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Aside from perhaps the most unfortunate acronym in the industry, do single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) have a role in modern paid search?

For many years, single keyword ad groups were the hallmark of good PPC strategy. And aside from a slight feeling of unease when saying the word, SKAGs appeared to offer much.

In simple words, this was the practice of placing single keywords in an ad group, instead of a small group of closely themed keywords. This provided the advertiser with increased control, the ad copy could contain the exact keyword, maximizing relevance and the quality score. Match types and negative keywords could be used to ensure queries were matched to your keyword exactly, providing precise control over visibility. And finally, you could easily understand the true performance of an individual keyword.

Complexity at scale

Arguably, however, the benefits of this approach were incremental when implemented in an otherwise well organized and maintained PPC account structure. In fact, the benefits could be outweighed by the challenges they posed.

The complexity of the SKAG structure, when operated at scale, could jeopardize accuracy. For example, if you were operating a standard structure with 1,500 keywords, averaging three ads and five keywords per ad group, you would be managing 900 individual ads. Convert this to a SKAG structure, maintaining three ads per ad group, and that number jumps to 4,500 individual creatives to be maintained.

Not only that, but the application of cross-matching negatives to stream traffic accurately across this number of ad groups makes it significantly more complex. This is just a simplified example with a modest number of keywords, retailers with a large product range may operate keywords in the tens of thousands.

Operating SKAGs at scale increases the chances of inadvertently blocking traffic to keywords, as well as poor quality or inappropriate ad copy being overlooked. Both of which would have negative impacts on performance. To mitigate against this, increased amounts of “housekeeping” work is required, either detracting from more strategic work to develop and grow the activity or increasing costs to allow for the extra resource required.

So, are the merits of the SKAG structure outweighed by the effort to maintain them? Or even worse, and perhaps ironically, do they increase the risk of inaccuracy?

Are SKAGs still relevant?

Putting this question aside, there is a question over whether SKAG is even appropriate in contemporary PPC accounts.

In a greatly discussed recent article, Emma Franks of Hanapin Marketing makes the case that SKAGs no longer serve as a best practice for paid search. Her argument is centered around the evolution of Google’s match types, which are shifting to better match keywords to the user’s intent, rather than simply matching words to the query.

Source: Unbounce

This means that a single keyword could effectively be matched to many variations, all of which are relevant and have the same intent. The below example of how this works is taken directly from Google Ads Help pages:

Source: Google Inside AdWords

This level of variant matching then implies that to truly achieve the goal of the SKAG structure, which is, complete control over what queries match and the creative that is served, the extent of negative cross-matching required would become too taxing and hard to achieve.

Emma’s summary of the potential issues was
  • Multiple ad groups that address the same keyword intent
  • Duplicated ad copy that is no longer customizable for each individual search
  • Cross-contamination among keyword search terms for multiple ad groups
  • The potential for missed impressions/clicks/conversions/revenue due to an overabundance of negative keywords
  • Wasted time spent on keyword additions and exclusions, ad copy testing and revisions further topped with stress about new Google updates

Essentially, as Google increasingly takes benefit of machine learning to match ads better with the user’s intent, the SKAG structure offers advertisers an increasingly more difficult way to grab that control back from Google and control it manually. But, in an industry that is being driven by automation, machine learning, and AI, can a manually-controlled account ever keep up?

Is there a middle ground?

So then, SKAGs are a challenge to manage at scale and essentially pull in the opposite direction to the way in which Google is developing the Google Ads offering. In this case, they don’t have a place in a well-managed PPC campaign, right? Well, not entirely.

Where individual keywords command a very high share of the overall search volume, placing those terms in ad groups all of their own can offer greater flexibility. You get the control over the matching landing pages and copy SKAGs provide but at an infinitely more manageable scale. But you can also apply specific audience targeting, demographic and device modifiers and, day-parting at an effective keyword level. This provides a lot more levers for optimization of such high-volume terms. Take things a step further and place each SKAG in its own campaign and you now can apply specific budgets, the ad rotations, and delivery methods for that keyword, as well as its very own bid strategy.

Once again, this comes back to an assessment of “effort vs reward”. To be truly worth it and indeed to make automated features such as bid strategies work, the individual keywords themselves must drive a high volume.

A blended approach

So in the war of opinions on this subject (refer back to the comments section of Emma Franks article!), there is an answer to the entire “mixed feelings scenario” for SKAGs. Yes, SKAGs do have a role in effective PPC activity, but they should be used strategically alongside other strategies to maximize performance.

High-volume hero or brand terms can benefit from the SKAG structure to increase the levels of control and flexibility at a keyword level for the terms that drive the largest proportion of your traffic. Using traditional, tightly themed ad groups for the bulk of your remaining inventory will ensure more manageability while it continues to deliver performance. Finally, tools such as Dynamic Search Ads can offer a “catch-all” strategy to capture new and emerging search terms when deployed correctly.

An approach such as this provides maximum control over the terms that drive the most performance, whilst also allowing advertisers to reap the benefits of machine learning and automation to efficiently and effectively manage the body and long tail terms.

Advertisers are all different, so inevitably, each paid search structure will be unique as a result. The key, as ever, is finding the right balance that works for you.

Jon Crowe is Director of PPC Strategy at a global digital marketing agency, Croud.

The post The middle ground for single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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It’s three a.m. You’re uneasy, but you don’t really know why. You’ve recently audited your accounts, you’re on top of your routine maintenance, and you’re actively testing ways to increase efficiency and grow your account.

You’ve done your due diligence, so why the nagging feeling that something’s wrong? Since you can’t sleep, you decide to check up on your ads in the wild and run a live search to put yourself at ease. That’s when it hits you. Your ads are showing with extensions you didn’t specify. Even worse, some of them don’t even really make sense.

What are these, and where did they come from?

By default, campaigns on Google and Bing are automatically eligible to show dynamic extensions, ranging from site links, callouts, structured snippets, call extensions, and app extensions. Additionally, Bing offers “Dynamic Ad Enhancements” which are anything from dynamically generated ad description texts to badges highlighting promos and deals.

The content of these extensions is based on your landing pages, ad copy, information from your domain, your Google My Business profile, and third-parties in the case of reviews and seller ratings. The exact logic Google and Bing Ads use to determine when automated extensions show is a closely held secret, as is the content of those extensions themselves. Only performance metrics associated with the type of extension is viewable in each interface.

Depending on how your site is indexed and crawled by each platform, wildly different data is available to populate these extensions. That could lead to showing outdated information or content from irrelevant pages with your ad. Seeing an extension driving particularly strong performance without being able to see what that extension actually is is incredibly frustrating, but seeing an irrelevant or outdated addition to your ads on a live search is even worse. Even more so if your client happens across one before you do.

While each platform is heavily invested in improving overall user experience and improving ad experiences, automated extensions are far from perfect. Further, SEM managers frequently need to maintain control over ad messaging for legal compliance and client needs. Some examples would be adherence to branding guidelines, highlighting specific events and promotions, and using particular approved language. These make automated extensions a non-starter regardless of performance.

Measuring the impact of extensions

Both Google and Bing warn against the potential negative performance impact of opting out of automated extensions. If your account doesn’t have specific branding or compliance requirements, you should gauge automated extension performance against your existing extensions before opting out of anything. There will be clear winners and losers in every account. As automated extensions are frequently changing, their performance is likely to ebb and flow. Hopefully, dynamic extensions that don’t resonate with users get weeded out of the mix by the ad platforms.

When you find something that works, it’s nice to be able to build on it. Similarly, if you find something doesn’t work, it’s a great time to stop doing that. Unfortunately, both ad systems seem determined to make certain extensions work, even when their performance doesn’t merit keeping them around. And, since both the underpinning logic behind automated extensions serving as well as the content of those extensions is a mystery, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get a good handle on what exactly is driving those decisions.

To quantify the impact extensions have on your account in Google, analyze ad performance segmented by click type to determine which part of an ad unit users are interacting with. To determine how individual extensions perform on the ad level, segment your data with This Extension vs Other. In Bing, there are multiple ad extension reports available within the Reports tab just not directly in the interface.

How do I get rid of these?

To manage your dynamic extensions in the Google Ads interface, click into the “Ads & Extensions” tab, and then click into the “Advanced Options” menu on the far right-hand side of the screen.

In the Bing Ads interface, you’ll need to click into the “Ad Extensions” tab and select the dropdown menu to choose “Automated Extensions Report”. From there, the “Manage Automated Extensions” button is clearly accessible.

As soon as you get to the appropriate section in both platforms, opting out of undesired extension types is as simple as checking a few boxes.

As your settings are updated in the interface, they should roll live in the same amount of time it takes any other change, which is usually within 15 minutes.

As always, performing a periodic live search to verify if ads are serving appropriately is a life saver. Make a note on your calendar to include checking your automated extensions settings periodically when you move through your deeper account health checks.

Now that you’ve regained some control over your account, you can breathe a sigh of relief, and look forward to restful slumbers. But when you wake in the morning, we think that’d be a great time to audit your current extensions. Make sure everything serving is timely and applied to the appropriate campaigns. Ad extensions are key to boosting the success of your campaigns, assuming they’re strategically implemented. While automated extensions show some promising results, they’re far from perfect just yet.

Blake Lucas is an SEM Coordinator at PMG.

The post Don’t let unwanted automated ad extensions keep you up appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Are you putting enough thought into your meta description tags? If not, you’re missing out. Yes, your meta description tag should describe your post but many companies and websites will go well beyond that to carefully craft descriptions that can massively increase their click-through rate from search engines.

You can do the same. We’re going to take a look at nine types of meta descriptions that can help you get more clicks.

For each, I’ll walk you through an example, showing you what’s working well with that meta description tag and what it could potentially be doing better.

You don’t have to pick just one of these methods to use. You might want to focus on a particular angle, like writing a meta description tag that’s “call-to-action” focused but add in something else too like power words or a USP.

Here are nine different ways you can approach meta description tags:

1. Clarity focused

Meta description tags should be clear, letting the searcher know what they’re going to get. After all, if you confuse people, they’re not going to click through.

What works well 

This description takes a “what it says on the tin” approach in describing the website. It’s very clear about who the target audience is – “nerds and average Joes” rather than, for instance, hardcore bodybuilders. It also clearly and succinctly explains the benefits the site can provide for the searcher with the description line, “lose weight, get stronger, live better”.

Room for improvement

The title tag and meta description are repetitive. The second part of the title tag (after the colon) is the same as the second sentence in the meta description. It would read better if these were both different, this would also provide room to give more information or benefits.

The title tag also appears to be targeting generic keywords like “lose weight”, so it might be better to focus on more specific keywords here.

2. USP focused

A “USP” is a company’s “unique selling point”. It’s something that distinguishes their product from all the other similar products out there. The USP could be based on added value, quality, service, speed, advanced features, or almost anything else that acts as a differentiator.

Leading with a USP can work particularly work well for site homepages, where the meta description might otherwise seem rather generic.

What works well

Zappos is well known for its outstanding customer support and in the United States, it’s often considered the gold standard for online businesses. Here, Zappos communicates this through several strong USPs like “free shipping and returns”, “1000s of styles”, “365-day return policy”, and “24/7 customer service”.

The word “legendary” helps emphasize how Zappos is famed for its customer service and makes them sound a bit more epic. (See point six for more on using power words in your meta description tag.)

Room for improvement

This is a little picky, but all caps plus an exclamation point for “GET FREE SHIPPING & RETURNS!” comes across as a little shouty. It makes it seem like Zappos is trying a bit too hard, and doesn’t really convey quite the right feel for a large, professional company.

3. Question focused

People tend to turn to search engines because they’ve got a question so why not ask them one to help show that you know what they’re looking for?

This is my go-to type of meta description when I’m struggling with ideas and it works in almost all contexts.

What works well

If someone’s searching for SEO tips, asking if they’re interested in learning more about SEO will almost certainly get a positive response – they’re hardly going to say “nope”! The inclusion of “in 2019” helps suggest that the advice provided will be up-to-date, and “key trends” also ties in with this, indicating that this article will focus on tips that follow the latest thinking in the SEO industry.

Room for improvement

This is very picky, but the URL and the date stamp that appear immediately before this meta description tag both include “2018”. It’s obvious if you think about why this is the case. This post was published at the end of 2018, looking toward trends in 2019 but it could create a brief moment of confusion for a searcher who’s scanning through results quickly.

4. Purpose-focused

In some cases, it might be appropriate to emphasize a greater purpose behind your website, whether that’s a particular corporate value or a very practical way in which you make a difference. This can provide searchers with an additional incentive to check out your site rather than the others.

What works well

TOMS’ purpose is very clear from this short, easy-to-read description. They’re not driven by profit, but instead by helping others. Even if the searcher hasn’t heard of them and their “One for One” policy, it’s clear what it means from the context and the ® icon helps indicate that it’s a recognized and registered policy.

Room for improvement

It isn’t actually clear what TOMS sells. They started as a company selling shoes and matching each pair sold with a new pair given to a child in need. They now sell shoes and sunglasses, but you wouldn’t know that from the meta description tag above.

Note: Since the initial research for this post, TOMS has indeed updated their title tag to include shoes and sunglasses, but their meta description tag still uses the rather generic word “product”.

5. Call-to-action focused

Providing a call-to-action in your meta description tag might sound unusual, but for many products, it makes great sense. A clear call-to-action can prompt searchers not only to click but to also do something once they arrive on your site.

What works well

The call to action is both clear and repeated with statements like “Download the full version” and “Start your free trial today”. Having it at both the start and end of the meta description emphasizes it, especially with the word “free” being used in both places.

Room for improvement

The second sentence of the meta description tag is fairly generic, “photos, images, 3D artwork and more”. Given that Adobe is a huge brand, it might be worth it for them to try a little harder here to add more appeal to creative types, perhaps by using some stronger power words. (See point seven.)

6. Offer focused

This type of description combines a question or a point of curiosity with specific offers to entice readers to click through.

What works well

Starting with a question, as we’ve seen already, can help get an easy “yes”. The offers here sound impressively good, a four-star London hotel for £21 definitely sounds attractive. Including details of “The Savoy” makes it clear that KAYAK isn’t just for bargain hunters, though, and includes prestigious hotels too.

Room for improvement

I’m a bit of a stickler for making sure meta descriptions are within the limits and not truncated with the “…” at the end, but some SEOs feel this approach entices the user to click through. You might want to try using an SEO tool that helps check the meta content preview for length and strength, and see how it works for you.

It’s a small detail, but it seems a little odd that KAYAK has “3 stars from £33” and “4 stars+ from £21” – which is significantly cheaper. Obviously, there are lots of reasons this could be the case (e.g. location, special details) but it might cause a brief moment of confusion or even skepticism for the reader.

7. Power words focused

Focusing on power words like “incredible”, “powerful”, “secret”, “little-known”, and so on can help make your meta description tag stand out. Smart Blogger has an enormous list of power words here if you need some more suggestions. Be careful to not overdo it, though. If you stuff your keyword description with power words, it’ll look over-hyped.

What works well

The words “free” and “expert” both work well to grab attention. “Free” is always a good promise and “expert” implies that this advice will be well worth following and ensures that it will go beyond the basics. In the final sentence, “complete” is also a good power word as it suggests the searcher won’t need to turn to any other resource if they use this one.

Room for improvement

The sentence “Get your complete online career advice service” reads rather oddly. It reads more like it’s been optimized for search engines rather than for the people reading it. I’d suggest something like “We’re your complete online career advice service” or “Use our complete online career advice service” (and even those might sound a little over-optimized).

8. Special characters focused

Including symbols and emojis in your meta description tag can help it visually stand out in a sea of words. Depending on your brand, it could tie in well with your values. For example, if you want to come across as playful, or if you’re a brand aimed at teens you could focus on conveying the “fun” element.

Keep in mind that some searchers may react negatively to symbols and emojis, considering them unprofessional or even spammy.

What works well

The green boxes with check marks catch the searcher’s eye, drawing them to the listing. They help to highlight key points in the listing with “the best deals”, “the lowest prices”, and “great savings”.

Room for improvement

This meta description tag is written in a rather generic way probably because eBay has automatically created it according to a set of rules. The exact same description could be used for many other pages with just the words “Temporary Tattoos” changed, so it lacks relevance.

9. Solution-focused

One final approach to meta description tags is to focus on the solution or win that you’re providing for searchers. This type of meta description will promise something that the searcher will achieve through buying from the website or in some cases, simply from reading the content on a site.

What works well

This meta description tag starts with a question that searchers are very likely to say “yes” to. The question “Want to learn how to snowboard in a day?” offers a clear outcome for the reader and also brings in a USP with “the quickest training method” implying that it’s quicker than other similar companies.

Room for improvement

“Recreational standard” lacks clarity, and sounds rather like in-house lingo. Total beginners may not know what this really means, so it would be better to use language that their target audience will understand.

Meta descriptions can make or break how much SEO traffic you get. A great meta description tag will allow any page (including your homepage) to punch above its weight on Google, getting you more clicks through an increased-click through rate, potentially even a higher ranking.

Joe Williams is founder of Tribe SEO. He can be found on Twitter at @joetheseo.

The post Nine types of meta descriptions that win more clicks appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Few technologies promise to have an impact on the marketplace as tremendous as the blockchain technology. Though many professionals in the search marketing industry are still entirely unfamiliar with it. Blockchain’s disruptive nature is changing the nature of digital advertising regardless of whether some professionals hear about it or not, however, meaning it’s imperative to catch up on how this technology is changing the industry if you want to remain competitive.

Here are five of the major ways that blockchain will impact search marketing, and how advertising professionals are already beginning to master this interesting technology as it takes over.

1. Blockchain will make ads trustworthy

Consumers hate advertisements for a number of reasons, but by and large the most common is that they simply think advertising technology is untrustworthy. Nobody likes feeling as if they are being surveilled 24/7, and few people trust digital advertisements that appear on their screen enough to click on them, even if its contents are interesting. Blockchain technology promises to help this problem by securing the ad supply chain and making the marketing process more trustworthy to consumers everywhere.

Soon, thanks to blockchain services, ad tech vendors, buyers, and publishers will be more connected than ever before. Transparency, that is sorely needed in the ad supply chain can be brought about by the application of blockchain services, which thanks to their nature as ledgers are accessible to every party involved in a financial transaction. Website owners and ad vendors of the future will thus be able to operate with one another much more securely when making marketing arrangements.

2. Blockchain is delivering ad transparency

Elsewhere, blockchain services will be applied to make ads more transparent in an effort to win over the trust of skeptical consumers. Companies like Unilever are now teaming up with the likes of IBM on blockchain projects that they hope will disclose information about their business footprint and the way they collect and utilize information on customers. As these endeavors become more successful, others will be convinced to enlist the help of blockchain technology when it comes to ensuring a transparent advertising industry.

3. Blockchain is changing ad payments

Blockchain technology will also impact search marketing by disrupting the way that advertisement payments are facilitated. Companies like Amino Payments will soon be springing up left and right as the market for blockchain services grows larger and larger. These businesses will help mainstream blockchain-powered ad buys that make use of interesting smart contracts. While smart contracts are only just beginning to become an accepted part of the business world, they’ll be a mainstream facet of doing business sooner than we think, all thanks to the wonderful power of blockchain.

4. New advertising ecosystems are springing up

Some of the ways that blockchain is impacting search marketing are truly monumental. Blockchain technology is helping new advertising ecosystems get on their feet, for instance, with nascent companies like Adshares that are working hard to create a blockchain-based advertising ecosystem. As cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-powered technologies become more mainstream, we’ll see an increased need for blockchain-friendly payment systems.

Search marketing professionals in the future may have to rely on specialized expertise when navigating these new blockchain-powered advertising ecosystems that use a standard bitcoin wallet, which will become dominated by the IT-savvy. Programmatic advertising has already been upended time and again in recent years as the digital revolution brought about better computers, and the rise of blockchain could very well be the next stage in that cycle of disruption.

5. New blockchain browsers will reshape user experiences

Finally, the digital experience of the average consumer will be fundamentally changed by the introduction of blockchain browsers. Browser options like Brave are becoming more popular and grabbing headlines as they promise a privacy-respecting internet experience that features more honest and safer ad tech. Our current understandings of the marketing world may be entirely useless a few years from now when blockchain powered browsers off secure, personalized search options to users who are sick and tired of modern advertising gurus.

Search marketing is in for more than its fair share of disruptive changes in the forthcoming years, largely because of the advent of blockchain technology. Like any other technological innovation, blockchain will take time and investment to grow into its full potential, but it’s already quite clear that its development is jarring advertising professionals.

The post Five ways blockchain will impact search marketing appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Do you know the triumph when your content finally hits the first page of Google and attracts significant traffic? Unfortunately, nobody is safe from a sudden drop in rankings. The thing is that the reasons for it may be different and not obvious at all.

In this post, you’ll discover what could cause a sudden drop in traffic and how to fix the issue.

The tip of an iceberg

Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all decision, when it comes to SEO. When you face the drop in your rankings or traffic, it’s just the tip of an iceberg. So, get ready to check lots of issues, before you identify the problem.

Note: Percentages assigned in the above graph are derived from personal observation.

I’ve illustrated the most common reasons for a plummet. Start from checking these parameters to find out how you can recover your rankings and drive traffic to your website.

Algorithms test

First of all, check the SERP. What if it’s not only your website that changed its positions in search results? These sharp shifts may happen when Google tests its algorithms. In this case, you don’t even have to take any further steps, as the rankings will be restored soon.

If you track your rankings with Serpstat, you can analyze your competitors’ positions as well. It’ll help you understand whether the SERP was changing a lot lately. From the moment you create a new project, the tool starts tracking the history of top-100 search rankings’ changes for the selected keywords. The “Storm” graph illustrates the effect of the changes that have occurred in the search results.

On this chart, you see that for the “cakes for dads” keyword the storm score was pretty high on 21st March. Now, let’s look at how the top-10 positions that were changing on this date.

The graph shows a sharp drop and rise that occurred in most of the positions. In a few days, all the rankings were back to normal again.

This example tells us that whenever you witness a significant drop in your search rankings, you should start with analyzing the whole SERP. If there’s a high storm score, all you need to do is to wait a bit.

In case you checked your competitors’ positions and didn’t see any movements, here’s the next step for you.

Technical issues

Technical SEO affects how search robots crawl and index your site’s content. Even though you have optimized your website technically, every time you add or remove some files or pages, the troubles may occur. So, make sure you’re aware of technical SEO issues on your site. With Google’s URL Inspection tool, you can check the way search engines see your website.

These are the main factors crucial for your rankings:

1. Server overload

If your server isn’t prepared for traffic surges, it can take your site down any minute. To fix this problem, you can add a CDN on your website or cache your content, set up a load balancer, or set up a cloud hosting,

2. Page speed

The more the images, files, and pop-ups you add to your content, the more time it takes for your pages to get loaded. Mind that page speed isn’t only a ranking factor, but it also influences user experience. To quickly check the issue, you can go with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. And to speed up your website, you can:

  • Minimize HTTP requests or minify and combine files
  • Use asynchronous loading for CSS and JavaScript files
  • Defer JavaScript loading
  • Minimize time to first byte
  • Reduce server response time
  • Enable browser caching
  • Reduce image sizes
  • Use CDN again
  • Optimize CSS delivery
  • Prioritize above-the-fold content (lazy loading)
  • Reduce the number of plugins you use on your site
  • Reduce redirects and external scripts
  • Monitor mobile page speed
3. Redirections

It’s the most common cause of lost rankings. When you migrate to a new server or change the structure of your site, never forget to set up 301 redirects. Otherwise, search engines will either fail to index your new pages or even penalize your site for duplicate content.

Detecting site errors can be quite difficult especially if it’s located solely on one page. Inspecting every page would be time-consuming. Also, it’d be very costly if you’re running a business. To speed up the process of identifying such errors you can use different SEO tools and site audit tools, like Serpstat, OnCrawl, and other such ones.

Wrong keywords

Are you using the right keywords? If you hadn’t considered user intent when collecting the keywords, it might have caused some problems. Even if your site was ranking high for these queries for some time, Google could have changed the way it understands your site’s intent.

I’ll provide two examples to illustrate the issue.

Case one

There’s a website of an Oxford Summer School named “oxford-royale.co.uk”. The site didn’t contain any long-form descriptions but services pages. Once Google began to rank the website for queries with informational intent, SEO experts noticed the traffic dropped. After they added more texts to the service pages, they succeeded in fixing the problem.

Case two

This case occurred to a flower delivery agency. While the website was ranking for transactional queries, everything was alright. Then Google decided the site better suits informational intent. To restore the site’s rankings, SEOs had to add keywords with high transactional intent, such as “order”, “buy”, and many such keywords.

To collect the keywords that are right for your business goals, you can use KWFinder. With the tool, you can identify relevant keywords that you can easily rank for.

Outdated content

This paragraph doesn’t require long introductions. If your content isn’t fresh and up-to-date anymore, people won’t stay long on your site. Moreover, outdated content doesn’t attract shares and links. All these aspects may become good reasons for search engines to reduce your positions.

There’s an easy way to fix it. Update your content regularly and promote it not to lose traffic. The trends keep changing, and if you provided a comprehensive guide on the specific topic, you don’t want it to become outdated. Instead of creating a new guide every time, update the old one with new data.

Lost links

Everybody knows your link profile is a crucial part of your site’s SEO. Website owners take efforts to build quality links to the new pieces of content. However, when you managed to earn a large number of backlinks, you shouldn’t stop monitoring your link profile.

To discover whether your link profile has undergone any changes for the last weeks, go with Moz or Majestic. The tools will provide you with data on your lost and discovered links for the selected period.

If you find out you’ve lost the links from trustworthy sources, try to identify the reasons why these links were removed. In case they’re broken, you can always fix them. If website owners removed your links by chance (for example, when updating their websites), then ask them to restore links. If they did it intentionally, no one can stop you from building new ones.

Poor user experience

User experience is one more thing crucial for your site’s rankings. If it had started ranking your page high on search results and then noticed it didn’t meet users’ expectations, your rankings could have suffered a lot.

Search engines usually rely on metrics such as the click-through rate, time spent on your page, bounce rate, the number of visits, and more. That’s why you should remember the following rules when optimizing your site:

1. Provide relevant metadata

As metadata is used to form snippets, it should contain relevant descriptions of your content. First of all, if they aren’t engaging enough, users won’t click-through them and land on your site. On the other hand, if your snippets provide false promises, the bounce rate will increase.

2. Create an effective content structure

It should be easy for users to extract the necessary information. Most of your visitors pay attention to your content structure when deciding whether they’ll read the post.

Break the texts into paragraphs and denote the main ideas in the subheadings. This step will help you engage visitors looking for the answer to their very specific questions.

3. Avoid complicated design and pop-ups

The content isn’t the only thing your audience looks at. People may also decide to leave your website because of irritating colors, fonts, or pop-up ads. Provide simple design and minimize the number of annoying windows.

Competition from other websites

What if none of the steps worked? It might mean that your rankings dropped because your competitors were performing better. Monitor changes in their positions and identify the SERP leaders.

You can analyze your competitors’ strategies with Serpstat or Moz. With these tools, you can discover their backlink sources, keywords they rank for, top content, and more. This step will help you come up with ideas of how you could improve your own strategy.

Never stop tracking

You can’t predict whether your rankings will drop one day. It’s much better to notice the problem before you’ve already lost traffic and conversions. So, always keep tracking your positions and be ready to react to any changes quickly.

Inna Yatsyna is a Brand and Community Development Specialist at Serpstat. She can be found on Twitter @erin_yat.

The post Seven reasons why your rankings dropped and how to fix them appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Back in the days when I was learning PPC, one of the two biggest growing pains I had were:

  1. Learning the difference between segmenting campaigns out to maximize efficiency
  2. Reaching the point where the juice is no longer worth the squeeze

Rather than creating clutter and a burdensome account to manage, I’ve since learned to make use of everything I can to speed up my workflow and free up bandwidth to focus on things that actually make a difference.

IF functions are a versatile means to tailor your ads to users in real time, using either the type of device they’re browsing on or the audience segment they belong to as signals to serve up specialized ad copy. The right message at the right time can make all the difference between a conversion or another bounced visitor. Search marketing is rapidly moving towards heavy automation and personalization, so IF functions are helpful because they’re a simple way to keep your seat at the table.

Setting up IF functions

The process of setting up IF Functions is painless. You could easily set one up in the time it will take to finish this article, regardless of your comfort level with Excel formulas. And if doing it on Excel is too daunting, you can set them up directly in the Google Ads UI under the Ads tab.

The basic logic is as follows

{=IF(condition is met, show this text):If not, show this text}.

So, if you wanted specific messaging for users on mobile, the logic runs something like this:

IF the user is ON a mobile device, show mobile-friendly CTA. If not, show the general CTA.

To put that in the basic formula

{=IF(device=mobile, Call Now!):Get a Quote.}

Another common usage of IF statements is serving specific offers to specific audience segments.

The basic formula for audience-based IF functions is

{=IF(Audience IN(audience name), Audience-specific copy.):General copy}

To put the above into a sentence: “If a user is IN this specific audience segment, serve them this specific copy. Otherwise, serve this more general copy.”

Suppose you were running a tiered promotion, where Club Members were eligible for an additional 15% discount on top of a 30% off sale, that text would look something like this:

Shop Now for{=IF(Audience IN(ClubList),45%):30%} Off!

Or, if your nurture campaigns weren’t entirely broken out and you wanted to move recent visitors into booking a consultation, you might have something like:

{=IF(Audience IN(Returning Visitor 7 Days), Book Your Consultation Today!):Download Our Free Guide.

Take note that you can target multiple audience segments in the same IF function. However, you are still limited to two copy options. The syntax is the same, just with your audiences separated by commas in the Audience IN section –

{=IF(Audience IN(Segment1,Segment2,Segment3)Learn More!):Get a Quote.}

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by keeping track of all of those brackets, commas, and colons, you can also build IF functions directly in the Google Ads UI. Simply add an open bracket in an ad field, anywhere from the headline one to URL paths one or two (note that ad customizers in Final URLs are not supported) and let the system walk you through putting it together.

Things to note while using IF functions
  • The character limits for each field still apply (but only for the ad text defined in your functions).
  • Symbols in the function’s ad text options like quote marks (both single and double), commas, and colons will need to be preceded by backslashes (\) for the function to work properly. For example, rather than “SearchEngineWatch’s” your function copy would read “SearchEngineWatch/’s.”
Using IF functions for fun and profit

Although IF functions don’t offer as many options to customize ads as using a business data feed, the options they do provide are staggering.

Shaping expectations based on device type is a must. While mobile browsers have come a long way in recent years, filling out long forms on a small screen with no keyboard is a slog, and desktop users might not have the same propensity to turn into brick and mortar visitors.

Tailoring your copy for devices isn’t a replacement for setting realistic device bid modifiers and taking cross-device/cross-channel conversions into account. But it is another way to squeeze more efficiency out of your ad budget.

Beyond device-type, the real power of IF functions come from the ease with which you can target specific audience segments. If you have a large enough CRM list to make customer match audiences viable for search, great. If your lists aren’t quite big enough, have no fear, you can create details of the possible audiences in Google Analytics and import it to Google Ads, the options are endless.

Bonus: Countdown ads

Countdown ads are yet another feature that is effective and easy to use but tend to fly under the radar. Beyond highlighting promotions, I’ve seen success in highlighting shipping windows (keep that in mind for the holiday shopping season), special events (for example, store openings), and more. Just like the other customizers available, countdowns can be put anywhere in an ad except for the URL.

The syntax is pretty straightforward
  • Specify a date in Year/Month/Day, pick a time in Hour:Minute:Second
  • Specify the language you’re targeting, and how many days you’d like the countdown to run

In the below example, the countdown will end at midnight on June 7, 2019, after starting seven days prior

{=COUNTDOWN(“2019/7/7 12:00:00″,”en-US”,7)}

The future is now

Running a successful paid search campaign has always required knowing who your customers are. Ad customizers make reaching the right user with the right messaging easier, and at scale. IF functions are easy inroads towards better tailoring of your users’ experiences towards their needs. It gives you more control over your ad copy than dynamic keyword insertion or responsive search ads, with a lower likelihood of matching to undesirable search queries than dynamic search ads. And with less setup needed than the Ad Customizer feeds, IF functions ultimately give savvy search marketers a powerful tool to boost performance.

Have any queries or interesting functions you know? Share them in the comments.

Clay Schulenburg is Director of SEM at PMG.

The post Using IF functions on Google Ads to improve productivity appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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There’s a science behind what engages shoppers and gets them to purchase and new visual search tech implementations promise to exploit that and reinvent ecommerce as we know it.

A shopper’s decision to buy products is more influenced by the primal brain areas and less from the analytical side. Us humans are hard-wired to our emotions which spring from the same areas of the brain, the right side, that processes and reacts to visual stimulation. In the early days of mankind, it’s largely how our ancient ancestors survived in the wild.

Similar to Facebook’s emoticons it rolled out as “reactions” in 2016, our modern emotions emerge from four core feelings, happy, sad, afraid/surprised (“wow”), and angry/disgusted, based on research conducted by the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow.

Smart marketers can appeal to our right brains that communicate in feelings and respond to images that increase conversions and sales because people tend to act based on emotions. Most of the purchase decisions people make are emotional, not practical. Retail shopping therapy is, perhaps, an offshoot of this science-based truth.

When it comes to shopping, decision-making, and conversions, another experiment conducted by the George Washington University and UCLA, found that playing to the emotional side of our brains is a far better strategy than using too many facts and figures that appeal to the decision-making areas of the brain.

The researchers found that ads that use logical persuasion (for example, “this car gets 42 miles to the gallon”) scored lower for conversions than those that “seduced” people by circumventing “consumers’ conscious awareness by depicting a fun, vague or sexy scene”.

Visual search will revolutionize ecommerce and SEO

The rise of visual search is powered, in part, by people’s desire to discover products and brands, and it’s playing out now in the new trend of shopping on social media channels such as Instagram and Pinterest that’s spreading most quickly amongst millennials as the next big thing.

Yet, “creating technology that can understand images as quickly and effectively as the human mind is a huge undertaking”, wrote Adam Stetzer in a trend piece on visual search last year. “Visual identification is a natural ability made possible through a wonder of nerves, neurons and synapses. We can look at a picture, and in 13 milliseconds or less, know exactly what we’re seeing”.

Google is making rapid advancements tied to the increasingly visual nature of the search for ecommerce. For example, in early March it rolled out a new pilot program to digitally connect retailers and consumers, who can now make purchases from results of Google Image searches.

For the pilot’s launch, Google cited a figure that 50 percent of online shoppers said images of the product inspired them to purchase. Google is currently testing its “Showcase Shopping” ads on what it calls “a small percentage” of traffic with select retailers, surfacing on broad queries such as “home office ideas”, “shower tile designs”, and “abstract art”.

Certainly, the visual search trend will impact the programmatic ad industry’s innovations for future offerings. Advanced AI and computer imaging will be two core technologies that power dynamic personalization and highly customized ads that boost campaign performance tied to consumer’s visual search behaviors. For instance, it enables offering up winter jackets in the shopper’s favorite colors as fall approaches, or quickly serves up visually or stylistically complementary dining sets to match a new dining table or tablecloth search or purchase.

Adtech leaders’ R&D programs have already begun to focus on new AI-powered marketing innovations, including research and development from Facebook, Google, and Pinterest, and new strategic partnerships such as the one announced by Amazon and Snap last year.

Shoppable visual ads take off on social media platforms

The powerful combination of influencer marketing, using emotional buying triggers we’re hard-wired to respond to, and the highly visual nature of popular social channels such as Instagram and Pinterest have sparked the fast growth of shoppable ads on social media platforms.

Many industry watchers are betting that Instagram and Facebook will lead the pack here. Late last year, Salesforce predicted that Instagram will grow 3X faster than overall social-traffic boosts, citing data from Cowen & Company that 30 percent of internet users reported purchasing a product they discovered on Facebook or Instagram.

The overall trend of social media’s impact on purchase behavior is well-documented. As many as 76 percents of consumers have purchased a product they’ve seen in a brand’s social media post, per data from Curalate.

Influencer marketing and consumers’ purchase of products, as a result, is nothing new. For example, many kids who grew up in the 1970s and their parents bought Wheaties back then based on the cereal’s “Breakfast of Champions” campaign because they were inspired to be like Bruce Jenner after his decathlon triumph at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

While the mediums have changed, and we can now click on ads and have products delivered within the same day, and be much more granular in terms of micro-influencers’ campaigns that pinpoint targets and conserve campaign budgets, the psychology of why it works is the same.

New platforms such as Shopify make it easy for brands and merchants of all kinds to create engaging, highly connected sites that are helping to energize the social aspects of the web.

Large companies such as Amazon, Pinterest, and Instagram have done an excellent job of figuring out consumer sentiment, emotions, and online behaviors. We’re getting much closer to narrowing down to a “segment of one“, a trend that many retailers today are focused on in order to increase the personalization of advertising and improve the experience for consumers so that promotional offers to purchase products become more like a personal shopper catering to them instead of a pushy salesperson who annoys them to the point of departing the store.

And if Pinterest is any indication with more than 600 million visual searches each month, and fact that image-based Pinterest ads have an 8.5 percent conversion rate, the role of visual search in helping to capture our attention, personalize the advertising experience, and seduce us to buy is here to stay as ecommerce and SEO evolve around it.

Gary Burtka is Vice President of U.S. operations at RTB House, a global company that provides retargeting technology for global brands worldwide. He can be found on Twitter @gary_burtka.

The post New visual search innovations tap human emotions and biological buying triggers appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Search advertising has seen consistent growth over the last year in all the key metrics among advertisers. Here’s everything you need to know.

It’s been a good year for paid search and anyone working in the industry. Benchmarking can help us understand where we are and what we should consider as success in our work. Kenshoo has released its Q1 2019 Quarterly Trends Report to look at the latest trends in social and search advertising. The results are very encouraging for search and we’re looking at the key stats here.

An increase in spending and impressions

It’s interesting to see that there has been a drop from the last quarter both in the spending and the impressions in paid search. More specifically, there was a 16% decrease in spending and an 18% decrease in impressions. It’s not surprising though as Q4 is usually the busiest quarter of the year with the biggest spending at the end of year campaigns.

When it comes to the comparison from Q1 2018 to Q1 2019 from Kenshoo, there has been an 11% YoY increase in paid search spending and a 36% increase in the impressions.

This means that search marketers increased their budget from 2018 to 2019 while also seeing the appropriate success in the increase of impressions.

What does a drop in CTR and CPC mean?

According to Kenshoo’s report, there has been a 25% YoY decrease in click-through rate (CTR) and also an 11% YoY decrease in CPC.

The significant drop in CTR could possibly reflect the growing competition and increased spending and impressions. It would even possibly affect an advertiser’s quality score in ads. It should not be alarming though if we also consider the drop in cost per click.

The drop in the cost per click means that search marketers are seeing an improved return on investment in their campaigns.

A combined analysis of CPC and CTR in every campaign can help us understand the different ways we can measure success in search advertising and how each metric can help us improve our efficiency.

Mobile search ads are on the rise

There is an increasing number of people relying on their smartphones when performing searches. Thus, it’s not a surprise that there has been an increased number of mobile searches from Q1 2018 to Q1 2019.

Mobile search ads are also increasing and they currently take 50% of search spending in Q1.

It is actually the third consecutive quarter that we see this balance between mobile and desktop search spending.

As for CPC, mobile CPCs are still lower than desktop being at $0.42 in Q1 2019. There has been a decrease of 12% from Q1 2018, which highlights the efficiency of mobile search ads.

Search marketers understand that we are heading towards a mobile-first world so there will be an even more increased focus on mobile search and finding solutions to create the most efficient ads.

Apple Search Ads saw a big growth

Apple Search Ads can be very successful if you want to promote your app. A large number of people rely on search when looking for the right app. This means that search ads in the Apple Store can have a big impact on your app’s popularity.

Kenshoo introduced Apple Search Ads to their platform in Q3 2018 and since then they’ve seen a 90% increase in their spend from advertisers.

A combination of excitement but also the understanding that Apple search ads can make your app promotion easier and more effective led to this growth and it seems to be only the beginning.


What we can learn from Kenshoo’s Trends Report is that search advertising is evolving but it’s still at a very encouraging stage.

It’s important to keep track of the latest trends and what could potentially affect our success. For example, search marketers cannot ignore the rise of mobile consumption and how it affects the spending and the results on the search ads.

Also, the drop in CTR and CPC indicates a hidden opportunity that more advertisers could explore.

The growing interest in the search industry is going beyond Google. One of the latest growing trends has to do with Apple Search Ads and we are expecting to see more of them over the next quarters.

A good way to maintain your success in the search ad industry is to monitor and benchmark the rates that will bring you closer to understanding what’s perceived as success and what can be improved.

Look at the stats and the trends that are more relevant to your work and start exploring how you can improve your own ad success through them.

The post Kenshoo Trends Report – The state of search advertising in 2019 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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April was a big month for Google Data Studio (GDS), with Google introducing some significant product updates to this already robust reporting tool.

For those not familiar with GDS, it is a free dashboard-style reporting tool that Google rolled out in June 2016. With Data Studio, users can connect to various data sources to visualize, and share data from a variety of web-based platforms.

GDS supports native integrations with most Google products including Analytics, Google Ads, Search Ads 360 (formerly Doubleclick Search), Google Sheets, YouTube Analytics, and Google BigQuery.

GDS supports connectors that users can purchase to import data from over one hundred third-party sources such as Bing Ads, Amazon Ads, and many others.  

Source: Google

1. Google introduces BigQuery BI Engine for integration with GDS

BigQuery is Google’s massive enterprise data warehouse. It enables extremely fast SQL queries by using the same technology that powers Google Search. Per Google,

“Every day, customers upload petabytes of new data into BigQuery, our exabyte-scale, serverless data warehouse, and the volume of data analyzed has grown by over 300 percent in just the last year.”

Source: Google

2. Enhanced data drill-down capabilities

You can now reveal additional levels of detail in a single chart using GDS’s enhanced data drill down (or drill up) capabilities.

You’ll need to enable this feature in each specific GDS chart and, once enabled, you can drill down from a higher level of detail to a lower one (for example, country to a city). You can also drill up from a lower level of detail to a higher one (for example, city to the country). You must be in “View” mode to drill up or drill down (as opposed to the “Edit” mode).

Here’s an example of drilling-up in a chart that uses Google’s sample data in GDS.

Source: Google

To drill-up by year, right click on the chart in “View” mode and select “Drill up” as shown below.

Visit the Data Studio Help website for detailed instructions on how to leverage this feature.

3. Improved formatting of tables

GDS now allows for more user-friendly and intuitive table formatting. This includes the ability to distribute columns evenly with just one click (by right-clicking the table), resizing only one column by dragging the column’s divider, and changing the justification of table contents to left, right, or center via the “Style” properties panel in “Edit” mode.

Source: Google

Detailed instructions on how to access this feature are located here.

4. The ability to hide pages in “View” mode

GDS users can now hide pages in “View” mode by right clicking on the specific page (accessed via the top submenu), clicking on the three vertical dots to the right of the page name, and selecting “Hide page in view mode”. This feature comes in handy when you’ve got pages you don’t want your client (or anyone) to see when presenting the GDS report.

Source: Google

5. Page canvas size enhancements

Users can now customize each page’s size with a new feature that was rolled out on March 21st (we’re sneaking this into the April update because it’s a really neat feature).

Canvas size settings can be accessed from the page menu at the top of the GDS interface. Select Page>Current Page Settings, and then select “Style” from the settings area at the right of the screen. You can then choose your page size from a list of pre-configured sizes or set a custom size of your own.

Source: Google

6. New Data Studio help community

As GDS adds more features and becomes more complex, it seems only fitting that Google would launch a community help forum for this tool. So, while this isn’t exactly a new feature to GDS itself, it is a new resource for GDS users that will hopefully make navigating GDS easier.

Users can access the GDS Help Community via Google’s support website or selecting “Help Options” from the top menu bar in GDS (indicated by a question mark icon) then click the “Visit Help Forum” link.

Source: Google


We hope that summarizing the latest GDS enhancements has made it a little easier to digest the many new changes that Google rolled out in April (and March). Remember, you can always get a list of updates, both new and old by visiting Google’s Support website here.

Jacqueline Dooley is the Director of Digital Strategy at CommonMind.

The post A summary of Google Data Studio: Updates from April 2019 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Fifteen years ago, if a customer needed a hammer, they’d probably get out a phone book, look up “Hardware Store,” choose the hardware store closest to their house, drive there, go inside, and ask the clerk “Do you sell hammers?” If they happened to be out of hammers, the clerk might draw the customer a map to the next closest hardware store and the process would start all over again.

Now that most of us are walking around with tiny computers in our pockets, much preliminary research is taken care of in a matter of seconds via mobile search. If a customer needs a hammer, they simply google “Hardware Store,” and three nearby results pop up instantly.

Chances are, that customer will then be done searching. Any stores that don’t pop up will not get their business. Securing one of those top three spots in a Google search is an essential part of nailing local SEO.

This is especially significant for enterprise brands to be able to compete at the local level.

With hundreds or thousands of locations, it can be overwhelming to ensure data accuracy across the board. Partnering with a local search solution to maintain and monitor listings across all locations is a great way boost online presence and drive foot traffic.

Content produced in collaboration with Rio SEO.

If you’re just looking at website analytics, you could be missing out

Most consumers are researching businesses on mobile before they make decisions about which locations to visit in person. In fact, according to RetailDive, two-thirds of consumers conduct research online before even stepping foot in a store.

And while most businesses know that they should pay close attention to their website analytics, many are forgetting that preliminary online research also includes local listings. Research shows that while 75% of consumers use a business’s website as part of their decision-making process, an even greater number, 87%, also consider local listings.

Going beyond website analytics to understand how your ranking in local search results affects in-person visits to your businesses is key to understanding how to use local SEO for real-life traffic.

A study by Sparktoro found that in 62% of local mobile searches, the customer doesn’t click search results to visit a business’s webpage. Further, Rio SEO found in recent data from enterprise clients that just 1 in 60 Map Pack views resulted in a click-through to a website.

Rather, they get the information they need from the local listings that come up at the top of their search results. For many businesses, this means that if you’re not at the top, you might as well be invisible.

Optimizing for the Local 3-Pack

Mobile users are most likely using Google to search for local businesses, and those searches are generally limited to what’s called the “Local 3-Pack.”

In Google’s search engine results, the Local 3-Pack is a colorful, prominent map listing that presents to consumers the three businesses Google considers most relevant to the query and searcher’s location (refer again to the image above).

Coming in as one of those first three spots is critical for making sure local searchers can find your business.

How can your business break the top three?

The key to breaking into that coveted Local 3-Pack is making sure your corporate and local site’s SEO are in order. And the best way to get your SEO in order is to optimize your Google My Business (GMB) page to give Google’s algorithm everything it needs to find your company in local searches.

Here are a few tips for optimizing your GMB:
  • Provide critical business information, such as business name and category, location, and/or service area, hours of operation (with special hours or holidays), phone number, website URL, business description, and more
  • Give advanced information, like store code, labels, or Google Ads location extension phone
  • Encourage customers to leave reviews, which you can respond to within the GMB dashboard
  • Upload photos, which appear in both the listing and Google Images
The right tools can boost your online presence

If you’re worried that your business isn’t coming up at the top of those critical mobile local searches, changing your SEO strategy to adopt the right tools could be your best bet for getting seen by mobile users. Join SEW, ClickZ, and Rio SEO in our webinar to learn more about how to choose the right SEO toolkits for boosting your local business into those crucial top three search results–and keeping it there.

What to know more about mastering local SEO for enterprises?

The brands killing it in local SEO now are freeing their corporate teams and local managers of complicated workarounds and messy, muddled local data.

In this webinar, you’ll explore the benefits of taking a toolkit approach to enterprise local search and discover the key tools that must be a part of your local marketing arsenal. Join us and learn how to:

  • leverage location-based martech effectively to optimize your brand’s online presence,
  • improve customer experience in decision-making moments,
  • track and measure location metrics that matter and stop wasting time on the wrong data,
  • gain and retain search engine trust in your brand and each of its locations to improve local rankings and visibility,
  • empower local managers to support the brand’s marketing efforts without losing control

It’s time to stop throwing disparate, disconnected solutions that only accomplish one or two things into your stack. Isn’t it time your brand’s local marketing efforts worked together to achieve the results your local stores and customers crave?

Join us for our webinar, “Scrap Your Stack: High-Performance Local SEO for Enterprise Brands, Simplified” to learn how.    

The post Local SEO for enterprises: Optimizing for the Local 3-Pack appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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