Tag Archives for " seo "

Aug 29

Can We Talk? The Role Natural Speech Now Plays in SEO and Customer Engagement:

By Rebecca Murtagh | SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Natural Speech is Vital to Brands Seeking to Satisfy Search Engines and Customers

Language is the foundation of interaction between humans; and between humans and brands. Exponential growth of smart speakers, digital assistants and voice search, makes it more important than ever for brands to focus on speech that search engines and customers understand.

If you don’t use the same language your audience uses, you just may be talking to yourself or your inner circle.

Brand Communication

Advertising became common in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. Political promotional material has been found in the ruins of Arabia and Pompeii. Papyrus, wall, and rock painting has been replaced with tweets, emails and SMS messages. Methods and speed have changed dramatically. There are more mobile devices in the hands of more humans than toothbrushes. In many ways, the way brands approach marketing has changed very little over the years. It is easier and more cost effective for brands to create mass media campaigns, controlled messaging, and scripted communication with customers.

Same as It Ever Was

Unfortunately, for brands, the demands and expectations of customers are outpacing their ability to keep up. Even market leaders like Amazon has experienced negative pushback for its customer service bots when they failed to evolve beyond the first level response. I experienced this myself after I turning to Twitter and tweeted to Amazon’s customer service when I experienced difficulty getting a human on the phone who I could understand. No matter how many times I responded, I kept getting the same response from different “reps”, providing the same link to resolve the issue, which didn’t work…and was why I was trying to escalate the problem to get help. Was I dealing with bad bots or really poor humans? I didn’t matter to me, or the countless others expressing their frustration with similar experiences. Amazon failed to meet expectations of its customers. And, customers are not shy about letting others know when they have a negative experience.

The Crowd is in Control

There will probably always be a place for some mass media messaging. However, in the social economy, broadcasting has been replaced with interactive engagement. Brands no longer control the majority of the message. A brand’s destiny is now heavily influenced by the media, reviews, clicks, shares, recommendations, and even competitors. Whether your business will survive the democratization of the brand depends on how responsive you are the needs and expectations of the crowd – your customers. Stop Talking, Start Listening

Relinquishing control to the people they serve is difficult for some brands. While brands invest resources to design what they will sell and how they wish to sell it, the ultimate control lies in the hands of customers who are seeking the perfect solution, the way they wish to buy it. Brands are learning that either respond to what the customers want or face failure. Or, even worse, watch a competitor fill the need with a better solution.

Answer the Question

When you want to know how to do something new, what do you do?
Most people Google it by asking Google a question.

Searches often begin with a phrase, such as; “how to”, “what is”, “where is”, “the difference between”, etc.

People (customers) are looking for an answer to their question – a solution to their problem.

Search is Much More Than Keywords

Since the late 1990’s I have been helping brands leverage the way search engines work to reach their customers. Most call this SEO (search engine optimization). However, the approach I developed was so different from the way short-sighted hacks worked and talked about SEO that it only appealed to brands who were truly interested in serving their customers (a great client qualifier). While most of the industry convinced brands to chase keywords, I have always emphasized answering the customer’s quest by answering the questions in a way that would help Google, Bing, and social search engines bring customers to their brand and their offer. I explain how this approach should drive the design and creation of website content in my book Million Dollar Websites.

Using natural language may seem like common sense. Yet, it is the exception rather than the rule in the way most brands approach SEO, marketing and sales communication. – Rebecca Murtagh

This approach has always been, and continues to be extremely powerful, and became especially relevant in 2008 when autocomplete became the default search method on Google search, mobile apps and browsers. The practice of completing queries (including #hashtag searches) has since spread across the internet on ecommerce websites like Amazon, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Instagram, and just about anywhere a search can be conducted.

The State of Digital Speech in 2017

When smart speaker owners (i.e. Alexa, Google Home, Siri, etc.) were asked what they use their device for most, a study conducted by Pandora and Edison Research found that personal, human-like interactions ranked especially high. Artificial intelligence is what drives the speech Apple, Google, and Amazon use to interact with users, based on mega-collection of voice and language data across their platforms.

Hmm, people prefer to speak to voices that sound like people. No big surprise here. Except, the language brands use is rarely written for the customer, as crazy as it sounds. All too often, brand communication is written to appeal and appease investors, media, competitors, internal management, etc.; rather than customers.

Talking Brands

If someone starts a conversation with you, how should you reply?

Imagine walking on to a car lot, asking a sales person to see a two-door convertible and being pointed in the direction of hundreds of cars to find your own way. Or, worse yet, being forced to listen to the salesperson’s spiel about the dealership’s history, manufacturer warranties, dealer hours, and service department specials before even getting close to the car you are searching for.

This is the experience your customers have if your website is not only search engine-friendly, but speech friendly. Search is just one mechanism that will utilize speech. However, it is likely the most common speech-centric action that connects brands with customers at this stage in the game.

Speech and Search

Answers are not merely a connection of possible results. Artificial Intelligence is turning data into real answers. Google now uses neural networks and deep learning to create “sentence compression algorithms” understand and respond to natural speech. Why is this so important?

Voice recognition accuracy is around 95% and continues to improve.

20% of mobile search queries in 2016 were conducted by voice.

70% of queries to Google’s assistant (Google Home) are made in natural or conversational language.

Takeaway: Everyday language is the most powerful way to connect a customer with a solution.

Digital Domination

The digital experience is the customer experience. It is not a pre-cursor to what will happen when a customer arrives on your doorstep. It how well you can communicate at that very first point of contact may very well determine whether you will advance to the next level of engagement with your brand.

Digital Commerce is growing for both retail and B2B (business to business). U.S. e-commerce sales grew 16.3% during Q2 2017, and Amazon was responsible for nearly half of that growth according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Investment in B2B Ecommerce are expected to reach $1.1 Trillion by 2019, which will be double that of B2C at $480B, according to Forrester. Bottom line, just about every type of business transaction has an online component.

What it All Means to Your Business

Question: What do recent trends in ecommerce and search technology mean for your business?

Answer: More of every phase of the sales process will take place online, 24/7, creating a greater demand more human-like engagement.

You must be willing to have a conversation that meets the need of your customer.

Speak the Language

Want to appear more often in search results, grow market share and increase sales? Recognize that you win each customer individually. Consumers don’t make a research a purchase decision as a group, they begin as an individual, seeking a solution, the way they want it, when they need it, (what Google calls Micro-Moments).

One of the most powerful things you can do to improve performance of your website, social media, and other channels to support marketing and sales is to speak the language your customers are speaking. This often means letting go of industry jargon and focusing on how you best solve a problem. In other words,

So, when you begin planning user experience, lead generation, website design, content, bots, Q&A, customer service scripts, or any interface with your customer, think of how you would like to be engaged…that just may be the most effective way to go.

The Money is In the List
Apr 26

The Money Is (and Always Will Be) In The List

By Rebecca Murtagh | Brand Marketing

The Money is In the List

Success lies in the relationship you have with each member of your audience.

‘The List’ is the lifeblood of any brand seeking to generate revenue, grow market share and create a sustainable business model that can adapt as the marketplace changes.

From the era of direct mail and traditional marketing to the digital age of websites, email, big data, search, social media, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce and mobile commerce; one fact will always be true: The Money Is in The List.

What is “The List”?

“The List” is essentially the collective audience of a brand. This includes every customer type, from consumers to media, employees and investors. Each audience type will have a slightly different interest in the brand. Being able to identify and communicate with each type of customer is imperative. The more strategically inbound and outbound communications, social media and website content are optimized to resonate with audiences; the higher response, engagement and conversion rates will be.

The quality of the list is key. The higher the quality of the list is, the more effective marketing and sales efforts will be. It is imperative that the list be owned and managed by the brand, regardless of how it was curated. You may be familiar with my advocacy of the website as a vital business asset. The list is also a business asset that can exponentially increase the value of a business.

Compare Company A with one list that is comprised of customers who have purchased product or services to Company B with multiple lists of customers, influencers, blog subscribers, social media contacts, media contacts, investors (including crowdfunding backers), event attendees, those who have downloaded whitepapers, eBooks, reports, etc. – representing every phase of the purchase decision.
Which company is more valuable?
No-brainer, Company B.

The List is a business asset. Protect it like a trade secret; No exceptions. – Rebecca Murtagh @VirtualMarketer

History of The List

Before the Internet, lists were primarily used for distribution of marketing material and sales. Often, due to the cost of producing and mailing marketing collateral, the list would be trimmed to only include those who responded. The unintended consequence of removing inactive members from the list was that it eliminated future revenue opportunity. Performance of marketing campaigns (and relationship to sales) were essentially defined by response rate of the list. KPI (key performance indicators) such as how many phone calls, coupons redeemed, postcards or surveys returned, catalog requests, subscriptions, mail orders, store visits or purchases would validate the quality of the list.

The List Today

The Internet has created many more channels to create a quality list. The web makes building, managing and marketing to the list faster, easier to manage and measure through a wide variety of web-based applications and tools. The list is the foundation of email, CRM and relationship-management and marketing automation platforms. The top revenue models that support a business; including eCommerce, mobile Commerce, subscription, freemium to paid applications and platforms all require the aggregation and nurturing of a quality list to reach KPI’s that support goals and the bottom line.

To be successful, the brand must have a clear strategy of how it will attract, reward and sustain a relationship with each member of its list.

Psychology of The List

The decision to engage a brand is a deliberate act that can establish a life-long relationship – or at least a meaningful one – when you understand what makes your customers tick. Sure, some will jump in with both feet and take action. The lack of action should not deem the others unworthy of remaining on the list.

Never Underestimate Lurkers

Inactive members of a list are often dismissed. Writing these audiences is a mistake when looking at the big picture.

Value of Inactive Email Subscribers

As demonstrated by the chart below, inactive subscribers represent approximately 30% of the value of an active subscriber.

Lurkers are People Too!

The 90 – 9-1 Percent Rule

Approximately 90 percent of social media users are “lurkers”. These individuals observe, read and may even share content, proving that digital marketing cannot be measured solely by clicks and conversion. Each member of the list has the ability to influence others, even if they never purchase themselves. I explore this in-depth in my upcoming book ‘Spheres of Influence’ (to be published in 2016).

The 90 9 1 Rule

The lesson? Until someone opts out, never exclude them or underestimate their value.

Segmented Lists Make Communication More Relevant

Connecting with customers based on what is important to them amplifies value, increases visibility and the value of the list over time. A segmented list makes this much easier.

Communicating with your collective audience in a general fashion, communication is less likely to inspire engagement, sharing and action than targeted, relevant communication, engagement and offers based on what has been learned about each customer. Well-targeted content is also vital to SEO (search engine optimization) , PPC, advertising campaigns and highly effective when consistent across all marketing and sales communication.

List Segmentation is Vital

Customization of communication, calls to action and offers to resonate with each segment of the list greatly enhances relevance and response. Imagine that with every segment is access to multitudes of more people like those in the list, based on shared elements that I call ‘Spheres of Influence’.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

When a member of the list is inspired to act, the brand gains the potential to reach others like them (through Spheres of Influence).

List Segmentation Samples a/k/a Spheres of Influence

  • Professional Association
  • Referral Source (social media, event, blog, book, referral, etc.)
  • Education
  • Geographic location
  • Age
  • Profession
  • Hobbies
  • Topics of Interest
  • Travel Destinations
  • Favorites (color, foods, designers, TV shows, blogs, magazines, social media network, etc.)
  • Event(s) attended

…the possibilities are endless.

List segmentation is widely associated with marketing and sales funnels. However, the value of these lists to plan and publish content, promotions and engagement as channels to grow the list and move customers along the purchase journey are highly under-utilized. Spheres of Influence are extremely useful when targeting audiences and building the list in any context.

List Building Tip 1:

Apply a hashtag to each sphere or segment of your list. Use that hashtag to search on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+ to identify prospects, influencers and conversations related to your brand…and grow your list


…you get the idea

Never Underestimated the Value of ‘The List’

You’ve heard the saying: it is easier to keep a customer than to acquire a new one. 70% of survey respondents to a Cross-Channel Marketing Report agreed that “it is cheaper to retain than acquire a customer”.

Tweak your perception of the definition of a “customer” to include brand influencers, vendors, media, ambassadors, employees, investors, social media connections – as well as the many people they influence – and the concept of a list suddenly becomes exponentially more valuable.

List Building Tip 2:

Make the brand more visible in social media and search to relevant to customer types (The List) by customizing content on the website (SEO) and social media. (I explain how in my book ‘Million Dollar Websites‘).

Segmentation Impacts the Bottom Line

Segmentation of email has proven to be effective in increasing performance and ROI of the channel. These elements can easily be translated in theory to every channel.

Benefits of List Segmentation


The List Delivers

Once you define and grow your list, your ability to build a brand, grow market share and sell products and services grows exponentially.

A Quality List Impacts The Bottom Line

My digital firm Karner Blue Marketing was nominated for Best Use of Social Media in Search by US Search Awards for creating and leveraging list segmentation across multiple digital channels to achieve the following metrics for a client that had not been building a list – all in just a few short months.

  • 1080% Increase in Marketing Campaign Transactions.
  • 816% Increase in Campaign-Generated Revenue.
  • 133% Increase in Organic Search = 45% Increase in Revenue.
  • 53% Increase in Direct Traffic = 22% Increase in Revenue.
  • 441% Increase in Referral Traffic (Including Social Media) = 251% Increase in Revenue.
  • 758% Increase in Email Traffic = 678% Increase in Revenue.

Outstanding results are achievable for any brand when a solid strategy and ample resources are applied.

List Building Tip 3:

Instead of posting 3 generic social media updates each day, post one update per segment/Sphere of Influence per day.

Launching a new product, service, crowdfunding campaign or new business is far easier when you have built an audience interested in the values represented by your brand. It takes time to build audiences. You can greatly increase your success by building your list ahead of time. One of the most effective, efficient methods of doing this is by targeting and engaging with audiences according to the segments or Spheres of Influence that align with the brand’s target audiences.

Use Segmentation To Make Marketing More Relevant

Customize communication and engagement to each segment of your list, and enjoy greater success with your list and their “Spheres of Influence”.

You May Also Like >  3 Rules for Creating a Quality List

Apr 23

Mobilegeddon Google Algorithm Mobile Update

By Rebecca Murtagh | SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Expected to impact more website than recent Google algorithm updates than Panda and Penguin, ‘Mobilegeddon’ is expected to shake things up in search for all industries, worldwide.

Mobilegeddon Is Not a Date, It Is a Shift

Mobilegeddon is the name the digital industry has given to the algorithm update Google announced in February 2015 that will expand mobile-friendliness as a quality signal for websites in organic search. Google introduced ‘App indexing’ at the same time to leverage information collected from indexed apps as a factor for search engine ranking of apps for users who have the app installed and are signed-in to the app.

Mobile Websites Will Rule

If you have read my book, or my 2014 Search Engine Watch column “Mobile Now Exceeds PC: The Biggest Shift Since the Internet Began”, you know that mobile is not new to the search engine optimization discussion (SEO). Google has encouraged businesses and brands to embrace mobile for some time because internet users around the world are increasingly seeking content from search by way of mobile devices. Google’s decision to expand the influence of mobile in determining how to display websites in search engine results will make mobile-friendly websites winners, and non-mobile websites the losers.

When is Mobilegeddon?

Tuesday April 21, 2015 is the date Google identified as the ‘start’ of when the search engine algorithm will put more emphasis on mobile as a ranking or ‘quality website’ signal. Google’s goal is to make mobile-friendly content from websites and mobile apps easier to find in search. This date has effectively served as a line in the sand to motivate businesses and brands to become mobile friendly.

Truth is, mobile has a been a Google ranking factor for quality websites for some time. In fact, I shared Google’s position on mobile in my book on websites which was published in February 2013. So, mobile is not a new factor in the search engine algorithm, it is simply being emphasized more by Google in search engine results.

Mobile-friendly websites have been designated as such in Google search engine results viewed from a mobile device for some time.

Is Your Website Mobile-Search Friendly?

Want to know whether your website is mobile-friendly according to Google, or not?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a tech wizard to get a straight answer on whether Google considers your website to be mobile friendly. The Google Mobile-Friendly Test is quick, easy and absolutely free. It will scan your website and let you know whether your website is configured properly to be considered a mobile-friendly website by Google.

If your website meets Google configuration criteria, you will be congratulated, with a screen that looks like this;

website passing Google Mobile Friendly Test

If your website is NOT mobile-friendly, The Google Mobile Friendly Test will let you know. And, until you make the necessary updates to your website, you should be prepared for some level of penalization, or loss of traffic to any website that does not meet Google mobile criteria.

You will be presented with a screen like the one below of a website firm selling responsive (mobile-friendly) website design. This is just one of the many website design, SEO, advertising agency and marketing firms that sell mobile website solutions, but operate websites that not meet Google’s criteria.

Google Mobile Friendly Test Fail

You can use the Google tool to check any website URL. As demonstrated by the results above, a website deemed not mobile-friendly may not accurately reflect the work of the firm or agency, so be prepared to do your homework to insure any investment you make toward mobile will meet Google criteria.

This particular result was a random selection and surprised me, as this firm does create responsive, or mobile-friend websites…Which leads me to my final and perhaps most important recommendation: Be prepared to make informed decisions when it comes to website design, content, SEO and related marketing initiatives. Things are not always how they appear – and that goes for positive and negative perceptions.

What to Do if Your Website Is Not Mobile Friendly for Mobilegeddon

April 21st 2015 marks the beginning of the Mobilegeddon algorithm update. If your website is not mobile-friendly on that date, you have not completely missed your opportunity to meet Google’s requirements. Google is likely to recognize when your website does become friendly to mobile device users. However, in today’s highly competitive search environment, the sooner you comply the better.

How to Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

Do not rush into building a mobile app or separate mobile website until you have determined how, exactly, your website will best serve all customer types on mobile devices.

Of course, I highly recommend any business executive, marketing director, IT, entrepreneur or small business owner seeking to get better results from their website to read my book, Million Dollar Websites: Build a Better Website Using Best Practices of the Web Elite in E-Business, Design, SEO, Usability, Social, Mobile and Conversion, which emphasizes a holistic approach toward the website as a business asset using proven best practices, including Google recommendations on mobile-friendly websites, BEFORE making a decision about whether to build a responsive website, separate mobile website or mobile app, or investing in website design, re-design, SEO or content.

Mobile-friendly websites are not just good for Google – they are good for all businesses and brands because their customers expect a mobile experience.

Have you seen a shift in traffic or search engine position over recent days or weeks?

Brands as Publishers by Marketing Keynote Speaker Rebecca Murtagh
Feb 11

Why Every Brand Must Be a Publisher

By Rebecca Murtagh | Brand Marketing

5 Reasons Why Every Brand Must PublishBrands as Publishers by Marketing Keynote Speaker Rebecca Murtagh

Regardless of exit strategy, every businesses and brands is seeking sustainability.

In a quest to win market share, many businesses prematurely invest in SEO, social media, content marketing and advertising, when leveraging these investments for optimum results and ROI, requires they first become a publisher.

I have been emphasizing the “brand as publisher” model to clients for over a decade. The buzz term now is “content marketing”, which many distill down to blog posts.

Still, many businesses resist the reality of the landscape in which they compete. Below is the essence of the case I make when convincing them the brand must publish.

Brand Publisher vs Content Marketing?

Beyond the mere concept of content marketing which often focuses on publishing blog posts, the mindset of the publishing brand leads the conversation around topics vital to the success of their core offering in text, video, audio, conversation and search. Publishing enables brands to gain a distinct competitive advantage.

Here are five compelling reasons for every brand to embrace and run with the concept that they are a publisher.


If a brand is not “the” authority on the topic related to its primary product or service, who should be?

When strategically planned, created, optimized and distributed; conversations around the topics related to the problems a brand solves contribute to the creation of trust and authority in the topic – to humans (customers) as well as search engines.


Publishing content for consumption as written word, audio and video feed social media updates, conversation and visibility in search directly impact clicks to conversion. Brands must first put their message in the path of target audiences (customers, media, investors, etc.).

It is important to remember that search doesn’t just happen on Google, Bing and Yahoo. Search also occurs on YouTube, social platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Planning, optimization and proper targeting makes all the difference for the brand publisher. Proper strategic optimization can make or break any brand’s investment in becoming a publisher, so be sure to invest in proper optimization to fully leverage the relationship between social media and search.


When content is optimized to appeal to customers, based on a specific aspect of their purchase decision, it becomes extremely valuable. The greater the understanding of the customer journey, the more effective the brand publisher will be. A publishing brand will insert itself into each of the many considerations and discussions relevant to how their customers come to the final decision.

The investment to demonstrate understand of the many aspects of the problems customers face, improves the brand publisher’s chances to solve that problem with their product or service.

4.Customer Relationships

Today’s digital, social marketplace enables brands to connect with individual customers like never before. However, like any other aspect of human relations, a brand must make an investment in order to win the hearts and minds of customers. Brands who listen, publish, engage and invest in relationships with customers understand that each customer won, or lost, has influence over many others who will be influenced by them. A single review gone viral can make or break a brand. Acknowledging that every customer holds the future of the brand in their hands amplifies the value and impact of a strategic planned stream of conversations that continually reveal the value of the brand.

5.Customers Create The Sustainable Brand

Truth is, customers control the destiny of the brand. They really always have. However, social media has created a transparent competitive landscape that will amplify all that is good (and bad) about a brand.

What many now call “content marketing”, many brands distill the concept of publishing down to blog posts.

The publishing brand understands the value of taking a proactive role in creating informed customers, engaging in conversations, and promoting the value of the brand. The brand that adapts and responds to the demands of  customers over time will always appear to be relevant and responsive.

Question: If a brand doesn’t lead the conversation about the problems they solve, who will?

Answer: Their competitors.


Comparison Grid of Google Bing Yahoo Search Engine Factors for SEO and Quality Website
Jan 24

Rebecca for Search Engine Watch: Comparison of Google Bing and Yahoo ‘Quality Website Guidelines’ for SEO

By Rebecca Murtagh | SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Quality Website Guidelines – Infographic

This week on Search Engine Watch, I emphasized the importance of the ‘Quality Website’ in search engine optimization and performance of the website for users. Google, Yahoo and Bing have all confirmed the value of SEO, and more importantly, the value of quality websites.

The Quality Website is not a natural phenomenon. It requires proper planning, optimization and management, as I outline extensively in my book ‘Million Dollar Websites‘.

SEO Requires More Than On-Page Optimization

Search engines care about much more than content and meta data – they care about relevance, authority and a quality user experience by visitors. After all, the primary goal of search engines is to deliver the best possible result to a search engine query. If quality results are not provided, they lose the search function to other search engines. Loss of search traffic directly impacts ad revenues. So, you can bet the search engines have a vested interest in referring quality websites through search engine results.

Comparison of SEO Basic Guidelines for Google Bing and YahooComparison Grid of Google Bing Yahoo Search Engine Factors for SEO and Quality Website

Below is the grid I created to demonstrate the qualities that either contribute to the quality of the website, or put the website in jeopardy of being viewed as “spammy”, which can diminish search engine performance, or even result in disappearance (de-listing or blacklisting) from search engine results altogether.

Don’t think it can happen? Believe me, it does – every day. Even highly experienced website designers, agencies and developers have found themselves scrambling to make amends after breaking  suggested guidelines or rules of search.

There are many more factors that contribute to the performance of search. However, this grid offers a great foundation from which to evaluate the quality of your website.

You can view the full-size graphic on MillionDollarWebsite.TV


Click to view more of Rebecca Murtagh’s articles on Search Engine Watch.

1 2 3 5