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SEO and PPC – making the correct choice

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How do you ensure that potential customers come across your business at the right stage of the buying process? Digital Marketing trainer Ethan Giles of novi.digital explains.

Ethan will run the Digital Marketing Skills course on March 25th and 26th at Prolific North’s HQ on Princess Street, Manchester. We turned to him to provide a bit more detail on SEO and PPC strategy ahead of the session.

Each day there are 5.6 billion daily searches on Google alone, which provides a great opportunity to increase your website traffic, if you employ the right strategy. 

But what is the right strategy? Consider that these potential customers will be in different stages of the buying process – some might just search for information or inspiration whilst others might have already made the purchasing decision and are now comparing their options. 

There are two main ways you can take advantage of search engines – SEO or PPC. Both have their merits and both have their challenges, so make sure you understand them before you define your strategy.

SEO & PPC explained

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) means you work on your website to ensure it is tailored towards users’ search queries. For example, if somebody searches for “SEO training Manchester”, Prolific North would want people to find their website as it is relevant for their training session. SEO is focused on the ‘natural’ search results – those results on the search page that are not paid for.

Pay Per Click (PPC) is a form of advertising that search engines like Google offer in a number of different forms. With PPC, you tell the search engine what search terms or keywords you want your ads to appear for, and write relevant advertising. As the name suggests, you only pay when your ads are clicked, and you decide how much you’re willing to pay.

SEO – the benefits

It’s free!

That’s right, you don’t have to pay to do SEO – apart from the cost of time of course. 

Unlike PPC, you don’t need to pay to appear in the ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ search listings, you just have to be well-optimised for user searches. Even tracking tools like Google Analytics or Google Search Console, which allow you to measure your SEO effectiveness, are free.

You can be creative

There’s an opportunity for you to be creative, as a big part of SEO is content and writing good quality content that users will care about.

This will help you stretch your business’s creative muscles. In addition, the usability of your site, including what it looks like and how it works, are important for SEO.

88%

Organic results attract 88% of all clicks. So if you neglect your SEO and don’t appear often or consistently, and rely on PPC instead, you’re missing out on the vast majority of clicks and therefore a high proportion of potential customers.

Competitive

It’s not enough to simply have a website and expect this to be an effective SEO strategy. If you do your SEO properly, this will allow you to remain competitive and can often allow you to punch above your weight against larger competitors with bigger budgets. 

SEO is about doing something really well, not about spending more money.

PPC – the benefits

Direct

Unlike SEO or other forms of advertising such as print, radio or TV, PPC allows you to directly target your customers by defining when your ads are shown and to who they are shown to. 

There is no other form of marketing that is so effective at targeting relevant and engaged potential customers.

Cost effective

You manage your own costs and pay only per click. This means you can ensure that you only pay enough to ensure your ads generate an effective return on investment. 

Unlike traditional forms of advertising, you have greater control of how much you spend, what you spend it on, and ultimately whether that spend generates results or not.

Quick

PPC can generate instant results. If you were to set up a campaign now, you could expect to start seeing website visits within hours. This means that you can spend money and expect instant results without having to spend a long time working on campaigns.

SEO – the downsides

Slow

It can take a long time before your SEO efforts start to generate results – changes you make today could take up to six months to start working. If you’re looking to make a big difference in a short space of time, then SEO won’t be an effective strategy for you.

Complex

SEO can often appear complex to newcomers – it combines multiple skillsets such as creative writing, web development, data analysis and even graphic design. 

However, with expert training or expert support, SEO can often become easier as these complexities are explained or managed.

Lack of control

Unlike PPC, you do not directly control what search results you appear for. While you can optimise for particular terms, ultimately the search engine decides what is relevant and what is not. 

You also can’t control international targeting, so you may appear in search results in countries that are not relevant for your business.

PPC – the downsides

Competition

The amount you have to pay to get clicks for ads will be defined by your competition and how much they are willing to pay. So if you are up against competition with bigger budgets or with a lack of understanding of their own profit margins, you may be quickly priced out of securing customers.

Too much control

Small changes you make could make drastic differences to your bottom line. For example, you could increase your budgets tenfold in just a few clicks, or show your ad for irrelevant searches or in a location you cannot serve. 

Google provides some security against this, but it’s recommended that you get proper training from experts before you pursue PPC.

Time investment

To get PPC right, you need to invest time to manage your campaigns. It’s not as simple as setting your campaigns up and leaving them to run without further changes. 

PPC requires management and optimisation and things can change daily depending on your marketplace. This means that PPC can soak up time as well as the cost of the clicks. However, there are intelligent things you can do to avoid spending a long time within the PPC platform and it’s important that you prioritise on the things that will make the biggest difference.

Conclusions

Now that you’re aware of both advantages and pitfalls of SEO and PPC, let’s get back to the initial question, which one do I use? 

The answer is, it depends. I wish there was a simple, universal answer but this is the beauty of it: it depends on your objectives. 

What are the needs of your business? How much time can you invest? What’s your budget? And do you have the right skills in-house?

Depending on how you answer these questions, you might even look at a combined approach where you use both SEO and PPC together. In my experience, there are massive benefits to managing them holistically as it allows for the advantages of one to make up for the pitfalls of the other. “

If you could use with more hands-on advice on search marketing tailored to your business, Ethan hosts regular workshops at Prolific North where we delve into just that. Browse the next available sessions here.

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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Student writing on computer

With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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