Yearly Archives: 2020
- Brands face increasing challenges to capture audiences’ attention with paid posts as users learn to scroll past sponsored content.
- Advertising spending has dropped during the pandemic, meaning there’s less competitive noise and no better time to shine.
- Marketer Mike Monroe shares the three most important drivers of increased engagement with sponsored posts on social media.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, navigating social media marketing was like trying to make your way through a bustling metropolis. It was noisy, full of ads, and generally oversaturated. After a while, all the scrolling turned into a fuzzy blur.
It has become increasingly challenging for brands to capture audiences’ attention with paid posts. People are scrutinizing big tech and its seductive algorithms. Labels are getting larger. As a result, users on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter learned to scroll past anything labeled #sponsored. They want to see entertainment, not advertisements.
But now, there’s no better time to shine. Advertising spending has significantly decreased due to COVID-19, which means that the volume has been turned down. Companies have a better chance of standing out now if they follow Seth Godin’s theory and put a Purple Cow — or a remarkable, buzzworthy, unique element — into their social media marketing. It’s the perfect time to capture new attention by creating memorable content on Instagram, Facebook, and beyond. By creating unique ads that are worth looking at during a marketing lull, brands can stand out and snag the attention of target audiences.
Find an opening for your brand
It’s not easy to create sizzle on social, though. Many companies have tried and failed to gain traction with paid media. Sometimes the problem is the sponsored ads look like they’ve been made by people who’ve never tweeted or snapped in their lives. Other times, the error is lacking a clear objective or trying to attract the wrong audiences. For instance, Generation Z won’t scroll Facebook, and Generation X isn’t that interested in TikTok.
However, it can be done. Instagram says that 6 out of 10 users discover new products through its channel, and Twitter ads can net up to a 3% engagement rate. Habits and behaviors are up for grabs right now as people define their new normals, so brands that zig while their competitors’ zag will dominate popular platforms. The trick is figuring out how your company fits into the narrative.
At Vector Marketing, we experienced a huge spike in brand awareness thanks to a deceptively simple TikTok video featuring our product, a clay Baby Yoda head, and annoying background music. The video was our first big hit, and it helped us grow our account significantly in terms of followers and views. Why did the video amass so much engagement? It tapped into a few key internet trends: TikTok was hot, Baby Yoda was popular, and #oddlysatisfying videos were taking off. By merging those phenomena, we struck pay dirt.
How to increase sponsored post engagement
Write the right message for the right person at the right time. That’s the recipe. If you’re struggling with sponsored posts, check the recipe, and see whether your social media marketing efforts include all three ingredients:
1. The right message
What’s your plan? You need to know why you’re saying something before you say it. Think about the purpose your paid ad will serve and position it accordingly. For instance, if your goal is lead generation, make sure you have a hook, an educational element, and a call to action. If you’re aiming for brand awareness, then make engaging content the premium. Remember not to assume that your images, copy, and other creatives are good but instead to A/B test them and learn what really engages your audience. It’s crucial because more than half of all online brand discovery happens in public social feeds. Remember: The more people who see or click your ad, the larger the ROI will be.
2. The right person
Your social media audience serves as the judge, jury, and executioner. If you think your content is trendy and users aren’t biting, then you need to redefine what you consider to be trendy. Your perception is not as important as the audience’s perception. Let’s say that you just created a post for Millennials talking about Baby Yoda. It’s still relevant, but Millennials and Gen Xers have moved on (as they quickly do). You need to meet your target audience where they are, so look into the demographic data of the social platforms you’re courting and plan accordingly.
3. The right time
Identify the perfect moment to post by matching your content to the zeitgeist. If it’s autumn and you own a laundromat, you might ask followers, “You should never wash your jersey during football season. True or false?” While their answers will likely be interesting, they don’t really matter. What does matter is that you capitalized on a trend and met consumers when they were ready to engage.
Capturing the attention of social media users is tough, but it can be done. Just stay attuned to what’s happening, remember the recipe’s three ingredients, and be ready to see that engagement increase.
The post Need to step up your social media marketing? Follow this recipe appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
CommonGround, a startup developing technology for what its founders describe as “4D collaboration,” is announcing that it has raised $ 19 million in funding.
This isn’t the first time Amir Bassan-Eskenazi and Ran Oz have launched a startup together — they also founded video networking company BigBand Networks, which won two technology-related Emmy Awards, went public in 2007 and was acquired by Arris Group in 2011. Before that, they worked together at digital compression company Optibase, which Oz co-founded and where Bassan-Eskenazi served as COO.
Although CommonGround is still in stealth mode and doesn’t plan to fully unveil its first product until next year, Bassan-Eskenazi and Oz outlined their vision for me. They acknowledged that video conferencing has improved significantly, but said it still can’t match face-to-face communication.
“Some things you just cannot achieve through a flat video-conferencing-type solution,” Bassan-Eskenazi said. “Those got better over the years, but they never managed to achieve that thing where you walk into a bar … and there’s a group of people talking and you know immediately who is a little taken aback, who is excited, who is kind of ‘eh.’”
That, essentially, is what Bassan-Eskenazi, Oz and their team are trying to build — online collaboration software that more fully captures the nuances of in-person communication, and actually improves on face-to-face conversations in some ways (hence the 4D moniker). Asked whether this involves combining video conferencing with other collaboration tools, Oz replied, “Think of it as beyond video,” using technology like computer vision and graphics.
Bassan-Eskenazi added that they’ve been working on CommonGround for more than year, so this isn’t just a response to our current stay-at-home environment. And the opportunity should still be massive as offices reopen next year.
“When we started this, it was a problem we thought some of the workforce would understand,” he said. “Now my mother understands it, because it’s how she reads to the grandkids.”
“Amir and Ran have a bold vision to reinvent communications,” said Matrix General Partner Patrick Malatack in a statement. “Their technical expertise, combined with a history of successful exits, made for an easy investment decision.”
Pokémon GO was created to encourage players to explore the world while coordinating impromptu large group gatherings — activities we’ve all been encouraged to avoid since the pandemic began.
And yet, analysts estimate that 2020 was Pokémon GO’s highest-earning year yet.
By twisting some knobs and tweaking variables, Pokémon GO became much easier to play without leaving the house.
Niantic’s approach to 2020 was full of carefully considered changes, and I’ve highlighted many of their key decisions below.
Consider this something of an addendum to the Niantic EC-1 I wrote last year, where I outlined things like the company’s beginnings as a side project within Google, how Pokémon Go began as an April Fools’ joke and the company’s aim to build the platform that powers the AR headsets of the future.
Hit the brakes
On a press call outlining an update Niantic shipped in November, the company put it on no uncertain terms: the roadmap they’d followed over the last ten-or-so months was not the one they started the year with. Their original roadmap included a handful of new features that have yet to see the light of day. They declined to say what those features were of course (presumably because they still hope to launch them once the world is less broken) — but they just didn’t make sense to release right now.
Instead, as any potential end date for the pandemic slipped further into the horizon, the team refocused in Q1 2020 on figuring out ways to adapt what already worked and adjust existing gameplay to let players do more while going out less.
Turning the dials
As its name indicates, GO was never meant to be played while sitting at home. John Hanke’s initial vision for Niantic was focused around finding ways to get people outside and playing together; from its very first prototype, Niantic had players running around a city to take over its virtual equivalent block by block. They’d spent nearly a decade building up a database of real-world locations that would act as in-game points meant to encourage exploration and wandering. Years of development effort went into turning Pokémon GO into more and more of a social game, requiring teamwork and sometimes even flash mob-like meetups for its biggest challenges.
Now it all needed to work from the player’s couch.
The earliest changes were those that were easiest for Niantic to make on-the-fly, but they had dramatic impacts on the way the game actually works.
Some of the changes:
- Doubling the players “radius” for interacting with in-game gyms, landmarks that players can temporarily take over for their in-game team, earning occupants a bit of in-game currency based on how long they maintain control. This change let more gym battles happen from the couch.
- Increasing spawn points, generally upping the number of Pokémon you could find at home dramatically.
- Increasing “incense” effectiveness, which allowed players to use a premium item to encourage even more Pokémon to pop up at home. Niantic phased this change out in October, then quietly reintroduced it in late November. Incense would also last twice as long, making it cheaper for players to use.
- Allowing steps taken indoors (read: on treadmills) to count toward in-game distance challenges.
- Players would no longer need to walk long distances to earn entry into the online player-versus-player battle system.
- Your “buddy” Pokémon (a specially designated Pokémon that you can level up Tamagotchi-style for bonus perks) would now bring you more gifts of items you’d need to play. Pre-pandemic, getting these items meant wandering to the nearby “Pokéstop” landmarks.
By twisting some knobs and tweaking variables, Pokémon GO became much easier to play without leaving the house — but, importantly, these changes avoided anything that might break the game while being just as easy to reverse once it became safe to do so.
GO Fest goes virtual
Thrown by Niantic every year since 2017, GO Fest is meant to be an ultra-concentrated version of the Pokémon GO experience. Thousands of players cram into one park, coming together to tackle challenges and capture previously unreleased Pokémon.
Opinion News in Top Stories Earlier this year, I wrote a post about news stories that are shown in carousels in Google Top Stories Are Chosen By Importance Scores The patent I wrote about in that post told us that Google may attempt to show opinion pieces related to topics that were being identified as … Read more
As the year draws to a close, a few members of our edit staff shared stories that defined the last 12 months for their beat.
Devin Coldewey: Technology played a pivotal role in the coverage of protests against police violence over the summer. Disinformation and discord spread like wildfire on social media, but so did important information and documentation of brutality, often via the newly popular medium of live streaming.
Kirsten Korosec: Uber evolved from a company trying to cover everything in transportation to one focused on ride-hailing and delivery as it aims for profitability in 2021. To get there, Uber offloaded its micromobility unit Jump, its self-driving subsidiary Uber ATG and air taxi moonshot Uber Elevate.
Brian Heater: Smartphone sales suffered a major decline as people stayed home and spent less on luxury items. The expected rebound from 5G handsets will have to wait for 2021.
Natasha Mascarenhas: Edtech, a sector that was notoriously undercapitalized, got a cash-rich spotlight as the coronavirus spurred widespread remote learning. Startups were able to raise funds, turn first profits, and finally grow from a tool to a necessity.
Darrell Etherington: SpaceX had a tremendous 2020, realizing a lot of things that they’d been working on for years. First and foremost, they launched astronauts aboard a SpaceX spacecraft for the first time. They followed that up with even more human launches, and with a huge step forward in their Starship development program. Finally, they made big progress with their Starlink broadband internet constellation. Definitely the space industry newsmakers of the year.
How C-suite derives business value from social media: Q&A with Hootsuite’s VP of Corporate Marketing, Henk Campher
- The pandemic drove people inside their homes and onto social media like never before.
- Hootsuite has closely been monitoring the changing behaviors of consumers online since the beginning of 2020.
- We caught up with Henk Campher, VP of Corporate Marketing and Head of Social Impact at Hootsuite, to help you derive a cream level perspective for your digital strategies.
- Know how CMOs can find value in SMM efforts, conduct market analysis, and run social media campaigns that actually succeed in the eyes of top management.
From learning banana bread recipes to connecting with loved ones, hunting jobs, and now shopping holiday gifts, the pandemic drove people inside their homes and onto social media like never before. 2020 has shown us how people have resorted to Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn. While Hootsuite has closely been monitoring the changing behaviors of consumers online, we caught up with Henk Campher, VP of Corporate Marketing and Head of Social Impact at Hootsuite, to help you derive a cream level perspective for your digital strategies.
Q. Paid ads have their own cons like reduced page reach, how do you maintain an upward graph for organic page reach and boost relationships, engagement, and direct sales?
Henk Campher: Never take a one-size-fits-all approach to social media marketing, especially with organic content. To reach a large audience, organic posts need to be optimized. To do this, you need to understand the platform and audience you are optimizing for. Start by focusing on the platforms that make the most sense for your business. For example, if you’re a B2B company, you may find the most value on LinkedIn or Twitter whereas a B2C company may gravitate towards Snapchat, Instagram, or TikTok to reach a younger crowd.
If you want organic content to perform well on social media, create engaging and personalized content that is fitting for the platform you are using. Give people a reason to follow and engage with your social posts. To better understand what content resonates with your audience, start by using social listening tools—at Hootsuite, we integrate directly with Brandwatch so our customers can navigate social intelligence capabilities directly from their dashboard.
Securian Financial, a Hootsuite financial services customer, was able to leverage social listening to determine that their key demographics shifted away from complaining about quarantine to sharing positive content around being connected. What arose was Life Balance Remix, a UGC campaign encouraging people to share content that highlighted their “new normal” and garnered thousands of participants with over 2.5 million campaign impressions across Twitter and Instagram.
Beyond creating the right content for the right platform, it’s essential to connect with people. Show your audience the human side of your brand. You can do this by lifting up your employees on social media and sharing their stories or connecting with the wider community through an employee advocacy tool, like Hootsuite’s Amplify tool. If you want to boost engagement on posts, ask your audience relevant and interesting questions. This is also a great opportunity to learn about what interests them. If you focus on value and creating the right content, you’ll be able to successfully develop relationships with your audience, boost engagement, and drive sales.
Q. What are the top social media metrics that can help CMOs see direct value in marketers’ social media marketing efforts?
Henk Campher: For both B2C and B2B brands, the key to successful social measurement is to keep your metrics simple. Trust classic cross-platform metrics like return-on-ad spend and lifetime value, as these measures also tie directly to your organization’s business goals. Once you choose the content you think will resonate with your audience, test your ideas to identify which posts generate the most engagement, shares, and impressions, and do this for each social platform. Continue to test, learn, and optimize. But when it comes to measuring your efforts on social, it is important to keep your business objectives in mind and develop KPIs that match the overall goals and expectations of your organization. Metrics such as impressions and reach should be analyzed consciously.
If your goal is to build brand awareness, focus on overall engagement and how long visitors are staying on your website. This will help evaluate if your content isn’t just “content-for-content-sake” but is actually resonating with your audience and driving conversions.
Q. What are the typical touchpoints/aspects marketers must include in their social media campaigns to reflect value for the brand and meet CMO expectations?
Henk Campher: One of the most important aspects of a social media campaign is social listening. A robust social listening tool allows you access to real-time insights into consumer sentiment, shifting trends, and competitive intelligence. These insights are key to helping a brand better understand how consumers feel about a campaign and what they want from your brand.
The best social media campaigns also have specific goals in mind and are purpose-driven. You must understand the customer segment you’re trying to reach through a specific campaign. To achieve this, create profiles or personas for your core constituencies that integrate data and insights from marketing channels (including social) and CRM. Understanding how, where, and when to engage with your constituents requires a clear picture of their motivations and their needs.
Another important aspect is social data integration. Our ‘Social Transformation Report‘ uncovered that only 10% of marketers feel they have mature practices around integrating social data into enterprise systems like Adobe, Microsoft, Marketo, or Salesforce. However, according to our ‘2021 Social Trends Report‘, 85% of organizations that integrate social data into their other systems have the confidence to accurately quantify the ROI of social media. While data integration is a complex process, a much more accessible entry point that can help marketers better connect social engagement to customer identity and measurable ROI is integrating paid and organic social media activity. We found that mature organizations with completely integrated paid and organic social strategies are 32% more confident in quantifying the ROI of social media.
Q. How important is it for any brand to have involvement in social matters and social investments?
Henk Campher: The most successful brands this year didn’t put themselves front and center of the conversation—they decided to listen instead. After taking the time to listen, brands must find creative and empathetic ways of adding value to the conversation instead of trying to lead it. Brands should stay true to their identities and their audience by asking:
- “What is my role?”
- “What conversations make sense for me to weigh in on and why?”
- “How can social media contribute to my business objectives?”
Having a voice in important conversations is powerful for a brand. However, if a brand is posting about topics that don’t align with the brand’s personality and identity, customers will notice. As a wealth of different conversations are taking place across social media at all times, it’s important to create a blueprint for how to comment on a conversation, if at all.
Q. What methods can CMOs implement to use social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for effective market analysis?
Henk Campher: There are various tried-and-true methods CMOs can implement when using social media platforms for market analysis. Before you begin your analysis, always have a clear goal in mind. It’s important to look at what exactly you want to analyze whether it’s your brand, product, or competitors. Doing a quantitative content analysis by assessing the engagement rate of your social posts can give companies an idea of if a message or product is resonating with your followers. Social listening is another incredibly powerful tool for analysis. Through social listening, you can zero in on how people are talking about your brand. It’s also important to not be shy. Be empowered as a brand to implement tactics like polls and surveys on social to get in touch with customers and glean informative insights into how your audience is thinking about your brand.
Q. How would you push an online event that involves employee referral on social media for a maximum turnaround?
Henk Campher: Develop an effective social media strategy in advance and provide your employees with the right resources and tools to promote the event. You can do this by crafting the content and social platform guidelines in advance so it is easy for employees to spread the word on social media. At Hootsuite our Amplify tool allows brands to extend their social reach and increase employee engagement. Using platforms that are suited for employee advocacy will garner the most successful results.
Q. What are your expert tips on the most effective ways to run a social media campaign, especially during the holiday season 2020?
Henk Campher: The holidays are a great opportunity for brands to increase engagement and drive sales on social media. Here are my four tips to create an effective social media campaign and stand out from the competition:
- Tweak your social media posting schedule to accommodate changing workdays or times. B2B businesses often have higher engagement rates during the day, as employees are leaving early and working less in the evening. B2C companies generally have a better reach when it’s not during typical work hours.
- Continue to curate content over the holidays, even if there might be a downturn of activity on social channels across the board. If you go quiet on social, your customers will notice.
- Maintain community engagement as relationships, connections and engagement are key to any successful social media campaign. Always respond to customer issues or comments promptly.
- The holidays are a great time to showcase the ‘human’ side of your business. Take advantage of platforms like Instagram to showcase the company, employees, and interact with the community at large.
Q. What are the most common mistakes you see brands making in their social media pushes?
Henk Campher: The most common mistake brands make is thinking of social media merely as a broadcast medium. With nearly three billion people on Facebook every month, more than one million on Instagram, and hundreds of millions more on Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, and Snapchat, it’s tempting to think that way. While social media started with organic posts and later turned to paid social advertising, brands should never lose sight of social media’s core value: establishing and maintaining relationships. Take the time to invest in relationship building, as this helps brands build strong bonds with their audiences and boost customer loyalty, which ultimately benefits their business. Rather than pump out promotional content, take the time to establish your brand’s personality, and connect with customers by taking on an empathetic “human-first” approach.
How is your brand making the most of social media marketing this holiday season? Are there challenges you’re facing with regards to creating value from a board room perspective? Feel free to share your thoughts on our interview, drop a comment!
In RealPage, Thoma Bravo is getting a full-service property management platform with services like renter portals, site management, expense management and financial analysis for building and property owners. Orlando Bravo, founder and a managing partner of Thoma Bravo, sees a company that they can work with and build on its previous track record.
“RealPage’s industry leading platform is critical to the real estate ecosystem and has tremendous potential going forward,” Bravo said in a statement.
As for RealPage, company CEO Steve Winn, who will remain with the company, sees the deal as a big win for stock holders, while giving them the ability to keep investing in the product. “This will enhance our ability to focus on executing our long-term strategy and delivering even better products and services to our clients and partners,” Winn said in a statement.
RealPage, which was founded in 1998 and went public in 2010, is a typical kind of mature platform that a private equity firm like Thoma Bravo is attracted to. It has a strong customer base with more than 12,000 customers, and respectable revenue, growing at a modest pace. In its most recent earnings statement, the company announced $ 298.1 million in revenue, up 17% year over year. That puts it on a run rate of more than $ 1 billion.
Under the terms of the deal, Thoma Bravo will pay RealPage stockholders $ 88.75 in cash per share. That is a premium of more 30% over the $ 67.83 closing price on December 18th. The transaction is subject to standard regulatory review, and the RealPage board will have a 45-day “go shop” window to see if it can find a better price. Given the premium pricing on this deal, that isn’t likely, but it will have the opportunity to try.
- The evolution of search results in addition to this crazy pandemic has changed search results more than ever. Including new features to drill down by brand, see news, and reviews.
- Brands who appear in both paid and organic listings were at the lowest level in 11 years with just 8% of brands appearing in both categories.
- Google local map pack results are appearing in 47% of search results. The highest since this study has been conducted in four years.
Yes, we know, this year is unlike any other. The world is always changing around us, but this year the pace of change is faster and more jarring than ever. The search engine marketing world has had massive changes. This made my annual look at search engine results very interesting. Starting back in 2010 I started trying to understand how brands handled bidding on paid search when they were also in organic search. Recently, this has also included how often the local map pack + shopping results were included. At a macro level, this year caused massive changes – for example, travel is basically shut down, curbside is now a word that not only we are all familiar with but expect brands to deliver, and ecommerce has experienced explosive growth.
Search engine saturation at the lowest level in 11 years
So how did these macro changes impact the number of brands who appeared in both paid and organic search? Simply put it crashed. Overall, it was down by 60% year over year and 78% from 2018. This was mostly driven by a reduction in paid search results overall. Travel alone was down 78% since 2019. Travel down is very logical and makes sense given the reduction in both consumer and business travel. Travel brands are choosing to not make the investment in paid traffic at this point given the low likelihood of conversion.
What is surprising was the reduction in the retail overlap. Retail volume hasn’t been reduced, instead, it’s simply shifted to a more digitally forward DTC model. Retail search overlap is down 77% year over year to just 3%. That means that just 3% of the page one listings had the same brand in both organic listings and either Paid Search or Shopping listings. This stat is really incredible. We had retail peaking at 33% of brands having listings in both areas just a few years ago. So why the decrease? I think you can directly attribute this to two key factors:
1. The rise of DTC brands
This year has seen the massive growth of brands that are direct to consumers. Take a look at the screenshot below. The search results seen without scrolling are all ads and the top two are DTC brands (Bombas and Mack Weldon). These brands increase the number of competitors to “traditional brands” who would have traditionally competed for these listings. This makes it more difficult to have your listing in both paid and organic search.
2. Google Shopping moving from paid to free
This democratizes smaller brands’ ability to appear in shopping results. The move from paid to free has not only removed any financial barrier allowing more brands to enter. It also lets those brands who were only submitting just portions of their product feed to submitting the entire feed.
Shopping and local map listings appear on 40% of search results
Long gone are the days of 10 blue links. Now search results are filled with an assortment of various results from the local map pack, shopping results, news, images, “brand refinement,” and reviews to name a few. These results complicate things for brands. Understanding how all these pieces fit together and impact the customer journey and customer experience isn’t easy.
For the purposes of this article let’s just focus on how often these various types of listings appear. Starting with Shopping listings. The frequency of times a shopping listing is included in a search result has been fairly consistent at around 40%. One theory would be change from paid to free listings would decrease the number of shopping ads Google would show to maximize revenue. However, this isn’t the case. Instead, the results are consistent with Google’s overall strategy to continue to provide consumer choice and fight against Amazon as the first source for retail searches.
It’s a different story for the local map pack. This has continued to grow year on year. This year it was the highest since I started tracking this 4 years ago at 47%. This finding was fascinating given the economic environment we are in. However, Google continues to want to provide choices to consumers and support local businesses. There have been a lot of updates to the Google My Business product over the past few years and those investments are showing up by being included in more search results.
Maximize your SERP for your customers
There are three things we recommend our clients think about when trying to determine how to best optimize their search engine strategy.
1. Understand the customer experience
You should always walk through the experience that your customers would be having. Understand what they might be seeing and experiencing. Are landing pages and ad copy aligned? Is another brand providing a better-optimized schema that provides direct answers for a key consumer query? You need to understand what they are experiencing to be able to create a strong search engine marketing strategy.
2. Understand your KPIs
Not everyone can afford $ 60 for a car insurance paid search click. Understanding what you can afford and what your key business drivers are is key. Your strategy and ability to be aggressive might be different for different targets, keywords, etc… This is a great place to understand your various customers, some are more valuable than others and can impact your bid modifiers. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. This is the key to this important pillar.
3. Always be testing
As you can see from these results things have changed a lot over the years and will continue to do so. Personalization will continue to drive these results based on the specific individual making it even harder to understand what’s driving impact. The key is to accept change and build a plan that enables testing and optimization. This will help keep your continue fresh on your site, the big strategy agile, and your technical architecture held accountable for SEO results. These elements will help you stay ahead of the competition who might be distracted by other elements or relying on previous success.
Jason Tabeling is CEO at AirTank. He can be found on Twitter @jtabeling.
The post Search engine saturation: The ever evolving SERP and how brands are responding appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
- The pace of technological advances and progress in the SEO sector isn’t slowing down, and you should expect major changes and updates in 2021.
- Google has already announced two algorithm updates slated for March and May 2021.
- There are various trends for SEO in 2020 like UX SEO and feature snippets which appear to become more prominent in the upcoming year.
From the humble beginnings of the Internet and online advertising, we’ve reached an era where the Internet is an essential communication tool, and online advertising is valued at more than 400 billion dollars a year, more prominent than even the TV ad industry. The global pandemic only accelerated this trend and pushed more companies online. So, what can we expect out of SEO in 2021? Which trends should we be looking forward to? Which changes will impact the industry? In this article, we’ll discuss the main trends we expect to have an impact and change the direction of SEO in the coming year.
Direct changes to search engines
SEO is entirely dependent on the major search engines, primarily Google. Any changes to Google’s modus operandi, algorithm, and priorities will have direct, wide-ranging impacts on SEO in 2021. These changes lead to losses in billions of dollars for some businesses while leading to gains of billions of dollars for others. It is important to be aware of the upcoming changes and how to best prepare for them.
#1 Page experience as a ranking factor on Google [May 2021]
As of May 2021, you should expect what Google dubs as “page experience signals” to be a ranking factor. The page experience refers to the way the visitors feel as they interact with the web page. It is determined by a multitude of attributes from mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and the others. These were already ranking factors previously, but they’ve been more institutionalized and work within the “page experience” framework. Furthermore, Google is introducing Core Web Vitals as part of ‘page experience’. They’re considered to be user-centric metrics that try to determine the quality of the user experience. These user-centric metrics will measure the loading speed (Largest Contentful Paint), interactivity (First Input Delay), and visual stability (Cumulative Layout Shift). The first two items that go into Core Web Vitals seem quite self-evident, so it doesn’t seem like a good idea to spend more time explaining them in this article.
Although, the third item might confuse some people. Visual stability refers to how much the layout shifts and jumps around. For example, imagine if a button tracks your mouse and jumps around whenever you get close to it, this is quite a self-evidently bad user experience, and this variable aims to capture this. The self-advertised purpose of adding an explicit page experience ranking factor is so that Google can provide higher-quality, more engaging content to its users. Considering the variables that it takes account of, a website with a high page experience score will load faster, be more interactive, more stable, more secure, more mobile-friendly, and much more. These all combined, admittedly, will lead to a superior experience.
Get featured in top stories without AMP
Another purpose of the introduction of the new page experience ranking framework is to make non-AMP content eligible to appear in the Top Stories feature for mobile phones. It is one of the main ways websites drive traffic to their content from mobile, so this could be a significant change that would disrupt the rankings of many websites on mobile. This change will also roll out in May of 2021, which makes May a hell of a busy month for SEO specialists.
We need to be ready for all the drastic changes this change in the algorithm can bring. We can’t possibly ascertain its impact at this stage.
#2 Mobile-first indexing for all websites on Google [March 2021]
Mobile-first indexing is certainly not new, Google has been using it for more than several years. It was first introduced as an answer to a widespread problem: more and more people are using their phones to look up stuff and browse the net. The problem is that the mobile and desktop versions of websites don’t always match up in content, and Google usually only indexes one version, which traditionally was the PC version. This creates a mismatch between the rankings on mobile and the content on these pages. To alleviate this mismatch as it was becoming a growing problem due to the increasing popularity of mobile, Google decided to implement mobile-first indexing. Mobile-first indexing refers to the practice of indexing the mobile version of the website first in Google’s databases instead of the desktop version. This would accurately gauge the amount of content on mobile sites and their relevance before displaying the results.
Going from an entirely desktop-first indexing scheme to an entirely mobile-first one would’ve been a massive step, however, and this is why Google has been taking years implementing this change. It started by allowing the option to webmasters to change their website indexing to mobile-first. It was followed by making mobile-first the default option for crawling new websites. The final and latest update is going to come in March 2021 when Google will start making mobile-first indexing the default option for all websites. This means that the way your website is indexed and the content that’s considered might change in March. It is hard to determine how big of an impact this will make beforehand, but you should expect some instability.
Thankfully, Google has published a basic guideline to ensuring the transition to mobile-first indexing goes smoothly on your website:
- Make sure the content of your website is visible to Google crawlers and bots.
- Ensure you fill out all the relevant meta tags on both the mobile and the desktop
versions of your landing pages.
- Ensure that your mobile website loads quickly by enabling lazy loading.
- Ensure that you are not blocking any relevant mobile-specific URLs in your robots.txt file.
- Although it is hard to ensure identical content, you should try to have at least identical primary content on both versions.
- Check the alt tags of both image and video embeds.
Wider SEO trends
Aside from specific updates to algorithms, we have prior information about, some wider trends in the sector that are going to change how we engage with SEO. Some of these trends have been going on for years and only just accelerating and others are new. Below, we’ll cover the most prominent ones.
#1 Voice search is becoming more and more prominent
Voice search was virtually non-existent just five years ago. Still, the development and proliferation of Alexa, Google Assistant, and a multitude of other voice assistants over the last few years have popularized voice search beyond our wildest dreams. According to data, voice search revenue will more than quadruple from 2017 to 2022 from just 2 billion to 40 billion dollars. This explosion in popularity presents opportunities and challenges to traditional SEO approaches. Just as an example, in voice searches, getting the first position is much more important than it is in traditional text searches. That’s why you need different approaches to capitalize on this new, emerging SEO arena fully.
#2 Feature snippets and microdata
Google is trying to introduce more and more types of featured snippets to its home page. These range from recipes to news and tutorials. These snippets aim to make searching faster for users and keep traffic on Google’s website. It is nevertheless beneficial for websites to implement it because you have a chance to be featured, which would drive a lot of traffic to your website.
Of course, getting featured doesn’t always mean you’ll see exponential growth in traffic, but data from Ahrefs shows it matters a lot! On average, getting featured means you’ll get, on average, around 8,6% CTR while the top ‘natural result’ will get 19,6% of the traffic. This is extremely impressive and shows that the featured snippet steals a substantial amount of clicks from the top position, which would get around 26% CTR in SERPs without a featured snippet. Although, you have to be careful about how Google features you. You should monitor your ranking and readjust your snippet and optimize it for more clicks.
#3 Non-textual content
As we move into the next year, we’re seeing an Internet saturated with blogs and landing pages. and it is becoming increasingly difficult to rank for noteworthy keywords with decent traffic. That’s why many SEO agencies are trying to expand their reach by diversifying the type of content they produce and publish. Infographics are one of the easier ways to create engagement and rank higher. Although, even they’ve been overused in recent years. A much more promising frontier for 2021 seems to be videos. These could be uploaded to Youtube as standalone content or embedded in your website too. It’ll help you gain more traffic from Youtube views, which seems way less saturated than Google’s traditional search engine currently. This doesn’t mean it is any less important. YouTube generates 15 billion dollars for Google each year. It is a platform you can’t afford to ignore.
It is also worth mentioning that there are specific video snippets on SERPs that you can only rank for through video content, and these video snippets are really prominent on search queries beginning with “how-to”, asking for tutorials, and other forms of educational content. They are prime real estate that you can potentially rank for with a reasonably produced video.
#4 UX SEO
The days where SEO was just about meta-tags and titles have long gone. Nowadays, SEO is an intricate subject that combines expertise from many different fields from marketing to software engineering and creative writing to achieve the best result. A recent trend in SEO that is gaining more and more stream is the UX SEO framework.
UX SEO refers to the practice of optimizing the user experience of a website to achieve better conversion rates and engagement. It isn’t only important that your site gets regular visitors, but it is also equally important to ensure that these visitors engage with your website. UX redesign success stories are almost limitless, for example, ESPN found out that just a homepage redesign increased their revenues by 35%. There is no reason why UX optimization could not be an integral part of your SEO strategy, and UX SEO gives you a framework to achieve this.
Each year, Google introduces more than 3600 small changes to their algorithms, and each year, trends emerge in this volatile sector that nobody has been able to predict. You need to continually keep up with the news to be on top of your SEO game, reading an article on the trends in the upcoming year isn’t enough. Nevertheless, I tried to make this article as comprehensive as possible, and you should be moderately prepared for the challenges ahead if you pay attention to all the trends that I’ve featured here.
Adrian Kempiak is CTO at Neadoo Digital – SEO agency. Adrian is a tech enthusiast, in the SEO industry for over 9 years. Consultations and audits for businesses from various markets. Responsible for running both worldwide SEO campaigns for ecommerce stores and local SEO for businesses worldwide (UK, USA, Australia, Spain, and much more).
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