Locally Sourced: Search Engine Land’s Top 10 Local Search Columns Of 2015

What aspects of local SEO captured readers’ interest this year? From tactical guides to mistakes to avoid, here are the year’s most widely read local search columns.

The post Locally Sourced: Search Engine Land’s Top 10 Local Search Columns Of 2015 appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Dear Santa: An SEO Wish List

‘Twas the day before Christmas, and here on the site, Patrick Stox reveals what SEOs want from Santa tonight!

The post Dear Santa: An SEO Wish List appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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6 Ways SEO is Like the Grinch | HigherVisibility

6 Ways SEO is Like the Grinch | HigherVisibility


6 Ways SEO is Like the Grinch

Print

Posted: 12/22/2015 1:37pm | By:
Amanda DiSilvestro

So we all love SEO in the end, but it can be a rocky road to getting the results you want. This holiday season looking back on everything SEO, it’s amazing how easy it is to compare the industry to The Grinch. And so in the spirit of the holidays, check out five ways that SEO is just like the Grinch below.

Sneaky.

In order to steal all the toys from the Whos down in Whoville and pose as Santa the Grinch had to be sneaky, and we all know that in the SEO world sneaky changes and updates happen all the time. Remember when (not provided) data was removed? Or when the Phantom updates were released? And there’s a lot more where that came from.

Lives up on a hill in a cave.

When it comes to SEO in regards to Google, the rules are above us all and are not reachable. We’d like to think that we have some sort of idea what’s going on up there and we have some sort of control, but when it really comes down to it SEOs are at the mercy of those sitting up on a hill in what may as well be a cave.

Takes away from you unexpectedly.

The Grinch of course spends the better part of Christmas night taking away toys and stockings and decorations from all the children in Whoville without giving any warning (which was really the point). Google does this often. Sometimes we hear about an impending algorithm update happening in the next two days, but sometimes their changes and new features and announcements come out of nowhere. It can cause a company to have to change their strategy or stop what they’re doing to learn more about the update which can take away time, and usually this wasted time is therefore completely unpredictable.

Irritated.

Just as the Grinch was irritated with the cheerful spirits of those down in Whoville, Google, users, and businesses alike get bothered by spam, poor quality content, and above all else link building for the sake of link building (as opposed to writing for readers). Google is constantly looking for ways to make sure that those trying to improve their SEO are not scamming the system and trying to push out keyword-rich anchor text and unnatural content all for the sake of rankings. Again, we’ve seen this with their introduction of the disavow tool, penalties for using keyword-rich anchor text, penalties for buying directory links, etc.

Has a change of heart.

The Grinch saw a change of heart when he saw the Whos down in Whoville celebrate Christmas even with no gifts, which of course is where he discovered the real spirit and meaning of the holiday. Even though it may seem like Google and the other search giants are out to get us, they listen to their users. It may take them a while to come around, but they have the best intentions in the end. They work hard to make sure that the web is fair and you have to really put out great content in order to see a great ranking, and although this may mean more work for SEOs in the end, it’s worth it. This may not necessarily be a “change of heart” from Google’s standpoint, but SEOs attitudes toward Google often come around time and time again.

Has potential to save the day.

It was the Grinch that saved the day for the Whos by brining them back all of their presents. In the SEO world, it’s all of your efforts that can help save the day when you feel like your business is having a bad quarter or year. If you really put in the time then SEO will deliver, you just have to be patient. Before you know it you will climb up those organic rankings, have a website full of relevant content, and have built a community for your brand.

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In-SERP Conversions: Dawn of the 100% Conversion Rate?

Posted by Alan_Coleman

By now, we’re all pretty used to Knowledge Graph results in the SERPs. But what could it mean when Google offers the ability to make a purchase, a call, book an appointment, or otherwise convert customers within those results? In this video blog, Alan Coleman speculates about a potential 100% conversion rate in the SERPs and raises the question of Google’s role in an increasingly app-centric world.



Video transcript

In this video blog, I’m going to talk to you about a key trend we’ve noticed with Google here at Wolfgang.

12 months ago, the key trend that we were talking about was Google had shifted its focus. From Google’s birth right up until last year, its objective was to get you to the website that was most relevant, most authoritative, most likely to answer your question — whereas what we saw 12 months ago was Google taking a lot more ownership of your journey from question to answer. And what we were seeing 12 months ago was a lot more questions literally being answered on the SERPs, pulling information from Wikipedia, from other websites and giving that to the user directly on Google.

A very recent update to this innovation is that Google is now actually using their own search data to give you further details. Last weekend I was searching for a restaurant and not only did it give me the reviews in the knowledge panel — the website, phone number, and opening hours — it also used its own data to give me the popular times: when I was most likely to get seated in the restaurant, and when it could be a problem.

So, armed with that information, we could go and have a lovely Italian lunch last weekend. But it doesn’t just stop at answering the question.

Conversions facilitated on the SERPs

Google’s methodology has always been to test things out in the organic list first and then, when they’ve learned the mechanics of it, they might try and commercialize it. What we’re beginning to see is not just questions being answered on the SERPs, but we’re beginning to see conversions being facilitated by the SERPs.

What you’re seeing here is someone searching for a medical practitioner. The searcher is actually able to book an appointment directly from the search engine results page.

Another recent innovation: call-only campaigns. Somebody’s searching for a courier, for example, and again, they can call the courier directly from the search engine results without even visiting the website. We’ve also seen click-to-call campaigns, another example of Google users being able to convert directly from the SERP. Very exciting! In theory, we’re talking about 100% conversion rates here: everyone who clicks on your ad becomes a lead or becomes a sale.

There’s also this beta which is currently out — with a very limited number of retailers in the States — whereby searchers are taken from search, to checkout, to placing their order in 3 clicks, all happening on a Google property.

googlepurchase.gif

Image courtesy of Google

Why I believe this is significant:

This is Google safeguarding its position as we move to an app ecosystem. World Wide Web usage is actually in decline of late, because people are moving so much of their web behavior to apps, and Google’s strength has been that it’s our gateway to the Web. Google went down for a period of 4 minutes two years ago, and World Wide Web traffic fell off a cliff — it declined by 40% for that period.

Google is our gateway to the Web. However, if we start moving our Internet usage to apps, Google needs to be relevant there as well. I see that answering questions within Google and on Google, allowing people to convert, again in Google and on Google, is a move for them to safeguard their position as the place where we get our questions answered and where we do our transactions on the Web.

***

Do you have any thoughts on in-SERP conversions? Join the discussion in the comments below!

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Brands That Won (and Lost) Google in 2015

Posted by Dr-Pete

As part of the MozCast 10K (a 10,000-keyword daily Google tracker), we keep a close eye on the domains with the most page-one Google real-estate. As of December 1st, these were the “Big 10”:

“Share” represents the percentage of total results each domain has across the entire data set. Of course, absolute rankings can vary a lot depending on the data set, but what’s more interesting is how any given brand moves over time.

We watch day-to-day movements closely as search marketers, and often track winners and losers when Google announces a big update, but I thought it would be interesting to take the long-term view. Who are the brands who won and lost the most Google real estate in the past year? All of the data from this post is from the MozCast 10K and spans December 1, 2014–December 1, 2015.

Biggest winners in 2015

If we look at absolute gains in total page-one Google real estate, the winners are in the table below. The “Rank” columns shows their current position in the Top 100:

Online retail giant Amazon.com held tight to the #2 position in our data set, making the biggest overall gain. Etsy made impressive gains, jumping from the #81 spot at the end of 2014 to the #31 spot on December 1st, 2015. Even with its financial woes, Groupon performed solidly on Google, moving from the #87 spot to #40. Instagram jumped from outside of the Top 100 entirely (#141) to #57.

It’s interesting to note that two of the biggest gains in 2015 were for Google properties, YouTube and Google Play. YouTube moved from #5 to #4, and Google Play came in just shy of the Top 10 at #12. YouTube gains don’t count growth in Video Cards, large video links which dominate some Google results. Here’s an example Video Card from a search for “chandelier”:

The numbers in the chart above may seem small, but keep in mind that there’s only a 0.01% difference in total Google real-estate between #9 and #10 in the overall “Big 10.” A tenth-of-a-percent represents massive land holdings in the world of page-one results.

Most improved in 2015

Another way to slice-and-dice winners in 2015 is to look at sites with the biggest relative gains. In other words, who improved the most relative to their position in 2014? Here are the Top 10 Most Improved:

Six of these are repeats from the overall winners list, but looking at relative changes, Etsy’s and Instagram’s gains are even more impressive. Both sites more than doubled their page-one Google real estate in our data set, with Etsy seeing gains of over 150%.

Biggest losers in 2015

Google real estate is limited, and for every winner there ultimately has to be one or more losers. These are the sites that took the heaviest absolute losses in our data set:

Social media giant Twitter was the big loser in 2015, falling out of the Top 10, from #6 in 2014 to #15 at the end of 2015. This “loss” may be deceptive, however, as Google and Twitter struck a deal in August of this year to display Tweets directly in search results. Here’s an example, from a branded search for “Etsy”:

Tweets are now a true Google vertical result, occupying an organic position and appearing in almost 6% of the searches that we track. Fellow social media site, Pinterest, also lost ground in 2015, after nearly breaking into the Top 10 (they were #11 in 2014). Unfortunately for Pinterest, their losses weren’t offset by a sweetheart deal with Google.

Google-dominating Wikipedia showed a weak spot in their armor this year, losing twice the ground that #2 Amazon gained. Wikipedia took some losses early in 2015, and then ran into more trouble with their mid-year switch to a secure (https:) site.

Online auction site and aspiring retailer eBay added to their troubles in 2015, dropping out of the Top 10 from #9 to #17. eBay took heavy losses in May of 2014, but then partially recovered going into the beginning of 2015. As of December 1st, all of those short-term gains have disappeared in our data set.

Yelp gave up its #4 position in 2015 to YouTube, and seemed to suffer from some of Google’s local changes this year. Retailers Walmart and Overstock also saw year-over-year losses, as did online answer site wikiHow.

An oddly dominant site in 2014, the NIH’s National Library of Medicine site dropped from #17 to #20. Their presence may be the result of a high number of medical queries in our data set, and was probably impacted by a handful of niche Google updates, including the launch of the Medical Knowledge Panel, such as this one for “type 2 diabetes”:

On the bright side, it looks like the Tax Man took a hit in 2015, with the IRS dropping from #19 to #27. While it seems odd that two government (.gov) sites hit our list of losers, I suspect this was coincidental.

The envelope, please…

While Amazon’s continued dominance is impressive, and Wikipedia’s tumble from grace is certainly worth noting, I think the big story this year is Etsy. In addition to taking the #2 spot in total gains, they more than doubled their 2014 Google page-one real estate and rocketed from the #81 overall position in our data set to #31. Etsy and other niche online retailers will be the ones to watch in 2016.

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Get Ready for the Evolution of Long Tail Keywords, Coming Soon to Mobile Apps

Posted by Royh

Last month Google made a big announcement, potentially signaling a game changer for search. Google is quietly rolling out app-only content indexing, even if that content isn’t actually hosted on the indexed app.

So, what does that actually mean?

The game-changing implication is that when you search Google from your phone or tablet, app-only content will “stream” directly to your mobile device — even if you don’t have the app installed.

Thus, if I search for the key phrase “hotel tonight in Chicago,” I’ll see results from mobile apps that aren’t installed on my device, sending me directly to app-only content “streamed” from a virtual app hosted on the Google cloud.

Hotel Tonight

(Image credit: TechCrunch)

How is app content indexed differently?

Before this announcement, direct deep links to app content were displayed only if the matching app was already installed on your mobile device, as in the example below:

(Image credit: Google)

With this change, web content no longer needs to match app content.

According to Google’s Rajan Patel leading the new initiative:

“We want users to be able to have access to this content, regardless of whether it’s available on the web or in an app.”

How will this announcement change the way applications are discovered?

Well, Google is effectively lowering the bar for app indexing, and app owners can score a quick win if they act in a timely manner — a few tips on this below.

The new long tail landing page for mobile

The new app content streams are essentially equivalent to landing pages for a desktop website. Both share the same principal: promoting select content from the website or app.

That means focusing on long tail keywords. Simply changing the title and description of the home page of the app is no longer enough — targeting those long tail keywords is going to be essential.

To find the keywords that send traffic to competitors, I’ll use the SimilarWeb app analysis feature as an example. In this case, you can see how the search engine keywords that sent traffic to Snapchat’s competitors — keywords searched in the Google app — drove traffic to Snapchat after the search, and were basically all keywords from app indexing.

What’s the key here?

Say hello to the app indexing API!

In order to make this whole process possible, app developers need to implement the app indexing API. It’s not new, but now that you don’t need to match app content to web content, it can be your secret weapon to torrents of mobile traffic.

The indexing API doubles as a ranking signal to Google, so all the mobile apps that implement and complete the app indexing API will gain a ranking edge.

Measure mobile engagement stats

Once you implement the indexing API, you’ll show Google how much time users spend inside your app, and what they do there.

If you need a benchmark to go by, you can measure how your competitors’ apps are doing in terms of time on the app and session per user. Here’s an example from SimilarWeb’s app engagement function:

Again, the first thing you need to do in order to get started is implement the app indexing API, as I said earlier — since Google factors it as one of the ranking signals, it will favor the app owners that complete the process.

If you want some more instruction and technical walkthroughs for getting your app indexed, you can check out this piece by Bridget Randolph on the subject. Just keep in mind that this is still in beta.

Google is testing the process on a few apps that agreed to participate in this experiment. It’s still unclear when the update will be released out of beta, but I’m sure several clear winners (and losers) will emerge when this fully rolls out.

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What You Need to Know About Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by willcritchlow

You may have heard the term “AMPs” thrown around lately. What exactly are Accelerated Mobile Pages, what do they mean for search, and how can you prepare for it all? In this week’s British Whiteboard Friday, Will Critchlow and Tom Anthony of Distilled lay out all the important details.

Accelerated Mobile Pages Whiteboard

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

Video Transcription

Tom: Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to British Whiteboard Friday. We’re filming this in the London HQ of Distilled. This is the founder and CEO, Will Critchlow. I’m Tom Anthony, head of the R&D department, and today we’re going to be talking about Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Will…

What is an Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP for short)?

Will: I’m glad you asked, Tom. So an Accelerated Mobile Page (or AMP, for short) is a project from Google and Twitter designed to make really fast mobile pages. At its essence, it’s basically a stripped-down form of HTML, a diet HTML if you will. Tom will talk a little bit more about the actual details on that.

But fundamentally, it’s an HTML page designed to be super lightweight and critically designs really fast loading. So Google, Twitter, a bunch of other companies have rolled this out — kind of in response to projects like the Facebook Instant Articles project from Facebook and Apple News and so forth. This is designed to be the open response. So it’s open source, and there are all kinds of elements of openness to the project.

What makes AMP so fast?

Tom: Absolutely. So as Will said, it’s like a diet HTML. So certain tags of HTML you just can’t use. Things like forms, that are out. You also need to use a streamlined version of CSS. You can use most of CSS, but some parts are falling under best practice and they’re just not allowed to be used. Then JavaScript is basically not allowed at all. You have to use an off-the-shelf JavaScript library that they provide you with, and that provides things like lazy loading.

So the idea is that the whole platform is designed just for pure readability, pure speed. Things such as images don’t load until they’re scrolled into view, and the JavaScript does all that for you. We anticipate they’re going to be at the point where the JavaScript library is built into certain operating systems so you don’t even need that either. And then all of this is designed to be really heavily cached so that Google can host these pages, host your actual content right there, and so they don’t even need to fetch it from you anymore.

Will, you’re going to tell us how that works?

How this works in your mobile device

Will: Yeah, so that’s the diagram we have in the middle here. So we’re all used to this idea of a regular web page. I’ve called this WWW in the diagram. This is the regular desktop version of the page. In the source code, if you have an AMP version, you would designate that with the rel AMP HTML link, which points over to your, what we call “hosted AMP page.

So this is a page on your own domain constructed of this stripped down form of HTML. So if you want to see this in action, I’ve referenced the Guardian here. They were one of the first reference partners. You can put /amp on the end of any news story on the Guardian website and see the AMP HTML. It’s linked in display with the AMP HTML link in the source code.

So that’s the hosted AMP. That has nothing to do with Google. You can just do that, and it is designed to be faster. But they’ve also rolled out this free hosted cached platform part of the deal as well, which is labeled here with the gstatic.

So when you actually see these things showing up in Google search results, which we’ll talk about in a moment, the version that shows up there will typically be hosted on a gstatic.com, in other words a Google-hosted cached version. And critically both of these, both the one you host yourself and the version that is cached around the Internet potentially even by other people as well, both of those would contain the rel=canonical back to the original. It’s similar. It’s like a rel alternative in a mobile world.

So it’s fast because the HTML is cut down, but it’s also potentially designed that these things are bits of content that can be cached potentially by anyone without rel=canonical pointing back to you.

Tom: I think it’s worth saying that even on the cached version of the pages, Google have said that you’re still going to be able to provide your own adverts. We don’t know the details of it yet, but they’ve built a platform where you can serve adverts from AdSense, Outbrain, most of the major advertising platforms, and you’ll still accrue all the revenue. They don’t take any of that stuff.

Also with the cached versions you can use Analytics. At the moment, the rolled-out version you can just use a tracking pixel. But we know they’re working on a platform where it’s a sort of vendor-neutral platform for things like Google Analytics, Omniture, and all of that stuff. So you can still get all of the analytics. You can still provide ads to your pages and everything, even when you’re served via the cached versions of the pages.

Will: Yeah, that’s very important. That’s part of that JavaScript framework that we were talking about, where you get these limited containers, which are a kind of very limited JavaScript functionality that you can use yourself.

Impact on the SERPs

So let’s talk a little bit about how this might actually show up in search results. So first of all, what we know at the moment is it’s looking like it’s mobile only. It’s right there in the name, Accelerated Mobile Pages, which is why I brought along my mobile whiteboard to demonstrate this for you. This is the AMP version showing up on a mobile device, tablet, phablet, not quite sure what format.

Right now it’s mobile only. It’s talking about being mobile. It’s not even rolled out just yet. But in the demo that we’ve seen, it’s showing up as a carousel above the regular blue links, typically for news-related terms, because most of this is focused on obviously reading contents. The people who’ve rolled this out first have been news publishers typically. So you search for a news-related term. You see this carousel of swipeable images above the blue links. Click on one of those, it opens super fast, that’s the whole point, and then you can swipe to another AMP page across the way.

It is actually also displacing or appearing for some terms where you’d expect to see paid search ads. I wouldn’t read too much into that. This is just in the demo at this point. In the long run, maybe there are paid versions of this, who knows.

We’re expecting this to be rolling out soon. Google’s latest official line is maybe February in 2016. But, one way or another, we expect to see this in the world some time pretty soon.

So it’s not there yet, but it will be soon.

What can we do to prepare, Tom?

Tom: So there’s two things. Firstly, you want to be able to start building AMP pages for your site, and you want to make sure that those pages are valid, because as we said, it’s like a diet version of HTML, but it’s very, very strict on how you build the HTML. The tags have to be in certain orders and certain places. You can’t use certain things. And if you do any of that, your AMP page is invalid and they probably won’t be using it.

So to validate your AMP pages, you actually use a tool that’s built into Chrome. So if you open the developer tools in Chrome, there’s a system there — and you can look it up on the AMP project website — where you can actually go to a page and you can ask it to validate, “Is this an AMP page,” and it will tell you any problems with that page.

So one, build AMP pages and make sure you’re doing it well, and the second bit is working out how to streamline building pages. If you’re on a sort of CMS or anything like that, then obviously you want this to be an integral part of your process moving forward. You want AMP pages to be something that all pages or as many pages as possible have an AMP version of those pages. So there’s already — for the most popular CMSs, things like WordPress already have plugins available — that you can go away, you can download that plugin, and basically for a lot of the pages it will do a lot of the work for you in creating those AMP pages. Also, obviously, if you’re building your own CMS, then you should prioritize trying to get similar functionality into that CMS.

Will: And now is the time to do that, because being there at the launch is the time to get the kind of kick, the benefit from when these things roll out. So that’s a lot of the background on it.

For more detail reading, we’ve got a few resources here you can go and check out. This is an actual demo of what it might look like in search results. You can try out your own searches on that kind of streamlined Google.

Tom: It’s worth saying at the moment you’ll only see the demo results at this page obviously. So you can only…

Will: Yes, and on a mobile device.

Tom: And on a mobile device, yeah.

Will: And then this is the original, the main project web page where you can find the GitHub repository of code and all those kind of validators and so forth, and we’ve written some more here. This is a link to our website.

So yeah, we would recommend you check it out if you’re into publishing. This is an opportunity for publishers to get a mobile head start.

So thanks for joining us on this Whiteboard Friday. Speak to you soon.

Tom: Bye-bye.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Additional Information and Resources

  • g.co/ampdemo – Demo of what AMPs might look like in search results
  • ampproject.org – The main project web page, where you’ll find a technical intro, tutorial, GitHub repository, and more
  • dis.tl/amp-pages – Further information on AMPs and how they work

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