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Should We All Stop Guest Blogging?

guest blogging

Some important figures say that we should stop guest blogging.

It all goes back to an announcement from Google’s Matt Cutts about how the links that you acquire through guest blogging will no longer be all that useful and could, in some cases, actually do some harm to your blog’s SEO practices.

Since then we’ve seen guest blogging change to the point where a lot of new bloggers feel like it’s too risky to do any guest posts at all.

I myself have opted out of things like “expert roundups” where a bunch of quotes are collected to make a big post about a certain topic, each person with a link back to her or his site (I’ll talk about that more below).

Let’s take a look at whether or not guest posting is still a valuable strategy, and how bloggers should approach it without getting stung.

What is guest blogging?

If you’re new to blogging it might be good to do a little introduction to the idea of guest blogging or guest posting and how the whole things works.

Basically this is where you ask or are invited to write a blog post on another blog, usually in the same niche/industry as your own.

As you can see in the little graphic below, you write a bunch of posts that link to your blog which then take readers to a landing page that sells a product or promotes a mailing list.

guest blogging

Initially guest posting sprung up as a way to get new content on your site; you’d invite an expert to write about a topic that you didn’t fully understand and as such your readers would get new perspective.

This was a very organic and honest set up and, along with great new content, you, as the blogger, would often acquire a new audience as your guest author shared the post that they did on your site with their own followers.

So where did guest blogging all go wrong?

My own feeling is that guest blogging all started to go wrong when bloggers figured out that they could get backlinks from these posts and, as such, cause their Google rankings to become artificially inflated.

For a little while it was as simple as landing a guest post on a relevant site, including a link with rich anchor text in the article and then, after a while, you’d start ranking for the keywords in that anchor text.

It was rife with manipulation.

And the problem really became obvious when entire industries popped up around the idea of paying for links in posts. I remember back in college my friend and I would stay up late on a site called PayPerPost (I don’t want to link to it) and dig around for opportunities where some company would pay you $10-$100 for a 500-word article on your site that contained at least one (and often more) backlink to a site that was only barely relevant to yours.

Google then went and absolutely crushed that industry back in 2007 by removing page rank for a lot of pay per post bloggers and, since then, everyone has been making more and more algorithm changes to determine whether or not guest posts are allowable, valuable, or even ethical.

Here is the video with Matt Cutts mentioned at the top of this post:

Of course bloggers didn’t stop guest posting. In fact, if you look at statistics about the number of blog posts in the world I am confident that it would be bigger and bigger every year as more people start blogging and more people look for promotional methods.

So what’s the situation now?

Should we stop guest blogging altogether?

Guest blogging is not even close to dead.

In the last couple of months I’ve done a guest post on Bluehost and one over on the Jeff Goins blog about how Artificial Intelligence might change our online careers over the next few years.

But there is one qualification: it’s not about building links anymore.

When I think about a guest blogging opportunity I am always thinking about tapping in to a new audience that I think might benefit from encountering the content on Blog Tyrant.

So, really, what guest blogging is about now is getting more quality email subscribers on your mailing list.

While there are some very smart bloggers who like to call Google’s bluff on the whole links issue, even they are being very clever and careful about how the acquire those links and, generally speaking, a guest post is a pretty obvious flag to a search engine robot.

Of course link building is still important, but the old way of landing guest posts (or paying for them…) and then adding some rich anchor text is probably a little bit too dangerous to be useful from an SEO point of view.

How to successfully guest blog in to the future

I encourage everyone reading this post to continue to try and land as many relevant guest blogging opportunities as possible as they are a fantastic way to find new, relevant traffic. Here are a few tips on how to approach guest posting in the future:

  • Keep it relevant
    As Google’s algorithms get more and more sophisticated I think one of the things we’ll see is more frequent penalties for things that aren’t relevant. When you really consider it, it’s irrelevant materials that looks like spam. So, if you’re a finance blog doing guest posts on dog training websites I think you’ll expect that those links will be useless at some point.
  • Make sure it’s all unique
    Another major signal for Google is that guest posts are unique and useful. The idea here is that you should really be only writing about a topic on a guest site if you can offer some sort of unique perspective that the owner cannot. This helps to show that it’s not at all a paid arrangement, which is part of where I think the expert roundups start to look a bit suspect.
  • Consider using nofollow links
    If you are really concerned about some links in your guest posts you can always ask the site owner to make sure the nofollow tag is included on them. This is a pretty safe signal to Google that you aren’t doing the posts for SEO purposes but they will still, of course, send through all the traffic.
  • Have a wide variety of platforms
    It’s also a good idea to not just do guest posts to other blogs in your industry. You can also get featured on things like podcasts, videos, slide shares, Facebook posts, and so on. Some of these are “safer” from an SEO point of view and also teach you valuable marketing lessons about finding traffic from new sources and how those relationships work.
  • Link to different properties
    Another important concept to experiment with is the idea of linking to more than just a few posts on your blog. Of course, you can link to your root domain, but why not also link to your own podcast and social pages, or directly to a tool or video that you’ve made and see if you can send that viral.
  • Monitor results closely
    Lastly, you want to make sure you track all of these results in Webmaster Tools and elsewhere to ensure that they are having the right effect and traffic is going up over time. There are also dozens of tools that you can use to see whether you might be doing some SEO damage.

The main thing with all of this type of activity is to keep reading and then testing to see whether the information you have is working for your blog.

Sometimes there is a really big lag on these types of things and as such you have to be quite careful about how you monitor it. Sites like Moz and Ahrefs and Backlinko are all good places to start.

How is your guest blogging going?

Do you spend a lot of time and energy on your guest blogging efforts? I’d really love to know how it’s going for you and whether any of these concerns have been popping up on your radar. Feel free to leave a comment below and we can all have a big chat about it.

Top photo © Intararit

Copy: Decoding the Google Answer Box Algorithm – a SERP Research on 10.353 Keywords

Last time we looked at the Google’s Answer Boxes, we came up with quite a handful of interesting observations. However, we couldn’t quite give you the best explanation of what it takes to get your website on the position zero, as some named it. We gathered you needed to be regarded as an authority site, but what does that really translate into?

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’ – Isaac Asimov

So we set out to find out more about the issue, only this time with a more scientific outlook on things. This meant that, while we could still look at only some examples, we could make the sample much bigger. What’s a big enough sample? Well, in statistics a couple of thousands is usually enough. So just to make sure, we looked at about 10 000 keywords. Of course, we didn’t have one person (or more) look at every scenario, but rather we devised an algorithm that would do the job for us.


The algorithm did automatic keyword research. It looked for phrases such as “what is…” and “who is…”, adding just one letter after the phrase ( “what is a”, “what is b”, and so on up to “what is z”) and taking into account the autocomplete suggestions (since those are supposed to be most popular searches, therefore the ones most likely to elicit answer boxes).


To have a standardized cutoff point, we only took into account the first 10 autocomplete suggestions for each generated keyword. Using this method to extract the keywords we selected a sample of keywords that are most likely to return answer boxes.

Google Answer Box Appearance Ratio on 10k Keywords

This foray into the search engine came up with about 10 000 search terms (10 353 to be more precise). Of those, only 1 792 returned answer boxes, which is roughly 17% of the total number of searches. So the first straight observation is that the percentage of search results with answer boxes out of the total number of search results is fairly small.


We can say that this claim is true in general, since our sample size of 10 000 is enough to extrapolate for a population of pretty much any size with a high confidence level. While this may sound pretty unbelievable, that’s just how statistics works. Admittedly, we haven’t really been using a perfectly random sample, so let’s just say that the claim we made earlier is true of all searches that could potentially yield an answer box: off all that could, rather few actually do.

Google Answer Box Appearance Ratio


Google Answer Box Types

We have already established previously that answer boxes are a certain type of rich answers and can come in many shapes and sizes. Also, there are different methods to trigger the answer box. Theoretically, answer boxes are triggered by the featured snippet you set, but there’s not a fact. Mostly Google selects what info considers it is relevant for a specific query. So we instructed the algorithm to also figure out what kind of answer box it received.


Most of the answer boxes included definitions or descriptions that were the result of various website extractions; they were 1 236, which amounts to almost 69% of the answer boxes. Which means that all the other types of answer boxes – Web Definitions, Video Widgets, Google Widgets (conversions, maps) or Google Dictionary Definitions – taken together amount for less than a third of the answer boxes. But this is good news for SEO. If you mark up your content with structured data you’ll be able to appear in google’s answer boxes. Google’s natural language API helps webmasters to find all the entities from their website and get more rich snippets , better click through rate and maybe some answer box integrations.


If the answers only consisted of Google widgets, Google definitions or web definitions, you would have little to contribute to the landscape. As things are now, your website could be the source of a definition or description for the vast majority of the answers in the box.

Extracted Google Answer Box Types


Before continuing, let’s clear up a bit the definition’s types, as they appear in the answer box.

Google Dictionary Definition

Google Dictionary was an online dictionary service of Google, originating in its Google Translate service. The Dictionary website was terminated on 2011 but after that, part of its functionality was integrated into Google Search and now it looks like it’s integrated in the paragraph snippet. When it provides the direct answers from the Google Dictionary, you won’t see any URL near the generated content. It answers the question and it kind of gives you the feeling that Google “knows for sure” that the info is accurate and doesn’t need to give any extra explanation.

Google Dictionary Definition

Google Widget

Google has quite an impressive and helpful number of widgets, including translating, weather, driving directions or currency converter services. These widgets really improve the user’s experience, sparing him lots of clicks and time invested. For instance, if a user needs to find out how much  300 meters mean, reported to kilometers, a user doesn’t have to go on several sites to find out how much one meter mean and multiply it by 300. All he has to do is “ask” Google “how long is 300 meters” and he will get his answer instantly.

Google Widget Definition

Google Video Widget

Also, if you want to impress your friends with some new move dances or you are looking for a particular type of moves that you want to reproduce, Google understands this need and gives you a video result directly in the answer box.

Google Video Widget Definition

Google Web Definition

The quick answer boxes provided from the web definitions are quite a basic way of generating the information extracted from URLs with Glossary and dictionary words. These kind of definitions rely neither on entities nor on a dynamic process of extracting data but rather a static procedure is involved. Although there are a high number of answer boxes coming from web definition, they are not always the best answers that Google provides, time and again providing inaccurate or unrelated data.

Google Web Definition

Google Web Extraction

The definitions provided in the answer box from web extractions are, as we will see later on, more reliable, more dynamic and more accurate than the web definition. They usually come from sites that have high authority and also include the search query on their site. For instance, in the example below, if we want to find out what an atom is composed of, the answer box extracted the information from . As we follow this site, we will see that on the landing page we will have a dedicated content to this matter, with the matching title “What is an atom? What are atoms made of?”

Google Web Extraction

Unique Domains Used for Data Extraction

It seems that in the world of the search engines the rich get richer. When we analyzed the answers that were extracted from websites, we found out that they only came from 342 websites. So on average about 3.6 answers per website. But averages can be deceiving and in this case they actually are. Of those 342 websites (mainly , Wikipedia, dictionaries or Glossary) not all got the lion’s share.

Unique Domains Used For Data Extraction Google Answer Box

Top 10 Ranking Position Distribution in the Organic SERPs for the Answer Box URL

Of the many factors that might influence the “distribution”, one that comes to mind almost instantly is the SERP ranking. So we split the websites according to this criteria, and look and behold, websites that were found on the first position in the organic results accounted for a third (33%) of all answer box information. The top 5 pages accounted for more than three quarters (77%) of the answers.


There was just 1 answer out of the total 1 236 that came from a page not in the top 10 (statistically, that’s less than 0.1%). So rankings matter. And while you would be right to suggest that the relationship implied by this correlation may be more complicated here than what we are seeing from the numbers, you’d be taking a pretty serious chance to bet on being that 1 case in 1 236 that doesn’t need to be up high in the rankings to make it to the answer box. Or, to quote XKCD “scienc-y” web comic creator Randall Munroe, “Correlation does not imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there.’ ”

Answer Box Extraction URL SERP Distribution

Trusted Sites Distribution in Google Answer Boxes

In all fairness, we are inclined to cut you some slack and say that it’s not necessarily (or solely) the SERP rankings that matter, but that’s only because the SERP positioning might simply be an indicator of some other measure of your website’s quality: referring domains. This is a case where more is actually more and better. Domains that provide answer boxes with more than 10 000 referring domains are exactly half of all domains that represent answer sources.


Interestingly enough, a lot more answers (twice the number) come from domains with between 1 and 5 000 referring domains than from domains with between 5 and 10 000 referring domains. That may very well be, though, due to the arbitrary split or due to a lot of the values being around the cutoff point. Despite this, however, the 1 K mark is a fairly good predictor: more than 80% of all answers come from places that have 1 000 referring domains or more. But that means there’s still a reasonable chance of popping up in answer boxes even with less than that. However, if you drop under 100 you are on your own: less than a 3% chance of hitting the jackpot.

Trusted Sites Distribution Google Answer Boxes

Google Answer Box Crawl – No. of Results based on Words per Page Intervals

In fact, how the information is structured may have a lot to do with your chances of being considered a trustworthy source for answers. A helpful element is having a title that is roughly the same as the question and an answer that immediately follows the title. That speaks to the structure part. What about rich content? This is where, unlike before, less is actually more. Pages with less than 2 000 words (the rough equivalent of 5 pages typed in Times New Roman, font size 12, single spacing) account for close to 70% of all answer boxes.


As the number of words grows larger, the number of answer box results shrinks: 20% for pages with between 2 000 and 5 000 words, 5.5% for pages with between 5 000 and 10 000 words and only 2 percent for pages with over 10 000 words! Whether adding information automatically makes it harder for Google to look at that page for answers, or it simply makes it harder for us to keep things simple and straightforward, one thing is certain: leaner is better.

Google Answer Box Crawl Words Intervals

Google Answer Box Characteristic – Title vs No-Title Answer Boxes

As you’ll go around searching for different queries on Google, you might notice that there are two types of answer boxes, if we take into consideration the title: answer boxes which have a title and answer boxes which don’t have one. Just like in the case of any piece of content, the title can make a great difference. Let’s take a look at the screenshot below!

Title vs no TItle Google Answer Box

We are not talking only about the title’s purpose to garner attention and entice people to start reading your content. But about the basic purpose of titles: functionality. Beyond all, people need to know what the content is about. From all the analyzed answer boxes about 30% have a title, while the rest provide the information directly in the box, without any other introductions. Is a title beneficial? It definitely is as it highly improves the user’s experience. With a majority of “no title” answer boxes it is not exactly at hand saying that Google is on the right track with this matter. Yet, things might change in the future and having 100% titles in answer boxes in a couple of years might not be far from the truth.

Google Answer Box Characteristic Title vs No Title

Answer Box Stability and Freshness

There seems to be quite a lot of hard work you need to do to get into the much coveted answer boxes. But the reward is likely to pay off, perhaps even in ways that were not necessarily intended. We are no further still into the “that’s interesting” territory. The interesting thing being that the answer box functionality seems to be rather static and that once a website gets there, it might be a long time before it is removed. Not even, say, the website going down will shake the answer box. This turned out to be the case for a variety of queries, such as “what are lr14 batteries”, “where to buy plan b”, “what are k1 tax forms”, “what is seo spam”, or even “who is john endler and what did he study” (vertebrates, he studied vertebrates). So there is a very slight chance that an answer box will buy your website a little bit of post-mortem remembrance.

Expired Domains Rank No.1 in Google Answer Boxes

Being in the SEO industry and trying to make our way through all the Google’s guidelines, we are often asked “what is a natural link ?” We’ve tried to give the best answer to this question but what better place to ask about this than Google? Yet, as we tried to figure out what the exact definition of the Google friendly links was, the answer box failed to provide us with  such a rewarding explanation. What is even more interesting is that when we tried to follow the link from the answer box for more info, we stumble upon an expired domain:

Web Definition Broken Unregistered Site
Being imbued by the “researcher’s fever”, we decided to buy this domain and analyze the ranking data we may get from Google.

Registered The Domain

Even if it was dropped, this link stayed in the answer box from 16 May until 6th of July. This means almost two months while an un-registered domain ranked number 1 for the “what is a natural link” search query. And it would have probably stayed even longer if we haven’t bought it. Quite ironic, isn’t it? Google, the great unnatural link “slayer” providing us a broken link on the top of its results, trying to explain us what a natural links is.

Unregistered Registered Method

We decided to re-create the page based on its previous content and remove any extra data. So, with the help of WayBackMachine we extracted the content of that page and recreated it exactly.

WayBackMachine Information Extraction

 And this is the content that was put on the site based on the previous content that was there years ago.

SEO Terms Example

What is left to do now (beside enjoying the quality of the owner of a website listed in the answer box)? Track the traffic and enjoy the ride. We are still analyzing this site’s situation and as we gather enough valuable information, we will let you know what happened with our mentioned answer box expired site in the Answer Box results.

Watch Traffic Roll In

But some website definitions bring out even more issues as not only they hit the jackpot, they do so multiple times. Wikipedia’s entry for “Search engine optimization (SEO)” brings all the SEO-related curious people to its yard. It’s the source for no fewer than 14 answer boxes, including, information for questions such as “what is seo expert”, “what is seo consulting”, “what is seo industry”, “what is seo definition”, “what is seo marketing” and more. But do not be fooled by this “rich and well structured” content that provided so many answer boxes. What really happens is that for all the mentioned queries, even if it’s about SEO expert or SEO marketing, we are provided with the same, identical answer box. Not so impressive anymore, right?


Then again, there is a much greater chance that this static character of answer boxes will impact you negatively, since it will prevent your perfectly well-functioning website from entering the ranks because some defunct authority no one even knows if it exists anymore is taking up the space.

Website Extraction vs Website Definition Answer Boxes

I invite you to take a look at another interesting finding, regarding the Website Definitions.

It looks like none of the URLs for website definitions are found in the top 10 SERPS.

For instance, for the search query “what is a link description”, the URL suggested in the answer box,,  is not to be found in the first 10 pages of results. This raises two legit question:

  • how can a site that Google doesn’t consider worthy to be listed in the first 10 results  be given as a resource in the answer box
  • shouldn’t we worry about the quality of the information found in the answer box, given this situation?


As we analyze other answer boxes extracted from web definitions we find out that the majority of them seem to be low quality and sometimes even unrelated. Let’s take for instance the query “what is 360 link”. Even if the web definition provided by the answer box comes from Wikipedia (where 51% from all web definitions come from), it cannot be found in the top 10 results. Even more, the content provided is unrelated and has a commercial flavor (it refers to a product from the ProQuest company). This is the exact opposite of what John Muller from Google said  about “branding” the answer boxes:

we need to watch out […] so it doesn’t turn out to an advertisement for a web site but rather that it brings more information to the search results about this general topic.

Thereby, having so many issues, answer boxes generated from Web Definitions don’t look very reliable. Yet, in the case of website extraction things are more settled and we don’t encounter the same problems. Judging by the fact that the data are shown differently, we can assume that the extraction from web definitions vs Entity Extraction done using the Knowledge Graph is made totally different. The Website Extraction seems more precise while the Website Definition seems more basic.


Nevertheless, mysterious are the ways of Google but equally determined are the people from cognitiveSEO to find out answers. As we browsed so many queries with answer boxes, we identified a pattern in the web definitions extraction. It looks like the majority of definitions that are not coming from Wikipedia have a similar URL pattern using the words “glossary” or “dictionary” ( and other variations).

Google Website Definition Characteristic Patternable Words

Google SERP Re-crawl – 1 Week Later

As we tried to keep things as accurate as we can and assure ourselves and our readers that the data used in this research are representative, we’ve re-run the analysis one week later after the initial research was made. The results made us think even more about how the answer box algorithm really works (as we weren’t already) but confirmed in the same time the correctness of the initial investigation. After this re-crawl on the 10.353 keywords taken into account, we found 120 new answer boxes, 127 disappearances and 13 answer boxes with their status changed. From the new answer boxes, a large majority (about 80%) are Web Extractions and just a few are Google Widgets. Judging by the fact that for our sample only, we found more than 100 new answer boxes we might say that answer box is a growing “industry” and Google might offer answer boxes in short time for more queries.


Let’s move a bit our focus on the disappeared answer boxes. The reasons of the 127 dissolutions might be multiple and we cannot be 100% sure what really happened. But we have some well-funded assumptions. The first one would be that Google is making some A/B testing. It’s very likely that the big G is taking into consideration the bounce rate, the click through rate, the user’s experience overall and choose to keep or remove the answer boxes depending on these factors. I think that they are actively doing A/B testing on the Google Answer Boxes because sometime they appear sometime they do not for the same search. Google is doing a lot of testing in the SERPs and with answer boxes being such an important part of it right now, they might apply the same tactics.


Our second supposition is based on a situation that we meet quite often: Google is not always returning the same results for the same search query, answer box included. Meaning that for the same “ what is…” query, keeping the same coordinates of the search, sometimes we received an answer box and sometimes we didn’t. Thereby, this mysterious vanishing of the 127 answer boxes may originate from here.
As for the answer boxes with a changed status, we can see that a very small number underwent modifications. Most of these few adjustments concern transformations from Web Definitions into Google Widgets and vice versa.

1 Week Google Answer Box Changes



Google Answer Boxes might be quite controversial as the Google Search user interface lets Google’s users view and copy content without visiting the content provider’s website. In addition to losing organic traffic, webmasters might be also a bit “upset” with the fact that their perfectly well-functioning website doesn’t appear int the answer box while some broken site that doesn’t exist anymore is taking up the space . Double-ouch for Google answer boxes!


Yet, we cannot help ourselves from seeing things from the user’s point of view. If the answer box has accurate information, they provide the user with a better usability by sparing him  another click or providing a shortcut to the final action he needs to do. If, for instance, you urgently need to make a payment and you want to know how much  127$ is in Euros, all you have to do is “tell” Google to “convert 127$ to euro” and you’ll have the result in an instant. Not long ago, for the same operation you needed to consult a currency exchange site and after that manually calculate the amount you were interested in.


Having 80% of the newly emerged answer boxes , on our second analysis, coming from Web Extractions, gives webmasters quite a new breath. Judging by this information, we can say that Google is looking more and more at the definitions provided by high-quality websites, giving webmasters the chance to have their site mentioned in the first row, above all the search results. As we shown previously, answer boxes extracted from websites are more accurate and provide the user with a better experience. Thereby, Google taking more into consideration various websites as a source for the answer box is a win-win situation.


As we mentioned in this blog post, there are several issues with the answer boxes. The most important we feel the need to emphasize are the fact that the results generated are quite static and sometimes not relevant, even though they are mostly reserved for high quality sites. These issues can be a big enough obstacle for webmasters that wish and (maybe) deserve to be listed in the answer box. It is indeed a hard working process but not an impossible one. Proving Google that your site is trustworthy and an authority in the field it’s way harder to be done than to be said but it pays off on the long term. Moreover, following some tips that we came up with in a previous post on how to optimize for the Google Answer Box might be also really helpful.

The post Copy: Decoding the Google Answer Box Algorithm – a SERP Research on 10.353 Keywords appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

What Even is a Blog?

what is a blog

Blogging is just so 2005. Why bother…?

Every now and then someone stumbles upon Blog Tyrant and leaves some feedback a little bit like that. What is perhaps interesting is that I don’t entirely disagree with them.

And that got me really thinking about what blogging is and whether or not it has passed it’s use-by date as a concept in the age of video, podcasting and perhaps even virtual reality.

Don’t worry, this is not another Blogging is Dead post but rather a bit of an examination of what blogging should do in today’s modern world, and how we should think about our industry.

Let’s take a look.

A little bit of blogging history

Something that we need to do at this point is take a little bit of a look back at the history of blog sites in general and, perhaps more importantly, the history of the term “blogging”.

This is because, somewhere along the line, blogging has become associated with teenage Tumblr blogs and that is generally why people seem to be offended by the concept.

A lot of the denigrating remarks I see about blogging are usually aimed at people who are regularly updating the general public about their day-to-day lives, what they’re eating (often on Instagram), wearing, etc. without adding anything particularly new or exciting.

In a way that is pretty accurate, the term “blog” originally came from the two words “web” and “log” and was really a kind of online journal space where people would write and post it for others as a new form of remembering, sharing and connecting with others, etc.

Eventually blogging changed to become something that encompassed all sorts of news sites, updates within existing websites, and so on, where the latest content was posted at the top of the designated page. This stood in contrast to a standard website where the content and structure was largely static.

What is a blog these days?

Blogging is evolving quickly.

In fact, if you look at statistics you will see that blogging is rising faster than ever before, largely due to countries like China and India where the Internet is really taking off, and the fact that almost everyone now has a smartphone or laptop and can connect to the Internet.

These days blogging has become quite sophisticated and those that make a full time living with it (either directly or indirectly) generally use it as a way to drive traffic. And it’s is usually one of many ways.

For example, if you look at any successful blogger you will notice that they usually have a business set up that is part written content, part video, maybe a podcast and a whole lot of graphics.

And that is a really important point: blogging should only be part of the picture if you want to drive traffic to a product, existing business, course, etc.

It’s good to let that point sink in – the blog is not the end result, it’s one of the methods you use to find customers.

Of course, not every blog is about money. And in that sense your “customer” might be someone who donates to your charity or takes up your cause as we can see in the case of some very important and presently relevant blogs like Wikileaks.

But this really goes back to the idea that a good blogging strategy should not just be about traffic for the sake of getting traffic to a blog. It should be about helping people and then having a product or an outcome that helps them further and that they will often pay for.

photography blog

For example, if you have a look at a site like Digital Photography School you can see how well this concept can be put into action. Once just an ordinary photography blog, Darren has built it out to now includes courses, guides, eBooks, tutorials, forums and so much more. The blog’s content is still the main feature, but the site itself now does so much more.

I think all of this is also happening because readers now expect a lot more from blogs and content-based websites. There is just so much good content out there these days that you have to go to really exceptional levels to please readers, and often that means more than just short written updates.

For example, in this post on how to make your website carbon neutral we went to some pretty big lengths like creating this infographic:

carbon neutral blog

That post also entailed researching carbon offset options for months, spending money to offset our own carbon (check the badge in the footer!), talking to many different organizations, obtaining certificates, and so on.

This type of deeper research and presentation is something that is now common to blogging as a whole and there is definitely a new standard of expectation.

What is a blog to you?

There are a lot of really experienced bloggers who read this stuff and I’d love to know your thoughts on the definition of blogging and how the medium and perception of the medium has changed over time. Has it affected the way you go about running your own blog? And where do you see it going in the future?

Please leave a comment below and let us know.

Top image: © Daniel Villeneuve

You Only Have Two Shoulders

Whenever people ask me who my biggest inspiration is, I tell them my grandfather.

It’s not that I don’t have other people in my life who inspire me. There are many.

My wife, for facing up to her everyday battles. My friend Sam, for his tireless pursuit of saving the lives of our kids. My kids, for their constant kindness to others around them.

But for the sheer impact that someone has had on my life full stop, from childhood to adulthood, it’d be my late grandfather.

After all, any man whose advice includes always standing up before you flush has to be onto something, right?

It’s one of these pieces of advice that came back to me recently, as I was getting over first a nasty stomach bug, and currently a heavy summer cold/chest infection.

You only have two shoulders. Make sure at least one of them is for you.

My grandfather’s point was this – often, it feels like we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders.

Family stuff. Personal struggles. Work. The world. Kids, and helping them find their way in the world.

All this and more can start to weigh heavily on us and, if we’re not careful, can overcome and overpower, until we’re lying on the ground, breathing heavily, wondering what we do next and not having a clear answer.

We’re Not Superheroes

My son’s favourite superhero is Batman. My daughter’s is Wonder Woman (sorry Marvel Comics, it’s DC for my kids!).

Ewan, my son, likes Batman because of his one-liners (admittedly, from the LEGO Batman movie), while my daughter, Salem, loves Wonder Woman for being strong, brave, and “a girl” (her words).

They both play with each other and use little LEGO figures to act our their imaginary superhero stories, usually with Wonder Woman winning because she’s stronger than everyone.

Sometimes, after one of these games, either of them might say, “I want to be Batman/Wonder Woman when I grow up”, at which I smile, nod, and we talk about what they’d do with super powers.

It’s a nice family moment, and I enjoy listening to what my young kids envision for their future.

But back in the “real world”, we’re not superheroes. At least, not in the comic book version of the word.

Yes, we do heroic things every day without even knowing it (if you go by the literal meaning of the word), but that’s where it stops.

We can’t stop bullets with our wrists. We can’t jump over tall mountains. We can’t use million-dollar technology to stop the bad guys.

When we do try and be superheroes, we fall. We start to be overcome, not realizing it’s happening.

We begin to stress, because we don’t want to fail, either ourselves or those that count on us.

We get weak, physically and mentally, and it becomes harder to pull ourselves out of the funk, so we continue down the path we’re on until breaking point is reached.

We never see superheroes break, because they don’t live our lives and we don’t live in comic book fantasy worlds.

Save a Shoulder for You

Back to my grandfather’s point, we need to realize that while superheroes may have the archetypal broad shoulders, we only have two normal ones.

We can’t always carry the weight expected of us (either by others or our own unrealistic expectations).

We can’t continue to load ourselves up, when the load is already at max and there’s still so much to do.

Instead, we need to be honest (and that takes bravery, because no-one likes to admit defeat) and speak loud, and say our shoulders are full.

We need to keep one shoulder just for us, knowing that there will be times we need to hold ourselves up because only we can move us forward in certain circumstances.

By all means, we want to help, and be helpful, and be supportive, and all the other stuff it takes if we want to be good people, and meaningful parts of society and the community around us.

But if we can’t support ourselves first, how can we ever expect to support others?

Be brave. Be selfish, if that’s what it takes. But be strong, and be true to yourself.

We only have two shoulders. Make sure at least one of them is for you.

Does the Google Interstitials Penalty Impact Your SEO Efforts?

Since the mobile intrusive interstitial ad penalty from January 10h, 2017, there has been a lot of fuss on pop-up, banner and interstitial ads. Google itself announced it will devalue webpages  that use intrusive pop-up and interstitial ads in mobile search.


Is this the end of those types of ads? Is there a Penalty for them? What does Google have to say?

Be patient and you’ll find the answers to all of your questions regarding this topic. Today.


Do popups interstitials or banners impact seo


In the following minutes, you’ll find the differences between all those types of ads we mentioned before: pop-ups, interstitial ads, and banners. Next, we’ll go on with the statements Google has made on this subject, whether there are penalties, updates and whether the ads affect SEO.


We’ll also see what other experts and specialists in the industry have discovered and experienced during the updates Google made regarding the ads.


In the end, we’ll find out if there are Google penalties and if we can prevent them and how.


Get your snacks and drink and enjoy reading one of the tastiest topics and flavored blog posts about the impact of pop-ups, banners, and interstitial ads on your SEO.


  1. What Are the Differences Between a Pop-Up, an Interstitial and a Banner Ad?
  2. Google Is Looking for a Positive User Experience
  3. What Do Experts Say About the Interstitials Impact on SEO?
  4. Are Interstitials Hurting Your SEO?
  5. Do Intrusive Ad Penalties Really Exist?
  6. How Can You Prevent an Intrusive Ad Penalty?

1. What Are the Differences Between a Pop-Up, an Interstitial and a Banner Ad?

First things first. Let’s start with the banner ad. It is a form of display advertising because of the visual nature of the banner.


Intrusive Banner Ad


Usually, it doesn’t interrupt the user, but if it is very big and flashy, it might cause him to lose focus on the content.


Pop-ups, on the other hand, appear over the content but do not interrupt the user immediately. Look at the example in the next picture.




According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a pop-up refers to something that appears suddenly or unexpectedly. A pop-up ad is another form of online advertising and it is designed to attract customers and generate traffic.


Interstitials have the same purpose as the previous ads, to promote and advertise. But, unlike the pop-up and banner, the interstitial interrupts the user and hampers the normal flow of content.


Just take a look at the next picture to understand how:




One of the biggest sites on the web has been using these types of interstitials for quite a while now.


I bet you all know Forbes, right? Well, the website has an interstitial that opens every time you click on a link that points you to its content.

Forbes interstitials


Whenever you click on a link that redirects you to Forbes, there is this page waiting for you before you see the content you want.


They use it to push content and advertise products or services to the forefront of a user’s experience. In term of SEO, it increases the CTR and the time on site. They are really annoying and not at all user-friendly.


There are other types of intrusive advertisements that manipulate the user.


If you take a look at the next screenshot, the whole background is a full page background ad.


Clickable background


There is a high chance for the user to mistakenly click on it and be whisked off the website and the original content to the advertiser’s site. It is annoying, for sure. These types of ads turn out to be extremely aggressive.


Deceptive full page ad


2. Google Is Looking for a Positive User Experience

It all started in 2012, when Google began to devalue websites with too much ad space above the “fold”.


Then, in 2015, Google announced it would be downgrading sites that show annoying full-page ads prompting users to install mobile apps. The Google’s App Interstitial Giant Ad Penalty went live in November 2015.


Until now, Google has continued to keep an eye on the different intrusive advertising formats on the web that have a negative impact on the overall experience on the website. 



January 19, 2017 is an important date to remember. Starting on that day, Google has penalized websites that have content which is not accessible to the user in the transition from Google mobile search results. This update is meant to help users easily access content on mobile. 


Google gives a statement on the Webmaster Central Blog regarding this update:

As we said, this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking and the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

Intrusive mobile interstitials are frowned upon by Google. After this update, a diagram was posted on the blog pointing out to those on the blacklist to be targeted in the future.





Google also provided a few examples of interstitials that would not be affected by the new signal, if they are used responsibly and don’t make content less accessible.


Interstitials that can be accepted



In the Rater Guidelines, Google has an entire subchapter about Distracting/ Disruptive/ Misleading Titles, Ads, and Supplementary Content.


Google penalizes websites that do not match users’ expectations after they click on a link, only to find something else on that page.


There are 2 situations when ads are considered disruptive:

1. Ads that actively float over the main content as you scroll down the page and which are difficult to close. It can be very hard to use the main content when it is actively covered by moving, difficult­ to­ close ads and these are considered to be disruptive. – Google


2. An interstitial page which redirects the user away from the main content without offering a path back to the main content is considered to be disruptive. – Google

Besides those, there are many other reasons why ads are distracting and misleading and you can learn more in the Rater Guidelines.


As mentioned on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, at first Google analyzed interstitials that ask users to instal an app on smartphones. As they started to dig deeper into this issue, they thought that it was mandatory to explore the interstitials in general.


Now, the check for app install interstitials is incorporated into the new signal in Search.


Just a few weeks ago Google took the first decisive step. It has started sending emails to a thousand online publishers warning them that they are showing “highly annoying, misleading or harmful” ads, according to a source from Ad Age.


Google is part of the Justice League-type group within the Coalition for Better Ads born with the purpose of offering and improving consumer’s experience with online advertising.


In March, the coalition asked 25,000 people in the U.S. and Europe to rate 104 different ad experiences on desktop and mobile. A shockingly high percentage (97%) of desktop violations included popup ads. Just over a half (54%) of mobile sites were flagged for the same thing. According to Google, 21% of mobile websites were in violation for having a high ad density, which means that more than 30% of a page comprises ads.


Since we were talking about Forbes, you should know that they are amongst other big publication to receive an email from Google as it violates the Better Ads Standard. Other big publications in the same situation include Betty Crocker, the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, The Independent, TV Guide, the Chicago Tribune, LifeHacker, ZDNet, PCMag, the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, Eurogamer and the Chicago Sun-Times.


Google argues that Chrome’s removal of bad ads will serve as a filter, not an “ad blocker.”


3. What Do Experts Say About the Interstitials Impact on SEO?

In 2016, there were a lot of unconfirmed updates that experts detected. Also, there’s a great debate around the dates when they happened.  


Moz has recorded only 4 updates so far, as mentioned below:

  • Intrusive Interstitial Mobile Penalty – January 10
  • Unnamed Major Update – February 1
  • Unnamed Major Update – February 6
  • “Fred” Unconfirmed – March 8

In a research Glenn Gabe posted on G-Squared Interactive, there were listed 6 updates:

  • Intrusive Interstitial Mobile Penalty – January 5
  • February 7
  • “Fred” March 7
  • April 26
  • May 4
  • May 17

As you can see there are some differences between them.


Barry Schwartz identified other two updates, on June 14 and June 25. Lots of discussions happened on Twitter about these updates.


For the Google update he detected on 25, Google’s John Mueller gave a statement on Twitter:



But apparently, in the end, Google didn’t confirm the update. John Mu tweeted about it.



Experts disagree the statement. For example, RankRanger reported that sites ranking in positions 6-10 experienced SERP volatility. They showed that through one of their case studies.




On top of this, John Muller also refuted the Fred update or at least that’s what he said in one of his Google Webmaster Hangout. See with your own eyes at 2:00:



After being asked how the Fred update impacted e-commerce websites, John Muller declared:

So from our point of view, there was no Fred update.

This is a name that was given externally to a bunch of updates that we’ve been doing over time. So it’s not the case that there’s this one thing that is changing in search. We make changes in search all the time and we’re always working on trying to find ways to bring more relevant, more high-quality content to users, and that can be affecting a variety of websites.

John Muller John Muller
Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google @JohnMu

Until now it has been just a smoke screen. A lot of opinions and vague information. On a final note, there are all kinds of speculations, but only Google knows the truth.


We’ve scooped through the internet to see what people are saying about the penalties, what their reactions are.


On Twitter, there were people who experienced a huge fluctuation in the rankings. Others saw an increase and others saw their website drop from the first page, going from page 1 to page 3.




4. Are Interstitials Hurting Your SEO?

Lots of smoking guns so far, but do ads hurt your SEO?


Don’t hate me for the answer: it depends. It really depends on how your ad looks like. If it doesn’t have pages where content is covered entirely and it doesn’t whisk you over the main content to an advertiser’s website, then it most probably won’t hurt your SEO.


In other cases, you might experience some SERP fluctuations, some ranking instability and in the end, you’ll be wiped off the face of the search results.


How’s the weather forecast in your website’s zone?


After the updates Google made this year on the interstitial penalty, there were lots of webmasters who saw traffic drop and/or SERP fluctuations. Some of them say the interstitial penalty has got them.


For example, Vic Holtreman, founder of, says this happened to him because of full-page ad with “buy now” clickable images on each side of the content.


This is how his website looked like on May 29, 2017:

Deceptive full page ad


If we take a look at the rankings for this website, we can see it experienced a huge drop.

SEO Visibility*U*#section/4

As you can see, the site’s ranking started to drop (as of February 19) after the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty from January 10 and other major updates from February went live.


Although the owner of the website is struggling on reducing ads, improving readability, content quality he didn’t manage to recover the high rankings.


Glenn Gabe’s statement on these type of ads is quite clear; the site might have received an Intrusive Interstitial Penalty:

I would categorize that as deceptive, which we know Google has called out in the Quality Rater Guidelines.

He adds: “those are extremely aggressive, annoying, and deceptive”. Everything Google disapproves at an ad.


There is a lot going on with this website. The link profile doesn’t look very natural, it had full-page ads for a while so the high drop it experienced could have happened because of multiple reasons. Those ads didn’t help at all, though.


Pinterest has another story. Some say it got hit, some just wanted the site to get hurt.


Sistrix posted an article saying the Pinterest probably got hit by the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty. They saw a drop in rankings.

40% of its smartphone Visibility in the UK, 35% in the USA, 34% in Germany and 34% in Spain. Today, the Visibility is still -16.5%, on average.

As you can see in the next screenshot, it is a notable drop.



After a quick review in the cognitiveSEO Explorer, we could see they had a drop from 4.14 mil in January to 3,32 mil in April, losing over 1 mil in just a few months. Until now, they haven’t fully recovered.

Rankings drop pinterest


At the moment we speak, Pinterest blocks content from non-users and the interstitials they use cover all the space on top of the main content, which Google counts as intrusive, because it has a negative effect on the user’s experience.

Pinterest blocking pop-up


Yet, Glenn Gabe shared his findings and said that the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty has no impact. He made a list with domains that were using all kinds of ads that broke the Rater Guidelines and kept tracking them to see if they suffered any changes in the search engines rankings. Unfortunately, he saw that the update had little or no impact at all on those domains.

As of today, I’m still not seeing a widespread impact. Again, many of the URLs across the domains I’m tracking are ranking exactly where they did prior to the rollout of the mobile popup algorithm.
Glenn Gabe Glenn Gabe
Digital Marketing Consultant at G-Squared Interactive / @glenngabe

It seems that Google AdSense New Native Ads will harm your website. The ads blend into your content and Google has an algorithm that specifically penalized ads in your content.


Barry Schwartz and Glenn Gabe support this statement.

Glenn Gabe Adsense


Glenn Gabe tweeted an example of a website that saw a big drop because it used the new native ads.

Traffic drop



He strongly disapproves the use of native ads “designed to match the look/feel of your site”. It is a big thread on his Twitter about this:

Glenn Gabe tweet about native ads


The situation regarding intrusive ads is really serious. It doesn’t matter if there aren’t so many examples of websites that got penalized because of this. Google is rolling updates on a regular basis. It just a matter of time. It’s a “when” not an “if”.


5. Do Intrusive Ad Penalties Really Exist?

It is official, a website can be penalized for interstitial ads on mobile devices. The word got out at Search Marketing Expo in January and it’s been doing its job so far. No secret here!




There are other experts who say the Penalty is real. Google confirmed the mobile interstitial penalty did roll out so there isn’t much questioning.

 To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly. – Google

With all the examples of penalized sites we shared with you, we can be sure it is real.


6. How Can You Prevent an Intrusive Ad Penalty?

Before responding to this question, you should know what kind of ads you can use. The accepted ads are those that don’t appear over the main content, blocking the user to access the information in an intrusive way and don’t send them to a totally different site. So there is a possibility to use ads not targeted by this penalty.


If you want to prevent the penalties, you can use some of the pop-ups, banners or interstitials mentioned below:

  • age verification blockers that protect a certain type of content, such as alcohol or adult content;
  • cookie usage that respects Google’s Guidelines (popups that ask for agreement);
  • any other type of legally required pop-up that uses a reasonable amount of screen space.
  • If you don’t want to be penalized you need to understand which ads are accepted, avoid the gray areas, using timed pop-ups that cover only a small space of your screen, and always offer a positive user experience.

Also, it would be good to run a Mobile Friendly Test in Google Search Console to check your site and see if your site doesn’t have any errors on mobile. Otherwise, you might lose traffic because of a bad mobile user experience and many other problems. 


Google is aware of the fact that many websites are supported by ads, so you must rethink your content marketing and mobile marketing strategy and don’t rely entirely on ads. 




As a takeaway for the eternity, we have something to tell you that you should remember forever.


The interstitial penalty will be triggered by on-scroll pop-ups, but delayed pop-ups will be impacted by this change. You are still allowed to use interstitials triggered by an intent to exit, legal notices using pop-ups, actions bars, slide-ins, and banners.  The interstitial signal is just one of hundreds of signals Google uses to analyze your website. It is just one of the many factors that influence your website’s ranking in the search engines.


But be careful, depending on how big your website is, how information is used and displayed, how your architecture is made, it can damage your website. There are lots of ifs and opinions but it is better to prevent than to correct.


Use the recommendations and information we gave you for a good and natural ranking.


You’ll never know what Google will do in the future, so you might better start improving your site now.

The post Does the Google Interstitials Penalty Impact Your SEO Efforts? appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

Everything You Need To Know About Augmented Reality and its Impact on SEO

The SEO industry will always vary according to trends, and the rise of AR will definitely be course-changing for the SEO specialists and their content strategies.


An emerging field of technology, augmented reality or AR  seems to be somehow of a buzzword nowadays. Rumor has it that augmented reality is limitless and has enormous potential, holding plenty of features in the store for the future. Should the SEO hark to these facts?


The Rise of Augmented Reality And Its Impact On SEO


We took the challenge of talking about augmented reality and the impact on SEO and show you the connection between them. But that’s not all. Gain deep insight and an overall view on the topic by following each tab from the table of contents below:


  1. The Rise of Augmented Reality and What You Missed About It
  2. When and Where Augmented Reality and SEO Connect
  3. Augmented Reality and Local SEO 
  4. What Do Experts Say About Augmented Reality and SEO
  5. Google and Augmented Reality
  6. Facebook and Augmented Reality
  7. Snapchat and Augmented Reality
  8. Apple and Augmented Reality
  9. What to Do Next Instead of Conclusion


Steve Jobs said once: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around”. Today there’s a new level of consumer power. Search marketers and SEOs strive to follow trends and market changes in order to retain customers.


And the rise of augmented reality can be both the wave that takes you out to greatness, and the breath of fresh air to upgrade your marketing game.


This is true especially when AR is dependent on content, the very core of digital marketing, SEO, SEM, and of everything a business sends out to the crowd.  Content is king again. Content is a must-have, translated both as the message displayed inside the AR experience and as a trigger for retaining audiences. That is why FinTech and SEO race to be early adopters.


1. The Rise of Augmented Reality and What You Missed About It


What Exactly Is AR?


Using the means of digital technology, augmented reality overlays information in video, text, or image format onto everyday surroundings, objects, and locations from the real world.


Gaia Dempsey, co-founder of DAQRI, makes it clearer for everyone what AR is and looks like by summarizing everything in the video below:


80% of the information that the brain takes in is visual; so by providing information in a visual medium that also has the spatial nature of augmented reality, you’re giving the brain a very intuitive way of accessing knowledge. 
Gaia Dempsey Gaia Dempsey
Co-founder @DAQRI/



Users will normally acknowledge the augmented reality around them by making use of a smartphone camera, tablet, goggles, or headset specially designed for AR. Still, for the time being, AR is mostly stuck on the smartphone (be it made available by brands, or used by audiences across the globe) and will have limited use cases, such as education, gaming, social media, and indoor mapping.


Although very promising, AR devices don’t appeal yet to a very large mass of consumers, but find a home more in the work industry, especially in the blue-collar environment. 


There are two versions of AR technology: marker-based (which uses a visual, physical trigger to start the AR experience), and markerless-based (it doesn’t need a trigger to start an AR experience, rather it builds the experience from scratch).



In other words, AR can fall into three categories: 


  1. Information overlay (e.g. The British Museum where you can scan a displayed object and pop-up messages will appear with info regarding that specific object);
  2. Virtual objects (e.g. Ikea refurbishing homes – scan your home, then place different pieces of furniture in your house environment to see how they fit);
  3. Digital packaging (e.g. Pepsi, Coca Cola, or Starbucks using AR interfaces designed by Layar and Blippar).


Marker-based augmented reality regards real life objects that trigger virtual activity and visuals. All you need is a proper device, which for the common user and for most of the times is the camera.



When Did AR Start to Become a Thing?


The world started talking about AR once the Pokemon Go phenomenon began to spread in 2016. Everyone went crazy; firstly, for the concept itself; secondly, for the thrill and engagement it provided.


Since then, many businesses have opted for building apps and interfaces that employed features of AR. Some of them are Pokemon Go, Snapchat, Google Translate, Star Chart, Pepsi, and a whole lot more, to name just a few. 


But things hold a lot more than they show. In fact, augmented reality is not  a novelty at all. 


The AR technology was actually developed in the ’60s by Morton Heilig, yet from then it has made huge leaps in matters of improvement.


Heilig’s invention displayed a huge device called sensorama, one of the earliest known examples of multimodal technology. Sensorama was able to display stereoscopic 3D images using a wide-angle view, employ body tilting, provide stereo sound, and also had the necessary means for wind and aromas to be triggered during the film.


Heilig Sensorama


Which Are the Impacted Industries


Statistically speaking, eCommerce will be the most impacted industry of all. Imagine virtually trying out shoes from your favourite brand without the hustle and bustle of actually doing it all day long, running from one shop to another. Brands like Adidas and Converse have already tried this technology, scoring higher conversion rates, yet fewer returns, once customers satisfied their necessity or curiosity.



With the help of augmented reality shopping and marketing, eCommerce is and will be able to gain more powerful insight and feedback from customers. Reviews, star ratings, how many times something was tried out, social shares, try-out span, and a whole lot more information will be at the brands’ disposal.


GAP and hardware chain Lowes are already using augmented reality and VPS (Virtual Positioning System) to suit their customers’ needs and exceed their expectations. GAP opted in for a “no physical try out needed anymore”, similar to that of Adidas’ and Converse’s. Lowes came with this bright idea of an AR app for your shopping list, where you can get real-time directions inside the store to know where and if you can find the product you noted on the list. 


The Difference Between AR and VR


Augmented reality and virtual reality often go hand in hand. It’s not uncommon for AR or VR to be mistaken by beginners. The thing is that both AR and VR allow you to experience computing more than you could do just from working, playing, or interacting with a computer. They both either bring computing to your world or take you to a new world, but resembling the real one. 


Unlike augmented reality, virtual reality (VR) provides a totally immersive experience in a world that is created from scratch, with little to no connection with the real world. VR does generate realistic images, sounds, and other sensations, but the imagery environment is virtual and artificial, computer-generated.


VR uses mostly comprise gaming, but can also be relevant for entertainment causes such as seeing movies, sports games, shows or concerts, health care, manufacturing industry, education, military, and even NASA duties.


If we are to relate to the list above, there’s not much of a difference between AR and VR when it comes to use case environments either. Yet unlike VR, AR is totally geo-point bound with no to very little independence from location or object.


International Data Corporation (IDC) made a forecast on the worldwide spending on AR and VR for 2017 and 2020. They estimate the augmented reality and virtual reality market to reach $13.9 billion by 2017, an increase of 130.5% over the spending recorded in 2016. As for 2020, the spending is estimated to be $143.3 billion.


When doing a quick check on mentions across the web and social media, we see that AR and VR are becoming more and more a trend talk. They get traction. Be it because virtual reality games or augmented reality apps gain popularity at a fast pace or not, BrandMentions displayed actionable clear cut results worth taking into account.


Augmented Reality in BrandMentions

Virtual Reality in BrandMentions


Although augmented reality leads the mention race, VR doesn’t fall too short, as it closely follows AR from behind. 


When Buzzsumo partnered LinkedIn in writing a marketing study entitled “The DNA Behind the World’s Most Successful Content”, Steve Rayson and Jason Miller published statistics on the number of shares VR  has on the Internet and it’s amazing. This provides you with an answer to the question: ‘Why should I care about AR?


VR Number Of Shares On The Web


Marketing Senses a Change in the Digital Landscape


With time, brands started to realize that augmented reality is set to grow exponentially as a discovery and communication channel. And so did digital marketers and search marketers.


The power of mobile devices to trigger information-rich experiences in real-world settings made brands crave to turn AR into a powerful marketing tool. The benefits were undoubtedly rich and offering: smartly leading customers to brick and stone stores, alerting them to a sale, and create the means for better and faster real-time ratings and reviews.


Augmented reality and shopping are often congruent. Shopping has a lot to gain from augmented reality. Several examples have already been provided earlier. But that’s not all.


Augmented reality is a win-win business. Customers also have a lot to benefit from it. AR apps save time, provide detailed information, are eye-opening, better serve a customer’s needs, create engagement and entertainment. When available, people will be able to scan surroundings in search of nearby restaurants, discounts, all within line-of-sight and with maximum accuracy. 



Print media already started to actively incorporate AR into their publications. Esquire Magazine proved this in their 2009 issue when readers were able to scan the paper cover and trigger an augmented reality experience with a very lively real Robert Downey Jr.


Esquire magazine | AR experience


No doubt both the magazine’s and Downey’s fans were crazy for this marketing move. 



Pepsi too joined the dance and used the augmented reality technology in their marketing strategies. Their AR billboard campaign gathered almost 8 million views on YouTube. Pepsi created an augmented reality experience for those waiting in a bus shelter for the means to get wherever they needed.



2. When and Where AR and SEO Connect


Search Engines Support Visual Search and Will Use AR


All major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, employ primary search results techniques. This is how web pages and other contents, such as videos or local listings, are displayed and ranked, depending on what that specific search engine considers to be of most relevance to users. We are talking about organic search here, and not paid search (SEM).


Judging from the continuous growth of augmented reality, it’s no wonder if your website content will soon be crawled, indexed, and ranked higher in SERPs for AR-based content via visual search. Everything from digital content and activity, to offline advertising, physical locations, brand and product photos and images will someday be searched through AR. 


Organic search professionals will need to include the augmented reality technology into their content marketing strategies. At least, this is what a forward-thinking SEO and business would do. 



Augmented reality is beneficial for brands that are searching and fighting to be first and foremost both in their industry and in SERPs. 


For now, Financial Technology a.k.a. FinTech and SEO race to be early smart adopters, although the latter somehow falls behind, although it should be the other way around. 


Content Connects the Dots Between AR and SEO


Content is again king. Content is king in AR and VR, just as it is in any other medium. Augmented reality content can take various forms, such as video, social sharing, reviews, 3D objects, usually available all-in-one search engine result page or advertorial.


In order to stand out, content marketers are investing a lot in visual content such as videos, images, and infographics. But it’s time to consider AR tech in your content marketing strategy. 


Sporting good augmented reality technology and smartly optimized content will both please your audience and boost your content up in SERPs. This way you encourage your customers to participate in the AR experience by contributing with content in real-time. Augmented reality is where content is not only provided by the brand, but also by the customer, both online and offline, and where positive content probably has the biggest impact of them all. 


VR is in many ways similar to AR. Thus we think that many VR statistics and analytics speak for AR, too. When asking users for feedback on what to improve in VR, 55% said more content, and 45% said better quality content.


VR, AR, and Content


The Impact AR Has on SEO


Mentions, reviews, links, ratings, all in a new form – this is what AR offers to the world of SEO.


Given the novelty and hype of this AR madness, people are naturally drawn to brands who take the risk (or the opportunity) to include AR into their content marketing strategy. This is why AR triggers brand awareness, something many businesses fight for and with.


Augmented reality cultivates a wow-factor. It presents a new search and information-ready ecosystem to organic search professionals.


AR-impacted SEO agencies can get actionable data and deep insight into customer behavior, thus knowing how to launch more engaging and successful marketing strategies across search engines.


Augmented reality isn’t supposed to replace your existing SEO efforts, but to expand your audience and to engage them to an extent they’ve never experienced before.


Talking about the audience, Adobe recently published a survey made on AR app users to see how many fans are there. 


Mobile survey on AR app users


The numbers are in continuous growth, so this is a clear indicator of something that triggers people’s attention and makes them walk on that digital path – use it to drive them to you – as one of your communication and content means. 


3. Augmented Reality and Local SEO


Augmented reality is bridging the digital world with the real world. The rise of AR has brought an increased importance to local SEO efforts – e.g. geolocation.  


Pokemon Go is an AR-based gaming app, launched in July 2016, and works by the rules dictated by location. Pokemon Go is a location-based game. 


Pokemon Go location-based game


Search marketing and SEO gain useful informational data on the surroundings by deploying AR experiences from their customers. All they have to do is to hold up their phones, scan a section of their world and get optimised information offering anything from cafes, restrooms, ATM mapping, museum, to opening hours, discounts, and job vacancies.


What Is Local SEO?


Local SEO or local search is everything existing in a specific geographical area that is/can be searched and found online. People usually deploy local search when aiming to find some specific information, or want to make an offline transaction (and search online for ATM or bank posts). Local SEO is about the marketers’ efforts to create the perfect means for users to find their business and engage with their brand at a local level.


Local SEO is SEO to the next level. Local SEO helps businesses stand out in the SERPs and get better traction. 


In other words, local search is similar to when you look in the yellow pages offline for some kind of information, but instead, it’s conducted online. Examples: “ATM downtown Frankfurt”, “shopping center on Avenida da Boavista”. 


Technologies, devices, and concepts such as location-based, geo-targeting, geo-fences, and beacons are big names in local search and SEO.


Local Search Ranking Factors

In matters of local SEO, everything regarding location details has to be updated and accurate – otherwise, the AR user experience may fall flat. 


Local SEO makes great use of anything that is both user-generated at a local level, and locally available. It can and will work only with existent surroundings, objects, user feedback inputs, and business information. Nothing more, nothing less, whether you like it or not.


There are a series of local search factors that greatly influence your positioning in the SERPs. Augmented reality apps will use them to the very core, so mind them as they matter both for the present, and for the future.


1. Google My Business Listings: in the AR landscape you could, say, use your phone or wearable device to scan a building or a nearby area and get info on a particular business, images and all, ratings and reviews, and also competitor listings of nearby businesses. This is both compelling and engaging and the audience will be undoubtedly attracted to it. That’s why you need to keep your business details updated and as comprehensive as possible to satisfy your customers’ needs and curiosity.


2. Citations: they are local mentions of your brand name, address, or any other related information, important to augmented reality, in the view of third-party sites known as citation sources. Yelp is one such third-party citation platform that people from San Francisco, New York, L.A., Chicago, and many others often use. Yelp encourages people to share their experience and leave reviews on various types of businesses such as restaurants, shops, clubs, sports centers, beauty salons, home services, and a whole lot more. 




3. Reviews: they are a big part of local SEO and also for location-based AR apps. They are user-generated, hence 100% authentic and organic. With AR apps users will get real-time reviews on restaurants, stores, and whatever other building they would hover on with their device.


The review system is amplified with the AR technology. Businesses should now more than ever increase positive feedback so to maximize and secure sales.


Reviews have the power to influence foot traffic to your local business. But brands should for all intents and purposes first deliver impeccable services and product experience to customers, and only after that good word of mouth will be spread.


Besides, this augmented reality twist on reviews could raise awareness among business owners to implement or improve their negative customer complaint management system, as reviews of all types appear in real time and can harm their reputation.


4. Geo-targeting. Similar to roaming messages working on the geo-localization principle, imagine getting push notifications on your AR app when connected and viewing the street with a wearable device, and being informed of nearby discounts, partnering brands with the one you’re in at the moment and their services. All through engaging theatrical or motion experiences.


Yet location targeting doesn’t always imply geo-localization. It can also be deployed using the marker-based type of AR, with objects coming to life, switching from offline customer experience to online customer experience. Or intertwining them.


Local SEO, Local AR, and Content


Local AR regards virtual annotating experiences triggered by location positioning of a user with an AR app on their devices. 


Local AR needs geotagged content, something Google already owns if we think of Street View imagery and their impressive place database (Google My Business Listings is one of them, yes!). Thus, local data businesses will already be one step forward in the game as they will provide local AR apps with the info they need. A good example is Yext, a platform that puts businesses on the map with relevant details and information, such as contact details, listings, reviews, analytics, etc.


Yext screenshot


Google Earth is also an enormous place database with everything from satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings to relief in the oceans and galaxies in the outer space. Augmented reality will undoubtedly make use of this data. Humans already do it and, many times, this data is life changing. A fit example is Saroo’s search of home, where he succeeded to find his long-lost family and place of birth.



How Does SEO Benefit from the Rise of AR?


With the help of augmented reality, SEO will better serve clients’ needs and help them make decisions on anything at another level of ease. AR can provide better user experience and grant more information-rich services. Just as it does here, with a marker-based AR app for scanning cars and finding the necessary information and specifications before purchase.



By improving customer experience, your clients will find the information they need faster, take decisions easier, and make transactions at a greater speed. When playing after AR rules, local search gets a facelift. Initially, offline shopping behaviors can turn into compelling online engagements.


What Do Experts Say About Augmented Reality and SEO


Blippar, one of the biggest players in the AR industry, said that augmented reality boosts user engagement, and consequently dwell time is increased.


The augmented reality platform raised  $45 million in 2015, giving it a huge incentive to advance AR to the next level.


Ori Inbar, founder of Super Ventures, a VC company specializing in VR said: “Augmented reality is the next mobile computer, the next OS, the next social platform. The smartphone is dead; it just doesn’t know it yet”.


Tim Cook, Apple CEO, regards AR as being a huge opportunity in the digital landscape: “I regard it as a big idea like the smartphone. The smartphone is for everyone. We don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market; it’s for everyone”.


Notable entities invest heavily in the research and development of AR. Although Google Glass had a false start, Tango holds all the aces and doesn’t seem to change a bit. Facebook is building AR and VR glasses, Snapchat wins with Spectacles –  playful goggles that capture video that can be shared via Snapchat, Apple intends to incorporate AR on smartphones. Most of them invest in many AR and VR apps and tools.


Google and Augmented Reality


Google AR Activity and Worldwide Recognition


Google plays an important part in the development of AR and VR. Google noted on their blog that “we’re making investments in the core technologies that enable VR and AR, and in platforms that make them accessible to more people”.


Google is an active player in the AR business, making big moves in AR with projects such as Tango, VPS, and Google Lens. And there’s a lot at stake for them. Check the video below to better grasp what’s the whole thing with Google, AR, and search.



It is clear that Google is investing both time and money into this new digital technology and many might wonder why. At Google I/O ’17, Clay Bavor, VP of Virtual Reality at Google, wanted to make it clear and put their AR activity in a bit of a context. 



At a quick search on “Google about AR” results were pretty meaningful. The big search giant is far from being reluctant to AR.


Google about AR


Obviously, given such a rich AR and VR activity, Google got even awarded for their research and development, notably in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, they won 3rd pace for putting VR for the masses in a cardboard box, and in 2017 they won 1st place for developing a photographic memory.


Google 2016 3rd prize for AR

Google 2017 1st prize for AR


Google Glass: To Be or not to Be – That Is the Question


Google made a first step in the AR arena in 2013, when it launched Google Glass, a special goggle-like device that employed AR overlays to inform the user of various things (on which I will expand later). Eventually it ceased production in 2015 and that’s why some call it a fake start. But the idea lived on with a new gadget, Google Enterprise Edition, similar to the first edition, but addressing a special niche – the work environment.



Given that most of the SEO efforts have Google as a center target, it is important to see how and how much Google supports and partners the evolution and development of AR. Whether we like it or not, we marketers all have to play by the Google rules. Thus, it’s better to be one step forward in the game and be ready and informed on the AR boom.


Going back to our sheep, in 2013 Google launched a first Google Glass edition called the Explorer Edition. It wasn’t the final product or consumer version, but one that could be tested by users from whom to get actionable feedback. Feedback would have further helped develop the software, shape, and all of Google Glass.


Initially, the Explorer Edition included 7 functionalities:

  1.  Take pictures;
  2. Record a video;
  3. Get directions;
  4. Send a message; 
  5. Call someone;
  6. Google+ hangouts;
  7. Google.


At that moment, the list of things that it could do was rather limited, yet it targeted to be a promising paradigm tool (something like an android phone with no apps, on your face).


Although photo, video, navigation (walking, driving, biking navigation), call, message, and Google search were awesome stuff to play with on Explorer Edition, more was needed. That’s why a Google Glass Explorer community of developers formed up, with all them looking to further develop and create new apps and functionalities for this device.


Google Glass Enterprise Edition on the other hand, seems to have more success and that the odds will be in its favor. Intended for work environments, and not for the regular consumer, it addresses businesses with hands-on workers and experiences.


Tango Winning the Dance Floor


Simply put, Tango is Google’s augmented reality platform. The Tango technology is an AR scanning one and it has three functions: motion tracking, depth perception, and area learning. At Google, Tango is for AR what Daydream is for VR. Google took care of that. 


Tango has been used for both AR and VR, but primarily it’s the core technology behind Visual Positioning Service (VPS), Expeditions AR, and other AR devices.


2017 came with a promise from Google experts – that of a new AR app promised to be released this fall.  It uses Google’s Tango technology to map the physical interiors (say, a classroom) and place 3D objects in AR. 


Expeditions AR has been introduced into a special educational program supported by Google, called the Pioneer Program, where AR lessons are taught to American students inside classrooms.



Yet rumor has it that Tango is or is going to be soon left behind, as Apple ARKit gains ground both in announced product concept, and in predicted fan base. Some say that “Google’s Tango is about the future whereas Apple’s ARKit is about the present” but it’s better to let time and numbers tell the tale.


Virtual Positioning Service (VPS)


This year, Google’s I/O conference shared an important AR piece of news. Tango gets a new Visual Positioning Service (VPS) that works as a better performing, highly accurate form of GPS. 


VPS, called the new GPS, is taking the reins from where GPS stopped. It helps devices quickly and accurately understand their location indoors. GPS takes you to the location, but VPS can take you to a specific item from a store or location, namely performing indoors.


Blippar location-based AR tech is sporting some new prototype of VPS, called UVPS, that is Urban Visual Positioning System.



Not to forget about Google Lens, update helping Google use AR to its visual search purposes.


Google Supported AR Devices


Google supported the launch of two mobile phone models that support Tango and AR in general, namely partnering the Asus and Lenovo brands.


Asus ZenFone AR is the second-released phone suitable for both Tango and Daydream, granting his success over his predecessor. To exemplify what you can do with it, ZenFone allows you to scan a 3D map of your home and, while shopping for furniture, you can scan that item and place it in your home to see if it fits and suits. One way or another, ZenFone hypnotizes you with what it can do.



Facebook and Augmented Reality


Facebook announced this year at the F8 developer conference that they plan to launch a new platform for coders to build AR apps in addition to Facebook’s core service. It is open to a limited number of developers and now it’s in beta mode. There’s no date available yet as to when the product will be released.


The social network giant bets on its own AR strategy, being confident that it will shine through in an already-crowded AR market. Mark Zuckerberg says that Facebook will help people get used to AR first through their phones, and then through other devices.


Facebook is known for making research in VR and building its Oculus Rift VR headset, but not so known for AR. Yet the SERPs displayed when searching about Facebook and AR are both meaningful and surprising.


Facebook about AR


While most of the other big tech players are using AR to turn static objects into a live 3D experience, Facebook would bet money that customers need something more personal, therefore empowers the smartphone camera and makes human faces the trigger for AR experiences.


Facebook-powered apps – Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram – will all meet new camera capabilities in terms of AR. In short, Facebook left us with two things in mind: the camera is everything, and they’re poised to make AR huge.


And Facebook literally bets their money on AR, together with VR, by investing heavily in this child star tech.


Facebook investment in AR


What Is AR to Facebook?


AR is for Facebook the trigger to social communication, the social software that helps people build their relationships online.


AR could also help Facebook prevent inappropriate videos from being posted on the platform, and no longer be depending solely on humans. Facebook announced, at their big developer conference of 2017, that they plan to monitor violence on the platform and most probably they will use AR for this purpose, too.


How Facebook Plans to Bring Novelty in AR


Facebook’s platform for AR developers and projects is similar to Google’s Project Tango, only that they didn’t mention anything about 3D motion trackers or depth sensor that need to be installed on Android supported phones. They just stated their intention of turning the smartphone camera into an AR full-stack device, without the fuss of designing custom hardware or phones for their new platform.


Besides, Facebook believes the augmented reality glasses’ popularity is to fade sooner than expected.


Facebook on AR 2017


Snapchat and Augmented Reality


No doubt everybody is familiar with the annotating camera effects Snapchat uses on their app. Basically, the augmented reality effects they use on people’s faces and surroundings represent more of 50% people associate with Snapchat when somebody utters the brand’s name.


Snapchat about AR


Apart from that, they’ve successfully launched the Oculus special AR glasses in 2016 and people went crazy on it. 


In April 2017, Snapchat made an update and added world lenses for a further leap into augmented reality. Its AR capabilities can add 3D animated objects to your Snapchat messages. 



Apple and Augmented Reality


As usually, Apple comes late but steals the show by upgrading and outwitting everything their competitors have already done. Thus Apple is poised to outstrip Facebook in their AR plans, by offering a more enticing and convenient option for AR developers to make their apps available to the audience.


Apple is set to smash competition with a brand new relaxed vision on AR. Apple’s advantage in the battle is simple and clear cut: while Google Tango needs special hardware, ARKit requires developers and users to only have a recent iOS device. 


Facebook, Apple, and Google altogether on AR


Techies like to say that even though Facebook is the most powerful app in the world, it’s still just an app on Apple’s operating system. Pretty nasty, huh?


On another train of thoughts, Tim Cook let us understand that he prefers AR over VR and considers the former to be more commercially viable as people can still interact and be present among others as opposed to VR, where a screen is wrapped around your face and you immerse yourself into a brand new world and forget about the real one. 


ARToolKit is the place designed by Apple where AR advocates create, gather, and store AR applications. 


All things being said, AR will take longer to flourish to its full potential. It needs time, money, and a lot of patience and skill. 


Besides, AR comes with a high cost of production, hence the small number of brands leveraging this technology in their marketing strategies for the time being. Yet businesses work hard and publish job listings on AR developing positions to make the augmented reality dream come true. 


What the SEO Industry Should Do Next


AR Current Status and Future Follow-up


Augmented Reality enables digital material to be superimposed on any physical object. That we know. But what about what we don’t know yet?


Today AR apps can do the following: gaming and play (3D games triggered by scanned objects), media/advertising (print, TV, and product packaging), instructional (education, blue-collar industry, medicine). 


To list just a few facts about augmented reality and its current status, here are some details like number of released apps, devices, and investments in AR.


Present status of AR


AR devices don’t appeal yet to a large mass of consumers but find a home more in the work industry environment.


Besides the above-mentioned already existent AR features, the future apps of this new technology will also include visual search, navigation, and discovery, social networking.


Soon, this annotated world will walk hand in hand with SEO marketing in a way never seen before: bold innovative promotions, fresh inbound marketing campaigns, and a noteworthy updated user experience will be the small talk of the AR world.


Action Time and Mindful Steps to Take


Augmented reality aka search in an annotated world won’t wait for you. 


The AR landscape shows signs of becoming mainstream, therefore it’s important that you join the dance as soon as possible if you want to keep your business up-to-date and attractive as the marketing world faces its next massive shift.


Although your business is small you need to be ready for the AR boom; when it becomes trending and indispensable, you risk to fall flat with your marketing strategy and be left behind. Be equipped.


Overlay virtual imagery specific to your brand on the real world that both you and your customers share and live in. Seek to be a frontrunner in deploying this technology. 


“Then what should I do?”, might someone ask. We believe a first step is to be inquisitive – download AR apps, try them out, see what works and what doesn’t, and understand how it is for companies to engage with the audience through augmented reality. In addition, keep yourself up-to-date with the development in the AR industry. 


Then you should go deeper and more analytical.


Pay attention to your citation profile. Local citations are a key ranking factor in search engines. The richer, the better. It will appear in review sites, thus in the SERPs to people’s queries. These sites play an important role in Google results, thus in organic search. There are more chances for your business to be found by your targeted audience when entering queries.


Reviews are gaining ground nowadays and, being a user-generated SEO, they fit perfectly in the AR landscape. As augmented reality will keep growing, so will the influence of reviews. Imagine fresh star rating left by a customer dining at the same restaurant as you do popping up on your screen and informing you of the restaurant’s services. Wouldn’t it be useful?


Check to see if you have Google My Business Listings, and then make sure you provide a rich array of good-quality photos and updated business and contact details. This is most often the go-to point of information. It’s supported by Google, a huge supporter of the AR evolution; so secure your spot and feature relevant and updated brand info such as addresses, opening hours, phone numbers, business updates, and images.


Location, because AR literally depends on real world location, as opposed to its twin sister – virtual reality. Similar to roaming text messages that you get when entering another country, AR aims at making the audience aware of close-by deals and businesses with pop-up messages projected on real world ground and seen with an AR supported device.


If already engaging with the augmented reality technology, mind the following steps:

  1. Plan constant updates to keep your AR experience fresh and relevant;
  2. Use social media to raise awareness about your brand using AR;
  3. Create engaging AR campaigns suitable for your brand advocates;
  4. Enhance your audience’s user experience by adding AR to printed literature such as business card, banners, brochures, and leaflets.


Designing and implementing AR apps in your SEO marketing strategy means more than just having fun. You should primarily start with a clear idea of how your users are going to benefit from such technology as AR. Your business should also check an open team mindset on their to-do and must-have list. If you want to succeed with AR, you need impeccable collaboration between computer scientists, designers, developers, and marketers. A strategy for integrating this new technology into the CDJ is not an easy task, you know …



Now What?


Pokemon Go proved the world that not only VR is focused on gaming, but that also AR can do the job. And that not only VR can be fun and engaging, but AR too.


Things are moving, and they’re moving in the right direction. The Future of StoryTelling Summit and community is bringing techies, marketers, and talents together to discuss the present and future of storytelling in a world overflowing with digital inventions and once-SF now possible technologies. Once again, content is king. People and technologies along will always cherish its power and its unquestionable evergreen status. The way we interact with content and stories has gone unchanged for ages.



People want to be part of the story and message, and augmented reality grants them this wish.


So are people really going to buy the idea? Are they going to use AR apps and hold screens in front of their eyes all day long? Probably not, not even digital natives. It should make everything easier, more fun, more convenient, and not bring a plus of a burden. That is why AR is in a continuous change and development; tech giants want to make it something that is piece of cake, and a day-to-day necessity and joy. And most probably they’ll succeed. 


The post Everything You Need To Know About Augmented Reality and its Impact on SEO appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

What Can We Learn From a Boosted Facebook Post with 545 Shares?

facebook ads lessonsI’ve always been a little skeptical of Facebook ads and boosts.

Partly this is because I’ve never been very good at running them, and partly because I’ve never felt like the traffic on Facebook was as “buy ready” as Google’s.

So what happened when a boosted post of Blog Tyrant’s received over 500 shares?

Well, the results were quite mixed and, as you’ll see below, there are quite a few lessons and ideas that I wanted to write about here because I’m sure someone out there is going to be able to do something useful with the information.

I’m not sharing the number to brag, but just to show you the kind of results that can be achieved (or not achieved!) with a simple paid promotion.

Shall we?

The boosted Facebook post in question

Let’s start by taking a look at the actual Facebook post that I did which then turned into a paid boost run straight from the Facebook page and not the ads area (that’s a different thing, if this is all new to you).

Please keep in mind that Facebook is not something I’m very good at and have never focused on it too much. Here it is:

Something I’ve been focusing on a bit more lately is the idea that blogging and online business is something that more and more people are turning to as traditional job roles change and artificial intelligence and robotics make whole cities redundant. I even wrote about it over on the Jeff Goins blog.

Blogging might not be the “coolest” things anymore, but it is still extremely effective and it is a fantastic way to increase your chances of making money on the Internet and it can provide a bunch of new opportunities for businesses and families that are struggling.

With all that in mind, I’ve been trying to talk about how to start a blog properly a bit more so as to introduce people to the idea that your traditional “bricks and mortar” business isn’t the only option out there. I genuinely hope this stuff helps someone out there, and I try really hard to just write about effective strategies that could work for people.

Some lessons I learned from this Facebook boost

Now I’d like to get into some of the interesting lessons that I learned while boosting this post. Some of the things that happened were really interesting to me, and I’d love to know your thoughts.

1. A higher total budget seemed to get better results

Something that surprised me was how much better this promotion performed right away, and I think it had something to do with the higher total budget.

I’ve boosted quite a few Facebook posts before for smaller sums like $20-$50 but this one I gave $1000 or so and set it to drip out over a week. Instantly it started getting a larger reach.

Now, this is entirely a conspiracy theory and I have nothing to base it on, but I wonder whether Facebook favors promotions that have a higher budget so as to encourage you to keep doing similar promotions?

This might not be at all nefarious either, it might just be that Facebook considers boosts/ads with higher budgets to be more legitimate in the same way that Google likes older domain names.

2. I’m not sure all the shares are legitimate

The next thing I noticed was that this post was getting a lot of shares. For me, even two or three shares is pretty good as it’s not a topic that lends itself to that activity (as opposed to cats or motivational posts). But if you scroll through all of those shares you start to wonder whether all of them are legitimate. Take a look:

A lot of the accounts doing the sharing are pretty “thin” in that they don’t have a lot of other posts or information. And hardly any of those shares get any further likes or comments.

I’m sure a lot of you remember Derek Muller’s video about his experience with fake Facebook likes:

Having 500 shares on the post is good for social proof in that it shows other people that the article is not complete rubbish, but I do wonder about the origin of these sharers. Perhaps they are just secondary accounts used by people to run other campaigns?

I am not someone who thinks that Facebook does this deliberately, but I also don’t fully believe that all of those shares are legitimate either.

3. The traffic acquired was decent

One of the surprising things I learned was that the traffic acquired through the promotion was pretty decent once they had clicked through to the blog. Have a look.

facebook traffic

For example, the average time on site of over three minutes is quite good and probably means that the targeted audience matches up quite well to the content. You can also see that the bounce rate is slightly better than the average of the site.

4. Targeting audiences that are already interested works well

One thing I did was target audiences that I know are already interested in the idea of starting a blog or a website as I thought it might make it a little less difficult to convert them to the idea of subscribing or reading a long-form piece of content.

For example, one thing I tried was targeting the audiences of NPR podcasts as I know that Squarespace and other blogging platforms do a bit of advertising there. I had hoped that meant that their level of blogging education and knowledge was already quite high.

Don’t just direct target your exact keywords, think about other places on and offline where people might be encountering your topic or might be at least open to it down the track. This can lead to some better targeted promotions.

5. Managing comments rapidly is very important

Something I learned pretty quickly is that there are a lot of people out there who love to comment on paid promotions and be as critical as possible. It might be that they object to the advert, or to the content itself, but the result is some comments that you really don’t want to leave up.

These type of hateful comments used to bother me quite a lot, but these days I just err on the side of kindness and patience and try to educate the person if I can. For example, if someone expresses an opinion that blogging is a waste of time I try to show them some statistics about how it’s growing, the different forms it can take, and the new opportunities it presents different groups of people in the community.

Most of the time these types of friendly replies (feel free to be too friendly!) end up creating a new dialogue with the person or, alternatively, they just end up deleting the comment they made because the reply is so comprehensive.

Can we take Facebook ads to the next level?

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be be spending a bit more time and money running different Facebook promotions to see if I can improve the results more consistently.

Glen wrote a post on using Facebook ads a few years ago and it’s still a pretty good starting point which I’ll be using as a basis.

Specifically I’m going to be look at:

  • Split testing multiple photos/images
    Do photos of actual people convert better than images and graphics of people (like our Blog Tyrant character)?
  • Comparing colors
    Does a red image like the one above perform better than a black one? I’m curious to know how much color impacts on clicks and then conversions.
  • Lowering and increasing CPC dramatically
    How low can we get the cost per click down to before the traffic starts to be poor or the campaign just stops running? And does higher CPC always result in better traffic?
  • Budget size and effectiveness
    Does a lower budget have a less successful campaign even if the daily spend limit is the same?
  • Changing the timing of promotions
    For example, I was thinking about running an ad set right when an episode of This American Life comes out and targeting just their listeners (assuming they have a relevant sponsor).
  • Use different forms of tracking
    One of the things I want to really get in to is some different methods of tracking pixels and conversions using Facebook’s software but also some other programs that give you some very interesting data about what is working.

Please let me know if there is anything else you would like me to test and I will do my best to write it up in a post that will hopefully be relevant to bloggers in any niche.

Have you experimented with Facebook boosts?

Have you ever had any luck boosting posts or using Facebook ads more specifically? I’d really love to know what has worked for you or, alternatively, if you’ve ever had any strange experiences that you couldn’t figure out.

Leave a comment and let us know.

How to Measure the Success of Your SEO Efforts

SEO, like business and life, is all about constant improvement – and improvement is only possible when something can be measured.


Measuring SEO, however, is often easier said than done.


There is a staggering number of components and variables in the SEO efforts and several metrics are needed to gauge success. The complexity can be challenging, and it takes true grit to master the art and science of measuring SEO. Yet, the prize is worth it. 


How to Measure the Success of your SEO Efforts


Those who go the distance will win the best SERP rankings and gain a much-deserved competitive edge. If you want to succeed in today’s competitive digital landscape, you must make a commitment to be better at SEO than your competitors.


  1. The SEO-Measurement Struggle Is Real
  2. Patience Is an SEO Virtue
  3. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for SEO Success
  4. Organic Search Traffic
  5. Keyword Rankings
  6. Social Shares
  7. Conversion Rate from Organic Search Traffic
  8. Backlink Volume
  9. Organic Click-Through Rate
  10. The Mountain Is High, but the Victory Is Sweet

The SEO-Measurement Struggle Is Real


Why is SEO success so hard to measure? For starters, SEO practitioners are bombarded with a huge amount of data to analyze. With so much data, it’s often difficult to reach cut-and-dry conclusions.


Data needs to be prioritized into information that’s important for your particular website. No two businesses have the exact same strategies, goals and objectives – and neither do any two websites.


The SEO data that’s important for one website may not be so important for another.


Data also needs to be “reportable”, so you can clearly explain it to managers and clients. If things get overly confusing, decision makers start getting frustrated with SEO practitioners.


Because the data can become so overwhelming, smart marketers use SEO dashboards that lay everything out into one easily-digestible view. A dashboard isn’t a cure-all, but it can make the SEO practitioner’s life much easier. Check out Cyfe’s SEO dashboard guide and cognitiveSEO’s tool for more info.


The struggle doesn’t end there, and the sheer volume of data isn’t the only challenge faced by SEO practitioners.


Another difficulty is that Google has developed a huge number of factors that go into the ranking process. The challenge is the fact that Google isn’t so quick to reveal what all these components even are. Yes, many of the biggest ranking factors are well known in the SEO industry. But there’s still so much that’s kept mysterious.



Also, SEO involves a diverse mix of several talents. Not only are logic and technical abilities needed to analyze SEO, but a large degree of creativity and problem-solving prowess are also necessary. Moreover, SEO is a multi-team effort. It often requires input from branding teams, marketing, web development, content specialists, and more.


But certainly, one of the most challenging aspects of implementing and measuring SEO is the fact that Google changes its algorithms constantly. The strategies and measurements we undertake today might very well have to be tweaked and adjusted tomorrow. In the world of SEO, experience and expertise is crucial.


Patience Is an SEO Virtue


With all the complexity involved in SEO, it’s no wonder why inexperienced practitioners get overwhelmed almost immediately. Many in the industry want fast results so they can know on the spot whether they’re on the right track. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to get used to measuring SEO over time, with patience and an understanding of how long things can actually take.


Monitoring SEO success is a marathon rather than a sprint.


Why? First, it’s important to note that it sometimes takes months for search engines to update their results pages. And even when they are updated, improvements in rank usually don’t happen simultaneously across all keywords you’re targeting.


Further, smart SEO practitioners aren’t merely measuring their clients’ online performance. They also need to keep track of the performance, ebb and flow of their competitors’ SEO. Like an astronomer monitoring the movements and activities of celestial bodies, the SEO professional studies numerous time-consuming processes that simply can’t be rushed.


How does one measure something as intricate and ever-changing as SEO? It all starts with KPIs.


Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for SEO Success


In measuring SEO efforts, one often gets a dramatic sense of just how much data there is to work with. It’s sometimes difficult to reach cut-and-dry conclusions and give simple, direct reports to clients or management. The solution is to know which key performance indicators (KPIs) to use, and to tie the KPIs to the objectives of the client or business.


KPIs are the metrics and measurements you use to determine whether your business activities (SEO activities in this case) are successful.


It’s important to tie your KPIs to specific marketing goals. Your company or client has hopefully created a digital marketing plan that spells out some solid marketing objectives. These are the objectives you want to connect your KPIs to so you can accurately determine whether your SEO efforts are successful.


Whether the objective is to gain awareness for a new product, build a stronger brand or gain new leads for your client, you should know what business objective each SEO effort is striving to achieve.


Here are six important key performance indicators to effectively measure SEO success.


Organic Search Traffic


This is a useful KPI to measure for companies aiming to acquire new customers or leads. Organic search traffic refers to website visits that originated from search engine results and not through ads. Organic search results are displayed because they are relevant to search terms, not simply because an ad was purchased and placed in the search results.


not organic traffic

organic traffic


A related term, organic SEO, refers to the strategies used to help websites earn natural, high placements on search pages.


Benefits: Organic search traffic is a highly effective indicator of overall SEO success. When a website’s content includes keywords that frequently match what users are searching for, that website is likely to appear in a larger number of search engine results pages (SERPs) than competing websites.


With organic search traffic (as opposed to paid advertising,) searchers will find a website more consistently, and they’re more likely to stay on the website longer once they find it.


Challenges: Among the biggest challenges with organic search efforts is the frustration that Google (as well as other search engines) constantly changes its algorithms. When updates happen unexpectedly, SEO efforts can be directly affected without warning. In your analytics, observing sudden setbacks in performance may indicate such changes.


How to measure: Using Google Analytics, open the Acquisition menu. From there, select All Traffic, then select Channels.

google analytics

You’ll now be presented with a view of a website’s sources of traffic, which are sorted by channel. Select the Organic Search channel for a useful report that displays a site’s organic traffic stats.


This report is a versatile one. It gives SEO practitioners the ability to uncover critical information such as:


  • Which landing pages are the most effective at attracting traffic
  • Which keywords are delivering the highest amounts of traffic
  • Which of the search engines are directing the highest amount of organic traffic to a website
  • What pages are frequently the biggest exit pages (or the last page a visitor views before leaving the website)
  • And many other vital stats


Best Practices: Because of frequent changes to search engine algorithms (up to 600 changes per year for Google,) an SEO practitioner must be vigilant at all times. An important best practice is to anticipate such changes and have a keen awareness of them when using this KPI.


Keyword Rankings


Keyword Ranking is how well or how poorly a website ranks in SERPs for a given search term. Measuring this KPI is effective for determining, among other things, a company’s ability to build brand awareness. The lower the keyword rank, the better. Ranking on page one – or even better, the first result on page one – has traditionally been the highest goal.


Benefits: The strategy of analyzing your keyword rankings over time can help you determine (and improve) how effective your website is at pulling in organic web traffic.


The best results are achieved by tracking this KPI continually. When keyword ranking is checked on a regular basis, you’re able to diagnose problems early on. The goal is to quickly notice things like steady declines in ranking over a period of a few weeks. If you’re paying close attention over the long haul, fewer problems will sneak up on you.


Challenges: Many factors influence keyword ranking. For any given keyword, results on Google’s page one often look different from user to user.


Google results displayed on mobile devices can be different from results shown on a computer. Results can also vary based on the searcher’s location. Further, personalization (based on a user’s past behavior) can alter what is seen on page one. For example, a website might rank higher in a searcher’s results if that user has already visited that site frequently.


How to measure: Google analytics isn’t as helpful as some SEO practitioners would like it to be as far as tracking keyword rankings. Its keyword tab (within the campaign tab) often displays the phrase “not provided.”


Instead of Google analytics, consider the rank tracker provided by cognitiveSEO. One of its advantages is that it allows SEO practitioners to track keywords at a universal level as well as at a local level. It also allows you to analyze the keyword performance of competitors.


cognitiveSEO Rank Tracking


Best Practices: While keyword rankings can help you see the positive (or not so positive) results of your SEO activities, this KPI isn’t good at explaining why your strategies are working or not. Therefore, it’s very important to use this KPI simultaneously with other metrics.


Social Shares


Social shares can be defined simply as the sharing of your content by social media users. While it’s generally thought that Google does not take social signals and shares into consideration when ranking SERP results, social shares are still very important to your SEO efforts.


Benefits: Tracking your social shares is beneficial because of the important impact social media plays in SEO strategies. As more people share your content with their followers, the higher the chances that more people will view it and ultimately migrate over to your website. More visits to your website means a boost in organic search ranking.


Social sharing also boosts the likelihood that blogs and websites will link to your content – which, as I’ll soon discuss, is highly beneficial to your SEO efforts.


Further, social media profiles are indexable by search engines. Social posts with good rankings often have a significant number of social shares. Tweets and Facebook posts are handled as web pages, which is why a company’s social accounts often show up in SERPs along with the company website.


The SEO advantage here is that when a company’s social media profiles take important real estate in top positions of a SERP, that’s less space a competitor can occupy.


Challenges: While it’s true that social media profiles are indexable, it can be frustrating for some SEO practitioners to discover that not all indexable social-media pages actually get indexed. Because of the sheer number of tweets and other social content, Google can’t index all of it.


How to measure: Using Google Analytics, open the Acquisition menu. From there, select All Traffic, then select Channels. You’ll now be presented with a view of a website’s sources of traffic, which are sorted by channel. You’ll be able to view the sources of Search, Social, Direct, Referral, Email, Paid search, and “Other.”


Also, here’s a good resource from Yoast that guides you toward tracking social shares by adding social buttons to your site.


Best Practices: When monitoring this KPI, watch for any inaccurate geographic or business information on any of your profiles. Mismatched address information, phone numbers, websites, etc. could potentially lower your ranking on SERPs.


Another important point to keep in mind as you’re monitoring your social shares is that many users share content without even reading or viewing it first. To gain visitors and traffic to your website, observe which kinds of posts actually get users to click the content along with sharing it.


Conversion Rate from Organic Search Traffic


Companies striving for higher sales should measure conversion rates from organic traffic. A “conversion” happens when a website visitor has been converted into a sale or a lead. “Conversion rate” is the number of visitors who have completed the action or goal you’re aiming for. The goal might be for visitors to make a purchase (if you run an ecommerce site,) or to sign up for a newsletter or opt in to an email list.


Conversion rate is expressed as a percentage. If 5 visitors out of 100 were to do what a business (or individual) wants them to do, the conversion rate would be 5%.


It’s also important to note that a “lead” can mean several things. It can be a sales qualified lead, a marketing qualified lead, or simply any person who has expressed interest by identifying themselves through a web form.


Benefits: Organic traffic generated from inbound marketing is known for producing higher conversion rates than outbound marketing (such as paid ads). Conversion rates from organic traffic are therefore a very effective KPI for gauging the success of your SEO strategies.


Challenges: A high conversion rate is a reflection of good CRO (conversion rate optimization) practices. When measuring this key performance indicator, keep in mind that SEO and CRO professionals have traditionally conflicted when working on the same project.


CRO practitioners tend to be concerned that SEO efforts might affect their work and decrease conversion rates. Conversely, SEO practitioners sometimes worry that CRO pros will negatively affect their traffic-generating web pages.


For both sides of this marketing coin the solution is  to look at goals together and work side by side along the same path. The reality is that there’s no conflict between SEO and CRO when they work together for a common goal.


How to measure: Google analytics will help you measure conversion rates from organic search traffic. The first step is to establish conversion goals in Google analytics.


  1. Log in to Google Analytics
  2. Select Admin
  3. In the third column (View), select Goals
  4. Select “+ NEW GOAL


Goals Google Analytics 1

new goal google analytics


Next, give your goal a name, and mark the choice for Destination to choose a web page.


goal description google analytics


Input the URL your visitors will land on after they complete the goal – such as a confirmation page displayed after making a purchase, or a thank-you page.


Then, if you know a dollar amount for a goal value, add that as well. You’ll now be ready to track your conversions.


destination google analytics


Best Practices: Be as specific as you can when setting conversion goals. You’ll want to track the user journey from beginning to end. It helps know your micro and macro goals. A micro goal could be when a visitor lands on a specifications page for a product. The macro goal would be going on further to purchase the product.


Once you know your micro and macro goals, you can track them in Google Analytics’ Goal Completions. You’ll then have insight on whether your website’s functionality and design are effectively facilitating your visitors’ journey all the way up to goal completion.



Backlink Volume


Useful for measuring the authority and popularity of your website, backlinks (often referred to as inbound links) are links to your website that originate from someone else’s website. Backlinks to your site can also originate from other pages on your own site.


The strategy of acquiring backlinks is important because Google’s algorithm looks at link volume to judge the importance of a website. If your site has a larger number of relevant backlinks than what your competitors have, Google will rank your site higher.


The philosophy behind this is that if a multitude of other websites are referring to your site through backlinks, then the content on your site must be useful and important. And if your site is so useful to web searchers, that’s a signal to Google to give it priority on SERPs.


The key to measuring this KPI is to track your website’s backlink volume (number of backlinks) and compare it to your competitors’ backlink volume.


Benefits: Measuring this performance indicator will go a long way in helping you rank higher. By tracking it, you’ll always know where you stand with what some in the SEO industry view as the most important ranking factor used by Google. When you know whether you’re succeeding with your backlinks, you know how much you need to improve by.


There are several strategies that can be used to acquire more backlinks – including efforts such as nurturing online relationships, blogging, guest blogging, listing your site in directories, and other tactics.


The bottom line is that when you track your backlinks, you’ll know how much work is needed and which link-building strategies to employ.


Challenges: One challenging aspect of the KPI and strategy of backlinks is that the links need to be relevant to your website. For example, backlinks from a pet supplies website wouldn’t be very relevant when linked to a car manufacturer’s website.


Also, to be effective, an SEO professional can’t merely count relevant backlinks and call it good. Backlinks should come from websites that are themselves frequently linked to. Why?


Websites have varying amounts of “link juice.” This is a term casually used in the SEO industry to refer to a website’s backlink volume and the age of the site (a long history on the web is important to Google.) A website that gives backlinks to your site passes some of its link juice onto your site. Backlinks from websites with higher link juice are more valuable to your site than links from low link-juice sites.


How to measure: Using Google Analytics, open the Acquisition menu. From there, select All Traffic, then select Referrals. You can now look at your referral traffic, which is Google’s way of saying “backlinks.”


referrals googla analytics


Also, for a comprehensive backlink analysis tool, cognitiveSEO aggregates backlink data from trusted link databases and analyzes the links on demand for each of their clients.


Best Practices: As with other KPIs, it’s very important to track your backlink volume consistently, over time. Be aware of how many new backlinks you’re gaining week by week, and compare this to how many links your competitors are gaining.


Organic Click-Through Rate


While many marketers think of click-through rates (CTRs) as being tied to pay-per-click (PPC) ads, click-through rates are also very useful in the organic search realm. Organic click-through rate is a good KPI to measure the quality of your website. If web searches like what they see, they’ll dig deeper into your site.


A CTR is a straightforward metric: It’s the number of times a search result gets clicked, divided by how many views (or impressions) the search result has received.


Benefits: This KPI is useful because it helps you determine and demonstrate exactly how effective your search engine listings are at attracting clicks. After all, no matter how high your web site is ranking on Google, it won’t be of any value unless visitors are clicking it.


Challenges: One limitation of this KPI is that organic CTRs don’t tell you anything about the quality of the clicks your listings are receiving. Are you getting clicks from visitors who have no intent to make a purchase? Are you a local business who’s receiving clicks from people outside of your city (or even outside your country?)


Also, CTRs often fluctuate when universal results alter the position of your listings.


A decrease in your CTR might very well be caused by news results or featured snippets that come and go over time.


Another challenge is that CTR can also be affected by the devices used by visitors. Because SERPs aren’t exactly the same on mobile devices as they are on computers, click-through rates sometimes vary between them. While web searchers using mobile will often scroll through to the bottom of page one, they typically don’t view page-two results.

How to Measure: In the Google Search Console, select Search Traffic, and then Search Analytics. Next, choose the options to display clicks, impressions, position. You’ll then want to download this data, open it in Excel, and group all keywords by rank.


Calculating the average CTR of a rank is pretty straightforward. Simply add the clicks for each position. Next, divide the total by the number of impressions. You’ll now have your website’s general CTR curve.


Best Practices: Organic click-through rate should be measured along side of other analytics. Your Conversion Rate from Organic Search Traffic is a good KPI to monitor along with your organic CTR.


The Mountain Is High, but the Victory Is Sweet


If you’re out of breath after reading this post (or worse yet, discouraged,) don’t be overwhelmed! Take heart, force a smile, and accept the fact that victory never comes easy. Success and competitiveness are for those who are willing to work harder and get their hands dirtier. The bottom line here is that you can do this, and it will be worth it.


The keys to good SEO measurement are patience, dedication, and the ability to adapt to change. So get ready for the marathon, and keep your eye on the prize: measurable successes and a steep competitive edge.


About the Author 


Sagi is an online marketing expert and the head of SEO at InboundJunction, a premium content marketing agency based in Israel. With his technical and creative abilities, Sagi is constantly looking for the latest SEO trends and tools to formulate a winning search strategy. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

The post How to Measure the Success of Your SEO Efforts appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

Chatbot Marketing: Is It the Strategy of the Future ?

There’s a big hype going on about chatbots. If you’ve heard of them but aren’t quite sure what exactly they are or how they work, you’re in the right place.


This article will explain what chatbots are and how they can help you take your digital marketing to the next level. I’m not using “to the next level” as an idiom, because chatbot marketing might just be the next big thing. It has the potential to revolutionize the marketing world!


Is Chatbot Marketing the future


Chatbots can improve and benefit your marketing and sales in many ways.  They apply to support requests, e-commerce and even personal or informational websites. You can find some of the best techniques in this article.

In a nutshell, Chatbot Marketing is about promoting products and services using chatbots.

Stick with me and below I’ll show you exactly how you can set up your own chatbot, and how you can put it to good work plus many more. 


  1. What Is a Chatbot and How Does It Work ?
  2. Why Chatbots Are the Future of Digital Marketing
  3. Best Uses of Chatbots
    1. Personal virtual assistant
    2. Get Traffic & Grow Audience
    3. Buld e-mail list
    4. E-commerce & Conversational Commerce
    5. Customer Support
  4. How to Set up Your Own ChatBot
  5. Possible Concerns and Problems
    1. Trolls and Consumer Interest
    2. Spam & Malicious Intent
    3. Employers vs. Employees
  6. Can ChatBot Marketing Improve SEO?

1. What Is a Chatbot and How Does It Work ? 


Chatbots are complex computer software designed to chat with persons and perform different actions, from simple conversation to customer support and e-commerce.


A chatbot is short for “chat robot”. We think of robots as machines, but ‘robot’ actually means ‘forced labor’.


chatbots can work for you



Chatbots can even talk between them, but most of the time they chat with humans and try to imitate real persons. Designers focus on passing the Turing Test with their bots. A bot passes the Turing Test when humans think they’re actually talking to another human.


The most popular online chatbots developed so far are mostly for fun. You can have basic conversations with them, but you will get bored pretty fast. Some will even perform a few basic tasks, such as searching the web for you and displaying images.


Some good examples of popular chatbots are Mitsuku and Cleverbot.


Popular chatbots


If you talk long enough to CleverBot, you will figure out that sometimes it’s not as clever as you’d expect. It’s rather arrogant, acting like that guy who thinks he knows everything. Don’t get me wrong, though. CleverBot is an incredible piece of software, and it’s one of the top in its niche. 


The basis for each chatbot program is the database. The database can be filled upfront with information. The larger and more detailed the database, the greater the knowledge base. When you ask a question, you basically send a request to the database. The bot then pulls out an answer and displays it.


Doesn’t sound too fancy, does it?


Well, hear this out:


Developers keep creating more sophisticated software, equipped with algorithms called recognition patterns. These programs first store new questions and answers into the database. Then, they make connections between them and develop new answers. 


Mitsuku and CleverBot learn from new questions and answers. They keep improving as they chat.


Here’s a short conversation with Mitsuku:


mitsukubot answer


Now it’s CleverBot’s turn:


CleverBot Chatbot Conversation


Well, it doesn’t seem very CleverBot, does it?


CleverBot then started asking me random questions, in its selfish journey to absolute knowledge and world dominance.




If you keep talking to the bots for little while, you realize pretty quickly that they’re not real persons. Nowadays, chatbots have gotten really advanced, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.


Some have claimed that their AI chatbots have passed the Turing Test, but that’s not actually true. Chatbots are still far away from becoming true artificial intelligence.


A chatbot can pass the Turing Test by fooling people that it’s a real person. But that’s not very helpful. 


Rollo Carpenter (the developer of CleverBot) stated that Turing tests only prove a machine can “imitate” human intelligence rather than actually show it.


Or, how Hamza puts it…



In the next section, you’ll discover why chatbots are becoming more popular and why companies started investing in them.


2. Why Chatbots Are the Future of Digital Marketing


In case you don’t believe me that chatbots are a big trend now in 2017, here is what Google Trends has to say: 


Why are chatbots popular

The term had a big but very short trend somewhere between 2006 and 2007. This happened when the first chatbots appeared on the web.  Although cool at first, since they were not helpful in any way, people lost interest fast.


But the bots built today come in many ways and forms, and are useful for a very wide range of purposes.


In 2015, Baidu, China’s biggest search engine, introduced an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot to solve the healthcare crisis. Melody, the medical assistant, can chat with people at home to help diagnose possible illnesses.


Another helpful chatbot is Poncho. Poncho is a cute bot, designed as a cat. It sends daily weather forecasts in a friendly and funny way.


Poncho Weather Chatbot


As you can see above, Poncho does a great job at being fun and useful at the same time.


Abhimanyu Godara, founder of said that chatbots will fix the app clutter, as many apps can be replaced. He also said that soon, everyone will have their own chatbot.

Marketing is shifting from logos to faces, from brands to people. The chatbot talks to you, and the process becomes a lot more interactive, creating engagement.
Abhimanyu Godara Bottr Abhimanyu Godara
CEO at / @abh1manyu


Abhimanyu is definitely right:


You can see the personal brand business model become more and more popular (especially in the digital marketing industry). People like Gary Vaynerchuk, Neil Patel and Brian Dean and many others promote and use this model. Even Richard Branson is using his personal brand to promote his businesses.


Big brands will still be in the game, though. But every business will also have its own chatbot.


Here’s why:


Messaging apps are growing really fast. Faster than social media itself!


chat apps vs social media

Business Insider


If they become the #1 way people talk to each other, businesses will have to find a way to engage with their customers there.


Mobile search is growing, and Google is testing the mobile first indexing. This tells us that people will use the messenger apps even more. Chatbots apply best to people using mobile devices.


One way would be setting up customer support departments. That is not cost effective, and many businesses won’t do it.


The other way, is having a chatbot.


This will make small businesses a lot more competitive, especially in the digital industry. With the help of well set up bots, small teams will be able to manage a significantly higher amount of clients.


Even if it sounds crazy, chatbots might even challenge apps and websites! An app requires space, it has to be downloaded. Websites take time to load and most of them are pretty slow. A bot works instantly. You type something, it replies. Another great thing about them is that they bypass user interface and completely change how customers interact with your business. People will navigate your content by using their natural language.



But don’t get too hyped yet! Chatbots are still far from becoming a standard.


Ilan Kasan, CEO at said in January 2017 that the chatbot technology is going through the Gartner’ Hype Cycle. Back then, it was standing on the Peak of Inflated Expectations. Right now, it started to fall in the Trough of Disillusionment.


Gartner Hype Cycle


The Gartner Hype Cycle is a timeline of how new technologies appear on the market. This applies to most things in the IT field.


As Ilan said it…

Get ready for the Trough of Disillusion … it’s coming soon. With it, many chatbot companies will vanish. Eventually, as the technology improves and the market understand the best use cases for chatbots, winners will emerge.
Ilan Kasan Ilan Kasan
CEO @ilankasan /


My research kind of proves Ilan’s theory.


I’ve contacted some people who use chatbots directly on their website. So far, their results were either mixed or missing altogether.

The experience is still confusing so even if people are trying it, it’s telling from their messages that they aren’t sure what the chatbot does or how it works.
seobrien Paul O’Brien
Blogger at / @seobrien


Here’s another response:



Now that was… Harsh.


On the other hand, on platforms like Facebook Messenger, the read rates can get extremely high. Matthew Barby, Head of SEO at Hubspot tells us about his experience:

It’s still early days and I have a lot more experiments ongoing within Messenger in particular, but I’ve seen read rates of my push messages of over 90% – which is insane!
matthew barby Matthew Barby
Blogger at / @matthewbarby


Still, even with all the current problems, setting up a bot can kickstart your site’s growth.


Sujan Patel, a renowned expert in growth hacking, has been talking about chatbot marketing as a growth technique for a while.

Chatbots can definitely be a growth tactic as it could help increase leads, start conversions/engage with potential customers and get feedback.
SujanPatelChatbotExpert SUJAN PATEL
Blogger at / @sujanpatel


Although people are barely scratching the surface of chatbots potential, it’s still a good idea to get started with them. Learning the technology now can gain you an advantage over the competition in the future. These types of software are prone to becoming popular in the days to come.


Let’s take a look at some of the best use cases for chatbot marketing.


3. Best Uses of Chatbots for Marketing


Chatbots can pretty much apply to anything, depending on how advanced they are. I already gave a few examples above, and you might have already figured out new ones by yourself. Here are some areas where they could best perform.


3.1 Personal Virtual Assistant


A virtual personal assistant can help you save a lot of time. Whenever you’re away, the bot will reply in your place. The better you set it up, the better it can give replies.


Nathan Hague, an awesome Australian marketer, uses one on his personal website. After a few seconds and scrolls on the website, the invitation to chat with it will pop up. The bot is an essential aspect of Nathan’s social media strategy.


Nathan Hague Chatbot


Clicking on the “Send to messenger” button will take you to Facebook messenger, where the bot takes action.


His bot is very well built and has an awesome vibe. You can see that Nathan did his best to showcase his personality through his bot.


Nathan Hague Messenger Chatbot


On his page, Nathan uses the bot to let people know he will respond. And he does! (Thanks, man!)


Paul O’Brien took a more complicated approach. He tries to replicate himself altogether, using a bot on his website.


I’m seeking a virtual assistant clone of myself. Have looked into a good number of bots and have yet to find anything that works. Bottr plus Replika might come close.
seobrien Paul O’Brien
Blogger at / @seobrien


On Paul’s blog, in the bottom right corner, you can notice what looks like a live chat icon. What catches your attention is Paul’s face in the icon.


Paul O'Brien's Chatbot


The bot still has a very long wait until it will be able to replace Paul completely. Still, you can pick from a set of questions and find more about Paul and his work. The answers are usually articles he has written on his blog or other websites. If the bot can’t answer something, it will put you in contact with Paul directly.


Having a personal virtual assistant can help you save time and get people engaged with your content. 


3.2 Get Traffic to Your Site and Grow Your Audience


Chatbots can help you send fans from social media directly to your website. You can definitely include them in your content marketing strategy.


Here’s an example from the WholeFoods Market, the company Amazon is planning on buying:


WholeFoodsMarket Chatbot 


On their Facebook bot, they engage with their audience by showing them interesting recipes. Before that, they narrow the posts down by the user’s preference.


Subscribing users to your bot can help you bypass the reach algorithms and all the other clutters on social media. While others will deliver posts in the news feed, you can send them directly into the users inbox. That’s where they chat with their friends, so you know they will see your message.


Remember, by engaging with your fans directly through their inboxes, you can get read rates of up to 90% of your subscribed users.


News publishers have been using this method in their content marketing strategy for a while:


CNN Chatbot


3.3 Build an E-mail List


The Facebook bot subscription works like an e-mail list. You can actually build an e-mail list with chatbots.


Nathan Hague recommends setting up  a bot to record any contact information the user may provide. This is a more complex action and requires a custom bot to be build by a team of developers.


My very strong suggestion though, is to use the Facebook bot more and more instead of email marketing! Remember, you’re renting your presence on Facebook and it can be taken away from you at any time! Keep building your email list in case something ever goes wrong. 

Nathan Hague Nathan Hague
Blogger at / @australiawow


Still, he says that the upgrade from e-mail open rates of 10%-20% to Facebook messenger open rates of 90% is invaluable.


Try to use Messenger instead of E-mails, but keep building your e-mail list as a backup in case your Facebook profile/page ever gets banned.


3.4 E-commerce & Conversational Commerce


Buying products online can be really frustrating sometimes. You have to click a lot, look through many pages, compare and decide.


On a messaging platform, e-commerce becomes conversational commerce. Think of this like shopping in a small physical store, where you ask the owner what you’re looking for and he shows you the products.


Many companies are doing this. Here’s an example from Kayak, the travel search engine:



Some travel bots can even book your flight or your hotel room. Pizza Hut also uses a similar technique for their orders.


With a bot you can also classify prospects. It’s very easy to sort out consumer preferences. This also applies to all fields, from age, gender and location to interests and hobbies.


Fashion brands use this strategy to study new trends and learn about what their clients want.


Here’s an example from American Eagle:



Here’s another one from H&M, on Kik.


h&m chatbot


After you tell the bot your style, it sends you different outfits you might like. You can save them to favorites, skip them or select a specific product and buy it.


h&m sales bot


Unfortunately, I couldn’t purchase directly through the messaging app. Every time, the bot sent me to a website to make the final purchase. This is probably happening because I don’t live in the USA. Facebook Messenger payments are available in the USA since 2015, so we know it’s possible.


After a purchase is made, you can even set up the bot to follow-up and ask the user for feedback.


3.5 Customer Support


Customer support is the area where chatbots apply best. That’s because people today expect instant responses, and companies fail to deliver.


Just think about it:


When you shop online and have a question, or use a service and have some issues, don’t you prefer live chat over e-mail? E-mail takes time, live chat can solve the problem on the spot.



Chatbots can reply instantly to any questions. The waiting time is ‘virtually’ 0 (see what I did there?). Even if a real person eventually shows up to fix the issues, the customer gets engaged in the conversation, which can help you build trust. The problem could be better diagnosed, and the chatbot could perform some routine checks with the user. This saves up time for both the customer and the support agent. That’s a lot better than just recklessly waiting for a representative to arrive.


So far, support bots can’t actually fix problems seamlessly.


1-800-Flowers uses a mix of bot and human interaction. First, the chatbot is used to enable users in the conversation, then the real representative solves the issue.


1-800-Flowers Customer Support Bot


Twitter also has a support bot up and running. It’s a great way to learn about Twitter if you’re just starting out.


twitter chatbot support


You can only talk to it by tapping the buttons, so you aren’t really chatting with it. Playing with it, I can say it’s more like a FAQ database and  knowledge base.


Twitter Support


Big brands and businesses are already using this technology to reduce waiting time, and are even taking it to the next level. Enterprise chatbots for support might be expensive, but the investment is minimal compared to a whole support staff.


A friend of mine told me about an experience he had when calling a bank to solve an issue. He said that only by the time he ended the call did he realize he was actually talking to a robot.


There are many other ways you can use chatbots to improve your online marketing campaigns, but the ones listed above are the most popular and feasible. You can find many other ideas out there, from consumer analysis to personalized ads.


Let’s get to the golden part: setting up your own bot.


4. How to Set up Your Own ChatBot


One of the most popular and easy ways to set up chatbots out there is ManyChat. On their homepage you can get started for free.


You have to login with Facebook and the app will also ask you to assign a Facebook Page to it.


ManyChat Easy to setup


To create automated conversations, use the left menu in the Dashboard. Go to Automation -> Keywords, then simply click + New Rule:


manychat automation


Then, you can set up a keyword. If the user types that keyword to the bot, it will respond with the answer you set up. To set up an answer click on Create New Reply.


You can either set up a simple text message, or add Buttons from which the user can select.


Using Buttons is cool because you can select the type of content/action you want the bot to answer with (text, website or phone number).


Tapping an answer is also a lot faster, yet typing the answer instead of tapping won’t work.


type of content


You can keep adding buttons to new answers to create patterns. You can also insert galleries, audio files, images and other interesting things.


To add the chatbot to your website, go to Growth Tools:


Add ManyChat to Site


You will then have to Authorize the site and Install the ManyChat Snippet by going to the Setup section:


manychat snippet


First, add your site’s URL here:


add manychat to site


Then, copy and paste this code into the Head section of your website.


manychat code


Another great tool to use, which works directly on your website, is


Unlike ManyChat, Bottr is not a Facebook messenger chatbot. It works directly on your website, so people won’t have to leave. Users interact with it similarly as with a live chat. It features easy access by placing an icon with your profile picture at the bottom of your site, just like on Paul O’Brien’s website mentioned above.


Setting it up is really easy.


First you have to register your account. Then, your bot will be prepared.


Once it’s ready, you can chat with it yourself, to see how it works.


How to set up your own chatbot


The team at Bottr is developing artificial intelligence technology. By connecting more social media accounts to it, the bot learns about you.


Artificial Intelligence Chatbot


It then uses the information to create new question suggestions and answers. For example, only from my Facebook and Twitter, the bot already knows I like Japanese cars. It also added an artist that was featured in a song I frequently listen to.


Artificial Intelligence Bot


From the chat dashboard, you can very easily add or remove questions. Then, to change them, simply trigger them in the chat, and click to edit. Select the type of content you want to be displayed and click Save. You can add text, images, links and create carousels.


Chatbot AI


If the chatbot doesn’t know how to answer a question, it will ask the user to contact you.


ChatBot Marketing AI


If you are online, you will be able to answer him right away. If not, Bottr will notify you by e-mail. You can easily type the answer. It will be recorded into the database for further questions.


Direct/Unanswered messages can also be viewed and edited in the Bottr Dashboard:


Set up you chatbot


To add the bot to your website, click the share button top right. You also have a chatbot analytics button near it. You can view stats about your bot’s performance.


Add a chatbot to website


And that’s about it. The more time you spend on building the chatbot, the better the customer experience will be.


For enterprise chatbots with custom features you will need a team of developers. You can also build it yourself, but the work volume required is bigger. Here’s a list of chatbot building platforms.



5. Possible Concerns and Problems


ai joke


Don’t worry, that scenario is highly improbable. Or is it ?


5.1 Trolls and Consumer Interest


Microsoft and Twitter launched an A.I. powered bot on Twitter, called Tay. It’s a very good example of a highly advanced chatbot. However, things escalated quickly. After only the first day, it was shut down.




Tay’s answers were based on a mix of reactions from all the people tweeting it. Some people started trolling, sending racist messages. Tay eventually reused some of those answers in its tweets.


The adult industry also stimulated a lot of demand in this field. Most of the online searches about chatbots revolve around … Yep! You’ve guessed it: sex. As Matthew Barby said in his article: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”


5.2 Spam & Malicious Intent


Spam is similar to cancer, as it expands in every marketing channel possible, as soon as it’s popular.


50 years ago, you would wait weeks for a letter. Now your mailbox is full of commercial stickers. 10 years ago, receiving an e-mail was celebrated. Today, your inbox is full of spam.


Soon, brands will start using mobile messages as a marketing channel.


Some of them already do!


I quit smoking almost 4 years ago and still receive the promotional messages from the brands I gave my information to in different campaigns.


What’s really bad about SMS is that sometimes it’s hard to unsubscribe. There’s no number to call, only a random 4 digit number. There’s no option on their website. It’s really hard to get in touch with them regarding this issue.


Remember not to abuse the trust of your audience by sending daily messages, but reserve if for messages that are almost GUARANTEED to be opened. Delight them. Surprise them. BRIBE them! Just don’t bugger things up by essentially, spamming them!

Blogger at / @australiawow


Of course, there are exceptions. If you own a restaurant or have daily offers that change regularly, you can create a subscription plan like that.


Chatbots still fall short in making the conversation seamless. They often treat conversations like a game of Tennis or Ping-Pong: talk, reply, talk, reply and so on.


An article on says the following: “An important point here is that while chatbots can be a great backup for real employees, as an alternative to call waiting, they have to appear real. If the chatbot is low quality and the customer can tell it’s not human, the result may be damaging customer feelings toward the brand”.


In my opinion, that’s bad brand positioning. People will eventually distinguish a bot from a real person, at least for now.


If you think people don’t like talking to robots, don’t fall into the trap of tricking them. If they figure out they have been lied to and are not actually talking to a real person, you will lose their trust. Customers will understand and accept the bots as part of their purchasing process in the end.


Don’t try to trick your audience. Today’s people bullshit detector is so high, you won’t last for 2 minutes. You will lose more trust if the customers find you are lying. They might think you’re also lying with the product and its quality.  It’s very hard to build trust, so don’t put it at risk.


5.3 Employers vs. Employees


If you work in any of the domains mentioned above, you have probably already figured out your job might be stolen by robots.


This is one of the future’s biggest problems, and it should be addressed. It’s no secret. Automatization creates less work places for humans. Unfortunately, evolution and adaptation are the only ways to progress.


A single bot has the potential to replace an entire team of people in different marketing channels. This is a no-brainer for employers all around the world.


If you’re interested in how high the chances are robots will steal your job, go to Then, if you found out that robots are very likely to take your job… can make you feel even worse!


6. Can ChatBot Marketing Improve SEO ?


Having a chatbot only website sounds cool. But one of the problem with chatbots is that the content stored in the database is not indexable.


Sujan Patel advises us to stick to conventional SEO. So if you have important pieces of content, make sure you also post them  on your website.


Chatbots & SEO are two very different things. Make your content indexable and crawlable and stick to conventional SEO wisdom.
SujanPatelChatbotExpert SUJAN PATEL
Blogger at / @sujanpatel


But chatbots directly on your website can bring some SEO advantages. Dwell time and bounce rate are linked to rankings. Improving them can also grow your position in Google.


If a bot can retain users on your website, then it is definitely a plus. You could even make them trigger at different intervals while the user reads an article, to point out key elements. The possibilities are infinite.


SEO has far less to do with content and words than people think. Google ranks sites based on the experience people have with brands. If a bot can enhance that experience in such a way that people are more enthusiastic about a site – they share it, return to it, talk about it, and spend more time there, it will affect positively how the site appears in Google.
seobrien Paul O’Brien
Blogger at / @seobrien


On the other hand, Paul also tells us that if the bot negatively impacts the website, then the rankings can also drop.


Chatbots can also help you get links, likes and shares.


Here’s a simple process outline: User asks for subject => Bot replies with link to website => User clicks and reads => After a few minutes, bot asks: Did you like it? => Yes/No => Leave comment and share/How can we improve it?


As with anything else, when using bot marketing you have to be creative and original to stand out.


The marketing world is constantly evolving and we have to adapt. Marketing to millennials, for example, is very demanding. New generation clients have very different ways of going through the buying process. Chatbot marketing is a great innovative way to enable users like these to buy your products and share your brand.


If you liked this article, have any questions or feel I missed some points, please feel free to drop off a comment in the section below. Let’s get the conversation started!

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