by Jayson DeMers

Voice search has been around for longer than most people realize. It feels like the technology has only been around for a couple of years, but in reality, Google voice search first came out in 2002. We think of it as a recent development because only recently have algorithms begun to solve the biggest problems with voice search, including accurately detecting spoken syllables, generating results in an intuitive way, and of course, encouraging mass user adoption.

Now that voice search is popular with a much wider user base and its technological sophistication is accelerating, we’re going to see some major evolutions in the next few years. If you want to get ahead of the competition and reap the rewards for your brand, now’s the time to start adapting your SEO strategy accordingly.

What Changes to Expect

So how is voice search about to evolve?

1. Better semantic recognition and filtering.

First up, voice search algorithms are going to get better at detecting what people are saying, and translating user intent into a query that yields them the results they want. For example, if a user mispronounces something, uses slang terms, users local vernacular, or otherwise distorts a query with these tiny quirks, a better voice search algorithm could infer what they’re trying to search for and give them recommended results accordingly. This will facilitate even more widespread adoption and help centralize searches around keyword phrases. Google RankBrain already does this, to some extent, for typed searches, so voice search is the next logical jump.

2. Emotional inflection detection.

According to Dialpad, one reason the human voice is so powerful is because of its ability to carry emotional inflection. This is why it’s easier to tell when someone’s joking in conversation than it is through text or email. The next generation of voice search software may be able to pick up on a person’s emotional inflection to provide them with better results. For example, a sense of urgency may route someone to faster, more immediate service providers, or a sense of apprehension could connect a user with anonymous service or results for newcomers to a given subject.

3. More personalized results.

In any case, all technologies are becoming more individualized and personalized, and voice-based search results are no exception. Most voice search programs are tied to personal digital assistants, which are already getting better at analyzing individuals’ needs. Expect more intuitive adjustments for personal search preferences, search histories, and immediate factors, like a person’s location.

4. More display and interface options.

One problem with voice search is the lack of an easy interface on which to view results. Most people use voice search on mobile devices, which have limited screen space, so one innovation to come could be a broader range of interface options. Since it’s unlikely that one solution will work best for everyone, it’s more likely that different providers will generate different possibilities, which means a host of potential SERP scenarios to prepare for.

5. Integration with other tech.

According to Morgan Stanley, half of America’s jobs will be replaced by robots and AI programs within the next 20 years. AI and smart home technology are going to take over consumers’ lives, and most of these options will need some mechanism to drive their operations. In this way, voice search–and voice commands–will likely become more tightly integrated into our world, which could extend search optimization to even more practical, physical areas.

How to Prepare

Make sure your strategy is prepared for the future of voice search by adopting these strategies (if you haven’t already):

  • Use more conversational language. If people search more with casual conversation, it pays to use conversational language in your writing. Develop more answers to common consumer questions, and don’t shy away from using vernacular and informal language unless it hurts your brand in some way.
  • Optimize for long-tail phrases. In a similar vein, you should also optimize for more long-tail phrases than head keywords, since few people use voice search for truncated terms. Plus, according to Wordstream, long-tail keywords generate far less competition, which means you’ll have an easier time ranking.
  • Dig deeper into consumer emotions and intent. If you want to think even more forwardly, start optimizing different segments of your strategy for different modes of user intent. This could reflect different stages of the buying cycle or even different consumer emotions.
  • Get ready for a SERP shakeup. It’s hard to tell exactly how interfaces will change, but it’s a near certainty. Stay on your toes here.

The better prepared you are, the more likely your strategy will be to survive and succeed. As usual in the SEO world, you don’t have to be the best to reap the rewards–you just have to be a step ahead of the competition or find a competitive edge. Voice search is unlikely to go away or stop improving anytime soon, so funnel your investments in this area if you want to be equipped for the future.

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How Voice Search Is Changing (and Why Your SEO Strategy Needs to Adapt)

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by Jayson DeMers

Creating and managing a website is a big step for a business, but just having a website isn’t enough. Establishing a web presence on the web is equivalent to constructing a building for your business in the real world; you can make it pretty on the outside and pretty on the inside, but that doesn’t guarantee any foot traffic, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee any patronage.

If you’re going to maximize the revenue potential of your site, you need to understand who’s coming to your site, why they’re coming to your site, and what you can do to increase those numbers. Fortunately, Google’s free Analytics platform gives you these kinds of insights in great detail. But you still need to know what you’re looking at.

There are tons of different metrics to track in Analytics, and it can be confusing if you’re a first-timer. Instead of trying to learn all the details immediately, narrow your scope to observing patterns in the Acquisition tab–this is going to tell you where your traffic is coming from. Here, you’ll find four major sources of traffic, from which you can gather valuable insights about your site:

1. Direct Traffic.

Direct traffic is measured by visitors who visit your site without any online source directing them to it. For example, if a user types in your URL directly or calls upon it from a stored bookmark, it’s considered a direct visit. Direct visits generally come from one of a few types of consumers–they could be people who heard about your brand offline, repeat visitors who wanted to come back, or even your internal staff checking the site for errors (though you can filter this last segment out entirely for more accurate data). You can improve this traffic by increasing repeat visits and stepping up your brand awareness efforts offline, though as you might imagine, the offsite route is a bit less efficient than other methods.

2. Organic Traffic.

Organic traffic refers to inbound visitors who found your site through search engines. Any traffic from Bing, Google, and other search sites is counted in this data. This is most useful for practitioners of SEO, who use content, links, and other strategies to increase their likelihood of ranking high for various relevant searches–higher organic traffic generally means greater success with the strategy. However, branded searches also count toward this total. If your site is new, this figure will undoubtedly be low, but you can increase this number by optimizing your site, producing regular content, establishing relationships with outside authorities, and getting active on social media. It takes time to develop the domain authority necessary to earn this type of traffic, but it can be a lucrative source in the long term.

3. Referral Traffic.

Referral traffic accumulates any visits that came from outside sources. If links to your site are available on external sources, users can follow those links to find your site. Link building in SEO (or through guest posting) are valuable for this. You might also earn links from local directories or industry directories, provided you submit your information to them. Getting a link published on a high-profile source with tons of traffic can route significant droves of users to your site, but the more valuable a link is, the harder it is to get. Keep a close eye on your link development strategy to increase referral traffic–you might also consider placing affiliate links, which cost a bit of extra money but can be valuable opportunities for getting new traffic. Some links might even crop up naturally if outside sites choose to cite your information–click into the Referral traffic section to see exactly which sources are generating the most traffic to your site.

4. Social Traffic.

Last but not least is social traffic, which can refer to any inbound users from social media sites. The more active you are on social media and the more attractive your links are (think about providing value to users rather than advertising your brand or products), the more visitors you’re liable to get. Over time, as you build a following, this number can skyrocket. If you click into the Social traffic area, you’ll be able to see exactly which platforms are generating the most traffic, and you can weight your strategy to favor those platforms.

Understanding and tracking these four sources of traffic, you’ll learn your users’ strongest preferences, and you’ll be able to cater to those preferences with your marketing strategies and ongoing site development.

As you grow more familiar with Google Analytics, you’ll be able to analyze user behavior on-site, track user demographics, use goals to maximize conversions and generate more revenue, and branch out to other analytics platforms and business intelligence tools to build an ever-clearer picture of your website’s traffic data–but none of this is possible without suitable initial traffic.

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9 Tips for Artists Looking for More Search Visibility

 

by Jayson DeMers

Most artists these days maintain a website to sell their services, or at least a blog to show their work. But it’s hard to earn new commissions and work opportunities — whether in the form of a music gig or audience at an art show — unless you can generate a steady stream of traffic to your site.

There are many viable ways to earn such traffic. For example, you can pay for advertising, or build a social media audience first. There’s usually a downside, however: Paying for advertising requires upfront capital that most artists don’t have, and building a social media audience can be an unpredictable and even counterproductive mission.

The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Advantage

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the best strategies for additional visibility, and that goes for artists, too. It’s fairly inexpensive, especially when compared to outright advertising; it doesn’t require a base following to start; it requires no formal expertise (at least, again, in the beginning); and it has the potential to grow your traffic exponentially — both in a local area and on a national basis.

Higher search rankings will almost always result in higher inbound traffic. So as long as your site’s content and conversion rates are in order, attention to SEO is going to lead to greater interest in your services.

Tips for Artists and Musicians

So how can an artist make the most of this strategy? In addition to following standard best practices for SEO, you’ll particularly want to employ the following tactics:

1. Declare a niche for yourself.

Make sure you have a dedicated, specific niche that you serve, and be as specific as possible. This specificity will ensure you don’t have much competition. For example, if you knit blankets, don’t just optimize for terms such as “knitted blankets”; get more specific with terms like “custom knitted blankets for newborns” or “knitted blankets with nerdy design.”

2. Make your services clear on dedicated pages.

Dedicated pages with associated keyword terms aren’t as essential as they used to be, but they’re still valuable for artists and musicians. Most people are going to be searching for your goods based on the type of service you’re performing, so keep at least one or two pages that have rich content focused on what you actually do.

3. Use a personal brand.

Even if you have a regular brand (such as a dedicated store for your products or a band name), you’ll want to use a personal brand in conjunction with it. A personal brand will help you increase the visibility of your content, and increase the appeal of your business for prospective customers.

4. Keep your branding consistent.

No matter what you’re doing — whether it’s on your own site, a publisher’s site, or social media — keep your branding consistent. Sooner or later, people will search for you by name, so you’ll want to keep all your brand names and identity signatures as consistent and recognizable as possible over the long run.

5. Write about your trade.

People are always interested in learning arts, crafts, and music, so take the time to write a blog about your trade. Don’t necessarily give away the “secret sauce,” but you should go out of your way to share your knowledge and expertise. This will make your content highly shareable and visible, which is an easy shortcut to getting more backlinks for your page (and therefore more domain authority to boost your rankings).

6. Incorporate multimedia content.

You’re an artist, so show off the goods! Make sure you’re incorporating plenty of examples of multi-media content on your site, including images, video, and sound clips. Optimize these features with appropriate titles and description tags so they can easily be found through search.

7. Network with other artists.

Get to know other local artists, and network with them online. Work on sharing one another’s content, and cross-pollinate your social media followings (especially if you serve complementary niches). Any boosts in visibility you garner will help you both out.

8. Get involved in local events.

Local SEO is a good shortcut for fast visibility … especially for artists, who usually have a specifically local appeal. Get involved in local events, and write about your presence: You’ll get some love from the event hosts, and you’ll build your relevance for your region. On top of that, you’ll probably earn some backlinks, which make it even easier to land a spot in the local “3-pack.”

9. Attract reviews.

One of the best ways to build local search visibility is through positive online reviews. The more reviews you have on third-party directory sites, and the more highly rated they are, the more likely you’ll be to appear in the local 3-pack. Publicize your listings in these areas, and try to optimize your reviews (without soliciting them directly).

Keeping Things Affordable

Plenty of SEO agencies and professionals can help you earn higher rankings, but they may cost several thousand dollars a month or more. As a budding artist or musician, you may not have access to that kind of cash.

Instead, focus on building your rankings as frugally as possible. Spend a few hours learning the basics of SEO on your own, and focus on the tactics you can do effectively on your own. You may run into issues, and eventually find it helpful, even necessary, to enlist professional services; but to get started, you don’t need much. Prioritize the fundamentals; you can always build from there.

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The Relationship Between Marketing Automation and SEO

 

by Jayson DeMers

Marketing automation platforms and SEO are often discussed in the same breath, but they have somewhat of a tumultuous relationship. Some say marketing automation platforms can hurt SEO if you aren’t careful, while others believe it’s complementary. What’s the real answer?

Understanding the Relationship

“Your business is like a bar stool,” digital marketing consultant Jon Rognerud says. “Take any one of the four legs out and it will fall over. Strangely, most businesses are like a three legged stool.”

What does Rognerud mean by this? Well, he admits that most successful businesses have a great product, good salespeople, and a team that understands exactly what their target market needs. However, the fourth and most important leg is missing: lead generation.

Lead generation is typically missing because it’s scary, intimidating, and there are so many different options to choose from. There’s SEO, social media, content marketing, paid advertising, and an entire suite of other specialties.

Over the past few years, software known as “marketing automation” has risen to prominence. As the name suggests, its goal is to automate various marketing actions that are seen as repetitive. These include social media, email, and various website actions.

The problem is that many companies have invested in marketing automation without understanding how it really fits into the larger digital marketing picture. Specifically, they’re viewing it as totally separate and unrelated to SEO. As a result, thousands of businesses resemble unbalanced three legged stools that could topple at any given moment.

To understand this imbalance, you have to start by reviewing the conversion funnel. While there are many different versions of the conversion funnel, we’ll use the very basic example that follows a three-tiered progression of Awareness > Evaluation > Conversion. In this example, awareness is at the top of the funnel, evaluation is in the middle, and conversion is at the bottom.

When a company invests in marketing automation, they’re nailing down the middle of the funnel. While this is great, the problem is that many of these companies haven’t done anything to address the top of the funnel. The result is something like an inverted hourglass. The middle of the funnel is prepared, but there’s nothing going on at the top of the funnel to bring leads in.

When does marketing automation fall short? “When there’s no top-of-the-funnel foundation put in place to support middle of the funnel marketing automation,” HubSpot explains. “Many marketers invest in marketing automation before they have fertile ground for advanced lead nurturing campaigns to blossom. Marketers won’t have the ingredients they need for effective marketing automation until they have both a steady flow of organic leads coming through the funnel.”

This is where SEO enters the picture. While SEO touches multiple points in the funnel, it’s largely a top-of-the-funnel tool for reaching customers who are searching for your products and services in the awareness stage. In order to get the most out of both SEO and marketing automation, the two must work in harmony with one another.

SEO allows you to make the most out of your marketing automation investment while marketing automation ensures your SEO leads don’t go to waste.

Five Important Crossover Points

Without further ado, let’s check out some of the specific crossover points where marketing automation and SEO complement each other for maximum benefit.

1. Closed-Loop ROI Tracking

Are you familiar with closed-loop return on investment (ROI) tracking? This tracking allows you to see the revenue each keyword produces over a specific period of time. It’s essentially the measuring stick by which you gauge how profitable it is to focus on individual search terms.

“With marketing automation, closed-loop ROI tracking tracks every lead, giving you the ability to attach each keyword to a prospect record and continue to follow the lead until it is a closed opportunity in the CRM,” marketing automation expert Matthew Sweezey explains.

This is tremendously beneficial and removes much of the guessing game associated with understanding how leads progress through the funnel. “You see the full closed loop and therefore know where each lead came from and the revenue it brought in, which in turn enables you to prove the value of each marketing channel,” Sweezey continues.

2. Tracking Visitor Behavior

You aren’t required to have marketing automation software in place to bring in new sales prospects – your SEO efforts alone can certainly generate leads. The problem is that you don’t necessarily know which ones are producing the bulk of your sales.

If the old adage that 20 percent of your customers generate 80 percent of your revenue is true, then you need a way to identify and focus on the 20 percent. If your marketing automation software has built-in web tracking software, you can follow your PPC ads so that you know which leads are serious.

“By knowing how your visitors are interacting with your ads and how in depth their engagement is, you are able to fully optimize the productivity and effectiveness of these ad campaigns, thus increasing the chance for conversions,” digital marketing strategist Erin McCabe says.

3. Checking for Toxic Inbound links

You spend a lot of time attempting to build up high-quality, organic links that will improve your organic search rankings. Unfortunately, all it takes is too many unsolicited backlinks from spam sites to get you slapped with a Google link penalty.

With marketing automation, you can set up a feature that will automatically notify you when a potential harmful inbound link is detected. This allows you to take immediate action to remove the link and prevent costly SEO penalties.

4. Improving Campaign Relevancy

When you’re able to better understand which keywords and ads are helpful in generating leads, suddenly you’re able to put together highly relevant marketing campaigns that stand a better chance of penetrating your target audience and pushing customers down to the bottom of the funnel. This means you’re able to better maximize your budget and strategically reallocate funds to the places that matter most.

5. Better Sales Intelligence

Ultimately, this all leads to better sales intelligence. “Because every lead passed to sales through marketing automation has a full history report, including the keywords a prospect searched for, the sales department can use this data to improve its sales process,” Sweezey notes.

The end result is a more intelligent organization that’s no longer simply making assumptions and experimenting with SEO and marketing, but rather identifying trends and strategically acting upon this information.

Make the Most of Your Efforts

While you do have to be careful that you don’t rely too heavily on marketing automation and forget about your core SEO responsibilities, the reality is that marketing automation platforms help SEO tremendously.

If you want to be an organization that sits on a well-balanced stool with four legs, then you would do well to facilitate a healthy relationship between these two core areas.

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6 Ways to Optimize for Searches Other Than Google

 

by Jayson DeMers

When people think about search engine optimization, they usually want to know how to make their site rank higher in Google. Every business has a website and Google is responsible for two-thirds of all searches online… so if you’re going to rank for one search engine, it should be Google.

But Google isn’t the only search engine that people use, and it’s not the only one worth optimizing for — especially if you serve a particular niche or operate within a certain industry that may generate traffic from another angle.

Alternatives for Optimization

Depending on your line of work, you might wish to include these search alternatives in your optimization strategy:

1. Amazon.

As BigCommerce explains, Amazon’s number-one goal is to make buyers happy — which means giving them more of what they want, and a better experience overall. To begin with, how you optimize your product listings plays a huge role in how you’ll turn up in search. Make sure to fill out all categories, tags, titles, and descriptions as fully and accurately as possible, so you’ll be viewed as a relevant entry. From there, your best bet is to garner lots of validations. For example, you’ll want to amass inbound links that point to your product, and you’ll require lots of positive reviews from users to earn higher rankings.

2. eBay.

This site works much the same way Amazon does, so it’s an excellent target for optimization. Your product descriptions and images will play a huge role in your rankings, as well as your seller rating and reputation. Because the listings are more temporary, though, links won’t help you as much here.

3. YouTube.

According to Search Engine Watch, the best YouTube optimization strategies start with keyword research: You’ll create and name your videos according to YouTube’s most popular searches. Make sure all your videos are named concisely and accurately, and pay the same level of attention to your categories, tags, and channel descriptions. The number of likes, comments, and views you attract also plays into your ranking, so encourage your audience to participate in these areas.

4. Etsy.

This is one of the few online marketplaces that goes out of its way to help sellers optimize their listings. Ideal for crafters and artists, Etsy encourages sellers to choose strong keywords, optimize their shop titles and descriptions, and earn plenty of backlinks for their products (not to mention maintaining a good reputation in the community).

5. Bing.

Google still dominates, but Bing is making a respectable effort, and currently gets more than 20 percent of all searches on the web. Bing comes as a default with most Microsoft products (because it is one of them). As a result, it tends to be more popular with older demographics. If you’re targeting older populations, this makes it a key tool for optimization. Bing works in much the same way Google does, but with a few differences: It doesn’t favor backlinks as heavily, it prefers old, established content to fresh material, and it’s a bit more literal when it comes to keywords and titles.

6. DuckDuckGo.

According to Neil Patel, DuckDuckGo’s greatest advantage is the privacy it offers to users. It doesn’t track or keep user search history the way Google does, so if you want to optimize for it, you’ll have to take a different approach. DuckDuckGo users are concerned about their privacy, so if that sounds like your target demographic type, focus on semantic search queries on a national level. DuckDuckGo’s local search isn’t as robust, but it does try to intuit user intention the way Google and Bing do.

How to Decide What’s Worth Optimizing For

If you’ve looked at this list and wondered how you’ll find time to optimize for all of them, relax. Not all businesses will benefit from optimizing for all these channels. You only need to focus on the two or three — or possibly just one — that best suits you and your clientele.

For instance, if you don’t produce a lot of videos on a regular basis, you don’t need to optimize for YouTube. If most of your business comes in via Amazon, you can focus your efforts there instead of eBay.

The good news is, most optimization standards work more or less the same, with an emphasis on quality and relevance for incoming searches. Apply those general principles no matter what kind of content you’re producing, and you’ll get a head start in every optimization application–even the ones you aren’t directly pursuing.

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