Head of Global Marketing, SEMrush
Sandwiched between positive and negative website content performance indicators, marketers are forced to make assumptions without questioning the validity of the results. While numbers don’t lie, it is obvious that they can certainly be manipulated to make traffic stats look great, or in some cases horrendous. We spoke to the Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush, Olga Andrienko to understand how brands should leverage competitive intelligence and website analytics to drive ROI growth for their omnichannel SEO efforts.
MTS: How should brands leverage competitive intelligence and backlinks audits to align their marketing and advertising for seamless customer conversation?
Olga: Word-of-mouth advertising has transformed into referral traffic on the web. People like your website or content – they link to you. Or to your competitors, if they like them better. Or, what’s worse, there is a term “negative SEO”, when your competitors link to you from untrustworthy websites to harm your visibility in search.
So backlink analysis and backlink audits play an essential role in online marketing today. Firstly, having a lot of quality websites that link to your content increases your traffic and builds your authority. And links are one of the ranking signals for Google – in our latest Ranking Factors Study, we have identified that the number of referring domains has huge importance to your page’s position in SERPs. The TOP-1 had almost twice as many referring domains as pages on 10th position. So the more backlinks and more domains link to you, the more likely the conversation with the customer will happen – you’ll get more visitors to your website.
The analysis of competitors’ backlinks gives a great advantage in order to properly build your reference strategy and determine the most important sources for the reference profile. The potential customers may be clicking on the links leading to your competitors’ websites, instead of yours, especially if their trust score is high. So pay close attention not only to your backlinks but also to pages and websites that are linking to your competitors. You can always do the proper outreach to writers and website owners – maybe they didn’t even know you existed and that is why they were linking to someone else.
Moreover, a company’s website is often not a place for a healthy discussion about the product or service. People feel safer to discuss your brand somewhere else, and a post on some blog highlighting your product might not only be a backlink but a valuable source of information if you scroll down to comments. Take part in the discussion and win more hearts over by indicating that you actually listen. In my experience, listening mattered more than actually fixing the problem – people do understand that there are things beyond company’s control.
MTS: To what extent do social media efforts and conversations impact website traffic analytics?
Olga: Traffic from social media platforms generally is not really high compared to direct or organic, yet it should not be neglected. Social media is where the conversation about your brand is happening. Dissatisfied customers link to your site to ensure their friends never buy from you, satisfied clients give referrals and prospects in doubt ask their audience if they should consider buying from you. In 2017, social media requires you to spend to reach the audiences as well as invest time in conversation. The latter is more important, as content distribution on social platforms is generally free and if you have an engaged audience, they will amplify your content. It won’t go viral, as you might wish, but the reach will definitely be bigger. So by engaging your audience more and creating a bond between your brand and your community, you have a pretty good chance of increasing the traffic to your website. It happened to SEMrush with every social media platform we have invested our time in.
Key to engaging the audience on social is to support the readers with not selling, but educational content. You should explain why this article is important for reading and what conclusions the user can make by reading it and what advantages he or she can have if he/she uses your site or your product. That will lead the potential customer to the website and existing users will really love you because you are not only the product, you are the service from where they learn. Show users an interesting infographic, make sure that they share your findings and your posts, this will help not only bring traffic to the site, but also draw new loyal customers.
MTS: What message should e-retail and online marketing companies take from this study? How does this study influence the adoption of SEO and content marketing tools in the current scenario?
Olga: The main goal of this research is to give an idea to companies about how to build a strategy based on the insights of big players in the travel business, take into account their strategies and solutions to make customers choose you.
First of all, this research shows how the big travel brands build their strategy. In March of 2017, Wired published an article in which it questioned that the use of aggregators would bring great benefits to travelers. That’s why we decided to see if it’s true. Judging from the data from our study, aggregators have a great popularity based on their traffic.
Taking the most popular sites, we looked at their strategy in action. The study showed that search traffic is the biggest driver for these sites. Companies must adopt the idea that the top companies are focusing their strategy on being clearly visible in organic. It is also worth noting that the amount of paid traffic and referral traffic for the UK is almost the same. The backlink strategy that is correctly built can bring almost as much traffic as paid advertising, on which companies spend large budgets. These budgets also need to be built correctly. Having learned the main travel destination which large companies advertise in different seasons, the other companies can also correctly distribute budgets and give out correct offers for tourist destinations without spending extra money.
Building content for the travel industry with the keywords that have a huge amount of search will be certainly quite difficult for smaller brands, but ideas for paid advertising can be very useful.
We have identified a sufficiently large number of insights for the competitive travel market. Surely, there is much more information in SEMrush which every user can discover by looking at their competitors.
MTS: How has the paradigm of search engine optimization and website analytics evolved in the last two years?
Olga: People still search for products and services and anything they’re interested in. In fact, the number of searches has increased and the biggest growth comes from mobile. And Google doesn’t care about desktop anymore to an extent that they are rewriting parts of their algorithms that handle page speed only to consider mobile websites. They are not the only ones, Baidu has implemented AMP – accelerated mobile pages, – right after Google did it.
But the shift is not only to mobile. We’ve gone way beyond mobile usage in our daily lives. Last week, I heard one happy dad saying that his daughter was doing her homework with (Amazon) Alexa. Personal assistants, wearable technology bring us to a whole new era of life, and of search as well. 20% of mobile queries are voice searches. Welcome to the 21st century. Search is one area that is adapting to all the new stuff that arrives.
So how should companies adapt to these changes?
First of all, the websites need to evaluate, whether they are mobile-friendly; if not, it’s time to start changing their strategy. In May 2015, according to SEMrush data, in the UK, the average share of mobile search queries was 35.6%, and by May 2017 it had increased to 48.5%. In the US, in May 2015, it was 48.8%, and by May 2017 it was 58.4%.
I mentioned AMP earlier and this is now something that is a must in the media world. Soon, Google will be implementing AMP for eCommerce and then we’ll see more websites adopting it. Although, many experts say it’s not a silver bullet and wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone. We’ve received a great number of requests for implementing AMP audit checks, which we did last month for our Site Audit tool. Our audience is more advanced in SEO than most, so it clearly shows that frontrunners of the industry are really looking closely to this Google feature.
Other issue on the web that now really impact search is security. Data should be secure and Google takes it seriously, flagging websites that are not secure in order to alert its users. So moving from HTTP to HTTPS is definitely a good idea. The correct implementation of the HTTPS protocol guarantees the security of the site and the protection of user data. It was important during the last year. When there are errors in the operation of the HTTPS protocol, the browser displays warning messages, which adversely affects the experience of using the site. People will bounce back to SERPs which increases bounce rate, which alerts Google that users were not really happy with the website and such user signals in large amounts will get your websites to rank lower. Also, from October, Google will start identifying non-secure websites with a special label directly in SERPs. Users should really love your brand and know it in order to click on a website that is flagging as non-secure.
Optimizing voice search is all about keyword optimization strategy and text-based queries, because users with the voice search expect direct answers. I mean, people don’t speak the way they write so there is the need to speak about more personalized content based on an in-depth analysis of your target audience.
MTS: Thanks for chatting with us, Olga.
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