Breaking into a bank vault and making out like a literal bandit can be easier than pushing to the top of a SERP. But D. B. Cooper did it, so why can’t you? As you whittle away at those rankings, be sure to befriend Google and its mysterious algorithms by taking a stab at these white hat SEM tactics. Before you know it, you’ll be finishing each other’s…sandwiches.

Organic Search Decline

Source: Merkle

7. Diversify Your Branded Marketing Strategy

Of no surprise to anyone whose work has been to whack through Google’s weeds over the years, organic traffic is way down (see above). Where has that traffic gone, you ask? Google has kidnapped it, locked it in a dark-search basement, and there’s no ransom note for its safe return. You’re now having to replace that traffic with Google’s own properties: Reviews, Ads, Knowledge Panels, Answer Boxes, Maps—and the list goes on each time a new Google feature is released.

Yes, it’s true that Google has all your information. Yes, it’s true that over 34% of searches now result in NO CLICK AT ALL. Yes, it’s true that Google controls about 93% of the market. But you do have options to build a branded SERP. Just treat your digital marketing strategy like a financial portfolio: Diversify!

  • Conquest AdsConquesting another competitor via Google ads is a common practice, particularly in high-value industries like automotive.
  • Remarketing Ads – Align your remarketed ads to the clients that have shown interest in your brand. The ad should not be generic (yuck), but rather catered to them.
  • Knowledge Panel Images – Struggling brands almost always lack the same thing: Google My Business images. It’s the top missing GMB feature, and that prevents some companies from being displayed on Knowledge Panels.
  • Google Reviews – We’ve said it before: Google Reviews are your golden egg to success. Aside from star ratings themselves, the major three Google Review assets—volume, frequency, and responses from business—are important ranking factors to be displayed on a SERP or local map pack.
  • Third-Party Reviews – The Knowledge Graph on a SERP can include up to 3 reviews for any given company. It’s important to get a range of good testimonials across the various review sites, including Yelp, Facebook, and BBB.
  • Directory Listings – Accurate business details across directory and local listings is another ranking factor. A good place to start is a product like OppMax Local or Yext.
  • GMB Details – Local NAP alignment is critical, and it begins with having the correct hours and business info in your claimed GMB property.
  • YouTube – Claiming a YouTube page and connecting it to your Google account may be a ranking signal. (If you have videos, bonus points to you.)
  • Backlink Acquisition – Brand Authority is usually increased when your site or article is cited and linked to as a source. Although difficult to obtain—the best and white-hattiest way to get backlinks for SEO is to write good, shareable content—are fundamental parts of any continuing SEO strategy.
  • Amazon Shops – If you sell products, have an online retail shop through Amazon. (Amazon’s engine is quickly gaining traction in the world of search.)

6. Invest in Digital Assistance Marketing

By 2020, screens will have increasingly become nonessential for Googlers. Gartner suggests that about 30% of all online searches will be performed with trusty human vocal cords. The popularity of digital AI assistants, like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s own Home device, is enough to give that prediction credence. Plus, a continuing decline of mobile app usage leaves more opportunity for organic voice search to flourish.

Micro Moments

Source: Google

 

To jump on the bandwagon early, you’ll want to begin developing “assistive” techniques to target micro-moments within your customers’ journey. We’re talking about serving customer needs before those needs may even become apparent to customers. Doing so means stepping into the shoes of an AI digital assistant; you’ll have to assess how people use voice search differently than standard desktop or mobile searches (yes, they are very different).

Some examples of all-natural assistive tactics include:

  • Unique, colloquial, and creative CTAs (“I Want to Buy”)
  • Useful structured markup and pertinent metadata (“I Want to Know”)
  • Clear hours, contact info, and directions (“I Want to Go”)
  • Transparent pricing and product or service info (“I Want to Do”)

The goal of focusing in on micro-moments is to become the first and best impression that also assists your customers along their path. They’re more likely to follow you to the edge of the world if you lead them there.

5. Become One with Google Trends

Trends come and go, and Google has the incredible capacity to track those trends’ comings and goings over time—and perhaps even into the future. It takes a keen eye and some perseverance to make the best of Google Trends, but doing so can be hugely beneficial to your brand.

  • Keep track of your brand’s popularity – Search for your company name and products. If you notice some dips, you can put a plan in place to increase visibility.
  • Compare competitors – Run a competitive “brand awareness” analysis to see how you fare against rivals. Beef up your weak points and re-check in a month.
  • Search within certain GEOs and industries – Interest in trends and news fluctuates based on location. People in Chicago aren’t likely to search the same as people in Arizona. Analyze where the market is rich in prospects for you, and split your budget appropriately.
  • Identify new markets for growth – Similarly, you may find locations or sectors have garnered interest in trends that relate closely to your brand. Expansion into that marketplace would only be fitting.
  • Discover new long-tail keywords – Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is always a great place to start, but finding long-tail terms for SEO sometimes means getting creative.
  • Find modern synonyms – Tracking which terms are most prevalent today versus a decade ago could prove useful. (For instance, “webcast” was overtaken by “livestream” a few years ago.)
  • Uncover short-term opportunities dependent on events – Trending search queries are oftentimes reliant on seasons or certain events, like local politics or weather. For instance, large hail storms in Missouri may produce a huge spike in searches for “car hail damage repair,” or something similar.

Subscribing to Google Trends is incredibly easy and provides immensely valuable insights. Just pop in when you need to see how things are going—almost like a visit to the doctor (everything may seem fine, but it doesn’t really hurt to get a physical).

Best Search vs Near Me

Source: Google

4. Transition from “Near Me” to “Best” Modifiers

Local search is still very much a bigtime player in the SEO world, even though “near me” search qualifiers have seemed to decline recently. But that’s not to say “near me” queries are no longer searched—they’re just camouflaged!

As more and more people begin using devices within the Internet of Things network—this includes smart appliances, in-vehicle GPS and infotainment systems, digital assistants, and wearables—Google’s algorithms have been able to deliver SERPs that answer users’ questions without the inclusion of a location. Over time, users have begun simplifying their searches by removing “near me” in their voice searches.

In its place, “best” search modifiers have grown by over 80%. “Best car dealers.” “Best pizza joints.” “Best places to hide from police dogs.” All these “best of” searches give you more options when developing content and landing pages.

Google SEO Audit Tool

Source: Google

3. Perform Technical SEO Audits

Unlike your senior final exam, flunking an SEO audit is good—it just means you know which aspects of your site you can improve. If you aren’t familiar with the nuances of SEO, however, navigating the turbulent waters of a technical site audit can be like walking the plank.

Luckily, Google Chrome has a built-in SEO audit tool that sheds light on some of your site’s weaknesses. The aptly named Lighthouse tool — shed light, turbulent waters, plank idioms: I’m here all day, folks — analyzes some of the most technical portions of your site. Running a Google Lighthouse report will give you insights into:

  • Site speed
  • “Above the Fold” content placement
  • Image sizes
  • Cache problems
  • General accessibility
  • Plugins
  • HTML/CSS structure
  • Site security
  • SEO elements, including font size, indexing capability, and metadata

For a more advanced website assessment, it’s recommended that you seek out an SEO audit professional.

2. Tell Stories with Brand Influencers

Did you know that it takes an average of 7 brand touches before a consumer even recognizes your business name or logo? Finding your way to the consumers’ hippocampus takes more than haphazard posting on social media or bland radio ads. A memorable company is built on spun tales of branded grandeur, which keeps the public eye on their (hopefully positive) shenanigans.

And that’s how you should go about marketing yourself.

However, we understand that not everyone is a natural storyteller. Luckily, that’s what brand ambassadors and social influencers are here for. Influencers come in many shapes and sizes:

  • You’ve got the salaried brand ambassadors who focus on long-term success.
  • There’s the expert influencer, whose knowledge in a particular field builds instant trust among followers.
  • Blog influencers are SEO backlink kings and queens, giving your brand site a direct injection of “link juice.”
  • Location-based influencers advocate directly on your behalf by recommending your brand to friends or family, either through word of mouth or social media.
  • Micro influencers, much like location-based influencers, tend to focus on social media, posting and sharing small videos and reviews that keep audiences intrigued.
  • Then we’ve got celebrity influencers to frame your brand with their core fans in mind.

Like pen-to-paper ghostwriters of novels, influencers are the fingers-to-keys narrators of your brand’s story—and they tell that story better than you could. Embrace them, for they shall never lead you astray.

PPC Sales Funnel

1. Widen Your AdWords Funnel for Targeted Growth

“Every ad campaign must convert and succeed on its own.” – Old Marketers.

We appreciate your sage wisdom, Old Marketers, but as they say, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Today, conversions are less important to the overall success of ad campaigns; putting too much emphasis on what does and doesn’t convert can make your funnel too thin. Instead, it’s better to focus on targeting the right audiences and testing your ads for profitability, then keeping the profitable campaigns that feed into your sales funnel.

At the top of the funnel (ToF): Audience Targeting.

Within the Google ad networks, you have the capability of splitting your audience based on a huge variety of demographics, including age, gender, income level, and geo-location. The main goals:

  • Discover the people within the last 20% of the “buying circle.” However, you should also consider how your targeting may be construed: if it’s too specific, it gets creepy, and if it’s not specific enough, you’ll have a poor CTR and even poorer ROI.
  • As you A/B test, monitor AdWords data in an effort to tighten your target audience for better results. For example, if a certain age group isn’t converting well, change it up.
  • Find just one optimum audience. Then upload converters, landing page URLs, and keywords, which gives Google the ammunition it needs to construct a list of similar audiences (Customer Affinity).
  • Build customized In-Market Ads for users who have shown a recent interest in your brand, services, or products.
  • Drive Assisted Conversions, and calculate your return on ad spend (ROAS) for both assisted and direct campaigns.
  • Grow an RLSA (Remarketing list for search ads).
  • Repeat.

The bottom of the funnel (BoF) is catered to the long-tail searchers and will-probably-buy-but-needs-a-nudge consumer. These are the people who typically know what they want, and it’s your job to tell them that what they want comes from your brand. The goal here is to ultimately deliver ads for highly targeted searches on long-tail keywords. You should see lower volumes of search traffic and impressions, but a much higher ROI and conversion rate.

 

Become BFFs with OppMax, Too

Maybe we can do some group outings, the three of us? Think about it and give our Google Certified marketing analysts a ring: 855-677-6291. Together, we’ll show those bowling lanes who’s boss.

 

 

Sources & Photos:

https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartner-top-strategic-predictions-for-2018-and-beyond/

https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartner-predicts-a-virtual-world-of-exponential-change/

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/micro-moments/identifying-micro-moments-within-customer-journey/

https://trends.google.com/trends/subscriptions

https://www.yext.com/blog/2017/08/near-me-nearly-gone/

https://searchengineland.com/dark-search-dark-social-everything-246652

https://moz.com/blog/state-of-searcher-behavior-revealed

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conquesting

http://adage.com/article/digital/amazon-apps-chew-google-s-search-market-share/311910/

https://developers.google.com/web/tools/lighthouse/

https://www.merkleinc.com/thought-leadership/digital-marketing-report

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/ageofassistance/

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/informeddecisionmaking/