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Paul L.

Paul L.

With deadlines for 2017 budgets just around the corner, columnist Will Scott discusses why local businesses should be allocating more of their dollars to digital marketing.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You need to spend money to make money.” But for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), this is a particularly challenging mandate to follow when thinking about annual budgets every year. Now is the time they must take a hard look at their finances to determine how to spend less and make more.

So the million-dollar question is: With 2017 looming and budgeting priorities across the board, where will SMBs be putting their marketing dollars next year?

As a small business owner myself, I know all too well how essential it is to make a detailed plan that will tightly control my company’s financial performance. In my experience running an online marketing business, creating a process for budgeting is the single most effective means of keeping your business’s finances on the right track.

But even when times get tough, it’s imperative to remember how important the marketing portion of your budget is for survival. You should never stop promoting your business, even when resources end up being more limited than expected. When your marketing budget is small, you must make smart choices about your priorities to determine how much money you should devote not only to marketing in general, but specifically to the critical components of online marketing.

To succeed in today’s competitive and crowded world, here are three reasons why SMBs should consider online marketing a top budgeting priority.

1. The competition for online marketing is increasing

As more businesses devote their hard-earned dollars to online marketing, television and radio, the competition online is getting fierce. A recent CMO Survey Report showed that digital marketing spend is increasing over time, while spend on traditional advertising is falling.

From The CMO Survey Report: Highlights and Insights, August 2016

Similarly, a marketing trends survey by Selligent and StrongView conducted in late 2015 found that while business leaders increased their marketing budgets overall in 2016, traditional channels fell lower on the spectrum compared to online marketing channels.

Less than 14 percent of companies surveyed had planned to increase marketing spend for print, radio and television advertising, while a majority of businesses surveyed planned to increase spend in four key digital marketing channels: email marketing, social media, online display advertising and mobile marketing. And 42 percent of businesses surveyed planned to allocate greater marketing budget to search (SEO and PPC).

Social media marketing budgets are increasing as well. The 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, released by Social Media Examiner, found that at least 63 percent of marketers plan to increase marketing activities on Facebook and YouTube.

SMBs who hope to compete will need to take a detailed look at their budgets to see how far they can stretch their online marketing dollars, with a focus on creating content customized for their clientele. As businesses continue to allocate more and more marketing spend toward digital channels, these spaces will only become more competitive.

2. The benefits of online marketing are plentiful

Online marketing opens up a world of advantages over traditional advertising. For example, online marketing can offer a higher return on investment than traditional approaches due to the relatively low cost of online channels like social media, as well as the ability to quickly adapt your strategy based on data available from Google and social media platforms. Online marketing has also been shown to reach the same number of consumers at a much lower cost when compared to traditional channels.

Consider the additional benefits of online marketing, too. Not only can you track specific metrics to provide valuable and specific feedback for each individual campaign, but any business, no matter the size, can be a strong competitor with a solid online marketing strategy. This is due again to the lower cost of online channels, as well as the near immediacy of paid advertising on search and social media. SMBs can achieve quick boosts to business through these channels versus the longer waits that often accompany traditional marketing.

Let’s also not underestimate the viral nature of the internet. In the traditional marketing world, for example, you have to wait around for your sales flyers to get passed around between your prospects and customers. With an avenue like social media, share buttons enable your entire message to be shared quickly.

3. More SMBs want to invest in online marketing

So why do some SMBs still refrain entirely from online marketing, or even traditional marketing? A recent LSA survey of 300 SMBs found that one of the primary reasons is a small budget. But when questioned about how they would proceed if they had a larger marketing budget, digital marketing dominated the wish list, with search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search (PPC) at the top of the list. The survey found that 50 percent of SMBs would spend their budget on SEO if they had double their current marketing budget, while 41 percent would prioritize PPC.

Of the remaining channels, 37 percent of SMBs said they would invest in websites, 29 percent said they would invest in social media, and 28 percent said they would invest in CRM tools. The survey results mirrored consumer behavior, as websites and search engines are still seen as the primary driver for consumers searching for local products or services.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, as SMBs finalize their 2017 budgets, they will likely find that the benefits to increasing their marketing budget far outweigh any short-term cost savings that come with reducing it. As more SMBs shift their dollars to online marketing, they will find more prospects and more loyal customers who will visit their websites, read about and rate their products and services, and purchase them and give feedback that will be valuable to the rest of the market.

With digital marketing, it doesn’t take very long for good publicity to positively impact the future of a fledgling business. It also provides a great return on investment. A recent survey of 200 retail marketing executives who were making allocation decisions showed that they favor online advertising. Over three-quarters reported a greater ROI with online advertising than with traditional advertising.

If your budget allows for only one or two things to focus on, remember that quality content — on your website, blog or social media channels — reigns supreme. I would love to hear your thoughts on impending 2017 budgets and how marketing will be impacted.

Author:  Will Scott

Source:  http://searchengineland.com/

Facebook has responded to widespread criticism of how its Newsfeed algorithm disseminates and amplifies misinformation in the wake of the Trump victory in the US presidential election yesterday.

Multiple commentators were quick to point a finger of blame at Facebook’s role in the election campaign, arguing the tech giant has been hugely irresponsible given the role its platform now plays as a major media source, and specifically by enabling bogus stories to proliferate — many examples of which were seen to circulated in the Facebook Newsfeed during the campaign.

Last week Buzzfeed reported on an entire cottage industry of web users in Macedonia generating fake news stories related to Trump vs Clinton in order to inject them into Facebook’s Newsfeed as a way to drive viral views and generate ad revenue from lucrative US eyeballs.

This enterprise has apparently been wildly successful for the teens involved, with some apparently managing to pull in up to $3,000 and $5,000 per month thanks to the power of Facebook’s amplification algorithm.

That’s a pretty hefty economic incentive to game an algorithm.

As TC’s Sarah Perez wrote yesterday, the social network has become “an outsize player in crafting our understanding of the events that take place around us”.

In a statement sent to TechCrunch responding to a series of questions we put to the company (see below for what we asked), Adam Mosseri, VP of product management at Facebook, conceded the company does need to do more to tackle this problem — although he did not give any indication of how it plans to address the issue.

Here’s his statement in full:

We take misinformation on Facebook very seriously. We value authentic communication, and hear consistently from those who use Facebook that they prefer not to see misinformation. In Newsfeed we use various signals based on community feedback to determine which posts are likely to contain inaccurate information, and reduce their distribution. In Trending we look at a variety of signals to help make sure the topics being shown are reflective of real-world events, and take additional steps to prevent false or misleading content from appearing. Despite these efforts we understand there’s so much more we need to do, and that is why it’s important that we keep improving our ability to detect misinformation. We’re committed to continuing to work on this issue and improve the experiences on our platform.

Facebook has previously been criticized for firing the human editors it used to employ to curate its trending news section. The replacement algorithm it switched to was quickly shown to be trivially easy to fool.

Yet the company continues to self-define as a technology platform, deliberately eschewing wider editorial responsibility for the content its algorithms distribute, in favor of applying a narrow and universal set of community standards and/or trying to find engineering solutions to filter the Newsfeed. An increasingly irresponsible position, given Facebook’s increasingly powerful position as a source of and amplifier of ‘news’ (or, as it sometimes turns out to be, propaganda clickbait).

Pew research earlier this year found that a majority of U.S. adults (62 per cent) now get news via social media. And while Facebook is not the only social media outfit in town, nor the only where fake news can spread (see also: Twitter), it is by far the dominant such platform player in the US and in many other markets.

Beyond literal fake news spread via Facebook’s click-hungry platform, the wider issue is the filter bubble its preference-fed Newsfeed algorithms use to encircle individuals as they work to spoonfeed them more clicks — and thus keep users spinning inside concentric circles of opinion, unexposed to alternative points of view.

That’s clearly very bad for empathy, diversity and for a cohesive society.

The filter bubble has been a much discussed concern — for multiple years — but the consequences of algorithmically denuding the spectrum of available opinion, whilst simultaneously cranking open the Overton window along the axis of an individual’s own particular viewpoint, are perhaps becoming increasingly apparent this year, as social divisions seem to loom larger, noisier and uglier than in recent memory — at very least as played out on social media.

We know the medium is the message. And on social media we know the message is inherently personal. So letting algorithms manage and control what is often highly emotive messaging makes it look rather like there’s a very large tech giant asleep at the wheel.

Questions we put to Facebook:

  • How does Facebook respond to criticism of its Newsfeed algorithm amplifying fake news during the US election, thereby contributing negatively to misinformation campaigns and ultimately helping drive support for Donald Trump’s election?
  • Does Facebook have a specific response to Buzzfeed’s investigation of websites in Macedonia being used to generate large numbers of fake news stories that were placed into the Newsfeed?
  • What steps will Facebook be taking to prevent fake news being amplified and propagated on its platform in future?
  • Does the company accept any responsibility for the propagation of fake news via its platform?
  • Will Facebook be reversing its position and hiring human editors and journalists to prevent the trivial gaming of its news algorithms?
  • Does Facebook accept that as increasing numbers of people use its platform as a main news source it has a civic duty to accept editorial responsibility for the content it is broadcasting?
  • Any general comment from Facebook on Trump’s election?

Source:  techcrunch.com

In recent years, bigger phone screens have made one-handed keyboards less of a gimmick, and more of a straightforwardly useful idea. Microsoft has a one-handed mode for its keyboard app, and Google has one as well. And Apple, too, has seen the benefit of a one-handed keyboard — it's just not letting customers use it.

Developer Steve Troughton-Smith spotted the code for a one-handed keyboard in Apple's iOS Simulator (a program that lets you test and debug iOS apps on other hardware). He says the feature's been there since iOS 8. It activates by swiping in from either the left or the right of the screen, and shifts the keys to the opposite side, adding large cut, copy, and paste buttons as well. You can see the keyboard in action below:

It's not clear why Apple has never implemented this feature, especially as the company is usually so good on iPhone accessibility, but Troughton-Smith did create a way to access the one-handed mode if your iPhone is jailbroken. Fingers (on one hand) crossed, we'll see this feature activated in some future iOS update.

Source : theverge

 

Google’s mission with the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones is relatively clear. These are high-end devices designed to showcase Google’s prowess in software and hardware. Unlike the developer-focused Nexus devices the two Pixel models are targeted at the consumer market. They will be portrayed as best-of-breed Android devices, the pinnacle of achievement, and the ultimate smartphones that Mountain View can produce.

All of that hard work is hindered by one factor that was under Google’s control. It picked the wrong price.

There’s no doubt that the Pixel smartphones are competitive in the high-end market and represent a significant investment for those buying the handset SIM-free and without a carrier subsidy. Even those who pick up one under contract will be aware of the price.

The price of a device has a notable impact in how it is perceived. In broad strokes, something that is more expensive will be seen to be of better quality, will have more features, and will be more capable. If I offered you an HTC handset at $199 SIM-Free and one at $399, I’m sure the majority of you would pick the latter. And if I asked you to make a best guess at the features list the latter would be better specced.

The Pixel’s starting price for the 32GB model is $649, rising to $849 for the 128GB Pixel XL. That sets an expectation in the mind of consumers. It gives them a benchmark to compare the various Pixel models to. And the comparison is perhaps the priciest mistake that Google has made with the Pixel.

The iPhone 7′s starting price for the 32GB model is $649, rising to $849 for the 128 GB iPhone 7 Plus.

Google is saying that it can’t do any better than Apple.

 

Rick Osterloh, SVP Hardware at Google Inc., speaks during an event to introduce the Google Pixel phone (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images)

Apple should not be the arbiter of the upper price band of the consumer smartphone, but manufacturers continue to look at the iPhone’s price as a glass ceiling. The aspirational iPhone is not quite in the luxury pricing market, but the refusal of manufacturers to breach the iPhone price limit for its most popular handset is maddening.

Sony is a good historical example. The Xperia Z range of devices continued to push hardware and specifications that were in advance of the equivalent iPhone - a larger camera, more storage, more expansion options, waterproofing, higher resolutions screen - but the Japanese company tried to undercut the iPhone’s price tag and sell on value instead of maximizing the profit per handset. The better play was to build on Sony’s brand ethos of excellence at a price and go higher than the iPhone in all respects, including the price.

Google is making a similar mistake with the Pixel. For all of the talk of the best camera, the all-day battery (and yes, even the inclusion of a headphone jack) the pricing story says that the Pixels are not better than the iPhones.

Apple iPhone 7 (image: Ewan Spence)

Apple iPhone 7 (image: Ewan Spence)

Five dollars.

Customers walk into stores and ask for the most expensive phone. The Pixel could have had that customer with five dollars added to the sticker price.

That’s all it would have taken. The geekerati would still buy the handset SIM-free, and the extra cost could have been absorbed by Google in the subsidy offered to the carriers. That price would have put the Pixel family higher up the pyramid than the iPhone, it would have suggested that the Pixels are better than the iPhones, and it would have cast Google as not only the company to challenge Apple, but to break through the perceived glass ceiling that Tim Cook has placed on the smartphone market.

If Google is going to be aggressive with the hardware, if it is going to challenge its own manufacturing partners, if it is going to use its Android software as a point of differentiation, then Google is saying the Pixel is better than the competition.

Google should have backed that up with a price that matched the message.

Now read why the internet reviewers have fallen in love with the Google Pixel…

Follow me on Facebook. Find more of my work at ewanspence.co.uk, on Twitter, and Linked In. You should subscribe to my weekly newsletter of 'Trivial Posts'.

Source : forbes

Shake your fist and your VR avatar’s face will turn “angry.” Put your hands on your face Home Alone-style to express “shock.” Triumphantly thrust your hands in the air and your virtual self’s face will show “joy.”

These are what Facebook calls “VR emoji,” and they’re the company’s vision for how we’ll convey emotion in virtual reality. We’re not talking about yellow illustrated emoticons popping up over your head. Instead, your avatar’s eyes, eye brows, mouth and other facial features will change to mimic how we exhibit body language in the real world.

Face-to-virtual-face

Michael Booth, Facebook’s head of social VR, describes that “when you send a message and you want to make an emotional point, you stick an emoji on there.” We lose tone and physical cues when we text, so emojis emerged to clarify what you really mean. Otherwise, the recipient won’t know whether you’re excited or worried when you say “oh my.”

Booth wanted to alleviate similar sentiment ambiguity that exists in social VR as you don’t usually see someone’s real face. The solution goes far, far beyond the “Reactions” you can leave on 360 News Feed content to express more nuanced feedback than just a “Like.”

“We’re coming up with a language that triggers your avatar to make certain emotions,” aka “VR emoji” Booth tells me. “We can’t just be a blank presence. [In VR] we have eyes, we have mouths. We need some kind of emotions or it seems like totally flat affect.” If you say something shocking to a friend in VR, but their face stays completely static, it breaks your sense of presence. We’re accustomed to facial cues.

oculus-cards-joy-emoji

For example, in the real world if you’re in the middle of a long explanation and someone doesn’t understand you, you can recognize the confused expression on their face. That tells you to dumb it down a bit, provide more background context or say it again in a different way.

Without VR emoji, your conversation partner would either have to interrupt you, flail their arms in a non-obvious way or wait until you’re finished. With Facebook’s VR emoji, you can shrug with your palms up, and your face will show an easily recognized expression of confusion — eyes scrunched and mouth crooked. Though Booth warns the gestures behind its VR emoji vocabulary are sure to change over time.

zuck-brain-chemistryMark Zuckerberg dives into how our brain processes social VR

None of this depends on eye or facial tracking, which would require additional hardware to be built into VR headsets. Startups like FOVE are building these headsets, and apps like VR chat room Altspace make your eye movements visible on your avatar. But eye tracking isn’t built into the Oculus Rift, Gear VR, Google Daydream and Cardboard, HTC Vive or PlayStation VR headsets. The hand-tracking that VR emojis require is proliferating much faster toward the scale Facebook craves for its product.

Booth details four of the main goals Facebook has for using avatars to create the sense of believable human presence in social VR:

  1. “You’re comfortable with the way you look”
  2. “Friends can recognize you at a glance”
  3. “It’s not creepy and disturbing”
  4. “Facebook can create avatars that represent each of its 1.7 billion users”

Facebook is still experimenting with different ways to personalize avatars so they look like you. One option is an internal drawing tool where you illustrate a version of your face to plaster onto your avatar. Another is to use an Occipital Structure sensor or other image-capture device to model your head. Facebook could potentially even try to recreate your VR face from the photos tagged of you on its social network.

vr-surprised-emoji

Whatever it offers will have to work reliably, otherwise you could end up with a grotesquely disfigured avatar version of yourself that would break rules No. 1 and No. 4 above.

Live VRing

Luckily, Booth knows plenty about avatars. He spent 10 years making video games at Valve and another two at Blizzard. He was planning to start his own VR game studio, but then Facebook showed him the “Toybox” social VR demo, which he says “really blew my mind.” He joined Facebook, and since December has been working on the successor to Toybox, Facebook’s unnamed social VR prototype demoed today. 

Presence isn’t enough. VR needs utility — things to do in there. Along with the VR emojis, Booth and Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated the ability to visit VR destinations with your friends’ avatars overlaid on the scene. They showed how you’ll be able to play cards, watch TV and sword fight together. If you see something cool, you’ll be able to take a VR selfie, turn to your wrist and see a button to instantly share the photo to Facebook. You’ll even get a change to take a Facebook Messenger video call and show someone in the real world what your avatar is up to in the virtual realm.

That’s just the start, though. Facebook is plotting to turn you into a VR videographer. Booth tells me it’s developing a way for you to “basically have a virtual camera you can pick up and move around.” This way, friends without headsets can see what all the hype is about by watching your VR antics straight from the Facebook News Feed. “You become a 2D camera man for your friends in VR,” Booth says. “With video streaming, you become a superstar.”

image_facebook-avatar-design-experimentsThe evolution of Facebook’s social VR avatars, from generic figures to blocky heads to polished faces to emotional creatures

That concept of expanding Facebook Live streaming from the physical world to your adventures in the digital one ties social VR back to the company’s core product that’s increasingly focused on video. While Oculus and Facebook started quite distinct, the dividing lines are blurring.

If Facebook can build a compelling social VR experience at scale, Booth says “we’ll figure out some way to monetize it. I’m sure advertising will be very interesting in VR.”

For now, though, this is all just the next way Facebook wants to accomplish its mission of connecting the world, making friends feel closer together no matter where they are. From basic profiles to photos to auto-play videos in the News Feed, from text chat to multi-media Messenger apps, from web to mobile and now to VR, Facebook continues to evolve. But no matter the technology, Booth says Facebook’s staying true to its principle of “People First.’

Source : techcrunch

Almost overnight, voice search has become a significant part of the marketing landscape. Many businesses, however, don't have a plan to take advantage of what it has to offer.

The development of smartphone technology has turned Siri and Cortana into household names. These voice-activated personal assistants are key parts of the interfaces for Android and iPhone devices, and every day, millions of people use them to find services they need.

In fact, 71 percent of 18 to 29-year-old Americans use smartphone personal assistants, and about 40 percent of all voice search users have taken it up in the past six months. The technology is exploding, but are online businesses ready for it?

Voice Queries Should Be a Key SEO Concern

One of the most important aspects of voice search is the way people use it. Finding services using Siri is not like typing search queries into Google. Instead, smartphone users tend to ask questions for their personal assistants to answer. They don't type in "frozen yogurt Baltimore," they ask Siri where they can find some frozen yogurt in Baltimore. It's a big difference.

The past year has seen a sharp rise in the number of search engine queries based on words like "who," "what," "when," and "how." This is something that businesses need to respond to. Instead of focusing on short keyword searches, voice search makes it vital to consider longer questions. Marketers need to find out how phone users are phrasing their queries and base their SEO campaigns around these questions.

This isn't as easy as it sounds. It's not possible to tell which Google queries are coming from voice search, but you can get a good idea of the way people use questions by analyzing your:

  • Customer service queries
  • Social media feeds

Voice Search Optimized Sites Will Be Rewarded by Google

One thing is certain: if voice search continues to rise in popularity, Google will make sure that its algorithms reward sites that answer customer questions as efficiently as possible. Google's own speech recognition error rate has plummeted in recent times, from over 25 percent in 2014 to just 8 percent in 2016, and the firm is investing billions of dollars in perfecting speech-based searching.

But how can online businesses respond proactively to this development?

  • On beyond keyword-based marketing. It seems likely that Google's algorithms will reward searches that align with what customers want, and that raw keyword-based marketing techniques will become less important. Although keywords remain (and are likely to remain) a major part of how the search engines work, how satisfactorily your content addresses user queries will ultimately determine your site’s favorability.
  • Connect with customers on an emotional level. Instead of gaming keywords, successful firms will know how to connect with customers on an emotional level. That's what Google is aiming for. Context-specific search results that synchronize with what users want and feel.

Content that meets these criteria should work well.

A Huge Opportunity for Local Businesses

Voice searching is not something for small businesses to fear. In fact, if local companies use the technology wisely, they can capitalize on a wave of localized searches and capture huge numbers of new customers. When people make voice queries on their phones, they tend to be local. They ask things like "where is the nearest burger restaurant?" or "how can I get to the park?" If your company can be the most common answer to questions like this, voice search holds huge potential.

Considering all this information, what exactly can you do to capitalize on this growing trend as a local business?

  • Listings. Concentrate your marketing resources on perfecting your listings on Google Maps and sites like Yelp. Ensure that all of the information is accurate and up-to-date, and manage your reviews to showcase your services.
  • Site content. The content of your site also needs to be refined to stress your location. Think about the language that local people use to find businesses. Do they refer to streets or neighborhoods in a certain way? If so, include it in your text.
  • Language. If you run a business catering to tourists, be sure to include some foreign language content as well. Everyone is using voice search these days, and it's not all about English language speakers.
    Long-tail keywords. Long tails are harder to rank compared to head keywords but convert well. And because customers in the actual buying stage ask very specific questions, a clear understanding of your website and product/service should help you figure out which long-tail keywords to target.

Mobile Optimization Is Vital

With the rise of smartphone voice search, mobile optimization has become a no-brainer. It's simply got to be done, so if you haven't already redesigned your site to be mobile-friendly, start doing so right away.

Some tips to get you started with mobile optimization:

  • Use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test. This is a simple site Google created to analyze the mobile-friendliness of your website’s design. Google has made it clear that mobile-optimized websites will be privileged in search results in the future, and they have provided tools to help businesses adapt, so be sure to use them.
  • Less is more. Do away with all the fancy Flash and pop-ups. Mobile users may not have the Flash plugin available on their devices, and pop-ups can be difficult to work with on small screens.
  • Optimize your images. Image files that are too big will take a while to load. Image compression tools such as TinyPNG and TinyJPG can help you save bandwidth and accelerate your site’s loading speed.

Adapting to voice search is something that every business will eventually have to do. Right now, small and mid-sized companies can give themselves an early-adopter advantage by designing their content around voice queries, perfecting their local listings, and ensuring their sites are mobile-optimized.

Source : http://www.business.com/

In a previous post, I outlined my complete guide to optimizing product category pages. While those pages can be great for attracting searchers who are still deciding what specific products they want (and are critical to the sales process,) ultimately they are just “pass-through” pages. Their job is to get the visitors to the actual product pages.

But you can also have visitors bypass those category pages altogether when a more specific intent of their search is clear. That can be done by making every e-commerce product page a landing page for searches specific to that product. No sense trying to get searchers to land on a page that displays all products when their search already indicates which product they want!

To get these product specific searchers directly to the specific products they are looking for, optimization is key. Here’s how…

Assign a Master Product Category

As with optimizing product category pages, optimizing product pages starts with categorization. The last post addressed the need to create strong navigational categories. Now we need to put those categories to use. That’s simple enough. It’s just a matter of determining which categories each product belongs to. But we have to take this one step further and assign each product a single master category.

When products fit into more than one category, many content management systems create a unique URL for each product and category assigned. That means that one product can have more than one valid URL, based on the categories it fits into. This can turn into a major duplicate content problem.

Let’s assume a site visitor is looking for a book on how to build a deck. They are going to need lumber, concrete, a circular saw, and a book on how to do the job. We’ll focus only on the book, which can be found by following any one of these four possible paths:

  • Home > Lumber > Books> How to Build a Deck
  • Home > Building Materials > Books > How to Build a Deck
  • Home > Tools > Books > How to Build a Deck
  • Home > Books > Decks > How to Build a Deck

This is simplified, of course, but in order to place the book in those four categories, what you will often wind up with are four different URLs:

  • http://www.site.com/lumber/books/how-to-build-a-deck.html
  • http://www.site.com/building-materials/books/how-to-build-a-deck.html
  • http://www.site.com/tools/books/how-to-build-a-deck.html
  • http://www.site.com/books/decks/how-to-build-a-deck.html

That’s four “pages” competing for placement for the same keyword search!

The solution is to assign a single master category for each product, while allowing as many other categories as desired. It is this master category that determines the one and only URL for the product.

  • http://www.site.com/books/decks/how-to-build-a-deck.html

It doesn’t matter how the shopper ultimately finds the product because the URL (and supporting breadcrumb trail) will default to this master category.

You’ll likely have to get a programmer involved to make this possible, but it’s definitely worthwhile. That said, there are a couple of less desirable alternatives if the programming option is too costly for you.

Alternative Solution 1: Remove all category classifications from the product URLs, in which case it would look something like this.

  • http://www.site.com/products/how-to-build-a-deck-book.html

rather than

  • http://www.site.com/books/decks/how-to-build-a-deck.html

Notice that the category name is no longer relevant, and a new category has been created for all products. The drawback to this option is that by removing product classification from the URL, you lose a small but vital search engine relevance signal.

Alternative Solution 2: Implement a canonical tag that points to the master URL for that product. Using the canonical tag to correct duplicate URLs relies on the search engines to properly follow the instructions provided, which they may or may not do. I’ll go into this in further detail a bit later.

One Product, Multiple SKUs

Some products come in multiple shapes, sizes, colors, and other variations. Essentially, they are the same product, with a slight difference. But those differences can require their own SKUs. For many systems, every SKU gets its own page and URL, which can make for a lot of URLs!

Below is an example of a site that has 52 different styles, 19 colors, and 5 sizes all for the same “t-rex hates” shirt design. Let’s do the math on that…We are looking at 4,940 unique URLs for what is essentially the same product.

product-variables

We can actually trim that number back a bit because, in some cases, the different styles do (or should) constitute a unique product. How do we determine when this should be the case? Think about the shopper. Is there a strong chance they will search for a “t-rex hates jersey” versus “t-rex hates golf shirt?” That’s quite possible. Therefore, we want those searchers to land on a page that already has that style prominent. This site already, smartly, does that.

But we still have the color/sizing issue. Searchers are far less likely to search using those criteria. Even if they do, the one landing page/URL will suffice. But on this site, we get a new URL for every variable.

Here is a sampling of the URLs:

  • www.site.com/trex-hates_tshirt?productId=1321218904#color=navy/white&size=medium
  • www.site.com/trex-hates_tshirt?productId=1321218904#color=green&size=x-large
  • www.site.com/trex-hates_tshirt?productId=1321218904#color=red&size=3x-large tall

Ideally, you’ll have a single product page/URL that allows the visitor to select their size, color, or any other variations being offered. There is no reason for the URL to change with each selection, even if a separate SKU is required. The database should track which variables are selected and send the appropriate SKU through with the order.

Here is a site that does it this way. Notice the change in SKU based on the selection of the shirt size.

product-variables2

product-variables3

As I said above, not all systems work this way and may require extensive reprogramming. But be aware, this is the best possible fix, and the most error-proof one. But, should you refuse to accept this mission, there are (less attractive) alternatives:

Alternative Solution 1: Implement the canonical tag. The canonical tag on each of these size/color variations would consistently point to the “primary” URL. That’s the solution this site uses, they have their canonical tag pointing to:

  • www.site.com/trex-hates_tshirt?

The only time this changes is when you click on a different shirt style, which I already noted makes sense because you do want those as unique landing pages.

Alternative Solution 2: Use Google Search Console to ignore all the parameters on the end of the URLs. What are the parameters? Everything from the “?” and beyond. The URLs above have three parameters: Product ID, Color, and Size. You can tell Google search console to ignore each or all of these.

By doing this, you’re basically telling Google to only consider what should be the canonical URL and nothing more. The downside to this solution is that it is specific to Google. You’ll then have to do the same thing with Bing.

You also need to be very careful that you don’t ignore parameters that are necessary. For example, if the system also uses a parameter to determine shirt style, you want to make sure you are not excluding that in Search Console. Otherwise, you’ll wipe out all of these great landing pages from being found in search.

Also, if product ID is important, you don’t want to tell search engines to ignore that, either. Looking at the URLs above, I would have thought that the product ID was an essential parameter, but it’s not. The same product shows with or without it, which means you do want it excluded from consideration.

Always be careful when messing with search engines and parameter indexing. You have to know what you’re doing or you can really screw up your ability to get key pages indexed. 

Implement Canonical Tag

I’ve already mentioned the canonical tag as an alternate solution for a couple of issues above, but I want to address it in more detail here. I consider the canonical tag to be nothing more than a band-aid solution for those previously mentioned issues. But it is also smart to use it as a backup solution that should be implemented across the board regardless.

The canonical tag is a simple line of code that tells the search engines which URL they should be indexing, regardless of the actual URL they are on. It is designed for sites that have these duplicate content/multiple URL issues. Here is what a full canonical tag looks like:

The search engines use the canonical tag as a signal, but not a directive. Which means they can choose to ignore it if they want. And they will if they believe that the content on the URL being indexed is different enough from the content on the canonical URL.

This is why I don’t consider it a pure fix. You can tell the search engines your preference, but you can’t force them to adhere to it. That leaves your site vulnerable to duplicate content issues.

Yet, even if you are implementing your permanent fixes, it’s still a good idea to implement canonical tags across the board. All it takes is someone linking to your site using a URL with added parameters (such as for tracking purposes) and the search engines can then grab that URL for their index. Without even knowing it, you have duplicate content!

Write Unique Product Titles and Descriptions

Unless you have come up with your own line of products, the products you sell are very likely similar or the same as the products being sold on hundreds of other websites. Which means you’re likely getting your product descriptions from the manufacturer. And this means you are publishing duplicate content on your site.

When search engines see hundreds of products with essentially the same title and description, they have to decide which one of those pages should rank over the others. That’s what the algorithms do by nature, but by using these duplicate product descriptions, you are losing the advantage of being unique. Essentially, you are taking one of the primary ways that search engines determine the value of your site over others completely off the table! Which means you’ll have a hard time getting your product pages to rank over your competitors.

If you can–and I know that this is very time-consuming for sites with lots of products–write unique titles and descriptions for each and every product. This is your opportunity to stand out from every other site selling the same thing. Find your voice and put that into everything you sell. Be fun, be creative, and by all means, add value!

Alternate Solution: If you can’t write your own unique content for your products, you’ll have to rely on user-generated content. That is, getting your customers to create content on these pages for you. So, while we are on that topic…

Allow User-Generated Content

Even if you already have unique titles and descriptions for all your products, allowing your visitors to contribute content to your pages gives you an additional advantage. Not only does it give search engines a reason to keep coming back to reindex the pages, they’ll do so more frequently. And the added UGC can also help push you further up in search rankings.

User generated content comes in various forms. You can decide which are right for your site, but I would consider each of them and implement any and all that you can:

  • Reviews: Allow shoppers to write their own reviews of your products/services.
  • Ratings: Similar to reviews, you can also have shoppers rate the products.
  • Questions: Some shoppers might have questions that they need to have answered before they’ll be willing to buy the product. Giving them a space to ask those questions not only increases the likelihood you’ll get that sale, it also will likely help others with the same questions.
  • Stories: Let visitors post their own experiences with your product or service. This is less of a review than it is a way to highlight creative ways your products were used and what solutions they solved for others.
  • Pictures: Along with stories, you can let your visitors post pictures that illustrate your products in use.
  • Videos: If you allow videos, some users will use this for any and all of the above. They can post a video review, tell their stories, and show the product in action. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video has got to be worth so much more!

Implement Schema/Structured Data Markup

Structured data (or schema) markup allows you to tag certain content with appropriate coding that then allows search engines know how to “interpret” that content correctly. Remember, what visitors see visually is often the result of fairly complex code. Search engines can only read the code and try to interpret it visually, but don’t always get correlations of data.

For example, you may see a SKU number quite obvious on the page, but that number can be buried in code that the search engines are trying to decipher. Structured data allows you to highlight this and other critical pieces of content so there is no ambiguity.

Here is what some schema markup looks like:

structured-data

Where do you use structured markup? Here are just a few options specific to your product pages:

  • Product name
  • Product image
  • Product description
  • Brand
  • Reviews
  • Ratings
  • Special Offers
  • SKUs
  • Price
  • Currency
  • Availability
  • URL

Using structured data for each of these areas leaves no room for interpretation and tells the search engines exactly what each is. Another benefit, though, is getting rich snippets in search results. Google will often pull information from your structured markup and include it in the search results, such as description and ratings. Having these shown in the search results can increase clicks and help sell your products.

User-Focused Optimizations

Thus far, the strategies addressed in this post have been issues related to search engines. Of course, each of the optimization strategies outlined above is great for users as well, but now let’s address a handful of user-focused optimization strategies for your product pages.

Consistent Layout

The layout of your product pages should be relatively consistent across the board. Occasionally, you have a group of products that requires unique information for which you need to create a new template, but as best as possible, keep all product pages looking the same. This allows shoppers to become familiar with a single layout so they can easily breeze from product to product gathering needed information.

Multiple Image Views

Many product images can be enhanced by providing multiple views of the product. Of course, this isn’t necessary for all products, but if you have something in which a different angle view helps the visitor get a better feel for it, then this will improve the shopping experience. Either the visitor will be more apt to buy the product because they have a more complete visual, or it will reduce product returns from someone buying something that wasn’t what they wanted. Either way, you win.

product-views

Product Availability

Nobody wants to add a product to their cart only to find out later they can’t get it. Provide some kind of indicator as to whether the product is or is not currently available. If stock is limited, displaying the number of items remaining can be a good motivator to purchase sooner rather than later.

product-stockMultiple Image Views

Keep your add to cart buttons in close proximity to the product information. You’ll want to check different screen sizes and resolutions on this as these variables can move information and buttons to places you would not have imagined. Considering all variables, making sure that the correlation between product and button is clear.

You also might want to have an option to add the product to a wish list, or save it for later viewing. If the shopper isn’t ready to buy, this can be a nice reminder the next time they log in. Similarly, provide an option that allows the visitor to forward the URL to themselves or a friend for later viewing, perhaps on a different device.

Security Assurances

Every shopper–especially when on your site for the first time–has a trust hurdle to overcome. If they can’t overcome those hurdles, the chances of you getting a sale are pretty slim. Your job is to alleviate their concerns in as many ways as possible to the point where they no longer have reasons to say no.

product-security

Here are some trust issues that you need to overcome:

  • Do you take credit cards?
  • Do you take my preferred form of payment?
  • Will my personal information be protected?
  • What is your return policy?
  • Do you offer any guarantees?
  • If I have a problem, will I be able to reach a real person?
  • Will my personal information be secure?
  • Will my information be used to spam me?

Addressing each of these issues will remove the hurdles that get in the way of the purchase. Once these are eliminated, the decision whether or not to do business with you becomes much easier.

Cross Promotion

Cross promoting products is a great way to increase the average order size. Most shoppers come for what they want, but if they see something else of value during that interaction, they just might add more products to their cart.

product-promotion

Keep Shopper Shopping

Imagine with me for a second that you’re in a grocery store. But the store doesn’t allow you to keep your cart with you as you browse the aisles. Instead, you have to leave the cart at the end of each aisle as you go down and browse the products on the shelves. Every time you grab an item to put in your cart, you have to walk back to your cart at the end of the aisle. And to top it off, you can only add one product at a time.

If any store did that, you probably wouldn’t return, no matter what kind of great deals they offer. But this is exactly what websites do when they force visitors into the cart page every time they add an item. That forces them out of the aisle and back to a cart somewhere completely different from where they want to be.

When products are added to the cart, provide a notification that it’s added, but let the visitor stay exactly where they are to continue shopping. When they are ready to look at the cart, they will. Otherwise, let them shop!

Facilitate Socialization

In the age of social media, shoppers are more likely to share a product to their favorite social platform than they are to leave a review. In fact, they’ll often post a mini review on their streams so long as you make it easy to do so.

Providing socialization buttons gives another way for visitors to interact with your brand and become evangelists for your products.

product-social

You also might want to make it easier for your customers to get updates about new products and sales. You can easily facilitate this by adding a Twitter or RSS feed that regularly pushes out new content and items that have just gone on sale. You might be surprised to find that these feeds may become more popular than your regular social channels!

E-Commerce Tracking

Finally, no optimization would be complete without making sure your e-commerce tracking is installed and properly working. This provides you with the best opportunity to fine tune your shoppers experience on the site, removing barriers and increasing sales.

Optimizing your product pages can often be the most valuable time spent on marketing and promotion. And the great thing about optimizing these pages is that 90% of it can be handled via a template. Instead of having to optimize hundreds or even thousands of individual pages, optimize the product template and the bulk of your work is done!

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Stoney deGeyter
In-post Photos: All images by Stoney deGeyter
All screenshots by Stoney deGeyter. Taken August 2016.

Source : https://www.searchenginejournal.com

 

More than half of all traffic to luxury brand Web sites comes from search. Some 46% of this traffic is paid, greater than the paid rate seen for the broader apparel and accessories market at 39%, according to research released this week.

Once consumers reach the brand's Web site, according to data from the PMX Agency study, Google, alone, accounts for 48% of all referrals to luxury brand sites. The search engine is the biggest source of traffic to the luxury category. Nearly 40% of visitors leaving a luxury brand site keep shopping by going on to another retail site.

PMX Agency’s 2016 Trend Report — Luxury Brands Online – analyzes the success of top luxury apparel brands online by leveraging a variety of metrics such as site visits, brand searches and social media interactions to better understand reach and consumer engagement.

The report suggests that the market segment for personal luxury goods will grow between 2% and 3% by 2020, up from $282 billion in global sales in 2016.

More than 80 apparel brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès, newer brands like Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, J.W. Anderson, and Christopher Kane serve as a benchmark for the luxury sector study.

Lancel has the highest percentage of visits from search engines to its Web site at 79.2%. Ironically, 0% comes from paid search ads and 100% from organic search. Manolo Blahnik at 78.2% of visits from search engines and Céline with 73.2% of visits from search engines also get all of the online traffic to their Web sites from organic search.

When it comes to online market share by brand, Ralph Lauren had top online market share among luxury brands, accounting for roughly 1 in 5 visits to the category.

Ten brands -- Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, Hermès, Louboutin and Versace  -- account for 78.5% of traffic to the luxury category and are the same as reported in 2015.

Chris Paradysz, CEO of PMX Agency, said brands like Ralph Lauren will attempt to inspire and close that gap between the super-affluent and the consumers with the disposable income who may or may not choose to spend it with traditional brands. "They need a new experience to entice them and keep them connected and engaged," he said.  

Keyword variations of "handbags" -- such as "bags," "purses" and "clutch" -- remain among the most popular, and show that this accessory is still a key product for attracting consumers to luxury brand sites.

The coexistence of all players such as consignment sites, brand sites and partner stores in search results brings considerations like price, shipping costs and preowned goods to the forefront. Luxury brands that may not wish to compete on price should promote exclusive content or product selection as a key differentiator, according to the report.

Ralph Lauren captured top market share among luxury brands, receiving nearly 1 in 5 visits to the category -- 19.2% of total visits. The brand jockeys for the top spot with Michael Kors, which is nearly as popular at 18.5%. 

Source : http://www.mediapost.com/

 

Thursday, 22 September 2016 09:45

4 Social Search Engines To Track User Data

There are different types of search engines—in other words, Google GOOGL +0.81% isn’t always going to be the best choice. What if you want to find niche products or services, or it’s crucial that you get information in real-time? There are social search engines which only provide content that was provided specifically for them, and there are others that gather data from numerous sources which are designed to serve certain demographics.

As a business owner, you might want to tap into social search engines in order to get key information to customers. By immediately (and automatically) publishing content via RSS feeds, you might be able to reach more, better demographics than simply optimizing your SEO for the big boys like Bing and Yahoo YHOO -0.36%!

Consider these five leading social search engines that excel at tracking user information and make life easier.

SmashFuse

1. Smashfuse:

This popular engine works by ditching those static websites and honing in on the most significant of social media sites. Of course,Twitter TWTR +0.11% and Facebook are aggregated here but you’ll also find information from Vimeo, Google+ and the scores of beloved social media platforms around the world you haven’t even heard of. Get instant access to the keywords which are trending right on the home page, or peruse them at your leisure, sorting by each platform.

2. SocialMention:

Part social media search and part analysis tool, this engine aggregates content that’s generated from users around the world, providing you with one user-friendly information feed. You can measure and track what’s being said about your company, you, or a product or topic everywhere online. It updates constantly so you have real-time information, and keeps track of over 100 social media platforms including the biggies like Facebook and YouTube, but also the underdogs. Plus, you can opt for regular monitoring and alerts.

3Topsy:

Topsy is a social analytics tool as well as “social search engine,” indexing several hundred billion tweets. It’s unique because it’s one of the few real time sites that popped up during the hey day of 2008 through 2010 that still thrives and survives. Then, the big search engines were making use of real-time information for the first time, which was essentially dooming the smaller sites except for Topsy. It’s the ideal accoutrement to Twitter.

4.Social Searcher:

This fan favorite lets you search for content within social sites (in real time of course) while simultaneously dishing up comprehensive analytics and data. You don’t need to log into your other social media accounts in order to get information, alerts or send messages. Created in 2010, it’s available in dozens of languages, and you can sort information by likes or date.

There are many more social search engines that might be just what you need to quickly get your ducks in a row. Sometimes you need just the basics like Bing—but sometimes, you need a little something extra.

Source : http://www.forbes.com/

The search function was designed with experts from Harvard and the Mayo Clinic.

An agonising headache that just won’t go away – but at what point should the feeling sorry for yourself give way to genuine concern?

In the past, that would’ve been a question exclusively directed at your GP.

But, increasingly people are turning to the internet in their quest for an answer to their health fears.

Google’s symptom search function allows people to ask about symptoms, and collates a list of related conditions, possible information and suggests when it is important to visit a doctor

Indeed, search engine giant, Google estimates one per cent of the millions of searches performed each day, are symptom related.

And whereas once upon a Google search, you would’ve been inundated with a deluge of links to health forums, blogs, NHS Choices pages and other potentially alarming information, the new reality is changing the face of the internet diagnosis.

Now the new Google symptom checker, designed in conjunction with experts from the prestigious Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic, aims to make navigating health content online a less daunting ordeal.

The tool allows people to ask about symptoms, such as a “headache on one side”.

And the result is a list of related conditions, for example headache, migraine, tension headache, cluster headache, sinusitis and the common cold.

Source : https://www.thesun.co.uk/living/1677380/symptom-checker-diagnoses-whats-wrong-gives-treatment-advice-and-tells-you-when-its-serious-enough-to-see-a-doctor/

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