Daily Archives: November 7, 2021

Google My Business Monetization: Putting the Pieces Together

By | November 7, 2021

The conception of a pay-to-play Google My Business (GMB) recently hit DEFCON 1. While many in the industry (myself included) have considered the notion of Google asking small businesses to open up their wallets to be inevitable for some time now, recent developments have blown the conversation wide open. As an uncovered Google survey clearly implies, monetization of Google’s local business listings could very well be on its way! 

What I’d like to do is jump into the Delorean, push the pedal to 88 miles per hour, and put the pieces of this puzzle together. Let’s take a look back at how a heck of a lot of Google’s updates to local features over the past year (or so) all point towards GMB monetization!

Where Google’s Local Listing Monetization Began in Earnest

It’s not easy to pinpoint the one moment where local listing monetization became “a thing.” I’m sure different people will have different opinions. However, since none of these folks are writing this post, I can only offer you my opinion, and for me, the idea of Google thinking of its local features in terms of revenue began in earnest with the prolific changes to the hotel Local Panel. 

Let’s go back to 2017.

The summer/fall of 2017 saw Google take an incredible leap forward in regards to both the depth and functionality of the Local Knowledge Panel for hotel listings. Interestingly, the hotel Local Panel was updated alongside Google Flights, with both receiving similar upgrades simultaneously. This is important to note because Google Flights is one of the search engine’s more revenue driven SERP features, as airlines shell out a referral fee for bookings made via the SERP.  

Initial Hotel Price Trends

In other words, one way to look at the growing relationship between the two features is via the lens of practicality. Flights and hotels are part of the same travel equation. That said, and that being true, there is another perspective to consider, that of revenue. Google Flights and the hotel Local Panel are natural siblings at the development level due to their unique revenue possibilities, with the hotel panel offering a plethora of ads from the bookings sites as well as a paid relationship between the featured hotel and Google as well. 

Simply, the pairing of Google Flights and the hotel Local Panel’s development hinges on similar revenue paradigms. Thus, when Google went all-in on developing the capabilities within both, it was for the sake of revenue. In my mind, it marked a clear shift in thought. No longer was revenue to be dependent on ads alone (more on this later). Now Google’s revenue strategy was to be heavily linked to local SERP features

Just to highlight this, over the past year and a half we’ve seen Google bring price insights to hotel listings (which also brought competition to a business’s Local Panel), revamp the hotel Local Pack entirely, and create an independent hotel booking website of its own! 

But where has this local SERP feature focus led us? 

Google Hotel Booking Site

The Road to Google My Business Monetization is Paved in Local Feature Intentions


While the overhaul of Google’s hotel listings ushered in a new era in Google’s revenue strategy, it doesn’t directly lead to the plausibility of a pay to play Google My Business paradigm. Rather, as I see it, it was the initial catalyst for the changes and updates to Google’s local search features that we’ve seen over the past year or so. It is these updates to the local features that have put us on a collision course with a monetized version of GMB. 


The Evolution of Google Posts Points Towards Local Listing Monetization 

I’ve been banging my head against a wall as to why Google has gone gaga over Google Posts. It just didn’t add up. Sure, there were the usual suspects: Google wants to create a more Google-centric environment and Google wants to rebuild its social media foothold (especially with Google+ shutting its doors). Those are good answers, but in the pit of my stomach, I felt unsatisfied. Until now. 

Before I get into how I think Google Posts factors into the GMB monetization equation, it’s worthwhile to see how the local feature has evolved. Here are some of the more notable tests and changes we’ve seen over the past year or so (in no particular order): 

1) Google Posts Replicated in Local SERP Features: Upping the importance of the feature, there have been instances where a Google Post has been cloned and placed within other local SERP features (i.e., the Local Pack, etc.). This means that one posting can have its impact multiplied without any further action on the part of the creator. 

2) Anchor Text for Google Posts: In January 2019, Google combined the visibility of Google Posts with the power of directing users to carefully curated content accessed via anchor text. That is, Google made it possible for verified accounts to use anchor text to direct users to specific pages (as opposed to plopping a clunky URL into the post). 

3) Product & Offer Posts: Two new types of Google Posts were made available in June of 2018; product and offer posts. The importance of being able to showcase products and offers within Google Posts vis-a-vis its impact on the feature’s relevance can’t be overstated. The new formats, in effect, took Google Posts from being “quaint” to being an integral part of a local business’s marketing plan. 

4) More Characters Made Available to Post Creators: Google Posts, aside from having a short shelf life (7 days in most cases), had an even shorter content berth of between just 100 – 300 characters. No more! Now Posts can contain up to 1,500 characters! Of course, having a considerable content limit makes the feature all the more viable as it means creators can produce engaging and effective posts. 

5) Additional CTAs Added to Google Posts: As time has gone on, Google has added more and more CTAs to Google Posts. For example, back in July of 2018, Google gave Posts a ‘call now’ CTA. The wider the CTA library, the more attractive the feature becomes to local businesses.  


6) Featured Customer Reviews in Google Posts: I’ve saved the best for last – customer reviews in Google Posts! Available as of April 2019, being able to create a post that prominently displays your best customer reviews is a highly attractive option for any local business. More than that, the addition of the ability to showcase reviews in Google Posts takes its applicability to all new levels.  

Video Google Posts

In May of 2018, Google gave local businesses the ability to add video content to Google Posts 

Why am I telling you all of this? Easy. There’s one common theme to all of the above-listed updates to Google Posts. There’s one overarching impact… Google Posts have morphed into a crucial part of a local marketing strategy. All of these changes make Google Posts far more essential to your average business owner than the feature was just a year ago. 

Think about it. A year ago your CTA options were limited, your very content was severely hampered by a drastically small character limit. Just a year ago, you could not feature your products nor showcase your offers. How much more relevant does this make Google Posts to your average business? Far more!  

Now imagine if Google took all of this away. Imagine if Google took the ability to create posts away from businesses. What would the fallout be? Considerable for many I would think. 

What if, Google said you could retain your ability to create posts… but for a cost? Would you consider it? Most likely (all things being equal). Would you have considered paying for Google Posts with a character limit of 300 characters? Without a wide library of CTAs? Without the ability to present offers or feature customer reviews? 

Now that is a satisfying answer to why Google has beefed-up Google Posts for the better part of the last year and a half! 

Reserve with Google as an Integral Piece of Google My Business Monetization 

What if I could replicate the above analysis on Google Posts and apply it to Reserve with Google? Wouldn’t that help construct a purposeful pattern of Google priming GMB for monetization by bolstering its local SERP features? 

Let’s have it at then. 

The Rapid Growth of ‘Reserve with Google’ & its Monetization Implications


Since October 2017, Google has been offering users the ability to book an appointment and make a reservation directly through the business listing. It’s called Reserve with Google and since its fall of 2017 launch, it has spread like wildfire. 

Initially, the service was applicable to but a few business categories (appointments at yoga studios being one of them). However, since August 2018, we’ve seen Google bring its in-house reservation destination to an increasing number of business categories on multiple occasions. Now the program applies to everything from guitar lessons to eateries! 

Buy Tickets Reserve with Google

The Reserve with Google program has expanded to include reserving tickets to local attractions 

That’s the least of it because, in the fall of 2018, Reserve with Google entered the Local Pack. This is a huge deal. As local SEO expert Sergey Alakov noted during a podcast interview I did with him in February 2019, Reserve with Google in the Local Pack stimulates its adoption. 

How so? 

Here’s where it all comes together. Prior to its insertion into the Local Pack, a user had no way of knowing if a business offered expedited bookings via the program or not. That is, unless they did a manual check by digging into multiple business listings. There was no competitive advantage in terms of a user deciding to go with one business over the other due to the Reserve with Google program. 

Reserve with Google in Local Pack

The Local Pack indicating that the top two listings are a part of the Reserve with Google program 

With the scheduling icon now showing up in the Local Pack, you can burn that paradigm and then throw its ashes out the window and into a stormy sea. Now, users can compare local listings in terms of available booking efficiency at the top level of a local business quest (i.e., the initial search query). Meaning, if one business shows up in the Local Pack with the Reserve with Google icon and one does not, the former becomes far more attractive to the user. 

This in turn ups the ante a bit. Now small businesses need to be concerned with their competition’s adoption of Reserve with Google. Once any given competitor makes the leap into the world of on-SERP reservations, the pressure is on for other related listings to follow suit. 

This is a drum I’ve been beating on for a long time now. The air around Reserve with Google has been wafting with the aroma of businesses being charged to use it since its inception. I thought a referral fee system would be implemented. However, with the program being singled out in the “GMB monetization survey,” it seems Google wants to go in the direction of asking for a flat fee to enter. 

The insertion of the program within the Local Pack, along with SERP bookings being relevant to a slew of business categories, is the very thing that allows Google to go with Reserve with Google monetization. If a business is now put in a position where they need the feature to stay competitive, it’s not crazy to assert they will pay to play! 

Thus, the very thing Google did with Posts applies to Reserve with Google. Create an environment where businesses need and rely on the features… and then charge for them. 

Product Listings Inside SERP Features: The Nail in the Coffin that Is Free Google Business Listings 


I’d like to discuss the prevalence of products being placed within Google’s local SERP features. At this point, you can probably guess what I’m going to do. Accordingly, let’s have a look and see how Google has fostered deep reliance on its local SERP features by revving up product placements within them. 

It goes to reason that once a local business needs Google’s SERP features to get their products out there all monetization options are game. Putting products in front of potential customers is the jugular of a local business’s SERP vitality. 

Over the past year to year and a half, there has been a concentrated effort to fill local SERP features with accessibility to a business’s products. We’ve already seen this with products and offers within Google Posts. Here are but a few of the ways Google has let business owners populate their listings with access to products: 

  • Store Savings in the Local Panel: Within the Local Panel, businesses can elect to enter a link to some “store savings.” Note, you could link to a special page for special offers, or you could just link to a product page. Google doesn’t know the difference and I don’t think it cares. 
  • Browse Featured Products: In August 2018, the search community spotted an element within the Local Panel that said: “Browse some featured items sold here.” The new feature lets users browse some featured items sold here, as is obvious! 
  • Link to Product & Services in the Local Panel: Like with the “store savings” section of the Local Panel, a section entitled Products and Services allows business owners to link to their product/service pages. 
Local Panel Store Savings

The ‘Store savings’ section of the Local Knowledge Panel 

There are literally scores of other examples I could harp on, such as the ability to add a service menu to your Google business listing or the ability to showcase your full product collection via the Local Panel.  

The point, however, is quite clear: Giving businesses the ability to spread their products around via the SERP creates inertia that allows for Google to monetize the business listing. Asking business owners to pay for the options within Google My Business after having offered serious product placement abilities for free puts a great deal of pressure on businesses to open their wallets. Perhaps more than anything I’ve presented above, creating a reliance on SERP features for product proliferation is surely the most effective way to create monetization buy-in on the part of business owners (no pun intended). 

The Full Google Monetization Picture

It should be pretty clear at this point that Google has undertaken a highly focused local SERP feature strategy that directly leads to GMB monetization. Whether it be Google Posts, Reserve with Google, or product placement within the Local Panel, there is one common denominator… the fostering of reliance on Google’s local SERP features. 

In each of the three instances I have presented, Google has created a construct that makes its local SERP features a competitive necessity. The emergence of its local features as being essential is the very element that allows for GMB monetization to succeed. Whether they like it or not, local businesses rely on their Google listings in all new ways and to far greater extents than just two years ago. 

Over the past year and a half, the conversation around seemingly minor local feature elements has left us a bit bewildered. Why would Google spend so much time working on the messaging button inside the Local Panel? However, considering the path towards GMB monetization even a small change such as a more prominent messenger button makes sense. The more businesses that rely on the feature to interact with their customers, the greater the force on businesses to pay for its utilization. 

Enlarged Messaging Button Local Panel

One local SERP feature test displayed a Local Knowledge Panel with a more prominent ‘message’ button (Image Source: SERoundtable)

The increasing amount of time Google has put into its local SERP features, the increasing amount of details addressed, and the increasing number of tests and updates only makes real sense when you consider it all leads to GMB monetization. 

What’s Pulling Google to Monetize Google My Business? 


Fishing for Money

The path Google has taken to create the potential for succeeding with a more monetized GMB aside, we still don’t know why Google has deemed this excursion necessary. Of course, you could simply say the more revenue the better. While that’s certainly true, it’s far from a refined analysis of the catalysts driving the move. For that, we again need to create a bit of context. 

The Role of Ads In Google’s Quest for a Monetized Google My Business


When discussing Google revenue, the most logical place to start is with ads which drive most of Google’s earnings. Over time, ads have become far more complex for the search engine. Let’s leave aside big-ticket items such as The Guardian removing all of their YouTube ads. I’d rather focus on the larger advertising context than a few headlines.  

The most notable advertising “crisis” Google has had to deal with over the past three or so years is ad blocking. Users have been waking up to the realities of the digital world at a rapid pace (hence the current privacy concern “craze”). The issue with ads, in short, is basically the notion that Google must find a balance between ad revenue and ad quality. Too many low-quality ads only fuel the platform’s poor advertising perceptions. 

To this effect, Google has undertaken drastic measures that include a mobile interstitial penalty and a Chrome Ad Blocker.  

The obvious catch here for Google is the reduction of ad revenue possibilities. Indeed, Google’s Q1 revenue data for 2019 (which coincidentally came out just days after the GMB monetization survey), was a cause for some alarm. While advertising clicks were up 39% that’s a huge reduction compared to Q4 of 2018 which had click growth at 66%. To make matters worse, CPC is down 19%. A slowdown in click growth coupled with a cost per click reduction produced lower than expected earnings and had Google’s stock price dropping following the release of the earnings report.   

I don’t think any of the news out of Q1 was a surprise to Google. I think they’ve known this is a long time coming. I think Google has been preparing for this inevitability since the summer of 2018 when it turned its Flight Box and particularly hotel listings into a booking center juggernaut! 

And sure, revenue may go back up next quarter, but I think the writing is on the wall… the current paradigm will not be as effective at generating ad revenue and a shift, such as the monetization of GMB, is needed. 

Why a Paid Google My Business Platform Is Perfect for Voice Search 


You could ask, why is Google focusing on GMB monetization when the monetization pink elephant is obviously voice search? Of course, you could propose all sorts of answers including the fact that Google just doesn’t have a good way to earn voice search revenue. That said, I’d like to advance the notion that a pay to play GMB is voice search monetization. 

Here’s what the survey said about verified business licenses: 

“Google verifies your trade license and displays your verified licenses on your Business Profile.”

Aside from the obvious benefit to this, i.e., users knowing if a business can be trusted, there is a revenue dynamic lurking below the surface. 

Google already utilizes this model. They’re called Local Service Ads. Again, aside from their benefit to users, there is a revenue dynamic here… you have to pay Google to be part of the program. However, there is yet another revenue construct here – voice search. 

Reports came out in early April 2019 that Google was utilizing guaranteed businesses within voice search results. The implication was that Google was fueling its voice search responses with Local Service Ad partners. Google clarified that such was not the case. However, the paradigm does present an interesting way to stimulate voice search revenue, albeit in a roundabout sort of way. 

By opening up business verification, and charging for it, Google is in a position to indicate to voice search users whether or not a business has been verified. There are numerous incarnations of how this may play itself out. Just to offer one simple possibility, Google could offer organic listings and then ask the user if they would like to hear any guaranteed options should they be present. This construct would not indicate any sort of ‘pay to play foul play’ and would stimulate indirect voice search revenue. 

No matter how you slice it, there is a strong correlation between local results and the world of voice search. A monetization of GMB would surely have a voice search revenue impact in some way, shape, or form. 

Paying Heed to Google’s Local Library 

Robot Spy Glass

While Google has not confirmed that it will or won’t monetize GMB, in this author’s opinion, the writing is on the wall. Google has clearly been doubling-down on creating a deeply integrated relationship between its local features and businesses. It’s a relationship that focuses on a reliance on Google’s local features. As a result, and regardless of Google’s advertising conundrums, GMB is primed, more than it ever has been, for significant monetization. One would have to think that the monetization of GMB in some way is simply inevitable.  

It’s clearly worthwhile to pay close attention to the changes and even the tests Google rolls out for its local features. Personally, I think you’ll see far more incentives and opportunities for businesses to list their products within these features. Whatever it may be, it is more important than it already was to track the changes Google has made to its local features.   

To this extent, I highly recommended you track the news reported on SERoundtable.com each day as well as peruse through our monthly SERP news digest. 

If you see anything striking in the realm of local SERP features, reach out to me, I’m always interested in hearing from you! 

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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Going with a Full Stack Writer for Your SEO/Marketing Content: In Search SEO Podcast

By | November 7, 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

The In Search SEO Podcast ‘Tip Share’ of the Week!

Tip Share Episode 27

No one knows everything! What are some ways we as SEOs and/or marketers can overcome our own limitations! 


Summary of Episode 27: The In Search SEO Podcast 

We have an amazing show for you! Content all-star Kameron Jenkins comes on to talk about the ever-versatile full stack content writer.

  • The advantages of having a content generalist over a content specialist
  • How to find balance when writing any and all forms of content
  • How content marketers can compensate for a lack of topical knowledge

Plus, we analyze the implications of the announcements made at Google I/O 2019 and Google Marketing Live!

Google I/O and Google Marketing Live Highlights [2:13 – 14:49]

Out of all the major announcements that came out of these two events we’re going to focus on the evergreen Google Bot, podcasts on the SERP, image updates, new shopping cart features, Discovery ads, and a Top Stories change that went totally under the radar.

First up is the evergreen Google Bot. Google announced that Googlebot now uses the latest version of Chrome and will continue to do so automatically. This is huge news. It means that Google is crawling content using all of the modern inventions of the latest version of Chrome, not some outdated incarnation from 2015. Which means you can use the latest “technology” and not worry (as much) about Google unable to crawl page elements because of it.

Next up… podcasts. Google is now showing links to specific podcast episodes on the SERP such as this podcast! Two interesting things. One, we’ve only seen select cases where the podcast episodes appear within the site’s organic result. Meaning, If siteA.com is putting out a podcast on how to cook the best crawfish, siteA.com does not get their podcast episodes shown within their organic result on the SERP.

Then whose site is used? Either iTunes or Podcast One from what we’ve seen.

So if you do a search for the Rich Eisen show, a sports podcast Mordy likes, there will be episodes on the SERP within the Podcast One organic result and when you click on it you go to a Google page. This is interesting item #2! When interacting with the new podcast feature on the SERP you are directed to a Google page, not the page represented by the organic result. So instead of going to iTunes or Podcast One, the play button brings you to a Google-owned page where you can play the episode.

Now, we did ask John Mueller if that was meant to be or if this is just how things are due to the infancy of this feature. He didn’t give a definitive answer, it could be he was not sure himself!

All of this means that Google, as we’ve talked about here a few times, could get really creative with this and add in audio Featured Snippets, audio Rich Snippets, or audio Content to Knowledge Panels, etc., etc., etc.

Mordy says he prefers audio on the SERP versus video because you could, in theory, listen to audio while moving on to other tabs that you have open, or keep skimming the SERP while listening to the audio. In a way, audio is more appropriate for the SERP and offers more possibilities than video.

Let’s move on to images. You might assume we’ll talk about the new 3D images that you can integrate with AR. While it is “cool”… that’s all it is, cool. We don’t see any major SEO impact to it.

However, a smaller and less noticeable change is the coming of higher image resolution opt-in. Soon you will be able to utilize higher resolution images for appearance within Google Image Search.

Now, this is not a coincidence. First, Google Discovery uses a large image style but it also comes as Google announced that Gallery Ads will be coming to the SERP in earnest. This ad format uses a carousel of large images for your viewing and purchasing pleasure!

Which brings us to Google Shopping. Google’s shopping abilities have gone universal. You will soon be able to buy items right off the SERP within the organic results, from YouTube, and from Image Search directly! Goodness, the SERP is going to be one giant shopping cart. Literally, you will see the shopping cart icon all over the place so that you can add items to it and buy all sorts of things (from Google partners) so long as you don’t commit the cardinal sin of going to them who Google shall not name but we will… AMAZON.

Mordy believes this all-around new shopping experience won’t make a difference. The numbers show that about 50% of folks start with going right to Amazon. Not only that but the user associations are all wrong. People usually shop in an offline or online store. The SERP and YouTube are not stores. It’s not how we’re wired to shop. We want some structure because when we make a purchase we want security and structure and security go hand in hand.

Plus, this brings Google into a bit of an identity crisis. Follow us here for a minute. One of the least discussed changes from I/O was to the News Box, to Top Stories on the SERP. Soon you will have a timeline of stories. In other words, often a news story develops over the course of days or even weeks.

Let’s take OJ, for example, because everyone knows OJ. You can’t boil the OJ story down to one article. It was a series of events that took place over the course of months. If you saw just one article you would need to do multiple searches to get the gist of things. No more!

Now, or soon, you will be able to see the entire progression of events via a series of articles shown on a timeline.

So if this were the mid-90s you would see an article on the Bronco chase, then the gloves that don’t fit, then the civil judgment, etc. And all of this on one timeline so that you know the full story.

Really great feature, but it does put Google into a bit of an identity crisis. Meaning to say, is Google a resource center offering pathways to multiple forms and levels of content or is it a shopping center? Which is it? This is our point with the new shopping proliferation. Too many things, too much over the top, too many facets. Are we seeing Google jump the shark in order to keep its juggernaut status? That would be interesting considering that usually happens when one company is threatened by another. In this case, it’s more about maintaining domination.

Why You Should Consider a Content Generalist: A Conversation with Kameron Jenkins [14:49 – 46:31] 

[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]

Mordy: Joining us today is the founder of SoapBoxly. You may know her from Moz, or a slew of other places. You should definitely come to know her from the Mark and Method marketing podcast. She is Kameron Jenkins. Welcome!

Kameron: Thank you so much! I’m so excited to be here!

M: Can you tell us a little about Soapboxly and what it is you do?

K: Soapboxly is what I call an organic growth agency. There’s a lot of up and down in the agency whether it’s SEO, content marketing, or both so I started saying “I do organic.” It’s very new and so far what we’ve been doing is helping clients with a wide range of tasks. Some want more traditional content marketing with content calendars on a consistent basis while others want help with a project like a new website and they need a landing page. We run the full gamut of helping our clients rank organically.

M: That’s awesome. So today we’re going to start talking today about the full stack content writer.

In an age where everyone talks about specialization, you are an advocate for the idea of a full stack content writer. What made you think to go against the grain? What sparked this nonconformist view?!

K: So this came about by necessity. For me, Soapboxly was born out of trying to decide what I am and what I want to be. I think with digital marketing (or any industry for that matter) we have a tendency to live in echo chambers. We’re all sort of repeating the same one or two viewpoints and there’s a lot of confirmation bias. I felt that I needed to force myself out of that when I wanted to articulate what I want my company to be. So I was talking to my husband about this, he’s a software engineer, and he said, “Oh, in my industry that’s what we call full stack. They’re developers who can work on the front end, the back end and just do it all.” And I loved that idea and I wanted to be that, that my company will be that.

M: And how does it feel to be out of the echo chamber?

K: I can’t say I’m fully out and that’s for any industry that has pillars that we look to for advice and latch on to and if we’re not careful we might believe it and adopt it for ourselves without checking. It’s not always bad stuff but you sometimes need to sit back and ask, “What do I think of this?” instead of what Twitter thinks.

M: I should have asked this question first. Why is it worth it for a company to have a full stack content writer?

K: It came from me doing every type of content project you can imagine. Everything like PPC landing pages, whitepapers, organics landing pages, blogs, etc. Out of doing all those types of things I saw how much value there was to see the full picture. So by doing CRO, I see how conversions are everything and if you don’t have conversions then you don’t have business. And when doing SEO, I believe rankings are everything because if you don’t rank then you don’t get visibility. So from my experiences, I was able to see how critical every step of the process was.

Doing so allowed me to see the big picture – how each piece I produced served as a necessary cog in the wheel of getting our clients more business from search. My work and the content I produced was better once I zoomed out and had that mentality, so it’s something I started instilling in my content teams.

What I was seeing was a lot of SEOs so focused on getting their pages to rank that they would forget to add a CTA – they would just lose that traffic. On the other side of things, I would see content specialists writing pieces that were generally interesting and engaging, but weren’t built on a solid SEO framework so their traffic would fizzle after a few days. Both are wasteful, and I think we need to be better stewards of our clients’ budgets by focusing on the whole picture.

So it’s not only about caring about the full picture, it’s also about being adaptable. Certain goals require different types of writing, and it’s ideal if you’re able to have a single writer or group of writers you can rely on to be able to handle a variety of needs.

M: To what extent do you believe the full stack content writer is possible? I ask because some people are hard set that there are different kinds of writers for different types of content and cannot fathom the idea that one writer can write all sorts of content?

K: It’s definitely not common but that’s what makes it so valuable. I’m not saying that you should be a Jack-of-all-trades master of none but I think it’s possible to be good or at least have an understanding of multiple disciplines within digital content writing.

I’m a big advocate of cross-departmental, cross-skills training. At my last job when I was at an agency I started doing this out of necessity. I was sick of the tech support team making changes that tanked our organic traffic or hearing the sales team tell clients we could get them ranking for their chosen keywords in three months. Everyone should be cognizant of the other pieces of the puzzle and the client gets a better product from it.

That’s not to say you have to be an expert or a specialist in everything. I don’t think that’s entirely possible but it’s more so about at least informing yourself of other specialties enough to not harm another team’s goals. So if you have a conversion copywriter team and a team that focuses on content that ranks, that’s fine! But I think they should definitely train each other so they make each other’s jobs easier and maybe even contribute to each other’s goals.

I would say too that writers who are freelancing or looking for jobs could use this to their advantage. If a business knows they can hire just you instead of having to hire a different writer for all their different channels (especially a concern for smaller organizations with smaller budgets), that’s going to be key.

M: I totally agree. From an efficiency point of view, it makes it easier for the SEO manager who’s reviewing our article if the content person already half-optimized it. It makes it more streamlined, creates more cohesiveness, and allows for less time wasted overall.
From a topic and content type perspective, do you see any limitations on how versatile a writer can reasonably be or is the sky the limit? I know it all depends on the person, but in general.

K: I do believe that people are capable of doing almost anything if they set their minds to it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll enjoy everything equally. I would say that writers should only extend as far as they a) need to, and b) enjoy.

So you might need to become versatile out of necessity. If you’re maybe the only person doing content and SEO for a smaller company, you’ll benefit from expanding your knowledge and skill sets when it comes to different types of writing and digital goals.

But when it comes to enjoyment, definitely listen to yourself. If you find yourself dreading the thought of keyword research, I would look for a job where you don’t necessarily have to do that all the time because there’s a separate team for that. It’s still good to be aware of that and know why it’s important, but you shouldn’t ever feel obligated to.

M: Right and there’s no shame in that. Like for me, technical SEO, I know it but I don’t particularly like it and I tend to stay away from it when I can. There are better people who know it and that’s fine with me.

K: Right, like on our website I didn’t want to minimize the images so my husband was happy to step in and help.

M: I personally find that writing is like acting. I hate to go nerd on you, but Leonard Nimoy, when playing Spock, would come home and act in a more stoic than normal manner because it was so hard to go in and out of character which must have made for a really great and healthy family life. That aside, I find that there are times when I have more “SEO-oriented streaks” and times where my writing, while balanced, leans towards the creative. How do you keep your zen, how do you keep that balance?

K: That’s a great question. I totally see what you’re saying. You sound like you might be similar to me. I’m very split between and right and left brain so it’s easy when you’re like that to get into analytical grooves and then creative grooves but not always at the same time.

I’ve found it helpful to compartmentalize. Usually, I’ll first put on my analytical hat and research the topic (keyword research, look at the SERP, analyze competitors, etc.), kind of putting together the “bones” of a page as I go. Once I have that framework down, I’ll put on my “wordsmithing” hat. This step can also involve a bit of research, but it’s more looking for inspiration. What are people engaging with? What interesting formats are people using? How could I put a unique spin on this?

When it comes to doing these two things I first try to put on my analytical hat to see what’s needed to “move the needle” and that this shows up in search engines. And then I try putting on my creative hat and think about what would be interesting to me. To me, it’s like building a canvas and then putting paint on it.

It is always going to be hard but I think it helps when I take them as separate tasks.

M: Again, just speaking from my own experience as someone who got into the whole SEO thing due to my writing skills, there are things I’m naturally better at and things I need to specifically work on… How can a full stack writer compensate for those things/areas where they may not be as proficient as they would like?

K: I think that boils down to two things: First is to think like a reader instead of like a marketer. If you put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes it becomes a lot easier. You can think about it more like a human. What would I like? What would be helpful? Obviously, you have to think with a technical bent as Google’s algorithm isn’t technically human.

The second is to lean on people who are better than you and asking them for advice because that is how you get better. If you want to learn something and compensate for your lack skill in a certain way there’s really nothing wrong in approaching someone who is a pro in that area and asking them for help.

M: I would bet that most full stack writers are in many ways self-taught. I would speculate that there may be one or two foundational areas the content generalist may have formal training in and the rest of it is either self-taught or picked up along the way.

To me, the full stack writer has certain meta-qualities that makes them able to handle so many areas. At the same time, they may not have formal training in certain areas. For example, I do a lot with graphics and I have no formal training in doing anything with images. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be working on creating the graphic feel of content I would have looked at you like you’re nuts. Because of that, it took me some time to feel confident enough to have an opinion on graphics when in truth I should have been assured of my abilities from the get-go.

Obviously, we could say things like “believe in yourself,” but what are some concrete actions content generalists can take when working on an area that they may not consider themselves proficient in?

K: If you find the answer please tell me! I struggle with this myself, and I think a lot of digital marketers are in the same boat. Because this industry is still fairly new, constantly changing, and isn’t taught in many formal settings, I think a lot of us struggle with imposter syndrome and get discouraged with certain tasks because we think we’re not good enough.

I’m saying this to everyone listening as much as I’m saying it to myself, but you are capable, and when you feel like you’re lacking in an area to be transparent about it.

Insecurity like that will persist if there’s nothing to squash it, and the only way to squash it is to look at the results. The only way to get that insecurity out of your head once and for all is to prove to yourself whether you’re good at it or bad at it. Just do it and look at the results. If it’s a positive result then great! You can have confidence in knowing you are good at this.

For example, if you think you’re not good enough at copywriting, look at the conversion rate of the landing page you wrote. If it didn’t get the results you or your client was hoping for, ask a copywriter who’s better than you if they’ll check out your page and give you tips. It’s the only way to get better and become more confident in any area.

M: Right, and the truth is everyone has this issue because the industry is so diverse. You can be doing SEO, PPC, content marketing, etc. and all of them intertwine in some way. In a way, everyone is faking it and not in a bad way. There’s a lot of self-taught out there and in any industry you’re going to have to teach yourself.

K: Yeah, you do have to teach yourself. There’s no rulebook or library of digital marketing books to look through. There are no universal truths. There are best practices though. That aside, it’s really important to do it yourself and see.

M: Right, you’re always your own worst critic. There’s this term called missing tile syndrome. You redo the kitchen, put in all the tiles, and in the back corner there’s just one tile off and you’re the only one who notices. When you write about something unfamiliar you might think you don’t know what you’re doing, but more often than not you do know what you’re saying, it does come off well, it’s just that you’re the only one who realizes it’s not exactly where you want it to be.

K: Yeah, I know. I’ve been working remotely for almost a year and I’m still getting used to it. What helps is leaning on your coworkers because you really need that person to unstick you. You need that external opinion to get you out of that headspace or it’ll just spiral into you thinking, “It’s not right!” and you need somewhere to just say, “You’re fine. Calm down.”

M: What are other challenges that you see as being unique to the full stack writer and what advice would you give them?

K: At least for me, my risk is caring less about the finer points of a certain writing specialty in favor of tackling the spirit of the issue. Like, I’m neglecting the letter of the law for the spirit of the law. For me, that might mean I won’t always remember my Oxford comma. Sometimes it’s good not to sweat the details, but I know I’ve annoyed a few “specialists” in my day.

When it comes to judging a writer’s quality I use my own baseline of liking the sound of their content because that is the hardest thing to teach. When I hire writers, I start there – does their content sound good. But beyond that, some of the best writers I’ve ever worked with were those that had the ability to see beyond what they were doing and understand why they were doing it. People that get the business side of what they’re doing and understand what it helps accomplish are some of the best full-stack writers.

Optimize It or Disavow It!

M: If you could only be one kind of writer which would you consider being more vital, a writer with sound SEO practice or a creative soul?

K: Such a good question! It’s tough, but I believe if I had to choose it would be creative because SEO best practices can be taught while creativity is more something you possess or don’t.

M: Kameron, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it.

K: Thanks for having me!

SEO News: [50:26 – 55:08]

Google Marketing Live Announcements: Google Marketing Live brought us a number of new changes (which we discussed a bit earlier). These announcements include:

  • Discover Feed ads
  • Gallery Ads – A large carousel of images reflecting products
  • Showcase Shopping Ads (which are a cluster of images that you can expand) will hit YouTube and the Discover feed
  • Lastly, Google will let you purchase directly from the SERP, image search, and YouTube

Google Trip Center Coming to Desktop: Google is bringing its trip center on mobile to desktop. By heading over to google.com/travel users can now plan out their flights and hotels on desktop. Google is also adding new features such as showing you hotels you already viewed, offering you new attraction suggestions once you’re on your trip, etc.

Quality Rater Guidelines Updated: Google has again updated its Quality Rater Guidelines. This is the first change since the summer of 2018. Most notably, Google has changed a lot of its language around E-A-T to “page quality.”

No Plans for Specific Image Search Referrer URL: Google no longer plans on offering a specific image search referrer URL. The idea was to make it easier to separate out traffic that came from image search from other Google referral traffic.

Fun SEO Send Off Question [55:08 – 56:39]

How does Google handle rejection? 

Mordy answered by saying that while most folks dive into a long and hardy binge into all sorts of foods and chemically altering beverages, Google just deindexes its rejector never to have to render them on the SERP again and rehash all of those painful memories.
Sapir believes Google will act up like one of those creepy guys that just can’t get a “no” for an answer.

Thank you for joining us! 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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Is Domain Name a Google Ranking Factor?

By | November 7, 2021

Let’s just say it: Exact match domains should be buried in a garbage bag right next to people who talk on their speakerphone in public.

Remember when every domain used to look like www.caraccidentattorney.com or www.buydogcollars.com?

That’s what we’re referring to when we talk about an exact match domain (EMD).

EMDs are domain names that include the exact keyword phrases you want to rank for in the SERPs.

Luckily, on September 28, 2012, Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed exact match domains are not a ranking factor.

Now that we’ve settled that dispute, let’s analyze how the domain name impacts search results.


Continue Reading Below

Take a deep breath and prepare to get the real story behind the SEO industry’s false claims on exact match domain names. To avoid a future crisis of your own, keep reading.

The Claim: Domain Name as a Ranking Factor

You’ve probably heard a client or someone in SEO say something like: “Exact match domains generate instant credibility.”

“It’s the best investment you could make.”

“It gives you a competitive edge.”

It was true — back in the day. The Hotels.com domain sold for $11 million in 2003, making it one of the most expensive domain name purchases of all time.


Continue Reading Below

The same theory goes for keywords in your domain name. We all saw claims that having a keyword in your domain name gives you a rankings boost.

Come. On.

We hate to be a party pooper, but it’s officially time to call B.S.

Domain Name as a Ranking Factor: The Evidence

There’s a lot of chatter online about domain names and their impact on rankings.

Does Domain Name Affect Ranking?

In 2011, Bill Slawski investigated Google’s exact match domain patent and uncovered insightful nuggets of information.

He theorized that it is possible that keywords in domains work better, according to the patent.

That same year, Google’s Matt Cutts addressed concerns about domain names in a Webmaster Hangout.

Cutts stated:

“Now if you’re still on the fence, let me just give you a bit of color, that we have looked at the rankings and the weights that we give to keyword domains, and some people have complained that we’re giving a little too much weight for keywords in domains.

And so we have been thinking about adjusting that mix a little bit and sort of turning the knob down within the algorithm, so that given two different domains it wouldn’t necessarily help you as much to have a domain with a bunch of keywords in it.”


Continue Reading Below

So, it was obvious back in 2011 that domain names did affect rankings.

But in 2012, Cutts shared on Twitter that this will negatively affect your rankings if done incorrectly.

In today’s world, domain names do not impact Google rankings.

Google’s John Mueller said as much in 2020:

“Just because a website has a keyword in its domain name doesn’t mean that it’s more relevant than others for that keyword. In short, you don’t need to put keywords in the domain name.”

To be clear, you do not want to listen to this advice.

How Important is Exact Match Domain Name?

The fact is, exact match domain names were always gray hat feeding into the black hat world. Exact match domains are pure baloney from a ranking factors standpoint.


Continue Reading Below

Brian Harnish tackles everything you need to know about Google’s EMD update.

Domain Name as a Ranking Signal: Our Verdict

Not a ranking factor anymore.

While there are exceptions to every rule, you want to properly evaluate your goals for the domain when it comes to your domain name.


Continue Reading Below

Speaking of exceptions, there is one here with our verdict: and that is when it comes to pure navigational searches.

For example, if someone searches for a domain (e.g., Facebook), they are specifically looking to navigate to that domain (eg., www.facebook.com), via a Google search (vs. typing in the URL or opening the site via a bookmark). In that case, the fact that Facebook is Facebook will help Facebook rank for that query.

Want more information on domains and SEO? Check out Roger Montti’s advice on choosing a domain name.

Featured image: Paulo Bobita

Source link : Searchenginejournal.com

SEO Newsletter Issue #25 (10/29/2021) | SEOSLY

By | November 7, 2021

Last updated on November 7, 2021.

seo newsletter 25

It’s Olga from SEOSLY here. Welcome to episode #25 of the SEO Newsletter. The SEOSLY newsletter is officially 6 months old!

As always, I am bringing you a pack of SEO news blended with pro SEO tips, and more! 


It’s been five months since I launched SEOSLY Pro, my SEO project all about technical SEO and SEO auditing. 

There are already 50 videos in the SEO audit video guide and more are coming this week.

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I want to invite you to give SEOSLY Pro a try.

  • With this code firstmonthONEbuck you can get the first month of the premium area of SEOSLY for only $1.
  • And there is a 30-day money-back guarantee for the second month.
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1a566a39 2116 80fd 7117 e08537216856


How to audit a site with JetOctopus

I have created a full guide on how to audit a site with JetOctopus, an awesome cloud-based crawler, and log analyzer.  

A new tool from Google to remove images of minors from Google Search results

Google announces a new tool and a new policy that will let you now remove images of kids, minors, and teenagers under 18 from both Google Search and Google Image Search. 

The Search Analytics API now supports Discover, Google News, and Regex

Google announces that now the Search Analytics API is being updated to now include Discover and Google News data. The support for Regex is also added.

Does URL length matter? #AskGooglebot

In this episode of AskGooglebot, John Mueller explains how URL length doesn’t affect ranking in search but how shorter URLs are preferred when indexing multiple copies of a page on your website. 

Google changes more structured data requirements

Google updated the requirements for the HowTo, QAPage and SpecialAnnouncement structured data. The changes make the structured data simpler

What makes Google Search Console so useful for SEO

I am honored to have been on the SEO Rank show where Mordy Oberstein and me discussed what makes GSC so special and when you should use a third-party tool.

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 Make sure to subscribe to the SEO Rant podcast and the EDGE of the Web Radio.


8 Ways To Drive Local Business In Competitive Markets With Search

Optimized GMB listings and location pages are essential. In this guide, you will learn top tactics and strategies to drive local business in competitive markets.


JetOctopus [Main sponsor]

This issue of the newsletter is kindly sponsored by JetOctopus, an SEO auditing tool that I have recently added to my SEO toolkit.  

JetOctopus is the fastest and most affordable enterprise SEO platform that has top crawling speed, real-time log analysis, and detailed 3D SEO reports on a site’s health.


Make sure to check my guide on how to perform a technical SEO audit with JetOctopus.

Note that as my subscriber, you can get an extended 30-day trial of JetOctopus. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the tool before diving deep into my audit guide.


And here are the SEO tips for you.

#1: Google does not really look at specific images on pages
Google’s John Mueller said that when it comes to web search, Google does not “look at the specific images on the page” for web search or ranking purposes. For image search, Google does but for web search, John said no.

#2: Continuous scroll on mobile does not impact GSC reporting
Google explains that its new continuous scroll on mobile devices does not influence how the Google Search Console reporting works.

#3: Google says they do not keep track of the order of links on a page
Barry Schwartz reports
 an interesting conversation on whether the order of links on the page matter. John Mueller says it does not.


What is a topic cluster for SEO?

Samuel Schmitt creates an awesome guide in which he explains what a topic cluster for SEO is.

A guide to Microsoft Bing Search & how to optimize your site for it

Semrush publishes a guide explaining how Bing works and how you can optimize for site for it.

35 insights that Google Analytics can give you about your website

In this guide from Semrush, you will find 35 valuable data insights that GA offers and you will learn how to use them to improve your SEO.

Website Health Check: Top Technical SEO Tips & Tools

In this article from SEJ, Loren Baker shares expert tips on how you can place your website at the top of the search engine rankings beyond the standard SEO tactics.

The T in E-A-T: What is Trustworthiness? How can you achieve it?

In this article from Yoast, you will learn about the trustworthiness factor in E-A-T, why it matters, and how you can improve it on your website. 

10 News SEO Tips from The New York Times’ Christine Liang

Christine Liang from The New York Times shares the latest tips and strategies for optimizing news for search – from NESS 2021.

Core Web Vitals Winner: WordPress, Drupal, Duda or Wix?

The Core Web Vitals Technology Report shows which web publishing platform offers the best Core Web Vitals performance


Tired of reading? Here are some great SEO videos to watch:

SEO week recap by Barry Schwartz

Here is the recap of the week by Barry Schwartz who talks about the Google algo update on 10/26, continuous scroll confusion, Search Console API updates, and more.

458 | News from the EDGE | Week of 10.25.2021 

It was an all-skate for Google topics this week on the EDGE.  The EDGE team covered articles from Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal.

The SEO Weekly – Episode 9 – Google Horror Stories for AMP

In this week’s episode, Garrett Sussman from iPullRank covers AMP and the Google lawsuit, the impact of core web vitals on rankings, and awesome SEO newsletters.

Google Ranking Factors: Fact vs. Fiction

Join Search Engine Journal’s Assistant Editor Anna Crowe and founder Loren Baker give you the facts, so you can aim your SEO strategy for the biggest impact on this special edition of the Search Engine Journal Show.

How to master on-page SEO with Kyle Roof

In this interview Kyle Roof. who is responsible for the development and implementation of all SEO techniques used by the SEO agency High Voltage SEO and the SEO tool PageOptimizer Pro, talks about ways to master on-page SEO. 

🙏 Please note that I am getting hundreds of messages and I am not always able to respond to all of you quickly. Please be patient. I will get back to you. I am doing my best.

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Best Rank Tracking Practices for Now & In the Future

By | November 7, 2021

Rank tracking is one of the most basic elements of SEO performance monitoring and reporting. Yet, as much as we’ve talked about how the world of SEO has evolved into what it is today, we still think of rank tracking as well… rank tracking. However, if SEO has moved past a linear look at “the keyword” then why do we still undertake a monolithic approach to rank tracking? 

That’s why I’m going to show how the situation on
the Google SERP has changed and why it means a new approach to rank tracking is needed!  

Antiquated Rank Tracking Banner

What’s Changed on the Google SERP? 

You can’t tell the story of the keywords and sites on the SERP without understanding what’s changed. Now, I could simply tell you what’s changed in a matter of fact manner and move on. That’s not really my style. Instead, let’s take a bit of a deeper look at two major ways the Google SERP has evolved and then we can talk about how these changes directly impact the way we should go about tracking rank. 

Rank is Extremely Volatile

Rank is far more volatile than it once was. “Of course it is,” you might say, “haven’t you seen all of these Google updates, they’re massive.” However… I am not making some sort of generic anecdotal statement! I’m not saying that rank is more volatile based on a “general sense of things.” I’m not acting on a whim based on seeing some blockbuster Google updates. Rather, I’m going on a deep set of data which shows that between 2016 and 2018: 

  • The average “fluctuation” went from consisting of a two position “move” to a 3.5 position move. 
  • There has been a 70% increase in rank diversity 
  • Having the top 5 results for a keyword match (same URLs in the same position) from month to month decreased by 60%

Average Position Change

The average number of positions sites move when fluctuating has greatly increased over time

Rank is legitimately more unstable. Not only that, but that instability goes beyond your big time Google updates. Fluctuations on the SERP has become the norm! 

[For more data on rank volatility read our study: Just How Stable is Rank These Days?] 

SERP Features Dominate a SERP 

Before we get to what a normally volatile SERP means for rank tracking, indulge me by letting me expound upon a second “problem” facing search marketers in this, the modern era of SEO… SERP features. 

There are really two sides to the “SERP feature coin” that has increasingly dominated the search marketing conversation:

1) The number of SERP features on the results page 

2) The highly targeted use of SERP features when meeting multiple intents 

The two sides of this complex problem, of course, go hand in hand. Google often places multiple SERP features on the page so as to target multiple user intents simultaneously. Take the keyword
french cuisine

French Cuisine SERP

In this instance, Google uses its SERP features to target users who want to learn more about this genre of food as well as those who may be looking to sample some local French delicacies. Google does so by initially offering a Featured Snippet that presents the basics of French cuisine’s history. Interestingly, and to highlight how far Google’s SERP features can go, the Explore Panel to the right of the organic results shows the exact same copy as the Featured Snippet. To target local intent, Google inserted a Local Pack followed by the Discover More Places feature (i.e, multiple SERP features that target multiple user intents). 

Now, for problem #2. Let’s have a look at the keyword how to change wheel bearing

On this mobile SERP, we have a Featured Snippet that makes use of a bulleted list format. Notice, however, that a bubble filter carousel exists at the bottom of the zero position box. The first option targets users who wish to view video content in place of written instructions. More than that, the filter targets specific users who want to see how to change bearings on specific vehicles and vehicle types (i.e., on a trailer) – one SERP feature targeting multiple users!

Any way you slice this, Google is far more energetic in how it uses its SERP features which means more and more users will find their needs met by Google properties (and not via organic results). 


Ranking Above the Fold 

You’re probably thinking, “I already know that SERP features have become a competitive force on the SERP.” Great! However, what many of us don’t realize is that this often means just one or two results appear above the fold. In fact, would you believe that at times no sites rank above the fold on the SERP! 

Actually, it’s not that hard to do. Many sports queries, for example, don’t show any organic results above the fold:  

No Above the Fold Organic Results

Even if your site ranks above the fold amidst the myriad of SERP features you have to think about how that actually looks. I mean that quite literally. How does your organic result fare visually on a SERP dominated by Google’s various features? 

One Organic Result Above the Fold

Though an organic result appears on the SERP above the fold it is visually overtaken by numerous SERP features 

In the above example, just one organic result for disney.com appears above the fold. However, even though initially within a user’s purview, the organic result here is visually overtaken by the multiple SERP features. More, due to the depth of the content offered, there is a high chance that the result is rendered all but irrelevant. 

Check out our SERP feature rank tracking guide.

The Problem with Tracking Rank for Your Keywords  

At the risk of stating what might be obvious at this point, let me lay out the problem with going about rank tracking much the way we have been for the last number of years. As you might have guessed each problem highlighted above aligns to a
 unique difficulty in thinking about rank tracking in the traditional sense. I know, so surprising, right?! 

Rank Tracking Problem #1 – Knowing Where You Rank Is Not Enough Anymore 

If rank is highly volatile, and the results are constantly changing, then does it really help you to know where you rank on the SERP per se? Not only that, but if sites tend to fluctuate up and down the SERP not only more often but to greater extents, i.e., with more positions moved per “fluctuation,” does knowing your rank provide actionable information? 

In other words, without being qualified from a volatility perspective, rank tracking, when done in isolation, runs the risk of being a vanity metric. Sure, you may rank #5 on the SERP at any given moment, but how consistent is your ranking for that keyword? Is there an increase in volatility (i.e., are you dropping down to say position 20 for the keyword often, or more often)? Does this keyword, which you may rely on for a significant portion of your site’s traffic, present a risk? Is it becoming increasingly less reliable over time? 

The converse is true as well. Are you closer to
top of the SERP rankings for keywords that might be serious potential traffic drivers? Sites fluctuate both down and up the SERP. There is potential within an increase in rank fluctuations. If your URL ranks 20th on the SERP but is increasingly being tested on page one can traditional rank tracking tell you that? Outside of recording your daily rankings for each and every one of your keywords would you know that Google is testing your site consistently for higher placement on the SERP? That’s a rhetorical question by the way. 

Can traditional rank tracking answer any of these questions and provide you with actionable information? 

If rank is being dominated by fluctuations then keyword rank tracking needs to be able to adequately align to that narrative. Simply knowing where you rank on any given day without knowing the keyword/ranking trends is quite logically insufficient. 

Ranking trends from a volatility perspective is a prerequisite for understanding your ranking behavior and
is the impetus towards increased site traffic (and thereby conversions – all things being equal).   

Rank Tracking Problem #2 – Not All Top Rankings are Equal 

As time goes on, rank position per se is becoming exponentially less important. Unqualified rank position metrics are in many ways meaningless. That may sound extreme, even hyperbolic, but it’s the truth.  

How valuable is ranking #2 or even #1 on a SERP with a Featured Snippet and Related Questions box above your URL and a Knowledge Panel to the side of it? 

Avocado SERP

In the above, healthline.com ranks #1 for the keyword are avocados healthy. What a win, right? I mean a user is obviously likely to ignore the detailed Featured Snippet along with the Knowledge Panel that outlines the nutritional value of 146 grams of Avacado goodness! (I’m being sarcastic.) 

What is the true competition level on the SERP? Gone are the days where you can say that you’ve beat out the competition by raking above them! Competition on the SERP is no longer limited to organic competition by any stretch of the imagination. 

In this case, if you’re simply looking at
rank position, if you’re simply taking an “old school” rank tracking approach, you’ve got yourself a nice win for a high volume keyword here! But we all know that’s not the truth, is it?! 

Above the Fold – Because You Have to Be Seen to Be Heard

We can talk all day long about how competitive a given SERP really is and what the true traffic potential of that SERP subsequentially looks like. However, that conversation is pretty much irrelevant if you can’t be seen on the SERP. In my mind, there’s not an immense difference between being on page two of the SERP and being below the fold. As I showed you above, it is possible to rank #1 and still appear below the fold. 

From a classic rank tracking perspective, what’s the problem here? You’re #1 on the SERP! What else matters because what else do you know from this data? In this instance, even knowing what SERP features are on the page doesn’t really help you since you don’t know if they have or have not pushed your URL below the fold. 

Again, rank data in isolation fails to provide an accurate representation of your success on the SERP.

Rankings Must Be Qualified

It should be pretty evident at this point, but I’m going to say it anyway… rankings – pure rank data – must be qualified. Knowing where you rank and knowing the value of those rankings are two different things altogether. I’m not advocating that rank tracking is futile (let’s be honest, I work for a company that tracks rank!). Rather, I’m proposing that whereas rank tracking used to be a “bottom funnel metric” that is no longer the case. Knowing where you rank on the Google SERP (or Bing, or DuckDuckGo, etc.) is the base data needed to engage in a deeper look at your site’s SEO performance. Rank data is the building blocks with which an actual understanding of what your SERP performance looks like. 

The question is, how is such an understanding then formed? What are the next steps beyond tracking rank? How can you qualify your rankings? 

How to Track Rank in Today’s World – Actionable Rank Tracking

If keyword rank tracking metrics in isolation, as a monolithic piece of data, won’t cut it, what does? Well, it’s a bit complicated, rather, more complicated than it used to be… way more. I would argue that you need to qualify your rank data in three ways… which coincidently align to the three essential problems I outlined above… what are the chances of that happening? 

Conceptually, what traditional rank tracking lacks is a degree of actionability. It’s hard to take any action from a pure piece of ranking data. If the goal of knowing where you rank is simply to monitor where you are on the SERP, then this data is fine. However, without qualifying that data it’s not possible to take action and to both improve upon your site’s situation and ensure that you can maintain it. 

This is why “actionable” rank tracking just makes so much more sense. What is “actionable” rank tracking? Let me show you. (Along the way, I’m going to use Rank Ranger’s various Rank Insights Reports to show you what this might look like.)

#1: Determine Your Ranking Trends & Keyword Volatility 

As mentioned, “rank” doesn’t tell you much about your keywords. To me, it’s all about how you’re trending, not about how you’re ranking. In other words, your goal is not vanity. Sure, it’s nice to see you’re “winning.” However, what you really want is to see what needs fixing, what’s working, and what needs attention. 

What’s more important, to know a keyword is #7 on the SERP or to know over the past 30-days it has slid down the SERP from position #2? The first qualification of a keyword’s “rank” is to determine if any trends exist and what the trends are. 

Take the image below as an example. From a pure ranking perspective, the site is within the “page one ballpark.” However, the trends show what is an alarming devaluing of the page’s ranking for the given keyword. Whereas the page used to rank among the top three on the SERP it now hovers closer to page two, if not on page two. 

Rank Loss Trend

The Rank Behavior and Fluctuation report shows a keyword’s subtle, yet significant, ranking losses over time

From here it’s easy to take that step into “action.” In either instance, whether the trend is upwards or downwards, you can work with the data. Should a keyword’s trend be towards the top of the SERP a page analysis and perhaps replication of the strategy behind the page would be in order. If you’re seeing ranking losses, then obviously the course of action is to try to determine what might be the cause and to work to counteract its downwards slope. 

Have a look below. The upward trend may indicate that there is something about the page that Google, for lack of a better word, is “fond” of. An impressive climb up the SERP from out of nowhere is an excellent signal of what might be working with the search engine and presents you with an opportunity for further improvement and even better rankings. 

Rank Trend Improving

Moving into the top 50 results on the SERP, the page highlighted above has continued on an upwards ranking trend

Finding Keyword Opportunities & Preventing Serious Ranking Losses 

Still, we can go one step beyond identifying ranking trajectories by analyzing keyword volatility vs. keyword stability. This speaks directly to my earlier point regarding just how much more volatile rank is now relative to the past. Perhaps more important (in certain cases) than looking at a keyword’s ranking trends is looking at its volatility trends. If you see a top ranking keyword plunging down to page two or page three with regular inconsistency (meaning, the keyword is regularly inconsistent), wouldn’t that be cause for concern? Just like with Featured Snippet URLs, Google loves testing to see if different URLs work better for its purposes than other URLs. Regular steep drops could very well indicate that Google is preparing or at least thinking about hitting your URL hard and pushing it down the SERP. Such instances would be a good time to “shore up” your page. 

At Risk Keyword

Sudden and consistent ranking losses may indicate Google is preparing to demote your URL from page one of the SERP

The inverse works just the same. While you might be ignoring a keyword that currently places your URL #45 on the SERP, maybe you shouldn’t be?! Again, if we were to simply relate to rank tracking the way we did in 2010 a page ranking #45 would not be your top priority. However, in a rank tracking model that focuses on volatility, that might just be your top priority as crazy as that sounds. Just like a keyword might have your URL dropping far off the page one SERP, volatility may have your lowly URL spring up to the #9 spot on the SERP! In other words, your keyword could either be the URL Google wants to replace or it could be the URL Google wants to use as a replacement! 

Keyword Opportunity

Ranking increases that place your URL on page one of the SERP present true ranking opportunities for your site 

Becoming intimately familiar with the volatility trends behind your rankings is the difference between sitting comfortably with a keyword that places you at the top of the SERP and knowing that this major source of your traffic is about to become extinct unless you act quickly. No pressure. 

#2: Determining the True Traffic Potential of a SERP 

Aside from conducting a “volatility audit” of your rankings, one of the most important things you can do is determine the genuine level of competition on the SERP. Understanding the competition context that your top ranking URLs reside within is the only way to accurately gauge the traffic impact of those rankings. As I said earlier, ranking #1 without a Featured Snippet on the page is not the same thing as ranking #1 with a Featured Snippet at the top of the SERP. 

For an actual illustration, we have to look no further than the popular movie site Fandango. Though ranking well for some seriously high volume keywords, the site faces stiff competition from SERP features that may give users what they need without the need to click. For example, for the

the site competes with a Local Pack that harbors local movie theaters. Keep in mind, in this instance, a click on a theater within the Local Pack will lead the user to the Local Finder and the theater’s business listing. There, a user can see movie times at the theater without ever heading over to the Fandango site. 

SERP Feature Ranking Competition

Despite top rankings, the site Fandango.com faces stiff competition from a plethora of SERP features 

With the SERP feature “environment” being what it is, I highly recommend taking the keywords that provide you with page one rankings and surveying the SERP feature field for those search terms. Doing so will do a few things for you: 

1) It will help you refine your SERP feature strategy. If you rank well for a vital keyword that sits amidst numerous SERP features, this may certainly be a keyword where you can try to capture a SERP feature win. If your site is competing with a video carousel, you may want to get your video within it. If there’s a Featured Snippet within reach, you may want to reach out and grab it in such an instance. Knowing which of your ranking wins is being minimized by SERP features can help you discover and determine which SERP features you need to win big with. 

2) It will help you refine your SEO strategy. You may think you have the best keywords for optimal traffic targeted. Your strong rankings may seem to confirm this. However, by going beyond organic competition on the SERP and looking at Google’s SERP features from a competitive angle you may decide to take your keyword strategy in new directions. For example, when seeing all of the competition from Google’s SERP features… you may decide to target more long tail keywords and to compliment your current set of target search terms.  

3) It will help you know which keywords to focus on altogether. There are going to be times where you might just have to walk away, where it’s more profitable to focus on other keywords that have more traffic potential. Don’t waste your time trying to rank #1 for a keyword that is just not worth ranking #1 for. Knowing how stiff all of the competition on the SERP is may mean your efforts are better spent elsewhere. There’s no shame in being smart and efficient. 

#3: Determining Your True Visibility 

Part of auditing your ranking keywords vis-a-vis SERP feature competition should be identifying how visible your URLs are. That is, do you rank above or below the fold? This, of course, is particularly pertinent to your top ranking pages. A page ranking #9 on the SERP is not showing above the fold. However, just as we “assume” a site in the 9th ranking position is below the fold we tend to think those ranking in the 3rd position and up all rank above the fold. I’m not trying to beat a dead horse here, but that is just not true anymore.

You might think you have a big win with the top spot on the SERP for a high volume keyword in your pocket. You might even be OK with the SERP feature showing on the page (because I assume you’ve followed my recommendations from step #2). But would you still be “OK” with things if you don’t rank above the fold and all the user initially sees are ads and other features? I assume not. Ranking #1 above the fold and ranking #1 below the fold is not the same thing. 

Top Rankings Below the Fold

A site with eight pages ranking #1 on the SERP only appears above the fold in three instances (as hard as that is to believe)

I saved this for last because identifying when you do and don’t rank above the fold can be the most important thing you do to combat antiquated rank tracking practices. Nothing screams success like ranking #1 or even #2 on a SERP, at least according to our a priori notions of what rank tracking data tells us. This “mirage” is the very reason why I strongly feel that knowing if you are above the fold for these keywords is so important. Obviously, this is not equally applicable to all sets of keywords. If you’re tracking a ton of obscure long tail keywords and you rank #1 on the SERP you’re above the fold (in all likelihood). That said, don’t get too comfortable because what you thought was safe may not or may no longer be at some undisclosed future ****. 

Stepping Out of Rank 

Jumping Snail Race

It’s uncomfortable. I get it. Rank was simple. It was uncomplicated. The most involved it got was looking at your month-to-month or quarterly changes. However, that won’t tell you if during the month your URLs are shooting up and down the SERP, not unless the timing is perfect. What I’ve proposed above is a lot more involved than what many of us have done to **** where tracking rank is concerned. I understand there’s a certain resistance to changing approaches…  but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. 

Despite all of the talking we do about how SEO has changed so drastically, I don’t hear much of anyone discussing how that impacts the way we track rank. Does it make any sense to say
search is a new beast and rank tracking practices don’t need to evolve with it? Of course, not. 

With search marketing what it is, it’s time to step out of our comfort zones and start to think about rank tracking a bit more creatively! Are you with me? 

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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The Disavow Tool: Is It a Google Ranking Factor?

By | November 7, 2021

The disavow tool, now located in your Google Search Console, enables you to tell Google not to count spammy links as part of your link profile.

Following Google’s Penguin update in 2012, toxic links became a huge issue. Sites with link profiles that appeared unnatural ended up hurting a lot of businesses and brands that had dabbled in spammy link building tactics in prior years.

SEO professionals balked at the idea of having to contact someone on the other end of every potentially damaging link to ask for its removal. There were also many reports of extortion (“Sure, we’ll remove that sketchy link, just send us lots of $$$!”)


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And although Google initially resisted, the disavow tool was born.

We know unnatural links can negatively affect your search rankings.

So can you improve your search rankings by using Google’s disavow tool?

Let’s answer this question.

The Claim: Disavow Tool as a Ranking Factor

Claims about this range from “use it to protect your rankings” to “we used the disavow tool and rankings skyrocketed.”

The idea is that if you rid your link profile of spam, identifiably paid, and other low-quality links, your organic search rankings will directly benefit.

The Evidence for the Disavow Tool as a Ranking Factor

Reddit and SEO forums are rife with anecdotes about the power of disavowing links.


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Here are just a few titles currently coming up on the topic:

  • How to Use Google’s Disavow Tool For Better Rankings
  • How to Effectively Disavow Links & Protect Organic Ranking
  • Disavow Unnatural Links and Improve Your Rankings

Really, that’s about it.

There’s no verifiable evidence that would prove that using the disavow tool tells the algorithm anything about your site.

The Evidence Against the Disavow Tool as a Ranking Factor

Google is careful in its positioning of the disavow tool as a preventative measure against manual action – not a component of the organic ranking algorithm – and says:

“If you have a manual action against your site for unnatural links to your site, or if you think you’re about to get such a manual action (because of paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines), you should try to remove the links from the other site to your site.

If you can’t remove those links yourself, or get them removed, then you should disavow the URLs of the questionable pages or domains that link to your website.”

But as Penguin taught the SEO world, manual actions aren’t the only ****** in Google’s link spam arsenal.


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Links are a ranking factor, and the disavow tool can help you clean up that signal.

Still, it’s not a ranking factor on its own and is only useful in cases where the link spam is so egregious Google can’t possibly ignore it on its own.

The Disavow Tool as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

The Disavow Tool: Is It a Google Ranking Factor?

Is using the disavow tool a ranking factor?


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No. You will not experience any lift in search rankings for using the tool.

Are links a ranking factor?


Can you positively influence organic rankings by cleaning up the links pointing to your site?

Yes. It’s a matter of reducing any potential negative impact of low quality/spam links; you are influencing an existing ranking factor.

But only in certain cases, and those tend to be few and far between.

If you’ve experienced a manual penalty, cleaning that up is going to stop the suppression of your site in Google search.

Even outside of a manual action, spammy and identifiably paid or otherwise manipulated links could be negatively impacting the algorithm’s assessment of your link profile.


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You can actually end up doing more harm than good by disavowing links.

As Google’s John Mueller says,

“Random links collected over the years aren’t necessarily harmful, we’ve seen them for a long time too and can ignore all of those weird pieces of web-graffiti from long ago.

Disavow links that were really paid for (or otherwise actively unnaturally placed), don’t fret the cruft.”

If you do use it and don’t see any results, it could be that you didn’t need to use it in the first place – or, you need to follow up with a reconsideration request.


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As Chuck Price recommends:

“The most common misconception is the disavow tool doesn’t work. It does. For a manual penalty, the disavow file works, when used as a last resort. That means that a full fledged and well documented link removal campaign must precede it.

The disavow file, combined with a detailed reconsideration request, is a core component in successfully getting a manual penalty revoked.”

Bottom line: Google does not use your use of the disavow tool as a search ranking signal.

Featured image: Paulo Bobita

Source link : Searchenginejournal.com

The Best Way to Analyze & Approach Google Updates: In Search SEO Podcast

By | November 7, 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

The In Search SEO Podcast Community Question of the Week!

Tip Share Episode 28

What’s the single most important thing you can do (or maybe not do) when a major Google algorithm rolls-out? 


Summary of Episode 28: The In Search SEO Podcast 

Today the great SEO experimenter and innovator Dan Petrovic hits the airwaves with us to explore the deep dark depths of Google’s algorithm:

  • Is there something new brewing within Google’s algorithm?
  • Are Google’s confirmed updates a red herring that distract us from even bigger algorithmic changes?
  • What’s the best way to approach a Google update?

Plus, we look at rank stability trends over the past few years to see if maybe there is something deeper to Google’s recent “quiet” period!

Is Google Planning Something Big for the Very Near Future? [2:44 – 18:57] 

During this week’s interview, you’ll hear Mordy and Dan mention that Google’s been sort of quiet lately and you’ll also hear that something ill-defined seems to be brewing.

So are things actually quieter? That’s hard to qualify. 2019 has certainly not produced the same number of blockbuster changes to Google’s SERP features as usual. We do a monthly digest called the SERP News and it’s been harder and harder to find a long series of impactful updates to the results page, solely because the news has slowed down.

Certainly, there has been a slow down in the number of tests to the SERP and whatnot. It used to be you would have a good 2-3 changes reported each week. Now, maybe you see one, if that.

Now, let’s look at SERP feature data trend shifts. It’s actually something Mordy watches very closely. Here too he noticed there is a tremendous slowdown. Outside of PLA and Ad shifts, we had some Image Box ups and downs, some video carousel increases, some carousel spikes, but really nothing unbelievable… it’s been a bit quiet on that front for sure.

How about rank? Sure, there have been fewer big ol’ ranking earthquakes but that doesn’t mean rank is quieter! Now, people should realize that most of these ‘weather’ tools that track rank fluctuations have ‘stable’ and ‘volatile’ as relative terms.

Compared to some really unstable rankings, moderate rank fluctuations seem like molehills next to mountains. It’s all relative. So if high fluctuations become the new norm, that will be considered “stable” and only when those already unstable rankings become far more volatile will we start to hear about an update rolling out.

In short, just because rank is stable on the weather tools doesn’t mean that rank is really stable, it’s just relatively stable.

Mordy did a whole study on this topic, taking a look at rank stability from 2016 – 2018, that you can check out here.

Mordy dug into the numbers again covering a dozen or so niches and looked at their average position change. The average position change is the average number of positions a site moves up or down the SERP when Google shuffles things around. In other words, when Google decides to rework the rankings for a specific keyword… is site #3 moving down to site #5 or is it falling, on average, to #100?

From 2016 and on, the average position change has seen an upward trend. In January 2016, the average number of positions we saw sites moving was around 2 positions. In January 2017, the average was at around 3.5 to 4. In January 2018, the average was a bit over 4 moving towards 4.5 positions.

During the Medic Update, some niches were pushed towards an average position change of 5.

Then after the Medic Update, something weird started to happen. The numbers started to drop. By January 2019 we were already hitting numbers around 3 position changes on average. The trends data is very clear and you see a vivid downslope. The average number of positions has started to fall back down. Now it has spiked a bit. You had those Google algorithm updates in March and so forth and even without that it’s gone up a bit. At the start of May, the average number of positions sites tended to move was about 3.5 positions. That’s still well under the 4.5 we were seeing.

To put this in one simple sentence, rank is a bit more stable, at least in terms of this one metric.

Which is weird because with machine learning you would think there would be constant changes and recalibrations but there hasn’t been or at least not to the extent seen in the past.

Okay, so here comes the conjecture.

Mordy thinks Google’s figured it out. In 2016, rank became far more unstable which makes sense. RankBrain came into the picture and started to help Google figure out what’s relevant and what’s not. The problem is that it’s a machine, it needs to learn, and Mordy thinks it’s taken about 3 years or so for it to learn.

In other words, Mordy speculates that we’re at the point where Google’s machine learning has learned enough not to have to undergo extensive recalibrations. It’s adjusting all the time, but not to the same shocking intervals that were seen in the past. The adjustments it’s making are becoming more and more refined and in the process there are fewer and fewer bumps in the road… or in our terms, fewer position moves on average.

Hence the relative quiet. But that does not mean something is brewing.

Rather, what Mordy thinks is happening is that one milestone begets another. As Google and its machine learning have reached a certain milestone of stability, it puts other milestones in reach.

So let’s go full-on crazy here and suppose that Google is like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one phase begets the next phase. If Google has reached a certain pinnacle via its machine learning then it puts the next pinnacle in sight, it allows Google to reach for the next mountain top.

Mordy thinks Google is entering a new phase. That the quiet on all fronts, be it the number of SERP changes, SERP feature data trends, or Google algorithm updates, is the calm before the storm.

Think about all of the crazy Google bugs that have been cropping up almost endlessly. When do you have bugs in a system? When you’ve just built something new and haven’t yet worked out the kinks.

If you want to go full-on conspiracy theory, you could argue that the changes to Search Console are part of the paving of the way for a new paradigm. After all, a new construct needs some new reports does it not? 

Look at the new mobile SERP with its ad label that 100% blends into the SERP. They even changed the color of the URL so that it all blends together as the URLs, like the ad label, are now black. Sometimes an external change is indicative of an internal change, which is what Mordy thinks is happening.

Long story short, Mordy thinks there are a lot of signs that something is changing in a big way. That something ill-defined is brewing.

Which is how you have “quiet” with a tinge of foreboding!

How to Analyze and Approach Google’s Algorithms Updates: A Conversation with Dan Petrovic [18:57 – 51:19] 

[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]

Mordy: Today we have an SEO all-star for you. He has spoken at every search conference you can possibly think of, he has written about every search topic you can imagine, and he is the managing director of Dejan Marketing out of Australia, he is Dan Petrovic! Welcome!

Dan: Pleasure to be with you.

M: So, before we start, I have to ask you, from one bearded man to another, how do you get that perfectly awesome chin strip?

D: The simplest possible method I use is the usual plastic disposable shaver and not too much fuss. Maybe I’m talented because I used to paint in school.

M: You must be talented as I definitely would have messed that up.

Let’s start with where do you stand on the whole E-A-T debate? I don’t mean in regards to the exact elements of the Quality Rater Guidelines being present within the algorithm. Rather, do you think that there are general, yet strong similarities between what’s been added to the guidelines and what Google is capable of algorithmically?

D: The two things are vastly different. The Quality Rater Guidelines are there to instruct the raters to provide the most useful input so search engineers can evaluate their output. Google’s algorithms generate the output for the user that raters evaluate. So the two are totally different and cannot be compared. On the one side, we have machine learning algorithms and whatever Google produces its search results and the other one is a set of guidelines that helps Google get the most value out of their rating team.

I don’t think people should be obsessing over these guidelines. There’s a reason that Google “leaked” the guidelines. Obviously, if it was a protected asset it wouldn’t have leaked. It’s not like Google’s algorithms leaked. Perhaps the first iteration was circulated without permission but I think Google embraced it and are now using it for PR. They’re sending a great message. Have great content, be accessible and crawlable, and everything will fall into place.

M: That’s probably the best answer I’ve heard to that question.

Let’s get a little “mystical.” Something is in the air. Something has changed, something has evolved algorithmically in the more recent past in my opinion. Do you get the sense that something significant, yet ill-defined (at this point) has entered the algorithmic fray? If so, what do you suspect is behind this undercurrent?

D: In fact, I also had this weird sensation. We search so much and know what to expect from Google. I have this very long structured query that I hit every day and it interestingly changes in those results.

One thing I noticed is that the results have vastly changed after Hummingbird where instead of showing search results they’re showing search vectors, directions of users. This creates a problem for more complex queries. Google’s serving users what it thinks users want and not actually what users want. So if you have a power user on Google who knows what they want, with a very structured query with very set expectations, Google will start ignoring it and dropping terms.

This is in the same line as Microsoft’s Clippy. Do you remember Clippy? You will start writing something in Microsoft Word and Clippy would come and say, “It looks like you’re writing a letter.” And I never write letters, only assignments or documents. Similarly, Google keeps suggesting to users what they are doing. One of my suspicions is that the Google we have now is what I call “Google Lite,” a Google that shares resources, that doesn’t show too much. It’s very optimized to save Google time and resources. And it’s a very pushy Google. It tries to hone you into a particular direction in your research which can be annoying for power users but I’m sure for 90% of the user base it might be quite useful. It forms the machine equivalence of an opinion of what a user is after and offers that. It is trying to be helpful but it can annoy a portion of its users, mainly us.

M: Do you think that it’s ultimately going to change? Do you think they’ll find a way to build in more resources and go in another direction with it or are they going to find a way to show what you exactly want as you hone in?

D: It’s capitalism. Minimize cost. Google has a great product but I think it’s objective is to be just good enough than everybody else so to sell ads and minimize competition. So unless Google gets a serious competitor the status quo will stay. I do have my fingers crossed though because it will be a great thing for the user. We will see better quality in Google’s results, a lot more research, and a lot more innovation. And it’s not that I think they’re sitting on their laurels as they are still quite agile and innovative but the resource saving is here to stay.

M: Let me dive into something more recent. The March 2019 Core Update took place almost exactly a year after the first of the confirmed broad core updates. Coincidence?

D: Yes, I believe it’s a complete coincidence. Either that, or there’s an internal reason for it to be released on that **** like for a technical advantage or an internal schedule. Otherwise, I think it makes no sense to schedule it for once a year.

M: Right, the only thing it could be was if there was a certain calibration that was set up at certain intervals. As I am curious if there will be an update in August gain. There wasn’t one in April so my theory is already a little shot but here’s to hope.

There are people who believe that the March update was somehow related to the Medic Update. What’s your take on that? Do you think there is an essential relationship?

D: The March update wasn’t as strong as the Medic Update. From the data I see, Medic wasn’t a particularly strong or exciting update. If you look on Algoroo, our Google algorithm tracking tool, you’ll find other dates in the past five years almost as big as Medic that almost no one talks about.

The second half of 2016, the second half of 2017, and the first half of 2018 saw HUGE changes with the results varying from day to day. And if you compare those periods of time to the past four months you’ll notice the past four months have been boring.

The biggest I ever saw was on September 14th, 2017 for mobile. But nobody is analyzing it. We don’t know what happened.

M: Do you think it’s imprudent to focus so strongly on these individual updates? That is, there is a much larger algorithmic context that you can place a given update, confirmed or unconfirmed, within. Does that make honing in on a “confirmed” core update a bit of a red herring?

D: The only thing we can tell from these multi-day rank fluctuations on search trackers is that something took place with anecdotal evidence. So for me, I look at this whole process in a binary way. Was there an update? Yes or no.

I have three categories of Google events that I use with my own staff. The first is global events which are when you try to correlate and understand why there was movement in organic traffic and rankings. In that case, it was Google that changed something. I know that it wasn’t me changing the title tag, or 301ing a page, or getting some new links.

The second is automated events where I didn’t specifically do anything, but something was detected in my systems like a broken link 404 page, a 301 redirect, somebody changed the page, somebody changed the update or the content, or we gained some links.

So let’s say, we gained six new links and suddenly, two weeks after that, we gain rank. So I’ll check my algorithm checker tool and see if there was an update. Was there an update? Yes or no. And that’s it.

The third level of events is manual annotations. For example, when I optimize the title tag for my page I just plug it in and I can see it in my chart.

So when I try to correlate things I check if I did something or if something happened out of my control. And that’s good enough for me.

M: I **** that. One of the things I hate most to do is dive into the algorithm updates. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s really only a very, very, very small sliver of what was actually happening out there.

And I hate doing winners and losers list. It’s such an easy mistake to make when all of these updates are right next to each other to say that because of this update this site lost or gained a ton of rank when in reality it’s just a reversal reaction to the previous update.

Do you think analyzing ranking factors, whether in general or even according to niche, is as helpful or relevant as it was even just a year ago? That is, as Google seems to have taken a more qualitative approach, a more holistic approach, as Google better understands entities and queries, as machine learning plays a bigger role, however you want to define and describe the current construct, has the “ranking factor” lost some of its relevance vis-a-vis trying to understand what does and what does not work?

D: I think one thing that the industry should be doing more is reading about experiments a lot less and doing experiments a lot more. For example, people know me as the guy that runs the experiments and shares the results and I think the experimentation and probing into what works and what doesn’t work should be a mindset of a modern marketer. And even if you’re not doing it for the purpose of disassembling Google’s algorithms I think our role is to try things and record it. Does it work or does it not? Repeat, try again, and again, and again.

One of my most successful articles in recent times was when I ran an experiment and I said, “I tried this and nothing happened.” I published these results that said nothing happened and that’s good enough for me because I know they don’t need to try it because it didn’t work for me.

As far as ranking factors, I **** that kind of stuff. Keep testing and probing because any knowledge we get will help our clients. Soon we will have less of a bottle-neck, less of a barrier of entry, with machine learning. Once the tools of machine learning are available for us and once the marketing industry matures I think a lot more powerful probing will come to Google’s algorithm and I’m excited to see what comes out of that.

M: I want to talk to you about authority, site authority, URL authority, page authority… Has the way Google determines or evaluates how authoritative a site or a page is changed?

D: Google couldn’t be clearer that they don’t look at websites, they look at pages. Now, of course, pages in a single website are interconnected and by default form a unit that all benefit from each other. But all the ranking factors and signals are focused on the page level. I believe Google’s website authority is more like website trust and it’s a lot simpler than we think.

Page authority/relevance is complex, but it can binarily be put as being trusted or not trusted. In a recent interview, John Mueller said they will try to look at the good stuff in a bad site or avoid the bad stuff on a good site. For Google, a few good pages on a bad site is still worth presenting. But if there’s so much bad that they can’t completely trust the website then they have measures to make sure that site doesn’t appear.

So the main authority I will not put too much emphasis on. I would think in more in context of the brand as Google understands brands, entities, and authors. For example, if you search my name in Google they will suggest similar personalities. They figured it out. They know who Dan Petrovic is, who Bill Slawski is, and who Rand Fishkin is. So site authority, not so much. Page authority, definitely. But entity authority is a new, exciting, and emerging thing.

Optimize or Disavow It

M: If you could focus and analyze just one thing; Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines or Google’s algorithm updates, which would you study and which would you leave to the wayside?

D: So I skimmed over Google’s guidelines because I don’t give it too much weight. And I understand that understanding the exact composition of Google’s algorithm is worthless. So I would choose understanding how Google’s algorithm works because that’s what my job is. What’s in the Google guidelines is commonplace stuff. My job is to understand how Google’s algorithm works and what makes it tick. And the only way to do that is not to speculate too much (although speculation is good as it gives you a hypothesis) and doing tests and experimentations.

People might say that it’s impossible to break down their algorithm but I think our experimentation can yield results and discover things that are actually useful like improving our clients’ websites.

I said it many times, and I’ll say it again. We don’t have the ability to make it rain. We don’t control the weather, but we’re the weatherman. We can predict and prepare our clients for the conditions that are about to happen. So I think it’s useful to look at the algorithmic updates. And I think it’s useful to understand what goes into Google’s algorithms so we can prepare for it. But if we compare a simple document like the quality rater guidelines and understanding of Google algorithmic updates through experimentation, it’s quite a simple answer.

M: Yeah. I had a feeling you’re going to go that way with this. Hard to imagine you would pick the quality rate or guidelines with your background.

I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all of your wonderful ideas with us today.

D: You’re welcome. It was good fun.

SEO News [54:59 – 01:00:54]

New Recommendations to Ad Optimization Score: Google is now giving you a new way to bring up your Google Ads optimization score. The new elements focus on ways to better optimize your bidding for better performance.

Hotel Price Insights Right on the SERP!: Google’s hotel price insights are now on the desktop SERP itself. You no longer need to click over to Google’s travel site via the Knowledge Panel.

New Redesign to Mobile SERP: A new design has hit the mobile SERP. The redesign includes a new ad label without a colored background or colored text, favicons as part of the organic results, and a black URL (instead of the normal green).

More Indexing Bugs Hit the SERP: Bugs are still plaguing Google. Aside for the bug that halted new indexing for a short time, Google announced there was another indexing issue unrelated to the initial indexing bug.

SEO Send-Off Question [01:00:54 – 01:03:47]

What does Google buy for their partner’s birthday? 

Mordy thinks Google buys its partner MORE SHOPPING PARTNERS! Why buy a gift when you could buy an entire store?!

Of course, a simple birthday cake would suffice as our co-host Sapir believes!

Thank you for joining us! 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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Christian Faith Home Care provides non-medical companion care services, to seniors, elderly, mentally, and physically challenged adults. Through coordinated care and support for clients and their families. Christian Faith Home Care enables individuals to remain in the safety and comfort of their own home environments for as long as possible. Christian Faith Home Care also serves clients transitioning back to home from an assisted living setting or from a hospital, nursing home or rehabilitation facility.

By | November 7, 2021

Christian Faith Home Care provides non-medical companion care services, to seniors, elderly, mentally, and physically challenged adults. Through coordinated care and support for clients and their families. Christian Faith Home Care enables individuals to remain in the safety and comfort of their own home environments for as long as possible. Christian Faith Home Care also serves clients transitioning back to home from an assisted living setting or from a hospital, nursing home or rehabilitation facility.

ايهاب توفيق – انت اختياري

By | November 7, 2021

اليكم بعض ما جاء فيها حيث تقول في حاجات كتير في حياتي كانت مش عادية، في حياتي ناس وقابلت ناس مفروضة عليا، أكمل قرائتها من خلال الضغط على عنوان الموضوع ليتم تحويلك الى الصفحة الاصلية حيث يمكنك قراءتها بالكامل.

The Impact of Google’s AI – It’s Time to Change How We See Search

By | November 7, 2021

Machine Learning Impact on User Perspective Banner

I’m a “meta” kind of person. I like looking at things on a fundamental level un order to get at the crux of what defines a topic and our relationship to it. In that vein, I have a funny sort of question for you. And as odd as it may sound, there are enormous implications to its answer. Are you ready? 

How do we relate to search? 

It’s really a simple question: What preconceived and latent notions do we hold in regards to search? Of course, how we answer this question will also determine how we view the searcher and what we conceive they are doing when they search for something on Google. Now you can see why this little, perhaps out of place question, has far-reaching consequences. 

And away we go. 


Current Perceptions in How We See Search 

Bionic Eye

In October 2018, Google added the word “journey” to the search community’s linguistic repertoire. Since then, we’ve all been busy throwing around all sorts of insights related to “search as a journey,” search journeys,” “search discovery,” or whatever incarnation you so prefer. And for good reason… because the concept is new and it’s important. That said, and while we have grasped the concept, it does not mean we’ve internalized it. 

I’m particularly calling myself out here. I’ve been talking about Google’s “new” way of relating to search well before the search engine threw its latest buzzword out into the open. However, like any shift in the overall paradigm, the last thing to change is how we latently relate to the matter at hand. While Google had formally announced a change in course, I realized that I had not revamped my unsaid associations to search (not to get too Freudian). And as anecdotal as this may be, I believe I can safely bet you haven’t either… which is why I felt it important to verbalize my “transformation.”  

Enough prefacing Oberstein… get on with it! 

What We Think Search Is 

We, in general, see search as being monolithic. What in the world does that mean? It means, we see searches taking place in isolation and keywords being their own vacuumed universes.

OK, but what does that mean? 

It means we think of a search taking place in a vacuum. Don’t believe me? Search your feelings, you know it to be true
…. When you think of someone sitting at the computer doing a search, do you really think of the context of the searcher, where they’ve been and to quote the great Dr. Suess, “Oh the places they will go?” 

That is, we generally imagine a searcher sitting down and executing a search for a very specific reason. More than that, we see each search as existing in isolation of the previous or next search. 

I’ll prove it to you

Don’t we still talk about targeting keywords, scoring keyword wins, garnering keywords, ranking for a keyword, etc., etc., etc.? The notion of a keyword is one that treats each topic and each search that was undertaken as separate “entities.” Except I thought it’s not about keywords anymore? I thought it was about journeys which intrinsically stands in contradiction to the notion of “the keyword” as it elevates topics over phrases per se?! 

In simple terms, we imagine the user executing one search, then we imagine them running another search as a totally distinct and separate event. That’s why we still refer to the process as “when a user searches for X.” The reality is that the user is often not searching for “X.” Rather, and more often than I think we assume, the user is searching for “X” understanding.

Let me explain. I’m a big sports fan and I often do a search for a given player to see what’s going on with them. Recently, it was former Pittsburgh Steeler (an American football team) wide receiver (the guy who catches the ball), Antonio Brown. I would enter something like
antonio brown news
into Google. I bet a lot of Steeler fans did the same. What would we say as search marketers?…. Ranking well for the keyword
antonio brown
antonio brown news
is surely a big win!  

In this instance, we’d be completely preoccupied with ranking for all sorts of terms related to the dastardly, deceiving, unloyal, irreverent
brown (things didn’t work out well for my team in this instance in case you couldn’t tell). Except when I literally ran this search each day for the better part of two or three weeks… I did not care one iota about
antonio brown
…. I was looking to understand where things stood with my team… I didn’t care about what was reflected in the search term per se, but rather the topic the term was subsumed under. 

In other words, the keyword I entered was a formality… I had to enter something… but what I really cared about was topical understanding. It’s this notion that I think we may know intellectually, but have not fully internalized. 

The idea of “a search” or of “a keyword” as being an isolated event or subject is in many instances (though not all) antiquated. With far more topical reach being available to a Google user, the monolithic way of looking at a search is far less applicable than it once was. Yet, this has been our way of thinking for quite some time, and like any shift in perception, change is slow.  

How Has Machine Learning Changed How Users See Search? 

AI Brain

As I mentioned, we traditionally relate to search as the acquisition of “X.” The user plugs a keyword in so as to get information related to that keyword. As noted, in many cases, the user is not looking at the keyword as an end unto itself, but as a means towards “greater enlightenment.” 

I’ll give you a good example of the difference between the two outlooks. YouTube. You could look at a YouTube user as typing something into the search box there and finding a video. However, the reality is far more dynamic. One YouTube video begets another video. How many times have you sat down to watch a video only to search for another one related to it? (Um, like a gazillion-billion times to use the numbering system of my 8-year old twins.)

We all see the YouTube user as only starting their journey with the initial video they’re watching. We all know the user is going to get sucked down the rabbit hole and end up missing the better part of their children’s childhood and all other sorts of important milestones.

Is that how we see the average Google user? Be honest.

Not really. 

Again, we see each search being an isolated event. A one-time thing that lasts but a moment. 

I would argue, and Google’s release of all things “search journey” all but confirms, that search is becoming more and more a “YouTube-like” experience. Meaning, the notion of “a” Google search is a fading concept. Rather, you have a multilayered and continuous search experience. One search relates to another search in both directions (i.e., past and future searches). One keyword is really part of a larger topical desire, a broader interest in an overarching subject.

A Meeting of the Minds: Machine Learning,  Advanced Entity Understanding, & Latent User Associations  

While the obvious instigator for this change in how users approach
search is Google’s SERP features (which create new content avenues), let’s remember that the new search as a journey “elements”
are a response to user behavior. In other words, many of the new elements on the SERP (such as mobile’s Discovery Feed) are the result of Google’s analysis of the user’s search behavior. 

What then was the instigator of Google’s move towards search journeys and more pointedly of the user’s move to a more dynamic and diverse approach to search? 

I have not surveyed a substantial number of Google users to determine the cause of their evolved relationship to search. Disclaimer: What I am about to say is the result of using both my powers of deduction and induction (the horror). 

Here’s a radical thought.
There is no one thing that changed the user’s association to and expectations of search. Rather, as better and more relevant content was slowly being churned out and as Google has gotten far better at showing relevant and diverse content the user’s “feelings” towards search followed suit. 

Let me rephrase this a bit more technically. What is the impact of Google’s machine learning implementation on the user’s “search juxtaposition?” How has RankBrain and the like changed the way users perceive search? 

It’s a funny question, isn’t it? Since 2016 I’ve both read and
written articles all about the impact of machine learning on Google search and it was not until this very moment that I thought to ask myself (nor have I seen anyone else ask) how these changes impacted the user’s feelings towards search! 

And I call myself a marketer!  

In all seriousness… doesn’t it make sense to step back and consider how
being better able to interpret intent and subsequently tender more diverse results, impacts the mindset and disposition of the user? 

Instead of showing more “literal” or “linear” search results, over the past few years Google has bestowed a colorful array of diverse results upon its users. What would the natural response to this be? Well, wouldn’t it be a more affable disposition towards using search to gain a deeper and broader understanding of a topic? Wouldn’t it be to see search as a means for a lateral topical exploration? Or in other words… search as a journey. Search as a journey is not an accident… it is the natural evolution of Google offering better, broader, and far more diverse search results since 2016! It didn’t come into existence at Google’s
20th anniversary event… it has been the slow evolution of how users go about search – an evolution that perfectly paralleled Google’s machine learning advancements.

The features Google announced back in October of 2018 were just the icing on a cake that already existed for some time. Google themselves admitted that by saying neural matching was at play for months before it was revealed in October 2018. The new “search as a journey” features/elements were not meant to create search as a journey. Rather, they are meant to better facilitate what users are already doing on their own. 

What Modern Search Looks Like 

It’s quite hard to conceptualize what notion of search I am propagating without something tangible to observe. In plain terms, I could talk about how a user’s approach to search is more dynamic and layered than ever until blue in the face…but nothing helps illuminate better than an actual example. So here we go. 

A Real-Life Search Journey

As I mentioned, I use Google to keep up on sports. There is no doubt a better way to do this, but I resort to using the Google SERP, as I am sure many do and as Google has designed it to be. Follow me as I go from a very broad sports query to a completely new topic in a few easy steps.  

There are 162 games in every major league baseball team’s regular season (i.e., not including the playoffs). Now, I have no life… I have four small kids and there is no way I can watch anywhere near 162 games and keep up on what happened in each of them. Thus, with frequent regularity (which comes out to about 5 times a week) I search for my team on Google to get a sense of what’s going on.

Before I show you my search journey, I want you to know, I didn’t fabricate or alter my search process for the purpose of this post. This is exactly what I searched for and the rabbit hole I went down. 

Let’s start with the query for my team

Yankees SERP

We get a lot of good stuff here (or bad stuff if you look at the score). Wait… did you catch that? You didn’t?! 2018 rookie of the year nominee and future baseball star Miguel Andujar got injured! (How could you miss that?) 

Behold the power of Google Posts:

NY Yankees Google Post

I, of course, clicked on the post and watched the video: 

Google Posts Yankees Video

In typical sports style, I heard that the player was injured and a whole bunch of fluff about how he’s going to work hard to get back as soon as possible. For anyone who knows sports that could mean he’s coming back next week or next year! 

I need more information. 

My next move was to see if the Top Stories carousel gives me something that talks about this and sure enough, it does: 

Yankees Top Stories Card

Clicking on the card I
was whisked away to an NJ.com article that gives me a bit more detail on the nature of the injury: 

Article on Player Injury

It turns out, Mr. Andujar, despite being filled with hope and promising hard work has a “tear in his right shoulder labrum that might need season-ending surgery.” 

In the words of Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy, “Dammit, Jim!” 

I’m not sure who Jim is in this case, but dammit! Season-ending? He’s one of the only players on the team who hits for contact (that means he doesn’t strike out a lot and does a good job getting on base). I, in good sports denial, refuse to believe this. Can’t be! What is this “labrum” thing anyway? It can’t be that vital that he has to miss the season with immediate surgery. It’s not like a kidney or anything… it’s a labrum…. that doesn’t sound essential to life at all. To me, the labrum is the appendix of the shoulder. He’ll be back playing next week. 

The minuscule part of me that still has a hold on reality knows better and it demands I search for what is a labrum


Labrum SERP

Oh, this Google fella is smart. Sure, it gives me some useless definition related to insects. (I don’t care about insects, I care about baseball players!) That said, the next three results are all about not just shoulders, but shoulder tears (as in shoulder injuries, as in Google knows why I’m here). Remember when I said that Google has a better grasp on providing diverse content and on understanding what a user really wants, thereby impacting how the user feels about the viability of search? Case in point. If I thought it would be a pain to go and find content on the labrum vis-a-vis a tear/injury, I would have just moved on. 

Let’s take a look at the first result Google gave me from verywellhealth.com: 

Shoulder Injury Content

Well, would you look at that! The lead image is of a guy playing baseball! That Google… oh that Google. Turns out, it’s hard to diagnose the severity of the injury (there are three types of injuries to the labrum). Typical treatment starts with letting the shoulder heal on its own and assessing what’s what at that point. So there is a real chance that Mr. Andjuar will be back without having to have season-ending surgery. I knew it all along… the media has to run sensationalist headlines to sell papers (digital ads)… he’s OK (maybe)… I knew it all along. 

Takeaways: Practical Analysis of My Search Journey

Two quick points here: 

1) The second I saw the nature of the injury I bounced from NJ.com to find more information. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds, but it would have done the site well to include a sentence or two on the nature and treatment of the injury. The article may well have towards its end… I have no idea as I didn’t return to the page to find out. It just goes to show you how important understanding both the nature of your audience (in this case, most of us have no idea what a labrum is) and why they’re there (to both know what happened and what it means). In this case, the article did a good job telling me what happened, but it forgot to tell me what it means (i.e., what is a labrum tear and why it means surgery). 

The point is, being in touch with the search as a journey mindset is very important to content creators.

2) If we still lived in a keyword focused and monolithic search environment the article would be a total win. However, here I bounced after two lines because the content creator didn’t consider the overall journey, didn’t consider that I wasn’t searching for the same reasons and in the same way as I would have just 2-3 years ago. (I’m not blaming anyone, I’m sure you could critique this very article the same way).

If I had more time on my hands I would have searched for who the backup third baseman is for the Yankees. Doing as such would have brought me to a new website. That’s why it’s important for a site to consider the overall intent of the searcher. In this case, I don’t care about the player per se (sorry Miguel, sports is a cruel world). I care about the team. What does his injury mean for my vicariously living through a group of grown men playing with wooden sticks? (Though, let’s not get too Freudian with that either.)

A content creator fully in touch with their search as a journey selves would have thought into the larger intent here, the team. Instead, the content focused on an isolated sub-topic, as we have all been doing for years. Here, that’s the player (as opposed to the team, as I’ve mentioned). A more internalized understanding of search as a journey would have either resulted in the article talking more about how this will play itself out vis-a-vis the team or a separate article on the topic. This way, when I do find the time to search for who will play third base instead of injured 
or who is the
yankees backup third baseman 
the site will show at the top of the SERP (all things being equal).

[For the record, the latter search did bring up a result from nj.com where they discuss the backup player from…. 2016. That’s not very helpful now, 
is it? For the record, I am not picking on anyone here (as previously mentioned). This is a hard change, it’s a subtle change, it’s an abstract change. That’s why I’m writing this post! Know, I am speaking more to myself than to anyone else.] 

Search Perception at First Light 

Colorful Sunrise

Sure, there are instances, perhaps many, where a user wants a “one and done” experience. They plug in a keyword, want a quick (or even not quick) answer and then they’re done. I just don’t think that happens as often as it used to and as often as you might think. The example I gave you above is one of many I could have personally gone through. Every month I like to search for a list of what’s new to Netflix. The other day I did just that and I saw an ad for an Amazon Prime show, Jack Ryan. My thought process was literally, “Oh man, I totally forgot about that show, when is season 2 coming out?”. I then proceeded down the rabbit hole of all things related to season 2 of Jack Ryan.

Don’t take my word (or personal experience) for it. Just ask yourself, which search scheme is Google focused on? Is the search engine more concerned about individual searches or are they focused on overall search intent (i.e., the user’s fundamental search desire and subsequent end goal)? The answer is obviously the latter. That should pretty much tell you all need to know about how searchers are going about search! 

But that’s not our knee-jerk reaction to what search is, at least not yet. These things take time. That said, it’s important to be aware of where our intellectual perception ends and where our precognitive relationship to search begins. Google has shown qualitative improvement when it comes to understanding and connecting entities. More, I believe the search engine can treat a domain/site as an entity. The result of this and other advancements is a cornucopia of search results that lends itself to deeper search engagement. Users will and have responded accordingly. The SEO industry as well…. but only on the surface. I don’t think, to no fault of our own, that we’ve truly come to appreciate what the new search paradigm means. Hopefully, this post has helped you as it has helped me to consciously realize how I think of search! 

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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