Facebook Takes Craigslist Head-On with Marketplace

In a move aimed to compete with the likes of Craigslist, OfferUp, and LetGo, Facebook is rolling out a new service designed to help users buy and sell things in their local community.

Arriving first in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand, Marketplace is an extension of Facebook’s existing For Sale groups feature, which the social network says is used by 450 million people each month. In a nutshell, Marketplace lets you search for things that people are selling nearby, which could be anything from furniture to books and electronics.

marketplace-2Available through the existing Facebook apps on Android and iOS, Marketplace is accessible through a shop icon at the bottom of the app. Inside, you’re presented with a grid of photos of nearby items listed for sale. Additionally, you can list an item for sale directly through the app.

The app also permits negotiating, allowing potential buyers to contact the seller to make them an offer. It’s worth noting here that Facebook doesn’t get involved in the actual transaction, so the payment will need to be made in cash, or through PayPal or an alternative digital payment system. This is an interesting move for a company that has moved to integrate just about every platform into their messenger product, from ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, to payment apps like Cash and Venmo.

messaging_us

Marketplace is basically just like Craigslist — the perennially popular classifieds website that has been the default buy-and-sell platform for millions across the U.S. since 1995 — or like Britain’s eBay-owned Gumtree. Certainly, it makes sense for Facebook to make further moves into this space, as it has north of 1.5 billion users globally, and it could achieve real scale quickly. That Facebook is giving Marketplace a prominent, dedicated tab all to itself is also indicative of how important it deems this new service to be.

The new feature will be available in the aforementioned countries in the coming days, with additional markets added in the future. It will also be included in the desktop version of the app “in the coming months.”

Facebook Marketplace Launch Video

Brand Authority Basics: 5 Reasons Why You Should Write Articles for Your Brand

Why Do I Have To Write Articles? I’m a Businessperson.

As the fierce arms race to control Brand Authority in the online marketplace continues to ramp up, it’s only becoming more and more important to find an angle that sets your brand and your offering apart from your competition. For some retail brands, this can be accomplished by establishing themselves as a price leader in their market segment, or by offering a unique product that their competitors simply can’t match. But when it comes to the internet, and a lot of the service-based brands and companies that now exist, some of these age-old differentiating tactics no longer apply.

Why Do I Care About Brand Authority?

In a new age where knowledge is king, a brand must set themselves apart by demonstrating that they are more authoritative and knowledgable in their field than anyone else. One great way to demonstrate this is by curating and creating written content, on topics that directly relate to your brand and business. You don’t need to be the next Hemingway to write short to medium-form articles that can actually help your existing customers, attract new customers, and build brand authority at the same time.

Here are just five simple reasons why you should be writing articles for your brand:

  1. Authority – By positioning yourself as a leader and a source of knowledge in your industry, people will naturally gravitate towards your brand. Additionally, depending on your industry, there may be little competition when it comes to written articles and knowledge online. If you’re a landscaper in Scottsdale, AZ, there is likely not a huge amount of online competition writing watering guides, landscape design advice, etc. Those are easy ‘ins’ you can take advantage of quickly!
  2. Credibility – Along with this authority naturally comes a trust and understanding that you know what you’re talking about! This is a very valuable tool, professionally, and gaining the trust of current or potential customers is a gift that should be valued and respected. Make your content and writing actionable; the more valid and useful solutions you present to your audience, the more you will be seen as a leader.
  3. Recognition – Building brand recognition that increases the association of your brand or name to quality work or service is the entire point of marketing! You want people to sell you, for you. If you can become a recognized name, the snowball effect of recognition leading to discovery will begin to take place, paradoxically exposing even more new potential customers to your brand, and the identity of that brand.
  4. Loyalty – The more you build rapport with your customer base, the more loyal they will likely be to your brand. A business that continues to provide value after the initial transaction is miles ahead of the competition, and no amount of shiny marketing materials or up-front value adds can beat a strong and ongoing relationship that is beneficial to the customer.
  5. Perceived Value – When you continue to provide value past the initial relationship, you are building the perceived value of the brand/product in the customer’s eyes. By going beyond the tangible benefits of whatever the customer has purchased, you can make them feel like they are getting more for their money.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, and only covers a few basic reasons why blogging for a business is beneficial to your brand authority and identity, but it should give you more than enough good reasons to get out and start writing articles for your brand today!

How-To: Perform a Kick-Ass Competitor Analysis in SEMRush

Why is Competitor Analysis Important for SEO?

While strategy and planning are both integral to an effective SEO strategy, understanding the competitive landscape is equally as important to make informed decisions. Using SEMRush’s analysis toolkit, it is possible to get a comprehensive view of where the competition stands and the tactics that contributed to their success, as well as the areas of missed opportunity that can be capitalized upon. The major areas of a quality competitor analysis are:

  • Keyword Portfolio
  • Content Strategy
  • Advertising
  • Backlinks

Assess Your Competitor’s Top Performing Keywords

One of the core offerings of the SEMRush platform is the ability to review the keyword portfolio for any given domain. To start, enter the competitor domain URL in the main search bar within SEMRush:

From the main site dashboard, find the ‘Organic keywords’ segment:

This will give you a quick view of the top performing organic keywords for a given domain. Clicking ‘Full Report’ in the bottom left-hand corner will take you to the full list of indexed keywords. This full report will give a histogram of keywords over time, along with trend, volume, and competition statistics.

By clicking the heading rows in the table, the keyword data can be sorted by any of the given dimensions. Using this keyword data in conjunction with manually reviewing the competitor site will give a better understanding of targeting goals, as well as content strategy and tactics.

Comparing Keyword Portfolios

SEMRush also has the capability to compare multiple domains side-by-side. In the left navigation bar, look under Tools and find the Domain vs. domain tool. Multiple columns with individual search boxes will be displayed:

Input the domains to compare into the search columns and then hit GO. SEMRush will display a keyword list similar to the single domain keyword portfolio, though it will show rankings for each given domain side-by-side. SEMRush also provides a visual representation of keyword overlap in a Venn diagram by pressing the Chart button at the top of the comparison table:

Content Strategy

With a better understanding of a competitor’s keyword portfolio, it is easier to analyze site content and user experience within the context of a competitor’s goals. An easy and quick way to do this within SEMRush is to analyze the landing pages for a competitor’s top keywords to understand the on-page tactics that contributed to those top rankings.

The keyword portfolio overview provides a SERP Source for each ranked keyword, which shows the exact page linked in organic search, as well as the SERP results that come before and after your competition for added context. Clicking through to this SERP Source will display a cached version of the search results page as detected by SEMRush when the crawl was completed:

Take this opportunity to learn from the competition. Analyze how they implement heading and title tags, keyword variety and density within the content to maintain consistency and focus on the targeted phrase(s). This example shows results forhow to get likes on facebook – HubSpot currently holds the #1 spot for this phrase. A look at the landing page provides some useful insight into the strategy used:

  • The keyphrase is used in the heading (H1) tag, before any other content appears in the body.
  • The first subheading (H2) tag uses a slight rewording of the same keyphrase
  • Large internal link/call to action that cross-promotes content, while including the keyphrase in the anchor text
  • Content URL contains keyphrase (blog.hubspot.com/ marketing/ get- more-facebook-likes)

Estimating Ad Spend

Though it might not seem like it, understanding how your competition spends money on advertising is an important piece of the competitor analysis puzzle. SEMRush aggregates one of the most comprehensive live databases of organic and paid search data on the web, second only to Google themselves. Using the paid research toolkit within SEMRush will allow you to understand a competitor’s paid search campaign with regard to:

  • The number of keywords bringing visitors to their site through paid search.
  • The amount of traffic they generate through paid ads.
  • An estimate of how much your competitor is investing in paid search.
  • A comparative chart of their key competitors in paid ads.

Using this data affords insight into a number of factors: if your competitor has a dedicated landing page for their paid campaign, whether they are they using benefit-driven headlines with keywords, and how they are structuring ad copy such as keywords, benefits, incentives and CTAs. Trends over time allow for an at-a-glance view of how volume trends fluctuate throughout the year.

Using HubSpot as an example again, we can see that HubSpot’s strong organic performance has almost completely replaced their paid search traffic, from over 6,000 targeted paid keywords at the end of 2013 down to only 81 as of April 2015.

Understanding Competitor Link Portfolios (Backlinks)

SEMRush provides a fairly robust interface to understand and identify backlinks, as well as attributes such as anchor text, canonical linking, follow/nofollow, and TLD (top level domain) distribution. The backlinks overview display provides a macro view of a given domain’s backlink portfolio:

From the overview, the full backlinks report can be customized to show data from a domain level, down to a page-by-page index of links that displays the source and target (landing) URL in addition to the anchor text. The report also includes DFS (date first seen) and DLS (date last seen) to give an idea of the age and accuracy of a given link.

In Conclusion

Understanding your competition and learning from their triumphs (and failures!) is a great way to inform your strategy decisions for your own brand or business. By doing a little bit of legwork and looking at your competition through an analytical lens, you can quickly and easily identify opportunities for growth. Knowing is half the battle!

About Andrew

Andrew Peron, SEO Account Manager for UpCity, has serviced top-tier brands such as Henri Bendel, Limited Brands, and Havaianas. When he’s not doing SEO kung-fu for clients, he enjoys cycling through Chicago and writing content for his digital marketing and SEO blog, Indexed Marketing.

HTTPS and You: Does HTTPS Really Affect SERP Rankings?

Introducing HTTPS – Whether You Like it or Not

http vs https

As all SEOs should know, Google announced in August 2014 that they would be adding a ranking factor to their SERP algorithm based on whether or not a site was serving a secure or insecure page. As is typical with Google, they didn’t add anything more, leaving many of us wondering: Just how much does HTTPS really matter?

Well, now that the dust has settled a bit, one month later many SEO experts are ready to look back at August’s data and draw some initial conclusions.

So, Does HTTPS Affect SEO Performance?

Well, that totally depends on what context you’re asking that question in. Do you run a banking or finance website? Do you deal with users’ sensitive information? Then yes, you should definitely be using HTTPS, amongst other safeguards. But what about if you run a personal fitness blog, or a fashion website? Does HTTPS affect SEO performance? According to Marcus Tober of SearchMetrics, not enough for anyone to notice:

In a nutshell: No relationships have been discernible to date from the data analyzed by us between HTTPS and rankings nor are there any differences between HTTP and HTTPS. In my opinion therefore, Google has not yet rolled out this ranking factor – and/or this factor only affects such a small section of the index to date that it was not possible to identify it with our data.

The short version: There was barely enough of a difference for the change to be statistically significant in reporting, leading SEOs to believe this is nothing more than an additional, minute ranking factor, used primarily to tip the scales one way or another in the case of a very tight ranking battle between two sites. But don’t expect HTTPS to be winning you any top spots on its own.

So friends, don’t go running out to upgrade to a secure server and dish out for a certificate unless you have a legitimate security need for HTTPS/SSL. One thing is for sure: HTTPS is not going to push you to the top of page 1. Sorry, pipe dreamers!

 

7 Tangible Skillsets That Make You a Rockstar Job Candidate

7. Proven Technical Writing Ability

No, I’m not referring to the science fiction short stories that you put together when you went through a phase after reading “Ender’s Game” for the first time.

While no doubt exhibiting a level of creativity, that type of writing isn’t exactly marketable for the broad host of companies that are actively seeking to hire in this saturated market.

Rather, I’m referring to analytical, fact-based writing, devoid of flowery details, which highlights specific results while fostering a discussion without bias.

Writing in the vein of experimental research reports and having those reports published demonstrates that you have a sufficient grasp of the English language and the aptitude to provide a professional-level report.


6. Statistics

Everyone entering the job market should have a sufficient, elementary understanding of statistics. Things like averages and statistical significance can prove to be vitally important for decision-making, both professionally and personally.

Cost-to-benefit analysis on your purchase decisions can shift your personal finances to healthier levels and can give structure and reasoning to whatever judgments you make.

The scope of statistics in the workplace is so broad that there is really no way to explain its value beyond saying every single market in every single industry uses it with intense regularity.


5. In-Depth Software Familiarity

Writing “Microsoft Word” or “PowerPoint” on a résumé as one of your skills is redundant. Nascent sea otters understand how to use these modules.

On the other hand, a solid grasp of Microsoft Excel, Access, Publisher and other less widely known programs is valuable and somewhat unique.

Having a breadth of experience working with commonly employed software (other than the obvious ones, like the aforementioned MS Word) will show you that you can work your way around computers sufficiently, which is a standard ability in today’s workforce.


4. People Skills

This may seem qualitative, which as I mentioned, I’m trying to avoid, but having the ability to interact in a professional environment with minimal awkwardness is what separates you from a paycheck or the front door.

For in-demand fields, where the majority of applicants come from technical backgrounds, this is paramount.

I’m not suggesting that you change your identity if you are an introvert by nature, but be well versed enough to understand that the extreme version of that personality type isn’t exactly lauded in many professional environments. Learn to interact with people.

This should go without saying, but social ability is a huge trait that is rarely paid the attention it deserves.


3. Specific Industry Familiarity

I know this looks nebulous, but let me explain: You should be familiar with the industry into which you are seeking entry. If you are going to work in a publishing house, you should know the top players in the overall market.

If you are going into finance, you better believe they will expect you to know their top competitors. I classify this as a tangible skillset because you must actively learn and integrate it into your life if you are set on entering one specific industry.

Not only does it show qualitatively that you are aware of the competitive landscape, but it also lets the employer know that you are enthusiastic without explicitly mentioning it.


2. Reading Comprehension

Why is this so high on the list? You would think it is obvious enough, but spend five minutes on the comments section of a popular article and you will find that most people have trouble interpreting what they actually read and then hate-write from a position of ignorance.

This is extremely important if you’re dealing with reports that aren’t explicit with their results.

Things like yearly revenue details, research publications and even sarcastic columns all require a fundamental level of reading comprehension that has somehow escaped so many people who are trying to find work.


1. Programming Ability

Increasingly, companies across the entire job market are integrating, or have already meshed, their business with an online presence that the staff maintains.

You will become instantly important if you can understand the back and front ends of the language used to program the sites, databases and whatever else is relevant to the company.

Ability to code in C++, JAVA, Drupal, MATLAB and a host of other languages demonstrates that not only can you add value to the online presence for a company, but also that you are sufficiently intelligent enough to grasp the logic behind the coding languages.

Additionally, if you plan to work in an analytical field, you can design experiments and basic software that will allow you to complete your tasks with much greater ease than powering through everything manually.

If you weren’t exposed to this in college, consider learning for free through the vast offerings of online-only classes that teach you the basics of coding with step-by-step modules.

High school students are enrolling in computer science classes, which means that when they enter the job market, many will likely bring a standard level of programming ability that is otherwise still missing from the overwhelming majority of Generation-Y job applicants.

Protect your future self by becoming versed in a code language or two.

Google Compare Adds Auto Insurance Quotes in United States

As previously speculated by many SEO insiders including Search Engine Land, Google today announced the launch of Google Compare for Auto Insurance in the United States.

Google Compare will show up to 14 sponsored results from insurance providers, including rate quotes. It is expected that this number will increase as Google adds more providers to the service. A snippet describing usage benefits for providers explains the advantages of the service:

You can highlight what makes your business unique, whether that’s an “A” rating in customer service or better discounts for safe drivers. And when users adjust their deductible or add additional cars to their quote, you can show updated pricing that matches their needs.

From those sponsored listings, users can then proceed to purchase coverage online, or via phone. The program will initially cover drivers in California, and will roll out to more states including more features including user reviews, ratings, and local representative information in the coming months.

Auto Insurance results will display above organic results in SERP on Desktop and Mobile.
Auto Insurance results will display above organic results in SERP on Desktop and Mobile.

Google: Lead Generator?

Eschewing the normal PPC ad facilitation revenue model, Google is acting as a qualified lead generator, with pricing based on a CPA (cost-per-acquisition) model instead of a traditional clickthrough model.

Despite these changes, Google has clarified that traditional organic rankings will not be affected by the inclusion of sponsored elements in SERPs.

Auto Insurance, at Long Last

Google has operated a similar Auto Insurance quote acquisition program in the UK since 2012 (As shown in the featured photo for this article.) There is analyst speculation that Google may even move to provide and sell their own insurance products through this new vertical.

Auto insurance is only the latest of many retail verticals Google has seen fit to conquer in recent years, joining shopping, hotel accommodations, and flights in an ever-growing list. Google Compare Auto Insurance Services, Inc. has been approved to do business in over 25 states, with more surely to come.

How-To Video: Set Up Google Webmaster Tools for your Site in 5 Minutes!

Keeping Your Website Indexed with Google Webmaster Tools

Have you ever wondered how exactly Kayak.com shows up in Google when you search for ‘cheap travel’? There are a lot of factors that contribute to how your website is displayed in search results, but there is one common factor that you absolutely MUST have to ensure any amount of success in organic search: Verification of your site through Google Webmaster Tools.

What is it, and Why should I care?

Webmaster Tools allows you to verify that you are the owner of a given website, and it also allows you to assist Google in finding the important content on your website using sitemaps. This is important for a multitude of reasons:

  • By proving ownership of your site, Google then knows that your website is a real website, owned by a real live person, who isn’t using the site to distribute malware, phish for customer information, or any other malicious activities. By doing this, you immediately catapult yourself above all of the grey-water, ‘shady’ websites of the internet (a staggering percentage of the internet is made up of these malicious or otherwise ‘low quality’ sites.
  • By creating and submitting a sitemap, Google knows exactly where the important content on your website lives, and exactly how to direct users towards the information they’re looking for. The name sitemap is quite literal; it gives the internet a map, or directory, of your site that can be used to find exactly what a user is looking for, the first time they try.

The above video will show you step-by-step how to configure Google Webmaster Tools for your site. The steps are fairly simple, especially if you already have Google Analytics set up. Sound off in the comments if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions!

Later this week, we’ll be following up with a video that walks you through the configuration steps for Bing Webmaster tools!

At Long Last, Google Releases Google Analytics for iOS

After lagging behind Android for years in terms of native app development for Google Analytics, Google has finally released Google Analytics for iOS. The first party Google Analytics app comes with support for some of the best features of Analytics, including Real Time traffic view, secondary factor drilldown, and beautiful graphic-based display of information. The Google Analytics app is available for devices running iOS 6.0 and up, and is optimized for iPhone 5/5s and iPad.

iphone-google-analytics-app

 

Features at a Glance:

 

Tapping the bar icon in the upper left corner opens the options that are available in the left hand menu in the web version of Analytics. Users can choose to drill into Real-Time, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions.

iphone-google-analytics-app-realtime

Segment filtering is also easy, by tapping the circle with a plus sign icon in the upper right corner. When a segment is selected, the icon turns orange. You cannot use custom segments in the app or do anything custom at all really. This is just the basics, but it’s clean and easy to use.

What are heading tags, and why do they matter to my marketing and SEO?

In my experience the rules around use of H tags is always shifting. Here are the current “rules” (according to Google) as I understand them:

  • You determine the priority of your own content. There is no hard-and-fast rule around which piece of content is the most important to you.
  • Visual styling is important. Apparently you can lose ranking or be demoted for using high-ranking H-tags (h1, h2) but making them small in font or a low-contrast color.
  • They only do so much. They’re not the be-all-end-all of your ranking content. They’re one small factor. Make the choice that best represents your product, not to game SEO.
  • H4’s and beyond do little to help Google make sense of your content. Use more semantic containers (header, article, section) to help organize content.
  • Other things factor into SEO like multimedia, meta tags, etc. Optimizing those in tandem with well-written heading tags will go a long way.

In short: above all content matters. Make sure content is original and readable by Google. Make decisions that help your customers first, and Google second. Often you will find that what’s best for your customer’s UI/UX and conversion path lines up nicely with what Google wants. It is their goal to use compliance to make the web easier to search and use, after all!

 

Here’s what a basic heading structure could look like:

 

  • H1 Product Name
  • H2 Product Short Description / Product name above the description (I’ve seen this done on large eCommerce sites and do not know if this is proper)
  • H3 Product Long Description / Product Specifications / Reviews
  • H4 Product Price