Getting smoked by an algorithm update is tough. The loss of traffic, leads, and sales can be catastrophic while companies work to fix problems that led to the attack. If you’ve read my previous posts about Panda and Penguin, then you know I think it’s critically important to keep driving forward as if an algorithm update isn’t impacting your site. For example, you should keep publishing top-notch content, using social media like a champion, leverage email marketing to get in front of your customer base, and more.
By acting like you aren’t impacted, you can end up doing great things SEO-wise that can help you recover quicker, while also helping you down the line (when the algo filter is removed). For example, a great piece of content is still a great piece of content. Panda’s filter can’t take that away from you… although it can stop users of Google from finding the content in the short-term. But if you get that content out to a targeted audience, it could resonate with readers - maybe it gets shared across social networks, via email, etc. And maybe some of the people reading your content think enough of the post to link to it from various places.
The subsequent social sharing, links, mentions, and Google searches for your content can help your cause SEO-wise. And that’s a good thing when you are trying to recover from an algorithm hit. In addition, once you recover from Panda, Penguin, or other algorithm hits, your new content can end up ranking very well (once the algo filter has been lifted). So you can help you cause in the short-term, but also benefit in the long-term.
The Power and Importance of Custom Website Audiences
Now that you know the importance of a "head down, drive forward" mentality while impacted by an algorithm update, you are probably wondering how it can work for you now. One area I’m going to focus on in this post is the power of social advertising, and specifically, custom website audiences (CWA). And once you read the rest of this post, you just might be running to Facebook and Twitter to get things rolling.
First, I’ll provide a quick introduction to custom website audiences. Then I’ll explain how to use them across both Facebook and Twitter. Both social networks have robust advertising platforms, and both provide a way to target previous visitors to your website.
What Is a Custom Website Audience?
Custom website audiences enable you to target users who already have some type of relationship with your business. For example, you can set up social advertising campaigns that target users who have already visited your website, specific pieces of content, or completed some action on your site. Since they have already shown an interest in your company or content, you can feel confident that you’re getting in front of an extremely targeted audience. You can think of it as remarketing via social advertising.
In addition, you can get as granular as you want with custom website audiences (enhancing your targeting by slicing and dicing your website visitors). You can also use custom combinations that enable you to include some audiences, but exclude others. This flexibility enables marketers to reach a targeted audience with an extremely relevant message.
And last, but not least, ad fraud can be significantly cut down since you know these are real peoplethat visited your site, completed some action, etc. Facebook and Twitter will anonymously match up your website visitors with actual users on each social network. Then your ads will only show to those users.
For Panda and Penguin victims, it’s like finding a targeted audience again while dealing with anemic organic search traffic.
A Quick Example: Custom Website Audiences for Panda
Back to Panda and Penguin victims. Let’s say you were hit by Panda during the 10/24 cloaked update. Maybe you lost 40 percent of your Google organic traffic overnight and are having a hard time getting your new content noticed. You had a Panda audit completed, you are working on the remediation plan, but you want to get your new, killer content out to a targeted audience. You know that doing so will yield social sharing, more traffic, more leads, and possibly more links.
Well, using custom website audiences, you could install tracking pixels (tags) from each social network on your website. Then you can build specific audiences based on the content they consume. For example, you could create custom audiences based on visits to posts that cover topic, x, y, and z. You could target visits to your services pages, or target users that completed some type of conversion goal. Basically, you’ll be creating custom audiences based on how users interact with your business and website.
And once those custom audiences are built, you can reach them via both Facebook and Twitter advertising to showcase your new content, drive traffic to those posts, etc. Sure, you are paying for each campaign, but it’s extremely reasonable pricing-wise. For example, I just ran a custom website audience campaign for a client where the cost per website click was $1.85 on Facebook and $1.40 on Twitter. The AdWords CPCs for relevant keywords ranged from $6 to $12 per click.
Website Custom Audiences on Facebook
To use website custom audiences on Facebook, you first need to tag your website with a custom audience pixel. Here’s a great support page from Facebook for getting up and running with website custom audiences.
Between Facebook and Twitter, Facebook definitely has an advantage with the setup process. Once you install the Facebook custom audience pixel on every page on your site, you can then slice and dice your traffic within Facebook ad manager (or Power Editor). Yes, that means you tag once, and then build on Facebook. That’s versus having to tag specific pages with specific codes, which you have to do with Twitter (for now anyway).
Once you tag every page, use the Facebook Pixel Helper Chrome extension (from Facebook) for checking and troubleshooting the installation. Make sure you check a number of your pages, and obviously the most important ones.
Once you know that the pixel is installed correctly, Facebook needs to start collecting data. Once Facebook has enough data based on visits to your website, you can start building custom audiences. For example, let’s build one that covers all visits to a website. This is a must-have custom audience in case you have a message that you want to get out to anyone that visited your website recently.
1. Access "Audiences" in Facebook Ads Manager or Power Editor.
2. Click the "Create Audience" button in the upper right corner of the Audiences tab. Select "Custom Audience" from the dropdown.
3. Choose "Website Traffic" from the list.
4. Select "Anyone who visits your website," enter "90 days" to include users that have visited your site within the past 90 days, and then name your new custom audience something descriptive.
I told you it was easy. Once the audience has built up enough users, you can use it for ad targeting. So imagine you had a great post that you wanted to get in front of users that visited your site over the past 90 days. You could create a news feed ad driving people to the post from Facebook and select the "All website visits" custom audience when choosing your targeting. Boom, targeted traffic will be on its way.
A Note About Website Targeting in Facebook
When you were selecting the "website traffic" option above, you might have noticed other options in the dropdown. And yes, they can be ultra-powerful. You can choose to create audiences based on visits to very specific pages on your site. For example, if you were a Web design agency, you could create custom audiences for visits to specific categories of content. Maybe you’ll have a "responsive design" audience, a "WordPress design" audience, etc. Then as you build new content in each category, you could use your new custom audiences to get that content in front of a targeted group of people.
Twitter Tailored Audiences
Twitter’s advertising platform has grown tremendously over the past few years. And similar to Facebook, Twitter enables you to build custom audiences (called tailored audiences) to target users that already have a relationship with your business. For example, customers on your email list, visitors to your website, etc. Here’s a support page from Twitter for getting up and running with tailored audiences.
So, if you’ve been impacted by an algorithm update, and already use Twitter to connect with a targeted audience, then what I’m about to demonstrate can enhance your situation on several levels. First, you can target users that visited specific pieces of content on your site. We already know how powerful that can be. Second, you can gain more followers, which can help with your organic Twitter performance down the line. Third, your ads can yield more Twitter engagement, traffic to your website, and subsequent sharing across other social networks. All of this can yield amazing things SEO-wise, like more links, more searches for your brand, etc.
How To Use Twitter Tailored Audiences
The setup process is a little different for Twitter. You can’t just tag every page on your site and then slice and dice the data down the line. Instead, you need to map out your audiences beforehand and then tag specific pages.
You can build up to 25 audiences per website to use via Twitter’s platform. That should be plenty for most businesses. Once you map out the areas of your site you want to tag, you need to create tailored audience pixels (tags) that should be installed on those specific pages, or groups of pages. So, you might have one tag for your services pages, one for each major category of products, one for each important blog topic, etc.
This is confirmed by Twitter (I spoke with them last week about this). If you want to target all visits to your website, but you tagged different sets of pages with different pixels, you can simply select all audiences in your campaign settings when building the campaign. You shouldn’t add more than one Twitter tag to each page, so this is a workaround for targeting all website visits, while still giving you the power to create and target specific audiences.
Once you have your audiences set up in Twitter, and they have built enough users, you can use those audiences when building campaigns.
1. Create your campaign in Twitter ads manager.
2. Under "Select Additional Targeting Criteria," find the section for "Add Tailored Audiences."
3. Add the tailored audience that’s needed for the specific campaign.
4. You can also exclude tailored audiences (which is similar to using a custom combination). For example, include all visits to topic X, but exclude all visits to topic Y.
You’re all set. Again, easy and powerful.
Bonus: Lookalike Audiences
Both Facebook and Twitter provide a mechanism for targeting similar users to your custom audiences. They are called lookalikes and can expand your reach, but with a level of targeting that’s extremely smart.
For example, let’s say you created a custom audience based on visits to a specific section of your site (like iPad accessories, responsive design, or a specific legal service). Using lookalike audiences, you can find other people on each social network that are similar to the people in your custom audience. I recommend experimenting with lookalikes to see how they work for you. I’ve seen lookalike targeting work extremely well for clients, especially on Facebook.
Ready to start using custom website audiences to get in front of previous visitors of your website? I have provided some bullets below for Panda and Penguin victims looking to get moving:
- Install custom pixels (tags) for both Facebook and Twitter today. And yes, I mean today.
- If you have already done this, you’re in great shape. You can start building custom audiences right after leaving this post.
- When building custom audiences, map out each audience based on core topics that are important for your business. These will need to match the content you have published on your website. For example, you might have audiences for "all visits," "topic A," "topic B," "services pages," "about pages," etc. As long as you can build up enough of an audience (user-wise), then you’ll have a robust setup for targeting the right people with the right message via social advertising.
- Use lookalike audiences to expand your reach to similar users. Remember, both Facebook and Twitter can find other users that are similar to people already in your custom audiences.
- Since you’ll be launching campaigns targeting your custom website audiences, everything will be trackable. Remember to tag all campaigns using campaign tracking parameters so you can analyze them in Google Analytics, or whichever analytics platform you are using.
Summary – Social Advertising Can Help SEO
When you’ve been knocked down by an algorithm update, you can either work on recovery and wait for traffic to return, or you can work on recovery while still getting targeted visitors to your site. Using a smart social advertising plan can drive users to your content that have already shown an interest in your company and content. And that can lead to more social sharing, traffic, links, brand searches, and more. It’s a great example of Social helping SEO. See, they can work together.