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Use Google Autocomplete as an SEO Tool

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Use Google Autocomplete as an SEO Tool

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.

Google Autocomplete (often referred to as Google Suggest) is one of the first Google search developments that appeared on SEOs’ radar.

Many years ago, Google Suggest was what powered Google Instant results, making a huge impact on users’ searching journeys. SEOs have been using it as a free keyword research tool.

Yet there’s much more to this search feature, especially after all the updates Google has introduced, turning Google Autocomplete into a smart and predictive platform of its own.

What is Google Autocomplete?

Google Autocomplete allows users to easily complete their query by suggesting possible extensions of what they are currently typing:

Google’s suggestions are dynamic — they instantly change as you’re typing your query. Google is trying to predict what a user means to type. These predictions are likely to impact the searching behaviors as people may instinctively choose a suggestion they never meant to type. In other words, Google’s Autocomplete should be an SEO priority.

But there’s another factor making the feature very important for any digital marketing strategy: By default, it delivers suggestions in the address bars of at least three of the most popular browsers: Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari.

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Here’s Chrome’s address bar, which suggests search terms (and auto-completes them) as you type.

Now imagine that your domain is plumber.com and that’s your customer trying to type in your domain name.

This means that in many cases, users will be prompted to search even when they had no intention to, and they will search for the terms that were suggested by Google.

How do Google’s Autocomplete predictions work?

Google’s Autocomplete predictions rely on actual users’ popular searching patterns, i.e. what Google’s searchers tend to type next. In other words, Google’s suggestions reflect the most common search queries.

Additional factors that impact Google’s predictions are:

  • The searcher’s location

  • The user’s past searches

  • Currently trending search queries. For example, many of these suggestions seem to be driven by trending searches:

You can disable your past searching history from messing with your Google predictions by disabling personalization here. This way you’ll get a cleaner insight into your target users’ searching habits.

Use Google’s Autocomplete to research your keywords

Keyword research is exactly how SEOs have been using Google Suggest for ages — with much success.

Google Autocomplete is perfect for discovering more specific and relevant phrases that searchers are using to solve problems or answer questions, as it extends your search query as you type it. If your query is searched a lot, Google will continue extending it further and further — just keep hitting space at the end of each query:

All of these suggestions provide content ideas by narrowing your initial term down to more specific angles.

While you can do this by using the search box itself, you can also use tools like Suggestion Keyword Finder to make it easier and faster, , as it extends each of your chosen terms deeper to level three:

There are also a few plugins that bring those suggestions right inside your WordPress post editor.

Use Google Autocomplete to research questions

Question research is useful on many levels, from content ideation to identifying the challenges your customers may be experiencing with your product or service.

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Google Autocomplete is one of the most powerful sources of niche questions that your target users routinely type to solve related problems. To find those questions, simply type question words (why, how, where, etc.) in front of your search term in Google’s search box:

To avoid manually doing this, you can use Answer the Public, which uses this trick to create a mindmap of questions based on your keyword:

There are several ways to implement these questions in your content optimization strategy:

  • Set up an on-site knowledge base to attract long-tail traffic and empower your customer support team.

  • Use these questions in your content refresh strategy when optimizing old or outdated pages.

  • Launch a Youtube series/playlist or even a video course to address each of these questions, one by one. You will have lots of content that you can reuse on your site, on social media, and elsewhere.

Narrato is a handy content creation and collaboration platform allowing you to import these questions and integrate them in your content brief and content itself:

Narrato helps you consolidate a lot of data around each content project helping you create better optimized guides, lead magnets or commercial landing pages.

Use Google Autocomplete to research related concept entities

Extending core keywords is how we’ve utilized Google Autocomplete for years, but the tool has been evolving, and these days it gives even more insight into how people search and what Google considers relevant to your target topic (and buying journey).

Traditionally, Google would generate search predictions prior to you performing a search. Nowadays, Google will help you refine your search query by suggesting alternative terms after you perform the search.

To generate these suggestions, simply put your cursor back in Google’s search box once it loads search results. These are referred to as “search refinements”:

The key benefit of this exercise is that you get to uncover related concepts and entities you may want to include into your optimization strategy.

For example, if you search for [why is google maps slow] and put your cursor anywhere inside your query in the search box, Google Autocomplete will try to help you specify the problem by suggesting [delay time] instead of [slow] and making sure you really mean [maps] and not [google earth slow].

There’s no insight into how Google generates search refinements, but they most probably rely on their users’ searching journeys (i.e the same person typing these queries within one session).

SE Ranking uses search refinements to identify related keywords you’d want to include into your SEO strategy:

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Autocomplete search refinements in local marketing

Search refinements have many implications. For example, if you’re a local business, you should use Autocomplete to discover related towns and cities people in your area may be using to find similar businesses. These are all your target keywords:

In this case, a plumber located in Halfmoon, NY will know that they need to have pages targeting Clifton Park, Ballston Spa, and Glenville. They will also find a distinct local competitor to keep an eye on.

Interestingly, Google knows how far away from your location related entities should be. In case of plumbers, Google would suggest locations 10-30 minutes away. But if you search for something like “playgrounds” in the same town, you will only be suggested places within a five-minute drive:

Use Google Autocomplete for organic reputation management strategy

Brand-driven search is when a search query contains your brand or product name.

Your potential customers are using your brand-driven search when trying to figure out if your company is worth dealing with or if your product is what they need.

Obviously, branded search is an essential part of your sales funnel, and the one you cannot fully control.

With Google Autocomplete, branded search becomes even more tricky and less controllable:

  • Google may prompt your customers to search for your name when they are trying to actually type your domain and get to your site. In this case, Google’s Autocomplete may distract and drive your actual customers away from your site, so you need to make sure that your branded search results will bring them back to your site.

  • Google Autocomplete may give your customers “ideas” on what they need to do prior to buying from you (and finally get them to change their minds).

For those two reasons, your branded Autocomplete results should be your company’s priority:

  • Research and extend those using tools like Suggestion Keyword Finder, Answer The Public, and SE Ranking (all mentioned above).

  • Track your rankings for all of these search queries (naturally, you want your pages to rank #1 to instantly take those searchers back to your site).

  • Ensure your brand visibility in more than organic listings. Google’s SERPs are visual and interactive, which means lots of people may never click those organic results. Those searchers need to keep seeing your brand all over those SERPs to finally be convinced to go to your site:

Branded SERPs often include image and video carousels, People Also Ask boxes, tweets from the brand’s official account, and more. A well-organized reputation management strategy should target all of these search sections and elements.

For your company’s key branded keywords, set up Visual Ping, a change-monitoring platform that will alert you once your branded SERPs add or remove anything. You will also be notified of any changes in your knowledge panel, new results, new images or videos pulled into your branded carousels, changes in local 3-pack, etc.:

Use Google Autocomplete to identify and research entities

Google Autocomplete is evolving together with Google search. As Google is integrating entities (e.g. organizations, books, places, celebrities, movies, shows, etc.) into its algorithm, so does Autocomplete.

When Google considers something an entity, the Autocomplete dropdown will include its logo and the category Google is associating this entity with. Local entities will also include their location:

It’s a good idea to check Autocomplete results for your chosen name prior to registering the domain. Namify makes it easy as you can add domains to the list to check them all before deciding:

It’s a good idea to stay away from brand names that are already identified as entities in the same or neighboring category.

For newly launched projects and products, Google Autocomplete can be used to identify whether Google considers you an entity yet:

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Conclusion

Autocomplete is a great (and free) keyword research tool, but it is also a powerful factor that can impact your target customers’ journeys on most popular browsers. For this reason, it’s important to keep an eye on Google Autocomplete suggestions for your important search queries, including your brand-driven queries.

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MARKETING

8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

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8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

As email marketers, we know we need to personalize the messages we send to subscribers and customers. I can’t think of a single statistic, case study or survey claiming an email program of one-to-everyone campaigns outperforms personalization.

Instead, you’ll find statistics like these:

  • 72% of customers will engage only with personalized messages (Wunderkind Audiences, formerly SmarterHQ)
  • 70% of consumers say that how well a company understands their individual needs affects their loyalty (Salesforce)
  • 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences (Segment)

But what marketers often don’t understand, especially if they’re new to personalization, is that personalization is not an end in itself. Your objective is not to personalize your email campaigns and lifecycle messages. 

Rather, your objective is to enhance your customer’s experience with your brand. Personalization is one method that can do that, but it’s more than just another tactic. 

It is both an art and a science. The science is having the data and automations to create personalized, one-to-one messages at scale. The art is knowing when and how to use it.

We run into trouble when we think of personalization as the goal instead of the means to achieve a goal. In my work consulting with marketers for both business and consumer brands, I find this misunderstanding leads to eight major marketing mistakes – any of which can prevent you from realizing the immense benefits of personalization.

Mistake #1. Operating without an overall personalization strategy

I see this all too often: marketers find themselves overwhelmed by all the choices they face: 

  • Which personalization technologies to use
  • What to do with all the data they have
  • How to use their data and technology effectively
  • Whether their personalization efforts are paying off

This stems from jumping headfirst into personalization without thinking about how to use it to meet customers’ needs or help them solve problems. 

To avoid being overwhelmed with the mechanics of personalization, follow this three-step process:

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  • Start small. If you aren’t using personalization now, don’t try to set up a full-fledged program right away. Instead, look for quick wins – small areas where you can use basic personalized data to begin creating one-to-one messages. That will get you into the swing of things quickly, without significant investment in time and money. Adding personal data to the body of an email is about as basic as you’ll get, but it can be a start.
  • Test each tactic. See whether that new tactic helps or hurts your work toward your goal. Does adding personal data to each message correlate with higher clicks to your landing page, more conversion or whatever success metric you have chosen?
  • Optimize and move on. Use your testing results to improve each tactic. Then, take what you learned to select and add another personalization tactic, such as adding a module of dynamic content to a broadcast (one to everyone) campaign. 

Mistake #2. Not using both overt and covert personalization

Up to now, you might have thought of in specific terms: personalized subject lines, data reflecting specific actions in the email copy, triggered messages that launch when a customer’s behavior matches your automation settings and other “overt” (or visible) personalization tactics.

“Covert” personalization also employs customer preference or behavior data but doesn’t draw attention to it. Instead of sending an abandoned-browse message that says “We noticed you were viewing this item on our website,” you could add a content module in your next campaign that features those browsed items as recommended purchases, without calling attention to their behavior. It’s a great tactic to use to avoid being seen as creepy.

Think back to my opening statement that personalization is both an art and a science. Here, the art of personalization is knowing when to use overt personalization – purchase and shipping confirmations come to mind – and when you want to take a more covert route. 

Mistake #3. Not maximizing lifecycle automations

Lifecycle automations such as onboarding/first-purchase programs, win-back and reactivation campaigns and other programs tied to the customer lifecycle are innately personalized. 

The copy will be highly personal and the timing spot-on because they are based on customer actions (opting in, purchases, downloads) or inactions (not opening emails, not buying for the first time or showing signs of lapsing after purchasing). 

Better yet, these emails launch automatically – you don’t have to create, schedule or send any of these emails because your marketing automation platform does that for you after you set it up. 

You squander these opportunities if you don’t do everything you can to understand your customer lifecycle and then create automated messaging that reaches out to your customers at these crucial points. This can cost you the customers you worked so hard to acquire, along with their revenue potential.

Mistake #4. Not testing effectively or for long-term gain

Testing helps you discover whether your personalization efforts are bearing fruit. But all too often, marketers test only individual elements of a specific campaign – subject lines, calls to action, images versus no images, personalization versus no personalization  – without looking at whether personalization enhances the customer experience in the long term.

How you measure success is a key part of this equation. The metrics you choose must line up with your objectives. That’s one reason I’ve warned marketers for years against relying on the open rate to measure campaign success. A 50% open rate might be fantastic, but if you didn’t make your goal for sales, revenue, downloads or other conversions, you can’t consider your campaign a success.

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As the objective of personalizing is to enhance the customer journey, it makes sense then that customer lifetime value is a valid metric to measure success on.  To measure how effective your personalization use is, use customer lifetime value over a long time period – months, even years – and compare the results with those from a control group, which receives no personalization. Don’t ignore campaign-level results, but log them and view them over time.

(For more detailed information on testing mistakes and how to avoid them, see my MarTech column 7 Common Problems that Derail A/B/N Email Testing Success.)

Mistake #5. Over-segmenting your customer base

Segmentation is a valuable form of personalization, but it’s easy to go too far with it. If you send only highly segmented campaigns, you could be exclude – and end up losing because of failure to contact – many customers who don’t fit your segmentation criteria. That costs you customers, their potential revenue and the data they would have generated to help you better understand your customer base.

You can avoid this problem with a data-guided segmentation plan that you review and test frequently, a set of automated triggers to enhance the customer’s lifecycle and a well-thought-out program of default or catch-all campaigns for subscribers who don’t meet your other criteria. 

Mistake #6. Not including dynamic content in general email campaigns

We usually think of personalized email as messages in which all the content lines up with customer behavior or preference data, whether overt, as in an abandoned-cart message, or covert, where the content is subtly relevant.

That’s one highly sophisticated approach. It incorporates real-time messaging driven by artificial intelligence and complex integrations with your ecommerce or CRM platforms. But a simple dynamic content module can help you achieve a similar result. I call that “serendipity.”  

When you weave this dynamic content into your general message, it can be a pleasant surprise for your customers and make your relevant content stand out even more. 

Let’s say your company is a cruise line. Customer A opens your emails from time to time but hasn’t booked a cruise yet or browsed different tours on your website. Your next email campaign to this customer – and to everyone else on whom you have little or no data – promotes discounted trips to Hawaii, Fiji and the Mediterranean.

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Customer B hasn’t booked a cruise either, but your data tells you she has browsed your Iceland-Denmark-Greenland cruise recently. With a dynamic content module, her email could show her your Hawaii and Mediterranean cruise offers – and a great price on a trip to Iceland, Denmark and Greenland. Fancy that! 

An email like this conveys the impression that your brand offers exactly what your customers are looking for (covert personalization) without the overt approach of an abandoned-browse email.

Mistake #7. Not using a personal tone in your copy

You can personalize your email copy without a single data point, simply by writing as if you were speaking to your customer face to face. Use a warm, human tone of voice, which ideally should reflect your brand voice. Write copy that sounds like a one-to-one conversation instead of a sales pitch. 

This is where my concept of “helpful marketing” comes into play. How does your brand help your customers achieve their own goals, solve their problems or make them understand you know them as people, not just data points?  

Mistake #8. Not personalizing the entire journey

Once again, this is a scenario in which you take a short-sighted view of personalization – “How do I add personalization to this email campaign?” – instead of looking at the long-term gain: “How can I use personalization to enhance my customer’s experience?”

Personalization doesn’t stop when your customer clicks on your email. It should continue on to your landing page and even be reflected in the website content your customer views. Remember, it’s all about enhancing your customer’s experience.

What happens when your customers click on a personalized offer? Does your landing page greet your customers by name? Show the items they clicked? Present copy that reflects their interests, their loyalty program standing or any other data that’s unique to them?  

Personalization is worth the effort

Yes, personalization takes both art and science into account. You need to handle it carefully so your messages come off as helpful and relevant without veering into creepy territory through data overreaches. But this strategic effort pays off when you can use the power of personalized email to reach out, connect with and retain customers – achieving your goal of enhancing the customer experience.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”

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