Watch Out Google…Amazon in Coming Your Way

Amazon Q3 ad revenues surpass $1 billion

Yesterday, Amazon announced third-quarter earnings. The company reported sales growth of 34 percent to $43.7 billion. A year ago, Amazon reported $32.7 billion in sales.

For the purposes of this post, the noteworthy part is Amazon’s “other” revenue, which is basically advertising. Buried at the bottom of the Net Sales chart in the press release was this line item:

“Other” is defined by Amazon to include “sales not otherwise included above, such as certain advertising services and our co-branded credit card agreements.” It’s a safe bet, then, that ad sales for the quarter were $1+ billion, which represented 58 percent year-over-year growth. Since Q2 of 2016 ad sales have basically doubled.

On the earnings call, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said, “Advertising revenue continues to grow very quickly and its year-over-year growth rate is actually faster than the other revenue line item that you see there [in the ‘other’ category].”

The fact that Amazon is now on par with or surpasses Google in product search is not lost on retailers and brand advertisers. Reflective of the company’s intensifying effort to attract ad revenues from search marketers and agencies, Amazon made its first appearance at SMX East in New York City this week to promote Amazon Marketing Services advertising offerings.

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Duplicate Content- It’s All About Time Management

Google: Duplicate Content Issues Are Rainy Day Tasks

John Mueller from Google has a wonderful response to a question about duplicate content and how to measure how big of an issue it is on your web site. He posted it in the Google Webmaster Help forums.

In short, he called duplicate content issues an issue SEOs can work on, on one of those rainy days. He said Google does a good job dealing with it, and with all the issues you probably have on your site, duplicate content is probably not a primary issue relative to what else you have on your to do list.

Here is what John wrote:

Focusing on artificial metrics like that is not really that critical … Using tools to recognize issues is great, but you need to understand how these tools work, and take their output appropriately. For example, if you’re looking at a new site, it can be useful to get an overview of where potential issues with duplicate content might lie (and for that, crawling the site, using shingles and comparing them – via hash or directly, is a way to get a rough picture). However, when it comes to actually changing things, I’d recommend not blindly focusing on numbers like that and instead reviewing your content manually. “Is the primary content and purpose of these two pages the same? — Can they be combined into a single page?” Sometimes having the same content on multiple pages is desired, it’s certainly not something Google’s algorithms penalize a site for :). For the most part, I’d recommend looking at it as a user, and working your way through the site naturally. You’ll always find things to improve!… and, as always, try to keep a sense of scale in mind. If you’re spending a week only focusing on filtering out some duplicate content, is that really the best use of your time? How relevant will that de-duplication be in 1 month, in 1 year, in 5 years? Google generally does a good job of dealing with these things, so sometimes it’s worth just jotting the issue down in a “rainy day / when someone new comes on board / for the summer intern” list, and instead focusing on the bigger issues in the meantime.

So much here, I enjoyed reading it and wanted to share it with you all.


Google Assistant Offering Family Fun Night

Fun is a competitive battleground in the smart speaker race
Google Assistant Offering Family Fun Night

The battle of the smart speakers and home assistants is in full swing. And both Amazon and Google think that gaming and fun will help provide a competitive edge.

Amazon introduced Echo Buttons, which enable families to play Alexa-based games together, in September. Today Google announced a trove of games for families and kids: “[T]he Google Assistant now has more than 50 new games, activities and stories designed for families with kids.” They include trivia, musical chairs, storytelling and more.

Games for Google Assistant are available on Home devices, smartphones and other devices where the Assistant is available. This is also where Google seeks to compete, as a platform across more devices (“ambient computing”) than Amazon can offer.

Google has also made it possible to personalize the Assistant for kids under 13. Home devices can recognize up to six different voices. Accordingly, kids can use the same devices as their parents, but the Assistant will recognize the child’s voice and offer different options and experiences.

Parental controls are powered by “Family Link.” It’s an app that gives parents the ability to manage their kids’ Android device experiences.


Helpful Hints for SEO Neophytes


Technical SEO is an awesome field. There are so many little nuances to it that make it exciting, and its practitioners are required to have excellent problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

In this article, I cover some fun technical SEO facts. While they might not impress your date at a dinner party, they will beef up your technical SEO knowledge — and they could help you in making your website rank better in search results.

Let’s dive into the list.

1. Page speed matters

Most think of slow load times as a nuisance for users, but its consequences go further than that. Page speed has long been a search ranking factor, and Google has even said that it may soon use mobile page speed as a factor in mobile search rankings. (Of course, your audience will appreciate faster page load times, too.)

Many have used Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to get an analysis of their site speed and recommendations for improvement. For those looking to improve mobile site performance specifically, Google has a new page speed tool out that is mobile-focused. This tool will check the page load time, test your mobile site on a 3G connection, evaluate mobile usability and more.

2. Robots.txt files are case-sensitive and must be placed in a site’s main directory

The file must be named in all lower case (robots.txt) in order to be recognized. Additionally, crawlers only look in one place when they search for a robots.txt file: the site’s main directory. If they don’t find it there, oftentimes they’ll simply continue to crawl, assuming there is no such file.

3. Crawlers can’t always access infinite scroll

And if crawlers can’t access it, the page may not rank.

When using infinite scroll for your site, make sure that there is a paginated series of pages in addition to the one long scroll. Make sure you implement replaceState/pushState on the infinite scroll page. This is a fun little optimization that most web developers are not aware of, so make sure to check your infinite scroll for  rel=”next” and rel=”prev“ in the code.

4. Google doesn’t care how you structure your sitemap

As long as it’s XML, you can structure your sitemap however you’d like — category breakdown and overall structure is up to you and won’t affect how Google crawls your site.

5. The noarchive tag will not hurt your Google rankings

This tag will keep Google from showing the cached version of a page in its search results, but it won’t negatively affect that page’s overall ranking.

6. Google usually crawls your home page first

It’s not a rule, but generally speaking, Google usually finds the home page first. An exception would be if there are a large number of links to a specific page within your site.

7. Google scores internal and external links differently

A link to your content or website from a third-party site is weighted differently than a link from your own site.

8. You can check your crawl budget in Google Search Console

Your crawl budget is the number of pages that search engines can and want to crawl in a given amount of time. You can get an idea of yours in your Search Console. From there, you can try to increase it if necessary.

9. Disallowing pages with no SEO value will improve your crawl budget

Pages that aren’t essential to your SEO efforts often include privacy policies, expired promotions or terms and conditions.

My rule is that if the page is not meant to rank, and it does not have 100 percent unique quality content, block it.

10. There is a lot to know about sitemaps

  • XML sitemaps must be UTF-8 encoded.
  • They cannot include session IDs from URLs.
  • They must be less than 50,000 URLs and no larger than 50 MB.
  • A sitemap index file is recommended instead of multiple sitemap submissions.
  • You may use different sitemaps for different media types: Video, Images and News.

11. You can check how Google’s mobile crawler ‘sees’ pages of your website

With Google migrating to a mobile-first index, it’s more important than ever to make sure your pages perform well on mobile devices.

Use Google Console’s Mobile Usability report to find specific pages on your site that may have issues with usability on mobile devices. You can also try the mobile-friendly test.

12. Half of page one Google results are now HTTPS

Website security is becoming increasingly important. In addition to the ranking boost given to secure sites, Chrome is now issuing warnings to users when they encounter sites with forms that are not secure. And it looks like webmasters have responded to these updates: According to Moz, over half of websites on page one of search results are HTTPS.

13. Try to keep your page load time to 2 to 3 seconds

Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller recommends a load time of two to three seconds(though a longer one won’t necessarily affect your rankings).

14. Robots.txt directives do not stop your website from ranking in Google (completely)

There is a lot of confusion over the “Disallow” directive in your robots.txt file. Your robots.txt file simply tells Google not to crawl the disallowed pages/folders/parameters specified, but that doesn’t mean these pages won’t be indexed. From Google’s Search Console Help documentation:

You should not use robots.txt as a means to hide your web pages from Google Search results. This is because other pages might point to your page, and your page could get indexed that way, avoiding the robots.txt file. If you want to block your page from search results, use another method such as password protection or noindex tags or directives.

15. You can add canonical from new domains to your main domain

This allows you to keep the value of the old domain while using a newer domain name in marketing materials and other places.

16. Google recommends keeping redirects in place for at least one year

Because it can take months for Google to recognize that a site has moved, Google representative John Mueller has recommended keeping 301 redirects live and in place for at least a year.

Personally, for important pages — say, a page with rankings, links and good authority redirecting to another important page — I recommend you never get rid of redirects.

17. You can control your search box in Google

Google may sometimes include a search box with your listing. This search box is powered by Google Search and works to show users relevant content within your site.

If desired, you can choose to power this search box with your own search engine, or you can include results from your mobile app. You can also disable the search box in Google using the nositelinkssearchbox meta tag.

18. You can enable the ‘notranslate’ tag to prevent translation in search

The “notranslate” meta tag tells Google that they should not provide a translation for this page for different language versions of Google search. This is a good option if you are skeptical about Google’s ability to properly translate your content.

19. You can get your app into Google Search with Firebase app indexing

If you have an app that you have not yet indexed, now is the time. By using Firebase app indexing, you can enable results from your app to appear when someone who’s installed your app searches for a related keyword.

Staying up to date with technical SEO

If you would like to stay up to date with technical SEO, there are a few great places to do that.

  • First, I recommend you watch the videos Barry Schwartz does each week.
  • Second, keep your eye on Search Engine Land.
  • Third, jump on every blog post Google publishes on Google Webmaster Central.
  • Finally, it is always a good idea to jump into a Google Webmaster hangout or simply watch the recording on YouTube.



Always, I Repeat, Always Follow the Google Guidelines!

Don't Break The Google Guidelines Even If Someone Recommends You Do

UPDATE: I am leaving this story as is but adding that my post was insensitive. I misinterpreted her question and embarrassed her. I am the one who should be embarrassed, not her. Here is my post, and I am sorry.

Sometimes I don’t get how people can simply ask Google questions about how to spam Google. I mean, if you know something is specifically written and against Google’s guidelines, why ask a Googler if it is okay to go against those guidelines? Do you think that Googler is going to say – yea, sure, go ahead, we are fine with you going against our webmaster guidelines?

But yet, I’ve seen this happen so many times on social media, in the forums and at conferences.

Here is one of the most recent examples on Twitter. An SEO said that the “Google docs it says not to add Product Schema to lists of products” and she then includes a screen shot of the policy from the Google docs. Then she goes on to say that people are telling her that if she does it anyway, it leads to positive traffic to the site – can she go ahead and do it since it is a traffic boost?

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How Blockchain Will Impact SEO

How blockchain will impact search marketing

If you’ve heard of Bitcoin then you most likely have heard of blockchain, the technology that enables Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to exist and function. The technology is forecast to disrupt many industries as it allows users to conduct transactions without a middleman in a secure and transparent format.

Some of the industries that can potentially be disrupted are car sales, voting, ridesharing, real estate, insurance, sports management, loyalty cards and gun tracking. While the search marketing industry is not as mainstream as the aforementioned industries, it can also be potentially disrupted by blockchain.

Now, before we go any further, this article is not about Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. However, if Bitcoin is adopted by large companies such as Amazon or Walmart, it will certainly have an impact on the future of payments between search marketing agencies, website owners, advertisers and others. Contract agreements will also be impacted, as the blockchain could be leveraged for more transparency and accuracy.

What is blockchain

Here is a great definition of blockchain offered by Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of a 2016 book called “Blockchain Revolution”:

The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.

In layman’s terms, it’s like a Google Doc spreadsheet that is shared with the public which displays transactions and is tamperproof. Many are considering blockchain to be as impactful as the internet was in the ’90s.

Impact on search engine marketing (SEM)

In the digital marketing world, many central authorities, such as Google and Facebook, connect advertisers with website owners. For example, Google is a central authority in programmatic ads, where it helps advertisers run ads on websites via the Google Display Network. Google essentially is the middleman that helps advertisers and website owners trust each other. If they already trusted each other, they would not need Google as an intermediary taking a cut of the profits.

Enter blockchain, which can verify that every user is genuine with 100 percent accuracy and that the website owner is only charging the advertiser for genuine clicks through to their site. Then the website owner and the advertiser don’t need a middleman to arbitrate their agreement, which would save them both money. Blockchain presents a big threat to Google’s display network revenue.

Blockchain being the unhackable distributed ledger is going to also help reduce online fraud. It will provide transparency for persons involved in a transaction without giving away their personal details, essentially proving they are a real person. Ad fraud is a big problem: It cost advertisers over $7 billion in 2016. A number of players — including Microsoft, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and DMA (in partnership with MetaX) —  are already working on blockchain-based digital identification systems.

Impact on search engine optimization (SEO)

As companies start to adopt blockchain, they will need to integrate it within their websites. This involves the web developers as well as the SEOs, if they are trying to gain organic search benefits as well as display the information from the blockchain transactions.

This will present both technical issues and opportunities in which SEOs will have to work alongside developers to resolve compatibility issues with different content management systems and website platforms. I have noticed that the Schema community has already started to work on Schema Markup for blockchain certificates and user ID profiles. Both items are a work in progress and have not yet been published on

Here is a glimpse of what the codes for both items looks like.

Blockchain certificates

The following sample markup (from our company) is in JSON-LD format. Full details can be viewed on GitHub.

Blockchain user ID profiles

The following sample markup is in JSON-LD format. Full details can be viewed on Blockstack and GitHub.

As new blockchains are developed and it is more widely adopted, it will certainly disrupt the search marketing industry in many other ways. For now, search marketers should pay close attention to blockchain as it grows.

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Changes May be Ahead for Google Search Results


Google seems to be testing a new look and user interface for the sitelinks in the Google search results snippets. I had two different people from India send me screen shots on Twitter, including @V_VipinYadav and @himani_kankaria. The new look shows the sitelinks lined up vertically instead of them in a side by side grid format.

Here is a screen shot from Twitter of the normal look on the left and the test interface on the right:

I cannot replicate this, I’ve tried numerous methods and I am out of luck.

In any event, both looks are fine with me – I am not sure which one would be better here.

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What a Relief!! Disabling Right Click Does NOT Affect Google SEO

Disabling Right Click & Content Selection Doesn't Impact SEO

Google’s John Mueller said on Twitter that disabling the right click on your web pages and/or disabling the ability to select content on your web pages, has no impact on your SEO or rankings.

John did add that doing so is “obnoxious” and “useless” because it is easy to get around those prevention features.

We discussed this topic over 7 years ago but this is the first time we covered Google talking about it.

Do you disable these features? If so, why?

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Size May Not Matter, But Site Speed Does

Size May Not Matter, But Site Speed Does

In Google’s world, site speed matters. And the search giant is pushing hard on AMP, its open source initiative to improve web page speed and performance for mobile users. But that speed comes at a cost for digital marketers. AMP eliminates scripts — including the scripts that help you track mobile calls.

Join Eric Enge and other AMP experts as they explore AMP’s pros and cons, as well as how leading technology providers are helping marketers identify AMP visitor sessions and track call sources. Implementing AMP doesn’t have to mean losing call tracking and attribution capabilities.

Register today for “5 Steps to AMP Up Your Call Conversions,” produced by Digital Marketing Depot and sponsored by CallTrackingMetrics.


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For a Higher Ranking on Google You MUST Have High Quality Content


Google has long stressed the importance of “high-quality content” but has provided little, if any, help for those seeking to create it. Until now.

Last month, Google’s Developer Relations Group publicly published five different guides aimed at helping its own creators “striving for high-quality documentation.” And “documentation,” when posted online, means digital content.

Now available:

  • Developer Documentation Style Guide
  • HTML/CSS Style Guide
  • JavaScript Style Guide
  • Java Style Guide

To put this in context, consider that these documents represent just a few of the many guides Google uses internally. The information provided is not new, unique, original, or even complete. That said, Google’s Developer Documentation Style Guides are an excellent resource for anyone interested in creating the type of high-quality content that users value and search engines reward.

Each guide reinforces the idea that high-quality pages — the kind that rank well in search — are a combination of high-quality code, content and UX.

Here is a quick overview of Google’s Developer Documentation Style Guide tips for content creators:

  • Use a friendly, conversational tone with a clear purpose — somewhere between the voice you use when talking to your buds and that you’d use if you were a robot.
  • Try to sound like a knowledgeable friend who understands what users want to do.
  • Use standard American spelling, grammar, punctuation and capitalization.
  • Craft clear, concise, short sentences with simple words that users will understand.
  • Implement effective and descriptive link text.
  • Use accessible words and short sentences that will translate well to other languages.
  • Consider numbered lists for sequences of events.
  • Ensure outbound links are to sites that are “high-quality, reliable and respectable.”

Here is a quick overview of Google’s Developer Documentation Style Guide tips for developers/technical creators:

  • Consider SVG files or optimized .png files with ALT text.
  • Use tables and/or lists correctly. For example, only use a table when you have multiple columns of information.
  • Include <strong> or <b> as appropriate — <b> is for visual emphasis and <strong> is for items of strong importance.
  • Select HTTPS for embedded resources when possible, especially images, media files, CSS and scripts.
  • For HTML templates, use HTML5 in UTF-8 without byte order marks (BOMs).
  • Consider three-character hexadecimal notations instead of six characters for colors, as they are shorter and more succinct.
  • Use HTML for structure and CSS for visual style.

Here is a quick overview of areas Google’s Developer Documentation Style Guide suggests to avoid:

  • buzzwords
  • technical jargon
  • slang
  • exclamation points
  • using the word “please” in instructions
  • placeholder phrases like “please note” or “at this time”
  • starting sentences the same way
  • taking metaphors too far
  • using “click here” in link anchor text
  • user-agent detection
  • CSS “hacks”
  • unnecessary ancestor selectors which help improve performance

Of course, these are general guidelines meant for technical content creators and should be interpreted with that fact in mind.

Whatever their original purpose, they provide a window into what factors Google considers essential for high-quality content in general — meaning that marketers and content creators should find these tips highly valuable when undertaking their own projects.

SOURCE URL: Using Real People to Answer Questions!


JustAnswer is one of the survivors of the “answer engine” or Q&A craze that was prevalent a number of years ago. The venerable (or ancient) Yahoo Answers is still around, and so is Quora, but various efforts from Google, Facebook, Amazon and a range of startups are gone.

The most recent entrant, Biz Stone’s Jelly, was acquired by Pinterest earlier this year.

The pitch is compelling: Humans are better than algorithms at answering complex questions, and users want “answers not links.” Yet almost nobody has been able to get the formula right (quality + scale + a business model) — and that includes Yahoo and Quora. But JustAnswer has managed to make it work.

Founded in 2003, JustAnswer adopted the paid-advice model that was also used by the original Google Answers. Each user who connects with one of 12,000 experts on the site pays on average $30 for a consultation. There are no ads. Most of JustAnswer’s traffic comes from SEO.

Last week, the site introduced “Pearl,” a virtual assistant intended to answer simple questions and qualify leads for the site’s roster of experts. The tool has been in beta testing for three years and has the advantage of being trained on 16 million questions and answers in the company’s database.

“This is a killer app for the chatbot era,” says Andy Kurtzig, JustAnswer’s founder and CEO. Kurtzig says Pearl adds significant efficiency to the process, eliminating the need for the experts to spend as much time determining the nature of a consumer’s problem or question before responding. Pearl can operate as an intelligent routing engine.

The bot can recognize more than 100,000 variables in conversation and ask context-specific follow-up questions. For example, if there’s a pet problem, the assistant would seek to diagnose the problem generally and then forward that information to the veterinarian-expert before the consultation. Users are asked during the conversation if they want to talk to an expert.

This not only helps isolate the question or problem quickly, it likely improves close rates and the percentage of consumers agreeing to pay for advice. “This is the future of professional services,” says Kurtzig.

Several years ago, Google introduced an expert video-chat platform, Google Helpouts. It was very promising, and one might have assumed Google’s visibility and resources would make it work. However, in 2015, after disappointing adoption, the company shuttered Helpouts. Another take on expert content, Google Knol, was also shut down after a few years.

Despite these setbacks, companies continue to try to deliver customized advice online. Bots and machine learning may make that more feasible than in the past.

Last week, I wrote about how Valassis used Facebook ads, Messenger and human sales reps to drive offline car sales and leases. This hybrid use of bots and humans, similar to the JustAnswer approach, is the conceptual model for optimal bot deployment, I believe.

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Don’t Forget About Utilizing Google Tag Manager


Google Tag Manager (GTM) has revolutionized the way we implement scripts and tags on websites. However, many marketers aren’t fully utilizing this tool or capitalizing on its potential benefits.

Here are five easy and impactful ways to use GTM. These tips will help you improve your analytics dashboards, your SEO results and your marketing automation programs.

1. Improve the accuracy of website traffic data

Marketers often need to identify and isolate various types of traffic in Google Analytics dashboards and reports. For example, many companies want to eliminate spam or internal (employee) traffic and visits from partners. Typically, they do this by using excluding filters in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics limits the number of filters to 100. If you have a large number of internal IPs you wish to exclude, I recommend that you use GTM to implement blocking triggers. Blocking triggers are built with a custom variable and a custom event trigger.

Keep in mind that if you use a blocking trigger, these traffic types will be excluded from any or all Google Analytics views — including the unfiltered view.

2. Implement structured data

Structured data is a key way to improve organic search results, but it can be difficult for marketers to implement — especially if you need to rely on technical resources. Google Tag Manager makes it easy for non-developers to implement structured data on any page of a website.

For more information on how to do this, see “How to add schema markup to your website using Google Tag Manager.”

3. Ensure accurate indexing

With Google Tag Manager, we can define URL variables to strip out any additional parameters that might have been added. Then, we can build a custom HTML tag with JavaScript code to insert self-referencing canonical tags in the <head> section of the page. This ensures that no variation of a URL except the default one is indexed by Google.

You can follow the same logic to insert mobile switchboard tags — if your website uses a mobile subdomain.

4. Import marketing automation parameters

Most companies use marketing automation software to capture lead data and track leads through the sales funnel. With Google Tag Manager, you can easily implement lead-tracking parameters and marry this data with Google Analytics information.

With the built-in variable of first-party cookie, Google Tag Manager can pass lead ID number, along with other parameters, into Google Analytics.

5. Understand website behavior

With Tag Manager, it’s easy to track user behavior, actions and conversions with auto events. For example, you can track clicks on certain areas of a page, interactions with a video, or users’ scrolling behavior.

Auto events can also track downloads and form submissions. These insights are essential to help marketers improve engagement and conversion.

Reap the benefits of GTM

Are you at the mercy of your company’s limited technical resources? Are you waiting for web developers to implement what you need to improve marketing results?

Take control of your own destiny and learn to use Google Tag Manager. Utilizing a container like GTM can be a liberating experience for a digital marketer.



Choose Your Target Audience Wisely


These days, there are so many audience possibilities that it can be confusing to figure out where to begin. Not all audiences are created equal, though — so in this article, I’ll discuss several that we like to use to amplify our marketing efforts. Specifically, I’ll cover similar audiences, Google Analytics smart lists, Google Analytics custom audiences and “AdWords optimized” audiences.

Before getting started, here are some general pointers:

  • Adding a whole bunch of audiences at once may seem tempting, but doing so can cause problems. For example, there could be issues with inappropriate attribution — it may look like you’re getting traction from your new audience targeting campaigns, but it could be a sale you would have gotten anyway from a regular campaign. Naturally, it sometimes takes visitors a few visits before they decide to convert. Also, you could burn through your budget pretty quickly if you’re not careful.
  • Set appropriate date ranges. For RLSA campaigns, we like to use 180 days so we get a good idea of how many people we’re reaching via a particular list. For display remarketing, we go longer (540 days) to capture people making longer-consideration purchases or to capture renewals that occur after a year (like insurance). For the most part, we find that 30-day windows are too short.
  • Set an impression cap. It’s best to consider this on an account-by-account basis. No one appreciates being targeted like crazy!
  • A lot of remarketing does not move the needle. Less is always more. We choose audiences wisely and build them slowly (more on this below).

Here are some of the audience types we’ve been exploring.

Similar audiences

This is a fairly new audience type on the search side. With this, Google creates an audience that’s similar to, say, all converters or all cart checkout visitors. It’s intended to reach new customers — as opposed to RLSA, which targets your existing site visitors based on their previous actions.

People are added to a similar audience list if not already on an RLSA list, and you can add similar audiences to keyword, Shopping or dynamic search ad campaigns. It’s based on similar query behavior in the last 24 hours, so there’s very high recency with these lists.

What we’ve found is there’s a tradeoff between volume and efficiency. Lower-funnel audiences (like all converters) will have fewer conversions than higher-funnel audiences (like people who’ve viewed the cart page). We find we have to add higher-funnel audiences to get significant traction with these campaigns.

We like to slowly add audiences from the bottom to the top of the funnel. It’s an approach that allows us to primarily home in on areas that we think will convert best and methodically gauge what’s working and what’s not working for us.

Google Analytics Smart Lists

Smart Lists are remarketing lists that Google creates for you based on your conversion data in Google Analytics (GA). With this, Google considers various signals like location, device type, browser and so on, and gauges if a user is likely to convert. The list includes users they think will convert relatively soon.

You need to have 10,000 daily page views on your site and 500 monthly transactions for Google to create a list specific to your site. Otherwise, they use proxy data and generate a list based on other (similar) companies’ signals and data. Naturally, a list works better if it’s based on your own data, but it’s still worth testing if it’s a proxy list.

In our testing, Smart Lists using customer data generated a higher ROI than other types of audience lists. In several cases, we saw a 20 percent increase over other list types.

Google Analytics custom audiences

These types of lists are powerful because they can be tied to data available in GA like particular behaviors, time on site and so on. Naturally, there are nearly endless ways in which you can customize audiences. Some of our team’s favorites are listed below.

  • If you have any lifetime value stats, you can build an audience reflecting the profile of your most profitable customers.
  • You could also target people who had a high average order value and haven’t purchased in over a year.
  • Try targeting people who left a review on the site with GA Events.

‘AdWords optimized’ audiences

In your AdWords accounts, click on Shared library, then Audiences. Here, you can see something lurking in there called the “AdWords optimized list,” and it’s described as a “combined audience based on various data sources.”

At this point, many of these pre-created audiences have more traffic available for Display than for Search. In some of our accounts, the traffic we’re seeing is pretty significant and is estimated in the millions (first list below). It’s also worth noting there are audiences “Similar to AdWords optimized list” (second list below).

Naturally, the “AdWords optimized list” would likely convert a lot better than the “Similar to” audience.

Currently, we use AdWords optimized list with CPA bidding to see if we can get some additional conversions on the Display Network. It may prove to not be so effective for direct marketers who want to drive sales, but it may work well for brand-type advertisers.

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Is Google Express Ready to Take on Amazon?

the playing field with Amazon

Google Express has kicked off a new ad campaign called “Need anything from the store?” which promotes it as a delivery service for “all your stores in one place,” according to an Advertising Age report. The effort shows people of all ages and walks of life in the often-painful process of describing a product for a largely offscreen friend or family member who has offered to pick the items up at the store.

Among the stores offering products through Google Express are Walmart, Costco and Target. The effort aims to level the playing field with Amazon — for both the retailers and Google — offering consumers both the immediacy and choice to which they’ve grown accustomed.

For the retailers, it’s a bit of the old “enemy of my enemy is my friend” concept. Ad Age characterized the campaign and the collection of Google Express partners (37 in all) as an “anti-Amazon alliance,” which was sort of announced during Advertising Week in New York. Whole Foods is currently available on Google Express, but the Amazon-owned grocery chain probably won’t remain there over time.

Most of the retailers working with Google Express have their own e-commerce initiatives, including Walmart, Target and other major retailers, but Google Express provides them with next-day delivery. A robust omnichannel capability is critical for success, and having stores still offers an advantage. Indeed, somewhat paradoxically, the presence of physical retail stores actually helps drive e-commerce transactions.

Data also show that so-called “Centennials” or “Generation Z” actually prefer to shop in stores vs. online in larger numbers than their aging millennial brethren.

What’s very interesting in all of this is what might be called the dance of the brands. In the ad, Google is positioned as subservient to the retail brands; after all, Google isn’t “one of your stores.” However, for the initiative to succeed, Google Express needs to become a branded shopping destination that is top of mind for consumers — just like Amazon.

Google must thus walk something of a tightrope, promoting consumer awareness while not subordinating and relegating its retail partners to simple providers of commodities. The effort also raises the issue of the relationship between Google Shopping and Google Express going forward. Shopping is primarily online with offline inventory information; Express is primarily about offline stores but with e-commerce functionality. But that analysis doesn’t really provide an answer.

Despite the fact that roughly 92 percent of retail purchases happen in stores, comScore and others have been hyping the growth of e-commerce — at the expense of traditional retail — for years. As indicated, however, e-commerce and offline stores are “synergistic.”

Yet e-commerce is clearly dominated by Amazon. So much so that it’s Amazon . . . and everyone else.

According to a recent report from Slice Intelligence, Amazon drove 41 percent of online shopping in Q1 2017. In 2016, it was responsible for more than 50 percent of e-commerce sales growth.

The remaining nine sites on the Slice online top 10, including Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Macy’s and Nordstrom, each had less than 3 percent of Q1 online retail sales. In other words, the remaining retailers, most of which are traditional stores, collectively generated only a little more than what Amazon brought in on its own.


Google Webmaster Summary Report

Google Webmaster Report

This past month was filled with many many Google algorithm shifts, ranking changes, tools going nuts and chatter at all times high. We saw lots of ranking changes last weekwhich Google didn’t really confirm. Then the week of September 15th or so and then a couple weeks before that. Heck, we even reported about a local ranking algorithm shift this month.

Google replaced the first click free program with flexible sampling, brought back 10 suggestions and added more testers to the new Search Console. Google addressed the click data SEO thing again after possibly misspeaking? And so much more.

The ongoing WebmasterWorld thread is still chattering about the algorithms shifts from later last week.

Here is a summary of the stories from the past month that are Google webmaster related:

Google Algorithms:

  • Google On Algorithm & Ranking Updates This Week: We’re Always Improving Our Search Results
  • More Google Algorithm & Search Results Shuffling
  • Google Search Ranking Update Chatter Continues
  • Google Search Algorithm Update On September 16th
  • Google Search Algorithm Update Today
  • Google Search Ranking & Algorithm Update Underway? Chatter…
  • Google Local Algorithm Update August 22, 2017: Possum Updated?
  • Google: Search Algorithm Monitoring Tools Get It Right
  • Google’s Ranking Algorithms Dynamically Change Based On Query & Context
  • Google: There Is No Top Three Search Ranking Signals
  • Google: Number One Search Ranking Factor Is Awesomeness

Google Search:

  • Google Replaces First Click Free Program With Flexible Sampling: Metering & Lead-In
  • Should Google Label Content Served Through Flexible Sampling?
  • New Google iOS App Has Related Content Bar
  • Google Autocomplete Showing 10 Suggestions Again

Google Search Console:

  • More Screen Shots: Google Search Console Beta & Indexed, Low Interest Filter
  • Google Opens Up The New Google Search Console To More Testers
  • Google Search Console Kills Fetch As Google For Mobile Apps
  • Export Added To Beta Google Search Console Index Coverage Report
  • Google Search Console Updates Rich Cards Job Listings Report
  • New Google Search Console Beta Data To Come To API In Future

Google SEO:

  • Google Is Updating Their SEO Starter Guide For Mobile & More
  • Google Brain Canada: Google Search Uses Click Data For Rankings?
  • Google: We Don’t Use Click Data Directly For Search Rankings
  • Google: Not In The Cache? Doesn’t Mean Your Pages Are Low Quality
  • Google: Competition Different Across Different Country Domains
  • Google Keeps Debunking 301 Redirect Dilution Myths
  • Google: Our Algorithms Don’t Look At Disavow Files
  • Google Ignores rel=shortlink Link Attribute
  • Google: No Changes On Use Of Image Meta Data In Search
  • Google: We Don’t Rank Big Or Large Sites Better
  • Google: Shopping Cart Abandonment Not A Search Ranking Factor
  • Google On How To Move Your M-Dot To Responsive Before Mobile-First Index Rollout
  • Different Title Tags To GoogleBot & GoogleBot Mobile
  • Google Does Not Support TravelAction Schema, Yet
  • No, Google Isn’t Ranking M-Dot Domains Higher Than Responsive Sites
  • Google Checks For Spam Patterns Between Search Console Accounts?
  • Google: When Going HTTPS, Migrate Whole Site At Once
  • Google Supports WebSub & PubSubHubbub
  • Google: Does Your XML Sitemaps Need To Load Fast?
  • Google: Malware Cleaned Up, No Long Term Impact On Rankings
  • Google Wants You To Ignore The Cache Date
  • Google: Boilerplate Content Is Not Harmful Or Toxic
  • Google: Technically 404s Do Use Up Google Crawl Budget
  • Google: Responsive Sites Don’t Need To Worry About Mobile First Index
  • Google: We Do Not Manually Review All Spam Reports
  • Google Now Serving More AMP Content In Mobile Search Results
  • Googlebot Still On Hold On Supporting HTTP/2
  • Does The Time To Fetch & Render Indicate Possible Google Crawling Issues?
  • Google: Faking Article Dates Is An Old Trick

Google User Interface:

  • Newish: Google Image Carousel Sliders In Mobile
  • Google Featured Snippets Relocates AMP Icon
  • Google To Find E-Books At Your Public Library
  • Google Movie Reviews Tests Audience Reviews
  • Google Tests White Knowledge Panels
  • Google Tests People Also Search For On Right Side Bar
  • Google Featured Snippets Tests Related Query Refinements

Google Local:

  • Now Live: Google Local Finder Website Mentions
  • Google Tests Indoor Maps In The Local Knowledge Panel
  • Google Local Panel Tests Small Map Icon Interface
  • Google Turns Off Questions & Answers For White House Local Result

Google Misc:

  • Google Birthday Surprise Spinner For Google’s 19th Birthday Tomorrow
  • Apple Switches Back To Google For Search On iOS & Mac
  • Google Updates Keyword Tool To Remove Jew Haters Suggestions
  • Google Analytics Better Tracks AMP Pages With AMP Client ID API



Keyword Ideas Gets Some Help With Google Autocomplete

In July, Google dropped Google Instant Search and with that, the autocomplete suggestions scaled back to show 4 suggestions instead of 10. Well, in the past 24 hours or so, Google is now showing 10 autocomplete suggestions again.

Here is a screen shot and i was able to replicate with many tests signed in and out:

Dan Shure spotted this and notified me on Twitter and he is super happy about it.

Here is what it looked like before:

This should be helpful for keyword ideas for searchers and marketers.



What is Really, Truly Important in SEO Rankings

This week, Google celebrated its 19th birthday. A lot has changed in nearly two decades. Rather than relying primarily on PageRank to evaluate the quality of web pages, Google now uses a whole array of techniques to suggest a wide range of content in response to queries, from simple direct answers to multimedia audio and video files.

With loads of guesswork and assumptions, the debate about Google ranking factors is never-ending and evolves with every algorithm update. What’s on the rise, what’s on the decline, and what still works?

At SMX East, several sessions look closely at today’s most important ranking considerations. In SEO Ranking Factors In 2017: What’s Important, What’s Not, you’ll hear the results of comprehensive studies undertaken by Searchmetrics and SEMRush, which looked at millions of sites to determine what separated winners from losers. You’ll also hear a case study from Herndon Hasty, SEO for the Container Store, which battles with formidable competition from Amazon, Walmart and other e-commerce giants.

Shari Thurow has been practicing SEO and carefully observing Google since its inception. In her always popular Search Engine-Friendly Web Design session, you’ll learn how to create search engine-friendly sites that are equally appealing to human visitors. And you’ll get juicy insights into critical aspects of SEO, including:

  • Wayfinder sitemaps vs. XML sitemaps
  • guidelines for mobile-friendly URL structure
  • mobile readability tools, techniques and guidelines
  • parallax design & mobile UX: Dos & don’ts

And if you have questions about particular strategies or techniques, be sure to attend the Meet The SEOs session. During this PowerPoint-free panel, veteran SEOs answer your questions about search engine optimization. Got a puzzling issue? Wondering about a possible trend? Put it to the experts.