Like every year, we are back this new year with a new edition of ‘Tech Round-Up’ – one place where we celebrate every big story that happened on our technology-front.
2020 was a year that we all shall remember for a long, long time – the fundamental way we lived on this planet changed. Location-based businesses around the world faced a crisis as their customers were forced to stay indoors for most part of the year. We all endured our share of hardships and had to reinvent. Hotels shifted their focus on delivering safety and cleanliness above all other parameters; restaurants focused on hygienic packaging, contact-less deliveries, and pickups as they saw a shift to telephonic orders; retail chains focused on online orders, scheduled deliveries, and pickups; and at Milestone, we focused on strengthening our technology layer to enable our location-based clients as they reinvented.
As we enter 2021, we want to thank every single customer who continued to believe in us as we stood together through these testing times. And now, with the vaccinations underway we clearly see the bright light at the end of the tunnel and are all set to grow and thrive together.
That said, Milestone’s products witnessed one of the biggest years when it came to innovation and we were even awarded by CIO Bulletin as a Top 30 Most Influential Companies in 2020 for solving the top 5 most relevant and impactful issues in the organic industry. Here is a preview of the best of Milestone’s tech in 2020 that helped us reach such high standards and deliver the best-in-class products to brands across the globe:
1. Schema Manager – The highlight of 2020!
The highlight in Milestone’s story for 2020 has been its new offering – Schema Manager. Schema Manager aims at solving one of the biggest problems that every SEO specialist face – deploying advanced website schemas at scale and maintaining them. As search has shifted from “Keywords” to “Entities”, search engines look at entity relationships to deliver relevant and rich results on search results pages. One of the vital components for best-in-class SEO is “schemas” – that help explain the context of website content. Even though it is critical, 97% of websites in the world fail when it comes to deploying error-free advanced schemas – partially because businesses find it hard to find the SEO PLUS PROGRAMMING skills that are needed to build schemas and also because schemas are hard to maintain – as schema definitions (schema.org) are continuously changing.
Schema Manager takes a revolutionary approach to solve this problem as it lets businesses create and publish “rich schemas” that are error-free and up-to-date at all times with ZERO-coding to as many similar pages in one go. Schema Manager suggests the most relevant schemas and guides users through the setting up of schema properties. Once done, Schema Manager lets the user validate and publish schema to the website with just a few clicks. It doesn’t stop there, once deployed Schema Manager keeps a track of the schema definition and website content updates via weekly schema health check audits and prompts the user of schema discrepancies, if any. This ensures that schemas are optimized and future proof! To complete the whole cycle of schema management, Schema Manager can be integrated into any website content management system (CMS) and has segmented reporting for errors, warnings, and impact reporting for Rich Result Growth and Universal SERP saturation.
Since its launch halfway into 2020, the reception it has received has been nothing short of ‘phenomenal’ – and within just a couple of months of a limited launch, Schema Manager has become one of our fastest selling products and was shortlisted for the finals of the coveted U.S. Search Awards 2020 in the category ‘Best SEO Software Suite’.
2. FAQ Manager – A must-have for voice search readiness
With Google’s BERT update, the search engine’s algorithm is now more “conversation” driven than ever – and doesn’t just display a bunch of links to websites that might have the right answers. All search queries are “questions” and the search results are “answers”. Voice searches are also taking over age-old text searches as Amazon, Google, and Apple’s voice assistants and other voice devices are seeing rapid adoption. Given this context, businesses can no longer ignore the importance of having conversational content, such as “questions” and “answers” on their website. However, most websites and internet content today are not optimized to answer queries. As a result, search engine bots pick answers from third-party sites instead of the brand’s own content.
Milestone’s FAQ Manager is the new kid on the block that offers a comprehensive solution to manage all your FAQs or Questions-and-Answers across local directories (such as Google My Business Questions & Answers), websites, and voice assistants, thus making your business “Voice Search Ready”. It sources and centralizes all your questions and answers regarding your business across all your business locations, local channels, and search analytics platforms and gives you the privilege to clean the content and publish across multiple channels and locations in one shot. The result – your business gains visibility on text & voice searches as the content starts to appear as featured snippets, FAQs, People Also Asked, How-To results, while getting as the de facto preferred answer for voice search queries. Also, with consistent answers across different channels businesses are able to deliver consistent brand identity and superior user experience to searchers.
3. Milestone CMS
Milestone CMS is a flexible, SEO-first content management system that enables businesses to deploy best-in-class websites at ease. In 2020, we added the following features to improve usability and ensure that the websites we host rank better on search.
I. Core Web Vitals solution – Are you ready for Google’s next ranking factor?
With Google announcing that the Core Web Vitals will be a ranking factor from May this year, the rankings of many websites could be affected. Our technology team along with industry experts moved swiftly to ensure that all websites hosted on Milestone CMS have a comprehensive and future-proof Core Web Vitals solution. In fact, using field and lab data our solution proved to improve the Core Web Vitals score of websites by more than 30 points. To ensure that all websites on Milestone CMS are Core Web Vitals ready, our CMS implemented key techniques and features, such as:
- Componentization – to treat every element on the screen as a separate component
- Hybrid CMS – to decouple the front-end and back-end layers ensuring that work on the design layer does not affect the actual content displayed on the screen
- Image lazy loading – to configure image lazy loading behavior to improve load speed, layout shift, and interactivity of the website
II. Inventory Component (for Automotive) – Managing an inventory made simple
With Milestone strengthening its foothold across multiple industries we added the Inventory Module that proved immensely useful for the biggest brands in the automobile industry. The feature allowed brands to manage their inventory records and render the inputs and changes dynamically on their website. Using the Inventory component, businesses can easily add inventory records, make edits, add images, and delete the records. The changes are simultaneously reflected on the website of the business.
III. Version Control – Streamlining the content workflow
To improve the content workflow we launched the version control feature on Milestone CMS. With this, clear user privileges are distinguished (Content Writer, Moderator, Contributor, Publisher, User Admin) and a clear-cut content process flow such as ‘Save as Draft’, ‘Preview’ content, and finally ‘Publish’ on the website are set in place.
Milestone Analytics offers an integrated view of your marketing performance across channels. The big features that we rolled out in 2020 are:
I. The all-new omnichannel Analytics interface – Tracking your business’s omnichannel performance
The new Analytics UI gives the user an intuitive and refreshing approach to omnichannel performance reporting across multiple sources. While other analytics tools focus on individual channels, Milestone Analytics takes the holistic approach and tracks the digital marketing performance of the business and each of its locations across channels such as website, local, social, paid media, etc., and most importantly through the entire customer journey. With the new UI, users can switch between Aggregated view of performance across business locations while choosing to view the most important KPIs or view the performance of individual locations of the business. Businesses can also compare metrics for different time periods, list traffic by channel, geography, and device type.
II. Performance reporting for various CMS features (AMP, Discount Coupon, Holiday banner, etc.)
Apart from the overall website performance reporting, Milestone Analytics breaks down the key engagement metrics that are logged on Milestone CMS website for key features such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), Discount Coupon, Holiday Banner, Revenue Recovery, FAQ, and Event Calendar. Now, your business will know exactly how customers are engaging with each of the features on your website and what you need to do to improve the performance of each feature.
III. Configurable dashboard
Our Analytics dashboard is now configured to suit businesses from multiple industries. The widgets and metrics that are displayed are customized to the specific vertical of the business – for example, the hard and soft conversion KPIs.
5. Local & Reviews
Milestone Local lets businesses get found everywhere. It centralizes a business’s information and distributes it across various local and social directories such as Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp. Here are some top features that we introduced in 2020:
I. Multi-location Google Post – Drive engagement like never before
Google Posts is a key feature to reach out to your local audience and potential customers. Using Milestone Local, businesses can publish Google Posts to multiple locations and increase the chances of engagement with it being displayed on Google’s local panel. Driving 5-20X efficiency in managing Google Posts, businesses can now create a post, filter select locations or choose all locations, and publish the post to the selected locations effortlessly. If they wish to plan ahead, businesses can choose to schedule a post, upload click-worthy and attractive images, CTA (Call-to-Action) buttons, and using dynamic variables can customize a post to suit different business locations by Name, URL, Store Code, Address, Phone, etcetera. Businesses can use this cool feature to tell customers ‘What’s New’ with their business, drive footfall to their property if there is an event, or publicize special offers for select days.
II. Revamped Profile & Performance Summary screens – What you need to do to rank on search
With visibility on search the highest priority, Milestone has made it all the easier for businesses to know what’s important to be visible and reach their audience as our new Performance Summary screen aligns with key aspects that Google regards as ranking factors. The Milestone Local Performance summary screen displays key engagement metrics carried out by customers, the Top 5 and bottom 5 business profiles in terms of searches, profile completeness of each location, and key insights to improve their reach, UNAP, and whether the business is voice ready or not.
With the new Profile Summary screen, businesses can now make on-page edits to their Core Information (UNAP, Business Category, Description, Special Hours, etc.), update their media (logo, cover image, photo gallery), edit their business details (Amenities, Services, Opening Date) and can even create a Google Post and view posts scheduled or those published in the past.
III. Reviews Custom Tags
Using Reviews Custom Tags you wouldn’t need to scan through hundreds to thousands of reviews to identify the most pressing issues your business needs to address. Add multiple keywords under a custom tag and it will fetch all reviews that contain those keywords. For example, if you define a custom tag called ‘cleanliness’ and map keywords such as ‘dirty’, ‘filthy’, ‘messy’, and so on, all reviews containing any of these keywords will get tagged under ‘cleanliness’ – which will be applicable to past and future reviews. Use the custom tag filter to only look at such reviews.
There’s more – Accuracy trend reporting, add Service Areas and enter key GMB fields
Using Milestone Local’s Listing Accuracy Trend Report, your business can view the accuracy of its business details on each directory (Facebook, Yelp, Google My Business, etc.) that is managed and monitored on Milestone Presence Cloud. Businesses can easily edit GMB fields that are important for it to be found for relevant searches such as its UNAP, category, whether it is open or closed, menu URL, additional categories, hours, and special hours. To put the cherry on the cake and improve its relevance on search, businesses can add up to 20 service areas for each business location. Both the GMB fields and service areas will be reflected in the business’s local panel on search in real-time.
While we step into 2021 which strangely seems like unchartered territory for businesses and companies across the globe, Milestone has its eyes fixed on the consumer and search trends and what the ‘world’ today prefers, to ensure that businesses we work with are firmly planted even in the most tumultuous times.
To know more about our products and features, what’s in store, and how we can help your business reach its desired audience, write to us at [email protected] or call us at 408-200-2211. Just like last year, we’ll do this together.