Marketing Insights to Navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic – Weekly Recap of News You Can Use

Week of April 6, 2020

 

Greetings from the home office. 

In our third weekly roundup of insightful content related to the coronavirus, we’re taking a deeper look at brand messaging strategy, search and marketing trends and most importantly, planning for the rebound. (ICYMI catch up on our previous posts from the week of March 30 and March 23.)

We as an agency are planning and positioning ourselves and our clients for the rebound strategy. Our business has changed along with that of our clients, and our media and marketing plans have drastically changed. 

Whether this “new normal” has you busier than ever or reeling from the lack of business, marketers can all agree that now is the time for learning. Learning a new business skill, diving into your customer data to improve segmentation, researching an emerging digital platform or even reading that book that’s been gathering dust on your shelf. With stay-at-home orders in place for most of us, the focus is at home with a new level of work-life balance. How are you advancing your skill set, finding a new perspective and preparing for the future of your brand (and yourself)? 

Read on for the most insightful articles for marketers this week. 

Content Roundup

How brands are adapting their strategies and ad creatives in real time to address the coronavirus. While all brands are different, many have responded with a meaningful approach to get through the crisis and move forward together. Learn more.

Many franchise and multi-location businesses are closed now, and even while open they are still facing challenges in the marketplace and uncertainty about the future. This article provides great rationale on why you should be planning for the rebound now. Learn more.

Not surprisingly, many brands are anticipating a decrease in their marketing budget, although their goals remain unchanged. SEO is expected to gain importance as a marketing strategy during the downturn. Learn more.

While some of the behavior changes prompted by the coronavirus pandemic may be temporary, many may become permanent. Marketing leaders must take actions to understand the impact to their brand and customer journeys, lean into digital interactions with customers and mitigate risks to the customer experience. Learn more.

The impact of the coronavirus crisis on the business climate has necessitated a reset of marketing budgets and campaign expectations. The sooner current marketing efforts are audited and reset, the sooner they will contribute to positive gains. Learn more.

There is no playbook for how to advertise during a pandemic. We’re all learning as we go and mistakes are inevitable. However, to avoid a total fail, the key is to think long-term, focus on brand building and keep an eye on the context surrounding your advertising. Learn more.

Google search trends can be a powerful tool for marketers to aid in keyword research, development and optimization. It can even be used to help identify emerging COVID-19 outbreaks in specific geographic areas and reveal previously unrecognized symptoms. Learn more.


We hope you’ve found our compilation insightful. Stay safe and if you haven’t already, subscribe to our blog to get next week’s roundup delivered straight to your inbox.

Confirmed: November 2019 Google Algorithm Update Based on Neural Matching

Google has confirmed a local algorithm update took place in early November 2019 and has been rolled out on a global scale. The update is based on neural matching, which is an AI method used to connect words with concepts and could help tackle spam in local search results.

“BEDLAM”

Starting November 5, the industry started seeing quite a bit of volatility in Google Local rankings. The majority of those changes were updated further on November 10 (resulting in many of the November 5 changes being reversed). Changes continued, with a significant ranking change on November 13, only to be reversed a few days later.

Joy Hawkins named this update “Bedlam” based on the absolute chaos she was seeing everywhere. Hawkins hadn’t seen this many drastic changes since the Possum update in 2016, which was a major change in the way Google treated proximity.

Hawkins noted that she was seeing changes that were mostly related to relevance with the “Bedlam” update. She noticed that Google is doing a lot better job of understanding a broader set of search terms that apply to a single business.

NOV. 2019 LOCAL SEARCH UPDATE

On December 2, 2019, Google confirmed via Twitter that a local algorithm update using neural matching for local search results was rolled out in November 2019.

Google began using neural matching in 2018 primarily to better understand how words are related to concepts. It can be compared to a “super-synonym system.” The use of neural matching means that Google can do a better job going beyond the exact words in a business name or description to understand conceptually how it might be related to words searchers use and their intent.

The Local SEO industry now has clear evidence it was not just our imagination that rankings were changing based on local search results. Since Google is now using neural matching to better understand local queries, Google may now also show different local results because of it.

One of the most significant impacts of the update (which is most likely good news to many) is that keyword spam in a listing’s business name will not be favored as much as it once was. Although Google once relied on keywords in the business name to provide relevant results, it will now use neural matching to pull relevant results beyond just the business name or description. This will help local businesses that are more relevant to the searcher’s intent rank higher.

Google’s expansion of understanding relevance with neural matching could be a great stride forward for local search. However, although Google claims the update has officially rolled out, many industry experts speculate that the algorithm is still learning what to rank as relevant, based on volatility in local search rankings.

THE BOTTOM LINE

While it may be natural to default to panic-mode, in theory, this update should mean that your business is more likely to benefit from site and store visitors with truly local intent. Google’s advice to businesses remains the same: relevance, prominence and proximity are the keys to ranking well in local. Continue focusing on those best practices and avoid any blackhat or spammy techniques.

Big Changes For Google Search Algorithm

The latest algorithm update aims to bring users results that are more relevant by understanding the context behind search queries with the help of artificial intelligence. The goal of this update is to enhance the user experience by making the process of a Google search feel natural.

BERT

In October, Google announced the biggest change to the core search algorithm in the past five years. Google is using an artificial language processing tool called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT, to bring context to received search queries. In the old algorithm, Google focused on individual keywords in a search query, and used these individual keywords to return results. Users received results based on the words in the search query that the algorithm found most important. The problem with this method is that the algorithm lacked conversational context.

Google shared the following example of how the old algorithm worked: a user searching for “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa.” The word “to” and how it impacted the other words in the search query weren’t perceived to be important in the old algorithm, which returned results for U.S. citizens that are looking for information about traveling to Brazil.

Source:  Google

The BERT model takes the word “to” into consideration and understands the context of the search query. This change returned search results for Brazilian citizens that are traveling to the U.S. and need information about obtaining a visa.

Impact on Content Strategy

Google says that the BERT update could change search results for one out of 10 queries. It is important for content creators to remember that not all search queries will be impacted by this update, and time will tell how this algorithm will influence conversions. This update targets the longer and more conversational phrases and keywords that people use while talking to each other. For users, the BERT update could be a great asset when searching on Google and could result in spending less time scrolling through pages of information that doesn’t meet the initial query, especially for those using a mobile device.

Does this mean that businesses should start optimizing for BERT? Experts in the SEO community are saying, no. BERT’s goal is to return better results based on the unique phrases used in search queries. The best approach continues to be creating great content using natural language, written to be understood by human beings instead of a search algorithm.

Testing, Testing…1, 2, 3

As always, Google continues to test new search features. The most recent and noteworthy include:

  • Showing competitor ads on local business profiles
  • Highlighting content on-site based on the search result clicked
  • Bulk Google My Business review management

Competitor Ads on Local Business Profiles

One not-so-popular test Google is currently conducting is placing competitor ads on business profiles in the knowledge card. This was first noticed in mid-August by Google My Business expert, Ben Fisher. His screenshot (below) shows a Google listing for Browning Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram with a competitor ad for Valley Hi Toyota appearing under the call-to-action buttons.

Image Source:  Ben Fisher

There is speculation that Google may be trying to further monetize search. In April, Google released a survey asking some business owners and agencies about potential features for Google My Business. The survey had one section about “Most Popular Paid-for Features” including “removing competitor ads from listings.” However, Greg Sterling, previously of Local Search Association, confirmed with Google that businesses will not be asked to, nor can they pay to, have the ad removed.

This test is not being taken very well by the Local SEO community that believes Google should not be putting direct competitor ads on business profiles, while others argue it may be confusing for users looking for specific business information. Others think of this as a type of extortion, something similar to what Yelp has been accused of with removing competitor ads from paid profiles. The general consensus among the Local SEO community is, “hopefully this is just a test that will not materialize.”

Highlighting Content On-Site

Google confirmed it is testing a feature that will take a user from the search results page to a third-party site, then anchor them to that exact location on the site, highlighting the content that is relative to the search query. Google originally did this on mobile with AMP cache, but is now testing on desktop and Chrome browsers.

How it works. Users can click on a featured snippet on desktop search. The user will then be taken to the site and Google will shift the view down to the highlighted location of the relevant content.

Search Engine Land columnist Glenn Gabe was the first to notice this test, and has several examples on Twitter. David Bokan, a Google Chromium engineer, confirmed that Google is testing this feature on approximately 5 percent of Google searchers (I am not lucky enough to be part of the 5 percent and cannot reproduce the results).

While users probably find this very convenient, digital marketers should take caution. SEO professionals may want to track if your business’s site is doing this in Google search. Since this new feature will take a user down past ads and/or call-to-actions directly to relevant content, marketers may want to take measures to move ads/CTAs to a more appropriate location.

Bulk Google My Business Review Management

Last month, Google released an efficient way for people managing multiple locations to see reviews for multiple listings at once. Those managing reviews will no longer need to click into each individual listing to see its reviews, which should help save time and help spot or report on important reviews quickly.

Bulk reviews give the ability to view, reply to and flag reviews for multiple listings from one place. This feature is available in location groups with 500 or fewer locations, but is not currently available for organization accounts. Steps to find and utilize this new feature within Google My Business can be found on the Reviews Support page.

One thing for sure is that Google never disappoints with testing new features, whether good or bad in the eyes of the Local SEO community. Although there is speculation about Google trying to increasingly monetize search results, ultimately Google is attempting to make search more robust and more efficient for its users.


Worried about your visibility on Google? Contact Mindstream Media Group, a Google Premier Partner, to find out how our location listing and paid search solutions can amplify your brand’s presence. 

Breaking Down the Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-location Brands

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev’s original Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. To celebrate, Search Engine Land updated its popular take on Mendeleev’s work – the Periodic Table of SEO Factors. While Search Engine Land designed its version to apply to any type of business, we wanted to look at how it impacts SEO for multi-location brands.

The Periodic Table of SEO

But first, here’s a little background on the table itself. Search Engine Land originally published its Periodic Table of SEO Factors in 2011. Since then, it’s been a premier resource for search professionals looking to gain a better understanding of what it takes to build a winning SEO strategy. The original version has been downloaded almost 100,000 times by marketers in more than 70 countries and referenced by thousands of blogs and websites.

With this year’s version, the foundation has remained the same but the table’s creators added categories for toxic ranking factors and emerging verticals on top of the groups of successful SEO factors. Below, we’ll provide an in-depth look at how your multi-location brand can use the learnings from each group of success factors to guide your SEO strategy.

Navigating the Periodic Table of SEO for multi-location brands

Now that we know what the table is, let’s dive in with our list of actionable tips for each group of elements as they pertain to multi-location brands.

Content

Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – Content Group

The Content Group of the Periodic Table of SEO explores the facets of creating high-quality, in-depth content for your website and other digital properties. Here’s how your multi-location brand can optimize your site for this group.

Quality

Create high-quality content to help searchers learn everything they need to know about your products, services and locations. When it comes to SEO for multi-location brands, creating in-depth, high-quality and keyword-optimized pages for each of your locations is essential.

Research and Keywords

Start by researching and identifying the terms your target audiences are likely to use in searches for your products, services and locations. Include geo-specific keyword research to identify which terms your audiences are searching for across your specific markets.

Freshness

Complement your product, service and location pages by continuously creating and optimizing thought-leadership pieces like blog posts and long-form content (e.g., e-books, case studies, infographics, etc.).

Multimedia

Develop high-quality multimedia content (images, video, audio content, etc.) to support and complement your other content pieces.

Answers

Create content that addresses popular questions your audiences ask in search results (use keyword research to determine these questions). For multi-location brands, FAQ pages can be a huge boost to search engine rankings and help you earn featured snippets.

Related – How Featured Snippets Help You Conquer Google’s Search Results

Architecture

Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – Architecture Group

For the Architecture Group, the overall learnings apply to SEO for multi-location brands the same as most other businesses. Here’s a look at a few of the most important elements in this group.

Crawl

Make sure your site is easy for search engines to crawl so they can find all your product, service and location pages.

Mobile

Make sure your site is optimized for smartphones and tablets. If you’re not sure if your site is optimized for mobile, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to find out.

Duplicate

Multi-location brands often have issues with duplicate versions of location pages. Make sure there is only one version of each of your webpages by using canonical URLs and 301 redirects.

Speed

Your webpages should load quickly on any device. If you’re not sure if your site’s speed is up to par, you can run it through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

HTML

Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – HTML Group

This element group deals with the HTML tags your brand should include on its website. For multi-location brands, it’s important to make sure these tags include geo-modifiers to optimize the pages in local search results.

Title tags

Include the city and state in the title tag in every location-specific webpage.

Structure

Add Schema Markup and other localized structured data to help search engines understand local information like phone numbers and business addresses.

Headings

Use geo-modifiers and market-specific keywords to optimize header tags (H1 – H6 tags) for each location page.

Trust

Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – Trust Group

Last year, Google introduced an update to its algorithm that SEO pros dubbed the “E-A-T update.” E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. This group of elements speaks directly to those measures for both SEO for multi-location brands and other businesses.

Related – What Multi-Location Brands Need to Know About Google’s March 2019 Core Update

Authority

Create content that will drive incoming links, shares and other authority signals to boost search rankings.

Engagement

Create high-quality content to drive activity and engagement on your website.

Reputation

Work on building trust over time. Sites that operate the same way for years carry weight in search engine rankings.

Links

Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – Link Group

This group of elements has been a mainstay on the Periodic Table of SEO since the beginning and is as important as ever. According to Search Engine Land:

When Google burst onto the scene with its then-revolutionary PageRank algorithm in 2000, the company made clear that links were a factor in how well a website would perform in search. The higher quality and more relevant the sites that link to your own are, the better it is for your SEO.

In terms of SEO for multi-location brands, here’s how you can improve your incoming link portfolio.

Value

Seek links from trusted, high-quality websites in your business vertical or from locally-focused websites and online directories.

Anchors

Make sure your incoming links are from relevant pages and use your target keywords as the anchor text.

Backlinks

Work to build a robust stable of high-quality links naturally over time.

User

Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – User Group

The way users interact with your site is crucial to search rankings. Search engines don’t like it when users click on a result and quickly bounce back to the results when they can’t find what they need. To make sure searchers don’t abandon your site, here are a few things you can do to optimize for the elements in the User Group.

Locality

Target specific cities or neighborhoods by including your addresses on location pages and specifying the markets you serve.

User Experience (UX)

Make it easy for potential customers to find specific location pages with an easy-to-use store locator tool and a section on your website dedicated to finding nearby locations.

Intent

Create localized content that provides specific information your target audiences are searching for (i.e., content based on search intent).


Need help implementing these efforts?

Contact Mindstream Media Group and we’ll show you how our SEO and Content Marketing services can amplify your multi-location brand’s presence in search results.