How to sell PPC campaign to your client

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How to sell PPC campaign to your client

One of the chief success metrics for our agency’s account management team is organic growth. We define organic growth as the amount of additional revenue generated through our existing client relationships.

Clients come to us because they want more out of their paid search and social program; they want consistent volume, revenue and profit growth. To drive organic growth, account managers must “always be selling.” This article will discuss methods PPC account managers in any situation (agency, consultant, in-house) can use to persuade their stakeholders to invest more budget into their PPC accounts.

Method #1: Have a solid strategy

Having a solid strategy is the cornerstone of any PPC program. Without a coherent plan in place, it would be extremely difficult or nearly impossible to convince stakeholders that investing more budget in paid search is a wise idea. Stakeholders want to know why more budget should be invested, how the extra budget is going to be spent and what the expected results are going to be.

Working under the guidance of a coherent, larger plan creates both trust and credibility, which is the first step to complete in any sales process. If clients don’t have trust in the plan — or worse, don’t trust that there is a plan — it will not be possible to create the necessary justifications to win any extra budget.

What does a PPC strategy look like? The pillars of solid PPC strategy should contain the following elements:

  • A deep understanding of the overall business situation (performance metrics, competitive landscape, deep understanding of the client/stakeholder’s most important goals).
  • guiding principle that governs overall direction. Translating the guiding principle into a simple-to-understand core objective will keep the PPC program tied to an overarching plan.
  • A coordinated action plan with initiatives that are tied directly to the guiding principle.

Carve out time to create a solid strategic plan. Good strategy is the conduit for positive performance — which, in turn, makes it easier to state your case for more budget.

Method #2: Pitching new ideas

Presenting new ideas to clients is critical to winning more budget from them. Why is it important to always be presenting new ideas?

  • PPC is dynamic, and the landscape is changing all the time. A strategy or tactic that’s implemented today could be outdated in a few months, or it could simply stop working. New ideas prevent stagnation and keep your PPC program fresh.
  • There are more pay-per-click platforms than ever available for marketers to utilize. Breaking into social advertising platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter opens new possibilities for growth and expansion.
  • Expansion leads to new budget over time. For an account to grow, it often needs more budget to properly test new ideas and initiatives.

How do we pitch new ideas to clients in a convincing way? Here are some tactics to use that can lead to a successful pitch for new budget:

  • Define the scope of the idea your pitching. Are you proposing a small modification to your PPC program or a radical change?
  • Tailor the pitch to who the decision-maker is. In most client/stakeholder relationships, there’s the daily contact who has operational control. Based on the size of the idea, the client might need to bring in their superiors to sign off on the decision and approve additional testing budget. Ensuring your pitch answers the questions of the most important decision-makers increases the chances of winning additional budget to fund your proposed initiatives.
  • Boil ideas down to their most important points. The easier it is for stakeholders to understand your idea, the budget required to successfully implement it and the urgency for moving forward, the better the chances of getting sign-off.

Always strive to bring new ideas to the table. Innovation is the key to account growth, and ultimately, to growing PPC spend. Successfully convincing clients to invest in new initiatives vs. routing budgets from existing ones provides more flexibility to test and iterate, which are key backbones of PPC success.

Method #3: Overcoming objections

In any selling situation, you must be prepared to overcome objections. Despite having a strong strategy in place and regularly presenting innovative new ideas to clients, there will come a time when clients say no.

“No” should not treated as the final word but rather the beginning of a rolling dialogue that ultimately leads to winning more budget. Use those nos as an opportunity to strengthen your pitch and develop a stronger case for obtaining more budget. Following are a couple of ways of overcoming objections:

  • Educate your audience. In my experience, when I see a pitch fail, it’s mostly due to a lack of context. When preparing your pitch, make sure you understand the big problem your stakeholder faces, and educate them as to how your initiative will solve it.
  • Having a strong point of view. Many pitches also fail when the presenter does not have a convincing point of view regarding the subject matter. The best way to develop a strong point of view is to do extensive background research, make solid projections on potential outcomes and consult with others to gain feedback about your plans and pitch. Based on that information, you can develop a point of view that can be communicated in way that garners trust and confidence in your way forward.

Overcoming objections is all about building credibility. Being fully prepared and confident in the information being presented can help reduce objections and lead you to secure more budget for your PPC initiatives.

Conclusion

Growing PPC accounts is all about selling clients on the notion that your approach is the best way forward and that more budget is required to execute the plan. You need to have a coherent strategy, a steady stream of new ideas and a compelling argument for why they should be implemented to expand your client’s PPC program.

Always selling — whether it’s a new optimization, tactic, strategy or platform — demonstrates a commitment to growth, which ultimately leads to increased budgets, stronger revenues and profits.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Get paid for using Microsoft’s Bing

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Get paid for using Microsoft’s Bing

In an effort to get more people around the world to use its Bing search engine, Microsoft is opening up its loyalty program called Microsoft Rewards to more users. The loyalty program which has existed for several years in the US is now being rolled out in the UK.

Microsoft Rewards gives people points for searching with Bing, which can be redeemed for items in the Microsoft Store. Points can also be earned for taking quizzes, entering competitions, and completing challenges.

Here’s How Microsoft Rewards Works

All Bing users start out at Level 1, and can rank up to Level 2 by collecting 500 points in a single month. Level 2 opens up exclusive offers, and also allows users to earn more points per day.

All members earn 3 points per Bing search. Level 1 members can earn a maximum of 30 points per day, while Level 2 members can earn a maximum of 150 points per day. Both levels earn 30 points for completing quizzes.

See the image below for a few examples of how many points are needed for a variety of physical and digital items.

Kevin Stagg, Head of Consumer Marketing at Microsoft, said:

“Unlike other reward schemes, where you have to spend money to get points, all you have to do with ours is run your searches through Bing and points will automatically register in your account as long as you’re logged in.”

Users can sign up for a Rewards account here if they are interested. Microsoft Rewards is currently available in the US and UK, with rollouts in France, Germany, and Canada planned for the near future.

WSJ: How Siri went from virtual assistant market leader to laggard

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Siri has gone from being a competitive differentiator for Apple to nearly its opposite, a product seen by many as falling behind its rivals. Regardless of the empirical truth, it’s the widely-held view among tech industry insiders who help shape popular opinion.

An article in the The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) provides an extensive look at how Siri went from market leader to its position as perceived laggard. The article suggests internal cultural issues and employee departures have slowed improvement of the virtual assistant:

In the years since [Siri was acquired], former Siri team members say, progress has been slowed by a failure to set ambitious goals, shifting strategies and a culture that prioritizes user privacy — making it difficult to personalize and improve the product. The project also has suffered from the departures of key team members, some of whom went to competitors.

Apple bought Siri in 2010. It was initially a ground-breaking addition to the iPhone. Recognizing the strategic importance of virtual assistants to the future of (conversational) search, Google enhanced its voice search capabilities and developed comparable functionality for Android devices. Just this past month it brought a specialized Google Assistant app to the iPhone to compete directly with Siri on Apple’s flagship device.

Beyond this, the WSJ reports that Apple was “caught off guard” by the Amazon Echo (as was Google). It also says that Apple “spent years developing” the just-introduced smart speaker, the HomePod. That account contradicts the popular view that Apple developed the HomePod in response to the Echo.

Recent studies have generally found Google’s Assistant to be the top performer vs. its rivals. However, Siri has done well in some studies, and so have Amazon’s Alexa and Cortana.

The WSJ piece suggests that Apple’s narrow focus on the iPhone, a lack of vision and some level of  complacency have cost the company “its innovation edge,” which it enjoyed early on with Siri. However, a Loup Ventures study released in April had more positive assessment of Siri’s competitiveness:

Siri performed well across the board, and ultimately came in second place in our assessment. Siri’s ability to interpret user commands accurately sets it apart from the others. Command is an important category for Apple, as it continues to make a push into homes with its HomeKit. By continuing to outperform Google Assistant, Siri offers the best connection between a user’s mobile life and home life, which Amazon will struggle to do without an integrated smartphone platform.

As I wrote in January, Apple helped mainstream virtual assistants. Seven years ago, it was a novelty feature. Now, with consumers using voice to interact with devices more frequently, “nice to have” has become “must have.”

Accordingly, a weaker Siri and a stronger Google Assistant (or Amazon Alexa) will ultimately impact iPhone sales and Apple’s larger ecosystem strategy. The company has got to see and invest much more in Siri as a core utility if it wants to remain competitive.


18 Advanced SEO Tips & Tricks

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18 Advanced SEO Tips & Tricks

Since it’s inception in 2009, Kickstarter has become the go-to destination for those searching for a revolutionary game, creating an eye-opening documentary, or launching technologically advanced products. And it’s completely changed the business world since it allows entrepreneurs to validate their ideas and secure funding without having to take out a loan or credit.

While that’s a good thing for both customers and business owners, the problem is: How can you get your campaign to rank higher so it gets spotted by more potential backers?

You can start by following these tips and tricks for advanced Kickstarter SEO.

Laying the Foundation for Your Kickstarter Campaign

Do you know what successful Kickstarter campaigns all have in common besides an amazing product? They start building their audience at least 3-4 months in advance.

This sounds complex, especially when you’re new to crowdfunding, but you should first start by determining who your ideal customers are going to be and creating buyer personas based on information like demographics, online behavior, personal histories, interests, motivations, and pain points.

Once you’ve created your buyer personas, you’ll use that data to launch a content marketing campaign. Make sure you’re also using tried and tested SEO techniques and a solid PPC campaign so you can generate some early buzz among your audience, which in turn will drive traffic to your campaign.

When laying the foundation for your Kickstarter campaign, make sure you have the following in place:

  • A blog: This is where you’ll host your content and where people are going to visit when they want more information regarding your product, so make sure it’s legit and not cheap or shoddy. You can never go wrong with a self-hosted WordPress website. They’re easier to set up, extremely customizable to fit your needs, well-designed, and load quickly.
  • Landing page: This is going to encourage website visitors to sign up for your email list so they can receive future updates. Since you’re using WordPress, you can use a plugin such as Qards, Beaver Builder, or WP Landing to do this for you. Consider using an email marketing tool (e.g., MailChimp). Remember, you’re going to have to offer an incentive for people to join, like an e-book that’s related to your new product.
  • Killer content: Content will get that early buzz going. Using your buyer personas, you can create content that your audience is going to gobble up and share. This means creating blog posts, infographics, videos, or podcasts that provide helpful advice and address pain points, frustrations, or concerns and offer helpful tips, advice, or ego bait. Don’t forget to make this content unique, include attention-grabbing headlines, and conduct keyword research on the topics and trends that are relevant to your industry and audience. Most importantly, have a strong and effective call-to-action so your audience will sign up for your newsletter or share the content.
  • Content promotion: Why invest in amazing content if no one is going to see it? Promote your content on all your social channels, reach out to influencers, and send out press releases to industry leading publications. Don’t rule out paid campaigns like Adwords or paid advertisements on Facebook, Reddit, or Stumbleupon.
  • Guest blog: There’s no better way to get in front of a new audience than to guest blog on websites that are relevant to your product. If the website owner is hesitant, provide them with some proof that you only create top-notch content by sharing data like traffic volume and social shares on previously published pieces of content.
  • Join the online communities of your target audience: Obviously, you want to join the major social media sites and use tools like Klout or Followerwonk to find influencers and start engaging and interacting with them. But make sure to also join other crowdfunding websites and forums to promote your campaign. These include Crowd Funding Forum, CrowdfundingPR, or Kickstarter Forum. Once you join these communities, make sure to ask questions, leave comments, share campaigns, and even pledge to support other Kickstarter campaigns to start building up some good karma.

That may sound like a lot of work, but doing so will help ensure that you’re going to have an engaged and excited audience eagerly awaiting the launch of your campaign, which can drastically improve your Kickstarter SEO.

Building Your Kickstarter Campaign

After you’ve laid the foundation, it’s time to build and launch your Kickstarter campaign based on realistic goals. Most successful campaigns raise less than $10,000. That’s important to remember since it will guide you in determining much you should raise to fund your project, the incentives that you plan to offer your backers, and how you’ll market your campaign once it goes live.

  • Offer one-of-a-kind rewards. Potential backers donate to a crowdfunding campaign because they want to feel like they’re an integral part of the project, which is why low-cost items like T-shirts or stickers that say ‘backer’ or ‘supporter’ can be effective. But if you really want to hook them, offer a once in a lifetime opportunity like adding your backers’ names to your website or giving them a chance to attend the exclusive launch event.
  • Set a realistic deadline. The shorter the campaign, usually 30 days or less, the higher success rate your campaign is going to have on Kickstarter. Grab the attention of your audience as early as possible using the tactic listed above and once you’re ready to launch, focus on creating content and CTAs that have more of a sense of urgency.
  • Create a press release and video. After you have a launch date, craft a press release that announces your upcoming campaign. Also film a video so you can share it or include screenshots in your press release. Don’t forget to post that video on your landing page and social channels as well so your audience can share it. According to research from MWP Digital, Kickstarter projects that included a video were 85 percent more likely to reach their funding goals than without.
  • Set your funding goals. If your target is that sweet spot of $10,000 then you’re to need $2,500 per week. Since it’s easier to raise funds in the first few days of your campaign, you could set a goal of $4,000 or $5,000 during the first week then split the remaining amount throughout the next three weeks.
  • Make sure your campaign page is optimized. Don’t forget to optimize your campaign page by using the right keywords. For example, if your project is wireless earbuds, then you would want to focus on keywords like “wireless earbuds” or “Bluetooth earbuds” and combine them with adjectives that people use when searching for products. In this case, it could be phrases like “high-quality earbuds.” Like optimizing your website for SEO, use these keywords in your titles and subtitles, URL, and image file names or alt texts. One quick note here: While you need visuals like a video and graphics, placing keywords in there won’t improve your rank. So find the right balance and don’t get too spammy.

Maintaining Your Live Kickstarter Campaign

You’re finally at launch day! It’s been a long and hard journey, but there’s still some work to be done if you want to maintain that sizable audience and continue attracting new audience members.

  • Keep on guest blogging. Go back and find the websites that sent the highest amount of referral traffic to your email list and compose another guest blog post for them. However, this time you want to drive traffic to your Kickstarter campaign page instead of your landing page.
  • Shout it from the rooftop. Once you’re live, make sure that you email your list, tweet your followers, announce it on forums, send out a press release, and proudly share the news on your blog. You need to let everyone know that your campaign is live.
  • Comment. Engagement and commenting are important for Kickstarter SEO. Encourage your backers to leave a comment or ask a question — just asking them is an effective technique. On the first day, however, consider asking your friends and family to leave comments or ask questions.
  • Give your backers a shout out. We all love getting recognition. Don’t forget to thank your backers publicly so they’ll share your campaign with their network.
  • Keep your audience in the loop. Your audience should be informed on how the campaign is going by sharing with them information like how much money you’ve raised or positive press you’ve received every several days. It’s another way to get people to share your campaign.
  • Establish a targeted PPC campaign. Set up a new PPC campaign that targets your specific audience by using contextual targets as well as managed placements on Google’s Display Network. This will ensure that your ad is shown on sites your audience may have visited in the past. You could even spend your ad dollars on individuals who have expressed interest in Kickstarter in the past.
  • Use remarketing. These ads will remind your website visitors about your Kickstarter campaign.
  • Monitor your performance versus your goals. Is your campaign not meeting its goals? Then you need to boost the frequency of your communications and start offering additional incentives to increase both traffic and funding. Kicktraq is a tool you can use to monitor your project.

If you’re about to launch a Kickstarter campaign, then now is the time to think of SEO. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but doing so will ensure success for your next crowdfunding venture.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Screenshot by Eli Schwartz. Taken June 2017.

Google Adwords 2017 with Artificial Intelligence

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Google Adwords 2017 with Artificial Intelligence 

Google recently shared their 2017 AdWords product roadmap at Google Marketing Next. Because the audience is primarily comprised of executives at big agencies and big brands, and Google is doing its best to get them excited about all their capabilities, the event sometimes skims over some of the details that matter to those of us managing accounts day-to-day.

I’ll share my take on the announcements and what excited or frustrated me the most. Even though it’s now been five years since I left Google, all but one of the presenters are people I used to work with, and they were kind enough to invite me backstage to get a bit more detail than what was covered in the keynote.

Custom in-market audiences for search

I’m a PPC geek, so I obviously love better targeting. That’s why the announcement of in-market audiences for search got me so excited. How often have we all wished for a way to look beyond the query and distinguish between a prospective buyer and a kid doing research for a school project? Access to in-market audiences lets us make that distinction so that we can bid more aggressively for better-qualified leads.

But guess what? Everyone will now bid more for better-qualified traffic because it should convert better. According to Bhanu Narasimhan, Google’s director of audience products, conversion rates for in-market audiences are on average 10 percent better. So get your boss ready for the inevitable run-up in maximum bids you’ll need to set to remain competitive.

Unfortunately, this feature’s exact launch date was not announced; Google only said it’d be available by the end of 2017.

Did you say ‘custom?’

Currently in the US, there are 493 in-market audiences for the Display Network across a number of verticals. That’s a lot of options, but just as we had affinity audiences before custom affinity audiences, now we’re about to get custom in-market audiences.

Karen Yao, Google’s group product manager for ad platforms, revealed this very cool update: we will be able to create custom in-market audiences by adding keywords we believe someone would have used if they were in the market for our product or service. Combined with Google’s vast amounts of data, this can then help us find an audience of people in the market for what we sell.

New: Life event targeting

The way Google can give us custom in-market audiences and targeting based on life events is by having really good machine learning. Knowing who is going through a targetable life event like graduating from college, buying a home, getting married or having a baby is done by understanding the online behavior that corresponds to these events.

In simple artificial intelligence (AI), engineers could write some simple “if-then” statements to place people into these targeting groups based on a handful of searches they did. But with Google now having built a much faster Tensorflow processor that underpins their AI efforts, you can bet their systems for finding which users are going through a particular life event will be really good and useful for advertisers.

In the example they gave, they showed how people in different cultures might search for different things related to a wedding. Google’s machine learning can pick up on these differences and know that it corresponds with the marriage life stage.

The best ad automatically

We’ve all been doing A/B ad testing for years. But that’s becoming much less relevant if you look at what Google is now able to do with AI. Sridhar Ramaswamy, senior vice president of ads and commerce, showed an example of three users all searching for something pretty generic (like “cheapest hotel”) but each one being served a different ad from the same advertiser.

The different ads weren’t driven by audience bid adjustments or some other thing we control — rather, it was AdWords predicting each user’s preference in order to show subtle ad text variations, focusing either on price, value or selection.

As someone who’s created tools for ad optimization in our software suite at Optmyzr, what I heard was that we should focus primarily on creating a ton of ad variations and then let the machines decide which one to serve. What that means for advertisers is that the creation of many ad variations is likely to become a bigger task than before, so that we can feed the machine all the possible variations it requires to do an amazing optimization.

Data-driven attribution becomes easy

Search Engine Land paid media reporter Ginny Marvin wrote a great recap of what Google Attribution is, an important piece to read if you’ve been wondering why Google decided there was need for yet one more tool to do attribution modeling (we already get it in AdWords, Analytics and DoubleClick).

I am excited about this new offering because when I got to play with it, I saw just how quick and easy it was to get up and running. But easy setup is meaningless unless the tool is also really good, so the real reason for my excitement is that data-driven attribution modeling is now becoming much more accessible.

The problem with attribution models is that they are our best-effort attempt at modeling real-world behavior with a somewhat limited set of tools. Thanks to improved store visit data, store sales data, easier consolidation of data and Google’s AI — four themes of the event — we no longer have to flail around trying to do something really complicated by hand. Data-driven models evaluate how each touch point contributes to the eventual outcome.

In AdWords, that means knowing how a click on one more keyword will change conversion rates. By looking beyond AdWords, it means knowing how the interplay of channels, impressions, clicks and more contribute to a conversion.

With Google Attribution, Google runs the models and feeds the data back into AdWords, where we can use a flexible bid strategy, or use the enhanced data to achieve better results using the bid management tool of our choice. In Optmyzr, that means you’ll get better insights to help set bids and do optimizations with the same tools you’re already used to.

The thing I wish Google would work on next is to make it easier to import data from competing channels into Analytics. Right now, to get the full picture, we still need to tag campaigns and import cost data. I also hope that somehow they can use data across accounts to reduce the currently very high requirement that a conversion has 600 conversions over a 30-day period before data driven models start to work.

Hey Google, are keywords dead?

At I/O, Google announced that 20 percent of searches in the Google mobile app in the US are done by voice. Sridhar Ramaswamy repeated that amazing stat at Google Marketing Next.

Does that mean that we’re on the verge of not needing keywords anymore? Luckily not — it turns out that the majority of voice searches still lead to a traditional search results page. The difference is merely in how users enter the query into the search box: users are substituting typing with speaking. Only a small portion of the voice interactions are with the Google Assistant. The key difference is that in a substitute for typing, the results are still returned on-screen, whereas with the Assistant, the entire interaction is by voice.

Regardless, I hear a lot of advertisers who want to have a better presence on the Assistant-type interactions. Most of the Assistant’s data comes from data we already provide Google, so be sure to have a Google My Business account to manage your location info and to use local inventory feeds to give Google data about prices and inventory at your locations.

Google has now also opened up the ability for developers to build actions so that in response to a conversation, the Assistant could do a transaction with the user. The example given by Google is a frequent business traveler who asks her Assistant for the next flight. Knowing that she flies from SFO to LAX every week on United, it could give info on the price of the next flight and even book the ticket, all by voice.

I suspect supporting Google’s buy buttons, which they call Purchases on Google (managed in the Merchant Center), will also become a way to get your online store ready for voice-driven transactions.

Is this the year AI replaces account managers?

Every single announcement I’ve covered here has some connection to machine learning and artificial intelligence. So where do we all fit into this evolution toward ever more complexity, where humans can no longer hope to achieve great results without the help of tremendous computing power?

This question got me thinking about Lee Sedong, the Go champion who lost to Google’s DeepMind in 2016. The part of the story that didn’t receive as much coverage is about how Lee Sedong said that being schooled by the machine taught him to become a better player. Wired Magazine said that the pivotal play in the game was also the moment that “machines and humanity finally began to evolve together.” While the move that set up the machine to win was puzzling to humans, it opened Lee Sedong’s eyes to strategies he hadn’t considered before. So how can we as marketers learn from what the AdWords machine does?

Google’s Paul Muret, one of the founders of Urchin (now Google Analytics), explained to me that Surveys 360 can help us gain insights. The idea is that through the new integration between Surveys 360 and remarketing lists, we can poll users who’ve interacted with our site and ads so we can ask them what features they wanted or what compelled them to buy or not.

On last week’s #ppcchat on Twitter, a lot of people agreed that Surveys 360 can only be as effective as the questions being asked. I gave this example:

If airlines asked consumers a question about what they wanted most and didn’t qualify this with price, they’d be putting in more seats that nobody would want to buy.

Conclusion

It’s clear that AdWords will continue to be a major force in online marketing in 2017 and beyond, and I am excited to try out many of the announced capabilities as soon as they are available. While I am a fan of automation, I truly hope that AdWords finds a way to add some transparency to what its artificial intelligence does so that we can learn from it and evolve together.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Most important interview questions for Senior SEO manager position

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 Most important interview questions for Senior SEO manager position
Every SEO has their own favorite strategies to implement. When interviewing candidates for an SEO position, it’s important to know whether their strategies align with yours. While you’ll never be in agreement 100% of the time, the interview should give you a basic understanding of how the candidate’s strategies would align with your business.

Having an understanding of a candidate’s knowledge and experience is essential, and I have addressed those questions in previous posts. But knowledge and experience are only gateways to the most important thing: what the SEO will actually DO.

The following questions will help you better understand how your candidates stack up against each other and help you filter out those who are not right for your company.

1. What are three things you think are important to know before working on a new website?

working on a new website

The three things aren’t as important as why those things matter to them. This can tell you a great deal about how the candidate assesses a site’s needs and the responsibilities that lie ahead.

2. What is the first thing you do when you start optimizing a site?

The candidate will likely tell you that it depends on what they find out about the site, but don’t let them off the hook that easy. There are typically several things any SEO will want to do first. Encourage them to articulate what those are.

3. How do optimized pages and landing pages differ, and how do you employ these in your strategy?

Historically, landing pages are for PPC and optimized pages are for SEO. But really good SEOs think of every optimized page as a landing page. They should be able to outline what they do to treat optimized pages as such.

4. How do you go about optimizing a site with millions of pages?

You don’t need to have a million-page site for this question to be relevant. You want the candidate to provide some large-scale SEO tactics and strategies. Not every aspect of SEO needs to take a long time, and it’s these strategies that can help even small sites achieve results more quickly.

5. What do you do when your first attempt at SEO fails?

first attempt at SEO fails

First attempts at SEO are rarely successful, at least not immediately. And this is what you want to hear from a candidate: not only what they do when their first attempts fail, but whether they allow their efforts appropriate time (and assistance) to produce the desired results.

6. How do you future-proof websites against algorithm changes?

This uncovers the candidate’s overall philosophy. Every SEO will tell you that they do SEO for the long term, but this is where you can force them to discuss specific long-term tactics.

7. Other than content, what on-page elements do you optimize?

The candidate should talk about other important factors that may not be content — or even SEO — related. Today, things such as usability, visual appeal, and other factors are just as important to a site’s success as keyword and content optimization.

8. How do you deal with duplicate content?

Most SEOs will talk about canonical tags, but those are really just band-aids. Press candidates to discuss more permanent — and effective — solutions.

9. What are some things you never want to do as part of the optimization of a site?

This is an open-ended question, which can make it difficult to answer. The candidate might revert to the more typical answers that have been a problem with SEO since the beginning. However, a more experienced candidate might go into some uncharted or more controversial territory.

10. What plugins or tools do you use?

Tools were discussed in the experience-related questions, but this time you can either dive deeper into their list of tools or how particular tools are used specifically to assess a site and implement effective strategies.

11. How do you use competitor knowledge to succeed at SEO?competitor knowledge

Competitor knowledge can be a goldmine of information, but not always. The candidate should be able to outline ways they use competitor data, how they integrate it into their strategy, and when they ignore what a competitor is doing.

12. A client is ready to roll out a new website. What do you do?

Let the candidate detail the process of launching a new website. What steps will they go through to make for a seamless launch? Listen for them to list things that should be done long before the launch date.

13. How do you approach keyword research?

Tools, process, keyword assessment — all of these are on the table for discussion. The candidate should have one or more processes they use to find and assess keywords for optimization.

14. How do you determine which keywords to optimize and where?

Jumping off the previous question, talk deeper about how keywords are selected for specific pages. Make sure the conversation addresses searcher intent and how it factors into page/keyword selection.

15. What is your process for optimizing keywords into a page?

keyword research approach

Encourage them to get as detailed as possible so you can determine if they attempt to integrate all the keyword phrases targeted or how they go about focusing on the overall topic.

16. How does keyword proximity factor into your optimization efforts?

You don’t need to specify proximity to what. Let the candidate do that. They should understand the various ways algorithms look at keywords in relation to other elements on the page. Let them do the talking to see if they know how to take advantage of this.

17. How do you assess the quality of inbound links?

The candidate can give you a tour of the tools and assessment they utilize to understand a site’s backlink profile. They should be able to articulate what constitutes a good or a bad link and their process for ensuring bad links don’t hurt the site.

18. How do you get backlinks?

Getting links is still important. The SEO may not want to perform actual link building, but they need to know how and be willing to if necessary. Let them take you through their process of researching, assessing, and obtaining high-quality links.

19. How have you dealt with link penalties?

Not every SEO will have experience with link penalties, but they should know what to do if they come across one. Have them discuss their process for getting out from under such a penalty.

20. Is it ever OK to pay for a link?

pay for links

If this wasn’t discussed above, get an understanding of the candidate’s beliefs regarding paying for links. This can include a healthy discussion on link-related search penalties.

21. What is your internal linking strategy?

The candidate should outline a course of action to massage internal links for search engine ranking exposure. Look for a measured approach. The candidate should be able to articulate the differences between good and bad internal linking strategies.

22. How do you use redirects?

Broken links may not harm your SEO, but that doesn’t mean redirects won’t help your efforts. Let the candidate discuss when, where, and how they use redirects, the benefits of doing so, and when redirects should not be employed.

23. How would you redirect a page?

The candidate should be familiar with the multiple ways to redirect pages and the different kinds of redirects. Have them discuss where and when each type should be used.

24. How would you optimize a site for local performance?

You aren’t looking for a discussion on local search algorithm signals but more of a list of things the candidate would do and why. Have them indicate a level of priority for each action.

25. How do you configure a site for mobile?

configure site for mobile

There are mobile sites, responsive sites, and AMP sites. The candidate should be familiar with the pros and cons of each of these and indicate their preference and why.

26. How would you go about assessing and improving site speed?

This can be a detailed and technical question. Ask the candidate for the broad strokes so you can determine their assessment skills and what they can (or can’t) do to improve a site’s speed.

27. How do you use nofollow tags?

Nofollows can be used strategically for good optimization, but not as once was believed. The candidate should outline a sensible strategy for using them, which should have nothing to do with channeling PageRank.

28. How do you use analytics to assist your SEO strategy?

Every SEO should have a basic understanding of analytics and the data needed to assess and improve their SEO strategy. Don’t just discuss metrics but how they use and compare those metrics.

29. What role does the TLD play in your SEO strategy?

TLD strategy

Search engines generally don’t give preference to one top-level domain (TLD) over another until you get into country specific TLDs for international SEO. However, some TLDs might help with branding and marketing. See what your candidate says about this.

30. How do you optimize a site that targets customers in multiple countries using multiple languages?

If you aren’t optimizing for an international audience, you can skip this question. However, it can’t hurt to get an understanding of the candidate’s knowledge and strategy. Discuss options for optimizing for various countries and multiple languages, how that would impact the existing site, and what the candidate sees as the best way forward.

31. What role do heading tags play in your SEO strategy?

Many believe heading tags have minimal impact on SEO, but “minimal” doesn’t mean “none.” Discuss how much effort the candidate will invest in optimizing headings, as well as the time versus reward factor. Get a sense of where the candidate prioritizes this over other efforts.

32. How do you use sitemaps in your SEO strategy?

The candidate should be able to discuss the two types of sitemaps, how each is used, and why. They should also be able to communicate when sitemaps are a bad idea and when multiple sitemaps are better than one.

33. How would you try to improve click-through rates?

Many SEOs think that their job stops at achieving rankings, but that’s not so. Not only do click-through rates impact rankings, it’s an important part of the business’s success. And that makes it the business of the SEO.

There are specific things SEOs can do to influence CTRs from SERPs. Find out what strategies the candidate might employ.

34. How would you try to improve bounce rates?

As with click-through rates, bounce rates impact not only rankings but the bottom line of the business. Bounces occur for many reasons, and the candidate should be able to articulate a good handful of them, but make sure they dial in on those that are specifically impacted by the work the SEO does.

35. How would you try to improve conversion rates?

improve conversion rates
While this may technically fall outside of the SEOs purview, it’s important to the company’s success, which makes it important to the SEO. They may not be conversion experts, but they should have some conversion improvement ideas.

36. How would you try to improve a site’s engagement?

This question will be the one the candidate is least likely to have in-depth knowledge in, but that makes it a great question to ask. It’s always good to have team members who can provide feedback in other areas based both on their own industry knowledge and as a general user. See what ideas they have and how much the candidate stumbles over this question, or not.

37. How do you employ microsites into your SEO strategy?

Microsites do have a place, but they are often more harmful to the main site optimization than they are helpful. The candidate should be able to explain how, when, and why to use microsites.

The Final Test

As the interviewer, you need to be confident that the candidate’s strategies are going to help and never harm the sites they are working on. Knowledge and experience questions should be asked first as they can be used to more easily weed out poorly qualified candidates. But every remaining candidate needs to pass the strategy test.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image edited by Stoney deGeyter from Pixabay

Is your content marketing delivering results ?

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Is your content marketing delivering results ?

A well-executed content marketing strategy can skyrocket your brand awareness and generate significant long-term profits.

While the rewards of content marketing are enticing, only a minority of businesses are able to execute this strategy in a way that leads to tremendous growth.

If you’re struggling to get the results you anticipated with content marketing (e.g., traffic, links, conversions), don’t beat yourself up. Content marketing is an ongoing process that typically requires numerous iterations until success is achieved.

Fortunately, if your content strategy isn’t working (for whatever reason), you can immediately stop what you’re doing and move in a different direction — either by switching up your content campaign or pursuing other marketing mediums, such as PPC advertising or email marketing.

Here are five signs it’s time to stop what you’re doing and rethink your content marketing.

1. The Numbers Don’t Add Up

While you might think that content marketing is inherently qualitative rather than quantitative, keeping an eye on your metrics is incredibly important. While receiving the occasional positive comment from an associate is nice, if your content isn’t resulting in verifiable business growth, then you’re doing something wrong.

If you’re serious about content marketing, you have to track the following metrics meticulously.

Website Traffic

It’s hard to call a content marketing campaign successful if it doesn’t produce a long-term improvement in website traffic. Google Analytics will show you if your overall website traffic is increasing, but you should also pay attention to the average time spent on each page, the total amount of pages viewed per user, and bounce rate.

If your overall website traffic improves but engagement doesn’t, this is an indicator that your promotion strategy is working but the content itself needs an overhaul.

Mailing List Opt-ins

If you keep publishing content and your blog is being viewed but your mailing list isn’t growing, this is a red flag.

It might be that your email opt-in button is inappropriately placed or is aesthetically unappealing. It could also be that you need a stronger lead magnet to encourage people to opt-in.

However, the most likely reason for this problem is that your content is underwhelming. Either you aren’t offering enough value to your audience, or you’re conveying the information in a way that doesn’t resonate with the target demographic.

In these cases, you might want to test whether repurposing your content as infographics, presentations, or other content forms helps to improve conversions.

Your content needs to be so informative and actionable that people immediately want to give you their contact information. One of the ways to improve the value of the content is by conveying it in a different medium.

Social Media Metrics

Metrics such as volume, reach, and engagement are all important to track — primarily on platforms where your content is promoted.

If you regularly post high-quality blog content on Twitter, include the relevant hashtags and engage in discussions with your audience and other influencers. Your metrics will continue to improve.

Social media metrics are more accurate indicators of how good your promotional efforts are rather than how good your content is, but you should still track them.

Links

One of the most obvious signs that your content is resonating with your audience is the generation of new inbound links. If people love your content, they’ll share it at every opportunity and link to it in their own articles.

With tools such as Open Site Explorer, you can see how many new inbound links are being created. As you press forward with content marketing, expect your organic search visibility to improve.

2. You Don’t Have a Documented Content Strategy

Stunningly, only 32 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy.

If you’re publishing regular content and have no strategy in place, you should stop what you’re doing immediately and start working on strategy development.

Creating a content strategy isn’t some superfluous exercise that helps your content team feel happy and engaged. A content strategy is the literal DNA of your content marketing campaign.

Without a strategy in place, your marketing efforts will be haphazard and unfocused. If you don’t have a strategy, you can’t be successful, because you’ve never even defined (in specific terms) what it means to be successful.

Some professional marketing blogs plan their content out months in advance and have specific themes for every month.

You don’t need to go to this extent to be successful, but you at least have to define your USP (what makes you different from your competitors), your buyer personas, your definition of success, and the tactics you’ll use to achieve success.

Your Ideal Customer

Having an intimate understanding of your audience is essential if you want to execute an effective campaign. If you have a particular buyer persona in mind when you write your content and you understand their pain points, values, and desires, it will be easier to create content that resonates.

John Jantsch, author and CEO of Duct Tape Marketing, suggests getting to know your ideal buyer, then reverse engineering your content marketing to serve his or her needs.

3. You Aren’t Utilizing Visual Content

visual content

In a 2016 survey, 37 percent of marketers stated that visual content was the most important part of their marketing strategy, second only to blogging (38 percent). If you aren’t using visual content now, you’re already being left behind.

Great visual content marketing assets include:

  • Video.
  • Slideshare presentations.
  • Branded images.
  • Infographics.

You might find that old, underperforming blog posts can be repurposed as colorful, vibrant infographics and generate more engagement. Likewise, a sea of sales copy on your product page might be far more effective repurposed as a flashy animated explainer video.

Quality Matters

Simply deciding to publish visual content won’t guaranteed success. Quality control is more important with visual content because there are more facets to consider.

When creating an infographic, you need to:

  • Consider your audience’s interests.
  • Choose a topic with viral potential.
  • Ensure your facts and statistics are up to date and from reputable organizations.
  • Craft the copy within a visual framework.
  • Ensure the design is high quality and the tone is appropriate for the content.
  • Promote relentlessly.

A poorly written blog post is unlikely to gain any attention, whereas a spectacularly bad infographic could make your brand famous for all the wrong reasons. Bad content is amplified when conveyed visually, so always prioritize quality when publishing visual content.

4. You Don’t Budget for Content Marketing

In a 2016 content marketing survey, the average B2B business spent 28 percent of its marketing budget on content marketing.

There is also a correlation between the effectiveness of content marketing and the amount of money spent. The most effective B2B marketers allocated 42 percent of their budget to content marketing, while the least effective only allocated 15 percent.

While content marketing is often considered as a free way to generate traffic, it’s really like any other facet of business — you have to invest money to make money.

Good business owners aren’t always good writers. Instead of striving to become a good writer yourself, you might achieve better results by outsourcing your blog to a team of professional freelancers. Doubling down on what you’re good at (running a business) while outsourcing your weaknesses is usually the right decision in terms of long-term profitability.

Branded images for social media can be easily created with free tools, but for more complex forms of visual content, you’re better off hiring someone who knows what they’re doing. You can write the content for an explainer video, animate it, and do the narration yourself but you’ll never receive a professional result.

It’s unlikely that one individual will have the capabilities to write a compelling narrative, design and animate a video, record the vocals in a professional studio, and then mix the audio. For these kinds of tasks, you’ll need a team of specialists to work collaboratively.

You might save some money initially by creating the content yourself, but your brand reputation will suffer long-term. If you want to produce high-quality content, allocate a chunk of your marketing budget for the help of skilled professionals.

In addition to content creation, other content marketing costs to budget for include:

  • Hosting.
  • Coding.
  • Outsourced social media management.
  • Tools.
  • WordPress plugins.

5. You Aren’t Promoting Your Content

Promote your content

You’ll never get good results with content marketing if you aren’t committed to content promotion. As with content creation, promotion is an ongoing process that has no definitive end date.

Some marketers create a new blog post, share it on Twitter with all of the relevant hashtags, hope it receives engagement, and never think about it again. Even if you produce the best content in the world, you’ll never succeed with this kind of lackadaisical approach

Consider applying the 80/20 rule to content marketing: Spend 20 percent of your time creating content and 80 percent of your time promoting it.

Use these tactics to supercharge your content promotion efforts:

  • Submit infographics to infographic directories.
  • Reach out to influencers for quotes to feature in your blog posts then request shares once the post is published.
  • Share a handful of useful snippets from each post (such as statistics and quotes). Publish each snippet separately on social media.
  • Contact industry blogs and pitch yourself as a guest poster. Include relevant links to your content in your guest article.
  • Share your content on Reddit.
  • Share your content to relevant LinkedIn groups.
  • Respond to questions in Quora and post a link to your post as part of the answer. This also works for industry forums.
  • Distribute content to your mailing list. Segment your list for more targeted marketing.
  • Link to the blog post from other posts on your site that are receiving high traffic.
  • Reference the post in webinars and podcasts.
  • Include a link to your post in your email signature.
  • Link to posts by thought leaders in your content and inform them that you referenced their work. Kindly request a share.
  • Repurpose your content as a Slideshare presentation and contact users within your industry.

Summary

If you aren’t achieving your desired results with content marketing, don’t worry. Content marketing rarely works on your first attempt and sometimes it takes months (or even years) to get any real traction.

If what you’re doing at the moment isn’t working, keep innovating and stay persistent — the rewards are more than worth the long-term commitment of publishing frequent, high-value content.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Pixabay
In-post Photo 1: Pixabay
In-post Photo 2: Pixabay

Zaha Hadid Google doodle honors first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize

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Today’s Google doodle honors Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid, the first female architect to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Hadid earned the prestigious award on this day in 2004.

The doodle leads to a search for “Zaha Hadid” and includes an illustration of the architect beside the Heydar Aliyev Center, the cultural center she designed in Baku, Azerbaijan. According to the Google Doodle Blog, Hadid used “… historic Islamic designs found in calligraphy and geometric patterns to create something entirely new” for the design of the cultural center.

Google reports Hadid studied art and architecture at the Architectural Association in London:

There, she found inspiration in unconventional forms. Before computers made her designs easier to put on paper, Hadid’s studio was known to use the photocopier in creative ways to bend lines and create new shapes. The type in today’s Doodle finds inspiration in Hadid’s energetic sketches, which explored both form and function.

In addition to winning the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Hadid was also the first woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Other structures designed by Hadid include Germany’s Vitra Fire Station and the London Aquatic Centre.

Google notes users can also find Hadid’s work in its Google Earth interactive exhibit.

How to use SEO to influence B2B buyers at every stage of the buyer’s journey

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How to use SEO to influence B2B buyers at every stage of the buyer’s journey

Content marketing isn’t a new strategy anymore, and as every corner of the web fills up with content, marketers increasingly need to prove ROI and drive revenue. Modern SEO has, for years, been the secret weapon for creating content that stands out above the noise — and now that B2B marketers are discovering the value of mapping content to the buyer’s journey, SEO is already equipped to help.

Why align content marketing to the buyer’s journey?

Among other benefits, mapping marketing activities to the buyer’s journey has proven to increase upsell and cross-sell opportunities by 80 percent.

seo buyer journey benefits

And that’s because the buyer’s journey has changed. The internet puts all of the info directly into buyers’ hands, which has shifted most of the traditional buyer’s journey into marketing’s territory.

modern buyer journey chart

Now, 77 percent of B2B purchasers won’t even speak to a salesperson until they’ve done their own research first, and they might be performing as much as 90 percent of the journey on their own. The question for marketers, then, becomes, Are those buyers consistently finding your brand along with their journey?

Because if they’re not finding your company, they’re finding your competitors. Talking to prospects throughout the buyer’s journey means defining the path, discovering how prospects are navigating it online, creating content that finds them when they want it and adjust with the market.

1. Define and understand the buyer’s journey

We all know what a basic buyer’s journey looks like, but mapping marketing activities to that journey means digging in and uncovering some specific details about the journeys that your unique buyer personas are taking. The buyer’s journey for someone investing in a tech platform, for example, might be very different from the buyer’s journey for someone hiring a logistics partner.

When defining the specifics of your audience’s unique buyer’s journey (and there may be more than one if you are targeting different personas within the purchasing team), ask yourself and your team:

  • What problems are buyers becoming aware of?
  • Is internal or external pressure driving them to find a solution?
  • How are they exploring solutions?
  • What type of content do they desire and respond to?
  • What are the most important factors as they compare vendors (pricing, customer support, reviews or something else)?

Answering these questions as specifically as possible for your audience will help you create a solid foundation from which to optimize content.

2. Uncover unique insights with keyword and user intent research

With detailed buyers’ journeys in hand, the next step is understanding how your audience navigates that journey online—specifically via search engines because they are definitely using search engines. 71 percent of B2B decision-makers start the decision making process with a general web search.

And traditional keyword research is no longer enough. People use Google to ask questions, and working with Google’s algorithms to get your content to your audience requires marketers to understand the questions behind the keywords.

Google has defined four micro-moments that describe most search queries:

google micro moments

User intent starts by understanding which micro-moment is happening with each target keyword. Google your keywords and see what organic results Google provides. Those 10 links can tell you:

  • what content your audience is looking for. A definition of a term? A product? A free trial? A list of steps?
  • what type of content they prefer. Lots of videos means they watch the videos. Lots of infographics means they download infographics.
  • where they are in the buyer’s journey. Definitions are at the beginning. Pricing sheets are at the end.
  • who on the purchasing team you should be talking to. If you get big-picture content, the C-suite is probably using those terms. If you get detailed, technical instructions, the influencers who are actually doing the work are using those keywords.

A Google search for “content management,” for example, produces a definition in the featured snippet, several other “what is” suggestions and a whole page of organic listings for content that defines the term:

content management serp

If your company produces content management software, then, you know that when your audience searches this term they are looking for a clear definition. They don’t need flashy content features, they’re at the beginning of the buyer’s journey, and they’re probably managers or executives. Use user intent insights to map your keyword to buyer journeys.

keywords on buyer journey

All of these insights will help you create content that meets the right personas at the right stage of their journeys.

3. Create content for every stage in the journey

It’s time to create some content — or optimize existing assets if adequate content already exists.

First, review existing content against new user intent insights, and figure out where you do and do not have content that meets (or tries to meet) the user’s need. If a keyword has a strong Buy intent, do you have a sales/product page? If a keyword has a strong How or Do intent, do you have helpful resources? If the answer is no, it’s easy to start prioritizing.

Additionally, consider whether the content:

  • is using your audience’s prefered format.
  • is better than the content already ranking well.
  • speaks to the right audience segment.
  • includes an appropriate CTA for the buyer and journey stage.
  • performs well on mobile devices.

Optimize content you have that is already on the right track. It’s much easier and faster than starting from scratch.

Finally, create content to fill in the gaps where you don’t have anything that answers the question/pain point for a keyword/user intent combo.

You might find yourself with a long list of content that needs optimizing and/or creating — which is great! Don’t rush through the process, though, and create low-quality content. Prioritize the work, and develop a reasonable content calendar to keep the project moving.

4. Measure and adjust

As with any SEO and content marketing strategy, of course, keep monitoring engagement and conversions to make sure you’re getting the most out of your efforts. Look for signs of engagement (or lack of):

  • CTAs. If CTAs are being ignored, content isn’t connecting.
  • Forms. If prospects land on pages with gated content but don’t fill out forms, then content isn’t achieving marketing goals.

Other standard SEO metrics can also help determine how the strategy is performing before sales start increasing:

  • Organic ranking. If your content is climbing in organic search, it means your content is getting better.
  • Click-through rate (CTR). Increasing CTR means you’ve successfully targeted your users’ needs and pain points.
  • Time on site. Longer time on the site hopefully means users are engaging with your content, but it’s not a perfect measurement.
  • Bounce rate. Consider the content before you determine if a high bounce rate is good or bad. It’s traditionally considered a bad sign, but if your content is just providing a definition, it’s probably okay. Or if you’re consistently publishing blog posts, it’s probably okay if users bounce out of each one.
  • Total visitors/pageviews. If it’s consistent and/or increasing, you’re attracting better leads.

If something isn’t working — if an organic listing isn’t getting clicks or a form isn’t getting filled out — test some other options. Rewrite the title and meta description that appears in search results. Shorten the form and change the color of the button. If small changes don’t seem to help, reevaluate your user intent research and make sure you are answering your audience’s questions better than the competition.

These metrics demonstrate signals of a larger problem relating to your content not working.

Using SEO to influence B2B buyers at every stage

A company that fails to acknowledge how the buyer’s journey connects with content creation is ultimately wasting time and missing out on potential customers. Aligning SEO, content marketing and the buyer’s journey, however, is the secret to creating a brand voice and presence that nurtures leads through their own buyer journeys.

Define your buyer’s journey, uncover insights through keyword and user intent research, then create content for each step. When you go in to measure your efforts, you’ll find that the metrics speak for themselves.

Google’s Street View for museum goers

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Google’s Street View for museum goers

Google is rolling out a new update for art-related searches today.

According to the announcement, the Google Search team joined up with Google’s Arts and Culture team to improve how its systems “understand and recognize” artwork — offering more relevant results.

“When you search an artist like Gustav Klimt, you’ll see an interactive Knowledge Panel that will highlight ways you can explore on a deeper level,” writes product manager Marzia Niccolai. “Like seeing a collection of the artist’s works or even scrolling through the museums where you can view the paintings on the wall.”

Google says its search results will now include more information about the artwork and the artists, offering up details on the materials used to create specific pieces of art, when the art was created, and where it resides now.

Google’s latest update also includes a new Street View feature that doubles as a virtual museum tour guide.

“Now as you walk through the rooms of the museums on Google Maps you’ll see clear and useful annotations on the wall next to each piece,” writes Niccolai. Available on desktops using Chrome and mobile, it allows users to click on the annotations to find more information or zoom into a high-res image of the artwork.

Google shared the following video to show how the new Street View feature works:

To develop the new Street View feature, Google says it used visual recognition software to scan the walls of participating museums and categorize more than 15,000 works of art.