Category Archives: Search Engine Optimization

Key SEO Takeaways from SMX Advanced in Seattle

SMX Advanced Conference SEO Workshop with Google“Five years ago, you could do SEO in your sleep. Now, you have to actually be awake.” – Bruce Clay

Mobile-first index, AMP, PWAs, featured snippets, chatbots, voice search, virtual assistants… The world of SEO is changing – and changing fast. There were 1,623 Google algorithm changes in the past year alone. That’s an average of four to five updates per day.

I had a blast learning about some of these current and upcoming changes while attending the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle this week. Three days of back-to-back sessions – chock full of nothing but search, search, search. I even joked on day two that there was some hidden meaning in the fact that several of us had to search long and hard to find not only a place to sit to eat our hot lunches, but also to find silverware with which to eat them.

By the end of day three I walked away better equipped to serve GroundFloor Media’s and CenterTable’s clients and excited to for what’s to come. This conference packed quite a punch for those who work (or play) in the search marketing world – and certainly left me wanting more. But like all good things, SMX had to come to an end (until the next one anyway). Here are a few of the many takeaways from the conference:

Top Ranking Factors and Algorithm Updates

  • Top ranking factors in 2017 include more content, more images and faster speeds – and, obviously, mobile/responsiveness.
  • The more content you have, the better your chances of ranking well. Recommended page length varies by topic, ranging from 800-2,700 words per page. The most tolerated paragraph length for a user is two to three sentences.
  • Focus on getting one really good backlink rather than 10 mediocre ones. And buying links on large article sites (think Forbes) are a waste of resources from an SEO perspective.
  • Speed is crucial: 53 percent of people will bounce out of a webpage if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
  • You don’t necessarily need to have a high authority website or use schema to get a featured snippet. And if you’re in position six, it can be easier to get to position zero than position one.

Mobile is Huge

  • 60 percent of searches are conducted on mobile devices and 50 percent of website traffic comes from users on mobile devices. This trend is rapidly growing.
  • The Mobile-First Index is coming – although likely not until sometime in 2018. We need to be preparing now and responsive design is the preferred approach, otherwise you’ve got lots of work to do to get ready for the switch.
  • Hidden website content with the use of CSS will still rank in a mobile-first index, but Googlebots probably cannot see it if it’s something you have to click to see on the page, such as with JavaScript.
  • People research spontaneously on mobile so it’s a huge lost opportunity if you’re not there when they need you. However, people typically don’t complete their research or buy/convert on mobile. Desktop still matters!
  • Google’s mobile interstitial penalty was rolled out – make sure you’re compliant.
  • Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) seem to be preferred over AMP. But you can apply AMP coding standards to your website to increase its speed.

The Latest in Local Search

  • Citations (which are online references to your business’s name, address and phone number) are the ante to play in the local SEO game. Once you’re in the game, they don’t make a big difference.
  • Although proximity is a huge factor in local search, it is not the only factor. You have to have at least decent onsite SEO in place to even make the cut to appear in the local pack. Once you make that cut, Google will then order listings by proximity.
  • Schema markup is essential for SEO success in local businesses and eCommerce sites for that matter.

Lastly, these quotes I overheard throughout the week really put SEO into perspective for us:

  • SEO is not something you do. It’s what happens when you have done everything else right.
  • Make your website so good that Google feels embarrassed if they’re NOT showing it in search results.
  • Building a website without SEO is like building a house without the wiring.
  • Over optimization is like putting on too much makeup. At some point, you don’t like it.
  • Now more people have smart phones than toilets.

 

 

How to Submit an XML Sitemap to Google

How to Submit an XML Sitemap to GoogleYou’ve poured your heart and soul into creating a new website. The design is perfect. The content flows beautifully. The graphics are stunning. Now you’ve got to get people there.

One of the simplest, and often overlooked, steps of SEO is submitting your XML sitemap to the search engines. Although the search engine bots will eventually find your site anyway, submitting an XML sitemap can help speed up the crawling and indexing processes for your website and help to improve its ability to rank well in search results.

Steps to Submit the XML Sitemap to Google

  1. Visit your website and make note of the URL of your XML sitemap. For example, com/sitemap.xml.
  2. Create a Google Search Console account and verify that you own the website.
  3. Once verified and logged into your Google Search Console account, go to Crawl, then Sitemaps.
  4. Click the red “Add/Text Sitemap” button then add the subfolder portion of the URL to the box. For example, sitemap.xml.
  5. Click “Submit” – and you’re done! Refresh your browser to see the sitemap is now listed. You will also be able to see if there are any errors with the sitemap you submitted.

To Blog or Not To Blog: That Is The Question

Should we be blogging? We get this question a lot. And the answer is a big fat clear… maybe.

It’s no secret that both users and search engines love fresh, unique content, right? Absolutely – when it’s timely, original, meaningful and well written. By blogging, you create the opportunity to build relationships with readers, position your organization as an expert in the field and provide new content for Google to index. We have seen the dramatic impact a strategic, well-run blog can have on increasing visibility and improving search engine rankings for an organization. We’re definitely a fan.

But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. We have also seen un-nurtured blogs become stale, outdated, duplicative and even a liability.

Develop a Blog Strategy

Before you dive into blogging with both feet, take a step back and think about your purpose in doing so and, maybe even more importantly, your capacity to effectively execute it. Creating a roadmap can help position you, and your blog, for success. Some things to consider before you get started:

  • Audience – Who are they and what are they interested in? Use this as a guide in developing your content strategy.
  • Authors – Identify your key thought leaders in the organization and assess their capacity and willingness to develop content.
  • Content Strategy – Align your audiences’ interests with your authors’ expertise and map out what topics you plan to cover.
  • Content Calendar – Will you have topics assigned to specific days of the week? Or will the content cycle ebb and flow with current events? Will you create a blog schedule and assign posts to specific contributors? Or will you allow authors to self-select when they provide content? How will you hold your blogging team accountable for maintaining a steady stream of content?
  • Monitoring – Will you enable blog comments? If so, develop a policy on if, when and how to respond.
  • Distribution Optimizing your blog content to be found in search is a great start, but how else will you distribute your blog posts to ensure they reach your target audience?

Drop What You’re Doing & Make the Switch to Google Expanded Text Ads

Ready or not, the time to convert to Expanded Text Ads (ETA) in Google pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is here.

Earlier this year, Google introduced ETAs, which provide more space for ad text over the standard text ads we’re used to, and they are better optimized for the mobile experience.

ETAs have been available to most advertisers for a few months now and many have already started to make the switch and see positive results. If you haven’t already tackled this project, don’t panic (yet!). Google will continue to support and run your existing ads until January 31, 2017. However, after that you will no longer be able to edit those existing standard text ads or create new ones – you will have to make the switch and create new expanded text ads moving forward. Read more after the jump…

Consuming a Balanced Information Diet is Harder Than You Might Think

No matter where you stand on politics, these past few months have sure been a roller coaster. And whether you’re currently at the high point or the low, there’s no doubt that algorithms from Google to Facebook are feeding you news and information that align closely with your personal beliefs and validating your position.

The Benefit and Challenge of Algorithms

Eli Pariser's illustration of a filter bubble.

Eli Pariser’s illustration of a filter bubble.

Algorithms aren’t new, and as communications professionals we benefit from their ability to help serve information directly to our target audiences. But as conscious consumers, algorithms can present challenges that are perhaps amplified in light of this recent election.

Interestingly, this 2011 TEDTalk by Eli Pariser, founder of Upworthy, has been circulating the Twittersphere lately and while the talk, titled “Beware online ‘filter bubbles,’” is five years old, it’s pretty incredible how little seems to have changed. Read more after the jump…

What is AMP and what can it do for you?

For several years now, we have been told to think “mobile first” when creating amp-accelerated-mobile-pageswebsites. With end users clamoring to their smartphone and utilizing it as their primary device for accessing online information, this approach to designing and building websites makes sense.

Websites were traditionally built with large screen laptops and desktops in mind; representation on mobile devices was an afterthought. Before the advent of responsive design, many companies in fact had separate websites for mobile devices (remember the “m.” URLs?) versus large screen devices and had to attempt to keep their separate sites in sync from a content and functionality perspective. Read more after the jump…

Searching For Election Results?

If you’re searching for election results today, search no further than the search engine results page (SERP) itself.

According to Google, real-time results for presidential, senatorial, congressional and gubernatorial races, along with results for state-level referendums and ballot propositions will be served up alongside general search results in election-related searches starting at 7pm ET today.

At the same time, YouTube will also air live coverage of the election from various news sources.

Google Aims to Get Out The Vote

Google Where To VoteEvery vote counts and Google wants to make sure everyone knows how to do it.

The rules on registering to vote vary by state and can be overwhelming. To simplify, Google offers a detailed state-by-state guide on how to register, general requirements and deadlines.

Google’s special Election Day doodle has remained in place for days in an effort to remind users to vote. And now it’s easier than ever to find out where to vote, how to vote and who’s going to be on the ballot once you get there.

From registering to vote all the way to reading the election results, Google aims to be the one stop shop for all the Election Day details you might need.

Now, go vote!

 

Searching For a Treat-Worthy Costume This Halloween?

If you’re still searching for a treat-worthy costume this Halloween, Google has you covered.

Here we’ve spent all these years trying to figure out what users are searching for in the name of optimizing our websites for better search rankings.

But now we can turn all that good search data into something even more useful: A guide to the nation’s most popular costume searches online.

Frightgeist gathers data from the top 500 costume searches in the U.S. and uses Google Trends to tell you what’s hot – and what’s not.

Little Red Riding Hood, The Joker, Unicorns, Princess Jasmin and Ghostbusters are just a few of the 50 most popular costumes among recent searches.

404 Error Costume

Photo Credit: headred.net

If one of those top 50 costumes doesn’t strike your fancy, consider dressing up as one these clever SEO Halloween costumes. If you’re still looking for a costume this late in the day, then perhaps the 404 Error is the perfect fit.

Still not sure what dress up as? Conduct your own Google Search for more ideas. And while you’re over there, be sure to check out today’s Halloween Google Doodle, Google’s Magic Cat Academy game in honor of Halloween!

 

Should You AMPlify Your Website’s Exposure?

Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Photo Credit: Google Webmasters Bog

With the increasing mobile adoption rates, we should all be concerned with providing a good mobile user experience. This includes the need to maintain a fast site speed.

Typically you have about three seconds to capture a users attention before they abandon your website. What happens if it takes three seconds for your site to even load? They’ll likely never even get there.

Recognizing the need for websites to load quickly, Google recently started working on an open source initiative called the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project. This project gives website owners the tools to create Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). These AMPs use various technical approaches to load content almost immediately, creating a faster experience for mobile users.

Read more after the jump…