local SEO

Is SEO really dying? It’s complicated

  • Rhea
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  • 25 March , 2019
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    • 9 min read

Quite possibly no other component of digital marketing has been as subjected to the imaginations of conspiracy theorists as SEO has. Almost every year, new claims come out about the death of SEO which are then consequently debunked by experts in the field. But this time, the assertion isn’t coming from marketers pushing for more PPC campaigns, but from concerned content creators themselves.

So why are experienced professionals in the field worried that 2019 could signal the death knell of SEO? Here are a couple of factors that might explain their fears.

  1. Organic CTR is the lowest it’s ever been

With every SERP feature that Google adds, click-through-rates take another dip. In the past, if a user were to search for the weather, they would have to click on a result, enter the website and look for their answer on the page. But now? The search results would look something like this:

This feature is great for users who can now get their queries answered faster, but for a website? Not so much!

These new features don’t just affect broad searches but long-tail queries as well. A first-time real estate investor, for instance, might search for ‘how to calculate stamp duty’ to clear up their questions on it. When they do that, Google will present them the answer neatly packaged in this featured snippet:

If you are wondering how to get the coveted featured snippet. Here is an interesting video:



Since the user already has the answer to their question, they might not feel the need to actually click on the website. What this means for content creators and website owners is that while their search rankings might improve, overall organic traffic to the website might not grow proportionally.

  1. Google Maps eats up local search traffic

Businesses, understandably, want users to visit their website for all information related to them. This is especially important for local businesses such as restaurants and cafes since purchase intent is typically higher for local searches. However, Google might be hoarding most of this traffic for itself. If a user searches for cafes or restaurant, for example, their search results today looks very different than it did just a few years ago. In the past, they would see a restaurant listing when searching for ‘Chinese food near me’, click on the website link that appealed to them and check out the menu and contact details on their website.

Today, while they will still see restaurant listings, clicking on one will take them to Google Maps and not the restaurant's website.

 

 

Of course, a user will still be able to utilise the information provided by Google to visit the restaurant or make a reservation (and thereby convert into a customer). But a business’ website might have less reach and decreased organic performance.

  1. Mobile search is most heavily impacted

For the last few years, a mobile-first approach to SEO (and almost everything related to digital marketing) has been adopted by marketers everywhere by implementing strategies like AMP. The number of mobile users and mobile searches have also been on an upward trajectory in the last few years, underlining the importance of mobile SEO. However, recent statistics about the nature of mobile searches have emerged, making marketers wonder if mobile SEO still has the same ‘do-or-die’ effect that it did a year ago.

According to Rand Fishkin of Moz, mobile no-click searches have grown by 11 percent, almost 2.5 percent higher than no-click searches on desktop. With these seemingly gloomy numbers, it’s no wonder that websites and brands are worried that they might be losing out on a chunk of their organic mobile audience.

  1. Voice search is increasing no-click searches

Voice search can be interpreted as both a boon and a bane for marketers. On one hand, it’s a growing new platform to make their brand more visible to users and one of the biggest digital marketing trends of 2019. On the other hand, no-click searches are most prevalent on voice search. For brands and marketers, this poses a unique conundrum: is voice search worth ranking for or will it provide absolutely no value in terms or traffic and brand awareness?

But does this mean SEO is dying?

The simple answer to that question is, no. With SEO, when one door closes, another opens. There are certainly many facets of SEO that are dead or dying today, but that has always been the case since its inception. As users, platforms and Google’s algorithm evolves, SEO needs to adapt to keep up.

Instead of getting bogged down by all the alarming statistics being thrown around about the end of SEO, marketers should instead focus on realigning their SEO strategy in the following ways.

  1. Grow branded searches

If there’s one keyword that Google cannot steal traffic from, it’s searches for your brand. For example, if a user were to search for just ‘digital marketing companies in India’, Google would first list out map listings of companies.

However, if they were to directly search for ‘Social Beat’, none of Google’s SERP features would show up to distract them from clicking on our website.

Going forward, therefore, brands need to focus on building the strength and volume of branded searches if they want relevant traffic on their website.

  1. Shift focus from volume to CTR%

Most keyword research today consists of analysing keyword volume and difficulty alone. But with the new SERP features, high volume keywords don’t necessarily guarantee high traffic from them. To counteract this, content creators should include a third dimension when choosing keywords to optimise their content with: CTR percentage. By carefully choosing a keyword that has a high click-through-rate, content marketers can be assured that they will be creating content that will drive organic traffic to their website and not just adding to Google’s no-click search percentages.

You can do a simple CTR analysis through most keyword research tools. In this example, we used Ahrefs to dig deep into our focus keyword, ‘digital marketing blogs’. According to the results that the tool gave us, this keyword is worth trying to rank for as 65% of those searching for the keyword have clicked on a result.

  1. Design content for SERP features

In the case of SERP features, content marketers are better off following the adage, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them!’. A featured snippet, can either steal traffic from your website or increase it depending upon how you tailor your information for it. If a user can get all the information they require for their query from the snippet without having to actually click on the link, chances are they aren’t going to visit your website. But if you can offer users just enough information and intrigue them so they click on your link to read more, then the featured snippet can be the most powerful tool in your arsenal to drive traffic to your website.

For example, if a user knows that this list includes 10 mobile wallets, but the snippet only displays a few of them, they will be more likely to click on the link to read the full list.

  1. Develop innovative content based on long-tail keyword

Creating 10x content and using long-tail keywords have always been the cornerstones of modern SEO, but they were never more important than they are today. The goal for content marketers today is to create in-depth content on nuanced topics that cannot be pigeonholed into any of Google’s SERP features. Essentially, the longer a keyword is, the greater the chance of your actual website ranking for it and not an answer box or any other feature.

Even if parts of your content can snag a featured snippet, it should offer your audience several useful elements that they need to click on your link to explore. The demand for interactive content is on the rise and thankfully, Google hasn’t found a way to display interactive tools directly on SERP yet. Tools like calculators, interactive maps, planners and more can drive organic traffic to your website and offer immense value to your readers.

If SEO is dying, then the one thing offering it CPR is pillar content. This unique comprehensive content format has created waves in the SEO sphere, promising almost an instant surge in traffic and even several high-quality leads. The secret ingredient that makes pillar content so powerful is that it is linked to several related articles within your blog, providing instant link juice to each of them. Because of this, organic traffic to your blog and overall website improve dramatically.

For example, we created a pillar for our client Shriram Properties on ‘A Complete Guide for First-Time Homebuyers in India’. Within a matter of weeks, it started ranking for over 1000 keywords in total and for 100 keywords on page 1. Achieving similar results for a regular page within such a short time span would have been close to impossible with a regular page.

  1. Meta titles and descriptions still matter

If there’s one thing that has stayed constant in the ever-fluctuating landscape of SEO, it’s that meta descriptions and titles can make or break your organic traffic. These two elements are the simplest, yet most crucial aspects of SEO. If all your hard work has helped your content reach Page 1, but the title and description aren’t compelling enough for users to click on it, your traffic is unlikely to show any improvement. It is also important that content creators don’t get disillusioned by the variety of SERP features available today. A study by Ahrefs found that featured snippets get only 8.6 percent of clicks, while the next result gets 19.6 percent of the clicks!

So even if your brand has lost out on the featured snippet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your organic traffic will drop because of it.

  1. Branch out with barnacle SEO

Instead of putting all your eggs in a single basket, barnacle SEO offers you a way to spread your chances to drive more traffic and increase brand visibility. Today, ‘aggregator sites’ are more visible on Google than they ever were. These sites, for example, Zomato, Urban Clap and Little Black Book, list companies and services on their website. If a user were to search for best massage parlour in Chennai, their search results are most likely to throw up aggregator sites and not individual massage parlour websites.

Is this disheartening for individual businesses? Not necessarily. Trying to compete with aggregator sites will be a David vs. Goliath situation since these sites are typically larger and have a higher domain authority. Instead, businesses should try to get featured on aggregator sites to make their target audience aware of their brand and increase traffic to their website. Getting featured on a compilation can also increase the brand’s credibility in the eyes of the user.

  1. Get a headstart on YouTube SEO

With all the panic about Google’s CTR shrinking, many marketers tend to forget the second largest search engine in the world: YouTube. YouTube is beneficial for marketers for two reasons: 1. It’s a new platform to reach out to users and 2. It can help brands rank on Google as well.

The number of subscribers and video views on YouTube is growing exponentially - particularly in India. If you are finding it challenging to rank for a relevant keyword on Google because of high competition, YouTube could be an excellent way to circumvent this. You can read our in-depth blog on YouTube SEO Tips: The Secret Sauce to Ranking Your Videos to get started!

The second reason to optimise your videos for YouTube is just as important. One of Google’s SERP features is video listings pulled from YouTube that are related to a search term. If your brand is able to create a video that also ranks on Google’s SERP, then you will automatically be able to increase visibility and awareness of your brand.

This strategy is a great way for marketers to beat Google at its own game and use SERP features to their advantage.

You can also check out our video on 'YouTube SEO: 8 Powerful Tips to Help Rank Your Videos'.

  1. Gear up for voice search

Voice search can be viewed as a disruptor or facilitator, but one thing’s for sure: marketers cannot afford to ignore it. Here are just a few incredible statistics on the growing importance of voice search:

  • 28% of search queries in India are through voice
  • By 2020, 50% of all global searches will be in voice
  • There is a 270% YoY growth in voice searches in India

To avoid being left behind in the voice search wave, marketers need to optimise their websites and brands to appear for voice queries. This can also help them reach out to new internet audiences, those who are from tier 2 and 3 cities and are more comfortable using voice than typing out a query.

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, it’s that content marketing backed by continuous optimisation still has the highest ROI compared to any other type of campaign. By getting an early head start and implementing these elements in your content strategy before your competitors do, you can cement your position on Google’s SERP.


7 reasons why your brand should have a digital-first marketing strategy

  • David Appasamy
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  • 5 November , 2018
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    • 5 min read

Are you still stuck in the paradigm of an offline marketing strategy with a 60-second TV commercial being your leading mode of communication, supported by print and outdoor advertising? If you are nodding your head in approval, you are being rapidly left behind by those who have adopted a ‘Digital-First’ marketing approach!

Brands are steadily transitioning from traditional advertising to digital marketing because of the higher reach, better engagement and increase in generating high-quality leads. Read on for the top seven reasons why your brand should adopt a digital approach.

Your prospects and customers are all online

With over 450 million Indians online today, your prospects and customers are spending more of their time online than ever before. And this number is slated to grow to 735 million online by 2021. Of these, 199 million will be English speaking, and 536 million language speaking, with over 70% of them accessing the Internet from a smartphone throughout the day. They are increasingly spending more time online than on any other medium. Is there a better way for your brand to engage with India’s next billion Internet users and reach the tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India as well?

A digital-first approach will mean a mobile-first approach for your brand’s digital assets

The online population accesses digital platforms over 150 times a day for various reasons including search. Additionally, 80% of Indian users use their phones to access the Internet. This only proves that it is imperative for your brand to adopt a mobile-first strategy to rank higher than your competitors and leave a stamp in the digital world. From accelerated mobile pages for lightning-fast speed to optimising your web pages for better visibility on a mobile search, you need to leverage a custom-made digital strategy with a mobile-first approach to reach your potential consumers. Everything starts with the recognition that your digital marketing assets need to be optimised for the way consumers are behaving online now and in the future.

We leveraged the speed of accelerated mobile pages for a landing page developed for India Home Health Care, a top provider of home nursing and related healthcare services. The page helped reduce the cost per lead by a whopping 33% with a 20% increase in conversions.



Your brand or business needs to be easily discoverable

How discoverable is your brand or business? Search Engine Optimisation today is very different from what it was a few years ago. Deep and relevant content, like pillar pages and other long-form content, which is easily discoverable and distributed across multiple platforms, or amplified using social media works well. Consumers today are information seeking, with a ‘discovery mindset’, using search many times a day for multiple purposes- both business and personal. So why not market your brand by making it rank on the most used search engine in the world? Featured snippets are a great way to increase brand visibility and drive organic traffic to your website.

This is exactly what we achieved for Casagrand – one of India’s leading property developers with a strong presence in the south. Their blog on the best places to invest in Bangalore got highlighted as a featured snippet with an image and a list of all the locations presented in the blog.

Being discoverable is a key result area for your digital marketing assets so that consumers find your brand when they are searching for something they need. From using SEO plugins for WordPress to leveraging local SEO and Google Maps for your business, ensure your brand gets the visibility it deserves.

The world's second largest search engine, YouTube, is also a great platform to reach your target audience on. For tips on how to rank your videos, read our in-depth article: YouTube SEO Tips: The Secret Sauce to Ranking Your Videos in 2019.

Online consumers want to engage, not have information thrown at them

Is your online communication primarily elements of your offline marketing campaign? If you have to spend to reach your target group with your advertising, what makes you think they will choose to come to your social media pages to see your ads? Instead, your online marketing campaigns must seek to engage consumers by rewarding them in some way with relevant communications on social media platforms. Make sure all your online assets are designed in such a way that they trigger engagement and ultimately result in conversions. You need to leverage the two-way communication model that digital platforms offer to understand what your audience finds intriguing and feed them with high-quality content that converts.  Read our blog on how a redesign strategy for Chola helped increase social engagement for more insights.

The most watched channel today is YouTube

YouTube is the second most used search engine in the world after Google with over 100 million Indian users watching YouTube videos every single day! To add to that, according to YouTube Brandcast 2018, 9 out of 10 users consume videos that are in regional languages. This means that you must have a strategy for YouTube that could involve videos on your YouTube channel, or advertising on YouTube to maximise impact. Your channel must be optimised with effective YouTube SEO tips for discoverability, and the videos disseminated on social media platforms. And your ads on YouTube can be optimised based on brand objectives including calls to action. What you cannot afford to do is be absent from a burgeoning channel teeming with users.

Showcasing your brand through engaging and informative videos on your YouTube channel is one of the most effective ways to reach potential consumers and widen your clientele. Social Beat’s YouTube channel features a section on “Digital Bytes”, where experts share their insights on the top digital marketing trends of the industry.

The rise of language content

With the introduction of affordable data plans by Reliance Jio and the drop in the prices of smartphones in India, Internet usage has seeped into the tier 2 and tier 3 regions of the nation. This has unlocked a huge database of online users waiting to be targeted. The only way to connect and convert with these users is by incorporating an end-to-end multilingual marketing approach in a language your consumer is comfortable in – which is exactly what we offer at 22 languages. With the growth of regional content online, we tailor-make a language roadmap for your brand from landing pages and website development to social media campaigns and search engine optimisation. The sooner you start, the faster you will become proficient in the use of language content and communications to grow your business.

For instance, we tapped the reach of vernacular content for Cholamandalam Finance by creating an engaging video about the financial life lessons you can learn from an ant. The English video reached 96,000 users with 3,113 shares. However, the same video in Hindi reached 2.3 million users with 80,524 shares, proving that going regional is the best way to increase your brand’s visibility and reach.

The ability to interact with consumers during the decision-making process

Today, digital platforms enable you to interact with consumers when they are in the decision-making process to positively influence their choice towards your brand. From information search, comparison of brands, to the sites they visit, consumers signal their intent with their digital footprint. They can be addressed during this process to move them down the marketing funnel to fulfillment. Affinity and custom intent audiences of consumers who have expressed their interest in certain kinds of products or services can also be addressed to get their attention at the top of the funnel. Your offline marketing efforts should drive people online to your content or messaging so that you can engage with them positively to influence their decision.

Keeping these fool-proof reasons in mind, it is time you shift from print to digital media and give your brand the launch pad it needs. Whether you are a leading real estate developer, a top FMCG brand, a renowned financial organisation or a celebrated B2B firm, unleash the power of going digital and take your business to towering heights.


13 Ways to leverage Local SEO and Google Maps for your Business

  • Srilakshmi
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  • 5 January , 2017
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    • 7 min read

When it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO) and digital marketing for your business, one must pay attention to things beyond just the website, especially if you own a local business. In the past couple of years, digital marketers have gradually understood the importance of strong online marketing efforts that include local SEO and Google Maps (or Google My Business) as well. Read our blog on Demystifying the Basics of Search Engine Optimization if you are getting started on this for the first time.

If you think it's enough to just optimise your website to perfection, then you are on the wrong path. Since July 2014, Google uses an algorithm called Pigeon. This is one of the Google's local search algorithm updates. The aim of this algorithm is to increase the ranking of local listings in a search.

The changes in the ranking made by this algorithm are also shown in the Google Maps’ results. In other terms, when a person searches for a particular kind of business in a locality, the results will be based on user location and the listing available in the local directory.

For example, if you are searching for Spas in Chennai on Google, the search result will be like this:

Even before the pages are ranked, there will be three map listings. The map listing will also have a toggle button – “More Places” that allows you to check for more map listings. Similarly, another search result for “Bakeries in Egmore” shows this result:

When a person searches for “bakeries, Egmore" in the query box, he gets a result where there are three map listings and 5+ organic listings. So, even if you have the best website, it might be there at the 8th or ninth position. How many users would scroll down all the way through 8 or more entries to click on the actual website?

The amount of people who will reach until the end of the page will definitely be lesser than the ones who would click directly on the map listing or any organic listing. Hence, you must constantly watch these listings and optimise your presence in the map and directory sites. The 3-pack map listings by Google can be a marketing game-changer for your business for these have a highly-valuable exposure, thus generating quality traffic and new customers.

Here are some of the best practices that you must follow to implement a successful Google Maps Marketing and Local SEO strategy.

1. It’s is important to maintain a physical address for your business

No matter whether your business is B2B or B2C, it is important to maintain a local address for your company. This is important to rank in the Google local 3-pack map listing. Also, having a local address is an important search engine factor for local SEO. Google has reported that there is an increase in queries containing “near me” – for e.g.  restaurants near me or salons near me. The distance from the location of the user is critical in these searches. This is why adding the locality name after the name of your business can help in ranking.

2. Set up and maintain a Google My Business Account

Your Google My Business (GMB) account plays a major role in Google Maps Marketing and local SEO. In fact, your GMB determines and has an effect on your online presence in Google Maps, Search, and G+.

Google My Business offers a simple and easy way for you to create a listing for your business. You can also claim an existing one. You must just make sure that all the information listed in your GMB page is accurate and complete. Adding pictures of your business along with videos (especially 360-degree videos) and the opening date of the business can also help your business gain greater visibility. It’s also important to choose the most appropriate primary and secondary categories to list your business under. This can have a direct impact on what kind searches you show up for.

3. Optimise your business description

Building an effective GMB listing doesn't just end at creating a listing. There are several features you can implement on your GMB listing to ensure it delivers good results. Your GMB profile should have unique content that has all the information your customers might require. Clickable phone numbers are important as they make it very easy for your customers to contact you. Another way to help your customers get in touch with you is by enabling the messaging option whenever possible. Your store hours (opening and closing hours) should also be included as priority information. If you have special timings for certain days (like weekends or public holidays), make sure you specify those as well.

4. Concentrate on your business’ NAP

Your business' NAP – Name, Address, and Phone Number should be consistent in both your GMB page as well as on your website. Also, make sure that your business' NAP appears exactly the same across the web on third-party websites, directory listings, and social media profiles. These citations, i.e. your company’s NAP in other websites and listings, determine the legitimacy of your business and its beneficial if your NAP is available in various websites.

5. Have a separate web page for each of your products or services

Your business might have multiple products or services. Dedicating a separate web page for each and every type of product and service can help in optimising every page. In other words, instead of over-optimising a single page with a lot of keywords, you can optimise each page of your website with the relevant set of keywords around a theme. It doesn’t mean you need to have a page for every keyword, but make sure each type of product/service and each service area (i.e. locations) are covered.

6. Make sure the website URL contains the target keyword

Adding your website URL to your Google Maps listing can be an effective way to direct traffic to your page. However, your goal shouldn't be to just generate higher traffic, but relevant traffic as well. One of the best ways to do this is by adding the focus keyword (the keyword you are targeting through your listing) on the web page that your listing directs traffic to. This can help you rank for relevant keywords and provide real value to your consumers.

7. Build an effective schema markup

A schema markup helps optimise your listing for search engines. It helps search engines understand what your business is about by speaking in their language. Luckily, it takes minimal effort to structure your listing based on schema markup. There are many tools such as Microdata Generator where you can simply enter your details and they will automatically generate a code which you can then paste in your website's back-end.

8. Create mindful citations

Be it a citation in Zomato for your business or a mention on another website, you must make sure that the mentions are made sensibly. If you can build citations in trustworthy websites and good listing directories, you can increase the value of your local SEO significantly. Do also check out our infographic on 21 SEO Link Building Techniques.

Some of the things that you need to keep in mind while creating or building citations are:

  • Make sure that any citations about your business in 100% accurate, especially the NAP.
  • Remove or place a request to remove any duplicate listings in listing directories.
  • Try to build mentions in websites that are relevant to your industries.

9. Work towards generating Google Reviews (of course, positive ones)

Reviews in Google Places are a crucial ranking factor for the search engine. Having good reviews in Google will definitely assist you in being listed in the Google 3-pack map listings. You can ask your customers to leave a review. Alternatively, you can also offer incentives or discounts on next purchase for customers who review your service or product on Google. Even reviews from social media channels are now displayed on Google. You may also find it interesting to read our blog on Why Social Media Matters for SEO?. It is important to remember, however, that you shouldn't add to many reviews at the same time because this can appear suspicious.

10. Embed Google Maps on your site

You should embed the Google Map of your business’ location on your website in the “contact us” page. This technique is a proven way to boost the SEO value of your website. This needs to be combined with Local Schema to give Google complete visibility on what kind of business is being run.

11. Make sure your website & blog are super fast

In recent times there has been a lot of talk on website speed and implementation of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to ensure that experience on mobile and desktop is fantastic. This is critical even for a local business because blog content focussed on your city or location of business can be crucial in attracting the right audience. For example, one of our most popular blogs is on marketing events in Bangalore and we created this to target marketing professionals in the city when we first launched our services there.

12. Update your GMB posts regularly

Google allows you to add posts on your GMB listing which will show up along with the rest of your description. As these posts have a Call-to-Action button, it can be an important tool to drive traffic to your website. GMB posts can also be used to promote special offers, events and product details. Since these posts automatically expire within 7 days, it's important that you continuously update them.

13. Build a brand

Google and other search engines are starting to not only reward content that is customised to users (in this case content can be customised to a local audience) and they continue to show preference for sites and brands that users already know of. Hence its critical to keep track of how many users are searching for your brand (Google Analytics and Google Search Console can help with that) and not just for the product & service that you are offering.

Many business owners have found Google Maps and Local SEO marketing to be intensely helpful and beneficial for their businesses. Have you started applying these best practices? Let us know in the comments below.


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