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Using What We Learned in 2017 to Plan for 2018

Using What We Learned in 2017 to Plan for 2018

One of the most exciting aspects of starting a new year for us is the opportunity to leverage the knowledge gained over the past one. 2017 brought about a lot of new changes, tools and trends in search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and more.

The rise of accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for advertisements is particularly exciting, considering Google’s launch of a beta that enables businesses to point their mobile search ads to AMP-enabled landing pages. Using AMP landing pages proved so effective for advertisers over the past year that some e-commerce companies have begun to develop a complete AMP experience for mobile search audiences.

In keeping with this trend, Google worked toward opening its Purchases on Google beta in 2017 to simplify and accelerate the process of buying from product listing ads (PLAs). We are eagerly awaiting the results of this effort in 2018.

These trends are not surprising given the conclusion that many marketers and advertisers have come to the conclusion that mobile-based user searches are the way of the future. Now, more than ever, you and your business are missing out if you are not creating your ads, online experience, and other content to suit mobile users.

Another example of how to leverage the mobile usage trend is the ever-increasing use of mobile video – a tool whose views grew six times faster than desktop views in 2015. It’s easy to see that mobile video use is still on the rise if you simply glance at your Facebook feed. Chances are, you will find that 95% of it is in mobile video format.

Another important social media trend that we will be leveraging in 2017 is short-lived content. We noted in 2017 that Snapchat’s huge appeal was the fact that its content disappears – and in doing so attracted the important Generation Z audience, which is known for its much-maligned eight second attention span. With most modern audiences’ short attention span considered, this trend is precisely why we will be considering ways to make the most of creative and targeted short-lived content.

Also in 2017’s social media realm, we were intrigued by the fact that chatbot technology has become more sophisticated, as exemplified by Facebook. The social media leader has made an art of creating bot programs that provide users with news updates and personal responses in which readers cannot tell if they are talking to a human or a bot. Since this is truly the mark of a great bot program, we are exploring how we can use this tool to influence the purchases of products and services in a variety of industries.

The ultimate challenge for marketers in 2018 will no doubt be winning more business from the wildly effective interactive content trend. There’s no question that this type of content is more popular now than content that is just read. Buzzfeed’s “What City Should You Live In?” is a great example of how interactive content can engage multiple audiences. Chances are good that if you can think of ways to get readers to actively participate in your content rather than to just passively consume it, you will hit a marketing home run with a high return on investment. This type of content can include assessments and polls, as well as surveys, infographics, and contests.

2018 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting years ever in online marketing for DAS Group, as the tools we have to work with encourage us to be even more creative. We eagerly look forward to using all of our new concepts and creations to the benefit of all of our clients in a wide variety of industries. Call us today to discuss how we can help move your brand in the right direction!

Local Searches: The Importance of Proximity and ‘Near Me’ Searches to Your Business

When was the last time you searched on your smartphone or asked Siri for directions to the nearest restaurant or store? Did you specify “near me” or “nearby” when you did this or did you simply request the address of that location? For about three to four years, common searches including phrases like “near me” and “around me” grew rapidly, but in 2017 geo-qualifiers are becoming less important as users understand that Google has learned their location.

As you may have guessed, these users are your current and potential customers, and keeping up with the rhythm of this trend can take your business to the top of customer search results.

Google Knows Where You Are

The decrease in “near me” searches from three years ago to today is largely due to the fact that users have become accustomed to their smartphones knowing where they are through the geo-location feature. Since 2015, there has been a 150% rise in similar searches leaving off the “near me” specification. Looking for a nearby coffee house in 2014, a user may have typed “coffee houses near me,” whereas, these days a quick “coffee shop” entry into the search bar can generate the same list of locations. The same concept holds true in other contexts as well, such as looking up the weather.

In 2017, searches without “near me” exceed and expand past those including it. The three top options that pop up in a search are known as a snack pack, and this is where you want your business to fall to ensure users will select your shop over the next. Google studies show that 90% of users confirm they aren’t set on a specific brand for their purchase when they set out, making it is clear that there is an extraordinary opportunity for local. small businesses to shine through by being locally accessible.

Proximity is Critical for Ranking

When nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location, it is essential to understand the possible key qualifiers to achieve a high ranking in user searches. Studies done by Google show that customers who conduct a “near me” search normally enter the business searched within 24 hours, and a little under 30% of this sample ends up making a purchase. Local convenience is another key factor.

Suggestions to increase your ranking:

  1. Google My Business: The #1 factor in where your business ranks is your Google My Business.For the best results, make sure your Google My Business listing is claimed and completed with all relevant and up-to-date information.
  2. Your Company Website: Incorporate relevant and trending keywords into the content of your website as well as within posts you put up on your blog. Building links from other people’s sites to yours can also increase traffic and SEO.
  3. Reviews: Gathering positive reviews is crucial. Consumers nowadays really like reviews and Google is well aware. Data shows that consumers won’t even consider a business with less than three stars, so remember customer is king.
  4. Citations: Citations are listings indirectories other than Google My Business, such as Yahoo, Yelp and Yellow Pages, etc. You must claim your listing on these directories and complete the information about your business.

Every month, One out of two smartphone owners uses his or her phone to choose where to eat. Think about it, your customers are mobile and already on their way to you but the one deciding factor on whether they choose you or a competitor is who pops up first in their search with the most complete information promoting their business.  This means, if you haven’t perfected your Google My Business page, now is the time to do so to gain sales and security.

Priority on Facebook Goes to Mobile Optimized Websites

Facebook Goes to Mobile Optimized WebsitesEver wonder how Facebook selects the posts on your news feed? Or the order in which posts appear from hour to hour? We are familiar with the “See First” feature and ability to rank our own friends and groups on our feed but what about the advertisements, video clips and popular shared memes that pop up?

Facebook’s algorithm favors some behaviors and types of content over others, and the newest update deals directly with mobile responsiveness. As a whopping 94% of Facebook users access the site via their mobile phones, Facebook has made it so websites with mobile optimization will appear higher and more frequently on your feed than those sites with slow loading times.

The way it works is if a website loads quickly and completely on mobile with all graphics intact, the post is pushed out as high priority in the algorithm and your post’s reach is extended. On the other hand, if a website does not have mobile accessibility or optimization, it may not appear to the desired audience on Facebook due to a lag in loading speed. The user’s current network connection as well as the overall speed of the corresponding website will be factored out as these are trackable measures. This update supports the idea of a flawless user experience in that it ensures that users can scroll through their feeds with ease, viewing fast-loading posts and video clips. For businesses marketing their products and services on Facebook, understanding this new update is key to brand visibility.

We recommend you ensure your website is fast-loading and mobile-friendly to avoid any drop off. Listed below are ten best practices recommended by Facebook to help you maintain relevance and visibility in your followers’ news feeds.

  1. Minimize landing page redirects, plugins and link shorteners.
  2. Compress files to decrease mobile rendering time.
  3. Improve server response time by utilizing multi region hosting.
  4. Remove render-blocking JavaScript.
  5. Use a high-quality content delivery network to reach your audience, quickly.
  6. Remove redundant data that does not impact how the page is processed by the browser.
  7. Optimize images to reduce file size without diminishing visual quality.
  8. Reduce the size of above the fold content to prioritize visual content.
  9. Use asynchronous scripts to streamline page render time.
  10. Dynamically adjust the content for slower connections/devices.

Although Facebook expects the impact of this update to be minimal, it is best for business owners to be on the lookout for noticeable changes to page analytics as well as to check through the list of suggestions above and upgrade where possible.

Craft Your Content, Carefully

If you’re sharing a link in a post, be sure to adhere to the link-format guidelines from a previous update that prioritizes displaying links in link-format versus placing the link in a status or caption. Studies show that using link-format gains twice as many clicks on your post than any other link sharing method. To use link-format, simply paste the link into the draft of the post before posting.

Another less recent yet related update to the Facebook algorithm that we found to be helpful improved posting format and reduced the amount of “click-and-bait” headlines. This type of shortened headline forces the reader to click into the post before fully knowing the post’s topic. This can be disappointing for the reader if the post appeared to contain valuable content and, in fact, did not. Many users click on these mystery headlines only to navigate away from the actual article, immediately. Facebook monitored user behavior alongside likes and shares on a variety of posts of this nature to discover a solution to the problem. Results showed that many users clicked on links but did not like, share or engage, highlighting a disinterest in the content. In order to improve the user experience, Facebook took action to reduce the amount of click-and-bait content appearing on the news feed so that users can see more of what they want.

If you have a business that could use assistance with your Facebook presence or other digital marketing initiatives, contact DAS Group today at 1-800-717-2131.

Facebook’s local search improvements create new opportunities for businesses

Facebook’s local search

Although Google’s dominance of valuable search traffic market share seems beyond question, Facebook is making strides to secure a larger portion of it. Currently, Google has more than 63% of traffic in mobile search, where the growth is considered to be, and a monopoly on search traffic in general of 95%, according to industry intelligence gathered by comScore. However, Facebook has been steadily modifying how search works on its platform in ways that could mean new changes are coming to the local search landscape.

This is good news for businesses that would like more options to capture local customers while searching locally. Recently, industry expert SearchEngineLand.com noted the seven key improvements that Facebook is making after having tested each to see if they truly delivered:

  1. Using location much more effectively

Local business pages on Facebook have now changed to prominently highlight maps and directions at the top on “Home” and “About” pages. Many searches from the top search box also automatically return results based on the user’s location. This provides truly local search results, SearchEngineLand.com says, noting that clicking through to see all results opens the “Places” tab and provides more results within three miles.

  1. Places are prioritized

In the past, the functionality of the “Places” tab was sorely lacking, according to SearchEngineLand.com, but now that has changed: “Facebook Places today is not only highly functional, it is the first information provided when relevant (i.e., when a search is made that implies a place or local business). For example, a search for “Texas Beaches” or “Plumbing services” returned Places results at the top, followed by pages of local businesses. And Facebook recognizes when location is not relevant — a search for “Wonder Woman movie” returned videos, news and a Wikipedia page.”

  1. Search engine results are much more robust and complete

Search results on Facebook are now much deeper and provide more valuable information. The publication tested lawyer listings and found that they now show profile pictures, addresses, distance from the searcher, whether offices are still open, and a star rating, as well as a description of the type of law the firm or attorney practices.

  1. Improved indexing of information

Previously, Facebook had poor indexing of information in its search function, according to SearchEngineLand.com. Now, that is improved with the addition of suggested search terms that appear when a user is typing in the search box. These suggested search terms frequently pull up business categories that Facebook offers its business users to identify what kind of business they are. In this way, Facebook helps the searcher use search terms that will provide better results as indexed on the platform, the publication notes.

  1. Facebook is beta testing new features, including integrating friend posts and local search

Facebook hopes to compete with Google by incorporating its social media data with search results to make sure its offering is as good as its competitor’s. According to industry expert TechCrunch, the company is now testing its improvements with some users to determine if extra posted information about a place or business makes a difference in their search and a business’ ability to tap into valuable “word of mouth” leads.

Facebook also is changing its map results from static to interactive, which SearchEngineLand.com says is a necessary addition to its search function: “The map functions much like Google or Apple Map local searches, providing business listings with pin locations on the map that can be pinched in or zoomed out.”

  1. Facebook is using crowdsourcing to build out its database

Facebook appears to be leveraging the already proven tactic of tapping into its wealth of “free manpower” in the form of users providing recommendations, much the way Google uses its “local guides”.

According to SearchEngineLand.com, some users are being asked to provide input into details about places that they’ve checked into via Facebook Editor. When the user checks in or tags a place, a series of yes-or-no questions are asked, such as “Does this place have parking?” or “Is this the right location on the map?” or “Is this the same place as [another name]?”

SearchEngineLand.com columnist Wesley Young notes: “Based on the information that I’ve been asked to verify, it appears that Facebook does have a fair amount of inaccurate information — leftovers from allowing users to create new place listings themselves. What appears to be a selective “trusted” editor function is an attempt to rectify that, but it also is making some users unhappy. Facebook didn’t ask users to be editors and just automatically asks those questions once a new post is created. A Google search for Facebook editor suggests searches for “delete Facebook editor,” “remove Facebook editor” and many other similar search terms — so it’s unclear how long Facebook will essentially force its users to help clean up its database.”

He maintains, however, that more accurate and comprehensive information would help further improve Facebook’s search function.

  1. The introduction of city guides

Based on research that social media is boosting travel and entertainment spending as users seek out experiences that they can share with friends and reflect positively on themselves, Facebook has created City Guides that provide information on popular places such as restaurants and sights for frequently visited cities, according to SearchEngineLand.com.

The guides list the user’s friends who have visited the city, and by tapping on each friend’s name the user can see a list of places that the friend visited while there. The guides also list “local favorites” and Young says they have more of a “TripAdvisor feel that is more personalized or targeted and adds a rich surf-and-discover function to Facebook’s local search experience.”

How to benefit from the new Facebook changes

With the improvements that Facebook is making, SearchEngineLand.com notes that users will have more reason to spend more time on the platform and consume more content. This can easily result in small businesses that already benefit from the engagement it provides becoming customers of its advertising offerings.

We agree that it’s a good idea for businesses to review their local pages’ “About” section, checking for how information appears in search results to make sure it captures search traffic in accordance with Facebook’s changes. Both SearchEngineLand.com and we recommend doing the following as soon as possible:

  • Review your Facebook business profile and make sure it includes contact information, details about your business and interactive functions you can adopt.
  • Make sure your location information is accurate and offers a physical map location that shows up at the top of your business profile when your page is displayed.
  • Add business categories that further describe your business. Although you are only asked for one business category when you create your Facebook page, you can return and edit the “About” section to add two more business categories that may help improve visibility, depending on the search terms used.
  • Activate buttons that Facebook offers, such as call-to-click and appointment schedulers that help convert traffic to your page.
  • Don’t leave blanks in any section that might trigger Facebook to crowdsource answers. Your answers will be the most reliable answers.

If your business needs assistance with your Facebook presence or other digital marketing initiatives, contact DAS Group today at 1-800-717-2131.

Snapchat’s Ad Manager Gives Businesses of All Sizes Opportunities to Reach New Audiences

Reach New Audiences with Snapchat’s Ad Manager

With Snapchat’s announcement earlier this month that it is launching a self-service ad-buying system in June, small businesses now will have another digital option to reach their key audiences.

Called Snapchat Ad Manager, the initiative is Snapchat’s first effort to allow companies of all sizes to run campaigns and will be widely available in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and other countries. Now, smaller businesses can buy the app’s vertical video ads to drive app installs, obtain branded long-form video views, and prompt ecommerce click-throughs.

Adweek reports that Snapchat is rolling out Snapchat Ad Manager with 20 brands, including smaller players like online sneaker seller Goat, social app Mammoth Media, movie ticket app Atom Tickets and gift retailer Hollar.

It’s no wonder that Snapchat is trying to garner a share of the growing digital ad market for smaller businesses. More than 3 million companies advertise their business story on Facebook, many of which are not large brands. Millions more advertise on Google, which is also known for its substantive results for small businesses. However, the market share of those two digital giants might be challenged soon as companies like Snapchat move into their territory.

Hot trends in digital advertising for smaller companies over the next few years include:

  • Mobile – According to data collected by Biznessapps, a mobile platform for small businesses, nearly half of small businesses are expected to adopt a mobile app by 2017 or later. In fact, within 2017, it is predicted that mobile advertising will finally surpass desktop advertising due to the explosive growth of mobile device users.
  • Video – This trend is closely related to mobile. Video viewership on mobile has surpassed desktop viewership since Q1 of 2015, according to Invodo. Considered an excellent way to reach the highly sought after millennial audience, sharing video on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is a particularly effective way to tell a brand’s story.
  • Live Video – This trend is considered largely responsible for Snapchat’s skyrocket rise. Facebook has reported that users watched live videos three times longer than those that weren’t live.
  • Native – Spending on native advertising hit the $7.9 billion mark in 2016 and is expected to grow to $21 billion in 2018, according to Business Insider. It’s also expected to spread even further across digital platforms. This is a result of consumers’ increasing distaste for overt advertising. It is estimated that more than 400 million mobile web users and 200 million desktop web users are using ad-blocking technology to restrict banner ads displayed on their devices.
  • Interactive Content – As consumers are bombarded by an estimated average of 5,000 advertisements per day, one way to break through the noise and capture the attention of a distracted audience is to personalize the ad experience by making it interactive. This is considered especially effective when targeting very specific types of users.
  • Data Use – Major platforms like Facebook and Google provide key metrics and data to all of their advertisers. This is vital to determine the success or failure of a campaign as well as key in providing important insight into the minds of consumers. Ultimately, leveraging data to perfect and correct the content being pushed out is the way to get the most out of an advertising spend.

Smart business owners will pay close attention to new opportunities in digital advertising, like Snapchat’s Ad Manager, as well as to the industry trends in play that can help them grow their companies.