Carolyn Lyden – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Mon, 01 Mar 2021 16:41:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6.1 Big brands find pandemic success with e-commerce platforms; Monday’s daily brief /big-brands-find-pandemic-success-with-e-commerce-platforms-mondays-daily-brief-346482 Mon, 01 Mar 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=346482 Plus, pitch to speak at SMX

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, and would you pay per tweet?

That seems to be the question floating across Twitter over the weekend after the social media platform announced that they’re testing a tweet subscription option. The feature would be called Super Follows and it allows creators and publishers to give paid users access to extra tweets, community groups, newsletter subscriptions, and badges to show off support for the low, low price of $4.99 a month.

Most other platforms have launched direct payment features for creators, and it seems to make sense elsewhere. YouTube creators and Facebook group community managers often put a ton of work into their final products, but it’s hard to imagine that paralleled on Twitter. I’ve never seen it as a place for curated content, but more a platform for news and genuine conversation. 

Maybe I just lack the imagination. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But I’m intrigued to see where brands can take it if it goes live for everyone.

Carolyn Lyden,
Director of Search Content

Pitch to speak at SMX

The Search Engine Land team is already in the throes of planning for SMX Advanced, and we’re looking for speakers like YOU to join the lineup. For the first time ever, SMX Advanced is happening virtually, which means if you’ve never been before, it’s easier than ever to attend. It also means that location doesn’t have to be a barrier to entry for speaking at SMX, either.

You don’t have to be a veteran speaker to pitch for SMX, just passionate and knowledgeable about search marketing and helping other marketers learn. We’re looking for speakers to lead sessions on the latest in SEO, PPC, and user experience.

Here are a few tips for submitting a compelling session proposal:

  • Present an original idea and/or unique session format.
  • Include details about what attendees will be able to do better or differently as a result of attending your session.
  • Include a case study or specific examples and explain how they can be applied in different types of organizations.
  • Be realistic about what you can present in the time allotted. You can’t cover everything about your topic. Going more in-depth on a narrow topic is often more valuable to the attendee.
  • Provide tangible takeaways and a plan of action.

So toss that imposter syndrome aside (yep, I see you out there thinking “I don’t belong at SMX” and, guess what–YOU DO) and get to pitching.

Pitch your session here.

Over half of enterprise brands see a 7X return on Amazon advertising

With COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines forcing us all to stay home, American consumers spent 44% more online in 2020 than in 2019. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of Amazon as an e-commerce platform for many brands, and thus Amazon Advertising. 

Feedvisor surveyed over 1000 enterprise to Fortune 500 companies about their e-commerce strategies during the pandemic and found that most found success with Amazon and the in-platform advertising:

  • 78% of brands surveyed are currently selling on the platform (up from 55% in 2019)
  • 88% of brands use Amazon’s advertising platform (up 21% from 2019)
  • 51% of brands said they saw a return of 7x or more (39% of brands see between a 4x–6x return)

But it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine: “While Amazon continues to permeate brands’ strategies and grow in significance, other e-marketplaces are entering the mix. In the report, brands both on and off Amazon share similar sentiments around the challenges of operating on the platform, including increased competition and the inability to control the customer experience,” according to the report.

Why we care. Along with e-commerce platforms like Shopify, many brands leveraged e-marketplace when the pandemic struck. It’s critical that companies capitalize on both the advantage these platforms provide and their advanced technology to drive more traffic to their product listings, create a personalized online shopping experience, and tailor their advertising campaigns to their target audiences. “The brands that embrace the digital revolution of retail, invest in data and technology solutions, and optimize their presence on Amazon and e-marketplaces will be well-positioned for long-term growth in the inevitable new normal,” said Victor Rosenman, founder and CEO, Feedvisor. 

Yelp releases its first Trust and Safety Report

Yelp Types of Content Removed in 2020

Yelp launched a new trust and safety site last week. It’s aimed at informing consumers about its recommendation software, consumer alerts, content moderation practices, and information about the attributes that appear on business profiles. The platform also released its first-ever Trust and Safety Report to provide a summary of the steps it took to reduce harmful content. Here are a few interesting tidbits from the report:

  • In 2020, Yelp received more than 18.1 million reviews. Of that figure, roughly 25% were not recommended by its recommendation software because it suspected the reviews were a conflict of interest, not useful, solicited or otherwise unreliable.
  • Between March 1 and December 31, 2020, Yelp’s human moderators removed over 5,200 reviews for violating its special COVID-19 content guidelines. Between May 25 and December 31, 2020, more than 13,300 reviews were removed for threats, hate speech, lewdness or other similarly harmful content.
  • The platform put up more than 2,500 consumer alerts on business pages to warn users when attempts were being made to manipulate reviews and ratings.
  • From May 25 to December 31, 2020, Yelp published 550 public attention alerts on business pages that were either accused of, or the target of, racist behavior.

Associate Director, Paid Search @ ForwardPMX (NYC)

  • Develops and owns SEM media strategy across Search and Shopping
  • Oversee team that owns reporting analysis and optimizations

SEO Consultant @ Builtvisible (London, UK)

  • Run SEO campaigns with demonstrable impact on clients’ organic performance
  • Advise on SEO opportunities and challenges so clients are getting the best value

Director of Marketing @ Science Exchange (Remote: Palo Alto)

  • Build a lean marketing function with demand gen, product marketing and creative pillars
  • Partner closely with product teams to clearly articulate value of new product releases

PPC/Paid Search Manager @ onXmaps, Inc. (Missoula, MT – relocation assistance offered)

  • Identify and execute campaign management tactics across multiple campaigns 
  • Maximize CTR and conversion rate through best practices and continuous testing

Enter a job opening for an opportunity to be featured in this section.

What’s on your mind, marketers?

As search marketers, we deal with a ton of new and evolving issues every day. Ads platforms are moving toward more automation. Google’s algorithm updates are always shifting. Getting data from social ads is impossible. Clients don’t always understand KPIs. Remote work can be a struggle. Salary negotiation is hard. We want to know what you’re dealing with on the day-to-day. (Or, alternatively, what you’re excited about in our industry! Tell us how you nailed it.)

So we made a quick survey for you to dish. Give us the deets.

Tell us what you’re working through.

Signs of a Google local search ranking update

Google local ranking update. Starting this past Wednesday and Thursday there have been signs that Google pushed out a local ranking search algorithm update.  Some of the local tracking tools are noticing and some local SEOs are noticing as well. 

Showcase Shopping Ads. Mike Ryan walks through the “death” of Google’s Showcase Shopping Ads, what it means for retail advertisers, and why it happened: “This was not an overnight change but has been underway for months. But it wasn’t communicated very effectively and, surprise surprise, it all happened because of Smart Shopping Campaigns ”

Mailto and telephone links. It doesn’t appear that you can pass Google PageRank to mailto or telephone hyperlinks, at least John Mueller said so by saying “we see links as being between canonical URLs, so if the href points to something that’s not a canonical URL for our indexing, then we don’t see that as a link.”

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.

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More Google Ads changes and SERP fluctuations; Thursday’s daily brief /more-google-ads-changes-and-serp-fluctuations-thursdays-daily-brief-346423 Thu, 25 Feb 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=346423 Plus, hop on Twitter trends

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, and let’s chat ch-ch-changes,

It seems like Google has announced change after change these past few weeks, especially on the Ads side. Most PPC marketers understand the move is toward automation, but the constant updates can make it hard to keep up. The new Partner Program details were released this week. Google is getting rid of Showcase Shopping Ads. The political ad ban was lifted (including Shopping ads). RSAs are now the default. And, of course, the transition of BMM keywords to phrase-match. Plus, the Google Ads outage probably didn’t help anyone’s stress level. You get the picture. 

It’s all part of the game, at this point, though. In fact, I think so many search marketers enjoy the industry so much because the ever-evolving nature of it is almost like a puzzle. It’s engaging. It keeps us sharp. It feels like such a success when we really get it right. As Sean Healy, Head of PPC at Jaywing told us, “Remaining responsive and adaptable is the key to making sure your PPC strategy continues to be the best value for your brand.” And paid search marketers are showing themselves to be the most adaptable.

Carolyn Lyden,
Director of Search Content

Google set to deprecate Showcase Shopping ads on April 1

Google's email to advertisers announcing the deprecation of Showcase Shopping ads.
Screenshot courtesy of Kirk Williams

If you’re using Showcase Shopping Ads, they’re going to move to product Shopping ad groups as of April 1. You’ll still have access to performance data, but Google will remove your Showcase ads and ad groups as part of the change.

Showcase Shopping ads were the standard Shopping format for broad queries. As such, “I would just suggest monitoring Shopping ads for a few weeks after the change, since it is possible advertisers could see an influx of top-of-funnel placements,” Kirk Williams of ZATO Marketing told Search Engine Land. Additionally, advertisers reliant on these ads may have to revisit their strategies once it disappears. It’s unclear whether Smart Shopping campaigns will fill the void left by Showcase ads, but hopefully Google will provide an update on that in the weeks between now and April 1.

Read more here.

Google Search may be showing featured snippets less often

Multiple SERP tracking tools have noted that Google seems to be showing fewer featured snippet results. Each tool tracks different sets of keywords, but the decline is consistent across them all. 

For search marketers whose sites receive a decent amount of traffic from featured snippets, this could be a big deal and result in traffic drops. It’s worth annotating in your Google Analytics in case you start to see fluctuations sessions. It also potentially means more competitions for the featured snippets that are still showing, so make certain your structured data is accurate and up to par.

Read more here.

What digital advertising gets wrong

Your ads may not be as effective as you think. After all, how many of those conversions are coming from people who would’ve bought from you anyway? That’s the premise behind Sinan Aral’s article for the Harvard Business Review.

Aral focuses on distinguishing lift (ads that cause behavioral change) and conversion rate. Targeting people who are more likely to buy your goods or services may result in wasting budget and annoying customers with redundant ads. “Unless the targeting is directed at customers who aren’t already prepped to buy the products, the conversion from click to cash will not generate any new revenue,” Aral said.

A few years ago, Procter & Gamble and Unilever overhauled their PPC strategies and took a scalpel to their budgets, decreasing them by 6% and 30%, respectively. Their strategy worked: P&G’s organic sales growth increased 7.5% in 2019 and Unilever gained by 3.8%. “The improvements were made possible because both companies also shifted their media spend from a previous narrow focus on frequency — measured in clicks or views — to one focused on reach, the number of consumers they touched,” said Aral.

So, if your campaigns are stagnating or you’re just looking to increase efficiency, dig into the data to assess who you’re targeting and start experimenting.

Some brands are absolutely nailing it on Twitter. See Wendy’s, Ben & Jerry’s, No Name Brands, HeyBippy, and Fazoli’s to name a few. In a recently released trends report, Twitter highlights 6 big trends on the social media platform and how brands can act on them. To help brands stay aware of current buzz on Twitter, the report recommends focusing on the following topics for your social media strategy:

  • Wellbeing
  • Creator culture
  • Everyday wonder
  • One planet
  • Tech life
  • My identity

The report discusses the data behind the trends and ways that brands can take part in the conversations in genuine and meaningful ways. For example, Twitter has noted a 53% increase in conversations around clean corporations and holding businesses accountable “as people feel increasingly empowered to demand more from businesses.” Some of the conversations that are shaping the topic include green design, sustainable packaging, and youth activism.

In the “How brands can act” section, the report dives into ways to build awareness around each trend, like recommending green businesses “Identify ways to lead — from eco-conscious innovation and corporate accountability to renewed focus on nature.” Each section also includes relevant ways to connect and become part of the conversation as well as the most commonly used hashtags around the topic. It’s worth a download and conversation for any social media team.

Download the report.

Ban lifted on Shopping Ads, core web vitals spam and work at Bing.

Page Experience Update spam. Google’s Malte Ubl said he won’t be talking about spam prevention for the upcoming Page Experience Update and core web vitals hacks. He said on Twitter “I’m definitely concerned about abuse. But I will not say what if anything we are doing to address it as this is naturally a cat and mouse game.”

Political Shopping Ads. Google lifted the ban on political ads yesterday and clarified that the restriction also no longer extends to Shopping Ads: “We no longer consider the US 2020 elections-related events to be a sensitive event.”

Join Microsoft Bing Search. Microsoft is hiring a new PM for Microsoft Bing Search. Frederic Dubut from Microsoft said on Twitter “Job Opportunity! I’m looking for a PM to join the Bing search ranking team, arguably the leading applied ML team Microsoft. It’s a nice mid-level, hybrid Product/TPM position, perfect for someone with a couple of years of experience and lots of headroom to grow.”

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.

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Advertisers have until February 2022 to adjust to Google’s new Partner Program requirements /advertisers-have-until-february-2022-to-adjust-to-googles-new-partner-program-requirements-346371 Tue, 23 Feb 2021 19:30:00 +0000 /?p=346371 The changes are based on Partner feedback around badge criteria and more clarity regarding Program benefits

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In an email to Google Partner Program members around the world, Google announced changes to the Program structure and badge criteria. The changes were initially slated to take place June 2020, but due to the pandemic will now go into effect beginning in February 2022. This means Partners will have a year to meet the new Program requirements.

New requirements. Google said that Partners requested two major changes to the requirements in consideration of the current economic situation and to make badge criteria more transparent:

  1. Partners can either dismiss or apply recommendations to achieve a 70% optimization score. While the optimization score requirement was slated to take effect in June, it previously only allowed for application of recommendations. However the Google team took search marketers’ feedback regarding the ability to dismiss recommendations for clients where it may not have made sense to accept. “We know that our Partners know their clients and accounts best,” a Google spokesperson told us.
  2. The spend threshold will remain at a 90-day spend of $10,000 US across all of a partner’s managed accounts. Before the pandemic, the Partner badge requirements were set to increase to $20,000 every 90 days. However, the Partners team listened to ad mangers’ feedback and kept the requirement at $10,000.

Partners also told Google that not every Ads manager on teams should be eligible for certification. In response, advertisers will be able to tell Google the number of account strategists in their companies, and “at least 50% of the account strategists you’ve identified will need to be certified in Google Ads” to meet the new requirements. For instructions on how to see the certification status of individual users, see the bottom of this help page.

More clarity for advertisers. Along with the changes to requirements, the email said Google wants to provide more clarity around program benefits. To do this, the company is developing new benefits in three main categories to support Partners in the move toward the new requirements:

  • Education & Insights
  • Access & Support
  • Recognition & Rewards

“The new Google Partners program is exciting for our Search team as it shifts the criteria toward overall account health and employee education by an increased focus on optimization score and account strategist certifications.” said Donny Nordmann, Director, Search at Rise Interactive.

Why we care. Google’s delay of the Partner Program requirement changes was a smart move to help the search community during unprecedented times. With many agencies and search marketers being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting changes in the business landscape, Google took feedback to improve the changes they planned to make to the Program. 

Google has also noted that the advanced notifications means advertisers have a full year to meet the Partner Program requirements. Any Partners holding a Partner or Premier Partner badge, will be able to retain their badge status until then: “To recognize the efforts of the large number of partners who are already meeting our new badge criteria, we’ll start extending the new Partner badge in June 2021. The new Premier Partner badge will be available to the top 3% of partners when the new program launches in February 2022,” said the email announcement.

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Bans lifted, ad outages, feature releases, and more CWV; Tuesday’s daily brief /bans-lifted-ad-outages-feature-releases-and-more-cwv-tuesdays-daily-brief-346341 Tue, 23 Feb 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=346341 Plus, how has your martech stack changed with COVID--a survey

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, and Google lifts the political ad ban tomorrow.

In an announcement yesterday, Google let ad partners know that the previous ban on political ads will now be lifted. The latest ban went into effect in January after the insurrection at the capitol, prohibiting advertisements about the election, results, impeachment, inauguration, etc. 

A few search marketers reached out to us after the January ban to say some of their ads were mistakenly categorized as political (which a quick appeal could have fixed). Now, to get political ads running again, search marketers will have to use that same appeals tool to have another review within the Google Ads portal.

Google is one of the biggest digital platforms for political ads–including fundraising (which has taken a hit since the ban). Their ad disclosures portal shows that political advertisers have spent $750 million since 2018. It’s an interesting conversation–the balance between preventing misinformation and providing advertising services to political groups–one that’s especially sensitive given recent events. 

Carolyn Lyden
Director of Search Content

Google announces new Search Console feature: Associations

Associations lets you connect your Search Console account with other Google accounts, such as YouTube, Google Analytics, Android apps and much more. Associations allow Search Console to pull data from your other Google properties and “can unlock more functionality for your site” according to the announcement

The following properties can be connected via Associations:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Ads
  • YouTube
  • Play Console
  • Actions Console
  • Chrome Web Store account

Why we care. Marketers are always looking for ways to connect data across platforms, and this is a step in that direction. That includes linking Search Console domain properties to Google Analytics to get better coverage of your organic search results, connecting YouTube videos to your associated website, and publishing apps and extensions to the Chrome Web Store on behalf of your site.

Read more here.

Facebook Ads experiences weekend delivery outage

If you noticed huge drops in your Facebook Ads traffic and conversions, it was due to a delivery outage over the weekend. The social media platform saw major disruptions in ad delivery starting February 18 and only resolved the issue yesterday. Most search marketers reported that only their Instagram Story campaigns remained unaffected in the outage.

Why we care. When asked for comment, Facebook sent us the boilerplate “We’re still investigating this issue and will take any learnings to improve our systems going forward.” Many marketers saw great campaigns and ROAS torpedoed over the weekend. 

The ad outage comes on the heels of iOS14’s new privacy release which gives users more control over how they share their data with mobile apps, including Facebook (who says the outage was not related to the iOS update). Apple will pop up a prompt asking users for permission for cross-app tracking, giving people the option to opt out.

Some speculate that this outage is just an example of how Facebook will have to adjust given new privacy options: “Feel like their entire marketing architecture has been designed around the Pixel. Regardless, if it’s used or not. Thinking they need to rebuild their architecture from the ground up, to not be based around the Pixel,” said Edan Ben-Atar on Twitter.

Mike King to write a book on “The Science of SEO”

In a Twitter announcement yesterday, iPullRank’s Mike King announced that he’s writing a book with Wiley Publishing titled “The Science of SEO: Decoding Search Engine Algorithms.” King also won the 2020 Search Engine Land Search Marketer of the Year Award.

Expected to be released in 2022, “The Science of SEO” is an approachable guide to navigating the confluence of Information Retrieval, Web Development, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in Search Engine Optimization. This book is being written in response to the explosion of SEO interest in data science and the technical concepts behind search engines with the goal of creating the definitive resource to formalize the concept of SEO engineering.”

Read more here.

SURVEY: Have you tried new martech due to COVID?

As many marketers are now working remotely, there’s likely been a change in how you conduct business. But have you also changed the tools you use to do your marketing job? If so, we want to hear about it. Take our martech survey and give us the details on how your use of marketing technology has changed (and how freemium models have affected what you’ve ended up using longer term).

Take the survey here.

More Core Web Vitals for you

Continuing our Core Web Vitals conversation, Ian Howells of Traffic Think Tank posted some interesting data for a site on Twitter last week. The graphic shows CWV data for a single site over time. The site went from a 93% “passing” score to 61% in just 9 months. 

Fellow marketers chimed in with their theories on what could have caused the change: an increase in users, plugin updates, external scripts, audience changes, trends in new devices, and more. While we’ve yet to see how CWV will affect sites in SERPs, the changing data behind the UX metrics is fascinating. Plus, Howells’ point about SMBs trying to figure it out could mean more headaches for marketers.

Google Search Console Discover performance report change

Google Doodle for Zitkala-Sa’s 145th Birthday. Yesterday, Google had a meaningful Doodle on its homepage for the 145th birthday of  Zitkala-Sa.  Zitkála-Šá, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, her missionary-given and later married name, was a Yankton Dakota writer, editor, translator, musician, educator, and political activist.

Google malformed response bug. There may be a bug with Google Search Console’s URL inspection tool with sites on HTTP/2. Where Google is showing a malformed response when it should not. Gary Illyes from Google said he will look into this.

Google Discover performance report change. Google Search Console made some changes on how it reports Discover data. Google said, “Previously, if a viewer clicked into a Web Story on Discover, then continued from there into additional Web Stories, only the first Web Story was credited with an impression and click. From this date onward, any additional Web Stories that were reached from the first Web Story in Discover will also be credited with an impression and click in the Performance report for Discover. Therefore, you might see an increase in your Discover data.”

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.

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Facebook unfriends Australia and Maryland passes ad tax; Monday’s daily brief /facebook-unfriends-australia-and-maryland-passes-ad-tax-mondays-daily-brief-346302 Mon, 22 Feb 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=346302 Plus, Google's Search Central Live conference is right after SMX Report

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, and is UX the new web standard?

I asked how you felt about Core Web Vitals last week, and we got some varied feedback:

I think Core Web Vitals do stand to be a game-changer, kind of. Unlike https and mobile-first, Google has put a ton of support towards developer tools, transparency in weighting/values of each metric, etc. which leads me to believe that this is going to matter. However, it’ll be very high-stakes table-stakes, if that makes sense, in that if you aren’t on par with your competitors on performance, you’ll see a hit to your rankings.
– Mat Reiss

Not everyone will not be implementing it before the launch. It costs way too much.  Implementing https is easy. Mobile-first indexing was a no-brainer. It is VERY difficult and VERY expensive to improve page experience. Given the fierce competition for rank based on content, many sites have equal or near-equal content footing. That will make page experience a game changer.
– Jennifer McDougall

I think we’ve seen some historical evidence of [Google] strong-arming websites into doing things their way through ranking penalizations… This strong-arm approach would result in websites with lower CWV scores to lose position (even if they have better content) – forcing them to focus more attention to improving CWV and thus improving the UX of the whole internet (in G’s eyes). Without this approach, content would still reign supreme and the website with the best content would still win out – signaling that UX is not very important.
– Tom Snyder

The common thread in these responses seems to be that we need to make user experience a priority. And, I get it. It’s hard. We want beautiful websites. We want multimedia elements. We want interactive content. But those awesome website elements can’t come at the expense of the user. A fast, accessible, easy to use site is crucial for both SEO and PPC.

P.S. SMX Report is all about data and metrics. If you haven’t signed up for this analytics-focused learning journey yet, don’t sweat it. There’s still time. Go ahead, snag your ticket and mark your calendar.

Carolyn Lyden
Director of Search Content

Facebook unfriends Australia after government proposes changing the rules

Screenshot showing Twitter conversation where Facebook has blocked marketers from sharing links to their blogs because it's mistaken for news

ICYMI: Facebook unfriended Australia this week after the government there proposed a legal code that would allow Australian news publishers to charge tech companies to use their content in search results and news feeds. Facebook responded by blocking users there from viewing or sharing news content on its platform. But it looks like it didn’t get it’s categorization completely right…

Thankfully, the faceoff may have turned a corner, as Josh Frydenberg of Australia’s Treasury department said he spoke with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday about continuing the conversation over the weekend. As of this writing, the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code has not been passed pending further negotiations between the Australian government, tech companies, and media outlets, the most notable of which is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. 

Why We Care. What does it mean for marketers that live downstream from news sites? And if Facebook can thumbs-down an entire continent’s move to support parity between tech giants and news publishers, what’s to stop them from blocking similar efforts in other sectors or countries? Also, what’s the fallout for marketers whose content isn’t news but who are still being blocked like Brodie in the screenshot above? Plus Facebook is now getting in trouble for falsely inflating ad metrics. Big yikes all around. Marketers may benefit from developing solutions that offer a detox from dependence on tech monoliths and walled gardens.

Read more here.

Digital-first commerce boosts Shopify’s earnings

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing down many in-person businesses, companies shifted to online stores and ecommerce to stay afloat. Shopify’s earnings call this week reflected that exodus–with Q4 earnings up 94% YoY and their 2020 holiday sales surpassing $5 billion. 

Not only are businesses moving online, but consumer behavior around online purchases is also evolving. Research from Publicis Sapient shows nearly three-quarters of consumers shopped online last summer with 48% of those interviewed saying they’ll continue to do so in the future. The research also indicates an opportunity for brands to acquire new customers through ecommerce experiences, with 74% purchasing products from retailers new to them.

Why we care. Like we mentioned last Thursday, platforms like Shopify are taking user feedback to improve the migration process–and now we know why! Ecommerce SEO and Shopping Ads are a big deal for businesses, and we expect that the trend will continue far past the pandemic. So if you haven’t invested in Shopify, Amazon, or general ecommerce SEO or PPC knowledge–it might be time.  

Read more here.

Maryland is the first state to tax digital advertising services

Last week Maryland passed a bill enacting a tax on digital advertising services. Operating on a sliding scale, the law requires companies that make money off the sale of digital ads to pay a percentage to the state. “Digital-advertising services, as defined in the bill, include ‘advertisements in the form of banner advertising, search advertising, interstitial advertising, and other comparable advertising services,’” said Kate Cox with Ars Technica.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Between $100 million and $1 billion in global revenue = Pay 2.5%
  • > $1 billion in revenue = Pay 5%
  • > $5 billion in revenue = Pay 7.5%
  • > $15 billion in revenue = Pay 10%

Why we care. So I’m sure you can guess where Google and Facebook fall… (Hint: They generate more than $15 billion per quarter according to AdExchanger.) Tech companies are, of course, suing to block the law from taking effect saying it violates the Internet Tax Freedom Act. If it does manage to go into effect unscathed, it could start a surge of similar legislation across the country. Some detractors believe this law will hit businesses the hardest during an already hard time because tech platforms will find ways to pass the added cost on to advertisers.

On the hunt for something new in 2021? Here are the latest career opportunities in search

Performance Marketing Manager @ Noble Studios (USA–closes today!)

  • Manage defined paid advertising budgets, monitoring spend pace and performance forecasting
  • Develop strategic plans and campaigns that drive measurable results

UX Designer @ ROI Revolution (Raleigh, NC)

  • Create and pitch recommendations and designs for a cohesive experimentation strategy
  • Initiate, monitor and report on the performance of A/B tests

SEO Growth Manager / Director @ Compound Growth Marketing (Remote)

  • Manage projects, prioritize, and manage external consulting resources
  • Manage client relationships and driving strategy that delivers

Associate Technical SEO @ DeepCrawl (US and UK)

  • Train client SEOs and developers on advanced usage of DeepCrawl
  • Work with DeepCrawl clients that have regular Professional Services calls

Enter a job opening for an opportunity to be featured in this section.

Block content from Google Discover, conferences and fireworks

Screenshot of Google search with fireworks superimposed over a search for "perseverance" the Mars rover

Perseverance Google fireworks. To celebrate the historic landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars, Google has special fireworks when you search for the term [perseverance].

Google SEO conference. After you are done with SMX Report on February 23rd (make sure you don’t miss it), you can catch the short Google Search Central Live conference. Registration is free, and more details are over here.

Block content from Google Discover. Google may give publishers a method to block their content from showing in Google Discover, said Google’s Danny Sullivan.

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.

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Responsive search ads now the default in Google Ads /responsive-search-ads-now-the-default-in-google-ads-346224 Thu, 18 Feb 2021 16:00:00 +0000 /?p=346224 RSAs give advertisers more flexibility to address changing market environments due to the pandemic, says Google

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Google announced today that RSAs will officially become the default ad type for Search campaigns in Google Ads, though expanded text ads can still be created.

RSAs allow advertisers to input multiple headlines and ad copy variations, and Google Ads uses machine learning to determine which variations to use based on what queries people are searching for. The variations are tested to determine which combinations perform best. The Ad strength score lets search marketers understand how to improve their RSAs for better performance.

Move to machine learning. Automation is becoming the name of the game for ads platforms as they integrate machine learning and AI to improve campaign performance and outcomes. Google touts that changing consumer behavior also means that responsive ads give advertisers the best chance to be competitive in the changing search marketing landscape. “We think it will improve flexibility and performance for advertisers, improving clicks and conversions up to 10%. It also gives advertisers more flexibility to address changing market environments due to the pandemic and save time,” said a Google spokesperson.

Focus on metrics. “With the introduction of RSAs, Google began encouraging advertisers to move away from ‘overly fixating’ on click-through and conversion rates and instead focus on the incremental lift in clicks and conversions from RSAs,” said Ginny Marvin in Search Engine Land. But keyword metrics and click data are still a benchmark for many advertisers who balk at the idea of an RSA-only search marketing landscape. Plus, the loss of the combination of all the data together seems to be what’s hitting data-driven ads managers the most. Many PPC marketers note that RSAs often outperform ETAs–though that varies based on individual implementation according to many search marketers we spoke to. 

Best practices. Google recommends that advertisers not using RSAs currently consider the following best practices:

  • Use Ad strength when writing your headlines and descriptions to understand the effectiveness of your ads.
  • Take advantage of location insertion and countdown customizers to show ads that are relevant and meaningful to your customers.
  • Use Smart Bidding and broad match keywords with responsive search ads to help optimize the performance of your ads while maximizing your reach.
  • Review cross-campaign asset reporting to understand which creative assets resonate most with your customers.

Why we care. In a #PPCChat discussion on the topic in September, many paid search marketers complained that RSAs “don’t give us any data on what works,” tweeted Daniel Vardi, PPC Product Manager at (un)Common Logic. #PPCChat host Julie Bacchini also said, “RSAs in Google Ads don’t consider things like, ‘Why would you need information about what your ads are doing to think about what you’re doing with keywords? And how I probably want to apply that to what I’m saying on my landing page.”

Google addresses these PPC marketers’ concerns about a lack of insight into important metrics by directing marketers to the assets tab: “Advertisers still have full stats at the ad level so we are not taking away any data. We introduced a new concept (assets) and that’s where we have the performance ratings but we didn’t take away the stats they already have,” said the Google rep.

Some marketers say that implementation of RSAs versus ETAs is often harder in organizations with rigorous legal and stakeholder approval processes. The Google spokesperson we talked to said that “Advertisers will still have the option to create expanded text ads or pin headlines and/or descriptions if they choose to do so.” 

A Search Engine Land analysis by Frederick Vallaeys frames the debate well: “RSAs are capable of being great ads and they deserve a chance in any account. They’re not a magic wand for ad optimization and still require human optimization.”

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Clubhouse, Shopify, and unconfirmed algorithm updates; Thursday’s daily brief /clubhouse-shopify-and-unconfirmed-algorithm-updates-thursdays-daily-brief-346218 Thu, 18 Feb 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=346218 Plus, EU search choice screen pleases almost no one

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, and let’s talk Clubhouse… again.

If you’re tired of chatting about Clubhouse, I’m so sorry, but it’s fascinating to me. There are apparently many unspoken rules, and just as many ways to break them. The “conference calling” social app is open only to iPhone users and builds demand based on exclusivity. You can’t just download it. An existing user has to send you one of their limited invites (though every once in a while I get a notification that I have more invites to send out).

The nature of Clubhouse is such that conversations are ephemeral just like an old fashioned phone call (which increases FOMO), and recording is frowned upon (though some rooms have a “recording” notification in the title).

“Think podcast meets interaction. These rooms can be hosted by anyone. Some are solo talks. Some are expert panels. Some are casual and people just listen to music together or whatnot,” explains Candian-based fitness entrepreneur Saschie MacLean-Magbanua. She shared her Clubhouse best practices for new users and brands:

  • The rooms you see in your feed are based on your selected interests when you sign up as well as the keywords in your bio so optimize both. You’ll see a lot of bios that look like LinkedIn profiles.
  • If you raise your hand in a room, the mods will see and call you “up” to speak. The etiquette is to mute yourself right away until called on so you’re not interrupting existing conversation.
  • You have to host 3 rooms before you can start a club. Clubs are interest-driven. This could be a great opportunity for brands.
  • There’s no way to connect in-app beyond rooms so most people promote their Instagram as the place to connect.

People are already creating branded rooms and conversations in Clubhouse, but the key seems to be no shameless self-promotion and more focus on conversations that interest your audience.

Carolyn Lyden,
Director of Search Content

Google’s search choice screen had virtually no effect on search market share, perhaps by design

An example of the search choice screen.
Image: Google.

In 2018, Google was ordered by the EU to change how app bundling works on Android phones as a result of the antitrust case surrounding Google Play. Phone makers, like Samsung, that want access to Google Play were required to preinstall a number of Google apps, including search, Maps, Chrome and others. 

Google’s solution. As a result of that case, Google created the search choice screen. Search engines pay for the option to show up on the choice screen via an auction: “In each country auction, search providers will state the price that they are willing to pay each time a user selects them from the choice screen in the given country. Each country will have a minimum bid threshold. The three highest bidders that meet or exceed the bid threshold for a given country will appear in the choice screen for that country,” said the Google announcement from 2019.

The limitations. The screen itself is limited to four search engines (including Google) — why four? Why not an alphabetized, searchable list? And, the choice screen only rolled out to new handsets after March 2020, and is only available once during the initial phone setup phase, severely limiting its reach. If anything, the screen, as it currently exists, is a way for Google to influence, and maybe even control, the mobile search ecosystem.

Thanks, I hate it. So how has that turned out? In the words of Mad Men’s Pete Campbell, “Not great, Bob!” At least that’s according to most Google competitors in the EU:

  • DuckDuckGo: Not a fan.
  • Yandex: Not a fan.
  • Ecosia: Not a fan.
  • Info.com: A fan!
  • Bing: No comment.

Why? The auction is biased against search engines that bring in less revenue by design, which also happen to be the niche search engines that are chipping away slowly at Google’s dominance. Search engines that can afford to pay are likely the ones that run more ads, which only makes Google look like a better user experience by comparison. And, larger search engines that win are ending up paying for users that might’ve selected them as a default for free.

Read more here.

Shopify seeking SEO feedback in re: to migration hiccups

a tweet from Jackson lo asking "What are the biggest SEO pain points / challenges when migrating an online store to shopify?"

Jackson Lo, SEO Lead at Shopify, posted on Twitter this week asking what search marketers’ biggest pain points are when transitioning online e-commerce sites to Shopify. One of the biggest issues seems to be the inability to match URL structure one-to-one, especially for sites that are already ranking well in SERPs. Other feedback includes importing navigation and menus, broken image issues, and moving blog content. We love a platform seeking real-world guidance from search marketers on how to improve!

Related reading >> Check out our Shopify SEO guide.

What’s on your mind, marketers?

As search marketers, we deal with a ton of new and evolving issues every day. Ads platforms are moving toward more automation. Google’s algorithm updates are always shifting. Getting data from social ads is impossible. Clients don’t always understand KPIs. Remote work can be a struggle. Salary negotiation is hard. We want to know what you’re dealing with on the day-to-day. (Or, alternatively, what you’re excited about in our industry! Tell us how you nailed it.)

So we made a quick survey for you to dish. Give us the deets.

Tell us what you’re working through.

Google unconfirmed algorithm update on February 17th

Google unconfirmed algorithm update. Starting around Wednesday, February 17th, the SEO community has been noticing fluctuations in the Google Search results. So we have an unconfirmed Google search ranking update going on.

Google Search Console screenshot hack. You know how Google Search Console’s URL inspection tool can give you a screenshot of what Googlebot sees?  Well, it is just the top of the page. If you want to see lower, you can use anchor links, if they are available on the page to see that portion of the page.  This was spotted by Valentin Pletzer along with Saijo George on Twitter.

CrUX data updates take time. The Google Chrome experience report (CrUX) takes time to update, up to 28 days or so, so if you make changes, be patient, it will take time to update. John Mueller of Google said on Twitter “Yes, it’s based on field data, so it takes that long to populate the report; the populated data is then used for alerting. It’s probably a good idea to automate monitoring with lab tests so that you can catch issues / unexpected changes early :-).”

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.

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Google to transition to parallel tracking for Video ads by April 30 /google-to-transition-to-parallel-tracking-for-video-ads-by-april-30-346176 Tue, 16 Feb 2021 20:21:05 +0000 /?p=346176 Marketers should check with click tracking providers to ensure data continuity.

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Google announced today that the deadline to adopt parallel tracking for Video ad campaigns is April 30. Parallel tracking for Search campaigns took effect in 2018, so this announcement specifically applies just to Video campaigns.

What is parallel tracking. Parallel tracking is a form of campaign click measurement that’s meant to speed the loading process for users. Previously, when a user clicked an ad, there would be multiple tracking URL redirects before they were taken to the final landing page. 

Diagram showing how parallel tracking works. Boxes with arrows showing the path when users click on an ad--one going to the final URL and one showing the tracking loading in a parallel stream.
Google’s example of how parallel tracking works for ads with the parallel tracking happening in the blue box.

Parallel tracking ensures that there’s no slow-down in the user experience by taking the user directly to the landing page or destination while the tracking happens in the background. The tracking will happen parallel to the landing page loading. This has already been implemented for Search ads, and Google now says that it will sunset the older tracking for Video campaigns by April 30, 2021.

Why we care. The announcement recommends that any search marketer working with a click measurement provider for Video campaigns reach out to that tool or provider to ensure there’s no disruption in service. It could also potentially mean a better user experience for target audiences who click ads from Video as destinations will also load faster.

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Are Core Web Vitals worth the trouble? And confusion around passage ranking; Tuesday’s daily brief /are-core-web-vitals-worth-the-trouble-and-confusion-around-passage-ranking-tuesdays-daily-brief-346139 Tue, 16 Feb 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=346139 Plus, Bing launches misspelling interpreter

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, and let’s talk Core Web Vitals,

Since Google announced Core Web Vitals back in May 2020, many search marketers have focused on improving their page speeds and overall site function. It makes sense. To me, Core Web Vitals is another metric we can measure for overall user experience. We now have numbers to present to clients and stakeholders about why load times, interactivity, and visual stability matter.

Others in search believe Core Web Vitals won’t have that much of an impact on rankings, though. And that, much like https and mobile-first indexing, because Google announced it in advance, everyone will be implementing it before the launch. Some also believe that the metrics will only come into play with sites that have equal content footing. That is to say, if your content outdoes your competitors’, then their better Core Web Vitals scores won’t mean much in SERPs. 

What do you think? Are Core Web Vitals a game-changer? Or just table stakes? Email me at clyden@thirddoormedia.com and let me know. Plus, check out the how-to guide below on auditing Core Web Vitals on yours sites.

Carolyn Lyden
Director of Search Content

How to audit Core Web Vitals

Google's core web vitals metrics

Google told site owners in May that Core Web Vitals would become part of its algorithms in 2021, and most SEOs have been working to improve their metrics before the launch. This how-to guide by Tom Crewe walks you through a CWV audit using Screaming Frog and the PageSpeed Insights API.

This method gives you an understanding of the size of the issues to better communicate the scope to clients: “95% of pages have a Largest Contentful Paint of over 4 seconds (fail).” Crewe also demonstrates how to give the numbers behind the fixes to help clients understand how prioritizing CWV may improve their site overall: 

“For each of the recommendations you are making, you will also be able to see the ‘Savings’ that could be made by fixing that particular issue, either in bytes or milliseconds. Using your exported data for each issue, you can now add up the potential savings for each issue, and the average savings that could be made per page by resolving that issue, so you can make your recommendations for which issues to tackle first based on the amount of potential load savings that can be made.”

Read the guide here.

Microsoft launches AI to interpret and correct searcher spelling errors

Did you know around 15% of queries searched online have spelling errors? That’s according to an announcement last week from Microsoft Bing. Introducing their Speller100, the Bing engineering team hopes to cut down on the number of incorrect search results that come from search AI misunderstanding misspelled queries.

“When queries are misspelled, we match the wrong set of documents and trigger incorrect answers, which can produce a suboptimal results page for our customers. Therefore, spelling correction is the very first component in the Bing search stack because searching for the correct spelling of what users mean improves all downstream search components,” reads the announcement.

The new addition to the AI corrects the spelling errors of queries in over 100 languages (up from just a few dozen before) helping the search engine better understand what users are looking for and thus serving up more relevant results. Bing’s A/B testing revealed a 30% drop in searches with on results, a 5% reduction in searchers reformulating their queries, and an increase in the number of times users clicked on a search result.

Why we care. Not only does Speller100 represent a move toward a better user experience for searchers, but it also means more relevant search results. For businesses, this is an opportunity to potentially drive a small increase in traffic when people are searching for products or services that you offer. It also means no need to focus on potential misspelled keywords. 

Read the announcement here.

Passage ranking is not something you can see in Google Search

Passage ranking and scroll-to-text. Now that passage ranking is live in the US/English search results, there is a lot of confusion on how you can see these results. The answer is you cannot see them, it is a ranking change, not a visual change to the search results.  And no, the scroll-to-text feature you are seeing is not the passage rankings results, it is likely featured snippets, which are not passage ranking snippets.

Valentine’s Day Google Doodle. If you missed the Google Valentine’s day Doodle, we have a screenshot of it above and you can learn more about it on this Google blog post.

Small businesses and SEO. Google’s John Mueller said when it comes to what he is seeing on small business websites and SEO these days, he said “I see, the fewer I see with technical SEO issues, and the more the issues lie with the content (stale, duplicated across multiple sites, incorrect, low-quality, etc). CMSs tend to get most technical things right (or “right enough”) nowadays.”

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.

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Diversity and inclusion in search marketing and advertising; Monday’s daily brief /diversity-and-inclusion-in-search-marketing-and-advertising-mondays-daily-brief-346115 Mon, 15 Feb 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=346115 Plus, GMB adds messaging to desktop (finally)

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, and let’s talk about analytics.

I was watching a talk from Andy Crestodina last week where he said that so many people forget the root of analytics is in “analysis.” We’re focused so much on reporting that we forget to really dig in and comb through the data.

With SMX Report next Tuesday, this sentiment really hit home for me. I’ve seen some sneak peeks of the topics and session takeaways, and I can’t wait for attendees to see all the tactical analysis that our speakers are bringing to this virtual event.

Sessions cover everything from competitive PPC analysis to what’s new in GA4 and proving your SEO success with data to reporting across your organization. Oh, plus you get a keynote featuring moi

I hope to see you there!

Carolyn Lyden
Director of Search Content

The onus of diversity should not fall to Black marketers

Jamar Ramos and Zenia Johnson

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found in a 2020 survey that only 6% of its total members were Black, and, of all the CMO members, only 3% were Black. With reports continually proving that diversity in leadership improves profits, how can search marketers address the disparity in hiring?

Mentorship and promotion are two key areas, according to Jamar Ramos and Zenia Johnson, marketers who are both Black. Mentorship doesn’t always have to be a formal arrangement. ”Mentorship can be super helpful because having someone who is inviting you into rooms or spaces that you are not necessarily invited to, but who can be your advocate is huge,” said Johnson.

Promoting Black marketers into middle management and leadership roles also ensures that different voices are heard throughout the organization–and ensure your marketing is more comprehensive.

Read more here.

Google My Business adds messaging to desktop interface

Google My Business messaging

GMB started allowing potential customers to message businesses through their listings in 2016, but the interface finally moved to desktop. Rolling out now, businesses will be able to chat with customers who message them through Google My Business on a desktop now–a feature previously only available through the GMB app.

Many companies have been responding to customer inquiries already through social media like Facebook messenger, which business owners could access on a desktop or mobile device. Google’s move to allow messaging on desktop makes the feature easier for many businesses to actually use.

The feature can be useful for customers to ask specific questions to businesses especially in COVID times. Companies that handle HIPAA-based data and other PII should make sure customers don’t transmit sensitive information as we’re not sure if messaging is HIPAA compliant.

Read more here.

A Google Ads setting allowed advertisers to exclude people of ‘unknown gender’

The Markup found a loophole in Google Ads’ targeting that allowed advertisers to exclude searchers who hadn’t been designated as male or female. This is a big deal for search marketers placing ads for housing, employment, and financial industries.

In 2019, the The Department of Housing and Urban Development sued Facebook for violating the Fair Housing Act when similar settings allowed advertisers to discriminate against certain groups.

“We will be implementing an update to our policy and enforcement in the coming weeks to restrict advertisers from targeting or excluding users on the basis of the ‘gender unknown’ category,” Elijah Lawal, a Google spokesperson told The Markup

Read more here.

On the hunt for something new in 2021? Here are the latest career opportunities in search

Digital Marketing eCommerce Manager @ Stand Steady (USA)

  • Own and optimize digital advertising efforts for the Stand Steady brand
  • Partner with Marketing Operations Manager to monitor campaign and page performance

Senior Director of Growth @ Flatiron School (remote, USA)

  • Drive a data point of view on system architecture, data tables/schemas, and more
  • Act as Growth Ops roadmap stakeholder for Marketing projects, timelines, and deadlines

SEO Program Manager @ REI (Seattle)

  • Help define the strategic direction for the overall SEO program
  • Determine on-page optimization and keyword strategy for REI’s ecommerce pages

SEO Strategist @ Victorious (remote)

  • Execute on-page and off-page SEO strategies for customers 
  • Deliver expert recommendations for keyword research, technical auditing, and more

Enter a job opening for an opportunity to be featured in this section.

Happy lunar new year!

Google Lunar Year Doodle. Check out this powerful Lunar Year Doodle from Google on Friday. Google said, “Take this year by the horns—here’s to this next lunar cycle being as strong as an ox!” 

Site changes for social action message. Are you changing your site, home page or a portion of your site for a social action message? If you don’t want it to impact your SEO, make sure to use 503 server status codes, John Mueller of Google said

Shorter is not better. Google’s John Mueller said that shorter domain names or URLs are not better for ranking or SEO purposes.

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.

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