What you need to know about Yahoo Product Ads

Back in November 2015, Yahoo Product Ads officially launched, an umbrella name that encompassed a few different types of ad units within the Yahoo Gemini universe.

I’ve been working specifically with the Search Product Ads unit, which appears on Yahoo.com search results properties with feed driven product ad units.

You might be saying, “Wait, those were there before!” and you would be right. What’s changed is now those ads can now be served by Yahoo from Yahoo submitted feeds through a Yahoo Gemini Merchant Center.

Previously, that inventory had primarily come from the Bing partnership that was renegotiated earlier in 2015. As a result, the amount of traffic being served from Bing Ads started to shift, especially as it pertained to mobile, of which most of the product ads are to come from Yahoo Product Ads or their partners, which does include the deal they also signed with Google in October 2015.

Things to beware of

Yahoo has begun to take advantage of this Google deal, serving Google Product Listing Ads and Bing Ads Product Ads on some Yahoo.com desktop SERPs as a part of the search partner network, as well as testing text ads with extensions from Google in the sidebar results.

Which means that if you are advertising on Google and Bing currently there’s a good chance, particularly in desktop results, that your ads are showing on Yahoo.com SERPs in a multitude of variations of product and text ads from all three engines.

Additionally:

If you don’t have a Yahoo account representative, you may not be able to get started yet, otherwise, you’ll need to email the support team and wait for enablement
You’ll want to make sure the category that you want to advertise in is ‘open’ first
To submit a feed, you need a Dropbox account set up by Yahoo or Fetch
The feed specs for Yahoo mimics Google very closely, you should be able to utilize almost the exact same feed
There is not an offline editor and you can create campaigns by hand through the bulk import process, or
You could utilize your existing Google AdWords account structure and import as is into the account
If you have a small to mid-size budget and pressed for time to manage, consider simplifying or collapsing a few of the product groups or campaigns (don’t send your entire Google account)
Not all third party tools support this feature yet, so if you have a bid management tool, check to make sure that they’re up and running
Billing is the same, if within an up and running Yahoo Gemini account
What we’ve seen so far

There’s definitely some ‘wait and see’ going on right now in terms of adoption rates of the program in the industry and I would expect that in your day to day, you’re already running up against a time constraint to launch and possibly budget issues as well.

I’ve also run into a couple of industry friends that have had trouble launching, due to account enablement or open categories. I would recommend that if you can’t do your entire catalog, choosing a few test campaigns where you have solid volume on Google or Bing in which to capture that traffic that lives between the two search engines.

I’ve also observed that it also matters what category or categories your catalog is in. Apparel was one of the earliest launched categories during the beta and has a lot of strength in terms of volume of impressions and clicks, where as other categories, like Food & Beverage aren’t really built out yet.

Other strong categories that may make Yahoo Product Ads worth it for you now are Electronics, Sporting Goods, Health & Beauty and Home & Garden. If you’re in a smaller niche like Pet Supplies or Luggage, don’t expect volume and performance that competes with Google or Bing.

During an early beta test for a large retailer for one vertical that contained at least a hundred thousand SKUs and a healthy sized budget that was in the apparel category, we saw return for the campaigns at a promising six times, but with an overall volume (impressions and clicks) that was smaller than Bing Ads Product Ads during the test period.

In total from beta launch to when the feature was opened up publically, the CPC has averaged out to .25 with some further tweaking planned, now that more optimization options are available than there were during the beta.

Most of the estimates I’ve been seeing for specific categories have had high impressions, low CTR, but also a low CPC (under .50 cents), very reminiscent of early content network stats.

What we need

I understand the low adoption rate right now for Yahoo Product Ads – it’s new, there’s a lot of cloudiness around Google and Bing’s involvement and whenever that happens, the wait and see attitude comes out. But I do have a wish list of features needed to really convince clients and other paid search industry folks to give this new ad unit a try:

Easily accessible estimates or ranges for categories, around impressions or clicks (anything to help determine what the potential opportunity might be)
Case studies on return, CPC or even engagement metrics like new to file visitors, lift in organic or assisted conversions
Easier account start up, no rep needed and feed submittal directly through the Merchant Center
Offline editor
Ad scheduling by hour of the day and day of the week capabilities

Clearly, Yahoo is just getting started in the product ads space and with their heavy investments in mobile and acquisitions like Polyvore and Brightroll, logically there is a lot of potential for advertisers needing to capture new eyeballs, especially with the depreciation of some of the comparison shopping channels for more niche discovery shopping markets.

However, the addition of both Google and Bing ad units to the Yahoo.com SERPs makes it harder to justify the management and cost of a third platform, which means that the wait and see is going to continue for now.

14 most important SEO tasks in order of priority

responsive design

SEO can be overwhelming for any number of reasons.

Between local considerations, seeding the right content in the right places, and various other on-page and off-page factors, it’s tough to know where to begin even when it comes to basic SEO essentials.

What makes things even more difficult is that you can’t just start anywhere and chip away at your work. If you want to see the most success, it’s important to prioritize the SEO tasks correctly.

Although it’s not always publicized, prioritizing SEO tasks is actually one of the things we see companies’ mess up most often. If you do certain SEO tasks out of order, you’re going to spend a lot of time and use up most of your resources to finally meet your goals.

In some worst-case scenarios you actually won’t be able to meet those goals because you started with something advanced and skipped the basics (without even knowing it!)

Although there isn’t an exact order to follow, it does help to split up the most common SEO tasks into categories, starting with the highest priority first…

#1 SEO priorities

Identify and remove duplicate content.

Nothing kills a website faster than duplicate content issues. It’s confusing for Google bots so you won’t get any good visibility, and even if readers did somehow make it to your website, duplicate content is seen as spammy. Get rid of this immediately so you can start with a clean slate.

Check navigation and UX factors.

You have to make sure your website is easy to navigate and everything is cohesive. This has to do with the architecture and design. If you send people to a website that is confusing, it’s far too easy to click-away.

Make sure you have a responsive design.

In the past this may not have been such a priority, but mobile compatibility is crucial. According to Google, more searches now take place on mobile than on desktop, so you have to make sure your site looks good on the small screen. The biggest and most basic way to do this is through a responsive design.

As you may have noticed, all of your top priorities for SEO have to do with on-page tasks. Keep this is mind if more ideas pop-up in the future. You don’t want to be sending traffic to an unfinished or poorly optimized website because that traffic will immediately click away (and likely never return), so this is a crucial step to understand.

#2 SEO priorities

Setup Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.

Although you may not use it right away, getting setup with these tools is crucial to being indexed quickly and accurately. It can help solidify your website as real.

Make sure you’re being indexed.

You have to double check that Google is indexing your site, meaning they’re crawling your website and you’re therefore showing up in SERPs. To check this, visit your Google Webmaster Tools account and click the ‘Google Index’ tab to see the total number of pages Google has indexed. Make sure it seems right!

Complete preliminary keyword research.

Understanding which keywords you want to target can help you learn a lot about SEO if you’re unfamiliar, but it also sets the stage for many of the other items in the next three sections (content creation and back linking, most notably).

Create local search accounts.

The sooner you can setup local search accounts the better. This is definitely more of a priority if you have a local business looking to attract local customers, but it’s so easy to do, that every type of company should get involved as soon as possible.

Start creating quality content frequently.

You want to be consistently putting out great content. This not only gives you more options for Google to index your website, but it helps show credibility and gives readers a way to engage. Start getting a good rhythm going with high quality articles. That’s all you need to do at first.

#3 SEO priorities

Create audience personas and get creative with your content.

Once you have a good content team and schedule in place, you can start to really bring your content to the next level. This involves creating personas to better understand your audience, writing on keywords/ topics that are trending, and getting more advanced with infographics, interviews, video, and more.

Create relationships with influencers.

You want to start getting your name out there in your niche community. This is how you will eventually earn natural links and hopefully get some great social shares out of the relationships.

Edit your title tags.

As you published content you likely wrote whatever headline you wanted, which is fine at first, but eventually you should go back and optimize your title tags. This will help you categorize your pages and make sure that you’re sending the right people to the right pages. Visit this article to learn more about title tags.

how to write title tags Google Search

#4 SEO priority

Start working to build backlinks.

It usually surprises people that this would be so far down on the list, but remember that SEO is not about backlinks—it’s about readers. Focus on creating relationships, quality content, and understanding your audience first.

Utilize SEO tools.

There are many different SEO tools out there that can help you with different aspects of your SEO (usually best used for data). This is a priority #4 because which tools you want to use and for what reasons can get tricky, so it’s best to focus on this after you have the basics down.

#5 SEO priority

Follow SEO industry news and blogs.

This is incredibly important, but following the latest news and SEO blogs can be a little bit overwhelming if you’re a beginner. That’s why hearing about the latest and greatest new tactics is probably better handled after you’ve been in the trenches with all of the items in the last four categories.

The takeaway

Of course this is not an extensive list. There are hundreds of little things you can do to improve the SEO of your website, but above are some of the biggest and most important tasks. What needs to be done will also depend on your company – industry, size, goals, etc. – but this is a great place to start. In the meantime, let us know what you would change or what you would add to the list in the comment section below.

Announcing the winners of our Connect contest!

Last week we ran a contest on Twitter and Facebook in order to giveaway a bunch of free tickets to our new search event Connect, taking place in Miami next week on 4-5 February.

Connect will bring together all the best and brightest of the search marketing industry to discuss how to thrive in the new customer-centric landscape, as well as have a big party on the beach.

Will you be lucky enough to join 500+ SEO specialists, digital marketers, webmasters, developers, business leaders and industry professionals for two days of sun, sea and search in Miami?

Let’s find out…

Between Tuesday and Friday last week we asked you to fill in the blank for a number of search-related statements. Below are the winning recipents of one free ticket to Connect and their replies…

Jason Bauman:

the biggest SEO trend in 2016 will be the shift from broad keyword based landing pages to personalized content. @sewatch #connectSEW

— Jason Bauman (@JasonB_TI) January 19, 2016

Amanda Dodge:

@sewatch make their “Real Time” analytics more customizable to national/local companies.

— Amanda Dodge (@amandaedodge) January 20, 2016

Matt Certo:

.@sewatch Solving your customers’ problems through innovative content creation represents the future of organic search.

— Matt Certo (@mcerto) January 21, 2016

Anna Nerezova:

@sewatch the future of search marketing success will be dependant on eliminating HIPPOs #connectsew

— Anna Nerezova (@blv) January 23, 2016

Megan Beatty:

@sewatch Allow bid adjustments in AdWords for Search Partners and tablets!

— Megan Beatty (@megbeatz) January 20, 2016

Stuart Lieberman:

@sewatch Content Strategy represents the future of organic search

— Stuart Lieberman (@thewebguyfl) January 21, 2016

And over on Facebook we had the following winning replies…

Biggest SEO trend of 2016 will be ______

David Josephson: “Conversational search from mobile devices.”

If Google could do one thing to make my life easier it would be ______

Scott Cramer: “PROVIDE the (not provided) data on all reports.”

The key to a successful search optimised site is ______

Sarah Triplett: “UX! Google is continually focusing on delivering a better user experience through search via organic and paid, so it makes sense that this same experience should flow on to a website once a user clicks through.”

The future of search marketing success will be dependent on ______

Carmen Norgaard: “Adaptability to change, since change is the most predictable constant in SEO.”

Congratulations to all of our winners, we’ll be seeing you in Miami next week!

If you weren’t chosen as one of our winners, then fear not. You can still attend! Just register for a ticket here.

The 17 things Twitter should do to transform its fortunes

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 12.05.28

Twitter has been having a hard time of it in the past year or so, with various product missteps, plodding user growth and underwhelming results all negatively affecting its share price.

Shares are now hovering just above the $17 mark, valuing Twitter at around $12bn. For a company that should post revenue of at least $2.3bn for 2015, its market price will be whetting the appetites of prospective acquirers.

Where has it all gone wrong? That’s been well documented here, there and everywhere, but in short, the product and strategic vision seem to be unfocused. I thought it might be more interesting to think about how it can put things right.

I’m not a shareholder, but I want Twitter to win, to preserve and evolve a platform that I’ve grown to love. I am hugely invested in it as a user.

Do share your own thoughts in the comments section below…

Do much more with data

In the past eight years I have posted and shared 33,500 tweets, and have liked (or ‘favourited’) another 1,000. That’s a data goldmine to explore.

Twitter can fathom all kinds of things from the things we write about, and share. It should be able to figure out what makes users tick.

It should certainly be able to do some basic extraction and natural language processing to reveal user interests. It can then group people and content into segments.

That’s going to be great for ad targeting and will make content and who to follow recommendations a lot more relevant. Grouping content together by theme would allow it to create ‘topics’. Yum.

Make the most of topics

Kudos to Fred Soneya who pointed me at a great post by Austen Allred, titled ‘If I Ran Product at Twitter‘. Austen has tons of smart ideas and we share the same idea: allow users to follow topics, rather than just people.

Yes, you can tune into a hashtag, and save searches, and Twitter does allow the clustering of users – into Lists – but not so much the clustering of topics.

This is a big miss, especially for power users… so much so that I’ve done something about it.

I recently wrote about how to create a content marketing radar station in Slack, using Twitter Search and IFTTT. My co-founder and CTO, Nick Opris, subsequently built an online tool to do this. It curates and collates tweets and links based on specific keywords, and it’s super useful.

This ‘radar station’ is currently a browser-based tool for internal use only, but if you’d like to use it then email me. If there’s enough interest I’ll see if we can open it up.

Figure out user intentions

This is a big turn on for companies and people who want to provide things.

Intent is way more interesting than interests and sentiment. It is a leading indicator of action, and it often leads to $$$.

In the past year I have publicly tweeted that I needed to:

  • find a freelance designer
  • get a new mobile phone provider
  • open a business bank account

All of the above should have resulted in a string of replies from people and brands that want my money.

As well as explicit signals, there are lots of implicit signals that Twitter can look out for too. It’s worth chasing down. The prize is massive.

Google has made a business from user intent, and if it chooses to buy Twitter it will be very interested in mining and make sense of these softer signals (as well as the explicit ones).

Embrace and empower referral marketing

Let’s imagine you answered my three questions above. In each case, somebody is going to get paid. But possibly not you.

I think there’s a pot of gold here. No social platform has yet cracked the referral marketing nut. Might Twitter be able to do it?

Buy Medium

There was a tweetstorm in a teacup a few weeks ago after a rumour went around about Twitter increasing the character limits on tweets, from 140 to a rather gamechanging 10,000.

If it wants to encourage long-form writing, as opposed to bite-sized status updates, then why not just buy Medium and have done with it? Actually, if things keep going the way they are, perhaps Medium will buy Twitter.

Note that both of these platforms suffer from the same thing: discovery problems. Two birds, one stone?

Smarter discovery

From a user perspective, the big problem with Twitter is that it is noisy, and rapid fire, and as such things get lost.

Yes, it rolled out a ‘Things you may have missed’ feature, as well as pinned tweets. But this doesn’t really go far enough.

What it needs is something like Moments, but which unearths the most interesting content relative to your interests.

I started using Twitter in earnest when I realised the quality of links being shared around among my network, but the vast majority of these links – for me – do not point at news stories.

And that, for me, is the main problem with Moments…

Make sure moonshots reach orbit

Moments was described as “the most important feature ever” for Twitter, yet from where I’m sitting, it has unceremoniously exploded on lift-off.

Given the fanfare, I expected Moments to be a killer discovery tool, based on my personal interests and usage patterns. But no, it is really just a me-too news aggregator, launched a decade after news aggregators were fashionable.

Then again, maybe I’m not the target audience for Moments. If Twitter is aiming this at the casual – or anonymous users, who can access it – then maybe it’s working. Maybe millions of people use Twitter to find news and there’s going to be a brilliant revenue model unveiled. Maybe.

It’s just not very useful. It’s not relevant to my interests, or why I use Twitter. It’s just noise, really…

What Moments should be is a super-personalised version of Reddit. It’s that simple.

Deal with spam

Bots are clearly a problem for Twitter, as they are for many other platforms. It needs to tackle this problem head on.

What use are those 320m active users if a lot of them are actually spam accounts? Therein, I fear, lies the rub.

In 2014 Twitter estimated that 5% of its users were bots. A problem, for sure, but not a killer, if that number is accurate. A big if.

Last year a study looked at some of the biggest celebs on Twitter – Perry, Bieber, Swift, Gaga, Rihanna – and found that more than half of their followers were spam bots. In some cases bots accounted for two thirds of followers. Brutal.

Hashtag hijacking is a major issue nowadays (even niche hashtags get it). And frankly those bastards who repeatedly follow and unfollow you… they also need to be kicked into touch.

Twitter should tackle this issue algorithmically. It should automatically purge bots, and should roll out features that allow users to manually report spam.

You can see how many of your own followers are likely to be fake by using TwitterAudit.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 10.18.17

Be more user-centric

When enough people ask for a feature it’s generally a good idea to consider doing something about it. Even if that means you tell them that no such feature is going to be launched.

For example – and maybe there’s a really good reason for this – I can’t fathom why we still can’t edit tweets.

Based on the amount of noise with regards to this one feature request (hundreds of tweets per day), I should imagine tens of thousands of Twitter users have asked for an ‘edit’ button.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 06.38.27

Users shouldn’t fully determine product vision, but they can play a major role in product development, and determining priorities. Countless other features are continuously requested. Somebody really should spend a lot more time listening to users. Which brings me onto…

Hire a CXO

While we’re on the subject of user experience, it needs to hire a Customer Experience Officer, if it hasn’t already got one. In the interests of brevity I shan’t bang on about why it needs one…

Better follower suggestions

If you’ve ever tried signing up to Twitter recently you’ll have noticed how much focus there is on celebrities and brands.

As we have discovered, the blue tick could prove to be horribly overrated. The rich get richer, but what does the user get? The user that’s not interested in following celebs or big brands… gets very little.

There should be better onboarding for all kinds of new users, and I suspect that brings us back to data, and personalisation.

Twitter’s onboarding process seems to be rather too linear, with a few obvious pre-defined topic themes, and not much else going on. All roads lead to the blue tick brigade, and even these are not always well-matched suggestions (check out ‘Literature’ if you want some light amusement).

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 10.33.37

There needs to be more granularity here, at least for users like me.

Launch Twitter Pro

I can’t understand why Twitter hasn’t yet launched a pro service for brands, celebs and professional users. I’ve been waiting at least seven years for such a service.

I can only assume that it is so committed to being perceived as B2C company that it is happy to leave many millions of dollars of recurring subscription revenue on the table.

Who knows, but chasing its consumer dream hasn’t yet paid off. Why not take a little B2B revenue along the way? Diversifying its revenues is surely way healthier than relying on a fickle advertising market?

Pretty much everybody I follow works in the digital industry. I bet that a healthy chunk of them would pay $10 a month for a few pro features and no ads. I know I would.

Let’s do the maths. What would happen if just 1% of its active users upgraded to Twitter Pro at $10 a month?

  • 320m monthly active users (according to the company’s own data)
  • 3.2m Pro users X $10 per month
  • $32m a month
  • $380m a year

That would add another 14% or so to its revenues, and highly profitable revenue at that.

Let’s look at it another way…

Twitter will have generated around $2.3bn in revenue during 2015, predominantly from ads (and 80% of that comes from mobile). It has 320m monthly active users. On average, that works out at $7.18 in ad revenue per user over a year, or 60¢ per user per month.

I’m willing to pay $10 a month, considerably offsetting any loss in ad revenue, and would become even more engaged with the platform as a result. Potentially a hugely profitable revenue stream.

I read earlier that Twitter has already got a Pro account of sorts, with some power users not seeing any ads. Maybe something is in the works…

Avoid peak optimisation

The big worry for Twitter is that it has already turned up the dial, with regards to optimising ad revenue.

When I browse Twitter via my mobile, I see something like one ad every eight or nine tweets. This begs the question: how many more ads can it show me?

When you consider that about 80% of Twitter’s revenue comes from the mobile channel, it has a problem. I’m not sure how much more juice it can squeeze out of its mobile users.

Analysts seem to want Twitter to attract more users, and the share price is regularly punished when it report low user growth.

As I’ve mentioned, I think diversifying revenue streams and improving the platform will be a better bet over the long term.

Dedicated executive focus

I suspect that CEO timesharing is not right for two businesses that are worth many billions of dollars each.

Achieve management stability

It also needs to steady the ship. There has been a huge executive shakeout at Twitter in the past year or so. This was compounded a couple of days ago after the news leaked about another four execs leaving the building.

>60% gone now Only 5 of the 13 @Twitter execs that presented at their Nov 2014 analyst day are left $TWTR pic.twitter.com/FsClYPMFoH

— Rich Greenfield (@RichBTIG) January 24, 2016

Kiss and make out with developers

The rise and fall of Twitter’s once burgeoning ecosystem is a woeful tale, with the company changing many goalposts, making a lot of its data paid-for, and seemingly cutting off various developers and partners at the knees.

Adam Cranfield suggests, among other things, that Twitter creates an app platform to fix itself…

@lakey protect core, develop video, IM, curation/discovery, fight spam, improve ad targeting, host feature live events, create app platform.

— Adam Cranfield (@adamcranfield) January 26, 2016

A good idea. I reckon it should go the extra mile and have the equivalent of full on make-up sex with the developer network.

Enable private networks

Here’s another great idea, from Philip Storey…

@lakey enable closed networking for greater privacy and improved relationship building

— Philip Storey (@philipstorey) January 26, 2016

What do you think? Is Twitter destined to be acquired, or to fade out, or can it grab the bull by the horns and take control of its destiny?

How hub pages and internal links are paying off for Mail Online

Chelsea news search performance

Combining hub pages for key topics and keywords with a well-planned internal linking can be a very effective SEO strategy.

It helps to ensure that, when you are creating content around a topic regularly, that you can rank consistently for the relevant keywords.

I’m going to use examples from Mail Online which, by some accounts, is the most visited English-language newspaper site on the web. That doesn’t mean it’s the best – far from it – but it does provide a useful subject for this post.

Mail Online recently started using hub pages on a consistent basis for many of its most popular topics, though not for all.

This gives us an opportunity to see what effect this has had. So here I’ll look at the strategy for two topics, and an example of what happens when you don’t do this.

Hub pages: what are they and why do you need them?

In this context, a hub page is a page themed around a certain topic or keyword. It could be a tag page, like this for SEO, or perhaps a category page.

Sites which produce a lot of content around the same topic often end up competing with themselves for search positions.

This is especially true with news articles, as in the New York Times example here. News articles are generally brief and will come and go in the search rankings. However, linking them to a hub page helps signal to Google that this is the page that should rank for a particular keyword or term.

To demonstrate how this works, here are some examples from Mail Online.

Search term ‘Chelsea News’

Mail Online had no hub page strategy of any kind until recently. Dan Barker (@danbarker on Twitter) pointed this out recently, and estimates that Mail started this strategy around October 25 last year.

This means we can get a before and after picture looking at the effects of this tactic.

Here, we have the search results for the entire Daily Mail domain for the search term ‘Chelsea News’. This is news related to Chelsea football club, a relatively popular search in the UK.

We can see that it started returning results for this hub page from November 7. It has also implemented pages for other English football teams.

This page has existed before, though its search performance was inconsistent until November 7 last year.

This chart shows the rankings for that page, and we can see a consistent (and higher) search ranking from November onwards.

The difference is the internal linking strategy.

The article screenshot below (article is from May 2015) shows the opportunities to link to the hub page which were missed.

Chelsea article no internal links

This next screenshot shows the new strategy. In this article from December 2015, links lead back to the Chelsea team page (the hub page).

article with internal linking

This is the Daily Mail team page. As well as internally linking from each article the site is now using the different elements on the page.

For example, team logos and live tables are now linking back to the individual team landing pages.

team pages
Search term: ‘David Cameron’

This is the Daily Mail view for the search term David Cameron:

1. Entire Daily Mail view for the search term David Cameron

Like the previous example, the rankings are inconsistent and many different pages are returned by Google for the term in the six month period shown.

That is until early November, when the hub page takes over. Since then, the performance of this David Cameron landing page has improved significantly.

There have been a couple of blips since November, perhaps due to inconsistent implementation of the linking strategy, but the page is performing much more effectively.

David Cameron landing page

Again, the difference is between using internal linking effectively, and missing the chance to link, as shown in this article from August 2015.

article with no hub page

Now, the Mail Online’s editors have learned to use internal links (perhaps there was some internal training back in October) and news articles and opinion pieces about Cameron all link back to the hub page.

4. New David Cameron article internal linking

The Telegraph: internal linking as it should be

Of course, Mail Online has been slow to realise the value of internal linking (I raised this back in 2014) compared to some other news sites.

For example, The Telegraph has used linking correctly for some time, and this is reflected in the performance for its David Cameron landing page.

telegraph hub page

Its hub page ranks consistently for the term because it has linked from all its Cameron articles for some time.

6. The Telegraph David Cameron article

This means that the Telegraph and The Guardian (which also knows what to do with links), are the only news sites to rank on page one of Google for the term with their landing pages.

Mail Online: inconsistent internal linking

Although the Daily Mail are now internally linking and using hub pages, the site isn’t doing it for every search term (or hasn’t rolled out the strategy across all of its sections yet).

This underlines the impact that effective internal linking can have, used along with dedicated hub pages.

For example, celebrity news brings in lots of traffic for Mail Online, and it writes about any vague ‘news’ linked to celebrities.

However, very few celebrities have landing pages as yet. For example, Jennifer Lopez.

As a result, the Mail’s rankings for this search term are up and down and return 55 different URLs in the six month period shown below.

Daily Mail performance Jennifer Lopez - No landing page

As the previous examples have demonstrated, with a J-Lo landing page and the right links, the site could rank consistently and bring in even more traffic.

In summary

Mail Online creates and publishes huge quantities of articles about celebrities and news. With each of these articles they gain thousands of links and social shares from their readers.

While each new article performs relatively well in search, they do so for a limited time only. Ss the article becomes old, positions drop until the original article is usurped by a new article, and so on.

These examples show how effective the use of linking and hub pages can be, and demonstrate its value, especially for sites that produce a lot of content around the same themes.

They also demonstrate how quickly sites can achieve results with this strategy. In the Mail Online’s case, it seem to have taken Google just over a week to view the links and return the intended page for the search terms.

This strategy, implemented across a range of keywords, enables sites to rank more consistently for a broad range of search terms, with obvious beneficial effects on traffic.

How to use Facebook’s new Audience Optimization Targeting

Facebook audience optimisation

This article was originally published on our sister site ClickZ, but it’s so helpful we thought we’d share it here too.

Another week, another Facebook feature. Over the past few years, declining organic reach has become a major issue for publishers using Facebook.

While this is partly a rod we’ve made for our own backs due to our ravenous search for ever-increasing ‘Likes’, it’s good to see the platform launching tools that are specifically designed to combat this.

I thought I’d check out the new Audience Optimization Tool and see how – and if – it can help get my superbly crafted* social media messages to a wider audience

*If you use the word ‘crafted’ to describe your marketing messages, you should probably go home and have a long hard think about your life. Your business will be better off without you.

First things first, let’s check out Facebook’s official ‘How To’ guide:

This all seems easy enough, although in practice the instructions are rather poorly written. If I currently head to settings then I won’t actually see ‘Audience Optimization for Posts’ if I have more than 5,000 ‘Likes’.

FB audience 3

Facebook explains that the feature will automatically be turned on for larger pages, but it would be more useful/make more sense if all pages could at least see the option.

To be honest, Facebook has a long history of writing confusing guides though, so let’s chalk it up to experience and move on. Here’s how to turn the feature on if you have less than 5,000 ‘Likes’:

Facebook optimisation

  • Head to your settings.
  • Under the ‘General’ heading, select ‘Audience Optimization for Posts’ and turn feature on.
  • You’re ready to roll.
  • Again, the confirmation language is slightly odd, implying that you may have actually restricted your audience, although this is not actually the case.

    fb5

    Now let’s try posting something.

    Oddly, this feature is not yet available inside Business Manager, or for posts that are created using the Power Editor. I’m going to assume that there are two reasons for this.

    Firstly, posts created in Power Editor have CTAs built in, and are generally designed to drive traffic directly to a site.

    By limiting this, Facebook is clearly encouraging you to create posts that work within Facebook’s walled garden. Essentially, use this if you want reach and engagement, but not if you’re looking for traffic. Secondly… Facebook may just be tired of no one knowing how to use Power Editor properly, and have decided not to swim against the tide.

    Add a link as you normally would, and then select the small ‘Crosshairs’ icon underneath to add ‘Interest Tags’. Essentially these are just the old Interest categories, but according to Facebook they operate in exactly the opposite way.

    fb6

    In the past, interest targeting would restrict the audience that could view your post.

    While this option is still available, here Facebook promises that interests will help surface relevant posts to a wider organic audience, although whether this presents your posts to users who have not yet ‘Liked’ your page, or simply adds yet more jiggery-pokery to the algorithms of existing fans is not revealed.

    fb7

    I’m testing this from Search Engine Watch’s Facebook page (what do you mean you aren’t a fan? Hop to it!), so I’ve rather obviously chosen ‘Search Engine Optimisation as a category.

    Facebook tells me that the potential audience is a massive 19,870,820, although obviously there are differing levels of value and actual interest there.

    fb8

    Once you’ve chosen your first category Facebook will also serve up some suggestions. This may be me, but again, these seem strangely worded.

    ‘Web Banner’ seems like a weird thing to be interested in, but I would assume these are based on the stated interests of users. I play it safe and choose ‘Social Media Optimization’ and ‘Digital Marketing’ as secondary categories.

    fb9

    Hit ‘Publish’ and away you go.

    fb10

    So… did it work?

    SEW has just over 37,000 fans on Facebook, and based on the time of posting (10am GMT on a Friday), I’d expect a low organic reach of about 300 users initially. I waited a few hours and checked back at 3pm to find… my post had reached 380 people.

    fb11

    So initially, no more or less than I’d have expected. There are of course any number of reasons this didn’t resonate with users.

    I deliberately toned down the copy a little, although the content itself was very appealing (go read the post if you don’t believe me). It was early on a Friday – typically a slow day – and it’s possible this may increase once our US audience comes online later in the day.

    I’m going to sit on the fence on this one, and guess that the low reach difference is down to how new the feature is. Facebook is obviously not going to show my post to every user on the first attempt, although I’m going to make the correlation that this feature does only reach existing fans.

    It’s clearly designed as an engagement tool, which can only be a good thing, but I’d think carefully about your business goals before regularly using this.

    I’d be fascinated to hear if you are seeing different results from this tool, and I’ll be sure to post an update in a month or two to see how results develop.

    The hidden social media dangers for all businesses

    social media minefield

    Everyone is telling you to use social media – but who’s telling you to be careful?

    Despite what some may suggest, social media is not all that new. As far as I’m concerned, it’s old – very old. News groups, email boards, forums, shout-out and guest boxes, rating, review and comment systems etc. You can see where today’s social media originates from.

    And yet, despite it maturing slowly over time, and having plenty of users and uses, I’m still not seeing many people waving a warning flag, violently pointing to the danger signs or trying to help people see the potentially massive holes that social media has for you, your staff, your company and your reputation.

    *puts on best old-sea-dog voice*
    There be dangers in social media!

    Sources of risk:

    Though we can slice and dice this numerous ways, I think sticking to broad and clear labels saves a lot of confusion. I’m sure you can work out the finer details and individual items based on the following…

    Yourself and employees
    Often one of the greatest assets, you or your staff can also be one of the biggest liabilities. From accidentally letting slip confidential information, through to intentional leaks, or silly slipups, mistypes or plain old bad behaviour that calls your company or industry into disrepute.

    Ex-employees
    There’s nothing like a scorned employee – and social platforms can be a prime way to lash out at you for revenge. Accidents are unlikely, if it’s an ex-employee, it’s going to be intentional.

    Clients, customers and consumers
    Straight from the horse’s mouth – people put a lot of weight on what current and pre-existing customers or clients say about you, your services or your products. Unhappy consumers making bad reviews, publicly complain or generally make a stink can cause you to lose new business.

    Competitors
    Some of you may have competitors that are happy to play dirty. They may create fake profiles, post false complaints or leave bad reviews. In extreme cases they may even attempt to impersonate staff or misrepresent your company.

    Reputation hitmen
    It’s a dirty little secret – but there are those out there that have practiced and developed ways to damage the reputation and social presence. These don’t tend to be random; they are usually hired to do the dirty deed. The problem is they won’t be amateurish about it, and are harder to spot.

    Infiltrators
    A completely different class of problem is hackers. There are some that use social media as an attack vector. They may harvest information from publicly accessible information on profiles etc. Then they attempt impersonate other staff, or make various identity claims in an effort to obtain access credentials or details.

    The media
    Sometimes things create a stink, and there seems to be nothing that attracts the media like a bad smell. If you think having a bunch of people kicking you on Twitter is bad, wait until some reporter gets a whiff of things!

    Trolls, flamers and crusaders
    It happens, more often than you may realise – absolute strangers may come along and cause various types of trouble. Topics may become confused, foul language and insults appear, attempts to get others involved or blow things out of proportion. Suddenly your workload has become larger and harder, and you will be tempted to say or do stupid things that could worsen the situation or create a whole new one.

    Types of damage:

    There’s no shortage of ways your reputation may be harmed, or your social interactions hindered. Rather than trying to list them all (and make you read them all), I’ll generalise them a little. The broader types of damage include…

    Rumours
    Though not necessarily a danger, these can get out of hand and cause you problems. Worse yet, they have a nasty habit of being bandied around as ‘fact’. Though these usually don’t cause harm per-se, they may still impede your efforts and require resources to handle. They also have a nasty habit of reappearing or being brought up at the worst possible time.

    Mistakes
    From silly typos and bad spelling, through to things that should never (ever!) have been written – you or your staff may post or publish something that shouldn’t have been. Sure you can Edit it or Delete it. Unfortunately it may already have been seen and screen grabbed, caught and posted elsewhere, crawled, indexed and cached etc. Those silly little mistakes you got rid of may still come back and bite you. Worse yet, it may end up looking like a cover-up!

    Misunderstandings
    It happens – people get the wrong end of the stick, the wrong thing is said at the wrong time, or to the wrong person, ambiguous wording is used, too much is read from what is posted, not enough thought is applied to what is said, a mistype or spelling issue can result in a different meaning etc.
    No matter the cause, someone will get upset over it.

    Imprudence
    Sometimes people will say, do or post stuff that they think is acceptable – with no regard for people’s sensibilities. Those inane comments, silly pictures or (supposedly) witty remarks may well turn out to be very unfunny and not so trivial in the future.

    Misguided behaviour
    A situation, issue or problem may be portrayed different from the actuality. This may result in people responding in ways that aren’t quite appropriate or correct. In other cases, staff may simply think they are doing the right thing, but are doing anything but the right thing. These good intentions may end up causing all sorts of problems.

    Misbehaviour
    Poor and unprofessional conduct, or generally unacceptable antics and behaviour can be a nightmare to deal with. There’s no telling how people may react. It could be beneficial, it could be made useful, or it could a major clean-up operation.

    Leaks
    Let’s face it – most corporations and companies have at least a little dirty laundry. Having it in public view can be a highly unpleasant experience, and sometimes, those stains just won’t come out.

    Mistreatment
    Treating others poorly may come back to bite you – and bite you hard! Failing to meet your obligations is bad enough – adding insult to the injury is far worse. Others seeing such mistreatment may be put off. Worse yet, they may talk about it to others, causing even more harm to your reputation.

    Dissatisfaction
    The truth can hurt – and having it shouted out in public can hurt a whole lot more. Having dissatisfied customers/clients that post their concerns and complaints in public can cause some harm. Worse yet, there is a niche industry that seems to thrive on such issues

    Lies and fakes
    This is unfortunately far more common that anyone would like – and comes in all shapes and sizes. You’re looking at poor ratings and bad reviews, through to false complaints, defamation and character assassination.

    Imposters
    One of the nastier hazards, it’s possible that others may pretend to be you, an employee or a representative – and then conduct themselves in an unpleasant manner, or post damaging comments/content.

    Called out
    It doesn’t matter if it’s done in a polite and professional manner, or by someone behaving like a 10 year old who’s eaten too much sherbet – no one wants to be called out, especially publicly! I can’t think of much worse than some smart-alec poking holes, picking fault, undermining your efforts or making you look stupid. (Yes, I laughed evilly whilst typing that one up :D)

    Breaches
    Some industries have strict regulations regarding media and communications. It’s entirely possible for a post to be made with content that falls short of such requirements, and leave your company exposed to punitive repercussions.

    Misassigned
    This is one of my favourites, when someone sends a communication to the wrong person(s), or a tweet instead of a direct message. This can cause all sorts of holy hell, especially if it’s sensitive data or information that is then publicised.

    Mishandling
    Sometimes we simply make things worse. What was originally an issue of one size can easily become a larger issue due to poor responses, unprofessional conduct, miscommunication, going on the attack or any number of the other items mentioned.

    doctors studying the brain

    Compounding it all:

    As if there weren’t enough sources or types of damage – it can get worse. Just look at these additional complications…

    Private to public
    The standard social media risk, the transition from private to public. Dealing with complaints, employee concerns and competitors can be difficult enough. Having the doors flung open and it playing out in front of an audience – one that may judge against you – it can get a darn sight worse.

    Loss of control
    Aside from the resource costs and potential damages – one of the harder to deal with aspects is the general lack of control you end up with. It can feel like trying to stem an avalanche with a teaspoon. This is especially true with public and third party platforms.

    Out of proportion
    The immediate thought here is the press – well known for taking a grain of salt and turning it into Sodom and Gomorrah. That said, the public has a big old nasty streak too, and you may find even the smallest infraction being blown out of proportion.

    Hijacking
    You may have a topic and a goal. You may even have a plan. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that anyone will follow it once it’s out there. Others may take it in a different direction, or usurp control of the conversation. All of a sudden, your plans are useless and your post is at full steam in the wrong direction, driven by someone else.

    Perversion
    People can be pretty strange, and if we’re completely honest – kind of scary. It’s amazing how even the most innocent, most well intentioned thing can be taken hold of and twisted into something dirty or wrong. Hashtags can be misread (Blackberry and #rimjobs), or your campaign can be turned against you (McD Stories).

    Carved in electrons
    Possibly one of the worst factors to consider is that, in many cases, what happens online becomes a matter of record. Though the general internet attention span may not be much more developed than that of plankton – the internet has a very long and exact memory. Screen shots, archives and caches… things may stick around far longer than you’d like.

    Open season
    Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, you discover someone has not only stuck a pair of antlers on your head, they’ve painted a bullseye on your backside – and it seems everyone is out with a rifle and looking right at you. Even though the infraction seemed small, harmless and happened two weeks about – disgruntled people have created profiles just so they can post snarky comments about you and your company.

    open season on mooses

    Scared? You should be!


    Okay – I’m lying. You don’t have to be scared – but you should be cautious.
    The above is merely a collection of warnings and worst case scenarios. Most people and businesses manage to use social media without killing their reputation, or being randomly trolled by people with far too much time on their hands.

    The truth is that social platforms and communities offer many advantages and benefits – but it pays to be mindful. So while you sit there figuring how you are going to win over your audience, sway influencers and generate some links… keep the above in mind.

    Seven of the most interesting SEM news stories of the week

    google better ads report

    Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from around the world of search marketing and beyond.

    This week: Google begins experimenting with its PLAs, there are some stats on ad spend, we answer “what is the most trusted media source?” (I’ll give you one guess) and there’s a very tenuous time-frame for when Penguin is arriving.

    How Google fought bad ads in 2015

    Google has released a report on how it helped to clean up the bandit-populated wasteland we call the internet. Google has more than 1,000 sheriffs dedicated to taking down bad ads. In fact 780m ads were shot down from the top of saloon bar roofs on to the hay bails below or drowned in a horse trough.

    Here are some of the black-hatted baddies Google busted in 2015:

    • Counterfeiters: Google suspended more than 10,000 sites and 18,000 accounts for attempting to sell counterfeit goods.
    • Pharmaceuticals: blocked more than 12.5 million ads that violated healthcare and medicines policy.
    • Weight loss scams: suspended more than 30,000 sites for misleading claims.
    • Phishing: stepped up efforts to fight phishing sites, blocking nearly 7,000 sites as a result.
    • Unwanted software: disabled more than 10,000 sites offering unwanted software, and reduced unwanted downloads via Google ads by more than 99 percent.
    • Trick to click: toughened up on ads designed to look like system warnings from your computer. Google rejected more than 17 million.

    Social ad spend increased 50% year-over-year

    New research from Kenshoo (gesundheit) suggests that spend on social advertising increased by 50% in the final quarter of 2015 with most of that growth helped along by the introduction of Facebook Dynamic Product Ads and Instagram ads.

    Spend on search advertising increased by 8% thanks to a growth in retailers’ use of product-focused seasonal Product Listing Ads (PLAs), while mobile continues to be the biggest driver of growth in both search and social.

    While there were fewer impressions for social ads in the quarter, the Click-through-Rate (CTR) went up by 64% YoY resulting in 30% more clicks and CPC went up 10% compared with the previous year.

    Google adds AMP error report preview in Search Console

    As Accelerated Mobile Pages become an increasingly important facet of mobile optimisation, Google has announced that it will provide a preview of error reports in Search Console, ready for the official launch of AMP in February.

    This is direct from the source:

    “The AMP error report gives an overview of the overall situation on your site, and then lets you drill down to specific error types and URLs. This process helps you quickly find the most common issues, so that you can systematically address them in your site’s AMP implementation (potentially just requiring tweaks in the templates or plugin used for these pages).”

    Quora tops the list of UK sites gaining the highest increase in Google visibility

    IndexWatch announced the sites that made the most ground in the battle of the Google SERPs in 2015, with the crowd-sourced question and answer site Quora.com coming first, with an improvement of +298.21% on the previous year. This was closely followed by Wilko.com, MentalFloss.com, Zomato.com and Wayfair.com.

    visibility-quora.com

    There are more details and the full top 100 here.

    Bye bye organic results! Hello MASSIVE PLAs!

    As Chris Lake reported this week, Google has begun experimenting with an expandable mega layout for its product listing ads.

    expanded plas

    This new layout includes a clickable arrow icon that doubles the number of products and essentially takes over the entire SERP. Bad for organic results, good for retailers still struggling to rank highly for their products as it gives them a bigger playground to… uh… fill with ads.

    Here’s a horrible vision of the future courtesy of Chris Lake…

    massively expanded plas

    Google is more trusted than actual news sources

    The Edelman Trust Barometer has revealed that for the second year in a row, people trust search engines more than they trust the actual sources providing the news itself.

    Search engines also beat social media, but that’s probably not as surprising.

    Why do people trust search engines so much? Possibly because they see an appearance of an article ranking highly in the SERPs as a mark of trust, also it might be because Google News offers an array of different headlines from various sources, so it’s easy to make a comparison of them all.

    Search Engine Watch’s own weekly SEM news round-up will patiently wait for next year’s results to see how it did. Sigh.

    Google’s next Penguin roll-out to happen within weeks

    This from Gary Illyes, Google’s Webmaster Trends analyst…

    @mrjamiedodd I’ll go with weeks. We’re aiming for launching penguin this quarter, but we don’t have a more precise timeframe.

    — Gary Illyes (@methode) January 19, 2016

    You can decide for yourself whether this counts as ‘news’ or whether Illyes just got tired of all the pestering.

    SEO basics: 22 essentials you need for optimizing your site

    search for confetti cannon showing organic and paid results

    Here we’ll take a look at the basic things you need to know in regards to search engine optimisation, a discipline that everyone in your organisation should at least be aware of, if not have a decent technical understanding.

    One of our most popular articles of all time is a post entitled SEO Basics: 8 Essentials When Optimizing Your Site. It still does the business for us in terms of traffic, however it was first published in April 2013, so you can treat this as its long overdue and expanded update.

    What is SEO?

    Quite simply, SEO is the umbrella term for all the methods you can use to ensure the visibility of your website and its content on search engine results pages (SERPs).

    The methods vary from technical practices you can achieve behind the scenes on your website (we tend to refer to this as ‘on-page SEO’) to all the promotional ‘off-page’ approaches you can use to raise your site’s visibility (link-building, social media marketing).

    For the purpose of this article, when we talk about visibility, we mean how high up the SERP your website appears for certain search terms in the ‘organic’ results. Organic results refer to those that appear naturally on the page, rather than in the paid-for sections…

    Paid search is also a large part of search engine marketing. You can read more about this in our recent beginner’s guide to paid search and PPC.

    Why do you need SEO?

    Building a strong site architecture and providing clear navigation will help search engines index your site quickly and easily. This will also, more importantly, provide visitors with a good experience of using your site and encourage repeat visits. It’s worth considering that Google is increasingly paying attention to user experience.

    When it comes to how much traffic is driven by search engines to your website, the percentage is substantial, and perhaps the clearest indicator of the importance of SEO.

    In 2014, Conductor suggested 64% of all web traffic comes from organic search, compared to 2% from social, 6% from paid search, 12% direct and 15% from other referral sources.

    This tallies with our own data, with approximately 70-75% of SEW traffic coming from organic.

    Of all organic traffic, in 2015 it was found that Google accounts for more than 90% of global organic search traffic. So obviously you need a strong presence on Google SERPs, but how strong?

    Well, according to this study from Advanced Web Ranking (which I’ve trotted out before when discussing how to dominate Google) shows that on the first SERP, the top five results account for 67.60% of all clicks and the results from six to 10 account for only 3.73%.

    It’s therefore vital that your site appears in the top five results.

    How are you going to achieve this? With the following tips, which I’ve split into two categories: what search engines are looking for and… drum roll… what they’re not looking for.

    What are search engines looking for?

    1) Relevancy

    Search engines try to provide the most relevant results to a searcher’s query, whether it’s a simple answer to the question “how old is Ryan Gosling?” (the answer of which Google will likely provide without you having to leave the SERP) to more complicated queries such as “what is the best steak restaurant nearest to me?”

    where's good for steak search

    How search engines provide these results is down to their own internal algorithms, which we’ll probably never truly determine, but there are factors that you can be certain will influence these results and they’re all based around relevancy… For instance: a searcher’s location, their search history, time of day/year, etc.

    2) The quality of you content

    Do you regularly publish helpful, useful articles, videos or other types of media that are popular and well produced? Do you write for actual human beings rather than the search engine itself? Well, you should. Latest research from Searchmetrics on ranking factors indicates that Google is moving further towards longer-form content that understands a visitor’s intention as a whole, instead of using keywords based on popular search queries to create content.

    Basically, stop worrying about keywords and focus on the user experience.

    3) User experience

    There are many SEO benefits for providing the best possible user experience. You need an easily navigable, clearly searchable site with relevant internal linking and related content. All the stuff that keeps visitors on your webpage and hungry to explore further.

    4) Site speed

    How quickly your webpages load is increasingly becoming a differentiator for search engines. Google may soon start labelling results that are hosted on Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) so this may possibly be the ‘mobilegeddon’ of 2016. Speaking of which…

    5) Cross-device compatibility

    Is your website and its content equally optimised for any given screen size or device? Bear in mind that Google has stated that responsive design is its preferred method of mobile optimisation.

    6) Internal linking

    We’ve talked about the benefits of ensuring your site has clear and easy-to-use navigation, but there’s also a practice that editors and writers can carry out when publishing articles to help push traffic around the site and that may lead to higher trust signals for Google: internal linking. (See what we did there.)

    Internal linking has many advantages:

    • It provides your audience with further reading options. As long as they’re relevant and you use clear anchor text (the clickable highlighted words in any give link). This can help reduce your bounce rates.
    • It helps to improve your ranking for certain keywords. If we want this article to rank for the term ‘SEO basics’ then we can begin linking to it from other posts using variations of similar anchor text. This tells Google that this post is relevant to people searching for ‘SEO basics’. Some experts recommend varying your anchor text pointing to the same page as Google may see multiple identical uses as ‘suspicious’.
    • It helps Google crawl and index your site. Those little Googlebots that are sent out to fetch new information on your site will have a better idea of how useful and trustworthy your content is, the more they crawl your internal links.

    7) Authority

    An authority website is a site that is trusted by its users, the industry it operates in, other websites and search engines. Traditionally a link from an authority website is very valuable, as it’s seen as a vote of confidence. The more of these you have, and the higher quality content you produce, the more likely your own site will become an authority too.

    However as the aforementioned Searchmetrics research suggests, year-on-year correlations between backlinks and rankings are decreasing, so perhaps over time ‘links’ may not be as important to SEO as we once thought.

    There’s a good argument raging in the comments to this recent piece on links as a marketing KPI, which offers some diverse views on the subject.

    8) Meta descriptions

    Having a meta description won’t necessarily improve your ranking on the SERP, but it is something you should definitely use before publishing an article as it can help increase your chances of a searcher clicking on your result.

    The meta description is the short paragraph of text that appears under your page’s URL in the search results, it’s also something you should have complete control of in your CMS.

    Here it is in WordPress:

    meta description in wordpress

    Write succinctly (under 156 characters is good), clearly and make sure it’s relevant to your headline and the content of the article itself.

    9) Schema markup

    You can make your search results appear more attractive by adding Schema markup to the HTML of your pages. This can help turn your search results into a rich media playground, adding star-ratings, customer ratings, images, and various other bits of helpful info…

    schema markup for recipe

    Schema is also the preferred method of markup by most search engines including Google, and it’s fairly straightforward to use. For more information, check out our handy guide to Schema.

    10) Properly tagged images

    Many people forget to include the alt attribute when they upload images to their content, but this is definitely something you shouldn’t overlook because Google cannot ‘see’ your images, but can ‘read’ the alt text.

    By describing your image in the alt text as accurately as possible it will increase the chances of your images appearing in Google Image search.

    alt-text example in wordpress

    It will also improve the accessibility of your site for people using ‘image reader’ software.

    11) Evergreen content

    Instead of peppering the internet with a rash of ‘quick win’ news stories with little insight, why not publish more evergreen content.

    More thoughtful, helpful and practical-advice based articles can lead to huge long-term wins in terms of driving traffic and occupying highly visible positions in the SERPs.

    Here’s a guide to planning and creating evergreen content.

    12) Domain names

    You should use sub-directory root domains (searchenginewatch.com/category/seo) instead of sub-domains (searchenginewatch.category.seo.com) as this is better for your overall site architecture.

    You should also stay away from hyphens (search-engine-watch.com) and alternative Top-level domain names (.biz .name .info) as these are considered spammy.

    Having a ‘keyword rich’ domain name may lead to closer scrutiny from Google. According to Moz, Google has “de-prioritized sites with keyword-rich domains that aren’t otherwise high-quality. Having a keyword in your domain can still be beneficial, but it can also lead to closer scrutiny and a possible negative ranking effect from search engines—so tread carefully.”

    Also you should make sure that if you operate a site without the www. prefix, someone who types in www.example.com will still be redirected to your site. If this isn’t happening, Google may assume these are two different sites and your visibility could be compromised.

    13) Headlines and permalinks

    The headlines for your articles should be under 55 characters to ensure their complete visibility in SERPs. Make sure they’re snappy, attractive and as descriptive as possible (this is often an impossible balance). Just stay away from clickbait headlines, do not promise something that the content doesn’t deliver.

    The permalink (which you can normally alter in your CMS even after it’s been automatically set) doesn’t necessarily have to match the headline exactly. Google has stated that you can use three to four key words that you should put the most important keywords first.

    14) Comments

    Do not turn off your comments system. Having a thriving community of regular commenters engaging in dialogue under your posts shows that visitors care enough about your content to either make their own relevant points or to praise it or to ruthlessly eviscerate it. Either way, at least people are reading it.

    Just be super-mindful about filtering out spam comments, or immediately removing any that slip through. It’s also worth adding the nofollow value to your comments section so Google ignores any erroneous links that may appear.

    15) Local SEO

    Increasingly Google is serving results to users based on their location. This is particularly important to businesses out there in the real world who ned to catch a searcher’s attention just at the right moment, i.e. while walking down the street, on their mobile and looking for somewhere to eat.

    You should register with Google My Business and ensure that all of your information is accurate and up-to-date, such as opening times, contact information, customer reviews and that your categorised correctly.

    16) Social

    The most obvious way that you can raise your site’s visibility through non-technical SEO means is of course through social media marketing.

    You need to make sure you’re present on all relevant social channels (wherever your audience may be), and not just broadcasting your content in a faceless manner, but by using it as a customer service channel and genuinely interacting with people in a friendly, helpful and entertaining manner.

    The actual correlation between social signals and search rankings is a much argued over subject, but here’s a good overview of the subject.

    What are search engines NOT looking for?

    There are many ‘black hat’ practices that can bring the full weight of a Google penalty down on your site, so it’s best to avoid doing the following, even if it looks like a brilliant easy win at the time.

    17) Keyword stuffing

    Overusing keywords on your pages, especially when they obviously affect the readability of your site. It’s debatable whether Google even still uses keywords as a ranking factor anymore.

    18) Link buying or excessive link exchanging

    Thinking of approaching a link farm? Just don’t do it. It’s not even worth it. The most valuable links to your site are the ones that come from authority sites within your own niche.

    19) Annoying ads

    Anything overly intrusive that destroys the pleasure of reading your content and slows down your site speed.

    20) Mobile app interstitials

    If you present mobile visitors with a full-screen advert to download your app, Google will consider you no longer mobile friendly.

    app ad interstitials

    21) Duplicated content

    If Google finds two identical pieces of content, whether on your own site, or on another you’re not even aware of, it will only index one of those pages. You should be aware of scraper sites, stealing your content automatically and republishing as your own. Here’s Graham Charlton’s thorough investigation on what to if your content ends up working better for somebody else.

    22) Hidden text and links

    There are a ways to manipulate rankings that a user may not ever see, but Google will probably find and punish you for.

    Stay away from using white text on a white background, positioning text off-screen, setting font size to zero or hiding a link in a single character like a comma or a full-stop.

    The temptation to put a link in that last full stop was incredibly high.

    Right, on that note, I’ll finish up. Clearly this isn’t everything that you can do to help your initial SEO efforts, but it’s a good grounding at least

    Please let me know if I’ve missed anything vital or just got something plain wrong…

    Google shows personal data within search results, tests ‘recent purchases’ feature

    capsule image

    Earlier today, while signed in to Gmail, I stumbled upon what appears to be a new test from Google. Some say it’s a little bit creepy. I think it’s the natural evolution of Google Now.

    I typed in ‘capsule’ to take a look at the CRM tool, and Google served up the following personalised content unit:

    As you can see, I’ve been buying coffee capsules recently.

    Before this content was shown to me it displayed a message along the lines of “only you will see this result”.

    The data is presumably pulled in via Gmail (most likely) or possibly even Chrome (though Matt Cutts once said Chrome data was never used in the organic algorithm).

    Ok, let’s try another recent purchase…

    Well, there it is. A slightly different format this time, but I am indeed guilty of buying multicoloured Post-It Notes.

    I clicked the ‘Learn More’ link, to find out what was going on, and was taken to a page called ‘Search results from your Google products’.

    Google explains:

    “You can search for information from other Google products you use, like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google+. For example, you can search for information about your upcoming flights, restaurant reservations, or appointments.”

    Here are some other example searches that it suggests:

    example searches

    Intriguing. I typed in ‘my packages’ (‘my purchases’ also works) and sure enough, it revealed what I had been buying recently. It even included a takeaway curry! Expand the result and it will give you the detail, and provide a link to the email receipt…

    just eat results

    A little research shows that the ‘my purchases’ operator has been in play for a year or so, but this is certainly the first time I’ve stumbled upon this feature based on a product keyword.

    Google did a good job of finding the things I’d bought from Amazon, based on the keywords in the product name, but not so well from eBay and other vendors. Might be telling.

    Or it could just be a slow rollout and I’m the last to get it…

    Getting up close and personal

    Google is turning the search interface into a personal ‘tell me about my X’ tool. Makes you think about its “organising the world’s information” mission statement. Now it’s specifically organising your own personal information.

    It’s quite a thing to get your head around. I did a full-on double take when I first saw my purchase history in the search results.

    @lakey Yeah. If we associate Gmail as being private, seeing data from it in a “public” place is jarring.

    — Andrew McGarry (@beyondcontent) January 21, 2016

    I wonder how many millions of birthday presents are going to be prematurely revealed?

    You have the ability to opt out, by changing your search settings (click ‘Do Not Use’ under the ‘Private Results’ heading), and it should only work if you’re logged in.

    Google Now

    This clearly seems to be an extension of Google Now, which is billed as an “intelligent personal assistant” and has one of the most ironic websites ever (it should be called Google Eventually).

    I know that Google Now works with the Chrome browser but it’s the first time I’ve personally seen anything like this integrated into the search results interface.

    As such, I checked to see if it works in Safari, and sure enough, it does.

    When signing in to Google via Safari I was presented with some updated T&Cs, which covers how it uses data…

    google t&cs

    All very interesting. Especially that last sentence about combining data. It’s pretty much why I think Google (sorry, ‘Alphabet’) should buy Twitter, as it makes a lot of sense from a data perspective.

    What do you think? Creepy or useful? Fancy a cup of coffee?