We are also aware that this is a critical sales period for many of our customers.
You guys are busy too, and will depend on dotdigital to drive traffic and sales through your online stores. Any problems on the big day are bad for us and bad for you.
Last year we saw a 150% increase in email sends compared with a typical day; that’s a significant increase in usage! Here’s a little detail on the steps we take to prepare our platform.
Global infrastructure carrying your Black Friday campaigns all the way
We have three instances of dotdigital Engagement Cloud running from:
All three offer the same functionality, but are resourced differently to cater for varying customer numbers in each region. This means we’re running our Black Friday prep three times over.
We are expecting increases of 50% compared to last year’s Black Friday messaging volumes, and have prepared our infrastructure ready for just that!
Each region consists of several databases which hold your data. These are surrounded by 75 different applications which combined make Engagement Cloud. Some of these applications are public facing and power your account portal, our API, the email tracking site, and more.
We focus on the public endpoints first as this is where increased traffic is received. Typically, each application is powered by its own set of servers. To increase capacity, we use our cloud provider to add additional servers or increase the compute power of the existing set. Doing so means we can safely receive the large spike in tracking data we’ll see on the day. Last year we collected data at over 500 events per second!
Next, we focus on the server clusters which power background services for sends and reporting. These applications typically fetch work from queues and aren’t in danger of becoming swamped with external requests to a point that they cannot function.
However, if we’re not careful, task latency can increase and your sends won’t complete in a timely manner. Again, additional compute capacity is added to stay on top of queued tasks – we’re expecting to send around 500k emails a minute at peak times! Plus, of course the more orders you make the more data we need to ingest. Last year we received nearly 250,000 of your orders on Black Friday, that’s roughly four times the volume of a regular day.
Send with confidence this Black Friday
As always, our service operations and development teams will be keeping a keen eye on platform metrics throughout the day. We’ll be ensuring things run smoothly whilst also looking for future bottlenecks and optimizations. Planning for an even larger Black Friday in 2020 starts this Friday!
Like the early morning commute, battling crowds in the inbox can prove futile. Remember that Black Friday is, more so than on any other day, a numbers game. What’s the likelihood that this customer is going to open – let alone see – my email over my competitor’s? Our advice is to hold tight as the chaos ensues and wait for the right moment to pounce: your chances of getting noticed will increase from noon onward.
2. Find your hook
Maybe it’s a hidden discount or limited product range? Play on human curiosity so that subscribers can’t resist clicking through to discover your mystery offer. Think specific and unique. If your store stocks something artisan or handcrafted, drive the exclusivity factor. There’s no better incentive that prompts people to buy than something special.
3. Create a referral campaign
Referrals are one of the most trusted forms of advertising because people value the experiences of others. It stems from the theory of collective opinion: the psychological circumstance in which we reference the behaviors of others to guide our own decision-making (i.e. a purchase). Referred customers can be a great driver of brand loyalty and deliver even greater ROI than other customers. For your refer-a-friend program to go viral, make it irresistible and time-sensitive.
4. Make it fun – de-stress the experience
Who doesn’t like a party? Cue the music, snacks, and drinks for some festive fun! Physical stores that don’t embrace the festivities are lackluster places which won’t cut the mustard on Black Friday. Email your subscribers and make some noise on social media to get the word out.
5. Give back
Ethical marketing may be a competitive advantage in business, but that shouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s about doing something decent. Think humanity over profit. Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia hit the nail on the head back in 2016: The brand donated 100% of its Black Friday sales to grassroots organizations working to create positive change for the planet in their own backyards. If that doesn’t scream ethical brand, then who knows what does.
Maximize the amount customers are willing to spend on Black Friday. Group complementary products – items that go well together. Use ‘complete the set’ or ‘complete the look’ as a CTA. Do this on your website, over email, and on social. It’s a sure-fire way to upsell and increase AOV on Black Friday.
7. Reward your social media fans
Grab your share of today’s growing social media engagement. Social is a viral platform perfect for sharing consecutive special discounts and exclusive content during the Black Friday period. Oh, and don’t forget to hashtag. #BlackFriday
8. Offer specific exclusive discounts
Making your offer as specific and exclusive as possible will differentiate your brand from the pack. The frustrating thing about Black Friday for marketers is that brands are practicing the same tactics, which means it’s even harder to get heard. So maybe offer 35% off selected products or 25% off everything for email subscribers only.
9. Provide members-only discounts
Exclusivity goes a long way on Black Friday. Sure, you’ll be running campaigns across your entire database, but don’t forget to target different groups with different offers. If you’re part of an exclusive group, like a membership or subscription, you’d expect something special during the holidays. So, don’t disappoint. Amazon is a great example: this brand offers special money-off discounts to Prime Members.
10. Offer an incentive to spend more
Sounds crazy since you’re already offering bargains left, right, and center. But adding a small incentive to boost spend at the check-out can increase AOV across the board. Free shipping and next-day delivery (on orders over a certain amount) are great ways to tempt customers to add on some extra items at the checkout.
11. Make your offers time-sensitive to drive urgency
Everything in the run-up to Black Friday is for a limited time only, but there’s always a way to spice things up. Use an hourglass GIF to emphasize your promotion’s time limit in email. If you’re really data-savvy, you could even use advanced personalization to trigger an individual countdown that activates on email open.
12. Rescue abandoned carts
82% of carts were abandoned online on Black Friday 2018 in the U.S. (Barilliance). So, if you’re not already triggering cart recovery emails, then you’re leaving serious money on the table! Cost-effective and easy to implement, this program runs like clockwork to recoup lost revenue.
13. Extend the season
Extend beyond Black Friday to encompass Cyber Monday and further. Why not prolong your campaigns to acquire new customers throughout the whole week after Cyber Monday? You’ll be able to reach people faster and easier. And don’t forget the people that avoid Black Friday, who you can target once all the chaos has died down.
14. Stay open late
There are only 24 hours in a day. Milk it.
15. Go the extra mile
Do something that puts a smile on customers’ faces. For example, as Cyber Monday draws to a close, send your subscribers a voucher that they can claim then and there, but redeem whenever they want to. No urgency, and no strings attached.
You made it!
A huge ‘well done!’ if you actually read through all 37 tips across the three Black Friday marketing hacks blogs. You’re taking your holiday marketing seriously, and so you should be – there’s a hefty amount of revenue at stake. So why not adopt some new ideas that can make a real difference to your results? And remember, if you need help with campaign planning, program builds, or creative work, the dotdigital team is always on hand to lend a hand.
1. Trigger Black Friday messages based on email activity
Email activity is never more insightful than over the Black Friday period. Create triggers that are based on a set of behavioral rules, whereby subscribers are pooled into certain groups. For instance, if email openers don’t redeem their special offer within 24 hours, they get a triggered daily reminder until the sale ends. Likewise, for every email that goes unopened, unengaged subscribers get three different follow-up emails, each with a different variation of the subject line.
2. Send a sneak-peek email 10 days before Black Friday
A peek-reveal before the big deals kick off can spur excitement in the inbox. Building the hype is a tried and tested way of getting subscribers on side before your communications start ramping up. Your brand will be fresh in their minds as they eagerly anticipate your unmissable bargains.
3. Generate a buzz through a flash sale
The run-up to Black Friday is all about seasonal hype. Drum up excitement with a series of festive flash sales in advance of your Black Friday-weekend bargains. You won’t be the only one to adopt this tactic; so why not offer different promotions every hour on the hour? It’s a creative way to stand out from the sales-heavy crowd.
4. Create gift guides for giving
Black Friday is about both consumer self-indulgence and giving gifts. The true spirit of the holiday season is in the gift giving. That can mean that those visiting your website might not fall into your typical target audience, but are shopping for friends and family who do. So, like your standard wish list, create a gift list for these people. The list could filter items based on interest, tastes, product attributes, etc. It might also be handy to present feature collections: 10 gifts for everyone on your list or best gifts for women, men, and kids; dads, mums, daughters, and nephews, etc.
5. Make sure your design is top-notch
Conversion starts with beautiful design. Black Friday is about the best product for the best price; but design captures the user’s attention and interest for your offering over a similar alternative. Enchanting bargain hunters with design is the best way to stop them in their tracks and divert them to your website. Black Friday is about getting as many eyes on your brand as possible.
6. Don’t annoy your champions during the Black Friday run
Don’t bore brand advocates with off-price products when you had them on side to begin with. Take them down a different path. Black Friday is a great opportunity to graduate promising customers into this lucrative persona group. For customers already there, don’t solely target them with seasonal sale messages, but keep up your leading content too.
7. Always extend the Black Friday campaign
Amplify your campaign across all channels and keep the messaging consistent. The timings of your Black Friday deals can be sensitive, so it’s important that all online and offline touchpoints are coordinated. You don’t want to upset customers by showing them a promotion on social that’s unavailable on your website or in store.
8. Include countdown clocks – they work!
This is a must-do. Nothing spurs more urgency than a countdown timer. The deals and offers are raining in, but you can do something to weather the storm. Show your customers exactly when your offer is going to end. Add your countdown clock on a banner; it should be super-obvious, so ensure it’s above the fold.
9. Don’t drift from your brand’s authentic voice
Don’t jump on the Black Friday bandwagon if it’s going to undermine your brand’s authentic voice. It could have serious consequences in the long run. Not every business is a discount brand, and, despite your amazing offers, you should never abuse your customers’ financial and mental wellbeing. Your reputation is on the line, so be cautious.
10. Put customers first
This rule applies all year round, but can be easy to forget around Black Friday. Basically, make it about the customer and not the offer. Sounds hard, right? Not at all. Simply laser-focus on the net benefit to the customer, then complement with the right products and discounts. For example: ‘Relax this December: Nail your holiday shopping NOW with 50% off all homeware.’
11. Include clever product recommendations
Layer personalized product recommendations onto your already compelling deals. Customers won’t be able to resist the relevancy factor. Use past browsing or buying behavior to populate the right recommendations – maybe a lookalike cross-sell based on similar product attributes. You could even surface items that similar customers went on to purchase next. Bosh!
12. Enrol new customers onto a welcome program
Black Friday is a pivotal period for customer acquisition. Brands tied up with their holiday campaigns can easily omit important communications that keep new customers engaged, i.e. the welcome program. Tone down your bargain bombardment and give new customers some respite; let them know who you are, what you’re about, and ask them for preferences so you can pepper your messages with relevant content.
13. Capture customer data during the Black Friday weekend
Gate your deals to unlock layers of customer data that can enrich your profiles, enabling you to hyper-personalize messages and nurture customers into different persona groups. Using data-capture tools, collect everything from email address and mobile number to communication preferences and message frequency. An exchange of data is a big deal to consumers, so make the offer worth their while and your consent criteria crystal clear.
Over the course of four weeks we’ll be revealing a selection of our 37 brilliant Black Friday marketing hacks. Watch out every Friday until Black Friday for smart tactics you can start using now, or download the full cheatsheet here.
1. Build a year-long Black Friday landing page
Put your SEO hat on! Shoppers will start searching online for their purchases weeks before the Thanksgiving weekend. Did you know that search interest in Black Friday has grown 242% over the last five years according to Google Trends? If you have a high-ranking page, you’ll get seen before the competition. Having a consistent Black Friday landing page all year round creates an impressive and unswerving page ranking result on Google. You know it makes sense!
2. Build anticipation early
The window of opportunity to vie for your target customers’ attention is small. Plus, you’re competing with other brands to get in first. Ramp up your mailing list and social followers in early Fall to maximize the number of consumers you’re able to reach in November. Start sending promotional emails to build the hype early in the weeks before Thanksgiving.
Know your loyal customers from your infrequent shoppers, and understand who spends how much and on what. Every customer has different needs and wants. Use RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value) to filter contacts into segments and deliver a more fitting message. You wouldn’t want to offer 50% off to a customer who typically spends $400 per order.
5. Make subject lines catchy AF
Black Friday is the time to nail the almighty subject line. Expect an unopened email if your subject line is rubbish: your campaign’s success is at stake. Either spur curiosity or iterate the benefits: i.e. ‘The deals you’ve been waiting for inside’ or ‘STARTS NOW: 50% off Black Friday sale + free shipping’. Plus, don’t forget to test and optimize!
6. Put emphasis on the CTA
Calls to action should always be placed above the fold. Don’t hit send if it’s not clear what action the recipient should take. The inverted pyramid method works best; it grabs attention, builds the anticipation, and draws the reader in.
7. Send a ‘save the date’
Save the dates are a great way to get subscribers to block out key events in their diary. Include a CTA in your promotional email campaigns that allow subscribers to save the date in their calendar, so their mobiles will remind them of your deals.
8. Timing is everything
If you’re a global company, don’t forget to schedule your sends by time zone to avoid your customers’ bafflement. You don’t want to send a 60-minute countdown timer to Australia in the middle of the night, or a morning flash sale to the Pacific West Coast after midday.
9. Use web behavior
While your promotional campaigns are hitting the inbox like a well-oiled machine, make sure your behavioral triggers are running like clockwork in the background. Send timely nudges to anyone who abandons their browse and re-target users who quit their search across Google and social channels.
The last email deliverability blog I wrote was about how communicating to everyone in your lists needs to be done strategically, and that email may not be the best path. One of the seasons where senders feel pressure to expand their email audience is fast approaching.
Sometimes that pressure focuses on legal arguments.
To re-iterate from last time: Making sure that what you are sending and to whom is legal, is something I cannot advise on. Most often, when having a conversation on email deliverability, and specifically when I’m giving advice on who to send to, I get the response: ” but it’s legal”.
Please leave the legal conversation for the lawyers. For me – and this may seem harsh – I don’t care. The legal argument is just that – an argument. And it misses the point and moves the whole focus away from what the conversation should really be about.
Email deliverability: Wanted vs. unwanted
The focus of the conversation should be on: do the recipients of the emails you’re sending want to receive those emails?
Consent and setting expectations are both key to having a successful, revenue-generating email program. As we come up to the busy holiday period, it’s easy to let the pressures that come with it change this key part of the message. But there are no exceptions because of timing.
Mailbox providers have a job to do: to make sure that the emails being sent to recipients are wanted. They measure whether or not an email is wanted through many different indicators. Some of those include:
when recipients mark a message as spam
sending to an email address that’s being used to identify senders collecting email addresses without consent or continued consent (a.k.a ‘spam trap’)
sending to recipients that no longer exist at that mailbox provider
Once you reach one or more of those thresholds, mailbox providers (such as Gmail and Yahoo) can see clearly that you’re sending emails that their users – the owners of the email addresses you’re sending to – do not want.
Re-focus on email deliverability
If your biggest argument for sending an email is, “oh, but it’s legal”, then you need to re-focus. Because you run the risk of alienating people who actually do want to hear from you. These are the contacts that drive revenue or any other intended outcome of your email program.
Build a robust sending plan
Building back your reputation is hard; it’s better to build your sending plan for the busy upcoming holidays. Here are some email deliverability tips:
Use past years’ data to understand how your recipients interact with your emails. Look at the demographics of your recipient base and what they want to know.
Continue to respect recipients that have shown they are not interested. Consider carefully before sending to inactive contacts who may still be opted in. Whatever value you might get from sending a campaign like that is not worth the risk to your email deliverability. Find the data point where revenue drops. At what age of inactivity does the lack of revenue make sending to that data set irrelevant? Remember, the answer to this question will be different for each sender.
If there is consent and data to show a larger audience wants to hear about your Black Friday deals, then plan any volume increases accordingly – slowly build to the volumes where you need to be.
Who should I be sending to?
Want more advice on email deliverability during the busy festive period? Get in touch with your account manager to set up a consultation.
It’s, therefore, safe to say that getting your Black Friday campaign right is essential.
Over the last ten years, we’ve seen a massive shift in Black Friday sales. Traditionally an in-store shopping extravaganza, Black Friday deals are now being scooped up by online shoppers, sparking a clicks vs. bricks war. A whopping $6.2bn was spent online in the US on Black Friday – up 23.6% in 2017.
Consumers are clearly shunning the stores in favor of a more accessible and stress-free way to bag the shopping day’s deals. This presents a tricky challenge to ecommerce brands; while high-street retailers are rewarded with limited rivalry, online stores are fighting in an arena where their voices can be silenced by the sheer size of the competition. Our November send volume is proof that consumers’ inboxes were groaning with messages from brands: 1.6 billion emails were sent from the platform, peaking over the Black Friday weekend.
Shopping day turned shopping week
An extended Black Friday shopping period – sometimes
referred to by retailers as the Black Tag or Cyber Week event – has been a
growing trend over the last couple of years. Have too many brands jumped on the
bandwagon and saturated the market, resulting in a lack of sales on the day
Michele Dupré from Verizon Enterprise Solutions thinks that
consumers now see Black Friday as a marathon and not a sprint: “Retailers need
to be prepared. Everything used to be built around Black Friday. Now, shopping
starts in early November and continues to December 24. Retailers must keep
consumers engaged throughout.”
And, on that very note, we thought it was about time we checked on some of the big brands to see how they made the most of their Black Friday campaigns.
Trends and findings
A prominent observation from our research was that retailers
see Black Friday as a weekend-long or even week-long event.
None of the brands we looked at restricted discounting to one day. 100% of retailers who participated in the occasion offered a sale for four days or more, however email promos and previews often spanned beyond that period. There were variations on the name of the shopping event, however, most were branded Black Friday, the Black Tag Event, or Cyber Week.
66% of retailers didn’t try and claw back the abandoned cart
Using email to combat cart abandonment was a proven tactic
that was missed by 56% of the brands in our 2018 Hitting the mark report. It
seems as though the retailers have still not realized the huge revenue
potential of cart recovery emails, with 66% of brands we looked at failing to follow
up on the lost sale.
Abandoned cart automations are easily set up and can often
deliver ROI in a matter of weeks, if not days. And with the global shopping
cart abandonment rate sitting at around 75.6%, we’re baffled as to why more
retailers aren’t utilizing this ROI-generating automation.
44% of brands didn’t use email effectively
14 of our sample of 32 retailers didn’t adopt email as a
method to market Black Friday deals, despite 22 of the brands participating in
the promotion. This surprised us considering email delivers the best ROI of all
the marketing channels, with average returns of $44 for every $1 spent.
However, as you’ll see from the next set of stats, there were many brands that had a heavy reliance on email when it came to amplifying shopping day sales.
Consumers received an average of 18 emails a day during the period
We received a total of 130 Black Friday-related emails that arrived before, during and in the final throes of the shopping event. That means over the week-long period, an average of 18 emails landed in our inbox every day.
What we found was that brands tended to use email to tease us with previews in the run-up to the event, then went hard on the day. For the remainder of the event, it was common to receive countdown reminders or category-specific product deals.
Black Friday still reigns in the US
Black Friday has swept its way across the world with
retailers in the UK, France and New Zealand jumping on board. But it seems that
US-based brands are still the ones who go the biggest on Black Friday.
We received a total of 95 emails from US brands, compared to just 27 from UK-based retailers. This isn’t totally surprising seeing as the Black Friday shopping period is tied to Thanksgiving and its origins as the United States’ start of the Christmas season. However, there were some American brands that were quite aggressive in their use of email. For example, Overstock sent us 18 emails over the week but it was Best Buy who smashed that number with a total of 26 emails over the seven-day event, averaging four emails a day.
Easy opportunities to boost sales are still being missed by
companies of all sizes in all sectors. We decided to home in on a few retailers
who performed highly, along with a couple which surprised us. From this, we
hope to inspire you to branch out and try something new for this years’ Black
Friday marketing campaign.
ASOS is a global fashion destination for 20-somethings, selling cutting-edge fashion and offering a wide variety of fashion-related content. The brand scooped the top spot in our 2017 Hitting the Mark report, collecting the highest number of points for email marketing compared to the other 99 retailers.
ASOS ranked above the rest for timeliness, its use of
automation and cross-channel promotion. But how did it fare on Black Friday?
The fashion retailer ran a site-wide 20% discount over the four-day period from Black Friday. It was widely promoted via email and as an appropriately themed homepage takeover. What we really liked was that despite offering 20% off all its products, ASOS targeted us with a gender-specific promo email that homed in on a category we’d shown an interest in previously.
After browsing the ASOS website, adding something to our
cart and abandoning the site, a few days passed but we received no cart
recovery message. The lack of an abandoned cart email surprised us as the
fashion retailer scored highly for this automation program in our previous study.
One recommendation would be to use the abandoned cart program as a last-ditch
attempt to bag the sale on the last day of the event.
John Lewis is a chain of upmarket department stores operating throughout the United Kingdom. In 2017’s Hitting the Mark, the retailer was crowned the King of Customer Experience, scoring 32 points from a possible 35.
For a well-respected brand like John Lewis, a shopping event
like Black Friday necessitates a careful balancing act of attracting custom yet
without cheapening its name. And no surprises, the department store did it in
The John Lewis homepage tastefully reflected its Black Friday campaign which complemented its existing design. What’s more, the retailer fought back the competition by advertising that it was price matching a close competitor’s promotion.
At the start of the event and on the final day, John Lewis
used on-brand responsive emails to promote its offer and link us off to the
various price-dropped product categories.
Finally, we were impressed to see that John Lewis followed up with after a well-designed abandoned cart email to encourage us to complete our purchase. The cart recovery program delivered the email the day after we’d placed the item in our basket. We especially liked John Lewis’s emphasis on free and easy returns if we weren’t happy with the product once it arrived.
The brand came 96 out of 100 in our main report – did it
improve its tactics for Black Friday?
In short, no. A year and a half on from joining the company’s mailing list – and a couple of months later buying a product – we still hadn’t received a marketing email. Timpson didn’t jump on the Black Friday bandwagon and this was evident from its homepage and website.
In the 2017 study, Timpson lost points for failing to send a
cart recovery email. We tried again for this Black Friday special, to no avail.
Ralph Lauren is a leader in the design, marketing, and distribution of premium apparel, homeware, accessories, and fragrances. In our 2017 report, the retailer performed quite poorly, coming in at 86 out of 100. However, we were pleasantly surprised by its efforts on Black Friday.
Understated Black Friday design appeared to be a theme for premium brands. Ralph Lauren named its event ‘Cyber Weekend Deals’ and the style of its website promotion was very much aligned with its typical brand colors.
Ralph Lauren used email to the max during its Black Friday campaign, first offering us exclusive early access to its deals and then catching us with a cart email after ‘forgetting’ to purchase our chosen item.
Notonthehighstreet.com is the leading curated modern marketplace, connecting the best small creative businesses with the world. The brand came up trumps in Hitting the Mark 2017, coming in at joint 11th place – and it didn’t disappoint in our Black Friday review!
We really liked Notonthehighstreet.com’s cute Black Friday homepage banner styled out as a handmade typographic tapestry. Like many other retailers we reviewed, its Black Friday event spanned beyond the day itself.
Notonthehighstreet.com made sure we knew about its Black Friday campaign with an email to wake up to. It was creative and eye-catching with a GIF taking center stage, along with light-hearted copy to encourage us to click.
The Notonthehighstreet.com abandoned cart email was equally original, with witty words and helpful touches in case we were having issues checking out. A perfectly executed Black Friday campaign.
Key takeaways for 2019
Once an in-store shopping day, Black Friday has successfully
merged with Cyber Monday to become one mammoth event.
Smartphones contribute more than $2bn of the $6.2bn from online sales, so mobile-readiness is essential. We witnessed some great examples of mobile-friendly emails, particularly from John Lewis and ASOS who used optimized templates, images, and copy, plus responsive content blocks.
Our advice for this years’ Black Friday campaign would be to focus on key customer segments using Engagement Cloud’s RFM personas. Using these, you’ll be able to differentiate your new customers from your inactive users and loyal shoppers, making it easier to take each segment on a personalized, automated journeys.
For many of us, Black Friday conjures up terrifying images of crushing crowds and fighting over TVs.
That’s why we’ve
put together the ultimate checklist to help you plan your Black Friday sales
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the biggest shopping days of the
year. Last year, Black Friday brought in $6.2
billion in online sales in the US. Still a relatively new event in the UK,
2018 online sales increased by nearly 8% Y-o-Y to
reach £1.49 billion. In Australia, interest in Black Friday has grown by 614% over the last five
years, with shoppers spending on average
AU$263 a day.
Despite this, the public’s appetite for Black Friday deals seems to be declining. With fewer people visiting stores and opting to surf for sales online instead, competition is getting fiercer.
Black Friday boredom?
might not be the right word. What we’re seeing is slow down. Where sale
increases had been in the double figures, we’re beginning to see that die down.
could be many reasons for this, but boredom is the most obvious explanation.
In the lead-up, shoppers’ inboxes are flooded with emails. Every single one of them shouting about not-to-be-missed deals and limited-time offers. They’ve heard and seen it all before.
are adapting. They’re preparing themselves and approaching Black Friday with
specific items in mind. 42% of shoppers know
what they want to purchase, and they’re wise enough to have a rough price
they’re buying depends on who they’re shopping for. 62% of shoppers are buying
for their families, while 45% are shopping for themselves.
customers may be going through the year, racking up a list of items they want
to get when the Black Friday sales start. So, if they’re going to be tactical
about it, it’s time you were too.
Get Black Friday ready
Experience matters. On an average day, 80% of customers are willing to pay more for an item, if a brand offers them superior service.
To create unforgettable engagements, planning is essential. Especially for the holiday season. We’ve put together a killer checklist, so you can be fully prepared and focus on delivering the experiences that drive sales.
to do today:
1.) Decide what you’re offering
When we think ‘Black Friday’ we think sales, discounts, and price drops, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Big-ticket items tend to be where shoppers are looking for deals. Laptops, TVs, and smartphones being the most popular options. But if these fall outside of your remit, why not try another tactic? If you have a loyalty scheme or use RFM segments, how about targeting loyal customers with exclusive content? That’s what sports brand Nike did. There are no rules around Black Friday, so try something different to stand out in the crowded inbox.
2.) Update your PPC plan
We’ve already mentioned…
…shoppers have items in mind when Black Friday starts. What they may not have chosen is where they’re going to get it. By updating and increasing your PPC budget for the holiday season, your chances of being discovered will improve.
3.) Improve website UX
Experience extends far beyond how you make the reader feel with an email. Your website’s ease of use can be the difference between a sale, and an abandoned cart. Leading up to the holiday season, you should carry out a full audit of your site. Options such as guest checkout and gift-wrapping can make a huge difference to customers.
4.) Establish timelines
The most successful ecommerce retailer over Black Friday weekend (no surprise) is Amazon. Why is this? Because they offer a full week worth of discounts. Kicking off at the beginning of the week, Amazon runs deals all the way from Monday to Cyber Monday. Again, this is a great way to stand out from the crowd, but it’s not the only way.
you want to build-up excitement and anticipation with a series of ramp-up
emails? Figure out what tactic you’re going to take and get planning. The further
in advance you can do this, the more time you’ll have to plan your design,
segments, content, and build your automation.
Also, don’t forget to be thinking about delivery. Can you fulfill a promise to deliver before Christmas? Are you going to need to outsource or hire more employees to manage your warehouse stock?
5.) Design your templates
Are you planning on refreshing your templates from last year, or looking for something a bit more bespoke to hook subscribers? Make sure you have them ready to go. Once they’re created so you can add them to your Black Friday automation programs.
It’s all important and now’s the time to get these details sorted. It’ll help ensure things go smoother as the big day approaches.
the countdown begin:
6.) Push new sign-ups
Popovers are a great way to encourage new visitors to sign-up for your email marketing. In the lead up to Black Friday, use these to grow your marketing lists. Hook them with exclusive access to pre-Black Friday sales or free delivery during the sales when they subscribe.
7.) Plan your content
Show shoppers clearly, and concisely, why they should shop with you. What are your USPs? Bring your brand’s personality to life and give a reason to choose you over your competitors. Make sure your offers are clear and easy to understand. If you’re offering a discount via code, make sure it stands out and is eye-catching, so it’s not missed by readers. If it’s a site-wide discount, make it obvious. Remember, subscribers will be receiving hundreds of these emails. They’ll be skimming your emails at best, so make sure you’re hooking them above-the-fold.
You also need to reflect this across your whole site. You don’t want missed deals to lead to negative feedback because they weren’t visible on your site. Your offers need to be easy to find across your homepage and all Black Friday campaign landing pages.
8.) Check your providers
Make sure your website hosts and email providers know about your upcoming campaign and expect the rise in traffic. Updates or changes to their software could cause massive problems if they go wrong. Luckily, the development team at dotdigital put a coding freeze on Engagement Cloud during the holiday season, to ensure your marketing runs as smoothly as possible.
This year, Black Friday falls on Friday 29 November and runs until Cyber Monday on Monday 2 December.
Follow this checklist, and you’ll be ready to take on the world this holiday season.
When it comes to Google’s algorithms, there’s quite a difference between how they treat local and organic. Get the scoop on which factors drive the local algorithm and how it works from local SEO extraordinaire, Joy Hawkins, as she offers a taste of her full talk from MozCon 2019.
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Hello, Moz fans. I’m Joy Hawkins. I run a local SEO agency from Toronto, Canada, and a search forum known as the Local Search Forum, which basically is devoted to anything related to local SEO or local search. Today I’m going to be talking to you about Google’s local algorithm and the three main factors that drive it.
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about when I say the local algorithm, this is the algorithm that fuels what we call the three-pack here. When you do a local search or a search that Google thinks has local intents, like plumbers let’s say, you traditionally will get three results at the top with the map, and then everything below it I refer to as organic. This algorithm I’ll be kind of breaking down is what fuels this three-pack, also known as Google My Business listings or Google Maps listings.
They’re all talking about the exact same thing. If you search Google’s Help Center on what they look at with ranking these entities, they tell you that there are three main things that fuel this algorithm. The three things that they talk about are proximity, prominence, and relevance. I’m going to basically be breaking down each one and explaining how the factors work.
I’ll kind of start here with proximity. Proximity is basically defined as your location when you are searching on your phone or your computer and you type something in. It’s where Google thinks you are located. If you’re not really sure, often you can scroll down to the bottom of your page, and at the bottom of your page it will often list a zip code that Google thinks you’re in.
Zip code (desktop)
The other way to tell is if you’re on a phone, sometimes you can also see a little blue dot on the map, which is exactly where Google thinks you’re located. On a high level, we often think that Google thinks we’re located in a city, but this is actually pretty false, which I know that there’s been actually a lot of talk at MozCon about how Google pretty much always knows a little deeper than that as far as where users are located.
Generally speaking, if you’re on a computer, they know what zip code you’re in, and they’ll list that at the bottom. There are a variety of tools that can help you check ranking based on zip codes, some of which would be Moz Check Your Presence Tool, BrightLocal, Whitespark, or Places Scout. All of these tools have the ability to track at the zip code level.
Geo coordinates (mobile)
However, when you’re on a phone, usually Google knows your location even more detailed, and they actually generally know the geo coordinates of your actual location, and they pinpoint this using that little blue dot.
It knows even more about the zip code. It knows where you’re actually located. It’s a bit creepy. But there are a couple of tools that will actually let you see results based on geo coordinates, which is really cool and very accurate. Those tools include the Local Falcon, and there is a Chrome extension which is 100% free, that you can put in your browser, called GS Location Changer.
I use this all the time in an incognito browser if I want to just see what search results look like from a very, very specific location. Now these two levels, depending on what industry you are working in, it’s really important to know which level you need to be looking at. If you work with lawyers, for example, zip code level is usually good enough.
There aren’t enough lawyers to make a huge difference at certain like little points inside a given zip code. However, if you work with dentists or restaurants, let’s say, you really need to be looking at geo coordinate levels. We have seen lots of cases where we will scan a specific keyword using these two tools, and depending on where in that zip code we are, we see completely different three-packs.
It’s very, very key to know that this factor here for proximity really influences the results that you see. This can be challenging, because when you’re trying to explain this to clients or business owners, they search from their home, and they’re like, “Why am I not there?” It’s because their proximity or their location is different than where their office is located.
I realize this is a challenging problem to solve for a lot of agencies on how to represent this, but that’s kind of the tools that you need to look at and use.
Moving to the next factor, so prominence, this is basically how important Google thinks you are. Like Is this business a big deal, or are they just some random, crappy business or a new business that we don’t know much about?
This looks at things like links, for example.
Store visits, if you are a brick-and-mortar business and you get no foot traffic, Google likely won’t think you’re very prominent.
Reviews, the number of reviews often factors in here. We often see in cases where businesses have a lot of reviews and a lot of old reviews, they generally have a lot of prominence.
Citations can also factor in here due to the number of citations. That can also factor into prominence.
Moving into the relevance factor, relevance is basically, does Google think you are related to the query that is typed in? You can be as prominent as anyone else, but if you do not have content on your page that is structured well, that covers the topic the user is searching about, your relevance will be very low, and you will run into issues.
It’s very important to know that these three things all kind of work together, and it’s really important to make sure you are looking at all three. On the relevance end, it looks at things like:
onsite SEO, so your title tags, your meta tags, all that nice SEO stuff
Citations also factor in here, because it looks at things like your address. Like are you actually in this city? Are you relevant to the city that the user is trying to get locations from?
Categories are huge here, your Google My Business categories. Google currently has just under 4,000 different Google My Business categories, and they add an insane amount every year and they also remove ones. It’s very important to keep on top of that and make sure that you have the correct categories on your listing or you won’t rank well.
The business name is unfortunately a huge factor as well in here. Merely having keywords in your business name can often give you relevance to rank. It shouldn’t, but it does.
Then review content. I know Mike Blumenthal did a really cool experiment on this a couple years ago, where he actually had a bunch of people write a bunch of fake reviews on Yelp mentioning certain terms to see if it would influence ranking on Google in the local results, and it did. Google is definitely looking at the content inside the reviews to see what words people are using so they can see how that impacts relevance.
How to rank without proximity, prominence, or relevance
Obviously you want all three of these things. It is possible to rank if you don’t have all three, and I’ll give a couple examples. If you’re looking to expand your radius, you service a lot of people.
You don’t just service people on your block. You’re like, “I serve the whole city of Chicago,” for example. You are not likely going to rank in all of Chicago for very common terms, things like dentist or personal injury attorney. However, if you have a lot of prominence and you have a really relevant page or content related to really niche terms, we often see that it is possible to really expand your radius for long tail keywords, which is great.
Prominence is probably the number one thing that will expand your radius inside competitive terms. We’ll often see Google bringing in a business that is slightly outside of the same area as other businesses, just because they have an astronomical number of reviews, or maybe their domain authority is ridiculously high and they have all these linking domains.
Those two factors are definitely what influences the amount of area you cover with your local exposure.
Spam and fake listings
On the flip side, spam is something I talk a lot about. Fake listings are a big problem in the local search space. Fake listings, these lead gen providers create these listings, and they rank with zero prominence.
They have no prominence. They have no citations. They have no authority. They often don’t even have websites, and they still rank because of these two factors. You create 100 listings in a city, you are going to be close to someone searching. Then if you stuff a bunch of keywords in your business name, you will have some relevance, and by somehow eliminating the prominence factor, they are able to get these listings to rank, which is very frustrating.
Obviously, Google is kind of trying to evolve this algorithm over time. We are hoping that maybe the prominence factor will increase over time to kind of eliminate that problem, but ultimately we’ll have to see what Google does. We also did a study recently to test to see which of these two factors kind of carries more weight.
An experiment: Linking to your site within GMB
One thing I’ve kind of highlighted here is when you link to a website inside your Google My Business listing, there’s often a debate. Should I link to my homepage, or should I link to my location page if I’ve got three or four or five offices? We did an experiment to see what happens when we switch a client’s Google My Business listing from their location page to their homepage, and we’ve pretty much almost always seen a positive impact by switching to the homepage, even if that homepage is not relevant at all.
In one example, we had a client that was in Houston, and they opened up a location in Dallas. Their homepage was optimized for Houston, but their location page was optimized for Dallas. I had a conversation with a couple of other SEOs, and they were like, “Oh, well, obviously link to the Dallas page on the Dallas listing. That makes perfect sense.”
But we were wondering what would happen if we linked to the homepage, which is optimized for Houston. We saw a lift in rankings and a lift in the number of search queries that this business showed for when we switched to the homepage, even though the homepage didn’t really mention Dallas at all. Something to think about. Make sure you’re always testing these different factors and chasing the right ones when you’re coming up with your local SEO strategy. Finally, something I’ll mention at the top here.
Local algorithm vs organic algorithm
As far as the local algorithm versus the organic algorithm, some of you might be thinking, okay, these things really look at the same factors. They really kind of, sort of work the same way. Honestly, if that is your thinking, I would really strongly recommend you change it. I’ll quote this. This is from a Moz whitepaper that they did recently, where they found that only 8% of local pack listings had their website also appearing in the organic search results below.
I feel like the overlap between these two is definitely shrinking, which is kind of why I’m a bit obsessed with figuring out how the local algorithm works to make sure that we can have clients successful in both spaces. Hopefully you learned something. If you have any questions, please hit me up in the comments. Thanks for listening.
If you liked this episode of Whiteboard Friday, you’ll love all the SEO thought leadership goodness you’ll get from our newly released MozCon 2019 video bundle. Catch Joy’s full talk on the differences between the local and organic algorithm, plus 26 additional future-focused topics from our top-notch speakers:
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Agencies, are you set up for ongoing Google Tag Manager success? GTM isn’t the easiest tool in the world to work with, but if you know how to use it, it can make your life much easier. Make your future self happier and more productive by setting up your GTM containers the right way today. Dana DiTomaso shares more tips and hints in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.
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Hi, Moz fans. My name is Dana DiTomaso. I am President and partner at Kick Point, which is a digital marketing agency based in Edmonton, Alberta. Today I’m going to be talking to you about Google Tag Manager and what your default container in Google Tag Manager should contain. I think if you’re in SEO, there are certainly a lot of things Google Tag Manager can do for you.
But if you’ve kind of said to yourself, “You know, Google Tag Manager is not the easiest thing to work with,” which is fair, it is not, and it used to be a lot worse, but the newer versions are pretty good, then you might have been a little intimidated by going in there and doing stuff. But I really recommend that you include these things by default because later you is going to be really happy that current you put this stuff in. So I’m going to go through what’s in Kick Point’s default Google Tag Manager container, and then hopefully you can take some of this and apply it to your own stuff.
Agencies, if you are watching, you are going to want to create a default container and use it again and again, trust me.
So we’re going to start with how this stuff is laid out. So what we have are tags and then triggers. The way that this works is the tag is sort of the thing that’s going to happen when a trigger occurs.
So tags that we have in our default container are the conversion linker, which is used to help conversions with Safari.
Then we need to track a number of events. You can certainly track these things as custom dimensions or custom metrics if that floats your boat. I mean that’s up to you. If you are familiar with using custom dimensions and custom metrics, then I assume you probably know how to do this. But if you’re just getting started with Tag Manager, just start with events and then you can roll your way up to being an expert after a while.
So under events, we always track external links, so anything that points out to a domain that isn’t yours.
The way that we track this is we’re looking at every single link that’s clicked and if it does not contain our client’s domain name, then we record it as an external link, and that’s an event that we record. Now remember, and I’ve seen accidents with this where someone doesn’t put in your client’s domain and then it tracks every single click to a different page on your client’s website as an external link. That’s bad.
When you transfer from HTTP to HTTPS, if you don’t update Google Tag Manager, it will start recording links incorrectly. Also bad. But what this is really useful for are things like when you link out to other websites, as you should when you’re writing articles, telling people to find out more information. Or you can track clicks out to your different social properties and see if people are actually clicking on that Facebook icon that you stuck in the header of your website.
The next thing to track are PDF downloads.
Now there’s a limitation to this, of course, in that if people google something and your PDF comes out and then they click on it directly from Google, of course that’s not going to show up in your Analytics. That can show up in Search Console, but you’re not going to get it in Analytics. So just keep that in mind. This is if someone clicks to your PDF from a specific page on your website. Again, you’re decorating the link to say if this link contains a PDF, then I want to have this.
Then we also track scroll tracking. Now scroll tracking is when people scroll down the site, you can track and fire an event at say 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of the way down the page. Now the thing is with this is that your mileage is going to vary. You will probably pick different percentages. By default, in all of our containers we put 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. Based on the client, we might change this.
An advanced, sort of level up tactic would be to pick specific elements and then when they enter the viewport, then you can fire an event. So let’s say, for example, you have a really important call to action and because different devices are different sizes, it’s going to be a different percentage of the way down the page when it shows up, but you want to see if people got to that main CTA. Then you would want to add an event that would show whether or not that CTA was shown in the viewport.
If you google Google Tag Manager and tracking things in the viewport, there are some great articles out there on how to do it. It’s not that difficult to set up.
Then also form submits. Of course, you’re going to want to customize this. But by default put form submits in your container, because I guarantee that when someone is making your container let’s say for a brand-new website, they will forget about tracking form submits unless you put it in your default container and they look at it and say, “Oh, right, I have to edit that.” So always put form submits in there.
Tel: & mailto: links
Of course you want to track telephone links and mailto: links. Telephone links should always, always be tappable, and that’s something that I see a lot of mistakes. Particularly in local SEO, when we’re dealing with really small business websites, they don’t make the telephone links tappable. It’s probably because people don’t know how. In case you don’t know how, you just telephone and then a colon and then the telephone number.
<a href="tel:+5555555555">(555) 555-5555</a>
That’s it. That’s all you need to do. Just like a link, except rather than going out to an HTTPS://, you’re going out to a telephone number. That is going to make your visitors’ lives so much easier, particularly on mobile devices. You always want to have those be tappable. So then you can track the number of people who tap on telephone links and people who tap on mailto: links exactly the same way. Now something that I do have to say, though, is that if you are using a call tracking provider, like CallRail for example, which is one that we use, then you’re going to want to shut this off, because then you could end up in double counting.
Particularly if you’re tracking every call made out from your website, then CallRail would have an Analytics integration, and then you would be tracking taps and you might also be tracking telephone clicks. So you can track it if you want to see how many people tap versus picking up the phone and calling the old-fashioned way with landlines. You can also do that, but that’s entirely up to you. But just keep that in mind if you are going to track telephone links.
All pages tracking
Then, of course, all pages tracking. Make sure you’re tracking all of the pages on your website through Google Analytics. So those are the tags.
Next up are the triggers. So I have a tag of external links. Then I need a trigger for external links. The trigger says when somebody clicks an external link, then I want this event to happen.
So the event is where you structure the category and then the action and the label.
The way that we would structure external links, for example, we would say that the category for it is an external link, the action is click, and then the label is the actual link that was clicked for example. You can see you can go through each of these and see where this is happening.
Then on things like form submit, for example, our label could be the specific form.
Tel: & mailto:
On telephone and mailto:, we might track the phone number.
On other things, like PDFs, we might track like the page that this happened on.
For scroll tracking, for example, we would want to track the page that someone scrolled down on. What I recommend when you’re setting up the event tracking for page scroll, the category should be page scroll, the action should be the percentage of which people scroll down, and then the label should be the URL.
Really think of it in terms of events, where you’ve got the category, which is what happened, the action, which is what did the person do, and the label is telling me more information about this. So actions are typically things like scroll, click, and tap if you’re going to be fancy and track mobile versus desktop. It could be things like form submit, for example, or just submit. Just really basic stuff. So really the two things that are going to tell you the difference are things like categories and labels, and the action is just the action that happened.
I’m really pedantic when it comes to setting up events, but I think in the long term, again, future you is going to thank you if you set this stuff up properly from the beginning. So you can really see that the tag goes to this trigger. Tag to trigger, tag to trigger, etc. So really think about making sure that every one of your tags has a corresponding trigger if it makes sense. So now we’re going to leave you with some tips on how to set up your Tag Manager account.
1. Use a Google Analytics ID variable
So the first tip is use a Google Analytics ID variable. It’s one of the built-in variables. When you go into Tag Manager and you click on Variables, it’s one of the built-in variables in there. I really recommend using that, because if you hardcode in the GA ID and something happens and you have to change it in the future or you copy that for someone else or whatever it might be, you’re going to forget.
I guarantee you you will forget. So you’re going to want to put that variable in there so you change it once and it’s everywhere. You’re saving yourself so much time and suffering. Just use a Google Analytics ID variable. If you have a really old container, maybe the variable wasn’t a thing when you first set it up. So one of the things I would recommend is go check and make sure you’re using a variable. If you’re not, then make a to-do for yourself to rip out all the hardcoded instances of your GA ID and instead replace it with a variable.
It will save you so much headaches.
2. Create a default container to import
So the next thing — agencies, this is for you — create a default container to import. Obviously, if you’re working in-house, you’re probably not making Google Tag Manager containers all that often, unless you work at say a homebuilder and you’re making microsites for every new home development. Then you might want to create a default container for yourself. But agency side for sure, you want have a default container that you make so every cool idea that you think of, you think, oh, we need to track this, just put it all in your default container, and then when you’re grabbing it to make one for a client, you can decide, oh, we don’t need this, or yes, we need this.
It’s going to save you a ton of time when you’re setting up containers, because I find that that’s the most labor-intensive part of working with a new Tag Manager container is thinking about, “What is all the stuff I want to include?” So you want to make sure that your default container has all your little tips and tricks that you’ve accumulated over the years in there and documented of course, and then decide on a client-by-client basis what you’re going to leave and what you’re going to keep.
3. Use a naming scheme and folders
Also use a naming scheme and folders, again because you may not be working there forever, and somebody in the future is going to want to look at this and think, “Why did they set it up like this? What does this word mean? Why is this variable called foo?” You know, things that have annoyed me about developers for years and years and years, developers I love you, but please stop naming things foo. It makes no sense to anyone other than you. So our naming scheme, and you can totally steal this if you want, is we go product, result, and then what.
So, for example, we would have our tag for Google Analytics page download. So it would say Google Analytics. This is the product that the thing is going to go to. Event is what is the result of this thing existing. Then what is the PDF download. Then it’s really clear, okay, I need to fix this thing with PDF download. Something is wrong.
It’s kind of weird. Now I know exactly where to go. Again, with folders as well, so let’s say you’ve implemented something such as content consumption, which is a Google Tag Manager recipe that you can grab on our website at Kickpoint.ca, and I’ll make sure to link to it in the transcript. Let’s say you grab that. Then you’re going to want to take all the different tags and triggers that come along with content consumption and toss that into its own folder and then separate it out from all of your basic stuff.
Even if you have everything to start in a folder called Basics or Events or Analytics versus Call Tracking versus any of the other billion different tracking pixels that you have on your website, it’s a good idea to just keep it all organized. I know it’s two minutes now. It is saving you a lifetime of suffering in the future, and the future you, whether it’s you working there or somebody who ends up taking your job five years from now, just make it easier on them.
Especially too, when you think back to say Google Analytics has been around for a long time now. When I go back and look at some of my very, very first analytics that I set up, I might look at it and think, “Why was I doing that?” But if you have documentation, at least you’re going to know why you did that really weird thing back in 2008. Or when you’re looking at this in 2029 and you’re thinking, “Why did I do this thing in 2019?” you’re going to have documentation for it. So just really keep that in mind.
4. Audit regularly!
Then the last thing is auditing regularly, and that means once every 3, 6, or 12 months. Pick a time period that makes sense for how often you’re going into the container. You go in and you take a look at every single tag, every single trigger, and every single variable. Simo Ahava has a really nice Google Tag Manager sort of auditing tool.
I’ll make sure to link to that in the transcript as well. You can use that to just go through your container and see what’s up. Let’s say you tested out some sort of screen recording, like you installed Hotjar six months ago and you ended up deciding on say another product instead, like FullStory, so then you want to make sure you remove the Hotjar. How many times have you found that you look at a new website and you’re like, “Why is this on here?”
No one at the client can tell you. They’re like, “I don’t know where that code came from.” So this is where auditing can be really handy, because remember, over time, each one of those funny little pixels that you tested out some product and then you ended up not going with it is weighing down your page and maybe it’s just a couple of microseconds, but that stuff adds up. So you really do want to go in and audit regularly and remove anything you’re not using anymore. Keep your Google Tag Manager container clean.
A lot of this is focused on obviously making future you very happy. Auditing will also make future you very happy. So hopefully, out of this, you can create a Google Tag Manager default container that’s going to work for you. I’m going to make sure as well, when the transcript is out for this, that I’m going to include some of the links that I talked about as well as a link to some more tips on how to add in things like conversion linker and make sure I’m updating it for when this video is published.
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Before doing any SEO work, it’s important to get a handle on your keyword research. Aside from helping to inform your strategy and structure your content, you’ll get to know the needs of your searchers, the search demand landscape of the SERPs, and what kind of competition you’re up against.
In the second part of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, the inimitable Rand Fishkin covers what you need to know about the keyword research process, from understanding its goals to building your own keyword universe map. Enjoy!
Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another portion of our special edition of Whiteboard Friday, the One-Hour Guide to SEO. This is Part II – Keyword Research. Hopefully you’ve already seen our SEO strategy session from last week. What we want to do in keyword research is talk about why keyword research is required. Why do I have to do this task prior to doing any SEO work?
The answer is fairly simple. If you don’t know which words and phrases people type into Google or YouTube or Amazon or Bing, whatever search engine you’re optimizing for, you’re not going to be able to know how to structure your content. You won’t be able to get into the searcher’s brain, into their head to imagine and empathize with them what they actually want from your content. You probably won’t do correct targeting, which will mean your competitors, who are doing keyword research, are choosing wise search phrases, wise words and terms and phrases that searchers are actually looking for, and you might be unfortunately optimizing for words and phrases that no one is actually looking for or not as many people are looking for or that are much more difficult than what you can actually rank for.
The goals of keyword research
So let’s talk about some of the big-picture goals of keyword research.
Understand the search demand landscape so you can craft more optimal SEO strategies
First off, we are trying to understand the search demand landscape so we can craft better SEO strategies. Let me just paint a picture for you.
I was helping a startup here in Seattle, Washington, a number of years ago — this was probably a couple of years ago — called Crowd Cow. Crowd Cow is an awesome company. They basically will deliver beef from small ranchers and small farms straight to your doorstep. I personally am a big fan of steak, and I don’t really love the quality of the stuff that I can get from the store. I don’t love the mass-produced sort of industry around beef. I think there are a lot of Americans who feel that way. So working with small ranchers directly, where they’re sending it straight from their farms, is kind of an awesome thing.
But when we looked at the SEO picture for Crowd Cow, for this company, what we saw was that there was more search demand for competitors of theirs, people like Omaha Steaks, which you might have heard of. There was more search demand for them than there was for “buy steak online,” “buy beef online,” and “buy rib eye online.” Even things like just “shop for steak” or “steak online,” these broad keyword phrases, the branded terms of their competition had more search demand than all of the specific keywords, the unbranded generic keywords put together.
That is a very different picture from a world like “soccer jerseys,” where I spent a little bit of keyword research time today looking, and basically the brand names in that field do not have nearly as much search volume as the generic terms for soccer jerseys and custom soccer jerseys and football clubs’ particular jerseys. Those generic terms have much more volume, which is a totally different kind of SEO that you’re doing. One is very, “Oh, we need to build our brand. We need to go out into this marketplace and create demand.” The other one is, “Hey, we need to serve existing demand already.”
So you’ve got to understand your search demand landscape so that you can present to your executive team and your marketing team or your client or whoever it is, hey, this is what the search demand landscape looks like, and here’s what we can actually do for you. Here’s how much demand there is. Here’s what we can serve today versus we need to grow our brand.
Create a list of terms and phrases that match your marketing goals and are achievable in rankings
The next goal of keyword research, we want to create a list of terms and phrases that we can then use to match our marketing goals and achieve rankings. We want to make sure that the rankings that we promise, the keywords that we say we’re going to try and rank for actually have real demand and we can actually optimize for them and potentially rank for them. Or in the case where that’s not true, they’re too difficult or they’re too hard to rank for. Or organic results don’t really show up in those types of searches, and we should go after paid or maps or images or videos or some other type of search result.
Prioritize keyword investments so you do the most important, high-ROI work first
We also want to prioritize those keyword investments so we’re doing the most important work, the highest ROI work in our SEO universe first. There’s no point spending hours and months going after a bunch of keywords that if we had just chosen these other ones, we could have achieved much better results in a shorter period of time.
Match keywords to pages on your site to find the gaps
Finally, we want to take all the keywords that matter to us and match them to the pages on our site. If we don’t have matches, we need to create that content. If we do have matches but they are suboptimal, not doing a great job of answering that searcher’s query, well, we need to do that work as well. If we have a page that matches but we haven’t done our keyword optimization, which we’ll talk a little bit more about in a future video, we’ve got to do that too.
Understand the different varieties of search results
So an important part of understanding how search engines work — we’re going to start down here and then we’ll come back up — is to have this understanding that when you perform a query on a mobile device or a desktop device, Google shows you a vast variety of results. Ten or fifteen years ago this was not the case. We searched 15 years ago for “soccer jerseys,” what did we get? Ten blue links. I think, unfortunately, in the minds of many search marketers and many people who are unfamiliar with SEO, they still think of it that way. How do I rank number one? The answer is, well, there are a lot of things “number one” can mean today, and we need to be careful about what we’re optimizing for.
So if I search for “soccer jersey,” I get these shopping results from Macy’s and soccer.com and all these other places. Google sort has this sliding box of sponsored shopping results. Then they’ve got advertisements below that, notated with this tiny green ad box. Then below that, there are couple of organic results, what we would call classic SEO, 10 blue links-style organic results. There are two of those. Then there’s a box of maps results that show me local soccer stores in my region, which is a totally different kind of optimization, local SEO. So you need to make sure that you understand and that you can convey that understanding to everyone on your team that these different kinds of results mean different types of SEO.
Now I’ve done some work recently over the last few years with a company called Jumpshot. They collect clickstream data from millions of browsers around the world and millions of browsers here in the United States. So they are able to provide some broad overview numbers collectively across the billions of searches that are performed on Google every day in the United States.
Click-through rates differ between mobile and desktop
The click-through rates look something like this. For mobile devices, on average, paid results get 8.7% of all clicks, organic results get about 40%, a little under 40% of all clicks, and zero-click searches, where a searcher performs a query but doesn’t click anything, Google essentially either answers the results in there or the searcher is so unhappy with the potential results that they don’t bother taking anything, that is 62%. So the vast majority of searches on mobile are no-click searches.
On desktop, it’s a very different story. It’s sort of inverted. So paid is 5.6%. I think people are a little savvier about which result they should be clicking on desktop. Organic is 65%, so much, much higher than mobile. Zero-click searches is 34%, so considerably lower.
There are a lot more clicks happening on a desktop device. That being said, right now we think it’s around 60–40, meaning 60% of queries on Google, at least, happen on mobile and 40% happen on desktop, somewhere in those ranges. It might be a little higher or a little lower.
The search demand curve
Another important and critical thing to understand about the keyword research universe and how we do keyword research is that there’s a sort of search demand curve. So for any given universe of keywords, there is essentially a small number, maybe a few to a few dozen keywords that have millions or hundreds of thousands of searches every month. Something like “soccer” or “Seattle Sounders,” those have tens or hundreds of thousands, even millions of searches every month in the United States.
But people searching for “Sounders FC away jersey customizable,” there are very, very few searches per month, but there are millions, even billions of keywords like this.
The long-tail: millions of keyword terms and phrases, low number of monthly searches
When Sundar Pichai, Google’s current CEO, was testifying before Congress just a few months ago, he told Congress that around 20% of all searches that Google receives each day they have never seen before. No one has ever performed them in the history of the search engines. I think maybe that number is closer to 18%. But that is just a remarkable sum, and it tells you about what we call the long tail of search demand, essentially tons and tons of keywords, millions or billions of keywords that are only searched for 1 time per month, 5 times per month, 10 times per month.
The chunky middle: thousands or tens of thousands of keywords with ~50–100 searches per month
If you want to get into this next layer, what we call the chunky middle in the SEO world, this is where there are thousands or tens of thousands of keywords potentially in your universe, but they only have between say 50 and a few hundred searches per month.
The fat head: a very few keywords with hundreds of thousands or millions of searches
Then this fat head has only a few keywords. There’s only one keyword like “soccer” or “soccer jersey,” which is actually probably more like the chunky middle, but it has hundreds of thousands or millions of searches. The fat head is higher competition and broader intent.
Searcher intent and keyword competition
What do I mean by broader intent? That means when someone performs a search for “soccer,” you don’t know what they’re looking for. The likelihood that they want a customizable soccer jersey right that moment is very, very small. They’re probably looking for something much broader, and it’s hard to know exactly their intent.
However, as you drift down into the chunky middle and into the long tail, where there are more keywords but fewer searches for each keyword, your competition gets much lower. There are fewer people trying to compete and rank for those, because they don’t know to optimize for them, and there’s more specific intent. “Customizable Sounders FC away jersey” is very clear. I know exactly what I want. I want to order a customizable jersey from the Seattle Sounders away, the particular colors that the away jersey has, and I want to be able to put my logo on there or my name on the back of it, what have you. So super specific intent.
Build a map of your own keyword universe
As a result, you need to figure out what the map of your universe looks like so that you can present that, and you need to be able to build a list that looks something like this. You should at the end of the keyword research process — we featured a screenshot from Moz’s Keyword Explorer, which is a tool that I really like to use and I find super helpful whenever I’m helping companies, even now that I have left Moz and been gone for a year, I still sort of use Keyword Explorer because the volume data is so good and it puts all the stuff together. However, there are two or three other tools that a lot of people like, one from Ahrefs, which I think also has the name Keyword Explorer, and one from SEMrush, which I like although some of the volume numbers, at least in the United States, are not as good as what I might hope for. There are a number of other tools that you could check out as well. A lot of people like Google Trends, which is totally free and interesting for some of that broad volume data.
So I might have terms like “soccer jersey,” “Sounders FC jersey”, and “custom soccer jersey Seattle Sounders.” Then I’ll have these columns:
Volume, because I want to know how many people search for it;
Difficulty, how hard will it be to rank. If it’s super difficult to rank and I have a brand-new website and I don’t have a lot of authority, well, maybe I should target some of these other ones first that are lower difficulty.
Organic Click-through Rate, just like we talked about back here, there are different levels of click-through rate, and the tools, at least Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool uses Jumpshot data on a per keyword basis to estimate what percent of people are going to click the organic results. Should you optimize for it? Well, if the click-through rate is only 60%, pretend that instead of 100 searches, this only has 60 or 60 available searches for your organic clicks. Ninety-five percent, though, great, awesome. All four of those monthly searches are available to you.
Business Value, how useful is this to your business?
Then set some type of priority to determine. So I might look at this list and say, “Hey, for my new soccer jersey website, this is the most important keyword. I want to go after “custom soccer jersey” for each team in the U.S., and then I’ll go after team jersey, and then I’ll go after “customizable away jerseys.” Then maybe I’ll go after “soccer jerseys,” because it’s just so competitive and so difficult to rank for. There’s a lot of volume, but the search intent is not as great. The business value to me is not as good, all those kinds of things.
Last, but not least, I want to know the types of searches that appear — organic, paid. Do images show up? Does shopping show up? Does video show up? Do maps results show up? If those other types of search results, like we talked about here, show up in there, I can do SEO to appear in those places too. That could yield, in certain keyword universes, a strategy that is very image centric or very video centric, which means I’ve got to do a lot of work on YouTube, or very map centric, which means I’ve got to do a lot of local SEO, or other kinds like this.
Once you build a keyword research list like this, you can begin the prioritization process and the true work of creating pages, mapping the pages you already have to the keywords that you’ve got, and optimizing in order to rank. We’ll talk about that in Part III next week. Take care.
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