Community Corner: Spotlight on Search Engine Land Award Winners iCrossing, Merkle Inc. & Todd Silverstein

In this week’s edition of our Search Engine Land Award winners spotlight series, we are featuring the agencies who won the 2017 awards for Best B2B Search Marketing Initiative for SEO, Best Retail Search Marketing Initiative for SEO and Best Enterprise SEM Initiative.

We also are interviewing Todd Silverstein, who won the award for Best Overall SEM Initiative for Small Business. While Silverstein serves as the US head of performance marketing at Edelman Digital, it was his work as an independent contractor for a small business that earned him a 2017 Search Engine Land Award.

“It’s important for me to always practice what I preach, and I’ve been pushing my Performance Marketing team at Edelman Digital to always deliver incredible client results,” says Silverstein. “Because of this, I jumped at the opportunity to perform advanced SEM implementation.”

This year’s Search Engine Land Awards event is being hosted in Seattle, Washington, on June 12, 2018, during the SMX Advanced Conference. If you’re considering submitting an entry for the 2018 awards program, there is still time. The early-entry deadline for Search Engine Land Award submissions is March 31, 2018, but the applications will be accepted through April 13.


Last year, the team at iCrossing took home two trophies: the Best B2B Search Marketing Initiative for SEO and the Best Retail Search Marketing Initiative for SEO.

“Deciding what campaigns to submit was one of the toughest decisions!” says Jon Maxson, the senior director of SEO for the digital marketing agency. “We felt like these retail and B2B stories represented excellent examples of the difficult challenges our clients faced last year in very different circumstances.”

For its Best Retail Search Marketing Initiative for SEO award, iCrossing’s winning entry demonstrated how it was able to turn a project that often leads to a negative outcome — moving a site from one platform to another — into a best-case scenario.

“Our retail client faced the frequently difficult task of migrating to a new site platform,” says Maxson. Instead of losing web traffic, iCrossing was able to lift the site’s traffic 100 percent and increased revenue by 205 percent.

Maxson says submitting awards applications is a focus for his team.

“One of the great values we bring to clients is our experience solving similar challenges for other clients, and the SEL Award wins are an important reinforcement of the quality and types of search programs we execute on a daily basis.”

According to the SEO director, most of the work they submitted for this year’s entry was completed in the final weeks leading up to the submission deadline.

“We wanted to submit entries for two reasons: one, to recognize the iCrossing teams who delivered what we believed were award-worthy results for those clients; and two, for the industry barometer that these search awards represent,” says Maxson.

He says his teams are naturally a bit humble when it comes to sharing the results of their work, but being recognized by industry peers is important because it helps build momentum for iCrossing’s search business and the agency as a whole.

When asked what he thought helped iCrossing win two Search Engine Land Awards, Maxson says his team didn’t only focus on traffic volumes but also showed how the search campaigns aligned with the client’s overarching business problems.

“We reached the audiences they wanted to target and demonstrated how those audiences converted at increasing rates.”

Maxson says winning a Search Engine Land Award is a natural source of pride for his team and that they’re already looking forward to submitting award entries for this year’s event.


The 2017 Search Engine Land Award for Best Enterprise SEM Initiative went to Merkle Inc. for the agency’s work with MetLife Financial Services.

“We had a lot of really outstanding candidates, which made it difficult to select just one campaign,” says Merkle’s associate marketing director, Mallory McClenathen. “In the end, we felt the work we did for MetLife best exemplified Merkle’s people-based approach to marketing.”

McClenathen says the team’s ability to work with the financial services firm, and the client-agency relationship that was forged, was key to creating a winning audience-first SEM strategy that delivered strong growth.

“Our approach to search and media focuses on people before channels. I think our entry stood out because it focused on how creating meaningful brand interactions drove results for our client.”

According to the associate marketing director, the most difficult part of building out its award entry was deciding which campaign to submit. But once Merkle decided on the work it wanted to present, McClenathen says the submission process was relatively easy.

“The team developed the entry fairly quickly, using data and reporting that had already been put together for the client.”

McClenathen says submitting Search Engine Land Awards entries gives Merkle the opportunity to highlight the work it is doing for clients and to showcase how the agency is creating innovative campaigns within the search industry.

“We’re honored to be recognized by Search Engine Land,” says the associate marketing director. “It gives our search strategists and practitioners further recognition of the incredible results that they drive for their clients.”


Todd Silverstein is a veteran Search Engine Land Award winner. Two years ago, his team at Edelman won a Best Overall Search Marketing Initiative award.

In 2017, Silverstein was back in the awards circle, but instead of representing Edelman Digital, the agency’s head of US performance marketing won an award as an independent contractor.

“Being a team of one, working on WipeRecord as a private contractor, the submission process was highly streamlined,” says Silverstein, who added the application was extremely easy since the backbone of the campaign was real-time utilization of data coupled with a deep understanding of the business.

“The proverbial story had already written itself before I even put pen to paper.”

The ultimate goal of the search marketing campaign Silverstein designed for WipeRecord, a legal tech startup, was to gain market share in an extremely crowded space.

“The crux of this campaign was to take what another agency had been doing and revolutionize — both in terms of delivery and results,” says Silverstein. “The campaign was holistic in that it entailed the entire program, benchmarked by the first six months of me being at the helm (from January to June) versus the prior year.”

The award-winning campaign resulted in a 490 percent lift in qualified leads for WipeRecord, coupled with a 70 percent reduction in cost per lead.

“The true impact, of course, being a transformational increase in revenue and sales (including a ROAS of nearly 3,000 percent once we implemented Salesforce revenue realization through GA).”

According to Silverstein, his systemic approach to the WipeRecord’s search marketing campaign included unique campaigns broken out by query, sub-DMA, device preference, demographic and conversion type, along with in-depth keyword targeting and audience personalization.

“The win means a lot to me personally, since the vast majority of people in my position severely atrophy in terms of being able to execute world-class search engine marketing,” says Silverstein, “This win also validates the incredible work my performance marketing team at Edelman Digital has been doing — which I learn from as well — and serves to enhance the type of friendly competition we engage in, to ensure everyone continues operating at their peak.”

If you want to join the esteemed list of Search Engine Land Award winners, please submit your entry before the early entry deadline of March 31, 2018. Submissions will be accepted through the final deadline of April 13. The Search Engine Land Awards team has added several new categories this year, including Best Search & Social Media Marketing Initiative, Best Research Initiative by an Agency or Individual and Best Boutique Agency for SEO and SEM.

You can learn more about the upcoming awards event and how to submit your entry at 2018 Search Engine Land Awards.

Stay tuned to this column, as next week we’ll feature Search Engine Land Award winners in the “In-House Team of the Year for SEM” and “Best Enterprise SEM Initiative for Travel and Lifestyle Campaigns!”


Community Corner: Spotlight on Search Engine Land Award Winners Wolfgang Digital, Metric Theory & Precis Digital

This year’s Search Engine Land Awards will mark the fourth consecutive year the SEO and SEM community has come together to celebrate the best and brightest in the industry. The 2018 event will be hosted in Seattle, Washington, on June 12 in conjunction with the SMX Advanced Conference, and it has been expanded to include several new award categories.

Started in 2015, the Search Engine Land Awards has not only recognized top-performing SEO and SEM professionals and agencies, it has raised thousands of dollars for a variety of nonprofits, including Be the Match, CODE.org, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Women Who Code.

As we near this year’s awards event, Search Engine Land is taking a look at last year’s winners in a collection of interviews highlighting the campaigns that won and the results they generated.

For our latest addition to the series, we talk to the teams that took home awards for Best Overall Search Marketing Initiative and Best Mobile Search Marketing Initiative for SEO; Best B2B SEM Initiative for Enterprise; Best Mobile Search Marketing Initiative for SEM; and Best Integration of Search into Cross-Channel Marketing Campaign.

Best Overall Search Marketing Initiative & Best Mobile Search Marketing Initiative for SEO: Wolfgang Digital

Wolfgang Digital for Best Mobile Search Marketing Initiative – SEO

Wolfgang Digital’s team took home two trophies from last year’s event, winning the Best Overall Search Marketing Initiative award for its work with Littlewoods Ireland, and Best Mobile Search Marketing Initiative in SEO for its work with Zurich Life.

“We felt we had a really strong entry for SEO for mobile as we’d figured out quite some time ago that a rich snippets strategy would become a voice search strategy,” says Wolfgang Digital CEO Alan Coleman. “We were confident we would be showing the judges something they had never seen before here, which I believe is a key component of winning awards.”

The CEO says his agency also does a lot of work for the retail sector, and winning the Best Overall Search Marketing Initiative award was a great affirmation of the team’s efforts.

“We demonstrated a strategy which solved the issue a lot of market leaders face — how does the market leader continue to find scale in a saturated market?”

Coleman believes solving a marketing problem or successfully executing an innovation is a key component of a successful digital marketing strategy.

“A great award entry is often a story of how you executed one of these,” says Coleman.

When asked how they determined which campaigns to submit, Wolfgang Digital’s CEO says their “magic” formula centers around showing the judges something they have never seen before. “And give a whopper result to boot,” he adds.

Because the team is in the habit of presenting their projects to their colleagues, Coleman says the bulk of the work for the submission process was already completed.

“It was just a case of making our internal case study fit the criteria for the awards.”

According to Coleman, being recognized as a Search Engine Land Award winner has positioned the Dublin-based digital marketing agency as a world leader in the SEO and SEM community.

“We’re very proud to be putting Ireland on the map as a center of digital marketing excellence by winning international awards,” says Coleman.

He notes that Littlewoods Ireland and Zurich Life have both been clients of Wolfgang Digital for some time now, and the long-term client-agency relationship has paid off. “It’s great to be able to demonstrate that partnering with clients over a longer period of time does lead to world-class digital marketing.”

Best B2B SEM Initiative for Enterprise: Metric Theory

Metric Theory’s Amanda Ferrante accepts the award for Best B2B SEM Initiative for enterprise

For Metric Theory’s founder, Jeremy Brown, winning the Search Engine Land Award for the Best B2B SEM Initiative for Enterprise was an honor.

The agency turned to its team leaders for ideas around the best campaigns to submit, focusing on work that had driven either impressive growth for clients, implemented innovative strategies or tested new features. Once the campaigns were determined, the account managers — or in some cases team leaders — wrote first drafts to begin the submission process.

“Those were then edited by myself or other senior team members,” says Brown. “Each submission is a time investment, but worth it for the featured nomination or award.”

Brown not only is the founder of Metric Theory, he also serves as the agency’s CMO. He believes the key ingredient that helped push his company’s campaign into the winner’s circle is his team.

“They produce top-notch work that moves the needle for clients’ business.”

According to Brown, the Search Engine Land Award has given Metric Theory more exposure, and featuring the win on the agency’s website is a great feature for prospective clients to see.

“Metric Theory values the highly relevant industry news, articles and columns that Search Engine Land produces,” says Brown. “When the Landy’s were announced, we saw these awards as a great opportunity to feature the amazing work our team is doing for clients in a respected industry outlet.”

Best Mobile Search Marketing Initiative for SEM & Best Integration of Search into Cross-Channel Marketing Campaign: Precis Digital

Search Engine Land’s Ginny Marvin and Michelle Robbins accept Best Mobile Search Marketing Initiative Award for Precis Digital

Precis Digital was another agency to earn multiple Search Engine Land Awards last year, winning the Best Mobile Search Marketing Initiative for SEM and the Best Integration of Search into Cross-Channel Marketing Campaign.

With offices in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and England, Precis Digital oversees numerous projects throughout the year, trying out new ways of optimizing clients’ investments across different paid media platforms. The agency’s Oskar Norbäck says submitting award entries is a way for his team to summarize the most successful work they have completed during the year and determine how it compares to the rest of the industry.

“Also, we want to contribute to inspiring other companies and agencies to do great work for themselves,” says Norbäck.

The agency’s winning campaigns were both with clients that have been with the agency for some time. Norbäck credits both wins to the team’s relentless focus on constant improvement and drive to be innovative.

“It is much harder to compete with oneself year after year than engaging in a new project and getting the initial boost from applying smart solutions to a low baseline,” says Norbäck.

He believes his agency won the Best Integration of Search into Cross-Channel Marketing Campaign award because it was able to demonstrate innovative and sophisticated tracking measures via a custom attribution and a real-time scoring model. This model, developed by Precis Digital, combined an audience-first strategy that mixed online and offline efforts and allowed for cross-channel bidding.

Norbäck says the key component of the winning campaign for the Best Mobile Search Marketing Initiative award was its profit maximization in automated bidding.

Precis Digital’s award application process is a companywide effort. “Each application gets as much attention as it needs until we are happy with it, which usually takes eight to 10 hours,” says Norbäck.

The time and effort put into the submission process pays off in the long run for the agency, as a winning entry benefits the company in two ways.

“The first is that the work we do gets noticed by new potential clients that would otherwise not have heard about us,” says Norbäck. “The other reason is that talented people in the industry notice what we do and get interested in working at Precis and help us become even better.”

There’s a third benefit to winning a Search Engine Land Award for Precis Digital, according to Norbäck — the awards serve as an acknowledgment that his team’s hard work is paying off.

“It triggers us to keep going and not settling with good enough.”

If you want to join the esteemed list of Search Engine Land Award winners, please submit your entry before the early entry deadline of March 31, 2018. Submissions will be accepted through the final deadline of April 13. The Search Engine Land Awards team has added several new categories this year, including Best Search & Social Media Marketing Initiative, Best Research Initiative by an Agency or Individual and Best Boutique Agency for SEO and SEM.

You can learn more about the upcoming awards event and how to submit your entry at 2018 Search Engine Land Awards.

Stay tuned to this column — next week we’ll feature Search Engine Land Award winners in the Best Enterprise SEM Initiative and Best Overall SEM Initiative for Small Business categories!


AdWords Express launches notifications for calls from search ads

After launching goal tracking in the platform last year, AdWords Express, the simplified ad platform designed for small business, is adding support around calls to a business with two types of call notifications.

Now, when a call received via a search ad ends, the advertiser will get a notification on their phone to leave feedback about the relevancy of the call. The feedback prompt appears as a simple question that can be answered “yes,” “no” or “not sure”:

01-call-feedback-notification-nexus5x.png

The feedback will be delivered to Google, with the intention of improving targeting that will yield higher-quality calls over time.

The other new offering provides a solution for small business owners who are often juggling more than one thing at a time and wind up missing calls from potential customers. Now, a notification will pop up from the AdWords Express app alerting the advertiser that a call was missed. The business owner can simply hit “Call Back” to get back in touch with the caller.

00-missed-call-notification-nexus5x.png

These features can be enabled by going into the AdWords Express app and opting in for Account Updates within Settings.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


Google adds new SEO Audit category to Chrome’s Lighthouse extension

Webmasters, web developers and SEOs are getting a new feature in the widely used website auditing tool Lighthouse. Google announced today the addition of an “SEO Audits” category to the Chrome extension. You can access the new audit category via the “Options” button in the extension.

By no means a replacement for a comprehensive SEO audit, the new feature does provide feedback on basic/fundamental SEO best practices, returning a report that checks for:

  • Descriptive anchor text.
  • Titles, description.
  • If the page can be crawled by Google.
  • HTTP status code.
  • Valid hreflang and rel=canonical tags.
  • UX — legible font sizes, plugins.
  • … and makes recommendations for additional reports.

From a sample report I ran against Starbucks.com:

SEO Audit Report from Lighthouse Extension

According to the post, they’ll be adding more features to the SEO audit, and they are actively soliciting user feedback in the Github project and webmaster forum.


Looking at marketing automation platforms? We compare 14 vendors

Virtually every marketing automation platform provides three core capabilities: email marketing, website visitor tracking and a central marketing database. From there, vendors begin to differentiate by providing additional tools — which may be included in the base price or premium-priced — that offer advanced functionality.

This MarTech Today buyer’s guide compares 14 leading B2B marketing automation platform vendors and includes information on pricing, capabilities comparisons and recommended steps for evaluating and purchasing.

If you’re considering a marketing automation platform, let this report be your guide. Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download “B2B Marketing Automation Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide.”


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


The Google Speed Update: Page speed will become a ranking factor in mobile search

Google today announced a new ranking algorithm designed for mobile search. The company is calling it the “Speed Update” and it will only impact a small percentage of queries, Google reiterated to us. Only pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users” will be impacted by this update, the company says.

The update goes live in July 2018, so webmasters have time to prepare their web pages.

Google recommends you use the new updated PageSpeed report and tools like LightHouse to measure page speed and make improvements.

Google’s Zhiheng Wang and Doantam Phan wrote:

The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

The issue with the PageSpeed Insights report is that, because it’s using data from the Chrome Browser, it doesn’t have enough data to reliably measure smaller sites, so the speed portion of the report is unavailable for those users. Optimization scores are still available, but that’s not enough to allow sites to tell if they have slow pages or not.

Back in 2010, Google said page speed was a ranking factor but it “was focused on desktop searches” only. Now, in July 2018, it will look at how fast your mobile pages are and use that as a ranking factor in mobile search. Google has been promising to look at mobile page speed for years now and it is finally coming.

It’s not yet clear whether these ranking factors will also be applied to desktop searches, but we’re checking with Google and will update when we receive additional information.


SEO trends and Google changes to expect in 2018

We’re already over a week into 2018, and the start of a new year is a great time to check in and see where we stand as an industry — and how things might change this year.

Prepare for fake news algorithm updates

Back in 2010, Google was getting beaten up in the media for the increasing amount of “content farm” clutter in the search results. That negative press was so overwhelming that Google felt it had no choice but to respond:

[We] hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.

Soon after that, in February 2011, the Google Panda update was released, which specifically targeted spammy and low-quality content.

Why do I bring this up today? Because the media has been hammering Google for promoting fake news for the past year and a half — a problem so extensive that search industry expert Danny Sullivan has referred to it as “Google’s biggest-ever search quality crisis.”

Needless to say, these accusations are hurting Google’s image in ways that cut far deeper than content farms. While the problem of rooting out false information is a difficult one, it is one that Google has a great deal of motivation to solve.

Google has already taken action to combat the issue in response to the negative press, including banning publishers who were promoting fake news ads, testing new ways for users to report offensive autocomplete suggestions, adjusting their algorithm to devalue “non-authoritative information” (such as Holocaust denial sites), and adding “fact check” tags to search results.

Of course, the issue of trustworthy search results has been on Google’s radar for years. In 2015, researchers from Google released a paper on Knowledge-Based Trust (KBT), a way of evaluating the quality of web pages based on their factual accuracy rather than the number of inbound links. If implemented, the Knowledge-Based Trust system would ultimately demote sites that repeatedly publish fake news (although there is a potential for it to go wrong if the incorrect facts become widely circulated).

Whether the Knowledge-Based Trust method is enough to combat fake news — or if some version of it has already been implemented without success — is difficult to say. But, it’s clear that Google is interested in making truthfulness a ranking factor, and they’ve never had a stronger motivation to do so than now.

Voice search and featured snippets will grow hand-in-hand

One in five mobile search queries currently comes from voice search — a number that is likely to rise as Google Assistant-enabled devices such as Google Home continue to grow in popularity. And as voice search grows, we can expect to see an increase in featured snippets, from which Google often sources its voice search results.

Indeed, there is already evidence that this growth is taking place. A study released by Stone Temple Consulting last year confirmed that featured snippets are on the rise, appearing for roughly 30 percent of the 1.4 million queries they tested.

If this trend continues, featured snippets may even begin to rival the top organic listing as the place to be if you want to get noticed. (For more on featured snippets and how to target them, check out Stephan Spencer’s excellent primer on the subject.)

Artificial intelligence (AI) will power many more aspects of search

It’s now been over two years since we were first introduced to RankBrain, Google’s machine-learning AI system which helps to process its search results. Since its introduction, it’s gone from handling 15 percent of search queries to all of them.

Google’s interest in AI extends much further than RankBrain, however. They have developed the Cloud Vision API, which is capable of recognizing an enormous number of objects. Indeed, Google has so much machine-learning capacity that they are now selling it as its own product.

But perhaps most interestingly, Google has now built an AI that is better at building AI than humans are. This was a project by Google Brain, a team that specializes specifically in building AI for Google.

Unfortunately, AI is not without its issues. AIs tend to get stuck in local minima, where they arrive at a “good enough” solution and are unable to climb out of it in order to discover a better solution. They also have a tendency to confuse correlation with causation; one might even call them “superstitious” in that they draw connections between unrelated things. And since the developers only program the machine-learning algorithm, they themselves don’t understand how the final algorithm works, and as a result, have even more difficulty predicting how it will behave than in the case of traditional programs.

As Google continues to embrace AI and incorporate more of it into their search algorithms, we can expect search results to start behaving in less predictable ways. This will not always be a good thing, but it is something we should be prepared for.

AI doesn’t change much in the way of long-term SEO strategies. Optimizing for AI is essentially optimizing for humans, since the goal of a machine-learning algorithm is to make predictions similar to those of humans.

Manipulative guest posting is likely to take a hit

In May, Google warned webmasters that using article marketing as a large-scale link-building tactic is against its guidelines and could result in a penalty. Since this is already well known in the SEO community, Google’s announcement likely signals that an algorithm update targeting manipulative guest posting is on the horizon.

What counts as manipulative guest posting? To me, the most vital piece of information from Google’s guidelines has always been the recommendation to ask yourself, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

Guest posts that don’t expand brand awareness or send referral traffic aren’t worth doing, except for the possibility that they will positively impact your search engine rankings. The irony of taking that approach is that it isn’t likely to work well for your search engine rankings either — at least not in the long term.

I’m not saying anything that isn’t common knowledge in the SEO community, but I have a feeling that a lot of people in this industry are fooling themselves. All too often, I see marketers pursuing unsustainable guest posting practices and telling themselves that what they are doing is legitimate. That is what a lot of people were telling themselves about article marketing on sites like EzineArticles back in the day, too.

‘Linkless’ mentions

Bing has confirmed that they track unlinked brand mentions and use them as a ranking signal — and a patent by Google (along with observations from many SEO experts) indicates that Google may be doing this as well.

As AI begins to play a bigger part in rankings, it’s not unreasonable to expect “linkless” mentions of this type to start playing a bigger role in search rankings.

The tactics used to earn brand mentions are, of course, not much different from the tactics used to earn links, but since the number of people who mention brands is much higher than the number of people who link to them, this could provide a good boost for smaller brands that fall below the threshold of earning press.

This highlights the importance of being involved in conversations on the web, and the importance of inciting those conversations yourself.

An interstitial crackdown may be on the way

The early 2017 mobile interstitial penalty update was a sign of Google’s continued battle against intrusive mobile ads. The hardest hit sites had aggressive advertising that blocked users from taking action, deceptive advertising placement and/or other issues that hindered use of the interface.

However, columnist and SEO expert Glenn Gabe noted that the impact of this penalty seemed… underwhelming. Big brands still seem to be getting away with interstitial ads, but Google may decide to crack down on these in the near future. The crucial factor seems to be the amount of trust big brands have accumulated in other ways. How all of this shakes out ultimately depends on how Google will reward branding vs. intrusive advertising.

Mobile-first indexing

It’s been nearly three years since Google announced that mobile searches had finally surpassed desktop searches on its search engine — and just last year, BrightEdge found that 57 percent of traffic among its clients came from mobile devices.

Google is responding to this shift in user behavior with mobile-first indexing, which means “Google will create and rank its search listings based on the mobile version of content, even for listings that are shown to desktop users.” Representatives from Google have stated that we can expect the mobile-first index to launch this year.

In other words, 2018 very well may be the year where signals that used to only impact searches from mobile devices become signals that impact all searches. Sites that fail to work on a mobile device may soon become obsolete.

Be prepared for this year

Google has come a long way since it first hit the scene in the late 1990s. The prevalence of AI, the political climate and efforts and warnings against manipulative guest posts and distracting advertisements, all signal that change is coming. Focus on long-term SEO strategies that will keep you competitive in the year ahead.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


5 content distribution strategies for 2018

I personally feel that the most overused digital marketing phrase is “Content is king.”

Yes, content is important. Google loves quality content. Your visitors love content. But writing content for the sake of writing content simply makes no sense. If your marketing department has a mandate that you must write x number of blog posts per month, you need to change direction — and here’s why.

On WordPress alone, 86.4 million blog posts are published every month. That’s a lot of content! Sadly, most of the content that’s posted is not well written and will never see the light of day — much less the first page of Google’s search results.

Simply put, there are only a few spots on the first page of Google, and the chances of each of your blog posts making it on the coveted first page of Google for the keywords you’re targeting are slim to none. This is especially true for brands that have invested tons of resources into creating content but few into promoting or distributing it.

That being said, content is what makes the internet what it is. The internet needs content. So, how do you prioritize your workload to spend the right amount of time writing and promoting content that will rank well on search engines? You need a content distribution strategy.

The content balancing act

For years, most digital marketers have been told to produce content — and lots of it. However, savvy marketers preach something a little different. Instead of creating tons of content, you should do more with the content you create.

You can’t solely rely on Google or Facebook for all your traffic. You need to get traffic from a variety of sources: paid media, niche channels, online directories, user groups, social communities, forums, social media and so on. That means you need to distribute and promote your content through a variety of channels.

Instead of solely focusing on your content creation strategy, you need to spend time thinking about your content distribution strategy. What channels are relevant to your audience, and how can you repurpose existing content so that it’s optimized for these channels?

Here are five ways you can repurpose your content for distribution across new channels/media. While you may not see a direct SEO benefit from each of these content distribution channels, more traffic to your content means stronger user signals, more links to your website and (hopefully) more conversions.

1. Turn your blog post into an e-book

Creating an e-book used to involve hiring a design firm or taking your in-house designers away from a pressing client project to create a beautiful finished product. Thanks to technology, making e-books just got easier for us everyday folks. Designrr is a tool that makes it incredibly easy to take a blog post you’ve written and turn it into a visually stunning e-book that you can use as a lead magnet.

Make ebooks With Designrr

On the landing page for your e-book, be sure to use all the relevant keywords you want to rank for and write content that pertains to the contents of the e-book. Make sure you include social media share buttons to make it easy for visitors to share your e-book link with their colleagues and friends.

2. Video marketing made easy

If you’re not creating videos, you need to get on the bandwagon — fast. Did you know that turning your blog post into a video is an easy way to repurpose great content and get kudos from Google and YouTube? Using tools like Lumen5 or Content Samurai, you can copy and paste your blog post content into the tool, add images, narration or music, transitions, videos and more. Before you know it, you’ll have a video that’s ready to optimize and upload to your YouTube channel!

Content Samurai

Google has been known to include video results for relevant search queries, and the competition for those video spots may even be lower than for the organic listings. Targeting other areas of the SERP — such as videos, images or news — can be a great way to grab a spot on page one when an organic listing is out of reach.

3. Make your content extra sharable with infographics

One way to get more attention for your content from visitors is to create a long-form blog post (of approximately 1,500 words) and create an easy-to-share infographic that presents the most important points of the post in a visually compelling way.

Infographic Canva

There are several high-quality infographic tools that are relatively easy to use (and affordable). Canva and Vennage are two of my favorites.

Vennage Infographic Software

Again, be sure to include social media sharing options so that your readers can easily share your amazing infographic with their fans. This is a great way to get some links and traffic back to your site.

If you optimize the image well, you also have a chance at ranking in image search results for your target keywords.

4. The power of email

First, if you’re not collecting email addresses from your visitors, shame on you. The myth that “email is dead” is just that: a myth. Sending emails to your customers or clients is still one of the best ways to keep them engaged with your brand — and keep them buying what you have to offer.

Using email to distribute and promote your content should be a no-brainer. Here are a few things you can do to turn your email marketing into a content distribution powerhouse.

First, send out a link to your email list telling them about your latest piece of content. If your list isn’t very big, reach out to another person in your industry (or an industry organization or association) and see if they would be willing to share a link to your blog post to their email distribution list. Now, sometimes you will have to pay for this type of distribution, but if they have the right distro list, you just might hit gold and get more visitors than you ever dreamed of.

As long as we’re talking about email, think outside the box and think of all the emails you send out every day. Your own email signature is a great place to promote your content. Every time you create a new piece of content on your site, include a link to that piece in your email signature. You can say something as simple as, “Check out our latest blog post: XXXXX,” or make it even more enticing by posing a question like, “Want to know 5 ways you can get more traction from your content?”

Oh, and if you happen to mention any companies or influencers in your blog post, send them a personalized email letting them know that you included their name or company in your article, and politely ask if they’d be willing to share the link to your post on their social media channels or to their email list.

5. Have you Reddit?

Reddit (and similar content-sharing sites) is a great way to promote your content and show the search engines that you’re active online. If you don’t have a Reddit account, what are you waiting for?

Sign into your Reddit account, and then do a search to find a subreddit that has an audience that would be interested in your content. Once you find the right subreddit, submit a link to your content.

Find a Subreddit

Sites like this can help with rankings and indexing of your content — just make sure you’re getting your content listed on quality content sharing sites.

What are YOU doing to distribute your content?

These are just a few of the ways you can leverage your content to get more mileage out of the pieces of content you create. What other things are you doing to take your content further?


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


What the development of visual search will mean for SEO

The arrival of the Pinterest Lens and Google Lens has ignited a battle for visual search engine supremacy. Beyond opening up a new revenue stream for e-commerce stores, visual search could completely alter consumer habits and purchasing decisions.

In a world driven by instant gratification, visual search can open the door toward “snap and surf” purchasing, streamlining the search interface. This provides a promising outlook for e-commerce stores that develop their product listing ads (PLAs) and online catalogs for the visual web.

While still in its infancy, optimizing for visual search could greatly improve your website’s user experience, conversion rate and online traffic. Yet images are often given very little attention by SEO experts, who generally focus more on optimizing for speed than for alternative attributes and appeal.

While visual search won’t displace the use of keywords and the importance of text-based search, it could completely disrupt the SEO and SEM industry. I’d like to discuss some of the fundamentals of visual search and how it will affect our digital marketing strategy moving forward.

What is visual search?

There are currently three different visual search processes being employed by major search companies:

  • Traditional image search that relies on textual queries.
  • Reverse image search that relies on structured data to determine similar characteristics.
  • Pixel-by-pixel image searches that enable “snap and search” by image or by parts of the image.

In this article, I’m focusing mainly on the third type, which allows consumers to discover information or products online by simply uploading or snapping a picture and focusing their query on the part of the image they’d like to research. It’s essentially the same as text search, just with an image representing the query that’s being matched to it.

TinEye provided the first visual search application, which is still in use today. This form of image search matched the image to other images on the web based on similar characteristics, such as shapes and colors. Unfortunately, TinEye provided a limited range of search applications by failing to map out the outlines of different objects in an image.

Today’s image recognition technology can actually recognize multiple shapes and outlines contained within a single image to allow users to match to different objects. For example, Microsoft’s image search technology allows users to search for specific items pictured within a larger image.

Microsoft is even working on detecting when the selected portion of the image has a shopping intent, showing “related products” in these instances. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s visual search is fairly limited to a few verticals, such as home appliances and travel.

Right now, this technology is limited. What companies like Pinterest, Microsoft and Google are investing in is a visual search application powered by machine learning technology and deep neural networks.

The idea is to get machines to recognize different shapes, sizes and colors in images the same way the human brain does. When we look at specific pictures, we do not see a sea of points and dotted lines. We immediately identify patterns and shapes based on past experiences. Unfortunately, we still barely understand how our minds interpret images, so programming this into a machine presents some obvious complications.

Visual search engines have come to rely on neural networks that utilize machine learning technology to improve upon its process. Companies like Google benefit from their wealth of information that allows its Lens application to constantly improve upon its search functionality. Google Lens is not only able to identify different objects within pictures but is also able to match them to locations near you, provide customer reviews and sort listings by the same principles that govern its own search algorithms.

Implications and future

So, what does this technology entail for users and businesses? Imagine being able to snap a picture of a restaurant and have a search engine tell you the name of the restaurant, the location, peak demand times and menu specials for the night. This technology could feasibly be used to snap a picture of a pair of shoes from a magazine or from a stranger and enable you to order them right there.

For e-commerce stores, visual search puts people very high in the funnel. With some unique images, product reviews and a good product description, you can entice buyers to make a purchasing decision on the spot.

This will also open up the field of competition a little bit. The Pinterest visual search engine is by far one of the most disruptive on the market. However, Pinterest’s search engine only redirects pinners to posts on Pinterest, meaning you’ll need to develop a presence on this platform to reach those audience members.

With the rise of voice search and natural language processing (NLP) accompanying this trend, this technology could help kick-start the trend of interface-free SEO. (Although I suspect that keywords and text-based search will still retain its importance, even for shopping and purchasing decisions.)

Potential strategies

In terms of optimizing for visual search, some of the most fundamental SEO practices will still apply. Structured data remains incredibly important, especially for visual search algorithms like Microsoft’s that still rely on it to match characteristics.

It’s important that images are displayed clearly and free of clutter so that visual applications have an easier time processing them. Beyond this, you should stick to the basics of image-based search optimization:

  • Add descriptive alt-text to images for indexation.
  • Submit images to an image sitemap.
  • Optimize image titles and alternative attributes with targeted keywords.
  • Set up image badges and run them through a structured data test.
  • Optimize for ideal image size and file type.
  • Utilize appropriate schema markup for images and content pages.
  • Optimize images to render on mobile and desktop displays.

Conclusion

Visual search will provide a new revenue stream for e-commerce stores and vastly improve the user’s shopping experience. This could have a major impact on SEO and paid media, bringing back a renewed focus on image optimization, which has long been ignored by SEO practitioners. This new frontier of search will only reinforce existing strategies for SEO and make the need to optimize for mobile search and your visual web presence more prescient.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


How much will privacy regulation disrupt the local search market in 2018?

Most marketing professionals don’t give much thought to the regulatory climate. In the US, unlike Europe, privacy laws are largely industry-specific and targeted toward healthcare and financial services. Thus, marketers have largely been able to rely on lawyers to provide privacy disclosures and then go on to business as usual.

Yet there are a number of indications that a tipping point may be near, giving way to new regulations that demand significant changes in business practice. These changes can have a disproportionate impact on small and medium-sized local businesses. And varying standards across state lines means that companies with local operations in different states may have to make multiple adjustments.

Below, I take a look at the current environment and indicators that major changes are due in 2018. Then I cover seven ways changing privacy laws will impact the local search market.

Deregulation on federal level driving changes on state level

With all the news on Net Neutrality last month, you may have forgotten that earlier this year, Republicans killed federal privacy rules adopted by the FCC that would have required your Internet Service Provider to obtain permission before collecting and selling certain types of personal data (such as web browsing and app usage data). While the general perception is that such deregulation means fewer privacy laws, the practical impact may be more regulation.

Following the repeal of the FCC privacy rules, at least 21 states and the District of Columbia filed state versions of the FCC privacy rules as a direct response. Two states passed those bills into law, while others deferred the issue to 2018 or passed bills to study the issue further. And even though bills in a number of states died at the end of their 2017 legislative sessions, it is likely that many will reintroduce those in 2018.

The broader application is that deregulation on the federal level is causing states to take more action, which causes a number of problems. While state versions may all address the same topic, they are not identical. They are similar but contain differences unique to each state, such as different notice requirements, disclosures, consent or use requirements and enforcement mechanisms. Even using similar but different terms to describe the same principle creates problems regarding uniformity.

Lack of uniformity amongst states means more complexity. And more complexity results in greater uncertainty, risk and cost.

The state reaction to the repeal of FCC privacy rules is just one example of how federal deregulation trickling down to state levels can create major headaches for business.

The mother of all data breach cases: Equifax

Major data breaches almost seem to be yesterday’s headline with the prevalence of the problem. Yet the Equifax data breach may finally push us over the edge in demands for regulatory action. Let’s review how bad the Equifax case was and still is:

  • Data thieves stole private information on over 145 million Americans from Equifax.
  • Data stolen was the most sensitive kind: personal and permanent information including names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth and drivers’ license numbers.
  • Equifax discovered the breach on July 29, 2017, yet didn’t announce the breach until September 2017.
  • Equifax executives sold millions of dollars of stock days after the breach was discovered and before the public announcement.
  • Equifax claimed that top executives of a company whose business is protection of personal data didn’t know about the breach.
  • Equifax was notified in March 2017 by the Department of Homeland Security that there was a critical vulnerability in its software.
  • Equifax relied on a single employee to alert the company (he didn’t) to the risk of a data breach affecting 50 percent of all Americans.
  • Equifax sent customers needing more information about the breach to a fake phishing site.
  • That fake site clearly disclosed it was a fake in its headline and contained a tongue-firmly-in-cheek link to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” music video.
  • Equifax is profiting from its screw-up: Concerned consumers are purchasing third-party credit monitoring services that frequently utilize Equifax services. So money spent due to Equifax’s problem is paid back to Equifax.

Yes, all of the above really happened. It seems it can only be a matter of time before cases like this force legislators on both sides of the aisle to take regulatory action tightening privacy and data protection laws.

Categorizing personal information to include marketing info

But it’s not just highly sensitive personal information that lawmakers are seeking to protect. While protection against breaches that cause economic harm or risk serious personal threats such as identity theft is justified, proposals are reaching beyond financial and health data.

States have introduced legislation that imposes reporting and notice requirements upon a data breach of personal information. But broad definitions of “personal data” have included what is typically considered to be marketing data, including search history and location information.

The argument against the broad regulation of consumer data is that there are different risks and expectations of privacy for credit card numbers compared to shopping history for a phone case or search history for coffee shops.

Yet broad regulation impacting all such information has been pushed through by state legislators, sometimes only being stopped by a governor’s veto.

Location data is being targeted

Location data that so many local search marketers rely on for targeted campaigns has, in turn, become a favorite target for privacy activists. Recent legislation specifically calls out geolocation information derived from mobile devices as requiring express consent before it may be collected, used or disclosed.

Several states introduced similar legislation in 2017 requiring affirmative express consent after clear and prominent disclosure as follows:

  • Notice that the geolocation information will be collected, used or disclosed.
  • Information about the specific purposes for which such information will be collected, used or disclosed.
  • Provision of links to access other disclosure information.

Failure to comply is deemed to be a violation of and subject to enforcement provisions of the state consumer protection laws. It is likely that some states will reintroduce bills that were vetoed or that died in committee, while others have carried the bill over to 2018.

Europe is redefining consent

Europe has already passed sweeping privacy regulation, titled GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which takes effect in May 2018. For example, the personal data subject to protection is defined as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person.” That’s as broad as it gets.

The GDPR also makes major changes to rules surrounding transparency and consent before personal data can be used. Consent will be an especially complex issue for businesses to figure out, as conditions for obtaining consent are much tighter. Issues will include the form of consent, the specificity of consent and what downstream matters that consent applies to.

Some of the restrictions include prohibitions on making services contingent upon consent and on obtaining consent for multiple purposes. Consent must also be separately given, as opposed to being one clause in a lengthy terms and conditions agreement. Further, the ability to revoke that consent must be as easy to do as it was to give it.

The impact on local search

The above are all factors that seem to be culminating toward significant movement and changes in privacy regulation that will have a dramatic impact in the marketplace. Below are seven ways in which privacy will become a disruption to the local search and marketing industry:

1. The cost of marketing data will rise

Increased privacy regulation means all businesses will have to spend more resources to comply. It also raises the exposure to liability and increases risk of public enforcement and of private lawsuits. Potentially, there could also be a decrease in the supply of marketing data if consumers respond to the notice requirements and consent requests by not giving permission to collect or use their profile information.  All of these changes would make collecting, acquiring, using or buying marketing data more expensive.

2. Targeted marketing becomes harder

If the supply of marketing data is throttled, accuracy declines. For example, if fewer people share their location, getting a sufficient volume of leads from targeted marketing will require casting a broader net.

The effectiveness of targeted marketing is further hurt by the ability to determine those target audiences. Less data regarding behaviors that predict specific purchase or online actions makes forecasting less accurate. Attribution would likewise be harder to pinpoint.

3. The competitive edge shifts back to larger companies

I’ve written recently about how having the right data is the new competitive edge over traditional economies of scale. Good data means that smaller businesses can more equally compete against larger companies.

But tougher privacy laws benefit larger businesses that have resources to adjust to mandated changes. Also, they will have better access to data as it becomes more expensive and potentially less available.

4. Google and Apple will become even more powerful

Google and Apple have great leverage over user privacy choices via their mobile operating systems. They embed many functions and apps that have a huge user base and that are critical to local search into those systems such as maps, media and search engines. Consumers frequently treat these apps and functions as essential services and defer to Google or Apple terms for access and use.

Android and iOS also serve as a gateway to third-party apps and control how users grant app permissions or consent to collection and use for data such as location.

5. Brands who control first-party data will hold premium ad inventory

Brands have direct contact with consumers and sufficient reach such that they are able to offer advertising solutions to third parties, especially those related to the brand’s product or service.

For example, Honeywell offers a software upgrade for its WiFi thermostats that will optimize thermostat settings. The offer to help save its customers $71 to $117 a year off of their energy bills means many opt in. Users get customized reports with insights into energy use, comparison to similar homes and tips to help track and improve energy efficiency. Those “tips” will likely include some referrals to vendors such as insulation companies, solar energy vendors and HVAC contractors or other marketing offers.

Brands are well-positioned to reach their customers within the confines of privacy regulations, and targeted audiences they can reach should demand premium ad spend.

6. The GDPR bleed-over effect

The GDPR will affect local businesses and marketers even if they don’t have European customers. Larger companies that already have to deal with tighter European regulation may find it difficult to segment different policies for American and European customers. As a result, they may adopt uniform privacy policies companywide.

Local businesses that rely on third-party data or do business using services of those global companies may be forced to follow stringent privacy policies as conditions of terms of use. And as discussed above, that could involve some major changes to business operations.

7. Regulatory hurdles used as a competitive barrier to entry

The other potential consequence of larger companies voluntarily adopting stricter privacy policies is that they would be less resistant to privacy regulations that mirror those internal policies. In other words, they may not oppose legislation, or even publicly support legislation, undercutting the position of those who are against it.

Some may even push for those regulations knowing that it may give them an advantage over competitors who haven’t adopted such privacy policies. Regulation that raises the cost of doing business or requires some catch-up changes may serve as a barrier to entry for new startups or others seeking to add business outside their core service area.

Closing thoughts

Understanding the issues and potential impacts will help identify when action is needed and provide some guidance to thinking through a business strategy.

It’s also important to get involved on the issue. The breadth and details of legislative policy may seem overwhelming, but there are groups that will help keep you up to date and work on your behalf. Chambers of commerce, business associations and trade groups represent wide business interests in policy issues like privacy. So get plugged into a group that can support you and your business.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.