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GPO Guide to Customer-Optimized Keyphrase Research

Is customer-optomized keyphrase research part of your content strategy?

Stop writing content for the sake of content! If you’re looking to be found by searchers, then keyphrase research is an essential step in creating your brand’s content strategy. No matter if you’re unfamiliar with keyphrase research or you’re looking to take your content strategy even further, this guide has everything you need to know about keyphrase research.

What Is Keyphrase Research and Why Is it Important?

Keyphrase research is the process of discovering and analyzing the keyphrases related to your brand that potential customers are searching for. These words and phrases give insight into the ways users might find your business, and they set a solid foundation for your content and SEO strategy.

You might be thinking, “But wait, I already know what keywords I want to rank for. Why should I waste time researching instead of writing?”

What you want to rank for and what your audience is actually searching for are often two different things. Keyphrase research lets you know exactly what terms and questions you should be optimizing your content for. Without it, you are essentially playing a game of darts while blindfolded, hoping you hit the bullseye.

Know Your Business and Your Customer

Before you can begin your keyphrase research, you need to know your business and your customers. Your strategy should be aligned with your business goals and how your audience interacts with your brand. Whether you work in-house or for an agency, the below questions will help you better understand your business (or your client’s brand) and guide you in the right direction while creating a content strategy.

  • What products/services does your business offer?
  • What are your overall business goals?
  • How do customers search for/find your business?
  • Why do customers purchase your product or service?
  • What problem(s) do you solve for your customers, or what need(s) do you meet?

Create a List of Potential Keyphrases

Once you have a deeper understanding of your business and audience, you can use the information you’ve gathered to create a list of potential keyphrases. To build this list, you will want to think of topics related to your business, take advantage of keyword tools, look at what your competitors are doing, and examine what’s working (and not working) for your business already. You can even ask your customer service team about the language customers use! Don’t worry about creating a final, polished list just yet. You’ll come back and narrow down your keyphrases later based on factors like keyword difficulty.

Brainstorm Topics Related to Your Business and Customers

You know your business. You know your customers. It’s time to come up with topics that matter to both. For example, if you own a store that sells tires and offers tire services, potential keyphrases related to your business could be “tire shops” or “tire rotations.” Think about the related phrases and questions your customers might be searching for, such as “tire shops near me” or “how often do I need a tire rotation.”

Use a Keyword Tool

There are many great keyword tools out there that will help you come up with other variations and related keywords. Moz and Semrush are two of the most popular SEO tools, and two that we love at GPO. These tools also provide other important data that will help you later when you narrow and refine your list. Most SEO tools require you to pay for a plan, but many offer free trials so you find the right fit for your business.

You can also use Google itself to find potential keyphrases. Type your keywords into Google and look through the “Related searches” section and the “People also ask” widget. These will show the other ways users are searching for your topics and phrases. Answer the Public is another great resource that lets you type in a keyword and see the related phrases and questions searchers are using for their queries.

What Are Your Competitors Doing?

You never want to copy your competitors exactly, but examining what they’re doing and how they’re performing can help you formulate your own SEO content strategy. Go through their blogs and see what topics they are writing about. Do you have keyphrases related to those topics included in your list? If you have an SEO tool that does competitor analysis, take a look at how they’re ranking and what they’re ranking for. This will give you ideas for other keyphrases to target.

Look at Your Existing Organic Traffic

Just like you should look at what your competitors have done and are currently doing, you should also be looking at your own site. Use Google Analytics, Search Console, or other tools to analyze how your website is performing. What pages bring in a lot of organic traffic? Do similar topics keep popping up? Are you already ranking well for certain keyphrases? What variations or related keyphrases can you target? Do you have pages that aren’t performing well? Can you boost these by optimizing them with the right keyphrases?

Clean Up Your Keyphrase List

You’ve compiled your list of potential keywords, and it’s probably big and daunting and you don’t even know where to begin with creating content. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if your fingers are itching to hit the keyboard), we’re not quite at the writing stage yet. First, you need to weed through your list and pick the keyphrases you want to prioritize and target.

Analyze Search Volume and Keyword Difficulty

When deciding which keyphrases you want to target, two metrics you should focus on are search volume and keyword difficulty. Search volume shows how many times a keyphrase is searched for within a specified time range, while keyword difficulty determines how hard it is to rank for a keyphrase. Generally, the higher the search volume, the more competitive a keyphrase is.

You might be tempted to go for phrases with the highest search volume, but you probably won’t be able to rank high for those. You also need to consider which phrases are more likely to lead to a conversion.

A keyphrase like “dresses” will have a high search volume but be extremely difficult to rank for. Plus, the searcher might just be browsing out of boredom. On the other hand, a keyphrase like “cheap navy blue dresses for wedding” might have a lower search volume, but the searcher is likely interested in making a purchase.

Target Long-Tail Keyphrases

There are two main types of keyphrases: head and long-tail. Head keyphrases are broad, generic terms usually only a word or two in length, like “shoes.” These have the highest search volume but will be harder to rank for. Long-tail keywords are more specific and usually contain more words, like “non-slip shoes for restaurant workers.” These have lower search volumes but also tend to be easier to rank for. The best strategy will be to start with long-tail keyphrases to gain traction and earn small victories then target head phrases later for bigger wins.

Pay Attention to Seasonal Trends

You might notice some keyphrases have seasonal spikes. Don’t ignore this. Noting seasonal trends can help you prepare content months in advance and get ahead of the curve. If you’re doing keyword research in March, but you notice the search volume for “all weather tires” has spiked in November for the past few years, don’t dismiss it just because it’s not relevant at the moment. You can create a blog post about all-weather tires ahead of time and roll it out around November when interest in the topic is at its highest.

How To Write Search Engine Optimized Content

Now that you have your polished list of target keyphrases, it’s time to start creating content. But how do you turn those keyphrases into blog posts and product pages?

Group Similar Keyphrases Under One Topic

You don’t need to write a new blog post for each individual keyphrase. Instead, group similar keyphrases together and come up with blog topics that can include those phrases. For example, a post about changing a flat tire can include phrases like “how to change a flat tire,” “how long can you drive on a spare tire,” and “flat tire repair near me.” You should also think about any existing blog posts you have that can be reworked with your new keyphrases.

Focus on Search Intent

As Google has gone through updates to create a better search experience for users, they have shifted their focus away from just matching keywords. Now, Google cares more about whether or not you’re matching the intent behind a user’s query. There are four main search intent types:

  • Informational: This is the most common type of search. Users are either looking for a specific answer (“how to change motor oil”) or general information (“world war i”). Searches with an informational intent are also one of the easiest to optimize for featured snippets
  • Navigational: These searches are made when users are trying to get to a specific site (“facebook login”)
  • Commercial Investigation: When searchers have the intent to buy a product or service but aren’t sure which brand or business to choose, they’ll complete this type of query to compare solutions (“moz vs semrush” or “iphone12 reviews”). This is also where a lot of local searches will land (“best coffee shop in Seattle” or “battery checks near me”)
  • Transactional: This is where conversions come in. Transactional searches are made with the intent to complete an action, such as signing up for a mailing list, purchasing a product, or making an in-person visit (“buy amc theatre tickets” or “search engine journal newsletter”)

Those long-tail keyphrases we mentioned earlier? They will be easier to determine the search intent for. If someone searches for “pizza,” you don’t know if they want information about pizzas, a recipe, or to buy one. However, if they search for “pizza delivery near me,” you know they are ready to find a restaurant and order a pizza.

The more specific the keyphrase is, the easier it will be to craft content that matches the search intent. A blog post will be good for informational and commercial investigation queries, but a product or location page will work best for transactional searches.

Quick SEO Content Writing Tips

You have your polished list of keyphrases, you’ve grouped them by topic, and you’ve determined the search intent. Finally, you can put your fingers to the keys and get typing. Here are some quick tips to help you along the way:

  • Don’t rely on text alone — add photos, charts, videos, etc. when you can
  • Avoid keyword stuffing (overusing keyphrases/not incorporating them in a natural way)
  • Keep the language simple — aim for a 7th or 8th-grade reading level
  • Add title tags, meta descriptions, and alt-text
  • Breakup content to be skimmable (use H2s and H3s, bullet points, numbered lists, etc.)
  • Include keyphrases in the title and headers
  • Link to internal product pages and blog posts when possible

Let GPO Help with Your SEO Content Strategy

Need a content strategy worth writing about? Contact the GPO team to see how we can help with your brand’s content — from optimized product and location pages to keyphrase-rich blog posts!

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Google to Block Insecure Third-Party Tracking Codes in Chrome

Learn how to prepare for the latest Google update.

You may have heard a lot about third-party tracking and cookies lately. Unfortunately, this news does not have to do with party hats, cake, and delicious chocolate morsels. It has to do with how Google Chrome will treat scripts from third-party vendors trying to track users across the web. Google announced its plans to block insecure third-party tracking codes in Google Chrome beginning in 2023. In this guide, you’ll learn what third-party cookies are, the consequences of Google blocking them in Google Chrome, and what your brand should do to prepare for the change.

What are third-party cookies?

Before we define what a third-party cookie is, let’s take a look at a first-party cookie.

A first-party cookie is a bit of information created by a website you visit that is stored on your computer. The data is owned and collected by the publisher of the website. For example, a website may have the capability to show multiple languages, and it learns that you prefer English. It adds a cookie with that information in your browser, so the site appears in English the next time you visit the site.

A third-party cookie is a snippet of data placed and collected on a website by someone other than the site owner. A common example is code from retargeting ads. You might be searching for a new pair of shoes across various websites. You don’t know which pair of shoes to buy, so to kill some time, you navigate to your favorite news site. To your surprise, you notice the exact pair of shoes you were just looking at in the advertising column side on the news site. The news site containing the ad used third-party cookies from the other shoe-selling websites to serve you an ad for shoes you have looked at in hopes that you might purchase them.

What changes is Google making to third-party tracking codes and why?

According to Search Engine Journal, with Google Chrome 84, Google will restrict third-party cookies that are served via the HTTP protocol and cookies that do not have a proper SameSite attribute. To ensure a third-party cookie will work, a specific attribute needs to be added to the cookie’s code:

| SameSite=None; Secure

Google has two main reasons for this change. First, users are demanding greater privacy across the internet. Second, Google wants to ensure publishers’ sites are more secure. As Google explains:

“One of the cultural properties of the web is that it’s tended to be open by default. This is part of what has made it possible for so many people to create their own content and apps there.

However, this has also brought a number of security and privacy concerns.

Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks rely on the fact that cookies are attached to any request to a given origin, no matter who initiates the request.

For example, if you visit evil.example then it can trigger requests to your-blog.example, and your browser will happily attach the associated cookies.

If your blog isn’t careful with how it validates those requests then evil.example could trigger actions like deleting posts or adding their own content.”

Cookie restrictions are something advertisers have been dealing with for years. While this is new for Google, other popular web browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari have been blocking third-party tracking since 2013.

What does this mean for SEO and why should you care?

Fortunately, Google’s privacy shift won’t affect much in terms of organic search presence. The only change that digital marketers may see lies within the Demographics data in Google Analytics.

The data for these charts comes from a subset of users who are signed in to Google where age and gender can be collected. In addition, Google uses third-party DoubleClick data it gathers about a user. Because the DoubleClick data is third-party, there’s a possibility that this data will be impacted, but likely not a lot. We anticipate that digital marketers will still have the ability to gather demographic data — it just may be based on a smaller data set.

What can you do today to prepare your brand for the change?

We here at GPO are all about action, and we want to enable you to take action when Google makes a change like this.

  • If your organization builds third-party tracking codes, move them to HTTPS.
  • If you are a vendor that uses tracking cookies, make sure to properly set the SameSite attribute to ensure cookies continue to work as usual. As a note, if you are having issues with third-party tracking codes, we recommend using Chrome 84 and Chrome Dev Tools to find the cookies that aren’t working and why.
  • Ensure you monitor demographic data in Google Analytics and note any changes after Google starts blocking insecure third-party cookies.
  • Research contextual advertising to mitigate any changes resulting from the lack of ability to target users using third-party cookies.
  • Invest in search engine optimization! Search optimized sites show up in organic search results and reach users when they are looking for a product — without the need for third-party cookie information.

Whether it’s third-party cookie blocking information or a new algorithm update, your SEO strategy requires constant pivoting. There’s no better time than now to get a team of best-in-class search-optimized content experts in your corner! Reach out to GPO to talk about how to create (and maintain) your search-optimized content.

GPO logo on blue background with lightbulb

Barry Berkowitz Joins Content Technology Company GPO as SVP, Enterprise Development

Welcome, Barry Berkowitz!

Barry Berkowitz of GPO smilingAustin, TX — GPO, a leading local content technology company, announced that media and digital engagement veteran Barry Berkowitz joined the company as its Senior VP of Enterprise Development.
Berkowitz will focus on helping existing and new brand clients increase organic search visibility, create and publish search-optimized content, and drive digital conversions to purchase through GPO’s Localize Content solution. Reporting directly to GPO President, Nic Cauwe, and CEO and Founder, Brian Rutledge, Berkowitz joins the team as an experienced leader in the digital space.

“Barry’s experience and vision for building digital marketing success for brands and their agencies is a most welcome addition to our team,” Cauwe said. Rutledge added, “His passion for client success is contagious. We’re excited to have him on board, working directly with our teams.”

Berkowitz is no stranger to digital engagement. Until the pandemic shut live events down, he was the SVP, Business Strategy & Sponsorship at Knitting Factory Entertainment. Other notable positions include senior roles in digital marketing, in addition to EVP of Loyalty & Partnerships for the digital marketing platform Sweet; SVP, Managing Director for the Western Region at PrizeLogic; and co-founder and CEO of personal digital rewards platform, Digigraph.me.

Berkowitz received a BA from Lehigh University in 1989 and a JD from Brooklyn Law School in 1993. He’s a frequent industry speaker, a voracious social media user, an Advisory Board member of the recording industry charity “Musicians On Call,” and he’s been rumored to cook some of the finest “underground BBQ” in Los Angeles.

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Google Algorithm Updates vs. Core Updates: What’s the Difference?

Learn the difference between Google Algorithm and Core updates.

March 2021 will see a huge change to the way Google is indexing the World Wide Web with mobile-first indexing. But Google won’t just be rolling out their mobile-first indexing update — they’ll remove all desktop-only sites from their index entirely.

This update seems enormous — and it is! And while it’s easy to focus on large updates like mobile-first indexing and the recent SMITH rollout, Google actually updates their algorithm every single day. So, let’s pull back the curtain to reveal and understand the differences between core updates and algorithm updates.

What Is a Google Algorithm Update?

Google’s algorithm is the system it uses to pull from its vast index of data and deliver the most relevant search results for a search query. With mountains of new data being indexed by Google every day, it’s important that the system is tweaked to ensure it is always delivering the best results possible. And this is where Google’s algorithm updates come in.

Google algorithm updates can happen several times a day and even thousands of times a year. These frequent changes are typically small and hardly noticeable, and Google will usually not announce when algorithm updates occur, making it difficult to know what exactly goes into these updates.

Though algorithm updates are small, they are not insignificant. Algorithm updates help keep Google’s search results as relevant as possible amidst the unfathomable amounts of data the company houses and processes on a second-to-second basis.

What Is a Google Core Update?

A Google core update is usually a pretty big deal. Unlike small, unannounced algorithm updates, Google notifies, acknowledges, and even names their core updates each time a new one is released.

A core update will typically include several changes to the algorithm that can impact things like SEO ranking factors, site traffic, how search results are delivered, how data is processed and understood by Google, and even how that data is displayed on the search engine results page.

Oftentimes, Google announces the overarching purpose of a core update. In the past, Google core updates included things like:

  • Ranking pages based on the quality of the content
  • Identifying spammy link-building techniques when ranking pages
  • Identifying user intent of a search query when delivering results
  • Providing search query answers directly on the SERP
  • Ranking results based on a page’s layout
  • Delivering more accurately curated results based on a searcher’s location

When Should You Care About Google Updates?

Since many of Google’s algorithm updates are so small, they typically don’t have a significant impact on the majority of people. This means you can build your SEO strategy and spare yourself the concern of frequent, daily Google algorithm updates. However, this doesn’t mean you can bury your head in your SEO sandbox and disregard every update Google sends out.

You should care about a Google update when Google is telling you about it. As mentioned earlier, Google won’t announce small algorithm changes but will announce larger core updates. And while Google hasn’t quite adopted the “explain it to me like I’m five” concept, it’s important to do your best to understand the meat of the update when it is announced.

By learning what Google is planning to do through the update, you can better adjust your SEO strategy pre-update instead of having to react to potential ranking and traffic losses post-update.

Best Practices are Best Practices for a Reason

These days, it seems keeping an up-to-date SEO strategy alongside each Google update is getting more and more involved. What once started out as simple keyword stuffing has now graduated to a complex strategy of technical SEO optimizations that searchers will most likely never see.

Additionally, the ever-changing landscape of Google’s ranking algorithm can make prioritizing SEO techniques feel like a guessing game. Add in a Google core update and it can feel like your robust SEO strategy is being completely upended every couple of months.

But no matter what Google is updating, it’s essential to stick to SEO best practices, such as publishing rich and informative content, using quality (and legitimate) link-building tactics, establishing unique local pages, optimizing your images and meta information, and focusing on mobile-first indexing.

If your search-optimized content strategy needs a leg up or you’re looking to build out your local search presence, let us know. We’re here to help you navigate those rough SERP seas, climb that tall local search mountain, swim up that algorithm stream, and provide all the success metaphors you didn’t know you needed.

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What is SMITH — Google’s Latest Natural Language Processing Algorithm

Meet SMITH, Google's latest advancement in natural language processing.

In November of 2019, we called BERT the Swiss army knife of natural language processing tools. Unlike many NLP “utensils” before it, BERT was the first algorithm to leverage bidirectional processing to define the meaning of a single word based on the contextual cues around it. (Bidirectional processing means it reads each combination of words from left-to-right and right-to-left)

As explained by Search Engine Land, BERT was able to understand the fundamental difference between the “to” in “nine-to-five” and the “to” in “quarter to nine.” Recently, Google shared a research paper on a new NLP algorithm called SMITH, one that can allegedly outperform BERT.

BERT may be the Swiss army knife of NLP in that it can mince words and uncork meanings. But SMITH is the Instant Pot — you throw in your ingredients, and it’ll cook the whole dang meal!

How Does SMITH Work?

In layman’s terms — SMITH does with passages what BERT does with words. It compares the sentences before, after, and even away from a given passage to better inform its interpretation of what it means.

What Does SMITH DO that BERT Can’t?

BERT understands words based on passage content.

SMITH understands passages based on document content.

BERT is adept at understanding conversational queries where the use and placement of a single word or preposition carries a lot of meaning. This is useful for short-to-short or short-to-long semantic matching, like ranking search results in order of relevance based on a short query, or when a chatbot answers your question with copy straight-out-of-the-website’s FAQs.

SMITH, on the other hand, is good at making long-to-long semantic connections. For a (very hypothetical and mildly dystopian) example, imagine an algorithm that can interpret the contents of the email you’re drafting and automatically predict which document in your Google Drive is the most-relevant attachment for it. That’s the type of connection that SMITH has the potential to make, given the right data set.

Will SMITH Replace BERT?

Don’t get us wrong, Instant Pots are great — but we wouldn’t trade our Swiss army knives for one of these handy appliances. Instead, we’d wait for the right promo code to come along and find a way to fit both into our budget.

Likewise, SMITH is unlikely to replace BERT. For various technical reasons that can be simply summarized by this statement from the research paper, “processing of long texts is more likely to trigger practical issues like out of TPU/GPU memories without careful model design.” NLP algorithms for long-to-long semantic matching take a lot of brain- and AI-power, which will likely make implementing SMITH on a large-scale challenging.

Additionally, given BERT’s effectiveness at short-to-short and short-to-long semantic matching, it is likely to remain in use. However, since the research clearly states that SMITH outperforms Google’s current state-of-the-art NLP, we won’t be surprised if/when it starts being implemented.

Long story short, BERT and SMITH are not mutually exclusive, and the possibility of them being used in tandem is a very real one. As usual, until we get confirmation from an internal resource at Google Search (ahemm…@JohnMu), we can’t be certain of if SMITH will be integrated into the algorithm or how it will be applied.

How to Write for SMITH

We can say for sure that Google is going to great lengths to better process natural language patterns. Perhaps this is because of the rise in voice search, the podcast pandemic, or both! Regardless, as search engines make strides towards processing content like we do, creating content that’s relevant, useful, and engaging for humans becomes increasingly vital.

Consumer reviews concepts with bubble people review comments and smartphone. rating or feedback for evaluate.innovation lifestyle (Consumer reviews concepts with bubble people review comments and smartphone. rating or feedback for evaluate.innovation

Your Online Reviews Matter — to Google!

Online reviews are an important local ranking factor.

If pictures are worth a thousand words, then a star rating next to your brand on search says a lot.

According to MOZ’s most recent State of Local SEO Industry Report, native GMB reviews are the “second most important local ranking factor, surpassing links as of 2018.” And it’s no wonder given that over 90% of people use online reviews to make a purchasing decision, so why wouldn’t Google use online reviews to make a ranking decision?

Learn how (and why) reviews can boost your business’s SEO.

Reviews = Content

For years, SEO experts wrote headlines like “content is king!” — stressing the SEO impact of well-written and relevant content. And while that remains true today, “content” is a really wide umbrella term, which comprises everything from unique product descriptions to Frequently Asked Questions to user-generated reviews.

In other words, if content is king, reviews are one of the key members of the royal court!

A single online review can have more heart and useful info in it than twenty out-of-touch expert articles combined. Customers know this. And Google knows this, too. So, Google reads reviews, just like you and me, and then uses the information in and about them to determine which pages to rank for which keyphrases.

Let’s say a customer leaves a review of your business on Google and includes keyphrases like “kid-friendly” or “great hamburgers.” Google may add these informal attributes to your business and use them to show your business for more specific searches, like “kid-friendly restaurants near me” or “top burger places.”

Additionally, Google and searchers alike look beyond the content of your business’s reviews to make ranking and purchasing decisions respectively — taking into account review quantity, frequency, and ratings!

Reviews = Attention

It’s one thing to make it to the top of Google. Staying there is a different ball game.

Do you know how your business looks on search? If you already rank for relevant branded and non-branded keyphrases, there are actions you can take to encourage clicks and time-on-site. Incidentally, these actions mostly overlap with some of the best-known SEO practices, like optimizing title tags and meta descriptions, prioritizing PageSpeed, and adding rich and unique content.

As mentioned above, reviews are a valuable form of content! Adding a custom review module to your website (one with structured data aka. schema) can further boost your SEO efforts by:

  • Encouraging users to spend more time on your site.
  • Increasing clicks and traffic to your site.
  • Helping you own the SERP for queries including [your business] + [reviews].
  • Informing consumer’s purchase decisions during the ZMOT.
  • Enriching your GMB reviews (if Google chooses to add third-party reviews to your profile, depending on the source of the reviews, and whether they are marked up with schema).

Search engines see increased click-thru-rates and time-on-site as positive ranking signals, which “affirm” and solidify your position on the SERP. In other words, adding reviews to your site can not only help your business rank for relevant keyphrases, but it may also allow it to remain in that position longer.

One study “showed that review stars in search engine results significantly improve click-through rates, by as much as 35%.”

Reviews = Links

Google crawls the entire World Wide Web for links and mentions of your business to determine if your local business is trustworthy and authoritative. If well-known websites with good domain authority link to your site, Google will “pass” that credibility and relevancy on to you.

Ratings and reviews hosted on your properties may be quoted by third-party sites, even going viral, as illustrated by these highlights from Amazon! Additionally, linking to relevant reviews from your GMB profile and main site to press releases and your blog can further drive links! Reviews not only build trust with customers on your website, but they may also result in valuable backlinks.

Reviews matter. What’s next?

Many people are resigned to the myth that you can’t control what people say about your business online. However, you can influence it by actively monitoring reviews for actionable suggestions, managing customer expectations in-store and online, and respectfully responding to all reviews!

Additionally, if you’re looking to leverage reviews for SEO purposes, keep in mind that for Google to crawl your reviews, it must first find your GMB listing and website! That’s where GPO comes in! With our GPO Platform and Content Solutions, we can monitor, manage, and curate your listings throughout the local search ecosystem to improve accuracy, visibility, and engagement. To get started, reach out to GPO today!

woman on phone searching

2021: The Year to Go Mobile or… Get Out of the Game

It's time to go mobile-first.

Sixty percent of searches are now performed on a mobile device. Narrow those searches down to the food and beverage category, and the percentage jumps to 72%.

People turn to their phones first and their computers second, making it more important than ever to ensure your brand is present when someone performs a search from their mobile device.

You already have a website, so you’re good, right? Not so fast. After Google’s mobile-index (coming March 2021), having a website won’t cut it. You need a site that’s optimized for mobile and wholly reflective of your desktop site, as Google will be creating and ranking search results based on the mobile version of content, even for listings that are shown to desktop users.

From Google’s mouth to this article: “Content that isn’t mobile-friendly will not rank as well.”

Plus, desktop-only sites will be completely dropped from the index. Images and assets that are on a desktop site will also fall out of Google’s index. Poof. Gone.

What can you do to double-check that your site is ready so you don’t lose traffic and rankings? We’ll get you there. Learn what it means to be mobile-optimized and the overall benefits.

How to “Go Mobile”

Google explicitly recommends responsive web design for new websites, and suggests avoiding using separate mobile URLs (“m-dot”). In their experience, m.dot sites create confusion for searchers and Google crawlers.

If you’re working on an existing site, follow Google’s mobile-first indexing best practices. The guide is dense, but here’s what it boils down to:

  • Make sure your desktop and mobile sites have the same content, structured data, headers, meta robots tags, images, image alt text — everything.
  • Stay laser-focused on technical SEO. That means having robust, error-free structured data, descriptive image alt text, optimized page title and meta descriptions, and unique content on every page — no thin or duplicate content!
  • Prioritize speed. Site speed (and as a result, page speed) IS a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. It’s also important for a positive user experience. Pages with long load times generally have high bounce rates and negatively impact conversions.

Use PageSpeed Insights to identify ways to make web pages faster on all devices and Test My Site to improve your mobile experience. Before you dive into these tools and get “the development scaries,” know that many speed optimizations are easy. You can compress images, clean up redirects (technical SEO!), and use a cache plugin to take a big bite out of big load times.

We often hear, “Does an improvement of one or two seconds in site speed matter?” Yes. Every second counts when the average Google search session lasts just under a minute.

  • The German branch of Dakine, an outdoor clothing company, cut its home page’s load time by 55%, its category pages by 48%, and its product pages by 65%. Over the next year, they experienced a 31% increase in mobile traffic and a 45% increase in mobile revenue.
  • Telefónica, a private telecom company, improved load times on its mobile site by 70% with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). As a result, their click-through rate (CTR) improved by 31%.
  • BMW used AMP and Progressive Web Apps (PWA) to improve page speed under all conditions. The result? Nearly 4x more users clicked from BMW.com to a BMW sales site.

The Case for Mobile in 2021

If the mobile-index isn’t a compelling enough reason to make sure mobile is top of mind in your organization — there are other search engines, right?! — then consider these stats:

  • Google captures 95% of the mobile search engine market in the U.S. (Statista)
  • 60% of Google searches are done via mobile devices. Only five years ago, the figure was nearly half that—34%. (Statista)
  • Whereas mobile Google searchers click on an organic result 41% of the time, desktop Google searchers do so 62% of the time. That means you better be present, and you better be at the top of SERP. (Moz)

But also, consider your customer. Mobile searches aren’t plateauing. Mobile traffic has consistently accounted for about half of all global web traffic since 2017, and is anticipated to continue growing. If customers can’t find or engage with your brand on a mobile device, then they’ll go elsewhere. Give them a reason to stay. Get on board with giving your customers the best mobile experience you possibly can. Both Google and your site visitors will reward you.

And if you need help, let us know.

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Deadly Pitfalls of Multi-Location Digital Marketing

Don't make these local marketing mistakes.

As I embark on my yearly quest to watch as many horror movies as emotionally possible, I find myself screaming the same questions at the characters — “why do you insist on staying in THAT house?” and, “WHO thought it was a good idea to let the toddler keep the wooden doll?”

It’s a tale as old as time — scary movie protagonists put themselves in deadly situations by making the same mistakes. At GPO, we’ve noticed a comparable pattern when it comes to multi-location digital marketing — with many enterprise brands falling prey to similar, preventable pitfalls. Learn what they are and how to avoid them by following along as we take a ride on the spookier side of multi-location digital marketing.

Having Inconsistent Data

Whether you’re dealing with 100 locations or 5000 storefronts, data integrity can be hard to maintain — particularly when a large share of those locations is franchisee-owned. Keeping brand voice and messaging consistent across the board while maintaining accurate store hours and service offerings for each location is tough!

Moreover, when data inconsistencies arise, patrons can show up to one of your locations expecting a product or service, only to find said location is closed, or worse — in the wrong address! Situations like these not only hurt the individual operators, but they are detrimental to your organization as a whole.

Partnering with an organization that helps you consolidate all your locations’ data — distributing it to your local listings, GMB profiles, and pertinent aggregators will ensure data accuracy and save you the grief of death by inconsistent data.

Not Having Location Pages

Look at your mobile search history. What do you see? If you’re like most people, you see one or two embarrassing searches and a few that say “[service/product] near me.” And just like your search history contains local queries, prospective customers are likely searching for your company’s products and services near them.

But if you’re in charge of digital marketing for a franchise-based or multi-location business with hundreds or thousands of storefronts or service areas, how do you make sure you capture searches across each state, city, and zip code that you serve?

Search-optimized location pages are essential for your brand to rank at the local level across thousands of localities (and adjacent cities). According to Search Engine Journal, location pages help consumers find your brand at the top of the map pack and organic search results, especially when linked to from GMB profiles.

Additionally, even when consumers enter your website through other channels, optimized location pages offer a superior user experience that answers critical questions about each storefronts’ operations and services.

If you think you can get away with creating one locator page with the phrase “near me” stuffed into the content 30 times, don’t! Google recognizes local intent and serves searchers with results that match their actual locations, meaning you need individual pages for each store. Without them, customers will have to turn to third-party sites for each storefront’s business info, or worse, they could just look to the top of the map pack and find directions to your competitor’s nearest store.

Settling for Subpar Location Pages

Conventional wisdom says a location page for a multi-location business should have the store’s name, address, phone number, and a map. But, conventional business is the same thing your competitors have, and if you want to outperform them, you have to outsmart them with excellent location pages.

Excellent location pages:

  • Have rich content that showcases FAQs about the store, such as hours, product/service availability, and specialties.
  • Include fast-loading interactive maps that allow searchers to toggle between locations while displaying accurate information about each one.
  • Have a mobile-friendly, responsive design with a focus on PageSpeed.
  • Offer custom modules for locations to display offers, reviews, jobs, events, and additional content.
  • Don’t have duplicate (or near duplicate) content, which search engines flag as low-quality. For example, when Google spots duplicate content, it’ll attempt to identify the original page and then deindex all others.
  • Use a strategic linking strategy to connect your main website, your location page, and the store’s GMB profile.

Well-established multi-location or service area-based businesses with poorly executed location pages will not only lose traffic and calls, but they also reflect poorly on the broader organization behind them, hurting the brand overall.

Trying to Survive on Branded Terms Alone

Say you’re a quick-service restaurant with a focus on Mediterranean fare, you have 250 stores across all 50 states, and your top-seller is the lamb gyro. However, on your marketing and supply chain teams’ advice, you decide to introduce more vegetarian dishes to your nationwide menu. Outside of expensive and short-lived PPC/social campaigns, how can you ensure that you’re capturing traffic for these new offerings?

Deploying unique, localized content-at-scale that centers around your ancillary offerings (e.g., vegetarian kebabs in {{City}}) can help your brand capture non-branded local searches. This can help drive calls, clicks, and visits from falafel-starved individuals who aren’t seeking your brand out by its name or signature offerings, but instead happen upon it thanks to localized content that solves their problems, or in this case, satisfies their craving. Not creating localized content around your product/service categories leaves gaps open for your competitors.

At GPO, we regularly run competitive search audits that compare ownership of SERP market share across the major players in different industries. This helps us identify low-hanging ranking opportunities that our clients’ competitors are not capitalizing on, and build local content-at-scale around them. If you’re on the marketing team for a multi-location business, chances are we already have an audit with your company’s name on it — contact GPO to get it.

How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Multi-Location Digital Marketing

There’s a scene in Scary Movie where Carmen Electra is fleeing from Scream, and as she runs through the house looking for ways to defend herself, she chooses a banana over a grenade, a knife, and a gun. Don’t be like Carmen!

When defining a strategy for your multi-location business’s marketing, arm your brand with the right team, tools, and platforms for the job, including optimized location pages with unique content and accurate data that’s distributed and curated with care. Learn how GPO’s Localize Content can help your brand build an empire of unique local pages and ensure data accuracy across major aggregators by booking a demo with us today.

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5 Steps to Winning the Organic Search Battle

Follow these steps and rise in the SERP ranks.

The battle for top-ranking organic search positions never ends. Many opponents stand on the sides of this enormous battlefield — Google algorithms, core updates, big and small business websites, enormous online retail conglomerates, and more, are always jostling for digital influence.

With so many players in the arena, it can be pretty tough — and intimidating! — to start the push to the front lines of the top SERP spots. And while there’s no magic formula to guarantee positions 1-10, we’ve rounded up five steps that can help you win the organic search battle and turn up the heat on the competition!

Implement Technical SEO Best Practices

The first step in achieving high search visibility is to make sure your site is actually optimized to rank! By implementing SEO best practices across all of your site’s pages, you are laying the groundwork for Google to consider your site worthy of a top SERP spot. Here are just a few SEO best practices you’ll definitely want to utilize.

  • Optimize title tags on every page.
  • Optimize meta descriptions on every page.
  • Add canonical tags to similar pages to help eliminate duplicate content and duplicate URL errors.
  • Resolve 404s, 500s, and redirects across the site to ensure each page is indexable.
  • Utilize Google’s Pagespeed tool to identify opportunities to improve load time across your site.
  • Ensure your sitemap includes all the indexable pages. If you don’t have a sitemap, build and submit a sitemap.

Starting the optimization process across your site can seem daunting — especially if your site has grown into thousands of pages. But getting the ball rolling on a few SEO best practices can help you quickly become a contender in the first-page battle arena.

Publish Local Content with a Purpose

If you operate a smaller site for your location-based business, there’s a chance you are already optimizing your site for local search, you just don’t know it. Including city and state-specific language in your content helps Google favor and understand your site when a searcher is in your area.

But what if you operate on a national level and want to appeal to that same local searcher? You still need to create local content to show Google that your products and services are relevant for every state, city, zip code, and nearby area that you serve (or could potentially serve). That content must be unique and genuinely valuable to a searcher (no geo stuffing!). Speak to your products and services in a way that’s personal, well-researched, and easy to read. Tie your brand to the searcher’s intent and location. Having unique, relevant local content is one of the biggest SERP differentiators for national brands with a big footprint.

(Are you at this step and wondering how the heck you’re supposed to write localized content for your national brand? GPO has the answers you’re looking for. Just ask us how!)

Curate Business Listings

So, you’ve got your site technically optimized, and your local content pages are running full speed ahead. Now it’s time to curate your business listings if you have physical store locations. There are some staggering statistics on the effectiveness of curating your local presence — such as the fact that 88% of searches for local businesses resulted in either a visit or call to the business within 24 hours.

People are looking for you. They want to find you. Make it easy for them by monitoring and keeping your Google My Business listings up to date! Make sure your business hours are accurate, your contact information is up to date, the images of your locations are recent, and that any information that Google sees fit to display on the SERP is 100% correct.

As an added bonus for you, make sure you are connecting your local listings to your local content pages to boost search visibility!

Develop Search-Optimized Content

At the core of every Google search result is content. The words on the page tell Google what that page is all about and why Google should deliver it as a relevant result to a searcher. Gone are the days of keyphrase stuffing and keyword meta tags. Nowadays, the goal is to create high-quality, keyphrase-rich content that resonates with readers and search engines. You have to serve both the person and Google by providing rich, relevant content to truly start winning the search battle. At GPO, that means the content must be:

  • Genuinely helpful to customers
  • Aligned with the brand, business goals, and audience
  • Optimized for search, both technically and semantically

Measure, Analyze, Iterate!

Finally, it’s time to track your progress. As with any marketing effort, it’s crucial to measure your KPIs, analyze insights, and adjust tactics as necessary. Track your progress through detailed monthly reports. Look at month-over-months, quarter-over-quarters, and year-over-years to help paint a vivid picture of where you were and where you are, and use it to determine where you want to be.

When it comes to implementing these five organic search best practices, consider it a “wash, rinse, repeat” practice where you continuously monitor, evaluate, and adjust accordingly. As we said, the battle for organic search is an ever-ongoing fight for the top, with some tactics taking months to show results! But if you’re going to win the battle, you first have to join the fight.

How to Optimize Your Content for Google Discover

Get more clicks and traffic when you optimize your content for Google Discover.

More clicks and more impressions. You want ’em; Google’s got ’em – specifically within Discover.

Google Discover presents users with content that is tailored to their search history and interests. No two Discover feeds look the same! You can experience Google Discover in the Google app, on the Google.com mobile homepage, and by swiping right from the home screen on Pixel phones.

Since Discover feeds are customized for users, the content typically has a very high click-through rate. I’ve seen average CTRs of 6-12%, and that’s normal!

While there are no strict guidelines to follow to guarantee that your content is featured in Discover, there are best practices that will give your content a fighting chance – and they’re not so hard to do.

What is Google Discover?

“Discover is a feature within Google Search that helps users stay up-to-date on all their favorite topics, without needing a query,” Google explains.

The feature launched in 2018 and now helps 800M+ monthly active users “get inspired and explore new information by surfacing articles, videos, and other content on topics they care most about.”

Content doesn’t have to be brand new to surface in users’ Discover feeds. It just has to be indexed by Google. No structured data or special tags are required. Google’s goal is to surface “the best of the web regardless of publication date.” This includes recipes, how-to guides, human interest stories, fashion videos, sweepstakes, and more.

Getting Featured in Google Discover

I’m a realist (not a pessimist!), so I need to tell you a couple of things.

First, “there is no way to create content that explicitly targets Discover’s interest matching.” Discover marks the start of a new era – the searchless search! Second, being featured in Discover won’t fix an existing traffic problem. Discover traffic should be considered supplemental to your current search traffic.

And finally, Discover traffic can be a little erratic, and that’s okay! Take a look at the following 6-month insights from Google Search Console’s Discover. Peaks and troughs are the industry norm.

Take the following steps, however, and you’ll be doing everything you can to win attention in Google Discover and the organic space as a whole.

1. Be Mobile Friendly

Discover is only available on tablets and smartphones. If your content isn’t mobile-friendly, you won’t be featured in Discover. This one is an easy-ish fix!

Ensure your mobile experience is as good as your desktop experience. That means intrusive ads or pop-ups are minimal or non-existent. Images are properly sized and compressed. Content loads fast.

If possible, optimize for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). AMP is a method of creating lightweight, super fast-loading content for mobile devices. AMP content features less code and fewer extraneous elements, so users experience almost instant load times and seamless content scrolling.

2. Produce Best-in-Class Content

Like Bumble dates, friends, and bean burritos — quality matters!

Google wants to help users discover new, kicka$$ content that they may not have experienced yet. But what IS kicka$$ content?

“Ensure that you are posting outstanding and engaging content that you think users would find interesting,” Google advises.

Let’s break that down. Outstanding and engaging content is:

  • Genuinely helpful. It’s well-researched and covers a topic to the degree that satisfies the searcher’s question and intent. This coverage level typically requires more than 500 words, plus quotes, statistics, hyperlinks, and multiple sections with subheaders. If your content isn’t better (in some way) than what’s already ranking, you have little hope of being featured in Discover.
  • Aligned with the brand and business goals. The content matches your brand’s products, services, and general reputation with Google. Speak to topics and problems that you can be perceived as an authority on.
  • Optimized for search, both technically and semantically. Do your keyphrase research! Write about topics that are informed by keyphrases people are actually searching for, then include these phrases and similar language throughout. Use H2s, H3s, etc. to structure your piece. Include bulleted and numbered lists. All of the above is good for users and good for Google.

SEMRush (one of our fav tools) adds, you can improve your content quality by using “more long-tail keywords, semantic keywords phrases, high-quality images, and illustrative graphics to optimize your post.”

Side note: If you’re producing quality content, you’re observing Google’s content policies and search quality rating guidelines.

3. Include High-Quality Visuals

Google gives specific guidelines for Discover images. Google recommends, “including compelling, high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover. Large images need to be at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting, or by using AMP. Avoid using a site logo as your image.”

4. Publish Both Fresh and Evergreen Content

Creating timely content along with evergreen (always relevant) content is essential. I’ve seen how-to shopping guides surface in Discover and garner steady clicks and impressions for months, but I’ve also seen sweepstakes articles be featured for a month, skyrocket in clicks, and then fall off the Discover radar. Some search analysts argue that the average lifespan of a post in the Discover feed is between 2 and 3 days, but it might depend on vertical and content type.

To succeed in your Google Discover strategy, reports Search Engine Journal, your content must be a mix of:

  • Evergreen pieces (updated to reflect accurate information)
  • Pieces following the latest industry trends
  • News around relevant topics and creating information opinion pieces around them

Get Discovered with GPO!

If you’re already writing about topics and problems you know your target audience is interested in, Google Discover is a great place to get in front of the right people. All you need to do is shore up the experience by making sure it’s mobile-friendly, adding quality images, and publishing regularly. And GPO can help! Reach out today. Our content team has been grabbing Google Discover feed attention from the get-go, and we’d love to apply what we’ve learned to help your brand get an outrageous number of clicks and impressions from Google Discover.