SEO Articles

7 Free Tools to Check Any Site’s Website Backlinks

A backlink checker is a valuable tool in your site’s SEO. Backlinks play a crucial part in your site’s authority with the search engines. The more high-quality links pointing to your website, the more are your chances of achieving higher rankings in the organic search results. With a backlink tracker, you can analyze your link […]

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Advertisers can adapt to supply chain issues without pausing campaigns

The holiday shopping season is typically a boon for online retailers, but this year, supply chain issues coupled with heightened consumer demand have put merchants, and the PPC professionals that work with them, in a difficult position. After all, if there’s no inventory to sell, advertising those products will only lead to wasted budget and disappointed customers.

While demand is likely to level off as we move past the holidays, supply chain issues may linger. For example, furniture retailer IKEA said it expects supply chain-related shortages to last until mid-2022. Without a clear end in sight, retailers may consider halting their paid campaigns or even suspending their partnerships with PPC agencies, which may also have experienced similar client churn at the outset of the pandemic as well.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to going dark with your paid campaigns that can not only help you weather the storm but also put your brand ahead of competitors that do pull the plug on their ads.

Shutting down campaigns may cost more than it saves

“I would challenge advertisers to think creatively about their customer’s journey and avoid going completely dark, especially during Q4,” Nancy-lee McLaughlin, senior director, search & enterprise services at Tinuiti said, “A strong Q4 helps set up for a successful Q1 when you have a full-funnel strategy in place.”

Halting your campaigns altogether might result in loss of market share or brand awareness. “This might be an excellent time to reallocate some spending toward more upper-funnel projects and away from performance-based programs that are more susceptible to present issues,” Christena Garduno, CEO at Media Culture told Search Engine Land.

There are also considerations regarding the machine learning that powers many campaigns: “Campaigns that go dark for extended periods of time (7+ days) may see a new learning period when ads are turned back on,” said Fred Vallaeys, CEO at Optmyzr and one of Search Engine Land’s 2021 Search Marketers of the Year. “If that is a concern, a better approach is to reduce budgets so ads continue to run at some level while prospects are directed to buy an alternative, join a waitlist or place an order that will be fulfilled at a future date,” he added.

Whether to shut down your ads depends on your visibility in the search results and your goals. Vallaeys provided the following criteria to help guide your decision:

An advertiser who dominated a SERP risks opening the door to competition if they simply turn off ads and cede the business to others. With the usual top player gone, competitors can move in and steal your business. Many advertisers have seen how hard it can be to unseat a competitor from the top spot, so advertisers who already own the top spot may prefer to not rock the boat and substitute another landing page or product rather than go dark.Advertisers who were not previously dominant may find it less important to keep ads running when products become unavailable. While their temporary absence reduces auction pressure and hence lowers the CPC for advertisers in higher positions, consumers won’t see as much of a difference because the choices offered by the top ads won’t change as much.

Regarding the second point, Vallaeys provided the following analogy: “If I went to the mall to buy a pair of pants, I might have started my visit at an anchor tenant like Macy’s. But, if I found Macy’s was closed, I’d probably try out one of the smaller specialty retailers and maybe find that Lululemon has really good men’s pants. On my next visit, even if Macy’s was back, I might still go to Lululemon. But, if Lululemon had been closed that first time, I wouldn’t have noticed the difference and simply made my purchase as intended from Macy’s.”

Avoiding the pause

There are a number of alternatives to pausing ad campaigns that can set you up to rebound faster when supply chains stabilize.

For one, focus on the upper funnel. “Now’s the time to highlight your brand value and focus on what sets you apart from the competition,” Shelby Gagnon, product marketing manager at Microsoft Advertising wrote. “Use search and native messaging to focus on brand values and stability so you don’t lose share of mind or customers. Keeping your brand front and center while others pull back works to your advantage in gaining a share of voice and wallet in the future,” she added.

You can also shift media to promote “tier 2” products that you may have in higher supply. When assessing whether to do so, McLaughlin suggests considering the following:

Is there a challenger ASIN/SKU that has stock and may become a tier 1 product in the future with some extra support? Is this product a replacement or enhancement for the tier 1 product [that you’re having trouble keeping in supply] and how does this impact strategy?Is this shift to a “tier 2” product going to drive a different ROAS and how does this impact the total media plan? 

You can also promote digital goods, like gift cards, or other virtual products.

Another option is to simply tweak your campaigns. “Instead of spreading your budgets too thin, tighten geo-targeting and bid strategies, or spend more in locations that may be less impacted by supply shortages,”  Gagnon recommended.

You can also schedule your ads to achieve greater efficiency: “Keep ads on part-time with the use of ad scheduling to focus budget on the most profitable hours,” Geetanjali Tyagi, COO at Optymzr, said.

“Removing back-ordered, low-inventory, and high sell-through products from feeds can help maximize investment,” Marion Gendron, senior manager at Merkle, recommended, “Promoting higher average order value/luxury products with a longer click-to-purchase timeline will increase ad effectiveness.”

Lastly, adjust your messaging. Expectations can make or break the customer experience, and framing the right expectations for your audience can help you increase their customer lifetime value. “Be transparent with your customer about shipping wait times, when consumers are used to getting items in two days or less, every hour over that is painful so get ahead of this communication when you can,” McLaughlin said.

“If supply constraints are severe enough where you need to throttle driving traffic to a purchase page, ensure you have strategies set up to retarget those customers when you are able to meet those demands,” she added.

Finally, if you must cut back, comparing sales performance by channel may reveal products that are doing well enough organically that you can shift budget to in-stock items that need more exposure to compete against other retailers.

Despite pandemic-era disruption, customers have shown that they’re still looking to spend and support our brands. Maintaining a paid media presence can help you show those customers that, despite these challenges, your brand still seeks to serve them, even if you don’t have the products they’re searching for exactly when they’re searching for them.

The post Advertisers can adapt to supply chain issues without pausing campaigns appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Facebook’s topic exclusion controls test rolls out to more advertisers

Facebook will soon expand its test of topic exclusion controls for ads in the News Feed to a limited number of advertisers that run ads in English, the company announced Thursday. First announced as a test in January 2021, topic exclusion controls allow advertisers to exclude ad delivery to users who have engaged with any of the following topics: “News and Politics,” “Social Issues” and “Crime & Tragedy.”

Why we care. If these controls roll out more widely, advertisers might feel more confident about brand safety on Facebook. The platform has been at the center of numerous controversies over its handling of misinformation and hate speech and may be falling out of favor, particularly with teenage users, which are projected to decrease by 45% over the next two years.

Creating a more brand-safe environment may help Facebook maintain revenue from ads. But, if it’s not able to modernize itself and compete with newer platforms, like TikTok, advertisers may eventually move to whichever social media platforms their audiences migrate to.

Early testing has been promising, according to Facebook. In Facebook’s early topic exclusion controls tests, it found that advertisers that:

Excluded the News and Politics categories were able to avoid News and Political adjacency 94% of the time.Excluded the Tragedy and Conflict categories were able to avoid Tragedy and Conflict adjacency 99% of the time.Excluded the Debated Social Issues categories were able to avoid Debated Social Issues adjacency 95% of the time.

More granular News Feed controls for users. Users are able to dictate whether they’re included in the three topic exclusion categories from their ad preferences menu.

The company is also testing new controls that enable users to adjust their News Feed ranking preferences. The customizations would enable users to increase or reduce the amount of content they see from their friends, family, Groups and Pages.

Looking into the future. “We see this product as a bridge between what we can offer today and where we hope to go — content-based controls,” Facebook said in the announcement, “We will soon begin exploring and testing a new content-based suitability control that will aim to address concerns advertisers have of their ads appearing in Facebook and Instagram feeds next to certain topics based on their brand suitability preferences.”

By the end of the year, the company also plans to work with third-party brand safety partners to develop a solution to verify whether content adjacent to an ad in News Feed aligns with a brand’s suitability preferences.

The post Facebook’s topic exclusion controls test rolls out to more advertisers appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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20211119 SEL Brief

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We’re turning off AMP pages at Search Engine Land

“Gasp! Think of the traffic!” 

That’s a pretty accurate account of the more than two dozen conversations we’ve had about Search Engine Land’s support of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages in the past few years. At first, it was about the headache in managing the separate codebase AMP requires as well as the havoc AMP wreaks on analytics when a nice chunk of your audience’s time is spent on an external server not connected to your own site. But, Google’s decision to no longer require AMP for inclusion in the Top Stories carousels gave us a new reason to question the wisdom of supporting AMP. 

So, this Friday, we’re turning it off.

How we got here

Even when Google was sending big traffic to AMP articles that ranked in Top Stories, the tradeoff had its kinks. For a small publisher with limited resources, the development work is considerate. And not being able to fully understand how users migrated between AMP and non-AMP pages meant our picture of return and highly engaged visitors was flawed. 

But, this August we saw a significant drop in traffic to AMP pages, suggesting that the inclusion of non-AMP pages from competing sources in Top Stories was taking a toll.

Our own analytics showed that between July and August we saw a 34% drop in AMP traffic, setting a new baseline of traffic that was consistent month-to-month through the fall.

Monthly AMP Page traffic to Search Engine Land from April 2021 to October 2021.

This week we also learned that Twitter stopped referring mobile users to AMP versions, which zeroed out our third-largest referrer to AMP pages behind Google and LinkedIn. We’ve seen LinkedIn referrals fall as well, suggesting that when November ends, we’ll be faced with another, lower baseline of traffic to AMP pages.

Publishers have been reluctant to remove AMP because of the unknown effect it may have on traffic. But what our data seemed to tell us was there was just as much risk on the other side. We could keep AMP pages, which we know have good experience by Google standards, and their visibility would fall anyway due to competition in Top Stories and waning support by social media platforms.

We know what a road to oblivion looks like, and our data suggests AMP visibility is on that path. Rather than ride that to nowhere, we decided to turn off AMP and take back control of our data.

How we are doing it

“If you are ready and you have good performance of your mobile pages, I think you should start testing.” That’s what Conde Nast Global VP of Audience Development Strategy John Shehata told attendees at SMX Next this month when asked about removing AMP.

Shehata suggested a metered strategy that starts with removing AMP on articles after seven days and then moves on to removing AMP on larger topical collections.

“If all goes well, then go for the whole site,” he said “I think it’s gonna be better in the long run.”

That, of course, hinges on the speed and experience of your native mobile pages, he said.

The Washington Post, which is still listed as an AMP success story on the AMP Project site, actually turned off AMP a while back, said Shani George, VP of Communications at the Post.

“Creating a reading experience centered around speed and quality has long been a top priority for us,” she added, pointing us to an extensive write-up its engineer team published this summer around its work on Core Web Vitals.

Because we are a smaller, niche publisher, our plan is to conserve our resources and turn off AMP for the entire site at once. Our core content management system is WordPress, and AMP is currently set for posts only, not pages. But that includes the bulk of our content by far.

Our plan is to use 302 redirects initially. This way we’re telling Google these are temporary, and there won’t be any PageRank issues if we turn them off (or replace them with 301s). We’ll then see how our pages are performing without AMP. If there’s no measurable difference, we’ll then replace those 302 redirects with permanent 301 redirects. The 301s should send any PageRank gained from the AMP URLs to their non-AMP counterparts.

Of course, if the worst-case scenario happens and traffic drops beyond what we can stomach, we’ll turn off the 302 redirects and plan a different course for AMP.

It’s a risk for sure. Though we have done a considerable amount of work to improve our CWV scores, we still struggle to put up high scores by Google’s standards. That work will continue, though. Perhaps the best solace we have at this point is many SEOs we’ve spoken to are having trouble seeing measurable impacts for work on CWV since the Page Experience Update rolled out.

Maybe it’s not about traffic for us

The relationship between publishers and platforms is dysfunctional at best. The newsstands of old are today’s “news feeds” and publishers have been blindsided again and again when platforms change the rules. We probably knew allowing a search platform to host our content on its own servers was doomed to implode, but audience is our lifeblood so can you blame us for buying in?

We also know that tying our fates to third party platforms can be as risky as not participating in them at all. But when it comes to supporting AMP on Search Engine Land, we’re going to pass. We just want our content back.

The post We’re turning off AMP pages at Search Engine Land appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Is Google out of touch? What the SEO community thinks about the November 2021 core update

Is Google out of touch? What the SEO community thinks about the November 2021 core update

Yesterday, Google announced the November 2021 core update. While there’s nothing new about these periodic algorithm changes, many SEOs are wondering why Google decided to release it right before one of the busiest shopping periods of the year.

The holiday shopping season. The weeks encompassing Black Friday and Cyber Monday already add pressure to businesses looking to meet customer demand as well as their own revenue projections. Throwing a core update into the mix could make this even more complicated. This has made some SEOs wonder if Google is out of touch with both the business and search communities.

The SEO community response. Many in the search community are questioning Google’s timing on this update. Some marketers responded to Google Search Liason Danny Sullivan’s explanation, including SEO Rich Missey, who identified possible issues that could arise with business stakeholders.

Possibly a different perspective: While I, as an SEO, don't get "flustered" by updates (usually), senior stakeholders may see the word "update" and have questions.

A.K.A. Freak out.
A.K.A create fire drills.
A.K.A horrible time suck.
And so forth. 🙂

— Rich Missey (@richmissey) November 18, 2021

Sarah Blocksidge of Six City Marketing pointed out that, while a core update took place around the same time last year, its timing was a little more reasonable.

well, they did do one around this time last year as well but at least it was after black friday

— Sarah (she/her) (@SarahBlocksidge) November 17, 2021

But other professionals, such as Barry Adams of Polemic Digital, took a more cynical view of the update (and Google’s core updates as a whole).

Because they don't care, and they have an undeserved level of trust (some may call it arrogance) in their algorithms.

— Barry Adams (@badams) November 18, 2021

John Mueller of Google decided to jump into these conversations as well, asking SEOs how and when they preferred the company announce these changes.

I'm curious — would you prefer we just mentioned them afterwards, or not at all? I realize there's an aspect of "never change anything", but good things go up with updates too. (not being snarky, honestly wondering what your thoughts are, feel free to DM if you prefer)

— John (@JohnMu) November 18, 2021

Why we care. Businesses that made changes to their staff and inventory in preparation for the holiday shopping season may experience issues depending on the update’s impact. It’s important for SEOs to pinpoint when these ranking changes occurred so they can notify stakeholders and prepare to adjust their strategies. The impacts could continue through the end of November, so be ready to respond to decreases or increases in search visibility.

The post Is Google out of touch? What the SEO community thinks about the November 2021 core update appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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