SEO, Content Strategy & The Ranking Brain

Google SEO and Artificial Intelligence

Ready to meet an Artificial Intelligence? You already have — every time you do a Google Search you are working with one.

Google calls it’s AI, “RankBrain”, and while only an infant, it already thinks for itself.  That’s called “machine learning.  According to a recent SearchEngineLand.com (SEL) article, “Machine learning is where a computer teaches itself how to do something, rather than being taught by humans or following detailed programming.”

According to wikipedia, “RankBrain is a machine learning artificial intelligence system, the use of which by Google was confirmed on 26 October 2015. It helps Google to process search results and provide more relevant search results for users.[1] In a recent interview, Google commented that RankBrain is the third most important factor in the ranking algorithm along with links and content.”

SEL also reports that all of a sudden, RankBrain is the 3rd most important “ranking signal.”  What are ranking signals?  Again, from that SEL article, “Signals are things Google uses to help determine how to rank webpages. For example, it will read the words on a webpage, so words are a signal. If some words are in bold, that might be another signal that’s noted. The calculations used as part of PageRank give a page a PageRank score that’s used as a signal. If a page is noted as being mobile-friendly, that’s another signal that’s registered.”

“There are over 200 different ranking factors[4] which make up the ranking algorithm, of which their exact functions in the Google algorithm are not fully disclosed, so it is impossible to know with 100% certainty. The general consensus is that RankBrain interprets the user searches to find pages that may not have contained the exact words that were used in the user search query.” — Wikipedia entry for Rankbrain

SEO Periodic Table from SearchengineLand.com

Feed the RankBrain: The above chart (click to enlarge), along with other research, form the evolving models for best SEO practice we follow (produced by SearchEngineLand.com).

We asked our resident SEO Expert, Julie Hume, what she makes of the RankBrain impact on SEO these days:

In the relatively short time since its deployment, RankBrain has quickly risen to become Google’s third highest ranking factor. Initially, it was launched to handle the 15% of new searches that Google had never seen before but it clearly did a stellar job because now RankBrain is used “…to process every query that the search engine handles, and the system is changing the rankings of lots of queries.” Wow. Talk about coming out of left-field.

Realizing the influence of RankBrain and that it is not going to go away, you might think, well, let’s just optimize for RankBrain. And that right there is the kicker. You can’t optimize for RankBrain.
There are no direct ways to optimize for RankBrain but what you can do is make sure the content on your site is written in natural language, that it serves the searchers’ intent and that visitors engage with and interact with your site. Which is what Google have wanted all along isn’t it –  less artificial ranking signals and more quality content.  Well played Google, well played. — Julie Hume

Recently a couple of clients have asked us about our SEO education (it is always continuing), why we mention it less than CRO — Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO is newer, not as well known, and we just wrote a book about it), and how we stay up to date on SEO.  There are a few ways we stay up to date including reviewing leading research models like the infographic from SEL at right (click to enlarge), and MOZ survey of SEO professionals with a polling of top ranking factors in their work.

What does this mean for your SEO success these days?

So… how do we put this all together for our clients?  First, Google continues to stress that we should all worry about good, relevant content first, and let it worry about the science behind its machine intelligence.  This has been true even before computers — in marketing communications, quality content wins every time.  In addition we take the following steps:

  • Four members of our team train regularly on SEO principles so we incorporate the latest factors into our writing and editing
  • We use market leading SEO WordPress plugins like “Yoast” WordPress SEO
  • We use top research and SEO project management software like SEMrush (this software also factors in other search engine marketing data and indicators from online advertisements in addition to organic SEO)
  • We seek to remain friends with the all powerful RankBrain AI — we want to feed it “food” that makes it happy  🙂
  • For those of you working with us on a full SEO marketing campaign (6 month minimum) we track and report goals and progress via a dynamic visual dashboard:
Webdirexion SEO campaign clients dashboard

Webdirexion SEO campaign clients enjoy reviewing progress toward goals on a smart dashboard accessible across devices.

 

 

 

Facebook Kapow Split Test & How You Know It’s Done

Webdirexion Testing Kapow Campaign

Kapow: How split testing + Facebook audience engagement pays off — before your ad campaign (and after).

We do a lot of split testing at Webdirexion because it causes our content to perform better for clients and our agency itself.  Too many content marketers and web designers think they are done after their “first guess” at compelling copy and design.  Not so.  Better engagement of qualified prospects means more sales, so why would you not test for this?

In this post I’ll tell you about a Facebook pre-test “Kapow” tactic that helps you get your content optimized better results before a higher advertising spend.  Then I’ll answer the oft-asked question… how do you know when you have enough of a test sample so that your results are valid?  Quick tip — the wider the percentage of conversion results, the sooner you can end the test; see below.

Facebook Pre-Test Kapow Tactic:  We call this the Facebook Kapow, because for a relatively low cost, you can optimize your content to really pay off for you in terms of ROI.  And, yes — that’s for B2B marketing as well as B2C marketing because Facebook, like Google’s Adwords, has developed demographic targeting. Here are the steps we recommend:

  • Set up an A/B copy and/or image test for 3-5 blog posts.  Each post should be informative, but also ask for a conversion (ie. the posts we are testing offer a free eBook in exchange for an email)
  • Boost the posts to a smartly targeted audience on Facebook for about $30 – $50 each.
  • Run these boosted posts until you learn two things:  the winning version for each post, and which was more impactful on Facebook.  You look for engagement to determine “impact”:
    Facebook Impact posts

    Above, if one post causes significantly more engagement, it becomes a good candidate for further advertisement.

  • Once you have reached enough people on FB (shoot for around 1,000), determine the top 1-2 posts in terms of engagement.
  • At the same time — test a headline, lede, and/or a graphic on those posts for which version causes more people to engage AFTER they reach the post itself.  You are now testing for two key conversion results — engagement (“impact”) on Facebook, then reads on the post itself (those that continue to read your entire post instead of bouncing away).  This is heart of the “Kapow” factor.
  • After you get this far, you can have a great confidence in the top performing post(s) for further advertising, with the side benefit of having tested to optimize readership of the 3-5 posts on which you did a split test.   Do a larger campaign on Google Adwords.

Write 3-5 helpful posts, relating to your business, that are informative and also ask for a conversion.  Remember not to make them “corporate” or too “salesy”.  Just help people.  Do a split test for each post to find the best performing Headline, Lede, and/or graphic for “readership”.  Test each for best impact on Facebook.  Pick both the Facebook winner(s) and the split test winning version, and expand your advertising for the optimized post version.  Still another side benefit of this approach is that your editing team better understands what business related stories your readers want to read.  Kapow.

How do you know when you have enough tests in the bag to declare a winner?  Good question.  I confess — even though I took a statistics course in college, the math is something I’d like to avoid.  Fortunately there are some helpful split testing calculators online.  First, we’ll look at an example post test result using “Divi” the WordPress platform that has built in split testing, then a calculation of how close we are to determining a winner:

Webdirexion subhead split test

So far, our subhead/lede split test is showing one version with 67% stronger results — but is the test over?

Version B looks like a winner, but we need to be statistically satisfied before we end the test.  Here’s what one online split test calculator has to say about this (try it yourself at Conversioner.com):

Conversioner Split Test Calculator

Conversioner calculator shows 85% confidence version B will win.  Note that if you had a higher conversion rate, say 180%, you could end your test earlier.

Hmmm 85% is good?  Well, yes, but not enough to yet be valid, according the art and science of statistics.  We all know how “exit polls” and other research can be proven wrong, so the higher you can get toward 100% (most conversion scientists recommend at least 95% certainty) the better your results will prove to be.

I can just hear the CFO/accountant asking, so how many more do we need for this test, and what will that cost?  There’s another calculation site by “Dr. Pete” that performs a similar analysis, then specifies the “number of additional visitors” required.  In our case this comes out to 698 additional visitors.  So the answer to the CFO’s question is usually around 1000 total visitors, and the initial cost on Facebook between $30 – $40.  Not a bad ad spend cost to get your content optimized for conversions, right?

Kapow Tactic Campaign:  Wedirexion will be pleased to serve you with a turn-key 5-post Facebook Kapow test and Facebook ad campaign — contact us today (and yes… we are testing this post too… to improve how many visitors read down to this offer  🙂 ).

Winning Content Marketing: Testing your Message House

Use the message house strategy to guide your content marketing teamsIn this post, I’ll suggest two solutions — one from the R.A.C.E. digital marketing strategy we practice at Wedirexion, and one from our favorite marketing tactic — split testing.

Building a Smart Content Message House

You’ve been reading your analytics and your bounce rate is too high. In R.A.C.E. marketing strategy, one concept used to focus on better copy writing is what we call the “Message House”. You proceed from an umbrella statement to core messages and end with supporting evidence and proof points, like this: (more…)

WordPress Sites with Built-in Split Testing

We’re WordPress specialists and also literally wrote a book on CRO — Conversion Rate Optimization — so we were very pleased when a market leading theme developer upped their game and added A/B testing for over 30 modules (like slideshows, tabbed boxes, images, and text components) that are also part of the theme.

Split Testing with Divi

Split testing = more leads and customers.

It’s called Divi from Elegant Themes, and aside from the fact it makes layout go much faster with modular components, now with split testing (we sometimes call this “A/B” testing since it is common to test two variations of landing pages, but with this tool you can actually test several more variations) we like it so much we have been using it on all our recent projects including the new Old Town Portland site, The brand new design for Croc’s Casino Resort, and for ProtoCall Services (design by Smith Creative Group) — one of our healthcare clients.  This is cutting edge for smart content strategy. (more…)

Digital Marketing Checklist for Chief Marketing Officers

How do you make your Content Marketing pay off?  We’ve prepared a high-level checklist to help you.

Rocket toward marketing reach with webdirexionAt Webdirexion LLC, our team uses a marketing model known as “R.A.C.E.” (Reach, Act, Convert, Engage) to organize strategic thinking, the tactics that flow from it, and measurements to meet and exceed goals.

We’ve found this helps solve a lot of the challenges marketer’s face as shown on the chart at right.  Take a look at the top three, and ask yourself how you now measure content effectiveness?  Shouldn’t you see direct results in terms of engagement and leads?  We think so.

The diagram at right (click to enlarge) represents a top level view of R.A.C.E. cycle marketing with the marketing funnel for leads and new customers in the middle. (more…)

Fort Lauderdale Hotel SEO Audit

Relevance. Are you aware that Google places relevance as the prime indicator for how highly a site ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs)? Google lives or dies on serving the most relevant returns in order of priority.

It’s one thing to be relevant to the “Google bot” so you rank well, but how can you tell if your website is relevant to your target audience? At Webdirexion, we use SEO site comparison audits, along with other tools, in order to determine what is working well, and what isn’t. And, in order to check your relevance to your specific target “personas”, we always recommend you first outline their pain points and motivators, then track your conversion rate results.  In this article, we focus on SEO and compare two websites in the hotel industry, an industry we specialize in, to consider how both websites could improve their SEO and Content Marketing.

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What is Content Marketing?

Today’s marketing landscape is one that is constantly evolving. With technology improving and spreading as fast as it is, marketers have to keep up with what is new in order to stay relevant. The past several years have seen the rise of social media and mobile usage, a trend that is not going anywhere anytime soon. With this knowledge, brands trying to capture their audience’s attention can no longer rely on traditional forms of advertising.

So how do brands market their products? What does “advertising” look like today? While there is no one answer to that question, one particular marketing strategy that brands frequently use is content marketing.

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Recent Video Marketing Trends

Recent Video Marketing Trends

Video marketing is on the increase… and all research shows it potentially out performs all other types of online ads.

As web technology moves more toward mobile surfing, and digital assistants become more popular along with a rise in social media video advertising, we thought it would be a good time to review some video marketing trends.  After a bit of research on recent video marketing trends we found the following statistics:

  • Video ads have an average click-through rate of 1.84%.  Not bad.  This is up to three times the average for a standard PPC ad.’
  • 65% of viewers watch more than 65% of a video.  Again, another strong engagement factor.
  • Using the word “video” in an email subject line can boost open rates by up to 19%, with CTR — Click Through Rates — boosted as much as 50%.  This of course will depend on how well you have targeted your email recipients and how interesting they might find the subject(s) of your videos to be.
  • Marketing surveys rank videos high for ROI, and also show that professional marketers are planning on using videos more in 2016 and 2017.

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Lunch and Learn Lead Gathering with Marketing Expert Scott Frangos

Scott Frangos, President of Webdirexion LLC

Meet Scott Frangos, “chief optimizer” for Webdirexion — the Digital Marketing Agency

Wednesday May 25th, Noon – 1pm • Boomerang Coffee Shop, 8th and Main Street in Vancouver

Webdirexion Publishing, a division of Webdirexion LLC, is pleased to announce a lunch and learn for business people and marketer’s based on the recently published Marketer’s Concise Guide to CRO. Available in print and e-book format, the guide helps online marketers convert website visitors into customers using proven conversion rate optimization (CRO) tactics.

The book was distributed in February for a workshop by conference leaders at the Medical Device Marketing Summit in Tampa, Florida, and and continues to sell with good ratings on Amazon.com and reviews also available on GoodReads.com.

“Every business needs to grow their prospect list.  I wrote the book I wish I’d had when I was starting our agency,” explains Scott Frangos, the guide’s author and founder and president of Webdirexion LLC — a digital marketing agency. “We wrote it to get marketers quickly up to speed, and to help them gather more qualified leads, in smart ways using newer tactics and technology.”

The short lunch and learn presentation followed by a book signing is scheduled for this May 25th during the noon hour, at downtown Vancouver’s Boomerang Coffee House & Generosity Shop (808 Main Street). Join us for a lunch break with the author, who will speak briefly on smart ways to gather more qualified business leads and customers. Guests will be entered to win a copy of the book and coffee, tea, & snacks will be served.

Books, Snacks, and Generosity at Boomerang Coffee Shop:

BoomerangMap

The book will be offered only at this event for 10% off retail price, and another 40% will be donated to the good causes supported by Boomerang, “a generosity shop with a special mission.”  

Join us at the Boomerang Coffee Shop (where generosity returns) — Wednesday May 25th, Noon – 1pm • 8th and Main in Vancouver

There will be CRO Guides for sale at 10% OFF, plus 40% of proceeds goes to local charities.

How R.A.C.E. Process Strategy Impacts Digital Marketing

[Editor’s Note:  This is the third in a series on the primary focus areas of R.A.C.E. Digital Marketing:  Reach; Act; Convert; Engage.  We will expand on these articles to create longer guides for Digital Marketers and make them available at our training division site: CollegeofMarketingPros.org]

What is R.A.C.E.?

R.A.C.E. is a planning framework that you can apply to your digital marketing practices that uses critical thinking to develop a customized, agile, and strategic approach to your business’ unique needs. Smart Insights. introduced the model we have adopted that outlines the R.A.C.E. Process Strategy (RPS).

RACE Marketing Strategy KPIs

R.A.C.E. Process Strategy KPIs – image according to the Smart Insights R.A.C.E. Model.

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