Thursday, April 19, 2018

Google's Black Hat Sitemap Bug: 4 Things to Know

Google Black Hat Sitemap Bug: What It Means for XML Sitemaps

A few months back I discovered a shocking bug in how Google handles XML sitemaps, which enabled brand new sites to rank for competitive shopping terms by hijacking the equity from legitimate sites.
I reported this issue to Google, and they have now fixed the issue, and paid me a bug bounty.
However, since I published my write up of the issue, a number of SEO professionals have contacted me worrying that they may have been a victim of such an attack, requesting that I help use the attack or theorizing variations which may still work.
This article will answer some of the most popular questions I’ve been getting.

What Was Google’s XML Sitemap Bug?

The issue is related to how Google handles and authenticates XML sitemap files, specifically those files that were submitted via the ping mechanism.
Sitemaps can be submitted directly to Google Search Console, via an entry in your robots.txt file, or by ‘pinging’ them by sending the sitemap URL to a special endpoint that Google provides.
For GSC and robots.txt entries these are obviously authenticated as genuine by the fact you have entry to the domain’s GSC or robots.txt file, but for ping URLs, Google seemed to decide whether they were trustworthy simply by looking at the domain in the URL that you send.
The issue is that if this URL redirects elsewhere, even to a different domain, then Google still trusts it as belonging to that original URL.
So, for example, I may submit a sitemap URL of apples.com/sitemap.xml, but that URL may redirect to oranges.com/sitemap.xml, but Google would still associate the XML sitemap as belonging to apples.com.

What Are Open Redirects?

Many websites succumb to a form of manipulation known as “open redirects,” where an attacker can trick a website into redirecting to a location of their choice.
An example may be websites that have a login mechanism that has the form apples.com/login.php?continue=/shop, which may be manipulated to be apples.com/logout.php?continue=http://evil.com/.
In my research, I found open redirects on Facebook, LinkedIn, Tesco, and a number of other sites (I’ve reported all of these, and many have been fixed).
To give an indication of how widespread they are, Google’s Vulnerability Rewards Program explicitly excludes open redirects as qualifying for a bounty (and indeed there are known open redirects on Google).
This allowed for the opportunity to ping sitemaps via an open redirect on a legitimate site which would redirect to the XML file hosted on an attacker site.
For example, by submitting a sitemap on the URL apples.com/logout.php?continue=http://evil.com/sitemap.xml, Google would treat it as being an authentic sitemap for apples.com, but it would actually be hosted on evil.com.
At this point, evil.com can submit sitemaps for apples.com, and by including hreflang entries in these sitemaps, it can leverage apples.com’s equity (PageRank) to rank for search results it has no legitimate right to do so.

Are You a Victim & Now Being Outranked?

Since the news became public, I have had a bunch of SEO professionals from various places reach out to me asking me to review their case, concerned that they may have been the victim of this or asking if this is how a competitor is able to outrank them.
I can certainly understand why.
It can sometimes be super frustrating to try to understand why another site is ranking so well against you, or why your site has suddenly had a lull in performance.
Having an explanation for these edge cases is certainly appealing.
So far I have not seen anything to convince me that this bug was being exploited in the wild.
Google is a complex beast, and there could be all sorts of explanations for why certain sites are ranking the way they are, but at the moment I remain to be convinced that this bug is one of them.
If you are concerned you are the victim of this, then the only real footprint it would leave is an entry in your server logs showing Googlebot coming to your site to collect a sitemap and being 3xx redirected to another domain (JavaScript and meta-refresh redirects wouldn’t work).
This is the best thing you can check.
In my experiment, I was regularly re-pinging the sitemap, but even without re-pings it I believe Google would always go via the open redirect, so you should see entries in your server logs.

Does This Change Anything About XML Sitemaps?

Yes. It changes when hreflang entries will be used.
Google will no longer pay attention to hreflang entries in “unverified sitemaps”, which I believe means those submitted via the ping URL.
Those submitted inside Google Search Console or in your robots.txt file will still operate as they always have done, and pinging one of these sitemaps to prompt a recrawl from Google will also work as expected.
I anticipate the change will affect very few sites, but you should be aware of it.

Conclusion

My recommendation: submit sitemaps via both the GSC interface and include them inside your robots.txt. If you are a site that suffers particularly from scrapers, for whatever reason, then you may wish to exclude sitemap entries from your robots.txt file such that bad actors cannot find them and use them to expedite their efforts.

Reference:https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-xml-sitemap-bug/249805/?ver=249805X3

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Google AdWords Introduces New Video Format to Reach More People

Google AdWords Introduces New Video Format to Reach More People

Google AdWords has introduced a new video format which is said to extend the reach of video campaigns beyond YouTube.
The new format, called outstream video ads, is built exclusively for mobile and will be displayed in mobile browsers and apps.
”Outstream ads drive incremental, cost-efficient and viewable reach beyond YouTube. Ads show on Google video partners, which are high-quality publisher websites and mobile apps where you can show video ads, including TrueView in-stream and Bumper ads.”
Outstream video ads will play on a user’s screen automatically when they come into video. However, they will play with the sound off. Users can turn sound on by tapping the ad, and can also restart the video from the beginning if they wish.
Advertisers will be charged for outstream video ads based on viewable CPM, which means they will only pay for impressions when the ad has been on screen and viewable.
In other words, if the ad appears toward the bottom of the screen and the user doesn’t scroll down that far, then the advertiser will not be charged for an impression.
Google AdWords advertisers can add outstream video ads to their campaigns starting today.

Reference:https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-adwords-introduces-new-video-format-reach-people/249825/

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Top 12 Reasons Why Every Business Needs SEO

12 Reasons Why Your Business Absolutely Needs SEO

Many brands and businesses know (or think they know) that they need SEO for their digital properties, and the benefits they will get from that SEO work being implemented on their behalf.
SEO will certainly improve a website’s overall searchability and visibility, but what other real value does it offer? Why is SEO so important?
These 12 reasons should offer some clarity, regardless of the industry or business size, as to why businesses need SEO to take their brand to the next level.

1. Organic Search Is Most Often the Primary Source of Website Traffic

Organic search is a huge part of most business’s website performance, as well as a critical component of the buyer funnel and ultimately getting users to complete a conversion or engagement.
As marketers know, Google owns a significantly larger portion of the search market than competitors like Yahoo, Bing, Baidu, Yandex, DuckDuckGo, and the many, many others.
That’s not to say that all search engines don’t contribute to a brand’s visibility — they do — it’s just that Google owns about 75 percent of the overall search market. It’s the clear-cut leader and thus its guidelines are important to follow.
But the remaining 25 percent of the market owned by other engines is obviously valuable to brands, too.
Google, being the most visited website in the world (as well as specifically in the United States), also happens to be the most popular email provider in the world (with more than 1 billion users). Not to mention YouTube is the second biggest search engine.
We know that a clear majority of the world that has access to the internet is visiting Google at least once a day to get information.
Being highly visible as a trusted resource by Google and other search engines is always going to work in a brand’s favor. Quality SEO and a high-quality website takes brands there.

2. SEO Builds Trust & Credibility

The goal of any experienced SEO is to establish a strong foundation for a beautiful website with a clean, effective user experience that is easily discoverable in search with thanks to the trust and credibility of the brand and its digital properties.
Many elements go into establishing authority regarding search engines like Google. In addition to the factors mentioned above, authority is accrued over time as a result of elements like:
But establishing that authority will do more for a brand than most, if not all, other digital optimizations. Problem is, it’s impossible to build trust and credibility overnight — just like real life. Authority is earned and built over time.
Establishing a brand as an authority takes patience, effort, and commitment, but also relies on offering a valuable, quality product or service that allows customers to trust a brand.

3. Good SEO Also Means a Better User Experience

Everyone wants better organic rankings and maximum visibility. Few realize that optimal user experience is a big part of getting there.
Google has learned how to interpret a favorable or unfavorable user experience, and a positive user experience has become a pivotal element to a website’s success.
Customers know what they want. If they can’t find it, there’s going to be a problem. And performance will suffer.
A clear example of building a strong user experience is how Google has become more and more of an answer engine offering the sought-after data directly on the SERPs (search engine results pages) for users.
The intention of that is offering users the information they are looking for in fewer clicks, quickly and easily.
Quality SEO incorporates a positive user experience, leveraging it to work in a brand’s favor.

4. Local SEO Means Increased Engagement, Traffic & Conversions

With the rise and growing domination of mobile traffic, local search has become a fundamental part of small- and medium-sized businesses’ success.
Local SEO aims at optimizing your digital properties for a specific vicinity, so people can find you quickly and easily, putting them one step closer to a transaction.
Local optimizations focus on specific towns, cities, regions, and even states, to establish a viable medium for a brand’s messaging on a local level.
SEO pros do this by optimizing the brand’s website and its content, including local citations and backlinks, as well as local listings relevant to the location and business sector a brand belongs to.
To promote engagement on the local level, SEO pros should optimize a brand’s Knowledge Graph panel, its Google My Business listing, and its social media profiles as a start.
There should also be a strong emphasis on user reviews on Google, as well as other reviews sites like Yelp, Home Advisor, and Angie’s List (among others), depending on the industry.

5. SEO Impacts the Buying Cycle

Customers do their research. That’s one of the biggest advantages of the internet from a buyer perspective.
Using SEO tactics to relay your messaging for good deals, groundbreaking products and/or services, and the importance and dependability of what you offer customers will be a game changer.
It will also undoubtedly impact the buying cycle in a positive way when done right.
Brands must be visible in the places people need them for a worthy connection to be made. Local SEO enhances that visibility and lets potential customers find the answers, and the businesses providing those answer.

6. SEO Best Practices Are Always Being Updated

It’s great to have SEO tactics implemented on a brand’s website and across its digital properties, but if it’s a short-term engagement (budget constraints, etc.) and the site isn’t re-evaluated consistently over time, it will reach a threshold where it can no longer improve because of other hinderances.
The way the search world evolves, basically at the discretion of Google, requires constant monitoring for changes to stay ahead of the competition and, hopefully, on Page 1.
Being proactive and monitoring for major algorithm changes is always going to benefit the brands doing so.
We know Google makes thousands of algorithm changes a year. Fall too far behind, and it will be extremely difficult to come back. SEO pros help to ensure that is avoided.

7. Understanding SEO Helps You Understand the Environment of the Web

With the always-changing environment that is the World Wide Web, it can be a challenge to stay on top of the changes as they take place.
But staying on top of SEO includes being in the loop for the major changes taking place for search.
Knowing the environment of the Web, including tactics being used by other local, comparable businesses and competitors, will always be beneficial for those brands.

8. SEO Is Relatively Cheap

Sure, it costs money. All the best things do, right?
But SEO is relatively cheap in the grand scheme of things, and the payoff will most likely be considerable in terms of a brand’s benefit and bottom line.
This isn’t a marketing cost; this is a true business investment. Good SEO implementation will hold water for years to come. And, like most things in life, will only be better with the more attention (and investment) it gets.

9. It’s A Long-Term Strategy

SEO can (and hopefully does) have a noticeable impact within the first year of action being taken, and many of those actions will have an impact that lasts more than several years.
As the market evolves, yes, it’s best to follow the trends and changes closely. But even a site that hasn’t had a boatload of intense SEO recommendations implemented will improve from basic SEO best practices being employed on an honest website with a decent user experience.
And the more SEO time, effort, and budget that is committed to it, the better and longer a website stands to being a worthy contender in its market.

10. It’s Quantifiable

While SEO doesn’t offer the easier-to-calculate ROI like that of paid search, you can measure almost anything with proper tracking and analytics.
The big problem is trying to connect the dots on the back end since there is no definitive way to understand the correlation between all actions taken.
Still, it is worth understanding how certain actions are supposed to affect performance and growth, and hopefully they do.
Any good SEO is going to be aiming at those improvements, so connecting the dots should not be a challenge.
Brands also want to know and understand where they were, where they are, and where they’re going in terms of digital performance, especially for SEO when they have a person/company that is being paid to execute on its behalf.
There’s no better way to show the success of SEO, either. We all know the data never lies.

11. SEO Brings New Opportunities to Light

High-quality SEO will always find a means of discovering and leveraging new opportunities for brands to, not just be discovered, but to shine.
Offering quality SEO to brands means submersing an SEO team in everything that is that brand. It’s the only way to truly market a brand with the passion and understanding that brand’s stakeholders have for it: becoming a stakeholder.
The better a brand is understood, the more opportunities will arise to help it thrive. The same can be said about SEO.

12. If You’re Not on Page 1, You’re Not Winning the Click

It’s no secret in the world of SEO that if you’re not on Page 1, you’re likely not killing the organic search game.
A recent study shows that the first three organic search ranking positions result in nearly 40 percent of all click-throughs, while up to 30 percent of all results on Page 1 and 2 don’t get clicked at all.
What’s this mean? Two things:
  • If you’re not on Page 1, you need to be.
  • There are still too many instances when a user types a search query and can’t find exactly what it’s looking for.

Conclusion

Implementing strong, quality SEO on a brand’s website and digital properties is always going to be beneficial to that brand and its marketing efforts.
It’s considered a “new age” marketing technique, but it’s critical to a brand’s web presence in this day and age, especially as available data and rivaling competition continue to increase and grow.

Reference:https://www.searchenginejournal.com/why-seo-is-important-for-business/248101/?ver=248101X2

Monday, April 16, 2018

5 Mobile SEO Mistakes that Can Kill your Conversions

Improving website site speed, eliminate intrusive interstitials, improve typography, increase the size of touch elements, and write persuasive website copy will increase conversions 

 #5 Mobile SEO Mistakes that Can Kill your Conversions

We are at a time when more and more searches are happening on mobile phones than desktops. This makes it imperative for all brands, small or big, to adopt aggressive mobile strategies for accelerating their growth. Though most brands understand this fact, only a few are able to offer seamless, optimized mobile experience to their visitors. Why? What are the main mobile SEO mistakes that brands should not commit?
My friend, only designing a mobile-friendly website is not enough, one needs to optimize the whole mobile experience for visitors to maximize success. In today's post, I'm going to discuss the top five mobile SEO mistakes that often kill conversions.
1- Sitespeed
Will you continue with a site that is taking too much time to load on your mobile phone? I won't and I believe you too won't continue with a slow loading website. 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. What's more, a 1-second delay can cause a 7% reduction in conversions. This is how page load time affects conversion.
Google considers page speed a ranking factor. As Google has started mobile-first indexing, slow loading sites are going to face a strong backlash from the search engine giant. The time of slow loading sites is over. Improve your site speed to improve conversions.
2- Intrusive Interstitials
When it comes to mobile search, Google's first priority is to offer a higher user experience. As intrusive interstitials affect user experience, Google may not rank websites with interstitials as highly. Once the ranking is dropped, the conversion rate will go lower subsequently.
Here are four types of intrusive interstitials you should avoid to use on your mobile site:
  • Pop-ups that covers the entire web page immediately after a user reaches the web page through search
  • Pop-ups that covers the main content when a user is looking at it
  • The main content is hidden by an interstitial and a user need to dismiss it to access the main content
  • Having the main content under the above-the-fold portion
If you want to make your mobile website a conversion-friendly, don't use these intrusive interstitials.
3- Typography
This is one of most common mobile SEO mistakes that many businesses commit. Typography plays an important role in mobile conversion. What exactly does typography include? The key elements of typography are typeface, fonts, line length, leading, and kerning. As mobile devices have smaller screen sizes as compared to desktops and laptops, mobile users like easy-to-read typography. If mobile users find it difficult to read your website copy, they won't hesitate to leave your website.
Follow these points to provide your mobile users with a seamless reading experience:
  • Never use font less than 14 pixels
  • Font color should complement your website theme color
  • Use plenty of whitespace between headlines and paragraphs
  • A line should not go beyond 65 characters
4- Touch Elements
If your website has interactive elements, such as checkboxes, buttons, or surveys quizzes, you should be extra careful with touch elements. To make sure mobile users are clicking the right touch elements, you should use large touch buttons optimized for mobile devices, or else you will lose many mobile visitors. Also, you should use a distinct color for all touch elements.
Remember, mobile SEO is all about boosting user experience. Small touch elements, because many mobile users find it difficult to click on them correctly, affect mobile conversions badly.
5- Website Copy
Website copy plays a vital role in conversions. As I mentioned earlier, mobile devices have small screens as compared to desktops and laptops, long copy doesn't perform well on mobile devices. Mobile users tend to be less tolerant and more demanding than desktop users. Therefore, you should make sure that your website copy is persuasive and succinct to keep your mobile visitors glued to your website.
Here are a few tips on creating website copy that converts on mobile devices:
  • Write buyer's persona based copy that addresses your audience's objections
  • Use the language and tone of voice that your buyer persona uses
  • Focus on benefits, rather than features
  • Use short words and short, simple sentences
  • Around 500 words web copy tends to perform better on mobile devices
Final thoughts,
Mobile SEO is something that businesses can't ignore. If you improve website site speed, eliminate intrusive interstitials, improve typography, increase the size of touch elements, and write persuasive website copy, you will avoid common mobile SEO mistakes that kill conversions.

Reference:https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/308594

Friday, April 13, 2018

Google Search Console Update: Filter Reports by Result Type

Google Search Console Update: Filter Reports by Result Type

Google has added a new feature to Search Console that will allow site owners to filter performance reports by ‘Search Appearance.’
Search Appearance refers to the various ways a search result can be displayed according to how the content is marked up. This includes:
  • Rich results
  • AMP non-rich results
  • AMP article
  • Job listing
  • Job details
With this filter in place, site owners can isolate the performance of specific content types. So the report can display just the performance of AMP articles, or compare AMP articles versus non-rich AMP results, and so on.
See an example of how this works in the animation below:



Reference:https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-search-console-update-filter-reports-result-type/249133/

Thursday, April 12, 2018

ICO marketing in 2018: from SEO to PPC


 
Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) were the talk of the town in 2017.  There were 435 ICO projects deemed successful in 2017, raising an average of $12.7 million. In total, over $5.6 billion was raised in 2017, a 40-fold increase from the $96.3 million raised in 2016. ICO’s are rapidly replacing the traditional forms of venture capital raising and already hundreds of ICO’s are scheduled for 2018.
Yet not every ICO is a success story. Only 48% of ICO’s raised the capital they set out for and the 10 largest ICO’s represented 25% of the total money raised in 2017. There are over 1,500 cryptocurrencies being traded on over 200 exchanges. In an increasingly competitive and regulated world, how you market your ICO in 2018 will be the difference between success and failure. It is not unreasonable to say that your ICO marketing strategy is more essential to your projects’ success than the actual product itself. After all, your product may well change, but you can never change a first impression.

Your website as a shop window

Your website should be the centre point of your ICO marketing strategy. It represents your project and very often, provides that all-important first impression. Your website must be clear, easy to navigate and present as much information as possible about your project and the team behind it. People want and expect transparency, it builds trust. Short explainer videos are a nice touch, but the white paper, team, roadmap are a must and without them the ICO might be “attacked” by crypto experts and or investors. Without a solid serious professional white paper, team and a clear roadmap, the chances for a successful ICO are very low.
The website should also have a clear CTA (Call-to-Action) that attracts investors to become whitelisted (‘an exclusive list’ of potential contributors) or invest in any pre-sale. Don’t make promises you are unable to keep and don’t rush into building a website. Carefully plan the layout, the content and the message and make sure the design matches the expectations of a cutting-edge product. There should be a lead capture form on the website, which must also be optimized for SEO.

Start your ICO SEO strategy from day one

The SEO strategy should be the bedrock of your ICO marketing campaign but often gets wrongly overlooked in the immediacy of an ICO. An intelligent and researched on-page and off-page SEO strategy will have a clear path from day one on the routes needed to ensure a good long-term source of organic search traffic.
Your branding, your online reputation management, and SEO strategy can be managed with intelligent content generation and a well-researched link building plan. These, of course, all can be performed in-house but is not recommended. As more and more restrictions get applied to ICO advertising, the need for a professionally done long-term on-page and off-page SEO plan as part of an ICO marketing strategy becomes increasingly important in 2018.
If there is no SEO optimization or strategy is in place, it is a sure sign there is only a short-term focus for the ICO. This will ring alarm bells to the more knowledgeable investor, which is something you definitely want to avoid. Too often there is only a focus on the now when it comes to marketing an ICO, but for your ICO to be a long-term success, you have to think beyond the ICO launch and invest in ways to deliver quality and growth post-ICO. A professionally SEO optimized website with an intelligent off-page link building plan together with a strategy for online reputation management will ensure continued viability and visibility long beyond the launch of your ICO project. A well-researched and carefully implemented SEO plan must feature prominently in any ICO marketing campaign.

PR and media outreach

So, the website is up and now you are faced with the task of telling the world about your ICO. Press releases are a traditional but very effective method of getting your message across and providing wide-reaching exposure for your ICO project. They form an important part of an ICO marketing strategy and although there is a DIY approach possible, the only way to really optimize this essential channel is through the use of a professional PR agency.
There are a number of top-tier websites where you can get your press release published, some very specific to the crypto sphere. Whilst there are some good free sites, the best sites will charge a premium amount to publish your press release, but overall press releases should be budgeted for and be part of any ICO marketing strategy.
Guest blog posts published in the popular crypto and news media outlets are another great method of publicizing your ICO and getting SEO backlinks. There are many outlets, some top-tier, that will publish quality, well written content that adds value to their own site for free, but in many cases a premium is charged for the exposure.
The PR and media outreach is best handled by the professionals. They know how to get your message out there and what the message should be. It costs a premium but the expertise in communication they bring to the table could be invaluable to your ICO.

Social media and community management

An integral part of any successful ICO marketing strategy is in the community and social media management. How your ICO is communicated and to whom can make or break an ICO, such is the power of social media and community channels. The most popular and powerful channels that are free are:
Reddit: The Reddit community is probably the hardest nut to crack. Knowledgeable and unforgiving, the Reddit community offers a high level of exposure which can be tapped into with quality subreddits or commenting on other threads.
Facebook: Although no longer able to advertise your ICO on Facebook, there are numerous groups and pages that discuss all things blockchain, cryptocurrencies and ICOs. Facebook also presents a great opportunity to build and regularly update your own community,
Quora:  Providing quality well-written content on Quora and keeping active in threads has proven to be a good, targeted source of high exposure. Threads such as https://www.quora.com/topic/Initial-Coin-Offerings-ICO gets your message in front of the right people.
Specialized Forums: There are plenty of forums or internet discussions to tap into and specialized forums can prove to be a great method to communicate your ICO to wide, interested audience.
LinkedIn: Groups on LinkedIn covering the whole blockchain, ICO and cryptocurrency spheres with tens of thousands of members can be tapped into free of charge. Groups such as https://www.linkedin.com/groups/6580131/profile give you direct communication with your target audience.
Twitter: Similar to Facebook in that you can no longer advertise there, Twitter is popular with the crypto community, with targetable Twitter influencers with followers running into hundreds of thousands.
Telegram: The new kid on the block as far as technology is concerned but getting larger and more influential as each day passes. Telegram was warmly embraced by the whole blockchain and crypto communities from its very outset and an important channel for exposure

Email marketing

One of the more conventional methods of marketing that can be an effective part of an ICO marketing strategy still in 2018. Sending unsolicited emails ‘spam’ could do more harm than good. It will damage the reputation of your company, incur a financial penalty and hamper your ability to send emails in the future.
The restrictions seen in social media are being seen more in email providers, Mailchimp is one of the higher-profile mail service providers to ban crypto and ICO advertising. However, there are other providers are still supporting crypto and ICOs and an email marketing plan should still form part of your overall ICO marketing strategy.
Building your own email list takes time, but in the long term provides an interested base in which to communicate to. Agencies provide opted in lists which can be a good, often highly targeted, source of exposure.

Reference:https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/04/11/ico-marketing-in-2018-from-seo-to-ppc/

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

3 Keys to Writing Compelling Content for People & Search Engines

3 Keys to Writing Compelling Content for People & Search Engines

According to recent SEMrush research, finding the balance between the creative element and search optimization is the most challenging task for copywriters. Some even believe there’s a clash between SEO and human-centered content creation.
It stands to reason that producing texts appealing both to people and search engines requires thorough research, and many writers see as a restriction on their creativity.
Is it still possible to marry SEO and content and make this alliance a happy one? We believe so.
Here are three points any writer should take into account in order to create catchy content that will also attract organic traffic:
  • Choosing a trending topic.
  • Increasing semantic relatedness.
  • Raising chances of getting into Google’s Featured Snippet.

1. Choosing a Trending Topic

Point: Picking the right topic is way more than just a free flight of imagination. You have to define what content your target audience prefers, what factors influence their choices, and what exact words can drive them to action.
Tip: Dive deep into local communities, learn the joys and sorrows of your “buyer persona.”
It may also be advantageous to take a closer look at those who are already successful in your niche. What lets them dominate the minds and the SERPs? What subtopics do your rivals cover, what headlines do they use, etc.?
SEMrush Solution:
Topic Research scrapes, organizes and sorts popular search queries and Google suggestions. It also provides examples of the headlines your SERP rivals used.
Meet four needs with one deed: gain insights into real needs of your audience, find original topic ideas, reveal common patterns in your rivals’ content strategies, and increase your chances of getting a featured snippet.
Topic Research

2. Increasing Semantic Relatedness

Point: As time passes, Google continues to evolve and get smarter about how it understands words and term relationships.
Tip: To keep pace with the search engines you need to enhance your keyword research and include more semantically connected words in your writing to rank higher.
SEMrush Solutions:
SEO Content Template comes in handy when you need to optimize the text on a single page without going into too much detail. Enter one or more target keywords, and the tool will analyze the first 10 pages from Google that rank for these keywords, and give you recommendations on which ones to use. The tool will also show you excerpts of your rivals’ texts with your target keywords highlighted.
SEO Content Template tool uses TF-IDF to provide you with the list of keywords with the highest potential. The list is automatically sorted by each word’s frequency.
SEO Writing Assistant is an extension for Google Docs that generates instant content optimization recommendations based on best-performing articles in Google’s Top 10. This gives content marketers an opportunity to check if their texts or the texts of external writers meet various requirements, such as general quality of the content, readability (appropriate reading-ease score, target and recommended keyword density.
SEO Writing Assistant

3. Raising Chances of Getting into Featured Snippet

Point: Google’s featured snippet is something all content creators dream about because it guarantees maximum visibility for their texts and a serious increase in traffic inflow.
Tips: There are no surefire recipes to take you to so-called “position zero,” but some tactics are worth trying out.
  • Identify the pages of your website that already rank in the Top 10 and try to optimize them for popular queries.
  • Target question-based keywords and provide structured answers (paragraphs, lists, or tables may come in handy here).
  • Make sure you use header tags correctly.
Just find what can be improved on your page and keep working. When you are dealing with highly competitive keywords, it is worth the effort.
SEMrush Solution:
Position tracking is a versatile tool that will among other things let you find the keywords with the potential of taking you to the featured snippet. You’ll see your position in Google’s Top 100 and the SERP features available for each word on your target device and in your target location. You’ll also be able to compare your progress against your competitors.

As you get closer to your goal, you’ll able to monitor your target snippets (whether you or your rival is featured) and the new ones that appear for your target keywords.
Position Tracking

Finally

In the 21st century content just can’t do without SEO and vice versa. The amount of information offered to users is so great that even the best content is at risk of being lost if not carefully dealt with in accordance with basic SEO principles.
Will it harm creativity? With the right tools and a well-thought-out approach you’ll be able to automate the most burdensome part of the routine and uncover more inspirational insights and opportunities to get as close to your audience as possible.

Reference:https://www.searchenginejournal.com/semrush-writing-compelling-content-people-search-engines/245103/

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Why Authentic Content Marketing Is so Powerful

Why Authentic Content Marketing Matters Now More Than Ever

As we all write about the best tactics to get our content discovered or the best practices for SEO and branding, there’s one valuable component that’s left out of the conversation.
I’d argue that authentic content marketing, above all, is the most effective way to market to millennials, younger audiences, and prospective customers not immediately interested in your products or services.
According to one survey, 84 percent of millennials stated that they don’t like advertising at all. The world is becoming more tech savvy and media literate.
To define our terms correctly, authenticity means honesty. Your audience can spot false advertising or a brand attempting to cash in on a trend from a mile away.
Consider Pepsi’s disastrous Kendall Jenner commercial and how poorly it was received. Even Ram trucks caught a lot of flack after the Super Bowl for their use of Martin Luther King’s speeches to sell its trucks.
When content is honest and transparent it sparks deep reflection and conversation. In industry terms, authenticity is the key to customer engagement.
Authenticity in content marketing is obviously an indispensable component of branding, but there good ways and poor ways to try and communicate authenticity.
Read more and I’ll share my ideas on how you can communicate your authenticity through your content to improve your customer relations.

The Power of Authenticity

Online reputation management is often left out of the conversation when discussing SEO, even though it greatly impacts marketing strategies.
According to one survey, 84 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends. Furthermore, all it takes is one bad review or press article for people to form a negative opinion of your business.
Why do consumers take so much stock in the opinions of others? Well, they’re not biased; they’re authentic, even if sometimes mistaken.
As consumers and even citizens, we are susceptible to the cult of personality. Our opinions are heavily biased by media and gossip.
Research shows time and time again that consumers’ buying decisions are primarily influenced by our emotions, not logic.
This is why some brands, like Apple, are mostly seen as infallible in our eyes.
So what does this all have to do with authenticity?
Well, authenticity is not concerned with statistics or even logic, it’s simply about being honest.
What does this provide to us as brands? Trust!
According to a survey by Cohn and Wolfe, three-quarters of people don’t believe companies are transparent and even credible.
One of the best ways to improve your credibility is with authentic content. Let’s explain some of the benefits and then some easy strategies you can undertake to improve your content campaign.

The Basic Principles of Authentic Content Marketingauthenticity-and-content-marketing

Creating authentic content is not hard, but there are some strategies you need to consider.
  • Find your voice. Are you humorous, authoritative, or even a little strange?
  • Provide consistency throughout content campaigns. Don’t try to break the stream of informative content with humorous quips.
  • Know your niche and its audience. An HVAC company should not be trying its hand at political satire.
  • Don’t be afraid to write from your perspective. You’re an authority, are you not?
  • Maintain relevance. Everything from the title tag and meta description to the page copy itself should be relevant to each other.
  • Be respectful to your audience when responding to comments on social media or on your website.
authenticity

The Benefits of Authenticity in Content

  • Refines your audience focus by reaching specific people more likely to engage with your content.
  • Makes content more readable and relatable, increasing engagement.
  • Adds value to your content by making you an authority.
  • Informs readers about a particular need.
  • Leaves your brand top-of-mind in future searches or purchasing decisions.
  • Leads to brand loyalty and maybe even advocacy.
  • Seeks to increase customer retention by providing value.
  • Encourages user-generated content and positive reviews.
Authentic content and personalized content will not apply to everyone in your niche, but that’s alright.
By fine-tuning your audience size, you can find the people most likely to convert or be interested in your brand. In turn, this helps to establish repeat customers or the 20 percent of your customers who make up 80 percent of purchases.
As a side note, brand consistency should be true of all of your marketing channels.
In terms of creating authority in your niche and reaching more customers, you must follow SEO best practices. This includes everything from having a fast site with sound technical structure to optimizing meta tags to show up for relevant searches.

Content Marketing Tips for Authentic Campaigns

Personalize Content

As stated before, it’s important to find your voice so that it can stand out from the rest.
Personalize content with your own research, screenshots, industry experience, and so forth to position yourself as an authority in your niche. This strategy is especially valuable for blogs and guest posting.
Consider Rand Fiskin’s Whiteboard Fridays and how many views they gather on a weekly basis.
For myself, I created an Ask Me Anything series with 100 videos in 2017. Throughout the series, I talked about everything from digital marketing trends to entrepreneurship and growth marketing.
I received very positive feedback on the series, especially for my honesty and interest in connecting with my audience.
In a world driven by a cult of personalities, it’s key to personalize content and seek out your own personal branding campaign to become an influencer or industry thought leader.
Brand storytelling and behind-the-scenes content is also a great strategy to make your content relatable. Conduct customer surveys and share results to keep customers engaged with your brand.

Seek Social Proof

So how do you prove that your business and your brand is actually credible and legit? Provide evidence through social proof.
Strategies include:
  • Garnering positive reviews for service.
  • Publishing customer testimonials on your site.
  • Sharing user-generated content.
In terms of writing the content itself, provide reliable statistics and facts from reputable sources. Back up claims with empirical or even logical evidence to make your points inarguable.
In an industry as opinionated and open-ended as digital marketing, we’re all familiar with the need for social proof to make our content endearing.

Be Engaging

Remember, content marketing and social media marketing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Always share content, especially user-generated content, over social media to reach your most loyal brand advocates.
Engage with audience members on all of your marketing channels to maximize your content’s impact and showcase your authenticity.
Hold honest debates and conversations on industry forums or your own social media page to garner this engagement.
Engagement should extend beyond marketing channels as well. Get involved in your industry, whether it’s attending conferences, providing keynote speeches, or even sponsoring events. This not only shows your involvement in the industry, but your authority as well.

Focus on Users

In the end, all content should be focused on the end-user experience. This means that you need to do the proper keyword research and audience analysis beforehand to discover topics and problems that directly affect your user base.
Provide value through informative content that seeks to provide solutions simultaneously.
Authenticity aside, this should just be a core part of your content marketing strategy.

Connect All Marketing Channels

Finally, there’s something truly magical when everything comes together for that one magical campaign.
Think back to Nike’s Find Your Greatness campaign during the Olympics that connected with so many customers. With a mix of traditional ads and online digital marketing, Nike was not looking to extend its brand, but make it more trustworthy among its customers.
By capturing the right moment that conforms to your brand’s values you can create a truly memorable campaign. That’s why it’s important to always employ consistency throughout your marketing channels.
Position your voice and brand early to be an authority and invaluable to your industry.

Final Thoughts

Nowhere do I ever see the word authenticity ever included in SEO best practices. In truth, your brand and personality are all you really have in the online world so fostering trust is tantamount.
Position your brand as an authority through personalized and powerful content.
Become the cult of personality!

Reference:https://www.searchenginejournal.com/authentic-content-marketing/239597/?ver=239597X3

Monday, April 9, 2018

Useful Tips for Better Google Searches in 2018



Google is a search engine that millions of people around the world use day in day out for various reasons, such as research for business people and students, entertainment amongst other reasons. To fully utilize Google searches, different essential tips ought to be at your fingertips. Outlined below are a few tips by Redshed.

Tabs:

The first and the foremost tip is regarding the tabs that are usually displayed in every search which are currently; Image, Web, News, and More. These tabs are meant to aid you in deciding what kind of search you require; whether its Images, Web sites, or even News. News will be displayed when you select the News tab; websites will be represented on the selection of Web tab and images on the Image tab. These tabs are there to help you save time during your exploration, and they may be beneficial if fully utilized.

Quotation marks:

Sometimes, you may want to search for a specific item. To improve the search results, you may try using quotation marks when feeding your device with the particular search item. This reduces guesswork for Google search as it becomes specific to the subject matter. It can help to locate accurate information that may be embedded in other content if it is not well sorted out.

Hyphen:

Often, people tend to search for items with names that refer to different kind of things or with various meanings. This brings up the role of a hyphen. It helps Google to exclude certain words from search results. For example, when searching for ‘rose,’ Google search will produce results for both the flower and the action of rising up. In order to be more definite about the subject, you can search for ‘rose-flower’ and Google will filter the results that are not related to rose-flower.

Colons:

When using Google search to search for specific websites or even content from particular sites, you can include colons in your search. For example, Coffee: Starbucks will give results for Coffee made from Starbucks company. All other unrelated information to Starbucks will not be displayed. Sometimes you may be using an individual site, and maybe it does not give satisfactory results, therefore you may want to try out other related sites. This can be very easy if you can adapt this trick; (related: Alibaba.com). This will not only give you Alibaba results but also other related sites which can be very useful and time-saving.
Whenever you want to search for a single word or phrase using Google search, you may not find the exact one. Therefore Google enables you to search for multiple results to make the search more definite and help you to find what exactly you are looking for.

Numbers:

At other times, you may want to search for a range of numbers, it might be a bit tedious to type all the numbers, and therefore, Google search can make it much easier. You have to use two dots, and Google search will know that you are looking for a specific range of numbers. For example, when you are searching for numbers between ten and thirty-seven, you can search for 10..37, and the numbers in between the two will be displayed.

Important words:

For better results when you are searching for websites with related names to what you are searching for, you need to try your best and use words that would sound professional rather than words used in a normal conversation. For example, ’I want to watch movies that have been released lately’ would be replaced by ‘latest movies’. This increases the reliability of the Google search results.
When searching using Google search, it is essential to type in the most important words rather than including irrelevant words which may end up limiting your search results or give results that are irrelevant to what you are looking for. This is due to the way Google search is meant to conduct searches by matching of keywords with the online content.

Shortcuts:

Use of shortcuts to give instantaneous results; without having to click on too many irrelevant and bothersome links. This is possible through entering of commands with things such as exact location with a name of the place or even using the area postcode. This can also be done by including content that is only limited to a specific item of search, and it is meant to help save time in research by reducing irrelevant content.

Spelling Mistakes:

Ignore the spelling mistakes when entering a search command; many people tend to concentrate a lot on correcting spelling mistakes when doing searches. Google search has made it much easier in that you don’t have to fix the spelling mistakes. As long as the correct word is close to what you have entered for the search, Google will figure it out by itself what you meant helping you save time.

Files:

In case you are searching for a specific file such as pdf files, Google search can give you results for this and other particular files such as PowerPoint. All you need to do is specify the kind or the type of file you are looking for by use of a colon and then file type. E.g. ‘inflation: pdf this will give you pdf files about inflation. This is a very important tip for scholars who usually search for work done by other people and saved in the form of this files; either as PowerPoint or pdf.
You do not require to type in a lot of things; Google search will always know how to search for lots of things related to your search item. You just have to make a simple search and Google search will give you multiple choices to choose from. For example, when you want to look for a gas station around you, you just have to search for gas stations; Google search will locate where you are and then give results about gas stations that are nearby. Most people use Google search, and these tips will help you to utilize this search engine fully and may help you to get better results in the shortest time possible.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

How SEO Works, Exactly

How SEO Works, Exactly

Every year, certain methods are embraced by the SEO community as “must-have tactics,” while others get pushed to the brink of history thanks to Google’s algorithm updates.
In light of this, SEO is perceived by many as a never-ending battle between search engines and SEO professionals who continue to puzzle out updates to gain more traffic and increase SERP visibility for a short while.
But is that really the case? How exactly does SEO work?
In this article, I will provide my perspective on the SEO landscape today, list several fundamental principles that search engines adhere to, and share my understanding about the inner workings of SEO, and why combining multiple tactics through trial and error is the only way to successfully drive your campaign.

Today’s SEO Landscape

Before I get down to the nitty-gritty, let’s get a broader perspective of what is going on in SEO right now.
If we search for  [income lawyer new york] on Google, here is what we see first:
Search results with ads
And then this:
Featured snippet news
And this:
QA snippet in Google search
We only see actual search results halfway down the first page. Then, even more ads and more related search terms.
What it comes down is this: Google and other search engines suppress organic results from search.
Although Google still displays 10 organic results per page, they are designed to draw attention to ads, answer boxes, “People also ask” sections and other widgets.
It is hardly surprising that organic CTR has dropped by 37 percent since 2015 and will apparently continue to drop heading forward.
While the competition to get listed organically keeps heating up, SEO professionals need to up their game in 2018 in order to survive.
Here is where learning which principles are working right now may help you out — provided you can figure out how to combine them to your website’s benefit.

Fundamental Principles of SEO Today

1. Links Still Rule

Links have been important from the earliest days of SEO and are still one of the strongest indicators of a website’s superb performance to Google.
The more high-quality, relevant links you acquire, the higher your website’s SERPs will potentially become.
In short, links are still fundamental to SEO.
It makes sense to invest in link building as part of your SEO efforts.

2. Relevant, Optimized Content Wins

The links vs. content problem is somewhat like a chicken-or-egg dilemma.
You need content to attract links, but your content needs links to boost your site’s ranking in search results and to help drive traffic to a content piece.
Eventually, what it comes down to is this: Links and content are the backbone of SEO.
If you want to crack the first page on Google, you need links to your relevant, well-optimized content.
Here are some things to bear in mind when crafting and optimizing your content:
  • Keywords matter in context. Keywords are still of strong relevance to Google, but instead of scanning the page for “keyword appearance,” its crawlers now analyze the context and related secondary keywords that share the searcher’s intent.
  • Titles, meta descriptions, ALT attributes, H1 tags, and URLs are still important. Include targeted and relevant keywords in these elements.
  • Increase your expertise, authority, and trust (E-A-T). Read Google’s search quality guidelines for guidance on content quality. Google states, in part, that “the amount of content necessary for the page to be satisfying depends on the topic and purpose of the page.”
In short, establish a process to produce and share high-quality, optimized content. Ensure that all content is written for humans, yet optimized to feed data to search engines.

3. UX Signals Have an Impact on SERPs

User experience (UX) plays a substantial role in how your website does with the search engines.
Unfortunately, user experience depends on too many factors (e.g., site infrastructure and layout, content, etc.), and is often too hard to measure.
Figuring out where your site lacks from a UX perspective can be a painful experience. Thus, some SEO pros choose not to deal with it whatsoever.
Yet, if you want to win your SEO game in 2018, mastering UX is what you need. You can partially outsource the design and layout parts of the process, but you will still have to:
  • Ensure that dwell time and CTR are high, and bounce rate is low. While these signals have been around for some time, and Google does not use them as direct ranking factors, optimizing your site for high engagement can’t hurt and could even help indirectly.
  • Improve site architecture. The key part here is to improve a website’s navigation and make sure that search engines can crawl all the pages, and users can easily find a page that they are looking for. “The simpler, the better” approach works perfectly here.
  • Optimize for speed. Regardless of the platform, your site has to load in 2 seconds or less. Image compression, code and structure optimizations, and faster servers will help.
  • Attract a UX professional to optimize customer journey in line with user intent. Since SEO has evolved to become more user-focused, you should work together with UX people to provide great digital experiences at each stage of a customer’s journey. In other words, your goal is conversions and sales, not just traffic and leads.
In short, UX optimization has already become a fundamental part of SEO.
Focusing on the visitor will likely play even more important role in the future (since Google becomes smarter and clearly improves for a user’s sake), and you need to learn at least the basics of it.

4. Mobile SEO Can Make or Break It

As Google is determined to use its mobile-first index to rank and display search results on all devices, it is time to finally polish your website, mobile-wise.
Unfortunately, although Google’s move makes sense (with more than 50 percent of traffic worldwide generated on mobile), making your site perform smoothly on both mobile and desktop is not simple.
To begin with, you will have to invest in a responsive design, since Google recommends it.
You will also have to make your content consistent across desktop and mobile devices, and ensure your website is fast and easy to use.
What it all means:
  • Optimize your content for mobile users.
  • Accelerate your page speed.
  • Enhance mobile-friendliness.
In short, you will need to up your mobile game or you’ll find yourself ranking poorly on Google.

5. Voice Search Is Already a Thing

Although I do not believe that voice search will revolutionize SEO in the near future, customers seem to love it.
Northstar Research reports that 55 percent of U.S. teens and 41 percent of U.S. adults use voice search.
According to Google, more than 20 percent of all mobile searches are voice searches.
With that said, it makes sense to start optimizing for voice search now.
Specifically, you can start with these steps:
In short, while voice search optimization is not a must-have right now, related optimizations make sense and can help you own more Google real estate.

Combine and Experiment Through Trial-and-Error

SEO success most often comes from best practices plus some trial and error.
Nowadays, the fundamental principles described above are for you to combine and experiment.
Unfortunately, SEO rules are not carved in stone. The rules and tactics change and evolve all the time.
There is no universal SEO formula; only trial and error can help you determine which SEO methods work and which do not for your particular website in your particular niche, at a particular moment in time.
The secret of SEO is simple:
You must learn how to combine and experiment with multiple methods, and then analyze the results, bearing in mind that all your work may go to waste due to Google’s latest algorithm update or what your competitors are doing.
In the process, you sift out well-performing tactics, while cutting out those that do not work anymore. Then, rinse and repeat.
In doing so, you will never end up with a linear SEO strategy which, however successful for a short period of time, can prove dangerous in a matter of days. Google is usually pretty quick to figure out when someone discovers a way to cheat their algorithms.

Conclusion

SEO is a never-ending, ever-evolving, multidimensional science. Every SEO would love to find the magic formula that could once and for all explain how SEO works, with specific rules and concrete equations on the table.
Unfortunately, SEO is too complex to fit into a template. Although it does evolve around principles and certain rules, its inner workings are all about analyzing and applying tactics that work and sifting out tactics that do not.
Bear this in mind, and keep a close eye on your competitors, and you will definitely succeed in search results. This is how SEO works, and will continue to work, until the process is completely outsourced to AI.

Reference:https://www.searchenginejournal.com/how-seo-works-exactly/243757/