stable. It’s easy to let exact match terms go unnoticed in search query reports, but it’s important to monitor those, as well, as that could mean a significant difference to overall performance. If 80 percent of your account comes from 20 percent of your keywords, most of which are exact match, it would serve you well to ensure that those are always up to snuff.

    The post The Exact Match Conspiracy appeared first on The Search Agency.

    Treating People Well Matters, Part I

    The Search Agents Feed - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 08:59

    Let me start by saying that I am not perfect — in fact, I’m far from it. Anyone who knows me well will agree with that sentiment perhaps a little too wholeheartedly than I would prefer, but as I grow older, I become more comfortable accepting who I am — warts and all. That being said, few people I know would disagree that I try hard to do what I think is right and try hard to treat people with compassion and respect.

    I would like to believe that a lot of who I am was instilled in me as a child, strongly due to my parents, both through their words and their deeds. They sacrificed a lot to provide me with the best education possible, and despite the financial strain they incurred, they always provided a loving and nurturing environment. I have, to this day, never seen my parents argue angrily with each other. Debate about opinions and facts was an everyday occurrence, but never attacks against each other — or other people, really.

    With that backdrop, I have decided to write a series of blog articles in which I share some of the lessons I have learned over the years how to treat people well. I believe them to be valuable, but each reader will have to make that assessment for themselves. These pieces of advice are provided in no particular order, but I can honestly say that I strive to apply all of them in my everyday life as much as possible, fully knowing that I fail to live up to them more often than I would like. Like I said, I am not perfect.

     

    Lesson #1: Listen more, talk less

     

    I read an article on Sales Hacker recently (thank you, Google!) that cited a study they had conducted. The study found the most successful sales people were those who spoke 43 percent of the time and listened to their prospective customers 57 percent of the time. The worst performing sales people spoke about 66 percent of the time, which I’ve found, through my experience, is absolutely the case. The more we learn about a prospect’s issues and concerns, the more we can tailor a solution that actually meets or exceeds their needs. If we can’t find a solution, we should not move forward because we will both be disappointed by the outcome.

    Listening more when selling is clearly helpful, but I believe this notion of listening — really listening — helps one not only understand what someone is actually saying, but helps them provide more thoughtful insights, as well.

    How often have you been in a meeting with colleagues where a few people speak a lot, some people listen and, of course, some people are on their device du jour, not listening or caring much about what is going on around them? While I have participated in many of those types of meetings and sometimes lead them (ouch — not something I like to admit), I am often amazed by what ideas or thoughts come out of the mouths of the people who really listen, really think about what they want to say and really provide terrific insight. Over the years, I have found that when one of those rare people speaks, everybody listens. The talkers quiet down, the listeners strain forward to hear and the “Devicers” look up and take note as if the meeting just started. And over time, whenever those listeners choose to contribute, their contributions are listened to carefully and frequently sway the day. Be that listener as much as you can — eventually, you’ll find people will recognize you for it and admire you for your insight and thoughtfulness.

    I have talked about this concept of “actually listening” and think it is worth expanding upon what I mean by that phrase for a moment. To me, it is about being an active listener versus a passive one. An active listener focuses fully on the person who is speaking, looks at them and engages with them. You can see it in their faces, in their physical attention and in how they can identify the right moment to comment or to acknowledge the receipt of their information using verbal cues.

    Passive listeners are generally people who are present but whose minds are occupied by other things. I have had meetings with passive listeners many times and I know they are not actively listening because they are actively doing something else. In today’s world, that typically means texting or emailing on a device. As I have gotten older (and, as my wife will say, more crotchety), my tolerance for “Devicers” has decreased significantly. I don’t have enough time in the day to waste any of it with people who are not interested in speaking with me. Their status as one of these “Devicers” does not make them a bad person at all — it just means what I want to speak about is not priority for, and that’s okay.

    So, the next time you are having a conversation, I encourage you to put your device down, look at the person who is speaking and really think about what they are saying. Ultimately, I believe you will both be richer for it.

    The post Treating People Well Matters, Part I appeared first on The Search Agency.

    Treating People Well Matters, Part I

    The Search Agents Feed - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 03:00

    Let me start by saying that I am not perfect — in fact, I’m far from it. Anyone who knows me well will agree with that sentiment perhaps a little too wholeheartedly than I would prefer, but as I grow older, I become more comfortable accepting who I am — warts and all. That being said, few people I know would disagree that I try hard to do what I think is right and try hard to treat people with compassion and respect.

    I would like to believe that a lot of who I am was instilled in me as a child, strongly due to my parents, both through their words and their deeds. They sacrificed a lot to provide me with the best education possible, and despite the financial strain they incurred, they always provided a loving and nurturing environment. I have, to this day, never seen my parents argue angrily with each other. Debate about opinions and facts was an everyday occurrence, but never attacks against each other — or other people, really.

    With that backdrop, I have decided to write a series of blog articles in which I share some of the lessons I have learned over the years how to treat people well. I believe them to be valuable, but each reader will have to make that assessment for themselves. These pieces of advice are provided in no particular order, but I can honestly say that I strive to apply all of them in my everyday life as much as possible, fully knowing that I fail to live up to them more often than I would like. Like I said, I am not perfect.

     

    Lesson #1: Listen more, talk less

     

    I read an article on Sales Hacker recently (thank you, Google!) that cited a study they had conducted. The study found the most successful sales people were those who spoke 43 percent of the time and listened to their prospective customers 57 percent of the time. The worst performing sales people spoke about 66 percent of the time, which I’ve found, through my experience, is absolutely the case. The more we learn about a prospect’s issues and concerns, the more we can tailor a solution that actually meets or exceeds their needs. If we can’t find a solution, we should not move forward because we will both be disappointed by the outcome.

    Listening more when selling is clearly helpful, but I believe this notion of listening — really listening — helps one not only understand what someone is actually saying, but helps them provide more thoughtful insights, as well.

    How often have you been in a meeting with colleagues where a few people speak a lot, some people listen and, of course, some people are on their device du jour, not listening or caring much about what is going on around them? While I have participated in many of those types of meetings and sometimes lead them (ouch — not something I like to admit), I am often amazed by what ideas or thoughts come out of the mouths of the people who really listen, really think about what they want to say and really provide terrific insight. Over the years, I have found that when one of those rare people speaks, everybody listens. The talkers quiet down, the listeners strain forward to hear and the “Devicers” look up and take note as if the meeting just started. And over time, whenever those listeners choose to contribute, their contributions are listened to carefully and frequently sway the day. Be that listener as much as you can — eventually, you’ll find people will recognize you for it and admire you for your insight and thoughtfulness.

    I have talked about this concept of “actually listening” and think it is worth expanding upon what I mean by that phrase for a moment. To me, it is about being an active listener versus a passive one. An active listener focuses fully on the person who is speaking, looks at them and engages with them. You can see it in their faces, in their physical attention and in how they can identify the right moment to comment or to acknowledge the receipt of their information using verbal cues.

    Passive listeners are generally people who are present but whose minds are occupied by other things. I have had meetings with passive listeners many times and I know they are not actively listening because they are actively doing something else. In today’s world, that typically means texting or emailing on a device. As I have gotten older (and, as my wife will say, more crotchety), my tolerance for “Devicers” has decreased significantly. I don’t have enough time in the day to waste any of it with people who are not interested in speaking with me. Their status as one of these “Devicers” does not make them a bad person at all — it just means what I want to speak about is not priority for, and that’s okay.

    So, the next time you are having a conversation, I encourage you to put your device down, look at the person who is speaking and really think about what they are saying. Ultimately, I believe you will be both be richer for it.

    The post Treating People Well Matters, Part I appeared first on The Search Agency.

    Treating People Well Matters, Part I

    The Search Agents Feed - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 03:00

    Let me start by saying that I am not perfect — in fact, I’m far from it. Anyone who knows me well will agree with that sentiment perhaps a little too wholeheartedly than I would prefer, but as I grow older, I become more comfortable accepting who I am — warts and all. That being said, few people I know would disagree that I try hard to do what I think is right and try hard to treat people with compassion and respect.

    I would like to believe that a lot of who I am was instilled in me as a child, strongly due to my parents, both through their words and their deeds. They sacrificed a lot to provide me with the best education possible, and despite the financial strain they incurred, they always provided a loving and nurturing environment. I have, to this day, never seen my parents argue angrily with each other. Debate about opinions and facts was an everyday occurrence, but never attacks against each other — or other people, really.

    With that backdrop, I have decided to write a series of blog articles in which I share some of the lessons I have learned over the years how to treat people well. I believe them to be valuable, but each reader will have to make that assessment for themselves. These pieces of advice are provided in no particular order, but I can honestly say that I strive to apply all of them in my everyday life as much as possible, fully knowing that I fail to live up to them more often than I would like. Like I said, I am not perfect.

     

    Lesson #1: Listen more, talk less

     

    I read an article on Sales Hacker recently (thank you, Google!) that cited a study they had conducted. The study found the most successful sales people were those who spoke 43 percent of the time and listened to their prospective customers 57 percent of the time. The worst performing sales people spoke about 66 percent of the time, which I’ve found, through my experience, is absolutely the case. The more we learn about a prospect’s issues and concerns, the more we can tailor a solution that actually meets or exceeds their needs. If we can’t find a solution, we should not move forward because we will both be disappointed by the outcome.

    Listening more when selling is clearly helpful, but I believe this notion of listening — really listening — helps one not only understand what someone is actually saying, but helps them provide more thoughtful insights, as well.

    How often have you been in a meeting with colleagues where a few people speak a lot, some people listen and, of course, some people are on their device du jour, not listening or caring much about what is going on around them? While I have participated in many of those types of meetings and sometimes lead them (ouch — not something I like to admit), I am often amazed by what ideas or thoughts come out of the mouths of the people who really listen, really think about what they want to say and really provide terrific insight. Over the years, I have found that when one of those rare people speaks, everybody listens. The talkers quiet down, the listeners strain forward to hear and the “Devicers” look up and take note as if the meeting just started. And over time, whenever those listeners choose to contribute, their contributions are listened to carefully and frequently sway the day. Be that listener as much as you can — eventually, you’ll find people will recognize you for it and admire you for your insight and thoughtfulness.

    I have talked about this concept of “actually listening” and think it is worth expanding upon what I mean by that phrase for a moment. To me, it is about being an active listener versus a passive one. An active listener focuses fully on the person who is speaking, looks at them and engages with them. You can see it in their faces, in their physical attention and in how they can identify the right moment to comment or to acknowledge the receipt of their information using verbal cues.

    Passive listeners are generally people who are present but whose minds are occupied by other things. I have had meetings with passive listeners many times and I know they are not actively listening because they are actively doing something else. In today’s world, that typically means texting or emailing on a device. As I have gotten older (and, as my wife will say, more crotchety), my tolerance for “Devicers” has decreased significantly. I don’t have enough time in the day to waste any of it with people who are not interested in speaking with me. Their status as one of these “Devicers” does not make them a bad person at all — it just means what I want to speak about is not priority for, and that’s okay.

    So, the next time you are having a conversation, I encourage you to put your device down, look at the person who is speaking and really think about what they are saying. Ultimately, I believe you will be both be richer for it.

    The post Treating People Well Matters, Part I appeared first on The Search Agency.

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