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Why Search Matters More Than Ever

Don't call it a comeback, but the importance of search is slowly making its way back up the marketing ranks in 2018. It started when Facebook announced its sweeping algorithm update earlier this year, which is aimed to de-prioritize publishers in favor of updates from family and friends.


At RebelMouse we've been tracking the Facebook algorithm extensively. It's already having an impact on your strategy, your website, and your bottom line. But a lot of media experts in the industry also predict that the latest algorithm shift will result in a revitalization of traditional search. In 2017, The Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of Americans use Facebook, with more than half reporting that they receive their news from the site as well. Those users are still going to find a way to consume the news they care about if they can't easily get it in the News Feed, and Google has already stepped up to the plate to reclaim referral traffic they lost last year to the social giant.

Given the recent resurgence of search, it's vital that you're up to date on what's new in Google's world. Google has made some significant updates to its algorithm, starting in December 2017 and continuing into the new year. The traffic junkies here at RebelMouse have been keeping track of these changes, and updating our product and content strategies for our clients accordingly. Here are some of the biggest changes we've noticed, and what we're doing in response to win the game of search.

Major Google Updates

Dec. 1, 2017: Meta Descriptions Get Longer

At the end of 2017, users started noticing longer meta descriptions appearing in their Google results. Not long after, the company confirmed that they extended the length of search result snippets. Previously 150–160 characters in length, now marketers have over 300 characters to work with. This has begged the question: Should we go back and rewrite all of our meta descriptions?

The short answer is: If you want to, but it's not 100% necessary.

To fill up the void the new character limit left to improve user experience, Google began automatically generating their own snippets for many websites. If Google finds that the content directly on a page is better and more relevant than the meta description that was written before the new character limit, it overrides it with pieces of the page's content instead.

Some larger sites like Wikipedia don't use meta descriptions at all, but you'll notice that there's still relevant text showing up under those search result entries. We don't have to tout the history of success Wikipedia has had in Google's search results, so it's a prime example of how little meta descriptions now mean to your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

That being said, meta descriptions do still offer you a valuable outlet for creativity and control. For critical pages on your site, having a solid meta description with incentivizing copy and a clear call to action is key to getting users to actually click through. Meta description best practices have now become about click-through rate (CTR) in place of being an SEO must.

RebelMouse offers a number of SEO optimization tools inside our CMS's Entry Editor, including a character counter for the SEO headline and description of every article.

Since there's no guarantee that Google will use your meta description copy, we'll still encourage any effort that results in quality, well-thought-out content. If you have the time to rewrite your meta descriptions, we suggest doing so. We're always updating our technology to reflect the latest in digital media, so we recently added support for up to 350 characters in meta descriptions to match Google's increase.

To read more about meta descriptions and Google's Featured Snippets in 2018, check out this article from Moz.

Dec. 5, 2017: Enhanced Featured Snippets

Google announced a new form of Featured Snippets. The function now features more details, images, and related search queries, all powered by an algorithm. You see them all the time when searching using Google, and they're another reason to make sure your meta descriptions are detailed and well written.

An example of the new Featured Snippets from Google.

Dec. 12, 2017: Core Algorithm Changes

Google confirmed that several minor changes to the core algorithm — informally dubbed the Maccabees Update — took place in mid December. The update was aimed, per usual, at improving relevance in search results. While SEO analysts couldn't nail down what kind of sites were impacted specifically, it was an adjustment to how Google ranks sites — which usually means changing how a page's content, and links to that content, is scored for quality in the eyes of Google.

Jan. 17, 2018: Mobile's Need for Speed

The changes haven't stopped with the turn of the year. In mid January, Google announced that a page speed update designed to downgrade slow mobile pages will go into effect by July 2018. However, Google said that page speed would not be a factor in all mobile searches. This is all the more reason to adopt Google AMP now so you're ready before the update is pushed live.

What This All Means

While these are just some of the important changes we've decided to chronicle, there have also been more than five updates that focus on top listings on the first results page, spam links, and unnatural backlinks. It's estimated that about 15% of the internet was impacted in some way by these changes. That's a huge number of sites that most likely use SEO as a key source of revenue.

With each update comes more prioritization of fast sites, non-intrusive ads, and a mobile experience that's easy to consume — hopefully building a foundation for repeat visits. This focus on a more user-friendly internet emulates the same spirit found in the latest Facebook algorithm change that we mentioned at the beginning.

Strategy and Our Strategy Package

It's hard for developers and marketers to formulate a clear path to success when some of these updates aren't even — and probably never will be — confirmed by Google. But one thing remains true: User experience is more important than ever. So at the very least, you need to fine tune your strategy around it if you're not already doing so. This means each and every page on your site that is indexed by Google must be:

Super fast. Facebook and Google care a ton about page speed, and your traffic depends on it. A mediocre server response time results in poor visibility. To rank well in both the social feeds and search engine results, make sure your site loads lightning fast.

Mobile friendly. You must make sure your site is configured for mobile experience formats like Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, and Apple News.

Rife with stellar content. You can't sit idly creating sub-par content and expect to survive the algorithm fluctuations. Your audience craves the type of content that generates deep and meaningful connections. Content that sparks organic conversation and engagement is what will be rewarded by the major platforms.

Strategies that used to be relevant can now hurt you rather than help you in today's digital world. Born in the age of social, we've quickly acclimated to every change in the media landscape, and we continuously update our tech to adapt to what's next. Our SEO strategies just work.

We use our own SEO tools and methods to win phrases organically. Our proven strategies coupled with our quality content has helped us to reach the top of Google's result pages on a number of occasions. A recent example highlighted above — "best CMS 2018" — is currently ranked number one on Google.

RebelMouse offers customized services separate from our CMS platform and website redesign services. We understand what goes into publishers' success, and SEO is a key component. If you're interested in our technical SEO services package, please contact us today to see how we can help you succeed.

NEW: Page Views per Particle Enabled for Google AMP

Increase mobile page views for every particle using Google AMP

RebelMouse has deployed an exciting update: We've enabled particle tracking in Google Analytics for articles using Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format, which means every particle now triggers a page view event upon scroll. Before, just one page view event would be logged when the mobile page initially loaded.

Not Familiar With What This Means? Read On

The days of static, flat media are over. Sites with low performance scores, obtrusive ad experiences, and poor content structure simply won't make it. Knowing these truths, the way we think of an article can no longer be static either.

An article today now takes several forms: short-form, long-form, listicle, slideshow, etc. Because of this, we've created a simple framework called Particle Assembler that accounts for all possibilities when building out content.

We playfully call each piece of your content a "particle," which is quite literally a "part" of an "article." These particles have become the core way to author content on RebelMouse, and are standalone elements that use their own imagery, title, and copy. For example, let's say you create a post that's titled, "The Best Place for Tacos in Austin." Each taco destination in this article will have a lead image, the name of the restaurant, its location, and a description of the restaurant with images of their food. Each of these restaurant highlights contain enough information to stand by themselves as individual posts.

Building particles in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

And they do stand alone successfully when you're on RebelMouse — each particle can be shared separately on social and each will register as a unique page view thanks to our latest update. This is a critical part of our modern pageview methodology that ensures our publishers deliver an elegant user experience to readers while still capitalizing on a meaningful monetization strategy. For instance, not only is every particle now a page view on Google AMP, but it's also a new revenue opportunity. This is thanks to the various placement opportunities for ads we offer within our Particle Assembler.

ICYMI, Google AMP is the search engine's lightning-fast mobile experience. With this update, sites powered by RebelMouse will not only deliver the best AMP experience to their users, but they'll also earn the page views their content deserves, too.

See the Massive Difference

In just a short period after implementing this change, one client experienced a massive spike in AMP pages per user, where it jumped from 1.6 to 8.2:

Here's what their AMP pages per user looked like just prior to the update:

If you're interested in experiencing this type of growth and getting more page views for your mobile content, request a proposal today and let's start working together. If you're already on RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager to learn more about particle views for Google AMP.

Primary Tags: Structure Your Site for Success

Dynamic taxonomy improves usability and propels SEO strategy

It's not a surprise that quality content can easily be spoiled by a poor site experience. This is why we're extremely proud of the lightning-fast sites we power. But speed is only the beginning of the user experience.

The temperature on platform dependency has cooled in recent years, revitalizing the value of site visits and search strategy. This is good news for both users and publishers who need site stability to survive. Because of this shift, RebelMouse focuses on three primary key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure site usability and health:

  • Sessions per User: The average number of site sessions that each user has in a given time period.
  • Pages per User: The average number of page views that each user has in a given time period.
  • Time per User: The average amount of time spent on site by each user.

In order for these metrics to shine, a site's architecture must be organized in a way that increases every user's time on site. The logic is simple: If a site is easier to navigate, the user will likely stick around longer. This is the gateway to user loyalty.

One important way we support these KPIs is through our intuitive tagging structure for content. Let's take a look at our primary tag functionality and how it can set up any site for success.

What Is a Primary Tag?

On RebelMouse, we give you the ability to use as many tags as needed on every article to help keep you organized. But there's also an option to assign one primary tag to a post. A primary tag is built on the same principle as a primary section. One tag lets you assign higher importance to certain pieces of content when processing and organizing your posts.

The Primary Tag and Tags sections in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

The Benefits of Primary Tags

Dynamic Taxonomy: One of the primary benefits of using a primary tag is that it exposes the depth of content available to your users. Many publishers do this through the use of sections, which often turns out to be redundant and, in turn, ignored:

Sections can often be annoying to navigate and repetitive.

Using a variety of relevant tags for every article, rather than just repeating the same handful of sections, opens up more opportunities for targeted descriptors. For example, instead of using "Recipes" as a section over and over again, a primary tag can be used to create specific content flows for topics like "Vegetarian," "Soups," or "Cocktails."

Richer SEO: Since a primary tag exposes more information about your article, it also supplies more relevant data to Google's algorithm. Surfacing content in usable ways supports Google's mission to serve content based on audience behavior and intent instead of outdated and frowned-upon SEO methods like keyword stuffing. This approach is called white hat SEO, or ethical SEO.

By targeting specific interests, your dynamic tag structure will allow Google to more accurately understand your article's content and rank it accordingly. On RebelMouse, this creates a trickle-down effect, because users can click a tag and quickly get directed to more relevant articles, which boosts your SEO efforts further.

Here's how the site experience looks on RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch when viewing their primary tag "Plastics."

RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch takes advantage of a primary tag construct.

Improves Crucial KPIs: As mentioned before, RebelMouse traffic experts are constantly focused on improving the three KPIs that matter most to site usability and building audience loyalty. These metrics answer the following questions:

  • Frequency: How often are users coming to the site?
  • Depth: How many articles does each user consume?
  • Duration: How long is each user staying on the site?

Looking again at EcoWatch's use of primary tags, it's important to note that a primary tag is exposed on every one of their articles. They're also used in a left-hand navigation module that features the latest stories and trending topics:

Start Leveraging Primary Tags on RebelMouse

If you aren't on RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and let's start working together to make sure your site is optimized for user growth. If you're already publishing on RebelMouse, and want to learn more about tagging best practices, contact your account manager or email support@rebelmouse.com.

Page Speed Is Crucial to Your Marketing Efforts

Most marketers don't prioritize page speed because they don't think it impacts their bottom line. However, page load has a direct impact on conversions and revenue.

Here's a very simple scenario, supported by industry data, to underscore why the way pages are built and powered is crucial for paid media initiatives and your overall business:

Let's say a paid media campaign drives 100,000 new visitors to a landing page that takes five seconds to load. Google says that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. So of the 100K mobile site visitors you paid to bring to the page, ~50K are leaving immediately due to poor page performance alone.

Some studies even show that bounce rate increases approximately 100% for every two-second delay. So, if site load jumps to seven seconds, you'll pretty much lose all of the visitors your paid strategies brought in.

A Poor Site Experience Costs More Than You Realize

Page load plays a huge part in customer dissatisfaction, too. Continuing on with our previous example, let's classify the ~50K that didn't abandon the page as dissatisfied due to poor page performance. As HubSpot points out, 79% of them are less likely to buy again from the same website. That's ~40K visitors never coming back to the site due to poor page speed. The loss is even greater when you consider how valuable returning visitors are: They represent up to 48% of all transactions and spend almost 2x more than new visitors, according to Business Insider.

Plus, people love to spread the word about a bad experience, probably more than a good one. 40% of visitors who had a bad experience with a website's performance would tell a friend or a family member. So of your 50K dissatisfied visitors, 20K are talking negatively about your brand. If they tell only one person each, that's an opportunity cost of another 20K potential site visitors and customers.

The main takeaway? Your paid media has to work much, much harder when you neglect to optimize your site for performance.

Owned and Paid Media Should Work Together for Better Efficiency

And speaking of site improvements to help the bottom line, marketers can't overlook the value of owned content (e.g., articles, reviews, social feeds, etc.) and its impact on overall traffic and lead generation strategies. Sites tend to see significant lift in audience reach and conversion when content is paired with commerce: For e-commerce companies, content can account for up to 69% of total organic traffic. And, even more compelling, conversion rates have been 6x higher for companies that adopt content marketing.

RebelMouse's CMS makes it easy for brands to systematically optimize page speed performance and organic reach, which allows paid media to be more efficient.

RebelMouse allows clients to easily manage website layouts and components at any time, ensuring sites remain fast and are rewarded by Google and Facebook. Our platform features proprietary SEO tools designed to help clients optimize organic search with every post and better align paid and organic search strategies for increased efficiency. Similarly, our platform also includes proprietary social tools to organically build community and growth, and our data helps clients spot winning organic trends that can inform paid social media.

RebelMouse Is a Partner That Can Guide You

When it comes to content marketing, it's important to be mindful of the relationship between owned, earned, and paid media — it will only help your teams engage and convert more audiences into customers and brand loyalists. At RebelMouse, we're proud of how we work with brands and our ability to provide the expertise, best practices, and modern technology that help teams become better content marketers. If you're a brand marketer, feel free to reach out to us to learn how RebelMouse can help you be more strategic and effective in your content marketing efforts.

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Target High-Value Users With Affinity Categories

Unlock valuable audience data and shape a new strategy

In today's landscape, quality content isn't enough — it's half the battle. Publishers need to produce shareable content backed by data to experience sustainable growth. At RebelMouse, we have a unique pageview methodology that provides an innovative user experience for every reader without sacrificing revenue and growth opportunities for publishers.

To do this, we track massive amounts of data across our platform through the use of custom-built Google Data Studio dashboards.

Click here to see the kind of growth our clients experience every day.

One of the best ways to discover more about your audience is by taking advantage of Affinity Categories. This feature breaks down audience demographics, including age, location, interests, and more. Affinity Categories are usually used to target audiences for ads, but we also use them to gain insights on what topics a site's visitors are interested in overall.

Normally, each category is listed out separately in Google Analytics. In the example shown above, our data experts split categories into separate levels to reveal different levels of audience depth. For instance, by splitting up the category News & Politics, we can better explore the detailed distribution of users interested in specific types of news:

  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Avid Political News Readers
  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Entertainment News Enthusiasts

From an editorial standpoint, this is useful because it allows publishers to determine and target varying levels of high-value users, improving the efficacy of a new content strategy or ad campaign.

If your site is already powered by RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com to get a breakdown of your audience's Affinity Categories. If you aren't powered by RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and start receiving the data you need to grow loyal followers at scale.

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