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Published: Feb 21, 2020 10:09:24 AM
Moz provides inbound marketing analytics software. They also foster the most vibrant online marketing community and create free resources for learning inbound marketing.
  • Feb 21, 2020 12:05:00 AM

    Posted by randfish

    You don't want to try to rank for every one of your competitors' keywords. Like most things with SEO, it's important to be strategic and intentional with your decisions. In this fan favorite Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his recommended process for understanding your funnel, identifying the right competitors to track, and prioritizing which of their keywords you ought to target.

    Plus, don't miss our upcoming webinar on Wednesday, March 11: Competitive Analysis for SEO: Size Up & Surpass Your Search Rivals presented by Director of Growth Marketing Kelly Cooper.

    Which of my competitor's keyword should I target?

    Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. So this week we're chatting about your competitors' keywords and which of those competitive keywords you might want to actually target versus not.

    Many folks use tools, like SEMrush and Ahrefs and KeywordSpy and Spyfu and Moz's Keyword Explorer, which now has this feature too, where they look at: What are the keywords that my competitors rank for, that I may be interested in? This is actually a pretty smart way to do keyword research. Not the only way, but a smart way to do it. But the challenge comes in when you start looking at your competitors' keywords and then realizing actually which of these should I go after and in what priority order. In the world of competitive keywords, there's actually a little bit of a difference between classic keyword research.

    So here I've plugged in Hammer and Heels, which is a small, online furniture store that has some cool designer furniture, and Dania Furniture, which is a competitor of theirs — they're local in the Seattle area, but carry sort of modern, Scandinavian furniture — and IndustrialHome.com, similar space. So all three of these in a similar space, and you can see sort of keywords that return that several of these, one or more of these rank for. I put together difficulty, volume, and organic click-through rate, which are some of the metrics that you'll find. You'll find these metrics actually in most of the tools that I just mentioned.

    Process:

    So when I'm looking at this list, which ones do I want to actually go after and not, and how do I choose? Well, this is the process I would recommend.

    I. Try and make sure you first understand your keyword to conversion funnel.

    So if you've got a classic sort of funnel, you have people buying down here — this is a purchase — and you have people who search for particular keywords up here, and if you understand which people you lose and which people actually make it through the buying process, that's going to be very helpful in knowing which of these terms and phrases and which types of these terms and phrases to actually go after, because in general, when you're prioritizing competitive keywords, you probably don't want to be going after these keywords that send traffic but don't turn into conversions, unless that's actually your goal. If your goal is raw traffic only, maybe because you serve advertising or other things, or because you know that you can capture a lot of folks very well through retargeting, for example maybe Hammer and Heels says, "Hey, the biggest traffic funnel we can get because we know, with our retargeting campaigns, even if a keyword brings us someone who doesn't convert, we can convert them later very successfully," fine. Go ahead.

    II. Choose competitors that tend to target the same audience(s).

    So the people you plug in here should tend to be competitors that tend to target the same audiences. Otherwise, your relevance and your conversion get really hard. For example, I could have used West Elm, which does generally modern furniture as well, but they're very, very broad. They target just about everyone. I could have done Ethan Allen, which is sort of a very classic, old-school furniture maker. Probably a really different audience than these three websites. I could have done IKEA, which is sort of a low market brand for everybody. Again, not kind of the match. So when you are targeting conversion heavy, assuming that these folks were going after mostly conversion focused or retargeting focused rather than raw traffic, my suggestion would be strongly to go after sites with the same audience as you.

    If you're having trouble figuring out who those people are, one suggestion is to check out a tool called SimilarWeb. It's expensive, but very powerful. You can plug in a domain and see what other domains people are likely to visit in that same space and what has audience overlap.

    III. The keyword selection process should follow some of these rules:

    A. Are easiest first.

    So I would go after the ones that tend to be, that I think are going to be most likely for me to be able to rank for easiest. Why do I recommend that? Because it's tough in SEO with a lot of campaigns to get budget and buy-in unless you can show progress early. So any time you can choose the easiest ones first, you're going to be more successful. That's low difficulty, high odds of success, high odds that you actually have the team needed to make the content necessary to rank. I wouldn't go after competitive brands here.

    B. Are similar to keywords you target that convert well now.

    So if you understand this funnel well, you can use your AdWords campaign particularly well for this. So you look at your paid keywords and which ones send you highly converting traffic, boom. If you see that lighting is really successful for our furniture brand, "Oh, well look, glass globe chandelier, that's got some nice volume. Let's go after that because lighting already works for us."

    Of course, you want ones that fit your existing site structure. So if you say, "Oh, we're going to have to make a blog for this, oh we need a news section, oh we need a different type of UI or UX experience before we can successfully target the content for this keyword," I'd push that down a little further.

    C. High volume, low difficulty, high organic click-through rate, or SERP features you can reach.

    So basically, when you look at difficulty, that's telling you how hard is it for me to rank for this potential keyword. If I look in here and I see some 50 and 60s, but I actually see a good number in the 30s and 40s, I would think that glass globe chandelier, S-shaped couch, industrial home furniture, these are pretty approachable. That's impressive stuff.

    Volume, I want as high as I can get, but oftentimes high volume leads to very high difficulty.
    Organic click-through rate percentage, this is essentially saying what percent of people click on the 10 blue link style, organic search results. Classic SEO will help get me there. However, if you see low numbers, like a 55% for this type of chair, you might take a look at those search results and see that a lot of images are taking up the other organic click-through, and you might say, "Hey, let's go after image SEO as well." So it's not just organic click-through rate. You can also target SERP features.

    D. Are brands you carry/serve, generally not competitor's brand names.

    Then last, but not least, I would urge you to go after brands when you carry and serve them, but not when you don't. So if this Ekornes chair is something that your furniture store, that Hammers and Heels actually carries, great. But if it's something that's exclusive to Dania, I wouldn't go after it. I would generally not go after competitors' brand names or branded product names with an exception, and I actually used this site to highlight this. Industrial Home Furniture is both a branded term, because it's the name of this website — Industrial Home Furniture is their brand — and it's also a generic. So in those cases, I would tell you, yes, it probably makes sense to go after a category like that.

    If you follow these rules, you can generally use competitive intel on keywords to build up a really nice portfolio of targetable, high potential keywords that can bring you some serious SEO returns.

    Look forward to your comments and we'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com


    For more on competitor analysis, join our upcoming webinar on Wednesday March 11 at 10am PST: Competitive Analysis for SEO: Size Up & Surpass Your Search Rivals, hosted by Moz's Director of Growth Marketing Kelly Cooper:

    Save my spot!


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  • Feb 17, 2020 12:02:00 AM

    Posted by MiriamEllis

    How should I get listed in Google My Business if I’ve got multiple businesses at the same address? How many listings am I eligible for if I’m legitimately running more than one business at my location? What determines eligibility, and what penalties might I incur if I make a mistake? How should I name my businesses at the same address?

    The FAQs surrounding this single, big topic fill local SEO forums across the web, year after year.

    The guidelines for representing your business on Google contain most of the answers you’re seeking about co-located businesses, but sometimes they can err on the side of too little detail, leading to confusion.

    Today, Iet's quickly tackle the commonest FAQs that local business owners and marketers raise related to this scenario, and if you have further questions, please ask in the comments!

    Q: I have more than one business at the same address. Can I have more than one Google My Business listing?

    A: If you are legitimately operating multiple, legally distinct businesses, you can typically create a Google My Business listing for each of them. It’s not at all uncommon for more than one business to be located at a shared address. However, keep reading for further details and provisos.

    Q: How do I know if my multiple businesses at the same address are distinct enough to be eligible for separate Google My Business listings?

    A: If each brick-and-mortar business you operate is separately registered with appropriate state and federal agencies, has a unique TAX ID with which you file separate taxes, meets face-to-face with customers, and has a unique phone number, then it’s typically eligible for a distinct GMB listing. However, keep reading for more information.

    Q: Can service area businesses list multiple businesses at the same address?

    A: Google has historically treated SABs differently than brick-and-mortar businesses. While no official guideline forbids listing multiple SABs — like plumbers and locksmiths — at the same location, it’s not considered an industry best practice to do so. Google appears to be more active in issuing hard suspensions to SABs in this scenario, even if the businesses are legitimate and distinct. Because of this, it’s better strategy not to co-locate SABs.

    Q: What would make me ineligible for more than one Google My Business listing at the same address?

    A: If your businesses aren’t registered as legally distinct entities or if you lack unique phone numbers for them, you are ineligible to list them separately. Also, if your businesses are simply representative of different product lines or services you offer under the umbrella of a single business — like a handyman who repairs both water heaters and air conditioners — they aren’t eligible for separate listings. Additionally, do not list multiple businesses at PO boxes, virtual offices, mailboxes at remote locations, or at locations you don’t have the authority to represent.

    Q: Will I be penalized if I list multiple ineligible businesses at the same address?

    A: Yes, you could be. Google could issue a hard suspension on one or more of your ineligible listings at any time. A hard suspension means that Google has removed your listing and its associated reviews.

    Q: Will suite numbers help me convince Google I actually have two locations so that I can have more than one GMB listing?

    A: No. Google doesn’t pay attention to suite numbers, whether legitimate or created fictitiously. Don’t waste time attempting to make a single location appear like multiple locations by assigning different suite numbers to the entities in hopes of qualifying for multiple listings.

    Q: Can I list my business at a co-working space, even though there are multiple businesses at the same address?

    A: If your business has a unique, direct phone number answered by you and you are staffing the co-working space with your own staff at your listed hours, yes, you are typically eligible for a Google My Business listing. However, if any of the other businesses at the location share your categories or are competing for the same search terms, it is likely that you or your competitors will be filtered out of Google’s mapping product due to the shared elements.

    Q: How many GMB listings can I have if there are multiple seasonal businesses at my address?

    A: If your property hosts an organic fruit stand in summer and a Christmas tree farm in the winter, you need to closely follow Google’s requirements for seasonal businesses. In order for each entity to qualify for a listing, it must have year-round signage and set and then remove its GMB hours at the opening and closing of its season. Each entity should have a distinct name, phone number and Google categories.

    Q: How should I name my multiple businesses at the same address?

    A: To decrease the risk of filtering or penalties, co-located businesses must pay meticulous attention to allowed naming conventions. Questions surrounding this typically fall into five categories:

    1. If one business is contained inside another, as in the case of a McDonald’s inside a Walmart, the Google My Business names should be “McDonald’s” and “Walmart” not “McDonalds in Walmart”.
    2. If co-located brands like a Taco Bell and a Dunkin’ Donuts share the same location, they should not combine their brand names for the listing. They should either create a single listing with just one of the brand names, or, if the brands operate independently, a unique listing for each separate brand.
    3. If multiple listings actually reflect eligible departments within a business — like the sales and parts departments of a Chevrolet dealership — then it’s correct to name the listings Chevrolet Sales Department and Chevrolet Parts Department. No penalties should result from the shared branding elements, so long as the different departments have some distinct words in their names, distinct phone numbers and distinct GMB categories.
    4. If a brand sells another brand’s products — like Big-O selling Firestone Tires — don’t include the branding of the product being sold in the GMB business name. However, Google stipulates that if the business location is an authorized and fully dedicated seller of the branded product or service (sometimes known as a "franchisee"), you may use the underlying brand name when creating the listing, such as "TCC Verizon Wireless Premium Retailer.”
    5. If an owner is starting out with several new businesses at the same location, it would be a best practice to keep their names distinct. For example, a person operating a pottery studio and a pet grooming station out of the same building can lessen the chance of filters, penalties, and other problems by avoiding naming conventions like “Rainbow Pottery” and “Rainbow Pet Grooming” at the same location.

    Q: Can I create separate listings for classes, meetings, or events that share a location?

    A: Unfortunately the guidelines on this topic lack definition. Google says not to create such listings for any location you don’t own or have the authority to represent. But even if you do own the building, the guidelines can lead to confusion. For example, a college can create separate listings for different departments on campus, but should not create a listing for every class being offered, even if the owners of the college do have authority to represent it.

    Another example would be a yoga instructor who teaches at three different locations. If the building owners give them permission to list themselves at the locations, along with other instructors, the guidelines appear to permit creating multiple listings of this kind. However, such activity could end up being perceived as spam, could be filtered out because of shared elements with other yoga classes at a location, and could end up competing with the building’s own listing.

    Because the guidelines are not terribly clear, there is some leeway in this regard. Use your discretion in creating such listings and view them as experimental in case Google should remove them at some point.

    Q: How do I set GMB hours for co-located business features that serve different functions?

    A: A limited number of business models have to worry about this issue of having two sets of hours for specific features of a business that exist on the same premises but serve unique purposes. For example, a gas station can have a convenience market that is open 6 AM to 10 PM, but pumps that operate 24 hours a day. Google sums up the shortlist for such scenarios this way, which I’ll quote verbatim:

    • Banks: Use lobby hours if possible. Otherwise, use drive-through hours. An ATM attached to a bank can use its own separate listing with its own, different hours.
    • Car dealerships: Use car sales hours. If hours for new car sales and pre-owned car sales differ, use the new sales hours.
    • Gas stations: Use the hours for your gas pumps.
    • Restaurants: Use the hours when diners can sit down and dine in your restaurant. Otherwise, use takeout hours. If neither of those is possible, use drive-through hours, or, as a last resort, delivery hours.
    • Storage facilities: Use office hours. Otherwise, use front gate hours.

    Q: Could the details of my Google listing get mixed up with another business at my location?

    A: Not long ago, local SEO blogs frequently documented cases of listing “conflation”. Details like similar or shared names, addresses or phone numbers could cause Google to merge two listings together, resulting in strange outcomes like the reviews for one company appearing on the listing of another. This buggy mayhem, thankfully, has died down to the extent that I haven’t seen a report of listing conflation in some years. However, it’s good to remember that errors like these made it clear that each business you operate should always have its own phone number, naming should be as unique as possible, and categories should always be carefully evaluated.

    Q: Why is only one of my multiple businesses at the same location ranking in Google’s local results?

    A: The commonest cause of this is that Google is filtering out all but one of your businesses from ranking because of listing element similarity. If you attempt to create multiple listings for businesses that share Google categories or are competing for the same keyword phrases at the same address, Google’s filters will typically make all but one of the entities invisible at the automatic zoom level of their mapping product. For this reason, creating multiple GMB listings for businesses that share categories or industries is not a best practice and should be avoided.

    Q: My GMB listing is being filtered due to co-location. What should I do?

    A: This topic has come to the fore especially since Google’s rollout of the Possum filter on Sept 1, 2016. Businesses at the same address (or even in the same neighborhood) that share a category and are competing for the same search phrases often have the disappointment of discovering that their GMB listing appears to be missing from the map while a co-located or nearby competitor ranks highly. Google’s effort to deliver diversity causes them to filter out companies that they deem too similar when they’re in close proximity to one another.

    If you find yourself currently in a scenario where you happen to be sharing a building with a competitor, and you’ve been puzzled as to why you seem invisible on Google’s maps, zoom in on the map and see if your listing suddenly appears. If it does, chances are, you’re experiencing filtering.

    If this is your predicament, you have a few options for addressing it. As a measure of last resort, you could relocate your company to a part of town where you don’t have to share a location and have no nearby competitors, but this would be an extreme solution. More practically speaking, you will need to audit your competitor, comparing their metrics to yours to discover why Google sees them as the stronger search result. From the results of your audit, you can create a strategy for surpassing your opponent so that Google decides it’s your business that deserves not to be filtered out.

    Summing Up

    There’s nothing wrong with multiple businesses sharing an address. Google’s local index is filled with businesses in this exact situation ranking just fine without fear of penalization. But the key to success and safety in this scenario is definitely in the details.

    Assessing eligibility, accurately and honestly representing your brand, adhering to guidelines and best practices, and working hard to beat the filters will stand you in good stead.


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  • Feb 14, 2020 12:00:00 AM

    Posted by BritneyMuller

    You've figured out what's wrong, and you've delivered a laundry list of demands to your web dev team: re-index these pages, fix this duplicate content, redirect these URLs... but how often are those fixes prioritized, and how much time do you invest in pushing to get them there?

    Cultivating a positive, productive relationship with your web developers is one of the smartest (and most empathetic) things you can do as an SEO. After all, they're your other half, the key to getting your work done quickly and well. In this Whiteboard Friday, Britney Muller shares six essential ways to get your web dev on board with SEO, from working to better understand their role and offer help when you can, to sharing your wins and asking for feedback on working together.

    And don't miss the end — we've released our brand-new Web Developer's SEO Cheat Sheet for 2020, the perfect pairing for today's video! 

    Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

    Video Transcription

    Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we're talking all about how to get your web dev on board with SEO. So really excited. I think you'll notice my biggest point here, and I couldn't feel more strongly about the fact that we really do have so much to learn from developers, it's wild.

    Hopefully, this video helps kind of open some of your minds or expand some of the ways in which you can do that, because it will make you a lot stronger. 

    1. Create a genuine relationship with developers and work to better understand their role

    First and foremost, create a genuine relationship with the developers you work with. Better understand their role and how they're measuring their own success. Know what languages they program in. Better understanding their perspective and their opinion on things helps you create a better working relationship. Part of that is cultivating trust. 

    One of the ways in which I've found some success cultivating that trust is just admitting when I have no idea how to implement a particular SEO fix. Or even when I think that I do, I prefer to ask, "What is the best way you see this being implemented? How would you most efficiently implement this change or optimization?" More frequently than not, they will have a way better way to make these website changes because they have that backend knowledge of the website.

    Being humble, expressing that you don't know everything, you're not trying to step in and tell them how to program pages or how to fix that, it should be way more of a communication and a transaction of just information from both sides. 

    2. Learning from developers helps you become a stronger SEO

    I promise you. It is one of my most favorite things working here at Moz. I have learned so much from the developers here. But likewise, some of the developers have learned things from myself and other fellow SEOs that work here. This is a symbiotic working relationship, where developers want to program sites and pages that do well in search.

    I think it's part of your job to express and communicate the potential value of a well-crafted web page. Show them how much more powerful their code and their work can be if set up properly or set up with thinking about JavaScript and Google crawling different aspects of it.

    That's what makes it a really efficient working relationship. Be open to just learning new things from your developers. 

    3. Be a champion of the developers you work with

    Understand what it is they're trying to accomplish. If there's any way you can help support that or consider that in your work and the things you're making progress on, it's a win-win.

    4. Create a workflow/process to keep an eye on dev changes and catch things early

    This is a common problem. Something that a lot of people ask about is creating this workflow or process in which you can keep an eye on dev changes. For really large websites, this can get unwieldy. It can be difficult to keep an eye on changes that might affect SEO.

    But if you can have that conversation with a developer or a team of developers that you work with on: What's the best way to manage this? Can you add me to GitHub so I can look at things that are getting pushed? Whatever that might be, it can really help create the space where you're doing preventative SEO. You're making sure that nothing goes terribly wrong in the future and makes it more manageable in the long run. 

    5. Share your SEO wins with your developers — and thank them!

    Share your SEO wins with the developers, especially when they've helped you and maybe have provided better solutions. You should absolutely thank them, and what a great opportunity to sort of share in those wins and continue to grow that working relationship.

    6. Ask for feedback

    Lastly, ask for feedback. If you feel like you're struggling to communicate with a group of developers or a single developer, just be honest and use some radical candor and ask, "How can I better work with you? How can I better support you?" Opening that up for some feedback can also help to strengthen the relationship. 

    Bonus: The brand-new Web Developer's SEO Cheat Sheet

    Then the one last thing that I hope you can really leverage as a tool to grow in your SEO efforts and to help you get more things done with the development team is The Web Developer's Cheat Sheet for SEO.

    This is a great resource to open up this conversation with developers, to sit down and have a conversation about why some of these things are important to you as an SEO and what comes to mind when they look at it. They have a totally different perspective on a lot of the things within this sheet.

    Download the free Cheat Sheet

    It's a great opportunity for you to sit down and have those conversations and be able to excel in your SEO efforts. I hope some of this helps. I think it's one of the most important things in getting SEO work done and seeing that success.

    Please let me know what you think down below in the comments. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this, what's worked for you, what hasn't worked for you, and what other questions you have. I will see you all again soon. Thanks.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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  • Feb 10, 2020 11:13:40 AM

    Posted by EricSerdar

    I’m not a literary scholar, but I believe it was Hamlet that said “to have a featured snippet or not to have a featured snippet?” Ever since featured snippets came onto the scene, sites have been trying to secure them.

    My team and I wanted in on this craze. Throughout our journey of research, testing, failure, and success, we found some interesting pieces of information that we wanted to share with the community. I’ll walk you through what we did and show you some of our results (though can’t share traffic numbers).

    It was Britney Muller’s webinar on Feature Snippet Essentials and the release of the featured snippets cheat sheet that inspired me to capture what we've learned.

    What are featured snippets?

    A featured snippet is the box that appears at the top of the search result page that provides information to succinctly and accurately answer your query and cites a website.

    Why are featured snippets important?

    A featured snippet is important because it represents an additional SERP feature that you can secure. Usually located at the very top of the results page, featured snippets offer you greater visibility to searchers and can boost brand recognition.

    Our featured snippet plan of attack

    1. Research, research, and more research on how to pull this off
    2. Identify keywords we wanted to target
    3. Change how we structured our on-page content
    4. Measure, test, and repeat the process

    1. Research, research, and more research

    We spent a great deal of time researching featured snippets. We looked at different ways to find featured snippet opportunities and researched how to optimize our content for them. We also went and saw Kellie Gibson speak on featured snippets volatility.

    Did we implement everything from what we learned during this discovery phase into our featured snippet strategy? No. Are we perfect at it now after a year and a half of practicing this? No, no, no. We are getting better at it, though.

    2. Identify keywords we wanted to target

    We originally started out focusing on big “head” keywords. These represented terms that had indeterminate searcher intent. The first head term that we focused on was HRIS. It stands for Human Resources Information System — sexy, right?

    Note: Looking back on this, I wish we had focused on longer tail keywords when testing out this strategy. It's possible we could have refined our process faster focusing on long tail keywords instead of the large head terms.

    3. Change how we structure our on-page content

    We worked closely with our writing team to update how we lay out content on our blog. We changed how we used H2s, H3s (we actually used them now!), lists, and so on to help make our content easier to read for both users and robots.

    In most of the content where we’re trying to rank for a featured snippet, we have an H2 in the form of a question. Immediately after the H2, we try and answer that question. We’ve found this to be highly successful (see pictures later on in the post). I wish I could say that we learned this tactic on our first try, but it took several months before this dawned on us.

    4. Measure, test, and repeat

    The first blog post that we tried this out on was our “What is an HRIS” article. Overall, this post was a success, it ranked for the head term that we were going for (HRIS), but we didn’t win a featured snippet. We deemed it a slight failure and went back to work.

    This is where the fun started.

    Featured snippet successes

    We discovered a featured snippet trigger that we could capitalize on — mainly by accident. What was it?

    Is.

    Really. That was it. Just by adding that to some of our content, we started to pick up featured snippets. We started to do it more and more, and we were winning more and more featured snippets! I believe it was this strategic HR example that clued us onto the “is” trigger.

    So we kept it up.

    Featured snippet won for "employee orientation"
    Featured snippet won for "hr business partner"
    Featured snippet won for "employee development plan"

    What did we learn?

    I want to preface this by saying that all of this is anecdotal evidence. We haven’t looked at several million URLs, run it through any fancy number-crunching, or had a statistician look at the data. These are just a few examples that we’ve noticed that, when repeated, have worked for us.

    1. Blog/HR glossary - We found that it was easier for us to gain featured snippets from our blog or our glossary pages. It seemed like no matter what optimizations that we made on the product page, we weren’t able to make it happen.
    2. Is - No, not the clown from the Stephen King novel. “Is” seemed to be the big trigger word for winning featured snippets. During our audit, we did find some examples of list featured snippets, but the majority were paragraphs and the trigger word was "is."
    3. Definitions - We saw that definitions of the head term we were trying to go for was usually what got the definition. Our on-page copy would have the H2 with the keyword (e.g. What is Employee Orientation?) and then the paragraph copy would answer that question.
    4. Updating old posts - One surprising thing we learned is that when we went back to old posts and tried adding the “is” trigger word, we didn’t see a change — even if we added a good amount of new content to the page. We were only able to grab featured snippets with new content that we created. Also, when we updated large amounts of content on a few pages that had featured snippets, we lost them. We made sure to not touch the sections of the page that the snippet was pulling from, but we still lost the snippet (some have come back, but some are still gone).

    Conclusion

    A few final things to note:

    1. First, while these examples are anecdotal, I think that they show some practices that anyone wanting to capture featured snippets can do. 
    2. Second, this was process was over a 12–18 month period and we’re still evolving what we think is the best way for us and our content team. 
    3. Third, we had a lot of failures with this. I showed you one example, but we’ve had many (short-form content, long-form content, glossary terms, blog posts, etc.) that didn’t work. We just kept measuring, testing, and optimizing. 
    4. Lastly, I need to give a shout out to our writing team. We massively disrupted their process with this and they have been phenomenal to work with (effective interdepartmental relationships are crucial for any SEO project).

    Let me know what's worked for you or if you have any questions by leaving a comment down below.

    Note: On January 23, 2020 Google announced that featured snippets would no longer be listed twice on the first page. For more information, you can check out this thread from Google Search Liaison. This may change how valuable featured snippets are to companies and the amount of clicks a listing gets. Before you start to panic, remember it will be important to watch and measure how this affects your site before doing anything drastic. If you do decide to go nuclear and to remove your featured snippets from the results, check out this documentation.


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  • Feb 7, 2020 12:02:00 AM

    Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

    A rising tide lifts all ships — and it's similar story with increased site authority. What factors are affected as you improve PageRank or Domain Authority, and how? In today's Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus details seven SEO processes that are made easier by a strong investment in link building and growing your authority.

    Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I'm Cyrus Shepard. Quick Whiteboard this week. I want to talk about links.

    We know in SEO we love links. Everybody wants links. But why? What do links do for you? They do a surprising amount for you that we sometimes don't realize. So the title of today's Whiteboard, "7 SEO Processes That Get Easier with Increased PageRank and Domain Authority." So why did we choose PageRank and Domain Authority?

    Well, these are both algorithms that measure link power, both the number of links and the quantity of links. PageRank being Google's algorithm to rank web pages based on popularity and importance. Domain Authority, which Google doesn't use, just to be clear, Domain Authority being a Moz algorithm that measures both link quantity and quality.

    For our purposes, we can basically use them in the same conversation. We're talking about the power of your links. 

    1. Ranking ability

    The first thing that everybody knows about is links help you rank. They help you rank in many, many ways. You can get higher rankings. You can attack more keywords, but most importantly, you can attack more competitive keywords.

    A good thing I like to do is, when I'm trying to see if I can rank for a keyword, simply Google it, check the Page Authority, which is a very similar metric, of all the top ranking pages, see what your Page Authority is for your top ranking keywords, and you can kind of have a pretty good idea if you have an ability to rank for that keyword. 

    2. Crawl budget

    But then we get into the nitty-gritty, the other benefits of having that link equity, one of the most important being crawl budget.

    When you have more link equity, Google will crawl more of your pages. If you only have a handful of links and a million pages on your website, it's going to be very difficult to get Google to crawl and index all those million pages. If you're eBay or Amazon or Google or a site with like a 100 Domain Authority, yes, you might be able to attract Google to crawl those million pages.

    3. Indexation speed

    Google will also crawl them faster. You may get Google to crawl your pages with low Domain Authority, but it's going to take a while for Google to visit those again. So then we get into the idea of indexation speed. With a higher Domain Authority, Google is going to crawl and index your content typically much faster than they would without.

    So if you have a page that you've updated recently, you're going to see Google update it quicker the more authority that page has. Also you're going to see this in the SERPs. If you have outdated title tags or meta descriptions, you can ask Google to crawl it via the Submit URL tool. But generally, the more authority a page has, the more incoming link power, you're going to see those things updated so much quicker than you would with low link equity.

    4. More powerful links

    This is my favorite one. With increased link equity, your own links become more powerful, and this gives you incredible ranking power because your internal links, that you're linking to yourself, become more powerful with that link equity. So it makes everything easier to rank. The best link building you can do when you have high authority is linking to yourself, and it's so easy.

    But also the links that you link out to other people also become more valuable, which makes you a more attractive target. 

    5. Insulation from bad links

    My friend Everett Sizemore came up with that word "insulation." With better link equity, you're somewhat protected from a handful of bad links. Now if you have low link equity and you get a bunch of spam links to your site, your risk of penalization or being impacted by negative SEO increases pretty high.

    But if you have a million links, a handful of bad links just aren't going to hurt you. A good way to think about this is ratios, because, of course, anybody can get penalized. Anybody can suffer the consequences of bad links. But if those bad links only make up a tiny portion, meaning a small ratio, then you are somewhat insulated by the impact of those bad links.

    6. Less over-optimization

    Now Google says they don't have an over-optimization penalty. But anecdotally, many SEOs understand that if you're a small site, you're just starting out, it's very easy to over-optimize for keywords with exact match anchor text and not rank. The key usually: in SEO, you want a lot of variety.

    With a lot of links, that variety is much easier to get, and you have much less risk of over-optimization in linking internally with exact match anchor text. You can get away with a lot more with higher Domain Authority than you can with less Domain Authority. That's kind of the key to this whole thing. With higher Domain Authority, you just get away with a lot more. It's the idea of the rich getting richer. 

    7. The flywheel effect

    Rand Fishkin, our friend, likes to talk about the flywheel effect. When you have more links, everything gets easier. When you start ranking and people start seeing you in the SERPs, you're going to get more links from that content, and more links are going to equal more ranking and the wheel is just going to keep turning and turning.

    More people want to link to you and amplify you and work with you. You're also going to get a lot more spam requests and link requests and things like that, so it isn't fun. But generally, the more Domain Authority you have, the more PageRank you have, the easier life is going to get, and you just want to start building it up day after day after day. So, like I said, a quick and easy Whiteboard Friday this week.

    Hope you enjoyed it. We'll talk to you next time. Thanks, everybody.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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  • Feb 5, 2020 12:04:00 AM

    Posted by Dr-Pete

    In 2014, Google introduced the featured snippet, a promoted organic ranking that we affectionately (some days were more affectionate than others) referred to as "position zero" or "ranking #0." One of the benefits to being in position zero was that you got to double-dip, with your organic listing appearing in both the featured snippet and page-1 results (usually in the top 3–4). On January 23, Google announced a significant change (which rolled out globally on January 22) ...

    "Declutters" sounds innocuous, but the impact to how we think about featured snippets and organic rankings is significant. So, let's dig deep into some examples and the implications for SEO.

    What does this mean for Moz?

    First, a product announcement. In the past, we treated Featured Snippets as stand-alone SERP features — they were identified in our "SERP Features" report but were not treated as organic due to the second listing. As of Saturday, January 25 (shout-out to many of our team for putting in a long weekend), we began rolling out data that treats the featured snippet as position #1. SERPs with featured snippets will continue to be tagged in SERP Features reporting, and we're working on ways to surface more data.

    Here's a partial screenshot of our "SERP Features" report from one of my own experiments ...

    At a glance, you can see which keywords displayed a featured snippet (the scissor icon), owned that featured snippet (highlighted in blue), as well as your organic ranking for those keywords. We're working on bringing more of this data into the Rankings report in the near future.

    If you're a Moz Pro customer and would like to see this in action, you can jump directly to your SERP Features report using the button below (please let us know what you think about the update):

    This change brings our data in line with Google's view that a featured snippet is a promoted organic result and also better aligns us with Google Search Console data. Hopefully, it also helps provide customers with more context about their featured snippets as organic entities.

    How does Google count to 10?

    Let's take a deeper look at the before and after of this change. Here are the desktop organic results (left-column only) from a search for "LCD vs LED" on January 21st ...

    Pardon some big images, but I promise there's method to my madness. In the "before" screenshot above, we can clearly see that the featured snippet URL is duplicated as the #1 organic result (note: I've added the green box and removed a People Also Ask box). Ranking #1 wasn't always the case prior to January 22nd, but most featured snippet URLs appeared in the #1–#3 organic positions, and all of them came from page-one results.

    Here's the same SERP from January 23rd ...

    You can see that not only is the featured snippet URL missing from the #1 position, but it doesn't appear on page one at all. There's more to this puzzle, though. Look at the January 21st SERP again, but numbered ...

    Notice that, even with the featured snippet, page one displays 10 full organic results. This was part of our rationale for treating the featured snippet as the #0 position and a special case, even though it came from organic results. We also debated whether duplicating data in rankings reports added value for customers or just created confusion.

    Now, look at the numbered SERP from January 23rd ...

    The duplicate URL hasn't been replaced — it's been removed entirely. So, we're only left with 10 total results, including the featured snippet itself. If we started with #0, we'd be left with a page-one SERP that goes from #0–#9.

    What about double snippets?

    In rare cases, Google may show two featured snippets in a row. If you haven't seen one of these in action, here's an example for the search "Irish baby names" from January 21st ...

    I've highlighted the organic URLs to show that, prior to the update, both featured snippet URLs appeared on page one. A quick count will also show you that there are 10 traditional organic listings and 12 total listings (counting the two featured snippets).

    Here's that same SERP from January 23rd, which I've numbered ...

    In this case, both featured snippet URLs have been removed from the traditional organic listings, and we're left once again with 10 total page-one results. We see the same pattern with SERP features (such as Top Stories or Video carousels) that occupy an organic position. Whatever the combination in play, the featured snippet appears to count as one of the 10 results on page one after January 22nd.

    What about right-hand side panels?

    More recently, Google introduced a hybrid desktop result that looks like a Knowledge Panel but pulls information from organic results, like a Featured Snippet. Here's an example from January 21st (just the panel) ...

    In the left-hand column, the same Wordstream URL ranked #3 in organic results (I've truncated the image below to save your scrolling finger) ...

    After January 22nd, this URL was also treated as a duplicate, which was met with considerable public outcry. Unlike the prominent Featured Snippet placement, many people felt (including myself) that the panel-style UI was confusing and very likely to reduce click-through rate (CTR). In a fairly rare occurrence, Google backtracked on this decision ...

    Our data set showed reversal kicking in on January 29th (a week after the initial change). Currently, while some featured snippets are still displayed in right-hand panels (about 30% of all featured snippets across MozCast's 10,000 keywords), those URLs once again appear in the organic listings.

    Note that Google has said this is a multi-part project, and they're likely going to be moving these featured snippets back to the left-hand column in the near future. We don't currently know if that means they'll become traditional featured snippets or if they'll evolve into a new entity.

    How do I block featured snippets?

    Cool your jets, Starscream. Almost the moment Google announced this change, SEOs started talking about how to block featured snippets, including some folks asking publicly about de-optimizing content. "De-optimizing" sounds harmless, but it's really a euphemism for making your own content worse so that it ranks lower. In other words, you're going to take a CTR hit (the organic CTR curve drops off quickly as a power function) to avoid possibly taking a CTR hit. As Ford Prefect wisely said: "There's no point in driving yourself mad trying to stop yourself going mad. You might just as well give in and save your sanity for later."

    More importantly, there are better options. The oldest currently available option is the meta-nosnippet directive. I'd generally consider this a last resort — as a recent experiment by Claire Carlile re-affirms, meta-nosnippet blocks all snippets/descriptions, including your organic snippet.

    As of 2019, we have two more options to work with. The meta-max-snippet directive limits the character-length of search snippets (both featured snippets and organic snippets). It looks something like this ...

    <meta name="robots" content="max-snippet:50">

    Setting the max-snippet value to zero should function essentially the same as a nosnippet directive. However, by playing with intermediate values, you might be able to maintain your organic snippet while controlling or removing the featured snippet.

    Another relatively new option is the data-nosnippet HTML attribute. This is a tag attribute that you can wrap around content you wish to block from snippets. It looks something like this ...

    <span data-nosnippet>I will take this content to the grave!</span>

    Ok, that was probably melodramatic, but the data-nosnippet attribute can be wrapped around specific content that you'd like to keep out of snippets (again, this impacts all snippets). This could be very useful if you've got information appearing from the wrong part of a page or even a snippet that just doesn't answer the question very well. Of course, keep in mind that Google could simply select another part of your page for the featured snippet.

    One thing to keep in mind: in some cases, Featured snippet content drives voice answers. Danny Sullivan at Google confirmed that, if you block your snippets using one of the methods above, you also block your eligibility for voice answers ...

    A featured snippet isn't guaranteed to drive voice answers (there are a few more layers to the Google Assistant algorithms), but if you're interested in ranking for voice, then you may want to proceed with caution. Also keep in mind that there's no position #2 in voice search.

    How much should I freak out?

    We expect these changes are here to stay, at least for a while, but we know very little about the impact of featured snippets on CTR after January 22nd. In early 2018, Moz did a major, internal CTR study and found the impact of featured snippets almost impossible to interpret, because the available data (whether click-stream or Google Search Console) provided no way to tell if clicks were going to the featured snippet or the duplicated organic URL.

    My hunch, informed by that project, is that there are two realities. In one case, featured snippets definitively answer a question and negatively impact CTR. If a concise, self-contained answer is possible, expect some people not to click on the URL. You've given them what they need.

    In the other case, though, a featured snippet acts as an incomplete teaser, naturally encouraging clicks (if the information is worthwhile). Consider this featured snippet for "science fair ideas" ...

    The "More items..." indicator clearly suggests that this is just part of a much longer list, and I can tell you from my as a parent that I wouldn't stop at the featured snippet. Lists and instructional content are especially well-suited to this kind of teaser experience, as are questions that can't be answered easily in a paragraph.

    All of this is to say that I wouldn't take a hatchet to your featured snippets. Answering the questions your visitors ask is a good thing, generally, and drives search visibility. As we learn more about the impact on CTR, it makes sense to be more strategic, but featured snippets are organic opportunities that are here to stay.


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  • Feb 4, 2020 1:22:42 PM

    Posted by Suganthan-Mohanadasan

    Without a doubt, it is our job as SEOs to keep an eye on the future and anticipate what Google is planning, testing, or looking to drop on our doorsteps. Over the past 12 months alone, we have seen several changes in Google Search — each impacting how we plan, implement, and report on campaigns.

    In this article, I will take a look at what is in store for SEO in 2020 and how these factors will change the way we formulate strategies throughout the next year and beyond.

    Artificial intelligence will continue to evolve

    Over the past half-decade, artificial intelligence has become a pioneering force in the evolution of SEO.

    In 2015, for example, we were introduced to RankBrain -- the machine-based search algorithm that helps Google push more relevant results to users. Although RankBrain is coming up on its fifth birthday, we are only now catching early glimpses into how artificial intelligence will dominate SEO in the coming years.

    The most recent step in this progression of artificial learning is, of course, the introduction of Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding (BERT), which Google announced at the end of October. For those who missed it, BERT is Google’s neural network-based technique for natural language processing, and it’s important because it deals with the very fundamentals of how people search. Google itself says that the algorithm represents “the biggest leap forward in the past five years, and one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search.”

    Affecting one in ten searches, BERT gives Google a better understanding of how language is used and helps it comprehend the context of individual words within searches. The important thing to know about BERT (and also RankBrain), is the fact that you cannot optimize for it.

    But what does this mean for SEOs?

    BERT is just one signal of how Google understands language, but it is one of the most important in the search engine’s arsenal. This means that now more than ever, webmasters and SEOs alike must focus their efforts on creating the most useful, natural, and highest-quality content. Quite simply, as Danny Sullivan says, “write content for users.”

    It’s also worth understanding how BERT interprets questions, which you can find out more about in the Whiteboard Friday episode below.

    Voice search is here to stay

    It’s hard to imagine at the dawn of 2020, but when voice search was released in 2012 many assumed it would be just another project consigned to the ever-growing Google graveyard.

    Today, however, we know so much more about the technology and, thanks to schema.org, where it is likely to go in the future. The adoption rate is slower than predicted, but it has nevertheless leaked into our lives, so we must not completely ignore voice search.

    Schema markup

    A new form of markup is released nearly every month, with one of the latest developments being markup for movies. Although this might seem insignificant, the fact that we are now seeing markup for films shows just how granular and far-reaching structured data has come.

    With smart speakers now numbering 120 million in the US alone, webmasters should be taking the time to investigate where schema can be placed on their website so they can take advantage of the 35.6 million voice search demands taking place every month. What’s more, website markup has a monumental influence on featured snippets, which can be highly lucrative for any website. Take a look at this Moz guide for more information on how voice search influences featured snippets.

    Speakable

    If you’re in the US, it’s also worth noting that Speakable (BETA) is used by Google Assistant to answer people’s questions about specific topics. The assistant can return up to three relevant articles and provide audio playback using text-to-speech markup. Implementing such a markup can be highly lucrative for news sites, because when the assistant provides an answer, it also attributes the source and sends the full article URL to the user's mobile device. If you’re a news site that publishes in English but doesn’t yet have Speakable markup implemented, you can read up on both the technical considerations and content requirements necessary for eligibility.

    Google Actions

    Actions on Google, a development platform for Google Assistant, is also worth your consideration. It allows the third-party development of "actions" — applets for Google Assistant that provide extended functionality. Actions can be used to get things done by integrating your content and services with the Google Assistant.

    Actions allow you to do a number of things:

    • Build Actions to ensure Google Assistant uses your apps
    • Allow users to search for and engage with your app
    • Provide your app as a recommendation for user queries

    Check out this fantastic article by Andrea Vopini about how to optimize your content using Google assistant.

    Google is heavily invested in using entities

    Entities aren’t something that you hear SEOs talking about every day, but they are something Google is putting a lot of resources into. Put simply, Google itself states that entities are “a thing or concept that is singular, unique, well-defined, and distinguishable.”

    Entities don’t have to be something physical, but can be something as vague as an idea or a color. As long as it is either singular, unique, distinguishable, or well-defined, it is an entity.

    As you can see, Moz shows up in the knowledge panel because the company is an entity. If you search the Google Knowledge Graph API for the company name, you can see how Google understands them:

    But what does this mean for SEOs?

    In 2015, Google submitted a patent named “Ranking Search Results Based On Entity Metrics,” which is where the above entity description is sourced from. Although few patents are worth getting excited about, this one caused a stir in the technical SEO scene because it takes machine learning to an entirely new level and allows Google to accurately calculate the probability of user intent, thus giving it an understanding of both user language and tone. What’s more, entities place a reduced reliance on links as a ranking factor, and depending on what your SEO strategy is, that could result in the need for big campaign changes.

    The most important aspect you will need to consider is how Google understands the entities on your website.

    For example, if your site sells shoes, you need to think about how many different types, colors, sizes, brands, and concepts exist for your shoes. Each shoe will represent a different entity, which means you must consider how to frame each product so that it meets the expectations of users as well as the learning capabilities of Google — which is where we meet markup once again.

    Sites themselves can also become entities, and that provides huge rewards as they appear in the Knowledge Panel, which I will discuss next.

    The knowledge panel will be important for personalities and brands

    Although Google’s Knowledge Graph was launched way back in 2012, its expansion since then means it is still a core part of the search matrix and one that will reach far into the next decade.

    Closely tied with featured snippets and rich results, earlier last year Google began allowing entities to claim their own knowledge panel, giving them access to edit and control the information presented to users in search results. They can make specific requests, such as changing the featured image, panel title, and social profiles provided within the panel.

    The benefits of claiming your knowledge panel are numerous. They help users gain quick access to your site, which thanks to the Knowledge Graph, displays trust and authority signals. Knowledge panels also provide brands and personalities with the ability to control what objective information is shown to users. However, there are still many brands that have yet to claim their own panels.

    You can claim your business’s knowledge panel in a few easy steps:

    1. Ensure that your website is verified with Search Console.
    2. Update your panel by suggesting a change to Google.

    But what does this mean for SEOs?

    As you can see from the above examples, being in the Knowledge Graph can improve trust and add authenticity to your business or personal brand, as well as providing additional visibility. But it's easier said than done. 

    Unless you're a recognized, famous person or brand, claiming space in the Knowledge Graph is going to be difficult. Having a Wikipedia page can be enough, but I don't recommend creating pages just to get there — it will get deleted and waste your effort. Instead, build brand mentions and authority around your name gradually. While having a wikidata page can be helpful, it’s not guaranteed. The goal is to get Google to recognize you as a notable person or brand.

    Queryless proactive predictive search is getting better

    Google Discover was released in June of 2017, prompting a new kind of search altogether — one that is queryless. Discover is an AI-driven content recommendation tool and claims 80 million active users.

    Using the aforementioned Knowledge Graph, Google added an extra layer called the Topic Layer, which is engineered to understand how a user’s interest develops over time (this article by the University of Maryland offers an in-depth explanation of topic layers and models).

    By understanding the many topics a user is interested in, Discover identifies the most accurate content to deliver from an array of websites.

    But what does this mean for SEOs?

    To appear in Discover, Google states that pages appear “if they are indexed by Google and meet Google News content policies. No special tags or structured data are required.” It ranks content based on an algorithm that inspects the quality of content alongside the interests of the user and the topic of the page in question. The exact formula is unknown, however, based on several studies and experiments we now have a pretty good idea of how it works.

    This screenshot from a presentation by Kenichi Suzuki highlights some of the factors that help pages appear in Discover.

    According to Google, there are two ways to boost the performance of your content within Discover:

    1. Post interesting content
    2. Use high-quality images

    As ever, ensure that you generate high quality content that is unique and creates a great experience for users. If your site tends to publish clickbait articles, the chance of those articles appearing in Discover is low.

    Other tips for appearing in Discover would be to arrange your content semantically so that Google finds it easier to understand your work, and ensure that your website is technically proficient.

    Like any form of search, you can use Google Search Console to see how well your articles are performing in Discover. You can find Discover stats under the performance section.

    Google Discover analytics data is fairly new, and therefore limited. There isn't currently a native way to segment this traffic inside Google Analytics. To track user behavior data, this article provides a technique to track it inside Google Analytics.

    We have yet to see the biggest changes in visual image Search

    It could be argued that the biggest change to image search happened in September 2018 when Google Lens rolled out. Not only did featured videos begin appearing in image search, but AMP stories and new ranking algorithms and tags were also released.

    But while speaking at a Webmaster Meetup in New York last year, John Mueller shared that there will be major changes in image search in the coming year. Rather than merely viewing images, very soon people will use itto accomplish goals, purchase products, and learn new information.

    Google has always said that images should be properly optimized and marked, so if you have not started to add such data or information to your images, now is definitely the time to start.

    In the past six months alone we have seen Google introduce small changes such as removing the “view image” function, as well as colossal changes, such as totally revamping image search for Desktop.

    Furthermore, people don’t even have to search within it to see images anymore. It's common for the SERP to present a universal search result, which encompasses images, videos, maps, news, and shopping listings. The opportunity to appear in a universal (or blended) result is just another reason why properly tagged and marked images are so important.

    Finally, Google has added visual image search attributes to search results. The interesting thing with this update is that these attributes are now available as image carousels within the main search results.

    But what does this mean for SEOs?

    With so much to play with, webmasters and SEOs should consider how they can take advantage of such changes, which could prove potentially very lucrative for the right sites — especially when you consider that 35% of Google product searches return transactions in as little as five days.

    E-A-T doesn’t apply to every site — but it still matters

    E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) is something every SEO should know back to front, but remember:

    • E-A-T isn’t a ranking factor
    • E-A-T is critical for Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) topics and pages

    Although these two statements might seem contradictory, they make more sense when you consider what Google defines as YMYL.

    According to Google’s Rater Guidelines, YMYL is a page or topic that “could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.” This means that if your page has information that could potentially change a person’s life, it is considered YMYL and offering E-A-T is important. If your site is merely your personal collection of cat pictures, then showcasing authority or expertise is less critical.

    But what does this mean for SEOs?

    The issue, however, is that the majority of websites (and certainly the ones invested in SEO) are generally going to have YMYL pages or topics, but Google is taking big steps to ensure that low quality or questionable YMYL content is weeded out. As you might know, you can’t optimize for E-A-T because it isn’t an algorithm, but you can implement changes to make sure your site sends the right kind of quality signals to Google. This Moz article by Ian Booth and this guide by Lily Ray offer great tips for how to do that.

    Topics and semantics over keywords

    Google is putting less priority on both links and keywords, which is where topic modeling and semantics come into the conversation.

    Google has become very clever at understanding what a user is searching for based on just a few basic words. This is thanks, in part, to topic modeling (as Google itself admitted in September 2018 when it introduced its “topic layer”). Indeed, this algorithm has a deep understanding of semantics and yearns to provide users with deep troves of information.

    But what does this mean for SEOs?

    This means that it has never been more important to create high quality, in-depth, and meaningful content for users — but you also need to think about information structure.

    For example, if your site sells running shoes, you could create long-form educational pieces about how to choose shoes for specific running environments, athletic diets for runners, or tech accessory reviews. These articles could then be clustered into various topics. By clustering your topics into compartments through your website architecture, both users and crawlers can easily navigate and understand the content provided.

    Studies have also shown that Google’s crawlers prefer pages with semantic groupings and sites that are designed around topic modeling. This 2018 presentation by Dawn Anderson gives a brilliant insight into this. If you want to know more about topic modeling and semantic connectivity, check out this Whiteboard Friday by Rand Fishkin.

    SERPs will continue to evolve

    Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen search results evolve and transform like never before. In fact, they have changed so much that, in some cases, being placed first within the organic search results may not be the most lucrative position.

    This is something that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago (check out this Moz article from 2018) that works to quell the panic from zero position SERPs).

    With the introduction of Voice Search, rich results, rich snippets, knowledge panels, Google My Business, and updated Image Search results, SEOs now need to consider a whole new range of technical marketing strategies to appear in a multitude of organic search results.

    It’s hard to know where Google is taking SERPs in the next year, but it is fair to say the strategies we use today for the search environment will likely be outdated in as little as six months.

    Take, for example, the recent addition and subsequent removal of favicons in the SERPs; after backlash, Google reversed the change, proving we can never predict which changes will stick and which are blips on the radar.

    But what does this mean for SEOs?

    Ensure that your strategies are flexible and constantly prepare for changes in both your business sector (if you do not work within SEO) and the constantly evolving search environment. Pay attention to the seasonality of searches and use tools such as Google Trends to cover any out-of-season deficit that you may encounter.

    You can use tools like Moz Keyword Explorer to help plan ahead and to create campaigns and strategies that provide useful traffic and lucrative conversions.

    Conclusion

    SEOs need to move away from the ideology that links and traditional search results should be priorities for an organic campaign. Although both still carry weight, without investment in technical strategy or willingness to learn about entities or semantic connectivity, no SEO campaign can reach its full potential.

    The world of SEO in 2020 is bright and exciting, but it will require more investment and intelligent strategy than ever before.


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  • Jan 31, 2020 12:07:00 AM

    Posted by BritneyMuller

    It's a brand-new decade, rich with all the promise of a fresh start and new beginnings. But does that mean you should be doing anything different with regards to your SEO?

    In this Whiteboard Friday, our Senior SEO Scientist Britney Muller offers a seventeen-point checklist of things you ought to keep in mind for executing on modern, effective SEO. You'll encounter both old favorites (optimizing title tags, anyone?) and cutting-edge ideas to power your search strategy from this year on into the future.

    Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

    Video Transcription

    Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we are talking about SEO in 2020. What does that look like? How have things changed?

    Do we need to be optimizing for favicons and BERT? We definitely don't. But here are some of the things that I feel we should be keeping an eye on. 

    ☑ Cover your bases with foundational SEO

    Titles, metas, headers, alt text, site speed, robots.txt, site maps, UX, CRO, Analytics, etc.

    To cover your bases with foundational SEO will continue to be incredibly important in 2020, basic things like title tags, meta descriptions, alt, all of the basic SEO 101 things.

    There have been some conversations in the industry lately about alt text and things of that nature. When Google is getting so good at figuring out and knowing what's in an image, why would we necessarily need to continue providing alt text?

    But you have to remember we need to continue to make the web an accessible place, and so for accessibility purposes we should absolutely continue to do those things. But I do highly suggest you check out Google's Visual API and play around with that to see how good they've actually gotten. It's pretty cool.

    ☑ Schema markup

    FAQ, Breadcrumbs, News, Business Info, etc.

    Schema markup will continue to be really important, FAQ schema, breadcrumbs, business info. The News schema that now is occurring in voice results is really interesting. I think we will see this space continue to grow, and you can definitely leverage those different markup types for your website. 

    ☑ Research what matters for your industry!

    Just to keep in mind, there's going to be a lot of articles and research and information coming at you about where things are going, what you should do to prepare, and I want you to take a strategic stance on your industry and what's important in your space.

    While I might suggest page speed is going to be really important in 2020, is it for your industry? We should still worry about these things and still continue to improve them. But if you're able to take a clearer look at ranking factors and what appears to be a factor for your specific space, you can better prioritize your fixes and leverage industry information to help you focus.

    ☑ National SERPs will no longer be reliable

    You need to be acquiring localized SERPs and rankings.

    This has been the case for a while. We need to localize search results and rankings to get an accurate and clear picture of what's going on in search results. I was going to put E-A-T here and then kind of cross it off.

    A lot of people feel E-A-T is a huge factor moving forward. Just for the case of this post, it's always been a factor. It's been that way for the last ten-plus years, and we need to continue doing that stuff despite these various updates. I think it's always been important, and it will continue to be so. 

    ☑ Write good and useful content for people

    While you can't optimize for BERT, you can write better for NLP.

    This helps optimize your text for natural language processing. It helps make it more accessible and friendly for BERT. While you can't necessarily optimize for something like BERT, you can just write really great content that people are looking for.

    ☑ Understand and fulfill searcher intent, and keep in mind that there's oftentimes multi-intent

    One thing to think about this space is we've kind of gone from very, very specific keywords to this richer understanding of, okay, what is the intent behind these keywords? How can we organize that and provide even better value and content to our visitors? 

    One way to go about that is to consider Google houses the world's data. They know what people are searching for when they look for a particular thing in search. So put your detective glasses on and examine what is it that they are showing for a particular keyword.

    Is there a common theme throughout the pages? Tailor your content and your intent to solve for that. You could write the best article in the world on DIY Halloween costumes, but if you're not providing those visual elements that you so clearly see in a Google search result page, you're never going to rank on page 1.

    ☑ Entity and topical integration baked into your IA

    Have a rich understanding of your audience and what they're seeking.

    This plays well into entities and topical understanding. Again, we've gone from keywords and now we want to have this richer, better awareness of keyword buckets. 

    What are those topical things that people are looking for in your particular space? What are the entities, the people, places, or things that people are investigating in your space, and how can you better organize your website to provide some of those answers and those structures around those different pieces? That's incredibly important, and I look forward to seeing where this goes in 2020. 

    ☑ Optimize for featured snippets

    Featured snippets are not going anywhere. They are here to stay. The best way to do this is to find the keywords that you currently rank on page 1 for that also have a featured snippet box. These are your opportunities. If you're on page 1, you're way more apt to potentially steal or rank for a featured snippet.

    One of the best ways to do that is to provide really succinct, beautiful, easy-to-understand summaries, takeaways, etc., kind of mimic what other people are doing, but obviously don't copy or steal any of that. Really fun space to explore and get better at in 2020. 

    ☑ Invest in visuals

    We see Google putting more authority behind visuals, whether it be in search or you name it. It is incredibly valuable for your SEO, whether it be unique images or video content that is organized in a structured way, where Google can provide those sections in that video search result. You can do all sorts of really neat things with visuals. 

    ☑ Cultivate engagement

    This is good anyway, and we should have been doing this before. Gary Illyes was quoted as saying, "Comments are better for on-site engagement than social signals." I will let you interpret that how you will.

    But I think it goes to show that engagement and creating this community is still going to be incredibly important moving forward into the future.

    ☑ Repurpose your content

    Blog post → slides → audio → video

    This is so important, and it will help you excel even more in 2020 if you find your top-performing web pages and you repurpose them into maybe be a SlideShare, maybe a YouTube video, maybe various pins on Pinterest, or answers on Quora.

    You can start to refurbish your content and expand your reach online, which is really exciting. In addition to that, it's also interesting to play around with the idea of providing people options to consume your content. Even with this Whiteboard Friday, we could have an audio version that people could just listen to if they were on their commute. We have the transcription. Provide options for people to consume your content. 

    ☑ Prune or improve thin or low-quality pages

    This has been incredibly powerful for myself and many other SEOs I know in improving the perceived quality of a site. So consider testing and meta no-indexing low-quality, thin pages on a website. Especially larger websites, we see a pretty big impact there. 

    ☑ Get customer insights!

    This will continue to be valuable in understanding your target market. It will be valuable for influencer marketing for all sorts of reasons. One of the incredible tools that are currently available by our Whiteboard Friday extraordinaire, Rand Fishkin, is SparkToro. So you guys have to check that out when it gets released soon. Super exciting. 

    ☑ Find keyword opportunities in Google Search Console

    It's shocking how few people do this and how accessible it is. If you go into your Google Search Console and you export as much data as you can around your queries, your click-through rate, your position, and impressions, you can do some incredible, simple visualizations to find opportunities.

    For example, if this is the rank of your keywords and this is the click-through rate, where do you have high click-through rate but low ranking position? What are those opportunity keywords? Incredibly valuable. You can do this in all sorts of tools. One I recommend, and I will create a little tutorial for, is a free tool called Facets, made by Google for machine learning. It makes it really easy to just pick those apart. 

    ☑ Target link-intent keywords

    A couple quick link building tactics for 2020 that will continue to hopefully work very, very well. What I mean by link-intent keywords is your keyword statistics, your keyword facts.

    These are searches people naturally want to reference. They want to link to it. They want to cite it in a presentation. If you can build really great content around those link-intent keywords, you can do incredibly well and naturally build links to a website. 

    ☑ Podcasts

    Whether you're a guest or a host on a podcast, it's incredibly easy to get links. It's kind of a fun link building hack. 

    ☑ Provide unique research with visuals

    Andy Crestodina does this so incredibly well. So explore creating your own unique research and not making it too commercial but valuable for users. I know this was a lot.

    There's a lot going on in 2020, but I hope some of this is valuable to you. I truly can't wait to hear your thoughts on these recommendations, things you think I missed, things that you would remove or change. Please let us know down below in the comments, and I will see you all soon. Thanks.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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  • Jan 27, 2020 1:36:39 PM

    Posted by Dr-Pete

    On January 13th, MozCast measured significant algorithm flux lasting about three days (the dotted line shows the 30-day average prior to the 13th, which is consistent with historical averages) ...

    That same day, Google announced the release of a core update dubbed the January 2020 Core Update (in line with their recent naming conventions) ...

    On January 16th, Google announced the update was "mostly done," aligning fairly well with the measured temperatures in the graph above. Temperatures settled down after the three-day spike ...

    It appears that the dust has mostly settled on the January 2020 Core Update. Interpreting core updates can be challenging, but are there any takeaways we can gather from the data?

    How does it compare to other updates?

    How did the January 2020 Core Update stack up against recent core updates? The chart below shows the previous four named core updates, back to August 2018 (AKA "Medic") ...

    While the January 2020 update wasn't on par with "Medic," it tracks closely to the previous three updates. Note that all of these updates are well above the MozCast average. While not all named updates are measurable, all of the recent core updates have generated substantial ranking flux.

    Which verticals were hit hardest?

    MozCast is split into 20 verticals, matching Google AdWords categories. It can be tough to interpret single-day movement across categories, since they naturally vary, but here's the data for the range of the update (January 14–16) for the seven categories that topped 100°F on January 14 ...

    Health tops the list, consistent with anecdotal evidence from previous core updates. One consistent finding, broadly speaking, is that sites impacted by one core update seem more likely to be impacted by subsequent core updates.

    Who won and who lost this time?

    Winners/losers analyses can be dangerous, for a few reasons. First, they depend on your particular data set. Second, humans have a knack for seeing patterns that aren't there. It's easy to take a couple of data points and over-generalize. Third, there are many ways to measure changes over time.

    We can't entirely fix the first problem — that's the nature of data analysis. For the second problem, we have to trust you, the reader. We can partially address the third problem by making sure we're looking at changes both in absolute and relative terms. For example, knowing a site gained 100% SERP share isn't very interesting if it went from one ranking in our data set to two. So, for both of the following charts, we'll restrict our analysis to subdomains that had at least 25 rankings across MozCast's 10,000 SERPs on January 14th. We'll also display the raw ranking counts for some added perspective.

    Here are the top 25 winners by % change over the 3 days of the update. The "Jan 14" and "Jan 16" columns represent the total count of rankings (i.e. SERP share) on those days ...

    If you've read about previous core updates, you may see a couple of familiar subdomains, including VeryWellHealth.com and a couple of its cousins. Even at a glance, this list goes well beyond healthcare and represents a healthy mix of verticals and some major players, including Instagram and the Google Play store.

    I hate to use the word "losers," and there's no way to tell why any given site gained or lost rankings during this time period (it may not be due to the core update), but I'll present the data as impartially as possible. Here are the 25 sites that lost the most rankings by percentage change ...

    Orbitz took heavy losses in our data set, as did the phone number lookup site ZabaSearch. Interestingly, one of the Very Well family of sites (three of which were in our top 25 list) landed in the bottom 25. There are a handful of healthcare sites in the mix, including the reputable Cleveland Clinic (although this appears to be primarily a patient portal).

    What can we do about any of this?

    Google describes core updates as "significant, broad changes to our search algorithms and systems ... designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers." They're quick to say that a core update isn't a penalty and that "there’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well." Of course, that's cold comfort if your site was negatively impacted.

    We know that content quality matters, but that's a vague concept that can be hard to pin down. If you've taken losses in a core update, it is worth assessing if your content is well matched to the needs of your visitors, including whether it's accurate, up to date, and generally written in a way that demonstrates expertise.

    We also know that sites impacted by one core update seem to be more likely to see movement in subsequent core updates. So, if you've been hit in one of the core updates since "Medic," keep your eyes open. This is a work in progress, and Google is making adjustments as they go.

    Ultimately, the impact of core updates gives us clues about Google's broader intent and how best to align with that intent. Look at sites that performed well and try to understand how they might be serving their core audiences. If you lost rankings, are they rankings that matter? Was your content really a match to the intent of those searchers?


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