Deadline extended for entries in the 2017 Search Engine Land Awards

Today is your lucky day! Due to the volume of inquiries surrounding this year’s awards competition, the deadline for entries in the Search Engine Land Awards competition has been extended until Friday, August 4th at 11:59PM PT. No further extensions will be granted so be sure to get your submissions completed on time.

The judges are eager to begin the review process as we expect the level of competition to set even higher standards for our already tough program. Speaking of judges, this is also a good time to share a little more about how our judging process works.

Privacy & confidentiality

Since we ask for a significant amount of detail and supporting data in our application process, your (and your clients’) privacy and sensitivities around confidential data is extremely important for us to address.

That’s why we keep our primary panel of judges — those who review the main campaign initiative categories — limited to full-time employees and contractors of Third Door Media (our parent company) who also produces our conference series, Search Marketing Expo. This reduces any concerns around any competitors seeing information related to process or budget during judging. Also judging these highly sensitive categories are official representatives from the top search platforms, Google and Bing, who are also bound to strict confidentiality standards.

For the in-house team awards, we work with our trusted in-house workshop presenter Jessica Bowman and other internal resources. In the special case of the individual awards (Search Marketer of the Year), we invite the previous year’s winners to participate in selecting the successors along with past winners. (As of this writing, the rules state that each individual may only receive this honor once.)

The agency awards are reviewed by independent partners, Clutch.co and OMCP.org. Client verification and contact information is also kept confidential.

Other measures are in place to reduce conflicts of interest in judging, and judges are asked to recuse themselves from reviewing and scoring any application in which they may have a personal or business connection.

As an applicant, in the terms and conditions, you may also specify how much data you are willing to let us share in follow-up coverage of any case studies submitted. Of course, should you win an award, we will work with you to showcase your achievements in a manner in which you (and the client, if applicable) feel most comfortable.

Now, get back back to working on completing your entry to be considered among the best in SEO & SEM, and wow us with your best work to take home the highest honors in search marketing. Enter here.

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

Locadium: a new 'point solution' to monitor GMB listings changes

LocalSEOGuide is releasing a new Google My Business monitoring tool called “Locadium.” It’s conceptually similar to other local listings monitoring services; however it’s exclusively focused on Google My Business (GMB).

Yext, Moz, Brandify, Vendasta, BrightLocal, SIMPartners, Chatmeter, among others, also provide local listings scans and monitoring. However, according to LocalSEOGuide founder Andrew Shotland, Locadium is the only tool that will monitor both the “front end” (consumer fields) and “back end” (API) of GMB. It sends alerts when there’s any change on to a company’s listing in any of the data fields.

It will be marketed to agencies, multi-location brands and SMBs. Pricing is variable for agencies and brands but for SMBs it costs $5 per month.

Similar tools on the market monitor local listings across the internet. However Shotland doesn’t see Locadium evolving into a broad-based listings monitoring service outside GMB. “We have no desire to compete with Yext,” he says. The appeal of Locadium is its focus and simplicity. “It’s a classic point solution.”

Shotland indicated the next piece of functionality he wants to add is a single report for GMB insights for multi-location enterprises so marketers working with them don’t have to check location by location.

Privacy group files flawed complaint against Google Store Sales Measurement

At a time when companies have growing access to consumer data from an increasing number of sources, privacy is more important than ever. But it’s also important for privacy advocates to understand what’s going on before they formally complain to regulatory bodies.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a complaint with the FTC over Google’s Store Sales Measurement program. The group is arguing that:

Google has collected billions of credit card transactions, containing personal customer information, from credit card companies, data brokers, and others and has linked those records with the activities of Internet users, including product searches and location searches. This data reveals sensitive information about consumer purchases, health, and private lives.

It asserts that Google is using a “secret, proprietary algorithm for assurances of consumer privacy” and that the company uses “an opaque and misleading ‘opt-out’ mechanism.” It further argues that these are “unfair and deceptive trade practices” and confer FTC jurisdiction. It’s asking for an injunction against these practices accordingly.

Store Sales Measurement began testing in 2014 and was rolled out in the US earlier this year. In contrast to the statement in the EPIC complaint, Google does not receive or have access to personal credit card transaction data.

What Google is getting is anonymous, aggregated information from credit card companies; it doesn’t see specific purchases and can’t identify individuals. Google also doesn’t know what was purchased; it receives information that among X number of users exposed to a digital ad campaign, a subset of that audience bought something in the advertiser’s store. That information (on an aggregate basis) is reported back to the advertiser to assess the efficacy of the campaign.

In addition, the data is encrypted and, according to Google, it cannot be used to identify individuals. Google told me through a spokesperson that it “does not share any personally identifiable information with advertisers or partners for this product.”

Google is not unique in this arena — Facebook introduced offline sales measurement through Custom Audiences in 2013. Other companies, such as Oracle and 4Info can do similar kinds of sales-related offline tracking.

Google’s opt-out process is a available under Google My Activity–>Activity Controls. Users can opt-out by unchecking the box below.

Google has not done a good job publicizing this opt-out option, nor is it intuitive. Clearly that process can be dramatically improved.

EPIC is right to push for more transparency around privacy and use of consumer data. However in this case they get some basic facts wrong.

By the same token, Google, Facebook and others can do a better job educating consumers about how their data is being used and the kinds of controls that can be exercised over that data. Both companies over the past couple of years have tried to do this with mixed results.

Most consumers don’t really have a clear sense of how their digital data is being used behind the scenes. But in the case of Google’s Store Sales Measurement, it’s not being misused.

Postscript: The Future of Privacy Forum‘s founder Jules Polonetsky provided the following comment on this matter in response to an email request from me:

It’s no surprise that reports using credit card data are controversial, but it’s commendable that Google has managed to do this by using homomorphic encryption, where reports can be run on data that is fully encrypted and no personal data needs to be shared.  If this technology can be advanced, it is a step towards the holy grail of being able to gain insights from data sets with sharing personal information.  When the dust clears, privacy researchers will likely see great value in the privacy enhancing technology used here.

SearchCap: Gboard update, Locadium launch & EPIC privacy

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

From Search Engine Land:

Privacy group files flawed complaint against Google Store Sales Measurement
Jul 31, 2017 by Greg Sterling

EPIC gets the basic facts wrong about the data being used in Google program.

Locadium: a new ‘point solution’ to monitor GMB listings changes
Jul 31, 2017 by Greg Sterling

Tool from LocalSEOGuide tracks changes to local listings on Google.

Deadline extended for entries in the 2017 Search Engine Land Awards
Jul 31, 2017 by Search Engine Land

Today is your lucky day! The deadline for entries in the Search Engine Land Awards competition has been extended until Friday, August 4th at 11:59PM PT. No further extensions will be granted so be sure to get your submissions completed on time.

Organizing for Martech: Re-examining Modern Marketing
Jul 31, 2017 by Digital Marketing Depot

Many organizations are struggling to optimize their staffing and skills to compete in a rapidly changing marketing world. What worked yesterday in marketing and technology may not work today – or tomorrow. With the rapid infusion of technology into the marketing organization, tensions between marketing and IT are inevitable. How do you structure marketing to […]

5 tools, tips and hacks to maximize your SEO output
Jul 31, 2017 by Brian Patterson

Columnist Brian Patterson believes that SEO success depends not only on your knowledge and skills, but on your ability to work efficiently. Check out his five suggestions for increasing SEO productivity.

If your GMB page updates & no one knows, does it make a sound?
Jul 31, 2017 by Andrew Shotland

If you work in the local SEO space, you may have noticed that Google sometimes makes unwanted updates to your Google My Business listings. Columnist Andrew Shotland dives into the issue.

Latest Gboard iPhone updates include access to Maps, YouTube & a new drawing feature
Jul 31, 2017 by Amy Gesenhues

Gboard also now supports Arabic, Hebrew and Farsi languages.

Search News From Around The Web:

Local & Maps

Cool Google SMB Review Marketing Tool, GetFiveStarsA Google Maps Local Ranking Update A Month Ago?, Search Engine Roundtable

Link Building

Specifically How To Do Internal Linking Strategy For SEO Right, John Lincoln, Ignite Visibility – YouTubeUnwrapping the YouTube SEO Mystery with Brian Dean of Backlinko, Majestic Blog

Searching

Bing tests a new search bar and logo, allgoogletesting.blogspot.comNow more queries with Bing Custom Search, Bing Search Quality Insights

SEO

Google Mocks SEO Experts That Place Mass Content On Footer, Search Engine RoundtableGoogle Treats Details HTML5 Tag Like Toggleable Display:None, Search Engine RoundtableGoogle, Is Okay With Commas, Espesially In Your Title Tags, Alright!, Search Engine RoundtableLocal SEO Guide Launches Tool for Tracking Google My Business Updates, Street FightPinterest Being Used To Spam Google’s Organic Results?, Search Engine RoundtableSEO Knowledge Interview Questions: Exact Match Domains Importance, polepositionmarketing.comWhy Social Media Is NOT a Search Ranking Factor – Here’s Why #128, Stone TempleYour Indexed Pages Are Going Down – 5 Possible Reasons Why, Search Engine Journal

SEM / Paid Search

Upcoming changes to standard placement tags in DCM, Google Ads Developer Blog

Search Marketing

How To Identify Striking Distance Keywords, SEM Rush

Latest Gboard iPhone updates include access to Maps, YouTube & a new drawing feature

Google’s latest Gboard updates for iPhone lets users easily access YouTube and Maps via the search-enabled keyboard and includes a new “Ink” drawing feature.

Now when you tap the ‘G’ to open Gboard, a ‘YouTube’ and a ‘Maps’ option appears, making it possible to add your current location via Maps or search for a YouTube video and add the link.

There is also a new Ink drawing feature that lets you draw a message instead of typing it. To access, tap the emoji icon and select the pen icon at the bottom of the screen.

Google says Gboard also now supports three new languages: Arabic, Hebrew and Farsi.

If your GMB page updates & no one knows, does it make a sound?

If you own SEO at a multi-location brand (or an agency that works with them), it can be hard to sleep at night.

Once upon a time, we were approached by a multi-location retailer about a Google My Business (GMB) problem. Apparently, at some point, Google updated the phone number on a decent percentage of their GMB pages from the local store number to their national customer support number.

They had discovered this because their customer support calls — and cost — had gone through the roof virtually overnight. The problem got fixed, and things went back to normal, but I doubt the person managing their GMB program ever got a good night’s sleep after that.

Over the years, most of us in the Local SEO world have become accustomed to Google updating GMB pages, even those that have been claimed, seemingly on an algorithmic whim. We’ve noticed this is particularly common with images:

The old “change your dealership photo to a cat picture” trick

If you’ve seen any of our Local SEO presentations in the past year or two, this shot is probably familiar, but it’s so good I can’t stop sharing it! Nor can I stop sharing a more recent example we call, “You Want a Slice With That Jeep?”

And because a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s take a look at this luxury apartment building turned Porta-Potty depot:

When Google shut down MapMaker earlier this year, a metric ton of images in the Local Knowledge Graph got changed. And while I am sure Google’s engineers did a ton of testing, what we’ve seen over and over again is that Google often doesn’t know exactly how changes to one part of its systems will affect other parts. It’s one of the reasons we Local SEO types have jobs. It’s also the reason why we find ourselves a bit cranky in the morning.

This issue was happening so often, we actually built a tool to monitor front-end GMB changes because we were pretty sure that GMB’s dashboard was not alerting us to a good portion of updates that were getting published.

Auto-generated retailer department GMB pages

Often, the problem is not that Google updated a GMB page you have already claimed, but that it creates new pages for you that you don’t know exist. This issue can be acute for multi-location retailers that have, or appear to have, multiple departments. Over the past year or two, we have seen Google auto-generate department GMB pages, often with disastrous results. Following are a few special ones.

The image below shows a typical GMB page for a store with multiple departments. Often, these “stores within a store” are legitimately created by the brand and can be great when it comes to ranking for local, category-specific queries.

But if you click on the “Costco Hearing Aids Center” link in the Department listings, it takes you to an unclaimed, clearly auto-generated GMB page that is marked as “Closed today” — this screenshot was taken at 12:00 noon on a Wednesday.

What’s that you say? I’m losing business based on a GMB problem I didn’t even know I had? It’s hard to hear GMB alert me to that issue without my hearing aid! Or, maybe they will never actually alert you to stuff like this, but you might notice your customer base has started skewing towards people who can actually hear.

Here’s an unclaimed Target Photo Center listing with no phone number, address or a website link — but hey, at least it’s open.

And it’s not like Target’s SEO team is asleep at the wheel. GMB is likely not going to alert them that this listing has even been created. And there’s not enough time in the day to click on every GMB listing for every Target store to see where it leads.

In Target’s case, at least Google is polite enough to not give out mistaken data. But when it auto-generates these department GMB pages, it also often auto-generates the linked website URLs, which is not always a recipe for success. Check out the website link to this auto-generated Sam’s Club* Optical Center:

This Website link takes you to an old Optical category page on the site which provides a not-so-great user experience (good thing most visitors need glasses and won’t be able to see it well):

I could go on for a while with examples, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t the only one. So I asked a bunch of other SEOs on Twitter (where else would they be?) how many had had GMB updates go live without their approval over the past six months:

78%. That’s not a rounding error.

Burnt GMB offerings

Most SEOs I spoke with who handle large accounts see a huge percentage of listings that get “updates” notifications from the GMB dashboard each month. One quoted 920 out of 1,080 pages they manage. Often, these are just suggested changes to “Offerings” or “Amenities,” which are likely not huge deals:

Another told me that up to 30% of their GMB listings change in some way every month. And while I suspect that Google alerts us to most of these changes, that still leaves a huge number of updated GMB pages that we never know about… until a client sends a “WTF” screenshot….

How to monitor your GMB pages for updates

Thanks to Google releasing a GMB API last year, there are plenty of great third-party tools for keeping track of changes to your GMB pages. Here are a few:

Locadium (disclaimer: This is our new tool.)BrightLocalChatmeterLocation3Moz LocalSIM PartnersYext* PowerListings

Good night and good luck!

*Full disclosure: Sam’s Club & Yext are clients of Local SEO Guide

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

5 tools, tips and hacks to maximize your SEO output

This article was co-authored by my colleague at Go Fish Digital, Chris Long.

Part of being an effective SEO is being incredibly efficient with the tasks at hand. You just aren’t going to have the time needed to go deeper and continue to add value if you’re spinning your wheels doing manual, repetitive tasks.

Because of this, we have always valued things that can make you more efficient: tools, scripts, automation, and even interns!

Today, we dig deep into our toolbox to pull out five of our favorite ways to maximize your SEO productivity output.

1. Automate Google Analytics data extracts & reporting

Generating monthly reports is one of those repetitive tasks that can consume a day or more at the beginning of the month (especially in the agency world!).

If you’re manually pulling data from Google Analytics, you need to be constantly checking that your date ranges are correct, that you’ve applied the proper segments, that you’re analyzing the right metrics, and that you’ve accessed the primary profile in the first place. Not only would automating this type of reporting save time, but it would also ensure consistency and eliminate mistakes.

And while scheduling reports in Analytics is fine, reporting can really be taken to the next level with the Google Analytics Add-On for Sheets. This add-on is a lifesaver for us during reporting time!

By adding this to Google Sheets, you can pull data directly from the Google Analytics API without ever having to log into the Analytics interface. To start, you’ll need to configure which metrics, date ranges, segments and profile the API should be pulling. Next, you simply run the report; the data is then loaded into your spreadsheet automagically.

The beauty of this whole system is that once you have set up your reporting framework, the amount of time spent gathering Google Analytics data each month should be drastically reduced.

For most of my reports, all I do is adjust the date ranges at the beginning of each month, and I let the API apply all my segments and collect only the metrics I need. I also create charts in the same spreadsheet that reference the cells this data gets pulled into.

With some very minor changes to the spreadsheet each month, I’m able to pull all of the data I need and have it formatted into easy-to-read charts.

This little add-on easily saves me about a day’s worth of work every single month.

2. Find internal linking opportunities with Screaming Frog

Internal links are one of the most underrated ranking factors in SEO. They not only allow you to optimize the destination pages for the exact keywords you want, they also provide a great opportunity to strategically distribute link equity in a way that targets your key landing pages.

Because of this, we’re continually providing clients with recommendations on improving the internal links on their websites. And from this, we have plenty of evidence that it works, even with some of the most competitive keywords there are.

For large and enterprise websites, it can be tough to find every one of those juicy internal linking opportunities awaiting your attention. The good news is that Screaming Frog comes with a “Search” feature that makes finding internal linking opportunities a breeze.

Before running a crawl of a website, simply navigate to “Configuration > Custom > Search” and add keywords you want to optimize for. Screaming Frog will then crawl the whole site and return URLs that use that text in the “Custom” report section. You can run a search for 10 different keywords at a time so you can include the different variations of the keyword you’re optimizing for.

You can also pair this search with Screaming Frog’s Include/Exclude feature to only search for opportunities in specific sections of your website. For improved productivity, I like to use the OpenList extension, which opens all of the URLs at once in separate tabs.

3. Scale keyword research with Merge Words

Google is better than ever at understanding the topic of a web page through its improved entity recognition. Better language processing allows Google to group related terms and understand their context.

This means it’s extremely important to not only understand your core keywords but semantically related terms as well. Keyword strategies revolving around concepts such as TF-IDF are gaining more traction among search professionals.

Google’s improved language comprehension means that your pages are capable of ranking for a much larger set of keywords than the ones they’re optimized for. While this is great for SEO, it can be intimidating to start keyword research with this in mind.

How are you supposed to determine all of the different keyword combinations you should be including in your content? And how are you to know which keywords to actually implement on the page?

Enter the Merge Words tool. This simple tool allows you to add words to three separate columns; then, as the name suggests, it will merge every combination of all of the terms you entered.

Now, instead of spending a great deal of time manually plugging keywords into your keyword research tool, you can quickly combine all of the different identifiers into Merge Words, then copy-and-paste that data into your keyword research tool.

An example of how this could be used is with an aftermarket car parts retailer. They could merge lists of all of the makes/models (Acura MDX, Acura TL, etc.) they provide parts for with all of the products they carry (headlights, seat covers, etc). The result is every combination of make/model with every part they provide (e.g. Acura MDX headlights, Acura MDX seat covers, Acura TL headlights, Acura TL seat covers).

They could then plug this list into the Google Keyword Planner to see what the most searched keywords were.

4. Scale SEO improvements with global changes

image courtesy of Pexels

SEO productivity doesn’t have to just refer to specific tactics to make the collection of data easier. Productive SEOs are also capable of applying this thinking to campaigns as a whole to scale their success. While page-level recommendations can be extremely beneficial, often times it can be tedious and lead to diminishing returns to solely optimize a website on a page-by-page basis.

Especially with larger enterprise websites, it can be hard to move the needle for a website’s organic traffic by just picking at individual pages.

For this reason, I believe the most productive use of an SEO’s time is looking for global improvements. These sitewide improvements can be the most beneficial use of time as the SEO or developers only need to make the change in one location and yet it can impact thousands of pages.

So, how can you identify changes that can be made on a global level? One we do quite a bit is tweak title tag and meta description template logic so that it includes important words, phrases, and modifiers that people commonly search for along with the primary keywords.

Another valuable sitewide improvement is to look for errors that are built into the website template. Once again, Screaming Frog is our best friend. Start by running a crawl of a website, then sort the reports Screaming Frog provides by “Inlinks.” This shows how many links on the site contain that error.

Oftentimes, we’ll find internal 301 redirects or 404 errors that have thousands of inlinks pointing to them. This is a great clue that this error is occurring site-wide, and a simple change to the template can fix this issue across a large quantity of URLs.

5. Make interns part of your company culture

This may sound like cheating, but sometimes a repetitive or tedious process just needs that human touch. We’ve found that these types of tasks are perfect for interns. They get to do real work, and it frees up our team members for more difficult and meaningful work.

Our summer internship program has been a great success, and we work really hard to make the internships a win-win for everyone involved.

The interns benefit because we pay them well and they get great hands-on, real-world experience beyond grabbing coffee and filing documents. Go Fish Digital benefits by having capable hands ready to take on some of the more repetitive tasks that need to be performed manually.

The program is also a great way to identify talent early, and several former interns have gone on to be great full-time team members with the company.

In running the program, here are some of the things we’ve learned that have really helped us run a strong, efficient program:

Take hiring interns seriously. Our hiring process for interns is not all that different from hiring full-time team members. There are several rounds, and we do provide a prompt for a work sample. They’ll be in your office for roughly three months and will have an impact on your culture, so make sure it is a positive one.Onboard interns in groups. The “class” of interns tends to build a good bond as they have others coming on in their same situation. It also means you can train once, and get twice (or more) the output when it comes to delivery.Minimize or eliminate work-from-home opportunities for interns. It takes a lot of self-discipline to be just as productive at home as in the office, and while we trust our team with this, we’ve had less positive experiences with interns working remotely.Ensure that the interns are learning valuable skills. They should learn real marketing skills, and they should also learn how to be a good in-office team member.Hold an exit interview with the interns so that you can provide each other with feedback. We actually didn’t do this at first, and a smart intern pointed out that they would really love some feedback on how things went from our perspective. It turns out that though they are less experienced, they also have some great insight from spending time working with the company, so make sure you get their honest feedback on the experience as well.

Final thoughts

Scaling, efficiency, and productivity are core tenants my company — and for good reason.

If you can find a better and faster way to do something, you increase your quality output while freeing up time to do the more thoughtful (and more rewarding) work required to be successful at SEO.

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

Organizing for Martech: Re-examining Modern Marketing

Many organizations are struggling to optimize their staffing and skills to compete in a rapidly changing marketing world. What worked yesterday in marketing and technology may not work today – or tomorrow. With the rapid infusion of technology into the marketing organization, tensions between marketing and IT are inevitable.

How do you structure marketing to manage martech? What skills do you look for….or even need? How do you foster collaboration across groups in this new environment? Who’s in charge? Who should be?

Join Scott Brinker and our panel of martech experts as they explore the challenges facing CMOs looking to transform their marketing organization. They’ll discuss emerging best practices and the pros and cons of different management structures. You’ll also gain insights into how they manage and run their own companies.

Register today for “Organizing for Martech: Re-examining Modern Marketing,” produced by Digital Marketing Depot and sponsored by MarTech.

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

Search in Pics: Google movie theatre sign, rooftop subway car & wacky office room

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 Chicago has a subway car on their rooftop:

Source: Twitter

Google movie theatre signage:

Source: Twitter

Google wacky office room:

Source: Instagram

Google Dublin water front view:

Source: Instagram

Google remembers the Silent Parade of 1917 on its 100th anniversary

Today’s featured Google Doodle on the US home page honors the Silent Parade of 1917 on its 100th anniversary. The Silent Parade of 1917 included approximately 10,000 African Americans marching down Fifth Avenue in New York City in response to the East St. Louis Riots of 1917.

It was the first mass protest of lynching and anti-black violence in the United States and an important and significant step in US history.

Google wrote:

Organized by the NAACP, including leaders James Weldon Johnson and W.E.B Du Bois, the protest demanded that President Woodrow Wilson take the legislative action to protect African Americans that he had touched on during his presidential campaign. Although the demonstrators marched in silence, their message was very clear. One sign read, “Mr. President, why not make America safe for democracy” — a challenge at a time where the President was promising to bring democracy to the world through World War I while Black Americans were being stripped of their civil rights at home.

Today’s Doodle commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Silent Parade, and honors those whose silence resonates a century later.

Google links to https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/ for more information.