Emoji Added to Title Tags for SEO Purposes

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emoji-expediaSo remember last week when Google added full color emoji characters to their search results?

Yeah, well travel portal Expedia has taken the new functionality a step further by adding emoji characters to their title tags in an apparent attempt to gain attention in the search results. Pretty clever, no?

For some reason, the emoji aren’t displaying in the Google.com results showing from NZ, so it may be that only some data-centers have the feature supported right now, but you can see an example in the image above and others via the previous link.

It would be fascinating to know if the move has increased click-through and by what percentage. I would imagine it would be having some positive effect, similar to the impact author photos had in search results for articles and blog posts using the now defunct Google Authorship tag (yeah, thanks for pulling that one Google).

The question now is: how long before I get asked by a client to add emoji to their title tags and how much can I justify charging for adding smilies to HTML code? And more importantly, how long before Google pull the pin on support for emoji in title tags after millions of SEOs start copying Expedia?

Only time will tell.

POSTSCRIPT: In a Google Webmaster Hangout today, John Mueller confirmed that it is likely Google will pull support for emoji in search results in the next few months. Thanks to Jennifer Slegg for the heads up.

 

 

May 4th 2015 Google, News, SEO

Facebook Tweaks Cause Concern Among Marketers, but Not Necessarily Panic

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Facebook today unveiled changes to the way its news feed algorithm distributes page posts, giving more credence to posts by users' friends than from publishers. For instance, news articles with many likes and comments have typically appeared high up in users' news feeds, but that is being reduced to a degree in favor of non-business content. 

While the ramifications are unclear, it has publishers everywhere wondering if one of their key traffic drivers may soon send fewer users to their sites.

"It feels like they are trying to brace publishers for a decline," said Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next (formerly Online Publishers Association), which includes 65 notable members like Conde Nast, The New York Times, ESPN and USA Today. "But like with any of these announcements, it's kind of a black box, so we don't really know. We'll watch it play out over time."

John Donahue is co-founder of White Lightning + Judge's Son, which helps various publishers maximize their buzzier stories with paid media and other tactics. Donahue said Facebook reach stats and link clickthroughs on the platform were down for some of his clients almost immediately after the changes went into effect today. Though, like Kint, he cautioned against over-reacting to the tweaks.

"The most irresponsible response is to freak out and assume the worst," Donahue said. "The prudent response is to ensure we wait a week or two to allow user acceptance and adoption of the new news feed [information architecture], and then ascertain whether or not the content we are programming is compelling enough in its new downstream position to drive the reach and traffic we have come accustomed to. If I were a betting man, I would say that this will cause publishers to focus on less content that is higher quality." 

Indeed, Facebook's moves could prove to be less negative for publishers with pages that have the most attractive information. Though, the development raises a question: If publishers' traffic dwindles materially, will they buy more Facebook ads to maintain their readership numbers?

"They'll generally go try something else," Kint predicted. "Facebook wants to be a place for news and high-quality content. And the business models have to make sense. The traffic has to be there, or publishers will go to Twitter, Snapchat or whatever the next distribute point is."

Publishers will be affected differently, case by case, as a result of today's algorithm changes. For example, a content maker whose Facebook fans happen to "like" fewer publishers' pages compared to the average user could see greater traffic. Such users will now see more posts from the same publisher.

"Previously, we had rules in place to prevent you from seeing multiple posts from the same source in a row," said a Facebook post co-authored by product manager Max Eulenstein and user experience researcher Lauren Scissors. "With this update, we are relaxing this rule. Now if you run out of content but want to spend more time in news feed, you'll see more."

Brian Selander, evp of Whistle Sports, which teams up with millennial YouTube and Vine stars for sports-related entertainment videos, said, "Some creators might get hit a small bit while others could see a bounce. We track each page and creator and will be adjusting as we see some impact."

Everything stated by the Menlo Park, Calif.-based tech giant suggests the goal of the changes was to improve user experience rather than increasing ad sales. Aaron Cuker, CEO of the Cuker Agency, is taking the social media behemoth at its word.

"Facebook's advertising program is working really well," he said. "With more attention being put on ads, they don't want users to start missing out on important posts from friends and family."

At the same time, if major publishers see traffic dips—which Donahue indicated is quite possible—it might make them consider ramping up on paid Facebook promos.

But Brian Fitzgerald, president of Evolve Media, probably won't be one of them. He said his properties Crave Online and Totally Her get 35 percent of their traffic from people directly typing in the URL, and it doesn't sound as if he's about to start paying for more eyeballs.

"We never invested in a YouTube channel strategy, nor have we paid for likes or bought social traffic," said Fitzgerald. "You cannot build a good publishing business where you are too heavily reliant on third parties [like Facebook] for audience or revenue. …We rely on our readers to share and push our content out to their friends. That model isn't broken."   

Lastly, it's not the first time Facebook has altered how content is distributed via its news feed. During 2014, Facebook tweaked its algorithm to try to reduce "clickbait" headlines and made other changes that negatively affected viral sites like Distractify and Elite Daily.






April 22nd 2015 Facebook, News, Social Media, Technology

Yahoo and Microsoft Extend Search Partnership

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YahooBingLogoIn a joint release issued today, Microsoft and Yahoo announced that they will be amending and extending the strategic search partnership they originally signed in 2009.

The renewed partnership has two major amendments:

1) Yahoo will have increased flexibility to provide search functionality to other platforms, on both desktop and mobile search as the partnership is non-exclusive. Yahoo will continue serving search results and Bing Ads to desktop search audiences.

2) Microsoft will become the exclusive sales force for ads delivered by the Bing Ads platform, while Yahoo will continue to be the exclusive sales force for Yahoo’s Gemini ads platform.

The revenue split of the original partnership appears to remain unchanged. Yahoo will continue to receive a share of the profits delivered to Microsoft via Bing Ads displayed within Yahoo search results.

The partnership extension clearly indicates the joint venture has been a profitable one for both companies and a tactic that continues to help each of the companies compete with the market Goliath that is Google.

April 17th 2015 bing, News, yahoo

March Data is Now Live – March Madness, Apartments.com, and More

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basketball on court

Image from: Basketball on Court / Shutterstock

March data is now live and available in Compete PRO! Diving right into our Monthly Fast Movers, it’s clear that March Madness was the star of the month in terms of online performance. Traffic to NCAA.com increased by a whopping 1147% month over month (MoM). March 2015 was their best traffic month by far in the last two years, with unique visitors over 40% higher in March 2015 than March 2014. The traffic patterns are clearly driven by the college basketball tournament, which is evident in Compete PRO search referral data. Nearly 29% of all search referrals to NCAA.com over the last 90 days have been related to March Madness. Like last year, CBSSports.com sent a lot of traffic to NCAA.com and actually sent twice as many visits as last year (over 1 million in 2014 and over 2.6 million this year).

NCAA.com wasn’t the only beneficiary of the annual March Madness traffic boost. Daily fantasy site DraftKings.com saw a huge MoM unique visitor gain of 124% in March. Looking at their incoming traffic in Compete PRO, we can see that NCAA.com was the 45th highest domain in terms of sending traffic to DraftKings.com.

Outside of sports, Apartments.com saw a big increase in traffic in March as well. Since being acquired by CoStar Group last year, the apartment listing site has been making big moves, including last month’s multi-million dollar marketing campaign featuring actor Jeff Goldblum. What they’re doing seems to be working. The site saw a MoM unique visitor increase of over 76% between February and March, and 62% growth over March 2014. Loyalty and engagement metrics like average stay, visits per person, and pages per visit are also up dramatically (+23%, +7%, and +73% respectively). The good news continues when using Compete PRO to run a keyword destination report on “apartments” as the site is the third most-visited destination from the term, commanding over 6% of total search traffic volume for the keyword in a crowded industry. This will be an interesting site to watch in the coming months to see if their upward trajectory continues.

Monthly Fast Movers March 2015

If you need early access to the latest month’s data and you’re not a Compete PRO user, start your Compete PRO subscription today to get early data and more!

April 10th 2015 News

Books Merge With Digital

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books

Image from: Books / Shutterstock

I just started a great book the other day called Guards! Guards! by the late and brilliant Terry Pratchett. This is the first book I’ve read for pleasure in a rather long time, but more importantly the first book I’ve ever read on my tablet. I’ve personally seen tons of readers, like myself, start to access digital platforms more often instead of hard copy books. With that, I wanted to examine if my observation was justified by the data. I looked into the Books category on Compete PRO to see how reading online has influenced web traffic.

Growing Audience

The category has experienced some major growth over the past two years in unique visitors (UV’s). During February of 2013 and 2014 there were a little over 1 million and 1.5 million UV’s respectively. But February of 2015 showed one clear thing: growth. UV’s came in at around 4.7 million, more than quadruple that of two years ago. What does this drastic increase mean? More unique consumers are accessing this category and therefore the audience is growing. But this does not necessarily speak to the quality of these consumers. For that, visits can paint a better picture.

Unique Visitors

Loyal Audience

Visits help to quantify loyalty by showing if consumers are returning to your site. For the category, visits experienced a year-over-year (YoY) growth of 415.2% and significantly outnumbered unique visitors: 15.7 to 4.7 million. When visits exceed unique visitors (which represent one and only one initial visit) it shows that people are returning for more. Marketers should strive for growth in both UV’s and visits, but aim for visits to exceed UV’s.

Visits-

Social Traffic

Additionally, the overall category is seeing an increase of incoming social traffic. Traffic from websites like Facebook.com (#2) and Twitter.com (#6) grew by 3.38% and 2.57% respectively. This is incredibly important, especially for this category. Many people, including myself, rely on reviews for books to influence purchasing decisions. Facebook and Twitter serve as excellent forums to discuss and share opinions on books. Websites in this category should pay particular attention to these channels and may want to, if not already, adopt a more social strategy to try and capture more of these growing traffic numbers.

Incoming Traffic-

Conclusion

It is hard to imagine a world without “books,” but it is becoming easier to picture books in the digital format. This does not mean companies should abandon hard copy initiatives, but perhaps it indicates that they should adopt more digital strategies as the traffic increases.

April 6th 2015 News

You Don’t Know JackThreads

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Mens Clothes

Image from: Mens Clothes / Shutterstock

Online apparel websites have been appearing more frequently with the rise in digital platforms. My favorite of these is JackThreads, a digital-only men’s clothing retailer that sells fashionable attire at discounted prices. Given the fact that my research might also end with me finding a nice new button-up, I thought it would be interesting to check out how the website was doing on Compete PRO.

Unique visitors (UV’s) have skyrocketed on JackThreads.com over the past two years. In February of 2013, the site saw over 235,000 UV’s. In February of this year that number has more than quadrupled to over 950,000, meaning the website is successfully attracting a larger audience. Attraction does not necessarily determine retention, interaction, or conversion, but it certainly can have an influence on these numbers.

UV's

Outside of UV’s, JackThreads is also relatively successful at building loyalty among visitors. Visits for February were around 2.2 million, much higher than UV’s at around 950,000. This shows that people are coming back to the website more than once from their initial visit. When visits rise and exceed UV’s, loyalty and conversion rates often rise as well.

Visits

Beyond attraction and retention, marketers should take a look at the level of interaction with a site, which can largely be quantified by page views. JackThreads had around 14.5 million page views; whereas last year at this time they had about 3.1 million page views. This nearly 5x increase clearly suggests that people are interacting with more content by accessing more pages on the site.

Page Views

So how has JackThreads been so successful at attracting, retaining, and getting its visitors to interact with its website?

Attraction could largely be a result of the digital-first (and only) nature, which makes products so easily and readily available. Having to drive or walk to a brick-and-mortar store is undeniably more difficult and less convenient than popping on your computer and going to a website. Another factor is the product offerings or “content.” The website operates on a discounted pricing model, providing cool, brand name clothes at lowered prices. This could definitely be a significant driver behind traffic increases.

The boost in retention could have to do with the “membership” aspect of the business. Jack Threads requires shoppers to register through Facebook, Email, or Google+. Being a “member” has the potential to make shoppers feel compelled to come back or feel like they are receiving more of a personalized experience. I have my account set up through email, so naturally I receive offerings and discounts that frequently get me to revisit the site.

Interaction is most likely driven from the interface and content. The homepage contains tons of attractive deals and offers that certainly get me to click and shop.

With attraction, retention, and interaction all on the rise, it will be interesting to see if JackThreads popularity continues to increase.

April 1st 2015 News

Last Chance, Marketers!

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urgent

Image from: Automotive / Urgent

Last Chance, Marketers! For the 2nd year, Millward Brown Digital is conducting our “state of digital” study, and we want to hear from you. This study focuses on exploring the pain points, priorities, and preferences of marketers today. In 2014, we laid the foundation of establishing best practices for marketers and tactical advice on how to run a top-notch digital strategy.

media_allocation_graph

For 2015, be part of the conversation! We want to capture your perspective, and invite you to participate and share your expertise. The survey only takes approximately 10 minutes to complete, and as a thank you, you’ll receive a complimentary copy of the final report and be among the first to access it. Rest assured, all responses will be kept anonymous and confidential.

Please click here to begin the survey, today is your last chance!

Thank you for your time and feedback, we look forward to your valued insights!

March 31st 2015 News

Flipboard Tips From The Service’s Editorial Director

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According to Guy Kawasaki, speaking at Social Media Marketing World, “Curation is just as valuable as creation.”

Flipboard, which turns its users into curators, apparently doesn’t quite see it that way. Editorial director Josh Quittner told The Drum a couple years ago, after the launch of its now fundamental “Magazines” curation feature, “The creator is still 
more valuable than the curator.”

In other words, the content being curated by Flipboard users has to come from somewhere, and creators can take advantage of that fact and potentially gain traffic from the service. We recently dove into how you can go about doing so, but have since reached out to the company itself for some additional insight. The result was a Q&A with Quittner.

Is Flipboard part of your content strategy? Let us know in the comments.

First, he addressed a question about how Filpboard chooses what stories to show users, beyond the personalization that comes with topic, magazine, and profile following.

“When you go to Flipboard, the first thing you see is your Cover Stories with highlights from everything you follow, including magazines, sources, topics and social networks,” he says. “We look at a whole bunch or heuristics to determine what to show in your Cover Stories such as comments, likes and interactions on Flipboard as well as the social networks you have connected. As you add more things on Flipboard such as sources, magazines and people, their posts will begin to appear in your Cover Stories. We also give personalized recommendations for magazines and people to follow based on your interests. An algorithm-driven discovery engine analyzes millions of articles each day across more than 34,000 topics, suggesting content based on your interests and preferences. These are some of the ways we strive to make content that’s relevant to you more easily discoverable.”

Flipboard has a set of community guidelines on how to share and how not to share content on the service. Asked about some dos and don’ts beyond the standard guidelines, Quittner had the following to say.

“We see that readers appreciate focus. General topics such as ‘technology,’ ‘food’ or ‘design’ are great if you’re curating a collection for your own reference, but if you want to build an audience, general topics don’t give readers much to get excited about. Get specific, like instead of ‘gadgets’ go for ‘gadgets for kids’ or instead of ‘recipes’ choose ‘slow-cooker recipes.’”

“Once you’ve picked a topic, start thinking about your perspective on it. A magazine with a point of view and a tone of voice resonates well with readers. We see magazines about the same topic but with different points of view all the time. Your take on happiness, healthcare or fast cars will be different than anyone else’s.”

“When you first start a new magazine, keep it private for a while until you have about 40 items in it. By then you will know if you picked a topic you are really interested in and for your readers there will really be something to read. I’ve seen exceptions too – if you’re making a magazine about an event or for a class for instance you may not need the same amount of content. The 10 articles to read for science class this week can also work.”

“Then there are some practical things you want to think about such as a magazine title and cover photo. A compelling magazine title, which can be descriptive or creative, can attract new readers and so can an attractive cover. And don’t forget the basics: make sure your profile has a photo and description. Providing a face to a name helps establish trust and adds a human element to your profile.”

“I also want to make sure curators know they can use badges to spread the word about their magazines. At share.flipboard.com you can find tools to help build your magazines’ reach. There is a profile badge that will take people to your profile page with all your magazines, as well as a magazine widget. If you add the widget to your website, a magazine cover that updates dynamically will be displayed.”

On whether it’s better for users to create/curate one or two magazines or a bunch of them…

“Curating is personal so it really depends on what your goals are,” says Quittner. “If you want to connect with likeminded people and build up an audience, I recommend curating a separate magazine for each interest. If your magazine is more for yourself, than it’s fine to collect everything in one magazine.”

A couple of questions that a lot of people would probably ask are: Does it matter how much of the content in a user’s magazine comes from their own website? Is it always better to have a mix, or is it sometimes good to have magazines that explicitly feature your own content?

“It’s really up to you,” says Quittner. “A Flipboard magazine can be a great way to make your blog more discoverable or to make it look beautiful on a mobile device. We see bloggers who flip a lot of their own blog posts into a magazine and mix in stories by others about the same topic or with a similar point of view. We also see bloggers compliment the magazine with their own content on other platforms, for instance Medium posts, Tweets, Instagrams or photos from your phone.”

“Some of the larger blogs, curate multiple magazines on Flipboard,” he adds. “For instance, if your blog is about technology, you could curate all your stories about wearables into one magazine and create another magazine with all your games content.”

He notes that Flipboard has tools specifically for bloggers, which you can look through here.

As noted in a previous article, we’ve seen some people speculate on the SEO value of having content in Flipboard. Asked about this, Quittner says, “We’ve seen that Flipboard helps drive traffic to publishers and content creators by making content more discoverable. Now that Flipboard is on the Web, you may have noticed that your magazines will surface when you do a Google search. Adding descriptions to your magazine and your profile helps people understand what your content is about and it’s part of what the search engines crawl.”

In October, Flipboard said 10 million magazines had been created. Asked for an update on that and how many are actively updated, Quittner tells us, “Since we launched the third generation of Flipboard in October, which introduced topics we saw the number of magazines created by our readers grow fast. We’re now at 15 million. And over the same period of time we doubled the number of active curators. Flipboard 3.0 has also made people more engaged and while we had 30 million monthly active readers in October of last year, we now have almost 50 million.”

In addition to asking Quittner some questions, we reached out to Mathew Ingram, formerly of Gigaom (which was still operational at the time of our interaction), about getting more out of the service. Ingram has been featured on Flipboard’s own blog, where he talked about how he uses the service.

“I actually think having multiple magazines makes a lot of sense,” he tells WebProNews. “That way you can segment and target your various interests and appeal to different readers.”

On how much of the content in your magazine should come from your own stuff, Ingram says, “I think a 70-30 breakdown is a good rule of thumb for a lot of social media — so 70 percent or so content from other publishers or creators and about 30 percent from you.”

Asked about traffic, Ingram says, “We often see some high volume from Flipboard to our stories, although not regularly enough to count on. And it’s difficult to track why some stories take off and others don’t.”

Are you taking measures to increase your content’s exposure with Flipboard? Do you plan to in the future? Let us know in the comments.

March 28th 2015 blogging, News, Social Media

Attention Marketers!

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Attention Marketers: For the 2nd year, Millward Brown Digital is conducting our “state of digital” study, and we want to hear from you. This study focuses on exploring the pain points, priorities, and preferences of marketers today. In 2014, we laid the foundation of establishing best practices for marketers and tactical advice on how to run a top-notch digital strategy.

media_allocation_graph

For 2015, be part of the conversation! We want to capture your perspective, and invite you to participate and share your expertise. The survey only takes approximately 10 minutes to complete, and as a thank you, you’ll receive a complimentary copy of the final report.

Please click here to begin the survey

Thank you for your time and feedback, we look forward to your valued insights!

March 28th 2015 News

Search Share: Radio

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Radio

Image from: Radio / Shutterstock

Last week we unveiled the Search Share Add-On, a new Compete PRO tool that provides high-level keyword analysis of a list of up to 40,000 keywords. With this new functionality, we wanted to continue to bring you insights on how to utilize the new data to advance your marketing efforts. In this piece we will discuss a list of the top 500 keywords from the search referral tab in the Radio category. For reference, this list includes keywords such as “Pandora,” “iHeartRadio,” “8tracks,” and “klove.” Radio is a particularly interesting grouping to look at because of how the digital age has drastically changed the industry from AM/FM hi-fis to massive online media players.

The gap between natural versus paid clicks was apparent during the measured 4 week period. Natural clicks controlled 97.5%, while paid clicks measured out to the remaining 2.5% of the total share. There is a much higher frequency of clicks occurring organically, but that does not mean pay-per-click (PPC) efforts are useless. Certain factors may suggest that the quality of SEM clicks can result in more conversions.

For instance, PPC ads increase relevancy because they pair a consumer’s search term(s) with a company’s ad that is specifically set with that keyword or something very similar to it. A strong budget and quality score can dictate an earlier placement on the search engine results page (SERP). Relevancy and placement increase the likelihood of a click and a conversion on your website.

Out of the brand paid clicks, Amazon.com had the highest paid share at 42.9%. To illustrate, if there were 100 paid clicks for this given set of keywords, roughly 43 of those clicks would be going to Amazon. Amazon did have a lower paid rate (24.7%) than paid share (42.9%). This means that around a quarter of all their search efforts are paid, but those efforts resulted in controlling close to an impressive half of all paid clicks.

Paid Share and Rate

The Search Share Add-On can be utilized to gain tons of insights on SEM and SEO performance for your company and competition. If you are interested in tapping into this resource and the rest of Compete PRO, follow here!

March 27th 2015 News