Staying ahead of the curve on Google’s Core Web Vitals

One year.

That’s how long Google gave developers to start implementing required changes to improve user experience. In early May 2020, Google published a modest post on one of its developer blogs introducing Core Web Vitals — a set of metrics that will result in major changes to the way websites are ranked by the search engine. In May 2021, Google will officially add those Core Web Vitals to the various other “page experience” signals it analyzes when deciding how to rank websites.

The quest to improve a website’s position in search results has spawned hundreds (if not thousands) of how-to articles over the years. Businesses that are scared about taking a hit to SEO from Google’s new metrics have been pushing developers to optimize company websites. At the same time, developers have been frustrated because there’s a lot that goes into user experience that isn’t reflected in the Core Web Vitals. A lot of details have to be juggled.

Aside from improved SEO, small business websites optimizing for the new metrics will reap the rewards of an improved user experience for their site visitors.

But what about the startups, tech companies and small business owners who handle their own websites in-house? What about the agencies and enterprise platforms that manage or host hundreds or even thousands of websites for clients? While many are looking at the Core Web Vitals as a big hoop to jump through to please the search powers that be, others are seeing — and seizing — the opportunities that come along with this change.

Improving user experience will be rewarded

Small businesses wondering “What’s in it for me?” should recognize that if all other things are equal, optimizing for the Core Web Vitals is going to be a significant tiebreaker between websites. If a company’s site is ranking really well with these rigorous metrics, it will have an edge against competitors in searches when content and ranking are otherwise comparable.

Aside from improved SEO, small business websites optimizing for the new metrics will reap the rewards of an improved user experience for their site visitors. Internet users frequently complain about long wait times as pages are loading, or problems with an entire page shifting just as the user goes to click a specific button — which results in them clicking the wrong button and causing further delays. For online retail websites, a poor user experience leads to lost revenue as users abandon shopping carts and never return to a site. Once the Core Web Vitals go into effect, companies that have made the efforts to provide smooth and speedy performance for visitors will win out against competitors that retain sluggish designs.

Sparking overdue conversations

#advertising-tech, #column, #ec-column, #ec-ecommerce-and-d2c, #google-search, #search-engine-optimization, #user-experience, #website-design

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Panoply raises $10M for its cloud data platform

Panoply, a platform that makes it easier for businesses to set up a data warehouse and analyze that data with standard SQL queries, today announced that it has raised an additional $10 million in funding from Ibex Investors and C5 Capital. This brings the total funding in the San Francisco- and Tel Aviv-based company to $24 million.

The company, which launched back in 2015, has mostly stuck to its original vision, which was always about democratizing access to data warehousing and the analytics capabilities that go hand-in-hand with that. Over the last few years, it also built more code-free data integrations into the platform that make it easier for businesses to pull in data from a wide variety of sources, including the likes of Salesforce, HubSpot, NetSuite, Xero, Quickbooks, Freshworks and others. It also integrates with other data warehousing services like Google’s BigQuery and Amazon’s Redshift and all of the major BI and analytics tools.

The company says it will use the new funding to expand its sales and marketing efforts.

“We aspire to make analysts’ lives simpler and more productive by making it easier for them to sync, store, and access their data, and this funding will go a long way toward that mission,” says CEO and co-founder Yaniv Leven in today’s announcement.

In some ways, Panoply was maybe just a bit early to the market. Today, though, there can be little doubt that we’re in a booming market for data warehousing and analytics services. There’s nary a business left, after all, that isn’t looking to gain more insights from the copious amounts of data they gather every single day now. That market is now more competitive than ever, too, with incumbents like Snowflake, Databricks and others (including all of the hyper clouds) all aiming for their slice of the market. Panoply and its investors clearly believe that the company’s all-in-one platform gives it a competitive edge, though.

#accounting-software, #amazon, #business, #business-intelligence, #c5-capital, #computing, #data-management, #data-warehouse, #databricks, #hubspot, #information-technology, #netsuite, #quickbooks, #redshift, #salesforce, #san-francisco, #search-engine-optimization, #sql, #tc, #tel-aviv, #xero

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2 strategies for creating top-of-funnel marketing content

Even when you’re excellent at making the sale, you still need people to know you exist in the first place.

Content is excellent at making the case for your product or service, but it also excels at providing value to potential customers in a more tangential way, introducing them to your brand and building awareness and authority.

Here’s how utilizing content marketing and digital PR can make huge strides in getting your brand name out there.

Ranking on-site content for awareness keywords

When on-site content you created ranks well in the search engine results pages (SERPs), that doesn’t just mean you get more traffic (although that’s certainly a major benefit).

You’re also getting your brand name in front of searchers because you’re appearing in the results. You’re building authority because Google appears to believe you have the best answer for their query. You’re giving the searcher and answer to their question and beginning to build trust.

So how do you know which keywords/topics to target and what kind of content to create? You perform keyword research, which basically means examining what keywords people are searching for, how many people search for them per month and how hard it’ll be to rank for them.

Google Ads Keyword Planner provides this information, but you can also use Chrome plugins like Keywords Everywhere and Keyword Surfer or free tools like Ubersuggest.

When your goal is to build awareness, it’s important that the keywords and topics you target have high volume. In other words, they’re searched a lot. Awareness objectives mean reaching as many people as possible so more people know that your brand exists and begin to understand what it’s about.

#column, #content-marketing, #digital-marketing, #growth-marketing, #online-advertising, #pr, #search-engine-optimization, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

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Earn the best backlinks with high-quality content and digital PR

A lot is debated in the SEO world, but nearly everyone can agree that links are and will continue to be vitally important to the health and rankability of a website.

Luckily, link building and brand awareness goals can be built into your content marketing strategy, which can be vastly elevated by combining your efforts with digital PR.

I’ll walk through how creating high-quality content and pitching it correctly to top publishers can earn you the valuable backlinks you’ve always wanted (and if you employ this strategy on an ongoing basis, the increase in organic traffic you’ve always wanted, too).

Choosing the right content idea

I have to start by saying that the most important thing about being cited in news sources is that you have to be newsworthy. Now that might go without saying, but what we as marketers might consider newsworthy about our brands isn’t necessarily newsworthy to a writer or to the greater public.

Content ideation tip #1: The best way to ensure your newsworthiness is to gather and analyze data. Even if the data set already exists, if it hasn’t been analyzed and presented in a straightforward, applicable, easy-to-understand way, your illustration of the data could be considered new and valuable.

I’ll touch on this again in a moment. But first, let’s dive into the content example I’ll be using throughout this piece.

#column, #content-marketing, #growth-marketing, #pr, #public-relations, #search-engine-optimization, #seo, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

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When you need content to build links, use social proof of concept

Before tackling a new content idea, it’s comforting to have evidence that it’ll go off without a hitch.

Of course, that’s not possible.

You can never know 100% that a piece of content will meet your objectives. But you can get a better sense of whether it’s likely to succeed.

We call it “social proof of concept.” This strategy is often used by marketers as a way to gauge the promotional viability of what they’re going to create.

Let’s examine what it is and how to use it to create compelling content.

What is “social proof of concept”?

“Social proof of concept” is one of the many ways you can come up with content ideas.

It essentially means a similar piece of content has performed well in the past, meaning it’s likely that something in the same vein that’s better will perform even more impressively now.

By exploring content examples that got a ton of social engagement, you can ask yourself:

  • Are people talking about the topic?
  • What was it about this content that might have made it so successful?
  • Is there something missing that we can add/improve upon?
  • Is there something about the methodology/design we can learn from?
  • What conversation is happening around the topic that you can contribute to now?
  • Is there an idea that complements this content and contributes to the discussion?

When you can identify what’s been successfully engaging in the past, you can start with a much higher chance of creating something that really resonates with people.

Where do I find social proof of concept for my ideas?

My favorite places to look for social proof of concept is on Reddit, Twitter, YouTube and others. I’ll walk through my process for vetting potential topics and methods of finding inspiration for new, related ideas.

#buzzfeed, #collective-intelligence, #column, #content-marketing, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #hashtag, #pinterest, #reddit, #search-engine-optimization, #seo, #social, #social-media, #social-media-marketing, #startups, #tc, #twitter, #verified-experts, #viral-marketing

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Three growth marketing experts share their best tools and strategies for 2020

At last month’s Early Stage virtual event, channel growth experts joined TechCrunch reporters and editors for a series of conversations covering the best tools and strategies for building startups in 2020. For this post, I’ve recapped highlights of talks with:

  • Ethan Smith, founder and CEO, Graphite
  • Susan Su, startup growth advisor, executive-in-residence, Sound Ventures
  • Asher King-Abramson, founder, Got Users

If you’d like to hear or watch these conversations in their entirety, we’ve embedded the videos below.


Ethan Smith: How to build a high-performance SEO engine

Relying on internet searches to learn about growth topics like search engine optimization leads to a rabbit hole of LinkedIn thinkfluencer musings and decade-old Quora posts. Insights are few and far between, because SEO has changed dramatically as Google has squashed spammy techniques “specialists” have pushed for years.

Ethan Smith, owner of growth agency Graphite, says Google didn’t kill SEO, but the channel has evolved. “SEO has built a negative reputation over time of being spammy,” Smith says. “The typical flow of an SEO historically has been: I need to find every single keyword I possibly can find and auto-generate a mediocre page for each of those keywords, the user experience doesn’t really matter, content can be automated and spun, the key is fooling the bot.”

Artificial intelligence has disrupted this flow as algorithms have abandoned hard-coded rules for more flexible designs that are less vulnerable to being gamed. What SEO looks like today, Smith says, is all about trying to “figure out what the algorithm is trying to accomplish and try to accomplish the same thing.” Google’s algorithms aren’t looking for buckets of keywords, they’re looking to distill a user’s intent.

The key to building a strategy around SEO as a company breaks down into six steps surrounding intent, says Smith:

  1. Target by intent

    #advertising-tech, #artificial-intelligence, #brand-marketing, #digital-marketing, #email, #ethan-smith, #events, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #online-advertising, #search-engine-optimization, #startups, #susan-su, #tc, #techcrunch-early-stage, #verified-experts

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In uncertain times, jump start your SEO

As a result of the current economic volatility many startups and even established companies are proceeding with caution on paid marketing that is typically lower in the purchase funnel. Sales and funnel and buying behavior has changed and it is hard to have confidence in advertising models that used to work at the beginning of the year.

Therefore, this is an ideal time to develop or ramp up organic search engine optimization efforts. If you have not yet invested in SEO, these are the seven steps you can take immediately to get started.

1. Get your search data house in order

Tools to help you organize your search data include Google Search Console. These tools are geared toward helping you get the best type of search data possible by search traffic and performance for your website, as well as identifying issues that you can fix to improve your Google Search results.

Although there are beneficial tools available that show visibility, which helps you see who ranks on what, those work primarily for tracking competitors. To understand your own visibility as well as the keywords and pages that drive organic traffic to your site, Google Search Console delivers that data.

2. Conduct a technical SEO audit

The goal of a technical SEO audit is to find specific SEO issues that keep your website from ranking. These SEO issues could include things like a missing no-index tag, too many H1 tags, low value pages, 404 errors and duplicate content.

There are many SEO audit tools available that can help you catch these issues. With Google’s ongoing algorithm updates, a technical SEO audit can help ensure your website is optimized for these changes.

#column, #digital-marketing, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #product-management, #search-engine, #search-engine-optimization, #seo, #verified-experts, #web-analytics

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Google switches its Shopping search service to mostly free listings

Google is making a change to its product search offering meaning that unpaid listings picked by algorithm will dominate results displayed on the Google Shopping tab, instead of mostly paid product listings.

In a blog post announcing the move, Bill Ready, president of Google’s commerce division, cited the coronavirus pandemic as a catalyst for Google to speed up a pre-existing plan to switch from Shopping results being determined by paid ad auction to mostly free listings.

Making Shopping listings free for merchants is one way the tech giant is looking to support struggling retailers through the COVID-19 crisis, he suggested.

“Beginning next week, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free product listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google,” wrote Ready. “With hundreds of millions of shopping searches on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online.”

The expansion of free listings is slated to be completed by the end of April. Initially it will only take place in the US — but Google says it intends to roll out the change globally before the end of the year.

While Google is packaging the change as a gesture to help cash-strapped retailers during a time of economic crisis there’s no doubt the tech giant is also spying strategic opportunity to expand its role in ecommerce in the midst of a coronavirus-shaped boom.

With millions of people stuck at home, and scores of physical stores closed or with heavily restricted access, online shopping has seen huge uplift.

So far, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has been the most notable winner, adding a reported $24BN to his personal wealth since the shutdown began — while ad giants like Google are facing heavy exposure to the crisis, as advertisers hunker down and rip up their 2020 marketing budgets.

If Google Shopping can start returning better results for products, and indeed results for more products, there’s an opportunity for the search giant to grow its share of shopping traffic and grab listings clicks from shoppers who might otherwise have run product queries directly on Amazon.

Google is also using the new free product listings feature as a value add ‘carrot’ — to encourage advertisers to (keep) paying it for ads.

“For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings,” is how Ready pitches the switch.

As SearchEngineLand points out, this is actually Google returning to its roots — given the first version of its Shopping service (which was then called Froogle) was also free to list.

The switch to purely paid came in 2012. Though the changes now will still see paid product listings slotted into the top of Google search results if users search for product keywords, as well as into the top of the Shopping tab. So Google isn’t giving up all product ad revenue.

In terms of how it works, existing users of Google’s Merchant Center and Shopping Ads who have already opted into the “surfaces across Google program” won’t have to do anything else — and may already be eligible to show products in what Google’s help center describes as “the unpaid experiences”.

Those needing to opt in can do so by selecting “Growth” and then “Manage programs” in the left nav menu and then choosing the “surfaces across Google” program card.

“You can also add products to your product feed, to make even more products discoverable in these free listings,” Google adds.

For new users of its Merchant Center it says it’s aiming to ramp up the onboarding process “over the coming weeks and months”. But presumably there may be some delay in getting access.

Accompanying the switch is a “new partnership” with PayPal — which Google says will allow merchants to link their accounts in order to “speed up our onboarding process and ensure we’re surfacing the highest quality results for our users”.

Existing partnerships to help merchants manage products and inventory, including those with Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce, are ongoing, it adds.

Google has been paying more attention to Shopping recently — with a major revamp of the service last year.

In 2019, it also merged its Google Express shopping service with Google Shopping, then sunset the Google Express brand. And it took on Pinterest’s visual search experience by integrating Google Lens into Google Shopping to guide customers to similar products as those in photos.

Like Amazon, Google leveraged personalization technology to create a homepage that’s unique to each shopper’s habits and purchases. And like Honey and other price-trackers, it can alert customers to potential savings. But to truly rival Amazon, Google Shopping has to be open to more retailers — and the pay-to-play route doesn’t allow for that, especially now as retailers face financial difficulties due to coronavirus lockdowns.

What’s not mentioned in Google’s blog post is that its Shopping service has faced antitrust intervention in the European Union which slapped Google with a $2.7BN fine back in 2017 — finding it had systematically given prominence to its own shopping comparison service in results while also demoting rival comparison shopping services.

The company later rolled out tweaks to the Shopping service in Europe that it said are intended to comply with the antitrust ruling, letting comparison services bid to be displayed in the ads displayed at the top of product related search results. Though rivals have continued to complain about the ‘remedy’, and the EU’s competition chief suggested last year that additional changes may be needed.

TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez contributed to this report

#amazon, #bigcommerce, #bill-ready, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #google, #google-shopping, #jeff-bezos, #online-shopping, #paypal, #search-engine-optimization, #shopify, #shopping, #united-states

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