“Video is the easiest way to break into the top of the organic search results”. I heard this a lot on the conference circuit last year.
Now I like a lot of things when it comes to search marketing, but my favorite thing of all is finding easy wins. So hearing that video was an underserved area in the SERP, coupled with the fact that over 80% of Google’s video results come from YouTube, seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.
But is video SEO really as straight forward as it seems?
Over the past several months I’ve been running test cases on YouTube to better understand what elements help to influence rank within video results. To follow are some key factors that need to be taken into account when optimizing your video for organic search, including why it pays to pay for promoted videos.
Start with good content
Just like anything on the web, everything begins with good quality content that people find interesting. One way to start is by identifying a popular search query or topic and build your script and video content with this in mind. Just like well optimized page content, it’s a lot easier to optimize a video from the start rather than trying to retrofit it to a keyword after the fact. Remember to write the script and present the video in a way that will keep viewers interested and get them to stick around to watch and hear all you have to say.
Apply video SEO
There are plenty of good video SEO cheats, tips and tricks that you can follow to help optimize your YouTube video, covering important elements like file names, titles, descriptions, closed caption scripts, and thumbnails. However, even after applying these techniques, it can take quite a while to build up traction in the universal video results, particularly for highly competitive keyword queries. Optimizing your video for these elements provides a good foundation, but often it only gets you so far when ranking organically. So what else should you be looking at?
Understand the importance of social signals
Social signals continue to be the topic of the moment, and play a vital role in the video SEO mix. View numbers are nice but if all people are doing is viewing your video and not interacting with it in some shape or form, you are losing out. The first hurdle is getting the right people to your video; not so much for the view count but more for the likes, comments, favorites, embeds and shares that come from increased viewership (this of course assumes that the video content you developed is interesting to begin with).
So assuming your video is worthy of being liked and shared, how can you quickly get lots of social interaction going for your video?
Pay for promoted videos
As a test case, a video was uploaded to YouTube that applied video SEO elements for a popular keyword query, with a history of strong conversion. Over the space of four weeks, the YouTube video held a steady page two position, within the organic video results. A targeted YouTube promoted video campaign was launched and within a matter of days the video increased from a rank of 10 to a rank of five. As the promoted video campaign drove more views from interested viewers, there was an increase in the video getting liked, commented on and favorited. Each time a jump occurred in likes/comments/favorites, there was a corresponding increase in rank.
As promoted video spend was dialed up even further, views shot up which led to a spike in social interaction, pushing the video into the number one video rank. Several months later, the video continues to maintain a number one position at the top of the video results on Google and YouTube.
The efficiency of YouTube promoted videos
Of course, SEO performance should never just be about rank. It’s also about delivering company KPIs, whilst maintaining efficiency. In the test case, YouTube promoted videos proved to be highly efficient, in comparison to traditional PPC search engine performance. Within the first few months, the promoted video ads were pulling in click-through rates of over 10%, at a quarter of the cost-per-click (CPC) of the equivalent Google search engine campaign.
At the end of the day, you pay to play
So what’s your best bet when it comes to video SEO? If you want your YouTube video to show up in the video results, apply SEO to key video elements. If you want to boost your video rank to the top, you need to drive views to your video by paying for promoted video ads. Ultimately, the increase in views amongst interested viewers will lead to an increase in viewer interaction, further strengthening the social signals associated with your video.
2013 has been whizzing by and somehow we are almost half way through the year. Here are a couple of highlights from a very busy May, as well as some extra thoughts on how paid social and organic social play together and the importance of really knowing your agency account manager.
Social Media Advertising and the Paid-Organic Social Interplay
This month, I appeared in a Forbes article alongside social media marketing extraordinaire and mentor, Marty Weintraub, about how to triple your success using social media advertising platforms. Yes, B2B Facebook ads really do work for demand generation.
The article also touched on the topic of how organic traffic from Facebook increased whilst using Facebook ads. We often hear about the interplay between PPC and SEO, but it is interesting to see that paid social and organic social also work very well together. The chart below shows over time how paid traffic from Facebook ads also led to a corresponding increase in organic website traffic.
What is interesting, is that this interplay goes beyond Facebook. Promoted videos on YouTube can also boost organic rank (and traffic) by helping to increase social signals for a video.
Through past tests, I’ve found that a well-targeted YouTube promoted video campaign can help to substantially increase video rank. Campaigns can be used to drive more views from interested viewers, which in turn leads to an increase in the video getting liked, commented on and favorited — all those good social signals that help towards improving your organic position. Look out for my next post on how promoted YouTube videos can boost your video SEO efforts.
This month, I also gave my two pennies worth on Webmaster Radio’s PPC Rockstars, talking from the PPC vendor manager perspective. In particular, how size and scale is an important factor to consider when choosing an agency to work with and never to underestimate the importance of working with a good agency partner.
In addition, your main agency account manager/team is also important. It is always good to know who you will actually be working with day-to-day. Very often, when agencies come in to pitch, they send in their best sales people and a whole troop of executives. The question you have to ask is, are these the people who are really going to be working on your stuff? Typically the answer to that question is no.
The thing that you have to remember is that your success will be highly dependent on the people who are supporting you day-to-day. So make sure you get to know who these people are, their level of experience, what other clients have they worked with, and what their working style is like. Ultimately, this person will be a part of your extended team, so they need to be sharp and willing to go the extra mile for you.
It was an honor to speak at the American Marketing Association (AMA) event last week, on the topic of digital marketing and how search marketing and social media marketing can be used together to improve campaign performance.
Here’s a quick summary of the key points I covered on how search and social can work better together:
1. PPC reinforces SEO results
Often people ask the question, “Why bother paying money to show up in PPC when you are already showing up in SEO, for free?”.
Google’s study on ad click incrementality does a nice job of explaining this. In essence, you get substantially more traffic from having a presence in both organic and paid search, compared to just having a presence in organic search alone. Surprisingly, there is a lot less cannibalization of clicks than what you would expect. As many of us have seen time and again, bad things happen to traffic when you shut down your PPC campaigns. To the non-believers, go ahead and try shutting them down, and see what happens!
There are many things to be gained from having a presence in both SEO and PPC, including:
- Reassuring the searcher that you are the right choice
- Increasing your shelf space in the SERP, pushing other listings (and competitors) down the page
- Effectively using complimentary messaging between the two, to better appeal to different people’s intent
2. PPC informs SEO research
Keyword tools are an easy way to see the number of searches being made for a given keyword. For SEO, it is important to be targeting the right keywords from the outset since you’re going to spend a lot of time and resource on optimizing a page for that keyword. So spend that time well by choosing keywords that people are actually searching on.
Unfortunately, huge volumes do not always mean quality or relevance. By looking to your PPC campaign data, you can get a good sense of what keywords are high quality (ie: visitors who come in from keywords, take actions on your website and convert well). Quality indicators can range from using weighted quality scores (for example, scoring visitors higher depending upon the quality of actions they take); to actual conversion counts and cost per conversion; all the way through to online sales. Depending what your KPIs are, will depend on what quality indicators are important to you.
What you want to get to is that balance between good search volume and good keyword quality. Those are going to be your highest priority keywords and will form the basis of what to focus on, from a SEO perspective.
3. Social media is increasingly influencing search results
There’s no doubt that social media is becoming more and more prominent within the search engine results. If you think about it, social media is the natural progression from link building, because social activity is a more telling measure of popularity and relevance (and a lot more difficult to game). Some examples of social within the SERP, include:
- Blended video results from YouTube which are very common to see
- Google+ company pages which are taking up an increasing amount of real-estate
- Authorship which is linked to individual Google+ profiles
- Personalized Google+ social recommendations and shared articles which are making more of an appearance
4. Social media goes where PPC can’t
When someone types in a generic search word (such as, “car”), you don’t really know what they’re looking for as their intent is not clear. And in terms of who they are as a person — their interests, motivations and preferences — that isn’t clear either.
This is where Facebook ad targeting comes into play. In Facebook, people love to share information about themselves and their life, with targeting possibilities that marketing dreams are made of.
Check out this prior post covering 3 ways that Facebook wins over Google for a more detailed low-down.
5. Social media informs PPC campaigns
Retargeting (when done right) can be a great way to help inform your PPC program. Retargeting is basically another chance for you to try and win back people who showed some kind of initial interest in you but didn’t go on to take an action.
Let’s take YouTube as an example. Based upon certain actions viewers take (ranging from a simple viewing the video to more involved actions such as likes, commets, shares…), Google allows you to build a retargeting list of these people and their actions. You can then target them again (maybe with a complementary call to action) across the wider display network in order to try and move them further along the funnel and complete a conversion action.
YouTube can be a great way to provide important intent clues for your PPC campaigns. As an example, someone who watches a video that is more education-based is more likely to be within the learn stage of the funnel. Therefore, you can retarget these people with ads and call-to-actions that are more learn-related (for example, a whitepaper). Versus someone who watches a video that goes more into a detailed product demonstration. These viewers are more likely to be within the research and consideration phase, so you can retarget these people with ads and call-to-actions that are more buy-related (for example, a special discount code).
Thanks again to the AMA, and to everyone who came along.
Search and social work better together.
Learn some sneaky tips and tricks at the next AMA Digital Marketing Event at The Living Room Theater, in Portland on Wednesday 24th April.
I’ll be speaking more about:
- How PPC reinforces your SEO results
- How PPC informs your SEO research
- How social media is influencing search results today
- How social media goes where PPC can’t
- How social media can improve your PPC performance
What are you waiting for? Go get your golden ticket! Early bird prices end today.
Looking forward to seeing you there.
Just thinking of our own behavior when it comes to online research and purchase, we know how powerful and useful ratings and reviews are, as a consumer. But what exactly does ratings and reviews contribute to business? And more importantly, how do you measure it in a way that is meaningful to executives?
During a time where every penny is a prisoner, why should you bother maintaining ratings and reviews on your website? Why not just take that money and put it into some demand generation activity instead, where you can see an immediate (albeit short-term) impact?
Recently faced with such questions, I started doing some general research on “How much is a positive review worth?”. What I found were a bunch of articles talking about fake review services that you can buy (nice!) and ”guestimate” ranges so large, that the information just wasn’t meaningful, or applicable.
So I started looking closer to home, and ways to use business-specific data to show the ongoing value of ratings and reviews. Here’s what I came up with (as a side note, the more you can link the measures back to your own company and/or web marketing KPIs, the better success you will find in convincing people of its long-term value).
1. Number of reviews viewed (read)
Website traffic is a common “quantity” metric used by businesses — the thought being that the more visitors you get, the more conversions you will likely (hopefully) get. Looking at the number of reviews that were viewed (implied as read) is also a quantity metric. This measure can help to show how much of the review content is being consumed by your visitors (ie: is the content valuable to your visitors?).
2. Conversions influenced by a rating and review
A quantity metric only ever tells half of the story. You want to support this with quality indicators such as conversion data, or ideally sales/order data. However, it is difficult to know whether a rating or review was solely responsible for a conversion/sale. In most cases, reading a review would be just one contributor within the whole customer decision-making process.
One way to try and gage the impact of the review is to look at your conversions, and filter down to see: of the conversions that happened on your site, how many had viewed a review prior to converting? This is relatively straightforward to see in analytics tools, such as Google Analytics (providing that everything has been tagged appropriately) by having ratings/reviews set up as an advanced segment, then looking at conversions as a secondary dimension.
3. Engagement of visitors
Whilst being able to show a connection to conversions/sales is nice for the executives, there are other softer benefits of ratings and reviews that shouldn’t be ignored. Whilst “engagement” may be a soft measure, it does help to build a broader picture that isn’t just focused on immediate return. Afterall, lifetime value is also important. Good indications of engagement include:
- Average time spent on the site by visitors who viewed a review
- Average number of pages viewed by visitors who viewed a reviews
Then compare these numbers against the average time spent / pages viewed by all site visitors. What you will likely find is that visitors who have read a review will spend much more time on your site and view many more pages on their visit. I found that visitors who had read a review stayed 4X longer on the site and visited 3X more pages compared to the average visitor.
The seventh annual Covario INFLECTIONPoint client conference took place this month. The theme of the conference was focused very much on how search is no longer just about search. Rather, it is about search (getting found), social (getting shared) and content. Ignore the integration of these disciplines at your peril!
Here are the key lessons I took away from the various presentations, discussions, and keynotes.
1. Brands need to become publishers
If brands are to get ahead and flourish, then they need to crank up the content creation machine. However, putting together a bunch of crappy, spammy content will not work. It needs to be interesting, engaging content that people actually want to spend time reading, and ultimately share. Content can’t be plain or just interesting for your particular set of niche customers. It needs to be pee-your-pants interesting on a much wider scale (more on this later).
Part of achieving such success is addressing the myth that anyone can write (just like how anyone can do marketing, or anyone can do social media, or anyone can design a website). True that anyone may be able to do these things, but doing it well is the important distinction. Jeff MacGurn put it best: “ Great content isn’t written by experts, it’s written by great writers” and great writers are rarely people who have a full-time job, unrelated to writing, who all of a sudden are told to write something when they have a spare moment. The trick is getting your experts and writers to work together. Great content may be written by great writers, but writers still need information that comes from experts.
Some examples of good brand publishers include Whole Foods (for their recipes and healthy eating tips), mint.com (for their savvy use of ordinarily boring financial data), and of course, Amazon (for their customer reviews).
2. Content is not king, it is a democracy
Developing good, quality content is all fine and dandy, but it is only one piece of the larger puzzle. Afterall, there’s no point writing great content if no one is reading it.
What helps your content to succeed is the wider community getting it out to the masses. For example, when Majestic launched Flow Metrics, they did what is becoming a lot more common amongst smart companies these days: they specifically targeted key search industry influencers (such as Danny Sullivan and Barry Schwartz) ahead of the launch, giving them special beta access to the new tool as well as supporting content and press releases. Targeting these influencers really helped Majestic get the word out to the wider search community.
So when developing content, it is important to think bigger — develop content for readers and influencers, not customers because most content is shared by readers and influencers, not customers.
3. Believe in maths, data and statistics to make decisions
As search marketers, data plays a central role in the decisions we make every day. Understandably data was an important talking point at the conference. Jeff Ma (member of the MIT blackjack team, and inspiration behind Bringing Down the House and 21) presented a keynote on using mind-bending data in making card playing decisions.
Other than being an entertaining presentation with stories of losing $100k one day and winning $900k the next, there were some other interesting data points from Covario studies.
Content Sharing Platforms — The most used content sharing platforms:
- 52% Facebook
- 15% Twitter
- 8% Email
- 8% Hard copy print outs (!!!)
Social Signals — Covario’s social signal test found that Facebook Likes made a bigger impact on SEO rank than Google+ and LinkedIn.
4. Organization can either help or hinder your success
There are two key challenges of search integration: data and organization. If the search function within your organization isn’t centralized, you miss out on the benefits of scale, overall program insights get easily lost and it becomes much more difficult to achieve the incremental benefit that PPC/SEO/social brings.
Click cannibalization vs. click incrementality is always a popular topic. A study by Covario found that there was a 20% increase in click-throughs when you use both PPC and SEO together.
5. Attribution, the million dollar question
This past year, I personally feel that great strides have been taken to understand and tie social media to solid business KPIs. However, the question of attribution (argh!) continues to elude us.
This was particularly pertinent following Shar VanBoskirk’s Forrester keynote which touched on topics like “digital disruption” and the “omni-channel challenge”, which goes way beyond SEO, PPC and social, and delves into how digital in general is colliding more with traditional channels.
Although there was some good discussion about how attribution is not about first touch or last touch (it is more about intelligent attribution and mapping it out visually to understand impacts), there was no practical process or simple answer. This topic is something that is near and dear to my heart right now as I try to better understand the attribution of social media which does tend to be more skewed towards early funnel actions. It has always been a struggle to properly give credit to early funnel activities, when you are attributing based on last touch.
Answers on a postcard, please!
Be sure to also check out Thom Craver’s excellent conference coverage for Search Engine Watch.
It’s always interesting to look back at what content appeals most to your audience. You can use this information to create more deep content around popular topics and re-apply the SEO approach and promotion you did to help drive traffic.
Inspired by this, and WordPress’ most excellent review of 2012 blog data, here’s a roundup of the most popular SEM Booty posts of 2012.
Get the low-down on what to include in your search marketing plan. This post covers the basic structure of your plan, how to map out and present timelines, what to cover in your budget allocation, and the key metrics you should be thinking about.
What KPIs do executives really care about? This post from May 2012 answers that question and proposes a model that can be applied to cater for both executive needs as well as supporting measures that help keep day-to-day operations on track.
If like me, you feel like you could do so much more if only you had a bigger PPC budget, then this post is for you. Learn about gap analysis and how you can use it to secure additional funding for your program. This post covers a high-level gap analysis approach for executive funding, as well as a segment-level gap analysis for other potential internal group sponsors.
It’s a common PPC dilemma — use an existing page on your web site or create a custom PPC landing page? The answer is not always black and white. This post covers the key things you should consider before making a decision, including the current scale of your PPC program as well as your company objectives (short-term conversion vs. user experience).
Last June, I was lucky enough to attend the aimClear Facebook Intensive workshop. Read about the key takeaways from this eye-opening workshop including the real purpose of Facebook for marketers, how to grow your like base, the importance of content aggregators, and why social media marketing (when done right) will require a lot more love and effort than you initially think.
2012 is coming to a close. Thankfully, the world didn’t end and SEO didn’t die. But that’s not to say that this year wasn’t a challenging one. Beyond all of the Panda/Penguin algorithm updates, unnatural link slapping and knowledge graph expansions, these are the key lessons I learned in 2012.
1. OK is simply not good enough
Standing still, or settling for something that is just OK should never be an option. If that ever becomes the case, then it’s time to pack up and move on.
As search marketers we always need to be innovating, adapting and pushing for more and better; be it relevant and effective content development, optimized page mark-up, or the integration of search and social techniques. This is the rule, not the exception, if we are to stay ahead in this ever-changing landscape.
2. Don’t let reputation cloud your judgement
In this industry, there are many well-known and talented agencies and personalities. But don’t let the reputation of an agency or person make you believe that you’ve found the instant, perfect client-agency partnership. Sometimes there may be a mismatch of cultures, other times there may be a mismatch of size and scale; you may find you are too big for a small agency to serve effectively, or you may find that you are too small for a big agency to really care about.
Make sure you test the waters first, before jumping straight in. If all goes well, then scale it up. If things don’t work out, then don’t just hang about hoping that things will get better. Sometimes it’s best for both parties to go their separate ways.
3. Trust your instincts
As search marketers, we are lucky to work in a very data-driven environment. Decisions are always clearer when you have supporting facts and data. However, some situations call for decisions to be made where data is lacking, fuzzy or even non-existent. Curiously, I’ve found this to be the case more-so this past year. In such cases, it is important to trust your experience and instincts, and never sell yourself – or your program – short.
Here’s to a happy and successful new year to you all!
There’s nothing better than testing something that ends up being the best thing since sliced bread — be it a successful retargeting outing, a mind-blowing link building campaign, a surprising social media demand generation result, or even an aspect of company service in general.
However, a test has little value unless it can repeated on a larger scale and on an ongoing basis. Making this leap from business test to business model is where the challenge really begins. Here are three common factors that are critical to achieving scale.
A standard, repeatable process is central to achieving scale. Although it may not be the most exciting undertaking, it is hugely important to understand, define and document the process in order to reproduce comparable quality in an efficient way.
Whilst written documentation is important, process flow charts can help aid understanding and be used as a useful communication/training tool. Once this core process is in place, ongoing adjustments and improvements can be made over time to refine the process further.
People are needed to support the process on a wide scale. But it’s not just about body count, it’s about having the right people who have been properly trained and can execute both effectively and consistently. Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean that your employees or peers can do the same.
I’m a huge fan of Portland foodcarts. I love that the foodcart owner lovingly recreates my food consistently on every visit; it’s consistency that keeps me going back. The trouble comes when the owner decides to expand her business out and the people manning the new carts either haven’t been properly trained or simply don’t quite care as much about the food they are putting out. That one bad experience will put me (and others) off from going back, ever again.
I guess the point is that you can have the right process, but it won’t get you far unless you also have the right individuals in place.
Finally, you need the right infrastructure in order to:
- Support the processes you have
- Help your people work smarter and more efficiently
- Be flexible enough to accommodate future growth
In addition, the development of standardized templates can help to make processes more efficient and help save time for people. It is important to remember that systems and tools should exist to make life easier, not to add unnecessary complexity.
There’s no doubt that Google is one of the best ways to get quality visitors to your website. However, I have been appreciating the merits of Facebook recently, particularly ways in which Facebook compensates in areas where Google search can sometimes lack. Using these channels to complement each other is when you can get the best of both worlds. To do this, it’s important to understand where Facebook wins over Google.
1. Psychographic Targeting
Google targeting is largely keyword-based. The trouble is, you know very little about the searcher, as a person, or how best to tailor the messaging and call-to-action to them. Luckily, Facebook users like to provide a bunch of information about themselves, including:
- Their age and gender
- The schools/universities they went to and the subjects they studied
- The employers they work for and the positions they hold
- What companies, products and services they like
- What music, films and TV shows they watch
- What magazines and publications they like to read
- Their political beliefs
Information like this makes for very powerful targeting.
2. Niche / Vertical Targeting
When it comes to targeting niche markets, Google search can be limiting. You can easily use too broad keywords and send a lot of low quality visitors to your site. Or you can end up targeting too narrow keywords and end up with not enough visitors to your site to make the effort worthwhile.
Again, Facebook allows you to easily utilize user information to get to these niche markets. It can range from a a very simple selection (such as company targeting to reach key accounts, or occupation targeting to reach particular users), to a more complex selection that utilizes a combination of factors (such as females, who have recently graduated, who like IEEE, and live in the UK).
3. Install Base Targeting
It is useful to know whether a person is already your customer, particularly when it comes to install base marketing and customer retention. With Google search, sometimes you can infer this information, based upon the search that is conducted or through remarketing tags, but very often you do not know for sure.
Facebook’s custom audience targeting is a very easy way to precisely target specific ads to your existing customer base, including:
- Cross sell or upsell opportunities
- Product upgrades
- Service offers or extended warranties
- Company or product ratings and reviews
Google is great. However, Facebook provides a level of targeting that goes beyond just keywords. Where Facebook excels is in the depth of personal targeting that is possible, particularly when it comes to psychographic, niche and install base marketing.