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Category Archive: Google

  1. How Search Queries Have Changed in the Past Five Years

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    articleimage1120 How Search Queries Have Changed in the Past Five YeThe world of online search is always evolving, and as marketers, we’re often paying attention to the changing technology of systems as an indication of where our strategies should go. Whenever Google makes a new announcement or rolls out a new update, we scramble to try and learn the effects of the change and try to adapt our tactics accordingly. But what we often miss is the fact that search evolution is a process with multiple participants; Google is the decision maker in many of these changes, but we also must remember that users are equally responsible for driving and supporting these changes.

    In some cases, user search behavior changes, so Google comes up with an update to respond to it—for example, when the popularity of local review queries increased, Google came out with its unofficially nicknamed Pigeon update to rank sites with high-quality reviews higher in standard searches. In other cases, Google makes an update and directly causes a change in user search behavior—for example, when predictive search began to emerge, users were more open to ambiguous queries. Search became an exploration as much as a specific hunt.

    Ultimately, SEO is about being the company that users find when they’re searching for a specific need. In order to achieve that goal, we need to understand how our users are searching—and a lot has changed in the past five years.

    Long Phrases Have Become More Common

    articleimage1120 Long Phrases Have Become More Common

    Keywords were once the dominant force in search, both from a search engine perspective and from a user perspective. Google produced results based on a one-to-one association of keywords in a query to keywords on existing pages, but today this process is much more semantic. Google analyzes the intent behind a user query, with sophisticated language analysis, and produces the most relevant results based on contextual clues on sites. As users have grown more used to this search approach, queries have started drifting away from keyword-based entries and started becoming longer. For example, let’s say a user is interested in finding out why gas prices have spiked recently. In an older search, a user might type in something like “gas price change reason.” Today, that query might look something more like “why did gas prices rise last week?”

    Users Have Become Specific About What They Want

    articleimage1120 Users Have Become Specific About What They Want

    The trend of longer phrases has led to a different search query phenomenon: users are becoming much more specific about what it is they’re searching for. The motivation for this change is partially attributable to the new capabilities of semantic search, but it’s also attributable to the sheer increase in information available on the web. Every minute, Facebook sees 2.5 million new pieces of content, and WordPress sees the birth of more than 80 million sites a year. That’s a lot of new data available to crawl, giving users far more potential answers to highly specific questions. Let’s take the example above, of a user trying to understand a gas price increase. An older query might read “why did gas prices rise?” but a newer, more specific query might dig into the gritty details: “why did gas prices in Ohio rise but not in Michigan?”

    There’s a Sharp Divide Between Information Seekers and Function Seekers

    articleimage1120 There’s a Sharp Divide Between Information Seekers a

    There are two main reasons why people consult search engines: they’re either looking for information, such as an answer to a question, or they’re looking for a function, such as a solution to a problem. In some cases, there is overlap between these two motivations, but lately, the line between these queries has been sharper. With information databases like the Knowledge Graph, Wikipedia, and IMDB, users have learned exactly what to search for when they’re in need of quick answers—and these queries usually have a concise, specific structure. On the other hand, queries looking for a functional solution are more fluid, looking for general keywords related to a problem.

    Voice Search Has Increased in Popularity

    Mobile devices keep getting smaller and harder to type on, and the increase in digital personal assistant popularity and sophistication has allowed for more voice-based searches. Users still prefer typed searches, but voice-based searches have seen a tremendous rise in the past five years. This increase in voice queries has been accompanied by a rise in more colloquial searches, which ignores the conventional search format in favor of a more conversational way of searching.

    Users Have Become Reliant on Local Search

    articleimage1120 Users Have Become Reliant on Local Search

    Because Google has made such a major commitment to providing better, more geographically specific search results, users have become more reliant on local search results. The phrase “near me” is often tacked on to queries, thanks in part to Google’s predictive search, and users are beginning to place more local queries simply because they’re starting to see better and better local results.

    Looking to the Future

    Much has changed in the past five years, but the pace of these changes is only likely to increase as new technologies continue to roll out at a shocking rate. Since many of these changes are hard to predict, it’s best to stay informed of them as they occur and try to anticipate your users’ needs whenever possible. Staying one step ahead of the competition can give you just the edge you need for a boost in interested customers, and if the history of search has taught us anything—it’s that Google rewards the companies who think ahead for their customers’ needs.

  2. Mobilegeddon Is Here: How to Tell If You’ve Been Hit

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    articleimage1115 How to Tell If You've Been Hi

    For weeks, we’ve been hearing about “Mobilegeddon,” the April 21st Google update purportedly designed to punish tens of thousands of sites that haven’t yet optimized their designs for mobile users. Google takes mobile user experience very seriously, and the announcement of this update was validation for all the webmasters out there who toiled to ensure a great user experience regardless of what kind of device was used to access their sites.

    Webmasters who hadn’t optimized their sites for mobile, on the other hand, scrambled to make their websites comply by that all-too-important April 21st deadline. That is, of course, ignoring the webmasters who never heard about the update and those who opted to delay optimizing for mobile yet again.

    So now that mobilegeddon has come and gone, how much impact did it really have, and if you’ve gotten hit, how do you go about getting your ranks back to normal?

    The Impact of Mobilegeddon

    articleimage1115 The Impact of Mobilegeddon

    First, I’ll say this: mobilegeddon was overblown. Lots of search marketers out there are sensationalists, and decided to overinflate the projected impact of the update for the purposes of generating extra attention. The reality is that mobilegeddon was never intended to be a search engine update of apocalyptic scale. Yes, it was designed to weed out some of the lagging companies whose sites have not been optimized for mobile, but beyond that, it wasn’t going to do much.

    That being said, if you’ve optimized your site for mobile and tested it using Google’s free tool, nothing happened to you. Well, you might have climbed a rank or two for a handful of queries, but nothing bad or major happened to you.

    Still, there was some major fallout across the web as mobilegeddontook root.

    Major Sites Gaining Traction

    articleimage1115 Major Sites Gaining Traction

    Already, there are a handful of sites that have gained significant visibility as a result of passing Google’s mobile-friendly test better than the competition. TV Tropes, a popular resource for writers and pop culture enthusiasts, gained ranks in several areas. The websites for Entertainment Tonight, Foreign Affairs, JCPenny, and science/technology magazine WIRED also gained visibility.

    Major Sites Losing Ground

    The most significant amount of rank and visibility lost was for news and social site Reddit—because their home page and several of their internal pages tested as not mobile-friendly, the entire site lost major ground. Other major players that lost significant ranks due to being unprepared for the update include NBC Sports, Vogue, SongLyrics and Bloomberg Business.

    It’s important to remember that the mobilegeddon update was not released on a sliding scale. There wasn’t a qualitative evaluation of mobile-friendliness like there is with onsite content or offsite links. Instead, it is an objective “yes or no” type of determination. For example, your site can’t be determined to be “kind of” optimized for mobile; it either is optimized for mobile, or it is not, and if it is not, it’s definitely gotten hit by the penalty.

    How to Tell If You’re Hit

    articleimage1115 How to Tell If You’re Hit

    If you’re curious as to whether or not your site has been hit by the mobilegeddon update, simply check your rankings. Take a sample size of about 10 keywords or phrases—hopefully you know where you stood before the update—and compare your previous rankings to where you rank right now. If you’ve dropped off the map for any of them, you’ve likely been hit by the new algorithm. If you are in the same relative position or higher, you have nothing to worry about. You’ve officially survived mobilegeddon—but you probably already suspected that.

    What to Do If You’ve Been Hit

    articleimage1115 What to Do If You’ve Been Hit

    Let’s say you have gotten hit. Your rankings have plummeted and now you need to start the recovery process.

    There’s only one reason why you’ve been hit with this update: your site wasn’t optimized for mobile. Does this mean you’ll never have a chance at ranking high again? Absolutely not. Google is strict when it comes to evaluating domain authority, but it’s also very forgiving. If you optimize your site for mobile, there’s no reason why your rankings can’t be restored to normal within just a few months.

    That being said, there are a variety of options for you to optimize your site for mobile:

    • You can use a responsive design (or a responsive template) to ensure your website will automatically expand and contract based on the parameters of the device being used to access it.
    • You can create a separate instance of your site, designed specifically for mobile, and host it separately so that mobile users have a full experience when accessing your domain.
    • You can create an alternate version of your website for mobile, and use device detection to toggle between the two versions of your site based on the device accessing it.

    Google doesn’t care how you optimize your site for mobile, as long as you’ve fully optimized it. That means every page on your site should be easily accessible to a mobile device. If you aren’t sure, just use Google’s mobile-friendliness tool to check. It really is that simple.

    Once your site is optimized for mobile access, you should have no problem restoring your ranks back to normal. In the coming years, be sure to adjust your strategies to accommodate the latest trends in tech and consumer preferences. The better you serve your users, the more Google will reward you in the end.

  3. Will Europe Force Google to Disclose Its Search Algorithm?

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    articleimage1092 will europe force google to disclose its search algorithym

    Last week, the upper house of parliament in France voted in support of a new amendment to a proposed piece of economic legislation that would mandate all search engines to display information on at least three different search rivals on their homepage. Possibly even more significant, the amendment would require all search engines to reveal their proprietary ranking algorithms in an effort to ensure that all rankings are determined fairly and with no discriminatory biases.

    On paper, the amendment will take action against any search engine operating in France, but with a 90 percent search share in the country, Google is the real target of the legislation. While French politicians claim the policy is all about ensuring a fair and equal environment for businesses, as well as the operational transparency of major online companies, the reality is that Google’s algorithm has been kept secret for a variety of practical reasons.

    For Google, the secrecy of the algorithm is crucial to their capitalistic success. Should competitors have open access to the ranking algorithm, it would be painfully easy to develop very similar competing engines. From a user perspective, Google’s algorithm has been kept hidden in order to prevent spammers and malcontents from taking advantage of the system. Revealing the algorithm publicly would compromise both Google’s integrity and profitability.

    Still, it doesn’t appear that France will let up any time soon. After all, this potential legislation is only the latest of a pattern of pressure put on Google by the European Union.

    The “Right to Be Forgotten” Battle of 2014

    articleimage1092 the right to be forgotten battle in 2014

    While Europe has been collectively distrustful of Google for several years now, the controversy began to escalate back in May of 2014, when the European Union officially made its “right to be forgotten” privacy ruling. The provision dictated that private residents would be able to submit requests to Google (and other search engines) to have specific links removed from databases. Should these links lead to compromising or no longer relevant information, and as long as the links are not determined to be necessary public information, the links must be removed.

    In response to the new ruling, Google was forced to remove hundreds of thousands of links. Many in the European Union have declared this a victory for individual privacy, while most Google supporters claim this move is a step toward censorship and a step away from public information availability. Because Google is a longtime supporter of open information availability, the privacy ruling caused some serious damage to its mission.

    The Ongoing Antitrust Investigation

    articleimage1092 ongoing anti trust investagation

    For the past five years or so, the Competition Commission in Europe has been investigating Google for a purported violation of antitrust laws. Because the investigation has been long and arduous, it hasn’t gained significant momentum in the form of a concrete ruling. In order to accelerate and enhance the investigation, the EU released a Statement of Objections regarding Google’s shopping comparison service alongside a parallel investigation into Google’s mobile Android operating system.

    These new statements and investigations show that Europe is serious about changing Google’s operating capacity. Many have theorized that Europe’s goal here is to break Google up into smaller companies, or at least force the company to reveal the details of the inner workings of its products.

    Google’s Historical Responses to International Pressure

    articleimage1092 google historical responses to international pressure

    This isn’t the first time Google has faced significant international pressure. In 2014, Google pulled out of China entirely after renegotiations with the Chinese government over censorship began to fail. The company closed its engineering offices in Russia back in January of 2014 after news that Russian Parliament was approving a new mandate regarding the storage of information on its citizens. After a so-called “Google Tax” was implemented in Spain, Google suspended its news service in the country entirely.

    When threatened by censorship, regulation, or new financial requirements, Google has shown that it isn’t always willing to comply. While it has enjoyed international acclaim and usage for nearly 20 years, it’s willing to sacrifice a presence in individual companies if it means retaining its core integrity.

    The Course of France’s Legislation

    The timeline on the bill is not specific, but it must be voted on and passed for the bill to become law. There’s no guarantee that the bill will be passed into law, but the tone set by the European Union suggests that France is serious about stepping up efforts to throttle the dominance of the search engine giant. Should the bill become law, Google could face a penalty of up to 10 percent of its gross revenues should it fail to comply with the law’s mandates. Essentially, that means Google would be forced to publicly reveal its search algorithm, or face a harsh penalty.

    The Future of Google in Europe

    articleimage1092  the future of google in europe

    In response to France’s legislation, assuming it passes, Google will likely choose to either pay the fine or leave France altogether. At this point, revealing its search algorithm is too risky and too compromising, and as we’ve seen, Google will not compromise on the values and policies it feels are important to user experience. As the EU and individual countries within it continue to put additional pressure on Google, it’s likely that the company will face similar dilemmas in the near future, and may be forced out of the European Union entirely.

    What It Means for the Search World

    If Google is forced to reveal its search algorithm, the entire world of SEO could change. With specific insight into how Google factors in things like external links and content quality, search marketers would easily be able to manipulate the system. On the other hand, if Google leaves the EU, it could be disastrous for Google’s international presence and availability.

    No matter how things in Europe shape up, it’s bound to be an interesting ride. For those of us watching from the sidelines, it will be exciting to see how these international pressures play out. For the leaders at Google, however, the pressure of the coming months must be terrifying.

  4. Is It Still Worth Being on Google Plus?

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    articleimage1066 Is It Still Worth Being on Google Plus

    Just a few years ago, if you asked any search marketer what they thought about the future of social media marketing and SEO’s dynamic relationship, they would have told you that Google+ was everything. Google, the only search engine worth watching for SEO developments and the undisputed king of the Internet, was coming out with its own social media platform, and it only made sense that the search giant would do everything it could to tie search and social together via Google+.

    During the first few years of Google+’s existence, search marketers under this belief were validated by Google’s actions. Google+ saw a brief surge in popularity, and Google made consistent efforts to try and boost the benefits of using the platform by making them more apparent in search. For example, if you created an Author profile and posted articles anywhere on the web via that profile, they would show up higher in search results, with your name and profile pic beside each piece to make it more interesting and more clickable to incoming users.

    Today, however, Google+ is on its last legs. The powerhouse search marketers believed would change the nature of SEO entirely is starting to wither away, leaving many to wonder, is it even worth using the platform at all?

    The Slow Death of Google Plus

    articleimage1066 The Slow Death of Google Plus

    The death of Google+ was not sudden. For the past couple of years, it’s faced a slow decline as Google introduced replacement features and started decreasing the power of older ones. First, the popularity of Google+ never hit the levels it was expected to. While user signup did rapidly increase at first—likely due to name recognition, and the fact that new Google account signups were enlisted in Google+ as a mandatory step—the platform plateaued and could never reach the heights of long-standing competitors like Facebook and Twitter.

    Not long after Google started to realize its stagnated signup numbers, it started decreasing the power of Google Authorship, one of the most prominent features and search benefits of the platform. Now, only Google+ articles could be seen in the headshot-containing format, and Authorship stats were entirely removed from Analytics. Soon after these effects were implemented, the mastermind behind Google+ unpredictably left the company, leaving many to draw the conclusion that Google was ready to close the door on Google+ and step in a new direction.

    As the months rolled on, Google+ users noticed a handful of other small changes that demonstrated Google’s downplaying of the platform. For example, Google+ signup is no longer mandatory for Google account users.

    The Current Plan

    articleimage1066 The Current Plan

    It’s hard to say exactly what Google is thinking, since they play so many of their long-term strategies close to the chest, but we can draw a handful of conclusions from their most recent actions involving the platform. Without a solid leader in place for the future of the platform, Google is instead looking for ways to take advantage of benefits the platform already offers.

    For example, Google+ is starting to break apart some of its core features into standalone products; a “Photos” section allows users to share images with one another while “Streams” offers a free video chat service. Rather than abandoning the platform entirely, Google appears interested in breaking off the successful features of the platform and making them independent. As a result, Google+ is becoming less of a social media platform but Google itself is becoming more socially in tune. So far, these changes have been met with positive reception, which shows that Google truly is keeping its users in mind with every change it makes.

    How to Use Google Plus Today

    articleimage1066 how to use google plus

    The years-old dream of using Google+ as your go-to social media platform and gaining tons of SEO benefits is over. The connection between Google+ use and increased search visibility is now essentially nonexistent. Considering the fact that most of Google+’s traditional social platform functionalities are being removed or transplanted, you can’t even use Google+ as a strictly social service.

    However, you can still post and share pieces of content with your audience. As you know, the more visibility you can get for your content, the better, so if you have a few extra minutes a week to share a handful of pieces with your Google+ followers, you have nothing to lose by doing so. You could easily win some extra visitors and some extra brand visibility.

    A Note on Audience Potential

    articleimage1066 A Note on Audience Potential

    Understand that trying to build an audience on Google+ probably isn’t the best use of your time. Google+ never had much of an audience and today, it’s smaller than ever and still shrinking. If you’re looking to get the most potential impact from your content on a social platform, the big three—Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—will likely give you a far better return. Only use Google+ as a backup, or as a peripheral channel.

    The bottom line here is that Google+ is practically dead, but it’s not going to hurt you to post there occasionally. Because the social platform is being broken up into its core components, it can no longer be used as a traditional audience-building social medium, nor can it be used for great SEO benefits. Instead, for now, it should only serve as an extra outlet for you to share your content. Then again, Google is nothing if not unpredictable, so keep watch—they might have some news in the future that turns the social world on its head once again.

  5. 7 Online Marketing Lessons to Learn From Google’s Update History

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    Google’s history of algorithm updates has been both a blessing and a curse for the marketing world. With every iteration of their increasingly sophisticated algorithm, users are able to find better information faster and more conveniently—but search marketing professionals are usually thrown for a loop when their precious rankings get shaken up by the change. As a result, most search marketers have dedicated themselves to constantly preparing for the next inevitable update or making up for the consequences of the last one.

    Beyond the give-and-take dynamics of search marketers and Google algorithm changes, there are some key lessons any marketer can learn from the history of Google updates we currently know:

    1. Technology Changes Quickly.

    articleimage1062 Technology Changes Quickly

    It seems obvious, but it’s a reality you’ll have to prepare for. The second you start getting used to one technology, another will likely come along to replace it, and the impact that new technology has will likely spark changes in a host of other existing technologies. It has been more than a decade since Google started rolling out updates, and each new update takes the algorithm to new heights of sophistication. Now, the system is able to dynamically incorporate data from other, equally sophisticated systems like social media platforms and third-party apps, and there are virtually no limits to the system’s eventual capacity. This fast pace can be intimidating for marketers, but it also presents a key opportunity; the faster you adopt a new technology, the further ahead of the competition you’ll be.

    2. Fundamentals Will Remain Constant.

    articleimage1062 Fundamentals Will Remain Constant

    Even though Google is always changing up the processes and priorities of its algorithm, there are certain fundamentals that haven’t changed since Google’s inception. The system still exists to help people find what they’re looking for on the web, and it values user experience above all other factors. Keep this in mind as you develop your own marketing strategies; though the channels you leverage and the strategies you use will change with the landscape of technology, your fundamental goals should remain consistent. Namely, your goals should be communicating to more customers efficiently and effectively, and keeping them happy when they encounter your presence online.

    3. There’s Always Time to Recover.

    articleimage1062 There’s Always Time to Recover

    When Google Penguin rolled out, it issued a ton of major penalties to sites with low-quality or questionable backlinking practices. Basically, if you had more than one or two unnatural links pointing to your site, you likely got hit with a significant ranking drop. For many search marketers and webmasters who experienced that drop, it felt like the end of the world, yet Google still offered options for those businesses to climb back out of the hole. Through link removals and ongoing commitment to best practices, it was actually quite easy to restore your domain’s position—it just took some time. Remember, no matter how much a change shakes up your marketing strategy, you’ll always have time to recover with new tactics and a new approach.

    4. Preparation Yields Results.

    articleimage1062 Preparation Yields Results

    Paying attention to fundamental best practices and working hard to hedge your bets is always a good idea. Rather than pouring all your effort into one or two tactics that seem to be working in the moment, try distributing your efforts and your focus across several strategies that have a high likelihood of working well in the long term. Try to anticipate changes before they come, and prepare for those changes with soft adjustments to your strategy. The saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and in the digital marketing world, that couldn’t be truer. The companies that spend time preparing for the future will always win out over their competitors.

    5. Big Changes Happen Gradually.

    Many updates seem like they pack an immediate punch, but the truth is that major changes tend to happen gradually. For example, the Panda update was first released back in 2011, and its initial rollout lasted over the course of several days. It’s now four years later and Google is still sending out new data refreshes and iterative updates to the initial new algorithm. In a sense, Panda is still rolling out. Don’t fear sudden changes; they don’t actually exist. When there’s an apparent sudden shift in direction, you just have to start making changes to keep up with the micro-changes to come.

    6. Most Revolutions Aren’t a Surprise.

    While the Panda and Penguin update took many webmasters by surprise, to those paying close attention to the world of search news, they weren’t that shocking. Google tries to keep most of the specifics on its updates under wraps, but for the most part, they aren’t shy about letting people know what their expectations are. They’re vocal about what they like and don’t like, and they tend to give ample warning when they do have a major change in tow—such as their warnings about the April 21st mobile update and how it would potentially change the web. With this knowledge, pay close attention to the news as it develops, and realize that you have the power to anticipate these changes.

    7. Users Shape the Future.

    articleimage1062 Users Shape the Future

    This is a fundamental concept that underlies all of Google’s updates, and it should underlie your marketing strategies as well. Objectively, all of your marketing strategies are about acquiring and retaining customers, and the best way to do that is by giving your users the best possible experience. Because Google wants the best possible experience for its users as well, it will reward you when your users are happy with what you’ve done. Keep your attention focused squarely on the needs and wants of your users, and you cannot fail.

    These lessons apply to more than just the SEO world; they can apply to the digital marketing world in general. Take inspiration from these truths and consider them when planning for the future. The more in tune you are to the ever-changing landscape of technology and communication around you, the better you’ll fare in any campaign.

  6. Mobilegeddon Is Almost Here: Are You Ready?

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    By now, you’ve probably heard plenty about the incoming April 21st update being colloquially referred to as “Mobilegeddon.” While Google has been in the business of rewarding mobile-optimized sites for years now, they’ve decided the time has come to make a bigger stand for ubiquitous mobile-friendliness on the web.

    Mobile devices are a big deal in the modern world, responsible for a large percentage of all searches and web activity that’s growing larger with every year. In addition, every year brings us new generations and new styles of mobile devices that need to be accounted for in any online strategy. As Google readies itself for a future dedicated to the ever-growing base of mobile users, your business has one last chance to get ready for the first landmark update.

    The April 21st Update

    “Mobilegeddon” actually only refers to one Google update—the yet-unnamed algorithm change that Google plans to roll out starting on April 21st. If you want to survive, you’ll have to make sure your site complies with the new standards the update will set forth.


    articleimage1059 Intention

    The purpose of the update is to ensure mobile accessibility across the web. While Google already indicates whether a site is mobile-friendly or not in mobile search results, and sites that are mobile-friendly rank higher than sites that are not in both mobile and desktop searches, this update intends to push the envelope further.

    As far as we know, the update is going to be a simple on-off determination. There is no sliding scale for sites that are partially optimized for mobile or starting to be optimized for mobile—after this update, Google is going to see your site only as optimized or non-optimized. It stands to reason that if your site is non-optimized, it is going to be hit with a penalty. It is also known that the update is going to apply to an entire site—meaning you can’t just optimize your home page for mobile and leave the rest of your pages behind. The exact specifications of the update are currently unknown, and are unlikely to be revealed even after the algorithm change rolls out.


    articleimage1059 Size

    The algorithm change will affect Google’s entire system, meaning there are no websites that will be excluded from judgment. The update is also said to be bigger than both Google Panda and Penguin, meaning it’s going to affect the ranking of a greater number of sites for a greater number of queries than either of two of the most significant updates we’ve ever seen.This isn’t going to be a minor tweak—chances are, your rankings are going to change after this update, for better or for worse.


    articleimage1059 Scope

    While the update will start rolling out on April 21st, as with most Google updates, it’s going to be rolled out gradually. Expect to see gradual changes in your ranking and the rankings of others over the course of a few weeks. The mobile update may also be prone to future adjustments, much like the regular iterative updates to both Panda and Penguin that have come over the years.

    How to Tell If Your Site Is Ready

    Now that you know the full size and scope of the update, you should have a pretty good idea of what you can expect. If your site is determined to be mobile-friendly, you should be in the clear, but if your site isn’t, you could suffer a harsh ranking penalty. So how can you tell whether your site is ready for the update?

    The Mobile-Friendly Test

    articleimage1059 the mobile friendly test

    The name says it all. Google is a gracious company, and they’re offering a free test for any website to gauge whether or not it is currently considered “mobile-friendly.” You can also judge this based on whether your SERP entry contains the phrase “mobile-friendly” next to your site’s title. All you have to do for this test is enter the URL of a specific webpage, and Google will analyze whether it is friendly. Keep in mind two things: first, every page of your site will need to be optimized in order to pass the test on April 21st. Second, there’s a chance the new update will take factors into consideration beyond the functionality of this mobile-friendly test.

    The Mobile Usability Report

    articleimage1059 the mobile usability report

    If you already have Google Webmaster Tools installed (as you should), you can run a much more thorough test to identify any potential issues across your entire domain. If you’re worried about a stray page here or there not being mobile-friendly but don’t want to enter all the URLs manually, this is likely the best option for you. Take note of any discrepancies, and take action immediately while you still have time.

    If your site still isn’t mobile-friendly, there’s precious little time for you to take action, but there should still be enough for you to make a positive change. Implement a responsive design, select a responsive template in WordPress, or work with a developer to ensure a mobile version of your existing website is available for any mobile device that tries to access any page of your site.

    If you can’t get this done by April 21st, you can expect to lose rank—but don’t panic. Google is a strict, but relatively forgiving company. Take the time to make the necessary mobile-friendly updates to your site, even if it takes you beyond April 21st, and eventually, you’ll see your rankings restored.

  7. How to Find Page Errors with Webmaster Tools

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    articleimage1056 How to Find Page Errors with Webmaster Tools

    You’ve done all the upfront work for your SEO campaign. You’ve carefully designed your navigation and internal pages so that your users have the best possible experience. You’ve fine-tuned your onsite copy and page titles to be optimized for searches. You’ve even spent the last several months updating your blog with fresh, authentic, well-written posts to attract new customers and show Google that you really know your stuff.

    There’s only one problem: if Google doesn’t see what you’ve been doing, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve done. If there’s some kind of blinder preventing Google from being able to see or crawl your material, it might as well not even exist.

    Fortunately, Google knows how destructive these blinders can be, and it knows that they’re sometimes undetectable (since Google’s algorithm operates invisibly in the background). In response, it’s developed a series of tools you can use to test whether there are currently any page errors interfering with the normal crawling of your site.

    The first thing you’ll need to do is set up a Webmaster Tools account (if you haven’t already). Here, you’ll be able to access all these tools at any time and determine the state of your site.

    Types of Page Errors to Look For

    There are many different factors that could lead to Google being unable to see or index your site, and all of them are equally bad. However, some of them are more complex to fix than others. Knowing where to look for these errors is half the battle; the other half is simply a matter of correcting them once they arise.

    Overall Site Errors

    articleimage1047 overall site errors

    If you’re paying attention, you should be able to catch broad site errors on your own. Still, sometimes your entire site can go down and it’s a matter of days before you notice. This is bad news. In Webmaster Tools, head to the “Crawl” tab and check out “Crawl Errors.” At the top, you’ll see a short row of different statuses, including “DNS,” “Server Connectivity,” and “Robots.txt Fetch.” A little green checkmark next to each of these will let you know that your site is up and running.

    If your site is down, one of these will likely be responsible for the issue. You can use this diagnostic report to determine how to take corrective action.

    Individual Page Errors

    articleimage1047 individual page error

    You’re going to stay in the same place for these type of errors, which are far more common and less noticeable. Scroll down to where you see the phrase “URL Errors.” Here, you’ll find data from the past 90 days on all the individual pages of your site that are returning errors. Sometimes, this is due to loading issues or other minor forms of interference, but for the most part, these will be the all-too-common “404 error” or “Not found” error.

    Even if you’re generally on top of your work, you’re bound to have at least a handful of your internal pages showing up here as 404 errors. This can be due to changing your page navigation without updating your sitemap, changing the URL name of a page without setting up a redirect, or just taking a page down and forgetting to make the necessary updates afterward. In any case, this report will show you exactly which pages on your site are returning the error and when the initial instance of the error was detected.

    The best way to fix these is to either restore the pages in question or set up a 301 redirect, which will direct Google’s bots to head to a new URL instead of the old, problematic one.

    Meta Data Errors

    articleimage1047 meta data errors

    These aren’t actually errors, per say, but they can get in the way of your site’s ranking and are notoriously hard to detect without the proper toolset.

    In Webmaster Tools, head to the “Search Appearance” tab and click on “HTML Improvements.” Here, you’ll find a list of different discrepancies with your site’s meta data—namely, the title tags and meta descriptions of your individual pages. This list will be conveniently broken out into which are duplicates, which are too long, which are too short, and which are non-informative.

    There’s no easy way to fix all of these errors at once. Instead, you’ll have to take a look at an individual page level and rewrite the titles and descriptions under scrutiny. With duplicate meta data issues, sometimes the problem is fixed as easily as changing a couple of words.

    Indexing Errors

    articleimage1056  indexing Errors

    Finally, you’ll want to check that Google is properly indexing all your pages. In this process, you’re going to be comparing two things: the first is your own sitemap and the second is the “index status” you’ll find in Webmaster Tools. You can find this under “Google Index” and “Index Status.” Under the Basic view, you’ll be able to see how many pages Google is currently indexing—if this number doesn’t match the number of pages on your sitemap, you have an indexing problem. Check to see that your sitemap is up to date, and that none of your pages are currently being blocked by robots.txt. If you have any recently added pages, remember it may take a few days before Google indexes those pages.

    Page errors can seriously slow down your SEO efforts, but they’re only temporary setbacks. Figure out where the problematic areas are, take corrective action, and it won’t be long before your rankings are back to normal.

  8. Google’s Vision of the Future of Mobile

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    articleimage1032 Google's Vision of the Future of Mobile

    Google is the reigning champion of the Internet. Whatever moves the company makes toward new technologies, new products, or new online policies, the rest of the digital world tends to follow. In that sense, Google is a trendsetter, and understanding Google’s vision for the future can help digital marketers prepare for the next phases of an ever-evolving world.

    Today, the preeminent concern for most businesses is how new mobile devices—most notably, smart watches and other wearable devices—are going to shape how people find and retrieve information. For companies who have invested countless time and significant money into their website and SEO strategy, the notion of wearable devices changing the scope of Internet use from the ground up is worrying. What’s worse is that the future is unknown, meaning it’s nearly impossible to adequately prepare for the changes that are coming.

    However, Google has made a number of moves lately that suggest its vision for the future of mobile. By studying these moves, as well as the types of mobile technology that await us in the future, we can make a reasonable prediction for how online interactions, social strategies, and SEO should develop.

    Google’s April 21st Update

    articleimage1032 google april 21 update

    Google has been a proponent of mobile-optimized websites for years now, but its impending update on April 21st promises to reshape the world of mobile ranking once again. Up until this point, sites that have been optimized for mobile get a slight ranking boost over sites that aren’t mobile friendly—even on desktop searches.

    The details of the April 21st update are still foggy, but we do know that it’s going to completely change how Google evaluates which sites are “mobile friendly” and which are not. It’s also going to carry a stiffer penalty for sites that aren’t mobile optimized by the time of the algorithm change’s launch—and rumor has it, this update will be more impactful than either Google Panda or Penguin, two previous game-changers in the search engine world. We also know that the algorithm will look at sites in a yes/no evaluation. Rather than judging mobile friendliness on a sliding scale, sites will either be optimized or not optimized.

    This update is important because it shows how serious Google is about ensuring a quality mobile experience. More and more people are relying on mobile devices for their online use, and Google intends to expedite that shift in whatever ways it can.

    The Indexing of Apps

    Google has also recently begun indexing mobile apps, much in the same way that it currently indexes full websites. Users searching for specific apps or keywords related to those apps will be able to find them easily, even when they aren’t accompanied by a traditional website.

    Though a bit of a stretch at this point, apps are starting to grow in popularity when compared to traditional web use. Rather than relying on the conventional process of pulling up a browser, going to a search engine, looking for a site, then using the site for a purpose, apps consolidate that process down to simply pulling up and using a single app. As the number and diversity of apps continue to expand, it’s reasonable to expect that people will be relying on the traditional web (and traditional websites) less. This effect is compounded by the decreasing screen size of mobile devices, which make touch-based apps far easier to use than web browsers. Google appears to be under the same impression, meaning in the future, it may be important or even necessary to be involved in the app game, instead of only relying on your online presence.

    Integrated Information and Functionality

    articleimage1032 Integrated Information and Functionality

    Google has also made moves in terms of how it pulls and evaluates its information. Over the past few years, Google has formed partnerships with other applications to pull different types of niche information, both to display in search results and to use as part of its more traditional ranking algorithm. For example, Google relies on the quantity and quality of reviews on Yelp for local businesses to partially determine ranks. It also pulls in live tweet information from Twitter in response to trending or news-based queries.

    This shows that Google has a vision of a more interconnected online world, where instead of building isolated towers, Internet companies work together as co-dependent hubs in a vast, interconnected network. In the new mobile world, this would mean more information and more functionality is available immediately, without the need to hunt it down from different providers. For businesses, that means getting involved on as many platforms and as many apps as possible.

    The Knowledge Graph

    articleimage1032 The Knowledge Graph

    Google is also stepping away from traditional search results, instead favoring its new Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph, which collects information from around the web and presents it in the form of a “quick answer” for certain types of user queries, is growing, and it’s already taking some traffic away from otherwise high-ranked sites. This shows that Google isn’t concerned about taking people to the right website when they have a need or a question; if Google has the answers, it’s going to be more than happy to give those answers up front, with no other website needed.

    It’s impossible to predict exactly how the web or mobile technology is going to develop from here, but Google’s agenda remains pretty clear: do whatever it takes to improve online user experience. With that vision in mind, there are a few steps you can take now to start preparing for that future. Get involved on other apps and platforms. Hedge your bets by launching an app. Make sure your site is responsive, and above all, give your users the value they crave in whatever form you can.

  9. Why Google and Twitter Are Joining Forces

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    Google and Twitter recently closed a deal that will allow Google to include the body content of tweets in its search results. Previously, Google was able to crawl Twitter’s site for indexable information, but as a result of this partnership, this information will be immediately available to Google.

    While the details of the plan are still under wraps, I expect that once live, this will mean we’ll see live and current tweets embedded near the top of search results for relevant queries. For example, if news of some major announcement breaks, anyone searching for information on that announcement will see real-time tweets from influential Twitter users in line with other, more conventional news search results.

    This isn’t the first time Twitter’s material was made available to the search engine giant; in fact, there was a very similar partnership in place between 2009 and 2011. Twitter allowed the deal to lapse, rather than renewing it, in an effort to gain a tighter control over its own content. This new deal isn’t expected to go live until later on in the first half of 2015, but the partnership is significant for Google, Twitter, and the marketing world as a whole.

    How Google Benefits

    articleimage1011 How Google Benefits

    Google’s motivation is relatively simple. The company has always strived to give users the best, latest, and most accurate results for searches, and lately, they’ve been obsessed with integrating with other companies and services in order to give their users the best possible online experience. Integrating live tweets into search results would mean that users get more, better, more immediate information than they have before. For regular Twitter users, it also cuts out a step—users can get traditional information about a new event while simultaneously scanning for how that event is affecting the public. It also gives Google even more clout in the search world—the more partnerships it forms, the stronger it becomes.

    How Twitter Benefits

    articleimage1011 How Twitter Benefits

    The deal will also be beneficial for Twitter, though the social media platform will face some additional challenges as a result. Obviously, getting exposure in Google’s search engine is a good thing—that’s the entire reason why SEO exists. Users not currently on Twitter performing routine searches will get exposure to the brand and may be prompted to spend more time on the platform.

    However, there are a few potential wrinkles to this setup. While users will see individual tweets, there’s no guarantee they’ll actually sign up as a user or use Twitter more. In fact, if users can see tweets just by searching for a given topic in Google, they may actually be less likely to use the platform. Since most of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertising, if the majority of users rely on tweets from Google search, they may lose out on some significant revenue.

    Why This Partnership Is Important for Marketers

    articleimage1011 Why This Partnership Is Important for Marketers

    Google and Twitter each have their motivations and goals for this partnership, but what really matters about this deal is how it’s going to affect you. Since tweets will now be included in major Google searches, marketers will have to adapt their strategies to stay current with their audiences.

    Real-Time Updates Will Become More Important

    First, tweeting in real-time is going to become far more important. Concerning matters of breaking news or recent announcements, you’ll no longer have to write a press release or significant content in order to get recognized by searchers. Something as simple as a hashtag or a brief mention on a tweet, if timed correctly, could get your brand in front of hundreds, if not thousands of searches. The companies who spend the most time reading the news and staying actively involved with current events will stand to benefit most from this new partnership.

    Mistakes Will Be Less Tolerated

    There’s also a flip side to this increased visibility. It means your errors will hit the spotlight faster, and they’ll be harder to make up for if they end up going live. Countless companies, including major brands, have tweeted unintentionally offensive material or poorly worded entries that damage their overall reputation. Even when confined to Twitter, these types of mistakes were devastating. Now that they’re going to reach an even wider audience on Google, smart brands will take the extra time to proofread everything that reaches the public eye.

    SEO and Social Marketing Will Be Closer Than Ever

    Social media marketing and SEO have been closely related for some time now, and this partnership is only going to increase the power of that connection. The actions you take on social media, particularly Twitter, will give you a much greater chance at showing up in searches—and you might even get a boost in domain authority by proxy.

    This partnership alone may not prove to be a revolutionary game-changer in the world of SEO or social media; companies will still need to put up a serious effort on both fronts, prioritizing user experience and accurate, valuable information like they always have. But this partnership will likely pave the way for others in the increasingly interconnected world of Internet and social companies; already, Google has made partnerships with companies like Uber and OpenTable to bring these services closer to the public and improve its own capabilities. This tight interconnectedness will only grow in the coming years, so marketers would be wise to pay attention to popular apps and platforms and get involved with as many of them as possible for greater visibility.

  10. Is Google Using Information Accuracy to Rank Sites?

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    articleimage664Google’s Slow Decline

    It’s well known that Google puts its users first when it comes to calculating search ranks. Domain authority, a measure of a site’s merit or trustworthiness, is one of the most important factors for determining where a specific page within a domain will rank. For example, if a user searches for “shaving cream,” a site with a “shaving cream” page and a high domain authority will rank higher than a similar site with a low domain authority.

    The factors responsible for forming a site’s domain authority are somewhat mysterious. Search marketers have uncovered many of these factors, either through official Google releases or through trial-and-error based experiments with Google’s search directly. For example, we know that the number and quality of backlinks pointing to a domain factor into how authoritative that domain is perceived to be. But new information suggests that Google is attempting to find new, better ways to calculate a site’s authority, including using the accuracy of information found on the domain.

    What the Research Shows

    articleimage619 Analyze and Nurture Your Reviews

    New Scientist recently revealed that the search engine giant was starting to push the idea of Knowledge-Based Trust (KBT), which is a proprietary method of calculating a page’s authority based on how accurate the information found on it is. Rather than exploring the backlink profile of a site, this algorithm would focus on “endogenous signals,” which would determine the correctness of various facts listed on the page.

    To determine the correctness of this material, Google would compare snippets of information found on the page to similar snippets of information it already has compiled on the Knowledge Graph. In case you weren’t aware, the Google Knowledge Graph is a compendium of verified information pulled from various authoritative sources on the web and reviewed manually for accuracy. You can see information from the Knowledge Graph in its current state by searching for movies, actors, politicians, or other famous subjects—it’s presented in an organized box on the right-hand side.

    According to Google’s recent report on the matter, the KBT algorithm has already been used on 2.8 billion facts and snippets taken from the web. In what was considered to be a successful test, Google verified the accuracy of 119 million web pages and 5.6 million websites. While it’s difficult to say how accurate the algorithm was in determining that accuracy, it seems to be a good start for the technology.

    How Will This Affect Existing Websites?

    Assuming the KBT algorithm one day goes live, Google researchers have suggested that it will only serve as a complement to existing authority-determining factors like backlink profile analysis, rather than a replacement of them. Should the algorithm take effect, there will likely be significant volatility in search ranks. Depending on how accurate your site’s information is compared to Google’s Knowledge Graph, you could move up or down in rankings in a sudden motion.

    However, because Google’s algorithm already detects the quality of your writing and the strength of your content, authority is already based on accuracy by proxy. If you’ve remained committed to posting only the best, most helpful information you can to your users, chances are the release of this new algorithm will not significantly lower your rank.

    Also consider the fact that KBT is mostly based on information housed in the Google Knowledge Graph. Currently, the Knowledge Graph only contains very specific types of information; for example, novels, celebrities, cities, and historical events are all categorized and indexed based on a certain format, but more complex information like “how to change a tire” are more difficult to categorize, and likely will not be indexed by the early stages of Google’s more advanced information-processing products.

    When the Change Could Take Effect

    Google is nothing if not meticulous. Before the company integrates its KBT algorithm into its existing search algorithm, it’s going to want to be sure of the technology’s effectiveness, and that means months of rigorous testing. Early signs appear to validate the effectiveness of the algorithm, but Google’s development team will likely want to refine their approach before debuting it to the general public.

    That being said, Google is constantly pushing for new updates and the best possible search functionality for their billions of global users. Since the KBT algorithm is largely based on the quality of the Knowledge Graph and the Knowledge Graph has been in constantly refinement since 2012, Google may be more willing to make an early push. Google’s updates typically come as a surprise even to search marketers in the know, so KBT will probably be rolled out when we least expect it.

    How to Prepare

    articleimage612 Is your content great enough

    For now, don’t worry too much about KBT. It’s stuck in a testing phase right now, and when it rolls out it will probably be refined to the point where it only minimally affects the landscape of search. What you can and should focus on in the meantime is the quality of your content. Start double checking the facts and figures of all your posts in syndication, and implement a review process that formalizes a fact-checking procedure for all new works that end up on your site. This procedure will help your site become more KBT-friendly, but that’s a far-off concern. Your immediate priority should be taking more steps to ensure that your users get the most accurate, most valuable information possible. Like Google, you must always put your users before anything else.

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-The AudienceBloom Team