dotmailer recently gathered at the inaugural Shopify Plus meetup in New York City for an evening of fun, networking and education on this very topic. We brought together some big minds and bright ideas from retailers Minbie, dormify and Campus Protein to touch on firsthand lessons learned when negotiating contracts, getting the most out of your partner/vendor support teams, and learning about best-of-breed Shopify Plus technology partners (including Nosto, Addressy and TVPage).
The panel theme ‘Picking Your Ideal Tech Stack’ was moderated by Ben Staveley, dotmailer’s VP of Operations. One of the common pain points shared by the merchants was that they all have relatively small teams that need to wear a lot of hats. They offered some valuable tips that businesses of all sizes should consider when evaluating a technology solution.
When evaluating partners and their technology solutions, Russell Saks, CEO & Founder, Campus Protein, said:
The product needs to be one that is fairly intuitive. Before we actually schedule a demo it needs to be something that we are highly considering. Time is valuable and what typically follows is a lot of sales calls. We also evaluate what kind of extra customization we can add to an out-of-the-box piece of software. This allows us to have a better fit for our business and also gives us a competitive advantage. You have to remember everyone has the same access to the software that you do so it’s really how you utilize and fit it into your business that will truly give you that edge.
As partners evolve, others become irrelevant. We are always watching this so we are not wasting time/money as a company on non-performers. Look not just at what the tool does, but what is planned, how quickly the vendor/partner is releasing new features, and how often they have in the past. We expect everyone to be regularly releasing new features – in this day and age, an aggressive roadmap is essential.
According to Torquhil Anderson, Co Founder, Minbie:
There is always the temptation to gravitate towards the shiny new thing. Avoid this by applying a framework to rank which tools will actually move the needle most for your business. Once you have made your decision, don’t deliberate, just get in there and get your hands dirty. It’s only through testing the platform that you will truly see whether it adds value to your business.
To summarize the evening, merchants are looking to evaluate solutions that deliver the best ROI and those that continue to evolve as the needs of their eCommerce businesses evolve. For more information, check out why merchants are moving to Shopify Plus.
Not just education, we also said fun, right? Some refreshing Tipsy Scoop ice cream was a welcome treat on this hot summer night shared by many of our friends, partners and colleagues. We look forward to the next outing!
Incredible people power, a rapid response to queries, and dedication on a one-to-one level – these are the elements of customer support that we believe empowers marketers – and it’s what makes us the ESP trusted by brands like Barbour, Fred Perry, Screwfix and VIZIO. So it’s no surprise to us that dotmailer’s Global Head of Support, Darren Hockley, was recently awarded the Special Judges Award at the 2017 London & South East Contact Center Awards.
The team enjoyed an exciting evening of celebrations at The Marriott in Heathrow having entered into two impressive categories: Support Team of the Year and Digital Customer Service Team of the Year. We caught up with Darren back at the office to find out more:
Congratulations on your brilliant achievement, Darren.
Thanks a lot. I’m still in a bit of shock, really – it was quite unexpected. We’d entered into two categories and were unsuccessful this time around. But to be recognized by the judges for an individual award for outstanding performance was really special.
Absolutely – what a fantastic prize! What does the award mean for you?
To be perfectly honest, this is everyone’s award. I was showcasing the work we’ve achieved as a team, and I feel very proud of how far we’ve come in a year. To see us up alongside huge household names like UK Power Networks and Choice Hotels is testament to the incredible support the team provides for dotmailer customers and the impact that made on this year’s judges. So that feels pretty special.
For anyone who might be in the dark about dotmailer Support, can you provide a flavor of some of your team’s day-to-day activities?
The dotmailer Support team are the first line of call for anything platform related. We operate across all of our global office locations, and provide one-on-one support to our 5,000+ customers across 70,000+ accounts. A lot of what we do is technical enablement; we play a crucial role in on-boarding new users so they get the best out of their best-of-breed ESP. Plus, with so many of our customers taking advantage of dotmailer’s ecommerce integration functionality, we’re there to help people get started without a hitch.
Cool! What would you say your best achievements have been in this past year?
We set ourselves some challenging goals this year, which I’m proud to say we’ve smashed. We wanted to improve our Livechat functionality, first and foremost; with email volumes on the rise, it’s crucial that all of our customers can get in contact with Support quickly and easily. We implemented new, super-fast Livechat tech with an impressive look and feel for users. 98.9% of all chats were answered and the enhanced speed means that customers can expect to be answered in less than 2 minutes 27 seconds. As a result, we’ve seen a 21% decrease in customers having to email for support, and those using Livechat to get instant answers has increased by 230%. It’s been such a success that we’re considering expanding the technology and service to other teams across dotmailer.
Those are some stonking numbers, Darren. You must have a great team behind you.
Absolutely. Another key area we concentrated on was in providing the Support team with training and development opportunities. We think this focus was one of the key reasons we were finalists in the Contact Center Awards this year. Seven of our team members have received promotions this year. As the Global Head of Support, I take great pride in this; it’s fantastic to see highly-trained, committed and successful Support members receiving internal promotions for outstanding performance.
We’re not surprised! So what’s next for the Support team?
More of the same! We’re hoping to build on the successes of this year, and I hope the award I received on Monday can inspire the entire team to view their work as invaluable to the success of the company as a whole. Not all readers will know that we’re based in East Croydon in dotmailer’s first ever office; we’ve just entered the Croydon Business Excellence Awards 2017 so we’re looking forward to that. Outside of the glittering awards scene, we’ll be maintaining our passionate customer-focused mindset and will continue to ensure that every customer has the best possible experience when using the dotmailer platform.
Check out this testimonial from Customer Direct Marketing Manager at Forest Holidays, Sheri Riddlesworth:
“The results and support we have had for this project has been amazing, Firmin has gone above and beyond to onboard us and make it work with our website. His guidance, testing and knowledge was really appreciated and wouldn’t have been a success without him”.
dotmailer’s Support team are on hand 24 hours a day, Monday to Friday. If you need to get in touch, you can head to the Support Hub, where you’ll find the Livechat and a whole host of other useful information.
The top three reasons were People, Product and Opportunity. I met the people who make up our business and heard their stories from the past 18 years, learned about the platform and market leading status they had built in the UK, and saw that I could add value with my U.S. high growth business experience. I’ve been working with marketers, entrepreneurs and business owners for years across a series of different roles, and saw that I could apply what I’d learned from that and the start-up space to dotmailer’s U.S. operation. dotmailer has had clients in the U.S. for 12 years and we’re positioned to grow the user base of our powerful and easy-to-use platform significantly. I knew I could make a difference here, and what closed the deal for me was the people. Every single person I’ve met is deeply committed to the business, to the success of our customers and to making our solution simple and efficient. We’re a great group of passionate people and I’m proud to have joined the dotfamily.
Dan Morris, dotmailer’s EVP for North America in the new NYC office
Tell us a bit about your new role
dotmailer has been in business and in this space for more than 18 years. We were a web agency, then a Systems Integrator, and we got into the email business that way, ultimately building the dotmailer platform thousands of people use daily. This means we know this space better than anyone and we have the perfect solutions to align closely with our customers and the solutions flexible enough to grow with them. My role is to take all that experience and the platform and grow our U.S. presence. My early focus has been on identifying the right team to execute our growth plans. We want to be the market leader in the U.S. in the next three years – just like we’ve done in the UK – so getting the right people in the right spots was critical. We quickly assessed the skills of the U.S. team and made changes that were necessary in order to provide the right focus on customer success. Next, we set out to completely rebuild dotmailer’s commercial approach in the U.S. We simplified our offers to three bundles, so that pricing and what’s included in those bundles is transparent to our customers. We’ve heard great things about this already from clients and partners. We’re also increasing our resources on customer success and support. We’re intensely focused on ease of on-boarding, ease of use and speed of use. We consistently hear how easy and smooth a process it is to use dotmailer’s tools. That’s key for us – when you buy a dotmailer solution, we want to onboard you quickly and make sure you have all of your questions answered right away so that you can move right into using it. Customers are raving about this, so we know it’s working well.
What early accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?
I’ve been at dotmailer for eight months now and I’m really proud of all we’ve accomplished together. We spent a lot of time assessing where we needed to restructure and where we needed to invest. We made the changes we needed, invested in our partner program, localized tech support, customer on-boarding and added customer success team members. We have the right people in the right roles and it’s making a difference. We have a commercial approach that is clear with the complete transparency that we wanted to provide our customers. We’ve got a more customer-focused approach and we’re on-boarding customers quickly so they’re up and running faster. We have happier customers than ever before and that’s the key to everything we do.
You’ve moved the U.S. team to a new office. Can you tell us why and a bit about the new space?
I thought it was very important to create a NY office space that was tied to branding and other offices around the world, and also had its own NY energy and culture for our team here – to foster collaboration and to have some fun. It was also important for us that we had a flexible space where we could welcome customers, partners and resellers, and also hold classes and dotUniversity training sessions. I’m really grateful to the team who worked on the space because it really reflects our team and what we care about. At any given time, you’ll see a training session happening, the team collaborating, a customer dropping in to ask a few questions or a partner dropping in to work from here. We love our new, NYC space.
Guests and the team at dotmailer’s new NYC office warming party
What did you learn from your days in the start-up space that you’re applying at dotmailer?
The start-up space is a great place to learn. You have to know where every dollar is going and coming from, so every choice you make needs to be backed up with a business case for that investment. You try lots of different things to see if they’ll work and you’re ready to turn those tactics up or down quickly based on an assessment of the results. You also learn things don’t have to stay the way they are, and can change if you make them change. You always listen and learn – to customers, partners, industry veterans, advisors, etc. to better understand what’s working and not working. dotmailer has been in business for 18 years now, and so there are so many great contributors across the business who know how things have worked and yet are always keen to keep improving. I am constantly in listening and learning mode so that I can understand all of the unique perspectives our team brings and what we need to act on.
What are your plans for the U.S. and the sales function there?
On our path to being the market leader in the U.S., I’m focused on three things going forward: 1 – I want our customers to be truly happy. It’s already a big focus in the dotmailer organization – and we’re working hard to understand their challenges and goals so we can take product and service to the next level. 2 – Creating an even more robust program around partners, resellers and further building out our channel partners to continuously improve sales and customer service programs. We recently launched a certification program to ensure partners have all the training and resources they need to support our mutual customers. 3 – We have an aggressive growth plan for the U.S. and I’m very focused on making sure our team is well trained, and that we remain thoughtful and measured as we take the steps to grow. We want to always keep an eye on what we’re known for – tools that are powerful and simple to use – and make sure everything else we offer remains accessible and valuable as we execute our growth plans.
What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?
The questions we usually get are around price, service level and flexibility. How much does dotmailer cost? How well are you going to look after my business? How will you integrate into my existing stack and then my plans for future growth? We now have three transparent bundle options with specifics around what’s included published right on our website. We have introduced a customer success team that’s focused only on taking great care of our customers and we’re hearing stories every day that tells me this is working. And we have all of the tools to support our customers as they grow and to also integrate into their existing stacks – often integrating so well that you can use dotmailer from within Magento, Salesforce or Dynamics, for example.
Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?
In addition to the ones above – ease of use, speed of use and the ability to scale with you. With dotmailer’s tiered program, you can start with a lighter level of functionality and grow into more advanced functionality as you need it. The platform itself is so easy to use that most marketers are able to build campaigns in minutes that would have taken hours on other platforms. Our customer success team is also with you all the way if ever you want or need help. We’ve built a very powerful platform and we have a fantastic team to help you with personalized service as an extended part of your team and we’re ready to grow with you.
How much time is your team on the road vs. in the office? Any road warrior tips to share?
I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, one year I attended 22 tradeshows! Top tip when flying is to be willing to give up your seat for families or groups once you’re at the airport gate, as you’ll often be rewarded with a better seat for helping the airline make the family or group happy. Win win! Since joining dotmailer, I’m focused on being in office and present for the team and customers as much as possible. I can usually be found in our new, NYC office where I spend a lot of time with our team, in customer meetings, in trainings and other hosted events, sales conversations or marketing meetings. I’m here to help the team, clients and partners to succeed, and will always do my best to say yes! Once our prospective customers see how quickly and efficiently they can execute tasks with dotmailer solutions vs. their existing solutions, it’s a no-brainer for them. I love seeing and hearing their reactions.
Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?
I’m originally from Yorkshire in England, and grew up just outside York. I moved to the U.S. about seven years ago to join a very fast growing startup, we took it from 5 to well over 300 people which was a fantastic experience. I moved to NYC almost two years ago, and I love exploring this great city. There’s so much to see and do. Outside of dotmailer, my passion is cars, and I also enjoy skeet shooting, almost all types of music, and I love to travel – my goal is to get to India, Thailand, Australia and Japan in the near future.
At dotmailer we try our best to keep the bad guys out, but if they already have your password, there is very little we can do to detect, and stop them logging in as you…unless, of course, you have already turned on two-factor authentication (2FA). Two-factor in most cases is something you know (your username/password), and something you have (a single use access code or authentication link).
But how do can they get my password in the first place?
There are various ways an attacker may have access to your login details, but some of the possible methods include:
If the computer you use to log in to your online accounts is infected with malware, it is possible that your keystrokes and even screen captures are being logged and sent back to the bad guys…..yep, including your passwords, and other authentication details.
Snooping on the network
If an attacker has access to the network from which you are logging on to an online service (e.g. public Wi-Fi hotspot), in some cases it may be possible to capture the data as it passes to the server…..yep, including your password, and other authentication details. This is where looking for HTTPS in your browser address bar becomes very important. At dotmailer, all authentication data passes over a secure channel, thus protecting you from this sort of attack.
It’s really important not to use the same password across different services. We’ve seen an awful lot of very big data breaches in the news recently, and the attackers have been using the stolen authentication details from these breaches to try and log on to other online services…with what seems to be a great deal of success! This sadly means that many people are still using the same password everywhere they go online. This is one of the reasons why your dotmailer password is set to expire, and you are asked for a new one every 90 days; and why you should be choosing something completely different every time. Simply incrementing that number at the end of your password is not cool!
As we get better at using good passwords, and preventing malware infections; sometime, the bad guys just find it easier to ask us for our passwords. At dotmailer, our support team will never contact you asking for your password.
If one of the above unfortunate events were to happen, 2FA adds another layer of defense, as the attacker would also need access to the authentication link or SMS code. In reality that would mean having access to your mailbox, or mobile phone. We’ve already seen that it’s possible that an attacker has obtained your password due to a compromised computer, or network; which is why we would always recommend using an “out-of-band” communication such as SMS as the means to deliver the 2FA authentication token where possible. dotmailer offers SMS 2FA to all customers. It’s simple to setup, and its free!
Without access to the authentication token, the attacker could of course try and brute force the code, but that is where our other controls such as failed login account lockouts kick in.
How to turn on 2FA in dotmailer
Log in to your account, and click the user icon in the top right, and select Account:
In the resulting window click on the “Account Settings” tab, and scroll down to the “Security” section. Simply tick the Two-factor authentication box, and enter your mobile phone number, and hit save settings at the bottom of the page.
Done! Congratulations, you have just gone one step further in protecting your valuable data.
Now you have protected your dotmailer account, check out TurnOn 2FA and see which of your other online services offer a similar feature, and SWITCH IT ON!
Note: If you are a managed user, you will need to ask your account administrator to do this for you. For obvious security reasons, you will not be able to disable this feature without the help from our support team.
Australia has a resident population of more than 24 million and, according to eMarketer, the country’s ecommerce sales are predicted to reach A$32.56 billion by 2017. The country’s remote location in the APAC region means that unlike European countries or the USA, traditionally there have been a lack of global brands sold locally.
Of course, we also know that many expatriates, particularly from inside the Commonwealth, have made Australia their home and are keen to buy products they know and love from their country of origin.
All of these factors present a huge and potentially lucrative opportunity for non-Australian brands wanting to open up their new and innovative products to a fresh market, or compete for market share.
But it’s not just non-Australian retailers who are at an advantage here: Australia was late to the ecommerce party because native, established brands were trading well without it. Subsequently, Australian retailers’ ecommerce technology stacks are much more recent and not burdened by legacy systems. This makes it much easier to extend, or get started with, best-of-breed technologies and cash in on a market that’s booming. To put some of this into perspective, Magento’s innovative ecommerce platform currently takes 42% of Australia’s market share and the world’s first adopter of Magento 2.0 was an Australian brand.
The GST loophole
At the moment, local retailers are campaigning against a rule that exempts foreign websites from being charged a 10% general sales tax (GST) on purchases under A$1,000. And in 2013, Australian consumers made $3.11 billion worth of purchases under A$1,000.
While the current GST break appears to put non-Australian retailers at an advantage, Australian-based brands such as Harvey Norman are using it to their advantage by setting up ecommerce operations in Asia to enjoy the GST benefit.
Australian consumers have also countered the argument by saying that price isn’t always the motivator when it comes to making purchasing decisions.
It’s not a place where no man has gone before
Often, concerns around meeting local compliance and lack of overseas business knowledge prevent outsiders from taking the leap into cross-border trade. However, this ecommerce passport, created by Ecommerce Worldwide and NORA, is designed to support those considering selling in Australia. The guide provides a comprehensive look into everything from the country’s economy and trade status, to logistics and dealing with international payments.
Global expansion success stories are also invaluable sources of information. For instance, it’s not just lower-end retailers that are fitting the bill, with brands like online luxury fashion retailer Net-a-Porter naming Australia as one of its biggest markets.
How tech-savvy are the Aussies?
One of the concerns you might have as a new entrant into the market is how you’ll reach and sell to your new audience, particularly without having a physical presence. The good news is that more than 80% of the country is digitally enabled and 60% of mobile phone users own a smartphone – so online is deeply rooted into the majority of Australians’ lives. 
Marketing your brand
Heard the saying “Fire bullets then fire cannonballs”? In any case, you’ll want to test the waters and gauge people’s reactions to your product or service.
It all starts with the website because, without it, you’re not discoverable or searchable, and you’ve nowhere to drive people to when running campaigns. SEO and SEM should definitely be a priority, and an online store that can handle multiple regions and storefronts, like Magento, will make your life easier. A mobile-first mentality and well thought-out UX will also place you in a good position.
Once your new web store is set up, you should be making every effort to collect visitors’ email addresses, perhaps via a popover. Why? Firstly, email is one of the top three priority areas for Australian retailers, because it’s a cost-effective, scalable marketing channel that enables true personalization.
Secondly, email marketing automation empowers you to deliver the customer experience today’s consumer expects, as well as enabling you to communicate with them throughout the lifecycle. Check out our ‘Do customer experience masters really exist?’ whitepaper for some real-life success stories.
Like the Magento platform, dotmailer is set up to handle multiple languages, regions and accounts, and is designed to grow with you.
In summary, there’s great scope for ecommerce success in Australia, whether you’re a native bricks-and-mortar retailer, a start-up or a non-Australian merchant. The barriers to cross-border trade are falling and Australia is one of APAC’s most developed regions in terms of purchasing power and tech savviness.
We recently worked with ecommerce expert Chloe Thomas to produce a whitepaper on cross-border trade, which goes into much more detail on how to market and sell successfully in new territories. You can download a free copy here.
 Australian Passport 2015: Cross-Border Trading Report
 Australian Passport 2015: Cross-Border Trading Report
Great content is essential for success in local SEO, but unfortunately, a lot of local business websites are sorely lacking in this area. Columnist Greg Gifford shares his advice on how to write excellent website copy for local SEO.
The post The secret to writing awesome local content appeared…
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Every two years, Moz surveys the brightest minds in SEO and search marketing with a comprehensive set of questions meant to gauge the current workings of Google’s search algorithm. This year’s panel of experts possesses a truly unique set of knowledge and perspectives. We’re thankful on behalf of the entire community for their contribution.
In addition to asking the participants about what does and doesn’t work in Google’s ranking algorithm today, one of the most illuminating group of questions asks the panel to predict the future of search – how the features of Google’s algorithm are expected to change over the next 12 months.
Amazingly, almost all of the factors that are expected to increase in influence revolved around user experience, including:
The experts predicted that more traditional ranking signals, such as those around links and URL structures, would largely remain the same, while the more manipulative aspects of SEO, like paid links and anchor text (which is subject to manipulation), would largely decrease in influence.
The survey also asks respondents to weight the importance of various factors within Google’s current ranking algorithm (on a scale of 1-10). Understanding these areas of importance helps to inform webmasters and marketers where to invest time and energy in working to improve the search presence of their websites.
On-page keyword features
These features describe use of the keyword term/phrase in particular parts of the HTML code on the page (title element, H1s, alt attributes, etc).
Highest influence: Keyword present in title element, 8.34 Lowest influence: Keyword present in specific HTML elements (bold/italic/li/a/etc), 4.16
Titles are still very powerful. Overall, it’s about focus and matching query syntax. If your post is about airplane propellers but you go on a three paragraph rant about gorillas, you’re going to have a problem ranking for airplane propellers.
Keyword usage is vital to making the cut, but we don’t always see it correlate with ranking, because we’re only looking at what already made the cut. The page has to be relevant to appear for a query, IMO, but when it comes to how high the page ranks once it’s relevant, I think keywords have less impact than they once did. So, it’s a necessary but not sufficient condition to ranking.
In my experience, most of problems with organic visibility are related to on-page factors. When I look for an opportunity, I try to check for 2 strong things: presence of keyword in the title and in the main content. Having both can speed up your visibility, especially on long-tail queries.
It’s very easy to link keyword-rich domains with their success in Google’s results for the given keyword. I’m always mindful about other signals that align with domain name which may have contributed to its success. These includes inbound links, mentions, and local citations.
These features describe link metrics for the individual ranking page (such as number of links, PageRank, etc).
Highest influence: Raw quantity of links from high-authority sites, 7.78 Lowest influence: Sentiment of the external links pointing to the page, 3.85
High-quality links still rule rankings. The way a brand can earn links has become more important over the years, whereas link schemes can hurt a site more than ever before. There is a lot of FUD slinging in this respect!
Similar to my thoughts on content, I suspect link-based metrics are going to be used increasingly with a focus on verisimilitude (whether content is actually true or not) and relationships between nodes in Knowledge Graph. Google’s recent issues with things, such as the snippet results for “evolution,” highlight the importance of them only pulling things that are factually correct for featured parts of a SERP. Thus, just counting traditional link metrics won’t cut it anymore.
These features describe elements that indicate qualities of branding and brand metrics.
Highest influence: Search volume for the brand/domain, 6.54 Lowest influence: Popularity of business’s official social media profiles, 3.99
This is clearly on deck to change very soon with the reintegration of Twitter into Google’s Real-Time Results. It will be interesting to see how this affects the “Breaking News” box and trending topics. Social influencers, quality and quantity of followers, RTs, and favorites will all be a factor. And what’s this?! Hashtags will be important again?! Have mercy!
It’s already noticeable; brands are more prominently displayed in search results for both informational and commercial queries. I’m expecting Google will be paying more attention to brand-related metrics from now on (and certainly more initiatives to encourage site owners to optimize for better entity detection).
These features relate to third-party metrics from social media sources (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc) for the ranking page.
Highest influence: Engagement with content/URL on social networks, 3.87 Lowest influence: Upvotes for the page on social sites, 2.7
Social ranking factors are important in a revamped Query Deserves Freshness algorithm. Essentially, if your content gets a lot of natural tweets, shares, and likes, it will rank prominently for a short period of time, until larger and more authoritative sites catch up.
Social popularity has several factors to consider: (1) Years ago, Google and Bing said they take into account the authority of a social profile sharing a link and the popularity of the link being shared (retweets/reshares), and there was more complexity to social signals that was never revealed even back then. (2) My experience has been that social links and shares have more power for newsy/fresh-type content. For example, a lot of social shares for a dentist’s office website wouldn’t be nearly as powerful (or relevant to consider) as a lot of social shares for an article on a site with a constant flow of fresh content.
Honestly, I do not think that the so-called “social signals” have any direct influence on the Google Algorithm (that does not mean that a correlation doesn’t exist, though). My only doubt is related to Twitter, because of the renewed contract between Google and Twitter itself. That said, as of now I do not consider Twitter to offer any ranking signals, except for very specific niches related to news and “news-able” content, where QDF plays a fundamental role.
These elements describe non-keyword-usage, non-link-metrics features of individual pages (such as length of the page, load speed, etc).
Highest influence: Uniqueness of the content on the page, 7.85 Lowest influence: Page contains Open Graph data and/or Twitter cards, 3.64
By branching mobile search off of Google’s core ranking algorithm, having a “mobile-friendly” website is probably now less important for desktop search rankings. Our clients are seeing an ever-increasing percentage of organic search traffic coming from mobile devices, though (particularly in retail), so this is certainly not an excuse to ignore responsive design – the opposite, in fact. Click-through rate from the SERPs has been an important ranking signal for a long time and continues to be, flagging irrelevant or poor-quality search listings.
I believe many of these will be measured within the ecosystem, rather than absolutely. For example, the effect of bounce rate (or rather, bounce speed) on a site will be relative to the bounce speeds on other pages in similar positions for similar terms.
I want to answer these a certain way because, while I have been told by Google what matters to them, what I see in the SERPs does not back up what Google claims they want. There are a lot of sites out there with horrible UX that rank in the top three. While I believe it’s really important for conversion and to bring customers back, I don’t feel as though Google is all that concerned, based on the sites that rank highly. Additionally, Google practically screams “unique content,” yet sites that more or less steal and republish content from other sites are still ranking highly. What I think should matter to Google doesn’t seem to matter to them, based on the results they give me.
These features describe link metrics about the domain hosting the page.
Highest influence: Quantity of unique linking domains to the domain, 7.45 Lowest influence: Sentiment of the external links pointing to the site, 3.91
Quantity and quality of unique linking domains at the domain level is still among the most significant factors in determining how a domain will perform as a whole in the organic search results, and is among the best SEO “spot checks” for determining if a site will be successful relative to other competitor sites with similar content and selling points.
Throughout this survey, when I say “no direct influence,” this is interchangeable with “no direct positive influence.” For example, I’ve marked exact match domain as low numbers, while their actual influence may be higher – though negatively.
Topical relevancy has, in my opinion, gained much ground as a relevant ranking factor. Although I find it most at play when at page level, I am seeing significant shifts at overall domain relevancy, by long-tail growth or by topically-relevant domains linking to sites. One way I judge such movements is the growth of the long-tail relevant to the subject or ranking, when neither anchor text (exact match or synonyms) nor exact phrase is used in a site’s content, yet it still ranks very highly for long-tail and mid-tail synonyms.
These features relate to the entire root domain, but don’t directly describe link- or keyword-based elements. Instead, they relate to things like the length of the domain name in characters.
Highest influence: Uniqueness of content across the whole site, 7.52 Lowest influence: Length of time until domain name expires, 2.45
Character length of domain name is another correlative yet not causative factor, in my opinion. They don’t need to rule these out – it just so happens that longer domain names get clicked on, so they get ruled out quickly.
A few points: Google’s document inception date patents describe how Google might handle freshness and maturity of content for a query. The “trust signal” pages sound like a site quality metric that Google might use to score a page on the basis of site quality. Some white papers from Microsoft on web spam signals identified multiple hyphens in subdomains as evidence of web spam. The length of time until the domain expires was cited as a potential signal in Google’s patent on information retrieval through historic data, and was refuted by Matt Cutts after domain sellers started trying to use that information to sell domain extensions to “help the SEO” of a site.
I think that page speed only becomes a factor when it is significantly slow. I think that having error pages on the site doesn’t matter, unless there are so many that it greatly impacts Google’s ability to crawl.
Mobile will continue to increase, with directly-related factors increasing as well. Structured data will increase, along with more data partners and user segmentation/personalization of SERPs to match query intent, localization, and device-specific need states.
I really think that over the next 12-18 months we are going to see a larger impact of structured data in the SERPs. In fact, we are already seeing this. Google has teams that focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning. They are studying “relationships of interest” and, at the heart of what they are doing, are still looking to provide the most relevant result in the quickest fashion. Things like schema that help “educate” the search engines as to a given topic or entity are only going to become more important as a result.
Finally, we leave you with this infographic created by Kevin Engle which shows the relative weighting of broad areas of Google’s algorithm, according to the experts.
What’s your opinion on the future of search and SEO? Let us know in the comments below.
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Ever mass-deleted a bunch of impersonal emails from your inbox? Brand fatigue is a real threat to your marketing strategy. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses why brands become “background noise” and how you can avoid it.
For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about why no one is paying attention to your brand, to your marketing. It’s the perilous pitfall of brand fatigue.
Brand fatigue sucks
So you have all had this happen to you. I promise you have. It’s happened in your email. It’s happened in your social streams. It’s happened through advertising in the real world, online and offline.
I’ll give you an illustration. So I sign up for this newsletter. I decide, “Hey, I want to get some houseplants. My house has no greenery in it.” So I sign up for Green Dude Houseplants’ newsletter. What do I get? Well, I get a, “Welcome to Our Newsletter.” Oh, okay.
And then maybe the next day I get, “Meet Our New Hires.” Meet our new hires? I’m sure that your new hires are very important to you and your team, but I just got introduced to your brand. I’m not sure I care that much. To me, you’re all new hires. You might as well be, right? I don’t know you or the team yet.
“Best Summer Ever Event,” okay, maybe, maybe an event. “Edible Backyard Gardens, you know, I don’t have a backyard. I was signing up for a houseplant newsletter because it was in my house. “See Us at the Garden Show,” I don’t want to go to the garden show. I was going to buy from you. That’s why I’m online.
How to cause brand fatigue
It’s not just the value of the messaging. It’s the frequency that it happens at. You’ve seen this. I’m on an email list that I signed up for, I think it’s called FounderDating. It’s here in Seattle. I think it’s in San Francisco. I thought it was a really cool idea when I signed up for it. Then I have just been inundated with messages from them. I think some of them are actually worthy of my participation, like I should have gone to the forum. I should have replied. I should have checked out what this particular person wanted. But I get so much email from them that I’ve just begun to hit Delete as soon as I get it.
We’ve actually had this problem at Moz too. If you’re a Moz subscriber, you probably get a new email every time a new crawl is completed, and a campaign is set up, and you have new rankings data. Some of that’s really important, right? Like if you’re paying attention to this particular site’s rankings and you want to see every time you get an update, well yeah, you need that email. But it’s actually kind of tough to opt in to which ones you want and with what frequency and control it all from one place.
We have found that our email open rates, engagement rates have actually drifted way, way down over time because, probably, we’ve inundated you with so much email. This is a big mistake that Moz has made in our email marketing, but a lot of brands make it in tons of places. So I want to help you avoid that.
1) Too many messages on a medium
Brand fatigue happens when there are too many messages, just too many raw messages on a medium. You start to see the same brand, the same name, the same person again and again. Their logo, their colors, the association you have, it just becomes background noise. Your brain goes into this mode where it just filters it out because it can’t handle the volume of stuff that’s coming through. It needs a filtration mechanism. So it starts to identify and associate your brand or your logo or your name or a person’s name with “filter.” Filter that out. That goes in the background.
2) Value provided is too low or infrequent to deserve attention
It also happens when the value provided is too low or too infrequent to deserve attention. So this might be what I’m talking about with FounderDating. One out of every maybe five or six messages, I’m like, “Oh yeah, that was interesting. I should pay attention to that.” But when it becomes too infrequent, that same filtration happens.
Too few of the high value messages means you’re not going to pay attention, you’re not going to engage with that brand, with that company anymore. All of us marketers will see that in the engagement rates. No matter the medium, we can look at our numbers and see that those are going down on a percentile basis, and that gets really frustrating.
3) The messaging can’t be effectively tuned or controlled by the user
So this is the problem that Moz is having where we don’t have that one email control center where you say how often you want exactly which messages updating you of which notifications about which campaigns, and newsletter and da, da, da. So your message frequency is either all the time high or very high and so you’re, “I don’t like any of those options.”
How NOT to cause brand fatigue
Now, I do have some solutions and suggestions. But it’s platform by platform.
Start very conservative with your email marketing and highly personal. In fact, I would actually recommend personally sending all the messages out to your first few hundred users if you possibly can, because you will get a great rapport that you develop individually with person by person. That will give you a sense for what your audiences like and what kind of messaging they prefer, and they’ll know they can reply directly to you.
You’ll create that highly-engaged experience through email that will mean that, as you scale, you have the experience from the past to tell you how often you can and can’t email people, what they care about and don’t, what they filter and don’t, what they’re looking for from you, etc. You can then watch your open, unsubscribe and engagement rates through your email program. No matter what program you might be using, you can almost always see these.
Then you can watch for, “Oh, we had a spike.” That spike is a good thing. That means that people were highly engaged on this email. Let’s figure out what resonated there. Let’s go talk to folks. Let’s reach out to the people who engaged with it and just say, “Hey, why did you love this? What did you love about it? What can we do to give you more value like this?”
Or you watch for dips. Then you can say, “Oh man, the last three email newsletters that we’ve sent out, we’ve seen successive declines in engagement and open rates, and we’ve seen a rise in unsubscribe rates. We’re doing something wrong. What’s going on? What’s the root cause? Is it who we’re acquiring? Is it new people that signed up, or is it old-timers who are getting frustrated with the new stuff we’re sending out? Does this fit with our strategy? What can we fix?”
Be careful. The thing that sucks about brand fatigue is a lot of platforms, email included, have systems, algorithmic systems set up to penalize you for this. With email, if you get high unsubscribes and low engagement, that will actually kill your long-term chances for email marketing success, because Gmail and Yahoo Mail and Microsoft’s various mail programs and whatever installed mail your targets might have, whatever they’re using, you will no longer be able to break through those email filters.
The email filter that Gmail has says, “Hey, a lot of people click Unsubscribe and Report Spam. Let’s put this in the Promotions tab.” Or, “Hey, a lot of people are clicking Report Spam. You know what? Let’s just block this sender entirely.” Or, “Gosh, this person has in the past not engaged very much with these messages. We’re going to not make them high priority anymore.” Gmail has that automatic high priority system. So you’re getting algorithmically turned into noise even if you might have had something that your customers really cared about.
Blog or other content platform
This is a really interesting one. I would strongly urge you to read Trevor Klein from Moz’s blog post about the experiment that we and HubSpot did around how much content to produce and whether lowering content or increasing content had positive effects. There are some fascinating results from that study.
But the valuable thing to me in that is if you don’t test, you’ll never know. You’ll never know the limits of what your audience wants, what will frustrate them, what will delight them. I recommend you don’t create content unless you can have a great answer for the question, “Who will help amplify this and why?” I don’t mean, like, “Oh, well I think people who really like houseplants will help amplify this.” That’s not a great answer.
A great answer is, “Oh, you know, I know this guy named Jerry. Jerry runs a Twitter account that’s all about gardening. Jerry loves our houseplants. He’s a big fan of this. He’s particularly interested in flowering cacti. I know if we publish this post, Jerry will help amplify it.” That’s a great answer. You have 10 Jerrys, great. Hit Publish. Go for it. You don’t? Why are you making it?
Watch your browse rate, your conversion rate, and conversion rate…. I don’t mean necessarily all the way to whatever you’re selling, your ecommerce store products or your subscription or whatever that is. Conversion rate could be conversion rate to an email newsletter or to following you on a social platform or whatever.
You can watch time on site and amplification per post to essentially get a sense for like, “Hey, as we’re producing content, are we seeing the metrics that would indicate that our content marketing is being successful?” If the answer to that is no, well we need to retool it. It turns out there’s actually no prize for hitting Publish.
You might think that your job as a content producer or a content marketer is to make content every day or content every week. That’s not your job. Your job is to have success with the metrics that are going to predict and correlate to the strategies you need as a business to acquire customers, to grow your marketing channels, to grow your brand’s impact, to help people, whatever it is that your mission is.
I highly recommend finding your audiences’ sweet spot for both focus and frequency. If you do those things, you’re going to do a great job with avoiding brand fatigue around your content.
Twitter, Facebook, and other social media
Last one is social. I’ll talk specifically about Twitter and Facebook, because most things can be classified in there, even things like Instagram and LinkedIn and the fading, sadly, Google+ and those sorts of things.
Twitter, generally speaking, more forgiving as a platform. Facebook has more of those algorithmic elements to punish you for low engagement.
So, for example, I’ve had this happen on my personal Facebook page where I’ve published a few things that people just didn’t really find interesting. This is on my Rand Fishkin Facebook page, different from the Moz one. It turns out that that meant that it was much harder for me next time, even with content that people were very engaged around, to reach them.
Facebook essentially had pushed in. They were like, “You know what? That’s three or four posts in a row from Rand Fishkin that people did not like, didn’t engage with. The next one we’re going to set the bar much higher for him to have to climb back up before we decide, ‘Hey, we’ll show that to more and more people.'”
Lately I’ve been having more success getting a higher percentage of my audience into the impression count of people who are actually seeing my posts on Facebook by getting better engagement there. But that’s a very challenging platform.
Users of both, however, are pretty sensitive, nearly equally sensitive. It’s not like Facebook users are more sensitive. It’s just that Facebook’s platform is more sensitive because Facebook doesn’t show you all the content you could possibly see.
Twitter is just a super simplistic newsfeed algorithm. It’s just, who posted last. So Twitter has that real time kind of thing. So I would still say for both of these, aim to only share stuff that gets high engagement, especially as your brand.
Personal account, do whatever you want, test whatever you want. But as your brand’s account, you want that high engagement over and over again because that will predict more people paying attention to you when you do post, going back and looking through your old social posts, subscribing to you, following you, all that sort of thing, considering you a leader.
You can watch both Twitter Analytics and your Facebook page’s stats to see if you’re having a dip or a spike, where you’re having success, where you’re not.
I actually love using Twitter and a little bit LinkedIn or Google+ to see what gets very high engagement and then I know, “Okay, I should re-share that on Twitter because my audience on Twitter is very temporal.” Two hours from now it’s going to be less than 1% overlap between who sees a Twitter post now and who sees a Twitter post 2 hours from now, and that’s a great test bed for Facebook as well.
So if I see something doing extremely well on Twitter or on Google+ or on LinkedIn, I go, “Aha, that’s the kind of thing I should post on Facebook. That will increase my engagement there. Now I can go post and get more engagement next time and build up my authority in Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm.
So with all of this stuff, hopefully, as you’re producing content, sharing content, building an email subscription, building a blog platform, you’re going to have a little less brand fatigue and a little more engagement from your users.
I look forward to chatting with you all in the comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.
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We’re excited to announce the results of Moz’s biannual Search Engine Ranking Correlation Study and Expert Survey, a.k.a. Ranking Factors.
Moz’s Ranking Factors study helps identify which attributes of pages and sites have the strongest association with ranking highly in Google. The study consists of two parts: a survey of professional SEOs and a large correlation study.
This year, with the help of Moz’s data scientist Dr. Matt Peters, new data partners, and over 150 search marketing professionals, we were able to study more data points than in any year past. All together, we measured over 170 correlations and collected over 15,000 data points from our panel of SEO experts.
We want to especially thank our data partners. SimilarWeb, Ahrefs, and DomainTools each gave us unparallelled access and their data was essential to helping make this study a success. It’s amazing and wonderful when different companies—even competitors—can come together for the advancement of knowledge.
You can see all of our findings within the study now. In the coming days and weeks we’ll dive into deeper analysis as to what we can learn from these correlations.
Search Engine Ranking Correlation Study
Moz’s Ranking Correlation Study measures which attributes of pages and websites are associated with higher rankings in Google’s search results. This means we look at characteristics such as:
Page load speed
…and over 170 other attributes
To be clear, the study doesn’t tell us if Google actually uses these attributes in its core ranking algorithm. Instead, it shows which features of pages and sites are most associated with higher rankings. It’s a fine, but important, distinction.
While correlation studies can’t prove or disprove which attributes Google considers in its algorithm, it does provide valuable hints. In fact, many would argue that correlation studies are even more important than causation when working with today’s increasingly complex algorithms.
The features in the chart below describe link metrics to the individual ranking page (such as number of links, PageRank, etc.) and their correlation to higher rankings in Google.
Despite rumors to the contrary, links continue to show one of the strongest associations with higher rankings out of all the features we studied. While this doesn’t prove how Google uses links in its algorithm, this information combined with statements from Google and the observations of many professional marketers leads us to strongly believe that links remain hugely important for SEO.
We continue to see lower correlations between on-page keyword use and rankings. This could likely be because Google is smarter about what pages mean (through related keywords, synonyms, close variants, and entities) without relying on exact keyword phrases. We believe matching user intent is of the utmost importance.
While page length, hreflang use, and total number of links all show moderate association with Google rankings, we found that using HTTPS has a very low positive correlation. This could indicate it’s the “tie-breaker” Google claims. Negatively associated factors include server response time and the total length of the URL.
Despite rumors to the contrary, the data continues to show some of the highest correlations between Google rankings and the number of links to a given page.
While there exists a decent correlation between exact-match domains (domains where the keyword matches the domain exactly, e.g. redwidgets.com) and rankings, this is likely due to the prominence of anchor text, keyword usage, and other signals, instead of an algorithmic bias in favor of these domains.
While not quite as strong as page-level link metrics, the overall links to a site’s root and subdomain showed a reasonably strong correlation to rankings. We believe links continue to play a prominent role in Google’s algorithm.
Always controversial, the number of social shares a page accumulates tends to show a positive correlation with rankings. Although there is strong reason to believe Google doesn’t use social share counts directly in its algorithm, there are many secondary SEO benefits to be gained through successful social sharing.
While correlation data can provide valuable insight into the workings of Google’s algorithm, we often learn much more by gathering the collective wisdom of search marketing experts working at the top of their game.
What ranking factors or correlations stand out to you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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