Welcome to my latest SEO news roundup.There’s plenty happening with Google, and after a slowdown over Christmas, the SEO community has started 2018 with a bang. Here are some of the articles and stories that have grabbed my interest over the last few weeks, that I wanted to share and add my commentary to.
I’m From The Future is not messing around
I’m From The Future (IFTF) have started 2018 with a bang. They caused a buzz when they bought True Voice Media but now they’re really causing a stir with the follow-up acquisition of my boy Ryan Stewart’s agency, Webris.
True Voice Media are going to be bringing expertise in social media and influencer marketing, and Webris are a prominent agency, operating out of Miami.
Super exciting times for IFTF.
No-follow links are worthless in 2018… or are they?
For many SEOs, no-follow links are like Kryptonite. That’s because they’re working hard to acquire links with outreach, maybe paid links or hustling to get backlinks, only to find out the editor of the site no-follows the link. It can feel like a waste of time (and possibly money.)
But, it’s not that black and white.
As SEOs we’re trying to manipulate or “game” the Google algorithm, or if we’re at least trying to paint a picture that we know Google wants to see. We’re trying to build trust and authority in a way that if Google should look closer at our money site, looks completely natural. They would expect to see some a variety of links, including no-follows.
For example, a website that offers courses should organically pick up links of potential students asking questions about the course on niche-relevant forums. They are natural no-follow links. Equally, as an authority able to create training for other, the same site should have links from news and high authority site where the course site has shared their expertise with others. Again, organic and natural links.
You could argue that no-follow links are essential, to paint a picture of a normal/organic link profile.
Now, if you put your marketing hat on, having a link on a large authority site is likely to bring targeted traffic, which is going to convert traffic then cold traffic because it’s a massive trust signal. Finally, testing has suggested that the right no-follow links do have SEO value.
A wiki-link is still a massive link to include in your profile and you should see a significant bump in your search results. After all, Wikipedia is on page 1 for almost every search term under the sun.
Are snippets losing their value?
According to MOZ, they have seen some evidence to suggest that it might be the case. They’ve seen signs that snippets are on the decrease and knowledge graphs are having their day in the sun.
The number of featured snippets for keywords fell:
And the number of knowledge graph results rose:
Many SEOs have jumped on the opportunity to steal the snippet. It is considered the “real” No 1 spot, and testing suggests it’s a great trust signal for searchers. I’ve created an article with some sneaky tips on how to steal the snippet, read here.
The big question is whether this is a shift or a blip.
It’s been argued that Google is trying to clean up the featured snippets because a proportion of them have been secured by sites that sell relatable products, which would question the accuracy of the information. If you’re selling the product your snippet is related to, you’re going to be giving favourable information.
Knowledge graphs are a different beast.
More often than not, Wikipedia are the resource used for the Knowledge graph which is a more neutral information source, so there is some logic to the change if it were true. The question is whether that’s what Google are in the process of changing or are we just clutching at straws.
Who’s afraid of the big bad update?
It feels like Google is constantly updating the algo these days. That’s because they are. If they are not in the process of rolling out one update, they’re tweaking another.
More experienced SEOs try to see trends and predict changes, the goal is to make changes to the SEO strategy ahead of time, so that their business is not critically affected, it’s something I try to do.
But if you don’t have the time or your SEO expertise is limited at this point in time, there’s a chance you might be negatively affected by algo update and feeling pretty terrible.
So what’s the next step?
With so many algo changes in recent years, there could be a variety of reasons why you’re seeing a drop in search results, so the first and most important part of the process is to be able to put your finger on the problem, to identify it.
It can be anything from over optimised anchor text to the overall site content quality score negatively affecting your search results.
But you won’t know what to do unless you are able to say what the problem is (in Google’s eyes at least).
If you’re working through this for the first time, or it’s something that you’re not full up-to-speed yet, this article should be really valuable to you.
Are you thinking about crypto mining to monetize your site?
If you’ve seen one of the many stories about large companies (UFC, Starbucks to name a couple) using their platform to mine cryptocurrencies and you’re thinking about getting in on the action, my advice would be to stop and get some facts first.
Do you know your legal position? Do you legally have to let users know you are mining data or is it just an ethical issue? Do you have to let users know? Which is going to cause an issue because people are scared of what they don’t understand and for many Cryptocurrency is the unknown.
What about potential malware and security? What do you have to keep in mind to keep you and your users safe?
There’s a lot to digest and Perrin at Authority Hacker has done a good job at starting the conversation and offering some insights worth taking on board.
The machines are coming!
Is RankBrain the beginning of the end for SEO? Or maybe it’s the start of the machines taking over ?(a la the Terminator movies)?.
Google says not. They only use it for content analysis right now:
In essence, RankBrain is able to adjust the algorithm on a query by query basis. So the makeup of backlinks, content, authority etc, will differ from keyword to keyword depending on how searchers have interacted with the results historically.
This will add a whole dimension to SEO moving forwards if and when RankBrain is fully operational.
Google recently run a test. Man vs Machine! They pitted their very best engineers against RankBrain in a test and the machine won. It was 10% more accurate than the engineers which mean RankBrain is likely to become more and more important moving forward.
Brian Dean has a great guide on RankBrain you should check out.
What will Google’s Speed Update mean for your search results?
In case you have been living under an SEO rock, Google are going to be releasing a speed update in the summer.
So what does that mean?
It appears, unless you are worried about mobile traffic, then not a lot. It doesn’t affect indexing and it’s only meant to influence mobile traffic, understandably to improve user experience.
Side note on this subject: Slow site speed has been shown to massively effect conversions and bounce rate. Up to 60% of visitors are likely to click away and check out another site if your page-load speed is slower than 3 seconds. For that reason alone, you should take your websites page load speed seriously.
But if you were worried, hear it straight from the mouth of Google’s spokesperson @JohnMu
The mobile speed update affects only ranking in mobile search results; it's independent of the indexing.
— 🦝 John (personal) 🦝 (@JohnMu) January 31, 2018
How to create content that’s based on Searcher intent?
Searcher intent. It’s the buzz word at the end of 2017 and the start 2018 because it appears that Google has a bee in their bonnet about understanding content and matching it with the intent of the user (which ultimately is a good thing for the user.)
With some searches, it’s pretty easy for Google to understand what the searcher is looking for. For example:
“Which places should I visit when in Rome?”
Google has a clear idea what the searcher is looking for. However, if the search is a little more general, for example:
Then it’s not completely clear what the user is looking for. It could be :
-Suggestions of places to visits in Rome (like the first example)
– Sightseeing tours, or
– Tour guides.
– Tips on how to stay safe when sightseeing in Rome
If the searcher has not been clear with their search, the fun and games begin. Google attempts to interpret what they’re looking for. When doing that, it will display a variety of intent options. You have an opportunity. By interpreting the search results Google displays, you can get a good idea exactly how they’re interpreting a search term and what content they think the user is looking for.
If the top 3 positions on the search results show the same intent, it shows us that this is the content Google thinks the user is looking for most.
If we know how Google has interpreted a search query, it makes sense to tailor our content to fit into Google’s understanding of the search term. We have now increased our chances of ranking because our content is relevant (in Google’s opinion)
Is Dwell time actually a ranking factor? (and what exactly is dwell time anyway)
So there’s bounce rate, Time On Page and Dwell time. Seems a little bit overkill to have 3 similar metrics, but we do. Most people have a grasp on Bounce rate, and Time On Page seems to make sense on the surface, so why do we need Dwell time?
Just to confirm what all 3 metrics are…
Dwell time is the amount of time from the moment someone clicks the search result to visit your site, to the time they return to the search results.
Bounce rate shows the number of times people visited your site and only looked at one page. With dwell time, it measures them returning back to the search results, but with bounce rate, they don’t care if they’ve returned to the SERPs or just closed the page. It also doesn’t matter if they spent 10 seconds or 1 hour on the page, if they didn’t visit any other page it’s a bounced search.
Time on page shows time spent on your site before leaving. It doesn’t matter if they returned to the SERPS or closed the tab. (unlike Dwell Time.)
On the surface we can see how limiting bounce rate is. There can be a number of reasons the searcher didn’t visit other pages on your site. It doesn’t necessarily mean they had a poor experience; they could have received all the information they needed from that one page. Having a high bounce rate shouldn’t be a negative (all though it’s assumed it is because it used to be.)
What Dwell time does well, is measure how relevant the webpage is for the keyword search used. The longer someone is on the page, the more likely it’s a relevant page that offers the searcher value.
But what of the difference between Dwell Time and Time On the Page? Ahref covers it well in this article.