Day 1 of F8 2019: Building New Products and Features for a Privacy-Focused Social Platform

Today, more than 5,000 developers, creators and entrepreneurs from around the world came together for F8, our annual conference about the future of technology.  

Mark Zuckerberg opened the two-day event with a keynote on how we’re building a more privacy-focused social platform — giving people spaces where they can express themselves freely and feel connected to the people and communities that matter most. He shared how this is a fundamental shift in how we build products and run our company.

Mark then turned it over to leaders from Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and AR/VR to share more announcements. Here are the highlights:

Messenger

As we build for a future of more private communications, Messenger announced several new products and features to help create closer ties between people, businesses and developers.

A Faster, Lighter App
People expect their messaging apps to be fast and reliable. We’re excited to announce that we’re re-building the architecture of Messenger from the ground up to be faster and lighter than ever before. This completely re-engineered Messenger will begin to roll out later this year.

A Way to Watch Together
When you’re not together with friends or family in your physical living room, Messenger will now let you discover and watch videos from Facebook together in real time. You’ll be able to seamlessly share a video from the Facebook app on Messenger and invite others to watch together while messaging or on a video chat. This could be your favorite show, a funny clip or even home videos. We are testing this now and will begin to roll it out globally later this year.

A Desktop App for Messenger
People want to seamlessly message from any device, and sometimes they just want a little more space to share and connect with the people they care about most. So today we’re announcing a Messenger Desktop app. You can download the app on your desktop — both Windows and MacOS — and have group video calls, collaborate on projects or multi-task while chatting in Messenger. We are testing this now and will roll it out globally later this year.

Better Ways to Connect with Close Friends
Close connections are built on messaging, which is why we are making it easier for you to find the content from the people you care about the most. In Messenger, we are introducing a dedicated space where you can discover Stories and messages with your closest friends and family. You’ll also be able to share snippets from your own day and can choose exactly who sees what you post. This will roll out later this year.

Helping Businesses Connect with Customers
We’re making it even easier for businesses to connect with potential customers by adding lead generation templates to Ads Manager. There, businesses can easily create an ad that drives people to a simple Q&A in Messenger to learn more about their customers. And to make it easier to book an appointment with businesses like car dealerships, stylists or cleaning services, we’ve created an appointment experience so people can book appointments within a Messenger conversation.

WhatsApp

Business Catalog
People and businesses are finding WhatsApp a great way to connect. In the months ahead people will be able to see a business catalog right within WhatsApp when chatting with a business. With catalogs, businesses can showcase their goods so people can easily discover them.

Facebook

People have always come to Facebook to connect with friends and family, but over time it’s become more than that – it’s also a place to connect with people who share your interests and passions. Today we’re making changes that put Groups at the center of Facebook and sharing new ways Facebook can help bring people together offline.

A Fresh Design
We’re rolling out FB5, a fresh new design for Facebook that’s simpler, faster, more immersive and puts your communities at the center. Overall, we’ve made it easier to find what you’re looking for and get to your most-used features.

People will start seeing some of these updates in the Facebook app right away, and the new desktop site will come in the next few months.

Putting Groups First
This redesign makes it easy for people to go from public spaces to more private ones, like Groups. There are tens of millions of active groups on Facebook. When people find the right one, it often becomes the most meaningful part of how they use Facebook. Today, more than 400 million people on Facebook belong to a group that they find meaningful. That’s why we’re introducing new tools that will make it easier for you to discover and engage with groups of people who share your interests:

  • Redesigned Groups tab to make discovery easier: We’ve completely redesigned the Groups tab and made discovery even better. The tab now shows a personalized feed of activity across all your groups. And the new discovery tool with improved recommendations lets you quickly find groups you might be interested in.
  • Making it easier to participate in Groups: We’re also making it easier to get relevant group recommendations elsewhere in the app like in Marketplace, Today In, the Gaming tab, and Facebook Watch. You may see more content from your groups in News Feed. And, you will be able to share content directly to your groups from News Feed, the same way you do with friends and family.
  • New features to support specific communities: Different communities have different needs, so we’re introducing new features for different types of groups. Through new Health Support groups, members can post questions and share information without their name appearing on a post. Job groups will have a new template for employers to post openings, and easier ways for job seekers to message the employer and apply directly through Facebook. Gaming groups will get a new chat feature so members can create threads for different topics within the group. And because we know people use Facebook Live to sell things in Buy and Sell groups, we’re exploring ways to let buyers easily ask questions and place orders without leaving the live broadcast.

Connecting with Your Secret Crush
On Facebook Dating, you can opt in to discover potential matches within your own Facebook communities: events, groups, friends of friends and more. It’s currently available in Colombia, Thailand, Canada, Argentina, and Mexico — and today, we’re expanding to 14 new countries: Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname.

We’re also announcing a new feature called Secret Crush. People have told us that they believe there is an opportunity to explore potential romantic relationships within their own extended circle of friends. So now, if you choose to use Secret Crush, you can select up to nine of your Facebook friends who you want to express interest in. If your crush has opted into Facebook Dating, they will get a notification saying that someone has a crush on them. If your crush adds you to their Secret Crush list, it’s a match! If your crush isn’t on Dating, doesn’t create a Secret Crush list, or doesn’t put you on their list, no one will know that you’ve entered a friend’s name.

A Way to Meet New Friends
We’ve created Meet New Friends to help people start friendships with new people from their shared communities like a school, workplace or city. It’s opt-in, so you will only see other people that are open to meeting new friends, and vice versa. We’ve started testing Meet New Friends in a few places, and we’ll roll it out wider soon. We will also be integrating Facebook Groups, making it possible to meet new friends from your most meaningful communities on Facebook.

Shipping on Marketplace
People will soon be able to ship Marketplace items anywhere in the continental US and pay for their purchases directly on Facebook. For sellers this means reaching more buyers and getting paid securely, and for buyers this means shopping more items — near or far.

A New Events Tab
This summer we’re introducing the new Events tab so you can see what’s happening around you, get recommendations, discover local businesses, and coordinate with friends to make plans to get together.

Instagram

We rolled out new ways to connect people with each other and their interests on Instagram.

The Ability to Shop from Creators
Starting next week, you can shop inspiring looks from the creators you love without leaving Instagram. Instead of taking a screenshot or asking for product details in comments or Direct, you can simply tap to see exactly what your favorite creators are wearing and buy it on the spot. Anyone in our global community will be able to shop from creators. We’ll begin testing this with a small group of creators next week, with plans to expand access over time. For more information on shopping from creators, click here

A Way to Fundraise for Causes
Starting today, you can raise money for a nonprofit you care about directly on Instagram. Through a donation sticker in Stories, you can create a fundraiser and mobilize your community around a cause you care about — with 100% of the money raised on Instagram going to the nonprofit you’re supporting. This will be available in the US now and we’re working to bring it to more countries. To learn more, check out the Instagram Help Center here.

A New and Improved Camera
In the coming weeks, we’re introducing a new camera design including Create Mode, which gives you an easy way to share without a photo or video. This new camera will make it easier to use popular creative tools like effects and interactive stickers, so you can express yourself more freely.

AR/VR

We’re building technology around how we naturally interact with people. We announced a number of new ways we’re helping people connect more deeply in video calls through Portal. We shared more on our work to bring AR experiences to more people and platforms, and we opened pre-orders for Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S.

Portal Expands Internationally this Fall
Beginning with an initial expansion from the US to Canada, we’ll also offer the Portal and Portal+ in Europe this fall. We’re bringing WhatsApp to Portal — and we’ll be bringing end-to-end encryption to all calls. You’ll be able to call any of your friends who use WhatsApp — or Messenger — on their Portal, or on their phone.

Beyond Video Calling
This summer we are adding new ways to connect on Portal. You’ll be able to say, “Hey Portal, Good Morning” to get updates on birthdays, events and more. We’re also adding the ability to send private video messages from Portal to your loved ones. And, through our collaboration with Amazon, we’re adding more visual features and Alexa skills to Portal, including Flash Briefings, smart home control and the Amazon Prime Video app later this year. You’ll also be able to use Facebook Live on Portal, so you can share special moments, with your closest friends, in real time.

SuperFrame to Display Your Favorite Photos
Portal’s SuperFrame lets you display your favorite photos when you’re not on a call. You can already add photos to SuperFrame from your Facebook feed, and starting today, you’ll be able to add your favorites from Instagram as well. And our new mobile app will let you add photos to Portal’s Superframe directly from your camera roll, later this summer.

Spark AR Expands to More People
Since last F8, we’ve seen over one billion people use AR experiences powered by Spark AR, with hundreds of millions using AR each month across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Portal. Starting today, the new Spark AR Studio supports both Windows and Mac and includes new features and functionality for creation and collaboration. We’re also opening Instagram to the entire Spark AR creator and developer ecosystem this summer.

Oculus Quest and Rift S Pre-Orders Open
Our two newest virtual reality headsets — Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S — ship May 21. Oculus Quest, our first all-in-one VR gaming system, lets you pick up and play almost anywhere without being tethered to a PC. For those with a gaming PC, Rift S gets you into the most immersive content that VR has to offer. Both start at $399 USD and you can pre-order today at oculus.com.

We’re also launching the new Oculus for Business later this year. We’re adding Oculus Quest to the program and will provide a suite of tools designed to help companies reshape the way they do business through VR.

With each feature and product announced today, we want to help people discover their communities, deepen their connections, find new opportunities and simply have fun. We’re excited to see all the ways developers, creators and entrepreneurs use these tools as we continue to build more private ways for people to communicate. For more details on today’s news, see our Developer Blog, Engineering Blog, Oculus Blog, Messenger Blog, and Instagram Press Center. You can also watch all F8 keynotes on the Facebook for Developers Page.

Downloads:

You can find the full press kit here.





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Airbnb’s new video strategy lets experience and branding drive profits



George Nguyen

Airbnb is turning its eye towards developing original shows in an effort to create lasting relationships with travelers, Reuters reported last week.

It seems like every company is getting into the media game these days, with the scope of projects limited only by their resources. But, by going all-in on video without a clear blueprint or quantifiable expectations for what that content will do for the brand’s bottom line, is Airbnb just another startup with more money than sense?

The leap to creating shows and films may not be as big as it initially seems for the online rental property platform, and its success or failure may be a fascinating case study for ambitious content marketers across all industries.

Doubling down on content to drive business

“The more we put content out there, the more you’re going to bring people to the platform,” Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s senior vice president of global policy and communications, told Reuters.

The company is considering a variety of options, including streaming through its own app as well as through other video services.

“We’re very much in the R&D phase here,” Lehane said. “It’s not just limited to video. It could be audible. It could be physical.”

From a practical standpoint, unconventional marketing tactics could help set Airbnb apart from hotels and other online travel agencies. It could also generate interest for additional offerings such as restaurant reservations, transportation or community-led experiences that can all be booked through Airbnb’s platform.

airbnb experiences screenshot

Bookings through Airbnb now go well beyond rooms.

These add-ons, combined with its expansion into more traditional, high-end accommodations, have the potential to propagate the brand’s growth at a time when it’s facing regulatory pressures on its short-term rental business in multiple regions.

Airbnb’s content play is a long game

As with just about any content marketing strategy, there’s an emphasis on hard-to-quantify factors that could heavily influence customers’ perceptions and decisions.

Just under two years ago, Airbnb gambled that publishing its own branded magazine would bolster its travel lifestyle association. The circumstances back then mirror the present situation: an ambitious and costly content objective, limited experience with the format, and unpredictable outcomes in terms of revenue. Running a print publication isn’t suitable for every business, but it may have helped push its public perception beyond the confines of a booking app.

The nature of digital means it can have significantly broader reach than a custom magazine. Airbnb is betting that video content can inspire curiosity, convince viewers to plan trips in their heads, and then turn that daydreaming into real travel demand. A mix of vacation nostalgia and aspiration served up in video content can act as the foundation of the brand’s affinity with those feelings and long-term customer loyalty.

From curation to original video content

Airbnb launched its first YouTube video in October, 2010, and has steadily grown the channel to 172,000 subscribers by uploading over 500 videos in numerous languages and creating playlists like “Airbnb for Work” and “Not Yet Trending,” that are aimed at customers and hosts alike.

The company is testing the original video content waters with Gay Chorus Deep South, a feature-length documentary that will be premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. It’s also working on a series entitled Home, which will be available on Apple’s upcoming TV Plus streaming service.

Airbnb’s forthcoming video offerings could be dismissed as just another branding effort — if there was a clear road map to return on investment. However, there’s not, and the company seems confident enough to experiment and committed to its audience enough to let experience drive profits (not the other way around).

Whether Airbnb’s gambit turns out to be a game changer or a total flop, it may just set a precedent for marketers, who stand to be emboldened by its successes or learn from its mistakes.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.



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Podcast ads projected to grow to 4.5% of global audio ad spending by 2022



George Nguyen

Podcast advertising spending is expected to double to $1.6 billion by 2022, according to a study by advertising research firm WARC. This figure accounts for 4.5 percent of global audio ad spending, up from 1.9 percent in 2018.

More stats. The study also found that:

  • 78 percent of listeners don’t mind branded sponsorships because they understand it supports the content.
  • Podcasts reach 62 million Americans (22 percent) weekly.
  • 41.7 percent of podcast ads are inserted dynamically, at the point of downloaded (instead of being pre-recorded).
  • 53 percent of listeners turn to YouTube to tune in.

Why we should care. Like advertising on other on-demand formats, podcasts are one way advertisers can reach a specific, engaged audience. If nearly four of five listeners don’t mind ads, this could be an even more effective way to connect with that audience.

As a podcast platform, YouTube may be overlooked: it doesn’t require users to log in or pre-download an episode and easily lends itself to subscriptions, social commenting and sharing. By providing a YouTube option for listeners, podcast producers and marketers can take advantage of these features, monetize with ads and make use of YouTube’s ad capabilities and analytics.

Despite the advantages and advancements (such as dynamic ad insertion), there are still trade-offs to consider before investing. Podcasts still lack real-time audience metrics – making it difficult to tell if ads are getting skipped over – and programmatic ad buying is almost non-existent.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.



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5 Words to Describe My Agency



Rachael Herman

Running a marketing and advertising agency in this digital age is not for the faint of heart.

The competition is extreme, and most clients look at marketing as an expense rather than an investment.  Locally, I’m up against about 15 agencies and countless individual consultants who claim to be able to do it all.  I don’t even consider national and international agencies as competition.  I’m also up against a consistently high level of doubt and confusion from my audience.

Many business owners I talk to say they’re looking for a marketing director, but they end up with an individual consultant without the expertise to successfully implement a strategy.

Marketing directors know the ins and outs of the industry well enough to teach the subject and process, as well as create and manage the campaigns; however, they cannot do everything and will need specialists like graphic designer, web designer, copywriter, etc., etc.  Individual consultants generally specialize in one or two areas of expertise, so small businesses should be cautious when hiring a consultant without a creative team to back them up.

My partner and I are account directors (same as marketing directors, but for an agency), so it’s always difficult to answer the question, “what do you do for a living?”  Usually, I smile and respond with: “That depends on the day of the week.”

I love the spark of curiosity that comes from that statement.  Monday and Wednesday are for client work, Tuesday is for Your Imprint work, and Thursday and Friday are for campaign scheduling, networking, and sales.   Weekends are dedicated to catch-up work if I use one of the weekdays for emergency meetings.

These conversations usually lead to discussions about what my company does, in which case I touch on our 5 cornerstones.

Marketing & Advertising Agency Cornerstones

Dynamic

We’re positive, competitive, and we adapt quickly to changes in the industry.  It’s why our agency has doubled in size over two years.  It’s also why our two biggest clients from two separate industries and states are currently opening another location.  The work we’ve done for them has brought new clients to our doorstep, three of whom are already starting to see growth (the are 3-6 months with us).

Collaborative

To attract loyal advocates to your brand, we strive for transparency and strong collaboration with clear, friendly, and candid communication about what’s working, what’s not, and what to do about it.

Results-Driven

Everyone says that, but we define it as actively listening to the client and learning about their passions.  We create SMART goals, develop a plan, implement a strategy, and track those results.  Sometimes, the results are directly linked to a goal they had no idea how to put into words until we came along.

Effective & Efficient

To be effective in driving results, we put enormous effort into creating efficient processes that help us get the job done promptly.  To be efficient, we work smarter by using effective management skills.

Expansive Expertise

Websites, reviews, printing, SEO, social media, brand awareness, advertising & placement, e-commerce, email marketing, direct vs indirect marketing – who can keep up with it I all on their own?  The real value of an agency is to be able to span multiple areas of marketing to help streamline the process and improve brand awareness and return on investment.

The Sixth Element – Creative Genius

marketing-agency-advertising-agencyWe can’t forget about the genius.  After all, this is a creative industry that thrives on innovative art across multiple mediums.  The creative genius is not a cornerstone, but a job requirement.  As professional artists who deal in results, we have to have some otherworldly intellectual support, and for most artists, that’s a Genius.

In ancient Rome, a Genius was the guiding spirit of a person, place, or family.  It means “to bring into being, create, or produce.”

For us, creative genius is the ability to see the potential in a big-picture idea.  It’s the skill of intuitively understanding passions and defining unique goals after a friendly conversation with a client.  Genius means innovative originality.   While it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel for every little thing, it is necessary to have a Genius in your corner as a marketing and advertising artist.

 

It’s hard to figure out how much and what to invest in your company. You can save 60-70% in costs by outsourcing your marketing. If you’re looking to accelerate your growth by investing in marketing and advertising, talk to me. It’s a free consultation, and you’ll walk away with several ideas or “homework” to move forward.

5 Words to Describe My Agency2019-04-29Fort Collins Digital Marketing & SEO Agencyhttps://yourimprint.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/marketing-agency-advertising-agency.jpg200px200px





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Screening the screenless: Marketing’s next frontier



Joe Hyland

I’ve caught myself a few times in recent weeks – sitting at my desk and flipping between looking at my computer screen and my phone in hand. Across the office, television news runs on mute. It’s hard to avoid screens in today’s age, and even harder to avoid their constant, almost gravitational pull for our attention.

On my commute home, though, I avoid screens. I throw my phone in my duffel bag and listen to podcasts and articles as a way to decompress while staying up to date on the latest news. Ironically, I recently listened to a story by New York Times writer Farhad Manjoo, titled “I Didn’t Write This Column. I Spoke It.” The column, which was originally dictated to a smartphone, details a trend that I was already taking part in, but didn’t realize: we’re moving away from screens. It may still be unconscious for most of us, but it’s happening nonetheless — whether we’re asking Alexa about the weather, having Siri set us a reminder, or listening to an audiobook.

Screens are simply a part of everyday life. But I think we’ve all experienced the fatigue that comes with constantly being glued to a screen: having our eyes strained, constantly responding to the endless pings of notifications and messages, being unable to sleep at night because we’ve been on our phone. Interacting with a screen, clearly, is not always a positive digital experience. I know that’s why I relish my commutes home, with nothing but sound. And I’m not alone. Nielsen found that online radio listening has grown steadily, and that “[a]s of early 2018, 64% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to online radio in the past month, while 57% had listened in the past week.”

When the digital revolution exploded, it revolutionized marketing. Suddenly we had unparalleled insights into our email content, whitepapers, webinars — everything. We knew how many people watched our videos and for how long. It fundamentally transformed how marketers operated in this new data-driven world. And it all unfolded on screens. For a long time, it was hard to imagine how digital marketing would ever happen off screen.

But now we’re starting to see that the screenless internet is coming, and with it so will screenless marketing. What’s so intriguing about this, is that we’ve almost come full circle. Even though screenless marketing represents the next step in the evolution of digital marketing, ironically, it’s not really digital at all. Our screen fatigue has driven us offline: though we still want to consume content, we don’t always want to do that through our fingers on a keyboard or touchscreen.

As the screenless internet continues to grow, we marketers have to grow in parallel: audio can now be transcribed, translated, scaled and distributed largely in the same way content – from emails to whitepapers to case studies – can be. How will this reshape marketing? The implications are endless.

In a recent article, Harvard Business Review suggests that our loyalty will be less toward brands, and more toward AI assistants like Alexa, Google Home, and HomePod who we’ll converse with daily. “In fact, we predict that AI assistants will win consumers’ trust and loyalty better than any previous marketing technology. […] AI platforms will be able to predict what combination of features, price, and performance is most appealing to someone at a given moment.”

As a result, marketers will look to optimize their position on AI platforms and partner relationships with brands. Just as marketers have jockeyed for SEO position on search engines in the past decade, marketers may look to do the same through these personal assistant devices.

It’s up to us marketers how we shape this new marketing landscape – to understand how we will effectively “screen the screenless.” But while we don’t know what shape this will take, rest assured that the same principles of good marketing will hold steady. No matter who the medium or channel, a winning marketing strategy will always prioritize the customer and their needs, deliver them valuable and personalized content and engage them with the right message at the right time. As marketers venture into this new frontier, the ones who win – as always – will be those who abide by these proven marketing truths.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Joe Hyland is the CMO of the leading webinar platform company, ON24, where he is responsible for the company’s global marketing, communication and brand strategy. He has over a decade of experience creating and marketing innovative products in the enterprise and SaaS software markets. Before joining ON24, Hyland was the CMO at Taulia, the SaaS market-leading financial supply chain company. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College.



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What Links to Target with Google’s Disavow Tool – Whiteboard Friday



Cyrus-Shepard

Do you need to disavow links in the modern age of Google? Is it safe? If so, which links should you disavow? In this Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus Shepard answers all these questions and more. While he makes it clear that the majority of sites shouldn’t have to use Google’s Disavow Tool, he provides his personal strategies for those times when using the tool makes sense.

How do you decide when to disavow? We’d love to hear your process in the comments below!

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard. Today we’re going to be talking about a big topic — Google’s Disavow Tool. We’re going to be discussing when you should use it and what links you should target.

Now, this is kind of a scary topic to a lot of SEOs and webmasters. They’re kind of scared of the Disavow Tool. They think, “It’s not necessary. It can be dangerous. You shouldn’t use it.” But it’s a real tool. It exists for a reason, and Google maintains it for exactly for webmasters to use it. So today we’re going to be covering the scenarios which you might consider using it and what links you should target.

Disclaimer! The vast majority of sites don’t need to disavow *anything*

Now I want to start out with a big disclaimer. I want this to be approved by the Google spokespeople. So the big disclaimer is the vast majority of sites don’t need to disavow anything. Google has made tremendous progress over the last few years of determining what links to simply ignore. In fact, that was one of the big points of the last Penguin 4.0 algorithm update.

Before Penguin, you had to disavow links all the time. But after Penguin 4.0, Google simply ignored most bad links, emphasis on the word “most.” It’s not a perfect system. They don’t ignore all bad links. We’ll come back to that point in a minute. There is a danger in using the Disavow Tool of disavowing good links.

That’s the biggest problem I see with people who use the disavow is it’s really hard to determine what Google counts as a bad link or a harmful link and what they count as a good link. So a lot of people over-disavow and disavow too many things. So that’s something you need to look out for. My final point in the disclaimer is large, healthy sites with good link profiles are more immune to bad links.

So if you are The New York Times or Wikipedia and you have a few spam links pointing to you, it’s really not going to hurt you. But if your link profile isn’t as healthy, that’s something you need to consider. So with those disclaimers out of the way, let’s talk about the opposite sort of situations, situations where you’re going to want to consider using the Disavow Tool.

Good candidates for using the Disavow Tool

Obviously, if you have a manual penalty. Now, these have decreased significantly since Penguin 4.0. But they still exist. People still get manual penalties. Definitely, that’s what the Disavow Tool is for. But there are other situations. 

There was a conversation with Marie Haynes, that was published not too long ago, where she was asking in a Google hangout, “Are there other situations that you can use the disavow other than a penalty, where your links may hurt you algorithmically?”

John Mueller said this certainly was the case, that if you want to disavow those obviously dodgy links that could be hurting you algorithmically, it might help Google trust your link profile a little more. If your link profile isn’t that healthy in the first place if you only have a handful of links and some of those are dodgy, you don’t have a lot to fall back on.

So disavowing those dodgy links can help Google trust the rest of your link profile a little more. 

1. Penalty examples

Okay, with those caveats out of the way and situations where you do want to disavow, a big question people have is, “Well, what should I disavow?” So I’ve done this for a number of sites, and these are my standards and I’ll share them with you. So good candidates to disavow, the best examples are often what Google will give you when they penalize you.

Again it’s a little more rare, but when you do get a link penalty, Google will often provide sample links. They don’t tell you all of the links to disavow. But they’ll give you sample links, and you can go through and you can look for patterns in your links to see what matches what Google is considering a spammy link. You definitely want to include those in your disavow file. 

2. Link schemes

If you’ve suffered a drop in traffic, or you think Google is hurting you algorithmically because of your links, obviously if you’ve participated in link schemes, if you’ve been a little bit naughty and violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you definitely want to take a look at those.

We’re talking about links that you paid for or someone else paid for. It’s possible someone bought some shady links to try to bring you down, although Google is good at ignoring a lot of those. If you use PBNs. Now I know a lot of black hat SEOs that use PBNs and swear by them. But when they don’t work, when you’ve been hurt algorithmically or you’ve been penalized or your traffic is down and you’re using PBNs, that’s a good candidate to put in your disavow file.

3. Non-editorial links

Google has a whole list of non-editorial links. We’re going to link to it in the transcript below. But these are links that the webmaster didn’t intentionally place, things like widgets, forum spam, signature spam, really shady, dodgy links that you control. A good judge of all of these links is often in the anchor text.

4. $$ Anchor text

Is it a money anchor text? Are these money, high-value keywords? Do you control the anchor text? You can generally tell a really shady link by looking at the anchor text. Is it optimized? Could I potentially benefit? Do I control that?

If the answer is yes to those questions, it’s usually a good candidate for the disavow file. 

The “maybe” candidates for using the Disavow Tool

Then there’s a whole set of links in a bucket that I call the “maybe” file. You might want to disavow. I oftentimes do, but not necessarily. 

1. Malware

So a lot of these would be malware. You click on a link and it gives you a red browser warning that the site contains spam, or your computer freezes up, those toxic links.

If I were Google, I probably wouldn’t want to see those types of links linking to a site. I don’t like them linking to me. I would probably throw them in the disavow. 

2. Cloaked sites

These are sites when you click on the link, they show Google one set of results, but a user a different set of results. The way you find these is that when you’re searching for your links, it’s usually a good idea to look at them using a Googlebot user agent.

If you use Chrome, you can get a browser extension. We’ll link to some of these in the post below. But look at everything and see everything through Google’s eyes using a Googlebot user agent and you can find those cloaked pages. They’re kind of a red flag in terms of link quality. 

3. Shady 404s

Now, what do I mean by a shady 404? You click on the link and the page isn’t there, and in fact, maybe the whole domain isn’t there. You’ve got a whole bunch of these. It looks like just something is off about these 404s. The reason I throw these in the disavow file is because usually there’s no record of what the link was. It was usually some sort of spammy link.

They were trying to rank for something, and then, for whatever reason, they removed the entire domain or it’s removed by the domain registrar. Because I don’t know what was there, I usually disavow it. It’s not going to help me in the future when Google discovers that it’s gone anyway. So it’s usually a safe bet to disavow those shady 404s. 

4. Bad neighborhood spam

Finally, sometimes you find those bad neighborhood links in your link profile.

These are things like pills, poker, porn, the three P’s of bad neighborhoods. If I were Google and I saw porn linking to my non-porn site, I would consider that pretty shady. Now maybe they’ll just ignore it, but I just don’t feel comfortable having a lot of these bad, spammy neighborhoods linking to me. So I might consider these to throw in the disavow file as well.

Probably okay — don’t necessarily need to disavow

Now finally, we often see a lot of people disavowing links that maybe aren’t that bad. Again, I want to go back to the point it’s hard to tell what Google considers a good link, a valuable link and a poor link. There is a danger in throwing too much in your disavow file, which a lot of people do. They just throw the whole kitchen sink in there.

If you do that, those links aren’t going to count, and your traffic might go down. 

1. Scraper sites

So one thing I don’t personally put in my disavow file are scraper sites. You get a good link in an online magazine, and then a hundred other sites copy it. These are scraper sites. Google is picking them up. I don’t put those in the disavow file because Google is getting better and better at assigning the authority of those links to the original site. I don’t find that putting them in the disavow file has really helped, at least with the sites I work with. 

2. Feeds

The same with feeds. You see a lot of feed links in Google’s list in your link report. These are just raw HTML feeds, RSS feeds. Again, for the same reason, unless they are feeds or scraper sites from this list over here. If they are feeds and scrapers of good sites, no need. 

3. Auto-generated spam 

These are sites that are automatically generated by robots and programs. They’re usually pretty harmless. Google is pretty good at ignoring them. You can tell the difference between auto-generated spam and link scheme again by the anchor text.

Auto-generated spam usually does not have optimized anchor text. It’s usually your page title. It’s usually broken. These are really low-quality pages that Google generally ignores, that I would not put in a disavow. 

4. Simple low quality

These are things like directories, pages that you look at and you’re like, “Oh, wow, they only have three pages on their site. No one is linking to them.”

Leave it up to Google to ignore those, and they generally do a pretty good job. Or Google can count them. For things like this, unless it’s obvious, unless you’re violating these rules, I like to leave them in. I don’t like to include them in the disavow. So we’ve got our list. 

Pro tips for your disavow file

A few pro tips when you actually put your disavow file together if you choose to do so. 

Disavow domain

If you find one bad link on a spammy domain, it’s usually a good idea to disavow the entire domain, because there’s a good chance that there are other links on there that you’re just not spotting.

So using the domain operator in your disavow file is usually a good idea, unless it’s a site like WordPress or something with a lot of subdomains. 

Use Search Console & third-party tools

Where do you find your links to disavow? First choice is generally Search Console, the link report in Search Console, because that’s the links that Google is actually using. It is helpful to use third-party tools, such as Moz Link Explorer, Ahrefs, SEMrush, whatever your link index is, and that’s because you can sort through the anchor text.

When Google gives you their link report, they don’t include the anchor text. It’s very helpful to use those anchor text reports, such as you would get in Moz Link Explorer, and you can sort through and you can find your over-optimized anchor text, your spammy anchor text. You can find patterns and sort. That’s often really helpful to do that in order to sort your information.

Try removing links

If you have a disavow file, and this happens on a lot of older sites, if you’re auditing a site, it’s a really good idea to go in and check and see if a disavow file already exists. It’s possible it was created prior to Penguin 4.0. It’s possible there are a lot of good links in there already, and you can try removing links from that disavow file and see if it helps your rankings, because those older disavow files often contain a lot of links that are actually good, that are actually helping you.

Record everything and treat it as an experiment

Finally, record everything. Treat this as any other SEO process. Record everything. Think of it as an experiment. If you disavow, if you make a mistake and your rankings drop or your rankings go up, you want to know what caused that, and you need to be responsible for that and be a good SEO. All right, that’s all we have for today.

Leave your own disavow comments below. If you like this video, please share. Thanks, everybody.

Bonus: I really liked these posts for detailing alternative ways of finding links to disavow, so I thought I’d share: 

Video transcription by Speechpad.com



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Make your content better with social media and marketing automation



Digital Marketing Depot

In the ebb and flow of content marketing trend analyses comes the return of the “content fatigue” narrative. We’re told content marketing doesn’t work as well as it used to, that it’s redundant and that there’s too much of it.

But as long as we have the Internet, content is going to be the playing field for our sport. We need to focus on making better content. Not less, not more—just better.

In this issue of Agency Perspectives from Sharpspring, you’ll learn:

  • How to develop content your target audience actually wants
  • Tips on sharing and distributing content across relevant channels
  • How to use marketing automation to optimize your content

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download “Mission Possible: Quality Content Marketing.”

About The Author

Digital Marketing Depot is a resource center for digital marketing strategies and tactics. We feature hosted white papers and E-Books, original research, and webcasts on digital marketing topics — from advertising to analytics, SEO and PPC campaign management tools to social media management software, e-commerce to e-mail marketing, and much more about internet marketing. Digital Marketing Depot is a division of Third Door Media, publisher of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, and producer of the conference series Search Marketing Expo and MarTech. Visit us at http://digitalmarketingdepot.com.



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We can’t live without digital media, but why would we want to?



Peter Minnium

“But dad, I can’t live without them!”

My daughter Judy and I were once again locked in the battle over screen time by now familiar to many of today’s parents and significant others. We had turned a day of errands into some father-daughter time with a few fun diversions and I was hoping she would surface from her screens long enough for us to enjoy it.

Although her plea was not as heartfelt as Nilsson’s 1971 power hit, “Without You,” Judy was quite serious about not being able to live without her screens.

My oft-rehearsed “don’t be so dramatic” speech was at the tip of my tongue when it hit me: maybe she is right. With me behind the wheel and her behind a screen, we had effortlessly checked off errand after errand, leaving us with more time to appreciate our day together.

Pocket-sized portals to pervasive media

Judy got directions via Waze, checked store hours with Google, compared prices for a hair dryer she needed on Amazon, found an amazing taco place for lunch through Yelp, helped me install a new key fob battery with YouTube, searched LinkedIn to advise her brother on a resume entry, filled a prescription at CVS.com, chose a movie and theater on Fandango and amused us throughout with her friends’ Instagram posts and my Facebook feed.

Without our digital media screens, we likely would have spent most of the day on the phone with various customer service representatives, pouring through newspaper reviews, visiting retail location after location (arriving at times too early or too late) and grumbling all the while.

If we now rely so much on screens as individuals, can we as a society function without them?

Our smartphones and tablets are mobile portals to the digital media realm, where tools and resources that historically existed in separate spheres have been brought under a single roof. Though media has long played a role in specific social interactions, digital media consolidates almost all domains of social exchange in a manner previously unthinkable.

In the digital age, media is no longer merely the realm of entertainment or information; it is now pervasive, touching every aspect of our being, from how we live to how we work, play, communicate, connect – and even find love. We literally can’t live without media.

But wait, what exactly is media?

“Media” (sing. medium) is derived from the Latin word Medius, meaning “middle.”

Even in today’s digitally-driven usage, this connotation persists: media are the creative and physical infrastructure that connect content producers and consumers. Media can be more granularly understood as a process of mediation, whose stages progressively encode and then decode content “packages” as they move from producer to consumer.

Imagine writing a letter by hand, putting it in an envelope and sending it (crazy, right?). You take your thoughts and turn them into written words, which you then package in a form that the postal service can ship. The recipient must then invert the process: opening the envelope to read the letter and interpreting the written words back into thought.

Though undoubtedly more complicated, all media undertakes a largely similar project. It configures content so that it can be efficiently transferred to and then consumed by the recipient. Variations of this process have facilitated the exchange of entertainment and information for millennia, but the internet century’s technology-driven shifts profoundly expanded media’s role in society.

Back in the day, media was just for fun!

Since the beginning of history, media acted almost exclusively as a vehicle for information and entertainment, playing a singular and discrete role in people’s everyday lives. The earliest stories enthralled their audiences and imparted social values – much as they did later via network primetime – while town criers, and eventually newspapers, kept people informed.

Outside of these channels, people communicated largely in person. Politics were debated in town centers, dating and marriage were arranged by friends and relatives and shopping was done at public markets. In other words, most transactions have historically been unmediated: there was no person, process or technology that stood between us and the rest of society.

Over centuries, innovation increased the time we all spend with media, but its role in informing and entertaining mainly remained the same, as did its status as a distinct interactive mode, alongside politics, culture, healthcare, socialization, transportation, infrastructure and economics. Each of these was a distinct domain and transactions in one were conducted differently than in another.

The boundaries between domains were defined by time and space. We used writing to keep records and exchange messages, but these were stored in a physical location or sent to a physical address; likewise, theatrical performances took place in a space different from the one used to execute legal proceedings or exchange goods and services.

Most of the time, though, we were media-free as we participated in our community or the economy. Media certainly had no role in our health, transportation or infrastructure. We turned media on and off at well-defined times and in familiar contexts: reading the newspaper in the morning, listening to radio programs during our daily commute and watching television at night.

Digital technology disrupted this clear boundary between media and non-media interactions—today, media is pervasive.

Pervasive media isn’t just a new tool, it’s a new way

We need look no further than the latest election cycle to see that media is a part of politics; virtual doctor visits make healthcare immediately accessible; dating would be seemingly non-existent without a cache of apps; cars are becoming media platforms, as is our homes’ infrastructure; and, of course, our work lives are permeated with media from search to LinkedIn.

Today it is unthinkable to leave the house without a mobile media device. We use them to conduct a growing share of daily business. Living in an urban center, it is equally unthinkable to leave home without a credit card. Just as we can use credit cards to pay our rent and utilities, subscribe to streaming services and buy groceries, we use digital media to meet many of our daily needs.

Many of the transactions above are conducted not merely with a credit card, but specifically through digital media platforms. Few social exchanges have escaped digitization. Anything that isn’t material can be reduced to ones and zeroes and anything that can be ordered and shipped with them. Like water, digital is an almost universal conductor.

Mediating anytime, anywhere

The digital mediation of even our most intimate exchanges has atomized our relationship with society. No longer bound by conventions of time and space, we can consume entertainment, schedule appointments or satisfy our curiosity wherever and whenever we please.

It looks to me like Judy is always “on her phone” but, in truth, she’s organizing her time, connecting with friends, helping her brother nail an interview, vetting lunch spots or keeping up on current events. It’s just hard to tell without the myriad accouterment we needed in my day.

I’m still not thrilled about how much time she (or I, for that matter) spends on her media screens. It’s all too easy to get sucked in by our pocket-sized portals to everything. But it’s hard to imagine our day would have been better spent scouring maps or pouring through phone books, so maybe Judy is right – we really can’t live without them.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Peter Minnium is president of Ipsos US, where he leads the US team in helping companies measure and amplify how media, brands, and consumers connect through compelling content and great communications. Prior to his switch to market research, Peter was Head of Brand Initiatives at the IAB focused on addressing the under-representation of creative brand advertising online.



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SEO guide to optimizing your LinkedIn profile for more connections, better leads



Jessica Foster

LinkedIn has the unfortunate reputation of being a platform for stuffy CEOs, spammy salespeople and college students that were required to make a profile in their university career skills class.

For that reason, many business owners and marketers treat their LinkedIn profile (if they even have one) like an online resume. They list their credentials, add a little blurb about who they are and hope that someone is intrigued enough to network with or hire them.

What they – and likely you – don’t know about LinkedIn is that it is a powerful search engine that has the power to drive targeted, high-volume traffic to your profile.

Not only that, but that traffic can very well turn into valuable professional relationships and new clients.

It’s time to stop sleeping on this platform and start tapping into that power.

LinkedIn is not just a resume

With LinkedIn optimization, you will build connections with some of the best and brightest in your industry and attract your ideal clients directly to your profile and inbox.

From profile optimization and SEO to content posting and engagement, this guide covers everything you need in order to turn your LinkedIn profile into a brand-building, lead-generating machine.

More than SEO – Full throttle LinkedIn optimization

Many LinkedIn optimization guides start and end at SEO, but I say that SEO is just the tip of the iceberg.

As with your business website, the success of your inbound marketing through LinkedIn not only depends on traffic but also on conversion optimization.

If you focus all of your efforts on SEO, without fully optimizing your profile for conversions, you aren’t making the most of the traffic coming in.

That’s why I put all of the LinkedIn SEO best practices to the test AND applied my own expertise around conversion copywriting, sales funnels and conversion optimization.

The result of that testing is this guide – which includes sections about profile aesthetic, creating a lead funnel, writing compelling copy on your profile and much more.

The LinkedIn optimization guide covers:

You’ll also learn how to craft a high-converting “welcome” message for new connections, attract your ideal clients directly to your profile and build authority with LinkedIn articles.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

1. Spruce up your profile aesthetic

One of the best things about your LinkedIn profile is how much real estate you have in terms of optimization.

Sure, the obvious places are your headline, summary and experience sections, but you can also take advantage of your profile photo and cover photo sections. This is what I call optimizing your “profile aesthetic” – as you aren’t adding SEO keywords, but are tailoring the look of your profile to your target audience.

Do looks really matter? You tell me.

How important is the design of your business website to how it appeals to potential clients/customers?

Exactly.

Optimize your profile’s curb appeal

I’m a strong proponent of squeezing every bit of juice out of a platform in order to have it work for my business. When it comes to LinkedIn, that means not only having it talk the talk, but look the look.

To optimize your profile’s “curb appeal,” you are going to focus on two features: the profile photo and the cover photo.

Profile photo

We are all familiar with the dull, grainy headshots on LinkedIn. If you want to take your LinkedIn branding seriously, I say: Dare to stand out!

You’ll want a professional, high-quality image that highlights your personality and business. Something that your potential clients will find approachable.

LinkedIn suggests having an image where your face takes up 60% of the frame. (I don’t follow this suggestion myself – oops!)

For some industries, your look may include professional attire and a corporate background. For others, it could be more casual. The key is to appeal to what your target audience is most familiar with in working with people like you.

I’m an SEO content writer who typically works from my laptop all over the world. My clients know this of me and don’t expect me to be wearing slacks and sitting in a corporate office. But if I were trying to land high-ticket corporate consulting clients for my SEO firm, I’d likely go with a different aesthetic.

And please, ditch the selfie. I highly recommend investing in a professional headshot for this. It will make a huge difference – taking you from amateur to expert.

Cover photo

The cover photo section also gives you ample real estate to tell profile visitors what you (and your business) are all about.

The default LinkedIn profile cover photo is a blue background with geometric shapes and dots. As far as us business owners are concerned, this is a near seven inches of desktop real estate that is going to waste.

Let’s make it count.

You can easily create a custom Cover image using Photoshop or Canva that includes a professional background and copy that appeals to your target audience.

Best practices include:

  • Adding a tagline telling profile visitors what you do and who you serve
  • Adding your website URL and social media handles
  • Having an attractive backdrop image that draws in your target audience
  • Including a call-to-action, or otherwise letting users know how to contact you

In the example above, we see how this LinkedIn profile makes ample use of the cover photo section by including a photo of the business owner at a speaking event, a bold description of what he does (“Grow your FB group, grow your business!”) and a clear CTA to visit his website.

With this, users know at a glance what he does, who he helps and how best to reach him – all without having to dig through his entire profile. Users can sign up for his free training – and join his email list – right away.

By optimizing the look of your profile, you give the best possible first impression to your potential connections. You also make it easier for potential clients to understand what you are about and how to get ahold of you.

Once your profile is pretty, it’s time to move on to the rest of the sections.

2. Write compelling profile copy

As an SEO content writer and copywriter, I geeked out when it dawned on me that LinkedIn is a great place to implement conversion copywriting. It really is a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, many of us have treated our LinkedIn profile like a resume – concise and professional, yet boring.

LinkedIn was built around the idea of professionals connecting with other professionals. You won’t effectively do that if your profile reads like the ingredients section on the back of a bran flakes cereal box.

Write with your target audience in mind

Instead, write your LinkedIn profile like you would your online dating profile, only, more professional.

Make it interesting, add pizzazz and write it to appeal to the type of people you want to attract.

There are a few primary areas where you can do this, and those are your headline, summary and experience sections.

Headline

Your headline is the line of text directly beneath your name on your profile. LinkedIn gives you about 120 characters of space here to tell visitors who you are and what you offer.

Your headline should be a combination of LinkedIn SEO keywords (which we will discuss in section three of this guide) and compelling copy. That’s because it works to both attract traffic and keep users engaged with your profile.

You want to be uber clear about what you do. This is not a space for witty taglines like “Probably out fishin’” or “I rank it, you bank it!” Not only do headlines like these not include keywords, but they can leave profile visitors feeling confused about what exactly it is that you do.

I suggest either keeping your headline chocked full of keywords, with a bit of finessing copy (“I’m a digital marketing strategist that help small businesses reach more customers online.”) or taking the time to craft a compelling headline with conversion copywriting.

In the example above, this business owner is straight to the point by simply listing what her job title is and the services she offers. This is fine. It includes proper keywords that could potentially draw in people that are looking for services like hers.

By contrast, this business owner focuses less on keywords and more on appealing to people looking for “business success” through a “best-in-class” partnership.

Note that both examples fill up their headline with copy and keywords, ensuring that none of that space goes to waste.

Not a great writer? You may want to reach out to a professional copywriter to help you craft a message that appeals to your target audience.

Later on, we will discuss how to find LinkedIn SEO keywords to include in your profile.

Summary section

Your Summary section is by far the largest space for adding compelling copy and LinkedIn SEO keywords. With over 100 words worth of space, you can’t afford to NOT optimize this section.

This is where visitors go to learn even more about you, your business and the services that you offer.

I like to compare it to the about page on a business website. And every great copywriter will tell you that your about page is about your audience, not about you.

You need to craft a summary that speaks to what your target audience is looking for. This is not a place to simply rattle off your accomplishments and services.

Ask yourself, What is my potential audience looking for when it comes to working with someone like me?

Market research will be able to answer this for you.

If you conducted market research prior to adding copy to your business website, then you can apply the same concepts here. If you haven’t conducted market research in order to figure out your audience’s struggles, pain points, needs, and wants, you will want to do that first.

Once you have your market research in hand, you will write a summary that appeals to your target audience/ideal clients. You will simply address their primary struggle and how you will be able to help them overcome that struggle.

In the example above, you can see how I address the primary struggles that SEO agencies have when it comes to outsourcing SEO content: poor quality and writers’ lack of SEO knowledge. Then, I go on to explain how I do things differently, what to expect when working with me and how best to contact me.

Your summary section shouldn’t ramble on and on; it should be concise, targeted and written with a purpose. Get your message across as efficiently and effectively as possible so that you can move visitors along your profile funnel without delay.

Experience section

The experience section is where I see most business owners getting lazy and treating their profile like a resume. I used to do this myself. Not anymore.

Your experience section is another place to include LinkedIn SEO keywords and compelling copy that convinces users that you are the right fit for them.

You do this by writing each Experience in a way that highlights what you took away from working at that company and the results you got for them.

Above is an example of how a LinkedIn user has used the experience section to include detailed summaries of the work she did at certain companies, the projects she was a part of and the results she generated through these projects.

For your own profile, you can mention things like percentage increase in traffic that you generated for an SEO client, an uptick in conversions for a Facebook ads client or how you increased a client’s business revenue year over year.

Highlighting these results is a great way to show profile visitors that you not only have experience, but how you can replicate those results for them.

I suggest writing naturally here, rather than including a bulleted list of everything you have done. Hand-pick your best examples and make them super compelling. Speak to what your potential clients are searching for and let them know how you can generate the results that they want.

Top tips

  • Add experience items for each of your top clients (and link to their company profile), being sure to describe the work you did and the results you generated for them.
  • Use layman’s terms whenever possible. Don’t assume that your audience knows what “CTR,” “schema markup,” “KPIs,” “keyword cannibalization” or other industry terms mean.
  • Remove any experience examples that irrelevant to the audience you aim to serve. If you offer SEO services to law firms, they don’t need to know that you were a Boy Scout in sixth grade or that you were party chair at your college fraternity.
  • Include references to any publications you write for or industry organizations you are a part of.

3. Implement LinkedIn SEO

LinkedIn SEO differs from regular SEO due in the fact that the keywords that users type in to find services and businesses on LinkedIn aren’t always the same as what users type into Google.

That’s because the average user doesn’t consider LinkedIn to be a search engine. They use it as it is intended – as a social media platform – and therefore use short-tail terms that match users’ job titles.

While users may use keywords like “copywriting services for small businesses” in Google, they are more likely to use terms like “copywriter” or “writer” on LinkedIn.

However, when users do search long or short tail terms in Google, LinkedIn profiles have the chance to rank in the SERPs. That’s why I suggest optimizing your profile with both SEO keywords and what I call “LinkedIn SEO keywords.”

Finding SEO keywords

To find SEO keywords to use in your profile, simply conduct keyword research as you would if you were finding keywords for your business website.

What do you want your profile to rank for?

Do these terms get decent search volume, with low competition?

Do they match the intent of your target audience?

These are all questions you’ll want to consider.

Generate a list of terms that are worth ranking for and that have a reasonable search volume. With this list, you will start on your LinkedIn SEO keyword research and then you’ll optimize your profile with a combination of these terms.

Finding LinkedIn SEO keywords

Unfortunately I have yet to find a tool that provides search volume data for keywords used on LinkedIn.

Therefore, this is not a hard science. But, if you are skilled in SEO, you can make some informed guesses around how keywords are being used on LinkedIn.

Here is my process for finding keywords on LinkedIn:

1. Search for the shortest, broadest term associated with the services that you offer.

Use LinkedIn’s search box to search for the broadest term that applies to your business.

If you have an SEO agency, this would be “SEO” or even “marketing.” As a Facebook ads expert, this would be “Facebook ads” or “advertising,” perhaps “social media.”

LinkedIn will automatically show you a list of the top results for that term in your network (more on this later).

2. Look at the full results.

Beneath the list of results, you will see an option to “See all results for .” Click on this to view the full results page.

This will take you to a page that shows you all of the results associated with this keyword, including the number of results, whether the results are connections, companies, groups, the location of the results and much more.

You will notice that the top results are likely connections already in your network – identified by a “1st,” “2nd” or “3rd” degree connection annotation. What this means is that you aren’t seeing the TRUE search results, as LinkedIn prioritizes showing people and companies that you have some existing connection with.

Our job then is to determine which terms yield the highest volume and best match results, across the board.

3. Take note of search volume.

Before moving on to the next step, make a note of how many results your initial search yields.

You can do this by looking at the original total, or by filtering it by people and companies. Do not add any other filters yet.

Basically, you want to know how many results are pulled up when users search for that term to find people or companies that offer services like yours.

4. See expanded results for first-, second- and third-degree connections.

Once you have recorded the initial “volume,” filter the results by ticking off the connection options.

This will pull up the profiles of people that you are connected with, as well as those that you are not connected with.

There’s no good way to see what others see when searching for your target keyword, but this gets you close. It will show you what keywords profile within and outside of your network are using, as well as how those profiles rank in LinkedIn for those terms.

This “search volume” will be your guide when it comes to deciding which terms are worth using in your profile.

5. Analyze the keywords used in the results.

Much like conducting competitor analysis of websites in your niche, you will now want to identify what keywords are being used in the “top ranking” profiles.

(Remember that is not the true search results, as they are skewed based on your degree of connection).

Note how your keyword is being used in the resulting profiles.

Are profiles using “SEO strategist” or “SEO specialist?” Are they simply listing “SEO, SEM, SMM” or are they more specific? See if you can find any trends here.

Finally, determine which terms are the best match for the kind of traffic you are trying to attract to your profile.

In the example above, we can see that most of these profiles use the term “SEO” near the beginning of the Headline, so this may be something we want to implement as well. “SEO strategist” has also been used.

Make a list of these terms. Then, enter these terms into the search box again and see what kind of results come up. Repeat this process until you have a list of the top 3-5 most used terms related to your initial “seed” keyword.

6. Reference your SEO keywords list.

Finally, you should compare your LinkedIn SEO keywords list to your regular SEO keywords list.

Is there an overlap? If so, keep these terms.

Are there some terms that are being used on LinkedIn but that may not be a great fit in the search engines? Decide whether you should replace this with a high-volume, low competition SEO keyword.

Eventually you will have a mix of terms that have the potential of drawing in traffic both from LinkedIn searches and Google searches.

Adding LinkedIn and SEO keywords to your profile

Once you have a solid list of keywords, you will want to incorporate them into your LinkedIn profile.

A plus side with LinkedIn, compared to Google, is that there is no evidence that keyword stuffing is penalized here. However, you want to keep your audience in mind and have your keywords fit into your copy in a compelling, natural way.

For my own profile above, I determined that more profiles used “SEO content” “content writer” and “copywriter” than they did “SEO copywriter” – despite “SEO copywriter” getting a fair amount of search volume from Google.

I also saw the terms “freelance” and “ghostwriter” used a lot. Finally, I included keywords like “B2B” and “SaaS” to attract the types of businesses I work with.

Some areas to add keywords:

  • Headline
  • Summary
  • Experience section
  • Recommendations
  • Skills section

If there are some regular SEO keywords that you don’t want to leave out, your experience section is a great place to add these.

If you found trends in terms of where these keywords were being included in the top ranking profiles, try to follow this in your own profile. At the same time, don’t make compromises if you think that your profile copy is stronger by taking a different approach.

In section six, I address how to generate recommendations, skills and endorsements, plus how to add keywords to these sections.

4. Create a profile ‘funnel’

Wondering why copywriting is so important for your LinkedIn profile?

Well, it’s because your goal is to turn your profile into a funnel for new leads.

While many LinkedIn users rely on visitors to take the initiative and contact them via direct message, you and I are going to do things differently. We are going to make it stupid easy for people to convert.

We’ll do this by funneling visitors down the page – from your cover photo and headline, to your summary, to your media section and, finally, to your inbox or landing page.

Photos and headline – Awareness

After visitors have read the text on your cover photo and in your headline, they should have a pretty clear idea about who you are and who you help. They will then make the decision of whether to learn more about you.

Summary – Interest

The summary section is your chance to address any pain points they have, communicate what your unique selling point is, and briefly cover the kinds of services that you offer. This is where it’s super important to get your messaging on point, based on the market research you conducted earlier

Media – Decision

The media section on your LinkedIn profile allows you to add links to your website and blog posts or upload videos. This content can make all the difference in convincing visitors that you are the right fit for them.

While directing visitors to a page or post could be effective, this approach involves directing visitors off of your profile. There’s the chance of creating a bottleneck here, as visitors may drop off due to inconvenience, or the fact that it takes longer for them to read through text versus watching a short video.

That’s why I suggest adding a video to your media section instead. This video, again, should address the primary pain points your audience faces, communicate how you will help them and include a clear call-to-action.

If you do this effectively, you will build trust with your profile visitors and convince them to reach out to you directly.

Inbox or landing page – Action

The call-to-action in your video should tell visitors how best to contact you. This will likely be through LinkedIn direct message, or through your website. You may want to include a unique landing page for LinkedIn leads.

Your call-to-action should sound something like, “For x services, send me a message [on my website/through LinkedIn/through this link].”

Be specific about how visitors should reach you and what they should expect after they contact you. “Send me a LinkedIn message for a custom quote” is much more compelling than “Visit mywebsite.com for more info.”

By creating a profile funnel, you are more likely to take advantage of the traffic coming to your profile. Without a funnel, the burden is on visitors to figure out what you offer, chase down the details on your website, and figure out how to contact you.

A funnel makes the process straightforward, simple and conversion-friendly.

5. Build SMART connections

While LinkedIn SEO and creating a profile funnel taps into the power of inbound marketing on LinkedIn, there’s another way to attract your ideal clients to your profile.

That method involves building connections with your target audience and professionals in your industry.

As we learned in the SEO section of this guide, LinkedIn prioritizes showing you your first-, second- and third-degree connections whenever you search for a keyword. It works the same way for your potential clients. If you are connected with people in their network, your profile is more likely to pop up when they search for one of your keywords.

Therefore, the more industry connections you have, the better.

Making the right kind of connections

Many LinkedIn users connect with every possible person they can find (aside from the clearly spammy profiles).

While this has yet to be tested, I am of the opinion that this can potentially weaken you profile, as you will become associated with profiles outside of your industry, making it less likely for your profile to be associated with your target keywords.

Is it beneficial be connected with loads of graphic designers in India if you provide legal SEO services in the United States? Common sense would say no. (Feel free to prove me wrong, though).

My take is that it makes sense to build connections within your industry and within the industries of your target audience.

As a legal SEO expert, that would mean connecting with other legal SEO agencies, digital marketing experts, law firms, law blog writers and the like. You can still get quite broad.

Be smart about the kinds of connections you want to have and how they could benefit your business in the short-term and long-term.

Finding your target audience on LinkedIn

While connecting with other people in your industry is simple, you will want to put more time and energy into connecting with people who fit your ideal client persona.

If you have been in business for a while, you will likely already know what these people look like. They could be small business owners, tech entrepreneurs, SaaS businesses, Fortune 500 companies, law firms, etc. Knowing this, you will simply use these identifiers to find profiles on LinkedIn that match.

If you are just starting out, you need to figure out what terms your target audience is using to describe themselves on LinkedIn.

You can do this by searching some general terms that you know about your audience (like “small business” or “contractor” or “mommy blogger”) and seeing what comes up in the LinkedIn results.

Dig around until you find people that fit your ideal client persona and take note of what terms they used in their headline and summary. Then, use these terms to find other people to connect with.

Connecting and saying “Hi”

One of the reasons why LinkedIn has had a bad reputation for being dull and spammy is because many users use the platform to cold pitch their new connections. We aren’t going to do this.

Every time you extend a connection request to someone, send them a message introducing yourself and why you want to connect with them.

Remember – you are practically strangers. It will take a bit for them to trust you and determine whether the connection is worth it.

Rather than jumping into the pitch, follow scripts similar to the ones below (which have gotten me a near 100% response rate):

Networking Script

“Hello [ name ],

Thanks for connecting. I see that we are both in the [ niche ] industry. I am an [ industry title ] myself. Are you working on anything interesting lately? Chat soon! – [your name ]”

This script implies that the person has already connected with you or may have extended the connection first. It creates a sense of familiarity versus making it seem like a random stranger is connecting with them.

It also gives a reason for the connection, instead of leaving room for the person to suspect ulterior motives. They know what you do, so they can decide whether the connection is worth their time.

Finally, it prompts the person to respond by asking them about themselves. This puts the ball in their court. And, if they happen to be working on a project that you could potentially help them with, it opens the door to having that conversation without you coming across as salesy.

Potential client script

“Hello [ name ],

Thanks for connecting. I see that you [ run a small business/have a law firm/are a tech entrepreneur/etc ]. I wanted to reach out because I [ help businesses like yours do x ]. Maybe there’s potential to work together. Are you working on anything interesting lately?”

Similar to the previous script, this script lets the person know who you are and why you want to connect with them, and leaves it up to them to respond to you.

There’s no pitch that implies that you know how you can help them – you don’t yet – or starts rambling about the services you offer.

This keeps the conversation more open and prevents the risk of you pitching them on one service when they may have asked you about a different service that you didn’t think to mention.

Let the conversation flow more naturally and they will likely ask you about services that are most relevant to them. Another benefit of this approach is that you avoid drawing in leads that may not be the best fit for you.

A final note about connections

Try to build as many connections as possible (following the process I outlined above), or at least reach that “500+” mark. This helps you build a more expansive network and appear as a trusted person in your industry.

6. Gather recommendations, skills and endorsements

Again, LinkedIn SEO isn’t quite as measurable as website SEO, but that’s part of the fun. By optimizing certain sections for keywords, you can test what works and what doesn’t and come up with your own lead generation strategy.

The recommendations, skills and endorsements sections are all areas where you can add LinkedIn SEO keywords, but they don’t bring any hard evidence that says they move the needle in terms of SEO. They may, however, move the needle when it comes to conversions.

Recommendations

LinkedIn recommendations are the “reviews” of your profile. This is where references and past clients can talk about their experience working with you and the results you have gotten for them.

Your clients will likely include keywords naturally here, which may or may not play a role in your profile SEO. If you prompt your network contact for recommendations, you may want to suggest that they include those target keywords, just in case.

SEO aside, recommendations are great social proof to show that you know what you are doing and that you bring awesome results for your clients. If visitors see loads of positive recommendations on your profile, this could be the final push they need in order to hire you.

Skills

LinkedIn allows you to add a list of skills to your profile that tells visitors what you are best at.

This is another area where it may be smart to include things that have your target keywords.

You can have three “top” skills, as well as a longer list of other skills that you have. I recommend listing your primary skills in the top three section, as these are the most likely to get endorsed (as they are seen first).

Endorsements

Endorsements are when other users endorse you for the skills on your profile. Again, this serves as social proof that you have the skills that you say you have.

You can reach out to users on LinkedIn to endorse your skills in order to boost your numbers. You can also endorse users for their skills, which could prompt them to contact you or endorse you back.

It’s best to have many endorsements for just a few skills versus only a few endorsements for many different skills.

7. Post the right kind of content, consistently

Posting on LinkedIn can be hit or miss, as few guides have covered how to “hack” the algorithm. That’s why I believe your success on LinkedIn (in terms of posting) depends on what works best for you and your audience.

Try different content methods – long-form posts, images, videos, shared blog posts, etc. – to see which get the best engagement. Repeat what works, ditch what doesn’t and pretty soon you will have a LinkedIn content strategy that fits your audience and business.

One thing to note is that it is difficult to test the success of your content without being consistent. You should post different types of content, multiple times throughout the day and then assess the results. If you are simply posting one short post per day, it’s unlikely that you will get any tangible data.

You may also want to look at what your competitors are posting and which types of posting are getting the most engagement there.

LinkedIn articles

The exception to this “post and pray” method is LinkedIn Articles.

LinkedIn gives that added algorithmic push to articles that are published on their platform.

While a shared blog post may attract a small handful of website visits, an article published on LinkedIn can easily trigger 2x, 3x or 5x the number of views.

For this reason, it may make sense to republish your existing blog content on LinkedIn. Just be aware of the ramifications of having two identical pieces of content competing for the same keywords. However, if website SEO isn’t a major concern to you, it could be worth taking this approach for the social traffic alone.

Finally, be sure to include a call-to-action within your LinkedIn article in order to take advantage of that traffic.

8. Give engagement, get engagement

While posting on LinkedIn can yield spotty results, engaging with other users on the platform appears to be much more promising.

That’s because whenever you engage on a post, your comment and name pops up on your connections’ LinkedIn feed. You can also pop up as a second- or third-degree Connection to users in their network, expanding your reach.

That is, the more of a presence you have on LinkedIn, the more likely you are to be seen by people inside and outside of your network.

It stands to reason then that most of your time on LinkedIn should be spent engaging with other peoples’ content, rather than posting your own content (until you come up with a content strategy that works). It’s the best way to connect with users one-on-one and reach profiles outside of your immediate network.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t post on LinkedIn at all, but in terms of the numbers, it’s clear that more new traffic is driven to your profile through engaging with other peoples’ posts.

When users see your comment they are likely to click into your profile to learn more about you. You can then reach out to these new viewers through a request to connect.

These views are reflected by your notifications and in your LinkedIn analytics.

9. Understanding your LinkedIn analytics

No optimization guide is worth its weight without showing the results in terms of cold, hard numbers. That’s why I was sure to test all of the LinkedIn best practices I encountered, as well as any optimization hacks I came up with on my own.

I recommend that marketers and business owners do the same, as LinkedIn optimization is still not cut-and-dry. The success of your LinkedIn strategy also depends on what works best for your target audience.

Profile views, connections and search appearances

LinkedIn offers you rather limited (but enough) data to see how your profile is performing.

You can see how many people have viewed your profile, how many have viewed your posts, how many people you have connected with, and how often you have appeared in the search results.

You can also see who has viewed your profile (unless they have a protected account) and examine trends over time.

Since implementing my own LinkedIn SEO strategy in January, I saw a 173% increase in profile views over the course of 30 days.

Post March 26, my average number of profile views has been around 50 per day. That is with very little posting or engaging on LinkedIn (roughly 1-3 times per day).

I have also grown my number of connections from 325 to 900-plus in 90 days, and have generated at least 10 qualified leads in that time (without outreach).

These results have come from a process of near constant testing. I have told others to implement micro-optimizations and analyze their LinkedIn analytics to see what is working and what isn’t.

Track your conversions

The goal of LinkedIn optimization isn’t merely more traffic and connections, though.

If you are starting on your own LinkedIn optimization journey, I recommend tracking how many leads you generate as a result of your efforts (LinkedIn does not track this for you). Only then will you truly know whether your strategy is paying off.

You can tap into your Google Analytics to see how many visitors you are getting from LinkedIn, and then set up conversion tracking there. However, if you are directing users to your LinkedIn inbox, you will have to track this manually or with a bot.

The numbers don’t lie. Follow what works and you will certainly see an uptick in connections, traffic and leads over time.

Turn your LinkedIn profile into a lead-generation machine

By following the LinkedIn optimization tips above and testing your own ideas for optimization, you can generate high-volume traffic to your profile and convert that traffic into qualified leads for your business.

The foundation of this strategy consists of conducting LinkedIn SEO keyword research, optimizing your profile aesthetic, building quality connections, and directing visitors through your custom profile funnel. Then, it’s just a matter of making adjustments based on what works for your target audience and business model.

Are you making the most of your LinkedIn profile? If not, start today.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Jessica Foster is the Founder and lead SEO Strategist at Keys&Copy – an SEO agency with a focus on content marketing and SEO copywriting. She is also the founder of TrueToast Magazine, an online resource for and by millennial entrepreneurs. She lives in the very beautiful and very hipster Seattle, Washington.



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Restaurant Local SEO: The Google Characteristics of America’s Top-Ranked Eateries



MiriamEllis

“A good chef has to be a manager, a businessman and a great cook. To marry all three together is sometimes difficult.”
– Wolfgang Puck

I like this quote. It makes me hear phones ringing at your local search marketing agency, with aspiring chefs and restaurateurs on the other end of the line, ready to bring experts aboard in the “sometimes difficult” quest for online visibility.

Is your team ready for these clients? How comfortable do you feel talking restaurant Local SEO when such calls come in? When was the last time you took a broad survey of what’s really ranking in this specialized industry?

Allow me to be your prep cook today, and I’ll dice up “best restaurant” local packs for major cities in all 50 US states. We’ll julienne Google Posts usage, rough chop DA, make chiffonade of reviews, owner responses, categories, and a host of other ingredients to determine which characteristics are shared by establishments winning this most superlative of local search phrases.

The finished dish should make us conversant with what it takes these days to be deemed “best” by diners and by Google, empowering your agency to answer those phones with all the breezy confidence of Julia Child.

Methodology

I looked at the 3 businesses in the local pack for “best restaurants (city)” in a major city in each of the 50 states, examining 11 elements for each entry, yielding 4,950 data points. I set aside the food processor for this one and did everything manually. I wanted to avoid the influence of proximity, so I didn’t search for any city in which I was physically located. The results, then, are what a traveler would see when searching for top restaurants in destination cities.

Restaurant results

Now, let’s look at each of the 11 data points together and see what we learn. Take a seat at the table!

Categories prove no barrier to entry

Which restaurant categories make up the dominant percentage of local pack entries for our search?

You might think that a business trying to rank locally for “best restaurants” would want to choose just “restaurant” as their primary Google category as a close match. Or, you might think that since we’re looking at best restaurants, something like “fine dining restaurants” or the historically popular “French restaurants” might top the charts.

Instead, what we’ve discovered is that restaurants of every category can make it into the top 3. Fifty-one percent of the ranking restaurants hailed from highly diverse categories, including Pacific Northwest Restaurant, Pacific Rim Restaurant, Organic, Southern, Polish, Lebanese, Eclectic and just about every imaginable designation. American Restaurant is winning out in bulk with 26 percent of the take, and an additional 7 percent for New American Restaurant. I find this an interesting commentary on the nation’s present gustatory aesthetic as it may indicate a shift away from what might be deemed fancy fare to familiar, homier plates.

Overall, though, we see the celebrated American “melting pot” perfectly represented when searchers seek the best restaurant in any given city. Your client’s food niche, however specialized, should prove no barrier to entry in the local packs.

High prices don’t automatically equal “best”

Do Google’s picks for “best restaurants” share a pricing structure?

It will cost you more than $1000 per head to dine at Urasawa, the nation’s most expensive eatery, and one study estimates that the average cost of a restaurant meal in the US is $12.75. When we look at the price attribute on Google listings, we find that the designation “best” is most common for establishments with charges that fall somewhere in between the economical and the extravagant.

Fifty-eight percent of the top ranked restaurants for our search have the $$ designation and another 25 percent have the $$$. We don’t know Google’s exact monetary value behind these symbols, but for context, a Taco Bell with its $1–$2 entrees would typically be marked as $, while the fabled French Laundry gets $$$$ with its $400–$500 plates. In our study, the cheapest and the costliest restaurants make up only a small percentage of what gets deemed “best.”

There isn’t much information out there about Google’s pricing designations, but it’s generally believed that they stem at least in part from the attribute questions Google sends to searchers. So, this element of your clients’ listings is likely to be influenced by subjective public sentiment. For instance, Californians’ conceptions of priciness may be quite different from North Dakotans’. Nevertheless, on the national average, mid-priced restaurants are most likely to be deemed “best.”

Of anecdotal interest: The only locale in which all 3 top-ranked restaurants were designated at $$$$ was NYC, while in Trenton, NJ, the #1 spot in the local pack belongs to Rozmaryn, serving Polish cuisine at $ prices. It’s interesting to consider how regional economics may contribute to expectations, and your smartest restaurant clients will carefully study what their local market can bear. Meanwhile, 7 of the 150 restaurants we surveyed had no pricing information at all, indicating that Google’s lack of adequate information about this element doesn’t bar an establishment from ranking.

Less than 5 stars is no reason to despair

Is perfection a prerequisite for “best”?

Negative reviews are the stuff of indigestion for restaurateurs, and I’m sincerely hoping this study will provide some welcome relief. The average star rating of the 150 “best” restaurants we surveyed is 4.5. Read that again: 4.5. And the number of perfect 5-star joints in our study? Exactly zero. Time for your agency to spend a moment doing deep breathing with clients.

The highest rating for any restaurant in our data set is 4.8, and only three establishments rated so highly. The lowest is sitting at 4.1. Every other business falls somewhere in-between. These ratings stem from customer reviews, and the 4.5 average proves that perfection is simply not necessary to be “best.”

Breaking down a single dining spot with 73 reviews, a 4.6 star rating was achieved with fifty-six 5-star reviews, four 4-star reviews, three 3-star reviews, two 2-star reviews, and three 1-star reviews. 23 percent of diners in this small review set had a less-than-ideal experience, but the restaurant is still achieving top rankings. Practically speaking for your clients, the odd night when the pho was gummy and the paella was burnt can be tossed onto the compost heap of forgivable mistakes.

Review counts matter, but differ significantly

How many reviews do the best restaurants have?

It’s folk wisdom that any business looking to win local rankings needs to compete on native Google review counts. I agree with that, but was struck by the great variation in review counts across the nation and within given packs. Consider:

  • The greatest number of reviews in our study was earned by Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville, TN, coming in at a whopping 4,537!
  • Meanwhile, Park Heights Restaurant in Tupelo, MS is managing a 3-pack ranking with just 72 reviews, the lowest in our data set.
  • 35 percent of “best”-ranked restaurants have between 100–499 reviews and another 31 percent have between 500–999 reviews. Taken together that’s 66 percent of contenders having yet to break 1,000 reviews.
  • A restaurant with less than 100 reviews has only a 1 percent chance of ranking for this type of search.

Anecdotally, I don’t know how much data you would have to analyze to be able to find a truly reliable pattern regarding winning review counts. Consider the city of Dallas, where the #1 spot has 3,365 review, but spots #2 and #3 each have just over 300. Compare that to Tallahassee, where a business with 590 reviews is coming in at #1 above a competitor with twice that many. Everybody ranking in Boise has well over 1,000 reviews, but nobody in Bangor is even breaking into the 200s.

The takeaways from this data point is that the national average review count is 893 for our “best” search, but that there is no average magic threshold you can tell a restaurant client they need to cross to get into the pack. Totals vary so much from city to city that your best plan of action is to study the client’s market and strongly urge full review management without making any promise that hitting 1,000 reviews will ensure them beating out that mysterious competitor who is sweeping up with just 400 pieces of consumer sentiment. Remember, no local ranking factor stands in isolation.

Best restaurants aren’t best at owner responses

How many of America’s top chophouses have replied to reviews in the last 60 days?

With a hat tip to Jason Brown at the Local Search Forum for this example of a memorable owner response to a negative review, I’m sorry to say I have some disappointing news. Only 29 percent of the restaurants ranked best in all 50 states had responded to their reviews in the 60 days leading up to my study. There were tributes of lavish praise, cries for understanding, and seething remarks from diners, but less than one-third of owners appeared to be paying the slightest bit of attention.

On the one hand, this indicates that review responsiveness is not a prerequisite for ranking for our desirable search term, but let’s go a step further. In my view, whatever time restaurant owners may be gaining back via unresponsiveness is utterly offset by what they stand to lose if they make a habit of overlooking complaints. Review neglect has been cited as a possible cause of business closure. As my friends David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal always say:“Your brand is its reviews” and mastering the customer service ecosystem is your surest way to build a restaurant brand that lasts.

For your clients, I would look at any local pack with neglected reviews as representative of a weakness. Algorithmically, your client’s active management of the owner response function could become a strength others lack. But I’ll even go beyond that: Restaurants ignoring how large segments of customer service have moved onto the web are showing a deficit of commitment to the long haul. It’s true that some eateries are famous for thriving despite offhand treatment of patrons, but in the average city, a superior commitment to responsiveness could increase many restaurants’ repeat business, revenue and rankings.

Critic reviews nice but not essential

I’ve always wanted to investigate critic reviews for restaurants, as Google gives them a great deal of screen space in the listings:

How many times were critic reviews cited in the Google listings of America’s best restaurants and how does an establishment earn this type of publicity?

With 57 appearances, Lonely Planet is the leading source of professional reviews for our search term, with Zagat and 10Best making strong showings, too. It’s worth noting that 70/150 businesses I investigated surfaced no critic reviews at all. They’re clearly not a requirement for being considered “best”, but most restaurants will benefit from the press. Unfortunately, there are few options for prompting a professional review. To wit:

Lonely Planet — Founded in 1972, Lonely Planet is a travel guide publisher headquartered in Australia. Critic reviews like this one are written for their website and guidebooks simultaneously. You can submit a business for review consideration via this form, but the company makes no guarantees about inclusion.

Zagat — Founded in 1979, Zagat began as a vehicle for aggregating diner reviews. It was purchased by Google in 2011 and sold off to The Infatuation in 2018. Restaurants can’t request Zagat reviews. Instead, the company conducts its own surveys and selects businesses to be rated and reviewed, like this.

10Best — Owned by USA Today Travel Media Group, 10Best employs local writers/travelers to review restaurants and other destinations. Restaurants cannot request a review.

The Infatuation — Founded in 2009 and headquartered in NY, The Infatuation employs diner-writers to create reviews like this one based on multiple anonymous dining experiences that are then published via their app. The also have a SMS-based restaurant recommendation system. They do not accept request from restaurants hoping to be reviewed.

AFAR — Founded in 2009, AFAR is a travel publication with a website, magazine, and app which publishes reviews like this one. There is no form for requesting a review.

Michelin — Founded as a tire company in 1889 in France, Michelin’s subsidiary ViaMichelin is a digital mapping service that houses the reviews Google is pulling. In my study, Chicago, NYC and San Francisco were the only three cities that yielded Michelin reviews like this one and one article states that only 165 US restaurants have qualified for a coveted star rating. The company offers this guide to dining establishments.

As you can see, the surest way to earn a professional review is to become notable enough on the dining scene to gain the unsolicited notice of a critic. 

Google Posts hardly get a seat at best restaurant tables

How many picks for best restaurants are using the Google Posts microblogging feature?

As it turns out, only a meager 16 percent of America’s “best” restaurants in my survey have made any use of Google Posts. In fact, most of the usage I saw wasn’t even current. I had to click the “view previous posts on Google” link to surface past efforts. This statistic is much worse than what Ben Fisher found when he took a broader look at Google Posts utilization and found that 42 percent of local businesses had at least experimented with the feature at some point.

For whatever reason, the eateries in my study are largely neglecting this influential feature, and this knowledge could encompass a competitive advantage for your restaurant clients.

Do you have a restaurateur who is trying to move up the ranks? There is some evidence that devoting a few minutes a week to this form of microblogging could help them get a leg up on lazier competitors.

Google Posts are a natural match for restaurants because they always have something to tout, some appetizing food shot to share, some new menu item to celebrate. As the local SEO on the job, you should be recommending an embrace of this element for its valuable screen real estate in the Google Business Profile, local finder, and maybe even in local packs.

Waiter, there’s some Q&A in my soup

What is the average number of questions top restaurants are receiving on their Google Business Profiles?

Commander’s Palace in New Orleans is absolutely stealing the show in my survey with 56 questions asked via the Q&A feature of the Google Business Profile. Only four restaurants had zero questions. The average number of questions across the board was eight.

As I began looking at the data, I decided not to re-do this earlier study of mine to find out how many questions were actually receiving responses from owners, because I was winding up with the same story. Time and again, answers were being left up to the public, resulting in consumer relations like these:

Takeaway: As I mentioned in a previous post, Greg Gifford found that 40 percent of his clients’ Google Questions were leads. To leave those leads up to the vagaries of the public, including a variety of wags and jokesters, is to leave money on the table. If a potential guest is asking about dietary restrictions, dress codes, gift cards, average prices, parking availability, or ADA compliance, can your restaurant clients really afford to allow a public “maybe” to be the only answer given?

I’d suggest that a dedication to answering questions promptly could increase bookings, cumulatively build the kind of reputation that builds rankings, and possibly even directly impact rankings as a result of being a signal of activity.

A moderate PA & DA gets you into the game

What is the average Page Authority and Domain Authority of restaurants ranking as “best’?

Looking at both the landing page that Google listings are pointing to and the overall authority of each restaurant’s domain, I found that:

  • The average PA is 36, with a high of 56 and a low of zero being represented by one restaurant with no website link and one restaurant appearing to have no website at all.
  • The average DA is 41, with a high of 88, one business lacking a website link while actually having a DA of 56 and another one having no apparent website at all. The lowest linked DA I saw was 6.
  • PA/DA do not = rankings. Within the 50 local packs I surveyed, 32 of them exhibited the #1 restaurant having a lower DA than the establishments sitting at #2 or #3. In one extreme case, a restaurant with a DA of 7 was outranking a website with a DA of 32, and there were the two businesses with the missing website link or missing website. But, for the most part, knowing the range of PA/DA in a pack you are targeting will help you create a baseline for competing.

While pack DA/PA differs significantly from city to city, the average numbers we’ve discovered shouldn’t be out-of-reach for established businesses. If your client’s restaurant is brand new, it’s going to take some serious work to get up market averages, of course.

Local Search Ranking Factors 2019 found that DA was the 9th most important local pack ranking signal, with PA sitting at factor #20. Once you’ve established a range of DA/PA for a local SERP you are trying to move a client up into, your best bet for making improvements will include improving content so that it earns links and powering up your outreach for local links and linktations.

Google’s Local Finder “web results” show where to focus management

Which websites does Google trust enough to cite as references for restaurants?

As it turns out, that trust is limited to a handful of sources:

As the above pie chart shows:

  • The restaurant’s website was listed as a reference for 99 percent of the candidates in our survey. More proof that you still need a website in 2019, for the very good reason that it feeds data to Google.
  • Yelp is highly trusted at 76 percent and TripAdvisor is going strong at 43 percent. Your client is likely already aware of the need to manage their reviews on these two platforms. Be sure you’re also checking them for basic data accuracy.
  • OpenTable and Facebook are each getting a small slice of Google trust, too.

Not shown in the above chart are 13 restaurants that had a web reference from a one-off source, like the Des Moines Register or Dallas Eater. A few very famous establishments, like Brennan’s in New Orleans, surfaced their Wikipedia page, although they didn’t do so consistently. I noticed Wikipedia pages appearing one day as a reference and then disappearing the next day. I was left wondering why.

For me, the core takeaway from this factor is that if Google is highlighting your client’s listing on a given platform as a trusted web result, your agency should go over those pages with a fine-toothed comb, checking for accuracy, activity, and completeness. These are citations Google is telling you are of vital importance.

A few other random ingredients

As I was undertaking this study, there were a few things I noted down but didn’t formally analyze, so consider this as mixed tapas:

  • Menu implementation is all over the place. While many restaurants are linking directly to their own website via Google’s offered menu link, some are using other services like Single Platform, and far too many have no menu link at all.
  • Reservation platforms like Open Table are making a strong showing, but many restaurants are drawing a blank on this Google listing field, too. Many, but far from all, of the restaurants designated “best” feature Google’s “reserve a table” function which stems from partnerships with platforms like Open Table and RESY.
  • Order links are pointing to multiple sources including DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub, Seamless, and in some cases, the restaurant’s own website (smart!). But, in many cases, no use is being made of this function.
  • Photos were present for every single best-ranked restaurant. Their quality varied, but they are clearly a “given” in this industry.
  • Independently-owned restaurants are the clear winners for my search term. With the notable exception of an Olive Garden branch in Parkersburg, WV, and a Cracker Barrel in Bismarck, ND, the top competitors were either single-location or small multi-location brands. For the most part, neither Google nor the dining public associate large chains with “best”.
  • Honorable mentions go to Bida Manda Laotian Bar & Grill for what looks like a gorgeous and unusual restaurant ranking #1 in Raleigh, NC and to Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen of Tupelo, MS for the most memorable name in my data set. You can get a lot of creative inspiration from just spending time with restaurant data.

A final garnish to our understanding of this data

I want to note two things as we near the end of our study:

  1. Local rankings emerge from the dynamic scenario of Google’s opinionated algorithms + public opinion and behavior. Doing Local SEO for restaurants means managing a ton of different ingredients: website SEO, link building, review management, GBP signals, etc. We can’t offer clients a generic “formula” for winning across the board. This study has helped us understand national averages so that we can walk into the restaurant space feeling conversant with the industry. In practice, we’ll need to discover the true competitors in each market to shape our strategy for each unique client. And that brings us to some good news.
  2. As I mentioned at the outset of this survey, I specifically avoided proximity as an influence by searching as a traveler to other destinations would. I investigated one local pack for each major city I “visited”. The glad tidings are that, for many of your restaurant clients, there is going to be more than one chance to rank for a search like “best restaurants (city)”. Unless the eatery is in a very small town, Google is going to whip up a variety of local packs based on the searcher’s location. So, that’s something hopeful to share.

What have we learned about restaurant local SEO?

A brief TL;DR you can share easily with your clients:

  • While the US shows a predictable leaning towards American restaurants, any category can be a contender. So, be bold!
  • Mid-priced restaurants are considered “best” to a greater degree than the cheapest or most expensive options. Price for your market.
  • While you’ll likely need at least 100 native Google reviews to break into these packs, well over half of competitors have yet to break the 1,000 mark.
  • An average 71 percent of competitors are revealing a glaring weakness by neglecting to respond to reviews – so get in there and start embracing customer service to distinguish your restaurant!
  • A little over half of your competitors have earned critic reviews. If you don’t yet have any, there’s little you can do to earn them beyond becoming well enough known for anonymous professional reviewers to visit you. In the meantime, don’t sweat it.
  • About three-quarters of your competitors are completely ignoring Google Posts; gain the advantage by getting active.
  • Potential guests are asking nearly every competitor questions, and so many restaurants are leaving leads on the table by allowing random people to answer. Embrace fast responses to Q&A to stand out from the crowd.
  • With few exceptions, devotion to authentic link earning efforts can build up your PA/DA to competitive levels.
  • Pay attention to any platform Google is citing as a resource to be sure the information published there is a complete and accurate.
  • The current management of other Google Business Profile features like Menus, Reservations and Ordering paints a veritable smorgasbord of providers and a picture of prevalent neglect. If you need to improve visibility, explore every profile field that Google is giving you.

A question for you: Do you market restaurants? Would you be willing to share a cool local SEO tactic with our community? We’d love to hear about your special sauce in the comments below.

Wishing you bon appétit for working in the restaurant local SEO space, with delicious wins ahead!





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