The Guide to Local Sponsorship Marketing – The 2018 Edition

Posted by Claudia0428

For most Moz readers, local marketing means content, reviews, AdWords, local listings, and of course citations. If you’re a larger brand, you might be doing outdoor, radio, print, and television advertising as well. Today we’re here to humbly submit that local sponsorships remain the most-overlooked and opportunity-rich channel, and they build real local connections for both large brands and small business alike.

This article is the second edition of the ZipSprout team’s guide to local sponsorships. We wrote the first edition in 2016 after a few months of securing local sponsorship campaigns for a handful of clients. Since then, we’ve tripled our client roster and we’ve worked with more than 8,000 local organizations, donating nearly $1,000,000 in local sponsorships to 1,300+ opportunities. Since then we’ve also learned how to build campaigns for local presence.

So we knew the guide was due for a reboot.

One of our most significant learnings of the past two years is the understanding of local sponsorships as a channel in their own right. They can be directed toward local SEO or local marketing campaigns, but sponsorships are their own breed of local connection — and just like content campaigns, local PR campaigns, or review management, local sponsorships have their own set of conventions and best practices.

This article is meant for anyone with an eye toward local sponsorships as a marketing channel. Agencies and enterprise organizations may find it particularly helpful, but we’re big believers in encouraging smaller local businesses to engage in sponsorships too. Get out there and meet your neighbors!


The what & why of local sponsorships

Local events, nonprofits, and associations constitute a disjointed but very real network of opportunities. Unlike other channels, local sponsorships aren’t accessible from a single platform, but we’ve found that many sponsorships share similarities. This makes it possible to develop processes that work for campaigns in any metro area.

Local sponsorships are also a unique channel in that the benefits can range from the digital to the analog: from local links to a booth, from social posts to signage on a soccer field. The common thread is joining the community by partnering with local organizations, but the benefits themselves vary widely.

We’ve identified and track 24 unique benefits of sponsorships related to local marketing:

  1. Ad (full or partial)
  2. Advertising on event app
  3. Blog post featuring sponsor
  4. Booth, tent, or table at event
  5. Event named for sponsor
  6. Guest post on organization blog
  7. Inclusion in press release
  8. Link in email newsletter
  9. Link on website
  10. Logo on event t-shirt or other swag
  11. Logo on signage
  12. Logo or name on website
  13. Media spots (television/radio/newspaper)
  14. Mention in email newsletter
  15. Mention in publicity materials, such as programs & other printed materials
  16. Networking opportunity
  17. Physical thing (building, etc.) named for sponsor
  18. Social media mention
  19. Speaking opportunity at event
  20. Sponsor & sponsor’s employees receive discounts on services/products/events
  21. Sponsor can donate merchandise for goodie bags
  22. Sponsored post (on blog or online magazine)
  23. Tickets to event
  24. Verbal recognition

There are probably more, but in our experience most benefits fall into these core categories. That said, these benefits aren’t necessarily for everyone…

Who shouldn’t do local sponsorships?

1. Don’t do local sponsorships if you need fast turnaround.

Campaigns can take 1–3 months from launch until fulfillment. If you’re in a hurry to see a return, just increase your search ad budget.

2. Don’t do local sponsorships if you’re not okay with the branding component.

Local link building can certainly be measured, as can coupon usage, email addresses gathered for a drawing, etc… But measuring local brand lift still isn’t a perfect art form. Leave pure attribution to digital ads.

3. Don’t do local sponsorships with a “one size fits all” expectation.

The great thing about local events and opportunities is their diversity. While some components can be scaled, others require high touch outreach, more similar to a PR campaign.

Considerations for agencies vs brands in local sponsorship campaigns

Agencies, especially if they’re creating sponsorship campaigns for multiple clients, can cast a wide net and select from the best opportunities that return. Even if a potential partnership isn’t a good fit for a current client, they may work for a client down the road. Brands, on the other hand, need to be a little more goal and mission-focused during prospecting and outreach. If they’re reaching out to organizations that are clearly a bad fit, they’re wasting everyone’s time.

Brands also need to be more careful because they have a consumer-facing image to protect. As with any outreach campaign, there are dos and don’ts and best practices that all should follow (DO be respectful; DON’T over-email), but brands especially have more to lose from an outreach faux pas.


Our process

Outreach

Once we’ve identified local organizations in a given metro area, we recommend reaching out with an email to introduce ourselves and learn more about sponsorship opportunities. In two years, the ZipSprout team has A/B tested 100 different email templates.

With these initial emails, we’re trying to inform without confusing or scaring away potential new partners. Some templates have resulted in local organizations thinking we’re asking them for sponsorship money or that we want to charge them for a service. Oops! A/B tests have helped to find the best wording for clarity and, in turn, response rate.

Here are some of our learnings:

1. Mentioning location matters.

We reached out to almost 1,000 Chicago organizations in the spring of 2017. When we mentioned Chicago in the email, the response rate increased by 20%.

2. Emails sent to organizations who already had sponsorship info on their websites were most successful if the email acknowledged the onsite sponsorship info and asked for confirmation.

These are also our most successful outreach attempts, likely because these organizations are actively looking for sponsors (as signified by having sponsorship info on their site). Further, by demonstrating that we’ve been on their site, we’re signaling a higher level of intent.

3. Whether or not we included an outreacher phone number in email signatures had no effect on response rate.

If anything, response rates were higher for emails with no phone number in signature, at 41% compared with 40.2%.

4. Shorter is better when it comes to outreach emails.

Consider the following two emails:

EMAIL A


Hi [NAME],

I sent an email last week, but in case you missed it, I figured I’d follow up. 🙂

I work to help corporate clients find local sponsorships. We’re an agency that helps our business clients identify and sponsor local organizations like [ORG NAME]. We’re paid by businesses who are looking for local sponsorships.

Often, local organizations are overlooked, so my company, ZipSprout, works for businesses who want to sponsor locally, but aren’t sure who to partner with. To that end, I’d love to learn more about [ORG NAME] and see what sponsorship opportunities you have available. Is there a PDF or list of cost and benefits you can share over email or a phone call?


Thanks,

___

EMAIL B

Hi [NAME],

I sent an email last week, but in case you missed it, I figured I’d follow up. 🙂

I’d love to learn more about [ORG NAME] and see what sponsorships you have available. Is there a PDF or list of cost and benefits you can share over email or a phone call?


Thanks,

___

In an 800-email test, Email B performed 30% better than Email A.

Matchmaking: How can I choose a sponsorship opportunity that fits my brand?

There are many ways to evaluate potential sponsorships.

These are the questions that help us match organizations with clients:

  • Who is your brand targeting (women, senior citizens, family-friendly, dog owners, new parents)?
  • Do you want to tie your brand with a particular cause (eco-friendly, professional associations, awareness foundations, advocacy groups)?
  • Is your campaign based on location? Are you launching your brand in a particular city? A particular zip code?
  • What is your total budget and per-sponsorship range? A top max price or a price range is a useful parameter — and perhaps the most important.

Once the campaign goals are determined, we filter through opportunities based partially on their online presence. We look at Domain Authority, location, website aesthetics, and other sponsors (competitors and non-competitors) in addition to Reach Score (details below).

Further, we review backlinks, organic traffic, and referring domains. We make sure that this nonprofit partnership is not spammy or funky from an SEO perspective and that is a frequently visited website. A small organization may not have all the juicy digital metrics, but by gauging event attendance or measuring organic traffic we can further identify solid prospects that could have been missed otherwise.

We also look at social media presence; event attendance, event dates and how responsive these organizations or event organizers are. Responsiveness, we have learned, is a CRITICAL variable. It can be the determining point of your link going live in 48 hours or less, as opposed to 6+ months from payment.

Reach Score

From a numbers perspective, Domain Authority is a good way to appreciate the value of a website, but it doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to local marketing. To help fill in the gaps we created Reach Score, which combines virtual measures (like Domain Authority) with social measures (friends/followers) and physical measures (event attendance). The score ranks entities based on their metro area, so we’re not comparing the reach of an organization in Louisville, KY to one in NYC.

As of March 2018, we have about 8,000 organizations with valid Reach Scores across four metro areas — Raleigh/Durham, Boston, Houston, and Chicago. The average Reach Score is 37 out of 100. Of the 34 types of organizations that we track, the most common is Event Venue/Company (average Reach Score of 38), followed by Advocacy Groups (43) and Sports Teams/Clubs/Leagues (22). The types of organizations with the highest Reach Scores are Local Government (64), Museums (63), and Parks and Recreation (55).

Thanks to Reach Score, we’ve found differences between organizations from city to city as well. In Raleigh-Durham, the entities with the highest reach tend to be government-related organizations, such as Chambers of Commerce and Parks & Rec Departments.

In Boston, the highest reach tends to fall to arts organizations, such as music ensembles, as well as professional associations. This score serves as a good reminder that each metro area has a unique community of local organizations. (Read more about our Reach Score findings here.)

Fulfillment

Our campaigns used to take several months to complete, from contract to final sponsorship. Now our average fulfillment rate is 18.7 days, regardless of our project size! Staying (politely) on top of the communication with the nonprofit organizations was the main driver for this improvement.

We find further that the first 48 hours from sending a notification of sponsorship on behalf of your brand are crucial to speedy campaigns. Be ready to award the sponsorship funds in a timely manner and follow up with a phone call or an email, checking in to see if these funds have been received.

It’s okay to ask when can you expect the sponsorship digital benefits to go live and how to streamline the process for any other deliverables needed to complete the sponsorship.

Applying these simple best practices, our team has been able to run a campaign in a week or less.

Two important concepts to remember about the sponsorship channel from the fulfillment perspective:

  1. It’s difficult to fulfill. If your city project involves any more than two or three sponsorships, you’re in for multiple hours of follow ups, reminders, phone calls, etc. There is the desire from most local organizations to honor their sponsors and keep them happy. That said, we’ve learned that keeping the momentum going serves as an important reminder for the nonprofit. This can involve phone call reminders and emails for links to go live and other benefits to come through. Again, be polite and respectful.
  2. It’s SO worth all the effort though! It shows that your brand cares. A sponsorship campaign is a fantastic way to get in front of your target audience in areas that have a special meaning at a personal level. And not in a broad general scope, but locally. Locally sponsoring a beach cleanup in Santa Monica gives you the opportunity to impact a highly localized audience with a very particular cause in mind that would ultimately affect their everyday life, as opposed to partnering with a huge foundation advocating for clean oceans.

Enhancing a local campaign

Some prefer to use local sponsorships as a link building effort, but there are ways — and ample benefit — to going far beyond the link.

Local event attendance

So, so many local sponsorship campaigns come with the opportunity for event attendance. We currently have 11,345 opportunities in our database (62.2% of our total inventory) that feature events: 5Ks, galas, performances, parades, and even a rubber ducky derby or two! If you’re able to send local team members, find opportunities that match your target audience and test it out — and bring your camera so your social and brand team will have material for publication. If local team members aren’t an option, consider working with a notable and ambitious startup such as Field Day, which can send locals out on behalf of your brand. We’ve spoken with them on several occasions and found them adaptable and wonderful to work with.

Coupons/invitations

One client, FunBrands, used local sponsorships as a way to reach out to locals ahead of stores’ grand re-openings (read the full case study here).

For another client, we created unique coupons for each local organization, using print and social media posts for distribution.

An example coupon — use codes to track attribution back to an event.


Conclusion: Local sponsorships are a channel

Sponsorships are an actionable strategy that contribute to your local rankings, while providing unprecedented opportunities for community engagement and neighborly branding. We hope that this updated guide will provide a strong operational overview along with realistic expectations — and even inspirations — for a local sponsorship campaign in your target cities.

Last but not least: As with all outreach campaigns, please remember to be human. Keep in mind that local engagements are the living extension of your brand in the real world. And if somehow this article wasn’t enough, we just finished up The Local Sponsorship Playbook. Every purchase comes with a 30-minute consultation with the author. We hope everyone chooses to get out, get local, and join the community in the channel that truly benefits everyone.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 3 weeks ago from tracking.feedpress.it

MozCon 2018: The Initial Agenda

Posted by Trevor-Klein

With just over three months until MozCon 2018, we’re getting a great picture of what this year’s show will be like, and we can’t wait to share some of the details with you today.

We’ve got 21 speakers lined up (and will be launching our Community Speaker process soon — stay tuned for more details on how to make your pitch!). You’ll see some familiar faces, and some who’ll be on the MozCon stage for the first time, with topics ranging from the evolution of searcher intent to the increasing importance of local SEO, and from navigating bureaucracy for buy-in to cutting the noise out of your reporting.

Topic details and the final agenda are still in the works, but we’re excited enough about the conversations we’ve had with speakers that we wanted to give you a sneak peek. We hope to see you in Seattle this July 9–11!

If you still need your tickets, we’ve got you covered:

Pick up your ticket to MozCon!

The Speakers

Here’s a look at who you’ll see on stage this year, along with some of the topics we’ve already worked out:


Jono Alderson

Mad Scientist, Yoast

The Democratization of SEO

Jono will explore how much time and money we collectively burn by fixing the same kinds of basic, “binary,” well-defined things over and over again (e.g., meta tags, 404s, URLs, etc), when we could be teaching others throughout our organizations not to break them in the first place.

As long as we “own” technical SEO, there’s no reason (for example) for the average developer to learn it or care — so they keep making the same mistakes. We proclaim that others are doing things wrong, but by doing so we only reinforce the line between our skills and theirs.

We need to start giving away bits of the SEO discipline, and technical SEO is probably the easiest thing for us to stop owning.

In his talk, he’ll push for more democratization, education, collaboration, and investment in open source projects so we can fix things once, rather than a million times.


Stephanie Briggs

Partner, Briggsby

Search-Driven Content Strategy

Google’s improvements in understanding language and search intent have changed how and why content ranks. As a result, many SEOs are chasing rankings that Google has already decided are hopeless.

Stephanie will cover how this should impact the way you write and optimize content for search, and will help you identify the right content opportunities. She’ll teach you how to persuade organizations to invest in content, and will share examples of strategies and tactics she has used to grow content programs by millions of visits.


Rob Bucci

CEO, STAT Search Analytics

“Near me” or Far:
How Google May Be Deciding Your Local Intent for You

In August 2017, Google stated that local searches without the “near me” modifier had grown by 150% and that searchers were beginning to drop geo-modifiers — like zip code and neighborhood — from local queries altogether. But does Google still know what searchers are after?

For example: the query [best breakfast places] suggests that quality takes top priority; [breakfast places near me] indicates that close proximity is essential; and [breakfast places in Seattle] seems to cast a city-wide net; while [breakfast places] is largely ambiguous.

By comparing non-geo-modified keywords against those modified with the prepositional phrases “near me” and “in [city name]” and qualifiers like “best,” we hope to understand how Google interprets different levels of local intent and uncover patterns in the types of SERPs produced.

With a better understanding of how local SERPs behave, SEOs can refine keyword lists, tailor content, and build targeted campaigns accordingly.


Neil Crist

VP of Product, Moz

The Local Sweet Spot: Automation Isn’t Enough

Some practitioners of local SEO swear by manual curation, claiming that automation skips over the most important parts. Some swear the exact opposite. The real answer, especially when you’re working at enterprise scale, is a sweet spot in the middle.

In this talk, Neil will show you where that spot is, why different verticals require different work, and some original research that reveals which of those verticals are most stable.


Dana DiTomaso

President and Partner, Kick Point

Traffic vs. Signal

With an ever-increasing slate of options in tools like Google Tag Manager and Google Data Studio, marketers of all stripes are falling prey to the habit of “I’ll collect this data because maybe I’ll need it eventually,” when in reality it’s creating a lot of noise for zero signal.

We’re still approaching our metrics from the organization’s perspective, and not from the customer’s perspective. Why, for example, are we not reporting on (or even thinking about, really) how quickly a customer can do what they need to do? Why are we still fixated on pageviews? In this talk, Dana will focus our attention on what really matters.


Rand Fishkin

Founder, SparkToro, Moz, & Inbound.org

A man who needs no introduction to MozCon, we’re thrilled to announce that Rand will be back on stage this year after founding his new company, SparkToro. Topic development for his talk is in the works; check back for more information!


Oli Gardner

Co-Founder, Unbounce

Content Marketing Is Broken and Only Your M.O.M. Can Save You

Traditional content marketing focuses on educational value at the expense of product value, which is a broken and outdated way of thinking. We all need to sell a product, and our visitors all need a product to improve their lives, but we’re so afraid of being seen as salesy that somehow we got lost, and we forgot why our content even exists.

We need our M.O.M.s!

No, he isn’t talking about your actual mother. He’s talking about your Marketing Optimization Map — your guide to exploring the nuances of optimized content marketing through a product-focused lens.

In this session you’ll learn:

  • Data and lessons learned from his biggest ever content marketing experiment, and how those lessons have changed his approach to content
  • A context-to-content-to-conversion strategy for big content that converts
  • Advanced methods for creating “choose your own adventure” navigational experiences to build event-based behavioral profiles of your visitors (using GTM and GA)
  • Innovative ways to productize and market the technology you already have, with use cases your customers had never considered

Casie Gillette

Senior Director, Digital Marketing, KoMarketing

The Problem with Content & Other Things We Don’t Want to Admit

Everyone thinks they need content but they don’t think about why they need it or what they actually need to create. As a result, we are overwhelmed with poor quality content and marketers are struggling to prove the value.

In this session, we’ll look at some of the key challenges facing marketers today and how a data-driven strategy can help us make better decisions.


Emily Grossman

Mobile Product Marketer & App Strategist

What All Marketers Can Do about Site Speed

At this point, we should all have some idea of how important site speed is to our performance in search. The mobile-first index underscored that fact yet again. It isn’t always easy for marketers to know where to start improving their site’s speed, though, and a lot of folks mistakenly believe they need developers for most of those improvements. Emily will clear that up with an actionable tour of just how much impact our own work can have on getting our sites to load quickly enough for today’s standards.


Russ Jones

Principal Search Scientist, Moz

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Russ is our principal search scientist here at Moz. After a decade as CTO of an agency, he joined Moz to focus on what he’s most interested in: research and development, primarily related to keyword and link data. He’s responsible for many of our most forward-looking techniques.

At MozCon this year, he’s looking to focus on cutting through bad metrics with far better metrics, exploring the hidden assumptions and errors in things our industry regularly reports, showing us all how we can paint a more accurate picture of what’s going on.


Justine Jordan

VP Marketing, Litmus

A veteran of the MozCon stage, Justine is obsessed with helping marketers create, test, and send better email. Named an Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year, she is strangely passionate about email marketing, hates being called a spammer, and still gets nervous when pressing send.

At MozCon this year, she’s looking to cover the importance of engagement with emails in today’s world of marketing. With the upcoming arrival of GDPR and the ease with which you can unsubscribe and report spam, it’s more important than ever to treat people like people instead of just leads.


Michael King

Managing Director, iPullRank

You Don’t Know SEO

Or maybe, “SEO you don’t know you don’t know.” We’ve all heard people throw jargon around in an effort to sound smart when they clearly don’t know what it means, and our industry of SEO is no exception. There are aspects of search that are acknowledged as important, but seldom actually understood. Mike will save us from awkward moments, taking complex topics like the esoteric components of information retrieval and log-file analysis, pairing them with a detailed understanding of technical implementation of common SEO recommendations, and transforming them into tools and insights we wish we’d never neglected.


Cindy Krum

CEO & Founder, MobileMoxie

Mobile-First Indexing or a Whole New Google

The emergence of voice-search and Google Assistant is forcing Google to change its model in search, to favor their own entity understanding or the world, so that questions and queries can be answered in context. Many marketers are struggling to understand how their website and their job as an SEO or SEM will change, as searches focus more on entity-understanding, context and action-oriented interaction. This shift can either provide massive opportunities, or create massive threats to your company and your job — the main determining factor is how you choose to prepare for the change.


Dr. Pete Meyers

Marketing Scientist, Moz

Dr. Peter J. Meyers (AKA “Dr. Pete”) is a Marketing Scientist for Seattle-based Moz, where he works with the marketing and data science teams on product research and data-driven content. Guarding the thin line between marketing and data science — which is more like a hallway and pretty wide — he’s the architect behind MozCast, the keeper of the Algo History, and watcher of all things Google.


Britney Muller

Senior SEO Scientist, Moz

Britney is Moz’s senior SEO scientist. An explorer and investigator at heart, she won’t stop digging until she gets to the bottom of some of the most interesting developments in the world of search. You can find her on Whiteboard Friday, and she’s currently polishing a new (and dramatically improved!) version of our Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

At MozCon this year, she’ll show you what she found at the bottom of the rabbit hole to save you the journey.


Lisa Myers

CEO, Verve Search

None of Us Is as Smart as All of Us

Success in SEO, or in any discipline, is frequently reliant on people’s ability to work together. Lisa Myers started Verve Search in 2009, and from the very beginning was convinced of the importance of building a diverse team, then developing and empowering them to find their own solutions.

In this session she’ll share her experiences and offer actionable advice on how to attract, develop and retain the right people in order to build a truly world-class team.


Heather Physioc

Director of Organic Search, VML

Your Red-Tape Toolkit:
How to Win Trust and Get Approval for Search Work

Are your search recommendations overlooked and misunderstood? Do you feel like you hit roadblocks at every turn? Are you worried that people don’t understand the value of your work? Learn how to navigate corporate bureaucracy and cut through red tape to help clients and colleagues understand your search work — and actually get it implemented. From diagnosing client maturity to communicating where search fits into the big picture, these tools will equip you to overcome obstacles to doing your best work.


Mike Ramsey

President, Nifty Marketing

The Awkward State of Local

You know it exists. You know what a citation is, and have a sense for the importance of accurate listings. But with personalization and localization playing an increasing role in every SERP, local can no longer be seen in its own silo — every search and social marketer should be honing their understanding. For that matter, it’s also time for local search marketers to broaden the scope of their work.


Wil Reynolds

Founder & Director of Digital Strategy, Seer Interactive

Excel Is for Rookies:
Why Every Search Marketer Needs to Get Strong in BI, ASAP

The analysts are coming for your job, not AI (at least not yet). Analysts stopped using Excel years ago; they use Tableau, Power BI, Looker! They see more data than you, and that is what is going to make them a threat to your job. They might not know search, but they know data. I’ll document my obsession with Power BI and the insights I can glean in seconds which is helping every single client at Seer at the speed of light. Search marketers must run to this opportunity, as analysts miss out on the insights because more often than not they use these tools to report. We use them to find insights.


Alexis Sanders

Technical SEO Account Manager, Merkle

Alexis works as a Technical SEO Account Manager at Merkle, ensuring the accuracy, feasibility, and scalability of the agency’s technical recommendations across all verticals. You’ve likely seen her on the Moz blog, Search Engine Land, OnCrawl, The Raven Blog, and TechnicalSEO.com. She’s got a knack for getting the entire industry excited about the more technical aspects of SEO, and if you haven’t already, you’ve got to check out the technical SEO challenge she created at https://TechnicalSEO.expert.


Darren Shaw

Founder, Whitespark

At the forefront of local SEO, Darren is obsessed with knowing all there is to know about local search. He organizes and publishes research initiatives such as the annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey and the Local Search Ecosystem.

At MozCon this year, he’ll unveil the newest findings from the Local Search Ranking Factors study, for which he’s already noticing significant changes from the last release, letting SEOs of all stripes know how they need to adjust their approach.


Grab your ticket today!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 4 weeks ago from tracking.feedpress.it

The 2018 Local SEO Forecast: 9 Predictions According to Mozzers

Posted by MiriamEllis

It’s February, and we’ve all dipped our toes into the shallow end of the 2018 pool. Today, let’s dive into the deeper waters of the year ahead, with local search marketing predictions from Moz’s Local SEO Subject Matter Expert, our Marketing Scientist, and our SEO & Content Architect. Miriam Ellis, Dr. Peter J. Myers, and Britney Muller weigh in on what your brand should prepare for in the coming months in local.


WOMM, core SEO knowledge, and advice for brands both large and small

Miriam Ellis, Moz Associate & Local SEO SME

LSAs will highlight the value of Google-independence

Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) and loyalty initiatives will become increasingly critical to service area business whose results are disrupted by Google’s Local Service Ads. SABs aren’t going to love having to “rent back” their customers from Google, so Google-independent lead channels will have enhanced value. That being said, the first small case study I’ve seen indicates that LSAs may be a winner over traditional Adwords in terms of cost and conversions.

Content will be the omni-channel answer

Content will grow in value, as it is the answer to everything coming our way: voice search, Google Posts, Google Questions & Answers, owner responses, and every stage of the sales funnel. Because of this, agencies which have formerly thought of themselves as strictly local SEO consultants will need to master the fundamentals of organic keyword research and link building, as well as structured data, to offer expert-level advice in the omni-channel environment. Increasingly, clients will need to become “the answer” to queries… and that answer will predominantly reside in content dev.

Retail may downsize but must remain physical

Retail is being turned on its head, with Amazon becoming the “everything store” and the triumphant return of old-school home delivery. Large brands failing to see profits in this new environment will increasingly downsize to the showroom scenario, significantly cutting costs, while also possibly growing sales as personally assisted consumers are dissuaded from store-and-cart abandonment, and upsold on tie-ins. Whether this will be an ultimate solution for shaky brands, I can’t say, but it matters to the local SEO industry because showrooms are, at least, physical locations and therefore eligible for all of the goodies of our traditional campaigns.

SMBs will hold the quality high card

For smaller local brands, emphasis on quality will be the most critical factor. Go for the customers who care about specific attributes (e.g. being truly local, made in the USA, handcrafted, luxury, green, superior value, etc.). Evaluating and perfecting every point of contact with the customer (from how phone calls are assisted, to how online local business data is managed, to who asks for and responds to reviews) matters tremendously. This past year, I’ve watched a taxi driver launch a delivery business on the side, grow to the point where he quit driving a cab, hire additional drivers, and rack up a profusion of 5-star, unbelievably positive reviews, all because his style of customer service is memorably awesome. Small local brands will have the nimbleness and hometown know-how to succeed when quality is what is being sold.


In-pack ads, in-SERP features, and direct-to-website traffic

Dr. Peter J. Meyers, Marketing Scientist at Moz

In-pack ads to increase

Google will get more aggressive about direct local advertising, and in-pack ads will expand. In 2018, I expect local pack ads will not only appear on more queries but will make the leap to desktop SERPs and possibly Google Home.

In-SERP features to grow

Targeted, local SERP features will also expand. Local Service Ads rolled out to more services and cities in 2017, and Google isn’t going to stop there. They’ve shown a clear willingness to create specialized content for both organic and local. For example, 2017 saw Google launch a custom travel portal and jobs portal on the “organic” side, and this trend is accelerating.

Direct-to-website traffic to decline

The push to keep local search traffic in Google properties (i.e. Maps) will continue. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen local packs go from results that link directly to websites, to having a separate “Website” link to local sites being buried 1–2 layers deep. In some cases, local sites are being almost completely supplanted by local Knowledge Panels, some of which (hotels being a good example) have incredibly rich feature sets. Google wants to deliver local data directly on Google, and direct traffic to local sites from search will continue to decline.


Real-world data and the importance of Google

Britney Muller, SEO & Content Architect at Moz

Relevance drawn from the real world

Real-world data! Google will leverage device and credit card data to get more accurate information on things like foot traffic, current gas prices, repeat customers, length of visits, gender-neutral bathrooms, type of customers, etc. As the most accurate source of business information to date, why wouldn’t they?

Google as one-stop shop

SERPs and Maps (assisted by local business listings) will continue to grow as a one-stop-shop for local business information. Small business websites will still be important, but are more likely to serve as a data source as opposed to the only place to get their business information, in addition to more in-depth data like the above.


Google as friend or foe? Looking at these expert predictions, that’s a question local businesses of all sizes will need to continue to ask in 2018. Perhaps the best answer is “neither.” Google represents opportunity for brands that know how to play the game well. Companies that put the consumer first are likely to stand strong, no matter how the nuances of digital marketing shift, and education will remain the key to mastery in the year ahead.

What do you think? Any hunches about the year ahead? Let us know in the comments.

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Reblogged 2 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Repeat after me: I will make my email better in 2018!

Each December I traditionally write a predictions blog where I look at what has happened during the outgoing year and look to the year ahead. It is a fun thought exercise that usually involves the team kicking around various ideas of what will happen in the following year. The challenge is always finding the balance between practical stuff that you know will come true, the things that you hope come to pass and the really interesting stuff that would only happen if life were a J.J. Abrams film. Back in December we did the thought exercise and I took copious notes, but it looked just like last year’s predictions and those from the year before that. So instead of predictions, let’s set some goals for 2018 that we will aim to achieve together.

Resolution 1 – Crawl, walk, run

Some of the emerging technology in marketing is really cool (AI, VR, Omnichannel, etc.), but this year we must resist our natural magpie instincts and not chase after the shiny new thing until we are getting the basics right in the channels we currently use.

Resolution 2 – Testing

That said, we want to be able to leverage these new technologies. Whether it is getting the basics right or deciding which new technology to employ, we need to get better at testing by following these four simple rules:

  1. Test the big things first
  2. Clearly define what you are testing
  3. Test one thing at a time
  4. Measure the test with a metric that is as close to your desired outcome as practical to get a meaningful result in a timely manner

Resolution 3 – Reporting more than opens and clicks

Opens and clicks are great process metrics. They are great at telling you how a particular campaign performed, and they allow for easy comparison between campaigns. For almost all of us however, we do not make any money from opens or clicks. In fact, of more than 4,000 dotmailer customers, I only know of one that makes money from opens (they are in publishing). The rest of us on the other hand, need to drive sales either directly or indirectly to make money. We need to start measuring the success of our marketing efforts based on how they are driving sales not based on whether a message drove the most clicks.

Resolution 4 – Write better copy

The reality is that most of us are marketing professionals writing our copy and NOT copywriting professionals. This has become the standard across all digital channels and while we could argue the whys, we cannot argue that our copy is not as good as it could be. Copywriting is a craft and like any craft it takes talent, skill and time to do well. I am not saying that marketing professionals cannot write good copy but, in 2018, we should commit to writing better copy. One of the easiest ways we can make our copy better is by following through on resolution 2 and testing different copy styles, lengths etc. We also need to spend more time working on our copy, from subject lines to alt tags.

Resolution 5 – Focus on what we can achieve with the budget and resources we have

The final resolution is going to be tougher. We need to change our view from ‘glass half empty’ to ‘glass half full.’ Let’s not dwell on what we cannot do but rather celebrate what we can. Let’s not get hung up on changes to consumer attitudes, changes to local regulations or political factors we cannot control. The 2017 Hitting the Mark report clearly showed us that both the brands with whom we compete and the brands we aspire to emulate are not smashing it. If we focus on the first four resolutions the foundations will be laid to allow us to go after the new technologies, channels and tactics.

The post Repeat after me: I will make my email better in 2018! appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 3 months ago from blog.dotmailer.com

9 Predictions for SEO in 2018

Posted by randfish

For the last decade, I’ve made predictions about how the year in SEO and web marketing would go. So far, my track record is pretty decent — the correct guesses outweigh the wrong ones. But today’s the day of reckoning, to grade my performance from 2017 and, if the tally is high enough, share my list for the year ahead.

In keeping with tradition, my predictions will be graded on the following scale:

  • Nailed It (+2) – When a prediction is right on the money and the primary criteria are fulfilled
  • Partially Accurate (+1) – Predictions that are in the ballpark, but are somewhat different than reality
  • Not Completely Wrong (-1) – Those that got near the truth, but are more “incorrect” than “correct”
  • Way Off (-2) – Guesses which didn’t come close

Breakeven or better means I make new predictions for the year ahead, and under that total means my predicting days are over. Let’s see how this shakes out… I’m not nervous… You’re nervous! This sweat on my brow… It’s because… because it was raining outside. It’s Seattle! Yeesh.

Grading Rand’s 2017 Predictions

#1: Voice search will be more than 25% of all US Google searches within 12 months. Despite this, desktop volume will stay nearly flat and mobile (non-voice) will continue to grow.

+1 – We have data for desktop and mobile search volume via Jumpshot, showing that the former did indeed stay relatively flat and the other kept growing.

But, unfortunately, we don’t know the percent of searches that are done with voice rather than keyboards or screens. My guess is 25% of all searches is too high, but until Google decides to share an updated number, all we have is the old 2016 stat that 20% of mobile searches happened via voice input.

#2: Google will remain the top referrer of website traffic by 5X+. Neither Facebook, nor any other source, will make a dent.

+2Nailed it! Although, to be fair, there’s no serious challenger. The social networks and e-commerce leaders of the web want people to stay on their site, not leave and go elsewhere. No surprise Google’s the only big traffic referrer left.

#3: The Marketing Technology space will not have much consolidation (fewer exits and acquisitions, by percentage, than 2015 or 2016), but there will be at least one major exit or IPO among the major SEO software providers.

+2 – As best I can tell from Index.co’s thorough database (which, BTW, deserves more attention than Crunchbase, whose data I’ve found to be of far lower quality), Martech as a whole had nearly half the number of acquisitions in 2017 (22) versus 2016 (39). 2017 did, however, see the Yext IPO, so I’m taking full credit on this one.

#4: Google will offer paid search ads in featured snippets, knowledge graph, and/or carousels.

0 – Turns out, Google had actually done a little of this prior to 2017, which I think invalidates the prediction. Thus I’m giving myself no credit either way, though Google did expand their testing and ad types in this direction last year.

#5: Amazon search will have 4% or more of Google’s web search volume by end of year.

-2 – Way off, Rand. From the Jumpshot data, it looks like Amazon’s not even at 1% of Google’s search volume yet. I was either way too early on this one, or Amazon searches may never compete, volume-wise, with how Google’s users employ their search system.

#6: Twitter will remain independent, and remain the most valuable and popular network for publishers and influencers.

+2 – I’m actually shocked that I made this prediction given the upheaval Twitter has faced in the last few years. Still, it’s good to see a real competitor (despite their much smaller size) to Facebook stay independent.

#7: The top 10 mobile apps will remain nearly static for the year ahead, with, at most, one new entrant and 4 or fewer position changes.

+1 – I was slighly aggressive on wording this prediction, though the reality is pretty accurate. The dominance of a few companies in the mobile app world remains unchallenged. Here’s 2016’s top apps, and here’s 2017’s. The only real change was Apple Music and Amazon falling a couple spots and Pandora and Snapchat sneaking into the latter half of the list.

#8: 2017 will be the year Google admits publicly they use engagement data as an input to their ranking systems, not just for training/learning

-2 – I should have realized Google will continue to use engagement data for rankings, but they’re not gonna talk about it. They have nothing to gain from being open, and a reasonable degree of risk if they invite spammers and manipulators to mimic searchers and click for rankings (a practice that, sadly, has popped up in the gray hat SEO world, and does sometimes, unfortunately, work).

Final Score: +4 — not too shabby, so let’s continue this tradition and see what 2018 holds. I’m going to be a little more cavalier with this year’s predictions, just to keep things exciting 🙂


Rand’s 9 Predictions for 2018

#1: The total number of organic clicks Google refers will drop by ~5% by the end of the year

In 2017, we saw the start of a concerning trend — fewer clicks being generated by Google search on desktop and mobile. I don’t think that was a blip. In my estimation, Google’s actions around featured snippets, knowledge panels, and better instant answers in the SERPs overall, combined with more aggressive ads and slowing search growth (at least in the United States), will lead to there being slightly less SEO opportunity in 2018 than what we had in 2017.

I don’t think this trend will accelerate much long term (i.e. it’s certainly not the end for SEO, just a time of greater competition for slightly fewer click opportunities).

#2: Twitter and LinkedIn will both take active steps to reduce the amount of traffic they refer out to other sites

Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have all had success algorithmically or structurally limiting clicks off their platforms and growing as a result. I think in 2018, Twitter and LinkedIn are gonna take their own steps to limit content with links from doing as well, to limit the visibility of external links in their platform, and to better reward content that keeps people on their sites.

#3: One or more major SEO software providers will shutter as a result of increased pressure from Google and heavy competition

Google Search Console is, slowly but surely, getting better. Google’s getting a lot more aggressive about making rank tracking more difficult (some rank tracking folks I’m friendly with told me that Q4 2017 was particularly gut-punching), and the SEO software field is way, way more densely packed with competitors than ever before. I estimate at least ten SEO software firms are over $10 million US in annual revenue (Deepcrawl, SEMRush, Majestic, Ahrefs, Conductor, Brightedge, SISTRIX, GinzaMetrics, SEOClarity, and Moz), and I’m probably underestimating at least 4 or 5 others (in local SEO, Yext is obviously huge, and 3–4 of their competitors are also above $10mm).

I predict this combination of factors will mean that 2018 sees one or more casualties (possibly through a less-than-rewarding acquisition rather than straight-out bankruptcy) in the SEO software space.

#4: Alexa will start to take market share away from Google, especially via devices with screens like the Echo Show

Voice search devices are useful, but somewhat limited by virtue of missing a screen. The Echo Show was the first stab at solving this, and I think in 2018 we’re going to see more and better devices as well as vastly better functionality. Even just the “Alexa, show me a photo of Rodney Dangerfield from 1965.” (see, Rand, I told you he used to be handsome!) will take away a lot of the more simplistic searches that today happen on Google and Google Images (the latter of which is a silent giant in the US search world).

#5: One of the non-Google tech giants will start on a more serious competitor to YouTube

Amazon’s feud with Google and the resulting loss of YouTube on certain devices isn’t going unnoticed in major tech company discussions. I think in 2018, that turns into a full-blown decision to invest in a competitor to the hosted video platform. There’s too much money, time, attention, and opportunity for some of the big players not to at least dip a toe in the water.

Side note: If I were an investor, I’d be pouring meetings and dollars into startups that might become this. I think acquisitions are a key way for a Facebook, an Amazon, or a Microsoft to reduce their risk here.

#6: Facebook Audience Network (that lets publishers run FB ads on their own sites) will get the investment it needs and become a serious website adtech player

Facebook ads on the web should be as big or bigger than anything Google does in this realm, mostly because the web functions more like Facebook than it does like search results pages, and FB’s got the data to make those ads high quality and relevant. Unfortunately, they’ve underinvested in Audience Network the last couple years, but I think with Facebook usage in developed countries leveling out and the company seeking ways to grow their ad reach and effectiveness, it’s time.

#7: Mobile apps will fade as the default for how brands, organizations, and startups of all sizes invest in the mobile web; PWAs and mobile-first websites will largely take their place

I’m calling it. Mobile apps, for 95% of companies and organizations who want to do well on the web, are the wrong decision. Not only that, most everyone now realizes and agrees on it. PWAs (and straightforward mobile websites) are there to pick up the slack. That’s not to say the app stores won’t continue to generate downloads or make money — they will. But those installs and dollars will flow to a very few number of apps and app developers at the very top of the charts, while the long tail of apps (which never really took off), fades into obscurity.

Side note: games are probably an exception (though even there, Nintendo Switch proved in 2017 that mobile isn’t the only or best platform for games).

#8: WordPress will continue its dominance over all other CMS’, growing its use from ~25% to 35%+ of the top few million sites on the web

While it depends what you consider “the web” to be, there’s no doubt WordPress has dominated every other CMS in the market among the most popular few million sites on it. I think 2018 will be a year when WordPress extends their lead, mostly because they’re getting more aggressive about investments in growth and marketing, and secondarily because no one is stepping up to be a suitable (free) alternative.

35%+ might sound like a bold step, but I’m seeing more and more folks moving off of other platforms for a host of reasons, and migrating to WordPress for its flexibility, its cost structure, its extensibility, and its strong ecosystem of plugins, hosting providers, security options, and developers.

#9: The United States will start to feel the pain of net neutrality’s end with worse Internet connectivity, more limitations, and a less free-and-open web

Tragically, we lost the battle to maintain Title II protections on net neutrality here in the US, and the news is a steady drumbeat of awfulness around this topic. Just recently, Trump’s FCC announced that they’d be treating far slower connections as “broadband,” thus lessening requirements for what’s considered “penetration” and “access,” all the way down to mobile connection speeds.

It’s hard to notice what this means right now, but by the end of 2018, I predict we’ll be feeling the pain through even slower average speeds, restrictions on web usage (like what we saw before Title II protections with Verizon and T-Mobile blocking services and favoring sites). In fact, my guess is that some enterprising ISP is gonna try to block cryptocurrency mining, trading, or usage as an early step.

Over time, I suspect this will lead to a tiered Internet access world here in the US, where the top 10% of American earners (and those in a few cities and states that implement their own net neutrality laws) have vastly better and free-er access (probably with more competitive pricing, too).


Now it’s time for your feedback! I want to know:

  1. Which of these predictions do you find most likely?
  2. Which do you find most outlandish?
  3. What obvious predictions do you think I’ve shamefully missed? 😉

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 3 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Troubleshooting Local Ranking Failures [Updated for 2018]

Posted by MiriamEllis

I love a mystery… especially a local search ranking mystery I can solve for someone.

Now, the truth is, some ranking puzzles are so complex, they can only be solved by a formal competitive audit. But there are many others that can be cleared up by spending 15 minutes or less going through an organized 10-point checklist of the commonest problems that can cause a business to rank lower than the owner thinks it should. By zipping through the following checklist, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find one or more obvious “whodunits” contributing to poor Google local pack visibility for a given search.

Since I wrote the original version of this post in 2014, so much has changed. Branding, tools, tactics — things are really different in 2018. Definitely time for a complete overhaul, with the goal of making you a super sleuth for your forum friends, clients, agency teammates, or executive superiors.

Let’s emulate the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which earned lasting fame by hitting on a simple formula for surfacing and solving mysteries in a most enjoyable way.

Before we break out our magnifying glass, it’s critical to stress one very important thing. The local rankings I see from an office in North Beach, San Francisco are not the rankings you see while roaming around Golden Gate park in the same city. The rankings your client in Des Moines sees for things in his town are not the same rankings you see from your apartment in Albuquerque when you look at Des Moines results. With the user having become the centroid of search for true local searches, it is no mystery at all that we see different results when we are different places, and it is no cause for concern.

And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and are in the proper detective spirit, let’s dive into how to solve for each item on our checklist!


☑ Google updates/bugs

The first thing to ask if a business experiences a sudden change in rankings is whether Google has done something. Search Engine Land strikes me as the fastest reporter of Google updates, with MozCast offering an ongoing weather report of changes in the SERPs. Also, check out the Moz Google Algo Change history list and the Moz Blog for some of the most in-depth strategic coverage of updates, penalties, and filters.

For local-specific bugs (or even just suspected tests), check out the Local Search Forum, the Google My Business forum, and Mike Blumenthal’s blog. See if the effects being described match the weirdness you are seeing in your local packs. If so, it’s a matter of fixing a problematic practice (like iffy link building) that has been caught in an update, waiting to see how the update plays out, or waiting for Google to fix a bug or turn a dial down to normalize results.

*Pro tip: Don’t make the mistake of thinking organic updates have nothing to do with local SEO. Crack detectives know organic and local are closely connected.

☑ Eligibility to list and rank

When a business owner wants to know why he isn’t ranking well locally, always ask these four questions:

  1. Does the business have a real address? (Not a PO box, virtual office, or a string of employees’ houses!)
  2. Does the business make face-to-face contact with its customers?
  3. What city is the business in?
  4. What is the exact keyword phrase they are hoping to rank for?

If the answer is “no” to either of the first two questions, the business isn’t eligible for a Google My Business listing. And while spam does flow through Google, a lack of eligibility could well be the key to a lack of rankings.

For the third question, you need to know the city the business is in so that you can see if it’s likely to rank for the search phrase cited in the fourth question. For example, a plumber with a street address in Sugar Land, TX should not expect to rank for “plumber Dallas TX.” If a business lacks a physical location in a given city, it’s atypical for it to rank for queries that stem from or relate to that locale. It’s amazing just how often this simple fact solves local pack mysteries.

☑ Guideline spam

To be an ace local sleuth, you must commit to memory the guidelines for representing your business on Google so that you can quickly spot violations. Common acts of spam include:

  • Keyword stuffing the business name field
  • Improper wording of the business name field
  • Creating listings for ineligible locations, departments, or people
  • Category spam
  • Incorrect phone number implementation
  • Incorrect website URL implementation
  • Review guideline violations

If any of the above conundrums are new to you, definitely spend 10 minutes reading the guidelines. Make flash cards, if necessary, to test yourself on your spam awareness until you can instantly detect glaring errors. With this enhanced perception, you’ll be able to see problems that may possibly be leading to lowered rankings, or even… suspensions!

☑ Suspensions

There are two key things to look for here when a local business owner comes to you with a ranking woe:

  1. If the listing was formerly verified, but has mysteriously become unverified, you should suspect a soft suspension. Soft suspensions might occur around something like a report of keyword-stuffing the GMB business name field. Oddly, however, there is little anecdotal evidence to support the idea that soft suspensions cause ranking drops. Nevertheless, it’s important to spot the un-verification clue and tell the owner to stop breaking guidelines. It’s possible that the listing may lose reviews or images during this type of suspension, but in most cases, the owner should be able to re-verify his listing. Just remember: a soft suspension is not a likely cause of low local pack rankings.
  2. If the listing’s rankings totally disappear and you can’t even find the listing via a branded search, it’s time to suspect a hard suspension. Hard suspensions can result from a listing falling afoul of a Google guideline or new update, a Google employee, or just a member of the public who has reported the business for something like an ineligible location. If the hard suspension is deserved, as in the case of creating a listing at a fake address, then there’s nothing you can do about it. But, if a hard suspension results from a mistake, I recommend taking it to the Google My Business forum to plead for help. Be prepared to prove that you are 100% guideline-compliant and eligible in hopes of getting your listing reinstated with its authority and reviews intact.

☑ Duplicates

Notorious for their ability to divide ranking strength, duplicate listings are at their worst when there is more than one verified listing representing a single entity. If you encounter a business that seems like it should be ranking better than it is for a given search, always check for duplicates.

The quickest way to do this is to get all present and past NAP (name, address, phone) from the business and plug it into the free Moz Check Listing tool. Pay particular attention to any GMB duplicates the tool surfaces. Then:

  1. If the entity is a brick-and-mortar business or service area business, and the NAP exactly matches between the duplicates, contact Google to ask them to merge the listings. If the NAP doesn’t match and represents a typo or error on the duplicate, use the “suggest an edit” link in Google Maps to toggle the “yes/no” toggle to “yes,” and then select the radio button for “never existed.”
  2. If the duplicates represent partners in a multi-practitioner business, Google won’t simply delete them. Things get quite complicated in this scenario, and if you discover practitioner duplicates, tread carefully. There are half a dozen nuances here, including whether you’re dealing with actual duplicates, whether they represent current or past staffers, whether they are claimed or unclaimed, and even whether a past partner is deceased. There isn’t perfect industry agreement on the handling of all of the ins-and-outs of practitioner listings. Given this, I would advise an affected business to read all of the following before making a move in any direction:

☑ Missing/inaccurate listings

While you’ve got Moz Check Listing fired up, pay attention to anything it tells you about missing or inaccurate listings. The tool will show you how accurate and complete your listings on are on the major local business data aggregators, plus other important platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Factual, Yelp, and more. Why does this matter?

  1. Google can pull information from anywhere on the web and plunk it into your Google My Business listing.
  2. While no one can quantify the exact degree to which citation/listing consistency directly impacts Google local rankings for every possible search query, it has been a top 5 ranking factor in the annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey as far back as I can remember. Recently, I’ve seen some industry discussion as to whether citations still matter, with some practitioners claiming they can’t see the difference they make. I believe that conclusion may stem from working mainly in ultra-competitive markets where everyone has already got their citations in near-perfect order, forcing practitioners to look for differentiation tactics beyond the basics. But without those basics, you’re missing table stakes in the game.
  3. Indirectly, listing absence or inconsistency impacts local rankings in that it undermines the quest for good local KPIs as well as organic authority. Every lost or misdirected consumer represents a failure to have someone click-for-directions, click-to-call, click-to-your website, or find your website at all. Online and offline traffic, conversions, reputation, and even organic authority all hang in the balance of active citation management.

☑ Lack of organic authority

Full website or competitive audits are not the work of a minute. They really take time, and deep delving. But, at a glance, you can access some quick metrics to let you know whether a business’ lack of achievement on the organic side of things could be holding them back in the local packs. Get yourself the free MozBar SEO toolbar and try this:

  1. Turn the MozBar on by clicking the little “M” at the top of your browser so that it is blue.
  2. Perform your search and look at the first few pages of the organic results, ignoring anything from major directory sites like Yelp (they aren’t competing with you for local pack rankings, eh?).
  3. Note down the Page Authority, Domain Authority, and link counts for each of the businesses coming up on the first 3 pages of the organic results.
  4. Finally, bring up the website of the business you’re investigating. If you see that the top competitors have Domain Authorities of 50 and links numbering in the hundreds or thousands, whereas your target site is well below in these metrics, chances are good that organic authority is playing a strong role in lack of local search visibility. How do we know this is true? Do some local searches and note just how often the businesses that make it into the 3-pack or the top of the local finder view have correlating high organic rankings.

Where organic authority is poor, a business has a big job of work ahead. They need to focus on content dev + link building + social outreach to begin building up their brand in the minds of consumers and the “RankBrain” of Google.

One other element needs to be mentioned here, and that’s the concept of how time affects authority. When you’re talking to a business with a ranking problem, it’s very important to ascertain whether they just launched their website or just built their local business listings last week, or even just a few months ago. Typically, if they have, the fruits of their efforts have yet to fully materialize. That being said, it’s not a given that a new business will have little authority. Large brands have marketing departments which exist solely to build tremendous awareness of new assets before they even launch. It’s important to keep that in mind, while also realizing that if the business is smaller, building authority will likely represent a longer haul.

☑ Possum effect

Where local rankings are absent, always ask:

“Are there any other businesses in your building or even on your street that share your Google category?”

If the answer is “yes,” search for the business’ desired keyword phase and look at the local finder view in Google Maps. Note which companies are ranking. Then begin to zoom in on the map, level by level, noting changes in the local finder as you go. If, a few levels in, the business you’re advising suddenly appears on the map and in the local finder, chances are good it’s the Possum filter that’s causing their apparent invisibility at the automatic zoom level.

Google Possum rolled out in September 2016, and its observable effects included a geographic diversification of the local results, filtering out many listings that share a category and are in close proximity to one another. Then, about one year later, Google initiated the Hawk update, which appears to have tightened the radius of Possum, with the result that while many businesses in the same building are still being filtered out, a number of nearby neighbors have reappeared at the automatic zoom level of the results.

If your sleuthing turns up a brand that is being impacted by Possum/Hawk, the only surefire way to beat the filter is to put in the necessary work to become the most authoritative answer for the desired search phrase. It’s important to remember that filters are the norm in Google’s local results, and have long been observed impacting listings that share an address, share a phone number, etc. If it’s vital for a particular listing to outrank all others that possess shared characteristics, then authority must be built around it in every possible way to make it one of the most dominant results.

☑ Local Service Ads effect

The question you ask here is:

“Is yours a service-area business?”

And if the answer is “yes,” then brace yourself for ongoing results disruption in the coming year.

Google’s Local Service Ads (formerly Home Service Ads) make Google the middleman between consumers and service providers, and in the 2+ years since first early testing, they’ve caused some pretty startling things to happen to local search results. These have included:

Suffice it to say, rollout to an ever-increasing number of cities and categories hasn’t been for the faint of heart, and I would hazard a guess that Google’s recent re-brand of this program signifies their intention to move beyond the traditional SAB market. One possible benefit of Google getting into this type of lead gen is that it could decrease spam, but I’m not sold on this, given that fake locations have ended up qualifying for LSA inclusion. While I honor Google’s need to be profitable, I share some of the qualms business owners have expressed about the potential impacts of this venture.

Since I can’t offer a solid prediction of what precise form these impacts will take in the coming months, the best I can do here is to recommend that if an SAB experiences a ranking change/loss, the first thing to look for is whether LSA has come to town. If so, alteration of the SERPs may be unavoidable, and the only strategy left for overcoming vanished visibility may be to pay for it… by qualifying for the program.

☑ GMB neglect

Sometimes, a lack of competitive rankings can simply be chalked up to a lack of effort. If a business wonders why they’re not doing better in the local packs, pull up their GMB listing and do a quick evaluation of:

  • Verification status – While you can rank without verifying, lack of verification is a hallmark of listing neglect.
  • Basic accuracy – If NAP or map markers are incorrect, it’s a sure sign of neglect.
  • Category choices – Wrong categories make right rankings impossible.
  • Image optimization – Every business needs a good set of the most professional, persuasive photos it can acquire, and should even consider periodic new photo shoots for seasonal freshness; imagery impacts KPIs, which are believed to impact rank.
  • Review count, sentiment and management – Too few reviews, low ratings, and lack of responses = utter neglect of this core rank/reputation-driver.
  • Hours of operation – If they’re blank or incorrect, conversions are being missed.
  • Main URL choice – Does the GMB listing point to a strong, authoritative website page or a weak one?
  • Additional URL choices – If menus, bookings, reservations, or placing orders is part of the business model, a variety of optional URLs are supported by Google and should be explored.
  • Google Posts – Early-days testing indicates that regular posting may impact rank.
  • Google Questions and Answers – Pre-populate with best FAQs and actively manage incoming questions.

There is literally no business, large or small, with a local footprint that can afford to neglect its Google My Business listing. And while some fixes and practices move the ranking needle more than others, the increasing number of consumer actions that take place within Google is reason enough to put active GMB management at the top of your list.


Closing the case

The Hardy Boys never went anywhere without their handy kit of detection tools. Their father was so confident in their utter preparedness that he even let them chase down gangs in Hong Kong and dictators in the Guyanas (which, on second thought, doesn’t seem terribly wise.) But I have that kind of confidence in you. I hope my troubleshooting checklist is one you’ll bookmark and share to be prepared for the local ranking mysteries awaiting you and your digital marketing colleagues in 2018. Happy sleuthing!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 3 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

3 major popup trends to follow in 2018

Popups are already the best way to collect email addresses. As Head of Customer Success at WisePops, an intelligent popup solution, I see customers convincing as many as 1 visitor out of 5 to subscribe to their newsletter with a simple email popup.

Our average subscription rate is 5.9%. In other words, out of 10,000 visitors seeing a popup, our customers collect on average 590 emails. And if you don’t believe me, there are plenty of case studies on the matter which go in the same direction.

5.9% is good. But are there any new techniques you could use to boost your popups’ performance? The reply is a resounding YES. As most online marketing tools, popups are evolving very quickly. Let’s review the latest developments and how they can help you collect more email subscribers.

Trend #1: popups will be (way) smarter (targeting)

Targeting plays a huge part in the success of an opt-in popup. Some of our customers’ popup A/B tests showed that a simple tweak in the targeting can double the number of emails collected. And in terms of targeting, lots of options have appeared in the past few months.

In recent months we’ve seen a new trend emerging where marketers design different campaigns for each of their categories or topics. Here’s a good ecommerce illustration from SohoHome, an Interior shop. The message perfectly matches the category where it’s displayed, thus driving a higher engagement.

Here’s another example from KlientBoost, a CRO and PPC agency. They create separate campaigns for their most popular blog articles. This campaign is displayed on one page only.

 

Popups are adapting to the context

Marketers are pushing this logic further with contextual targeting. In short, it’s a way to trigger a popup when some custom conditions are met by the page or the user. Popular examples include popups displayed depending on the cart value, popups adapted to the user’s loyalty status, or popups displayed to users who have visited a specific page before.

Here’s one example from Christy Dawn, a fashion retailer. They display a specific popup on out-of-stock products.

As you already guessed, the engagement rate is pretty high.

Trend #2: Popups are mobile

Earlier this year, Google shared new guidelines for mobile popups. Prior to this release, they invited webmasters to stop displaying popups which prevented users from accessing content on a landing page.

Since then, marketers have adapted their popup strategy to this change and mobile popups have never been this efficient and user-friendly.

Nike is leading the game with a popup displayed when a user clicks a call-to-action:

Another good illustration comes from Timberland. See how they shrank their popup’s size?

 

Why do they bother? Because mobile now makes up the majority of Internet traffic. And marketers need to adapt to this new paradigm.

Trend #3: Popups are coming alive

With the rise of video marketing and GIFs, it seems only logical that marketers draw inspiration from this trend and add life to their popups. Why is it so important? Because it contributes to catching your visitor’s attention and boosts your popups’ CTR.

This is how Inkbox adds fun to their opt-in popups:

Here’s another example from Vivadogs, a company offering boxes for dogs. What’s so interesting about it is that:

(1) it makes the message very visible (could you miss it? no!)

(2) it gives a good sense of what customers can expect when they order a box for their pet

(3) it’s more fun than a basic popup

Wrap-up

Popups have been an essential part of marketers’ toolboxes for a few years now. But like any marketing tool, you must renew it to make sure it’s adapted to the changing behavior of your visitors and leads.

As Einstein once said, “the measure of intelligence is the ability to change”. Let’s be more intelligent in 2018 and let’s work hard on our popups!

This partner guest post was written by Greg d’Aboville who’s Head of Customer Success at Wisepops, a tool that helps marketers build intelligent website popups.

The post 3 major popup trends to follow in 2018 appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 5 months ago from blog.dotmailer.com

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