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Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the data-driven process of optimising your website in order to create more conversions, such as sales or leads.

Tools such as Google Analytics make it possible to track the paths that users are taking to reach your site, otherwise known as ‘funnel tracking’. Funnel tracking shows which sections of your site – and which actions – most commonly lead to conversion. It also gives a clear view of where users are typically dropping out. Asking your visitors directly using on-site surveys is another good way of getting insights into what they like and any bugbears they have with your site.

Once you have this information, there are a number of actions you can take in order to improve conversion. For example, you can better optimise your website’s navigation structure, or test which layouts and content elements work best to encourage conversions.

We’ll delve further into the sophisticated world of heatmaps, session tracking and split testing for CRO below, but the importance of CRO stands proud as a means of quantifiably turning your website traffic from just numbers into business.

Setting goals

Setting CRO goals

Before we look at the ins and outs of CRO, it’s important to first understand what your individual conversion goals are. It’s likely that your business will want to generate profit, but the exact goals will be different for every company and may include:

Each of these goals can be achieved in different ways. For example, to boost sales you might want to funnel traffic to high performing or seasonal e-commerce pages; and you could change content and design elements on the page to increase conversions. Or to improve sign-ups, you could test the language and positioning of the sign-up button to increase clicks, as well as the content of the sign-up box/page itself in order to encourage submissions.

Measuring current conversions

Here comes the science bit, as CRO isn’t based on guesswork. You can use a number of tools to find out exactly what visitors are doing on your website, the likes of which will help you to determine which elements work and which could be improved on.

Heatmaps, such as those from Crazyegg and Mouseflow, show you where on a page the most activity occurs in a colour representation, with warm colours being the most active areas. They can highlight areas where users click on a page, or even where the eye is drawn, using eye-tracking technology. Scroll heatmaps are also useful for pages that are heavy on written content as you can see how far down a page users scroll, in order to improve content or adjust its length.

Video Source: Mouseflow

If heatmaps don’t provide you with enough insight, page recordings almost certainly will, as they show real customers’ journeys across a page. You can see where the cursor moves and what they click in what order, as well as text that is tapped where you could add a link.

And for businesses who rely on leads from their online forms, form analysis from the likes of hotjar can uncover the reasons why visitors abandon contact or download forms. Using all these insights in relation with the conversion funnel information from Google Analytics will give you a greater understanding of how visitors currently interact with your website. Now it’s time to make changes to chase those conversions by testing what updates work best.

Using surveys for insights

Surveys for CRO

The above tools help you see what is and isn’t working, but to be sure of what your web visitors want, a good customer survey can provide specific reasons why people aren’t converting. Let’s say your contact form has high traffic, but a large percentage of people are leaving before they submit the form. This shows that some sort of action needs to be taken on the submission page – but how do you know what needs to be tested? Well, you can ask your customers in a short survey and identify their reasons for not submitting.

It’s easy to set up an auto email to anyone who leaves the form without submitting it, asking if there was any reason why. Perhaps they felt like they had to give too much information, meaning you could simplify the form; or perhaps they clicked on the contact button by mistake, meaning you should optimise placement of the button.

The same action can be taken for cart abandonment on an e-commerce site. A prime example of re-marketing that works, you can send an email reminding customers what they still have in their basket. Plus the email can also be used to ask if there was any site-specific reason they changed their mind.

Testing for CRO

The final stage of your CRO process is changing the elements that you’ve found hinder your conversion goals. Split testing, or A/B testing, is a method of trying alternative design and content elements across different urls to see which version works best.

Multivariate testing through VWO. Image source: Crazyegg

Changing one element at a time, you can tweak the wording, placement or colour of a CTA and send half the traffic to the new url, keeping the existing url as a control. Then, keep the highest performing page and continue to methodically update any other elements your surveys, heatmaps or form analysis unearthed.

Make your website work harder

Your website is one of your strongest assets for bringing in business, but in many cases it can work harder for you. CRO allows you to measure exactly what changes bring the greatest return, in order to systematically update pages. It doesn’t have to be a big task as you can focus on your key pages first, and transfer what you learn to other pages over time.

If you need help with carrying out CRO on your website, get in touch with Ad-Rank today.

The beginning of spring has echoed themes of change and progress throughout the digital sphere. From search engine updates to GDPR preparations, here are some of April’s biggest headlines from SEO, content marketing and digital PR.

Google rolls out updated search algorithm

Mutters of a Google algorithm update have been heard throughout the search and marketing industry this month, and on April 16th we finally got the news we’d been waiting for. Announcing the news via Twitter, Google identified the change as a ‘broad core algorithm update’, the likes of which systematically take place at several points throughout the year. Even so, businesses across the globe have been eager to discover exactly what the update means for them.

 

The general consensus from Google is that these updates are an integral part of their work. While some users are expected to experience slight drops or gains in visibility during this time, the search engine is keen to reiterate that there is very little sites can do in order to prepare for such updates – aside, of course, from continuing to produce a steady stream of quality content.

“Changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded”, Google SearchLiaison confirmed in a series of tweets last month. “There’s no ‘fix’ for pages that may perform less well, other than to remain focused on building great content.” More so than ever, it seems that investing in a solid content strategy is vital to securing and maintaining sought-after SERP positions.

Brands and businesses prepare for upcoming GDPR roll-out

GDPR

If your inbox has been flooded with emails alluding to websites’ updated terms of service this month, you’re not alone. As we ease ever-closer to next month’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) launch, brands and social media giants have been scurrying to inform users of ‘important updates’ and secure their continued custom long after the GDPR laws are put in place on May 25th.

Perhaps the biggest change will be the regulation that customers will need to actively opt-in to their data being shared, as opposed to the opt-out system that many market leaders have favoured in the past. As a result, the influx of ‘opt-in’ emails and notifications witnessed over the past few weeks is only expected to grow. For many, however, the introduction of the GDPR brings about serious concerns around the future for businesses and marketing agencies on a worldwide scale.

“The world of digital marketing is increasingly reliant on collecting personal data for ad targeting, and this could severely impact their capacity to do so” highlights the Digital Marketing Institute. Even so, there’s little scope to argue that the regulations are anything but relevant, useful and necessary – particularly in light of recent data protection scandals from the likes of Facebook and Uber. “It’s important that business managers and digital leaders not only abide… but incorporate policies internally that support and sustain the same principles”, the Digital Marketing Institute concludes.

Google Assistant named smartest personal search assistant

google assistant

A new study from Stone Temple Marketing has unveiled Google Assistant as the ‘smartest’ personal assistant, beating the likes of Alexa, Cortana Invoke and Siri. Results may vary depending on your platform, however, as Google Assistant accessed on a smartphone proved slightly more accurate than the same programme operated on Google Home devices.

While Alexa proved one of the lesser able to deliver full and accurate responses, it took some consolidation in being named the most improved assistant when compared with results of a similar 2017 study. 12 months ago, Alexa attempted answers on just 19.8% of queries – rising to 53% this year. Perhaps surprisingly, it was Apple’s personal assistant, Siri, which proved least competent in both attempting answers (40.7%) and ensuring those answers were full and correct (80%).

The study was conducted on a small sample of devices, with 4,952 individual queries being proposed to each assistant. While the results are far from comprehensive, there are many valuable takeaways from the study – including an insight into the rapid pace at which personal assistants are developing and improving in reliability.

The next couple of months look set to bring a great deal of change within the marketing, search and content sectors. For more information and advice on staying up to date with emerging trends, get in touch with WooContent today.

Let’s cut to the chase – high-quality content is crucial to the success of your SEO strategy. If you fail to create engaging content, you risk spending a lot of time and money on a strategy that fails to deliver the rates of engagement and conversion you’re pushing for. Worse than that, you may even risk alienating your target audience.

It’s pretty crucial stuff, so we’ve decided to lift the lid on why high-quality content is so important, with some examples of who’s doing it right. Read on to discover how to align content with your SEO strategy, before gaining some top tips on how to create quality content that resonates with your target audience.

The SEO landscape, then and now

The SEO landscape has changed dramatically over the years. Practices that were deemed effective in the early 2000s are now avoided like the plague by SEO experts. Flashback to the early days in SEO and keyword stuffing took centre stage, with the focus on producing keyword-centric copy rather than high-quality, user friendly content.

Fast forward to 2018 and best practices have changed significantly, with an understanding of search intent now being crucial. Emphasis is no longer placed on incorporating as many keywords as possible in your content in order to attract searchers, but rather on writing high-quality content that echoes their interests, anticipates their needs and answers their queries.

Google Hummingbird – shifting focus from keyword quantity to content quality

keywords

Major shifts in the SEO landscape can be attributed to the development of search engine technology. The release of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in 2013 was a significant turning point. The update was designed to help Google better understand semantic search and produce results that are directly relevant to the query’s context, rather than honing in on singular keywords.

The Hummingbird algorithm also focuses on interpreting longer, more conversational search terms, providing results that correspond to user intent. This is particularly relevant to modern day voice search. In a nutshell, this major development resulted in SEO strategies shifting firmly onto the production of content tailored to user intent, or high-quality content seeking to solve searchers’ queries in one easy hit.

5 steps for aligning good content with your SEO strategy

strategy

We know why good content is crucial to effective SEO, but how do we implement this in practice? We’ve put together 5 key steps to help you out:

#1: Keywords are still important

First things first, compile a list of keywords relevant to your brand.

#2: Think about user intent

What are your searchers actually trying to find? Let’s say you sell shoes. Searchers will want to know who they’re made by, what they’re made of, how much they cost, how comfortable they are, and so on. Answer The Public is a useful tool for finding search terms that shed new light on user intent relative to your brand.

#3: Mock up an image of your page

Formulating a page layout will give you a clearer idea of what the titles on your page (headings, subheadings, etc.) should address. Using technology such as heatmaps will also give you a better idea of where CTAs and callouts should be placed, providing a frame of reference when drafting your content.

#4: Curate your content

You’re now ready to start crafting your content. Don’t make it all about your brand – stay focused on the key message you want to convey to your audience and make it about them. Then you can complement your content with keywords, terms and phrases relevant to your brand offering.

#5: Draw in the cool kids with an irresistible hook

Think about your USP here – what does your brand do better than the competition? What specialist knowledge can you impart on your audience? This final step is about infusing your content with a fresh, unique edge that will encourage engagement. Plus the top Google ranking factor is quality, original content.

Top tips for making your content stand out from the crowd

You’re now equipped with the practical tools needed to ensure your SEO strategy is filled with good content. But the hard work doesn’t stop here. We’ve listed a couple of top tips to make sure your content goes the distance:

• Develop an original brand voice

A great way of helping your brand stand out from the crowd, developing a unique voice will help you connect with your audience on a deeper level and create a following.

Fashion retailer Missguided is a great example of this. Their laid-back, quirky and cool tone fits perfectly with their targeted demographic and is used consistently across their website, newsletters and social media accounts.

Note how the use of words such as ‘babe’ create the feeling that they’re talking to a best friend. This is isn’t incidental, but a clever style choice designed to build a close relationship with their audience:

• Position your CEO as an expert in their field

Highlighting the skills of your company’s CEO not only emphasises your brand’s knowledge and expertise, it also helps create a human edge to the company – a great way to help increase organic engagement.

Beauty brand Birchbox is a great example. The company’s founders, Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, are an active presence in the company’s marketing strategy, as shown in a video on their website celebrating two years in business. They also speak regularly to various media outlets on their skills and passion for their company. This coverage and intimate view into the company sets the brand apart from their rivals in the beauty sphere.


To sum up, if you incorporate high-quality, user-focused content in your SEO strategy you’re well on your way to outshining your competition. Combine this with a fresh, distinctive brand voice and out-of-the-box thinking, and you’ve got it in the bag.

WooContent are experts in producing high-performing content and SEO strategies that deliver results. Get in touch with us today for more information on how we can help your brand excel.

Semantic trends have played an increasingly central role in search for some time. Algorithms now have the ability to take whole queries into account, rather than simply focusing on specific keywords. By doing so, search engines are able to delve deeper into the intent behind each query, delivering tailored, highly intelligent results.

2013’s Google Hummingbird update marked a significant turning point for semantic search. For the first time, the technology required to understand the meaning behind specific searches was rolled out on a large scale. Rather than honing in on one or two keywords, the new algorithm was able to read and configure the meaning behind each query, denoting which results would be most relevant to the needs of the user.

Appetite for intent-driven, conversational search has only grown in the years following Hummingbird. In 2018, an understanding of the latest semantic trends is a vital component of any successful SEO strategy. With that in mind, here are seven ways to make the most of semantic trends and reap the benefits for your business.

Semantic search factors

Image credit: Stone Temple

Ramp up content production numbers

Quality over quantity is the first rule of content production in 2018, yet the latest semantic trends naturally favour sites that have a large pool of targeted landing pages. It’s never recommended to produce content for the sake of it, but developing an ongoing content strategy that’s centred around relevant, well-optimised content is incredibly valuable. Ensuring each page is specifically geared towards your niche gives search engines more opportunity to find and index your site for both short and long tail keywords, improving SERP visibility as a result.

Develop timely, news-worthy content

Alongside a string of evergreen pages, there’s also value in regularly updating your website with more timely, news-focused content, that integrates of-the-moment search terms. Creativity is key, not least because you’re likely to be fighting for valuable SERP real estate with your competitors. For that reason, keep a close eye on the latest news and events from within your industry and focus on producing unique content that’s of genuine use to its audience.

Embrace voice and local search

Voice search is big news in the tech industry. Devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo are working alongside the likes of Siri, Cortana and Alexa to bring voice search into our homes and offices on an unprecedented scale. Yet the way that we use voice search is different to more traditional search methods. Voice search queries tend to be more natural and conversational in tone, which in turn means they’re usually longer than the succinct keyword phrases we’re used to typing into search engines.

Voice search also has greater potential to be mobile, meaning queries are often local. For that reason, steps such as claiming your Google My Business listing and better optimising your site for local search are going to be hugely valuable in the long term. It’s all about giving search engines – and therefore users – the best possible chance of finding your business when searching within the local area.

Answer specific questions

Semantic trends are placing a continuing emphasis on user experience. With that in mind, it’s never been more important to ensure every piece of content is tailored toward your users, not just search engines. One way to do this is to consider semantics when developing page and content titles.

Conversational search is all about targeting those long-tail keywords that are commonly put into Google. Queries that start with ‘how to…’, ‘what is…’ and ‘why does…’ are likely to drive site traffic in light of recent search trends. But do use them alongside other short-tail keywords to keep the tone and style of your content as natural as possible.

Establish your website as an authoritative voice within its niche

Even in light of changing search trends, Google continues to point to authoritative sites as a priority. There’s huge value in producing quality content that secures your brand as a trusted voice within its niche. This means developing content that is useful, insightful and relevant. Steer clear of branded sales tactics in favour of using phrases that align semantically with user intent.

It’s also useful to optimise your content for related or associated keywords. Engaging in well-structured keyword research is crucial here, as understanding more about the keywords your audience is commonly using will help provide search engines with the context they need to index your site effectively. For instance, an online camera repair shop may also develop content around photography tips, equipment, lighting and studio set-ups.

Create content that inspires engagement and discussion

video for user engagement

The end goal of any user-led content strategy should be increased organic engagement. The more buzz that your post generates, the more attention it will receive from semantic algorithms, the likes of which favour content that users are interacting with. Visual content such as videos and infographics aren’t going anywhere, with video alone representing 74% of all internet traffic last year. With that in mind, committing to developing a creative marketing strategy that utilises both visual and written content continues to be a good move.

Consider FAQ and Q&A pages

Dedicating a page to answering the questions most commonly posed by your users is a great way to optimise your site for long-tail keywords. As semantic search takes a firmer grasp on the wider search landscape, such queries are becoming increasingly common. For instance, succinct keyword terms such as ‘prom dresses uk’ are likely to decline in favour of detailed long-tail queries (ie. ‘Where can I buy blue satin prom dress in west London?’) The end goal is to rank for as many long-tail keywords that are relevant to your niche as possible. As such, FAQ and Q&A pages are a great way to rank for the conversational terms your users are most frequently searching for.


Current semantic trends are an indicator of Google’s wider goal – to place user experience and intent at the very heart of the search process. While changing algorithms and search preferences may initially be seen as a hindrance to ongoing SEO strategies, they should instead be viewed as an opportunity to move with the latest trends and stay one step ahead of the competition.

For more information on how we can help you make the most of search trends, get in touch today.

‘Make a great product, and they will come’ has never been less true than in today’s crowded marketplace. For e-commerce businesses, having a watertight marketing strategy is essential in getting your brand noticed and converting visitors into returning customers.

A marketing strategy is something that evolves over time, incorporating the latest techniques and channels. As such, this guide isn’t just for new e-commerce businesses or products. If you feel like your marketing strategy could be working harder, many of the elements below can easily be moulded to suit your business.

With that in mind, here are the eight most important areas that you should include in your e-commerce marketing strategy, as well as ways to measure and refine your processes.

1. Develop a mission statement

A mission statement defines who you are as a business. It’s the first thing that customers will see on your ‘About Us’ page and will define your brand story. Mission statements are particularly useful for larger organisations, or those who work across different sectors, as they provide focus and consistency across different areas. This post from 60-Second Marketer covers how to create a mission statement.

mission statement

Image source: 60secondmarketer

2. Build buyer personas

Buyer personas are fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customer. They help your team to understand and visualise your audience in order to focus marketing efforts towards this demographic.

You can use existing customer data to form personas, as well as interviewing a representative customer group for more in-depth insights. You’ll need information such as demographics, what channels the customer uses and who influences them. Hubspot’s post explains how to create buyer personas in more detail.

3. Engage in competitor analysis

You may know exactly who your competitors are, but take a deeper look at their digital strategies and it can fuel your own marketing initiatives. You can easily find out which competitors rank highest for key search terms. Then there are a number of helpful competitor analysis tools that will give you statistics on web traffic and what channels competitors’ customers are using. Details of their backlink profiles may also give you ideas for your own link building strategy.

4. Set your goals

Now that you have a clearer picture of who your customers are and what your competitors are doing, you should set some measurable goals in your marketing strategy. This part of your plan will be ever-evolving, so it’s important to revisit yours regularly.

You need to set achievable goals which cover all areas of marketing. For example, ask yourself what is an attainable figure for new customer acquisition or engagement on social. You can also audit your current website content and set yourself the target of increasing web traffic by a certain percentage.

5. Produce engaging content

Content works in a number of ways to bolster your e-commerce website, so it’s key to incorporate a content strategy into your overall marketing plan. Firstly, content is a tool for driving traffic to your website through optimised product descriptions and landing pages. Although you may sell products that can be found elsewhere online, it’s important that your content is unique in order to avoid duplication issues.

Another area where content is important is in encouraging conversion through the use of attractive product descriptions and compelling CTAs. A content strategy will cover all channels and content types, integrating them into an overarching plan – from creating a blog of original articles; to driving traffic to your product pages; producing video content for social; or formulating engaging email newsletters.

6. CRO

Content is just one element of your website that will affect conversion. You should make Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) a part of your marketing strategy and regularly set aside time to split test any new pages added to your website. Using heatmaps and funnels like the ones from Mouseflow allows you to see where customers are focusing their attention on your site and what journey they take between pages.

Mouseflow - Session Replay, Heatmaps, Funnels, Forms & User Feedback

You can use this information to improve menu navigation, checkout processes, mobile functionality and more through A/B testing. By changing one element at a time, from wording to imagery and the placement of important information and links, you can quantifiably test what works best.

Another element that has proven CRO results is adding a review function to your website. This user-generated content is trustworthy as well as answering customers’ questions. Plus, to alleviate the common issue of customers leaving things in their cart without checking out you can add a campaign of remarketing, or retargeting, to your strategy. Either email customers to ask if they forgot to checkout or use limited-time display ads reminding people of what they viewed.

7. One-off campaigns

As well as ongoing keyword optimisation to improve your on-page SEO, you’ll also need to plan limited-time campaigns. These often revolve around big events for your company, such as new product launches or upcoming holiday deals.

Sponsored ads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are ideal for targeting certain demographics. You pay for a set amount of time, so you can run the campaign from the two weeks leading up to an event or the month before a big holiday.

Another one-off example would be hiring a social influencer to review some of your products and post about them for a short period. Using visual channels like YouTube and Instagram, influencers can demonstrate your product to a well-established following.

8. Retention and analysis

As you add more campaigns to your marketing strategy, remember to rinse all content through your buyer personas (do they fit the target audience?) and your mission statement (does the content align with your beliefs and style?).

You’ll also need to track your efforts and the responses to them – whether through Google Analytics, customer feedback or social media statistics. Analysing engagement and traffic allows you to measure the effectiveness and ROI of each campaign, as well as streamline your efforts for a personalised user experience.


Each e-commerce business is different and will have its own set of strategic goals, which will change over time. Therefore, it’s important for your marketing strategy to be flexible and for you to regularly test different marketing channels and strategies to see which ones are most effective.

Keeping up to date with the latest marketing techniques to use in your strategy can be hard work. For more advice on both tried-and-tested and emerging e-commerce marketing strategies, get in touch with us.

We’re already a quarter of the way through 2018, and search engine and social media giants are pushing boundaries in the name of improving user experience. From shoppable social media posts to drastically condensed search results, here’s the biggest marketing news from digital and SEO in March.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announces security changes in light of Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook’s association with data mining company Cambridge Analytica has made global headlines this month, as it’s been suggested that data gathered through the platform may have been used to influence elections. The news has once again thrown into question just how secure our online data really is.

In light of the scandal, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg this month announced plans to strengthen security and reduce the likelihood of third-party apps being able to access personal data. Key changes include a thorough investigation of both new and existing apps that use the platform, as well as further restrictions on the amount of data developers are able to access.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you”, explained Zuckerberg in a statement posted on the platform this month. Despite this, many have continued to call for a boycott of the social networking site, with ‘#DeleteFacebook’ trending on Twitter throughout the latter half of March.

Google introduces mobile-first indexing to a growing number of sites

Google mobile first index

As promised, Google’s revised mobile-first algorithm was rolled out to more sites this month, with affected developers and site owners notified of the change via Search Console. Sites that “follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing” are the first to be switched, according to a blog post from Google Software Engineer Fan Zhang. The change follows a long period of testing, as the search engine prioritises mobile users, which currently contribute to the majority of traffic on the platform.

Sites that are affected will begin to see the mobile version of each web page being used for ranking and indexing. Even so, Google is keen to reiterate that mobile-friendliness is just one of a range of ranking factors. Sites that offer users a seamless mobile experience have long been favoured by search engines, yet desktop pages still have the capacity to rank well if they’re filled with useful, relevant information. Check out our guide to mobile optimisation for handy tips when preparing for the full roll-out.

Instagram rolls out shoppable organic posts

Facebook-owned social sharing app, Instagram, this month announced it was bringing its shoppable post feature to the UK. Shoppable posts have been available in the US since 2017 and were this month rolled out to Brazil, Canada, Italy and Spain, among others.

A blog post from Instagram’s Business Team describes the feature as “a visual shopfront [for users] to explore new products from businesses they follow”. The feature is expected to have a positive impact on businesses that use the app as part of their digital marketing strategy. “Tagging a product is as simple as tagging a person in a post. And for shoppers, a shopping post’s tags get rid of the guesswork and allow for easy access to a tagged product’s information”.

This focus on providing users with a seamless e-commerce experience is crucial to Instagram’s growth. US beauty retailer TYME have reported a 44% increase in traffic from the platform since implementing shoppable posts into their feed. And with an estimated 2 million Instagram accounts visiting one or more business profile every day, it’s likely that UK brands will be just as keen to get in on the action.

Google experiments with removing organic search results

Google ran a week-long test this month that saw zero search results being implemented for calculation, conversion and time-related queries. Instead, users were presented with a single answer and the option to ‘Show all results’, without those organic blue search result links we’ve become so accustomed to seeing on the site.

Following a rush of intrigue from users, Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed the test on Twitter, posting “For calculator, unit converter & local time, we’re experimenting with a condensed view to further speed up load time. People who search for these tools rarely use full search results, but the results will remain available for those who want them via the ‘Show all results’ button”.

The experiment didn’t last long, however, with Google pulling the zero results pages a week after they were rolled out. Citing a need to develop the feature further before rolling it out in full, it’s expected that it won’t be the last we hear of Google dropping organic results from specific pages.

For more information on any of the stories discussed, or to discover how Ad-Rank can help your business to stay ahead of the latest trends in search and content, get in touch today.

There’s no denying that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the way in which we use technology. In October 2015, Google announced the roll-out of an AI algorithm called RankBrain that generates responses to search queries. Since then, this machine-learning system has continued to impact the digital marketing landscape and the way sites are optimised for search.

In fact, RankBrain is the third most important ranking signal after quality content and natural links, and is sure to play an even bigger role in the future of marketing. Here’s a closer look at what RankBrain is, how it came about and what you need to do to make sure your site is optimised for AI in 2018.

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is a machine-learning algorithm that uses AI to filter and sort search queries in Google. It also works to assist Google to better understand search queries, particularly uncommon words and terms. RankBrain is unique in that it learns from users and updates itself rather than following a set of programmed rules. It can alter the importance of content length and freshness, backlinks and domain authority, depending on the keyword.

RankBrain also helps to measure user experience (UX). It assesses how people are using Google to search and how they respond to the results. It does this by looking at common UX signals, such as click-through rate, time spent on the page, bounce rates and ‘pogo-sticking’ – a term Google uses to describe the process of clicking back and forth on different SERPs.

How does it work?

How does RankBrain work?

Using mathematical processes and a sophisticated understanding of language semantics, RankBrain can recognise what the searcher is asking – much like a human. It does this by matching never-before-seen keywords with keywords that Google has dealt with, to provide users with the most relevant results.

If it’s unsure what a search term means, it uses AI to find similar words and phrases to better understand the purpose of the search, providing results based on what it thinks the user is looking for. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that RankBrain is only called into action when Google is unsure of the meaning of the keyword.

Human engineers and RankBrain work simultaneously on Google algorithms. However, RankBrain has the ability to change and update the algorithm autonomously. To highlight how effective it is, Google tested human engineers against RankBrain by asking them to predict the best pages for a search term. They found that RankBrain was accurate 80% of the time, while human engineers were right just 70% of the time.

How did RankBrain start and how has it progressed?

In 2013, Google announced that 15% of the keywords being typed into search everyday had not been seen before. Prior to RankBrain, all of Google’s algorithms were hand-coded and would work by scanning pages to try and match the exact keywords used in the query. As some of the keywords were new, Google would have to make guesses as to what people were searching for. As such, Google needed a more accurate way to interpret these new search terms – and that’s when RankBrain was introduced.

When it was first rolled-out in April 2015, RankBrain was only used for a small number of search queries (approximately 15%). Now, almost three years later, it’s one of the most influential ranking signals. Google has even said that it’s applying almost all search queries to RankBrain, and claims that RankBrain impacts the search result rankings in ‘a lot of queries’.

How does this impact SEO in 2018?

Google search

There’s no denying that AI is changing the way we look at digital marketing. Over time, it’s bound to have an even greater impact as technology evolves. While you may not be able to specifically optimise for RankBrain, there are plenty of easy ways to stay ahead of the curve and deliver successful SEO campaigns now and in the future.

As Google’s webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes has pointed out, one of the best and easiest ways to ensure you are optimised for RankBrain is with natural content that sounds human. As the purpose of RankBrain is that it replicates what a human can do, it makes sense that content is written in a conversational way.

Keywords are another important consideration. While traditional keyword research is not obsolete, you may need to adjust your process to ensure it’s RankBrain-friendly. For example, creating lots of different pages optimised around different keywords is now largely considered an outdated practice.

Instead of long-tail keywords, using logical keyword groupings and topics is seen as far more natural and useful. This technique will also benefit voice search, which is growing in popularity every year. Studies show that 20% of mobile users now use voice search and this is expected to increase.

Like most new Google features, RankBrain will continue to adapt and develop over time. By keeping up to date with the latest advancements in AI and adjusting your SEO marketing strategies accordingly, your site will stand a much better chance of ranking highly on Google.


If you need help keeping your SEO strategies up-to-date, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

Creating an e-book is a significant undertaking for any business. From idea development to writing, design and promotion, e-books can be a drain on time and resources. Done well however, they have the potential to generate quality, high-value leads that result in a considerable ROI.

E-books can be a hugely valuable asset for both B2B and B2C companies, yet ensuring that your efforts are going towards something that generates real, valuable returns can be challenging. With that in mind, here are our top tips for creating e-books that attract warm leads that count.

Answer specific questions posed by your audience

question

One of the main aims of any e-book is to promote your brand as an industry specialist, or at the very least a knowledgeable voice within its niche. This begins with understanding not just who your audience is, but what kind of questions they’re asking.

A little bit of audience research comes in handy here, and should be performed as early in as possible to shape and formulate your content plan going forward. Sites like Answer The Public are a great place to start, as is mining available data sources for the most common search terms users are inputting to find your site. From there, the focus should be on providing valuable solutions to the problems your audience face.

Leave the hard-sell tactics at the door

Effective content marketing practice prioritises informing your audience over selling to them. An e-book should be an opportunity to showcase your brand’s knowledge and expertise, so use the space to build trust with your audience rather than offering them the hard sell.

Sure, you want the final e-book to showcase your brand in the best light possible, but the key here is subtlety. More often than not, focusing on providing your audience with the information they need is enough to give your brand credibility and effectively promote your services.

Consider gated content

gated content

E-books are a great way to introduce new and prospective customers to your brand, so should be free to access wherever possible. Even so, it’s also true that gated content is a good way of weeding out time wasters and making sure your content gets seen by the most relevant leads possible.

If you do opt for gated content, consider including a lead magnet by asking users for their basic contact information (name, email address, job title) in return for the e-book. This value exchange will allow you to follow up with your readers directly and is a great way to grow your email list at the same time.

Design your e-book with the user in mind

Valuable, informative content is the primary component of any successful e-book, yet it shouldn’t come at the cost of good design. Even if aesthetics are typically far down on your list of priorities, ensuring that your e-book is clear and user-friendly goes far. This will not only attract readers, but also encourage them to stay on the page and navigate from one piece of content to the next.

Along with developing effective lead magnets, designing your e-book with UX in mind is a key part of your lead generation strategy, and is all part of Conversion-Rate-Optimisation (CRO).

There are a whole host of resources online that offer guidance on e-book design for non-designers, although it’s always recommended to seek the opinion of a professional if your budget allows. Your choice of font, colours, imagery and page layout all contribute to the overall user experience and should be high on your list of considerations.

Invest in promotion

promotion

Investing in promoting your e-book needn’t be limited to a financial commitment – it’s just as much about investing more time into the process. After all, even the most informative, well-designed e-book will be little use to your business if your audience isn’t aware it exists.

By the time you’ve reached the promotion stage it’s likely that you’ve already put a significant effort into perfecting your e-book, so don’t be shy in shouting about it. Share the e-book across your social media channels, targeted email lists and, if your budget allows, consider paying for the content to be boosted on Facebook.

Track, monitor and learn from analytics

Where e-books really shine in comparison to printed content is the ability to include links and tracking features, allowing businesses to gain a clear view of their success. Insights into user engagement and interaction are invaluable when it comes to improving your strategy going forward and getting the most from prospective leads.


Creating an e-book can seem like a daunting investment for brands, yet follow a few simple rules and you’ll stand yourself in good stead to generate the best return possible.

For more information on how we can help you to create effective e-books, get in touch with the team today.

Thanks to its association with all things romance, brands and businesses have been competing to encourage feelings of love from their users in February – often with mixed results. With some Google updates thrown in for good measure, here’s a run down of February’s biggest headlines in marketing, content and SEO.

Google launches Mobile Scorecard and Impact Calculator

Back in January Google announced plans to make mobile page speed a key ranking factor from July, preparation for which stepped up a gear this month. The search engine recently unveiled two new tools that promise to give brands a better view of their mobile performance.

The first is aptly named the Mobile Scorecard. Here, users are able to gain an insight into their site’s mobile speed, as well as that of their competitors. According to Google, the tool extracts data from the Chrome User Experience Report to provide information on mobile speed for thousands of websites across the world.

Alongside the launch, Google has also announced a new Impact Calculator, which promises a real-world view of how much your bottom line stands to increase should mobile speed be improved on your site. By giving users a clear idea of the kind of revenue impact that mobile performance can have, the search engine can begin to encourage businesses to invest in improving mobile speed ahead of July’s algorithm update.

Search outranks social in referral traffic for the first time since 2014

Search has once again taken the lead as the web’s primary source of referral traffic, outranking social for the first time in three years. According to a recent report from Shareaholic, search was the driving force behind 34.8% of referral visits in 2017, compared to social’s 25.6%.

 

It’s perhaps unsurprising when you consider the rise of ‘fake news’ that has plagued social media channels over the last 12 months. Shareaholic’s Craig Zevin also points to the growing ability of search engines to include social content within their own rankings, commenting “Instead of searching for news and content on individual social networks, users can increasingly find it aggregated within search engines.”

Multifaceted featured snippets make Google debut

Google has long been associated with a desire to better improve its user experience features, with a commitment to delivering fast, targeted results to common search queries. When the queries are broad or open to interpretation however, the process can become more difficult. It’s just one of the reasons the search engine this month announced the launch of multifaceted featured snippets – providing multiple snippets that relate to the potential interpretations of any one query.

“We’re starting first with ‘multi-intent queries’”, explains Google’s Product Management Director of Search, Emily Moxley. “The query ‘tooth pain after filling’, for example, could be interpreted as ‘Why does my tooth still hurt after filling?’ or ‘How long should a tooth hurt after filling?’… [Then] we aim to expand multifaceted feature snippets to cover a broader set of nuanced queries.”

The results are expected to be rolled out across the platform over the coming months.

KFC ruffles feathers with tongue-in-cheek marketing apology

Fast food chain KFC hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons this month, when over 50% of UK branches closed due to a chicken shortage. However, some clever PR tactics helped the brand to make memories for all the right reasons. Less than a week after the shortage, KFC printed a full-page apology in both the Sun and Metro, putting a clever spin on their own brand name.

 

“FCK. We’re sorry” was the strapline of the campaign, which won critical acclaim from marketing professionals across the country for its timeliness, as well as the brand’s ability to poke fun at itself in the face of criticism. While the chicken shortage is unlikely to be remembered in 12 months time, such a well-known, recognisable brand playing upon the power of profanity promises to stay with audiences for a while yet.

Facebook cuts key business metrics in a bid to improve transparency

Social media giant Facebook has announced plans to remove approximately 20 ad metrics that they perceive to be “redundant, outdated, not actionable or infrequently used”. A full list of those pending removal can be found on the Advertiser Help Centre, with key losses including ‘button clicks’ and ‘social reach’ metrics, both of which Facebook has been quick to suggest alternatives for.

“Removing these types of metrics will make it easier for you to get the most actionable insights to improve your ad performance”, Facebook explained in a blog post this month. It’s just one of the ways that Facebook are showing a commitment to greater ad transparency, both from the perspective of users and the brands themselves.


In just two months, 2018 has already seen huge changes within the search, content and marketing sectors. For more information on how Ad-Rank can help you stay up to date with the latest trends, get in touch today.

As popularity in voice-operated devices grows, so too does the use of voice search. Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Siri and Microsoft Cortana are all paving the way for new voice-centric strategies within the world of marketing.

In this blog, we look at what voice search could mean to SEO specialists and content marketers, before exploring ways to prepare for the potential impacts of voice search.

What do we know about voice search so far?

Well, we know that popularity in voice-activated devices is growing at a rapid rate. In a report from Technavio via Skyword, it is estimated that “by 2019, the voice recognition market will be a $601 million industry”.

According to Google Trends via Search Engine Watch, "Google voice search queries in 2016 were up 35 times over 2008”. And in 2016 alone, eMarketer recorded a sizeable increase in voice search of 128.9%.

Research and estimates concerning this area largely point to the same assumption – voice search is gaining popularity with considerable speed.

voice search graphic

Surely with these figures in mind, we can assume it’s safe to invest in voice-search strategies?

This is an obvious assumption to make, but no one can say for sure the extent to which marketers will be able to capitalise on voice search. However, what smaller studies and industry insiders have indicated is that a key element of the voice search revolution is user intent.

Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update brought with it a bigger focus on the implied meaning of search queries. So Google is already pretty good at dealing with voice search queries through the introduction of natural language processing technology across its products and verticals. That’s before we even consider the advent of Google’s machine learning AI, RankBrain.

One of the biggest things that SEO strategists can do right now is to make sure content is natural, mirroring voice search behaviours, and provides answers to specific search questions. As an added bonus, if you optimise your content for voice search you’re also optimising it for featured snippets. Featured snippets could increase your chances of being the chosen answer for that query when it’s searched for using voice.

Here’s how you can fit voice search into your content and SEO strategy now.

Differences between voice search and text search

Text searches

Text-based searches evolved as a way of getting answers quickly through basic search terms, so can be compact and omit grammatical constructs. We’ve become accustomed to searching in this less natural way in order to get and refine our search results. Likewise, over the years Google has adapted to get better at understanding the meaning or intent behind generic, even if they’re one-word search queries:

Short-tail keywords

If we search for “Sushi”, Google knows we might want restaurants, recipes or just information. Therefore, it will bring up a map with local sushi places to eat, as well as a definition and, further down the results, some recipes.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are also used in text searches, when the searcher wishes to obtain more specific search results. Therefore, they’ll include more search terms, however grammatical constructs and elements of natural language pattern are still generally omitted with text searches.

question queries

Voice searches

In contrast, voice searches are a more natural way of searching, as the user feels as though they’re talking to a real assistant. Voice searches are more focused on semantics, more conversational and usually more detailed. They use both long-tail keywords as well as short-tail queries, but generally voice searches include more interrogative terms such as “who”, “what”, “where”, “why” and “when”. Campaign reported a 61% year-on-year growth in consumers making longer question queries that start with these words.

Short-tail keywords

A searcher might ask an voice-activated assistant “What’s sushi”, using a question term. Google knows that they require a definition.

Long-tail keywords

When further keywords are added in, such as a qualitative terms like “best”, Google attempts to rank the restaurants. And the local search term “London” gives Google an indicator to bring up results only in this area.

Impacts of voice search on the marketing sector

SEO and content marketing is already being impacted by the growing popularity of voice search. Estimates via Social Media Today suggest 50% of people are now using voice search when researching products, whereas SEO strategies largely remain tailored to text searches favouring short-tail keywords.

As they put it, marketers need to: “Think less about keyword stuffing and meta tags and more about full sentences and conversational copy.” Answering search queries with quality content should already be the backbone of any content strategy, but the change is to a more natural tone that reflects spoken language.

voice search impact

Key steps to take

Other steps to take in order to accommodate voice-search requirements into your strategy include:

Does your strategy focus on local SEO? Chitika’s research director Dan Ruby stated mobile voice-related searches are three times more likely to be local-based than text, so now’s the time to consider incorporating voice-search-relevant local SEO into your strategy.

Due to the more conversational tone of voice search, the focus in your marketing strategy needs to be based on user intent behind a search term. This is because a user journey might start with a short-tail keyword such as “Where’s my local chip shop?”, before moving on to a more specific question with long-tail keywords, such as “Is there a Norwich chip shop that’s open on Monday lunchtime?”

Keeping your content as comprehensive as possible will mean that it targets primary terms as topics and includes all relevant topics and sub-topics. You can do this by analysing a particular user journey and focusing on creating pages with a purpose that matches the intent of traffic to the page. So, whatever someone wants to know about chip shops, you have the answer on a particular page of your website, from location to opening times, in a way that’s technically optimised.

Review your preferred marketing approach – could your current strategy be fitted more astutely to voice search requirements? Carrying out a content audit will allow you to see how users currently interact with your content. And now you know how voice search is changing that to a more question-based natural form of search, you can integrate content elements that fit more closely with it.

To sum up…

While it’s certainly a challenge to prepare for an impending trend as huge as voice search without that much clear-cut data out there to go by, it’s crucial for SEO and content marketing specialists to get to grips with the nuances of voice search and be prepared. Voice is here, and evolving all the time, just as the SEO landscape evolves with it.

WooContent are well-versed in helping clients stay one step ahead of SEO trends and incorporating them into your content plan. Get in touch with us today to see how we can best support you.

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