What is Virtual Environment Optimization (VEO)?

People are obsessed over how virtual reality and augmented reality will disrupt the marketing sector. Unsurprisingly, with hype comes buzzwords. And the latest phrase that seems to be on everyone’s lips? 

Virtual Environment Optimization (VEO). It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Just as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves tweaking your website’s performance and content to appeal to search algorithms, VEO represents all the proposed tactics, strategies, and technical adjustments required to market to users in virtual reality. 

But is this actually a trend we should all prepare for, or is it like the metaverse—an overdone buzzword referencing technologies that have already existed for decades? 

questions marks spread across black surface

Honestly, at this point, the jury is still out. While it’s true that all the talk of a completely immersive, completely interconnected virtual world is largely bunk, it’s also true that we’ve already seen some very exciting applications of VR and its less advanced cousin, augmented reality. For evidence of this, we need look no further than online apparel and home goods retailers. 

Seeking a means of replicating in-person retail during lockdown, many of these eCommerce brands turned to augmented reality. Users could visualize how a particular type of furniture would look in their space or how a ring would look on their finger using their smartphone. They could compare the sizes of different types of products, browse dynamically-generated lifestyle photography, and generally enjoy a shopping experience that was the next best thing to actually being there.   

Of course, that alone doesn’t mean we’re on the verge of a deep dive into full immersion. There are still far too many roadblocks for the technology to reach its full potential. If you recall the shape of the smartphone market prior to the early 2000s, it’s a very familiar picture:

  • Current VR headsets are far too expensive for the general public and are held back further by issues with availability. 
  • VR technology is either too bulky or too uncomfortable to be worn for an extended period of time. 
  • Immersion-breaking technical and performance glitches are still far too common. 

It’s important to note here that we’re not saying VR will never be a reality, nor are we denying the notion that someday, VEO will be every bit as important as SEO. But the simple fact is that we’re just not there yet. For now, marketing through virtual reality is a niche pursuit at best, and at worst little more than a pipe dream. 

Learn about it if you so choose. But don’t expect to see practical applications for that knowledge for at least a few years. And for the love of everything sacred about SEO, please stop talking about the metaverse—it’s not going to happen.

Not in the way people who promote the concept believe it will happen, anyway. Interested in more SEO content? Check out our monthly blog, and posts on topics such as Three Potential Reasons You’re Not Ranking on Google!

Is it Possible to Predict the Outcome of an Algorithm Update?

Google’s algorithm remains one of the most enduring mysteries in search engine optimization. Although we know the general rules, no one is entirely clear about how they’re enforced. Similarly, there’s rarely a clear consensus on the nature of upcoming releases—every expert tends to have their own take on what’s coming.

Given how arcane Google’s algorithm is and will likely remain, it should follow that it’s impossible to predict algorithm changes and their impact with any degree of accuracy, right? 

Not exactly. While figuring out what Google intends to do next is largely a guessing game—only their engineers know for certain—it is possible to determine how an update will impact your position on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). As with so many other things, the answer lies with artificial intelligence. 

Scrabble tiles spell out SEO

As noted by Search Engine Journal, through a combination of machine learning, real-time data, and historical data, AI-driven solutions can

  • Test how website changes will impact your PageRank. 
  • Display how an algorithm update will impact your website. 
  • Identify weaknesses and bottlenecks that may be lowering your PageRank. 
  • Understand why competitors outrank you.
  • Anticipate how your SEO efforts will impact your site’s long-term growth. 

Granted, these tools don’t offer a direct window to the inner workings of Google’s algorithms. No tool can truly claim to accomplish that—not without drawing the ire of the search giant, anyway. What they do provide is the next best thing, getting you as close to fully accurate predictions as possible. 

One might say it’s something of a moot point, anyway. Thanks to pending regulations in the European Union, we might have that insight within the next few years. Should this legislation pass, both Meta and Google would be required by law to: 

  • Reveal to the public how their content algorithms work
  • Establish a clear process for users to contest content moderation decisions
  • Define mechanisms to be adopted during public security or public health emergencies. 
  • Pledge to stop allowing targeted ads based on sexuality, religion, or ethnicity.
  • Pledge to stop allowing targeted ads directed at minors. 

If the EU is successful in this, the implications would be enormous. SEO and marketing professionals would finally get what we’ve wanted for decades—a genuine peek behind the curtain. As for the AI-driven SEO solutions currently gaining popularity? 

With a thorough understanding of Google’s backend, they’ll only become more effective, efficient, and formidable. 

But we’re getting off track. Our initial question was whether or not it’s possible to predict the results of an algorithm update. As you’ve seen, the answer is yes, albeit with a few notable caveats. 

At the end of the day, all this pontification is ultimately a moot point, anyway. The one common thread in all of Google’s recent algorithm updates is an effort to promote better, more relevant, and more valuable content. What that means is that if you focus exclusively on your audience, and on providing them with what they’re searching for, the rest will eventually fall into place. 

For more info about all the latest developments in SEO, check out our blog!

Three Ways Augmented Reality Will Reshape SEO in the Coming Decade

One not entirely unexpected side effect of the coronavirus pandemic has been a technological renaissance for augmented reality. Amidst quarantine measures and distributed work, multiple businesses—especially those in the ecommerce sector—began exploring ways to simulate an in-person experience online. Augmented reality technology offered exactly that. 

Many in the marketing sector further recognized that the potential of AR extends far beyond interactive product pages. AR has the potential to completely revolutionize multiple segments of marketing, including search engine optimization (SEO). Potential which, we expect, will be realized within the next decade.

Here are three of the most compelling innovations we’re likely to see from this. 

Visual Search Gains Ground

Imagine the following scenario.

A customer is trying to mount a monitor, but they can’t quite figure out how to remove it from its base. They pull out their phone and take a snapshot of the device, at which point Google automatically detects the brand and model number. From there, the customer is able to quickly find a digital product manual and solve their problem. 

This is a concept known as visual search, best exemplified by Google Lens. Instead of relying solely on text or voice search, visual search creates queries based on real-world items, a sort of natural ‘next step’ from standard image search. It’s also a technology that’s been around since at least 2017. 

Renewed interest in AR will likely bring about a resurgence for visual search and its associated technologies—high-resolution product photos, accurate keywords, and optimized alt text, titles, and descriptions will quickly become more important than ever for SEO. 

A Bridge Between Digital and Physical

Once the pandemic is well and truly over, and everyone can return to a semblance of normalcy, we expect local search to undergo a period of explosive growth. AR technology will allow users to view a business’s Google My Business page, reviews, and even social posts. Again, this is an innovation we’ve already seen some leverage to a limited extent. 

In order to ready yourself for this shift, all you need to do is ensure your business follows general best practices for local SEO: 

  • Ensure your Google My Business page is up to date.
  • Submit your business’s information to all relevant directories.
  • Create a Facebook Business Page. 
  • Monitor online reviews, and take action to address negative ones. 

Immersive Web Design Will Become the Norm

We already briefly touched on how AR will make ecommerce product pages more interactive and immersive. Moving forward, we expect to see an increasing number of websites leveraging immersive design. Real-time feedback, environmental overlays, and features that leverage the visitor’s smartphone camera or webcam are just a few examples of what this will look like. 

Websites will need to account for how AR technology changes the user interface and user experience, and redesign their frontend and backend accordingly.

What Search Engine Marketing Professionals Can Learn From Facebook Ads

Facebook—or Meta, as it would rather be known— is everyone’s favorite whipping boy these days. This is hardly without reason, either.  Between October’s embarrassing outage, The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files, and the recent news that Meta’s shares have tanked through the floor, the social network/corporation has been having a rather bad time of late. 

We’re not here to talk about any of that, though. We’re here to discuss a symptom of Meta’s slow erosion. To be frank, Facebook advertising is terrible, and it’s been getting progressively worse. 

You’ve likely noticed it yourself if you still spend time on the social network. Low quality, word salad ads with nothing in the way of actual targeting. Constant stories of ads being rejected without explanation or cause, often for completely nonsensical reasons. 

And all this is tied together by a backend that can charitably be described as cumbersome. 

To be frank, it’s a disaster. But as with any disaster in the marketing world, it represents an excellent learning opportunity. Here are a few search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) insights that can be gleaned from this mess: 

  • Control your ad network.  We’ve made no secret of our belief that modern advertising is broken, perhaps beyond repair—and that the blame lies almost entirely with ad networks not properly policing their content. Facebook is a microcosm of this wider problem; its advertising algorithms clearly aren’t up to the task of maintaining quality.  
  • Targeted content is crucial.  There is one foundational rule that unites content marketing, SEO, and SEM—know your audience. The more effectively you can nail down who they are, what they’re searching for, and what they want, the better your content will perform. 
  • Technical SEO is no substitute for quality. You’ve probably seen your fair share of ads about how robots are stealing your traffic or auto-generated content is the future of marketing.  How many of those did you actually click on, though? Even though they’ve been delivered to the right audience, these error-laden, rambling ads simply don’t seal the deal.  
  • The quality of your tools matters.  Managing SEO for a smaller site is something you can usually handle on your own. However, as your web presence and business both continue to grow, you can either bring in an agency or start relying on paid SEO tools. If these tools are not simultaneously intuitive and effective, they’re likely going to do more harm than good. This is evidenced by Facebook’s Business Tools, which suffer from the same design problems noted by UX Collective.  

SEO and SEM have evolved in recent years. By contrast, Facebook has remained largely stagnant. There’s another lesson there—if your business does not evolve and adapt with the market, it will ultimately be left behind. 

The Do’s and Don’ts of SEO Reporting

Reporting is a necessary component of search engine optimization (SEO), but that doesn’t mean you have to like doing it. For many professionals, reporting comprises all the worst parts of the job—boring meetings, number crunching, and paperwork. At the same time, it doesn’t have to be painful or wasteful. 

Nor should it. Reporting should be a natural, seamless step in the SEO process. Here are a few general do’s and don’ts to help you in that regard. 

Do: Establish Baselines and Benchmarks

Your reports cannot exist in a vacuum. Whether you’re measuring progress or analyzing performance, you need something to compare it to. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good the numbers look, they’ll lack the context that gives them meaning. 

Ensure you have access to historical SEO data when reporting, and define progress milestones as well.

Don’t: Neglect the Customer Journey

A baseline isn’t the only thing that gives your data context. You must also consider how your SEO efforts slot into and enhance your sales funnel. Don’t solely focus on conversions, but consider how each set of keywords might represent a customer at a different stage of their journey. 

Do: Tailor Your Reports

When it’s time to generate a report, there’s one question you need to answer upfront—what does your audience care about?  What are their main objectives, and how can you best fulfill them? In addition to tweaking your reports based on how they’re being delivered, provide extensive data visualization. 

Don’t: Hyperfocus on Metrics

It’s easy to get caught up with numbers and minutiae where SEO is concerned. But you need to be careful that your reports don’t end up just being a list of analytics data. You can’t just spout off metrics. You need to contextualize those metrics. 

Why does each metric matter in a greater-scope perspective?

Do: Set Clear, Achievable Goals

In addition to figuring out baselines and milestones, it’s important to sit down and hash out your objectives prior to putting your SEO strategy into practice. Collaborate with key stakeholders to figure out what you want your SEO efforts to actually accomplish. More importantly, make sure those goals are achievable within the timeframe you’ve defined. 

Don’t: Overuse Jargon

Jargon can be incredibly useful when communicating with other SEO professionals. However, you’re not delivering your report to colleagues in the SEO sector. You’re delivering it to people that may not necessarily have a working knowledge of your craft.

Keep that in mind, and remove jargon from your report whenever possible. In cases where you can’t cut a technical term, make sure you take the time to explain it as clearly as possible. Analogies are your friend here. 

Reporting In

Love them or hate them, reports are a cornerstone of the SEO profession. It’s imperative that you understand their value. More importantly, you need to have a solid idea of the most common mistakes SEO professionals make in their reporting—and the best practices that can make your reports truly shine. 

The Ten Characteristics of Low-Quality Content

You’ve probably heard every cliche in the book about the importance of content. You’ve had the value of content marketing driven into your skull for years. You know it’s important.

But do you know how to tell the difference between good content and bad content? You probably have some inkling about whether or not a particular piece of content is great. Today, we’re going to discuss how to tell if your content — or that of a competitor — is terrible. 

1.  Lack of Copyediting

Would you trust a newspaper laden with spelling errors? What about a white paper with such confusing grammar that it takes ten minutes to read a single sentence? You already know the answer to those questions.

Hire a copyeditor for your website. Trust us on this. 

2.  No Originality

Plagiarists are, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the lowest common denominator in any creative field. If you aren’t coming up with your own ideas or adding your own thoughts to a piece, you need to start. And if you’re scraping content, it’s not just your content that’s bad, it’s your entire business. 

3.  Bad Titles

Google isn’t a fan of sensationalist headlines. Neither are your readers. Keep your titles relevant, informative, and simple because clickbait is the bottom of the barrel. 

4. Irrelevant Information

Value represents the most important characteristic of any content. Whatever you produce, it needs to provide your audience with something they want or need. More importantly, if you’re dealing in facts, you need to be accurate and informative. 

5. Overly Thin

We’ve all encountered a blog that seems to end almost as soon as we’ve started reading. There are admittedly some rare scenarios where short-form content is justified. In most cases, however, you don’t want fewer than 500 words. 

6. Far Too Long

Anyone who’s worked in content marketing for any length of time has encountered it. A blog post where the author is clearly laboring to meet some arbitrary minimum word count. Such content rarely performs well. 

Write as much as you need in order to address your original topic, and not a word more. 

7. Disruptive Web Design

Intrusive, obnoxious ads. Hidden anchor links. Terrible performance. 


The way your website is designed may not directly pertain to your content, but it inevitably influences how people experience it. 

8. Citation Needed

Cite your sources, especially if you’re making fact-based assertions or operating in an academic niche. Failure to do so not only harms your own credibility but can, in some cases, verge on plagiarism. 

9.  Strategy? What Strategy? 

Good content doesn’t just spring out of some formless abyss. It’s the result of a deliberate, ongoing strategy. It’s born out of an understanding of your audience and your goals. 

10.  Keywords. Keywords. Keywords. Keywords. 

Decades ago, keyword stuffing was a legitimate tactic for getting content onto the search engine results page. Today, it’s going to get you penalized by Google. Keep it to one or two keywords at most. 

So, based on the above, how good is your content? 

Five Things to Understand About Virtual Reality Marketing

For much of its short history, virtual reality has been the prime domain of video games and science fiction. That’s changing, and fast. As noted by DevOps service provider Perforce, the use cases for VR have, over the past several years, considerably expanded

Marketing is one of these new use cases, and businesses are keenly aware of the potential benefits. In 2021, for instance, the combined impact of VR and augmented reality reached $29.5 billion, according to Statista. That number will very likely be even higher in 2022. 

If your business is to embrace its potential, there are a few things you must first understand, however. 

VR and AR are Actually Quite Different

Augmented reality projects virtual images and interfaces over reality, such as via a smartphone app or a pair of smart glasses. Pokémon Go is one of the most successful and best-known AR apps in recent memory. Google Glass is a less successful example of AR. 

Virtual reality instead projects the user into a simulated virtual world. Typically, most VR requires that the user at least have access to a headset. Other VR hardware may include, but is not limited to, haptic feedback apparel, omnidirectional treadmills, and directional sensors. 

Personalization is at the Core of VR Marketing

If there’s one thing marketing professionals have learned in recent years, it’s the power of a personalized experience. VR allows that experience to be taken to entirely new heights, engaging audiences in custom-built digital environments. AR enables personalization as well, albeit on a less immersive level. 

The Pandemic Created a Surge in Popularity

As software developed Signiant notes in a recent blog, the current fascination with VR technology can be directly traced to COVID. As the world struggled to cope with the social isolation created by lockdowns, VR technology provided a compelling means by which they might connect with friends, family, and colleagues. This was valuable to education, particularly as instructors recognized the potential to create fully immersive classrooms. 

There are (Technically) Three Main Types of Virtual Reality

Non-immersive

What many don’t realize is that video games are actually a form of VR. Although you are not yourself present in a virtual world, you are still interacting with it as a third party. 

Semi-Immersive

Semi-immersive VR blurs the line between AR and VR. On the one hand, it allows you to explore an environment via a headset. On the other, you can just as easily do so on a computer screen. 

Fully Immersive

The gold standard for VR. Complete immersion. 

Don’t Buy into the Hype of the Metaverse

At the present moment, VR marketing could be a case study in potential. It’s clear that as technology grows more advanced and widely available, it will fundamentally change how we interact not just with brands but with the entire world. However, use cases are likely to be limited in the near future. 

This is best evidenced by Wal-Mart’s ‘virtual shopping experience,’ which, per The Verge, was actually announced in 2017—yet is somehow indistinguishable from the current buzz around the metaverse

VR Marketing is, at the moment, still in its early stages. It’s a trend that’s well worth watching. But it’s not likely to impact your strategic roadmap in the immediate future. 

Here’s Why You Should Avoid Using Paywalls

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Nearly all of us have encountered that simple phrase at least once. And for most, it’s among the most frustrating things one could read. After finding what we thought was the perfect answer to our question on the search engine results page, we instead encountered a publisher reaching desperately for our wallet. 

While we acknowledge that content monetization in today’s digital landscape is a challenge, especially for journalists, we have never been a fan of paywalls. To us, they commit a cardinal sin of content marketing. They interrupt the browsing experience, impeding and frustrating your user in the process. 

Yet, for some reason, more and more publications seem prone to using them — ironically, we recently encountered a paywall on an article explaining why paywalls don’t work. 

What’s especially baffling is that it’s not as though the low success rate of paywalls is an unknown quantity. Their core business model is fundamentally flawed, based on an overestimation of how valuable a website’s content actually is. And in most cases, the number of readers driven away by this tactic in no way justifies the trickle of revenue it might generate. 

Consider the following: 

There are some websites that can get away with paywalls. The Harvard Business Review, for instance, consistently publishes high-value thought leadership content that cannot be found anywhere else. Yet even HBR doesn’t slam a hard paywall into the face of its audience, opting instead for a metered paywall: 

  • Visitors receive a limited number of articles per month for free. 
  • Registering for a free account slightly increases this number.
  • Paying users can choose between digital, digital and print, or a premium plan that provides access to all regular content along with access to exclusive case studies. 

Most websites are not HBR. They do not have the recognized authority, viewership, or expertise to support a business model like this. Rather than considering a subscription, their audience is far likelier to see what competing sites have to offer. 

In short, for most publications, paywalls are akin to self-sabotage. There are other options for content monetization, such as premium content and affiliate marketing. And if, after reading all of this, you still think a paywall might be your best bet? 

At least apply it even-handedly, rather than locking off your entire website. 

B2B SEO vs. B2C SEO

You already know there is a multitude of differences when comparing business-to-business sales to business-to-consumer sales. You’ve likely also surmised that these differences extend to search engine optimization. And you’d be correct in that.

Because B2B and B2C users have such wildly different needs, the content you create and the keywords you use must also differ. 

Let’s discuss how. 

User Intent

The core difference between B2B and B2C SEO comes down to your audience and their journey from prospect to a qualified lead. 

B2C

If you primarily serve a consumer audience, the journey is relatively straightforward. The user might be interested in buying something from your brand, either now or in the future. Alternatively, they might have found your site while researching a problem, and through your content, could become a future customer. 

B2B

For a business audience, things get a little more complex. B2B users want to know how your brand can address their specific needs or help them overcome a particular roadblock. They are working on establishing a shortlist of vendors that can help them fulfill that need, or they’ve already created that shortlist—and your business made the cut. 

Content Type

Different types of content also tend to perform better with a B2B audience than with a B2C audience, and vice-versa. 

B2B

Content targeting a business audience typically performs best when it’s informative and educational. These users aren’t interested in being entertained, nor are they likely to respond if you appeal to their emotions. They want you to demonstrate that you are a thought leader in their field—that you understand not just their industry, but the specific problems facing their business. 

Blog posts are essential for B2B users, but you’d also do well to include ebooks, case studies, and white papers in your content library. 

B2C

As you’d expect, a consumer audience is a bit simpler to market to. While informational content can still perform well, you also have a great deal more freedom in terms of topic ideation. In addition to educating, your content can also entertain and engage. 

Appeals to emotion also work far better in customer-focused content, though you’ll want to ensure you always focus on the customer’s needs, goals, and values.

Keywords

Given that B2C content differs from B2B content, it follows that the core keywords, too, are different. 

B2B

Generally, B2B content tends to serve a far more specific niche than B2C content. Because of this, B2B keywords tend to be lower-volume but higher-value. In some cases, there may be hardly any search data at all—you’ll therefore need to rely significantly more on audience research. 

B2C

B2C keywords usually have relatively high traffic compared to B2B. Additionally,  low-volume keywords are significantly less valuable to a B2C site. Those keywords also tend to be more competitive due to the fact that they’re less focused. 

Closing Thoughts

This isn’t a complete overview of B2B vs. B2C SEO. It’s simply a primer to give you a general idea of how the two differ from one another. We touched on what we feel are the most important, most relevant beats—that should be enough to get you started on your own. 

5 Ways To Greatly Improve Your Website’s Performance

Quick question. If you navigate to a website and it takes forever to load, what’s your first instinct? Do you stomach the painstakingly-long wait, or do you go back and try to find an alternative.

Chances are good that unless we’re talking about a major social network like Facebook, you’re going with option B. 

There are few things more infuriating than a slow website. And Google recognizes that, too. It’s been a ranking factor on desktop devices since 2010, and on mobile devices since 2018. 

So that means that if you’ve got a slow website, you aren’t just alienating your audience. You’re hurting your position on the search engine results page (SERP). Let’s discuss a few steps you can take to prevent that from happening.

Here are five simple ways to significantly improve your website’s performance.

Avoid Overusing Plugins

One of the biggest advantages of using a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress is access to a vast, diverse library of plugins. There’s a plugin for just about everything, from simple forms and surveys to image galleries to community-driven content. You need to be careful here, though.

It’s very easy to go overboard and install a ton of plugins and utilities that you simply don’t need. Each plugin you add is another layer of complexity, another thing that can go wrong with your site, another potential drain on your resources. Think very carefully before installing anything new, and ask yourself if you absolutely cannot live without it. 

Leverage a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

It’s easy to forget that the Internet is not an abstract concept. It’s grounded in physical infrastructure, web servers, and networking hardware all over the world. When someone tries to access web content, greater physical distance means more latency.

Slower load times, in other words.

Depending on where you’re situated in relation to your web host (and where you both are in relation to your target audience), you may want to consider leveraging a CDN. With a CDN, your website’s content is cached across a large geographical area, on multiple web-servers. When someone connects to your site, the CDN connects them to the nearest possible server, cutting load times considerably.  

Reduce Rich Media

You might be tempted to add a bunch of fancy bells and whistles to your website. Javascript menus. Video banners and animated images. This is ill-advised.

The problem is that rich media assets tend to be incredibly resource-intensive. That means that the more of them you use, the more you’re adding to the load time for each user that visits your site. And in a worst-case scenario, they might not even be able to browse at all.

One more thing — do not, under any circumstances, allow advertisements that use animations, Javascript, or auto-playing video. Not only will they alienate your audience, but they’ll also kill performance.  

Make Sure Your Images Are Optimized

One of the most common mistakes we see made by newer webmasters is that they download a stock photo at its largest size and simply upload that to their website. Thing is, even if you resize that image for a web page, your visitors are going to be loading the original with every single visit. In other words, your site’s going to take a considerable performance hit. 

Use a tool like GIMP 2 to reduce the dimensions of each image you want to use. Generally, 1200×800 is a good resolution to go for, but you may want to go even smaller (or keep the dimensions the same if you’re not uploading landscape photos). Additionally, we’d advise reducing image quality down to about 80 percent, as you can generally do so without any noticeable impact on anything but file size. 

Design For Mobile First

Last but certainly not least, we’d strongly advise reading up on responsive design. It may be somewhat dated by now, but web design publication Smashing Magazine has published an excellent guidebook to help you learn the basics. Familiarize yourself with the advice there, and then use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see what changes you need to make to your current website. 

Think Fast

Ensuring your website loads quickly and performs well is absolutely critical. Your audience isn’t going to wait around if things load at a snail’s pace. And Google’s not going to be tolerant of that, either.

Follow the advice here, and do everything in your power to optimize.