TikTok Responds To Allegations Of Unsecured User Data

TikTok denied that sensitive user information was accessible to China-based employees. The CEO of TikTok offered a strong rebuttal over a news report alleging unsecure handling of sensitive U.S. user data and answered multiple questions sent by United States senators about who has access to data and over Chinese government control over TikTok.

An article published by BuzzFeed alleged that in a TikTok meeting, it was stated that employees in China had complete access to sensitive user data.

In response to the news article, nine United States senators sent a letter to TikTok asking for answers, prompting the CEO of TikTok to provide a full explanation.

Oversight Letter

Nine Senators sent TikTok a letter of concern over allegations that China-based employees had access to sensitive user data. The letter asked eleven specific questions about user data, including if TikTok has ever shared sensitive data with the government of China.

The letter to TikTok stated:

“The implications of these findings are stark, but not surprising. Rather, they simply confirm what lawmakers long suspected about TikTok…”

TikTok’s answers were in response to that letter.

TikTok Leak Out Of Context

The CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, wrote an answer to the senators that were subsequently shared as a PDF by the New York Times.

In their response, the CEO said that TikTok was already in compliance with securing U.S. user data and completed all steps for locking down that data together with two major United States companies.

Together with Oracle and Booz Allen, the security initiative they are working on is named Project Texas.

According to the CEO, personnel working on Project Texas work on different parts of a project and are not aware of the entire scope of the project.

He asserted that the people in the leak were workers who were unaware of other parts of the project and thus did not know of policies already in place securing the data.

According the CEO of TikTok:

“Some people working on these projects do not have visibility into the full picture , working on a task without realizing that it’s a single step in a much bigger project or a test to validate an assumption.

That’s critical context for the recordings leaked to BuzzFeed, and one thing their reporting got right: the meetings were in service of Project Texas’s aim to halt this data access.”

The letter also reveals that TikTok has been working confidentially with the U.S. Government to secure data in a way that keeps it entirely in the USA with strict safeguards as to who has access.

He continued:

“…circumstances now require that we share some of that information publicly to clear up the errors and misconceptions in the article and some ongoing concerns related to other aspects of our business.

…As we recently reported, we now store 100% of U.S. user data by default in the Oracle cloud environment, and we are working with Oracle on new, advanced data security controls that we hope to finalize in the near future.”

TikTok China-based Employee Data Access

Contradicting the sensational news reports, TikTok already has strict rules over access to user data controlled by the United States-based security team.

Regarding China-based employee access to data:

“Employees outside the U.S., including China- based employees, can have access to TikTok U.S. user data subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our U.S.-based security team.

In addition, TikTok has an internal data classification system and approval process in place that assigns levels of access based on the data’s classification and requires approvals for
access to U.S. user data.

The level of approval required is based on the sensitivity of the data according to the classification system.”

The CEO also vigorously denied that the Chinese government has any control or access to the United States user data or TikTok itself.

He wrote:

“…employees of Beijing Douyin Information Service Limited are restricted from U.S. user database access.

The Chinese state-owned enterprise’s acquisition of 1 % of Beijing Douyin Information Service Limited was necessary for the purpose of obtaining a news license in China for several China- based content applications, such as Douyin and Toutiao

The Chinese government does not directly or indirectly have the right to appoint board members or otherwise have specific rights with respect to any ByteDance entity within the chain of ownership or control over the TikTok entity .”

TikTok Still Available On App Stores

As of the publication of this article, TikTok is still available for download from the respective app stores of Google and Apple, an indication that those companies are satisfied TikTok does not violate the terms of privacy governing all apps in their app stores.

In a previous statement, TikTok published that it has been working with Oracle to secure U.S. TikTok data to ensure that 100% of user traffic is routed through Oracle’s cloud infrastructure. It also states that the project for locking down user data continues.


Citations

Read the Letter Sent by Nine U.S. Senators (PDF)

Read TikTok’s Response to United States Senators (PDF)

Read TikTok’s Statement from June 17, 2022

Delivering on our U.S. data governance

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How TikTok’s Search Algorithms Power Content Discovery

Until recently, knowing how TikTok’s search algorithms worked was as unlikely to help you earn money as knowing how to sew buttons on eggs.

But in the past month, TikTok has launched Branded Mission, a new way for brands to crowdsource authentic and creative content from its community, and TikTok Pulse, a new contextual advertising solution that gives brands exposure in the top 4% of videos.

Suddenly, learning how TikTok’s search algorithms power content discovery seems a lot more likely to help content creators and social media influencers turn their side hustles into full-time gigs.

This seems like the right time for a comprehensive guide to how to get your videos found via the For You feed, as well as the Following feed, Search results, and Friends tab.

How TikTok Recommends Videos #ForYou

In June 2020, TikTok disclosed how its recommendation system selected videos in “How TikTok recommends videos #ForYou.”

Little has fundamentally changed since then, except the U.S. government is no longer trying to ban the Chinese social media platform.

So, here’s what creators and influencers need to know: TikTok’s For You feed presents a stream of videos curated to each user’s interests, making it easy for a user to find content and creators they love.

In other words, there isn’t one For You feed for over one billion monthly active TikTok users.

There are a billion For You feeds tailored to what each user watches, likes, and shares.

TikTok added, “This feed is powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user.”

And several factors impact recommendations, including:

  • User interactions include liking or sharing videos, following accounts, commenting on a TikTok, and creating related content.
  • Video information, which can include captions, sounds, or hashtags.
  • Device and account settings such as a user’s language preference, country setting, and device type.

Two years ago, TikTok also revealed:

“All these factors are processed by our recommendation system and weighted based on their value to a user. A strong indicator of interest, such as whether a user finishes watching a longer video from beginning to end, would receive greater weight than a weak indicator, such as whether the video’s viewer and creator are both in the same country.”

On the other hand, TikTok said at the time:

“While a video is likely to receive more views if posted by an account that has more followers, by virtue of that account having built up a larger follower base, neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.”

In July 2020, TikTok followed up with a second post, “5 tips for TikTok creators.”

It told us, “For You feed recommendations generally pull from videos posted within the last 90 days.”

Now, I don’t mean to quibble, but I found 10 tips in this post that are still useful today:

  • Make captivating videos that tell stories, engage viewers, and spark conversation.
  • Create vertical videos which perform best on TikTok and videos that are more than five seconds long.
  • Write great captions to add context and provide additional information about a video.
  • Bring your content to life by using creative effects (e.g., freeze-framing or AR objects) and sound effects (e.g., voice-overs or duets).
  • Look broadly at the high-level trends in your analytics, then focus on a single metric from one video to another.
  • Measure the performance of newly uploaded videos soon after publishing because that’s when you will generally see a peak in engagement.
  • Capture viewers’ attention early and keep viewers interested because watch time determines how a video is recommended.
  • Add relevant hashtags to your captions so they’re more likely to be found by audiences interested in your content.
  • Add music and audio to your videos to help viewers who love the dances and challenges that TikTok has made popular discover them.
  • Experiment, get creative, and post different kinds of content to see what resonates.

TikTok’s second post also busted some myths, including:

  • Lots of factors determine how content is recommended in the For You feed, so no one engagement metric (such as likes or comments) is necessarily more important than another.
  • More hashtags don’t guarantee broader reach, and hashtags like #FYP, #ForYou, and #ForYouPage don’t work any better than other hashtags, so adding these to your caption won’t improve your chances of being seen in someone’s For You feed.
  • The number of videos you post won’t impact how your content is recommended in the For You feed, so focus on making deeply engaging videos from beginning to end instead.

So, does this two-year-old advice still generate results?

According to a post by Jacinda Santora on the Influencer Marketing Hub entitled, “Highest Paid TikTok Influencers of 2022,” Charli D’Amelio topped the list with average estimated earnings of $17.5 million.

She started posting dance videos on TikTok in 2019 and now has 141.3 million Followers, 10.9 billion Likes, and an Average Engagement Rate of 13%.

Charli D'Amelio account on TikTokScreenshot from TikTok, June 2022

And her older sister, Dixie D’Amelio, ranked second on the list with average estimated earnings of $57 million.

A singer, she now has 57.4 million Followers, 3.2 billion Likes, and an Average Engagement Rate of 12%.

Dixie D'Amelio account on TikTokScreenshot from TikTok, June 2022

Jim Louderback, the author of the “Inside the Creator Economy” weekly newsletter, recommended in “What’s The Alternative To Spending $7 Million On A Super Bowl Ad?,” “Partner with the D’Amelios and bring them on as creative consultants/part owners of your brand.”

So, do you need to sing and dance to succeed on TikTok?

Let’s look at the results generated by other creators and influencers who weren’t born in Norwalk, Connecticut.

In July 2020, I taught a couple of the modules in the first Impact Digital Creator Program at the New Media Academy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

At the time, all 22 of the creators and influencers in the program had Instagram accounts, and several had YouTube channels.

But, their most frequently asked question was: “Should I get on TikTok?”

In September 2020, the New Media Academy partnered with TikTok to add a course to the curriculum designed to help empower current and upcoming content creators in the region to learn how to use the Chinese social media app effectively.

That course, not I, taught creators and influencers in the UAE the best practices outlined above.

Since then, several creators and influencers in the program have launched TikTok accounts, including:

  • Nabaa Aldabbagh, better known as ISpeakFootballOnly, now has 657,100 Followers, 7.1 million Likes, and a 14% Average Engagement Rate.
  • Maitha Mohamed, an Emirati animation artist, and storyteller, now has 438,200 Followers, 4.2 million Likes, and a 10% Average Engagement Rate.
  • Saif Darwish, who isn’t your everyday doctor, now has 195,800 Followers, 1.1 million Likes, and a 2% Average Engagement Rate.
  • Ahmed AlMarzooqi, a content creator with a finance slant, now has 167,200 Followers, 1.1 million Likes, and a 6% Average Engagement Rate.
  • Zainab AlSawalhi, the inspiration behind The Picture Happiness Project, now has 141,800 Followers, 2.3 million Likes, and a 6% Average Engagement Rate.
  • Marwan Alwadhi, better known as DJ Bliss of Dubai, now has 43,000 Followers, 221,900 Likes, and a 2% Average Engagement Rate.
  • Ghaith Al Falasi, an Emirati certified race car driver, self-taught off-roader, and drifter, now has 38,400 Followers, 318,100 Likes, and a 4% Average Engagement Rate.

So, yes, this two-year-old advice still generates results, but results can vary.

How TikTok recommends videos for the Following feed, Search results, and Friends tab

In August 2021, TikTok published the third post in the series, “Discover more of what you love on TikTok.”

So, how does the Following feed work? TikTok said,

“As you follow new creators, their content will start showing up in your Following feed, which surfaces some of the latest and most relevant content from accounts you follow.”

You should create entertaining, inspiring content targeted at one of the many communities on TikTok.

Why?

Because you need to enchant viewers to do more than just “Like” your videos.

You need them to “Follow” your account.

And trying to be all things to all people rarely triggers the kind of emotional response needed to get viewers to do that.

What about Search results?

TikTok said,

“you can search for what you’re looking for, from hashtags to videos, creators, and sounds. Exploring these results can also help expand your viewing experience in your For You and Following feeds, as interactions like following an account, saving a video to Favorites, or liking or commenting on a video you’ve discovered through Search can help shape your future content recommendations.”

What should creators and influencers do with this scant amount of information?

Well, there’s only so much space in your captions, and more hashtags won’t guarantee a broader reach.

So, optimize your captions to add context to your video.

And along with adding hashtags that are relevant to your content, you might consider tagging another creator who inspired your content or use hashtags for trending topics or video challenges.

Or, you could leverage this insight from eMarketer: The #tiktokmademebuyit hashtag has 8.8 billion views on TikTok to date.

TikTokMadeMeBuyItScreenshot from TikTok, June 2022

You should also optimize your selection of free music clips and sounds.

Although TikTok curates music and sound playlists with the hottest tracks in every genre, you need to find out if your audience responds to Hip Hop, Edm, Pop, Rock, Rap, Country, or other original sounds?

In addition, TikTok’s machine learning is shaped by an individual user’s search results over time.

So, consider focusing on specific affinity segments who search for videos on popular topics again and again.

Affinity segments like gamers, foodies, beauty mavens, pet lovers, or sports fans have interests and habits that enable you to make an ongoing series of short-form videos that they will find exciting, spontaneous, and genuine.

Finally, TikTok started rolling out a “Friends” tab last month, replacing the “Discover” tab.

According to a Tweet on May 5, 2022, by TikTokComms, the Friends tab:

“will allow you to easily find and enjoy content from people you’re connected with, so you can choose even more ways to be entertained on TikTok.”

So, who are these “Friends” and how do they differ from the accounts that you are Following? It’s simple. They’re the accounts you follow that follow you back.

So, the “Friends” tab will enable you to see what’s currently capturing the interest of your community – from trends to effects and sounds on the rise.

And while you are out looking for inspiration, you might also want to use TikTok Insights, a new tool that surfaces insights marketers can use to target different demographics worldwide.

TikTok InsightsScreenshot from TikTok, June 2022

So, why should creators and influencers use a tool designed for marketers? For exactly the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks.

In the 1930s, a reporter named Mitch Ohnstad asked Sutton why he robbed banks. According to Ohnstad, Sutton replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”

And creators and influencers who want to earn money need to identify the “sweet spot” that represents the intersection of what their audience wants to watch, like, and share, and which audience endemic advertisers or brands in specific industries want to reach.

To illustrate that endemic advertisers and brands are interested in reaching specific audiences in the U.S. and the UAE, here are a few short success stories.

International House of Pancakes (IHOP) wanted to get millennial-aged food lovers to check out the restaurant by driving mass awareness around limited-time-only products.

IHOP looked to TikTok as part of its 2021 Halloween campaign to build interest and create in-store demand for these limited-time-only products at the “International Haunted House of Pancakes.”

International Haunted House of PancakesScreenshot from TikTok, June 2022

For its Halloween campaign, IHOP partnered with popular creator and DJ @IsaacLikes to serve up likable and informative In-Feed Ads that felt organic to the platform thanks to his “I LIKE YOU” personality.

Creatively, the In-Feed Ads leaned into popular trends like food hacks and comedy, with @IsaacLikes introducing the new menu and showing viewers how to get creative with their pancakes.

The funny and engaging content inspired them to head to their local IHOP to experiment with the new Halloween menu. One ad introduced the limited-time spooky menu, including create-your-own Scary Face Pancakes, while another showed Isaac’s six ways to eat an IHOP pancake.

IHOP then used the Reach objective to reach as many users as possible while also using TikTok Ads Manager to focus on specific interest and behavior groups to get in front of food lovers who were more likely to visit their nearest IHOP.

By targeting keywords such as “fall,” “autumn,” and “pancakes,” IHOP created efficiencies in connecting with the right audience to drive awareness while also realizing lower-funnel success at restaurants.

IHOP then used Foursquare Attribution to measure how the ads moved the needle in getting users in-store to sink their fangs into the new, spooky menu.

The International Haunted House of Pancakes reached over 33 million users.

More importantly, using interest and behavior targeting in TikTok Ads Managers ensured IHOP got in front of the right customers efficiently, leading to a 26% lower CPM than the national average on TikTok.

The TikTok community engaged with the creator-led content, too. The @isaaclikes videos brought in over 134,000 clicks to the Halloween menu landing page, 289,000 likes, and 2,000 shares.

Moreover, a post-campaign Brand Lift Study showed that humorous ads delivered a significant +8.4% ad recall.

Awareness was the primary goal, but the campaign’s hocus pocus also enchanted the TikTok community to try the menu in stores.

The Foursquare Attribution study proved that 5.42% of exposed users visited an IHOP location after seeing an ad on TikTok, a behavioral lift of 1.81% compared to those not exposed to the ads.

But wait, there’s more!

Kraft-Heinz wanted to showcase the versatility of its products and extend its relevance on dining tables in KSA and UAE, from using it on mostly-Western dishes like French fries to traditional Middle Eastern meals like shawarma.

HeinzItScreenshot from TikTok, June 2022

Heinz called on the community to participate in a Branded Hashtag Challenge, encouraging them to share their unconventionally tasty #HeinzIt combos, focusing on meals that were more traditional to the region.

The brand enlisted the help of the TikTok creator community, partnering with key voices that represented different demographics and interests within their target audience.

The creators kicked off the campaign and set the tone for the challenge by harnessing TikTok’s suite of creative tools. Using native transitions and the power of sound to produce TikToks dramatically brought to life how a little Heinz can elevate the experience of any meal, taking the brand from dull and uninteresting to fun and exciting in an instant.

The wider TikTok community was inspired by this early activity and quickly followed suit, sharing their own versions of unconventionally tastier meals through the #HeinzIt Challenge.

The campaign generated over 33.6 million views in the two markets of the hashtag content and inspired the creation of approximately 2,400 UGC videos.

In other words, Heinz succeeded in sparking a campaign echoed by the community, building a wave of advocacy that surpassed the brand’s expectations.

For people who saw the ad, the campaign produced a lift of 27 % points in the UAE and 23% points in KSA compared to people who didn’t see the ad, when asked about the statement that Heinz “can be used across a wide variety of dishes.”

The brand was also able to significantly lift Favorability by 25% points in the UAE and 32% points in KSA. This further solidified the brand as the preferred staple on the dining table while influencing the lower funnel with an uplift of 30 percentage points in the UAE and 24 percentage points in KSA on Purchase Intent – resulting in a full funnel win for Heinz!

Content Creators & Social Media Influencers Are Mini Media Companies

As more advertisers and brands start testing Branded Mission and TikTok Pulse, a growing percentage of TikTok creators and influencers will become mini media companies.

I worked at a media company in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Initially, I was the director of marketing at PC/Computing magazine, and later, I became the director of corporate communications for the Ziff-Davis Publishing Company.

I learned that the world’s largest publisher of computer magazines focused first on creating content that acted as a magnet and a screen.

The magnet attracted a specific target audience, such as “PC brand specifiers” or “PC volume buyers.” At the same time, the screen kept those who weren’t as interested in buying PCs from diluting the composition of the audience.

And it was the composition and the size of the audience that attracted endemic advertisers.

This special-interest publishing formula, which put content first, audience second, and advertisers third, enabled Ziff-Davis to fetch $1.4 billion when Forstmann Little & Company purchased it in 1994 and $2.1 billion when it was sold again in 1995 to the Softbank Corporation.

So, my advice to TikTok creators and influencers is simple: To be successful, focus first on creating entertaining and inspiring content that attracts and retains a clearly defined audience that will attract advertisers and brands – and, ultimately, will turn your side hustle into a full-time gig.

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4 Ways To Use AI Right Now In Your Marketing Program

In my last article, we saw that artificial intelligence is getting better and better at answering our questions, regardless of the subject matter or the sector.

Using GPT-3 technology, I demonstrated that an AI can successfully pass an SEO multiple-choice test as well as solve SEO case studies.

There are other, even more advanced, technologies, such as Deepmind’s Gopher, which outperform GPT-3 in the following fields: Humanities, social sciences, medicine, science, and math.

The following graph highlights the accuracy of the answers provided by Gopher, UnifiedQA, GPT-3, and a human expert.

Depending on the subject, we can see the narrow gap between the level of the AI and that of an expert.

This also suggests that the AI could potentially exceed the level of a non-expert person.

Performance on the Massive Multitask Language Understanding (MMLU) benchmark broken down by categoryImage from Deepmind, June 2022

Presently, AI can be a useful supporting resource for many marketing topics.

Let’s take a look at how to work with AI and more importantly, how to integrate it into your business.

4 Ways To Interact With An AI Tool

We will focus on the main methods of interaction to successfully set up the best AI-human combination.

1. Using Your Web Browser

The most interesting kind of interaction is to plug the AI into your back-office or into your web browser with a Chrome plugin.

There are numerous potential applications, as you will be able to help your users with advanced projects like document classification, writing assistance, meta-tag generation, text extraction, and even suggesting new topics.

You can connect the AI to your tools via a simple Javascript call asking it to perform specific tasks.

Below is an example of a JS integration with GPT-3.

The example is oversimplified to show you that with 20 lines of code and the appropriate instructions, you can easily connect a language model like GPT-3.


var xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
xhr.open("POST", 'https://api.openai.com/v1/engines/text-davinci-002/completions');

xhr.setRequestHeader("Content-Type", "application/json");
xhr.setRequestHeader("Authorization", "Bearer sk-RkXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX");

xhr.onreadystatechange = function () {
if (xhr.readyState === 4) {

if (xhr.status==200){
var data=xhr.responseText;
var jsonResponse = JSON.parse(data);
answerGPT3 = jsonResponse["choices"][0]['text'];
console.log(answerGPT3);
}
else {
console.log('API error');
console.log(xhr.responseText);
}
}};

var prompt = "List 50 concepts about … "

var data = `{
"prompt": "PROMPT",
"temperature": 0,
"max_tokens": 256,
"top_p": 1,
"frequency_penalty": 0,
"presence_penalty": 0
}`;

data = data.replace('PROMPT', prompt)

xhr.send(data);

If your back-office supports Javascript and you have seasoned developers, integrating advanced AI features has never been easier.

In order to test this initial connection, create a Chrome plugin to evaluate an AI on its capacity to correctly respond to certifications designed for experts.

To do this, use a Chrome plugin that allows optical character recognition to capture any kind of text.

Then, leverage a separate Chrome plugin that modifies a page’s CSS  to make the page as understandable as possible.

In an example exercise, we assigned each answer of a multiple-choice test to a corresponding letter.

Then, with the previous 20 lines of code, we sent the instructions to the AI to generate the results in a text field.

With this program, called “Asimov’s tests,” the AI managed to pass several certifications.

I then tested the AI on the subject of medical science and it attained scores of more than 60%, without any previous training in a specific discipline.

This confirms that by choosing your subject correctly, the results produced by the AI can strongly help your teams to improve day-to-day work.

SEO assessment from LinkedInImage from LinkedIn, June 2022

2. Using Your Data Visualization Tools

Over the past few months, tools that generate documentation or facilitate code writing have started to appear.

One remarkable use case is to simply generate dashboards or SEO tools with instructions.

There are now open source tools like Streamlit that have very advanced components in Data Visualization or Data Manipulation.

By providing the appropriate instructions, it is easy to request the generation of an app that interacts directly with your data.

For example, you can generate a web application with a complete interface and functional code.

This practice is quite recent, because we use language models that are exclusively fed with computer code. And again, the results are quite impressive.

In the following graph, you can see all the most popular code generators and the data with which they were created.

  • CodeParrot: 50 GB.
  • GPT-3 Codex: 159 GB.
  • InCoder: 216 GB.
  • PolyCoder: 249 GB.
  • AlphaCode: 715.1 GB.
  • CodeGen: 1.38 TB.

It is possible to generate applications in many languages; the main ones are Java, C, JS, and PHP.

most popular code generatorsImage via Huggingface.co, June 2022

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, I encourage you to give it a try – as the AI can create your SQL query or your graphs in a matter of seconds.

Practical use is important if you want to get better at using your favorite tools.

3. Using A Chatbot

You can also create a chatbot to answer very specific questions by clearly specifying what role it should play in the instructions.

Here, I ask the chatbot to respond as if it were a doctor, while also using a touch of kindness and humor.

chatbot answerScreenshot by author, June 2022

AI-based chatbots can therefore provide personalized advice and recommendations based on customer preferences. Don’t hesitate to tailor the AI to respond in a particular manner.

A great example is that of Danny Richman, who created an AI version of Google’s John Mueller, called MuellerBot.

This bot builds on the above principle to answer SEO questions as if John Mueller himself were answering them.

It’s both fun and unsettling, as the answers can be quite accurate.

MuellerBotImage from Danny Richman, June 2022

4. Using An AI Assistant Program

Lastly, AI assistants for SEO are programs that run in the background and apply SEO fixes if a page is poorly constructed or has classic errors.

The first such applications date back to 2016, when Facebook was implementing bug auto-fixes with Getafix.

Based on all the bugs fixed in the past, the assistant prepares correction templates that are applied and reviewed by a human before being rolled out.

This is very applicable in SEO, where we know that concerns about meta tag titles, descriptions, pagination, and links are typical problems.

Facebook code baseImage from engineering.fb.com, June 2022

To do this, you can use GPT-3 in edit mode and modify the SEO pages using the appropriate instructions.

Below are my instructions:

  • Add a title with an H1 tag at the beginning of the text.
  • Add an <a href> link to the most important word in the body of the text.
  • Create useful outlinks at the end of text by using <ul><li>.
  • Add a YouTube video in the body of the text.
  • Put the top five concepts in bold.
modifying seo pages with AIScreenshot from OpenAI, June 2022

If we study the generated text, we can see that the results are excellent: The H1 title sums up the article, the words in bold are accurate, and the YouTube video and outbound links are relevant to the theme.

generated text using AIScreenshot from OpenAI, June 2022

In short: Your AI assistant can save you a lot of time.

Just a note: The links are all dummy links, but you can connect everything to a link database and use mapping tables to replace LINK1 with a link in your database or CSV file.

Now, you can appreciate the potential of automating these types of tasks.

Now that you know the different ways of interfacing a language model with your existing tools, don’t hesitate to implement the method(s) that works best for you, such as:

  • Chrome Plugin.
  • Directly into your CMS.
  • Via a chatbot.
  • Data visualization.
  • AI Assistant.

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7 Data-Driven Content Strategy Tips For Improving Conversions

There’s an old maxim in the marketing world, “content is king.” This has been true as long as search engine optimization has been around, and probably dates back even further in the world of general marketing.

But as simple as that adage is, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, namely what kind of content?

In those early SEO days, it meant identifying your keywords and jamming them into pages anywhere they would fit.

But modern digital marketers are smarter (not to mention that strategy doesn’t work anymore).

These days, successful content starts with a plan that’s backed up by numbers, a data-driven content strategy, if you will.

But what exactly does that mean?

In simple terms, it means developing content using an approach built on user information. This can include information like demographics, survey answers, consumer preferences, etc.

You probably don’t need to be told why this is important, but just to make sure there’s no doubt, let’s be clear: Using a data-driven content strategy helps you decide where to spend your time, effort, and money.

In other words, you have finite resources. You don’t want to waste them on people who aren’t likely to convert.

A data-driven content strategy allows you to tailor your marketing campaigns to generate the best ROI.

For the purposes of search engine and PPC specialists, it can help you decide which keywords to go after, ensuring you’re targeting the right audience.

Sounds simple enough, right? All you need to do is pop open your content research tool and look for commonalities, right? Sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

But never fear, that’s why you’re here.

In this helpful guide, we’ll give you a step-by-step approach to developing, implementing, and optimizing your very own data-driven content strategy.

Ready to get started?

1. Set Your Content Goals

The very first thing you need to decide is what you’re hoping to accomplish. You can’t be all things to all people, so you need to make some choices.

Do you want to increase traffic? Are you looking to make sales? Do you want more leads?

Determine what your content goals are and identify the channels best suited to meet them. Once you’ve done this, you can establish your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Be sure to keep this in mind while you’re creating content.

Everything you add to your website or campaign should serve a purpose. If you’re not sure what it’s doing, your audience won’t know either.

2. Define Your Target Audience

Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve, it’s time to figure out who to go after to make it happen.

Comb through the demographic data and other information you have access to. Spot commonalities that occur across many or some of your targets.

Many marketers find it helpful to create customer personas. Using your data, imagine a typical person for each of the various roles you’re targeting.

For example, you may have a prospect persona, a lead persona, a buyer persona and a repeat persona.

Put yourself in the shoes of these imaginary people.

What type of language resonates with them? What is their highest level of education? Do they want professionalism or personability? Why are they on your website? What do they hope to accomplish with your help? Be as detailed as you can.

Many marketers even give them a name. For example, if you were creating personas for your plumbing supply company, you may have:

Lead Larry – 45 years old

A mid-career plumber, Lead Larry owns his own one-man business. He makes $75,000 a year. He went to a trade school and his work van is 6 years old. He’s looking for a way to reduce overhead and find cheaper parts than his local supply company. He values hard work, honesty, and professionalism.

Be as creative and detailed as you like, just remember this isn’t a fiction-writing exercise. You’re creating personas based on your typical target, so keep your persona in line with who they actually are.

3. Review Your Competitor’s Content And Do Topical Research

Now it’s time to take a look at what the competition is doing. Maybe they’re just flying by the seat of their pants, but they’re probably putting some effort into their campaigns, too.

Review what they’re doing and look for what appears to be working.

For example, if they’re blogging, they may have a view counter on the page. If so, what type of blogs are getting the best results?

Look for trends in your industry. What’s everyone talking about? Is there a big trade show coming up? Or a new technology about to be released?

Figure out who you’re competing with for clicks, not just to see what’s working for them, but also to gain ideas for content of your own. Start making a list of things you want to cover.

If there are influencers in your niche, this is also a good time to check and see what they’re posting about.

4. Conduct Keyword Research

Once you’ve settled on what your content should be, it’s time to perform that old SEO staple: keyword research.

Using a tool like Google Analytics, Semrush, or something platform-specific like YouTube’s Search Insights, figure out the type of language your content needs to use.

This will help you in more than just the SEO aspect, too.

Using keywords in your content demonstrates to your audience that you speak the same language they do. And that doesn’t mean English, it means using the nomenclature everyone in the niche will understand.

Going back to our plumbing supply example, that means referring to a product as a “three-fourths full port threaded ball valve,” rather than a “metal connection thingy.”

Okay, that’s a ridiculous example, but you get the point.

The good thing is that you probably already have a working, if not expert knowledge of this.

5. Create Content That Aligns With Your Goals

If you remember, the very first step to creating a data-driven content plan was to determine your goals.

Now, equipped with everything you’ve done since then, it’s time to create the content that addresses them.

Don’t be intimidated. You don’t have to be F. Scott Fitzgerald to write the kind of content your audience wants. And you’ve already done a lot of the foundational work – now it’s just time to put everything together.

Your content could take nearly any form, videos, blog posts, infographics, case studies, or white papers.

If you’re not comfortable doing these on your own, it should be reasonably easy to find a writer or videographer in your area or extended network. Just ask your connections for recommendations.

If you’re still not confident in your ability to deliver or you can’t afford to hire someone, don’t worry. We have an excellent piece that will walk you through everything you need to know about content creation.

6. Promote Your Content On The Right Channels

You’ve created your masterpiece of relevant content. Now it’s time to share it with the world. But how do you do that? Do you just post it on your corporate blog and wait for Google to index it?

You could take that kind of passive approach, but this is great stuff you’ve just made. Everyone in your niche will want to consume it. And to make sure you get the eyes you want on it, it’s time to promote it.

But before you go linking to it on Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn, and every other social media platform and aggregator site you can think of, pause for a minute.

When you were developing your user personas, you hopefully received some data about where your targets live online.

Are they regular Twitter users? Do they haunt industry-specific forums? Are you connected to them via Slack or other instant messenger apps?

Find out where they hang out and post away. In most cases, if you’re not sure if your targets use a platform or not, you should just go ahead and post anyway.

There are some sites where you can be dinged for unpopular content (Reddit, for example), but most of the time, there’s no harm.

This is also a time to start thinking about how you can repurpose your new content.

Do you have an opportunity for a guest blog post on another site? Or, would your new infographic fit perfectly in your next investor report?

If your data-driven content is built on the solid principles we’ve discussed, it will get engagements.

7. Use Analytics To Measure Results

After your content goes live, you can begin measuring your ROI to see what you did well, where you missed the mark, and what could be optimized to perform better.

This is where the KPIs discussed back in step one come back into play.

Some of these are easier to track than others.

If increasing sales or conversions was your goal, you should have data that backs up performance. Likewise, if you set out to improve traffic to your website, you should have the analytics to track that.

Things like brand visibility can be a bit trickier.

Regardless of what it is you’re using to determine success, you should find the data you need to track performance in Google Analytics.

For a detailed walkthrough of this process, we’ve provided information on exactly how you can measure content marketing success.

A Data-Driven Content Strategy Is A Winning One

Data is a marketer’s best friend. It tells you exactly what works, what doesn’t, and often, why that’s the case.

And a data-driven content strategy is vital for success in today’s hyper-competitive business and SEO environment.

Use the tools available to you to gather data – that’s why they’re there.

Learn to identify what the numbers are telling you and use them to help you craft the kind of content that not only attracts views but gets shares and achieves your goals.

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5 Pro Tips To Improve Your B2B LinkedIn Marketing Campaigns

When it comes to B2B marketing, LinkedIn is the place to be.

And with good reason.

Between the more “professional” nature of the platform and its deep business targeting capabilities (at least compared to Facebook), LinkedIn is a useful tool for marketing to a specific B2B audience.

One of the things that I love about social media marketing is that the barrier to entry is relatively low.

Launching your first campaign on a platform like LinkedIn doesn’t require an advanced degree or 10+ years of experience.

In fact, if you’re looking for an excellent how-to guide for how to get started with LinkedIn advertising, look no further than this beginner’s guide.

This will lay a great foundation for more advanced tips I’ll share in this article.

Yes, it is true that you can get a LinkedIn campaign off the ground with a little preparation and a few Google searches here and there.

However, taking a campaign from active to A-grade takes serious effort.

Marketers need to understand how the platform works and how to conduct tests to optimize results.

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced social marketer, these tips will help you better harness the potential of B2B LinkedIn marketing campaigns.

1. Make Use Of LinkedIn Campaign Groups

If you’re new to LinkedIn, or more familiar with Facebook, one of the first things you’ll notice is that LinkedIn has a more simplified campaign structure.

In LinkedIn, your objective, targeting, optimization, budget – and just about everything except for ad creative – are controlled at the campaign level.

In order to change any of those elements, you’ll need a separate campaign.

You’ll also need a new campaign if you want to try different types of ads, like single images or carousels.

This can become hard to manage if you have various campaigns doing essentially the same thing, but with different audiences, budgets, or creative types.

LinkedIn added Campaign Groups a few years ago in order to improve organization on the platform, but utilization is still relatively low.

If you want a well-oiled campaign structure, or don’t want to hunt around for specific variants, you should learn how to use Campaign Groups.

Campaign Groups are exactly what the name implies: groups of LinkedIn campaigns.

They sit on top of the organizational structure and can be set to run at specific times with specific budgets, or always on with no set spending limits.

LinkedIn marketers should consider using Campaign Groups to improve the organization of their specific marketing initiatives.

For example: If you’re a B2B marketer running campaigns with different end goals like brand awareness video views, whitepaper downloads, and demo requests, try using a separate Campaign Group for each initiative.

Not only will this keep your structure cleaner and more organized, but you can also apply specific overall budgets and run times to those campaigns as a group.

2. Laser Target With Company Matched Audiences

A powerful tool for LinkedIn marketers is the ability to create specific target audiences, including segments like job title, seniority, industry, etc.

LinkedIn can also be ideal for targeting employees of specific target accounts you’d like to do business with.

This means you could get your content in front of all of the decision-makers of a particular company you want to work with – it’s every salesperson’s dream!

And it’s surprisingly easy to do on LinkedIn.

Simply, navigate to the Plan (compass icon) and click on the Audience section.

Under Create audience, select the Upload a list Company/Contact button.

matched audiences on linkedin

 

This will allow you to create two types of “Matched Audiences” based on contact information or company profiles.

  • A contact list creates a target audience based on individuals using their name, email, job title, etc. Not all of this information is required. Generally, you only need a name and email to ensure a decent match rate.
  • A company list is a different list that allows you to find employees of a specific set of companies without having specific contact information available. Instead of matching email addresses, it simply creates an audience of people who are all employees of the company you’re interested in targeting.

For both contact and company lists, LinkedIn has a template that you can download from the interface and use to populate your data.

Below is an example of the company template.

The green sections indicate those you should include to maximize your match rate. The remaining are nice to have, but not required.

LinkedIn Ads templateScreenshot from LinkedIn, June 2022

Once you successfully upload the company or contact list, LinkedIn can take up to 48 hours (or sometimes longer) to match the audiences.

Once matched, they will be available for you to target as you create new campaigns.

You can then filter your audience further and combine LinkedIn’s targeting criteria with an uploaded list.

For example, you can filter the audience to target people in a company list within a specific job function, seniority, title, etc.

The targeting granularity you can achieve here is fantastic but think of the additional possibilities you can unlock if you pair it with tailored creative that speaks directly to the audience.

3. Use Company Engagement Reports To See Who Is Engaging

Another bonus for using company-matched audiences is the additional reporting available through LinkedIn’s “Company Engagement Reports.”

Company Engagement Reports can give your marketing and sales team great insights into how people at specific companies are engaging with your brand on LinkedIn, including:

  • Engagement level – A calculated metric that compares the volume of engagements with the number of people targeted.
  • Members targeted – How many people within the matched audience were targeted.
  • Impressions – How many times an ad was served.
  • Ad engagement – Likes, comments, shares, and video views on ads.
  • Organic engagement – Likes, comments, shares, and video views on organic posts.
  • Website visits – How many users visited your website.

Company Engagement Reports are a great way to understand who is engaging with your paid and organic content.

You can then adjust your ABM (account-based marketing) strategy to better serve companies on your list that need a little more love or might be ripe for an outreach.

LinkedIn Company Engagement ReportScreenshot from LinkedIn Campaign Manager, June 2022

4. Use Lead Generation Forms To Collect Data Without A Landing Page

Due to recent consumer privacy initiatives like iOS 14.5, tracking and attribution for digital marketing campaigns are becoming increasingly difficult and less accurate.

This applies primarily to mobile devices and when your campaigns’ conversion events take place on your website.

An easy way to make lead generation seamless and avoid tracking and attribution headaches is to use lead generation forms within LinkedIn.

Instead of driving traffic from LinkedIn to your website, where someone will fill out a form, LinkedIn’s Lead Generation objective allows advertisers to create a form directly within the platform.

LinkedIn lead generation forms can be found in the Campaign Manager > Assets > Lead Gen forms section.

When you create a new form, you’ll be able to choose which pieces of contact information are collected when the lead is submitted.

Most of these can be automatically populated from a user’s LinkedIn profile without requiring manual entry.

You can also add up to three custom questions with different types of responses.

These questions can be more specific to your brand or product.

lead details and custom questions for LinkedIn lead formsScreenshot from LinkedIn Campaign Manager, June 2022

When leads are submitted, they will live within the LinkedIn Campaign Manager as a downloadable .csv file.

You can also sync LinkedIn leads with a number of CRM (customer relationship management) systems to get leads automatically sent directly to the contact platforms that are used by your company.

You can also create lead gen forms with UTM (urchin tracking modules) tracking parameters using the hidden fields section.

That way, any leads that are submitted from LinkedIn can retain the same level of tracking granularity you might be used to with web forms, including source, campaign, medium, etc.

5. Maximize Your Efficiency With Different Bidding Strategies

Every time you set up a new LinkedIn campaign, towards the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a section labeled “Bidding.”

It’s one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sections, especially if you’re new to LinkedIn marketing.

bidding options in LinkedIn Campaign ManagerScreenshot from LinkedIn Campaign Manager, June 2022

But this tiny section can greatly impact your campaign performance over the long term.

To understand how, we need to understand how LinkedIn (and most digital media platforms) works.

In essence, it’s a vast auction where advertisers compete for the ad space that LinkedIn makes available for sale.

Advertisers “bid” to show up in the news feed of a target audience member, and they’re bidding against other advertisers who want to be in the same spot.

This auction happens at digital speed, millions of times a day.

Your bid strategy is crucial because it controls how often and how much you’re willing to pay to get in front of your audience.

Here are the different bid strategies available on most LinkedIn campaigns:

Maximum Delivery (Automated)

This is always the default option.

It’s easy, and LinkedIn does the work for you. It will automatically bid what it thinks is necessary to show up as often as possible, given your daily budget.

So, how much you pay (your CPM, CPC, CPL) will depend on the competition.

  • Pros: Easy and ensures maximum delivery.
  • Cons: Expensive but can be inefficient.

Cost Cap

Cost cap bidding has been around for some time, but is new to LinkedIn.

This bid strategy allows advertisers to set a price they’re willing to pay for their end result.

Say you want leads, but at $100 or less.

Setting a cost cap tells LinkedIn you’re ready to pay up to $100 for a lead, and it will automatically adjust your bid to stay under the amount.

It’s not perfect, but it will help control your overall costs.

  • Pros: Predictable CPLs.
  • Cons: Can significantly reduce delivery if your cap is too low.

Manual Bidding

Similar to Cost cap, this sets a cap that you’re willing to pay – but for the initial click, impression or video view.

Instead of turning the keys over to LinkedIn’s automated system, you can choose how much you’re willing to bid on that initial event.

Doing this well can mean significant savings compared to maximum delivery.

Think of it as haggling at a flea market.

Some people are willing to pay full price, but you’re looking for a deal – and may get what you’re looking for.

  • Pros: Can be efficient and saves money.
  • Cons: Tedious and can reduce delivery.

When trying Manual Bidding, don’t be fooled by LinkedIn’s “recommendations.”

Chances are you can get your click/impression/video view for much cheaper.

LinkedIn will always input a value that is somewhere in the range that it recommends:

bidding example in LinkedIn Campaign ManagerScreenshot from LinkedIn Campaign Manager, June 2022

But if you change that bid to $1.00, you’ll see exactly where the actual floor is:

bidding example in LinkedIn Campaign ManagerScreenshot from LinkedIn Campaign Manager, July 2022

In this instance, you can bid as low as $4.55 for a click that LinkedIn might have paid as much as $40 for.

That’s a huge saving, but there’s a catch.

Setting the lowest bid possible means your ad will show up infrequently, if at all.

It’s like the clearance rack at the department store; you get what you get.

But, you can start with a bid lower than the recommended but higher than the minimum.

See if you can get your daily budgets to spend and keep a close eye on performance.

Keep bidding up until you reach an amount that spends your daily budget in full. That’s your balance point.

This tactic works incredibly well for traffic and video view campaigns where there isn’t a specific conversion event (though it can work there, too).

If you’re patient and don’t mind a little leg work testing, you can spend your daily budgets much more efficiently with manual bidding.

Wrap Up

LinkedIn is one of the best places to target professionals with a granularity almost unheard of on any other digital platform.

Setting up your campaigns is easy, but you can make a few tweaks and adjustments to go from good to great.

Whether it’s through better organization, targeting, or strategies for delivering your ads to the right people, simple tweaks can yield big results.

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Planning for a Post-Local-Pack Possibility

Local SEOs are accustomed to continuous change in the SERPs, but if S.2992, the American Innovation Online Choice Act, becomes law and prevents monopolies like Google from preferencing their own assets, we need to prepare for what could be the largest search overhaul we’ve ever seen. 

This could be bigger than the day we saw 7-packs become 3-packs. It could be bigger than any of the major updates like Possum or Vicinity. We’re talking about major potential change and new opportunity for local businesses. Just how big might it be? That’s exactly what we’ll be looking at today!

Stats and tests

Pie chart showing 33% of SERPs have local packs

Per Moz’s most recent study by Dr. Peter J. Meyers, when we ran 1,000 search phrases through MozCast, half or which were localized to particular cities, 33% percent of our queries returned a local pack like this one in the SERPs:

A Google search for

If S.2992 should become law, industry experts observe that local packs would likely be one of the widgets Google would be obliged to stop preferencing in their results. And, in April of this year, marketers began spotting a test of a very different layout that could signal what local SERPs might look like, post-S.2992. 

I haven’t been able to replicate the test myself, but Mike Blumenthal of Near Media kindly granted permission for me to share this screenshot from his excellent piece, A Look at Google’s Local Results without ‘Self-Preferencing’:

An example SERP for the query

Instead of three local results grouped into a pack, this test shows a new widget we’re currently terming a “local card”, interleaved within the organic results. As Mike explains, when you click on the card, you’re taken straight to the Google Business Profile instead of to the long-established local finder. But perhaps of even more importance, the organic link to the website is now fully prominent, instead of totally absent as in some packs, or grey and easily-overlooked, as in the Google Business Profile. 

Rand Fishkin predicts that billions of clicks that were absorbed by Google’s widgets would become up-for-grabs by organic and paid advertisers. It’s this possible reality that’s really gotten me thinking about how local businesses could respond to what could be a tremendous opportunity.

Taking website inspiration from Google’s local playbook

Local SERP result for Sloat Garden Center

Google takes a lot from businesses. They take business data and make money from aggregating and displaying it in their local packs, finders, and maps. They take publishers’ content — which is the result of innumerable hours of paid work by human beings — and republish it in zero-click SERPs. Most SEOs learn to work within this system, this “partnership” in which we try not to be overly stressed so long as Google’s operations don’t hinder conversions. In other words, we resolve not to worry whether a sale results from a click on a Google Business Profile or the Contact Us page of a website, so long as transactions keep rolling in.

However, at the same time, there has been an ongoing saga of industry complaints that Google throws its weight around too much without any consultation with the business owners and publishers on whose livelihoods its profits are based. Of late, there has been particular distaste over Google using search as a political tool to protect itself from anti-trust actions like S.2992, threatening SMBs with negative outcomes if Google’s monopoly is regulated. Depending on your perspective, it might feel like Google takes it upon themselves to build a business model on your identity and content, doesn’t offer adequate support when things invariably go wrong with how they represent you, and then insults your intelligence with see-through scare tactics. It’s really no wonder when business owners and marketers grumble.

However you feel about this scenario, though, there is one thing that every local SEO knows by heart: local SERPs exist in a state of constant experimental change geared to maximize public engagement with them for Google’s benefit. They have the data and the engineers to discover exactly what works and what doesn’t. Think of this as a gift to us that we might take in return for all we’ve given, because Google’s SERPs are actually telling us what we should be doing with our websites if local packs go away, local cards take their place, and tons of clicks end up back on our websites instead of the Google Business Profile.

Check out this quick mockup I did of a GBP-inspired website homepage and see how many of the elements you can spot that correspond directly with fields you’ve come to know so well on your Google listing:

Native Plant Nursery webpage

Most important elements

Did you notice how my mockup emphasizes location and contact data, photos, and reviews? I believe that the ongoing iterations of Google’s packs and profiles indicate that these are the three listing elements that matter most to the public when choosing a local business. If more clicks should start going to the website, companies should organize the homepage so that visitors can instantly find the NAP, hours of operation (including whether the business is open right now plus its most and least popular time slots), see tons of relevant photos, and both read and leave reviews. You’ll notice I’ve also included some basic sentiment analysis of the reviews à la Google Place Topics.

Action-oriented elements

This mockup emphasizes all of the actions a visitor might be used to taking via Google Business Profiles. In addition to things like getting directions and interacting with reviews, the homepage should quickly facilitate whichever activities are most relevant to the model and customers, such as calling or texting the company, booking an appointment, asking questions, and, of course, shopping. If there is any actionable field on your GBP that you believe is connecting customers to the business, feature it or link to it on the homepage. This is basic website design of course, but think again about how Google organizes such features in their profiles to test what you should be emphasizing on sites.

Informational elements

Your website’s textual image and video-based content take the place of Google posts, business descriptions, categories, Q&A, and other informational media. Meanwhile, you can boost trust signals for Google’s quality raters and the public by displaying awards, accreditations, and associations. It’s great to think that, with a website, you have all the space you need to showcase a local brand’s community involvement, B2B relationships, customer-centric guarantees, environmental initiatives, and human rights policies. So, while you’re taking cues from GBPs on how to provide a ton of info at a glance for quick decision making, the joy of websites is that they support the architecture for telling a deeper story about why a business is truly the best bet in town for specific needs.

Your choice on UGC

Since the advent of Google Maps, Google has taken an open-source approach to local business data. Anyone, including bad actors, can suggest edits to your core business data, upload photos, leave reviews, and write questions and answers on your GBP. With your own website, the choice is yours on how much space you want to give to user generated content.

I’ve long been an advocate for featuring customers’ words and stories as central to business identity, and I would recommend that marketers and owners carefully plan how to present content like reviews, photos, and videos. There could be a temptation to show only flattering UGC, but be advised that activities like review gating can lead to litigation, and that businesses will already be facing something of a struggle in getting the public to trust website-based review content as much as they might trust the same content on a third-party platform. In seeking to emulate the successful layout of GBPs, do take your community into account, but also, take a breather knowing that S.2992 would return to local business owners some of the reputation and marketing control that they’ve lost to Google over the past 20 years.

Summing up, should the American Innovation Online Choice Act become law, sending more traffic directly to websites, owners and marketers should have a plan in place to revamp website homepages so that they are as informative and actionable as Google Business Profiles. In the case of multi-location brands, you may need to bring a GBP mindset to landing pages rather than homepages. Why not spend some time this week making a more beautiful and useful mockup than mine for some of the businesses you market? Maybe yours will feature bulleted list attributes, or key product and service menus, or direct message/live chat capabilities.

Would local cards and a less dominant Google be good for local businesses and marketers?

Photo of a beige
Image credit: Jo Zimny

To be honest, you’ll have to come up with your own answer to this question based on your philosophy and hands-on experience, should Google become the subject of increased regulation. For my part as a big supporter of localism, I observe that monopolies have an unsustainable negative effect on human happiness and the planet, on innovation and diversification, on commerce and culture. I am personally in favor of very strong antitrust measures and believe they will deliver amazing benefits to independently-owned businesses, the communities they serve, and the environment on which we depend for life.

But as to how something like the local cards might impact us, I think it’s important to note that the test that’s been spotted is unlikely to be the ultimate format we’d see in the SERPs. I’ve seen several peers asserting that they feel the layout is a bit messy, and it would certainly cause some temporary confusion for Internet searchers who have gotten used to former displays. But, time and again, we’ve all adjusted to SERP modifications, and we would simply do so once more. For local search marketers, regulation would signal that it’s time to double down on your organic SEO skills if what emerges is an increased emphasis on organic SERPs.

For owners, customers will still find you, and the great thing would be that more of them would likely be spending more of their time at your house instead of at Google’s. The role of host, then, will be more on your shoulders. It will be your patio, your deck chairs, your BBQ pit, and ramada that welcome and shelter people. And, after all, that’s what you went into business to do: to take care of your own customers. You’ve spent years learning to do that, so don’t worry – with some fine tuning of your website to make it as good as and better than a Google Business Profile, you’ve got some good times ahead!


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