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Planning for a Post-Local-Pack Possibility

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Planning for a Post-Local-Pack Possibility

Local SEOs are accustomed to continuous change in the SERPs, but if S.2992, the American Innovation Online Choice Act, becomes law and prevents monopolies like Google from preferencing their own assets, we need to prepare for what could be the largest search overhaul we’ve ever seen. 

This could be bigger than the day we saw 7-packs become 3-packs. It could be bigger than any of the major updates like Possum or Vicinity. We’re talking about major potential change and new opportunity for local businesses. Just how big might it be? That’s exactly what we’ll be looking at today!

Stats and tests

Per Moz’s most recent study by Dr. Peter J. Meyers, when we ran 1,000 search phrases through MozCast, half or which were localized to particular cities, 33% percent of our queries returned a local pack like this one in the SERPs:

A Google search for

If S.2992 should become law, industry experts observe that local packs would likely be one of the widgets Google would be obliged to stop preferencing in their results. And, in April of this year, marketers began spotting a test of a very different layout that could signal what local SERPs might look like, post-S.2992. 

I haven’t been able to replicate the test myself, but Mike Blumenthal of Near Media kindly granted permission for me to share this screenshot from his excellent piece, A Look at Google’s Local Results without ‘Self-Preferencing’:

An example SERP for the query

Instead of three local results grouped into a pack, this test shows a new widget we’re currently terming a “local card”, interleaved within the organic results. As Mike explains, when you click on the card, you’re taken straight to the Google Business Profile instead of to the long-established local finder. But perhaps of even more importance, the organic link to the website is now fully prominent, instead of totally absent as in some packs, or grey and easily-overlooked, as in the Google Business Profile. 

Rand Fishkin predicts that billions of clicks that were absorbed by Google’s widgets would become up-for-grabs by organic and paid advertisers. It’s this possible reality that’s really gotten me thinking about how local businesses could respond to what could be a tremendous opportunity.

Taking website inspiration from Google’s local playbook

Local SERP result for Sloat Garden Center

Google takes a lot from businesses. They take business data and make money from aggregating and displaying it in their local packs, finders, and maps. They take publishers’ content — which is the result of innumerable hours of paid work by human beings — and republish it in zero-click SERPs. Most SEOs learn to work within this system, this “partnership” in which we try not to be overly stressed so long as Google’s operations don’t hinder conversions. In other words, we resolve not to worry whether a sale results from a click on a Google Business Profile or the Contact Us page of a website, so long as transactions keep rolling in.

However, at the same time, there has been an ongoing saga of industry complaints that Google throws its weight around too much without any consultation with the business owners and publishers on whose livelihoods its profits are based. Of late, there has been particular distaste over Google using search as a political tool to protect itself from anti-trust actions like S.2992, threatening SMBs with negative outcomes if Google’s monopoly is regulated. Depending on your perspective, it might feel like Google takes it upon themselves to build a business model on your identity and content, doesn’t offer adequate support when things invariably go wrong with how they represent you, and then insults your intelligence with see-through scare tactics. It’s really no wonder when business owners and marketers grumble.

However you feel about this scenario, though, there is one thing that every local SEO knows by heart: local SERPs exist in a state of constant experimental change geared to maximize public engagement with them for Google’s benefit. They have the data and the engineers to discover exactly what works and what doesn’t. Think of this as a gift to us that we might take in return for all we’ve given, because Google’s SERPs are actually telling us what we should be doing with our websites if local packs go away, local cards take their place, and tons of clicks end up back on our websites instead of the Google Business Profile.

Check out this quick mockup I did of a GBP-inspired website homepage and see how many of the elements you can spot that correspond directly with fields you’ve come to know so well on your Google listing:

Native Plant Nursery webpage

Most important elements

Did you notice how my mockup emphasizes location and contact data, photos, and reviews? I believe that the ongoing iterations of Google’s packs and profiles indicate that these are the three listing elements that matter most to the public when choosing a local business. If more clicks should start going to the website, companies should organize the homepage so that visitors can instantly find the NAP, hours of operation (including whether the business is open right now plus its most and least popular time slots), see tons of relevant photos, and both read and leave reviews. You’ll notice I’ve also included some basic sentiment analysis of the reviews à la Google Place Topics.

Action-oriented elements

This mockup emphasizes all of the actions a visitor might be used to taking via Google Business Profiles. In addition to things like getting directions and interacting with reviews, the homepage should quickly facilitate whichever activities are most relevant to the model and customers, such as calling or texting the company, booking an appointment, asking questions, and, of course, shopping. If there is any actionable field on your GBP that you believe is connecting customers to the business, feature it or link to it on the homepage. This is basic website design of course, but think again about how Google organizes such features in their profiles to test what you should be emphasizing on sites.

Informational elements

Your website’s textual image and video-based content take the place of Google posts, business descriptions, categories, Q&A, and other informational media. Meanwhile, you can boost trust signals for Google’s quality raters and the public by displaying awards, accreditations, and associations. It’s great to think that, with a website, you have all the space you need to showcase a local brand’s community involvement, B2B relationships, customer-centric guarantees, environmental initiatives, and human rights policies. So, while you’re taking cues from GBPs on how to provide a ton of info at a glance for quick decision making, the joy of websites is that they support the architecture for telling a deeper story about why a business is truly the best bet in town for specific needs.

Your choice on UGC

Since the advent of Google Maps, Google has taken an open-source approach to local business data. Anyone, including bad actors, can suggest edits to your core business data, upload photos, leave reviews, and write questions and answers on your GBP. With your own website, the choice is yours on how much space you want to give to user generated content.

I’ve long been an advocate for featuring customers’ words and stories as central to business identity, and I would recommend that marketers and owners carefully plan how to present content like reviews, photos, and videos. There could be a temptation to show only flattering UGC, but be advised that activities like review gating can lead to litigation, and that businesses will already be facing something of a struggle in getting the public to trust website-based review content as much as they might trust the same content on a third-party platform. In seeking to emulate the successful layout of GBPs, do take your community into account, but also, take a breather knowing that S.2992 would return to local business owners some of the reputation and marketing control that they’ve lost to Google over the past 20 years.

Summing up, should the American Innovation Online Choice Act become law, sending more traffic directly to websites, owners and marketers should have a plan in place to revamp website homepages so that they are as informative and actionable as Google Business Profiles. In the case of multi-location brands, you may need to bring a GBP mindset to landing pages rather than homepages. Why not spend some time this week making a more beautiful and useful mockup than mine for some of the businesses you market? Maybe yours will feature bulleted list attributes, or key product and service menus, or direct message/live chat capabilities.

Would local cards and a less dominant Google be good for local businesses and marketers?

Photo of a beige
Image credit: Jo Zimny

To be honest, you’ll have to come up with your own answer to this question based on your philosophy and hands-on experience, should Google become the subject of increased regulation. For my part as a big supporter of localism, I observe that monopolies have an unsustainable negative effect on human happiness and the planet, on innovation and diversification, on commerce and culture. I am personally in favor of very strong antitrust measures and believe they will deliver amazing benefits to independently-owned businesses, the communities they serve, and the environment on which we depend for life.

But as to how something like the local cards might impact us, I think it’s important to note that the test that’s been spotted is unlikely to be the ultimate format we’d see in the SERPs. I’ve seen several peers asserting that they feel the layout is a bit messy, and it would certainly cause some temporary confusion for Internet searchers who have gotten used to former displays. But, time and again, we’ve all adjusted to SERP modifications, and we would simply do so once more. For local search marketers, regulation would signal that it’s time to double down on your organic SEO skills if what emerges is an increased emphasis on organic SERPs.

For owners, customers will still find you, and the great thing would be that more of them would likely be spending more of their time at your house instead of at Google’s. The role of host, then, will be more on your shoulders. It will be your patio, your deck chairs, your BBQ pit, and ramada that welcome and shelter people. And, after all, that’s what you went into business to do: to take care of your own customers. You’ve spent years learning to do that, so don’t worry – with some fine tuning of your website to make it as good as and better than a Google Business Profile, you’ve got some good times ahead!



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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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