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Last week, reports surfaced suggesting the possibility that Google has made changes to local map results.

As detailed by Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz, in the past week numerous individuals in the SEO community reported seeing compression in the local map pack results. One SEO who was monitoring results for clients observed “massive compression”:

In many tested areas (legal, dog boarding, photographers) we were seeing 4+ pages of map search results — now seeing one page (two at most).

Seems like centroids have increased as well – and its different for different business types. For example, “family photographers austin” results stop at the city line (results last week included suburbs and surrounding towns. But “wedding photographers austin” takes in the whole Austin DMA.

Others reported observing similar behavior, which, if put into practice more widely, could help some businesses and hurt others.

new-pack-ad

For example, one SEO commented, “I am seeing it here as well and while for my clients that have multiple locations across the city, its great, but for clients who have one location and get business from all over the city, its hurting them in a big big way!” He added, “Just because a business has more locations doesn’t mean they should be the ones showing up in the majority of searches.”

Obviously, Google might beg to differ. After all, Google’s goal is to deliver the most relevant results to its users, a growing number of whom are accessing Google from mobile devices.

To the extent that it can reliably deliver highly-relevant, hyperlocal results personalized to specific users based on their current locations, there’s arguably no reason for Google not to. This is especially true given that, as of last year, Google’s local map pack only displays three results instead of seven.

That change made optimization even more important for local marketers.

Hyperlocal’s impact on strategy

While it remains to be seen whether or not the results observed in recent days are a result of experimentation or permanent, larger changes, they are a reminder of the fact that local businesses compete in a dynamic online marketplace that constantly requires them to reevaluate their strategies and tactics.

Optimization is no doubt and important part of that process, but an even greater hyperlocal push by Google highlights why alternative and emerging channels will probably grow in importance to local marketers in coming years.

Al Roberts is a staff writer for ClickZ and SEW

Related reading

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SEO should be the cornerstone of any site migration strategy. SEOs need to get in on the action from the word go, to safeguard our most important asset.

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Both technology and automation play a huge role in the digital marketing space. Paid search and social functionality is more complex than ever, the number of platforms and networks that need to be managed is constantly expanding and clients are demanding deeper analysis and insights. These convergent dynamics put a strain on the account manager’s ability to efficiently manage accounts.

The right technology provides the ability to automate routine tasks and solve complex problems quickly, which frees up account managers to focus more on strategic planning and exploring new growth opportunities.

Defining automation requirements

The difficult part about automating a PPC account is figuring out where to begin. How do we determine what to automate, and how do we identify the right set of technologies for the job?

The first step in the process of answering this question is fully understanding what an account’s goals are (or should be). You can find out this information through business download meetings, comprehensive data analysis, industry analysis and account audits. Once you’ve clearly defined goals, you must devise a strategy to reach those goals.

A clear strategy brings into focus the types of tasks that need to be completed and the kinds of technologies and automations needed to execute it. Below is an example of how I determined the automations needed to reach goals for an account I manage.

The account has a cost-per-lead goal of $200. Our optimizations primarily consist of pausing non-converting spend, adjusting bids either up or down depending on individual keyword performance, analysis of search query reports for negative matches and analysis of placement reports to identify non-performing sites to exclude.

We complete these optimizations on varying schedules ranging from daily to monthly. Because the account is so large, it takes a ton of time to manually complete these routine tasks and takes away from working on higher-impact growth initiatives.

Based on the above information, we were able to implement a comprehensive set of automation rules to manage standard account optimizations. Here’s a sampling of some of the rules we set:

  • Pause all keywords spending more than $300 without a conversion over the past 30 days.
  • Pause all ad groups spending more than $300 without a conversion over the past 30 days.
  • Reduce bids 25 percent on all keywords with a greater than $500 cost per acquisition over the past 30 days.
  • Exclude all placements with 0 conversions and more than 25 clicks.
  • Pause queries with 0 conversions and more than $300 in spend.

Any automation we put in place should directly support the outcome that we’re trying to achieve. Automation rules that aren’t in alignment with overall account strategy can lead to poor performance. Carefully think through any automation plan, and consider both the benefits and risks before implementing.

What kind of technology should I use?

The answer to this question is, “It depends.” There are dozens of technology solutions on the market, ranging from reporting platforms to bid management solutions to technology that automates creative testing.

Additionally, the advertising platforms themselves offer automated bid management functionality and provide the ability to pause keywords, ad groups and campaigns, based on specifically defined criteria. You can even set up scripts in Google that allow for paid search accounts to be integrated into an organization’s inventory or CRM system.

Budget and account size certainly play a large part in deciding whether to utilize a third-party technology solution or free tools the advertising platforms offer. It’s important to weigh cost vs. time saved in order to focus on big strategic initiatives.

At Hanapin, we utilize a reporting tool called NinjaCat. This reporting tool automatically pulls spend from a variety of advertising platforms and other associated account data such as clicks, impressions and click-through rate. The tool allows you to create dashboards and KPI graphs that track performance vs. your goal(s). It’s well worth the monetary investment, because automating data collection (rather than compiling it manually) frees up account managers to focus on taking action in accounts.

When deciding whether to use paid technology vs. a less powerful free tool, I use the following criteria:

  • Can free automation tools help me meet account goals and execute strategy effectively?
  • Do paid tools offer me functionality that provides deeper performance insights that I can’t get from free tools?
  • Will I save a significant amount of time with a free tool, above and beyond what I would save by using a paid tool?

Having a defined criteria for when to use technology will make it easier to decide whether or not it’s worthwhile to invest in technology.

Final thoughts

You should deploy technology primarily to quickly and efficiently execute strategy and reach goals. Too often, automation is narrowly viewed as a shortcut to reducing workload. While it’s important to make workloads more efficient, it’s more important not to lose sight of the big picture, which is improving account performance.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Jeff Baum is a seasoned PPC advertising professional with Hanapin Marketing. He has a 12 year track record of success in digital advertising. He has developed and implemented strategies to substantially grow revenue and profits for a variety of lead generation and e-commerce businesses. He has also been responsible and accountable for managing hundreds of thousands of dollars in PPC advertising spend per month. Jeff is a recurring writer for Hanapin’s blog, PPC Hero, and also manages Hanapin’s RWE (Remote Work Environment) program.

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template_editorial_reporting

We all have the best of intentions to communicate regularly with our teams about what content is working well in editorial. Yet, too often those intentions become overwhelmed by the day-to-day activities.

A systematic approach to editorial reporting, however, can make action possible. And after all, we know that a documented content marketing strategy enables content marketing programs to be more effective. Imagine what a documented editorial reporting plan could do for your team.

I’ll admit that I was as guilty as the next person who leads a content team. While I talk regularly with everyone on our CMI team, my formal updates on our content progress were hit or miss.

Enter my new, systematic editorial update. It’s a Google Slides presentation that details our key metrics – and more importantly, explains how the team can use every piece of data to take action. A work in progress, this collaborative document answers the editorial team’s questions while keeping me accountable.

From my perspective, having a structure on how to report progress has saved me time, and I’ll be more easily able to track trends month over month.

Notes and cheat sheet

Before we dig into specifics, here are a few things to consider as well as a quick checklist of the data for your reference:

  • I don’t include data for the sake of reporting data. Each slide includes an orange box that explains how I use this data.
  • I don’t want everybody on the team to have to go to five sources to get the information they need. Each slide includes a source line so everyone knows where the data originated.
  • I am considering two versions of this update — one for the editorial team who likes a lot of details, and a shorter, simpler version for other company teams so they can understand trends. Right now, I use a single presentation for all.
  • While you can use this as a template, you need to customize for what is important to your team.
  • In general, I look at year-over-year performance instead of month over month to account for the varying number of days per month (e.g., it’s easy for March numbers to surpass February’s because March has two or three more days) and seasonality (e.g., our numbers always dip over the December holidays).
  • Make your update as “cookie cutter” as possible so someone (who is not you) can help collect the data. Of course, you need to add the analysis.

With that, I present our template for the editorial status (special thanks to creative director, Joseph Kalinowski, who designed this template.) If you want to save a copy to customize:

  • Go to File > Make a Copy and save it as a new Google Slide presentation.
  • Go to File > Download As > Microsoft PowerPoint to save it as a PowerPoint presentation.

CMI-Editorial-Status-Report

Below is a quick look at what to consider including in your editorial status report. Read further down for more details of each.

WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR EDITORIAL CHECKLIST

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Click to enlarge

Update on primary goals

The initial slide should include an update on the main goals for your content marketing program. What impact do you want your content efforts to have on your business? (Understanding what success means is a key differentiator between effective marketers and their less effective peers.) For CMI, these are things like email subscribers, CCO subscribers, event registrants, and CMI University students.

How to use this data: Even though your editorial may not directly impact all of these goals, it is helpful to have these metrics front and center so people are thinking about how the content they create will impact these goals.

How to get this data: This will depend on what goals you are tracking and what systems you are using. (A lame answer, I know, but it gets much more specific as you read on.)

Top blog posts by traffic

These are the blog posts of the reporting month that get the highest amount of traffic on the website.

How to use this data: High traffic can be an indicator of topics the audience is interested in and/or popular authors. We also review these posts to make sure they are optimized.

How to get this data:

Google Analytics > Overview > Behavior Flow > Site Content

BONUS TIP: On a quarterly basis, I run this analysis for top blog posts that weren’t published in that month as well as our static web pages. I want to make sure these perennially popular pages are getting regular tune-ups.

Also, ask are there opportunities to link to this high-performing content? And what are people clicking once they are on these pages?

Conversion champion posts

Conversion champions are posts that convert better than other posts. Of course, conversion will mean different things to you, but at CMI, we track new email subscribers.

How to use this data: If you track just one piece of data per month, this would be it. While it’s interesting to see what posts are getting traffic and social shares, what really helps reach your goals?

At CMI, we prioritize posts based on re-sharing on social because they are great candidates to add to high-traffic pages.

How to get this data: How you get this info varies, and it will likely require some manual work. For a great explanation, see No. 2 in this post from CMW speaker Andy Crestodina: 3 Internal Linking Strategies for SEO and Conversions.

Top pages by traffic

These are the website pages (not posts) that get the highest amount of traffic. While these pages are unlikely to change from month to month, these are key to your tracking to keep them on everyone’s mind.

How to use this data: The editorial team pays close attention to these pages to answer:

  • How are bounce rates trending? Are people sticking or leaving from these pages?
  • Are there opportunities to link to high-performing content? (See conversion champion category above.)
  • What are people clicking on once they are on these pages?

How to get this data: Google Analytics > Overview > Behavior Flow > Site Content

Overview of traffic by channels

I like to look at how traffic is coming to the website by channels. I use the same breakdown that is presented in Google Analytics:

  • Organic search
  • Direct
  • Email
  • Social
  • Referral
  • Other

How to use this data: The channel report is interesting for a few reasons:

  • It helps you focus your promotion efforts. If certain channels are bringing in the bulk of the traffic, focus on those.
  • You can look at year-over-year trends to see how your efforts are helping. For instance, are any sources seeing a drop in traffic? If so, why may this be?
  • Organic search traffic is typically traffic coming from older content whereas email traffic (and often traffic from social) is likely a better indicator of how your most recent content is performing.

Of course, many organizations, including CMI, have marketing teams that play a huge hand in the success of their content so this data is not something specific to editorial.

How to get this data: Google Analytics > Overview > All Traffic > Channels

Top posts on social shares

While I don’t think social-sharing metrics are all that critical, it is interesting to see which posts are shared most on which networks – so team members can continue to share specific posts that perform well on those platforms.

How to use this data: Lisa Dougherty, who manages our blog, shares our top posts with the team each month. While these updates had focused more generally on top posts, she is now calling out which posts are most widely shared on which social network so our team can customize what they share where.

How to get this data: If you have collected social metrics, you know that they vary from source to source (what you see on your website is likely different than what is reported in BuzzSumo or TrackMaven, for instance.) Instead of focusing on the absolute number, pick one source of truth and then track the relative performance.

BONUS TIP: Use one slide per social channel to give people on your team details on what to share on the proper channel.

Top posts via email

I also started looking at which posts are getting the most traffic from our daily and weekly emails.

How to use this data: Email is a key channel for us at CMI, so in addition to tracking how much traffic is getting to the site via email in general, it’s useful to see if any types of posts are resonating especially well with our subscribers.

How to get this data: Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Email
NOTE: Primary dimension needs to be Landing Page.

BONUS TIP: You can track which pages are getting the most traffic from organic search, but this often does not make much sense on a monthly basis as it takes time for posts to generate search volume.

Subscription offers

If you are getting email subscribers through gated offers, how are these people coming into the system?

How to use this data: The editorial team can see gated offers are most effective and use in blog post links and calls to action.

How to get this data: This will vary depending on your systems.

BONUS TIP: If your gated offers aren’t drawing as many subscribers as you would like, consider making them freely accessible on something like SlideShare.

Analysis

Once we curate all of the data, the fun part begins. I analyze all of the data and look for trends on topics and themes that our audience is interested in. I report on a few things:

  • What trends are we seeing this month? Are these new or a continuation of what we have been seeing?
  • Are any authors performing really well?
  • What isn’t working so well? (We recently added this category. While I hesitated to call out the poor performers, it is good for everyone to know and learn from.)

Other ideas

Of course, your editorial status can also include other things pertinent to your team. For instance, our status also includes:

  • Current and upcoming projects: As part of the monthly editorial update, we include a quick run-down of any major changes or projects coming down the pike so the team is in the loop.
  • Top Click to Tweets: In the past several months, we started including Click-to-Tweets in our posts, which is a widget we use to call out tweets that readers can easily share with one click. Are these worth the time and what type of tweets are tweeted most often? We also consider where these tweets were placed in the post. Do the first tweets get tweeted most often?
  • Keywords to consider for posts: Our SEO consultant, Mike Murray, gives us a monthly update of how our search is trending. As part of this report, he provides suggestions for keywords we may want to consider creating content for as a way to round out our editorial.

I’d love your thoughts. Is this useful? What types of information do you include in your status?

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post A Template to Simplify Your Editorial Reporting  appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

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