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George Nguyen – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tue, 25 Jun 2019 15:50:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 Yoast SEO 11.5 updates the mobile snippet preview /yoast-seo-11-5-updates-the-mobile-snippet-preview-318733 Tue, 25 Jun 2019 15:49:43 +0000 /?p=318733 It replicates how your content is likely to appear in Google's mobile search results.

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With its latest update, the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin has revamped its mobile snippet preview. It now generates a preview of what your content will look like as a listing in Google’s mobile search results.

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The Yoast SEO meta box (that appears towards the bottom of the WordPress editor), containing the overhauled mobile snippet preview along with the focus keyphrase. Image sourced from the Yoast blog.

More on the update. This is not a new feature; however, the update does replicate a Google mobile search snippet more accurately, even including bolded keywords and a default favicon. Yoast says a site’s actual favicon will be integrated into the preview in a future release. And, you can still switch between mobile and desktop previews.

In earlier releases, both the snippet preview and focus keyphrase features were located towards the bottom of the WordPress editor, meaning you had to scroll away from your content to access it. You can still find them in that location, but Yoast has also made these features more accessible by adding them to the top of the sidebar.

Not as much schema this time. Unlike Yoast’s last four updates, there is less of an emphasis on structured data. This time, the only schema implementation change Yoast has made is taking out the primary image for a page of the WebPage piece and moving it into its own graph. Yoast says that this makes it “easier for search engines to discover the relation between the image, the page and the entities.”

Why we should care. Knowing how your content appears within search results is a window into your customers’ journeys. And, since the majority of searches happen on mobile, having an accurate representation of your mobile snippet is even more important. Yoast’s latest update helps marketers get a better idea of what their customers might see before they click through, which can enable us to optimize our snippets to encourage the click.

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Millions of fake Google Maps listings hurt real business and consumers /millions-of-fake-google-maps-listings-hurt-real-business-and-consumers-318629 Sat, 22 Jun 2019 14:07:31 +0000 /?p=318629 Google says it is working on it, but is still positioned to profit as local businesses claw back visibility with paid ads.

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Google Maps carries approximately 11 million illegitimate local listings, with hundreds of thousands more getting created each month, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. These fake listings push real businesses further down the local search results, impacting their ability to reach customers and make unsuspecting users easy targets for scammers.

Google says it is aware of the problem and that it has plans to do more to combat spammers and scammers taking advantage of local listings. It’s not in the company’s interest to jeopardize user trust, yet as many marketers point out, it stands to profit as local businesses turn to paid ads to regain search visibility.

“Duress vertical” scams and spammy business names

First, a look at the problem. The majority of car repair, towing, electricians, contractors, attorneys, movers and other service categories aren’t located at the addresses shown in Google Maps, according to a survey of experts conducted by the WSJ. Internally at Google, the paper reprted, these categories are termed “duress verticals,” for their proclivity to scams built to ensnare victims when they’re most vulnerable.

These bogus businesses flood local search results by setting up fake profiles in Google My Business (GMB), the free service that powers the business listings in Google Search and Maps. This dilutes search visibility for legitimate business listings, robbing them of potential customers, and puts users in a position to be scammed.

Google’s failure to take down fake business listings and verify real ones is a frustration for many business owners and marketers. Joe Youngblood, an SEO and digital marketer, has been vocal about the problems legitimate businesses face with Google My Business. “Hey @GoogleMyBiz still have several real businesses with suspended accounts, meanwhile fake spam companies with Virtual Office addresses are popping up everywhere. It’s been almost a full week, can you please respond to these??,” Youngblood tweeted this week.

The problem isn’t always as black and white as fake and real local listings, either. As digital marketer Itamar Blauer pointed out, real businesses are also stuffing keywords into their Google My Business profiles in order to rank higher on generic local searches (e.g., “oil change” or “personal injury lawyer”).

Google’s guidelines state, “Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers.” It also instructs businesses to include details like address and service area, business hours, and categories of the other sections of your business.

“The underlying concept of this is that there don’t seem to be consequences for keyword stuffing in GMB listings, as Optimise London have shown that even after Google accepted my edit – they simply added the keywords in again,” Blauer said.

The impact of this manipulation isn’t limited to local search results either. The screenshot below shows that, by adding “SEO Agency” to its business name in GMB, an agency managed to get featured in a knowledge panel for the generic search term “digital seo agency.”

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The top screenshot shows how an agency was able to gain a knowledge panel for the non-brand search term “digital seo agency” by putting “SEO Agency” in its GMB profile. Even after the spammy name was reported, the knowledge panel remained, as shown in the second screenshot.

“Now the knowledge graph picks up their GMB for ‘Digital SEO Agency,’ which shouldn’t be allowed and is only the case because of their GMB title,” Blauer explained. Even after the listing was corrected, the company’s listing remained in the knowledge panel, despite ranking seventh in the standard organic listings.

“Right now the name of the business has a huge impact, and fake listings just use target keywords, leading to massive gains,” Youngblood explained. Last year, he ran an experiment that revealed that on average, spamming or keyword stuffing the GMB business name helped a location improve by at least 9.53 ranking positions.

How Google got into this situation

Some marketers say Google didn’t take the problem of listing authenticity seriously enough from the start. “As those of us in the YP [yellow pages] industry watched Google enter into providing local business information, we thought they had quite a bit of hubris,” Chris Silver Smith, formerly a technical liaison for a deal between Superpages and Google Maps and now president and strategist at Argent Media, said.

“There was a naivete in much of their approach that translated into all sorts of goofs and errors over time. Instead of hiring people who were highly familiar with the issues inherent, they primarily hired computer science grads, fresh out of school, and treated the database with less seriousness at the beginning than should have been the case — far more priority was placed on the user experience than virtually anything else.”

Silver Smith also said that Google has over-emphasized having brick-and-mortar locations in their ranking algorithm — despite the fact that many service providers don’t need office space because they work on-site at their customers’ locations. According to Silver Smith, the heavy weighting of that factor makes it makes it more difficult for service providers that don’t need a physical location to achieve high rankings, ultimately incentivizing them to set up fake listings just to be represented equivalently to businesses with street addresses.

Google’s responses

In 2017, a Google-sponsored study by researchers from the University of California, San Diego concluded that just 0.5% of the local searches they looked at contained false listings. Search consultant Mike Blumenthal called the results “meaningless,” partially due to the limited and skewed data that Google provided. Danny Huang, the study’s lead author, who was also a paid Google intern at the time, acknowledged, “All I was doing was eyeballing in a scientific manner.”

Shortly after the WSJ article was published, Google emphasized in blog post its ongoing efforts to address Maps spam and scammers, saying it has taken down over three million fake business profiles, of which more than 90% were removed before they could be seen by users. It also stated that it is donating settlement funds from lawsuits against bad actors to organizations that educate consumers and businesses about fraud, and reiterated that users can flag profiles for removal.  

The company added that it’s developing new ways — both manual and automated — to fight scammers, but kept specifics under wraps, explaining “we can’t share too many details about these efforts without running the risk of actually helping scammers find new ways to beat our systems—which defeats the purpose of all the work we do.”

The company has also signaled it may start charging for Google My Business features. In April, it sent a survey to some local businesses asking if they would be willing to pay a monthly subscription fee.

The winners and losers

“The winners are pretty clear, it’s Google and the spammers,” said Dan Leibson, vice president of search for Local SEO Guide Inc., pointing out that spammers are siphoning off customers and Google is cashing in on ads bought by businesses trying to get their listings to appear above the spammers’.

“Everyone else is losing in some way. The least affected type of business is probably large, multi-location brands as simple spam signals will have a hard time outranking the true relevance and prominence of these businesses,” Leibson continued, stating that a fabricated series of “hardware stores near me” listings would be unlikely to supplant The Home Depot from search results.

The frequency of fake listings may also impact consumer preferences. Customers who might otherwise support local businesses may instead choose to play it safe by patronizing larger, more well-known companies, making reaching new customers even more of an uphill battle for small or emerging brands.

Legitimate local businesses also have to compete with each other for whatever customers are left. It’s possible that the practice of adding keywords to a GMB profile was initially a method to regain organic visibility and fend off fake listings, but it has also put other small businesses in a worse position — especially if they want to play by the rules.

What we can do and what needs to be done

“Standing out in a sea of fake listings will be all about building a brand and diversifying your local presence,” Youngblood advised, “I typically recommend clients focus on Google, Bing, Facebook, Yelp, at least one vertical, and of course their own website.”

“We also recommend that clients engage locally. Find popular social media accounts in the local area and engage with them (not necessarily ‘influencers’), support non-profits such as community radio, dog rescues, theaters, and homeless charities,” Youngblood said, adding that, “You never know when Google or another platform will suspend your listing, so making sure you’re gaining reviews on other sites consumers might find while researching is important.”

“The best way businesses can stand out is to outrank the spammers and have a legitimate brand,” Leibson concurred, concluding that (in addition to reporting fake listings and being vocal) users and businesses can even raise the issue with their elected representatives — an increasingly viable option as Google continues to make headlines for anti-competitive behavior.

Of course, Google can better enforce its current policies and change its algorithms to hinder current spam tactics. Marketers and SEOs are also quick to offer solutions ranging from deemphasizing GMB profile names within search algorithms to requiring vocational licenses as part of the registration process to having users upload a proof of purchase before they can leave a review.

“Google’s success and market dominance mean that it bears a higher responsibility than merely throwing together jumbles of business listings on maps and leaving it up to consumers to discern which may be real or false,” Silver Smith said.

The company’s dominance stems from its search algorithms and the services and systems built around them. As long as those systems exist, there are those that will seek to exploit them at the expense of honest participants. Fortunately, there are solutions. Marketers and business owners must continue pushing Google to prioritize them.

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SMXcast: Tactics to improve your YouTube video ad performance /smxcast-tactics-to-improve-your-youtube-video-ad-performance-318540 Fri, 21 Jun 2019 13:29:15 +0000 /?p=318540 Ashley Mo discusses how to run video and search ads together to increase conversions.

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For search marketers, YouTube offers access to 1.9 billion logged-in global users per month, making it the second largest search engine. And, Google reports that advertisers buying YouTube video ads in addition to search ads see, on average, 8% higher search conversion volume, 3% higher search conversion rates and 4% lower search CPAs (compared to advertisers who only run search ads).

However, YouTube’s automated bidding algorithm isn’t right for everyone. At SMX Advanced, Ashley Mo, regional director for 3Q Digital, discussed a few intelligent tactics that can improve your video campaign performance. Listen to her full Insights session below and head to the bottom for the full transcript.

Mo also provided Search Engine Land readers with some additional tips on automated bidding:

  • If you don’t have any conversion history for YouTube campaigns in your account, start with Max Conversions bidding and switch to Target CPA after the account has generated at least 30 conversions.
  • Wait at least 7-10 days prior to making bid changes. It is normal for performance to fluctuate, but over a 30 day period following an initial learning period, performance should be more stable. Use volume as an indicator of whether to change bids.
  • Campaign structure – separate different targeting types at the campaign level. As much as you may be tempted to, don’t change ad group level bids when making optimizations, always change at the campaign level.
  • Don’t overlay targeting on top of Custom Intent. This will reduce reach for users who have already expressed intent through their search behavior.
  • Consider testing micro-conversions like pageviews or an intermediate conversion if volume is limited.
  • Use different call-to-actions (with the same video creative) to see if you can improve CTR.

Transcript

GN:

This is the Search Engine Land podcast and I am your host George Nguyen. What you’re about to listen to, in particular, is an edition of SMXcast — content that comes straight from our SMX conference speakers and attendees.

You’re about to hear from Ashley Mo, a regional director at 3Q Digital. At SMX Advanced in Seattle, she delivered an Insights session on outsmarting YouTube’s automated bidding to drive more conversions. Enjoy and happy advertising.

AM:

Hi everyone. My name is Ashley. I have a lot of experience working with clients across verticals and specifically in YouTube. We’ve been working on trying to make it work for direct response, not just awareness and have managed to do that successfully with over $5 million in YouTube investment and hopefully a lot more. And, last year we took home Google’s premiere partner award in video innovation and, lucky for you all today, I’m going to share all of my secrets.

So to start off, the biggest news to YouTube is really that Google released TrueView for action into public beta this year. Some of you may have tested it last year, but now anyone can test it. So, by quick show of hands, who here has already run YouTube TrueView for action campaigns? Okay, it looks like maybe 5%, which is great that you’re here because I’m about to talk to you about why you should be testing it.

So, first, what is TrueView for action? So, if you are watching videos on YouTube, you’ve probably already been seeing these videos. This is an example of an ad and notably there’s this call to action overlay, which is designed to take someone outside of YouTube. So, that’s really the biggest difference here is before YouTube was focused on having branding campaigns and they wanted people to stay engaged and stay within the platform. And now they’re trying to monetize it and they realize that for advertisers to be successful, they need to be able to drive people to their landing page or to their app, because then they have a chance to take action. Whereas if they’re watching a video, maybe they’ll convert later. It’ll be a view through conversion. It’s hard to measure. So, by creating TrueView for action with a call to action overlay and the companion banner on the side, it’s making it easier for people on desktop, on mobile, on tablet to click on the ad and to engage and potentially convert.

So, why as search marketers, should we care about YouTube? It is a different platform even though it’s still available in the same Google Ads UI. So, a couple of statistics, there’s a ton of people on YouTube watching videos. I mean who here watches videos on YouTube? Probably everyone, right? So 1.9 billion people, 1 billion hours is a completely difficult to fathom and you might not think of YouTube as a search engine, but it is, and it’s actually the second largest search engine right after Google, so a great place to expand from search. And then based on some research that Google has done, they’ve seen that advertisers who run YouTube in addition to search ended up seeing an 8% higher search conversion volume and 3% higher search conversion rate. So there is actual incrementality by running both campaigns. And I can say anecdotally, we worked with a video streaming client and we used to run keywords on videos in their library. No one was searching for those, period. Sometimes those keywords wouldn’t even serve. And then when we started to promote them heavily on YouTube, we started to see searches for those and conversions. So it definitely does drive impact and with TrueView for action, it’s going to be easier to measure what happens after someone sees your ad. So that’s why you should care about YouTube.

And then the next question is, well, how exactly do I make it work for me? How do I drive conversions? This is really the tough part. So I have three tips for you today, but please come talk to me after if you want to learn more. I could talk for hours about YouTube. So my first tip is that contrary to what Google tells you, I think you should actually limit your reach when you first launch a campaign. Especially nowadays you have to use target CPA, which is automated bidding, with a TrueView for action campaign. It’s machine learning, so it takes time to learn. And if you allow it to target anyone across YouTube.com or the video partner network on desktop or mobile, it could very easily spend hundreds of dollars, not drive many conversions and you’ve already used up a large portion of your budget before you even gotten meaningful results. So I would say that you should always start conservatively. Think about what works for you on search. I think, for the most part, desktop-only targeting is going to work better than mobile as well as opting out of video partners. I can say that from experience, the YouTube.com traffic is premium. We see people click at a much higher rate and convert at a much higher rate. So just make sure you go through all of your campaign settings when you set up your campaign to make sure that you’re not — uncheck a lot of the things that Google defaults to, to make sure you’re kind of limiting the scope of it. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever run on mobile, because that is where over half of the YouTube views are. But, once you see that performance is consistent and that the target CPA stabilizes, then you can use that as an option to expand for scale.

So next tip is — this is pretty exciting for anyone who’s new to running on YouTube — you can actually use some of your insights from your search campaigns on YouTube with the new custom intent targeting, which is only available with TrueView for action. So you can actually target people who are actively researching your brand or your competitors or even non-brand keywords with video ads. You just pump in all the keywords and it creates an audience and then you can target that group. And some of the best practices here are going to be the same as search: You wouldn’t put all your different keyword types into one campaign. You’d want to separate them out so you can more easily measure performance. So I’d recommend setting up different buckets based on different categories like your search campaigns: so brand, competitor prospecting, etc. And that way, after you launch, you can kind of see how the audiences perform relative to each other.

So final tip is about creative. So anyone who’s run any type of video campaign knows that created is the most important thing and that’s what’s going to be key to success. And I know a lot of times it can be hard when you don’t have a lot of bandwidth or creative resources. I can’t tell you how many times clients say, “Oh, we just have this one video. Just go and run with it.” And the problem with that is that if that video doesn’t work well, then well then what do you do, right? You can have the best targeting and the wrong video and you’re not going to hit achieve any success on YouTube. So you should at least have multiple creatives. And that way you can compare performance. And then when your campaign, if it doesn’t do well, then you can see, well, did the view rate vary between the videos? Did the click through rate vary? You have something to compare. Another point about creative is that you don’t necessarily need a high-production video. I’ve seen clients have success with kind of low production where they take still images and kind of create this slide show. There are a lot of great tools out there, like Shakr is one of them, where they have pre-built templates and you can plug in existing images and assets and create a video. So definitely look into those options if you are having trouble coming up with multiple videos.

It is important that you’re captivating your audience very early on. Even though your goal with this campaign is not going to be — your number one goal is going to be at least click through rate; maybe conversion rate. But, if you have a low view rate on your video, then it’s not engaging, so make sure that you’re getting their attention right away.

So, just to recap this very short presentation: number one, limit your traffic to desktop traffic only on YouTube.com, and then make sure that you are using existing knowledge you have from search, testing that in YouTube, and make sure you have more than one creative. Thank you.

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49% of all Google searches are no-click, study finds /49-of-all-google-searches-are-no-click-study-finds-318426 Wed, 19 Jun 2019 17:11:06 +0000 /?p=318426 However, organic search clicks outnumber paid nearly 12 to 1.

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“I think marketers are probably in a mixed position today vs. three years ago, depending on their sector,” Rand Fishkin, SparkToro founder and author of a recent analysis on Google clickstream data, told Search Engine Land Tuesday.

The data, provided by marketing analytics firm Jumpshot, showed that zero-click searches on Google have steadily risen over the past three years. In the first quarter of 2019, 48.96% of all U.S. Google searches captured by Jumpshot ended without a click, an increase of 12% from the first quarter of 2016.

The data also showed that, in the first quarter of 2019, 41.45% of Google searches resulted in organic clicks to non-Google sites and 5.9% of searches ended with the user heading to another Google-owned web site. When looking at just the searches that resulted in a click, 12% went to Google-owned sites.

“If you’re in a field Google has decided to enter, like travel, hotels, flights, lyrics, etc., the search giant is almost certainly cannibalizing your market and removing a ton of opportunity,” said Fishkin, who will be keynoting SMX East in New York this fall.

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Source: Jumpshot and SparkToro

Organic click erosion. Jumpshot estimates that there were approximately 61.5 billion organic, browser-based search clicks available from Google in Q1 2019 — a decline of nearly 20% from the 75.6 billion clicks Jumpshot estimates were available in the first quarter of 2016.

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Source: Jumpshot and SparkToro

Click-through rates down on organic, up on ads. The click-through rate on organic searches have fallen by 13% to 47.4%, while the click-through rate on search ads has risen by 75 percent to 3.69% over the same period.

Mobile organic getting hit harder than desktop. Mobile accounts for the majority of zero-click and paid search growth and, as shown in the chart above, search traffic opportunity has declined more sharply on mobile than desktop. Mobile also happens to be where overall search volume is highest, which can magnify the impact for brands.

Fishkin attributes some of this to Google’s “aggressive SERP features and instant answers.” Ads also often take up the full screen above the fold on mobile.

Fewer big winners. Zero-click searches can occur when users get the information they’re looking for right on the search results page, which Google facilitates through a variety of featured snippets. In her keynote at SMX Advanced earlier this month, Jessica Bowman, CEO of SEO In-house and Search Engine Land editor at large, discussed the concept of Google becoming less search engine, more portal and how companies should be preparing for this significant shift.

When asked about whether the trend towards more frequent featured snippets and zero-click searches would favor brands with more resources, Fishkin said that it might, but also suggested that it’s a reflection of the domestic business climate.  

“Smaller brands can certainly play in featured snippets and other types of rich results, but overall your analysis is likely correct. More and more of Google’s search traffic is going to a few big winners. To be fair, though, that’s also the trend of dollars in the overall US economy. Wealth concentration and search traffic concentration are correlated, and though neither are healthy, American voters are likely more to blame than Google.”

Methodology caveats. The figures are based on over one billion web browser searches on ten million domestic desktop and Android devices in the US. It does not include searches conducted on iOS devices, the Google Search app, voice-only devices or searches that ended in a click to a mobile app.

Why we should care. With nearly half of all searches going no further than a search results page and 12% of those that do lead to clicks headed to an Alphabet property, some marketers may be feeling an organic pinch — especially those who work in sectors that compete against Google’s offerings (like travel bookings or food delivery) — but there’s still reason for optimism.

“In sectors they [Google] don’t directly compete in, there may be fewer total clicks available, but probably more searches total,” Fishkin pointed out, adding that practices such as optimizing for featured snippets and adding schema markup can be an effective solution for influencing discovery and searcher behavior.

The direction of Google’s business model has also caught the attention of the Department of Justice, and as regulatory scrutiny heats up, marketers may be in a position to help stem the tide.

“There’s an opportunity in this moment, while the press is paying attention and the government is looking at Google, for marketers and publishers to contribute their stories and potentially influence Google’s behavior,” Fishkin said. “My hope is those contributions can help hold the search giant to account, and keep the playing field fair, open, and filled with competition.”

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Leaning into SEO as Google shifts from search engine to portal /leaning-into-seo-as-google-shifts-from-search-engine-to-portal-318263 Tue, 18 Jun 2019 19:02:19 +0000 /?p=318263 How to prepare your company for Google's new customer journey for search.

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Jessica Bowman at SMX Advanced 2019.

Google’s SERP is almost unrecognizable compared to what it looked like just a few years ago. The changes aren’t just on the surface, either: Google is becoming less search engine, more portal, said Jessica Bowman, CEO of SEO In-house and Search Engine Land editor at large, during her keynote at SMX Advanced this month.

This evolution is fundamentally altering the customer journey from search, with Google owning the process by enabling users to bypass clicks to websites to get information, take action and even transact. This will have repercussions for just about every company. Bowman offered several plans of action for SEOs preparing for these changes and said investments in SEO will be more important than ever.

Build and train your SEO army

“When I evaluate an organization, I find that every role has activities they do that affect SEO, and SEO needs to be integrated into those activities,” Bowman told Search Engine Land, “The SEO team has to figure out what those are and then train people to do that.”

Larger companies should incorporate SEO into their daily vernacular, said Bowman. This way, you can conscript dozens, if not hundreds, of staff members into your “SEO army,” get them advocating for it, quoting best practices, involving the dedicated SEO team and flagging missing requirements on a day-to-day basis.

Although non-SEOs aren’t expected to be authorities on the topic, their 20% of effort stands to make 80% of the impact on your brand’s overall optimization, Bowman said. It will be up to your main SEO team as well as upper management to empower them.

Expand writing competencies

Product information, news stories, how-to guides and various other types of content may receive higher visibility on SERPs if they appear as a knowledge panel, within a carousel or as a featured snippet. Your writers, be they bloggers, copywriters, social media managers or anything in between, need to be creating content that is comprehensive and authoritative enough to compete for organic visibility, said Bowman.

Writers across the company need to master concepts such as SEO-friendly JavaScript, schema, writing for the long tail, rich snippets and the “People also ask” section in the search results. As with any process, regularly reviewing copy and providing feedback can help assure quality and enable you to get the most from your efforts.

Master Schema and JavaScript for SEO

Understanding and correctly implementing schema on your site can help crawlers make sense of your content and, consequently, increase the odds that it gets displayed as a featured snippet. Featured snippets and other rich results, of course, illustrate the double-edged sword nature of Google’s portal-like interface: They increase your content’s visibility and yet users may not click through to your site because the information they need has already been presented to them.

Event, FAQ, speakable content and much more — Google now supports dozens of markups for various content types, making schema a valuable tool for modern SEO. If you’re using WordPress’ CMS, Yoast has revamped its schema implementation to streamline structured data entry, but it’s still important for your development team to be able to verify the quality of your code.

With Googlebot’s latest update, it can now see more of your content than ever. However, limitations still exist and brands should be cognizant of JavaScript issues that may hinder indexing. Before coding JavaScript, your teams need to be discussing what content search engines will and won’t be able to see. It’s also worth keeping in mind that other search engines may not be as equipped to render your content.

“Particularly for large, global companies, they need to think about these smaller search engines that are less sophisticated than Google but still drive a decent amount of traffic in international markets,” Bowman emphasized.

Monitor and study mobile SERPs

“The problem is, a lot of us work on our computers, and so we’re checking things out on the desktop interface,” Bowman pointed out. Beginning on July 1, all new sites will be indexed using Google’s mobile-first indexing, with older sites getting monitored and evaluated for mobile-first indexing readiness. Since the majority of searches now happen on mobile, brands need to closely examine the mobile SERP and account for updates and changes in order to create content that’s optimized for the devices their audiences are using.

“I think the reason that we, as an industry, have not been talking about this is because of that — we’re not really studying the search results on a mobile interface to truly see they’re [Google] taking it over, and as mobile takes over, they’re going to gobble up some of our traffic. I think once they’ve got it [the mobile SERP] mastered and they know it’s a strong user experience, it’s only a matter of time before they do that to desktop as well.”

Take advantage of big data

“Hiring a data scientist is better than hiring an SEO to study the data,” Bowman stated simply. Data scientists are better equipped to identify commonalities and trends that you can use to improve your optimization efforts, inform your content strategy and enhance user experience (UX).

During her keynote, Bowman also recommended that brands make use of the Google Chrome User Experience Report to compare site speed to the competition as well as reference UX metrics from popular destinations across the web. You can then be more proactive.

Google’s search results interface has changed dramatically, but brands and agencies that can shake the inertia, rally their staffs and reorient their processes will be the first to spot new opportunities and novel ways to reach their audiences.

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Google allegedly caught scraping lyrics from Genius /google-allegedly-caught-scraping-lyrics-from-genius-318292 Mon, 17 Jun 2019 17:27:58 +0000 /?p=318292 Lyrics site Genius used Morse code to catch Google 'red handed.'

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Song lyrics website Genius said it has caught Google stealing lyrics from its website and featuring them as rich results, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Google denied the claims, stating that its lyrics are licensed from third-party partners, not generated from other web sites, such as Genius.

“Lyrics in info boxes on Google Search are licensed, we don’t generate them from other sites on the web. We’re investigating this issue and if our data licensing partners are not upholding good practices, we will end our agreements,” Google said via its Google Communications Twitter account.

More on the story. In order to catch Google in the act, Genius began switching between curly single-quote marks and straight apostrophes, in the same sequence, for every song. When the quote marks and apostrophes are translated to the dashes and dots used in Morse code, the sequence spells out “red handed.” Then, Genius waited to see if the content appeared in a lyrics box.

The lyrics box. Google began providing song lyrics in info box results in 2014, stating that it had licensed the lyrics. At that time, the lyrics linked to Google Play.

Genius first started to suspect that Google might be taking its lyrics in 2016, when one of its software engineers noticed that the Google version of lyrics for a particular perfectly matched Genius’ own version, despite Genius having obtained the definitive version from the artist himself. Genius says that it began notifying Google of the copied lyrics as early as 2017. In April 2019, it warned Google that reusing Genius’ transcriptions is a violation of its terms of service as well as antitrust law.

Why we should care. Genius’ complaint is just one example of the predicament that many companies currently face as Google serves more direct content right in its search results. As SEO and digital marketer AJ Kohn pointed out on Twitter, click-through rate can decrease dramatically when lyrics are presented as a rich result.

Brands and publishers invest heavily in creating useful content to attract visitors and monetize by selling products, services or ads on their own web sites. Info boxes and similar result formats often keep users on Google rather than sending them to the creators’ websites. Search engines keep the traffic (and reap any rewards that may come from it) while leaving the heavy lifting to the brands.

Any legal case that Genius might file against Google is weakened by the fact that Genius does not possess the copyright on the lyrics. However, Google is facing more regulatory scrutiny for antitrust practices, which may give Genius’ complaint more weight. For now, Google is taking the position of blaming its partners for the problem.

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Yoast SEO 11.4 adds FAQ structured data, UX improvements /yoast-seo-11-4-adds-faq-structured-data-ux-improvements-318140 Wed, 12 Jun 2019 21:30:09 +0000 /?p=318140 The new FAQ structured data only works with the WordPress block editor.

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Yoast SEO’s latest update enhances its FAQ blocks by automatically generating structured data to accompany questions and answers. The update also introduces some UX improvements and addresses issues with AMP pages when viewed in Reader mode.

How to use it. Yoast’s FAQ structured data implementation is only compatible with the WordPress block editor (also known as Gutenberg; available on versions 5.0 and newer). Webmasters can get started by selecting the FAQ block, adding a question, inputting the answer and an image (if applicable) and repeating the process for all frequently asked questions.

Yoast_SEO_FAQ_structured_data

The Yoast FAQ block.

The corresponding FAQpage structured data will be generated in the background and added to Yoast’s structured data graph, which may help search engines identify your FAQ page and figure out how it fits into the overall scheme of your site.

A new action and filter were also introduced to make this integration more flexible. The wpseo_pre-schema_block-type_<block-type> lets you adjust the graph output based the blocks on the page and the wpseo_schema_block_<block-type> filter enables you to filter graph output on a per-block basis.

Other improvements. Yoast has also linked the SEO and readability scores in the Classic Editor and relocated the Focus keyphrase field to the top of meta box and sidebar to make it easier to find. And, they’ve resolved issues with AMP pages when viewed in Reader mode.

Why we should care. At this year’s I/O conference, Google announced support for FAQ markup, which may mean that searchers will be presented with FAQs as rich results more frequently. Being able to easily and efficiently equip our FAQ sections with structured data can yield better odds of earning prominent placement on SERPs.

For more on Yoast’s structured data implementation, check out our coverage on their 11.0 (general schema implementation), 11.1 (image and video), 11.2 (custom schema) and 11.3 (image and avatar) updates.

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Yoast, Google devs propose XML Sitemaps for WordPress Core /yoast-google-devs-propose-xml-sitemaps-for-wordpress-core-318112 Wed, 12 Jun 2019 15:58:16 +0000 /?p=318112 The proposal also includes an API for further customization.

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The inclusion of XML Sitemaps as a WordPress Core feature has been proposed by a group of Yoast and Google team members as well as other contributors. In addition to a basic XML Sitemap, the proposal also introduces an XML Sitemaps API that would extend functionality for developers and webmasters.

WP_XML Sitemaps structure

The proposed XML Sitemaps structure. Image sourced from Make WordPress Core.

What it’ll include. The proposal states that XML Sitemaps will be enabled by default, allowing for indexing of the following content types:

  • Homepage
.
  • Posts page
.
  • Core post types (Pages and Posts)
.
  • Custom post types
.
  • Core taxonomies (Tags and Categories)
.
  • Custom taxonomies
.
  • Users (Authors)
.

It’s worth keeping in mind that your WordPress site’s automatically generated robots.txt file will also reference your sitemap index.

What it won’t include. Although the proposed feature will include the majority of WordPress content types and meet search engine minimum requirements, the initial integration will not cover image, video or news sitemaps, XML Sitemaps caching mechanisms or user-facing changes such as UI controls that exclude individual posts or pages from the sitemap.

The XML Sitemaps API. Here’s how the API will let you manipulate your XML Sitemaps:

  • Provide a custom XML Stylesheet
.
  • Add extra sitemaps and sitemap entries
.
  • Add extra attributes to sitemap entries
.
  • Exclude a specific post, post type, taxonomy or term from the sitemap
.
  • Exclude a specific author from the sitemap
.
  • Exclude specific authors with a specific role from the sitemap
.

Why we should care. Sitemaps facilitate indexing by providing web crawlers with your site’s URLs. If implemented, this might mean one less third-party plugin that brands and webmasters have to rely on for their SEO efforts. As a WordPress Core feature, we can expect wider compatibility and support than we might get from third-party solutions.

Poorly optimized plugins can also slow down your site, which can have a negative impact on your organic traffic. This default option from WordPress may not replace plugins like Yoast SEO because they often include other features in addition to XML Sitemaps, but its availability has the potential to provide us with more flexibility over which plugins we install.

The post Yoast, Google devs propose XML Sitemaps for WordPress Core appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google Trends gets integrated into Data Studio via free third-party app /google-trends-gets-integrated-into-data-studio-via-free-third-party-app-318042 Tue, 11 Jun 2019 17:20:40 +0000 /?p=318042 StrategiQ’s API fetches Trends data and returns it as JSON.

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UK-based marketing firm StrategiQ has released a Google Trends connector for Data Studio. Initially developed for its own clients in July 2018, the now-free tool allows users to extract search trend information directly into their Data Studio reports.

Google_trends_data_studio_connector

Image sourced from StrategiQ.

How to get started. To get Google Trends information in your Data Studio reports, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Get the gtrends.app API. You can register for an API key by providing your email address (which StrategiQ says will be used to contact you if your use of the service causes issues). After inputting a keyword or phrase and region pair, the API will retrieve the data from the Google Trends UI and return it as JSON.
  2. Add the Data Studio connector. You’ll first need to add a data source for every keyword and region pair you want data on. Then, you’ll need to configure that data source using your API key and the desired keyword/region combo.

Why we should care. Google Trends data has long been a resource for gauging keyword traffic, content planning and assessing daily as well as long term search trends. This solution helps to consolidate that valuable information onto Data Studio, where you can create custom reports to share with clients and colleagues. It may also save you the frustration of flipping back and forth between the Trends data being referenced and the platform you’re working on.

FWIW. Google has yet to release an official integration for Trends and Data Studio. Since this is a free, third-party offering, StrategiQ does not provide a service-level agreement or guarantee a minimum uptime. It also reserves the right to block abuse of the API without formal notice. And, StrategiQ requests that users attribute the company if they use the connector for research purposes.

If you’re trying to use this and getting an error when trying to authorize the connector in Data Studio, StrategiQ said Thursday that it has hit Google’s user limits but expects to be back up “within the next 24-48 hours.”

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“Popular dishes” have arrived in Google Maps listings /popular-dishes-have-arrived-in-google-maps-listings-317643 Thu, 30 May 2019 19:13:57 +0000 /?p=317643 Machine learning will match restaurants’ most popular offerings with corresponding reviews.

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Google Maps has added a “popular dishes” section to eatery listings, giving prospective diners a faster way to check out a restaurant’s most talked about food and drinks. The popular dishes section is located within a listing’s overview tab and is already available on Google Maps for Android devices. The section will be rolling out to iOS devices over the next few months.

Google_Maps_Popular_Dishes

Recommendations on a silver platter. The popular dishes section is populated by a machine learning algorithm that matches the names of dishes (supplied by users) to corresponding photos and reviews. As seen above, popular dishes are displayed in a carousel and tapping on a dish will display associated reviews and images.

Why we care. Recommendations and reviews are the bread and butter of the food and beverage (F&B) industry and can have a big impact on the bottom line. Restaurant owners now have one more way to optimize their Maps listings by encouraging their patrons to post photos of their meals and/or leave reviews to build out their popular dishes sections.

This can be especially useful for F&B businesses in areas that get a lot of tourism, as Maps can translate reviews and provides a visual accompaniment so customers have an idea of what they’re ordering.

Since May, Google has launched a number of new features with Maps at its core. It redesigned Explore tab to help users find things to do, added planning features to facilitate groups, created an all-in-one Trips interface for travelers and now its enticing customers with popular dishes. All of these offerings centralize a user’s activities around Google’s services, which can ultimately make business more dependent on Google as well.

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