Google admits its help documents aren’t always up to **** and says it’s worthwhile doing your own research on recommended best practices.
This topic is discussed during the latest episode of Google’s SEO & Devs web series on YouTube, which is all about whether official help documents can be trusted.
Martin Splitt of Google’s Developer Relations team, and Michael King, founder and managing director of iPullRank, get together to talk about how Google’s documentation can lead developers to not trust SEO professionals.
SEOs provide recommendations to developers based on the information in Google’s official documents.
Google aims to keep those documents accurate and trustworthy, but the information sometimes lags behind what’s actually working in SEO, and what’s no longer relevant.
A specific example they addressed is a situation that came up in 2019, when Google revealed it stopped supporting rel=”next” and rel=”prev” years before telling the search community.
That meant SEOs were telling developers to use pieces of code that were no longer relevant to Google Search.
Rather than making an official announcement about it, Google simply removed the documentation related to rel=”next” and rel=”prev”.
It wasn’t until Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller received a question about it on Twitter that anyone from the company told the search community about this change.
Some SEO professionals and developers may have come to that conclusion on their own after noticing Google understood pagination just fine without the use of rel=”next” and rel=”prev”.
That’s one example where doing your own research could help you learn how Google Search works, rather than relying solely on official documentation.
Splitt shares background information about this situation, and the difficult choices Google had to make when it came to communicating the changes to the search community.
Why Aren’t Google’s Help Documents Always Up To ****?
Google Search changes quickly, so Splitt cautions against looking at the company’s documentation as the single source of truth.
Regarding the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” situation, Splitt says:
“The docs are not always in phase. We’re doing our best to work with the teams and help them to keep their documentation updated, but it does every now and then happen in this case like a bunch of engineers in search quality figured out — ‘hey, hold on, we actually don’t really need the rel-next and rel-prev links anymore to figure out that there’s like a pagination going on. We can figure that out from other things on the page by themselves.’”
When it was discovered the code was no longer needed, Google’s engineers removed support for it.
Splitt explains the decision making process behind communicating this change to SEOs and developers.
“… What do you do? Do you either update the docs to just quietly remove that part because it no longer is relevant?
Or do you go like ‘Hey, by the way, this is no longer necessary. And truthfully speaking it hasn’t been necessary in the last six months.’
Knowing very well that people are reading the documentation, making recommendations based on it to other people, and then these people then invest work and time and money into making that happen.”
Splitt goes on to say the choice was either to remove the documentation and come clean about rel=”next” and rel=”prev” being obsolete, or keep the documents up knowing the code wasn’t necessary anymore.
“And the alternative would be to let it live there in the documentation, even though it’s wrong it doesn’t hurt.
So we went with the full frontal way of going like — ‘Okay, here’s the thing. This has been removed a while ago and we’re sorry about that, but now our docs are updated.’
And I think none of the choices are easy or necessarily perfectly good, but it’s just what happens. So I think we’re trying to keep the docs updated as much as possible.”
So there’s the story behind rel=”next” and rel=”prev” and why Google handled the situation the way it did.
The key takeaway from this story is to always be testing and doing your own research.
Figuring out what works on your own may be more reliable than Google’s help documents.
If you believe something isn’t necessary, even though Google recommends it, your instincts may be correct.
See the full video below:
Featured Image: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral
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A little less than two months ago Search Engine Land made the decision to stop publishing versions of our content using Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages. For us, it boiled down to wanting to simplify our reporting and our desire to end the process of hosting Search Engine Land content on 3rd party servers.
Since then, a lot has happened, but the bottom line is we have seen very little disruption to our traffic and have reaped the benefit of having a clearer picture of our audience analytics.
What happened to traffic? For us, it is difficult to draw any major conclusions about traffic changes since we turned off AMP. Search Engine Land is a media website that primarily produces journalism, so we are very much tied to the news that emerges. As you would expect, when big news like core updates or major Google Ads changes happens our traffic jumps. But as the news dies down during the holiday season we usually see month-to-month declines. That why year-over-year benchmarking is generally favored by news organizations.
We did not see any year-over-year declines in traffic that we could tie to AMP aside from the loss of pageviews to a handful of pieces that routinely spike for organic traffic. For example, an older article about Google SERP Easter Eggs ranks highly for us and usually spikes a few times during the year (including Easter time!). Mobile traffic to that post was previously going to the AMP version. However, we turned off AMP at a time that piece was spiking on mobile and did not see that traffic shift back to our native page. The page itself has never really driven quality traffic so the lost traffic isn’t really a problem.
Safeguarding. Around the time we shut off AMP we also took a few steps that could safeguard us in case the experiment caused a big traffic decline. We increased our publishing volume for starters. We also adjusted the strategy in our newsletters to better optimize for click-through rate. That move was also in response to Apple’s privacy change in iOS 15 that now makes open rates a less reliable metric.
The big win. One of the main reasons for turning off AMP was to better understand our metrics. Despite several failed attempts at AMP stitching in Google Analytics, we never could tell how our audience moves from our AMP pages to our native ones. Users were undoubtedly being double-counted as unique in both the AMP and our native website dashboards. The clearest indicator that this was true is in the change we’ve seen in return visitors since we turned off AMP. The number of sessions by return visitors has jumped by 30% since we made the change, and now we have a far better picture of our most valuable audience set.
Why we care. We went into this experiment knowing there was some risk, but haven’t seen anything to make us reconsider the move. The biggest question mark had always been around the Page Experience Update. AMP pages were as fast as they come, so the worry was that our native pages that don’t benchmark as fast as AMP would lose out. We didn’t see that, and it makes sense because many SEOs are still trying to tie their own wins or losses directly to the Page Experience Update.
So we’re not looking back. And if you have your story about turning off AMP we’d **** to hear it.
Henry Powderly is vice president of content for Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. With more than a decade in editorial leadership positions, he is responsible for content strategy and event programming for the organization.
The death of the cookie is inevitable. By 2023 marketers will no longer be able to track consumers online using third-party cookies.
Although Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox blocked third-party tracking cookies several years ago, Google Chrome continued to use them. More importantly, Chrome controls 60% of the global web browser market share. So, not only are cookies going away, but so is a massive source of consumer data for the advertising industry.
The death of the third-party cookie will create more privacy for internet users as they move across the web. But, the change presents a large challenge for marketers who rely on third-party data and programmatic advertising to drive their campaigns.
Before Google cookies go away, marketers must adapt their strategies and find new ways to forge connections with their audience.
Understanding internet cookies
Before defining what exactly a third-party cookie is, it’s important to understand where it exists in the digital ecosystem. In general, cookies are files that collect data about internet users.
For years, web browsers have leveraged cookies to track users and save their personal information. Marketers rely on this information to improve audience segmentation, attribution ******, user experience, messaging, website analytics, and advertising campaigns.
Web browsers use two main types of cookies to collect user information: first-party cookies and third-party cookies.
What are first-party cookies?
Websites use first-party cookies to collect data on their own domain visitors. This information helps website owners understand who their visitors are and how they interact with their site. Marketers use this data to help them better connect with their target audience.
First-party cookies can also save user information for future visits. For example, the Chrome browser can save your username and password and quickly log you in next time you return to a website. Or, it can remember configurations for customizable pages you visit frequently.
First-party cookies also help inform basic website analytics, such as page sessions and user demographics. Once a user leaves the domain, first-party cookies can no longer collect their information.
For users and website owners, first-party cookies can be considered a positive tool — a mechanism that helps consumers have a more efficient and personalized online experience.
The use of third-party cookies, however, has been more controversial.
What are third-party cookies?
Website owners use third-party cookies to track users after they’ve left their site. Third-party cookies work by embedding a file on a user’s computer. This file collects data on the user as they move across the web.
Brand marketers use third-party cookie data to build profiles on their target consumers. They may also use this data to understand what their visitors are looking at on other websites. Ad tech companies also use third-party cookies to communicate and build larger data sets.
How exactly is user decision-making being influenced by cookies?
How do third-party cookies currently benefit brands?
Third-party cookies are the engine that drives the online advertising business model. When a user visits a website and consents to cookies, they can be tracked across the internet. In other words, brands utilize a consumer’s online history to influence them to make a purchase.
Third-party cookies aid brand marketing efforts in several ways, including:
Ad targeting: Using information collected by cookies, brands can serve users specific ads based on their browsing history and individual profile.
Cross-site tracking: Third-party cookies can track user touchpoints after they’ve left a website.
Social media buttons: Publishers and retail sites use social media login buttons as identifiers to further track user demographics and interests.
Many brands dedicate large amounts of their marketing budgets to these strategies. When third-party cookies go away, the data marketers currently rely on will go with it.
Why are third-party cookies going away?
While valuable to marketers, third-party cookies have raised privacy concerns among internet users regarding their browsing history.
According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans report feeling like advertisers, technology firms, and other companies track most of what they do online. The growing anxiety around online data privacy has prompted big tech companies and lawmakers to take action.
In response to rising privacy concerns, lawmakers have already implemented new privacy regulations. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) states users must consent to cookies when they visit a site, typically by a pop-up. These regulations ensure users don’t automatically opt in to browser cookies when they visit.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) also protects the personal information of California residents, including information that cookies collect. Under these laws, California residents have the right to reject having their data sold to third parties, the right to request disclosure of data already collected, and the right to request any data collected be deleted.
These trends will only continue as internet users become more knowledgeable about where their information goes. Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop, Google and other big tech companies decided to control their own destiny.
Google’s 2023 deadline
Google initially announced their third-party cookie phase-out in January 2020, but pushed out the deadline last year. Google’s new plan is to completely get rid of third-party cookies by 2023. The new deadline gives Google and other industry leaders time to plan for the change.
Google’s decision is rooted in privacy protection and web accessibility, the company said in a blog post.
“If digital advertising doesn’t evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their personal identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web,” wrote David Temkin, Google’s Director of Product Management, Ads Privacy and Trust.
The delay also gives marketing teams more time to process the news and chart a new course of action. Marketers will have to reallocate their time and money to effectively connect with their audiences.
How will the death of the cookie change the advertising industry?
Marketers are left wondering how they will target the right consumers online without the data provided by third-party cookies. Many believe the loss of these cookies will have a profound impact on the future of digital advertising.
In fact, many individuals in the marketing industry have expressed concern over how they will continue to hit their goals. According to a recent survey by GetApp:
41% of marketers believe the inability to track the right data will be their biggest challenge going forward.
44% of marketers predict a need to increase their spending by 5% to 25% in order to replicate their 2021 goals.
It’s true that digital marketers will be forced to find new ways to target their audiences. This may require a shift in strategies, channel investments, and marketing budgets.
In order to change with the times, the industry will need to reexamine its approach to genuinely connecting with customers. In a cookie-less world, marketers have to come up with fresh strategies to win.
What will replace third-party cookies?
So, what’s next? The good news is: you won’t have to rebuild your marketing strategy from scratch. Google has already announced its own solution — the creation of new technologies that would provide similar user insights.
For example, Google announced an initiative called the Privacy Sandbox as an initial replacement for third-party cookies. The Privacy Sandbox aims to block invasive tracking techniques and replace them with more collaborative initiatives.
Browsers will track consumers in new ways
Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposes that all individual user data remain in the browser, rather than ad agencies and technology companies controlling and selling it. Google claims this shift would support consumer desires to control their privacy, but still allow personalized ads to reach them.
“Some ideas include new approaches to ensure that ads continue to be relevant for users, but user data shared with websites and advertisers would be minimized by anonymously aggregating user information, and keeping much more user information on-device only,” wrote Justin Schuh, Director of Chrome Engineering, in a Google blog post.
Our goal is to create a set of standards that is more consistent with users’ expectations of privacy.
Google also proposed a new technology called the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). FloC aims to collect user data and organize it into groups rather than build out individual profiles. Google would then share those user profiles with advertising companies. This would allow Google to permit targeted ads while maintaining control over the data.
Critics of Google’s approach say the tech giant is simply finding new ways to infringe on user privacy. Some even claim Google’s approach may lead to discrimination and predatory targeting.
As we get closer to Google’s third-party cookie phase-out, the industry will continue to learn more about these technologies and debate the ethics. For now, brands and advertising agencies will want to consider what their overall strategy looks like with and without Google’s alternatives.
First-party cookies will still be used
It’s important to note that Google’s decision will not discard all cookies. First-party cookies will still collect data from website visitors. Google has even stated first-party data will become even more important to support the company’s Privacy Sandbox initiative.
“We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with,” wrote Temkin.
In order to get the most out of first-party data, marketers will have to consider new tactics to connect with users and earn their trust. This might mean thinking beyond e-commerce product page optimization or retargeting items from a user’s shopping cart.
Instead, brands should consider publishing relevant content throughout the conversion funnel to attract the right audience. Not only can marketers retarget users based on their actions, but they can also leverage premium content to collect contact information. For instance, you could offer a webinar or a white paper in exchange for an email and phone number.
Revival of old strategies
What’s old can be new again — and now is the time to reinvest in tried and true strategies. For example, contextual advertising is an alternative to behavioral advertising that brings relevant ads to website visitors.
Contextual advertising is the practice of inserting relevant ads into a piece of content. The strategy allows you to target websites based on similar keywords. One example might be to place furniture ads within articles about home decorating.
Contextual ads aren’t tailored to a user’s actions and personal data. Instead, they’re tailored to the content itself. These types of ads are far less jarring to privacy-conscious users. As government regulations and laws evolve, marketers will want to revisit these less-invasive advertising techniques.
How marketers can prepare now
Marketers don’t have to wait until Google officially kills third-party cookies to update their approach. The change presents a challenge and an opportunity for marketing teams that need to modernize their strategies. Those that adjust their game plan now will have an advantage over competitors that wait.
To prepare for the phase-out, teams should closely watch industry news and the discussion around current cookie alternatives. As the discussion evolves, industry leaders and tech giants will present us with new ways to reach consumers.
Marketers should also consider what channels are providing the best overall return on investment (ROI). Are your digital advertising dollars truly driving the most value?
Look beyond the advertising channel
As the end of third-party cookies approaches, digital marketers must rethink their budgets rather than seek workarounds.
Marketing teams should consider looking outside the advertising channel altogether. Many in the industry are worried that digital advertisements will not hold the same value they once did.
A report published by Epsilon stated 70% of marketers said they think digital advertising will take a step backward as a result of third-party cookie deprecation.
70% of marketers said they think digital advertising will take a step backward as a result of third-party cookie deprecation
To remain at the forefront of competition, marketers should consider reinvesting a portion of their ad spends on more tactful channels.
For example, investing in the organic search channel offers a superior return on investment (ROI) and greater compounding value than paid media. By analyzing search data, marketers can understand exactly what consumers are asking for and connect with them early on.
Marketers that diversify their strategy now can begin to see results far before the competition does. As the privacy revolution continues and lawmakers step in, brands and individuals that stopped relying on invasive advertisements will reap the long-term benefits.
Organic Search AdvantageOrganic search is the only channel that accrues value over time.LEARN MORE
Third-party cookie FAQ
When will cookies go away?
Google states that it will depreciate third-party cookies by late 2023.
What are third-party cookies?
Third-party cookies are files that website owners use to track users after they’ve left their site. Third-party cookies work by embedding a file on a user’s computer. This file collects data on the user as they move across the web.
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One of the toughest things to gauge when running a business is your marketing budget. If you’re like a lot of business owners, you’re probably allocating funds on an as-needed basis. I know that when a lot of our clients launched their business, they tried to rely on free or low-cost methods as much as possible.
Did you ever hear the saying that you get what you pay for?
In order to raise brand awareness in a highly competitive world where anyone can hang up a digital shingle and cut into your market share, creating an adequate marketing budget is essential. However, strategizing ways to spend wisely without shortchanging your business will cut costs without cutting corners.
What Goes Into to a Marketing Budget?
One look at the average marketing budget for enterprise is likely to send you into panic mode. In times when revenues are dropping off, allocating 9% – 20% (depending on niche) more per year to marketing seems like an unnecessary risk.
I mean, you can just spend time online and generate interest for free, right? Surely you can save a little more money by designing brochures yourself and printing them up at home. Paying a web designer another $5,000 – $10,000 to build your site is an expense you can cut when there are so many DIY site builders around.
But, who’s going to maintain your site? I can tell you first-hand that, even when I first started online so many years ago, the “build it in an hour and they will come” method stretched into weeks of frustration trying to do it right. I can also attest that the end result hardly presented a professional image.
So, the first step of your budget planning process is to prioritize what you’ll actually need and getting a realistic idea of how much that will cost. You can start by researching the average marketing budget for businesses your size. Don’t forget to factor in your industry and region.
If you have a history to draw upon, you can use your previous year’s marketing costs as a baseline. Sales figures are also good basis. The general rule of thumb is to set your budget at your total projected revenue x 5 percent.
Return on your ad spend also factors in. If you’re an established company with a good reputation and consistent sales, you might be able to get away with allocating 1 percent of your revenue to market your business. However, startups and new product lines might take up to half of their total budget to generate interest and sales.
How much of the work can you actually do yourself versus hiring a marketing firm? Professional marketing may seem like a big expenditure, but professionals have more resources and expertise. You’ll get a bigger return in the end and have more time to focus on other branding activities.
When planning your budget, also consider your:
Business goals, long- and short-term
Market and competition
Once you have a good idea how much you need to work with, it’s time to strategize ways to make it work for you more efficiently.
1. When it Comes to Leads, Put Quality over Quantity
You could spend all of the money in the world trying to reach more people, but it’s an exercise in futility unless you reach the right leads. Take the time to identify your target market, really get to know them, and put your efforts into marketing to them, specifically.
2. Double-Dip Your Strategies
Rather than spreading yourself – and your resources – too thin, pair strategies that compliment each other. One of the most basic and effective examples is SEO and content creation.
3. Know Your Marketing Platforms
Not all sales channels and platforms work equally well. You could focus on Facebook ads, but that won’t be very effective if your audience isn’t hanging out on social media. Part of knowing your audience is learning which platforms are most effective for reaching out to them. Put your resources where your audience lives and breathes.
4. Drill Down on Your Business Goals
It’s not enough to say “I want to increase my sales” or “I’m going to get more web traffic”. These are two separate goals that require a different strategy. Do you want to increase sales by 2 percent? 50? 2,000 percent? How are you going to increase traffic, and how will you know that number has improved?
Each type of goal requires a different approach. Create specific goals that are measurable and draft a plan that’s compatible with your vision.
5. Experiment and Test
You don’t need to jump on a band wagon just to get in on the latest trend if it isn’t amenable to your marketing goals. However, you should be willing to think outside the box and experiment a little. Stay flexible, try new platforms and techniques, test their effectiveness, and put more money toward those that look promising.
6. Cut Out the Dead Wood
While you’re putting time and effort where it’ll do the most good, you should also be ditching the things that are drawing resources without much ROI. Keep in mind that some strategies, like raising brand awareness, developing a social media following, and SEO, take time to see results.
7. Recycle and Repurpose Whenever Possible
There’s no need to create a new headline or content for every launch. Things like social media updates and email can be updated regularly. But, you can transfer other marketing materials from one medium to another, such as creating a video from a tagline, or regenerate interest in an older blog post by linking it to something current.
8. Take Advantage of Free Advertising
Yes, I said what I said at the beginning of this post, But, free advertising is still a good way to generate buzz. You just shouldn’t count on it as the basis for all of your marketing. Social proof and brand ambassadors are very effective for building trust and spreading awareness. Leverage the power of user-generated content by requesting reviews, testimonials, and images or video of your customers enjoying your brand.
9. Invest in Tech and Use it Wisely
Even if you don’t run an online business, technology is still a necessary investment that will pay for itself in due time. You just need to invest it strategically. Rather than paying for licensing, infrastructure, and platforms out right, use SaaS (Software as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) whenever possible. A customer relationship management app will help you track and streamline service.
10. Spend Wisely
I realize this point was the point, but it can’t be overstated. Don’t spend on bells and whistles you don’t need when basic will do. Take the DIY route when feasible and preferable, but don’t be afraid to invest in professionals.
It’s not enough to set aside money for marketing, In these uncertain times, it’s most important to allocate wisely and try to increase your ROI.
You don’t need to cut corners.
The above tips are designed to provide you with some ideas that you can put into action today to make your ad spend work harder with less effort. Marketing pros from Level343 will work with you to create effective strategies that will extend your marketing budget and still get results.
Sometime in December, SEO experts started noticing that Google was low-key testing out a new feature inside its search box.
It’s an expanded version of the box that we’re calling the enhanced autocomplete box.
Over in the box’s right column, Google pulls the top three People also ask questions, and a People also search for section presenting numerous related terms and entities.
While there’s a wealth of information out there, most news outlets and blogs just rehash what the box is and how they accessed it.
But this isn’t the fault of those publishers.
That’s all the intelligence there is on that right now, since this is clearly just a beta test that Google isn’t ready to comment on just yet.
At the same time, the information that the new autocomplete feature presents is evident to industry experts.
Many SEO professionals probably noticed the new feature and believe they know what Google is up to.
Maybe we don’t have the full story yet, but I have an idea about where Google might be taking this.
There’s a way that SEO experts can leverage the enhanced autocomplete to perform keyword research and topic research.
What Google’s Enhanced Autocomplete Function Is
First, let’s cover what the new enhanced autocomplete box actually is.
Here’s a screencap of what it looks like:
Screenshot from search for [digital marketing], Google, January 2022
Google doesn’t give you one for every search. But for a few general topics (check out the other screenshots in this post), all I had to do after hitting Enter was to click back into the search bar once, and the larger box appeared.
Before we get to what’s in the expanded box, the first thing you’ll notice was that this thing appears above the position-zero featured snippet and the knowledge panel on the right.
What does that tell us? We can’t be sure yet.
At a glance, the new expanded box appears to be just a new way for the search engine to organize some of what it thinks are the most important search features for your query.
Down the left column, in their usual place, are the suggested autocompletes for your term.
In the new right column are three People also ask Questions, and below those are a few items in the People also search for section.
Note that the box does not contain organic search results, and I wouldn’t expect Google to start cherry-picking results to put up there.
Well, why would it? The results are already down there for you to see, in the order Google prefers.
Overall, the enhanced autocomplete seems to be a way to make your search a bit easier if you happen to be looking for any of those three PAA question topics, or to buy that digital marketing book, or to do business with GoDaddy.
If you’re wondering why Google would feature elements in its expanded search box that it already features right on the SERP, just chalk it up to further optimization of user experience.
You know why PAA questions exist. You know why Google’s Knowledge Panels exist.
What the enhanced autocomplete box does is simply relocate the most relevant pieces of that extra content to a more prime piece of real estate so you don’t even have to scroll to find it.
If you want organic SERPs, you can head on down the page like normal.
So, how do I feel about the enhanced autocomplete box?
There’s revealing information there that you can leverage for your digital marketing efforts.
Using The Enhanced Autocomplete Box For Keyword And Topic Research
At this stage, anyone can claim to know what exactly the enhanced autocomplete box is and how it can be used.
But I believe I can extrapolate what the box is supposed to represent.
If there is already a PAA section on a given SERP, as well as a knowledge panel for the more mainstream topics out there, Google is selecting a certain few items from each section to present to you.
You know the items you’re being shown are the most authoritative and relevant on the page.
Like what we’re used to seeing in SEO already, digital marketers can take advantage of Google’s selections to perform keyword research and topic research.
Have a look at this version of the box below, for my search query [pizza].
Screenshot from search for [pizza], Google, January 2022
You’ll see the autocompletes, the PAA questions, and then the People also search for.
But now take a look at the regular SERP for [pizza] below.
Screenshot from search for [digital marketing], Google, January 2022
The SERP is showing me just what you’d expect for such a query. I have a map of my location, the local pack on the left, and the PAAs below that.
Now, look at the enhanced autocomplete box. It’s showing me Domino’s, Papa John’s, Little Caesars, and DoorDash.
Do you see those entities anywhere on the actual SERP that I showed above?
Because Google is presenting me with these results, it’s assuming some things about my query, namely that I want to eat pizza right now.
If that’s the case, those are some options for me to try (like DoorDash), and a convenient way to get it, too.
But what if I was a new pizza franchise that wanted to compete with Domino’s and Papa John’s? What if I, too, wanted to get in Google’s enhanced autocomplete box for a [pizza] query in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania?
If I was savvy in digital marketing, I would look at the websites of those companies to see what their meta information was like, what they were using for H1s, and how they optimized their pages for SEO and user experience.
I’d look at how easy it was to order pizza from their sites or to find a location near me.
After poring over the sites manually, I would then take a look at the sites in a tool such as SEMrush to see what’s going on behind the scenes.
What are they doing right that my pizza franchise’s website would need to do to perform well?
Ultimately, I might find that those sites have healthy domain authorities built on backlinks and Core Web Vitals and content.
However, I could also run through those sites’ keywords to see what opportunities lie there for my franchise.
In the context of this example, any owner of a pizza franchise would have to know that Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Little Caesars are pretty big.
But you never know what your site can do until you observe a competitor’s keyword profile.
There’s a good reason why Google chose to put those three companies in my enhanced autocomplete box rather than three others.
In classic SEO reverse-engineering fashion, we can use Google’s choices to discover what kinds of results the search engine really wants to see.
The pizza example from above is a particularly interesting one for keyword research because Google gave us some search competitors that don’t even appear in my organic results.
As I keep saying, that’s evident.
But what about topic research?
I don’t think there are any particularly great revelations to hash out on that.
Google is moving the top three PAA questions up to the enhanced autocomplete box for some searches, and with those, we can also reverse-engineer those results’ SEO (to see what content works for those websites).
So, in general, the SEO community already knows how to take advantage of the PAA.
However, I suppose we can see the three “featured” PAA in the box as just more of a confirmation of Google’s confidence in those results.
This is to say: if for any reason, you weren’t paying attention to the PAA before, you should definitely be doing so now.
Google is telling content marketers everywhere that many people also ask these three questions related to your query, and that if they’ve searched for the general query [pizza], they might also want to know if pizza is healthy to eat or who invented pizza first.
Depending on your market niche, these content topics might be relevant to you.
Maybe you run a pizza blog.
Anything is possible.
As you might have seen reported in the SEO media, Google has recently been beta testing numerous other SERP features that take up the width of the page, from featured snippets to Map packs.
That tells us that Google’s been wondering whether delivering content in that format is going to be better for the user experience.
Screenshot from search for [schuylkill county], Google, January 2022
Users will just have to get used to any changes that Google implements permanently.
SEO professionals, though, should take note of the enhanced autocomplete box and any other beta tests they’ve seen recently.
Google is giving us some hints about some possible new SERP priorities to come, and it’s up to all of us to rise and meet the challenge.
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