Search in Pics: Google silence box, a noodle cafe & rusty Googlebot

In this week’s Search In Pictures, here are the latest images culled from the web, showing what people eat at the search engine companies, how they play, who they meet, where they speak, what toys they have and more.

Google silence phone box:

Source: Instagram

A rusty GoogleBot printed in 3D:

Source: Twitter

Google Nooooooodle cafe:

Source: Instagram

Google 10 year work anniversary certificate:

Source: Google+

Paid search analytics: What treasures are hiding in your data?

On the surface, paid search analytics seems pretty straightforward. You just drop a code snippet on your page and go, right?

Unfortunately, while setting up paid search analytics is fairly simple, using that data in a way that benefits your business can be quite challenging. Few people get into marketing because they think, Gee, I sure love number crunching!

However, while setting up and evaluating analytics data may not be the sexiest part of marketing, if you aren’t taking the time to understand your paid search analytics, you could be missing major opportunities in your paid search account.

To show you why, let’s take a look at some case studies.

Attribution problems

A few months back, we started working with a new client. They had spent about $50,000 on AdWords over the course of about seven months, and their account seemed to be in decent shape. Things were working acceptably well, but they were hoping that we could help them take things up a notch.

In addition to paid search, this client had also hired an SEO agency and invested quite a bit into driving organic traffic to their site. That seemed to be working fairly well, too, so it looked like everything was running smoothly.

Well, looks can be deceiving.

Although they were technically “tracking conversions” in Google Analytics, they hadn’t kept a close eye on how GA was attributing those conversions and didn’t realize that a lot of paid search leads were being improperly attributed to organic traffic. In addition, they weren’t tracking calls — one of their most important sources of leads.

As a result, we initially had a bit of a hard time optimizing the campaigns. We’d make strategic moves in their AdWords account, and… organic leads would increase.

That was a problem.

The longer we worked on the account, the more frustrated we became. Something just didn’t seem right. Finally, we convinced the client to let us set up call tracking and take a hard look at their Google Analytics configuration. Once we saw what the situation was, it didn’t take us long to figure out the problem and get things sorted out.

That was when things got interesting.

Before we fixed their conversion tracking, our paid search campaigns were averaging around 28 leads per month. That meant our cost per lead was about $286:

After we fixed the attribution problem, the same campaigns drove 129 leads at a cost per lead of $73:

Now, admittedly, some of that increase was due to the fact that we were now tracking phone calls. However, the combination of inaccurate attribution and incomplete conversion tracking meant that our client had been underestimating their paid search performance by a significant amount.

And, to make things even better, now that we could actually see which keywords, ads and campaigns were driving conversions, we were able to start optimizing their AdWords account.

In less than five months, we more than doubled their conversion volume while cutting their cost per lead by around 20 percent.

But imagine what would have happened if we hadn’t invested time into looking at this client’s analytics setup. No matter what we did, we never would have been able to drive decent results, and SEO would have kept looking more and more effective.

After a few months, the client might have given up on AdWords entirely in favor of driving more organic traffic only to discover that — inexplicably — their SEO lead volume disappeared! However, by taking the time to assess and refine their analytics setup, we were able to identify the true source of their leads and use that information to deliver even better results from their AdWords account.

Misdirected ad spend

A couple of years ago, I did an audit for a potential client. Unlike the client in the preceding example, this company had good analytics data — they just weren’t using it effectively.

When they came to Disruptive, they were in a bit of a frustrating situation. Their campaigns were driving a lot of high-value sales, but they just couldn’t seem to get their campaigns to produce better than break-even results.

In fact, the month before they approached us, they had tried to solve the problem by increasing their budget by 30 percent. Unfortunately, if you don’t make money on a sale, it doesn’t matter whether you have 100 sales or 130 sales — you still won’t make money!

I’ll admit it: their situation didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Over the past 90 days, their ads had received almost 100,000 clicks, and they had a conversion rate of 17.44 percent. For most businesses, that would be a major win!

So, I asked the million-dollar question: “How many of those conversions are actually turning into sales?”

As it turned out, only 1 percent of their leads became paying customers.

With that one discovery, it became clear what the problem was. They were paying for the wrong traffic and the wrong conversions. I dug deeper and discovered that well over 40 percent of their budget was paying for clicks and conversions that never turned into sales.

In other words, by adjusting their targeting in fairly simple ways, they could have redirected that wasted ad spend and cut their cost-per-sale by 40 percent while increasing sales by 24 percent! All they had to do was use the conversion data they already had on hand.

Growth opportunities

Early in my career, I had an AdWords client who worked in an incredibly competitive industry. In fact, during the first year that I worked with them, their cost per click, cost per conversion and cost per sale doubled.

And I couldn’t seem to do anything about it!

Now, the client had a great sales team and excellent margins, so my campaigns were profitable, but watching my cost per sale inch its way upward every month drove me crazy. I don’t like losing, and I hate “unsolvable” problems, so I started poring through my client’s analytics data in search of a clever way to turn things around.

As I hunted through the data for options, I discovered something unusual. A large number of our clicks and conversions were coming from search terms that had little to do with our core offering. However, these search terms indicated a big market need for a service that my client could easily provide.

More importantly, no one else in the industry was competing on those search terms, which meant our cost per conversion was 67 percent lower.

I talked to my client and explained the gold mine I had just uncovered. He decided to create a new offering around the opportunity, and I built out campaigns focused on addressing this unmet need.

In a matter of days, our cost per conversion dropped through the floor:

We had so many cheap, high-quality leads that the issue changed from “How do we cut cost per lead?” to “How do we hire enough sales people to field all these leads?”

For this client, going through their analytics data uncovered a growth opportunity that took their company from 25 employees to over 250 employees. They made millions in profit and received multiple rounds of VC funding.

Conclusion

While setting up paid search analytics may be straightforward, if you aren’t using your data effectively, you may be missing out on major opportunities to improve the performance of your paid search account.

It may not be the most exciting part of running a paid search account, but it can certainly be one of the most profitable uses of your time. In each of these case studies, taking the time to look at their analytics data unlocked enormous unrealized potential in the client’s paid search account.

The only question is, what treasures are hiding in your paid search account?

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

39 questions with Google at SMX West

It always attracts a lot of attention when Googlers are up on stage and open for questioning. The Ask Me Anything (AMA) with Google Search at the recent SMX West conference was no exception. This panel, moderated by Danny Sullivan, featured two prominent Googlers: Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes and Webmaster Outreach Specialist Mariya Moeva.

In this post, I’m going to recount the bulk of the questions asked, and the answers from Illyes and/or Moeva. Please note that responses have been summarized rather than directly quoted. Let’s get started!

1. Does Google maintain any metric along the lines of a “Domain Authority” concept?

Gary Illyes: This is something that Google feels does not really work. For example, on blogspot.com, the user blogs created there really shouldn’t inherit the authority of the main domain. All ranking is page-specific.

2. What about subdomains?

Illyes: No such thing as subdomain authority.

Mariya Moeva: Before we get asked, I’ll add that there is no similar signal for folders, either.

3. Can you talk about the update called Fred?

Illyes: We make tons of updates all the time, and this is not something we would have thought to name or announce. It only got a name because of an interaction on Twitter with Barry Schwartz.

Google won’t communicate about what this particular update did, but you can find the things that it targeted if you carefully read all of the Webmaster guidelines. Unfortunately, we can’t say which particular ones.

Moeva: One of the issues with naming updates is that people start attributing all sorts of things to those updates, even though they aren’t actually related.

4. When will Google stop ranking internal search pages? Why does this still work?

Illyes: We do frown on these pages getting indexed, as they are not that useful for users. We do have algos that try to get rid of them, and for that matter not even crawl them, but sometimes these don’t catch everything, and we may have to manually intervene.

Moeva: If you’re trying to get these pages out of the index for your site, you can use the parameter handling feature in Search Console to say, “Don’t look at these pages.”

5. What data does Google use to see the “also try” info in a Knowledge Panel?

Illyes: Maybe we leverage the Knowledge Graph categories to find similar pages, but that’s just a guess.

6. What if your site does not get a Knowledge Panel? How do you get one?

Illyes: There is no way to do that really. Google does consume Wikidata, so that could get you in. Google also uses the CIA World Factbook. Anything that gets in requires multiple sources of data to support the need for it to be in there.

7. How do I control the picture that shows up for my business in the Knowledge Graph?

Illyes: If an incorrect image comes up, report it. Note, though, you need many people to report it for it to get looked at, and they have to come from accounts that have not previously abused the system.

(Illyes then mentioned the example of Stone Temple Consulting, which shows an incorrect image of a Chinese temple, and explained that sometimes the problems are hard to fix, but they are working on it.)

8. Can you bring back the link operator?

Illyes: No.

9. We heard you say that Baidu uses AMP, but we thought they had their own thing.

Moeva: Baidu started with mobile instant pages (MIP), which they still support, but more recently, they have expanded to support AMP pages as well.

10. Do you plan to expand the Google Posts feature? (Note: This is a feature where people can post information directly into the search results, but it’s used in a very limited way today. You can read more about it here).

Moeva: This feature was used during the US elections, and we are looking at future potential uses. Of course, for this to work it has to be high-quality info. The target groups are usually not really savvy on the SEO side, so the feature is good for the website-challenged. So we don’t know how we’ll expand it, but we’re trying to see what kinds of groups it makes sense for.

11. In Search Console, when we see links from hacked sites, should we disavow them?

Illyes: Do you trust the links? If you don’t, then disavowing them makes sense. Our algorithms do their best to auto-discount these, but these algorithms are written by humans and sometimes subject to error.

12. Should I have my exact keywords in the domain name?

Illyes: Exact match domains (EMDs) are not inherently bad, but some people do things with them that makes them bad. If you see someone else that’s ranking and you think it’s because they have an EMD, our advice is to not worry about it and try to figure out the other reasons it ranks.

13. If we have an EMD, but it is really the company name, do we need to worry about EMD algos?

Moeva: Unless you have really poor content on 50 EMDs simultaneously, don’t worry about it.

Danny Sullivan: If you have an EMD that matches the really good solid content you are already doing, you’re on the right side of history, and you’ll be fine.

14. Is a subdomain or subdirectory better for targeting different countries?

Moeva: Our site has a good post on this. It shows a table for when/how to pick which variant.

15. How does Google deal with the new domain names (such as .SHOP).

Illyes: These are treated the same as any other TLD.

16. Is it true that Google won’t crawl a URL that has more than two folders?

Illyes: No.

Moeva: There is a limit to the characters in a URL, though.

17. Does folder depth make a difference ranking wise?

Illyes: No.

18. If we launch a subdomain, and it gets penalized, will the domain be impacted?

Moeva: It depends on the reason why. If a blog got hacked, then that impacts only the subdomain. Generally, we try to be as surgically granular as possible.

19. Does Google access info from Gmail and other sources to personalize results?

Illyes: Yes, if you’re logged in.

Sullivan: This happens only within Gmail (I think).

20. Why did you decide to do a video on how to hire an SEO?

Moeva: Our target was non-savvy people, to help them understand how to approach it.

21. How many sites do you manually review in a week?

Moeva: Every Googler has to do 20 sites before breakfast (joke). Seriously, scale is the main objective. Google is trying to find patterns, more than sites. Ideally, we do this in a way that you find a pattern that scales across many sites.

22. How does it affect our ranking if our responsive mobile site has the same content as the desktop?

Illyes: This is the desired behavior, and there is no duplicate content issue since they are on the same URL. Also, there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty.

(Author’s note: If you have duplicate content because you are scraping other people’s sites, this can result in your site being hit by Panda, but that is not what Illyes is addressing in his response.)

Having a responsive site will help you, especially in the future. With mobile-first, when it rolls out, responsive sites won’t have to change anything. Other sites may have to do something more to not suffer when that transition happens.

23. What would be harmed by Google being more open and transparent?

Sullivan: To be fair, they are very open on many things.

Moeva: The issue is that we’re trying to get people to focus on the right things. If we start dissecting (and sharing) what we do every day, this would prevent people from focusing on their sites. You should try to focus on the good stuff. Worrying about what Google change happened, when the next one will be, etc., diverts your focus from where it belongs.

Illyes: Both of us teach a class to Nooglers (new Googlers) called the “life of a query.” We know a lot about how it works, and this class is very specific. But, we have to decide if revealing a piece of information will hurt us in the long term. If we share info that causes people to do the wrong things, this can hurt the search results, and we can’t allow that. But we try to be as transparent as possible.

24. Can Google see a bounce on your site, even if not from a search result, and is it a negative result when that happens?

Sullivan: In other words, do you use click-through rate (CTR) as ranking factor?

Illyes: We only use CTR for QA purposes, not direct ranking purposes.

Moeva: We also don’t use things like Chrome to capture data like that.

25. If CTR is not a ranking factor, then why do tests sometimes show that it does influence rankings?

Sullivan: What if you believe that Google is lying about this — that you believe they’re using CTR, even though they say they aren’t? What would you do differently with your site? In principle, nothing. You should be trying to optimize to improve CTR and retain users anyway!

26. What about RankBrain and machine learning? What’s up with that?

Illyes: Not really anything new happening. The team is focused on some other machine learning ideas, and I can’t say what they are or whether they will be applied to search. But we’re always throwing out ideas on how to better understand pages or queries and working to make search better. Machine learning is just a tool that you can apply to different things.

Moeva: A great example is what video to show you next on YouTube; that’s an interesting challenge that is a perfect application for machine learning. We can leverage what people have watched and match them up with choices made by others with similar affinities.

Sullivan: Could you have a machine learning search algorithm system now?

Illyes: We probably wouldn’t want that, as we still look at search pages manually, and machine learning algorithms are freakishly hard to debug. For example, if we see some problem manually, it would be impossible to figure out why the decision was made. If we replaced the traditional algorithms with machine learning, we would have a really hard time improving results, because we would not able to identify where the failures are or what caused them.

Moeva: The algorithms are only as good as the training data that we give them, and that’s a big issue in coming up with good ones.

27. How do you measure voice searches? Can the rest of us get to see that?

Moeva: Voice queries are often super long-tail because of their use of natural language, so it’s hard to decide what to show. (Moeva then asked people to provide feedback on what they would do with it.)

28. Is it possible to highlight quick answers in Search Console separately?

Illyes: We get this request a lot, and we’ve talked to the highest possible person in the search team to see if they can, but we have not persuaded them yet. We’re still fighting for it, but it’s not a simple problem. Please ping us on Twitter and tell us how you would use that data to help us.

29. How do you get featured snippets?

Moeva: Create content that is relevant to the query and structured well. Structure it as an answer to a question.

30. Is WHOIS info used as part of local ranking?

Illyes: No idea.

31. Does the percent of 404 pages on your website impact your ranking?

Illyes: No.

32. Should we cross-link between product and category pages?

Illyes: Does it help users?

33. Does a large e-commerce site have a natural advantage over a small site?

Illyes: It doesn’t matter.

34. Will traffic from email and social media help your rankings?

Sullivan: In other words, do you use social signals?

Illyes: We did it in the past for a specific feature, but then the social media site turned off the feature, and it was a really bad thing, and for this reason we’re not willing to be dependent on social signals.

35. Is content length a ranking factor?

Illyes: No. The quality and relevance of the content is the key.

36. Is it bad if we have http and https live on a site at the same time?

Illyes: In general, no — but we have seen situations where sites have some differences between the sites, such as they implement hreflang to the http version of the site, but not the https version. That type of thing could be an issue.

37. Do you look primarily at the source code for a page or the document object model (DOM)?

Moeva: We look at the DOM.

38. Will we see an AMP e-commerce carousel in the near future?

Illyes: We are looking into e-commerce features, and we’re very aware that this functionality is needed. If you want to see what’s planned, check out the AMP roadmap.

39: Is authorship really gone as a ranking factor?

Illyes: Yes.

Sullivan: Dead, dead, dead, deader than Google+.

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

The newest addition to the marketing mix's Ps: Proximity

Any marketer worth their salt, or at least one who has managed to stay awake during Marketing 101, can rattle off a long list of marketing mix “Ps.” You know what I’m talking about: product, price, place, promotion, people, processes and physical evidence.

Unfortunately, those old pillars of marketing don’t quite hold up under the weight of today’s digital marketing needs. Our aging mnemonic sorely needs a renovation. It’s time we add proximity into the mix.

Digital puts you in the center of the map

Long gone are the days of unfolding a paper map to find out where you are and where you want to go. Back then, when you ran off the edge of the map, you either got a new map or assumed that “here be monsters.”

You’ll find no edges on today’s digital maps. You are limited only by the power of your zoom and the reach of your click. By default, you are the center of the digital map. The world fills in around you, depending on the whim of your search.

Proximity — the distance from the user to any given location — is a heavily weighted ranking factor for all “near me” searches. Only when you specifically move the focal point from yourself to an area without you in it does proximity seem to loosen its grip on rankings.

And it makes sense that digital maps should be organized this way. Something closer to you is usually easier to get to than something farther away. For marketers, the further a potential customer is from a store, the less likely it is that the customer will visit the location.

Since most people find businesses through local search and digital maps, proximity needs to be a major aspect of every marketing strategy. If you get everything else right but fail to optimize for proximity, you’ll have a hard time leading customers to your brick-and-mortar locations.

Local SEO: Tipping the scale of proximity in your favor

You can’t control where your customers are when they search, but you can put a finger on the scale of proximity to help you rank above another similarly distanced location in your business category.

How? You have two options: You either purchase a higher rank with PPC, or you optimize for organic and hope that the user is searching in an area wide enough that the map needs to filter out locations.

Google and the other major search platforms are making it harder to win the organic hustle with each passing year. But there are still things you can do that will help you improve your rankings on the map.

First, give yourself a chance to show up in local search results by doing the basics. Make sure that your location information is accurate and properly distributed to all the major location data aggregators. Specifically, your name, address and phone number (NAP) need to be accurate, and your geocoordinates for each location should lead customers to the right place.

But the bare minimum doesn’t really cut it anymore. It’s 2017, after all. If you’re relying on the incompetence of your competitors to win at local search, you’re in trouble.

So how do you tip the scales in your favor?

You increase the weight of your local credibility and authority.

Local citations, reviews and Google My Business attributes

Proximity’s influence diminishes as the map zooms out. The more area within your field of vision, the more important it is to filter out locations on the map to avoid clutter. If you’re only looking at the area covered by a city block, good luck trying to shake proximity’s influence. However, if you zoom out just a little, other ranking factors increasingly come into play.

Recently, Andrew Shotland and Dan Liebson gave a presentation about local search ranking factors at SMX West. Some of the most important factors they uncovered outside of proximity were local citations, reviews and optimizing for Google My Business (GMB).

Local citations are important in that they give Google a strong indication that your location is where you say it is and that you have enough clout to attract backlinks.

Meanwhile, reviews help establish the local authority of your brand. The more people vouch for your location with positive reviews, the more comfortable Google feels about sending customers your way.

Finally, Google My Business is critical for helping your cause in local search. This is especially true for filling out your GMB attributes. We’ve begun to see the proliferation of Google My Business fields for each business type. For example, a restaurant will have the opportunity to fill in fields ranging from payment options, takeout, delivery, patio seating and anything else you’d want to know about a location.

You can expect GMB attributes to become a significant ranking signal going forward, thanks to digital assistants and voice search. Why? Because digital assistants and voice search are allowing for much more discerning answers when it comes to helping us find locations.

Voice search and digital assistants

The way we ask questions is changing. Thanks to digital assistants and voice search, when we talk to Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Siri, we give these search engines much more information than we typically do with a typed search.

We’re often terse when typing in search queries, mainly because we grew up having to do precise keyword matching if we wanted to see relevant search results.

But Google and the other search engines are getting much better at understanding the meaning of words. More importantly, they’re getting better at interpreting user intent. As a result, exact keyword matching is no longer as important — much to the chagrin of advertisers. However, this allows questions and answers to be much more nuanced.

The growing intelligence of search engines is fueling the rise of voice search. Instead of typing a simple query on Google like nearby Mexican restaurants, we’re much more likely to get long-winded with voice search and say, “Okay Google, where’s a good nearby Mexican restaurant with patio seating and a short wait?” Thanks to the blossoming artificial intelligence of search engines, these nuanced questions are becoming much easier for digital assistants to answer.

But just because Google can understand the intent behind more complex questions, it doesn’t mean that Google has the data to answer them. It’s no mystery why Google is crowdsourcing business attributes through Google Maps by asking users about their recent trips to a location. Google is gathering as much information about a location as possible to have the data to answer more nuanced questions.

This presents marketers with an opportunity. If you meet the nuanced criteria of a user’s question by filling out as many applicable attributes as possible in GMB, your location can leapfrog businesses that might be closer but fail to meet the search criteria.

After all, there may be only be a handful of restaurants in an area that meet the criteria of my previous voice search question. Proximity is still a factor, of course, but you at least lessen its tyranny and raise your odds of ranking higher organically.

Final thought

No matter what marketers do, thanks to the way digital maps are organized, it’s hard to escape the influence of proximity on search results. That’s why, even though our list of marketing mix Ps is growing long, it’s time that proximity joins the list.

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

Getting the most bang for your buck: 11 CRO opportunities

Improving marketing performance often involves a lot of spot treatment: you spend some time working on your paid search campaigns, then you spend some time working on your organic search, and so on and so forth. One of my favorite things about conversion rate optimization (CRO) is that so much of it is channel-agnostic. How often do we get the chance to work on one central project that stands to improve the performance of all of our channels at once?! Not often enough!

Plus, no matter how well your channels are already performing, there’s always opportunity to generate more business by facilitating conversion. Check out the suggestions below to uncover pain points and actionable tips for increasing conversion rate.

Put your best foot forward

The likelihood of conversion begins before a prospect even reaches the website. We all know that different keywords are likely to perform differently; that’s why advertisers bid differently on different keywords. But this understanding isn’t often translated to conversion optimization, though it should be. For example:

Understanding keyword intent can have an impact on conversion rate. Why? Because understanding keyword intent provides insight into where the prospect is in the buying cycle and, therefore, the type of information that they are looking for. Aligning conversion actions with the prospect’s stage in the buying cycle allows advertisers to provide the right content to increase the likelihood that the prospect will take action.

Depending on marketing strategy and profit margins, some advertisers may want to go as far as to align conversion actions with keyword intent — but that could be a whole post in itself, and it is understandably not feasible for all advertisers, either due to profit constraints or marketing nurture resources.

Ads play a role in conversion optimization, too! Ads help manage the expectations of visitors. This is one of the reasons I like to look at ad performance by analyzing conversions by impressions instead of click-through rate (CTR). The fact is, CTR can be misleading. It’s still a valuable health metric, but if the visitors don’t ultimately take an action, then it isn’t such a valuable KPI in the grand scheme of things.

On-page optimization tips

This is the most commonly discussed part of conversion rate optimization. In fact, when CRO comes up in conversation, it seems like the discussion typically goes straight to landing page layouts. That’s because landing pages play a huge role in conversion rate — and therefore provide some of the biggest opportunities for improvement.

Prioritize your conversion actions and create a hierarchy. Doing so helps facilitate conversions by making it clear and obvious what the visitor should do next in order to continue the buyer journey.

To do this, consider what your primary goal is for each page that you create. The action that you require from the visitor in order to achieve this goal is considered your highest priority. They won’t always be quite ready for the sale or the demo, or whatever your highest priority action is, but that’s a great reason to provide micro-conversions, which allow them to continue to engage with you in the meantime, all while you are tracking their behaviors and providing useful content.

Micro-conversions could be things like downloads, video plays, email subscriptions and more. Determine which of these are most relevant to your goal, or otherwise most valuable, and prioritize accordingly.

As you lay out your landing page, you should place appropriate emphasis on the calls-to-action (CTAs) and where they fall on the page, based upon the hierarchy that you’ve created. The key to micro-conversions is to ensure that they aren’t competing against your highest priority CTAs. This brings me to my next point.

De-clutter & keep it simple. One of the ugliest things in the worldwide web is a cluttered website. Cluttered websites are overwhelming and hard to follow. In some cases, they lack credibility because they look unprofessional. In other cases, even when they are known to be professional, they lose visitors among all of the options.

For example, think about a government site. Whoa. Talk about a house of glass — and I’m not talking about the glass houses that people throw stones at! I’m talking about the carnival glass house mazes that are so hard to walk through because right when you think you’re headed down the right path, you run into a window.

We’ve all been there: At least 10 links seem semi-relevant to what you are looking for, so you choose the one that you think is most relevant. The page loads, and it isn’t what you were looking for, but there’s a link on it that reads like it may have the information you need. You click on it, and it wasn’t what you were looking for, either, and the cycle repeats until you realize that you’re back to where you started.

Cluttered sites can occur for various reasons, but try to keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Providing too many options can create a frustrating experience for visitors. Instead, stick with providing the few that are most relevant.

Consider all devices. Every year, this gets closer and closer to being an unwritten rule, but we’re not quite there yet — so it is still written! As you build your landing pages, and ultimately your site, keep in mind that different devices are used, well, differently. Elements of a page that might be perfectly reasonable on a desktop could be very challenging or frustrating on a mobile device — like a long form or clickable links that are close together. Being without a mouse or a keyboard changes the experience drastically.

In addition, consider the mindset of the consumer when on desktop vs. mobile. Depending upon your business, a consumer may be more likely to take certain actions at certain times of the day, which may or may not coincide with certain device usage. For example, some B2B companies may find that long-form content is more likely to be consumed during the day (and therefore on a computer), whereas those using a mobile device in the evening may just want a short synopsis or a video, and the ability to submit a quick form with questions.

Want to get a second opinion on whether or not your page is mobile-friendly? Check out Google’s free mobile-friendly checker. Although it can’t give you a comprehensive breakdown of tips around intent, it can help you to ensure that the structure of the site facilitates a positive mobile user experience. For more information, dig into the mobile usability section within Google Search Console, which will provide tips for improving mobile-friendliness.

Establish credibility and develop trust. One of the best lessons I’ve ever learned was from a paid search client. They said, “We don’t include the word ‘trust’ in our ads because we don’t believe that we can simply tell someone to trust us.” While I won’t make a case one way or the other for using the word in your ad copy, there is something to be said for the sentiment.

When visitors arrive at your site, they have no reason to trust you beyond your word. Trust symbols can help give them peace of mind. There are plenty of ways to portray trustworthiness: display testimonials, offer references, provide (and maintain) satisfaction guarantees. Displaying awards and badges of trustworthy organizations (such as the BBB) can help, too.

Even beyond the symbols, there are a few things that can help a business look credible at first glance. One is a modern, clean website. Rightly or wrongly, a good-looking website portrays more credibility than an outdated site. In addition, certain secure payment options can also provide a level of trust simply because the visitor can be confident that even if the site is not legitimate, they have a way of refunding their money through a source which they already trust.

Know your audience and write for them. This one ties in nicely with some of the other considerations, but it warrants the individual mention. When you write your copy, use words and language that are relevant to your consumer. As product experts, we sometimes write over our consumers’ heads, which isn’t good.

Write content in a way that is most meaningful to your audience. If you aren’t sure how to do this, start by writing with them in mind. After it’s written, read it and make sure these questions are easy to answer from the consumer’s standpoint:

Why should I care?Does this solve a problem that I have?What are next steps to obtain more information or purchase?

Look at site speed. Slow load times can lead to a frustrating user experience. As consumers, we want to find information quickly. If a site takes too long to load, we’ll look elsewhere. You can easily test your site speed with this free Google tool. The tool will test both desktop and mobile site speeds. Bonus: it not only gives you a score but provides suggestions for improvement.

Strategically leverage images. Well-placed, relevant images can transform the appearance of a text-heavy landing page. I recommend testing new images, as well as the placement of the images on the page.

Test, test, and then test some more! I contemplated whether I should put this bullet first or last. It’s arguably one of the most important, but it’s also the most often stated. Everyone knows that landing pages should be tested, but developing tests can still be tough. Hopefully, the above points have provided some inspiration.

Continuing the conversation

Think of the buyer’s journey as a cycle — not a linear trajectory. What difference does it make to view it in this way? The fun doesn’t end after the conversion — the cycle just starts over! After the conversion (or the sale), there are often immediate opportunities to upsell, cross-sell or continue engagement through blog posts, content and social media. A few suggestions:

Cross-sell and upsell. With every sale’s end comes a new beginning. Now that you know more about the types of products or services that the consumer is interested in, you are well positioned to provide recommendations about complementary products. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to provide them with suggestions while they are in the buying mode.

Provide opportunities for them to join in conversation. There are truly endless opportunities for doing this. Here are a few examples: invite them to follow your social channels, invite them to share content, engage them with user-generated content, share your blog or tips, or even facilitate discussion with other customers through the use of a shared hashtag or group.

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

3 steps to a successful channel marketing program

Indirect distribution has always been a powerful way to go to market — if you can overcome its inherent challenges. Getting hundreds or thousands of local business owners on the same page has traditionally created problems with brand compliance, funding and local execution. But how would your Brand look at your go-to-market strategy if innovations in modern channel marketing technology could eliminate these challenges?

This tactical guide from Sproutloud outlines a project plan to address these challenges and help you transform your channel marketing program to reduce operating expenses, improve partner participation and reach more customers.

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download “A Tactical Guide to Upgrading Your Channel Marketing Program.”

SearchCap: CRO tips, local search proximity & paid search analytics

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

From Search Engine Land:

Getting the most bang for your buck: 11 CRO opportunities
Mar 31, 2017 by Amy Bishop

Stumped on ways to improve your conversion rate? Columnist Amy Bishop has you covered — check out the tips below for inspiration and actionable tips!

The newest addition to the marketing mix’s Ps: Proximity
Mar 31, 2017 by Brian Smith

Columnist Brian Smith explains the impact of proximity on local searches and provides advice for how marketers can make it work for them.

39 questions with Google at SMX West
Mar 31, 2017 by Eric Enge

Ever wanted to hear answers to your SEO questions straight from the mouths of Googlers? Columnist Eric Enge recaps a session from SMX West where audience members were able to ask Google anything.

Paid search analytics: What treasures are hiding in your data?
Mar 31, 2017 by Jacob Baadsgaard

Setting up paid search analytics may be straightforward, but columnist Jacob Baadsgaard shows that if you aren’t using your data effectively, you may be missing out on major opportunities to improve your performance.

Search in Pics: Google silence box, a noodle cafe & rusty Googlebot
Mar 31, 2017 by Barry Schwartz

In this week’s Search In Pictures, here are the latest images culled from the web, showing what people eat at the search engine companies, how they play, who they meet, where they speak, what toys they have and more. Google silence phone box: Source: Instagram A rusty GoogleBot printed in 3D: Source: Twitter Google Nooooooodle […]

3 steps to a successful channel marketing program
Mar 31, 2017 by Digital Marketing Depot

Indirect distribution has always been a powerful way to go to market — if you can overcome its inherent challenges. Getting hundreds or thousands of local business owners on the same page has traditionally created problems with brand compliance, funding and local execution. But how would your Brand look at your go-to-market strategy if innovations […]

Search News From Around The Web:

Industry

In Boston? Meet Up With Google’s Gary Illyes, Search Engine Roundtable

Local & Maps

Google My Business Suggested Changes Issue, Marc Zwygart | Pulse | LinkedIn

Link Building

The Top Link Building Strategies For 2017, Opportunities Planet

Searching

No more time to noodle: meet the winner of the Doodle 4 Google competition!, blog.google

SEO

Ask Yoast: Too many links in navigation menu?, YoastGoogle Says Their Duplicate Detection & Clustering Is Stable, Search Engine RoundtableMinimum Viable SEO: If You Only Have a Few Minutes Each Week… Do This! – Whiteboard Friday, MozUnderstanding Google Schema Guidelines: Review Snippets vs. Critic Reviews, GetFiveStars

SEM / Paid Search

The slow (but inevitable) advent of CRO in the PPC world, SEM RushYour First Look At The Impact Of Google’s Exact Match Update, PPC Hero

Search Marketing

4 Keyword Mapping Goals, Search Engine PeopleGoogle updates “Right to be forgotten” form, MediaMazeVideo: Google Confirmed Fred, Never Denied An Update, Won’t Use Machine Learning & More, Search Engine Roundtable

Baidu becomes Google’s biggest ally in mobile page speed

The breaking news came on March 7, 2017, that Baidu is now supporting Google’s mobile framework, AMP. The tech leader of Baidu MIP, Gao Lei, gave a speech at Google’s first AMP conference in New York. He confirmed that Baidu is working hand-in-hand with Google to accelerate the faster web globally.

Gao Lei at Google AMP Conference, New York, March 7, 2017

Baidu MIP, which stands for Mobile Instant Pages, is Baidu’s own version of Google’s AMP. The technologies of MIP are very similar to AMP. In fact, coding an MIP page is just like coding an AMP page, except MIP pages are more customized and optimized for the browsers in the market of mainland China.

Baidu says that a Mobile Instant Page can reduce the rendering of above-the-fold content by 30 percent to 80 percent. Moreover, the tap-to-open rate will increase by 5 percent to 40 percent. And similar to Google, Baidu has been considering potentially giving the MIP pages a ranking advantage in search results.

Mobile Page Accelerator – MIP Components: Core Parts

The two search engine giants are collaborating for the first time to tackle the problems of slow pages and unfriendly user experiences on mobile devices. Lei says that they are trying to avoid websites investing redundant resources to adopt both AMP and MIP. This implies that the future of AMP and MIP may look even more identical; that said, a one-for-all global mobile framework could be in the making.

Baidu certainly is not going to abort its MIP project and replace it with Google’s AMP, as there have been over 1 billion MIP pages indexed by Baidu already.

We have yet to confirm with Baidu exactly what they have aligned with Google, and how. They say that there are still technical issues to solve. However, Baidu has confirmed that users can eventually open an AMP page from a Baidu SERP. We don’t know how they plan to do this, whether by opening the AMP pages directly from the SERP or translating them into MIP pages.

At Merkle China, we’ve already seen Google and Baidu taking the first steps. Prior to the announcement, the AMP Project website could not be loaded successfully in mainland China. I could only dial on a VPN to check the reference on www.ampproject.org. However, all ampproject.org links are now accessible. When we check the CDN, we see Google enabled the CDN for China, and it loads extremely fast!

Google enables a CDN node for China

Given that most AMP traffic originates from Google organic SERPs, it wouldn’t have make sense for AMP documentation to be available in mainland China prior to the announcement. But now developers within the Great Firewall will be able to view and implement this documentation in preparation for Baidu’s support of this framework.

This collaboration will certainly benefit mobile internet users, who will be able to enjoy hyper speed on their devices. Of course, it will also benefit brands that want to build a larger presence in mainland China.

It is unclear whether users out of the Great Firewall can open an MIP page from a Google SERP; that will depend on whether Google decides to provide support MIP in its search results or accept the customized MIP pages as AMP pages.

To be continued… !

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

Google Maps ad traffic steadily growing

Over the last couple of years, Google updates have shown the company’s growing focus on monetizing searches with local intent and navigational queries. From local inventory ads, which are a version of Product Listings Ads that feature information on when a product can be picked up at a local brick-and-mortar store, to ads featured in the Local Pack, it’s clear that Google sees local searches as fertile ground for more ad interactions.

This strategy has extended to Google Maps, where ads derived from location extensions now populate for searches. These ads are steadily growing in importance, as shown by a rise in the share of traffic attributed to the “Get location details” click type.

‘Get location details’ clicks on the rise

While there’s no clean way to view all impressions and clicks from Google Maps, Google confirmed that very nearly all traffic attributed to the “Get location details” click type can be attributed to ads featured on Maps. Taking a look at the share of brand traffic for a sample of brick-and-mortar Merkle advertisers, we find that ads on Maps are steadily becoming a larger share of overall traffic.

On phones in particular, brick-and-mortar brands saw a surge in “Get location details” traffic in Q1 and now see about 5 percent of brand traffic coming from this click type. The disproportionate share on phones makes sense given the on-the-go nature of mobile device usage.

This click type is also growing as a share of non-brand text ad click share, but it tops out at around 1 percent for phones and tablets. It does seem logical that more users might type in the name of a specific store they’d like to visit in a Google Maps search than a non-brand query. However, non-brand traffic likely carries much more incremental value for advertisers, as brand searches within Google Maps would very likely return a brand’s local business locations organically without an ad present.

Interestingly, tablet click share is actually higher than on phones for non-brand, and I’m unsure what might be causing this. Maybe users are just more likely to use non-brand searches in Google Maps on tablets than on phones.

Either way, it’s clear that the volume of ad traffic coming from ads on Google Maps is steadily increasing across all device and query types. Since only Google knows how extensive its rollout has been to date in terms of query coverage and the number of ad units shown, it’s pretty tough to say how much larger these shares might grow in the future.

However, there are a few things to look out for moving forward.

Online conversion rate will likely suffer

Ads on Google Maps are classified as coming from google.com, despite the fact that users searching in Google Maps are obviously more likely looking for directions than are searchers on Google’s primary domain. As such, Google Maps searchers are less likely to convert online than google.com searchers, since they’re more likely to be looking for physical stores.

The data bears this out, with online conversion rate for “Get location details” significantly lower than overall conversion rate for brand keywords for the median advertiser.

Click and conversion volume for this click type is so low for non-brand that it’s not as easy to do a clean conversion rate comparison, but most brands also find non-brand conversion rate is significantly lower for “Get location details” clicks than overall non-brand clicks.

At this point, the traffic share is so low that there isn’t much of an impact to most programs’ bidding based solely on online return on ad spend. However, as these ads become a bigger part of total traffic, that impact will become larger. Thus, brick-and-mortar brands will need to be even more diligent about tracking orders that occur in store that are tied to paid search clicks and include this value in calculating appropriate bids.

CPC may go up

Since Google Maps traffic is categorized as part of Google search traffic rather than the search partner network, brands can’t exclude ads from showing on Google Maps if there are active location extensions, as all search campaigns must target Google search.

There’s also no way to adjust the price paid for Google Maps traffic relative to other Google search traffic. This is slightly concerning, mainly because “Get location details” clicks are more expensive on mobile devices than overall CPC for brand text ad for the median advertiser.

Interestingly, desktop CPC for “Get location details” is actually lower than overall CPC. However, on phones, which have the highest click share coming from “Get location details,” CPC is 30 percent higher. Tablet CPC is way higher, which is another weird tablet data point that’s hard to explain.

It’s not totally clear why these clicks are more expensive, but there is something of a parallel in the cost of search partner brand keyword clicks. While search partner non-brand clicks are cheaper for most advertisers than google.com traffic, the reverse is true for brand keywords.

Since there are no bidding controls for either Search Partner or Google Maps ads, there’s no way to combat these higher costs, and brands that want this traffic simply have to eat the costs or turn off traffic entirely.

Just like conversion rate, these CPC differences aren’t really impacting campaigns that much with such a small click share right now. But looking forward, that could change if Google’s able to ramp this traffic up.

Conclusion

As the default navigational app on Android, as well as a popular source of in-browser navigational directions, Google Maps has a lot of users and traffic. Google is in the process of expanding its monetization of that traffic, defaulting advertisers with active location extensions for brick-and-mortar stores into showing Google Maps ads with little targeting control.

This is part of Google’s recent larger focus on driving ad traffic from searches with local intent, with new formats like local inventory ads and ads in the Local Pack similarly targeted at drawing clicks from users looking for nearby brick-and-mortar options. Some of these ad units provide real incremental value to advertisers by getting local business information in front of interested searchers. Others, like Google Maps ads for brand keyword searches, seem redundant and less likely to drive incremental value for brands.

Looking forward, most brands would like at least some ability to adjust the price paid, as well as the option to opt out of showing ads based on location extensions in Google Maps. For brands with multiple local stores, it’d also be nice to control which location a user is shown, since there might be other considerations besides proximity which warrant promoting a specific location. Hopefully, Google will provide such controls if these ad units continue to grow in terms of traffic share.

For now, brands with physical locations should try to take advantage of in-store conversion and visit tracking, available through Google and other third parties, if possible, in order to tie these conversions to online clicks. This will help in calculating the value driven by ads, whether those on Google Maps or elsewhere across the Google search network.

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

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