SEO moved beyond exact keyword matching long ago. These days, in order to rank, we need to create content that includes related concepts, satisfies intent and provides value.
With such an important and complicated task in front of us, there’s never such a thing as too many tools.
Every keyword tool below has something new to bring to the table when it comes to helping you understand the topic better, expand your keyword list and diversify your organic rankings:
TextOptimizer is probably the most interesting tool on the list. For any term you put it, it will look at Google search result page, extract search snippets and apply semantic analysis to generate the list of all related topics, terms and concepts that form your topic cluster.
For example, for [grow tomatoes] it will generate the list of the following terms:
If you already have a page that you want to rank for that query, the tool will compare your existing text to the snippets Google returns for that query. It will then score your text and recommend expanding your content to include some of those suggested terms:
The thing is, Google generates its search snippets based on which sentences from the ranked pages do the best job satisfying the query. This means that Google search snippets represent the best (in Google’s opinion) summary of the query topic.
By semantically analyzing those snippets and extracting related terms and topics from them, you will get a better understanding of what you need to include in your content.
It also shows subtopics and related questions (i.e. niche questions for each query you run) which helps you structure and format your content better.
Overall I have found the tool extremely helpful for creating more indepth content as it does a good job urging the writer to include the variety of related and neighboring terms (in order to increase your score)
2. Serpstat Clustering Tool
Serpstat Clustering Tool is another innovative tool that uses Google to better understand and analyze relevancy.
This tool should be used to make sense of your long keyword lists. Instead of simply word-matching, the tool analyzes Google SERPs for every single term in your list and groups them based on how many overlapping URLs each query triggers in Google.
The logic is simple: The more identical results two SERPs have, the more related the search queries are.
This way, instead of creating a group based on a common modifier, the tool will form groups based on each keyword meaning and let you discover keywords which have no words in common, yet can (and should) be used within one copy:
3. Spyfu Related Keywords
Spyfu has a separate tab listing related keywords to the one you put in. The nice thing about the tool is that it excludes phrases that contain your core term.
You can play with helpful filters to see more popular or less competitive keywords.
Read more about Spyfu related keyword analysis here.
4. Google: Related Searches, Google Trends, Google Correlate
Google is kind enough to provide us with lots of useful data that can be used for content planning and optimization. Here are three Google tools that are useful for discovering related terms:
According to Google in the tool’s documentation,
In our case, we don’t have the data series, but the tool can also work with keywords: Simply put in your search term, and Google will calculate the trending pattern and show matching patterns.
Mind that correlation does not necessarily equal causation, so you may come across some funny terms. Don’t be discouraged! Keep running the tool and put together a list of related terms that do match your topic.
My favorite thing about the tool (and why I do use it) is that you can exclude your initial search term from the returned list which means you can prevent the tool from phrase-matching (which you already did when doing your traditional keyword research) and force it to come up with related phrases instead:
Google Trends is a more straightforward tool: Simply type in your core term and scroll down to “Related queries”, i.e. “Users searching for your term also searched for these queries”.
The nicest thing about this tool is that it shows “Breakout” queries, i.e. queries that “had a tremendous increase, probably because these queries are new and had few (if any) prior searches.” These could be an opportunity for trending content!
Google’s “Searches related to”
Finally Google’s “Searches related to” can give you some ideas where to expand your core terms. Notice how Google is helpfully showing new terms it’s suggesting in bold:
IMN Featured Snippet Tool collects those results and organizes them by (1) query they are triggered by and (2) popularity (i.e. based on how many queries trigger them):
Expand your keyword lists! This will help you create more indepth content, diversify your rankings and generate expsoure from other Google search result sections, like featured snippets and “People Also Ask.”
The post Four tools to discover and optimize for related keywords appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
It’s a well-known fact that there are over 200 ranking signals used by Google. And every year it keeps on tweaking and refining its algorithm introducing new ranking signals and changing priorities.
I know that the idea of having to optimize for all of them will probably make you shiver with horror. The good news is there are not so many ranking signals optimizing for which is simply a must.
Please note: in the light of mobile-first indexing, according to which mobile websites are being indexed in the first place, it’s most important that mobile sites are optimized for the below listed ranking signals.
So, without further ado, here is the list of the most important ranking factors for you to dominate search in 2019.
I guess it’s more than obvious for any SEOs out there that Google is going nuts about getting into people’s heads and providing them with the most relevant search results. Now that we live in the age of semantic search, Google aims to figure out the meaning behind a certain search query to provide the most precise search results. Besides, Google also considers such factors as users’ search patterns, search history, location, and time.
Of course, when searching for something, users have certain intents in mind. And Google’s ultimate task is trying to figure them out in order to supply users with the most relevant search results on the top positions. Ranking-wise, the more relevant your page is to a certain query, the higher position it gets in the SERPs. What’s more, satisfying search intent almost always results in high CTR.
If you want to understand what search intents hide behind your keywords, consider experimenting with various queries. After typing them in the search box, have a look at the first result pages and try to figure out their search intent. If you see that some of your pages don’t really match the designed search intent, it may signify that these are not the right pages to be optimized for such keywords. So, if that’s the case, consider finding corresponding pages and adding more relevant content to them or creating some new ones that would be relevant to the implied search intent.
CTR is one of the strongest relevance signals for Google. And there’s no doubt CTR has high correlation with rankings as an increase in CTR almost every time entails a significant ranking boost.
If you want to get an idea of what people tend to click on the SERPs to reach your site, you can use Google Search Console’s Search Analytics report. Pay your special attention to pages that rank high but have low CTR. It may be a flagger that your title tags or meta descriptions are not relevant enough and need to be worked on. To understand where you stand with your CTR, have a look at this summary of CTR data sorted by position in Google search.
If there’s anything I know for sure, rankings and content have always belonged together. Basically, your content is the very reason for people visiting your site. What’s more, Google has rolled out Panda and Fred updates aiming to make the web more helpful and beneficial content-wise. However, even well-written content pages are not always enough. With Google constantly raising its standards, your piece of content should also satisfy the below listed ranking factors.
In 2019 keywords in the title tag still remain a powerful ranking signal as this is one of the ways Google decides whether your page is relevant to a given query or not. What’s more, the closer your keywords are to the beginning of the title, the better. And of course, your most important keywords should be present in the page’s body, alt texts, and H1 tag. But please make sure that you’re not overusing them because you don’t want to be penalized for keyword stuffing, do you?
Of course, except from your main keywords, you need to be optimized for some related terms that would accompany them. Just in case you still haven’t collected such keywords, here are some advice on how to nail keyword research these days.
As I’ve mentioned before, Google is going nuts about improving the quality of search. With Hummingbird, Google now prioritizes pages that match the meaning of the query rather than separate keywords. That is why you need to aim not for just filling your piece of content with keywords but for making it as comprehensive as you can.
In order to optimize your content for comprehensiveness, consider using TF-IDF analysis, which can help to calculate how frequent certain keywords are used on your competitors’ pages. By doing this, you can get lots of relevant terms and concepts used by your top-ranking competitors. Luckily, there are now plenty of tools that have TF-IDF analysis in them. By the way, here is a nice guide for you on how to improve your content’s comprehensiveness with the help of TF-IDF.
Publishing mistake-free content is yet another signal to Google that content is of good quality. There’s not much to say there. Just make sure you proofread your piece of content before publishing it or use online grammar checkers like Grammarly.
By organizing your HTML markup in a clear way, you make it much easier for the search engines to understand what your content is actually about. Yes, search engines still rely on HTML structure and its semantic markup. So, no matter how cool your content is, if your page has messy HTML, peaky search engine spiders may think it’s of bad quality and down-rank it. Luckily, there is now a whole variety of plugins (including WordPress’ ones) that can help with cleaning and optimizing your HTML.
To make your HTML even more structured, consider implementing schema markup. Structured Data Markup Helper can offer you a helping hand with that. Doing this will help search engines to understand your content better, identify the most important information on your site, as well as make your snippets look more attractive. You can also preview your snippets with the help of Google’s Testing Tool to make sure everything is displayed correctly.
Just as much as Google appreciates uniqueness it also penalizes sites with duplicate content. So, in order to improve your rankings and get Panda off your site, make sure it has no duplication issues. By the way, here’s a nice guide on how to spot and deal with various types of duplicate content. What’s more, you should also watch out for external duplication. So, if you suspect some pages on your site may have it, go ahead and check them with Copyscape.
If you work for one of those industries that simply cannot publish unique content every time (like online stores with many product pages), try to make your product descriptions as diverse as you can. Another good way to solve the problem is by utilizing user-generated content.
I guess it’s of no surprise to you that backlinks have been ruling ranking for ages. The reality is they still remain the strongest indication of authority to Google. And it’s safe to say that it’s hardly going to change in 2019. That is why quality link building should be your primary concern if you want to make it to the top. By the way, here are some powerful link building strategies for you to get some inspiration from.
Of course, one of the coolest tactics is to spy on your competitors’ linking profiles. One of my favorite tools for this kind of activity is SEO SpyGlass. With its help you can compare your linking profile with the ones of your competitors as well as see where your links intersect. By doing so, you will get priceless insights of new link building strategies that you can arm yourself with.
Although Google definitely appreciates quality more than quantity, the total number of backlinks still remains a powerful ranking signal. Please note that links coming from a single domain carry much less weight comparing to those that come from various domains. So, just have a look at the total number of backlinks and total linking domains parameters in whatever SEO tool you are using and see if your linking profile is in need of some improvement quantity-wise.
No matter how many links you have, they need to be of good quality. Otherwise, they’ll most probably get you in trouble (Penguin is watching you) rather than bring you good rankings. That is why in order to maintain quality of your links, you need to carry out regular backlink audits. Fortunately, there is a huge number of tools that help with identifying links’ harmfulness. So, if you’ve spotted some spammy links, make sure to contact the website owners who linked to you asking politely for removing them. If it didn’t work out, just disavow these reputation damagers and forget about it. What is more, if you spot some sudden spikes of links, make sure to check them as there is always a chance that your competitors could be pointing spammy links to you.
Although nowadays link anchor text is a bit less important than the two above mentioned link parameters, keyword-rich anchor text still firmly stays an important relevance signal for Google.
To be on the safe side, your links’ anchor texts need to be semantically relevant to the topic of your content and also maintain diversity. On top of that, don’t over-optimize your anchor texts with keywords, especially with the ones that are somehow connected with monetization, as this will definitely get you under Google’s Penguin penalty.
With Google now being obsessed with user experience more than ever, the pressure on website owners and SEOs is really high. You are supposed to have super fast and uber convenient website to make your visitors stay and compete for high positions in the SERPs. So, here are three major user experience ranking signals for Google that I want to drive your attention to specifically.
Of course, the very first thing that comes to your mind when you think of user experience is page speed. And I’m sure you’re aware of Google’s Speed Update that has officially made page speed a ranking factor for mobile.
Another speed related change that took place recently has to do with the PageSpeed Insights tool which now evaluates websites according to two criteria: Speed and Optimization. The Speed parameter is now calculated based on real-user measurements: FCP (First Contentful Paint) and DCL (DOM Content Loaded) which are extracted from CrUX database. And Optimization score has to do with technical parameters like redirects, compression, minification, etc.
In the light of all these recent changes, our team has conducted a research aiming to figure out the correlation page speed has with rankings. Surprisingly enough, it turned out that Optimization score has huge influence on rankings these days.
So, in order to get yourself an idea of how your websites is performing speed-wise, go ahead and test it with PageSpeed Insights. Pay your special attention to the Optimization parameter and fix technical issues (if you have any). If you’re not sure how to do it, please consult this guide on Optimization score improvement.
In case your Optimization score is perfectly fine but the Speed parameter leaves much to be desired, the only thing you can do is to make it less “heavy” and sophisticated by minimizing the amount of images and scripts. You can also consider implementing AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for your mobile pages as it will make them load almost instantly.
Another two ranking signals that are closely connected with user experience are dwell time and bounce rate. To be completely honest with you, both of these metrics depend massively on the type of query. When it comes to bounce rate, for instance, a user may receive an immediate answer by visiting only one page of your site. This will still be considered a bounce, although it doesn’t mean that your page is not good enough. But as a rule, researching something takes a user more than just one page to open.
Speaking of dwell time, the longer a certain user stays on your page, the more relevant it seems for Google. Just like with bounce rate, a user can spend only 5 seconds on your site and be fully satisfied with the answer at the same time.
So, although both of these parameters depend on what exactly users type in the search box, the combination of these two parameters allows Google to evaluate pages’ relevance pretty accurately.
So, to make your visitors stay for longer, try to engage them as much as you can. Think of providing your users with some additional content links so that they are sent to some related posts on your site, for instance. Another good idea is to implement so-called “breadcrumbs”. These are small text paths at the top of the page that improve website navigation and help users to understand where they are on you site. What’s more, you can add comment sections under your posts, that may win you another couple of minutes.
I guess it goes without saying that PageRank is one of the strongest authority signals for Google. The thing is, except for external PageRank, your page is also influenced by the internal one. So, if you want to improve rankings of some pages that are performing not so well, it’s better not to hide them deep in your site structure. The best practice is for every single page of your website to be not more than 3 clicks away from your homepage.
However, if you need to boost rankings of a page that is buried in your site structure, the best thing you can do is to point some internal links to it. But just before doing that, look at your site structure with the help of WebSite Auditor’s Visualization feature to see how internal link juice is distributed within your site and what pages need to be worked on in the first place.
Caring about user’s safety is yet another Google’s concern these days. Back in 2014, Google has made HTTPS a ranking signal. Since that having an HTTPS site is not a recommendation but a must as Chrome browser now marks sites as “not secure” in case they are not HTTPS. For you to be safe and provide your users with safe experience, learn how to migrate your site from HTTP to HTTPS.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, there is an enormous amount of ranking factors that directly or indirectly influence your position on SERPs. But in 2019 I would definitely suggest setting a course for creating great content, quality link building, and improving user experience. Besides this, it’s always nice to carry out competition research to see how your top competitors optimize for the following ranking signals to borrow their tactics and reinforce your weak spots (if there are any).
The post 14 ranking signals you need to optimize for in 2019 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Page speed has been a part of Google’s search ranking algorithms for quite some time, but it’s been entirely focused on desktop searches until recently when Google began using page speed as a ranking factor for mobile searches as well.
Have you checked your page speed scores lately?
How do your speeds match up against your competition?
If your pages are loading slower than competitors, there’s a chance you’re taking a hit in the SERPs. While relevance of a page carries much more weight than page speed, it’s still important to ensure your pages are loading fast for users and search engines.
Here are 5 ways to increase page speed and improve SEO results.
Large image files can have a significant negative impact on page speed performance. Images often represent the largest portion of bytes when downloading a page. This is why optimizing images generally returns the biggest improvement in speed performance. Compressing your images using an image compression tool will reduce their file size leading to faster loading pages for both users and search engines, which in turn will have a positive impact on your organic search rankings.
Leverage browser caching
Google recommends setting a minimum cache time of one week (and preferably up to one year) for static assets, or assets that change infrequently. So, make sure you work with your web developer to ensure caching is setup for optimal page speed performance.
Decrease server response time
There are numerous potential factors that may slow down the response of your server: slow database queries, slow routing, frameworks, libraries, slow application logic, or insufficient memory. All these factors should be taken into consideration when trying to improve your server’s response time.
The most favorable server response time is under 200ms. SEO marketers should work with their website hosting provider to reduce server response time and increase page speed performance.
Enable Gzip compression
You will need to determine which type of server your site runs on before enabling Gzip compression as each server requires a unique configuration, for example:
Again, your hosting provider can help you enable Gzip compression accordingly. You’d be surprised how much faster your pages load by having Gzip implemented.
Avoid multiple landing page redirects
Having more than one redirect from a given URL to the final landing page can slow page load time. Redirects prompt an additional HTTP request-response which can delay page rendering. SEO Marketers should minimize the number of redirects to improve page speed. Check your redirects and make sure you don’t have redundant redirects that could be slowing load time.
SEO marketers must be analyzing and improving page speed. A great place to start is compressing images, utilizing caching, reducing server response time, enabling file compression, and removing multiple/redundant redirects.
I urge marketers to periodically use Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool to check your load time and compare your website to competitors’ sites. The tool also provides specific, recommended optimizations to increase your site’s page speed performance.
As Google continues to favor fast-loading websites it’s crucial that SEO Experts take necessary steps to ensure your site’s pages are meeting (and beating) Google’s expectations. Today, improving page speed is an essential aspect of any successful SEO Program.
Keeping up to date with what people search for online can be invaluable to your business. Whether you’re looking to inform your latest paid search campaign or just need some fresh, trending content for your blog, these tools can help.
However, with over 3.5 billion searches each day worldwide, it’s hard to know how to narrow all that data down to help you improve your SEO.
Here are some of the many great tools available to help you discover what people search for: the most popular topics, keywords, and trending stories.
When asking what people search for, it makes sense to start with the largest, most commonly used search engine in the world – Google. Due to its sheer size, Google has some great stats, trends, and insights to dig your teeth into.
Let’s look at Google Trends, for example. This gives you a very quick overview of the searches with the most traffic overall, which is continually updated. You can enter a keyword and see how search volume has varied for that term over time and in different places.
Simply change the location, time frame, category and type of search to dig even deeper into the data.
Google Trend results for “SEO.”
If you’re looking to find variations in your keyword phrases, Google Autocomplete is a great free tool that you’re probably already using every day.
Type your keyword into the search box and related terms will display in a drop down list. This can be a good starting point for inspiration on long-tail keywords you might need.
If you’re looking for fresh content for a website or blog, Google News will deliver the very latest headlines from news sites across the globe (including local news), which are tailored to your personal interests/keywords.
You can use the search bar and the “top stories” section on the left side bar. Also, you can zero in on specific topics and locations to see what news stories people are reading and searching for now.
Google News results for “Brexit.”
Trending on social media
Away from Google related tools, there is plenty that the big social media platforms can offer you when it comes to updates on the latest trends. Regular users of Twitter will know about the trends for you box, which uses an algorithm to display trends that are based on your location and who you follow.
This is similar to Instagram’s Explore function. Again, it’s based on your Instagram history and the type of content you follow and watch.
When it comes to broader discovery of what people search for, trending hashtags on both Twitter and Instagram are invaluable. Simply start researching the day’s top performing hashtags to see what‘s hot and then follow the conversation – perfect for blog post topics.
Of all the question and answer sites, Quora is one of the most useful tools for long tail keywords research. Its “related questions” feature (which appears once you’ve typed in a question) is a handy way to generate long tail keywords that might not immediately spring to mind from just looking at your search term. But more importantly, whatever topic you plan to cover, Quora has relevant questions and corresponding answers from thought leaders in that field.
Quora’s title page with related questions box.
One of our favorite but lesser-used tools is Answer the Public.
Answer the Public utilizes search data from Bing and Google and predicts what questions will be asked around each keyword. It also presents this data in a unique and visually stunning way – plus you’re able to download the information to an Excel or .CSV file.
Answer the public’s beautiful data presentation.
Poke around with what people search for with Bing’s own data on its organic searches. The tool provides up to six months of search data (no averages) and generates suggestions of keywords by language and country/region.
For more information on this tool, check out our previous guide, Bing Keyword Research Tool: Highlights & Limitations.
This tool allows you to discover what people search for by industry and sub-industry. You select your target audience, and it populates new trending queries (by volume) on the left bar.
Then, you can click any given query to see how it’s performed this year versus last year and how popularity changes week to week.
Most of us are already familiar with Google Ads (formerly AdWords) Keyword Planner. Search for keyword ideas, compare how keywords perform, measure the keyword competition and improve your next campaigns.
For more information on using Gooogle Ads, check out these articles:
End of year summaries
If you want to explore the searches that have shaped the previous year, most of the major search engines will summarize this data for you. For example, Google’s Year in Search will give you a top 5 list in a variety of topics – from actors, car brands and consumer tech, to movies, recipes, and even selfies!
Click on any of the results to be taken to an Explore page to see more information, such as interest by region, related topics and related queries – giving you a heap of great insights.
What other of your favorite tools did we miss? Leave a comment below!
In the previous article on 7 Things That Hurt Your SEO Rankings and How to Fix Them, we found how a drop in SEO rankings can be one of the worst things that can happen to a website.
A bad SEO entails practices that are outside the boundaries of Google webmaster guidelines and it affects the optimization of your website for search engines.
There are many techniques that can hurt your SEO rankings if implemented. Serpstat, in 2017, found about 300 million errors when they indexed 175 million pages with an SEO audit tool. These errors stemmed from not doing SEO the right way and while we have discussed 7 of these errors, here are more things that could hurt your rankings and how you can fix them.
1. Accessibility and indexation
The accessibility and indexation of your site contribute greatly to how your website pages can be seen on search engines. Some of the categories to consider include:
Canonical Tag: duplicate content makes it difficult for search engines to decide on a page to show users, which could affect the visibility of either page. If you will be implementing a rel=canonical tag, ensure it is done correctly, to avoid losing your website ranking. Situations, where you may implement wrongly, may include:
Noindex Tag: if you do no longer need a noindex tag on a webpage, ensure you remove it as soon as possible. With the tag still there, search engines will not index the webpage, which could leave you wondering why your SEO isn’t improving. Always keep track of your pages to know when a tag is no longer relevant.
Robots.txt: always check for pages hidden in robots.txt and take them out when necessary, to help improve your SEO rankings. If you have redirects in the webpage hidden in your robots.txt file, the crawler will likely not recognize it.
Nofollow links: nofollow links have no SEO value but you could be penalized by search engines for not using it properly. Many websites easily fall victim of this, as they often have links featured in their web pages that are unrelated to the content of the page. This ends up dropping their SEO rankings.
2. Links and bad redirects
While links are great to help drive traffic and boost your SEO ranking, they could also ruin your SEO efforts if they aren’t managed well.
Broken links on your web pages should be rectified or removed as soon as possible. Reasons for broken links could stem from entering the wrong URL, removal or permanent move of the linked webpage by the destination website, or a software on the user’s end that is blocking access to the destination website. There is a WordPress plugin for WordPress users that can be integrated into the website to get rid of dead links. You can also manually check for broken links by using the broken link checker plugin.
How to disavow negative backlinks
Google has a Disavow Tool that can help protect your site from penalties that may arise from bad linking and also help remove bad links. This tool simply sends a signal to Google to ignore negative backlinks. To disavow negative backlinks, look for the links you want to disavow, create a disavow file and then upload to the Google Disavow Tool. Once this is done, the specified links will no longer be considered by Google
Bad redirects and best redirects – 301 and 302
301 and 302 redirects might look similar to a user but definitely not to search engines. While 301 is a permanent move to a new site, 302 is temporal but a lot of users get to mix both up and use either, without thinking much about the difference. If you use 302 rather than 301, search engines might view it as a temporal move and still continue to index the old URL, which could affect your SEO rankings.
3. Not maximizing Google Search Console
Google Search Console is packed with lots of benefits that should be maximized in order to have the best SEO experience. Some of the things to pay attention to in Google Search Console include search analytics, links to your site, mobile usability, robots.txt tester, sitemaps, index status, and security issues. Once an identified issue is fixed, your rankings will be improved and your website will gain more traction.
4. Meta tags
Meta tags are important for SEO and usually one of the first things to learn in SEO training. Your key meta tags, including keywords attribute, title tag, meta description attribute, and meta robots attribute should be taken seriously, as they help search engines understand what a page is about.
Don’t use too long or too short titles and descriptions. The optimal number of words for your title required for the best SEO practice is 10-15 words, which is about 78 characters, following Google’s current meta title guideline.
Your description should be between 110 and 120 characters, for easy optimization for both mobile and desktop. While you ensure your title and description aren’t too long, you should also be careful not to make them too short. Your meta tags should provide enough info about the page to help the search engines understand the content.
Google encourages creating good meta descriptions; ensure there’s a description for every page on your site and they must be different for each page. Duplicate content could mess with your rankings. You should also include clearly tagged facts in the description and use quality descriptions.
Doing SEO wrongly will affect your SEO rankings and following the accurate SEO practices, based on Google standards, will help your website success. These common errors should be avoided at all cost. If you are also caught flouting the SEO rules, you might be penalized by Google which could cause a huge drop in your rankings.
The post Things that hurt your SEO rankings and how to fix them, part 2 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
This year’s TechSEO Boost, an event dedicated to technical SEO and hosted by Catalyst, took place on November 29 in Boston.
Billed as the conference “for developers and advanced SEO specialists,” TechSEO Boost built on the success of the inaugural event in 2017 with a day of enlightening, challenging talks from the sharpest minds in the industry.
Some topics permeated the discourse throughout the day and in particular, machine learning was a recurring theme.
As is the nature of the TechSEO Boost conference, the sessions aimed to go beyond the hype to define what precisely machine learning means for SEO, both today and in future.
The below is a recap of the excellent talk from Britney Muller, Senior SEO Scientist at Moz, entitled (fittingly enough) “Machine Learning for SEOs.”
What is machine learning? A quick recap.
The session opened with a brief primer on the key terms and concepts that fit under the umbrella of “machine learning.”
Muller used the definition in the image below to capture the sense of machine learning as “a subset of AI (Artificial Intelligence) that combines statistics and programming to give computers the ability to “learn” without explicitly being programmed.”
That core idea of “learning” from new stimuli is an important one to grasp as we consider how machine learning can be applied to daily SEO tasks.
Machine learning excels at identifying patterns in huge quantities of data. As such, some of the common examples of machine learning applications today include:
This very ubiquity can make it a challenging concept to grasp, however. In fact, Eric Schmidt at Google has gone so far as to say, “The core thing Google is working on is basically machine learning.”
It is helpful to break this down into the steps that comprise a typical machine learning project, in order to see how we might apply this to everyday SEO tasks.
The machine learning process
The image below represents the machine learning process Muller shared at TechSEO Boost:
It is important to bear in mind that some of the training data should be reserved for testing at a later point in the process.
Where possible, this data should also be labelled clearly to help the machine learning algorithm identify classifications and categories within a noisy data set.
It is for precisely this reason that Google asks us to label images to verify our identity:
This demonstrates our human ability to pick out objects in cluttered contexts, but it has the added benefit of providing Google with higher quality image data.
The pitfalls of an unsupervised approach to machine learning, and a training data set that is open to interpretation, were laid bare just last week.
Google’s ‘Smart Compose’ feature within Gmail has demonstrated gender bias by preferring certain pronouns when predicting what a user might want to say.
As reported in Reuters, “Gmail product manager Paul Lambert said a company research scientist discovered the problem in January when he typed “I am meeting an investor next week,” and Smart Compose suggested a possible follow-up question: “Do you want to meet him?” instead of “her.”
The challenge here is not restricted to projects on such a scale. Marketers who want to get their hands dirty must be aware of the limitations of machine learning, as well as its exciting possibilities.
Muller added that people tend to overfit their data, which reduces the accuracy and flexibility of the model they are using. This (very common) phenomenon occurs when a model corresponds very closely with one specific data set, reducing its applicability to new scenarios.
The ability to scale effectively is what gives machine learning its appeal, so overfitting is something to be avoided with care. There is a good primer to this topic here and it is also explained very well through this image:
So, how exactly can this subset of AI be used to improve SEO performance?
How you can use machine learning for SEO
As is the case with all hype-friendly technologies, businesses are keen to get involved with machine learning. However, the point is not to “use machine learning” through fear of being left behind, but rather to find the best uses of machine learning for each business.
Britney Muller shared some examples from her role at Moz during her session at TechSEO Boost.
The first was an approach to automated meta description generation using the Algorithmia Advanced Content Summarizer, which was then compared to Google’s approach to automated descriptions pulled directly from the landing page.
Meta descriptions remain an important asset when trying to encourage a positive click-through rate, but a lot of time is spent crafting these snippets. An automated alternative that can interpret the meaning of landing pages and create clickable summaries for display in the SERPs would be very useful.
Muller shared some examples, such as the image above, to demonstrate the comparison between the two approaches. The machine learning approach is not perfect and may require some tweaking, but it does an excellent job of conveying the page’s intent when compared to Google’s selection.
The team at Moz has since built this into Google Sheets:
Although this is not a product other businesses can access right now, an alternative way of achieving automated meta descriptions has been shared by Paul Shapiro (the TechSEO Boost host) via Github here.
Automated image optimization
Another fascinating use of machine learning for SEO is the automation of image optimization. Britney Muller showed how, in under 20 minutes, it is possible to train an algorithm to distinguish between cats and ducks, then use this model on a new data set with a high level of accuracy.
For large retailers, the application of this method could be very beneficial. With so many new images added to the inventory every day, and with visual search on the rise, a scalable image labeling system would prove very profitable. As demonstrated at TechSEO Boost, this is now a very realistic possibility for businesses willing to build their own model.
A further use of machine learning described by Britney Muller was the transcription of podcasts. An automated approach to this task can turn audio files into something much more legible for a search engine, thereby helping with indexation and ranking for relevant topics.
Muller detailed an approach using the Amazon Transcribe product through Amazon Web Services to achieve this aim.
The audio is broken down and delivered in a J-SON file in a lot of detail, with the different speakers on the podcast labelled separately.
There was not enough time in the session to work through every potential use of machine learning for SEO, but Muller’s core message was that everyone in the industry should be working towards at least a working knowledge of these concepts.
Some further opportunities for experimentation were listed as follows:
As we can see, machine learning truly excels when working with large data sets to identify patterns.
Tools and resources
The best way to get engaged is to combine theory with practice. This is almost always the case, but it is a particularly valid piece of advice in relation to programming.
Muller’s was not the first or last talk to reference Google Codelabs throughout the day.
There are more resources out there than ever before and the likes of Amazon and Google want machine learning to be approachable. Amazon has launched a machine learning course and Google’s crash course is a fantastic way to learn the components of a successful project.
The Google-owned Kaggle is always a great place to trial new data sets and review the innovative work performed by data scientists around the world, once a basic grasp has been attained.
Furthermore, Google’s Colaboratory makes it easy to get started on a project and work with a remote team.
Key takeaways: machine learning for SEOs
What became particularly clear through Muller’s talk is how approachable machine learning applications can be for SEOs. Moreover, the room for experimentation is unprecedented, for those willing to invest some time in the discipline.
Whether you’re running an organic search or PPC campaign, it all starts with keyword research. Keyword research is usually the first step you undertake when planning how to bring in customers to your website – because the terms they’re searching for will determine the kind of content you will create and the way you will optimize it.
Behind every search, however, is an intent – a need or want – whether it be for a product, service, solution, or simply more information. Intent is one of the most significant variables in marketing. All customer journeys, brand engagement, and sales funnels begin with intent.
Brands that use data to uncover the context and motivation behind every search that lead users to their website will be able to deliver an experience that eventually translates to revenue for them. How, then, can you go about capturing customer intent, and influence the decisions that they make and the actions that they take?
Match keywords with intent
All marketers know about the customer journey and the sales funnel. We know about the different touchpoints where customers interact with our brands and we spend hours planning how to interact with them at each of those touchpoints.
However, we frequently overlook the baggage (context) that customers carry when they type in those search queries. The three types of search queries – informational, navigational, and transactional – only clarify top level intent.
Under each of those umbrella categories, you can find a variety of subtypes of keywords that reveal a whole lot about the intent of the searcher.
Most businesses will find that they’d want organic visibility for almost all of these searcher intents. You can use a grouping of keywords from each of these categories as a seed list and expand upon them using your favorite keyword tool (because, they haven’t started calling themselves “intent research tools” yet).
That will give you a better idea of the search volume, click volume, cost per click, difficulty, trends, SERP features, and other variables, which you can use to estimate how many opportunities you have to interact with the customer (and what that will cost you) as they move along their purchase journey.
Determine how far your customers are from taking action
In the image above, do you see a scenario where a person searching for “tomato plant” might eventually get to “why are my tomato plants turning yellow” a few months down the line? Search is a marketing channel that can reveal the motivations and goals of a person from the queries they type or speak, as well as help you uncover insights into their behavior from what they eventually do on your site.
A study by Northwestern University examined the “psychological distance” between consumers’ current state and their intent to take action using their search queries. The hypothesis was that the farther away a person is from buying something, the more abstract their queries, and the more likely they are to use “why” questions. As they get closer to their goal, they use more concrete, contextual terms with verbs (action words) like “shop” or “buy.”
Data from nearly 25,000 queries revealed that searchers tend to click on results with words that mirrored the nature (abstract or concrete) of their search phrase. Users searching with a browsing intent are 20% more likely to click on a result that stresses abstract words like “best,” while those searching with a buying intent are 180% more likely to click on a result that emphasizes concrete words like “shop.”
What do these results tell you? If you ask me, they underscore the need for mapping content to the intent of the customer at every stage of their buyer’s journey. Aligning keywords to the mindset of your customers allows for more relevant brand messaging, targeted ad or landing page copy, and personalized user experiences that drive more conversions.
Align your SEO with customer intent
When people say keywords are dead, what they mean is you shouldn’t obsess over “optimizing” your blog post or landing page for a particular keyword or set of keywords, because no matter how “smartly” you insert keywords in your titles, subheadings, meta descriptions, or copy, Google is laser-focused on whether your content matches the intent of the searcher.
They are moving from being a search engine to an answer engine. This is evident from how the SERPs show a single answer box (the click-less version of “I’m Feeling Lucky”) along with options such as “People also ask” and “Related search” to further gauge – and meet – searcher intent.
In a nutshell, Google is looking to
This doesn’t mean that all SEO is useless. On the contrary you can use insights from keyword research to structure your content to appear for evolving search features such as instant answers. You then need to make sure that you can truly provide the best answer. Ask yourself:
Working towards the outcome of these questions might get you in the answer box for your targeted search terms and intents, but if you want to stay there, you need to consistently get better at all of the above.
Analyzing Google SERPs for different sets of keywords can also help you make critical decisions on whether to use SEO or PPC to target the right intent. For example, if a search term returns a page filled with blog posts, Q&A sites or forums, videos, and the like, as opposed to sales pages for a product or service, it probably means there is no purchase intent there.
Achieving high rankings through keyword targeting is a long, drawn-out, extremely competitive and complex process, prone to errors in judgement. You’re far better off trying to understand searcher intent and context, and providing best-match, content that’s relevant to them at the moment.
The variables and factors that influence intent matching differ from those that you take into account while doing keyword research. A keyword doesn’t need to have high search volume in order to have purchase intent and be profitable. Intent matching takes the guessing game out of keyword targeting.
To really get better at search marketing, you need much more than technical SEO, high quality content, and links. You need to optimize your website for user experience at every point in the customer journey, and encourage them to take the right actions that eventually result in conversions.
Rohan Ayyar is the Regional Marketing Manager at SEMRush.
The post How to move from keyword research to intent research appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
More than 500 engineers, designers, managers and other staff from across global Google offices have signed an open letter at Medium.com calling on the search engine to stop their Dragonfly project and for company leaders to “commit to transparency, clear communication, and real accountability.”
Google’s project Dragonfly first came to light in August via The Intercept and their reports surrounding leaked documents containing details about the project. In a nutshell, the project looked to be a fresh attempt by Google to re-enter the Chinese search market since having been blocked by the state back in 2010.
Dragonfly was speculated to be taking the shape of a mobile search engine. This is unsurprising, as more than 97% of internet users in China go online via mobile devices (according to CNNIC) and it is in this vertical that the industry is seeing most disruption from companies such as Shenma, Sogou and Haosou.
What was surprising were the subsequent leaked details from The Intercept and other sources hinting that Dragonfly users would be forced to sign-in to make searches, with IP addresses and phone numbers being linked to their activities too. It is also expected that the service would be censored in order to adhere to the country’s ‘cyber sovereignty’ laws – and, an as yet unknown, domestic partner would also have access to this customer data.
Consequently, there was significant uproar among many Google employees. On August 20th, senior research scientist Jack Poulson left the company and published his lengthy resignation letter online. ‘I believe that Google is largely composed of altruistic employees,’ he wrote. ‘But, due to my conviction that dissent is fundamental to functioning democracies, I am forced to resign in order to avoid contributing to, or profiting from, the erosion of protections for dissidents.’
A dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment
The latest open letter published on November 27th echoes much of the sentiment expressed by Poulson in his resignation document. ‘We are Google employees and we join Amnesty International in calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly, Google’s effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance,’ it says.
‘Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be. The Chinese government certainly isn’t alone in its readiness to stifle freedom of expression, and to use surveillance to repress dissent. Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.’
The post also describes 2018 as a year of disappointment for Google employees. It references Project Maven (where Google assisted with development of AI in US military drones) which saw protests and resignations, as well as the Rubingate scandal which saw Android developer Andy Rubin given ‘a hero’s farewell’ and a $90m exit package after claims of sexual misconduct were made against him – ultimately leading to a global synchronized walkout on November 1st.
Official responses from Google have not satisfied critics
Google are yet to address the direct requests as detailed in this latest open letter. At a Q & A session during the WIRED 25 Summit in October, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sung the praises of the technical achievements of Dragonfly during recent tests. He also justified Google’s position by saying: ‘We are compelled by our mission [to] provide information to everyone, and [China is] 20 percent of the world’s population.’
Pichai also made reference to Google’s stated position on China back in 2010, when it decided it would no longer censor its SERPs at google.cn essentially putting an end to its operations in the country (this is regarded as the preferable position among employees signing the latest open letter). He stated it was time to ‘re-evaluate that choice’ and when asked about employees who were critical of such changes in company policy remarked, ‘we don’t run the company by holding referendums.’
This letter arguably hasn’t yet captured as many headlines as the walk-out earlier this month. There are a number of likely reasons for this – the biggest being that Dragonfly isn’t at this point in time a tangible product which we can see. It is understandably hard to get the public and mainstream press behind a campaign criticising a product that doesn’t even have a launch date.
The ethical issues with Dragonfly are also less black and white than those raised with Project Maven and Rubingate earlier in the year. As one user asks in the comments under the letter: ‘If Google drops dragonfly, the Chinese netizens will end up using “Baidu”, is it better or worse for the netizens of China?’ Another user argues: ‘The debate here really is about sacrificing the western pride and values surrounding censorship in favour of enabling a billion people that are already censored to the freedoms of information the west has.’
These positions might be surprising to some of the Google employees who have signed the letter or left the company, but it is in-keeping with data published at The Drum showing that more than 72% of Weibo users (one of the country’s leading microblogging sites) would choose Google over Baidu et al. if it were to launch its new service. There is something to be said for the potential for Google to disrupt the monopoly Baidu has in the country, and to potentially deliver better quality results if not less censored ones.
The signees, of course are not alone either. They are joined by Amnesty International (and a number of other organisations) who are bolstering the argument that Dragonfly will endanger human rights defenders and journalists who might use it. The number of employees signing the letter is growing, and the number of organisations joining the opposition to Dragonfly looks to be growing too.
Many are now looking to a Congress hearing on December 5th where Pichai is set to defend Google against accusations of bias in its algorithm. It is likely that the subject of China and Dragonfly will rear its head there, too, and that Pichai will likely face his toughest round of questioning yet. As things stand, Google re-entering the Chinese search market is looking more and more likely to happen. We can reasonably expect that the closer we get to that time, the more people we will see join the voices of the signees of this latest letter and the more heated the debate will become.
The post Dragonfly: 500+ staff sign open letter for Google to drop new Chinese search engine appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
As SEO professionals, when we present our strategy and project ideas, we are often met with blank stares from business stakeholders. They are not able to connect the dots from SEO jargon to business goals.
And my fellow SEO colleagues, we need to own this one. Every so often we forget to speak in simple language that is understood by all. We do tend to speak in acronyms and codes.
In today’s digital world, we buy and sell online, we pay our bills and make our deposits online. When the first instinct of the users is to “Google” the products or services they want, the business needs to ensure they provide content that meets the user’s search intent. Search Engine Optimization plays a pivotal role in ensuring this content is optimized and available for search engines to display to the end users.
Organic search contributes significantly to the website performance, as well as plays a critical role in the buyer journey, which could lead to a conversion or an engagement. Without proper SEO strategies in place, users will face difficulty locating your content and instead find your competitors.
Thus, understanding SEO is essential to overall business success — and we need to be able to decode that message for all business leaders to understand and value.
Know your audience
First off, you must know who you are talking to when you are explaining SEO. Set a foundation, that it’s about users, rather than search engine bots. Typically, the non-SEO professionals consider SEO to be a technique to outsmart search engine bots and algorithms to rank number one in Google search results. Well, we all know that is not how things work. As a matter of fact, there are dozens of articles on mistakes to avoid.
Leverage your competition
Show and tell always works. Walk your business stakeholder through an actual keyword search on Google and let them observe how the competition is dominating the search results. Then slowly clarify, like peeling an onion, why the competitor is performing better and where do gaps exist in the internal strategy. Essentially breaking it down in simpler terminology. Show how the competition has out-maneuvered you with optimized content, appropriate keywords targeting, and applied technical best practices to ensure the website is visible and creditable.
Get hands on
User experience plays a major role in how search engines crawl and understand the website. When UX teams integrates SEO best practices, the websites are easily discoverable in search, not to mention it leads to effective user experience. In lieu of justifying the business holder that the site navigation is broken, demonstrate how difficult it is to search and navigate to the desired pages. Rather than stating that if a page is taking 3-5 seconds to load, it might be slow, let them experience the frustration of a slow page load. These are critical experiences that lets the story develop itself.
Work with web development
If you are trying to gather backing for a technical project, we need to be extra careful. Algorithm, tags or metadata are not widely understood terms. To an untrained ear all this sounds like gibberish. It will be beneficial if you explain the advantage each element delivers, instead of narrating a variety of technical terms.
For example, instead of saying we need to implement noindex tags, you might want to say, “we need to secure the confidential / private content that is currently getting displayed publicly.”
Instead of asking for implementation of Hreflang, you might want to state “this will allow the business to indicate to the search engines the different web pages in alternate languages that exist and their relationship.”
Why should the business fund the project? How does SEO contribute to the bottom line? Advocating SEO successfully means selling to the business stakeholders on the benefits SEO brings. Demonstrate how SEO impacts each stage of the user journey and how the SEO project would bring in effectiveness.
First order of the day is to understand what are the business goals. Usually, it is how to increase revenue. Here make data your friend. Present the data on how much traffic is being attracted organically and how organic users are engaging with the site. What amount of revenue is generated by organic users, the return on investment and of course the repeat buy stats.
Once you show the funnel and profitability of the channel, the buy-in from stakeholders is easy. Then you can break into individual projects and how these projects impact the buyer’s journey. Consider your execution plan, define and specify details about the people and cost required.
SEO can be easily understood by anyone as long as you put it in a language that they will be able to recognize. Simplify your message and make it into comprehensible concepts, which not only explain what it is, but why it works.
Tanu Javeri is Sr. Global SEO Strategist, Performance and Programmatic Marketing at IBM.
The post Decoding SEO for business leaders: 5 tips to get stakeholders on board appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Sources from the ad industry have shone a light on how fast Amazon ad budgets are growing. Reports from various media agencies show that brands have been moving up to 50 percent of their previous Google search spend to Amazon ads. With shifting budget comes the need for more intentional Amazon SEO.
A report by Jumpshot notes that what used to be Google’s share of product searches just three years ago is now Amazon’s and vice versa. The report says that by 2018, 54 percent of product searches began on Amazon compared to those that began on Google, at 46 percent. Granted, shoppers who found products through Amazon took relatively longer to make a purchase. Additionally, Google has a more diverse field for advertisers to play on — YouTube in particular.
Nonetheless, Amazon is proving to be a serious contender in the Google-dominated space. To marketers, this means the work is only beginning when it comes to optimizing product copy for Amazon’s algorithm, Amazon A9.
Amazon is being used for product discovery
This trend shows that Amazon is becoming a center for product discovery. On the other hand, Google is being used to validate the purchase. To understand the pricing, quality standards or brands, consumers still have to turn to Google.
According to Jumpshot, almost 90 percent of product views on Amazon result from search and not advertising, product aggregators or merchandising.
As a brand, now you know that most of your customers are searching for your product on Amazon right now. They don’t have time for banners and merchandising placements. They type in a product name, and within seconds, they have what they need. To be found on Amazon, you’ll have to understand Amazon SEO.
How to be found using Amazon SEO
Here’s how Amazon describes its search process:
In simpler terms, Amazon’s algorithm considers the best selling products, those that have brought visitors back to the site and their relevance to the searcher’s intent.
Bringing it all together: You need product views to generate more views. Huh!
Understand Amazon’s ranking factors
If the goal is to be found by matching the buyer intent, then you just have to find the right keywords and sneak them in your product copy. Right? Sadly, that’s not the case.
Amazon’s A9 takes into account several factors, which may be a clue to how you can improve your ecommerce sales in 2019. According to Amazon, once relevance is established (through keywords), two main factors further influence product ranking:
– conversion rate and
– sales velocity.
Amazon goes on to explain that factors such as Best Sellers Rank (BSR) and customer reviews don’t count. However, you’ll find they do count, considering these are among the factors that increase conversion rate and sales velocity on the site. Remember, the more easily you can be found, the more views you can potentially gain, which should result in higher ranking.
The following is a list of factors impacting your ranking on Amazon.
Relevance is used to describe how appropriate the product suggestion is to the context of the search. Generally, the searcher’s intent is manifested in the keywords they use.
Thus, a great way to establish relevance is to use relevant keywords in the product copy. This includes the product description, product features and specifications and brand number (for the more savvy customers).
Within the product listing, Amazon assigns a value that shows how well that product is selling compared to others within the same category. It’s called the Best Sellers Rank, and Amazon updates it every hour.
It’s an automatically updated value that can be useful to you as a marketer. You can use it to understand your competitors better. By constantly checking how competing products are performing, you can see whom you’re up against and what they’re doing right.
While customer reviews may not directly influence A9, they can improve other areas that boost ranking.
As customers research your product category, they are likely to look for information in the reviews section. More than 90 percent of online shoppers read reviews before making a purchase. And 85 percent trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations, according to research by BrightLocal.
To get good reviews, ask your customers for them — once you deliver great customer service.
A9 probably does not use customer satisfaction as a ranking factor, but actions of satisfied customers can help align your product with the intent of a future customer.
For instance, when a customer is satisfied and they come back to not just Amazon but your product page, it shows the site you’re generating traffic for them. This, as you’ve seen, is important to Amazon when ranking products like yours. If the customer buys from you again, your BSR goes up. If you have many customers doing this, your conversion rate increases; your BSR remains on top; and you generate significant traffic for Amazon.
Thus, customer satisfaction can influence Amazon ranking.
Amazon SEO doesn’t stop with optimizing your product copy so A9 can find the product. It’s about ranking on the first page of results because 70 percent of Amazon shoppers won’t explore beyond that.
To raise your position, you have to understand how Amazon ranks you. But you have to go deeper than the obvious. You have to know what influences A9. And this includes the product relevance determined by its copy, how frequently people buy your product compared to the products of your competitors, customer reviews and customer satisfaction.
The post Effective Amazon SEO: What to know when shifting ad budgets to Amazon appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Pleasure to introduce my self i am Sean Webb i am 27 years old from Manchester, UK.I am doing affiliate marketing and have spend lots of time learning how to rank easy to medium competition keywords. I have recently started PPL and Video Marketing and learning more about it.