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Google Announces 7 Local Search Updates

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Google announced seven updates related to local search at its annual Search On virtual conference.

At Google’s annual Search On conference, the company announced seven new features and updates to local search.

These updates will significantly enhance how people explore neighborhoods, businesses, and restaurants in Google Search.

The local search changes rolling out soon include:

  1. Search for restaurants by dish
  2. Discover restaurant specialties
  3. More support for digital menus
  4. Enhancements to Google Maps’ Live View
  5. Aerial views of famous landmarks
  6. Immersive view
  7. Neighborhood vibe checks

Read all the details about these updates in the below sections.

1. Search For Restaurants By Dish

Google is upgrading its restaurant search capabilities with the ability to find local places that serve a specific dish.

Google is upgrading its restaurant search capabilities with the ability to find local places that serve a specific dish.

The new search experience will allow you to enter a query like “soup dumplings near me,” and Google will return a list of restaurants that offer it.

Google Announces 7 Local Search UpdatesScreenshot from: blog.google/products/search/food-restaurant-search/, September 2022.

You can get even more specific with filters for vegetarian dishes, spicy dishes, and more.

2. Discover Restaurant Specialties

Local restaurants commonly have a unique quality that they’re known for through the community.

Identifying the quality in a Google search can be difficult because star ratings don’t tell the whole story.

Soon, Google will help searchers preview and evaluate restaurants to understand better what makes them unique.

Here’s an example of a listing for a local restaurant with “people say” highlights at the top of the screen.

Google Announces 7 Local Search UpdatesScreenshot from: blog.google/products/search/food-restaurant-search/, September 2022.

Google uses machine learning to analyze images and reviews to find what makes a place distinctive.

3. More Support For Digital Menus

Google is expanding its coverage of digital menus while enhancing them with rich visuals and keeping them reliably updated.

In a blog post, Google explains how it can add more digital menus without any additional work required from restaurant owners:

“We combine menu information provided by people and merchants, and found on restaurant websites that use open standards for data sharing. To do this, we use state-of-the-art image and language understanding technologies, including our Multitask Unified Model.”

Google says it will showcase the most popular dishes and call out different dietary options, including vegetarian and vegan.

Google Announces 7 Local Search Updates

4. Enhancements To Live View In Google Maps

Google is upgrading a feature it introduced three years ago called Live View, which allows you to navigate directions while looking through the viewfinder of your phone’s camera.

In addition to navigating from one place to another, you’ll soon be able to search for things in your immediate vicinity.

Google shares an example of using Live View to find an ATM within walking distance of where a person is standing:

Google Announces 7 Local Search Updates

“Say you’re heading to an outdoor market and need to take cash out. With search with Live View, simply lift your phone to search and instantly see the ATMs in an area. You can also spot different places — including coffee shops, grocery stores and transit stations. We’ll show you business hours and how busy a place is, and you can tap on any location to view more details, like what services the barber shop down the street offers.”

Search with Live View starts rolling out in the coming months in London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Paris, and Tokyo.

5. Aerial Views Of Landmarks

Available today, Google is over 250 photorealistic aerial views of global landmarks.

Google Announces 7 Local Search UpdatesScreenshot from: blog.google/products/maps/4-new-updates-maps-searchon-2022/, September 2022.

Google doesn’t list all the landmarks with aerial views, other than to say they “span everything from the Tokyo Tower to the Acropolis.”

6. Immersive View

Immersive view will allow you to go beyond street view with an experience that takes you inside buildings and other establishments.

In addition, immersive view will show you how busy a place will be and what the weather will be like at a given date and time.

Google Announces 7 Local Search UpdatesScreenshot from: blog.google/products/maps/4-new-updates-maps-searchon-2022/, September 2022.

Immersive view rolls out in the coming months in Los Angeles, London, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo on Android and iOS.

7. Vibe Check The Neighborhood

A new “neighborhood vibe” feature in Google Maps will give you a feel for a neighborhood before you visit.

Google will highlight what’s new, what the local gems are, and what’s worth exploring.

Helpful photos and information from the Google Maps community will appear on the map while browsing the neighborhood.

Google Announces 7 Local Search UpdatesScreenshot from: blog.google/products/maps/4-new-updates-maps-searchon-2022/, September 2022.

Google says it uses a combination of AI and user-submitted information to power the neighborhood vibe feature, which starts rolling out globally in the coming months on Android and iOS.

If you are interested in original article by Matt G Southern you can find it here

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Google announces 4 new Shopping campaign features

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Merchants and advertisers can now add additional information and attributes to their shopping campaigns, including expected delivery dates.

Ahead of the holiday season, Google just announced four new features for advertisers to implement in their ad campaigns and merchant feeds.

  • Conversion value rules for store sales and store visits
  • Product-specific insights
  • Deals Content API
  • Shipping & Returns Annotations

Conversion value rules for store sales and store visits. Advertisers can now set store visits or sales default values at the campaign level. Google says searches for “store open” have grown by over 400% YoY, so advertisers should optimize their in-store shopping experiences as well as online.

To make it easier for shoppers to find your store, Google suggests keeping your Google Business Profile up to date with your store address and hours. Then grow your store foot traffic by promoting your location to shoppers in the area using Performance Max campaigns for store goals – such as in-store promotions or specials. Smart Bidding can be used to set goals for visits and/or sales.

Product-specific insights. Product-specific insights are available at the account level and help advertisers spot underperforming offers, identify products with missing feed attributes, and compare bidding with your top competitors.

Product insights work on shopping and Performance Max campaigns and are intended to leverage ads performance data to optimize products and provide visibility on what actions to take to fix issues.

Deals Content API. Google says that 55% of shoppers surveyed planned on holding off on buying items until they were on sale.

The Deals Content API is intended to make uploading and managing deals easier at scale.

Merchants and advertisers can now add their sales and promotions to their listings via the Content API, which makes it even easier for merchants to upload and manage their deals at scale.

The Deals Content API had already been launched, but Google had not officially announced it.

Shipping & Returns Annotations. Merchants will now be able to list the expected delivery date (dynamic) (“Delivery by XX/YY”) and free returns right on their ads.

Google notes that 3 in 10 consumers are concerned about stock issues. Adding estimated delivery times can alleviate these concerns and help shoppers stress less and convert more. Advertisers can also easily add their return policies.

Shopping campaign best practices. Google has also outlined some best practices to help advertisers and merchants get ready for the holiday shopping season. To get the most out of your shopping or Performance Max campaigns, Google suggests:

  • Maximize your reach by showing your ads to shoppers who search for terms related to your keywords using broad match and Smart Bidding.
  • Use responsive search ads to tailor your messaging based on shoppers’ search terms. 
  • Harness the power of your Google Merchant Center product feed with YouTube Video action campaigns and Discovery ads, which present new shoppable opportunities for your brand in moments of inspiration and discovery. 
  • Promote your app to shoppers across Google’s largest properties such as Search, Google Play, YouTube and more with App campaigns and give users a seamless web-to-app purchase experience by setting up deep links

Read the announcement. You can read the full announcement from Google and learn more information and best practices here.

Why we care. Ecommerce merchants and advertisers who sell during the holidays should start setting up and testing these new features right away. Don’t wait until the holiday season is already here to begin planning and implementation.

Expected shipping and delivery dates will be especially important as shoppers worry about supply chain issues and an uncertain economy.

If you are interested in original article by Nicole Farley you can find it here

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Google Tests New Local Service Ads UX

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Google is testing a new layout and user experience for the Local Service Ads. This interface has the local service ads on the left and when you click on one, the box expands to the right with all of the details on the business.

This was spotted by Ben Fisher who posted on Twitter saying he is “seeing LSA in a different layout today” and he said that this looks more like a local finder interface. Adding that he believes this new interface will give more exposure to Local Service Ads below the top three positions.

Here is his screenshot:

click for full size

I like this user interface in general, it just looks so slick. Oh, keep in mind, I am not sleeping much at all this and next week.

If you are interested in original article by Barry Schwartz you can find it here

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4 smarter ways to measure SEO effectiveness

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Basic SEO metrics aren’t effective indicators of success. Here’s how to level up your traffic, ranking, conversion and link KPIs.

I find myself answering a lot of the same questions from new clients about ways to measure SEO. My answers generally fall into one of two categories:

  • Why basic/boilerplate SEO metrics aren’t good KPIs and how to make them better.
  • Which (more advanced) metrics we should establish to determine actual business impact.

This article will tackle the first category and show how to apply an advanced approach to make basic SEO KPIs far more effective indicators of success. The KPIs I’ll discuss include:

  • Traffic (visits)
  • Ranking
  • Conversions
  • Links

Let’s get started.

1. Traffic

Measuring SEO traffic week over week is as basic as it gets – and it’s missing nuances that can become clear with a couple of adjustments.

First, use Search Console to split traffic into brand and non-brand buckets.

Brand vs. non-brand chart in GSC.

There’s a simple reason for this: brand traffic is generally not a function of SEO. Instead, it’s influenced by awareness campaigns, including billboards, CTV (or linear TV) ads, programmatic campaigns, PR, and more. Brand search, in short, is a function of your overall marketing portfolio.

Non-brand search is where SEOs can shine, especially when you identify keywords at the most important stages of your funnel and prioritize them by potential impact. This often functions as the level of intent.

Educational keywords (e.g., “SEO best practices”) equate more or less to the top of the funnel and more transactional keywords (e.g., “best SEO agency for B2B”) align with the bottom of the funnel.

Second, remember that seasonality impacts SEO as any other channel.

For this reason, it’s crucial to set up month over month, quarter over quarter, and year over year windows. I prefer QoQ and YoY over shorter comparisons.

Big SEO shifts, whether forced by an algorithm change or internally directed, require longer measurement cycles to prove real change.

2. Ranking

Relying on moment-in-time screenshots of your current keyword rankings will get you a limited idea of your overall campaign success.

Instead, consider these factors:

  • How are your target keywords ranking over time (MoM, QoQ, YoY)?
  • How are individual pages ranking?
  • Are you achieving actual milestones?
  • What are your trends?

Evaluating rankings over time will show you progress across possible calendar events and seasonal shifts. 

Instead of looking at a blended portfolio affecting a keyword, which offers less actionable insight, look at individual pages using Google Search Console. This allows you to isolate which specific properties are impacting rankings for a single keyword.

On the topic of milestones, not all ranking changes are created equal. You can move up 50 spots from 61 to 11, but that may have less impact than moving up a single notch from the top spot on page 2 of the SERPs to the last spot on page 1. 

Last, dig deeper to see the actual deltas of impressions and clicks that any rankings changes are driving. This also incorporates external trends. For instance, consider that you could have seen huge increases in impressions and clicks for “video conferencing software” in March 2020 without a change in your ranking for that keyword. 

The more activity around the keyword, the more competitive it will get – and the more potential impact it has on your portfolio.

3. Conversions

The 1.0 way to measure acquisition is to aggregate last-click conversions from organic search. Incorporating GA4, which uses a cross-channel, data-driven model with a 30-day lookback window for acquisition, will give you a more nuanced view of attributed credit for conversions.

We could add many more layers here, including measuring the effects of SEO on other channels’ acquisition costs.

For this post, which is meant to help you derive more meaning from relatively basic KPIs, let’s talk about building different conversion events aligned with the level of intent of the keywords you’re targeting (e.g., “download the guide” for educational keywords or “book a demo” for transactional ones). 

Your report might look like this:

GA4 conversion reporting.

Different conversion events, when used strategically with back-end CRM data, will have different values.

When you use a variety of conversion events that align strategically with your keywords, you should see an increase in conversion rate and get a more accurate picture of the value those keywords are driving.

Links are important. They’re still a ranking factor, and they can help measure the impact of your content.

That said, link quantity is a shallow metric. Links are simply a means to an end.

SEO’s overall purpose is to drive meaningful traffic and acquisition. Focusing on downstream KPIs without rolling them up to business impact (which is admittedly more complex) will do little to move the needle in important ways. 

If you focus on counting links, you’re incentivizing yourself to chase more links. The incentive should be actual impact.

Counting will give you a quantity bias and will shift the way you run your SEO program. If you focus on business drivers, you’ll be incentivized to deliver value, not volume

Volume is easy. Value is harder.

Prove the value of SEO with better metrics

For the most part, these are fairly easy adjustments to make, and they’ll help you paint a much clearer picture of the value you’re driving with your SEO program and how that’s trending over time.

In my next post, I’ll show how to take measurement to the next level by helping you understand how SEO is affecting your overall marketing efforts in relation to other channels. 

If you are interested in original article by Adam Tanquay you can find it here

readability-1600-x-840-62f344c44fc7b-sej-760x400

16 Best Readability Checkers To Improve SEO Content

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Content that’s easy to read is an important but often overlooked part of SEO. Here’s a look at some tools you can use to improve your readability.

Have you ever tried to read something only to be put off by its difficulty? It happens to everyone, even the best educated and well-read people.

Personally, I’ve tried to tackle “Moby-Dick” on three separate occasions, only to abandon it not long after the Pequod sets out on its ill-fated voyage. Despite being acclaimed as one of, if not the, best American novel, it’s just too dense to be an enjoyable read for me.

And it’s not just novels that put people off when they’re difficult to read and understand – webpages that are poorly written, wordy, or have other readability issues are often quickly abandoned by visitors.

And let’s not forget search engines love a well-written and well-structured copy. Quality content is still the name of the game, and it’s hard to rank highly without it.

While dwell time is not a direct Google ranking factor, alongside click-through and bounce rate, it does offer a good metric for tracking the health of a webpage.

And, of course, difficult-to-read texts will drive visitors away before they can take action on your page.

So, as an SEO professional, you need to be aware of your copy’s readability and actively take steps to increase it.

There are a lot of factors that go into how easy it is to consume written information on a webpage, including the font, layout, and color schemes, but for this piece, we’re going to focus on just the copy.

What Makes Good Readability?

Readability is based on many factors, including words per sentence and the length and difficulty of the words used. 

Words with higher syllable counts are generally more challenging to read than their shorter synonyms. For example, “went” is considered easier to read than “progressed” or “proceeded.”

The most common measurement for readability in English is the Flesch-Kincaid test, which is two tests: one measuring reading ease and one measuring grade level.

For reading ease, the higher the score, the easier it is to read. Grade level indicates which level of education is required to understand it.

So, you’ve run a check, and it came back with poor scores. What do you do? 

You can go through it manually and identify places where your content gets bogged down, splitting sentences, swapping longer words for easier-to-understand synonyms, and changing passive constructions to active ones. Or you can put technology to work for you. 

16 Tools To Improve Your Readability

1. Microsoft Word Editor

If you’re already somewhat familiar with Flesch-Kincaid scores, there’s a good chance it’s because of Microsoft Word. 

Reading ease is included in the features of the popular word processing software, and it’s a great way to get a good overview of how your piece reads.

From the Review tab, click on Spelling and Grammar. After completing the spellcheck, you’ll be able to view Document stats.

Under the Readability section, you’ll get stats for reading ease, grade level, and passive sentences.

This feature comes free with the software, so if you’re using Word, you should take advantage of it.

If you’re not using Word, don’t worry – there are still quite a few good tools you can use to check readability stats. Read on to learn about them.

2. Readable Readability Tools

Readable is “the world’s most powerful readability scoring tool.” It offers many features, including functionality specifically designed for websites.

Rather than using the Flesh-Kincaid score, it has its standards, which assign a grade (A through E) to your text. It also provides reach metrics to help you understand what percentage of your audience can understand the content.

Its website readability tool scans, scores, and continually monitors the content of your website, including headers, footers, and non-content text.

It also allows you to check keyword density to help you avoid getting dinged by Google for keyword stuffing.

Using Readable requires a subscription. Individuals can access its tools for $4/month, while its small business and agency plans are $24/month and $69/month, respectively.

Website scoring is only available in the two higher tiers.

3. WebFX Readability Test

WebFX’s Readability Test is a quick way to check how your content scores. You can copy and paste text, enter a page’s URL, or embed code to test an entire page or a single area.

WebFX Readability TestScreenshot from WebFX, August 2022

This provides a quick overview of reading ease and the age group it can be understood by, as well as several scores for your text.

You get statistics on sentences, complex words, words per sentence, and average syllables per word.

Opinions vary about which readability standard is the most accurate, so WebFX gives you five choices.

In addition to Flesch-Kincaid, it also calculates your Gunning Fog score, the SMOG index, the Coleman-Liau index, and the Automated Readability index.

The WebFX Readability Test is free to use. 

4. Datayze Readability Analyzer

The Datayze Readability Analyzer is a copy-and-paste means of checking content.

After entering your copy, you’ll get statistics on overall readability and scores using Flesh-Kincaid, Gunning Fog, SMOG, Dale-Chall, and Fry Readability.

It also offers paragraph-level analysis to help you identify how your readability changes throughout a document, an extraneous word finder, passive sentence detection, and a spell checker.

This online tool is free to use.

Datayze Readability AnalyzerScreenshot from Datayze Readability Analyzer, August 2022

5. Hemingway App

Considered one of the greatest American writers, Ernest Hemingway was known for employing a straightforward approach to writing.

The Hemingway App honors Papa’s spirit and helps content writers streamline their work for increased clarity.

After entering your text, it provides a grade level score and highlights areas in which it could improve.

This includes identifying adverbs, passive constructions, phrases with simpler alternatives, and difficult-to-read sentences. 

Hemmingway AppScreenshot from Hemmingway App, August 2022

You can use this tool online for free or download the desktop app for $19.99.

6. Grammarly Online Writing Assistant

Grammarly is an app, cloud-based tool, and browser extension for identifying content issues like grammar, spelling, conciseness, and tone.

Using artificial intelligence, it suggests alternatives to difficult-to-understand words and phrases. It also checks for plagiarism.

Grammarly has a basic free plan, as well as two subscription plans that offer more expansive help for writers. 

7. ProWritingAid Writing Assistant

Another AI-powered tool for checking spelling, grammar, and readability, ProWritingAid Writing Assistant, has features designed to help you more accurately convey information.

It offers style suggestions and a contextual thesaurus, as well as 20 writing reports that identify everything from cliches and overused words to sentence length and consistency.

ProWritingAid also has browser extensions and integrates into several programs, including Word, Outlook, Google Docs, and Scrivener.

Pricing ranges from $20/month for a monthly subscription to a one-time $399 payment for lifetime access.

8. LanguageTool Writing Assistant

LanguageTool is a proofreading tool that checks for grammar and style mistakes. Available in 22 languages, it is available online, as an app or as a plugin.

It highlights writing issues in your content, helping you identify areas that could use improvement. It also gives you approximate reading time for a piece.

LanguageTool Writing AssistantScreenshot from LanguageTool, August 2022

The free version checks grammar, punctuation, and style.

Meanwhile, premium versions ($4.99/month for individuals or $9.48/month for teams of up to 20) provide suggestions for improving style and tone, as well as identifying incorrect names, titles, and numbers.

9. Ginger Writing Assistant

Ginger Writing Assistant uses artificial intelligence to identify and correct mistakes and improve the style of your copy. It suggests context-based corrections, including rephrasing alternatives. It can also offer synonyms, not just for single words but for entire phrases.

Ginger Writing Assistant is available as a browser plugin and desktop or mobile app. It also integrates directly into Microsoft Word.

Pricing ranges from $7.49/month for an annual plan to $13.99/month for monthly ones. Ginger also offers discounts for teachers and students, as well as customizable plans for organizations with more than 2000 users.

10. Yoast SEO Readability Analysis

A popular SEO plugin for WordPress, Yoast also includes a readability feature. Explicitly designed for search engine optimization, it checks your writing’s readability and highlights issues.

Your content’s readability is scored on a green-yellow-red scale, where green is good, yellow could be improved, and red needs work.

It checks for passive voice, transition words, subheading distribution, paragraph length, sentence length, and consecutive sentences. It provides your Flesch reading score, as well as allows you to analyze multiple keywords.

This feature is included in Yoast SEO premium, which costs $99/year.

11. Character Calculator Readability Scores

Character Calculator is an online tool for counting characters, words, sentences, and paragraphs. It also includes a Dale-Chall Readability Calculator to score your content.

Using this formula, it allows you to copy and paste text, which is then scored. Unlike Flesch-Kincaid, the lower your content scores on the Dale-Chall scale, the easier it is to read.

Character Calculator Readability ScoresScreenshot from Character Calculator, August 2022

Character Calculator provides your score, the reading grade level required, and a short note about reading difficulty. It is free to use. 

12. Copywritely Readability Checker

Copywritely is content software designed for search engine optimizers. In addition to scoring your content’s readability, it also checks for SEO issues to help ensure your copy works for both humans and search engines.

The SEO features detect content problems that impact your search rankings and recommend rewriting, replacing, or deleting content as needed.

The readability checker uses the Flesch-Kincaid formula to help you identify and fix dense content.

CopywritelyScreenshot from Copywritely, August 2022

The cost of Copywritely ranges from $18/month for individuals to $67/month for enterprise organizations. 

13. Semrush Writing Assistant

Designed to help you optimize your content for both human readers and search engines, Semrush’s SEO Writing Assistant measures readability and consistency while checking for plagiarism.

It uses copy-and-paste or import from the web functionality to score your content and offer recommendations. You can select your target audience by country and region, all the way down to a city level, and specify desktop or mobile users.

You can specify keywords for comparison with competitor content and are presented with visual information on readability, SEO, originality, and tone.

The SEO Writing Assistant is included in Semrush, with plans ranging from $119.95/month to $449/95/month.

14. Searchmetrics Content Experience

Another tool for search engine optimization professionals, Searchmetrics Content Experience, uses machine learning to help identify which content is most relevant to your audience.

It provides real-time feedback on a copy as you type and scores your content based on factors like word count, sentence structure, keyword coverage, and repetition.

You can also compare your website with competitors and discover which keywords you can add to increase your ranking.

Searchmetrics offers custom pricing.

15. Link Assistant SEO Content Editor

Link Assistant SEO Content Editor is a comprehensive tool for website content. In addition to keyword tools, it provides insights into optimizing copy for search engines and lets you create and track tasks for your team.

You can also analyze competing websites or use its built-in tools to generate new content ideas. Content Editor lets you download SEO guidelines and write tips for pages while reporting keyword usage.

A limited free version is available, as well as a professional edition ($299/year) and an enterprise version ($499/year).

16. Review Tools Content Analysis

SEO Review offers 60 free search engine optimization tools, including Content Analysis. It allows you to enter primary and secondary keywords and offers suggestions for other keywords and SEO optimization.

Items including page title and meta description are scored using red and green. It measures keyword density, headers and subheads, links, and other factors that come into play in search engine optimization.

Review Tools Content AnalysisScreenshot from SEO Review Tools, August 2022

Content Analysis is web-based and free to use.

Content Is Still King

Sometimes search engine professionals get so caught up in algorithms and keywords and metrics and forget the most important thing about any webpage: It should provide value for visitors.

And to do this, your content has to be easily digested. Good readability helps you attract attention to your site and communicate your message more effectively and drive action.

Making your webpages easier to read and understand helps keep your visitors engaged, which in turn helps your quality score with search engines.

But it’s hard to craft content that’s easy to read; even the most experienced writers struggle with it at times.

Luckily, all sorts of useful tools are available to help you punch up your copy, minimize confusion, and more accurately convey information, all of which will reap benefits for SEO.

If you are interested in original article by Kristi Hines you can find it here

brand-awareness

Why Brand Awareness Is The Fifth Pillar Of SEO

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While the traditional SEO techniques work on non-branded search, they are ineffective on branded search. Learn how to grow branded search by embracing brand awareness as the fifth SEO pillar.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a marketing practice for increasing a website’s organic traffic through search engines.

It consists of techniques in four key areas: keyword and content, technical SEO, on-site SEO, and off-site SEO.

These four areas are typically considered the four pillars of SEO. They work together to help a website rank well on search engines.

However, even as extensive as these four pillars are, an SEO strategy isn’t complete if it ignores brand awareness.

In this article, you’ll learn why SEO marketers should consider brand awareness as the fifth pillar of SEO.

The First Four Pillars Of SEO

Before we look into the fifth pillar, let’s review the first four pillars of SEO:

Keyword And Content

Content rules – and keywords are the foundation of search.

A good piece of keyword-optimized content is the building block of an SEO strategy.

Technical SEO

Great content is insufficient if the website hosting doesn’t have a sound technical foundation.

Technical SEO covers areas like indexability and performance of the website.

It ensures a website loads its pages fast, and search engines can easily crawl the content.

Notably, Google has developed a set of metrics called Core Web Vitals to measure a web page’s technical performance and usability.

On-Site SEO

This pillar helps search engines understand the page’s content by creating a better website structure and its pages.

Site navigation hierarchy, schema markup, page titles, meta descriptions, heading tags, and image alt text are tools to create an easy-to-understand website and page structure for search engine crawlers and visitors.

Off-Site SEO

Having great content and a great website is just the beginning.

A website can’t rank well on search engines if it lacks authority and doesn’t garner trust in its subject domain.

From the onset, Google uses the amount and quality of backlinks as an indicator to evaluate a website’s authority.

Nevertheless, even as far-reaching as these four areas appear in creating a search-optimized website, they can only help drive part of your website’s search traffic, i.e., the type of traffic coming from non-branded searches.

Non-Branded Vs. Branded Searches

What are non-branded searches, and how are they different from branded searches?

Branded Queries

They contain branded names in the search terms.

If you’re Apple Inc., the search term “apple” is a branded term.

Yes, Google knows you’re looking for the company founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak rather than the fruit. Moreover, “iPhone,” ‘iPad,” and “MacBook” are also branded terms.

Branded searches are conducted by people looking for information, especially about your brand or products.

Non-Branded Queries

On the other hand, non-branded queries don’t contain any branded name in the search terms. Again, for Apple Inc., “laptop,” “smartphone,” and “tablet” are non-branded terms related to its products.

Non-branded searches are from people who may not know about your brand or products but are looking for information about the type of products or solutions you offer.

With this in mind, for a brand as strong as Apple, you may think its search traffic is largely from branded searches. And, for the most part, you’d be correct.

According to Semrush, more than half of search traffic to Apple’s website comes from branded searches.

Why Is Branded Search Important?

Branded search traffic not only reflects the level of interest of a specific brand, but also has higher commercial intent and a higher conversion rate.

Generally speaking, non-branded search traffic feeds the upper part of the marketing funnel, and branded search traffic feeds the lower part of the funnel.

A brand needs to grow both types of traffic to maintain a healthy and growing business.

A diagram illustrating non-branded and branded traffic representing different part of the marketing funnelImage created by author, August 2022

That said, most businesses don’t have the level of brand recognition like Apple’s.

What can marketers do to drive branded search traffic to a website?

Different Traffic Drivers For Non-Branded And Branded Searches

As illustrated by the formula below, search traffic is driven by two factors: keyword search volume and clickthrough rate (CTR) on the search engine results page (SERP).

A website with high aggregated keyword search volume and clickthrough rate will have high search traffic.

Search traffic = Keyword search volume * Clickthrough rate

Wait a minute! Where does keyword ranking fit into the equation?

Keyword ranking is, in fact, a critical factor in determining the clickthrough rate.

The higher your keywords rank, the higher the clickthrough rate you get.

According to Advanced Web Ranking, position #1 on Google can have a 38% CTR. CTR drops to about 5% on position #5 and stays around 1% or below after position #10.

Bearing that in mind, how do the four pillars of SEO contribute to a website’s search traffic?

They help a website increase its search traffic in two ways:

  • Maximizing the aggregated keyword search volume through keyword research and targeting.
  • Improving keyword ranking to achieve a higher SERP clickthrough rate through valuable and keyword-optimized content, technical SEO, and on-site and off-site optimization.

Nevertheless, the problem is that these SEO techniques work on mostly non-branded searches only.

They have limited effect on branded search, because branded search and non-branded search have different traffic drivers.

Non-Branded Traffic Driver

For non-branded search, a website can harvest a virtually unlimited amount of keywords and aggregated search volume.

The main lever of non-branded search traffic is improving your target keywords’ ranking to gain a higher clickthrough rate and capture a larger share of the search clicks.

Branded Traffic Driver

For branded search, assuming your website is already ranked No. 1 for your brand name (if not, you need to fix this problem first), ranking is generally not an issue.

As the brand owner, you always have an advantage on Google for your branded keywords.

The main lever of branded search traffic is simply increasing your branded keywords’ search volume.

However, the first four pillars of SEO have little effect on getting more people to search for your brand or your products.

As a result, they are ineffective on branded search.

How To Grow Brand Awareness & Branded Search

In short, branded search traffic results from a brand’s awareness and interest.

People wouldn’t search for your brand if they didn’t know or have any interest in your brand or your offerings.

To grow brand awareness and interest, you need to increase a brand’s visibility to its potential customers, develop authority, and garner trust for the brand.

Content marketing and the growth of non-branded search traffic could help increase brand awareness.

However, solely relying on people coming to your website to learn about your brand and offerings won’t take you very far.

To grow brand awareness at scale, marketers need to bring their brand to their potential customers. You can’t just wait for them to come to you.

Luckily, there are plenty of tools in the digital marketing arsenal to help marketers build brand awareness, including advertising, influencer marketing, customer marketing, and digital PR.

Advertising

At AdRoll, we classify advertising into two categories: retargeting and brand awareness campaigns.

As the names suggest, retargeting campaigns target people who have engaged with you (e.g., visited your website), and brand awareness campaigns target potential customers who have not yet interacted with you.

Marketers can choose from several targeting methods to bring your brand to potential customers.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting is one of the oldest advertising targeting methods.

Think of a hotel chain placing its ads in a travel magazine. A brand can place ads on websites or mobile apps with content relevant to its products or services.

A big difference between contextual targeting and other targeting methods is that contextual targeting doesn’t rely on personal or behavioral data about the target audience.

It’s a more privacy-friendly way for marketers to find and connect with their potential customers.

With regulators and technology companies looking at ways to improve consumer privacy protection, the importance of contextual targeting to advertisers is likely to increase.

Demographic And Interest Targeting

Demographic and interest targeting leverages your knowledge of existing customers to find new customers.

Suppose your customers fit into any specific demographic segment or are interested in certain activities or subjects. In that case, you can bring your brand to potential customers by running ads targeting people with similar demographic characteristics or interests.

Lookalike Targeting

Lookalike targeting is similar to demographic and interest targeting.

But, instead of manually defining the target audience segment based on a list of demographic or interest attributes – advertising platforms use machine learning technologies to find target audiences who look or behave similarly to the seed audience provided by marketers.

The seed audience is typically a subset of existing customers.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing covers a broad range of tactics for leveraging someone who influences your target customers to promote your brand and products.

Even before the digital age, it was common for big brands to hire famous athletes or celebrities to endorse their products. Think Michael Jordan and Nike in the ‘80s.

Today, “influencers ” are social media personalities who have built a following with a particular audience.

The vast number of influencers on social media also means influencer marketing is no longer a privilege available only to those brands with deep pockets.

Marketers can recruit influencers at very low or no cost by reaching out to those who have shown interest or already invested in the niche you serve, including your customers (more on that in the next section).

While many influencer marketing activities are in the B2C sector, it also works for B2B.

Customer Marketing

When you shop at an ecommerce marketplace, such as Amazon, you might look at the product reviews before making a purchase decision.

The number and rating of a product’s reviews are also ranking factors for product searches on Amazon.com.

The more people review a product and the higher the review rating, the more visibility and traffic a product gets.

The same logic applies even if Amazon may not be the channel for your business.

For B2B SaaS providers, customer reviews on G2, Trustpilot, etc., play the same role.

For direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, customer reviews and sharing on social media bring your brand and products to new customers and help establish trust for your brand.

Take Halfbikes.com as an example.

This D2C company from Bulgaria has a team of brand ambassadors – their customers – all around the world to promote its brand and product simply by sharing their experiences on social media.

Some of their customers even created YouTube channels dedicated to Halfbikes.

Digital PR

Among all the strategies driving brand awareness, digital PR is the one most directly related to SEO. In fact, it’s often considered “link building 2.0.”

The main difference between link building and digital PR is that link building focuses on acquiring links from other websites.

In contrast, digital PR focuses on bringing your brand to your target audiences through stories published in relevant and high-quality publications.

The types of stories vary depending on the industries and subjects.

Take Facebook’s name change to Meta. In that context, the topic of how consumers perceive the metaverse, for instance, could make an interesting story for B2C marketers.

Because well-known publications usually have very strict link policies, digital PR prioritizes brand visibility and reach, whereas link acquisition is a secondary goal.

Brand Awareness Is The Fifth Pillar Of SEO

One of the goals of a comprehensive marketing strategy should be to grow a brand’s awareness – just as a comprehensive SEO strategy should aim at growing both non-branded and branded searches.

While non-branded search traffic is driven by keyword ranking, branded search traffic is mostly driven by the search volume of the branded keywords.

The more people are aware of and interested in a brand, the higher branded search traffic a brand gets.

Given the different growth drivers of branded and non-branded searches, SEO professionals need to include brand awareness as a pillar of SEO.

If you are interested in original article by Wilson Lau you can find it here