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SEO has come a long way from being all about on-page optimization, building backlinks and creating “relevant” content. When I read popular search engine blogs, I notice a definite trend: SEO is moving toward a more inclusive strategy that goes beyond new ways of link building or content marketing.

A huge part of present-day SEO practices is brand building and influencing search queries themselves, as opposed to starting with a truckload of keywords and creating content around them. Therefore, while links, keywords, content and site optimization remain the building blocks of SEO, the columns on which the edifice is being built are taking on a different appearance. Let’s see what these pillars are.

1. RankBrain

Although RankBrain is the third most significant ranking factor in the Google algorithm, it is perhaps the most misunderstood one. The speculations and counter-speculations never seem to end.

Since RankBrain was one of the few algorithm updates that Google first revealed to a major news publication, it has caught and held onto the attention of the general tech-reading public, in addition to search engine marketers.

I personally believe Google’s admission that they fully don’t understand RankBrain. However, this doesn’t mask the fact that they’ve made great strides in using machine learning to entrust their prized search algorithm to it.

Additionally, we do have some idea about what RankBrain does not do. According to Gary Illyes and Andrey Lipattsev of Google, RankBrain does not act on your backlink profile, content quality or click-through rate. It only helps the algorithm interpret queries better and match them with relevant page content.

And since Google can do what it does best with less human intervention, industry leaders unanimously agreed that it will gain more significance. So it was no surprise when earlier this year, Jeff Dean revealed that RankBrain now processes every single Google search (that’s at least 63,000 a second) — up from barely 15 percent nine months before.

The future has already happened here.

But you cannot do anything about it: Gary Illyes said at SMX Advanced earlier this year that there isnothing one can do to optimize a website for RankBrain.

 

2. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

In February 2016, Google integrated results from its Accelerated Mobile Pages project into its search results in the form of a “Top Stories” carousel in mobile results. Six months later, Google started displaying links to AMP pages in the main organic search results.

Today, Google has 150 million indexed AMP documents in its index, and, encouraged by mainstream adoption outside the publishing industry (including eBay and Bing), has just announcedthat users searching from mobile devices will be directed to the relevant AMP pages even if an equivalent app page exists.

However, the average Google user hardly knows the significance of an AMP result yet. In aninformal survey conducted by Glenn Gabe, only three of 44 respondents could correctly identify what the AMP icon in the SERPs stood for. And they clearly prefer the “mobile-friendly” label over the cryptic “AMP” coupled with the lightning bolt.

 

AMP

This means Google’s decision is definitely in line with their aim of “bringing the mobile web on par with native apps and keeping Google relevant in the increasingly mobile-centric world we’re living in,” as we pointed out in an article on the E2M blog not long ago. AMP is here to stay (and become omnipresent), whether you like it or not.

3. The Knowledge Graph & rich answers

Google’s Knowledge Graph, which it launched in 2012, is its slow but sure attempt to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible,” in line with their mission. In a nutshell, it’s Google’s attempt at scraping — sorry, replicating — Wikipedia:

The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google to enhance its search engine’s search results with semantic-search information gathered from a wide variety of sources.

The “wide variety of sources” includes Wikidata (to which Google moved its Freebase data and actively contributes), Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook.

Typically, knowledge graph elements are in the form of boxes of structured information with links to authoritative sources of further information (not always, though). Common formats include theknowledge panel displayed on the right of a SERP and answer box, displayed on top of other organic results.

The number of queries that show ready answers in these formats continues to grow unabated, asongoing studies from Stone Temple Consulting have shown. Currently, around 40 percent of Google queries display “rich answers,” which include featured snippets, but not knowledge panels:

KnowledgeGraph

Brand managers and marketers are increasingly looking to control the impression, conversation and queries that people have about them. Moving forward, one of the most effective ways to do that would be to try to influence what Google knows and has to say about you. Here are a couple of approaches from Propecta and Kapost that involve defining and connecting entities with markup, editing Wikipedia, and yes, not abandoning Google Plus.

4. Real-time, integrated penalty filters

Now you see it, now you don’t. There it is! Oh, it isn’t. Google announced that they have finally updated Penguin (after what seemed like a never-ending wait of almost two years), noting that it is for the last time.

That’s because Penguin is now a real-time signal processed within Google’s search algorithm — data on your pages is refreshed every time Google re-crawls and re-indexes them.

A few months earlier, Google also integrated Panda into their main algorithm (though unlike Penguin, it does not update in real time).

Notice a pattern here? Google wants to make spam fighting a central, automated function of serving search results.

This is a very positive sign for website owners — cleaning up spammy backlinks and getting rid of poor-quality content will bring quick results. Marketers struggling to justify extra efforts to improve the quality of their websites will now be able to put their money where their mouth is.

 

Conclusion

It is clear that Google will focus on machine learning, understanding of semantics, connections and patterns and user experience in the future.

SEO at the moment is very closely tied to content marketing. While Google can interpret content and derive its relevance to search queries with a very high degree of success, it is constantly focused on making refinements to improve how timely, contextual and useful this content is to the searcher. The Knowledge Graph, rich answers, RankBrain and AMP all serve this purpose, while integrated penalties maintain the quality of results.

I see bright days ahead for SEO. Discuss with me on Twitter how these factors will pan out in the next few months.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Original source of this article is Search Engine Land

Categorized in Research Methods

When I woke up this morning, one of the first things I did was open up Evernote and start to write. (After I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and brewed my green tea, of course.)

I don’t wake up every morning and think carefully about what I’m going to write. I just do it. It’s ingrained into my morning routine.

In 2013, I read Leo Babauta’s Zen Habit piece about writing every day. He inspired me. So, every day for the past three years, I’ve been waking up at 4:00 am with the same routine. My laptop is always in the right place, I always spend the same amount of time writing each morning, and I never have to think about it.

Habits influence our actions and behaviors. Building positive work habits as a freelancer gives me the freedom to perform the work I need to be doing, without it feeling like it’s a job.

There are a lot of things outside of this list below I know I should be doing, but I’m not. Yet. If you’re an SEO freelancer, please feel free to share insights into your work habits at the bottom. I’d love to hear from you!

As an SEO freelancer, my day isn’t just about building backlinks, curating content, and a kick-ass schedule as most might like to believe. I have fallen into the stigma of becoming accustomed to infinite daytime TV, sweatpants, and finally (drum roll, please) being my own boss. In a time where outsourcing is a “thing,” I realized early on in my career that there’s never been a better time to my make own rules for my dream 9-to-5. But, as with any change, I had to learn new habits.

Earlier this year, SEJ posted a Marketing Nerds podcast about making the leap from full-time to freelancing; today expanding on that topic and I’m talking all about the habits of us seasoned side hustlers and full-time grinders of freelance SEO.

From the 2:00 pm afternoon naps to the 2:00 am client calls, these habits I’ve developed go way beyond the basics of performing keyword research or managing client meetings. Maintaining my routine often feels like a third job, but I make it work. Here’s the skinny on the habits I’ve created and what it takes to make it as an SEO freelancer. Get ready: the full American dream ahead.

Why is it Important to Hire a Good SEO Freelancer?

Today, you’ll see many companies on Indeed hiring for an SEO Manager.

SEO has seen incredible growth over the past couple of years. Conductorreported double-digit growth in salaries from 2012 to 2015 in the top U.S. cities. And while there are many positions available for in-house SEO Managers, there are many of us SEO marketers making a career in SEO by flying solo. With the changing role of SEO, it’s important to evolve your skill set to maintain the status of a good SEO freelancer. Today’s SEO freelancers will pride themselves on these skills:

  1. Build and manage an editorial calendar that attracts an audience
  2. Grow new leads with landing pages and lead generating content
  3. Manage technical on-page SEO in collaboration with developers
  4. Create goals for clickthrough rates, conversions, and traffic
  5. Connect with influential bloggers, journalists, and users to build brand
  6. Run experiments to optimize website

 

And there is so much more.

If you think about SEO, it isn’t something you can teach someone like your ABC’s. It’s a skill that is learned and developed over time after you’re able to work through real-life website problems.

So what habits do you need to develop to become a more efficient SEO freelancer?

Below I share my daily habits — budding SEO techies, you’ll want to take notes.

1. Pants are Optional

This may sound like a silly habit to develop, but it’s one of my personal favorites. As any SEO freelancer that’s been doing it for a while will tell you, invest in a pair of comfy, yet classy sweatpants. No, I’m not talking about your faded high school JV soccer sweats with holes in the pockets. I’m talking Lululemon, Under Armour, Adidas, whatever makes you feel, as Demi Lovato would say, “Confident.”

While it can be tough to overcome the temptation of working on a disavow file in your jammies all day, researchers say that wearing formal clothing can enhance abstract cognitive processing. But, Melissa Gonzalez, founder, and CEO of Lion’esque Group a retail firm in Chelsea, New York believes otherwise. She told the New York Post “Being comfortable keeps my energy more open to idea generation.”

So, how do I battle this debate?

I show up to my desk every day with a business button-down on top and a party pair of sweatpants on the bottom. And, to all the sweatpant-doubters and believers in “clothes make the man (or woman),” I answer with this: It’s the “sweat” in “sweatpants” that helps me grind out the long hours and weekends at my computer for another free SEO analysis or a new client proposal. I am dressing for the job I want.

How to start this habit:

  1. Brush your teeth, wash your face, take a shower, whatever!
  2. Change out of your pajamas and into your sweatpants.
  3. Begin your day!

 

2. Stalk Data Every Day

Before I shut off my computer for the day, I login into Google Analytics for each of my clients and annotate any events that happened that day. I do this every day. Doing this helps me to remember if an email newsletter launched or a social media contest kicked-off. It gives me a day-by-day snapshot of the different marketing events going on, which may be useful down on the line if I see a spike in traffic.

I’ll also take a look at my numbers to make sure we’re moving along nicely. For instance, I’ll take a quick dive into real-time traffic to make sure Google Analytics is firing on the website. I’ll also take a look a bounce rate to see if users are pogo sticking.

By documenting the evolution of traffic growth or decline, I’m able to make my monthly client meetings a lot more interesting and insightful. This also helps when I’m putting together case studies for my website.

How to start this habit:

  1. Set-up daily reports for each of your clients to be emailed to you every day.
  2. Set-up dashboards in Google Analytics to easily access what you need.
  3. Create alerts if your data drops or rises below a certain number or percentage.

3. Audit Weekly

Every month, I share reports with my clients about their overall website health status. From organic traffic conversions to new backlinks, we talk about everything that’s happening on their website for SEO purposes. To better serve my clients, I started auditing my work weekly. I use TogglTrello, and Google Calendar as my time tracking apps. I color code meetings, research, writing, building backlinks, etc. At the end of each week, I review the time I spent on each client and compared to the work I’ve done. I’ll also associate the work I’ve done to their analytics.

(Editor note: This concept is also something covered in our latest book club pick.)

Not to my surprise, the majority of my time is spent in meetings and responding to client meetings. If you’re a solo freelancer, like me, this is a habit you’ll want to break. It will eat away at your time and clients will wonder why you haven’t spent any time doing actual work.

 

How to start this habit:

  1. Block out an hour every Friday or Monday (whatever works best for you.)
  2. Write down your goals for that client every week.
  3. Use a tool to set-up a crawl of your client’s site weekly. I use Screaming Frog or SEMRush.
  4. Head over to Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and Bing Webmaster Tools to make sure there is nothing out of the ordinary.
  5. Go through my Google Alerts emails for that client to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
  6. Once the crawl is finished, complete one or two things on your goal list from the crawl test.

4. Look Beyond the Obvious Competitors

When looking at competitors for my clients, I don’t restrict myself to looking at competitors in the same vertical. It’s important for me to keep an open mind and remember that competitors come in many different forms.

For example, a client of mine, PetYen, is a pet care search engine who would obviously be in competition with Rover.com and Petfinder. But, they are also in competition with Angie’s List, Airbnb, and Uber. I’m inspired by different aspects of each.

After all, competitive research is about learning what sites do good and bad. The more variety I have in that, the more I have to offer my clients.

How to start this habit:

  1. Start small. Pick one competitor per month to research.
  2. Choose a clear competitor at the start of the month.
  3. Use Moz or Ahrefs to analyze their backlinks and on-page SEO.
  4. Make notes on what strategies inspire you.
  5. Next month, pick a random company that you think is doing SEO really well to analyze. See where it takes you.

 

5. Know Your Worth

When I started freelancing almost six years ago, I was making $10.00 an hour. I had six months of experience at an advertising agency and about 30 years of student loan debt ahead of me. Freelancing was my extra source of income that was going to pay down my student loans.

As my knowledge started to grow with every new conference, class, or client, I kept charging the same price. I didn’t know my worth. Agencies would outsource work to me from Fortune 500 companies, and I was still charging $10.00 an hour. I wasn’t getting paid what I was worth.

freelance seo quote 2

I changed my pricing structure from per hour to per project. By changing my price structure, I changed my entire life.

Knowing how much my time is worth changed EVERYTHING.  

For example, the first month a client and I start working together; I’ll perform a competitor analysis. Typically, the client shares 2 to 3 competitors they want to analyze from an SEO perspective. If I charge $25.00 per hour, and it took me 2 hours to complete the research that’s $50.00. But, if the competitors don’t offer value in tracking from an SEO point-of-view, then I spend time researching competitors that do. This adds another two hours that I’m not getting paid for.

As a human, it’s in my DNA to want something bigger, better, stronger, and faster. But don’t fall into the trap of achieving money nirvana overnight. You don’t need to charge $25.00 an hour, then spike up to $100.00 an hour. This total overhaul of my pricing structure took time, not only for clients but my behavior as well.

How to start this habit:

  1. Figure out what your costs are every month. How much is your electricity bill? Water bill? Groceries? Etc.
  2. Calculate how much you need to make per hour to pay all your bills.
  3. Don’t forget to subtract 30% tax if you’re a W-9 at the end of the year. For example, if you make $1000 per month, you’ll want to save $300 for taxes. Ask yourself: Can I pay my bills with $700?
  4. Every new client you get, up your prices by $5 or $10 to get to a spot where you feel comfortable.

6. Baller at Budgeting

It might feel like you’re on a rollercoaster ride, but, reality is, SEO freelancers spend the majority of their time organizing invoices and expenses. For some of us, it’s categorizing our expenses into write-offs, while others may find themselves just figuring out how much money to take out of their business to pay rent.

One of the drawbacks to getting out of your 9-to-5 grind is getting a grip on your spending habits. Sure, you want to fantasize about having the same client for years, but, truthfully SEO freelancers need to be prepared to win and lose some clients. No judgment here on what you end of skimping and splurging on. You work hard for that money. Budgeting for a 6-month buffer in case you lose a client or two will give you a little breathing room.

How to start this habit:

  1. Set-up automatic withdrawals every month to subtract 20% of everything you make.
  2. Continue this process until you get three months of savings that you could live on. Meaning, you have enough in your savings to pay your rent, utilities, and eat for three months without clients.
  3. Then, continue until you get to 6-months. You can drop the savings down to 10% if it’s too much of a burden.

 

It’s important to take your taxes and savings into consideration when charging your hourly or project rate. If you’re getting paid $1000 per month, $300 goes to taxes; $200 goes to savings, is it worth the $500 for you to do the work?

7. Love for the Hustle

Whether you’re side-gigging it or just trying to make a living, you know what it feels like to hustle hard. I know what it feels like to roll out of bed with zero money in the bank then turn on some gangster rap and get it done. True hustlers challenge themselves every day to reach “optimal anxiety.” A study conducted 1908 proves we need to reach “optimal anxiety” to find maximum performance levels. This is where the “feast or famine” hustle work cycle comes into play. We see it in successful stories like Kobe Bryant, Mozart, and Sophia Amoruso every day.

freelancer SEO quote

SEO freelancers have to face their fear of a lack of stability to achieve optimal performance levels. Personally, I’ve taught myself to wake up every morning at 4:00 am to work on my clients. I often spend my Friday evenings in front of the computer. And, my work week begins on Sunday. Every day I’m hustling to get better in hopes one day, I won’t have to hustle this hard anymore.

How to start this habit:

  1. Dream big. Write your big, ridiculous, over-the-top goal down.
  2. Map out each day to get yourself closer to achieving that goal.
  3. Learn to say no to plans that get in the way of you achieving that goal.

8. Strategic About Your Time

Even though I’ve been freelancing for almost six years now, I still get overwhelmed by my workload. I am guilty of saying “yes” when I shouldn’t. But, to keep myself organized, I’ve created a robust daily workflow that I stick to every single day. At the same time, I audit my client work; I’ll cross-check my time for the past week and the coming week.

I’ll open my Google Calendar (or Trello) to a block of times for client meetings, client projects, the gym, grocery store, whatever! I even have blocks of time buffered in for walking the dogs.

 

Jack Dorsey, CEO, and Founder of Square and Twitter, puts themes on his work days. Here’s an example of his work week:

  • Monday: Management
  • Tuesday: Product
  • Wednesday: Marketing, communications, growth
  • Thursday: Developers and partnerships
  • Friday: Company, culture, and recruiting
  • Saturday: Day of rest
  • Sunday: Reflections, feedback, and strategy

How to start this habit:

  1. Make a list of everything you want to accomplish this week on Sunday or Monday.
  2. Prioritize it starting with the top 10 things you want to complete.
  3. Open Google Calendar and block off times to complete each task.
  4. Once your Google Calendar invite pops up to start a new task, stop where you’re at and begin the new task.

9. Champions of Community

Here’s what I thought about my career when I was transitioning from social media to SEO: create an authentic voice, overachieve on high-quality content, and be the first person to master a new trend. Well, I still need to create an authentic voice, overachieve on content, and I still aim to be the first person to master a new trend. However, I’ve taken this from Facebook posts and 140-character tweets into link building gold mines.

As an SEO freelancer, I need to create ongoing, long-lasting connections not only for my current clients but my future clients.

 

How to start this habit:

  1. Start by making a dream wish list of everyone you want to have a connection to.
  2. Follow them on their most active social channels.
  3. Sign up for their newsletter.
  4. Comment on their blog.
  5. Send an email thanking them for a recent piece.
  6. Continue to nurture that relationship.

A Good SEO Freelancer Lets You Scale

A good SEO freelancer will grow and change alongside you as your business, products, and services start to scale. I’ve helped increase organic traffic to over 100+ client websites in less than six years. There have been many challenges and rewards along the way. I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about my habits that have helped me! It’s truly amazing to see how small tweaks can have the biggest impact.

Are there any habits you’ve developed as an SEO freelancer that have helped you succeed? Drop me a line in the comments below!

Source : http://globalnews.ca

Categorized in Search Engine

SEO is a great tool for serious companies, but it is not a cure for a bad product or brand.

This article was written by Bart Burggraaf who is a Partner atMediaGroup Worldwide.

Google was revolutionary. No search engine before it took the approach that it did, and Google was rewarded with an enormous cash cow as a result. When we ask questions like ‘should we be doing SEO’ the real question should be ‘what kind of SEO should we do, and is it worth it?’. To answer that question, we need to understand how Google works.

Join the industry leaders at the Finance Magnates London Summit, 14-15 November, 2016. Register here!

So for those of you not intimately familiar with search engine optimization, the approach Google took is similar to how we judge the performance of academics. The way we judge academics is by seeing the amount of references their scientific papers got, and from what quality of publication those references were. Similarly, if a lot of quality websites link to another website, that is a really good signal that that website should be considered important.

Once we know the importance of a website, Google needs to know what that website is about and what keywords to rank them for. So they look at the content of the site, the text that is linking to this site (anchor text) and the content of the site doing the linking. With this information of importance and substance combined, Google shows your website in the search engine results pages (or not) for specific phrases.

Now, marketers ruin everything, so Google has had to tweak its algorithm over time to focus less on quantity of links and more on quality, among other tweaks. As a result a lot of ‘spammy’ techniques no longer work and you need to be careful that everything you do looks natural,  but the core is still there. Get a bunch of links from good sites and ensure your websites’ content is relevant, and you are golden.

Now to the other part of the question we should be asking – is SEO worth it? On the whole, yes. Ranking for key industry terms means tens of thousands of new visitors every month and considering the price of advertising to get those same visitors, the ROI of SEO is insane. It takes a while to get ranking and you might give up just before you reach the top 5 of the results where all the real action is, but you shouldn’t.

The issue is that a lot of companies that do aggressive SEO are not serious companies. Not the other way around, serious companies could/should do aggressive SEO but just to say that right now the majority of companies doing this aggressively are not serious. Companies that are not serious get a bunch of complaints, people come to their site and leave right away, they don’t have a lot of mentions on other sites or social media, etc. So any success in SEO is short lived.

SEO is not a tactic you can do to stop marketing in other places. It is not the cure for a bad product or brand. It is a great tool to use for serious companies, and it should probably get more budget and attention than it is getting right now.

 

Source : http://www.financemagnates.com/

Categorized in Search Engine

Almost overnight, voice search has become a significant part of the marketing landscape. Many businesses, however, don't have a plan to take advantage of what it has to offer.

The development of smartphone technology has turned Siri and Cortana into household names. These voice-activated personal assistants are key parts of the interfaces for Android and iPhone devices, and every day, millions of people use them to find services they need.

In fact, 71 percent of 18 to 29-year-old Americans use smartphone personal assistants, and about 40 percent of all voice search users have taken it up in the past six months. The technology is exploding, but are online businesses ready for it?

Voice Queries Should Be a Key SEO Concern

One of the most important aspects of voice search is the way people use it. Finding services using Siri is not like typing search queries into Google. Instead, smartphone users tend to ask questions for their personal assistants to answer. They don't type in "frozen yogurt Baltimore," they ask Siri where they can find some frozen yogurt in Baltimore. It's a big difference.

The past year has seen a sharp rise in the number of search engine queries based on words like "who," "what," "when," and "how." This is something that businesses need to respond to. Instead of focusing on short keyword searches, voice search makes it vital to consider longer questions. Marketers need to find out how phone users are phrasing their queries and base their SEO campaigns around these questions.

This isn't as easy as it sounds. It's not possible to tell which Google queries are coming from voice search, but you can get a good idea of the way people use questions by analyzing your:

  • Customer service queries
  • Social media feeds

 

Voice Search Optimized Sites Will Be Rewarded by Google

One thing is certain: if voice search continues to rise in popularity, Google will make sure that its algorithms reward sites that answer customer questions as efficiently as possible. Google's own speech recognition error rate has plummeted in recent times, from over 25 percent in 2014 to just 8 percent in 2016, and the firm is investing billions of dollars in perfecting speech-based searching.

But how can online businesses respond proactively to this development?

  • On beyond keyword-based marketing. It seems likely that Google's algorithms will reward searches that align with what customers want, and that raw keyword-based marketing techniques will become less important. Although keywords remain (and are likely to remain) a major part of how the search engines work, how satisfactorily your content addresses user queries will ultimately determine your site’s favorability.
  • Connect with customers on an emotional level. Instead of gaming keywords, successful firms will know how to connect with customers on an emotional level. That's what Google is aiming for. Context-specific search results that synchronize with what users want and feel.

Content that meets these criteria should work well.

A Huge Opportunity for Local Businesses

Voice searching is not something for small businesses to fear. In fact, if local companies use the technology wisely, they can capitalize on a wave of localized searches and capture huge numbers of new customers. When people make voice queries on their phones, they tend to be local. They ask things like "where is the nearest burger restaurant?" or "how can I get to the park?" If your company can be the most common answer to questions like this, voice search holds huge potential.

Considering all this information, what exactly can you do to capitalize on this growing trend as a local business?

  • Listings. Concentrate your marketing resources on perfecting your listings on Google Maps and sites like Yelp. Ensure that all of the information is accurate and up-to-date, and manage your reviews to showcase your services.
  • Site content. The content of your site also needs to be refined to stress your location. Think about the language that local people use to find businesses. Do they refer to streets or neighborhoods in a certain way? If so, include it in your text.
  • Language. If you run a business catering to tourists, be sure to include some foreign language content as well. Everyone is using voice search these days, and it's not all about English language speakers.
    Long-tail keywords. Long tails are harder to rank compared to head keywords but convert well. And because customers in the actual buying stage ask very specific questions, a clear understanding of your website and product/service should help you figure out which long-tail keywords to target.

Mobile Optimization Is Vital

With the rise of smartphone voice search, mobile optimization has become a no-brainer. It's simply got to be done, so if you haven't already redesigned your site to be mobile-friendly, start doing so right away.

 

Some tips to get you started with mobile optimization:

  • Use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test. This is a simple site Google created to analyze the mobile-friendliness of your website’s design. Google has made it clear that mobile-optimized websites will be privileged in search results in the future, and they have provided tools to help businesses adapt, so be sure to use them.
  • Less is more. Do away with all the fancy Flash and pop-ups. Mobile users may not have the Flash plugin available on their devices, and pop-ups can be difficult to work with on small screens.
  • Optimize your images. Image files that are too big will take a while to load. Image compression tools such as TinyPNG and TinyJPG can help you save bandwidth and accelerate your site’s loading speed.

Adapting to voice search is something that every business will eventually have to do. Right now, small and mid-sized companies can give themselves an early-adopter advantage by designing their content around voice queries, perfecting their local listings, and ensuring their sites are mobile-optimized.

Source : http://www.business.com/

In part two of a three-part series on app indexing, contributors Emily Grossman and Cindy Krum explore how Google indexes deep app content and explains what marketers can do to promote their app content in Google search.

In this article, you’ll learn how Google is surfacing deep app content and how SEOs can prepare iOS and Android deep app screens for Google’s index. Google is making significant moves to close the gap between app and Web content to make mobile interaction more seamless, and that theme will reappear throughout the analysis.

This is the second installment in a three-part series about app indexing strategies and deep linking opportunities. The first article focused on Apple’s new Search API for iOS 9, which encourages and incentivizes an app-centric mobile experience.

Today’s column, co-authored with Cindy Krum, will focus on how Google indexes deep app screens and what marketers can do to promote their app content in Google search. Google’s app indexing strategies differ significantly from Apple’s, and it’s important for marketers to understand the distinctions.

The third article in this series will focus on future app indexing challenges we will face with the growth of wearables and other non-standard device apps and device indexes.

App Indexing In Google

Historically, app landing pages on websites have been in the Google index — but actual apps andinternal app screens have not. Because crawling and indexing in-app content was impossible untilrecently, users had to discover new apps via an app store (Google Play or iTunes), which surfaces apps according to app meta data and editorial groupings instead of in-app content. For digital marketers, internal app content has been unavailable for search — part of what Marshall Simmonds calls “dark search.”

This situation has created a two-fold problem for Google:

  1. App stores had trained users away from using Google for app discovery; and
  2. App developers were historically not incentivized to optimize internal app data for search. This limited Google’s mission to collect and organize the world’s data, which in turn limited its ability to make money.

Now that Google is indexing both app landing pages and deep screens in apps, Google’s app rankings fall into two basic categories, App Packs and App Deep Links. App Packs are much more like the app search results that SEOs are used to, because they link to app download pages in Google Play or the App Store, depending on the device that you are searching from. (App Packs will only show apps that are compatible with your device’s OS.)

Ranking in an App Pack (and also in the Apps Universal, under Google’s top-navigation drop-down in the mobile search results) relies heavily on the app title, description, star ratings and reviews, and it will differ greatly from the internal app store rankings, as well as in-app indexing strategies described in the rest of this article.

Deep links are different because they link to specific deep screens within an app. Google has displayed deep links in search results in a variety of ways since it started app indexing, but there are a couple of standard deep link displays (shown below) that seem more common than others. Some deep-linked results look no different from traditional blue links for websites, while other deep link search results contain more attractive visual elements like colored “install” buttons, app icons and star ratings.

google-deep-link-types-serps.jpg

We believe that the most common deep link in the future will display the app icon and a small “open on domain.com” button because that allows users to choose between the deep app link and the Web link without an additional dialogue screen. (Currently, the dialogue screen from other types of deep links comes from the bottom of the browser window and says, “Would you like to open this in Chrome or in the [Brand Name] app?”)

It is important to note that aspects of the search context, like the mobile browser, can limit the visibility of deep links. For example, Google only supports app indexing on iOS inside the Google and Chrome apps, not in Mobile Safari, the default Web browser on iOS. It seems likely that Safari will be updated to allow for Google’s deep linking behaviors as part of the iOS 9 update, but it is not confirmed.

Similarly, Google has been experimenting with a “Basic” mobile search results view that omits rich content for searchers with slow carrier connections. “Basic” search results do not include App Packs at all (since downloading an app would not be attractive to people with slow connections), and deep link results will only show as inline blue links, without images, star ratings, icons or buttons.

These are important stipulations to keep in mind as we allocate time and budget to optimizing app indexing, but the benefits of Google app indexing are not limited to surfacing deep app screens in Google search results.

Why Is App Indexing Important For SEO?

Without apps in its index, Google was missing a huge piece of the world’s data. The new ability to index iOS and Android apps has fundamentally changed app discovery and dramatically changed mobile SEO strategies.

Now that Google’s search engine can process and surface deep app content in a similar fashion to the way it does Web content, Google search has a significant advantage over the app stores. It is still the #1 Search Engine in the world, so it can easily expose content to more potential customers than any app store could, but it can also integrate this new app content with other Google properties like Google Now, Inbox/Gmail and Google Maps.

This change has also added a whole new host of competitors to the mobile search result pages. Now, not only can app landing pages rank, but internal app screens can also compete for the same rankings.

Google’s official position at the moment is that Web parity is necessary for deep app indexing (i.e., crawlable Web content that matched the indexable app content), but at Google I/O, the company clarified that they are working on a non-parity app indexing solution. They have even started promoting an “app only interest form,” and recent live testing has reinforced the idea that apps without parity will soon be added to the index (if they haven’t been already).5457989_app-indexing--the-new-frontier-of-seo_tf23002f4.jpg

This is a big deal, so SEOs should be wary of underestimating the potential market implications of Google indexing apps without Web parity. For marketers and SEOs, it means that mobile search results could soon be flooded with new and attractive competition on a massive scale — content that they never have had to compete with before.

Let’s do a bit of math to really understand the implications.

We’ll start with a broad assumption that there are roughly 24,000 travel apps, a third of which lack Web parity. If each app contains an average of just 1,000 screens (and travel apps often include many more than that), we’re looking at roughly 8,000,000 new search results with which travel websites must compete — and that’s in the travel industry alone. That is huge!

Games, the biggest app category in both stores, promises to create an even bigger disruption in mobile search results, as it is a category that has a very high instance of apps without Web parity.

Another subtle indication of the importance of app indexing is the name change from “Google Webmaster Tools” to “Google Search Console.” Historically, webmasters and SEOs have used Google Webmaster Tools to manage and submit website URLs to Google’s index. We believe the renamed Google Search Console will eventually do the same things for both Web and apps (and possibly absorb the Google Play Console, where Android apps have been managed). In light of that, removing the “Web” reference from the old “Webmaster Tools” name makes a lot of sense.

A similar sentiment by John Mueller, from Google, is noted below, and possibly hints at the larger plan:

John-Mueller-on-Google-Plus.jpg

How Does Google Rank Deep Links?

Like everything else, Google has an algorithm to determine how an indexed deep link should rank in search results. As usual, much about Google’s ranking algorithm is unknown, but we’ve pieced together some of the signals they have announced and inferred a few others. Here’s what we currently believe to be true about how Google is ranking deep links in Google Search:

Known Positive Ranking Factors

  • Installation Status. Android apps are more prominently featured in Google search results when they are installed on a user’s device or have been in the past. Rather than checking the device, Google keeps track of app downloads in their cloud-based user history, so this only affects searchers when they are signed into Google.
  • Proper Technical Implementation. The best way app publishers can drive rankings,according to Mariya Moeva of Google, is to “ensure that the technical implementation of App Indexing is correct and that your content is worth it.” She later elaborated in a YouTube video, explaining that app screens with technical implementation errors will not be indexed at all. (So start befriending the app development team!)
  • Website Signals (title tags, description tags). Traditional SEO elements in the <head> tag of the associated Web page will display in deep link search results, and thus are also likely ranking factors for the deep links. In fact, good SEO on corresponding Web pages is critical, since Google considers the desktop Web version of the page as the canonical indexing of the content.

Known Negative Ranking Factors

  • Content Mismatch. Google will not index app screens that claim to correspond with a Web page but don’t provide enough of the same information. Google will report these “mismatch errors” in Google Search Console, so you can determine which screens need to be better aligned with their corresponding Web pages.
  • Interstitials. Interstitials are JavaScript banners that appear over the content of a website, similar to pop-ups but without generating a new browser window. The same experience can be included in apps (most often for advertisements), but this has been discouraged by both Apple and Google. In her recent Q&A with Stone Temple Consulting, Mariya Moeva implied that app interstitials are a negative ranking factor for deep links (and said to stay tuned for more information soon). Interstitials can also prevent Google from matching your app screen content to your Web page content, which could cause “Content Mismatch Errors” that prevent Google from indexing the app screen entirely. In either case, app and Web developers should stay away from interstitials and instead, opt for banners that just move content down on the screen. Both Apple and Google have endorsed their own form of app install banners and even offer app banner code templates that can be used to promote a particular app from the corresponding mobile website.

 

Apart from ranking on their own, app deep links can also provide an SEO benefit for websites. Google has said that indexed app deep links are a positive ranking factor for their associated Web pages, and preliminary studies have shown that Web pages can expect an average site-wide lift of .29 positions when deep link markup is in place.

Also, App Packs and App Carousels tend to float to the top of a mobile SERP (likely ranking as a group rather than ranking independently). Presence in these results increases exposure and eliminates a position that a competitor could occupy lower down in the organic rankings, since these “Packs” and “Carousels” take up spaces that would be previously held by websites.

Indexed Android apps will also get added exposure in the next release of the Android operating system, Android M. It includes a feature called “Now on Tap,” which represents a deeper integration of Google Now with the rest of the Android phone functionality. Android M allows Google to scan text on an Android user’s screen while in any app, then interpret a “context” from the on-screen text, infer potential queries and automatically display mobile applications that could assist the user with those inferred queries.

For example, a WhatsApp conversation about dinner plans could pull up a “Now on Tap” interface that suggests deep links to specific screens in OpenTable, Google Maps and Yelp. This only works for deep-linked app screens in Google’s index, but for those apps, it will likely drive significantly higher engagement and potentially more installs. From a strategic perspective, this adds another potential location to surface your content, beyond the mobile search results.

While Google will only surface apps they have indexed, they plan on crawling on-screen text inall apps, trying to perceive context for “Now on Tap.” Google doesn’t provide any opt-in mechanism, so Android apps that are not indexed for Google search can still be crawled to trigger a “Now on Tap” experience. This means that Google is essentially reserving the right to send users away from your app to a different app that has relevant screens in the index, but also that Google is allowing your app to “steal” users away from other apps if your app screens are in the index.

This could provide nearly limitless opportunities for “Now on Tap” to suggest apps to Android users, and the “rogue crawling” aspect of it reinforces our prediction that Google will soon be crawling, indexing and surfacing app screens that don’t have Web parity. This will make Google’s app indexing an even more important strategy for Android apps, especially once Android M is widely adopted.

The app rankings advantage is pushed to the next level when you understand that Google is intentionally giving preference to app results for certain queries. In some cases, being an indexed app may be the only way to rank at the top in mobile Google search. Keywords like “games” and “editor” are a common trigger for App Packs and App Carousels, but Google is also prominently surfacing apps for queries that seem to be associated with utilities or verbs (e.g., “flight tracker,” “restaurant finder,” or “watch tv”). And when the App Packs or Carousels appear, they often push the blue links below the fold (and sometimes way below the fold).

At the end of the day, for some queries, a blue link may not ever beat the “Packs” — in which case, the best strategy may be to focus on App Pack listings over deep links.

How Can I Get Deep App Screens Indexed For Google Search?

Setting up app indexing for Android and iOS Apps is pretty straightforward and well-documented by Google. Conceptually, it is a three-part process:

  1. Enable your app to handle deep links.
  2. Add code to your corresponding Web pages that references deep links.
  3. Optimize for private indexing.

These steps can be taken out of order if the app is still in development, but the second step iscrucial; without it, your app will be set up with deep links but will not be set up for Google indexing, so the deep links will not show up in Google Search.

NOTE: iOS app indexing is still in limited release with Google, so there is a special form submission and approval process even after you have added all the technical elements to your iOS app. That being said, the technical implementations take some time. By the time your company has finished, Google may have opened up indexing to all iOS apps, and this cumbersome approval process may be a thing of the past.

 

Following are the steps for Google deep-link indexing. (For a PDF version of the instructions, click here.)

Step 1: Add Code To Your App That Establishes The Deep Links

A. Pick A URL Scheme To Use When Referencing Deep Screens In Your App

App URL schemes are simply a systematic way to reference the deep linked screens within an app, much like a Web URL references a specific page on a website.

In iOS, developers are currently limited to using Custom URL Schemes, which are formatted in a way that is more natural for app design but different from Web.

In Android, you can choose from either HTTP URL schemes (which look almost exactly like Web URLs) or Custom URL Schemes, or you can use both. If you have a choice and can only support one type of URL Scheme on Android, choose HTTP.

app-URL-scheme-deep-links-800x247

B. Support That App’s URL Schemes In The App

Since iOS and Android apps are built in different frameworks, different code must be added to the app to enable the deep link URL Schemes to work within the specific framework.

support-app-URL-schemes-800x438

C. Set Up CocoaPods

CocoaPods is a dependency management tool for iOS. It acts as a translation layer between iOS apps and the Google SDKs, so it is only necessary in iOS apps. Google has moved all its libraries to CocoaPods, and this will now be the only supported way to source them in an iOS app.

set-up-cocoapods-800x139

NOTE: Developers who have never worked with CocoaPods may have to rework how they currently handle all dependent libraries in the app, because once CocoaPods is installed, it is harder and more complicated to handle other non-CocoaPods libraries. There are some iOS developers who favor CocoaPods and have been using them for some time, so your app may already be working with CocoaPods. If that’s true, prepping for iOS app indexing will be much easier.

D. Enable The Back Bar

iOS devices don’t come equipped with a hardware or persistent software “back” button, so Apple and Google have built workarounds to make inter-app back navigation easier. Google requires that iOS apps recognize an additional GSD Custom URL Scheme (that was set up in Step 1B). Google only uses this to trigger a “back” bar in the iOS app.

Google will generate the GSD Custom URLs automatically when someone clicks on an iOS deep link from a search result page, so we don’t need to generate new GSD deep links for every screen; we just need to support the format in the Info.plist file and add code that will communicate with the “GoogleAppIndexing” Pod when a GSD link is received by the app.

enable-back-bar

NOTE: Google’s solution is similar to Apple’s iOS 9 “Back to Search” buttons that display in the upper left portion of the phone’s Status Bar, but when it is triggered, it appears as a blue “Back Bar” that hovers over the entire phone Status Bar. The Back Bar will disappear after a short period of time if the user does not tap on it. This “disappearing” behavior also represents a unique experience for iOS deep linking in Google, since after a certain period of time, there won’t be a way for iOS users to get back to the Google Search results without switching apps manually, by clicking through the home screen. Developers compensate by adopting more tactics that pull users deeper into the app, eat up time, and distract the user from going back to Google Search until the bar disappears.

E. Set Up Robots & Google Play/Google Search Consoles

In some cases, it may make sense to generate deep links for an app screen but prevent it from showing up in search results. In Android, Google allows us to provide instructions about which screens we would like indexed for search and which we would not, but no similar mechanism is available for iOS.

Digital marketers and SEOs should use the Google Play Console and the Google Search Console to help connect your app to your website and manage app indexation. Also, double check that your website’s robots.txt file allows access to Googlebot, since it will be looking for the Web aspect of the deep links in its normal crawls.

set-up-robots-google-play

Step 2: Add Code To Your Website That References The URL Schemes You Set Up In The App

A. Format & Validate Web Deep Links For The Appropriate App Store

Google’s current app indexing process relies on Googlebot to discover and index deep links from a website crawl. Code must be added to each Web page that references a corresponding app screen.

When marking up your website, a special deep link format must be used to encode the app screen URL, along with all of the other information Google needs to open a deep link in your app. The required formatting varies slightly for Android and iOS apps and is slightly different from the URL Schemes used in the app code, but they do have some elements in common.

The {scheme} part of the link always refers to the URL scheme set up in your app in Step 1, and the {host_path} is the part of the deep link that identifies the specific app screen being referenced, like the tail of a URL. Other elements vary, as shown below:

validate-web-deep-link

B. Add Web Deep Links To Web Pages With Corresponding App Screens

Internal app screens can be indexed when Googlebot finds deep app links in any of the following locations on your website:

  • In a rel=”alternate” in the HTML <head>
  • In a rel=”alternate” in the XML sitemap
  • In Schema.org ViewAction markup

Sample code formatting for each of those indexing options is included below:

rel-sample-code

xml-sitemap-sample-code-800x416

schema-sample-code-800x355

Step 3: Optimize For Private Indexing

Both Google and Apple have a “Private” indexing feature that allows individual user behaviors to be associated with specific screens in an app. App activity that is specific to one user can be indexed on that users’ phone, for private consumption only (e.g., a WhatsApp message you’ve viewed or an email you’ve opened in Mailbox).

 

Activities that are Privately indexed do not generate deep links that can surface in a public Google search result, but instead generate deep links that surface in other search contexts. For Android apps, this is in Chrome’s autocomplete and Google Now; for iOS, this is in Spotlight, Siri, or Safari’s Spotlight Suggest results.

optimize-private-indexing-800x294

NOTE: Google’s documentation seems to indicate that Activities are only used for private indexing, but Google may also use them as a measurement of engagement for more global evaluations of an app (as Apple does with NSUserActivities in Apple Search). Google has not highlighted their private indexing feature as vocally as Apple, and a user’s private index can be accessed from the Phone icon in the bottom navigation of the Google Now app on Android and iOS. Currently, only Google’s apps (like Gmail) are able to surface privately indexed content in organic Google search results, but we suspect this will be opened up to third-party apps in the future.

Concluding Remarks

App indexing and deep linking are changing the digital marketing landscape and dramatically altering the makeup of organic mobile search results. They are emerging from the world of “dark search” and becoming a force to be reckoned with in SEO.

Marketers and SEOs can either look at these changes as a threat — another hurdle to overcome — or a new opportunity to get a leg up over the competition. Those who wish to stay on the cutting edge of digital marketing will take heed and learn how to optimize non-HTML content like apps in all of the formats and locations where they surface.

That being said, relying on app deep links alone to drive Google search engine traffic is still not an option. Traditional SEO and mobile SEO are still hugely important for securing a presence in Google’s mobile searches. Google still considers desktop websites the ultimate canonical for keyword crawling and indexing, and the search engine relies heavily on website parity because its strength is still crawling and indexing Web content.

The next big app indexing questions are all about apps that lack Web parity. Google does not currently use a roaming app crawler to discover deep links themselves, but we feel confident that this will change. Google’s App Indexing API currently only helps surface Android apps in autocomplete, but we believe in the future, it will help surface apps that don’t have Web parity.

Calling the system an “App Indexing API” seems to allude to a richer functionality than just adding app auto-complete functionality — and Google’s original app indexing documentation from April also indicated a more robust plan.

As shown in the diagram below, the original documentation explained that developers could use the App Indexing API (also referred to here as “Search Suggest,” which is different from the Search Suggest API) to notify Google of deep links “with or without corresponding Web pages.” That line has since been removed from the documentation, but the implication is clear: Google is paving the way for indexing apps without Web parity. Until that happens, traditional website optimization will remain a key component of optimizing app content for Google search, but when app screens can be indexed without Web parity, there will be a whole new set of ranking factors to consider and optimize for.

App-Indexing-Documentation-800x369

As we charge into this new frontier, the immediate benefits of app indexing are clear, but the newness may require a small leap of faith for more traditional marketers and SEOs.

Some may be left suspicious, with many questions: How long will Google provide a ranking benefit for deep-linked content? Will this be perceived as a “bait and switch,” like the Mobile Friendly update? Will app ranking factors evolve to include more traditional Web page ranking factors (like links and social signals)? Will Google begin to crawl app content more indiscriminately, using deep app links like Web links? Will Google develop a new app-specific crawler, or was the algorithm change on April 21 (aka “Mobilegeddon“) really this — that apps are already being crawled, rendered and evaluated by the smartphone crawler, just the same as Web?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Source : http://searchengineland.com/

Categorized in Search Engine

SEO is important—there’s no question about that, it’s simply a fact of life if you’re doing business online.  Active promotion is all well and good, but you also need qualified traffic coming in from the search engines to leverage your website as the investment it is.

But SEO isn’t something you can just do once and then sit back.  Optimizing your website is a never-ending process, and for it to work to its full potential you need something to optimize: content.

Content is more than just words for Google to find on your site.  It’s a critical part of the equation for effective SEO, a part you can best take advantage of by posting plenty of fresh, high-quality content on a regular basis.

Why does that make such a difference?

Consistent, fresh content means frequent indexing

Google—along with the other search engines—uses programs called web crawlers to find and index websites based on a variety of factors, such as incoming links, information about keywords on the site, and how often the site is updated.  When you make a change to your site, the search engines notice and re-index it.

Of course, getting indexed frequently doesn’t automatically mean getting higher search rankings.  But the more often you make significant updates, the more often search engines will check your website for quality signals and adjust your rank accordingly.  That gives you more frequent opportunities to improve your rankings with fresh, high-quality content.

Part of the key is being consistent with how often you add content.  One of the best ways to ensure that you stay on top of things is with a content marketing calendar.  It’ll help you maintain focus on your content publishing goals and stay consistent.

 

Google uses frequent, significant updates as a quality signal

Google is the most popular search engine, and as such it makes sense to keep an eye on what factors it tends to rank highly.  Google appears to incentivize frequent updates, so you should add fresh content to your site as often as possible.

That doesn’t mean making changes just for the sake of making changes, though.  Nor does it mean updating numerous times per day—one significant update per day or at least two or three per week will be enough to be considered frequently updated.  

You don’t have to completely overhaul the site, either.  Smaller changes like adding an article, an image, or updated copy will get Google’s attention just fine—and as long as the new information is always reliable and valuable, you have a good chance of getting a higher search ranking.

Adding a blog to your site and posting articles your viewers will notice and appreciate is an easy and effective way to stay fresh.  User comments on the articles will also count as an update, though a smaller one, so make them interesting and do your best to start a discussion.

The more content you have, the more keywords you can rank for

Every piece of content you publish doesn’t just give you a new page for the search engines to index.  It also gives you an opportunity for your site to rank for more keywords.  The more content you have, the broader range of keywords you can target and the more effectively you can optimize your site for the ones that are most relevant.

Don’t think you can just cram your site full of keywords, though—Google doesn’t care much about how many keywords a given page has, especially if it’s low-quality.  You need to focus on quality content that helps your readers in some way, and organically includes your keyword a couple of times—not mediocre content that’s heavily keyword-focused.

That might leave you in a tough spot: you need enough content to fill a regular publishing schedule, but it all has to be high-quality.  Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to help you get what you need.

  • BuzzSumo - Easily find the top-performing content for your chosen keyword or niche, to give you ideas for what kind of content to create
  • Grammarly - If you decide to create content yourself, this online proofreading tool can help you make sure the text is free of confusing grammar and spelling errors
  • Smart Paper Help - If writing isn’t your strong suit, outsource the content creation—as well as proofreading and editing, if you need it
  • Hemingway App - This free web app will help you get your message across in the clearest possible language so that it can reach the most people

 

 

Fresh content helps keep your audience engaged

The point of all this content—besides improving your SEO rankings, of course—is to provide value to people and show them how your brand can help them get what they want or need.  Solid, high-quality articles and pages will effectively communicate your brand’s message to your audience and keep them interested in what you have to offer.

Updating regularly gives you the chance to keep your audience up to date on what’s going on with your business, such as events, promotions, and new products.  Fresh content also helps new visitors see that your business is active, rather than old and out of date.

Keeping it fresh, interesting, and above all useful, means you’re giving the audience something worthwhile, and when they know they can get value from you, they’ll spend more time on your site.  That not only gives you more opportunities to turn readers into customers, it also lowers your site’s bounce rate—another factor search engines consider in page rankings.

High-quality content encourages sharing

Finally, with the decline in the SEO value of building backlinks from numerous websites (at least, websites with low authority), social media sharing has become one of the most effective and reliable ways to build your site’s relevance and authority in the eyes of the search engines.  And no one is going to share low-quality content.

Frequently posting great articles ensures that you’ll always have something new for your site’s visitors to read, learn from, and share with their friends.  That, in turn, will bring in qualified leads who are already interested what you have to offer, giving you new opportunities to impress people with your brand’s message—and consequently, increase your conversions.

Source : http://www.promotionworld.com/

Categorized in Search Engine

The countdown to the New Year has already begun and marketers need to start planning their 2017 campaign strategy to ensure that they will meet their performance targets. In this opinion piece, Nathan Elly branch manager at Digital Next Australia argues marketers can’t afford to miss these million dollar SEO marketing strategies for 2017.

The SEO marketing channel has experienced several changes in 2016 and there is still one more major change that is expected to disrupt the tactical execution once the update is released. Marketers need to minimise the risk of this potential disruption by understanding the direction that SEO is going in 2017 and how they can ride the trend to achieve their marketing goals.

PENGUIN 4 WILL IMPACT WEBSITE’S RANKINGS BASED ON THE TYPES OF LINKS POINTING TO THE WEBSITE.

Google is updating their algorithm and web spam identification to combat link spam. Penguin 4.0 is the major algorithm update that people in the SEO industry are waiting to see released so that a link acquisition strategy can be put forward in 2017. We know that low-quality links and unnatural links will be targeted, however naturally acquired links that form the site’s link portfolio will be rewarded by Google. The ideal link building strategy should comply with Google’s terms of service, be acquired from sites that have relevant content and that is also authoritative in your industry.

VALUABLE CONTENT WILL REMAIN AT THE HEART OF SEO.

Google has always said that “Content is King”; and that trend will continue into 2017. Websites that provide valuable content such as long, detailed guides for their web users tend to outrank sites that publish short copy.

 

 

A content marketing strategy should be a part of your site’s SEO campaign to ensure that your site gains the maximum keyword visibility and also has the best chance to deliver the value that users are searching for.

SEO PERFORMANCE WILL BE INFLUENCED BY THE UX OF THE SITE.

Google has said that they want webmasters to optimise their site so that it provides a valuable experience for the user. Some of the key areas that need to be focused on include:

Web page loading speed

People are demanding that they receive access to content as quickly as possible. On average, a web user is prepared to wait for 2 seconds before they move onto the next website. Google has incorporated this into their algorithm and if your site isn’t loading its content in under 2 seconds, then it is unlikely that it will rank for the top search terms in your SEO campaign.

Interstitials

Google is targeting Interstitials in the first quarter of 2017. According to their Webmaster blog, it’s being targeted in response to improving users experiences on mobile devices. At times, the pop-ups make it difficult to access the web content. Your SEO strategy needs to assess the risk of your site being targeted and what changes can be made should the site be affected.

 

Mobile friendliness

Smart devices from phones to tablets have taken the world by storm and Google wants webmasters to make sure that their content is optimised for the appropriate device. (See their post on mobile friendliness here.)

Responsive design layouts and mobile app integrations will gain importance for getting higher rankings in the organic search results. Google’s Developer Console offers tools that can help to display the site appropriately on different web platforms.

Google AMP

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages is a project aimed at improving the speed of serving content to mobile devices. As more people engage with web content on their mobile devices, Google will start to favour website’s using Google AMP in the organic search results.

Bounce rate.

Google wants to send users of its search engine to websites that will help them solve what it is they are looking for. Sites that have a high bounce rate trigger signals to Google that the web page content isn’t valuable or relevant to the user’s search query. It’s important that the website is optimised for users to engage with the website so that any bounce rate signals are avoided.

It’s great that brands are preparing their 2017 campaigns now, however a contingency plan might be needed should Google make significant changes before the new year. By prioritising the areas that have been highlighted, there should be minimal disruption to the execution of the brand’s SEO tactics.

 

 

Source : http://www.bandt.com.au/

Categorized in Search Engine

There are 20,000 people on Facebook every second of every day. With these kinds of staggering numbers, it’s easy to see why many companies, particularly the smaller ones, focus a lot of their digital marketing attention on social media. After all, when there are that many users, why bother with other avenues?

The problem with reaching out to customers and potential customers via social media is that it’s a bit like trying to get attention in a crowded room. With thousands of companies constantly posting content on Facebook and Instagram, the competition gets pretty fierce. The best marketing efforts are efficient, reaching as many people as possible in a meaningful way. But impactful posts on social media are not quickly conceived nor easily acquired.

It seems like some need a refresher as far as digital marketing beyond social media is concerned. Here are the often forgotten assets which are key to the digital presence of a modern business in conjunction with social media accounts:

Infographics

As one of the most popular advertising tools in recent years, infographics can be applied to virtually every industry. Consulting with a digital marketing service specializing in infographics will generate interesting and captivating resources. In turn, these can be used for years across a variety of outreach mediums in addition to social media, including email, newsletters, video, and web design.

Interactive Graphics

The next step up from infographics is the highly prized interactive graphic, which is gaining momentum across the web. In short, interactive graphics are infographics where the user can click and be led to further information and prompts for response. This gives more exposure to potential customers, making them more interested in your product. Interactive graphics serve to grab and retain attention in a way social media can struggle to achieve.

Video

The importance of video in digital marketing cannot be understated in today’s on-the-go world. Once a tool for television, video is now something that can reach people virtually anywhere, through the use of their mobile devices. And yes, video can be combined with social media advertising to generate eye catching posts. Placed on YouTube, a well produced video will gain traction on its own, though keep in mind it’s also a crowded environment.

 

SEO

Getting people to arrive at your website after entering a string of words into a search engine, continues to be a critical part of a successful digital marketing campaign. Content creation and link building are functions which marketing agencies – at least the good ones – use to elevate a website in the list of results for given searches.

Web Design

Once the premier, if not exclusive, means for companies to digitally reach out to customers, websites these days are all utility and no charm. The advent of prefabbed framework has created a clone army of website layout. While certain approaches to web design are standard for a reason, a little imagination never hurt anyone. And just like the old days, a memorable website will keep the visitors coming back.

Source : http://tech.co/digital-marketing-social-media-2016-08

Annoying pop-up ads that get in the way of content are going to be the new lead balloons: Google’s planning to penalize mobile sites that use them by placing those sites lower in its rankings.

In the web vernacular, interstitials/pop-ups are now a ranking signal for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Similar to how Google in 2014 push the web into being encrypted by using HTTPS as a ranking signal, this move could be an inflection point for how mobile sites go about advertising.

Google said on its Webmaster Central blog on Tuesday that the majority of pages nowadays have text and content on the page that you can read without zooming.

But the company says it’s recently seen many examples of pages showing intrusive interstitials – as in, the content’s there on the page, and it’s available for Google to index, but you can’t see it because it’s covered up.

Users who are forced to very carefully click on the teensy-weensy “x” to get rid of the things, without accidentally clicking on the ad and opening whatever Pandora’s box that entails, don’t like these things, to say the least:


This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result.


It’s particularly problematic on mobile devices, where screens are often small.

In order to make life easier for mobile users, after 10 January 2017, Google’s going to start taking that hide-the-content tactic into account in its page rankings.

 

Product Manager Doantam Phan gave three examples of offending pop-ups and interstitials:

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.
  • Google does not consider all interstitials to be bad news, however.
  • If used responsibly, the following techniques won’t hurt a page’s ranking:
  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, private content such as email or unindexable content behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome use a reasonable amount of screen space.

Besides the signal that a site is using interstitials, Google relies on “hundreds of signals” to come up with search result rankings, it reminds us.

That means that sites that have great, relevant content will still likely appear at the top of search results, and they likely won’t feel much pressure to remove such ads.

But taking these types of user-annoying techniques into account could mean the difference when it comes to two sites that appear roughly equal in ranking.

Google has been increasingly working to direct users not just to the best sites, but to those that don’t irk them.

Two years ago, it started to label sites as mobile-friendly, so that users could find pages where they didn’t have to zoom to read text and content.

Since then, Google says 85% of all pages that come up in search results meet the criteria and display the mobile-friendly label.

That label’s actually going away: it is, after all, another piece of flotsam cluttering up our tiny screens.

 

Google’s algorithms will continue to take into account whether a site is mobile-friendly, but it won’t be labeling sites as such.

It will, however, continue to provide the mobile usability report in Search Console and the mobile-friendly test to help webmasters evaluate the effect of the mobile-friendly signal on their pages, it said.

Source : https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2016/08/25/google-to-rate-down-sites-with-aggravating-pop-up-ads/

Categorized in Search Engine

Even before the first Apple iPhone was released in 2007, marketers were asking the question: “What should my mobile strategy be?” And it’s a question that many are still asking today. One thing is for sure, though: the mobile web is here to stay.

recent report from BI Intelligence projected by the year 2020, there will be 3.5 billion smartphones shipped worldwide. And users are increasingly shifting to mobile as their primary device for accessing the internet. In fact, Google announced last year that now, “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the US and Japan.”

This makes sense, because (as Benedict Evans recently wrote), “It’s actually the PC that has the limited, basic, cut-down version of the Internet…it only has the web.”

Our mobile devices have much more information to draw on than a desktop device:

  • photos
  • geolocation
  • friends
  • physical movement

As well as greater interactivity:

  • with the external world (through technology like beacons)
  • with you when you’re not using it (through notifications)
  • with your personal identity (because a phone is always signed-in and it is almost always an individual device rather than a shared one).

So how do search marketers ensure that this boom in mobile web usage won’t leave them behind? By staying on top of the basics of mobile search.

How Google Deals with Mobile Search

Google has many different crawlers for different use cases and different indexes, such as:

  • Googlebot
  • Googlebot News
  • Googlebot Images
  • Googlebot Video

For mobile search (specifically for smartphones), they use a version of Googlebot which uses a smartphone’s user-agent, so that the crawler can have the same user experience as actual mobile users (such as redirects to mobile versions, etc.).

This is the current Googlebot user-agent for smartphones:

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 8_3 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/600.1.4 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/8.0 Mobile/12F70 Safari/600.1.4 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

For comparison, this is the regular Googlebot user-agent:

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

It is worth noting that Google does not consider tablets to be the same thing as mobile. Although they do consider tablets a separate class of device from both mobile and desktop, nonetheless, their view is that “Unless you offer tablet-optimized content, you can assume that users expect to see your site as it would look on a desktop browser.”

 

The mobile-friendly pages discovered by the smartphone Googlebot crawler, as well as mobile page versions discovered by the desktop crawler, are indexed as usual. However the SERP may include a different set of results for a mobile user than a desktop one, and mobile-friendly pages will be given a slight ranking boost, all things being equal.

Note that Google judges mobile-friendliness on a page-by-page basis rather than across an entire website, so if you have limited resources it is best to start by making your most valuable pages mobile-friendly first and branching out from there.

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update (“Mobilegeddon”)

In 2015, Google announced a new rankings update for mobile search, which was nicknamed “Mobilegeddon”. On April 21, the rollout began, and the internet started to see the effects.

Some websites were directly impacted, losing up to 35% of mobile rankingswithin the 1st month — and some more indirectly, by the incentive to move towards mobile-friendliness before the update hit.

Google announced a 4.7% increase in the number of mobile-friendly sites in the time between announcing that the update was coming and when it actually rolled out.

Around the same time, Bing also announced they would be rolling out a similar update, although they haven’t provided as much information on the timeline of this. However, generally speaking, a site which is well-optimized for Google mobile search should perform well in Bing.

A new version of Google’s mobile-friendly update has recently been released(in May of 2016), so we can expect to see a further impact from this as a ranking factor over time.

So how do you make sure your site is correctly designed and optimized for mobile search?

Making Your Website Mobile-Friendly

There are three main approaches to making a website mobile-friendly. These are:

  • Responsive Design: the page – URL, HTML, images, everything – remains the same, but the CSS rearranges the page layout depending on-screen width.

TIP: Google has expressed this is their preferred approach, although they support the other two as well. This is primarily because responsively designed sites don’t require any additional technical implementation to optimize them for search.

  • RESS/Adaptive/Dynamic Serving: the URL remains the same, but the server sends a different version of the HTML (and CSS) based on what type of device is requesting the page.
  • Separate Mobile Site: as the name implies, this is when you simply create a second, “mobile-friendly” website for mobile users. Separate mobile sites usually sit on a subdomain (e.g. m.domain.com) or sometimes a subfolder (e.g. www.domain.com/mobile).

 

When creating a separate mobile site, the best approach is to keep all the same pages and content in the same structure (e.g. www.domain.com/first-page and m.domain.com/first-page). This makes it easy to redirect based on user agent/device, and also to indicate to Google what pages are equivalent on the mobile vs desktop version.

But since it’s a separate set of pages, you could choose to have a completely different site structure, in which case the mobile URLs might be different.

Capture

If you’re wondering how best to implement a mobile-friendly design for your site, check out this guide from my company, Distilled, on “Building Your Mobile-Friendly Website”.

How to Figure Out if Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

Here are a few tools you can use to check whether your site is mobile-friendly:

SEO for Mobile Search

If you have a responsive site which is optimized for search, you won’t need to do anything different for the mobile crawler. Note that when you are auditing the site, it is worth crawling it using a mobile user agent in addition to your regular crawl. This will allow you to identify any crawl issues which only occur on mobile.

Site performance (around things like speed and page load time) may also impact results for mobile search. An effective responsive site serves appropriately sized assets for the user’s screen size, even if the underlying HTML/CSS is the same. It’s worth checking site speed separately for mobile and desktop (and easy to do with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool!).

If you have a dynamically served site or a separate mobile site, you’ll also need to add a couple of things to your pages to make sure that Google understands that the two versions are connected.

Optimizing an Adaptive Website for Mobile Search

An adaptive (or dynamically served) site uses a single URL, but serves a different version of the HTML/CSS depending on the type of device requesting the page.

While basic SEO principles remain the same as for a responsive site, you also need to make sure you avoid the appearance of cloaking.

Cloaking is when you show one thing to a search engine, and something different to a human user, and Google will devalue sites that are doing this for SEO gains. (Note that visually hiding or minimizing content for UI purposes, such as including a menu which is collapsed on load, do not count as cloaking as long as the content is accessible to users and crawlers alike.)

In the case of a dynamically served site, you want to signal to Google that you are showing different content based on user agent to provide the appropriate version of the page for the device accessing the page, rather than to trick the Googlebot user agent for nefarious SEO purposes.

 

To make it clear that this is what you’re doing, you should use the Vary-HTTP Header.

Using this header has two additional benefits:

  • It will let the mobile crawler know there is separate mobile content on this URL, and therefore encourage it to crawl the site.
  • It will signal to caching servers that they should consider the user agent (e.g. the type of device) when deciding whether to serve a page from the cache.

Optimizing a Separate Mobile Website for Mobile Search

A mobile site on a separate URL is effectively a different site, so you’ll need to optimize these pages in addition to optimizing the desktop version. Again, the basic SEO principles remain the same, with a few extra guidelines:

  • Create a parallel URL structure

Unless you’ve built your mobile site with very different content than your desktop site, the URL structure for your mobile site should mirror the relevant pages on your desktop site as closely as possible. So www.example.com/funny-story should become m.example.com/funny-story, not m.example.com/different-page.

  • Add mobile switchboard tags

A separate mobile site with the same or similar content as the desktop version could potentially be seen as a case of duplicate content, which may be suppressed by search engines.

This is where the mobile switchboard tag comes in. This tag indicates to Google crawlers that this is an alternate version of the site intended for mobile devices. A version of this tag is placed on both the desktop and mobile versions of the page.

To set up switchboard tags correctly:

  1. On the desktop version, place a mobile-specific rel=”alternate” tag indicating the relevant mobile page.
  2. On the mobile version, place a rel=”canonical” tag indicating the relevant desktop page.

These annotations can be included in the HTML of the pages themselves and sitemaps (but you don’t have to do both).

As an example, where the desktop URL is http://example.com/page-1 and the equivalent mobile URL is http://m.example.com/page-1, the tagging for this example would be as follows.

In HTML:

On the desktop page (http://www.example.com/page-1), place the following:

<link rel=”alternate” media=”only screen and (max-width: 640px)”
href=”http://m.example.com/page-1″>

and on the mobile page (http://m.example.com/page-1), include:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/page-1″>

The rel=”canonical” tag on the mobile URL indicating the desktop URL is always required.

In Sitemaps:

You can place the rel=”alternate” tag for desktop pages in your sitemaps, as follows:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9

xmlns:xhtml=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml”>

<url>

<loc>http://www.example.com/page-1/</loc>

<xhtml:link

rel=”alternate”

media=”only screen and (max-width: 640px)”

href=”http://m.example.com/page-1″ />

</url>

</urlset>

The required rel=”canonical” tag on the mobile URL must still be included in the mobile page’s HTML.

  • Consider user-agent redirects

Some visitors will arrive at the wrong version of your site for their device, and you may want to redirect them. Use server-side redirects rather than Javascript redirects. You may use either 301 or 302 redirects.

  • Additional guidance for handling redirects to a mobile site:
  1. Don’t redirect all desktop pages to the mobile homepage; instead, point them to a mobile page which is relevant to the original.
  2. Include a link to ‘view desktop version’ on your mobile site (and vice versa). Use cookies to ensure that if a user clicks on this option the user agent detection will be overridden, and they will not be redirected again (unless they choose to switch back via the ‘view mobile version’ option).
  3. Send tablet users to the desktop site, rather than the mobile site (unless you have a tablet-specific version). Tablet browsing patterns typically resemble desktop browsing patterns more than mobile.

 

  • Keep both versions crawlable

Make sure you’re not blocking the Googlebot smartphone user-agent from your desktop version in robots.txt and don’t block regular Googlebot from the mobile version.

Schema.org, Rich Snippets, and Rich Cards

As Google shifts towards more of a card-based format in the SERPs, and especially on mobile devices where the screen height means limited screen real estate, any steps we can take to obtain enhanced results like rich snippets and rich cards (through the use of structured data markup) becomes increasingly valuable.

visual of rich snippets and rich cards

If you aren’t sure what type of structured data might be right for your website, you can use my guide for performing a structured data audit.

Other Key Mobile Search Trends from Google

In addition to trends around mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor, Google has been working towards a few other key trends which relate directly to mobile technology and user behavior:

  • The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project to improve site speed and page load times for mobile content, and allow this content to be cached and served directly within a SERP (rather than sending the user to the original website)
  • Removing sidebar ads from the desktop SERP layout for a more streamlined, “mobile” look
  • Integrating app content with web search through support for app indexation and app streaming

We don’t have space to go in-depth on these topics here, but here are a few recommended resources you can check out if you’d like to learn more:

AMP

SERP Layout

App Indexation and Streaming

Conclusion

Mobile technology is changing rapidly, and this has created major shifts in user behavior and mobile web usage worldwide. More than ever, mobile search is becoming the future of SEO, and with that comes a host of new challenges. But the key principles remain the same: ensure that crawlers can access, read, and understand your content, ensure user experience is working well for all devices, and keep testing and iterating for better results.

 https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-guide-an-introduction-to-mobile-seo/168488/?utm_medium=feed&utm_source=feedpress.me&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+searchenginejournal

Categorized in Search Engine
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