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Deep changes in the CDP space

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Deep changes in the CDP space

There’s a sense of tectonic shift in the marketing technology space right now. Of course, it’s a space which has been growing and evolving at a staggering pace for some ten years. I’m talking about more fundamental change.

Think of marketing automation, CRM and customer data as three of the tectonic plates which make up marketing technology’s crust. They’re moving. Imperceptibly, perhaps, at the level of day-to-day operations and campaigns, but discernibly at a more strategic level. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the new configuration of marketing technology will be – but I think I know the right question to ask: What is the future of the customer data platform? Will CDPs take over the activate-and-execute role of marketing automation? Will they supersede CRM as repositories of customer data?

Boom or bust for independent CDPs?

It’s easy – and accurate – to think of the CDP category as large and growing. There’s a lot of interest in CDPs, especially, but not only, from enterprise B2C brands trying to personalize engagement with their customers at scale. At the same time, independent CDPs, some of them well-established and well-known, are being gobbled up at an unprecedented rate by more comprehensive marketing suites or digital experience platforms.

AgilOne acquired by Acquia, Segment by Twilio, Zylotech by Terminus, Boxever by Sitecore, Zaius by Optimizely, BlueVenn by Upland Software, Exponea by Bloomreach: That’s a trend. At the same time, independent CDPs like Treasure Data, Amperity, Tealium and Blueshift raised significant amounts in funding this year.

Is the independent CDP category under threat or not? I asked Tasso Argyros, the founder and CEO of a leading enterprise CDP, ActionIQ, what’s going on.

“My view is that the independent CDPs that have been sold so far were either struggling to break through and had given up on being leaders of the CDP category, or they weren’t core CDPs – by core CDPs I mean the CX hub.” An example of the first kind, AgilOne, was such an early entrant to the category that its product was built on outdated technology, he said.

“In the other category are companies like Segment. Segment was a tag manager and they were trying to expand more towards intelligence and orchestration, but the reality is that their roots were in capturing and moving pieces of data around, not so much in doing analytics and orchestration – so it was hard for them to compete as an enterprise standalone.”

Argyros, naturally, sees an opportunity for ActionIQ to be the dominant independent player in the space. “That opportunity is massive and it would be too early for us to sell right now. That being said, how much space is there for dominant CDP platforms? I think two or three at most. Everyone else will get acquired at the end of the day – that’s my prediction.”

Part of the value proposition of an independent CDP, he explained, is to enable a best-of-breed stack. Adopting an Adobe or Oracle or Salesforce CDP can have the effect of locking brands in to other solutions from those big players. “You go with ActionIQ, you can have a truly best-of-breed stack. We play well with anyone.”

Treasure Data, another CDP with large enterprise brands on its client list, raised $234 million in venture funding in November. Founder and CEO Kazuki Ohta echoed Argyros’s observations. “The vendors who cannot grow faster and cannot raise the money from VCs are obviously trying to find an exit,” he said. “This is a hot industry, it’s a good time to exit.”

Like ActionIQ, Treasure Data’s proffer is vendor neutrality. “It’s sort of like a Switzerland approach,” said Ohta. “

The need for independent CDPs

I turned to one of the closest observers of the category, David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute and an occasional MarTech contributor. “The companies buying them, in most cases, have multichannel delivery systems. Those systems are often acquired and not natively integrated, and they realize they need that CDP to pull the data together to integrate their own systems, as well as pull in data from other channels that they’re not managing. There’s a demand from their buyers for unified data. It’s really hard to build a CDP so it makes more sense to buy one. Easier and quicker.”

Does this trend threaten the independent CDP category? “It certainly shrinks the market for the independents,” he said. “What we expect to happen is that the independents will specialize more in particular niches, making it easier for them to defend their position.”

There will continue to be a need for independent CDPs at the enterprise level, where multiple functions – not just marketing – need to be able to manage and activate customer data. “That’s where ActionIQ sits, that’s where Treasure Data sits,” Raab said. “You need that CDP to be vendor-neutral. Then there will be the verticals, specializing in transport or healthcare or education. We’re seeing a lot of CDPs that are vertical industry specialists and that’s also a defensible position.”

In fact, ActionIQ recently staked its claim as a CDP for the healthcare space, while Treasure Data, which started out selling into marketing organizations, is now explicitly addressing other functions in the enterprise with its CDP for Service and CDP for Sales.

This made sense to Raab. “There are multiple buying centers. Marketing has been the primary one, but customer success has always been a buying center for CDPs. There are paths into companies which are not the marketing path or the IT path or the data team path. There’s a value in department verticalization where you have special features that work best for customer success or for whatever department you’re selling into.”

One thing that puzzled me initially about offering CDPs for what Raab calls departmental verticals is that it surely creates data siloes. Ohta explained: “It’s just a fact that our customer’s organization is siloed and also data is siloed. If you look at the 150-plus CDPs in the market, they’re trying to pitch their product primarily to the marketing department. We’re trying to change our customers’ behavior to use data in every single division so they can better serve their customers in every part of the customer journey.”

The next step, then, is to pull together the profiles in marketing and service and sales siloes, to produce a comprehensive view? “Yes,” said Ohta, “of course.”

Next generation campaign management

It’s practically received wisdom that not every solution offered as a CDP is a real CDP, but in fact it might be accurate to say that there have always been different types of CDP. The distinctions are becoming starker as some CDPs aim to be not just the single source of truth on customers, but the hub for orchestrating and delivering customer experiences.

This type of full-service CDP goes by various names. Vijay Chittoor, founder and CEO of Blueshift, calls CDPs which deliver profile unification, audience segmentation and campaign activation “smart hub” CDPs, a term borrowed from Gartner. Argyros talks about CDPs as the “CX hub” or “next generation campaign management.”

“There are a couple of types of CDP in the market,” said Ohta. “One is the vendors that came from a tag management space where they focus on the website and mobile data collection side. The other one is more on the activation, the execution side. There’s a lot of confusion around the category itself, I admit.” Treasure Data, said Ohta, could expand into execution, but it positions itself as being able to activate the data, but feeding it into other solutions – ESPs, messagine channels and so on – for execution.

The idea that the main job of the CDP should be to connect data is just wrong, Argyros told me. “We do it because we have to.” How much depends on whether the client has their data in order. “Connecting data is a means to an end, and if we don’t have to connect data we love that. We can deploy faster. What the CDP is becoming,” he said, “is essentially a next generation campaign management platform and a next generation customer intelligence platform.”

He continued: “In the past, campaign management was completely disconnected from the data, because there wasn’t much data to begin with. Now that you have terabytes and terabytes of data, your campaign management platform has to do very large-scale data processing. What you see is a collapse of the data mart that was used for campaigns into a single stack that’s called a CDP today. It’s like campaign management 3.0.”

Customer intelligence is critical too, Argyros argues. The tools for doing customer intelligence outside a CDP are inherently limited. Web analytics is restricted to website activity. Business intelligence gives good aggregate level data but cannot provide customer journey level insights. “The CDP has become the de facto place to gather intelligence and tie it really well with campaigns. You go from data to intelligence to action in the same platform, which is the CDP.”

Read next: Enterprise Customer Data Platforms: A marketer’s guide

Will smart hub CDPs make marketing automation redundant?

Raab doesn’t see CDPs usurping the role of MA. “Most marketing automation systems are really sending out emails primarily and there are some CDPs that can send out emails.” He offered Algonomy as an example of a CDP with core email marketing capabilities.

“There’s quite a few that have very strong delivery capabilities, channel-facing capabilities, and they’re absolutely doing what marketing automation can do,” he said. “In other cases, not so much. Marketing automation often has a B2B flavor to it and there’s a close integration with the CRM system. You have a bunch of specialist features that you’re getting from a marketing automation system that may not be built into a CDP.”

There’s also a key difference in the way data is structured in marketing automation and CDPs, he added. “You have a big bulk data store that stores everything in all the gruesome detail – semi-structured at best.” That’s the CDP. “Then you have a more structured data store that does all your segmentation and runs your marketing automation and so on. You’re always going to have basically two different kinds of technology, each doing what they’re best at. Are they in the same system? Great, that saves you some trouble.”

About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.


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Chatbot Improving Customer Experience in Online Business

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Chatbot Improving Customer Experience in Online Business

Globally, more people are using smartphones now. The use of text-based chatbots is the most significant trend that has been noticed. Although we think of the chatbots for current smartphones as rudimentary, it is anticipated that the automated discussions on which the chatbots are based will become more valuable. The chatbots offer customers recommendations.

Here’s the explanation for those who are yet to have a better understanding of the term.

What is a Chatbot?

Artificially intelligent chatbots that automate customer interactions are likely the most promising technology in the digital era. Businesses like Facebook are spending much money creating and promoting their Facebook Messenger platform and adding a Developer SDK and Messenger API. You can create your chatbot if you know some programming and technical jargon.

A Chatbot is a computer application that uses a messaging platform or app to communicate digitally with consumers. Enterprise chatbots often use big data and artificial intelligence to learn more intelligently about people with each contact. To achieve this, they employ a system of neural networks, which technologically mimic the enormous connections in the human brain.

As artificial intelligence technology advances, AI-based chatbots will gradually be adopted into all human-computer interactions across all industries.

Factors That Influenced The Need For ChatBots in Various Industry Segments

  • It’s difficult to dispute the rising popularity of texting apps. The development of artificial intelligence technology has raised the bar for chatbots.
  • AI increases the accuracy of machine parsing and understanding of requests by up to 90% when used in conjunction with natural language processing.
  • Sophisticated notifications that are always on across devices and take into account the situation’s context are another essential element.
  • The personalization of virtual communication and the capacities of predictive aid were enhanced by the accelerated development of all types of sensors and wearables, as well as analytics and data science.
  • The chatbot’s functionality is expanded further by the payment integration to other parties via APIs.

A new challenge for businesses and ability offers, chatbot app development, has every opportunity of becoming one of the hottest trends.

Chatbots Are New Way To Interact With Customers

An AI-based chatbot is one of the newest innovations fostering the expansion of companies with an online presence. Forbes claims that more than 80% of retailers worldwide intend to use online chatbots in marketing in some capacity by 2020. Additionally, it is anticipated that by 2025, the chatbot market will be worth $1.25 billion.

Many companies are working to develop chatbots to assist organisations aiming for automation. Businesses’ marketing and consumer interaction strategies must include chatbots. They support companies by:

  • Facilitating automated user interaction
  • Offer 24/7 customer assistance
  • It produces leads
  • Save time and effort for people
  • Speed up customer response

Chatbots Supporting Key Industrial Verticals

Chatbots assist with everyday conversations, e-commerce, trip arrangements, and more. Today, marketers are employing chatbots more and more extensively to boost e-commerce, particularly concerning younger clients.

The technopreneurs are adamant that chatbots have the potential to raise user shopping cart contents and attract transactions. In addition, chatbots offer more significant potential for consumer involvement and customization while reducing the activities of a customer support representative and sales associate. For instance, the conversational commerce paradigm has been revolutionized by Amazon’s chatbot named “Echo,” which enables users to ask the bot anything they want.

  • You may order a taxi using Uber, another well-known chatbot for messaging apps.
  • For ordering food for delivery home, consider Taco Bell and Domino
  • Users who utilize HelloVote can register to vote.
  • Users may search for and book flights with Icelandair.

Why Should Your Business Consider Implementing ChatBots?

Businesses use many resources in customer service and technical support. Chatbots can also aid in the improvement of this procedure. You will notice that most inbound requests are identical once you have examined them.

You can automate repetitive queries by building a chatbot for your company. Your consumer will value the direct communication from support service that avoids holding on the line and speaking to strangers.

  • By 2023, 86% of customer retention will be handled automatically.
  • ChatBots are the most often employed AI technology in businesses, according to 35% of executives from various sectors.
  • In the next few years, intelligent agents will handle 45% of all mobile interactions.

Taking The Next Leap – Integrating Chatbots

You have probably never noticed one intriguing detail. Millions of various apps are available in in-app marketplaces. However, the research reveals that users spend roughly 24 hours each month using apps, with just five apps receiving 80% of their attention. Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, and WhatsApp are, without a doubt, among them. As a result, it is challenging to launch a new app for your company, but there are still good chances that you will be able to include your chatbot in a platform like Uber Clone App that is used frequently by your users.

From a practical standpoint, bots might provide more efficient and quick user contact. Uber is a good example. When the Uber app is opened, the user can call a taxi with a single button. With the Uber bot, the user can request a car without opening the app by sending a quick message to the Uber Chatbots over their preferred messaging app.

Hence, integrating Chatbots in a Taxi Booking App has the potential to become one of the most popular trends and a brand-new challenge for businesses and software providers.

Moving Forward With Chatbots – Final Thing

Chatbots will ensure better customer service delivery than conventional communication methods.

They are currently greeted with an equal amount of zeal and cynicism regarding their usefulness, but they will eventually gain knowledge and skill. Younger millennials also referred to as “Generation Z,” are expected to be the first to fully adopt bots because messaging apps are their preferred means of communication.

Get ready for bot talk since the time is running out and the bots are rising.

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How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

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How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

You learn about a C-suite decision that will have a transformative impact on your content marketing team. Perhaps, the announcement included one or more of these directives:

  • “We must produce more content and manage multi-platform distribution with greater agility. We plan to add ChatGPT to our editorial capabilities and implement a headless CMS.”
  • “We’re updating our three-year business strategy and need all teams to align their operations around achieving a new set of goals.”
  • “We’ve been acquired. We will be merging many of our business units and will need to relaunch our website so we can tell a more unified story.”

Or maybe it’s another substantive shift in strategy or operations. As a content team leader, whether excited or terrified, you must get your team on board and ensure the initiative succeeds.

Transformational changes are nearly impossible to implement without a clear plan that communicates the desired destination, the motivation to pursue it, and the path to reach it.

Jenny Magic, marketing strategist and professional coach, shares how to do that in a Content Marketing World presentation she co-developed with Melissa Breker.

You can watch the conversation (beginning at 2:30-minute mark) or scroll down to read her recommendations to gather support, clear obstacles, and keep efforts moving in the right direction.

5 sabotages that disrupt transformational changes

Every organization has unique conditions and challenges, but Jenny points out five common barriers that prevent the successful adoption of new priorities and practices:

  • Forced change. When workers don’t understand or agree with the change, they won’t invest in the process, especially if it requires a lot of effort or a long-term investment.
  • Misaligned goals. You can’t sell a change that benefits the company if employees don’t see how it helps them reach their personal or professional goals.
  • Group-speak. Your team may nod in agreement when the CEO says, “We’re all going to do this together, right?” But that enthusiasm might not hold when the boss’ eyes are no longer on them.
  • Rushed process. Team members already overwhelmed with responsibilities don’t give new tasks top priority. Jenny says if you can’t take something off their plate, communicate they won’t be pressured to rush it through.
  • Lack of team alignment. Everyone must be on the same page regarding the direction, intention, and actions required. Without this alignment, tasks fall through the cracks, and all the hard work may not lead to achieving the goal.

Forced change, group-speak, rushed processes can all disrupt transformational changes, says @JennyLMagic via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For your change mission to succeed, your communications plan should account for how you’ll address (or avoid) these obstacles. These details will minimize the friction, lack of participation, and flagging enthusiasm you could have experienced during implementation.


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Plan for the transformation journey

Jenny shares a three-part approach she uses to help her consultancy clients get big ideas off the drawing board, onto team members’ priority lists, and into the marketplace.

1. Establish the destination: What’s changing, why, and what’s involved

To get your team to join the journey of change, they need to know where they’re going. Create a change summary to help with that. The simple map summarizes the relevant details about the change, the phases of implementation, and the benefits gained when the goal is reached.

First, identify the most critical details to communicate. Answer these questions:

  • What’s the nature of the change? What is being done differently, and what does that mean for the business and team? What isn’t changing that might be the stability anchor?
  • Why is it happening? Why does the organization think this change is critical? Why is now the right time to do this?
  • Who’s involved? Who will the change affect? What will they be expected to do? What about their roles, processes, and priorities? Why would they want to participate, and why might they be reluctant?
  • When will it happen? Will the change occur all at once or gradually? What happens at each stage, and which ones will require the content marketing team’s involvement?
  • What are the expected results? What is the organization looking to achieve? What benefits or advantages will it bring? What will the company and team see when the goal is reached?

With these answers, you can build a change summary to share in stakeholder and team member conversations. Any spreadsheet or presentation tool will do, though you can create a template based on the document Jenny uses for her client engagements (below).

The summary of what’s changing appears at the top of the page and details of the most critical elements appear below it. Bulleted notes detail what to expect with each element and the benefits for the business and your team. Lastly, a general timeline outlines each project phase.

2. Load up the crew: Gather support and communicate benefits

To achieve the change goal, all players must agree to travel together and move in the same direction. “If our team is not aligned on where the heck we’re going, there’s literally no chance we’re going to get there,” Jenny says.

Team members who immediately see the value in the initiative might follow your lead without question. But some key players may need a little more convincing. Jenny offers a few ideas to get them on board.

Enlist the support of an active, visible sponsor: Social media shows putting the right influencer behind your pitch can move minds. The same goes for pushing through a big change within an organization. Research from Prosci finds projects with an extremely effective sponsor met or exceeded objectives more than twice as often as those with a very ineffective sponsor.

If you have the support of senior team leaders and high-profile company personnel, ask for their help socializing the change to others. They might seed relevant information in their newsletters and other content they share internally or help shape your change activities and messaging to improve their appeal.

Translate organizational goals into personal motivations: Some team members may reluctantly participate because they perceive an impact on their role. For example, workers may think the added work will strain their already demanding schedules. Others may be skeptical because of negative experiences with similar changes in the past or disbelief that the change might benefit them.

A series of stakeholder conversations can help identify the significant concerns and disconnects that might prevent them from engaging. They also can reveal specific challenges and motivations that you can address with more resonant and appealing messaging.

Translate organizational goals into personal motivations so team members can see how they’ll benefit, says @JennyLMagic via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Some marketing tools you use to influence an audience can help you facilitate those conversations. For example, Jenny says, personas can surface critical insights about who may be impacted by the change and what it might take to nurture them onto the path.

Her personas checklist includes these questions:

  • Who’s leading the change? Do any key sponsors directly relate to the persona’s role?
  • Will this persona be impacted more or less than others?
  • Will they need information more frequently or in greater detail?
  • What reactions will they have?
  • How will you approach training for this persona? What support will be provided?
  • At what phase of the change will they be most affected?

Jenny also recommends using your marketing communication and engagement tools. For example, the simple tracking sheet she developed (below) can help visualize the audience, delivery formats and channels, optimal messages, and approval and final sign-off requirements to mention in your stakeholder discussions.

Choose the right messenger – and a customized message: Sometimes, a disconnect occurs not because of the message but because of the message’s deliverer. For example, employees expect to hear about significant corporate initiatives from executives and senior leaders. But for changes impacting their day-to-day responsibilities, they may prefer to hear from a manager or supervisor who understands their role.

Other times, preventing a disconnect could require tailoring the message to the team’s needs. Jenny suggests focusing on the direct benefits once the initiative is activated. “Consider how it might help them further their career, address something they’re struggling with, or offer an opportunity to explore an area they’re passionate about,” Jenny says.  

Surface hidden issues with confidential interviews: Valid concerns can remain hidden, especially for team members who are reluctant to voice their objections in team meetings. Working one-on-one with a neutral or external moderator – someone with no stake in the decision for change – might help them open up.

Ensure they know the confidential interview results will be aggregated so no individual responses will be identified. “It’s really helpful to get that confessional energy,” Jenny says. “It can help you surface individual reservations, causes of their reluctance, and personal motivations. “

A confidential one-on-one interview with an external moderator can help surface concerns from reluctant team members, says @JennyLMagic via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Jenny shares in her checklist (below) some preliminary questions for a moderator to assess during a confidential interview:

  • How does the individual feel about the change?
  • Is it the right change?
  • Is it the right time?
  • Is it supported enough to succeed?
  • What risks do they predict?
  • Do they have ideas about how we could reduce obstacles and challenges?
  • What lessons from past change efforts can they share with us?
  • Could they become a change champion?

The process can fuel opportunities to shift messaging, positioning, or delivery approach to help the outliers see how the change can benefit them and get them more excited about participating. Jenny says it can also reveal valid concerns that need to be solved so they don’t hinder progress.

3. Hit the road: Position and prepare your team for success

Big changes are always risky. They disrupt the status quo, and if they involve multiple teams and business functions, some changes may feel like a win for some at the expense of others.

Taking a few extra steps before executing your plans can keep those issues from diverting the goal or leaving any team members stranded along the way. “This is where we establish commitment and accountability and think about what could go wrong and how we’re going to deal with it,” Jenny says.

Own up to what you do and don’t know: Ultimately, you can’t plan for every contingency. “You’ll lose trust rapidly if you pretend you do,” Jenny says. She offers a few communication tips to set the right expectations from the start:

  • Be clear and candid: Directly address what you do know, don’t know, and what is and isn’t possible with this change. Outline how you will communicate status updates and new information as they arise.
  • Be receptive: Don’t take resistance personally. Listen to your team’s questions and respond to their feedback with an open mind.
  • Be visible: Socialize progress across your team’s preferred communication channels, and make sure everyone knows how to reach you if they encounter a problem. You can regularly host town hall meetings, road-show presentations, or open forums to ensure everyone stays informed and has a chance to share their thoughts.

Position project requirements as opportunities and advantages: Jenny suggests exercising creative thinking to help concerned team members see the new responsibilities as a chance to benefit personally.

For example, if they need to learn additional skills to accomplish their tasks, provide in-house training or access to third-party educational tools. Position the opportunity as a chance to expand their capabilities to help them be more prepared for this change and to advance their careers in the long run.

You can also use the big change to rethink your org chart and rebalance team member responsibilities. “Every single person has work that they hate on their to-do list. I’ve found folks become more open if they’re offered an opportunity to do a task trade-off,” Jenny says.

Incentivize the journey – not just the destination: A lengthy and gradual implementation process should include incentives at regular intervals to motivate team members to stay the course.

Rewards can be specific and tangible, such as bonuses or loyalty program points. Or they can be intangible, such as shoutouts during monthly meetings or in internal newsletters. Arrange team happy hours or give comp time for extra hours worked. These appreciation efforts can make the added burden feel worthwhile.

Overcome obstacles in predictive planning: An element of science exists in the journey of change. You can’t reach your destination if the forces of resistance are stronger than the forces propelling you forward.

Jenny shares an innovation tool from a company called Gamestorming that can help quantify the balance of those forces at each phase. By working through this force-field analysis, you can take steps to ensure the winds of change will be in your favor.

An example of how it works is shown below. In the center, an illustration represents the change you want to implement – transitioning from hierarchical to more transparent hubs.

On one side, the forces of change – all the elements of the vision that characterize the importance of the change and how it works in your favor – are listed. In this example, those forces are:

  • Improve long-term revenue
  • Help meet market demand
  • Satisfies customer expectations
  • Addresses current unsustainable costs
  • Give a competitive advantage in the marketplace

On the other side, the forces of resistance – conditions and constraints that may prevent realizing the vision – are listed. In the example, these forces include:

  • Company culture
  • Time constraints
  • Viability of new tech
  • Client adoption
  • Current costs

Rank each element’s impact on the project’s success on a scale of one to five.  Then add the rankings on each side and compare the scores to see whether you have a stronger chance of success than failure and identify where efforts should be made to overcome obstacles.

Plan the journey for a smoother arrival

Convincing your team to jump aboard the organizational-change train is rarely easy. But with a clear operational plan, aligned support, and open communication, you’ll help them see the benefits of participating and get them excited to reach their destination.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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Alternative Search Engines: Why They Matter and How to Rank on Them

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Alternative Search Engines: Why They Matter and How to Rank on Them

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

12 billion, 3 billion, 1 billion. That’s the number of searches made in some of the top alternative search engines monthly.

While Google still holds more than 80% of the market share, ignoring search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo can make you lose out on relevant traffic. So don’t limit yourself to Google’s algorithm as you plan the next year’s SEO strategy.

In order to grow in the digital economy, we have to diversify our efforts. What better way to do that than by making sure that you rank on all the top search engines relevant for your audience?

Generally, there’s two reasons why your audience would choose an alternative search engine over Google: geopolitical reasons and/or privacy concerns.

As such, I’ve categorized the search engines below by global market share and by data privacy.

Top alternative search engines by global market share

When analyzing the global desktop market share of search engines throughout the last decade, there are a few small but mighty search engines that stand out. These are:

1) Bing

2) Yahoo

3) Yandex

4) DuckDuckGo

5) Baidu

These are the engines you want to give extra consideration if you intend to expand internationally. They all have their own unique search algorithms that are in many ways as complex and developed as Google’s.

Why they matter and how to rank on them

If you’re like me a few years ago, a die-hard Apple fan remarkably repulsed by Microsoft’s products (I’ve now converted to the seamless team of PC), you might think prioritizing resources to optimize content for Bing or other engines is a waste of time. What I failed to consider then, and what you might be overlooking, is geographic segmentation.

Do you want to reach the American audience using voice search? Consider Bing.

Are you expanding into China? Check out Baidu.

Each search engine matters because of its unique user types. Regardless of how small that market share might look on a global scale, if there’s regional search volume from your target audience, it’s worth the optimization.

Let’s go through them one by one.

Bing and Yahoo

Screenshot of bing.com, November 2022

Since 2018, Yahoo is exclusively powered by Bing Search. So as long as you rank in Bing, you’ll rank in Yahoo.

Bing Search, in combination with Yahoo, is without a doubt the strongest player after Google. Together, they have more than 10% of the global market share for desktop.

Now, some say that Bing’s market share will increase due to mergers and acquisitions, while others argue for its decline due to the death of Internet Explorer.

Still, all Microsoft browsers, such as Microsoft Edge Legacy and Chromium-based Microsoft Edge, have Bing as the default search engine, making Bing Search the natural choice for Microsoft product users. Yahoo, which is powered by Bing Search, is the default search engine for Mozilla’s browser Firefox, adding billions of impressions to Bing’s search results each year.

If we look at the United States alone, Microsoft sites own over 18% of the market share.

This is much due to their partnership with Amazon, where all voice-activated searches on Amazon Echo and Alexa are made with Bing Search.

Microsoft also pushes Bing further by offering easy rewards for searches and more advanced image search capabilities than Google.

Although the algorithms differ, optimizing for Bing search results is not much different than optimizing for Google. With a bit of fine tuning, it’s more than possible to come up with a strategy that allows for high rankings on both.

To rank on Bing, and thus Yahoo, make sure to do the following:

Infographic by AS Marketing, December 2022


1. List your business on Bing Places

Bing Places is the equivalent of Google My Business and is the fastest way to get your business ranking for local seo. Many even consider Bing Places to favor small business owners as Bing puts their information more prominently on display.

2. Upload an XML Sitemap using Bing’s Webmaster Tools

While the debate on how much sitemaps really do matter for Google SEO continues, uploading one with Bing’s Webmaster Tool for XML Sitemaps allows the algorithm to better categorize and manage your content, making it more visible and relevant to the search audience.

3. Match keywords in your content

Check that the exact keyword match can be found in your page titles, meta descriptions and overall content. It’s known that the impact of on-page tactics as a ranking factor is much greater in Bing than Google.

4. Keep your social media profiles up to date

Go social! Bing considers your social media presence more than any other search engine. The Webmaster Guidelines specifically states that Bing considers social signals from third-party platforms to rank your content. Bing might even extract certain information directly from your Facebook company page to your Bing Places display.

5. Use high-quality images to enhance your content

Bing’s image search is much more advanced than Google’s. If you want your landing page to rank, add high-quality design assets to showcase your offerings. If you want your blog to rank, attach too-long-to-read infographics to highlight your points. Like the one above.

Yandex

Screenshot of yandex.com, November 2022

Second to Bing is Yandex, having a total of 1.5% of the market share in global desktop search.

While it looks a lot like Google, its algorithm is different in many ways. Most prominent is the way Yandex indexes pages. Unlike Google’s almost continuous indexation, Yandex indexes pages sporadically. That means that you might have to wait around for a while before your site shows up on Yandex.

Despite this, it is still possible to rank on Yandex. You just need to have a bit more patience.

While waiting for your site to be indexed, take a look at the following:

1. Focus on tags over internal site structure

According to The Ultimate Guide to Yandex SEO, your header tag, title tag and slug are way more important than your internal site structure. In fact, it was only recently that Yandex started to support hreflang tags. Before that, Yandex only allowed the <head> hreflang implementation.

2. Consider search intent to rank

Some argue that Yandex meets search intent better than Google. The modern ICS score, which replaced the Thematic Index Citation, is determined by how relevant a site is to the query. Yandex uses its own version of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) test to determine relevance.

3. Eliminate toxic links

Many do not know this, but Yandex was actually the first search engine to roll out a link-based algorithm. Already in 2005, 7 years before Google’s Penguin algorithm, Yandex introduced the Nepot filter, which specifically looked at the impact of toxic link exchanges and spam links.

Baidu

Screenshot of baidu.com, November 2022

With over 3 billion searches daily, Baidu is the Google of China. If you want to do business in China, it’s the place to be.

While the site is available worldwide, the site predominantly favors simplified Chinese. So before taking any other steps, hire a native speaker to help you along the way. To win at global, you have to ditch translations.

Here’s a few steps to get your content ranking.

1. Localize your keywords and content appropriately

As with all multilingual SEO, you need to work with a native language expert to ensure proper keyword localization and content optimization. If your site experiences high bounce rates, Baidu will tank your rankings immediately. As with any search experience, localization matters.

2. Position relevant content and keywords to the top of the page

Baidu favors a completely opposite layout than the Westernized one. The sooner you get to the point the better. Therefore, it is important to position your keywords as early as possible in the text and introduce all relevant content already in the top of the page to rank.

3. Obtain a verification level and get certified

By registering and paying a small fee you can obtain a verification level to improve your domain authority and rankings on Baidu. If you want to secure top ratings, you can get certified and obtain an ICP license, which is much more difficult than getting verified.

Top alternative search engines by data privacy

While most of the search engines mentioned above are tied to big corporations or political forces, global initiatives are setting the stage for more privacy-focused search engines. Among these is DuckDuckGo, the forefront runner with over 130 billion searches processed since launch.

Why they matter and how to rank on them

In many ways, the movement is a response to Google’s invasiveness on privacy. Many are fed up with how they are capitalizing on personal data and controlling the narrative with targeted search.

On a macro scale, the European Union continues to protect data privacy with strict GDPR regulations and the California Consumer Privacy Act indicates similar trends for Americans.

From a micro perspective, documentaries such as The Great Hack shine a light on how global companies monetize on personal data. As a result, privacy-safe search engines continue to rise.

If you’re working for an innovative SaaS startup, there’s a high chance your ideal customer persona is using one of these search engines.

Let’s go through how you rank on DuckDuckGo and two alternative equivalents.

DuckDuckGo

Screenshot of duckduckgo.com, November 2022

Screenshot of duckduckgo.com, November 2022

DuckDuckGo aims to make your search experience as simple and true to its cause as possible, i.e. no tracking for personalized search results and filter bubbles. Instead it uses semantic search to determine search intent for your queries from over 400 sources.

Consequently, this attracts tech-savvy experts with a lower bounce rate. Once they commit to a search, they stay.

Here’s how to optimize for it:

1. Sharpen Your User Experience

UX continues to make an impact on SEO, not to mention for DuckDuckGo. Make your content easily scannable and stay away from intrusive pop ups that harm your users’ experience and ease of navigation.

2. Focus on High-Quality Backlinks

As with any SEO, high-quality backlinks play a huge role for ranking. If you already have a solid backlink profile from your Google strategy, you should be good to go. If your backlink profile has a high level of toxicity, do some cleansing.

3. Rethink Local SEO

Since there’s no location tracking available for searches, location-specific searches such as “services near me” don’t work. If you like to rank for these types of searches, include a specific location in your keyword strategy. Otherwise, you won’t be able to optimize for local seo.

Startpage

Screenshot of startpage.com, November 2022

Startpage could be my personal favorite among the alternative search engines. It basically is Google without the tracking.

And while many consider DuckDuckGo to be the forefront runner of the privacy-focused search movement, many forget how Startpage ‘blazed the trail in 2006’. Offering a search experience without IP recording or tracking back when it was more or less unheard of. Now, it is the common denominator among all privacy-safe search engines.

So, how do you rank in Startpage? Simple. You rank in Google.

SwissCows

Screenshot of swisscows.com, November 2022

There are many more privacy-safe alternatives to search engines than the two mentioned above. Perhaps one without equal is SwissCows – a search engine that prides itself on being the only family-friendly, privacy-safe semantic search engine available on the web.

This means that any intrusive search results, like adult entertainment or offensive content, is naturally censored from the search results. At the same time, they never store any data nor track user specific information.

SwissCows SERPs bring up organic results and paid ads directly from Bing so in order to rank in SwissCows, you need to rank in Bing. Just make sure to omit any content that’s not PG-13.

What do they all have in common?

In the end, none of these alternative search engines can replace Google. As an SEO, I’ll never advise starting out with anything other than a Google strategy.

But when you are ready to branch out and extend your reach, give these alternatives a try. Analyze where your target audience hangs out and optimize thereafter.

Many of the privacy-focused search engines require little optimization as they pull their search results directly from other sources anyways. Simply do a quick check to see how you rank on each one.

And who knows, perhaps Microsoft will continue to steal more of the global search landscape. If that happens, you’ll be there — ranking in first position, ready to reap the rewards of your diversified efforts in an ever-changing search landscape.

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