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The March 12 2019 Google core update is still very fresh for most of us right now. It is still too early to tell exactly if there are any patterns or areas that this specific update hit harder than other areas.
What are you seeing? Please take our survey to let us know how this specific update impacted your web sites. Please fill it out for each site that you think was impacted on March 12th and ask your colleagues to do so as well.
If you’d like to wait for Search Console or other analytics tool to update before you submit the survey, feel free to wait a few days.
What’s next? After we collect enough data, we will review the data for any patterns or similarities. We will report back with any details or insights we find from the data.
So stay tuned. So make sure to stay tuned because we will be providing a more detailed analysis of the 3/12 Google core update in the upcoming week or so.
What can I do now? For now, sit tight, and look at our previous advice in our original story from Google.
About The Author
Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.
As most of you know the aggregator market is a competitive one, with the popularity in comparison sites rising.
Comparison companies are some of the most well-known and commonly used brands today. With external marketing and advertising efforts at an all-time high, people turn to the world wide web for these services. So, who is championing the online market?
In an investigation we carried out, we found brands such as MoneySuperMarket and MoneySavingExpert are the kings of the organic market.
It’s hard to remember a world without comparison sites. It turns out that comparison websites have been around for quite some time. In fact, some of the most popular aggregator domain names have been available since 1999.
Yes 1999, two years after Google launched.
The lifespan and longevity of these sites mean that over time issues start to build up, especially in the technical SEO department. Many of us SEOs are aware of the benefits that come with spending time on technical SEO issues — not to mention the great return on investment.
As comparison sites are so popular and relied upon by users, simple technical issues can result in a poor user experience damaging customer relationships. Or worse, users seeking assistance elsewhere.
Running comparison crawls have identified the common technical SEO issues across the market leaders. Find out what these issues are and how they will be harming their SEO — and see if they correlate with your own website.
1. Keyword cannibalization
When developing and creating new pages it is easy to forget about keyword cannibalization. Duplicating templates can easily leave metadata and headings unchanged, all confusing search engines on which page to rank for that keyword.
Here is an example from GoCompare.
The page on the left has the cannibalizing first heading. This is because the page’s h1 is situated in the top banner. This should target the long-tail opportunity “how to make your own electricity at home” which has been placed in an h2 tag directly under the banner.
The best course of action here would be to tweak the template, removing the banner and placing the call to action in the article body and placing the targeted keyword in a first heading tag.
Comparison sites are prime candidates for keyword cannibalization with the duplication of templates, services, and offers which results in cannibalization issues sitewide.
Run a crawl of your domain, gathering all the duplicated first headings tags, you can use tools such as Sitebulb for this. Decipher between which is the original page and which is the duplicate, then gather your keyword data to find a better keyword alternative for that duplicate page.
Talk to your SEO expert when creating new pages, they will be able to provide recommendations on URL structure, first headings, and titles. It is worth having an SEO at the start of the planning process when rolling out new pages.
2. Internal redirects
Numerous changes can result in internal redirects, primary causes are redundant pages, upgrades to a site’s functionality, and furthermore, the dreaded site migration.
When Google urged sites to accelerate to HTTPs in January 2017, with the ideal methodology to 301 redirect HTTP pages to HTTPs, it’s painful to think about the mass number of internal redirects.
Here’s an example.
Comparison sites specifically need to be aware of this. Just like ecommerce sites, products and services become unavailable. The normal behavior seems to be to then to redirect that product either to an alternative page or, in most cases, back to the parent directory.
This can then cause internal redirects across the site that need immediate attention.
To tackle this issue, gather all the internal redirected URLs from your crawler.
Once you’ve done this find the link on the parent page by inspecting the page on Google Developer tools.
Find where the link is and recommend to your development team that it changes the href attribute target within the link anchor to the final destination of the redirect.
3. Cleaning up the sitemap
With loads of changes happening across aggregator sites all the time, it is likely that the sitemap gets neglected.
However, it’s imperative you don’t allow this to happen! Search engines such as Google might ignore sitemaps that return “invalid” URLs.
Here’s an example.
Usually, a site’s 400/500 status code pages are on the development teams’ radar to fix. However, it isn’t always best practice as that these pages still sit in the sitemap. As they might be set live, orphaned and no indexed, or redirected elsewhere, that leaves some less severe issues within the Sitemap file.
Aggregators currently have to deal with sites changing product ranges, releasing new and, even, discontinuing services on a regular basis. New pages, therefore, have to be set up, redirects are then applied and sometimes issues are missed.
First, you need to identify errors within the sitemap. Search Console is perfect for this. Go to the coverage section, and filter with the drop down. Select your sitemaps with “Filter to Sitemaps” to inspect the errors that are within these.
If your sitemap has 400 or 500 status code pages, then this is more of a priority, if it has the odd redirect or canonical issue, focus on sorting these out first.
Check your sitemap weekly or even more frequently. It is also a great way of checking your broken pages across the site.
4. Subdomains are causing index bloat
Behind any great comparison site is a quotation functionality. This allows users to place personal information about a quote and being able to revisit previously saved data kind of like a shopping cart on most ecommerce websites.
However, these are usually hosted on subdomains and can get indexed, which you don’t really want. These are mostly thin content pages, a useless page in Google index equaling index bloat.
Here’s an example.
The solution is to add the “noindex” meta attribute to the quotation domains to stop them from being indexed. You can also include the subdomains in your robots.txt file to stop them from being crawled. Just make sure they aren’t in the search engines’ index before you place them in the file as they won’t drop out of the SERPs.
5. Spreading link equity to irrelevant pages
Internal linking is important. However, passing link equity thinly across pages can cause a loss in value. Think of a pyramid, and how the homepage spreads equity to the directory and then down to the subdirectories through keyword targeted anchor text.
These pages where equity is passed should hold the value and only link out to relevant pages that might be of relevance.
As comparison sites target a range of products and opportunities it is important to include them within the site architecture, but not spread the equity thinly.
How do we do this?
1. Consider the architecture of your site. For example:
“Fixed rate mortgages” has different yearly offerings, most sites sit these under a mortgage subdirectory, but this could easily have its own directory. This would benefit the site architecture as it lowers the click depth for those important pages and stops the thin spread of equity.
2. Only link to what is relevant.
Let’s take the below example. The targeted keyword here is “bad credit mortgages.” Money.co.uk then supplies a load of internal links at the bottom of the page that aren’t relevant to the keyword intent. Therefore, the equity is spread to these pages resulting in the page losing value.
Review the internal linking structure. You can do this by running pages through Screaming Frog, which identifies pages that have a click depth greater than two and evaluates the outgoing links. If there are a lot, this could be a good indicator that pages might be spreading the equity thinly. Manually evaluate the pages to find there the links are going to and remove any that might be irrelevant spreading equity unnecessarily.
6. Orphaned pages
Following on from the above point, pages that are orphaned, or poorly linked to, will receive low equity. Comparison sites are prime candidates for this.
MoneySuperMarket has several orphaned pages, especially located in the blog section of the site.
Use Sitebulb to crawl the site and discover orphaned pages. Spend time evaluating these, it might be that these pages should be orphaned. However, if they are present in the sitemap that indicates either one of two problems given below.
The pages should be linked to through the internal architecture or
The page shouldn’t be indexable or in the sitemap
If the pages are redundant, make them “no indexable.” However, if they should be linked to, evaluate your site’s internal architecture to work out a perfect linking strategy for these pages.
It is very easy for blog posts to get orphaned, using methods such as topic clustering can help benefit your content marketing efforts while making sure your pages aren’t being orphaned.
Last ditch tips
A lot of these issues occur across a range of different sites and many sectors, as comparison sites undergo a lot of changes and development work with a vast product range and loads to aggregate. It is very hard to keep up-to-date with SEO tech issues.
Be vigilant and delegate resources sensibly. SEO tech issues shouldn’t be ignored, actively monitor and run crawls and checks after any site development work has been rolled out, this can save your organic performance and keep your technical SEO game strong.
Tom Wilkinson is Search & Data Lead at Zazzle Media.
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For large websites like ecommerce, there can be an overwhelming amount of data. Here’s how to pull and audit your search data to know where to grow next.
This year, SEOs will need to double-down in understanding four key areas: mobile, structured data, relevance, and accessibility.
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PARIS/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Investigators in France will begin analyzing the crashed Ethiopian Airlines jet’s black boxes on Friday, seeking clues into a disaster that has angered scores of mourning families and grounded Boeing’s global 737 MAX fleet.
Sunday’s crash after take-off from Addis Ababa killed 157 people from 35 nations in the second such calamity involving Boeing’s flagship new model in six months.
Possible links between the accidents have rocked the aviation industry, scared passengers worldwide, and left the world’s biggest planemaker scrambling to prove the safety of a money-spinning model intended to be the standard for decades.
Relatives of the dead stormed out of a meeting with Ethiopian Airlines on Thursday, decrying a lack of transparency, while others made the painful trip to the crash scene.
“I can’t find you! Where are you?” said one Ethiopian woman, draped in traditional white mourning shawl, as she held a framed portrait of her brother in the charred and debris-strewn field.
Nations around the world, including an initially reluctant United States, have suspended the 371 MAX models in operation, though airlines are largely coping by switching planes.
Another nearly 5,000 MAXs are on order, meaning the financial implications are huge for the industry.
After an apparent tussle over where the investigation should be held, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders arrived in Paris and were handed over to France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) agency.
Technical analysis would begin on Friday and the first conclusions could take several days, the BEA said, posting a picture of the partly crumpled, orange-cased box.
The investigation has added urgency since the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday grounded the 737 MAX aircraft citing satellite data and evidence from the scene indicating some similarities and “the possibility of a shared cause” with October’s crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people.
Though it maintains the planes are safe, Boeing has supported the FAA move. Its stock is down about 11 percent since the crash, wiping more than $26 billion off its market value.
It is unclear how long the Boeing aircraft will be grounded.
U.S. President Donald Trump, an aviation enthusiast with deep ties to Boeing, said he hoped the suspensions would be short. “It’s a great company,” he told reporters at the White House. “They have to figure it out fast. They know that. They’re under great pressure.”
A software fix for the 737 MAX that Boeing has been working on since the Lion Air crash in October in Indonesia will take months to complete, the FAA said on Wednesday.
A relative puts soil on her face as she mourns at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town Bishoftu, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
Deliveries of Boeing’s best-selling jets have been effectively frozen, though production continues.
And in what may presage a raft of claims, Norwegian Air has said it will seek compensation from Boeing for costs and lost revenue after grounding its fleet of 737 MAX. Japan became the latest nation to suspend the 737 MAX planes on Thursday. And airline Garuda Indonesia said there was a possibility it would cancel its 20-strong order of 737 MAXs, depending on what the FAA does.
Under international rules, the Ethiopians are leading the investigation but France’s BEA will conduct black box analysis as an advisor. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was also sending three investigators to assist.
The choice of the BEA followed what experts say appears to have been a tug-of-war between national agencies, with Germany initially invited to do the analysis.
Ethiopian Airlines criticized a French-backed investigation into a crash in Lebanon in 2010, when an Ethiopian plane crashed into the sea after take-off. It said the investigation was biased against the pilots, who were blamed for the crash.
There is a small pool of countries including Britain, France, the United States, Canada and Australia that are seen as leading investigators. But only France and the United States have the experience gleaned from being present at almost every crash involving an Airbus or Boeing respectively.
The cause of the Indonesian crash is still being investigated. A November preliminary report, before the retrieval of the cockpit voice recorder, focused on maintenance and training and the response of a Boeing anti-stall system to a recently replaced sensor, but gave no reason for the crash.
The pilot of Flight 302 had reported internal control problems and received permission to return, before the plane came down and burst into a fireball on arid farmland.
Slideshow (15 Images)
Relatives are desperate to know what happened and to receive fragments if not corpses, given the fire and destruction at the site. They were at least able to vent their grief.
“We saw where he died and touched the earth,” said Sultan Al-Mutairi, who came from Riyadh to say goodbye to his brother Saad, who ran a recruitment agency in Kenya.
Reporting by Richard Lough, Tim Hepher and John Irish in Paris, Duncan Miriri and Aaron Masho in Addis Ababa, Jeff Mason and David Shepardson in Washington, Omar Mohammed and Maggie Fick in Nairobi; Danilo Masoni in Milan; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Jon Boyle
Most were difficult to read, visually confusing, and didn’t provide much utility to the reader. It seemed that the marketers behind them were more interested in promoting articles and earning blog impressions than in creating an experience worth subscribing to. But the top 10 percent were completely different.
The top 10% of newsletters were beautiful to look at and minimal in their design; they included funny, concise, and thought-provoking remarks; and they seemed determined to offer an elevated experience that a reader couldn’t get just by visiting their blog.
So we asked the people behind a few of those top newsletters: “What’s your secret?”
Tallie Gabriel, writer and social media editor, Contently
Contently is a content marketing software, and the team writes a blog for marketers called The Strategist, so writing well is their forte. But what sets them apart is their consistency: Contently’s newsletter uses the same cerulean blue header and sans-serif font as its website, and it features the site’s signature humorously skeptical tone.
This past September, hundreds of specialists at organizations across industry verticals flocked to #Opticon18, the largest experimentation conference in North America; and it was clear; the driving force is you—the Optimization Champion.
Experimentation as a strategy for future business evolution and innovation is happening now.
The most successful organizations are experimenting (or at least planning to!) across all customer touchpoints. Because customer experience is king.
To keep pace, you’ll need to stay on the pulse of what’s happening with experimentation: new tech and tool developments, the latest strategies for scaling experimentation, and the emerging trends that will define your business in the future.
Because your ability to adapt will lay the foundation for the radical change that is set to happen in the business world:
The next 10 years will generate an order of magnitude more change than we have seen in the last 10 years.
Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick
In 2019, you will want to accelerate your strategy with these six experimentation trends that will pave the future of your digital customer experience:
Trend 1: The currency of business insights
Customer data, machine learning algorithms, the latest technology stack—no technological development is worth implementing if you can’t leverage that data into business insights.
Business insights are the valuable intel that allows you to experiment and evolve. To innovate and proliferate your learnings across your entire organization.
Data is the red blood of an insights-driven business—there can never be enough flowing in the veins. Look always to tap more—and more relevant—data.
Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick
Your ability to accelerate the speed and transmission of insights across different teams is the currency of the future. Business insights will underpin the radical change we will see in the next 10 years.
Data analytics and software enable insights-driven organizations to sift through an immense amount of information to glean transferable insights.
Optimization Champions need to keep pace, develop their core competencies to ensure that they are gathering the highest form of insights: those that can generate bottom-line impact.
Because this trend hinges on human intelligence: the ability to accumulate a large quantity of quality data sources and to be able to glean actionable insights. Insights that reveal something about your systems and processes, your product or services, and especially your customer:
Insights-driven businesses bring insight, not just data, into every decision, and they know exactly how to use them for greatest advantage across the entire customer life cycle. For these firms, digital insights and what they do with them are their secret weapons to disrupt your market and steal your customers.
Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick
But more importantly, the most successful organizations will find ways to close the loop—bring insights forward and experiment with them at different touchpoints.
The flow of insights drives your experimentation program, maximizing your organizational learning capacity.
Share the insight:
You must democratize your data and insights so anyone in the organization can harness them for an improved customer experience.
At Uber, for instance, 50% of their employees have access to an insights database which helps to inform their decision making on a daily basis, according to the Forrester report.
Because information is power.
There are many things that you need to get right to create internal alignment and scale insights across the enterprise. However the most important is having the executive team demanding this approach and a top-down strategy guiding the synchronization of teams around a common practice.
But this is a challenge for any traditional, non-agile organization.
Fewer than 10% of businesses are insights-driven, so it’s a huge opportunity. Those that adapt will un-tap hidden profits, optimizing their business from every angle so that it can evolve at the rapid pace of the digital world.
In fact, Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler and James McCormick predict that insights-driven businesses will grow eight times faster than the projected 3.5% global GDP Growth. More granularly, their predictions include that insights-driven public companies will grow 27% annually and startups will grow 40%.
But this might not be possible without the top-level support of changed processes and systems.
What processes and protocol can you document to ensure that business insights are spread throughout your organization?
A Marketer’s take on this trend
The dissemination of insights is crucial if you really want to move your organization forward. The learnings you generate from experimentation can’t live in a single team – particularly those insights about your customer’s emotional states and contexts. Because these insights can most likely be applied and tested at many touch points throughout your business.
Now is the time to figure out what systems you need in place to ensure the right people have access to insights from data, experimentation, and customer research. This may be as simple as an experiment insights archive, or it may require a more intentional dissemination effort.
Resources to get you started…
Trend 2: The cross-organizational experimentation mindset
Thomas Edison would be thrilled to be alive today, if he could see the stuff that is really going on, the stuff that you are all doing.
It’s not a surprise that Forrester analysts predict unprecedented growth for insights-driven businesses in the next decade. Experimentation refines ideas into validated insights, evolving the digital customer experience.
And with more organizations adopting the experimentation mindset of testing and learning across every department, the ability to generate and leverage business insights increases exponentially.
In the next 10 years, we will see widespread adoption of experimentation across all touch points to validate all marketing activity and focus our limited time and resources on the high-impact areas.
Director of Strategy
The future of the digital customer experience is through experimentation. In the next 10 years, you will see more and more organizations experimenting across every customer touchpoint, in order to optimize their entire journey.
“There’s little innovation in companies nowadays without large-scale experimentation.” – Stefan Thomke
Your first step is to de-silo experimentation in your organization. Instead of relegating experimentation as a side-strategy, organizations will need to implement the structures and processes to enable experimentation in every team.
To become a true experimentation organization, you need scale and scope. Scale is about running many experiments and scope is about getting all groups across an organization to participate in experiments.
The most successful organizations are already on board with cross-organizational experimentation. According to Stefan Thomke, at organizations like P&G, Uber, Airbnb, or Bing, experimentation is going on at all times.
“[At Bing, at] any point in time, there’s billions and trillions of variations,” explains Stefan Thomke. “And by the way, the success rate at Bing, alone, is only 10-20% of what they try.”
Real-world examples of experimentation at scale
The most successful organizations are experimenting at a high velocity, gathering insights from both winning and losing variations.
Share the insight:
And despite a low win-rate, these organizations are investing in experimentation as their cross-organizational strategy. Because it’s not about winning or losing — that’s thinking too small, too immediate.
That’s because experimentation competency across their organization is their competitive advantage. They are testing large-scale and high-velocity because they involve every team, every department. Experimentation is all about gathering business insights.
At its peak maturity, experimentation is a cultural mindset that spans across organizational departments, marketing channels, and throughout executive management.
So where do you get started? We’ve got it figured out.
The 5 pillars of an effective experimentation program
Cross-organization experimentation requires a scaling strategy. It requires focused intention, a multi-pronged approach to your process, your metrics, your culture, your expertise, and your tech stack.
Based on years of analysis of experimentation programs, and through surveying Optimization Champions at organizations all over North America in “State of Experimentation Maturity 2018” report, we’ve identified what makes the most successful programs gain traction across departments, across activities.
And it’s called the PACET framework.
The PACET Framework
WiderFunnel’s PACET Framework
By focusing on the five core pillars of process, accountability, culture, expertise, and technology, you can scale and mature your experimentation program.
Share the insight:
Our findings informed WiderFunnel’s framework: PACET. And it includes these five pillars:
This pillar includes an organization’s experimentation protocol and methodology, process for ideation and prioritization, experiment design, and measurement of success.
The most mature organizations keep process and accountability at the core of their experimentation strategy, fuelling how experiments are developed, and results are analyzed, understood, and leveraged.
Culture is crucial when defining experimentation maturity: Does your organization celebrate testing and learning? Are people encouraged to try (and fail) and try again?
This pillar includes organizational buy-in for experimentation, program support from the C-level, and cross-team participation in an experimentation program.
An experimentation program needs expertise and resources. The amount of time and full-time team members dedicated to experimentation is reflective of an organization’s maturity.
This pillar includes people and skill sets: strategists, analysts, designers, developers, project managers, product owners, third-party partners, as well as hours dedicated to experimentation.
Experimentation maturity requires a well-rounded technology stack. Experimentation and personalization tools, visitor engagement tools, customer data tools, project management tools. Mature organizations have the right tools in place to ensure they can develop the best possible hypotheses and have reliable data.
Your first step is to evaluate how developed each of these core pillars are within your organization, so you can set your sights on your future growth.
Trend 3: Empowered product experimentation
Experimentation has become the product. Your product is the culmination of user feedback and quantitative data tied to your business goals. And experimentation is the engine that brings it all together to validate the way forward.
Just as Stefan Thomke mentioned, your experimentation program’s scale and scope are essential for driving your future growth. If you are considering how to grow your program, empowered product experimentation should be your next step.
There are numerous untapped opportunities:
“Server-side experimentation has really opened up what is possible with product experimentation. Allowing development teams to build experimentation directly into their sprints and workflows,” clarifies Thomas Davis, Senior Web Developer at WiderFunnel.
The product lifecycle
You can experiment deeper into your stack with product experimentation, including with machine learning algorithms, log-in states, and more.
Share the insight:
But besides the ability to experiment throughout the development lifecycle, you also have the opportunity to maximize your digital customer experience by building off the value that is already created.
Successful product managers create an experience that delights, an experience that meets the customer’s emotional needs and states in the context of your product. And continuous and iterative experimentation makes certain that you are moving toward this end goal.
You can heighten the positive emotions that your customer experiences, and minimize the friction points to make it more sticky.
And that experimentation mindset will be critical to ensuring the longevity of your product in the marketplace.
A Developer’s take on the trend
Nothing is more frustrating than building out a fully integrated feature that has a negative effect on the business. Product experimentation stops developers wasting time building out fully polished features that will just be rolled back.
Senior Web Developer
Trend 4: The evolution of the Digital Experience Stack
Delivering exceptional customer experiences at scale is high-pressure for the disruptive business leader. It’s a fast-paced market and they know they have to keep up.
“Marketing is a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ discipline,” explains Sergiy Bondarenko, Marketing Operations Analyst at WiderFunnel.
“Marketers have to be experts in copywriting, sales, design, psychology, web technology, app technology, SEO, paid traffic acquisition and demand generation, social media, public relations, etc.
“Naturally, there isn’t a single person who can excel in all these disciplines. This is where many tool vendors come in, promising to ‘fill gaps’, and marketers fall into the trap of thinking a tool can replace skills.”
When it comes to technology, gone are the days of finding that traditional one-tool solution. These legacy suites evolve slowly, delivering mediocre results across the board. At that pace, how could you ever stand out amongst your competitors?
Insights-driven businesses are 137% more likely to differentiate with data and analytics.
But implementing new tools and technologies without an overarching martech strategy will lead to poor results as well.
Since 2007, we have gone from ~150 martech vendors to over ~7,000 in 2018. Unsurprisingly, marketers are now suffering from the ‘shiny object’ syndrome—every new tool promises to solve every problem there is, and if it’s trendy, then it’s almost an obligation to work it into the existing workflow—or risk being seen as a laggard.
Marketing Operations Analyst
The new Digital Experience Stack is an innovative solution, particularly for those disruptive businesses that want the best of the tech worlds.
And it ensures you have the well-rounded technology stack to empower your organization’s experimentation at scale.
“If you have 100 tools that are fragmented, don’t have an open API, and are sparsely used, then you have a problem on your hands,” states Sergiy Bondarenko.
“Firstly, team productivity and happiness will suffer. This will eventually trickle down into underperforming operational metrics and will have a negative impact on the KPIs.
“A bloated martech stack also means a bloated budget, and you never want to have a bloated marketing budget—it creates tension and a lack of trust with organizational leaders like the CEO and CFO.”
And no organization wants that.
An Experimentation Strategist’s take on the trend
The digital experience stack is a great approach that enables businesses to work with a diverse range of best-in-class technologies, and enables technology companies to continue to focus on their area of expertise. Collaboration, not competition, to better support the industry as a whole.
Senior Experimentation Strategist
Trend 5: The re-framing of personalization
Experimentation ensures that businesses are innovating and evolving. But, it doesn’t mean that it is a separate strategy. It is the underpinning methodology of getting any and every strategy right.
Personalization is just one technique within the methodology of experimentation.
It’s not one or the other.
So, your experimentation team shouldn’t be siloed from your personalization efforts.
We’ve seen a lot of hype around personalization in recent years, but many organizations are only aspiring to the level where they can deliver individualized experiences to their customers. That’s the 1:1 experiences that many tools claim to provide.
But, as Mike St. Laurent, Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead points out: “Most companies do not have the necessary data collection and segmentation capabilities in place to even be thinking about personalization as a strategy.”
2019 will be the year of laying the technical groundwork so that companies have the tools they need to test relevant customer experiences effectively.
Mike St. Laurent
Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead
You also need to keep in mind that any tactic needs to be proven; not every implementation of personalization will deliver results.
If you have an idea on how to leverage personalization in your strategy, validate your hypotheses through experimentation.
The end goal is to create digital experiences that are highly relevant to the customer in your business context. But you should only want that as a means of generating a higher customer lifetime value.
An Experimentation Strategist’s take on the trend
Creating relevant experiences can be an effective way to improve conversions, but companies are realizing they shouldn’t be personalizing just to say they are doing it.
Companies are starting to understand that just because something is “personalized” doesn’t mean it’s more effective. A personalized experience needs to be tested the same as any other change to a digital experience.
Mike St. Laurent
Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead
Get well-versed on this topic…
Trend 6: True customer empathy
Businesses have long been trying to solve their customer’s pain points. But what has been missing from the conversation is true customer empathy.
Because you don’t want your customer to only have their problem solved. You want them to feel an affiliation with your brand and with your experience. You want them to be delighted.
True customer empathy means understanding your customer’s full spectrum of emotions within your experience: knowing what emotions they feel when their expectations are met and how they feel when their expectations are not met.
In the digital world, customers can access your brand on many touch points: social media, email newsletters, your website. All of which offers plenty of opportunities to connect with your customers.
Where are the points of friction and where are the points of delight in your experience?
Unfortunately, at least one unintended bad customer experience is part and parcel of any new launch; companies simply can’t predetermine how every part of their customers’ experience is impacted by design or development decisions made during the feature development process.
A crucial post-launch practice at FullStory is something we call ‘game film‘—a process where we auto-play sessions of users interacting with the new feature and note down how many bad experiences they encounter.
Whether through game film or some other practice, the point is that everyone should have a built-in mechanism to monitor these empathy-inducing moments of frustration for customers.
Marketing at FullStory
True customer empathy leads to an understanding of how you can maximize and minimize the feelings your customer experiences at these different points within your experience, so that your brand can align more closely with your customer’s emotional needs and states.
In 2005, when Bain & Company surveyed 362 firms, 80% of companies stated that they were customer centric. That sounds promising until you consider their customers’ response: Only 8% of customers agreed.
Clearly, there is a disconnect.
So, how can you get deeper than demographics to not only understand your customer, but to anticipate their emotional response? How can your organization become genuinely empathetic to their customers?
Start by listening to your customers at every touchpoint.
Live chat. Social media listening. Customer surveys. These methods are a starting point. But true customer empathy only comes from deep inquiry and the thick data that results:
Research techniques — such as contextual inquiry, diary studies, ethnographic research and others — can generate thick data that allows you to understand your customer’s emotional needs.
True customer empathy is also a rich source of hypothesis ideation. You can validate this deep understanding of your customer through experimentation to see if your hypotheses stand true.
A UX Researcher’s take on the trend
People will always be the centre of any business. Understanding those people — your users — and their circumstances will help you generate powerful hypotheses. But the key is to take these insights forward through each of your experiments to drive and scale a sophisticated experimentation program.
UX Research Specialist
Remember what you do now counts.
Your leadership, your strategies, your experiments are driving your organization into the future. What you do now accelerates the growth of your company.
It takes just one person to lead the change. The more you embrace the trends and technologies of the future, the more ready you are to embrace the pace of change.
But know that you don’t have to bear the burden alone.
Build the right insights partnerships – don’t go it alone. You probably won’t own all the data, expertise, or technology. We expect most companies to work with a wide variety of insights services partners.
Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick
You can still lead the charge.
As the more determined you are to push the boundaries of how your organization operates, the more likely you can evolve with the rapid growth that your organization can facilitate through experimentation.
But it’s not just about you and your organization—it’s about your organization’s purpose, your vision—the reason why behind your work.
And that is your customers.
Because a delightful digital experience is how your brand stays relevant—now and in the next decade.
What trends stand out as most important to your future growth? Let’s start a conversation in the comment section below.
Marketing Communications Specialist
Benchmark your experimentation maturity with our new 7-minute maturity assessment and get proven strategies to develop an insight-driving growth machine.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Everyone knows the Golden Rule of business is to pay yourself first. But more than half of small business owners are going months without pay – if they are taking any at all.
FILE PHOTO – An employee of a bank counts US dollar notes at a branch in Hanoi, Vietnam May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Kham
About a quarter of these entrepreneurs go two to six months without pay, and another quarter have gone more than six months without salary, according to a recent survey from Kabbage (kabbage.com), a cash flow optimization platform.
The small business payroll servicer Gusto (gusto.com) finds even more ups and down for its clients. Data on 449 owners shared exclusively with Reuters show that only a handful pulled any paycheck at all in 2018, and the size of the checks varied greatly, with the highest amounts taken in summer.
The biggest month for an owner’s draw in 2018 was December, with 73 business owners taking checks, and a median check of $5,944, according to Gusto spokesman Rick Chen. The lowest draws were in January, with just 26 owners taking pay, for an average of just $1,991.
“It’s tough. People have to budget,” said Mike Savage, a certified public accountant (CPA) and chief executive officer of 1-800Accountant (1800accountant.com), which offers financial services to small business owners. “We encourage people to budget accordingly – plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
Tony Hernandez, owner of Cienfuegos Cuban Cafe in Simi Valley, California, is among those who have not taken a paycheck at all.
Since he started his food business over three years ago, he has earned tips, but otherwise it all goes back into the business. Some expenses, like his car and gas, get billed through the company. His wife’s job covers living costs and provides health insurance for them and their two kids.
“I don’t know how else I would be able to do something like this without my wife,” said Hernandez, 46.
For Hernandez, long-term planning is less about retirement than about expanding to a second location, with the ultimate dream of a stall at the Los Angeles airport.
“The way I look at my business is: I’m fully invested in this to make it work. That’s investing in my retirement,” said Hernandez.
What keeps Joanne Sonenshine up at night has been the inability to plan. The 42-year-old runs a partnership advisory company in Washington called Connective Impact that helps connect companies to investments with social impact. She regularly takes a salary, but often has to pause it, depending on when clients pay.
The partial U.S. government shutdown at the beginning of the year was particularly crippling, because many of her clients depend on federal funding. Two big contracts disappeared suddenly.
“A huge amount of money went up in smoke. I can’t catch up with that,” said Sonenshine. “You start to worry if you can make it. There’s the fear of failure, the fear of letting your family down. What happens if I can’t pay my taxes? Will the IRS come after me?”
NEW TAX LAW
This is, indeed, a daunting year for small business taxes. The Tax Cuts & Job Acts passed in 2017 created a new 20 percent deduction for individuals earning business income – but the fine print is complicated. Those paying quarterly taxes in 2018 before all the rules were sorted out may have to make adjustments. That is on top of the difficulty of figuring out quarterly tax payments on fluctuating income.
“With the new tax law, there’s even more incentive for the self-employed entrepreneur to pay themselves less,” said Savage, because they will avoid payroll taxes and other withholdings and boost their deduction.
While more careful cash management may help control the symptoms, this may be one problem for which there is no cure. Most businesses run on small margins, and they are always expanding so as not to stagnate.
“We’ll always been chasing our tails, in effect,” said Rich Patterson, who runs his own marketing company that makes custom products in Vancouver, Canada.
Patterson, 48, had to pause his pay over the summer, when there was a worrisome lag. “I watch the sales figure really closely, and I knew we were having a good year. It didn’t seem to match up why we were having cash flow problems,” Patterson said.
The choice became paying himself and contributing to retirement or paying his staff. “Honestly, it’s just not possible to pay yourself first,” Patterson said. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if other people are losing out.”
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Facebook to remove relevance score for ads starting April 30.
Facebook announced Wednesday it is replacing its ad relevance score with three new “more granular” metrics. It will also be removing six additional ad metrics, replacing them with what it calls “more actionable” measurements.
Goodbye relevance score. Facebook’s relevance score offered advertisers insight into how relevant an ad may be to the audience it targeted. The relevance score was reported as single metric, but starting Wednesday, Facebook will begin rolling out three new metrics to replace the relevance score. The single score will no longer be available after April 30.
Three new relevancy metrics. The new metrics are quality ranking, engagement rate ranking and conversion rate ranking.
The quality ranking metric will measure an ad’s perceived quality compared to ads competing for the same target audience.
The engagement rate metric will work the same way, showing an ad’s expected engagement rate compared to ads competing for the same audience.
The conversion rate ranking shows an ad’s expected conversion rates when compared to ads with the same optimization goals and audience.
As with the previous relevance score, these new metrics are not factored into an ad’s performance in the auction, but instead provide insights into how changes to creative assets, audience targeting or post-click experience may impact ad performance.
Other metrics sunsetting. In addition to the relevance score, Facebook is shuttering six other ad metrics next month.
Cost Per Offers Saved
Cost Per Messaging Replies
Mobile App Purchase ROAS
Web Purchase ROAS
Facebook said it regularly updates its metric offerings, and removes any that are no longer being used, replacing them with more effective measurement tools.
New metrics to replace those being shuttered. Facebook is introducing new metrics that will aggregate data from the shuttered metrics.
“We are introducing Posts Saved metric so business can see how many people saved their ads,” wrote Facebook, “Offer ads will be counted in the new Posts Saved metric, so we’re removing the offers saved metric.”
The Message Replies and Cost Per Messaging Replies metrics are being replaced with new Messaging Connections and Messaging Conversations Started metrics.
“We heard feedback that Messaging Replies were not as valuable because marketers are more interested in the NEW conversions that began with people who had never messaged with their business before OR messaging conversations that started after a period of inactivity,” wrote Facebook on the Help Center page. The company says the new Messaging Connections metric will only measure new conversations.
The mobile and web purchase ROAS will now be wrapped into one consolidated metric showing ROAS across all channels.
Why you should care. Facebook’s relevance metric updates should offer advertisers more nuanced insights into predicted performance and where to focus optimization efforts. If you are using any of the other metrics in you’re reporting, plan to update those reports in the coming month.
About The Author
Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media’s General Assignment Reporter, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs.com, SoftwareCEO.com, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.
Let’s just set the record – app indexation and app optimization are two different things. OK, maybe not totally different so let me summarize what they each do:
App store optimization (ASO) – The process of improving the visibility of an app within the app store.
Firebase app indexation (FAI) – The process of making the content on your app available within Google’s search listings.
Considering the mobile-first consumer trends across the majority of industries, and a booming number of apps available, ASO and FAI is growing more and more imperative in your marketing strategy. While your SEO strategy may contain worthwhile activities such as optimizing site speed, it’s important to get on the bandwagon. Before getting into the basics of firebase indexation, it’s better to understand precisely what ASO is, and how it works.
App store optimization
As we’ve established, this is the process of improving the visibility of an app within the app store. This is crucial to getting your app seen, and improving the number of downloads, as well as brand awareness and loyalty. This is usually focused on Apple’s app store and android’s Google Play. Consider app store optimization as the basic “front-end” optimization in SEO, much like meta title optimization for example. You’re given a word limit and a clear set criteria of how you can set up your app, and you optimize based on keyword research and CRO.
The process is straightforward to plan, provide recommendations and implement. Like any robust SEO strategy, you start with keyword research and build your copy to incorporate those keywords without intensive stuffing (unless black hat is your thing) and testing along the way. There are different tools and platforms available to provide you with the appropriate keyword research for app store optimization.
Similar to SERP optimization, you need to ensure that each feature fits the word limit, and is relevant to the user. You have a lot more opportunity to optimize your listing considering the long word limit, images, reviews and more – a catchy logo doesn’t hurt either. Say you complete all these, what’s next?
A lot of this comes down to testing, especially A/B testing. Maybe tweak some copy here or there and see how it goes. It would also be good to optimize your images as well to see what works. It’s that simple; you don’t have an excuse not to start optimizing now.
Firebase app indexation
This is the process of making the content on your app available within Google’s search listings. It is important to improving the number of downloads, engagement, sales and more. An example of firebase indexing would be if you’re searching for a particular twitter account on Google. You click what you are searching for, and you’re automatically taken to the app. It’s a seamless user experience which encourages user engagement and retention as they are already on your app so less likely to click away.
There is a clearly defined process on how to implement this, which you can find in excruciating (but very helpful) detail here. You must implement and monitor through Firebase Console (Search Console for apps). It’s a bit more complicated to set up and requires an app developer to make the changes if you don’t have full access to the development platform. It took me FOREVER to decipher the web development guides considering I’m not a developer, but I got there in the end:
Set up Universal Links
Build Index (android only)
Log User Actions (android only)
To implement firebase indexing, you must set up universal links for your android and apple app. Universal links enable apps to process HTML URLs. The process of setting up these links between an app and website differs for each app store, and takes a few more steps for android devices:
For iOS devices, you upload this piece of code called the “Associated Domains Entitlement” in Xcode (a program that manages your app) which lists the domains you want to associate with the app. Then you upload the “app-to-site association JSON file” to each of these domains. The app should then be connected to the website and vice versa.
For android devices, the concept is the same. Connect the app to firebase using Firebase Assistant in android studio, and add the app indexing library to the project. Then, the structure of the app needs to be defined and corresponding app screens need to be created matching HTTP URLs. Finally, add android app links to your app.
Setting up universal links is essential for firebase indexing while building an index if you want to go the extra mile. Building an index for android devices means you can refine public content indexing (a bit like a robots.txt file using the disallow parameter). You can also enable personal content indexing, which means some information is only shown on the user’s device and not shared with Google Servers.
Again, this is only available for android. Naturally, this is more time consuming to implement depending on how complex your website is. If you have the budget, it can be excellent for user experience and customer retention.
If you are a Google Tag Manager freak like I am, then you will like logging user actions. It works similarly, you can track how users interact with your app and do whatever you need to with that information whether it be testing or updating features available.
Once you’ve put in the hard effort to implement whatever changes apply to your business, then it’s time to measure the impact of changes made. You can use search console and firebase console to monitor the effects and feel like a boss.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Serena Pearson is SEO Manager at Kaizen, focusing on technical SEO in particular. Has managed to survive in the search industry thus far through cake bribery and a keen interest in analytics and excel (winning combo). Responsible for directing SEO strategy. Known for intensive appreciation of formatting and reporting.