Bing revealed major overhauls to its Webmaster Tools suite this week. The new layout and features aim to make the tools available to SEOs and webmasters faster, easier to use, and more actionable.

As SMX West, the company said the first phase of the overhaul would be coming the first week of March, with a sleeker interface and three primary new features:

  • Backlinks Portal: The current inbound links report will be merged with a disavow links tool to become part of the backlinks report portal.
  • Search Performance: Similarly, the company is combining its page traffic and search keywords reports into a unified search performance report.
  • Sitemaps: Bing is giving its current sitemaps page a general overhaul to make it more valuable to online marketers and webmasters.

When It’s Coming

As the company said in its announcement:

“We are delighted to announce the first iteration of the refreshed Bing Webmaster Tools portal. We are releasing the new portal to a select set of users this week and will be rolling out to all users by the 1st week of March.”

What It Looks Like

Search Engine Land provided several screenshots of what the new portal will look like once it goes live:

Search Performance Report

Backlink Report

Disavow Link Tool

Sitemaps

Once they go live, anyone with a Bing Webmaster Tools account can access the new features by navigating to the Sitemaps, Inbound Links, Page Traffic, or Search Keywords reports.

Why It Matters

Despite being frequently overlooked by brands and marketers, Bing has been quietly cementing its grasp on a significant percentage of the search market. The new tools will make it easier for those taking advantage of this opportunity to better understand their website’s performance and refine their efforts for even better performance in the future.

New analysis from market research firm FocusVision shows that the average B2B buyer consumes 13 pieces of content before making a purchase or signing a contract.

That finding and more comes from a large survey of executives at companies with at least 500 employees and $50 million in annual revenue. Additionally the participating companies had purchased a marketing technology solution within the past year.

What Content Do B2B Buyers Consume?

Of the 13 pieces of content that B2B purchasers explore, the majority (8) tend to be marketing pieces delivered directly from the company, while the other five consisted of third-party content.

The content also takes a wide range of shapes, including video, blog posts, reviews, customer testimonials, and market analysis.

The B2B Purchasing Journey Through Content

FocusVision’s report suggests it takes an average of two to six weeks and three or four internal decision makers for B2B buyers to make the big decision. Much of this time is spent researching by connecting with content that might inform their purchase.

When asked how they found content, the majority said they found it directly on a vendor’s website or through search and social media.

The complete responses were:

  • Directly through vendor website — 70%
  • Internet search — 67%
  • Social media  — 53%
  • Sent to me via email — 41%
  • Word of mouth — 33%

The study also identified four unique buying stages with specific types of content present during each phase:

  1. Understanding the problem
  2. Looking at vendors
  3. Short-listing
  4. Final decision

The most useful types of content according to B2B buyers were

  • Product specifications and functionality — 67%
  • Product comparisons — 65%
  • Product success stories — 60%
  • Content specifically showing value to internal stakeholders — 54%
  • Product tutorials — 49%
  • Troubleshooting and problem solving — 48%

Notably, the study found some variance in how companies with higher revenues used content to inform their decisions. Those with revenues above $250 million tended to rely more on third-party content and market analysis, rather than first-party content.

What This Means For You

If you provide products or services to other businesses, the findings make it clear that content is essential for marketing your brand to other professionals. Without it, influential buyers may not hear about your product or have enough details to make an informed decision.

If you’ve ever doubted the power of search engine optimization, just look at the events playing out surrounding the recently released movie Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). 

After the film significantly under-performed on its opening weekend, Warner Bros. has decided to revise the name to the simpler Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey for better SEO.

As the company explained to The Verge this week, the new title places the popular character’s name at the front of the title instead of hiding it towards the end. The idea behind is a “search expansion for ticket sites” to make the title easier to find for movie-goers who may be less familiar with the Birds of Prey title.

Attentive watchers noticed the change occurring three days after the film’s release across numerous ticket sites.

Did SEO Tank Birds of Prey?

It is too early to really tell how big of an impact the change will really have to the movie’s success. There is some evidence that Google and other major search engines were already surfacing information about the movie and ticket availability when just searching “Harley Quinn” before the change took effect.

Image Source: George Nguyen/Search Engine Land

The revision could actually cause more confusion, as many details about the movie – such as its YouTube trailer – still show the original movie title.

However, the power of SEO and branding can’t be ignored. Studies have shown that more than half of consumers only click on brands they are familiar with within search results. It is also hard to gauge exactly how many potential film goers were turned away or frustrated by irrelevant search results before the change took place.

Either way, the events following the release of Birds of Prey provide a real-world example of how SEO and branding affect the viability of even the biggest products.

When creating content to help your SEO, many people believe they should aim for an “ideal” word count. The perfect number has ranged from 300 to 1,500 words per post depending on when and who you ask. There’s just one problem – Google’s leading experts say there is no perfect word count.

Why Do Word Counts Seem Important?

Since Google is relatively tight-lipped about the exact recipe they use to rank sites on its search engine, SEO experts have traditionally had to rely on their own data to understand the inner-workings of the search engine.

Sometimes, this information is later confirmed. Marketing experts had long believed that site speed was an important ranking signal for Google before the company confirmed its impact.

The problem is this approach relies strongly on correlation – which can be unreliable or lead to incorrect conclusions.

This is also why the “ideal” word counts recommended by “experts” tends to vary so wildly. When we have to rely on relatively limited data (at least, compared to Google’s data), it can skew the conclusions taken from the data.

This is where Google’s John Mueller comes in.

What Google Has To Say

The company’s leading experts have repeatedly denied that they consider word counts to be an important ranking signal. Some have suggested it is lightly considered, but the impact is negligible compared to other factors like keyword relevance or backlinks to the page.

The latest Googler to speak out about the issue is John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google.

In a recent tweet, Mueller used a simple analogy to explain why focusing on word counts is the wrong approach.

Simply put, focusing on how long each piece of content is puts the attention on the wrong area. If you write long posts, simply for the point of hitting a total number of words, there is a high risk of drifting off-topic or including irrelevant details.

The better approach is to create content with the goal of answering a specific question or responding to a specific need. Then, write until you’ve provided all the relevant information – whether it takes 300 or 1,500 words to do so.

Google Chrome, one of the leading web browsers available, is using its built-in ad blocker to block “annoying” or “intrusive” video ads.

The browser has been using an ad blocker to intervene when sites serve ads that are considered to be disruptive or problematic based on standards established by the Coalition for Better Ads.

Yesterday, the Coalition updated its Better Ads Standards to include new information about ads shown with online videos. As such, Google says it will be expanding its ad blocking features to block ads within videos less than 8 minutes long which are disruptive in any of the three following ways:

Disruptive ads - pre-roll

Image Source: The Coalition for Better Ads

  • Pre-roll ads: Long, non-skippable pre-roll ads or groups of ads longer than 31 seconds that appear before a video and cannot be skipped within the first 5 seconds.
Disruptive Ads - Mid-roll

Image Source: The Coalition for Better Ads

  • Mid-roll ads: Ads of any length which appear in the middle of a video.
Disruptive Ads - Image or Text

Source: The Coalition for Better Ads

  • Image or text ads: Ads that appear on top of a playing video and are in the middle ⅓ of the video player window or cover more than 20 percent of the content.

To be clear, these issues only apply to videos that are less than 8 minutes long. Longer videos can continue to include pre-roll or mid-roll ads without being affected.

For now, both Google and the Coalition for Better Ads are recommending removing any ads in videos which violate these standards within the next four months.

Starting August 5, 2020, Google’s Chrome browser will begin blocking these ads on sites. Sites which repeatedly run problematic ads of this sort can also be blocked from showing ads entirely.

Importantly, Google specifically states these standards will also apply to YouTube ads:

“It’s important to note that YouTube.com, like other websites with video content, will be reviewed for compliance with the Standards. Similar to the previous Better Ads Standards, we’ll update our product plans across our ad platforms, including YouTube, as a result of this standard, and leverage the research as a tool to help guide product development in the future.”

A recent report from Microsoft predicts the future of online marketing throughout the next decade using a combination of data, surveys, and insights from some of the leading advertising experts at the company.

The report “2020 Vision: Trends to define the next decade” covers a wide range of issues, including the most important online marketing skills professionals will need in the 2020s, new approaches to search engine marketing and advertising, and increasing interactivity.

With how quickly online marketing changes, it can be hard to imagine where we will be in ten years, though Microsoft believes it may look a little like this:

Advertising Without Webpages

Online advertising has long been built on the structure where advertisers show ads on a site which lead to a specific landing page with more information when clicked. Gradually, that is changing as new platforms and apps are providing new opportunities for a more streamlined, interactive ad:

“Think of an interactive ad asking you to “Choose Your Own Adventure” then responding with additional interaction or next step based on your choice. In search, this type of interaction could begin to replace the practice of clicking through to a web page or content download.”

Streaming Brings Back TV Advertising With a Twist

The biggest flaw with traditional television advertising has been an inability to precisely target who the ad is being shown to, let alone exactly how many people will see the ad. The rise of digital streaming platforms will help solve this issue by delivering opportunities to deliver targeted ads to viewers:

“More relevant and targeted advertising will be possible on streaming TV because data on the backend will enable high-performing ads to be delivered to extremely targeted audiences. A mashup of search, audience-based buying and news content will fuel many of the evolving platforms to watch.”

Cameras Change How We Search

Visual search has existed in relatively primitive forms for a few years without ever truly catching on. This is largely because they have largely been unreliable for getting precise search results. Thanks to the power of machine-learning, Microsoft believes that will change in the 2020s:

“We’re addicted to screens and our eyeballs are looking for a new thrill factor — one that takes us beyond links and text, and is powered by images… How easy would it be if you take a picture of something you want rather than trying to search for it using words?“

SEO Remains an Essential Skill For Online Marketing

For the most part, the predictions in the report focus on large-scale shifts the company expects to see in the coming years. In one area, however, the experts see things remaining relatively consistent.

Based on a poll of more than 600 global senior marketer participants, SEO is going to remain the most important “hard skill” for marketers to have. The list is as follows:

Hard skills:

  • SEO
  • Data analysis
  • Copywriting
  • Behavioral analysis
  • Automation

Soft skills:

  • Creativity
  • Humility
  • Empathy
  • Adaptability
  • Transparency

The full report delves deeper into exactly why Microsoft’s experts expect to see the changes in the online marketing world in the coming decade. You can download it here.

 

In the latest episode of Google’s “Search for Beginners” series, the company focused on 5 things everyone should consider for their website.

While it is relatively straight and to the point, the video shares insight into the process of ranking your site on Google and ensuring smooth performance for users across a wide range of devices and platforms.

Specifically, Google’s video recommends:

  1. Check if your site is indexed: Perform a search on Google for “site:[yourwebsite.com]” to ensure your site is being properly indexed and included in search results. If your site isn’t showing up, it means there is an error keeping your site from being crawled or indexed.
  2. Provide high quality content: Content is essential for informing users AND search engines about your site. Following the official webmaster guidelines and best practice documents will help your site rank better and improve overall traffic.
  3. Maximize performance across all devices: Most searches are now occurring on mobile devices, so it is important that your site loads quickly on all devices. You can check to ensure your site is mobile friendly using Google’s online tool here.
  4. Secure your website: Upgrading from HTTP to HTTPS helps protect your users information and limit the chance of bad actors manipulating your site.
  5. Hire an SEO professional: With the increasingly competitive search results and fast-changing results pages, Google recommends hiring an outside professional to assist you.

The video actually implies that hiring an SEO professional is so important they will be devoting significantly more time to it in the future. Here’s what the presenter had to say:

“Are you looking for someone to work on [your website] on your behalf? Hiring a search engine optimizer, or “SEO,” might be an option. SEOs are professionals who can help improve the visibility and ranking of your website. We’ll talk more about hiring an SEO in future episodes.”

Google says it is walking back a significant recent redesign of its desktop search results after widespread negative reaction.

Earlier this month, the company released an update which brought desktop search results closer to the current mobile results, including changing how ads appeared in the results.

However, many said the change made it difficult to distinguish between paid advertisements and organic search results.

This isn’t the first time Google has been accused of making it difficult to tell ads from organic results, however it is the first time the company has agreed to backtrack on the changes.

In a Tweet, the company said: “Last week we updated the look of Search on desktop to mirror what’s been on mobile for months. We’ve heard your feedback about the update. We always want to make Search better, so we’re going to experiment with new placements for favicons.”

Despite the negative response, Google says initial tests of the change were positive and cited the warm response to similar mobile search results designs.

Read the full statement below:

“We’re dedicated to improving the desktop experience for Search, and as part of our efforts we rolled out a new design last week, mirroring the design that we’ve had for many months on mobile. The design has been well received by users on mobile screens, as it helps people more quickly see where information is coming from and they can see a prominent bolded ad label at the top. Web publishers have also told us they like having their brand iconography on the search results page. While early tests for desktop were positive, we are always incorporating feedback from our users. We are experimenting with a change to the current desktop favicons, and will continue to iterate on the design over time.”

A surprising competitor has entered the arena of search engines, as Verizon Media has announced the launch of its privacy-focused search engine called OneSearch.

The search engine says it will not track, store, or share any data from users including personal and search-related information, aligning itself more with search engines like DuckDuckGo than Google.

The search engine is available now at OneSearch.com.

While DuckDuckGo may be more established, OneSearch hopes to make it easier for businesses committed to privacy by integrating the search engine with existing products.

As the company explains in the announcement:

“OneSearch doesn’t track, store, or share personal or search data with advertisers, giving users greater control of their personal information in a search context. Businesses with an interest in security can partner with Verizon Media to integrate OneSearch into their privacy and security products, giving their customers another measure of control.”

The search engine is also taking privacy a step further by adding an “advanced privacy mode” which delivers search results via encrypted links which will expire within an hour.

In the announcement, OneSearch highlights their full suite of privacy-centric features, including:

  • No cookie tracking, retargeting, or personal profiling
  • No sharing of personal data with advertisers
  • No storing of user search history
  • Unbiased, unfiltered search results
  • Encrypted search terms

As OneSearch promises not to sell users’ data, it will instead rely on advertising to provide its search engine for free. Rather than using users’ browsing data, the search engine says it will show ads based on contextual data such as the current keyword being queried.

Currently, the search engine is only available in North America on desktop or mobile browsers. The company says it plans to expand the search engine to other countries soon and will be launching mobile apps for Android and iOS later this month.

LinkedIn is launching three new features for users aimed at encouraging the community to engage more and form deeper connections with followers.

The new features are part of an initiative to bring new updates to LinkedIn’s 50 million organizations using the site to reach customers, prospects, employees, and potential collaborators.

To start of 2020, the site is making it possible for users to invite others to follow their page, stream using LinkedIn Live, and post to their page in new ways.

Invite New Followers

One of the hardest parts of getting a social metwork page off the ground is gaining new followers. Now, LinkedIn is giving page managers the ability to invite users who share a first-degree level of connection to your page.

Users can also choose to entirely opt out of these invites if they prefer to not receive invitations to follow pages.

LinkedIn Live Integration

LinkedIn is also working to better integrate their streaming platform by allowing pages to broadcast live streams.

In the past, live streaming was strictly only available to personal profiles on the site.

This could prove to be a boon for pages on the site, as the company says live streams generate up to 7 times more reactions and 24 times more comments compared to typical video posts.

To get access to live streaming on your brand’s page, page managers can apply on the LinkedIn Live website.

Post as a Page or Member

When posting new content, users can now select a conveniently located switch on the homepage to choose between posting as yourself or an organization you represent.

Previously, the only way to post as your page required you to visit your organization’s page and post directly from that page. Now, users can easily post to their preferred page from one place.

You can see what the new features look like in action in the video from LinkedIn below: