Last month, I wrote about the importance of knowing pay-per-click (PPC) fundamentals when you’re hiring new team members.
While you can control the team you hire, it’s harder to find clients, bosses and stakeholders who understand all the details of PPC as well as you do. This can lead to questions about campaign performance when conversions don’t seem to be tracked correctly, which in turn can lead to prickly situations where jobs can be at stake.
A client’s questions about some confusing aspect of AdWords need to be answered correctly if you want to look like the PPC rockstar you are.
Here are a few common conversion questions we are frequently asked and their answers.
Why did you report fewer conversions than what I see?
The first confusing situation we encounter is when a client uses our report engine to share account performance. A few days after the report was automatically delivered, the client calls and complains that the number of conversions in the report doesn’t match what they see in AdWords.
Fumble your response and they’ll think you don’t know what you’re doing, but answer it right and take a huge step in building trust with the client.
Why conversion data may be off
AdWords lets you set a conversion window to select how long to track conversions after a click or interaction, usually set at 30 days.
This means the data associated with a click can change up to 30 days after it happens. A click that happened last month can see its conversion count go up, so long as it’s still within the active conversion window. Metrics like clicks, cost and impressions tend not to change much once reported, but conversions, conversion value, cost per acquisition (CPA) and other conversion-related metrics remain to live well after the date the click happened.
You can set a conversion window so you can track conversions that take a few days to happen in AdWords
Some people mistakenly believe AdWords reports a conversion on the day it happens. That would be true in Google Analytics, but remember that AdWords reporting revolves around clicks, whereas Analytics revolves around actions on a site.
That may seem like a small difference, but it has a huge impact on what happens with conversion data. Analytics will track a conversion on the day it happens, regardless of what previous touch points led up to it.
In AdWords on the other hand, a conversion gets added to the reports on the day of the last interaction, assuming you are using a last-click attribution model.
So, unless you send reports where the last included date is older than your conversion window, clicks may still have an open conversion window, and the associated conversion data can still change.
In practice, if you wanted to avoid this confusion, you’d have to send reports that don’t include clicks from the last 30 days. This is not a practical solution, since clients typically want reports as soon as the month ends.
If you want to get a better sense of how many conversions are still likely to occur after you generated a report, look at the “days to conversion” segment in the AdWords interface.
I don’t do e-commerce, so why are my conversions fractional?
Now you’ve gotten the client to understand why conversion numbers change throughout the month, but they push you on another weird thing in AdWords. The client says they do lead gen so it makes no sense that there are fractional values for conversions because after all, there’s no such thing as half a lead submission.
Or is there?
The industry is moving away from last-click attribution models and, depending on the model you’re using, one conversion can be split between several interactions.
For example, with a linear attribution model, every interaction leading up to a conversion gets an equal share of the credit. In a simple example, if the user clicked on two of your ads for different keywords, each one of those clicks gets half a conversion credited.
Other attribution models split the credit in other ways. I recommend Mona Elesseily’s excellent post about attribution models if you want to understand this better.
Aren’t attribution models just a money grab by Google?
So, now your client understands what fractional conversion numbers are, but they want to know why attribution models matter. Isn’t this just a way for Google or the agency to extract more ad budget without improving performance?
The answer to that is complex. At some basic level, a better attribution model is a way for Google to keep getting lots of money from advertisers, but the complete answer also looks at why this would happen.
Google gets more advertisers by giving better insight into how ads are contributing to business goals. If they can correlate ad spend with real-life sales and conversions, then yes, they will continue to spend money with Google. This should only be done because it makes sense for the business and advertisers are pleased with that performance.
New attribution models are important because they try to answer the complex question of what the real value of online advertising is.
User behavior is dynamic, and you need advanced ways to measure how each touch point contributes to the end goal of getting a conversion. Simply looking at the last click is not good enough anymore.
Explaining attribution to non-digital marketers
This concept makes sense to us as online marketing experts, but we still have to explain it to clients who may be resistant, so let’s use a simple example of a car dealership that leaves digital out of the equation.
A last-click attribution model would be like saying that people visit a dealership because they see the sign by the entrance. Because the sign gets people into the showroom, the dealership decides to invest more in making that sign bigger and flashier while cutting their budget for all other marketing.
Soon after the bigger sign goes up, sales tank. What happened?
They missed the fact that most people drive to a dealership because they’ve been influenced by television commercials and ads in magazines. If the dealership invested nothing in those channels, nobody would visit the dealership, no matter how beautiful their sign was.
Now let’s look at the car dealership example in the digital world and see what might happen if they stuck with last-click attribution while their competitors start to experiment with more comprehensive models.
By relying on last-click attribution to record conversions, and using that data to manage bids, they might start to lower bids for keywords used early in the decision process.
Broad keywords like “safest suvs” would get low bids because those are not what the users click on right before contacting a dealership. By undervaluing these early touch points, competitors are allowed to swoop in with remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA), dynamic remarketing and data-driven bidding strategies.
Competitors catch a user’s attention early and remain engaged with them through a variety of marketing technologies. Keywords that used to immediately precede a lead see a drop in volume and the dealership sells fewer cars.
The ideal attribution model also looks at offline touch points and includes lifetime value, but those can still be harder to track.
Procter & Gamble (P&G) decreased their digital ad budget by an estimated $200 million in 2017 because they felt their money was better spent elsewhere. That type of measurement is complex, but that doesn’t mean we should remain stuck in the way conversions have been measured in AdWords since they first launched conversion tracking.
Conversions are the lifeblood of any business, so it’s no wonder clients get panicky if they feel their account managers are not tracking things correctly. One of the greatest aspects of online advertising is that it’s highly measurable, which makes it possible to use granular targeting to deliver stellar results.
I hope sharing how we answer questions about seemingly weird conversion issues helps you have better conversations and in turn helps you build trust and profitable relationships.
The post Understanding campaign performance: Answers to common conversion tracking questions appeared first on Search Engine Land.
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Siri’s perceived mediocrity is putting Apple’s smartphone leadership at risk. It’s also having a negative impact on sales of Apple’s smart speaker, HomePod, which received largely lackluster reviews because of Siri’s functionality (I mostly disagree).
An exposé of sorts from The Information about problems with Apple’s management of Siri has been getting a lot of attention over the past couple of days. There’s a kind of “ah, so that’s why” reaction in some of the secondary pieces in the tech press.
The Information article cites a number of specific issues, challenges and problems within Apple surrounding Siri’s management and development. Among them:
I wrote in January last year that improving Siri was no longer an optional thing for Apple and that it was critical to Apple’s and the iPhone’s long-term competitiveness. I suspect the need for this wasn’t fully clear to Apple until the mostly negative HomePod reviews hit last month.
Now, it probably is. Tim Cook will personally have to intervene, if he hasn’t already, to remedy internal management rivalries and operational problems and fast-track Siri improvements.
In my comparisons of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, it’s clear that the Google Assistant has the greatest breadth and utility. But Siri isn’t that far behind. And most “regular people” don’t see Google Assistant as the clear leader vs. Siri today. But that could change in the near term.
Google is aggressively developing the Assistant across hardware devices in a bid for a kind of ecosystem lock-in that was once almost unique to Apple.
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According to a report from Reuters, the European Commission has proposed new rules that will require search engines, commerce sites and online platforms to explain how they rank results and to reveal why companies are penalized or removed from listings or results.
The stated intention is to bring more transparency to these companies’ operations and help smaller competitors better understand what they’re required to do to appear and rank. It’s designed to redress the “superior bargaining power” of the large internet brands, according to language quoted by Reuters.
While the proposal apparently “will not force companies to disclose their algorithms,” it will require descriptions and explanations of “how and to what extent the relevant ranking mechanism takes account of the quality of the products and services offered.”
It’s not clear exactly what that means, but it does seem that the regulation is intended to compel the major internet companies to effectively reveal their ranking signals. Google does this today to varying degrees. So the real-world impact of this might not be significant.
The proposed rules also require a 15-day notice period for any changes to terms and conditions, rather than retroactive notification (i.e., “our terms have changed”). In addition, any rejections (e.g., from app store approval) or delistings will require specific, “individualized” explanations — presumably, rather than a list of potential or hypothetical reasons on a page somewhere.
Reuters also reports that where a platform offers services that compete with others in the market (e.g., Google Shopping), “terms and conditions will have to include a description of any preferential treatment they give to their own service including access to consumer data and ranking.”
Right now, this is simply a proposed rule that will reportedly be made public in April. It would have to be adopted by the European Parliament and member states to go into effect.
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Google My Business has updated the Insights analytics tool within Google My Business to let business owners see a heatmap of locations from which searchers request directions to their businesses.
Allyson Wright, the community manager for Google My Business, announced that Google has “made some changes to your directions heatmap.” Specifically, the new directions heatmap should allow businesses to track which areas customers are requesting directions from and show that to you on this map at various zoom levels. “Direction requests from some post codes may appear as blank due to user privacy consideration but are included at the city level,” Allyson said.
The help document was updated and now reads:
Here is a screen shot of what I see in this specific report for my business:
This information should help businesses get a better handle on the geographies from which they are attracting customers, allowing them to tailor their operations or marketing outreach accordingly.
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We all have those times when we’re sort of coasting … gently floating along, letting things happen the way they will. But that time is not today. ? This week, we’re fired up and ready to help you get (safely, sanely) out of your comfort zone and into some serious progress. On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman
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Google looks to be adding a feature in Google My Business that allows business owners to add descriptions that appear in the local panel in search results. Both @deegs20 and @maulikpanchal posted screen shots of this in action. Google removed this feature back in 2016 when they dropped the Google+ support but it seems to be added back via the Google My Business console.
Users of Google My Business can go into their accounts and click on the “info” section, where they may see this business description section that can be edited. Here is a screenshot from Dave DiGregorio:
It then can show up in your local panel, towards the bottom:
This information was also recently added to the official Google help documents, which now say:
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Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.
From Search Engine Land:
Recent Headlines From Marketing Land, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Internet Marketing:
Search News From Around The Web:
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Content and links are still pillars of search engine optimization (SEO).
In fact, Google has told us in the past these components are two of the top three factors in Google’s search algorithm.
By now, we should all know this, but many people are still making a critical mistake when it comes to content and links and how they relate to each other in terms of search optimization.
The majority of webmasters brainstorm, design and execute content initiatives, then pursue links. I feel this may not be the best strategy. Link building should be a consideration before content is published and should be used to guide content strategy.
When search opportunity dictates content strategy rather than the other way around, the results can be tremendous. When you can consult on content strategy before linking begins, the results can be positive:
As you can see, we had success securing links and expanding keyword rankings, and because the content was targeted and strategic, it only took a handful of links to see growth.
Here is a breakdown of where those keywords land within the top 100 search results:
Now you might be thinking, “Two keywords in the top 10 — that’s not very impressive,” but these keyword rankings are high-value terms that drive qualified traffic with a strong chance of conversion to a site.
Because we had influence over content strategy from the start, we steered the client toward tactical content that would support these results.
It should be noted that content marketing has multiple purposes; not every post should have links as the end goal. Many content marketing campaigns are brand-driven and have nothing to do with SEO and links.
However, if you’re building SEO content, there are three main goals you should consider:
Let’s walk through a simplified, three-step version of the content consultation process you can use to find ranking and linking success.
1. Identify search opportunities
SEO content consultations start where all content campaigns should start — with keyword research.
For this hypothetical example, I’ll be executing light keyword research, but you’ll want to go deeper with your own research as you build out your content strategy.
My goal is to identify baseline keywords and themes where improvement is achievable. Once I find these base terms, I’ll target them by creating blog posts and pages focused on the long-tail keywords associated with that corresponding theme.
To explain this concept, I’m going to use and analyze the website x.ai, an artificial intelligence-powered personal assistant, and walk through it as if I am consulting with this company on SEO content.
I picked x.ai at random and because the company named its artificial intelligence program “Andrew,” which is a great name, don’t you think?
I start my research by analyzing how x.ai is currently performing. You can use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to look for relevant baseline keywords.
Examining the data, I can pull out a handful of key terms that will give me an idea of how x.ai is currently performing:
I quickly notice that x.ai is ranking for the main term, “meeting scheduler,” so I want to investigate more.
Digging deeper into this keyword phrase, I find there are a number of related long-tail keywords that x.ai could target as well:
Individually, these search volumes aren’t massive, but in aggregate they could make a significant difference for x.ai in terms of relevant traffic if they start ranking for a handful of these terms.
But is there an opportunity for x.ai to rank? To find out, I’ll need to analyze the competing pages in these respective search engine result pages (SERPs).
2. Analyze competing pages
After finding potential opportunities, I need to understand what’s driving success in those spaces, which involves examining competitor pages.
Since I’m brainstorming content ideas, I want to analyze the pages that are ranking for my key terms, rather than analyze entire sites or brands.
For example, one important term I’ve identified that’s related to “meeting scheduler” and x.ai’s business is the term, “meeting request email.”
Here’s what I see when I go to the search results:
I notice immediately that there is a featured snippet, which means if I optimize my content properly and reach page 1, I should be able to leapfrog the other results by securing the snippet.
This snippet is a brief two-point bullet list, but I would expect that an actual email template might be more helpful for users here.
An approach that aims to secure a spot in the snippet might be the best way to improve performance since the top three results here are authoritative sites that could be difficult to unseat from the top ranks.
However, looking at the rest of the SERPs reveals more insight:
I notice another interesting SERP feature: images in the middle of the results. This further reinforces my belief that an image of an email template could be useful.
Clicking on some of the results, I quickly realize I could create better content…
… if nothing else, at least from a purely aesthetic standpoint:
Researching the actual search results tells me what searchers are looking for and what type of content to create: informational content with helpful examples and usable templates.
This information provides me with direction for a potential new webpage, but before I consult with my content team, I want to know if x.ai could be competitive in this search engine results page.
The best way to measure SERP competition is through links. To analyze links, I’ll use a backlink explorer like Majestic so I can analyze the results in terms of referring (linking) domains.
As mentioned before (Images 5 and 6), the SERPs are top-heavy with authoritative sites; however, I think I can compete with the lower-position pages:
The numbers being reported for these three pages suggest link competition is actually fairly low for this SERP. Given x.ai’s own authority, it could have a real chance to build a page that ranks well.
Furthermore, the higher-authority pages, like The Muse in Image 5, have a fair number of inbound links pointing to them. This means my page will have built-in link prospects, as these referring domains might also be interested in linking to my content.
3. Execute content creation
Now, the goal becomes building something that is best in class and optimized for searcher intent.
I would advise x.ai’s content team to build a page that thoroughly explains how to write a meeting request email, complete with example emails and downloadable templates. Potential link partners could easily link to these downloadables or embed them on their site.
I would also track the performance of this page in terms of links and keyword rankings to gauge SEO impact over the following months. Even with sufficient planning, factors such as changes in search behavior and market shifts can pop up and cause a pivot in strategy, so keep an eye on trends.
It is also a good idea to keep an eye on internal linking strategies as new pages are developed and strategy shifts. Some internal links may need to be added or removed.
I now have a strategic content idea that would serve user intent for a relevant term. This primes my link campaign from the start, as I know if I do my job and secure worthwhile links, this page should rank and bring in relevant traffic.
Repeat this process a few times, and you can start to see how growth is achieved.
Scaling SEO content consultation
The hypothetical example I’ve provided discusses the creation of just one specific page. However, this example outlines a scalable model that can be used again and again to build strategic pages.
To review, this process:
This simple three-step process provides an easy-to-follow framework. As you implement this strategy to build out new pages, keep in mind:
By no means should SEOs dictate your entire content strategy. Content serves numerous purposes beyond SEO, such as branding, reputation management and messaging. But if you want to build content that drives SEO results, you need to involve an SEO in your content strategy.
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If you’re looking to gather leads for your business, you need to have a landing-page strategy. Just like every other marketing tactic, this can be done well or it can be done poorly. To see the greatest return on their investment, businesses need to build effective landing pages, then test and optimize them to maximize conversion rates.
This guide from SharpSpring is written for any marketer looking to initiate or improve their landing-page strategy. It will guide you through the entire process of creating and optimizing landing pages, highlighting key points along the way.
Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download “Creating Landing Pages That Convert.”
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“Create visual content and the links will follow” is a nice sentiment, but in reality, it’s a prerequisite, not a guarantee of the fulfillment of a promise.
If you want to use images to earn inbound links, you need a concrete plan with some specific actionable goals.
Here are four ways you can use images and visual content to build links and drive traffic. Use the following tactics to get the ideas and inbound links flowing and build a smart strategy for your brand.
1. Become your industry’s stock photo site
It’s become more or less a standard in this industry to ensure that every blog post needs to feature at least one image to keep people engaged and be taken seriously, with a few exceptions.
In many cases, those images are stock photos with some thematic connection to the topic of the post, rather than original image content.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with using stock images, but you can take advantage of it by becoming a go-to resource in your industry for visual content.
Here are some ideas to help you do that:
Bear in mind that your visual content doesn’t necessarily need to be the most amazing thing ever, as long as it addresses topics that aren’t as readily addressed in other images.
Examples of this are the top image results for Moz. Their Whiteboard Friday images lack visual flair, but they get the point across.
2. Identify image keywords bloggers are likely to search for
This is related to the tactic above, but it’s a topic with enough depth that it deserves its own section.
The goal here isn’t just to identify keywords your consumer audience is searching for, or even keywords that other influencers in your industry are searching for.
You need to specifically identify keywords that bloggers and influencers are using images for and linking to.
Start by scraping a few prominent sites in your niche and looking for patterns. Here is one approach I recommend using:
Unfortunately, most publishers these days don’t use external links to display images; instead, they host the image on their own site, with an image credit link. Since these links aren’t embedded in the same hypertext markup language (HTML) as the image itself, there’s no easy way to identify image credit links.
What you can do, however, is crawl the site for their internal images and analyze the image alts they are using for some ideas:
While you won’t be able to immediately tell which images are credited to other sources and which were produced internally, you can quickly determine what topics their visual content tends to focus on.
You can also do a crawl of all external links and export the anchor text:
While this won’t limit the external links to image credits, it will help you identify the kind of topics they are most willing to link out to. Combining that with your image alt data and some manual inspection, you can start to get a clear idea of what kinds of keywords to target with your images.
Repeat this process for several top publishers until you have a clear, extensive list of keywords to target, with your original images.
Now test the viability of your keywords by:
3. Reach out to people using your original images
If you are creating original visual content and publishing it to your site, and you have a decent amount of exposure in Google Images, there is a very good chance people are using your images without linking to you.
Capitalize on this by contacting these people and politely asking them to give you credit with a link. (In all but the most egregious monetized cases, I would avoid making copyright threats, especially since it is more likely to result in their removing the image than linking to you for credit.)
To find sites that are using your image, go to Google Images and click the camera icon:
You’ll be asked to paste an image URL or to upload an image:
Now, paste the image URL (pointing to the image itself, not the page it’s on) into the “Paste image URL” tab, or click “Upload an image” and browse through your folders to locate the image if you are storing it locally on your machine. You can also just drag and drop an image into this pop-up.
Then click “Search by image.”
Scroll past the “Best guess for this image” and “Visually Similar Images” results, down to the “Pages that include matching images.” Click through to verify that they are still using the image, find their contact information, and send them an email requesting they cite your image with a link.
If you are producing a lot of image content on a regular basis, this process can get tedious, so it’s better off being automated. In that case, you can use the sites that allow you to do “reverse image search” for a larger number of images on a periodic basis.
4. Perfect your image-to-word ratio
According to a study by BuzzSumo, the blog posts that receive the most shares on Facebook and Twitter are the ones that include one image for every roughly 75 to 100 words.
Since there’s a relatively strong correlation between social sharing and the number of inbound links you earn, getting the right mix of images and words can be a smart link-earning strategy.
As with any statistic, especially one based on observational analysis instead of experimentation, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Rather than considering this “best practice,” use it as a jumping-off point, test a few different ratios over time and measure what seems to work best within your niche.
In most niches, the more hardcore your fan base, the more knowledge-hungry they are, meaning that they will be more willing to read walls of text (although you’d better be leveraging your white space even if that’s the case).
You may also find that your link-earning and social media activity aren’t as heavily correlated in your industry.
Regardless, the point stands. Measuring your image-to-word ratio — and how it correlates with the number of inbound links you earn — will help inform your link-earning strategy and allow you to make more optimized decisions.
Now, it’s time to put these ideas to use and up your visual SEO game!
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