Corey Patterson – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 26 Jan 2022 13:14:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.3 Why entity search is necessary for SEO success /why-entity-search-is-necessary-for-seo-success-379015 Mon, 24 Jan 2022 20:23:07 +0000 /?p=379015 Keywords are foundational, but entities may be the future. At SMX Next, a panel of SEO experts shows how marketers can optimize their content for entity search.

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“The problem is never about content; the problem is always about discovery,” said Benu Aggarwal, founder of digital marketing agency Milestone Inc., in her presentation at SMX Next.

The way Google and other search algorithms analyze and rank content has changed drastically over the years, and not all pieces of content are primed for it. A website could have the best content on the internet but fail to rank well if it’s not optimized for discoverability.

A slide showing challenges to online visibility and discovery.
Source: Benu Aggarwal

“Traditional [content] systems are not designed to think about discovery, they are designed for user experience,” Aggarwal said. “That’s why the new Core Web Vitals update from Google has made such a big shift — it’s all about the discovery of content.”

Google and other search engines now discover content primarily through entity search, which is the method bots use to understand user intent while mapping other related sources to search queries. Marketers who fail to ensure their content aligns with this framework will find their SEO campaigns falling short.

Here are three reasons why marketers should adopt an entity search strategy.

Google has moved from term-based search to entities

Ever since its inception, Google has undergone numerous algorithm changes to provide better search results for its users. One of the most impactful shifts is the primary focus on entities as opposed to keywords.

“These changes are being rolled out not only to find it [content] but to remove the ambiguity of it,” Bill Hunt of Back Azimuth Consulting said during the same presentation. “A lot of these updates are moving Google from ‘strings to things.’”

A timeline of Google's updates and what they addressed.
Source: Bill Hunt

Entity search has largely grown out of the shifts in the way people perform searches. Voice search, additional search-supported devices and personalized search results all affect content discoverability and how it’s presented, so adapting your content to these formats is vital.

“You may have a brilliant piece of content, but the intent and the expected asset type may affect what is shown to people,” said Hunt.

To optimize content for entity search, Hunt recommends marketers do the following:

  • Integrate verified semantic elements into your web infrastructure.
  • Eliminate ambiguous language in your content.
  • Engage searcher interests in context.

“We often write very simply for the web, whereas a lot of times the language processing is fairly complex,” he said. “If it’s overly simplistic or uses incorrect grammar, written content may not be understood as well. So we want to think about not just text but images and videos and all these other pieces.”

Search engines are much better at understanding user intent than they used to be, so your content should match that. For example, most searchers who use the phrase “how to” will expect a list of steps, and those who use “near me” will expect a map — the content type should match the query. This will also help search engines better understand your content and connect it to relevant entities.

Entities help build the Knowledge Graph

During the same presentation, Dixon Jones, CEO at DHJ Ventures, pointed to a Google knowledge panel of George Washington to highlight the connections the algorithms make.

A Google knowledge panel of George Washington with associated entities.
Source: Dixon Jones

“This is a great example of what Google can understand about an entity and an idea,” he said. “Google knows when he was born, when he died and all sorts of other important critical dates. Google can relate that to other presidents that are around at the time and it can even generate those extra pictures of other presidents as well.”

As an example, Jones provided a graphic of beer and its associated entities (shown below). The chart shows various connections between types of beer, based on style, brand, etc.

a graphic of beer and its associated entities
Source: Dixon Jones

“It [the graph] shows that German beers are an entity within this concept and that German lager is a part of the larger family,” he said. “It’s connected to Munich Lager and Vienna Lager, and an example of Vienna Lager is Samuel Adams Boston Lager.”

“The best way for us to help Google understand all these dots is to provide schema to give it context,” he added.

Schema data helps crawlers better understand entities in content by pointing to connecting topics. Using JSON code, marketers can create schema that gives search engines a clearer picture of their organizations. There are plenty of free schema generators to help with this task.

“You need the content to explain the right kind of entities, you need the schema to help describe the right kind of entities and you need to make sure that the intent is correct,” he said. “Make sure that everything that happens in your content is breaking things down into the underlying entities.”

Entities help identify gaps in topics and intent

“If you want to optimize [content] in a modern-day world of MUM and BERT, you need to look at entity, topic and schema gaps,” said Jones.

Jones provided an example (shown below) of this identifying process using the location page of a Los Angeles cupcake shop called “Sprinkles.” Using crawling software, he was able to point to topic, entity and schema gaps it was missing when compared to competitors.

A competitive analysis featuring a topic, entity and schema gaps.
Source: Dixon Jones

“The pages that are competing for the concept of ‘cupcake shops in LA’ . . . are talking about cupcakes and bakeries and cakes and chocolates and lots of selections,” Jones said. “Sprinkles is talking about most of these things as well, but they’re not talking about cakes or chocolate, so these are entities that they need to talk about.”

Marketers should focus on pinpointing these gaps and reoptimizing their content based on the data. Many tools show what additional topics to cover in written content, but filling the schema gap often takes further analysis, especially with so many technical changes occurring throughout the search ecosystem.

“Google is constantly changing because the intent of the consumer is changing and the volume of content is growing,” Aggarwal said. “The technical infrastructure is changing every single day, and that’s why maintaining it and scaling error-free schema is a huge problem.”

To address these maintenance and scaling problems, Aggarwal recommends marketers adopt a strategic approach to schema creation that plans out the implementation process, measures its performance in published content and enhances it over time.

“Schema is never a one-time goal,” she said. “You cannot just put out schema and forget about it — it’s [eventually] going to break. It’s going to constantly require a well-defined infrastructure.”

Marketers that maintain strong entity-focused infrastructure have the best chance of improving their content’s discoverability and ensuring future SEO success.

Watch the full SMX Next presentation here (free registration required).

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How AI can automate SEO tasks at scale /how-ai-can-automate-seo-tasks-at-scale-378838 Fri, 21 Jan 2022 14:40:29 +0000 /?p=378838 AI and its offshoots are expanding capabilities for marketers to help them scale tasks. At SMX Next, Eric Enge shows how marketers can improve their SEO campaigns with automation.

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Artificial intelligence, machine learning and neural networks are major buzzwords in the SEO community today. Marketers have highlighted these technologies’ ability to automate time-consuming tasks at scale, which can lead to more successful campaigns. Yet many professionals often have trouble distinguishing between these concepts.

“Artificial intelligence is essentially the term that defines the whole space,” said Eric Enge, president of Pilot Holding and former principal at Perficient, in his presentation at SMX Next. “Machine learning is a subset of that [AI] set around specific algorithms.”

Natural language processing (NLP) is another system that’s been used for SEO tasks in recent years. It’s primarily focused on understanding the meanings behind human speech.

“NLP is about helping computers better understand language the way a human does, including the contextual nuances,” he said.

With so many developing technologies available, marketers would be wise to learn how they can be applied to their campaigns. Here are three ways AI and its branches can automate SEO tasks at scale.

AI can address customers’ long-tail needs

Enge pointed to a customer search engagement study from Bloomreach that found that 82% of B2C shoppers’ experience is spent searching and browsing. This leaves room for plenty of long-tail searches, which are more niche in nature and, consequently, often overlooked by marketers.

Bloomreach’s own AI tool focuses primarily on extracting insights from this phase of discovery, Enge explained. It can identify site content that’s both underutilized and matches customer long-tail searches.

“AI improves pages by presenting more related pages that currently aren’t being linked to,” he said, “Or even potentially create new pages to fill the holes of those long-tail needs to create a better customer experience.”

Source: Eric Enge and Bloomreach

Marketers can use AI systems to generate more relevant pages based on these long-tail interests. But, there are some caveats to be aware of.

“Just be careful not to create too many new pages,” Enge said. “There are certainly cases where too many pages can be a bad thing. But deployed properly, this can be very effective.”

AI can enable automated content creation

Enge shared some information about GPT-3, a popular AI language model, to demonstrate AI’s content creation capabilities. While impressive, he noted how a system like this can get out of control if there aren’t proper constraints.

“They [AI systems] currently don’t have any model of the real world,” he said. “They only have the data that they were trained on. They don’t have any perspective or context for anything, so they can make really bad mistakes, and when they write, they’re prone to bias.”

“The wonderful thing about the web is that it has all the world’s information on it — the terrible thing about the web is all the world’s disinformation is on it, too,” he added.

Despite these weaknesses, AI systems have a lot of promise. Continuous improvements in these technologies can help marketers scale content efforts to meet customer expectations.

GPT-3, in particular, has the ability to generate content in a variety of formats, allowing SEOs to focus more on optimization efforts.

“You can use it [GPT-3] to create new content,” Enge said. “You’re going to have to put in a lot of effort and bring a lot of expertise to the table to do it. It might be more cost-effective than writing from scratch, or it may not, depending on how good you are.”

AI can leverage deep learning to help establish topical authority

Having topical authority means your site is a perceived expert on a given subject. This is one of the factors many SEOs believe is vital for improving rankings, which is why so many have leveraged AI’s capabilities.

Enge pointed to seoClarity, which uses an AI tool called Content Fusion designed to help brands write with more authority, to highlight these deep learning capabilities: “The approach is to leverage deep learning to identify entities and words that help you establish authority in a topic,” Enge said. “It extracts intent, entities, terms and potentially related topics. Then they apply their machine learning models that are specific to your market space.”

deep learning content fusion pipeline
Source: Eric Enge and seoClarity

The deep learning capabilities offer marketers a clearer view of their brand’s area of expertise, which can then be used to further develop their web properties. Establishing an automated deep learning system can provide them with fresh data to help demonstrate E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness).

Every AI integration will look different, but each one has the potential to streamline your SEO efforts through automation and machine learning.

“There’s an incredible amount of stuff happening out there with AI,” Enge said. “Some of it you can take into your own hands if you’re willing to do the programming; in other cases, you can use tools. It’s up to you.”

Watch the full SMX Next presentation here (free registration required).

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How analyzing search data can improve your decision-making /how-analyzing-search-data-can-improve-your-decision-making-378693 Wed, 19 Jan 2022 21:30:37 +0000 /?p=378693 Search data provides a wealth of insights for marketers. At SMX Next, Matt Colebourne shows how to use this information to make better business decisions.

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Much like a physical marketplace, the online search environment has both its successful businesses and those that fail to gain traction. Matt Colebourne, CEO of Searchmetrics, used the analogy of a “high street” — the main area of commercial or shopping — to describe the current state of search marketing in his presentation at SMX Next.

“Just as you have the winners and the losers in the physical space, you have the same in the digital space; page two of Google or any search engine is fundamentally the ‘backstreet,’” he said. “That’s where a lot less audience is going to end up.”

Marketers have long used search data to optimize their content so it meets user needs. But many fail to apply those same insights to inform decisions that impact the long game.

“A lot of companies make the mistake of optimizing for growth way too soon,” Colebourne said. “They settled for their current product set and their question becomes, ‘How can we optimize sales of what we have?’ Whereas the questions they should be asking are, ‘What are the sales that we could have? How much of our target market do we have right now?’”

Each day Google processes over 3.5 billion searches, which provides marketers with a wealth of data. Here are three reasons why analyzing this search data improves marketers’ decision-making processes.

Search data shows where your growth is coming from

“Currently, about 15% of search terms that appear on Google every month are new,” said Colebourne, “So, that starts to give you an inkling of the pace of change that we have to deal with. We see trends come and go in months, and some cases even weeks. And as businesses, we have to respond.”

Many organizations focus too much energy on driving growth while neglecting to determine where that growth is coming from. And in this digital age, there’s a good chance much of it is coming from search. This data offers marketers valuable insights, especially those relating to their industry segment.

“You have to understand how your industry and category is structured and ask the right questions,” he said. “If, for example, you sell specialty sports shoes, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to compare yourselves with Nike or similar companies who have much much bigger coverage, but may not be leaders in certain segments.”

It helps address your most significant decision-making challenges

Data — specifically search data — should be part of any company’s core decision-making process. To show how often brands use it, Colebourne highlighted a survey from Alpha (now Feedback Loop) that asked 300 managers how they made decisions.

“The question they asked was, ‘How important or not important is it to you to use data to make decisions?’” said Colebourne. “And I think nobody is going to be surprised by the results — 91% think data-driven decision-making is important . . . But the corollary to this question was, ‘How frequently or infrequently do you use that?’”

chart showing how managers believe data is important in decision-making
Source: Matt Colebourne

The answer was just 58%.

Clearly, knowing search data is valuable isn’t enough to be successful — marketers need to use these insights from searchers to make better business decisions. Otherwise, they’re going to miss out on a good source of traffic insights.

“65% of all e-commerce sessions start with a Google search,” Colebourne said. “I would argue that makes it a good source for decision-making. It’s a massive sample set, completely up to date, and it’s continually refreshed.”

Search data gives you more consumer context

“That [search] data — sensibly managed and processed — can show you the target market and provide you with the consumer demand,” said Colebourne. “It can show you if the market is growing or contracting.”

chart showing what search data really means
Source: Matt Colebourne

Analyzing search data can give marketers a clearer view of their consumers, especially for those groups they haven’t reached yet. Reviewing what people are searching for, how often they’re searching and how your competitors are addressing the challenge can make decision-making that much easier.

But more than that, marketers must look at the marketplace as a whole, using search data to inform decision-making.

“We’re all very focused on keywords and rankings and all these good things that we know how to manage,” Colebourne said. “But what we need to do is step beyond that and not just look at what we have or what competitors have, but look at the totality of the market.”

“Let’s look at the input search data to understand what the real demand is and how big this market is,” he added.

Watch the full SMX Next presentation here (free registration required).

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How to build a long-term, search-first marketing strategy /how-to-build-a-long-term-search-first-marketing-strategy-378575 Thu, 13 Jan 2022 19:28:22 +0000 /?p=378575 A transformed digital landscape means marketers must think search-first.

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“There are roughly three and a half billion Google searches made every day,” said Craig Dunham, CEO of enterprise SEO platform Deepcrawl, at our recent MarTech conference. “According to research from Moz, 84% of people use Google at least three times a day, and about half of all product searches start with Google. The way that consumers are engaging with brands is changing, and it’s doing so rapidly.”

He added, “Consumers begin their journey with the tool that many of us use hundreds of times a day. Thus, the connection to revenue becomes clear — it starts with search.”

Source: Craig Dunham and Scott Brinker

The concept of digital transformation has been around for years, but it’s taken a whole new form in the wake of recent societal shifts. New technologies and the 2020 pandemic have led to a “greater focus on the need to drive optimal digital experiences for our customers,” says Dunham.

A brand’s website is often the first, and most lasting, impression customers will have of your organization. Here are some strategic actions he recommends marketers take to ensure their online properties are optimized for the search-first age.

“The website is a shared responsibility and it requires proper strategic leadership,” Dunham said. “The first step is to take some time and educate yourself, your leadership, your board and your organization so they more broadly promote organic KPIs as business-wide objectives.”

“There’s great data out there on the impact of the efficiency of SEO as a low-cost acquisition channel,” he added.

Source: Craig Dunham

Aside from sharing communication from Google on the importance of search from a business perspective, marketers can look for case studies from reputable organizations to encourage search prioritization. This can help higher-ups start seeing organic traffic as a key business metric.

“I was in a meeting recently and I had a digital leader say to me that you know website performance should not be an SEO metric — it has to be a business metric,” he said.

Create a cross-functional search ops task force

“Much of the data and insight generated by CEOs and their tools today are rarely utilized to their full potential,” Dunham said. “This is in part due to SEO not being seen as a business priority. As a result, it’s been siloed — pulling in teams from across the organization breaks down those silos.”

The more team members are involved with search processes, the more they’ll see its impact. People from each department will have more opportunities to contribute to growing online visibility using their unique skillsets.

“We know that businesses that are able to implement these organizational-wide search operations systems and practices — connecting a range of perspectives and search activities that are happening — are going to be the ones that will have a competitive advantage,” said Dunham.

Apply SEO testing automation

More and more brands are turning to automation tools to streamline tasks. According to Dunham, these solutions can be used for search-related activities as well.

“Automation can be well-deployed within web development processes,” Dunham said. “Until recently, this technology didn’t exist.”

Brands now have access to a wide variety of automation tools to streamline SEO-related tasks. The key is to pick solutions that align with your organization’s goals and give you full control over their deployment: “There are additional risk mechanisms that can be put in place to ensure you don’t release bad code that will result in large traffic losses, ultimately driving down revenue across your critical web pages,” said Dunham.

If brands can optimize their internal process, teams and tools around organic search, they’ll increase their chances of achieving long-term success in the search-first digital landscape.

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How to earn customer trust with inclusive marketing /how-to-earn-customer-trust-with-inclusive-marketing-378486 Thu, 13 Jan 2022 13:56:25 +0000 /?p=378486 Inclusivity is a marketing imperative. At SMX Next, Kelli Kemery explained how marketers can make their camapaigns more inclusive.

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“Every day we are learning more and more about the importance of representation in products and experiences,” said Kelli Kemery, lead market researcher at Microsoft, in her presentation at SMX Next. “Inclusive marketing helps your brand connect authentically with customers to drive, love, loyalty and trust.”

While many companies once saw inclusivity as an optional addition to their marketing campaigns, it’s become clear that customers want it in the center of brand interactions. And for good reason – embracing inclusive marketing practices helps brands reach those they’ve left out.

inclusive marketing demographic
Source: Kelli Kemery

“Inclusive marketing invites underrepresented and marginalized people to experience and connect authentically with your brand,” Kemery said. “It elevates diverse voices and stories, questions assumptions and biases and avoids stereotypes.”

Inclusion is a “modern marketing imperative,” she says, and brands that fail to embrace inclusive marketing will find themselves left behind as these trends continue. Here are four actions Kemery recommends marketers take to instill inclusive practices within their campaigns.

Drive purchase intent with inclusive advertising

Kemery pointed to some testing she did to determine if inclusive advertising increased buying intent. Through this research, her team discovered how much intent is directly driven by inclusive elements.

examples of inclusive advertising
Examples of inclusive ads. Source: Kelli Kemery

“The first ad felt homey in casual, the model was recognizable in the ad was considered very stylish,” Kemery said. “The second ad was appealing because it felt real. The individuals felt connected like a family. But most importantly, people noted how the ad showed diversity and when asked which ad was most inclusive, this was the clear winner.”

Kemery’s team used these results to develop inclusivity guidelines for brands. But marketing and advertising departments are encouraged to develop their frameworks to transform their campaigns.

Create an inclusive keyword strategy

Inclusivity should apply to the keywords brands use as well. These are the terms audiences — marginalized groups in particular — are using to find brands they trust, .

“Target potential customers based on their needs that map to the keywords that they use to satisfy their unique dimensions of diversity,” said Kemery. “For example, the LGBTQ community, when looking to source a retailer for any given product or service, tends to use the phrase ‘gay-friendly’ as a modifier. This unique phrase could be used as a proxy to help your efforts in personalizing messages or services for this community.”

“As marketers, it is our job to uncover these unique insights with diverse audiences and their unique consumer decision journeys,” she added.

inclusive keywords chart
List of inclusive keywords. Source: Kelli Kemery

Language-based cues are great at building audience trust, so it’s important to remember to add inclusive terminology to your keyword lists.

“These could be used authentically in your ad copy, advertising, or content to help convey inclusion,” Kemery said.

Develop an inclusive image strategy

“Authentic representation in advertising is important. The images that you choose matter,” Kemery said. “In our research, we found out that there is a strong tie between trust, love and loyalty. Once trust is established as a baseline, a brand can begin to build love and loyalty.

“To do this, the brand must go the extra mile to make someone feel understood through inclusion, and that means authentic imagery,” she added.

inclusive-fosuced website images
Source: Kelli Kemery

Images are great at evoking feelings to solidify consumer trust in your brand. Using inclusive imagery can multiply this trust factor, bringing in a larger audience and building strong relationships with them.

“Choosing imagery is an important part of constructing meaningful and inclusive customer experiences,” she said. “Inclusive brands don’t just want to reach people, they want people to see that the brand is built for them.”

Practice inclusive audience targeting

“Through the customer research that you conduct to better understand your customers’ values and investigate inclusive keyword strategies, the goal is to uncover audiences that you may have overlooked,” said Kemery. “It is imperative to understand audience insights from any of the platforms that you utilize.”

“You can use these insights to find ways to authentically market to unique audiences who index higher for attributes such as valuing contributing to the community, and individuals who often look for brands that engage in their communities as well,” she added.

chart dividing up inclusive audience targeting
Using inclusivity in audience targeting. Source: Kelli Kemery

Building an audience through inclusive practices is a proactive task — marketers need to gain insights from a diverse set of platforms and markets to see what communities they’re neglecting. Expanding campaign reach this way shows these groups your brand cares about them.

Kemery further highlighted the role inclusive marketing has in building long-lasting relationships with customers: “A responsible, values-based and inclusive approach to marketing isn’t just about targeting niche segments, providing product value or policy components. It’s about building genuine relationships with people that celebrate diversity and a wide range of human experiences. Intentional inclusion with purpose woven throughout your brand experience conjures up feelings of acceptance, contentment, confidence, certainty, hope and safety.”

Watch the full SMX Next presentation here (free registration required).

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3 ways to check technical SEO health issues on your website /3-ways-to-check-technical-seo-health-issues-on-your-website-378361 Mon, 10 Jan 2022 17:57:11 +0000 /?p=378361 Technical SEO is vital to keep your website healthy. At SMX Next, Ashley Berman Hale shows how marketers can review their site's crawl stats, rendering and indexing.

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No matter how great your content is, your website’s ranking and traffic will suffer if there are unresolved technical issues. That’s why SEOs need to routinely check the health of their properties.

“Technical SEO needs to be aware of and support all functions of the business that have anything to do with the website,” said Ashley Berman Hale, VP, professional services at Deepcrawl, during her session at SMX Next. “We are nothing if we don’t have the support, the buy-in and the understanding of the challenges of our colleagues and what they need.”

This need to be aware of other digital business functions highlights technical SEO’s importance in organizations. Without solid technical practices in place, other parts of the website will experience issues, which could affect your bottom line.

pillar showing technical seo as foundational
SEO pyramid. Source: Ashley Berman Hale

“You have to have a return on your investment,” she said. “It has to be sustainable — you have to be able to grow in a way that allows you to not just manage tech debt, but to innovate and become best in class. That’s what you need to succeed in organic search.”

Taking control of your website means pinpointing the most pressing technical issues. Here are three ways Hale recommends marketers check their site’s SEO health.

Analyze website crawling

“Crawling is driven by links, it’s how the Internet works,” Hale said. ”It’s one of the most powerful assets you have when working on your site. Your links are a way for you to determine what pages are the most important content, and not all of your votes are created equal.”

“There is a way for you to heavily optimize and influence what Google sees as the most important pages of your site and where it [Google] should be driving that traffic,” she added.

tools used to analyze site crawling
Website crawling recourses and tools. Source: Ashley Berman Hale

Hale recommends performing a technical link audit of your website to determine how much priority it’s giving to specific links. Rather than reviewing links coming to your site (backlinks), this analysis shows you where your links are headed, what anchor text is used and more.

Once you know how your site links are organized, it’s a good idea to review log files and crawl stats. These show how Google and other search engines interpret these signals.

“It’s great to see where Google is spending time,” she said. “Look in GSC [Google Search Console] — the crawl stats area and the coverage report — then test individual URLs.”

Ensure search engines are rendering pages correctly

Website crawling is just one piece of the technical SEO puzzle — crawlers need to render those pages. If your site content isn’t optimized for those bots, they won’t see it and it may not be rendered correctly. To avoid this, marketers need to present their content in formats that both searchers and crawlers can view.

frameworks that could prevent crawlers from rendering content
Frameworks that could prevent crawlers from seeing content. Source: Ashley Berman Hale

“Anything that requires a click from the user or needs the user’s engagement is going to be difficult if not impossible for bots to get to,” Hale said. “Go to your most popular pages, drop some important content in quotes in Google and then see if they have it.”

“Another thing that you can do to see rendering is to use the mobile-friendly tool in Google to give you a nice snapshot,” she added.

Review indexing for your site’s pages

Once you know Google and other search engines are crawling and rendering your site correctly, spend some time reviewing your indexed pages. This can give you one of the clearest pictures of your site’s health, highlighting which pages were chosen, which were excluded and why the search engine made those decisions.

using site search operator in Google
Using the site search operator in Google. Source: Ashley Berman Hale
reviewing site indexing in GSC
Reviewing indexing stats in Google Search Console. Source: Ashley Berman Hale

“You can check everything that Google sees, which is insightful,” said Hale, “ While half of our battle is getting the good stuff into the index, the other half can be getting the bad stuff out.”

Hale recommends reviewing the Coverage report in GSC, “which gives you some broad generalizations. You can see a few example URLs for that inspector at the top — it gives you lots of data on each page, including if it’s indexed.”

Watch the full SMX Next presentation here (free registration required).

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How customer reviews can improve your SEO efforts /how-customer-reviews-can-improve-your-seo-efforts-378252 Thu, 06 Jan 2022 19:28:20 +0000 /?p=378252 Customer reviews aren't just for show. At SMX Next, Kyra Sammis explains how marketers can use reviews to improve SEO.

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Customer reviews aren’t just trust signals for your customers — they can also provide potential SEO ranking boosts when used effectively.

“They [reviews] build trust in your brand,” said Kyra Sammis, customer success manager at Trustpilot, during her session at SMX Next. “Reviews are an opportunity for anyone familiar with your brand to publicly share what they love about your products, services and customer experience. Having reviews publicly available conveys that you’re safe to do business with.”

Featuring reviews — even if they’re bad reviews — is vital for brands wanting to build customer trust in today’s competitive SEO landscape. And with 53% of all trackable website traffic coming from organic search, marketers would be wise to capture some of that share with customer reviews.

“Reviews are a powerful marketing engine in their own right — they’re a way to build trust in your brand,” she said. “You can turn that brand trust into measurable ROI through increased web traffic sales and revenue.”

Here are five ways Sammis says marketers can help boost their rankings by leveraging customer reviews.

Emphasize off-site SEO

“Off-site SEO describes any actions you take to build up a digital footprint outside of your actual website,” said Sammis. “Whether it’s building credible backlinks to your page, staying active on social media platforms or even creating a profile on a third-party review platform.”

“Most businesses have an on-page SEO strategy to help with organic search, but fewer are spending significant energy on off-page opportunities,” she added.

graphic showing how to build SEO with third-party sites
Source: Kyra Sammis

Google and other search engines use off-site signals to measure the relevancy, authority and trustworthiness of your brand. Reviews are some of the most consistent channels marketers can use to improve these signals.

“Google changes, but reviews are most likely here to stay,” Sammis said. “According to research from Moz.com, offsite SEO-related factors like third-party reviews carry more than 50% of the ranking factor weight. Factors like relevance, trustworthiness and authority will likely always play a role in a page’s ability to rank, and building up your online presence with reviews can help businesses crush all three of those criteria.”

Don’t neglect referral traffic

“On top of the off-page SEO benefits for your actual website, creating a profile on a third-party site can also lead to a huge spike in referral traffic,” Sammis said. “That’s because when someone searches for reviews of a brand, many of these third-party sites can wind up right at the top of the search results.”

Many third-party review sites have high authority and trust levels, enabling brand reviews to share in their high rankings. Focusing on referral traffic can bolster your SEO efforts by establishing a strong flow of visitors alongside your organic traffic.

“This could be your competitive advantage since referral traffic is so often overlooked, even though it’s a free source of qualified leads and can even improve your organic search performance,” she said.

Display reviews on your website

“Featuring customer reviews on key landing pages is easy to pull off with review widgets,” Sammis said, “And this small addition to your website can improve how often your pages show up in organic search results.”

example of customer review display via site widget
Source: Kyra Sammis

Customer reviews are potential content sources for your web properties. By displaying them on your website, you can diversify your content while adding relevant text to your pages, both of which can contribute to improved organic page rankings.

“Reviews increase the amount of text on each page,” said Sammis. “This extra text makes your page more valuable in the eyes of Google because you’re offering them more context for what the page is about and whether it should surface for that user search query.”

“At the end of the day, Google wants to show the most reputable search results in hopes of delivering the best experience for their users,” she added.

Pay attention to star ratings

“When marketers think about star ratings and search results, paid listings usually come to mind,” Sammis said. “But most marketers don’t realize that they can also earn star ratings on their organic search listings and appeal to those savvy customers who might be less inclined to click on an ad.”

review snippets on Google search result
Source: Kyra Sammis

Star review ratings — the symbols displayed in the SERPs — help build searcher trust by giving them visual representations of their average ratings. This feature used to be less common, but Google now lets more site owners display them using schema markup.

“Collecting product reviews can help you qualify for review snippet in organic search,” said Sammis. “Those shiny gold stars in your listings can help attract more attention to your product pages and even improve your clickthrough rates by up to 35% in organic search.”

Make use of long-tail search queries

Reviewing the ultra-specific, long-tail keywords your customers use when searching for your products, services or brand is key to capturing your niche’s audience. But marketers can also leverage the queries used in company reviews, which are highly relevant and amplify customer voices.

“Long-tail keywords get less search traffic, but will usually have a higher conversion value as they are more specific,” Sammis said. “Thinking of every possible descriptor, use case or problem your product solves can be difficult, to say the least. Thankfully, product reviews let your customers become the copywriters, enabling them to share their own unique experience with your products in their own words.”

“The icing on the cake here is that this all happens automatically — no extra copywriting or content creation for you,” she added.

Watch the full SMX Next presentation here (free registration required).

The post How customer reviews can improve your SEO efforts appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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How marketers can prepare for and respond to Google’s algorithm updates /how-marketers-can-prepare-for-and-respond-to-googles-algorithm-updates-378099 Tue, 04 Jan 2022 17:01:31 +0000 /?p=378099 Google updates its algorithms all the time, which leaves many marketers playing catch-up. At SMX Next, Crystal Carter shared how to be proactive when facing these changes.

The post How marketers can prepare for and respond to Google’s algorithm updates appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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The Google Search ecosystem is constantly evolving. It introduces many algorithm updates every year, ranging from changes targeting specific search elements to broad core updates.

“Google periodically adjusts what types of information it deems to be most important, which can sometimes have a big effect on which results are shown on the web,” said Crystal Carter, senior digital strategist at Optix Solutions, during her session at SMX Next.

Many marketers believe Google primarily relies on websites when creating and deploying each succeeding batch of algorithm updates. But, to improve searchers’ experiences, it actually focuses more on entities — a thing or concept that is singular, unique, well-defined and distinguishable, according to Google.

“Websites are important to Google, but that’s not the only way that it organizes information,” she said. “This is important for thinking about why and how Google makes updates.”

Image: Crystal Carter

The information landscape is always growing, says Carter, and Google uses a variety of sources to present the most relevant results: “Google’s algorithms are taking into account where the search is made, where the information is coming from when the search is made and when the information was written. They also look at how the person is searching, whether they’re on their phone or their smartwatch or their smart refrigerator, as well as who wrote the content.”

“When we look at their algorithm updates, they’re essentially trying to direct people to highly accessible information from the best sources,” she added.

What happens during Google algorithm updates

Many Google algorithm updates address specific issues relating to an industry or SERP feature. These are usually easy to spot.

“When there’s a targeted update, which is my term and not Google’s, you’re likely to see changes to SERP features,” Carter said.

Carter calls these updates “targeted” because they usually focus on updating specific features of the SERP, such as how results are displayed and which sites are preferred for queries.

Image: Crystal Carter

“If you look up a COVID testing site, you’ll see some of the targeted work that it’s [Google] done around that SERP,” she provided as an example of a “targeted” update, “It’s curated the results so that you’re seeing information from the government rather than seeing commercial results, and the maps that it’s showing are specifically targeted at medical elements.”

Core updates, on the other hand, are algorithm changes that alter how Google indexes and ranks sites broadly. These usually occur less frequently, but their impact can be enormous.

“Generally speaking, you might see changes to the types of domains which show in the SERPs,” Carter said. “You may see a sudden increase or decrease in domain visibility or a sudden increase or decrease in traffic across the domain.”

“So, rather than one page suddenly falling in rank, you might see a lot of pages change or increase in rank,” she added.

Identifying what type of algorithm update place took place is the first step in responding to ranking fluctuations. This allows marketers to plan a strategy that best addresses the issue.

How marketers should respond to updates

How you respond to a Google update not only depends on what type of change occurred but also on how it affected your online properties as well.

“If you’re on the winning end of this, it’s all smiles,” said Carter. “This is a good sign that you are on the right track with regards to the quality of your information, the demonstrable credibility of your website, and that Google thinks that you have good technical accessibility.”

“Doing well on Google algorithm updates gives you the opportunity to build and compound your SEO capabilities over time,” she added.

Image: Crystal Carter

Yet when things don’t go as planned with these updates, brands often find themselves scrambling for solutions. This is when it helps to pinpoint the root cause, which can take many forms.

“One of the reasons is that the criteria for your vertical may have changed,” Carter said, referencing a former client who was negatively affected by Google’s update to medical-related results: “They were a reputable, fantastic medical business, and they were selling a test server health test. Then there was a change in the SERP — Google decommercialized this service. For that particular query, they were prioritizing people like the Mayo Clinic, the World Health Organization and the CDC.”

“When Google does that, you have to take a strategic approach to your SEO, which is different from your standard competitive keyword research,” she added.

Although verticals can change often, there’s also a good chance the SERP visibility drop was caused by a problem with your own properties.

“You might have missed something, and this often happens with in-house teams because you’re busy,” Carter said. “You might have missed a particular directive or instruction or rule, or a new element from Google. It might be that you need to play catch up.”

When your site is hit by a core update, it’s important to stay focused on best practices. Carter says this will future-proof your properties for the next round of changes.

“Don’t argue with the algorithm and don’t expect improvements until the next update,” she said. “Sometimes people want to throw everything at it. But generally speaking, the core of the core algorithm updates are around the domain, so Google makes it a quality assessment of your approach to SEO.”

Image: Crystal Carter

What to expect from future changes

Successful marketing strategies don’t simply identify and respond to algorithm changes — they’re able to expect the trends shaping future updates. And from what many SEOs can tell, Google seems to be leaning more into AI modeling.

“Google introduced MUM [Multitask Unified Model] — the latest powerful AI tool and it helps it [Google] understand the information in a way that it’s not been able to do so before,” said Carter. “Not only does it process natural language, but it does so in 75 languages, and it’s also able to process text and also images and it’s also going to set up to be able to grow to process video and audio as well, so Google is already future-proofing this AI tool.”

“What we’re likely to see in the short term is more AI-powered large-scale updates,” she added.

Image: Crystal Carter

The more Google leans into these models, the more marketers will need to stay on top of their online assets. And that means keeping them in tip-top shape — all the time. It’s the best way to prepare for whatever comes next.

“If you’re thinking about how to prepare for it,” Carter said, “I would say it’s worth making sure that your site is healthy all the time. Make sure that you have good, quality content rolling out in a consistent manner.”

Watch the full SMX Next presentation here (free registration required).

The post How marketers can prepare for and respond to Google’s algorithm updates appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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SEO 2021 in review: Endless updates, title rewrites, GMB becomes GBP and more /seo-2021-year-in-review-endless-updates-title-rewrites-gmb-becomes-gbp-and-more-377444 Mon, 27 Dec 2021 17:29:00 +0000 /?p=377444 Despite facing a still-raging pandemic and a slew of updates, SEOs rose to the challenge. Here’s our recap of the year’s most important SEO stories and news.

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In 2021, SEOs faced a flurry of Google updates (including the highly anticipated yet possibly-overhyped Page Experience update), new search results page features like continuous scrolling and countless other updates that could potentially affect visibility for their brands — all while operating amid the second year of the COVID pandemic.

From core updates and title change fiascos to improved shopping options and new ways of tracking data, this year was full of surprises. Here’s our look back at the most impactful SEO news, tactics and tools of 2021.

RELATED: PPC 2021 in review: Privacy and automation force advertisers to adapt

Google algorithm updates

Core updates. Google released three major core updates — one in June, one in July and one in November. The first caused a lot of search volatility, with tools like MozCast reaching a temperature of 107.3°F on June 3. The July update continued this spike until it all died down around July 12.

On November 17, Google announced a third, somewhat surprising core update, just days before the Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to many tracking tools, this update had higher volatility than June and July’s. Due to the speedy rollout and widespread ranking shifts, many SEOs rightfully wondered why Google chose this time of year to release such a large update.

Page title rewrites. Of all the algorithm updates from this past year, the changes to Google’s page title rewrites in the search engine results pages (SERPs) were the most controversial. Marketers began noticing significant changes to their SERP titles around mid-August.

SEL titles changed by Google SERPs
Examples of Search Engine Land titles that were changed by Google. Image: Brodie Clark.

Following a slew of feedback claiming huge decreases in result quality, Google rolled back some of these updates later in September. But many sites still experienced major ramifications in the following months, including our own properties.

RELATED: Navigating Google’s title changes: The rollout, what’s happening now and what you can do about it

Spam updates. Google released a number of major spam updates throughout the year. The first set rolled out on June 23 and June 28, although there wasn’t much of a noticeable impact on rankings.

The second update, released on July 28, targeted link spam. Rather than penalizing sites with bad links, Google stated that it focused on ignoring those signals.

The final spam update rolled out in November. Google didn’t offer much detail on this update, but search volatility skyrocketed following the release.

Product reviews updates. This year, Google launched two updates to help combat spam and/or thin product reviews. The first update was released in April and the follow-up came in December. Both of these were designed to prioritize reviews with in-depth research, including “content written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.”

Passage indexing. Google introduced passage indexing, an algorithm tweak that ranks segmented pieces of content on a page, to the SERPs in early February. Google now displays these passages as featured snippets and links users to that particular part of the page.

Image of two phones with example of passage ranking
Example of Google’s passage ranking from a specific part of a page.

The year in SEO news

The SERP. Google added an “about this result” box to the SERP in February, giving searchers more information about their results. It expanded this feature in July.

about this result display in SERP
“About this result” display in SERPs. Image: Google.

In a similar fashion, Microsoft Bing launched Page Insights in November, which features a lightbulb icon next to each search result that gives searchers more details about them.

Google added free listings to its Hotel search in March. Later, in December, it allowed hotels to use Google Posts in a limited manner to extend their local reach.

Google also rolled out continuous scroll on mobile search in October, which seemed like it would encourage more clicks on results past page one. SEOs are still measuring what impact this change has had on CTR.

continuous scroll on Google mobile search
Continuous scroll on Google mobile search. Image: Google.

In November, the search company added features designed to give more visibility to local news content.

On the Microsoft side, Bing Search gained a new interface to make its results more appealing, including an infographic-like search panel and expandable search carousels. It also introduced “Make Every feature Binary” (MEB), a new algorithm model designed to help improve search relevance. And in October, the company released IndexNow, a cross-search engine collaboration with Yandex to set a protocol that would index any new content instantly.

COVID-related updates. As many marketers know, the pandemic has spurred on more interest in SEO as businesses search for new ways to connect with customers. This interest in SEO has remained high over the past year, but there were a number of additional trends. These included an increase in searches for local businesses and pandemic-focused topics.

In April Google announced that additional COVID-related travel advisory information would be shown in Google Search to assist with trip planning. It also expanded its Explore section for its travel site.

In December, Google began rolling out a search feature that lets users see if a doctor or healthcare facility takes their insurance — no doubt spurred on by the increased number of COVID cases worsened by holiday gatherings and the Omicron variant.

Yelp introduced “Proof of vaccination required” and “Staff fully vaccinated” profile attributes. It also added a health and safety measures community feedback feature to help consumers learn more about local businesses’ health and safety compliance. And, to help prevent customer confusion, it added a virtual restaurant attribute.

RELATED: Fearing Omicron wave, marketers less likely to attend upcoming in-person conferences

SEO documentation. Google published updates to its search documentation throughout the past year, though some of those changes weren’t officially announced.

The company quietly published new manual actions targeting News and Discover penalties in February. In June, Google offered an SEO guide to address HTTP status codes, network issues and DNS errors. And in October, it refreshed its search quality guidelines to expand on the concepts of YMYL content and lowest-quality content.

Microsft also published a list of Bingbot IP addresses in November to better alert users when it was crawling their sites.

Diversity and inclusion. In response to the growing amount of hateful rhetoric and attacks against people of color, women, and other minority groups, industry leaders — both search professionals and brands — made pushes for change.

Google announced in February that it would be changing its policies toward diversity research, following its questionable firing of AI ethicist Timnit Gebru. Due to criticism of how the situation played out, the company said it would tie business goals more closely to inclusivity and diversity — and change how it handles employee exits.

In April, Yelp rolled out an Asian-owned business profile attribute in response to the recent rise in anti-Asian violence and xenophobia. Later, in May, the company introduced an LGBTQ-owned attribute option to celebrate pride month.

Third Door Media (the parent company of Search Engine Land and SMX) held the second annual Search Engine Land Award for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Search Marketing. The previous winner, Areej AbuAli, served as a judge, with Rejoice Ojiaku and hasOptimization earning the accolade in 2021.

Rejoice Ojaiku
Rejoice Ojiaku, winner of the Award for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Search Marketing

We also put together a list of inclusive marketing resources to help marketers highlight their brand values. Besides being the right thing to do, becoming a more inclusive organization has been shown to be better for your brand.

RELATED: Actionable ways to drive diversity, equity and inclusion in your marketing organization

Image and YouTube. In February, Google provided documentation on image SEO best practices. The advice was focused primarily on ranking well in Google Images, but marketers can apply many of the suggestions to image ranking in general.

YouTube, seeking to assist creators with their reach, added video chapter previews and auto-translate captions. And in December, it launched a new feature that automatically linked to places mentioned in videos, giving users even more context.

Structured data. In May, Schema.org launched its schema markup validator tool in response to Google deprecating its structured data tool. It’s for more “general purpose” use than Google’s Rich Results tool.

In August, Google updated its Article structured data help document to reflect changes to its author properties. It added an author URL property to more easily identify authors of articles.

Industry and legal news. After postponing the mobile-first indexing deadline — first moving it from September 2020 to March 2021 — Google decided to leave the deadline open-ended. It said that there are still many sites not ready to shift over due to unexpected challenges they’re facing.

Mozilla tested Bing as the default search engine for 1% of Firefox users, leading many SEOs to reconsider the importance of optimization for non-Google search engines.

DuckDuckGo pushed past 100 million searches in a single day on January 11, showing how important private search experiences are to a growing number of users. And in December, the company announced that it’s working on a desktop browser, further signaling their support for greater privacy in search.

The battle for data privacy continued throughout 2021 with additional legal actions brought against Google. On March 12, a California judge ruled that Google must face a lawsuit claiming it tracks users in Incognito mode. In response, Google released a court filing saying that it makes clear that “Incognito” does not mean “invisible.” And in November, Google managed to win a dismissal of the U.K. Top Court’s data privacy suit relating to iPhone users.

Google’s run-ins with policy hit issues across the board. In October, the tech giant faced allegations from 17 state attorneys claiming it throttled non-AMP ads to give AMP a boost. This, along with Google’s decision to remove the AMP requirement from Top Stories, led many publishers to reconsider using the format.

Google was also fined €500 million ($589 million) by the French Competition Authority for failing to comply with negotiations with news outlets. Later, it lost a key appeal against the EU’s €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion) fine against the company from 2017, which found that Google broke an antitrust law in how it promoted its search engine regarding shopping.

In December, the company came under investigation for alleged harassment and discrimination against Black female workers. The report said the regulator began looking into the company’s practices after formal complaints.

RELATED: The onus of diversity should not fall to Black marketers

Reporting, analytics and tools

Google Search Console (GSC). In April, Google released a pilot tool in Search Console that allowed users to report indexing issues; it was fully rolled out in August. Google also added practice problem rich results data, providing more insights for education content publishers. We also saw an upgrade to the AMP debugging section, which now links users to the AMP page experience guide.

To improve accessibility and user experience, Google introduced a new design for Search Console in November (shown below).

Google Search Console's new design
Google Search Console’s new design.

On December 14, the Review Snippets rich results report was updated, reducing the number of review objects; namely, the top-level schema.org/Rating objects.

Google Analytics 4. Google announced changes to Google Analytics 4 that included integration with Search Console, new machine learning models and data-driven attribution features. Interestingly, the language in this update suggests that the company may be considering sunsetting Universal Analytics in the not-too-distant future.

RELATED: What digital marketers should know about Google Analytics 4

Google also unveiled a new version of Analytics 360, the company’s suite of products designed for enterprise-level companies, using Analytics 4 as its foundation.

Bing Webmaster Tools. Microsoft released its Bing content submission API to all users. Unlike its URL submission API, this version lets users submit content, images and HTML to the index as well.

Google Question Hub. In January, Google opened up its Question Hub for US-based publishers — it’s been available to users in India, Indonesia and Nigeria since 2018. The tool “enables creators to create richer content by leveraging unanswered questions,” according to Google.

Retail and e-commerce

In April, Google began enforcing its policy requiring merchants to show the actual price of items throughout the entire checkout phase. The company also updated Google Merchant Center’s product data specification requirements to encourage optimized Google Shopping ads and organic listings.

Google Shopping and WooCommerce partnered together in June to help retailers show their listings across Google. The search engine also released an e-commerce SEO guide to help improve retail sites’ search visibility. These updates reflected the changing landscape of retail due to COVID-19.

In an effort to put more offers in front of users, Google added a “Deals” feed to the Shopping tab and Merchant Center. It also began showing retailers when their items were eligible for badges. And, in order to show relative visibility and other metrics, Google provided Merchant Center users with a relative visibility report.

Google Merchant Center's competitive visibility report.
Google Merchant Center’s competitive visibility report. Image: Google.

In November, Bing Shopping introduced customer-focused tabs to help shoppers find what they were looking for in one place. This update also made it easier for retailers to list their products. And later in December, Microsoft Bing launched the Ethical Shopping hub in the UK, which helps users shop for eco-friendly and fair-trade fashion items.

Microsoft also announced a partnership with Shopify to integrate Bing Shopping with the retail platform, which rolled out in December.

Local

Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business). Early in the year, Google released a tool to help businesses better manage reviews, enabling business owners to monitor the status of reviews they’ve flagged.

On November 4, Google announced it would be renaming Google My Business to Google Business Profile. Along with this update, the company released new features that would give marketers and business owners more control over their accounts, which include:

  • Claiming and verifying Google Business Profiles directly in Google Search and Google Maps;
  • Call history launching in the U.S. and Canada;
  • Messaging directly from Google Search; and
  • Message read receipts being controlled within Search and Maps.

Maps. The importance of local maps has only increased throughout the past year. We saw a deeper integration between these and local business profiles across the board.

Google Maps started showing price ranges for U.S. restaurants, adding to a rollout of new features focused on expanding indoor business directories, which included airports, malls and transit stations.

Microsoft Bing introduced a new feature that allows users to search local stores. It’s designed to enable searchers to check store stock, helping them choose whether to buy online and pick up in-store.

Bing's local store search feature.
Bing’s local store search feature in action.

Later in November and early December, Google rolled out an update to how it ranked the local search pack and map pack results. Termed the “Vicinity Update,” the change drastically impacted local rankings across industries.

RELATED: How marketers can adapt to Google’s local SEO changes

Local SEO tools. Google Business Profile Product Experts worked together to help users find unique listing identifiers. Using a Chrome extension called GatherUp, they showed profile managers how to find their business’s unique CID number, which is useful to know when listings are merged or duplicated.

To help local businesses expand their reach, Yelp rolled out Custom Location Targeting, budget recommendations and other helpful local features. It also introduced custom search filters, themed ads and Project Cost Guides to support service businesses.

Looking forward to 2022

With so many algorithm and platform updates taking place this past year, many SEOs will be anxious to look at their data. Just remember: many of these updates are broad, and the most important thing for you to do is to keep your clients updated on Google’s changes.

Many brands are responding to user demand for greater accessibility and increased privacy, so be sure your websites and other properties are compliant and support all kinds of users.

Finally, we’re still a long way off from the end of the pandemic, so focus on answering your audience’s most pressing queries and making things as convenient for them as possible. Showing customers your brand’s values is more important than ever.

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Messy SEO: Fixing site structure while a Google title change sinks clickthroughs /messy-seo-fixing-site-structure-while-a-google-title-change-sinks-clickthroughs-377725 Wed, 22 Dec 2021 16:50:14 +0000 /?p=377725 In Part 5 of our Messy SEO series, we look at the results from Google's title tag changes and other SERP issues affecting MarTech.

The post Messy SEO: Fixing site structure while a Google title change sinks clickthroughs appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Messy SEO is a column covering the nitty-gritty, unpolished tasks involved in the auditing, planning, and optimization of websites, using MarTech’s new domain as a case study.


This installment of “Messy SEO” details my process of working with our marketing, content and development teams to further clean up the search engine results pages for MarTech. In Part 4, we discussed the issues arising from Google’s title changes and the tactics taken to address them.

RELATED: Non-stop updates: SEOs share the impact on their day-to-day, work-life balance and career outlook

SERP title change fallout and improvements

Google’s SERP title changes from August did a number on our MarTech mission page, pulling in irrelevant alt text from our site header logo, making the title link read “Martech is Marketing Logo.”

We tried many tactics to combat this change: resubmitting the page via Google Search Console, adding contextual internal links and updating the title tag every few days to see if anything changed. And, after months of edits and monitoring the SERPs, Google finally updated the MarTech title tag to reflect our chosen version (shown below).

Google SERP displaying our chosen MarTech mission page title.

Our original chosen page title tag read “What is MarTech? …This is MarTech.” We believed Google’s algorithm felt this tag wasn’t clear enough for searchers, so we tweaked it a bit to better highlight the main topic of the page. In a sense, we answered the question we posed in the same tag, inviting searchers to view the page to learn more.

We were thrilled to see Google update this important page’s title in the SERPs. But, after digging into the original change’s effects on MarTech search performance, we saw the true impact of Google’s SERP title alteration.

Clicks and impressions for MarTech’s mission page after Google’s change to our SERP title.

After Google’s edit to our title in early November, we saw a major drop in organic clicks to the page (shown above). We compared the period when we first noticed the change to when we saw it reflect our updated title tag (all rough estimates). We found that total clicks to the page decreased by 41% and the CTR dropped from 3.1% to 1.7% when compared to the previous period (shown below).

Decrease in clicks to MarTech’s mission page.

Fortunately, the search numbers appear to look much better following Google’s decision to display our new title. But with so little data to go on right now, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Issues of site structure

The change to major page titles wasn’t the only issue we noticed affecting MarTech’s SERP display. Yet another consequence of our consolidation of Marketing Land and MarTech Today came in the form of Google’s chosen sitelinks for the MarTech domain (shown below).

Google SERP sitelinks for MarTech

While our mission page is certainly important (as evidenced by our work on its title tag), each of the other displayed links plays secondary roles for the site — with those toward the bottom being even more irrelevant. It looks like Google considers these pages more important than our designated top-level topic pages, which serve as relevant silos for all our content.

This shows that building your site using a horizontal structure isn’t always enough to help Google recognize your chosen hierarchy of pages. A site like MarTech contains many mixed signals from the years of publishing on Marketing Land and MarTech Today. Clearly, Google still thinks pages relating to them are important due to the signals built up over the years.

Sending site structure signals to Google

The only way to address these old site indicators is the ensure our new signals are conveying the correct information about our site layout. Here are some of the tactics we’re using to give Google a clearer view:

  • Adding breadcrumbs to articles. While our MarTech pages already feature the top-level category, we decided more information was needed for crawlers. We’re rolling out breadcrumb links to each article to help Google and users gain a better understanding of our site structure.
  • Fleshing out content on top-level pages. Our topic and category pages originally only featured the header text and the associated posts. Now, we’re adding relevant content blurbs to the tops of these pages to highlight their importance — and hopefully improve their rankings as well.
  • Internal linking. We may sound like a broken record at this point, but internal linking is a critical factor for improving page rankings. Our breadcrumbs and menu links already point to many of these, but we want to link from the body text in article content as well to give more context.

Have you had continued title tag issues or site structure problems affecting the SERPs? How are you addressing them? Email me at cpatterson@thirddoormedia.com with the subject line “Messy SEO Part 5” to let me know.

More Messy SEO

Read more about our new MarTech domain’s SEO case study.

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