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Facebook, Instagram users can now ask ‘oversight’ panel to review decisions not to remove content

April 13, 2021 No Comments

Facebook’s self-styled ‘Oversight Board’ (FOB) has announced an operational change that looks intended to respond to criticism of the limits of the self-regulatory content-moderation decision review body: It says it’s started accepting requests from users to review decisions to leave content up on Facebook and Instagram.

The move expands the FOB’s remit beyond reviewing (and mostly reversing) content takedowns — an arbitrary limit that critics said aligns it with the economic incentives of its parent entity, given that Facebook’s business benefits from increased engagement with content (and outrageous content drives clicks and makes eyeballs stick).

“So far, users have been able to appeal content to the Board which they think should be restored to Facebook or Instagram. Now, users can also appeal content to the Board which they think should be removed from Facebook or Instagram,” the FOB writes, adding that it will “use its independent judgment to decide what to leave up and what to take down”.

“Our decisions will be binding on Facebook,” it adds.

The ability to request an appeal on content Facebook wouldn’t take down has been added across all markets, per Facebook. But the tech giant said it will take some “weeks” for all users to get access as it said it’s rolling out the feature “in waves to ensure stability of the product experience”.

While the FOB can now get individual pieces of content taken down from Facebook/Instagram — i.e. if the Board believes it’s justified in reversing an earlier decision by the company not to remove content — it cannot make Facebook adopt any associated suggestions vis-a-vis its content moderation policies generally.

That’s because Facebook has never said it will be bound by the FOB’s policy recommendations; only by the final decision made per review.

That in turn limits the FOB’s ability to influence the shape of the tech giant’s approach to speech policing. And indeed the whole effort remains inextricably bound to Facebook which devised and structured the FOB — writing the Board’s charter and bylaws, and hand picking the first cohort of members. The company thus continues to exert inescapable pull on the strings linking its self-regulatory vehicle to its lucrative people-profiling and ad-targeting empire.

The FOB getting the ability to review content ‘keep ups’ (if we can call them that) is also essentially irrelevant when you consider the ocean of content Facebook has ensured the Board won’t have any say in moderating — because its limited resources/man-power mean it can only ever consider a fantastically tiny subset of cases referred to it for review.

For an oversight body to provide a meaningful limit on Facebook’s power it would need to have considerably more meaty (i.e. legal) powers; be able to freely range across all aspects of Facebook’s business (not just review user generated content); and be truly independent of the adtech mothership — as well as having meaningful powers of enforcement and sanction.

So, in other words, it needs to be a public body, functioning in the public interest.

Instead, while Facebook applies its army of in house lawyers to fight actual democratic regulatory oversight and compliance, it has splashed out to fashion this bespoke bureaucracy that can align with its speech interests — handpicking a handful of external experts to pay to perform a content review cameo in its crisis PR drama.

Unsurprisingly, then, the FOB has mostly moved the needle in a speech-maximizing direction so far — while expressing some frustration at the limited deck of cards Facebook has dealt it.

Most notably, the Board still has a decision pending on whether to reverse Facebook’s indefinitely ban on former US president Donald Trump. If it reverses that decision Facebook users won’t have any recourse to appeal the restoration of Trump’s account.

The only available route would, presumably, be for users to report future Trump content to Facebook for violating its policies — and if Facebook refuses to take that stuff down, users could try to request a FOB review. But, again, there’s no guarantee the FOB will accept any such review requests. (Indeed, if the board chooses to reinstate Trump that may make it harder for it to accept requests to review Trump content, at least in the short term (in the interests of keeping a diverse case file, so… )

How to ask for a review after content isn’t removed

To request the FOB review a piece of content that’s been left up a user of Facebook/Instagram first has to report the content to Facebook/Instagram.

If the company decides to keep the content up Facebook says the reporting person will receive an Oversight Board Reference ID (a ten-character string that begins with ‘FB’) in their Support Inbox — which they can use to appeal its ‘no takedown’ decision to the Oversight Board.

There are several hoops to jump through to make an appeal: Following on-screen instructions Facebook says the user will be taken to the Oversight Board website where they need to log in with the account to which the reference ID was issued.

They will then be asked to provide responses to a number of questions about their reasons for reporting the content (to “help the board understand why you think Facebook made the wrong decision”).

Once an appeal has been submitted, the Oversight Board will decide whether or not to review it. The board only selects a certain number of “eligible appeals” to review; and Facebook has not disclosed the proportion of requests the Board accepts for review vs submissions it receives — per case or on aggregate. So how much chance of submission success any user has for any given piece of content is an unknown (and probably unknowable) quantity.

Users who have submitted an appeal against content that was left up can check the status of their appeal via the FOB’s website — again by logging in and using the reference ID.

A further limitation is time, as Facebook notes there’s a time limit on appealing decisions to the FOB

“Bear in mind that there is a time limit on appealing decisions to the Oversight Board. Once the window to appeal a decision has expired, you will no longer be able to submit it,” it writes in its Help Center, without specifying how long users have to get their appeal in (we asked Facebook to confirm this and it’s 15 days). 


Social – TechCrunch


Taking your SEO content beyond the acquisition

February 2, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • The typical advice around merely improving on the content already ranking at the top of the SERP is fundamentally flawed.
  • SEOs often limit their content possibilities by thinking of SEO content from purely acquisitional point of view.
  • Thinking of content from a branding perspective leads to differentiation and aligns with Google’s focus on topical expertise and authority.
  • Emerging AI writing technology may not be symmetrical with Google’s evolving algorithm.

I have a bone to pick with the way our industry thinks about content. In general, I think we often don’t appreciate what good content really is. Nor do I think we consider what should go into creating great content. Here, in specific, I want to challenge the notion that all content is “acquisition” content. 

I don’t just mean landing pages, but blog posts as well. That’s right, not all content should be created with the objective of getting more conversions or even more traffic to your site. 

Does that sound outlandish? Perhaps. But by the time you finish reading this, you might agree with me. (Although let’s be honest, you probably won’t).

SEO from a branding perspective

I often think of SEO from a branding perspective. I know, you’re probably thinking, “Well, that’s a crazy statement right there!”. Outlandish as it might sound, thinking of SEO in terms of branding will greatly impact how you see “SEO content”. Why? Because in terms of mindset, content creation and branding are very similar.

Let’s substitute “your brand” with “your site” because your site is your brand to both users and search engines. 

Think of your site as your brand. Just like you think about your brand’s identity and perception–that’s how you should think about your site because that’s how it’s seen by Google.

We, as SEOs, might refer to this as your site’s “trust” and “authority.” When you break those concepts down fundamentally, what you’re really talking about is how your site is being perceived based on what it’s meant to be doing (that is, its identity). 

In other words, what would the fundamental problem be with a site that offered cancer treatment advice while peddling payday loans? It would be the perception that the health advice is, at best, “tainted”. Even if the site wasn’t “seedy” and offered cancer treatment advice as well as investment advice, there would be a severe lack of identity. 

In many fundamental ways, things like E-A-T and brand identity (and subsequently, perception) are the same thing. 

So let’s ask, if you wanted your brand to be perceived as trustworthy and authoritative how would you go about writing your content? What would your content look and sound like? 

That kind of content would have to be substantial, nuanced and detailed. Most importantly, it would have to be unique. Having brand identity that is borrowed from another brand is entirely antithetical to having your own brand identity. This would apply to everything from an in-depth blog post to a product image or description. Brand identity and differentiation go hand in hand. Differentiation and nuance go hand in hand. Do you see where I’m going here?  

Does your “SEO content” sound like this? Are we hyper-focused on differentiation? 

Quite the opposite. A lot of the basic advice you hear about writing “good SEO content” is about replicating what the top-ranking sites are doing already. 

The typical “content for SEO” is irksome

The typical advice about creating “SEO content” flies in the face of content that has a unique identity and brand value. Namely, it often calls on folks to see what’s ranking on the top of the SERP and make sure the topics that the top-ranking sites cover make their way to your content as well. Differentiation is damned.  

Worse, this advice is often directed to new SEOs and it’s presented without a hint that there’s more to the story here. 

Obviously, surveying the top-ranking pages and taking some ideas away is a fine thing to do. However, it does not create unique value. Skyscraper content, as it’s often called, doesn’t help you differentiate your content in any substantial way. 

For those of you who adhere to the notion of simply improving upon what currently ranks let me ask you, would you take the same approach with your brand?

Would you be happy with a brand identity that was simply a take on another brand’s identity? That kind of feels a bit cheap and it isn’t a truly effective branding strategy. 

Why is your content any different? 

Is regurgitating what’s already out there going to help your content stand out or be memorable? (The answer is no in case you were really wondering) 

By the way, there is a fundamental flaw in this approach. Namely, it rests on the assumption that what is there already is the best that it can possibly be. But, isn’t it entirely possible that Google would prefer content that took the topic from a totally different angle? Isn’t it possible that the content already ranking isn’t the best, but is simply the best Google has at the moment? What if you were to take a new approach or introduce new relevant subtopics that other pages don’t? Isn’t there a chance that you would rank and not those other pages? 

However, if you only look at content that’s already ranking, you won’t think about the content that people really want and need, that doesn’t exist yet. That’s potentially a huge opportunity that you’d be missing out on. 

So, why is this tolerated? Why do we spread the idea that all it takes is a wee bit of keyword research and some surveying of the ranking sites? 

I believe it comes down to mindset. We generally think of content as acquisitional and that’s a bit problematic. 

The problem with thinking about content as purely acquisitional

When you think of content as being purely acquisitional, you become blinded by the drug that is acquisition. When your sole goal is acquisition you’re not thinking about things like: 

  • What’s genuinely good for the user? 
  • How do I differentiate my content? 
  • What does my content say about my brand?  

The idea of content being acquisitional is not intrinsically problematic. Content should bring in new users, it should generate traffic, it should result in sales…but it should also do more. 

Content should help give identity to your site. It should create relationships with users. It should lend an air of authority and expertise to your site. (We’re right back at the whole E-A-T thing again because branding and E-A-T are two peas in a pod) 

However, we don’t live in a world of identity, relationships, and authority. Our world consists of clicks, traffic, conversions, sales, and so forth. In turn, we distort content, which in this author’s opinion is not fundamentally about acquisition, into only being about acquisition. 

It’s not hard to see how a mentality that revolves around seeing what already works and replicating it came to dominate our industry. Things like identity and consumer trust, well those are “marketing” concepts. What do they have to do with SEO? SEO is about traffic. Let’s create content that brings in that traffic, no? 

Except, I would argue, SEO is not that at all. Search engines are looking at who your site is and what it claims to be (and if the content you have aligns with that). They are judging your expertise and authority. They want to match the user with helpful content that aligns to query intent. 

Search engines don’t care about your traffic and conversions. They care about users, much the way that a more ‘brand-centric’ outlook on SEO would care about how a user perceives a website.  

What should content be created for if not the acquisition of more sales or traffic?

So if you’re not writing content for acquisition then who and what are you writing content for? I don’t know, how about your audience or potential audience? (I’m referring to creating content for the user, so cliche, I know.)

There are various starting points when thinking about content that serves users. One of which is thinking about yourself and your site and how the content you create represents you. Because once you do, you sure are not going to want to put out anything that presents you the wrong way. 

I don’t want to get into the whole “is keyword research dead” debate (it’s dead, it’s not really a debate). Do what you want with your keywords. I don’t care about your keywords, I care about your content. 

Your content is you. The content you have on your site is who you are to the users who visit your site. Your content is branding. There isn’t a way around that. So while you’ve been focused on scraping every topic and subtopic you can from your competitors, your users (can we call them readers?) are asking why your content looks and feels like every other piece of content they’ve come across. Congratulations. 

(By the way, I personally believe search engines are most likely saying the same thing. That is, what is the real value in ranking this page over what’s already there, if fundamentally, they are the same?) 

Traffic and growth and conversions or however you want to frame this is not a linear equation. Driving more traffic or getting more conversions is a complex and messy endeavor. You can’t just think about what is immediately in front of you. How users feel about your site and perceive your brand over time is an important part of the equation. The content your readers consume, whether it be a product description or a blog post, define you and your brand. That can determine if they return to your site, recommend your site, link to your site, mention your site, and so forth. 

Is this not part of SEO? Because if it is, that only happens when you do things like thinking about content from a “perception” or “branding” (or whatever you want to call it) point of view.  

Moreover, thinking of your content and your site overall from a brand authority perspective naturally hones your topical focus. It forces you to create substantial content that reflects well on who you are. And as I mentioned earlier, that topical focus gives your site identity to both users (in the form of brand identity) and to search engines (in the form of, “hey, this site comprehensively tackles this topic over multiple posts, let’s rank them for this topic across the board”). 

But this only happens if you step back from the acquisition mindset and think of your content from a wider and less strictly “traditional SEO” perspective. This only happens when you write content that’s differentiated, that focuses on quality, and that isn’t about making sure you cover certain topics for the sake of covering a certain topic. 

What I am trying to say is that content is naturally closer to branding than it is to SEO (at least SEO as many of us know it). If you don’t look at your content from a branding/perception point of view you are fundamentally missing out on what content is.

That, in turn, means creating strong and quality content will be an uphill battle for you. And that means that ranking long term is also going to be an uphill battle for you, as Google continues to refine how it understands language and how it profiles sites. 

Succinctly, instead of asking “how will this content get me more traffic?”, ask yourself, ‘“How will this content make me look to my users?”. That will put you on the path to writing unique, helpful content. 

GPT-3, it’s a trap!

I could end the piece here, but I have one more “concern” that needs to be addressed. AI writers. 

Do I think AI writers, namely GPT-3 will be good at writing a product description? Yes, I do. I think AI writers will ultimately do a wonderful job with something like a product description. 

Do I think AI writers, namely GPT-3, will be good at writing something titled, “A Speculative Critique of Relativity from a Quantum Physics Perspective”? Absolutely not. Do you? 

As this field rapidly develops I want to issue a warning: don’t fall into the trap. Don’t think that you can get away with using something like GPT-3 to write a deeply nuanced and differentiated article or blog post. 

Yes, I do think people will try to do just that. Why? Because of the same acquisition mindset, I complained about earlier. When it comes to more substantial content, an AI writer just can’t deliver the nuance and quality that you need to make a difference.

As I see it the danger is that it’s easy to get caught up in emerging technology and go all-in on it. Just remember, Google is also an emerging technology, and a lot of what it’s doing in the algorithm stands in contradiction to the full-on adoption of AI written content. 

While the emergence of AI writers might make it easier to create content, you could be creating the very content that Google does not want. And while something like GPT-3 would, all things being equal, work well on a landing page, the content it produces for a topic your blog handles may need more nuance and depth.

Of course, all of this hinges on thinking there is a world of content beyond acquisition fluff. (If you love fluff, go ahead GPT-3 yourself to death.)

Feel the perception pressure

How do users perceive your site? How do they feel about you after reading the content on your site or interacting with your site? Thinking about your site’s perception can be a pathway to creating content that is substantial and ultimately effective (and I mean from an SEO point of view). 

The problem is when we get so caught up in linear metrics that we don’t even feel that pressure. When SEO content creation becomes a hustle to outrank whatever is currently at the top of the SERP it sacrifices perspective. That perspective can be the difference between being another piece of the same ol’ content versus being something both users and search engines value. 

End the hustle. 

Mordy Oberstein is Liaison to the SEO Community at Wix.

The post Taking your SEO content beyond the acquisition appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


How to use XPath expressions to enhance your SEO and content strategy

January 18, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • As Google increasingly favors sites with content that exudes expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), it is imperative that SEOs and marketers produce content that is not just well written, but that also demonstrates expertise.
  • How do you understand what topics and concerns matter most to your customer base?
  • Can you use Q&As to inform content strategies?
  •  XPath notations can be your treasure trove.
  • Catalyst’s Organic Search Manager, Brad McCourt shares a detailed guide on using XPath notations and your favorite crawler to quickly obtain the Q&As in a straightforward and digestible format.

As Google increasingly favors sites with content that exudes expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), it is imperative that SEOs and marketers produce content that is not just well written, but that also demonstrates expertise. One way to demonstrate expertise on a subject or product is to answer common customer questions directly in your content.

But, how do you identify what those questions are? How do you understand what topics and concerns matter most?   

The good news is that they are hiding in plain sight. Chances are, your consumers have been shouting at the top of their keyboards in the Q&A sections of sites like Amazon.

XPath and how to find customer questions and preferences

These sections are a treasure trove of (mostly) serious questions that real customers have about the products you are selling.

How do you use these Q&As to inform content strategies? XPath notation is your answer.

You can use XPath notations and your favorite crawler to quickly obtain the Q&As in a straightforward and digestible format. XPath spares you from clicking through endless screens of questions by automating the collection of important insights for your content strategy.

What is XPath?

XML Path (XPath) is a query language developed by W3 to navigate XML documents and select specified nodes of data.

The notation XPath uses is called “expressions”. Using these expressions, you can effectively pull any data that you need from a website as long as there is a consistent structure between webpages.

This means you can use this language to pull any publicly available data in the source code, including questions from a selection of Amazon Q&A pages.

This article is not meant to be a comprehensive tutorial on XPath. For that, there are plenty of resources from W3. However, XPath is easy enough to learn with only knowing the structure of XML and HTML documents. This is what makes it such a powerful tool for SEOs regardless of coding prowess.

Let’s walk through an example to show you how…

Using XPath to pull customer questions from Amazon

Pre-req: Pick your web crawler

While most of the big names in web crawling – Botify, DeepCrawl, OnCrawl – all offer the ability to extract data from the source code, I will be using ScreamingFrog in the example below.

ScreamingFrog is by far the most cost-effective option, allowing you to crawl up to 500 URLs without buying a license. For larger projects you can buy a license. This will allow you to crawl as many URLs as your RAM can handle.

Step one: Collect the URLs to crawl

For our example, let’s pretend we’re doing research on the topics we should include in our product pages and listings for microspikes. For those unaware, microspikes are an accessory for your boots or shoes. They give you extra grip in wintry conditions, so they are particularly popular among cold-weather hikers and runners.

Example for finding details using Amazon

Source: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=microspikes

Here we have a list of 13 questions and answer pages for the top microspike pages on Amazon.com. Unfortunately, there is some manual work required to create the list.

List of questions - XPath and creating content

The easiest way is to search for the topic (that is, microspikes) and pull links to the top products listed. If you have the product’s ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) handy, you can also generate the URLs using the above format, but switching out the ASIN.

Step two: Determine the XPath

From here, we need to determine the XPath.

In order to figure out the proper XPath notation to use to pull in the desired text, we have two main options:

  1.       View the Source-CodeDetermine the XPath
  2.       View the rendered source code and copy the XPath directly from Chrome’s Inspect Element tool

Copy XPath

You’ll find that the expression needed to locate all questions in an Amazon Q&A page is:

//span[@class=”a-declarative”]

Here is XPath notation broken down:

  •       // is used to locate all instances of the following expression.
  • Span is the specific tag we’re trying to locate. //span will locate every single <span> tag in the source code. There are over 300 of these, so we’ll need to be more specific.
  • @class specifies that //span[@class] will ensure all <span> tags with an assigned class attribute will be located.
  • @class=”a-declarative” dictates that //span[@class=”a-declarative”] only locates <span> tags where the class attribute is set to “a-declarative” – that is, <span class=”a-declarative”>

There is an extra step in order to return the inner text of the specified tag that is located, but ScreamingFrog does the heavy lifting for us.

It’s important to note that this will only work for Amazon Question and Answer pages. If you wanted to pull questions from, say, Quora, TripAdvisor, or any other site, the expression would have to be adjusted to locate the specific entity you desire to collect on a crawl.

Step three: Configure your crawler

Once you have this all set, you can then go into ScreamingFrog.

Configuration -> Custom -> Extraction

Configure your crawler

This will then take you to the Custom Extraction screen.

Custom extraction screen

This is where you can:

  • Give the extraction a name to make it easier to find after the crawl, especially if you’re extracting more than one entity. ScreamingFrog allows you to extract multiple entities during a single crawl.
  • You can then choose the extraction method. In this article, it is all about XPath, but you also have the option of extracting data via CSSPath and REGEX notation as well.
  • Place the desired XPath expression in the “Enter XPath” field. ScreamingFrog will even check your syntax for you, providing a green checkmark if everything checks out.
  • You then have the option to select what you want extracted, be it the full HTML element or the HTML found within the located tag. For our example, we want to extract the text in between any <span> tags with a class attribute set to “a-declarative” so we select “extract text.”

We can then click OK.

Step four: Crawl the desired URLs

Now it’s time to crawl our list of Amazon Q&A pages for microspikes.

First, we’ll need to switch the Mode in ScreamingFrog from “Spider” to “List.”

Then, we can either add our set of URLs manually or upload them from an Excel or other supported format.

After we confirm the list, ScreamingFrog will crawl each URL we provided, extracting the text between all <span> tags containing the class attribute set to “a-declarative.”

In order to see the data collected, you just need to select “Custom Extraction” in ScreamingFrog.

Run the desired URLs

At first glance, the output might not look that exciting.

However, this is only because a lot of unneeded space is included with the data, so you might see some columns that appear blank if they are not expanded to fully display the contents.

Once you copy and paste the data into Excel or your spreadsheet program of choice, you can finally see the data that has been extracted. After some clean-up, you get the final result:

Final list of questions created using XPath

The result is 118 questions that real customers have asked about microspikes in an easily accessible format. With this data at your fingertips, you’re now ready to incorporate this research into your content strategy.

Content strategies

Before diving into content strategies, a quick word to the wise: you can’t just crawl, scrape and publish content from another site, even if it is publicly accessible.

First, that would be plagiarism and expect to be hit with an DMCA notice. Second, you’re not fooling Google. Google knows the original source of the content, and it is extremely unlikely your content is going to rank well – defeating the purpose of this entire strategy.

Instead, this data can be used to inform your strategy and help you produce high quality, unique content that users are searching for.

Now, how do you get started with your analysis?

I recommend first categorizing the questions. For our example there were many questions about:

  • Sizing: What size microspikes are needed for specific shoe/boot sizes?
  • Proper Use – Whether or not microspikes could be used in stores, on slippery roofs, while fishing, mowing lawns, or for walking on plaster?
  • Features: Are they adjustable, type of material, do they come with a carrying case?
  • Concerns: Are they comfortable, do they damage your footwear, do they damage the type of flooring/ground you’re on, durability?

This is an amazing insight into the potential concerns customers might have before purchasing microspikes.

From here, you can use this information to:

1. Enhance existing content on your product and category pages

Incorporate the topics into the product or category descriptions, answering questions shoppers might have pre-emptively.

For our example, we might want to make it abundantly clear how sizing works – including a sizing chart and specifically mentioning types of footwear the product may or may not be compatible with.

2. Build out a short on-page FAQ section featuring original content, answering commonly asked questions

Make sure to implement FAQPage Schema.org markup for a better chance to appear for listings like People Also Ask sections, which are increasingly taking up real estate in the search results.

For our example, we can answer commonly asked questions about comfort, damage to footwear, durability, and adjustability. We could also address if the product comes with a carrying case and how to best store the product for travel.

3. Produce a product guide, incorporating answers to popular questions surrounding a product or category

Another strategy is to produce an extensive one-stop product guide showcasing specific use cases, sizing, limitations, and features. For our example, we could create specific content for each use case like hiking, running in icy conditions, and more.

Even better, incorporate videos, images, charts, and featured products with a clear path to purchase.

Using this approach your end product will be content that shows expertise, the authority on a subject, and most importantly, addresses customer concerns and questions before they even think to ask. This will help prevent your customers from having to do additional research or contact customer service. Thanks to your informative and helpful content, they will be more ready to make a purchase.

Furthermore, this approach also has the potential to lower product return rates. Informed customers are less likely to purchase the wrong product based upon assumed or incomplete knowledge.

Conclusion

Amazon is just the tip of the iceberg here. You can realistically apply this strategy to any site that has publicly accessible data to extract, be that questions from Quora about a product category, Trip Advisor reviews about hotels, music venues, and attractions, or even discussions on Reddit.

The more informed you are about what your customers are expecting when visiting your site, the better you can serve those expectations, motivate purchases, decrease bounces, and improve organic search performance.

Brad McCourt is an Organic Search Manager at Catalyst’s Boston office. 

The post How to use XPath expressions to enhance your SEO and content strategy appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Seven smart ways to upgrade your ecommerce content marketing strategy

December 20, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • A marketing strategy that focuses on a unique target market is called a niche-hub strategy. Create a niche website and document its progress.
  • Use content formats that boost audience engagement and are easy to produce, such as blog posts, videos, lists, webinars, etc.
  • People engage more with a site that loads fast. Therefore, improve site speed by using affordable options such as cloud storage and AMP.
  • User-generated content makes your brand more personable. Engage with your audience by embedding their comments into your article, running contests, giveaways, or using a hashtag.
  • Country of origin affects consumer behavior. Consider a country-specific blog content strategy to acquire traffic from specific countries.
  • Make use of reverse content Pyramid strategy. Create one piece of “pillar content” and repurpose it into other pieces of content. Finally, distribute them on relevant social media platforms.
  • Invest in dynamic Facebook ads and use the IGTV feature of Instagram to engage with your audience and convert them into consumers.

One of the best ways for ecommerce businesses to enhance their business presence is via content marketing. Around 92% of businesses consider content as their business asset. It’s no wonder that content marketing can offer up to three times more ROI as compared to paid search. However, a majority of ecommerce companies fail at content marketing. Here are the top seven ways to upgrade your ecommerce content marketing strategy:

1. Use the most popular content formats

The easiest way to identify the success of ecommerce content marketing is by measuring user engagement.

Every human thinks differently. Hence, you should create different content formats for the various needs of the users.

The below content formats have been proven to be most successful in enhancing user engagement:

  • Blog posts: Companies that blog regularly produce 67% more leads. Create relevant, engaging, and comprehensive blog posts by targeting long-tail keywords that match the exact intent of the user.
  • Videos: 82% of all internet traffic will be videos by 2022. Hence, text-based blogging will slowly be replaced by text+video blogging. Create videos for every blog post and prepare transcripts for every video.
  • Research articles: Content related to original research that offers new and actionable insights for the audiences are the most linked. Conduct research by taking surveys or running tests and share the results with your audience.
  • Images and infographics: People rarely share blog content without images. The scope of engagement is also limited. Hence, you should always create high-quality and customized images for your blog. Content with images receives 97% more views. Similarly, infographics are a great content choice because they cover heavy topics in an easy to understand way. People share them on social media leading to high engagement.
  • Webinars: The average registration number of a webinar is around 260. You can run webinars by inviting popular influencers in your niche to increase the flow of registrations. Webinars are educational, and they help to convert viewers into customers.
  • Lists: People love lists. Create listicles like top 10 or best ways and share them on social media. Listicles are psychologically seductive because it condenses the information into several points.

To have an idea about the best content format for your website, you can take the help of Google Analytics. Here is a guide to add GA on your WordPress blog. Once installed, you can start tracking the traffic, bounce rate, and time on the top pages of your site. The information provided by Google Analytics can be used to identify and optimize the content on your site.

2. Adopt the niche-hub blog strategy

The niche-hub strategy focuses on making your ecommerce blog a resource for a niche topic.

The first step is adding a blog to your online store. WordPress is the best platform to start your blog because it offers different plugins to manage all your tasks.

Next step is choosing a web host to store all your blogging files. It is crucial to choose a web host that offers a strong uptime. Providers like GoDaddy are considered highly reliable, with more than 99% uptime.

For instance, if you are selling mugs online, then your blog can become a resource containing articles, videos, whitepapers, podcasts related to mugs.

For example, HubSpot is a niche for anything related to marketing, sales, support, and website. They create content that is relevant to the audiences of HubSpot.

Leveraging this strategy, they can acquire millions of traffic to their site. You can create a niche blog and start nurturing traffic to gain more customers.

3. Improve site speed for better UX

Site speed is a crucial ranking factor. If you are looking for a hack to raise the organic rankings of your content, then take steps to improve your site speed.

Google Page Experience will be launched in May 2021. The update focuses on improving UX and site speed is an important factor under Page Experience.

The best way to improve site speed is to use a CDN. However, for small business owners, it becomes difficult to host content on a CDN because they are costly.

If you do not have great website traffic flow, your cost of CDN won’t be justified.

In such a case, emulating the working of a CDN with cloud storage can be an affordable option.

All you need to do is to choose a cloud storage provider like Sync, Google Drive or P Drive and make all your files available for direct public access (leaving the confidential ones that are blocked by robots.txt).

Another great way to increase page speed is to create AMP versions of your content. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. Here is a great guide to creating your first AMP page.

4. Involve your audience to create UGC (user-generated content)

UGC (user-generated content) is one of the best ways to generate buzz for your ecommerce brand.

85% of people are influenced by user-generated content (UGC) as compared to brand content.

You can start a photo or video contest on social media and ask audiences to share their best pic with your product.

You can get audiences to interact with your brand via branded hashtags, and the added visibility will help you to capture more audiences.

For instance, the Sudbury Wolves hockey team ran a contest on Instagram to persuade people to share a caption for a photo to win two tickets for the opening match of the Ontario Hockey League. This is a great way to enhance brand visibility and consumer engagement.

Similarly, Adobe ran a campaign called the ArtMaker Series where they invited designers and artists to share their artwork created using any of the Adobe products. They used the UG content for product promotions and expert endorsements.

You can use UG content to upgrade your ecommerce content strategy. You only need to think of some innovative ideas and apply them to your main strategy.

5. Create country-specific blog content

Cross-border B2C ecommerce is expected to reach $ 4820 billion by 2026.

If you are an international seller, you should consider adopting a country-specific blog content strategy.

Country of origin affects consumer behavior. Here are some of the ways to make this happen:

  • Share content that is locally relevant to your audience.
  • Create articles written by local authors.
  • Promote local products produced by local manufacturers.
  • Target local events and reap in local influencers to market your content.

For example, Shopify creates country-specific blog content to target customers. Here is an example content piece that was written to target consumers during the IPL season in India, which is considered to be a big event. The content was targeted for sellers and helped them gain insights on how they can increase their sales on their Shopify store during the IPL season.

6. Leverage the reverse content pyramid strategy

The Reverse content pyramid strategy is suggested by Gary Vaynerchuk. This strategy is useful to repurpose content to different channels.

Reverse pyramid - Ecommerce content marketing strategy

You create a pillar content and distribute it on several channels by revising it according to the theme of the platform. For example, you can create video content and convert it into other content formats like an article or a podcast.

Besides, you should create lots of ‘micro-content’ to drive traffic to your pillar content piece. These micro-content pieces should be shared on social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other channels where your target audiences are present.

For example, if you are a pet store owner, then you can create a long-form pillar content piece related to ‘small dog breeds’. After that, you can create several micro-content pieces on every dog breed mentioned in your pillar article. Micro-content can take the form of memes, quotes, or stories. All these micro-content pieces should link to your pillar content.

Now, you should share all these micro-content pieces on your social channels. Get insights from the community and create community-driven micro-content that your audiences would love to see. Redistribute the second round of micro-content. The reverse content pyramid model is a great way to strengthen the popularity of your pillar content, which would help it to rank for several related search queries to reach customers during their buyer journey.

7. Elevate social engagement and reach

Ecommerce businesses present on social media platforms have, on average, 32% more sales than businesses without one.

The key to social media is visual content such as infographics, images, and videos. For ecommerce businesses, social media is not just a destination for posting content but a powerful means of converting followers into consumers.

As per Sprout Social, 89% of marketers use Facebook in their brand marketing efforts. And, more than 80% of people say Instagram helps them discover, research, and decide to purchase new products and services.

Use the following latest Facebook and Instagram marketing strategies to elevate engagement and reach.

  • Invest in Facebook Dynamic Ads: Dynamic ads allow merchants to reignite interest in consumers who visited your website, checked items, or added items to their cart. It utilizes the information provided through the tracking pixel to show those visitors the exact items they checked to pull them back in and earn a conversion.
  • Use Sales options on the Facebook Business page: Create a “Shop” button on your Facebook business page to list several products that allow consumers to purchase merchandise directly from Facebook.
  • Start Using Shoppable Posts on Instagram: Shoppable Instagram posts allow you to showcase your storefront within the social network. You can tag the products shown in your images.
  • Use IGTV feature: IGTV gives you the ability to share videos that are up to an hour-long. It also notifies your followers when you share a new video. IGTV allows viewers to tap items they see in videos and complete their purchase through Instagram’s direct checkout feature or the seller’s website.

Conclusion

Ecommerce businesses should use content marketing to their advantage because it is one of the most ROI-friendly channels to attract relevant customers. Follow the strategies discussed in this article to upgrade your content strategy and grow your brand awareness, traffic, and eventually, profits.

Joydeep Bhattacharya is a digital marketing evangelist and author of the SEO Sandwitch blog.

The post Seven smart ways to upgrade your ecommerce content marketing strategy appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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How to use heatmaps to level up your content marketing game

December 18, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Heatmaps represent user engagement data on your web page in a graphical form.
  • They were introduced by Cormac Kinney, the software maker, to help traders beat the market.
  • Today, marketers use heatmaps to visualize users’ behavior on content and improve their content marketing accordingly.

If you are on the digital marketing scene, you’ve probably already heard of heatmaps. They are a great tool for marketers to see how users interact with websites.

For those of you who are newbie marketers, let’s have a brief look at what a heatmap is.

Heatmaps: Introduction and types

A heatmap can be explained as a tool for data visualization. It represents different values using colors, to show users complex data sets.

Heatmaps shows:

  • How well a particular page is performing?
  • Which of your content grabs users’ attention first?
  • And if there is any content they aren’t understanding or interested in.

Heatmaps use colors ranging through the spectrum from blue to red, with blue being the coolest (showing low engagement with the webpage) up to red, the warmest (showing high engagement levels).

Take a look at the following example. The bright orange and red show the highest engagement from visitors, and the other areas are not so often viewed.

Heatmaps and content marketing

Source: Crazy Egg Website

You can see visitors have mainly focused on the top of the page and much fewer have scrolled all the way down.

There are different kinds of heatmaps to choose from, depending on what kind of information you want to get.

Here are three of the most popular heatmap types:

  • Overlay reports: These break down clicks on your website into percentages, so you can see where people are clicking the most and where they are not.
  • Scroll maps: This option will show you how far down the page users get before they stop scrolling and reading.
  • Confetti report: This is a high-resolution view of a traditional heatmap. The difference is a confetti map lets you see individual clicks. Each click is shown by a colored dot.

So now you know what a heatmap is, and the different types to choose from, let’s find out some ways to supercharge your content strategy using heatmaps.

1. Find the missing pieces of the content puzzle

Once you have added content to your page, you will want to know not only how many people see that content, but how much is read. Do they read two lines then leave, or does your content hold their interest?

A scroll map will show how far down the page your visitors go, so you can tell how much of your content they are reading.

For example, let’s say that Tom writes a fascinating, in-depth webpage about growth hacking.

He explains about documents, cases, and what customers tend to do, and also reveals the reasons a lot of solutions are not useful.

Tom publishes his findings online and shares it. The traffic looks good. People are visiting and reading his page.

Tom is happy with this, but still wonders whether they are really reading it, or whether they are looking at it and leaving. He decides to check his visitor reports.

Types of heatmaps

Source: Crazy Egg Website

As Tom (and you) can see, by looking at the scroll map, only about 1 in 15 or even 20 readers get to the end of his page. That means most are either not reading it or only reading a part of it.

As well as this information, the scroll map offers more insights into website user behavior.

It shows which content people spent time on, which filters and menu options are most used, which sections are scrolled over without being read, and how far into the page they click away.

The data can be used to create more effective website content in the future.

Paid search data allows you to uncover keyword opportunities for creating relevant content, social media posts and ad copy, but add heatmaps into the equation and you have even more knowledge about what content your audience wants.

Combine the use of heatmaps with Google Analytics to see how long users stay on your site before they bounce. You will be able to see how far most of them get to before they leave, and figure out the reason why.

Is there something missing from that page? Is it difficult to read? Is the content irrelevant?

The heatmap will show you exactly which parts they are interested in and where they drop off, and you can use this knowledge to improve the content.

2. Smooth out the friction between users and CTA

Heatmaps are often used to help understand how website visitors are interacting with CTA buttons and other on-page elements.

Take a look at this image. You can see on the left, the users spent more time looking at the advertising banner than actually at the website checkout buying something.

Using heatmaps to Smooth out the friction between users and CTA

Source: Convince & Convert Website

You can see on the right that some small changes have been made, in order to encourage users toward the marketer’s preferred action.

3. Optimize images to grab attention

Another use of heatmaps is to show you the best places to add images. More visitors than you probably realize try to click on unlinked images.

For example, let’s say a blog post has a high bounce rate. Visitors are coming but they aren’t staying and you want to know why.

This is where a heatmap comes in very handy.

A confetti click track report might reveal that your visitors come, try clicking on several things which are not clickable, then get annoyed and bounce.

So they do want to click through. They just don’t know how.

Let’s take a look at another example. This one is two versions of an ecommerce landing page.

A/B testing using heatmaps for ecommerce

Source: VWO Website

In the first image, the baby is looking right at the viewer, making him the most attention-grabbing thing on the page.

But look at the second image. Here the baby is looking at the text. This helps subconsciously guide users’ attention to the web copy and the message it offers.

A/B testing for ecommerce landing page

Source: VWO Website

4. Uncover the “why” behind cart abandonment

Another great use of heatmaps is to test UX and usability.

For example, an online retailer discovers a lot of people are shopping at their online store and adding items to their shopping cart but then abandoning the cart rather than purchasing the items.

Some UX testing can show the retailer why this might be.

Overlays and heatmaps show where people click and where they don’t.

Maybe the checkout button isn’t easy to spot, or it’s too low on the page.

It could be that the shoppers are getting distracted by a colorful nav bar or there are annoying ads or popups driving them away.

Perhaps they are trying to click the non-clickable elements and getting frustrated.

Once these distractions or problems are removed, do an A/B test on the page in question to find out more on which one converts.

5. Boost your conversion funnel

Testing how effective your content marketing is, as well as testing UX and usability, will help make it easier to move potential buyers down the conversion funnel.

For example, if a few visitors are reading a whole piece of content and all of them are signing up for your free guide, you are improving your sales team’s leads and your content is successful.

But what about, on the other hand, many visitors are coming to your landing page, but nobody is interested in getting your free guide or joining your email list?

Simply check the heatmap and find out where they are clicking, and if they are clicking at all.

Maybe they are trying to click but they are clicking the wrong element or it isn’t clear where to click. Or perhaps something is broken on the page.

Do you see a high number of drop-offs on a particular page?

Do people seem to hover for a long time on a strange part of the page?

Keep a record of the weak spots you find on the different pages, then improve them and see if you can get fewer bounces and better conversions.

The main thing is to check for issues that might stop your visitors from converting, whether that might be images that look like clickable buttons, poor web copy, or a confusing checkout experience.

6. Strengthen your internal links

The anchor text used to link to different pages on your website gives more context for what that page is about, or at least that is how the search engines view it.

Internal links let you establish a content hierarchy where the most important pages are seen as the most valuable, and allows you to distribute link equity between different pages.

If you rely on content to grow your site, then internal linking is a great strategy used to strengthen the authority you have about key topics. Content may be grouped into ‘pillar’ or ‘cornerstone’ pages and subtopics.

So what does that have to do with heatmaps?

As you know, heatmaps offer detailed information about where visitors click. This helps you measure internal link performance. The insights you get can be used to drive more traffic to pages by optimizing your link placement.

7. Enhance outbound links too

Although offering tempting outbound links might seem like driving users away from your website, it is not as counterintuitive as it sounds.

Including outbound links in your content is good SEO practice.

Linking to reputable sources shows both readers and Google that you want to provide useful information. According to Stanford University research, the links you choose to feature can tell readers and search engines a lot about the quality of your content.

For example, linking to a spammy site will harm your credibility.

So how do you use heatmaps to assist with good outbound links?

A click map can show you which of your outbound links are the most clicked on, as well as the least. This will give you an insight into what your audience is most interested in.

Which of your outbound looks do visitors want to click on? Which do they find most interesting or most credible?

A scroll map is also useful for improving outbound links. Perhaps readers are finding one of your links irrelevant or spammy, and many are dropping off at that point.

If that is happening, it might be time to find a better website to link to, or get rid of the link altogether.

Otherwise, it could just be that the content on the page is not up to par, and needs some rework.

Conclusion

Knowing how users interact with the structure of your site, as well as its content and other elements can really help you develop a content strategy to retain visitors who read more of your content and convert more.

Heatmaps can help you get ahead of the competition by allowing you to identify friction-causing issues and find new ways to attract visitors and increase conversions.

Heatmaps are useful in many ways for marketers, but they are best when combined with other research tools.

Learning how buyers perceive and experience your website is crucial information and can really help with the success of your website.

Lyuthar Jacob is working as an assistant editor at a digital marketing agency – Clickmatix.com.au. He is the type of geek who loves to explore subjects ranging from Marketing to Lifestyle and Money Saving. And share his evolution through his write-ups.

The post How to use heatmaps to level up your content marketing game appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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How to use content marketing to boost ecommerce conversions and user experience

December 6, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Content marketing is a strategy focused on creating, publishing, and distributing content that’ll get people to take action.
  • It’ll help your ecommerce site to rank higher on search engines without having to spend a lot on ads.
  • Publishing content that your potential customers find helpful and packed with valuable information helps you win their trust, making it easier to convince them to buy.
  • Content like how-to videos, online courses, and infographics are easier to consume and boost your site visitors’ overall user experience.

When you think of content marketing, you might imagine this only applies to digital agencies and online service providers, not in fact for ecommerce businesses, let alone the value it creates when you boost ecommerce conversions through these efforts. But let’s take a moment to review the definition of content marketing, just so we can see exactly how it might apply to just about any business, especially ecommerce:

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:

“[the] strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

So while it’s a default strategy for service providers, SaaS companies, and digital agencies, we can start to see how content plays a positive role even for ecommerce businesses.

Benefits of content marketing for ecommerce businesses

For one thing, content helps you connect to your customers with real value instead of posts that only seek to close a sale. And other benefits include boosting your chances of getting discovered organically on search engines as well as establishing your company as a trusted leader in your space, thus increasing positive perceptions about your brand and business online.

This relationship can go a long way for your ecommerce store, in that users and customers are more likely to buy from you eventually because you are a brand they trust now. They’ll also know they can expect more from your ecommerce store if they’re not necessarily looking to shop, such as helpful blogs, guides, and other inspiring content.

stats on content marketing and ecommerce business

Source

We’re sure you want to get started with making content to boost ecommerce conversions. So we’ve compiled seven of the best content marketing tactics, especially for online stores.

Seven content marketing strategies to boost ecommerce conversions

1. Create products or service guides

Your ecommerce store can create product or service guides that educate your customers about important information in your industry. Take invoicing company Wave, for instance. They have a dedicated blog that publishes helpful guides within their site to improve their user experience.

Most of their content is geared towards small business owners, helping them with accounting and bookkeeping tips that go beyond simply promoting their product features and benefits. 

boost ecommerce conversions - create product guides

2. Share product reviews

You can share reviews about your product that appear on different websites and blogs both as content and social proof. Find what good things people are making about your brand, and then highlight the most compelling things from the review to share on your own platforms.

Take this blog post reviewing the top merchant service providers in Canada, for example. If a company featured in this detailed roundup, they might take a few lines from the review that was about the author’s experience with their service, then be able to share what others are saying about their brand.

You can also take screenshots of social media conversations about your products and share these on your website. This is exactly what Beauty Bakerie does on its ecommerce store and its Instagram account.

boost ecommerce conversions - share product reviews to build trust

These posts provide social proof to its would-be customers and make it easy for their existing customers to share with their networks, further expanding the makeup brand’s reach, giving them more customers that want to buy their products.

3. Post infographic “pamphlets”

Ecommerce shopping doesn’t provide consumers with the opportunity to see, hold, and feel products in person, so they may sometimes hesitate to make a purchase if there are things they’re unsure about.

Ease their doubts by answering any FAQs and questions you have about your products by compiling important information and graphics in a digital “pamphlet.” This pamphlet is a visual way to present information like product size charts, measurements, and even product care tips.

Include this in key areas of your ecommerce store, including specific product pages where applicable, but also even a dedicated page that customers can find from navigation menus and site footers.

Example of an infographic pamphlet for ecommerce stores.

boost ecommerce conversions - post infographics or pamphlets

Source

4. Provide online courses

Can you go the extra mile and give customers an entire high-value online course that will help deepen your relationship with them? Your course might even feature your own store’s products, and the information you provide complements your product use cases and benefits.

For instance, ecommerce businesses that sell computer gadgets and accessories for design professionals can provide their customers with online courses on topics such as remote user experience design that feature specific gadgets and tools they sell on their platform.

This tactic might be time-consuming but think of other ways you might offer your customers a helpful online course to complement your products. Perhaps instead of creating the course yourself, you can partner with known influencers or thought leaders in your niche. Or you can make the online course a very simple 5-day email course that features small action steps customers can take every day to get closer to a specific goal.

Get Influencers to Create User-Generated Content

Influencers are a fantastic addition to your content marketing strategy because influencers are content creators themselves. 

When you pick the right influencers, they’re likely to already have access to an audience, no matter how big or small, that trusts them and values their content. Content created by influencers are also a combination of review, product explanation, and even testimonials—and they speak from their own perspective and experiences that, to the average customer, is more authentic than branded content.

Here’s an example of this influencer tactic in action. Hikers and influencers who live and create content around the adventurous lifestyle have featured Patagonia, a well-known adventure brand selling hiking apparel, in their blog posts and YouTube videos.

boost ecommerce conversions - approach influencers for UGC

5. Submit guest posts

If your ecommerce doesn’t have your own blog, why not pitch your stories to other publications?

Guest blogging can benefit ecommerce stores because they’re able to publish their content in another site that already has its own audience. Of course, choose blogs and sites that fit into your niche and market. 

Say an ecommerce store sells all things coffee and wants to create a guest post. They might not have their own blog on their website, but they can partner with known food and even coffee bloggers like in the example below,  to create free content on their site.

The blog post can link back to their page, and get the site more backlinks. But more than that, it also appeals to the readers that already frequent this blog by providing helpful tips and tricks about things they’re interested in. The blog might also feature the ecommerce store’s products, so users not only have a high-value post to enjoy but can also find out where to shop for things that will help them implement the tips in the guest post.

boost ecommerce conversions - submit guest posts

6. Create how-to videos

How-To videos are some of the easiest things you can include in your ecommerce content marketing strategy. A survey by Social Marketing Writing found that how-to posts and case studies were the most credible types of content in their opinion, while Omnicore reports that 61% of consumers make a purchase based on a blog recommendation, with how-to content giving the best overall response rates.

boost ecommerce conversions and ux - create how to content

Source

One great thing about creating how-to videos is that you’re able to showcase your products right away. 

Here are just a few examples of how well you can use how-to videos to boost ecommerce conversions and improve the overall user experience of your products:

  • Online groceries and supermarkets can publish how-to videos that feature recipes of different dishes that then highlight the products on their store
  • Beauty brands can create how-to videos that help people achieve a specific makeup look or get better skin
  • Athleisure stores can create short workout videos to get certain results that highlight their products’ benefits
  • Furniture stores online can publish how-to videos that teach people how to set up their products step-by-step instead of referring to just a manual

There are, of course, other creative ways you can use how-to videos in your content marketing strategy, so think outside the box and aim to answer your customers’ burning desires with high-value content that complements your ecommerce products.

Key takeaways

Ecommerce stores can benefit from content marketing in that it can differentiate your brand from even the most crowded niches while deepening your relationship with your audience. Use the tips above to help you boost ecommerce conversions and improve user experience using the best content marketing tips you can implement today.

Kevin Payne is a content marketing consultant that helps software companies build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.

The post How to use content marketing to boost ecommerce conversions and user experience appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Top six reasons you should caption your social media video content

November 22, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Video marketing is more than a trend; it’s a must. But most companies are leaving out a key ingredient to ensure customers engage with their videos: captions and subtitles.
  • Captioning videos in English or subtitling them in other languages has been proven to greatly boost the success and accessibility of online video content.
  • Adding captions, subtitles or a transcript to videos allows Google to index the entirety of video content, rather than just indexing the video title.
  • Captions and subtitles ensure videos are accessible by all: those who don’t have their volume on and the 37.5 million Americans who are deaf or hearing impaired.

No matter what industry you’re in, video content is likely part of your marketing strategy. And if it’s not, it should be. According to a report by Cisco, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2022. And 72% of customers would rather learn about a product or service by video. Even still, videos aren’t some magic token that’ll get you to the next realm of marketing success and customer engagement. The online landscape is crowded, competitive, and moving at lightning speed. You don’t just need users to slow their scroll, you need them to engage. And when it comes to video content, the solution is quite simple, but often overlooked: closed captions.

Captioning your videos in English or subtitling them in other languages will greatly boost the success of your online video content. As a professional captioner and subtitler, I’m here to help you understand why:

1. Google can’t watch videos, but it can crawl captions

If you’re looking to improve your video’s SEO, adding captions is a quick and easy way to do it. Search engines like Google can’t watch your video content, but they can crawl your captions or transcripts and rank your video based on the keywords they find. Although your video will also be indexed for SEO by its title, description, and tags, captions will increase your keyword density and diversity even further. 

Google can't watch videos but can read captions

Next time you’ve got video content creation on the horizon, make sure you incorporate keywords into the script with this tip in mind, as it will pay off when it comes to video performance and SEO results in the long run.

2. Video captions drive more social engagement 

Adding captions to your videos is almost guaranteed to boost engagement, interaction, and conversion. According to a case study by Instapage, call-to-action clicks increased by 25% after they added captions to their Facebook videos. Another study found that captions increase the time viewers spend watching a video by almost 40% and make viewers 80 percent more likely to watch a video through the end. Simply adding captions to video content drives up clicks, overall view time, and view longevity.

3. A lot of people don’t (or can’t) turn on video sound

Have you ever insomnia-scrolled through Facebook for some entertainment while your partner slept soundly next to you? Or decided to take a peek at your feed during a boring class lecture? Or what about when you’re riding the public bus, having a cup of joe at your favorite coffee shop, or dining out solo? In all cases, playing a video aloud is not ideal… or socially acceptable.

Example of how captions support video experience without audio

As much as 85% of Facebook videos are played without sound. That means, if you don’t have captions on your video, it’ll be skipped by anyone watching with the mute button on, which could be a sizable chunk of your target audience. If you want to ensure your followers can view your content no matter where they are when they watch it, then do your part by adding captions. 

4. Captions boost comprehension, memory, and attention

Hundreds of studies have proven that captions improve comprehension of, attention to, and memory of video content. I’m a native English speaker, but my husband is Spanish. To improve his comprehension while watching TV shows and movies in English, we always watch content with the captions on. I was surprised to find that this also improved my comprehension and understanding of the content, and I now watch all video content with subtitles, whether or not my husband is sitting next to me on the couch. Including captions is the best way to ensure your takeaway hits home and leaves its mark on your viewers.  

5. Captions make videos more inclusive and accessible

Over 37.5 million Americans are deaf or have trouble hearing, so video audio serves little to no purpose to this group. And, only 36% of organizations caption all their video content. So why not get on the right side of that number? Without captions, you’re missing out on connecting with a huge audience. But remember, it’s not all about business and money, ensuring your video content is inclusive of all viewers is simply the right thing to do.

6. Most of your viewers likely live outside of your country of origin 

Making your content available worldwide is another way to grow your reach and the impact of your video content. According to YouTube, approximately “two-thirds of a channel’s views come from outside the creator’s home country.” Think about that: a huge portion of your audience might not fully understand your message or recognize your call to action. That’s a deep pool of potential customers you are missing out on.

Look at your analytics, figure out where your viewers live and consider creating subtitles in other languages to reach new markets. Make this a very strategic decision. Quality translation and subtitling are an investment, so you’ll want to make sure you choose the right language(s) to reach the target markets you’re able to serve. 

A word of caution: Resist the urge to DIY your captions and subtitles

While there are free machine translation, transcription, and captioning tools available on the market, take it from me: you don’t want to DIY your video captions. Leave this task to the experts. 

Captioning and subtitling are skills unto themselves, and without training and experience, can be time-consuming and delicate tasks. Captions and subtitles must follow strict rules, including character limits, reading speed, and cue-in and -out times (when the text appears on-screen and when it’s taken off the screen). Poorly timed captions and subtitles are difficult or impossible to read, which defeats the purpose of captioning or subtitling in the first place. 

word of caution on DIY captioning

Use resources such as the American Translators Association Directory (go to “Translation Service(s)” and choose “Dubbing/Subtitling” from the dropdown list) or visit GoSub’s job board to find a professional subtitler or captioner.

Don’t spend tons of time, money, and effort on creating the perfect video and leave out the key ingredient to ensuring your message reaches as many people as possible. Well-captioned and -subtitled content will increase your views, boost engagement and comprehension, and improve the overall success of your social media video content. Plus, for once, this is a quick and easy marketing fix that can make a big impact!

Molly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator, professional captioner, and subtitler. She is also Deputy Chair of Public Relations for the American Translators Association (ATA), which represents more than 10,000 translators and interpreters across 103 countries. 

The post Top six reasons you should caption your social media video content appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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How visual content can give a boost to your SEO and how to take advantage

November 12, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Visual content offers a ton of value for your website.
  • It can boost critical statistics such as time on page.
  • Visuals guide the reader through your content more smoothly.
  • They make your content more consumable and increase sharing.
  • Google loves images that are optimized for search.
  • Read on to learn more about how adding optimized images to your site can boost your search visits from your target audience.
  • See examples of how companies are successfully incorporating visual content into their marketing and websites.

It’s no secret that visual content is hot right now (queue the Zoolander references). You know content formats like video, infographics, GIFs, memes, and more should be a part of your content strategy, but did you know these also impact your site’s SEO?

How does visual content impact SEO?

There is so much value to adding visual content on your website. While your written content serves the purpose of enabling you to naturally incorporate keywords and create more content to rank in search engines, the visual content you add to your site and elsewhere can help give that content a further boost.

1. Video content keeps visitors on the page

One stat Google loves is “time on page”. If visitors are checking out your site and leaving after an average of 10 seconds, that signifies to Google that your content is bad or isn’t relevant. By placing a video in the middle of your written content, you can keep people on page longer.

Think about it. Let’s say it takes someone 10 seconds to read the first two paragraphs of your article. Then, directly on your site is a video your visitors can easily click on that adds more value to the piece.

They click to view and end up watching the full two-minute video. This intrigues your visitors to dig deeper. Before they know it, they’ve been on your site for five minutes. This can give a huge boost to your time on page stats.

Video also impacts critical stats like your bounce rate, which is also a critical factor used by Google. The last thing you want is people visiting your site and bouncing away after just reading a few lines on one page. Video can help reduce your bounce rate and convince people to stick around.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a video from Neil Patel that explains this concept a bit more. In the video, Patel highlights a few ways (including video) that you can use to reduce your bounce rate.

2. Visuals help guide the reader through your content

Reading straight through a 1000-word article, no matter how well-written, can become tedious quickly. To keep site visitors flowing through the content, you can add things like infographics, screenshots, and more to help visualize the concepts you’re presenting and push your visitors further down the page.

Breaking up your content with related visuals allows readers to take a break from soaking up the copy and instead check out a few related graphics, videos, or other visual content. It also provides an opportunity for the reader to pause and look at a graphic that might more easily explain a complex subject you’re presenting or highlight some related stats visually to really drive home the impact, so they don’t get lost in the text.

Here’s a great example of an infographic that grabs readers’ attention and gives them something more to soak up in addition to just text. These are a few screenshots from a larger infographic that appeared in an article highlighting the state of SEO in 2019.

visual content - example visual content - infographic

To view the full infographic, click here.

3. Google’s machine learning is learning to read visuals

While it’s not 100% clear how this works, it’s out there and known well enough that Google is actively learning how to read images on pages. With billions of images online, Google’s machine learning becomes adept at using shapes and other elements to compare and comprehend what the images on your site represent.

I mean, is there really much more I need to say here? If Google is focusing on learning how to crawl something and then attribute it to the value your site brings to the Internet, you need to pay attention. That’s why it’s so important to ensure your images are relevant and are formatted in a way Google can read them.

How can you use images to boost SEO?

So, now that you know the “why” part, let’s dig into the “how” part. It’s important to dig a bit deeper and explore some of the ways you can apply visual marketing to your efforts to boost your SEO.

1. Make sure your images add to the story

There is a ton of value in adding things like graphs, screenshots, and other content that actually relate to your article and adds value. There is decidedly less value in adding generic images that simply represent the concepts and don’t really add anything. Since we’re on the topic, why don’t I use some visuals to show you what I mean?

For example number one, you can see instructive screenshots dropped into this piece of content. These are screenshots from an article I recently wrote that details how to use HARO for SEO and backlink building. I used screenshots to walk readers through each step and provide them with actionable guides like the image of the email template and the walkthrough of how to set up an email.

visual content example - HARO HARO

On the opposite side, you have the images below that show an example of using images that relate to the topic but don’t really add value. This is another article on my site. I decided to test out generic images on this piece, as you can see in the screenshots below. The images relate to the content, but they really don’t add much extra.

Adding alt tags to optimize images Adding alt tags to images for optimization

As you can see, both do add a certain level of appeal to their respective articles. That said, for example one, the HARO article, has 12 times the number of page views, 11 more comments, and double the time on-page. So, you can see the value is clear that adding relevant images that add to the story brings a boost to your SEO.

2. Optimize your images

It’s not enough to just add images to your pages and posts. You also need to ensure they are optimized. If you ignore this step, you can run into issues with the performance of your site. For example, images that aren’t optimized can lead to slow load times on your site, and site speed is a critical ranking factor for Google.

To ensure you aren’t bogging down your site with heavy images, try using appropriate image types. The best formats to use are JPEG, PNG, and GIF. And as for videos, host the videos elsewhere (YouTube, for example) and then embed them on your site rather than uploading them directly.

Another important factor in optimizing your images is the tags you add. Just like you need to add meta tags to your posts, you need to add tags to your images as well. This serves as a way to tell Google (and let’s not forget other search engines, of course) what your images are about.

Kayako

Source: Kayako

3. Take advantage of off-site search

You’ve likely heard this before, but it deserves being restated. YouTube is the second largest search engine. Second only to…drumroll please…Google!

So, why not take advantage of posting videos to YouTube and optimizing those videos to give you more content to rank in search?

While this is obviously an off-site strategy, if you create excellent video content and then optimize it properly to appear in search, your videos can grab some SEO value.

You can then add links back to your website in your video descriptions and on your YouTube channel, and as your videos become more popular, clicks from the links on your YouTube channel will give a boost to your site traffic.

Wrapping it up

So, you get it now, right? Images are good for the health of your website and the impact of your SEO strategy. They not only add some life to your website and grab readers’ attention, they also help you improve critical stats that can help give your SEO a boost.

If you’ve been using visuals in your content, your first step should be to review those visuals to ensure they are optimized. Make sure they add to the story and then check to catch any missed opportunities to enhance your files with the right file types along with proper tagging.

Using images and video content on and off your website is a no-brainer. In today’s visual world, it’s important to stay on top of the continuing trend toward a preference for visual content. Make sure to work visuals into your content to give your SEO a serious boost.

Anthony is the Founder of AnthonyGaenzle.com a marketing and business blog. He also serves as the Head of Marketing and Business Development at Granite Creative Group, a full-service marketing firm. He is a storyteller, strategist, and eternal student of marketing and business strategy.

The post How visual content can give a boost to your SEO and how to take advantage appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Winter is coming: How to prepare your content strategy for a COVID-19 winter

November 5, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • With the number of cases of the novel coronavirus rising once again, content marketers face a resumed challenge to meet consumer needs.
  • Sales around the holidays will need to be approached sensitively, as unemployment rises and families are forced to tighten their belts.
  • Creating empathetic and emotionally-driven content will be more likely to appeal to audiences during these times.
  • The potential for future lockdown measures will see a potential increase in the demand for video content, particularly tutorials and explainers for new skills and products.

Although the last few months have seen quarantine restrictions being eased around the world, a resurgence in COVID-19 cases has led to a new round of measures being put in place to quell the spread of the virus before winter. However, now that scientists have a greater understanding of the nature of the novel coronavirus, it seems more likely that these new rules will be less all-encompassing than they were the first time around — pending any drastic rises in numbers, of course.

What this does mean, however, is that people in lockdown are likely to still be looking out for content that’s relevant to their current situation. We already talked you through what businesses learned about content marketing through the first phase of the pandemic, and the ever-changing state of things shouldn’t stop you from maintaining something close to your regular content schedule.

But based on what we now know about the virus, and what has and hasn’t worked with content strategies during the pandemic, there’s a lot your business can do to prepare for the winter ahead. Here are four key things to consider.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Traditionally the day for huge savings on big-ticket items, Thanksgiving weekend accounts for around a third of consumers’ entire holiday spend. But with Turkey Day fast approaching, many consumers are not even sure how (or if) they’ll be able to see family safely. Stores are having to come up with new ways to mark the occasion and give their customers the discounts they expect. Fortunately for most businesses, this primarily means giving their online offerings a shot in the arm.

In the midst of a huge global economic downturn, however, businesses will be wise to approach content around sales and promotional offers extremely carefully. The products you choose to put on sale at a discount may have to change to meet the different demands customers have had and will continue to have, during the pandemic. Consequently, writing copy that will emphasize your business’s reasons for doing this could help potential customers see eye-to-eye with your motivations, and help demonstrate an understanding of what consumers need on a wider level.

Emotional content

Going beyond Thanksgiving, the other focal point of your fourth-quarter content marketing campaign will likely be Christmas, but this festive season will clearly require a different approach from previous years. In particular, as The Drum points out, “how brands give back to communities and people will be a huge influence on shoppers this year.” This means that in addition to the keyword research you conduct to determine what you write about, how you write your Christmas content will be just as important.

Beyond the economic impact, most are feeling as a result of the pandemic, which is highly likely to shift consumer behaviors, people are far more likely to be reevaluating what is important to them during this time of year. The possibility of not seeing friends and family as they would on a normal.

Christmas means that the content your business releases will need to be sensitively-written, and seriously take this into consideration. However, Retail Week recently reported that nearly two-thirds of shoppers are more willing to “explore new products” at this time of year than any other time, so combining the emotional appeal with consumer appeal is critical.

This doesn’t only apply to customer-facing companies, however, no matter how easy it may be to forget that real people are responsible for the decisions a business makes. In the wake of the pandemic, emotionally-driven B2B content has been widely discussed and strongly recommended. One Linkedin discussion which took place in early May noted that “B2B audiences share the same fundamental human priorities and are just as interested in seeing their personal experiences reflected in the content.”

Video content

The most effective form of emotionally-driven content your brand could put together for the holidays is through video, which has seen a huge increase in viewing times since the onset of the pandemic. This has been the case across all sectors, and Econsultancy reports that video ad spend has increased by between 60% and 74% since the pandemic began.

As a result, it’s never been more important to start preparing easily-digestible video content to promote your products, explain your brand’s values and give people something fun to watch. But your work isn’t going to be done once you’ve completed the final cut — taking steps to carefully optimize your video content is essential if you want your videos to be seen.

Tutorials and explainers

From makeup tutorials and guides to making your own facemasks, to step-by-step advice on developing new skills, video content has been particularly beneficial during the lockdown as people seek out new ways to pass the time and feel a sense of accomplishment. DIY learning resources have become big business, and the most-searched-for terms — which YouTube has publicly claimed are “astonishing” in their consistency — mainly revolve around picking up new hobbies or coping mechanisms.

These have included baking (particularly sourdough), yoga and guided meditations, and home improvements, all of which would be useful in less fraught times, but particularly centering now. And brands which wouldn’t otherwise be providing this sort of content are getting in on the act, with the likes of Nike and DoubleTree Hotels diverting their budgets and strategies to give searchers the kind of useful content they need. With no clear end in sight for the most recent round of restrictions, videos of this nature are likely to continue being an excellent entry point for bringing new customers to your brand, so finding relevant subject matter will stand you in good stead through the holidays.

Edward Coram James is an SEO professional and the Chief Executive of Go Up Ltd, an international agency dedicated to helping its clients navigate the complexities of global SEO and the technical aspects of delivering location-specific pages to targeted audiences.

The post Winter is coming: How to prepare your content strategy for a COVID-19 winter appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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How to immediately profit from your next piece of content

October 30, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Most content marketers focus on creating blog posts and writing guest posts to improve SEO rankings. This approach overlooks the value of insightful content as a sales resource, especially for B2B firms.
  • What type of content works best for sales prospecting. Examples of content and an overview of how to create your outreach list.
  • An overview of two campaigns where blog content was used to generate leads for an SEO agency. Included in the overview are email templates and campaign outcomes.
  • How to review and optimize your content marketing outreach campaigns to generate more leads for your business.

Significant business resources are invested in creating content that is never engaged with, writing guest posts that are never read, and sharing content that is never seen. It’s a reality that most of us choose to ignore because we are fixated on inbound marketing.

While inbound marketing is effective, it’s not without problems:

  1. Most of the visitors who engage with your content will never return. It’s generally agreed that somewhere in the region of 2%-6% of first-time visitors return to a website.
  2. You have little control over who visits, and most visitors do not fit the profile of your customer persona (you’ll be doing very well if you convert even 0.3% of site visitors into customers).
  3. There are only so many spaces on the front page of Google. Truthfully, most of us will be fighting and failing to achieve our desired SERP rankings.

Outbound marketing sidesteps two of those three issues.

When you create a list of companies that fit your target demographic and then send emails to the relevant people in that company, you gain a degree of control over who consumes your content. Where you sit in the search rankings will not impact the outcome of your campaign.

While most sales teams use outbound marketing, few companies coordinate their content marketing efforts with outbound sales initiatives.

I believe that this is an oversight. I’ve secured several new customers for my agency in the last three months by coordinating my sales and content marketing efforts.

This guide will share an approach that I believe can help all businesses, but especially small to medium-sized businesses, that operate in the B2B space acquire new customers. It’s a strategy that relies upon creating a small amount of really great content, then actively promoting that content to the right people. Let’s dive in.

1. Consider the goals of your customer

Ideally, your outbound marketing strategy should neatly fit into your long term content marketing goals. For me, an optimal content campaign that aligns with sales should look something like this.

At the start of the campaign, you need to identify relevant keywords to target.

The keywords you pick should align with your ideal customer’s pain points and the solution that you offer either through your product or service. For example, at my company, we help businesses in the SaaS niche secure guest posts on relevant sites. I decided that the initial outreach campaign would be based around my guide on how to guest post.

You can see how the topic aligns with the solution.

If you’re going to run an outreach campaign that utilizes content from your site, you must use informative content that offers value. After all, the article will be the first impression that you leave with a potential customer interacting with your business.

You can create multiple pieces of content around your product or service offering. However, I recommend you start with one piece of cornerstone content.

2. Create a customer outreach list

There is a good chance that you already have a strategy in place to promote new content. Often, that involves creating a list of sites that have linked to a competing piece of content. You then find the contact details of the author and send them a message asking for a link.

A sales outreach campaign based around a piece of content is just as straightforward. However, the goal and who you target is different.

I’ll assume you have a customer persona. You know what type of companies buy your products or services. You need to create a list of suitable companies. You can use resources like Google My Business, the Inc 5,000, and other business roundups to quickly create a list of suitable companies to contact. 

Once you’ve created your shortlist, you need to find the details of the person in charge of purchasing decisions at each company. For an SEO agency, that person typically has a job title like ‘Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)’.

I generally use a combination of LinkedIn and an email finder to get their contact details. Hunter and Voila Norbert both offer 50 free searches, which is enough for an initial campaign.

Pull all of that information you collect into a Google Sheet.

3. Run your outreach campaign

There are numerous types of sales outreach campaigns you can run that incorporate blog content. For example, I collected the details of everyone who left a comment on the Backlinko blog. I removed individuals and companies that didn’t fit my customer persona and sent them all an email.

Below is a screenshot of the email template I used alongside one of the responses.

Piece of content - Profit from it by email outreach - Example 1

You can see this is a soft sell. The only reference to the service I offer is my email signature that links to a sales page. The primary resource in the email was this blog post.

I wanted to start a conversation with prospective customers not generate an instant sale.

This particular outreach campaign, which was sent to around 200 people, generated two leads. In addition, I was asked to appear on a podcast and was offered a couple of guest post opportunities.

You can be more direct. Here is an example from another campaign.

Piece of content - Profit from it by email outreach

We leveraged the credibility of Sumo for this sales campaign. The company has more brand recognition than Launch Space, a site that few people would recognize.

The primary resource used for the Sumo sales campaign was this article. The guest post fits the criteria of a cornerstone piece of content. It’s actionable, insightful, and relevant to the needs of prospective customers.

You might have noticed that I adapted my email signature for the campaign. We generated two leads from our first 100 emails.

4. Review the results

If this is your first campaign, I recommend you send outreach emails to between 100-200 companies. Send your emails, then a week or two later, review the results.

The first campaign we ran had a 1% conversion rate. I sent 100 emails and got one customer.

The math was simple.

I didn’t use any marketing tools for the campaign. You might choose to start the same way.

To improve the results of any marketing campaign, you need to track relevant metrics. There are plenty of affordable email tracking tools that provide insights like email opens, link clicks, and other statistics.

Good email tracking tools will allow you to split test your copy. You’ll also gather information on when people open your email and who opened your message multiple times but didn’t respond. You can use this data to improve your campaign results, for example, by scheduling your emails for the optimal time or day of the week or deciding on who to send multiple emails to.

Wrapping up

In this guide, I outlined how you can include blog posts and guest posts in your cold outreach to generate leads for your business. It’s a strategy that I’ve used to consistently land fresh clients, which has, in turn, helped me grow my business.

If you’re a B2B company selling a product or service with a high-profit margin, outbound marketing will normally provide you with a positive Return On Investment (ROI). It’s logical to utilize blog content as a sales resource, especially if you presume that the content will eventually generate leads through inbound marketing. Most companies don’t do this; I hope this article has provided you with the impetus to try.

Nico Prins is an online marketer and the founder of Launch Space. He helps companies develop their digital marketing strategies. He’s worked with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to startups helping them develop content marketing strategies that align with their business goals. Follow him on Twitter @nhdprins.

The post How to immediately profit from your next piece of content appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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