Dragonfly: What we know about Google’s possible plans to re-enter China’s search market

Last month I wrote about China’s search market, how it is dominated by Baidu, and how that dominance is threatened by mobile-only disruptors such as Shenma.

While Shenma continues to build on its growth since being launched back in 2014, there have been news reports in the past few months suggesting Google may also be set to re-enter the market after having its search property (and others) blocked by the Chinese state back in 2010.

I want to use this post today to try and separate out the facts from the speculation in regards to these recent reports. What can be corroborated? What is rumor? And what can we reasonably expect from Google in China over the short and long term?

‘Project Dragonfly’ officially exists

The most recent official statement from Google on this came on 26th September at a Senate hearing attended by the search engine’s chief privacy officer Keith Enright and detailed at South China Morning Post.

“There is a Project Dragonfly,” Enright said, but added that he was “not clear on the contours of what is in scope or out of the scope for that project”.

Enright also pointed out “we’re not close to launching a search product in China, and whether we eventually could, or would, remains unclear.” He iterated that if Dragonfly was anywhere beyond the early phases of exploration and development, then his team would be in the process of reviewing the product to ensure it adhered to Google’s privacy values.

So while we can be certain Google is working on a search ‘project’ for the Chinese market, official word is that it is still very early days.

Google is establishing new partnerships in the region

As I highlighted in my last post about the Chinese market, Google has spent 2018 negotiating with key digital companies based in the country, including a patent cross-licensing agreement with Tencent and a partnership with e-commerce company JD.com.

In July the company launched an AI-powered mini-game on WeChat (Tencent’s IM and social media client). It has also invested in an AI centre in Beijing, as well as a number of other domestic companies.

Dragonfly, too, is rumored to be a partnership between Google and another company

These partnerships between Google and companies in China is significant. The Intercept – a news site which specialises in privacy, security and politics – has been the primary reference from which other news outlets have based their stories about Dragonfly. Last month they reported that an internal memo was leaked which contained certain details about the project. No official statements have been made by Google as to what is or isn’t accurate in The Intercept‘s reports about this memo. But as we will see, there are a number of elements which do seem trustworthy.

One key detail is that the development of Dragonfly is a joint venture between Google and another, as yet, unknown company based in mainland China. This would be in-keeping with Google’s deal-making activities to date. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this partner could even be one of the companies we have already mentioned.

Users will (according to The Intercept‘s memo) need to sign-in to use the service

This is where Google’s partner in the project is significant. Whoever they are, they will potentially have access to this sign-in data. It is also speculated that phone numbers and IP addresses will be linked to searches too. As well as movements.

In the context of China as a mobile search market, personal and locational data will no doubt help Google compete with the for-mobile service Shenma whose m-commerce and local search convenience are its key features. On the flipside, China as a proponent of ‘cyber sovereignty’ understandably makes a lot of people uneasy about such data potentially being accessed by the government.

It is also possible that Google’s partner in Dragonfly will have a hand in being able to edit and amend search results. Dragonfly’s SERPs would need to adhere to China’s strict censorship laws, so if it is a partnership project this might make it easier for Google to run the project within the parameters set by the Chinese government. This might also make things easier in the eyes of users of the service – perhaps if the tool is presented not as a Google product at all, but rather with the subtle byline that it is ‘powered by Google’ the company can relieve itself of some of the responsibility on the censorship/privacy side of the service.

A number of Google employees are resigning over Dragonfly (one of which is publicly verifiable)

The Intercept has also published reports that around seven Google employees are leaving the company over Dragonfly. One of these, Jack Poulson, has been named publicly – and his resignation letter is accessible here.

Poulson himself was made aware of Dragonfly from reports in the press. The subsequent actions of him and his colleagues certainly give credence to some of the speculation surrounding the data Google will gather via the search engine and whether this could end up in the hands of the Chinese government.

“Project Dragonfly has, at the very least, involved us ‘designing’ technologies that violate the latter two of our four primary constraints,” Poulson writes. These constraints (or Google’s own AI Ethics Principles as set out in June 2018) state the company will not “design or deploy” AI in the following areas:

There is appetite among Chinese consumers for Google to return to the market

While there is mounting pressure – even from within Google – to drop the Dragonfly project altogether, there is a massive yearning among Chinese consumers for Google to have a search presence once more.

As reported at The Drum, 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 a new service.

Whether users would still be as enthusiastic for Dragonfly with the knowledge that their personal data might be linked to searches and accessible to the government remains to be seen. But it is not surprising that the company are exploring any possible way they might be able to have a search presence in the market once more.

Chrome and other Google tools already have a significant presence to leverage from

Another fact which is likely to push Google to explore every possible route back into the Chinese search market, is that they will be able to leverage some of their other key products in order to help Dragonfly establish a significant footing.

As evidenced by StatCounter data, Google’s Chrome is the leading browser in the market. Android is the leading mobile OS. And in 2018 the company also launched the mobile cloud storage service Files Go. These successes, along with the company’s new partnerships ensure that business is in a strong position to compete with Baidu and Shenma should it re-enter the search vertical.

Google is in a curious position where Dragonfly is concerned

The criticism levelled at the company from inside and outside its walls seems justified. The possibility that the data of its users may be subject to surveillance from the Chinese government and that the tool itself would need to be censored well beyond what is in-keeping with the company’s founding philosophy makes logical sense. After all, the service clearly aims to make use of personal data – and will likely need to – in order to offer a mobile search and shopping experience that can match Shenma and Baidu. Additionally, the Chinese government is unlikely to keep Dragonfly whitelisted if it doesn’t operate within its policy of “cyber sovereignty”.

On the flipside, consumers in China are clearly quite desperate to have access to Google’s world-leading search algorithm once more. The Weibo survey coupled with the popularity of Chrome, Android and other Google products suggests that even if users knew that the state was meddling with Dragonfly’s SERPs many would still be keen to use the product. And they, of course, deserve the right to be able to choose to use it or not. Whether Google does or doesn’t re-enter the Chinese search market – the company needs to weigh up the gains of building the brand in the East, while potentially damaging it in the West.

How to drive clicks through effective meta descriptions

When it comes to optimizing website content, there’s typically a lot of talk about the importance of choosing the right keywords and drafting compelling headlines – but the impact of meta descriptions on a website’s on-page SEO too often goes overlooked.

While you may think you have ticked all the boxes to boost visibility of your ecommerce site, the absence of an accurate meta description might just be costing you traffic and sales.

So, what are meta descriptions? They are short, unique snippets that describe a webpage. Think of what you would write if you had to advertise the webpage – that is exactly what meta descriptions need to include.

Many people tend to leave meta descriptions blank without realizing the effect it has on search results. A powerful meta description leads to a rise in click-through-rates which boosts the SEO ranking of your page. Simply put, they form the first impression of your website, so you rather make it a good one.

Here are 6 ways you can optimize meta descriptions to ensure clicks.

Answer questions

Whether it’s seeking the nearest plumbing services or discovering the best hotels in Maldives – everyone on Google has come looking for answers to a problem.

Put yourself in a customer’s shoes and think about what they could possibly ask to which your business can pose a solution. Your meta description needs to answer their question and impart value to entice them to click on your website.

While the meta description length has been extended up to 300 characters in order to make them more “descriptive”, it is always safe to stick to 160 characters so that the description does not appear abrupt and incomplete which can be rather frustrating for readers.

Evoke emotion

Let’s face it – emotion sells. Whether it is arousing urgency, anger, joy, trust, curiosity – any piece of content that evokes emotion is likely to be more effective in persuading readers to act. The same needs to be applied while drafting meta descriptions too.

You need to identify the emotional benefits a customer will attain by considering your brand and leverage it to drive traffic. Use words such as ‘attractive’, ‘enormous’, ‘powerful’, ‘unparalleled’ among others to strike a chord with your readers in just those two to three lines.

Use calls to action

Calls to action (CTAs) are powerful words that one must incorporate in the meta description because they communicate a clear purpose and urge readers to take a step forward.

However, this is not the place to use obvious calls to action such as ‘read more’ or ‘shop now’. Instead, you should use words like ‘save more’, state an offer or a tangible benefit such as free delivery or a free 30-day trial in the meta description to make better use of this space.

Incorporate keywords

Choosing relevant keywords is one of the most critical steps for SEO optimization. That said, stuffing your content with these keywords won’t fetch you results. What’s important is strategically placing them in sections that can make a difference such as the meta description.

When Google displays search results, the search words are displayed in bold and it helps to have them highlighted in your website’s meta description tag which indicates relevancy and catches the reader’s attention too.

You are likely to have many keyword suggestions from research. In such cases, prioritize the keyword that has maximum impact for the particular webpage and use it in the meta description instead of fitting them all in 160 characters.

Avoid duplication

Each of the pages of your website are unique so why must they have the same description? If more than one page of your website shares the same description, then they are competing with each other because it means that they are talking about the same thing. This results in Google pushing your website lower down the rank.

So, don’t get lazy here and duplicate meta description content because that just gives the wrong signals to Google, deeming them to be spammy or repeated content which can hurt your search results.

Use rich snippets

Have you noticed some meta descriptions contain links, reviews, ratings and video images among others? Those are referred to as rich snippets. Contrary to normal snippets, rich snippets include structured data to give more detailed information to the search engine, helping people make a better decision before clicking websites.

Rich snippets give users quicker access to information through their visually appealing formats, images and relevant information that ultimate enhance click-through-rates. So, whether it is adding a contact number, product reviews and ratings or direct links – consider incorporating rich snippets in your meta description for it to stand out and attract clicks.

Hence, even though meta descriptions don’t directly affect page rankings, it is recommended to optimize them to drive clicks and generate traffic. If you are unsure how you meta description will appear, you can use this free tool to do a quick test before going live.

Adela Belin is the Head of Digital Marketing at Writers Per Hour. She creates content surrounding marketing with a focus on social media and digital marketing.

4 specific strategies for finding LSI keywords that’ll boost your SEO

Using latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords – terms and phrases that are similar or related to the target keyword of a webpage – in that page’s content can be highly, highly advantageous to your SEO results.

That is, if you know how to find them. The rise of semantic search, employed by search engines in their efforts to achieve a more accurate and contextual understanding of an information searcher’s true intent, has altered SEO such that marketers ought to now optimize keywords for a page’s topic, not just its target phrase.

Here are four techniques that can help you discover appropriate LSI keywords for your website content and how to reap their benefits:

1) LSI keywords are more than just synonyms

In determining your LSI keywords, you need to maintain an expansive view of your target keyword’s topic; do not simply plug in other words that mean more or less the same thing. For instance, a page targeting “best beaches in Florida” shouldn’t just utilize synonym-based LSI keywords like “best coast in Florida” and “best shore in Florida,” but should also use terms that describe the subject more conceptually, i.e. “Florida beach vacations,” or “Florida water getaways.”

2) Investigate other Google searches related to your topic

When searching for LSI keywords well-suited for a page’s goal, basic Google searches are full of strong suggestions. Do a Google search for your target keyword – the bottom of the search results page will usually yield a slew of related searches that effectively tell you what Google considers to be relevant to the topic. This allows you to crowdsource LSI keywords to use, based on real search phrases.

Image: Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.

Another valuable keyword discovery strategy is to view the other strings that appear in Google’s search bar as you type in your target.

Image: Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.

Much like a semantic keyword tool, these readily available Google search results can yield highly useful suggestions that you may not come up with on your own. And you can get them for free and within seconds.

3) Find LSI keywords with Google’s Keyword Planner tool

Going a step deeper, Google also provides the Keyword Planner as a free tool built to help web marketers identify appropriate keywords (that can also assist in optimizing ad spend). This tool lends itself to determining LSI keywords: it can suggest hundreds of keywords relevant to a website, along with commonly related terms and phrases that are being actively used in Google queries.

Beyond finding LSI keywords, the fact that Keyword Planner identifies SEO keywords with high traffic and low competition enables web marketers to shape their LSI strategies wisely. In this way, they can target content around those LSI keywords that will provide the most bang for their buck.

Image: Suggested keywords within Google’s Keyword Planner. Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.

4) Use the LSIGraph tool

Another free tool, LSIGraph is specifically designed to generate LSI keywords that complement your existing page content. Web marketers and content producers simply need to enter a target keyword into the tool on the LSIGraph site to receive a rather robust list of LSI keywords to potentially utilize, like so:

A word of warning: with so many LSI keywords to choose from, it becomes important to resist the urge to overdo it and use too many for a single piece of content. Doing so risks engaging in keyword stuffing – the practice of over using keywords unnecessarily that can (and will) result in stiff search engine penalties and effectively negate a page’s positive SEO efforts. The better practice is to make use of select terms that are the most aligned with page content, while also maintaining a list of other promising keywords and developing new content, pages, and marketing materials to utilize those terms appropriately.

Remember that LSI keywords should be inserted into page content where they are a natural fit, in order to maximize the SEO benefits of your content strategy. By using these tools and techniques to identify the right LSI keywords and putting them to work, you can increase your content’s topic relevance, ultimately earning more traffic and winning more customers.

Kim Kosaka is the Director of Marketing at Alexa.com, whose tools provide insight into digital behavior that marketers use to better understand and win over their audience.

The State of SEO survey highlights – SEO enters the mainstream

There’s a worry amongst marketers – am I following the right path in my strategy?

A new report released by Zazzle Media has revealed that SEO is becoming a key area for the majority of marketers in the UK, with seemingly more prominence given to the sector than ever before. Here’s the top stats from the new report – where does your business fit into this wider industry opinion?

State of SEO improving

The inaugural State of SEO Survey approached over 30,000 UK marketers for their views on the industry as well as their personal knowledge levels of the intricacies of the sector. The survey revealed that 88% of marketers believed SEO was an important element of their marketing plans, with over 60% of these going as far to say the that it was an extremely important factor in the success of their marketing operations.

It seems that this belief in the sector is paying off:

77% said that SEO has increased the amount of leads
79% felt that SEO had improved their brand awareness
48% said that SEO had decreased the cost of customer acquisition for them
But there’s still work to do

Despite these positive indicators, there is still a lot of work to do before SEO becomes second nature for many marketers.

A third of marketers surveyed said they did not have the budget to achieve their desired objectives in SEO, whilst 9% of marketers still consider SEO as not important at all to their online marketing efforts.

Whilst 71% of those surveyed felt that their organization’s knowledge of SEO was ‘expert level,’ this survey revealed that marketers are still struggling to keep up with the fast paced changes in the sector, revealing some sizable knowledge gaps.

Only 30% of marketers surveyed correctly identified that ‘Llama’ was a fake Google Algorithm change.
Almost half (43%) still have a disavow file post Penguin – there is ongoing debate about the value this could provide now, but it’s clear that it is worth keeping up to date with these arguments.
41% of the surveyed marketers are ready for Mobile First Index. The same amount is in the process of doing something about this crucial change, but not ready, and 6% had to click ‘What’s Mobile First Index?’

Managing director of Zazzle Media, Simon Penson, commented on the findings: “Our survey shows that there is an encouraging appetite and appreciation for SEO in the marketing community, despite a few hang ups concerning the fast paced nature of the sector. I know from personal experience how much change is part of the DNA of this wonderful industry. If you’re not comfortable with it then you usually find the door quickly. But such a pace of change does create significant challenges for those attempting to ‘keep up’ with the very latest approach and tactics required to win.”

Round up of all things SEO @BrightonSEO

The event that started in a room above a pub has come a hell of a long way. Thousands were queueing up well before the doors opened. Our day kicked off in Auditorium One with three sessions on Content Marketing.

Ross Tavendale from Pitchbox began with an insightful recount of its first large retainer of $50K generating zero links. The reason? The ideation sessions were too subjective. This led to them re-looking at the ideation framework and focus on data-led campaigns. The advice being that you need to ask the question: ‘Why are we doing this?’ Because the data said so. A simple and yet highly accurate statement.

Millennial attention through social media

Sarah Bradley was up next and gave insight into how brands can gain millennials attention through social media. These included being more personal, authentic and creating social responsibility infused content. Her view is that millennials are crying out for brands to ‘get to know them’. They respond to a ‘just ask us’ approach so focus on community management and give them the opportunity to influence the content. If you want to take it a step further, Bradley suggested handing over the reins to your social media or search for a week to the very people who you are selling to as a viable experiment.

Test. Analyze. Repeat.

Heading to Auditorium Two, I found a packed room with every chair and every centimeter of space taken by an audience truly engaged with the content on offer. JP Sherman from Redhat made the claim that ‘knowledge graphs are fun’. While this might be a stretch too far, the data does show that they perform. He gave the sage advice to measure the end results and then track it back. Test. Analyze. Repeat. If it fails, Test. Analyze. Repeat. Until it stops failing. Sound advice.

If the main stages drew in large crowds, the syndicate rooms were actually where the content became more detailed and educational. As CEO of Tug Nick Beck said: “The auditorium speakers might be pay to play but they do deliver solid sessions. However, the real insights come from the smaller stages where the focus is on delivering content which is detailed and educational. The undeniable fact is that BrightonSEO is still the place to be!”

Reported most useful SEO tools

The man who is famous for wearing an orange suit and writing ‘Spaghetti Code’ Christoph Cemper, gave a detailed list of the most useful SEO tools including:

Google Search Console – see real rankings; see real DTR; get link data; combine link data
Google Analytics – combine GA with Google search console; collect historical data
Google Tag Manager – speed and tracking
Keyword tool.io – comprehensive keyword database
Keyword tracker.io – SEOmonitor.com. No fancy stuff
XENU – errors; broken links; unlimited; free
Screaming Frog – real free for up to 500 URLs
Site bulb
Yoast SEO – supports word press
JSON -LD Tester –
Structured Data Testing Tool
HREF LANG Checker – free tool; make sure HREF language link to the right pages and check the ref of those
JS – CSS Beautifier
Link Clump
User Agent Switcher – see cloaked stuff
Keywords Everywhere – chrome extension; search volume; CPC; competitor
Link Redirect Trace
LRT Link Checker Extension
LRT SEO Toolbar – shows SERP numbers; experts; SERP sorting; domain metrics and keyword rankings
LRT Power Trust
SEO is about trust

Checklists were a common theme throughout BrightonSEO and Alex Rapallo, Digital Marketing Manager at Barclays Corporate Banking, summed it up: “The atmosphere here has a great social vibe without the expected corporate element. The content has been more checklist base this year and this lends itself to delivering more digestible takeaways to take back to the workplace. One of the overriding takeaways is that SEO is about trust. If you rank well in SEO, your brand is perceived as a more trustful company.”

Amazon SEO tools

Prabhat Shah from DaytoDayeBay gave another checklist session on Amazon SEO tools and why Amazon SEO matters. In fact, throughout the day, Amazon showed why it deserves it’s place in the trioply, as it was referenced more frequently throughout the event and eclipsed Google which was notably absent from the discussions and speaker content.

Sonar – helps find the keywords that people search in keywords. See product relevancy visually; identify most searched keywords; show competitors
Sellics – helps manage PPC campaigns on Amazon; what no of product is ranking; which page you’re ranking on; gets a list of converting and non-converting keywords
Xsellco
Amzscout
Splitly – A/B testing for images, keywords, titles, and hidden keywords
Helium IO Magnet
Keyword tool. Io
Amzdatastudio – helps to find out the keywords that are ranking other peoples’ products
Amazon KW Index Checker – finds out if a particular keyword is ranking your product or not; bulk upload and search volume
Jungle Scout – estimated bid price
Misspelling Checker
Practical learning

This educationally led session was one of many during the event. David Stubbings, Senior Content Manager at Guinness World Records said:

“It’s about learning and getting an understanding of technical solutions that will benefit our SEO. I had an expectation that BrightonSEO would be more tech focused this year, What I have found is that it has provided more practical learning and has encouraged me to think differently.

SEO is more important than ever and one of the key reasons for this is voice activation, of which SEO has an obvious advantage in capitalizing.”

Future views of SEO and SERPs

The livener before lunch was the enigmatic Grant Simmons, VP at homes.com who stole the show with an interactive session on SEO toolbelt which will vanquish Google SERPs. From his claim that those who work in SEO are question engineers to his advice that success will come from questioning not why your competitor is above you, but what you are missing that is ranking you below them. Compare and contrast on each aspect from the snippet to the image to the title tag and improve on each area. If the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, don’t waste time on it. Filter and focus on what is important to your business.

The afternoon may not have had as many stand out sessions but there were plenty that provided future views of SEO and practical nuggets. Three sessions covered SERPs with the most interesting approach coming from Patrick Reinhart with Indexation, Cannibalization, Experimentation, Oh My! Oh my indeed as his views were strong and well presented. This session was one of many that were of a high standard.

Interactive content: harder for Google to cannibalize and more valuable to the user

Rand Fishkin closed the event with bullish statements such as “The harder a tactic becomes the more of a competitive advantage it gives us”. It seems like Rand’s relationship with Google has soured somewhat, and he definitely let that come across in his talk!

Fishkin presented a view that Google is ranking google-hosted sites more highly (sites where you can scroll through the site without ever having to leave the search engine results page). Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are now following suit – e.g. ranking blogs hosted on LinkedIn more highly than those hosted elsewhere. The intention of which is, of course, to keep you on that site, rather than directing you away. Fishkin did give some advice on how to respond.

Leverage every scrap of traffic google still sends to your site, use clickthrough rate estimates in keyword research, shift content marketing to keywords Google is less likely to cannibalize – longtail.

And the best advice of all is to “interactive content is the way to do content marketing in the future” – harder for Google to cannibalize and more valuable to the user.

“The harder this gets, the better we do.”

While Rand doesn’t like the way it’s going – he doesn’t think it’s right or ethical, he thinks it’s monopolizing – but “we live in the real world”. It is in this world that he offers solutions on what you can do to combat Google cannibalizing your SEO; control what appears for your brand – monitor the SERPs and Influence the publishers to get listed on other more highly ranking websites.

Rand is a short-term pessimist but a long-term optimist: “the harder this gets the better we do” and BrightonSEO was certainly the place where optimism was rife.

Veronica Irons, Head of Digital at Guinness World Records adds: “There are misconceptions about an event dedicated to SEO that it will be boring. The reality is that BrightonSEO is far from that. The quality of sessions has been exceptional and appeal to all disciplines. Ultimately, SEO is definitely something you can’t ignore.”

Not only is SEO something you can’t ignore. BrightonSEO is an event that cannot and should not be ignored. Until next year Brighton!

Eoin O’Neill is CTO & Global Head of SEO at Tug

How to migrate web hosts without losing SEO

Migrating your website is never an easy task. It requires a lot of careful planning and execution. Even though migration can be hard, if done right, it can open up new opportunities and also solve the problems that you were having with the old hosting platform.

In today’s article, we will be focusing on migrating web hosts without losing SEO. In this guide, we will show you how to migrate to a new web host without losing any SEO value.

1. Revisit your decision to migrate

First things first, you should be clear in your mind about why you are making the migration. A site migration is never an easy thing to do, and it can also result in a temporary traffic loss. With time, your new website (host) will work, and your site will be back where it is. That’s the best possible result you can get.

However, there are a lot of complexities that can arise which can hamper website growth and presence. If you are not able to do things properly, you can land in trouble and lose some precious ranking. In short, revisit your decision and see if the problem can be solved without migration. A migration is worth if you are doing a big rebranding, your hosting is just not providing the required service to sustain, or you are moving to HTTPS. There are other scenarios that you should migrate, and it all depends on what do you think about the situation you are in.

2. Choose the right hosting platform

Now that you have completely made up your mind, the next step is to find a good hosting provider. You can start by reading web host providers reviews. A hosting platform with good technical features will be able to handle your SEO requirements. However, before you pick one you need to make sure that it fits your requirement completely. For example, you can check the following things.

Server’s technical specification such as the operating system, system version and so on.
The bandwidth of the server
Good technical support and documentation
Low downtime.
3. Select the server location carefully

Next step is to choose the right server for your website. Geographical advantage can be a deciding factor in your SEO. For example, if you were targeting the USA before migrating and used a server near to it, you also need to find something similar to that. In short, the location of the server matters and affect your SEO rankings. It will also impact your target audience as well. In short, you should know which server your website will be hosted. Anyone who is beginning as a blogger knows the importance and you should not forget it during web host migration as well. Almost all the hosting providers let you choose the server of your choice. If they don’t, you might want to choose a different hosting altogether.

3. Create a backup

Before you start the migration, you need to back up your website completely. You can backup using plugins such as BackupBuddy, BackWPup or using premium backup service such as VaultPress. This step will ensure that you can revert to the original website in case something goes wrong.

4. Move the WordPress website

With proper backup complete, you are now ready to move your website to the new web host. You can do it by yourself or by using professional service. You can also ask the web hosting provider that you chose to do it for you. Many web hosting provider do it for free, so you will save not only money but also time.

If you decide to do it yourself, you can also use the Duplicator plugin. It’s easy to use, and all you need to do is follow a step to step guide available online.

5. Test the new website

Once the migration is done, it is now time to test the website. Check every page or file on your new host. Ensure that everything is working fine before moving to the next step. If you want to be sure on how your website will perform on the new host, it is recommended to test it out before doing the actual migration.

6. DNS records TTL needs to be updated

DNS or domain name server is a way of mapping your website domain name to the server IP of your website. As humans cannot remember numbers and that’s why we map the server address to DNS. When you change your web host, the server IP address changes. To make the new server IP live, you need to update the DNS so that it redirects to the new server ID. However, this process can take up to 24 hours which might be too much for your users and search engines.

The solution is TTL (Time-To-Live). This is the time that DNS records to be updated. The good news is that you can speed up the process by changing the TTL value from 24 hours (86400 seconds) to just 5 minutes(300 seconds). Also, this needs to be done one day before you migrate. However, the web hosting provider needs to support this feature to work properly.

7. Now change your DNS records

The final step is to update DNS records and let the world know about the new server. Also, many apps or services that you are using take time to update their DNS records. In that case, you need to make sure you keep your old server online for a couple of days. SEO facts state that you should properly set up your DNS records for maximum benefit.

Conclusion

If you follow all the steps correctly, your website SEO will not be hampered if you migrate. Also, you should wait for two days to see the correct picture. Keep both the old server and new server live to ensure that the transition takes place correctly.

How to make the most of internal linking for higher rankings and improved organic search visibility

Jetoctopus Link Explorer

An internal link is a hyperlink pointing to a page within the same domain. Internal linking is crucially important for both website rankings and usability:

  • Internal links allow users to conveniently navigate around the website (i.e. in order to complete a purchase, learn more about a product or read about your business)
  • Internal links allows crawlers discover more of your site pages, even those that have no external backlinks (especially important ones)
  • Internal links are thought* to improve each given page authority (Google puts some emphasis on the signal: The more internal links a page has, the more internal authority it is supposed to have).

*This has never been officially confirmed by Google (unless I missed the announcement) but we’ve seen web pages doing considerably better once we add internal in-links pointing to it, so let’s say this one is an educated theories backed by multiple experiments.

Now, the question is however how to use internal links correctly. Let’s see…

1. Internal Linking Basics and Best Practices

I won’t repeat what Rand said in this Whiteboard Friday video because I agree with most (all?) points. But let me recap:

  • Well-structured navigation is crucial both for user experience and crawling… however
  • In-content internal links (links embedded within meaningful context) seem to carry more weight for rankings
  • Google is believed to give the least importance to footer links
  • Internal anchor text does matter. This has almost been confirmed by a Googler. That said, if you target specific queries for a specific page, use descriptive keyword-focused (but meaningful) keyword links when linking to that page (when that makes sense). However stay away from always using exact-match anchor text, as it may seem unnatural.
  • If there are two internal links to the same page on one page, only top anchor text seems to matter to Google
  • Google seems to like text links more than image links with an alt text
  • Generally, the more in-links a page has, the better its rankings (this is easy to test: Just pick a page on your site and start linking to it consistently. You are likely to see it moving up in SERPs)

2. Analyzing and Evaluating the Internal Link Structure

Surprisingly, given the amount of weight SEOs put on internal linking, there are not many tools that allow you to see internal structure clearly. Yes, there a few powerful crawling solutions including this free one as well as one of my favorite ones Screaming Frog.

But there’s no easy way to analyze how each specific landing page is linked to throughout the site.

Jet Octopus solves that problem by introducing Linking Explorer feature. Crawl your site using Jet Octopus and open the Linking Explorer section (Behind “Explorer” link in the navigation). From there you can provide the URL of your (or your competitor’s) landing page to see how exactly it is linked to from other pages on the site.

I love the section of the report that shows in-linking anchor text. This gives you a great insight:

  • If you are doing enough optimizing your internal anchor text (or if you are over-optimizing things to the point where it looks a bit ridiculous / unnatural)
  • What keywords your competitors want to rank each specific rankings for

3. Using Structured Data for Internal Linking

Apart from anchor text, there’s a more beautiful way to signal Google of your internal structure by linking: Schema.org

Some of Schema.org properties have been confirmed by Google as impacting the way they interpret websites (at least the way the page look when listed in SERPs). Others are presumably helping, because, as confirmed by Google, structured data in general helps Google understand websites better and it may even be a ranking factor.

So when using internal linking which Schema.org properties can be implemented?

1. /BreadcrumbList

Google says marking up breadcrumbs using Schema.org is one of the enhancement tools that could positively influence your website’s organic visibility and engagement (i.e. click-through)

  • The markup helps Google understand the website’s hierarchy better
  • /BreadcrumbList markup helps Google generate breadcrumbs-like format of the URL structure which is more appealing and may increase click-through

BreadcrumbList

[Indicate the position of each URL in the site’s hierarchy using BreadcrumbList]

There are a variety of WordPress plugins allowing you to easily implement the markup, including this one.

2. Authorship

Even though Google’s authorship has been discontinued (meaning authors are no longer highlighted in search results), that experiment revealed two things:

  • Google pays attention to who wrote a piece (we’ve seen traces of this again and again, including their Raters’ guidelines that introduced EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) concept)
  • Google appreciates any help they can get when identifying an author of the page

That being said, making their life easier never hurts, so marking up internal bio links using Schema.org/author is a smart idea.

3. /ListItem

Another way to stand out is search is getting intro those search carousals. Officially, Google supports list format for the following content types: Recipe, Film, Course, Article. However, as they confirm, this list is ever growing, so marking up your product lists is not a bad idea.

Google Carousels

[Here is an example of a list from a single website shown in a carousel]

4. Reviews!

Reviews get huge SERPs visibility. It’s one of the oldest rich snippets Google has been experimenting with and today Google supports a variety of types, including “including businesses, products, and different creative works such as books or movies. ” Here’s a solid collection of WordPress plugins for each supported type depending on what it is you are doing. All of the plugins in that list are Schema.org-based.

Google recommends using schema.org/URL whenever you want to point them to the page with the full review.

URL

5. More!

Again, whether Google is currently supporting a certain Schema.org type or not, it’s always worth thinking “What else should I do to help them understand your site easier”

Besides, Google has stated it many times that they are working on supporting new and new schema properties including FAQ and HOW-to (just recently). So whenever you are working on creating or editing pages, consider Schema.org properties that make sense there. For example, you can:

  • Point to your About page using schema.org/Organization
  • You can link to your home page using schema.org/copyrightHolder whenever you are publishing a new content asset, etc.

What internal linking tactics are you using to maximize your website’s organic visibility? Please share in the comments!

How WordPress errors can negatively affect your SEO

WordPress is such a popular Content Management System that it now powers up to 30 percent of all the websites existing over the Internet. Its popularity as a seamlessly easy-to-use website builder has made it the first choice of inexperienced and non-technical users who want to build their own websites through it.

To top it all, the amazing SEO plugins such as the Yoast SEO and the All-in-One SEO plugin have made it tremendously easy for new users to take care of their website’s SEO. However, the entire journey of handling a website is not a cakewalk, even with WordPress. There are always certain elements that will break havoc onto your site and make things go haywire. So, what are such issues that negatively affect a WordPress site’s SEO even when everything else is in place?

Let’s find out through this blog post where we talk about the most common WordPress errors that negatively affect our site’s SEO.

500 Internal Server Error

Definition: A very general HTTP status code, the 500 Internal Server Error is an indication of an unclear trouble with the website’s server. When the server can’t offer more specific information, it displays the 500 Internal Server Error.

How it affects the site’s SEO: If this error becomes a frequent one on your website, it will affect the reputation of your site for the visitors as well as the Search Engines It can eventually lead to a poor website experience for the users because obviously, no one wants to deal with a website that frequently displays errors.

404 Not Found

A failure to find the requested resource even after communicating with the server results in the 404 status code appear on the website. Visiting a web page that doesn’t exist returns this error to the user. They might not be a technical SEO problem but it is a Client-side Error which can affect the traffic on your website and even damage the reputation of your website. They create a poor experience on your site and can hurt your SEO in the long run.

404 Errors

These fall into the category of errors that don’t impact your WordPress site’s SEO directly but can affect the link equity and user experience over time on the website. These errors show up when there is no matching URL i.e. the content is not found or is unavailable. There are several kinds of 404 errors such as external 404s, Outgoing 404s, and Internal 404s.

If your website is returning these errors, you can try getting rid of them with the help of the Screaming Frog tool. Search Engines look at 404s in a manner that it helps them ascertain if the website is meeting the criteria and is taken care of. A User-Experience killer, 404 errors can decline the search clicks and eventually affect the site’s SEO.

Crawl Errors

Crawl errors do what they say. When your website fails at letting the Search engines bots crawl it i.e. visit each page of the website; this error occurs. Divided into two, these crawl errors are Site errors and URL errors i.e. when the entire site can’t be crawled and when a specific URL fails to be crawled, respectively. These errors do affect the ranking of your website as the bots are unable to crawl them and rank them.

502 Bad Gateway

Causing a little impact on the SEO, the 502 Bad Gateway error is returned when one server receives a bad response from another server. Also might be caused by your network, prompting your browser to think that something is wrong. But, always look out for the error.

504 Gateway Timeout

Fairly impacting the SEO of your site, this error happens when a Server doesn’t get a timely response from another server while trying to send you the page you requested or due to the corrupt databases.

Some tips to keep the errors in check:
Always check the code in the validator.
Never disallow search engines to index your site through CMS.
Always allow your website to be indexed in .htaccess.
Keep checking your site’s URL at regular intervals so that you can find and fix issues swiftly.
Always submit the site’s sitemaps to Google Search Console so that your website is not left out from search engines recognizing your sitemaps.
Bonus tips to take care of your WordPress website:
Always make sure that your website’s loading speed is taken care of and that your website load within 2 seconds from the time the request is made. Have a look at the WordPress speed optimization guide to take care of this aspect. And you need to choose a reliable and competent web hosting provider to take care of your site’s server.
You can also implement caching on your website to help the website load faster and enhance its user-experience, resulting in better SEO rankings.
Your site’s design can also kill its rankings and SEO. A minimal, responsive, and mobile-friendly design and improve its overall user experience, driving in more traffic and leads.
Never ignore WordPress tags if you want to play well when it comes to your WordPress site’s SEO. These tags help the readers and visitors easily find your website and ts articles in the search engine result pages.
Optimizing the images on the site is quite an untapped SEO move for website owners that can help them improve the SEO of their website.
The choice of the right themes and plugins can largely impact the appearance and performance of your website that play quite a decisive factor when it comes to the SEO of your website.
Conclusion

There are yet a lot of errors that can pop up on your website and affect the SEO of your WordPress website. It is important to keep them in check and negate their effect as and when they seem to surface. Only by keeping an eye on them and keeping your website together, you can run your WordPress website efficiently and smoothly.

The rise and fall and rise of SEO: notes from Brighton SEO 2018

The Brighton SEO search marketing conference began, as many know, in a room above a pub, and it very often ends – at least for some – with skinny-dipping in the sea. Those facts don’t change, but the SEO landscape certainly has, and Brighton SEO’s second event of this year catches search on an upswing, with plenty of live topics to address and advertisers’ attitudes to SEO freshly rejuvenated.

Organic search’s fortunes have fluctuated over the years in the eyes of marketers, usually in direct proportion to the amount of data Google makes available. With visibility on keywords and traffic lately restored, SEO is back at its best, challenging for the top table again by proving its strength at delivering quality and breadth of traffic for brands.

The ups and downs of SEO

Directly and indirectly, Brighton SEO has charted the ups and downs of organic search over the years, and the current vitality of the channel is reflected in the shift back towards data and technology in its speaker sessions.

In leaner years, content marketing and ecommerce moved very understandably towards the top of the agenda in Brighton, while SEO discussions tended to slide towards Google and the fact that, where search is concerned, the house always tends to win. But although content and e-commerce are still certainly being talked about, Brighton SEO this year seems set to derive its thrust from the technical SEO side, as brands once again address themselves to the nuts and bolts of using search to maximize visibility.

Notes on this year’s Brighton SEO

The main auditorium gives a solid impression of the editorial mix, with a morning of content marketing and content strategy and an afternoon of SERPs and ranking factors, rounded off with SparkToro founder Rand Fiskin’s keynote on how SEO’s future will be played out on the results page, rather than in driving traffic to websites.

That session SERPs, as well as those on SEO reporting and crawl management, which variously touch on such issues as featured snippets, contextual optimization and auditing your rel=canonical configuration, get to the heart of the matter for specialists. Mind you, the fact that a disproportionate amount of the more technical sessions appear to take place in the early afternoon spot makes a good case for lunchtime discipline at the Brighton Centre bar.

It’s sometimes overlooked – blame it on the name – that Brighton SEO has long aimed to appeal to more than just hardcore SEO techies. So, delegates are well advised to browse the schedule carefully and spread their team, if they have one, across a range of sessions, including those outside the cavernous Auditorium 1.

Session options abound

For newcomers or all-rounders, there are plenty of sessions addressing fundamentals of SEO and content, as well as insights into millennials and social media, the subtleties of Google search in French, voice search, budget link-building and the importance of ‘the long click.’ Some of the chunkier technical discussion happens on the fringes too, and old hands tend to find their experience gets richer the more they branch out.

At the heart of good SEO lies the combination of new techniques and old ones – link profiles, using different types of links in pages to gain wider and more varied visibility, harnessing competitive links, focusing on long-tail links – all with the aim of increasing performance for marketers. In an SEO world where improving brand visibility is, more than ever, a highly achievable ambition, we’re looking forward once more to another day on the south coast.

Eoin O’Neill is CTO & Global Head of SEO at Tug

How using a VPN can benefit SEO

The SEO industry is growing rapidly—estimated to balloon to $79 billion by 2020. Even though you may already be doing great with SEO marketing, you should not ignore the potential benefit of a virtual private network (VPN) on SEO strategies. A VPN is a solution that helps connect two parties on the internet anonymously and using an encrypted network that is private. It is mainly used to protect your online privacy and access content that is not available in a particular zone.

So, how does a VPN benefit SEO? Let’s get started.

Understand local SEO using a VPN

There are many locations that a company might want to target. For example, you can be in Australia and want to target India. However, if you do a quick Google search, it will show local results from Australia—not a specific result for India that you wanted. As an SEO specialist, you may want to know what the people of India are searching for. Moreover, you would also want to know about the competition around those areas. If that’s the case, you should use a VPN.

A VPN can seriously change how you do research about a local market. By using a VPN, you can trick Google into thinking that you are from India (or any region that you are trying to learn about). This also means you can do a local search and learn about the local audience needs and try to understand what queries they are using. All this information can change how you perform in other areas.

Why use a VPN when you can always use targeted ads? Well, first, you need to learn about what the local audience searches for. Clearly, there is an added advantage in knowing local searches. Moreover, you can also see competitors local ads and learn how they are targeting the audience.

Last, but not the least, you can also know how your ads are being served in local areas.

Protect privacy when working

SEO is a competitive market. To succeed, you need always to be ahead of your competitors. This means hiding your steps when you visit your competitors or when you mimic/modify their strategies.

All of this sounds good, but the competitors can easily track your IP and know about you ahead of time. This can lead them to your site which turn will open up the possibility of them copying your strategy. As competition is high, you should always try to hide your steps or at least hide your strategy from the competitors as much as you can.

That’s not the only problem. Google can also track you if they find anything suspicious. They can know if you are buying backlinks—not good.

The solution for all these problems is to use a VPN. It doesn’t matter if you are running a website that is new or old, you should always hide your digital footprint as much as you can. With a VPN, you can do your research and stay hidden at the same time. This will improve your chances to grow in the market.

Do remote SEO work

With the rise in remote work, there is no denying that we need to protect our privacy when working online. Also, as an SEO specialist, you need to have access to the different tools which might be restricted due to the location from which you are trying to access it. For example, China blocks most of the Google services. But if your main focus is SEO, you must have access to Google.

That’s why you should use a VPN to have stress-free access to any tool, website, or service you want. This will improve your productivity, and you won’t have to think twice when working.

Get past the Google’s search query reCAPTCHAs

Working as an SEO specialist, you are always expected to to keep a tab on certain SEO stats and keywords that are relevant to your project. Not only that, but you also need to search for new keywords every now and then. However, Google might flag you for doing too many searches too often. If you are flagged, you will constantly be redirected to Google reCAPTCHAs.

You may also get a different error which might say that there is unusual traffic from this network. Now to proceed further, you need to solve a reCAPTCHA every few searches. This can lead to a loss of productive work. Also, it is no fun to fill reCAPTCHAs all the live long day.

To solve the issue, you must use a VPN. A good VPN can change IP addresses, making you work with a flow. VPNs are also useful in building a blog, and that’s why you will see good blogging guide always encourage new bloggers to use a VPN.

Why should I use a VPN when I can use proxy?

One of the common questions that we receive is why use a VPN when a proxy can be used to the same effect? That’s partially true, but there are many advantages of using a VPN over a proxy. With a VPN, you can:

Work faster than with a proxy
Change the IP address on the fly
Not have to worry about reCAPTCHAs
Work with cross-platforms
Secure your connection completely
Protect your privacy
Have a stable and great user experience

What do you think about using VPNs for SEO benefits?