7 Predictions for Social Media in 2018Remember when Facebook seemed like something no one above the age of 30 would care about, or when you’d never even heard the word “Snapchat” before? The social media world moves fast and often the changes that we see fly in the face of what people could have predicted. If there’s one thing we can count on for sure this year, it’s that there will be changes in how people interact with social media, the platforms people use, and what works on each of them. It’s important for businesses to pay attention to the shifts and trends as they happen so you can adapt your social media marketing as needed. Here are some of our best predictions for the most likely changes in 2018.
1. Social media platforms will become more like each other in functionality.When one social media platform launches a feature that takes off, others often try to figure out how to mimic it on their own platform. When Stories works well on Snapchat, Facebook turns around and creates essentially the same feature in both Facebook and Instagram. When Twitter sees people making longer posts in places like Tumblr and Facebook, they double their character limit in the hopes of becoming more appealing to users. Social media platforms increasingly care less about being unique and more about offering whatever they think might make people spend more time on their platform over another. They’ve already demonstrated that every time they see a feature that seems likely to make that happen on a competitor’s site, they see an opportunity to change theirs. We have every reason to expect that trend will continue. For businesses, this will mean continuing to adapt your social media strategies to the features your audience uses on each site, but in many cases it will be worth taking time to see what sticks. Many users will be less likely to use the “new” feature in one app that they can already get in another – so some of these attempts to copy popular features may fail. Regardless, you should always be paying attention to how your audience interacts with each social media site they’re on, so you can figure out when a new approach is warranted to reach them there.
2. Live video will grow in importance for marketers.It seems like every year content marketers and social media specialists proclaim the importance of video, so including it in a list like this isn’t exactly a new take. Even so, video’s likely to remain a big part of how people and brands use social media, and live video in particular now has a role to play in that. Both Facebook and YouTube enable people and brands to launch live videos, which makes video marketing a more interactive and engaging medium. With Facebook Live you can show up right in your followers’ feeds and respond to any questions they have in real time. With YouTube Live you can respond to comments and monitor feedback as you go as well. And with both, you can hang onto the recording of your live video to promote even after it’s done. Engagement is one of those important but elusive goals marketers talk a lot about. Any type of content that allows your audience to interact with you directly in the moment is a good option for getting some of that engagement you seek
3. Influencer marketing will play a key role in social media marketing.Reaching your audience on social media is a big challenge for most brands. One of the most powerful resources that many companies have started to tap into is therefore influencer marketing. As the space becomes more competitive and more and more brands find success with influencer marketing on social media, the trend is likely to grow. And brands are finding success with it. A survey last year found that 94% of the brands using influencer marketing find it to be effective. Working with influencers makes it easy to reach a larger portion of your audience, and everyone that already trusts and likes the influencer will then associate your brand and products with the person they like – the trustworthiness and goodwill they’ve earned will rub off on your brand
4. Messaging platforms will become a bigger part of social media marketing strategies.There are lots of people on the main social media sites we talk about, but there are also loads of people using messaging apps every day. Many of your customers are spending hours on sites like Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik and Skype. One of the biggest apps in the world is WeChat, which has nearly 1 billion users in China. For now, these apps are an untapped opportunity for many marketers. In 2018, that’s likely to change as more companies develop chatbots that work within the messaging apps and buy ads or sponsored messages that show up to targeted users. The old marketing adage here applies, you have to go where your users are, and a lot of your users are chatting with friends in messaging apps.
5. Other social media players will grow in influence as Facebook makes it harder for brands to stand out.It’s been a few years since Facebook made changes to their algorithm that reduced the reach that brand pages have on the platform. And marketers are still complaining about it and trying to figure out how to gain traction on the world’s biggest social media platform in the face of those changes. They started off the year with a new announcement that made it clear that content from brands and media companies is going to have an even harder time reaching people on the site now. The company has made tweaks to the algorithm to prioritize updates from friends and family members at the expense of “public content.” If you were already bothered by how small your reach was, it’s about to get smaller. Facebook is still by far the most popular social media platform out there, so brands will likely still maintain a presence there. But expect other social media platforms to take over more of the time and budget share for social media marketing in 2018 in response to getting less for more on Facebook.
6. Political scandals will continue to play out on social media and behind the scenes at companies.Social media and politics didn’t always have the close relationship they’ve had in the last couple of years, but between news stories about the President’s tweets becoming a common part of the daily discourse and scandals about the role of social media in spreading false stories that influence elections, social media companies have lately been in the spotlight for the role they play in politics. Social media companies are trying to respond to allegations and make changes. Facebook has been working on ways to reduce the reach of fake news (with mixed results), but even so we can reasonably anticipate that they and the other social media sites will still be at the center of news stories in the year to come. Some of those stories may be positive; some are sure to be critical.
7. New players will disrupt the space.Startups trying to break into the competitive social media space are a dime a dozen, but you never really know which one’s going to hit it big until it’s already made its mark. This year, we expect that some social media companies that aren’t on our radars yet will gain popularity and become important for social media marketers to start paying attention to. It may be a company offering video hangout technology, which is a popular feature for Gen Zers. Or it could be a platform that makes use of virtual or augmented reality. Maybe it will be a site that appeals to the niche communities people value on the internet. Or maybe it will be something none of us expects. We’ll have to keep our eyes and ears open to find out.
Conclusion2018 will definitely bring some surprises in the world of social media. As always, businesses will need to pay attention and be prepared to shake up their social media game as needed. Above all, pay attention to where your audience is and what they do on the platforms they hang out on. Trends aside, the best social media strategy is always the one that’s particular to your own company and customers.
How to Implement Rich Snippets for E-commerce WebsitesSEO is competitive, especially for online businesses. Everyone’s working hard to try to stand out in the search results, and every day it just gets harder. Yet only about 17% of marketers are taking advantage of a resource that can quickly help you stand out in the SERPs: rich snippets.
What Are Rich Snippets?When you do a search, some of the results you see are simple links in blue with a description below them in black, like this. But some include more. For some types of results, you can see images, ratings, video thumbnails, pricing information, calorie details (for recipes), and product availability, to name a few examples. These are called rich snippets. That extra information makes results stand out more on the SERP and provides information that makes a person more likely to click through. If you’re researching dehumidifiers, knowing that the cost of one is within your budget and it’s in stock is good incentive to visit the website. As a website owner, you have some control over whether or not your website shows up with that kind of rich information in the search results. It’s simply a matter of updating your website with schema markup.
Determine the Types of Schema Relevant to YouYou’ll notice that what shows up in rich snippets varies for different types of results and content. For example, you’re not going to see calorie count for a product page selling shoes. To account for the differences in the types of information people are interested in for various types of results, there’s different schema markup for a wide range of webpages. You don’t need to be aware of or use all of them, but there are a few main ones that most ecommerce businesses will benefit from adding to your website.
1. Product SchemaThe Product schema markup alerts Google to the fact that the page it’s on is a product page. Using product markup gives you the option to add in some of the other types of markup on this list that will make your snippets more valuable to searchers. And it lets Google know that these pages are good ones to show for searches where the consumer is looking for the kind of product you sell. How to Add Product Schema Markup to Your Website You can find information on the code for Product Markup at schema.org here, but if that all looks confusing to you, you might have an easier time with Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. Select Products and paste the URL of your product page in. You can then easily fill in the fields provided by highlighting parts of the page for each. For example, when you highlight the name of your product and click, you’ll get a dropdown menu you can choose “Name” from. Once you’ve filled in all the fields you want to add schema markup for, click “Create html” and you’ll get the code you need to copy and paste into your website. The parts of the code that have been added in by the markup tool will show up in yellow. If you still feel out of your depth here, then it’s time to bring in your developer. They should be able to easily add in the new code at your request.
2. Reviews and Ratings SchemaCustomer reviews are a huge part of how people make purchasing decisions. A full 90% of consumers have said they read online reviews when researching products and 88% of them put their trust in reviews when making a decision. Adding review and ratings schema markup to your pages means consumers get the benefit of that information even before they click. Those good reviews you’ve earned can start to benefit you before prospects even land on your website. How to Add Reviews and Ratings Schema Markup to Your Website The information on schema.org for Reviews and Rating code is here. But you can get the code for your website by using the same instructions for the Structured Data Markup Helper provided above for this schema markup type as well. When in the tool, click on the ratings and reviews on your page to fill in the appropriate fields to get your Product schema.
If you have a WordPress website, you can also find a number of plug-ins devoted to automatically adding schema markup for reviews and ratings to your website. WP Review Pro and WP Product Review are a couple to consider.
3. Price SchemaYou know your customers are thinking about price. It’s pretty much always a consideration in deciding between different options. The schema markup for price lets you fill in that information on the results page as well, giving the customers even more of the information they need. If they can see right off the bat that your product is within their price range, they’re more likely to click through. How to Add Price Schema Markup to Your Website This is another one of the fields included as part of the Product schema markup. So you can use the Structured Data Markup Helper here too. Just highlight the price on the page, select “Offer” and then “Price” to fill in that field as well.
4. Product Availability SchemaIf you’ve ever had the experience of visiting a website to buy a specific product only to find it out of stock, then you know that’s a bad customer experience. The Product Availability schema markup lets you tell customers before they even get to your website that they won’t have that problem, reducing your bounce rate. How to Add Product Availability Schema Markup to Your Website Unfortunately, there’s not a handy shortcut for this one. You’ll need to use the code information from schema.org. If you look at the example code they offer on the page and scan down to where you see itemprop=”availability” you’ll see the code you need to add.
5. Video SchemaIf video is part of your content strategy, or if you make videos to help highlight your products, then the last important type of schema markup you’re likely to use is the video markup. For any page that has a video on it, this can show a video thumbnail alongside the search result, adding a visual to the snippet that makes it more likely to draw attention. How to Add Video Schema Markup to Your Website This is another one where you’ll need to figure out the code without the tool’s help. Google helpfully provides some example code here. You just need to fill in the particular information for your video in the sections that follow content=. As an example, in <meta itemprop="thumbnailUrl" content="thumbnail.jpg" />, “thumbnail.jpg” will be replaced by the name of the image you want to show up as the thumbnail for your video.
Bonus option: Rich AdvertisementsSchema isn’t the only way to get rich results on the SERPs, you can also pay for them. Through the Google Merchant Center, you can add much of the same information to ads that you do with schema for natural results. You can use PPC advertising to ensure your products show up with images, ratings information, and useful info on deals, availability, and shipping. Adding schema markup to your website can be a little complicated to figure out, especially if you’re not familiar with coding. But for ecommerce businesses, it’s work worth doing. It gives you a valuable way to stand out in the search results and get more of your audience to actually click through to the website. That makes it well worth some time spent copying and pasting code.
How Do You Get Featured Snippets for Your Website?If you’ve had your website for a while, then you know there was a time when everyone doing SEO was concerned with aiming for those top few spots in Google. If you could be one of the top two or three links in the Google listing for a popular search, it was just about a guarantee of clicks and visitors. Now for a lot of searches, the top spot isn’t really at the top of the SERP (search engine results page) anymore. We’ve moved into a new era of SEO - the age of the featured snippet.
What Are Featured Snippets?Even if you weren’t familiar with the term, you’ve seen featured snippets. In the old days, whenever you performed a search in Google, you would typically see a list of blue links with some ads above them. Now, you'll often see a box up top with text in it that provides an answer based on the term you’ve searched. Sometimes it will show up below ads, but much of the time it’s the very first thing on the page, drawing your attention away from the list of links that shows up below. These results go by a number of names. SEO professionals sometimes call this “rank 0” since it goes above the #1 ranking spot. Others call them answer boxes or instant answers or, as we’re doing here, featured snippets. Whatever you call them, they’ve disrupted SEO.
A Few Facts About Featured SnippetsBefore you try to get a featured snippet, it’s helpful to understand a bit about how they work. 1. Featured snippets don’t show up on every search. Google doesn’t always assume you want a quick answer based on your search term, so this is a feature that’s most common for searches that either directly ask a question or for any terms Google interprets as looking for the same type of information as a question search. 2. The information is often pulled from a website. There are some types of rich results that Google creates by pulling information from a number of sources, like their medical information snippets or the boxes of information you see about famous people.
But for many of the featured snippets you see (and the ones most relevant to this article), the text is pulled from a specific website. And the website the text comes from is linked right below the answer (and therefore above the other results). That means that, at least for some searches, it’s possible for your website to target that rank zero spot and show up above your other competitors. 3. Featured snippets aren’t always from the top result on the page. This is an important one. About 70% of featured snippets come from websites ranked lower than the #1 spot. If a company works really hard on their SEO to land that top spot in Google, but doesn’t also optimize their content for the featured snippets, another company that does can hopscotch right over them into that zero spot. You could potentially show up above the #1 ranked results without achieving the #1 rank – which is kind of a big deal! 4. There are three main forms of featured snippets. SEO professionals have identified three different types of featured snippets that commonly show up in searches: Paragraph snippets – This is the most common type you’ll see. It includes a little bit of text that provides the answer, sometimes with an image included alongside it. List snippets – These pull text from bulleted or numbered lists in the text and show at least part of the list in the snippet. They’re less common than paragraph snippets, but still show up for a good number of relevant search terms. Table snippets – These are the least common, but show up for the types of searches that benefit from having results display in a structured format, like movie times or menu prices. 5. Their influence on click-through-rates (CTR) varies. It’s hard to properly test out whether or not getting the featured snippets improves your CTR versus showing up in the top search, but researchers have tried to get a handle on the effect it has. Recent research found that when featured snippets are included in the search results, people are less likely to click through to any result. That's not surprising, since they often provide the full answer a person is looking for – although the difference isn’t huge (around 4%). That same research study found that the first Google result still got more clicks than the featured snippet result, but that the presence of a featured snippet did mean some of the clicks that would otherwise go to the top result do get split off to the website featured in the snippet. Anecdotally, some companies have seen big gains in traffic due to getting the featured snippet for a search. Search Engine Land reported one case study where a page getting the featured snippet for a high-value keyword led to a 516% increase in traffic. And Stone Temple shared a few specific cases where traffic increased when a website got the rich snippet and dropped quickly when it was lost. In any case, if the search is going to show a featured snippet, it sure doesn’t hurt for your website to be the one featured – and that’s especially the case if someone else has the top spot.
How to Create Content That Gets Into Featured SnippetsNow that you know why to care about getting into featured snippets, here are a few strategies to help you get there. Keep in mind, as with all SEO, there are no guarantees that this process will earn you featured snippets for the search terms you target, but it will increase the likelihood of you claiming that zero spot above the other search results. 1. Brainstorm question and informational queries to target. Featured snippets only show up in some types of searches, so you shouldn’t be trying to target the snippet for every single search term you aim for in your SEO efforts. The main ones to think about here are question searches and searches that are looking for the same kind of information as question searches, without using question language. For example, someone searching for “healthy eating tips” is essentially looking for the answer to the question “how can I eat healthier?” So both terms would fall into this category. That gives you a general idea of the types of search terms to brainstorm in this section, but the best way to really figure out what you’re looking for is to start doing searches. Start Googling them to see which search terms have snippets in the results. This will accomplish two things:
- You’ll start to get a better feel for the types of search terms that regularly feature snippets.
- Each search will help you come up with new ideas for other keywords to include on your list by looking at the “searches related to” section at the bottom of the page and, where relevant, the “People also ask” section.
Your goal here is to create a really long list of possibilities – the more you have to start, the better. 2. Assign search terms priority levels. When your list is good and long, then you can go through and figure out which terms you should start targeting. A good place to start is with terms you already rank decently well for. The vast majority of featured snippets are pulled from results on the first page. Any queries or topics that you’re already on page one or two for should take priority, since you have the best chance of success with these. Some other good targets are any searches where the information in the featured snippets isn’t that good. If you feel confident that you can create a better answer than Google has pulled in, that’s a good search to prioritize as well. Then there are search terms that may be worth keeping on your list, but should be given lower priority. Questions with simple answers are less likely to get a click whether you’re featured or not, since people get the answer they need on the SERP. And any search that has big-shot sites like Wikipedia or the BBC featured in the snippets will also be a long shot since you’ll have a hard time competing with websites like that in Google’s eyes. These terms may still be worth including in your overall strategy, but they’re not the best place to put your initial efforts. 3. Create content that answers those questions. Now that you have a long list of target queries with priority questions identified, use it to guide your content strategy. Start scheduling blog posts that answer the questions on your list. As with any other content you create, make sure these pieces are accurate and high quality or they won’t be competitive. 4. Make sure your content is optimized for SEO (like usual). Just like you do for the rest of your content, make sure these pieces are optimized for search engines. That means using your title and heading tags strategically, optimizing your images, and filling in your meta tags. Getting onto the first page for a search term vastly increases your chances of getting a featured snippet, and all the old rules still apply for getting onto page one. 5. Be strategic in your formatting and language. During your research stage, you probably spent a lot of time looking at the snippets that show up in search. For paragraph snippets, you’ll notice the language of the question (probably in the title or heading on the page) is quickly followed by an answer. You want to replicate that: a question, quickly followed by an acceptable answer that only takes a few lines (aim for 50 words or less). You can expand on this initial answer further into your blog post, but you want something that works as a simple answer showing up close to your target search term so Google can easily pull out that section for their snippet. For list snippets, this part is simple: Put your answer in a list. Google knows how to recognize bulleted and numbered lists on a page. Google’s snippet will only display up to eight list items, so to increase the chances of someone clicking through, make sure your post has more than eight items on the list. Searchers will see “More items” below the list in the snippet and above your link, making them more likely to click to see the rest. For table snippets, include tables in your content where appropriate. It won’t make sense for every piece of content you make, but if you write a comparison post between different products, you can create a table that puts the features and benefits side by side, for example. Google will recognize that there’s a table on the page to pull from, if the algorithm sees the search as benefitting from an answer in table form. With SEO, the moment you think you have it all figured out things inevitably change. Tomorrow, there may be new SEO strategies to add to your list as well as these, but for today, these are smart steps you can take to increase your visibility for relevant searches.
What Are Google Rich Results and How Do They Affect SEO?If you use Google much (and most of us do), you’ve probably started to notice a real change in the search results. Where once there was a list of links (some of the ones up top paid for), there’s now a mix of links, images, text boxes, maps... lots of types of information in different forms, all taking up space on the main search results page. If you care about your website’s SEO, then you should care about how the search engine results pages (SERPs) look – being one of those links on the first page used to be the end-all be-all goal of SEO. But it means less if your link is pushed down below several other types of content and information, instead of just other links. Everyone with a website should therefore be paying attention to what these changes mean for your site’s visibility. Here’s a basic rundown of the main things you need to know about all those special search results dominating the SERPs.
5 Types of Special Google ResultsThese special results can take a lot of different forms. Some of the main ones that website owners should be aware of are:
1. Featured snippetsWhen you search a simple question in Google, you’ll now often see a box above the other search results that includes the text that answers your question – right there on the results page, so you don’t have to navigate away to get the information you need. These are featured snippets, sometimes called instant answers. This information is pulled from the text of a webpage, which is linked right below the answer. That means that you can be number one in the list of links below, without being the first link people see on the page. These show up in a few different formats. Commonly it’s a little bit of text and an image pulled from the webpage with the link below. Sometimes, the information that’s pulled shows up in a bulleted or numbered list. And sometimes, you’ll see a number of “People Also Ask” options, which open up their own featured snippets.
2. Map snippetsThe map snippet comes up anytime a search term suggests to Google that you’re looking for something you’d be likely to go to a physical location for. Sometimes the map cluster shows up below other ads and results, and sometimes it’s at the top of the results page. In either case, you see a map that has several locations marked with red pins, with three locations listed below below it. The results below the map usually include an address, ratings information, photos, contact information, and business hours (if relevant). Note that these listings don’t provide links directly to the website of the business or other location listed. When you click, you go to an expanded result for the location you clicked on, with a larger map of other relevant results. There you can find the link to the website.
3. Rich adsWhile ads have always been a part of Google’s search results, many searches now include ads that provide visuals and the same kind of rich information that increasingly shows up in natural results. These rich ads sometimes show up above the other results and sometimes to the side. They include images, pricing information, ratings information and the name of the business. Sometimes they even include additional helpful information like that a product comes with “free shipping” or is for “in-store pickup.” Obviously, these aren’t spots you can capture with SEO, but you can pay for them with Google AdWords if you want an easy way to stand out in the SERPs.
4. Video resultsVideos don’t show up as featured snippets that often, but for some searches they do. In these cases, you can click to watch the video on the search results page without navigating elsewhere. More often, you see video thumbnails alongside links in the search results. When you click on these, they open the page where the video is hosted for you to watch (usually on YouTube)
5. Rich snippetsIn addition to the flashy snippets and visuals on the top of and alongside the page, for some searches, you’ll also see rich results in the list of links. What kind of information you’ll see with these can vary a lot, but it can include thumbnail images, ratings information, number of reviews, and things like calorie counts for recipes.
What These Special Results Mean for SEOThese types of special results aren’t either all good or all bad. In some cases, they’re likely to distract away from the main search results, as with rich advertisements that draw the eye before a person starts to scroll down, or featured snippets that answer simple questions on the SERP so that people are unlikely to click through to any other results. On the other hand, featured snippets that provide a partial answer to more complicated questions (often the case with bulleted snippets) are more likely to get people to click through to the link. And rich search results can draw attention to particular search results with more information and visuals, making them potentially more competitive than others that rank higher. On the whole, it’s a mixed bag for marketers. But there are some things you can do to make your webpages more competitive in the world of special search results.
Using Schema MarkupAny of the rich search results you see that have things like thumbnail images, ratings, or review information showing up alongside the link didn’t just get there with luck. The website owners figured out how to provide Google’s algorithm that information in just the right way for it to show up in the results. The way to do that is with schema markup. You use shema markup to tell the search engines which pieces of information on your website fall into the types of data categories they’ve decided merit a special sort of display on the platform. Because Google thinks users will benefit from knowing how long a recipe takes to make or how many calories are in it, if you provide that information to them using schema markup, they’ll display it on the results page. Luckily, schema markup was specifically developed to be pretty user friendly. You can visit Schema.org to learn about the different types of Schema markup there are and the different categories you’ll want to include in your code for each type. To make updating your own site easy, you can use Google’s schema markup generator. Just put in the URL you want to generate markup for, select the type of content it is, and then you can highlight the different parts of the page that should be added into the different fields provided. As an example, you’d highlight the headline of your article and select “Name” in the dropdown menu that shows up to mark it as the article’s title. When you’re done selecting the text on the page for each category, click on “create HTML” to find the code that you need to add to your page for schema markup. You can copy and paste the whole code they provide to your page, or go look for the specific spots where something’s highlighted in yellow and just paste in those parts.
Optimizing for Featured SnippetsFeatured snippets are sometimes referred to as “Position 0” amongst SEO professionals, since they get you above even that top spot. While in some cases, your content showing up in a featured snippet could just mean that people get the answer they need without clicking through, for many searches it’s still a worthy goal to aim for since it puts your answer and link far above everybody else on the page and in a way that draws attention. The best way to optimize for featured snippets is to create the kind of content most likely to show up in them. The types of queries you should focus on are those where people are looking to answer a question – but one that’s a bit too big to get a full answer to within the text box at the top of the page. Spend some time brainstorming questions relevant to your website and industry. Then go do some Googling to see what results show up for them now. What you’re looking for here are queries where there is a featured snippet, but the answer’s not great. These provide an opportunity to create something better, while knowing that Google already sees this query as one that should generate a snippet. Also pay attention to which questions bring up answers from Wikipedia – these aren’t a good place to put your time, since Google’s unlikely to decide your website is more authoritative than Wikipedia. You’ll also want to be very particular in the language you use. Moz recommends making your keywords and phrases very literal. So drop whatever clever heading you had in mind and use the phrase a person’s most likely to be searching.
For Local SEO: Optimizing for the Map SnippetIf your business has a physical location and reaching local residents is a priority, then the map snippet – popularly called the map 3-pack by local SEO professionals – is the most important of all special results for you to focus on. Part of getting into the map cluster has to do with how close you are geographically to the person searching, so you don’t have much control over that. But you can implement a few local SEO best practices to increase your chances of showing up there more often:
- Claim your Google listing. Hopefully you’ve already done this, but if not do it now.
- Add your website to relevant directories. Get listed in as many as possible and make sure your name, address, and phone number looks the same in all of them. So if you write out Acme Road in one, don’t shorten it to Rd in another.
- Encourage reviews. This is a big one and one of the hardest to pull off, since it depends on getting the cooperation of your customers. But you can be proactive in asking for reviews or pointing your customers toward where they can leave you a review on Google.
- Do content marketing and link building with a local focus. Create content focused on local issues. Work with other local businesses to launch events, host charity drives, create joint initiatives – anything that might earn you local press and links to other sites in your community. If it strengthens your local authority, it will improve your SEO in general, which increases your chances of showing up in the cluster.