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Category Archive: SEO

  1. The 5 Most Important Marketing Strategies for SEO

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    SEO can be considered a strategy all on its own. There are certain website structures you’ll have to include, like robots.txt files and structured data microformatting, that only exist to help your search visibility. Similarly, things like page titles and meta descriptions don’t do much beside improve your ranks and appeal in SERPs, and while link building can net you referral traffic, its main purpose is increasing your domain authority.

    When you list these items out, however, there’s a shockingly small number of them. The truth is that successful SEO is complex, multifaceted, and dependent on a number of peripheral marketing strategies to show its true potential.

    Take these five marketing strategies, for example—without them, you’ll have a hard time seeing meaningful results in SEO:

    1. Branding.

    articleimage1636 Branding

    Branding is all about who you are as a brand. It’s responsible for your logo, colors, and tagline, but more importantly, it determines your voice, your target market, and how you present yourself. All this information is important in establishing your ongoing content and social strategies (which you’ll find later on in this list). Even more importantly, it’s responsible for distinguishing you among the competition. No company exists in a vacuum; there are probably several companies out there like yours. It’s possible to beat another company in rank by doing what they do on a more massive scale, but it’s far easier and more effective to find your own niche, your own distinctive personality, and your own unique angle. A proper branding strategy will give that to you, and add fuel to the other marketing strategies on this list.

    2. Content Marketing.

    articleimage1636 Content Marketing

    A modern SEO campaign simply can’t exist without a content marketing strategy. However, content marketing can’t be considered a part of SEO directly because it’s useful in its own way—it’s responsible for promoting your brand’s authority, enticing returning traffic, and even optimizing for conversions so you earn more revenue from your incoming traffic. But taking a step back from that, content aids your SEO strategy by increasing the amount of web “real estate” that Google can index, increasing your overall relevance and authority, and helping your brand become associated with the niche terms and phrases you’d like to be known for. Content serves a number of roles, but no matter what your primary intention is, your main goal should be the same—producing the most helpful, interesting, detailed, original content you can, as often as you can without sacrificing its quality.

    3. Guest Posting.

    articleimage1636  Guest Posting

    Guest posting is an extension of content marketing, as it’s basically just a form of content marketing that exists on outside platforms. Manual link building can still be effective if done tactfully, but you’re better off including links in the body of valuable guest posts, which have the added benefit of earning you more direct visibility (and possibly some referral traffic besides). Even a brand mention, without a link, can increase your domain authority, so take advantage of any guest post opportunities you can. When you first start out, you’ll be limited to lower-authority sites and niche publications, but as you grow in presence and authority, you can work your way up to much higher-profile, higher-authority sites. The higher up you go, the more visibility you’ll get, and the more authority you’ll get for your domain.

    4. Social Media Marketing.

    articleimage1636  Social Media Marketing

    Social media marketing is a great tool for syndicating your content, making new connections, and growing a following for your brand, but it’s also useful for SEO. Some forms of social content, like tweets, are indexed by Google, giving you a slight search visibility advantage on their own. Beyond that, social media doesn’t do much to directly influence your ranks. Instead, this influence is indirect—social media can help you build a larger audience of readers, get your content seen by more people, and ultimately increase your reputation online. This, in turn, will help you get more social shares from your site and more links pointing back to yours from external sources. These actions pass authority to your site, netting you higher ranks (and of course, you’ll benefit from all the social-originated traffic, as well).

    5. Email Marketing.

    articleimage1636  Email Marketing

    First, let me say that email has no direct influence on SEO whatsoever. Google can’t see, index, or consider the emails you send to your customers. However, your email marketing campaign can increase traffic to your site and improve reader relationships with your ongoing content. Create a regular email newsletter that shows off your best content, inviting users to come to your site and read more. If done properly, you’ll get higher numbers of returning traffic, and more shares (which in turn, lead to more links and authority). Email can also improve your social media audiences by keeping your followers more invested in your brand and drawing new followers in.

    Ideally, your SEO campaign will be complemented by all five of these marketing strategies. While only some of them influence your ranks directly, all of them indirectly influence your ranks by earning more attention and engagement for your brand. The best course of action for any marketer is to treat these strategies both as independent campaigns and as parts of an overall “whole” in online marketing—that way you can get the best of both worlds and keep your entire operation running smoothly. As you proceed, you’ll learn that some of these are more valuable for your brand than others—emphasize those, but always have the others running in the background for support.

  2. The 10 Most Common Onsite SEO Hiccups to Fix

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    Onsite SEO is ground zero for your SEO strategy. You might have a fantastic backlink profile, a thriving social media presence, and amiable ongoing relationships with other sources and publishers, but if your site isn’t properly optimized for search engines, you could suffer a lower domain authority and throttled ranks.

    It’s often hard to notice when something’s off with your onsite optimization, because it isn’t something SEOs tend to visit frequently (the way they would a blog or link profile). Fortunately, onsite errors are easy to find if you know what you’re looking for, and even though it might take some time, they’re relatively easy to fix.

    To keep your site in tip-top condition, scout for these 10 common onsite hiccups:

    1. Duplicate content.

    articleimage1638 Duplicate content

    Duplicate content can sneak up on you; it’s usually the result of improper page structuring rather than deliberate copying and pasting. For example, if you have two versions of the same page, one with a URL of http:// and one with https://, Google could index that as two instances of the same content. You can generate a list of these instances in Webmaster Tools. When you locate an error, you can either delete the page in question, or add canonical tags to make sure Google knows which version of the page it should index.

    2. Missing title tags.

    articleimage1638 Missing title tags

    Title tags are one of Google’s favorite means of analyzing the purpose and function of your site. If you’re missing any, it could cost you some serious ranking points. Odds are, you’ve got your home page and main navigation pages on lockdown, but what about those other, less popular pages? Use Webmaster Tools again to check for any missing title tags, and while you’re at it, look for any duplicates. Every page should have a unique tag.

    3. Missing descriptions.

    articleimage1638 Missing descriptions

    Missing descriptions are the “sister problem” of missing titles. You’ll be able to find and detect them the same way, so you can probably knock both of these out at the same time. Like with title tags, you’ll first want to make sure every page on your site has one, and then comb through and ensure that all of them are unique.

    4. Mobile hitches.

    articleimage1638 Mobile hitches

    You may already pass Google’s mobile compliance test, but are you sure your site is running seamlessly on all mobile devices? Mobile performance is a major ranking factor in both desktop and mobile search results, so prioritize it as an onsite factor for consideration. Among other things, you’ll want to evaluate the display and interactivity of your content, the availability of multimedia files like images and video, and the overall page loading time. Use multiple different devices to test your site on a variety of different platforms.

    5. Blank images.

    articleimage1638 Blank images

    You should have lots of images on your site (if you’re practicing content marketing and web design effectively), but how many of them are fully optimized for search? All your images should be titled in a descriptive, accurate way, and feature alt tags that help the search engine understand what your image is. If any of your images are blank (i.e., they don’t have titles or alt tags), now’s your chance to fix the problem.

    6. 404 errors.

    Most 404 errors are bad news. Most of the time, Google thinks you should have a page where there isn’t one. If a user’s first impression of your site is a 404 error, it could cost you a visitor, and if the 404 error persists, it could reflect poorly on your domain. Fix 404 errors by using robots.txt files to prevent Google from indexing them, set up 301 redirects, or simply fix whatever bug caused the page to go offline in the first place.

    7. Disorganized URLs.

    Your URL structures should be neat, organized, logical, and legible to a reader. Extended trails of random numbers and punctuation could cost you authority. Instead, make sure all your URLs feature descriptive, spelled-out text, and a breadcrumbs trail indicating their location within your subpages.

    8. Insufficient internal linking.

    Interlinking your onsite pages is a good thing. It keeps readers on your site for longer and helps Google understand the structure of your site. Unfortunately, most webmasters neglect linking to new pages—so check back to ensure all your internal pages have at least some links pointing to them.

    9. Poor or unclear navigation.

    This is more of a subjective factor, but it’s still worth checking. Put yourself in the shoes of one of your average visitors. Is it clear which pages feature which functions and content? Are you able to jump from area to area easily and without confusion? Do you always have the chance to go back home, or pull up a sitemap? These are important features that can sometimes get lost in the addition of new pages.

    10. Missing anchor text.

    Last but not least, check all the links you’ve featured on your site, whether they’re internal or external. Each of them should be embedded in relevant anchor text. If you notice any sticking out without anchor text, or inaccurate or nonsensical anchor text, fix it.

    If you find one or more of these errors on your site, don’t panic. It happens to the best of us. You might have simply forgotten to update a new page, or you might have overlooked something you should have optimized in the past. Either way, no single error can break your strategy, and none of these errors can hold you back for long, as long as you correct them when you find them. Remain vigilant about your onsite optimization, and check in once a month or more to make sure everything’s in its right place.

  3. How to Optimize for Semantic Search Instead of Keywords

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    Keywords are no longer relevant for SEO. Okay, that isn’t 100 percent true, but if your strategy still centers on identifying a handful of target keywords and stuffing those keywords into as many places as you can, chances are you’re never going to see the results you want. That’s because keyword-centric optimization has been on the decline ever since the Hummingbird update of 2013 changed the game and made semantic search the reigning feature in Google (which other search engines promptly copied for themselves).

    To be successful in SEO today, you need to optimize for semantic search patterns, rather than keyword-centric processes. It sounds great in theory, but how exactly can you do that?

    What Is Semantic Search?

    articleimage1637 What Is Semantic Search

    First, let me explain exactly what semantic search is. Like I mentioned, Hummingbird introduced semantic search to Google’s algorithm. Before that, all queries were handled on a basis of keyword analysis, which made keyword-focused SEO such a big and long-lasting trend. In this old search process, Google would break a query down to its root components, isolating certain words and phrases that it would then look for online—so if you searched for something like “best dentist in Bristol,” it would search for sites featuring the words “best,” “dentist,” and “Bristol” (and links with similar anchor text).

    Semantic search instead attempts to analyze the intent behind a user’s query, so in our example above, rather than mapping out the keywords included in the query, it would examine the entire phrase and determine that this user is trying to find the highest rated dentist in the city of Bristol. It would then use contextual clues from sites and offsite indicators to evaluate which dentists operate in Bristol, and of them, which are the best.

    Knowing this, you can start making the meaningful changes necessary to ensure your site is evaluated and listed properly.

    Adjusting Your Page Titles

    articleimage1637 Adjusting Your Page Titles

    Your first step is to adjust your page titles (and meta descriptions, while you’re at it). It’s still a good idea to use words that are relevant to your business, and words that people might include in their searches, but there are a few more considering factors.

    First, make sure your phrasing is natural, and not clunky. Keyword-centric optimization might have you writing titles like “Dentist oral surgeon in Bristol TN,” which doesn’t sound like a sentence a normal person might write. Write in full, concise phrases, and be as accurately descriptive of your pages as possible. As long as there’s a strong indication of who you are and what you do, you’ll be in good shape.

    Second, be careful of repetition. Keyword-centric optimization would have you repeating a specific phrase on multiple titles and descriptions throughout your site. In semantic search, this can actually work against you. Feel free to target a few phrases that might give you a competitive edge, but keep your pages as diverse as possible.

    Choosing the Right Topics

    articleimage1637 Choosing the Right Topics

    Ongoing content is your best chance to optimize for semantic search. Oftentimes, people will type full questions or long-tail quires into Google, and it then becomes Google’s job to find, not the content with the most keywords in common to the query, but the content that sufficiently answers the user’s question. Accordingly, your content should be focused on succinctly and descriptively answering as many potential user queries as possible.

    “How-to,” “why,” and “what” articles are amazing tools for this. Get to know your existing customer base, and figure out what common questions they had when they were first searching for a business like yours. Write posts that directly answer those questions (with descriptive, pointed titles), and you should have little trouble ranking for those queries when they arise. The more specific your niche here, the better.

    Writing in the Correct Voice

    articleimage1637 Writing in the Correct Voice

    When it comes to writing onsite content and ongoing articles, there isn’t much you’ll have to change in your approach. However, there are two considerations you should incorporate. First, remind yourself that it’s not necessary to stuff keywords into your articles. Focus your efforts on being concise and descriptive, and the rest should come naturally. Second, know that most semantic queries are long and conversational, so try to make your content a little more conversational accordingly. Conversational, casual tones are more approachable for readers, so in addition to maximizing your potential visibility, you’ll also increase your retention.

    The RankBrain Factor

    Finally, I want to mention RankBrain. RankBrain is Google’s new AI add-on to Hummingbird, designed to update Google’s algorithm automatically and regularly to improve its semantic understanding of queries. Simply put, its job is to figure out complex, ambiguous types of queries and map them to simpler, more natural versions. Accordingly, your content strategy should be focused on the simpler, more natural versions of queries. Instead of shooting for a rare, niche audience with complexly worded phrases, try to keep your voice as natural and concise as possible.

    It’s Easier Than You Think!

    articleimage1637 It’s Easier Than You Think

    Okay, this was a bit of a long article, but if you boil all the information and advice featured here down to one idea, it’s this: stuffing your pages and content with keywords is no longer relevant. Instead, forget about keywords. Choose your posts and write your material to align with your users’ intentions and expectations, and maintain a natural voice throughout the process. The less you overthink this concept, the better off you’ll be.

  4. Will Local SEO Be Necessary in 2016?

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    Will Local SEO Be Necessary in 2016

    “Local” SEO works as a separate algorithm from Google’s core “national” system. When a user enters a query with a local keyword (or a geographic indicator is telling Google their location), Google produces a separate set of results near the top of the SERPs. For local businesses, relying on customers in their own communities to thrive and grow, this distinguished set of ranks has been a boon—it means a shortcut to visibility for the audiences who matter most. But what about other companies that operate on a national scale? Or local businesses that haven’t yet dabbled in online marketing?

    Local SEO is important for most businesses. It’s changed a lot in the past few years, and it’s going to change even more in the next few. In 2016, will it be necessary for you to leverage the strategy?

    Benefits of Local SEO

    articleimage1639 Benefits of Local SEO

    First, a quick recap of how local SEO can help your business:

    • Lower competition. Because your list of competitors is narrowed down to only those in your geographic vicinity, you’ll have an easier time earning a rank quickly.
    • Increased visibility. You don’t have to fight for a top spot—the top three local entries will always rise above the other results for local queries.
    • Peripheral ranking options. If you want to rank, it’s not just about ongoing content and inbound links (though those are important too). You can hedge your bets by using other ongoing tactics like review optimization and citation management.
    • Greater visitor relevance. Anyone who sees your local entry will be a local resident, meaning the relevance of your traffic will ultimately increase.

    How Local SEO Is Changing

    articleimage1639 How Local SEO Is Changing                         

    Aside from these benefits, local SEO itself is changing. Be aware of what local SEO is today versus what it will be in 2016.

    Greater unification with mobile

    Local results on desktop are starting to shift to a layout friendlier for mobile devices. Earlier this year, Google released its local 3-pack update, which reduced the top pack of local results on desktop browsers from seven to three. Website and directions are available with a click, meaning local entries are probably going to keep getting easier and more convenient to interact with. Accordingly, you’ll stand to gain more and more from being in one of those top slots.

    Increasing specificity

    Local search is getting even more local. Instead of just focusing on a city or region, new local searches could drill down further into neighborhoods or even based on proximity to the user. That means even less competition for even more specific niches.

    Increasing importance

    Users are starting to grow used to local results, and are using mobile devices (which almost always make queries local) more than ever before. In 2016, local results will be more important to users than ever—which means they’re even more valuable to rank for.

    The Time Investment

    articleimage1639 The Time Investment

    Now that you’re aware of exactly how local SEO can help you and how important it’s going to become, let’s take a look at the other side of the equation: how much it’s going to take from you to get the job done. This is assuming you’ve already got a national SEO strategy in place (if you don’t, this is a good time to get one).

    • Citation clean-up. Your first role is to make sure your business’s NAP information (name, address, and phone number) is accurate and present on your site and as many third-party review sites as possible (think Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.). This is vitally important, and can be both tedious and time consuming. You can also pay a few hundred dollars to get an outside company to do it for you.
    • Local keywords in titles and descriptions. With a few adjustments, you can easily turn all your current titles and descriptions into locally relevant entries.
    • Local keywords in ongoing content. Every so often, include a local post in your content feed—it could be coverage of a local event, or commentary on something new happening in the city.
    • Local review optimization. Encourage your users to post reviews, and respond to them whenever you get the chance. The more positive reviews you get, the better.

    All in all, outside of the time and money you’re already investing in national SEO, local SEO doesn’t demand much. It’s several hours or a few hundred dollars up front, then the rest of the work is minimal. There’s very little risk or investment required here.

    The Bottom Line

    articleimage1639 The Bottom Line

    Local SEO, like any marketing strategy, will never be wholly “necessary.” Your business won’t automatically fail because you haven’t adopted a local strategy. However, if you’re without a local SEO strategy in 2016, you’re going to miss out on a ton of traffic, and your competitors will have an easier time accumulating that traffic for themselves.

    For businesses reliant on community and neighborhood populations for revenue, local SEO is an absolute must in 2016 if you do any marketing whatsoever. For other businesses, it’s a little grayer; if you’re doing a national SEO strategy already, you might as well throw in some local optimization strategies to round out your visibility. If you operate nationally, have never touched any kind of SEO, and are fine with the stream of leads you’re currently getting—you can stand to benefit from local SEO, but it’s probably not going to break you if you decide against it. Use your best judgment and remember that local SEO, when implemented properly, almost always yields a positive ROI.


  5. Why Clicks and Visits Can’t Guarantee a Profitable Marketing Campaign

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    articleimage1614 Why Clicks and Visits Can't Guarantee a Profitable Marketing Campaign

    In the digital marketing world, there are a handful of central goals that campaign organizers aim for, the most important of which is usually traffic. You pay extra money for advertising that gets seen by more people, so you get more traffic to your landing page. You optimize your site for search engines so you rank higher and get more traffic to your website. Even content, social media, and other forms of organic inbound marketing typically revolve around getting more traffic to your site (along with some secondary goals, like increasing brand reputation and visibility).

    At the end of a long campaign, you might compare traffic results to get a feel for what was successful and what wasn’t—12,000 visits compared to 8,000 visits in the last measurement period is certainly impressive, and if a piece generates 1,000 visits compared to 600 visits from a contemporary, it can be considered a success. But too many modern marketers are becoming fixated on these traffic numbers. They’re impressive, significant, and valuable, yes, but they alone can’t guarantee a profitable marketing campaign.

    The Traffic-Conversion Relationship

    articleimage1614 The Traffic-Conversion Relationship

    The “missing piece” when it comes to evaluating site traffic as a measure of return is the number of conversions you receive. Conversions are defined differently for different businesses, but no matter how you define yours, it’s a measurable form of engagement of a user with a brand that results in some measurable gain. It might be the purchase of a product or a signup to an important form—whatever it is, it’s a sign that a particular visitor is of consequential value to your brand, and not just a tire-kicker or a passerby.

    This isn’t to say that traffic isn’t important, or even that conversions are more important than traffic. Instead, know there is a delicate relationship between the two. If you have a high conversion rate but little traffic, you won’t be in a much better position than if you have lots of traffic, but almost no conversions. You’ll have to analyze and understand both sides of the coin to properly direct and improve your campaign, and try to keep each in balance with the other.

    Why Profitability Is Your Main Concern

    articleimage1614 Why Profitability Is Your Main Concern

    To some, marketing is a necessary budget item like a utility bill—you pay a certain amount of money each month, and continue to receive necessary services. Of course it would be nice to gain better, more effective services, but profitability isn’t the main concern.

    This is an ineffectual conclusion. In fact, profitability should be your main concern in any content or inbound marketing campaign. Instead of thinking of your marketing budget as a utility bill, think of it as an investment. You have X amount of capital to invest in the smartest, most efficient way possible, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that money is invested wisely. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you invest in a marketing campaign as long as it is profitable; low-budget campaigns can be a boon for a business, and high-budget campaigns can be a disaster. It’s all in how profitable your campaigns end up being.

    Ways to Improve Conversions on Your Site

    articleimage1614 Ways to Improve Conversions on Your Site

    If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably got a good traffic generation strategy already. I’m going to assume you have a steady or impressive traffic flow to your site, but you’re worried about what your visitors are doing from there. Obviously, there’s a value in people coming to your site, getting a good impression of your brand, and leaving—this increases the likelihood of future purchases—but it’s much harder to tie to an objective metric like conversions.

    So to guarantee some level of measurable value for your traffic, the best thing to do is optimize your site for conversions. Here are some of the best ways to do it:

    • Have multiple callouts for conversion onsite. Use banners, pop-ups, and footer-based windows to call users to action on most, if not all, of your pages. Just don’t annoy or frustrate users by making these obnoxious or having them block out the content they came to read. There’s a fine line here, so run some user tests to make sure you don’t cross it.
    • Use interlinking to direct users to call-to-action pages. Link your internal site pages to other internal site pages (as long as they’re relevant) to keep users onsite longer and maximize chances for conversion.
    • Increase trust with testimonials and value propositions. A review page, testimonial from a real customer, or a handful of unique value statements can increase consumer trust. Without that critical trust, customers won’t be comfortable buying from you.
    • Make it easier to convert. Reduce the number of steps a person needs to take to complete the process. Users will jump ship if a form is too long or if there are too many clicks involved.
    • Use clear, compelling copy to attract customers. Work on your headline to be as concise, clear, and compelling as possible. It will probably take several rounds of editing before you get it right.
    • Use bold, visually attractive designs to lure users’ eyes. A sharp contrasting color combined with an arrow or another visual cue can work wonders in guiding your users.

    Don’t think you’re done optimizing just because you’ve touched on every bullet point I’ve listed above. Proper conversion optimization is a constant, ongoing process. You’ll need to watch closely to see how your user behavior changes, and make tweaks that gradually increase your conversion rates. With consistent—or even better, growing—levels of traffic, your conversion rates should almost guarantee a profitable investment in marketing (unless you’re spending money on items that aren’t actively contributing to your bottom line).

  6. What Is RankBrain and How Does It Affect SEO?

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    articleimage1613  What Is RankBrain and How Does It Affect SEO

    It’s never that much of a surprise when Google comes out with some new feature or update for its search algorithm. In fact, the company has made a name for itself in always striving for a better, more amazing product. When Google announced recently that it was introducing a new feature to its search algorithm called RankBrain, not many people outside the SEO community seemed to care. Even after Google pointed out that the new RankBrain system had been watching, tweaking, and changing search results on its own for more than a month, few people noticed anything different in their search results. Accordingly, there hasn’t been much in the way of public discussion.

    Despite this lack of public awareness, RankBrain is one of the most significant advancements to Google’s algorithm since the Panda update, and if you want to preserve and improve your SEO strategy for the coming years, you’ll need to understand its full potential.

    The High-Level Breakdown of RankBrain

    articleimage1613 The High-Level Breakdown of RankBrain

    Before I get too deep into the tangible effects of the RankBrain system, let me explain the basics. RankBrain is a machine learning algorithm that works in conjunction with the Hummingbird Update to give better search results for user queries. The Hummingbird update included the then-new feature of “semantic search,” so rather than focusing on individual keywords in a user query, Google would be able to look at the entire phrase and user intention behind it. RankBrain takes this a step further by analyzing ambiguous, unclear, or otherwise indecipherable semantic user queries, learning from the experience, and applying that experience to future, similar queries.

    For example, if you search for something like “what is the executive leader of the United States called?” you might get results about the position of “President.” On the other hand, if you search for something more ambiguous like “who is it that leads America in politics?” Google might struggle. With RankBrain, Google would be able to learn that the latter search query is actually just a less clear way of rephrasing the former search query, and would gradually shift search results to match. This is impressive because the majority of Google’s search algorithm updates, including Hummingbird, have been deliberately and painstakingly pre-programmed by human beings. RankBrain is going to learn, posit, and execute updates to itself over time, free of any human intervention.

    Misconceptions of RankBrain

    articleimage1613 Misconceptions of RankBrain

    Though RankBrain is only a few weeks old at this point, there are a handful of key misconceptions about what it is and how it fits into our current understanding of search.

    First, understand that RankBrain isn’t a formal algorithm update. Unlike Panda, Penguin, or other landmark algorithm changes, RankBrain isn’t shaking up the ranking factors that Google considers when sorting out which sites to list first in the SERPS—instead, RankBrain is something of a ranking signal of its own. It’s working in conjunction with the Hummingbird update (which is an algorithm update) to produce a better understanding of queries—not a different selection of results. Think of it as a query translator.

    Second, know that RankBrain is similar to, but distinct from, the Knowledge Graph. Because RankBrain and the Knowledge Graph are both forms of query service that analyze user queries and improve via machine learning over time, it’s easy to mix them up or assume that they work in the same way. However, RankBrain is focused on understanding queries, while the Knowledge Graph is focused on providing the best direct answers to certain queries. Think of it this way; RankBrain could serve to better understand your query, then pass it off to the Knowledge Graph for a proper and complete answer.

    Users will continue using Google the way they always have, without any visual or experiential clues to suggest that anything different is happening behind the scenes. The end result is going to be better results for a greater number of queries, which is important, but shouldn’t provide any disruption to usual processes.

    Will Search Change That Much?

    articleimage1613 Will Search Change That Much

    The nature of RankBrain means that the average user isn’t going to notice much of a difference. The changes it makes will be tiny, gradual, and will only exist for long-form user queries. Still, you might notice yourself getting better results in certain areas—apparently, RankBrain has already affected millions of queries (which isn’t that impressive for a search engine that processes more than 40,000 queries every second).

    What Does This Mean for SEO?

    articleimage1613 What Does This Mean for SEO

    If you’re worried about what RankBrain will mean for SEO, don’t be. Because RankBrain is more focused on analyzing and mapping out user queries than it is sorting out sites for potential rank, you won’t have to change much about your current strategy. Best practices are still best practices, and there aren’t any strange new ranking factors to learn and implement. Still, don’t be surprised if you see some ranking shakeups coming out gradually in the next few months as RankBrain scales upward. Because ambiguous long-tail phrases are the main targets here, if your strategy revolves around long-tail keywords, you might see a small hit in overall ranks (or a small boost, depending on the queries). But it’s nothing to be concerned about, and it doesn’t demand any significant changes to your existing approach.

    Ultimately, RankBrain is an impressive and significant addition to Google’s algorithm, but it isn’t going to revolutionize the world of SEO the way algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin have. However, this is a major step for Google in the introduction of machine learning to its central processes. Keep watch for other, similar machine learning segments of its algorithm to be introduced, and stay on your toes to react to those changes. You never know what Google will come up with next.

  7. The 7 Biggest Myths in Mobile SEO

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    Mobile SEO has been a major focus of marketers for the past few years, as the rise in popularity of mobile devices has caused some significant changes in the optimization industry. Mobile traffic has now overtaken desktop traffic in total numbers, and major players like Google have made their stance on the issue clear—earlier this year, Google released a “Mobilegeddon” update that penalized any site that wasn’t properly optimized for mobile devices.

    Optimizing a site for mobile devices is important to rank well in search results, but unfortunately, a handful of myths have arisen about mobile SEO as a strategy. I’d like to take a moment and clear some of these up, to make the mobile SEO world just a little less confusing for all the well-intentioned marketers out there:

    1. Desktop and mobile SEO are totally different.

    articleimage1612 Desktop and mobile SEO are totally different

    First, I want to take mild issue with the term “mobile SEO.” It implies that traditional SEO is “desktop SEO,” and that “mobile SEO” is a wholly separate entity. There are definitely some differences between them, but there are a greater number of similarities. Basic SEO best practices like proper coding, sitemapping, meta text writing, content optimizing, ongoing content, and several dozen other “basic” ranking factors I won’t take the time to list are relevant to both desktop and mobile SEO. There’s only a handful of differentiating strategies, which mostly revolve around offering seamless mobile functionality for your site, that distinguish the two (and these factors affect both desktop and mobile ranks!)

    2. Mobile search is a different animal.

    articleimage1612 Mobile search is a different animal

    There’s a persistent idea that mobile search and search results are totally different from desktop counterparts. First, people like to claim that mobile queries are shorter, or that they’re more conversational due to voice-based search. Even a few years ago, this wasn’t the case. Now that voice-based search and apps have advanced further for both desktop and mobile devices, user queries have certainly changed—but they aren’t very different between devices. Similarly, mobile and desktop results have different layouts—but as evidenced by Google’s recent switch to a local 3-pack ranking system for local results, these are getting closer and closer together in form and function.

    3. Mobile-specific URLs are necessary.

    articleimage1612 Mobile-specific URLs are necessary

    The separation of “desktop” and “mobile” SEO is probably to blame for this myth. For a time, mobile-specific URLs were one of the best and most efficient ways to set up a mobile site. Mobile sites were comparatively rarely accessed, and mobile URLs were an easy way to make sure your site was properly formatted for mobile. Today, responsive design is a much more popular means of optimizing for mobile, thanks to its easy implementation and flexible parameters.

    4. Responsive sites are necessary.

    articleimage1612 Responsive sites are necessary

    Responsive design is fantastic, easy, and effective to make a site mobile-compliant for practically any device—that being said, it isn’t necessary. You can still have a mobile-specific URL or subdomain and suffer no ranking penalty. As long as your mobile users don’t notice the difference, Google won’t either. Personally, I recommend a responsive design for any modern site since it’s the easiest to manage and least time-consuming when it comes to testing, but the choice is yours.

    5. Passing Google’s mobile compliance test is all that matters.

    Even before it announced its landmark Mobilegeddon update, Google was more than willing to help webmasters get their sites ready and functional for mobile devices. It has, and still does offer a mobile compliance test to let you know exactly how your site stacks up for mobile devices—even letting you know if there are specific pages of your site that aren’t functional. The problem is, this is a pass/fail test that only covers the basics—if you pass, that’s a good start, but it doesn’t guarantee that your site is user friendly or that it will rank well in mobile search results. Check all of your content to make sure it loads properly, work to reduce loading times, and put mobile users in priority consideration when it comes to designing interactive elements.

    6. Apps are necessary to rank in mobile.

    If you have a mobile app, it’s possible to give it more visibility for certain user queries. Accordingly, having a mobile app can boost your brand’s overall visibility in search engines on mobile devices. That being said, a dedicated app is not necessary for every mobile SEO strategy—you’ll suffer no penalty by not having one.

    7. Going mobile-only is better than having a desktop and mobile version.

    This myth stemmed from a recent statement by John Mueller that mobile-only sites are completely fine—that having no desktop equivalent will suffer no ranking penalty. This is definitely true, and it’s fine if you want to go mobile-only, but don’t misconstrue this information; mobile-only isn’t inherently better in any way. Instead, it’s tolerated. If you have any desktop traffic at all, it’s worth considering it in your UX design.

    Don’t buy into these all-too-common mobile SEO myths. Yes, having a site optimized for mobile devices is important, and yes, mobile and desktop search results do have differences, but you’re better off sticking with the strategies you know work for sure and avoid overcomplicating things. As always, keep watch for new updates as they roll out and listen to what Google is telling you—there aren’t many buried secrets about how to improve a site or how to rank well, regardless of what devices you target.

  8. How Should the Holidays Affect Your SEO Strategy?

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    Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and that means the Christmas and holiday season are already in full swing. Consumer purchases are starting to rise, as they do every year, and most major retailers are starting to roll out special holiday promotions to attract even more consumer spending.

    Obviously, if you have a physical location, responding to the holiday season in some way is almost universally a wise choice. Whether you offer special products, reveal certain discounts, or just decorate your business, you’ll stand to earn a little more cash (and probably some more consumer goodwill toward your brand).

    But what about the digital realm? You can list your special products and promotions pretty easily if you have an e-commerce site, and use social media to communicate any themed messages you might have in mind, but should the holidays affect your baseline SEO strategy?

    Does Your Business Need a Holiday Strategy?

    articleimage1611 Does Your Business Need a Holiday Strategy

    First, and most importantly by far, consider whether your business needs any holiday-specific web strategy. This should be a no-brainer for most companies; if you’re a retail store that sells consumer products that could be used as gifts, the Christmas season means a lot to your bottom line. If you’re a financial advisory firm, probably not so much.

    The lines get blurrier toward the middle. What if you’re a retailer of big-ticket appliances like microwaves and refrigerators? You’re in retail, but these aren’t exactly common gifts. What if you’re a marketing firm? B2B companies generally have less to gain during the holiday season, but companies could ramp up their spending to attract retail consumers of their own or use up that last bit of budget for the year. There’s no clear answer that can apply to everyone, so use your best judgment here. If you don’t have much to gain from a holiday strategy in general, forget about it as an SEO tactic.

    Consider Your Timing

    articleimage1611 Consider Your Timing

    If you’ve decided that the holidays could be a benefit for your SEO strategy, consider your timing carefully. At the time of this article’s publication, it’s nearly Thanksgiving. If you’re reading this now and you’re just starting to consider implementing an SEO strategy, it might be too late to reap the benefits this year. As you’re undoubtedly aware, it takes months of work before you start to see results. By the time you get things up and running, we’ll be well into 2016.

    On the other hand, if you’re reading this in early autumn or if you already have some fundamentals for a holiday strategy, you could still see a benefit. With a few months ahead of you, you should have plenty of time to see results mid-season. If you already have a head-start, a few weeks could be all you need to ramp back up. If neither of these apply to you, you’ll have to wait until next year to get a jump on your next strategic opportunity.

    Which Products Are You Pushing?

    articleimage1611 Which Products Are You Pushing

    Think about what products you want to push this season. Do you have an entire section of your site dedicated to “Christmas Ideas?” Or are you more interested in amplifying the visibility of evergreen products that might also beneficial for the holiday season? If the former, optimizing for holiday traffic is your only choice for dedicated visibility—you’ll definitely earn some residual core traffic that wanders to those areas of your site, but you won’t have much of a chance for those pages to rank unless you do some work for them. If the latter, you may see a natural spike in organic visits from the natural ranks you already have—meaning no additional holiday work is necessary.

    Holiday-Themed Terms and Seasonality

    articleimage1611 Holiday-Themed Terms and Seasonality

    There are two options when it comes to holiday-oriented SEO: reinforcing the work you’d probably be doing anyway, or trying to optimize for holiday-specific inquiries with holiday-specific keywords and phrases like “Christmas ideas” or “holiday shopping guide.”

    The former strategy can be implemented pretty easily, as it goes along with the work you’ve already been doing. You’ll see an increase in visibility and traffic in time for the holidays, but the real benefit is that come January, your work will still be relevant and useful for your brand.

    Compare that to the strategy of optimizing for holiday-specific terms. This might be a major boon for your company in the short-term if the holiday season is your best opportunity to make a profit, but when January hits, all those keywords will become irrelevant for another 11 months or so. Consider this when determining whether it’s worth the extra effort—again, there’s no right or wrong way to approach it.

    The Bottom Line

    Optimizing for holiday traffic isn’t for every business. If the holidays don’t affect your business much, you absolutely don’t need to worry about it. Even if the holidays do give you an increase in traffic or consumer spend, it may not be worth adjusting your strategy—it all depends on your goals, your customers, and your business cycle.

    If you’re a retailer who thrives on holiday sales, optimizing for holiday-themed keywords is usually a prudent investment. However, you need several months to ramp up a strategy properly, so think carefully about when you’ll implement your work. If you aren’t a retailer but you still want to get some extra benefits around the holidays, focus your work on key pages and products that might be particularly relevant during the season—your work will remain evergreen, making it a better long-term investment than a short-term one.

  9. Are Mobile and Desktop SEO Any Different?

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    articleimage1599 Are Mobile and Desktop SEO Any Different

    Mobile SEO has been in the spotlight for a few years now, as mobile traffic has risen dramatically to overtake desktop traffic in total volume. Google has added fuel to the fire by making mobile SEO an absolute must, launching its “Mobilegeddon” update earlier this year to penalize any webmasters who haven’t taken the time to optimize for mobile. Shortly after, Google’s John Mueller released a statement that to rank successfully in Google, a desktop site isn’t really necessary as long as you have a good mobile site—so what’s the deal? Are mobile and desktop SEO really that different, and if so, do you need both to succeed in SEO?

    Why the Terms Are Differentiated

    articleimage1599 Why the Terms Are Differentiated

    Why is there a “mobile” and “desktop” SEO in the first place? Why isn’t there just standard “SEO?”

    In SEO, the terms “mobile” and “desktop” can actually apply in two different contexts. The one that people usually consider is a traditional desktop site versus a traditional mobile site—meaning that “desktop” and “mobile” refer to two kinds of sites, one of which is intended to function on desktop machines, and one of which is intended for mobile devices. This gets complicated because when these terms started appearing, most mobile sites were separately hosted versions of desktop sites (or else were found on subdomains via redirects). Now that responsive sites, which function seamlessly on both desktop and mobile devices, have emerged this terminology gets fuzzy; a responsive site is typically considered a mobile site, merely because it performs well on mobile.

    In this context, “mobile” is important because it refers to a site’s ability to be easily loaded and viewed on a mobile device. “Mobile-optimized” and “mobile compatible” are often used here as well. Because desktop sites were the norm for so long, it is assumed that all new sites are automatically “optimized for desktop,” and because mobile devices are smaller and more finicky than desktop devices, even new “mobile sites” (responsive or otherwise) don’t bear much risk of sporting a desktop loading error.

    The second context for “mobile” and “desktop” is more specific to SEO itself—Google actually produces separate results based on whether a user is performing a search on desktop or a mobile device. A few years ago, this meant your mobile searches were far more likely to fetch results that were mobile-friendly, and you might see different layouts for your destination SERP. Today, thanks to Mobilegeddon and gradual aesthetic tweaks from Google, mobile and desktop results are pretty similar. Being optimized for mobile can actually help your rank even in desktop sites.

    With that explanation out of the way, we can start digging into what could qualify as “mobile SEO” versus “desktop SEO.”

    General Best Practices

    articleimage1599 General Best Practices

    When it comes to general best practices for SEO, mobile and desktop SEO are practically identical. Your rankings in both types of SERPs depend on your domain authority, onsite content, availability and functionality for mobile sites, security, site speed, inbound links, social integration and shares, and an appropriate technical structure. With these in place, along with an ongoing content and audience development strategy, ranking in mobile and desktop results should be more or less the same.

    A Single Site

    articleimage1599 A Single Site

    As I mentioned above, the term “mobile SEO” only came about because desktop sites were so dominant, and because mobile sites used to be hosted or developed separately. Now that responsive sites have offered an all-in-one solution, there’s no reason why a modern webmaster would be concerned with separating the terms. All sites should be accessible on both types of devices no matter what kind of SEO strategy you want to follow. In this context, there isn’t a major differentiator between “desktop” and “mobile” SEO—even if desktop rankings are all you’re after, you still need a mobile-optimized site.

    Unifying SERPs

    Mobile and desktop SERPs are different, with different layouts and ranking structures, but they’re gradually growing to become more similar. Take, for instance, the new local 3-pack on desktop results, which emulates the traditionally mobile local 3-pack. Results are also becoming more similar as the months go on, reducing the need to differentiate the terms.

    Mobile-Specific Strategies

    articleimage1599 Mobile-Specific Strategies

    Despite all the similarities and shared space that desktop and mobile SEO offer, there are still some mobile-specific optimization strategies that only help your mobile visibility:

    • Voice search. Mobile users are beginning to rely on voice search more than typed search, so long-tail and conversational keyword phrases are more important for mobile visibility than desktop.
    • Map optimization. Most people use Google and Apple maps exclusively on mobile devices. Ensuring that your information is available and accurate is crucial to gain more mobile visibility.
    • Local listings. Local results exist in desktop searches too, but they’re far more prominent and important in the mobile world.

    Even so, adopting these strategies won’t offer any miraculous turning points to your strategy by themselves. They’re only effective if you already have a responsive, functional responsive website (which works for both desktop and mobile optimization), and you’re adhering to all other SEO best practices across the board.

    The Bottom Line

    In this age of Mobilegeddon, the domination of mobile traffic, and the availability of responsive sites, “mobile SEO” and “desktop SEO” are not as different as they used to be. You can optimize your site for mobile devices to improve user experience, or run checks on desktop to see if your site is displaying properly, but as long as you have one website that displays on both types of devices (and both types of SERPs), most of your other strategies will apply to both. That being said, there are a number of unique strategies that only apply to mobile devices, so “mobile SEO” does still exist, and should be taken advantage of if you want to reap more mobile traffic.

  10. 7 Signs That a Site Has High Authority

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    In the SEO world, authority is what counts most. A higher authority means more respect from Google and other search engines, and more respect from search engines means higher rankings for more queries. If your site has a high enough authority, you’ll rank naturally for any queries that might be relevant to your brand and company, but authority isn’t easy to come by. It can’t be purchased, stolen, or requested; it has to be earned.

    To make matters even more complicated, authority is invisible, and difficult to precisely quantify. Some companies have tried to produce a definitive “authority” score, like Moz’s MozRank, but since Google doesn’t explicitly publish its ranking algorithm, it’s tough to know exactly what goes into a calculation of authority.

    That being said, there are some important signs that only indicate sites with high authority:

    1. Your Domain Is Old and Established.

    articleimage1596  Your Domain Is Old and Established

    Google doesn’t exactly frown on new players, but it does favor older, more established domains over new, unproven ones. Like it or not, if you’ve only been around for a year or so, you’ll have a hard time ranking against a major competitor with 10 years of domain history (assuming all other factors are equal). There’s no real substitute for this quality, and you can’t push time forward, so remain patient and work on establishing the other qualities on this list while your domain gradually earns more experience here.

    2. You’ve Posted New Content Frequently and Consistently for Years.

    articleimage1596  You’ve Posted New Content Frequently and Consistently for Years

    Google heavily favors sites that post new content on a regular basis. A site that has posted a new article every day for the past five years will have a much higher authority than a year-old site that occasionally and sporadically posts new content. However, be warned that quantity isn’t everything here—in fact, a site that posts occasional, yet high-valued content will likely earn more authority than a site that posts constant, yet low-valued content. Make an effort to post new material consistently, but make sure it’s original, informative, or otherwise valuable to your users.

    3. You Link Out to Other Authorities.

    articleimage1596 You Link Out to Other Authorities

    It’s impossible to exist as an authority unless you also cite outside authorities. Imagine turning in a research paper in college without a list of references; the same principle applies here. You can certainly post your own thoughts, opinions, and knowledge, but if you want to exhibit yourself as an authority, you’ll have to occasionally cite valuable outside sources. University and government sites, with .edu and .gov domain extensions, are good here, as are major industry experts. Try to back up all of your claims with pre-existing research, even if those claims are original.

    4. Other Authorities Link Back to You.

    Even more important than your links to outside sources are the links your outside sources point to you. An external domain linking to yours is an indication that your domain has provided original value worth citing, which immediately factors into your overall authority. Of course, not all links here are equal—links from high-authority sites, sites within your niche, and links from a diverse range of sources are all more valuable. Work to increase the value and volume of these links over time by syndicating your greatest content and offering guest posts for external blogs.

    5. Your Content Is Concise, Informative, and Specific.

    Onsite content can factor heavily into your overall domain authority, so make sure each of your pages is up-to-date and well-written. The three most important factors for onsite content are conciseness, which means you can’t include any fluff, informational appeal, which means your content must be valuable, and specific, which means your content should be written for your industry and target audience. To achieve higher ranks for certain topics, you’ll have to pay attention to your precise phrasing, but for domain authority, good, descriptive content is plenty.

    6. Your Coding Structures Are Modern and Properly Formatted.

    articleimage1596 Your Coding Structures Are Modern and Properly Formatted

    The technical structure of your site needs to be up to modern standards. Your site map and navigation should be clear and decipherable. Your title tags and descriptions should be adequately and concisely filled out. You should also be including org microformatting, to ensure Google can pull rich snippets from your site. If you’re concerned you aren’t providing Google what it needs from a technical perspective, you can always log into Google Webmaster Tools and run some auditing scripts to see if there’s anything that needs correcting.

    7. Your Site Is Fully Functional on All Devices.

    This is a big one, especially now that the majority of online traffic comes from mobile devices. Your site needs to be responsive, or at least optimized for mobile, and all your images, video, and content should load quickly and completely across all web browsers and devices. If Google detects any hiccups, errors, or ridiculously slow loading speeds, it could cause your domain authority to take a hit. On the other hand, if your site loads fully and quickly on every conceivable device, you’ll enjoy a much higher authority.

    If your site displays most or all of these signs, it means you’re in good shape, authority-wise. If you notice yourself missing most of these, you definitely have some work to do. Even with all these factors in tow, you can always stand to improve your domain authority (and by extension, page authority) by writing better content more frequently, earning more inbound links, and making onsite tweaks that improve user experience.

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-The AudienceBloom Team