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New Research Shows How to Win in Local Search via @sejournal, @martinibuster



New research from Silicon Valley agency Milestone Internet reveals how local and organic search generate more traffic, produce higher engagement rates and it converts at higher revenue rates per transaction than other channels.

Methodology: Millions of Sessions and Page Views Analyzed

The Milestone Internet research paper analyzed 500 location based businesses, their sessions and page views in order to understand which channels produced more earnings at the best ROI.

According to Milestone Internet:

“Milestone Research reviewed over 500 location-based websites, 63 million sessions, and 176 million page views over 18 months from Jan 2020 to June 2021 to generate these findings.”

Top Performing Channels

Organic search was the top performing channel, followed by local search.


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What was especially interesting was that referral traffic came in third. Referral traffic can be traffic from sites like Angi (formerly Angies List), Yelp, Home Advisor and so on.

I once heard Brett Tabke (@btabke), founder of Pubcon (@Pubcon) search marketing conference, speak about promoting a website where he said that there is no better source of traffic than a referral from a source that is trusted. He said that those referrals convert at a higher rate and result in higher enthusiasm by customers.

My professional experience following that advice validated his observation.

There is something special about a website telling their audience about how great another site is as part of a strategy for obtaining more traffic because the visitors are ready to embrace the site before they even visit it.


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Local search today has many options for obtaining quality recommendations from trusted third party websites.

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Referral Results in More Page Views

An interesting finding was that traffic from referrals resulted in higher engagement rates.

Page View Graph

Page View Graph

Milestone Internet’s research showed that referral traffic was responsible for nearly 10% of traffic. According to the research, optimizing for third party referrals is an important channel to optimize for.

According to the research paper:

“Referral traffic is the 3rd largest contributor to website traffic with 9.4% of overall traffic. Referral traffic is the visits to your website from the links on different sites. It is a recommendation from one website to another.

The data indicates that generating quality backlinks and external sources is a good source to generate web traffic.”

This is how the different channels ranked for traffic:

  • Organic: 46.5%
  • Local: 22.6%
  • Referral: 9.4%
  • Paid Search: 8% of website traffic.
  • Other: 13.6%


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Research Takeaways:

A big takeaway is that local search deserves to be fully optimized, from taking full advantage of Google My Business (GMB), building third party referrals, improving SEO and utilizing every opportunity to increase visibility in search.

Milestone Internet’s researchers observed:

“Organic and Local Search together is the best combination for driving website traffic with 69% session share and 73% page view share. But given the data, they turn out to be the most reliable, resilient, and high-performing channels. Local gives the best ROI with the highest page views per session compared to other channels.”

Milestone Internet offered these ten tips for optimizing the local search visibility:


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  1. Complete and optimize your Google My Business (GMB) Profile
  2. Make your business name, URL, address information consistent across all channels
  3. Add Schema structured data
  4. Put a strong focus on the mobile user experience
    This can mean optimizing for core web vitals but also to make sure that the mobile version feels familiar and easy to use. That means consciously designing the page for mobile and signing off on the design only when it performs flawlessly on mobile.
  5. Voice Optimization (actions and skills on Google Assistant and Alexa)
  6. Add FAQs
    FAQs means Frequently Asked Questions. This is an interesting recommendation because at the heart of it is the reality that potential customers have questions and they ask them in search. Thinking of common questions and then answering them on the website within an FAQ context is a good way to capture those question-type local search queries. Businesses can also use FAQ schema structured data in order to qualify for rich results specific to FAQs.
  7. Search optimization
    Nowadays SEO for local is more than just adding keywords. Optimizing also includes promoting the idea that the local business is expert, trustworthy and authoritative.
  8. Clear CTAs
    CTAs are Call to Actions. Those are the “contact us” boxes that a potential customer can use to initiate a transaction or call for information. Because at 50% or more of local traffic is mobile, this also means making it easy for customers to click to call.
  9. Make the site accessible
    This is a big one. This isn’t just about hearing or sight impaired customers, either. Something like color choice is very important to the many people who are color blind. The wrong choice of colors for buttons can ruin the user experience for customers with disabilities and cost a potential sale. Why leave money on the table, right?
  10. Event calendar
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Read the full article and download the research paper:
Organic Search and Local Drive 69% of Digital Traffic for Location-Based Businesses


5 Tips For More Engaging & Impactful Branded Travel Content



5 Tips For More Engaging & Impactful Branded Travel Content

Branded content is a term that is thrown around quite a lot in marketing circles, but many people struggle to understand what it actually means.

It’s likely that you’ve come across and engaged with plenty of pieces of branded content before without realizing it, both as a consumer and in a professional context.

In the travel industry, in particular, branded content is frequently used as a way to appeal to certain customer demographics who prioritize the integrity and values of a brand over the specifics of their offering.

Branded content can take a wide variety of forms and approaches, which means that it can be tricky to figure out the best way to make the strategy work for you.

The struggle ends here.

What Is Branded Content?

Put simply, branded content is any piece of content that builds brand awareness by associating a company with the values it communicates.

To really understand where this approach comes from, you need to understand the context from which it emerged.

Traditional advertising has the intention of selling a product or experience at its core. Whatever method is used to do this, it is often explicit enough that the customer is aware that they are actively being sold to.

Many of the techniques used in traditional marketing are very effective, but the consumer landscape has changed drastically over the last decade or so.

Potential customers are wise to the classic methods used to catch their attention and subtly manipulate their behavior, which has led to a distrust of brands who use obvious advertising methods to explicitly push what they are selling.

On top of this, what modern consumers want from the brands they support has also changed in recent years.

In fact, 83% of millennials, in particular, prefer to spend their money on products or experiences from businesses whose values align with their own, and actively seek out companies with missions or goals that they also support.

This is particularly relevant in the travel industry as it is in line with many customers’ concerns over the social or environmental impact of their holidays.

Instead of looking for the cheapest deals, many consumers now prioritize booking trips with brands that share their priorities when it comes to travel.

Branded content is the product of these key changes in the marketing landscape.

To appeal to this new generation of consumers, and to avoid the distrust that comes with explicit methods of advertising, branded content focuses on creating all kinds of content that potential customers will enjoy and illustrates the values of a company, instead of its offering.

This could be videos, blog posts, publications, and podcasts that are produced by a brand but not directly related to its product or service.

Branded content taps into the topics that potential customers are interested in to catch their attention and then builds affinity by regularly sharing other engaging content so that the brand becomes synonymous with certain positive values or ideas.

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The benefits of this approach are clear: Branded content strengthens brand image, which helps you to stand out from your competitors, improves recall, and increases the number of potential customers who hear about your brand.

Targeting potential customers whose values align with your brand also means that conversion rates are higher and that you’re more likely to gain long-term customer loyalty.

Branded content is an inbound marketing strategy; it attracts new customers by focusing on creating an appealing brand image.

There’s a lot of overlap with other marketing techniques and formats, which makes it easy to integrate this approach into your existing marketing plan.

It should be noted that the term ‘branded content’ is now also used to refer to a kind of collaborative marketing approach on social media platforms such as Instagram, where a creator indicates that a post has been sponsored or inspired by a business partner.

Influencer marketing can involve kinds of branded content, but in this article, we use the term to refer to the wider style of content creation.

How To Make Branded Content Work For Your Travel Business

Now, you understand what is meant by the term branded content and can see the benefits of adopting the approach for your travel brand, you might have been left wondering how to put these ideas into action.

1. Establish Your Values

Company values are a key part of establishing a unique brand image. They’re more than just your business goals and culture.

They dictate the kinds of travel experiences you offer, the way you approach your marketing content, the way you use your profits, and the kinds of consumers who support you.

At the heart of any branded content campaign should be what your company stands for and the impact you want to make in the travel world and beyond.

The whole point of this marketing approach is to highlight brand values that the audience will respond to, so you need to get this straight before you go any further.

If you already have a clear set of company values, fantastic. Identify the ones that you think your audience will relate to most, and go from there.

If you feel your values are lacking, think about issues or trends in the travel and tourism industry that you care about or feel that you could make a difference to.

Cast the net wider and reflect on any social issues that you think your business could support or impact, and consider if there’s a way to work these into your values as well.

2. Identify Audience Interests

Understanding the audience you are marketing to is the backbone of any successful marketing scheme. Branded content is no different.

However, instead of just tapping into what your audience wants from a travel company, you need to dig deep and research into the interests and values of each demographic in your customer base.

Branded content works by catching the attention of potential customers who are going to want what your business offers, and building up a trusting relationship with them through the content you share.

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In order to grab this attention in the first place, you need to have a clear idea of what your target audience cares about.

This goes further than just understanding what kind of holidays they enjoy and what they seek to get out of travel experiences, although this is still quite useful.

You need to find out what other interests intersect or align with their identity as a consumer.

  • What kind of hobbies do they enjoy?
  • What other brands do they support?
  • What are their values?
  • What social issues do they care about?
  • What topics do they enjoy reading about in their free time?

Complete this research for each of the different groups that make up your target audience, the more segmented the better.

Then, identify the areas and topics that have some overlap with your brand, and start seeking branded content inspiration here.

For example, say that you’re a travel brand that specializes in wellness holidays to tropical destinations.

Your target audience may have general interests in things like healthy eating, exercise, and mindfulness, and also care about their environmental impact on the planet, for example.

As a travel brand, it doesn’t make sense for you to share content offering health or nutrition advice, but you could create content that discusses sustainability in travel or the benefits of activities like yoga or meditation on mental wellness.

There doesn’t have to be an explicit travel focus on the branded content you create. As long as it aligns with your overall business values and benefits your brand image, it will attract the right kinds of customers.

3. Choose Popular Formats

A key part of ensuring success when it comes to branded content is choosing a format that your target audience is going to engage with.

There’s no point in spending a huge portion of your budget on an elaborate video marketing campaign if your target audience actually prefers to read content instead of watching it.

Alternately, if the majority of your customers enjoy social media content above all other formats, creating a print publication will get you nowhere.

Branded content makes a big impact because it genuinely engages and excites the people who see it, which prompts them to share and grow the content’s reach.

If you’re not using a platform or a format that your audience is familiar with or want to share content on, you won’t get the desired impact.

Another feature of branded content is that it tends to respond to popular trends.

There’s no point in trying to create something relevant if your audience has already lost interest in the format you use. If you’re going to take inspiration from what’s popular, you need to ensure you act fast.

This is one of the simplest pieces of branded content marketing advice, but it’s an essential part to make the approach work for your travel brand.

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Do your research to make sure you’re creating something that potential customers will want to engage with, and then start brainstorming.

4. Create Immersive Content

Branded content seeks to catch people’s attention and make an impact, even if they’ve never interacted with your brand before.

Tapping into consumers’ emotions is one of the best ways to do this, which is why creating immersive branded content is such an effective approach.

Video and audio formats are particularly successful for travel brands, as they can immediately transport a potential customer to a new destination or experience.

You shouldn’t use this tactic to promote your brand offering (or at least, not in this approach to marketing), but instead, focus on crafting an experience that is so engaging, it will stay in a consumer’s mind afterward.

The worlds of VR and augmented reality are opening up more possibilities than ever before when it comes to immersive content, but even if you don’t quite have the budget for such formats, you can still effectively hook your audience in an instant.

Consider audio content that speaks directly to the listener, visual-heavy social media posts that inspire instant wanderlust, and description-rich written content that your reader can’t help but get lost in.

5. Be Unique

There are plenty of instances in a marketing strategy where it pays to play it safe.

Branded content isn’t one of those.

This is definitely the time to do something quirky and creative that will get your brand noticed and your content shared.

A partnership with an unexpected brand on a series of social media posts? A response to a hot topic that clearly illustrates your stance on the matter? A venture into an unusual format, such as producing a music video?

The best examples of branded content are the ones that have gone viral, usually due to their unique or unexpected nature.

Communicating your values is important, but you need to catch consumers’ attention first so that they actually listen to what you’re saying.

If there was ever a time to take a risk and try something new, this is it.


It’s possible that your travel business has already dipped its toe in the branded content waters, or you’ve been pursuing similar results with your marketing efforts without knowing the technical term for what you’re doing.

You might also be a total newcomer to this approach, in which case this article should have given you a good idea of the best ways to make branded content work for you in the travel sector.

The nature of branded content is likely to change over the coming years in response to fluctuating consumer interests and priorities, as well as the introduction of new marketing techniques.

What is unlikely to change however is the positive impact of promoting your brand by finding common ground with your target audience, leading to high levels of customer engagement, trust, and loyalty.

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Featured Image: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

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How To Use Instagram Reels: A Step-By-Step Guide



How To Use Instagram Reels: A Step-By-Step Guide

Instagram Reels allows you to create and share TikTok-like videos of up to 60-seconds in length.

Unlike Instagram Stories, Reels are featured permanently on your Instagram profile and don’t disappear after 24 hours.

Reels shares many of the same features as TikTok, which is helping Instagram stay competitive with what is currently the fastest growing social media app.

Unlike TikTok, which is a standalone app, Reels is built into the Instagram app you already use.

With Instagram Reels you can:

  • Create and share 60-second videos.
  • Add your own audio to videos, or choose a song from a catalog of licensed music.
  • Grab original audio from other videos and add it to your video.
  • Create reaction videos to content from other users.

Reels are featured in the Instagram Explore tab, which gives you a chance to reach a wider audience of people that aren’t already following you.

There’s potential to gain significant exposure if your Reel goes viral and becomes “Featured” content in the Explore section.

Here’s more about how to create and share Reels.

1. Open The Instagram App & Navigate To Reels

Screenshot from, January 2022.

Open the Instagram app and log-in to your account if you’re not logged in already.

Then tap the plus-sign button, or swipe right from the main feed to get to the Instagram camera.

With the Instagram camera open, scroll to Reels at the bottom.

2. Record A Reel With The Instagram Camera

instagram reelsScreenshot from, January 2022.

After selecting Reels you can either begin recording immediately, or you can add some production quality by selecting one of the following tools:

  • Audio: Search for a song from the Instagram music library or record your own audio.
  • AR Effects: Select one of the many effects in effect gallery.
  • Timer and Countdown: Set the timer to record clips hands-free.
  • Align: Line up objects from your previous clip before recording your next clip.
  • Speed: Speed up or slow down part of the video or audio you selected.
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Record your Reel by pressing and holding the capture button.

A Reel can be recorded in a series of clips, all at once, or using video uploads from your camera roll.

You can preview your creation, as well as add stickers, drawings, or text before publishing the Reel.

Once your Reel is finished you can move on to the editing screen.

3. Share The Reel To Your Followers

instagram reelsScreenshot from, January 2022.

Tap Share to and then tap Cover to change your cover photo and write a caption.

By default your Reel will be shared to Instagram Explore. Tap Stories at the top if you want to share your reel to your story instead of to Explore.

How The Instagram Reels Algorithm Works

Instagram is transparent about how it ranks the content people see when browsing through Reels. This insight may help you with creating more successful clips.

Instagram is pushing Reels as its next flagship feature. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, has gone on record saying he wants wants to go big on video in an effort to compete directly with TikTok.

As Instagram continues to invest in Reels it’s keeping users informed about how this section of the app works.

The company has revealed how it chooses which Reels are recommended to each individual user.

Continue reading to learn how the Instagram algorithm surfaces Reels, which is information that can assist you with creating more engaging content for your audience.

Here’s what you need to know.

How Instagram Recommends Reels to Users

The goal of Intagram’s Reels algorithm is to surface content users will enjoy watching and actively engage with.

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In order to determine which Reels to show users, Instagram’s algorithm considers how likely an individual is to:

  • Watch a Reel the whole way through
  • Like it
  • Say it was entertaining or funny
  • Go to the audio page to make their own Reel

That last point might sound confusing if you’re not familiar with either Reels or TikTok. It refers to the ability to take an audio track from someone’s video and create your own content with it.

Unless the creator has the feature disabled, each Reel has a page where viewers can grab the audio and make a new video with the same track.

Creating a Reel with a highly shareable sound clip can get you far with the recommendation algorithm — but it’s not the only signal that counts.

Related: How Instagram’s Algorithm Works & IG Content Best Practices

Most Important Reels Algorithm Signals

Instagram says user activity is the most important signal when it comes to recommending Reels.

The algorithm considers which Reels a user has engaged with in the past, and whether they’ve had any direct interaction with the content creator.

That means responding to comments, DMs, and tags can help get your content shown in peoples’ feeds more often.

After that, Instagram looks at information about the video itself and information about the content creator.

The most important signals for the Reels recommendation algorithm are (in order of importance):

  • User activity: Including recent engagement with Reels and interactions with content creators.
  • Information about the Reel: Such as its popularity, its audio track, and understanding of the video based on pixels and whole frames.
  • Information about the creator: Including who they are and how other users have interacted with them.
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Types of Content Instagram Won’t Recommend

There are several types of content Instagram won’t recommend regardless of how popular the creator is or how much engagement the video receives.

Instagram avoids recommending Reels for the following reasons:

  • The video is low resolution and/or watermarked.
  • The video contains political content.
  • The video was made by political or government figures.

If you want to get anywhere with Instagram Reels, aim for producing high quality and original content. Watermarked videos recycled from other sites will not get surfaced in peoples’ feeds unless they follow the creator directly.

Lastly, keep the subject matter light and friendly for all audiences.

Keep track of which Reels resonate most with your followers by noting the amount of likes, views, and comments each one receives. With a business or creator account you access even more detailed metrics.

More resources:

Source: @creators on Instagram

Featured Image: Ascannio/Shutterstock

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KPIs & Metrics That Matter For 2022 Digital Marketing Success [Webinar]



KPIs & Metrics That Matter For 2022 Digital Marketing Success [Webinar]

Not finding much value in KPIs and metrics? Skipping measurements because they take too much time?

What if you could make smarter decisions and identify issues before they harm your business?

The key is selecting the right KPIs and metrics for the situation and measuring them in a reliable way. And now you can learn how.

Register for the Search Engine Journal webinar on Wednesday, January 26 at 2 p.m. (ET) to discover how to use the right KPIs and metrics so you can take advantage of new opportunities.

You’ll hear about the finer points of marketing measurement from Jonathan Laberge, who will cover how to best measure digital success and make KPIs an essential tool for your company’s bottom line.

You’ll discover how to:

  • Measure effective KPIs.
  • Gather the right data to take action and improve your strategy.
  • Set goals for a variety of digital marketing programs.

You’ll also hear about the best software and systems to use that will make the entire process effective and efficient — everything you need to get started today. Sign up now!

As part of the live Q&A session, you can ask about your particular situation, too.

Can’t attend the webinar live? We will send you the on-demand version after the event if you sign up now.

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