This is the eighteenth episode of, ‘This Week In Organic’, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news.
In this episode, among other things we talk about whether Google’s 3-pack local results might impact your business? Twitter introduce the emoji hastag what does that mean for business? Are you taking advantage of Pinterest’s API? And if you continue to disobey Google, your punishment might just get tougher!
In August, Google rolled-out an update, replacing its traditional 7-pack of local results with just 3 results and a map. There’s been a similar map-led change for mobile results as well. But now agencies are starting to report lower click-through rates for certain results. So should local businesses be worried?
How should a local business increase the likelihood that they’ll be listed in the top 3 local results?
Google announced in a blog post that if your sites repeatedly violate the Webmaster Guidelines after going through the re-consideration process, then re- re-consideration will be more difficult to achieve in the future.
What kinds of activity can result in webmaster warnings?
Have you successfully negotiated your way through a reconsideration request?
Is it still a good idea you submit your website to Google Search Console, giving Google more information about what you’re up to!?
A couple of weeks ago Twitter mentioned that they were releasing a special emoji hashtag for Coca Cola – now they’re releasing hashtags for the rugby world cup. So what’s Twitter’s intent? Is it just something fun and different for users or does Twitter want its users to use hashtags more often in the future?
Why would Twitter want its users to use hashtags more often?
It is good marketing practice to always try to include at least one hashtag in your tweets?
Back in July, Pinterest switched on its developer platform, adding services like ‘If This Then That’ as an automated way to pin images. Apparently use of this service is increasing significantly now. So how can businesses take advantage of this?
Also, Instagram has just announced that it’s hit 400 million monthly active users. That’s over 80 million more active users than Twitter.
Why type of business should be using Pinterest and what type of business should be using Instagram and why?
Will the introduction of animated gifs and video on sites like Twitter mean that using static images won’t be so important in the future from an online marketing perspective?
DAVID BAIN: Are Google’s three pack local results impacting your business? Twitter introduced the emoji hashtag. What does that mean for your business? Are you taking advantage of Pinterest’s API? And if you continue to disobey Google, your punishment might just be tougher. Welcome to This Week in Organic, episode number eighteen.
Hello, and welcome. I’m David Bain, and each week I’ll be joined by some knowledgeable, opinionated folks to discuss the latest happenings in anything that impacts organic traffic. And as for you, dear viewer, get involved. So click the tell a little bird button to your top left hand side, that side I think, to share the show with your friends, and leave us with your views in the comment section to the right. So I’ll try to stay on top of everything that’s going on as much as I can, but let’s find out more about today’s guest, where they’re from, and what’s caught their attention this week. So starting off with Michael.
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Hi everybody, welcome. Michael Fleischner here, and really excited to be talking about SEO. My business, Big Fin Solutions, we focus on SEO, marketing consulting and marketing services, and Google is definitely the topic of the day. It seems to be something that’s continually changing, so hopefully you get some great information today. Thanks, David.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, thanks Michael. And moving on to Steven.
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: Hi, I’m Stephen Kenwright. I’m director of search at Branded3. I think the interesting topic for me probably is going to be the Google penalties. I love Google penalties. Should be exciting.
DAVID BAIN: You love Google penalties.
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: Oh yeah, yeah. Well now, not usually.
DAVID BAIN: Moving on to Tom.
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Hi, yeah. I’m Tom McLoughlin. I’m a director at SEO Travel. We do what it says on the tin; we do SEO for travel companies, and various other online marketing services as well. And I guess I’m quite interested to talk about Pinterest’s release of their API, and just in general using Pinterest, and Instagram, and those kinds of social platforms to get more exposure, more visibility.
DAVID BAIN: Great stuff. Okay, thanks Tom. Moving on to our first topic, which is in August, Google wrote an update replacing its traditional seven pack of local results with just three results and a NAP. And there’s been some record of NAP led change for mobile results as well. But now agencies are staring to report lower click through rates for certain results. So should local businesses be worried? I saw Michael nodding your head there. Should local businesses be worried?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s really interesting because when this update came out, initially it was not including in the three pack the phone number, or really any information specifically related around contacting the business. They have since, actually just yesterday, made an announcement that they’re going to add that back in. So I think, as it true with a lot of the Google algorithm updates, you know they roll it out, the pendulum swings in one direction, and then it swings back in the other direction.
So you know, I think this is something that’s going to evolve, but the upshot is that with fewer local results, it will be impacting traffic for businesses. The reality, however, is business should always be looking to optimise their local results. So you want to come up in the top three results, otherwise you’re just not going to get the click volume really that you need to grow your business. So I think it just kind of reinforces some basic principles around organic, which is you should always be striving to show up in those top results, and you want to make sure that your contact information is in all the appropriate places, not just Google My Business, but on your website, and other local search engines.
DAVID BAIN: And I guess it’s even more important now to actually optimise your results because if it’s the top three results now rather than the top seven results, then there’s less real estate available there for the businesses to even get a [link in – 0:04:18.0].
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Absolutely.
DAVID BAIN: Right, okay. So Stephen, do you have any clients, any businesses that you’re talking to that have experienced issues with seeing less results on Google from a local perspective?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: I think the interesting thing about the three packs is the positioning of them, so being above organic results in many cases. It actually can be a really bad user experience. So an example, I was Googling on Sunday night for a store because I wanted to buy something on the internet, funnily enough, and the local results were right at the top telling me front and centre that the store was closed. And I don’t see why that’s potentially a particularly good thing to have as a first resort. Basically it’s just exactly like ranking a site that you can’t do anything with.
So I think Google will probably look at not necessarily rolling this back, or moving them down, but getting a better understanding of what it is that a user’s looking for when they’re searching for a local business. And I think we’re going to see fairly soon that they’re going to be moved up and down depending on the time of day, and you know, I think opening hours could potentially be a ranking factor for local results. I think you would see local listings rank lower down maybe by how busy the results are. I mean, you’re seeing that already as well.
So we’re not necessarily seeing less clicks or more clicks in most circumstances. I mean, when it’s applicable we’ve been optimising for local listings anyway. So it’s not good news, but it’s not really bad news for us as far as we can tell so far.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, and so it’s still quite early days. But from what you’re saying, it sounds like Google have got a long way to go when it comes to actually getting contextual search engine results right.
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: I think so. And if you listen to Gary Illyes talking about the search results, it’s a very different, separate team who works on the local results than works on the organic results. So whereas the organic team is really sort of getting to grips with user intent, and understanding of that a lot better, there’s a little bit of grey area about how much the teams are necessarily talking to each other, and whether those learnings are being passed across.
DAVID BAIN: Right, okay. So Tom, what are your thoughts on this matter?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Yeah, I mean Stephen said it, you know, I guess it’s a little bit too early to look into whether there’s a significant drop off in terms of traffic that you’re getting from those kind of results. From our perspective, I guess the area that it’s falling into most is kind of hotel and accommodation type phrases. That’s the way we tend to, travel wise, getting the local pack in there. I think in terms of the kind of behaviour of how that works, a lot of the time when you go in there, and you click on one of the results, it does take you through to the NAP itself. It’s kind of a secondary stage of clicking on the NAP itself, and then when you do do that, you then actually get the extended selection of listings within it too. So even if you’re not necessarily in those top three results to begin with in the organic results, when someone does click on it, and go through to that secondary phase, there’s still visibility there for the people who are a bit further down.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. We’re live on Blab here, obviously, and we’ve got Erda saying that, ‘That’s the coolest, geekiest Blab I’ve ever joined.’ So that’s a cool compliment, so thanks for that. So tell the little bird. Share it with your friends. That would be cool.
So Michael, with regards to getting ranked in Google Local, what are a few tips that local businesses absolutely need to be doing to definitely start appearing in these top results?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: I’m sorry David, I wasn’t able to hear. Could you repeat that?
DAVID BAIN: Yeah sure. So what are some things that local businesses need to do to start appearing in these Google Local listings.
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Oh, great. Yeah, thanks David. So I would say for the local business that the most important thing, at least initially, is to make sure that they’re either using a data aggregator, or some type of source to help make sure all of their business listings are complete, right? We talked about NAP – name, address, phone number. That needs to be consistent across Google My Business, and other local sites, or search engines. So a lot of it begins with just simplification – making sure that their address appears on their home page, on their contact page, making sure that it’s uploaded to their digital profiles consistently and completely.
So a lot of it is really around optimisation that occurs not only on these business listing websites, but obviously their own website. You know, just best practices in terms of SEO, making sure their websites load quickly, that Google can find it and index it, that their sitemaps are uploaded to webmaster tools. I mean all the basic fundamental blocking and tackling related to SEO really needs to be taken care of before they even hone in on kind of the local aspect of optimisation.
So I would star there kind of with a general technical crawl of the site, making sure all those basics are covered, and then they can start to apply more advanced techniques, whether it’s building individual local landing pages, or content focused around particular areas in which they want to show up or do business.
DAVID BAIN: So is this realistically something that small business themselves can be doing, or are we getting to a stage where it’s just too complicated for a small business owner to actually do these things?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Yeah, you know I think it’s a really grey area right now. If you talk to a business, of course we go in, and we try to sell the fact that we can do this a lot more effectively and efficiently than the small business can, which doesn’t usually have the resources to do it. That being said, I feel like there’s always a do it yourself model. It may not always be as extensive or as comprehensive, but business owners can at least take some of the initial steps on their own, and then build from there. So my advice is, depending on budget, timeline, so on and so forth, you don’t want to be pennywise and pound foolish. Sometimes it’s worth making an investment that will really pay off over the long term.
But you know, something like doing a Google My Business profile, I mean that’s easy to setup, anybody can do it, and there are plenty of tutorials and resources available.
DAVID BAIN: Stephen, what about getting something like reviews? Is that something’s that’s going to significantly increase rankings as well as click through rates within local results?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: I would expect that yeah, it will be. I mean, I think, as far as I’m aware, reviews aren’t necessarily a ranking factor right now, but we know from the kind of things that Google’s talking about that they want to rank the best companies. It’s not necessarily about the best website, or even the best content. But they want to be passing on people, passing on traffic to websites that are going to serve them well. And a lot of the time that means a company that’s going to be able to fulfil their order properly, and generally be a good company to deal with.
So I think even if reviews aren’t a big deal right now in terms of actual ranking signals, they’re definitely an impact in indirect ranking factors. So people clicking on results more because they have more reviews, better reviews, potentially reviews, until recently of course, who might be on your Google+ circles, or something like that. That’s an indirect ranking factor because people are clicking through more readily than they would otherwise without reviews.
And I think it’s not just Google+, and that kind of thing. I mean you can see star ratings in your Facebook page, for example, and that’s indexed in organic results as well, which again is always a positive way to get people to click through.
I think what’s quite interesting as well, when you were talking a couple of minutes ago, David, about resources, one thing that I found certainly is the bigger the company, the less they care about their individual local pages, compared to a local business who has one location, and basically their whole website is their local page because that’s the area they serve, and that’s their locality. Those people, they rank because of that potentially, they have maybe their Google+ page, their Google My Business place is listing, verified, and everything like that. But if you’re a retailer with 200 stores, 300 stores in the UK, it doesn’t matter how big your marketing team is, you probably don’t look at all of them perhaps as often as you should, and perhaps as often as a local business would.
DAVID BAIN: So maybe there’s an opportunity then for small local businesses to actually compete, and be more effective than bigger national companies with lots of locations.
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, when it comes to big, the head keywords, you know, the really competitive ones, you’re only ever going to compete on a venice listing there, but at the same time I think you can probably serve your local users better, or at least as well as a big corporate could.
DAVID BAIN: So Tom, a comment from James actually in the chatroom, saying that, ‘News of Google+ will be removing the reviews in local search listings, don’t you think this is a step backwards?’ I mean, Google seem to be taking a step backwards in terms of social interactions, social networks. Do you think that this is a mistake, and how do you see this moving forward?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, obviously it’s well publicized, I guess, the demise of Google+, and kind of what Google are doing. Obviously they had a good go at battling with the Facebook and Twitters of this world, and it hasn’t gone into plan. I can’t imagine it’s something that they’re just going to sort of throw out, and say that it’s a dead book, and they’re not going to try and do anything with it anymore. I imagine they’re just looking at different angles to get that kind of data in, and bring that kind of data into the things that make money for them, so ads, and things like that.
So I think in terms of the review point, one of the things that I saw earlier in the week was the difficulty with the reviews. So yeah, they’re removing some of the reviews, but at the moment where they are showing some reviews, you can only click through to the review pages of people who already have reviews. So if you’re kind of a business that wants to go in, and build out your local listing now, and get reviews, people can’t actually get through to that page where they would go and leave a review for you unless you’ve already got some.
So yeah, obviously something’s got to change there if they’re not going to kind of wipe out 90% of businesses that come to the table now, and it’s too late to try and go in, and try and get people to put good reviews for them because obviously from a user perspective, you’re not going to spend hours and hours hunting for a company’s page to leave reviews on a local page. It needs to be right there for you to click on there and then, and leave a quick comment.
So there’s things like that, as I think Michael touched on earlier, that yeah, it seems like it’s not fully ironed out what they’re going to do with it. They’ve put it up there. They’re going to be testing, and seeing how people interact with it, and I’m sure there’s a lot of change still to come from how it looks at the present day.
DAVID BAIN: So I mean you, Tom, obviously provide SEO services for the travel industry. Do you find that Google reviews are not the most significant place to actually try and get reviews for these types of businesses?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: I think it is. I mean I think particularly in terms of kind of getting the stars actually in the local pack, they’re a strong contributor to that. But I would say it’s still important to be going out there, and getting citations in in lots of different places, and not just focusing your efforts on your local page. Whether it’s going out there, and going to a Yelp listing, or Yell, or any site like that, that will come up when someone’s searching for your brand, and in particular I think they’ll all contribute to your general local presence, and yeah help in getting more visibility for it.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, well sticking with Google, Google announced a blog post that if your sites repeatedly violate the Google Webmaster guidelines after going through the reconsideration process, then reconsideration will be more difficult to achieve in the future. So what kinds of activity can result in webmaster warnings? Michael, I see you nodding away there, and thinking yes, I could list these off here. What are the activities for people to avoid?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Well, you know, I can tell you from my experience, and the clients who unfortunately I have had to deal with this on or with, the issue is really shady link building. It still goes on today, even though Google has made sweeping changes there and broadcast it to the world, it seems like everybody’s still kind of fixated on buying links, or acquiring links on the cheap, and trying to manually build them as opposed to earn them. And that’s the quickest way to get burnt.
And I’ve had clients where we not only submitted, you know, we cleaned it up, we used disavow link files, and everything else, only to get hit with the penalty again. But you know, quite honestly, Google has gotten a lot more efficient at identifying these spotty links, and more importantly the trending, or the behaviour of people building links either too quickly, or not earning them the way they should. So that’s where I’ve had experience, and I think that really for me, the issue is once you get a penalty, it’s really hard to come back from that. I mean it took probably four months, and this was an ecommerce site, relied very heavily on doing business online, and they were significantly impacted.
So an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or whatever the saying is, and I really believe that because once you do get a penalty, it’s really too late. It’s kind of like getting a heart attack – you should have been eating more salad, and now you have a couple bananas or pieces of fruit, and you think you’re immune. The reality is you need to follow some pretty conservative guidelines if you’re going to try to build organically. And if you do it right, and you do it organically or holistically, you’re not going to get penalised, and you don’t need to worry about it. But if you’re going to try to game the system, then Google’s pretty smart, and they’re going to come after you.
DAVID BAIN: So Stephen, do you have any clients, or do you know anyone who’s actually come through a penalty, and actually had rankings just as good as they did before the penalty?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: Oh yeah, absolutely. It really depends on the brand. It also depends on the penalty of course as well. But basically chances are where you’re ranking artificially, you get hit by a penalty, you get rid of all the links that were propping you back up, and you don’t come back to where you were. And you have to kind of deal with that basically a lot of the time.
The difference comes when, you know, if you’re looking at a penguin issue rather than a manual penalty, absolutely essential that you’re still building links while you’re in penguin. There’s nothing more artificial than stopping link building to clean up a penalty, and then starting it again when you’re back. Basically Google wants to rank a website that gets mentioned naturally, so why would you do that? Also it really depends on the quality of the good links that you’ve got, that could potentially be propping you back up.
So we’ve seen clients come back to where they were, even much higher than they were before a penalty. I mean, one of the things that you have to get across to a client a lot of the time is when you’re uploading a thousand, two thousand domains into a disavow file, that’s actually pretty good. You’re probably getting rid of domains that were doing nothing for you, and you will see an increase. And especially when you’re not even in a penalty, you can disavow domains, and see an improvement.
I think what’s quite interesting about the particularly blog post on Webmaster Central is the timing of it. So if you Google Serenata Flowers right now, and see what happens, that’s a bit of a coincidence.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. Everyone is going to be leaving us now to actually do some Googling. So I mean, you mentioned the disavow tool there. Have you experienced clients who have bounced back from receiving a penalty by just using disavow, or do you have to beforehand try and manually clean things up, and make link removal requests as well?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: So at Branded3, basically a large number of our clients have had penalties in the past when they came to us, and we sort of made a little bit of a name off penalty recovery. We’ve removed more than a hundred manual penalties since 2013, and we have never removed a link manually since the beginning of 2013 – absolutely unnecessary. A disavow file is fine. You don’t need to include an Excel file, a Google Docs file, Google Spreadsheet that says this is all the work I’ve done because, for privacy reasons, Google can’t even open it. So you’re wasting your time there. And even when you’re writing a really sort of heartfelt message about how you’ve learned your lesson, you’re never going to do it again, it’s only to be polite as much as anything. You can, and we have, recovered penalties using just a disavow file, then a reconsideration request that says, ‘Please reconsider this website.’
DAVID BAIN: Tom, is the disavow tool something that you’ve actively used quite a bit, and seen rankings have a positive impact because of its use?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: To be honest, in recent years I haven’t done a lot with it, David. I mean, we’re fortunate enough that a lot of the clients that have come and joined us haven’t had those kind of issues, and we haven’t had major things to go in and sort out. I think where we have had clients that have had issues with penalties, we’ve kind of looked at a few different routes as opposed to taking kind of the reconsideration request, and we’re sort of changing the names, and trying to go about it that way, and seeing some success with that. But yeah, I think there are sort of a few instances where we’ve gone in, and tried to put together disavow files, and reconsideration requests, it either hasn’t worked, or it’s taken too long to go through it. Obviously I’m going to chat with Stephen afterwards as he is enthusiastic about it. But yeah, we haven’t had that many to kind of go through, and put into practice. As I say, the majority of our clients are smaller businesses who haven’t necessarily done huge amounts of SEO before they’ve joined us, so they don’t have big issues for us to then go and sort out.
DAVID BAIN: Michael, would you use the disavow tool on its own as well, or would you try and actually do some manual action beforehand?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s the best place to start, and Stephen mentioned this in his comments, you know there are a lot of businesses that have literally thousands of links that really need to be disavowed. I think the key is knowing how to identify those links that you should be disavowing as opposed to domains. You know, Cemper makes a great tool, the Link Detox, or one of the tools they offer that can help you kind of identify at least those that are the most egregious offenders that you definitely want to include in that file.
So I think the issue is not so much about using the disavow file upload, it’s really identifying which links you’re disavowing, because you don’t want to cut too deep. You don’t want to eliminate those links that are giving you some positive link juice. The challenge that most people have is how do you find those? So there are definitely some tools that are available that can help there, but I think the key is ultimately identifying which ones are the right ones, and then using that file to let Google know that these are the ones that you don’t want, essentially penalising your site. So I think that’s really key.
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Can I jump in there, David? Because I’ve got a question for Stephen actually, in kind of contrast to that. Because I’ve heard contrasting opinions of people. Obviously Michael saying there you want to be careful you don’t put out links which are potentially offering value to you, and that you don’t need to do. But I’ve also heard it from the other side of the coin that you’re better really going at it properly, and making sure you get rid of that is even potentially a problem to have some success. I don’t know what you think about that Stephen, if you guys go for it in a more aggressive fashion, or if you do just kind of try to skim off the ones at the top that are definitely very malicious.
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: So I think I’m probably in the more aggressive camp to be honest. So my personal team, the opinion of the team basically is is this link there for SEO? If there is a realistic chance that you could have mentioned a competitor in that blog post, or something like that, if you’re just linking to a category page, there’s any anchor text whatsoever, unless in extreme circumstances, I’d get rid of that.
And personally, I’m never going to say do not use Cerber, or Link Risk, or Link Research tools, or something like that. We don’t use them; we do everything manually, looking through every single link and domain. We have a big blat list from doing that for a lot of years now, but personally I think the risks are that you will firstly disavow, probably not remove, but disavow a link on a website that should still be there. And I mean, we’ve taken on clients with disavow files that have got Yell, Google, Google+, Facebook, the Telegraph, any odd number of websites that we think well firstly, if that’s disavowed at domain level, I would want another link on the Telegraph at some point, regardless of what that one link that maybe was paid, or whatever, I would want another link on the Telegraph. I wouldn’t want that to be in my disavow file when that comes in.
And yeah, I think it’s important to be confident that you’re getting rid of the things that you should be, so I think it’s a manual process for me. And again, pretty aggressive with it as well. The worst case scenario is you’re getting rid of something that’s not helping you.
DAVID BAIN: So Stephen, should a website ever be concerned actually by submitting it to Webmaster Tools and Analytics, and perhaps actually giving too much information to Google? Or as long as you’re doing the right things, the ethical things, it shouldn’t be a concern at all?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: I think in what I’ve seen personally, in my experience with the disavow file, it’s used in a similar way to like a robots.txt file, in that if you’ve clearly just stuck everything in there, and uploaded it, Google just thinks this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, and ignores it. So the danger is that you take a hatchet to everything that’s good, obviously. But I wouldn’t be concerned about the number of links that I’m uploading, or whether I should or should not be uploading a disavow file. We do it proactively for clients probably every three months, sometimes more if they’ve had a penalty, for the exact reason of this article right now. Sometimes less if they’ve obviously had a really clean link profile in the past. But we proactively disavow whether there’s a penalty or not, so I think it’s definitely worthwhile.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, great stuff. Well, I mean coming up we’re going to be talking about what Twitter are playing with, or playing at, by introducing emoji hashtags, and whether or not you should be taking advantage of Pinterest’s API. But we’ve got loads of comments going on in the comments section. We’ve got [diddle yays leaving – 0:29:38.6] saying, ‘Love this, fellas. Will be a regular subscriber, but now the pub’s calling.’ So I take it Diddle is in the UK. I’d be a bit concerned if the pub was calling and she was in the United States.
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Yeah, it’s a little early for that.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. But let’s just move on to the next topic, shall we? Which is a couple of weeks ago Twitter mentioned that they were releasing a special emoji hashtag for Coca-Cola, and now they’re releasing hashtags for the Rugby World Cup. Michael, have you heard of the Rugby World Cup?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: I have now. Obviously it’s trending on Twitter. You know, it’s really interesting that they’re moving this direction, at least for me. You know, I think Twitter’s really trying to innovate, they’re trying to be conscious of revenue and profitability, and innovation, and all these things that make companies great. But you know, if you think about the innovations that Twitter has kind of put out, this is something that I think is slightly different than we’ve seen previously. So I anticipate that other large brands are going to jump on board here, and this is actually going to be a bit of a ground swell just to make Twitter a little more engaging and interactive. So we’ll see, but I think we’re going to see more of it.
DAVID BAIN: Good thing, Tom?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: I mean, it seems like an interesting thing. I mean, to me it seems like it’s them trying to monetise a bit more, and obviously get brands on board to try to give brands more exposure, and give them more feedback, and data of who’s using the hashtags, and things like that, and promote it a bit more. So it seems like the Coco-Cola one’s obviously being used as a kind of trial for it. But I imagine, yeah, they’ll roll it out a bit more. Yeah, it’s another way of them monetising what they’ve got.
DAVID BAIN: Stephen, is it maybe just a way of encouraging more people to actually use hashtags, and then give advertisers a new means to actually target people who are actually using that particular hashtag?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: You are absolutely right in that this will be ruined within six months. So right now, you know, you’ve got a couple of big brands with really good marketing campaigns that you want to see there, like I would love to see a should have gone to Specsavers emoji, a cheeky Nando’s emoji, that sort of thing will go down really well. Genuine people will actually use that emoji, and that hashtag.
But as soon as you get the B2B companies, you know the kind of companies that think they have to have a hashtag in a TV advert just to try to get some engagement, you will see that these just get used less and less. So it’s a really great idea. I think it will do really well, but it’s a short term thing before marketers ruin it.
DAVID BAIN: Really well for six months, and then just a nose dive, huh?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: Yeah, absolutely.
DAVID BAIN: Quick [stropple – 0:32:40.7] here. Maybe with our audience, and also with the guys on board. Talking here, who actually has used Twitter advertising actively, and who continues to use it on an active basis? Michael, do you use Twitter advertising?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: I’m sorry, Dave. Still having a little trouble hearing. Were you asking me about hashtags?
DAVID BAIN: Do you advertise on Twitter?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Personally, not for myself, but for some clients we have definitely boosted some Tweets. We’ve done that across other social channels as well. Twitter seems to do reasonably well. I wouldn’t say it’s a homerun in terms of the advertising, but it really depends, I think, on your following, and what you’re trying to accomplish. You know, and Stephen talked about B2B versus B2C. There’s definitely a difference in terms of results there. So I think there are a lot of factors to consider.
DAVID BAIN: Matt in comments is also reminding us that Google experimented with emojis and title tags, but took them away pretty quickly. Tom, have you used Twitter advertising at all?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: I haven’t actively yet, but planning to soon actually. I think, yeah, if you’re kind of promoting the right thing in there, you know, if you’re I guess using something where you’re maybe offering a free download, or you’re kind of directing people to some really useful content, then I think there’s a lot of potential there to make some kind of good use of it. I think there’s also a lot, in the same was as with Facebook, you can obviously target those ads very specifically to the audiences, and the brands and things. So yeah, I think there’s a lot of potential with it, and planning to use it quite soon. So yeah, hopefully in a few weeks we’ll have a bit more feedback.
DAVID BAIN: And yourself, Stephen, have you used it at all?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: Yeah, absolutely. A really cool thing about Twitter advertising as well is that sort of whole argument that you get with Google and everything. But if you spend enough on Twitter advertising, and you’re a brand, funnily enough, you might get verified, and get your profile verified quicker. And you might have noticed that Branded3 has a verified Twitter profile, and it’s great. I love Twitter advertising. I love Facebook advertising more, to be honest. LinkedIn advertising’s pretty cool as well, but it really depends on your brand, where your audience is going to be, and everything like that. For me, I think Twitter advertising is a little more B2B, weirdly, and Facebook advertising is wonderful for everyone.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. So with Twitter, can you target people on just separate devices, mobile devices, and desktop, and what targeting have you found to be more effective?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: We tend to use follower lists, I think. I don’t know if anyone else has experimented any more than that.
DAVID BAIN: It doesn’t sound it. Michael, you were just about to say something there.
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Yeah, no. I was going to say, you know, with Twitter, I mean, I still think that the categories are kind of broad. I definitely, and Stephen made this reference as well, you know, my preference has always been Facebook because you can upload a similar list, where basically you upload your customer list, they’ll find other people who are just like them. I mean, I think the other networks have more features and functionality around targeting. And quite honestly I’ve gotten better results on Facebook, and I think it’s largely because of the targeting options that exist in there, as opposed to Twitter.
DAVID BAIN: Happy to Smile saying that Twitter has some great targeting options, and you can target by device and carrier settings on Twitter. I’d certainly like to experiment with it a little bit more. I have tested it, but I found too much traffic in from mobile devices, and that traffic didn’t convert for what I was focusing on, but maybe I wasn’t targeted enough. Something for the future maybe.
So moving on to, I reckon our next topic, which is back in July, Pinterest switched on from its developer platform, adding services like if this, then that, as an automated way to actually pin images. Apparently use of this service is increasing significantly now. So how many businesses actually do take advantage of this. Michael, are you more of a Pinner than a Twitter advertiser?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Well you know, I mean I actually really like Pinterest. I feel that it’s getting there. I mean, there’s a Chrome plugin that if you’re browsing the web, you mouse over a picture, it’ll give you the option to pin it. So there are a lot of innovations, I think, from a usability perspective that Pinterest is kind of bringing to market, which will fundamentally change things. Honestly, until Hootsuite integrates Pinterest, I don’t think it will ever get to the next level. And I say that somewhat ironically because they’re already there, right? I mean there are certain businesses, and certain niches where the photo is really exceptional. So I think businesses that are visual in some way, and you know, it could be a small bakery somewhere, or it could be a business that’s kind of showing you behind the scenes, I think they could all benefit from Pinterest as long as it’s relevant to the business.
Oftentimes what I see with small businesses, they use a personal account, and the guy is taking pictures of his kids, and putting it up there, and it’s just that audience is not interested in that. So I think as long as it’s being used correctly, then it’s a homerun. Having that visual aspect, YouTube with videos, I mean this is what people are engaging in. So the more that they do that, the more exceptional the result is going to be.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, and Stephen, can any business benefit from using Pinterest, or do you think it’s just appropriate for certain industry sectors?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: I would say that any business can benefit. I would say that most businesses could use their money better. So you can always make it work, but you could probably make something work harder for you. I mean, as an example, we’ve had a client who’s an ecommerce website in the US, who have a very visual product. Basically it’s kind of novelty gifts. You know, you’ve got drinking flasks that are that big, and that sort of thing, just really cool products. And funnily enough, Pinterest is one of their top four revenue driving channels, slightly behind Google organic. And there’s no real kind of investment in Pinterest’s strategy, so to speak. There is now obviously, but at the time it was simply by having lovely visual products, and nice photography, and making it easy for people to pin things.
So that’s absolutely step one. If you have a visual product, you don’t need to think about how do I take advantage of Pinterest, and what should I be doing? Your first step is okay, make it easy for people to pin my products, and then see if people are interested because they might not be, and you might find that people are, you know, a little bit interested, and you can push it further.
DAVID BAIN: We’ve got Laura saying that Pinterest consistently outperforms other social channels for traffic referrals, especially great for interiors and beauty clients. Stephen, I really like your point – you saying that, yes, a lot of businesses can take advantage of it, but it’s not necessarily definitely their primary focus that they should be spending money on. And I really like that as a tip because there’s so many opportunities now in terms of spending your money online, and it’s about finding the optimum place to spend money yourself, rather than actually spending money all over the place.
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: Oh yeah, absolutely.
DAVID BAIN: So Tom…
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: I would say, by the way, that Laura’s our comms director, so I would definitely agree with her.
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: I thought you were getting a lot of high fives there, Stephen.
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Yeah, probably.
DAVID BAIN: I think I’m losing in the high fives because I’m asking the questions. Someone ask me a question – no. Tom…
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Oh there you go, they’re showing you some love, David.
DAVID BAIN: Oh.
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Oh, look at that.
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. I like it.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, there we go.
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Can I say, you’re so cynical, David. They’ve done you one above Stephen, and then everyone’s just stopped. Outrageous, sorry.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah Tom, working in the travel industry, I would think that you’ve got a few clients that are actually taking advantage of Pinterest, and using it quite effectively. Is that the case?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely lends itself to travel obviously. I think it’s obviously important to look at what you’re trying to do with it as well. You know, it’s not necessarily something that you’re going to be looking at someone finding you through Pinterest, and then getting a conversion off the back of it. But I guess from a travel perspective, it’s that kind of discovery phase before anyone’s even kind of gone and typed something into Google to search for a holiday. It’s the months leading up to that where they’re just dreaming of being on a beach in the winter in the UK when it’s raining and horrible. Though if you can get yourself in a position where you’re coming up when people are on Pinterest, and are typing in your destination, typing in Spain, you know, all those kinds of things, it’s a great place to be to get a bit of brand awareness in the run up to that. So that when they do come to decide yeah, I remember that beach in Spain looking fantastic, they’ll remember who they found it through. They’ll be following your Pinterest board, you’ll have built up a bit of a relationship with them, and you won’t need to rank for Spain holidays. They’ll come in, and they’ll type your brand straight in, and go and see what you’ve got to offer.
I think the API kind of coming in is helping develop that further, and rich pins as well when they came in. So you can start to incorporate kind of places information, and kind of product information as well, so packages, and deals, and things like that that you can actually incorporate into your pins now. So there’s a bit more that you can do with that, I guess kind of leaning towards the conversion point of view. But for me it’s more about building up a really useful, good looking profile, kind of inspiring people for the destinations that you offer, so that down the line when they are actually at a conversion point of view, they’re aware of the brand, and they come back to find you.
DAVID BAIN: Another thing, Tom, actually is Instagram. They’ve just announced that they’ve hit four hundred million monthly active users, so that’s actually eighty million more than Twitter has. For the travel industry, sticking with that, are you finding that more people use Instagram or Pinterest?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Well, I guess the numbers would suggest Instagram, and I know in terms of just things I see, generally kind of case studies of people out there, you see often little stories about travel bloggers, and things like that that have got massive followings on Instagram, and it’s just them cruising around the world, putting a nice photo up every day. So there’s definitely a lot of potential.
I think Pinterest, I saw something about pin travels, the second most popular category on Pinterest. So it’s obviously got quite a high proportion of kind of people who are using it for that purpose. But yeah, Instagram’s obviously got a lot of potential because it is a very visual platform. So I guess similar to Pinterest, you know, the way that brands can use it, it’s about inspiring people about their destination, but I think on Instagram there’s a bit more potential for kind of interacting with people, and working with people who have got big followings, whether that is travel bloggers, or people who live abroad, or running campaigns with hashtags, and that kind of thing. There’s potential to run some interesting things on there too.
DAVID BAIN: Stephen, have you any thoughts on actually how to track the quantity of visitors referred by sites like Instagram? Because Pinterest has links directly from pins, and you can perhaps measure traffic from that. But with brand building, you can’t really measure direct impact of traffic from that particular site. So how do you actually measure the impact of that?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: So I’m assuming that basically Instagram or Pinterest would be the exact same as attribution from link building, or something like that, where you’re measuring it in GA, and you’re looking at conversions. I don’t see why you wouldn’t potentially convert. I mean, we’ve seen the clients converting traffic from Pinterest, so I think it’s fairly similar to other channel attribution in that regard.
DAVID BAIN: I mean, I don’t believe Instagram allow you to actually have links associated with the images, but Pinterest do. So you can track traffic directly from Pinterest, but not Instagram. That’s my understanding anyway. Michael, do you know if it’s correct, or if it’s different from that?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Yeah. Well, I mean my experience with Instagram is they don’t have direct links, and maybe that’s just because I have not used it from a marketing perspective as extensively. But I know with Pinterest you can, and we have clients where they’re getting business through Pinterest. So I think someone mentioned that on our comments, you know, the reality is all of these social channels are going to evolve to support the people who are publishing on the channels, which are largely marketers, and businesses, and individuals who are trying to build brand, and profiles, and things of that nature. So I think if the functionality doesn’t exist today, it will over time.
And, you know, Stephen raises a good point. You’ve got to know your numbers. So looking at Google Analytics, and looking at your traffic sources is really essential because, especially if you’re a smaller business, you want to kind of leverage your time and resources, and the best way to do that is focus on the channels where your market is. So I highly recommend that, and I think if people want to better understand where their traffic is coming from, they’ve got to be really comfortable with Google Analytics.
DAVID BAIN: We’ve got Laura being high fived in the chat. Laura saying, ‘Instagram ads now allow direct response links so you can track traffic, but only when paid.’ So that’s intriguing there. But obviously there are opportunities to build your brand where it’s not possible to directly track the traffic from whatever medium it is. And that goes back to perhaps something like television advertising, or radio advertising, where it can be effective, and there are different ways to actually measure the traffic when you know it’s being mentioned. So I guess, as marketers, as people looking at analytics, we’ll have to become better at determining traffic sources even though it’s not defined as a referrer within the analytics as well. Do you think that’s going to be a big challenge for the future, Michael?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Well I think there are going to be lots of challenges. That may be one of them. Absolutely.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. One other thing in relation to this that I’d like to touch on is that I’ve seen certainly in Twitter more animated gifts, and videos, and you’ve got video networks like Blab here, we’ve got Periscope, so it seems to be a drive towards video at the moment. Tom, going back to the travel industry again, do you think that the travel industry can better use video, or is there always going to be a place for static images in marketing?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Yeah, I mean I think there’s always going to be a place for static images. You know, if people haven’t got a lot of time to watch – time’s a thing. You know, if people don’t have time to go and sit down and watch a one minute video of a destination, or an event, or something like that, then they might have one or two minutes just to scan through a page, and get a quick taster. I think, yeah. Basically I think there is.
DAVID BAIN: It’s going to be both. It’s going to be both.
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Yeah, I guess it’s a tricky one to explain, but yeah people have been looking at images for a long time, and they still will want to.
DAVID BAIN: But going to Stephen’s point of focus, although a business can use video and static images, is it better to have that focus in either just choosing static images or just choosing video?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: I think the problem that we see with clients is the difficulty in getting good quality video. So it obviously requires you to send someone out, particularly for people who are kind of destination specialists, actually getting people out there to the destination who have got the ability, and the technology to go out, and take great video footage, and then bring that all together on a regular basis is really difficult. Obviously you can kind of go out there, and maybe get a few specialist ones done, whereas images, I think, are a little bit easier to source, and more people have kind of more access to really high quality cameras, and even you know, I know I can go on holiday now, and take my relatively cheap camera, and still take fantastic photos with it even though I’m not really good at photography. So there’s a lot of that content out there that I think you can source image wise, where video is still very much a kind of specialist thing, and much harder to do. So I would say I think it doesn’t necessarily need to be a split in a focus of we’re either going to choose to stick with still imagery, or we’re going to focus on video. But I think the still side of things more often than not will be the one that people use more, just purely because it’s easier to get your hands on it.
DAVID BAIN: And it’s probably a nicer initial website experience as well because you don’t want to be landing on a website, and seeing video straight away.
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Exactly, yeah. You don’t want to go and see three videos running on a page every time you click through a site, do you? So yeah.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. And talking about video, we’ve been broadcasting here on Blab. We were broadcasting for This Week in Organic using Google Hangouts. I’m sure, I mean both Michael and Tom have been on This Week in Organic on Google Hangouts, and I’m sure Stephen’s been on Google Hangouts quite a few times before. So in general, what’s your opinion? Do you think we should be moving to Blab for This Week in Organic? So Michael, what’s your thoughts?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: Yeah, you know it’s really interesting because a couple months ago I was just kind of getting into Periscope, and I spent some time on Periscope. And I thought what was really cool about that modality is the fact that you can chat while the video’s happening, and I definitely feel like that’s more engaging. And now we’re seeing platforms like Blab start to gain popularity, and I think it’s for that reason – because we can interact with people, they can interact with us. I think it adds to the conversation. You know, not only are the speakers sharing, but the participants have great information and stories to share. And if we can do that as a community I think it’s a lot more effective. So personally I love this platform, I think it’s great, and I definitely love the collaboration.
DAVID BAIN: Great, and Tom, do you think using this platform’s the right thing to continue to do?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Yeah, yeah. I like it. As Michael said, it’s great having the chat box on the right there, so more people can contribute. And obviously it wasn’t a live one when we did it last time, so we didn’t have that. But yeah, it’s definitely great functionality. And yeah, even though I’m trailing in the high fives, I think that’s a nice touch as well.
DAVID BAIN: Oh, I think that’s just a tactic there. And Stephen, what’s your thoughts on it?
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: Yeah, I really don’t like Google Hangouts, so this is pretty cool. I’m not a fan of Google Hangouts in general. I think the platform, how you use it is kind of a little bit temperamental. So this has gone pretty well I think. I’ve not lost any audio, video, etcetera, which is a plus. But yeah, I absolutely like, you know, it’s pretty clear who’s involved in the chat, and what everyone’s saying, so I like this platform. It looks like a good move.
DAVID BAIN: Good stuff. Well, I think we’ll stick around for next week. Maybe not the guests on this week, but obviously we’ll use Blab again in the future. But I reckon that just about takes us to the end of this week’s show. So just about time for a single takeaway, and some sharing of find out more details from our guests. So should we start out with Michael?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: So thanks so much for having me, David. Always great speaking with you, and the rest of the SEO experts here. You know, my recommendation for folks is get to work, roll your sleeves up, that’s the best way to learn how to improve organic, especially when it comes to local, which is really starting to change now. We’re going to see additional changes. We’re going to see things starting to get refined. Google’s never going to stop innovating and changing. So do what you can to stay on top of it, and give it a try. If you don’t know how to do something, go to YouTube, watch a video, listen to another Blab conversation, and just keep learning.
DAVID BAIN: Lovely, thanks Michael. And moving on to Tom.
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Yeah, I’m Tom McLoughlin from SEO Travel. Yeah, I mean I guess for me it would the kind of Pinterest and Instagram side of things. I think travel companies, they’re platforms that they should certainly be participating on, and, like Michael says, even just getting on there, and learning about them, and getting things started, get a profile going, and you’ll steadily pick up a bit more momentum on there, so that at some point down the line if you do have some more resources to kind of push it a bit harder then you’ve got something to work with rather than starting from scratch.
DAVID BAIN: Great, and can you just remind our viewers where they can find you?
TOM MCLOUGHLIN: Yeah. I’m Tom McLoughlin. I’m director at SEO Travel, and we’re www.seotravel.co.uk.
DAVID BAIN: Great, okay. And Michael, you gave your contact details, didn’t you?
MICHAEL FLEISCHNER: So @mfleischner to follow me on Twitter, and CEO of Big Fin Solutions. Thanks.
DAVID BAIN: Lovely, okay. I’ll include those links within the show notes when the show is published at authoritas.com. And also Stephen as well.
STEPHEN KENWRIGHT: Yeah, so Stephen Kenwright, director of search at Branded3 – www.branded3.com. Blab’s pretty cool because you can see my Twitter handle right there. So that’s where you can find me – tweet me with any questions. I guess as far as takeaways go, I think one of the interesting things is just because kind of Google does a video platform doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best video platform, and certainly not the best social video platform. So yeah, I think keep using tools like this, keep using Blab, and whatever else comes out, and see whatever’s going to be the best experience because that’s probably the one that’s going to take off.
DAVID BAIN: Great, okay. Thank you very much. And I’m David Bain, head of growth at Analytics SEO, the agency and enterprise SEO platform with big insights. So sign up for a free demo of our platform at www.authoritas.com. And you can also find me interviewing online marketing gurus over at digitalmarketingradio.com. Now if you’re watching the show as a recording, remember to watch the next episode live. So head over to thisweekinorganic.com, and that link should automatically redirect to the next live show when we do it on Blab. But for those of you watching live, you can catch up on all past episodes too. We also have an audio podcast on iTunes, so just go directly to that at www.thisweekinorganic.com/itunes. But until we see you again, have a fantabulous weekend, and thank you all for joining us. Adios. Cheers everyone, thank you so much for being a part of it.
Working as Content Marketing Director for Authoritas since March 2015, David also hosts our own weekly show – “This Week In Organic”, commonly referred to as #TWiO.