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5 ways voice is changing the SEO game

(TECH NEWS) As voice assistants take over our lives, you may worry how your SEO fares in this new, uncharted territory. Let’s discuss.

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voice and SEO

SEO is a moving target. The standards change constantly so, despite years of experience, many web designers struggle to meet all the optimization guidelines. How, then, can any business confidently approach the web design process? It starts with recognizing those evolving norms, the newest of which is voice search.

Why Voice Search Matters

For years, the dominant SEO rule has been mobile first. The introduction of voice recognition systems, like Siri and Alexa, to smartphones has dramatically changed how we interact with devices. In fact, 20% of Google searches are voice searches with that number expected to grow rapidly over the next few months. Businesses and web designers, then, need to make sure their sites are voice ready if they want to stay relevant. Though the sites may stay the same visually, they need to gain a new edge functionally.

From The Ground Up

Modifying your website to support voice search isn’t as simple as many other SEO transitions, but if you take a ground up approach to the process, you’ll be able to reshape your website around those changes. Still, you’ll need help to do this correctly. When adapting your website for voice, SEO consultant Aaron Rains recommends hiring an expert for a full site audit and analysis to maintain your page ranking. You don’t want your page to take a rankings hit because you’re trying to keep up with the trends.

Expanding Your Device Options

In addition to its advantages from a mobile perspective, making the move to voice search also means expanding your site’s horizons by making it more accessible to new devices, particularly the smart home speakers that are gaining in popularity. Users are particularly comfortable with these devices because they rely on natural speech patterns rather than half-formed search terms. Children growing up with these smart speakers in their homes seem to view them as part of the family and will be native voice search users as they grow.

Snippets For Search

Part of updating your website for speech is optimizing the content to match changing search patterns. One of the key ways to do this is through the use of featured snippets.

Featured snippets are designed to help put your website in the #0 spot – the top ranking. To do that, you’ll want to put the answers to your most popular queries in the first few sentences on your page. This is especially for purchasing and local search since people frequently use voice search to find local businesses. If you can optimize for the most important snippets early on, you’ll be way ahead on the competition and have a greater ROI.

Rebuild and Reassess

After modifying your website for voice, you may find your rankings initially drop. That’s because you need to request your site be re-indexed. Otherwise, search engines won’t be able to match queries with your new site content. Re-indexing will put all of your new information into effect and make it possible for users to search using the featured snippets. Re-indexing your site will also help you ensure that you haven’t interfered with the crawl-ability of your site.

Experts expect half of all searches to be voice-driven by 2020, but since 50% of users with voice search access already use it at least occasionally, now is the time to act. Even if many users are still wary of voice search, you can’t afford to fall behind. Those users will still be able to rely on traditional text search mechanisms, but that won’t help voice enthusiasts. If you lose those early adopters now, they might not come back when you’ve caught up with the voice search revolution.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business Marketing

Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales

(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?

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Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”

The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.

The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.

A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.

Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible; if your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.

This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.

When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.

The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.

It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.

In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.

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Business Marketing

Put LinkedIn Groups to work for your brand

(MARKETING) LinkedIn may feel like a grandparent’s wonderland, but it still yields power for your company, and the secret sauce is in the LinkedIn Groups.

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LinkedIn Groups have a bad rap. Often times, they are filled with useless information, people you don’t actually want to connect with, and for businesses, look like they offer less value for broad engagement.

However, the way we market to consumers on LinkedIn is different.

In the way that Twitter and Facebook give us the broad audience exposure, and Instagram engages the consumer in a creative way, business should think of LinkedIn as a forum, the online place of meaning.

A place for meaningful connection that can generate business, new employees, partnerships, leads, and even research! Sharing content creates meaningful engagement with your audience (and for entrepreneurs, that meaningful connection is your competitive edge – FYI). You can also use that group to generate ideas and learn more about your demographic.

Creating a LinkedIn group isn’t hard – it only takes a few simple steps.

1. Go to LinkedIn.com/groups (and login to LinkedIn).

2. Click “My Groups.”

3. Hit the “Create Group” button.

4. Breathe, the easy part is over.

5. What’s the goal of the group? A user group? Engaging with brand ambassadors? A way for you to find leads? Sharing ideas? Collecting data? Think about that so you know what content you’re going for.

6. You need to make your group a good place to be, so encourage welcoming posts. Propose an introductory post (share your name, how long you’ve used a product or service, and how it benefits you, for example).

7. Set group rules that facilitate professional and meaningful interactions (and hold people to it).

8. Engage with comments and messages to create meaningful relationships with the purpose of your group.

9. Read LinkedIn’s tips on growth – always think of how to use this tool.

10. Brush up on best practices.

11. Maintain the group – it’s part of your job now, leader. And not managing well hurts your brand, and you don’t want that.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool, and LinkedIn Groups aren’t the grandma way to engage your people. We want meaningful contacts on LinkedIn, and you want to build a reputation as a thought leader and a meaningful engager.

So get a group started, run it properly, and don’t treat it like another public page. It’s all about the value here, friend!

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Business Marketing

What skills do marketers need to survive the AI takeover?

(MARKETING) Quality marketers are constantly evolving, but getting your head around artificial intelligence can be a challenge – let’s boil it down to the most relevant skills you’ll need.

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When Facebook and Twitter were born, a new era of social media was ushered in, opening the gates for new areas of expertise that hadn’t existed before. At first, we all grappled to establish the culture together, but fast forward a decade and it is literally a science with thousands of supporting technology companies.

So as Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes over marketing, doesn’t that mean it will replace marketers? If you can ask your smart speaker in your office what your engagement growth increase was for your Facebook Page, and ask for recommendations of growth, how do marketing professionals survive?

Marketers will survive the same way they did as social media was introduced – the practice will evolve and new niches will be born.

There are 7 skills marketers will need to adapt in order to evolve. None of these are done overnight, but quality professionals are constantly grooming their skills, so this won’t be stressful to the successful among us. And the truth is that it won’t be in our lifetime that AI can quite process the exact same way a human brain does, even with the advent of quantum computing, so let’s focus on AI’s weaknesses and where marketers can perform where artificial intelligence cannot.

1. Use the data your new AI buddies generate.

In the 70s, the infamous Ted Bundy murders yielded the first case that utilized computing. The lead investigator had heard about computers and asked a specialist to dig through all of their data points to find similarities – a task that was taking months for the investigative team. After inputting the data, within minutes, they had narrowed their list of suspects from several hundred to only 10.

We’re not dealing with murderers here in the marketing world (…right, guys?), but the theory that algorithms can speed up our existing jobs is a golden lesson. As more AI tools are added to the marketplace to enhance your job, experiment with them! Get to know them! And continue to seek them out to empower you.

Atomic Reach studies your content and finds ways to enhance what you’re delivering. CaliberMind augments B2B sales, Stackla hunts down user-generated content that matches your brand efforts, Nudge analyzes deal risk and measures user account health, and Market Brew digs up tons of data for your SEO strategy.

See? Independently, these all sound like amazing tools, but call them “AI tools” and people lose their minds. Please.

Your job as a marketer is to do what AI cannot. Together, you can automate, do segmentation and automation, beef up your analytics, but no machine can replicate your innate interest in your customers, your compassion, and your ability to understand human emotions and predict outcomes effectively (because you have a lot more practice at being a human than the lil’ robots do).

2. Take advantage of AI’s primary weakness.

As noted, you have emotions and processes that are extremely complex and cannot be understood by artificial intelligence yet. Use those.

How? Compile all of the data that AI offers and then strategize. Duh. AI can offer recommendations, but it cannot (yet) suggest an entire brand strategy. That’s where you come in.

And more importantly, it cannot explain or defend any such strategy. One of the core problems with AI is that if you ask Alexa a question, you cannot ask how it came up with that information or why. This trust problem is the primary reason marketers are in no danger of being replaced by technology.

3. Obsess over data.

AI tools are young and evolving, so right now is the time to start obsessing over data. What I mean by that is not to use every single AI tool to compile mountains of useless data, but to start studying the data you already have.

The problem with new tools is that marketers are naturally inquisitive, so we try them out and then forget they exist if they didn’t immediately prove to be a golden egg.

Knowing your current marketing data inside and out will help you to learn alongside AI. If you aren’t intimately familiar, you won’t know if the recommendations made through AI are useful, and you could end up going down the wrong path because something shiny told you to.

Obsess over data not by knowing every single customers’ names, but be ready to identify which data sets are relevant for the results you’re seeking. A data scientist friend of mine recently pointed out that if you flip a coin five times and it happens to land on tails every time, AI would analyze that data and predict with 100% certainty that the sixth flip will be tails, but you and I have life experience and know better.

Staying on top of your data, even when you’re utilizing artificial intelligence tools will keep you the most valuable asset, not the robots. #winning

4. Don’t run away from math (no wait, come back!)

One of the appeals of marketing is that math is hard and you don’t need it in a creative field. But if you want to stay ahead of the robots, you’ll have to focus on your math skills.

You don’t have to go back to school for data science, but if you can’t read the basic reports that these endless AI tools can create, you’re already behind. At least spend a few hours this month on some “Intro to Data Science” courses on Udemy or Coursera.

5. Content is God.

We’ve all said for years that content is king and that feeding the search engines was a top way to reach consumers. You’ve already refined your skills in creating appealing content, and you already know that it costs less than many traditional lead generating efforts and spending on content is way up.

Content can be blogging, video, audio, or social media posts. Artificial intelligence will step in to skyrocket those efforts, if only you accept that content was once king, but is now God. What is changing is how customized content can be. For example, some companies are using AI tools to create dozens of different Facebook ads for different demographics, which would have taken weeks of human effort to do in the past.

Because content is what feeds all of these new smart devices, feeding your brand content effectively and utilizing AI tools to augment your efforts will keep you more relevant than ever.

6. Get ahead of privacy problems

Consumers now understand what website cookies are, and know when they’ve opted in (or opted out) of an email newsletter, but to this point, humans have made the decisions of how these data choices are made. Our teams have continually edited Terms of Service (ToS), all done not just with liability in mind, but to offer consumers the protections that they want and have come to expect.

But AI today doesn’t have morals, and consumer comfort is not a factor unless humans program that into said AI devices. But it still isn’t a creature of ethics like humans are. Ethical challenges going forward will be something to stay ahead of as you tap into the AI world. Making sure that you know the ToS of any tool you’re using to mine data is critical so that you don’t put the company in a bad position by violating basic human trust.

The takeaway

You’re smart, so you already knew that the robots aren’t taking your job, rather augmenting it, but adding AI into your marketing mix to stay ahead comes with risk and a learning curve. But seeing artificial intelligence for what it really is – a tool – will keep your focus on the big picture and save your job.

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