SEO Articles

The latest news in SEO and WordPress: October 2020

October is coming to an end and this means that we hosted another SEO news webinar at Yoast HQ. If you’re not familiar with this recurring event yet: it’s a monthly webinar at which our experts Joost and Jono discuss the latest news when it comes to Google, Bing, WordPress and everything related to SEO. If you missed it, or if you simply want to reread the highlights, this post will give you a recap of the topics they covered. Sit back and enjoy!

What’s new in Google?

Google Search On 2020 event

This month, Google held an online Google Search On 2020 instead of their annual Google I/O that they had to cancel earlier this year. During the Search On event, Google announced that their language understanding model BERT is now used on almost every English search query out there.

To give you some context, BERT is designed to look at every part of a search query and understand the relationship between the different words being used. This ties in with Google’s continuous work to keep getting better and better at understanding the web and its users. By using AI, such as BERT, Google focuses more on getting you the right answer to your question and not just showing you the pages where you can find it yourself.

Google ranking pages or passages

Google seems to have made a switch from showing pages in the search results to showing specific passages that can answer a user’s search query. To give you an idea of what that looks like: in the search results they highlight relevant passages in a way that almost feels like a new type of snippet. This caused a bit of a stir, as people thought that this meant that Google will now start indexing passages instead of pages. But Google itself has confirmed that this is not the case, they consider passages an additional ranking factor.

What this means for you is that it becomes even more important to have a great content structure, where every one of your paragraphs has a clear focus and topic. And if you’re a big fan of using single-sentence paragraphs, now might be the time to reconsider using them. As they will be less likely to fit in with this type of content Google is looking for.

Taking search to the real world

Another cool development that feels like it’s part of a new revolution is that Google is taking steps to take their Search into the real world. With projects like Google Duplex, Busyness and AR in Google Maps they’re working on helping people find what they’re looking for while they are out and about.

Augmented reality in Google Maps, for example, can show you the way you need to go by projecting the directions onto the street through your phone instead of on a map on your phone. And Busyness can give you live information on how busy the restaurant is that you’re pointing your phone at that exact moment. All of this is rich information, and the next big step in moving Google out of the search box and into the real world. However, Google will have to monitor these new functionalities to prevent abuse by competing businesses. So, it will be interesting to see how this will pan out.

The Request Indexing Feature

In other news related to Google, they temporarily dropped the Request Indexing feature in Google Search Console. This means that, for the time being, you can’t submit an URL to get it indexed manually. We noticed that a few people are asking how they’ll get their pages indexed now that this feature is not available. But don’t worry, you don’t need this feature to get your site indexed. Your pages will get indexed when you link to them from other pages and trust us, this is really the best way to go. Submitting URLs to this feature in Google Search Console to get them indexed will not help your rankings as your pages simply need links to them and when you have these links to your page, this feature becomes redundant.

In addition, Joost and Jono discussed the launch of Journalist Studio, the new quality rater guidelines, the lawsuit against Google, the new version of Google Analytics, Web Stories becoming available in Discover, mobile-first indexing and Google Shopping that will soon be available for everyone.

What’s new in Bing?

Site Explorer

Bing also has lots of interesting news for us this month. So, let’s kick off with the launch of their new tool named Site Explorer. This tool shows you a tree structure of your site that’s actually quite useful. It allows you to review the structure of your site and your pages in a simple way and check where potential issues in your site’s structure might live. The simplicity of this is also why it’s important to look at this once in a while, as it shows you how their crawlers perceive your site. Because Bing’s crawlers work quite similar to Google’s crawlers, this gives you an insight into how both search engines perceive your site structure.

Microsoft Bing

Secondly, Bing has rebranded itself as Microsoft Bing. Although they’ve already rebranded a few times over the past year, this one feels like a step towards positioning Bing as an intricate part of the Microsoft ecosystem. This might be meant to show people using Windows that Bing powers or is related to everything else they use already. As they put it in their announcement blog: “you will see a shift in product to Microsoft Bing, which reflects the continued integration of our search experiences across the Microsoft family.”

An intelligent question-answering feature

Thirdly, Bing or Microsoft Bing, has released an intelligent question-answering feature to more than 100 languages. This feature feels a lot like what Google has been doing for a while, as it’s designed to give you an answer to your search query right away. In the search results. Nonetheless, this is still a cool feature that will help a lot of people with their online searches and it’s available in 100+ languages. So that’s kind of cool if you use Bing for your searches, but also if you’re a business that uses structured data as this will increase your visibility in Bing.

What’s new in Facebook?

This time, we even have a bit of Facebook news. And it’s about language. Normally, the way you would translate a language is by having a frame of reference and most of the time this is the English language. To give an example, if I want to translate the Dutch word ‘koffie’ to the Spanish word ‘café‘, most language learning systems would use the English language (and in this case the word ‘coffee’) as the neutral language to link all of the right translations to each other. Now Facebook has announced that they have an AI model that allows them to translate 100 languages without relying on this English data. This means that this translation can be done a lot faster as this middle step is no longer required and it gives them the possibility to scale the number of languages up relatively easy. Google has done something relatively similar a while back, but not to this scale.

What’s new in WordPress?

Twenty Twenty-One

We have some exciting news that we’re quite proud of when it comes to WordPress. At Yoast, we have a WordPress team dedicated to WordPress core and that team has been working on the new default WordPress theme Twenty Twenty-One! This theme will launch as the brand new default theme with the release of WordPress 5.6. In the last few weeks, we actually made our WordPress team a bit bigger to make sure that this theme gets the attention it deserves. If you want a sneak peek of what the theme looks like, you can check this out on Joost’s own blog.

WordPress 5.6

When it comes to the release of WordPress 5.6 itself, it’s worth mentioning that this new release brings lots of possibilities when it comes to the data you manage. With the possibility to manage passwords and security in the 5.6 release, WordPress takes another step in becoming a platform for so much more than blogging. It might need a bit of tweaking, but WordPress can now become a piece of software that helps you manage all kinds of different websites.

Cloudflare

Lastly, it’s also good to know that Cloudflare launched automatic platform optimization for WordPress. Now Cloudflare already does a lot of things to speed your site up, for example, by shrinking your images and optimizing your JavaScript. But this new feature is specifically created to increase the performance of WordPress sites. By caching your pages when you’re not logged in and closing security holes. We’ve already heard people reporting improvements such as 90% faster initial loading times and 60% smaller pages, and so on. Of course, these improvements are things you can do yourself, but Cloudflare can save you lots of time and effort by fixing these technical things for you.

What’s new in Yoast SEO?

SEMrush powered related keyphrases

We’ve had a few interesting releases ourselves, here at Yoast. First of all, we partnered up with SEMrush for our Yoast SEO 15.1 release. Together with this team, we’ve built an integration that helps you get related keyphrases straight in your editor. Not just any keyphrases, but related keyphrases that are powered by SEMrush data. With a free SEMrush account you can make up to 10 requests for these keyphrases a day. When you need more than that, you might have to look into getting a paid SEMrush account which gives you unlimited access to these related keyphrases. This feature is already proving its worth and we can’t wait to continue our partnership with SEMrush and think of other possibilities.

Enhanced Slack sharing

This week, we had our Yoast SEO 15.2 release that comes with a bunch of new features. Since this release, our plugin supports different word forms in Swedish, which means it will recognize different forms of the focus keyword (such as singular or plural). Plus this release launches our enhanced Slack sharing. This is really cool if you have a blog and use Slack, as our plugin will now show lots of different information when you share your link on Slack. Information such as the author and estimated reading time alongside your snippet and post image. This definitely brings a whole new experience to sharing your links on Slack!

Get Yoast SEO Premium ▸Only $89 USD (ex VAT)

The post The latest news in SEO and WordPress: October 2020 appeared first on Yoast.

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18 WordPress Security Best Practices

18 WordPress Security Best Practices

WordPress is a web publishing application that helps you to create and manage your website or blog. It is one of the more popular web publishing platforms used and empowers more than 38.6% of the entire web. 

It is safe to say that WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world, used by many businesses and organizations that operate online stores. To use it, you don’t even really need any coding knowledge. 

There are, however, a few small potential areas WordPress users need to be mindful of. One of these is when it comes to security. 

Why is WordPress Security Important? 

If you’re serious about your blog or website, you’d do well to pay attention to the WordPress security. No matter the size or nature of your business, your website will always be at risk from threats from hackers. They typically want monetary gains from selling information which they intend to obtain from your website. 

If a business website is successfully hacked, that business’s brand and reputation can be seriously damaged. Hackers do so by usually installing malicious software or viruses with the express intention to extract sensitive data from your website. Such malware can also be spreaded to your customers too.

Hackers usually use automated systems to scour the Internet for any vulnerable websites and take advantage of loopholes in their virtual defences. In some instances, some may even find themselves paying hackers to regain access to their websites. A hacked business website results in a loss of trust in the business and customers turning to its competitors. 

In the short term, you lose revenue and in the long term, you’ll need to invest more to rebuild your reputation and restore customers’ confidence. In some cases, you may even fall short with compliance requirements, thus having to pay fines and other penalties.

The fact that Google blacklists around 10,000+ websites each day for malware and around 50,000 for phishing each week would surely push you to put much emphasis on WordPress security. You need to, or risk the repercussions. Simply put, you won’t want to leave your website vulnerable to cyber criminals. 

Is WordPress Secure?

Many are convinced that since WordPress is open source, this means that it is easily vulnerable to various types of attacks. Plus the fact that WordPress is a favorite target for malware attacks does not alleviate such fears. 

In 2018, Sucuri reported that around 23,000 WordPress websites fell victim to security breaches. So, does this mean that WordPress is not secure at all? The answer is mostly ‘No’ because the main cause behind such website security breaches is the users’ lack of security awareness. 

WordPress does play its part to help, by consistently publishing security patches and software updates. But all these are futile if you don’t know how and what to make of them. Reuters was badly hacked because they were using an outdated WordPress version. 

There’s no such thing as a 100% perfectly secure system. This is impossible or impractical to achieve. Security is about risk mitigation and not a total risk elimination. It’s about implementing the right and appropriate controls. All these within reason, that helps improve your overall website’s posture and stance. 

18 Important WordPress Security Best Practices

Like any other systems, WordPress, especially with tons of theme and plugin combinations, would have its set of vulnerabilities. Admittedly, there will also be potential security issues if certain basic security precautions aren’t taken.

Here are some of the top WordPress Security Best Practices, to help you protect your website against unwanted threats.

1. Use a Good Hosting Service Provider

Not all hosting companies and their hosting product offerings are created equal. Whatever it is, the one thing that is for sure – you need to work with a reliable, high-quality and safe hosting provider to host your website. This can make a huge difference. 

In general, there are a few types of web hosting services, namely shared, dedicated and cloud-based. Smaller businesses usually go for a shared type, as this is more economical but you will be sharing with others. 

You can choose to upgrade to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) which uses virtualization technology, giving you dedicated resources on a server with multiple users. This is a more secure and stable solution than a simple shared hosting. Since it is on a smaller-scale, it is affordable.

A dedicated server is basically one server totally reserved for your business alone. In the past, this was costly and so, was mostly used by large conglomerates expecting high traffic. However, dedicated servers are now comparatively less expensive, so you can consider getting this if it makes economic sense to your business. 

Since the cloud has greatly impacted the business environment, business web hosting has now also embraced the cloud. This is an alternative to the usual traditional hosting methods. The strength about cloud hosting is in the flexibility it offers; you can easily expand anytime with no downtime to your business.

Having said this, it is an unfortunate fact that most of the time, you won’t know if your hosting provider is taking your website security seriously until incidents like increased hacker attacks, frequent downtime and low performance occurs. However, in general, the more you pay, the better your hosting service should be, although there are also some budget options you can consider.

2. Update WordPress Regularly

WordPress is an open source software. It is maintained by third-party developers who regularly release updates. Such updates include latest security patches, enhancements and bug fixes, to help combat the ever-increasing cyber attacks. These improvements also apply to the plugins and themes.

A study where over 1,000 WordPress website owners who fell victim to attacks were interviewed, confirmed that plugin vulnerabilities represent 55.9% of the known entry points for hackers. They merely exploit bugs that have been fixed. So, it is a shame that such bugs weren’t fixed in time before such attacks began.

These updates are essential in ensuring the security and stability of your WordPress website. While WordPress automatically implements minor software updates, you’ll need to manually install any major updates. Always be on the lookout for new updates in the ‘Updates’ section of your WordPress admin panel as using outdated software is an outright recipe for disaster. 

3. Strong Passwords and User Permissions

One of the most common WordPress hacking attempts uses stolen passwords. You can make it harder for them by creating stronger and unique credentials in your passwords for WordPress admin, FTP accounts, database, hosting account and your email addresses which use your website’s domain name.

If you don’t, your website becomes vulnerable to brute force attacks which is typically a cyber attack that uses a trial-and-error approach to guess your login credentials. There are password managers that you can use to help manage your WordPress passwords too.

Be mindful on how you set the user permissions. Give your staff access to your WordPress admin account only if you absolutely need to. Have an in-depth understanding of the user roles and capabilities in your team, before you add new user accounts to your WordPress website.

4. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Utilizing 2FA adds an extra layer of protection that requires users to obtain a unique code from an authentication application. Users will need to input the correct login credentials along with this code to access their account.

WordPress offers several 2FA plugins. The notable ones include Google Authenticator, Two Factor Authentication and Two-Factor. You need to decide what the 2FA implementation entails. It can be a regular password followed by a secret question, a secret code or the more popularly used which is sending a code to your phone. 

5. Use the Latest PHP Version

PHP is the essential backbone of your WordPress website. Therefore, using the latest version on your server is crucial. Each major release of PHP is usually fully supported for two years after its release. During these 2 years, any bugs and security issues will be fixed and patched regularly. 

As of September 2020, anyone using PHP 7.1 or below, no longer has the needed security support. This, in turn, exposes them to unpatched security vulnerabilities.

The diagram above clearly shows that around 33% of business owners are still using PHP 7.1 or below. As such, they are vulnerable to attacks.

6. Change WordPress Database Prefix

SQL injection attacks comprise around 80% of hacking attempts launched per month. This is a high figure. Your WordPress website database is the most frequented target for SQL injection attacks. When successful, this attack forces the database to execute the injected malicious code, allowing hackers to access and modify the data. 

The default prefix for your WordPress database is ‘wp_’ . You’ll need to immediately change this. If not, hackers can easily guess your table names and then gain unauthorized access to wreak havoc in your database.

7. Protect the wp-config.php File

The wp-config.php file is the heart and soul of your WordPress installation and thus the most important file when it comes to WordPress security. It contains all crucial WordPress installation information, such as your database login details and encryption security keys.

Therefore, you need to secure this file as this is akin to securing the core of your WordPress website. All you need to do is move this file to a higher level than your root directory.

8. Protect the wp-admin Directory

The wp-admin directory is the most important directory of any WordPress website. If this gets breached, then your entire website can get hacked into and damaged. To do so, you’ll need to 

password-protect this directory. 

Once done, you’ll need to submit 2 passwords when attempting to access the dashboard. One password secures the login page, while the other protects the WordPress admin area.

9. Disable PHP Error Reporting

It is understandable why many would like this PHP error reporting function activated, as it helps to locate errors within the PHP files much faster. However, this comes with a cost, as it also allows others to see your website’s vulnerabilities. 

This is why it is highly recommended to disable this function. By default, this is disabled. However, if it has been enabled for some reason, you’ll need to disable it manually via the wp-config.php file. 

10. Disable Directory Browsing

Although directory browsing provides you with a quick access to the website’s individual directories, this function can backfire on you if others are able to access it. 

Hackers often use this function to find vulnerable files, plugins and themes, to try to gain access to your website. It is advised to disable this function to safeguard your website.

11. Configure Website Lockdown Feature

This feature is great to prevent continuous brute force attempts. Whenever several failed login attempts are encountered, this lockdown feature will be triggered and the website is locked. This helps to ward off any hacking attempts with repetitive wrong passwords. 

12. Hide Your WordPress Version

Older WordPress versions are usually plagued with more vulnerabilities. Therefore, making your WordPress version public isn’t a wise step to take. This is because if hackers see any outdated WordPress installation versions, you might as well hang up the ‘Welcome’ sign at your door. 

Your WordPress version is visible at the bottom right of your admin panel and also the page source. It also appears in the header of your website’s source code. In order for you to completely remove your WordPress version number from both your head file and RSS feeds, you’ll need to do some editing in your functions.php file.

If you always ensure that your WordPress installation is up to date, you don’t have to worry about this.

13. Disable File Editing

WordPress allows you to modify the plugin and theme scripts via the built-in file editor. Unfortunately, this feature can endanger your website. 

If a user with malicious intentions, has admin access to your WordPress dashboard, they can edit the files which includes all plugins and themes. Therefore, it is highly recommended to disable this function by editing in the wp-config.php file.

14. Perform Regular Backups

It is always a good practice to create backups regularly. It is as important as securing the website. If you have a backup, you can easily and quickly restore your WordPress website to a working state. 

This reduces your downtime significantly. Having regular backups is perhaps the best antidote to no matter what happens.

15. Use SSL to Encrypt Data

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encrypts and secures data transfer between browsers and the server. This makes it more difficult for hackers to breach the connection. Thus, implementing a SSL certificate is a great way of securing your WordPress website, including the admin panel. 

In addition to this, the SSL certificate impacts your website’s Google rankings as Google tends to rank sites with SSL higher. This translates to more traffic which is awesome. You’ll need to either purchase a SSL certificate from a trusted and licensed 3rd-party company (Certification Authority) or check if your hosting solution provider offers one for free.

In most cases, enabling SSL on your WordPress site, requires you to install the Really Simple SSL plugin. You’ll need to activate it.

16. Automatically Log Users Out When Idle

Imagine leaving the wp-admin panel of your website wide open on any computer screen. Don’t you think that this can pose a serious security threat? Any passerby can gain unauthorized access to the information on your website.

This can be prevented by configuring your website to log people out after they have been idle for a certain interval of time. The plugin BulletProof Security allows you to set a customized time limit for idle users. After the time is up, they will automatically be logged out.

17. Block All Hotlinking

The concept of hotlinking involves another person using your image and stealing your server’s bandwidth to display the image on his/her website. When this happens, you’ll notice slower loading speeds on your website and the potential for higher server costs at your end.

You can prevent this via a WordPress security plugin – all in One WP Security and Firewall plugin which includes built-in tools to block all hotlinking or to manually add a few lines to your your .htaccess file

18. Monitor your Audit Logs

If you’re running a multi-author website, it’s crucial for you to know and understand all behind- the-scene user activities. You do so by checking the audit log. This helps you to check if your admins and contributors have done anything without approval.

Conclusion

Cyber threats and attacks are not backing down anytime soon. So, especially If your website is a business, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your WordPress security. Just like how business owners are responsible to protect their physical store buildings, you, as an online business owner, also need to protect your business website.

Fortunately, there are many easy and effective best safety measures that you can undertake to improve your WordPress website’s overall security. On the whole, they are relatively inexpensive and do not require advanced technical knowledge to carry out, which is great.

In short, the more you care about your WordPress security, the harder it becomes for a hacker to break in.

The post 18 WordPress Security Best Practices appeared first on WP Fix It.

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It’s time for Plan C: Adjusting your marketing budgets in crisis times

It’s time for Plan C: Adjusting your marketing budgets in crisis times

The sudden global upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed industries to the brink, and many companies have had to throw Plan A and even established Plan B strategies right out the window. That’s because, when it comes to managing your marketing organization through a crisis of this scale, it means starting with “Plan C”.

“It is always going to be more effective for you to have options that you can start with that you build before you’re panicked because you’re going to make more rational decisions in the early stages,” said Michael Trapani, senior director product marketing for Acoustic.

According to Trapani, who shared these insights during his presentation entitled “How to Manage a Marketing Budget During a Crisis” at the recent MarTech conference, the key is to create a Plan C before you need it. 

For those caught off-guard by the pandemic, now is an important time to make sure you aren’t blindsided again since many organizations are deep in fall planning for the January 1 start of the next fiscal year.

“Now, this doesn’t need to be a solo act, it should be a team activity. And the best ideas are going to come from people who think differently from you,” he said. 

“You may not be thinking about all the scenarios, especially from other functional organizations, not just in marketing. But what happens if you lose some of your sales staff. Well, now you need to change your model if your pipeline is going to support that sales staff right. So it’s important for all of us to think about the other opinions and points of view that might help in the creation of this Plan C.” 

Breaking down scenarios

While the pandemic may be the most recent example of a crisis, there are multiple reasons that a company may need to make quick reductions in budgets. In the case of how you might manage that for your organization, Trapani said it is important to evaluate your options.

“I would suggest whenever it comes to producing a dramatically different budget than what you had originally planned that backs into your goals cleanly is to not produce one budget but to produce three,” he said.

“Let’s say your ask was a 20% reduction. Scenario one is going to be about 5% to 10% higher than the asked reduction.”

Essentially, that is a scenario you present to a CFO that satisfies the request to cut some budget but also ensures your department can hit current performance goals.

Even if the CFO doesn’t go for it, “it’s important that you have an option that includes your best attempt to hit your existing goals before whatever crisis took place. And in the event that things change from the financial team’s perspective, you already have a shovel-ready plan in case things change,” he said.

Then there’s scenario two, where you make the full budget reduction as requested. In this case, strategic shifts will have to be made in the department.

The third scenario is just for you and should not be shared with your CFO. In this case, create a budget that’s even lower than what was originally requested. 

“It is not entirely unlikely that you will need to reduce it one more time,” said Trapani. “Having this scenario will really help you think hard about what you might need to do if the absolute worst case takes place. As a bonus, it’ll make you feel better about only cutting 20%.”

Adjusting your strategies

As Trapani said above, making requested cuts in the marketing budget will likely mean changing your strategies to reflect the lighter purse you’re pulling from. It is never going to be an easy process.

“You can’t try to do Plan A with Plan C money,” he said. “You need to start doing more things for the right amount of money, and that will mean that your target will be lower and the goals that you plan on reaching will be less than what you went in with.” 

For starters, prioritize the big numbers first. Those are things like paid media, marketing activities at large events, and investments in martech. But even in those areas, Trapani said, make sure you are being thoughtful about getting the most out of your investments.

“Make sure that you’re bringing your A-game to every single opportunity because that is what’s actually going to be most effective.”

Secondly, let goals drive your decisions. 

“Everything from the business objectives you have, whether those are our sales, whether those are conversions, whether those are renewals or increasing the loyalty of your customers … back those goals into your decisions,” he said.

Lastly, let marketing tools help drive you towards those goals. That includes using tools like automation platforms to help you do more with less. Personalization engines are also good for automating content discovery and project management platforms can help teams operate more efficiently.

“There’s a lot of tools out there that can really help you work smarter, especially if you are working with a reduced staff or with a reduced budget.”

Like Trapani said earlier, these are hard decisions, but you should approach them with confidence.

“You got this,” he said. “With the right skills and the right practices, you can take this difficult situation that you’re in, learn from it and get the outcomes for your business, your company, and for your team that you’re looking for.”

“So take a deep breath, breathe in, and get to work.”

The post It’s time for Plan C: Adjusting your marketing budgets in crisis times appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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CallRail’s Lead Center is a virtual phone system and contact center for SMBs

CallRail’s Lead Center is a virtual phone system and contact center for SMBs

When the COVID lockdowns began in March, Google local business profiles saw a massive drop-off in directions requests and a corresponding spike in local calls and website clicks (61% increase in calls). Since that time, call volumes fluctuated but, according to CallRail, have now stabilized at levels that are 27% higher than the pre-pandemic peak.

Small businesses (SMBs) as a group have historically not done a good job answering the phone and returning calls. A 2016 study of SMB phone activity found that only 38% of calls received a live answer; another roughly 38% were sent to voicemail and 24% received no response at all. Remarkably, the study found that 70% of businesses answered less than half of their calls.

Missed or unreturned calls means lost revenue. There’s a very real cost to this poor service. Research compiled by UK-based Aircall says that “roughly 85% of people whose calls are not answered will not call back” and almost 70% of people will stop dealing with a firm whose customer service is poor.

Total weekly call-volume growth

Source: CallRail (2020)

Missed or non-returned calls equal lost revenue for most SMBs. This is one reason that Google My Business is testing a 45 day call history log. It’s very basic and operates like the missed calls feature on smartphones. There’s no advanced functionality, analytics or call transcription.

Virtual contact center for SMBs. Considerably more sophisticated is CallRail’s new Lead Center. It takes the company’s call tracking and analytics tools and packages them up in a new softphone system and virtual contact center for SMBs. It also combines sales-enablement and CRM elements.

The company says it’s ideally for businesses with between 3 and 20 employees, and is intended to help them manage these COVID-related increased call volumes. It operates as a total replacement for a physical business phone system.

Call routing to any device. Calls can be routed to any device, whether mobile phones or computers; it doesn’t require a physical phone system. The platform relies on Call Rail’s call-tracking numbers to initiate or receive calls, with tracking numbers serving as outbound caller IDs. The system remembers which numbers are used by specific callers and chooses “the number used during the most recent interaction with any given customer” as the ID.

Lead Center dashboard customer interaction history

Source: CallRail

Not trying to be Salesforce. It doesn’t aspire to be a compete CRM system. But there are a range of interesting sales-enablement and marketing functions, including:

Capturing the customer interaction history with the businessTracking the original marketing source or search keyword and most recent landing page visited before the customer initiated the callAny tags or notes from previous agent/employee interactions with the prospectAudio recording of all calls (or selective recording if preferred)Automatic creation of a searchable database of all contacts

Lead Center also captures form fills and text messages and integrates them into the contact’s record. Chat coming in Q1 2021. A mobile app will also launch soon.

Why we care. There are numerous competitors in the business contact center and VoIP phone (“cloud communications”) segments; among them, Vonage, Aircall, RingCentral and several others. CallRail is essentially entering a new market with this product. It seeks to help SMBs escape using spreadsheets to track customer interactions, improve the customer calling experience and ensure leads are more effectively pursued.

What’s most interesting for marketers is the ability to connect conventional call tracking, tied to specific media or marketing sources (including paid search campaigns or organic landing pages), to a sales-enablement tool designed for simplicity and aimed at relatively small companies.

The post CallRail’s Lead Center is a virtual phone system and contact center for SMBs appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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VidIQ Chrome Extension Review (+ How to Use It)

Have you heard about the VidIQ Chrome extension? Read further to learn how to get more views on Youtube. YouTube is an excellent marketing tool and way to engage and connect with your audience and get more Youtube followers. The visual and educational appeal is like no other platform out there. However, if you want …

Read moreVidIQ Chrome Extension Review (+ How to Use It)

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Increasing Time on Site

Increasing Time on Site

Changing User Intents

Google’s search quality rater document highlights how the intent of searches can change over time for a specific keyword.

A generic search for [iPhone] is likely to be related to the most recent model. A search for [President Bush] likely was related to the 41st president until his son was elected & then it was most likely to be related to 43.

Faster Ranking Shifts

About 17 years ago when Google was young they did monthly updates where most of any ranking signal shift that would happen would get folded into the rankings. The web today is much faster in terms of the rate of change, amount of news consumption, increasing political polarization, social media channels that amplify outrage and how quickly any cultural snippet can be taken out of context.

Yesterday President Trump had some interesting stuff to say about bleach. In spite of there being an anime series by the same name, news coverage of the presser has driven great interest in the topic.

And that interest is already folded into the organic search results through Google News insertion, Twitter tweet insertion, and the query deserves freshness (QDF) algorithm driving insertion of news stories in other organic search ranking slots.

If a lot of people are searching for something and many trusted news organizations are publishing information about a topic then there is little risk in folding fresh information into the result set.

Temporary Versus Permanent Change

When the intent of a keyword changes sometimes the change is transitory & sometimes it is not.

One of the most common ad-driven business models online is to take something that was once paid, make it free, and then layer ads or some other premium features on top to monetize a different part of the value chain. TripAdvisor democratized hotel reviews. Zillow made foreclosure information easily accessible for free, etc.

The success of remote working & communication services like Skype, Zoom, Basecamp, Slack, Trello, and the ongoing remote work experiment the world is going through will permanently change some consumer behaviors & how businesses operate.

A Pew survey mentioned 43% of Americans stated someone in their house recently lost their job, had their hours reduced, and/or took pay cuts. Hundreds of thousands of people are applying to work in Amazon’s grueling fulfillment centers.

To many of these people a lone wolf online job would be a dream come true.

If you had a two hour daily commute and were just as efficient working at home most days would you be in a rush to head back to the office?

How many former fulltime employees are going to become freelancers building their own small businesses they work on directly while augmenting it with platform work on other services like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Upwork, Fiverr, 99 Designs, or even influencer platforms like Intellifluence?

If big publishers are getting disintermediated by monopoly platforms & ad networks are offering crumbs of crumbs there’s no harm in selling custom ads directly or having your early publishing efforts subsidized through custom side deals as you build market awareness and invest into building other products and services to sell.

WordPress keeps adding more features. Many technology services like Shopify, Stripe & Twilio are making most parts of the tech stack outside of marketing cheaper & easier to scale.

Some universities are preparing for the fall semester being entirely online. As technology improves, we spend more time online, more activities happen online, and more work becomes remote. All this leads to the distinction between online and offline losing meaning other than perhaps in terms of cost structure & likelihood of bankruptcy.

Before Panda / After Panda

Before the Panda update each additional page which was created was another lotto ticket and a chance to win. If users had a crappy user experience on a page or site maybe you didn’t make the sale, but if the goal of the page was to have the content so crappy that ads were more appealing that could lead to fantastic monetization while it lasted.

That strategy worked well for eHow, fueling the pump-n-dump Demand Media IPO.

Demand Media had to analyze eHow and pay to delete over a million articles which they deemed to have a negative economic value in the post-Panda world.

After the Panda update having many thin pages laying around and creating more thin pages was layering risk on top of risk. It made sense to shift to a smaller, tighter, deeper & more differentiated publishing model.

Entropy & Decay

The web goes through a constant state of reinvention.

Old YouTube Flash embeds break.

HTTP content calls in sites that were upgraded to HTTPS break.

Software which is not updated has security exploits.

If you have a large website and do not regularly update where you are linking to your site is almost certainly linking to porn and malware sites somewhere.

As users shifted to mobile websites that ignored mobile interfaces became relatively less appealing.

Changing web browser behaviors can break website logins and how data is shared across websites dependent on third party services.

Competition improves.

Algorithms change.

Ads eat a growing share of real estate on dominant platforms while organic reach slides.

Everything on the web is constantly dying as competition improves, technology changes and language gets redefined.

Staying Relevant

Even if a change in user intent is transitory, in some cases it can make sense to re-work a page to address a sudden surge of interest to improve time on site, user engagement metrics & make the content on your page more citation-worthy. If news writers are still chasing a trend then having an in-depth background piece of content with more depth gives them something they may want to link at.

Since the Covid-19 implosion of the global economy came into effect I’ve seen two different clients have a sort of sudden surge in traffic which would make little to no sense unless one considered currently spreading news stories.

News coverage creates interest in topics, shapes perspectives of topics, and creates demand for solutions.

If you read the right people on Twitter sometimes you can be days, weeks or even months ahead of the broader news narrative. Some people are great at spotting the second, third and fourth order effects of changes. You can spot stories bubbling up and participate in the trends.

An Accelerating Rate of Change

When the web was slower & easier you could find an affiliate niche and succeed in it sometimes for years before solid competition would arrive. One of the things I was most floored about this year from a marketing perspective was how quickly spammers ramped up a full court press amplifying the fear the news media was pitching. I think I get something like a hundred spam emails a day pitching facemasks and other COVID-19 solutions. I probably see 50+ other daily ads from services like Outbrain & similar.

The web moves so much faster that the SEC is already taking COVID-19 related actions against dozens of companies. Google banned advertising protective masks and recently announced they are rolling out advertiser ID verification to increase transparency.

If Google is looking at their advertisers with a greater degree of suspicion even into an economic downturn when Expedia is pulling $4 billion from their ad budget & Amazon is cutting back on their Google ad budget and Google decides to freeze hiring then it makes far more sense to keep reinvesting into improving any page which is getting a solid stream of organic search traffic.

Company Town

After Amazon cut their Google ad budget in March Google decided to expand Google Shopping to include free listings. When any of the platforms is losing badly they can afford to subsidize that area and operate it at a loss to try to gain marketshare while making the dominant player in that category look more extreme.

When a player is dominant in a category they can squeeze down on partners. Amazon once again cut affiliate payouts and the Wall Street Journal published an article citing 20 current and former Amazon insiders who stated Amazon uses third party merchant sales data to determine which products to clone:

Amazon employees accessed documents and data about a bestselling car-trunk organizer sold by a third-party vendor. The information included total sales, how much the vendor paid Amazon for marketing and shipping, and how much Amazon made on each sale. Amazon’s private-label arm later introduced its own car-trunk organizers. … Amazon’s private-label business encompasses more than 45 brands with some 243,000 products, from AmazonBasics batteries to Stone & Beam furniture. Amazon says those brands account for 1% of its $158 billion in annual retail sales, not counting Amazon’s devices such as its Echo speakers, Kindle e-readers and Ring doorbell cameras.

Amazon does not even need to sell their private label products to shift their economics. As Amazon clones products they force the branded ad buy for a company to show up for their own branded terms, taking another bite out of the partner: “Fortem spends as much as $60,000 a month on Amazon advertisements for its items to come up at the top of searches, said Mr. Maslakou.”

Amazon has grown so dominant they’ve not only cut their affiliate & search advertising while hiring hundreds of thousands of employees, but they’ve also dramatically slowed down shipping times while pulling back on their on-site people also purchase promotions to get users to order less.

While they are growing stronger department stores and other legacy retailers are careening toward bankruptcy.

Multiple Ways to Improve

If you have a page which is ranking that gets a sudden spike in traffic it makes a lot of sense to consider current news & try to consider if the intent of the searcher has changed. If it has, address it as best you can in the most relevant way possible, even if the change is temporary, then consider switching back to the old version of the page or reorganizing your content if/when/as the trend has passed.

One of the pages mentioned above was a pre-Panda “me too” type page which was suddenly flooded with thousands of user visitors. A quality inbound link can easily cost $100 to multiples of that. If a page is already getting thousands of visitors, why not invest a couple hundred dollars into dramatically improving it, knowing that some of those drive by users will likely eventually share it? Make the page an in-depth guide with great graphics and some of those 10,000’s of visitors will eventually link to it, as they were already interested in the topic, the page already gets a great stream of traffic, and the content quality is solid.

Last week a client had a big spike from a news topic that changed the intent of a keyword. Their time on site from those visitors was under a minute. After the page was re-created to reflect changing consumer intent their time on site jumped to over 3 minutes for users entering that page. Those users had a far lower bounce rate, a far better user experience, are going to be more likely to trust the site enough to seek it out again, and this sends a signal to Google that the site is still maintained & relevant to the modern search market.

There are many ways to chase the traffic stream

create new content on new pages
gut the old page & publish entirely new content
re-arrange the old page while publishing new relevant breaking news at the top

In general I think the third option is often the best approach because you are aligning the page which already sees the traffic stream with the content they are looking for, while also ensuring any users from the prior intent can still access what they are looking for.

If the trend is huge, or the change in intent is permanent then you could also move the old content to a legacy URL archived page while making the high-traffic page focus on the spiking news topic.

The above advice applies to pages which rank for keywords that change in intent, but it can also apply to any web page which has a strong flow of user traffic. Keep improving the things people see most because improvements there have the biggest returns. How can you make a page deeper, better, more differentiated from the rest of the web?

Does Usage Data Matter?

Objectively, if people visit your website and do not find what they were looking for they are going to click the back button and be done with you.

Outdated content that has become irrelevant due to changing user tastes is only marginally better than outright spam.

While Google suggests they largely do not use bounce rate or user data in their rankings, they have also claimed end user data was the best way they could determine if the user was satisfied with a particular search result. Five years ago Bill Slawski wrote a blog post about long clicks which quoted Steven Levy’s In The Plex book:

“On the most basic level, Google could see how satisfied users were. To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy users were all the same. The best sign of their happiness was the “Long Click” — This occurred when someone went to a search result, ideally the top one, and did not return. That meant Google has successfully fulfilled the query.”

Think of how many people use the Chrome web browser or have Android tracking devices on them all hours of the day. There is no way Google would be able to track those billions of users every single day without finding a whole lot of signal in the noise.

Categories: publishing & media

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