Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: Keyword Cannibalization

Transcript

Hello, SEMrush users, and welcome back to another Weekly Wisdom. Today, we have got a very exciting one. Now, how many times have you seen your site ranking for multiple things in the same search? The first thing you might think is, “Oh, this is amazing, we have got multiple rankings showing for the same keyword; we are dominating page one, page two,” whatever it is. But then you look at your traffic, and it is like, “Oh, we are actually getting much, much less traffic; that is because of keyword cannibalization.

In this tutorial, I am gonna show you how to find keyword cannibalization on your site and get rid of it, and it is gonna take you about 10 seconds. Let’s get into it. For me, growing up, excess was always a little bit of a theme. When your mom would say things to you like, “Ross, don’t eat too many sweets because you will ruin your appetite for dinner. Don’t sit too close to the TV because you will get squid eyes. Don’t run too fast; you will end up falling over.”

Then, of course, you become a teenager, and it is like, “Turn that music down; it is too loud. Get a haircut; your hair is too long.” They give you other advice too, which is mostly ignored. But the point is that too many opportunities create inertia in your life. If you are in the middle of a room, imagine a circular room with lots of doors around the edges, and they are all open, and they are pulling you all out in the different directions. Because they are all pulling you out, the force of each of them actually cancels each other out, and create complete inertia.

Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization is very similar in that you have got too many URLs that rank for the same term. So what we need to do is start closing these doors, or in this case URLs, or differentiating them — getting them out of the index or optimizing them. So let me quickly just give you a real-world example first and foremost. A client of ours came to me and said, “Hey Ross, can you find some cannibalization on our big hero term?” I’m like, “Yeah, sure, no worries.”

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I went to Google Search Console, went into Performance Report, then into Queries, I then filtered by keyword, and I just clicked on pages. And boom, there you go. Sent it to the client, they were like, “Yep, great. Thank you.” No worries.

They Wanted More Data

Then they came back, and they were like, “Actually, can we get it for all keywords, URLs, countries, languages, and devices?” I was like, “Oh God. Yep, sure, no worries at all.” And the reason why I was a bit nervous about it was because there were half a million URLs in the client’s site, and the more data you have got, the harder it is to get anything meaningful from it.

Supermetrics

So we need to find some sort of programmatic way to make this happen and to do that we are gonna use Supermetrics, which is a Google Sheets add-on. Essentially, what it is gonna do is it is gonna allow us to pull the URL and the search query side by side. In the interface, it doesn’t let you do that; it only lets you do it page-by-page or query-by-query should I say. But this will actually pull out all of the duplications for you, so we can really quickly see what is going on.

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All right, so this is what we wanna have it look like, we want the landing page, then the search query, and then all the information. And you will notice that there is lots of duplication in the search query, and that is because, you guessed it, those keywords are cannibalized.

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Keyword Map

So we need to get this keyword map done. Before, I was saying that the client was asking me for some data on their main hero term, which is the term IPA. They are getting 81,000 people looking for it, but only getting 43 clicks, which is obviously a terrible click-through rate, and the reason being is because 11 URLs are competing for the exact same ranking.

What we wanna do is get the raw Google Search Console data, cross-reference it with the Google Analytics data, and then we wanna see what is actually going on. And ultimately we wanna get to a place like this.

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I want to see the search query in column A, the count of how many times that query actually shows up; then I want to see impressions because that is the relative opportunity, how much revenue that is going through those URLs that are being cannibalized, and then I want to see the actual URLs themselves — that is gonna be really important for us.

We want a map like this so I can quickly jump in and say, “Hey, the term IPA, I know you cared about IPA, you also cared about Ale, but IPA makes you considerably more money than Ale, so let’s focus on that and let’s get that optimized first; I can make your business case.

How to Prepare All This Data

So, how are we gonna prepare all this data? First and foremost, how do we get everything in nice and neat there? If we have pulled everything through Supermetrics, and we have got all the URLs and all the duplicated queries, I need to get the original queries. Another way to say it, I need the unique query.

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So I am going to use this here, it is =unique, and going to select the entire column where all your keywords are.

And then after that, what I need to do is I need to actually go in and actually to count up all of the queries that are actually in there. So now I have got the uniques; I need to see how many times they are being duplicated. So, nice and simple, we are gonna use the countif formula, which allows you to select the column you want to compare, and then the actual thing you want to be counting.

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After that, we want to get all of these URLs in. Apologies for this being so blurred out, again, it is client data, so it is commercially sensitive. I want to get all the URLs out so I can actually see per query, URL by URL, where the problems lie. To do this, we are gonna use query, we have spoken about this before; query is a pseudo-SQL language.

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So essentially you can do computation inside of a query, which is pretty amazing. In this case, we are going to just very simply say “select column A where B equals our keyword.” If you see my cannibalized keyword, pull in all of the URLs, really nice and simple. The exact formula I use is down in the white bar there, so you can just copy and paste that into your sheet.

Query Learning Resources

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If you are really interested in learning more about this, I recommend these resources: Codingisforlosers.com, a phenomenal website, the guy over there does a great job with query, and he is more of an SEO guy than anything else. The G Suite YouTube channel is phenomenal; it teaches you about natural language processing, about using query, all sorts of great stuff. And Ben Collins is actually the main G Suite guy. If you Google around you will see him coming up everywhere; he has got tons of really great tutorials on there as well.

SEMrush On-Page SEO Checker

All right, so assuming we have now got our big list of URLs and keywords that we want to fix, did you know that you can actually upload a list of keywords and URLs side by side to the SEMrush on-page SEO checker? Well, once you do that it is going to give you this output. It does a kind of TF-IDF analysis, which stands for term frequency versus inverse document frequency.

What it does is it Googles the keywords you are trying to rank for, in this case, it is craft beer, and then it pulls down the top 20 results, analyzes the content they have got on the page, and then compares it to your own. So, you can get some really quick and dirty optimization tactics in order to go and fix your cannibalization.

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It does a bunch of other interesting stuff because there is a site audit built in. It is also gonna be looking at things like on-page elements you need to fix, so literally, you can get this done in, what, two minutes? Three minutes? And then start spitting out these reports and give it to your content team.

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Thanks for Watching

More on this Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: GSC Query Tutorial Post Ross Tavendale Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: Super Fast Keyword Research Post Ross Tavendale

So all that is left to do now is actually just go and fix it. And that is everything. I really hope you enjoyed this information.

If you have got any questions about how to do any of this, or if you want access to the sheets that we mentioned, please comment down below, and I would be happy to jump into the comments and have a conversation with you about it. 

Desktop vs. Mobile: The Difference Between SERPs

We took 50,000 random keywords in the US database to find out just how different the SERPs are for the same search query on different platforms.

Spoiler alert: Not exactly chalk and cheese, but the big picture is disturbing.

There are a lot of deviations between platforms: not too many extremes, but only 13% of websites get to retain the exact same position across devices. SERPs on different devices are distinct due to different SERP features and, obviously, the screen space, which drastically changes the user experience and your website’s visibility.

With the share of mobile traffic eating up more and more global bandwidth, this becomes a point of great concern.

Our Research Methodology

In our study, we used the SEMrush Organic Research tool to look into URL Deviations and Domain Position Deviations for the 50,000 random keywords in the US database.

Picture it like this — we took snapshots of desktop SERPs and compared them to snapshots of mobile SERPs for the same query. Data on the URL Deviations shows an overall picture of how many pages lose their positions in mobile search.

For a more precise and detailed presentation of the difference between desktop and mobile SERPs, we have used the Domain Positions Deviations. By tracking domains and not specific pages, we have ensured that we are taking into account mobile versions of pages with different URLs.  

More on this Competitor Analysis: Keywords and Backlinks Post Elena Terenteva

About the Organic Research Tool

SEMrush’s Organic Research is a simple tool that grants deep insight into the organic performance of any domain. Within seconds you will get the top keywords bringing traffic to the website, see its recent ups and downs in the search rankings, and if it is ranking for any SERP features, you will also get the list of its main organic search competitors and more.

URL Deviations

How many pages lose their visibility in mobile search?

We tracked how many pages lost their position in mobile search compared to the desktop results. A staggering 30% of pages that are present on the first page of desktop search results are moved beyond the top 10 results in mobile search.  

The table below shows how many desktop results dropped out of the top 10, 30, and 100 on mobile devices.

Number of pages that lose their visibility in mobile search

Domain Position Deviations

How many domains changed their position in mobile search?

The next table presents how many domains get to keep their position. As we have already established, only 13% of websites have the same position across devices.

Digging further, we counted how many domains shifted in mobile search within one, three, or ten positions from their place on desktops.

Shifting one position may not seem like a big deal, but you have to keep in mind that mobile and desktop search result pages have different scroll depths and click-through rates. Compared to desktops, dropping out of the top 3 on mobiles will take a much more drastic toll on your traffic.

Number of domains that changed their position in mobile search

Comments From the Industry Experts

Cindy Krum

Cindy Krum
CEO, MobileMoxie

Overall Thoughts:

  • The stats are very compelling. They speak to what I have been saying for a long time, that people really need to look at actual mobile SERPs to see what is going on.

  • Mobile & desktop are different – sometimes very different. This is especially true because things like Knowledge Graph, which show on the right in desktop, show on the top of mobile, pushing other results down.

  • According to SparkToro/JumpShot, most mobile searches don’t result in a website click – 62% of people stay in Google’s hosted assets. That leaves 38% of people that *MIGHT* click on your website and only the clicks that go to your website get into your analytics. If you are below position 1 in organic rankings, the likelihood of you getting the click goes down and down; basing an SEO strategy on this kind of shaky data alone seems crazy!

Strategies:

  • I have been speaking and writing a lot about Entity-First Indexing, as opposed to Mobile-First Indexing, because I believe that Google’s shift to Mobile-First Indexing was a move to organize information around their Knowledge Graph. You can notice how websites (‘Seen on the Web’ results) are being pulled INTO maps (part of the Knowledge Graph) rather than the other way around.

  • SEOs need to think about the Topic Layer likely how web content gets categorized into the Knowledge Graph. It seems like sometimes bits of information get enough engagement from web content to move them into the Topic Layer. It seems like this may be partially influenced by ‘Related Topics’ in the Knowledge Graph, as well as popular ‘People Also Ask’ Interactions.

  • Google has doubled down on media optimization recently because media is highly engaging content that can be searched for and accessed through regular search or voice search; this means that brands need to:

    • Make and optimize videos & live streams – ideally hosted on YouTube.

    • Make and optimize podcasts – submitted to Google as an XML feed.

    • Use great Images with descriptive alt text.

    • Launch Native Apps, Web Apps or PWAs  – Indexed with Google’s new Indexing API or Hosted in Firebase

    • Optimize Google My Business with Info & Media

We tend to describe the bits of information that get pulled in from the Edge Layer to the Topic Layer as ‘Fraggles.’ This word is a combination of the word ‘Fragment’ and ‘Handle’ because often, when these assets are highlighted in a search, Google will open the page and scroll directly to the content on the page, as if an HTML handle or jump links were there. Sometimes these are present, and sometimes Google seems to just know where to scroll on its own.

What is important here is that one page can rank, but within that ranking, there can be a vertical or horizontal carousel of additional, clickable snippets of information all from the same page. This makes the listing take up more space and look more authoritative, driving more clicks, and when people find exactly what they want, more engagement and happy customers. Fraggles are new, but in our unscientific research, it seems like the following things tend to drive Fraggles:

  • Adding jump links – especially for content that is H2/H3.

  • Star rankings/ratings for responses.

  • Q&A Markup & Star Ratings for ‘Best Answer’.

  • Anything you might otherwise do to drive Featured Snippets/Google Answers (tables, bulleted lists, schema, etc.).

  • Understand how your brand and brand assets are understood by Google and the Knowledge Graph using the following tools:

    • Run by Google

    • Not run by Google:

Craig Campbell

Craig Campbell
SEO Consultant & Trainer

Why are 31% of desktop search results not visible on mobile SERPs?

I read a few months back that over 50% of all search results are taken from the mobile index, so this may explain why 31% of desktop searches are not visible on mobile search. This coupled with the fact that people are designing the mobile side of things to be more about user intent and closer to the buying stage, means desktop searches tend to have a lot more information on the pages and are more tailored towards people looking for information.

Wondering why only 10% of URLs able to keep the same position on Desktop and Mobile?

Factors like CTR and a number of other things will be higher on mobile devices, simply because more people are coming onto websites from mobile devices, so those smaller factors that are part of the algorithm will have much more interaction and this could potentially result in better positions on a mobile device than the desktop. Things like page speed and mobile friendliness are also important factors on the mobile side, and again people are working that side of things. And it would also appear, according to what I read, that over 50% of Google’s search results come from the mobile index and that will increase, and then we should have a more settled bunch of URLs on desktop and mobile.

A good position on both SERPs: A “Good” Position on Desktop vs. “Good” on Mobile

I think it makes sense to have good positions on both desktop and mobile devices, as you never know where your next customer will come from, so being higher up on either of those will give you more of a chance of getting that customer onto your website. As the stats suggest, more people are using mobile devices in a lot of cases, so I would always want to work on that side as a priority, but I wouldn’t ignore desktop at this stage, as personally I still get a fair amount of traffic from desktop.

Fernando Maciá

Fernando Maciá
SEO Consultant

The data obtained from this SEMrush study shows that traffic to a mobile-first index is progressing rapidly, although it is probably not yet fully completed either by Google or by many websites. If more than 30% of the results that appear on Google’s front page for desktop searches are not retained in the results from mobile devices, it is probably because there is still a similar percentage of websites that have not been adapted to mobile devices. In this scenario, websites with similar content that have already implemented it win the game and ”crash” into the first mobile results.

On the other hand, we find that only 10% of the results maintain their position; this could be caused by multiple factors. It is possible that geolocation in the search from mobile devices is of high value, while it is not that important when searching from desktop computers. This means that local results have greater opportunities to appear in mobile searches, while proximity does not weigh so much on the relevance for desktop searches. In addition to geolocation, the influence of personalized results, the acceptance of the suggested searches to avoid typing further, the searches themselves, which are different when you have a physical keyboard or not, or even voice searches, all have an influence so that the order of the results can be different on mobile and on desktop.

There is a curious fact that the number of domains that hold their position is higher than the number of URLs; this could be due to domains that have adopted specific mobile versions in subdomains of type “m.” In these cases, it is possible that Google was displaying different URLs in desktop and mobile searches, although in both cases belonging to the same domain (though different subdomains). Despite this, we are also seeing in recent days URLs of type “m.” in results obtained for searches from desktop (which then redirect to the desktop version).

Given the increasing use of mobile phones to access the Internet, I believe that it is imperative to adapt all websites to mobile devices, not only to make them compatible, but to make them fully functional. Equally, it is important to consider mobile searches, different types of keywords, voice searches, suggested searches or the way in which it affects the default geolocation that Google introduces – keep all of this in mind when setting goals of visibility, keyword research, content optimization, and analysis of the results.

More on this Mobile SEO is a Must: How to Stay Competitive in Mobile-Friendly World Post Nikolai Boroda

Conclusion

The importance of mobile optimization is not news, but we hope that our research highlights just how much harder it can be to compete in mobile search, and how big of a deal it is to keep up.

How to Choose a Co-Marketing Partner: Experts Offer Tips

A co-marketing partnership stands on two things: human communication and concrete results.

The question is when evaluating a potential partner, should you rely more on their website traffic stats and size of their email list or see how the whole relationship evolves? We have interviewed two experts responsible for building connections for strategic and tactical marketing needs and found out the key points and practical secrets of partnership management. Learn about true stories inside from Amanda Nielsen, Strategic and Co-Marketing Partnerships Manager at New Breed and Gaetano Nino DiNardi, Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva.

Amanda Nielsen

Amanda Nielsen
Strategic and Co-Marketing Partnerships Manager at New Breed

What are you looking for in a potential co-marketing partner?

We definitely want to choose a partner whose goals align with ours and a relationship that we think will constantly provide mutual value. It could be exchanging backlinks, co-creating content or reselling products/services. A partner should be on a similar trajectory of growth. For example, at New Breed, we work with software companies at the expansion stage, i.e., companies of between 20 and 2,000 people; not startups, and we are not going to make an exception here. A startup can have a shift in their strategy, company size, and services, while we need to think about the long-term benefits of a partnership.

We also want to make sure we have a similar customer base, target audience, company size, and industry where we sell our services. We market to marketers, so we like to collaborate with software companies that also speak to marketers. These synergies help a lot, making a successful partnership.

What parameters do you pay attention to?

Some of the key parameters that we look at are traffic volume, backlink metrics, domain authority, and keyword gap. SEO metrics are important for figuring out whether the partnership will be technically beneficial, while traffic can highlight the domains that are consistently linking to our website and that we could reach out to and suggest a collaboration.

What tools do you use to analyze a potential partner?

We have a mix of two different methods:

  • First, if we are not super familiar with the company, we use our data tools to find public information on them.

  • Then, we just talk to the person responsible for strategic partnerships in the potential partner’s company, because that’s where you get most of the insights. You can figure out a lot about a business by analyzing their website, but speaking to someone who represents the company will be the best way to confirm all these things and really hash out all of the smallest details.

How do you define whether your and your potential partner’s audiences match?

You don’t have to serve the exact same customer base. As long as there are key commonalities, there will be enough value to see a return on your investment. For example, we are in partnership with HubSpot. They work with all company sizes, from startup to scaleup to enterprise. Although we don’t service the scaleup and enterprise sectors, HubSpot still has a very, very big new market for us, so we derive value from this relationship.

How can one know that their company is pursuing the same goals as a potential partner?

  • The best way to know it is by just being straightforward and setting clear expectations at the initial meetings. At New Breed, we define our partnership criteria and ask for everything we need to know about the company before we engage in any type of contractual relationship.

  • We like doing account mapping to find customers we have in common, as it’s a really good starting point to identify the best-use cases for a common issue. Then, if there is no opportunity to upsell to the same clients or use this prospect as a case study, we can bundle our product in theirs.

  • What definitely works is looking at each other’s website traffic and being honest about benchmarks for each company. Like, here are the visits, this is how they are growing, and these are our expectations.

  • Setting clear goals is a good way to hold both sides accountable. For example, I hold monthly webinars with different partners, and we work together to drive registrants. What I have done is create a little benchmark report based on the past 12 to 14 months of data, with average numbers of registrants and attendees. This allows me to establish clear goals for each partner and actually achieve results. Just saying “drive as much money as you can” wouldn’t sound as concrete and, subsequently, not as motivational.

Let’s say you have two brands you could collaborate with… 

One of them has a similar target audience, and there has been some buzz around them recently. Another one doesn’t enjoy as much hype but targets a different audience, which could be beneficial to you as well. Which one will you choose and why?

I would say, you can choose both. With someone who has a similar target audience and is kind of popular the value will be very obvious, and it is less of a risk. You could definitely collaborate with them at a higher involvement capacity. A reseller, co-seller or referral partnership would probably pay off.

However, if you are trying to build up your authority with a new audience, you can think of a partnership with this less-famous company who has already reached your target group. With them, you could take a baby step because it is a slightly higher risk — the ROI is probably going to come much later because it is not exactly where you are right now, and you are not 100% sure whether the relationship is going to benefit you.

So, in this case, I would be very straightforward with them and set expectations with something small, like a co-marketing relationship. This is a nice jumping-off point that I like to use for all of our partners who we aren’t really ready to have a referral or co-selling relationship with, but we still like their brand, like them as people, and think that our reader base, clients, and prospects can benefit  — even if we are not going to sell this company’s software.

Do things like guest blogging on each other’s blogs, backlinking, sharing stuff on social, collaborating on content offers (like co-branding an e-book or co-hosting a webinar together); based on those activities, if you find that your intuition was right, and the partnership becomes beneficial to you, you can take on higher involvement and higher risk with them.

Have you ever made the final decision on a partnership based on unconventional clues?

I think it is important not to stay super data-driven when it comes to making decisions like this. I can give an example of a partner whose name I can’t mention yet because we are still working with them. As a HubSpot provider, we don’t partner with Marketo clients. Once, we signed on a partnership with a software company. About a year after the partnership, that company ended up being purchased by Marketo; this was a conflict of interest for us because while we really liked this partner’s software, the pairing company didn’t align with what we were doing. It created too much strain on our relationship because after that there was a lot less that we could do together. Nothing against the company — it is just that we couldn’t talk in depth about our content anymore. We can still collaborate on some stuff, but it is a lot trickier to figure out how to provide value to each other now.

Something to definitely keep in mind when setting up a partnership, make sure you have initially hashed out all the details and are upfront about everything, especially about a possible acquisition and merging with other companies. There will definitely be cases where you or your partner won’t know about something potentially harmful to your relationship, and you can’t really prepare for it. Then, the best thing to do is to be proactive about it as soon as you find out the news. To avoid wasting anyone’s time, it would be better to dissolve the relationship or scale it back to figure out the best solution.

How can a potential partner win you over?

Personal communication is really important. When you collaborate with your partners closely, you will talk to them on a regular basis, so having a good vibe means a lot. I have been in situations where prospective partners were not very enthusiastic about the whole situation, our product, or even their own product. The synergies just weren’t there, and this is not what I would like to translate to our customers.

A complete opposite example is our most recent partnership with Drift. It all started when I met someone from their company at an event and just said that we were kind of interested in their chatbot; this person gave me free tickets to their HYPERGROWTH conference, and it was an awesome experience as a prospect. All throughout the relationship, they have gone above and beyond for us and provided a lot of value and positive experience for us. Although we didn’t even need to change our current chatbot for theirs, it was still great to meet a partner we could collaborate on content with.

Gaetano Nino DiNardi

Gaetano Nino DiNardi
Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva

Why do you need co-marketing partners in the first place?

It depends on the size and scale of your company and what you are trying to do.

If you are newer in the game, you are fairly well-known, but you don’t have a lot of money, co-marketing is the best thing to do. My previous company was a bootstrap startup with only 25 employees. However, most people thought we were a lot bigger because we were so good at content and social media marketing. People thought we had a lot more money than we really had, while the truth was that we couldn’t afford to spend $10,000 a month on AdWords. Anyway, what would this sum bring us? We would bid on one meaningful keyword phrase match, spend $1 per click and get 10,000 clicks. How many of these clicks would convert into real customers? 100? Then how long would these people that came in from paid channels last?

A complete opposite scenario would be like what Mazda and Buzzsumo did. They did a whole bunch of co-branded surveys and annual content reports. Sure, it cost some sweat, but they used their connections to get data for free or very cheap. Then, they have big networks, so co-marketing means doubling the email list, doubling the reach, and doubling the visibility. Whereas if these were just AdWords, at the end of the day, that would be just the budget spent and a brand not amplified in any kind of a meaningful or unique way. Flooding paid traffic to a landing page is just dollars spent which may or may not convert, while co-marketing is not all up to signups for a webinar, downloads of an ebook or people showing up at an event. Co-marketing makes things easier too because all the pressure is not just on you anymore.

How do you search for co-marketing partners?

I usually start with the people I know. In the beginning, I don’t think about 100% relevance because sometimes it is more important to work with someone who is easy to communicate with than with the most perfect partner in the world. Sure, doing a survey report with Google or Facebook would be the Holy Grail, but without a mutual connection, it would be extremely hard.

At Nextiva, we have a great partner network, but sometimes we want to go even broader. All our partners are relevant companies, but they all have the same audience. So I might want to hit up somebody who is also in the B2B tech SaaS space but has a slightly different audience.

How can you know that a company has a slightly different audience than yours?

  • I judge by the messaging on their website and their language. I look at the company’s blog and the types of content they have. Usually, they are built based on buyer personas. For example, Sales Hacker writes about sales strategies for VPs of marketing. I can say for sure that this is who they are going after. Whereas in the blog of my company you will see things like the action plan for chief information officers.

  • Most companies now have solutions-oriented site navigation, so you will see what types of industries they are going after. Sure, some companies will include all the industries under the sun, but some will target only specific ones. For example, you will see that Agile CRM aims at real estate, while Pipedrive specifically targets salespeople.

  • I also look at the link profile, and if I can see that they get a lot of links from certain types of websites and certain industries, I will know that that’s where their target audience hangs out because those are the kinds of links that they are trying to build.

  • Finally, you can just straight up ask them.

If you have two partners to choose from, how do you decide which opportunity to dive into?

First of all, I see if it is a company I have heard of. That will definitely make me prioritize them over a company I don’t know at all. Then I look at their website traffic and online reputation, and I check their reviews. I study their link profile as well because I want to see what opportunities will be there if we collaborate. I check the company’s social media: how active they are, what kinds of things they post, who their audience is.

I also look at the profile of the person who contacted me. Is it someone active in the community, for example, on LinkedIn? Is this person an influencer? Do we have a lot of mutual connections? Has this person been in the game for a while or is it just someone who graduated high school last year, and their company is just telling them to go spam everybody under the sun to try to get a collaboration?

Have you ever been in a situation when you were already in the process of negotiating with someone, but then something happened, and you had to discontinue the collaboration?

I won’t mention the name of the person, but I will tell you that there is a very well-known influencer that we wanted to do a podcast sponsorship with. Everything seemed to be good, and the contract was about to be signed, butone of our partners recommended that we didn’t do it. The reason was, the guy from the potential sponsor company had cursed our partner out on LinkedIn, and there were even screenshot messages of all these crazy things. So, we had to cancel everything with that new company. We had to make up an excuse about a new chief financial officer who cracked down on spending, and that is why we couldn’t continue the project. The guy didn’t even respond, and that silence was a clear sign for me.

Have you been partners with a company surrounded by some buzz around the time you collaborated?

There was a company in Arizona that wanted to partner with us on something. One of their executive leaders tweeted out support for Donald Trump’s border wall security. The tone and language of that person’s tweet was very insensitive to the issue, and for us, it was a reason not to work with this company. The founder of our company is from Poland, and a part of our PR angle is embracing immigration and the mentality that America is the land of opportunity for everyone. This anti-immigration tweet was completely against our policy, so we just couldn’t partner with such a company.

How can you estimate the ROI of a sponsored event before the actual event?

A lot of companies don’t even really do this. When they pay for an event, they pay for the hype. I do it differently: I ask questions. The only way you can calculate the ROI is to get a sense of how many attendees are going to be there, how many days is the conference, where your booth is positioned so that you can estimate the traffic. I ask about the audience breakdown by seniority, job title, and email list. The latter is a very strong indication because the only way to really calculate the ROI is to get a sense of who is going to be there, and then doing the work beforehand to build a pipeline before the event starts. Sure, someone might stop by your booth and talk to you, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they want you to follow up with them or pitch them anything. The real magic happens away from the conference site.

In my opinion, a better thing to sponsor is not a general booth but a happy hour, because it is going to give you a great excuse to mingle and talk to everyone. At 11 am, when all the keynotes are happening, there is nobody walking through the expo halls, but by the end of the day, your ROI will depend on how many meetings you got booked and with whom. If you meet with the chief information officer from a company with a thousand plus employees, you can kind of estimate what kind of deal size that would be. You combine that with your estimated foot traffic and the activity you have during the conference.

The key point is follow-ups. Personal communication is very hard to put in a dollar amount, but this is how partnerships are made.

What is the main mistake one can make when choosing a co-marketing partner?

Choosing a company that is not going to promote. I will give you a perfect example. When I was at Sales Hacker, we used to do so-called events — a series of webinars strung together. We asked everybody who was going to be at the virtual event to send a dedicated promo email to their list. A lot of participants refused upfront because they were afraid of opt-outs and they knew it for sure from their experience. However, there were those who said they were going to promote and then didn’t. That was critical.

So, you just have to make it clear from the beginning that you need a commitment from anyone who is in. Some companies agree on a registration number that their partners are going to drive or at least an estimated sign up number. They also ask if in the past their partner managed to raise these numbers. The only way to check it more accurately is by the size of the email list. Hopefully, they are not lying to you about it.

Taking Your Schema from Developer Led to Marketing Led

I have been talking with a lot of companies recently, and when I ask about their schema, they tell me something along the lines of “We heard we had to have it so we told our developer and they set it up.” This is great, simply to have schema puts you a step ahead of much of the competition, but at the same time, it concerns me. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a knock on developers, but it is not their job to be focused on Google’s results and the sales that it generates.

Are SEOs to Blame? 

We as SEOs have been just as complicit in this situation, many have allowed developers to take the lead, suggesting nothing more detailed than, “We need schema; can you add it?” It is easy to see why. There is no direct benefit for your rankings in the main SERPS (though John Mueller has suggested that there is an impact on relevancy) and it is hard to see what is going on in the rich results for both clients and competitors. This isn’t data we can see in analytics; search console provides nothing more than a high-level number. I love the data that SEMrush provides in this area, but even then I need to know the right keywords. If I have a rich result for something entirely unexpected, chances are I will never know it.

Schema is Complicated

To make matters worse, schema is complicated. I am pretty sure when I first started working with it, I was cross-eyed for a week just from confusion. It is not hard to see why it has been neglected when it is hard to learn, even harder to make sense of, and we don’t get that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see your traffic and sales go up. However, the complexity shouldn’t deter you from getting involved and managing your schema; the benefits of doing so can be huge.

We all know that websites need schema now, and getting your company name and address in there should be relatively straightforward (I will concede that if that is all you want to do with schema, hand it off to a developer and don’t let it trouble you further). There are about a thousand tools that can get you that far with almost no effort at all, but that is only half the story.

You want to make sure that you are providing data on everything you can.

Creating detailed schema can help give signals to the search engines regarding nuances of your product and service that the search engines may not otherwise be able to correctly identify. Google themselves say, “By adding structured data markup to your site, you can enable more of your site’s functional and visual elements to appear directly in results and in Knowledge Graph cards.” I don’t know about you, but I want some of that!

Schema is one of those things where the devil is in the detail, and it is not something you can just skip over or set and forget. Every morsel of information that you can provide to the search engines increases your chance of getting into those rich results. I lovingly think of it as structured keyword stuffing because now we have a way to directly tell the search engines what we want people to know. 

What to Do and Not to Do

Start thinking of all those keywords that could influence a click or purchase decision, and figure out what markup you need to be creating to communicate that. But, for the love of Pete, don’t start adding things that aren’t relevant to your business, and don’t do what one site I looked at did and create a 250-word description within the schema markup. It is not 1996, and these aren’t meta keyword tags, so just stop before you get any ideas about spamming. You don’t want a penalty.

Taking a Bigger Role

OK, so you are probably not going to go out and learn programming to do your own schema, but you do need to be able to communicate the right things to the developers. When I am responsible for communication with devs, I like to provide a detailed list that links back to schema.org so that there is absolutely no confusion with the development team. I would suggest, if you are struggling with schema, that you forget about the hierarchies and formatting and list what you want to say and on which pages you want it said. Think of it as a wireframe for your development team to build your schema around.

A Schema Example

Let’s use the example of a skincare company. They are currently using schema on their site and have the following information:

Taking Your Schema from Developer Led to Marketing Led. Image 0

The first thing I notice here is that they are missing a lot of useful company information. Even if they are an online only brand, they have a headquarters with an address, they have customer service agents that customers can contact, and I would also add their brand name in there too.

Where to Start With Schema: Basics that Bring Results

When I am creating schema for a client, I start with a review of the things their customers want to know most. These are the same things that people often qualify their searches with, so we want to make sure that Google is aware that we are relevant to those items. We forget, as marketers, that what is obvious to us, may not be obvious to someone else. I can’t count the number of times I have seen extensive product or service listings, but no address or opening hours! Think through all of the actions that someone is trying to take on the site and add them to your schema.

We forget, as marketers, that what is obvious to us, may not be obvious to someone else.

Once I have the basics covered, I might look at some of the more product specific elements from schema. Making use of the makesoffer schema, I would add in the details of each product listed on the page, and it’s stock status. I would also try and add reviews for the product, but those are just the elements I know off the top of my head. I like to spend some time poking around at schema.org because often there is something there that is very specific to the business I am looking at. For instance, you may be able to add in an award the business or product had received; for some, adding in Parent organization may be impactful.

Once I have created my list of ideas, it is relatively simple to create a map for the developers. Usually, mine looks something like this:

Taking Your Schema from Developer Led to Marketing Led. Image 1

The Long Haul

Schema is here to stay, and it is only going to get bigger. My goal is that the only time my clients will need to change their schema is when their business changes or new elements are added. When everyone else is scrambling because Google added a new feature and a previously unimportant schema is required, you and I will be the ones sitting back and watching our clients rise to the top because we took the time and effort to get it right the first time.

Google News Digest: AMP Updates, Search Console Updates, Launching Currents, and More

Over the last few weeks, Google has been increasingly rolling out new updates around the AMP project. Some of these updates include giving AMP stories (a dedicated section in the Search), coming up with a URL solution for AMP pages, enabling AMP to support custom JavaScript, and adding AMP Stories data within Google Search Console. The search engine appears to be more active than ever when it comes to addressing some of the common objections to AMP that are currently propagating around the web. Adding JavaScript support capability to improve the UX of AMP pages and addressing the URL issue through signed exchanges are just two examples to give us a glimpse into that direction.

Other notable updates in the month of April include testing a new GoogleBot, launching the beta version of Currents (to replace Google+), and introducing new reports within the Search Console including Discover report, Android App data, and AMP Stories report. We have covered all of these in the news digest below and will talk about them in detail on our podcast, too.

As you can see we have quite a bunch of stuff to talk about here. But before we even move on, let’s make some space for our weekly Marketing Scoop podcast. Dennis Yu, the CEO at BlitzMetrics, and Gavin Bell, the UK’s leading Facebook ads consultant, are this week’s experts who are going to discuss all the latest updates and developments in detail.

Listen to our podcast on iOS and Android:


GOOGLE SEARCH NEWS

Dedicated Section for AMP Stories

Google has announced adding a new section to the SERP that will be dedicated to AMP Stories. The search engine has recently announced this change at the AMP conference in Tokyo. Kenichi Suzuki, a Google product expert, posted the following on Twitter:

AMP Stories now appears in a dedicated section in search results for general queries such as “things to do in Tokyo.” It’s a new opportunity to attract users in SEO.”

It appears that the AMP Stories will be available in the U.S. first and will begin with travel-related content. Below you can view the announcement video to get a feel for AMP stories in action.

If you want to start creating AMP stories, follow this tutorial to help you through.

Source: AMP Stories Now Have a Dedicated Section in Google Search Results

URL Solution for AMP Pages

Google announced that Google Search’s AMP web results will now support linking to signed exchanges which enable publishers to display their own URLs on AMP pages. According to the search engine, this service is available in browsers that currently support the necessary web platform features (at the moment, it’s Google Chrome only).

Previously, the URLs displayed in browser address bars on AMP pages began with google.com/amp. However, there was a lot of criticism around the AMP project as the Internet community didn’t want Google to display the AMP URL in place of the domain the content comes from. And although Google appears to have found a solution to retain AMP’s instant loading and still show the content’s original URL, many publishers are still concerned whether allowing a third party to serve up their content without users being able to tell the difference is a good idea at all.

amp-URL

Sources: Instant-loading AMP pages from your own domainSome cheers, a few sneers for Google’s URL solution for AMP

New “before:” and “after:” Search Commands

Google has introduced a new search bar command that allows search users to filter their searches based on a specific date range. The “before:YYYY-MM-DD” and “after:YYYY:MM:DD” shortcuts can be used to filter searches before or after a specific date or year. As per Google Search Liaison:

“The before: & after: commands return documents before & after a date. You must provide year-month-day dates or only a year. You can combine both. For example:

[avengers endgame before:2019]

[avengers endgame after:2019-04-01]

[avengers endgame after:2019-03-01 before:2019-03-05]”

Although this feature has been accessible with the right settings under the Tools menu for about a decade now, the new shortcut commands will surely make it more convenient and accessible for users. From an SEO perspective, it will be useful to know how a website currently ranks versus how it used to rank before or within a specific time period.

Source: Search Google by date with new before: and after: search commands

New Preview Screen Test on Image Search

Mordy Oberstein, an SEO specialist, spotted Google testing a new layout for the side preview on Image Search. The interface does not appear much different from what we have been noticing from previous tests; only that the window preview appears to be on the right side and a black background has been used instead of white.  Here is the screenshot Mordy has posted on Twitter:

google-image-results-test

Source: Google Image Search Tests New Preview Screen Again

Testing a New GoogleBot

DeepCrawl, a website crawler tool, spotted Google testing a new version of GoogleBot that can render web pages like a modern browser. Martin Splitt, a Google Developer advocate, has also confirmed the test on Twitter: “We’re testing things all the time and sometimes these experiments are visible.” Google is using more advanced JavaScript or advanced web apps to improve GoogleBot’s ability to render more. Here is a screenshot from DeepCrawl, showing what the new experimental GoogleBot is able to render.

googlebot-new

In contrast, this is what the normal GoogleBot can render.

googlebot-old

Source: Google spotted testing version of GoogleBot that can render more content

New Metrics for YouTube Videos

Bloomberg has recently reported that Google is using two new metrics to reward quality content on YouTube. According to the report, one of these metrics tracks the total time people spend on a YouTube video; the other metric (called ‘quality watch time’) tries to measure how much of a constructive goal a video serves other “than just keeping users glued to their phones.” As per Bloomberg, YouTube declined to comment much on the latest metrics though. The spokeswoman from Google only said that “There are many metrics that we use to measure success.”

The newly introduced metrics appear to be targeting people who upload or spread irresponsible videos for the sake of gaining viewership. Bloomberg has quoted YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki, how Google is focusing on rewarding content based on a rubric for responsibility. “[The company] saw how the bad actions of a few individuals can negatively impact the entire creator ecosystem, and that’s why we put even more focus on responsible growth.”

Source: To Answer Critics, YouTube Tries a New Metric: Responsibility

Companies to Get Short Names and URLs in Google My Business

Google appears to be introducing a simple way to make Google My Business profiles more accessible in the form of short names and URLs. The new feature, once officially launched by the search engine, will let businesses create a short name and short URL that will, in turn, help them easily share their profiles and solicit reviews (using the “/review/” extension). There are many ways businesses can use short URLs, including on posters, business cards, brochures, and other types of marketing collateral. Using a URL on materials like these can help customers easily find the business, access contact information, leave reviews, and get other useful information. The URL requires businesses to limit their names to only five-characters and the format is g.page/[customname].

All businesses verified in Google My Business can create a short name. However, the feature is still rolling out and some businesses might have to wait until it becomes available for them. For more on this, refer to Google’s help document.

Sources: Twitter: Ben FisherGoogle adds short names and URLs to Google My Business listings

GOOGLE TOOLS NEWS

AMP Stories Data Added in the Search Console

As per Google’s latest announcement on Twitter, Google Search Console now includes AMP story traffic from both Search and Discover. The search engine has added AMP story traffic the same day it added the Discover report within Google Search Console under the performance report. The Discover report provides webmasters brand new data about their traffic from Google Discover such as clicks, impressions, and CTR related to Google Discover traffic. However, most users report that they are still unable to see any example of AMP Stories showing up under the performance report within Google Search Console.

Here is what Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Roundtable has to say: “I went ahead and mocked up what the search appearance filter in the performance report might look like, but again, this is a mockup – I do not have any sites that do AMP Stories or QA rich results in my Google Search Console account.

google-search-console-AMP

Source: Twitter: Google Webmasters

AMP to Support Custom JavaScript

Google has announced adding JavaScript support to AMP. “With ‘amp-script’, custom #JS can operate within AMP Documents. Don’t believe us? The animation below was built using AMP Script!” the AMP project team posted on Twitter. Comprehensive coverage of this topic in the AMP conference (2019) was provided by Kristofer Baxter. In his presentation titled “The Glory of AMP Script: Unleashing the Kraken,” he talked about how every AMP page essentially shares three key important traits, namely Instant Loading, Privacy Preserving Preloading, and a Reliance on JavaScript (to improve user experience).

The AMP project, as it has now begun to support custom JavaScript, will do so without losing AMP benefits like fast loading and privacy-preserving preloading. For those of you who want to watch the entire presentation, the video is available on YouTube on Google’s AMP Channel.

Source: Twitter: AMP Project

New Discover Report in the Search Console

Google has added a new report in Google Search Console called Discover report. According to the search engine, the new report will provide publishers and sites relevant statistics and visibility into their Discover traffic. More specifically, the report will help answer questions such as:

  • How often is my site shown in users’ Discover? How large is my traffic?

  • Which pieces of content perform well in Discover?

  • How does my content perform differently in Discover compared to traditional search results?  

The new Discover report is available under the Performance tap within Google Search Console and is shown to websites that have “accumulated meaningful visibility in Discover, with the data shown back to March 2019.”

discover-report-search-console

Source: Search Console reporting for your site’s Discover performance data

Search Console to Include Android App Data

Besides AMP Stories and Discover reports, Google has added another capability to show data related to Android Apps within Google Search Console. Accordingly, webmasters having an android app associated with their websites can now see “the app’s clicks, impressions, CTR, and position with a separate search appearance” under the performance report within the Search Console. The announcement came from Google on Twitter. However, we still need to learn if there is any documentation available to help webmasters integrate their Android apps within the Search Console and access this data.

Source: Twitter: Google Webmasters

Google Assistant Update

The search engine has announced bringing a new update to Google Assistant on Android phones. Accordingly, GA will provide better visual responses and more complete information at a glance. The update also comes with a new interface for categories like events as well as access to useful tools like “the tip calculator, metronome music pacer and bubble level.” As per Google, you can now ask your Assistant things like “Events in Mountain View” or “Why is grass green?” and you will get answers with cards that clearly and accurately represent the information you are looking for.

It is also possible that, in some cases,  Google Assistant shows you relevant links to a variety of sources on the web so that you can learn more. In these cases, the Assistant will show you the full set of search results from the web. And according to Google, “when relevant, these results may include the existing ads that you’d see on Search today.”

google-assistant-update

Source: New types of answers from your Google Assistant on Android

New App Screens for Android Users in EU

In response to feedback from the European Commission and following the changes Google made to comply with the European Commission’s ruling in 2018, the search engine giant will start rolling out new screens for Android users in Europe over the next few weeks. The new screens will have an option to download search apps and browsers and will be presented to users the first time they open Google Play after receiving an upcoming update. As per the search engine’s official announcement, users will see two separate screens for search apps and browsers. Each will contain five apps in total, including the ones already installed on a user’s device. These screens will be rolled out over the next few weeks and “will apply to both existing and new Android phones in Europe,” as Google mentions.

android_choice_app_screen

Source: Presenting search app and browser options to Android users in Europe

Google Launches Currents to Replace Google+

Google has announced the launch of Currents — the new G Suite app that enables people to interact with one another and have meaningful discussions in an organizational setting. According to the search engine, Currents is replacing G+ for G Suite and organizations willing to get enrolled in the beta will see their existing Google+ content automatically transfer to Currents. Google says that the new G Suite app comes with a new feel, look, and set of features.

As per Google, Currents is going to be very useful for users as it will enable them to exchange ideas at scale, connect them to useful and timely content, and help them manage and curate content with ease. To get started, corporate users with admin access to their G+ page(s) can send a request email at: [email protected] For end users, Google says, “no action is required.”

Source: Introducing Currents, the newest G Suite app

Weekly Wisdom with Mikhail Alfon: Working with Micro Influencers

What’s up, SEMrush, and welcome to this episode of Weekly Wisdom. My name is Mikhail Alfon. I am the president and co-founder of Blue Light Media, based in Costa Mesa, California. Today, we are going to be talking about how to use and find micro influencers.

Now, before we get into that, let’s talk about influencer marketing as a whole. It is one of the most popular ways for brands to really reach new audiences. Essentially what they are doing is using influential Instagram users or YouTubers, or whatever platform it might be, to help promote their product, service, or brand, whatever it might be, right. What they do is they find people who can encourage their audience to sell their products for them.

Macro Influencers vs. Micro Influencers

When you are starting your influencer marketing campaign, it is important to understand the difference between a macro influencer and a micro influencer. Macro influencers will typically have 100s of thousands of followers, if not millions of followers, and tend to be a little bit more expensive, and generally a little bit more difficult to solidify campaigns with. This video is for the small to medium size businesses, and we’re talking about micro influencers today. Micro influencers are going to have typically under 20,000 followers. You can push that up a little bit to 30,000 to 40,000, but let’s talk about under 20,000 followers.

There are a lot of benefits to using micro influencers. For example, they typically get higher engagement rates, which is really important.

Engagement rates are one of the key performance indicators when measuring an influencer marketing campaign is how well the content is performing for that influencer. They are also more likely to engage with their audience, which is going to drive more conversations about your brand or product, and you will typically get higher conversion rates as well. Obviously, the higher conversions, the better, and that is what we are all shooting for.

The Benefits of Working with Micro Influencers

One of the things that we love about using micro influencers is that they are typically more flexible with deliverables and how we are going to formulate the campaign. You can kind of work with them as opposed to just really being a slave to price or what a macro influencer might do. Being flexible is really important. One of the major things that we love about working with micro influencers is it helps fuel the content production process. For example, any of the content that they’re producing, we can use that on multiple campaigns.

When you are searching for a micro influencer, there are things that you should be looking for before attempting to solidify a partnership. One of them is the quality of their content. I am not just talking about photos, but also their captions. Let’s take a look at photos first.

Weekly Wisdom with Mikhail Alfon: Working with Micro Influencers. Image 0

Does the imagery that they are producing resonate with your brand? Does that look like something that you are going to share on your profiles? That is definitely something very important to look at. In addition to that, let’s talk about their captions.

Weekly Wisdom with Mikhail Alfon: Working with Micro Influencers. Image 1

You don’t want an influencer who is just putting up one line that doesn’t have any substance to it. When we are working with micro influencers, we really want to look for captions that have a lot of substance, a lot of heart and a lot of meat to it. The reason is that they typically will drive more conversations, and it shows that the influencer is intentional about the content that they are producing. Definitely look for those key things when it comes to content quality.

A Micro Influencer’s Engagement

Speaker 1: The other thing you want to look at is their engagement. How good is their engagement rate? What you can do is you can divide their engagement by their followers and multiply it by 100 to find what their engagement rate is. You want to look for at least 20% engagement rate for micro influencers with up to 10,000 followers. Now, once you cross 10,000 followers, there is something weird that happens where the engagement rate does drop significantly, so after 10,000 followers, look for at least a 5% engagement rate.

Weekly Wisdom with Mikhail Alfon: Working with Micro Influencers. Image 2

A Micro Influencer’s Authenticity

Another way to measure their engagement is whether or not it is authentic; this is going to take a little bit of research, but tap into their comments and look at what their audience is saying. Does it actually relate to their photo? Are they asking questions about their captions? Those types of things are very important to look at, because comment pods — and if you are unfamiliar with comment pods, they are ways for influencers to actually drive engagement inauthentically — comment pods are still something that happens on Instagram, so by looking into the type of engagement that they are getting, you will get a good feel of whether or not your campaign is going to be successful.

Now, one of the most important things, if not the most important thing to look at, is the influencer engaging with their audience back? When you are working with an influencer, you want them to be an advocate for your brand, and somebody who is going to help sell the product for you.

  • You want to see, are they going in?
  • Do they care about their audience?
  • Are they answering questions for them?
  • Are they continuing the conversation outside of just that post?

Weekly Wisdom with Mikhail Alfon: Working with Micro Influencers. Image 3

Micro Influencers and Branded Content

Now, another thing you want to be looking at when you are choosing a micro influencer is seeing how much branded content they have out there and how it is performing.

Weekly Wisdom with Mikhail Alfon: Working with Micro Influencers. Image 4

Branded content is any past collaborations that they might have had with a company or a brand or anything like that. Go into those posts. How does their audience engage with it? Are they asking questions about it? Does the influencer engage back and tell them how great the product is and why they are supporting it in the first place? Look at the type of content they are creating for the brand as well. Are they just taking a picture of themselves holding up the brand, or is it a video where they are actually using the products that they are helping promote?

Weekly Wisdom with Mikhail Alfon: Working with Micro Influencers. Image 5

These factors are really important to take into consideration because again, these influencers aren’t just a way to reach new audiences, they are a way to create new advocates for your product or your brand.

Managing Micro Influencer Campaigns

Next, we want to talk about how to manage the influencers once you find the ones that you want to work with. One of the best ways to manage your influencers, and the content they are providing for your company, is providing an influencer brief. An influencer brief can be a short deck or a hand out that includes the do’s and don’ts of creating content for your brand.

For example, you can say that your brand shouldn’t be pictured next to alcohol or shouldn’t be pictured in certain scenarios. You might want to tell them exactly how your product works as well, so that when they are using it, or they are wearing it, whatever it is, they are actually using it correctly.

Content Examples

In addition to that, you can also provide content examples; this is a great way to make sure that you are getting the high-quality content that you need and that you are paying for. Send them examples of either content that has been provided for you in the past or what you want to create based off of different aesthetics or different influencers that are creating content as well.

Hashtags

Be sure to include the required hashtags, and you also want to include any product information too, so that the influencer is super familiar with exactly what your product does, how it benefits them, and how they can communicate that to their audience.

Approval Process

When you are managing your micro influencer, make sure you have an approval process as well. This is how they are going to share the content with you before it goes live — because the last thing that you want is any mistakes in the content, any misclaims, whatever it might be. Be sure that the influencer is getting their context approved before it actually goes live.

Support 

Now lastly, when you are managing your micro influencers, be sure to support them. Remember that this is a partnership and not just somebody working for you. Share their efforts on Instagram Stories, on Twitter, or whatever it might be, or even make announcements that you have new micro influencers working with you and your brand.

Measuring Your Influencer Campaign

Let’s talk about measuring your influencer campaign; this is obviously one of the most critical aspects of managing your influencer initiatives, so make sure that you do it right. One of the things that you can do is use tracked links. Bit.ly makes this really easy, and you can use a unique tracked link for every influencer that you are working with. In addition to that, you can also use a unique UTM code for every single one. You want to make sure that you know exactly where your traffic is coming from, so using these codes are definitely going to help you do that through Google Analytics or any other analytics tool that you are using.

Promotional Codes for Tracking

Lastly, you can also use a promotional code. If you are asking an influencer to sell the product for you, obviously you want to see what type of impact that is having on sales. These unique promotional codes can be used on Shopify, Squarespace, and Amazon to make sure that you know exactly where the sales are coming from.

Qualitative Things to Consider

Now, in addition to these hard metrics, you also want to look at some of the qualitative things as well, like what the engagement like with the content that you are putting out? You are not necessarily going to get a conversion overnight, but sometimes if you can tell that the content or the influencer is resonating well with that person’s audience, you can actually jump in there as the brand and help push that conversation along.

Check out what the engagement is like. See what the content is like. Are you getting enough content to maybe fuel campaigns in the future? These things are also some of the aspects that you want to take into consideration with your influencer campaign. It is not just about sales. There are so many other metrics that you want to look at.

Final Tips and Strategies

All right, so now you have all the tools that you need to start your micro influencer campaign, but before we leave you today, we want to talk about some final tips and strategies. Now, campaigns that take place over a long period of time, like 60 or 90 days, typically perform better. The reason being is because to that influencer’s audience, it doesn’t seem like they are just hawking a product; it seems like they are actual advocates of the brand or the product that they are helping promote. Make sure that when you are creating your briefs for the influencer, it spans over 60 to 90 days, multiple posts, Instagram Stories, etc. in addition to the other platforms that they are using as well for added benefit.

Branded Swag

The other thing that we suggest is to make sure is that you create unique packages for all of these influencers too. Create a branded box, add some swag in there. These types of things are going to get the influencer excited, and when they are excited, they are going to create better content for you and promote it even better. 

Make sure that there is something unique for every influencer that you are working with because, at the end of the day, they are putting their brand on the line for yours.

Seasonal and Evergreen Creative Briefs

Lastly, you want to make sure to use a combination of seasonal and evergreen creative briefs. The reason we say this is because as content producers ourselves, we find it very difficult to continue creating new content week after week, day after day, etc. I am sure that as a brand, you are probably running into that challenge as well. Having a stack of evergreen content produced by your influencers will help fuel other campaigns in the future like paid or email campaigns, or even print if you have the right permissions. Be sure that you are using both seasonal and evergreen briefs in every campaign that you do so that you have more content to use in the future.

Thank you for checking out this episode of Weekly Wisdom, brought to you by SEMrush. My name is Mikhail, and I hope to see you again soon.

How to Set Up a Successful Affiliate Marketing Partnership: An Expert View

Geno Prussakov is an award-winning affiliate marketing professional, CEO & Founder of AM Navigator, and a guest of our recent #SEMrushchat. We asked him to give us expanded answers on how to find a valuable affiliate partner. Here are the main criteria of successful collaboration and the biggest mistakes to avoid.

What are the three parameters one should look at first when searching for an affiliate partner?

Quality and Targetedness of Referred Traffic

One would assume that, by its very definition, affiliate marketing is about these two elements as affiliates get compensated on a performance basis and should have no interest in sending low quality or untargeted traffic. The reality, however, is such that we do see low-quality affiliates out there. So, advertisers should look for those affiliate partners whose audiences they really want to touch through them – in a targeted and value-added way.

Marketing Complementarity

Ask yourself if the affiliate’s marketing efforts will complement your own, helping you amplify your marketing message, lubricating the path to conversion. Be it a unique mobile app that they have, or a consumer advice website, or skills to market you in ways that you yourself cannot look for the element of complementarity. If missing altogether, move on. If elements of potential marketing cannibalization are found, stay away. Look for valuable affiliate partners!

Incrementality of Referred Business

Whether it is an affiliate who can refer new-to-file customers or one who can effectively re-engage those customers who are no longer actively spending their money with you, look for affiliates who have the capability of driving incremental business. You do want to compensate affiliates on return customers, but it’s important to also reward them for incremental business.

Preview: How to Evaluate a Prospective Partner

Looking for a reliable way to evaluate a potential affiliate, co-marketing or business partner? Fill in the ultimate SEMrush cheat sheet to choose the most promising candidate! Evaluate the main metrics to figure out your future partner’s potential and make the optimal decision.

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What are the best ways for a startup to find their first valuable affiliate partner?

Startups are typically bootstrapped. Therefore, they should first consider the lower-cost ways of recruiting affiliates. Here are a few ideas:

  • Contact your happy clients. Who could be a better advocate than a satisfied customer?

  • Identify potential prospects within an affiliate network if your affiliate program is run on one. Search for them by type, niche, keywords, etc.

  • Look into giving your affiliate program additional visibility through paid search. You’ll be surprised how affordable it can be.

  • Submit your program’s information to affiliate program directories. We know that one in five affiliates uses them when searching for new affiliate programs to join.

  • Target attendees of affiliate conferences as well as your niche-specific conventions and meetups.

  • Identify your competitors’ affiliates or those who make your direct competition successful through affiliate marketing relationships. This method will require website traffic analytics tools, which means additional investment, but it has high chances of paying off.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when choosing affiliate partners? How can they overcome them?

  1. Auto-approving affiliates. An open door is never a good idea. To ensure that you’re partnering with those you do want to partner with, I recommend that you vet every affiliate application manually.

  2. Being misled by affiliate network size. What is more important is the number of strong affiliates in your niche that are active in the network.

  3. Focusing on quantity of onboarded affiliates. The number of recruited affiliates is irrelevant. It is the activated affiliates that are important.

  4. Failing to police compliance. Having rules and policies in place is important, but it doesn’t guarantee compliance with them. Having these gives you a solid foundation to police and enforce affiliate compliance, but it is important to devote the effort to doing it.

  5. Failing to diversify. Putting all your eggs in one basket has never been a good strategy. Do not rely on any one type of affiliate (be it coupon aggregators, ranking sites, incentive affiliates, or anyone else). Make sure to build a diversified affiliate base to effectively influence your customer throughout their journey through the sales funnel.

What are the best ways to estimate the number of leads/ROI that you can get from an affiliate?

This is a really tough question. The reason for this being that there are always too many contingencies and variables to make feasible predictions. And not only on the affiliate side but also on the brand side (price competitiveness, user-friendliness, CRO aspects, etc.).

Of course, you could estimate the number of conversions based on the affiliate’s traffic volume, assuming a click-through rate, and then tying in a suitable conversion rate assumption (basing the latter on what’s realistic for this particular type of affiliate). I would advise any affiliate manager not to share the results of such arithmetic with the affiliate, though. You do not want to set their expectations at a level they will never be able to reach.

[Infographic] Top Twitter Content Marketing Trends in 2019 – SEMrush Study

To keep up with the latest content marketing trends, marketers need to know what is being talked about in their industry. Social networks are a very effective channel for sharing information and discussing buzz between professionals in any field, including content marketing.

One of the fastest and most concise ways to share a trend with a big audience is writing a tweet — Twitter 326 million monthly active users, and you can reach your target audience just by using the right hashtags. It is also a great opportunity to discover what content marketers find interesting and what they are discussing right now.

To help you stay up to date and adjust your content marketing strategy accordingly, we have decided to spot the top content marketing trends on Twitter. We analyzed the best-performing tweets in English posted within the last three months with the hashtag #ContentMarketing. You will see the results of our research in the infographic below.

Top Twitter Trends in Content Marketing in 2019

Preview: Content Marketing Checklist - 25 Things that You Really Should Try in 2019

Ready to refresh your content marketing strategy this year? To help you discover the latest tricks and stay ahead of content marketing trends, SEMrush has prepared a content marketing checklist for 2019. Use these tactics, ideas and tools to give your content marketing strategy a much-needed boost.

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Interesting Observations

Digital Marketing

#DigitalMarketing is the top ranking hashtag used in content marketing related tweets within the last three months — 61% of the analyzed tweets, while #Marketing takes only third place at 39%. We can also see that #OnlineMarketing is the tenth most popular hashtag. This data shows us that content marketing has the strongest association with digital marketing, while traditional offline marketing is giving up ground.

With the Internet growing and developing, users have become more independent and demanding at the same time. Hard-sell advertising doesn’t work anymore — statistics show that 25.2% of US internet users blocked ads on their devices in 2018. One of the best ways to interact with customers on the web is to create high-quality and appealing content for your audience, and this is why digital is so closely connected with content marketing.

The main advantages of digital marketing over offline marketing is the ability it gives you to measure results more effectively, track performance at each step of your campaign, and analyze the customer journey to understand what they like most and how you can improve their experience.

Content Strategy

It is no surprise that strategy, the pillar of content marketing, is the most discussed topic in tweets with #ContentMarketing – 28% of the analyzed tweets. A well-defined content strategy allows you to understand how to create the right content — valuable and relevant — for your audience and distribute it through the channels that are right for them.

72% of content marketers who increased their level of success credit their strategy as a major contributor; this is why this topic is so popular between those who practice content marketing and those who want to start doing it.

A strategic approach to content can increase your website visitors, and there are many additional benefits over traditional marketing; check out our Ultimate Content Strategy Guide for 2019 to discover many of them.

Statistical Data

A content marketing strategy should rely on precise analytics and trustworthy data. This idea is backed up by the popularity of statistical data — 9% of the analyzed tweets talk about statistics, and 15% of the tweets with images show statistical data. In addition, #BigData takes 15th place in our hashtag rating — 11% supporting the importance of data.

Adobe says that the top 3 ways marketers are adding value to data-driven marketing include the use of CRM data, real-time data from analytics, and by integrating analytics across channels. Content marketers consider data analysis a priority — they research and gather statistics to plan their activities and search for optimal solutions to move their business forward.

We live in the era of overproduction — with millions of blog articles being written every week. There is no point in creating content for the sake of content; low-value content means the odds are few will even see it. To catch your audience’s attention, your content must be valuable and helpful; this is why your content and content strategy should be driven by data.

SEO

SEO remains one of the hottest topics in content marketing; it is the second most popular hashtag paired with #ContentMarketing — 51%, and the third most popular topic discussed in tweets — 12%.

This data means that SEO remains an integral part of content marketing. Search engines are the most powerful content distribution channel; 34.8% of all website traffic comes from organic search. Search engine optimization and search intent research are essential for any content strategy.

Blogging is the sixth most discussed topic in content marketing related tweets — 6% of the analyzed tweets. This number shows that despite the diversity of content formats, blogging and textual content remain one of the most popular formats in content marketing. And the top priority for making your blog post visible in organic is optimizing it for search engines.

Social Media

Content around social media is frequently shared by Twitter marketers -— #SocialMedia – 36%, #SMM – 35%, and #SocialMediaMarketing – 33%. Also, social media is the second most popular topic discussed in tweets — 13%.

Content marketing is closely connected to social media, as social networks are the perfect place to create a dialogue with your audience and distribute your content. But that is not all. To make your content marketing work and build a unique brand perception, you must align your overall objectives with your social media strategy.

From another perspective, content ideas are the seventh most popular topic — 5%, and this means that content marketers discuss new ideas right in Twitter, which can be a great source to boost your creativity and engage with your audience. If you are short on time but need data-driven insights, get thousands of content ideas using Topic Research.

Visual Content

Visual content is extremely popular in content marketing related tweets – 88% of analyzed tweets, while 12% of tweets are text only; 37% of visual tweets were infographics, and 15% of these showed statistics in images, while video was present in only 3% of them. Also, visual content is the tenth most discussed topic in our tweets.

Consider using visual content, as the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. In the era of fast information consumption, visual content in the form of relevant images and infographics should be part of any content strategy.

Growth Hacking

#GrowthHacking is a good example of a hashtag associated with a brand. This hashtag is widely used by the content marketing community on Twitter — 26% of the analyzed tweets — and provides additional visibility to @GrowthHackers.

This popularity may mean that content marketing is used as one of the approaches to growth hacking. Growth hacking is one of the most effective marketing strategies to quickly grow startup companies and other businesses.

Startups are also interested in content marketing, as it is the eleventh most popular topic in tweets with #ContentMarketing — 3%. Using content marketing, startups and other companies can gain up to 55% more visitors to their sites, and five times more leads, while it costs 62% less than traditional marketing.

E-commerce

E-commerce is the most discussed industry in the analyzed tweets paired with #Content Marketing – 19%, which is followed by industries such as health and travel — 13% each.

The main focus of any e-commerce website is conversions, and this is where content marketing gives you a boost. Studies show that companies that implement content marketing have a higher website conversion rate than those who don’t practice content marketing.

We have already discovered that visual content works better than traditional. While blog posts or e-books may not work best for your website, try implementing video marketing and interactive content in your overall strategy that will attract and educate your audience.

High-Tech

Our study shows that the Internet of Things – 16% (among hashtags), artificial intelligence and augmented reality are becoming real trends in content marketing.

Speaking of IoT, Intel predicts there will be 200 billion connected devices by 2020, which offers great opportunities for content marketing expansion and improving the user experience.

With more devices created and connected, new content types and distribution channels appear. We know that voice searches are increasing by the day, and in some countries, the percentages are already quite high. So, optimizing your content for voice search should be a priority for all. 

Tools

Tools are the least discussed topic in our rating — 2%, yet still popular; this means that content marketers pay special attention to finding and using handy tools in their daily routine.

Our content marketers survey shows that content strategists consider strategic planning and data analysis their most challenging tasks. To help content marketers be both analytical and creative, we have developed the SEMrush Content Marketing Platform, which covers all the steps of your content marketing workflow.

Using our Content Platform, you can find plenty of topic ideas, write and optimize your content, manage your editorial plan, measure the impact and analyze your content performance in one place.

Methodology

We collected all the tweets (more than 150,000) posted within the last three months with the hashtag #ContentMarketing. Only tweets in English were taken into account. For the sake of consistency, we disregarded the word register of hashtags.

For this study, we selected the most popular tweets with 20+ retweets and analyzed them to find the following data:

  • The most popular hashtags used with #ContentMarketing;

  • The most popular topics discussed in these tweets;

  • The use of visual content (presence or absence);

  • The top content marketing influencers on Twitter.

To find the top influencers, we analyzed the accounts that posted the most retweeted organic posts (20+ retweets) with #ContentMarketing and who have the largest number of subscribers. We also took into account the number of publications that were among the top performing tweets.

The Content In the Infographic

Top-15 Hashtags Used with #ContentMarketing

  1. #digitalmarketing – 61%

  2. #seo – 51%

  3. #marketing – 39%

  4. #socialmedia – 36%

  5. #smm – 35%

  6. #socialmediamarketing – 33%

  7. #growthhacking – 28%

  8. #content – 21%

  9. #iot – 16%

  10. #onlinemarketing – 15%

  11. #ecommerce – 15%

  12. #business – 12%

  13. #blogging – 12%

  14. #ai – 12%

  15. #bigdata – 11%

Top 15 Topics Discussed with #ContentMarketing

  1. strategy – 28%

  2. social media – 13%

  3. SEO – 12%

  4. statistics – 9%

  5. blogging – 6%

  6. content ideas – 5%

  7. influencers – 3.5%

  8. monetization methods – 3.5%

  9. leadership ideas – 3%

  10. startups – 3%

  11. visual content – 2%

  12. ecommerce – 2%

  13. trends – 2%

  14. sales – 2%

  15. tools – 2%

The Most Popular Visual Content Used in Tweets

  • Tweets with visuals – 88%

    • 37% – infographics

    • 15% – statistical images

    • 3% – video

  • Tweets with links – 61%

Top 10 Content Marketing Influencers on Twitter

  1. @MikeSchiemer

  2. @JonathanAufray

  3. @IsabellajonesCl

  4. @RebekahRadice

  5. @kimgarst

  6. @jeffbullas

  7. @BenKamauDigital

  8. @jaybaer

  9. @BrennerMichael

  10. @KDHungerford

What do you think about the results of our study? Which hashtags do you use on Twitter and what are your favorite topics to discuss with the marketing community? Share your opinion by leaving a comment!

Weekly Wisdom with Andrea D’Ottavio: Instagram Marketing Practical Tips

Welcome to Weekly Wisdom by SEMrush. In this episode, we will see how to optimize your Instagram profile and also how to create a nice feed, even if you don’t have a lot of resources.

About Andrea

Before we start, I would like to give you a little bit of background about myself. My name is Andrea, and I am the founder of Webing and Webing Academy —a growth marketing agency. It is a location independent agency. We launched this way more than 10 years ago, and we were one of the first agencies in the world to be based on a 100% location independent model. Today, we also do a lot of online courses and also offline workshops in select working spaces in many different countries. And in my career in the past 20 years, I have been managing more than 700 campaigns on digital channels for many well-known brands and also for a lot of exciting and really great small firms.

Optimizing Your Instagram Bio

Now, let’s see how to optimize your Instagram bio. The Instagram bio is essential, because it is the first thing that people see when they come to your profile, and it is imperative it is prepared in a way that engages with your potential follower immediately. There isn’t much space, so we need to really plan and carefully prepare a nice and effective bio. Let’s see how to do this.

First thing to keep in mind is that you only have 150 characters available, so in these 150 characters, including spaces, you need to condense all your business information, all your brand positioning, and all the benefits you offer with your products. So it is essential that you plan well and you add some symbols or emojis, so you make the bio look nice and less boring than just adding text.

Also, you should have your own branded hashtag; this is very important because having a hashtag allows your followers and customers to tag you in their posts. It is really important that you try to promote it as best as you can. For example, you can add something like, “Use this hashtag to be featured.” If you sell products and your customers take photos with these products, they can be encouraged to post photos that could be re-posted by your Instagram profile. This is something that a lot of customers love when brands re-post their photos.

Creating the Right Kind of Link

The profile is the only place where you can have clickable links, apart from the stories, which we won’t be talking about today very much. It is very important that you add the right link, and your link could be the link to your website, or better, to a landing page or your online shop if you have an e-commerce site. Make sure you prepare a link which is shortened and also includes a UTM. We will see this in a bit, what I mean by adding the UTM in the link. 

Weekly Wisdom with Andrea D'Ottavio: Instagram Marketing Practical Tips. Image 0

Creating Logos That Will Work

Make sure that your logo looks nice, even when it is small. If you have a horizontal logo or a large logo which doesn’t look nice when it is small, maybe it is time to prepare an alternative version of the logo so you can use it on your Instagram bio or anywhere you need to. You have the option to add a logo in a small format.

UTM Link

It is essential that you add a UTM link so you can track all the direct traffic coming from Instagram in your Google Analytics. You can see in this example that I added a campaign named Instagram:

Weekly Wisdom with Andrea D'Ottavio: Instagram Marketing Practical Tips. Image 1

I also added as source “link bio,” which helps me to understand that all the clicks coming from this link are from Instagram, so it is really important. You can use several tools to add the UTM and then shorten that link to make it look nicer, so you don’t have a very long set of characters on the nice profile that you prepared.

What happens is that when you go on Google Analytics, and you go under acquisitions, campaigns, all campaigns, you will see all the exact clicks and visits that you got through your Instagram bio, so it is really important that you use UTM links.

Weekly Wisdom with Andrea D'Ottavio: Instagram Marketing Practical Tips. Image 2

Optimizing Your Instagram Feed 

Now let’s discuss how to optimize your feed, which is the second most important thing that you have on your Instagram profile. Once people go to your profile, they are deciding whether to follow you or not. So if they visit your profile, they need to see immediately below the bio the photos and all the videos that you have posted.

It is critical that you plan your profile carefully, you use only high-quality media, and you try to inspire people. Tell brand stories. Tell the benefits of your products. It is vital that you post nice and high-quality content. I would always advise create great content because otherwise, you have to work much harder to convince people to follow you. 

Let’s see a few examples, and this is one of my favorite profiles on Instagram.

Weekly Wisdom with Andrea D'Ottavio: Instagram Marketing Practical Tips. Image 3

As you can see, it is very unique, and all the posts are really creative. She is an art director, so she is showing you her capabilities. Once you visit this profile, the first thing you think is, “Wow, it really looks nice.”

These are a few other examples of Instagram profiles. Some of them use the grid method to display photos, so they use six or nine or even 12 different images to create one single large image. Or, like the one in the center, you can see that they use individual, beautiful photos, which look even nicer when you see all the puzzle together.

Weekly Wisdom with Andrea D'Ottavio: Instagram Marketing Practical Tips. Image 4

These are just a few ideas; you can see what is necessary for you to create a nice feed that will make you stand out.

What if you have no photos?

You can also create feed even if you don’t have any photos. There are a lot of free resources, free photos that you can use to create your compositions and maybe even videos. One idea is to re-post images of your customers. Keep looking for photos posted by your customers, maybe who used the branded hashtags we were talking about earlier.

Also, allow people to take beautiful photos in your shop or even in your office if you have people visiting you often. Try to prepare natural settings, using patterned wallpaper, for example, or create areas in your shops or your office where people think, “Oh, that would be a nice place to take a photo.” You can encourage people to take photos and post photos, and that will really help you.

Also, make your products photogenic. Whether you post, you ship your products to your customers, or you have a restaurant or any other shop or point of sale where you have people, clients, customers visiting you and getting the products in the premises. Just try to make it look beautiful and photogenic so people will actually take photos of the products and post them on Instagram.

Examples

This image is just a photo of ice cream, but it looks great. It is an ice cream that people can buy in the box. Customers can buy the cup of ice cream and create this kind of composition with the ice cream. It is very different if you see an ice cream like this.

Weekly Wisdom with Andrea D'Ottavio: Instagram Marketing Practical Tips. Image 5

Below is an example of a customer taking a photo in a bar. As you can see, sometimes if you have the right customers, let’s say, you can just the take photos and re-post them, or post them, or monitor Instagram and see if your clients took any photos.

Weekly Wisdom with Andrea D'Ottavio: Instagram Marketing Practical Tips. Image 6

You can also search for locations. Just find photos that you can re-post on your profile. You can also get free images online, on websites like Unsplash and many others. If you are starting from zero and you don’t know what to post, or you don’t have anything, make a list of your main topics and main subjects and then look for related pictures. And when you find some pictures, you can add some easy customization, like in this example. Contact me on Twitter for the link.

Weekly Wisdom with Andrea D'Ottavio: Instagram Marketing Practical Tips. Image 7

And you can also create quote posts. Just add the photo and add another layer over the photo with another color, and then write a caption or a quote, something creative and meaningful for your audience.

And also, pay attention to your caption. Whenever you have to write a caption, make sure that this caption includes a call to action, because if you want people to do something, you need to ask them. You cannot just expect that they will do something on their own. 

Weekly Wisdom with Andrea D'Ottavio: Instagram Marketing Practical Tips. Image 8

So that is it for this episode. In my next video, we are going to see how to grow your engagement. It is going to be a little more technical and hands-on and practical. Make sure you don’t miss it. If you have any questions, post them in the comments, and I will be happy to reply. Enjoy the rest of your day. 

Setting Up Search Engine Marketing Campaigns On a Large Scale

Starting and managing SEM accounts can be —and usually is —  a daunting task. In addition to hitting your business goals (revenue, conversions, clicks, etc.), you need an account structure that is not only systematic but easy to understand and maintain.

In this article, I first briefly share my thoughts on account structure, then follow with detailed techniques that can help you build large accounts with numerous products — and in a flexible way.

In discussing account structure, I share what I think are the most important elements of SEM accounts, and how they can best be matched. It is not an explanation of what these elements are, as I am sure you know that already. Rather, it is to make explicit my assumptions and views, so it is clear why I am doing what I am doing.

SEM Account Structure: Keywords >> Ads >> Landing Pages 

The main process of using search engines has not changed much; you go to the search engine’s page, type (or speak) some words, view results, then click on your page of choice. 

Based on this, the three most important elements in building an account are: 

  1. Keywords: Representing the intention of the user, and what they want. 
  2. Ads: Your promise to the user that you will satisfy their need, as in, “I hear you, I have what you want, this is how I can help you, please visit this page.”
  3. Landing pages: This is where you fulfill the promise that you made to the user. 

If you properly map keywords to ads and send users to the right landing pages, you have achieved the core part of setting up your SEM campaigns. As it so happens, this approach is in line with the main elements that determine quality score: expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience.  

And while there are many other important things to consider, such as ad extensions, bidding, and campaign settings, they require far less time to create or set up.  

In practical terms, the essential part of setting up campaigns entails creating two tables, one for the keywords and the other for the ads; this is what we will be doing using a fictional account. 

I will be using the programming language Python with a few functions that I have developed. I encourage you to follow along on the interactive version of this article, where you can make modifications to the code and see how that changes the results. Most of the coding is quite simple, and you should be able to play with it even if you have no prior programming knowledge. 

Generating Relevant Keywords

Deconstructing the keyword research process, here is how we arrive at our final list of keywords.

First, go to a keyword tool and enter a few keywords that are clearly relevant to the product/service you are promoting. The tool then gives you a few hundred similar keywords. After that, sort through them and select those that you believe are most relevant.  

Once you are done with selecting the keywords — export, format, and upload them. Then repeat the process for every product/service that you have. For instance, assume we are doing keyword research to create a digital marketing campaign for a used car website.

Using this example, I will go through the process of selecting relevant keywords.

Let’s start with the product “Honda”. We would likely enter something like “buy honda”, “honda price”, or “honda for sale” to generate the keyword tool’s suggestions.  

While considering the keywords, keep in mind that there are two conditions a given keyword needs for it to qualify as relevant: 

  1. Product: It has to contain the product (“honda” or a synonym, in this example).
  2. Word: It has to contain a verb or word that indicates an intention (e.g., “buying a honda”).

Now, if you think of the possible verbs/words that can express that intention, you will find that they are not that many. Let’s brainstorm some: buy, price, shop, used, second hand, auto loan, car loan, auto finance, car finance, cheap, cheapest, best price, lease, leasing, certified.  

I am sure you can think of others, but the idea is that while there is an infinite number of combinations of words and variations, the words themselves are few. Of course, using phrase match and modified broad match is crucial in allowing users to come up with combinations that we failed to consider.

The important thing is that we filter out irrelevant keywords by making sure that the proper verb is there along with the product name. Needless to say, the proper negative match keywords should also be added to ensure relevancy.

Next, we will manually construct our first ad group using just the first two words as a demonstration. The way I do this is to simply concatenate “honda” with each of the words, once before and once after: 

buy honda  
honda buy  
price honda  
honda price  
used honda  
honda used  

Coupled with phrase match, you can be confident that you have covered the majority of keywords that contain “honda” with any of those three verbs/words (buy, price, used). Furthermore, “buy honda in <location>”, “best site to buy honda”, etc., would also be included. The corner case is when a user has inserted a word between the word and the product, such as “buy 2015 model honda”; this can be accounted for with a modified broad match.  

Assuming we are happy with the list of keywords that we produced using three match types — exact, phrase, and modified broad — it is easy to do the same for the specific honda models (e.g., “honda accord”, “honda civic”, etc.) that you have on your website.

Now, our next task in generating keywords entails two steps: 

  1. Match the products with their corresponding URLs: this is a simple matter, as your colleague or client can easily send you a list of all the products they sell, with their corresponding landing pages.
  2. Generate a list of verbs/words that signal the intention we are trying to satisfy.  

Clearly, step two is the critical one. Using your keyword tool, you can come up with the verb/word combinations to populate your intention list, and repeat the process for specific car makes or models. Then you can brainstorm until you are satisfied that your list of verbs/words is complete.

Now that you are done with generating keywords, the next step is coding to arrive at the final result.

Building Large Accounts: Coding

The challenge here is to repeat the keyword generation process for a large number of products. To do this, we first put the keywords in the proper format, the table that contains the campaign name, ad group name, keyword, and match type, so we can then upload it.  

In advertools a Python package for online marketing the kw_generate function is the one we will use for this task. Here are the main arguments that the function takes:

  • products: Self-explanatory. In our used cars example, that would be ‘honda’, ‘honda accord’, ‘toyota’, etc.
  • words: The verbs/words that we finalized.
  • match_types: A list of up to four possible match types; Exact, Phrase, Modified, or Broad.
  • order_matters: True or False. Whether or not the order of the words in the keyword matters. If True, then you will have “honda price” as well as “price honda”, otherwise you will be limited to “honda price”. 
  • max_len: The maximum number of words in a keyword that you want. For example, if you specify three, the function will combine “honda” with one word, as well as with two words, so you end up with keywords consisting of two and three words, such as “honda buy”, “honda price”, and “honda buy price”, “honda price buy”, and so on. This preempts the different combinations that will eventually come up and improves your coverage. It also exponentially adds to the number of keywords you are generating. More than three is possible, but it becomes way too complicated and cumbersome to be useful. With two and three words per keyword, you should get very good coverage. 
  • campaign_name: Whatever you want to name your campaign. The default is ‘SEM_Campaign’.

Let’s see how it works with one product and two words:
 

Generate keywords (max_len=2)Generate keywords (max_len=2)

As you can see above, all you need to think about are the words, which makes supplying the function parameters very easy. With one line of code, you get the final table, ready for uploading and launching your keywords.

Note that each product will get its own ad group, and ad group names are capitalized for better readability. Each keyword is repeated according to how many match types you specify, which also serves to generate labels for your keywords.  

The labels are the words in each keyword minus the product. In this example, they are “Buy”, “Price” and the product, “honda”, is excluded.

Now you can easily filter all the “price” keywords and compare them with the “buy” keywords. This will include all products that contain them: ‘toyota price’, ‘bmw price’ and so on. This gives you another dimension to use in analyzing performance.  

In the above example, we ended up with six keywords in total. Now let’s run the same function by specifying max_len as three words:
 

Generate keywords (max_len=3)Generate keywords (max_len=3)

Now we have nine keywords because we are combining words together. Let’s see what happens if we do the same but specify order_matters as True: 
 

Generate keywords (order_matters=True)Generate keywords (order_matters=True)

We generate thirty (I’m just showing the first and last five rows). Note that the labels where keywords consisting of multiple words (e.g., price honda buy) also have more than one word in them (e.g., Price;Buy).

Building Large Accounts: Numerous Products

Now let’s flesh out the full account.  

We first create the variable car_words that includes the words we came up with:

Word list (car_words)Word list (car_words)

This renders a random list of some popular car makes and models, which I will use for exemplary purposes:

Car makes and models list with URLsCar makes and models list with URLs

Matching the product names with their corresponding URLs is crucial because when we create the ads, we will be using the same product names for ad groups to ensure they are consistent with each other.

To illustrate, I constructed these fake URLs with a random set of car makes and models:
 

Generate car keywords (max_len=2)Generate car keywords (max_len=2)

Generate car keywords (max_len=3)Generate car keywords (max_len=3)

And we are done. The above are two samples of fifteen random rows each. The first table has 6,300 rows (keywords), and the second has 138,600. The only difference is that I specified max_len as two in the first and three in the second.
 

Ad group & keyword summariesAd group & keyword summaries

The summaries above show the number of keywords that we have for each match type under each ad group, using the first three ad groups as a sample. Another important effect of this approach is consistency. All ad groups have the exact same set of keywords, with the only difference of having the product name substituted. This consistency should make it easier to compare ad groups.  

It takes the same amount of work to generate six keywords as well as 6,300 in this case, or by changing a number, we get 138,600.  

When specifying max_len=3, we get some keywords that are more specific, and convey a stronger intent to buy, like “second hand honda price” or “buy used honda”. Some of these additional keywords are not particularly relevant (such as “car loan car finance toyota”), but it wouldn’t hurt to have them in your account as it is easy to remove them, especially that now we have labels. For instance, you can filter out rows where the label is “Car Loan;Car Finance”. You can look at one ad group as a sample and identify the cases where this doesn’t make much sense, and then apply it to the whole table. 

Now, perhaps you want to target more generic car terms that have a high volume but lower likelihood of converting. I am referring to product names like car, auto, autos, etc.  

We again use the same approach for generating keywords. The words have already been defined, so now we just have to think of a few ways of saying “car”. 

Generic car keywordsGeneric car keywords

Your website might have other ways of grouping cars. For example, you might have a section for SUVs, or maybe electric cars, hybrid cars, Japanese cars, and so on. 

Again, you simply have to come up with two lists: one for the products (variations of “SUV” for example) and one for the words, and you can do it in one step. You also can easily generate more specific keywords, such as BMW 320d, BMW 330d, bmw325xi, BMW 325i.

To demonstrate with another example, let’s generate travel keywords for the top destinations in the world. The following code retrieves the top destinations from Wikipedia and creates the variable called cities from the third column:

Wikipedia top cities listWikipedia top cities list

Now that we have our products list ready, we just need to think of verbs that convey an intention to travel. Let’s call them travel_words:

Generate travel keywordsGenerate travel keywords

As the table above shows, we generated 57,540 keywords for the destinations as well as a random subset of the keywords.  

And as a final example, let’s create keywords for a recipes website. The following code extracts the national dish for each country from Wikipedia:

Import national dishes from WikipediaImport national dishes from Wikipedia

 Now we do the same as before to generate recipes keywords: 

Generate recipes keywordsGenerate recipes keywords

You’re Invited!

I am sure you can see a pattern here. For each industry, there can be a fairly standardized set of words that work with that vertical. So why not prepare a set of keywords for different industries, and in different languages, to make it easy for people to start campaigns?  

I created a sheet that is downloadable and editable, which you can explore and make any changes you think are useful, so everyone can benefit from the ideas shared.

Starter words for different industriesStarter words for different industries

Limitations and Possible Issues: 

  1. Multiple match types in one ad group: I have never understood why this is a bad thing, and I usually put different match types in the same ad group because I find it to be more manageable and streamlined. If you like this approach, you can simply concatenate the ad group name with the match type, and end up with ‘Toyota – Phrase’ and ‘Toyota – Exact’; this will create those new ad groups for you. You need to make sure your change is consistent with the ads table.  
  2. All in one campaign: If you prefer to have more control over budgets and targeting, you may want to place each product in its own campaign (which I think is a good idea). All you have to do is duplicate the ad group column, and this will create them as campaigns. Combined with the previous step, you can end up with a campaign for Toyota and ad groups for each of the match types that you are using. Again, you will want to make sure your changes are consistent with the ads table if you want to make these campaign structure changes.
  3. Synonyms and spelling variations: There is no straightforward solution for this issue. For example, If you have a travel campaign, all of the following product names might be used to indicate the same destination: London, LHR, LGW, LDN, UK, England. Or maybe you have a real estate site: 2 bedroom, two bedroom, 2br, 2bed might all be used for the same purpose. In some cases like travel, it might be easier to come up with state, city, country, and airport codes to get synonyms, and in other cases, you will have to be creative. 
  4. Brand and sub-brand issues: In our example, we used “toyota camry” and “ford mustang”. But why not just use ‘camry’ as a product and create the keyword ‘buy camry’? The problem is with model names like Dodge Charger for instance. If you have the keyword ‘buy charger’ and not ‘buy dodge charger’, your budget is going to be vanishing sooner than you want, and you will even be penalized for being irrelevant. A possible solution might be to include the model without the make only for the names that are clearly referring to the car model and not something else. 
  5. Generic word products: In some cases like movie titles, it’s not enough to have the movie name on its own. One of the movies released a few years ago was titled “Sing”, so the keywords ‘watch sing’ or ‘download sing’ won’t mean much. So in these types of keywords, you will need to add a qualifier like ‘the film’ or ‘the movie’, to make it clear what you are targeting. 
  6. Negatives: This is not an issue actually, and it is very easy to generate, especially that we have a set of uniform and consistent ad groups. For used cars it would be “new”, “2019”, “2020”, “brand new”, etc. In some cases, you will probably need to add specific negatives at the ad group level. For example, there is London, UK, and London, Ontario in Canada. You will need to add -Canada as a negative keyword if you are targeting the London of the UK and vice versa.  
  7. Other issues: There must be some issues that I haven’t thought of, and I am hoping that you share them if you disagree with the approach, or if you have suggestions as to what might go wrong. 

To summarize the discussion on keywords, since getting product names and their URLs is trivial in most cases, your job boils down to creating a few words to combine them with. I am sure if asked to come up with twenty words for learning courses, or booking a hotel, or buying a certain product, that you can easily do it in a few minutes. The discussion is now about those 20 – 30 words that make sense for you, and then you are basically done.  

With this approach, you are making a transition from keyword research to keyword “manufacturing”!

Now let’s manufacture some ads. 

Creating Ads

I would like to discuss two main techniques for creating ads on a large scale:

1. Constructing ads (bottom-up approach): Nothing really different or new here, and can mostly be done with any spreadsheet software. There are some minor benefits though. 
2. Splitting text to get ads (top-down approach): This approach capitalizes on text that might be on landing pages and provides a technique for creating ads from that text. 

Constructing Ads (bottom-up approach)

This is a simple way of creating ads. Creating each of the slots one by one, and grouping them into one table.  
The function ad_create automates this by allowing you to provide the following parameters: 

  • Template: This is the text of the ad slot you are creating. It could be a header or a description line. Product names will dynamically be inserted into their proper position that you specify. For example, you can write “Get the latest {}”, and the product name will go in the empty space within the curly braces. 
  • Replacements: A list of the products that you are selling. As a result, you will get “Buy Used Honda”, “Buy Used Toyota”, “Buy Used BMW”, and so on. 
  • Fallback: In case your product name is too long and won’t fit in the maximum number of characters allowed, this should replace the long product name with a suitable generic word that might make sense. 
  •  Max_len: The maximum number of characters allowed for that slot of the ad. This makes sure that the text together with replacement (or fallback) don’t exceed a certain number.

Let’s see how it works with one ad slot.

ad_create sample usage (one ad slot)ad_create sample usage (one ad slot)

Product names are inserted where we specified. In the cases where the text would be longer than max_len (30 in this example), the fallback word “Cars” was inserted.  
Now we do it to construct all the ads.

Full ads table with ad_createFull ads table with ad_create

In some ads, the name of the cars was too long for the maximum number of characters allowed, so it was replaced with “Cars”. We were able to put the car names in Description 1, as it allows for more space.  
It is easy to think of variations of the ads above: changing text, different order, different call to action and so on. 

I won’t spend time about copywriting, split testing and the different ways you can communicate and capture the audience. This is a totally different subject, and extremely important, but I am mainly focusing here on techniques that enable us to build ads on a large scale. As with keywords, every set of ads can be generated with one function call, so feel free to experiment with different versions and approaches, based on your strategy and brand guidelines.  

The main idea of this article is the proper mapping of keywords to relevant ads and landing pages. After generating tens of thousands of keywords and hundreds of ads, we need to make sure that the mapping is correct.  

We now have two tables, one for keywords cars_kw_df3, and one for the ads ads_df; “df” is short for DataFrame. It is basically a table, and the name used in the popular data science languages. It is just a naming convention to know what your variables are, and which refers to which.  

Both DataFrames have the same campaign name, so that is covered. The more important thing to make sure we got right, is to make sure that all ad groups in the keywords table exist in the ads table, and vice versa. We also need to make sure that the overlap is complete, meaning there are no ad groups in one table but not the other. Python’s set data structure is perfect for that.  

Creating a set from a list of items achieves two things. First, it removes the duplicates, giving us a list of all unique elements. Second, it allows us to do operations almost exactly the same as the mathematical set operations; union, intersection, difference, etc.  

The two lines below do the same thing from opposite angles. Once it checks the difference between cars_kw_df3‘s ‘Ad Group’ column with the ‘Ad Group’ column of the ads_df DataFrame and the second time it does the opposite.  

Getting a result of set() means the empty set, so the mapping seems to be working. 

Verifying the correct mapping keywords > ads > landing pagesVerifying the correct mapping keywords > ads > landing pages

Creating Ads by Splitting Long Text

The other technique I would like to discuss is about utilizing the descriptive text you might have on landing pages to your advantage.  

Sometimes, you might have great descriptive text that might actually be used as an ad (or part of one). This approach is becoming more relevant with Google’s launch of responsive search ads. Here, we need to provide a lot of headlines and descriptions, for the system to test different combinations. Long and detailed product descriptions are perfect for that. 

 Let’s say you have this text on your landing page (this is copied from a real page actually): 

Used 2015 BMW 5 Series 535i xDrive Sedan AWD for sale with Sport Package, Leather Seats, Driver Assistance Package, Sunroof/Moonroof, Power Package, Navigation System, Technology Package, Aluminum Wheels, Heat Package, Premium Package, Climate Package, Luxury Package, Light Package, SE Package, SL Package, Bluetooth, Backup Camera, Comfort Package, Sound Package, M Sport Package.

The text clearly contains the most important details about our product. It is also great for relevancy, to include text from the landing page, and boosts your quality score a little. It makes your ads more transparent, as this is what the user will see after clicking on the ad.  

The issue is how to utilize this text when you have hundreds of descriptions like this. The challenge is to split this text into slots, each with a specified maximum number of characters, and making sure that they are meaningful words. You don’t want to have an ad “that has wo | rds that are split like this”.  

We will use the ad_from_string function to achieve this. The function takes the following parameters: 

  • s (string): Any sentence/phrase that you want to split. 
  • slots: A list of numbers with the maximum allowed characters for each ad slot. The default uses Google’s text ad default (30, 30, 30, 90, 90, 15, 15), but you can change it any way you want. 
  • sep: The separator with which to split words. Typically, you don’t need to change this as text will be split by white space. Sometimes, you might have words separated by underscores or dashes. 
  • capitalize: True or False, defaults to False. If True, the final ad will have each of the words capitalized. Otherwise, the capitalization will remain unchanged from what you provide.  

Let’s see how it would work with our example text. 

Usage of ad_from_string on one descriptionUsage of ad_from_string on one description

All the lengths are less than the specified lengths. You also get an additional slot at the end (length 82), and this is for the remaining text that didn’t fit in our specified slots.  

You might be happy with this ad as is. You might want to use it differently. For example, you might want to have specific phrases in your headlines, and use the description lines for the details of the product. All you have to do is to run the same function with the same text, but specify the slots as (90, 90). 

Splitting description with ad_from_string int lengths of (90, 90)Splitting description with ad_from_string int lengths of (90, 90)

Obviously, this technique can be used on other ad formats, as not all Google Ads text ads have this format. You can also use them with Facebook, or Twitter ads.  

The main risk here is that you might have ads, with incomplete sentences, that might not make sense. As there is no standard text that is used, you will have to check and make some modifications. In real life, data doesn’t usually come in a neat form. I scraped some sample car descriptions from the web, so we can take a look at how this might work out. These are random car descriptions, so they won’t work with our campaign because it is just a small sample for demonstration, but it works fine if you have descriptions for each of the URLs that we have.  

Here is a sample of those descriptions.

Sample car descriptionsSample car descriptions

And here is one function call to split sixty sample texts to the default Google text ads format, and generate the final table: 

Generate full ads table with ad_from_stringGenerate full ads table with ad_from_string

As you can see, in some cases the splitting works perfectly, and in some others, there is a lot of blank space. The solution to these situations should not be difficult. Wherever we have an empty slot, we can fill it with one of the phrases that we used when constructing the ads with the bottom-up approach.  

Let’s summarize the lengths of the descriptions that we have and see how they are distributed.  
We need to see how many of our ads we have fit into one slot, two slots, and so on.

Ad lengths distributionAd lengths distribution

No description is less than thirty characters long, so we will focus on the other slots mainly. Combining the two techniques, we will check if an ad slot has text in it, in which case we will leave it as is. Otherwise, we will insert the corresponding slot from the previous exercise. So, we will only be filling the blanks when we need to.  
The following code accomplishes this.

Fill in the blanks with ad_from_string & static textFill in the blanks with ad_from_string & static text

As these are random descriptions and don’t correspond directly to the keywords we created above, the ad group names would not make sense. When getting such descriptions, it is important to make sure that each one is mapped to the same product name you used for the keywords table and this way you make sure that all your campaigns are complete with keywords and ads.  

Some ad slots have text in them, but very little; this depends on your judgment. You can keep them as is, or you can change the rule in the last code that we used to fill in the blanks. Instead of checking if a slot is empty, we can instead check if the length of the slot is less than a certain number of characters. 

Summary

Let me summarize the process of creating the two main tables for keywords and ads. 

  1. Get product names and their URLs (optionally get descriptions as well); this would become your products list.
  2. Research/think of verbs/words that convey the intention you are targeting  
    words = [‘buy’, ‘price’, ‘shop’, etc…]
  3. Generate the keywords with one line of code:  
    adv.kw_generate(products, words)
  4. Create the ads: 

    Template for creating the ads table with ad_createTemplate for creating the ads table with ad_create

  5. Repeat the last step to come up with a few versions/variations.
  6. (Optional) if you have descriptions, use adv.ad_from_string to split descriptions to sub-strings.
  7. (Recommended) use the same technique to build sitelinks and other ad extensions.
  8. Set your campaign settings and bids, and Launch!