Author Authority is a Thing in SEO. Here’s Why You Should Care





Author authority sounds redundant. It’s not. Authors can garner authority in various ways. On Google, this simply means tagging yourself as an author using the rel=”author” tag. At least that’s what it used to be in the early days. You would get a picture next to your link and a byline. Around 2013, this began to disappear. Google eventually quit using authorship altogether.



Recently, however, there have been hints that Google might bring back authorship. This time it might not be so easy to spot. Here’s what you need to know about Google’s new treatment of authorship in their SERPs.

Search Quality Rater Guidelines and Authorship

While Google is often silent on upgrades to their algorithm, they are generous in giving webmasters lists and guides. The Search Quality Rater Guidelines is a 164-page search document every SEO expert should check out.

Google updates the document every so often and they’ve recently added a new section. Guess what the section entails? The reputation of the creator of the content.



It tells quality raters how to spot websites that toot their own horn with no credibility. “When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the websites says, trust the external sources.”

It’s not unlike how we rate and canonize historical literature. We don’t merely trust what a book says about itself, but we compare it to outside sources. Sometimes those sources counter claims within the book.

What Does This Mean for Us?

Google has been employing machine learning and A.I. in their algos. And using human raters dampens any attempt at scaling.

Some in the SEO community believe Google is heading into a new era. Soon we won’t have updates as the search engine will be able to adapt as it goes. The inclusion of authorship in the rater guidelines is an indication that perhaps Google will be teaching its AI to monitor and verify authorship.



Even then, Google may attempt once more to incorporate Authorship into their normal algorithm.

This is good news for authors, but not so good news for newer businesses with little reputation outside their own website.

Here’s what Google might look for if they do include Authorship as a metric:

  • Clearly identified content creator (no more Admin bylines)
  • A well-written bio on the author
  • Creators who have links online to other content with authority

What Are Some Practical Things to do to Prepare

Content creators are going to have a much harder time getting their content a website. They will need to have expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. And as a webmaster, you should already be vetting your content contributors carefully.

One great thing for writers is the fact websites will need to start giving more bylines if they want to gain authority. They will have to link out to social media accounts and other authorial sources.

But, if you’re a content creator and you haven’t diversified your portfolio, you might again have a hard time doing so after any algorithm change involving authorship.

Continue to expand your portfolio if you’re a content creator. If you’re a webmaster, start vetting your authors ASAP.

 

The State of SEO: What the Latest Algorithm Updates and Reports Are Telling Us

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Search engine optimization is a competitive, ever-changing landscape that requires marketers to adapt fast. Google changes its own algorithm up to 600 times every single year. And according to Google itself, it has confirmed this in tweets, “each day, Google usually releases one or more changes…” Keeping up with changes is extremely hard. But it’s also necessary if you want your organic traffic to be consistent and continue to improve. You can’t be doing what worked five years ago today and expect the results to last forever. With changes coming daily and significant updates in the works, SEO is, has and will keep changing as consumer behavior changes.



Google’s search engine is designed for the people, not for the marketers.

We can’t keyword stuff anymore and expect to rank number one.

Now meaningful experiences for users play a key role in success. Creating content that solves user problems faster and more efficiently.

As of late, Google has pumped out a few major changes to the way we conduct SEO practices in 2018 and beyond.

 

1. The mobile and page speed era is here

Just five years ago, mobile optimization was an afterthought.

You’d optimize your website with keyword-rich content, schema markup, and metadata.

Then, you’d dynamically update your mobile site to capture that bit of mobile traffic that needed it.

You know, the mobile-friendly crowd.

And, you’d simply repeat the process and watch the traffic flood in, mainly focusing analysis on desktop reports and rarely reviewing your mobile reports.

But times have changed.

In 2016, mobile traffic started to become a more substantial portion of the overall internet usage worldwide in comparison to desktop.

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With mobile traffic continuing to rise, it’s time to shift our perspectives from desktop first to mobile first.

And that’s exactly what Google is doing with the mobile-first index.

Zenith Media predicts that mobile traffic will account for 79% of all Internet traffic by the end of 2018.

Initially announcing the mobile-first index in November 2016, Google made it clear that mobile was dominating the search engine.

Today, most people are searching on Google using a mobile device. However, our ranking systems still typically look at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user. This can cause issues when the mobile page has less content than the desktop page because our algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that is seen by a mobile searcher.

Let me summarize this for you in plain English:

Most people are using Google on a mobile device.

Conducting mobile searches is more common than ever. Yet Google was still ranking search results by desktop page content and experience.

The disconnect here is that most are on mobile yet website owners are designing for an audience viewing desktop.

This results in bad experiences for users on unoptimized mobile pages.

And Google is all about providing the best search engine to its user base. Which is the majority of the world:

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If Google didn’t make the change to rank mobile pages, there would likely be a drop in mobile users not searching with Google due to slow sites and unoptimized mobile pages.

So, they started testing the mobile-first index in 2016, where Google planned to shift its indexing to mobile pages before desktop, providing better browsing for the majority of users.

As you can imagine, this was a pretty significant shift. And, it left the industry with a lot of unanswered questions.

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If your website is not optimized for mobile, you could see a drop in traffic and rankings.

Just recently in March 2018, Google announced that it was “rolling out mobile-first indexing,” giving users messages in their search console to inform them:

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So, what implications does this have for you?

It means that you need to have a functioning mobile site with content that matches your desktop site.

This can be achieved with a responsive mobile site that dynamically updates content from desktop to mobile.

Or, if you’re using an m-dot site, you need to update content from your desktop to mobile manually.

If you’re using WordPress, I recommend using a plugin like WPtouch to move your site to responsive.

WPtouch allows you to transform your site into a responsive, mobile-friendly site with the click of a button:

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You can instantly edit your mobile site themes, and content will transfer dynamically as you make edits on the desktop version.

You can even create landing pages specifically for mobile within the plugin, making it great to prepare for mobile-first indexing.

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After you’ve got a responsive site setup, turn your focus to improving page speed and designing a better user experience for mobile users.

If people are bouncing from your site within seconds, Google knows that.

And trust me, it isn’t going to keep your page ranking first if the average time on site is five seconds.

That’s a clear signal that user’s problems aren’t being solved with your content or UX, making it irrelevant.

On top of that, 85% of online users won’t return to your site if they have a bad experience on mobile.

Poorly designed UX isn’t the only cause of that bad experience.

Mobile data collections show that mobile landing pages are dreadfully slow:

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In fact, they take on average 3x the best practice to load.

And these slow load times lead to hugely inflated bounce rates:

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You can’t risk a slow mobile site. Not when page speed is a mobile ranking factor now.

To keep up, eliminate heavy page elements and keep a simple design. I’ve been testing this on my mobile site with great success so far:

I have removed big elements and compressed images to create a simple, sleek design that is easy to read and use.

Try using plain white backgrounds with black text that is big enough for mobile.

Simplicity is key. Don’t use heavy CTAs and big images that slow your site down.

Simply put:

Mobile UX and speed are crucial to success in SEO right now.

Since that was a ton of information, let’s recap:

  • Mobile-first indexing is rolling out
  • Your content on desktop should match mobile
  • Focus on improving your site speed
  • Make sure that mobile pages are fast and simple in design

Follow these steps, and you will be prepared to take on the new mobile-first index. The state of SEO is changing, and mobile is becoming king.

2. Zero-result SERPs: SERPs are changing fast

With changes to Google’s algorithm, we’ve seen massive changes to the search results page over the last decade.

Back in 2010, our search results looked like this:

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These simple results are vastly different than a given search engine results page in 2018.

Even in 2013, SERPs underwent massive changes, including different snippets, demographic categories, and social mentions:

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But now, our SERPs contain tons of new elements, like answer boxes and frequently asked questions regarding the topic you search for:

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Or detailed knowledge graphs for specific companies, displaying very complex and detailed information directly on the SERP.

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For example, with the Evernote image above, you can find its social media profile, iTunes app, and Google Play link without ever clicking on its website.

You can even find a detailed product description, screenshots, and software compatibility data directly on the graph.

There is almost no need to click on actual search results anymore.

And, we see this because of the rise in voice search and artificial intelligence (AI).

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With voice search and AI, searchers can order goods, make suggestions, and talk about current events. Searchers are now presented with one answer.

This shift has been dramatic and often worries SEOs: will people even click on our links now?

More recently, in March 2018, Google tested zero-result SERPs, where only a single piece of information was displayed in the form of definitive answers or knowledge cards:

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To see any link-based results, you’d have to click “Show all results.”

If not, the entire Google SERP is taken up by this simple answer.

Meaning all of those standard results you’d expect when searching for the time…

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…don’t show up without the extra effort of clicking the results button.

While only limited to a select grouping of searches, it’s a telling sign that Google is consistently refining the search engine results to be less link-based and more results based.

It allows users to get answers faster than ever before without the need to read a 5,000-word article.

Instead, the most important bits of information are fetched from top content sites and utilized in the results:

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Data shows that while this test was being conducted, and many experienced the effects for a few days, most current results pages still display with the traditional ten links:

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The fact of the matter is:

SERPs are changing. Fast.

And we can’t sit back and watch our rankings dwindle down.

Instead, SEOs have to get ready for the future SERPs and how different they will likely be.

We need to start focusing on generating better content, even if it means answering the questions before users click.

Right now, try targeting keywords that don’t have rich results or knowledge cards/graphs.

Conduct simple searches on Google to see what the search results look like:

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If you notice standard results, this is a good sign that you can expect a ton of organic click traffic and these terms are likely great to target while you can.



SERPs will change over the next few years. Prepare for it while you can.

3. PageRank patent is a game changer for link building

Last month, Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea, published an article announcing that Google had made an update to its PageRank patent.

This update to its patent describes how Google’s algorithm will affect the way websites are ranked.

The patent goes on to explain how Google will calculate link distances between authoritative websites and spam sites using a web-link graph.

Essentially, Google is creating a map of your links. Something like this.

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And, within that map, Google is looking for the shortest path to seed spam-free websites.

So, you want your link map to consist of the most authoritative, trusted domains with the shortest way to get back to your website.

Nothing new, right?

Guess again.

This update gives smaller niche websites a chance to outrank more prominent websites.

Why?

Just because you have more links, doesn’t mean you have the high-quality links.

For example, if you’re a small website competing against a Buzzfeed or Amazon for a search query, you may outrank them if your link map consists of more niche, trusted sites.

The goal is to have a reduced link graph with niche, spam-free websites linking to one another.

This is only the starting point for ranking. Google uses over 200 different factors to rank your website.

The key to ranking with Google’s PageRank is to provide relevance in links and content.

4. March 7 algorithm update: “Brackets.”

On March 7th, 2018, rankings were shifting for tons of people in the SEO community.

Just a few days later, Google confirmed the updates as a “core update” to the algorithm.

Due to the update being live in March, G-Squared Interactive coined the core update as “brackets” to reflect March Madness:

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Over a few days that the update was pushed live, Glenn Gabe from GSQIS started to notice fluctuations in rankings, rich snippets, and more:

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This prompted tweets from Google’s Search Liaison account, confirming the updates:

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So, what exactly happened here?

Websites with little content relevance were primarily affected, sending rankings for companies to either jump high or fall heavily.

Many SEO marketers suspected this update was targeted at low-quality websites.

As Glenn speculates on the “brackets” update:

“This was one of the biggest updates I’ve seen in a while. It seems Google once again improved how it assesses quality, and with Google always looking to surface the highest quality content for users, that’s a really big deal.”

However, John Mueller cleared things up during a Google Webmaster Hangout on April 6th.

He went on to explain that if your site was affected by the March 7 update, it is not an indication of a low-quality site, but more about content relevance.

Meaning your website is attempting to rank for specific queries that might not be relevant to the user clicking through to read them.

Your content has to connect the dots to search queries. Bounce rates must be reduced. Anything and everything you write and publish should be relevant to the reader.

This update comes out just two months before Google Research’s release of  Ask The Right Questions: Active Question Reformulation with Reinforcement Learning (PDF).

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This paper explores the machine learning algorithm that uses the Reinforcement Learning approach.

Essentially, this algorithm decides what to display in the SERPs using machine learning structured around user intent.

And, we might see Google create its own content in the SERPs soon.

Content is still king. But content for the sake of creating more isn’t.

Improving content relevance bridges the gap to user intent.

With this new update, it’s time to focus on creating more content that is useful to your readers and improving your design.

Run a basic audit of your existing content to see where you can improve it.

For example, comb through your latest blog posts and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this provide value to the query?
  • Can I include more information that others are probably also searching for?
  • Does my content solve the problem with actionable, detailed steps and examples, or does it merely point out the problem and tell (instead of show) the fix?

If you are struggling with content ideas or ways to improve existing posts, use Google to your advantage.

Remember those question boxes I showed you earlier? These ones:

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Turn those questions into a long-form post about PPC. Take each question and use them as your H2 headers to structure an outline.

These topics are all interrelated. People want to find resources online, not a simple post that tells them how great SEO is without teaching them how to do it.

And, don’t be afraid to ask for input from your visitors. Get feedback from your visitors to gauge how they feel about your website and content.

Then, expand and improve your current content.

As for website design, you should always be assessing your landing page metrics in Google Analytics:

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Work to improve your time on site and reduce bounce rates by creating engaging content pieces.

Simplify your blog structure and website design to focus on content and usability.

And, conduct a quick SEO audit to make sure Google can crawl your content and that your content is being indexed correctly.

With this latest update, one thing is guaranteed:

Quality is more important than quantity.

5. HTTPS

The speed update isn’t the only update coming in July this year. Google announced that also in July all sites still using HTTP would be marked non-secure like this.

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And, now Google issues its final warning stating that by October 2018, all sites using HTTP will be marked with a strong red warning.

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It’s important to note that this will affect all websites that are opened using Chrome.

While this does not affect your rankings, this will eventually affect your bounce rate and the user experience.

Which, in turn, affects your rankings.

Adrienne Porter Felt, software engineer and manager on the Google Chrome Security Team, took to Twitter to share the importance of HTTPS.

She stated, “HTTPS is a foundational part of web security. It’s a grassroots effort that worked hard to get leadership support.”

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It’s important to note that it’s not just Google pushing for the move to HTTPS.

Mozilla, inventors of Firefox, are pushing for secure Internet.

However, Bing is not on board with this…yet.

But, it’s clear, that HTTPS does affect ranking.

SEMrush proves that in recent research. They discovered that the higher position in the SERPs, the more HTTPS sites existed.

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And, Searchmetrics discovered Google is already placing higher value on HTTPS sites for specific industries.

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Luckily, there’s still time for you to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS before the launch in July.

However, before migrating, you’ll want to make sure to take the right steps. Otherwise, your organic traffic could end up like this.

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To prevent a drop in traffic when switching from HTTP to HTTPS, review the following:

  • Make sure that all versions of your site redirect to the correct HTTPS version, including canonical tags.
  • Update all internal links pointing from HTTP to HTTPS.
  • Submit a new sitemap with the correct HTTPS link.

I’d recommend running a full SEO audit of your website before going live with HTTPS to ensure you’ve covered all your basics.

And, before you get started, get all hands on deck for any potential issues that may arise when you’re ready to go live.

Conclusion

SEO is a rewarding and frustrating marketing tactic.

When your efforts pay off, they can result in big wins for your traffic, sales and ultimately, your bottom line.

I’ve grown multiple businesses off SEO alone. But SEO is also frustrating.

With 600 algorithm changes every year, staying on top of the best practices is brutal.

What worked last year might be out of style the next.

And those tactics you just spent money investing in could be outdated by next quarter.

It’s a constant uphill battle, but staying on top of changes can produce a significant profit.

The latest updates and reports point toward a mobile shift:

The mobile-first index is rolling out, and while Google says it doesn’t directly impact rankings, we can assume that it’s highly likely to in the near future.

With zero result SERPs and voice search, we can gather that SERPs are changing fast and moving toward instant answers.

Social media is still a big player in SEO, but it’s becoming harder than ever before to stand out.

Lastly, with the latest core update, content relevance is becoming harder to make. Seek to improve your content every single day to benefit from better rankings and avoid potential drops.

SEO is changing. Keep up to date with these latest algorithm updates and reports and you will be on the right track for continued success.

What are some SEO predictions you have for the coming year?

 

 

Permalink SEO: How to Rank Higher With Proven URL Tactics (For Webmasters / Blogger Only) 2018

permalink seo higher ranking website blog




It’s no secret that it can take a long time to rank on the first page of Google. And with each passing year, it seems like there are more elements than ever for webmasters to consider in the neverending climb to the front page. But with all the changing and updating, there are some elements of SEO that you can rely on to always help you improve your rank on a results page. One such element is the permalink. There’s a good chance that even if you don’t know what a permalink is, you’ve been taught a few of the best practices already. This part of your site and how it contributes to your SEO cannot be understated, and it’s worth your time to dig a little deeper into how you can use them effectively.



So in this post, I want to provide a guide that helps you establish permalinks that will act as a cornerstone of your content for years to come.

And to kick things off, I want to show you what a permalink is and why you should start optimizing them immediately.

How permalinks affect SEO

Permalinks are the full URL that users and search engines see when navigating through your site.

permalink

As the name suggests, permalinks are permanent even if you update the content on the page.

You can think of it like you would your physical address.

You have a number, street name, city, state, and zip code in that case.

Unless you move down the street, your address will stay the same forever.

The same sort of principle applies to a permalink, but in this case, you’re talking about your website.

It has a distinct set of parts that tells a web browser which page to navigate to and display on your screen.

In fact, there are at least six distinct parts of a URL.

You have the protocol:

url 1

This tells your browser how to transfer data over the Internet.

The domain name then follows the protocol:

url 2

This where your website comes into play and is navigated to.

Then, you will sometimes see a port:

url 3

Generally speaking, this element is omitted because it’s a redundant signal of the protocol.

Next is the filename or post name:

url 4

This dictates where on your site the user is navigating to.

If they’re navigating to a blog post or a product page, this is the part of your URL that tells the browser or Google’s crawlers where to go.

From there, you have a set of parameters:

url 5

You can think of this part of the URL as a conversation between your site and a search engine.

If you use canonical tags or robot.txt for your SEO, this is where the magic happens.

Last but not least is the anchor:

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This is a shortcut that can allow a user to skip to a particular section of your content immediately upon loading in.

So with a permalink, you have to decide which elements you want to include in daily use on your site.

That’s where the debate on optimizing permalinks starts.

To see what different formats your permalinks can take, check out the Permalinks option on your WordPress dashboard.

640px options permalinks

But why is all of this important?

First of all, Google considers the URLs you use on your website to be a ranking factor.

That means that the permalinks you use and the structure you decide on adopting is ultimately an SEO signal.

Coupled with the fact that URLs are meant to signal what the contents of a page are about, it’s absolutely vital to ensure that your permalinks are helping instead of hurting.

My permalinks are custom-made to match the title of my content closely.

It’s just one of the many ways you can attempt to signal how relevant and reliable your page is to Google’s crawlers.

But as with many SEO topics, there are a few technical aspects that you’ll need to consider to make sure your permalinks are contributing to your overall SEO strategy.

I want to show you six proven tips that will help you make sure that your URLs are boosting your SEO and helping you reach the first page of Google.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to create a long-term strategy that should be usable for years to come.

And to kick things off, you should decide on one stable structure for your permalinks that never changes.

Tip #1: Keep a consistent structure

Deciding how to structure your URLs can be difficult.

You’ve already seen the different options that WordPress will let you pick from, but which is best for your SEO?

Should you use the default settings, or include your post name?

These are questions that webmasters have been asking for years when the answer has been in front of us since 2010:



In this video, Google’s Matt Cutts breaks down what he thinks when looking at a URL structure.

In short, he claims that picking one structure over another won’t exactly correlate to a direct SEO influence.

Instead, your URL structure is more a question of UX.

The best way to approach creating a structure for your URLs is to think of it like you would your site architecture.

When you build a site, you want your pages to create a natural flow for your users. That’s referred to as information architecture.

EN Informationsarchitektur

When creating your site’s architecture, you need to build it so that a user can easily find what they came for.

That includes creating a hierarchy of links that follow a similar format to your architecture.

When building that hierarchy, you need to do what works best for your users.

So for the sake of user experience, your game plan should be to establish a universal structure and then stick to it.

Think of this process like you would a silo on your site.

In many instances, a website with poor architecture and unoptimized permalinks could look like a jumbled up jar of marbles.

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The information architecture and permalink structure on your site should attempt to make these marbles show up in different jars.

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Or, it should at least put everything in one jar so that it’s easier to understand what’s what.

jar marbles siloed

This metaphor applies to both your product pages and your content.

As you’re building out this user-friendly site structure, you should also be concerned with how your URLs imitate this flow and help users further understand your site.

For example, you could break down each section into categories based on which level of your site they appear on:

3 example site structure

When your permalinks follow a similar format to your site structure, it allows both search engines and your user to use your site better.

By merging your permalink structure with your site’s architecture, your user should be able to create much more in-depth content structures that allow every aspect of your site to flourish.

If you want an excellent example of how this could look, check out how the journal makers at Moleskine have created a structure on their website.

mskine

When you navigate to a page that displays a particular line of their journals, they break down the URL into a specific path.

This helps the user understand where on the website they’ve navigated and allowed Google to understand the structure of the website accurately.

Then when a product is clicked on, the URL breaks into a hyphenated description of the product based on keywords.

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Once again, this makes it easier for the user to know what to expect on the page.

And Google has an exact understanding of what’s on the page, as displayed by this screenshot of the search results for “Yellow Notebook.”

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By creating a set structure, Moleskine helps both their user and Google understand where they are on the site.

These early URL signals ultimately create an easier user experience and have landed them at the top of the search engine results page.

moleskin

If the structure were jumbled and confused, both parties would have a harder time navigating and understanding the site.

You should also avoid dynamic URLs generated by your website’s content management service that looks like this:

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While search engines have no trouble indexing this type of URL, it’s not the most friendly URL to read or try to remember.

It also doesn’t allow you to include a keyword or establish the site architecture I’ve been showing you, which means your SEO will take a hit.

Thankfully, there are tools you can use such as the Mod Rewrite Generator from Generate It!.

All you have to do is input the dynamic URL and let it create a rewritten version.

mod rewrite

Once the URL is rewritten, you can add or remove from the cleaner rewrite.

When you’re satisfied, click done and follow the outlined steps to ensure that your new static URL is used on your site.

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Creating a smooth URL structure throughout your site is the best approach, and can potentially help get you results like this.

At the very least, it will help you remember where products or content are on your website, and will undoubtedly make every other tip in this post easier to implement.

Tip #2: Use a keyword rich URL

Once you’ve figured out the URL structure for your permalinks, you need to start considering how you’re going to incorporate keywords in your URLs to boost your SEO.

Much like the keywords that you use on your blog or product pages, keywords in your permalinks help Google understand the content on your page.

So whenever possible, it’s a good idea to use a keyword in a permalink.

Creating a consistent keyword strategy in URLs paid off in the long term as shown in one case study.

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The brand was able to rank for more than 3,000 organic keywords, and even saw a sharp rise in organic traffic as their strategies started to take effect.

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As of today, they average more than 2,000 visitors each month because of their overall keyword strategy.

But how do you determine which keywords you should use to help your SEO?

In this case, I recommend using a tool like SEMrush to find search volume statistics for various keywords.

Say you have a website that you plan to use to sell pianos.

You could simply type “pianos” in the search bar.

semrush

You’ll be navigated to a dashboard where you can select phrase match or related keywords that break down the search volume for each word or phrase on a monthly basis.

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By clicking through to either report, you can also get a more in-depth analysis of your keyword options.

semrush 3

Use this list to create your own strategy for keywords.

You can also dig deeper by searching again for some of the keywords you find in your search.

Make sure you incorporate long-tail keywords and low competition keywords as well.

When you create your content or product page, use a relevant keyword in your URL to help signal to Google what your page is about.

Or, you could also buy a URL that has a specific keyword you want to rank for.

Once you’ve chosen the top keyword you want to rank for, navigate to Google Domains and see if the URL is available for purchase.

piano

In this case, I decided to search for the words “upright piano.”



While uprightpiano.com isn’t available, other options like the .net or .co options are for sale.

By buying this URL, you send an immediate signal to Google and your visitors about your site’s content.

And if you can’t find the URL you want, I highly recommend checking out this guide.

By creating an exact match URL, you’ll be in a better position to outrank your competition so long as you maintain a high-quality website.

matt cutts domain match tweet

Exact match URLs used to be a broad strategy that saw some less optimized sites ranking higher than others.

While that’s no longer the case, it can still help you stand out to Google and potentially rank you higher than your competitors.

For an excellent example of this, look no further than the deal site Hotels.com.

When you search for “hotels” on Google, they rank in the number one position.

hotels

While this won’t immediately rank you higher, it’s another way that your URL can give you a slight edge with the right conditions.

And even if you don’t use an exact match URL, finding the right keywords to include in your permalinks will help you start ranking for more keywords and see more organic growth.

Your URLs will be more memorable, and you’ll always have your target keyword included in every page on your site.

Tip #3: Use shorter URLs

When starting to fine-tune your permalink structure, you should always aim to use a more concise URL structure to help your SEO.

The average URL on a number one ranked page is only 59 characters long.

That’s not a lot of space to work with, but it can have a serious impact on your SEO.

That same study also shared an experiment that showed how shortening the title and URL of a page sparked a jump to the front page of Google in only 15 minutes.

Title Length vs Position

When averaging eight words or less in your title and URL, there’s a serious increase in page rank that accompanies it.

In a recent video, I was asked this very question by one of my audience members.

I explained that a shorter, keyword rich URL tends to rank you higher in Google.

You’ll get more brand queries, and you’ll have more instances where your visitors remember the full URL they visited.

One marketer even reported a sharp jump to the first page of Google when his brand shortened their landing page’s URL by only 25 characters.

That means users will be more likely to share or come back at a later time.

I also explain how long URLs can pigeonhole your topic and could potentially make Google either ignore them or rank them for less inclusive searches.

So using the right practices when shortening a URL can help your SEO.

But when shortening your permalinks, you can’t just use a service like Bitly.

Bitly is a popular URL shortener that helps you track clicks on your website or social media by converting the URL to a more character-count friendly version.

bitly example

This type of URL shortener was wildly popular when Twitter was still using a 140 character limit, but they’re not that great for permalink SEO.

All these shortened links do is act as a 301 redirect that allows a third party to help you track links.

While you don’t lose all of the link juice from one of these, it’s not as impactful on your SEO as using your own permalink.

Instead, consider using a shorter structure like the post name option in your WordPress settings.

This helps you emphasize your keyword to the search engine you’re trying to rank on, and it achieves the ultimate goal of a shorter URL.

This is why I use my name as my brand.

short url

All together, my website’s URL is only 21 characters long.

If I were to use a longer or different URL, I could potentially have a harder time ranking for my own name.

And when you look further at individual pages in my blog, you’ll notice that my URLs are still as short as possible.

I keep them relevant to the topic of the post, and I typically avoid using stop words to keep the URL as short as possible.

Stop Words

While this might risk a more awkward URL, it ensures that nothing but my domain and relevant post information appear.

It’s just another way that you can keep your URLs short.

And ultimately, this practice can help your permalink SEO and boost your organic search traffic.

Tip #4: You don’t always need a www. or a .com

This fact may surprise you, but the common tags most people use for a website aren’t necessary for permalink SEO.

In fact, one case study found that pages with a .com had a harder time ranking on the front page of Google than other domain name extensions.

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That means it could be in your favor to consider buying something other than the .com version of your domain.

And whether you use the “www” extension on your site is entirely up to you as well, but should be consistent across the board.

That element depends on what you set as your Preferred Domain in Google Search Console.

Just select the site settings option on your dashboard.

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Then decide whether you want your site’s preferred domain to include or exclude the www.

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You can then remove the “www” extension in the general settings of your WordPress site to make sure everything is consistent.

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When you do this, it signals to Google that it should prioritize and display your site without the www extension.

While this may be mostly cosmetic, it’s another way that you can shorten your URL and optimize your user experience.

Consider dropping the www. or using a domain that doesn’t use a traditional .com if it allows you to keep a shorter URL or tap into keywords that are easier to remember for your audience.

Tip #5: Avoid dates in your URL

If you ask most SEO what they think of dates in a URL, they’ll tell you they were never very helpful to begin with.

And a recent case study backs up this belief beyond all doubt.

Harsh Agrawal from Shout Me Loud recently decided to test the effects of retroactively adding dates to older content.

He went back and added dates on posts that ranged from 2008 to the present day, and immediately saw a sharp decline in organic traffic.

Date stamp effect on SEO

Keep in mind that this is on old content that had been providing steady rates of traffic for years.

By merely adding a date, users were seemingly opting to find what they saw as more relevant and up-to-date content.

Harsh also saw a drop in overall keyword rankings, which only cemented the results of this test.

Keyword ranking drop

The key to remember here is that people tend to look for more updated posts, which can affect your organic traffic and your bounce rate in the long run.

Keeping the date out of your permalink structure can help you rank higher and win more organic traffic as time goes on.

If you want to include a date, publish it in the actual blog post and make sure to update the content frequently to keep it fresh and relevant to your audience.

Tip #6: Start using HTTPS

Using HTTPS is just a good idea in general when it comes to your site.

This protocol uses an SSL certificate to help give web users peace of mind when sharing potentially sensitive data on a website.

And it’s essential to your permalink SEO because it’s been an SEO signal since 2014.

But recent changes have made HTTPS more important than ever for online brands.

In April 2017, Google announced that it would be improving the Chrome browser’s alerting system on sites that only use the HTTP protocol.

They created highly visible notices designed to warn their users about the security of the site they’re on.

https

So when a user sees red pop up in the URL bar, they’ll be less likely to share their personal information with you.

That means instead of interacting with your site and sharing contact or credit card information, they’ll bounce.

That ultimately hurts your SEO even more, so it pays to take the extra effort and utilize HTTPS on your site.

If you want a service that can do all of this for you hands off, I recommend looking into Let’s Encrypt to ensure all user data stays safe.

By using a complex system of checks and verifications, they distribute SSL certificates that help keep your business and your customers safe.

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As of early 2017, they averaged around a half million SSL certificates each day and peaked at over 1.2 million in December 2016.

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By adding SSL certificates to your site, you’ll be doing your SEO and your audience a favor.

The extra piece of mind will help you continue to build your site’s presence with confidence in your user experience and security in the years to come.

What to do if you can’t change your URL structure

For brands that have established URLs but want to improve permalink SEO, you may be a little nervous about tampering with your permalink structure.

And this isn’t without good cause.

You should always take great care when making significant changes to your website, as you don’t want your existing SEO to take a hit.

Thankfully, there are still actions you can take that will allow you to change your URL structure and not lose your previous organic rankings.

First and foremost, you’ll need to decide on your new structure and make the necessary changes in WordPress.

Then, you’ll need to create 301 redirects to make sure that your old content is directed to the proper URL.

And despite what you may have heard, 301 redirects do not lose page rank.

That means you can set up your 301 redirects with a service like Pretty Links without risking your hard-won ranking.

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All you have to do is add your target URL or the old permalink, and then amend it to the new Pretty Links version.

One brand even experimented with their 301 redirects by removing many of them from their aged content.

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They saw an immediate drop in traffic because of it and started seeing an immediate improvement when they added them back.

You can salvage much of your older content with 301 redirects and create a permalink strategy that will help your business tremendously in the long run.

As a part of a greater permalink SEO strategy, you’ll be much better situated to focus on other SEO matters that can help you climb the search engine rankings.

Conclusion

Permalink SEO may not be at the top of your SEO to-do list, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Your URLs have a direct and lasting impact on your site’s SEO, so it pays to be methodical when you start trying to make your way to the front page of Google.

Start by determining the structure you want to use and then keep your URLs as consistent as possible.

You should also take some time to do some keyword research and make sure that you’re trying to rank for the right words and phrases.

It’s also a good idea to buy a keyword-rich URL from the start, if possible.

Once you’ve set a structure and found your keywords, your next goal is to keep your URLs as short as possible.

This will keep your permalinks memorable and easy to understand.

You can also consider dropping domain extensions like the www or .com to keep your URL even shorter.

Next, you’ll want to make sure you avoid using any dates in your URL.

This practice has never seemed to help, and the data indicates that it can even hurt your SEO.

And last but not least, start using HTTPS to secure your user’s experience on your site.

All of these tips will help you boost your permalink SEO and create a long-lasting strategy that will yield positive results.

And if you’re on the fence about transitioning your older site to a new structure, don’t hesitate to use appropriate 301 redirects.

In the end, you’ll have a more well-rounded SEO strategy and a uniform structure for your site that will make future growth that much easier.

Have you seen improvements from an optimized permalink structure in your experience?

 

 

 

 

4 Webmaster / Blogger SEO Ideas You Overlooked That Will Skyrocket Your Rankings (2018)

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Despite content marketing’s golden child status, SEO remains one of the most important factors in ranking websites on Google. According to a Hubshout survey of small to midsize digital marketing agencies, 32% of agencies reported that SEO as a service generates the most revenue for them. But as technology advances and search engines continue to evolve and adapt their algorithms, it can be difficult even for veteran SEOs to keep up. This means you could be overlooking significant SEO value on your site. In other words, if you’re missing key SEO strategies, you could cost your business some serious revenue.



Not interested in flushing money down the toilet?

I didn’t think so.

Implement these four SEO hacks to skyrocket your rankings and put money in the bank.

1. Increase page speed by compressing images

Images are one of the biggest culprits to slow loading times.

In fact, on average, images make up 68% of a web page’s total weight.

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But even though many people know that page speed is an important SEO ranking factor, when it comes to optimization, the image size is often overlooked.

One of the reasons for this is because if you are loading (and reloading) your website on your own computer or mobile device, the page has likely been cached.

A web cache temporarily stores the data on a web page to reduce server lag (aka page speed).

In other words, once a page has been loaded and cached, the server will provide the cached version to save time when you return later on to bring up the site.

While caching once a week is a good idea if you want to increase fetched response time, it can inadvertently give SEOs the impression that their website is loading faster than it actually is.

The problem?

If you aren’t checking page speed from an outside computer or with a page loading measuring tool, you may not notice that your images are causing delays on the user’s end.

And when 53% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load, that is a mistake you can’t afford.

As you can see here, the probability of page abandonment increases 32% after only three seconds.

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Three seconds!

Bottom line: If your images are slowing your loading time — even by a second — you could be frustrating users and increasing your bounce rate (two important SEO ranking factors).

Luckily, this is a simple fix.

To improve loading times and increase user satisfaction and retention rates, first, you’ll need to evaluate your page speeds, then resize problem images.

Evaluate your page speeds

There are many free tools you can use to test your page speeds.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is great for not only measuring loading time for both mobile and desktop but also identifying the causes of any speed delays, including images.

If images are contributing to page lag, PageSpeed Insights will build a list of which images you need to optimize.

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When optimizing your pages, it’s important to take a special interest in making them mobile-friendly.

Since the rollout of Google’s mobile-first index, websites that are mobile-friendly will rank higher than those that aren’t optimized.

Based on this analysis, Target’s landing page has an average speed of around 2.2s and good optimization at 88/100.

While this isn’t a perfect score on PageSpeed Insights, it’s pretty close. And, with minor tweaks to the images, they could see a spike in page speed.

GTMetrix is another page speed tool that will help you identify problem areas.

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The tool will uncover each of the problems that your site has and recommend tips to help you fix each of them.

And it goes a bit more in-depth than PageSpeed Insights.

If you have any images causing slow loading times, they’ll be listed here.

RankPay utilized GTmetrix page speed reports to reduce their bounce rate by 20% and increase their page speed by 20%.

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As you can see, it’s worth the time and effort to analyze and fix your page speed issues. It will not only help you rank better in the SERPs, but also improve the UX experience.

Compress problem images

Once you’ve evaluated your page speed, the next step is to analyze what elements are bringing your page speed down.

And, large image sizes are usually a major culprit in slowing down websites.

Remember: smaller images = faster page speeds.

If you’re using Photoshop, Lightroom, or a similar tool, you want to make sure your images are 1,500 pixels in width or less.



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The key here is to balance image quality with file size.

The goal is to use the smallest file size possible while maintaining acceptable image quality.

There are several image file types to use, but the most common are JPG and PNG.

Below is an example of what a JPG looks like not compressed vs. compressed. The original, untouched image was 2.06MB.

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Here this image has low compression. This preserves the quality of the image but also doesn’t shrink the overall file size much.

A web page shouldn’t be more than 1-2 MB in weight. While compressing the image did shrink it from the original size, 590 KB is still a significant portion of the page’s optimal weight.

On the other hand, it’s possible to do too much compression.

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When the image is highly compressed, the size becomes much more manageable at 68KB.

But the quality stinks.

You want to strike a compression note that is just right.

In this case, the best level of compression on the image is somewhere in the middle. This allows us to maintain the quality while significantly reducing file size (and associated page speed).

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If you’re not a Photoshop guru (or don’t want to shell out the cash for an Adobe Suite monthly subscription), I recommend using a compression tool like TinyPNG.

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TinyPNG lets you resize up to 20 PNG or JPG images for free. Simply drag and drop your files onto their page and they’ll do the work for you.

If you need more files, there is also a Pro upgrade starting at just $25 for a single-user yearly subscription.

And, they have a WordPress plugin.

2. Improve CTR with Google Search Console

Be honest.

When was the last time you reviewed your meta descriptions?

Or, attempted to clean up ugly URLs?

While CTR isn’t a proven ranking factor, improving your organic CTR will help boost your organic rankings.

Back in 2009, the head of Google’s webspam, Matt Cutts, answered questions related to CTR on YouTube:

“It doesn’t really matter how often you show up. It matters how often you get clicked on and then how often you … convert those to whatever you really want (sales, purchases, subscriptions)… Do spend some time looking at your title, your URL, and your snippet that Google generates, and see if you can find ways to improve that and make it better for users because then they’re more likely to click. You’ll get more visitors, you’ll get a better return on your investment.”

Still want more proof?

A local auto parts company increased their click-through rate by 20% and got 30% more organic clicks.

Another B2B software company went from 35,000 organic visits per month to 225,000 organic visits per month by increasing their CTR.

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Increasing CTRs means better rankings, more traffic, and increased brand awareness.  To increase CTRs, use Google Search Console to guide your next steps.

Update underperforming pages

Before you can identify what pages you should update, you need to get a baseline CTR.

To find this, log in to Google Search Console > Status > Performance.

CTR

In the example above, the average CTR is 5.6%. Now that you have this average, you can begin to uncover what content needs to be updated.

Within the same report on Google Search Console, make sure Total Clicks, Total Impressions, and Average CTR are checked. Then, Pages at the bottom.

clicks

Here you should have a list of top performing pages.

GSC

To discover pages that need to be updated, click the arrow button to flip the CTR. You should have a list of your underperforming pages.

Performance

Next, scroll through your underperforming pages to find pages with high impressions and low clicks.

This will give you insight into what pages are showing up in the SERPs, but not receiving clicks.

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Things like this tell me I need to review the keyword strategy, meta description, and overall content of this specific page.

This strategy works. Just look at how Siege Media took one client from zero to 100,000 visitors.

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And, how Bill Hunt reworked Absolut’s meta descriptions based on user intent to improve the CTR from 1.69% to 14.81% in just 45 days.

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While this may seem like a lot of extra work to optimize pages you thought were already performing well, it will pay off in the end.

3. Use linkless mentions to build ranking value

Yes, you read that right.

Though it goes against traditional understanding of SEO, link building without links is becoming a key part of ranking strategy.

Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, said during his keynote at Brighton SEO:

“If you publish high-quality content that is highly cited on the Internet — and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding, crap like that. Then you are doing great.”

The idea is that brands that garner a lot of mentions, both in social media and on websites and long-form content, are trusted and therefore authoritative in search engines’ eyes.

While this ranking strategy has flown under the radar a bit, both Google and Bing have indicated that linkless brand mentions factor into how the search engines measure authority and quality.

In fact, Duane Forrester, former senior product manager at Bing noted back in 2016 that Bing had already:

“figured out context and sentiment of tone, and how to associate mentions without a link. As the volume grows and trustworthiness of this mention is known, you’ll get a bump in rankings…”

But Bing isn’t the only one showing us their hand.

Google references linkless mentions as “implied links” in their patent:

Implied links patent

And it makes sense.



For years, word-of-mouth marketing and social shares have made and broken brands.

It’s no wonder that search engines are using this social capital as a key indicator of consumer trust and confidence.

How to track linkless mentions

If you’re not already tracking brand mentions through a rep management campaign, you’ll need to use a tool to monitor the web for you.

There are a variety of options, such as Awario or SEMrush.

Let’s take a look at Awario.

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Awario is a monitoring tool that lets you track the conversation around your brand (as well as competitors’ brands) on the web in real-time.

To get started, create an account with your preferred email. (There’s a two-week free trial before you select a paid plan).

Once you create your account, set up a campaign (or project) to monitor brand mentions.

Awario will ask you to input the keywords you wish to track.

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For example, let’s say you want to track Photoshop mentions.

So I’ll enter “Adobe Photoshop” into the field.

Once you’re done adding keywords to your campaign, Awario takes you to a dashboard that gives you an at-a-glance look at your current monitors.

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As you can see here, Awario collects data on:

  • The number of total mentions for that keyword
  • Sentiment (i.e., whether the mentions are negative or positive)
  • The reach those mentions have
  • Who the top influencers are that have mentioned your keywords
  • Where mentions are coming from in the world
  • What languages are represented in the conversation

Additionally, you can filter the data to see mentions from specific platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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This information helps you track where your brand or product is trending as well as how well it stacks up against competitors.

Awario’s Sentiment metric is a particularly useful datapoint to measure because it allows you to gauge the overall health of your brand’s reputation (i.e., is it viewed more or less favorably).

In fact, at last year’s State of Search event, Google’s Gary Illyes noted that Google uses sentiment analysis to evaluate off-site sentiment to inform their rankings.

This means that tracking linkless brand mentions and their associated sentiment can give SEOs an advantage over marketers who fail to track implied links.

How to use linkless mentions to optimize search rankings

Once you have a brand monitoring tool in your arsenal, it’s time to use the information you glean to direct campaigns that will build your online rankings and authority.

Fortunately, many of the strategies for linkless mentions will be the same as your traditional link building campaigns.

For example, let’s say you’re tracking your brand mentions and notice a recent negative review published on Yelp.

What can you do?

Well, when 68% of consumers will form an opinion about your local business after reading just 1-6 online reviews, you need to make every review (and response) count.

How you should respond depends on the review, but here are a few good rules of thumb from ReviewTrackers:

  • Resolve issues and provide solutions.
  • Reinforce the positive experiences the customer mentions.
  • Give a sincere apology as needed.

For instance, take this review from a disappointed customer flying JetBlue.

The TV screens were out in his row for the duration of the flight.

When he notified JetBlue via Twitter, JetBlue responded quickly to apologize and resolve the issue by offering a $15 credit to everyone in that row.

jetblue review interaction

Keep in mind that responding to reviews and participating in conversations is not only a chance to say the right thing but to establish your brand’s voice.

Even though you’re communicating virtually, use these opportunities to show your brand’s human side.

In other words, don’t be a robot.

Whether you’re replying to a negative or positive comment, be personable.

Take JetBlue’s lead.

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As SEO expands into brand management, you’ll notice a lot of overlap between teams in your marketing department.

SEO is no longer just about building backlinks and writing keyword-rich landing page copy.

Instead, off-page SEO is becoming just as important as on-page SEO.

To be successful, you’ll need to collaborate with rep managers, content marketers, social media marketers, and even your customer service team to execute a strong, cohesive campaign.

4. Optimize your content for voice search

Images aren’t the only places you can squeeze out more SEO value.

With the advancement of Siri, Google Assistant, and other smart AI systems, voice search has become increasingly common among mobile users.

In fact, as many as 40% of online adults use voice search at least once per day.

Some estimates are putting voice search at over one billion queries a month, and more than 50 million voice-activated devices were in circulation as of January 2018.

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And voice search is just starting to take off. At least 20% of mobile searches are now voice searches.

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This shift in the way users use and interact with search engines will inevitably affect SEO tactics.

Fortunately, for now, most of the strategies for regular SEO also apply to voice search optimization — but not all.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, including voice search optimization is a must.

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How do search engines rank voice search results?

The first place to look to answer this question is Google. To understand how and where to optimize, you have to understand what Google is ranking.

Typically, Google voice search results tend to favor concise answers.

You can see in Google’s voice search rater guidelines that the emphasis is placed on how well the content meets the user’s need and whether or not it does so clearly and concisely.

These two goals are defined as “Needs Met” and “Speech Quality.”

Voice search rater guidelines: needs met

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You can see above that the highest rated responses are those that fully (but concisely) answer the query.

In fact, Backlinko conducted a study of 10,000 voice search results and found that the average voice search answer is only 29 words.

Voice search rater guidelines: speech quality

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Not only is Google looking for brief answers, but it also prefers easy-to-read content.

This means simple sentence structure and vocabulary. The average Google voice search result is written at a 9th-grade level.

So save the exposition for your great American novel.

How to optimize for voice search ranking factors

Based on the information above, you have to focus on content that is direct and clear.

An FAQ section is the most natural place to build out relevant answers to voice searches because FAQs contain direct questions with brief answers.

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But you can also add questions to your landing pages to direct more voice searches to your site.

Sherry Bonelli, BrightLocal’s local search evangelist, says to “focus on those long-tail+ conversational keywords,” for FAQ pages.

The goal is to group common questions together on one page for natural-sounding questions and answers.

Like Hotel Nikko does with their FAQ page. They saw a 63% increase in CTR after optimizing their FAQ pages.

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Another option would be to create long-form blog posts that answer a specific long-tail conversational keyword question.

The average word count for a results page is 2,312 words.

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This doesn’t mean that the content length itself is a ranking factor for voice search. However, with long-form content comes greater opportunities to include relevant search terms.

This is likely why there is a high correlation between longer content and voice search results.

Capitalize on this trend by building out rich long-form content surrounding a central keyword topic.

MakeSpace jumped 65 positions in one day by creating long-form content.

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And, MrGarageDoor.com went from zero to over 2,400 visits per month from creating long-form blog content.

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The goal is to provide answers to questions your users are asking.

If you have a page full of content that doesn’t address what your users actually want to know, then it isn’t doing you any good.

Conclusion

SEO has a basic premise: build links and authority to rank in SERPs.

But with ever-changing algorithms, competing data, and hundreds of tools, strategies, and approaches, it’s easy to see how an SEO can get lost in the to-do lists.

I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.

Since SEO has a significant impact on business revenue, digital marketers can’t afford to overlook any strategies that provide added SEO value.

Optimize your image sizes to boost page speeds. Resize them as needed.

Add descriptive image file names to your images so that Google ranks them for keywords, too.

Use linkless mentions to build your ranking value.

Finally, be sure to optimize your site for voice search.

Though some of these hacks may seem deceptively simple, their combined value can have a profound effect on your overall rankings.

Be smart. Don’t let these SEO hacks pass you by.

What SEO strategies have you used to improve rankings?