“What do you mean?” This is Google’s ultimate and fundamental question. They want to answer your question. They want to provide the resource you need. They want to know what you really mean. The Google BERT update began the week of 28 October 2019 and is intended to answer that question.
The acronym stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”. This update from Google is about understanding human language. It began to roll out last week. It uses A.I. (artificial intelligence) on a neural network powered by machine learning. Google already knows perfect grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but it needs to know lingo, intention, and meaning. That is what BERT studies and interprets.
“Bass” can mean the lowest male singing voice or a fish.
“Rose” can mean a flower, a color, a wine, or a cut.
BERT uses context to understand meaning.
Instead of just trying to match keywords from the search to a website, BERT is trying to match your intent to a web result that gives the most relevant answer.
This is a big change! Google has said it is their biggest update of the last five years and will impact 10% of all searches in the English language. (Other major updates affected 2% – 5%.) The goal is to understand the meaning of longer, conversational queries such as:
“cost of a college degree in a job interview”
“credit report needed for car financing”
“2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa”
“sale commission to real estate agent”
“do estheticians stand a lot at work”
This will impact:
Nathan Greenberg runs our SEO strategies and in his opinion BERT is going to negatively impact websites that employ “keyword stuffing”. He also believes it is going to impact image and video search as more ADA-compliant content is created utilizing ALT tags. For Arkside clients, no strategy change is necessary. We have not observed any negative impact on any client websites at this point from Google BERT!
Bottom line: It reinforces the need to write website copy for human readers instead of search engine bots.
How to rank on the page 1 of Google is one of the most coveted and misunderstood business goals of the 21st century. The holy first page. 93% of the eyeballs never go to page 2. Business managers and owners understand its value. This has opened a huge market for disreputable companies to make false promises we see every day. They usually arrive via email and look something like this:
“We can put you on the first page of Google!”
“Our program will have you ranked on page 1!”
“This patented system guarantees you will be #1 on Google!”
“You will rank #1 on Google within 30 days!”
As a company that offers and specializes in digital marketing, we fully understand the importance of appearing on page 1 of Google. It can boost website traffic, enhance reputation, and improve sales. But it can be done in two very different ways: right or wrong. The right way is worth an investment. The wrong way should be avoided at all costs. This false “Page 1 Promise” can cost you dearly.
Continue reading and you will learn why any company (with one exception) is lying when they make this promise.
Google has confirmed that there are approximately 200 ranking factors in the calculation of a page’s rank. This is a major reason reaching page 1 of Google isn’t easy. Once they are evaluated and broken down, there are perhaps 10,000 variations that are included in the Google ranking algorithm. Thankfully, Google has been kind enough earlier in 2016 to confirm it’s top three ranking factors:
1 & 2. Inbound links and content
Links and content are listed together because Google has never confirmed which is more important. Those two elements are vital but bad links or content can also result in penalties. We’ll cover those later in this post. They are directly related to the false promises of Google rankings.
RankBrain is a machine learning artificial intelligence program which evaluates searches and the results they generate. In 2013, Google stated that approximately 15% of the 3.3 billion searches it handles every day are something it has never seen before. RankBrain evaluates those searches and the results produced. Always keep in mind that Google’s top priority is to serve the most relevant results possible. RankBrain helps Google efficiently learn about new searches and better understand what the user is searching for.
The recipe for Coca-Cola.
The formula for WD-40.
The Google algorithm. (It is called “Hummingbird“.)
The calculation of a FICO score.
These are all highly coveted targets of corporate espionage. They are secrets. Only a select group of people in the world know any one of them. That secrecy is the primary reason any company (with one exception) claiming to know the Google algorithm is lying. That one exception is Google. Much like FICO is the only company that knows the full and accurate way a credit score is calculated, Google is the only company that knows every ranking factor and their importance. It is rumored that less than 10 people at Google actually have this information. The rest of us are making educated guesses – some more educated than others.
Millions of dollars are spent every year by companies around the world trying to determine how to rank a webpage. The entire search engine optimization (SEO) industry is devoted almost entirely to this pursuit. For any company to claim they can guarantee first page ranking, they would need to know the algorithm.
An important element of the Google ranking system is called PageRank. It is an algorithm within the algorithm that ranks webpages within the search results. Its primary factor are inbound links to a site. As mentioned above, links are one of the top two ranking factors so the PageRank algorithm is vital to a site’s appearance on page one of Google. PageRank is also a primary means of dishing out penalties from Google.
Beyond the secrecy surrounding their algorithm, Google is very serious when it comes to people who try to “game the system”. Remember Google’s top priority? They don’t take kindly to people who intentionally manipulate the organic search results to circumvent search results. Such efforts have a material impact on Google’s quality. They publish Webmaster Guidelines which, when violated, can result in serious damage to a webpage’s ranking.
Google’s most notable penalty is a loss of PageRank. When Google discovers “black hat” SEO techniques such as artificial blog networks or paid links, it usually responds with a corresponding loss of PageRank. This has happened to companies such as BMW and even Google’s own Chrome browser website. The loss of PageRank -which, in some cases, goes to zero- can be coupled with the complete removal from search results of the offending blog network or site with paid links.
Companies that suffer Google penalties have reported loss of website traffic, loss of revenue, and a long climb back to page 1 of Google. Companies like BeatTheQuote.com, JCPenney, and Rap Genius (lost 700,000 visitors a day!) have all had to endure Google penalties.
Obviously, you should not be buying links, using black hat blog networks, or keyword stuffing your webpages.
Focus on creating content that is valuable to your audience(s). Educate and entertain to earn visits and time. Doing so requires a deep understanding of your market. The best SEO is organic value in the content you create. Blogs are an excellent means of regularly updating your website while providing educational or entertaining information. Pages (along with your blog posts) should be updated when needed, consist mostly of text, and include images as visual support or illustration for the material presented.
Google has a guide: ask yourself “would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?” While this shouldn’t be taken literally, it should be considered whenever an SEO strategy is proposed.
If you would like to have your current website analyzed and SEO strategy created or evaluated, contact an Arkside specialist today. Our team can provide you with objective insight, identify unrealized opportunities, and present effective strategies that maximize your search engine presence.
It was recently reported by Searchmetrics that Google is strongly prioritizing social media activities in their ranking algorithm. This knowledge should have profound implications in the SEO strategy of your company and how you include social media in your overall online plans. The SEO strategy you have built with your Arkside consultants incorporates this information already and we encourage you to utilize these best practices in your social media efforts.
Seven of the top 10 factors in a website’s rank involve social media. They are:
1) Google +1
2) Facebook Shares
4) Facebook Total
5) Facebook Comments
6) Facebook Likes
The importance of social media elements has been a growing trend in Google’s SEO algorithm and 2013 seems to reinforce that notion. Although backlinks continue to remain vital, there are other factors which have decreased in importance such as keywords links and domains. It is interesting to note that Google is specifically including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, while ignoring LinkedIn which is a hub of deep knowledge on nearly every possible industry. We’ll have to see how or if this evolves over time. When sharing your content on social media, remember that people don’t want to see you talk about yourself all day. For every 7-10 social media posts you make, one should be about you.
Also of note in the report are the on-site elements Google is looking for. It is no surprise that “content is still king” and Google wants websites to create unique content that is valuable to the intended audience. As a contrary example, the Arkside Marketing blog is filled with information about the company, areas of marketing, best practices, and client profiles. If we suddenly began blogging about fishing or the latest updates to IRS tax code, Google might devalue our site for being grossly off-topic. Ensure your website has fresh, unique, and quality content in order to build your authority on your topic(s). These are the on-site factors examined by Google:
Missing from the first list in this blog post is #3 – Number of backlinks. Google still considers this to be a critical metric of your authority on a particular subject. If you have good content, Google assumes people will like it, link to it, and share it publicly via their own site or social media channels. This does not mean you should implement any “black hat” SEO techniques and create blog farms filled with backlinks to your site. White hat techniques are still the unarguably best way to achieve Google SEO success.
While Google hasn’t made many dramatic shifts in their ranking priority from last year to this year, social media has climbed in importance and must remain a key factor in your online strategies. Use social media to promote the high-quality, unique content on your site and encourage people to distribute that content via backlinks and social media sharing. This is how you will achieve digital success.
When the doors to the office are locked for the evening, that never means you have to stop receiving phone calls, generating website traffic, receiving emails, or educating your customers. There are many ways that your direct response advertising campaign can continue to sell after hours. Advertising is an investment and, like your money, it should always be working for you.
Let us pretend your company sells mattresses. You have three showrooms within 200 miles of each other and they are open 9am – 6pm seven days per week. Your website shows your full product catalog along with information about your company and how to contact any store. You are currently running a radio ad campaign and 20% of your commercials are running from 8pm – 12 midnight. (Don’t worry. You got these for free as a result of our negotiating.) You also have a television campaign running from 4pm – 12 midnight, a YouTube channel, Facebook Page, Twitter feed, Google AdWords, and a long-term SEO strategy.
How do you continue to sell after 6pm?
Your radio and television ads include a phone number. But after 6pm, you don’t have a live body in the office to answer it. That is no reason to stop your customer from calling after hours. There are many call center services with locations around the world (remember the time difference) that can provide professional operators to take calls for your business after hours. They speak proficient, sometimes fluent or native, English, and can be trained to follow your company protocol for greeting and working with after hours calls. This can include instruction on what to do with urgent calls and whom to reach. Messages can be taken and delivered via fax or email for convenience.
They can also direct customers to your website and/or social media networks, which we will cover in the next sections. Always remember that your staff and marketing media should be a resource to the customer.
Your direct response advertising should include a reference to your website. And your website has a live chat operator, right? If your answer was “no”, we hope there is a great reason because a live chat operator can help you move more mattresses when your brick and mortar is closed. According to a 2010 Forrester Research study on live chat, “44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer.”
In addition to answering questions just before or even during someone’s purchasing process on your site, live chat also offers specific after hours benefits. If most or all of your competitors are lacking a website live chat feature, you are in a unique position to help your customers AND sell to them while your competition waits for 8am the next morning.
Live chat is also a great means of reducing cost-per-sale.
Customers hate waiting. By allowing your employees to multitask, you can substantially reduce the backlog on your phone system during the day (not to mention reduce call volume dramatically) and increase the overall number of customers who received support.
Finally – use it in your advertising! Promote your competitive advantage of having help available 24 hours a day, especially if that is when your advertising is running.
It isn’t wasted time or space to include social media in your direct response advertising if you can help questions and sell mattresses via social media. In much the same way live chat can help you sell after hours, so can social media, but with more opportunities. Live chat requires initiation by the user on some level to begin the relationship. All of the social media sites give your business the opportunity to start a relationship, answer questions, promote a new mattress line, or offer advice.
A recent study showed that Google prioritizes social media factors in its calculations for search rankings. Seven of the top 10 factors involve social media. If for no other reason, make sure your company is using social media to enhance its own rankings in search. Never make it a challenge for customers to find you, especially after hours when customers have plenty of time to search and choose between you and your competitors.
Content is also critical for SEO and customer engagement. No one wants to see a Facebook Page or Twitter feed filled with self-promotion. Talk about events in your community, share interesting and RELEVANT photos and videos, and create contests to prompt customer engagement. These are a few of the things you can do that will earn a customer’s attention while they try to learn more about you and your mattresses in the wee hours of the night.
Ensure that your staff or an outside vendor are monitoring your social media networks after hours. They should have the ability to respond to messages, reTweet, share information, and assist customers with making purchases on your website. The goal is to be far more than an answering service taking messages for someone to handle in the morning.
Your social media team should be thoroughly familiar with your website. This is vital so they can direct customers to the right page at the right time. For example, a customer wants to know how many years a mattress will last. Your social media team should send that person to a Testimonials page about the mattress line, not a description of the features. (Of course, if your product page has testimonials on it, that is okay.)
There is no reason you need to wait for your doors to open to sell. Utilize your after hours direct response advertising to direct your potential customers to the places they can find answers. With these three techniques, you can successfully and cost-efficiently sell your product or services after hours.
Businesses large and small can encounter difficulties when integrating social media into their traditional advertising strategy. The opportunities to reach an audience are more diverse with social media due to the variety of sites, not to mention the methods they use to connect users together. The following tips will help you integrate social media with your traditional media such as print, radio, and television.
The same person responsible for your current traditional marketing should also be responsible for social media. They don’t have to do the work, but they should be accountable. You need someone to coordinate the brand, message, and schedule between all of your media properties. This will help maintain cohesion in your marketing.
Show your customers that you are the same company on social media that you are in traditional media. For example, place the Facebook logo in your magazine ad with a call-to-action such as “Like Us On Facebook for Exclusive Coupons!”. Social and traditional media should be used to assist each other. Share your TV commercial on Twitter and other social media the same day it hits the airwaves. Make sure it is loaded on your website or YouTube channel so you can track interactions. Let people know what TV channels they can find it on. We brought a new level of cross pollination to our client, Precision Instrumentation, by including their YouTube channel on all of their product packaging. The channel offers a collection of how-to and self-help videos so their clients don’t have to call a support line for small, quick fixes.
Make sure to incorporate whatever features are appropriate: a “Like” or “+1” button, Facebook or Twitter feed, Share buttons, etc. Integrating social media into your website can give you four direct benefits. First, some social media elements such as Like or +1 buttons give you a search engine optimization (SEO) enhancement. Second, it can add dynamic content that keeps your website visitor updated on the latest news from your company or about your product without having to read a blog or press release. Third, your website visitors now have a direct and convenient link to your social media and can connect with you organically (thereby growing your contact potential in the future). Finally, with a Like, +1, or other Share button, you are enabling and encouraging your visitors to share your content with their friends and family. This is equivalent to handing them a bullhorn and providing a script about how amazing you are.
You may use a newsletter or “email blast” to communicate with your customer database on a regular basis. (If not, please contact us NOW so we can help you get started on this vital marketing component!) But whatever you use to stay in touch, make sure to promote your new social media channels. Tell them to Like you on Facebook, Follow you on Twitter, Follow you on Instagram, Circle you on Google+, or whatever it may be they need to do on a particular social media channel. “If you build it, they will come” only works for strip clubs and open bank vaults. You not only have to tell people where to find you, but what to do when they get there. Make it easy by integrating social media.
Social media is an important opportunity to reach new customers, stay connected with current customers, and showcase yourself. It also allows public promotion and discourse so that your customers can help sell your product or service. Integrating social media correctly with your traditional media will bring new growth to your bottom line with minimal investment. Truly great potential for ROI!
If you would like to schedule a consultation or ask a question about social media integration, please call or email us today. We always promise a response within 24 hours.