What was that slight chill down your spine? Was it the first cool wind of fall? The spooky vibes of October? Or, are you just scared that you’re going to miss out on the next big trend in SEO?
Fear not. It’s all treats and no tricks in this month’s roundup of all the most important case studies, guides and news items.
The case studies of the month are going to reveal what a survey of thousands of SEOs says about the future of the industry, whether you really know the best length for meta titles and what 3.25 billion data points say about where niches get their traffic.
Then, the guides are going to hit you with a new outreach technique that gets insane results, suggest reasons your CTR data may be flawed, how to adapt to Google’s quality standards, and why you need to go the extra mile to verify your local rank.
Finally, it’s the news. We’ll hit you with the biggest SEO headlines including the changes to “no-follow” (we’ve even got some new tests for you), the need-to-know details from the small September update, and how you’ll soon be able to control your own search snippet.
Let’s jump into the first item and learn what 1000+ SEOs have to say about which ranking factors really matter.
Google Ranking Factors 2019: Opinions from 1,500+ Professional SEOs
So, it’s not a case study, but it belongs here because it involves data and charts about search trends. Where do the industry’s insiders think it’s going?
1584 industry professionals were polled on their impression of which ranking factors were the most important, and which trends will have the biggest impact on SEO in the next 3 years. Their answers were pretty interesting.
They tangled over 26 different ranking factors and 11 trends. There were some clear favorites for both questions and some interesting differences between the top 10% of experienced SEOs and the other 90%.
Relevance of overall page content was universally-declared the most important ranking factor, narrowly followed by quality of links and use of relevant phrases. Near the bottom, were “keyword in domain name” and, brace yourself, “use of external links”.
Guys, please don’t forget…
You’ll see some interesting differences if you compare it to data. Also, Google tends to chart its own course. Any big trend can be nullified by an update.
Next up, find out what a massive data experiment says about the true best length for <Titles>.
Ideal Length Is For SEO In 2019 (Hint: It’s Not 80 Characters Anymore)
This beefy case study looks at 1.5 million title tags to determine what works best in SEO. What kind of titles do searchers prefer? How hard do clicks drop off when your title gets truncated? At what length does Google begin to truncate titles?
If you aren’t sure of the answer to these questions, you may find this pleasantly-organized breakdown useful. You’ll find trends confirmed across millions of results and a firm number for the best title length (spoiler alert: it’s about 50 characters).
It’s all topped off with some helpful advice on crafting good titles.
If you haven’t updated your best practices on titles in a while, this case study can be quickly turned into a plan to optimize all the sites you own (or those of a client).
Next, from the millions to the billions. What can 3.24 billion results tell you about where niches get their traffic?
What 3.25 Billion Site Visits Tell Us About Google, Facebook, and Where Different Niches Get Their Traffic
This massive case study looked at a variety of factors, including how much different industries rely on different types of traffic, and what sources fed them. The results are interesting and useful to anyone who builds niche sites in any of the covered industries.
You’ll find data such as what niches rely most on search vs. social networks, and the most traffic-worthy social network for each niche. The final section of the study is a deep dive into each niche with charts of that niches most important sources.
This is also a study that can really help you organize your paid ads more effectively. Armed with the knowledge of where your competitors are getting the most traffic, you can target your ad campaigns to all the right networks.
You’re ready to move on to the guides. Starting with a backlink strategy on the Authority Builders blog.
The Social Proof Linkbuilding Method
This guide, written by yours truly, lays out one of my most effective link-building tactics. Something I’ve never shared before.
It leverages two very important psychological factors, social proof and fear-of-missing-out (FOMO), allowing you to get some crazy powerful links that you thought you’d never have access to.
And the best part about it… these links are free.
For the video version:
But definitely don’t miss the full write up, where you’ll get my templates and see some of the results I’ve gotten from this strategy.
Next we get into a Moz guide about how to calculate your CTR more effectively.
The Data You’re Using to Calculate CTR is Wrong and Here’s Why
CTR (click-through-rate) is one of the most important statistics of any page. Wouldn’t it be frustrating if you found out that you were measuring it wrong? That’s what Moz is asking us in this new guide, and they have a compelling reason.
As the piece points out, data pulled from some of the easiest sources (Like Google Search Console) are incomplete and full of static. To get comprehensive, reliable data, you need to go to the right places, do a little scrubbing and properly organize the data.
That probably sounds like a lot, but the guide takes you through all of the steps with complete explanations. And to be honest… it’s really not that bad.
How about some information on how to optimize your content? That’s what coming right up in the next guide from SEMrush.
EAT, YMYL, & Beneficial Purpose: What Do Google’s Quality Standards Mean for Search?
This long look into Google’s Quality Standards will teach you how to interpret the search engines 3 key standards: Beneficial Purpose, E-A-T, and YMYL.
In short, “beneficial purpose” is now a baseline requirement. During the June update, John Mueller told people they had nothing to fix when their websites were hit. That’s because Google is now targeting sites it doesn’t consider beneficial. Be beneficial first, or the rest doesn’t matter.
E-A-T, (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) is how the content is judged when the page has been determined to be useful. Does your content have references? Did someone with credentials write the content? Is your website reputable? These answers now matter
YMYL (your money/your life) websites deal with health, dieting, insurance, investments and other topics close to your body or finances. These sites are now under intense scrutiny. Many of the sites that were hit by the June updates were YMYL.
Recent trends suggest that Google is judging content that looks sketchy more harshly. If the sites you deal with were on the periphery of the niches hit by the update, this guide could be a stepping stone on the path out of the danger zone.
Let’s go local for the next piece. How reliable is your local rank tracking? Probably not as accurate as it could be if you aren’t scanning multiple locations.
Why You Need To Be Scanning Multiple Map Location Points For Local Rank Tracking
You should feel very proud if you’ve put a local business into the top position for local results. However, your victory may not be as complete as you think it is. As you’ll learn in this item, a position may sometimes hold only for several blocks.
The guide starts with an experiment. The position of a result is tested in a single location. It’s at number one. However, as the test goes on, more nearby locations as tested. Not even a mile away, the result has dropped completely out of the local snack pack.
Most businesses rely on a much larger service area than a mile, and they may not be aware that their prized #1 position fades away only a few streets over. As the later sections reveal…
Now, it’s time to hit the news desk. There’s several headlines of the month that you can’t miss. First, what does Google want us to know about nofollow?
Evolving “nofollow” – new ways to identify the nature of links
Nofollow is evolving. This release by Google covers everything you need to know about why and how.
It covers how nofollow has changed and what new functions are being introduced. You’ll also find answers to some of the most common questions people are asking about the new updates.
The highlight of the release is the new link attributes that allow you to distinguish sponsored links and user-generated content.
More on this, down below.
Nofollow still exists, but you’ll want to review the release for all the changes that have happened. It can no longer be used as a guaranteed no noindex command (there were always more effective ways to no-index pages). Google now considers nofollow a “hint”, and you’ll want to see the release to be sure of what that means.
The next item is coming up, but this topic isn’t quite finished yet. Your next item is a series of tests into this change that has already been done.
Tested: New Google Link Attributes (Sponsored, UGC) vs No-Follow, Do-Follow
So, you’ve got several new link attributes to play with? Do they matter? Is one more likely to give crawlers a good impression? Is another likely to signal to Google that the page isn’t worthwhile?
Those are some of the questions that this piece sets out to answer. The experiment is as thorough as possible for such a recent change. Several pages were created and given links. For each page, all of the links were set to only one of the following attributes.
So, that’s one page where all of the links are set to no-follow, one page where they’re all set to UGC and so on.
You’ll learn how the rank of each of those pages changed over several weeks of monitoring. You’ll find out how who ended up on top and which of the new attributes can be considered the strongest.
The experiment and results here should be of service to every early adopter. If you like to stay ahead, you’ll also want to see the next item. It covers the outcomes of the Sept. 2019 update.
Google Sept. 2019 Core Update ‘weaker’ than June core update
There was another core update in September. It was a relief to many that it was much smaller in scale than the one that was released in June. However, things still changed in this update and you’ll want to know what they are if you want to be ready for the next “big one”.
You can get some of the information you need in this breakdown of some of the most verifiable effects. There’s a full list of the niches that experienced the most volatility, and the ones most affected might surprise you.
News sites experienced the most volatility, followed by sports sites, entertainment sites, and gaming sites. Don’t assume that’s bad news for them, though. News site DailyMail was one of the biggest winners. It recovered a lot of what it lost after the June update.
You can also hear from SEOs about whether their sites were hit or not. The article hosts some of the biggest tweets about it. Many reactions seems to be positive, with sites responding well to recovery steps. However, some people found that their recovery stopped with this update.
This is only an initial breakdown, of course. More will become clear as the update continues to settle. It’s typical of Google to release minor corrections in the weeks after an update.
Still more Google news is coming right up. In this case, they’re announcing that they will soon let you customize your own snippet.
Google Lets Site Owners Customize Their Search Results Snippets
This is some exciting news for people who have been frustrated over the quality and coherence of the snippets Google chooses for their pages.
Previously, there were few options for frustrated SEOs who didn’t like what was being summarized for searchers. The snippets could be turned off, but that wasn’t a great solution either.
Beyond that, different snippets were simply pulled from all over the page to match certain queries or devices. Now, there are many options. Google is handing out new attributes, letting sites write the snippet and then promising to comply with the settings on all devices.
It could make for much more effective optimization in the future. So could the news in the final item. Google has a new announcement about review schema that’s inspiring a lot of discussions.
Google’s New Announcement About Review Schema
Google is updating it’s review schema to prevent certain types of sites (organizations and businesses) from displaying reviews in their rich results if those reviews are “self-serving”.
How is that decided? What reviews are safe or what reviews are problems? That’s what this lively discussion on Local Search Forum wants to figure out. A lot of people with personal experience weight in on what this means for the local space.
There were some theories of what is now considered proper markup. It is possible that you can review schemas may still work as long as they come embedded from a 3rd party domain.
However, that quickly led into discussions about the specter of schema-related penalties, and whether they were being handed out for review missteps. This crowd seems to feel that they are, and showed up with stories of personal experiences with them.
It’s a good resource for ideas, and strategies for dealing with this change.