Q&A with Rand Fishkin SEO & Beyond

If you saw the first video (6 SEO E-commerce Marketing Insights) in this two-part sitdown with Rand Fishkin, you’ll have walked away with some really valuable strategic and tactical advice for your e-commerce operation. In this video, Rand talks about the future of Sparktoro, his next project, as well as his hopes for the future in general. Rand also gives us a more personal insight to his book Lost & Founder and what he’s learned from baring his soul. I hope this video gives you just a small glimpse of the person I’ve come to admire over the years.

2018 Holiday Paid Search Strategies & Best Practices

Last year was the biggest online retail holiday season in history and growth is only expected to continue. To share in holiday retail success, it is important to prepare in advance and stay up to date with current trends to leverage the holidays to their full earning potential.

This page shares trends in holiday shopping and tips to best execute holiday paid search campaigns from selected research and reports from Google and eMarketer.

Paid Search Holiday Shopping Trends

  • > 50% of shoppers start holiday shopping research in October or earlier

  • Last year 30% of shoppers said their holiday shopping was completed before Thanksgiving

  • Not only is holiday shopping starting earlier, the season has extended into January and 20% of December sales occur after Christmas

  • One third of shoppers said that all of their holiday weekend purchases were driven specifically by promotions

  • Last year continued the trend of expanded mobile traffic and increased mobile conversions, with a 40% increase of retail sales via mobile devices

  • 40% of e-commerce sales are expected to be made on mobile platforms in 2018

  • In the past year, 40% of YouTube users turned to the platform to learn more about a product before they bought it

Paid Search Holiday Planning Tips

Key Holiday Dates for 2018

  • Singles Day - Sunday, November 11, 2018

  • Thanksgiving - Thursday, November 22, 2018

  • Black Friday - Friday, November 23, 2018

  • Small Business Saturday - Saturday November 24, 2018

  • Cyber Monday - Monday, November 26, 2018

  • Hanukkah Begins - Monday, December 3, 2018

  • Green Monday - Monday, December 10, 2018

  • Free Shipping Day - Sunday, December 16, 2018

  • 2 Day Shipping Cutoff - Saturday, December 22, 2018

  • Christmas Eve - Monday, December 24, 2018

  • Christmas Day - Tuesday, December 25, 2018

  • Boxing Day - Wednesday, December 26, 2018

  • New Year’s Eve - Monday, December 31, 2018

  • New Year’s Day - Tuesday, January 1, 2018

Plan Ahead

  • Use historical data around search traffic spikes to inform your marketing plan. Then, choose the best channels to reach customers

  • Look at past conversion rates to set benchmarks for this holiday season, then map bids to the sales calendar to know when to bid aggressively. You can also take the heavy lifting out of setting bids by leveraging automated bidding.

  • Create promotional campaigns with seasonal keywords ahead of time but keep them paused. Pausing holiday-specific ad text and ad extensions will allow you to have more time to focus on adjusting settings without a deadline.

  • Discover missing keywords by running search terms report for the same time period last year, and then filter for conversions > 0 and cross reference these against your current keyword list.

Mobile

  • Prepare for an influx of mobile shoppers by adding mobile-relevant extensions to your ad (such as location, call, price, or app extensions) to showcase your business’s information in detail. Extensions will help shoppers find the details they need directly from your ad.

  • Account for cross-device influence and compare mobile COS to desktop COS. Make sure your device-type bid adjustments reflect their relative value.

  • Speed is one of the often overlooked variables that can have a huge impact on traffic and conversion. Three tools we love for conducting benchmarking and diagnosing performance issues are TestMySite, Page Speed Insights and WebPageTest. TestMySite now estimates traffic loss due to performance and is worth checking out.

Online Video

  • Educate shoppers shoppers as they’re browsing product reviews and looking for recommendations with informative video content. Make your video ads interactive to connect viewers directly to your products and provide information that brings them closer to making a purchase. Utilize TrueView for Shopping.

Campaign Management

  • Keep an eye on your competition. Regularly check on your average position and overlap rate compared with advertisers who participated in the same auctions as you, particularly on your most important campaigns. Use auction insights to check in on your performance.

  • Monitor your budget to properly pace for the holiday season. Actively measure your “burn rate” (dollars spent to date divided by the budget allocated to date) to see if you’re over-pacing. If your budget is limited, view your campaign performance and prioritize ad or product groups to see what’s spending the most.

  • Don’t go dark after Christmas, drive additional post-holiday traffic and re-engage interested shoppers who haven’t completed their purchases using re-marketing lists and customer match.

Will Consumers Choose Cryptocurrency to Shop Online?

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Since late 2017 Cryptocurrency, namely Bitcoin, has been on the lips and touched the ears of a lot mainstream households. It was in November Bitcoin began to rise in value until finally peaking in December at 20,000USD to 1BTC. This was followed a subsequent crash and devaluation of the decentralized currency. As of writing this in September 2018, BTC trades at around 6,500USD. It should be noted, this is still close to double what it was trading at this time last year. This shouldn’t be taken as an indicator of another spike, but rather an illustration of the maintained perceived value.

The biggest problem with cryptocurrency, though, is despite the waves it made and attention it grabbed a lot of people still don’t know how it works. Which partially explains why it’s no longer as hot of a topic. The crash did not help either. The apparent volatility of the currency surely scared a lot of people off. There is a lot of unknown still associated with Bitcoin, so it’s yet to grab the full attention of the general public. Digital transactions have become a preferred method for a lot of people on platforms like Paypal, Venmo and Apple Pay. However, they’re by no means the most prevalent payment method either as most people still opt for their debit card.

This is problematic as those alt-pay platforms deal in USD or whatever your country’s currency may be. They’re accepted as transactional solutions by the banks. Bitcoin still doesn’t have full support of many of the major banks in the US. Currently, most US banks allow for BTC to be purchased using traditional checking and savings accounts. They do, however, have bans on purchasing crypto using lines of credit. The other inconvenience lies in transferring back. You’ll have to go through a third party exchanger before you can put your money back into your bank as so few have adopted ways to handle altcoins.

Which brings us to the other side of the coin(pun intended,) what is the adoption rate like for retailers? If banks are resistant and consumers are hesitant, who’s actually accepting Bitcoin? Microsoft allows for small transactions for things like movies and games. Expedia and Dish network take Bitcoin as payment the same as any other. Overstock.com even accepts other cryptos like Ethereum, Litecoin and Monero.

The market seems to be a little more accepting in comparison to banks, but it’s still a pipe dream to expect a bar in rural Montana to accept crypto for a $2 Coors. Where will we be in five years from now, though? The respondents to our 2022 e-Commerce survey were surprisingly optimistic in the face of the current state of things.

Percentage of E-commerce Transactions Made Using Cryptocurrency?

  • About half of the people who took the survey think 10-30% of all transactions in e-Commerce will be done by cryptocurrency.

  • Another quarter see crypto accounting for over 30% of transactions.

This is interesting, because Overstock, accepter of most major cryptos, reported less than 1% of all of their transactions coming from crypto. It’s hard to imagine crypto taking such a large market share of the transactions without significant adoption by online sellers like Amazon, eBay, and Wal-Mart. Further to the point, it doesn’t matter if goods can be bought with crypto unless it’s adopted by the consumers themselves. So the question circles back to how do you get the average shopper to create a crypto wallet, and then spend it?

I reached out to Jared Franklin, Product Manager at Blispay to get his thoughts on the evolving payments landscape.

It takes a very, very long time for anything to change when it comes to the payments space, especially when it comes to payment method adoption by consumers. One simple reason for this is that it’s really hard to change user behavior without a 10x improvement in both user experience and end user value. Cash works, and everyone already knows how to use it. Debit and credit cards work really well, and people know how to use them. They also provide a lot of value to consumers (rewards, protections, security, etc.). For a new payment method to gain adoption, it’s going to need to be 10x easier, safer, and provide significantly more value to the end user, and that’s extremely difficult to do. Think about Apple Pay penetration... amazing user experience, but still not quite dead simple for the masses to figure out. Additionally, there’s always a classic chicken and egg problem when it comes to payments. Like Apple Pay, crypto will have to overcome a chicken and egg problem between merchants and consumers for use cases around payments to gain clarity. Nothing changes fast, and 5 years is categorized as lightning fast in this context.

Crypto is still considered a frontier technology (one that doesn’t have mass adoption, or even value prop clarity). It’s extremely early… promising, but early. The value prop for merchants in the US to accept crypto payments isn’t remotely clear at this point in time, and it’s largely dependent on the value prop and penetration for consumers (hence the chicken and egg problem). This is the crux of the issue. It’s not yet clear what the value prop is for many of the current cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets for consumers. Many theories exist, and there are some benefits, but nothing with certain and obvious clarity at this stage. There won’t be mass adoption without moderate to obvious clarity when it comes to their value creation and use cases. When it comes to Bitcoin in particular, it doesn’t make sense for most people to want to spend it within the next 5 years, as it’s currently designed to satisfy the store of value use case. And this is OK. If it is to have a shot at being used for transactions in the future, it likely needs to be a trustworthy store of value first, and that is going to take many years to work itself out. It doesn’t make sense for the masses to want to give up any of an asset that is being used as a store of value (especially one that is believed to grow significantly in value). Aside from that angle, there are all of the obvious holes that are going to take a few years to fill around custody, key and recovery phrase management, taxes, regulatory clarity, etc.

From a merchant perspective, we have to think about the value prop to them here in the US, and it’s far from clear. They have to deal with all of the same issues that consumers do around custody and that’s no easy feat for most businesses. There’s just not a clear benefit to most merchants to accept crypto in the US until the value prop for consumers to earn, hold, and spend crypto clarifies itself.

With all of this being said, I can envision a future where an ‘internet money’ gains traction and provides a lot of value to both merchants and consumers, but we’re likely more than a decade away, if it even ends up happening at all. Until the full ecosystem gets built out, there won’t be mass adoption. This ecosystem will have to include everything from crypto dispersed payroll and retirement contributions to lending/borrowing instruments. We’re already seeing lending products come to market like the folks at BlockFi. It’s likely that payments is just one use case that crypto proves useful for, but it won’t happen in the next 5 years. We first need to see if the store of value use case pans out. After all, what merchant will want to accept something that isn’t considered a trustworthy store of value? It’s extremely exciting to think about the progress that will be made over the next 5 years in the crypto space regarding regulations, taxes, custody, onramps, and new value props while we learn if bitcoin satisfies the store of value use case.

My advice to any retailer thinking about accepting crypto as a form of payment would be to think long and hard about who your customer (or desired customer) is and what value they’re getting out of paying in crypto. It’s highly likely that the demand just isn’t there yet. You may get more value out of headlines promoting that you are accepting crypto than you will out of new customers that shop with you due to the fact that you accept crypto. If you think there’s value and want to explore it further, then reach out to Coinbase about their Coinbase Commerce product. I’m pretty sure they aren’t even charging for the service at this time. If you’re already a believer in bitcoins likelihood of becoming a store of value with an increasing price, then it’s probably worth adding it to your website even if you only get a few sales, because those few sales just may end up being worth the same amount in the future as many sales generate for you today. But know that it’s a big ‘if’.

I absolutely agree with Jared’s point of view; today it’s probably worth more PR value than anything else and I don’t see an important strategic advantage to gaining some early adoption. When we see consumer adoption of cryptocurrency and a preference for using it to make purchases online we’ll have plenty of options for incorporating cryptocurrency as a form of payment. It’s similar to the decisions we had to make around incorporating PayPal as an alternative payment method in it’s early days. The finance team didn’t want another bank account to reconciles (a time consuming one at that) if there wasn’t enough volume to warrant it.

At the same time, having finally played around with Android Pay in the last year and making some NFC purchases here and there, I feel that there is a lot ton of opportunity to dramatically improve the customer experience when it comes to payments. Apple, Google and Amazon will continue to lead the way while entrepreneurial companies like Affirm, Blispay, Klarna and many others will take a run at reducing checkout friction.


about the author

Shilo Jones StatBid Co-Founder.png

Shilo co-founded StatBid with Roy Steves.  Shilo has spent nearly two decades building e-commerce businesses starting with evo.com where he served as the President as well as holding leadership positions at DestinationLighting.com and GolfDiscount.com.

Shilo Jones, Co-Founder, StatBid

6 E-commerce SEO Marketing Insights from Rand Fishkin

I’ve known Rand Fishkin for years. And for years, I’ve been picking his brain for insight and advice every chance I get. I can’t tell you how much I respect his opinions. Heck, you all know this already if you’ve ever seen a Whiteboard Friday or had a chance to see him speak. We recently held our second Founders Speaker Series event with Rand in Seattle. Before he answered questions from peers attending the event, I was able to pick his brain one more time on camera for over an hour. We’ve taken the best parts of that interview and split it into two parts.

The first video is really focused on strategic and tactical marketing topics. I polled some of our clients and asked them what questions they have for Rand. Rand answers those questions and more tackling questions ranging from what he would do if he were running SEO for your e-commerce company to whether you should worry about disavowing low quality links or not.

Here is a list of the questions that Rand answers in this video.

  • What are the first things you would do if you were in charge of SEO for an e-commerce company

  • Will we need to re-tool the skill sets of our SEO team to be successful in the future

  • What are the keys to building a successful link-building campaign and how do you get internal support?

  • Should I disavow bad links and how often?

  • How can retailers remain competitive?

  • How do I fight back against challengers to my Google search rankings?

Will robots do our shopping for us in the future?

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Convenience has always been king in America. It’s what gave rise to fast food and one stop supercenter stores. New tech popularity and adoption is heavily linked to the convenience offered. Even when environmentally maligned like Keurig coffee systems, consumers often opt for convenience.

Consumers were certainly drawn to online shopping initially because of the actual or perceived discounts, but as more products became available and as Amazon compressed delivery times convenience began to win the day.  Amazon continues to innovate when it comes to conveniently being able to buy whatever you need.  Innovations like pushing a Dash button to re-order some laundry detergent or asking Alexa to order some cat litter show the progression. 

How long will it be before these devices do the ordering for us, without our prompting?

It’s not hard to image a future where a fully integrated home would know to replenish itself. Smart-fridges already have the technology to keep stock and have delivery orders placed. Are people willing to turn over the control of their purchases and essentially their bank account to a robot? 

Are we close enough for this to even be a possibility in the next 5 years?

According to our Future of E-Commerce survey, most people say no. 70% of our respondents don’t believe the robots will have control of our wallets in 5 years. 

WILL YOU HAVE A PERSONAL AI SHOPPING ASSISTANT MAKING PURCHASES ON YOUR BEHALF 5 YEARS FROM NOW?

 

However I wanted to gain some additional perspective from some folks enabling us to leverage bots in our businesses today. Do they believe 5 years is just too short for implementation; or do they believe people will never be that trusting of technology?

I thought it would be interesting to hear the opinions of some technology entrepreneurs providing AI-based solutions to retailers and brands.

Larry Kim, CEO of MobileMonkey, a chatbot marketing platform, offered the following insights, "I don't know if we'll be using personal shopping assistants in 5 years, but AI is already having a profound impact on how ad targeting on Facebook and Google, which dramatically impacts shopping behavior, and is something many in the industry thought was not possible."

"I just think that that shopping trends are really difficult to predict. AI by definition looks at patterns in the past and tries to predict future behavior, and that's just harder to do when people like to buy new stuff that wasn't invented before. Of course a shopping bot could tell you that your fridge filter needs to be changed, but I just think that people have complex tastes and preferences and this could be a tough nut to crack."

Conversely, Usama Noman, CEO of Botisy was much more optimistic that in 5 years robots will do the shopping for us. "We are already there to some extent. At Google I/O this year, Google demonstrated Google Assistant making a reservation on your behalf by having a real telephonic conversation between a computer and the person that answered the phone at the restaurant.  In five years we will see other companies emerging to level up the game making purchases via chatbots on your behalf."

"The AI is already capable of reading reviews, knowing your flavor and mood to find you the best product of the lot.  While a lot of the technology is in place today, it's still very hard to manage languages other than English.  There are tons of people who are not very familiar with the English language. Middle-Eastern countries specifically are not comfortable with English. Local startups will have to emerge to do this work in order to make this a global reality in next 5 years. Amazon and Google are already making progress in India and Japan, but some work has to be done for other major languages around the world for this to trend to become ubiquitous."

"Once this work is done, it will revolutionize e-commerce and suddenly you will find there won’t be many people ordering food and cosmetics by logging into their laptops or mobile phones, it will be all done through voice commands."

Finally, I turned to Gary Hoover, retail strategist, entrepreneur and business historian to put this trend in context of the greater evolution of retailing and consumer technology adoption.  Gary believes, "any predictions of the future must be based on a close and thoughtful analysis both of customers and of the products or services offered. Does the product require touch or not? It is easy for me to know which toothpaste or toilet paper I want, less so with clothing, fresh produce, or laptops (for those of us who type a lot). Is the level of touch changing? Refrigerators were pretty basic; all you had to know was the cubic size and color.

Now, and more so in the future, they are feature-laden. Maxwell House tasted pretty much the same at home or in any café; but coffees are not all the same today. Do I need a demonstration or a test drive? What is the frequency of purchase? There is a big difference between bread and sofas. What is the rate of innovation in the field? The Internet of Things brings new products to market each day. Pencils change a bit more slowly. But even underwear and mattresses are changing as I write this.

Stores, if run right, are better places to see and experience the new than the Internet.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.
— Steve Jobs

Those who take the long view of change – looking back 5, 10, or even 20 years, rather than the last month, quarter, or year – will be more likely to understand the future.

Deep thought about these questions and others like them will help retailers – online and off – to better navigate the future.  Some products will be sold by hitting a dash button, or on automatic re-order, but much will also be sold by real people in real buildings."

Personally, I feel pretty strongly that within 5 years time we will have an AI-based personal assistant that we can converse with and will turn over some form of our purchasing power to.  It’s not hard to imagine the evolution of Alexa and Google Assistant in the next 5 years being capable of doing more and more of our shopping for us.  Amazon clearly has the early advantage here and possibly an insurmountable advantage if Google doesn’t start executing much better.  

If you agree with this vision of the future or even want to make this future a reality what are the steps you should take today?

For retailers and brands, the conversations that your customer care team are having with your customers are the fuel for this future.  Making sure you have access to the raw data whether it is chat, email, SMS, messenger, a phone conversation or another form of social interaction will prove very valuable.  Additionally, as part of any experimental budgets I’d throw some resources at one of the chatbot services and would probably start investigating some Alexa Skill and Google Action development as a way of better understanding what a future would look like where bots are buying your products on behalf of humans.
 


about the author

Shilo Jones StatBid Co-Founder.png

Shilo co-founded StatBid with Roy Steves.  Shilo has spent nearly two decades building e-commerce businesses starting with evo.com where he served as the President as well as holding leadership positions at DestinationLighting.com and GolfDiscount.com.

Shilo Jones, Co-Founder, StatBid