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Understand SEO: How to Adapt to PageRank Changes

Posted on September 13, 2018 by Kendall Jarboe

Understanding SEO: How to Adapt to PageRank ChangesIf you have done research on Search Engine Optimization, then you’ve probably come across mentions of Google’s elusive algorithm. You won’t find a ton of detailed information about it, however, because Google keeps the specifics of their algorithm a secret and uses pretty vague language when they release updates.

PageRank contributes to the algorithm and it is one of the processes for how Google sorts the pages on their SERPs. This article will cover the recent changes made to PageRank and how to utilize it.

How PageRank Works

Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin created PageRank at Stanford University. PageRank gives websites a score that measures their quality in relation to other websites. Spam-free and high-quality websites receive a higher score on PageRank. PageRank used to be widely accessible through Google’s Toolbar. After 2013, however, the metric was no longer updated. This is because the system was too easily manipulated. Since the old page ranking system was based off of the sheer quantity of outbound links to any given website, spam systems would generate fake links to boost their PageRank by forming “link farms.”

The new PageRank, whose patent was released in April 2018, bases their ranking score on a different foundation. PageRank takes trusted websites, also called seed websites, and tracks how far away other websites are from the trusted one. Trusted sites are authoritative and spam-free web sites that serve as the starting point. The shortest length from a trusted website to your website determines what your PageRank score is. Ever played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? The concept is the same but with websites.

Increasing Your PageRank

PageRank doesn’t have as much weight in Google’s algorithm as it used to, but that doesn’t mean the principles of PageRank are irrelevant. One of the reasons why Google keeps their algorithm a secret is to guard against manipulation. If Google’s methods for bringing up websites on their SERPs were public, then they would be taken advantage of more often.

At the end of the day, focus on good and ethical brand building, which is the goal of all of Google’s efforts anyway. Google pays attention to who the trusted and legitimate websites are. Those websites earned their status by investing time, energy, and monetary resources into their online presence.

Want to increase your PageRank? Don’t try to cheat the system. Produce quality content on a regular basis in order to help those in your niche market. This will get you noticed and people will start linking to you. That is ethical link building. That is how to become an authoritative site. Once you become a trusted site the honest way, then you’ll stay on top despite any changes to the algorithm.

WebRevelation is here to help you and your business. Contact us today.

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How Much Should You Budget For Marketing In 2018?

Posted on September 10, 2018

Chris Leone  by Chris Leone   This article by Chris Leone, from WebStrategies has been reposted with permission.  As President, Chris is responsible for leading all the day-to-day operations of WebStrategies. His work has been featured on the Google Analytics and Hubspot blogs, and he’s a regular columnist for the Richmond Times Dispatch.

This article provides information that can guide you about how to budget for marketing and where to invest your marketing dollars.

Included in this article are:

  • How much are companies spending on marketing?
  • Where are marketing dollars invested offline and online?
  • What marketing strategies and tactics are getting results?

The answers to these questions come from a few reliable sources: 

  • an annual survey of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) from a variety of industry sectors and firm sizes
  • a leading research group report about interactive (digital/online) marketing trends and predictions 
  • other leading digital marketing research firms.

 DOWNLOAD The WebStrategies  EXCLUSIVE 2018 BUDGET CALCULATOR


Overall Changes In Total Marketing Budgets

First, a look at how marketing budgets are changing.

CMO Survey Marketing Budgets

For eight consecutive years, top marketers were asked how their marketing spend was expected to change in the upcoming year. 

Since 2009, marketing budgets remained relatively consistent or increased compared to the previous year for the majority of participants.

With no evidence to suggest this trend will change, 2018 marketing budgets are expected to remain consistent with 2017 levels or increase.

The report above from cmosurvey.org shows a slight slow-down in the rate of increase in marketing spend after a large jump in early 2017. The largest increase in projected marketing spend occurred shortly after the recession of the late 2000’s, but continues to fluctuate between 4 and 10%.

You can download the full report here.

Marketing budgets as a percent of the overall firm budget has remained even more consistent, as shown in the chart below. On average, marketing budgets make up 11.4% of total company budgets, with some variation depending on the industry and who they're marketing to. Not surprisingly, those companies in the B2C product space allocate the largest portion of their total budget to marketing, averaging 13.4%.

CMO Survey Marketing Budgets

Marketing spending as a percentage of revenue tends to fluctuate, but has trended down slightly in the past few years, with the highest percentage again coming from B2C product companies followed by B2C services.

marketing budget percentage of revenue

The chart below shows the wide variation by industry in marketing budget as a percent of total revenue.

marketing budget percentage of revenue by industry

One of the difficulties in providing a general budget recommendation is that not all companies are consistent with what they include in their marketing budget. While some companies include any marketing, and even sales related expenses, others would categorize some of those expenses separately as a part of their total budget. The chart below illustrates these inconsistencies, and shows the marketing expenses most commonly included.

what does a marketing budget include

 How To Allocate Marketing Budgets Across Channels

The next question to answer is how to allocate marketing budgets across channels – offline and online - and how to spread the online investment across the various online/digital channels. 

Reports from Forrester Research and eMarketer show the estimated allocation of marketing funds offline vs. online and across the digital channels. 

Here are some conclusions from that report:

  • In 2018, the average firm was expected to allocate 41% of their marketing budget to online, and this rate is expected to grow to 45% by 2020
  • Search engine marketing will capture the largest share of online spend with online display (banner ads, online video, etc.) taking the second largest share
  • Online video will represent the highest growth category, with the anticipated investment more than doubling 2016 numbers by 2021.
  • Social media advertising investments will continue to grow, with a 17% compound annual growth rate from 2016 to 2021, and is expected to represent 25% of total online spending in 2018.
  • Mobile marketing has grown to a point that it’s no longer tracked in the forecast and it’s presumed to be considered across all channels
  • Digital marketing is pacing at an 11% compound annual growth rate between 2016 and 2021 with the biggest growth occurring in online video.
  • Investment in paid search, display advertising, social media advertising, online video advertising and email marketing is predicted to account for 46% of all advertising by 2021.

Conclusions from the 2014 report (for comparison):

  • 29% of a marketing budget was allocated to online/digital channels
  • Search engine marketing (SEO & SEM) captured the largest share of online spend at 47% or about 14% of the firm’s total marketing budget
  • Online display advertising (banner ads, remarketing & retargeting) captured the next biggest share of the online spend at about 34% of total online spend and about 10% of the total marketing budget
  • Social media investments were estimated at 6% of total online spend and a bit less than 2% of the total marketing budget
  • Mobile garnered about 10% of the total digital marketing budget and slightly less than 3% of the total marketing budget.

The chart below shows strong increases in digital channel investment. At least half of all respondents planned to increase spending on social media marketing, content marketing, personalization, video advertising, and online lead generation.

2017 Marketing Budget Trends by Channel.png

Traditional channels did not fare nearly as well. Print, radio, and television were expected to see a net decrease in total marketing investments.

Once again, these are averages. 

How marketing funds are ultimately allocated is driven by the nature of the business, the competitive marketplace, and how target customers behave through the buying funnel.

Which Marketing Strategies & Tactics Are Getting The Best Results?

In a recent survey of 2,500 digital marketers, respondents reported on what marketing activities generated the best ROI. 

Digital Marketing ROI by channel.png

Email marketing still leads the way with the highest percentage of Excellent and Good ROI results reported, with social media marketing following closely behind.

Marketing technologies and automation are proving effective at bringing together the most effective marketing tactics (email marketing, organic search, social media marketing and content marketing) to achieve better results.

Which Social Media Channels Should I Invest In?

An August 2016 report from eMarketer attempts to project social media penetration by social platform through 2020. 

While there are no direct investment assessments associated with this particular study, it does show noteworthy trends among the major social channels.

Facebook is expected to remain king, with 90% of social media users utilizing the platform. Instagram is expected to grow, from 32% penetration to 47% by 2020.

Other social channels with baked in advertising features, such as Pinterest and Twitter, will continue to have relatively low penetration, peeking around 33% of users by 2020. 

This data suggests an emphasis should be made on Facebook and Instagram channels for social advertising. 

Social_Media_Penetration_by_Channel.jpg

Expected Changes In Digital Platform Investments

In a 2017 report from Hanapin Marketing, 75% of respondents expect to increase their Google Adwords investments in the next 12 months (more than any other digital channel). Facebook, which has become a respectable competitor to paid search, expects to see increased investments by 71% of respondents. 

Instagram and Twitter, by comparison, expect to see increased investments from less than half of respondents (46% and 21% respectfully). Snapchat, which has a greener ad platform, was at the bottom of the list, with only 15% of respondents expecting to increase investments into 2018.

This report bodes well for "digital traditionalists," who continue advocating the importance of search over social channels. 

Hanapin marketing spending increase in ppc channels.png

Changes in Traditional Versus Digital Marketing Spend

Digital Marketing spend vs traditional advertising

This chart, also from cmosurvey.org, shows the sharp contrast between digital growth and offline decline. 

For a half decade, investments in traditional advertising have consistently dropped by single digit percentages each year.

Digital marketing spend, by comparison, has consistently grown by double digit increments year after year. 

This means businesses are shifting their marketing spend. 

What used to be spent on radio, television, and newspaper is now being spent on search, email, and social. 

This trend is expected to continue for the next several years. 

The chart below from eMarketer projects the following: “In 2017, TV ad spending will total $72.01 billion, or 35.8% of total media ad spending in the US. Meanwhile, total digital ad spending in 2017 will equal $77.37 billion, or 38.4% of total ad spending.”

Digital_versus_TV-2.gif

This marks the first time in history digital spend surpassed TV ad spend in the US. 

And the gap will only widen—by 2020, digital spend will surpass television by 36%.

Percentage Of Marketing Budget Spent On Digital

Digital spend is only a portion of total marketing spend for most businesses. For 50% of businesses surveyed, digital represents less than 40% of total marketing spend.

Percentage_Of_Marketing_Budget_Spent_On_Digital.png

Businesses who rely more heavily on the internet to generate sales (e.g. an ecommerce business), invest a greater percentage of their marketing budget towards digital. 

For more traditional businesses, which rely on offline AND online activity to fill the sales funnel, a healthy mix of marketing investment is to be expected. 

Source: Econsultancy Digital Report

How Much Should Your Firm Budget For Marketing?

The CMO survey offers some answers. In the charts below you’ll see how marketing professionals from all types of firms responded to this question in 2017.

marketing budget percent of firm budget and revenue.png

The main takeaways from this survey are as follows:

  • For B2B firms, marketing budgets as a % of firm revenue fell within the 6-7% range
  • For B2C firms, marketing budgets as a % of firm revenue were around 7-9%
  • Marketing budgets as a % of overall firm budgets have been fairly consistent for the past few years, in the 10-11% range

Marketing Spending From 2012-2013:

As a point of comparison, here is data from 2012-2013.

Marketing Budgets 2014

Based on these results, we see that B2B marketing spending has increased over the past couple years, whereas B2C marketing spending has dropped slightly. 

[RELATED: The Top B2B Digital Marketing Strategies]

It is important to note that these percentages represent the total marketing investment, not just advertising or media spend. 

They include things like marketing staffs, customer relationship management, investments paid to agencies and other outside suppliers, advertising costs, media spend, etc.

Firms seeking to grow market share will likely be on the high side of these averages vs. firms planning for modest growth, which may be on the lower side. 

Additionally, the competitive nature of a certain marketplace will influence where a particular firm falls among these average figures.

Marketing & Digital Budget Summary - What Does It All Mean?

We purposely compile surveys from a variety of sources over a number of years to give you an objective perspective, and appropriate context. 

The conclusions of each survey are not always consistent.

This inconsistency represents the diversity of business needs and the marketing strategy that accompanies it. 

That being said, the overarching themes from the above studies are as follows:
 

  • Marketing budgets are increasing
  • More money is being spent on digital, at the expense of traditional advertising channels
  • Total marketing budgets are between 7 and 12% of total revenue
  • B2Cs generally spend more on marketing compared to B2Bs
  • Smaller companies spend more on marketing as a percentage of their total revenue
  • More mature marketers tend to slow their marketing spend as better results measurement enables them to spend smarter.
  • Search and Display marketing represent the lion’s share of digital budget

Bringing together the data from these credible sources in the marketing community should help you determine how much to spend on marketing, and where to apply those investments.

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Understanding SEO: Why Authority Matters to You

Posted on September 6, 2018 by Kendall Jarboe

Understanding SEO: Why Authority Matters to You"Jack of all trades, master of none" is a figure of speech used when people try to do everything and end up spreading themselves thin so they are not actually an expert on anything. A common temptation for website owners is to appeal to the masses and appear on as many SERPs as possible. Keyword stuffing is a SEO campaign mistake and has the goal of being listed in the most number of searches as possible. Relevance is important to search engines, but a significant contributor that is often forgotten about is authority.

What is Authority?

Authority is the level of trust search engines attribute to websites. We’re not talking trust in the sense of avoiding fraudulent websites and boosting security, but trust in the sense of community-approved brands. There are two types of authority: domain authority and page authority. Domain authority refers to the trust granted to an entire website, and page authority is reserved for individual pages within the websites.

Authority is different from relevance. Relevance asks the question, “Does this site’s content match the user’s query?” Authority asks the question, “Is this site well-known enough to send the user to it?” Sometimes it seems like authority is just a popularity contest. While that is certainly true to some extent, search engines determine authority in many different avenues.

How is Authority Determined?

In the past, links were the main variable in authority. To put it plainly, authority is the fruit of link building. While link building is still vital, links are no longer the only determining factor in a site’s authority. Search engines take the content of a website into account when scanning for trustworthiness. The quality of your content is also important for generating more buzz about your brand.

Instead of being an expert in everything, the emerging idea of topical authority refers to the practice of working toward the goal of being the absolute best in your particular niche. Take Walmart and Tiffany & Co. for example. Walmart sells just about any type of product you could need on a regular basis. Tiffany and Co. is just known for their luxury jewelry. While Walmart offers a variety of items that people like to buy, they don’t offer the absolute best in anything. When someone wants to buy a piece of fine jewelry for someone special they don’t think, “I have to go to Walmart for this!” It’s nothing against Walmart, it’s just the fact that smaller and more niche-focused shops are able to specialize in particular products and excel in them.

Prioritizing topical authority and social media go hand-in-hand in playing a huge role in who is talking about your brand. People are more likely to mention an article or a website that offers a fresh and new perspective or insight into the market they care about compared to a generalized statement that isn’t specific enough to relate to.

Another factor in authority exists in the genetics of your website. You will have greater authority if your website has better optimization. If your website caters to mobile devices, if it loads quickly, has an organized structure to it, and does not host broken links to name a few. Your website’s SEO authority might be suffering if it does not meet this standards. Be sure that you are aware of how to know that you need a new website.

While SEO relevance will get you on the SERPs, it only goes so far. You need to be an authoritative and trusted brand to rise to the top. WebRevelation wants to help you be a trusted and authoritative voice in your niche. We can help you optimize your website so that search engines will will send the ideal client your way. Give us a call today or fill out a contact form and we will be happy to discuss your options and a game plan.

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Understanding SEO: A Beginner's Guide to Link Building

Posted on August 30, 2018 by Kendall Jarboe

Understanding SEO: A Beginner's Guide to Link BuildingSearch Engine Optimization is not just about strategic practices within the coding of your Web page, it’s about how your page interacts with other Web pages on the Internet. The two most important ranking factors for Google are links and content. Therefore, you could say that your Web page is only as good as the sites that link to it.

Link building is the practice of boosting credibility and trust by linking within your site internally and to other sites externally. There are many shady practices that revolve around link building, which is why many website owners shy away from links altogether. This is a detrimental move for their SEO because Google values links. Link building can be done both externally and internally.

External Linking

External linking happens when a website that is not part of your domain links a portion of their content to one of your Web pages. When it comes to external links, you have to earn your links over time. The desire to have numerous outside Web pages linking to your site is a big temptation on SEO campaigns. Some people attempt to buy links or generate fake Web pages to increase the amount of links they have. These tactics are highly discouraged and can result in page ranking punishments.

Before we cover a few ideas on how to generate external links, know that excellent content is at the core of link building. The biggest question for every blog post, product demonstration, and ebook should be, “Is this content the absolute best it can be?” In order for other websites to link to yours, you have to offer unique content that is trustworthy. Don’t neglect other SEO efforts for the sake of creating as many links as possible. Users must be able to find your Web page on the SERP before they can even link to it.

After you are satisfied with the quality of your content, consider being a guest blogger. If you have an established brand and have knowledge of a particular subject, write about it for a credible website. Guest blogging should never be done just to gain links to your website (don’t forget that content comes first!). Instead, write because you have knowledge to share and treat the links as the cherry on top.

Infographics are another great way to boost external links. Since it’s easier to copy an infographic and cite its source within the article than to create one on their own, website owners commonly share infographics around the Web. This is why you should create an infographic and make it accessible for others to use.

Internal Linking

While there fewer options when it comes to linking from one page on your website to another page, internal linking helps users navigate your website and contributes to page ranking. There are right ways and wrong ways to link internally.

As a general rule, don’t go overboard with your internal links. If every other word in your article is a link to a different page on your website, then you are abusing the internal link method. In the same way, don’t add an internal link in places that are unnatural for the reader, such as links on conjunctions or on only part of the word.

Pay attention to the literal words you select to contain the link. These words are known as your anchor text, and their relevance to the page it links to can actually increase or decrease its credibility. You should also link to more than just your homepage. Since it’s generally harder for the deeper pages of your websites to earn links, share the spotlight and link to the lesser-known pages, as long as they are still relevant to the content.

Bonus Tip

Here’s a WebRevelation practice that we’ve adopted in our link building endeavors. When you link to an external Web page, be sure to adjust the link’s target in your settings so that the link opens up in a new window. When you link to an internal Web page, the link can open up in the same window. The reasoning behind this is so those who explore external links on different websites can easily return to your page in order to finish reading or shopping.

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Understanding SEO: How to Write Alt Attributes

Posted on August 23, 2018 by Kendall Jarboe

Understanding SEO: How to Write Alt AttributesDo you ever search for something on Google and click the “Images” tab to see what might pop up? Chances are you do, and so do lots of other people. In fact, one study shows that over 26% of searches are done with Google Images. If you own an ecommerce website or visually display your services on the Web, you should enhance your photos with an SEO tool called alt attributes.

What are alt attributes?

Alt attributes are also known as alt text, alt tags, or alt descriptions. They are simply an alternate way of describing an image by showing text in the image’s place. Since search engines cannot interpret images except with what they find in the Web page’s content, alt attributes are written in the coding and give search engines a clear description of the image.

What are they used for?

You’ll also notice that when you hover your mouse over certain images (usually buttons or product images), a description of the image will appear. This is an alt attribute. The main purpose of alt attributes are for screen readers to “read” images when assisting the visually impaired. It should be every website owner’s responsibility to make sure that their content can be enjoyed by the most amount of people as possible.

Additionally, if for some reason an image cannot be displayed properly on a browser, its alt attribute will appear instead. Because search engines can better understand your Web page when they interpret its images correctly, properly formatted alt attributes boost your SEO and page ranking.

How do I use them?

Start by focusing on your Web pages that are dense with images, such as portfolios, galleries, and product pages. These pages will be harder for search engines to interpret on their own since there is less content to work with. Include keywords in your alt attributes, but don’t keyword stuff and only use them if you would actually use that word to describe the image. Keep the tag short, but include an honest description of the image.

Let’s take a look at a few examples. The “img src” is the name of the picture’s file and the text that follows “alt” is the alt attribute.

Crayola markers and paper on top of table

Don’t: img src="Crayola.jpg" alt="Crayola markers"

Do: img src="Crayola.jpg" alt="Crayola markers and paper on top of table"

Lake water reflecting trees and cloudy skies

Don’t: img src="Nature.jpg" alt="Trees and water"

Do: img src="Nature.jpg" alt="Lake water reflecting trees and cloudy skies"

Yorkshire Terrier resting on carpet

Don’t: img src="Dog.jpg" alt="Cute dog"

Do: img src="Dog.jpg" alt="Yorkshire Terrier resting on carpet"

If you are unsure about alt attributes ask yourself this question, “If I read the alt attribute out loud to someone who wasn’t looking at the picture, would they be able to visualize the image and be relatively accurate?” When you can confidently answer in the positive, you have a great alt attribute.

Alt attributes are easy write and quick to incorporate into your website. For more ways to boost your SEO, check out the rest of our Understanding SEO blog series. If you’re ready to optimize your own website, WebRevelation offers professional marketing tactics to increase traffic and boost sales. Give us a call today for a free consultation!

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Understanding SEO: How to Write and Implement Meta Descriptions

Posted on August 16, 2018 by Kendall Jarboe

Understanding_SEO_How_to_Write_and_Implement_Meta_DescriptionsThe next step in getting more traffic to your site is by creating meta descriptions. They are a lot like stretching before you workout: some people skip it altogether, but it actually makes a world of difference in seeing great results! In the same way that title tags are only visible on a Search Engines Result Page (SERP), meta descriptions are also written into the coding and located under the title tags.

In all ways except in length, you want your meta description to be like the introduction or prelude to a really good book: catchy, pithy, and informative but without giving away any big spoilers. Meta descriptions don’t directly impact your Web page’s rank on SERPs, but they can be the difference between someone clicking on your website or your competitor’s.

Writing Meta Descriptions

If you look around online, you’ll see that most people recommend meta descriptions no longer than 155 characters. The fear is that Google will cut off your meta descriptions if they are too long. Other websites suggest 320 characters for your meta descriptions to ensure that Google doesn’t change or edit yours for being too short (Google might also edit your description if they find a duplicate on your website, or they don’t believe it to be descriptive enough).

Whatever route you choose to take in terms of character count, verify that the first 130-150 characters of your meta description are your absolute best. Mobile users might not be able to see past that count and desktop users might not even read past that number anyway. As far as the literary mechanics go, here are some basic tips to strengthen your meta descriptions:

  • Focus on the buyer in terms of content and wording. If your ideal client is looking to buy a technical product, craft your words technically and give the details that cater to their interests.
  • Highlight what makes your product stand out from the rest. Why does the searcher need to have your product?
  • Match the tone of the article. Users expect to find in the Web page what they see in the meta description. False advertising, even in literary style, makes for unhappy customers.

Implementing Meta Descriptions

If the thought of adding meta descriptions to your website makes you want to curl up into a ball and cry, please don’t. Meta descriptions are not as difficult to implement for your Web pages as they may seem. Simply take a look at your Google Analytics, determine what your most popular pages are, and start adding their meta descriptions first.

Don’t send yourself into a frenzied scramble trying to add descriptions to everything. Google actually creates their own meta descriptions for pages that don’t have any. While they might not be ideal, they can cover you in the time being. This is another reason why keywords are so important. Google scans your page and pulls content from it to create the description, so having relevant keywords will benefit that process.

Your most visited Web pages and your top-selling product pages should be your first priority for crafting succinct and inviting meta descriptions. Always stretch before you workout and don’t neglect those valuable meta descriptions.

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