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How machine learning levels the SERP playing field

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We don’t ordinarily think of Google when we think about competition in the digital marketing world, since it seems to reliably dominate most areas in which it does business. A recent segment discussing corporate monopolies on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight hilariously referenced Bing as the dominant search engine with a graphic that stated, “Bing. The best place to Google something.”

For the most part, however, the digital marketing sphere has been a fairly competitive landscape, though there were exceptions to this maxim. Established brands frequently dominated top SERP positions because of long-standing trust, fresh domains had to wait their turn in line, and black-hat SEO allowed webmasters to game the system and deliver high rankings for thin content. A decade ago, SEO agencies and webmasters could apply simple heuristics and buzzworthy keywords to rank content regardless of its utility to user intent or actual quality.

The Hummingbird update and subsequent rollout of RankBrain changed all of these notions entirely.

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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We think we’re the ones who control what we see, read, think — and remember. But is that true? Who decides? And who should decide? This hour, TED speakers reveal just how easily we can be manipulated. Guests include design ethicist Tristan Harris, MSNBC host Ali Velshi, psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, and neuroscientist Steve Ramirez. Source:

Posted in Uncategorized

Local SEO: 7 Google My Business questions asked and answered

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Consumers are increasingly searching online for shops, grocery stores, restaurants, car dealers, realtors and other businesses in their local area. Not surprisingly, four out of five people use search engines to find local information, like a company’s business hours, address, phone number, online reviews, busy times and more, according to Google.

Google research also shows that businesses with detailed, complete, up-to-date online business listings are twice as likely to be considered reputable by consumers. (If you’ve ever looked up a local business online and driven all the way across town to their location only to find that they’ve moved, you know how frustrating that can be. When that happens, do you blame Google? Nope. You blame the business. And you’ve just lost trust in the business.)

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


Posted in Accelerated Mobile Pages, AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages, Channel: Mobile, Google, Google: Mobile, Mobile Marketing, Sponsored Content, Uncategorized

Tracking the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project

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AMP isn’t quite a household acronym yet, but it has big implications for virtually everyone with web access. The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project, the brainchild of Google announced just two years ago, is already impacting millions of users’ experience. And it’s growing fast. The downside — arguably a temporary one — is that not all technology is completely up to speed with this new initiative.

The need for AMP

The Google-led AMP Project is a response to the rise of of the mobile web, along with the proliferation of clunky advertising and poorly optimized website design. Its goal is to bring faster — even instant — rendering to web content, especially via mobile devices. If you’re wondering whether this optimization is really needed, the answer is largely yes, particularly for bigger websites.

Some news sites and content aggregators are known to eat up a ton of bandwidth and chase audiences away with slow load times. For example, one news site tested by Google consumed more than 100mb of bandwidth while making more than 6,500 requests to over 130 different domains. And that was just to display its home page. Poorly constructed web pages can result in slow load times, which can drive up abandon rates, lower audience experience, and, ultimately, put a serious ding in the site’s reputation. Nobody’s brand needs that.

AMP works to fix these issues by employing a number of best practices and restrictions that are all focused on site speed. At its core, AMP consists of three layers:

  1. AMP HTML — a stripped-down version of HTML that adds restrictions that help ensure reliable and faster performance. While most tags in an AMP HTML page are standard HTML tags, some have been replaced with AMP-specific tags built for site speed optimization.
  2. AMP JavaScript library — a library for managing resource loading that offers access to the custom AMP HTML tags and works within AMP’s prescribed best-performance practices to help optimize and accelerate page rendering.
  3. AMP Cache — a proxy-based network for delivering AMP documents that fetches AMP HTML pages, and then caches them to improve page performance. It also features a built-in validation system that confirms that the AMP page will work properly without needing external resources.

If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty of all-things AMP, visit the AMP Project page for full details, and attend the upcoming MarketingLand webinar about the evolution of AMP this month.

Major brands adopt AMP

With the help of 8,700 developers, the open-source initiative already powered close to 1 million domains and over 2 billion mobile pages as of May 2017. A lot of big players have already implemented and/or contributed to AMP, including WordPress, Reddit, ebay, Pinterest, Twitter, Bing and more. Web pages utilizing AMP are loading an average of four times faster and are using up to 10 times less bandwidth. Practically speaking, this means businesses can enjoy significant savings in bandwidth expenses — as well as the potential for increased traffic.

AMP’s quadrupled load speed translates into a better user experience, attracting more users to stay on a site and engage with its content. And this isn’t theoretical. Some early AMP adopters have already reported measurable results.

AMP posts powerful results

Here are a few examples of improved site performance, post-AMP:

  • Wired saw an overall 25 percent increase in click-through rates, as well as over 60 percent more click-throughs on ads in AMP-powered stories/pages.
  • Slate enjoyed an almost 50 percent spike in unique visitors per month and an almost 75 percent increase in visits per unique visitors per month.
  • Gizmodo experienced a 50 percent increase in impressions. Also, 80 percent of their traffic from AMP pages is new traffic.
  • The Washington Post saw a 23 percent rise in mobile search users returning to their site within seven days.

AMP can also improve search rankings and ad viewability. A 2016 DoubleClick study showed that 80 percent of 150 publishers realized improved viewability rates with AMP pages versus non-AMP pages. In the same study, more than 90 percent of the publishers also achieved greater engagement and higher click-through rates.

Some companies also experienced an increase in revenue in correlation with AMP’s improved speed and experience. The increased click-throughs and lower abandonment rates seem to be having a real impact on revenue. Sites converted by the news publisher Relay Media, for example, reported that mobile users who begin their customer journey with an AMP-powered page spend an average of 10 percent more money than users starting from a traditional, non-AMP mobile page.

As an added benefit, Google is also using AMP to tackle clunky banner ads. Using AMP HTML, the AMP Ads Initiative is working to correct the issue of ads that are slow, unpredictable and disruptive to audience experience. Not only are AMP-based ads faster and lighter than traditional web ads, but they’re delivered only after being validated free of malware. And the best part — AMP Ads aren’t limited to AMP pages but can be delivered anywhere on the web.

The downside of AMP

By its nature, AMP is restrictive. Imposing strict limits is how AMP ultimately increases speed and reduces bandwidth. If you’re thinking that restricting the HTML might restrict some functionality, you’re right. There’s a fair share of third-party software that isn’t yet integrated with AMP, which can limit certain functionalities like data tracking. And, even though AMP does support Google Analytics, AMP requires a different analytics tag than what is used in standard HTML — and it needs to be implemented on all AMP pages. For larger sites, this can be no small lift. In fact, AMP’s limits can make the implementation effort fairly heavy across the board.

Rounding out the cons, some advertisers might shy away from sites or pages that don’t support hard-to-miss but experience-damaging features like pop-up ads, making it harder for sites to secure advertisers. The case for a better audience experience doesn’t win the day with every potential advertiser.

Keep in mind that Google AMP is only two years out of the gate and continues to make progress against most of its cons. Project developers have already addressed several issues not mentioned above, including the fact that AMP links and canonical site links used to differ, making it difficult to share content. Additional updates have also been made to address functionality issues with more than 100 forward-thinking third-party analytics, ad tech, and CMS providers. Bottom line? Further AMP development work is needed to address limitations, but updates have been taking place fairly quickly to this point.

Bringing  journeys and experiences together

If the pace of AMP adoption continues as expected, significant improvements in user experience can be expected across the entire web in the near future. This means faster load times and a better-looking web to boot.

The issue of limited functionality with AMP pages still poses some inconvenience in a number of verticals. At CallTrackingMetrics (CTM), we recognized such an issue in our own industry. While marketers could still track a wealth of data through AMP pages, there was no way for marketers and organizations to dynamically populate AMP pages with tracking numbers.

At CTM, we worked closely with AMP’s team to develop a custom call-tracking script, creating the power to swap out trackable phone numbers on any AMP page. While others may follow suit in time, CTM is currently the only call-tracking provider to provide this functionality. We believe that AMP is helping to create a better mobile web and didn’t want to see AMP’s improved customer experience rendered moot to marketers by limitations to its trackability. After all, if a customer journey happens in the forest — even a really amazing forest — and no data is collected, does it matter?


Faster web page load times and cleaner ad experiences matter to marketers for all the reasons we’ve already touched on: better engagement, more visitors, increased revenue and so on. But without the ability to fully track the user journey through AMP pages, it’s hard to know exactly how effective your advertising is, AMPed or otherwise. When it comes to AMP pages, marketers who do not have access to CTM’s functionality may not have a full view of their customers’ journeys.

The jury is still out regarding the ultimate fate of AMP. Google, after all, has let a handful of initiatives slide before. And it’s difficult to know exactly where adoption might plateau. AMP, however, is a project with a clear goal that many can relate to and stand behind: create a better mobile web experience. And with the endorsement of many large brands leading the way, combined with powerful results in traffic and engagement, we think this might be a trend that’s here to stay.

In the meantime, developers and marketers have nothing to lose by embracing the AMP initiative and testing its performance. The potential benefits of a better, cleaner experience can’t be underestimated (consider Facebook vs. MySpace); and AMP presents a sea of opportunities for publishers, software providers, advertisers and marketers — not to mention their customers and audiences.

AMP might not be a sure thing yet — but it’s loading fast and looking good.


Posted in Uncategorized

Targeting featured snippet and ‘People also ask’ SERP features

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Targeting Featured Snippets and People Also Ask SERP Features

Search engines have a peculiar business model: They exist to quickly direct you somewhere else. This is in direct contrast to your typical web business or social platform, where they do everything they can to keep you engaged and on that platform.

This can’t have escaped the notice of the good folks at Google. And now, many questions are answered directly on the search engine. This keeps you on the page a little longer and (I would imagine) ups the likelihood of your conducting another search or — shock, horror! — even clicking on a search ad.

You have probably seen this a million times, but the following searches should all provide some form of answer directly in the search results.

  • “What is my IP?”
  • “Calculator”
  • “What is the square root of 196?”
  • “Telephone number for Bowler Hat SEO”

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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Citizen Science

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We often think that scientific research is reserved for PhDs and other experts. But now that’s changing. This hour, TED speakers on how ordinary citizens are helping make groundbreaking discoveries. Guests include tech entrepreneur Joi Ito, biomedical researcher Sharon Terry, astronomer Tabetha Boyajian, and journalist Mary Ellen Hannibal. Source:

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How LucidChart Used Kissmetrics to Drive Growth

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LucidChart, a SaaS-based diagramming application with over 9 million users, wanted to make sure their site was more than just pretty to look at. They wanted to ensure that it was leading users down the path to purchase. This is how they used Kissmetrics to leverage the behavioral data their users were leaving behind and increased conversions by 30%.

The initial step LucidChart took was to dive deep into data to better understand and evaluate the customer journey across their site. They learned what users were doing, where they were going and where they were dropping off across their site. Using insights from Kissmetrics they found key areas in the journey where they could drive efficiency and which pages they wanted to test a redesign.

After creating the new pages LucidChart used the Kissmetrics Funnel Report in correlation with the A/B Test Report to determine the effectiveness variation of the new pages both as a stand alone and part of the customer journey. Until they locked in on the best performing pages and process to drive conversions.

Funnel Report

Growth and marketing teams use our Funnel Report to see where dropoffs occur before conversion. This report is entirely customizable and can be used to track any conversion path you’d like. Furthermore, you can segment the data based on lead source, location, referring links, etc.

Used for illustration purposes. This is not LucidChart’s data.

LucidChart was able to track different segments across the customer journey and compare one another as well as use the A/B Test report to test the new design against the old.

A/B Test Report

With this report, you’ll create your test in an A/B testing tool, such as Optimizely, and track the results in Kissmetrics.

All data is imported from A/B testing tool and stored in Kissmetrics. Note: this is not LucidChart’s data.

What makes this Kissmetrics report unique is that you’ll be able to see how a test impacts any part of your funnel. Want to see if a new headline on your homepage leads to more purchases? Or see how a test in the middle of the funnel impacts the bottom line? Get your answer in just a few clicks in Kissmetrics. Having both reports coordinated in the same tool allowed LucidChart to measure the effectiveness of the new pages’ impact on the customer funnel with the old pages.

The Results

The outcome? By combining the power of the Kissmetrics A/B Test Report with the Funnel Report, LucidChart discovered that 2 pages in particular, their new homepage and new product page, were driving a huge 30% increase in conversions.

“Insights from Kissmetrics drove a 30% lift in our conversions. All of our key customer behavior data lives in Kissmetrics, for both our product and website, so we can quickly identify and take action on any roadblocks across our growth cycle. Kissmetrics is essential to Lucid Software’s growth efforts.”

Spencer Mann, VP of Growth at Lucid Software

Every time a prospect visits your site or uses your product they’re leaving a digital trail of their behavior – showing what they’re doing, where they get stuck, what they like, don’t like and why. There’s tremendous value in that data and it’s critical for driving growth.

Kissmetrics enables you to capture and leverage all that behavioral data to increase conversions, acquisitions and retention.

About Kissmetrics

Kissmetrics’ Customer Engagement Automation platform helps product and marketing teams turn insights into growth. Our software is comprised of 3 key features:

  • Analyze: A set of behavioral reports and metrics. Monitor your growth KPI’s across the customer lifecycle. And dive deep to understand user behavior and discover key insights.
  • Populations: Segment your users based on key growth initiatives and track their progress.
  • Campaigns: Behavior based email automation. Fully customizable editor puts you in complete control of customer engagement throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

kissmetrics products

Get, keep and grow more customers with Kissmetrics. Request a demo below to learn more.

About the Author: Jonathan Cabin is a Growth Analyst at Kissmetrics focused on initiatives that create sustainable growth. His background covers sales, project management and marketing. In his free time you can find him surfing, golfing and asking his boss for time off to travel.


Posted in Uncategorized

How the Russian search market looks now

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As Search Engine Land first reported in October of 2015, Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) determined that Google violated Russian competition laws by banning phone manufacturers from preinstalling competitors’ apps, and requiring those same phone manufacturers to preinstall selected Google apps on Android in exchange for access to the Google Play Store.

Well, after nearly 20 months of negotiations, a voluntary settlement was reached on April 17 of this year. According to the FAS press release:

Google will no longer demand exclusivity of its applications on Android-based devices in Russia; Google will be obliged not to restrict pre-installation of any competing search engines and applications (including on the default home screen); Google will refrain from stimulating pre-installation of the Google search as the only general search engine[…].

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


Posted in Uncategorized

Future Consequences

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From data collection to gene editing to AI, what we once considered science fiction is now becoming reality. This hour, TED speakers explore the future consequences of our present actions. Guests include designer Anab Jain, futurist Juan Enriquez, biologist Paul Knoepfler, and neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris. Source:

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The rise of personal assistants

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The Rise of Personal Assistants is Upon Us!

Market disruptions are times of great stress, but they also provide great opportunity. They define new winners and losers in the marketplace. And the next major disruption is just around the corner — it’s the coming era of the personal assistants, and there are many market forces that are driving this shift.

The first of these market forces is the explosion of the Internet of Things: Internet-connected devices will be something other than a PC, tablet or a smartphone. Gartner predicts that 8.4 billion connected devices will be in use in 2017 (up 31 percent from last year) and that this number will reach 20.4 billion by 2020.

What will those other devices be? Here are some of them (though there are many, many others not on this list):

  • Refrigerators
  • Alarm systems
  • Thermostats
  • Watches
  • Cars
  • TVs
  • Smart speakers

This will create a world where a connected device is always within immediate reach, and for the great majority of those devices, there will no search box and no browser. That leads us to our next major disruptive event: the rise of voice as a UI.

Voice: The UI of choice

In a world with no practical keyboard and a small screen, voice communications will become the UI of choice.

Voice is Becoming the UI of Choice

One reason for the fast rise of voice that we’ve seen already is the ubiquity of smartphones. Trying to type in commands on a small keyboard is already an incentive to speak your commands. But the explosion of the Internet of Things provides us with many devices with NO keyboards. As a result, forecasts for the rise of voice search are already quite stunning — comScore even predicts that voice searches will make up 50 percent of all searches by 2020.

There is definitely still some self-consciousness regarding speaking voice commands to phones in public. In a poll that we conducted recently of more than 900 users, we found that more than two-thirds of users polled use voice commands with their phones when at home by themselves:

2/3 of Poll Respondents Use Voice Commands with Their Smartphones

From Stone Temple’s “Rating the Smarts of the Digital Personal Assistants”

Still, despite the self-consciousness around using voice search in public, many are willing to break through those barriers. Our data also showed that 13 percent of respondents were willing to speak commands to their phones when they were in a public restroom!

Smart speakers: Amazon Echo and Google Home

Amazon launched their “smart speaker” back in 2014, but it’s now beginning to really take hold. In May of 2017, eMarketer released data indicating that “[t]he total number of Americans using voice-activated assistant devices will reach 35.6 million this year, up a whopping 129 percent jump year-over-year.”

They also shared data on estimated market share:

Smart Speaker Market Sharee

Global Market Insights forecasts that smart speakers will be a $13 billion market by 2024. How fast these devices can become available in international markets will limit how quickly they can grow, but I still expect their rate of growth to be impressive.

What makes these devices so interesting is that they are powered by Alexa (for the Echo) and the Google Assistant (for Google Home). These personal assistants are at the core of their functionality.

The digital personal assistants

The sale of smart speakers is indeed interesting to track, but the driving forces are broader than that. The idea of having a personal assistant on a smartphone has been around since Siri’s launch in October 2011. Google Now came shortly after in 2012 and has since been superseded by the Google Assistant. Cortana from Microsoft put in its initial appearance in 2013.

The Google Assistant is what powers the Google Home device, and it’s also available on Android and iOS phones. What makes this interesting is that the goal is for each user to have one assistant that can be accessed from all your devices:

One Personal Assistant Across All Devices

In this world, the device just acts as a portal to access your personal assistant, and that assistant lives in the cloud. Imagine being able to seamlessly conduct all your online business via your smartphone, watch, thermostat, refrigerator, TV, car, or any other device simply by speaking voice commands. This is a powerful vision, especially when you consider that the vision for these personal assistants is that they will address nearly all your online needs:

One Personal Assistant for All Your Online Needs

It’s the active use of digital personal assistants that I expect will reach 1 billion users quite quickly. There is no major hardware limitation to slow them down, as they already run on smartphones. In the case of the Google Assistant, it already runs on Google Home as well. How fast can they get there? Let’s take a look at recent history to see how fast consumer adoption can reach 1 billion users:

Both Facebook and smartphones took about eight years to get to an installed base of 1 billion. How quickly can the highly active use of personal assistants get to 1 billion users? That depends largely on how complete their service offerings become. I believe that this will happen quite quickly.

The bigger question is how quickly personal assistants will become a central focal point of users’ activity online. As more and more services get mapped into them, that value proposition will continue to grow, and that growth in functionality will drive the depth of users’ level of adoption.

Each of the major players (Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft) is doing everything they can to make their personal assistant offerings as comprehensive as they possibly can, and it’s this fact that creates new opportunities for all of us as digital marketers.

How can you get ready for this next era of disruption?

The first step is to get your products and services plugged into the personal assistants. One of the easiest ways to do that it to start working with Amazon Skills and Actions on Google. These are not that hard to work with, and getting in early will help you start learning how this world will differ.

Anyone can start working with these services to build their own app to plug into Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant, respectively. It’s easy to use each of them in a test mode so that you can work to debug a basic app. Once you’ve got that working, you can submit your app for acceptance into their respective ecosystems. You can submit an Amazon Skill for publication here, and learn how to distribute your “Actions on Google” app here.

While you’re doing this, one big area for you to explore is that of conversational interfaces. The first obvious difference is that users will use more natural language when they speak a query or make a request. In the early days of voice interfaces, it will be natural to ask users questions to determine what it is that they want.

Take pains to avoid questions that are open-ended; instead, learn how to ask questions that lead them to provide the type of answer you need to progress them through your navigation. Confirm that you understand the question before moving on to the next step.

In the longer term, you can imagine that these interfaces will evolve, and programs for processing language will improve. Traditional websites are based on a navigation metaphor, where users work their way to the content they want on your site on a step-by-step basis. But imagine a world where a user can state their entire need in one go. For example, imagine a query such as: “Get me a large pepperoni pizza with a 12-ounce diet coke and deliver it to my home address, please use the usual credit card,” where the personal assistant can process that entire query all at once.

We’re a long way from that day just yet, but it’s where we’re headed, and gaining early experience in these areas will be invaluable. You can get a leg up by building some initial smart speaker apps. Here is a summary of the benefits you’ll get by doing that:

  1. You can get plugged into those app marketplaces early, and that can gain you an edge in long-term exposure there.
  2. You can learn how to work with conversational interfaces.
  3. You can begin collecting data on how people use voice to ask for things in your market.

This next wave of disruption is already beginning to unfold, and we’re already exiting the early adopter stage, so the time to jump on board is now!

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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