There is a right way to compose and send a guest-post or guest-article pitch, and there is a wrong way. Actually make those plural: “ways.”
Content marketing agency PointVisible partnered with influencer outreach tool Pitchbox to ask 80+ editors about guest-post pitches—how many they receive, when senders should follow up, what elements they should contain, what are common mistakes, what kinds of subject lines work, and more…
In addition to answering those questions, the editors—from medium- and high-authority business and marketing sites—provided insights and advice about what makes for a good pitch that they’ll actually open, read, and engage with.
(Reuters) – American Media Inc (AMI) said on Thursday it is selling its tabloid the National Enquirer to James Cohen, chief executive officer of Hudson Media.
U.S. tabloid newspaper the National Enquirer display rack is seen in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
The National Enquirer had admitted to paying hush money to help U.S. President Donald Trump get elected and been accused of attempting to blackmail Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The weekly tabloid, along with two of its sister publications, will be purchased by the head of Hudson Media, whose family used to own the Hudson chain of airport newstands.
This comes a week after AMI said it was looking at “strategic options” for the National Enquirer as well as for the Globe and the National Examiner brands.
The sale is expected to reduce AMI’s debt to $355 million.
Earlier in the day, the Washington Post reported about the AMI’s decision to sell its tabloid to the head of Hudson News for $100 million.
Last week, the New York Times reported that owners of the National Enquirer were in talks to sell the tabloid to the California-based billionaire Ronald Burkle.
Besides, Paul Pope, one of the heirs of the National Enquirer founder Generoso Pope Jr, had also been in the list of bidders, according to media reports.
On Tuesday, Pope dropped his bid to buy the supermarket tabloid from American Media, the New York Post report said.
Over its 92-year history, the National Enquirer has enticed readers in supermarket checkout lines with sensational headlines and photos about celebrities. The tabloid’s website claims it has a viewership of 5 million.
Earlier in February, Amazon.com Inc CEO Bezos accused the publication of trying to blackmail him with the threat of publishing intimate photos.
(This version of the story clarifies in paragraph 3 Hudson Media CEO’s “family used to own the Hudson chain of airport newstands”)
Reporting by Arjun Panchadar and Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and James Emmanuel
Experimentation is a core strategy for product development and growth at organizations that are winning in the market.
In a report on the Insights-Driven Business, Forrester demonstrated that businesses with closed-loop learning processes at their core are growing at least eight times faster than the global GDP. These learning processes have experimentation at their center.
Leading companies like Netflix, Uber, Amazon, Airbnb, Microsoft are quick to share that they are fuelled by experimentation. These are what we would call mature organizations—they leverage experimentation to generate continuous insights and growth that impact their bottom-line.
Pursuing experimentation maturity
At WiderFunnel, we have been working with brands to build and scale insight-generating experimentation programs for over 12 years. In doing that work, we have identified five phases of experimentation maturity that organizations progress through.
Level 1: Initiating Organizations at this stage are just getting started. An Experimentation Champion is working to get initial wins to prove the value of an experimentation program.
Level 2: Building In this stage, an organization is bought-in on the value of experimentation and an Experimentation Champion or team is establishing process and building the infrastructure to scale the program.
Level 3: Collaborating Organizations at this stage are expanding the experimentation program and collaborating across teams. Finalizing a communications plan and overall protocol for the program is a priority here.
Level 4: Scaling Experimentation is a core strategy for these organizations. Standards are in place and success metrics are aligned with overall business goals, enabling testing at scale.
Level 5: Driving The highest level of maturity. Experimentation is the organization’s growth and product strategy. The Amazon’s, Netflix’s, and Booking.com’s are here.
The organizational culture component
While there are multiple pillars of a mature experimentation organization—such as a powerful technology foundation and clear objectives for the program—developing a culture of experimentation is essential. In order to move from one phase into the next, you must foster an organizational culture that embraces testing and learning.
Experimentation at scale: A roadmap for the enterprise
A culture of experimentation is one very important component of a successful experimentation program. However, there are other factors to consider, including organizational structure, program KPIs, and hiring choices. This guide provides a step-by-step roadmap to get you where you need to go.
Ultimately, a culture of experimentation is a factor of effective communication. If you can’t get this piece right, your organization will never reach the highest level of maturity.
A hypothetical example
Imagine you are an Experimentation Champion trying to build a testing program from scratch. You have a vision for experimentation; you believe in its value and are excited to get moving. You are a one-person show, but you are convinced you can get the rest of your company on board.
To do this, you decide to get everyone involved in the experimentation program at the outset. You open the program up to the whole organization. You start sourcing ideas from everyone and everywhere.
But there’s a problem: Not everyone understands experimentation. People are contributing ideas without thinking about them, without thinking about the greater context. Soon, you are buried under ideas you can’t actually execute on.
And the experimentation program becomes a joke; a dumping ground where ideas go to die and nothing seems to be getting done. The teams around you lose faith and gradually stop submitting ideas. Eventually, experimentation becomes…
“Something we tried once. It doesn’t work for us.”
We see this story unfold all too often. But this doesn’t have to be your story. You, as an intrapreneur, can foster a culture of experimentation and avoid this crash and burn scenario.
Inspire. Educate. Inform.
You can do this by leveraging three essential actions in your communication: Inspire, Educate, and Inform.
Inspire means creating the spark. Inspiration occurs when you create a moment of clarity and awareness of new possibilities, as well as a desire to take action—to get involved.
Inspiration […] involves a moment of clarity and awareness of new possibilities. This moment of clarity is often vivid, and can take the form of a grand vision, or a “seeing” of something one has not seen before (but that was probably always there). Finally, inspiration involves approach motivation, in which the individual strives to transmit, express, or actualize a new idea or vision. [It] involves both being inspired by something and acting on that inspiration.
Educate means training. This action involves training, by instruction and/or supervised practice, in a particular skill. In this case, how to do experimentation.
Inform is closing the loop. Inform means actually communicating a message or making something known.
In the journey to a mature culture of experimentation, these three actions will need to be at play at different levels.
When your organization is just getting started with experimentation, testing is likely owned by a single, core team. Inspire, Inform, and Educate must be at work in this core team before your organization can move into the next phase.
To scale, your organization will need to empower supporting teams to participate in the experimentation program. The ultimate goal being an organization where every single person has an experimentation mindset, from your CEO to Lead Engineer, to the customer support heroes who pick up the phone everyday.
To get here, you will have to continuously Inspire, Educate, and Inform, to drive organizational change and foster the experimentation mindset. But what does that actually look like?
Just getting started with experimentation
In the early stages of maturity, a core team is often responsible for running optimization experiments. They are likely focused on getting initial buy-in for testing and building momentum around positive results.
One or a few team members should also be focused on Inspiring, Educating, and Informing necessary stakeholders, to lay the culture of experimentation foundation.
Inspiring your core team
As an Experimentation Champion, your first priority should be to recruit a core experimentation team. This team should include an Executive Sponsor (if that isn’t you), and individuals or partners who can execute experiments: Design, Engineering, Data Science, Experimentation Strategy, etc.
You may have these resources in-house, or you may decide to bring in an enabling partner to augment your capabilities. Either way, your core team should help you 1) develop and prioritize experiments, 2) execute experiments, and 3) socialize experiment results.
You will need to inspire the members of your core team to motivate them to get involved and stay involved in experimentation. At the outset, this means tailoring your message to each individual and showing them the new possibilities of testing. You should constantly ask yourself:
Who am I speaking to?
What do they care about?
A real-world example
One of our clients is a technology startup. Several months ago, the Head of Demand Generation decided to implement an experimentation program. She knew she needed to start by recruiting a small core experimentation team.
She began with an Executive Sponsor—the company’s VP of Revenue. This VP has an allstar sales background, but wasn’t familiar with the concepts of “experimentation” and “conversion optimization”. She needed to show him new possibilities that would matter to him.
The company had just finished a website redesign. In this context, the Champion worked carefully to explain to her VP that, while the project had succeeded from a brand and aesthetic angle, there were still potential points of friction in the user experience.
She pointed out that the company was spending substantial money to funnel traffic to the redesigned website, and emphasized the missed opportunity of not addressing these potential barriers to conversion—the opportunity to increase their primary metric by 2%, 5%, 10%.
She spoke to the VP in financial terms that mattered to him, and showed him the financial possibilities around marketing experimentation. And he got on board because he was inspired.
Educating within a core team
At this stage of experimentation maturity, Educate and Inform can often be done informally.
Your core team should have the skills to do experimentation, but they may not have complete understanding around why and how to do it. Design may understand UX best practices, but they may be wary of marketing experiments that could challenge brand standards. Engineering may be highly focused on product development, and lack the front-end development experience needed to develop marketing experiment variations.
Your best course of action in this case is to involve your Designer(s) and Engineer(s) in the conversation as early as possible. Remember, these are members of your core team. As such, they should be a part the experimentation conversation from start to finish.
This is education via supervised practice: by doing. As the Experimentation Champion, you should be guiding the conversation around overall objectives and experimentation frameworks. You should be educating the other members of your core team.
If you yourself are unsure about the in’s and out’s of testing, it may be a good idea to bring in an experimentation partner. With our technology client, the Champion knew she was missing critical pieces of a core team, including strategic support and dedicated resources. Which is why she brought in WiderFunnel as an enabling partner. In that role, we are able to work with her to transfer knowledge around experimentation to the members of her core team.
Informing within a core team
When it comes to Inform, you must make sure that you are closing the loop with each stakeholder on your core experimentation team.
This means informing your team members when an experiment is launched and informing them when and why it is completed. It means including them in the results analysis conversation and in determining next steps.
If someone is involved in an experiment, you must keep them informed, particularly regarding the impact of that experiment. Whether this is via email, Slack, or simply a face-to-face conversation, the importance of closing the loop cannot be overstated. Because nothing is quite as motivating as seeing the bottom-line impact of your work. And nothing is quite as de-motivating as contributing to a project and not knowing the results of your contribution.
One of the most important things to note at this stage is not to overreach. Focus on recruiting the core team and resources needed to get your experimentation program rolling. Work to Inspire, Educate, and Inform these key people—Engineering and Design, your Executive sponsor, and your Executive team.
As you scale the experimentation program and begin to empower supporting teams, your core team will need to Inspire, Educate, and Inform these supporting teams to get them up and running.
Of course, one person can’t shoulder Inspiring, Educating, and Informing for the entire organization. To support scale, you will want to implement systems that help to automate the actions of Inspire, Educate and Inform.
Building momentum for experimentation and driving organizational change
So what does that look like? Let’s look at a slightly more mature organization.
Another partner of ours is a large, digitally mature financial services company. When we partnered with this company, there was already Executive-level buy-in for testing, as well as a general understanding of the value of experimentation.
The core experimentation team had been assembled. It consisted of an Experimentation Champion, an Executive Sponsor, and WiderFunnel as an enabling partner. The function of this core team was to enable supporting teams (rather than to execute experiments). As an organization matures, this is often the role that a core experimentation team moves into—a facilitating, enabling role rather than an executing role.
At this particular organization, the core experimentation team was trying to enable eight different product marketing teams to develop and launch digital experiments.
Taking advantage of opportunities to Inspire your organization
In this case, the Experimentation Champion had taken advantage of an opportunity to inspire the larger organization.
One of the highest visibility product teams at this company had just gone through a page redesign, which was performing terribly. To address this, the Champion brought in WiderFunnel to analyze the redesigned page, identify potential barriers to conversion, design a variation, and launch an experiment to try to improve page performance.
The core team was very confident that the experiment would win because the redesign was performing so terribly. There was a lot of potential. And they were right—the variation performed much better than the redesign. Because this was such a high-visibility product, the whole organization was watching.
The lesson here? Be opportunistic about promoting the experimentation mindset. The other seven product teams saw, first-hand, the new possibilities associated with experimentation. And they were chomping at the bit to get started; to get involved.
But first things first.
At this stage, documentation becomes critical. When one small team owns and operates experimentation, you can get away with little to no documentation. But as you expand into supporting teams, centralized documents, processes, and standards become necessary to enable proper knowledge transfer. Documentation is one of the systems that helps to ‘automate’ the actions of Inspire, Educate, and Inform.
Enabling Inspiration, Education, and Informing at scale
To do this, the core team at this organization decided to leverage two primary activities: workshops and documentation.
Workshops became the primary vehicle for education and continued inspiration; documentation became the primary guide for how and whom to inform.
While the Champion in our previous example was educating her core team informally, via practical instruction, this organization needed to take a more formal approach to educate eight separate teams.
The core team needed to transfer knowledge around how to run experiments, but perhaps more importantly, around how to think about experimentation. The supporting teams had a very narrow view of ‘experimentation’. It was seen as a UX tactic—testing small tweaks to improve a particular conversion metric.
We wanted to educate these teams on the true potential of experimentation—how to use it to get real answers to real questions. To do this, we designed a series of workshops that walked these teams through various questions that they could and should be asking when developing experiment hypotheses.
There were questions that asked teams to refocus on their overall objectives and contextualize any experiment ideas within their broader goals.
There were questions that asked teams to refocus on their website visitors and customers and develop ideas based on qualitative and quantitative data: who their customers are and how they are using the website.
The workshops were also designed to lay a foundation for collaboration, asking teams to consider the experiments other teams were running and whether these insights might be relevant to their products and digital experiences.
These workshops were an interactive learning opportunity between the core team and the supporting teams. And this education was also inspirational: In asking new questions, the different team leads were able to envision entirely new possibilities for how to better develop and position their products leveraging experimentation. They were able to get excited about the possibilities.
Alongside these workshops, the core team was working to document a communications plan. The plan would have two main components:
Clarifying roles and responsibilities as the experimentation program scales, and
Clarifying who needs to be informed and how
To clarify roles and responsibilities, we recommend leveraging RACI, or a similar model. This model helps you map out who owns which piece of the overall task.
R = Responsible: The person who does the work to achieve the task.
A = Accountable: The person who is accountable for the correct and thorough completion of the task.
C = Consulted: The people who provide information for the project and with whom there is two-way communication.
I = Informed: The people kept informed of progress and with whom there is one-way communication.
Along with clarifying roles and responsibilities, you need a documented communications plan, which should:
Identify the information that needs to be communicated
List the methods of communication (formal and informal) and how they’ll be utilized
Determine the line of communication: Who communicates to whom?
Be intentional with timing
MailChimp is an example of an organization that prioritizes communication, and they have seen a lot of success in scaling their experimentation program. I first spoke to the Experimentation Champion there a year ago—she was just getting the program off the ground in the Marketing team. Today, MailChimp is testing on their Marketing site, on 3 of 9 of their product domains, as well as within their technical content team.
The Champion I’m referring to is Lauren Schuman, now Senior Director of Product Insights & Growth. Lauren explained that documentation and communication were a priority from the very beginning at MailChimp.
We documented every single step of the workflow and did a RACI Model associated with it—so that we were very clear on who was doing what, who we needed to consult versus inform. We then mapped the actual communication strategy […] And this has been a major contributor to how we’ve scaled and how we’ll be able to scale in the future.
—Lauren Schuman, Senior Director of Product Insights & Growth at MailChimp
Recently, Lauren shared that she now refers to her internal communications plan as a “marketing plan”, adopting a different mentality. She is marketing the experimentation mindset internally, identifying segments, channels, and relevant messages. The intention is to drive enthusiasm, affinity, and adoption.
Getting your organization psyched about experimentation
Inspire, Educate, Inform. These three actions are tools you must use as you scale your experimentation program. You should determine when to create systems that enable these actions at each stage of maturity.
When you assemble your core experimentation team—as the Champion, you have to make sure that you are Inspiring, Educating, and Informing your key stakeholders. Whether this is happening informally or formally, your core team should be excited about experimentation, they should understand it and its value, and the information loop should be closed before you attempt to expand the program into supporting teams.
As you scale, build systems that will help you automate these actions as you pursue the ultimate goal: A culture of experimentation that permeates your entire organization.
Keep in mind that your communications strategy, like experimentation, is an iterative process. Don’t expect perfection right away; work with your core team and, eventually, your supporting teams to determine which messages and channels work best. Be willing to evolve your strategy, but stay committed to Inspiring, Educating, and Informing the people around you.
Are you working to shift organizational culture and promote an experimentation mindset? What challenges are you facing? What successes are you seeing? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Michael St Laurent
Director of Experimentation Strategy & Product Development Lead
Benchmark your experimentation maturity with our new 7-minute maturity assessment and get proven strategies to develop an insight-driving growth machine.
OSLO (Reuters) – Norway’s sovereign wealth fund will pay about $98 million dollars to extend the term of its ownership in a portfolio of New York properties and to acquire a few new, the fund said on Wednesday.
“The partnership between Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), Trinity Church Wall Street and Hines has extended the remaining 72-year ownership interest in the Hudson Square portfolio in New York City to a 99-year term,” it said in a statement.
NBIM holds a 48 percent stake in a portfolio of 12 assets in the Hudson Square submarket.
As part of the transaction, NBIM has also agreed to acquire a 48 percent interest in two to-be-constructed assets adjacent to two of the existing assets in the portfolio, currently solely owned by Trinity Church Wall Street, the fund added.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is set to take effect next year and is likely to become the de facto national privacy standard for online publishers and marketers. Ahead of this deadline, however, competing groups are lobbying for changes in its terms.
AB 1760 looks more like GDPR. A recently proposed amendment in the California legislature (AB 1760) would make major changes to CCPA, effectively repealing and replacing it with something that imposes stricter obligations on companies and has more teeth — much more consistent with Europe’s GDPR. It would allow an additional year for implementation and not go into effect until January 2021 (proposed amendment embedded below).
A group of 23 technology companies, lead by DuckDuckGo, has submitted a letter in support of the changes. The bulk of the signatories are not household names. Major internet companies, many of whom oppose CCPA in its existing form, did not sign the letter.
Proposed changes make the law tougher. Below are some of the major proposed changes to CCPA at a high level:
The name would change from CCPA to “Privacy for All Act of 2019” (PAA) and delay the effective date of the law until January 1, 2021, to allow more time for preparation and compliance.
CCPA has an opt-out consent framework; that would change to opt-in for personal data sharing. The new rules would prevent companies from sharing or selling a consumer’s personal data without prior authorization.
It carries tougher disclosure obligations for companies. For example, businesses would need to disclose specific pieces of personal data (as opposed to categories) as well as the specific third parties that are receiving the data.
Consumers that exercise their rights cannot be refused access to services or charged different prices. Conversely, this raises a question about whether companies could offer incentives for data sharing (e.g., discounts).
Companies could not refuse a consumer request to delete personal information from their databases. There could only be delays for permissible reasons under the statute. Significantly, business would be required to delete all data related to that consumer in their possession regardless of how it was acquired (first party vs. third party).
Data retention rules would look much more like GDPR: only what’s reasonably necessary for the stated use case.
There are a range of stronger enforcement provisions and consumer legal remedies, increasing potential liability for violations.
Why you should care. It’s not yet clear whether the amendment will pass. However, if it does a tough law will get even tougher and effectively create a GDPR-like framework for personal data in the U.S. Congressional action that could pre-empt the California law is unlikely before the 2020 election. (As more people find out about AB 1760, pressure will mount for Congress to act.)
GDPR is a year old this May. It has not proven to be the data cataclysm that many feared. Accordingly, companies shouldn’t panic about CCPA or AB 1760 but educate themselves about the existing California privacy rules and the proposed amendment. If the latter comes to pass there will be an additional year to get ready, which almost nobody is doing right now anyway.
Companies that went through the GDPR compliance process will be in a much stronger position than those that did not. And unless Congress enacts new privacy legislation (unlikely), the California law(s) will be unavoidable.
This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.
FILE PHOTO: Terry Gou, founder and chairman of Foxconn, greets during an event that marks the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, in Taipei, Taiwan April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Terry Gou, chairman of Apple supplier Foxconn, said on Wednesday he will follow the order of a sea goddess who has told him to run in Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election, although he added he has not yet formally declared his intention to contest.
Gou was speaking as more than 100 people crowded into Ci Hui temple in Banqiao, New Taipei City, where the billionaire executive was born and grew up.
The temple is devoted to the sea goddess Mazu, a popular figure in Taiwan that governs everything from safety to fortune.
On Tuesday, Gou said he was considering whether to run for Taiwan’s presidential election, a day after Reuters reported he planned to step down as chairman from Foxconn.
Reporting By Yimou Lee, Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman
Google said they are investigating yet another indexing bug, this time with Google News content.
Unrelated to last week’s indexing bug. Google said this new indexing bug is “not related to last week’s indexing issue, which was resolved.” According to Google, the new bug is only impacting certain Google News publishers.
Publishers may recall last November’s discovery issue with Google News, wherein publisher content wasn’t being indexed with relevant queries. Currently, it’s unclear if this new indexing bug is related.
Indexing few publishers. Google said this new indexing bug is only impacting a “limited number of publishers.”
Investigating now. Google also added that they are currently investigating the issue and will report back when they know more. “We’re actively diagnosing the news issue now,” Google wrote.
Why we should care. If you have content published to Google News, you may be impacted by this indexing bug and should take steps to make the content available elsewhere if that’s the case.
Google is working on solving the issue – but we’ll be on the lookout until then.
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.
Legacy Heating and Cooling has extensive experience and knowledge in HVAC systems! Call (780) 733-1256
Furnace Repair in Edmonton-Legacy Heating and Cooling has extensive experience and knowledge in commercial and residential HVAC systems.
Tips on Saving Energy Dollars in Your Home
A typical Canadian family spends more than $1,600 a year on home utility bills, yet making some simple changes around the home can save money and make heating and cooling systems more efficient, according to World Energy Solutions, a publicly traded energy services company based in St. Petersburg, Fla.
By evaluating facilities and equipment, World Energy Solutions (symbol: WEGY) helps businesses lower their utility consumption and maintenance costs and extend the life of their equipment.
“Many of the energy-saving strategies we use for our commercial customers can also be applied to the home,” says Benjamin Croxton, chief executive officer of World Energy Solutions. “There are many common-sense, low-cos
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s embattled second-largest wealth manager, IOOF Holdings Ltd, was sued on Friday by shareholders who alleged the company engaged in deceptive conduct and breached stock market disclosure obligations.
The class-action lawsuit is the ninth against a major financial firm since a public inquiry last year uncovered widespread misconduct in Australia’s financial system, including charging customers fees for no service and deception of regulators.
The suit was filed in the New South Wales Supreme Court in Sydney by law firm Quinn Emmanuel.
In a statement, the firm alleged management impropriety drew regulatory attention which hit the share price. It did not say what shareholders are asking for as compensation.
IOOF said in response it does not engage in misleading or deceptive conduct, the case is without foundation and it will mount a defense.
The wealth manager is contesting a move in December by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to disqualify five top IOOF executives for failing to act in customers’ interests.
APRA said it had identified three occasions when units of IOOF had used money belonging to pension fund customers to compensate them for losses caused by the company.
IOOF said in December that the allegations were misconceived and that it would vigorously defend against them. It added that it had already addressed or was addressing APRA’s other concerns.
The regulator’s move followed IOOF’s appearance at the public inquiry, called a Royal Commission, and knocked 40 percent from the firm’s share price.
The stock has recouped most of those losses, though one of the executives, Managing Director and CEO Christopher Kelaher, will leave the company by “mutual agreement” in July amid a broader overhaul.
“The reckoning that began at the Royal Commission now goes to the next stage, with the filing of this class action,” Quinn Emmanuel partner Damian Scattini said in a statement.
Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman
Search queries for your brand name, called “brand searches,” are among the most important keywords in a keyword portfolio. Even so, marketers are not often paying as much attention to these types of queries as they should.
While juicy high-volume non-branded queries are exciting, providing your audience and customers with helpful brand information it is an equally thrilling prospect. The truth is that users for many brands, big and small, are commonly underserved by branded search results they find.
In this post, we’ll show you exactly how to conduct a branded search audit, identify failing results, and implement improvements. This audit is one that we perform for our clients at Stella Rising.Now you can do the same for your clients or website.
The first part of the audit is about setting the stage. Do you know what ratio of your traffic is the result of non-brand queries vs. brand queries? You should. In this section of the audit, you’ll set the stage to discuss the importance of what you identify.
Why are branded queries so important?
Branded queries are among the most important keywords you can optimize as they represent a brand-aware audience that is more likely to convert. In fact, many of the people searching for your brand are already customers looking for information or looking to purchase again.
It’s easy (generally)
Unlike most things in SEO, Google wants you to rank well for your own brand terms. Whenever we see branded searches that are failing users, it’s usually easy to fix. Often, it’s as simple as creating a new page or changing a meta tag. Other times it can be more challenging, such as when brands have significant PR and/or brand reputation issues. That said, in most cases, branded search queries are among the easiest to rank for. Don’t overlook them.
Correlation to rankings and personalization
While the search volume of a domain name is not a confirmed ranking factor, Google does hold a patent that may indicate the more searches a brand receives, the more likely that brand is to to be seen as high quality by Google. This, in turn, may help them to rank for associated non-brand terms. What does that mean? Essentially, if tens of thousands of people search your brand name + couch, you may be more likely to rank for “sofas.” A number of 2014 Wayfair commercials brilliantly capitalized on this opportunity. The commercials literally told people to Google “Wayfair my sofa” or “Wayfair my kitchen,” thus tying signals around their entity to other non-brand entities.
How Wayfair brilliantly linked its advertising with its branded search terms
Branded searches can also impact autocomplete which in turn can impact more branded searches, feeding into the connection described above. When users click one of these autocompleted search suggestions, they execute a “branded search,” which then signals to Google that the entities are related. For example, “Amazon, Ralph Lauren or Macy’s” with “Men’s shirts”.
Branded search audit part one: Setting the stage
In part one of this audit, you will provide branded search landscape insights. Like any good show, you need to set the stage for the information you are about to present. This will help to win buy-in, prioritize your efforts, and keep you strategically on track.
What is your ratio of branded search?
For this part, you’ll need to head to the Google Search Console and open up your performance report for the last three months. Start by setting up a filter for your brand name. If you have a brand name that people commonly misspell, then you will want to take that into account.*
Click the “+ New” button and then click “Query.” Filter by “Queries Containing” and not “Query is Exactly.”
*Advanced Tip: The above instructions only account for your brand name, not product names that are proprietary to your brand. Consider using the API to pull down your GSC report and do filtering for those as well.
You’ll then see the total number of branded clicks and impressions your site receives.
Now change your filter to “Queries not containing,” this will give you roughly the number of non-branded clicks the website has received from Google search.
Take this data and bring it into Excel. From there, create a pie chart to visually demonstrate the ratio of branded to non-branded clicks the website receives.
What are the top branded queries driving traffic?
The next and perhaps one of the most critical questions for this analysis is, “What are the top branded queries?” Understanding this is important because the next step in this audit is to manually search each of the top ten (or more) queries. Then you will understand which queries will better serve users.
While this analysis is simple, we found that creating a simple visual with the data makes for a better story in your presentation. To do this, download the data by clicking the down arrow at the top of the queries table.
Once you have the data in Excel, you can create a cool visual using the 2D bar chart graph.
What are the top pages receiving branded clicks?
Similar to the above analysis, you will need to download the top pages from the “pages” tab in your performance report.
Where do branded searches come from?
For some brands, it is worth considering where branded searches come from geographically. To find this information, set your filter to include brand queries and then click the “countries” tab in the Google Search Console.
Now we could just put that image into a report, but what fun would that be? Instead, download the data and bring it into Excel to create a visual.
You can do this a number of ways,but we recommend either using a map or a tree-map which generates a cool way of looking at the data. A pie chart would do but is not as visually appealing. Open Excel and highlight the data you downloaded. Click “Insert”, then click either on “Maps” or the second box for a treemap.
Tree-map visualization of country click data
How has branded search trended over time?
The last and perhaps the most essential question outside of which queries get clicks is, “how has branded search trended over time?” This trend is a hugely important question for any brand that has or is currently investing in brand building efforts, media, PR, or even non-branded paid search campaigns.
During this section of the audit, we have seen brands that previously invested millions in traditional print flatten out for years. Alternatively, we’ve also seen DTC brand’s growth hit a wall. Knowing where brand interest stands is a data point that is vital to all brands and their performance marketing strategies. Whether you are conducting a branded search audit or not, tracking the branded search volume is something that should be on the KPI list for marketers across a multitude of disciplines.
Branded search audit part two: Identifying issues in branded search
Do you have any brand image issues?
Sorry, no SEO magic here. If your brand, founder or employee made headlines (and not the good ones you send to mom) your only strategy is to do your best to rectify the situation.
Take, for example, a brand we came across which was at one point dealing with first page Google results full of nasty headlines. The headings covered how the center had allegedly abandoned more than 40 research animals on an island.
When I first heard this story and considered the best plan forward I thought, “Can they just decide not to abandon the animals and find them homes?”
In fact, that’s exactly what they did. As a result, the negative stories were replaced over time with positive ones about how the center reached an agreement to find a sanctuary for the animals. The first page of results for their brand name is now squeaky clean. The moral of this story is, never abandon animals on an island.
But, if you do, and get dragged through the mud for it, no amount of SEO will save you. Are there any abandoned research animals in your organization? If so, get them off the island.
In other less metaphorical terms, part of auditing brand search is brand reputation.
As we all now know, “E-A-T” and reputation are hugely important to Google. Deal with business practice issues head-on and find the best resolution possible. John Mueller has reminded us that Google has a really good memory and is not apt to forget anything about your brand history. Stains on your brand reputation can really take a toll and have lasting power. The best offense here is a good defense.
Searching the top ten queries
Now for the part of the audit where we find the broken stuff.
Take your list of top terms and manually execute the search in a private browsing window for each term. Record your results and a screenshot of the SERP.
What are we looking for?
The number of positions on the page we own – With branded searches for things like “brand name backpacks,” you can own 15+ of the top positions.
Others owning our conversation – Look for other brands ranking for your branded terms. Are they authorized to sell or talk about your products? Is the information they provide correct or accurate? Could a better job be done?
Misalignment of the query and title/meta – Does your title tag and meta description clearly speak to the query searched and align to the searcher’s intent? If not, make some changes to bring this into alignment. For example, if your shipping info is on a page labeled “FAQ” that’s unclear for users.
Cross-channel insights – Are all of your social properties listed on the first page where appropriate? Are others bidding on brand terms where you are not? Look for cross-channel synergies that could be leveraged for more aggregate traffic.
Broken pages – For big and small brands we have found soft “404” messages, outdated or broken pages ranking for highly searched branded terms. Click around the top ten and make sure everything is working as expected.
Out of stock products – Sometimes the products that rank for branded searches on ecommerce sites are out of stock. Make sure you have a protocol in place for managing inventory so that searchers are best served by the landing page.
Searching other navigational queries
Other areas to check out are navigational or known brand queries that help users navigate and interact with your brand. For example:
Brand Name Opening Hours
Brand Name Location
Brand Name Address
Brand Name Telephone Number
Brand Name Customer Service
Brand Name FAQ
Brand Name Return Policy
Brand Name Shipping
Brand Name Refund Policy
Brand Name Size Chart/Guide
Brand Name Sale
Manually execute a search in a private browsing window for these terms. You’re looking for title tags and meta descriptions that do not speak to the query, missing pages where content would be better-served broken-out, and other websites owing the conversation around your terms. In some of our audits, we have seen third-party sellers ranking on position one for things like “brand name return policy”.
Furthermore, the information presented was not even correct. When it came to our site, we were not making that information easy to find, and as such, we got beat out. Simple adjustments to meta information and where content lived helped to improve our visibility and win back the featured snippet.
Track and measure
As with any good SEO effort, you should carefully track and measure the success of your recommendations. Consider setting up a monthly tracking sheet for your branded search volume. Also, consider tracking some of the branded queries identified as “needing work” in your rank tracker.
The branded search audit is a deliverable which does not take a great deal of time but can result in tremendous impact for your brand or client. By focusing on branded queries first, you are serving those most likely to convert on your site while simultaneously addressing your lowest hanging fruit.
Have questions about conducting your own audit? Let us know in the comments section below.
John Morabito is the Director of SEO at Women’s Marketing / Flying Point Digital. He can be found on Twitter .
Want to stay on top of the latest search trends?
Get top insights and news from our search experts.
Complete overivew of what Google Search Console is, what it does for your site, how to use it, and what you need to get started taking advantage of it today.
Last month, Google tested AR functionality in Google Maps. What are the implications of VPS, street view, and machine learning for local search and SEOs?
Six of the best techniques for building backlinks. The skyscraper, interviews, free tools, interesting data sets, sponsorships, and transcripts.
Want to stay on top of the latest search trends?
Get top insights and news from our search experts.