Tag Archives: google

The Future of SEO: Good Digital Strategy is the best SEO

Intrigue Summit 2018

Intrigue Summit 2018

On the last Wednesday I participated in interesting panel in Intrigue Summit 2018 about SEO and content marketing. Here are three main topics I was speaking about:

  1. Era of black magic quick fix SEO has been over for a long time

Google has for a while been blocking sites that do keyword stuffing or content with many (but weak) backlinks. I already wrote five years ago about how SEO is dead, when Google Hummingbird algorithm was launched. Then security search and semantic search were some of the key drivers then to change SEO landscape. Now the content quality (in the context of fake news) and mobile-friendliness are key drivers determining your search ranking.

Although SEO landscape has changed dramatically, I see surprisingly many SEO practioners in the marketplace talking like it would still be 2005. SEO tweaking is not a silver bullet.

  1. Search is not just the Google search bar

YouTube is the second most popular search engine. Amazon is the most popular search platform for product searches. Voice searches will contribute to 50% of all searches by the 2020.

How much of your search strategy is focusing on video, eCommerce and are you already optimizing for voice? You need to approach your search holistically and it might even be that for your brand Google is not the most important search engine.

  1. Relevant content and great user experience is the best SEO

Even nowadays I encounter clients who think that SEO is a quick fix for their problems. Unfortunately, quite often we found out that actual SEO is ok, but the site sucks. Brands should first focus on delivering the best possible user experience and relevant content. After that you should take care of SEO. Your SEO tricks do not really help if your site is loading too slowly or is not mobile-optimized. 53% of the people will abandon your site if it takes over 3s to load. Google will roll out mobile-first indexing this year, which means that Google will use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking the site on their search engine. If you cannot serve your customers in mobile, game is over.

If you create content that it is interesting to the humans it is easier to tweak it to match search engines than other way around. If you create content solely for search engines, you end up with boring content. The bad thing with boring content is that no matter how much traffic you drive to it, it does not convert.

Capturing people while they are searching is still essential part of the of your digital strategy. Search just is not separate line item in your strategy but closely connected to the whole digital experience you are providing. If you are able to provide great user experience and relevant content to your audience, making your SEO work is relatively easy.

 

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Content is Nothing Without Context

In a recent study with Lóreal and Google, where they tested typical ad, tutorial and testimonial, there were some interesting results. First the typical ad had the best view-through-rate but was not necessarily driving action so much.

viewthroughrate

What really struck me on the study were the following points:

 

1) If you are interrupted, you want to be interrupted with something that looks good.

Pre-rolls have been around for a while so people are expecting to see ads when they are checking YouTube. It is almost like an ad break, but apparently slightly more annoying.

 

2) Women are actively looking for the tutorials, not ads

Especially this is true to the millennials, they are used to less ad-looking content production. If you are interrupted with tutorial when you want to watch a tutorial, not surprisingly you are not necessarily watching it through.

 

3) Younger audience appreciates the more “real” approach and it drives more action

 youngeraudience

action

This pretty much highlights the point I have been going through for a while. Brands need to have their ad and content game in check. Creating great content is not supplementing the hard-working ads. And vice-versa: hard-working ad is quite seldom great content. What works as a pre-roll does not necessarily work in another formats.

Content production is totally meaningless if you do not think the context where you are showing it.

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Will Ad Blocking Be The New Napster?

Apple has basically failed at the ad business and they are trying to ruin it for everybody else.

– Jeff Jarvis

Google owns the web. Facebook owns the social. Apple owns the phone. That has been the technology world order for a while.

Now that order is about to shake.

The discussion about ad-blocking has been a hot topic, because the new iOS 9 has ad-blocking features for Safari mobile browser. The strategy for Apple is simple. This is full-frontal attack towards Google. Google hosts majority of the ads in “the normal web” with other Apple rivals like Facebook and Microsoft. Apple does not play the browser ads game. However they are serving ads in iOS applications that they not “surprisingly” block. Also conspicuously Apple launched their news service at the same day as it allowed ad-blocking.

It remains to be seen how things escalate, but the following three things are certain:

  1. Widespread ad-blocking will kill publishers

The casualties of war between Apple and Google will be the content publishers. They are already losing $22 billion of revenue this year because of blocking of the ads. If content publishers are not serving the ads for the content you are consuming, they are not getting paid. If you are not getting paid eventually you go bankrupt. As the piracy shows people do not really want to pay for content, so advertising has been the only way to bankroll the content production. Only 11% in US and 6% in UK have paid for online content. So subscription model online does not really work, although people are advocating for it. Even creator of popular ad-blocker Peace, pulled the ad-blocker from App store because he had regrets:

Achieving this much success with Peace just doesn’t feel good, which I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have. Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit.

Marco Arment

Not all of the creators of ad-blockers have surely similar regrets. Even without Peace, ad-blockers have been the most popular paid apps in the new iOS 9.

  1. Generally online ads have been of bad quality

Ad-blocking is already more prevalent than ad-skipping on television. Ad industry should take some responsibility of the horrible, low quality and invasive display advertising as well. Advertising in web is democratic, which is great to certain extent but also has been the core problem. When amateurs do, it is quite often amateur quality. In TV there has at least been some quality (of varying degree and based on channel).

As people have not noticed online ads, they have become more and more invasive and making the user experience worse. Even people from the industry are skipping the ads. Therefore I actually believe more in longevity of pre-roll advertising format than the banner on the long run (although I still think there is much room for creativity when doing banners). Nevertheless, both of these can be blocked so you don´t need to necessarily endure either.

  1. Traditional online ad industry will face the same future as music industry

If ad-blocking will become the norm that will essentially kill the display advertising, as we know it. We can debate whether it was good or bad, but essentially Napster and then after the legal counterpart iTunes and Apple Music killed the music industry, as we knew it. Today´s music business is much more nimble and record labels are playing lesser role than before. Music has not disappeared anywhere though.

Killing the category is only lucrative for the killer. Apple has been the giant killer many times (helps when you are giant yourself), so I doubt that they are hesitating in trying to bring competitors (namely Google) down by any means necessary. For the consumer the fall of online ad industry does not really sound too bad. Generally all of the people (hell, even publishers) find ads annoying. Expect that those annoying ads pay for the content production online like mentioned above (and print media is almost dead already). In every change there is opportunity for innovation. Pagefair is actually serving “non-intrusive ads just for your ad-blockers”. Talk about contradiction in terms.

Modern digital marketer has to follow closely how the situation with the ad-blockers will evolve and act accordingly with your media mix. Native advertising will seem likely winner in this new era. Will that result in better content or just more bad editorials? My fear is the latter.

By the way, I don´t block ads. Maybe just to show solidarity to publishers and to be true to my profession. On the other hand I don´t tolerate sloppy and invasive ads either. We need to improve so that people would not want to block those ads on so alarming pace.

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Digital Bottlenecks are Analog Problems

Digital bottlenecks are not often solved with only digital means.

Like Scott Galloway points out in this brilliant presentation about the masters of digital universe, the Amazon´s Achilles heel is the shipping:

Their shipping costs are exploding at 40% and shipping fees and transportation costs are over 9 billion. Free shipping has been one of the main reasons why people choose Amazon and what makes them unique. There is no immediate digital solution for shipping (as long as there are physical products). Drones are quite long shot to solve that challenge*.

Same way the biggest Achilles heel of Apple Watch will be the battery, which lasts only a day. The battery duration is not a digital problem. It is a chemical problem.

New digital opportunities might reveal old challenges.

*Interestingly, the unsexy solutions might be the most sustainable. Click & collect is hugely popular, albeit archaic way for eCommerce and traditional retailers might find innovative ways to use their store network for flexible warehousing.

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Is SEO Finally Dead?

SEO is dead.
I have never been specialized in search. I have many times worked with search specialists in various projects and I appreciate the work they do. Understanding the meaning of Google in consumer life is crucial, but SEO (or SEM for that matter) is just a part of a bigger picture. Remembering the time when clients believed that SEO is a silver bullet, I have always had my firm principals on how I approach the search:

1)   SEO is competitiveness, not competitive advantage.
Making your website search engine optimized is easy for your competitors to do as well. How do you differ from them when they have are optimizing same way as you do as well? This is apparent in highly competed fields of traffic. Tabloids or online travel portals compete head-to-head and the number one search position changes hourly. Of course if you have not made sure of the basic hygiene issues, you have most likely lost the game already. Doing search well is something that is not enough to differentiate anymore.

2)   You should create your content for people not for the search engines. 
I have blogged for almost 10 years in various instances. Sometimes I have done tests and wrote the content more with the keyword-glasses on. What I have noticed is that good content will always become popular no matter what words you use. Some of my most read posts have had actually really mundane titles and go against all the rules of the traditional “write for search engines” –rule. Of course I know that I am not Perez Hilton or Seth Godin (or do I?), and my blog post is only a tiny-tiny-tiny fraction of what is happening in Internet in general. But so is majority of the web content. Companies should first concentrate on how they can be useful & interesting, and then think about keywords. Not the other way around. Being useful & interesting is hard and there are not short cuts to it.

3)   Real Popularity is the most important optimization
Google likes content, which is popular and which is shared. After Google Panda-algorithm change two years ago, the traffic to news sites and social media sites surged whereas “content farms” really slumped (and majorly have not been able to come back). We also now that Google has increased the weight to social sharing with its search algorithm. Social media shares are harder to fake. You really have to be useful & interesting to get those shares, because they are done by real people.

These principles are still valid, and with the recent algorithm changes (like above-mentioned Panda) more accurate than ever. Google is aiming to eventually stop gaming the system and also make search to emulate more human way of searching the information. With latest Google Hummingbird there has been maybe the biggest leap in search, and the following changes will change the search game totally:

1.  Security Search is now the Default: Less visibility on why your visitors are visiting your site
In conjunction with Hummingbird-algorithm change, there was also other major change in September. All the Google searches are now secure by default. Basically this means that you do not know what keywords your site visitors have used when they arrive on your site. This change was eventually inevitable, but still makes traditional SEO harder. There are also certain workarounds to try to capture the traffic.

2. Enter the Semantic Search: Forget the keywords, give answers
More and more searches are currently made by mobile and in the future increasingly with your voice (Siri & Google Glass). Traditional “googling” is not a normal way for people to find what they are looking for. We have taught ourselves to use keywords, but what we really are trying to find is answers.
Giving right answers tailored to you is the direction where Google is going. It takes account your device, previous search history and location and gives tailored search results based on your existing and expected future behavior. Some of these developments we have already seen. Google corrects your misspelled words and proposes alternatives to what you are trying to search. Knowledge graph tries to guess what you are searching on the right side under the search bar.

The search game is totally different than it was couple of years ago.
Do we still need specialized SEO-agencies or is search business nowadays mainly SEM?

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Google Reader and the Missed Opportunity of RSS Feeds

Google Reader is now officially announced dead. Slowly it has been dying for quite a while.

I am one of the apparently very few relics, who have been using Google Reader actively for years and years. Personally it has been the most useful Google tool for me right after search and Gmail. Without using Google Reader (and other digital fossil Del.icio.us, which is still alive but struggling), writing of my first book would have been much more tedious process.

Looking from the business perspective and reflecting the overall downward trend of success of RSS feeds, the decision to kill Google Reader is a no-brainer. Everyone gets their news and blog posts either from search or from social networks, who needs separate place to go for their internet content?

Well us professionals and hobbyist, for instance.

I am passionate about few things. Other half is a work related and others are hobbies (basketball, hip-hop music, literature and movies). Google reader was my starting point for getting my daily fix on those high-interest subjects. Additionally I also use social networks and Google search to find stuff, but for me those are not the primary sources of information. When sharing is the only currency, it will be eventually lead to dumbed down content. Just watch any of the titles of your average web publication.

So farewell RSS feeds, the social media sharing is the way to drive traffic these days.

The demise of RSS Feeds, can be summarized to one word: complicated.
Starting with the name: RSS sounds like some kind of disease. Then there was the ease of use, or lack thereof. Although you did not have to be rocket scientist to get yourself RSS feed reader, it required still more commitment than the normal internet user wants to have with their platforms. The adding of the RSS feeds was not intuitive enough and the logo did not really reach adequate awareness. If following and subscribing would have had button something akin to Facebook like, the situation might be totally different.

Personal blogs have been largely replaced by tweets and Facebook status updates. The promise of RSS Feed Reader is still valid. You get the news you are actively interested to one place. People have not stopped consuming content in the Internet, more the other way around. The way to consume it has shifted more towards social, but there are some users who want to have also more curated experience for their content. Those users are not necessarily lucrative target audience.

Like Rob Fishman points out in his excellent article in Buzzfeed, Google Reader was the closest to functioning social network Google has ever been (excluding maybe for YouTube). I am deliberately excluding Gmail, as the nature of it is more 1-to-1 connections. As the “success” of Google+has shown, building it over Gmail was not necessarily the wisest decision. The mass using Gmail does not necessarily convert to more public sharing of social network, although it might make business sense on the paper. If Google would have invested to Google Reader and pushed it organically towards more social experience, they might have really successful social platform in their hands.

I was actually really active in Google Reader back in the day and sharing content like there was no tomorrow. That lasted until it was connected to Google+, which made it too overbearing. I was not the only one. Google Reader really never got a chance to truly try to strive in the marketplace on its own. Like former Google product manager explains in Quora, the Reader developer team was stretched thin and utilized mostly in other failed projects. Google Reader –based social network would have been the social platform, which is still truly lacking in the marketplace. The social network that is built around your user interests and passions. Maybe the new MySpace is trying to fill that gap, at least with music.

I will not shed tears for Google Reader. The decision makes definite short-term business sense. On the long run however, we will never know. Disappearance of Google Reader might have surprising effects on the digital content ecosystem. Although it has not been major traffic driver for the sites, it might alter and shift the readership radically of certain content providers.

Killing Google Reader and betting with Google+ are probably smart decisions. The real question is, are they wise decisions? Meanwhile Google Reader remains as an artifact of the potential social media success Google is still desperately trying to achieve. Until 1st of July, that is. As I am writing this, I am moving my Google Reader subscriptions to Feedly.

Old habits are hard to kill.

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Will Facebook Graph Search Replace Google?

The big news in social media front this week has been of course Lance Amstrong coming clean (sort of)  in Oprah. Despite that, maybe even more important discussion item has been the new Graph Search by Facebook. Graph in the name means demographics. In a nutshell it is a search engine, which will show results based on their “social stickiness”. You can search for the items your friends like or find correlations with things you are liking and what other people with similar taste are. If you are planning for vacation, you can see who of your friends have visited or are living in your destination. The graph search is living on the notion that you trust more your friends, family and real people than brands, media or even the experts. What remains to be seen is do you trust more social search than search algorithm.

What are the implications of Facebook Graph Search?

1. Revenge of Facebook Places
Graph Search challenges firstly Yelp & FourSquare, secondly Google. The graph search creates definite incentive to start checking more with the Facebook places compared to other location services. It will not challenge heads-on Google´s search function, but definitely will be challenger for Google in certain categories. These categories will be restaurants, hotels and events, to name a few.
In this way Graph Search continues the typical Facebook strategy of finding up & coming services and then incorporating it to Facebook user experience. However, Graph Search is much bigger concept and also first proper challenge towards its main competitor Google.

2. Privacy debate lurks ahead
In a typical Facebook fashion you expect that there will lots of brouhaha over privacy. Some of it is because the overall liberal stance Facebook has for the privacy issues. Other part will be about Facebook users overall sloppiness with privacy issues. Majority of users do not have any idea to whom they are actually sharing and they suddenly wake up that updates and pictures might be public when there are updates to Facebook platform. Whatever changes happen in Facebook, it is always a privacy issue.

3. The more you give, the more you get
When implemented right, Graph Search will also boost other Facebook usage. When you realize that the more people will share their experiences, pictures, likes and statuses the more accurate the search will be. This creates positive pressure to use Facebook more. If you have not liked anything on Facebook , you will not get recommendations. And when people use Facebook more, the more FB can sell ads to show. Also if Graph Search starts to challenge also LinkedIn, there will be sudden surge to update your job details to Facebook.

4. It is just a matter of time, when ads will come as part of Graph Search
In the current beta phase, there are no ads showing in the search bar. With pressure to monetize and bring more shareholder value we will definitely see some kind of ads in the near future. Then it also starts to make sense to the companies as well.

5. This is just a small step from Facebook, but very crucial step to the right direction.
This is the most important launch from Facebook in a long time and first serious attempt to really dig deeper to the Facebook database. The amount of data and social connections will beWhen it will be really launched we can see how the social search really catches on with its users. One form of social search is already appearing when people pose questions to FB status updates. Graph search might in some ways replace that behavior and make finding recommendations easier. So although Wall Street was not particularly delighted about the new announcement, this function will definitely be interesting. Also to make Graph Search to function on full scale, requires apparently much more work.

Maybe more of a philosophical question, but also as it core and crucial to the success is the following:

Do I trust more the social recommendation than expert recommendation?

I trust my social circles in many of the issues there are. However, with certain issues I want to get views of experts. The amount of likes does not always tell the relevance to the searcher.

It will be the battle between hyperlinks and likes.

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Why Google is Struggling with Mobile?

The future of the business is mobile.

Or so they say. Currently it seems more that future business of companies is ruined by mobile. Zynga has lost 85% of its value, because the mobile adoption has been faster than expected. Facebook has been stumbling with mobile advertising, although its recent mobile ad revenues beat the industry estimates.

Even the traditionally steady high-performer Google has been showing signs of slowing down. The problems have their root cause in mobile: Motorola acquisition has not yet paid off and mobile advertising has driven average click prices down.

Here are five other reasons why Google (like many other companies at the moment) is struggling with the mobile:

1. Status Quo Bias
For years the AdWords has been the hen that lays the golden eggs for Google. As humans, we are more likely to believe that things remain the same and are more likely to select to stay in status quo whenever possible. Every company encounters status quo bias at some point. AdWords are still selling like pancakes, the main difference is that the average click price has dropped for four consecutive quarters in row.
Although no one accuses that Google is not doing mobile innovations and investments, there has apparently not been pressing need for them to roll them out faster.
2. Android Ecosystem does not pay off (expect for Samsung)
According to certain estimates, Google makes about $6.50 through ads on Apple devices, compared with under $2 in Android. Google makes roughly the same amount of profit selling Android ads & apps in year that Apple makes selling iPhones a week. Google has regarded Android ecosystem more of an extension of the advertising. Currently it seems that it only benefits Samsung (and maybe to some extend users).
3. Mobile advertising ecosystem is currently broken.
People are not yet ready to make purchases with mobile. That is likely due to change in the future. Meanwhile, the mobile ads generate less revenue than traditional ads on average. Mobile has been thus far more about duplicating the web experience for Google, than regarding it as a center of the advertising innovations.
4. Consumers are even more unpredictable with mobile
Who would have predicted that texting will become popular? Or that tablets will become hits? Consumers are always fickle and surprising, but especially in mobile. Consumers do not really know (or at least articulate) what they want, but they still act quite fast to get it.
5. Google is not (yet) producing phones
Although Google bought Motorola, there has been a strict separation of church and state between Android and Motorola. Apple and Samsung have proven that the money in mobile lies in hardware. Microsoft has returned to hardware game as well. Facebook will probably enter the competition soon. Can Google stay away from the phone game?

I am sure that Google has certain tricks up on their sleeves regarding the mobile. Until those tricks are revealed, there will be more growing mobile pains ahead.

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