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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.

With an ever-increasing number of people using smartphone searches, coupled with Google’s upcoming mobile-first index, it’s more important than ever that websites are optimised for mobile. While mobile-friendly sites have been in the digital marketing sphere for some time, this year the trend will become even more prominent.

Since the announcement of the gradual roll-out of the mobile-first index in 2016, Google has made it clear that if you don't have a quality site for mobile, it won’t make it to the top pages. In other words, if it doesn’t have a responsive layout, has a slow page loading speed and a poor navigation structure, your rankings will suffer. This is particularly important for businesses that only have a desktop site, or those that have thin SEO content on their mobile site.

If you want to generate good leads, reduce bounce rates, boost conversions and achieve a top position on SERPs, now’s the time to optimise your site for mobile. Here are some useful ways to do this in 2018:

Check your page loading speed and choose a responsive web design

A Study has shown that 53% of mobile users abandon a site if it takes more than three seconds to load. When you add this to the fact that Google has just announced that page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile-first indexing from July 2018, it’s crucial that mobile sites load quickly and respond quickly to user interactions. To check your site’s loading speed, you can use various Google tools to test different pages such as PageSpeed Insights and Chrome User Experience Report.

To ensure that your site is compatible with mobile, you should use a web developer who has experience in responsive website design. This can help to create a smooth browsing experience and keep mobile users engaged for longer, which in turn can generate leads and boost your conversion rates. You can also use open source initiatives like AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to create a fast and high performing website.

 

Optimise mobile

Manage your content for mobile

We already know that content is vital for rankings – and this is true for mobile too. The good news is that there are plenty of simple ways to get your site’s content up to scratch and ready for the mobile-first index.

Your first port of call should be to make sure that the content is easy to read and clear on smaller screen sizes. You may also choose to add some links in long text so that users can get to where they need to be, and use headers to break up the page and make it more visually appealing.

Text size and touch elements are also key for mobile. There’s nothing more frustrating than missing the button or repeatedly touching the wrong one because it’s too small. To overcome this, make sure that tap targets are suitably sized and provide enough space between elements. This can make the site much easier to navigate on a mobile, which in turn can increase conversion rates.

You’ll also need to develop your content around mobile-friendly keywords. These are usually long-tail keywords that seek an answer, and often start with who, what, where, when and why. It’s also worth bearing in mind that a significant number of people are now using voice search. In fact, studies show that around 20% of mobile searches are now voice search, which is expected to increase. Taking this into account, you’ll need to think about how people speak and ask questions in order to optimise your content to reflect these queries.

Optimise tablet

Focus on user experience

A common mistake businesses make is having a site for desktop and then adjusting it for mobile. Rather than treating it simply as an extension of desktop, you need to make mobile your prime concern. After all, the majority of your customers will now be accessing your site via smartphones, so it makes sense to prioritise the mobile experience. To analyse user behaviour, you can use Google Analytics device reports.

To comply with the mobile-first index, businesses should carry out a thorough audit of the mobile user experience on their site. There are several important questions to ask yourself when doing this. For example, how user-friendly is my site? How easy is it to find information? Is it simple to navigate? Are my contact details easy to find? Do I need to minimise pop-ups? Optimising all of these areas can have a significant impact on user experience, especially on small mobile screens.

As Google’s mobile-first index becomes more widespread and developments in smartphone technology continue to evolve at a rapid pace, mobile optimisation will be at the forefront of most digital marketing strategies this year. By following simple steps like these and focusing on providing an excellent mobile experience for your audience, you’ll stand a much better chance of staying ahead of the competition and ranking highly.

If you need help optimising your site for mobile for 2018 and beyond, get in touch today.

There are a whole host of SEO factors at play when it comes to how well your website ranks in Google, and depending on which industry you're in, some will have more impact on your search rankings than others. Google analyses each search query to establish which ranking factors are most appropriate, but research has shown that there are certain things which should be considered a priority, regardless of your sector.

Here are the key SEO ranking factors to think about when optimising your site for search engines in 2018.

Content

Content and links are the two most important factors for ranking in Google. But simply throwing a load of content onto your website is not enough to make it rank well. For content to be beneficial, it must:

- Be relevant
- Be well-written
- Be comprehensive
- Contain optimised images

The quality of your content also directly influences a variety of other, smaller ranking factors, from click-through rate to bounce rate. The better the content, the more likely people are to visit your pages and stick around once they arrive.

Long-form content tends to do better in search results, because it contains more information about the subject at hand than shorter pages and articles do. That said, there's no point adding unnecessary words to a page just to try and bulk it out. Look for opportunities to explore fewer topics in greater detail, and find and fix any thin content issues that already exist on your site.

Whatever content there is on each page, it needs to be well-written and it needs to serve a purpose. Search Engine Land says quality content "is based on an understanding of your audience, as well as keyword and user research. (It) helps the reader complete one specific task,(and) features an enticing call to action or clear next step."

Find out more about how to produce quality SE-optimised content with Search Engine Land's checklist.

Links

quality links

Much in the way that high-quality content actually ticks a number of ranking signal boxes, so do high-quality links. Having a tonne of backlinks alone was once enough to give site pages a boost, but now the impact counts on link authority and link diversity as well as the actual volume.

One good thing about great content is that it naturally attracts backlinks. To do well in search, you want to be getting as many links as possible from a range of authoritative domains. Produce content that people want and need – that is naturally worth sharing and referencing – and you're off to a good start.

Keeping on top of disavowing spammy links, as links from low-quality websites could do more harm than good and put you at risk of penalties.

For more information on Google-friendly link building techniques, take a look at Backlinko's Link Building Fundamentals.

Mobile User Experience

As Google edge closer to making their index mobile-first, details like mobile UX and page load speed are factors all marketers should be paying attention to. A one-second delay in page response time can result in conversion reductions of up to 7%, and if people do make it onto your site, poor mobile UX can be caused by everything from buttons that are too close together to images that don't resize.

Help avoid slow mobile load times by minifying code, compressing images and reducing redirects. It's also worth avoiding Flash, which isn't available on iPhones. It's up to you whether you use a responsive site design or a separate mobile configuration, but not optimising for mobile is simply not an option.

Find out how mobile-friendly your site pages are using the Google Mobile-Friendly Test, and if you're in need of some pointers in where to start optimising, take a look at Moz's Mobile Optimisation Guide.

HTTPS

HTTPS as a ranking signal

Google announced right back in 2014 that HTTPS was going to become a ranking signal, and many browsers will now serve up a 'not secure' or 'unsafe' warning when a user tries to open an unsecured page. If anything is likely to scare people away from your site, it's a big bold warning telling them their browsing data isn't secure and that they're 'unsafe', so switching to HTTPS ought to be a no-brainer.

HTTPS stops people's usernames and passwords, among other things, being sent over an unencrypted connection. It's crucial for internet user safety and an important switch to make not just to help your search rankings, but to show that your site is trustworthy. Ahrefs's HTTPS basics has more information on the topic.

Other things to consider

Keep up to date with Google. It seems obvious, but holding a finger to the pulse can prevent any nasty surprises – whether that's a sudden drop in rankings or a full-on Google penalty. Google's algorithms are updated on a small scale pretty regularly, but when major changes (like Panda and Hummingbird) are brought in, you can expect to see an announcement.

Regularly running SEO audits of your site will help you to stay on top of any technical issues that could be affecting performance, such as 404 and 500 code errors, duplicate content and orphaned pages. The healthier your site is overall, the better it's going to do in search.

Key areas to focus on for SEO

To recap, the most important ranking factors to keep in mind throughout 2018 are:

- Quality content
- Powerful links
- Mobile UX
- HTTPS set up

Team these up with regular technical checks and fixes, and you're setting up building blocks for boosting your site's SEO.

If you'd like a free SEO audit of your site or would like to discuss intelligent content strategies, don't hesitate to get in touch.

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