Gone are the days when going digital is just a nicety or an add-on for your businesses. With the pandemic going on, it has significantly affected everyone, including our lives and businesses.
As of January 2021, there are 4 billion active internet users worldwide. People go online to stay connected during the pandemic. With the lockdown restrictions enforced around the globe, the majority of businesses were faced with the urgency to put more online efforts as well.
As businesses acknowledge the urgent need for digital transformation, the majority of them do not know where to start. In a survey conducted by Jabil, 90% percent of companies of all sizes in the world are faced with almost the same hurdles to digital transformation. These drawbacks include:
- The lack of expertise to spearhead digital approaches or plans
- Come up with an overall, company-wide digital strategy
- Employees or the organization push back against change, especially with the process involved in digital transformation
- Limited budget to build a digital transformation strategy
Why You Should Go Digital Now
While the above data show that we all face the same challenges, this shouldn’t hold you back to be receptive to change. As a business owner, these drawbacks must enable you to come up with doable steps or actions for your organization.
As mentioned, people are now online to look for information, stay in touch, and for amusement or enjoyment.
Apparently, the e-commerce industry had significant growth in 2020. Both the apparel retail and grocery retail industry were able to grow their digital migration by 40% and 100%.
Some industries that have adapted to digital transformation prior to the pandemic are reaping the rewards of increased customer revenue and market share.
Forbes has come up with a list of industries that thrived during the pandemic, including cleaning services, grocery stores, delivery services, fitness equipment companies, tutoring services, and many others.
Companies that are active on their social media showed improved customer engagement as well. These companies focused on “people-brand connections.”
But how do these businesses thrive in their customer engagement? They understood the value of real-time customer service, well-thought-out, and relevant actionable online content, and the seamless omnichannel customer experience.
Other businesses that use the right digital tools to accommodate their employees to work from home improved their employee morale. In addition, businesses with platform-based business models have cut down their office-based costs as well.
Our SEO Hacker agency is one of the few tech companies that have adapted to the digital transformation well. For 11 years, we have equipped ourselves for what’s to come.
All the challenges our SEO agency faced have helped us become more resilient over time. From the way we do business with our clients to Google’s innumerable algorithm updates, the emergence of more digital marketing forms, and the use of team collaboration tools with our ever-reliant team, we will continue to thrive as time progresses.
What Steps You Can Take for Going Digital
Change does not happen without resistance and inconvenience. When you come up with new ideas and present them to your team, either you won’t get any response from them OR nobody will dare act on them.
And this behavior is common among many employees. The fear of the unknown is real to most of us. Yet, this shouldn’t discourage you to keep up with digital migration. Here, we came up with 4 actionable steps you can take to go digital with less resistance:
Set a company-wide digital transformation strategy goal
Be consistent and transparent with your team. Explain to them that going digital is vital to the growth of your business. Begin with a clear vision of why you need to digitally transform, a set of goals you need to reach, and involve your whole team with their specific roles and purposes.
Your journey to going digital shouldn’t end with one team or department alone. If you want your business to be resilient over unprecedented situations, your team needs to work toward a common goal. In other words, your common goal should be to meet the needs of your clients or customers.
Find a talent with technology expertise to help you with your digital journey
Most businesses aren’t tech-savvy. The process of digital transformation poses many technical challenges. That’s why you need the right people on board.
Hire talented individuals with relevant experience, and train your team to become digitally literate. Our SEO agency has built an internal onboarding system that will indoctrinate our new hires and provide them with all the information they need for their work.
Stay ahead of the game by helping your team build the skills they need to thrive and to be tech-savvy. Most of the time our different teams work together to get to our client’s goal. More often than not, when our different teams collaborate, we get exponential results.
Find free online tools and platforms that can provide convenience and options to customers
As more people shop and look for information online via their smartphones, your business must be adaptable to where your customers spend their time in.
Spend time doing your homework by looking for free online tools and platforms that can make your and your team’s work easier. Fortunately, there are tons of technologies out there that don’t require codes for use and are beginner-friendly.
Set a realistic budget for your digital transformation journey
There is no one size fits all budget when it comes to digital migration because businesses have different sizes, too. If you limit your business’ digitalization because of your budget, you are also limiting your business’ growth.
As you go along your digital transformation journey, financial constraints are unavoidable. However, do not let these budgetary constraints put your company at risk. Use your existing budget as your benchmark to see how short or how much time you need for your business to be fully digitized.
As business owners, it’s a challenge to leave our comfort zones and adapt to changes. This is true especially if we are used to the business model and strategies that we’re accustomed to and have provided us with promising results.
However, we need to keep in mind that our businesses exist and thrive not because of our product, but because of our customers. We can’t expect our customers’ behavior to remain unchanged. A crisis can only speed up the pace of people’s behavioral changes which entails their consumption patterns too. A crisis where people are required to stay at home for a while calls for businesses to go digital.
Google’s Advice For Targeting Multiple Locations With One Website
Google provides detailed advice for websites that need to target multiple locations, such as a business with offices in different states.
Their idea is to create landing pages for each state they operate in, and automatically send visitors from the homepage to the appropriate landing page via dynamic geo IP redirection.
On top of that, they also plan to add a noindex tag to each of the separate landing pages.
If you hear alarm bells ringing, your instincts are correct. This is not a good strategy.
Mueller explains the SEO implications of following through with this plan, and explains various ways it can be done better.
See his advice in the sections below.
First Consideration: Google Crawls From One Location
The first thing to consider when targeting multiple cities or states with the same website is Google only crawls from one location.
That means dynamic geo IP redirects, as Gail’s client proposes, would not help Googlebot find the different landing pages.
“I think there are a few things to keep in mind there. On the one hand… we generally just crawl from one location. And probably for most systems, that would map back to California.
And essentially what that would mean is that the content that we can look at would be the content for California, and we would not have access to the content for the other states, which depending on what kind of content you have there, for the other states, that might be okay but it might be problematic.
So that’s kind of the first thing to keep in mind is when you search for your company it’ll look like this is purely in California, or maybe even in San Francisco, I don’t know how the IP addresses would map there.
So I think that’s something that often throws people off, especially with geo IP redirects or dynamically swapping the content.”
While redirecting visitors based on their IP address may work in practice, it’s not optimal when it comes to Googlebot crawling.
Second Consideration: Do Not Redirect To A Noindexed Page
The second, and more serious, consideration of the plan proposed by Gail’s client is what happens when redirecting to a noindexed page.
Mueller explains this would cause the site’s homepage to drop out of search results:
“The other thing is if you noindex the individual state landing pages, then, of course, the state landing page that someone from California would go to would also be noindexed, which would basically mean that your homepage would drop out of search results. So that would be a pretty bad thing.”
Again, this plan might’ve worked for human visitors, but would cause major problems as far as SEO is concerned.
Here’s what Mueller recommends doing instead.
Mueller’s Recommendations For Targeting Multiple Locations
Instead of redirecting visitors to pages based on where they’re located, Mueller says it’s better to offer visitors links to relevant pages with a dynamic banner.
“My general recommendation for these kinds of situations, instead of redirecting automatically to a specific location, is to make it so that the user can find that content much easier.
So something like a dynamic banner on a page when the user goes to the homepage, there’s a banner on top that says: ‘oh, it looks like you’re in Texas, and we have an office in Texas, and here’s the information, and click this link to find out more.’
And that way the user has the ability to go to these individual pages. And ideally those individual pages would also be indexable, because that way if someone looks for your company name plus the state name they would be able to find that landing page, which would be essentially ideal.”
Another way of handling this situation, Mueller says, is to dynamically swap out some of the copy on the homepage based on visitor location.
Instead of multiple landing pages for different states, you could set the homepage to display different text for visitors that pertains to where they’re located.
“The other approach that you could take is to swap out some of the content dynamically on the homepage. So instead of having separate state landing pages, you have your general homepage and you have that state specific information dynamically swapped out.
The important part here is to make sure that overall that homepage still has enough generic content so that it doesn’t come across as like everything is for California, but rather it’s like this is lots of information about your business, and since it looks like you’re in California here’s specific information for California, or whatever state that you’re in.
So those are generally the two directions that we recommend there.”
Mueller clarifies that there’s nothing wrong with creating individual state landing pages if Gail’s client chose to go that route instead.
It’s not a great idea to create landing pages for every city in every state, but having landing pages for each state where a business is located is okay.
“With regards to the individual state landing pages for a handful of versions, we wouldn’t really see that as being problematic. If you had landing pages for every city in every state, then that would start looking a bit iffy for our web spam algorithms.
But if you’re talking about a handful of states, or maybe even all states, it’s something where you have 50 different versions of the homepage with your local address with phone numbers, opening hours, kind of that additional local information on them. From our point of view that’s generally fine.”
Hear the full discussion in the video below:
Featured Image: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, January 2022.
Searchmetrics’ CMO Talks Enterprise Volatility, SEO Careers & CWVs
And just how important are Core Web Vitals, anyway?
If you’re in the market for employment with a leading search data, software, and consulting solution, you’ll want to check out her tips as to what Searchmetrics looks for in new hires, as well.
1. Core Web Vitals (CWV) has been a hot topic this past year.
What do enterprise marketers need to know about CWVs now that the dust has settled?
Lillian Haase: “For marketers in any business, focusing on reducing friction for users when they arrive at your website is the name of the game — with or without CWVs.
Before the official announcement that CWV’s page speed signals would become ranking factors, fast-loading and easy-to-navigate websites saw better results in the search engines. The CWV rollout just made it official.
I will say, too, that the dust has only settled in terms of Google talking about CWV.
The work for many brands is still colossal.
Our team sees many large companies still experiencing major problems with site speed and shifting layouts. Until domains can fix those issues, they’ll struggle to excel in competitive SERPs.
Having a decent CWV will be the price for entry onto the playing field.
If your CWV is far worse than your competitors, you’ll struggle for rankings – but CWV goes beyond SEO. The gains are much more concrete when it comes to revenue and conversions.”
2. We’ve seen you write before on volatility as an opportunity in SEO.
Can you share a few ways these volatile times may translate to opportunities for enterprise SEO?
Lillian Haase: “At the start of the pandemic, we had major shifts going on in marketing. This necessitated a pivoting of methods to adapt to a new, uncertain environment.
When it came to SEO, we had clients with unprecedented traffic drops and increases. The world had changed and so had their web traffic.
My advice remains the same as then.
When you’ve experienced a sudden drop in traffic, analysis of where the drop occurred is the first step towards recovery – but it’s not the last.
It’s crucial to understand why it happened.
Was it a change made to your website?
A loss of keyword rankings for a specific page or group of pages — or something else?
Take steps to improve, or reverse an earlier change, depending on what you find.
The opposite happens, too, and you may experience a sudden influx of traffic and better rankings.
While celebrating is certainly not to be neglected (after all, teams work for years to see increases in traffic, so be sure to enjoy it when it happens!), it’s still important to ensure it’s the right kind of traffic, and that visitors are engaging with your web content.
Look at ways you can optimize your top-traffic pages to keep visitors engaged and moving through your website. Take advantage of that extra traffic with conversion rate optimization.
In addition, update your keyword research around topics that are ranking well to determine if you missed anything.
There might be something new uncovered through research that you haven’t optimized for.
Cover all your bases and see how much more extra traffic you can get on top of those already good results. Good can always get better.”
3. What do you think is the most underrated optimization or tactic in enterprise SEO today?
Lillian Haase: “The basics, such as optimized headers and user experience, are still the same.
But the bar for great content and high-performing websites is much higher.
Your content needs to be heads and shoulders above the rest.
For example, the Google Product Reviews Update impacted many affiliate sites.
With these and other Google Updates, the days where you could write basic copy about a product and hoping to rank are gone.
Now, you make your expertise on the topic very clear by providing a truly informed opinion about the product’s performance.”
4. What advice or recommendations do you have for junior SEO professionals who might aspire to a leadership role?
“My advice would be to learn to tell the story of SEO’s impact on the business in terms of revenue.
In other words, if you can communicate the value of organic traffic framed in business terms, you will be heard by leaders in other teams who do not understand the ins and outs of SEO.
They’re looking for the value (often, in financial terms) the channel is bringing the company.
One of the most difficult things I see SEOs struggle with is that they go into unnecessary detail about search engines.
As SEOs, we’re so interested in the many moving pieces of the work, and we get overly excited with the minutiae.
But if no one understands what we’re talking about or they think it’s boring, the message is lost.
Try to focus on business results in your presentations, reports, and in meetings with your superiors, instead.
In most organizations, organic search is undervalued when compared with other channels such as paid search.
If you can find a way to elevate the conversation to business metrics and stay out of the technical details, you’re well on your way towards future opportunities in SEO leadership.
If you can also consistently increase organic traffic, leads, and sales for your organization, you’re also setting yourself up for success.”
5. What does it take to succeed in a role at Searchmetrics?
And are you currently looking for any specific types of talent?
Lillian Haase: “We’re growing our services teams globally, so thanks for asking this and giving me a chance to share a little more.
While we have a variety of roles open, we’re actively recruiting SEO consultants and account executives.
One of the benefits of working for a company of our size is having the opportunity to have your voice heard.
We understand the next great idea can come from anyone at any level.
Successful team members adopt the mindset of builders and innovators and seek out opportunities for growth. Then they present those opportunities with a clear focus on the bottom line.
In general, we look for people that are not just looking to “do the job.”
Yes, we want people skilled in a particular area. However, we want people that are looking to push the envelope by asking, “How can we be better in our function?”
When it comes to culture, we’re looking for a culture add, not a fit.
We understand having a true diverse Searchmetrics family not only includes diversity in gender and ethnic background but also experience and thought.”
Featured Image: Courtesy of Searchmetrics
What To Focus On This Year
As the ball dropped in Times Square at midnight on January 1, 2022, many search engine marketers were tempted to check their analytics and rankings.
It appears that Google has replaced Santa as the purveyor of the “Naughty or Nice” list in the online world.
Some sites receive the gift of better rankings before the New Year.
Others are cleaning the coal dust out of their stockings, running frantic analyses on why they were put on the naughty list.
And I don’t know who needs to hear this, but next year the update will be there after Christmas.
Don’t feel guilty about taking a few days off.
Take some time to think about how you can be even better in the New Year.
That’s what I did.
Below is my list of SEO resolutions for the New Year.
1. Remember To Have Empathy
In my experience, most search engine marketers are very “left-brained.”
Sure, there’s a ton of creativity in the search engine marketing world – but most search engine marketers would rather figure out why a piece of code isn’t loading as fast as it should versus trying to understand the intricacies of a searcher’s mind.
Don’t get me wrong, the technical aspects of SEO and paid search are essential – and without technical savvy, what we do doesn’t work.
But technical fixes are not enough to show continued improvement in your search engine marketing results.
I believe that the best tool any marketer can have is empathy, the ability to understand the feelings of others.
If we as marketers can understand the feelings, motivations, intent, and actions of search engine users, we can create webpages and content that not only provides value to visitors but also increases our site’s bottom line.
I have always prided myself on my ability to empathize with searchers.
But with every core algorithm update or IT person screwing up a site, I find it very easy to put my empathetic impulses on the back burner to chase technical fixes.
Those technical fixes are for Google, not the searchers.
I need to remember to spend as much – or more – time understanding those who make a query as I do looking at ways to improve a site’s performance.
The dividends that come from empathetic marketing practices are usually greater than those gleaned from technical fixes.
All of us in search would be wise to remember this.
2. Automate All The Things
Python, in the hands of a competent programmer, is a powerful tool that can cut the amount of time required for search engine optimization significantly.
Python can help you scrape data to come up with content ideas, analyze common on-page SEO issues, track and analyze issues in your backlink profile and much more.
Those interested in some of the possibilities with Python should read this article: How To Use Python To Analyze SEO Data: A Reference Guide.
As I’ve stated in the past, by definition I am not a coder.
However, I’ve been around code for so long I know what to look for when I’m analyzing how the code will react with the search engines.
For those like me, I encourage you to dig in and learn the basics of the Python language.
No one is going to care if you master the intricacies of the code.
In fact, I would argue that spending too much learning the language is a waste of time.
For me, the end goal of learning about any new technology is to learn its full capabilities and limitations.
If you understand what a piece of software can do, you can then plan what you need and either figure out how to program just what you need or hire someone to program it for you.
It’s almost impossible to hire someone to automate your SEO tactics if you don’t understand how Python (or any other software) can help you achieve your goal.
My goal in 2022 is to learn everything python can do.
If you are a freelance python developer, feel free to hit me up around May, as I suspect I’ll have some projects by then.
3. Get Your Tracking Right
The introduction of Google Analytics 4 has thrown a wrench in a lot of sites’ tracking codes.
Many went from somewhat high confidence that their analytics data was correct to uncertainty.
When you don’t trust your analytics numbers, you can’t make proper decisions.
You can’t plan properly.
We often have prospects that show up with poorly executed tracking.
This has become so much of an issue that we recently implemented a policy where we don’t move on to any other work until the tracking is set up.
And it needs to be set up so everyone in your organization trusts the data.
If you increase traffic by 140% but the boss doesn’t believe the numbers are accurate, no one will get credit. There is a good chance that the tactics used to achieve the increased traffic won’t be approved again in the future.
Why would anyone approve activity that, based upon their worldview, isn’t effective?
On the other hand, if traffic falls and no one trusts the data, it will be almost impossible to accurately diagnose what is causing the traffic decrease – at least in a way where the whole team is on board with the diagnosis and action items to fix the issues.
4. Embrace The Grind
Good SEO is a grind.
In many cases, we are implementing tactics and must wait several weeks before we know if our efforts worked or not.
We’re a lot like farmers – planting our seeds in the code of our sites, watering and caring for the code while knowing that storms from Google or drought from lack of consumer interest may mean a disastrous harvest.
Successful SEO pros embrace the daily grind.
We work on content to bolster our authority.
We check the code daily to make sure nothing is broken.
And when Google announces an upcoming update, the net looks like a town that just heard a storm is coming – SEO professionals work to batten down the hatches, even if we aren’t exactly sure what to do to prepare for the storm.
All-in-all, SEO becomes a list of daily chores.
Those SEO pros that embrace this daily grind are successful.
Those that look for magic bullets and quick fixes end up chasing their tail.
Embrace the grind.
It’s how you show long-term, sustainable SEO success.
If you’ve read this far, I’d love to hear your search engine marketing resolution.
Feel free to post your SEO New Year’s resolution on Twitter using the hashtag #seo2022.
I am looking forward to reading all the new year’s resolution inspiration I’m sure the readers of Search Engine Journal can provide.
Featured image: LanaSweet/Shutterstock
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