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A Smattering of SEO News – Late Penguins and Incorrect Languages

Welcome, my friends, to another Smattering of SEO News! This week it’s all Google, all the time! First we find out Penguin is still months away, then Google is looking for their own SEO manager and much more. Check it out!

Google News

  • Google Penguin Refresh Still Months Away – According to a Tweet from Google’s Gary Illyes, a refresh to the Penguin algorithm is still “months away.” It has been nine months since the last update to Penguin in October of last year, and before that it was a year between updates. Will we see another update to Penguin in October, which is indeed months away? We’ll have to wait and see, but as soon as we know, you’ll know.

google-wide

  • Google Is Looking For An SEO Manager – Despite reports released over the years that Google tends to unfairly promote its own properties in search results, Google is indeed looking for a SEO manager to help improve organic traffic to its own pages and properties. They want at least 4 years of web development, 2 years of experience with SEO and quite a bit more. If you think you have what it takes, go check it out.
  • Google Clarifies Its “Don’t Ask For Links” Statement – Last week we brought you news that a Google Portuguese Webmaster blog had been updated with the language, “do not buy, sell, exchange or ask for links.” It was the portion that stated, “ask for links” that got folks curious. Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz followed up with Google to try and get more information on this change, and Google clarified saying, “not buy, sell or ask for links that may violate our linking webmaster guidelines.” This makes a ton more sense.
  • Search Console Notifications Going Out For Incorrect Hreflang Implementation – In a new addition to their ever-growing list of webmaster notifications, Google is now sending out notifications which let site owners know that their Hreflang implementation is incorrect. This is excellent for those with multi-language sites, as Hreflang implementation has always been a bit tricky, to say the least.

google-tools1

  • Search Console To Soon Send Out Fewer Notifications – Google’s Gary Illyes recently announced a change to how Search Console would be sending out most of its non-critical communications. Starting in a few weeks, Google will only notify direct site owners, rather than property owners, of non-critical issues. This means that if http://www.example.com/fun/test/seo had an issue, only the direct owner of http://www.example.com/fun/test/seo would get a notification, and not property owners of http://www.example.com/fun/test/, http://www.example.com/fun/ or http://www.example.com/. It’s an odd shift, to be sure.
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A Smattering of SEO – The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Much like combat, much of SEO is “hurry up and wait,” and that’s true of the actual search engines as well. As we wait for algorithm updates to make our lives better or worse, we anticipate fun fluctuations ahead as another Panda update could be hitting us “fairly soon.” This and more in the news below.
Google News:colorful-facets-wide-google

  • Google Panda Update Possibly Coming “Fairly Soon” – Around a month or so ago, Google’s Gary Illyes stated that he expected to see a Panda update in maybe 2-4 weeks. As of right now, that timeframe has passed, so Barry Schwartz asked John Mueller about it in a recent Hangout. Mueller said he expected the update “fairly soon” but gave no more details than that. With the holiday weekend behind us, hopefully this update will happen before too long.
  • Mueller: Google’s Crawl Size Limit Is 10MB Per Page – In a recent Google Hangout, John Mueller admitted that Google has a limit of around 10 megabytes per page in what it will crawl, so if you have pages that are larger than that, you should re-evaluate your entire website because that is just too big. I mean seriously, it’s too big regardless of the Google crawl limit.
  • When It Comes To HTTPS Links, 301 Redirects Are Fine – It’s a slow news week, so I had to dig a bit. That said, this is an interesting tidbit from Google’s Gary Illyes. Apparently, if you switched your URLs to HTTPS, and have proper redirects in place, you don’t need to worry about incoming links going to the HTTP version of your site if the redirects are working. According to Illyes, going through the effort of changing incoming links to HTTPS if you have redirects in place is so minimal, it’s not worth the time. Interesting to know.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 2.21.52 PM

  • Google Says Not To Even ASK For Links – Apparently Google doesn’t want folks even asking for links these days. According to a new post on the Portuguese Webmaster Tools blog – spotted by notable SEO expert Aaron Wall – the post states, “do not buy, sell, exchange or ask for links.” It’s the “ask” that’s interesting here, as that’s a new piece of info as far as I know. In this respect, just saying “Hey, link to my site please,” could be seen as a violation of their guidelines. We’ll keep an eye on this to see if anything further develops.

Other News:

  • Consumer Watchdog Petitions FTC To Bring Right To Be Forgotten Laws To US – Consumer rights organization Consumer Watchdog has sent a petition to the FTC stating that,rtbf-right-forgotten since it’s working in Europe, it’s feasible that “Right to be Forgotten” laws like those in Europe could be brought to the US. They say this would go a long way toward showing Google is indeed serious about user privacy. Apparently there is indeed some interest among consumers to be able to be “forgotten” by search engines here in the States, so it’ll be interesting to see if this gains any traction.

 

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The Past, Present, and Future of Wearable Technology

I had the pleasure of attending Digimarcon West back in April 2015. I recently profiled the presentations of Mark Schaefer and Rand Fishkin for the Wpromote blog. Though I was proud to profile these talented men, there was one woman that I saw at the conference that particularly blew me away. Loni Stark, Senior Director of Strategy and Product Marketing for Adobe, is an expert on wearable technology. In her presentation, she discussed many facets of wearable technology: its roots, its current state, and its future. I’m happy to share her insights for the Wpromote blog.

To be an innovator in the digital world, you must create meaningful real world applications that suit the needs of a wide variety of people.

When you examine the state of digital experiences in 2015, the numbers are truly staggering. For example, around the world, there are:image1

  • 177 million websites
  • 1.4 million Android apps
  • 1.3 million iOS apps

 

With that many websites and apps floating around, it makes sense that people create digital experiences across a variety of channels. In regards to US citizens:

  • 40% use a tablet
  • 63% use a desktop computer
  • 67% use a smartphone
  • 71% use a laptop

image2

 

As seen in the above snapshot, as we progress into the digital age, we are becoming more dependent on our digital devices. Western Europe is on par with North America in terms of electronic device usage. But the Asia-Pacific region is catching up! Future generations won’t be able to imagine a time before tablets and iPhones.

On the marketing side of things, wearable technology brings positive opportunities. In a recent Adobe survey, 77% of participants felt that it was useful to receive marketing image3promotions on their smartwatch while inside a physical store. That number jumped to 84% when surveying millennials. As marketers, we have to capitalize on this new technology to find new ways to maximize profit. Wearable technology provides an exciting platform to connect with customers on a deeper level.

That being said, wearable technology isn’t a foolproof marketing technique. Marketers need consent to reach consumers on their smartwatch. As with any marketing technique, there is a fine line between eager marketing and pushy marketing. At the end of the day, we must always respect our customers if we want to achieve their loyalty.

On another side of the technology spectrum, the Batmobile isn’t so far-fetched anymore. Cars are becoming more and more technologically advanced, to keep up with the evolving needs of customers. Millennials are becoming a crucial demographic, as they are tuned into what is current now and can anticipate what is coming in the future. From designers to salespeople to marketers, everyone has to keep an eye on the millenials because they represent the future, and brands want to cement their relevancy for the long haul.

Even with all of these technological developments, we have barely scraped the surface of where digital technology is going in the future. The idea is simultaneously terrifying and exciting. INNOVATION IS EVERYTHING.

image4

 

 

The smartwatch is a popular topic of discussion. The release of the Apple Watch created a distinct split in popular culture among the fanatics and the skeptics. A good chunk of peopleimage5 are Apple devotees, quickly scooping up any product that Apple produces: Apple realizes this and capitalizes on it BIG TIME. That being said, only 2% of US consumers own a smartwatch. Even with its massively expensive marketing campaign, the Apple Watch is less popular overall than the dominant wearable, the fitness tracker.

In an Adobe study, 83% of participants didn’t see the value or necessity of a smartwatch. 45% thought it was too pricey. 9% were concerned with privacy, while another 9% thought that smartwatches weren’t aesthetically pleasing. On the flip side, there is a clear message behind the FitBit: buy this because it is good for your overall health. This is a message that many different demographics of people can buy into. Health will always be a trendy topic. In addition, the FitBit is far more affordable. With the Apple watch, Apple is trying to market to a more wealthy demographic, while the FitBit is trying to appeal to the masses. As a marketer, you often have to decide whether you want to appeal to the masses with a cheaper price or be more exclusive with a more expensive price. Will the Apple Watch break through with the general public? Only time will tell.

Burberry is taking this issue of necessity and aesthetics to a new positive level with their in-store installments. In their London storefront, the fashion line released digital dressing rooms that provide product information, photos, comparable products, etc. while customers try on garments. You can see your physical self in the mirror, but you can also process deeper elements of the garment you’re wearing via the digital screen alongside you. This practice revolutionizes the art of trying on clothes, and sets a high standard for other fashion companies to follow.

image6

Localz is a new startup that specializes in micro-location technology. They provide a variety of unique services to clients that maximize customer interaction and profit. With their technology, companies can track where their customers are and provide customized deals and promotions on the go. Check out their infographic below to get a closer look at how they’re changing the marketing game.

image7

 

BMW is elevating the luxury vehicle experience with its “highly automated driving.” Yep, that’s what it sounds like! Automated cars are in development right now. Not too far off in the future, we will share the road with cars that can steer, brake, and accelerate on their own, without human contact. BMW estimates that automated driving cars will be distributed to the masses by 2020.

image8

 

On a youthful side of things, Disney recently rolled out the “MyMagic + Band,” which gives children an interactive experience at Disneyland resorts. Special poles throughout the park are adorned with Mickey Mouse heads that light up when the band is nearby. Disney is a well known brand, of course. But even with their popular status, they can’t bear the thought of kicking back in the technological race and letting another company steal their coveted position within the hearts of digitally driven children. Even the juggernauts have to innovate.

image9

 

Loni promoted three key principles for creating meaningful digital experiences:

1. Mobile Is Not An Option

Anyone remember the Disney Channel original movie Smart House? This movie profiled a house of the future that could interact with its inhabitants. This movie was made in 1999,image11 but its central focus isn’t such a far off dream anymore!

 

This is where an important concept called IoT comes in:

The “Internet of Things” is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and interact with their internal states of the external environment. In more simple terms, IoT refers to a time when the Internet and technology at large will become embedded in what we do, as opposed to being an exterior component of what we do. As seen in Smart House, when IoT is a reality, we will be able to walk into a room and interact with technology as it swirls in front of our eyes, without the assistance of a physical device.

According to many leaders in technology, IoT is on the close horizon. If we are on the brink of IoT, mobile is not an option. Mobile is a necessity, to keep up with basic human needs. In the future, the purpose of apps will shift from consuming content to controlling the physical world. We have to be ready for that progression.

 

2. You Can’t Build Your Business On Anonymity

Anonymity isn’t effective. As marketers, we have to connect on a personal level. We have to build trust by delivering value.

Let’s circle back to the smartwatch debate. Though Apple has a devoted following, it can be argued that smartwatches haven’t broken through with the general public. A lot of the concerns that the public has are related to privacy and lack of trust. In a recent consumer survey:

  • 54% of participants were concerned that their smartwatch might get hacked
  • 48% of participants were concerned that marketers might track their location in a store
  • 38% of participants were concerned that marketers might abuse their ability to communicate at any time

As seen with these statistics, it is crucial to build trust if you want to establish customer loyalty and maximize profit. As of now, Apple has remained focused on fans of the Apple watch, rather than trying to win over skeptics of the device. But, that could change in the future, as more competitors release comparable products.

 

3. We Need Smarter Content And Data That Takes Action

Content strategy should support the entire customer experience. A solid customer experience builds brand trust. Customer loyalty will drive demand and maximize profit.

To complete the above formula, you must keep 4 key principles in mind:

  • Convenience: Make it easy for consumers to add accessories, order parts, etc.
  • Preemptive Customer Service: Detect early issues and provide maintenance services that will reduce service costs
  • Shared Customer Insights: Share insights from understanding how consumers use products and how products perform
  • Enhancing Product Value: Automate tasks when possible and make past data and usage actionable for the customer

Though technology can be intimidating, we need to be excited for future digital experiences and to anticipate developments before they hit the mainstream. Stay on top of trends in your industry and find innovative ways to connect with your customers on a personal and professional basis. The world of the Jetsons isn’t so far off. We must always be ready for the next surprise that technology has in store.

image12

 

To pick up more helpful insights from Loni, check out her website!

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Event Tracking For Universal Analytics

Event tracking is one of the most powerful features in Google Analytics. It enables you to better understand how users are interacting with your website and use that data to improve the conversion percentage for many of your target KPIs. I wrote an article last year about setting up event tracking for Marketo Landing Pages that’s got some useful info about concepts like naming conventions, so check it out if you’re unfamiliar. With the update to the analytics.js library though, Google has changed the syntax of the event tracking code, so I thought it was a good time to revisit the topic and go through how to set up event tracking for Universal Analytics.

 

What Can You Track With Event Tracking?

With event tracking you can track user engagement on a number of elements on your site, including:

  • Button Clicks
  • Video Plays
  • Downloads
  • Form Completions
  • Flash Elements
  • Embedded AJAX Elements
  • Load Times
  • & More!

One of the best things about the new Universal Analytics library is that it’s more flexible, so you can customize your implementations much more easily.

 

Dissecting The New Code

The new event tracking syntax for Universal Analytics is very similar to the code that worked for ga.js, except the “_trackEvent” method has been replaced with “send” command.

Old Code:

onclick="_gaq.push('_trackEvent', Category', 'Action', 'Label' Value);"

New Code:

onclick="ga('send','event','Category', 'Action', 'Label' Value);"

For event tracking to work with Universal Analytics, you must pass the “ga” function the “send” command with the “event” hit type. The other values in the code are exactly the same as before and the data shows up identically in the Event Tracking Report in Google Analytics. (To view this report go to Behavior > Events > Top Events.)

 

Naming Convention Thought Process

Every event contains four main values that are used to describe the individual interaction taking place. Here is the general example that Google provides for these values and some naming conventions they suggest for them:

Value Type Required Description/Naming Convention
Category String Yes Typically the object that was interacted with (e.g. button)
Action String Yes The type of interaction (e.g. click)
Label String No Useful for categorizing events (e.g. nav buttons)
Value Number No Values must be non-negative. Useful to pass counts (e.g. 4 times)

The approach below is one that I find more beneficial for most types of events though. It’s easier to drill down into the data in Analytics, and allows you to gain a better understanding how events are performing across your entire site. Note my edits in the “Description” column:

Value Type Required Description/Naming Convention
Category String Yes The broadest way to categorize your event (e.g. “Newsletter Signup”)
Action String Yes Where the event took place on the page (e.g. “Top Navigation” or “Footer Link” or “Sidebar”)
Label String No The url where the event took place (custom JavaScript required)
Value Number No Values must be non-negative. Useful to pass counts (e.g. same as Google’s example)

 

Let’s take a look at each value individually and then go through a working example of how I would set up event tracking for a newsletter signup form:

 

1. Event Category

event category

The image above shows some sample Category naming conventions that were set up for an urgent care facility.

When you look at your Top Events Report in Google Analytics, the Category is the first item that appears. You can then drill down further into each Category and view the Action and Label values. Because it’s the very first thing you see in the report, it makes sense to name Categories something that broadly describes each event you’re tracking. If you’re tracking signups to a newsletter as a KPI, for example, name the Category “Newsletter Signup”. This way, you can quickly get to the data you’re looking for.

Conversely, if you name it something generic like “Button” or “Download”, it’s not going to be obvious what event you’re even looking at when sifting through your data.

 

2. Event Action

event action

Sample Event Action naming conventions.

When you click into a Category, the report then shows you all of your Event Action data. At this point, many people choose to follow Google’s example and name the Action after the physical action taken, like a “click”. This approach, however, doesn’t tell you much about the actual event that’s taking place or how the user is interacting with your site.

Since the same event can, and usually does, occur in multiple places on the same URL, I like to use the Action to document where on the page it’s taking place. If you’re tracking newsletter signups, for example, you’ll often have the signup form in your sidebar, footer, pop-up modal, and even your main navigation header. If you name all of these events the same thing, you’ll never know which ones are driving the most signups and which ones are under performing. If you don’t have that info, how can you optimize your page layout or CTAs to increase performance? By naming them all something different, you can track conversions accurately and make informed decisions.

One exception to this that I use from time to time is if I have an event that I’d like to split test. In this case it’s sometimes beneficial to name the Action after the specific call to action I’m using. This is a great way to see which variant is performing well, and which channels are driving the most conversions.

 

3. Event Label

event labelAn example of the Event Label value passing URL information to Google Analytics.

After you click into one of your Actions, you land in the Event Label report. For this value, I like to pass the URL where the event takes place. It stands to reason that the same event on your homepage will have a different conversion percentage than on a category page or blog post. So rather than look at an event across your entire domain, it makes sense to be able to see how they convert at a page level.

To accomplish this, you could hand write each URL into your tracking code, but implementing that across a big site one page at a time would be cumbersome and time consuming. Since most sites nowadays are built on a template, you can use the JavaScript Window Location object as a workaround.

 

Working Example

<a class="button" onclick="ga('send','event','E-Newsletter Sign Up','Sidebar', window.location.href);" href="/newsletter-sign-up-form">Sign Up Now</a>

In this example, we’re tracking clicks on the <a> tag that points to the newsletter signup page. The Category is ‘E-Newsletter Sign Up,’ the Action is ‘Sidebar,’ and the Label passes the URL to Analytics with the Window Location object.

 

Verifying The Event In Real-Time Analytics

Once you set up Event Tracking on your site, you can then verify it in the Real-Time Analytics report. Just click on the event and see if it shows up. If not, chances are there is a typo in your code or you have curly quotes from copy/pasting from Word or Outlook.

realtime analytics event trackingTesting your events in Real-Time Analytics

 

Tying Event Tracking To Google Analytics Goals

Perhaps the best thing about Event Tracking is that you can tie it to Google Analytics Goals. This means that you can use events as conversion metrics in the Channel Reporting View and track conversions and conversion percentages for all of your events, across every channel medium.

To set it up, go to:

  • Admin > Goals > New Goal
  • Under Goal Settings choose “Custom”
  • Next, under Description, name your event and choose the goal type “Event”
  • Finally, make sure the Category, Action, and Label exactly match the naming convention of the event you’re tracking.

To track every instance of the event, just fill out the Category value. If you want to track every instance of newsletter signups that take place in your sidebar (like our example), fill out the Category and Action values. And lastly, to track a specific event in a certain location on a particular URL, fill out the Category, Action, and Label values.

goal event category

This goal will report on all E-Newsletter Signups across the entire site.

 

Conclusion

I hope this shed some light on how to set up event tracking for Universal Analytics. If you have any questions or issues when setting up your own, please feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!
 
 

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A Smattering of SEO News – Yay News!

Hey folks, welcome to another Smattering! It’s been an interesting week in the SEO news arena, especially with word that news sites got a nice boost after Google’s most recent little algo update. I’d love to say I had something to do with that, given my focus on news and all that, but I doubt I can take any credit for it. 😉 With that said, let’s dive into the news pool, shall we?!

Google News

  • Report: News Sites May Have Benefited Most From Recent Algorithm Update – The folks at Searchmetrics have been studying the results of many sites since Google’s most recent – and still unnamed – update, and found some interesting results. Basically, the sites that saw the largest uptick in SERP (Search Engine Results Page) visibility were primarily news-focused sites. NBCNews.com, for example, saw a 30% visibility increase, Fortune.com a 45% increase and TechCrunch.com a 26% increase, for example. Maybe now the phrase should be, “Frequently Updated Content is King.”

google

  • Google’s John Mueller Reveals Two Ongoing Google Search Bugs – In two different forums on two different topics, Google’s John Mueller admitted that two Google search tools are having issues. The first is relating to their Structured Data Testing Tool, which apparently is having a hard time parsing open graph data, while the second relates to the Search Console’s Fetch and Render feature, which is misreporting certain pages as blocked. Mueller said Google is working to fix both of these issues.
  • Google Sees Flash Game Sites Being Lower Quality Sites – Google’s John Mueller (that guy is everywhere this week) this week talked a bit about Flash game sites in a Webmaster World forum thread, saying that most sites that offer Flash-based games do little to differentiate themselves from other sites that offer the same games besides maybe placing ads in different places. He goes onto say that, if one wants to enter that space, one should strive to really differentiate themselves from the competition as best they can.
  • Google Testing Another Mobile Version Of Their Search Engine – Reports are coming in that Google is testing yet one more version of their mobile site, this one offering more white space, a larger search box and a large, blue navigation menu. This is just one of many of these tests Google has done to their mobile site in recent months, so it’ll likely change again soon.

 

Other News

  • duckduckgoDuckDuckGo Reaches 10 Million Searches A Day – Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo is celebrating a new milestone for their relatively young search engine, as they’ve now passed 10 million searches a day. Apparently they’ve seen around 600% growth just in the last two years, thanks to growing privacy concerns. That’s pretty impressive, honestly.
  • Instagram Makes Searching More Comprehensive With Place Search – Instagram has upgraded its popular app with a new feature they’re calling Place Search, which now allows you to search for photos by specific places, people, and tags. This will hopefully make it much easier for users to find photos based on much more granular search filters, as it sounds like it was fairly difficult to find specific photos before this update.

instagram-search-location

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A Smattering of SEO News – Swarmed by Crickets

Hello friends, and welcome back to another Smattering! It seems the rollercoaster is moving forward again, as we’re noticing yet another serious update in the works, according to tools that monitor SERP volatility. It’s a busy news week this week, so let’s get right to it.

Google News

  • cricketsPossible Google Algorithm Update Underway – Yesterday, SEO Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz reported murmurings of an upcoming update. So slight were these chatterings that he called it the “cricket update.” Well, it seems those murmurings might’ve been right, as volatility tracking tools such as Mozcast, SERP Metrics, and Algoroo are all reporting recent and severe volatility in the SERPs. The big topic of discussion surrounding these updates is whether they’re Panda-based or not, some say ‘yay’ while other say ‘nay’. We’ll be keeping an eye on this and let you know if anything more concrete or official pops up.
  • Google Trends Gets A Redesign And Real-Time Tracking – In a massive update, Google Trends just might have become a lot more useful than it already was (and believe me, it totally is useful). Trends now can report on data from YouTube and Google News in “minute-by-minute” real-time, allowing users to see comparative trends as they’re happening and determine which stories and topics are getting more eyeballs on them. They’ve also allows datasets to be published via Github, allowing an even deeper dive of the data. This, along with a fully redesigned homepage, should make Google Trends and even more useful tool to marketers, webmasters, and site owners in the future.
  • removedVnotremovedFrance Gives Google Two-Week Ultimatum To Apply Right To Be Forgotten Worldwide – The head of France’s Internet regulating body – the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés – said that Google’s Right to be Forgotten laws should be applied worldwide for the delistings to be effective. They they issued an ultimatum – which you can read here – that they’ll impose sanctions on Google if they don’t apply this right worldwide within 15 days of its issuance. Therefore, Google has until June 27th to comply. One wonders what these sanctions are, and how they’ll be applied, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
  • Google Tests “Slow To Load” Warnings In Mobile Search Results – In an even further attempt to shame…er, I mean push site owners toward having faster sites, Search Engine Land is reporting that Google is toying with warning labels on mobile sites they consider too slow to load. This includes a bright yellow warning triangle and the words “Slow to Load” underneath the domain. The example shown in the article is from YouTube, so Google isn’t afraid to even mark their own services as slow.
  • YouTube Gaming Video Game Livestreaming Service Announced – Any gamer worth their salt knows what Twitch is, and if you don’t, it’s basically a livestreaming video service where people stream games as they play them for an audience, sometimes consisting of thousands of viewers. It’s become a very popular way to both market a game as well as for individuals to become prominent in video game streaming and promotion. Well, now Google apparently wants a piece of that pie (which is big enough for Amazon to have acquired Twitch some time back). Google announced during the ongoing Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) that they’ll be launching their own livestreaming service simply called YouTube Gaming, which will allow users to not only follow specific channels, but specific games as well. As someone who does this regularly – and finding YouTube provides better viewing experiences for users than Twitch – I’m super excited about this.

Other News

  • Bing To Begin Encrypting Searches This Summer, Expanding The Not Provided Problem – Years ago, Google announced that they would begin encrypting searches, so that in Google Analytics, rather than seeing actual keyword data, we began to see “Not Provided” more and more. It’s now to the point where Not Provided dominates search data in Analytics, unfortunately. Well, it looks like Bing will be following suit starting this summer, as they also move to encrypt all search data as well. While Bing said you’ll still be able to get “limited query term data,” it’s still a sad loss of data for marketers to base their strategies and tactics upon.
  • clockFacebook Updates News Algorithm To Take Time Reading Stories Into Account – Facebook has added an interesting new metric to their newsfeed algorithm, basically measuring how much time you take viewing a story in your feed. This will apparently measure how much time you spend looking at one piece of content compared to other pieces, and might rank that content more prominently. While this means little for branded page owners, it’s still an interesting technical item to talk about.
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Is Click to Expand Content Dead?

Click-to-expand content, accordion scripts, read-more text, or however you prefer to call it has been a topic of debate amongst SEOs for quite some time. Back in November of 2014, Search Engine Roundtable reported that John Mueller of Google threw us a curveball by stating “… if we can recognize that the content is actually hidden, then we’ll just try to discount it in a little bit.” But what does that actually mean? Will the content be indexed but not contribute to ranking, or even indexed at all? We decided to find out for ourselves by conducting a little test.

 

For this test, we created four pages with unique content that we would try to rank for specific keywords looking to solve the mystery of “what does Google do with hidden content?” Before we jump into the details, I want to clarify that, in our case, “hidden content” means text that’s hidden with CSS or JS but is still ultimately meant to be seen and add value. Typically this text lives under a “read more” button and is revealed to the user when that button is clicked on. Accordion scripts, as we call them, are used to retain a clean web page design while still offering the best content available for the user. We do NOT condone content hidden for use in blackhat SEO to manipulate rankings.

Let’s take a trip back down memory lane and re-visit our grade school friend the scientific method for this study.

  • Observation: We have noticed that some pages using accordion scripts have had inconclusive results after implementation. This can mean no increase in rankings, traffic being driven to a page, and other KPIs. These observations in conjunction with John Mueller’s statement have led us to believe that there is a correlation between the two.
  • Hypothesis: Does hidden content (in our test, an accordion script) provide some type of benefit for SEO purposes? Since we have seen mixed results in an uncontrolled environment, we believe that an accordion script does have an effect on the page’s ranking ability. We also believe that it has a positive contribution.
  • Prediction: Pages utilizing optimized accordion script content will outperform (outrank) pages with less content and no accordion script.
  • Experiment: We created two pairs of pages with unique content. Each pair would be focused on ranking organically for a specific keyword, but have different implementations of accordion scripts. Here is an outline of the pages:

 

image 1

Page set 1 is to determine if accordion scripts can help when ranking for a term with a properly optimized page (URL, page title, meta description, etc.).

 

image2

Page set 2 is to determine if non-primary keywords are indexed and can rank when inside an accordion script.

 

These pages were fetched and rendered in Google Webmaster Tools at the exact same time. The time elapsed over the course of the experiment was 60 days.

 

  • Results: So what did we find? Are accordion scripts still useful? Well the answer is: it depends. Depending on how you use them and the quality of your content, accordion scripts and other hidden content can still be beneficial.

 

In Page set 1, we found that Page 1B (additional keyword in accordion script) ranked higher than the page without the additional keyword in an accordion script (achieving rank 9 in Google). This shows that not only are crawlers crawling the content, but when used on a properly optimized page, they can help rank effectively for keywords. We do realize that Page 1B had one more instance of the keyword than Page 1A, and that this means that keyword density may be a major factor, but that was the purpose of this test: If we cannot (for some reason) display all of our content visibly on the page, will accordion scripts still yield a benefit? And the answer is a resounding “yes.”

 

On the other hand, Page set 2 yielded some different results. Neither page ranked well, but when doing an exact term match in Google for “los angeles organic seo,” the page with the exact match term displayed (Page 2A), while the page with the term in the accordion script (Page 2B) did not. This makes a strong argument that Google will prioritize displayed content over hidden content.

 

What we can conclude from this are a few things:

  • Accordion scripts and hidden content are still being crawled and indexed by Google
  • Content in accordion scripts can help boost a page’s authority, as long as the content in the accordion script is supporting the key term the page is optimized for
  • Relying on hidden content or “read more” links to try and rank non-primary key terms may not be as valuable as having all of your content visible

 

Well there you have it. If you have made it this far, I applaud you! You’re a true SEO looking for answers (or the curiosity got the best of you) to the hard-hitting questions.

 

We realize that this only proves accordion scripts as being a back-up option to add content to a webpage, and not necessarily that content in accordion scripts or hidden content is valued the same as content that is already displayed.

 

If you have any thoughts on this SEO experiment, let us know in the comments below!

 

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A Smattering of SEO News – Were We Ready for the Fallout?

Hello my friends, and welcome to another Smattering! These past few weeks we’ve been in the aftermath of a few Google updates, and the main thrust of today’s news summary covers that and more, so check it out!

Google News

  • google-phantom-blogSearchmetrics Dissects Google’s “Phantom II” Update – Back in early May, many webmasters and site owners began to notice severe fluctuations in their rankings. For a while, Google denied any update had taken place until, later in the month, they confirmed there had been an update in how their algorithms assess quality across individual pages (but they didn’t give us a ton of details beyond that). Thankfully, the folks at Searchmetrics have been studying the aftermath of the algorithm update and have found patterns in the pages that have fallen in value, such as pages with duplicate content, self-starting videos, ads above the fold, and more. It’s a great look at what not to do with a website, and should really be studied by anyone wanting to avoid penalties from this recent update. Check it out!
  • Google Accidentally Labels Innocent Sites As Harmful – In a recent glitch, some webmasters reported that when visiting their site via Chrome, they would get a warning saying their site was infected and included malware. Thankfully, Google admitted to discovering the problem and fixing it, hopefully quickly enough to prevent any serious traffic or credibility loss from the sites affected. I wonder what triggered this glitch in the first place…
  • 429Google Sees Both 429 And 503 Server Codes The Same – A little while back, Google’s John Mueller stated that a site returning a 503 Service Unavailable code for temporary downtime wouldn’t be penalized for being down for a while, because that’s an expected code used in a temporary downtime situation. Interestingly, Google’s John Mueller says Google sees the 429 code (which means Too Many Requests, usually resulting in a site being overloaded with traffic or using a rate limiting scheme) the exact same way: a temporary situation in which you won’t be penalized for. That’s a comfort, I’m sure.
  • Inactive Google My Business Pages Might Be Shut Down – Haven’t updated your Google My Business page in a while? You might want to get on that, as Google’s Jade Wang recently stated that pages that have been inactive for around six months might be unverified and deactivated! Apparently not being active for six months means the business isn’t real, so get to updating those pages, people!

Other News

  • Yelp Now Shows Direct Evidence Of Review Fraud – In a very cool move – as I’m a tremendous fan of transparency – business search and review engine Yelp recently added functionality to show users direct evidence that they believe review fraud has taken place. On certain businesses, an alert will pop up saying that Yelp caught reviewers red-handed in being paid for reviews, and then gives users a direct link to the evidence in a screen shot. This is pretty awesome, and will hopefully make Yelp even more reliable in the future.

yelp-review-show-evidence-alert

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A Smattering of SEO News – You Dropped a GoogleBomb on Me

Hello my friends, and welcome to another Smattering of SEO news! This week there’s a big kerfuffle about local results fluctuating all over the place as Google tries to remove racist results from local and Maps search. This and more in this week’s Smattering!

 

Google Local News

  • google-mapsGoogle Drops A GoogleBomb Of Racist Local Listings – Apparently there’s been a growing number of Google Local listings showing up under racist searches, bringing up results for Howard University and The White House. Since Google uses the entire web to find relevancy in local listings, this has led to problems such as these and others over the years. Google has thus implemented the GoogleBomb once again – the last time being the whole “miserable failure” debacle – to help curb Google Local of racist and offensive listings. This bombing might have caused some other issues, such as…
  • GoogleBomb Possibly Related To Local Web And Map Results Fluctuations – Several days after news of the GoogleBomb began to surface, many webmasters noticed rankings fluctuating wildly in both local web results as well as Google Maps. While the recent announcement of the GoogleBomb could be mere coincidental in relation to the timing of these fluctuations, Google isn’t outright saying what’s causing the fluctuations as of yet. However…
  • Google Looking Into Possible Location Bugs – Two theories have arisen as to the cause of the aforementioned local ranking fluctuations, including the recently announced GoogleBomb along with problems with Google’s location algorithms. Apparently, according to a Tweet from Google’s Gary Illyes – responding to a question from Screaming Frog’s Dan Sharp – he says they’re receiving numerous reports of Google’s IP overriding a searcher’s in the search results, and are investigating the matter. We’ll bring you more on this as we get it.

 

Google News

  • matt-cuttsNew Head Of Web Spam Team Announced, But Not Named – For over a decade, Matt Cutts was the head of Google’s Web Spam team, and in that time he became an integral part of the public face of Google, answering questions via video, conferences and so on. Cutts went on an extended leave many months ago, from which he still hasn’t returned. This has led Google to replace Cutts as head of the Web Spam team. Interestingly, while we know there IS a replacement, we don’t yet know WHO the replacement is. Many think Google is trying to temper expectations that this person will simply be the “New Matt Cutts,” intimating that the new person will simply be head of the Web Spam team rather than a public face of Google. I’m fascinated to see who they chose.

 

  • Student Launches “World White Web” To Help Diversify Google Image Results – A student at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, Sweden named Johanna Burai recently noticed something interesting when doing a Google Image search for “hand”: All the results she found – over 800 of them – were white. Apparently searches for other body parts turned up similar results. Burai has since launched “World White Web”, which involves the sharing of six pictures of non-white hands across social media channels in the hopes that Google will eventually pick these up and have them show up in their image results. It’ll be interesting to see if this works given this sort of thing is just what caused Google to drop a GoogleBomb on local results. We’ll keep you posted.

world-white-web-hands

 

Other News

  • Facebook Targets Yelp With Internal Restaurant Reviews – Facebook recently announced partnerships with companies such as Grub Street and Eater.com to showcase restaurant reviews inside of the Facebook interface. This will also be coupled with user reviews, showing reviews from friends when searching for local places to eat. Some see this as direct competition for the “crowdsourced” reviews on Yelp, helping make these reviews more useful for users. It’ll be interesting indeed to watch how this changes the local landscape.

 

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A Smattering of SEO News – Quality over Quantity

Hello friends, and welcome to this week’s Smattering! We have had some fantastic news this past week, the biggest being Google finally admitting there was something of an algorithm update recently, this one taking direct aim against low quality and thin content. Google’s been pushing for higher quality and more useful content for a while now, so it’ll be fascinating to watch this change play out in the coming weeks. Check it out!

 

Google News

  • Google Confirms Quality Algorithm Update – Earlier this month, many site owners and webmasters noticed their rankings fluctuating all over the place. This coincided with what looked to be manual penalties for supposedly thin content. Well, after much prodding and poking, Google has finally admitted that, yes Virginia, there was an algorithm update recently, specifically in how Google processes signals relating to quality. While content networks like Hubpages claim Google was targeting informational sites, or “how to” focused sites, it’s also been seen that sites with informational content have risen in the SERPs as well. The update didn’t seem to go after any particular type of site, just sites with thin or low-quality content, which is kind of awesome. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.
  • panda-penguin-sadGoogle Is Still Trying To Speed Up Panda And Penguin Updates – Several months ago, the folks at Google stated that they were trying to tweak Panda and Penguin so it would update more frequently, therefore giving hope to those who are still living under the penalties of these algorithms. Well, cut to recently, when Google’s John Mueller stated that Google is STILL trying to speed up the algorithms. I wonder when it’ll actually happen…
  • Webmaster Tools Rebranded To Search Console – For what seems like ages now, Google’s Webmaster Tools has been one of the last bastions of transparency when it comes to gathering data from the search engine, especially as Analytics has become less and less useful due to its “not provided” problem. Well, apparently Google recently came to the realization that the term “webmaster” doesn’t apply to everyone who uses their tool, so they’ve rebranded it Search Console. This is, “to make sure that our product includes everyone who cares about Search,” apparently. Other than the name, it doesn’t appear as if anything else has changed, thankfully.
  • Twitter Results Now Live In Google Mobile Results – The deal between Twitter and Google went live earlier this week, with Twitter results now showing up in the carousel of mobile results (mostly at the top, but sometimes at the bottom for some reason). While Twitter doesn’t get any direct ad revenue from these links, the increase in traffic and visibility should definitely be a boon for the social network.

tweets-in-google

  • Removing “Right To Be Forgotten” Requests Is A Very Manual Process – According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, Google gave them some insight on how they go about approving or denying “Right to be Forgotten” requests. Apparently it’s a very manual process, requiring weekly meetings to go over the requests, each of which are manually approved or denied. Also, since the law requiring this right is fairly vague, the final say is with Google itself, which is likely why only 30-40% of requests are approved, one would reckon.
  • seoWebmasterWorld: Google’s Top On-Site Ranking Factors Have Changed – If you’re not familiar with WebmasterWorld, it’s basically the go-to forum on the web to talk about search engines and some of the users there are VERY knowledgeable. One of these users is Roger Montti, and recently he came up with an updated list of what he thinks are the top on-site ranking factors for this year, which are, in order: user experience, shorter title tags, original content, engaging content, and so on. While it’s not a definitive list, it’s very enlightening and definitely worth some thought. Head over to the forum thread and check it out.

 

Other News

  • Bing Planning Own Mobilegeddon, Kind Of – Bing has announced that they too will be launching a mobile-friendly algorithm update to their search engine in the near future (no date was given). However, unlike the fairly scary proclamations coming from Google, Bing is saying their update won’t hurt the relevancy of their results and that even sites that aren’t mobile-friendly will still rank well if they remain relevant. We’ll be keeping an eye on this to see when and how it all comes about.