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Is SEO dead? Let’s check the facts.

SEO is absolutely not dead. As long as people use search engines like Google search, SEO will be alive, valuable and can be extremely cost effective and very much necessary. What has changed, and will continue to change, is the SEO landscape.

So, let’s look at the new landscape and what is driving it with the big boys like Facebook and Google.

Purchase intent keywords are now:

Dominated by huge brands that 99% of the world can’t outrank (without spamming which will get you in trouble.)Returning less product pages and more articles and other forms of content that are considered “Valuable” or “quality”.

Triggering the knowledge graph, review aggregates, and focused on more user focused results.

So, given these truths, If we want to increase these traffic trended going into the future, what can we do?

There are three main things:

Pay for it:

What? But that seems to go against what we think about SEO?

Not really. This is an often overlooked part of SEO that is referred to as SEM or Search Engine Marketing. One of the more common forms of this is display ads or Pay per Click (PPC). This is best used as a ‘remarketing’ strategy. The idea is to cast a wide net across the web, grab as many “fish” or users as possible and then, when the users are ready to purchase, use highly targeted paid ads to get them to make that purchase with you. It’s more or less like fishing in a tide pool at low tide. You get the fish into the pool and then wait until they have a hard time swimming away and go fishing. Or to coin another often used term, shooting fish in a barrel.

Create valuable content:

Many of the top pages these days are dominated by results that have content that compares ratings, product pricing, or other information on products or services. On top of this, you can have a local variant in the mix such as a city, region or country.

In these results, instead of trying to jam these pages with links which will result again, in the before mentioned spam issue, the best course of action is to create content that delivers what the search engine like Google or Bing, wants. By creating value with your content, you will also create social media traffic as people link to your content through shares and powerful direct linking from posts.

Another wonderful by product to this is the fact that the review aggregate sites may also link to your content as references or additional information which will further add to your traffic.

This on top of the fact that both Google and Bing have made it abundantly clear that “content is king” on their search engines and are tooling their algorithms to be more “language sensitive” such as the BERT update back in October 2019 which I wrote about here means if you want to compete for those top spots these days, content is, king.

Optimize your website for the web:

Now, this is one of those things many SEO people seem to just pass right over. It’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization), not GO (Google Optimization).

Google is only one of many “indexes” that are called a search engine. In fact, one of the first ones is hardly ever talked about and it was where Google got it’s start, DMOZ, which is the largest search directory in the world. It’s bigger than Google even.

Bing is a search engine. Facebook is a search engine. Twitter is a search engine. Amazon is a search engine. Quora is a search engine. Pinterest is a search engine. YouTube is a search engine. Yelp is a search engine. DuckDuckGo is a search engine…..so why are we always focused on Google?

Well, Google gets about 70%-80% of the searches is why. It has the most “fish” in its ocean to try to catch. But, do you only fish in the ocean? Or do you also fish in rivers, ponds, and lakes?

Also, what kind of fish do you want to catch? Some fish can’t be found in the ocean just like some fish can’t be found in a pond, lake or stream.

So why are you limiting your options when you want fish?

All of these search platforms offer some of the same benefits as well as some unique to their own style and audience. In many cases, Google is not even being used anymore and its move to a more “pay to play” search is a direct result of this. Facebook went to a pay to play strategy long ago and now Google is headed that direction also. Soon, that will be the normal whereas, just a few years ago, people were scoffing at such an idea.

SEM Internet Marketing

SEM Internet Marketing

For example, let’s say you are moving and you want to get new furniture.

Now you might think, “Well, I’d go to Google and look for furniture naturally.” and sometimes, you would be right. But more and more, people are cost minded and want options. They want to see what the furntireu looks like, how well does it hold up, where is the best price, what are the delivery options, can I see it before I purchase….all kinds of things. So, social media comes into play and this has changed that to a process that goes something like this:

Pinterest – They use Pinterest search to find inspiration on how to decorate. Using keywords like “home decorating” they narrowed down what kind of furniture they want to specific pieces they like.

Amazon – They then go to Amazon and search with keywords that are based on the furniture they liked on Pinterest.

Ebay – They also check on Ebay and sometimes even Craigslist knowing that they might find cheap, secondhand furniture there still in good condition.

Etsy – Finally, they land on a little known place called, Etsy. Etsy specializes in unique handmade items including furniture. This is not a “cheap” solution but, in the end, they didn’t want “cheap”, they wanted what they wanted and were willing to pay for it.

Now, you could have gone and used Google and do all of these searches. However, the results would have started out much wider and the process would have been much more involved. Many people have become tech smart and know where to start their searches OFF Google. And the trend is continuing. By skipping going to Google, they are starting their searches off in a much smaller body of water and this is why you can not afford to leave these off your SEO checklist.

These specific platforms and search engines are being used to start a user’s search in those much more content focused ways. I used to say, “Do you have a page one Google site?” when I was talking to my clients. This has become, “How much is your presence across the web optimized? Not just on Google?”

Now, let’s take a different situation. Let’s say you’re a local only business wanting to get new clients. You need to target places like Yelp, Thumbtack and other local directories.

Do you have an ecommerce shop? Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all excellent channels.

You need to understand who your target audience is and where they spend their time, then you can attack those platforms and build an organic presence.

We need to understand that times have changed. We can’t just “rank and bank” for whatever we want anymore. Those days are numbered and that number is very quickly spinning down to zero, if it has not realistically already happened. This isn’t a phase. It’s the way it’s going to be going forward.

As both search engines and users get more intelligent about their searches, we must become more intelligent about how we approach marketing. That doesn’t mean looking for ways to beat the search engine algorithms, it means instead to use them to our advantage, just like before.

So no, SEO is not dead. It is, as always, evolving, changing and morphing into something different. And those that fail to adapt, will not survive.

But those that do, will thrive.

 

 

 

The Changing Nature of SERP

As of June 2019, a majority of SERP results receive 0 clicks!

 

That’s right, no clicks. Nada. Nil. ZERO.

 

How can I say this? Well, it’s not just me. This coming from search expert Rand Fishkin.

 

This has nothing to do with algorithm changes or any “behind the scenes” workings of the search engines. It’s all about the way Google’s (and other) search engine results pages (SERP) are configured. More and more, you’re seeing knowledge panels, answer boxes, and featured snippets that are taking up real estate on the search page and they’re often answering the questions that people are searching to find. The means that they no longer have to click through to your website to get the answer they seek.

They’re getting it right on the search results page!

 

Because of this, it can be argued that Google itself is turning into the competition!

 

If you’re not familiar with these SERP features, here’s a quick overview:

 

Knowledge Panels:

 

These are information boxes that appear on Google when you search for people, places or things. In this case, Rand Fishkin was searched and to the right of the search is the knowledge panel.

 

SEO Knowledge Panel

SEO Knowledge Panel 

Answer Boxes:

 

The answer box is a feature on the SERP that is powered by either a knowledge graph or it’s information that Google has scraped from a website.

 

SEO Answer Box

SEO Answer Box

 

The answer box is also referred to as Position Zero because it shows up above all other listings. You can optimize for this but we will make that a future blog post.

Of these two SERP features, the answer box is the competition to most websites. Normally, you optimized pages on your website to answer the questions that people were asking or to target specific terms they were searching to find information for.

Now, they often get their answer without even noticing your site or even if you’re website page is in the 1st or 2nd position on the search results page! Roughly 50% of searches never even bother to click your search link. So why bother with SEO?

Because they are still doing the searches on the search engines and they are still clicking on the links. However, smart SEOs now also optimize for position zero and the answer boxes too. SEO has become more complicated than ever before and there simply is no “one stop shop” when it comes to optimizing for your search results.

 

Now We’ve Got BERT

 

We have written about Google’s BERT update in October 2019 before.

 

BERT is Google’s biggest algorithm update in the past five years. According to Search Engine Land, BERT will impact roughly 10%, 1 in 10, of all search queries.

 

BERT stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”. To put that into layman’s tongue, BERT is a learning algorithm that focuses on natural language processing to figure out the answer to “what does the user really want”.

The important part of this algorithm update is that BERT is applied to both rankings and featured snippets. The Answer box is one of these featured snippets so, this seems to indicate that we can expect to see an increase in the answer box snippet as a result of the direction that Google is taking. Thus knowing how to optimize for “position zero” is a vital part of your SEO strategy and will become only more important as this trend continues.

 

What Can You Do?

 

There are a couple of things that you can do, strategically, to try to minimize the fall out of your search traffic. First, you should check out our 100% FREE, no obligation Google TOP 10 SEO Checklist. This is absolutely FREE of charge and gives you critical knowledge of your sites SEO health that you can use as you wish. Toss it away, take it to your current SEO team or, as we hope, let us help your bottom line and get you more traffic. Then we can help you to do the following (among other things):

 

Get In The Box:

If Google is going to have answer boxes at the zero position, get your website listed in one. You may not get traffic from that listing but at least you’ll have a little brand exposure. But chances are, this will generate at least some traffic and being seen is always better than being not seen.

 

Phrase Strategy:

Start optimizing for the long-tail phrases that people are using to get answers. Answers that you provide with your website and articles. Search queries that contain 3 to 6 words now account for over 54% of all searches! While ranking great for one or two words is great, ranking good for 3 to 6 is now vital also. Get 10 primary and 20 secondary keyword phrases you want to rank on page one for and focus your efforts there. Ranking for 1000 keywords that nobody searches for doesn’t help move traffic to your site.

 

Don’t Omni channel:

Don’t just focus on Google and the SERPs. Reduce SERP impact on your website traffic by using all of the marketing channels that make sense for your business. Facebook posts, twitter feeds, instagram posts, youtube videos, industry directories, white papers, blog posts, and authoring articles are just a few of the many channels you should be putting your effort into these days. Leave no stone (or channel) unturned!

 

Diversify:

 Google is not the only fish in this ocean of SERP. Now, give me a second before you start laughing. Whole it is true that Google has the lion share of searches, roughly 70% to 80% of the grand total, that still leaves 20% to 30% out there on other search engines like Bing, Ask, DuckDuckGo and more. There are lots more than one search engine out there, Diversify your optimization efforts to include these also. Google doesn’t use meta-tag keywords anymore for example and hasn’t for years but, many of the other search engines still do. Don’t leave them out!

I’m not saying that you should stop optimizing for Google at all, but rather include Bing and the others in your search optimization efforts and plans. Regardless of the strategy that you choose to employ, it’s going to take time. So don’t wait until the majority of your search traffic falls off and you’re not getting enough traffic from other sources to make up for it. Start developing your plan and getting it implemented as soon as you can.

 

 

Contact us by 31 March 2020 and you can get 50% off our normal rates!

SEO Review 2019 by SEO Web Services

SEO was a roller coaster in 2019 to say the least.

 

SEO Marketing

SEO – SEM – Search Indexing

 

 

Structured data-powered rich results helped to push zero-click searches to an all-time high. Regulatory scrutiny heated up as numerous antitrust investigations of Google were announced domestically and abroad and the BERT update in October 2019 brought enhanced natural language understanding to search engines. Google+, the company’s biggest push into social media, faded into history and, to top everything Google off, after 21 years, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down and appointed Google CEO Sundar Pichai to lead Alphabet.

 

Bing turned 10 and has been more disruptive than ever. Most SEOs still have no real clue just how Microsoft’s search engine actually ranks pages as you can still do 10 searches and come up with 10 different results.

 

And that is just the tip of a rather big iceberg. So let’s take a look at SEO in 2019.

 

Search Updates:

 

In 2019, Google was a little more forthcoming about big core updates. On top of confirming the March core update, the company introduced a naming convention and, starting with June, Google began giving SEOs and site owners a heads-up before rolling out core updates. It did the same with September’s core update.

 

Google also made other, more specific updates, including one to give more weight to signals that indicate expertise, authority and trustworthiness along with a diversity update aimed to limit listings from a single domain to two results for a given query. In August, a recency update emphasized more timely featured snippets and another, introduced in September, was designed to give more preference to original reporting. Most significantly, in October, Microsoft and Google both introduced improved natural language understanding via BERT.

 

Searches ending without a click to website content hit an all-time high this year, now constituting more than 50% of Google searches, according to Jumpshot data. The decline of organic clicks has been brought on by UI changes on the search results page.  For example, rich answers, which often eliminate the need for users to click through on a result, have more than doubled in mobile search results since 2018, a Perficient Digital study found. The introduction of support for FAQ and how-to structured data drew mixed reactions from marketers for its potential to increase their visibility on the search results but at the cost of possibly disincentivizing the click. The prevalence of rich results has affected the way people navigate search features, giving rise to the “pinball pattern,” in which users bounce their attention between elements in a nonlinear fashion. If this is representative of the way users interact with the search results page, there is a clear incentive for brands to optimize for Google’s ever-growing number of search features.

 

Google rolled out a mobile search result redesign with black “Ad” labels for paid listings and favicons for organic results. Some members of the SEO community pointed out that the redesign was likely to lead users to further mistake ads for organic results. All sites previously unknown to Google prior to July 1 are now indexed using mobile-first indexing. However, older sites are still being moved over to mobile-first indexing when Google deems them ready.

 

Google employs human contractors to evaluate its search results and, although they do not directly influence rankings, they provide feedback that helps Google improve its algorithms. In 2019, the guidelines that these people are instructed to follow were updated three times. In May, the guidelines were refreshed with more explicit references to E-A-T (expertise, authority and trustworthiness) and provided directions on evaluating interstitial pages and content creator expertise. The September guideline revisions added more emphasis on vetting sources, particularly for news and Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) content. It also added the potential to spread hate as one of the grounds for which a rater might apply the lowest content rating. Google attempted to encourage impartiality with its December update to the guidelines, in which it reminded evaluators that users come from diverse backgrounds and that ratings should not be based on “personal opinions, preferences, religious beliefs, or political views.”

 

Googlebot/Bingbot, new and improved?

 

In May, Google amd Microsoft launched evergreen versions of their web crawlers, Googlebot and Bingbot, meaning that the crawlers will stay up-to-date with the latest version of Chromium. Although some limitations still exist, evergreen web crawlers based on the same Chromium platform mean more of our content can be seen by Bing and Google with fewer instances of troubleshooting for a particular crawler will be needed.

 

As of September 1, Google withdrew support for unpublished rules within the Robots Exclusion Protocol, putting an end to noindex as a directive within the robots.txt file. However, it is recommended to leave such directives in the robots.txt file as other search engines, such as Bing, have not followed suite.

Further changes announced by Google introduced rel=”sponsored” and rel=”ugc” to indicate paid and user-generated content, respectively. On the heels of that announcement, it also said that it would be treating all link attributes, including rel=”nofollow,” as a hint for ranking purposes rather than a directive. The “hint” treatment and the optional nature of the new attributes had many SEOs contemplating who was likely to gain from their adoption and the value in implementing them at all.

 

Local search:

 

Google My Business added more tools for business owners, namely bulk review management, a new screening program called Google Screened and searchable short names while Yelp launched paid profile upgrades, including verified licenses for local providers, business highlights and a portfolio section.

Members of the SEO community witnessed local rankings volatility in early November.

Joy Hawkins, owner of Sterling Sky Inc. and the Local Search Forum, suggested that the changes were mainly related to relevance and that Google seemed to be doing a better job of understanding a broader set of search terms as they might be applied to a single business. Contributor Craig Mount, founder of Classy Brain, said that the update doubled-down on proximity signals. Google confirmed the update in early December, referring to it as the “Nov. 2019 Local Search Update,” following the naming convention it uses for core search updates. In its announcement, the company stated that update was related to neural matching, which would help it understand when a query contains local search intent. This update has rolled out to all countries and languages worldwide. Local listings are a valuable channel for many businesses, but the system is far from perfect and many are concerned by the direction that Google seems to be headed.

In April, the company sent out a survey to local businesses asking how much they’d be willing to pay for some of the features they were already receiving for free. Local SEO practitioners’ responses ranged from excitement at the prospect of better customer support to criticism for abusing its position in the search market. Competitor ads began appearing on local profiles in August, reminding businesses that Google is the true owner of their My Business listings. The option to remove these ads has not been made available.

On top of this, businesses in need of immediate help with their Google My Business listings found themselves with one less resource when the company shut down its toll-free customer support line in November. Anyone wishing to speak directly to a support specialist must now fill out a form to request a call back.

In addition to the changes in Google’s local service offerings, spam listings have plagued local results. Local SEOs have been keen to point out that Google stands to gain even with the spam problem, as legitimate businesses may be driven towards paid ads to regain visibility. Google has highlighted its spam-fighting efforts, but they have done little to alleviate concerns from the SEO community and business owners.

 

Antitrust and privacy at home and abroad:

State attorneys generals from across the U.S. announced investigations into Google (and Facebook) in September over alleged anti-competitive behavior. The multi state investigation will be conducted with the cooperation of federal authorities and focus on the degree of control Google exercises over the digital advertising sector and whether it acquired companies to stifle competition. On top of its legal troubles in the United States, Google continues to face regulatory scrutiny in Europe. In March, the company was fined $1.7 billion over “abusive” AdSense publisher contracts, pushing the total fines from three antitrust complaints spanning 2017–2019 to $9.3 billion. And, in November, EU antitrust regulators announced that they were investigating Google’s collection and use of data, with a focus on “data related to local search services, online advertising, online ad targeting services, login services, web browsers and others.” Around the same time, complaints against Google from rival shopping comparison engines also caught the attention of the European Commission. As part of one of its earlier settlements with the European Commission, Google will be prompting Android users in the EU to select a default search provider beginning in 2020. The bidding process it’s using to select which competitors will appear on the search engine choice screen has drawn complaints from critics.

 

All in all, 2019 has been a very stormy year for SEOs with lots of changes and more mostly likely to come in 2020. Google remains the driving force in SEO and SEM however so, be sure to get your FREE Google Top 10 SEO Checkup from SEO Web Services. There is no obligation what so ever and at the very least, you will have the information on your website’s basic SEO health based on Google’s top 10 points.

 

SEO Web Services wishes you a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

We at SEO Web Services want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving 2019!

 

We are thankful for our many loyal and satisfied SEO clients but, moreso, we are thankful for the blessings of living in the freedom of the United States of America, for our family and friends and the blessings we have everyday.

 

For the law enforcement officers, the fire fighters, the EMTs and other first responders and for the many doctors, nurses and military people that will not be sharing their Thanksgiving with their loved ones but instead, secure our freedom.

 

And for our other furred, feathered, scaled and skinned pets that make our lives more full.

 

To help out this year, here is a quick and fast way to cook the Turkey (or any fowl) quicker and easier. We did this last year and it really works!

 

How to SPATCHCOCK a TURKEY!

 

 

BERT update

Google BERT update

NOT THIS BERT

 

What is the BERT Update?

 

Well, the BERT update is the biggest change to Google’s algorithm in the last five years. With the Google BERT Update, Google has targeted their search engines ability to interpret complex long-tail search queries and display more relevant search results. They have done this by using NLP, Natural Language Processing, which has greatly improved the search engines ability to understand the semantic context of search terms.

Why does this matter to SEO professionals? Well, simply put, Google uses BERT to try to better understand the context of a search query while being more accurate about the meanings of the individual words. The search engine then analyzes a word in relation to all the other words in the search query and don;t simply look at the meaning of words in isolation. Its the natural progression of Panda and Hummingbird, along with other changes,  and it will effect about 10% of the searches done on Google.

Google estimated about 15% of all search queries are brand new, never been done before. Add to this the growing use of voice technology to do searches and the need to adapt these searches to normal human communication becomes an ever increasing need. It is said that within the next two years, 50% of all searches will be done by voice. Even today, seven out of ten searches are considered long tail searches. With people asking full blown questions of Google and other search engines, its important to make sure you’re optimization is keeping up with such trends.

Google provided some example on its blog where BERT helped to get better search results based on the importance of the word “to” and its relationship to other words in the search query. A second example was one which deals with evaluating the search results to choose the most relevant featured snippet. In the search, “parking on a hill with no curb”, the focus used to be placed too heavily on the word “curb”, ignoring the importance of the word “no”. This meant that a featured snippet was displayed that was of little use, as it actually answered the opposite question to that being posed by the searcher. Advances such as BERT are changing the landscape SEO professionals must work within in order to keep their websites ranking.

So what can SEO professionals and webmasters do?

There’s no easy answer here. Just what impact BERT will have long term is still anyone’s guess. MOZ’s Pete Meyers said the MozCast tool tracks shorter head terms and not the types of phrases that are likely to require the natural language processing (NLP) of BERT. Most other tracking tool companies are saying similar things. And since the roll out at the end of October 2019, there has not been much change in the SERPs or even traffic to most sites. Google has also stated that there is no real way to actually optimize for BERT. They have stated that content is still king when it comes to SEO optimization. So doing the fundamentals of focusing on great content, fresh new content and relevant content remain the best avenue for SEOs to travel on, at least for now.

As once was said to me by my father, “Worry about the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

Or in this case, write content for people and you will take care of BERT in doing so.

And don’t forget about our 100% FREE Google Top 10 SEO Checkup report.

Until next, I bid you peace.