SMX Advanced 2018 Session Recap: Storytelling with Social Ads that Sell

Contributor Joe Martinez recaps a session of rock-star paid social media marketers sharing how you can use social media to engage, entertain and motivate readers through the sales funnel.

The post SMX Advanced 2018 Session Recap: Storytelling with Social Ads that Sell appeared first on Marketing Land.

SMX Advanced attendees were treated to a rock-star lineup of paid social media marketers. Our presenters spoke to the crowd about how we should be using social media to engage users, move them down the funnel and give them the message they want to hear to increase brand interest.

Here’s a recap from the three speakers on the Storytelling With Social Ads That Sell session panel.

Jeff Ferguson

Jeff Ferguson was first up.

To set up the presentation, he went over a great analogy of creating cocktails. The difference between a Manhattan cocktail and a martini is one ingredient. The difference between a martini and a Gibson is one ingredient.

The message here is that sometimes all you have to do is change one little thing to get something new and amazing. The same idea can be applied to marketing. Maybe one little difference in your ad copy or one little way we tell a story can make a big impact on your campaigns.

Typically, we write content, and it sits there. Maybe we’ll promote it on social media, but many people don’t see these stories we spend a lot of time on. Let’s take our client’s information and use it appropriately for each stage of the content marketing funnel. Jeff then went on to show examples of how he utilizes this approach.

High funnel. For one client who focuses on meal kits for people with serious health concerns, Jeff and his team asked themselves:

  • What kind of post is a great introduction?
  • What posts can help get users into our funnel?

They found out the meal kit company had a lot of fantastic blog posts which were just sitting on the website with no major traffic. These posts, when finally promoted, led to a lot of user engagement, which was a win. They got the users to notice the brand and introduce them to the funnel.

Mid-funnel. Typically, this is where we see remarketing start to come in. We’re showing ads to users who are already familiar with our brand, even though it may be out of the corner of their eye. Focus the content on:

  • Testimonials.
  • Product comparisons.
  • Demonstrations
  • Before-and-after examples.

Consider using audiences of second touch, proven performers, content downloaders and engaged views from the high-funnel approach to keep moving those users along.

Low funnel. This is where we want to be more aggressive in asking for the sale. By the time users are at the bottom of the funnel, we start to really push the offer-driven message. By this point, they’ve seen your brand message at least two or three times, so it’s OK to start asking for the sale.

Going beyond the conversion. It’s typical in marketing to focus on the same thing, so we lose touch with everything. Not only do we want to get the sale, but we want to get those users to come back. We all should care about customer success. Jeff and his team like to look at the entire customer journey and see where they can come in and help out.

The problem with email after the journey is that email open rates are pretty bad, pretty horrible. We’re talking about a 21.8 percent average open rate. If other marketing channels had that type of success rate, we’d all be fired, right?

Customer match is a better option than email to take the user farther down the road. Take the user story farther down the road to keep feeding those users new stories until we hit your end goal.

Deciding what to communicate. Keeping in mind the same meal kit client mentioned earlier, audience exposure had a much better result over email. Jeff’s team found out that people who picked their own meals stayed on longer with the program. So they took the updated list of those specific users every week and showed new ads to this customer match audience.

Email rate was 56 percent. Audience exposure for search/social campaigns was 80 percent. The efforts increased meal selections by 50 percent and reduced churn by 20 percent.

Remember, none of these changes are big. Storytelling is about helping a prospect through the entire marketing funnel.

Presentation deck: Social Media Storytelling by Jeff Ferguson

Michelle Morgan

Next up was Michelle Morgan from Clix Marketing, who talked about bringing people back into the funnel.

When looking at a basic funnel, we typically see four steps:

As B2B marketers, our goal should be to turn the stereotypical “funnel” into a shape that makes it easier for users to slide down. How do we do this? Michelle breaks it down.

Make users come back happy. One of the worst things we can do to try and move users along the funnel is crappy remarketing.

For example, let’s say you were trying to get users to download a white paper in your initial campaign. What if they don’t convert off the white paper? Don’t remarket to users who didn’t visit the confirmation page for the past 90 days. Break the audiences down into lower cookie durations. Change your CTA as the time decay flows. Have a firm CTA in the initial 30 days, but soften it after 90 days. Test this same strategy with your offers, too. Try different content (e-book vs. white paper) to see if that makes a difference.

Moving down the funnel. If you’re not doing lead scoring, you’re missing out. Michelle had some great examples of creating a point system with a set threshold to move users down your strategy. Come up with a system where the user maintains a certain “worth” during an agreed upon time duration to know which audience the user actually belongs to, and how they should be marketed.

Push users to new content they may not have seen before. Also, move users away from content they have already seen to avoid annoying people with the same message over and over. For users with too low a score, depending on your scoring system, create new lists and re-engage through other marketing channels.

Closing the deal. Win back stalled opportunities with specialized messaging. Sometimes people are deep in the funnel but get stuck for some reasons we can’t easily understand. LinkedIn Sponsored InMail is great. Users only see one ad in their InMail once every 45 days, so you don’t have to worry about bugging users.

Using the LinkedIn ad, offer something they can’t get anywhere else.

Act like a sales rep and work within your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Don’t stop at contacts, look at business targeting. People leave companies all the time, so target the business on LinkedIn, which will be far more accurate than any company targeting on Facebook.

The story is for users. Keep the users’ end goal in mind instead of your own. It’s okay to pick an emotion so your ads don’t seem stuffy. Graphics are great for content, while real-world images are better suited for non-content.

Carousel ads let the person pick the story or let your customers tell the actual story with testimonials.

Presentation deck: Back to the Funnel: Winning Back B2B Users in Social

Susan Wenograd

Last but not least was Susan Wenograd.

“The Princess Bride” fans rejoiced when Susan mentioned she was going to show why Inigo Montoya is the perfect storyteller, and how he can help your business. Many brands think all storytelling is going to be great. They assume every story they tell is going to surprise and delight their audience. We see many brands tell stories that only talk about themselves and assume users are going to want to buy just based on a brand story.

Ask the user to find out (without asking). Think about what Inigo would do if you asked him a question, and he’d start rambling on about a bunch of facts just like a feature-based ad. Susan had a client who was running a lot of feature-based ads showcasing what the product does, the technology behind it and so on. Very stat-based, right?

Average click-through rate (CTR) for these ads was 1.2 percent. When looking at the assets the client had, Susan noticed users always seemed to be skeptical initially. Once the users found out about how great the product was, they had no problem admitting they were wrong. Susan asked, “Why weren’t we running this in the ad copy?” She ditched all the benefits-and-features ad copy and used a customer-made video echoing her discoveries.

The story-based ad copy quantifies belonging to a community. CTR doubled and helped inform how to improve more than just ads. The new approach also informed how to improve landing page design.

Use what’s memorable and don’t fight it. Do you remember the name of the six-fingered man in “The Princess Bride?” Of course you don’t, you just remember that he’s the six-fingered man. (His name is Count Rogen, in case you really wanted to know).

Brands feel they know what story to tell, but people will be the ones to dictate what story you should be telling.

Consumers control the story, not the brand. Find out what people are searching for and use that in your marketing. Consider creating new landing pages that actually speak to what your users are calling your products or services. Then use those landing page visits as the proper page to create Facebook audiences and then lookalike audiences for a better higher-funnel strategy.

Sometimes, you just can’t run. In a different strategy, Susan had a client who was the face of a new company, while also being well-known from his previous company. Even though the client wanted to separate himself from the old company, he was the six-fingered man. He was the story. They started making “helpful tip” webisodes featuring Susan’s client to leverage his notoriety. Instead of running video views, they tried post engagements after seeing people were naturally engaging due to the story content.

CPMs went from over $5.00 to under $3.90. They focused on the story versus what the company does and saw results improve.

Our brains are crushed with information daily. Ask Inigo Montoya who he is, and he’ll tell you over and over and over:

Hello. I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

It may be repetitive, but fans of the movies know the quote by heart because they’ve heard it so many times. In marketing, it’s okay for storytelling to repeat the same information more than once. Why? Check this out.

We have to repeat the story, and more importantly, repeat it in multiple places. This type of thinking is going to be extremely important when no one is searching for your brand or products. Susan said it best: “The only way to expand search is to expand the people who will search for your brand.” When you tell your brand story long enough, your language will become your customers’.

Presentation deck: The Inigo Montoya Guide to Storytelling in Paid Social

The post SMX Advanced 2018 Session Recap: Storytelling with Social Ads that Sell appeared first on Marketing Land.

How to Run Top-Performing eCommerce Ads in AdWords (for Less Spend)

Top-performing text-based eCommerce ads all have one thing in common: relevancy. In this article, we’ll show you four best-practices we use with our clients.

Top-performing text-based eCommerce ads all have one thing in common: relevancy.

All of the ads’ information — from the click-through URL and description, to any extension — is targeted to the search in which they appear. As a result, they have a lower cost-per-click (CPC) than other ads on the page and a higher click-through-rate (CTR).

Relevance is the singular most important factor Google uses to determine an ad’s quality score, which the marketing platform uses to set the auction price for a given search. It also impacts an ad’s placement on the page.

At Inflow, we manage $20 million in ad spend each year and, in this article, we’ll show you four best-practices we use with our clients to create well performing text ads.

Note: Looking to uncover other new ways to increase your ROAS? Contact us here.

Best Practice #1: Add as Many Extensions as You Can

Ad extensions such as site links, price, and location extensions are necessary for a full ad presence and are very likely to increase search impression share.

Ad position matters a lot, but having the first position doesn’t mean that an ad dominates the page. Using more extensions equals a bigger presence on the page and more relevant information for consumers.

eCommerce Ads: Proof that more extensions = more page real estate

But having a bigger presence on the page isn’t the only advantage of using multiple ad extensions.

It’s difficult to measure the performance of an individual extension.

Google’s extensions reporting does not tell you when a user selected a specific extension in your ad. It only displays when an extension appeared and user behavior regarding the whole ad. If a user clicks on an ad, every extension that appeared on the ad will show a click and conversion.

You’re giving Google more options to choose from.

We also can’t control which extensions Google will choose to use on a given ad. So giving Google plenty of options will improve the likelihood that Google will use multiple extensions to fill out your ad.

Overall, offering Google more relevant information about your ads helps increase your quality score, which will lower CPC and potentially improve your ad position.

Best Practice #2: Tailor Extensions to the Campaign or Product Whenever Possible

Some extensions work at an account level and are relevant for all ads. However, whenever possible, tailor your extensions for your specific campaign or product, as doing so increases the relevance of the ad to specific searches.

A sample of how to tailor extensions to the campaign or product whenever possible

Best Practice #3: Make Headings and Click-Through URLs Campaign- or Product-Specific, As Well

Besides extensions, your ads in general should be tailored to specific campaigns or products whenever possible.

Using general site links that are not tied to the product or service you are advertising lower your ads relevance score. It also is a bad practice simply because it takes users to a page unrelated to the thing they were searching for. This puts extra labor on the user to navigate your site.

An example of how to make headings and click-through URLs campaign- or product-specific

Best Practice #4: Run More Narrowly Targeted eCommerce Ads

The very simple key to using the following the above best practices?

Run more ads.

For instance, if you sell washing machines, you’d want different brand campaigns set up for each brand that only captures searches for people looking for that specific brand of washers.

Your ad extensions and your landing page for each ad would be specific to that brand, as well.

You could maintain separate more general ad campaigns for people searching for general times like “washing machines” or “home appliances,” but ideally you take advantage of a user who knows exactly what they want.

Here’s another example.

It’s common for people to search for certain products by model number or other product-specific terms. For instance, the model number for a popular Samsung washer gets thousands of searches per month.

Even if you sell this product and have a campaign for Samsung washers, unless your ad specifically relates to the model number, it probably won’t run on this search.

Be sure to match each ad campaign to the optimal user searches because this makes a huge impact on your overall ad spend.

Matching each ad campaign to the optimal user searches makes a huge impact on your overall ad spend.

Learn how we increased a client’s annual return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) by 1600% by tweaking what search terms were triggering their different ad campaigns.

Maximizing Ad Performance is Complicated

AdWords uses complicated algorithms to measure quality score, choosing which ads to run, and what information will be included in each ad.

There’s a lot we don’t know, but that doesn’t mean we’re helpless to improving ad performance. For instance, we recently increased the CTR of a client’s branded campaign by 50% by updating their ad extensions.

If you’re looking for more ways to maximize your AdWords presence and improve your ROAS, we can help. Contact us here.

How We Created an eCommerce Buying Guide That Led to Six-Figure Sales

We often recommend creating customer buyer’s guides to our eCommerce clients — especially those who sell big purchase items or items with a more intense research process.

We often recommend creating customer buyer’s guides to our eCommerce clients — especially those who sell big purchase items or items with a more intense research process.

When there are a lot of options available or if your customers typically have a lot of questions around a product, this product type could be a good candidate for a buyer’s guide — which can answer commonly asked questions and offer product recommendations.

They’re just as beneficial for the companies that make them:

  • increasing your organic search rankings, and
  • aiding in conversions.

We’ve helped one client in the home improvement industry create and promote several guides. One of the guides alone has led to over $100,000 worth in sales.

In this article, we’ll share the process of how we create and promote a successful guide for our client.

Note: If you’re interested in creating a buyer’s guide for some of your big purchase items, we can help. Contact us here.

1. We set the topic based on search volume

We rely heavily on organic search to promote our client’s buyer’s guides, so we don’t want to create a guide for a product that no one is searching for.

Even if you happen to sell a lot of a specific product, it doesn’t guarantee that lots of people are searching for it online.

For instance, let’s use a company that sells insulation for houses. Even if they sold more spray foam insulation than any other option, they may still want to create a more generic “home insulation buyer’s guide” because the generic term has a much higher search volume than a specific kind of insulation.

Insulation has a higher search volume than specific types of insulation (68k vs 45k)

With higher search volumes, your guide is more likely to be found, and with the more general topic, it will appeal to a wider audience. And you can always strongly recommend your top-selling product in the guide itself.

On the other hand, creating a category-wide guide isn’t always the best practice.

Sometimes a specific product will have high search volume, in which case it makes sense to create a buyer’s guide around it. This is especially true if the product is complicated and has a longer research process.

For instance, fiber cement siding has six times the search volume of exterior siding. It would be worthwhile to write that specific guide.

A photo showing that "fiber cement siding" has six times the search volume of "exterior siding". It would be worthwhile to write that specific guide.

2. We link to the buyer’s guide at the bottom of category pages

After we’ve produced the guide, we link to it in places where site visitors would be most likely to want additional product information, such as at the bottom of related category pages.

An example of the resources found on bottom of insulation category page (includes buying guides).

If a potential customer reaches the end of a category page and hasn’t found what they were looking for, a buyer’s guide can help keep them on the site as well as provide useful information to unsure consumers.

Keeping with our example, perhaps a consumer got to the end of the insulation category page because they were overwhelmed with options. The guide is a good opportunity to explain the advantages and disadvantages of blow-in versus roll insulation.

3. We add internal links where relevant

We write related blog posts that link to the buyer’s guide, and link to the posts in the guide itself. It’s important that each piece of content offers unique information — it can’t just be a repeat of what you find in the guide, or vice versa.

If you explain the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of insulation in the guide, some blog posts that could easily compliment the guide would be:

  • All about blow-in insulation — a much deeper look into blow-in insulation than is given in the guide
  • What you need to know about your energy bill
  • Is it a good idea to insulate your floors?

Having multiple pieces of unique but related content helps with your SEO reach, as well as providing an ecosystem of value to your customers.

Note: Interested in a comprehensive SEO strategy that is catered to your brand and products? Contact us here.

4. We present all options in the guide

You want the guide to be as inclusive as you can, even including products you may not sell. This will help build trust in your brand and increase your reputation as an authority in your market.

If a consumer is trying to decide between two types of insulation, and one of them isn’t included in the guide, it can stick out. That consumer will be less inclined trust the guide (and your brand) when they’re ready to make a purchase.

If you don’t carry what they were looking for, a guide can potentially explain why another product may be better. But it’s still important to provide all options within the guide so the user knows that you are giving them the full story.

5. We (sometimes) gate buyer’s guides with longer research periods

The decision to publish a guide directly on a site or gate it behind a form depends on the goals of the client and the potential for that specific topic.

Most often, we recommend publishing the guide directly on the site. A thorough buyer’s guide is a great linkable asset and can be a great option to help with link building efforts.

However, there are still some cases where it may make sense to put a guide behind a form.

There are certain instances where it may be better to put your guide behind a form. This is an example of a Buyers Guide form.

For products with much longer research processes, being able to send follow-up emails can be greatly beneficial. When we’ve chosen to gate a guide, we’ve seen both the buyer’s guide and follow up emails lead to sales.

If you choose to offer your guide as a download, your landing page is crucial.

People are also much more likely to offer their email address to get help making bigger purchases, but they need to be assured that this guide is worthwhile. A landing page should offer an overview of the guide, the benefits to reading it, and highlights about what they’ll find.

And since the majority of the guide isn’t found on your site, the landing page also needs to be optimized for SEO, including relevant keywords that people would search for to find the guide.

6. In follow-up emails, we focus on helpful buying advice first, and then focus on the products

For gated guides that we send via email, we commonly send 3-6 follow-up emails, depending on the product. Here’s an example of an outline follow-up email flow:

  1. The first email offers a link to the PDF version of the buyer’s guide as well as offering help the user needs. This email tends to not lead to as many conversions, but it has high open rates and shows users that this company cares about being helpful.
  2. The second email links to blog posts about the topic for further help.
  3. The third offers top systems the company recommends.
  4. The fourth email includes coupon codes.
  5. The fifth is a reminder that their coupons will expire after so many days.
  6. Lastly, depending on the typical buying cycle, we send one final email asking if they still need help or if they bought a product somewhere else.

Overall, the point of emails that follow a buyer’s guide should be geared toward helping consumers make a complicated buying decision. These emails can lead to sales. They also help grow a long-term relationship with those consumers.

Buyer’s guides can grow long-term relationships with customers

Buyer’s guides aren’t just about making a sale on one particular product. Along with the follow-up emails and other educational information on your site, your company becomes a trusted resource for making purchase decisions.

If you’re interested in this type of content marketing — or anything related — but unsure where to start, we can help. Contact us here.

How to Manage Out of Stock Products for SEO

Every eCommerce business will need to remove a product from its inventory at some point. Many businesses make the mistake of either deleting the product page, redirecting the page to their homepage or leaving hundreds or even thousands of out-of-stock pages online without actually looking into how this could benefit or hurt their website. This post and the

Every eCommerce business will need to remove a product from its inventory at some point. Many businesses make the mistake of either deleting the product page, redirecting the page to their homepage or leaving hundreds or even thousands of out-of-stock pages online without actually looking into how this could benefit or hurt their website.

This post and the accompanying flow chart should help provide a general best practice framework for eCommerce teams on how to treat out of stock products in various situations.


products out of stock

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It’s not as simple as just deleting the page. It’s not as simple as just leaving it up either.

Deleting a page with links could cost you hard-to-get link equity.

Redirecting a page to the homepage will preserve some link equity, but that equity might have benefited a more relevant page of your site. Also, sending visitors to your homepage can be a jarring and frustrating experience, which may have lost you a sale.

And lastly, leaving out of stock pages up on your site might cause index bloat. Google gives your site only so much crawl budget. If they spend your crawl budget on pages that don’t matter, it’s very likely they will skip some of the most important pages of your site.

With some of these things in mind, you have three basic options.

  1. Leave the page online
  2. Redirect the page
  3. Delete the page and show a 404 or 410 status code

The option you choose depends on several different factors, which we’ll talk about below.

For Out of Stock Pages That Will Not Be Coming Back

If the page has links:

The first thing you should check is to see if the page has any external links. External links are one of the strongest ranking factors used by the search engines, and it is difficult to build links into product pages. You don’t want to lose that value by deleting a page without redirecting it. Use a tool like Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs or Majestic. If there are links, redirect the page to a related product. If there is no related product, redirect the page to a related category.

Keep in mind that product-to-product redirects can result in a lot of housekeeping down the line. If, for example, the new product eventually gets removed from the site as well, any previous redirects may go to a 404 page or may result in a series of redirects. Large websites might consider redirecting to category pages instead, as they tend to come and go much less often.

Alternatively, you could reuse the old URL for the new product, rather than redirecting it. If the old URL makes sense for the new product, this is the best option and saves a lot of hassle.

If the page has traffic, but no links:

You have four options:

First, check to see if the page is converting (driving revenue).

You might be wondering how an out of stock product page is driving revenue. This is through assisted conversions. Google Analytics (GA) tracks assisted conversions when someone lands on any page, browses the site and then buys another product.



To check for conversions in GA, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. Then set the “Conversions” dropdown to eCommerce.




Set your segment to “Organic Traffic” and set the date range to a time period after the product went out of stock.




If you only have a few products to check, you can simply type the page URL into the search box.


If you have a lot of pages to check, export the data instead. GA will only export as many rows as are showing on the page. Showing more rows allows you to export the maximum amount of data.



Show as many rows as possible.




Export the data for analysis in Excel or Google Sheets.


Compare the data from the exported spreadsheet to your list of URLs for out of stock products and see if any have driven revenue.


You can use a vlookup in Excel to compare both lists more quickly. Check out this great guide on how to use VLOOKUP from Mikkel Sciegienny.

If the page is not converting but has traffic:

  • Redirect the page to a relevant product (a post-redirect message will aid user experience).

If the page is converting, either:

  • Leave the page up and point customers to other relevant products.
  • Redirect the page to a relevant product (a post-redirect message will aid user experience).


Choosing whether to leave the page up or to redirect it is a judgment call you’ll need to make. A conservative approach would be to leave it up and point customers to other relevant products. If it doesn’t convert well, you could then choose to redirect it and see if conversions are affected. On the other hand, redirecting immediately may convert just as well, and it would require much less hassle in the long run since you won’t have to try to remember all the pages you need to come back to later.

If you choose to leave the page up, check to see if it’s converting after a period of 1-3 months. If it’s not converting, delete the page. Leaving old pages up will cause index bloat and could negatively affect your overall rankings.

If the page doesn’t have any links or traffic:

Let it 404 and submit to Google Search Console for removal.

Out of Stock SEO Flowchart - Preview

For Out of Stock Products That Will Be Coming Back

Avoid a poor user experience for those who find the product page in search engines. Too many users clicking back to search results, and providing other negative engagement metrics to Google’s algorithms, could harm sitewide rankings and end up costing the business even more than just deleting the page. Here are some general best practices on how to provide a good user experience while products are temporarily out of stock.

  • Keep the page live. Return a 200(ok) status code in the HTTP header.
  • Clearly label the product as temporarily out of stock.
  • Use structured markup to indicate to search engines that the product is not in stock
  • Provide an expected back in stock date, if available.
  • Inform the visitor of back order or in stock notification options, if available.
  • Suggest and link to products that are closely related.

Alternatively, for very large sites where it’s difficult to manage many pages at once, you can set the date the page will expire using the unavailable_after meta tag when the page is created. This can be based on an auction date or go stale date. Google has stated it would remove the page approximately a day after the expiration date. This should be used when selling second-hand or one-of-a-kind products, and for auctions. Most websites with multiple units of each item in stock should not use the unavailable_after meta tag.

Make an Informed Decision

If you don’t do your research before making a decision on what to do with out-of-stock pages, you could end up costing your business rankings and revenue. Preserve your link equity, convert more customers and prevent indexing issues by making an educated decision about how to handle old product pages. Download the flowchart below for a quick reference guide when making these decisions.

Access Our Out of Stock SEO Flowchart

Out of stock flowchart CTA

Fill out our form below to get access to Inflow’s Out of Stock SEO Flowchart. This flowchart is a great reference while planning your product management strategy.

Beyond Transcripts: How We Grew SEO Traffic by 45.96% for a Video Platform Site

Our client could have done what many video platforms do for video SEO—post transcripts. Instead, we helped them attract brand new users by targeting ‘niche outliers.’

When one of our clients — a subscription-based video platform that dominates its health and fitness niche — was launching a new video series, it wanted to drive SEO traffic to the new series.

But they faced the issue that many video platforms face. Since site crawlers can’t read video content, the majority of their site was not optimized for organic SEO.

This is why, even though video and other interactive content are growing more popular, you still need quality text for organic SEO.

They could have done what many video platforms do — posting transcripts of their videos.

Instead, they turned to us for a more comprehensive organic SEO strategy.

Advanced Tactics for Video SEO

While our client has its own internal SEO team, they come to us for higher-level advice and advanced project execution. We’ve now acted as their SEO advisors for over five years. With our efforts, plus those of the internal SEO team, we’ve seen year-over-year results of:

  • 45.96% growth in organic search traffic
  • 53.78% growth in transactions from organic traffic

Here are the specific advanced tactics we used to help them optimize their video series to find new subscribers and improve their organic SEO results.

Note: Interested in a personalized SEO strategy for your eCommerce website? We can help.  Contact us here.

1. You don’t need to invest in high volume searches to improve your SEO

There’s a misconception that to really grow your rankings and organic search traffic, you need to latch onto topics within your subject area that already have high search volume.

But this isn’t the only way to grow organic SEO.

Although our client’s site produces a lot of fitness-related content, the new series was related to a subsidiary section of the site. To give a hypothetical example, let’s say you’re known for videos about fitness, but you’re creating a new video series about Kombucha.

Kombucha is far from a “trend” in the mainstream health and fitness niche. You won’t find much on Kombucha in typical news publications, for example.

Kombucha is extremely popular but isn't a trending topic in health and fitness

But it does have a sizeable niche.

Kombucha has a significant following

Sticking with our example, because there’s a community around Kombucha, we knew that the content would have an audience. But here we ran into our second problem:

What if the majority of Kombucha enthusiasts already knew about the site?

Writing articles that target people already highly interested in Kombucha might grow the site’s organic SEO, but it wouldn’t reach new subscribers — which is really what our client wanted.

Instead of focusing only on the highest volume search traffic we thought we could rank for (as most SEO strategies do) we focused instead on search terms likely to attract people who were brand new to the topic.

In this case, new users = niche outliers.

2. Grow an audience using people’s curiosity

To find people new to the topic, we focused on content that would grab people just starting to research the topic covered by the site’s new video series.

For our example of Kombucha, it might be searches like:

  • “What is Kombucha?”
  • “Is Kombucha good for you?”

To create the content briefs, our team watched all the videos created for the new series, researched the topics online and read related articles, and performed keyword research using our own tools.

We paid careful attention to the questions people were asking, especially if they seemed to come from newcomers.

  • “Are natural antibiotics as effective as prescription drugs?”
  • “What’s a heart-healthy diet?”

Many of the articles offered an introduction to a topic. When the series was uncovering major discoveries or new science, we’d refer readers to the videos — some of which were behind a paywall.

The articles increased the site’s reach to new users, and the videos created new subscribers and customers (while keeping existing customers happy).

3. We created content that pulled in new users, but we didn’t neglect the site’s existing audience

Even though we targeted new users, we didn’t neglect the client’s long-standing subscribers. In addition to developing content for a general audience, we suggested material for people who have been interested in the topic for a long time.

Our client has a reputation as an authority in the industry, so we leveraged their reputation to deepen conversations about our given topics.

For Kombucha, for instance, we might offer an in-depth piece on the scientist who used Kombucha to treat cancer in the mid-twentieth century.

4. The skills needed to improve a site’s SEO are not necessarily the skills needed to produce quality content

The biggest reason our client has become one of the top companies in its niche is because of the quality of its content.

hey use vetted fitness experts to produce quality workout videos with equally high-production value. They’ve also invested in user-friendly interfaces for desktop and other devices.

The quality of these text-based articles was just an extension of the quality you’d see across their site.

It’s also why we didn’t write the articles ourselves.

Our job was to conduct keyword research and create extensive content briefs for new articles meant to accompany the site’s new video series.  We then handed over the briefs to our client’s in-house subject matter experts to write.

SEO specialists know how to find what’s trending, investigate popular keywords for a topic, what kind of content is missing in a niche, etc.

What SEO specialists often can’t do is write engaging content at the same quality as someone who is an expert in that area. When you hire general SEO-driven writers to write specialty content, it may draw traffic to the site, but it’s less likely to keep them there.

We did what we do best (handle the details around SEO); our client did what they do best (create expert-level content), and the organic traffic to their site grew.

5. Be realistic about what will work for you

This strategy might not work for everyone.

Since our client is already seen as an authority in the fitness/health space and has resources to invest in this kind of content, they were able to execute two tactics that less-established brands (or brands with smaller budgets) might struggle with:

1) Investing in searches with smaller search volume.

One reason that our client didn’t need to rely on trending topics was because they were big enough to create trends within their niche.

2) Producing high quality content in multiple subject areas (like fitness and brain health)

This is a gamble we may not always suggest for other businesses. It worked in this case because of the particular subject matter experts within the company’s sphere of influence, and because of the overlap in topics. When in doubt, stick to one topic and do it well.

Note: Interested in a personalized strategy to raise the SEO ranking of your eCommerce website? We can help.  Contact us here.

Beyond keywords: What really matters in SEO content

Going beyond keywords to write high-quality content that attracts new customers and is SEO-friendly is the way to go, says contributor Jessica Foster. Here she shares eight ways to create content that satisfies people and engines.

The post Beyond keywords: What really matters in SEO content appeared first on Marketing Land.

Just when we thought the saying “Content is king” was gone for good, there it goes showing its sneaky little face again in the search engine optimization (SEO) world.

Bearing in mind also that “Content is queen,” it appears that content is, in fact, pretty danged important — so important that a new sub-industry has squeezed its way into the search engine world: SEO content writing.

Otherwise referred to as “SEO copywriting,” SEO content writing has a bad reputation for being chock-full of keywords and little else. Though this may be more of a stereotype than reality, there is something to be said for going beyond keywords to write high-quality content that attracts new customers AND is SEO-friendly.

What’s the deal with ‘high-quality’ content?

The focus is typically on “high-quality” content — a term that becomes more subjective by the minute. It leads to questions like

  • What really makes SEO content “high-quality?”
  • Is it measurable?
  • More importantly, can it be recreated again and again?

The standard formula of:




[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

The post Beyond keywords: What really matters in SEO content appeared first on Marketing Land.

Index Bloat: Why Deleting Website Pages Is Great for SEO in 2018

You might have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of low-quality pages on your site — in Google’s eyes — and might not even realize it. We call this index bloat.

Gone are the days when you could easily hack SEO by loading a page with keywords and creating artificial backlinks.

Today, Google is consistently rolling out changes to its algorithms to reward quality.

Unlike the past, if you have low-quality pages on your website, it can negatively impact your overall ranking.

What’s a low-quality page?

It’s one that isn’t used or visited, is full of duplicate content from other pages, has thin content or very low engagement in the eyes of Google.

Here’s the thing:

It’s entirely possible that you have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of low-quality pages on your site — in the eyes of Google — and you might not even realize it.

We call this problem index bloat.

It happens when Google has indexed a lot of URLs for your website that it views as low-quality.

In this article, we’ll show you:

  1. An example of index bloat
  2. Common causes
  3. The exact steps you can take to see if you have a problem

Note: We can help you spot and fix issues on your website that are harming your overall ranking.  Contact us here.

Index Bloat: A Real-life Example

We recently started working with an eCommerce client and discovered something fascinating (and troubling) as we did our standard checks to evaluate their site.

After talking to them, we expected the site to have somewhere around 10,000 pages.

When we looked in Google Webmaster Tools, we saw — to our surprise — that Google had indexed 38,000 pages for the website. Find this chart here: Web Tools > Search Console > Google Index > Index Status.

A real-life example of index bloat.

That was way too high for the size of the site.

We also saw that the number had risen dramatically.

In July of 2017, the site had only 16,000 pages indexed in Google Analytics.

What happened?

How a Hidden Technical Glitch Caused Massive Index Bloat

It took a while to figure out what had gone wrong with our client’s site.

Eventually, we found a problem in their software that was creating thousands of unnecessary product pages.

At a high-level, any time the website sold out of their inventory for a brand (which happened often), the site’s pagination system created hundreds of new pages.

Put another way, the site had a technical glitch that was creating index bloat.

The company had no idea their site had this problem, which is common with a site that has a technical glitch.

For eCommerce sites that automatically generate new pages for products, brands, or categories, things like this can easily happen.

It’s one common cause of index bloat, but not the only one.

Other common causes include:

  1. Pages with too little original content
  2. Old blog posts, news releases, or case studies that get little to no traffic
  3. Search pages that get accidentally indexed by Google

Don’t think you’re safe just because your list of indexed pages looks like this:

Even if the overall number of pages on your site isn’t going up, you might still be carrying unnecessary pages from months or years ago.

Even if the overall number of pages on your site isn’t going up, you might still be carrying unnecessary pages from months or years ago — pages that could be slowly chipping away at your relevancy scores as Google makes changes to its algorithm.

The good news is: it’s relatively easy to identify and remove pages that are causing index bloat on your site.

We also have a free tool you can use that will help.

How to Identify and Remove Poor Performing Pages

Here’s the step-by-step process we use with our clients to identify and remove poor performing pages:

(1) Estimate the number of pages you should have

Estimate to the number of products you carry, the number of categories, blog posts, and support pages, and add them together. Your total indexed pages should be something close to that number.

(2) Use the Cruft Finder Tool to find poor-performing pages

The Cruft Finder tool is a free tool we created to identify poor-performing pages. It’s designed to help eCommerce site managers find and remove pages that are harming your SEO ranking.

The tool sends a Google query about your domain and — using a recipe of site quality parameters — returns page content we suspect might be harming your index ranking.

Mark any page that:

  1. Is identified by the Cruft Finder tool
  2. Gets very little traffic (as seen in Google Analytics)

These are pages you should consider removing from your site.

(3) Decide what to keep and what to remove

For years, you’ve been told that adding fresh content on your site increases traffic and improves SEO. You should be blogging at least once a week, right?

Well, maybe.

If a blog post has been on your website for years, has no backlinks pointing to it, and no one ever visits it, that old content could be hurting your rankings.

Recently, we deleted 90% of one client’s blog posts. Why? Because they weren’t generating backlinks or traffic.

If no one is visiting a URL, and it doesn’t add value to your site, it doesn’t need to be there.

(4) Revise and revamp necessary pages with little traffic

If a URL has valuable content you want people to see — but it’s not getting any traffic — it’s time to restructure.

Could you consolidate pages? Could you promote the content better through internal linking? Could you change your navigation to push traffic to the page?

Also, make sure that all your static pages have robust, unique content. When Google sees thousands of pages on your site with sparse or similar content, it can lower your relevancy score.

(5) Make sure your search results pages aren’t being indexed

Not all pages on your site should be indexed. The main example of this is search results pages.

You almost never want search pages to be indexed because there are better pages to funnel traffic that have better quality content. These are not meant to be entry pages.

This is a common issue.

For example, here’s what we found using the Cruft Finder tool for one major retail site: over 5,000 search pages indexed by Google.

Examples of how the Cruft Finder tool can help you find index bloat.

If you find this issue on your own site, follow Google’s instructions to get rid of search result pages.

The Results and Impact on Traffic and Revenue

What kind of impact can index bloat have on your results?

And what kind of positive effect have we seen after correcting it?

Here’s a graph of indexed pages from a recent client that was letting their search result pages get indexed — the same way we explained above. We helped them implement a technical fix so those pages wouldn’t be indexed anymore.

Index bloat can impact both your traffic and revenue.

In the Google Analytics graph, the the blue dot is where the fix was implemented. The number of indexed pages continued to rise for a bit, then dropped significantly.

Year over year, here’s what happened to the site’s organic traffic and revenue:

3 Months Before the Technical Fix

  • 6% decrease in organic traffic
  • 5% increase in organic revenue

3 Months After the Technical Fix

  • 22% increase in organic traffic
  • 7% increase in organic revenue

Before vs. After

  • 28% total difference in organic traffic
  • 2% total increase in organic revenue

Remember that not all pages on your site should be indexed.

This process takes time.

For this client, it took three full months before the number of indexed pages returned to the mid 13,000s, where it should have been all along.

Note: Interested in a personalized strategy to reduce index bloat and raise your SEO ranking? We can help.  Contact us here.


15 eCommerce SEO Tactics to Implement in Mid-2018 (Research-backed)

Here are 15 specific eCommerce SEO strategies for mid-2018 — based on research we’ve gathered from some of the top experts in SEO.

SEO is an always-changing game.

At Inflow, our SEO team is constantly researching cutting-edge tactics to drive organic traffic and conversions to eCommerce websites.

What you’re about to read are specific strategies we’ve gathered from some of the top experts in SEO — including several strategies we picked up at the SearchLove Conference:

  • How to rank in YouTube searches
  • How to rank in local searches
  • How to use data sets to improve rankings
  • Data sets you can safely ignore

While these tactics are applicable for many websites and industries, we think they’re especially practical SEO tactics for eCommerce.

Note: Interested in improving your SEO ranking this year, but need some help? Contact us here.

Mat Clayton: 4 Ways to Speed Up Your Website

From Mat Clayton, cofounder of, we learned these four quick strategies for speeding up a website that he’d tested on his site.

Here’s Mat’s full presentation deck for reference.

1. Reduce the number of queries per page

According to Mat, this is the most effective thing you can do to speed up your website.

By starting at, you can see all the scripts that load on one of your pages.

Ignore the page load times in Google Analytics, which can be misleading since Google Analytics looks at how long it takes to load the full page. This can make your average loading time look worse than it actually is.

Instead, use to see the average load time for the majority of your content (which is what’s important). You can also see what content loads the slowest.

eCommerce SEO: Page Load Time

2. Implement HTTP/2

Updating your server protocol can result in major speed improvements, which, in turn, can help your rankings.

HTTP/1.1 can only load batches of six connections in parallel at a time. When those are finished, the next six can load. This process slows down page loading.

With HTTP/2, an infinite amount of parallel connections can load.

One thing to note is that HTTP/2 requires HTTPS. Most content delivery networks (CDNs) support it, and it’s as easy as flipping a switch in your settings.

3. Cache static files and remove dead code

Cache the static files on your site that never change — such as images, JavaScript, and CSS files.

If you’re running HTTP/2, you can split your CSS and JavaScript into multiple smaller files so they all load in parallel.

You should also use GZIP or Deflate compression. Aside from removing dead code, most of this can be accomplished with a CDN.

4. Optimize images

If you’re not already optimizing or compressing images, doing so can make a huge difference in your page loading time.

You can also consider lazy loading content — waiting to load content on the page until the user scrolls far enough to see it.

Note: We can help you increase the speed of your site and drive more traffic to it. Contact us here.

Wil Reynolds: Better Ways to Use SEO Data

From Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive fame, we learned where to look for better SEO data and how to use that data to bring insights and improved performance across digital channels.

5. Ignore the search “average” click-through rate curve

It’s tempting to benchmark your click-through rate (CTR) against the global average data compiled by sites like Advanced Web Ranking.

But those charts ignore the effect big brands such as Amazon, BestBuy, and Wikipedia have on the CTR of the remaining listings.

eCommerce SEO: Ignore the "search average"

They also ignore Google’s many other properties in the search results, such as search ads, shopping ads, local listings, “people also ask,” etc.

6. Use paid keyword advertising conversion data

When selecting SEO keywords for paid campaigns, AdWords conversion data can:

  • Cross-reference organic rankings and identify gaps where there are paid conversions but little to no organic rankings. You know this delivers real value, after all.
  • Provide SEO data even if AdWords isn’t a big part of your lead generation strategy. Don’t have a paid account? Set up a budget and run a test account for a month or two to collect this data.

Justin Briggs: How to Rank in YouTube Searches

YouTube (and videos in general) are often overlooked by businesses as rich multi-use tools to promote your brand.

As Justin Briggs from Briggsy points out, YouTube is a BIGGER search engine than Bing.

  • YouTube has 1.5 billion users
  • Average session duration is one hour

If video is something you are currently doing or are planning to do, it’s important to understand how to rank well in the space.

To better understand YouTube’s search algorithm, Justin’s team looked at “3.8 million data points across 100,000 videos and 75,000 channels.”

Here are some of their insights…

7. Use short, keyword-rich titles

Briggsy’s analysis found that titles using keywords performed better, and exact match could help, as well.

Exact match keywords help but aren't required.

Image source: Briggsy

Titles that are shorter than the allotted amount tended to perform better. This all makes a difference in the ‘Suggested Videos’ section, which only shows 35-45 characters of a title.

8. Write 300-350 word descriptions

According to Justin’s research, there is a positive correlation in rankings for videos with descriptions in the 300-350 word range. Longer descriptions tend to perform more poorly.

9. Longer videos perform better

For video length, Justin’s team found:

  • Videos that were longer than 10 minutes seemed to have a bump in likes
  • Videos that are less than two minutes had a much lower performance than longer videos
  • Videos longer than 4:30 were the most effective

Their takeaway?

A longer video means higher possibility of a longer ‘watch time’ while a shorter video needed to get substantially more views to make up for the loss in watch time.

Focus on maximizing watch time.

Image source: Briggsy

Rob Bucci: How to Rank for Featured Snippets and Voice Searches

Featured snippets are more prevalent than ever.

Between January 2016 and November 2017, the percentage of organic search results featuring snippets rose from 9% to 31%.

Featured Snippets: How Does Blockchain Work?

Featured Snippets are also beginning to pull from results that are in the first few positions instead of just the first position.

One reason featured snippets are more important than ever is that Google is searching featured snippets for natural language queries. This means any tool that uses voice search — like Siri, Alexa, or Google Home — are using snippets to respond to questions.

Optimizing for things like local and voice search are becoming imperative for quality SEO.

Here are three ways to optimize your site to appear in featured snippets according to Rob Bucci, founder and CEO of STAT Search Analytics.

10. Optimize for voice queries using long-tail keywords

Search engines have evolved to understand many natural language queries, but it’s still not a perfect science.

The best way to optimize for these voice searches is to create featured snippet content that focuses on long-tail, natural-language queries.

Search engines have evolved to understand natural language queries.

11. Make snippets with small lists and tables, not just paragraphs

Paragraphs still make up a large chunk of overall featured snippets.

Even so, we see more and more lists and tables appear as featured snippets. Expect this trend to continue.

 Make snippets with small lists and tables, not just paragraphs.

12. Look at different snippets from competing URLs

To see the featured snippet from a competitor, add &num=1, &num=2, &num=3, or &num=4 at the end of a search URL that returns a featured snippet.

If Google is pulling featured snippets from any of the other sites in its listing, this will let you see them.

Look at different snippets from competing URLs.

Look at different snippets from competing URLs.

Darren Shaw: How to Rank in Local Searches  

In a recent presentation, Darren Shaw, founder and president of Whitespark, broke down six main areas of local search in which SEO efforts should be focused to boost local rankings:

  1. Google My Business
  2. Citations
  3. Website
  4. Links
  5. Reviews
  6. Behavioral Factors

His simple tips and tactics reveal it’s quite easy to outsmart your competitors and make the most of local search opportunities for your business or organization.

13. Include all phone numbers in your GMB listing

Depending on the listing, having different or multiple phone numbers for your business can have bad consequences for local search.

The way WhiteSpark explains it, all of these listings get collected by data aggregators. If one of them is wrong or a less important number, it can lead to duplicate listings or — worse — it can override your primary listing. Having bad data can harm your rankings in Google and Bing as well.

If you have alternate phone numbers for your business, make sure to list all of them in your Google My Business (GMB) listing. For more information on why this is an issue and how to fix it, check out WhiteSpark’s more detailed explanation.

That’s why it’s so important to have all your information up to date in Google My Business — so the contact information that shows in your search results is accurate.

14. Get star ratings in organic searches

Gold stars in organic listings = more traffic to your website.

To add these to your site, use microdata/schema markup on your site’s pages.

eCommerce SEO: Get star ratings in organic searches

Darren has a handy quick list of items to check off when you’re working through this to ensure you’re doing it right.

15. Find sponsorship/backlink opportunities in your city

Sponsorships that offer links back to your website are great for many reasons.

They help improve your local SEO and, of course, you’re helping out your community!

Find quick and easy sponsorship link opportunities for your business by searching:

Intitle:sponsor “Your City”

The at the end of the query, add:


Find sponsorship/backlink opportunities.

The results will give you a list of organizations you can consider sponsoring — while earning a high-value backlink in the process.

Find sponsorship/backlink opportunities.

Note: The best SEO strategy will be personalized for your site and industry, and Inflow can help. Contact us here.