Kategorie-Archiv: SEO

Data: Local search trends from 2017-2018

local search trends

We talk a lot about local search and local search trends here at SEW and in the industry as a whole.

How have consumers changed the way they interact with local businesses? How can local businesses respond? And what can we anticipate about future trends?

Yext recently released some interesting findings on local search trends based on their internal data.

They analyzed a sample of more than 300,000 customer business locations active from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2018.

What can we learn from this data about how consumer search behavior changed in 2018 versus 2017? And what might these changes tell us about the year ahead?

Key local search trends from their analysis include:

  1. Consumer interactions with businesses increased: New business reviews up 87% YoY.
  2. Businesses across industries saw more interactions via AI-enabled services than their own websites. Up to 2.7 times as much traffic on third-party sites.
  3. More consumers took action in search results: 20.1% increase in clicks to call, clicks for directions, and clicks to the website.
  4. Local pages saw increased consumer actions (i.e. pages for booking appointments, placing orders, etc.): Up 30.4% YoY.

We spoke with Zahid Zakaria, Yext’s Senior Director of Customer Insights and Analytics. Zahid leads the data team behind these new findings.

He’s been at Yext since August 2015, and spends nearly all of his time focused on client data. How can they unify data? What are the right metrics? How does an impression on a listing compare to an impression on a page? How can they understand the insights in local search trends?

These questions and more led them to this analysis. They’d seen that the local search market has been consistently growing, but wanted to find what insights demonstrated that growth.

First, about the data set and the approach

“We deal with tremendous data here at Yext,” Zahid said. “We power more than a million businesses globally. And we do quite a bit to ensure that all the work we do is based on a very complete data set.”

For these local search trends, the data set includes:

  • More than 300,000 individual businesses
  • Reviews for more than 150,000 business locations
  • Actions on local pages for more than 59,000 business locations

Timing: Every data point included in this set remained live for the entirety of January 1, 2017 — December 31, 2018. So it wasn’t affected by clients opening new locations, etc.

Distribution: They examined business primarily located in the US, and also had significant representation of businesses in Western Europe (mainly the UK, Germany, and France).

In other words, quite a clean and thorough data set to work with.

They examined how metrics compared from the 2018 calendar year versus those same metrics for the same businesses for the 2017 calendar year.

So what did they find about local search trends?

The biggest takeaway was that consumers are interacting more with businesses via local search and local listings. Local interactions as a whole have increased.

Perhaps because search technology has gotten better, perhaps because SEOs are nailing it, but this rang true across the board, including Google, Alexa, and Siri.

As Zahid said, “There is unbelievable consumer interaction data happening on websites.”

What do those interactions look like?

1. New reviews per business location increased 87% in 2018 versus 2017

In other words, the volume of reviews per business nearly doubled this past year.

Whatever the reason, consumers seem to be feeling more comfortable treating an online business page as the representation of the business itself. And they seem to show little reserve in expressing their opinions there.

Beyond that, though, consumers take time and effort to leave a comment. They want to return the interaction.

And these brand interactions only increase the value of focusing on these listings.

2. More interactions via AI-enabled services than business’s own websites

“AI-enabled services” includes any consumer-based service powered by AI.

This could be traditional search, voice search, voice assistants, chatbots, Google, Alexa, Siri, Facebook, Yelp, Bing, etc.

Yext found that across nearly all industries, businesses have seen a greater proportion of their brand interactions happening via AI-enabled services rather than on their own websites.

73% percent of high-intent traffic occurs off a business’s own website.

Most businesses see 2.7 times the traffic on third-party sites verses on their own website.

(Caveat: these two stats were actually isolated to May 2017, in a survey of 20,107 business locations. We’re including them here as they represent a portion of the broader data set and local search trends as a whole.)

Consumers may find a business in an off-site interaction. They then would visit a business’s local page to take action.

This represents a fundamental shift in how consumers find out about and interact with a business.

Marc Ferrentino, Chief Strategy Officer at Yext, commented on this point:

“For twenty years, the brand website was the entry point for customers. People would go to the homepage and navigate to find the information they needed.

We’ve found that the customer acquisition funnel is no longer on the business website. Brand interactions in third-party AI-powered services are rising across the board as consumers engage with businesses off-site.

By the time they get to a business website, they’re ready to transact, and go straight to a local landing page to do so, often bypassing the homepage entirely.”

3. More consumers took action in search results

Within search results, there was a 20.1% increase in clicks to call, clicks for directions, and clicks to a business’s website.

Yext called these “Customer actions per business location.”

As we’ve seen since the beginning of local search, many consumers search in “micro-moments” of need. They’re often ready to make a purchase, walk into a store, place an order, etc.

Yext’s data shows that this trend is becoming even more prevalent.

4. Actions on transactional local pages saw increased 30.4%

Some businesses have “transactional” local pages, where consumers can book appointments, place orders, sign up for information, etc.

Increasingly, these pages are where the action is.

On this, Zahid elaborated, “When I as a consumer click the website link that shows up in a listing profile, what do I do? Surprisingly, it’s not get directions or make a phone call. It’s actually everything else.”

Consumers, it seems, increasingly want to complete their task — whatever they went searching for — via the page itself, without having to call or visit a location.

At the beginning of local search, we met consumers who wanted to make a phone call or get directions.

What we’re seeing as a trend, however, is that consumers don’t want to call to make an appointment, or get directions to a store to buy something.

They want to take those actions from the local page itself.

Zahid advises:

“Keeping that listing local is critical. A brand who takes a consumer from a local listing to their homepage just took that consumer from a local experience to a non-local experience.

For example, say I want to go get a haircut and the first thing I see when I land on that website is the exact wait time. It’s much better at capturing that micro moment of intent and turning it into a conversion.

That could be an online conversion, like in financial services, maybe requesting quotes. Or an offline conversion — maybe I just walked into the store, or made a phone call, booked that time to get my hair cut.”

Key takeaways for SEOs based on these findings

So we’ve seen the above local search trends. Customers interact more with local business pages. They leave reviews. They take actions — increasingly beyond just calling and getting directions. And they come through a different point of entry than they have for the last twenty years.

With that information, what can we do moving forward? Zahid pulled these four takeaways.

  1. “Obviously number one, ensure your listings data is accurate.”
  2. “Number two, think about your consumer journey. Think about the things you want to curate on a local landing page when a consumer hasn’t been able to find information on a local listing. Each industry is so different, depends on that consumer journey. Be there, do the best you can to answer consumer questions accurately.”
  3. “And third, when consumers are taking their time and effort to leave feedback, their expectation is to be heard. These are valuable interactions you need to cater to, especially as we’re seeing the whole search industry shift from “how many links” to listings management, knowledge cards, and conversational AI.”
  4. “Your local landing page is your visual merchandising for that locality. We do so much in the old world for visual merchandising. Treat your local landing page that way. Help people know why they should come to your store. Promote those interactions. Visually appealing, experience optimizing.

Based on these local search trends, how should we act in 2019?

Based on this data, what can we predict about the rest of the year? And what can we do with that information?

Zahid drew three primary conclusions.

1. Understand the interactions of local pages and listings — understand what works and what doesn’t

“So the algorithm updates? Analyze your listings data. See how that changed from your organic data. See how they interact.

From the the last update we had some really interesting stories of clients that won and clients that lost. It’s very interesting to see how some that won had made great use of things like schema. They’ve really gone above and beyond.

Looking at the interaction of what you do on your local page and how that impacts your listing visibility is incredibly important. These two properties work together. Optimize engagement not just on listings, but on landing pages. Think of them as one thing that you’re optimizing.

That’s one. Make sure you understand those interactions.”

2. Think about consumer questions and answer those

“Don’t forget about the world of voice and conversational AI as you think about your content strategy.

As we see the shift to voice assistants, think about how you’ll win here.

Answer the actual questions. Pull from inward sources. What are consumers looking for? What can we answer?

If you think from that perspective, you’ll be poised to win.”

3. Map data sources to answer future questions the right way

“Look inwardly at data hygiene and what you need to get that information out there

Think five years in advance. Make a roadmap of how all these answers sit. Think about it now to carve a strategy.”

What are your go-to methods for data analysis?

Given the general influx of data marketers have to deal with, and given that Zahid heads up a data team that has to deal with swarms of data points from millions of individual businesses — I couldn’t resist throwing in this question.

His answer? No secret sauce.

Like most of us, he first turns to Google Analytics and Google Search Console to look at his own website data and ask what trends are there.

Then he moves to other website sources: Google My Business, Facebook, etc. He’ll also use listings such as Yext’s own Intelligent Search Tracker, Brightedge, and various other rank trackers.

After that, he’ll look at third party industry level sources of information: Google Trends, publications.

Taking all of those things together, he’ll take a holistic look at what’s happening.

“Cleaning data is a lot like cooking,” he explained. “The first step is sourcing your ingredients. Source your data sources. Don’t just cook with one ingredient.”

One of the most challenging things?

“Merging a URL with a listing, and looking at a lot of different data sources together. A listing is not a URL. Some URLs are associated with a location or have UTMs directed to them. Tools like Yext help you unify that with the object as a core concept. Otherwise, you should do a mapping exercise. Where did all your data come from, what all do you have to look at?”

Final thoughts to keep in mind on this data set

In closing, Zahid gave one friendly caveat: These are trends, not benchmarks.

“What we know about this data is that it’s a reflection of a lot of things. Trends that are coming. For this data, all these customers were on Yext. They saw certain growth, certain increases. But we think it’s a pretty good reflection of the trends. Use this as a directional thing. Not the exact number — you don’t need to compare yourself exactly. Use it to indicate where you should be going.”

The post Data: Local search trends from 2017-2018 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source:: searchenginewatch.com

Google Search Console for small businesses [Video]

What’s changed in the new Google Search Console? And how might those changes affect us?

In this article, contributor Mike Zima gives us a text / video combo showing us around the updated Search Console. Specifically we explore how these updates can be beneficial to small businesses.

Watch the nine minute video here, or read the text below.

Ps, he filmed it in Mallorca, Spain, so you really might want to check out the video.

First, it was Google’s mobile-first index. Now, it’s the new Google Search Console.

These might seem like they’re designed to make your life more difficult (or at least, more confusing). But in reality, these updates, especially the updated Search Console, can make your life as a small business owner easier.

Here we list the three important features in the update, how they work, and why they’re great tools for small businesses to use in growing their search strategy.

The Performance Report

The most powerful section of the redesigned Search Console is the Search Performance Report, previously known as the Search Analytics section.

How it works

The Search Performance Report contains features that are similar to the old Search Analytics, which is helpful for those trying to make the change over to the new system. In fact, if you liked the functionality of Search Analytics, you’ll love Search Performance.

Search Performance offers more long-term data than Search Analytics, showing you up to 16 months of search performance data for a more complete long-term analysis.

Like Search Analytics, you can overlay various performance metrics (total impressions, total clicks, average CTR, average position data, etc.) with one click. The difference is that you don’t have to choose between filtering for a search query, search type, country, or device—you can look at all of them at the same time. The only downside is that you can only overlay two comparisons at once, for example, desktop vs. mobile.

Why it’s good for you

If you need to see all of the necessary information in order to make an educated decision about your SEO strategy, this is the tool for you.

You can see your short-term and long-term performance at quadruple the previous range offered—allowing you to track campaigns through their entire life cycle and take action.

Better still, you won’t have to jump between graphs to juggle information. It’s all in one place and ready for you to begin using.

In short, it’s hard to find a tool that will give you more insight into your search strategy.

The Index Coverage Report

The Index Coverage Report is a combination of the old Blocked Resources and Index Status sections.

How it works

The updated report is a great way to stay up-to-date on how your site URLs are indexed.

Let’s say you discover an issue with your URLs. Clicking on those error URLs will bring up page details and diagnostic tools.

Now, you probably have several teams that work on fixing a problem like this, right? Which means those teams have to have the correct information (not to mention, the same set of information!) at the right time in order to fix the issue and keep your site running with minimal disruption.

At the top of the report is a share button that allows you to send the diagnostic information to all the relevant team members who need it. This will create a shareable link, sort of like when you share a Google Doc.

Of course, you also need to be able to see when a problem has been resolved so you can know to move forward to the next item.

Plus, if the problem has been fixed, Google can update their index accordingly. The Index Coverage Report allows you to validate a fix. This signals to Google to crawl the page and reprocess the affected URLs at a high priority.

Why it’s good for you

The Index Coverage Report is fantastic for small businesses because it’s a free and easy way to monitor how your site is performing in the Search Index. It helps you spot issues quickly, get information quickly to your team, and fix problems with minimal downtime.

With the Index Coverage Report, your site can perform better and faster and your team can stay on top of their game—no matter how big or small the problem is.

AMP Status

AMP Status, or Accelerated Mobile Pages Status, is a way for website owners to validate fixed AMP URLs.

How it works

In the former version of Google Search Console, you would get a list of AMP URLs with errors and recommended fixes, but you couldn’t request that Google process the repaired AMPs.

The new Search Console remedies this issue by allowing you to validate repaired URLs and request higher priority processing.

The Console will run several tests once you validate a fix to see if you’ve handled the problem properly and will let you know right away whether the page passes muster.

If it does, Google will go ahead and process the remaining pages. If it doesn’t, it will give you a notification and recommendations.

In addition, the new Console has an expanded validation log so you can see a list of all fixed URLs as well as URLs that failed validation or are still pending.

Why it’s good for you

This is good for your business because it helps you stay on top of your URLs. You can see exactly where the issue is and how to fix it, then you can take charge of it. You can share the information with your team, work on a solution, and verify that solution right away.

From there, you don’t have to wait to get indexed again. You can ask for priority processing to make sure your site starts performing as soon as possible. And that means you can spend less time worrying about your search strategy and more time putting it into action.

Ready to use the new Google Search Console?

The new Google Search Console is designed with your business needs in mind. Google’s developers took requests and feedback from businesses like yours to create a more robust Search Console than ever before.

We hope this article has given you more insight into the new Search Console and how you can take advantage of its features to see success in your own business.

Have any questions? Leave a comment below or on the video!

Mike is the Co-founder of Zima Media.

The post Google Search Console for small businesses [Video] appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source:: searchenginewatch.com

How to automate yourself to success in PPC

Here are some ways you can get automation to play nice and to drive your KPIs in a controlled and accountable way. Learn how to automate yourself to success in PPC.

Since the main purpose of Paid Search (like all marketing) is to communicate and persuade humans to choose a business, manual management is unlikely to disappear entirely.

However, Google, in particular, have been investing massive sums in machine learning so as to reduce marketers‘ reliance on human management of campaigns.

Whilst we’re in this hybrid stage (a little like where we’re at with self-driving cars) it pays to not entirely reject automation.

Also, with the gradual takeover of Google Ads‘ new UI, some legacy bid rules setups will be changed or removed. So getting accustomed to the more AI-style automation will be important in the coming months.

Here are some ways you can get automation to play nice and to driving your KPIs in a controlled and accountable way.

What’s great about automation?

I am the Head of Account Management at ESV Digital, and we have always employed automation in a number of ways so we’re no strangers to letting computer power take the reins.

However, we always monitor the effect on performance and the decisions made by our silicon-hearted friends.

There are currently two broad types of automation right now:

  • Bid automation, which is designed to help you achieve a specific goal for your campaigns.
  • Content and keyword creation (e.g. ad messaging, extensions etc.), which can help you show your ads to the right audience. Your keywords should match the terms your potential customers would use to search for your products or services.

Bidding

Screenshot taken by the author from Google Ads.

The simplest and also most risky element is the bid automation. It’s simple because in Google Ads it boils down to simply setting a performance target and seeing what happens. The risk is in the fact that…you merely set a performance target and see what happens!

There are more rule-based ways to bid but they are somewhat limited both in control and in the fact that they cannot take advantage of the more target-oriented bidding schemes (called Smart Bidding) which bid per query (based on all the context of that query, such as user history, browser, location etc.).

To simplify your decision on which option for bidding to go for, look at the data levels in your account. If it’s dealing with many hundreds of conversions per day, you’re likely going to see a pretty good performance with Smart Bidding. If you’re talking a couple hundred or less per day, you’re going to need to set it on only the highest-converting parts and generally, the rules will work better.

The reason is Smart Bidding is entirely algorithm-based, which needs data. The less data, the less accurate. So scale is extremely important if the algorithms are going to do the right thing more often than not.

Do:

  • Ensure your campaign structure is set up to make the most of the bid automation. If you’re dealing with mainly Broad traffic, try first to get it to majority Exact traffic. This will ensure less can go wrong.
  • Get negative keywords in place to reduce the likelihood of an explosion of useless traffic when bidding commences.
  • If performance and volumes are wildly different across devices, think about splitting them out so the algorithms can concentrate on the most consistent data. The more “reliable” the data set, the less the algorithm will introduce quirks. Essentially, if you know statistics, it’s getting the groundwork done to maximise the R2 ratio.
  • Start any of this with the highest volume campaigns to test what target is working for you before rolling out to the rest of the account.

Don’t:

  • Set up multiple portfolio smart bidding schemes and set them live at once – you’ll go crazy!
  • Expect it to be perfect first time. Never is.
  • Try to instantly turn ROI from 2 to 45 in a week. Gradually increase the target over time.
  • Try this without robust conversion tracking!

Content creation

Screenshot taken by the author from Google Ads.

This automation segment comes in a variety of flavors and purposes. The major examples of automation you have tangible influence over are:

  • Ad Customizers: populates ads based on a sheet of options linked to a criteria (e.g. user location or device).
  • Countdown customizers: highlights upcoming events, like sales or special events.
  • Dynamic Search Ads: uses your website to target your ads and find customers searching on Google for precisely what you offer.
  • Responsive Ads: utilises your assets (images, headlines, logos, and descriptions) to automatically generate ads to be shown on the Google Display Network (in Beta on Search and already fully launched on display).
  • Dynamic remarketing: shows your ads to people who have previously visited your website or used your mobile app.

Other elements that are not really in your hands include:

The advent of Google Ads scripts allows the more code-loving amongst us to really automate creative in almost any way you like but most users will limit themselves to using Google Sheets to populate ad copy with Countdowns and Ad Customizers.

Screenshot taken by the author from Google Ads.

Do:

  • Exploit these carefully – done wrong, you could really embarrass your brand.
  • Creatively implement them to get ahead of complacent competitors.
  • Test heavily – some will work best on top-funnel and others at bottom-funnel areas.

Don’t:

  • Use them everywhere, you need to be accountable for what they do.
  • Cut corners any more than you would on static content.
  • Implement them without a solid plan so you know what is out there at any given time.
  • Forget about Quality Score – don’t try to be fancy at the expense of ad relevance.

This should serve as a good introduction to this subject and we hope it will be very helpful when managing your PPC campaigns.

Steve Plimmer is the Head of Account Management US at ESV Digital.

The post How to automate yourself to success in PPC appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source:: searchenginewatch.com