A Smattering of SEO News: 12/4/14

Hello folks, and happy December! November was a darned busy month for SEO news, and December is looking like it won’t be letting up: we’re already dealing with a continued Penguin rollout from Google, and more! Check it out!

 

Google News:

  • Google Says Penguin 3.0 Still Rolling Out (And May Continue To Do So Indefinitely) – Google recently confirmed with Search Engine Land that Penguin 3.0 is still rollinggoogle-penguin2 out, and that recent fluctuations on Thanksgiving and this week are both related to the ongoing rollout. Further, John Mueller said in a recent Hangout that not only is the team being very cautious about this particular rollout, but they’re hoping “things will keep updating,” potentially indicating an ever-present ongoing rollout. That could make things VERY interesting for us SEO folks who are trying to keep up. More on this as we get it, surely.
  • Local Pages Quality Guidelines Updated – If you’re a local business and you don’t run a Google Local page, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity. If you ARE running Google Local pages, you might want to take a look at their updated quality guidelines. These new guidelines specifically prohibit both descriptors as well as broad category usage, require consistent business name usage, and disallow virtual offices unless they’re staffed. Hopefully this will make things a bit clearer and easier for folks running these pages to grok.
  • Google Recommends Paginating Infinitely Scrolling Pages For Proper Indexation – In infinite-scrollinga Hangout with Google’s John Mueller, he was asked if Google will always index page content on infinitely scrolling pages regardless of the length or size of the pages. Mueller responded by saying that even if you have infinitely scrolling pages – which is not a bad thing for usability – you should still have some sort of pagination, either through page categories or numbers. Mueller also said he thinks 50MB is the limit per page, but wasn’t 100% sure on that.
  • YouTube States 300 Hours Of Video Uploaded Each Minute – Not specifically SEO related but fascinating nonetheless: a site called ReelSEO says they have it on good authority that YouTube is now gaining 300 hours of video each minute. That’s an amazing number, and it’s only likely to get bigger as more and more people use the service. I know I upload at least a couple of hours of video each week, and I’m just one person. Multiply that by millions and the numbers totally make sense.

Other News:

  • Yahoo: Ebola Tops Most Searched Terms Of 2014 – According to a recent report from Yahoo, Ebola was the number one search term in their engine for the entirety of 2014, followed by searches on Minecraft, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Lawrence. Most of the terms were celebrity related, so it’s interesting to see Ebola at the top of the list. Interestingly, in Bing’s list of top news searches, Ebola clocked in at number eight, while the world cup held the top spot.

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  • EU Issues Formal “Right To Be Forgotten” Guidelines – Months after coming up with the new “right to be forgotten” rules for Google, the EU has finally come up with clear criteria on the law. These criteria ask a series of questions, such as whether the data surrounding the request is accurate, whether it’s relating to a criminal offense, or whether it can put the subject at risk. These rules came out just in time too, as now apparently both Bing and Yahoo are following suit and have begun taking requests as well.

Client Infographic: ServerCentral

Each day, the now-ubiquitous cloud stores all our data for us and keeps it ready to serve up at a moment’s notice. From the latest memes to the funniest cat videos, the cloud stores everything worth backing up. But have you ever wondered what keeps it chugging? The answer, of course, is data centers. ServerCentral is here with a new Infographic to tell us how data centers act as the brain of the internet, powering the cloud and ensuring we always have access to everything we need.

 servercentral-infographic

Check out the full Infographic now to discover how data centers help you every day!

Client Infographic: IFA Auto

Who doesn’t love a good car action movie? From James Bond to Back To The Future, IFA Auto‘s new Infographic chronicles some of the most infamous automobiles to hit the silver screen. Check it out to see if your favorite muscle car made the cut!

ifa-auto-infographic

Don’t miss out on the rest of the featured cars! View the entire Infographic!

Client Infographic: Chronicle Books

With the school year well underway, many parents are stuck wondering how to keep their child engaged in school. In a media-saturated world, it can feel like a struggle to make students care about their education. But the battle for our kids’ limited attention spans can be won with one simple idea: passion. Chronicle Books is here with a new Infographic to show you how to spark your child’s motivation to study with a few simple dos and don’ts. You’ll also learn the importance of an early education and how to make learning feel relevant, fun, and even exciting!

chroniclebooksinfographic

Check out the full Infographic to discover how you can rekindle your child’s desire to learn!

A Smattering of SEO News: 11/20/14

Howdy folks, and welcome to another Smattering! We’ve got some mobile-friendly news for y’all this week, as well as some interesting tidbits from Twitter. Check it out!

 

Google News:

  • Conjecture: Google Not Indexing Expandable Content – Webmasters and sitegoogle-slows-robots owners over on Webmaster World are reporting that content they’ve had under a “Read More” tab using an “onload” event is no longer being indexed. This type of accordion scripting is a popular way to add visible content to a page while still keeping the page sculpted. If Google is indeed no longer indexing these pieces of content, we’ll have to rethink how we place content on a page visibly. We’ll keep you informed if anything becomes more concrete here.
  • Google Launches Super Simple Mobile-Friendly Test – As mobile becomes more and more important in terms of site rankings and value, it’s dang important to know whether your site is as mobile-friendly as possible. To that end, Google has launched a really simple tool that will tell you that your site is awesome and mobile-ready, or it isn’t. While the tool doesn’t give a ton of detail besides what’s blocked or unreachable, it’s a good place to start if you’re trying to diagnose your own mobile site.
  • “Mobile-Friendly” Labels Launched In SERPs – Google has, after some testing, mobile-friendlylaunched some minor yet important new functionalities to result pages: tags that label a site as “Mobile-friendly.” Google assigns these labels on their own, but to be assured your site qualifies, it has to avoid problematic mobile software like Flash, use readable text that doesn’t need to be zoomed, and size the screen to horizontal scrolling accordingly (just to name a few). It’ll be interesting to see what further steps Google takes to become even more mobile-conscious and friendly.
  • French Court Apparently Wants “Right To Be Forgotten” Expanded Worldwide – You might recall several months ago when a European court allowed people to ask Google to remove specific results that mentioned them. This is what’s known as the “right to be forgotten.” While the decision only applies to certain countries in the European Union, a French court recently fined Google for not removing a requested result from their global index. Google has yet to respond to the fine at the time of this ruling, but if they do respond, it’ll set a dangerous precedent, to be sure.

right-forgotten

Other News:

  • Twitter Search Soon Capable Of Searching All Public Tweets – Twitter recently announced a massive upgrade to their search functionality. Once the change is fully rolled out, users will able to search through all of the public tweets Twitter has in their database. All of them. That’s hundreds of billions of tweets, all searchable. This is going to be fascinating, as previously Twitter’s search functionality was very limited.

A Smattering of SEO News: 11/13/14

Hello my friends, and welcome to another Smattering! It’s a light week in SEO news, but there are some fun tidbits in here. Check it out!

 

Google News:

  • Possible Google Update Occurring? – According to Search Engine Roundtable, webmasters over on Webmaster World – one of the best places to gather and discuss these sorts of things – are noticing tremendous volatility in their search rankings. They’re also noticing changes to quality scores as well, just days apart! Tools such as SERPs and MOZCast also noticed some volatility earlier this month, but the other similar tools were more steady, so it’s tough to say with certainty what’s going on. We’ll keep an eye on it though.

google-quality-score

  • YouTube Music Launched, Subscription Service Coming – YouTube recently launched its own music portal, which not only plans to allow users to listen to full albums, but also seems to create mixes based on videos you recently watched. For example, it knew I listened to Ambrosia lately – don’t judge me – and that’s one of the mixes it’s created for me. Soon YouTube will also apparently launch a subscription service to allow for background streaming along with Google Play support. Very cool!

YouTube-Music

 

Other News:

  • Bing: We Likely Won’t Make A Dent In Google’s Market Share – While this isn’t really news, per se, it’s interesting to note that Bing’s Director of Search, Stefan Weitz, admitted that they likely won’t take a share in the “pure search space.” What they DO plan on, however, is learning to make search more integral to people’s lives, weaving the technology into things people are already using. Sounds fascinating to me, if they can pull it off, of course.
  • Facebook Organic Search Primarily Focuses On Users, Not Businesses – In a recentfacebook-newsfeed Q&A, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked about the focus on their organic search. Zuckerberg said that their organic search will always focus more on users and their content over business-related content. Zuckerberg suggested that businesses should post really good, useful content if they want to be seen more in users’ News Feeds, which is a great idea if you ask me (I know you didn’t, but here we are).
  • Twitter: Search Engine Friendliness Equaled More Traffic – In an interesting story, seo-blocksTwitter recently noted that due to a change in their hashtag pages, traffic to their site increased dramatically. According to results shared at a recent Twitter event, making hashtag pages more friendly to search engine spiders apparently resulted in a tenfold increase in traffic from logged-out users alone (7.5 million users per month versus 75 million). This just goes to show you that clean, usable pages are insanely important in heightened search engine friendliness.

A Smattering of SEO News: 11/6/14

Hello folks, and welcome to another Smattering. November has barely started and already we have some whoppers for you, such as Matt Cutts extending his personal leave to 2015! What? Read on for more!

 

Google News:

  • Penguin 3.0 Still Rolling Out Nearly Three Weeks After Release – While the folks at Google initially said that the rollout of Penguin 3.0 might take a couple of weeks, Google’s John Mueller revealed in a recent Hangout that it’s still being rolled out – almost three weeks after its release! This means those not yet affected by this algorithm could still see fluctuations, so keep an eye on your rankings and Webmaster Tools in the days to come.
  • Matt Cutts Extends Personal Leave to 2015 – Google’s ubiquitous Spam Team leader, Matt Cutts, recently announced on his blog and Twitter that he’s extending his leave of absence to 2015. Apparently he’s happy with how the Team has been doing without him, which is cool.

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  • Victims Of Panda Don’t Necessarily Need To Delete Old Blog Posts, According To Google – In another recent Hangout, Google’s John Mueller was asked if older, barely-read blog posts should be taken down to assist in removing a Google penalty. While Mueller was somewhat noncommittal on how to proceed, he basically said that older, low-quality posts might deserve to be noindexed or deleted, but if they’re relevant they can likely be left alone.
  • Google: Duplicate URLs In A Disallow File Are Fine – Wow, John Mueller has been busy this week! In response to a question posted on Twitter, in which the person asking wondered if duplicate URLs in a disallow file could cause problems, John stated simply that “duplicates don’t cause problems.” This should make submitting large strings of URLs a bit easier to deal with.
  • Google Launches Embedded Customer Surveys – A new kind of paywall (yet it’s not really a paywall) has been launched by Google called Embedded Customer Surveys. These are are surveys that users need to fill out in order to access your site, and you get money for each question answered. This might be easier for some folks to swallow than an actual subscription, which are typical of paywalls, and site owners currently get five cents for every answer Google receives. It’s kind of a win-win really, as Google gets even more data about people, and site owners get a slice of the pie.

google-consumer-surveys copy

Other News:

  • Massive Microsoft Restructuring Results In Loss Of Top Bing Positions – Duane Forrester — the head SEO at Microsoft’s Bing division — announced that due to a massive restructuring effort at Microsoft, several top positions at Bing (including his) have been eliminated. With one of Microsoft’s biggest advocates of SEO, along with several of his fellow experienced employees, now gone from Bing, it will be interesting to see how the still-struggling search engine is affected.

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Seven Strategies for Survival in a Post-Pigeon World

Unlike other alliterative algorithm updates (Panda, Penguin, Payday Loan…), Google Pigeon doesn’t necessarily crack down on low-quality sites and deceptive practices.  Rather, Google seems to have simply reassessed their stance on the ideal local search experience, and what makes a site relevant in the local space.

As a result, businesses may find that tried-and-true strategies no longer guarantee local visibility in the SERPs. Your website may consistently promote accurate, high-quality information through transparent and honest means; however, if you skipped specific local search strategies, you probably saw rankings disappear overnight.

So what now? Take a deep breath and give your local search plan a once over. Here are seven simple strategies for getting your business back on track in a post-Pigeon world.

 

1. Get The Lay Of The Land

Just how much was your site affected by Pigeon? Take some time to determine the extent to which your rankings or traffic changed. Local rankings fluctuated significantly following the algorithm update, particularly because Google A/B tested multiple versions of Pigeon on various data centers. As such, brief spot checks here and there in August most likely did not provide an accurate overview of your site’s standings.

If you’re lucky, you set up local rank tracking for both classic and local pack results prior to Pigeon, but if you didn’t, don’t sweat. Here’s a quick trick for gauging impact:

  • Log in to your Google Analytics account, visit the “Geo-Location” section under “Audience” and segment your data for “Organic Traffic” only. 
  • Compare the period prior to Google Pigeon (before July 24, 2014) with the period directly following. 
  • Focus your analysis on the cities and/or metro area(s) where you have one or more business locations.   

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How much did your organic traffic decline or improve in relevant locations? While correlation doesn’t imply causation, an analysis of your period-over-period organic traffic in relevant cities and metropolitan areas can provide insight into whether your local positioning changed significantly.

Stay up-to-date on your local rankings moving forward by setting up local rank tracking. I recommend using a tool that provides local pack rankings as well as classic results, such as Whitespark’s Local Rank Tracker or BrightEdge.

 

2. Reassess Your Keyword List

Are you optimizing for the right local terms? Are you tracking the right terms locally? Take a second look at your keyword list and make sure that you’re targeting and measuring high local search volume terms both with and without local modifiers. And keep in mind that the local radius for results was reduced notably post-Pigeon; consider targeting smaller local neighborhoods in addition to nearby metropolises.

Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner is a great, basic solution for measuring local search volume. Access the Keyword Planner using any Google account and follow these steps:

  • Type in your term with and without your location included, (ex. “advertising agencies los angeles” and “advertising agencies”). Include as many variations of your targeted terms with local modifiers as possible in order to better gauge the most frequently utilized keyword/location combination.
  • Enter your city under “Targeting”  (ex. Los Angeles).
  • Click “Get Ideas.”
  • Select the “Keyword Ideas” tab.

Google’s average monthly search data for your targeted region will provide insight into whether local users are more likely to specify a city (“los angeles advertising agencies”), or trust Google to deliver relevant local results (“advertising agencies”).

Remember, whether you target “advertising agencies in los angeles” or simply “advertising agencies” in Los Angeles, always reference your city and relevant service areas in your on-page content and meta data. The results of your keyword research will influence phrasing and exact match strategy, but your landing pages should provide local context regardless.

Lastly, when you set up local keyword tracking, make sure you track for both types of terms, as results can often vary significantly.

Example:

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3. Go Back To The Basics

It’s true that local SEO has its own set of strategies. The rollout of Pigeon, however, made Google’s local algorithm more “traditional” than ever with a drastic reduction in local pack results, particularly for specific industries. Classic ranking factors such as title tags, headers, and site architecture now hold more weight for local rankings. Subsequently, many websites that achieved strategic local positions solely based on NAP (name, address, and phone number) information and Google Places listings have suffered organically post-Pigeon.

The moral of the story: do some basic SEO housekeeping. Make sure your site has strong, relevant meta data and a strategic structure, and assess your backlink profile for quality as well as new linking opportunities.

 

4. Beef Up Your Local Content

This is another oldie, but goodie. Increase your content sitewide, focusing first and foremost on priority pages such as your homepage, top-level navigation, and location landing pages. Try to aim for 300 – 500 words of high-quality copy, with sections devoted to helping both users and search engines understand your specific business location(s). If relevant, discuss nearby neighborhoods, service areas and notable landmarks, but be careful not to geo-stuff, as recent studies suggest that optimizing for too many areas can prove more harmful than helpful—one to three relevant areas seems to be the sweet spot.

 

5. Embrace Google My Business

If you haven’t claimed, verified, or optimized your Google My Business listings and pages (previously known as Google Places/Google+ Local respectively), start now. It’s no surprise that a complete optimization of this Google platform can only help your local organic standing. And when I say “complete,” I mean complete. Don’t ignore that pesky “Your profile is 90% complete!” message—if your page requires photos in order for Google to consider it comprehensive, upload those photos!  Promote your business eloquently and accurately in your description/Story, tag all relevant Google approved Categories (up to 5), and post regularly and relevantly to engage and increase your G+ following.

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If you’re starting from scratch and have fewer than 10 locations, claim and verify your listings manually through a Google phone call or postcard to your specific location (must use local phone number or address featured in listing). If you have more than 10 locations, you can verify in bulk with Google’s “My Business Locations” dashboard. Make sure that the NAP information that you enter matches what’s featured on your website exactly.  Small discrepancies such as the use of “Suite 3” in one instance and “#3” in another can create uncertainty and hurt your local ranking potential.

And for those who already own and manage Google My Business listings, take the time to perform a comprehensive audit of your listings to ensure exact information matches.

 

6. Get Serious About Structured Citations

First, let’s translate the technical jargon—structured citations are references to a business’s name, address, and phone number on online directories, such as Superpages.com, YellowPages.com, and Yelp. Structured citations may or may not link directly to your site. Ensuring the accuracy, consistency, and quality of your structured citations will help demonstrate relevancy as well as authority in targeted local markets. To manage your structured citations effectively, I recommend engaging a citation management service.

There are a lot of citation management services out there (Moz Local, Yext, Whitespark, Bright Local, etc.), and while I won’t use this post to debate the merits and shortcomings of each, I will urge readers to choose one and get serious about their structured citations.

As previously mentioned in regards to Google My Business data, inaccurate and inconsistently represented listing information can cause confusion for both users and search engine spiders. Ensure uniformity across the board by either submitting correct data to the top data aggregators (Infogroup, Localeze, Acxiom, and Factual) or optimizing and “locking-in” listings on individual online directories with a service such as Yext.

Attempting to manually update individual listings without the support of one of these services can prove a tedious and potentially fruitless effort, as inaccurate information elsewhere can cause listings to change after optimizations.

 

7. Know Your Neighbors

Lastly, get to know your local online neighbors, particularly those that like to talk about your industry. Unstructured citations—online references to a business’s name and address, name and phone number, or the whole NAP trifecta—are another little known local search ranking factor. Generate unstructured citations by encouraging positive, branded conversations on online news sources, event pages, blogs and social networks. Keep in mind that unstructured citations do not require actual links!

So how do you engage relevant bloggers, journalists, and local users? Check out your Twitter followers and Facebook friends. Someone who has already demonstrated his or her brand interest online is that much more likely to welcome a relationship and the suggestion of a shout-out.

Google’s methods for determining valuable local results have evolved, becoming more sophisticated than ever. In order to succeed, your local search strategies must adapt as well. Commit to a comprehensive, strategic local SEO campaign—and prove to Google your local relevancy and value.

Have strategies or considerations to add?  Bombard me with comments below!

A Smattering of SEO News: 10/30/14

With what a hectic and volatile month October has been, it’s a surprise there hasn’t been an algorithm update over the last week! Regardless, we have some good tidbits today to cap up the month. Let’s hope November is a bit more stable. ;) Now let’s get to it.

Google News:

  • Mobile Usability Tracking Comes To Webmaster Tools – The folks at Google havegoogle-logo-blue-1920-800x450 announced a new tool in their ongoing campaign to make mobile sites easier to implement and diagnose. Their new Mobile Usability tool in Webmaster Tools tells webmasters and site owners how many pages have certain mobile-specific rendering problems (such as touch elements being too close, small font sizes, and content missized to the viewport). This should be one more way site owners can make sure their site is as mobile friendly as possible.
  • Webmaster Guidelines Updated To Cover JavaScript And CSS Blocking – This has come up before here and there in our previous Smatterings, but now Google is kinda making it official. They’ve specifically updated their webmaster guidelines to say: “Disallowing crawling of Javascript or CSS files in your site’s robots.txt directly harms how well our algorithms render and index your content and can result in suboptimal rankings.” They then go on to give new advice on how to optimally allow your CSS and JavaScript to be crawled, including minifying files and other tidbits. It’s a bit technical, but very useful, so I suggest you check it out.
  • Google Gives Ability To Remove Sitelinks Search Entirely – Recently, Google added Firefox Mobilethe ability to add a sitelinks search box to your search results. By simply adding some code to your site you can fully support the feature. Now Google is, interestingly enough, giving you the choice to disable it entirely by using a new meta tag called “nositelinkssearchbox”. This is fascinating because it’s rare Google gives one the ability to disable a feature of theirs once they’ve launched it.
  • YouTube CEO: 50% Of Traffic Now Coming From Phones And Tablets – Furtheryoutube proving that mobile is becoming an insanely dominant force not just in search, but in general Internet usage, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki confirmed that now half of all YouTube traffic is coming from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. She went on to say that she feels mobile is important to every business right now, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, really, but it’s still fascinating to read regardless.

Other News:

  • Twitter And IBM Team Up To Bring Businesses More Data Insight Into Customers – Twitter and IBM have announced a partnership in which they’ll combine the real-time data collecting of Twitter with the analytics and consulting expertise of IBM to help businesses make better strategic decisions. It’s something of a fascinating prospect, as Twitter must have veritable mountains of data on its users, collected in real-time, while IBM is simply a juggernaut when it comes to business analytics. It’ll be interesting to see how welcomed this partnership is, and how many businesses will take advantage of it.

ibm-twitter

  • Bing Allows Search By Emoji – Apparently Bing has updated their search capabilities to recognize emojis (you know, those cute little icons we text to people, such as cats, flags, faces. etc.). For example, you can now use a French flag and a place to search for airline ticket prices for France. No lie. Put up a little screaming emoji, and Bing will return results on The Scream by Edvard Munch. This is oddly fascinating, truth be told. I tried searching using an emoji face sticking out its tongue, and it led me right to results about what that face means in our culture. Again, fascinating.

emoji-search

  • TomTom And deCarta Ally To Take On Google Maps – Personal GPS device maker TomTom has teamed up with local search company deCarta to provide a product which they hope will take on Google Maps in terms of search flexibility, integration, and usability. Their new product will allegedly offer some improvements over Google Maps, such as flexibility in licensing, control over navigational data, and much more. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the mobile market, where undoubtedly most people use Google Maps to navigate and search for local results.

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Client Infographic: Door Store America

It’s almost Halloween, so it’s time for a special infographic from Door Store America about the Winchester Mystery House! Have you ever heard about Sarah Winchester, the heiress to $20,000,000 of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company? Get ready to learn all the creepy facts about the house and why its construction could never be finished!

winchester-infographic

Get all the chilling details about Sarah’s deteriorating mental state, and about her haunting, from the infographic!