Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Marketing Nerds Podcast – Episode 3: Zac Johnson on How to Build Your Brand Online by @johnrampton

When growing your business online you must have a plan. In Episode 3 of Marketing Nerds, Zac Johnson goes into how to build up your own personal brand online. When starting out to marketing yourself online you focus on what you’re awesome at.  You have to define everything that you’re going after. Zac teaches us every step that he’s taken to become a six figure blogger online branding yourself and your business. Zac Johnson has been making six figures online through his blog for 8+ years and teaches other bloggers and marketing professionals how to get started with his site, ZacJohnson.com. […]

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Google Competitors Launch Site Explaining How Google Is Hurting The Internet In EU by @mattsouthern

On Monday, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other allied companies launched a new effort aimed at convincing European antitrust officials to force Google to stop promoting its own online services at the expense of its competitors. A new websites has been introduced by the companies, called Focus on the User, which explains their mandate and where the concern stems from that Google is making it more difficult for searchers to discover competing services. The other companies involved include German health advertising portal Jameda, the Swiss travel site HolidayCheck, and a few consumer groups, including Consumer Watchdog and Fight for the Future. Their […]

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Research The “Big 3″ Before You Write Your Next Blog Post by @DylanThomasAU

Despite the picture, I’m not talking about Allies of World War II. Nor am I talking about anything to do with the Heat or Celtics. I’m talking about a Big 3 that is way more common for most bloggers or writers. Let’s put it in context. Here’s what used to be my method for writing a blog post: Come up with an idea (hardest part) or find a nice keyword niche to target Furiously write the first draft Proofread, laugh at spelling errors, edit, and get confused over what point I was trying to make in paragraph three Cull and cut […]

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How To Create AdWords Video Remarketing Campaigns: 3 Easy Steps by @Rocco_Zebra_Adv

Video content is no longer on the rise – it has taken its place among the royalty of content sources. Videos cross our paths everywhere we go, inlcuding on Amazon’s e-book bestseller lists, e.g. Tim Ferriss’s “The 4-Hour Cook” which resembles more a movie than a text-based ebook, on our phones with Vine or Instagram, and even Facebook recently decided to offer video advertising. While producing a traditional brand awareness video is expensive, creating a 30 second remarketing video is not. Besides the fact that video remarketing campaigns are a great way to get your foot in the door and […]

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The Myth of Google's 200 Ranking Factors

Posted by gfiorelli1

The woman in the gif below just said to Captain Picard that she can show him the definitive and complete list of the 200 Google ranking factors.

Picard, who is a wise man, can do nothing but going away with a facepalm.

Who can blame Captain Picard for his reaction? We all know, in fact, that a complete and ultimate list of the 200 ranking factors does not exist.

If you agree, then why do we still see statistics like these below on  Buzzsumo?

Let me offer this disclaimer before I continue:

I am not writing this post to attack people like Brian Dean, who, in August, published an update to the "complete list" that Backlinko first presented in 2013. Brian, whom I esteem, created an effective piece of link bait (as the  318 linking root domains it earned testify).

I am writing this post because those lists are, quite simply, useless and dangerous, and because I hope to help people—especially the newer generations of SEO—understand that a definitive and complete "List" of Google's ranking factors does not exist. Moreover, some of the factors that appear in those lists:

  1. Are myths;
  2. Are correlation factors and not causal factors;
  3. Are presented just to reach the number of 200.

The origin of the myth

I admit that I did not know how the myth of "200 Google Ranking Factors" was created, but a good SEO pal of mine,  Giorgio Taverniti, revealed it to me.

The first time Google declared it was using 200 ranking factors was in its  Press Day on May 10th, 2006 (you may also want to read the live blog Matt Cutts did, as it illuminates many things that happened thereafter). 

Seeing that the correct phrasing was "over 200 ranking factors," we can say that "200" was an approximated number, perhaps offered to journalists in order to explain how complex Google's algorithm is. If the audience had been composed of information technologists, Alan Eustace would probably have used another wording.

Another proof of how silly it is to claim to have discovered "the 200 Google ranking factors" is that, in 2010, Matt Cutts himself declared that, yes, Google counts on over 200 rankings factors, but that  each factor may have up to 50 variations:

Meaning is important

Are you sure you really know what "ranking" and "indexing" mean?

I ask you this because I know many SEOs who use both words as synonyms, when they are two completely different concepts and stages of how a search engine works.

Indexing is one of the four interconnected and interdependent phases of how a search engine works:

  1. Crawling
  2. Parsing
  3. Indexing
  4. Search

Indexing is the process of locating and mapping resources around the web that are associated with a word or phrase, and it is something the search engines do, not SEOs, even if SEOs can help their work optimizing a site. 

The index, as was so effectively explained to me by  Enrico Altavilla, is used to determine what resources to suggest as an answer to a query and the words/phrases composing it, not in what order to suggest them. That is the function of the ranking phase.

Ranking is the final moment of the fourth phase: Search.

Context plays a major role in the Search phase, and almost every step takes into account the user's and device's characteristics.

As we can see from the image above, the Search phase is composed of four distinct stages:

  1. Understanding the input given by the user with a query. Hummingbird very likely operates in this moment, because Google, in order to understand better the input, modifies or extends the query and just after moves to the second stage;
  2. Retrieving documents from the Index, taking into account commands like "noindex."
  3. Filtering & clustering. Once Google has understood the input and retrieved the corresponding documents from the Index, it applies filters like Panda and others spam filters, but also less considered ones as the Safe-Search filter and the often forgotten Private Search layer (personalization).
  4. Ranking. Google applies in this moment the X number of ranking factors, not before. And the ranking factors should be considered and counted for every kind of index Google has:
    • Universal search
    • Image search
    • Local search
    • etc.

We should not forget, then, that content and layout composing the SERPs depend a lot on things like the device used.

The Unbearable Lightness of SEOs

SEOs are talented professionals with a natural tendency to develop a manic-depressive psyche

Ok, I have exaggerated a little bit, but—and I am an SEO, too—we live moments of pure joy when we see that our work is making the organic traffic of a site rise up and to the right, but also sudden dark periods of (unconscious?) anxiety when Google announces an update or we see a small traffic drop.

For that reason, we love ranking factor lists.

We need them not just as a potential source of information, but because they reassure us, too.

And we love them even if they are just a sequence of myths.

Let's take, for example, " Google's 200 Ranking Factors,", published by Backlinko, which I use for no other reason than it being the most recent successful list published.

I'll start with an easy one:

1 - Keyword Density [Ranking Factor 17]

My eyes bleed reading that although not as important as it once was, keyword density is still something Google uses to determine the topic of a webpage

Keyword Density never was a Google's ranking factor. Never.

If we really want to find keyword density as factor for ranking, we must go back to the 70s and 80s and look at  what Stephen E. Robertson, Karen Spärck Jones, and others described as the  Okapi BM25 formula.

If keyword density ever had some relevancy as a ranking factor, it was in the Pleistocene era of search engines.

We live in 2014 and Google just had its 16th birthday.

It is still obviously important having the keyword we want to rank for in the text of a web document.

However we also know that it is also possible to make our site ranking for that keyword without having it at all in the page, if Google finds enough consistent and relevant external signals, which associate that keyword to our site.

2 - LSI [Ranking Factors 18/19]

For this example I will cite what Bill Slawski wrote in this  Inbound.org thread:

Latent Semantic indexing was invented and patented in 1990, before there was a web. 

It was developed to help index small (less than 10,000 documents) databases of documents that didn't change much (like the Web does). 

There have been a number of companies that started selling LSI Keyword generation tools that promised that they could help identify synonyms and words with the same or similar meaning. 

Where those fail is that the LSI process requires access to the database (of documents) in question to calculate which words are synonyms - and the only people with access to Google's database to do that kind of analysis (which isn't possible anyway since Google's index is much to big and changes much to frequently) is Google.

3 - YouTube [Ranking Factor 76]

There's no doubt that YouTube videos are given preferential treatment in the SERP .

How can be this a ranking factor? Eventually it is a monopolistic use Google does of its own search engine, but a ranking factor?

This is a classic example of how t hese lists tend to be everything but scientific, hence unreliable if not even dangerous.

4 - Site Uptime [Ranking Factor 69]

What Brian says is correct: if Google, despite of several attempts, see that a site returns a 500 server response, then that site will start being pushed out of the SERPs.

Correct, but in this case we are talking about an Indexing issue, not a Ranking one. As I wrote before, meaning is important.

5 - Keyword as first word in domain name [Ranking Factor 3]

The ranking factor list includes this factor because in 2011 a panel of SEOs (myself included) considered that EMDs and PMDs were clearly having an advantage in terms of rankings, and so declared it in the Moz  Search Ranking Factors Survey.

In 2013 Moz published a  new edition of that survey, and the opinions the same SEOs had were quite different.

The most important thing, though, is understanding that these were just opinions from SEOs; they should be considered (with all the disclaimers) possible, but based more on personal experiences.

Any opinions, although authoritative, are just opinions and not science, let alone ranking factors.

6 - Country TLD Extension [Ranking Factor 10]

It is true that cTLDs offer a stronger geo-targeting indication to Google than geo-targeted subfolders and subdomains. 

However, as any international SEO can confirm, a web site with a cTLD domain termination does not necessarily rank better than a generic domain name.

What is not so true, then, is that an .es or .it web site cannot rank well outside of Google.es or Google.it. In this post I wrote last spring on  State of Digital, I presented many examples where sites with "Latin American" cTLDs were outranking .es ones in Google.es. In the comments to the posts, then, you can see that this is something common in every regional version of Google.

This "ranking factor" is a clear example of how these kind of lists may mix correct information with dangerous ignorance. (I am using "ignorance" in its real meaning as "lack of knowledge or information on a given subject," in this case international SEO, and not in its pejorative sense.)

7 - Use of Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools [Ranking Factor 78]

How can something described this way be a ranking factor?

"Some think that having these two programs installed on your site can improve your page's indexing. They may also directly influence rank by giving Google more data to work with..."

"Some think?" Who? The university student ranting in a forum? A information technologist? An insider in Mountain View? This is purely speculation.

8 - Guest Posts [Ranking Factor 91]

When we talk about how dangerous doing some kinds of guest posting can be, we are talking about web spam.

Therefore, if a link (or a series of links) from guest posts are considered as having a manipulative nature, we should talk about "Spam Filters" (3rd Stage of Search) and not actual ranking.

Again, meaning is important.

9 - Facebook Likes and Facebook Shares [Ranking Factor 157/158]

Google cannot see likes and Facebook shares. So they cannot be a ranking factor. Period.

Matt Cutts, in the same SMX panel the list cites as its source, said:

We like standards that are available on the open web. If we're not able to crawl something – like Facebook or like the time we temporarily ran into problems with Twitter – we don't want to depend on that data.

The biggest mistake here, though, is confusing causation with correlation, and the power of Social Signals is a correlation power.

As I wrote a week ago in a comment to the  Marcus Tober post here on Moz, social shares are not a direct cause of good rankings, but they may help in obtaining them:

Social shares > higher visibility > creation of 2nd tier backlinks (e.g. on Topsy) and improved opportunities of earning natural backlinks from people who discovered that shared content.

10 - Employees listed in LinkedIn [Factor 171]

Here, we are at the limits of the absurd.

Backlinko defines this as a branding signal. The problem is that a branding signal is not a ranking signal.

It cites an old post—a very good one— that Rand Fishkin wrote back in 2011. Unfortunately, that post was saying something completely different. Rand exposed his (correct) hypothesis that, in the future, Google would start looking at "branding" signals in order to create named entities able to reflect the offline relevancy of an online presence. 

In that post, Rand never cited the "Employees listed in LinkedIn" as a factor.

I could continue, but it is not my intention to write a full rebuttal post.

No, my intention is to make clear—especially to you, young SEOs—that nothing good can come of your taking these lists at their word.

My intention is to exhort people not to create them. 

What could seem like a good link-bait idea (and the performance of Brian's post is proof that it can be) ends up being something that spreads a fallacious vision of SEO, which will reach the eyes and minds of a mainstream audience of non-SEOs: businesses' owners and marketing executives, who will see the list republished in sites like Hubspot or Entrepreneur.

Are all Google ranking factor lists bad?


We can find serious studies, which aim to understand why certain sites ranks better than others. The Moz Search Ranking Factor Survey cited before, and the Searchmetrics Ranking Factors study are the most shining examples of that.

Nevertheless, there exists a huge difference between those studies and a simple infographic/post listing the supposed 200 ranking factors: they are correlation studies executed following a solid scientific method.

Be aware that they are correlation studies; hence, they are just telling us what common characteristics the sites that are ranking high in the SERPs have. 

Use them as inspiration for best practices to follow if they really are applicable to your site, nothing else.

You can even try to create a ranking list without doing a correlation analysis, but that work should meet three criteria:

  1. It should be at least as good as the Periodic Table of SEO Success that Search Engine Land presents in its site;
  2. It should be based on deep knowledge of how search engines' work; and
  3. It should always present a disclaimer about its subjective nature.

Finally, instead of searching for lists, the best idea I can offer you is to experiment yourself. Create a site, test theories, try to break the rules for understanding how Google is possibly working.

And if you feel you cannot do that alone, then consider  joining the IMEC Lab that Rand created a few months ago.

Happy testing!

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Yahoo To Retire Several Old Products, Including The Yahoo Directory by @mattsouthern

Yahoo recently announced they will be shifting their focus to what they feel are their core products, which means retiring a few products that no longer fit in with their core offerings. Yahoo says their core products are search, communications, digital magazines, and video — and shifting their focus to those products will allow them to deliver the best for their users. Jay Rossiter, SVP, Cloud Platform Group, stated in a release: At Yahoo, focus is an important part of accomplishing our mission: to make the world’s daily habits more entertaining and inspiring. To achieve this focus, we have sunset […]

The post Yahoo To Retire Several Old Products, Including The Yahoo Directory by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

3 Tips To Start Companies That Solve the World’s Problems #EmTech by @jboitnott

There was much to take away from MIT’s EmTech conference on future technology. Highlights included learning about the way drones are being used to make our crops grow better and about how Chinese search giant Baidu is delving into artificial intelligence by using deep learning. However, the overarching theme of the event was the young entrepreneur. Whether it’s the company helping map peoples’ genomes or a firm that builds learning robots, the young entrepreneur is playing a massive role in shaping the future of tech. Here are three of the most helpful tips speakers at EmTech had for all those young entrepreneurs creating companies which […]

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Is Your Website Being Indexed Properly by Google? by @barriesmithii

One of the most common problems experienced when trying to rank in Google, is that your website is not currently being indexed correctly. If this is the case, it means Google is failing to access your web pages to index your site’s content effectively. To check whether your site is efficiently crawled and listed, you will need to log into your Google Webmaster Tools and check the “Google index” tab. There you will find the total number of pages the search engine has indexed. If you see a drop in the number of these pages, you are likely to experience a […]

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How to Defend Against Content Theft by @neilpatel

It’s easy to steal content. With just a few keystrokes (CRTL + C and CTRL + V) anyone with an Internet connection can claim my content as their own. After all, it’s sitting in plain sight. How do you defend against content theft? Good content is valuable and expensive. I purchase the services of editors, proofreaders, graphic design artists, and others. Plus, it takes me a lot of time to write content. Before I explain the details of protecting your content, let me make one thing very clear. You cannot totally prevent content theft. It’s too easy to steal content, […]

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Why You Shouldn't Have a Mobile Marketing Strategy

Posted by willcritchlow

Before I start, I should address the irony of writing this post on a site that isn't yet designed for mobile. I don't make those decisions, nor have the insight into the development backlog. I still think this is the community to have this discussion with, so I'll just have to put up with the irony.

This post isn't really about responsive websites, though. I wanted to address a broader question. There are a few marketing topics that seem to make it into board rooms sooner than others. Social media was one – I've heard a lot of senior people ask "what's our social strategy?" over the years and now I'm hearing "what's our mobile marketing strategy?". That's why I picked mobile as my topic for our upcoming SearchLove conference in London.

But I don't want to give another talk on responsive design, mobile user-agent server headers and googlebot mobile. Those things have their place, but they are inherently tactics. Instead, I want to ask myself the question "what does a true mobile marketing strategy look like?". Before I get to that, some background:

The changing mobile landscape

I've been closely involved in mobile since the early 2000s. Before starting Distilled, I worked for a strategy consultancy called Analysys who specialised in telecoms (and particularly in mobile). I distinctly remember every year back then being hailed as "the year of the mobile" (the earliest reference I can find online was optimistic that 2000 was going to be the year of the mobile).

It's funny because a decade ago, we were doing email on our phones (the iconic Blackberry appeared in 2003), but somehow WAP, GPRS and the Nokia 6600 all failed to achieve ubiquity.

In the end, by 2007, we'd all stopped talking about the year of the mobile, which meant that even the explosive adoption of the iPhone took a while to fully seep into marketers' collective consciousness. At the recent ThoughtWorks ParadigmShift conference, I gave a talk on the three "paradigm shifting" trends I see in marketing at the moment (the other two being what I called "your TV is just another screen" and "robots are filtering everything you see"). I showed these stats:

Mobile tactics

I'm clearly not the first or only person to have noticed this, and it's generated a huge amount of thinking about "mobile friendly" and even " mobile first" design.

Towards the end of this post, I've collected some thoughts and further reading on specific mobile tactics, but before we get into that, I wanted to dive a little deeper into the strategic layer.

You shouldn't have a mobile marketing strategy

There's something going on that I've referred to as there's no such thing as mobile. What I mean by this is that consumers are seeing less and less of a distinction between their devices.

To see this, we first have to realise that 77% of all usage of "mobile" devices is done from home or work where regular computers are available.



The vast majority of the attraction is not mobility, but a combination of a device that is:

  • Ubiquitous (the same device everywhere)
  • Personal (with your settings, a degree of privacy, etc)
  • Always-on / instant-on
  • Designed for rapid interactions

It's the same set of trends that is driving the "bring your own device" (BYOB) trend that IT departments are having to learn to deal with.

Our computers are fighting back by becoming more like our mobile devices (instant-on, app stores, even touch screens) and our mobile devices are adding to their ubiquity advantages with features previously limited to the desktop (faster processors, larger and brighter screens, faster connections, better keyboards).

So, when you realise that all our data is in the cloud and our connection to the physical device is only sentimentality (and the cost of replacement), and you consider the range of screen resolutions that can be considered "mobile", you realise that unless you mean to target customers who are literally walking around at the time, mobile marketing isn't really a distinct thing – it's just the future of digital marketing.

Every marketing strategy should be mobile

You only have to watch a user who's never built their own website, and therefore can't empathise with the technical difficulties, try to use a website that doesn't work on their iPhone or iPad. They swear at the device. They swear at the brand. They wonder if they're doing it wrong or if their connection has dropped. They abuse the "idiots who built this website" without realising the difficulty of what they're asking for.

There's no such thing as mobile as far as the user is concerned. Which means you, as marketers, have to work exceptionally hard to play nicely with ubiquity.

Fundamentally, people use their devices for:

  • communicating with other people (1-1 and 1-many)
  • consuming media (text, images, video)
  • searching for answers

As a marketer, you can see the opportunities to be available, be found, be recommended in any of these uses. To improve your chances, you will need to consider:

  • Your platform – the CMS you use, the outputs it's capable of
  • Your content – the strategy of what to create and the tactical execution
  • Your audience – where are they and how can you reach them?
  • Your conversion paths – what do you want people to do and what would encourage them to do that?
  • Your measurement abilities – how are you going to quantify and demonstrate success, and how are you going to refine your approach in light of new data?

So, what does that sound like? It sounds a lot like the approach we take for every client who comes to us for digital marketing.

And that's what I mean when I say that every marketing strategy should be a mobile marketing strategy. Through every single step of that process, you can (and should) append "on mobile" to the question.

How might I be wrong?

What if apps beat the mobile web? That's the biggest threat to web marketers right now in my opinion. Clearly this is a threat to Google as well (how do you index the app ecosystem?). So it's interesting to look at their response because they're also embracing it. Think about:

  • The pace of innovation in, for example, mobile gmail apps versus desktop gmail
  • How Chrome is sneaking an operating system onto every device you own and can now run Android apps
  • How much a search in Chrome looks increasingly like a search in the Google app - with features moving from the app to mobile Chrome in a similar way to the way features move from mobile to desktop
  • The trend towards app constellations for most of the major mobile players – taking a slice not only from the monolithic apps, but also from the regular mobile web ("there's an app for that")

I don't think the pendulum is going to swing too far this way, however. Turns out that it's not only Google that relies on indexing the sum of published human knowledge. Can you imagine going back to a world where you can't Google for an answer? I can't.

So, I think that even in this situation, "content" remains something resembling the mobile web – as does much of ecommerce away from perhaps Amazon. The long tail of providers simply works against "an app for everything". You might have an app for your favourite store and your favourite newspaper, but you're not going to have 15 of each (in my opinion).

So where do we focus our marketing? In my opinion, we focus on search, social and content. Those are the fundamental human activities which are enhanced by ubiquitous computing devices, and they're ones we understand deeply. The future looks like brands as publisher like never before.

So, should I build an app?

I don't believe this is a marketing question. It's a product and business question. I think the answer could well be "yes" for many businesses if you have elements that can be improved by:

  • Native APIs (camera, coarse or fine-grained location, etc)
  • Game-engine-style graphics abilities
  • Offline functionality
  • Lock-in that actually benefits your users somehow

But it's not a marketing question. Aside from a small number of communication tools that can grow via viral loops (think: whatsapp), apps are not a discovery mechanism. The vast majority of app store searches are navigational (i.e. people searching for apps they've already heard of) and I don't see that changing any time soon – an app store search isn't going to replace a general web search for knowledge and so it's not going to add people into the top of your funnel.

It's also such a hugely fragmented market that – from conversations with developers who've seen their apps sitting at #1 in moderate-sized categories – I know that even success doesn't inherently drive more downloads and more success.

Tactical recommendations for mobile

Apart from repeating the advice to think about how your site appears on mobile, I wanted to end with some positive recommendations – i.e. what should you do tactically?

The key lesson here? We need to stop focussing on mobile as a device we use when 'on the go'. Mobile is no longer a distinct thing but, rather, simply the future of digital marketing. It must inform every strategy we devise as marketers, and at every step of the way. 

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why Visual Content Marketing Delivers Results [Infographic] by @MDMSEO

Consumers respond better to visual marketing, and this is one reason infographics became an instant home run when they burst onto the scene several years ago. While they continue to be a very effective form of online marketing, everyone and their brother were churning out infographics a couple of years ago. It now requires a hot topic, interesting stats, and an eye appealing design to achieve the outstanding results they once produced. This infographic was created to highlight some of the reasons why visual marketing works so well. Isn’t the goal to have your audience actually absorb your message, rather […]

The post Why Visual Content Marketing Delivers Results [Infographic] by @MDMSEO appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

Why Visual Content Marketing Delivers Results [Infographic] by @MDMSEO

Consumers respond better to visual marketing, and this is one reason infographics became an instant home run when they burst onto the scene several years ago. While they continue to be a very effective form of online marketing, everyone and their brother were churning out infographics a couple of years ago. It now requires a hot topic, interesting stats, and an eye appealing design to achieve the outstanding results they once produced. This infographic was created to highlight some of the reasons why visual marketing works so well. Isn’t the goal to have your audience actually absorb your message, rather […]

The post Why Visual Content Marketing Delivers Results [Infographic] by @MDMSEO appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Discussing Conversion Rate Optimization and Website Strategy With Tiffany daSilva by @wonderwall7

Roles that focus specifically on conversion rate optimization (which,  according to Qualaroo, is the “method of using analytics and user feedback to improve the performance of your website,” as well as improving other metrics as identified as KPIs), have become more popular in the last few years. One person who is excelling in this area is Tiffany daSilva, a consultant and former head of Head of Conversion Rate Optimization at Shopify, an e-commerce website builder and platform. Tiffany was gracious enough to answer a few questions covering CRO, e-commerce, and more. Do you think CRO should be part of a marketing strategy, […]

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