E-A-T & Link Building: A Guide to Evaluating Prospects via @_kevinrowe

E-A-T has been a hot topic when it comes to on-site content.

But why, how, and when should you consider concepts in E-A-T with link building efforts?

Your site cannot have E-A-T without a link and brand mention profile.

In the Search Quality Rater Guidelines, Google states that “sources of reputation” are “news articles, Wikipedia, articles, blog posts, magazine articles, forum discussions, and ratings” when establishing Page Rating.

And it’s easy to determine that E-A-T can, in certain niches and to varying degrees, be leveraged in evaluating a site’s fit to secure a link.

But, Google’s Ben Gomes said in a 2018 interview with CNBC that:

“You can view the rater guidelines as where we want the search algorithm to go.”

“They don’t tell you how the algorithm is ranking results, but they fundamentally show what the algorithm should do.”

Even though E-A-T doesn’t directly have an impact on ranking, it can result in creating signals that drive direct ranking improvement.



Still, it’s important to use your own experience when understanding what works and doesn’t work in your niche.

If you follow Google’s recommendations or guidelines strictly, you’ll always be playing the long-game or even lack any results, when it comes to link building.

And it’s clear that Google cannot even implement an algorithmic interpretation that has the strictest interpretations of these guidelines.

A great example of this is under recipes.

My eight-year-old daughter and I were looking for banana bread recipes in Google.

We found the one in the screenshot below from Allrecipes.

I found that this recipe is actually way off on the bake when we baked it, by more than 30 minutes. But it had more than 15K reviews.

google search for recipes

google search for recipes

I can dig up a hundred similar examples fairly easily.



So there is a major caveat when applying my interpretation of E-A-T to guide link acquisition.

Don’t use E-A-T guidelines to strictly evaluate prospective sites in every niche.

When to Use E-A-T Standards for Link Prospects?

There are three major considerations before even bothering to review a site against your guidelines, under a fair interpretation of Google’s search quality raters guidelines.

  • If the sites are completely useless, then no need to do an in-depth analysis.
  • Not every niche or scenario requires a strict analysis of a site to build a link.
  • A natural link profile doesn’t just have E-A-T sites.

Let’s start with a “useless site,” as there is no point in further review of a site if it is not designed to create value but is “made for SEO.”

Google’s page quality guidelines state that:

“Websites or pages without any beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating. No further assessment is necessary.”

I do not believe in having a strict interpretation of the phrase “beneficial purpose.”

My interpretation is that if the site has no relevant content that helps users then it’s useless.

But it isn’t so clear.

For example, The Million Dollar Homepage had no value but to sell ads so a guy could make a million dollars by selling ads.

million dollar homepage seo page rank

million dollar homepage seo page rank

This site has over 94,000 backlinks (Ahrefs) but only ranks for 1,200 keywords.

This is an extreme example of a site I’d just avoid.

ahrefs link profile screenshot

ahrefs link profile screenshot

As for point 2, there are certain niches that require much stricter review than others.



YMYL sites have much stricter standards than other niches.

In the guidelines, Google provides some guidance on what constitutes a completely useless site.

In the guidelines, Google explains that YMYL vs other sources will have different sources of reputation.

E-A-T & Link Building: A Guide to Evaluating Prospects

E-A-T & Link Building: A Guide to Evaluating Prospects

The last point is just a reality check for you people that review your link profile, or even build disavow lists with a strict interpretation of what is “high” or “low” quality.

If you’ve analyzed backlink profiles for competitive niches, then you’ve certainly seen a mix of links that you may consider verily degrees of quality and with a wide metric variation.

The screenshot from Ahrefs shows that bestcolleges.com’s page that ranks for “best online colleges for psychology” has a mix of link quality and domain rating (DR).



There are certainly many lurking and confounding variables that also have an impact, but it’s so commonplace that you cannot ignore this fact.

ahrefs link profile data

ahrefs link profile data

What Are the Criteria for Evaluation?

My team and I have built a score with over 50 variables we delivered called PureGrade, to understand the likelihood of the site having a positive, negative, or neutral impact based on main content (MC) and supplemental content.

That said, Google uses an interesting scale that, in my opinion, provides way too much freedom to raters.

My team has used these criteria to rank sites that don’t necessarily qualify for YMYL content.

This has been built based on a manual review of over 60,000 sites and thousands of pages, across hundreds of enterprise-level projects.

And, Moz’s spam score has over “27 common features” that they claim correlates with a significant amount of banned or penalized sites.



I don’t recommend using Moz’s spam score, PureGrade, or other single metrics as gospel for disavowing or prospecting new sites.

However, it helps to illustrate the point that we need to evaluate sites against a set of criteria and not only one or two.

Google guides its raters to use a scale of lowest, lowest+, high+, high, medium+, medium, low+, lowest +, and lowest.

google quality rater guidelines scale

google quality rater guidelines scale

It’s really important to note that this scale is used to rate the ranking site and not the linking site. This doesn’t mean you can’t use this scale to evaluate prospects.

For the purposes of this article, which is to make a connection between the quality rater guidelines and link-prospecting review criteria, I’ll only be listing out elements of a site based on E-A-T from ideally what Google’s, or search engines, “algorithm should do,” and not what I’ve seen work to drive ranking improvements.



The rater guidelines only press on the idea of finding an expert in the niche and verifying that they are experts.

These core elements to review are:

  • About us, contact, or customer service info.
  • Outbound link profile.
  • A “positive reputation” of the main or supplemental content.

Beyond just finding the authorship, it’s important to evaluate the MC pages, and one key indicator is whether the site mentions “buy dofollow links” anywhere on the site.

If the site does say this, then it’s likely that most of the articles are not from reputable sources and you should avoid it.

This is not the case when the site mentions “paid guest posting.” This can mean they offer sponsored posts or affiliate links.

This is just how sites make money, and can be separate from the main content.

With an outbound link profile, search for overly commercial links.

These are typically links that surprise the user when clicked by funneling the user to the homepage or transactional pages.



Finally, the “positive reputation,” is much harder to establish.

Use a mix of metrics from Ahrefs, Majestic, and Moz to understand the site reputation profile.

But you can also use tools like BuzzSumo to identify if the articles of the prospect get shared or have engagement.

A Final Note

It’s really important to note from the rater guidelines that:

“Frequently, you will find little or no information about the reputation of a website for a small organization. This is not indicative of positive or negative reputation. Many small, local businesses or community organizations have a small “web presence” and rely on word of mouth, not online reviews. For these smaller businesses and organizations, lack of reputation should not be considered an indication of low page quality.”

When evaluating micro-influencers or small blogs for prospects, you have to realize it’s not always critical to be strict.

More Resources:



Image Credits

In-Post Image: Created by author, June 2020
All screenshots taken by author, June 2020

Porsche Design, matching bespoke capability for cars, to enable 1.5M design options for wristwatches

Porsche Design will let consumers customize their watches the way they customize Porsche cars, from trim to color and everything in between. Image courtesy of Porsche Design Porsche Design will let consumers customize their watches the way they customize Porsche cars, from trim to color and everything in between. Image courtesy of Porsche Design

Porsche Design is taking a page from sports car factories and letting consumers select from more than 1.5 million design configurations to create custom timepieces to match their vehicle.

How to build your brand authority through content marketing

30-second summary:

  • Brand authority can make a huge difference in whether someone decides to buy from you or not.
  • First you have to examine what your current brand recognition is like by seeing how you’re talked about online. This can help you identify opportunity areas.
  • Then you can dive in deeper and start researching typical questions your target audience has. Why? So you can answer them.
  • Finally, you’ll set out to answer the questions you collected in an authoritative way to start building trust.

Please forgive the fact that I’m tweaking a tired adage, but the message is true: Building your brand authority doesn’t happen overnight.

I was reminded of this fact very recently while scrolling through LinkedIn: 

Ongoing marketing efforts are needed to tell an authoritative story and build trust in potential customers. It can always make a difference when someone is deciding between two companies, and it’s even more important with B2B, since those products/services tend to involve a higher cost.

Here’s how you can go about utilizing digital marketing to increase your brand authority.

Note: I’m going to focus on the content itself, but earning backlinks — which is significantly easier to do with high-quality content — is a primary way to indicate to Google that other sites trust you, which signals that you’re more authoritative. Prioritizing your backlink portfolio will dramatically help you in all other authority-building efforts.

Gauge your brand authority level

Don’t assume you already understand how you’re viewed by your audience. Instead, before launching into any marketing strategies, check the data to get a sense of how you’re being perceived.

  • Have your branded searches increased or decreased? What search terms are people pairing with your brand? 
  • How are your customers or leads finding out about your brand? Was it from authoritative interviews or content you put out there or some other way?
  • Are you ever mentioned in the media? If you haven’t already, set up Google Alerts for your brand name and any prominent, public-facing employees. 

Another interesting consideration is: Who are the current authorities in your space? Are you aware of them all?

Brand authority through content marketing

The first way to identify this is to type into Google the phrases you wish you ranked for and see who is ranking for those terms. Sometimes it’s the competitors you knew about, but sometimes other sites have climbed up the authority ladder.

Additionally, you can use tools like SparkToro to search your topic area and see where your audience is going for information. 

Gauging brand authority through tools

If you search for your vertical, you can then see the most popular publications, podcasts, social channels, and more visited by the audience interested in your vertical.

Then the question becomes, are you on these lists? If not, who is and why? What are they doing well? You can aim to be featured on these different media outlets, as you know they appeal to your target audience.

Identify your audience’s questions

If you answer your audience’s questions, they’ll start to trust you and see you as an authority.

The concept sounds simple, and it is. But the execution is harder. First, how do you find out what their questions are?

Here are a few ways:

  • Tools like Answer the Public and BuzzSumo’s Questions will show you what people are asking based on different keywords you enter. 

Snapshot of BuzzSumo’s Questions tool

  • Keyword research can reveal the types of challenges people are facing. Don’t just look at keyword volume — look at “People also ask”. Get lost for a little while, clicking on various questions and related keywords. (Keywords Everywhere is a cool tool for search volume/competition, as is Keyword Surfer).
  • Talk to your sales team about what common questions are coming up. Have you answered these with content? Do they speak to the greater problems your audience faces?
  • Brush up on your audience personas. Different segments of your audience may have different problems. See if you’ve been accidentally neglecting a segment.

Once you have a solid list of the questions your audience has, you can work on effectively answering those questions.

Answer the questions with authoritative content

Once you know what you want to write about, how do you make it authoritative?

First of all, your methodology matters. Do your own original research whenever possible. Content backed by data is inherently more trustworthy than content based on opinion. If you’re featuring opinion, make sure it’s someone who can prove their expertise through their past experience.

Secondly, the content has to be created in a way that conveys authority:

  • It shouldn’t have any grammar or spelling errors
  • If it’s time-sensitive in any way, it needs a date on the article so people know exactly when it was written and thus the content can be put in its proper context
  • Sources should all be cited
  • The design should be clean and easy to read
  • The structure and navigation should be well-thought-out and provide insight into exactly what readers will learn
  • All information should be backed up with explanations and facts
  • If your piece was written by experts, provide their name and bio

Let’s take a look at some examples. I pulled the top organic text and video results for the query “how to choose a bike.” (I’m thinking about buying a bike, so I’m finding myself using a lot of bike-related examples as of late…)

REI’s article, “How to Choose a Bike,” ranks number one. I use REI examples a lot because I think they have a fantastic content strategy by using their expertise to answer all kinds of questions their customers could have.

But let’s focus specifically on what makes this article seem authoritative. 

First, it’s well organized and clearly outlined, even including a table where you can get the top-level information very quickly. Having a well-thought-out structure and design is a visual indication of knowledge and understanding of a topic.

They also have a section at the bottom labeled “Contributing Experts” so you know exactly who put the guide together and what experience they have.Contributing Experts

Finally, they responded to all of their comments, providing additional information to the people who had further questions.

Now let’s check out the top video result, which is from 2013, meaning people have found it useful for more than six years. What about it feels authoritative?

For one, look at how he outlines right at the beginning what the video will cover, setting proper expectations and indicating a solid knowledge of the subject.

Additionally, he doesn’t just list the features of the different types; he explains the usefulness of those features to help you make a more informed decision.

There are a few other techniques to display authority, as well. Andy Crestodina recommends including quotes and tips from other thought leaders in your piece. You can also get third-party validation for your content in the form of testimonials, reviews, or asking influencers to share what you created. The point here is to showcase that you associate with experts and that other people trust you.


It’ll take time and effort, but once you’re an authority, every other aspect of your marketing will gain more traction. Consider how to build authority into all of your digital marketing, and you’ll have the potential to amplify your results even further.

Amanda Milligan is the Marketing Director at Fractl, a prominent growth marketing agency that’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and boutique businesses.

Google Replaced The Sponsored Label With The Ads Label

Yesterday Google has removed the “Sponsored” label on the Google Shopping Ads and replaced it with the black “Ads” label you see on normal Google Search Ads. Ginny Marvin from Search Engine Land said this is “streamlining” the ads label.

Here are before and after screen shots that I saw myself on the desktop results.

Old “Sponsored” Google Ads Label (click to enlarge):

click to enlarge

New “Ads” Google Ads Label (click to enlarge):

click for full size

Ginny also produced an excellent history of Google Ads labels.

I prefer it read “Ads” versus “Sponsored” – so I am happy with this change.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Replay: Addressing diversity recruitment and retainment in agencies and marketing teams

The lack of diversity in the advertising and marketing industry is not a new issue. Despite loads of research on the business benefits of diverse teams, there’s been talk but little action for years to increase Black and minority representation in the industry.

During this session of Live with Search Engine Land, which took place during SMX Next last week, I discussed how to accomplish change in your organization with:

  • CJ Bland, co-­founder, CEO and principal consultant of the Minority Professional Network, which specializes in DE&I recruiting and retention, marketing, training/speaking and consulting.
  • Zenia Johnson, an account lead at digital agency 3Q Digital who specializes in social media and is passionate about fostering inclusivity and diversity in the digital technology space.
  • Jackie Leung, director of talent acquisition at digital agency Wpromote. She oversees all hiring practices nationwide and leads the agency’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Initiative.

We discussed why diversity is good business, what intentional commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives looks like, recruiting, hiring and retainment practices to achieve diversity goals and how employees can initiate change in their organizations. Watch the full session above.

For more on this topic, see the accompanying article: Actionable ways to drive diversity, equity and inclusion in your marketing organizations.

Live with Search Engine Land’s weekly meetups are about giving great marketers a platform to inform, support and convene our global community. If you have an idea for a session or would like to join a panel, email [email protected].

More from SMX Next

This story first appeared on Search Engine Land.

About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, running the day to day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin writes about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

Ethiopian opposition politician held as protests continue

Ethiopia police were on Wednesday detaining leading opposition politician Jawar Mohammed, a move that risks inflaming ethnic tensions that have led to multiple deaths during protests in the capital and surrounds.

The capital Addis Ababa was rocked by a second day of protests which erupted on Tuesday following the killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer who was gunned down Monday night.

At least eight people have been killed, according to an AFP tally, in the Oromia region which surrounds Addis Ababa and is the heartland of the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo.

Jawar, a former media mogul who recently joined the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, was arrested in Addis Ababa along with 34 other people, federal police commissioner Endeshaw Tassew said in a statement late Tuesday.

Endeshaw said that as Hachalu’s body was being transported to his native town of Ambo for burial, Jawar and his supporters intercepted it and tried to return it to Addis Ababa, where a clash ensued.

“There was a disturbance between federal security forces and others, and in the process one member of the Oromia special police force was killed,” Endeshaw said.

“The security forces have taken eight Kalashnikovs, five pistols and nine radio transmitters from Jawar Mohammed’s car,” he said of the arrest.

The Oromo Media Network — which was founded by Jawar before he left to become a politician — reported there was a call for mass protests until he and the others were released.

– ‘A dangerous situation’ –

The internet remained cut off for a second day in a government bid to curb the unrest.

In October, reports that the government was attempting to remove Jawar’s security detail kicked off days of violence that left more than 80 people dead.

Hachalu’s music gave voice to Oromo feelings of marginalisation that were at the core of years of anti-government protests that swept Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to power in 2018.

Map of Ethiopia and its regions

Map of Ethiopia and its regions


The motive for his killing has not been identified, but police have said “some suspects” have been arrested.

In Addis Ababa — where protesters grouped at several points around the city — security forces on Wednesday fired into the air to disperse demonstrators who were approaching a statue of Emperor Menelik II, widely seen as the creator of modern-day Ethiopia.

Oromo nationalists see Menelik as a driving force behind their perceived marginalisation, and Hachalu called earlier this month for the statue to be pulled down.

On Tuesday protesters in Harar in eastern Ethiopia pulled down a statue of Ras Mekonnen, the father of Emperor Haile Selassie, a doctor in the city told AFP on condition of anonymity, also reporting the death of one person during protests.

– ‘Everything is closed’ –

In the town of Nekemte in western Ethiopia, a doctor at the Wollega University Hospital, Negeo Tesfye, told AFP: “Yesterday there was a clash between protesters and local police, three people were then shot by regional special forces. Two of those people died.”

“Currently everything is closed down, there is no transportation, people are not moving around,” he said.

Medical sources and relatives on Tuesday reported three deaths in central Adama, and another in Western Hararge.

Oromo living in the United States have gathered in Minnesota to protest the death of musician and ac...

Oromo living in the United States have gathered in Minnesota to protest the death of musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa


Federal police said several people had also been killed during three grenade attacks in the capital, without giving exact figures.

Ethiopia, an ethnic melting pot of 100 million people, has battled deadly intercommunal tensions in recent years, a major threat to efforts by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — himself an Oromo — to bring about democratic reforms in a country long ruled with an iron fist from Addis Ababa.

“The assassination of an important Oromo musician, subsequent protests which have in places involved property destruction and security forces using lethal force, and the arrest of Oromo leaders, creates a dangerous situation and is another blow to Ethiopia’s troubled transition,” said William Davison, an analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Should I Bid on Branded Terms in SEM? via @bigalittlea

Ah, the age-old debate.

  • Should I bid on my brand terms or not?
  • Why do I have to pay to get the traffic I earned?!?!
  • Why are Google and Bing holding my brand hostage?

These, along with a myriad of other questions around brand bidding, seem to pop up every few years.

Rising CPCs, an evolving SERP, and a few lawsuits have led us to a new breakpoint.

I’m going to do my best to answer the most common questions I’ve encountered over my career.

This should help guide you on how (and if) you should bid on your branded terms.

(For the sake of consistency, I’m going to pretend my brand is Seinfeld throughout this post. Many references to follow.)

1. Should You Bid on Brand Terms in PPC?

Yes. And also a little bit no.

But mostly yes.

But not always, and not everything.

It’s not as binary a decision as it’s made out to be, nor should we treat all branded terms equal.



We must view brand terms the same as any other terms in SEM.

They need to have a goal, KPIs, and a strategy to achieve success.

Don’t bid terms to the ceiling and issue a blank check because you want a 100% impression share.

There are smarter (and more profitable) ways to operate.

Ask yourself: would I make this decision if the query was “best tv show ever” instead of “Seinfeld”?

If the answer is no… well, you get the point.

2. How Should I Structure My Branded PPC Campaigns?

Structure your campaigns… well, the same way you structure everything else: tiered in order of volume and budget priority.

My recommendations will (likely) be against engine recommendations, but so be it.

I’m a grownup and I do what I want.

Generally speaking, you’d want to have 4-5 “sets” of branded terms.

It’s up to you whether you structure them into campaigns or ad groups, but I’d recommend breaking them out either way.



Isolate Core + Navigational Terms Should Into Their Own Areas

By navigational, I’m talking about terms like “www Seinfeld com” or “Seinfeld com”.

When I say core, I’m speaking about things like “Seinfeld show”, “Seinfeld”, “Jerry Seinfeld show”, and so on.

These are the highest volume, the highest propensity to convert and likely lower incrementality.

Promotional or Discount Queries

These should be addressed but not necessarily by you… more to come on this.

Brand Adjacent/Sub Brand

This includes names of products or terms with a branded intent.

I’m thinking things like “Kramer’s lobster shirt”, “Jiffy Park t-shirt”, or “Urban Sombrero”*.

These aren’t your brand in the conventional sense. But, if a consumer is searching for a specific item by name, they should fall in this bucket.post

*For those who don’t know, these are Seinfeld apparel items worn by characters.

Branded Research

This covers queries like “Seinfeld reviews” or “Seinfeld vs. Friends”.

These are closer to mid or bottom funnel and may not represent a person who’s ready to buy right this second.

I could see arguments we shouldn’t consider them branded terms at all. That said, while these may not convert as well, they’re likely to have a high level of incrementality.

3. Should I Be in the Absolute Top Position, 100% of the Time, for Every Brand Mention?

No. I outlined this in-depth some time ago in a post around forecasting.

Every click (branded included) is more expensive than the last.

As you get closer and closer to 100% impression share, those clicks will get exponentially more expensive

The structure above presents a sound framework to maximize efficient volume.

If you need a target (big blanket statement warning) generally somewhere in the low 90-95% mark is where returns start to diminish.

That’s not saying you can’t make a profit above that level, but you’ll likely see ROI/ROAS start to diminish.

But again, test.

4. Should I Automate Bids on Brand Campaigns?

Yes, but test which will work best for you.



Most forms of smart bidding have their place depending on your goals.

Target Impression Share has proven fruitful with an aim towards that 90-95% sweet spot.

It keeps CPCs at a reasonable level and handles most of the competitive variables well.

By the same token, tCPA or tROAS have been beneficial in the right scenarios depending on our clients’ goals.

Make sure to set caps to prevent your CPCs from spiking too much.

This may be the only scenario where I still endorse (somewhat) manual bidding as well.

Variance for brand campaigns is lower than other broader terms so your bids likely won’t need to change as much.

Basically, it’s up to you.

5. Should I Use Enhanced CPC (eCPC) for Brand Keywords?

Test it, but I don’t recommend it as a blanket “must do.”

Think of it this way; eCPC aims to increase conversions by bidding more when a conversion is more likely and vice versa.

Say you already have 97-99% top impression share for your best terms.



eCPC will (almost) always assume a conversion is likely to happen and will (almost) always bid up.

You then pay more for the same result.

I have seen it work well in competitive industries where impression share is, shall we say, harder to come by.

But, test it, don’t assume.

6. If I Turn off Branded PPC Terms, Wouldn’t I Get All the Traffic & Conversions Anyway?

“Well these people were looking for me anyway, so they’ll find me no matter what.”


This is the most common argument against bidding on brand terms.

It’s one of the more challenging things to test, and the most likely to prove a case for bidding.

Incrementality is the proportion of outcomes that would happen without intervention. That is, how many conversions would we get if we did nothing.

Incrementality testing has varied in every one of the dozens of brand turnoff tests I’ve run in my career.

I’ve seen incrementality as low as 15-20% (e.g., 80-85% of conversions would’ve happened without ads) with a naked SERP.



Though, the frequency of a truly naked SERP is next to zero nowadays.

I suspect this incrementality figure is higher in modern times.

I’ve also seen it as high as 85% for competitive industries like mattresses, fitness, and home services.

I’ve outlined a few examples below, showcasing how we ran the tests and the result.

We Tested for a Supplement Company with a Short Purchase Path

Automated rules turned off branded ads every other day for 60 days.

The total return on search investment was our success metric: (organic + paid revenue)/search spend.

Days with brand ads on yielded 28% more total search conversions.

Factoring in the margin and the cost of ads, brand investment was ROI positive, albeit closer to 2:1 vs. the 10:1 reported in the engine

A National Home Improvement Company Left the Decision to Invest or Not During COVID in the Hands of Franchisees

  • Approximately half turned off branded ads while half remained on.
  • Franchises that paused brand search performed 50% worse than those who kept it turned on across all engines.
  • The team conducted a regression analysis to figure out what happened to organic ads during the same time. Those who kept ads on saw more organic leads than those who turned off (R2 = 0.45), indicating there was a positive impact while ads were on.
    • The direct result was ROI positive – the halo effect made the decision a no-brainer for franchisees.



A Well-Known Marketplace Wanted to See If They Could Save a Few Dollars by Removing Brand Terms

  • Their CPCs were low (in the five-cent range) and a naked SERP outside of shopping ads. We ran a geo-holdout test for a period of six weeks. We excluded ~100 ZIP codes from branded ads and compared against the performance of 100 like ZIP codes. The findings were dramatic:
    • Approximately 44% of branded clicks were incremental, vanishing without ads running
    • CPCs on incremental clicks were 7x higher than the cost of non-incremental clicks. It’s worth noting in this case non-incremental clicks cost under a penny each.
      • ROAS on branded terms in the engine UI was around 80:1 (which is insane) – iROAS, that is the incremental revenue/total spend) was around 12:1.

I could go on, as there are dozens of examples around.

TL;DR: The incrementality of branded terms varies but is (in my experience) always positive.

7. Should I Update Ads for Every Promotion?

I wouldn’t recommend it.

There are two main challenges, one psychological and one PPC-ical:



  • Search engines favor ad history. When you throw a new ad for every 10% off sale, you’re resetting history and making the engine guess what will happen. Generally, there’s a CPC “blip” with each new ad until the engine figures out what to do with it. If you have a short-term sale, that blip may last the whole sale and reduce efficiency.
  • Consumer intent from a branded query is different from a sale ad vs. a non-sale ad. First-time customers from a promotional ad likely have lower incrementality and a lower LTV. They’re more likely to become “sale only” customers who only buy cheap.

You’re a great PPC-er so you’ve been testing for years – odds are your evergreen branded ads are quite strong.

Unless your sale has a dramatic effect on performance, stick to promotion extensions or sitelinks.

If you must run a promotional ad, keep your existing branded ad live in tandem.

8. Should I Let Resellers & Affiliates Bid on My Brand Terms?

Controversial opinion time!

Yes, with restrictions.

Allowing a few selected partners on your branded terms accomplishes three things:

  • It builds a moat for competitors. That’s not saying competitors can’t or won’t usurp your branded terms, but there are more layers of defense.
  • They present options that are more likely to align with consumer intent. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone searching for “Seinfeld Coupons” already intended on buying. Let an affiliate take that click – it’ll likely be a higher CPC that you wouldn’t make much money on. Plus, it’s a better reflection of consumer intent and a better experience.
  • When done well, they won’t raise your CPCs. You hold the cards in the relationship with affiliates. You can set the terms of their presence to ensure CPCs don’t spike.



So Should I Bid on Branded Terms?


But as with all things SEM, you cannot evaluate your success and ROI in a vacuum.

Instead, look at the net impact on your business (including the halo effect) to make sure your branded bidding strategy aligns with goals.

More Resources:

Four strategies to maintain your social media activity during a crisis

30-second summary:

  • It’s important to stay engaged with our audience during the crisis, and there’s a lot we can do to accomplish that.  
  • Low budgets, limited workforce, and lesser bandwidth for content production are some challenges businesses are seeing on the forefront.
  • Roman Daneghyan shares four strategies to maintain your social media activity during a crisis.

Social media is a fun place where we can engage with our audience on a daily basis. You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of social media, which means you maintain consistent social media activity. 

Unfortunately, during troubling times like the COVID-19 outbreak that we’re experiencing today, businesses often struggle to maintain an active social media presence. Your budget is low, the workforce is limited, and there’s usually little motivation to produce content with everything that’s going on around you. 

Still, it’s not that hard to maintain social media activity during a crisis, and it is perhaps the only sensible thing we can do. It’s important to stay engaged with our audience during the crisis, and there’s a lot we can do to accomplish that. 

Here are four strategies to maintain your social media activity during a crisis.

1. Repurposing content

If we are unable to create fresh content, we can always work with what we already have. If you had a well-built content strategy prior to the crisis, then chances are you have a lot of pieces to work with. Our goal here is to repurpose existing content into something fresh. 

Start with what you already have: a podcast, a video log, a long-form blog article, a sales letter, anything works. Try to collect all long-form, pillar content that you have. Next, we’re going to use and repurpose that content to create fresh content. A vlog turns into a blog, a blog into an email, an email into a tweet, and so on… you get the point.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a master of repurposing content, he also popularized the content pyramid model that is based on this idea. Gary says he can create 30 fresh pieces of content to be used across his channels just from a single daily episode of his show.  

Social media activity example repurposing content

Using a single piece of content, you can create fresh content for your social media accounts, and it doesn’t have to be a repost. You can repurpose a piece of content to tweet some bits on Twitter, start a discussion on Facebook, post an edited clip on Instagram, or share a concise blog post on LinkedIn. And boom, there’s your content.

Also, there’s no need to feel like a fraud for repurposing ‘used’ content. Most of your followers won’t remember your older posts, and they could always use a reminder, especially during a crisis. Even if we have nothing ‘new’ to say, we can still share our insights from the past. To give your old content a fresh look, you can add some eye-catching visuals to it. You can take the help of a web designing firm to create visuals that can get noticed in crowded social media feeds. 

2. Make use of content creation tools

With everything slowing down, it’s hard to create enough content all on your own. In the past few years, we saw a lot of content creation tools and templates come to life, and perhaps it’s time to make good use of them. Content creations tools help us to minimize the time, budget, and effort needed to create content, and now we need them more than ever.

Depending on your needs, there are various tools to choose from:

  • For research, you can make use of Google Drive’s Research Tool to conduct quick research, all it takes is clicking a simple ‘Explore’ button in the bottom right. Also, ‘Site: search’ function is another useful tool accessible from the browser.
  • If you need help writing posts for your social media account, you can use writing tools like Evernote to take notes, Grammarly to catch errors,  WriteRack to tweetstorm. 
  • If you want to post visual media then you have to try out tools like PicsArt. These tools are easy to use, and you can create great visual content in less than five minutes. Instead of spending hours on design, all you have to do is choose a template and fill it with your brand graphics.

It takes a lot of effort to create great social media content, but we can always make use of content creation tools to save some time or get a few creative ideas. 

3. Utilize user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) is content created by people rather than brands, which means you don’t have to create anything. Utilizing UGC is incredibly important for social media, and it can be used to fill the gaps in your content strategy. Brands may not be able to create their own content during the crisis, but can always rely on user-generated content. 

The type of content you repost will vary depending on the media. 

Instagram: The king of user-generated content, Instagram has all kinds of options for brands to share content created by users. You can repost to your own profile, share images on your story, and easily browse using #hashtags and the Explore function. Aerie is a great example of how this should work:

Facebook: Facebook is a fantastic network for sharing stories and videos with your audience. You can invite your fans to contribute stories, images, or videos and use it to invite discussion and engage with the rest of your audience.

Twitter: A great place to utilize user-generated content, Twitter makes it easy with #hashtags and the “Retweet” function. You can simply retweet users and add your own comments to spark a discussion. Food brands do a great job on Twitter:

LinkedIn: Professionals love LinkedIn, and you can use LinkedIn to promote user content that’s relevant to your brand. You can repost the content or feature some users in your blog posts. 

If you want to search for location-specific content, you can always use a VPN service to gain access to content specific to a certain location. This method helps you to understand how your audience sees things, and you can tailor your content to meet their personal needs. 

4. Keep up with the updates

Posting relevant content is important, but don’t forget to post personal updates about your business. Your audience may want to know how you’re doing, whether there will be disruptions in service, and what to expect in the coming days. 

To add on to that, make sure you understand your position during a crisis. If you’re in the middle of it, you can provide daily updates on how your local community is dealing with the crisis, and that’s a good way to build a relationship with your audience. 

Lastly, don’t forget to show compassion for the victims, and you can even use one of the content tools to create supportive posts and remind your audience that you’re thinking of them. 

What’s your take?

What do you think about the ongoing crisis and what is your strategy to maintain your social media activity in the upcoming weeks?

Google: Stock Photography For Google Search Does Not Matter

Google’s John Mueller was asked if using stock photography on your pages would hurt the page’s chances of ranking well in Google search. Do you need a unique image per page? John Mueller responded on Twitter that “it doesn’t matter for web-search directly.”

He did add “for image search, if it’s the same image as used in many places, it’ll be harder.”

Here are those tweets:

Now, John did say in December 2018 that it is worthwhile to have unique images on your pages. But again, here he was referencing image search ranking. He said:

I think having a unique photo is definitely a good idea. Because if it’s the same photo that’s reused across a number of different articles, we’ll we’ll pick one of those articles for for image search to show as the landing page for that. So you’re kind of in the same group with everyone else if it’s the same photo. Whereas if it’s a different photo, then we we can show it separately in image search but that’s specific to image search.

It’s not the case that if you have good images that they will make your site rank better in web search. So it’s kind of kind of separate there. But that’s something where but sometimes good images show up as well in the normal search results. With like or you have the the images one bar on top or something like that. So I I think if you have a chance to to have your own images I think that’s definitely worthwhile.

I was trying to find that classic stock photo everyone uses with a smiling call center representative, but I used a cat instead for this story.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Soapbox: It’s clear the era of traditional mass messaging is over

There was a time—and not terribly long ago—that getting marketing messages to a mass audience was relatively easy: identify a target demographic and then figure out the mix of broadcast and print ads that balanced reach and repetition within a given budget. In those days, media and entertainment choices were relatively limited. Even when people had many cable channels to choose from, the available content was offered by one provider who managed a relatively captive audience.

Today, marketers look at this era as a quaint relic of the past, much the same way they might with the world of Mad Men. With the rise of cable-cutting (swelling by more than 4.5 million US households in 2019 alone) and a growing generation of “cord nevers,” it’s clear the era of traditional mass messaging is over. Interestingly, despite this seismic shift in consumer preferences for providers, the television remains the screen of choice for many viewers.

With that being the case, the challenge becomes: how can we transition from mass messaging to targeted storytelling? The answer lies in fundamentally rethinking strategies using a more nuanced palette of options, capitalizing on the flexibility and power offered by connected, “smart” TVs. 

Does your story need to extend its reach beyond a traditional TV audience? Is your brand’s audience more likely to be found watching Hulu, Netflix, or Disney+? Do you want your messaging to be aligned with specific kinds of content regardless of device? The technology and measurement infrastructure now exists to serve any—or all—of these needs.

Best capitalizing on these opportunities requires a rethinking of the art of storytelling—reimagining the possibilities of connecting and resonating with audiences in new and compelling ways. It’s an exciting creative challenge, and the brands that rise to the occasion are the ones that will forge a new kind of branded content for the future—all the while striving to target an “audience of one.”

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

As Chief Innovation Officer (CInO) of Gongos, Inc., Greg is charged with accelerating the future of everything – from trends and foresights to product innovation and development, to the company’s growth and performance. Greg thrives on exploring societal and technological shifts that point to disruptive ways to create value for consumers and resilience for organizations. Greg leads the company’s Innovation Think Tank – a cross-generational team that fosters a culture of innovation and guides long-term strategy in shaping the decision intelligence space. A former research practitioner with over 20 years of experience under his belt, Greg is a visionary at heart. He believes our industry is in the midst of a revolution, and plans to help pave the way. He holds an M.A. in Humanistic and Clinical Psychology from the Michigan School of Professional Psychology, and a B.S. in Industrial Administration, Marketing and Finance Concentrations from Kettering University.