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Total posts: 44
Last post: July 2, 2018

What Is Google Tag Manager (GTM)?

What Is Google Tag Manager (GTM)?

By Aztek on  July 2, 2018

You've probably heard about Google Tag Manager (GTM), but might not know exactly what it is, how it works, or if you should be using it. We're here to answer some of these basic questions and provide information so you can be more informed when the topic comes up at your next website or marketing meeting.

Questions about Google Tag Manager

Released in 2012, Google Tag Manager is a free tag management system that gives you the ability to create, manage, test, and publish tracking tags to your website. But that doesn't explain how cool and powerful it really is.

How does Google Tag Manager work?

Most companies are tracking basic information like visits and users. You may also run paid advertising campaigns and use a couple testing tools. All of these need to have unique tracking tags (small pieces of code inserted into a site's source code) placed on your website in order to collect the information they need.

How does the tracking code get on your site? You have two basic options:

  1. Add static code (this is when you have to ask your developers to add a new line of code to the site for everything you want to track)
  2. Add code through a tag management system (like Google Tag Manager)

Don't get intimidated by the name; Google Tag Manager is set up like other web-based systems you've used before. For example, maybe you've used WordPress, Umbraco, or other content management systems. A content management system (CMS) allows you to enter content into a web-based interface to manage the content on your site without going into the code.

Screenshot of Umbraco CMS

Similarly, a tag management system allows you to manage tags through a web-based interface without needing to go into the code.

GTM has two main parts: the web-based interface where you set up the tags, and a container on your website to load the tags.

Screenshot of Google Tag Manager interface

Is Google Tag Manger the same as Google Analytics?

We often get this question from clients when we ask them to set up their Google Tag Manager account. They say they already have a Google Analytics account, so isn't that the same thing?

Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics are two separate tools. You will need to set up an account for each using a Google login. Tip: Your company should be the owner of your Google Tag Manager account. If your company works with an agency, you should set up the account and then give access to the agency or any additional users.

You can use Google Tag Manager to implement your Google Analytics tracking code, or you can put your Google Analytics tracking code onto your site without using GTM.

Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics work well together, but they can work independent of each other if you have the proper setup. Either way, you will be collecting data from your website.

What are the advantages of using Google Tag Manager?

Some of the biggest advantages to using this tool are that you can:

Add tracking information without needing to make changes to the code

  • Spend less time waiting on your development team to help with minor code updates (keep in mind that if your site has e-commerce you'll still need to be best friends with your development team)
  • Use built-in integrations with many third-party platforms

Screenshot of Third Party tags in Google Tag Manager June 2018

Collaborate

  • Control who has access to your account and what changes they can make
  • Allow other teams or partners to work on updates and put changes live in the same account using workspaces

screenshot of GTM workspace example

Control versions and test

  • Organize tags and release updates in versions to keep track of changes
  • Use preview mode to test changes before they go live and ensure they are tracking properly

Screenshot of GTM preview debug mode

Should my company be using Google Tag Manager?

This is a more complex question that should involve your marketing and development teams (and a review of your measurement plan and business goals). If you are currently running tracking scripts on your website, you will need to complete an audit and make a plan to transition into GTM—it's not as easy as just flipping a switch.

After you know what you're tracking (and what you want to track), it's best to move all of your tags over at once. You can determine what will work for your team based on your situation, and you'll want to set up testing to make sure it's all transitioned smoothly.

In general, we encourage our clients to move toward GTM because of all the benefits listed above, but the answer really is—it depends.

Where can I learn more about Google Tag Manager?

There are many helpful resources to help you get a better understanding of GTM.

If you need to educate your IT team, you can share this resource from Google: Why webmasters and IT love Google Tag Manager [PDF]. Or find additional details from Google's Tag Manager Overview.

There's a learning curve for anyone starting out with GTM. If you'd be the one in charge of managing this for your company, check out the GTM for Beginners Series from MeasureSchool on YouTube (10 videos).

If you have additional questions about working with Google Tag Manger, transitioning to Google Tag Manager, or if it would be a good solution for your company, contact us and we'd be glad to help.

Container Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Helpful Online Writing Resources

Helpful Online Writing Resources

By Aztek on  April 23, 2018

Whether you're crafting a short slogan or creating a long article, your words matter. Well-written content can serve as an important cornerstone for your business' digital marketing campaign. Of course, the trick to earning this campaign is to write well.

At Aztek, we've written before about the importance of blogging and how typos can wreak havoc on your digital efforts. This time, I'd like to focus on a few tools that can help you avoid mistakes and create quality content that will help your business. A few good writing and editing tips can help, but online resources can also help you craft some great content.

Grammarly

You don't need to write in Microsoft Word to enjoy a good spelling and grammar checker. Grammarly is a writing-enhancement platform that's available as an online text editor and a browser extension. Once you sign up, Grammarly will proofread whatever you write in an email, on social media, or wherever else you need to type out a few words.

Grammarly does more than just catch misspellings. The software is designed to make context-specific suggestions, allowing it to highlight problems that a standard Microsoft word checker won't catch. Grammarly can also teach you more about grammar and writing. When Grammarly's AI flags a potential issue, it'll also offer an explanation of why it should be changed. This can help you clean up your copy and learn about exciting errors like comma splices at the same time!

Hemingway Editor

 

Longer isn't always better. The Hemingway Editor is inspired by Ernest Hemingway's famously simple writing style. Appropriately, the online editor and the desktop app allows you to copy and paste your words into a field to learn if you should pare down your prose.

The Hemingway Editor looks for a few different issues that can complicate your messages, such as an overuse of passive voice and adverbs. It also judges the readability of your work. In general, lower grade levels are more accessible to a wider audience.

To be fair, the Hemingway Editor is not perfect. An ideal grade level can be subjective, especially for businesses that need to use technical information. The Hemingway Editor is best used as a visual reminder that you rely too much on passive voice or unnecessarily complex sentences. From there, you can rework your words and make your writing bold and clear.

Calmly Writer

The internet is full of shiny objects. These distractions are the mortal enemies of your deadlines. They will take you away from your lovingly-crafted sentences and leave you in a dizzying spell of cat videos and emails. Even if you manage to do some work, these distractions can cause you to not spend as much time to evaluate your work and see if it can be improved. Calmly Writer tries to eliminate these threats to productivity and quality.

Calmly Writer is a text editor that eliminates the clutter and lets you focus solely on your words. The tool provides writers with a blank slate with no distractions. It even hides formatting options unless you highlight a specific word or phrase. All you need to do now is turn off your phone, turn off email notifications, and ignore any other tabs. Fighting distractions is an uphill battle, but Calmly Writer is a great start.

Purdue Online Writing Lab

You don't need to be a student to take advantage of the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University. This site houses a multitude of articles on a variety of writing subjects.

If you have a specific grammar or style question, OWL should have an article for you. If you're wondering how to properly cite sources, OWL can help. If you wanted more to learn more about the writing process, OWL... well, you get the picture.

Merriam-Webster and AP Stylebook Online

This may seem like cheating, but it's hard to go wrong with a few good books. I've kept a copy of both the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and AP Stylebook at my house since my journalism professor made me buy copies of each for a class. Both have been worth every penny.

While I may keep physical copies of both the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and AP Stylebook, you don't have to. Both Merriam-Webster and AP Style can be found online to help you determine the true meanings of words and figure out exactly when you're supposed to spell out a number and when to use a numeral (that's a post for a different day).

The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary is free and easy to use; just plug in a word in the search field to see results. Like a physical copy, you'll have to pay for the AP Stylebook Online. OWL does have a convenient page with some of the more commonly searched AP Style questions, although the full Stylebook will have more for you to peruse. Also, both AP Style and Merriam-Webster are active on Twitter if you like accounts that share helpful language tips and throw shade in quick succession.

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Writing isn't always easy. Some people have an ability to weave words together at will, while others just don't word good. Either way, creating good content takes time and effort, but it can lead to great results for your digital marketing efforts if done right.

If you're struggling to create quality content or just don't have the time, Aztek can help. Reach out to us today so that we can work with you to bolster your business' digital marketing campaign through quality content.

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4 New AdWords Features You Should Use in 2018

4 New AdWords Features You Should Use in 2018

By Aztek on  April 13, 2018

The face lifts to the Google AdWords platform and experience aren’t the only changes we’ve seen roll out in the past six months. There has been an influx of new features that can help increase campaign results and overall ROI. Here’s a rundown of the top four we think are important to use in your campaigns in 2018.

Demographic Targeting for Search Ads

Previously, true demographic targeting was only available for display ads in Google, but it has now been expanded into search ads as well. Similar to the way Facebook allows us to drill down into specific categories for users to create more targeted audiences, Google now allows you to add additional layers to your search campaigns to more closely match a searcher’s intent.

New demographic targeting options include gender, age, household income, parental status, and more. These additions allow you to be more considerate of your buying personas when you’re creating search campaigns. This will lead to more qualified clicks that are more likely to lead to conversions.

Custom Intent Audiences

These audiences are exclusive to the Google Display network and allow advertisers to find people who want to buy the products or services they offer based on historical data from your previous campaigns, website, and YouTube channel.

There are two ways you can use the custom intent audiences. First, you can combine URLs, search terms, and topics to create an audience. Second, you can allow Google to create an audience for you with machine learning. Which one you choose can depend on the goals of your campaign.

Custom intent audiences are a great way to refine your display targeting and to help drive more qualified leads, as people who are going to fall within these audiences are active researchers who are likely in the midst (or at the beginning) of their buying process.

Promotion Extensions

This is a new extension that can be used to add more value to your text ads by highlighting your sales and promotions for people who are searching for the best deals during certain time frames. The extension displays up to two lines of text that includes details of your promotion.

The promotion extensions can easily be added to any existing campaign or ad group from the extensions tab in AdWords. Currently, they can only be run during specific time periods designated by Google like holidays, back to school, Black Friday, etc.

Ad Variations

Google is attempting to make A/B testing as easy as possible for advertisers. Under the Draft/Experiments section in AdWords, there is a new tab called Ad Variations. This allows users to apply mass updates to your ads, which allows advertisers to quickly and efficiently create new ads to test things like CTAs or headlines. You can then set a time frame for the experiment and note what percentage of users should see the new variation to help determine which ad is more successful.

Testing and optimizing ads is essential to increasing conversions in AdWords. With this new feature, you’re able to do so in a timely fashion without having to rewrite or create entirely new ads or campaigns.

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These are some of our favorite new Google features that we think can be most effective for businesses. If you have implementation or best practices question, give us a shout. We’re here to help! We’re sure there’s more to come throughout the year, so check back with us in a couple months to get more AdWords scoop!

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Shifting from Traditional Marketing to Digital Marketing

Shifting from Traditional Marketing to Digital Marketing

By Aztek on  March 30, 2018

More and more, Aztek is working with clients that shift some or all of their traditional marketing and advertising budgets to digital marketing. Obviously, the massive technology shift from traditional media to digital media is behind much of this swing, but we'd like to dive a little deeper into what the transition looks like.

At some point, often once a year, organizations evaluate their marketing budget. This means taking a look at the thousands of dollars that are going out and trying to understand what’s coming back in return. Over the last decade, many organizations have realized that they don’t have a concrete answer for this question, and it has led them to re-evaluate their marketing spend.

Before we go on, let’s set the record straight. There is definitely still a place for traditional media in all forms. But organizations must evaluate if it is the right fit for them. Here are a few things to consider during this evaluation process.

Cost

For most organizations, this is the driving factor. An annual or semi-annual assessment of traditional marketing spend typically reveals large amounts of money being doled out for print advertisements, radio advertisements, direct mail campaigns, and more.

Now let’s pretend a company is running a quarterly print ad in a prominent regional publication, sending out a direct mail campaign two to three times a year, and running radio ads. Their traditional media budget could easily fall into the $50,000-$100,000 range. This organization’s leadership, at some point in time, needs to justify these costs.

On the other hand, let’s look at some of the cost benefits of digital marketing:

  • Pay-per-click advertising models allow advertisers to set a very specific budget within a very specific timeframe
  • Online advertising costs less to reach people—this infographic suggests that a print ad costs about $20 to reach 1,000 people, while Google Adwords might only cost around $3 (even less for social media advertising)

Trackability

Here we go with that question again: “What are we getting out of this investment?” With traditional media, it can be challenging to track ROI, conversions, and results. Sure, there are some effective methods, including:

  • Driving traffic to landing pages (But please don't use a QR Code! Yuck.)
  • Tracking changes in sales/lead generation (hard to attribute precisely)
  • Tracking coupon redemptions

At the end of the day, having a really good concept of the value of traditional marketing is tough, and adds a lot of work in terms of tracking in the first place.

Digital marketing, on the other hand is—you guessed it—easier to track:

  • With digital marketing, sales and/or lead generation can be tracked down to specific channels (pay-per-click, email, search), specific campaigns, locations, new vs. returning visitor, etc.
  • Dollar amounts can be assigned to sales/lead generation from everything above to evaluate the true ROI of each digital marketing investment an organization makes
  • Organizations can make better decisions in the future because they know what’s working now and in the past

Targeting

Most organizations (hopefully) know their audience well. They understand what they read and what they listen to. Using this information, organizations can handpick magazines, journals, radio stations, and more for advertising opportunities. Here’s the problem with this model: advertisers pay for the entire audience.

If a magazine has a circulation of 30,000 people, advertisers pay for all 30,000, regardless of their demographics, buying habits, intent, job title, etc. Media kits are a great way to get a good idea of the makeup of a magazine or radio stations audience, but you can’t pick and choose just certain people from that circulation or listenership.

This is what some may affectionately call “spray and pray.” Pay for everyone, pray that some people are interested.

Let's look at benefits of targeting with digital marketing:

  • Advertisers pay for the very specific audience they want to reach. With most social networks, this means drilling down geography, job title, interests, and more. With search advertising, it means targeting the very specific keywords that lead a user to your product or service.
  • In-depth analytics provide advertisers with a view of which audience members are leading to conversions, and which are not. This allows advertisers to make well-informed decisions in the future.

Is It Time To Switch?

If you’re a traditional advertiser or marketer, some of the ideas in this article may resonate with you. It might not be time to abandon traditional marketing all together, but starting to shift some of that budget toward digital marketing may give you a better, more trackable ROI along with better data to make future advertising decisions.

Whenever you’re ready to have a discussion about shifting some of your budget to digital marketing, we’re here for you.

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What is Technical SEO and Why is it Still Important?

What is Technical SEO and Why is it Still Important?

By Aztek on  March 2, 2018

There are typically three different types of SEO to focus on: technical, on-page, and off-page. Most clients understand on-page and off-page SEO because they can physically see these at work on their website in terms of what keywords and other recommendations are made to help improve organic traffic. However, it can be more difficult for clients to recognize the importance of technical SEO. Here's a quick guide that delves into what technical SEO is and how a Digital Marketing Agency looks to optimize a site.

 

What is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO deals with maintaining a site's structure with search engine guidelines, search engine crawling, indexation, and rankings. These can be implemented and configured by the server and the website.

There are a few factors that come into play when talking technical SEO:

  • Timing – The best time to work on technical issues would be during a website redesign, quarterly site audits, or major changes to the site
  • Google algorithm updates – Google's algorithm changes daily and always need to be kept in the loop on industry changes

How is Technical SEO Being Used?

There are a few factors we consider when we look at an existing site's health for a technical audit or when build a new site. These include:

Site Architecture

Looking at the site, we want to make sure that all pages and URLs are structured properly. When a site grows, we don't want to lose pages or have them structured on top of older ones. We want search engines to regularly crawl, cache, and index pages to your site.

There are several factors involved in the optimization of site architecture, such as:

  • Formatting URLs to make sure they are easy to read/understand and relevant to the information on that page
  • Appropriate use of subdomains
  • Creating a sitemap to make sure that search engines can crawl the site
  • Setting up Robots.txt if one isn't in place to block search engines from crawling certain pages and files

Canonicalization

Canonicalization or a canonical tag is another way to tell search engines that a URL serves as the master copy of a page. Using the canonical tag helps prevent issues caused by "duplicate" content showing up on multiple URLs throughout the site.

Page Speed

Search engines are starting to consider page speed as a higher factor of importance when it comes rankings and page optimization.There are plenty of available tools that can help identify issues that can lower page.

Some methods that can help improve page speed include:

  • Reducing image sizes
  • Leveraging browser caching by setting an expiration date or a maximum age in the HTTP headers
  • Reducing server response time
  • Eliminating render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

Broken Links

Broken links are a major factor in search engines, and these should be dealt with as soon as possible.

Reasons for broken links include:

  • Changing from HTTP to HTTPS and not creating proper redirects
  • Renaming pages, which can change the page URL structure
  • Moving pages on the site
  • Forgetting to update internal and external links

It's important that you keep up with technical SEO and maintain a well-executed site. Search engines are always updating and changing their algorithms, and sites need to stay on top of these trends.

Aztek can perform a technical SEO audit on your site to see if there are any opportunities for improvement. Contact us online or call us at 216-472-2121.

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Why Does My New Website Already Need to be Upgraded?

Why Does My New Website Already Need to be Upgraded?

By Aztek on  February 16, 2018

"Existence, it seems, is chiefly maintenance." ― Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

"We just launched this website, what do you mean I need an upgrade already?"

If this sounds familiar, it's because it happens all the time. Your company just made a significant investment in a major website redesign. You've got a new design, an upgraded content management system (CMS), improved content...the works. How long should this investment last? A year? Two years? Five years?

How about three to six months?

Slow down. I don't mean that you have to redesign your website again in three months. I mean that by then there will probably be a minor version update for your CMS. Or maybe somebody in another department thought of a new feature that will help you attract customers. These are minor updates, but you should still be prepared for the time and cost investment.

Technology is always changing, and your brand new website is not exempt from this fact. Let's look at some of the reasons you'll have to regularly update your website.

CMS: New update available

If you own a smart phone, you should be very familiar with how often it asks you to update the operating system or apps. Some apps seem to require updates every week. Well, your website is also software. If you're running a decent CMS, it gets updates from time to time. Of course, these updates aren't made as easy as pressing the install button. On a website, many updates may contain "breaking changes" that should be overseen by your development team in case something goes wrong.

Some CMS updates are minor and can be put off for a bit, but more important updates will eventually come out that you shouldn't ignore. Imagine if you ignored a major security update and your company website was hacked. The cost of the upgrade is well worth it to avoid a security risk like that.

New feature needed

Just because your website is new doesn't mean it has every feature you could ever have dreamed of or possibly needed. You should assume that your website will require new features to be added in the future.

Let's use a car analogy. Shopping for a car is a lot like buying a new website. You buy a car with as many features as you can fit inside your budget. If you can't afford leather seats, cloth it is. If they come out with flying cars next year, you don't get to go to the dealer and ask them to give you that feature since you just bought your car a little while ago.

Websites are the same. You build the best website with as many features that fit within your budget. Where websites are better than cars is in the ability to be upgraded. Most people don't upgrade to leather seats in the same car a year after owning it. With a website, you can (metaphorically speaking). This allows you to add a new feature when the need is justified and you have the budget for it.

Google changes something

Nobody likes this fact, but it's how things work. When Google changes something, websites often have to change to stay competitive. Google says secures sites get a rankings boost? Install an SSL certificate. Google says it prefers responsive sites? Redesign to be responsive. Google says it prioritizes fast-loading sites? Pay to make technical speed optimizations. If you don't, you start to get left out of the SEO game.

A third-party service your site relies on is no longer supported (or goes out of business)

Many sites utilize a third-party service to provide a function on their website. Features like customer service chat, site search, or an HR job application are frequently provided by third-party services. Sometimes those services go out of business or change drastically, which may require you replace or update the feature on your site.

Another major technological breakthrough

These are less common, but they do happen. Remember what I said earlier about technology always changing? Well, it's happening at an ever-increasing pace, so be prepared for something huge to shake up the state of your digital presence. Just think of how people had to scramble to adapt to the explosion of social media, or to smartphones. Next year it might be voice interfaces or virtual reality. Get ready to browse your website through a pair of goggles.

The best way forward?

Treat your website like a car (the analogy that keeps giving). If you change the oil and rotate the tires regularly, your car will last a lot longer. Make more frequent, smaller updates part of your plan. It can help defray costs in the long term. Don't just wait a few years until it is time for a full website tear down and rebuild. Those are expensive, time-consuming, and stressful.

Adjust your expectations. If you accept the points I laid out, it's much easier to understand the forces that demand when and how you must upgrade your website. You can forego some things, but you shouldn't ignore others. Consult with your website designer or developer, they can help you make the best decision for your needs.

Got a question about updating your website? Give us a call and we can talk you through it.

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3 Ways Agencies Can Help With Content Creation

3 Ways Agencies Can Help With Content Creation

By Aztek on  February 2, 2018

Content can be the least-favorite part of a website redesign. It takes a lot of work to audit current content, make decisions about what changes need to be made to it, and determine what needs to be removed or even moved around the site. Besides, looking at the design of the site is more fun anyway, right?

We work with many clients that have content challenges. These challenges range from not having enough time to write content to not knowing where to start with content for their new website. When this happens, it's best to have guidance from your redesign agency. No matter how they might fit in with the process, it's beneficial to have someone on the outside of your organization to keep the process moving. This makes for not only better content, but also a better website. We've seen three different ways in which agencies can assist with content to bring out the best results for your site.

Leverage existing content

Many clients will work off of existing content, taking recommendations from our team into account. This doesn't mean just bringing over all existing content. Some pages or posts may be fine the way they are, but others may need to be tweaked first. In some cases, they may need to be completely rewritten based off of new business goals and desired user tasks for the new website.

Process: We have a content strategist who works with clients to develop a site map and content outline for a new site. This document covers all the navigation items and outlines what content needs to be on the page based on what we've heard in the discovery phase of the project. We recently started using WriteMaps to help in this process. This tool provides a more visual way to present ideas and suggestions to our clients, which is better than boring, old Word documents.

After the site map and content outline are approved by the client, we put the pages into another tool called Gather Content. This is where we collect all the content for the website project. It's like a shared Google Doc on steroids. Clients get their own login and can add content to pages, share comments, leave notes, and manage the workflow for each piece of content.

We can also set deadlines, which is helpful for keeping clients and agencies on track. We encourage collaboration in the tool so that content questions are not caught up in emails or a million versions of Word documents. All of the content is in one place, and questions/comments go right to our content strategist or content editors who can respond directly in the tool.

Pros: This approach is good for clients who may need some guidance, especially when staring at a blank Word document is too daunting. We use the Gather Content tool to keep the process moving and interact directly with clients on content comments or questions. We're also able to create blocks for different areas of the page so that clients know what kind of content we need. Keeping some aspects of content the same from old to new site will also help Google maintain your presence in search results.

Cons: Clients often need something more visual, and some can't picture how content will look on the page even with sections broken out in Gather Content. This can slow them down significantly and put the project behind.

Create content in house with your team

This option depends on the setup of your team. In-house content creation is good if you have a dedicated writer or marketer who can devote a significant amount of their time to the website project.

Process: This works best when we have developed the content strategy to set up a site map and content outline that your team can use as guidance for content creation. Someone on your team then creates or edits the content that will appear on the new site. It's best to have a subject matter experts review this content first before we review it for length, SEO best practices, content goals, and general spelling and grammar.

Pros: No one knows your business better than you, so having all of the content done in house with your team can work well and ensure that all the necessary information is on the page.

Cons: There is rarely a person who has enough time to produce all of the content. People usually squeeze it in between their other responsibilities. This puts content behind and can hold up projects. Additionally, if you don't have a person with writing experience, it could have an impact on the quality of the content that's produced.

Have your agency create content for you

This is a good option to have the best of both worlds. You're able to relay information to an agency copywriter while freeing up your team to concentrate on day to day tasks.

Process: Typically, the copywriter will conduct a number of interviews with your team to get all the information they need to write the site content. Once they have completed the pages, your team will review for accuracy with your subject matter experts.

Pros: This allows the agency to take on the bulk of the work, which helps to keep the process moving.

Cons: Like we said above, no one knows your content better than you. If you have a more technical business or one that requires a lot of explanation, this option may take just as much time than if your team wrote the content.

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As you can see from these three options, no method is free from collaboration with your agency. The good thing is that you're extremely close to your content and your website, so having outside assistance can help ensure that users understand your content and that it produces results. Now it's just time to choose the right option for you and your team so that the content process goes as smoothly as possible.

Ready for a website redesign? Need help with your content? Contact us.

Latent Semantic Indexing: The Future of Search

Latent Semantic Indexing: The Future of Search

By Aztek on  January 26, 2018

To be honest, Latent Semantic Indexing is really the “present” of search. If you’ve ever typed in a vague search query praying to find an answer—something like “who was the actor in that movie about the zoo?”—then you’ve experienced Latent Semantic Indexing. (It was Matt Damon, by the way.)

According to Search Engine Journal, "Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is a mathematical method used to determine the relationship between terms and concepts in content." That's a bit of a complicated definition. Hubspot does a decent job of simplifying this concept by saying, "In other words, LSI helps search engines identify related keywords and process synonyms to deliver more accurate search results."

What Latent Semantic Indexing means for the future (and present) of search

LSI is Google’s and other search engine’s efforts to continue delivering the best results to search queries.

A brief history lesson

In the early days of search, everything was driven by keywords. You would search for “Matt Damon” and likely receive search results from pages dense with the keyword “Matt Damon”—the denser they were, the better they ranked.

As search engines evolved, they recognized that keyword density wasn’t necessarily a good indicator of quality. Search engines began including a number of other signals to rank search results (domain authority, links, meta information, etc.), but the results were commonly still focused around the keyword or keyphrase.

In more recent iterations of search results, the keyword or keyphrase has taken a back seat to intent. Remember this—intent. Search engines are now focused on delivering the best results based on what a user is looking for, regardless of keyword.

How does Latent Semantic Indexing affect search results?

LSI has played a huge role in the evolution of search results pages. Many Google search results now include answers directly in the search results based on the query the user searched—even if the results don’t contain a single searched keyword. This means users receive better, more relevant search results.

A big driver: voice search

One of the big drivers pushing the LSI movement forward, and also providing an immense amount of data around which to build it, is voice search. With the rapid adoption of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and similar devices, individuals are using voice search more than ever.

Ready for some stats? Google voice search queries in 2016 are 35 times more common than they were 2008 according to Search Engine Watch. 40 percent of adults now use voice search once per day according to Location Day.

Source: KPCB Internet Trends

This information means that users are asking questions using real language, rather than entering a set of keywords into a search bar. Because of this, the role of LSI is more important than ever and requires search engines to understand and parse voice search queries and their intent to provide quality results.

What does Latent Semantic Indexing mean for marketers?

Google’s admirable longstanding goal has been to connect users with the information they’re seeking in the easiest, fastest, and most effective way (and maybe make a little money on the side). Until recently, that meant sending users to the most applicable web page for what they were looking for.

Now that Google has introduced featured snippets like answers, maps, local packs, shopping results, and the like, users are spending more time in the search results and less time being directed to results pages. In fact, Rand Fishkin of Moz predicted that "the total number of organic clicks Google refers will drop by ~5% by the end of the year [2018]."

Optimizing for Featured Snippets

The challenge above (fewer clicks from Google) creates an opportunity for searchers to engage with your content directly in search results. So how do you do it? Here are some recommendations:

  • Focus your content on answering questions. If you have a topic in mind, research which questions are most commonly associated with it, and answer them.
  • Ensure that you're doing everything to enhance your local SEO. This includes making sure that you have your Google Business Listings updated.
  • Use Google's data highlighter to tag semantic content on your site so that Google can identify exactly what it is.

Optimizing for Latent Semantic Indexing

With search engines using increased amounts of LSI, it's less important to be laser-focused on one or two specific keywords per page. Sure, basing a page around a keyword or keyphrase can be valuable for content planning and basic SEO, but marketers should no longer feel the need to overuse these words in an unnatural way. The emphasis should be on writing natural, quality content that provides the best information on a topic or subject.

Keyword Research for Latent Semantic Indexing

If you’re looking to do some research on a seed topic or keyword, one of our favorite new tools is LSIGraph. This resource uses its own LSI algorithm to provide ideas and opportunities for content creation.

Another one of our favorites is Answer the Public. Answer the Public allows you to enter a keyword or keyphrase. In return, it will provide you with a semantic web of queries and questions related to that topic. I’ve long believed that if you’re able to best answer some of the most common questions about a topic, you’ll have an excellent chance or ranking well for that topic’s related queries. (Warning: You will have to watch an older gentleman in a sweater while you type your search query. Can be hard to explain to co-workers.)

Additional Reading

If you’re looking for some additional resources on Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), here are a few good ones:

Aztek is an industry leader in Search Engine Optimization and focuses on leveraging emerging trends like LSI to give organizations a competitive advantage against their competition. To receive a complimentary SEO audit, fill out the contact form below and we’ll help you understand your current search engine presence.

Categories:
Is It Possible to Remove Negative Reviews Online?

Is It Possible to Remove Negative Reviews Online?

By Aztek on  January 19, 2018

When you first see it, your heart stops for a moment: a bad online review for your business.

But are bad reviews bad for your business?

Maybe not. Having a mix of positive and negative reviews shows a range of customer experiences and can even build trust, so getting a bad review isn't always the worst thing.

Data analysis by Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center and PowerReviews found that, in moderation, bad reviews actually help boost sales. Which makes sense if you think about the last time you saw an all five-star review. Skeptical? No one has a five-star rating.

However, if you have a bad review you may want to take steps to have it removed. In this post, we'll highlight five review sites and share if it's possible to remove a bad review, along with how to start that process.

How should my company handle bad online reviews?

The ability for a company to respond to comments or reviews depends on the website. If you have negative reviews, you should respond and address any concerns (if possible). Here is our guidance on how to handle negative reviews. Yelp has a few good tips too.

You can't remove reviews just because they're negative. Websites want to support authentic reviews and encourage a variety of responses. But if you want to have a review edited or taken down, there are two general approaches:

Reach out to the customer to edit or remove the review.

Try this approach first if the review seems to be legit. Reach out to address the customer's concerns and explain what you will do to resolve any issues. Be kind and ask if they will consider editing or removing the review, then explain how they could do that with website-specific instructions.

Notify the site about the inappropriate review and request to have it taken down.

Most review sites have Terms of Service (T.O.S.). If the bad review is fake, inaccurate, or in violation of the site's T.O.S., you may have a way to get it taken down. Report the review and then respond publicly to say that the review has been flagged for a violation of this site's terms of service. If reaching out to a website, state clearly that you feel the review is in a violation of the terms of service.

For the second option, here's a look at some specific resources for Google, Facebook, Yelp, Amazon, and Glass Door.

Can I remove reviews from Google My Business?

Maybe - if they violate Google's review policies.

Google clearly defines what qualifies as an inappropriate review. If you have a negative review that meets those guidelines, it may be possible to get it removed. If it violates Google's policy, flag the review and get as many people as you know to flag it too.

Any of the reasons below may be cause for a review to be removed:

  • Advertising
  • Spam
  • Phone numbers, email addresses, or URLs
  • Off-topic reviews
  • Obscene, profane, or offensive language
  • Conflict of interest
  • Illegal content
  • Copyrighted content
  • Sexually-explicit material
  • Impersonation
  • Personal and confidential information
  • Hate speech

For more info, visit Google My Business Help, Review Policies page.

Can I remove reviews from Facebook?

Maybe - if they violate Facebook community standards.

If you think one of your reviews is in violation of these standards, you'll have to report the review to get it removed from the page.

Alternate Option: Turn off reviews for your Facebook page. Find out how to turn off reviews for your Facebook Page.

Can I remove reviews from Yelp?

Maybe - if they violate Yelp's Terms of Service or Content Guidelines.

Here's a list of types of reviews that are in violation of the Yelp guidelines:

  • Inappropriate content
  • Conflicts of interest (Business owners should not ask customers to write reviews)
  • Promotional content (unless you're the business owner posting to your business page)
  • Privacy (don't publicize other people's private information)
  • Intellectual property (write your own reviews)
  • Demanding payment (don't use removing or posting your review as a way to extract payment from a business)

If you think your content qualifies, follow the steps on how to report a review on Yelp.

Can sellers remove product reviews from Amazon?

Maybe - if they meet certain criteria. View the Customer Review Creation Guidelines.

Amazon outlines examples of inappropriate reviews. The following points note some examples of offending reviews, but are not an all-inclusive list.

  • A product manufacturer posts a review of their own product, posing as an unbiased buyer
  • A product seller posts a review of their competitor's product, posing as an unbiased buyer
  • A buyer, unhappy with their purchase, posts multiple negative reviews for the same product
  • A buyer posts a review in exchange for financial reward or other compensation
  • A family member of the product creator posts a five-star review to help boost sales

Note: As sellers and manufacturers, you are not allowed to review your own products, nor are you allowed to negatively review a competitor's product.

If a product review is in violation of any of those outlined above, click the 'Report Abuse' link found below the review (near the helpful vote buttons), and report it.

Amazon also provides an Anti-Manipulation Policy for Customer Reviews.

Want more reviews on Amazon? Sell more.

Can employers remove reviews from Glass Door?

No - Here's a quote directly from Glass Door.

"Employers can respond to company reviews—accentuating positive comments while addressing criticism in a non-defensive voice—but can't delete, edit, or reorder reviews. For information on our Legal policies, we invite you to read our Legal FAQs."

For Glass Door, you are limited to responding. But you can also review the Glass Door community guidelines if you feel the content is in violation.

If you're looking for more reading on negative reviews or fake reviews, we found a couple other helpful, in-depth articles from other sources that may be helpful:

We hope you haven't had to deal with negative reviews or inappropriate comments on your channels, but now you should have a path forward to address the issue if it ever does come up. Best of luck!

Categories:
Should businesses track their search engine rankings?

Should businesses track their search engine rankings?

By Aztek on  November 10, 2017

On the surface, it may seem like where a business’ site ranks in search results may ultimately determine its online success. Conventional wisdom would suggest that if a business ranks higher than their competitors for relevant search terms, then more people are likely to click their link, visit their page, and thus generate more business for that company.

If it were that simple, this article would end right here. But it’s not. There’s certainly value in tracking search engine rankings, but let’s explore all of the reasons that rankings should not be the lone indicator of online or search engine success.

1. Search engines constantly change their rankings

By now, you likely know that Google constantly changes how it ranks web pages in its search results. Occasionally, Google will make major updates that change the rankings landscape – you may have heard the names Penguin, Possum, Panda. Cute animals, not-so-cute algorithm changes. Because of this, a website’s rankings can unpredictably change overnight without the site changing at all.

2. There is no longer one type of search result

Years ago, Google showed essentially two types of search results. Ads, and “organic” search results. Today, Google’s intent is to get the searcher to the information they’re looking for quickly and in the best format. Google has introduced these enhanced search engine results page features, which include:

  • Local Packs – The user searches for “Italian restaurant”, and the results show a map with the top local results for Italian restaurants
  • Shopping Results – The user searches for “Dell desktop computer” and results from online sellers populate the search results
  • News Boxes – The user searches for a topical term like “election results,” and several recently published articles are shown in the results
  • Knowledge Cards/Panels – The user searches for “How many teaspoons in a tablespoon?” and the result gives the answer (3), possible with a link to a source if relevant

Because of these changes in search results pages, there now exists more than one type of result, and each of these new features needs to be tracked in a slightly different manner.

3. SEO takes time

When a business or agency makes changes to a site for the purposes of improving exposure in search results, the changes are almost never immediate. In fact, they can often take weeks or months to bear fruit. We’ve written extensively on how long it takes to rank, but for this reason alone, anxiously checking rankings after a site update has been made can be a letdown in the short-run.

4. Different keywords have different intent

Keyword intent is an important, and often overlooked, factor in choosing keywords to track. As a digital marketing agency, we may be inclined to focus on a keyword like “digital marketing,” but in doing so, we need to be careful to focus on keyword intent. As a business, we’re looking for searchers with transactional intent – those looking for “digital marketing services” or a “digital marketing agency in Cleveland.” We should be cautious of searchers with informational intent – those looking for “creating a digital marketing plan” or “free digital marketing tools.” Attracting searchers with informational intent can give businesses the opportunity to nurture those visitors to become customers in the future.

5. Many tracked keywords are too narrowly-focused

If a business is very focused on ranking well for one keyword, for example “socks,” they are likely missing out on the big picture. Only 2.8% of searches these days focus on one-word keywords. By focusing on simply “socks,” your business is likely missing out on the numerous variations, such as “athletic socks”, “white socks”, “knit socks”, or “Nike basketball socks”. These are what we call long-tail keywords, and they make up the majority of search terms that people are using.

6. You’re missing a majority of keywords

Building off the above point, if you’re tracking 10, 100 or even 500 keywords, it’s more than likely that a majority of your website traffic comes from keywords that you’re not tracking. This is just the nature of today’s search, where users are searching using long-tail keywords like “Nike basketball socks size medium,” or asking a question like “where can I buy Nike basketball socks?”

7. An emphasis on now can be risky for the future

When looking at keyword rankings, we’re looking at where a certain page ranks for a certain keyword right now. If the sole focus of digital marketing efforts is to improve rankings, there are plenty of SEO tricks that can be used to try to influence the rankings in a certain page’s favor. But what happens when Google’s algorithm changes or the methods used previously are no longer effective?

The focus, instead, should be on creating quality content that matches the searchers intent as best as possible. The focus should also be on creating the best user experience, focusing on design, site speed, mobile-friendliness.

8. Be prepared for ups and downs

Let’s say your business is determined to improve its search engine rankings. You work as a team, or with an agency, and put together a list of 100 keywords that you want to rank for or improve your current ranking. Each month you focus on a group of those keywords, possibly 5-10 at a time. The problem here is that the other 90% of keywords that you’re not focusing on have the potential to move down in the rankings because you’re not producing fresh content around them, and you’re not optimizing your site around those keywords.

Track as many keywords as you find value in tracking, just note that you will see natural fluctuations in rankings, and the movement won’t always go up.

9. Keyword tracking is rarely exact

There are plenty of great tools that provide insight into a website’s search engine rankings for any number of specific keywords and pages. We use several excellent tools at Aztek. However, you’ll notice that if you view data from three different tools, you’re likely to get three slightly different results. The way these tools track search rankings differs, therefore it’s a good idea to consult multiple sources.

Furthermore, if you’re looking at search results in your browser, say for example Google Chrome, you’re looking at a personalized set of results for you based on your location, browsing history, and a few other factors. Want to get ”true” search results? Go Incognito.

10. Rankings are not the only factor

Let’s pretend there are two websites. One ranks #3 for a specific search term, and one ranks #10. One would think the website in the #3 position is automatically going to receive the most traffic, leads, sales, etc. However, let’s not forget that the Title and Description have a lot to do with whether a searcher clicks or not.

It’s true that higher search results receive a higher click-through rate. However, if one-out-of-ten searchers click the #3 ranking, and three-out-of-four click the #10 ranking, the latter actually performs better. And there’s an argument to be made that as #10 continues to have a better click-through rate, it will naturally move up the rankings as a result of begin a higher-quality link.

So I shouldn’t track rankings?

Let’s be clear, tracking rankings can still be a valuable activity and provide valuable information about the search engine market share and performance of your website. As a business, it’s important to evaluate or work with a partner agency what keywords you should be monitoring, why you’re monitoring them, and how you’re going to try to positive influence your rankings for those keywords.

Important to note: E-Commerce Sites

While rank tracking has many challenges, and by itself isn’t a perfect metric, e-commerce websites tend to be different. In the case of e-commerce websites, the difference between a page one ranking and a page two ranking can be a huge difference in revenue, especially for high volume search terms. Tracking keywords related to products and categories becomes more important. In addition, tracking special search features like Google Shopping results can be valuable.

Action Item: Use these metrics too

A major point to be made is that rank tracking should not be the only metric you use to determine success. Here are some great metrics to pair with rankings:

  1. Organic traffic – This will show you how much traffic you’re receiving from search engines on an on-going basis. To make this really valuable, track organic traffic specifically tied to your high-value pages, and to pages that you’re working on optimizing.
  2. Conversion rate – Ranking high in search engines is cool. Getting loads of traffic is great. But success should be determined by conversion rate – your ability to convert visitors through lead generation forms, calls, e-commerce purchases, etc. (Bonus: Segment your conversion rate by organic search to get a better picture of how search engines are contributing to your success.)
  3. Domain Authority / Page Authority – These are metrics specifically from Moz, and other SEO tools have similar metrics, but they somewhat try to emulate Google’s PageRank, or the authority a site or page has. The higher the authority, the better the chance that a page will rank well compared to similar content or pages.
  4. User Behavior Metrics – Some of the indicators that are going to be important in Google’s analysis of quality content include click-through rate from a search engine results page, bounce rate from that page, and dwell time (or time on page). Look at these metrics to get an idea of how well your content resonates with the searchers intent.

Not sure where to start with SEO and search rankings? Whether you’re concerned about your businesses search engine placements or need help navigating the complicated world of search engine optimization, Aztek can help. Contact us online or call us at 216-472-2121.