4 Ways Copywriting Can Boost Your E-commerce Conversion Rates

Posted by ksaleh

[Estimated read time: 8 minutes]

Your website’s copy is far more important than you realize.

Besides design, copy forms the foundation of your brand. How you describe yourself and your products leaves a palpable impression on your customers. Whether customers think of your brand as bold, futuristic, quirky, or cute depends largely on your copy.

Web copy is also crucial for conveying product information. Your customers want to know how your product works and how it will change their lives.

Unfortunately, far too many e-commerce stores spend hours optimizing their website’s design and layout but completely skip over the copy.

The result? Poor conversion rates.

The relationship between copy and conversion rates

If you’re running an e-commerce store, a SaaS startup, or a marketing agency, the three of your biggest challenges are:

  1. Informing visitors about the store’s products and their unique features and benefits
  2. Evoking emotions that drive action and persuade the visitor
  3. Fostering a long-lasting relationship by emphasizing the brand’s values (and how they align with their customers’ values)

You’ll realize that you can meet all of these challenges through smart copywriting. In fact, it isn’t unusual for improving a website’s copy to increase its conversion rates by 2x, 3x, or even 4x.

For example:

  • FreckleTime increased the conversion rate for its homepage by 2.4x simply by changing its copy.
  • Invesp increased conversion rates for BlogTalk Radio and Oreilly by over 90% by focusing on copy and value proposition in the copy throughout the site.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica increased conversion rates by 103% by changing its sales page copy.

There is a distinct, direct relationship between copy and conversion rates. Better copy, whether it’s on landing pages or product descriptions, leads to better conversion rates.

The obvious question is: how can you improve your e-commerce copy?

Here are four actionable tactics you can use right away to get better conversions.

1. Write for your target personas

Sketching out a target customer profile based on your brand’s personas will help you craft laser-targeted, high-converting copy.

Nearly all your customers will belong to one or more of these four persona types:

  • Logical persona: This persona type is logical, methodical, and detail-oriented. A customer with a logical persona will carefully scrutinize your offer before hitting the “Buy” button. He will also shop around for better deals. Roughly 40–45% of the audience falls into this category.
  • Impulsive persona: An impulsive persona type is spontaneous, risk-oriented, and optimistic. This persona is more prone to making quick decisions and will focus on the benefits when buying. Roughly 30–35% of the audience would be characterized as an impulsive persona.
  • Caring persona: A caring persona is concerned deeply about the well-being of others. This persona will consider your offer only when it helps others as well. Instead of looking at the product and its features, those having caring personas will also browse through your About Us page to see what kind of company you run. Roughly 15–20% of the population falls into this category.
  • Aggressive persona: An aggressive persona is rational and focused on self-improvement. This persona holds herself to a high standard of integrity and will expect the same from you. Roughly 5–7% of the population has this persona.

How to write for each customer persona

What kind of copy you’ll use for each persona will depend largely on what category the persona falls into. A logical persona type will respond very differently to your copy than an impulsive persona type.

Try following some of these guidelines for your persona-types:

Logical persona

  • Emphasize features
  • Include extensive details, especially of the technology behind your products
  • Avoid fluff and vague language

Example: Take a look at the product descriptions on Canada-Goose.com. This is a brand that sells expensive but high-quality outerwear for extreme cold weather conditions.

Canada Goose customers care about the quality and construction of the clothes. The copy reflects this, focusing on features and underlying technology.

Impulsive persona

  • Focus on benefits
  • Use rich imagery and power words
  • Weave a story around your product

Example: Read the product descriptions on the J Peterman catalog. This brand sells the story behind each product.

j peterman

The details are sparse and the copy uses rich imagery and metaphors to appeal to its target audience.

Caring persona

  • Show how your products benefit others, both within product descriptions and on unique pages (About Us, mission statement, etc.).
  • Emphasize the environmental or social benefits of your products.

Example: On Patagonia.com, each product page has a separate section detailing the product’s supply chain. This is in line with Patagonia’s mission statement that promotes sustainable living and environmentally-friendly policies.


Aggressive persona

  • Focus on how the product will help the customer improve himself/herself
  • Emphasize the underlying technology, especially how it relates to performance improvements
  • Focus on your store or your brand’s heritage and history to establish credibility

Example: Most fitness brands fall under this category (see the copy for Keen, a brand of hiking footwear):


The copy lists out the technology used in the shoe and tells the reader how it improves performance.

Ideally, you want to use copy that targets all of these personas on every page. If that’s not possible, you should at least try to figure out the dominant customer persona for each product or category, and use the appropriate copy.

2. Use power words and action words

Staggering. Smashing. Stunning.

These are all examples of power words — words that evoke strong emotions in your readers.

Power words are rarely used in everyday speech (recall the last time you used “staggering” or “sensational” in a casual conversation). This makes them stand out all the more when used in e-commerce copy.

Using power words is the easiest way to elevate your copy beyond the ordinary. A sprinkle of these words can turn boring product descriptions into emotion-generating copy that turns browsers into customers, customers into fans.

See how Firebox uses power words in its product descriptions:

power words

These simple words turn ordinary copy into something far more compelling.

So what are power words like?

Here’s a short list of power words that are particularly useful for e-commerce copywriting tasks.

































































No obligations

No questions asked













































Use action words

Power words evoke emotion, but they don’t drive readers to take action.

For that, you need to use action words in your copy.

These are simply words that describe an action: add, act, take, get, etc.

Let’s take another look at the Firebox product description page:

action words

Action words make your copy sound more energetic and active. They also subtly tell the reader to take some action.

You don’t have to use them excessively. Just pepper them in whenever you want to hammer in a feature/benefit or get your readers to take some action.

Here’s a list of some action words you can use in many different types of copywriting tasks:




























































3. Use the right formatting

Your website visitors don’t read your pages.

They scan.

According to eye-tracking studies conducted by Nielsen, people scan e-commerce pages in an F-shaped pattern:

F-shaped pattern

That is, they first look to the left column, then to the right, then drag their eyes down the page.

This means that users won’t read your copy — however remarkable it may be — unless it’s formatted correctly.

Follow these guidelines for improved e-commerce copy formatting:

  • Follow an information hierarchy. The most important content should go in the first couple of paragraphs. Less important information should be further down the page.

    Take a look at this product page on NewEgg.com. It lists the most important things about the product, including availability, seller name and key features, at the top of the page:


  • Follow a two-column layout, with the product image on the left and critical product details on the right. People are already used to this convention and will naturally look at the image on the left first, followed by the text on the right.

    Overstock.com uses this layout on its product pages:


  • Use bullet points for the text to the right of the image (i.e., the most important content). You can use paragraphs for longer product descriptions.

    For example, Amazon mentions each product’s top features in the form of a bullet list at the top of the page:


  • Use information-rich headers to organize the content (such as key features and sizing information). Users will scan these to find what they’re looking for as they scroll down the page.

    NewEgg organizes this information in separate tabs:


BestBuy’s product pages follow a similar structure, but with even better content organization:


  • Use keywords in your copy. Users will quickly scan your copy to figure out details about your product. Adding keywords such as size and price will help them scan your page faster.

    Great examples of this can be found on Target’s product pages, including this one:


Keep these tips in mind when you write your copy. Otherwise, you just might end up creating impeccable content that no one reads.

4. Don’t forget unique pages

Your homepage, About Us page, mission statement, and the like comprise your site’s unique pages.

Unlike product or category pages (which usually follow a template), each of these pages has distinct content, copy, and design.

Optimizing the copy on your unique pages can have a noticeable impact on conversion rates. For one, these pages help customers understand you and your brand. If you can describe your brand in a way that resonates with your target customers, you’ll be able to sell more products at better prices.

Tell a story through your unique pages

When writing copy for unique pages, the standard rules apply: Use power words and evocative imagery.

At the same time, you also want to make sure that your copy weaves a story about your brand.

ThinkGeek does the same by boldly stating its manifesto on its About page:


Emphasize your brand’s history and values

Another way to use copywriting to improve brand perception is to share your brand’s history and values on your unique pages.

For example, Patagonia.com has a separate page for its mission statement:


Tell your brand’s story

Your brand is more than just a collection of products. There are real people with real stories behind the business who come together to create all your amazing products.

Highlighting these on a separate “Our Story” page is a great idea.

For example, take a look at how Saddleback Leather does it:


Whatever tactic you use to emphasize your brand’s history and its values, the copy on these pages should reflect your brand.

Key takeaways

Copywriting and conversion rate are inherently related. Good web copy is closely correlated with good conversion rates. Using power words, appropriate formatting, and persona-targeted copywriting can help you drastically improve the copy of your e-commerce website and, by proxy, its conversion rates.

Has your brand made a commitment to enhancing conversion rates with effective copywriting?

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Title Tag Length Guidelines: 2016 Edition

Posted by Dr-Pete

For the past couple of weeks, Google has been testing a major change to the width of the left-hand column, expanding containers from 512 pixels to 600 (a 17% increase). Along with this change, Google has increased the available length of result titles:

This naturally begs the question — how many characters can we fit into a display title now? When Google redesigned SERPs in 2014, I recommended a limit of 55 characters. Does a 17% bigger container mean we’ve got 9 more characters to work with?

Not so fast, my friend…

This is where things get messy. It’d be great if we could just count the characters and be done with it, but things are never quite that easy. We’ve got three complications to consider:

(1) Character widths vary

Google uses the Arial font for result titles, and Arial is proportional. In other words, different characters occupy different amounts of space. A lower- case ‘l’ is going to occupy much less space than an upper-case ‘W’. The total width is measured in pixels, not characters, and the maximum amount you can fit in that space depends on what you’re trying to say.

In our 10,000-keyword tracking set, the title below is the longest cut or uncut display title we measured, clocking in at 77 characters:

This title has 14 i’s and lowercase l’s, 10 lowercase t’s, and 3 narrow punctuation marks, creating a character count bonanza. To count this title and say that yours can be 77 characters would be dangerously misleading.

(2) Titles break at whole words

Prior to this change, Google was breaking words at whatever point the cut-off happened. Now, they seem to be breaking titles at whole words. If the cut happens in the middle of a long word, the remaining length might be considerably shorter. For example, here’s a word that’s just not going to fit into your display title twice, and so the cut comes well short of the full width:

(3) Google is appending brands

In some cases, Google is cutting off titles and then appending the brand to the end. Unfortunately, this auto-appended brand text still occupies space and counts against your total allowance. This was the shortest truncated display title in our data set, measuring only 34 words pre-cut:

The brand text “- The Homestead” was appended by Google and is not part of the sites <TITLE> tag. The next word in the title was “Accommodations”, so the combination of the brand add-on and long word made for a very truncated title.

Data from 10,000 searches

Examples can be misleading, so we wanted to take a deeper dive. We pulled all of the page-1 display titles from the 10,000-keyword MozCast tracking set, which ends up being just shy of 90,000 titles. Uncut titles don’t tell us much, since they can be very short in some cases. So, let’s focus on the titles that got cut. Here are the character lengths (not counting ” …”) of the cut titles:

We’ve got a fairly normal distribution (skewed a little to the right) with both a mean and median right around 63. So, is 63 our magic number? Not quite. Roughly half the cut titles in our data set had less than 63 characters, so that’s still a fairly risky length.

The trick is to pick a number where we feel fairly confident that the title won’t be cut off, on average (a guaranteed safe zone for all titles would be far too restrictive). Here are a few select percentages of truncated titles that were above a certain character length:

  • 55% of cut titles >= 63 (+2) characters
  • 91% of cut titles >= 57 (+2) characters
  • 95% of cut titles >= 55 (+2) characters
  • 99% of cut titles >= 48 (+2) characters

In research, we might stick to a 95% or 99% confidence level (note: this isn’t technically a confidence interval, but the rationale is similar), but I think 90% confidence is a decent practical level. If we factor in the ” …”, that gives us about +2 characters. So, my recommendation is to keep your titles under 60 characters (57+2 = 59).

Keep in mind, of course, that cut-offs aren’t always bad. A well placed “…” might actually increase click-through rates on some titles. A fortuitous cut-off could create suspense, if you trust your fortunes to Google:

Now that titles are cut at whole words, we also don’t have to worry about text getting cut off at confusing or unfortunate spots. Take, for example, the dangerous predicament of The International Association of Assemblages of Assassin Assets:

Prior to the redesign, their titles were a minefield. Yes, that contributed nothing to this post, but once I had started down that road, it was already too late.

So, that’s it then, right?

Well, no. As Google evolves and adapts to a wider range of devices, we can expect them to continue to adjust and test display titles. In fact, they’re currently test a new, card-style format for desktop SERPs where each result is boxed and looks like this:

We’re not even entirely sure that the current change is permanent. The narrower format is still appearing for some people under some conditions. If this design sticks, then I’m comfortable saying that keeping your title length under 60 characters will prevent the majority of cut-offs.

Note: People have been asking when we’ll update our title tag tool. We’re waiting to make sure that this design change is permanent, but will try to provide an update ASAP. Updates and a link to that tool will appear in this post when we make a final decision.

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Customer journey analysis and search scenarios

This is the transcript of Fernando Macia’s  presentation at The Inbounder event that took place in Valencia on 19th of May, 2016. You can also download the deck he used here.

Users prefer buying in an environment where they feel that they can make their own informed, responsible and free purchase decisions. Online advertising is perceived as intrusive and when advertising enters through the door, users escape through the window. What they request is having the right information at the right moment.

If we are able to anticipate what that information should be, our Web sites will be optimized not only to be findable in a much wider range of keywords but also to stick to the user from the very first contact and stand by him until he is ready to convert. Customer journey analysis and search scenarios open up a new approach to SEO closer to the users’ purchase decision process.

A little bit of story-telling

Let me begin with a story. Actually, it is an old joke about a salesman.

He had just been hired in one of those huge megastores where you can buy virtually anything, and his supervisor was watching how he was closing the deal to sell a beautiful fishing rod to a young man. The sale was going on as it follows:

“This is a fabulous fishing rod: flexible and light, but really strong at the same time. You will enjoy fishing for hours and won’t feel tired of it”– was saying the salesman.

“Oh, wow, you’re right. I’ll take the fishing rod… but…. “– doubted the customer.


“I can’t actually stand up for hours. My backache will kill me”– complained the customer.

“No, if you take this extra-comfortable folding chair, it won’t. It is very light and you can take it to your favourite fishing spot”– offered the salesman.

“Hey, great. Then I’ll buy the chair too”– admitted the customer.

“A good decision. You’ll enjoy fishing sitting comfortably so much more… and only if…”

“Yes?”– asked the customer.

“What if you feel hungry? Why don’t you buy this convenient barbecue? Can you imagine yourself preparing a delicious lunch after a good morning fishing session?”– suggested the salesman.

“Hey, I love barbecue, especially in the open air. You are right. I’ll take the barbecue too”– said the customer.

“But, of course, staying outside and walking by the river will sure make you thirsty. What about having a good bunch of ice-cold beers handy? In this portable cooler you can take your cold beer wherever you want”– said the salesman, showing a glowing blue cooler.

“Man, that would be great! I’ll buy the cooler too”.

So they go on and on and on like that and, to make a long story short, the poor customer ends up even buying a caravan and a 4WD before leaving the store. Can you imagine his supervisor’s face?

“C’mon Phil, I had never ever seen anybody selling like you just did! You are absolutely amazing! This man just came to the store to get a new fishing rod and you made him buy a caravan and even a 4WD!”– exclaimed the supervisor very excited.

“Thank you… but he didn’t want to buy a fishing rod. In fact, his wife asked him to go by the store on his way home and buy some old DVDs to keep his mother-in-law busy during her visit on the coming weekend. So I told him: Hey guy, you have a loooong and tough weekend ahead…! Why don’t you go fishing?”

From the conversion funnel to the customer journey

This story shows us several things:

  1. A customer’s behaviour is often inscrutable. Frequently, it’s almost impossible to identify the circumstances, the ad, the news, the fact that actually triggered the search intent in the user for the very first time. How, at a certain moment, customers become aware of a certain need and start their own customer journey from this very first search intent and all the way through to our final buying decision.
  2. A savvy salesman will stand by his customer and stay alert for any motivation or objection He will stick on whatever motivation to amplify it and will have good arguments ready to fight back any objection.
  3. Customers’ purchase decision is driven forward by their motivations, even when they are not yet fully aware of what exactly those motivations are.
  4. Customers’ purchase decisions are often stopped or delayed by their objections, their doubts or when they feel they should collect additional data in order to come to the right decision.
  5. Customers need information, and they will require even more information when they feel that the risk to make the wrong decision is big or when there is a chance to get a bigger benefit from a wiser decision.
  6. Sometimes, being ready for conversion will require a step-by-step approach.

On the Internet, there are no salesmen. All we have is Web pages, mobile applications, social profiles, content and functionalities. We cannot spot, at least for the time being, whether a user’s mouth is watering whilst he is looking at the latest iPhone model, or whether he is terrified and frustrated by its price tag. Although customers have gained prominence on the Web 2.0, online sales are mostly a unidirectional communication process.

So we have to find ways to identify what these motivations and objections are. We have to know what data, what information will be considered enough by the user, so he can feel comfortable to make a purchase decision.

A funnel or a sieve?

As marketers, we have been describing this process as a funnel, a conversion funnel, with some contents and searches, which are key at each one of the stages of the funnel. For instance, the search intent might be triggered by something we read on a blog, a spot on TV, or some related search. Usually, when we begin our search to document our purchase decision, our first searches are very generic. As we identify the characteristics that best suit our needs, we narrow down our search to consider just a few options. And finally, we feel ready for conversion and sharing of our purchase decision.

Customers react in different ways to different sales arguments. And while for some people buying a €15 T-shirt is an impulse purchase, for some lucky folks that threshold might be much higher, in the hundreds of Euros. This threshold is different for every user, and usually the higher the price, the longer the customer journey. If we feel that a certain purchase decision involves a high risk, we will take the time and the effort to search, compare, and find all the answers to every objection, so we can feel sure that we’re making a more informed choice.

For each purchase decision, a customer will follow a path that is far from linear. Instead, it looks more like a twisting path: the user tries to gather all the information he thinks is relevant: specifications, functionalities, reviews from critics, from other users, opinions from their social contacts, comparison tables, user comments…

And, as we’ve seen in the story at the beginning, many times there is no direct cause-effect relationship between an initial search and a final buying intent. The Web is the perfect environment for procrastination. So, the traditional tools and methods for keyword research are not enough any more. Synonyms, semantic field, related terms are not the complete answer any more.

So, perhaps we should put the funnel concept to question. In real life, we use a funnel so that none of the liquid we are pouring is lost. But when we refer to the conversion funnel and find that the average conversion ratio in Spanish online stores is 1%, the funnel metaphor is not valid any more. Most of the visitors that we drive into the funnel actually escape from it at some point. It looks more like a sieve!

SEO is not just about keywords any more!

And nevertheless, here we are: all of us SEOs trying to position our Web pages in top positions for the same most popular and next-to-conversion keywords. This approach makes our strategy very linear:

  • We identify some initial keywords that we use as seeds for our favourite keyword suggestion tool.
  • We find some related search terms and select the best assets in our Web sites for each one of them.
  • We optimize each page for its target keyword spreading the right terms here and there, in the right, prominent spots of the page.
  • And we try to grow the page’s authority with internal and external links.

But getting top positions is getting harder and harder. Organic results are not the main content on the SERPs any more, and even being the first organic position does not guarantee a good CTR anymore.

Local, personalized and mobile results make it even more difficult to control the position we occupy. And there are domains, which concentrate lots of authority and popularity, so there is little chance that they will not monopolize the top positions.

We used to identify the best assets in our Web sites for each one of our target keywords. Once we identified the right page, we used to optimize it for this keyword spreading the right terms here and there, in the right, prominent spots.


This approach makes our strategy very linear: we identify some keywords, find some related search terms with Google Keyword Planner or any other keyword suggestion tool and optimize our pages for them. It is high time we start to think that SEO is not about keywords any more. Or, at the very least, not only about keywords any more.

All these tools rely on synonyms, semantic field and other semantic relationships. However, most of the time the relationship between different keywords that are key at each micro-moment do not share a semantic relationship among them, but rather a sequential or a chronological relationship, where they fit to fill in the gaps between each micro-moment and the following one on the way to conversion.


The customer journey

We have to spread our SEO work over the entire customer journey, and look at it from a global perspective. We have to use our insights to build probable, popular search scenarios, where we can identify all those micro-moments making up the entire purchase decision process.

For instance, for a travel Web site, a search like “disneyland offer” would be very worth to compete for. And that is correct as long as you are one of the leading travel Web sites. But if you are not –and if you are not in the first results page for the keyword – then you have to find additional opportunities to be findable by your potential customers.


If we analyze the customer journey that brought our user to this search –“disneyland offer”–, we find that, in reality, it is only the last search from a process that began perhaps two or three months ago, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, searching for ideas to travel with children. Perhaps our guy found a post about what a good idea it was to combine Paris as the perfect romantic destination with spending some time at Disneyland with the kids.

This blog raises the awareness, the possibility of traveling to Paris next summer. And this is the trigger where the journey of this customer might have started. Next, he will probably have to answer a few questions:

And there would still be other related searches, like “cheap flight madrid-paris”…

And finally, it is possible that both during their trip, or immediately after coming back home they would share their experience, comments and opinions about Disneyland Paris.

As you can see, there are searches that connect more with the motivations: “What should we wear?” or “When is it best to go?”, while others relate more to the possible objections: “What the weather will be like in June in Paris?” “What if there is a strike?”

This means that we must not focus on a certain keyword, but instead we have many different micro-moments –all of which make up this customer journey– and each one of these micro-moments is, in itself, an opportunity to make our Web sites findable at different stages of the decision process, and for easier, less competitive keywords.

It is the content, stupid

Therefore, it is not so much about producing the best content, it is not about producing a lot of content, either. It is not even about producing viral content. All of that is good to improve our chances to be found, but what we really need is content that drives sales, content that will connect with the buyers’ motivations, content that will answer all of their objections, content that will make them feel as though they are not being pushed to come to a purchase decision but, instead, will make them feel as though their choice was the best possible one.

Thus, it is not so much about producing good content or a lot of content but, instead, about producing just the right content and linking to it from the right places. Sales arguments that connect with the customers buying motivations make the purchase decision move forward, while the objections delay it.

If we are able to identify these motivations and amplify them, we will make the customer progress faster to his purchase decision. If we are not able to counterargument his objections, the purchase decision will be delayed forever.

Let’s see another example. For a year now, I’ve been thinking about replacing my old Honda but the silly damn thing is so well put together that nothing has broken so far. I can’t find an excuse to replace it. Anyway, while I wait for the right moment to buy a new car, I am having the time of my life searching for every possible candidate on the Internet. You can ask me about hybrid cars, about how many kilometers a year you should make to consider buying diesel, which brands are the most reliable ones; whether I should finance, rent or lease it…

So I think that by this time we would need a hundred steps to show my own customer journey. We could visualize it in a simplified manner, more or less like this:


So, there is no point in centering all of our efforts in trying to be first for the most obvious search: “toyota prius alicante offers”. There are a lot of related and anticipatory searches. If we are able to predict this scenario to some extent, we will be able to prepare our Web sites to be visible and findable for many of these micro-moments happening all along.

Of course, this approach raises a lot of different implications, both in the information architecture and in the page structure of the different templates of our Web sites.

Tune in to find out about search scenarios in the second part of this post.

Post from Fernando Maciá

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Will Intelligent Personal Assistants Replace Websites?

Posted by Tom-Anthony

[Estimated read time: 8 minutes]

Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPAs) are capable of radically disrupting the way we search for and consume information on the Internet. The convergence of several trends and technologies has resulted in a new interface through which people will be able to interact with your business. This will have a dramatic impact — if your long-term marketing/business plan doesn’t account for IPAs, you may be in the same boat as those people who said they didn’t need a website in the early 2000s.

Your website is an API to your business

If we look to pre/early Internet, then the primary interface to most businesses was the humble phone. Over the phone you could speak to a business and find out what they had in stock, when they’d be open, whether they had space for your reservation, etc., and then you could go on to order products, ask for directions, or place reservations. The phone was an interface to your business, and your phone line and receptionist were your “API” — the way people interacted with your business.

As the Internet matured and the web gained more traction, it increasingly became the case that your website empowered users to do lots of those same things that they previously did via the phone. They could get information and give you money, and your website became the new “API” for your business, allowing users to interact with it. Notice this didn’t necessitate the death of the phone, but lots of the requests that previously came via phone now came via the web, and there was also a reduction in friction for people wanting to interact with your business (they didn’t have to wait for the phone line to be free, or speak to an actual human!).

Since then, the web has improved as technologies and availability have improved, but fundamentally the concept has stayed the same. Until now.

The 5 tech giants have all built an intelligent personal assistant

The 5 tech giants have all built an Intelligent Personal Assistant

Intelligent Personal Assistants apps such as Google Now, Siri, Cortana, and Facebook M — as well as the newer appliances such as Amazon Echo, the new Google Home, and the rumored Apple Siri hardware — are going to have a profound effect on the way people search, the types of search they do, and the way they consume and act upon the results of those searches.

New entries, such as Hound and Viv, show that intelligent personal assistants are growing beyond just something phone makers are adding as a feature, and are becoming a core focus.

In the last couple of years we’ve discussed a variety of new technologies and their impact on search; a number of these are all feeding into the rise of these personal assistants.

Trend 1: More complex searches

The days of searches just being a keyword are long since over. The great improvements of natural language processing, driven by improvements in machine learning, have meant that conversational search has become a thing and we have seen Hummingbird and RankBrain becoming building blocks of how Google understands and handles queries.

Furthermore, implicit signals have also seen the rise of anticipatory queries with Google Now leading the way in delivering you search results based off of your context without you needing to ask.

Contributing technologies & trends:

  • Implicit Signals
  • Natural Language
  • Conversational Search
  • Hummingbird & RankBrain

Watch this video of Will Critchlow speak about these trends to hear more.

Trend 2: More complex results

Search results have moved on from 10 blue links to include the Knowledge Graph, with entities and direct answers being a familiar part of any search result. This has also meant that, since the original Siri, we’ve seen a search interface that doesn’t even do a web search for many queries but instead gives data-driven answers right there in the app. The earliest examples were queries for things like weather, which would turn up a card right there in the app.

Finally, the rise of conversational search has made possible complex compound queries, where queries can be revised and extended to allow the sorting, filtering, and refining of searches in a back and forth fashion. This phase of searching used to be something you did by reviewing the search results manually and sifting through them, but now search engines understand (rather than just index) the content they discover and can do this step for you.

Contributing technologies & trends:

  • Entities / Direct Answers
  • Faceted search
  • Data driven answers

You may like Distilled’s Searchscape which has information and videos on these various trends.

Trend 3: Bots, conversational UI, and on-demand UIs

More recently, with the increased interest in bots (especially since Facebook’s F8 announcement), we can see a rise in the number of companies investing in various forms of conversational UI (see this article and this one).

Bots and conversational UI provide a new interface which lends itself to all of the benefits provided by natural language processing and ways of presenting data-driven answers.

Note that a conversational UI isn’t limited to purely a spoken or natural language interface, but can also provide an “on demand” UI for certain situations (see this example screenshot from Facebook, or the Siri/Fandango cinema ticket example below).

Contributing technologies & trends:

  • Conversational UI
  • Bots
  • On-demand UIs within the IPA interface

Trend 4: 3rd-party integration

Going back to the first versions of Siri or Google Now, there were no options for 3rd-party developers to integrate. They could only do a limited set of actions based on what Apple or Google had explicitly programmed in.

However, over time, the platforms have opened up more and more, such that apps can now provide functionality within the intelligent personal assistant on the same app.

Google Now, Amazon Echo, Cortana, and Siri (not quite — but rumored to be coming in June) all provide SDKs (software development kits), allowing 3rd-party developers to integrate into these platforms.

This is an opportunity for all of us integrate directly into the next generation search interface.

What’s the impact of all this?

More searches as friction reduces

Google published an (under-reported) paper on some of the research and work that went into Google Now, which when combined with their daily information needs study indicates how hard they’re trying to encourage and enable users to do searches that previously have not been possible.

The ability of intelligent personal assistants to fulfil more complex search queries (and of “always listening” search appliances like Amazon Echo and Google Home) to remove the friction of doing searches that were previously “too much work” means we’ll see a rise in search queries that simply wouldn’t have happened previously. So rather than cannibalizing web-based searches that came before, a large segment of the queries to IPAs will be wholly new types of searches.

Web rankings get bypassed, go straight to the top

As more and more people search via personal assistants, and with personal assistants trying to deliver answers directly in their interface, we’ll see an increasing number of searches that completely bypass web search rankings. As 3rd-party integration becomes more widespread, there will be an increasing number of dynamic queries that personal assistants can handle directly (e.g. “where can I buy The Martian?,” “flights to Berlin,” or “order a pepperoni pizza”).

This is a massive opportunity — it does not matter how many links and how much great content your competitor has to help them in “classical SEO” if you’ve integrated straight into the search interface and no web search is ever shown to the user. You can be the only search result shown.

The classic funnel gets compressed; checking out via IPAs

This part is probably the most exciting, from my perspective, and I believe is the most important from the impact it’ll have on users and businesses. People have modeled “the funnel” in a variety of different ways over time, but one common way to look at it is:

The search is separate to the browsing/checkout process, and that checkout process happens via a website. Apps have had some impact on this classic picture, but so far it hasn’t been a big part.

However, conversational search/UI combined with the ability for developers to integrate directly into IPAs opens up a huge opportunity to merge the interfaces for the search step and the steps previously fulfilled by the website (browsing and checking out). There are already examples of the funnel being compressed:

In this example, using Siri, you can see I was able to search for movies playing nearby, pick a particular movie and cinema, then pick a particular showing and, finally, I can click to buy, which takes me to the Fandango app. I am most of the way through the checkout process before I leave the intelligent personal assistant app interface. How long until I can do that final step and actually check out inside the personal assistant?

Integrating with intelligent personal assistant apps currently normally happens via the app model (i.e. you build an app that provides some functionality to the assistant), but how long until we see the possibility to integrate without needing to build an app yourself — the intelligent personal assistant will provide the framework and primary interface.


Intelligent Personal Assistants bring together all the recent developments in search technology, and as integration options improve, we will see an increasing number of queries/transactions go end-to-end entirely inside the personal assistant itself.

People will conduct searches, review data, and make purchases entirely inside that one interface, completely bypassing web search (already happening) and even checking out inside the personal assistant (within the next 12 months) and thus bypassing websites.

IPAs represent an absolutely massive opportunity, and it would be easy to underestimate the impact they will have (in the same way many people underestimated mobile initially). If you’ve been on the fence about building an app, you should re-evaluate that decision, with a focus on apps being the way they can integrate into intelligent personal assistants.

What do you think? I’d love to have a discussion in the comments about how everyone thinks this will play out and how it might change the landscape of search.

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Friday Talk: Is There a Buy Button Inside the Brain?

Wouldn’t we all like to look inside our customers’ brains? And while we are there, wouldn’t it be great if we could switch a button so people would buy from us? Well, maybe that is possible. Because there might just be a ‘buy button’ inside the brain. Patrick Renvoise is co-author of “Neuromarketing: Understanding the buy button inside your customer’s brain.” He is currently serving as Chief Neuromarketing Officer of SalesBrain. He digs into our brains in this TEDx Talk.

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How to Research the Path to Customer Purchase – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Moving your customers down the funnel from awareness to conversion can make for a winding and treacherous road. Until you fully research and understand the buying process inside and out, it’s far too easy to make a misstep. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand steps back to take a higher-level look at the path to customer purchase, recommending workflows and tools to help you forge your own way.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about the path to customer purchase and how to research that path. The reason this is so critical is because we have to understand a few things like our content and conversion strategy around where do we need to be, what content we need to create, how to position ourselves, our product, our brand, and how to convert people. We can’t know this stuff until we truly understand the buying process.

We’ve done a lot of Whiteboard Fridays that involve very, very tactically specific items in one of the steps in these, like: how to understand the awareness funnel and how to build your social media audience; or how to get into the consideration process and understand how you compare against your competition; or how to convert people at the very end of the buying cycle on a landing page.

But I want to take a step back because, as I’ve talked to a lot of you out there and heard comments from you, I think that this bigger picture of, “How do I understand this research process,” is something we need to address.

Buyers: Who are they?

So let’s start with: How do we understand who our buyers actually are, and what’s the research process we can use for that? My general sense is that we need to start with interviews with a few people, with salespeople if you’re working with a team that has sales, with customer service, especially if you’re working with a team that has customer service folks who talk to lots of their audience, and potentially with your target demographic and psychographic audience. Demographic audience would be like: Where are they, what gender are they, and what age group are they? Psychographics would be things around their interest levels in certain things and what they consume and how they behave, all of that type of stuff.

For example, let’s say we’re going to go target Scotch whisky drinkers. Now, I am personally among that set of Scotch whisky drinkers. I’m big fan of a number of scotches, as are many Mozzers. In fact, I have a bottle of Ardbeg — I think it’s the Uigeadail — in my office here at Moz.

So I might go, “Well, let’s see. Let’s talk to the people who sell whisky at stores. Let’s talk to the people who sell it online. Let’s talk to the customer service folks. Let’s do interviews with people who are likely Scotch buyers, which are both male and female, perhaps slightly more demographically skewed male, tend to be in a slightly wealthier, maybe middle income and up income bracket, tend to be people who live in cities more than people who live in urban and rural areas, tend to also have interests around things like fashion and maybe automobiles and maybe beer and other forms of alcohol.” So we can figure out all that stuff and then we can do those interviews.

What we’re trying to get to is a customer profile or several customer profiles.

A lot of folks call this a “customer persona,” and they’ll name the persona. I think that’s a fine approach, but you can have a more abstract customer profile as well.

Then once you have that, you can use a tool like Facebook, through their advertising audience system, to research the quantity of people who have the particular attributes or affiliations that you’re seeking out. From there, you can expand again by using Facebook and Twitter. You could use Followerwonk, for example in Twitter specifically, to figure out: What are these people following? Who are their influencers? What are the brands they pay attention to? What are the media outlets? What are the individuals? What are the blogs or content creators that they follow?

You can also do this with a few other tools. For example, if you’re searching out just content in general, you might use Google Search. You could do this on Instagram or Pinterest or LinkedIn for additional networks.

There’s a very cool tool called FullContact, which has an API that essentially let’s you plug in let’s say you have a set of email addresses from your interview process. You can plug that into FullContact and you can see the profiles that all of those email addresses have across all these social networks.

Now I can start to do this type of work, and I can go plug things into Followerwonk. I can go plug them into Facebook, and I can actually see specifically who those groups follow. Now I can start to build a true idea of who these people are and who they follow.

What needs do they have?

Now that I’ve researched that, I need to know what needs those folks actually have. I understand my audience at least a little bit, but now I need to understand what they want. Again, I go back to that interview process. It’s very, very powerful. It is time-intensive. It will not be a time-saving activity. Interviews take a long time and a lot of effort and require a tremendous amount of resources, but you also get deep, deep empathy and understanding from an interview process.

Surveys are another good way to go, but you get much less deep information from them. You can however get good broad information, and I’ve really enjoyed those. If you don’t already have an audience, you can start with something like SurveyMonkey Audience or Google Surveys, which let you target a broad group, and both of those are reasonable if you’re targeting the right sorts of broad enough demographics or psychographics.

The other thing I want to do here is some awareness stage keyword research. I want to understand that this awareness phase. As people are just understanding they have a problem, what do they search for? Keyword research on this can start from the highest level.

So if I’m targeting Scotch, I might search for just Scotch by itself. If I plug that into a tool like Keyword Explorer or Keyword Planner or KeywordTool.io, I can see suggestions like, “What’s the best Scotch under $50?” When I see that, I start to gain an understanding of, “Oh, wait a minute. People are looking for quality. They also care about price.” Then I might see other things like, “Gosh, a lot of people search for ‘Islay versus Speyside.’ Oh, that’s interesting. They want to know which regions are different.” Or they search for “Japanese whisky versus Scotch whisky.” Aha, another interesting point at the awareness stage.

From there, I can determine the search terms that are getting used at awareness stage. I can go to consideration. I can go to comparison. I can go to conversion points. That really helps me understand the journey that searchers are taking down this path.

It’s not just search, though. Any time I have a search term or phase, I want to go plug that into places like Facebook. I want to plug it into something like Twitter search. I want to understand the influencers on the networks that I know my audience is in. That could be Instagram. It could be Pinterest. It could be LinkedIn. It could be any variety of networks. It could be Google News, maybe, if I’m seeing that they pay attention to a lot of media.

Then once I have these search terms and awareness through the funnel, now I’ve got to understand: How do they get to that conversation point?

Once I get there, what I’m really seeking out is: What are the reasons people bought? What are the things they considered? What are the objections that kept some of them from buying?

Creating a content & conversion strategy.

If I have this, what I essentially have now is the who and the what they’re seeking out at each phase of this journey. That’s an incredibly powerful thing that I can then go apply to…

Where do I need to be?

“Where do I need to be” means things like: What keywords do I need to target? What social platforms do I need to be on? Where do I need to be in media? Who do I need to influence who’s influencing my audience?

It tells me what content I need to create.

I know what articles or videos or visuals or podcasts or data my audience is interested in and what helps compel them further and further down that funnel.

It tells me a little bit about how to position myself in terms of things like style and UI/UX.

It also tells me about benefits versus features and some of the prototypical users. Who are the prototypical users? Who should I showcase? What kinds of testimonials are going to be valuable because people say, “Ah, this person, who is like me, liked this product and uses it. Therefore it must be a good product for me.”

Lastly, it tells me about how we can convert our target audience.

Then it also tells us lastly, finally, through those objections and the reasons people bought, the landing page content, the testimonials to feature and what should be in those. It tells me about the conversion path and how I should expect people to flow through that: whether they have to come back many times or they make the purchase right away. Who they’re going to compare me against in terms of competitors. And finally the purchase dynamics: How do I want to sell? Do I need a refund policy? Do I need to have things like free shipping? Should this be on a subscription basis? Should I have a high upfront payment or a low upfront payment with ballooning costs over time, and all that type of stuff?

This research process is not super simple. I certainly haven’t dived deep on every one of these aspects. But you can use this as a fundamental architecture to shape how you answer these questions in all of the web marketing channels you might pursue. Before you go pursue any one given channel, you might want to try and identify some of the holes you have in this.

If you have questions about how to do this, go through and do this research first. You’ll have far better results at the end.

All right, everyone. Thanks for watching. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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AdWords targets SMS growth with new ‘click to message’ feature

There’s an abundance of data and more and more research suggesting that marketers should not just be considering mobile-first strategies, but prioritising them too. This further confirms what we already know, that Google is continuing its pursuit of AdWords growth and appeal in the mobile marketing arena. Recently, I for one can’t think of many changes and updates made by Google that are not considering mobile to be the first point of contact with users. It’s clear to see that any search marketing strategy must consider mobile to be one of, if not its most important channels for both customer retention and growth.

We have already seen some key updates (in both paid and organic search) in a short space of time, including:

  • The introduction of AMP pages
  • Mobile app indexation through deeper links
  • Callout and sitelink extensions optimised for mobile
  • Structured snippets for mobile ads
  • The local search results pack made consistent cross device
  • Enhanced mobile features in Google Search Console
  • Extended ad headlines on mobile device

Google’s growing presence across the mobile market makes perfect sense, as in recent years we have seen mobile search behaviour dwarf many statistics, including searches on mobile devices overtaking desktop searches and a growing number of mobile users browsing with intent and completing purchases direct from device. With Google reporting a 146% year-on-year increase in mobile searches, the chances are, if you don’t already prioritise mobile users in your search strategy, that you have already lost ground.

In this article, I’m going to focus specifically on a brand new AdWords beta feature, due for release later in 2016 – Click to message. Let’s see what it means for paid search marketing and what we can learn from this release.

Digging deeper into mobile PPC and SMS integration

There is no real need for me to justify why mobile search is important and how crucial it is to successful online business. With 30% of all online shopping purchases (and growing) now happening on mobile phones, we have to consider how we can better target these users to further enhance already great user journeys. What other avenues can be introduced to better encourage user engagement? Whether this is by giving users the option to call direct from paid ads, or providing users the opportunity to choose your business from google shopping ads, these alternative avenues and customer touch points continue to grow. SMS is no exception. Google’s pursuit of mobile user perfection has taken another huge stride towards a full circle marketing experience.

Ideas & innovation - image 2

As mentioned earlier, Google has taken many steps in enabling advertisers to reach and target users crossdevice. In May 2015, Google’s VP of AdWords announced a number of new mobile ad formats and since then we’ve seen…

• The introduction of Gmail sponsored ads, enabling advertisers to reach users directly in their email inboxes.
• Customer Match; targeting that allows advertisers to upload a list of email addresses to target with ads.

Towards the tail end of 2015, we also saw the introduction of SMS remarketing and the ability to subscribe to SMS alerts from Google. A significant new ad format that allows searchers to subscribe, receiving updates and deals from Google via SMS text message to direct to their mobile phones.

The key intent displayed above by Google’s latest enhancements have prompted me question how I now think as a marketer. I’m not just referencing Google’s constant pursuit for relevancy, but immediacy too. They state that ‘users no longer go online, but they live online’.

So, how can I better connect with my customers, at a time when they have control over first communication, driven by their intent and allowing them to choose what type of intent they have? Introducing AdWords ‘click to message’…

What is the new AdWords click to message feature?

Click to message is a new Beta Product from Google AdWords. It is “intended to change the nature of a customer’s online experience and improve efficiency for marketers”. It could be explained as the missing piece of the puzzle, tapping into consumers who prefer to use SMS as a form of communication. One step away from integrating instant messaging/live chat into AdWords capabilities.



It has been common place in the digital marketing world for many years, there is no one size fits all first interaction or preferred method of contact. Attribution and channel selection are two of the most important metrics to track in order to serve the correct experience to your audience. Click to message aims to target on-the-go mobile consumers that don’t have a single way they prefer to connect with your businesses. The time sensitivity involved in todays market means we need to offer a selection of communications methods from apps to websites to click to call and now SMS. This leaves the consumer with little or no reason not to find an appropriate in road to a business, and subsequently a product or service on offer.

If we were to look at it scenario based, if you work in an office environment and can’t make a voice call, SMS may be more efficient. If you are commuting and signal or Wi-Fi connection drops in and out, you can catch up where the conversation left off. There are endless occasions when SMS may serve a consumer better. There is also no time pressure on consumers to reply instantly. Users will visit a website, use an app, go in store or call depending on what works best for them in the moment.

Click-to-message ads give consumers a new, convenient way to have a conversation with a business via text messaging and to keep it going throughout the day on their own timetable.

Why integrate SMS with PPC?

So, with the already large capabilities available in AdWords, why does SMS need to be a part of the cycle too? The statistics speak for themselves as:

97% of smartphone owners use texting—it’s also the “app” they use most frequently.

dice letters - image 1

SMS marketing already exists, but what this new feature does open the door to, is marketers being able to communicate with users over SMS without having to give out any personal details. There are no barriers to communication. Whereas historically, businesses using SMS marketing needed to acquire phone numbers, by using click to message ads, a user simply enters into an SMS dialogue. On the one hand, businesses won’t be able to grow mobile marketing lists, but on the other hand it has the potential to reduce costs and increase efficiency at the same time. Google reported the following statistics on SMS marketing:

  • Innovative businesses have been using SMS as an effective marketing channel for years.
  • On average, text messages are opened in 3 minutes with a 90% overall open rate.
  • Messaging apps are still rising in popularity, but are primarily for personal conversations

The open rate statistics alone are enough to deem this a viable path for marketers to consider.

The other obvious benefit of the click to message feature is that the set up time, maintenance and reporting of this channel can be absorbed within your daily running of AdWords. Yes, you’ll need a potential team responding (depending on volume), but aside from that it is easily managed. My only initial comment, is much like social media and other engagement opportunities you will need a contingency plan in place for the likes of complaints, escalations and an element of customer service.

How will click to message work?

This is where marketers can become creative. Choosing how to engage with users opting for SMS, and what the goal of these customers should be. There needs to be an obvious commercial advantage to this service.

From Google, “When a user clicks the text Icon, we will launch their SMS app with a pre-loaded message. That message will be sent to the SMS capable number you provided. User and business continue to have a conversation via SMS, or transition to another mode (call, in person, website)”.

Google have also considered many users having varied intent. This is why they have decided an optional form will allow you to get more context to provide customers with the most relevant conversation possible, such as get a quote, ask a question, track my order and so forth. At this stage, I can assume you’ll have the ability to tailor this to be relevant to your business.

What does click to message mean for users?

For the audience of millennials and generation Z, texting is already ingrained in our daily routine. We receive marketing and personal messages daily. Checking our smart phones and messaging on the go is a habit we have adopted. Now considered a normal daily activity for much of the population, extending that to text a business makes perfect sense and the inception should be very straight forward.

It’s convenient too. That’s why it is no coincidence it is so frequently used by so many to communicate. As mentioned earlier, users will take the path that is most convenient to them. If that happens to be SMS, then marketers can now make provisions for that.

Lastly, its time saving. Say you have a fairly simple query that you can’t find the answer to online and you simply don’t have time to wait on hold. Engage via SMS and carry on as you would.

What does this new AdWords feature mean for businesses?

Firstly, in a similar way for users, it is convenient for businesses too. Two-way communication allows businesses to engage with consumers at a time that not only matters, but a time when they are most likely to convert. How often have potential conversions been missed due to users having to wait for information, or not find an answer to the question they have? These SMS conversations can then potentially lead on to a call, or eventually a conversion direct from a text.

If used effectively, businesses could also benefit from a cost reduction. Messaging will allow advertisers to take the strain from busy call centres, by dedicating staff to handle more than one concurrent conversation and also avoid the time-wasting of incoming calls when it could be solved directly via SMS.

What else do we know so far?

As the functionality is only in its beta stages, I am yet to dig further in what this could offer and how flexible it may be. What I do know is that in terms of the serving capabilities of Click to message, is so far the extension will serve on ads in different formats including text and call and text only. Reporting will also be available when you segment by click type to see detailed stats the click-to-message extension.

Keep your eyes peeled in SERPs for businesses trailing this beta functionality, as we should soon start to see the SMS option appearing for companies opting to use this feature.

So what do I do next?

Click to message certainly looks like an exciting new AdWords feature that is aims to bridge the gap between PPC and SMS marketing. Add this to your already vast collection of paid advertising enhancements we’ve experienced as of late and you’ve got a whole new world of creative opportunity to exploit.

This focus on bringing SMS and PPC closer together should certainly be seen as an opportunity to further increase audience engagement at a lesser cost to other more traditional digital methods.

At present, to gain access to this feature your account has to be whitelisted based on current spend. However, that’s not to suggest you ignore this. Keep your eyes and ears to the ground for the release of click to message and be ready to capitalise, as an early inception could be the key to gaining the best advantage for this new beta product.

Is it likely to tear up trees in the realms of PPC advertising? Not immediately. But once end users gain an understanding of this feature, and it becomes common place to request additional information or make a request via text message, where they don’t have to visit a website and wait for it to load and can directly contact your business through a means of communication they favour most, why not prepare for it?

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​Preview the MozCon 2016 Agenda (and Other Exciting News!)

Posted by EricaMcGillivray

Like the talking mice to Cinderella, we’re already working hard on MozCon and crafting Roger one heck of a ball gown. (And letting our metaphors get out of control in the meantime.) Which means I’m here to share with all of you the current MozCon 2016 Agenda and a ton of other preview goodies.

If you’re suddenly like “Oh snap, I haven’t bought my ticket(s)!”, I’ll pause while you:

Buy your MozCon 2016 ticket!

New emcees: we’re mixing it up!

As some of you know, Cyrus won’t be emceeing MozCon this year. (We still adore him, and I’m sure his face will make it into a few slide decks.) So we decided to take this opportunity to shake it up.

Emceeing MozCon is a hard job. We want each and every speaker to feel supported by our stage and have the emcee warm up the audience for their talk. Instead of having one emcee for three days, we’re having three different emcees, one each day.

Please congratulate them!

Jen Sable Lopez

Jen Sable Lopez

Sr. Director of Community and Audience Development at Moz


Leading our community and audience development efforts here at Moz, Jen Sable Lopez’s the biggest fan of you: our community. She’s deeply invested in being TAGFEE and bringing educational content and community love to you. Jen also does a great Grumpy Cat impression, serves as Moz gif maker, and loves traveling and her family.

Ronell Smith

Ronell Smith

Strategist at RS Consulting


Ronell Smith is a business strategist with a passion for helping brands create a user experience their customers will recognize, appreciate, and reward them for with their business.

Zeph Snapp

Zeph Snapp

CEO at Altura Interactive


A bilingual, bicultural marketer, Zeph Snapp helps international companies reach Spanish speakers in the US and Latin America. If you want him to go on a rant, ask him about machine learning as it relates to translation and content.

The sneak peek MozCon 2016 Agenda

Because we’re releasing this earlier than ever, there’s still a few TBD spots and topics. I can’t thank our speakers enough for being so gracious and super hard-working to settle on their topics.

Wil on the stage

You’ll also notice that community speakers are still forthcoming. That’s right — they’re coming soon (keep an eye out for the submission post!), and we wanted to give you a head start to noodle on your potential topic.



Rand Fishkin

Welcome to MozCon 2016! with Rand Fishkin

Wizard of Moz

Rand Fishkin is the founder and former CEO of Moz, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, and co-founder of Inbound.org. Rand’s an unsaveable addict of all things content, search, and social on the web.

Cara Harshman

Uplevel Your A/B Testing Skills with Cara Harshman

Content Marketing Manager at Optimizely

A/B testing is bread and butter for anyone who aspires to be a data-driven marketer. Cara will share stories about how testers, from one-person agencies to dedicated testing teams, are doing it, and how you can develop your own A/B testing expertise.

Cara Harshman just celebrated her four-year anniversary at Optimizely. Besides managing content strategy, customer case studies, and the blog, she has been known to spend a lot of time writing parody songs for company all-hands meetings.

AM Break

Lauren Vaccarello

TBD with Lauren Vaccarello

VP of Marketing at Box

Lauren Vaccarello is a best-selling author and currently runs corporate and field marketing at Box.




Joe Hall

Rethinking Information Architecture for SEO and Content Marketing with Joe Hall

SEO Consultant at Hall Analysis LLC

Information Architecture (IA) shapes the way we organize data, think about complex ideas, and build web sites. Joe will provide a new approach to IA for SEO and Content Marketing, based on actionable insights, that SEOs can extract from their own data sets.

Joe Hall is an executive SEO consultant focused on analyzing and informing the digital marketing strategies of select clients through high-level data analysis and SEO audits.

Talia Wolf

Breaking Patterns: How to Rewrite the CRO Playbook with Mobile Optimization with Talia Wolf

CMO at Banana Splash

Best practices lie. Talia shares how to build a mobile conversion optimization strategy and how to turn more mobile visitors into customers based on A/B testing their emotions, decision making process, and behavior.

As CMO at Banana-Splash and Founder of Conversioner, Talia Wolf helps businesses optimize their sites using emotional targeting, consumer psychology, and real-time data to generate more revenues, leads, and sales. Talia is a keynote speaker, author, and Harry Potter fan.


PM Break

TBD with Ross Simmonds

Founder at Foundation Marketing

Dana DiTomaso

TBD with Dana DiTomaso

Partner at Kick Point

Dana DiTomaso is a partner at Kick Point, where she applies marketing into strategies to grow clients’ businesses, in particular to ensure that digital and traditional play well together — separating real solutions from wastes of time (and budget).



Dr. Pete Meyers

You Can’t Type a Concept: Why Keywords Still Matter with Dr. Pete Meyers

Marketing Scientist at Moz

Google is getting better every day at understanding intent and natural language, and the path between typing a search and getting a result is getting more winding. How often are queries interpreted, and how do we do keyword research for search engines that are beginning to understand concepts?

Dr. Pete Meyers is Marketing Scientist for Seattle-based Moz, where he works with marketing and data science on product research and data-driven content. He has spent the past four years building research tools to monitor Google, including the MozCast project.

Joanna Wiebe

How to Be Specific: From-The-Trenches Lessons in High-Converting Copy with Joanna Wiebe

Creator and Copywriter at Wiebe Marketing Ltd

Abstracted benefits, summarized value, and promise-free landing pages keep marketers safe — and conversion rates low. Joanna shares how and why your copy needs to get specific to move people to act.

The original conversion copywriter, Joanna Wiebe is the founder of Copy Hackers and Airstory. She’s optimized copy for Wistia, Buffer, Crazy Egg, Bounce Exchange, and Rainmaker, among others, and spoken at CTA Conf, Business of Software… and now MozCon.

AM Break

Community Speakers


Mike Ramsey

Local Projects to Boost Your Company and Career with Mike Ramsey

President at Nifty Marketing

Mike will walk through the projects that his individual team members took on to improve how they handled local links, reviews, reports, and lots of areas in between.

Mike Ramsey is the President of Nifty Marketing, which works with big brands and small businesses on digital marketing. He talks about running agencies, local search, and Idaho a lot.

Kristen Craft

Reimagining Customer Retention and Evangelism with Kristen Craft

Director of Business Development at Wistia

As Director of Business Development at Wistia, Kristen Craft loves working with Wistia’s partner community, building connections with other companies that care about video marketing. Kristen holds degrees in business and education from MIT and Harvard.

PM Break

Rebekah Cancino

TBD with Rebekah Cancino

Co-Founder and Content Strategy Consultant at Onward

Rebekah Cancino spent the last decade helping clients, like Aetna and United Way, overcome some of their toughest content problems. Her consultancy offers workshops and training for in-house teams that bridge the gap between content, design, and technical SEO.

Wil Reynolds

TBD with Wil Reynolds

CEO/Founder at Seer Interactive

Wil Reynolds — Director of Strategy, Seer Interactive — founded Seer with a focus on doing great things for its clients, team, and the community. His passion for driving and analyzing the impact that a site’s traffic has on the company’s bottom line has shaped the SEO and digital marketing industries. Wil also actively supports the Covenant House.



Kindra Hall

The Irresistible Power of Strategic Storytelling with Kindra Hall

Strategic Storytelling Advisor at Kindra Hall

Whoever tells the best story, wins. In marketing, in business, in life. Going beyond buzzwords, Kindra will reveal specific storytelling strategies to create great content and win customers without a fight.

Kindra Hall is a speaker, author, and storytelling advisor. She works with individuals and brands to help them capture attention by telling better stories.

Mike Arnesen

29 Advanced Google Tag Manager Tips Every Marketer Should Know with Mike Arnesen

Founder and CEO at UpBuild

Google Tag Manager is an incredibly powerful tool and one you’re likely not using to its full potential. Mike will deliver 29 rapid-fire tips that’ll empower you to overcome the tracking challenges of dynamic web apps, build user segments based on website interactions, scale the implementation of structured data, analyze the consumption of rich media, and much more.

Mike Arnesen has been driven by his passion for technical SEO, semantic search, website optimization, and company culture for over a decade. He is the Founder and CEO of UpBuild, a technical marketing agency focusing on SEO, analytics, and CRO.

AM Break

Tara Reed

Engineering-As-Marketing for Non-Engineers with Tara Reed

CEO at AppsWithoutCode.com

Tara shares how to build useful tools like calculators, widgets, and micro-apps to acquire millions of new users, without writing a single line of code.

Tara Reed is a Detroit-based entrepreneur and founder of AppsWithoutCode.com. As a non-technical founder, she builds her own apps, widgets, and algorithms without writing a single line of code.



Cindy Krum

Indexing on Fire: Google Firebase Native and Web App Indexing with Cindy Krum

CEO and Founder at MobileMoxie, LLC

In the future, app and web content will be indistinguishable, and Google’s new Firebase platform allows developers to use the same resources to build, market, and maintain apps on all devices, in one place. Cindy will outline how digital marketers can use Firebase to help drive indexing of native and web app content, including Deep Links, Dynamic Links, and Angular JS web apps.

Cindy Krum is the CEO and Founder of MobileMoxie, LLC, and author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are. She brings fresh and creative ideas to her clients, and regularly speaks at US and international digital marketing events.

Sarah Weise

Mind Games: Craft Killer Experiences with 7 Lessons from Cognitive Psychology with Sarah Weise

UX Director at Booz Allen Digital Interactive

Sarah Weise is UX Director at Booz Allen Digital Interactive. She has crafted experiences for hundreds of websites, apps, and products. Over the past decade, she has specialized in creative, lean ways to connect with customers and build experiences that matter.

PM Break

Rand Fishkin

Earning, Nudging, and (Indirectly) Buying the Links You Still Need to Rank with Rand Fishkin

Wizard of Moz

Links still move the needle — on rankings, traffic, reputation, and referrals. Yet, some SEOs have come to believe that if we “create great content,” links will just appear (and rankings will follow). Rand will dispel this myth and focus on how to build the architecture for a link strategy, alongside some hot new tools and tactics for link acquisition in 2016.

Rand Fishkin is the founder and former CEO of Moz, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, and co-founder of Inbound.org. Rand’s an un-save-able addict of all things content, search, and social on the web.

Buy your MozCon 2016 ticket!

Don’t worry, we’ve got your MozCon evenings covered!

After a day of learning and possibly discovering a brand-new city, I know I sometimes struggle with what to do after the conference closes for the day. At MozCon, we work to bring you three evening events where you can chill, network, make new friends, and grab some food and drinks. (We will also have a post in late August or early September with a ton of great recommendations for things to do and food to eat in Seattle!)

Monday’s MozCrawl from 7–10pm

The best part of our MozCrawl is being able to explore a neighborhood in Seattle. Bring your walking shoes (or load your favorite rideshare app), and get to know a little about the flavor of Seattle. While the locations are still TBD, Moz and our MozCon partners will each host a bar with light appetizers and drinks.


To ensure you see as much of Seattle as possible, each bar will have a scavenger hunt element. Our sweet, bar-hosting partners:

  • Buffer
  • BuzzStream
  • SimilarWeb
  • Unbounce
  • Whitespark
  • Wordstream

(We also have two other partners, STAT and Wistia, who will be keeping a low profile that night.)

Tuesday’s MozCon Ignite from 7–10pm

In my completely biased opinion, this is my favorite MozCon evening event. For those who’ve never been to an Ignite-style talk, they are 5 minute talks with auto-advancing slides. Because we’re learning all day at MozCon about online marketing, our Ignite talks are 100% not about marketing or business. They are passion projects, hobbies, and interests.

MozCon Ignite

Last year, our 16 talks ranged from a touching tale about helping a terminally ill child musician record an album, to how to love opera, to how to make frosting. You can sit back, relax, laugh, and cry. Plus, beforehand, there are networking opportunities to chat with your fellow attendees.

If this sounds like something you’d want to speak at, we’ll be opening up pitches in early July. Our venue is currently TBD.

Wednesday’s MozCon Bash at the Garage from 7pm–12am

MozCon Bash

Make sure to book your flight home the day after MozCon so you can join us at our annual MozCon Bash to celebrate another great year of learning. Put on your bowling shoes and see if you can out-turkey your new friends! Or play a round of pool, or sing your heart out with some karaoke. Food and drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are on us. You’ll take home even more memories and some photobooth mementos to look back on.

Grab your ticket today — we’ve sold out for the last 5 years.

Buy your MozCon 2016 ticket!

If you have any questions about MozCon programming, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Mike Deets - Living




Have an incredible day!




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Here's How I'm Using Moz Content for Mining Local Link Opportunities

Posted by David_Farkas

[Estimated read time: 8 minutes]

Creating content for local link building can be intimidating.

Sure, you know your business. You know your area, but do you know what locals want to read about?

You can always guess, and you might strike gold. My guess is you don’t have the time, resources, or budget for guesswork.

I don’t either, which is why I like to go in educated.

Enter Moz Content.

Even if you don’t have a Moz account, Moz Content allows you to audit any website and find its most popular content. You can figure out which pages and posts have the most shares, the most links, and the sort of reach each page might have.

You can go much more in-depth with the paid version of the tool, and it’s absolutely worth the money.

But this post is about using the free version to remove the intimidation factor from local-based content, so we might as well start slowly.

By the end, you should have a good idea how to create local content that resonates with your audience and attracts links.

Local links

To my mind, the best links come from relevant websites, but there are (at least) two types of relevance:

  • Industry-based
  • Local

So, for this article, let’s say you own an auto repair shop in New Haven, Conn., and you want to build links.

You’re just starting, so maybe you don’t have the time or the budget to build a fantastic piece of content about auto repair, the kind that draws links from gearhead hobbyists, dealership blogs, and parts manufacturers.

Local links should be your priority. Local links can be easier to be build and there’s not as much of a barrier to entry.

But you still must create a useful, engaging piece of content that people want to read.

You don’t have to guess, though. You can use the free version of the tool to come up with great ideas for local content, and you’ll have numbers to back it up.

For this hypothetical auto shop in New Haven, I didn’t analyze a single hypothetical competitor. Instead, I analyzed sites focused on New Haven.

I wanted to analyze three things:

  • An official city website or a reputable tourism website to see what the big dogs are doing right;
  • A popular local site or blog to see how small websites are appealing to locals;
  • Content from a big, national brand that writes area-specific content about multiple cities to see how national brands are trying to get links and shares from regional-based content.

Here are the three sites I analyzed and the content ideas they gave me:

Site #1: VisitNewHaven.com

The first site I analyzed was VisitNewHaven.com. It’s full of tourist information, meaning it probably has a good handle on why people enjoy New Haven, and it knows what they like about it.

Heck, many New Haven residents probably use it, too. It’s full of information about local events, businesses, and websites. I thought it was a good start.

So, I put the URL into Moz Content:

When I scrolled down to view “popular pages,” I saw that, other than the home page, the annual events page had the most links. The dining and nightlife pages did OK, too, so we’ll file that away for later use.

We’re after links, and the annual events page has the most links, so it’s a good place to start.

I clicked on the analysis for that page:


Reach isn’t great, and it doesn’t have many links, but it beats anything else on the site, so I decided it was worth a look. People like this page enough to link to a tourism website, so they’re doing something right.

Here’s what the annual events page on VisitNewHaven.com looks like:


There’s little text here, but it does the job, providing relevant, up-to-date info about annual events with appropriate links.

Since there’s little here, you could make something better. If it’s good enough, you could probably even get your first link from VisitNewHaven.com, especially if you credit them for inspiring you.

Content Idea: Build a guide to local events from your point of view. You could build one for a complete year or make several and target them to winter, spring, summer, and fall tourists.

To one-up this piece of content, you’d have to write a paragraph about each event, and give local insight.

You’d already have an outreach list, too. You could email the organizers of each event you mentioned and see if they want to link to your guide.

You know people are interested in annual events, and by one-upping this page, you could generate at least five relevant, local links.

When you’re just starting, five links are an excellent bounty.

Site #2: ConnecticutLifestyles.com

Next, I did an audit for ConnecticutLifestyles.com. It has good content, and it does well in Google search results.

It’s not backed by a city government or tourism board, but it’s about as good as you’ll find for a local website that’s not a business blog.

I plugged in the URL:


Next, I scrolled down to look at popular pages:


I found that recipes dominated their other blog posts. They had the most shares and links, even when there weren’t many shares or links.

Clearly, Connecticut audiences are interested in authentic food.

Content Idea: Offer some recipes.

Even if you own an auto shop, you still eat food. You probably have family recipes, or you can get them from friends, family, and employees.

Content that focuses on local recipes can work for almost any local business. The recipes must come from you or your employees.

So, you could publish a few recipes, or you can make a guide to spicy Connecticut food or Connecticut desserts and link to recipes from other authentic Connecticut sites.

You could even try to replicate the food from your favorite restaurants. You might even get them in on the action.

As long as you focus on authentic recipes, coming from authentic Connecticut residents, you have a good shot at building links. People care about recipes. We have the proof. They outperform all other content on ConnecticutLifestyles.com.

Site #3: Movoto

Next, I analyzed Movoto’s New Haven section. Movoto is a real estate website, but they also pump out local-based content that strokes the egos of local residents and earns plenty of links and shares.

You’ve probably seen your friends share some of their content on Facebook. Movoto puts a lot of money into earning shares and links from locals, so I thought they were a good site to analyze.

I plunked the URL into Moz Content:


Immediately, I looked at this section of Movoto’s most popular pages:


And we’re not seeing many links. That’s a bummer.

But we are seeing plenty of shares on one post.

You might have guessed it, based on the previous two websites. An article about restaurants is in the lead.

Here’s what it looks like:


These Movoto articles might not be getting the links they do in other cities, but knowing that a list of 15 restaurants blows everything else away might give you some ideas.

Content Idea: This piece of content features a quality photo for each restaurant. They could be stock photos, but they look authentic. It also gives each restaurant’s Yelp score, with a paragraph about the food.

And that’s it.

Chances are, you eat food every day. You might not be a food critic, but you’re qualified to talk about why you like your favorite restaurants. All you’d have to do is take photos, write something more in-depth, and keep it authentic.

Hear me out.

Restaurants write about their own food all the time, and it often comes off as salesy.

As a non-food-related, local business, you’re writing about the food you like. You’re not trying to sell it. That puts you at an advantage, because you’re inherently trustworthy.

Plus, you could likely get a link from most restaurants you write about.

This wouldn’t have to be a huge piece of content. It would just have to be better than an article that’s 15 paragraphs and 15 photos.

That’s doable.

Putting it all together

So, what’s the real reason I analyzed three websites for content ideas?

I wanted to see if I could combine three ideas into something unique.

You could find success with a single idea from any of these websites I audited, but I wanted to dig a little deeper.

So, in the VisitNewHaven audit, dining and nightlife were popular, although not as popular as annual events. With ConnecticutLifestyle and Movoto, recipes and restaurants blew away all the competition.

You could combine them all into:

  • A piece that shows New Haven’s favorite foods based on ConnecticutLifestyle’s recipes;
  • The best restaurants to find those foods in New Haven;
  • The best annual events for foodies in New Haven.

Basically, you’d make a post that highlights annual food-based events. Within the post, you’d highlight the participating restaurants and food vendors and then talk about the New Haven favorites they serve.

Heck, you could even link to recipes for those foods.

That post seems like a win in my book.

You’d have a big list of restaurants, food vendors, event sites, tourism sites, and lifestyle blogs to contact for links as well.

Creating content for local link building need not be overwhelming or scary. With just an hour or two of extra research, you can find out what people in your area are reading about.

Then, no matter your industry, you can come up with an idea for local content that kills the competition.

I always advocate starting small. I recently wrote a post about building links at the neighborhood level and working your way up. You can use Moz Content for local link building at any level.

If you start small, armed with the knowledge of what a local audience wants, you’ll be creating bigger and better content in no time.

You have the tools. They’re free and at your disposal. You simply have to get started.

What about you? Have you tried Moz Content yet? Do you have other tools/workflows you’d recommend?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Search Retargeting: Supercharge Your Search Ads with RLSAs and Google Analytics

Over the last few years, the search landscape has been evolving. It’s moved far beyond keywords, and now uses many audience based marketing features. The first example of this audience based marketing within search ads came with the release of Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) back in 2013. Since their release, we’ve seen RLSAs go from strength to strength, with many new functionalities and features. One of the biggest updates to the functionality of RLSAs has been their integration with the Google Analytics remarketing code. This update was relatively unpublicised, but the impact it has was huge. It meant that we were no longer stuck with creating lists based only on page views, and instead could use almost all the data in our Google Analytics accounts to create lists. Today RLSAs are one of the most powerful, and also one of the most underused AdWords search ads features. In this post I’ll be sharing the presentation I gave at SMX London on the 19th of May 2016, and providing some ideas for powerful ways to use RLSAs and Google Analytics data, as well as some set-up tips and tricks.

You can find my full presentation on Slideshare here, and in the post below I’ll be talking about each slide in detail.

Using Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) with Google Analytics Remarketing Code

Using RLSAs with the Google Analytics means that you can use almost all of the data in your Google Analytics account within your RLSA lists. This includes:


The AdWords Remarketing Tag vs the Google Analytics Remarketing Tag

There are many other benefits for using the Google Analytics Remarketing tag as opposed to the AdWords Remarketing tag.

Using the AdWords tag means that you need to obviously place this additional code on your website, whereas the Google Analytics remarketing tag simply works using the standard Google Analytics code, so there’s no need for any additional code to be added to your website.

The AdWords tag limited advertisers to only being able to create remarketing lists based on page views, unless Custom Parameters were added to the code. Analytics lets you create lists using everything that was available with Custom Parameters plus lots more!

You can keep both the Analytics and AdWords remarketing codes on your site without any interference. If you use AdWords to run dynamic remarketing you will need to keep the AdWords remarketing code on your site as this code is what allows the dynamic remarketing to function.

If you haven’t already activated your Google Analytics remarketing tag it’s very straight forward. Simply go to the Admin section of your Google Analytics account and then find the tracking info section, and finally within the Data Collection section you’ll see a switch under the heading saying Remarketing which you simply need to toggle to ‘on’.


Tactics for using RLSAs and Google Analytics Data

Tactic 1:

Increase bids for users who have visited your website the optimum number of times before purchase:

For example, a holiday retailer such as Virgin Holidays might find that their average website visitor visits their site at least 5 times before they make a purchase.

They could find out this information within their Path Length report in Google Analytics:


In the example above you can see that most users visit the site 5 times before making a purchase.

Based on this data, you can create an RLSA list in Google Analytics under the Audience Definitions section within the Admin tab. Here you would specify that the user must have had at least 5 sessions but not yet completed a transaction:


The next step is to apply this list to your existing ad groups in your AdWords account. You can do this in AdWords Editor or the AdWords interface, under the Audiences tab:


Apply this list using the Bid Only setting. Using the Bid Only setting means that anyone can see your ads if they are searching with your keywords, including anyone in your RLSA audience, however it gives you the option to see bid adjustments if the person searching is a member of your RLSA list. You can learn more about this setting here.


Now you’ve applied your audience, you need to choose the amount you’ll set your bid adjustment as. You can do this within the Audiences tab where you’ll see the different audiences applied to your ad groups and then a column called ‘Bid adj’ where you can type in a plus or minus percentage.

My advice would be to apply the remarketing list to your ad group and let it gather data against the ad group before setting the bid adjustment. You can then make sure that the audience is converting at a higher rate than your standard ad group performance therefore decide whether it justifies a bid increase. If you’re wondering what exactly to set your bid adjustment at, Periscopix have written a handy blog post about it here.


Tactic 2:

Use Facebook ads to drive cost effective new audience traffic to your website, and then reach these users again when they are searching with broader research style terms on Google.

For example, Toni&Guy could run awareness ads on Facebook designed to get users thinking about trying a new hairstyle. They could then use RLSAs to reach these users when they are searching for new hairstyle ideas on Google.

For this tactic Toni&Guy would need first create their Facebook ads, and use UTM tagging on the website links:


The UTM tagging criteria is then used to create the RLSA list in Google Analytics. This list would be created under the traffic sources audience builder tab and would use the name of the Facebook campaign, source and medium as written in the UTM tags.



Create a new AdWords campaign and ad groups containing your new ‘top of funnel’ research term keywords. It’s important to create a new campaign for this so you can easily control your budgets, because if you create these ad groups in an existing campaign and they are alongside other high spending ad groups, the high spending ad groups might use the campaigns daily budget before your lower spending RLSA ad groups get chance to show.

In the example of Toni&Guy, these keywords might be things like ‘hair cut ideas’ ‘new hairstyle ideas’ or ‘hairstyle inspiration’. The idea is to select keywords that you probably don’t already bid on, and that users who are further up the path to purchase might use to search when conducting research.


The ad text you create in these particular RLSA ad groups are only ever going to be seen by your RLSA audience because you’re going to use the Target and Bid setting (rather than the Bid Only setting), so you can create this ad text bespoke for that audience. Consider that the searcher is in the early stages of the path to purchase, so your ad text should reflect this. Don’t go with too much of a hard sell or mention prices, but instead encourage them to find out more or offer them something free / low risk to draw them back to the site. In this Toni&Guy example the ad text could encourage the user to book a free consultation to help them decide on a new hairstyle:


Remember to apply this list to the new ad groups you’ve set up in your new campaign, using the Target and Bid setting. The Target and Bid setting means your ads will show only if the user searching is on your remarketing list. If the user is searching using these keywords but is not on your remarketing list, none ads of yours will show.


Tactic 3

Use RLSAs and Dynamic Search Ads together to show ads for your entire product inventory if the user searching is someone who regularly makes purchases from your website.

Some customers are creatures of habit. Even if they can find the same product cheaper elsewhere, they’ll choose to buy it from your website because they’ve bought from you before and they know and trust your website and business. You can capitalise on this behaviour by combining RLSAs and Dynamic Search ads to always show ads for every product in your product inventory that the user searches for, even if you don’t normally show ads for them, because you know the searcher is a loyal customer who is likely to make further repeat purchases from you.

The benefit of this tactic is huge, because it means you can have ads showing for anything in your product inventory if the user searching is a regular shopper, without having to spend time building those ad groups upfront.

Amazon would be a company who would find this tactic useful. I’m usually a savvy online shopper, but since buying Amazon Prime, I’ve ended up buying all sorts of extra things from Amazon that I would normally wait and buy in my weekly grocery shop, like moisturiser or cleaning products. Amazon could be using dynamic search ads and RLSAs so that as long as the product I’m searching for exists in their product inventory, they could show text ads for it to me. They know I’m a regular customer, so even if they don’t normally advertise on these products because they maybe aren’t competitive on price, it’s worth bidding on them when regular shoppers like me are searching because I’m still likely to buy it from them.

This RLSA list would be created in Google Analytics under the conditions tab, where you would specify that the number of transactions per user needs to be at least 5 for example, and that the list duration however long the period that you want those transactions to have occurred is. For example if the list membership duration is 4 weeks, then the user will have had to have made 5 purchases in four weeks to be part of the remarketing list.

Apply the list to the Dynamic Search Ads campaign you have created, using the Target and Bid setting, so only those on your RLSA list will be able to trigger these ads.


Tactic 4:

Use Google Smart Lists

Very rarely would I recommend letting Google do that hard work for you, but Smart Lists can be very successful as RLSAs if used correctly.

Smart Lists are lists which Google create to include users who Google have identified as being close to making a purchase in your industry. Smart Lists work best on ecommerce accounts which tend to have a huge wealth of data. You need at least 500 transactions per month and 10,000 daily page views for Google to create Smart Lists based on your data. If you don’t meet these thresholds, Google will still create Smart Lists for you but they’ll be based on data from other similar websites and so they don’t seem as effective. The data Google use to determine what makes audiences similar to your existing remarketing lists includes the users location, device, browser, referrer and session duration.

A good example of a retailer who might be able to successfully use Smart Lists could be Marks and Spencer because they will have a huge amount of conversion data. They could create a Smart List and then apply it to their existing ad groups and see if this list converts at a higher rate to their standard audiences, and increase their bids for this audience if so.

When you click the create new audience button under the Admin tab in Google Analytics, you’ll see Smart Lis appear in the options for ready-made lists. Simply click that option to create a Smart List. You can then apply this in the usual way to your existing ad groups and chose the bid only setting.


Tactic 5:

Show users who have engaged with your email marketing specific ad text when they search on Google.

For example Fabletics run lots of email marketing and could tag the links in their emails so that if a user lands on their site via their email marketing, they will be added to an RLSA list which would then be applied to new search ad groups which are duplicates of their existing campaigns, so they can customise the ad text in these campaigns for these specific users. The ad text would then reinforce any promotions of messages that were used exclusively within the email marketing activity.

This list would be created in a similar way to the Facebook ads example above, where you will specify the source, medium and campaign of the traffic:


Tactic 6:

Turn high value Black Friday shoppers into repeat customers.

Black Friday sees shoppers go a little bit crazy for any good deals online. Many will purchase from new retailers for the first time during Black Friday because the offers are too good to refuse. Using RLSAs you can increase your bids for these high value Black Friday shoppers when they are searching after Black Friday in an attempt to bring them back to your site for repeat purchases.

For example John Lewis usually have fantastic deals around Black Friday, and so they could increase their bids for all users who spent more than £500 in a single transaction on Black Friday, when they are searching later on in the year.

To create this list you would go to the Conditions tab in the Analytics audience creator and state that the session date is the 27th November 2015 (Black Friday last year) and the revenue per session is at least £500.00.


Tactic 7:

Increase bids for users who clicked a promotional ad but didn’t convert.

For example Boots have an offer on Marc Jacobs Daisy perfume, which was promoted via their text ads:


If a user clicks this offer and goers through to the website, it’s likely that after they’ve done their comparison shopping they’ll come back to the site and make a purchase because Boots know that the price they’ve offered is very competitive. Using RLSAs Boots could increase their bids when the user is next searching so they have the best possible visibility and impression share for that audience because they are likely to convert on their next visit.

To create this RLSA list simply state that the ad content contains whatever the code that was used in the ad was, and that conversions are zero. I’ve also layered on the criteria that the session duration needs to be at least 60 seconds, to weed out the users who clicked the ad and visited the site and then realised this was not in face the perfume they were looking for. The list would be applied as bid only to existing ad groups:


Tactic 8:

Increase bids if the user searching has generated a high conversion value for you historically.

For example, Waitrose might have some shoppers who spend more than their other shoppers on their monthly or weekly shop. They could use RLSAs to increase their bids of the user searching for terms like ‘groceries online’ or ‘M&S groceries’ is one of their high value customers. This tactic is particularly effective if your consumers aren’t very loyal and often flick between different retailers, because you can make sure that if your high value customers are searching for other supermarkets you have a good high bid to increase your visibility at those times.

TO create this list simply use the Ecommerce section within the Google Analytics audience builder and state that the revenue per session needs to be more than £500.00 for example. You could then apply this to your existing ad groups as a Bid Only list so you can then increase your bids for these users. If you don’t normally bid on competitor names, you could create a campaign containing competitor names but apply this list as a Target and Bid list, so your ads would only be triggered if the searcher is on your RLSA list.


Tactic 9:

Adjust your bids if the person searching is similar to your existing customers.

Similar Audiences are created by Google automatically, based on the characteristics of your existing remarketing lists. Your existing remembering list needs to have been running for a fair amount of time and have lots of members. The larger the original remarketing list the better, because Google have more data to draw conclusions about what makes these users similar from their browsing activity in the last 30 days and therefore create more accurate Similar Audiences lists.

For example, Feel Unique could use Google’s similar audience list based off of their existing remarketing list of customers who recently completed a purchase. The list could be applied to their existing campaigns as a Bid Only list, so they could increase their bids of the Similar Audience list tends to convert at a higher rate than average.

Similar Audiences lists don’t actually need to be created, as Google automatically create them so they simply appear within your Analytics Audiences tab once your original remarketing lists are large enough for them to be built:


Tactic 10:

Upsell on products you wouldn’t normally bid on, because you know the user has just purchased something related.

For example Pandora might not usually bid on silver cleaning kits because they are a low value product that doesn’t usually generate a good conversion rate for them. However, if they know that the person searching has recently purchased a silver bracelet from them, then the likelihood of the user choosing to purchase the cleaning kit from them is much higher, so they can afford to bid on these keywords.

To create this list, state that the product purchased by the user must have contained the term ‘silver bracelet’. You’d then create a new campaign containing your silver cleaning kit words and apply this list using the Target and Bid setting, so only those on your remarketing list can trigger your ad


Tactic 11:

Increase bids if the user searching has purchased similar brands from you in the past.

For example ASOS sell lots of different brands of petite clothing. They could increase their bid if the user searching is searching for any petite brand they stock if that user has previously bought another petite brand from them in the past, because they are more likely to purchase petite clothing from them again.

Like all of the RLSA list examples I’ve given, this list can be applied to both your search and shopping campaigns.

Simply create the list to state that the user must have purchased one of your petite brands in the past, using the ‘or’ functionality instead of the ‘and’ functionality between each of the different petite brands you sell:


Tactic 12:

Increase bids if the user searching has indicated a strong interest by completing a micro-goal on your website, but not yet a macro-goal.

For example, Halifax could increase their bids and visibility if the user searching has used their mortgage calculator on their website (micro-gaol), but not yet used their contact form to request a meeting with a mortgage advisor (macro goal). If you don’t have any micro goals on your website, then you could create one out of specific session duration criteria. For example, you could set up a goal to track anyone who spends more than 3 minutes on your services pages because that is an indication of strong interest.

This list is very simple to create, you simply select goal one (the macro goal) is zero, but goal two (the micro goal) is at least one. In the image below you’ll notice that I have a lot of goals set up so goal 20 is my macro goal and goal 16 is my micro goal:


Tips and tricks for using RLSAs

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads and Automated Bidding Strategies

RLSAs work differently with different types of automated bidding strategies. If you apply RLSAs to ad groups using Conversion Optimiser, Target CPA, or ROAS, the bidding strategy will automatically override any manual RLSA bid adjustments you’ve made and use the audiences predicted performance to dynamically set bid adjustments during the auction. If you’re using Enhanced CPC on the other hand, then you’ll find that the bidding strategy makes bid adjustments on top of any that you have set manually.

Google advise that you avoid any audience overlap if you have more than one RLSA list on an ad group which is using automated bidding strategies. This means members of one audience should not also be members of the second audience on the ad group if it uses automated bidding strategies. Having audience overlap can cause conflicts for automated bidding strategies, so if in doubt just stick with one RLSA list per ad group.

Bid Adjustments Stack

Don’t forget that like all other bid adjustments, RLSAs stack on top of each other. For example if you have several audience bid adjustments on an ad group, Google will apply one, then apply the next one to the total of the last one.

List Durations

It’s important to test your audience list durations as these can have a big effect on the success of your RLSAs. The maximum audience list duration for RLSAs is 180 days, which is less than display remarketing lists of 540 days. If you use a remarketing list with a membership duration longer than 180 days, you’ll still be able to apply it to your search ads but the users will stop being valid within search after 180 days.

Other handy tips for RLSAs:

  • Lists need at least 1,000 members before they can be used with RLSAs, unlike display remarketing which only requires 100 members
  • You can have up to 2,000 remarketing lists per Google Analytics account, so there’s plenty of room for testing new lists
  • In Market Segments and Days Since Last Visit are not applicable for RLSAs, and neither are demographics such as age and gender
  • You must update your Privacy Policy to declare remarketing cookies, in the same way you would for standard remarketing

If you’re not already using RLSAs with your Google Analytics data, I really recommend giving it a try. I’ve seen incredibly strong conversion rates from them. Even if you aren’t yet ready to actively set bid adjustments or set up new campaigns for them, just create the lists and let them gather data attached to all of your ad groups. You can then analyse this and it will show you the kind of potential performance you could expect with RLSAs.

Have you used RLSAs with Google Analytics? If you have any more handy tips or tactics please comment below and share them.

Post from Tara West

Mike Deets - Living




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