As May comes around, mobile first is in full swing, there’s a core update being rolled out, and (guess what?) content is still important.
I try to stay up-to-date with the latest SEO news as I’m always trying to learn and keep an open mind. That said, it also doesn’t hurt to revisit the basics too, it’s all too easy to pick up bad habits.
Here’s my news round-up for May. I’ve tried to include what I found interesting and also, what I think might be beneficial to other SEOs who might be at different stages of their SEO journey.
How valuable are featured snippets?
Google loves featured snippets. They see them as a way of giving the user the answers they need as quickly and effectively as possible. So, for now, they’re here to stay, and you can get on board and look to dominate them in your niche or miss out on a golden opportunity.
If you’re not sure what a featured snippet is, it’s a simple answer to an “informational” search (like a question). Below is an example:
In case you’re wondering what kind of benefit you can expect from “owning” the featured snipped, Ahrefs released a recent study that showed 8.6% of traffic click on the featured snippet. It’s a great way to steal traffic from #1 (if you are not ranking there).
That’s a big deal.
There is another way of looking at it. If you’re not taking the featured snippet, then your competitors are and they’re getting that traffic! If you’re interested in finding out more about featured snippets and how you can own them, Ahrefs does a great job of walking you through it in this article.
Page Rank might still be a thing (yeah, really)
There are still some true SEO nerds out there who parse Google, dig through patents, with the intent of sharing their findings with the SEO community. SEO By The Sea is a great example.
SEO by the Sea noted that Google has recently updated their “existing” Pagerank patent. Why would they if Pagerank wasn’t relevant?
The reality is, as SEOs we test and test to see how different changes affect search results, but it’s an “interpretation” business. We don’t get to see the algorithm.
One of the buzzwords for SEO that’s come from the various tests we’ve run is trust, and it’s good to see we’re not a million miles away because Google recently changed the Page Rank algorithm to include:
“One possible variation of PageRank that would reduce the effect of these techniques is to select a few “trusted” pages (also referred to as the seed pages) and discovers other pages which are likely to be good by following the links from the trusted pages. “
Seo By The Sea walks you through it and what they believe it means. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but it’s definitely worth a read.
What’s your opinion on disavowing links?
Google created the disavow tool for a reason, right? So why not disavow links that are spammy or low quality? It makes sense.
But it might be a risk too. Surely, any kind of link building strategy implemented to improve search results means you’re using a shade of SEO that’s less pure than white? It’s like waving a flag in Google’s face.
That’s the last thing you want to be doing if you’re building any kind of link, even “white hat” outreach (read more).
Or is it an automated system with no penalty attracting characteristics? I tend to be on this side of the fence considering my experience with the tool.
So what has Google said about the tool?:
“If you have a manual action, you need to clean up or disavow the links. For algorithmic things, up to you.”
So, it is fair to say, disavowing is not black and white; it’s another component of SEO that requires interpretation. If you’ve not made up your mind on your position with disavowing links, and you want to explore the subject more, Ahrefs have put together a rather lengthy post on the subject, that’s definitely worth a read.
Refresher: How to find trending content
Content is king, LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing), user intent; content quality sitewide, content, content, content (yawn). In case you’ve missed the memo in 2018, Google has a bee in their bonnet for content and user experience.
So how do you find sexy content that’s going to be a crowd pleaser and a Google pleaser?
It’s not always easy to shoot from the hip and create great content. We tend to look at the subject from our perspective. If it’s content about a subject you know well, then it can be difficult to understand what people who might be new to the subject could be searching for.
And if you’re working on a site where you don’t know the subject then once you’ve covered the basics, you are prone to run out of ideas.
So, how to mine content ideas? Here are a few pointers:
For a start, Quora can be a gold mine. People interested in a niche are asking questions about a subject related to that niche, and you can measure the regularity and popularity of the questions answered. What could be better?
Sure, there are limitations, for example, you can’t export any data, there’s a bit of manual work needed but with the right system, it’s not a lot of work.
Following the same train of thought, other places people hang out and ask questions should offer similar value, the two most popular being LinkedIn and Facebook groups, depending on the niche you’re targeting. This is a great way to find out the kind of information people are looking for; you really get to have your finger on the pulse. And, at the same time, by commenting and offering your expertise, you are also branding and positioning yourself as an expert from within the community.
These channels represent your bread and butter, but you can also take advantage of Amazon, Comments, and FAQs. None of this is really revolutionary, we are not inventing the wheel here, but it’s good revision, and the article breaks it down and explains how to use these channels effectively, so it’s a good starting point if you’re new to creating trending content or you find yourself stuck.
Searcher Intent: the formula for giving users AND Google what they need
It’s no secret that user/searcher intent matters to Google and should matter to you. But most articles that cover the subject are a little bit woolly if truth be told.
Yeah, you should create content that users are looking for based on what their goal is, rather than just keywords. But what does that look like in a practical sense?
It’s no different than almost every other component of SEO. It can be methodical and structured… and yes, you can use a spreadsheet!!
The good news is, you don’t need to be creative to create great content, rich in user intent which is going to go a long way to getting you ranked; you just need to understand what tools and processes to use that will do the work for you.
Search Engine Land does a great job breaking it down step by step, starting with looking at primary and secondary intent, how to understand it and label it. Looking at creating Keywords, how to group them by intent and numbering then, all done using formulas in spreadsheets.
If you’re struggling to get a handle on how content creation is changing, or you like to be process driven, you’ll love this.
Google’s autocomplete as an SEO tool
I saw this article, and although it’s nothing new, I thought I’d add it to the news round-up because if you’re pretty new to SEO and you’re looking for some of the bread and butter tools and strategies SEOs use, this is one that often gets undervalued or forgotten. And this article does a good job is walking you through it.
I’m talking about Google’s autocomplete and how SEOs can take advantage of it.
We all know Google’s autocomplete feature, as a user. It’s been part of the search landscape for a while. It makes life quicker and easier as a searcher. Google says it saves over 200 years of typing a day! But as an SEO tool, it also offers a lot of value, and this article shows you how you can use it.
If you’re looking to build traffic, find some low hanging fruit to go after, or build some “SEO momentum” with some well-targeted long-tail-keywords, then Google autocomplete really starts to come into its own.
Google autocomplete is based on popularity. That’s right; we get to see which search terms are most popular and not through some 3rd party tool that’s 2nd guessing Google, but straight from Google’s lips.
So you can very easily find the user intent / long tail searches that people are using. Google is showing us where the traffic’s at.
If you want to explore user intent for a niche or keyword to optimize your content strategy, and you’re looking to better understand the searches being made in that niche then autocomplete is the tool you use.
Mobile first indexing: Getting pro-active!
I’m a big believer in not standing still. Google is constantly looking forward, and you can either try to figure out where they’re headed and meet them there, or wait for the bombshell and try to react quickest.
I’m from the school of thought that it is best to be proactive rather than being reactionary. With that in mind, how can you be proactive with Google’s move to mobile first index?
First off, how responsive is your site? I don’t mean mobile friendly because that can just means the site has a desktop design with some minor adjustments so it “fits the screen” on other devices. That can be a million miles away from a good user experience. If your site isn’t responsive, now would be a good time to look to address that because we know Google thinks it’s important.
Next, you have to really get your head around mobile page load speed. The principle is dead simple. Be faster than your competitors. Whenever practical, keep the site as simple and as lite as possible, keep crawl equity at the forefront of your thinking. Pay the extra $50 and upgrade your hosting if needs be, just be quick.
If your site is international, look at page-load speed from different locations, break it down. And compare those results to your competitors. The great thing about mobile first indexing is it’s straightforward. The quickest page-load speed wins. (not quite that simple but as a rule of thumb it’s good enough).
Why an accurate NAP matters
If local SEO is your thing, then NAP matters to you (Name, Address, and Phone number). It’s one of the main ranking factors for local SEO. We’re talking directory submissions and citations. Local SEO 101.
But, it’s important to remember SEO does not live in a bubble. Citations also work to increase a business’s online presence. Research has shown that their accuracy matters. And we’re not talking from an SEO perspective, that’s certainly true but it’s a different conversation.
Having the right information online helps to build trust or more accurately, not having the right data loses trust.
80% of consumers that were asked (during some independent research) reported that they would find missing or inconsistent citation data a reason to not trust the business. The same research also found that 30% of the consumers they spoke to reported that they had come across incorrect information online.
So, people are finding incorrect information, and it’s affecting their trust in a particular business. Plenty to chew over and to find out more about the data and effects of inaccurate NAP data read the rest of the article.
Auditing a site in 2018
The first step to solving a problem is defining it in as much detail as possible. In SEO terms that usually means an SEO audit.
I’ve been fine-tuning my own SEO auditing process for some years, it’s something that has become almost instinctive, but at the same time, I’m always open to new tools and ideas that will give me as much data as possible.
Ahrefs have put together a 16-step guide that offers real value. Naturally, part of the process includes promoting their auditing tool, which is not something I use when auditing, but that’s just a matter of opinion, and besides, there is a load of value in the guide and worth a read.
Desktop only websites being moved over to mobile first indexing?
There’s been some confusion around mobile first indexing and as they roll it out which sites are going to be transferred over. There’s a difference between mobile ready or responsive sites and indexing that seems to be getting lost in noise around this major shift.
It looks like (and has been confirmed by Google) they’re focusing on moving over desktop-only sites to mobile first indexing, chiefly because they don’t really care about user experience or ranking at this point, that’s your problem. All they care about is making a smooth transfer to mobile first indexing and sites that only have a desktop version are infinitely easier to transfer over. Less messy.
So, you need to be tailoring your site and SEO to be mobile-focused; there’s no hiding. Google is just focusing on systematically moving sites over, the impact of that change is entirely your potential headache.