Category Archives: SEO

12 video SEO tips to help improve your search rankings

Video content has skyrocketed over the past few years, and therefore it’s time to examine how adding SEO to your videos can impact rankings.

Video is everywhere and this is both a blessing and a curse, especially if you’re trying to stand out from the rest of the crowd at the top of search engine results pages. So consider the following video SEO tips to help put you ahead of the competition…

1) Add value

As common as it may sound, your content should be relevant to your audience, adding value that will convince the users to dedicate the right time to watch your video. The more quality videos, the bigger the chances to serve as an authority, build a trusting relationship with your audience and increase the conversions.

2) Host video to your own domain

If you are creating video content to improve the ranking of your site, then you need to host the video to your own domain, in order to ensure that search engines don’t direct the traffic to another site.

Let’s say for example that you prefer to upload the video on YouTube and add a link back to your site in the description. This may be a good idea if you’re trying to expand your reach, but in terms of SEO, search engines will crawl the Youtube video first, rather than your site.

Moreover, it may be a good idea to create a new page for each video, as Google mentions that this makes the indexing easier.

3) Create interactive content

How about adding the necessary interactive elements to your videos to activate the viewers? Whether it’s the actual content, an annotation, or the caption, there are many ways that you can “gamify” a video to make it more interactive and engaging, helping grab the users’ attention.

You can even split the video into shorter clips, allowing your viewers to pick which one they prefer to watch, a strategy which has been implemented in many successful campaigns.

4) Create relevant metadata

Your video should provide the necessary details to help search engines index it and according to Google, the title, the description and the thumbnail are the most important pieces of information.

Metadata offers more details about the video title, the description, the length of the video and its file name.

Video title has to be short and concise, while the description may provide more details and keywords, boosting the ranking of your content.

Last but not least, make sure the file name of your video is relevant, instead of a generic one like “video415.mph”, as this is another way to describe your content for search engines.

Here’s more advice on how to optimise video for YouTube.

5) Optimise with keywords

Keyword research may also occur in video SEO and it may help you discover the most relevant content for your target audience. Is there a particular keyword, or phrase that could lead to better results? What’s the best way to describe your video?

Feel free to experiment with different keywords and always remember to create descriptive, but also legible content, helping both your audience, but also the search engines.

6) Focus on the thumbnail

The video’s thumbnail is among the first things that users will notice and it might affect their decision whether they’ll actually click on the video.

How about picking a thumbnail that is clear and relevant to the content of your video?

7) Make “shareable” content

It’s not just about creating an interactive video, it’s also about producing content that your audience will appreciate.

“Shareable” content is unique, creative and adds value for its target audience, making the sharing easier and the reach bigger.

It’s the quality of your content that will make your video stand out from the rest, and a clear call-to-action may also affect your site’s authority, with new links and mentions.

8) Add a video transcript

A full video transcript is the written version of your video and it can be very useful if it also includes the right use of keywords, helping search engines learn more about your content.

You can either include a transcript to the audio portion of your video, or you may also add it to the description box, along with the HTML of the page. This not only helps search engines to discover your content, but also the readers who may prefer an overview of your video.

9) Create a video sitemap

A video sitemap provides all the necessary data about your video’s content and it provides the details the search engines need to get a clearer picture of its context.

A video’s sitemap is another way to present the video’s title, description, subject, duration and it may even provide more specific details, like an indication of the country restrictions, any expiration dates, platform restrictions or live streams.

It serves as an extension to your site’s general sitemap and although it may often be overlooked in video SEO, it is an important step to help your video’s ranking.

10) Repurpose video

There are many ways to use an existing video and this may extend its “lifespan” and its reach.

For example, you may create a 10-minute video on your site, offering tips about video SEO. Your goal is to push this page to the rankings and increase the awareness and the traffic to your site.

Instead of simply promoting the particular page, which you should do anyway, you may also upload a preview of this video to your Facebook page for example, leading your audience to your site for more details.

Moreover, you can create an infographic, a slideshow, or shorter videos, all leading to the main source of content: your site.

It is a great opportunity to reach a wider audience and promote your main content, helping them discover your page in the most interesting and relevant way.

11) Allow embedding of your video

If users want to embed your video to their site, or their blog, it means that they like it enough to include it on their page. This is already a win for your content and it may lead to a boosted page ranking on SERPs.

Thus, make it easy for your audience to embed your video, as you’re earning more inbound links to help your SEO efforts.

12) Share on social media

Don’t be afraid to promote your content as much as possible to all the relevant channels, as this is the best way to spread word about it and reach the right audience.

This may lead to more viewers, new links, bigger traffic and of course, better positioning on SERPs.

Feel free to reach the right people that may find your content interesting, or even to use your network to promote it accordingly. Even paid promotion may be useful, if you think that this can contribute to your goals.

Social authority cannot be overlooked and in fact, it may be a great way to boost your video’s SEO efforts.

Takeaway

There are numerous ways to apply search optimisation for your video content, but it all comes down to quality once again, as the starting point for your strategy.

It’s the actual content that will grab the audience’s attention and its optimisation can ensure that you are rewarded for your dedication with a higher position on SERPs.

Once you are creating relevant content of high quality, then it’s time to start applying the above tips to get your message noticed, both by users and search engines.

This article was previously published on our sister website Search Engine Watch.

Why are enterprise companies missing out on search?

SEO and search marketing are a vital part of any marketing strategy, linking together channels like social media, content marketing and offline advertising.

But a survey into the marketing channels used by large enterprises has found that 91% don’t prioritise search at all.

The research, carried out by B2B research firm Clutch and digital agency R2integrated (R2i) among 500 U.S. enterprise companies, found that only 5% of companies surveyed consider paid search ads to be a top priority marketing channel in the next 6-12 months, while only 4% are prioritising organic SEO.

Enterprises which don’t prioritise search in their marketing strategy are missing out on customer demand, as customers will often pull out their phones or go online to search for a brand after hearing about them on TV, by email or on social media. In any multichannel brand marketing strategy, search tends to be the glue that holds it all together.

So why are enterprises failing to give search the proper emphasis in their marketing, and what can be done about it?

Measurement and metrics

The enterprises surveyed by Clutch and R2i gave various reasons for why search isn’t a priority in their marketing strategy.

Among the respondents who are involved in search marketing, the top challenge was proving ROI from search marketing (cited by 18%).

Other challenges preventing enterprise marketers from making full use of search included technical skill (13%) and keeping up with best practices (10%).

Kara Alcamo, Vice President of Digital Activation at R2integrated, agrees that it is difficult to “prove” ROI from SEO and search marketing, as there are so many different factors that can lead a buyer to take the next step.

“For example, did someone fill out a form because they saw a paid search ad, or was that paid search ad the last step in a series of brand interactions that included seeing a print ad, reading sponsored content, and seeing the brand at an event? More than likely, that paid search ad is not the sole contributor to a person’s decision to convert, but we aren’t able to track every granular interaction a person has with the brand.

That said, the first step is to ensure you’re tracking what you can, that those data sets are integrated, which will allow you to create an attribution model. This really should be a cross-department initiative, not limited to search or even to paid media.”

Many enterprises are also falling down when it comes to tracking the right metrics. When asked about the most important metric for SEO success, the most common response (cited by 28% of respondents who are involved in search marketing) was traffic volume.

Second was leads and conversions (cited by 23%), followed by onsite engagement (19%), keyword rankings (16%), and impressions, awareness and sentiment (15%).

It is tempting to look at traffic as the best indicator of SEO success, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. If you’re getting a lot of visitors to your website, but hardly any conversions from them, then is your search marketing really doing its job?

Similarly, having a high keyword ranking might be meaningless on its own. As Krista LaRiviere points out in her piece on why conversions, not rankings, matter, a better-performing keyword is one which delivers traffic and conversions, not just one that appears higher up the SERP. One can lead to the other, of course – but it’s not a given.

With that said, tracking conversions from search isn’t always easy. The easiest way to track lead generation and conversion from search, says Kara Alcamo, is to ensure you’re tracking form conversions on your website…

“The more complicated method involves multi-touch, multi-channel campaign tracking in which you’ve put together an attribution model and are attributing ROI and conversions back to search even when they’re not last-click.”

If you use Google AdWords for search marketing, you can also use it to track conversions, including across devices.

Knowing which metrics to track and measure is crucial to proving the ROI for SEO and search marketing. And being able to make a strong marketing case for search is the first step to seeing more companies focusing on this fundamental area of marketing.

An integrated approach

As it is, Clutch and R2i found that less than half of the enterprises they surveyed (47%) carry out search engine optimisation, making it only the 9th most used marketing channel, behind such channels as print, direct mail and events.

Paid search advertising is even more under-utilised, used by only 40% of enterprises and coming 12th out of a list of the 15 marketing channels most used by enterprises.

I asked Alcamo if this attitude could possibly be a result of enterprises not viewing SEO as a “marketing channel.” Do enough companies think of search as part of marketing, or do they view it as a separate area of technical wizardry that doesn’t concern marketing? Alcamo replied:

“SEO itself has changed so much that there isn’t a lot of “pure” SEO anymore. It’s a channel in the sense that you should have a dedicated expert who is focused on improving performance in organic search results, but its identity is inextricably linked with other “channels”.

A robust SEO strategy could include integrated efforts across IT, social, content, PR, and media. So I can see how it can be tough to draw the line between SEO and other channels.”

Alcamo believes that taking an integrated, inter-departmental approach to SEO is the best way to keep on top of the changing search industry and get the most out of your marketing efforts.

“I think even enterprises who understand the importance can have trouble executing on SEO strategies which require the involvement of many different departments.

I would look at your SEO resource as a consultant who should be involved in many efforts across departments, in addition to handling pure SEO. They aren’t going to dictate the information architecture of your new website, for example, but by bringing them in to review the IA before you move into development, you’ll ensure you aren’t missing any content that’s necessary to maintain or improve organic performance, and essentially save yourself more work and stress down the line.”

This article was previously published on our sister website Search Engine Watch.

11 common SEO myths to ignore in 2016

With so much written about it, it’s easy for myths and misunderstandings around SEO to take hold. 

Whether you’re an expert or a beginner at SEO, it’s always useful to confront such myths, so here’s our list.

1. SEO is dead

This is perhaps the most popular SEO-related myth and it ended up an urban legend, widely spread among sites and communities. If you believe that SEO is indeed dead, or if you’re just a pessimist, I assume the rest of the myths won’t be much useful to you.

SEO changes and evolves, but as long as there are ways to help your site rank higher in the SERPs, SEO will still be here. 

2. SEO is all about adding the right keywords

There used to be a time when keyword density was (mistakenly) synonymous with a good SEO practice, but as search engines keep changing, so does our SEO strategy. Keywords are still important for optimisation, but the focus is more on the content and its relevance, rather than the exact keyword.

The arrival of RankBrain made even clearer the focus on relevance, with the page being crawled for its content and emphasising the user experience, rather than the use of the exact keyword.

No more awkward headlines to favour a specific keyword, let’s concentrate on the content’s meaning.

3. SEO is about a number one ranking

Many “SEO ninjas” promise to land your business at the top spot for just $100, but even if they manage to deliver their promises, it isn’t just about the ranking. 

Your SEO strategy should aim to increase traffic, engagement and eventually conversions and this cannot be achieved by merely focusing on the site’s position in SERPs

It’s true that being on the first page of SERPs can lead to an increase of traffic to your page, but the goal is not to simply gain the top spot.

For example, featured snippets, the summary of an answer to a user’s query that is displayed on top of Google search results, can lead to an increase of traffic of up to 20-30%, but 70% of them do not come from the first organic result. Thus, it’s the optimisation of the content, the usefulness and the relevance that may lead to additional traffic and make your SERP position more effective.

4. The more webpages you have, the better the ranking

Quantity should not be preferred over quality. You can create as many webpages as you want if you feel that they add value to your site, but there’s no need to create additional pages hoping to increase your crawling from search engines.

Not every page is indexed and quality is a crucial factor for your attempt to increase your site’s visibility, so keep that in mind next time you feel inclined to create new (pointless) pages.

5. Image optimisation is not necessary

Image optimisation is important and although it’s a relatively easy process, we sometimes need to remind ourselves to do it when creating new content.

As search engines cannot actually see your images, you need to provide the right description to make them ‘visible’. Google suggests you use descriptive titles and captions, while the use of a keyword can also be useful.

Make sure you fill in the fields of title, alt text and description, as they all contribute to the increased chances of having your image visible in search engines. Also, keep in mind that a unique image has more chances to be seen, compared to a boring stock photo.

6. Mobile optimisation is overrated

Do you still underestimate mobile optimisation in 2016?  Google’s push for mobile optimisation, most notably with the ‘mobile-friendly’ updates should tell you otherwise. 

In Google’s own words:

On average, people check their phones more than 150 times a day,  and more searches occur on mobile phones than computers. But if a potential customer is on a phone, and a site isn’t easy to use, they’re five times more likely to leave.

To avoid losing out in these crucial moments, you need a site that loads quickly and is easy to use on mobile screens. The first step is seeing how your site is performing. We can help by scoring your site for mobile-friendliness, mobile speed, and desktop speed.

Mobile optimisation is all about the user experience, whether it’s the design of the page, the responsiveness, the number of clicks, the page speed, or even the screen size.

What’s more, we cannot underestimate Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), Google’s latest attempt to improve the performance of mobile web articles in a light, fast version of a page. As it now arrives in organic search results, it’s becoming quite imperative to give it a try and enhance the user experience and hence, the traffic to your post.

We have extensively covered mobile optimisation, but here are three posts I’m encouraging you to read if you want to learn more about the topic:

7. SEO is not working for me

If you feel that SEO is not working for perhaps you need to know more about SEO, or maybe you haven’t hired the right person for this task.

SEO isn’t a quick fix to bring your site to the top of the SERPs, it’s a continuous process which needs to be re-evaluated and monitored to ensure its efficacy.

As websites and search engines change, so do their optimisation for improved visibility, so if you feel that SEO hasn’t worked for you in the past, then maybe it’s time to start all over again with one step at a time, until you understand enough the process to examine your progress on your site and its “crawlability”.

8. Link building is dead

Link building has been proclaimed dead many times, but it’s still around, keeping up with the changes of our times. Link building is about creating links with the ultimate goal to increase a site’s presence (and traffic).

It may not be efficient anymore to be part of a private blog network or use spammy anchor text, but the fundamental goal of link building is still present, provided that we know how to use it.

A link building strategy may be time consuming, but it may also be rewarding and let’s not forget the fact that links are still important ranking factors.

According to “The State of Link Building Survey”, the most effective method of link building in 2016 is based in content, whether it’s promotion, or guest posting. What’s promising is the fact that the state of link building is still strong in 2016, as good links will always matter.

9. Social media does not affect SEO

It’s easy to assume that social media has nothing to do with SEO, as your social traffic is not a ranking factor for SERPs, but this doesn’t mean that it still cannot influence your online presence.

As social media usage keeps increasing, your authority is gradually building among many different platforms and this may help search engines with discovery and indexation. Moreover, content distribution has moved towards social media quite aggressively, which means that social sharing may contribute to effective link building and of course, increased traffic to your site.

Social media marketing can help you increase your site’s visibility which is also appreciated by search engines. Think of how Google+ can be “spotted” by Google, or how the indexed tweets can increase the brand awareness, and eventually your credibility.

Although there is no guarantee that a successful social presence can boost your SEO, but there is an indication that it can help it. And here are more examples on how social media can actually benefit your SEO efforts.

10. Local SEO is not for everyone

Local SEO is becoming more important year-by-year, but not everyone understands yet how it can be useful even in the least expected case.

You don’t have to own a local business (or even have a physical presence) to benefit from local SEO and here are some of our suggestions on how to take advantage of content gaps and structured data.

What’s more, if you feel that your business is still struggling to benefit from local SEO, then maybe it’s time to start with a few basic steps, in order to help its local visibility.

  • First of all, is your business listed on Google Business?
  • Do you pay enough attention on your reviews? (Yes, reviews affect your local search ranking)
  • How is your customer service?
  • Do you provide the right information on your online presence?
  • Are you focusing on mobile customers? (94% of mobile searches are have a local intent)

According to our own editor, Christopher Ratcliff:

“Accurate and complete Google My Business information + accurate location data + positive customer reviews + traditional SEO tactics = good local ranking (possibly).”

11. Don’t worry about SEO just create good content

I came across a tweet mentioning that quality content can beat any SEO optimisation, and that’s how this myth came up.

It’s true that the quality of your content is important, but if you don’t optimise it (or promote it), how will you reach a wider audience?

People have tried to dismiss technical SEO, but it’s what underpins an effective search strategy.

As we’re crafting our SEO efforts for 2017 (yes, it’s closer than you think), it’s time to leave all these SEO myths behind. Haven’t we already heard enough of “SEO is dead”?

How much SEO knowledge do content marketers need?

Thanks to various Google changes over the last few years, content marketing and SEO are ever more dependent on each other

They used to be very separate disciplines in the past, but now it’s hard to see how either can be practised well without at least some basic knowledge of the other.

So the question is, what do content marketers need to know about SEO to achieve the best results?

Here I’ll make an attempt to answer that question, with the help of Kevin GibbonsMD at Blueglass and Sticky Content’s Content Director Dan Brotzel.

What SEO knowledge do content marketers need?

Here are some of the tactics and skills associated with SEO, that content marketers ought to be aware of.

Btw, I’ve not mentioned technical SEO here, though it is of course important as the foundations on which effective SEO (and content marketing) is built.

Keyword research

This enables SEOs to find gaps and opportunities to help target pages rank, by understanding the popularity of keywords.

For example, a site producing content around wedding dresses needs to understand the most popular terms used, and the range of terms they need to optimise their content around. You can create great content, but knowledge of keyword popularity helps that content find an audience.

There are lots of useful SEO tools (many are free) which can help with keyword research. Google’s Keyword Planner and Trends are obvious ones (though Keyword Planner has just become less useful), while just typing terms into Google and seeing the suggested searches is another way.

One tool I’ve found useful is Answer the Public, which provides some great insight into the kinds of questions people have around a particular topic.

Here are the results for ‘content marketing’. It provides some great insights into the kinds of questions people are asking around the topic, which should help content marketers to target more effectively, as well as generating some useful ideas.

According to Dan Brotzel:

“Keywords and other SEO insights are a vital tool. They provide a useful (and often surprising) index of users’ preoccupations, and the words that they actually use to phrase their searches. Anyone in the business of generating ideas for content should see keyword research/data as a rich resource for understanding user intent and interest, and make it integral to their brainstorming process.”

Knowledge of search behaviour

This is related to keyword research, as this provides insight into how people search, the language used etc. It’s more than that though…

Insights such as the seasonality of some searches can inform content planning, as can the way people view and interact with search results.

Effective content marketing looks at the target audience’s questions and concerns and produces content to address their needs. Knowledge of how people search and what the search for provides plenty of insight to help with this goal.

Attracting links

Link building is a valuable tactic for SEOs and one which content marketers should be aware of.

They don’t necessarily have to actively build links, but can attract links by creating content that people want to link to and promoting in to relevant publications and channels.

Indeed, a 2016 link building study found that content based link building was by far the most effective method.

Proving the value of content

There are plenty of content marketing metrics to look at, and the SEO value of content should be part of the measurement applied to content efforts.

As Kevin Gibbons says, it can help to secure budget:

“Knowing the role SEO can play helps to prove the value of content. If you can forecast and report that your content will generate a monetary value in terms of organic traffic and revenue, this is when people can start to scale their investment towards building valuable content assets.”

There are several SEO-related metrics to look at – the organic traffic (and any related revenue) delivered by the content you produce, the links it attracts, and the success in securing organic search positions.

What do SEOs need do know about content marketing?

The tactics and skills normally associated with content production are becoming ever more valuable to SEOs. This is thanks to Google’s focus on quality content as a ranking factor.

Many of these tactics are interchangeable. For example a focus on the target audience is essential for SEO and content marketing.

The importance of storytelling

Content creation requires a degree of creativity, which can also be valuable from an SEO perspective.

As Kevin Gibbons explains:

“The biggest thing SEO can learn from content marketing, in my opinion is around the importance of storytelling.

It’s vital that you get your message across, providing the best experience in the format that resonates with your target audience. SEOs can often be guilty of sticking to the tried and trusted campaigns that have worked in the past, great content marketers realise that it’s not about what we think, it’s about your audience.

Do your persona analysis, speak to your customers, find out what they really want to see and have a less is more approach towards driving and engagement through doing the best job possible to tell your story.”

A focus on the audience/customer

An effective content strategy needs to address the needs of your target customer, and should also align with business goals. It’s not just about attracting traffic, it should aim to attract the right kind of customer.

If you address the needs of your target customer through content, the viewers of this content are likely to be your target audience.

For example, retailers can use content such as how-to guides to attract potential customers. So, Repair Clinic produces useful guides on appliance repair. This is useful content which also ties in closely with, and therefore helps to promote, its products.

It’s great for SEO too, as it helps them to target searchers with appliance-related problems, its target audience.

There are SEO tools and techniques which can help to answer these questions, but a broader understanding of the target customer can be gained by using a wide range of information.

This includes customer surveys and reviews, information from customer service interactions, and much more.

As Dan Brotzel says, this process requires creativity:

“Content marketers need to apply editorial initiative and imagination to generating ideas for content that can both address users’ needs and business requirements. They need to find ways to answer the question: What kind of content do our users care about? What counts as a good idea for them? What kind of ideas and content can we credibly produce from within our niche? How can we use content to support our goals?”

Importance of quality content

The old SEO techniques of churning out content for the sake of putting target keywords on a page is no longer effective.

Algorithm updates have forced SEOs to think more about the quality of the content they produce, and this is also the focus of effective content marketing.

As Dan Brotzel says, quality is what users want:

“The great thing about the evolution of SEO is that it is pushing content ever closer to the one criterion that users are ever likely to care about: quality. Yes, you want your content to surface high in results (and to be accessible and scannable, come to that), but there’s no point being easy to find and consume if what you’re offering users isn’t on reflection actually worth finding.”

Quality is, of course, a very subjective term, and is ultimately something for the end user to judge, but the aim should be to produce content that is valuable.

This can be measured to a certain extent in the way that users interact with it (on-page behaviour, actions taken after reading etc) but also in the way that search engines rank content.

Quality can also be a factor in search rankings. For example, if the content is answering the question that the searcher typed into Google, this helps it rank higher.

This is the ‘long click’ (as explained here by Bill Slawski). It’s similar to – but not the same as – bounce rates.

It’s essentially a measure of how long a user spends on a page before returning to the search results page. If they take time, or don’t return to search results, it tells Google that the content has satisfied the searcher, and is therefore relevant to the search query.

Over time, quality content which achieves this will rank well. It will also attract links and social shares, all of which help in terms of SEO.

This is why a focus on evergreen content can be a great tactic for content marketers and SEOs alike.

For example, a post on SEO basics (since updated) from 2014 has delivered traffic over a long period of time. There’s an initial spike after publication, but the traffic didn’t drop off totally, it continued to deliver visitors to this site. In fact it attracted more than 25,000 pageviews last month, more than two years after publication.

The reason is that this is useful content for searchers, and this has helped the article top Google for the term ‘SEO basics’ for some time. This ranking then helps to deliver more visits, attract links, and so on. It’s a virtuous circle.

In summary

The reality is that no marketing discipline can exist in a vacuum. They all rely on skills and techniques normally associated with other disciplines.

Email marketers need some content skills to make their subject lines and email copy more effective, ecommerce sites rely on SEO techniques to attract customers, and so on.

For content marketing and SEO, its very important for practitioners to understand the importance of the tactics and skills of each.

In a nutshell, SEO requires good content to be really effective, while content producers need to use SEO to help with content planning, and to ensure that the content they work hard on can be found by their target audience.

What content lengths work online, and which do people trust?

There is of course a lot of discussion about content and what does and doesn’t work online. Is long-form the key? Does short-form content have a role to play? Are there other factors at play?

Let’s be honest, there’ll never be a definitive answer to this as so much depends on context. What is the reader looking for? What do they expect around a particular topic? And so on..

In this post I’ll look at a couple of recent studies, one on how web users decide which content to trust, and one on content length and search rankings, as well as my own findings from ClickZ and Search Engine Watch.

How do people decide whether to trust a piece of content?

This is a question asked by Dan Petrovic of DEJAN Marketing, and the answers are based on a survey of 1,000 web users.

Let’s take the top few answers. First of all, we have…

Content properties

This is defined as ‘Title, spelling, grammar, style, language and presence of quick answers’. In other words, does the content deliver on the title and is it easy to read and digest?

This makes sense to me, and I think that the best content achieves these goals. This means no clickbait headlines, while articles should be readable and well-formatted.

For me, a readable article should be laid out clearly with sub-headings, good use of charts and images, and formatting methods like bullet points and bold text to make it easier for visitors to scan and understand.

The flip-side is that a wall of text is likely to deter readers, as it just looks like hard work.

Declared source

This refers to the citations used in the article. Stats and other proof should be used to make your case, while linking back to these sources allows readers to investigate for themselves.

Publisher reputation

Again, people are likely to trust a source they have used before, or that they judge to be reputable. This may be the name of the site.

For example, a site like Search Engine Watch should be trustworthy when looking for SEO information, while an academic or government site may be more trusted on certain topics.

Author reputation

This a follow-on from publisher reputation, and I think familiarity and trust in an author’s work helps a lot. Perhaps some people read articles because they’ve heard of me (I’m sure many haven’t…) and likewise, I’ll trust writers whose work I’m familiar with, and who have built up trust over a long period of time.

What’s interesting here is that, even without author or publisher reputation, it seems a piece of content can be trusted by users simply due to quality. If it’s well-written and presented, and answers the question well, it has a good chance of success.

Content length and rankings

CognitiveSEO has produced a big study on the lengths of content that rank best, and the answer is long-form.

It has studied 300,000 web pages, and concluded that longer-form content (between 1,001 and 5,000 words) is more likely to achieve higher rankings.

I won’t go into too much detail on the study, but the crux of the matter is that longer-form content is more likely to deliver on the detail that searchers are looking for, and gives the writer the time and space to dive into the necessary detail.

Content length on ClickZ and SEW

The findings of the CognitiveSEO study make sense to me, and matches my experience on this site and SEW.

This detailed guide to Google Search Console is one of the most popular posts we’ve produced this year, and is more than 4,000 words long. It ranks in the top three or four for various Console-related searches too.

It works because it offers the level of detail that searchers looking for guides to the topic really want. A 500 word version simply couldn’t do the same job.

Our own stats for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch underline the value of long form content, at least for traffic.

These are the top articles by page views for the six months to June 2016 for both sites:

The average word count for the ten posts featured is 1,951, and three of them are longer than 3,000 words (SEO tips, presenting data, and SERP changes).

All of these articles have good search rankings too. For example, the top post on alternative search engines is number one on Google, apart from that pesky featured snippet

However, it isn’t all about long-form. a well-timed piece of information can be just as effective. For example, we published a piece on Google’s removal of right-hand side ads very soon after the news came out.

It’s ‘only’ 295 words long, but that was all that was required to convey the information required and add a little analysis. That post sits in the top three for various searches around ‘right hand side ads’, and clearly satisfies the searcher.

However, the timing was also a factor, and therefore other sites linked to it as a news source, helping it to rank well.

In summary

There have been many studies suggesting that long-form is the answer, and it would be easy to take that as the basis for a content strategy.

However, I think context is far more important, and the content length should be decided by the target audience, and what is suitable for the topic or aim of the content.

On ClickZ and SEW, we aim to provide analysis and information which helps digital marketers, and this kind of content often has to be long-form, as that is what delivers the required detail.

We look to create evergreen content which has a longer shelf-life, and that does tend to be long-form, though not always.

The lesson here is that the content has to fit the purpose, and the length should be secondary to that. If it takes 2,000 words to address a topic properly and satisfy the searcher, then fine. If it only takes 250, then that’s all you need.

55% of users don’t recognise PPC ads in Google search results

There is still confusion over which search results are ads and which are organic, at least in the minds of some web users. 

According to a new survey, 55% of searchers don’t know which links in the SERPs are PPC ads,

I covered this topic a few months ago, using data from an Ofcom report which found that up to 50% of users shown a screenshot could not identify paid ads in the SERPs.

The article on Search Engine Watch also mentioned data from Varn, which found that, of the 1,010 UK internet users who were asked the question below, 50.6% didn’t know which links were ads:

The survey above is from February this year, but there have been a few changes to the SERPs since then, so Varn repeated the survey last month.

The new version found that almost 55% now don’t know which links are paid ads and which are organic.

The results are also split by age, with the general trend being that the younger you are, the more likely it is that you’ll spot the ads. Though almost 50% of 25 to 34s still aren’t seeing ads.

As before, the results can seem surprising when you look at a typical search results page, and the results labelled as ads.

Then again, perhaps I’m not in the best position to judge. As someone who looks at search results all the time, and is well aware of paid search ads, it’s impossible not to notice them.

Since the first survey, 5% more people are unable to recognise ads, so is this just about the margin of error or have Google’s recent changes made ads less ad-like?

The first of the changes was the removal of right hand side ads, meaning that all paid ads appear in a list with organic results.

This is what they used to look like, just in case you need a reminder:

Then we had the change of labels, from the yellow ad labels you see above, to green ad labels which are, of course, the same colour as the URLs.

The reason for the change to the green colour is unclear, but the ad text now blends in more easily with the green text showing the URL, thus making it look less like an ad.

This seems to be a continuation of Google’s changes to ad labelling. This visual from Ginny Marvin on SEL illustrates the point brilliantly.

While they used to be shaded to distinguish them from organic results, ads now look less like ads then ever. Of course, the text is a clue, but it does seem that around 50% of users simply aren’t noticing that label.

Varn also asked about people’s attitudes to ads, finding that the majority see them as a nuisance:

In summary

None of the surveys asking about ad recognition in SERPs are perfect.

If you show people pictures of SERPs or conduct user tests, then sample sizes are small, but if you ask, the answer is often revealed in the wording of the question.

However, the trend is clear. Whatever the exact figure, it seems that around half of web users simply aren’t distinguishing paid results from organic ones.

Which Olympics TV ads drove consumer searches?

With a massive TV audience tuning in for the Rio 2016 coverage, it’s an important event for brands. So which TV ads have been most effective?

A post on the Google Analytics blog seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. Which ads were noticed by the audience (an estimated 26.5m viewers)?
  2. Which ads drove interest, shifted perception, and increased intent?
  3. And, which ads drove actual consumer response?

To find the answers, Google has used a combination of consumer surveys and ‘second-screen (mobile, desktop, and tablet) response data’ – search queries driven by the ads.

Awareness

The Coca-Cola ad was recalled by almost 35% of respondents, followed by Samsung and Chevy (23% and 22%).

Interest

Google surveyed people who had seen the ad, and those who hadn’t.

  • On average, respondents who saw the ads were 18% more positive about the brand in question than those who didn’t see it.
  • These respondents were also 16% more likely to find out more and/or purchase the product being advertised.

An interesting side-point here is that the impact of ads on respondents’ feelings and purchase intent was exactly the same, whether or not the brands were official Olympics sponsors.

Consumer response

Responses were measured in the form of second screen searches, meaning that consumers picked up their smartphones and tablets after seeing the ads.

The McDonald’s ad achieved the greatest response, with 42% more searches then the average, followed by BMW and Samsung.

The importance of the second screen

These TV ad driven searches came overwhelmingly via mobile – 94% compared to an average of 56% for those brands when their ads were not showing. 

For brands, that means a presence on the TV screen isn’t complete without a strategy for small screens, as well.

As TV ads drive search behaviour, it’s important that brands have a strategy for these responses. This includes:

  • Get the search strategy right. If people search for the brand or product mentioned, will they find the right landing page? Do you need to buy PPC ads?
  • Ensure that landing pages are mobile-friendly. If responses are occurring on mobile devices, ad budget is wasted if respondents can’t easily view the page.
  • Ensure that landing pages back up the ad. Landing page design needs to reinforce the ad and ensure a smooth transition for the user.