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AMP'd Up for Recaptcha

Beyond search Google controls the leading distributed ad network, the leading mobile OS, the leading web browser, the leading email client, the leading web analytics platform, the leading mapping platform, the leading free video hosting site.

They win a lot.

And they take winnings from one market & leverage them into manipulating adjacent markets.

Embrace. Extend. Extinguish.

AMP is an utterly unnecessary invention designed to further shift power to Google while disenfranchising publishers. From the very start it had many issues with basic things like supporting JavaScript, double counting unique users (no reason to fix broken stats if they drive adoption!), not supporting third party ad networks, not showing publisher domain names, and just generally being a useless layer of sunk cost technical overhead that provides literally no real value.

Over time they have corrected some of these catastrophic deficiencies, but if it provided real value, they wouldn’t have needed to force adoption with preferential placement in their search results. They force the bundling because AMP sucks.

Absurdity knows no bounds. Googlers suggest: “AMP isn’t another “channel” or “format” that’s somehow not the web. It’s not a SEO thing. It’s not a replacement for HTML. It’s a web component framework that can power your whole site. … We, the AMP team, want AMP to become a natural choice for modern web development of content websites, and for you to choose AMP as framework because it genuinely makes you more productive.”

Meanwhile some newspapers have about a dozen employees who work on re-formatting content for AMP:

The AMP development team now keeps track of whether AMP traffic drops suddenly, which might indicate pages are invalid, and it can react quickly.

All this adds expense, though. There are setup, development and maintenance costs associated with AMP, mostly in the form of time. After implementing AMP, the Guardian realized the project needed dedicated staff, so it created an 11-person team that works on AMP and other aspects of the site, drawing mostly from existing staff.

Feeeeeel the productivity!

Some content types (particularly user generated content) can be unpredictable & circuitous. For many years forums websites would use keywords embedded in the search referral to highlight relevant parts of the page. Keyword (not provided) largely destroyed that & then it became a competitive feature for AMP: “If the Featured Snippet links to an AMP article, Google will sometimes automatically scroll users to that section and highlight the answer in orange.”

That would perhaps be a single area where AMP was more efficient than the alternative. But it is only so because Google destroyed the alternative by stripping keyword referrers from search queries.

The power dynamics of AMP are ugly:

“I see them as part of the effort to normalise the use of the AMP Carousel, which is an anti-competitive land-grab for the web by an organisation that seems to have an insatiable appetite for consuming the web, probably ultimately to it’s own detriment. … This enables Google to continue to exist after the destination site (eg the New York Times) has been navigated to. Essentially it flips the parent-child relationship to be the other way around. … As soon as a publisher blesses a piece of content by packaging it (they have to opt in to this, but see coercion below), they totally lose control of its distribution. … I’m not that smart, so it’s surely possible to figure out other ways of making a preload possible without cutting off the content creator from the people consuming their content. … The web is open and decentralised. We spend a lot of time valuing the first of these concepts, but almost none trying to defend the second. Google knows, perhaps better than anyone, how being in control of the user is the most monetisable position, and having the deepest pockets and the most powerful platform to do so, they have very successfully inserted themselves into my relationship with millions of other websites. … In AMP, the support for paywalls is based on a recommendation that the premium content be included in the source of the page regardless of the user’s authorisation state. … These policies demonstrate contempt for others’ right to freely operate their businesses.

After enough publishers adopted AMP Google was able to turn their mobile app’s homepage into an interactive news feed below the search box. And inside that news feed Google gets to distribute MOAR ads while 0% of the revenue from those ads find its way to the publishers whose content is used to make up the feed.

Appropriate appropriation. 😀

Thank you for your content!!!

The mainstream media is waking up to AMP being a trap, but their neck is already in it:

European and American tech, media and publishing companies, including some that originally embraced AMP, are complaining that the Google-backed technology, which loads article pages in the blink of an eye on smartphones, is cementing the search giant’s dominance on the mobile web.

Each additional layer of technical cruft is another cost center. Things that sound appealing at first blush may not be:

The way you verify your identity to Let’s Encrypt is the same as with other certificate authorities: you don’t really. You place a file somewhere on your website, and they access that file over plain HTTP to verify that you own the website. The one attack that signed certificates are meant to prevent is a man-in-the-middle attack. But if someone is able to perform a man-in-the-middle attack against your website, then he can intercept the certificate verification, too. In other words, Let’s Encrypt certificates don’t stop the one thing they’re supposed to stop. And, as always with the certificate authorities, a thousand murderous theocracies, advertising companies, and international spy organizations are allowed to impersonate you by design.

Anything that is easy to implement & widely marketed often has costs added to it in the future as the entity moves to monetize the service.

This is a private equity firm buying up multiple hosting control panels & then adjusting prices.

This is Google Maps drastically changing their API terms.

This is Facebook charging you for likes to build an audience, giving your competitors access to those likes as an addressable audience to advertise against, and then charging you once more to boost the reach of your posts.

This is Grubhub creating shadow websites on your behalf and charging you for every transaction created by the gravity of your brand.

Shivane believes GrubHub purchased her restaurant’s web domain to prevent her from building her own online presence. She also believes the company may have had a special interest in owning her name because she processes a high volume of orders. … it appears GrubHub has set up several generic, templated pages that look like real restaurant websites but in fact link only to GrubHub. These pages also display phone numbers that GrubHub controls. The calls are forwarded to the restaurant, but the platform records each one and charges the restaurant a commission fee for every order

Settling for the easiest option drives a lack of differentiation, embeds additional risk & once the dominant player has enough marketshare they’ll change the terms on you.

Small gains in short term margins for massive increases in fragility.

“Closed platforms increase the chunk size of competition & increase the cost of market entry, so people who have good ideas, it is a lot more expensive for their productivity to be monetized. They also don’t like standardization … it looks like rent seeking behaviors on top of friction” – Gabe Newell

The other big issue is platforms that run out of growth space in their core market may break integrations with adjacent service providers as each want to grow by eating the other’s market.

Those who look at SaaS business models through the eyes of a seasoned investor will better understand how markets are likely to change:

“I’d argue that many of today’s anointed tech “disruptors” are doing little in the way of true disruption. … When investors used to get excited about a SAAS company, they typically would be describing a hosted multi-tenant subscription-billed piece of software that was replacing a ‘legacy’ on-premise perpetual license solution in the same target market (i.e. ERP, HCM, CRM, etc.). Today, the terms SAAS and Cloud essentially describe the business models of every single public software company.

Most platform companies are initially required to operate at low margins in order to buy growth of their category & own their category. Then when they are valued on that, they quickly need to jump across to adjacent markets to grow into the valuation:

Twilio has no choice but to climb up the application stack. This is a company whose ‘disruption’ is essentially great API documentation and gangbuster SEO spend built on top of a highly commoditized telephony aggregation API. They have won by marketing to DevOps engineers. With all the hype around them, you’d think Twilio invented the telephony API, when in reality what they did was turn it into a product company. Nobody had thought of doing this let alone that this could turn into a $17 billion company because simply put the economics don’t work. And to be clear they still don’t. But Twilio’s genius CEO clearly gets this. If the market is going to value robocalls, emergency sms notifications, on-call pages, and carrier fee passed through related revenue growth in the same way it does ‘subscription’ revenue from Atlassian or ServiceNow, then take advantage of it while it lasts.

Large platforms offering temporary subsidies to ensure they dominate their categories & companies like SoftBank spraying capital across the markets is causing massive shifts in valuations:

I also think if you look closely at what is celebrated today as innovation you often find models built on hidden subsidies. … I’d argue the very distributed nature of microservices architecture and API-first product companies means addressable market sizes and unit economics assumptions should be even more carefully scrutinized. … How hard would it be to create an Alibaba today if someone like SoftBank was raining money into such a greenfield space? Excess capital would lead to destruction and likely subpar returns. If capital was the solution, the 1.5 trillion that went into telcos in late ’90s wouldn’t have led to a massive bust. Would a Netflix be what it is today if a SoftBank was pouring billions into streaming content startups right as the experiment was starting? Obviously not. Scarcity of capital is another often underappreciated part of the disruption equation. Knowing resources are finite leads to more robust models. … This convergence is starting to manifest itself in performance. Disney is up 30% over the last 12 months while Netflix is basically flat. This may not feel like a bubble sign to most investors, but from my standpoint, it’s a clear evidence of the fact that we are approaching a something has got to give moment for the way certain businesses are valued.”

Circling back to Google’s AMP, it has a cousin called Recaptcha.

Recaptcha is another AMP-like trojan horse:

According to tech statistics website Built With, more than 650,000 websites are already using reCaptcha v3; overall, there are at least 4.5 million websites use reCaptcha, including 25% of the top 10,000 sites. Google is also now testing an enterprise version of reCaptcha v3, where Google creates a customized reCaptcha for enterprises that are looking for more granular data about users’ risk levels to protect their site algorithms from malicious users and bots. … According to two security researchers who’ve studied reCaptcha, one of the ways that Google determines whether you’re a malicious user or not is whether you already have a Google cookie installed on your browser. … To make this risk-score system work accurately, website administrators are supposed to embed reCaptcha v3 code on all of the pages of their website, not just on forms or log-in pages.

About a month ago when logging into Bing Ads I saw recaptcha on the login page & couldn’t believe they’d give Google control at that access point. I think they got rid of that, but lots of companies are perhaps shooting themselves in the foot through a combination of over-reliance on Google infrastructure AND sloppy implementation

Today when making a purchase on Fiverr, after converting, I got some of this action

Hmm. Maybe I will enable JavaScript and try again.

Oooops.

That is called snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

My account is many years old. My payment type on record has been used for years. I have ordered from the particular seller about a dozen times over the years. And suddenly because my web browser had JavaScript turned off I was deemed a security risk of some sort for making an utterly ordinary transaction I have already completed about a dozen times.

On AMP JavaScript was the devil. And on desktop not JavaScript was the devil.

Pro tip: Ecommerce websites that see substandard conversion rates from using Recaptcha can boost their overall ecommerce revenue by buying more Google AdWords ads.

As more of the infrastructure stack is driven by AI software there is going to be a very real opportunity for many people to become deplatformed across the web on an utterly arbitrary basis. That tech companies like Facebook also want to create digital currencies on top of the leverage they already have only makes the proposition that much scarier.

If the tech platforms host copies of our sites, process the transactions & even create their own currencies, how will we know what level of value they are adding versus what they are extracting?

Who measures the measurer?

And when the economics turn negative, what will we do if we are hooked into an ecosystem we can’t spend additional capital to get out of when things head south?

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How to Work Remotely Without Going Crazy

A woman shaking her head so that her long hair covers her face. Looks a bit crazy.

This is a contribution by Ronald Wolf. Ron got most of his experience from consulting web design and SEO companies like GWM.

I added line breaks, text formatting and clarified some points, especially the last paragraph. Ron approved the changes.

Many of us regard 9 to 5 office jobs as pure hell and dream of working remotely. It seems like a dream come true –

  • you can establish your own working hours
  • you can design your own working surroundings
  • and – most importantly – you can work from everywhere in the world.

But is it really that simple? Working without the strains of office cubicles and the need to punch the clock requires self-discipline, and we all know that this isn’t the most common characteristic.

Working remotely doesn’t mean you don’t have a boss anymore and there are some challenges you’ll have to face along the way.

Taking this path also has its rules. They seem quite simple, but they are not that easy to accomplish as they seem.

When you are someone who is used to having a boss breading down your neck, getting the work done remotely could make you crazy.

 

Whenever

This is the number one common mistake: the fact that you were productive in the office doesn’t mean you’re gonna stay productive at home.

Now that you don’t have strict working hours it may seem that you can work whenever you want. This is where the problem starts – when do we actually want to work?

This is how your productivity decreases, and in the end, you’ll be forcing yourself to get the job done which will make the task even harder.

It will seem to you that you have even less time for yourself than you had it while working in the office.

It’s a contradiction that will certainly make you crazy after some time. To avoid that, you need to make your own working schedule, and you need to stick to it.

At the beginning, it’s good to keep the same working hours you had in the office and then to slowly adapt them to your own needs. Contrary to the popular belief, this is not an easy transition!

You will need time to make it function. You need to find the time of the day when you feel most productive and make the most of it.

Only after you establish your own individual schedule you will be able to make exceptions and enjoy fully deserved freedom.

 

Wherever

This second most common mistake affects your productivity through the lack of concentration. Even when you’re alone it can be hard to focus.

Everybody is trying to escape from depressing office cubicles, but working from your comfortable couch at home is going to make it hard for you to focus on the tasks at hand.

There are various distractions inside everybody’s home – family obligations (especially when you have kids), pets, the temptation to turn on the TV, etc.

The constant lure of distractions is why you need to set up a working space in your home that will become your new office.

You need a place where you can shut the door behind you to fully dedicate yourself to the work that needs to be done.

You should carefully consider which part of your home is most suitable to become an office.

Soft furniture in which you can ‛sink in’ is not the best solution because you don’t want to fall asleep in the middle of your work. Also your back will hurt after a few hours.

You need an organized desk and a firm chair (which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a comfortable one). Get rid of all distraction along with a TV set (unless your line of work requires it).

Having a broad window and a lot of natural light is always a plus, but a view can sometimes be distracting as well.

In case you happen to work in a seaside town during the peak of the summer, it would be a smart move to pull the shades down.

And the last thing – dress up for the occasion. You’re not in an office so you don’t need a suit and a tie, but you’re not supposed to spend an entire day in your pajamas, either.

Get up and get dressed properly. This way you won’t fall into a temptation to remain in your bed with a laptop in your lap.

 

Whatever

This is not even a mistake, this is a pure delusion. There are some jobs that are impossible to be done by working remotely. Trying to get them done this way can only drive you completely crazy.

It’s understandable that everyone would like to travel the world and work while doing it, but first, you need to make sure you’ve got the right job for that.

The second thing is that you can’t just sit at home (or a beach) and do everything that falls into your hands. Even when you’re working in the office you need to ‛fight’ for your assignments.

It’s not a secret that there is a competition between co-workers, especially today when no job position is safe and it’s becoming more difficult to stand out.

When you’re working remotely you have no insight into the activities of your colleagues and you’re practically left in the dark in many cases.

The further you are from the office, the more your professional visibility decreases. People might even completely forget about you and your skills.

Every established company is advised to highlight personal strengths of every employee on their website and frequently update them.

Potential customers may not be able to meet you in the office so they need to be able to meet you online – out of sight is out of mind.

 

Thank you to Chris King, Bill Marshal and Andrew Akesson for helping me with the crazy headline!

 

The post How to Work Remotely Without Going Crazy appeared first on SEO 2.0.

Platform Independent Online Publishing

A wood platform on the beach which is already under water.

Platform independence is a term known from programming. It’s not solely about software though. In reality it matters for website owners and online publishers as well.

In practice platform independent programming means that a piece of software does not depend on a certain browser, plug in or operating system.

Dependence on a single platform can make or break a business.

At a certain point in time platform dependence might seem the right way to go – think Google optimization today.  In the long run being dependent on a single service is a recipe for disaster.

Need an example? By now we see that some websites only “support” Google Chrome – the currently market dominant browser. They don’t work or are buggy on Firefox.

History is repeating. When Microsoft dominated the browser market with Internet Explorer many sites only worked on IE. It was a short-sighted decision as we know by now.

 

When gatekeepers close the gate or walled gardens degenerate

Any business person that has lost a substantial part of its visitors and revenue due to a Google penalty or tweak in the Google algo knows what I am talking about.

People who relied on Facebook and have seen organic traffic turn into a trickle for no apparent reason other than to make room for ads know it too.

In 2018 many publishers cried foul when Facebook – many of them depended upon for traffic – announced a major algorithm change to remove their pages from people’s feeds.

Platform dependency on Google is still common.

In countries like the UK, France or Germany where Google is the de facto search engine monopoly many people readily give up on their freedom by relying on Google traffic and ads.

On social media this situation gets even worse. Many legit social media participants create power accounts on sites like

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+

just to discover that they have been banned. I have also seen all kinds of legit users being axed for various reasons on social media sites. Other sites simply disappear due to

  • bankruptcy
  • acquisition
  • negligence.

Marketers (of course!) but also bloggers and even activists are often affected. Facebook has even banned gay-rights activists for not using their real names.

You have no rights whatsoever on social media sites. They can ban you on their whim. Being angry about it does not make sense. You have to prepare yourself for that.

Leaving for another “next big thing” service will only help temporarily.

At first startups innovate and grow backed by “venture capital” but sooner or later they have to squeeze out their user base.

Making money online from third party content and connections still largely amount to ads. These sites have to be squeaky clean to attract advertisers. You may not fit in anymore. Think Tumblr!

 

How to play by your own rules

How to prepare yourself for being platform independent in times when only a few sites seem to control everything, both in search as well as on social media?

  • Make sure to collect your contacts internally, that is using CRM software or similar tools.
  • Make sure to (be able to) connect with your peers using tools like Email, Skype etc. and NOT by using internal social media sites systems.
  • Make sure not to publish solely on third party sites like Blogger, WordPress.com, Facebook, Twitter or Medium but make sure to have your own self hosted blog.
  • Make sure to have several major traffic sources, especially focusing on returning visitors and subscribers.
  • Make sure to brand yourself as a person or business. When people know you by name they will proactively search for you and seek you out.
  • Make sure not to rely on solely one ad provider, especially Google ads but try to get several revenue streams.

While I attempted to become independent from Google with this blog I failed to practice truly platform independent online publishing.

In order to stay independent for good you need to build your won audience using tools you control yourself. Feeds or mail have been such tools for a while.

Now Google even controls the inboxes of the global population through Gmail.

I invested much time and effort in some platforms like Google+ that either failed to become mainstream or that made it but throttle organic reach to sell more ads.

 

Connecting on your own terms

From now on I want to learn from my own mistakes and connect with my peers in a platform independent way.

Contact me by mail or comment below this post here so that we can connect independently of gatekeepers and walled gardens.

You can also tell me your favorite way of communication in case you prefer another channel. Tell me who you are and how can I contact you in future independently from any social site.

Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc
. are great tools but they own you. They own your content. They control your connections. They decide what you see and what not.

There is even a popular term for the sad state of the Web. We call it the “filter bubble” where you only get shown what the algorithms chooses for you based on your past interactions.

First published: September 14th, 2009. Last updated: January 26th, 2018. I completely overhauled the post without diluting the message.

 

The post Platform Independent Online Publishing appeared first on SEO 2.0.

Internet Wayback Machine Adds Historical TextDiff

The Wayback Machine has a cool new feature for looking at the historical changes of a web page.

The color scale shows how much a page has changed since it was last cached & you can select between any two documents to see how a page has changed over time.

You can then select between any two documents to see a side-by-side comparison of the documents.

That quickly gives you an at-a-glance view of how they’ve changed their:

  • web design
  • on-page SEO strategy
  • marketing copy & sales strategy

For sites that conduct seasonal sales & rely heavily on holiday themed ads you can also look up the new & historical ad copy used by large advertisers using tools like Moat, WhatRunsWhere & Adbeat.

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SEO Basics: How to start with SEO?

You’ve had this great idea. You’ve built this amazing website. And then, you want that website to attract visitors! You want to be found! What to do? How do you get started with SEO? How do you start with SEO on a brand new site? In this blog post, I’ll talk you through the 7 steps you need to take in order to get your SEO strategy up and running. 

So, you’ve started your first site and you want it to be found, so you can share your thoughts and views with the world. What to do? Let’s go through the steps of starting with SEO!

  1. Install Yoast SEO

    Provided that your website is on WordPress, installing Yoast SEO should be the first step in your SEO strategy. Our Yoast SEO plugin will help you to make sure your website is crawlable and findable. Yoast SEO will immediately take care of some technical SEO issues, just by being installed on your website. Besides that, our plugin will help you to construct your website in such a way that Google will understand and rank it. We offer a free and a premium plugin. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably won’t need our premium version yet, although it can already save you some valuable time.

  2. Get that first link

    Google needs to know your website exists. And, in order for Google to know about your awesome new site, you need at least one external link towards your site. The reason for this: Google crawls the web. It follows links and saves all the webpages it finds in a very large database called the index. So, if you want to get into that index, you need (at least) one external link. So make sure to get that link from an external website!

  3. What do you want to rank for?

    Make sure to attract the right audience to your website. Who are your customers? For whom did you build this website? What terms do your customers use when searching on Google? Find out as much as you can about your audience.

    SEOs refer to this stage as doing your keyword research. This is a hard and important phase. There are a lot of helpful tools that make doing keyword research easier. Some of these tools are free, others are rather expensive. While these tools will make the difficult phase of keyword research easier, you should remember that you can’t outsource your keyword research to a tool. You really need to think about your audience and about the search terms they are using. Take your time for this phase. It is crucial. If you do your keyword research correctly, you’ll come up with a long list of keywords you want to rank for.

  4. Set realistic goals

    For a new site, it is rather hard to rank high in the beginning. Older sites already have a history, established their authority and a lot of links pointing towards them. That means that Google’s crawlers come by more often at older sites. For a new site to rank, you’ll always need to be a little patient. And remember: some search terms will be out of reach for a new site because there’s too much competition. Trying to rank for [WordPress SEO] will be rather hard for any new blog, because of some fierce competition on that term from Yoast.com.

    If you’re just starting with your site, try to aim at ranking for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords that are longer and more specific and have far less competition than the popular head keywords. After a while, when your site starts to rank for the long-tail keywords, you could try and go after the more head keywords.

  5. Internal linking

    As I already mentioned in step 2, Google follows links. Google also follows the links on your website, your internal linking structure. It crawls through your website following the internal linking structure of your site. That structure is like a guide to Google. Make sure your internal linking structure is flawless. That’ll help with your ranking. 

    If you start with a brand new website, you’ll probably don’t have much content yet. This is the perfect time to think about structure. Now it is relatively easy. It’s like having a new closet and you haven’t started buying clothes. Now is the time to think about the things you want to put on the top shelf and which items you want to hide in the back of your closet. So, decide which pages are most important to you. What are the pages you want to rank with? Make sure that these pages have the most internal links pointing towards them.

  6. Start writing

    In order to get ranked, you need to have content. A very important step in how to start with your SEO is to write amazing content for all these search terms you want to be found for. The content analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin will help you to write that content. Our analysis will help you to write a text that is both readable and SEO friendly.

    While you’re writing, make sure to use the words you want to be found for. Use them in headings and in the introduction and conclusion of your text. After writing your text, you should optimize your SEO title and your meta description. The Yoast SEO plugin will help you to do all these things.

  7. Get those links!

    External links are important to get your site in high positions in those search engines. But gathering those external links can be a hard process. Make sure to write content people want to share and link to. Original ideas and great, valuable content will make the chance that people would want to share that much bigger.

    Of course, reaching out to people and making them aware of your awesome website and product can be a good strategy to get those external links too. Read more about a successful link building strategy or find out what link building is first.

And then what?

The truth is that SEO is more than these 7 steps. This is only the very beginning, the steps you take to start with SEO. In order to get longterm high rankings in the search engines, you need to do hard work. Your content has to be amazing, your site structure has to remain flawless (and that’s challenging when your site is growing) and you’ll have to keep earning those external links. The only way to really do that, in the long run, is to make sure that your audience enjoys visiting your website. If you want to rank the highest, make sure your site is the very best. Good luck!

Read more: wordPress SEOL the definitive guide »

The post SEO Basics: How to start with SEO? appeared first on Yoast.

The FIRE UP Approach: How to Optimize Websites for People

A matchstick lightened up in front of dark background. Looks impressive.

How do you optimize websites for people that is actual readers who are suffering from chronic attention shortage?

You need to make them findable, intriguing, readable, engaging, usable, popular or in short “fire up“.

“fire someone up – Fig. to motivate someone; to make someone enthusiastic.”

A shocking reading statistic from US libraries says: around one fifth of Americans don’t read books at all.

 

Online reading habits

Likewise people on the Web don’t read. They mostly scan pages and read just a few words here and there if they click the headline at all.

8 out of 10 people do not even go beyond the headline and bounce immediately in the worst case. Many return to search results to click something else.

Google even counts the number of people who hit the back button or do not even click after viewing search results. Your site gets downgraded based on that data.

 

My shameful past

Let me confess: I didn’t read books until I was 16. I didn’t even read newspapers or magazines until I was 14.

We didn’t have the Internet or mobile phones back then so I wasn’t reading websites or SMS either!

To make things worse my mother was a linguist focused on teaching language and editing literature.

These days I roughly read a 500+ pages book a week. Sometimes I read two or three books at once.

 

A miraculous transformation

How did that miraculous transformation happen? My case seemed to be hopeless like with the rest of this miserable one fifth of the population.

Why didn’t I read at all as a teen? It wasn’t that I couldn’t read. I could read in three languages by the age of 14.

I didn’t want to read. I didn’t think books were attractive enough for me. I didn’t appreciate books and I didn’t think reading could enrich my daily life.

It’s not a story about me here though. My point is that you can make books or reading in general

  1. findable
  2. intriguing
  3. readable
  4. engaging
  5. usable
  6. popular

so that everybody will want to read and enjoy it. You have to treat the people who don’t read like disabled people.

It just happens that roughly the same number of people is also really disabled, almost 1/5 fifth in the US and the UK.

People who don’t read lack a basic human experience. They don’t have access to a whole universe of knowledge.

It’s our task to enable these literally disabled people to read again or at all. Librarians seem to have given up on them already.

With websites and mobile phones being used by almost everybody it’s far easier to make people read in these times. How? You need to make your site

findable

You have to ensure the findability of your content – be it text or mixed content (text and images) or solely images.

Even images without text can make people read. Image captions are a good start.

How did I finally start reading?

When I was 14 my mother pointed out an article to me about my favorite sweets in the weekly magazine my father had subscribed to for years.

I have looked at the magazine covers for ages but didn’t even read when they featured barely clad women.

The mags always lay around the living room. Thus my mother only needed to point it out casually. She didn’t have to get up, search for it and peruse dozens of other magazines to find it.

Nowadays it’s not as easy to be around where the hard to reach audience stays.

One day it’s Facebook, next day it’s Instagram, third day it’s Snapchat.

Don’t just stay in your ivory tower or library and claim that everybody has to come visit you. Spend some time on outreach efforts.

You can publish quotes from your favorite authors on social media. Indeed on sites like

  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter

aphorisms work best!

Don’t just optimize for Google. Work on your internal search. Tag your content.

Make sure your images and quotes can be found on Pinterest or Twitter.

A picture quote which is popular on Pinterest saying: "sometimes it's better to react with no reaction".

intriguing

Now you agree that just staying where you are and waiting passively may not be enough.

You will probably wonder how to make people who never read become interested in what you want to see or rather read then.

One of the most likely candidates for your help are dyslexic people. These people are really disabled in that they can’t read fluently.

People who can’t read or comprehend fast need books or graphic novels or other forms of text that don’t require huge chunks of text.

Song lyrics or even poems can be a good starting point! They have to pick them up where they are though.

The Beat Generation may be a good start for young people or those who have failed to reach their full potential like many non-readers probably have.

Another typical non-reader is what I’d like to call the “tough guy” who is “too cool to read”.

“Real men” sometimes believe that reading is somehow compromising their manliness.

Survival or bodybuilding resources probably won’t hurt.

You need to intrigue them. Don’t just attempt to make people read what you think they should. Give them what they want in print or online form.

Even clickbait can help. Don’t give away everything in the headline. Consider this example: “Ursula K- Le Guin, famed writer, dies at 88”.

A headline that gives away the hwol news already by sacing that "Ursual K Le Guin, famed writer, dies at 88".

Why would I click that link? I already know why she was famous and how old she was when she died. I know that she’s dead in the first place.

How about “the #1 reason why Ursula K. Le Guin will be remembered” instead? To find out you can click through actually read that article!

We are intrigued. We wonder: is she already dead? What did she do that made her so memorable? We want to know!

readable

Symbol for for an eye reading from a distance. It divides its attention between three short paragrphs.

Readability is a huge problem with both books and websites alike.

In these times our attention spans are extremely short.

Small screens on mobile devices make reading even more difficult.

We can’t focus on longer paragraphs or even sentences anymore.

This is also an issue with truly disabled people. They may have cognitive deficits.

I have cognitive deficits myself when I’m tired or when I experience pain from migraine attacks. I can’t read properly then.

Other people may be perfectly average but have difficulties when reading while on the go, holding a baby on their arm or trying to multitask in general.

Keep sentences short. Don’t complicate things to sound smart. Your website should be written for everybody.

It’s not about writing a thesis in college. It’s about reaching a wider audiences. Twitter is a good exercise.

Make your messages work in 140 characters and write like that for the rest of the Web.

Authors like Ernest Hemingway or Paul Auster have used simplicity to reach millions.

Simple word choices, short sentences and paragraphs won’t suffice though. You need to format text.

  • blockquotes
  • lists
  • bold text
  • text-marker effects

have proven to work best to enhance website readability.

engaging

There is this old social media cliche that “you have to engage in the conversation”. It’s true.

That’s like you have to write on the Web. Write in a conversational tone. Talk to your reader.

Become a buddy of your reader. Imagine sending an SMS to your ideal reader. Say “hello”!

Ask questions in your articles, not just rhetoric ones. Add calls to action asking for feedback!

Appeal to emotions by telling stories and speaking about real people like yourself or your family.

Cover worthwhile causes. Don’t just promote yourself and push what you like. Publish what others love.

You are meant not to judge a book by it’s cover but we all do. What’s on top and gets seen first counts.

Make a good first impression by placing attractive visual content on top of your page, each page.

usable

A neo sign saying entrance shedding only a dim light below so that we don't see an actual door.

OK, you have done everything right. Now the fire is already burning. Your site and content are findable, intriguing, readable, engaging…

What’s the problem then? Your site may still fail as a whole. It can be all of the above but when it’s not usable it’s wasted.

Usability or in modern words user experience matters on many levels. Can everybody access and use the site?

Or is it rather built for healthy white males, speaking English as seems to be the case with the new WhiteHouse.gov website?

Some of these non-readers may be actually disabled – blind for example! Don’t slam the door in their face!

When you fail to provide alternative text to your images and make the page navigable using the keyboard you lose that person.

Others may be healthy and enabled at the first sight – but like me often sick and tired (no pun intended). After staring all day into the screen

  • I can’t read long paragraphs anymore
  • sift through huge mega menus
  • or even deal with bright colors with a lot of contrast.

Don’t be overtly creative when building sites. The website is not the artwork, it’s the frame the artwork is in.

Keep it simple with low cognitive load by not reinventing the wheel.

Just place the logo on the top left, the navigation on top and the content below. Don’t add more than 6 menu items.

Cut out or limit the blinking ads and misleading “you may also like” partner stories.

popular

Facebook demographic by Sprout Social. All kinds of audiences ar epresent. High school kidsfrom the nner city and older suburban dwellers.

Even when the fire is burning and almost everybody can use your site it’s still not enough to succeed with your website.

You of course need to become popular. You can become popular in general but also in your niche or area.

Popularity can be relative. A popular restaurant in your neighborhood does not have to be Mc Donald’s.

Consider popularization as explaining science to larger audiences. It’s about understanding. Keep it simple!

When scientists write for each to get reviewed by their peers nobody else will really understand them.

Many bloggers and website owners write like scientists only for their colleagues. They ignore people outside their industry or beginners.

Remember to publish for average people as well.

Cover topics that matter for many people. Use language even your mother can understand without cryptic acronyms and insider lingo.

Don’t assume everybody knows what you are talking about and provide context on top. Try to explain things in a way even kids can get!

Last but not least simplify the linking and sharing process without only focusing on third party sites.

Let people link to your site easily and share your content by mail or using messenger apps.

Allow copy and pasting! Sometimes it’s even impossible to select a headline or text quote due to bad design.

 

Are you enthusiastic now? I certainly hope so. Of course I tried to use the FIRE UP approach myself here.

Did it work? I have no idea! You have to tell me below in the comments or using your favorite social media channels!

The post The FIRE UP Approach: How to Optimize Websites for People appeared first on SEO 2.0.

4 Steps to Create a Facebook Marketing Campaign [Infographic]

How do you go about making Facebook posts that will lead to conversions?

Here are some tips to help you jump start your business’s Facebook marketing campaign:

infographic

Step 1: Create a Business Facebook Page

Always post on behalf of your company as the page, not the personal profile and include an easily recognizable profile picture and page cover photo. Fill your business page with as much useful information as possible, utilizing targeted keywords in the “About” section.

Step 2: Write the Perfect Post

Aim at posting three times a week to start. Ideally, it is good to post something once a day, every day. However, you can’t just post anything on your business’s Facebook page. The ultimate goal of every business Facebook post is to get engagement, whether it be asking people to “like” your company’s Facebook page or to visit your company’s website to make a purchase.

A posting schedule will also help you get prepared to write quality content and avoid haphazardly posting simply for the sake of posting.

Step 3: Use Facebook Marketing Tools

You can increase the success of your business’s Facebook posts or ads by taking a couple additional (optional) steps. There are several tools that can help increase engagement. This includes pinning important posts, auto-scheduling posts, CTA buttons, using Facebook ads, analytics, and more.

Step 4: Monitor and Make Adjustments

Consistently use Facebook Insights to monitor the highs and lows of a campaign. Not everything goes exactly as planned in social media, and so you have to know what needs to be changed, and when you should change it. Even small adjustments could have a large impact on your results.

 

How is your social media campaign performing? Download this free checklist and make sure you’ve got everything covered.

Download your free social media checklist hbspt.cta.load(1849295, ‘1852150b-d3aa-48c6-94ee-e4f0b01e06b6’, {});

The post 4 Steps to Create a Facebook Marketing Campaign [Infographic] appeared first on SEO.com.

Brands vs Ads

About 7 years ago I wrote about how the search relevancy algorithms were placing heavy weighting on brand-related signals after Vince & Panda on the (half correct!) presumption that this would lead to excessive industry consolidation which in turn would force Google to turn the dials in the other direction.

My thesis was Google would need to increasingly promote some smaller niche sites to make general web search differentiated from other web channels & minimize the market power of vertical leading providers.

The reason my thesis was only half correct (and ultimately led to the absolutely wrong conclusion) is Google has the ability to provide the illusion of diversity while using sort of eye candy displacement efforts to shift an increasing share of searches from organic to paid results.

As long as any market has at least 2 competitors in it Google can create a “me too” offering that they hard code front & center and force the other 2 players (along with other players along the value chain) to bid for marketshare. If competitors are likely to complain about the thinness of the me too offering & it being built upon scraping other websites, Google can buy out a brand like Zagat or a data supplier like ITA Software to undermine criticism until the artificially promoted vertical service has enough usage that it is nearly on par with other players in the ecosystem.

Google need not win every market. They only need to ensure there are at least 2 competing bids left in the marketplace while dialing back SEO exposure. They can then run other services to redirect user flow and force the ad buy. They can insert their own bid as a sort of shill floor bid in their auction. If you bid below that amount they’ll collect the profit through serving the customer directly, if you bid above that they’ll let you buy the customer vs doing a direct booking.

Where this gets more than a bit tricky is if you are a supplier of third party goods & services where you buy in bulk to get preferential pricing for resale. If you buy 100 rooms a night from a particular hotel based on the presumption of prior market performance & certain channels effectively disappear you have to bid above market to sell some portion of the rooms because getting anything for them is better than leaving them unsold.

Dipping a bit back into history here, but after Groupon said no to Google’s acquisition offer Google promptly partnered with players 2 through n to ensure Groupon did not have a lasting competitive advantage. In the fullness of time most those companies died, LivingSocial was acquired by Groupon for nothing & Groupon is today worth less than the amount they raised in VC & IPO funding.

Most large markets will ultimately consolidate down to a couple players (e.g. Booking vs Expedia) while smaller players lack the scale needed to have the economic leverage to pay Google’s increasing rents.

This sort of consolidation was happening even when the search results were mostly organic & relevancy was driven primarily by links. As Google has folded in usage data & increased ad load on the search results it becomes harder for a generically descriptive domain name to build brand-related signals.

It is not only generically descriptive sorts of sites that have faded though. Many brand investments turned out to be money losers after the search result set was displaced by more ads (& many brand-related search result pages also carry ads above the organic results).

The ill informed might write something like this:

Since the Motorola debacle, it was Google’s largest acquisition after the $676 million purchase of ITA Software, which became Google Flights. (Uh, remember that? Does anyone use that instead of Travelocity or one of the many others? Neither do I.)

The reality is brands lose value as the organic result set is displaced. To make the margins work they might desperately outsource just about everything but marketing to a competitor / partner, which will then latter acquire them for a song.

Travelocity had roughly 3,000 people on the payroll globally as recently as a couple of years ago, but the Travelocity workforce has been whittled to around 50 employees in North America with many based in the Dallas area.

The best relevancy algorithm in the world is trumped by preferential placement of inferior results which bypasses the algorithm. If inferior results are hard coded in placements which violate net neutrality for an extended period of time, they can starve other players in the market from the vital user data & revenues needed to reinvest into growth and differentiation.

Value plays see their stocks crash as growth slows or goes in reverse. With the exception of startups frunded by Softbank, growth plays are locked out of receiving further investment rounds as their growth rate slides.

Startups like Hipmunk disappear. Even an Orbitz or Travelocity become bolt on acquisitions.

The viability of TripAdvisor as a stand alone business becomes questioned, leading them to partner with Ctrip.

TripAdvisor has one of the best link profiles of any commercially oriented website outside of perhaps Amazon.com. But ranking #1 doesn’t count for much if that #1 ranking is below the fold.

TripAdvisor shifted their business model to allow direct booking to better monetize mobile web users, but as Google has ate screen real estate and grew Google Travel into a $100 billion business other players have seen their stocks sag.

Google sits at the top of the funnel & all other parts of the value chain are compliments to be commoditized.

  • Buy premium domain names? Google’s SERPs test replacing domain names with words & make the domain name gray.
  • Improve conversion rates? Your competitor almost certainly did as well, now you both can bid more & hand over an increasing economic rent to Google.
  • Invest in brand awareness? Google shows ads for competitors on your brand terms, forcing you to buy to protect the brand equity you paid to build.

Search Metrics mentioned Hotels.com was one of the biggest losers during the recent algorithm updates: “I’m going to keep on this same theme there, and I’m not going to say overall numbers, the biggest loser, but for my loser I’m going to pick Hotels.com, because they were literally like neck and neck, like one and two with Booking, as far as how close together they were, and the last four weeks, they’ve really increased that separation.”

As Google ate the travel category the value of hotel-related domain names has fallen through the floor.

Most of the top selling hotel-related domain names were sold about a decade ago:

On August 8th HongKongHotels.com sold for $4,038. And the buyer may have overpaid for it!

Google consistently grows their ad revenues 20% a year in a global economy growing at under 4%.

There are only about 6 ways they can do that

  • growth of web usage (though many of those who are getting online today have a far lower disposable income than those who got on a decade or two ago did)
  • gain marketshare (very hard in search given that they effectively are the market in most markets outside of China & Russia)
  • create new inventory (new ad types on Google Maps & YouTube)
  • charge more for clicks
  • improve at targeting by better surveillance of web users (getting harder after GDPR & similar efforts from some states in the next year or two)
  • shift click streams away from organic toward paid channels (through larger ads, more interactive ad units, less appealing organic result formatting, etc.)

Wednesday both Expedia and TripAdvisor reported earnings after hours & both fell off a cliff: “Both Okerstrom and Kaufer complained that their organic, or free, links are ending up further down the page in Google search results as Google prioritizes its own travel businesses.”

Losing 20% to 25% of your market cap in a single day is an extreme move for a company worth billions of dollars.

Thursday Google hit fresh all time highs.

“Google’s old motto was ‘Don’t Be Evil’, but you can’t be this big and profitable and not be evil. Evil and all-time highs pretty much go hand in hand.” – Howard Lindzon

Booking held up much better than TripAdvisor & Expedia as they have a bigger footprint in Europe (where antitrust is a thing) and they have a higher reliance on paid search versus organic.

The broader SEO industry is to some degree frozen by fear. Roughly half of SEOs claim to have not bought *ANY* links in a half-decade.

Long after most of the industry has stopped buying links some people still run the “paid links are a potential FTC violation guideline” line as though it is insightful and/or useful.

Ask the people carrying Google’s water what they think of the official FTC guidance on poor ad labeling in search results and you will hear the beautiful sound of crickets chirping.

Where is the ad labeling in this unit?

Does small gray text in the upper right corner stating “about these results” count as legitimate ad labeling?

And then when you scroll over that gray text and click on it you get “Some of these hotel search results may be personalized based on your browsing activity and recent searches on Google, as well as travel confirmations sent to your Gmail. Hotel prices come from Google’s partners.”

Zooming out a bit further on the above ad unit to look at the entire search result page, we can now see the following:

  • 4 text ad units above the map
  • huge map which segments demand by price tier, current sales, luxury, average review, geographic location
  • organic results below the above wall of ads, and the number of organic search results has been reduced from 10 to 7

How many scrolls does one need to do to get past the above wall of ads?

If one clicks on one of the hotel prices the follow up page is … more ads.

Check out how the ad label is visually overwhelmed by a bright blue pop over.

Worth noting Google Chrome has a built-in ad blocking feature which allows them to strip all ads from displaying on third party websites if they follow Google’s best practices layout used in the search results.

You won’t see ads on websites that have poor ad experiences, like:

  • Too many ads
  • Annoying ads with flashing graphics or autoplaying audio
  • Ad walls before you can see content

When these ads are blocked, you’ll see an “Intrusive ads blocked” message. Intrusive ads will be removed from the page.

The following 4 are all true:

And, as a bonus, to some paid links are a crime but Google can sponsor academic conferences for market regulators while requesting the payments not be disclosed.

Hotels have been at the forefront of SEO for many years. They drive massive revenues & were perhaps the only vertical ever referenced in the Google rater guidelines which stated all affiliate sites should be labeled as spam even if they are helpful to users.

Google has won most of the profits in the travel market & so they’ll need to eat other markets to continue their 20% annual growth.

Some people who market themselves as SEO experts not only recognize this trend but even encourage this sort of behavior:

Zoopla, Rightmove and On The Market are all dominant players in the industry, and many of their house and apartment listings are duplicated across the different property portals. This represents a very real reason for Google to step in and create a more streamlined service that will help users make a more informed decision. … The launch of Google Jobs should not have come as a surprise to anyone, and neither should its potential foray into real estate. Google will want to diversify its revenue channels as much as possible, and any market that allows it to do so will be in its sights. It is no longer a matter of if they succeed, but when.

The dominance Google has in core profitable vertical markets also exists in the news & general publishing categories. Some publishers get more traffic from Google Discover than from Google search. Inclusion in Google Discover requires using Google’s proprietary AMP format.

Publishers which try to turn off Google’s programmatic ads find their display ad revenues fall off a cliff:

“Nexstar Media Group Inc., the largest local news company in the U.S., recently tested what would happen if it stopped using Google’s technology to place ads on its websites. Over several days, the company’s video ad sales plummeted. “That’s a huge revenue hit,” said Tony Katsur, senior vice president at Nexstar. After its brief test, Nexstar switched back to Google.” … “Regulators who approved that $3.1 billion deal warned they would step in if the company tied together its offerings in anticompetitive ways. In interviews, dozens of publishing and advertising executives said Google is doing just that with an array of interwoven products.”

News is operating like many other (broken) markets. The Salt Lake Tribune converted to a nonprofit organization.

Many local markets have been consolidated down to ownership by a couple private equity shop roll ups looking to further consolidate the market. Gatehouse Media is acquiring Gannett.

The Washington Post – owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – is creating an ad tech stack which serves other publishers & brands, though they also believe a reliance on advertiser & subscription revenue is unsustainable: “We are too beholden to just advertiser and subscriber revenue, and we’re completely out of our minds if we think that’s what’s going to be what carries us through the next generation of publishing. That’s very clear.”

We are nearing many inflection points in many markets where markets that seemed somewhat disconnected from search will still end up being dominated by Google. Gmail, Android, Web Analytics, Play Store, YouTube, Maps, Waze … are all additional points of leverage beyond the core search & ads products.

Google is investing heavily in quantum computing. Google Fiber was a nothingburger to force competing ISPs into accelerating expensive network upgrades, but beaming in internet services from satellites will allow Google to bypass local politics, local regulations & heavy network infrastructure construction costs. A startup named Kepler recently provided high-bandwidth connectivity to the Arctic. When Google launches a free ISP there will be many knock on effects causing partners to long for the day where Google was only as predatory as they are today.

Categories: 

How to Write Product Descriptions That Convert

Looking for actionable information about how to write effective product descriptions?

You’ve come to the right place.

In this 4,000+ word product description guide, we’ll take a look at:

What Is A Product Description?

A product description is the most important, high-touch marketing copy that helps your website visitors understand whether a product is for them and will influence the outcome of their purchasing decision. This is the perfect opportunity for you to showcase who the product is for and who it isn’t by not only presenting features but also the benefits, in such a way that it will compel your ideal customers to make a purchase.

Sadly, product descriptions are often overlooked and kept very simple or stuffed with generic blocks of text that just describe a product and not only harm your reputation but also affect your website’s ability to rank for a particular keyword.

The great thing is you can do something about it.

While we can’t promise that this guide will help you write the perfect product description for your eCommerce website every single time or your clients’ eCommerce websites, it certainly the best place to start. The truth is that you’ll only learn by actually putting everything in this guide into practice – so make sure all your reading doesn’t go to waste.

The Step-by-Step Process of Writing A Great Product Description

Before we dive into some examples, let’s take a look at what we’ve learned by taking a look at some of the most successful eCommerce stores in the world.

1. Put Yourself in Your Ideal Buyer’s Position

If you would be on the fence, what would you want from a product description?

The best advice that anyone will be able to give you without knowing your situation or saying “it depends”, is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask yourself the following what would I want to know if I’ve never heard of [BRAND] and [PRODUCT]?

2. Focus on Benefits Not Features

Describing your product to your website visitors as if they’re already 100% sold and just want to know more about your product will not result in an effective product description.

Most, if not all, won’t be certain that they need your product once they land on a sales page so you need to make use of the product description as an opportunity to showcase why people need your products, by presenting benefits, not features.

Features:

  • Noise Removal
  • Chatbot integration
  • Built-in pockets

Benefits:

  • Speak without the noise – be heard by call participants. Remove all background noise.
  • Automatically responds to your customers’ questions (and actually sounds like a real human)
  • Safely stores your phone, keys, and credit cards while you run

Notice the difference? Not only does talking about the benefits of a product make it easier for potential customers to see the value, but it’s also far less generic and boring than just listing everything that’s included with your product. Although being fully transparent about what’s included should always be a priority, so sacrificing that is not an option.

3. Use Social Proof to Your Advantage

If you were about to purchase a product, wouldn’t know that you’re in the good company put you at ease?

Never fake social proof. 

Not only is this highly unethical, but it’s also extremely unprofessional. If you don’t have people happily using your products, don’t mislead people into purchasing them by making it look like you do.

If people haven’t given you direct feedback in the form of testimonials there are still alternative ways to improve the credibility of your product pages. One of which is the popular “as seen on” or “already with us” section that is common on a lot of websites.

You’ve seen it before, almost every website has it.

Knowing you’re in good hands makes you comfortable.

rank-math-homepage-social-proof

The use of social proof on the Rank Math homepage

No surprises here, the lemlist homepage also has it.

lemlist-homepage-social-proof

The use of social proof on the Lemlist homepage

And so do thousands of other successful, highly-converting websites.

kali-forms-social-proof

The use of social proof on the Kali Forms pricing page.

contentking-social-proof

And one final example of social proof on the ContentKing pricing page.

Another slightly different approach is case studies. No, I’m not talking about the kind of SEO case studies you’ll find here on Gotch SEO. To support and add to your product descriptions being able to showcase how you’ve been able to help current customers, just like Servebolt does is another great, and perhaps even more effective, way of incorporating social proof on your website.

servebolt-mythemeshop-case-study

As for how this ties into product descriptions, I would personally recommend writing a small outtake that includes all of the most important information for each case study. This will allow you to link to the full case study for those who want to learn a lot more about exactly what you did and how it was helpful.

4. Make Your Product Description Easy-to-Follow

Don’t make it hard for your customers to find what really matters to them and make it easier for them to see what you really want them to.

While the content of your product description is important, on its own, it can’t make a huge impact if your page layout makes information hard to read and hard to find.

Poor product pages that likely can’t be considered helpful will have blocks of text, no images and information that hasn’t been arranged in any logical way. Of course, ensuring that your product description’s content is fairly good, but ensuring that it’s structured and organized well is equally important.

5. Leverage Product Data To Acquire Rich Snippets

amazon-review-rich-snippet

As we’ll look at later on in this post. Amazon makes use of structured data –often referred to as Schema markup – to display additional information in search. This can be extremely effective in some cases because it helps your website stand out among the others – increasing the chances that a searcher will click on your result.

rank-math-schema-markup

The Rank Math WordPress SEO plugin is the perfect way to do this. The good news is that whether you’re using their full suite of SEO tools for your WordPress websites or not, you can still leverage their WooCommerce SEO functionality in combination with any other SEO plugin.

If your eCommerce website uses WooCommerce, which is a highly flexible platform for creating complex stores and have installed Rank Math, just head to your product page.

woocommerce-product-page

And then click edit on the specific product that you’d like to edit and scroll down to the meta box and click Rich Snippet. This will then let you enable the Product Rich Snippet to show searchers additional information without them clicking through to your website.

woocommerce-seo-product-snippet-rank-math

Disclosure: I do work with Rank Math but am an avid user of their plugin – and recommended their tools – long before doing anything together.

6. Use Language That Sells: Power Words Not Keywords

While keyword stuffing used to work well on Google back in 2011, (thankfully) those days are over. Google has gotten a lot better at understanding what users actually want (search intent) and catching out people who are trying to game the system.

Here’s what you should focus on instead.

dollar-shave-club-copy-example

Nope, it’s not time to go and shave. This is a screenshot of one of the examples that we’re going to be taking a look at later. They use power words to evoke emotions and develop a connection between their potential customers and their product.

This is the time to let your product shine, don’t just paint the picture by telling a descriptive story, use powerful, convincing and specific words so your customers will understand exactly how good your product is.

7. Use Great Product Images

I’m not going to lie, this isn’t easy to do for physical products especially if you’re on a budget. The good news is that if you’re selling digital products and courses, producing aesthetic and appealing images isn’t actually that difficult. There are so many pieces of photo editing software to choose from and the key is keeping designs simple.

Physical products, on the other hand, are a completely different story. The example of Dollar Shave Club that we’re going to look at later on is a great example.

You want your images to be true to life and realistic but you also want them to look good enough to be on your website. 

product-images-example

How difficult producing images like this really depends on what the product actually is. In any case, images should:

  • Be visually appealing (in terms of color and angle)
  • Be realistic (set reasonable expectations)
  • Be high-resolution – this not only looks more professional but also makes it easier for potential customers to zoom in and see minor details before purchasing
  • Capture the important aspects of your product (effectively portray sizes)

One creative example of this for a clothing brand would be to have the model try all various sizes of a t-shirt or hoodie so that the customers can see how the fit varies as this will help them make a better choice for themselves.

  • Bonus: Templates To Help You Write Better Product Descriptions

Obviously, I must preface the examples below with the fact that they’ve been written for a very general and non-specific course and follow the templates almost exactly. The truth is that you shouldn’t need a template to follow word-for-word, but these are great guidelines when you have no idea where to start and what to include.

Template #1: The “Ideal You” Template

Have you ___________________________? (struggle)

Learn to _______________ (key takeaway to overcome struggle)

without _______________ (pain and/or challenge).

(Product name) ______________

is ______________ (product benefits).

Example:

Have you struggled to grow your SEO agency? Learn how to turn complicated processes into easy, repeatable tasks that you can outsource and scale. Make agency life enjoyable.

Template #2: The “Perfect For” Template

Perfect for ___________________________ (ideal situation),

these _______________ (product name)

can be/will _______________ (tell a quick story).

(Product name) ______________

are ______________ (top features)

to _______________ (product benefits).

No more _____________________ (pain and/or challenge).

Example:

Perfect for stressed-out agency owners, these SOPs will make processes repetitive and easy to outsource. Our in-depth SEO training was built for people just like you with the potential to scale their agency beyond just themselves.

No more selling yourself short or just charging an hourly rate for your expertise.

Template 3: The “I’ve Been In Your Shoes” Template

I created _________________ (your product)

when I was ________________ (describe yourself before you created a solution)

and ______________________ (pain or frustration).

I wanted _____________________ (best case scenario).

That’s why I created _____________________ (product name)

with ___________________ (top features).

Now I _______________________ (product solution)

Example:

I created this in-depth SEO training course for people in the position I was two years ago. Not knowing what to outsource and where to begin. I wanted the ability to take days off without knowing that I’d be falling behind on client work. That’s why I created this set of SOPs to streamline and take the guesswork out of growing your agency. Now you never have to worry about creating your own SOPs for VAs and employees to follow and keeping everyone up-to-date anymore!

Product Description Examples

1. AppSumo

appsumo-product-description-example

AppSumo – originally founded back in March of 2010 by Noah Kagan – is a deals marketplace for digital products and online services. They are extremely well-known for offering lifetime deals on SaaS products or subscription products that you would typically have to pay for every month.

As you might’ve seen if you follow Nathan Gotch on Twitter (@nathangotch) which I highly recommend you do, you’ll know he isn’t a fan of fake scarcity and urgency.

 

The truth is, however, that AppSumo’s model doesn’t rely on fake scarcity because once a deal disappears, it really is gone unless the company decides that they’d like to resurface the deal for a second time. As you’d expect, this use of scarcity is effective. Just like Snapchat, where messages and images are ephemeral the concept just psychologically encourages action and faster purchases.

Urgency and scarcity are now widely used across marketing campaigns to increase engagement and boost conversions simply because it works. I personally (and I’m sure Nathan himself would agree) don’t like the general concept of overusing it and would carefully consider doing something with a client or on my own site that uses scarcity.

That being said, AppSumo is a different case, their business model of negotiating exclusive deals is successful and their website is also a great place to look for inspiration when writing your own product descriptions.

For the purposes of this breakdown, we’ll be taking a look at Krisp – a noise-canceling application that aims to make calling easier and more productive by removing background noise.

appsumo-krisp-example-product-description

In case this is the first time you’ve stumbled across AppSumo – their deal pages are always very conversational. They make use of creative headlines and tell stories that help customers understand when and why you’d need the product.

AppSumo’s Product Description Model:

  1. Set the scene, introduce (or re-introduce) the problem.
  2. Enter [PRODUCT NAME]

Sounds simple enough to replicate, right? Yes, but don’t forget that you still need to give customers all the information that they’re looking for.

So, as you scroll down, the page transitions into an easier-to-digest section that breaks down exactly what you get. This is the section that most people skip to and read.

appsumo-overview-skim-reading-section

And towards the end of the page it again reminds people what they’ll get when they purchase the product and how it helps them as well as diving deeper with a demo video and screenshots showcasing the interface.

2. Apple

apple-homepage

Apple obviously speaks for itself and needs no introduction.

They can also truly be considered a gold standard when it comes to eCommerce websites. Though keep in mind, Apple’s market share and authority in the industry also means that they don’t really need to go through a lot of the effort that your business and eCommerce website will need when it comes to building trust with potential buyers.

Just keep this in mind as we analyze the way that Apple’s product descriptions work – I really don’t want to say the infamous “it depends”, but I suppose it really does when it comes to looking at situations like Apple’s MacBook Pro line-up. Most people already know that they want to purchase the computer once they make it to the product page so it simply becomes a matter of comparing the different models and specifications with their respective prices to make a decision based on the buyer’s specific requirements.

This also contributes to the logic of having a reverse product description, where instead of being taken to a landing page, a user will see the information that is most important to them – also one of the easier decisions to make – the size of the computer you’d like to buy.

macbook-product-page-example

And only then further down on the page are you able to start comparing the base model that you’d like to purchase as is or then customize even further before buying.

product-page-customization-options

This makes sense for Apple, but in most cases won’t for you. Why? Well, easy:

  • Apple doesn’t need to convince you that their products are very well built. Everybody already knows this.
  • Apple doesn’t need to reassure people that their site is secure and people can enter their financial information.
  • Apple also doesn’t need social proof to encourage people to purchase their products.

 

3. Dollar Shave Club

dollar-shave-club-homepage

Dollar Shave Club is an American company based in Venice, California that sells razors and a sorted array of personal grooming products.

Simply put, they’ve got everything you need to look, feel and smell your best.

They’ve not only managed to build an incredibly successful business but also a website that now generates over 450,000 monthly visitors from search per month – with their brand keywords having search volumes that are far past the half a million mark.

ahrefs-dsc-search-volume

I’m sure you get it by now – enough with the introduction already, right?

The product pages and their respective descriptions on the Dollar Shave Club eCommerce website also serve as a great example of how to present a large amount of information in a way that is not only easily digestible but is also laid out in a way that is easy-to-remember and read quickly. All while still making the product interesting and not confusing or making information hard to find for website visitors so they stay on the page instead of bouncing elsewhere to find the information they’re looking for.

dollar-shave-club-website-personalization

So, without further ado – let’s break them down.

dsc-product-page-breakdown

  • Images Galore

The images on the Dollar Shave Club do a great job of showcasing their products in an extremely visually appealing way. As I mentioned earlier in the article, this isn’t easy to do if you are on a budget, however for some products you may be able to avoid the need to produce “real” images and can stick to using mockups as long as they are true to life and portray your product in an appropriate way.

product-description-page-important-elements

  • Just give me the price already

Don’t try to hide any crucial information (such as your product’s price) from people. Show this in an area that is above the fold or give them an easy way to jump further down on a page to the section that shows the breakdown of the price.

Price is inevitably going to be one of the main factors in someone’s decision to buy or not to buy your product so removing it or representing it in a way that makes it difficult for the user and results in bad user experience.

  • Evoke Emotion and Convey Quality with Power Words

Most SEOs writing product descriptions for eCommerce websites aren’t marketers or copywriters which often results in copy that doesn’t do your product justice. Here, I’m referring to the section in the image above labelled with the #3.

Butter up for an effortlessly gentle, delightfully smooth shave. 

Now, be honest with yourself – how does this to compare to:

Buy Our Shave Butter Now For A Better Shaving Experience

While the second one certainly isn’t the worst we’ve seen on the internet, it doesn’t actually describe your product, evoke emotion and help paint a picture in the potential customer’s mind.

*This is not an endorsement of Dollar Shave Club, I have not used their products and do not currently work with them so I cannot comment on the quality. However, given that they have formed a large part of this post, that might change soon 😉

  • Don’t just shove reasons people should get your product in their face – make them want it.

Here, I’m referring to the section in the image above labelled with the #4. Just underneath the introduction to the product that rolls of the tongue and develops an initial connection/interest with the product – people not only see what the product does on its own.

They see what the product can do for them as well as why and how.

Example #1: Helps reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs

While this isn’t a particularly glamorous thing to talk about in this post, ingrown hairs are an apparent problem. The inclusion of this short bullet point perfectly portrays how the product can benefit people.

Example #2: Helps to fight razor bumps by providing a smoother shave

As for example #1, use your product description as an opportunity to present your product as a solution to your customers’ problem(s).

4. Amazon

amazon-dyson-product-page-example

What is Amazon? If only that question were easy to answer.

Amazon Inc. is considered one of the Big Four technology companies along with, Apple (which we looked at earlier), Facebook and Google. They have multiple business models spanning across eCommerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, artificial intelligence and more.

amazon-serp-preview

There are a few things we notice solely from looking at this search result – mainly the fact that they use the review snippet to enhance their search results.

This has been proven to result in higher click-through rates, simply because it is more visually appealing and stands out from regular/standard search results. Since this is something really easy to configure for your product pages, I highly recommend trying it out using a plugin like Rank Math (the option I recommend) or another plugin dedicated to solely adding structured data like WP Schema which is another popular option.

In describing their product, Amazon also takes this opportunity to showcase other similar products. This can be really useful if you have a number of similar products but each may only be suitable for specific use cases or have certain extra benefits.

amazon-product-page-comparisons

It can also be one of your best opportunities to upsell people to a more expensive product or even order bump them to other products and extra add-ons that they may be interested in.

Aside from all of the profit-driven decisions, there are also other reasons to do this though which makes the entire experience more enjoyable for your customers. Seeing the product that someone is about to purchase compared to another similar product not only gives them the opportunity to make alternative choices but it also helps them reaffirm their decision.

Are you really leading them to make the best decision possible?

For the sake of your own product descriptions, this doesn’t only need to be in the form of a comparison to other similar products or that you offer, it may also be a great opportunity to show people how you stack up against your competitors. After all, for most companies and their products, the decision won’t always come down to choosing from one of their products. More often than not, people will be taking your competition into consideration so use this opportunity (since you already have the attention) to close the deal.

When doing these comparisons there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Do not hate on your competitors, give them the praise they deserve for the features that their product does have
  • Don’t lie – I sure know a few examples of people who flat-out use this as an opportunity to mislead people which they know aren’t going to do their research anyway.
  • Don’t go into so much detail that you lose people’s attention.

Although this is no easy feat, the key is to strike the right balance of SEO and UX. This means you shouldn’t making compromises that sacrifice the user’s experience.

5. Chain Reaction Cycles

chain-reaction-cycle-homepage

For our next example, we’ll be taking a look at Chain Reaction Cycles – an online retailer of cycling goods based in Northern Ireland.

The reason I chose this site is because it is a little bit of a different industry because the products they’re selling are just so different and certain information needs to be presented before cycling enthusiasts or professionals could even consider purchasing from them.

crc-product-description-example

While their website’s design is by no means the most modern out there, they do a great job of presenting technical information in a way that everything is still easy to find.

product-description-important-elements-chain-reaction-cycle

In the second, smaller box (above) labelled with the number two, you’ll see another easy way of incorporating social proof. While displaying reviews on your own site and adding logos in an “as seen on” section is also popular, it’s also easy to fake. Using the Trustpilot review badge makes their exceptional reputation even clearer to customers.

product-description-tabbed-section

Beyond this they also make it easy for customers to jump to other information to answer any questions and doubt they may have before purchasing the product right away.

While, the option to get in touch with support to ask questions should always remain in place, making useful information as easy as possible to access to remove as much friction as possible from the buying experience

Summary: Is Writing Effective Product Descriptions Difficult?

If you’ve been in the SEO industry long enough, you’ll agree that most SEO questions can be answered by really thinking through what it is that the user actually wants.

That’s exactly why this guide has been written to not only help you write better product descriptions for search engines, but also for potential customers. If you’re about to launch an eCommerce store and feel overwhelmed with the amount of small yet important things you need to remember and keep track of, you should read this eCommerce SEO checklist from ContentKing next.

What tips & advice would you share with someone looking to write more effective product descriptions?

Tweet @alexjpanagis or leave a comment below to join the conversation!!

Homepage SEO: Does it exist?

A homepage serves many different purposes. It is your welcoming page and your main user guide for your website. There is, however, one purpose that I feel a homepage doesn’t have and that is ranking for keywords other than your business name or brand. We have had quite a few questions about that, so it’s something certain website owners think about. The question is: should they?

Homepage SEO

The process of optimizing your homepage for Google, or any other search engine, could be called homepage SEO. Let me make a bold statement right after naming it: I don’t think that homepage SEO exists – as such. That might not be what a website owner wants to hear, especially if they have been trying to rank the homepage for years.

If your website is set up right and you have a nice number of backlinks, your homepage will probably rank for your business name or brand anyway. However, there is an exception to that rule. These days, a lot of websites have keyword-based names like ‘Christmas Cookies’, ‘Grow Trees’ or ‘Cute Socks’. If your ‘brand’ name is a keyword people could use in Google, it becomes somewhat different. There will be more websites targeting these keywords, so all of a sudden you’re facing competition for your site name.

Cornerstone content

This post about homepage SEO is actually triggered by a support question from a customer that couldn’t get his site to rank for such a site name. He did try to optimize his homepage’s SEO for that. Briefly, I emailed him my thoughts on homepage SEO and explained the concept of cornerstone content.

As you probably won’t try to rank your contact page, neither should you try to rank your homepage. That also means you don’t need to bother setting a focus keyword for these pages, let alone spend hours trying to get that green bullet.

However, we must make a huge side note. At Yoast, we believe that SEO, in general, will only work when other things like speed, user experience, and social media are taken into account as well. And you could optimize your homepage for that.

Optimizing your homepage: SEO style

Although you don’t have to optimize your homepage for a keyword, there is still work to be done. We have mentioned a few in this article, but there are more. These are the things you can do to optimize your homepage for SEO related things:

  • Make sure the page title focuses on your brand name or main product;
  • Add a clear, recognizable logo in the upper left corner for branding;
  • There should be a clear call-to-action that draws attention;
  • Don’t forget to structure your menu;
  • Provide OpenGraph and Twitter Cards for better social sharing;
  • Make sure the meta description is filled out, that it mentions your USPs and invites the visitor to your website;
  • Product images are inviting, but the page needs textual information or a great tagline as well;
  • Don’t clutter your homepage with a million links. Keep it focused and don’t flood your footer or menu with these links;
  • Contact details should be available on most websites, including social buttons and perhaps a newsletter subscription;
  • If applicable, add a search bar (prominent or as an extra).

This is a small checklist every website owner could use to analyze his own homepage. Have you thought of all of these?

Read on: Homepage optimization »

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