Size May Not Matter, But Site Speed Does

Size May Not Matter, But Site Speed Does

In Google’s world, site speed matters. And the search giant is pushing hard on AMP, its open source initiative to improve web page speed and performance for mobile users. But that speed comes at a cost for digital marketers. AMP eliminates scripts — including the scripts that help you track mobile calls.

Join Eric Enge and other AMP experts as they explore AMP’s pros and cons, as well as how leading technology providers are helping marketers identify AMP visitor sessions and track call sources. Implementing AMP doesn’t have to mean losing call tracking and attribution capabilities.

Register today for “5 Steps to AMP Up Your Call Conversions,” produced by Digital Marketing Depot and sponsored by CallTrackingMetrics.


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For a Higher Ranking on Google You MUST Have High Quality Content


Google has long stressed the importance of “high-quality content” but has provided little, if any, help for those seeking to create it. Until now.

Last month, Google’s Developer Relations Group publicly published five different guides aimed at helping its own creators “striving for high-quality documentation.” And “documentation,” when posted online, means digital content.

Now available:

  • Developer Documentation Style Guide
  • HTML/CSS Style Guide
  • JavaScript Style Guide
  • Java Style Guide

To put this in context, consider that these documents represent just a few of the many guides Google uses internally. The information provided is not new, unique, original, or even complete. That said, Google’s Developer Documentation Style Guides are an excellent resource for anyone interested in creating the type of high-quality content that users value and search engines reward.

Each guide reinforces the idea that high-quality pages — the kind that rank well in search — are a combination of high-quality code, content and UX.

Here is a quick overview of Google’s Developer Documentation Style Guide tips for content creators:

  • Use a friendly, conversational tone with a clear purpose — somewhere between the voice you use when talking to your buds and that you’d use if you were a robot.
  • Try to sound like a knowledgeable friend who understands what users want to do.
  • Use standard American spelling, grammar, punctuation and capitalization.
  • Craft clear, concise, short sentences with simple words that users will understand.
  • Implement effective and descriptive link text.
  • Use accessible words and short sentences that will translate well to other languages.
  • Consider numbered lists for sequences of events.
  • Ensure outbound links are to sites that are “high-quality, reliable and respectable.”

Here is a quick overview of Google’s Developer Documentation Style Guide tips for developers/technical creators:

  • Consider SVG files or optimized .png files with ALT text.
  • Use tables and/or lists correctly. For example, only use a table when you have multiple columns of information.
  • Include <strong> or <b> as appropriate — <b> is for visual emphasis and <strong> is for items of strong importance.
  • Select HTTPS for embedded resources when possible, especially images, media files, CSS and scripts.
  • For HTML templates, use HTML5 in UTF-8 without byte order marks (BOMs).
  • Consider three-character hexadecimal notations instead of six characters for colors, as they are shorter and more succinct.
  • Use HTML for structure and CSS for visual style.

Here is a quick overview of areas Google’s Developer Documentation Style Guide suggests to avoid:

  • buzzwords
  • technical jargon
  • slang
  • exclamation points
  • using the word “please” in instructions
  • placeholder phrases like “please note” or “at this time”
  • starting sentences the same way
  • taking metaphors too far
  • using “click here” in link anchor text
  • user-agent detection
  • CSS “hacks”
  • unnecessary ancestor selectors which help improve performance

Of course, these are general guidelines meant for technical content creators and should be interpreted with that fact in mind.

Whatever their original purpose, they provide a window into what factors Google considers essential for high-quality content in general — meaning that marketers and content creators should find these tips highly valuable when undertaking their own projects.

SOURCE URL: Using Real People to Answer Questions!


JustAnswer is one of the survivors of the “answer engine” or Q&A craze that was prevalent a number of years ago. The venerable (or ancient) Yahoo Answers is still around, and so is Quora, but various efforts from Google, Facebook, Amazon and a range of startups are gone.

The most recent entrant, Biz Stone’s Jelly, was acquired by Pinterest earlier this year.

The pitch is compelling: Humans are better than algorithms at answering complex questions, and users want “answers not links.” Yet almost nobody has been able to get the formula right (quality + scale + a business model) — and that includes Yahoo and Quora. But JustAnswer has managed to make it work.

Founded in 2003, JustAnswer adopted the paid-advice model that was also used by the original Google Answers. Each user who connects with one of 12,000 experts on the site pays on average $30 for a consultation. There are no ads. Most of JustAnswer’s traffic comes from SEO.

Last week, the site introduced “Pearl,” a virtual assistant intended to answer simple questions and qualify leads for the site’s roster of experts. The tool has been in beta testing for three years and has the advantage of being trained on 16 million questions and answers in the company’s database.

“This is a killer app for the chatbot era,” says Andy Kurtzig, JustAnswer’s founder and CEO. Kurtzig says Pearl adds significant efficiency to the process, eliminating the need for the experts to spend as much time determining the nature of a consumer’s problem or question before responding. Pearl can operate as an intelligent routing engine.

The bot can recognize more than 100,000 variables in conversation and ask context-specific follow-up questions. For example, if there’s a pet problem, the assistant would seek to diagnose the problem generally and then forward that information to the veterinarian-expert before the consultation. Users are asked during the conversation if they want to talk to an expert.

This not only helps isolate the question or problem quickly, it likely improves close rates and the percentage of consumers agreeing to pay for advice. “This is the future of professional services,” says Kurtzig.

Several years ago, Google introduced an expert video-chat platform, Google Helpouts. It was very promising, and one might have assumed Google’s visibility and resources would make it work. However, in 2015, after disappointing adoption, the company shuttered Helpouts. Another take on expert content, Google Knol, was also shut down after a few years.

Despite these setbacks, companies continue to try to deliver customized advice online. Bots and machine learning may make that more feasible than in the past.

Last week, I wrote about how Valassis used Facebook ads, Messenger and human sales reps to drive offline car sales and leases. This hybrid use of bots and humans, similar to the JustAnswer approach, is the conceptual model for optimal bot deployment, I believe.

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Don’t Forget About Utilizing Google Tag Manager


Google Tag Manager (GTM) has revolutionized the way we implement scripts and tags on websites. However, many marketers aren’t fully utilizing this tool or capitalizing on its potential benefits.

Here are five easy and impactful ways to use GTM. These tips will help you improve your analytics dashboards, your SEO results and your marketing automation programs.

1. Improve the accuracy of website traffic data

Marketers often need to identify and isolate various types of traffic in Google Analytics dashboards and reports. For example, many companies want to eliminate spam or internal (employee) traffic and visits from partners. Typically, they do this by using excluding filters in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics limits the number of filters to 100. If you have a large number of internal IPs you wish to exclude, I recommend that you use GTM to implement blocking triggers. Blocking triggers are built with a custom variable and a custom event trigger.

Keep in mind that if you use a blocking trigger, these traffic types will be excluded from any or all Google Analytics views — including the unfiltered view.

2. Implement structured data

Structured data is a key way to improve organic search results, but it can be difficult for marketers to implement — especially if you need to rely on technical resources. Google Tag Manager makes it easy for non-developers to implement structured data on any page of a website.

For more information on how to do this, see “How to add schema markup to your website using Google Tag Manager.”

3. Ensure accurate indexing

With Google Tag Manager, we can define URL variables to strip out any additional parameters that might have been added. Then, we can build a custom HTML tag with JavaScript code to insert self-referencing canonical tags in the <head> section of the page. This ensures that no variation of a URL except the default one is indexed by Google.

You can follow the same logic to insert mobile switchboard tags — if your website uses a mobile subdomain.

4. Import marketing automation parameters

Most companies use marketing automation software to capture lead data and track leads through the sales funnel. With Google Tag Manager, you can easily implement lead-tracking parameters and marry this data with Google Analytics information.

With the built-in variable of first-party cookie, Google Tag Manager can pass lead ID number, along with other parameters, into Google Analytics.

5. Understand website behavior

With Tag Manager, it’s easy to track user behavior, actions and conversions with auto events. For example, you can track clicks on certain areas of a page, interactions with a video, or users’ scrolling behavior.

Auto events can also track downloads and form submissions. These insights are essential to help marketers improve engagement and conversion.

Reap the benefits of GTM

Are you at the mercy of your company’s limited technical resources? Are you waiting for web developers to implement what you need to improve marketing results?

Take control of your own destiny and learn to use Google Tag Manager. Utilizing a container like GTM can be a liberating experience for a digital marketer.



Choose Your Target Audience Wisely


These days, there are so many audience possibilities that it can be confusing to figure out where to begin. Not all audiences are created equal, though — so in this article, I’ll discuss several that we like to use to amplify our marketing efforts. Specifically, I’ll cover similar audiences, Google Analytics smart lists, Google Analytics custom audiences and “AdWords optimized” audiences.

Before getting started, here are some general pointers:

  • Adding a whole bunch of audiences at once may seem tempting, but doing so can cause problems. For example, there could be issues with inappropriate attribution — it may look like you’re getting traction from your new audience targeting campaigns, but it could be a sale you would have gotten anyway from a regular campaign. Naturally, it sometimes takes visitors a few visits before they decide to convert. Also, you could burn through your budget pretty quickly if you’re not careful.
  • Set appropriate date ranges. For RLSA campaigns, we like to use 180 days so we get a good idea of how many people we’re reaching via a particular list. For display remarketing, we go longer (540 days) to capture people making longer-consideration purchases or to capture renewals that occur after a year (like insurance). For the most part, we find that 30-day windows are too short.
  • Set an impression cap. It’s best to consider this on an account-by-account basis. No one appreciates being targeted like crazy!
  • A lot of remarketing does not move the needle. Less is always more. We choose audiences wisely and build them slowly (more on this below).

Here are some of the audience types we’ve been exploring.

Similar audiences

This is a fairly new audience type on the search side. With this, Google creates an audience that’s similar to, say, all converters or all cart checkout visitors. It’s intended to reach new customers — as opposed to RLSA, which targets your existing site visitors based on their previous actions.

People are added to a similar audience list if not already on an RLSA list, and you can add similar audiences to keyword, Shopping or dynamic search ad campaigns. It’s based on similar query behavior in the last 24 hours, so there’s very high recency with these lists.

What we’ve found is there’s a tradeoff between volume and efficiency. Lower-funnel audiences (like all converters) will have fewer conversions than higher-funnel audiences (like people who’ve viewed the cart page). We find we have to add higher-funnel audiences to get significant traction with these campaigns.

We like to slowly add audiences from the bottom to the top of the funnel. It’s an approach that allows us to primarily home in on areas that we think will convert best and methodically gauge what’s working and what’s not working for us.

Google Analytics Smart Lists

Smart Lists are remarketing lists that Google creates for you based on your conversion data in Google Analytics (GA). With this, Google considers various signals like location, device type, browser and so on, and gauges if a user is likely to convert. The list includes users they think will convert relatively soon.

You need to have 10,000 daily page views on your site and 500 monthly transactions for Google to create a list specific to your site. Otherwise, they use proxy data and generate a list based on other (similar) companies’ signals and data. Naturally, a list works better if it’s based on your own data, but it’s still worth testing if it’s a proxy list.

In our testing, Smart Lists using customer data generated a higher ROI than other types of audience lists. In several cases, we saw a 20 percent increase over other list types.

Google Analytics custom audiences

These types of lists are powerful because they can be tied to data available in GA like particular behaviors, time on site and so on. Naturally, there are nearly endless ways in which you can customize audiences. Some of our team’s favorites are listed below.

  • If you have any lifetime value stats, you can build an audience reflecting the profile of your most profitable customers.
  • You could also target people who had a high average order value and haven’t purchased in over a year.
  • Try targeting people who left a review on the site with GA Events.

‘AdWords optimized’ audiences

In your AdWords accounts, click on Shared library, then Audiences. Here, you can see something lurking in there called the “AdWords optimized list,” and it’s described as a “combined audience based on various data sources.”

At this point, many of these pre-created audiences have more traffic available for Display than for Search. In some of our accounts, the traffic we’re seeing is pretty significant and is estimated in the millions (first list below). It’s also worth noting there are audiences “Similar to AdWords optimized list” (second list below).

Naturally, the “AdWords optimized list” would likely convert a lot better than the “Similar to” audience.

Currently, we use AdWords optimized list with CPA bidding to see if we can get some additional conversions on the Display Network. It may prove to not be so effective for direct marketers who want to drive sales, but it may work well for brand-type advertisers.

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Is Google Express Ready to Take on Amazon?

the playing field with Amazon

Google Express has kicked off a new ad campaign called “Need anything from the store?” which promotes it as a delivery service for “all your stores in one place,” according to an Advertising Age report. The effort shows people of all ages and walks of life in the often-painful process of describing a product for a largely offscreen friend or family member who has offered to pick the items up at the store.

Among the stores offering products through Google Express are Walmart, Costco and Target. The effort aims to level the playing field with Amazon — for both the retailers and Google — offering consumers both the immediacy and choice to which they’ve grown accustomed.

For the retailers, it’s a bit of the old “enemy of my enemy is my friend” concept. Ad Age characterized the campaign and the collection of Google Express partners (37 in all) as an “anti-Amazon alliance,” which was sort of announced during Advertising Week in New York. Whole Foods is currently available on Google Express, but the Amazon-owned grocery chain probably won’t remain there over time.

Most of the retailers working with Google Express have their own e-commerce initiatives, including Walmart, Target and other major retailers, but Google Express provides them with next-day delivery. A robust omnichannel capability is critical for success, and having stores still offers an advantage. Indeed, somewhat paradoxically, the presence of physical retail stores actually helps drive e-commerce transactions.

Data also show that so-called “Centennials” or “Generation Z” actually prefer to shop in stores vs. online in larger numbers than their aging millennial brethren.

What’s very interesting in all of this is what might be called the dance of the brands. In the ad, Google is positioned as subservient to the retail brands; after all, Google isn’t “one of your stores.” However, for the initiative to succeed, Google Express needs to become a branded shopping destination that is top of mind for consumers — just like Amazon.

Google must thus walk something of a tightrope, promoting consumer awareness while not subordinating and relegating its retail partners to simple providers of commodities. The effort also raises the issue of the relationship between Google Shopping and Google Express going forward. Shopping is primarily online with offline inventory information; Express is primarily about offline stores but with e-commerce functionality. But that analysis doesn’t really provide an answer.

Despite the fact that roughly 92 percent of retail purchases happen in stores, comScore and others have been hyping the growth of e-commerce — at the expense of traditional retail — for years. As indicated, however, e-commerce and offline stores are “synergistic.”

Yet e-commerce is clearly dominated by Amazon. So much so that it’s Amazon . . . and everyone else.

According to a recent report from Slice Intelligence, Amazon drove 41 percent of online shopping in Q1 2017. In 2016, it was responsible for more than 50 percent of e-commerce sales growth.

The remaining nine sites on the Slice online top 10, including Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Macy’s and Nordstrom, each had less than 3 percent of Q1 online retail sales. In other words, the remaining retailers, most of which are traditional stores, collectively generated only a little more than what Amazon brought in on its own.


Google Webmaster Summary Report

Google Webmaster Report

This past month was filled with many many Google algorithm shifts, ranking changes, tools going nuts and chatter at all times high. We saw lots of ranking changes last weekwhich Google didn’t really confirm. Then the week of September 15th or so and then a couple weeks before that. Heck, we even reported about a local ranking algorithm shift this month.

Google replaced the first click free program with flexible sampling, brought back 10 suggestions and added more testers to the new Search Console. Google addressed the click data SEO thing again after possibly misspeaking? And so much more.

The ongoing WebmasterWorld thread is still chattering about the algorithms shifts from later last week.

Here is a summary of the stories from the past month that are Google webmaster related:

Google Algorithms:

  • Google On Algorithm & Ranking Updates This Week: We’re Always Improving Our Search Results
  • More Google Algorithm & Search Results Shuffling
  • Google Search Ranking Update Chatter Continues
  • Google Search Algorithm Update On September 16th
  • Google Search Algorithm Update Today
  • Google Search Ranking & Algorithm Update Underway? Chatter…
  • Google Local Algorithm Update August 22, 2017: Possum Updated?
  • Google: Search Algorithm Monitoring Tools Get It Right
  • Google’s Ranking Algorithms Dynamically Change Based On Query & Context
  • Google: There Is No Top Three Search Ranking Signals
  • Google: Number One Search Ranking Factor Is Awesomeness

Google Search:

  • Google Replaces First Click Free Program With Flexible Sampling: Metering & Lead-In
  • Should Google Label Content Served Through Flexible Sampling?
  • New Google iOS App Has Related Content Bar
  • Google Autocomplete Showing 10 Suggestions Again

Google Search Console:

  • More Screen Shots: Google Search Console Beta & Indexed, Low Interest Filter
  • Google Opens Up The New Google Search Console To More Testers
  • Google Search Console Kills Fetch As Google For Mobile Apps
  • Export Added To Beta Google Search Console Index Coverage Report
  • Google Search Console Updates Rich Cards Job Listings Report
  • New Google Search Console Beta Data To Come To API In Future

Google SEO:

  • Google Is Updating Their SEO Starter Guide For Mobile & More
  • Google Brain Canada: Google Search Uses Click Data For Rankings?
  • Google: We Don’t Use Click Data Directly For Search Rankings
  • Google: Not In The Cache? Doesn’t Mean Your Pages Are Low Quality
  • Google: Competition Different Across Different Country Domains
  • Google Keeps Debunking 301 Redirect Dilution Myths
  • Google: Our Algorithms Don’t Look At Disavow Files
  • Google Ignores rel=shortlink Link Attribute
  • Google: No Changes On Use Of Image Meta Data In Search
  • Google: We Don’t Rank Big Or Large Sites Better
  • Google: Shopping Cart Abandonment Not A Search Ranking Factor
  • Google On How To Move Your M-Dot To Responsive Before Mobile-First Index Rollout
  • Different Title Tags To GoogleBot & GoogleBot Mobile
  • Google Does Not Support TravelAction Schema, Yet
  • No, Google Isn’t Ranking M-Dot Domains Higher Than Responsive Sites
  • Google Checks For Spam Patterns Between Search Console Accounts?
  • Google: When Going HTTPS, Migrate Whole Site At Once
  • Google Supports WebSub & PubSubHubbub
  • Google: Does Your XML Sitemaps Need To Load Fast?
  • Google: Malware Cleaned Up, No Long Term Impact On Rankings
  • Google Wants You To Ignore The Cache Date
  • Google: Boilerplate Content Is Not Harmful Or Toxic
  • Google: Technically 404s Do Use Up Google Crawl Budget
  • Google: Responsive Sites Don’t Need To Worry About Mobile First Index
  • Google: We Do Not Manually Review All Spam Reports
  • Google Now Serving More AMP Content In Mobile Search Results
  • Googlebot Still On Hold On Supporting HTTP/2
  • Does The Time To Fetch & Render Indicate Possible Google Crawling Issues?
  • Google: Faking Article Dates Is An Old Trick

Google User Interface:

  • Newish: Google Image Carousel Sliders In Mobile
  • Google Featured Snippets Relocates AMP Icon
  • Google To Find E-Books At Your Public Library
  • Google Movie Reviews Tests Audience Reviews
  • Google Tests White Knowledge Panels
  • Google Tests People Also Search For On Right Side Bar
  • Google Featured Snippets Tests Related Query Refinements

Google Local:

  • Now Live: Google Local Finder Website Mentions
  • Google Tests Indoor Maps In The Local Knowledge Panel
  • Google Local Panel Tests Small Map Icon Interface
  • Google Turns Off Questions & Answers For White House Local Result

Google Misc:

  • Google Birthday Surprise Spinner For Google’s 19th Birthday Tomorrow
  • Apple Switches Back To Google For Search On iOS & Mac
  • Google Updates Keyword Tool To Remove Jew Haters Suggestions
  • Google Analytics Better Tracks AMP Pages With AMP Client ID API



Keyword Ideas Gets Some Help With Google Autocomplete

In July, Google dropped Google Instant Search and with that, the autocomplete suggestions scaled back to show 4 suggestions instead of 10. Well, in the past 24 hours or so, Google is now showing 10 autocomplete suggestions again.

Here is a screen shot and i was able to replicate with many tests signed in and out:

Dan Shure spotted this and notified me on Twitter and he is super happy about it.

Here is what it looked like before:

This should be helpful for keyword ideas for searchers and marketers.



What is Really, Truly Important in SEO Rankings

This week, Google celebrated its 19th birthday. A lot has changed in nearly two decades. Rather than relying primarily on PageRank to evaluate the quality of web pages, Google now uses a whole array of techniques to suggest a wide range of content in response to queries, from simple direct answers to multimedia audio and video files.

With loads of guesswork and assumptions, the debate about Google ranking factors is never-ending and evolves with every algorithm update. What’s on the rise, what’s on the decline, and what still works?

At SMX East, several sessions look closely at today’s most important ranking considerations. In SEO Ranking Factors In 2017: What’s Important, What’s Not, you’ll hear the results of comprehensive studies undertaken by Searchmetrics and SEMRush, which looked at millions of sites to determine what separated winners from losers. You’ll also hear a case study from Herndon Hasty, SEO for the Container Store, which battles with formidable competition from Amazon, Walmart and other e-commerce giants.

Shari Thurow has been practicing SEO and carefully observing Google since its inception. In her always popular Search Engine-Friendly Web Design session, you’ll learn how to create search engine-friendly sites that are equally appealing to human visitors. And you’ll get juicy insights into critical aspects of SEO, including:

  • Wayfinder sitemaps vs. XML sitemaps
  • guidelines for mobile-friendly URL structure
  • mobile readability tools, techniques and guidelines
  • parallax design & mobile UX: Dos & don’ts

And if you have questions about particular strategies or techniques, be sure to attend the Meet The SEOs session. During this PowerPoint-free panel, veteran SEOs answer your questions about search engine optimization. Got a puzzling issue? Wondering about a possible trend? Put it to the experts.


Google Search Results is At It Again…Improving, Improving and Improving!

Starting around Tuesday of this week, we noticed Google algorithm and ranking shiftsthroughout the SEO industry and search results. There were significant chatter and the algorithm watching tools all, all of them, were responding heavily to the changes.

The truth is, the chatter and ranking shuffles have continued on through today and SEOs and webmasters are still pretty concerned and on their toes around watching these changes. Some have not noticed any change, of course. But others either saw improvements or losses in their rankings (yea, duh). If you have not checked your rankings and Google organic traffic yet for you and/or your clients, do so.

John Mueller of Google gave his typical comment on these changes on Twitter this morning saying “we’re always working on improving our search results, so seeing things in other tools is kinda expected.”

What specifically was updated is unclear. There is a new thread at WebmasterWorldasking for folks to share their theories, some include:

In the current Google Updates and SERP Changes thread, some people are saying that spam and worthless content have gotten a rankings boost recently.But I just checked some keywords for seve Google Updates and SERP Changes ral of my sites, and didn’t see much change from a week or so ago.

What I did see is a lot of cases of http pages ranking higher than https pages. For the keywords I checked, about 60%-70% of the first page results are http pages.

I do think Google has adjusted more than one knob on their secret formula.

1. Does Google show a date in the SERPs for each of your pages? And, if so, does it show the original post date of the page, or the “last updated” date?2. Is your site HTTP or HTTPS? (Like aristotle, I’m also seeing something interesting in this regard.)

Honestly, I am not sure what is going on but the tools are also on fire. It is not just the industry chatter.




SERP Metrics:

Advanced Web Rankings:



What are some of your theories and ideas? Did you notice real changes?


Inactive AdWord Accounts Are Now Easy to Bulk Cancel


You can now cancel in bulk your inactive Google AdWords accounts from your manager account. All you need to do is login, select them and click edit and then cancel.

  • Sign in to your AdWords manager account.
  • From the page menu on the left, click Accounts, then click Management along the top.
  • Check the box next to the accounts you want to cancel.
  • Click Edit and select Cancel from the drop-down.

Here is a screen shot:

This should help those with lots of inactive accounts to clean things up quickly.


Google Updating Their Search Results…Again?

Yea, yea, yea, more of the same. Google is updating their search results, it is in flux, search results are shuffling around. But I only try to report it when the signals all seem to be higher than the normal day to day shuffles. I always see people complaining about changes in Google but when it reaches certain levels, that is when I decide to cover it.

The ongoing WebmasterWorld thread has a spike in complaints from webmasters and SEOs about ranking shuffles and the automated tracking tools also show huge changes. Here are some comments from the threads:

This week was the worst week we have seen from google since panda 4. With all other updates we gained traffic but this one hit us with >50%. Sales form google organics, adwords and Shopping ads are off by 95%.

We have seen the same. We’ve grown massively over the past few months and this week we have lost ranking from positions 2/3 to 5/6. Its impacted us dramatically.

I’ve noted some interesting changes in the SERPs this week. Too early to say what’s up, and it’ll have to settle before making a better assessment.

For info sites, I’ve seen recent good results by moving away from keyword structured pages to answer based content. Those pages got a jump in SERP inclusion.

I know a lot of people take these types of tools with a pinch of salt, but Algoroo and moz and showing big movements today in the US. In my experience, the UK usually follows. Hopefully its a reversal of what happened last week – because we’ve definitely been hit with something.

It is hard to say if this is related to the September 20th update or another Google updateor unrelated at all. Google has not commented on anything this week, of course.

Here are some charts from the automated tools.







Advanced Web Rankings:

Did you notice major changes in your rankings or Google traffic in the past 48 hours?



Apple and Google are Reuniting and It Feels So Good!

Google For Search On iOS & Mac

A few years ago, Apple dropped Google and replaced them with Bing results on iOS and Mac. Well now, Apple is switching back to Google for the core web results and some other results both on iOS Siri and Mac Spotlight results. The news came from TechCrunch which both Google and Apple representations confirmed for me.

“Switching to Google as the web search provider for Siri, Search within iOS and Spotlight on Mac will allow these services to have a consistent web search experience with the default in Safari,” reads an Apple statement sent this morning. “We have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible.”

It isn’t clear how much this is costing, the partnership, but we can say it is likely in the billions of dollars.

“All of the search results that you see in these different cases will come directly from the search API, which means you’ll be getting the raw, ranked search results that start below all of the ads and Knowledge Graph stuff that appears on a regular Google home page,” TechCrunch reported. YouTube results show as well.

Apple is anonymizing the data so Google doesn’t get anything, that is until you click over to Google’s web site. Then it is fair game.


Several Changes are Coming to Google Finance


Google has quietly posted in the Google Web Search Help forums that they are deprecating the portfolios section in Google Finance. It is going away next month, as part of a redesign of Google Finance.

Andy from the Google Finance team wrote:

Thank you for using Google Finance. We’re writing to let you know that the site will soon be undergoing a few changes to make it more accessible and user-friendly for a wider audience.The list of stocks in your portfolio will be migrated into the new experience on Google automatically, so that you can continue to receive related news, recommendations, and information about market trends. However, the Portfolios feature will no longer be available as part of the service.

The Portfolios feature will soon be deprecated as part of a renovation to Google Finance. To retain a copy for your records, download your portfolios now.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. To give you time to download and consider alternative services, this change will not take effect until mid-November 2017. To learn more about these changes, visit the Google Finance Help Center for details.

Best, – The Google Finance Team

Google wrote in their help section:

In an ongoing effort to make Google Finance more accessible and user-friendly for a wider audience, we’re making a few changes to the service in November 2017.

As part of this updated experience, you’ll still be able to:

  • Follow the stocks you’re interested in – the list of stocks in your portfolio will be migrated into the new experience on Google automatically
  • Receive the latest industry news and market trends
  • However, as part of this updated experience, the Portfolios feature will no longer be available. To keep a copy for your records, download your portfolio now.

To give you time to download and consider alternative services, this change won’t happen until mid-November 2017.


Easy Tips to Build Links Quickly


Without a solid base of links, your site won’t be competitive in the SERPs — even if you do everything else right. But building your first few links can be difficult and discouraging, especially for new websites. Never fear — Rand is here to share three relatively quick, easy, and tool-free (read: actually free) methods to build that solid base and earn yourself links.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!


Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about how to get those first few links that every website needs to be able to compete. Many folks I know when you get started with link building, it can seem daunting and overwhelming. 

So let me walk you through what is essentially a half a day of work, maybe three or four hours of work to try these three tactics that will almost certainly get your business or your organization the first handful, let’s say 50 links that you need to start being able to compete. Content can you take you a long way. Keywords can take you a long way. Engagement and interaction can take you a long way. But you’ve got to have a base of links. So let’s get started here.

#1. Your brand name, domain name, and founder’s/execs names

The first one is basically looking for links that come from your own name, your brand name, your domain name potentially, and the names of the founders or people who run your company.

Step One: Search Google for the names in quotes.

So if it was me and Moz, you’d be searching for “Rand Fishkin” or “” in quotes, not the domain name in the URL field. But in the Google search bar, I’d be searching for “” in quotes or “Moz + SEO.” Moz also has other meanings, including the singer Morrissey, which makes for confusing types of things. If you have that, you’ll need to use your brand name plus some sort of signifier or identifier. It’s very rare that Morrissey gets mentioned along with search engine optimization. It’s very often that Moz gets mentioned along with SEO, and so I can combine those to search for it. So any of these searches will result in a big list of tons of Google results.

Step Two: Manually check the top let’s say 50 to 100 results to confirm that…

  1. They link to the right place, and if they don’t, if there are mentions of Rand Fishkin that don’t link to Moz, we should fix that. We’re going to contact those people.
  2. If you can control the anchor text and where the link location points, you can update it. For example, I can go to my LinkedIn. My LinkedIn has a link to Moz. I could update that if I were at a different company or if Moz’s domain name changed, for example when it did change from SEOmoz to just Moz.
  3. If it’s missing or wrong, I find the right people, I email them, and I fix it. As a result, I should have something like this. Every single mention in Google has a link on the page to my website. I can get that from brand name, from domain name, and from founders and executives. That’s a lot of great links.

#2. Sites that list your competition

So this is essentially saying we’re going to…

Step One: Identify your top 5 or 10 most visible on the web competitors.

This is a process that you can go through on your own to identify, well, these are the 5 or 10 that we see on the web very frequently for searches that we wish we competed for, or we see them mentioned in the press a ton, whatever it is.

Step Two: Search Google not for each one individually, but rather for combinations, usually two, three, or four of them all together.

For example, if I were making a new whiteboard pen company, I would look for the existing ones, like Pilot and Expo and Quartet and PandaBoard. I might search for Pilot and PandaBoard first. Then I might search for Pilot and Expo. Then I might search for PandaBoard and Quartet and all these various combinations of these different ones.

Step Three: Visit any sites in the SERPs that list multiple competitors in any sort of format (a directory structure, comparisons, a list, etc.)

Then in each of those cases, I would submit or I would try and contact or get in touch with whoever runs that list and say, “Hey, my company, my organization also belongs on here because, like these other ones you’ve listed, we do the same thing.” So if it’s here’s whiteboard pen brands, Expo, PandaBoard, Quartet, and your site, which should now link to

This is a little more challenging. You won’t have as high a hit rate as you will with your own brand names. But again, great way to expand your link portfolio. You can usually almost always get 20 or 30 different sites that are listing people in your field and get on those lists.

#3. Sites that list people/orgs in your field, your geography, with your attributes.

This is sites that list people or organizations in a particular field, a particular region, with particular attributes, or some combination of those three. So they’re saying here are European-based whiteboard pen manufacturers or European-based manufacturers who were founded by women.

So you can say, “Aha, that’s a unique attribute, that’s a geography, and that’s my field. I’m in manufacturing. I make whiteboard pens. Our cofounder was a woman, and we are in Europe. So therefore we count in all three of those. We should be on that list.” You’re looking for lists like these, which might not list your competitors, but are high-quality opportunities to get good links.

Step One:

  1. List your organization’s areas of operation. So that would be like we are in technology, or we’re in manufacturing or software or services, or we’re a utility, or we’re finance tech, or whatever we are. You can start from macro and go down to micro at each of those levels.
  2. List your geography in the same format from macro to micro. You want to go as broad as continent, for example Europe, down to country, region, county, city, even neighborhood. There are websites that list, “Oh, well, these are startups that are based in Ballard, Seattle, Washington in the United States in North America.” So you go, “Okay, I can fit in there.”
  3. List your unique attributes. Were you founded by someone whose attributes are different than normal? Moz, obviously my cofounder was my mom, Gillian. So Moz is a cofounded-by-a-woman company. Are you eco-friendly? Maybe you buy carbon credits to offset, or maybe you have a very eco-friendly energy policy. Or you have committed to donating to charity, like Salesforce has. Or you have an all-remote team. Or maybe you’re very GLBTQIA-friendly. Or you have a very generous family leave policy. Whatever interesting attributes there are about you, you can list those and then you can combine them.

Step Two: Search Google for lists of businesses or websites or organizations that have some of these attributes in your region or with your focus.

For example, Washington state venture-backed companies. Moz is a venture-backed company, so I could potentially get on that list. Or the EU-based manufacturing companies started by women, and I could get on that list with my whiteboard pen company based there. You can find lots and lots of these if you sort of take from your list, start searching Google and discover those results. You’ll use the same process you did here.

You know what the great thing about all three of these is? No tools required. You don’t have to pay for a single tool. You don’t have to worry about Domain Authority. You don’t have to worry about any sort of link qualification process or paying for something expensive. You can do this manually by yourself with Google as your only tool, and that will get you some of those first early links.



Simple Solutions for Higher SEO Rankings

Simple Solutions for Higher SEO Rankings

The digital marketing landscape has evolved significantly over the last two decades. And between Google’s ever-changing algorithm and the deluge of misinformation floating through the digital marketing sphere, it’s easy to lose sight of basic practices we should be employing in our own SEO and content marketing strategies.

With every new algorithm update and technological shift in search, we become obsessed with how the field of SEO will enter a wholly new paradigm, and we shift our focus to reflect this. Yet as much as the medium may change, the core principles remain the same — and it’s time to get back to the basics.

We all understand the secrets and best practices of SEO, so why do we often fail to leverage these tactics? Let’s explore five common blogging mistakes you may be making right now.

Unoptimized keyword structure

Despite the rise of semantic search and machine learning technology, keyword research should still take precedence when modeling an internal content marketing campaign. All on-site content should be thematically linked by topics and keywords to your overall business objectives.

If our content is simply covering topics and not keywords, how do we know what users reallydemand? Without keyword research, how can you truly know who your audience is and who you are writing for?

Keywords serve as the bridge between user intent and informational/transactional content. Keyword-optimized content helps to position individual web pages to rank higher organically and drive impressions for targeted searches. This effectively makes blog content a lead generator.

For on-site blogs, the focus should remain on informational long-tail keyword phrases. Common examples include question phrases beginning with how, what, when, where and why.

Other keyword ideas could include actionable phrases that are often searched for, such as the top “tips” and “hacks” to improve upon some process.

Bloggers often fail to optimize their headers, meta tags and content with targeted keyword phrases. Consider the fact that specific keyword phrases will often be bolded within the meta description of a SERP listing, potentially increasing your click-through rate.

Inadequate keyword research runs deeper than failing to optimize your header structure (e.g., title, meta description). Many bloggers fail to leverage semantic SEO, or similar keyword phrases with the same meaning. Semantic SEO allows bloggers to create more thorough and readable content that can drive impressions for multiple keyword phrases, answer more user questions and qualify your content to be a featured snippet — think of the rise of voice search.

On the other hand, over-optimized content could cross a dangerous line as well. Keyword stuffing, or possessing a high keyword density, will qualify your content as spam. Keyword stuffing also obstructs your content’s readability, which results in poor user signals.

Following SEO best practices, it’s still important to optimize all relevant site elements, such as URLs and meta tags, with targeted keywords to categorize and rank individual web pages. And aside from signaling to search engines the main focus of your on-site content, keywords also serve an important function for your site architecture.

Inconsistent internal links

Internal linking is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of SEO optimization, and issues with internal links frequently occur on SEO agency websites themselves!

There are many functions of proper internal linking for SEO:

  • Establishes paths for users to navigate your website.
  • Opens up crawling to deep linked web pages and increases crawl rate.
  • Defines site architecture and your most important web pages to search engines.
  • Distributes “link juice,” or authority, throughout your website.
  • Indexes linked-to web pages by the keywords used in the hyperlink anchor text.

While backlinks remain the gold standard of search engine ranking factors, their magic can be amplified through strategic internal linking.

Ideally, you’ll want at least three to five internal links per blog post, and a drop-down or navigation menu on your home page to provide deep links to inaccessible web pages. Just because a piece of content is posted to your blog, it doesn’t mean Google or Bing can automatically access it.

Conduct a thorough internal link audit and record which web pages have the most authority. Simply insert internal links on these pages to other high-value internal pages to distribute authority evenly throughout your domain.

Many websites display featured posts in a drop-down menu or on the home page to distribute authority to their blog posts. A blogger’s home page will be his/her most authoritative. Limit the number of links between each blog post and your home page to evenly distribute link juice throughout your domain.

Don’t overlook the importance of a sitemap, either. This will ensure all web pages are properly crawled and indexed — assuming URL structures are clean and keyword-optimized.

Finally, optimize all anchor text to categorize and drive impressions for linked web pages. Be sure to use varying anchor text phrases for each link so that you can rank your web pages for multiple search queries.

Poor page copy

As we often say in digital marketing, it’s important to write for readers and not search engines. Keep content light, don’t try to show off knowledge with excessive jargon, and write for readers on an eighth-grade reading level.

In most cases, on-site content is not about publishing, but building awareness around a need. I always suggest placing actionable tips in informational content to provide value.

Content marketing is as much a branding exercise as it is a marketing tactic. Consistent content production establishes your brand’s ethos and also creates your voice as an author. In turn, this establishes you as an authority in your niche.

Don’t sacrifice this authority with poor body copy.

Look over your blog post as a whole. What does a reader experience when they first encounter your web page? Consider the fact that the average attention span is estimated to be eight seconds. Optimize your header structure and meta tags to encourage easy scanability and communicate a clear purpose.

Leverage a powerful headline to pique reader interest, and nurture this interest with a strong introductory paragraph. Always insert clear transition phrases, and consider using animated GIFs and videos to give users a mental break between long chunks of paragraphs. These will also increase your average user dwell time.

Make your content visually appealing by utilizing white space properly and inserting images after every 400 words or so. This essentially chunks content and prevents information overload.

Finally, edit fiercely. Many writers live by the rule that about two-thirds of writing should be editing and reworking. Use tools such as Grammarly and the Hemingway App to create concise and clean body copy.

Unoptimized images and videos

Speaking of poor page copy, most bloggers still ignore image and video optimization. Unoptimized image file formats and sizes are the most common load time mistakes that deteriorate SEO performance.

All on-site images should be formatted as .jpg, and all vector images as .png.

Always optimize image alt text to position it to rank in a targeted keyword image search. The alternative text is what’s displayed when a browser fails to actually display the image and tells search engines the content of your image. (It’s also used to describe images to those with screen readers.)

When optimizing video files, host all of your video files in a single folder and create a video site map for search engines to index your videos. You should optimize the meta description of all video pages with targeted keywords for indexation. Leverage a call to action in your meta description and video annotations.

Video marketing can be distributed from multiple channels, as well as your blog. According to a recent survey by HubSpot, 43 percent of consumers want to see more video from content marketers.

Poor content promotion

This leads us to probably the greatest error that plagues bloggers and stumps small businesses. We’re told that a good piece of content should serve as a natural link magnet and even rank highly based on the merits of the writing itself. To be candid, from experience we’ve discovered this isn’t always true.

Consider the idea that a 10-hour project totaling 3,245 words, featuring exquisite content and imagery, is just as useless as a poorly written 400-word listicle if it doesn’t drive conversions or traffic. This is what I refer to as potential energy. Without a proper technical structure or any content promotion strategy at work, your awe-inspiring content is a dud.

What if, after writing his Theory of Relativity, Einstein had simply posted his theory on his front door and waited for someone to discover it? Content distributed over a blog on a young domain won’t gather backlinks or social shares without promotion.

Leverage your connections, and follow these strategies to promote content and allow it to compound over social media:

  1. Have influential members of your organization share and promote a piece of content.
  2. Contact influencers over social media to share content.
  3. Request a quote from an industry thought leader to place in your content; advertise this in your rich snippet on social media channels.
  4. Repurpose content into a video or infographic for greater shareability.
  5. Contact websites that have linked to similar content in the past.
  6. Submit your content to replace relevant broken links on authoritative sites.
  7. Run a paid advertisement campaign over social media to place content directly in front of targeted audience members.

Content promotion involves thorough audience analysis. Segment audience members into one of three boundaries based on habits, demographics and psychographics. Investigate what social media channels each audience segment uses the most and the points of time when they are most active.

Understand which pieces of content perform best over specific social media channels. The most viral content examples include:

  • “How-to” tutorials
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Listicles
  • “Why” articles

Content serves as an effective pull marketing tactic and inbound lead generator. Yet, if content is simply sitting on the shelf and gathering dust, it’s a lost investment.

Social and user signals factor greatly into organic ranking. Essentially, social promotion will draw users to your content, which will determine — based on their engagement — the efficacy of your content.


SEO agencies and content marketers often tell clients about technical and onsite errors they may be making. But sometimes it takes a little realism to take a step back and analyze our own campaigns for greater success in the long run.

Hopefully, you’ll take the news that your SEO content strategy is imperfect in the right way. It’s an opportunity to refine and improve.



Google Ad Balance Tool is Back!


Google posted on the AdSense Google+ channel that the ad balancer tool which is a tool that can be used to show less lower paying ads on your site, is not back up and running.

Google wrote:

We are happy to inform you that the Ad balance tool is back and you can now use it again to help you reduce the number of ads you show to users, specifically the ads that earn you the least revenue, and see how it affects your earnings.

I had no idea it broke – to be honest.

Here is what it looks like:

Here is a screen shot of the tool:


You can drag and click apply to adjust your ad balance:


Forum discussion at Google+.

Update: Now when I try it, it says it is under maintenance…