8 Things That Are Wrong with Google Search Today

My Post - 2020-02-17T183208.888

Regardless of what you do with your days and nights, you’d be hard-pressed to never have used Google at some point in your life.

Chances are, as we’re off and running in the year 2020, you’re using the “free” internet database and information machine on a weekly basis – most likely daily – and for good reason.

Google is an information powerhouse, serving up billions of searches a day and many-thousands of searches per second. It is second to none.

Its “hundreds of billions of webpages” that have been crawled and make up its always-expanding Search index are proof of that.

But for all its good, Google still gets plenty wrong every day.

Some problems are worse than others, depending on how often you use Google, how familiar you are with the search engines, and, basically, who you are.

A digital marketer is going to (typically) have a much more extensive understanding of how Google works than a middle-aged security guard, a stay-at-home mom, or even a police officer or a firefighter.

When considering the eight call-outs below, it is mostly considered from an everyday, average Google Search user.

That said, there will certainly be deeper explanations for seemingly basic concepts to show just how wrong Google has gotten it on several critical occasions.

1. Always Testing/Changing

Whether you’re an everyday user, sometimes user, or in-the-trenches search marketer, you most likely know Google doesn’t sit still.

The world-leading search engine makes hundreds of changes per year to its platform through thousands of updates that included more than 3,200 updates in 2018, a number that has increased each year for decades.

It has confused users, angered SEO professionals, and ultimately transformed the way nearly every human on Earth interacts with the World Wide Web.

Thus, there is likely never just one reason for any – or all – of the changes Google makes a year.

But, while many average users can easily illustrate examples of why they were ever displeased with a change Google made, there are plenty of times when those changes worked in favor of the user in terms of a better experience on the search engine.

As a search marketer, we not only appreciate many of the changes Google makes due to their impact on the overall search experience; we also appreciate these thousands of changes per year because it keeps us in demand and employs us – directly and indirectly – every day.

2. Glitchy, Like All Computer Programs

Like any technological entity, Google, too, endures glitches, bugs, broken parts, and pint-sized disasters.

In early April 2019, Google had to fix a technical issue that caused pages to be deindexed.

Later that same month, a Google issue caused the search engine to select unrelated canonical URLs that were sometimes reflected in the breadcrumb trails on mobile. In rare cases, this may have prevented proper indexing of content by Google.

The following month, Google announced it was experiencing indexing issues that lasted through much of a day.

While temporary, it was still a major issue that prevented new content from being indexed in search results and make those results far less useful than they typically are.

Search Engine Journal staff writer Roger Montti pointed out how even though “Google has suffered outages in the past, Google has not experienced so many outages in such a short period of time,” as it did in the first half of 2019, suggesting the series of problems could be tied to a larger issue like an infrastructure update.

In July, Google had to fix a bug that caused search results to not fully render for some people over a span of several days.

Then, in the following month, it fixed another a bug that prevented newly-published content from being indexed again (same issue as May).

And, just as recent as February 2020, Google experienced glitches with Google Search Console and Google Tag Manager that caused some sites to become unverified in Search Console.

Clearly, this isn’t a problem most Google users would even recognize, but it was another issue that had some sort of impact on search, its users, and Google.

3. Never 100% Accurate

No search engine is perfect.

But they have all been impressive at one point or another with the results they serve up, and Google is certainly no exception to that.

While it doesn’t need a specific name or entity title to get the answer you’re looking for, Google is able to connect the dots for people more often than not when delivering an answer with a limited amount of information for many informational-type searches.

Other, more-granular searches that are guided with specific details – like a person’s name – can result in a short, simple answer that usually becomes a featured snippet.

These answers are a work in progress – that is, building out the database tied to the entities referenced in those answers.

More often than not, featured snippet answers are correct, or at least mostly correct.

There are certainly times when the answers, or at least parts of the answers, are incorrect, though.

Like the example below (which is now fixed), Google referenced Ice Cube’s net worth, but then suggested some other similar searches, which include a photo of rapper Vanilla Ice as the representation for (a different) rapper, Ice-T. – Read more

5 Ways SEO & Web Design Go Together

My Post - 2020-02-13T165102.133.pngWhen you’re trying to improve your website’s performance, it’s important to remember that you have to focus on numerous factors simultaneously.

In both life and digital marketing, we tend to give all of our attention to one or two important elements while neglecting something else that can turn out to be equally as important.

If you want to do better in the SERPs, it takes more than just SEO.

Your website also needs to be designed well, or you risk squandering all of that organic equity you have been building.

SEO and web design work together more seamlessly than many people might realize.

Their components mingle and flow together so well that, when executed correctly, your website visitors should not actually notice anything about what you have created; they should simply start navigating through your site.

So, what are those elements where SEO and web design collaborate? Check out these five ways they are used together.

1. Mobile-Friendliness

Anyone who’s even slightly familiar with SEO or web design should already know the importance of making your website mobile-friendly.

In fact, if this isn’t something you’ve taken the time to do yet, you’re already a few years behind.

Google made mobile-friendliness a ranking factor in 2015. That’s half a decade ago.

The search giant then introduced mobile-first indexing in 2017. It’s clear to see how importantly Google views mobile-friendliness, but many websites still haven’t caught on.

The number of people searching on desktops has been declining for a few years now, while the number of people searching on mobile devices has been steadily increasing.

More than half of all web traffic is coming from mobile devices, which means that more than half of your audience is also likely to be on their mobile phones.

Without a mobile-friendly website design, you could be accidentally alienating half of your users. That is massive.

A website with a high bounce rate due to not loading properly on a phone or tablet is going to send bad signals to Google, and your rankings could plummet.

2. Easy-to-Read Design

If you’ve been working on improving your SEO, content is likely something that you have spent a lot of time on.

Some people might not realize what a huge impact the design of a website can have on your content, or at least the presentation of it.

Poor web design can make it impossible for users to read what they came to your website to do.

Pages with blocks of content in strange places, with too many hyperlinks that don’t serve a clear purpose, essentially erases any audience that you managed to bring onto your site.

And if no one can get the information they want, what’s the point?

At some point, you’ve probably been on a website that had text that was impossible to read because of the page design.

Maybe it was a light-colored text on a pure white background or a dark color on black. Those kinds of designs recall the often terrible websites of the mid- to late 1990s.

But the issue is not always color. The text may also be too big or small, or written in a hard-to-read font.

Like websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, sites that are difficult to read on any device or desktop are going to turn people away quickly.

Web designers understand how to create websites that make it easy for users to take in your content so you get the most for your money.

White space, line length, and any extra elements such as images can all affect how people pay attention to your site. Also, remember to consider people with disabilities by going for an inclusive web design format. – Read more

SEO In 2020: What To Expect For The Year Ahead

My Post - 2020-02-13T124714.689.pngAt the close of the decade and the start of a brand new year, I have taken some time to reflect on SEO trends that emerged in 2019 and those that I believe will define the year ahead.

SEO is one of the most exhaustive topics in the world of digital marketing, and there are a plethora of sources promising the latest information regarding updates to Google algorithms and the dynamic nature of consumer practices. The best advice I can offer is this: Find an in-house digital marketing expert or hire a third-party company that proves to be forward-thinking. When it comes to hiring an SEO expert, look for someone who demonstrates an understanding that trends are constantly changing and is committed to staying on top of the latest updates. SEO techniques from the previous decade will be wholly insufficient in the roaring ’20s ahead.

Did you know that Google, the most popular search engine in North America, updates its search algorithm, on average, 500 to 600 times per year? Your SEO strategy should follow a similar trajectory if you want to have the best rankings. Let’s dive into the most important aspects of SEO and what trends to expect in 2020.

Organic SEO

Organic SEO is a marketing approach that focuses on improving online visibility. While the term is widely used, it is also commonly misunderstood. When it comes to SEO trends to watch for in 2020, one of the most significant for organic SEO is the importance of advanced links.

Advanced link-building strategies can increase your website’s Domain Authority (the score given to your site between 0 and 100) and thereby improve your overall visibility online. Advanced link-building goes beyond establishing generic directories and includes guest blogs, paid links and web 2.0 blogs. Each of these strategies involves placing content on third-party sites with links back to your website.

The more websites that point to yours with a substantial DA, the more visible your website will become. If you’re looking for a digital marketing company to promote your brand, ask about their network of partnerships, websites and forums that they use for guest blogging and paid advertising.

Local SEO

Local, or map search, SEO has emerged as a distinct form of SEO over the last few years. Through internal research, our company found that 30% to 40% of customers, on average, now find local companies through maps. As such, strong map visibility is crucial.

Instead of a website, local SEO requires that your Google My Business (GMB) profile be optimized with keywords and links. The strategies for improving local SEO include NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency, link-building, image geotagging and further engagements with your GMB profile (such as reviews).

This year, SEO experts and digital marketers will need to be extra diligent in ensuring consistency and giving the appropriate time and energy to local optimizations, especially for small businesses and local service providers.

Content And Blogging

If one thing is for sure, Google’s updated deep-learning algorithms are getting smarter and smarter. Some experts believe they will soon surpass human understanding in terms of natural language processing. In recent years, Google’s algorithms have been placing more and more emphasis on well-written content, encouraging strategies such as natural language keywords and quality over quantity; 2020 will see this emphasis continue to rise. Google is becoming more sensitive to the nuances of language with a focus on understanding search query intent. Thus, in 2020, content should be concise and informative as well as targeted. As always, content also needs to indicate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

While my team has always helped clients by creating consistent content to add to their websites, our research has found that guest blogging, and building links with additional high DA websites, is even more effective. I would recommend a shift in strategy to include more link-building supplemented by high-quality content that focuses on specific query topics. Answering questions clearly and concisely will go a long way for any SEO strategy (especially with voice search optimization on the rise as well).

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Pay-per-click advertising includes Google AdWords and social media advertising. Pay-per-click ads get your message in front of already-interested consumers. Depending on your industry and budget, getting to the No. 1 result on Google organically isn’t always possible. Utilizing PPC allows your company to show up at the very top, regardless of your organic ranking.

In the field of remarketing, I anticipate two trends to be of special significance in the year ahead. Due to the Rule of Seven, a theory developed by marketing experts that states customers require seven touches with your brand before making a decision, remarketing is gaining traction within the marketing world as a necessity for some industries. If your business is highly competitive with a mid to long sales cycle, a remarketing campaign will effectively follow consumers around the internet until they’re ready to make the decision.

Advertising promotions are also a great way to convert customers. As the economic downturn continues, consumers will be looking for any way to save a few dollars. A marketing company may help determine and implement effective promotional offers and supplement any existing advertising efforts to increase awareness and conversion. – Read more

5 of the Most Complex SEO Problems & How to Fix Them

My Post - 2020-02-11T160929.590.pngToday, running a thorough and comprehensive SEO campaign is paramount for ranking. If you aren’t optimizing your website and keeping up with the trends, then your ranking competitors surely are.

I feel that it’s useful to think about SEO as simply the amalgamation of best practices that are recognized by the search engines.

And a lot of the time the ranking of a website can be ruined by accidentally not following a best practice.

So this article is about those SEO mistakes that we all make from time to time.

If you find yourself committing those mistakes, you’ll be able to fix those, and if you haven’t yet, you’ll know to avoid them.

Problem 1: Improper Indexing of Your Pages

What it is: We all want Google to rank our pages higher. But Google’s hands can’t rank what its bots can’t see.

5 of the Most Complex SEO Problems & How to Fix Them

The best way to see if you have any indexation issues is to use Google Search Console.

In the absolute vast majority of cases, your indexation problem will be internal: perhaps the page hasn’t been allowed in your robots.txt file by a developer working on the page, or a NOINDEX tag has been added to a page.

A DNS error or a 404 error are the most likely culprits for your pages not being indexed, and Search Console will show as much in its “Error” column.

Simply removing the NOINDEX tag manually for the pages in question, or allowing them in robots.txt, and allowing some time for Google bot to recrawl in peace, will get those pages to show up without a hitch.

If you end up in a situation where the entirety of your website is patently crawlable, with index tags, but still the actual Google search gives you only a fraction of the results you expect – you might have been hit by a manual action.

Start the recovery process by running a full website-wide audit.

Using an audit tool, you’ll get a nice layout of your website’s SEO health, with all of the pages that are and aren’t indexed in there.

See what pages are violating Google’s best practices, and which simply didn’t have the correct tagging and/or robots instructions. It’s generally a good practice to check your website for crawling issues every month or so.

Problem 2: Keyword Cannibalization

A common problem stemming from the fact that some of us marketers start to “overcrowd” the same topics, publishing extremely similar materials, which more or less target the exact same keywords.

What ends up happening is that various pages compete in ranking for the same keywords. This, in turn, hurts the ranking chances of all the pages involved.

This problem is complex enough for me to write an entire article on it. This is not a casual issue, and it should be fixed as soon as possible by turning to a keyword mapping tool.

Your keyword map would look along the following lines (disclosure: this is a screencapture from Rank Tracker, a tool my team created):

5 of the Most Complex SEO Problems & How to Fix Them

With the three columns, one for the keywords you’re targeting, one for the webpages connected to those keywords, and another for general SEO information.

Sort out your website with a keyword map in hand, and make sure that all of your content is targeting a different set of keywords.

Consolidate the pages targeting similar topics, and create a single page, incorporating a number of different ones.

That way you’ll ensure that you don’t have to compete with yourself on top of everybody else creating content in your niche.

Problem 3: Wrong Page Structuring for Its Target Topic

Fact: even if you have many more backlinks than your competition, you might still be ranking lower than them.

This one might even seem counterintuitive to some, it certainly did to me when I first started handling SEO problems.

But the truth of the matter is that it’s not just about backlinks to your webpage.

Today, with all of Google’s efforts to combat quid pro quo linking strategies, simply amassing a huge backlink catalog is not enough.

Ranking higher is now, and has been for a while, not just about doing things right, but also about avoiding some punishing mistakes. It’s not only about the content, but also very much about the acceptable form.

For example, if you’re writing an article on the best footwear, and you create it as a listicle of round-about 2,000 words, and you can’t rank, you should look at your competition currently ranking.

Let’s just say that you posted a beautifully written and informative article on the best cities to live in. It’s a big piece of text with a couple of images. Names of the cities are woven throughout the text, The New Yorker-style.

Then you find out that on every page in the top-5 results for “best cities to live in” the information is presented as an image gallery with very little text. That means that Google considers this to be the best format covering that particular topic.

Simply edit your own content to fit these criteria: make it a gallery of images sporting short, clear descriptions, and see your page rise through the ranks!

And it’s a whole different conversation if we’re talking about the keywords for which Google has SERP features. What we see more and more is that Google is trying to answer users’ queries right on the SERP.

For that, it’s using such instruments as Google’s featured snippets, People also ask, Knowledge panels, and so on.

Now, getting into those is crucial, and crucially dependent on structure.

So, first, find out if it’s possible for your chosen keywords to get a SERP feature.

That’s easily done by any rank tracking software, but also by simply searching the terms you’re looking to rank for.

Go to Google’s Search Settings, and simply disable the Private results feature. Then, adjusting your region as necessary, look up your keywords.

If you see a Knowledge panel or a featured snippet in there, that means it’s on!

A huge part of getting into a SERP feature is using structured data markup.

Remember: Google’s priority is presenting its user with a quick and coherent answer to their question.

Apply structured data markup, make use of bullet points, lists, numbers, etc.

The search engine will recognize that you are providing a quick and easy answer, and will use you as a source of a featured snippet.

Adding also such structural elements as FAQ is also very helpful, as getting into any of the SERP features will increase your traffic, page views, and CTR.

It simply isn’t enough that you’ve come up with a brilliant content idea and know in your soul how to present it in the best way possible. That piece of content should also conform to what Google considers appropriate for the content.

Problem 4: Incoherent Internal Linking

We all know about setting up functional navigation.

A user has to be able to come back to homepage from anywhere, have an understanding in what section of the website they currently are, and, ideally, be able to get anywhere on the website from any page, following just the links.

But proper internal linking goes a bit deeper than that.

The reality is that we all have the “necessary”, the “core”, or, more generally, the “money” pages.

Those are the ones that we consider the pages that bring in the “real money”.

So we tend to concentrate only on them when working on our site structure instead of building large “thematic clusters” which would connect a bunch of pages together.

And, well, that isn’t exactly the best way to go about internal linking. You have to spread the wealth of links around!

Look for ways to link not just to your core pages, but from them to your smaller, “supplementary” pages.

Go back and create new links from your old content to the new.

You need to conceptualize your content as clusters of pages each supporting the other.

For example, say you have a “core” page describing your software’s feature. Put some links from it to your supplementary content about using those features in the real world, to some guides, how-to’s and guest posts as well!

And, well, if you don’t have any supplementary content – create some for your core pages, then create a nice web of internal links that would connect your website into a coherent web.

While doing this, remember to make sure to not over-optimize your anchors.

This means that you should avoid the anchors containing the keywords you’re trying to rank for, and aim for naturally suitable anchors instead (although anchors like “read here” are obviously not the best).

A nice way to improve your internal linking is to have some sort of neat visualization tool, like the one presented in Website Auditor (disclaimer: my tool), with all of your pages shown as a web of connections.

That way, you immediately see where you have the most important “nodes”, and which pages could use a little more linking. – Read more

How to Overcome Technical SEO Issues on a Budget

My Post - 2020-02-10T163117.527.png“How can I overcome technical SEO issues on a budget?”

While some technical issues will require allocating a budget to tackle, others are pretty simple to address yourself.

Identify Your List of Technical SEO Issues

First off, you are going to need to identify the site issues.

If you’ve already had a technical audit performed, excellent.

Start by transferring the list of the technical problems into a spreadsheet.

Next, add a column so you can assign who is capable of fixing each issue.

Can you or another teammate handle the fixes, or do you need a developer?

Then include a column and format with checkboxes so you can quickly check off the tasks once done.

Fire Up Your Favorite SEO Tool(s)

If you have not had a recent site audit performed and the budget doesn’t allow for one, have no fear.

You can use some tools to help identify some of the most common technical SEO issues.

Screaming Frog’s crawler is handy for identifying common problems like a poor HTTPS implementation, broken or redirected internal links, duplicate content, and missing title tags or H1s.

SEMrush’s site audit tool is fantastic for identifying thin content, orphaned content, poor internal linking, redirect chains, crawl issues, and more. This tool is also excellent for sending you emailed updates to alert you when new problems arise.

Considering that you are on a tight budget, make sure to use Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, as both are available for free.

Both search engines have provided us with invaluable information about our websites. Use them.

One of the first things I do when performing a site audit is to do a site search on Google.

Entering site:example.com can make it easy to spot a lot of issues. If your site has been compromised, this is the easiest way to detect a hacked website.

Your Google Analytics account is a fantastic tool for identifying pages on your site that are loading slower than the other ones.

Make sure to inspect slow ones in the Google Page Speed Tool and or Google Lighthouse.

Some of the slowest loading pages are usually due to an oversized image or two. Maybe the pictures aren’t compressed.

These are pretty simple technical fixes that you can handle fixing your self, and it makes a huge difference. – Read more

Top 10 Must-Try PPC Tactics for 2020

My Post - 2020-02-04T165007.081.pngIf you want your PPC campaigns to remain effective in 2020, you have no choice but to evolve. In some cases, that evolution will mean thinking about things very differently than before.

If your program isn’t in an advanced state already, here are ten tactics you must try this year (in no particular order).

1. Layered Audience: Demographics & Affinity

It’s no secret that a campaign will perform best when you clearly define who it’s meant for.

By using the combined power of Google Ads and Analytics, you’re able to give your campaigns a better chance of success by targeting those most likely to take the desired action. I look at demographics and affinity as a more of a passive “who they are” classification.

The screenshot below shows current site visitors who fall into the affinity category of “Pet Lovers”. Those specific customers convert 46% better than the average. That’s an audience worth engaging:

Top 10 Must-Try PPC Tactics for 2020

2. Layered Audience: In Market

While Demographics and Affinity audiences are more about “who they are”, In-Market audiences are about “what they’re doing”.

In this case, this an audience who is exhibiting certain online behavior consistent with those who are actively “in the market” for a product or service.

Top 10 Must-Try PPC Tactics for 2020

3. Layered Audience: Life Events

Anyone who has ever run a Direct Response campaign (even in the pre-digital days) knows that reaching potential customers at key life event stages can be critical to its performance.

If you’ve ever gotten a mortgage (or even just moved to a new address), you’ve probably noticed an increase in the volume of offers you receive. There’s a very good reason for that – data shows it’s effective.

Google Ads allows you to run promotions for specific “life events” on a limited basis today. It’s limited because:

  • You’re restricted to life events concerning:
    • College graduation.
    • Marriage.
    • Moving.
  • It’s currently available for Gmail and YouTube campaigns.

They launched these targeting capabilities in the last couple of years and hopefully, it will eventually be expanded as a targeting layer for additional events and platforms.

4. Running One Responsive Search Ad (RSA) Per Ad Group 

I know. You tried it and were less than impressed. I get it.

Try it again, but this time on some keywords and audiences that might not be your core focus.

If your campaigns are anything like most, you have some core audiences and set of keyword variations that make up the bulk of the conversions and revenues.

Test RSAs to try and find success outside that core audience. The biggest things to remember:

  • The key word in machine learning is “learning.” In order to “learn” what works, the “machine” also must learn what doesn’t. That takes time and a bit of volume to get a good read.
  • You still need to input some quality headlines (minimum 3, up to 15) and descriptions (minimum 2, up to 4). If those are sub-quality, no amount of machine learning will help your campaigns.

– Read more

How to make data driven SEO decisions

My Post - 2020-01-31T105038.669.pngImagine for a quick minute that you’re in charge of running a website. Now, you’re faced with the dilemma as to how you can rise above the competition in a fast-paced, highly technical world.

To stay afloat, the minimum standard dictates compliance with Search Engine Optimization strategies. Once you start from there, everything else seems to follow through effortlessly, as you’ll already know how to go about with all the decisions when it comes to running your website.

That said, here are pointers on how you can make better data-driven SEO decisions:

Explore your local competition

SEO is also about understanding the position of all other websites surrounding yours. With thousands of websites on the Internet, you should be made aware that the competition is tough. Thus, it’s important to be aware of their existence by studying them.

In studying the competition, it’s best to focus on the local competition. This refers to those websites that are also serving the same target market as you are. The reason why you need to focus on them is because you have the same niche – selling the same or similar products and services.

For example, take the time to study the average cost per click per website on the niche that you belong to in your specific region. Through this data, you can analyze the advertising cost and the search volumes in your region. Here, you can narrow down as to whether or not your website falls within the search volume of those Internet users browsing daily. With that information, you can also better understand the demand for your products and services in your locality.

Understand more about exploring your local competition from an expert himself, like Matthew Woodward. His Surfer SEO review and case study tutorial can help you have a better grip on this matter. 

Focusing on web analytics

Web analytics isn’t just there without any reason. It’s still one of the most effective metrics for you to check as to how you’re performing on the Internet.

A good analytics strategy can save you money and time in the long run It also increases your clicks, leads, brand reach, and returning visitors. Without focusing on web analytics, you’re merely making decisions that aren’t founded on useful data.

Rather than pushing you up higher on the competitive scale of competition among other websites, you’re only going to drown even lower. An excellent place to start with analytics will always be Google Analytics.

Analyze your competitors’ keywords

Keywords may also seem like a redundant term to remember when talking about Search Engine Optimization, but it’s also still one of the most relevant. Those looking to improve their website’s content can do no wrong with focusing on keywords.

An excellent way to begin is through analyzing and studying the keywords that your competitors are using. That way, you’re not just using keywords that you can see anywhere. By analyzing your competitors’ keywords, you’re certain that you’re using keywords that are effective in putting your website up through higher rankings.

Here are other good reasons why you should analyze your competitor’s keywords:

  • You have better awareness as to branded terms that are going to make you rank higher
  • You can build website credibility

 

Always have a plan B

When you have a plan A, test it out. If it fails, have a plan B. The point is to test all of your strategies, such that you always have an alternative. You don’t want to be stuck with an SEO decision that’s just going to fail, and you’ve got no other way of turning back. – Read more

SEO in 2020: What Basics You Need to Know to Be Successful

My Post - 2020-01-30T104703.455.pngIn the field of SEO, it’s safe to say that things are always changing.

Optimization techniques that worked years ago fall by the wayside, and SEO as a whole evolves into a more intelligent discipline that evolves beyond spamming Google with links and keywords.

Sophisticated strategies for increasing organic traffic exist, along with things like competitor gap analysis, keyword gap analysis, and so on.

There are a number of strategies that one must use to be successful in the ever-increasing competitive landscape in SEO.

The Absolute Nuts & Bolts Basics

There are four basic components of SEO that we all focus on as a daily part of our jobs. These components include:

  • Keywords (and keyword targeting).
  • Search volumes behind keywords.
  • Traffic coming from organic search.
  • Conversions of customers searching for our targeted keywords.

The actual techniques revolve around the following:

  • On-page optimization.
  • Link building.
  • Content.
  • Technical SEO.

These are all a focus of our professions as we report on our efforts and assess next steps in any SEO campaign.

How do you move forward through a campaign and make sure that these factors are nailed down sufficiently enough for you to either launch or expand an existing campaign?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

This SEO for beginners guide is designed to do exactly that, going through in detail the basics, in order to give you a solid foundation with which you can then use on your own.

Topics, Entities & Keywords

The first basic component we’re going to look at includes keywords and keyword targeting.

In the olden days of SEO, keywords were really all we had. Keywords and keyword targeting. Keyword targeting involved creating pages based on specific keywords and optimizing them.

The content would be laser-targeted and built around this keyword.

As you move forward with your SEO, you could technically include keyword synonyms, and related keywords in such a way that would help improve your rankings.

The problem with keywords, however, is that they can become redundant, too repetitive, and you can run out of SEO pain points in industry-related keywords fast.

There’s very little room to move forward.

For the process of keyword optimization, it used to be executed in the following way.

Say perhaps that you did keyword research, found the highest-performing ones in terms of search volume, created a page for the keyword, and ensured keywords were inter-weaved throughout your content accordingly. This was one way.

Let’s also not forget the different types of keywords, which are many. The goals of these keywords will change depending on how you want to approach your SEO:

  • Money Keywords
  • Head Keywords
  • Short Tail keywords
  • Long Tail Keywords
  • Supporting Keywords / keyword synonyms
  • Branded Keywords
  • Phrase Match Keywords
  • Broad Match Keywords
  • Negative Keywords
  • Exact Match Keywords

And many other keyword types. By the way, don’t get me started on LSI Keywords. Yes, they are a scam. And nothing more than a marketing attempt to brand synonyms and keyword relationships as something else.

That’s why LSI keywords are SEO snake oil.

Why are we going through such a detailed introduction of keywords? Because they are a fundamental skill of the SEO profession.

Recently however, there has been a shift from keywords to topics and entities.

If keywords are specific words and phrases, topics can be considered broader terms and concepts.

While there has been a shift, you still cannot do without keywords. They are the backbone of any SEO strategy.

A new wrench was thrown into the works with the introduction of entities. Just what’re entities, exactly?

Entities are places, persons, things. According to Dave Davies, entities are the world in the new SEO.

Davies says the following:

“Entities are, in my not-so-humble opinion, the single most important concept to understand in SEO right now. Full stop.

Think I’m just another SEO professional spouting the latest “silver bullet” that will die on the table along with many before it?

Consider this:

Three of the most important ranking factors, at last disclosure, were:

  • Content
  • Links
  • RankBrain

An entity is anything that is:

  • Singular
  • Unique
  • Well-defined
  • Distinguishable”

And this is why it is so important to ensure that your site is optimized with entities, keywords, and topics.

Topics, Topics, Topics – So What’s the Deal with Topics?

Just what is the deal with topics? As mentioned previously, SEO is traditionally about optimizing for targeted keywords.

And it was – used to be – considered an SEO best practice to create 1 page per single targeted keyword.

You can come up with your topics by performing topic research using a tool like AnswerThePublic.com.

SEMrush also has its own tool called the topic research tool.

Using both of these tools, you should be able to uncover suitable topics for the type of website you are working on.

That’s all well and good, but what should you do if you are optimizing for multiple topics?

Kristopher Jones here on SEJ has a wonderful method on how to optimize your site for multiple topics in his post, How to Optimize Your Website for Multiple Topics.

There are other basics, including content, links, and technical SEO that will make or break your success.

Let’s take a look at some of the most defining factors that will help your SEO in 2020, and basic elements that you must learn.

High-Quality Content

Does Google’s algorithm suffer from issues when it comes to assessing whether or not content is of high enough quality?

It can, as this SEO found out recently when trying to game Google’s algorithm with Lorem ipsum text.

In general, high quality content is what’s going to help your site perform. But that takes on different forms depending on different attributes of your marketing campaign including:

  • Your site’s main industry.
  • What has been done to your site previously.
  • What is being done to your site now.
  • Your industry’s overall competition.
  • What your competition is doing.
  • What Google’s algorithm is doing.

Your site’s main industry

There are industry variations in SEO – no doubt about it. I highly suggest taking an open approach to SEO strategies, and not think that once you’ve learned a strategy, that you’re done. Not hardly.

Industry norms vary, and can be as different as the website itself. The way you find out about these norms is you should be doing a competitor gap analysis.

What a competitor gap analysis does is it will help you find what you need to do to increase those rankings above your competitor.

You can read more about how to perform a competitor gap analysis here.

The things that you’ll want to gain from your competitor gap analysis includes insights like:

  • Your competitor’s rankings.
  • Your competition’s content (frequency of posting, word counts, etc.).
  • The link profiles of your competitors.
  • And, to a lesser extent, on-page SEO and technical SEO.

Important: Correlation Is Not Causation

In SEO, you may think that if you make a slight change to some keywords on a site, or you make changes to some links, that an immediate improvement is perceptible, and likely due to that change.

The problem is that it seldom works out that way in the real world.

When it comes to SEO, correlation is not causation. It’s not enough to say that you did this, this, and this, and that that was a contributor to your results.

On the contrary, detailed organic traffic data analysis and interpretation is needed to find the full story.

That’s what makes SEO so complex – the fact that it’s not a simple correlation / causation paradigm.

Instead, SEO is far more complex with layers of algorithms, not to mention the fact that Google makes changes to their algorithms daily.

The ones they choose to announce just so happen to be the most devastating if you’re in any way engaging in spammy practices.

Which brings me to the following topic: white hat SEO vs. black hat SEO. – Read more

The 2020 Keyword Research Guide for SEO

My Post - 2020-01-24T113650.066.pngThis guide is intended to teach you how to do in-depth and meaningful keyword research.

Good keyword research allows you to uncover the terms, phrases, questions, and answers that are important to your users or customers AND important to achieving your goals, whether they are getting more pageviews, capturing leads, or selling products and services. Keyword research sets you up for building effective strategies for improving or expanding your content to acquire higher rankings, and to rank on a wider variety of terms, to ultimately drive more relevant organic traffic to your site.

1. What Is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of finding all of the possible search engine queries which may be relevant to your business and your customers. Keyword research includes not only finding these keywords but also sorting and prioritizing them into logical, related groups, which can then inform how you might change existing pages on your site or create new content.

Why Keyword Research Is (Still) Important for SEO

While some SEOs may argue that keywords are no longer important or won’t be essential in the future, they are still crucial not only for search engine rankings but for understanding the search intent behind a given query. As long as people search using the search engines by typing a query into a search box or making a voice query on an “assistant”, it will be crucial to understand the following:

  • What those queries are.
  • How important they are to your business.
  • How you might create the best content to answer the intent of the query.

Even as search trends change, if people are looking for an answer to “something”, keywords will continue to matter.

Old school “individual” keywords and optimizing a single page for a single keyword has certainly gone by the wayside. However, using groups of related keywords, and examining their relative popularity, can not only give you insights into opportunities to drive more organic traffic to your site but can also help you understand the overall intent of your potential users. This information can help you better satisfy those intents not only through optimizing your website but potentially optimizing your product selection, navigation, UI, etc.

Understanding Keyword Themes (Groups of Related Keywords)

Some may refer to groups of related keywords as topics or themes, but at heart, they are groups of individual keywords that signal a similar need or intent by a searcher. As such, keyword research should never be left as simply a list of keywords, but rather used to form various segments of interrelated keywords.

A single topic or theme might lend itself to a single piece of content that can answer all of the needs within that topic, and thus a single page is “optimized” for the entire group of keywords. Or, the topic may be broad enough to signal that you should have an entire section of your website with many pieces of content targeted at answering the user intents.

For example, if you were writing a post about “how to fry an egg”, one single article might satisfy the intent for all the keywords around that “theme”. Example:

  • How to fry an egg
  • How to cook a sunny side up egg
  • How to cook an egg over medium
  • How to fry an egg for a sandwich
  • How to fry an egg in the microwave
  • How to fry an egg over easy
  • How to fry an egg over hard
  • How to fry an egg over medium
  • How to fry an egg sunny side up
  • How to fry an egg with oil
  • How to fry an egg without oil

If you had a group of keywords or a theme around “what caused the decline and fall of the Roman Empire,” all of the intents around that theme of keywords are unlikely to be satisfied by a single piece of content and would likely require a much larger body of content.

Keyword/Query Trends

Some SEOs argue that individual “head” keywords aren’t going to matter anymore because of voice search —which leads to long, natural language search queries. Search queries, in general, are becoming much longer, in part due to voice search.

But, that doesn’t mean that shorter “head” keywords can’t form the basis for starting your keyword research and helping to uncover many longer-tail keyword variants.

This is partly because, at least for now, there really is no separate voice search results or database.

Google, for instance, simply returns essentially the same results for a voice query as if you had typed that exact query into the search box on the Google web interface or search app. For many of these long longtail queries, Google is simply going to parse out the most important terms in the query and return the results for that.

For instance, someone may search for “Hey Google, what are the best running shoes for a person who has flat feet?”. Looking at Google search results, it is easy to see that Google returns the exact same result set for that query as it does for “best running shoes flat feet.”  – Read more

SEO in 2020: What Role Do Keywords Play?

My Post - 2020-01-20T122505.216.pngIt’s 2020, and SEO professionals who’ve been at it for a while will know just how much has changed in the past decade.

In 2010, we still hadn’t been hit with Panda or Hummingbird or RankBrain or BERT, and many of us still thought “SEO content” was a matter of:

  • Adding our target keyword and its close variants in the content X times.
  • Making sure to add that keyword to all the magic places like your title tag, meta description, H1, etc.
  • Writing at least X words because that’s the magic length for rankings.

But Google’s algorithm has matured.

We know now (or we should) that getting our content ranked isn’t a matter of tricking Google by stuffing keywords in all the right places. It’s about providing an exceptional experience to searchers.

So how exactly should we be using keywords?

To answer that, we’ll need to take a step back and address what it really means to write content for search.

What Is SEO Content?

SEO content is content written for the purpose of ranking in search engines. That term, however, has fallen out of favor with many SEO professionals.

That’s because “SEO content” implies content written for search engines rather than humans, and that’s not good.

Why?

Because Google’s algorithm is a programmatic representation of the searcher.

If the algorithm is trying to model what a human visitor would pick as the best result, the answer to “how to rank” is to do what’s best for searchers.

So if that’s the kind of content Google wants to rank, then the way to write “SEO content” is just to write in a way that people will enjoy – right?

Not quite. There’s a bit more to it than that.

How Do I Make Content SEO Friendly?

SEO-friendly content is content that answers the intent of the searcher’s question clearly and comprehensively, and has a high degree of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Let’s break that down.

Content That Answers the Intent of the Searcher’s Question

“SEO friendly” content is content that, first and foremost, answers a searcher’s question.

This means that the topic of the page itself will be dictated by the questions your audience is asking.

This also means that not all content is relevant for a search audience. Some content is written for thought leadership or to break news (new ideas = no existing search demand). Other content is written to attract social engagement.

We write content for many different purposes, so we shouldn’t expect every single one of our pages to rank well in search engines.

That means adding search audience-focused topics to your editorial calendar, rather than attempting to sprinkle keywords onto all your pages, many of which weren’t written for a search audience in the first place.

Content That’s Clear & Comprehensive

When you ask a question, do you prefer getting an answer that’s convoluted, vague, and clunky? Or direct, specific, and straightforward?

It’s a no-brainer, right? Google thinks so too.

But it isn’t as shiny and exciting to talk about grammar and diction. I think most SEO professionals would rather talk about topics like natural language processing.

But even the most meticulously researched brief can be ruined by content that doesn’t read well, so this stuff matters.

Don’t underestimate the power of tools like Microsoft Word’s “Grammar & Refinements” settings that can help you:

  • Replace complex words with simpler ones.
  • Swap wordiness for conciseness.
  • Go from passive to active voice.

…and much more.

Google also values content that’s comprehensive. Just take a look at what they say in their quality rater guidelines:

The Highest rating may be justified for pages with a satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high-quality main content.

Or on their Webmasters Blog:

Q: What counts as a high-quality site?

A: You can answer “yes” to “Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?”

Be thorough and be clear when you’re answering your search audience’s questions. – Read more