Breaking Content #38: Google’s Ad Blocker, PPC Automation, Email vs. Facebook Messenger & More

Breaking Content was a newsletter before. This is the first issue posted publicly.


How to Structure and Format Your Content for Google’s Featured Snippets [Actionable]

Google’s featured snippets (aka position #0) are reigning the first page. Some studies show that they steal about 7% of traffic from the once-mighty first position, not to mention the rest of the page (see the graphic below).


With the growing adoption of structured data markup, instant answers in featured snippets will become more thorough and accurate over time, capturing even a higher percentage of traffic.

I could go on, but it’s obvious that position #0 is the new #1—and it will be more so in the future.

So I studied a lot what makes sites appear in Google’s featured snippets lately. I’ll skip the obvious part about the quality of content and instead zero in on more technical aspects. One study has stuck with me in particular due to the amount quantitative analysis put into the research. It’s from HubSpot.

Here are the main takeaways from the article for optimizing content for featured snippets:

  • Backlinks still matter;
  • The search query should appear in a header (h2, h3, h4, etc.);
  • The answer to the query should be placed in a <p> tag directly below the header mentioned above. This answer should be between 54–58 words long;
  • Google doesn’t always pull a whole paragraph into the featured snippet. If you add “Step 1,” “Step 2,” “Step 3,” etc. to the start of each subheading within a page (h2) then Google will sometimes just pull through the subheads and list them chronologically.
  • Generic keywords (e.g. “Inbound Sales”) are more likely to display a featured snippet with a whole paragraph, while more question-oriented keywords will, in most cases, display a step-by-step list generated from your headings.
  • Google prefers that paragraphs begin as a natural answer would. So don’t twaddle and get straight to the point, particularly at the beginning of a new section under a heading.

Please note that only pages ranking on the first page can show up in these snippets. So I’d suggest the following process for finding featured-snippet opportunities:

  • Compile a list of all your pages ranking on the first page;
  • Identify the type of search queries returnings these pages (is it a generic query like “content marketing”, a how-to question etc.?);
  • Analyze pages ranking in the featured snippet for those queries;
  • Optimize your page better according to the bulleted list above.




Google Treats 301 Redirects to a Non-Identical Page as Soft 404s [News]

Google’s John Mueller said on Twitter that websites should use 301 redirects only for identical pages. If the page you 301 redirect to isn’t a 1:1 replacement, Google is likely to treat it as a 404.


The Usability Push Continues! Google Has Updated Its Test My Site Tool [News]

Google has updated its Test My Site tool with new features. The updated version shows the percentage of visitors you may be losing due to page speed issues and how your site stacks up against the competition in your industry.


This tool also gives recommendations on how to speed up your site—definitely an instructive tool to utilize for site optimization.


Test your site


Google Adds “Posts” to Local Business Listings [News]

Google has made Google Posts available to all businesses. This feature lets companies with Google My Business listings post content directly into the search results, in real-time. Posts will appear in both Google’s rich search and map results.

The caveat is that there’s currently no way to automate these posts as there’s no public API yet. In any case, it’s a promising new medium for local businesses.

Plus, this roll-out presents a short window of opportunity to stand out and possibly rank higher for local queries before the feature is widely adopted.


2 Min Read


Google Will Roll Out Its Mobile-First Index to Sites That Are Ready for It [News]

The same John Mueller from Google also confirmed that they’d roll out their mobile-first index in stages, starting with mobile-optimized sites that are ready for it.

Nobody knows when Google will flip the switch. It’s probably months away. However, one thing is for sure. Making sure your site is 100% optimized for mobile has never been more important than now.


1 Min Read



Robots Are Taking Over PPC: 3 Automation Features You Must Utilize Now [Actionable]

“Smart” features based on machine learning have been one of the biggest trends in the PPC industry this year. Artificial intelligence now drives about every aspect of innovation in this domain.

Earlier this year, Google has rolled out “Smart Display Campaign” and automatically curated “in-market” and “similar” audiences.

Keeping pace with the industry’s standards, Bing also released its “in-market” and “custom” audiences a few weeks ago.

This article breaks down the most important machine learning-based features in PPC and gives some great advice on how to put them to use. (Note: skip through to the section “New Machine Based Featured”.)


4 min read


Ads That Google’s Blocker Will Block Starting 2018 [Alert]

Early next year, Google will release an official ad blocker for Chrome to put a stop to intrusive ads, even if they are owned or served by Google. Acceptable ads will be qualified based on the standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads.

You can find a list of unacceptable ads for both mobile and desktop along with their mock-ups and descriptions on this page.

Below are screenshots for quick reference:






How to Choose the Right Bid Management Automation Tool [Actionable]

When you have dozens of PPC campaigns across multiple platforms under your supervision, manual bid optimization is nearly impossible.

This is where bid management automation tools come in handy. However, there’s a myriad of them, and without a proper understanding of what to look for, picking one out may be overwhelming.

This article does a great job dissecting PPC bid management automation tools and laying out the process for choosing the right one for your campaigns.




10 Adwords Scripts That Will Take Your Adwords Campaigns to The Next Level [Actionable]

Adwords scripts are a great way stay on top of your campaigns when scaling.

For those not familiar with these scripts, those are JavaScript code snippets that you add to your Adwords account to perform specific tasks, e.g. keep a record of your data, automate bidding, do competitive analysis, etc.

This article from Adstage lists 10 very handy scripts along with in-action screenshots and application examples. It’s one of the best write-ups on Adwords scripts I’ve come across so far.

Here’s the list with links to original sources for quick reference:

Quality Score Tracker by PPC Epiphany
Automated Ad Testing AdWords Script
24-Hour Bidding Script
Weather-Based Bidding AdWords Script
Disable Ads for Out-of-stock Items in Search
N-Gram Search Query Reports
Competitor Tracking Script
“Split Test Anything” Script
24-Hour Heat Map Script
Analyze Quality Score in Detail

If you haven’t set up scripts in Adwords before, here’s a good primer on how to do that:


4 Min read



How to Use Udemy to Validate an Idea for Your Next Long-Form Article/Lead Magnet [Actionable]

Oh, I just loved the first piece of advice in this article, which is how to use Udemy to validate content ideas. I’d like to note that this method is more suited for evergreen long-form content, which is what courses are by their nature.

Why is it important?

All too often, we let intuition take hold of our editorial strategy. But with so much noise out there, success in content marketing comes down to consistency and a data-driven editorial approach.

So here’s the idea on how to use Udemy data as a guide in your editorial decisions:

  • Go to Udemy and search the topic you’d like to write your next article, ebook or whatever about;
  • Pick courses around that topic with the most reviews/the best reviews/the most students (use your judgment for quality criteria);
  • The curriculums of your selected courses will suggest you a proven structure for a piece of content on that topic.

People pulled out their wallets and actually paid for that content, which means the content is compelling, important, and, most importantly, in demand. I can’t think of a stronger validation than that.

This article covers more great ideas for creating shareable and SEO-friendly content, but a lot of them fall into the 101 bucket, so I won’t cover them. But the link is below if you are interested.


16 min read



The Case for Switching from Email to Facebook Messenger for Interaction with Leads. (Hint: a 477% reduction in CPL[Research]

Email is dying.

Inboxes are more cluttered than ever. Open and click rates are in decline.

In search of new mediums, Hubspot has recently put Facebook Messenger to test as a channel to interact with their prospects. They conducted three experiments in which Facebook Messenger was stacked up against email in the following applications.

Using Facebook Messenger as a content delivery channel



“The Facebook Messenger broadcasts had an average open rate of 80% and average CTR of 13%. That was 242% and 609% better than our email controls, respectively.”

Using Facebook Messenger in place of forms

“The results here were even better than we anticipated. We saw a staggering 477% reduction in our cost per lead, while lead quality only slightly decreased.”

The third application was sending updates to event attendees via Facebook Messenger. I’m not covering it because the use is quite niche and HubSpot didn’t provide email results for comparison.


4 min read


Controversy Alert: Stop All Organic Social Media Activity [Research/Opinion]

Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google) has literally taken the words out of my mouth with this article.

His premise is that organic social media is dead, and so there’s no reason to invest in it anymore. I second him a hundred percent. (That’s the reason we don’t have social handles for Breaking Content.)

This Facebook post from Expedia paints the picture best:


Note: Expedia had 6,462,977 fans on their Facebook page when this screenshot was taken. Divide 75 engagements by 6,462,977 and you’ll get an organic reach rate of 0.00113%.

I can’t find a strong enough word to convey how dismal it is.

The takeaway: Don’t invest in organic reach anymore. Instead, shift your focus to creating irresistible content and amplifying its distribution with paid reach.


16 min read


#Social Media

Facebook Updates Its News Feed Algorithm in Fight Against Clickbait Links [News]

Facebook recently announced an update to their news feed algorithm that will address the issue of high volumes of clickbait content.

Adam Mossery, VP of News Feed, wrote: “By taking steps like this to improve News Feed, we’re able to surface more stories that people find informative and reduce the spread of problematic links such as clickbait, sensationalism and misinformation.”

They added that this update will apply to individual links and won’t have an effect on a domain level.

If you do content marketing right (and I believe you do), this update will work only to your advantage.


1 min read

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