How Fake News Changed SEO & How to Add More Facts to Your Site

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How Fake News Changed SEO & How to Add More Facts to Your Site was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

The concept of “fake news” exploded into the public zeitgeist at the end of the 2016 presidential election season. It’s been in the spotlight ever since.

fake news in google trends

The popularity of the term “fake news” as indicated by Google search volume over the last two years skyrocketed the week of Nov. 6, 2016, the week of the U.S. presidential election.

Google is among those concerned with fake news, as we learn from this December 2016 interview with Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Pichai says:

At Google, we’ve always cared about bringing the most relevant and accurate results to users … There have been a couple of instances where (fake news has) been pointed out, and we clearly did not get it right … Just in the last two days we announced that we will remove advertising from anything we identify as fake news.

Pichai’s focus here is towards paid advertisements but with all the buzz over fake news in the media, SEOs are asking questions about the affect of fake news on organic search.

The bottom line is that Google needs to provide users with quality answers that accurately fulfill the intent of their users’ queries.

So, why should SEOs care? What can you do? These are questions organic search marketers are wondering.

how to add facts via database

Is fake news beyond Google’s ability to control? You can bet the search engines don’t take that approach. Google and Bing are able to verify the accuracy of content, to some extent. And the search engines are already in a good position to mitigate the spread of fake news in organic search results.

Read on for what we know about:

  • How Google is looking to algorithmically promote factually accurate content in search results
  • How Google is training its computer programs to find and weed out fake news via a fresh update to its human quality rater guidelines.
  • Plus how to integrate trustworthy factual information into your content using database-driven data.

Algorithmic Solution to Factual Accuracy in Search Results: Google’s Database of Facts

Two years ago the SEO community saw the first sign of prominent Googlers arguing for the usage of factual evidence instead of backlinks as the primary way of measuring domain authority.

New Scientist summed up the idea in an article titled “Google wants to rank websites based on facts not links.” The article summarized a lengthy research paper outlining a potential change to the way Google would rank sites organically.

For many SEOs, the paper implied that if a web page appropriately mentioned accurate factual evidence, it could contribute to its trustworthiness and thus boost organic rankings. This makes sense, especially since everyone knows content is king.

Additionally, the paper’s argument is in line with a patent that Google filed a decade prior about how to extract and catalog factual evidence from “unstructured documents and build an oracle for various domains” (emphasis ours).

From these documents we can posit that:

  1. Google has a large repository of factual evidence that they have been building for years and can reference as necessary.
  2. Google is very interested in measuring the factual accuracy of sites so it can be certain users are served the correct answer to any question.

If Google and other search engines place such a high value on accurate facts, it is imperative that SEOs be aware of how publishing fact vs. fiction could affect them.

Furthermore, there’s some evidence that Google is working toward taking action algorithmically to reduce the visibility of sites that publish fake news…

Update of the Search Quality Rater Guidelines

While Google has said nothing officially about penalizing a site for inaccurate facts, we’re seeing signs that factual information is important in their eyes.

Just last week, Google published an update to its Search Rater Quality Guidelines. In summarizing what’s changed, Jennifer Slegg suggested that algorithmic action is the intended goal of the guidelines that help human quality raters identify fake news pages on the web.

“(Google engineer Paul) Haahr said that they needed to make these specific changes to the guidelines in order to have training data from the raters. And the need for training data would mean they are looking for ways to algorithmically detect and downrank sites that fall into the categories of fake news, hate sites or other sites with dubious and unbacked theories or claims.”

Steps You Can Take To Avoid Being Labeled ‘Fake News’

Being perceived as authoritative in the eyes of the search engines is not easy. Here’s what you have to do to pass Google’s factual accuracy check:

  • Use trusted sources whenever possible.
  • Fact check when reviewing content. Look for verification of anything passed off as factual on your pages.
  • Avoid sharing information with your users that could be false.

And here’s another pro tip. Where possible, integrate trustworthy factual information into your content using database-driven data.

Here’s this tip in action. Real estate sites are especially interested in offering users information about a given geographic area. The aim is to help people learn more about the area of a home, which in turn promotes conversions.

For example, here’s a screenshot of a portion of a property listing page on Trulia.com:

trulia including local municipal data

Local municipal data provided by third-party sources on a property listing page of Trulia.com.

The local data that Trulia publishes on a property listing page are area demographics, nearby businesses, schools and crime statistics. These stats are taken from third-party databases. The inclusion of these publicly available statistics is advantageous because Google sees these facts and weighs them as valuable information that helps a visitor with the intent of learning more about the property in question.

Thus, by adding this information to the rest of the content on the page, Trulia (and other real estate sites that do the same) have better fulfilled the intent of the query by being a one-stop-information-shop for users.

Similarly Public Storage, another well known brand, includes public data on some pages to either improve the user experience or better fulfill the intent of the query.

Below is a screenshot of a storage facility city page that include a “City Information” tab with indexable content about the region:

database-driven city information

City data provided by third-party sources on a storage facility city page on PublicStorage.com.

Again, the inclusion of this information alone does not make Public Storage the best site but it does improve the user experience while simultaneously fulfilling the intent of the query in a more enriched and meaningful way.

In summary, if relevant database options like this are available in your industry or associated verticals,  appropriately integrate them your content in order to:

  1. Better fulfill query intent
  2. Improve UX
  3. Add to the accurate factual information your pages feature
  4. Set your site apart from your competition as a one-stop-shop for searchers
  5. Make your content verifiably accurate

If you are interested in looking for data sources that might work with your site’s content, you might start with Google Public Data, Data.gov or Qliq. There’s a nice round up of more databases you can mine over here.

In a world of fake news where facts will be verified, set your pages apart by supporting your content with accurate information.

Quick Caveat about Database-Driven Content

Using facts as a method for measuring authority is not the be all, end all of ranking factors.

In 2015, Google’s Gary Illyes and Bing’s Duane Forrester spoke against building a site off of public data alone.

Obviously, the search engines will have seen or know about any public data you are referencing so, trying to out rank an existing authority is not the best strategy.

Also, the search engines will still consider other factors so, offering only data does not automatically make you the best. As we saw above with Trulia and Public Storage, you need more than just data and facts. A web page with 100 facts, should not expect to outrank a competing page with the same facts, original content, and a stellar UX.

Will Google Take Action to Suppress Fake News?

By updating the Search Quality Rater Guidelines to reflect a concern with identifying fake news, Google has shown they are not about to let undeserving pages slip through to Page 1 rankings.

It is not yet 100% clear whether Google will take algorithmic action against fake news or factually inaccurate content, or if their action will remain manual. But from all that we have seen, Google has the means to eventually implement an automated process that suppresses sites with inaccurate factual information in organic results. This makes sense since the search engine already goes to great lengths to feature accurate information and this would merely be a continuation of their existing efforts.

March 21st 2017 SEO

How Accurately Can You Predict the Results of an SEO Campaign?

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by Jayson DeMers

If you’re thinking about launching an SEO campaign, one of your biggest concerns is going to be whether it will yield a positive ROI … and how fast you can make it happen.

If you’re planning a campaign for a client, you’ll also want to be able to estimate your effectiveness as a selling point. But is it possible to estimate or predict SEO results with any accuracy?

Why SEO Results are So Hard to Predict

As you’re well aware, the SEO industry is extremely variable. Not only can Google push activity in an entirely new direction with little more than a simple algorithm update, but trying to figure out what the search engines want often seems like trying to shoot a moving target.

There are plenty of signs that suggest how you might proceed, but you aren’t likely to stumble upon the perfect solution.

Herein lies the problem. As an SEO specialist, you have a fairly advanced grasp of what does and doesn’t work, but many factors remain outside of your control.

You can make all the right moves, but at some point, you have to let events happen on their own and trust that the process will unfold according to your plan. In addition, you have to assume there won’t be any significant changes between the moment you execute and the period when the results start to pour in.

“SEO is highly technical and creative at the same time. You can’t just follow a formula and expect to get the same results every single time,” explains Kyle Sanders of CWR SEO. “As any experienced professional in this industry knows, every campaign deals with a unique set of factors. It would be foolish and irresponsible to make wide, overarching projections when there’s so much variance.”

It’s not just the search engines that shift over time, though. You also have to consider the butterfly effect of content popularity.

One small, uncontrollable alteration in the marketplace can have an outsized impact on the type of content that will be most effective thereafter. Thus, while you might be able to design a stellar SEO campaign around a promising set of keywords and topics, only a small shift could suddenly transform your best predictions into anyone’s guess.

Obviously, there will be factors outside of your control, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make any predictions. Clients have a right to request an estimate and hold you to it. After all, they’re paying for a service and expect value. Your mission is to tap into your experience and don’t make promises you can’t keep.

SEO thought leader Stephan Spencer likens SEO to a fitness routine. It’s possible to create a plan, but everyone’s body responds differently.

You can tell someone that he or she will lose weight by burning more calories than the person consumes, but specific steps will still have to be executed and results may vary depending on such details as metabolism, body type, and age.

Furthermore, in order for the desirable results to be achieved, you have to stick to the routine and take it slow.

Four Tips for Estimating Results as Best You Can

Refusing to offer predictions probably isn’t an option. When a client asks you to project future results, you should be prepared to provide an informed answer. The essential strategy is to proceed with caution and avoid making promises you can’t possibly keep.

Here are a few tips that many in the SEO industry have found helpful over the years:

1. Focus on Achievable Goals

“As with your own personal fitness, often it is best to focus on small, achievable goals that are right in front of you. Doing so allows progress to happen, less inhibited by the constant worry of where you are in comparison to the mountain of work ahead of you,” Spencer says.

“Instead of trying to succeed at SEO with a single herculean effort, you can create something great, measure its performance, and then create another starting point from which to continue improving.” In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

When you break the SEO campaign down into digestible bits for your client, you can make more accurate predictions and enjoy plenty of small “wins” along the way.

2. Compare Apples to Apples

If you’re going to go out on a limb to make a prediction for a particular SEO campaign, make sure you compare apples to apples. Just because you achieved a specific result last month with another client, this doesn’t mean you can replicate it utterly today.

Take all of the vital factors into account and only make cross-campaign comparisons when the proper details line up accordingly.

3. Look for Actionable Changes (Not Win-Loss Results)

It’s crucial that you set up clients for positive changes that you can control, especially in the early stages of a campaign. Identify items you are fairly certain you can fix immediately, such as correcting 404 errors, improving site speed, and fixing NAP information on major directories. This will enable you to make concrete projections on the front end and looser estimates on the back end.

4. Project With Past Experiences and Results in Mind

We’ve all had those moments when we read a new article written by a respected expert in the SEO industry, and become excited about applying a new technique or concept. Sometimes these new techniques work and other times they don’t.

The point is you can’t possibly know until you try them out. Avoid making predictions about an SEO concept you’ve never personally employed. It’s best to project with past experiences and results to back you up.

Transparency is the Best Policy

It’s always preferable to under-promise and over-deliver. Clients may try to pressure you into providing quantifiable projections, but do your best to avoid placing yourself in a position you’re liable to regret later.

It’s impossible to predict SEO results to perfection, but you should be able to make fairly accurate projections by leveraging the right resources and sticking to the techniques outlined above.

At the end of the day, transparency is the best policy. Explain to clients why it’s difficult to make accurate predictions, then supply them with the most realistic projections you can.

That’s how to convey value without getting yourself in trouble down the road.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

March 10th 2017 Search Engine Optimization, SEO

Guide to Leveraging Industry Experts to Craft High-Quality SEO Content

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Guide to Leveraging Industry Experts to Craft High-Quality SEO Content was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

girl typing on macbook

There’s good content. And, then there’s high-quality content, the stuff that rises in the search engine results pages, oozing those attractive and useful characteristics both consumers and search engines value.

In my experience as an SEO copywriter (going on 10 years now), I’ve learned that there are several SEO content writing tips that make your content more “valuable and useful” to your readers than your competitors’ sites.

A crucial yet very underused method? Expert information.

If your web copy isn’t performing, it might be because it lacks credible, expert information.

woman writing project

While it takes extra time and research, the voice of an expert has the power to lift good content to high-quality heights.

Think about it like this. Would you trust an essay, a research paper or a white paper without original research and real sources? Moreover, would you trust a paper that was plagiarized? Yet for some reason we expect consumers to simply accept digital content even when it’s copied from material on the web and presented without sources and citations. On top of that, we expect search engines to reward that type of content with rankings. It just doesn’t happen that way.

Regardless of your industry or topic, expert information brings credibility to a site. Credible content not only nourishes consumer appetites, but also meets Google’s bar for the amount of E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) on a web page, boosting your rankings. It happens this way.

So is your website content credible? Does it demonstrate a high level of expertise? If so, that’s great news. You can check out the rest of our SEO Copywriting Checklist for other ways you can improve your content. If not, it’s time to make some friends with experts.

How? I’m going to share with you my step-by-step process for building and maintaining healthy relationships with industry experts, a process I had the chance to perfect as a writer for a big-brand client in the wedding industry while working here at Bruce Clay, Inc. Although the project lasted a year, the friendships I made continue as most experts have shared an interest to stay in touch for future collaborations.

Use these SEO content writing tips to make relationships with real experts who will help you publish high-quality content, whether you’re writing SEO web content, articles or blogs.

I’ll walk you through:

interview on the phone

How to Identify Industry Experts

What makes an industry expert?

Not to be confused with industry influencers, industry experts are people with the expert knowledge, experience, education, data or advice on the specific topics you’re writing about.

According to Google, the level of expertise required for a site varies depending on the topic and industry. In its Search Quality Rating Guidelines, Google gives the example that a medical site should have information with “appropriate medical expertise or accreditation,” yet suggests a site about the proper care of cats could easily be rated high-quality if it features expertise by everyday cat owners as opposed to trained veterinarians.

Ask yourself these basic yet important questions to help you identify the best expert for SEO copywriting:

  • What type of information do you need? (Studies, analyses, facts, testimonials, opinions?)
  • Who has first-hand knowledge of this information?
  • Who does your target audience want to hear from most?

For the purpose of SEO content writing, find an expert who is doing the work today (as opposed to a retiree or someone who just speaks or writes about the topic). These are doers and dream makers, the ones who can provide you with unique, never-before-seen quotes and advice.

It’s also important to talk to someone who has not only been interviewed before, but enjoys talking about what they do or know. It’s not enough to find a professional with the knowledge you need. You want an expert who can appeal to your target audience by simplifying complex concepts without industry jargon.

Next, competitor research will reveal the level of authority you want to go after. At the very least you want an expert at the same level or higher than the ones featured on competitor sites.

For me, this meant talking to wedding planners. On the topic of wedding etiquette, my first thought was to reach out to etiquette experts, such as the team at The Emily Post Institute. Yet, I went with wedding planners because I knew that they could provide me with all things etiquette, plus real-world tips on how to incorporate those rules into modern scenarios facing the couples who are their clients today.

magazines

How to Find Industry Experts

You know the title or level of expertise you need, so how do you find the experts?

Here, a few places you can begin your search:

Recent newspaper and magazine articles. If an expert is passionate about what they do and know, chances are they’ve been interviewed before. Begin your search in websites of major newspapers and magazines for the topics you’re writing about to discover notable experts.

If you’re writing about sleep apnea, for example, a recent article in the New York Times on the same subject reveals the name of Dr. Avidan, director of the sleep clinic at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, someone who just might know a thing or two about sleep apnea and can talk about it in a way that’s not so (queue yawn) boring.

For my project, I needed a wedding planner, but not any planner would do. I needed the best of the best, and that meant planners who produce events and weddings for the stars. I picked well known celebrity wedding planners who helped bring celebrity weddings to life within the last year or were recently named one of the top wedding planners by reputable publications such as the Knot, Vogue, or Martha Stewart Weddings.

University faculty and professors. This is a great resource for a wide range of topics required for informational websites. Many universities have professors and staff who regularly speak to journalists for interviews. Look for the institution’s media page to find a list of faculty by expertise. For example, UCLA has this handy Media Guide to UCLA Experts.

Popular bloggers. If you want to feature information or advice by everyday people with experience in the topic you’re writing about, find an active blogger who is immersed in the conversation. If you’re writing about how to potty train your toddler, for example, it might help to have quotes or advice from a mother who is dealing with this issue today, as opposed to a pediatrician who simply gives generic advice. An active and popular lifestyle blogger who writes about motherhood is also going to give you fun, easy-to-digest information that might better appeal to your target audience.

Dos and Dont’s

Do pick more experts than you need. If the project requires interviewing two experts, reach out to five or ten. You never know who will respond and it’s always a good idea to have backups in case someone flakes, gets sick or simply has to cancel last minute. Another reason to reach out to more experts than you will need is because not everyone is going to give you the best information, and you’ll have a few options to choose from.

Do create a spreadsheet. Keep a list of experts you want to interview. Include the proper spelling of their name, company name, and contact information, including email, phone number and website. Add a column for the date you reached out, the date they responded, if they agree to an interview, and if they agree to be interviewed regularly.

Don’t reach out to competitor resources. As tempting as it might be, it’s better to find your own experts and build relationships with people who are not contributing to your competitor websites.

man and woman at laptop

How to Reach Out to Experts

It’s time to say hello. The way you reach out to busy industry experts matters, as does what and how much you say when you have their attention. You can use the telephone, but here’s why I prefer email along with the process that was most successful for me.

Send a brief but enticing email. Why email? When was the last time you picked up your office phone? It’s simply annoying to cold call someone and even more annoying to be the recipient of that call. Also, people don’t check their voicemails throughout the day, but they do check their emails several times a day. This means that an expert can read and reply on their own time, which makes it convenient for them, and you.

With one email, you can introduce yourself (your title and the company you work for), explain the reason for the interview (talk about the project, client, and benefits of being featured in the content), and let them know you’re reaching out to them specifically because they are an expert in their field. Include your deadline, and keep it open for a phone or email interview.

Personalize the email. You have time to personalize your emails and there is an important reason to do so: you’re making a real relationship. You want them to feel as though they are your top choice. A generic email without the recipient’s name is insulting and exhibits lazy behavior on your part, not a good start to a relationship.

Create a template. What can save you time is creating a template, but be careful to highlight the dynamic areas of the email so that you don’t use the wrong name, which is also very insulting.

Here’s an example of the template I used to contact a luxury wedding planner.

Dear [the expert’s name] and the team at [the business name],

[The client’s name] is building its resource library for brides.

We’re looking for wedding and events experts to provide background on wedding invitation wording and etiquette. Are you interested in being a named expert in our series? The name of [the expert’s name and business name] will be featured in the piece in front of researching brides.

If you’re interested, I would like to set up some time to talk. Both phone and email will work for the interview. My deadline is [a date], so please let me know as soon as convenient.

Sincerely,

Melanie Saxe

Content Writer

Bruce Clay, Inc.

https://www.bruceclay.com

1-805-517-1900 Ext: 1804

working at table

Tips on Conducting Interviews

These tips will help you conduct thorough interviews that will provide you with the unique, expert-level information you need to write quality content.

Here’s the prep work:

Research competitor content. Before I begin any SEO content optimization project, I want to know what my competitors are already writing about the topic or industry. Above, I mentioned competitor research is an important step to find the type of expert you need, but if you want to beat your competitors you will need to write content that’s more valuable and useful, which means you will have the basics covered and then some. While reading competitor content, you’ll find content gaps and weaknesses, which can be the areas you can focus and expand on to capture your target audience.

Research past interviews or online content featuring your expert. If your experts have been interviewed before, read every single interview as well as the content they’ve contributed to. This is because the expert might give you a similar quote, and you don’t want to run into duplicate content issues or repeat what’s already available online.

Write down your questions. Even if the conversation flows out of order, a written list will keep you on topic and ensure you get all the information you need at one time. It also shows that you did your homework. Ask the who, what, where, when, why, and how, and then dig deeper with questions that will give you the unique information your target audience needs and wants.

hands over table

When it’s time for the interview:

Email questions ahead of time. Whether it’s in person, by phone or via email, the interview will go much smoother if the expert receives your questions ahead of time. In my experience, this extra step gives them time to think about the questions and produce better, more thoughtful answers. If you’re conducting an email interview, then send your questions along with a reminder of the due date. If you’ve scheduled a phone interview, remind them of the date and time of the interview and make sure you confirm time zone differences, and that have the right phone number.

Get personal. I love to open my interviews with a discussion on the expert’s recent contributions to the industry. There are many benefits to this approach, including possibly bonding over a common interest, breaking the ice with someone who’ve just met, and opening the door for the expert to freely chat about their passions and work, a technique that’s provided me with tons of unexpected information I can then incorporate into the content.

Confirm the name and title of the expert. Don’t assume the owner of the company is the CEO, even if the website says she is. Always confirm the expert’s title as well as any qualifiers. Some wedding planners preferred “celebrity wedding planner,” while others requested “luxury wedding planner,” “event designer,” etc.

Thank them for the interview. Whether you conducted a phone or email interview, send a follow-up email thanking them for the interview, with a sentence about how you will inform them once the piece goes live.

professional with tie

Tips on How to Maintain Relationships

So far so good. You’ve interviewed the right people, got some great information, and now it’s time to honor these relationships. Here are few tips to help you foster and keep these relationships.

Stay consistent with tone and formality. Remain formal, even if the expert breaks out into casual communication. I’ve had experts write back in fragments and without punctuation, yet I remain formal because my goal is to be respectful, consistent and earn their trust as a professional. At the end of the day, this relationship is a formal business relationship and you want to earn their trust by being reliable and consistent with your communication style.

Follow up. If you don’t hear back within a few days, go ahead and send out a second email to follow up. With a few experts, I sent out more than one follow up and it proved to be fruitful because my emails went into their spam folders and they were so happy when they found out I was still interested in an interview.

Make notes. Consider this as being a good listener. With every reply and conversation, update your spreadsheet with information that helps your relationship. Identify the experts who’ve agreed to be interviewed and those who would like to be interviewed regularly.

You also want to add any new or specific contact information. For instance, 75 percent of the experts I reach out to refer me to their assistants and request to be CCd by all the correspondence; I record that in my notes.

As time goes by, you will also get to know how reliable and prompt your experts are. Those who continue to miss deadlines can be dropped off the list. Those who respond immediately and seem super eager about helping can be relied upon for last-minute deadlines and special cases. I had one expert who would always fill in the gaps when others flaked.

Follow through. Once the piece is published or live on the web, email the link and thank them a second time. is also a great time to ask them for a second interview, if you need more information from them to clarify the first interview, or for a different project. Let them know if you plan to interview them again in the future and ask if they have any favorite topics or ideas they want to contribute; this makes them feel a part of the project. I kept this process going with 10 experts, and interviewed each expert every other month.

Follow them on social media. Following experts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook shows not only support, but also keeps you up-to-date on future projects that might benefit your content.

SEO Content Solutions and Takeaways

As an SEO copywriter, you never go into a project hoping to produce mediocre content. Yet even the best writers find it challenging to write that high-quality copy that satisfies both search engines and consumers. Why? Because high-quality content has many characteristics, and without a clear SEO content strategy, it’s easy to forget some of the ingredients that set copy apart from the competition.

Consider expert information as the solid research behind a good essay; by featuring original research and citing reliable sources, you can build trust with your readers and prove to be an authority on the subject.

Are you interested in learning more about SEO content optimization to set your copywriting apart? Bruce Clay’s SEOToolSet Training is an in-person workshop that will teach you the SEO best practices to boost your content’s search rankings. Sign up for the course, held each quarter in Los Angeles, and lock in a competitive advantage.

Are you closer to the Bay Area? Bruce presents an Advanced SEO Workshop at Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West in San Jose on March 20. Learn how to help raise your rankings and visibility in search engines. Save 10% with our exclusive discount code: BRUCECLAYSMXW17.

March 7th 2017 SEO

Why an Insanely Fast Site Is Your 2017 Priority

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Why an Insanely Fast Site Is Your 2017 Priority was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

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The concept of an insanely fast site is something Google has been talking about for a long time.

Are you convinced that site speed is your top priority for optimizing user experience in 2017?

In this post, I’ll cover:

  • Why site speed matters.
  • How your mobile visitors fit into the equation.
  • The need for speed in a mobile-first index world.

Why Site Speed Matters

Throughout the years, Google has implemented a host of recommendations and tools to help website owners make their sites faster. These guidelines and tools support the core of our services as a mobile SEO agency.

After all, fast sites are good for the end user. And Google wants to feature in its results those websites that offer a good user experience.

No matter how you slice it, the message from Google is clear: faster is better.

In fact, in late 2016, Google rep John Mueller said to keep page load time under three seconds.

Back in 2010, Google said site speed would be a factor in its ranking algorithm, albeit a lightweight signal.

In its announcement, Google explained why site speed matters:

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.

Notice that last sentence: “We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.”

If every website that shows up for a particular query has about the same average page load time (even if that happens to be on the slower side), your website will be considered normal.

However, if your website’s page load times are much slower than the average, you’re at a disadvantage.

Former Googler Matt Cutts mentioned back in 2013 that when all other things are equal, page speed can factor into rankings.

For example, if I do a search and all the relevant web pages load are between 1.5 and 2.5 seconds, Google isn’t going to use site speed as a factor for ranking.

But, if there’s a web page that takes 12 seconds to load, it’d probably see a demotion in rankings. You have to be average compared to the performance of every other web page for that query.

So the question is actually: Is faster an advantage or is slower a disadvantage? I think the latter.

Google’s no stranger to giving mixed signals, though. Remember that tweet from John Mueller? Well, here’s another tweet from Google’s Gary Illyes that mentions not to worry “too much” about page load time:

The bottom line is that you should care if you have very slow page load times.

And, you should try to meet Google’s recommendations if you can, making sure pages load within just a few seconds.

How Mobile Browsing Matters to Site Speed

Now let’s talk about how site speed manifests in various scenarios.

Mueller recommended a three-second ceiling for HTTP page load speed. But when it comes to mobile, Google’s official stance here is to have above-the-fold content render in one second or less, so that the user can “begin interacting with the page as soon as possible.”

And, in the coming months, it’s possible this will factor into mobile rankings in Google’s mobile-first index.

This is significant for site speed optimization because with the mobile-first index, Google bases its rankings on the mobile version of your website.

You can test the load times of your pages with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Here, Google explains the need for above-fold-content that is immediately usable:

PageSpeed Insights measures how the page can improve its performance on:

  • time to above-the-fold load: Elapsed time from the moment a user requests a new page and to the moment the above-the-fold content is rendered by the browser.
  • time to full page load: Elapsed time from the moment a user requests a new page to the moment the page is fully rendered by the browser.

Here’s an example of the types of issues that can improve load times as reported by the PageSpeed Insights test:

Click to enlarge.

One of the things we’ve discovered is that the results of a PageSpeed Insights test changes over time, and lately it has been very much biased by image load times.

Apparently, a lot of website publishers have gotten their overall page load time to be fast, but their images do not load quickly.

In order to make mobile page load time faster, image compression will be an area of focus. Determining whether an image is even needed may be one of the next things you have to decide in prioritizing efforts of your mobile SEO strategy.

In new research published by Google, the key recommendation is to keep the average request count (the number of individual pieces of content needed to display the entire page) below 50.

The Need for Speed in the Mobile-First Index

It’s worth noting how the practice of reducing content for mobile speed optimization may impact your rankings in this new mobile-first index world.

What is currently being served as your mobile site is what Google would consider for indexing and ranking in its mobile-first index. If the mobile version of your site only displays a portion of all available content, then Google will only consider that part in its ranking calculations (and not any additional resources available in the desktop version of a site).

If a site has a responsive design configuration, as Google recommends, everything on both the desktop version and the mobile version should be accounted for by Google, right?

Not exactly. In responsive design, you tell the site not to display blocks of text or certain images in a mobile device.

Traditionally, Google would index the desktop version of your site. Whatever the desktop image was, that’s what Google would index and use to rank. Whatever the desktop content was, that’s what Google would index and use to rank.

Then, when a person loaded that page on a mobile device, at that point, you could control what was displayed. However, the index was based on the full desktop version of the content. Responsive design just decided what was displayed or not for a mobile or tablet device.

Now Google is moving to a mobile-first index. So if the mobile version of your site is not displaying certain content or images, Google will no longer consider it in ranking and indexing.

For example, on your desktop site in your footer, you might have 50 links. But in the mobile version, you don’t want to clutter it up so you only display 10. When Googlebot crawls your page, it’s not going to count 50 links, it’ll only consider the 10.

As another example, consider the way people have approached mobile performance in the past — by cutting parts off of their page, like images or content. If that’s your approach for the mobile experience, you need to understand you’re cutting out content that may be helping you rank.

So, what do I recommend?

You do want to create a fast experience when mobile users come to the site — that’s still important. But you have to balance the content you need to rank with the mobile experience.

Design your website around the mobile experience to start.

Only display content that is worthy of being displayed on a mobile device, even on your desktop pages. It may require you to have more web pages with less content, because that 2,000-word page may not be mobile friendly.

And when it comes to speed, website publishers may cut out images because loading a particular image on a mobile device takes too long. These common activities geared towards increasing your page load times may actually cause the content to no longer be indexed in a mobile-first world.

Weighing the Option of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)

This brings us to Google’s latest project geared towards speed: AMP.

We cover AMP in detail in our guide here.

AMP is an open-source project that effectively helps website publishers create faster mobile experiences via specific configurations that:

  • Pre-render website content while limiting the use of JavaScript that publisher sites can use.
  • Caches content so Google doesn’t have to fetch page content from the publisher’s server.

Google has said AMP won’t impact rankings, but with all the signs that faster is better in mobile, I wouldn’t rule out AMP’s ability to load pages faster as a way they might inherently rank better.

Keep in mind that AMP is not an easy thing to implement on a website, and the specifications for AMP are reportedly changing often. As the program expands into more and more potential types of websites (remember, it started out with just news sites and expanded from there), Google is constantly having to make compromises.

And then, of course, there is a cost to develop in AMP. You are going to need to actually change your site to support it. There are also ongoing costs as AMP specs change, because you need to update pages. Then there’s the risk that Google will abandon AMP or come up with a different system such as making your website behave more like a mobile application.

Choose your AMP pages wisely.

Beating Your Competition to the Finish Line

If you want to compete online in 2017, your website has to be fast.

The message from Google is that speed counts. But there are many ways to achieve speed.

This requires you to weigh the costs and benefits of mobile configurations, including responsive, AMP and more.

All the while, keeping in mind that changes you make to your mobile site can and will impact your rankings in a mobile-first world.

Let us help you drive and track traffic to your website with a mobile SEO strategy. BCI’s services are tailor-made to match your business goals and audience. Let’s talk more about growing revenue through mobile-friendly SEO.

March 6th 2017 SEO

Top SEO Plugins For Any WordPress Website

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Search engines such as Yahoo, Bing, and Google are a major source of traffic for a lot of websites. That’s the reason most people ask for tips and plugins that can help them boost SEO of their WordPress websites.

If you are looking to increase your search engine rankings, you will need to use some of the best WordPress SEO plugins. Fortunately, there are a plethora of SEO plugins to help you get that higher search traffic that you are dying to achieve. In this guide, we shall share with you some of the best SEO plugins that will improve SEO of your WordPress website.

1. WordPress SEO by Yoast

WordPress SEO by Yoast

Yoast SEO is the most popular and wholistic SEO plugin on WordPress. To date, it has more than 4.5 million downloads with an average rating of 4.7-star over five from 1,418 users. Developed by SEO specialist Joost de Valk, this plugin has features that ensure optimal success for your site when it comes to SEO. The plugin is used by some of the most famous online magazines and websites such as the next web, Mashable, and others.

WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin can assign keywords to a blog post so that the user can focus on using it in the entire content. It also has a snippet view where users can see how their post will look like in search results.

Another important feature of this plugin is the Page Analysis. Powered by Linkdex, this feature allows users to check whether all the keywords, meta description, images and post title or subheadings are in place. The list of features for Yoast SEO is extremely long, check out others here.

2. All In One SEO Pack

With more than a million active users, All in One SEO pack is one of the most advanced SEO plugin built for online business, eCommerce, bloggers, and magazines. This plugin has a rating of 4.5 out of 5. Developed by Michael Torbert, this plugin gives you all the features which you may need to build an SEO friendly website using WordPress platform.

While its features are similar with Yoast, this plugin prides itself as the only plugin that integrates with eCommerce websites. It is perfect for everyone with little knowledge of SEO or rarely cares to perform on page optimization. It can automatically generate meta tags and optimize titles for better search ranking.

The best thing about All in One SEO pack is that it lets you optimize your site for search engine without much tweaking. In other words, the default installation is good enough to serve. But as you interact more with the plugin, you can play with the settings as per your requirement.

3. Broken Link Checker

Broken Link Checker

A broken link is a horrible nightmare for bloggers or SEO enthusiasts. Having broken links will earn your site a bad reputation with Google. Eventually, that reputation will degrade your search engine rankings to the point that you may no longer be regarded an authority in your industry. Google is trying so hard to better web experience for everyone. So they will not direct users to websites with broken pages.

This is where tools, such as the Broken Link Checker come in. The name speaks for itself; this plugin allows you to check for any broken links and missing images. If there is any, it will alert you and give you the option to customize the link(s) either by deleting it completely or by placing the correct one.

Here is a summary of its features:

• Ability to detect links that don’t work
• Option to deter search engines from following broken links
• Monitors links in pages, comments, posts and even custom fields
• Option to change broken links

4. SEOPressor

This is among the most powerful WordPress SEO plugins ever built. SEOPressor covers every possible aspect of SEO and puts the same attention to all of it. It offers you a number of useful features which help you optimize your images, blog posts and your site for social media.

This plugin has a built-in keyword research tool that helps you to find long tail keywords. It also allows you to use its drag and drop function to place the keyword into your content with a click of a mouse. With this feature, you won’t have to spend so much time conducting keyword research on other tools or services.

After posting your content, this plugin goes ahead to analyze your post and give you a score based on the analysis. In the analysis, it checks your H1, H2, H3 tags. SEOPressor also comes with a reliable internal linking feature. This feature makes your work easier since each time you re-publish content the phrases you linked on the first content will be hyperlinked automatically.

Wrapping up

These are some of the top WordPress SEO plugins. Tell us which one is your favorite among the ones discussed here. If there is any plugin that you feel we should include in this guide, please let us know in the comments section.

The post Top SEO Plugins For Any WordPress Website appeared first on SEO Chat.

March 1st 2017 Keywords, SEO

7 Search Marketing Trends for 2017 from Bruce Clay’s SEO Master Class in India

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7 Search Marketing Trends for 2017 from Bruce Clay’s SEO Master Class in India was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Quote of the day: “Don’t be surprised by the results you don’t get for the work you don’t do.”

free download 7 seo trends in india

Click the image to download this post by Bruce Clay India Managing Director Siddharth Lal.

Feb. 6, 2017, was a bright and buzzing day at the iconic Le Meridien Hotel in Gurgaon, India’s Millennium City. Seventy-five digital marketers (including a few SEO fanatics) came from all parts of India to attend SEO author and industry thought-leader Bruce Clay’s one-day SEO master class.

Indian brands are finally waking up to the long-term benefits of a solid SEO strategy. With every passing year, Bruce Clay India continues to run bigger classes.

attendees of SEO training in India

The SEO master class of 2017 at Le Meridien Hotel, Gurgaon

SEO companies in India have mushroomed up all over the place. But ethical, knowledge-based SEO – offering an authoritative glimpse into the mind of a search engine and how it works – remains elusive.

Enter Bruce Clay, a veteran SEO since before the launch of Google.

Below are the key takeaways from the high-powered master class of tips, tricks, best practices and methodologies.

Download 7 key takeaways from Bruce Clay’s SEO training in India, 2017

1. Mobile-First Indexing

2017 will be the year of mobile-first because that’s where the market is headed. Google is planning to use the mobile (rather than desktop) version of a website in their primary index used to rank results.

If the mobile version of your website isn’t displaying all the content that you normally display on your desktop site, be aware that your website will run into problems.

Did you know that Google has only one index for both mobile and desktop sites — despite reports to the contrary?

2. Voice Search

With the exponential rise in the use of mobile devices and AI-based digital assistants like Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana, voice search is poised to become the next frontier for digital marketers. comScore predicts that by 2020 more than half of all searches will come from voice search.

Voice search is going to have a huge impact on the future of SEO. Start thinking of strategies that target voice searchers – including natural language keyword phrases people will most likely be using when searching for the types of products or services you sell.

wide-angle interior of Bruce Clay India SEO class

The ability to ask questions of an SEO expert is one of the unique advantages of the classroom.

3. Theme

It’s no secret that search engines award top rankings to the website that they see as most relevant to the theme or subject of a user query. The primary goal of SEO is to make a website such that it’s about themes that best match certain keywords – and not just a collection of targeted keyword phrases containing unrelated information without a central theme.

If you have a single page on a theme compared to 10 pages of useful information on that same theme by your competitors, chances are that your competitor’s website will answer a user’s query more satisfactorily. Thus Google will reward them with rankings. The takeaway for a digital marketer is to expand the depth and breadth of content on your themes.

4. Siloed Site Architecture

Siloing refers to grouping keyword-based theme pages together – either structurally or via linking – much like the chapters of a book. It has become one of the most significant architectural concepts in digital marketing. It enables you to construct a website that aligns with the way users search. When done right, it positions you as a subject matter expert in the eyes of search engines.

Strategically architecting your website by ensuring your most important themes get the highest visibility allows you to deliver higher rankings for major keywords that matter. There are two ways to silo a website, physical siloing (directory structure) and virtual siloing (internal linking). Siloing isn’t a new concept to SEO but it is a critical one that can drive meaningful results immediately.

example of siloing hierarchy with power tools

5. RankBrain – A Top Search Ranking Factor

RankBrain helps provide more relevant and helpful results to user search queries using artificial intelligence (AI). Pulling up the most appropriate results is what keeps Google in business – and RankBrain helps the search engine do just that.

Google has publicly acknowledged that RankBrain is among the engine’s top-three ranking factors, alongside content and links. With that kind of weight, marketers must make strategic adjustments along the lines of higher quality content.

As RankBrain continues to get better, content quality will be in increasingly high demand. RankBrain’s strength is in serving results for long-tail queries. Stop words are normally dropped from queries but RankBrain understands the conversational manner of search and give results accordingly.

Download 7 Key Takeaways for SEO in India in 2017

6. Local Search

Claiming your business online by listing it in local search directories and listing services – such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yellow Pages – shows that you exist, and builds trust and visibility for your brand. So identify high-quality local and vertical directories, and claim your presence!

Also ensure your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is identical across all listings and directories. It’s one of the most important local search ranking factors, so you won’t want to get this one wrong. For example, each local directory that accepts a listing might have a different requirement in terms of the “name” field (think character length), and you may end up entering different business names. Do not fall into this trap, instead ensure your company name is the exact same every time.

Make sure you optimize your landing pages for local search by following SEO best practices, such as listing your business address, phone number, business hours and services offered on your home page, with a map and directions to your business, as well as prominent landmarks in your area.

Do not forget to add schema markup for local business and be sure it matches your NAP details.

interior of SEO training in India

Shhh … SEO class in progress!

7. Frequently Asked SEO Questions Answered

One of the benefits you can only get from an in-person, classroom style SEO workshop is the ability to ask questions and get answers from an unmatched expert like Bruce. Here are some of the highlights gleaned from attendees asking questions.

Q: Does domain age matter?

A: We believe if a domain is above six years of age, it can add some extra authority to your website. A legacy domain (pre-Google) might also deliver some additional value.

Q: What’s more important – the quality of a blog post or the quantity?

A: The quality of the blog post matters the most. One of the measures of quality is the number of engagements it gets – signs of popularity such as comments, social media shares and backlinks.

Q: What’s the difference between a newsletter and a blog post?

A: A blog is a theme-focused series of writings and media published to a website. A newsletter is a collection of information, such as upcoming events and organization updates, commonly distributed to subscribers by email.

Note: BCI recently stopped publishing its newsletter in favour of weekly blog posts.

Q: How many hyphens can a domain name have before it is considered spam?

A: We believe more than two hyphens in a domain name will raise a red flag.

At the end of the day, minds were racing with all the strategies that could be implemented to improve rankings. Every year we collect inspiring testimonials about the value of the SEO master class in India and the transfer of advanced SEO concepts. Here are some comments that we received about this year’s master class:

“It’s the most comprehensive SEO course I have attended.”

– Gaurav Gaba, CEO Amaugerwatch.com

“Insights into the ranking algorithm and details of each ranking factor (made for) a great course. I believe it will be very beneficial once I will start implementing the recommendations from this course.”

– Nikhil Jogimahanti, Manager, Oyo Rooms

Download 7 Key Takeaways for SEO in India in 2017

If you are looking for a strategic partner in India to execute top-tier SEO solutions for your organization, please contact us to talk about how we can help you.

February 28th 2017 SEO, SEO Training

Patent Reveals Insight into How Google Generates Answer Boxes via Content Scores

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Patent Reveals Insight into How Google Generates Answer Boxes via Content Scores was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Optimizing a page in hopes of capturing an answer box is a trending SEO specialty. A newly filed patent suggests insights into how Google approaches answer boxes. (Thanks to Google patent expert Bill Slawski for surfacing the document.)

The U.S. patent application filed by Google on Jan. 12 gives search marketers a look into the search engine’s plans for answer boxes. The patent application titled “Generating Elements of Answer-Seeking Queries and Elements of Answers” covers a lot of technical ground. For digital marketers engaged in SEO for answer boxes, two key insights and one question emerge:

  1. Content will receive a score, and the content with the highest score earns the answer box.
  2. Search queries will not need to use question words to generate an answer box.
  3. Could answer boxes be comprised from multiple sources?

Read on to discover more about each of these coming developments.


What is an answer box? Answer boxes are direct answers to queries that appear above the search results. Answer boxes are displayed for queries that Google algorithmically determines are “answer-seeking.” The content inside an answer box is pulled from one of the top ten results on a  search engine results page (SERP) and appears in a light grey box at the top of the SERP. Why does this matter? “Ranking zero” with an answer box can drive more traffic to your site than a No. 1 ranking.

Here’s how Google describes the process of displaying an answer box, straight from the patent: “When the search system receives a query having elements that are characteristic of an answer-seeking query, the search system can identify a corresponding answer that has characteristic elements of an answer to an answer-seeking query. The search system can then generate a presentation that prominently displays an answer to the answer-seeking query.”

Answer boxes are sometimes referred to as featured snippets, direct answers, and zero rankings, among other terms.


Answer Box Scores

The patent outlines the process of generating the answer box, and includes this step:

“(Compute) a respective score for each of one or more passages of text occurring in each document identified by the search results, wherein the score for each passage of text is based on how many of the one or more answer types match the passage of text.”

Earlier in the patent, an answer type was defined as “a group of answer elements that collectively represent the characteristics of a proper answer to an answer-seeking query.”

What does this mean for digital marketers optimizing content for answer boxes? The patent begs the question: does content with more answer types win the answer box?

For example, if Page A has a chart, two respective text paragraphs, an image and a bullet list that all qualify as answer elements, does that page receive a higher score than Page B that has text paragraphs alone? Even if the text of Page B have higher scores than the text paragraphs in Page A?

In other words, does a page with more answer types fare better than a page with equal or greater relevance of content and a single answer type? Based on the patent alone, this seems to be a logical conclusion.

When it comes to optimizing for answer boxes, then, the new content publishing process involves production of multiple answer types to answer the targeted question.

The patent goes on to state that all scores must meet a threshold to be considered for inclusion in an answer box, indicating that even if your content is the best of the possible answer boxes, it still must reach a certain level of quality to be considered.

Search Queries Will Be Identified as Answer-Seeking without Use of Question Words

No need for the searcher to include “who,” “what,” “when,” “were,” “how” or “why” in a query to trigger an answer box. Google wants to identify queries as “answer-seeking” regardless of inclusion of question words. Here’s what Google had to say, straight from the patent (emphasis ours):

“A search system may consider a query to be an answer-seeking query because its terms match a predetermined question type. However, the query need not be expressed in the form of a question, and the query need not include a question word, e.g., ‘how,’ ‘why,’ etc.’

Google provides this example of how it should work:

Figure 1 from Google patent application “Generating Elements of Answer-Seeking Queries and Elements of Answers.” This figure shows how queries need not include question words to be classified as “answer-seeking.” As the patent states, “In this example, the search system provides the answer box in response to the query even though the query is not phrased as a question and even though the query does not include a question word.”

Google also notes: “In this example the answer box is identified as a good answer to the query even though the answer does not include the term ‘cooking,’ which occurred in the query and even though the answer does not occur in a document referenced by a highest-ranked search result. Rather, the answer in the answer box is identified as a good answer because the search system has determined that the question type matching the query is often associated with an answer type that matches text of the document referenced by the search result.”

That’s another key insight: Your content does not have to rank No. 1 to earn the answer box. That’s something answer box researchers already knew, but it’s always good to have statements directly from Google that support the current understanding how the search engine is working.

While you do not have to rank No. 1, you do need to rank in the top ten results. Our own research at Bruce Clay, Inc., as well as research by other SEO agencies, points to the fact that you must be in the top ten if you want a chance to rank zero.

Could Answer Boxes Be Comprised from Multiple Sources?

The patent explains that after “determining that the one or more passages of text have respective scores that satisfy a threshold” the search engine will select “one or more passages of text having respective scores that satisfy the threshold for inclusion in the presentation.”

Let’s say Page A has the highest scoring paragraph for a query. Page B has the highest scoring image that answers that same query. Page C has the highest scoring table, and Page D has the highest scoring video. Is there any reason that, in the future, answer boxes could be comprised from multiple web pages? In reading the patent, we don’t see any reason why not; Google’s statement that “one or more passages of text” will be included does not describe those passages as being on the same page.

What Next Steps Should SEOs Take When Optimizing for Answer Boxes?

Given that the document is a patent application, we can’t take the statements in it to be fact. There is a good chance, of course, that answer box scores will become a reality. In fact, they could already be a reality or in beta at this moment. This patent application, nonetheless, provides valuable insight into how Google is thinking about answer boxes and what answer boxes might look like in the future.

As digital marketers, we always seek to stay several steps ahead — anticipating the coming algorithm and search feature changes so that we’re prepared when they happen. Patent applications take us behind the Google curtain and can help us understand what’s down the pike.


Want more ways to stay ahead of the search curve? If you’re obsessed with winning at web traffic, you don’t want to miss Bruce Clay’s Advanced SEO Workshop at Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West in San Jose on March 20.

This full day of master SEO training will equip you with cutting-edge SEO techniques. Bruce will tackle answer boxes, RankBrain, voice search, AMP and more. Learn how to help raise your rankings and visibility in search engines. Save 10% with our exclusive discount code: BRUCECLAYSMXW17.

February 23rd 2017 SEO

The QuickStart Guide to Using Google Search Console to Increase SEO Visibility

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There are many powerful SEO tools in today’s marketing world. Most SEO tools can be highly beneficial, but often come with a cost associated with it. However, there are some tools that smart marketers can leverage to assist with the variety of tasks needed on a given day.

One tool that smart marketers can leverage for SEO is Google Search Console. This free tool provided by Google is a great way to gain insights about your site in one main platform. Google Search Console is often underutilized by search marketing teams. To help you get the most benefit from Google Search Console, we outlined the four main areas within the tool to help you reach your search marketing objectives. Before we get into the four main areas within Google Search Console, let’s discuss what the tool even is.

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a free web-based SEO tool for webmasters to track both the indexing and crawling stats from Googlebot while also providing metrics to help optimize a website for organic visibility. This SEO tool is useful to monitor metrics and discover new insights to help increase your organic footprint.

Google states that anyone with a website should use Google Search Console. One great thing about Google Search Console is that it is easy to use for whoever has access to the property.

Google Search Console Setup and Verification

The first step to using Google Search Console is the setup and verification process. You will want to create a Google Search Console property for each version of your site including:

  • http://example.com
  • http://www.example.com
  • https://example.com
  • https://www.example.com
  • Any other subdomains

You will get the complete view by setting up all the versions of your domain. Besides setting up properties for each version, you can also setup properties for an individual subfolder on your site. By setting up a property for a subfolder, you will be able to see metrics for a specific section of your site, which can be beneficial for large sites.

 

After you created your property, you will need to verify the site. There are multiple ways to verify your property within Google Search Console, including:

  • HTML file upload – Upload an HTML file to your site
  • HTML tag – Add a meta tag to your site’s home page
  • Domain name provider – Sign in to your domain name provider
  • Google Analytics – Use your Google Analytics account
  • Google Tag Manager – Use your Google Tag Manager account

We recommend the verification method that would be the easiest and most efficient for your site. The most common verification methods we recommend are either via Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager. Otherwise, we typically recommend adding the HMTL tag to the site’s header.

Search Appearance

One of the first main sections of Google Search Console is the “Search Appearance” section. This section is important for webmasters to understand how their website is currently setup and how it may potentially show up on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Within the search appearance section is information regarding structured markup, rich cards, HTML improvements (metadata information), and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) setup.

 

Each area within this section is important to track monthly, but the HTML improvements area provides insights that is helpful when optimizing a website. This area can surface insights regarding duplicate meta descriptions and title tags. It also states when content is non-indexable, which can make a significant difference when prioritizing your optimization efforts.

Search Traffic

The next section in Google Search Console is the “Search Traffic” section. This section provides insights regarding the keywords your site is showing up for, linking metrics from external and internal sources, any manual actions, international targeting metrics, and the mobile usability of your website.

Each area within the Search Traffic section is important, but the majority of your time will most likely be found analyzing the Search Analytics tab. The Search Analytics tab shows the keywords that your site is showing up for. You can break down the tab into multiple subsections between clicks, impressions, CTR, and position. If that isn’t enough for you already, you can then dive deeper into the metrics by individual pages, keywords, countries, devices (desktop, mobile, tablet), search type (web, images, videos), search appearance (AMP or rich snippets), and the date range (within 90 days).

The search analytics tab is a very powerful SEO tool. You can analyze your site for keyword opportunities on a page or a section of your site. You can also drill down into how your mobile keywords are performing compared to your desktop keywords. At TopRank Marketing, we use this tab to identify SEO strategies to help increase organic visibility by re-optimizing content that has multiple keywords ranking on the bottom of page one or the top of page two. We also use the tab to guide the creation of our content plans for different SEO campaigns.

The second tab you should spend more time on is the mobile usability tab. This tab outlines if your website is mobile friendly or not. It is important to stay on top of any mobile usability issues so that your site renders correctly for all types of devices, especially with Google moving to the mobile-first index.

Google Index

The third section in Google Search Console is the “Google Index” section. This section is useful to understand how many pages are included Google’s index and if there are any blocked resources on your site. The index status tab is useful when analyzing if Google is indexing all the pages you want included in the SERPs. It is good to check the pattern of the index status of your website so that the number of pages is growing consistently or not dropping off quickly randomly.

 

The blocked resources tab is a great way to easily identify if certain pages are blocked from Googlebot. Make sure you check this tab to optimize the crawling of the pages/resources that you want being crawled by Googlebot.

You can also remove URLs temporarily from the Google index with the remove URLs tab. This tab is useful when you need to remove a page quickly. As a note, the tab only removes the page temporarily (around 90 days) and you still will need to update your site to permanently remove the page.

Crawl

The last main section of Google Search Console is the “Crawl” section. This section provides smart marketers information regarding broken pages or files on the website, crawl stats from Googlebot, and URL parameter information. The section also provides tools to submit your content to Google, test your robots.txt file and submit your sitemap to Google.

The crawl errors tab is one of the more important areas within Google Search Console. This tab shows the URLs that might be broken from both internal and external sources. At TopRank Marketing, we often recommend implementing 301 redirects for the crawl errors that actually were pages at some point. It is important to audit the list to make sure you are not implementing redirects that are not needed.

Another useful tab is the sitemaps area, because you can submit your sitemap to Google to make it easier for your site to be crawled and indexed. Similarly, you can also submit individual pages to Google with the fetch as Google tool. The fetch as Google tool is a great way to get your updated content indexed quickly.

 

Use Google Search Console to Help Increase Your Organic Visibility

Google Search Console is a very powerful SEO tool for multiple reasons. We recommend using Google Search Console when running SEO campaigns to maximize your visibility and to plan the overall strategy. To increase your organic visibility for other search engines, make sure you use Bing Webmaster Tools as well to gain more insights.


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February 23rd 2017 Online Marketing, SEO

How to Hire an SEO – in Google’s Words

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How to Hire an SEO – in Google’s Words was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

As a digital marketing agency, we know a lot about the importance of SEO consulting. But it’s hard for us to tell you how to hire an SEO without sounding self-serving.

But when a search engine like Google gives that kind of advice? That’s a more unbiased source you can really listen to and learn from.

As it happens, there’s a new video on Google Webmaster Help’s YouTube channel called “How to hire an SEO,” and we think it’s excellent. So we’re putting it up on our blog to help it spread far and wide.

If you’re shopping for an SEO consultant, or even if you ARE one, this 11-minute video is a must-see.

“SEO is not black magic.”

Maile Ohye, a developer programs tech lead with Google, opens by myth-busting some ideas about search engine optimization — it’s not magic and it doesn’t work overnight.

If someone is promising you instant rankings as if by magic, look elsewhere! It’s critical to avoid a “bad” SEO — someone who produces no results or, worse, implements shady practices on your website that hurt your visibility in search.

For long-term success, there are no quick fixes that will immediately rocket your site to rank No. 1. A good SEO helps improve the site itself so it can put its best foot forward and rank appropriately.

An SEO’s potential is only as high as the quality of your business or website. –Maile Ohye

I’d like to have that engraved for our lobby.

“SEO looks to improve the entire searcher experience.”

The scope of optimizing a website — the SEO’s purview — is broad. It requires looking at the entire journey a searcher may take, from seeing and clicking your search result, to arriving at your website and potentially converting.

Accordingly, an SEO looks at straightforward improvements like writing descriptive tags all the way to complex issues such as implementing language tags for an international site. Along with increasing the organic traffic to the site, the SEO has to ensure that your site provides a good, helpful experience for visitors no matter what device they’re using.

How long will it take to see results from SEO?

Google says SEO takes 4-12 months

Four months to a year is a realistic estimate of how long it takes to reap results. Since many prospective clients expect to see results much faster, we’re so glad Google set the record straight.

With our own SEO services clients, we first lay the groundwork — analyzing the site, researching competitors, compiling an assessment and making initial recommendations. Then the timeline greatly depends on the client’s ability to implement. We work with the client’s in-house SEO or technical staff to help move the project along as we further refine and expand our recommendations.

Certain fixes can produce nearly instant results. For instance, if something is truly broken on the site, such as a robots.txt file that’s blocking the search engines, a correction can make an impact. However, in most cases, four months to a year sounds about right.

Get corroboration for recommendations.

Ohye’s “strongest advice” is to request that SEOs support their recommendations with a documented statement from Google. Ask to see an article, video or Googler response that includes the issue that needs to be improved and the approach being prescribed.

Oh, and never buy links for ranking purposes. Ever.

If your site has some “technical debt” (not being mobile friendly, or having an antiquated CMS, for example), you may need to invest in improving your infrastructure as part of your SEO project. If you’re a local business owner, you can get started bringing your local business online using this Google video series: https://goo.gl/I4giIX

In a majority of cases, doing what’s good for SEO is also doing what’s good for your online customers. –Maile Ohye

Steps in the SEO Hiring Process

Here’s what Google outlines as the “General SEO hiring process”:

General SEO hiring process

Step 1: Conduct a two-way interview

We can’t agree more that you want to find a consultant who’s sincerely interested in you, your business, your customers and your goals. After all, you want someone who feels like an extension of your team.

Ohye advises that if the person doesn’t show interest by asking exploratory questions (check the video for a suggested list), then don’t do business with them.

Step 2: Check references

Talk to past clients about their experience. Ask them how effectively the SEO worked with their various staff and vendors, and what kind of guidance he or she provided.

You want to hire someone who will help educate you, not just implement short-term solutions.

A good SEO should be someone you can work with, learn from, experiment with, and who genuinely cares about you and your business. –Maile Ohye

Step 3. Request an audit

For smaller businesses, Ohye suggests asking for “a prioritized list of what they think should be improved for SEO.”

For larger businesses, she suggests doing this with multiple SEO consulting candidates. Then, compare their audits. Here’s the audit structure Google recommends:

Audit structure per Google's 'How to Hire an SEO'

You’ll need to give the SEO restricted-view access to your Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts (not full or write access) so they’ll have the data needed to perform the audit. You should also let the consultant talk with your developers to understand any technical constraints.

Maile Ohye

Google’s very helpful Maile Ohye

Right up front, Ohye notes that you’ll probably have to pay for the audit. We agree.

This level of custom technical and search auditing requires a considerable amount of time spent by a trained, experienced SEO analyst. If a prospective consultant is offering you a “free audit,” more than likely he or she plans to just run your site through a tool to produce an automated report.

A good SEO will try to prioritize what ideas can bring your business the most improvement for the least investment, and what improvements may take more time, but help growth in the long term. –Maile Ohye

Step 4. Decide if you want to hire

When you’re ready to engage an SEO consultant, make sure your whole organization is on board. Without internal cooperation, you may not see any search improvements at all, no matter whom you hire.

One of the biggest holdups to improving a website isn’t [the SEO’s] recommendation, but it’s the business making time to implement their ideas. –Maile Ohye

Want to talk about your business and how SEO might help you? Fill out our request form and we’ll contact you.

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February 18th 2017 Google, SEO

Does Your Website Pass the Mobile Test?

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It is hard to argue that the adoption of mobile devices hasn’t exploded with popularity. Most searches are being performed on mobile devices, with more searches expected to continue on mobile.

Mobile is not only important for organic performance but for conversions from all types of traffic including email and paid channels. It is important to understand your mobile traffic to focus on the channels that convert the most on those devices. For some websites, mobile devices might bring in the majority of your traffic but the conversions might not be as high as desktop searches, because of less focus on the mobile experience.

Today, most websites are built with a responsive design to help make it mobile friendly, but that doesn’t mean marketers should stop there. Instead, marketers should optimize the entire mobile experience to enhance conversions and overall performance. To help you out, we built a list of actionable tips to make sure your site is mobile friendly from three categories: SEO for mobile devices, mobile content, and mobile conversions.

Mobile SEO Tactics

#1 – Choosing the right mobile website setup

When choosing your website setup, make sure you understand what mobile design you want. There are three main types of mobile sites including:

  • Responsive design
  • Dynamic site
  • Mobile only site (m.example.com)

Google recommends using a responsive design for your website to help make sure it is mobile friendly, but any option works when done correctly.

TopRank Marketing tip: Analyze your audience to understand what the best option is for your site. Not all sites need to have a responsive design, considering a mobile only site can be tailored to your mobile audience easier in some cases.

 

#2 – Test your site for mobile friendliness

There are multiple ways to test if your site is mobile friendly including the Google Usability Test, Google Search Console report, and Chrome Developer tools. Use multiple tools to be sure that your mobile site is rendering correctly instead of assuming that your site is mobile friendly.

TopRank Marketing tip: Use the Chrome Developer Tools to get a better idea of how your website looks like on certain devices by selecting the “inspect” element. Then in the bottom left-hand corner, select the button that looks like a mobile device (see below).

The screenshot below shows the look on a mobile device. You can choose between a responsive site by pixel size or actual mobile phones by selecting the drop down at the top of the screen.

 

#3 – Optimize your metadata

Mobile SERPs (search engine results page) have less real estate for organic listings than desktop SERPs. It is important to understand the search landscape and SERP space available to market yourself over your competitors.

TopRank Marketing tip: Keep your title tags shorter and more concise to avoid your title tags being cut off in the SERP. It is best practice to keep your title tags under, at least, 70 characters for your title tags.

 

#4 – Optimize for mobile keywords

Have you ever conducted a search with a “near me” signifier attached to it? Near me searches are increasing and doubled in 2015 for all types of users, but especially for mobile users. Mobile keywords can also include more voice queries that people conduct with their phones.

TopRank Marketing tip: Make sure you conduct keyword research for mobile users and target mobile keywords. The search intent of a keyword query can vary based on the device people use so optimizing for all types of keywords will help increase your visibility.

 

#5 – Content for mobile devices

There are multiple types of content that should be considered when creating content for mobile users and your audience. Most marketers are already considering the type of content to write for their website on the attract, engage, convert model, but there sometimes is a lack of focus on mobile consumption habits. Mobile consumption habits can change depending on the industry, so it is important to consider how your audience interacts with your website.

TopRank Marketing tip: If you are are sending email campaigns, consider your audience’s mobile consumption habits. Most emails are consumed on mobile devices (see below). Create all your content that you are promoting via your email or social media channels to be mobile friendly.

 

Image via: cdn.emailtoday.com

 

#6 – Geotargeting on your mobile app

If you have a larger audience that uses your mobile app, you might want to consider geotargeting the users when they are close to a storefront, event, or at a specific location. Geotargeting is a great way to encourage action from your audience when they are located in the right areas at the right time.

TopRank Marketing tip: Consider using different imagery and messaging for users in different locations when they are using your app or website. Also, consider sending notifications to mobile app users to entice action when they are at a physical location.

 

Mobile Content Creation

#1 – Consider the content length and types

Consider the length and type of content you are creating for your audience, both on mobile and desktop. As we already covered, there typically is a difference in search intent for users on mobile devices compared to desktop computers. With that in mind, you need to be customer-focused and analyze where your audience is within the funnel for your content assets.

TopRank Marketing tip: Develop audience personas to understand the way your audience searches online. Personas can be a powerful tool when creating content for your website.

 

#2 – Make sure to communicate the value quickly

It is important to communicate your value clearly and quickly to mobile users. Often, banners sometimes push the value proportion below the fold, which may increase the amount of bounces on the page and confuse users where they are on your website.

TopRank Marketing tip: Reduce the amount of unnecessary space or elements on your mobile device to only include what is needed. Less is often more when you are dealing with the limited amount of space on a mobile device.

 

#3 – App optimization

Mobile websites are a must for your online strategy, but apps can provide even a better user experience. Not all companies need to develop and create a mobile app, but for the ones that do, you need to optimize those experiences. Apps should be tailored to solving the user’s problem or creating an unique experience.

TopRank Marketing tip: Optimize your app for the user experience to solve your audience’s problem. After you create your app, make sure you optimize your App store listing to increase your visibility on other channels.

 

#4 – QR codes

QR codes are another solid tactic to add to the dedicated mobile experience. When used correctly, you can push users directly to a location easily with QR codes on psychical flyers or other traditional marketing materials.

TopRank Marketing tip: Test using QR codes on physical marketing materials to push people to a section online with their mobile phones that offers an experience dedicated to them.

 

#5 – SMS messaging

SMS messaging is a way to help you get in front of more of your audience via messaging apps. SMS messaging can be a powerful tool to send notifications to your audience that opted in to encourage specific actions or enhance customer experience.

TopRank Marketing tip: Make your messages personal to help encourage action. Also, make sure to include a clear CTA within the message to see the most value out of your campaign.

 

Mobile Conversions

#1 – Manually audit your layout on your responsive design

Your site might not be mobile friendly even though it might have a responsive design. A responsive site is typically better than a non-mobile site but sometimes issues can still arise. Some issues we typically see are videos not formatted to the correct screen size, the layout pushes the content below the fold, or the font size is too small.

There could be a vast majority of other issues with a responsive design, so make sure you optimize the layout of each page type.

TopRank Marketing tip: Look at what screen size is being utilized the most on your website within Google Analytics. Navigate in your Google Analytics dashboard to go to Audience ? Mobile ? Overview ? Screen Size to quickly analyze what screen size to optimize for first.

 

#2 – Consider your thumb reach

Make sure you consider the thumb reach to encourage action on your mobile design. Making your users reach and work out their thumb can create friction and a low-quality user experience.

TopRank Marketing tip: Make your CTAs within a thumbs reach to improve conversions. Also, consider using sticky headers to help mobile users navigate quickly through your site.

 

#3 – Site speed

Site speed has become more important as a ranking factor for search engines, and rightly so. A fast loading site helps provide a solid user experience and can help increase the crawl rate of the site by search engines. All marketers should be focusing on site speed as a priority item. Below are some tools to test your site speed:

TopRank Marketing tip: Test your mobile site with multiple different tools to get a holistic view on site speed aspects. Prioritize the site speed items to get the most ROI from the work instead of optimizing for every site speed item.

 

#4 – Image optimization

Similarly to site speed, optimizing images will help site speed and user experience. A responsive site often uses the same image that is not probably sized for each device screen.

TopRank Marketing tip: Use different image sizes that can be used at different viewports to pull in images that are the correct size for the device.

 

#5 – Form Optimization

Congratulations! Someone has decided to start filling out a form on your site. That is a great goal to accomplish, but nothing is more disappointing than losing that user after they choose to abandon the form. Optimizing your forms for mobile users is a great way to increase conversions.

TopRank Marketing tip: Adjust the type of the keyboard for mobile users to use the right one for the form fields. For example, use the keyword field to show numbers for phone number fields and a different keyboard for email fields.

 

Your Optimized Mobile Experience

Above are some actionable tactics that you might want to optimize for your mobile website. There are even more areas and opportunities to optimize on your mobile website than listed above. If you’d like to find out if your website passes the mobile test, contact us today to receive a mobile optimization audit.


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February 16th 2017 Online Marketing, SEO