Daily Archives: October 30, 2021

Keeping Your Intent Messaging on Target – In Search SEO Podcast

By | October 30, 2021


Don’t forget, you can keep up with the In Search SEO Podcast by subscribing on iTunes or by following the podcast on SoundCloud!

Summary of Episode 59: How to Stick to Your Intent Targeting Message

[This is a general summary of the podcast and not a word for word transcript.]



The great Jessica Levenson joins us to talk about how to actually doing what we say we ought to do when trying to create targeted content:



  • How to take the dream of targeted content and then actually write it
  • How to make sure your content actually aligns to your target audience
  • Where targeted content is heading as SEO evolves

Plus, we put Google’s relationships on the couch as the search engine has taken yet another entity understanding advancement!

Relationships: The Next Frontier of Google’s Entity Understanding [00:02:42 – 00:15:30]

On February 4th, Barry Schwartz reported on a new “See the connection” button in the Knowledge Panel. The example Barry showed was for someone who searched for French Montana and then clicked on DJ Khaled via the People Also Search For box which produced a “See the connection” button above the DJ Khaled panel. When you click the tab it expands to show a Featured Snippet about the connection between the two celebrities.

This is not the first time Google has done this and the mobile Knowledge Panel is not the only way to access this “connection.” For example, one of Tom Petty’s greatest songs is Into the Great Wide Open and while watching the music video Mordy noticed that a very young Johnny Depp appears in the video.

Anyway, Mordy searched for Tom Petty Johnny Depp and just like that he got an Explore Panel with the header “Tom Petty Johnny Depp.” And this panel talks about the very music video that Mordy watched. Pretty good Google!

So the fact that the format was the Explore Panel is very significant. You see, it wasn’t in a Featured Snippet rather it was in the Explore Panel which is a combo of a Featured Snippet and a Knowledge Panel. Meaning, the content in an Explore Panel is entity-centric so the use of the Explore Panel means Google knows Johnny Depp and Tom Petty together are an entity. Meaning, Google now knows that relationships per se are entities! That is freaking huge!

In other words, we always knew that Google knew the connection between two entities… that part of entity A’s identity was a connection to entity B, but now Google knows that relationships per se are an entity. This relationship is actually a sub-entity formed by the merger of two other entities which is why you get the Explore Panel because the Explore Panel shows for very focused “topics” that fall under another entity’s identity. For example, the keyword JFK  Space Race used to bring up the Explore Panel because of JFK’s role in the Space Race. This relationship is its own entity but at the same time falls under the entity we know as JFK.

To cap this all off, the People Also Search For box of this Explore Panel has other entity combos like Tom Petty and Cindy Crawford, Tom Petty and Elvis, etc. Meaning, Google knows that what’s related to this relationship Explore Panel are other relationships.

Mordy has been wracking his brain as to how Google will use relationships to evaluate sites. It could be that Google is starting to use this to determine the identity of a site. Mordy sees this more for commerce sites because here you have the meeting of two entities, the site and the product it sells. The more specific the product, the stronger the identity. Think about it like going to a general practitioner versus a specialist. The fact that this doctor is related to a very specific niche of medicine gives the doctor their identity. Thus, Mordy wonders if Google will use this to give sites that have a very specific niche preference when placeed along sites like Amazon that offer a plethora of items.

How to Actually Create Content that Targets Your Audience: A Conversation with Jessica Levenson [00:15:30 – 00:49:45]

Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO podcast interview session. Today, our Women in Search interview series continues with a renowned industry speaker and a highly regarded SEO strategist. You can find her as part of Search Engine Journal’s new eBook on 2020 trends and SEO. She is Jessica Levenson.

Welcome!

Jessica: Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here.

M: I’m really excited that you’re here because you are a Boston sports fan and there’s nothing I detest more than Boston sports.
So today we’re not talking about Boston sports and how horrible of individuals Tommy, Bill, and Alex are. Let’s talk about creating content that actually targets user intent because the idea of targeting user intent and actually doing it are two very different things. From my own personal experience, I will have the best of intentions, I think about my audience, I think about what I want to write, I think about how Google looks at the intent behind what I’m trying to write, but when I sit down to write what it turns out to be is not what I thought it would be. The intent is off, the messaging is off, it’s all a little bit off. And I’m wondering, despite our best efforts, why, in your opinion, does that end up happening more times than not?

J: I think there are a couple of barriers or stumbling blocks. You mentioned research and targeting, and historically, I still see a lot of writers or content creators who don’t actually do that analysis upfront. They’re not checking the SERPs. They’re not understanding the language that customers or readers are using and what problems they actually want to solve. What I typically see instead is a combination of assuming what the search language is as well as thinking that intent just means that you have the right topic without delving into the specifics of what searchers are looking for or the type of content that they need or want because they think that determines a lot of the framing that gets used and that can be severely problematic. I guess what the answer really boils down to is that a nonexistent or abbreviated research cycle is the biggest barrier.
Another barrier I see are writers or editors who are coming from traditional schooling backgrounds, either journalism or business writing, who have inherent writing styles that don’t necessarily translate as well in search. That can be problematic because they get hung up on things that are old fashioned in terms of how people digest content today. People today want quick content that’s easy to scan and get through.
A third barrier is overthinking optimization and turning out content that is just horrible to read. Another barrier that I think really trips people up as well depending on their background is what I call marketingese. Marketingese refers to marketing jargon or lingo that can be really difficult to parse where it doesn’t match the language that people use when they’re searching. Very often the only people who understand this jargon are the marketing individuals of that brand.

M: Yeah, it’s so easy to fall back on what’s easy to do. I speak from experience where if I think I’m doing this I always have somebody outside read it, someone who has no idea about the product or no idea about whatever it is I’m writing about. And I’ll ask them can you clearly and quickly understand this?

J: Exactly. That’s a really great way to look at it. The way that you market yourself as opposed to the way people think about the problems or issues they’re having are often vastly different.

M: I’m wondering, what do you do when you sit down to write something from the research process to the writing process? How do you go about making sure that you’re aligned to your strategy and you’re aligned to the actual writing itself?

J: First things first, I need to understand my goal and who I’m targeting. Once I get beyond that point, one of the things I do, before I start crafting, is to take an inventory of what I have in place already. By that I mean I’m going to look at the content that exists and I’m going to make sure that I’m not rewriting something that doesn’t need to be rewritten or just really needs an update. Next, I realize what my gaps are, what needs to be rounded out in terms of my coverage because all these things should be interlinked as part of a journey of working together. Then my subject matter expertise or my experience in the space is going to give me a rough skeleton idea of what I need to create.
I’m going to have some gut expectations and then I’m going to do some competitive research by looking at what my direct and search competitors are doing. I’m going to use tools like Keywords Everywhere, Keyword Tool IO, SEMRush, Moz, the list is really endless. I like them all for very different reasons. I’m going to use that data to support my next steps in my final plan.
Once I select keywords, I’m going to start looking at the SERPs in an incognito browser. I’m going to look at the SERP features on the page. I’m going to make notes about what I’m seeing before I actually dive into the links themselves. Do the results look ambiguous? Are they a mixture of things? Does Google see there are different needs versus one centralized focus? Are they specifically decision awareness or consideration? And then I’ll go again back to the features and I’ll take note. I’ll see if there’s a video carousel and I’ll consider whether I need to create a video for in addition to my text-based content. Or maybe there are images or a People Also Ask box and I’ll add that to my outline.
I’m going to look specifically at the top-ranking pieces, what they have, how they’re covering it, and what they may be using for conversion tactics. In addition to that manual review, I like using tools like Market News, which happens to be my favorite at this point, to pull together some of that competitive data beyond my notes, including the target length of my content. Again, not all of this is exact, it’s really just there to give me a guideline as I’m not going to always hit that number exactly. These tools are going to help me gauge what I need to do to beat the competition and ultimately build out my content briefs. I’m going to work with my team and then we’re going to iterate. And, obviously, after that point, reporting and analytics are going to be important which involves watching what that content does and coming back and addressing anything further as necessary.

M: You know, it’s so funny that you actually go to Google and look at the SERP. I feel that so many people don’t do that. And there’s really no substitute at this point for just going and seeing what Google prefers. What does it prefer? What other intents are being met? To what extent are other intents being met? What is above the fold & what’s not above the fold? It’s really valuable and people just don’t do it.


J:
I know, it’s frustrating because very often whoever you’re working with will say, “I don’t understand why my content isn’t working” and then you go in and you do that inventory research process and you can see these massive gaps. If you don’t nail that you’re not going to be seen and then you may have a great piece of content that you’ve crafted but it’s just not doing anything for you.

M: It’s ironic as it’s probably the easiest, least time-consuming thing you can possibly do.

J: Absolutely. And once you’re used to it, it’s a rote exercise. Even when I’m outside of my SEO persona I’m immediately able to tell on the surface whether the search is feeding my needs or not. And it’s useful in terms of doing this research and it’s kind of hard to understand why somebody wouldn’t.

M: We just **** tools. We’re a tool obsessed industry which is good for us because we’re a tool… Wait, that didn’t come out right.

J: Yeah, that’s okay. And tools don’t replace humans, they benefit humans. I **** having an arsenal of tools, but the reality is there’s a human element there that matters and you’re serving a human. Why wouldn’t you expect to have that additional layer to make sure that you’re satisfying your buyers or your readers?

M: Speaking of things that tools can’t do. You mentioned CTAs and it got me thinking that often enough we’ll run a nice piece of content that let’s assume that it’s targeted towards a particular intent that makes sense or a particular pain point. And then we write the CTA which is something as generic as “Get Started Now” or “Buy Here” here or “Click Now,” and we don’t create a CTA that’s actually aligned to the beautiful content that we’ve written. I’m wondering what your approach is to make sure that the CTA is aligned to what you’re doing for your audience and to what you’ve already written.

J: This is just a slight difference, but I think it’s helpful in terms of giving better value to the user. I actually like to focus on call-to-value versus call-to-action. What is someone getting from the content if they click through? It’s the difference between giving them something valuable versus asking them to do something. I think that language can make a really big difference. Are you giving them a template? Are you giving them a trial? Are you giving them the knowledge that ultimately helps them make a decision? Is it something exclusive that cannot be found elsewhere? I think that’s actually the bigger win here and the bigger opportunity and ensuring obviously, that tone automatically is more specific versus generic because you’re focusing on what they get versus this vague Click Here, Learn X, or, Fill this form out, which nobody ever wants to do. Instead, you’re saying grab this trial that will help you monitor your whatever. Whatever the tool or the application there’s a better way to get them and it’s all tied to the value that you’re offering them.

M: I never thought of it like that. I like that a lot. Could you offer an example off the top of your head? It’s so hard sometimes as a free trial is very generic. What are you going to say? How do you write something valuable that really piques the user’s interest when it is something that’s not really dynamic?

J: It depends based on what your application is of your target audience. I think a good one is something that helps you position your value for your department. Let’s say you have an application that really helps you with robust analytics and maybe your target audience is SEOs then it could be something around getting your CMO bought into SEO by using this robust platform. I know this is not crafted well because I’m doing it off the cuff here, but that’s the kind of targeting I would expect. The value-added isn’t just the tool, but maybe it’s the fact that you’ll get your CMO totally bought into SEO reporting.

M: Let’s talk about what you mentioned before about tone and CTAs on the page. I’m wondering, as a writer, a lot of these questions are coming from me as a writer and not as an SEO and I think of it like Murphy’s Law. If I focus too much on intent, I lose the clarity of my message, but when I focus too much on the other ancillary things like tone, design, and so forth, I lose intent a little bit. Do you think there’s sort of a problem in doing one batch of writing metrics versus SEO metrics or is there a way to balance both? How do you balance both at the same time?

J: I think the first thing to understand is to not lose sight of your audience because the reality is that if the page is a poor experience with the way that it reads and the way people are able to interact with your page, then they’re going to bounce.
I think that SEO will happen naturally if you’ve done that research phase and you’re informing your writing team ahead of time. That’s not to say that it’s always going to go off without a hitch as it’s not always going to be easy, but taking into consideration all those user experiences like bullet points, making sure that it’s easy to read, that it’s easy to navigate through, that readers can easily scan and get to what they need, that you’ve integrated subheadings, you provided links to other supporting content, and that the call-to-value is present.
It’s funny that you mentioned this earlier because I had this as a specific note, but have you had other people, including people from your audience, weigh in on your content pages? Obviously, you can’t do that all the time because you’d be caught in a never-ending block of waiting for feedback and everybody’s not going to do that. But those are the things I think that work well. Having that iterative cycle versus writing the whole thing and then shoehorning a bunch of stuff in. It’s more like doing the research and analysis upfront, craft some really great content, and then go back and tweak it and make sure that the experience on-page with that content is good. I think those are the ways that you can make sure you don’t lose sight of both a positive experience and miss out on intent as well.

M: That’s a really good point. You shouldn’t look to a third party or third person all the time because a lot of people are very opinionated and at the same time, it’s time-consuming. There’s a lot of back and forth and I think content marketers need to be self-aware and say to themselves, “Okay, this piece is pretty much fine, this piece I think is missing something, somebody should look at this piece.” That awareness to make those decisions is not only going to save you time, but it will help you write better content.

J: Exactly and that stuff starts to happen even more naturally as you progress through the other pieces because you’ve had those conversations and you’re retaining that information hopefully and applying at a later time as well.

M: I guess you could say that the ultimate skill for a writer is being self-aware, sort of like life.
You mentioned ease of navigation and that sort of got me thinking. I always feel this happens to me. I hit a landing page and there’s always something missing about it. I don’t know what it is. When I’m looking at landing pages, I just find the whole experience doesn’t work. I feel in an age where there’s so much indirect interaction on web pages there should just be more. The epitome of this would be Google’s travel site. You go to the Local Finder, you look for hotels in New York City, you look for more hotels, you see the whole list there and after the first four in the local pack, you get an entire website of hotels or travel options. There was so much interaction there between the user and the website and it was so much more so than say, Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, etc. I feel that Google’s onto something with that. When I hit a landing page and all I see is your message and I can’t really interact with it and there isn’t any media, then I feel like it’s falling flat and not connecting with users because we’re doing things the old way because we don’t have a better way. Am I crazy is there something to what I’m saying? Don’t answer the crazy part.

J: Absolutely, I think it harkens back to the static dry landing pages that you would see in the old school days which would drive people to either pay per click campaigns or newsletters and your whole focus, beyond getting them to convert, was to make sure they never go anywhere else. I think that became a bit pervasive and I think you’re on to it. I think you need to make sure you’re incorporating other elements like video or other storytelling elements on the page. Something that’s engaging and has some level of value for the people that you’re trying to help. I think the thing that sticks with me a lot and I really liked how they position themselves is actually how HubSpot focuses a lot on delight. It sounds a little bit corny on the initial pass of that word, or maybe it’s just me, but I think that is a really good thing to apply to the way that people interact with your content on the landing page. So, depending on how they’re getting there, what are you doing to keep them there? What are you doing to give them a positive impression of who you are and what you’re offering? Again, coming back to things, add elements like visuals, rich media, video, and maybe a link to a podcast that gives them a better idea of what you have to offer them is a positive experience and it’s going to start to build something with the people that are hitting your content.

M: Yeah. I’m so guilty of not doing that. I think everyone’s sort of guilty of not doing that to a large extent. Hopefully that will change.

J: Absolutely. Everybody’s got an umpteen number of tasks and five minutes to get it all done. I think instead of doing fewer items better, we get trapped in this cycle of doing a million things and messing them all up.

M: I think that describes my life in every aspect of it from writing to child-rearing.

J: Right. We’re all there.

M: That’s right. At least I’m not alone. Before we end off, what are some of the aspects of considering or targeting user intent that you feel content creators are just missing the ball on?

J: As I mentioned earlier, I think they don’t get deep enough into the analysis of what is resonating with users by looking at those SERPs. I don’t think they grasp the value of having content that builds that brand affinity or awareness and takes advantage of people who aren’t yet ready to purchase or convert.
Two other things that I see quite a bit is a misunderstanding of how serious or how dry content sometimes is and that it doesn’t need to be that way. People can be serious SEOs or serious technologists and not be boring. Having that middle ground where you’re offering things of value, but are still coming across exciting I think is a hard balance but something that gets missed a lot.
The other piece to this is, unless you’re in a tiny company where there are only a few people in total, missing the boat on understanding that the group of decision-makers often ends up being larger than the person you think you’re targeting. Have you created an experience or content that is going to resonate with them? With SEO platforms maybe it’s the case of crafting some items for the CMO or helping people talk to the CMO. Maybe it’s your CFO, or just your controller, and then your content creators too so that you can get everybody on board and do that easily. It also makes it easier for, in this instance, the SEO to communicate this out to essentially create content that supports all of the parties and the entire journey. I know we say funnel a lot and I get it, I like funnels, except that it’s really not that linear. It’s often more of a tangled mess of research and analysis before the purchase is made. I think those are some key items.

M: That’s literally why we created this podcast because we can say there are a bunch of podcasts out there that are good, but we haven’t really seen one until now that talks about SEO and gives it a little bit of life and has nothing wrong with a couple of jokes here and there. I don’t mean you should put jokes into your content and especially not if you’re talking about the cure for cancer. You should write serious content. But you can put life into it, you can put personality into it. At the end of the day, the other person looking at the content listening to the content, watching the content is a human being and most human beings, other than Bill Belichick, have a personality.

J: Absolutely. At the end of the day, it’s about being human and making that a priority.

Optimize It or Disavow It



M: In a zero-sum world, would you create a landing page with a clear and crisp message that was not aligned to user intent or would you create a messier page that wasn’t polished, well designed, or well-formatted, but at the end of the day sort of kind of aligns to user intent?

J: Because I don’t know the point of content that doesn’t align with intent I’m going to have to go with that messier version and hope that they can get through it because, otherwise, the content will never be discoverable anyway. Unless its purpose is something like a second click, a landing page, or a newsletter inclusion, it’s just senseless to me.

M: Thank you. I really appreciate you coming on. It was a lot of fun. Thank you for putting up with my ribbing of the Patriots, the Red Sox, and Boston sports in general.

J: You got it. Thank you for having me. It was great. And we’ll see you on the field.

SEO NEWS [00:50:11 – 00:54:10]

Unpublished Google My Business Profiles Will Be Deleted: Google says that they will delete unpublished Google My Business profiles if they are not verified within 30 days. So if you take your sweet time publishing, know this.

Search Console Tag Manager Verification Bug Fixed: A bug that prevented you from verifying a property in Search Console using Tag Manager has been fixed.

Are Google Posts Experiencing a Bug?: Rumor has it that Google is experiencing a bug that is rejecting a lot of Google Posts. It appears though that the issue is related to creators not following guidelines around images, such as not using stock photos. We talked about this with Greg Gifford on a previous podcast episode.

Google Maps Updated for 15 Birthday: Finally, Google Maps has gotten an update in honor of its 15th birthday. New changes to the app include user-generated info on public transportation and more tabs at the bottom of the map to make accessing information easier.

Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.

About The Author

The In Search SEO Podcast

In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.

Tune in to hear pure SEO insights with a ton of personality!

New episodes are released each Tuesday!





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Blog: Ad Blockers & Analytics: What Webmasters Should Know And Do | TechnicalSEO.com

By | October 30, 2021


As of September 16, 2015, ad blockers entered the world of iOS devices when Apple announced they would allow third-party development of “content blocking” apps in its new operating system, iOS 9. One of them, Crystal, became in a few days one of the most downloaded paid apps from the App Store.

Unfortunately for website owners, Crystal (and probably other content blockers) not only blocks ads from being displayed on Web pages, but in some cases can also prevent pages from rendering properly. Below are proposed solutions to solve rendering issues and to get analytics data back.

Read the full post on Marketing Land .



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The Impact of the Core Updates on Rank Volatility Overall

By | October 30, 2021


In a way, Google’s core algorithm updates have come to dominate the SEO conversation. The core updates create for a constant stream of SEO chatter as we look to better understand them and avoid their wrath. When another update arrives, nothing rivals the amount of attention it garners. In 2019, we experienced three such updates; the March, June, and September core updates. Moreover, by just the second week of 2020, we were already witness to the first core update of the year. I would imagine if you asked the average SEO if rank is getting more and more unstable the answer would be an unequivocal, yes!

That got me thinking, is such a notion accurate? Was rank more volatile in 2019 than it was before the latest string of core updates arrived? Is the continued presence of both Google’s confirmed and unconfirmed updates making rank stability harder and harder to come by? As machine learning progresses are we seeing more and more rank volatility? Has August 2018’s Medic update put us on a new path of increased rank fluctuations? 

Let’s find out! 

Rank Volatility at a Glance

 

When I started my analysis on rank stability walking into 2020 it seemed as if the notion of rank being more unstable than ever was a no-brainer. The trend charts, highlighting rank volatility over the past 4+ years seem to highlight a serious increase in ranking shifts in the more recent past.

Health Niche Historical Rank Volatility

Looking at the Health niche and the extent of the rank movement at the top position on the SERP seems noticeably more extensive than in the past. (By the way, you can clearly see the impact of the Medic Update on the Health niche!)

==> Find out how to deal with rank volatility 

Similarly, when looking at the top 5 positions on the SERP… volatility in 2019 seems to have picked up significantly. 

Finance Niche Historical Rank Volatility

However, looking at increases and decreases per se does not tell the entire story. (Also, drawing conclusions from a look at trends per se is nonsensical at best.) Take the above instance as an example. Here we’re looking at the % of times the same URLs were shown in the same order for the same keywords from one month to the next. A decrease would mean that the same keywords produced fewer results with the same URLs at the same ranking position from one month to the next. 

Now, let’s suppose that an update stopped the top 5 results from matching exactly (same URLs in the same ranking position from one point in time to the next) 50% of the time to 30% of the time. That would represent some significant rank volatility, to say the least. However, we have to consider that 30% historically. While it is low relative to before the update hit the SERP, perhaps in 2017 the norm was a 20% match of URLs in the same ranking order from one month to the next. In this case, rank, historically speaking, is actually more stable even with the update’s impact. 

Looking back at the two trend charts above and the overall levels of rank stability, it seems to be in the same ballpark as they have been since circa January 2017. In other words… if we drew a straight arrow through this data from 2018 and on… the overall rank volatility levels seem to be relatively consistent when all is said and done. In fact, it looks a bit more stable, at least according to this one metric. 

So, let us ask again, is rank really less stable? 

A Bit on the Method

Before I get into the data itself, let me briefly explain what I did so that you know what the strengths and limitations of this study are. To determine the relative rank stability of URLs on the SERP I analyzed both the top position on the SERP in isolation and the top five positions as a singular unit. In specific, I looked at what I will refer to in this study as an “exact match” metric. For my purposes here, “exact match” means if the URL that was shown at a given ranking position at one moment in time is utilized by Google at the same ranking position at another point in time. For example, say the top three sites shown on the SERP for a keyword on January 1, 2019, were: 

1. abc.com

2. lmn.com

3. xyz.com

Now suppose that on February 1, 2019, the top three sites listed for the same keyword were: 

1. lmn.com

2. xyz.com

3. abc.com 

In this case, the percentage of URLs that matched from one data point to the next would be 0%. This is the “exact match” metric that I employed utilizing a dataset upwards of 7,500 keywords. 

With this metric, I analyzed the percentage of keywords that reflected exact matches at the first through fifth ranking positions from one month to the next for 2017, 2018, and 2019. This data was comprised of keywords from the Travel, Retail, Health, and Finance niches. This means, for each yearly average, a total of 48 data points were analyzed. As a result, the per niche data, which utilized just 12 data points per niche, is extremely limited. 

Check out our guide to dealing with SERP fluctuations.

How Stable is Rank on the Google SERP? 

Rank on the Google SERP has traditionally been relatively volatile from a certain perspective. Google’s algorithm updates have come to be relatively frequent and its confirmed core updates have become infamous for their impact on rank volatility. 

My attempt to land a Featured Snippet in the above paragraph aside, let’s start our analysis of rank stability over time with a look at the average “ranking match” (i.e., the “exact match” – if you don’t know what that is you have been caught skipping the previous section where I outlined my method – shame on you). 

Rank Stability at the Top Position of the SERP 

Here’s the average percentage of keywords that produce the same URL at the same position (i.e., position 1 in this case) from one month to the next over the past three years:

Rank Volatility Position 1

The differences highlighted above are not entirely drastic, not by a longshot. From 2017 to 2019 we’re only talking about a roughly 3.5% decrease in rank stability at the first position (or a 3.5% increase in volatility if that helps make things clearer). Meaning, rank, overall, has not gotten more volatile at the top-ranking position. (There’s more to this story, but for now, that’s a fair conclusion.) 

The same can’t be said when looking at the top 5 positions on the SERP overall: 

Rank Volatility Position 1-5

In this instance, while there is a marginal gap in rank stability between 2017 and 2018, there is a much wider gap between 2018 and 2019. When comparing 2019 to 2018 there was a 31% increase in rank stability over the top five positions on the SERP. It would appear then, that Google, while committed to its accuracy at the top position on the SERP, has considerably shaken up the positions that follow it. 

In fact, this uptick in rank volatility at the top five positions overall was consistent across all of the niches studied: 

Rank Volatility by Niche

As I mentioned earlier, there are major limitations with using this data at the niche level. That said, it is evident that Google’s tendency to increasingly swap URLs at the top five positions applies across the board. That is, there is not one niche or type of niche (say Your Money Your Life [YMYL] niches) that are skewing the average (which is important to note with there being such a focus on YMYL sites within the SEO industry). 

How Drastic Is Rank Volatility Now? 

While rank overall, once you move past the top position on the SERP, seems to have gotten more volatile in 2019, there is still the question of how volatile the SERP is from one month to the next. In other words, we still don’t know what the average site can expect to see in terms of volatility from one moment in time to the next. All we know at this point is the overall level of volatility over the past three years.   

In other words, imagine rank had gotten more stable at positions 1-5 in 2019… it’s still entirely possible that the swings in fluctuations might be more drastic than in 2018. Or the inverse, while rank seems to have been more stable in 2018 it’s entirely possible that the swings in rank stability were actually less drastic in 2019 with the increase in volatility consisting of more gradual rank movements. 

To answer this question I tracked the percentage increase/decrease in rank stability from month to month in order to arrive at the standard deviation for each calendar year. The results are incredibly telling. Here is the standard deviation of the month-to-month increase/decrease in rank stability at the first ranking position: 

Rank Volatility Severity Position 1

There is an absolutely incredible increase in the standard deviation produced by the 2018 and 2019 data! The standard deviation during 2018 and 2019 more than doubled its deviation when compared to 2017. Keep in mind… this is the first position on the SERP we’re talking about here.

That rank stability overall has not increased since 2017 (see data in the previous section) means that while Google may be happy with what it’s showing at the very top of the SERP overall, when it does make a change the consequences vis-a-vis rank stability are far more drastic. 

As to be expected, this pattern can also be seen when looking at positions 1-5 as a singular unit: 

Rank Volatility Severity Position 1-5

What’s interesting here is proportionately that gap between 2017’s standard deviation and 2018’s and 2019’s standard deviation narrows when looking at the top five ranking positions overall. Meaning, Google has specifically gotten far more drastic with how it approaches movement at the very first position on the SERP. It simple terms, the top position on the SERP is unique in the drastic ranking swings it tends to see since 2018.   

The Bottom Line on Rank Stability on the Google SERP 

It’s hard to digest all this and what it means for sites and ranking on the SERP as it’s a bit of a multifaceted picture. That said, the data points to a slightly more volatile landscape since 2017 once you move past the first position on the SERP. 

This may be surprising since Google’s core updates seemingly wreak large amounts of ranking havoc for many sites, and surely they do. This I believe is reflected in the increasingly drastic nature of rank fluctuations on the SERP. That is, when volatility does occur the data points to it being far more severe than it once was. 

As oversimplified as it may be, I would think of the current rank volatility situation as follows (and of course, I’m not speaking to any specific instances or sites): The chances of seeing ranking losses have not changed much since 2017 but the impact of such changes or the amount of change seen at a given moment in time has! (Which with bigger and broader updates, i.e., the core updates, makes a lot of sense.)

In other words, the chances that a keyword won’t continue to show the same results in the same order from one point in time to the next has not increased substantially since 2018 (when looking at the top five results). However, the chances of your volatility being more extreme when Google does mix things up has. 

What’s Behind More Drastic Rank Volatility? 

 

The one thing that really stands out to me is that Google is less afraid to do some serious damage at the very top of the SERP (position one). That right there tells me that Google is far more confident in what it knows, in how to analyze a site, and in how it interprets web content. A bolder and more self-assured interpretation of web content speaks directly to Google’s machine learning advancements, increased entity interpretation, and so forth. 

By having more accurate and more authentic means to decipher content and evaluate websites, Google has in a way become fearless. As a result, it’s no longer holding sites that may rank #1 on the SERP in the same esteem. If Google thinks that content is not relevant, it’s not afraid to demote it. This “fearlessness” results in Google taking a harder look at the URLs ranking #1 and swapping more of those URLs when running an update. Again, seeing more concentrated ranking movement makes a good deal of sense as we now live in the age of the “core update.” 

With a more qualitative understanding of the web comes a Google that is willing to act on that interpretation without bounds. Google is confident in how its machine learning is better able to help interpret multiple facets of the ranking equation and we’re seeing Google act on that interpretation unequivocally.

Ranking Fortunes: What’s Next for Rank Stability? 

 

Fortune Cookie Opened

What’s next for rank stability? As if I’m some sort of fortune-teller. OK, Google…. stick your palm out. The truth is I can see this going one of two directions. Either, as Google’s machine learning properties continue evolving rank will stabilize over time or as Google introduces more properties we will continue to see drastic changes to the SERP’s rankings. 

In other words, all things being equal as properties such as BERT learn more, the changes they make to rank should be more refined. That, in turn, should bring rank volatility down. Of course, at the same time, Google could do anything from introducing more machine learning properties to the implementation of major improvements to its current properties that could induce more volatility. 

Due to this scenario, volatility could decrease, stay the same, or even increase. And with a prediction like that, you really can’t be wrong. 

About The Author

Mordy Oberstein

Mordy is the official liaison to the SEO community for Wix. Despite his numerous and far-reaching duties, Mordy still considers himself an SEO educator first and foremost. That’s why you’ll find him regularly releasing all sorts of original SEO research and analysis!



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Blog: Why Google’s Cache Should Not Be Used For SEO | TechnicalSEO.com

By | October 30, 2021


For a long time, SEOs have relied on Google’s cached version of pages to answer questions such as Did Google crawl this page? When? Can the bot see the content? etc. However, this feature (if used) must be used with caution and here’s why.

Read the full post on Max Prin’s blog .



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How to Onboard Your SEO Clients & Then Keep Them: In Search SEO Podcast

By | October 30, 2021






Don’t forget, you can keep up with the In Search SEO Podcast by subscribing on iTunes or by following the podcast on SoundCloud!

How to Get Your Clients to Buy Into Your SEO Efforts

[This is a general summary of the podcast and not a word for word transcript.]



We sat down with the magnificent Heather Physioc to discuss how to get your clients on board with your SEO program:

  • How to get your SEO clients to invest more time into what you’re preaching!
  • The nitty-gritty details of what good client communication looks like!
  • How to get into your client’s head so that you know how to speak their language!

Plus, BERT is back! We pick apart Google’s segmented news carousels. What’s working, what’s not, and what’s really freaking interesting!

Analyzing Google’s Multiple News Carousel Format [04:58 – 18:39]

Back in December, Google announced it had changed the Top Stories carousel on mobile. Now, for select “topics,” Google is showing multiple carousels that tackle the story, topic, entity, query, or whatever you want to call it, from multiple perspectives.

Let’s go through some examples.

Let’s say you search for news related to the recent impeachment kerfuffle in the US. Normally you would get one carousel of news articles, but not in this case. Mordy searched for impeachment news the day after the Oscars aired and got three carousels:

  1. Oscars 2020 Brad Pitt Wins Best Supporting Actor
  2. Trump News
  3. Also in the news

So Google breaks the news down for the keyword into 3 separate carousels!

There’s so much to talk about here and a full post on this is forthcoming probably over the course of the next few weeks.

Why would Google show a carousel about Brad Pitt when searching for news related to the Trump impeachment hearings? Evidently Brad Pitt said something about Trump’s impeachment during his acceptance speech at the Oscars and because of Pitt’s comments, Google got highly specific with that first carousel showing an article related to Pitt’s elucidations on the current state of political affairs.

Now, what’s interesting is that the second carousel went really generic with ‘Trump News’. It’s a good example to sort of see where we stand with this thing. It can be great and not so great all at the same time.

Another really interesting point is that this segmentation of Trump’s impeachment (or lack thereof) pushed actual news about the topic down to the third carousel. Articles about actual politicians weighing in on the issue were pushed down to the “Also in the news” carousel, i.e., the actual news.

In other words, the new Top Stories multiple carousel segmentation format is more “entity-centric” than it is news-centric and Mordy is not sure how good that is when you’re trying to cover the news. It seems that Google is not yet good at relating to a topic or an entity from a specific lens, in this case just a news coverage lens.

There were a lot of examples like this where Mordy thought more genuinely newsworthy items got pushed down in favor of entity segmentation.

Here’s what Mordy means by “entity breakdown.” Mordy ran a query for ‘NFL News’ and he got the segmented News Box. Do you know what it said? Just 8 days after the sport’s biggest event, the Super Bowl, the lead carousel was… ‘XFL News’! To explain, the XFL is a new league that launched the day before Mordy did the search. It has no affiliation with the NFL and is meant to offer fans some football now that the real league, the NFL, is on break.

In other words, Google took Mordy’s query of NFL news and said, “NFL is American football and what is most important or most relevant to the concept of American football? The XFL.” In the end, the carousel had nothing to do with the NFL, the specific entity written in the query but was focused on football more conceptually.

Again, there were multiple examples of this.

Now for BERT. Google mentioned when they announced the launch of the segmented News Box that they are using the BERT algorithm to better gauge where a specific storyline begins and ends. Well, that might need a little work. Mordy did a search for Bernie Sanders news and got a carousel called “Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders News” except that most of the content within the carousel was about Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg! So, some work is needed.

Getting Your SEO Clients to Buy-In: A Conversation with Heather Pysioc [18:39 – 46:16]

Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO podcast interview session, please put your hands together for renowned industry speaker, a professor of digital marketing at the University of Kansas, the group director of discoverability at VMLY&R. Please give it up for Heather Physioc!

Welcome!

Heather: Thank you so much for having me on.

M: You don’t look like a professor.

H: Yeah, I’m the cool professor.

M: So you’re not wearing leather patches on your jacket?

H: No, just tattoos and glasses. I’m a professor at KU and I teach one class for the spring semester each year.

M: So we could talk about your years of experience in the SEO industry in digital marketing, but I have to ask you, at one point, it looks like you are the editor of a music magazine?

H: Yeah, I started working in journalism when I was a teenager. I had written for the local newspaper then I started a music magazine to sort of blend my passion for writing and my excitement to be online and my **** of local music. So I ran that for about eight years before moving on, but that was a lot of fun.

M: What kind of music was it?

H: I liked to focus on rock and roll, heavy metal, and as much angst as I could get.

M: Nice. So let’s talk about getting your client on board with your SEO program. I’m going to start off with a bit of a cliche because I like cliches, actually. What’s the most important thing you think is out there when you’re trying to get your client on board with what you’re trying to do?

H: Yeah, so at the risk of providing a cliche answer, the number one thing for me is open, honest, and frank communication. This early moment in the partnership when your client or your boss is starting up a search program with you is absolutely crucial. What happens here in these early conversations is what will set the stage for the entire search program so it’s really important that we get it right. If you find yourself overselling the value of search you could be setting yourself up to fail by creating unrealistic expectations for your client without setting any boundaries or establishing any clarity for their expectations.

I find that search professionals are also way too quick to jump right into the tactical execution. We know what the low hanging fruit is. We’ve seen a few sites in our time. But we should really be taking a step back to observe the situation, understand the client, the brand, their customers, how their organization works, how your immediate client or boss works, how they’re measured, who they report to, internal politics, resourcing issues, and so on. All of that comes through communication and dialogue.

I always tell my team there are four C’s in client communication. You have to be clear, confident, concise, and consistent. This phase is a lot more about listening than it is about talking. This has to be constant throughout your relationship from day one throughout the entire search program. Your client needs to know that they can depend on you, that you have their best interests in mind, that you’re going to be thorough with executing the best work possible for them, and they’re not going to get that message unless you’re communicating effectively with them.

M: So there’s a lot we can dive into there. Let’s start with communication. In real terms, how do you go about effectively communicating with the client?

H: Talking to them is a good start. Is your question about how we specifically tactically communicate with a client or tools that we use to establish the communication at the beginning of the partnership?

M: Let’s start with how do you establish effective communication? What are some techniques and strategies and pointers and tips and things to avoid?

H: I think a helpful tip here is to think of the relationship with your boss, the CMO, the head of digital, or your client as if they speak a different native language. You’re different people with different roles, backgrounds, experiences, and ways of doing things. This base understanding that you’re approaching every situation through different lenses is very helpful in communicating effectively from day one.

There are a few things I recommend anytime I’m talking about clear communication. The first is verbally articulating the purpose that you share and verbally asking if they’re aligned. Asking them to verbally align and putting that out on the table allows people to adjust or clarify as necessary.

I also believe that every call and every meeting should close with a short summary of what you heard and everybody should leave knowing who owns what, i.e., knowing what they’re responsible for. I think that little closer builds a lot of confidence with our clients and our bosses. When you’re talking about projects with clients, be sure to talk about the pros, the cons, the costs, the potential results including how long you think it might take to see those results and tell them specifically how you’ll be monitoring and following up.

Just be honest. Your boss or your client are smart and capable. I think we are guilty of thinking they don’t understand, but they’re usually quite logical. So if something isn’t working or presents obstacles, say something, they have a right to know. They’ll get it, just get them in the trenches with you.

Finally, make sure you’re translating that SEO speak. We’re talking to CEOs and CMOs, not other SEOs. So make sure you’re using language that aligns with their real business goals. Those are my five tips.

M: One of the things you mentioned was that when you’re establishing communication you need to think about, who you’re speaking to, what their background is, what their goals are, what their processes, etc. That’s a lot to chew on at one time. How do you go about knowing those 1 million checkboxes before you walk into a conversation? How do you actually do that?

H: I did a bunch of research last year in the search industry with a lot of surveying and interviews and I came to discover that as search professionals we believe that onboarding clients is important to setting the partnerships up for success. But that same exact research found that we tend to onboard clients inconsistently from one to the next if we even bother going through an onboarding exercise at all.

So, my team here at VMLY&R developed a few tools that we use with our clients which we’re now starting to share with the industry a little bit more. One of them is the immersion workshop. So all of those things that I listed off from before can at least be conversations that are initiated if not fully exposed in an immersion workshop. This is a fully immersive crash course on the client’s organization and how search fits into their world. It helps you as the practitioner to get really smart really fast. It opens those lines of dialogue where you start to build relationships with not only the stakeholders at all different levels and different departments in the organization, but also with your fellow practitioners, implementers, developers, content creators, analytics experts, etc.

This immersion workshop allows you to align the roadmap for this search program. It allows you to agree on how you will measure success. It has mission and vision sessions where a lot of times the client will actually present them to us. They **** to be heard. They know their business and they want us to know their business too. We’ll have stakeholder sessions where we learn who in the organization has a stake in the success of the program but may not be the ones implementing it like the head of sales or the head of different business units. And finally, we have a practitioner session with the SEOs alongside developers, content creators, analytics experts, and paid search. And then we have discussion guides to get us through the whole two-day exercise to ask the kinds of questions we talked about earlier.

M: That’s a really amazing program. I’m wondering though, do you ever get pushback from the company saying, “Hey, this sounds great, but we don’t have time to do all this.”

H: Definitely, but I find it happens more with smaller clients. Now I work with enterprise clients, but in the past, I worked with small businesses. I think it all boils down to one key thing which is that magic word of communication where we explain the benefits and outcomes of doing an exercise like this. And it’s short, we’re talking a day or two, it can be streamlined, you can really focus on the most important sessions if it’s a smaller piece of business. But we talked about how essential it is to really understand their business and their priorities and their customers in order to do our best search work. So when we frame it we tell them we’re going to do better work, it’s going to save you money, and it’s going to save you time because we’re not going to backtrack by getting things wrong. It’s going to save you headaches because you don’t have to give us critical feedback all the time because we didn’t understand your business to begin with.

As search professionals, I think we greatly undersell ourselves and our abilities by saying, “Oh yeah, I’m just here to write title tags and meta descriptions.” We’re search strategists, but in order to help clients win in this increasingly crowded competitive landscape, we need to understand their business, their landscape, what they’re up against, and what opportunities are there to win. I think most clients understand that and we just have to take the time to explain it in a useful way and be flexible. Let’s adapt to their needs and make them feel comfortable with the exercise.

M: As an educator and myself being a former teacher, when you’re walking in, you don’t really know how much people know or how much they don’t know. How do you sort of scaffold that? Maybe you run the risk of speaking at one level and you think you’re communicating with them, but you’re really not.

H: Yeah, that comes up all the time with enterprise clients. Every search program is on a maturity continuum. About two years ago, we developed a search maturity curve and maturity assessment. This is a continuum on which brands evolve iteratively from one step to the next. And the gap between each phase may become wider as they go up the scale because as you go up the maturity scale, things get harder and more abstract and complicated. The idea is not to skip levels and go from never doing search before to being a well-oiled search machine overnight. That’s unrealistic.

So on the low end of this maturity curve, they may have a very limited or disjointed search program or it’s entirely starting from scratch. In the middle-end, you may have a brand that is doing search in a repeatable or defined way. They kind of have a feeling SEO is important and they just started implementing the basics, but it’s pretty ad hoc. And if they’re a little more advanced, maybe they’re documenting real processing standards while becoming more proactive, strategic, and goal-oriented. But a lot of times you’ll find that organic search is still siloed from other parts of the organization at that phase. At the highest end of the maturity curve, you have brands that I call optimized. This means search is part of that company’s DNA. It is baked into their marketing from end to end. The practice is integrated across the organization with different departments at all levels. They’re always iterating, and proactively bringing new search ideas to the table all while approving or even innovating their search work. These brands tend to be the market leaders in search because they know that their work is never done. There is no finish line.

So we created this maturity model and we shared it out with the industry. But then we also created a really useful survey of questions that we administer to the client. I’m actually going through one right now with a brand. They have a record-high number of survey participants at 49 so I challenge anyone in the industry to beat that. So we administer the survey and it asks them questions that get to the heart of where their organization stands on five key pillars: process, personnel, planning, capacity, and knowledge. It’s got a Likert scale from extremely not true to extremely true. It’s also got open-ended answers and I actually find that the juiciest content comes out in the quotes from those open-ended answers. So we calculate the scores as a whole and map where they are on the maturity curve. We calculate where they are on those five criteria, but I think what really helps it hit home with the clients is those quotes that I’m pulling out. They’re anonymous, they’re from all these different departments, and you’ll see quotes like, “My organization has no idea what’s going on when it comes to search. It’s completely disjointed,” and “We don’t allocate enough resources,” and “Search is always an afterthought.” It’s really eye-opening stuff.

M: Do you find there’s one particular problem that usually sticks its head out more than others?

H: Yeah, there’s a few. One of the big ones that’s probably one of the toughest is resources where they don’t have enough content creators so they don’t have enough budget to do the things they dream of doing. It’s not infinite dollars and time that we have to work with. That’s a common one that’ll come out, but a lot of times revealing it in this way helps CMOs know where to shift the budget.

Another one that comes up I believe 95 percent of the time in any organization that has more than one department is alignment. It’s important to know how to work between departments, to make sure everybody’s moving in a common direction. Especially when you get in these big enterprise organizations, it’s a really hard battle for them to fight. I don’t see our goal as search professionals is to just edit their website. We have to help them make search part of their organization’s DNA.

M: That sounds very hard. I’ve never done it, but it sounds incredibly hard.

H: It is hard. Not everybody’s bought in or not everybody feels that it’s important as it is so you have to bring them along for the journey or you’re going to be fighting all the way.

M: How continuous does this program have to be? Is it once a month, once a week? I feel that if you start and then you stop you might leave a sort of gap that is perhaps too long where you lose the momentum.

H: When I do the immersion workshops it’s usually one big burst to start up the partnership, but you should have a continuously regular line of communication throughout. We’ll revisit the maturity survey along with just a health assessment of their digital portfolio annually to see how we are progressing. As their SEO lead, you have to demonstrate that you are on top of things all the time. You want to show them that you’re going to proactively communicate and follow up so they don’t have that anxiety in their minds about what’s going on in the black box of SEO. You should have a regular cadence of proactive updates on whether you’re doing what you both agreed on or not. You should have monthly reporting calls, which to a lot of SEOs is probably no surprise, but you’d be surprised that people often don’t have those touchpoints. They’re living in email and not having conversations with their clients.

I would strongly recommend something called a quarterly business review where you’re zooming out and looking at how we are progressing against our roadmap. Do we need to pivot anywhere? Is it working? Is it not working? Has anything changed in the client organization? But that’s a pretty casual check-in, a quarterly one to two hours of effort is not too much to ask. I’m a big fan of setting up annual planning. Prepare for it from the beginning knowing that it’s coming and that gives you a chance to reestablish the ****** assessment and strategy each year.

Make it a point to proactively send out the results of wins or to propose challenges that the client should take. As a client, they’ll be thinking, “Oh, this person is on top of it. I don’t need to be thinking about this because they’re going to tell me when to think about it and when I have a decision to make.”

M: With the maturity scale. Do you find it’s getting harder now that SEO is getting a little bit more abstract?

H: Yes, sort of. So depending on the client, the client becomes a little bit more abstract as they ******. Now, if you started with a brand in the simpler stages of maturity and grew up with this client, they’re probably learning as they go and you’ve probably earned their trust through measured results. You’ve got their buy-in, you get proven wins, you keep communication high, and you’re continuing to educate the client as you go. That client is moving along that journey with you. I think it’s no more than normal problems as you become more abstract. As for the brand that may have started on the higher end of the maturity curve, my hope would be that they have a better understanding of search in general. So as it gets more abstract, in my experience, it hasn’t been too terribly difficult to keep them on board as long as they were on board with me the whole way.

M: How far do you feel you have to go with this? How many details do you feel you need to give a client for them to develop their appreciation of what you’re doing in SEO? Aren’t you running the risk of it being overwhelming?

H: Great question and great point. Again, remember we are speaking to very busy CEOs and CMOs, not other SEOs so we have to learn to read, write, listen, and speak their corporate language. They don’t need to know about HTTPS, SSL encryption, and canonicalization. They care about ROI, earnings per share, and operational costs. So how can we translate the technical aspects and jargon of what we do into something that is meaningful for those business goals that they care about? Remember, the goal is not to teach your client or your boss how to do search. That’s what they’re paying us to do, but rather to understand the impact that search is going to have on their business and their goals. Focus on what’s in it for them, the benefits. Maybe it’s brand visibility if you’re focusing more on high funnel awareness search or conquests of competitors in the search space.

At the end of the day, we’re all in business to make more money. They don’t care about the super granular technical steps to get there. They basically want to know how much is it going to cost, how long is it going to take, and what do you need from me. If your client has a search background then that’s great, but otherwise, it really makes more sense for us to zoom out to about 10,000 feet and use basic layperson analogies and visualizations. Anything we can do to communicate clearly and keep their attention right. And always, always, always tie your work back to what they actually care about.

Optimize It or Disavow It



M: Speaking of reporting to clients and how much they need to know or don’t need to know, what is the better of two evils… Giving them an overly complicated technical report that they will have no idea what you’re talking about or giving them a report that’s way too thin and they don’t think contains enough data?

H: Oh, this hurts. I’m going to say the overcomplicated report with not enough explanation. I’ll say this because at least there’s transparency in the data. Someone could theoretically parse it out, draw conclusions, or ask questions about it. Over-communication is better than under-communication, right?

I feel like the clearly oversimplified report would feel to a client like smoke and mirrors or like the person who created the report has no idea what’s going on with your search program which could shake the client’s confidence. But disclaimer, do not do either of these in real life.

M: Awesome. Thank you so much, Heather. I really appreciate it.

H: Thank you so much for having me on.

SEO News [46:41 – 50:25]

Google Resolves Google Post Issue: Last week we mentioned that there seemed to be a bug around Google Post submissions with the thought being that Google was enforcing their image guidelines. Well, it seems that there was actually a bug that Mike Blumenthal, a Local SEO superstar, says has been fixed.

Search Console Adds Performance Report for Review Snippets: Rejoice! Search Console now contains a performance report specifically for your pages that show with reviews on the SERP (as organic results). To this, you can now see Impressions, CTR, etc. for those pages using review markup.

Birds of Prey Being Renamed for Better SEO: Warner Brothers, to help lift poor ticket sales for its Birds of Prey movie, has made the film more searchable by changing its online title to ‘Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.’

Next week, Feb 25th, there will not be a podcast. Mordy will be at SMX West speaking about core updates and between being away and all of the flying we just won’t have time to pull off an episode.

The In Search SEO Podcast will be back on March 3rd!

About The Author

The In Search SEO Podcast

In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.

Tune in to hear pure SEO insights with a ton of personality!

New episodes are released each Tuesday!





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Presentation: Structured Data & Quick Answers: Chasing Ranking #0 | TechnicalSEO.com

By | October 30, 2021


SMX Paris – June 2nd, 2016

The post Structured Data & Quick Answers: Chasing Ranking #0 appeared first on TechnicalSEO.com.



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TF-IDF for SEO: What Works & What Doesn’t Work

By | October 30, 2021


TF*IDF for SEO… depending on who you talk to it’s either the most over-hyped thing in Search since the last over-hyped thing in Search or it’s a great way to boost your SEO efforts. 

What I’d like to do here is take a look at both sides of the argument and show you how you can use TF*IDF analysis for your benefit in a legitimate way… all while highlighting Rank Ranger’s new TF*IDF tool! 

Sounds like a plan to me! 

What is TF*IDF?

 

Let’s start with the most basic question of all, what is TF*IDF? 

TF*IDF (term frequency*inverse document frequency), fundamentally, has nothing to do with SEO or search engines or what have you. The construct, as we pretty much know it now, came from Karen Sparck Jones, a British computer scientist, in 1972. Since then, TF*IDF has been a fundamental part of both information retrieval and text mining. 

What TF*IDF does is determine how frequently a term is used within a document (hence TF or term frequency). The obvious problem is that in almost any corpus of text the words and, the, or, and the like will be the most frequently used terms and knowing their frequency is entirely pointless. 

Enter the ‘IDF’. Inverse document frequency (IDF) works to discount the value of words like and, the, or, and the like. Words that appear in voluminous fashion within a document and across other documents will be discounted (with these words being and, the, or, and the like). This perfect balance of TF and IDF leaves us with the most utilized (and perhaps therefore important words) without the chaff that are words like and, the, or, etc. 

For SEO purposes, TF*IDF could indicate how valuable or important a certain word or phrase is to a search engine. That is, by analyzing the top results for a given query you could conceivably arrive at the most frequently used and therefore important words that are not are, the, or, and the like. 

You can see where this is heading and why there is a voice within the SEO world that discounts TF*IDF analysis. 

Is TF*IDF Relevant to SEO? 

 

When it comes to TF*IDF vis-a-vis SEO there is a bit of a pink elephant in the room. While many in the industry have embraced the idea of using TF*IDF to determine keyword relevancy there has been a strong voice of dissent from within the SEO community as well.  

So who is right… those who believe TF*IDF is an amazing “SEO tool” or those who think that TF*IDF is an overblown bunch of….? 

I’m going to pull an SEO cliche on you by saying… it depends. 

First and foremost… TF*IDF is not an SEO tool in and of itself. It’s a method used by search engines to analyze a document in order to see what wording and concepts are most important to that document!

Not only that, but it’s very likely, that Google has moved on from TF*IDF in favor of “more advanced pastures” via the use of a variety of machine learning properties. As far as natural language processing (NLP) goes, TF*IDF is a bit… basic (certainly in comparison to things like BERT). 

Of course, using a TF*IDF tool to find the magic number of times you should use a keyword on a specific page is nonsensical. That said, there is a real way you can use a TF*IDF based analysis to your benefit, and that’s as a content tool. If we look at TF*IDF as a means towards expanding how we see our terminology choices or as a way to hone in on a page’s core identity or even as a method of surveying a competitor’s content patterns… TF*IDF is very useful.  

How to use TF*IDF Data in the Modern Era of SEO 

 

For starters, it’s not about the score per se. Even if Google were to use TF*IDF at this stage of the game, its corpus of documents stretches from here to the moon. Anything you’re going to look at is very limited and therefore any analysis you do needs to be nuanced. In other words, you simply can’t plug a URL and a keyword into our tool (or any other such tool) and use the figures shown as a ‘be-all-end-all’. You need to take the data shown within the TF*IDF tool and add a touch of qualitative analysis for it to be valuable (no matter what anyone else will tell you). 

Here are some basic, as well as some more creative ways, you can use TF*IDF analysis to genuinely, boost your SEO efforts:

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

 

This is an obvious way you can make use of the information from a  TF*IDF tool. It’s possible that the overuse of a word or phrase is what’s behind a page’s inability to rank or to rank as well as it might have otherwise. A TF*IDF based analysis can be used to quickly identify this possibility. 

Take the following site for the keyword diet and health:

TF*IDF for Keyword Stuffing

In this instance, I might not be overly concerned about the overuse of the term diet. It could simply be the page naturally makes reference to the word over the course of its development. That said, the word best is one of those cliched if not borderline spammy terms that could make a search engine wary of the page should it be overused… as it appears to be here. 

Again, you can’t simply take the data from a tool like ours and say, “Oh, there’s keyword stuffing going on here.” You have to apply the ol’ brain just a bit. Still, having a TF*IDF analysis can make such an evaluation much easier than it would be otherwise.   

Stay True to Page’s Core Identity 

One of the major themes I’ve seen emerge from Google’s core updates are sites with conflicting identities being hurt in the rankings. In fact, one of the possible patterns I saw during the January 2020 Core Update was that pages that did not stick to their core purpose may have seen a ranking loss. That is, pages, landing pages in particular, that included content that did not align to the page’s core purpose or where the alignment of such content was not readily clear, suffered as a result of the update. In other core updates where Google believed there was a conflict in a site’s identity, even at the granular linguistic level, such sites were negatively impacted. 

Getting insight into when your page’s content may not be totally aligned to its core intent is not easy. In fact, there is no tool that will directly offer this information. However, a TF*IDF analysis can point to such instances. 

Take the keyword allergy test. Here, the top-ranking site does not use the term allergist at all, not once. And that’s because there is really no reason to. When talking about the administering of the allergy test the page uses the generic term “doctor.” This makes a great deal of sense since the page’s author has no idea what type of doctor may be administering the test.

TF*IDF Topical Alignment

Also, any reference to they who administer the test is entirely natural and is discussed quite ‘organically’ as part of the testing process:

Site Using Natural Language

Indeed, this is the pattern for almost every page that ranks on page one of the SERP… doctor is used over allergist

However, one web page, the 5th result for this keyword favored the term allergist.

TF*IDF Showing Unnatural Use of Language

In fact, this site hardly used the phrase “doctor.” Oddly enough, this site helps you find an allergist. Thus, when discussing allergy testing it not only favors the term “allergist” over “doctor” it flaunts it: 

Example of Unnatural Page Language

The site uses the term “allergist” to actively promote seeking one out. 

That’s a lot of deep analysis there. Did TF*IDF give that to me? No. But without it, I literally would have never picked up on why this page might not be ranking as well as others on the SERP. 

This is entirely my point… the TF*IDF tool didn’t give me the insight… but it gave me easy access to it once I applied a qualitative analysis!  

Develop Your Content Strategy

 

Of all the ways to use a TF*IDF analysis in a realistic and impactful fashion, content strategy stands tall among them. There’s really a diverse set of methods towards using TF*IDF to refine and propel your content and content strategy. From real-world keyword research to competitor analysis, there’s really too much to cover here. With that, here are just a few ways to use TF*IDF from a content perspective. 

Know What a Topic Consists of & What Topics to Cover

 

Knowing what a topic consists of, its facets and intricacies, sounds like it would be easy to uncover. Nothing a little brainstorming can’t solve. Of course, anyone who has actually tried to clearly and thoroughly concretize what a topic consists of knows its quite the challenge. For this, we often rely on more traditional keyword research tools which are great. However, if you want to get a ‘real-world’ look at what goes into a topic the TF*IDF is your friend. 

By showing you what terms are being used among the top-ranking pages a TF*IDF analysis gives you a bona fide look at how the best sites approach a topic. 

Take the keyword best banks, a simple TF*IDF analysis gives us a pretty good breakdown of what goes into content that takes up banking: 

RF*IDF for Topical Analysis

If I were to create content around finding the best bank, I would be wise to take up checking, savings, interest rates, fees, online banking, etc. Of course, a closer look at how the top sites deal with these topics is prudent… a simple glance at what a TF*IDF analysis produces helps to get a more holistic audit underway.  

Close Content Gaps & Survey Competitive Practices 

Similar to using TF*IDF to survey a topic, you can use the process to find any topical gaps you are not covering yourself. Here’s an example using the keyword burglar alarm

TF*IDF for Content Gap Discovery

The site in question is a home alarm provider and seems to be hitting on all the right keywords. 

That said, the average page featured on page one of the SERP for the keyword includes the usage of the term “wireless.” A quick survey of these sites shows that they offer a solution that does not require the installation of security alarm panels but uses some form of a wireless solution. 

As such, using TF*IDF not only clues us into what aspects of a topic, or in this case a product, we may not be featuring but is a way to keep up with the competition’s content and product strategies! 

Again, TF*IDF analysis doesn’t plop the answers down on your plate in one fell swoop… but with some further investigation, it puts you on the right path without much effort.

Create More Precise (and More Naturally Sounding) Content 

 

You’re supposed to create content that sounds natural for both the sake of the user and the search engine. You’re also supposed to create the most nuanced, accurate, and precise content possible. I think we all know this at this point. However, as any writer knows… easier said than done. The language that you use and the words that you choose can set a tone that is either appropriate or inappropriate for your purposes. A more formal piece of content may rely on technical terms but should dial it back when writing on the same topic for mass consumption. 

The right balance of technical terms and less formal vernacular can give your content the right tone. This is very common in industries like finance and medicine. Take the keyword Alzheimer’s medication for example. If your audience is nursing professionals you’ll use a different set of terms than you might use when writing for the average person. In the case where the latter is your target audience, you’ll probably want to make sure you’re offering great information while making it as consumable as possible. In this case, running a TF*IDF analysis might tell you that you could balance the very “cold” term treatments with a more sensitive and emotional term like care:

TFIDF for Term Diversity

Repurpose Old Content

 

Just to top off the ways you can use TF*IDF to help move your content strategy forward… let’s talk repurposing old content. What you wrote about 10 years ago, the facets included, the terms you used, etc. are probably a bit divergent than what’s out there today. Running your URL through a TF*IDF analysis can help you see what terms, topics, or whatever need to be updated when you are looking to repurpose some content. 

It’s not rocket science or anything, but using TF*IDF this way is a nice little timesaver that can point you in the right direction. 

TF*IDF: Some Assembly Required

 

Old Welder

The idea that I’m trying to get at is that TF*IDF is not some sort of ‘top-level’ tool to get some quick and easy analysis. That’s not how to use it. That’s a very basic and pretty much irrelevant way to look at a TF*IDF analysis (for the most part). 

Rather, what you get with TF*IDF is direction. What you get are signals that you can use to start your investigation. You get the insight you need to know where to start, what to look at, and how to go about a more qualitative sort of analysis. 

How you use this data goes well beyond what I’ve illustrated above. It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish, what site or vertical you’re dealing with, and a lot more. The common thread is that a TF*IDF analysis can give you a more ‘natural’ look at what actual content on the SERP looks like and sounds like. 

You can find the Rank Ranger TF*IDF tool within our UI under: Reports>Audit>On-Page>TF-IDF Tool

About The Author

Shay Harel

Shay Harel is the CEO of Rank Ranger, an innovative and comprehensive SEO & digital marketing Saas platform. In addition to overseeing company growth, Shay can be found tapping away on his keyboard developing new and unique SEO data reports.

When not hard at work helping guide the SEO industry, Shay enjoys spending time with his family, strumming his guitar, exploring exotic places, and indulging in fine wine from his growing collection.





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24 News Urdu: Latest Urdu News, breaking News & live updates

By | October 30, 2021

24 News HD is an Urdu language current affairs television channel in Pakistan based in Lahore, launched in 2015

Blog: How To Quickly Find And Export All Subdomains Indexed By Google | TechnicalSEO.com

By | October 30, 2021


Performing an SEO audit? Contributor Max Prin demonstrates how to find all of a website’s indexed subdomains using a simple (and free) Chrome plugin.

An SEO audit is rarely limited to the www (or non-www) version of a website. When looking for potential duplicate content, it’s often important to know how many subdomains exist and, more importantly, how many of them are indexed by Google.

Read the full post on Search Engine Land .



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The SERP Features Competing with Featured Snippets for User Attention [Study]

By | October 30, 2021


So you’ve won a Featured Snippet… let the traffic flow, right? Not so fast there! What other SERP features are showing alongside your Featured Snippet? What other features are competing for a user’s attention? What SERP features most commonly appear with Featured Snippets? How strong is a Featured Snippet win… really?! 

You’ve got questions… I’ve got data… 

Featured Snippet Strength Relative to What’s on the SERP 

In the past, we’ve analyzed the strength of Featured Snippet wins from a click, device, and market share perspective. In this study, I’ll be taking a look at the strength of a Featured Snippet win from the perspective of the other features competing with it for a user’s attention. That is, what other features does Google tend to show alongside Featured Snippets and with what frequency? 

To evaluate this, I utilized the keyword database we use to fuel our SERP Feature Tracker and Mobile SERP Feature Tracker, which works with approximately 125K-150K keywords each day. With that, I pulled out the total number of keywords that produced a Featured Snippet at 36 different data points throughout 2019 (i.e., three data points per month).

I then analyzed the keywords that produced Featured Snippets at each data point to see the number of instances where a keyword produced a Featured Snippet as well as another SERP feature. For example, on December 15th, 2019, our desktop dataset produced 27,890 keywords that brought up a Featured Snippet. Of those 27,890 keywords, 17,660 of them also produced a Video Box on the same SERP (or 66.5% of the keywords that produced a Featured Snippet ALSO included a Video Box on the results page). I then calculated the average of this particular SERP feature co-occurrence over all 36 data points (which in this case stood at 57.1%). 

I applied the same process to multiple SERP features and repeated the exact same construct for mobile. 

Here’s a quick summary of what I found…

Featured Snippet and SERP Feature Co-Occurrences: Data Summary 

Below is the percentage of time a given SERP feature appears on the same results page as a Featured Snippet on both desktop and mobile: 

Desktop 

Knowledge Panel: 6.52% 

Local Pack: 6.55% 

Top Stories Carousel: 3.28% 

Ads: 57.39%

Video Box: 57.71% 

Related Questions: 88.13%

Video Box + Ads + Related Questions: 29.22%

Mobile 

Knowledge Panel: 1.17%

Local Pack: 2.56%

Top Stories Carousel: 2.05%

Ads: 54.92%

Related Questions: 63.73%

Ads + Related Questions: 48.9%

Note: You’ll notice that the mobile data does not include Video Box data. This is because we have not consistently tracked the feature on mobile until recently (though I will offer preliminary data later on). Accordingly, the last mobile metric only shows the percentage of Featured Snippet SERPs that contain an ad and Related Questions box… not an ad, Related Questions box, and Video Box. 

This indeed is a limitation of this study. 

Check out our SERP Feature Rank Tracking guide. 

What Are the Featured Snippet’s Biggest SERP Competitors? Evaluating the Traffic Potential 

Let’s dive into the data and the trends and what they say about how powerful a Featured Snippet win is from a SERP feature competition perspective. Simply, what other SERP features are competing for the user’s attention and with regularity?

Desktop Featured Snippets: Which Other SERP Features Are Competing for User Attention?

Despite our fancy for mobile, I am going to start with the desktop SERP. The desktop SERP, due to both screen size and the possibility of elements to appear at the right of the organic results, is unique in the level of possible SERP feature competition. 

With that, here’s a visual look at the data: 

Featured Snippet SERP Feature Competition Desktop

As to be expected, Related Questions (better known as People Also Ask) are paired with Featured Snippets close to 90% of the time. That said, we have to consider the level of “competition” People Also Ask (PAA) presents to a Featured Snippet qualitatively. From that perspective, I don’t see the two fighting for the same users (more often than not). It’s not as if the Related Questions offers users with questions that “compete” with the content in the Featured Snippet. The reason the PAA box shows with Featured Snippets so often is that it supports the Featured Snippet by offering ancillary questions. In other words, Related Questions are on the SERP because they may help users that did not find the answer within the Featured Snippet satisfactory if at all related to their true intent. 

The real competition, in my estimation, comes from ads and the Video Box. Both SERP elements appear on the same SERP as a Featured Snippet over 50% of the time. In the case of ads, they appear above the Featured Snippet. The obvious disadvantage of ads is that they are ads. The average user prefers something organic since we are generally suspect of paid promotions to an extent. Of course, the trust factor runs concurrently with how visible an ad is. If the user doesn’t know, or better, skims over the fact that a result represents an ad then my point around trust goes right out the window. This has happened to an extent as over time Google has made the ad label used on the SERP less and less visible with the current colorless format being the best example of this. 

The Video Box presents the inverse scenario in that it appears below the Featured Snippet, but is far more enticing than an ad. People are visual learners. Having an opportunity for visual content right there alongside the Featured Snippet is a big deal. Discounting instances where the Featured Snippet is a video itself, a Video Box is a heavy distraction. Aside from the fact that the format itself is tremendously enticing to folks, video media opens the door to users who want to listen to an answer in the background while they work and a host of other similar scenarios. Think about it like this… would you rather read instructions about how to fix your washing machine or simply see how it’s done? Match point goes to Video Box. 

With that, the perfect storm, an ad with Video Box and the Related Questions competing with a Featured Snippet, all jockeying for the user’s eye, exists nearly 30% of the time! 

Rounding off the rest of the features are Knowledge Panels, news carousels, and the Local Pack. Neither corresponds to the Featured Snippet’s appearance in any overwhelming manner. In the case of the Local Pack and the Top Stories carousel, the user intent generally wouldn’t align to the Featured Snippet anyway. Knowledge Panels may supply the same sort of information as the Featured Snippet, but again, they only appear on the same SERP 6.5% of the time (and you would have to discount when the Featured Snippet URL belongs to Wikipedia in such cases). 

Mobile Featured Snippets: What SERP Features Are They Competing With? 

The desktop and mobile SERP vary greatly for a variety of reasons… one of which is space. There simply is no real estate to the right of the organic results on mobile as there is on desktop. There’s less space in general as your screen on mobile is smaller than on desktop. As such, there is a bit of a divergence in the data when looking at what shows with a Featured Snippet on mobile: 

Featured Snippet SERP Feature Competition Mobile

Right off the bat, you’ll notice that there is an 82% reduction in the number of Knowledge Panels showing with Featured Snippets, a 61% reduction in Local Packs, and a 22% reduction in Top Stories carousels once you move to the mobile SERP. 

Less room on the page also produced 28% fewer Related Question boxes on mobile than on desktop. The PAA box only appears with a Featured Snippet 63.73% of the time on mobile as compared to desktop’s cool 88.13%.

In fact, the one “constant” were ads which showed under a two-point differential from desktop. I don’t think that stat comes as much of a shock as the one constant between any Google property is revenue (for the record I am not saying that in a cynical way). More than that, ads and Related Questions both exist on close to 50% of all mobile SERPs that contain a Featured Snippet. 

As mentioned earlier, we had not tracked the mobile Video Box until relatively recently. That said, I did pull the data on what we’ve seen since we began tracking the Video Box on mobile. Before I present that data, let me be clear that it merely hints at the level of Featured Snippet and Video Box co-occurrences on mobile as it does not reflect an exhaustive amount of data. 

With that, here’s the (limited) data: 

Featured Snippet & Video Box Co-Occurrences (mobile): 9.55% of all SERPs

Featured Snippet, Video Box, Ads, Related Questions Co-Occurrences (mobile): 6.26% of all SERPs

This is an obvious divergence from desktop where Video Boxes often shared the same SERP with Featured Snippets. This is most likely due to the format used on each device. Video Boxes on desktop display as a horizontal carousel. Meaning, they don’t take up a huge amount of real estate. Mobile Video Boxes used to appear as such. However, as time went on Google began often showing the mobile Video Box as a series of vertical cards with the option to see more videos under the “Videos” tab on the SERP. Meaning, the mobile version can often consume a large amount of the SERP. The initial data would seem to imply that Google is not too keen on having the amount of space both a Featured Snippet and Video Box would occupy display on mobile too often. This is supported by the fact that the Video Box’s desktop and mobile display levels are minimally divergent:

Google Video Box Display Trends


Comparing Featured Snippet Competition per Device 

 

To better offer you an understanding of the variance between the level of SERP feature competition your Featured Snippet wins face, here’s a quick visual comparison: 

Featured Snippet Competition SERP Features per Device

Again, nothing new here that I have not already outlined, it’s just helpful to have a ‘graphic’ of the SERP feature co-occurrences per device. 

The one thing I will say is that you can really see that desktop Featured Snippets face stiffer competition than their mobile counterparts. Consider also how much above the fold real estate Featured Snippets gobble up on mobile vs. desktop and you could make the case that a mobile Featured Snippet has the power to earn you more traffic than a desktop win (all things being equal, of course). The early data I collected on mobile Video Boxes only accentuates this point. 

Know Thy SERP 

Looking at a Brain

It applies when ranking #3 on the SERP and it applies to Featured Snippets… it pays to know what the SERP actually looks like. A Featured Snippet can be a great thing, but the win needs to be qualified. Part of that includes analyzing the nature of the keyword. Part of that means understanding the search volume that the keyword can produce. And part of that means understanding what other SERP features are competing for the user’s attention. There are so many things that can impact how users interact with a Featured Snippet. From what else shows above the fold to the actual amount of above the fold space the snippet occupies, understanding what your win literally looks like can help you understand why certain wins are not as impactful on your site’s traffic as others. 

When it comes to qualifying a Featured Snippet win, it’s all about nuance. I hope I’ve added a bit of that with this study. 

About The Author

Mordy Oberstein

Mordy is the official liaison to the SEO community for Wix. Despite his numerous and far-reaching duties, Mordy still considers himself an SEO educator first and foremost. That’s why you’ll find him regularly releasing all sorts of original SEO research and analysis!



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