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Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in Conference Recaps, Social Media

State of Search – Social Takeaways

Since accepting a role within Digital Services, I have experienced varying perspectives on search. From weekly videos of Rand Fishkin from MOZ, to weekly calls with other teams at Marriott. Much like every winter snowflake, each perspective is slightly unique compared to the next. That is why I didn’t hesitate when asked to attend State of Search’s 3rd Annual marketing conference in sunny Dallas, Texas.

State of Search Conference

(Image Source: State of Search)

As I stepped off the plane at Dallas Love Field Airport for the conference, I had three questions lingering in my notebook, all of which were I answered during my trip.

1.) Is social media a direct ranking factor in search?

Mark Traphagen State of Search 2016

(Image Source: State of Search)

To find the answer to this question, I sought out Mark Traphagen’s presentation from Stone Temple Consulting. Through his presentation of “Social Media & SEO: Separating Myth from Fact,” Mark leveraged video interviews from SEO Power Players. A video with Google’s Former Engineer, Matt Cutts, concluded that Google constantly monitors how they view social media pages, specifically Facebook and Twitter. In a later video, Matt Cutts goes on to say, “Sites that get lots of shares are so good, they likely also earn signals that do affect rankings, such as links.”

Google has been slowly indexing tweets for quite some time, and many believe the search engine favors higher authority users. Since the digital landscape has grown to an endless field, complete indexing will not be possible overnight (or any time soon). This does not mean brands with small followings should think any less of social media in search, it simply means that instead of being on social specifically for search rankings, use this space to build your brand and drive qualified traffic.

2.) How can I help others create more engaging content?

For any problem or question I have, the first place I visit is YouTube. From installing a new SSD on my MacBook, to jumping my car battery, YouTube has never let me down. With this in mind, I decided a presentation from former YouTube star Deandre Upshaw was going to be a presentation I wasn’t going to miss.

In “Creating Video Content that People Will Actually Want to Watch,” DeAndre was quick to point out that for moving content, the future continues to function in 60 second segments. This doesn’t mean each piece of moving content should be in this proximity, it means the total content digestion should take no longer than 60 seconds. On episodic platforms like Snapchat and Instagram stories, profiles can provide small segments that result in no more than 60 seconds of content.

The importance of having a stable shot is a given, but the importance of clear lighting and audio are proving be a heavier weighted factor. If you were to search for the first videos of the current viral phenomenon, you are likely to find poor audio or bad lighting. There is a constant desire to be an innovator and have your video posted first, but it usually results in violating the importance of lighting, audio or stability.

3.) Where should I go for dinner?

Before each conference Digital Services attends, we reach out to the team for suggestions of activities after the conference concludes for the night. In addition to asking my Digital Service coworkers, I enlisted the help of the Marriott Traveler website for all necessary recommendations.

Although State of Search had a fun filled schedule intricately planned, I found myself with a final night of dinner unaccounted for. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to get a recommendation from Marriott Traveler’s website. After a quick conversation with my coworker who also attended the conference and a few scrolls on our smartphones, we found ourselves in a trendy area of Dallas with sidewalk lined boutiques and quaint restaurants. Among the restaurants was “the Porch” which Traveler highlighted with a heading “Graze Over Modern, Moderately Priced Meals.” From the candle lit tables to the pristine food presentation, Marriott Traveler had delivered a great recommendation and perspective for a first time Dallas visitor. My answer for navigating new cities was quickly answered for future occasions.

The Porch, Dallas Texas

(Image Source: Ryan Sanecki)

Working in the digital emporium, we are bombarded with a variety of opinions and perspectives to answer various questions. With the opportunity to continue to grow my digital knowledge at conferences and trainings, I look forward to sharing my perspective on further digital growth.

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Posted by on Dec 20, 2016 in Conference Recaps

State of Search Conference Recap

The Lone Star State became the State of Search as the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association hosted its 3rd annual digital marketing conference this  past November in Dallas, Texas. The event presented a variety of topics throughout the search and digital landscape, however there were three main topics that stood out as the most prevalent throughout the conference.

Communication

Industry speakers Maile Ohye from Google and Purna Virji from Microsoft, shared very different presentations, but nonetheless settled on the theme of communication. Maile took a present day focus, sharing data on search behavior, including that 1/3 of all mobile searches are location based, 20% of queries are by voice and that 53% of users abandon ship if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load. Purna shared futuristic data on how we communicate; Millennials speak with text but Gen Z will speak with images and 3.6 billion people are predicted to use messaging apps next year. Moreover, Purna said that by 2020 85% of business to consumer relationships will be managed without interaction. But what does this all mean? It means that digital communication needs to be adaptable and flexible. Searchers want fast, true, quality and easy connection across all search platforms. There are many different ways to communicate, whether it be pictures, mobile, voice, etc. and the communication delivery is just as important as the content. It’s vital to understand your audience and keep their intent in mind.

State of Search 2016

(Image Source: State of Search)

Elevation

The second topic catered around the idea of elevation. As digital marketers it is important that we strive to achieve a higher level of everything we do. Whether it’s reaching our target audience, becoming more creative with storytelling content, or even personal growth, it’s time to raise the bar for clients and businesses.  To no surprise, the industry is elevating the customer experience as well. For instance, take Google’s decision to implement AMP and start indexing mobile first. Google knows that more than 50% of searches are performed via mobile, so why not enhance the user experience with these two changes? Or think of Amazon, which shared by speaker Christian J Ward from Yext, is working on making Alexa recognize human emotion. Then of course there is virtual and augmented reality; keynote speaker Duane Forrester from BruceClay shared recent news regarding Uber’s purchasing A.I. startup Geometric Intelligence. As companies like Uber are going all in with elevation, it is vital to implement your own elevation strategy too.

State of Search Conference 2016

(Image Source: State of Search)

Empathy

Wil Reynolds from SEER Interactive took the stage with an impactful presentation on empathy. As digital marketers it is easy to get wrapped up in all the changes Google is making in their algorithm, but we need to be focusing on the humans behind the search. Wil gave examples of how people bring baggage to their search and how great marketers step outside of their own bubbles to understand the needs of people. Wil went on to explain that marketers should remove any amount of friction between the searcher’s question and the answer; it’s about giving people what they need and want. He shared how companies like Facebook have associates work for an hour on a 2G network to build empathy for users that have slow connections. Wil presented on a personal study in which he changed 8 meta descriptions for a client. Although meta descriptions do not affect ranking, the small change generated more than $100,000 in revenue by truly connecting with people through small story telling.  Throughout other presentations during the conference it became apparent that the core value of marketing is empathy, specifically how we can form authentic, lasting relations with existing and potential customers. Digital marketing is about being present in the customer’s journey and not about just ranking on keywords. To understand the journey, empathy is required.

2016 State of Search Presentation

(Image Source: State of Search)

As the digital world continues to change and develop, it will be interesting to see how these themes take charge. The Digital Services team will be keeping these themes top of mind when strategizing for our hotels in 2017.

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Posted by on Nov 24, 2016 in Conference Recaps

SMX East Recap: Google AMP vs. Facebook Instant Articles

Google AMP vs. Facebook Instant Articles

(Image Source: Upwork)

In 2015, Facebook and Google each debuted solutions to poor mobile web experience for their users, Facebook Instant Articles (FBIA) and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), respectively. Both platforms were designed in an effort to combat common issues experienced by mobile users: slow page loading, nonresponsive scrolling and shifting content – nearly 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load!

Facebook Instant Articles are published directly inside the Facebook app, as seen above, allowing publishers to host their content on Facebook. Google AMP articles appear directly in mobile search results on Google, operating in a carousel at the top of the search results page.

During the SMX East conference in September, much of the focus was on AMP and its impact on mobile search, but little attention was paid to FBIA. Being digitally curious, the Digital Services team thought it might be beneficial to compare both of these platforms and see which industries could benefit.

How Do They Work?

Facebook Instant Articles, using the Facebook servers as a backend, creates a mobile version of the article that preloads in the background when appearing in the news feed. This preloading helps Instant Articles load at a lightning speed, especially when considered against standard mobile articles. Facebook Instant Articles uses HTML5 to allow autoplay videos, interactive maps and explorable photos.

AMP, utilizing an open-source architecture, uses Google’s servers to display its content. Similar to FBIA, Google begins caching and preloading content before the user taps on an article but uses AMP HTML over HTML5, eliminating third-party scripts like Javascript and emphasizing static content. AMP is available on WordPress, Drupal and Squarespace. There is an AMP section for analysis in the Google Search Console and the AMP format is being utilized by Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other popular sites.

How Do They Measure Up?

Facebook has announced their own statistics regarding Instant Articles. They are 10x faster than standard mobile web articles, 20% more Instant Articles are read on average, readers are 70% less likely to abandon the article and readers share IAs 30% more often than mobile web articles.

AMP has seen some seriously impressive results since integrating AMP listings into mobile search results in February 2016: average rankings have increased by 5 spots, average CTR of AMP articles is up 4% and over 7700 developers have engaged with the platform. A live case study during the Oscars showed that when comparing an AMP site vs. a non-AMP site, AMP queries got 15x visits, 7x impressions and received 2x higher average rank.

AMP Format

(Image Source: SMX East 2016, AMP: Above & Beyond by Adam Greenberg)

In this context, Facebook Instant Articles is far more restrictive to potential publishers than those choosing AMP because open-source allows developers to utilize far more features within the Google platform while Facebook is somewhat limiting.

Is My SEO Impacted?

AMP articles are fast and mobile-friendly, and Facebook Instant Articles generate news feeds used by Facebook, therefore AMP and Instant Articles impact SEO without being direct search engine ranking factors. Instant Articles operates within the Facebook app which may begin to push your user base toward the Facebook app instead of the SERP results – influencing mobile web traffic. AMP has an immediate effect on clicks, impressions and UX. AMP articles rank higher in SERPs which can lead to more clicks, furthered user engagement and higher mobile rankings. Now that we have the facts – let’s explore what industries should be developing these platforms.

AMP Example

(Image Source: Eric Bodnar)

Brands that can consistently provide fresh content to a large user base stand to gain the most from platforms like AMP and Instant Articles. AMP is currently accounting for double the search traffic to newly published content in the SERP results while an Instant Article has the potential to reach Facebook’s user base of over 1 billion. Brands like Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue and The Verge have found much success in Google AMP while a brand like Tasty, the 30-45 second video recipe brand, experiences high interaction rates in Instant Articles. Go with AMP if you are a brand with unique content looking to push traffic to your website, but focus on FBIA if you find much of your customer interaction comes from Facebook.

So what have we learned? AMP is an open source program designed to improve mobile experience with stripped-down versions of standard web pages. Facebook Instant Articles provides a better content-delivery service. AMP improves user experience with an average median load time of .7 seconds compared to 22 seconds for a non-AMP pages, while Facebook Instant Articles are 30% more likely to be shared by readers. Publishers with an established Facebook presence (daily videos and consistent user interaction) should utilize Facebook Instant Articles while publishers with an ever-changing array of relevant content should get AMPed.

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Posted by on Nov 15, 2016 in Conference Recaps

SMX East 2016 Key Takeaways

SMX East 2016

(Image source: Search Engine Land

What better way to dive deeper into the SEO world than to attend one of the premier conferences on the east coast, SMX East. Hosted by Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, SMX East brings SEOs from around the country together to share ideas, promote new technologies and discuss the latest happenings and innovations in the industry. Here are a few important takeaways from this year’s event:

1.) Voice Search will Increase 50% By the Year 2020

Tony Edwards, Senior SEO Manager at Elite SEM, gave a presentation on optimizing content for voice search. From this presentation, we learned that we must be constantly adapting to the way people search. Voice search, for example, can be utilized on mobile devices, desktops and even Virtual Assistants. Gen X and Millennials who have grown up learning and evolving with search have a tougher time adapting to voice, but recent trends show Gen Y is taking full advantage of it. They want their results faster, and prefer to search in more complete sentences. This opens up a new space for longer-tailed keyword phrases and more specific search terms. Phrases beginning with who, what, where and how already represent a significant portion of the voice search queries and are only growing. With technology advancing and voice search becoming more precise, the estimates of a 50% increase in utilization are sure to be true.

Voice Search and Commands

(Image Source: The Daily Egg)

2.) Brands and Effective Search Marketing

SEO and brand marketing truly work hand in hand. I had the great privilege of sitting in on a Q&A panel of experienced SEOs from Avis, The Home Depot, Morgan Stanley and more. They stressed that effective SEO increases the user experience of your site and gives them an incentive to visit again. It cannot be mentioned enough that quality content, ranging from written content to imagery and graphics, will increase your visibility and conversion rates significantly. New technology and powerful search platforms (such as Google, Siri, Amazon Echo etc.) have given the power back to the consumer. Brands are no longer telling consumers what they should buy, but the consumer is telling brands what they want to buy. To be relevant in today’s digital landscape, a brand must constantly create new content and improve the user experience.

3.) The Future of SEO

Aaron Levy, Manager of Client Strategy at Elite SEM, provided some great insight into the future of search engine marketing in his presentation titled “A Brave New World: Adjusting to SEM for 2017.” He touched on everything from 2016 trends that will be fading away to the importance of maintaining content to go across multiple platforms. SEO has changed a great deal since its birth nearly 20 years ago and it won’t stop now. We began by stuffing keywords into every sentence that would allow it, linking to any and every site and putting optimization of content over quality. The ideology has since completely shifted and now places content quality and the user experience first. So where do we see SEO going? Nearly 70% of the world’s population owns a mobile device and that number is increasing every day. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are a new concept that increases page speeds to be almost instantaneous. Voice search platforms like Siri, Google Voice and the Amazon’s Alexa allow people to verbalize what they are looking for. In other words, mobile search is increasing at an impressive rate and brands need to continuously innovate and adapt. Balancing effective content optimization across multiple platforms will likely be the next challenge facing SEOs around the world.

After spending three days with some of the country’s top SEOs, I was able to walk away with plenty to think about. The above takeaways have helped to reaffirm the strategies that our team brings to the hotels enrolled in our program.

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Posted by on Sep 29, 2015 in All Matters SEO, Conference Recaps

Why Google is a Giant Popularity Contest

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend SearchLove San Diego, one of the top SEO conferences held annually. Over the course of two days, I learned exciting new tactics and trends in the world of search. One of the things that resonated with me was that Google’s complex and ever-evolving algorithm is really one giant popularity contest.

If you thought being popular was not necessary after high school…you’re wrong. In order for a hotel’s website to rank on Google search result pages, it needs to be popular.

While not actually having been popular myself in high school, through years of observation I have noticed that popular people are well-liked, talked about and are constantly interacting with admirers. Your hotel and hotel website must also meet these criteria online in order to rank in search engines.

People talk about you.

The online space is full of people talking about their favorite topics. They often share a hyperlink to friends on social media or to their readers on blogs and websites that support their message. When another website hyperlinks to your hotel website, (like I do here to the first hotel I ever worked at, the Washington Marriott Wardman Park), Google recognizes this as an inbound link to your hotel website. When relevant and quality websites (local newspapers, travel blogs, the “Hotels Nearby” page of a university, etc.) link to your website, Google knows that your hotel’s website is a popular and trusted destination.

The value of links has declined over the years as Google’s algorithm has become more advanced, but in the words that SEO royalty and the Wizard of MOZ, Rank Fishkin, stated in his keynote speech at SearchLove, “links still matter.” For ideas on finding quality links for your hotel website, check out my colleague Charles Pollard’s blog post.

People like you.

Popular people are well liked, and popular websites are liked by internet users. In his presentation at SearchLove, Will Critchlow, Founder and CEO of Distilled, recommended to create optimized content for what would happen if you did rank. To do this, think as a user would, “when I click, do I like what I see and do I get what I want?” If a link to your hotel website ranks in Google when a user searches “luxury hotel in San Diego,” will the user initially think your website is relevant or promising enough to click on? If the user gets to your website, do you have great content and amazing imagery that shows why your hotel is a “luxury hotel in San Diego?” Does the user get the information he/she wants in order to book a room at a “luxury hotel in San Diego?” If the answer is no to any of these questions, your website will have a hard time making it to first place on the search engine results page. When a website ranks in the search results and either users don’t click on it or click and bounce right back to the search results, Google can infer that people don’t like the website (or at least for that particular search query). Google has no reason to rank websites people don’t like and aren’t popular.

People visit you.

One way Google can recognize that your hotel is popular and that guests are visiting your hotel is through reviews. In David Mihm’s presentation on Local Search, he highlighted that reviews are one factor for being visible in local search results. Being present on a diverse set of authoritative review platforms and having a decent amount of guest reviews (depending to your location and the review platform) shows Google that you are a credible and popular local business. Reviews reflect that guests are visiting your physical location and are engaging with your business online.

If you want your hotel to rank better in the search engines, start working on your popularity. Get quality inbound links, ensure your website has amazing content and continue to monitor and optimize the hotel’s profile on the various review platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook.Google Logo

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Posted by on Sep 9, 2014 in All Matters SEO, Conference Recaps

MozCon Recap #3: What You Need To Know

In the ever-changing world of digital, keeping up the latest industry updates can be a daunting task. I was blown away by the amount information presented at this year’s MozCon. To showcase the best of the conference, I created the below visual to highlight my favorite takeaways from the various content marketing, keyword strategy, local SEO and user experience presentations. Interested in learning more? Chat up your MDS Account Manager!

Mozcon Recap_RB_Final

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