Tag Archive | "Industry"

The State of Local SEO: Industry Insights for a Successful 2019

Posted by MiriamEllis

A thousand thanks to the 1,411 respondents who gave of their time and knowledge in contributing to this major survey! You’ve created a vivid image of what real-life, everyday local search marketers and local business owners are observing on a day-to-day basis, what strategies are working for them right now, and where some frankly stunning opportunities for improvement reside. Now, we’re ready to share your insights into:

  • Google Updates
  • Citations
  • Reviews
  • Company infrastructure
  • Tool usage
  • And a great deal more…

This survey pooled the observations of everyone from people working to market a single small business, to agency marketers with large local business clients:

Respondents who self-selected as not marketing a local business were filtered from further survey results.

Thanks to you, this free report is a window into the industry. Bring these statistics to teammates and clients to earn the buy-in you need to effectively reach local consumers in 2019.

Get the full report

There are so many stories here worthy of your time

Let’s pick just one, to give a sense of the industry intelligence you’ll access in this report. Likely you’ve now seen the Local Search Ranking Factors 2018 Survey, undertaken by Whitespark in conjunction with Moz. In that poll of experts, we saw Google My Business signals being cited as the most influential local ranking component. But what was #2? Link building.

You might come away from that excellent survey believing that, since link building is so important, all local businesses must be doing it. But not so. The State of the Local SEO Industry Report reveals that:

When asked what’s working best for them as a method for earning links, 35% of local businesses and their marketers admitted to having no link building strategy in place at all:

And that, Moz friends, is what opportunity looks like. Get your meaningful local link building strategy in place in the new year, and prepare to leave ⅓ of your competitors behind, wondering how you surpassed them in the local and organic results.

The full report contains 30+ findings like this one. Rivet the attention of decision-makers at your agency, quote persuasive statistics to hesitant clients, and share this report with teammates who need to be brought up to industry speed. When read in tandem with the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, this report will help your business or agency understand both what experts are saying and what practitioners are experiencing.

Sometimes, local search marketing can be a lonely road to travel. You may find yourself wondering, “Does anyone understand what I do? Is anyone else struggling with this task? How do I benchmark myself?” You’ll find both confirmation and affirmation today, and Moz’s best hope is that you’ll come away a better, bolder, more effective local marketer. Let’s begin!

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SearchCap: Google My Business Insights, search industry honors Barry Schwartz, more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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How the hospitality industry should approach online reviews and citations

Looking for more positive reviews? Here are some smart ways to build citations and reviews plus tips to boost the visibility of businesses in the hospitality sector.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Take the 2018 Moz Local Search Marketing Industry Survey

Posted by MiriamEllis

Local search marketing is a dynamic and exciting discipline, but like many digital professions, it can be a bit isolating. You may find yourself running into questions that don’t have a ready answer, things like…

  • What sort of benchmarks should I be measuring my daily work by?
  • Do my clients’ needs align with what my colleagues are seeing?
  • Am I over/undervaluing the role of Google in my future work?

Here’s a chance to find out what your peers are observing and doing on a day-to-day basis.

The Moz Local Search Marketing Industry Survey will dive into job descriptions, industries served, most effective tactics, tool usage, and the non-stop growth of Google’s local features. We’ll even touch on how folks may have been impacted by the recent August 1 algorithm update, if at all. In-house local SEOs, agency local SEOs, and other digital marketers are all welcome! All participants will be entered into a drawing for a $ 100 Amazon gift card. The winner will be notified on 8/27/18.

Give just 5 minutes of your time and you’ll get insights and quotable statistics back when we publish the survey results. Be sure to participate by 8/24/2018. We sincerely appreciate your contributions!

Take the Local SEO Survey Now

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What’s different about digital marketing in the cannabis industry?

Contributor Brett Middleton explores the current challenges and opportunities facing this budding industry, given the differences in local, state and federal regulations across the US.

The post What’s different about digital marketing in the cannabis industry? appeared first on Search Engine…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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How you can better communicate PPC industry updates to clients

PPC is about more than just managing accounts — it’s about managing client relationships, too. Columnist Matt Umbro provides some advice for how to talk to your clients about industry updates and account issues.

The post How you can better communicate PPC industry updates to clients appeared…



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Moz Local Industry Report: Who’s Winning Wireless Searches?

Posted by Dr-Pete

[Estimated read time: 8 minutes]

Summary: We analyzed 5 mobile phone buyer searches on Google across 5,000 cities (25,000 total markets) to find the winners and losers in both organic and local pack results. Best Buy dominated organic results and performed well in local searches. Sprint won the local pack results, but disappeared from organic entirely. Carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T all performed well, but none covered more than 30% of local search markets.

The wireless industry in the United States is both massive and competitive. According to an IDC report, over 184 million mobile phones were shipped to US customers in 2014, with an estimated 191 million in 2015. The vast majority of consumers, even in 2015, report browsing products online but purchasing in-store (73%, according to PWC’s annual report). This trend may be even more dramatic in the wireless industry, where experts suggest that upwards of 9 out of 10 of all mobile phone purchases in the US still happen in a brick-and-mortar store.

In a competitive environment where most people research phones online but buy them in-store, ranking well in Google search results, especially local results, is critical. Local results can lead consumers not only to one brand over another, but to specific store locations in their area, surfacing store addresses, phone numbers, and operating hours.

For example, here’s a local 3-pack from a search for “mobile phone store” in the Seattle area:

Local packs in 2016 not only contain rich information, including directions, reviews, location, phone, and store hours, but they appear at or near the top of organic results and occupy a large amount of screen real-estate.

This report takes a Google’s-eye view of the mobile phone market in the United States. We ran thousands of searches to determine who were the big winners in both organic and local Google results, who were the losers, and where big brands had gaps.


Report methodology

For this study, we tracked 5 wireless industry phrases on page 1 of Google.com across the 5,000 largest cities in the contiguous 48 states (according to census data), measuring both organic and local pack results. The five searches used in the final study were:

  • “phone store”
  • “mobile phone store”
  • “cell phone store”
  • “wireless store”
  • “buy cell phone”

We deliberately chose keywords that were likely to return both organic and local pack results. Based on initial analyses, we discarded product-specific keywords, like “buy iPhone 6,” because those didn’t typically return local results. Interestingly, searches containing “smartphone” also generally failed to display local results.

Finally, we threw out “phone shop,” because, even searching US locations on Google.com, that phrase tended to return UK-based results. Data was combined across the five keywords, with organic and local results analyzed separately.


Top 5 organic brands (by markets)

If we treat each of these 25,000 searches (5 keywords X 5,000 cities) as a potential market, we can get a sense of how well any given company is covering the total US marketplace. For this analysis, we’ll treat multiple listings on a single page of search results as one “market.” The question is just whether any given brand is represented in that market (not where or how often).

Here were the top 5 brands, by total markets:

Big-box retailer Best Buy and online retailer Newegg led the organic winners, followed by mobile carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The Top 10 were rounded out by (in order): Walmart, Wirefly, Cricket Wireless, and Boost Mobile.

Surprisingly, Sprint was nowhere to be found in our organic data, showing just one listing (and that one was on a sub-domain). Keep in mind that this study looked only at page-one results. Used phone resellers, including Gazelle (#11), Glyde (#12), and Swappa (#16) made a strong showing in the top 20.


Top 5 organic brands (by clicks)

The “market” analysis doesn’t account for the varying impact of different ranking positions and the populations of the 5,000 cities in this study. So, we did a second, more complex analysis. If we take a shallow click-through curve (see below), where the #1 position gets the most clicks and then click-through rate (CTR) trails off, and then we multiply each of those CTRs by the city’s population, we can get a proxy for total click volume.

Obviously, not everyone alive is running these searches, and we’re going to cheat and assume clicks total 100% (they don’t, in reality), so instead of looking at total counts, we’ll rely on percentage of total click share. Here were the top 5 by click share:

Adjusting for CTR and population, Best Buy held onto the top spot, and most of the top 5 was the same. The notable exception was AT&T, which fell to #8. Digging deeper into the data, this appears to be a function of CTR. On average, AT&T’s rankings are appearing lower on page 1 than the rest of the top 5. Cricket Wireless moved up from #8 to round out the top 5.


Top 5 local brands (by markets)

Now, let’s look at just the local pack results for those same 25,000 markets. Keep in mind that local packs did not occur in all markets, and there are a maximum of 3 sites in any local pack (compared with up to 10 organic listings). Here were the top 5 local winners:

Sprint, nowhere to be seen in our organic data, led the pack in local results. Other major wireless companies rounded out the top 5. Best Buy maintained a strong position at #6, but organic leader Newegg.com fell completely out of the local results, having no physical storefronts.

Clearly, the biggest disconnect between the organic and local data here was Sprint — taking the #1 spot for local, but disappearing completely from organic rankings. Newegg flipped that around, dominating organic but having no local presence. This was a direct and obvious result of having no physical locations.

Another big difference between organic and local was Apple.com. Apple naturally has a strong presence for product-specific (i.e. iPhone) queries, but ranked #47 in our organic results for general phone-buying searches, appearing in only 95 (of 25,000) markets. Apple stores, however, ranked #8 in local markets.


Top 5 local brands (by clicks)

Like organic, we can apply our click share analysis to local pack rankings. The Top 5 local domains, weighted by CTR and population, looked like this:

Other than some position shuffling, the Top 5 were the same as the simpler local-pack analysis. T-Mobile took the top spot from Sprint when adjusted by CTR and population. It looks as if the major brands were distributed pretty well across a variety of populations and ranking positions.


Top 5 overall winners (by clicks)

What if we combine the organic and local totals, using the click share data across all markets? Here are the winners of the combined data:

Verizon and Best Buy were in close competition for the top spot, with T-Mobile just behind. Best Buy’s #6 spot in our local analysis was easily boosted by their #1 spot in organic, making the big box store a strong overall contender. AT&T squeaked into the top 5, hampered a bit by their #8 position in organic search. Cricket Wireless rounded out the top 5.


Winners, losers, and takeaways

Best Buy dominated our organic winners and took an impressive #2 overall, performing well in local searches. This matches Best Buy’s leading spot in real-world mobile phone sales, an advantage enhanced by representing multiple brands and carriers under one roof. Best Buy’s performance is even more impressive given that they have considerably fewer total locations than most of the major carriers.

Sprint was the biggest winner in local results, given their relatively small retail footprint compared to other major carriers. Publicly-reported location data shows Sprint having half or less of the locations that each of Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T operate, which makes their local dominance even more impressive. Sprint’s recent acquisition of as many as 1,700 Radio Shack storefronts could double their retail locations and make them a force to be reckoned with in local search. Sprint does, however, need to address their complete absence from organic results for general mobile keywords.

Mega-carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T performed well in overall results, as expected given their marketing budgets and massive retail footprints. Verizon struggled somewhat in local rankings, relative to other carriers, bolstered in the overall standings by their strong organic presence. AT&T had the opposite problem — they had a strong local presence, but trailed a bit in organic once CTR was taken into account. It appears AT&T has room for improvement in their ranking positions for general mobile phone terms.

AT&T can count a second win in their column. As of 2014, they own Cricket Wireless, who was our #4 overall winner and had a top 5 position in both of our click share analyses (organic and local). Cricket’s dominant position is undoubtedly good for revenue, although it can be argued that both their organic and local search share represent a branding challenge for AT&T.

No single major carrier dominated market coverage in local pack results. Of the 25,000 markets we studied, 21,143 displayed local packs. Sprint ranked in local packs in about 1/3 of available markets, AT&T and T-Mobile ranked in just under 30%, and Verizon ranked in roughly 20%. Given their retail footprints and marketing budgets, all of the major carriers have significant room for improvement in their local rankings.

Even as the competitive landscape in the wireless industry shifts, Google’s local search landscape will continue to evolve. Google’s current local 3-packs have only been in full effect since August of 2015, and the search giant is constantly experimenting with new formats and features. No one carrier or reseller dominates the entire picture, and all of them will have to fight hard for organic and local search share in the foreseeable future.

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Follow This Superstar’s 7-Step Example to Dominate Your Industry

black leather platform heel crushing a cupcake

I woke up like this. I woke up like this. Flawless.

After listening to “Flawless” five times, Evette went to the mirror, and told herself the lyrics in the Beyoncé song were true.

She believed it. She internalized it. She embodied it.

Ready to dominate, Evette strutted over to her computer to fire off a blog post. A post that would enable her to claim her rightful place atop her industry.

The same way Beyoncé dominates her industry.

You’ve met an Evette before, right?

Someone who thinks she’s so flawless, all she has to do is show up and everyone will bow down to her.

But it doesn’t quite work that way. Not for the Evettes of the world. And not even for Beyoncé.

As a result, instead of showing the world she’s a rock star like the Queen Bey, Evette ends up looking more like this.

No bueno.

But there’s a better, more strategic way.

The blueprint for dominating your industry

As talented as Beyoncé is, it’s tempting to believe that she does indeed just wake up flawless.

But the Queen Bey is human. Just like you and me.

The difference between Beyoncé’s mega-success and yours is a matter of executing the right game plan to make the most of your abilities and opportunities.

That’s what Evette is missing.

So if you want to dominate your own industry, follow this Beyoncé-inspired, seven-step blueprint for consistently crushing your competition.

1. Stand on a soapbox

Women’s empowerment has been a consistent theme throughout Beyoncé’s career. Through songs like “Independent Women Part One” with Destiny’s Child, to “Run the World (Girls)”, and “Flawless” as a solo artist, the singer has a long history of touting girl power.

The self-proclaimed “modern-day feminist” also has a 10-piece, all-woman band dubbed The Sugar Mamas. Her motivation for forming the band was to inspire young women to get involved in music.

Beyoncé’s commitment to promoting women even led her to write a piece on gender equality in The Shriver Report earlier this year.

If you want to dominate, you must elevate your tribe.

Lead them. Empower them. Make them better off for having you in their world. To strengthen your tribe, you must stand for something bigger than the products or services you offer.

Fashion designer Tory Burch, for example, strengthens her tribe by supporting economic empowerment for women.

The Tory Burch Foundation provides small business loans, mentoring, and entrepreneurial education for women. Tory was recently named an Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by the Obama administration because of her commitment to her cause.

What do you do to elevate your tribe?

2. Practice until your feet bleed

On Day One, Beyoncé wasn’t the amazing rock star she is today. She’s put a ton of work in over the years honing her craft. At times, she even practiced her choreography until her feet bled.

Even though she’s long-passed the 10,000-hour mark in performing, Queen Bey still puts in major work to keep growing.

Lacey Rose of Forbes noted:

Beyoncé constantly works and reworks her act, watching every two-hour performance on tour — even after the hundredth appearance — taking notes on how to improve.

If you want to dominate, you must work harder than most people are willing to work.

You must put in the work on the key things that propel you beyond your peers. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you’re already pretty darn good.

Jon Morrow stuck to an insane practice schedule early in his blogging career. Even while toiling away as Associate Editor at Copyblogger, he wrote 100 headlines a day, every day, for a year to master the art. In addition, for years he wrote at least 2,000 words per day.

As a result, he’s one of the most popular bloggers around.

What do you do to improve your craft?

3. Be a weirdo

Few others are able to do what Beyoncé does. Her knock-out performances, complete with strong vocals and epic dance moves, leave audiences spellbound and leave other artists struggling to compete.

Even with all that performance power, Jody Rosen in The New Yorker described the weirdness of Beyoncé’s music as her true point of differentiation:

She is such an effortless entertainer, such an unerring singer and hoofer, that it’s easy to overlook her music’s defining quality: strangeness. Beyoncé is an eccentric, a vocalist with truly weird and original melodic and rhythmic approaches. Listen to the slippery rap-style syncopations in ‘Say My Name,’ to the melodies that float and dart over the thump of ‘Single Ladies,’ to the jarring timbral and tonal variations in ‘Ring the Alarm’ and ‘One+One’. Those sounds didn’t exist in the world before Beyoncé. If they sound ‘normal’ now, it’s because Beyoncé, and her many followers, have retrained our ears.

If you want to dominate, you’ve got to be strange.

You can’t be another lame “me too” version of all the other businesses in your industry. You’ve either got to do different activities, or do the same activities in a different way.

Dance choreographer, author, small business, and personal development guru Marie Forleo embraces her weirdness. She uses it to deliver memorable and helpful training videos week after week.

Need further proof that people like weird? This episode of Marie TV has more than 350 comments and 1,300 social shares.

What makes you the type of weirdo your customers can’t live without?

4. Tightly choreograph your story

Beyoncé has also successfully managed her brand. The singer’s hand is in almost every detail of telling her story to the world. Like that time she wrote, directed, and produced a documentary about herself.

At the core of her brand, she has established herself as a prolific entertainer. With 10 studio albums under her belt, she’s maintained a steady presence in front of her audience.

She also stays present in front of her fans via a well-curated Tumblr account and through behind-the-scenes videos of performances.

After establishing herself as a strong force within the music industry, she expanded her empire through movies, merchandise, a clothing line, perfumes, and tons of endorsements.

If you want to dominate, you must shape and tell your own story.

Take control of your reputation by actively managing your brand. Position yourself for growth by consistently telling your story through action and message, regardless of the medium.

What is the story you communicate about your brand?

5. Assemble a rock star crew

Beyoncé’s career started off as part of Destiny’s Child. Upon launching her solo career, she formed an even stronger alliance when she began dating and later married rapper Jay Z.

This past summer, the entertainment power couple, with 36 Grammys between them, made their partnership work harder for them with their “On the Run” tour. Tickets for their co-headlined performances sold for 44 percent higher than their individual tours.

If you want to dominate, don’t go it alone.

Collaborations are game changers. Brian Clark has noted that the relationships he’s developed while building Copyblogger have made the difference in his professional life.

You’ll get further much faster when you have a crew of fantastic people around you to propel you toward your goals.

What can you do today to strengthen your network of rock stars?

6. Produce epic content

Part of staying at the top of your game involves continually changing the status quo. Innovations that get people talking.

Like performing a live concert fewer than five months after giving birth, or filming a star-studded fake movie trailer to promote your upcoming concert tour.

Or releasing a surprise visual album with no promotion.

Rolling Stone editor Rob Sheffield described the impact of the visual album:

Beyoncé has delivered countless surprises in her 15 years on top of the music world, but she’s never dropped a bombshell like this. The Queen Bey woke the world in the midnight hour with a surprise ‘visual album’ — 14 new songs, 17 videos, dropped via iTunes with no warning. The whole project is a celebration of the Beyoncé Philosophy, which basically boils down to the fact that Beyoncé can do anything the hell she wants to.

The visual album generated over 1.2 million tweets in 12 hours and more than 800,000 copies sold worldwide in three days.

If you want to dominate, don’t play it safe.

Entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau traveled to all 193 countries in the world by age 35. He also hosts the annual World Domination Summit.

Coincidence? I think not.

What type of epic project will you work on to get people talking about your business?

7. Transform yourself into a dominator

Beyoncé didn’t start off with a domination mentality. Like many, she initially approached her career with a “work hard, and all my dreams will come true” attitude.

She quickly learned that hard work alone wasn’t enough:

I thought of this performance, which was a real defining moment in my life as a child. In my mind, we would perform on Star Search. We would win, we would get a record deal, and that was my dream at the time. There’s no way in the world I would have ever imagined losing as a possibility. You know I was only nine years old, so at that time you don’t realize that you could actually work super hard and give everything you have, and lose. It was the best message for me.

Losing Star Search transformed Beyoncé into a dominator.

It transformed her into an artist who wouldn’t be satisfied with showing up and waiting for others to pick her.

She now creates irresistible offerings that compel droves of adoring fans to eagerly line up to get a dose of whatever she dishes out.

But you don’t have to lose Star Search to be transformed into a dominator.

Decide to dominate

Decide you’re not going to be satisfied with the results of just showing up, and then follow the blueprint.

In time, your own droves of adoring fans will tell you how flawless you really are.

Ready to dominate?

Strut on over to Google+ and let me know which part of the blueprint you’ll start today to begin your transformation.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Tanya Dawn.

About the Author: Sonia Thompson is the founder of TRY Business where she’s on a mission to help entrepreneurs build businesses that ooze awesome. Jump on her free eCourse on how to get your customers to love you.

The post Follow This Superstar’s 7-Step Example to Dominate Your Industry appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Applying Lessons from the Publishing Industry to SEO Consulting

Posted by SarahKershaw

“Search has been less and less relevant since Facebook released News Feed. Now we get the vast majority of our traffic via social, and about 1-2% from search”
– Chris Dannen from Fast Co Labs

“We benefited a ton from an early SEO audit thanks to IAC’s SEO pros, but once the right framework was in place, it’s been up to us as content creators to really dig deep into Google Analytics to determine where the opportunities lie…”
– Jordan Shakeshaft, editorial director of Life by DailyBurn

“None” was another person’s response to my question about the role of SEO within her company. “There’s very little of actual value in it for us.” This from a respected British magazine.

In preparation for this post, I started thinking about publishers and their plans for 2014, specifically their growth strategies for the coming year. My thought was that as the publishing industry usually leads the way when it comes to new content techniques and products, it is at the forefront of publishing initiatives. As publishers blaze new trails, we as consultants have the opportunity to learn by proxy, observing what has worked and what has not. These observations can then be applied to our own clients’ content creation. In this post-panda arena, the scramble to produce high-quality, compelling content is as real as ever, and lessons need to be learned fast. Let the publishing industry be your guide; come, walk with me.

In researching this post, I spoke to a combination of editors, industry analysts and publishing company employees. The quotes are representative of my contacts and their responses, but it is in no way comprehensive for the publishing industry as whole.

As per the quotes above, the sobering reality is that, at best, publishers see SEO as just one small part of their marketing strategy. Moz’s very own legend, Dr. Pete, has been trying to tell us this for a while, encouraging the search community to look beyond rankings. Our goal as consultants is to continue to add value in this altogether more varied landscape. The good news is that we can if we leverage our technical knowledge and use this to present some of the newer ideas, beyond our usual scope, to our clients.

This post is an examination of some of the other opportunities publishers are pursuing this year, along with my dreams for what they could be doing and some tips on how to present these ideas to clients.

What are publishers doing for growth?

1) Investing in site redesigns

The internet was all aflutter earlier this month, when The New York Times launched its site redesign. That project, in addition to generating buzz, traffic, and links, was the site’s first major redesign since 2006. The main visual changes include:

  1. Changing of fonts and font colours so it more closely resembles the print edition. The links from the home page to the categories page are now black, not blue for example.
  2. Article comments now appear on the right-hand side of the article, allowing comments to receive the same level of visibility as the article.
  3. Infinite scroll, rather than pagination.
  4. A much more minimal look on article pages with more white space.

This redesign freshens up the look of the page as a whole and the cleaner, sparer UI is more in keeping with what other publications are doing. This video from Fi talks us through its process for redesigning USAToday.com, which has several design features in common with the Times’ update.

The insight: Good design matters.

Your access point: When presenting ideas of this ilk to your clients, it is important to be in cahoots with the designers. Your aim is to collaborate in these projects, ideally from initial conception. The advantage of being an outsider weighing in on a site redesign is that you are invariably not bound by the limitations of a CMS or the like; you are free to see the site and where it stands in relation to industry competitors with a detached view. You can represent SEO and call on your experiences with redesigns to offer suggestions.

2) Embracing social

You probably already know that social networks are an increasingly important means of discovery, and amongst the under-45s, they are the most popular method of finding content. Social becomes more and more important as user groups get younger. For example, 44% of 18- to 24-year-olds rely on social, versus just 19% of users over 55. This is illustrated by this graph from the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2013:

Clearly, if you wish to build long term trust with your users, social networks are critical for getting your content in front of younger users. It goes without saying that social networks are also now critical for engagement among all age groups.

What is surprising is the extent to which publishers are still missing this opportunity, whilst newer companies such as Upworthy and Buzzfeed are swooping in and winning traffic. This recent article from the Media Briefing visualizes how some of the media players are doing on Facebook, and the newsworthy part is that none of the more established players feature at all. In short, they are not getting it right. The winners in this particular data set are companies that have been formed within the last eight years (Buzzfeed was formed in 2006, Upworthy in 2012); the Huffington Post is the old guard here, and that is only nine years old.

The results are clear Upworthy and Buzzfeed have mastered the sort of content that gets people sharing. Whilst the audience may eventually tire of cats in unlikely situations, photoshop-shaming, and listicles, you can be sure that both companies are investing time and effort to evolve from their current strategy. Mark Suster expanded on this idea in a recent post, saying “I think companies like Upworthy can build really compelling businesses in the future – but I’m willing to bet serious cash … that it won’t be by sticking to the playbook [that is, writing content to generate as many social shares as possible] that has worked tremendously well to date.”

The insight: For all of the chatter about social networks, publishers are still not getting it right.

Your access point: Present working in social networks as a series of easy-to-implement A/B tests.

Using the Upworthy premise, as outlined below, clients have a quick, clean testing method that should give them confidence to test their social network content.

Upworthy produced a wildly popular slide deck back in 2012 that outlines some of their tactics, which makes for an interesting read. The key takeaway, regardless of the sort of content your client might produce, is the idea of testing multiple headlines. Upworthy writes 25 different headlines for a post, and then tests the headlines in two demographically similar cities within Facebook for an hour or so. They then push the headline with more shares.

This is both agile and data-driven; keep this example in mind, as it’s deliciously simple and reasonably easy to implement. It can also be applied to subheadings, images, and more. As consultants, A/B Testing is very much within the traditional scope of your work. By using this experience (and the client’s trust in this experience) you are moving into new terrain via a familiar method.

Let social embrace you back

To approach the opportunities of social networks from another angle, Facebook and Twitter are both making a concerted effort to woo publishers. Facebook’s algorithm tweak in August 2013 has increased the amount of traffic sent to news sites. Buzzfeed saw a 69% jump during this time, and they were not the only ones. In December 2013, Facebook gave us more insight.

“We’ve noticed that people enjoy seeing articles … and so we’re now paying closer attention to what makes for high-quality content and how often articles are clicked on …

“Starting soon, we’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high-quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook … this means that high-quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.”

(Is this the end of memes? Maybe so if Facebook gets its way)

The insight: Facebook is working to keep its users entertained with your content

Your access: Leverage your Analytics prowess; you are an Analytics tiger!

Analyse your Facebook referral traffic comparing August-December 2013 with the previous six-month period and the same period in 2012, and assess how much impact the algorithm update had on your site. In the same article quoted above, Facebook claims that they have increased the amount of traffic to media sites by an average of 170%. If you did not see a significant jump it suggests that the site is not sufficiently integrated into Facebook. The sort of numbers referenced by Facebook (the 170%) are considerable, all publishers would love to see traffic increases in this range, let this be your approach to re-evaluate your Facebook strategy.

But wait, there’s more

Beyond sending more traffic to publishers, Facebook is also working with publishers to share the vast trove of data about what is trending so publishers can incorporate it into their stories. Facebook’s Public Feed API shares public data and is open to anyone with the functionality. A second API, the Keyword Insights API, is only available to a select number of news organisations. The Keyword Insights API allows news organisations like CNN, Today Show, and BSkyB access to programmatically search through Facebook’s public data for anonymous keyword data. This data can be sliced by gender, current city, and age range. There are no plans yet to release it to a wider audience, but it seems inevitable that (if successful) it will be rolled out in the future. (Note, an email to Facebook about this has not yet been answered. I will update in the comments if I hear more.)

The insight: other publishers are working with Facebook, if only in the sense that they are incorporating new data sources for their users.

Your access: Shaming (gently!). Depending on the size of your client. The Keyword Insights API isn’t publicly available yet, but you can present opportunities for anyone consistently producing content to get access to similar data. For example, try Mass Relevance, a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer, which can provide insights and trends from Facebook slicing data by a variety of metrics, including device.

What publishers could be doing

Now we have a general sense of how some publishers are trying to grow, I’ve also compiled a short list of some of the opportunities or ideas that have not been mentioned thus far. This list is based on stealing ideas from other industries, general common sense, and no small amount of wishful thinking.

1) Embracing Google products

Google’s range of products is staggering. For publishers this can lead to confusion about how to use the products available. To address this, Google has created Google Media Tools, a valuable hub designed to demystify many of the products in the roster, explaining everything from hot searches and trends to Google Earth to Google Crisis Response, and references examples of how publishers are using these products. For example, NBC Today uses Google Trends each Monday to give viewers a sense of what was popular over the weekend. At the Google For Media Summit, hosted earlier in January, attendees tweeted about BBC News’ integration with Hangouts.

Quick note: Make sure you get it right. This screengrab of a Google search for “bbc news” is from 22nd August 2013, not 2001…

Clearly, it can be difficult to implement, but do not give up. Again, referring to Dr Pete’s slide deck, as Google products increasingly appear in the search results, pure organic search results will be forced lower down the page. Embrace Google’s products to maximise your client’s chances of staying on the first page.

The insight: Competing for organic rankings is only ever going to get you so far. (Again, Dr Pete said so!) Encourage clients to embrace the suite of Google products out there, in the spirit of trying new things and also offering new products to the end users.

Your access point: Your expertise. Most people do not differentiate between Google Search, Google News, Google Local, Google Trends, etc. Anything to do with an internet search engine is your domain.

Your second access point: Training.

Offer your clients and their writers training in using these new products. As an experienced consultant, there will inevitably be a few training slide decks or “best practices” guides in your past. Use this didactic approach to showcase your knowledge and support the clients when they start to use them. As with the BBC example above, it might not be perfect immediately, but persevere.

2) Planning for change

“The pace of technological change will not abate, and to think of our current time as a transition between two eras, rather than a continuum of change is a mistake.”
– Richard Gingras, Senior Director of News and Social Products at Google

The New York Times appears to have taken this advice seriously, for amidst the redesign fanfare, the most important feature is the Times’ decision to change the back end. I interpret this as a commitment to the future; this fluidity is admirable. As referenced in this Fast Co Labs summary of the redesign:

“The new system, however, is more dynamic. “We can continually iterate on the site and take advantages of the trends as we see them happening, rather than having to do a big unveil.”

Insight: Change is the only constant. (this is probably true of more than just technology used in the publishing industry)

Your access point: this will be the toughest sell of anything else recommended in this post. Persuading clients that it is important to invest money in the backend system without any proven ROI is difficult. I’d welcome any ideas in the comments, but know this: It still has to be done. The best method I have so far is to use sites like the New York Times as a case study. The theory being that as they can present new ideas quickly, they get more press (possibly with links), and maybe even more readers. By monitoring new products on The New York Times and monitoring their search visibility using a tool like Searchmetrics, you should hopefully see traffic growth. You can then present this data to your clients. The good news is that you don’t have to manually check the Times’ site everyday; instead, sign up for the free email digests from Mediagazer, as they monitor new product developments.

3) Understanding paywall models

Paywalls are starting to work, and you can be certain that your clients will be watching how competitors are starting to use them. As a consultant, it is important that you understand the variety of paywalls out there and how to implement them. These articles from SEO Book and Mashable are excellent resources to get you started. Google also has some limited information about using First Click Free, their solution for publishers wanting to charge for their content whilst still appearing in the search results. The goal in this instance is to develop an opinion on paywalls as well as an up-to-date idea of how your competitors are using them (and if they are successful).

The insight: As paywalls are beginning to pay off, you will be asked about them

Your access point: Forward planning. By researching ahead of time, you will be ready with an opinion when asked (and you will be asked).

4) Putting their content to work

Publishers are in the enviable position of having plenty of content to play with, however now it’s a question of putting that content to work. Here are a few ideas, some riskier than others.

i) Creating new page types

Creating new page types is a classic tactic to get more traffic. If this is what your client is looking for, look at different ways of categorizing your content.

As referenced in Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s Content Everywhere, the BBC Food pages tried this approach in 2011 by introducing pages organizing their content by recipe and also by ingredient. This led to an increase of 150,000 in organic traffic, and overall traffic doubled to 1.3 million visitors.

The insight: New page types lead to more traffic

Your access point: Grounding the creative task of thinking of new page types within standard information architecture best practices. Abby Covert, Information Architect extraordinaire, explains it well: there are 5 methods of categorizing. Use these as a starting point for inspiration when thinking about how to group your client’s content:

On this theme, I would love to see news publishers in particular tagging their content with zip-codes. I think it would prove a useful resource for tourists, anyone looking to rent or buy in an area, historians, and even schools. This could become even more useful on portable devices if there was an opportunity to tie news stories of particular importance into existing map products. But I’m getting carried away.

Some news organisations are already trying new page types, the AP has, frankly, had some fun experimenting with Archive page types to commemorate pivotal moments in history, and has used its own images and stories to add to the narrative.

ii) Partnering with new businesses

Partnering up with other businesses can be seen as risky because success cannot be guaranteed. One option would be to partner up with some of the newer content creation services on the market. LinkedIn has just bought Pulse, a service that pulls in news it believes will be of interest to you based on your LinkedIn profile.There is also the wistful Kennedy app, which automatically supplies iPhone users with context when taking notes and writing deep thoughts.

Insight: Your client’s content can live on in different formats.

Your access point: Introducing this and other like ideas to your client. In terms of publishers, the opportunity lies in being part of the potential newsfeed as it is a valuable branding opportunity. You might be able to generate revenue from supplying products like this with your content.

5) Looking to other niches within publishing and adapting their best ideas.

The academic eBook publishing industry is in a stage of rapid change as it moves beyond the basic eBooks into much more exciting enhanced eBook territory. The broader industry themes are:

  • Interactivity
  • Socially-connected groups
  • Adaptive eBooks

Interactivity

Bookry, a Welsh company, is just one of the many companies out there building interactive components for eBook. The company specializes in building widgets that allow eBook users to play with data tables. This allows users to see how positive coefficient correlation looks and how the data points, when changed, change the graph. By allowing users to play around with the data, you make them think about the material itself. The most obvious use is to improve educational resources, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be applied in a broader sense for all publishers.

Socially-connected groups

The idea behind this is that eBook publishers are trying to encourage commentary and interaction with the course material. Most publishers are already offering social sharing as a matter of form, however some eBook publishers are going one step further and developing products that allow all the comments, notes and questions to be stored in the cloud, all in one place. This allows the user to keep track of where she has interacted but also is useful for professors looking to grade a student on the quantity and quality of her interactions. It would be incredibly useful for users to track all comments and interactions in one place, other than on the site of the comment.

Adaptive technology

McGraw Hill launched what they call Smartbooks last year, designed to assess the reader’s understanding of the material and then adapt it based on her knowledge of the subject.

Another company, Knewton, based in New York, specialize in adaptive technology and offer education publishers the opportunity to personalise the reading experience. The effect on students’ pass rates has been impressive, which supports the idea that tailoring content to the user’s comprehension boosts retention. Any publisher or content-producing site looking to launch a body of work for a large audience of differing ages might find these developments interesting.

This is an extremely top-level summary of some of the developments in the eBook publishing sphere, as documented in the Digital Book World Conference held last week in New York.

The insight: use developments in a related industry to inspire your clients, in ebook publishing as per my example, the industry leaders are pushing ebook content in new, exciting, immersive directions, adapt these ideas to suit your customer’s content.

Your access point: Your expert curation skills. By taking the time to understand the broader industry trends, you can skim the very best ideas and present them as opportunities to your client. If you assume responsibility for industry developments, you save your clients time and headspace whilst also expanding your sphere of influence.

Have you seen new publishing products, or been involved in building them? Do you have any strong opinions about where content creation is heading next? Please share in the comments below. In terms of reading around on this subject, I’ve included a limited list of resources that I have found helpful.

Resources

People

  • Tim O’Reilly – an ebook pioneer. He’s thinking at least two years ahead.

  • Charlie Melcher – of Melcher media, founder of the Future of StoryTelling mentioned above and also involved in Al Gore’s Our Choice app, as referenced in this Tedtalk.

  • Frank Rose – Frank Rose writes beautifully on immersive content, he will inspire you to think about the role the audience plays in telling a story.

  • Tim Pool – now at Vice magazine. Tim’s livestream of NY’s Occupy Wall Street has changed the perception of citizen journalism.

  • Jeff Jarvis – this post from 2008 has some thought provoking ideas.

  • Chris Danen – Fast Co Labs, tends to write about the future of media and often brings in Fast Co examples.

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