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Manage Your Communication with Clients on Your Website

Posted by on Jul 8, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Manage Your Communication with Clients on Your Website

WordPress is certainly a great tool for you if you’re looking to grow your business, but it’s not enough to just have a nice site. You need to be able to communicate with visitors and/or clients. Luckily this isn’t hard at all to do.

LIVE CHAT PLUGINS

You want to do this because it can help you convert visitors into clients. Giving clients different options to get in touch with you will help them feel like they matter to you. That’s where live chat plugins come in!

. WP Live Chat Support – This free plugin allows you to chat either directly (i.e.- without being routed through a 3rd party), or through a hosted server. The free direct chat option is a good choice if you have a small business and don’t expect too much website traffic.
. LiveChat – A feature rich paid plugin designed to work with all WordPress site builders. LiveChat allows you to engage customers as they enter your site with a chat box prompting them to connect. LiveChat also provides several apps for your customer service team members to engage with customers, including Windows, Mac, iOs and Android.
. JivoChat – A chat plugin focusing on Omnichannel customer engagement. This allows you to channel all of your different modes of communication through the app, including email, Facebook, phone and live chat. This is a good option if you’re looking for simplicity and consistency in your different communication channels.
. Tidio Live Chat – A plugin that allows you to chat live with customers or use chatbots. Tidio Live Chat stands out with its simple installation, meaning you can get it up and running in very little time. Tidio Live Chat is a good option if you’re looking for a quick install.

CONTACT FORM PLUGINS

Live chat isn’t the only thing you can use – Contact form plugins are the best for a situation where Live Chat can’t be used, e.g. after-hours.

WPForms – A plugin focused on simplifying the form creation process with its ‘Drag and Drop’ interface. WPForms provides an easy to navigate user experience and plenty of templates to choose from, making it a good choice if you are looking for a plugin that doesn’t require a high level of technical skill to use.
Ninja Forms – Another plugin focused on smooth customer experience and a range of features. Ninja Forms comes in free and paid versions, and provides a high level of customizability. With an unlimited amount of forms in the free version, it’s a good choice if you’re looking to start with a plugin that you can upgrade later on.
HappyForms – A relatively new plugin based on the extensive experience of the Theme Foundry. HappyForms is another user-friendly option that offers free and paid versions. HappyForms is also relatively light on code, meaning it runs smoothly and is a good choice if you’re looking for a simple experience.

Metrics to Help Maximize The Value of Your Content

Posted by on Jul 2, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Metrics to Help Maximize The Value of Your Content

Companies are making a large amount of content without considering which works and which doesn’t. There are metrics that can be used to find that out.

CONTENT PRODUCTION CYCLE HEALTH

In this case you need to track:

. The average length of production – start tracking time from the start of your content creation to the end of it.
. Delivery rates – track what content’s delivered on time and what’s late.
. Content coverage gaps – you need to first align your content to be in the consumer’s interest/s.

THE REACH OF YOUR CONTENT

In this case you need to:

. Measure engagement by each type
. Measure traffic by sales channel category
. Measure referrals
. Measure engagement by content type
. Measure engagement by sales stages
. Measure engagement based on buyer persona.

Internal metrics are important as well. Make sure to look at:

. Month-to-month internal views
. Month-to-month internal downloads
. Internal shares
. Shares of asset via email or social
. Referrals earned

THE ROI OF YOUR CONTENT

Content scoring measures how effective your content is or is going to be at getting conversions. You have to:

. Define alignment on the buyer’s journey – this means you make content based on what your consumers are or will be interested in.
. Assign scores to content types – the first and the last sort of content you publish should have a score placed on them based on how effective each is.

Leveraging WP Site Traffic

Posted by on Jun 27, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Leveraging WP Site Traffic

Let’s say you’ve just created a new blog for business purposes – now you need users to visit it and check out your content, products, or services. Attracting high-quality traffic is very difficult due to competition. Here are a handful of tips to attract said traffic.

FOLLOW GOOGLE’S GUIDELINES

“Google Webmasters” provides plenty of recommendations for content on your website, but here are just a few of those:

. Write with the Readers’ Interests in Mind

A hard-sell copy isn’t going to work because users tend to like reader-focused content. Write something that the target audience is interested in reading. Customer-centered content is also good too.

. Post Regularly

You do have to post something at least once a week.

TRY TO MAKE CONTENT THAT CAN GO VIRAL

Often, a certain subject or event ends up getting talked about vigorously, so articles and other content pieces that contribute to that conversation get a lot of attention. If you would like to try making this so-called “viral content” yourself, here are two ways you can do that:

. Use a Content Discovery Tool to Identify Popular Topics

This’ll help find the best-performing content pieces on the Internet. You can even search for these pieces using keywords pertaining to your blog and adjusting the time period.

. Use the Most Common Features of Viral Content

This has to be: Content written on positive topics that invoke amusement, laughter, and awe; Video reviews of popular products or services; articles that start with “Top 10” etc.; and, Quizzes, generators, and other interactive content.

CREATE INTERESTING HEADLINES

Headlines are tremendously important because they’ll intrigue visitors into more likely visiting your blog or post. In order to do that you’ll need to:

Refer to readers in your headlines, e.g. use “you” and “your”
Use promising words like “free,” “easy,” “better,” etc.
Use numbers, e.g. “5 Things You Should Say to Your Loved One Right Now,” “4 Signs He’s Cheating on You,” “8 Things You Need to Know about the New iPhone,” etc.

LINK BETWEEN POSTS

The reason to do this is because it makes visitors spend more time on your website and explore it. Amazon.com does the same thing with “Similar Products”. Also, having internal links allows for increased traffic by having people visit more pages on your blog.

COLLECT VISITORS’ EMAILS

Email marketing’s a great way to provide people with new content on demand. A lot of websites have a subscription form for this exact reason. Get a subscription form set whereever possible.

OPTIMIZE FOR SPEED AND MOBILE

This one is obvious and stated before but couldn’t be any more important. Users want things fast and they want a website to be readable, something that’s impossible without a mobile-friendly website design.

SHARE POSTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

This is great for increasing your content’s visibility! Make sure to use visuals whenever you place new content on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also make sure to Interact with those who engage with your posts.

WRITE EVERGREEN CONTENT

Evergreen content is simply content that stays relevant for long periods of time. News gets irrelavent very fast, so don’t write about it unless it’s company-specific news (business anniversary, new product/service, etc.)

Best WP SEO Plugins

Posted by on Jun 21, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Best WP SEO Plugins

There are plenty of great plug-ins, but the ones on this list will enhance your SEO efforts.

1. SEO Yoast

This plugin’s probably one of the most used and popular WordPress SEO plugins by over five million websites. One of its best features is the XML sitemap management which allows you to easily create your own sitemaps. You don’t have to code and then fix it if something in’t working.

For content lovers, there’s the content optimization snippet preview which allows you to add your keyword, meta description and meta title to preview them as they appear on search. You also get tips and indications whether your content needs more on-site optimization, including reduction of keyword stuffing.

Moreover, Yoast SEO helps you identify and avoid duplicate content so you don’t get penalized by Google.

2. SEO Framework

Here’s another great plugin for small businesses instead of big companies. The interface looks like it’s integrated into WordPress, so it delivers fast SEO solutions and it’s time efficient. Not to mention that interacting with it feels very natural.

It has an AI built making it very interesting and it automatically optimizes your pages, so it gives you lots of possibilities to create a better website. It comes preconfigured but also gives you the option to change any settings you want. You can improve search results and the social presence too.

3. Broken Link Checker

This plugin parses your whole website and shows you how many broken links you have. You can find said list in a new tab of the WP admin panel – “Tools” -> “Broken Links”. Whenever you find them, there are some actions you can take: “Edit link”, “Unlink”, “Not broken”, and “Dismiss”.

4. All in One Schema Rich Snippets

This plugin can be used to improve the appearance in search engine results with rich snippets. The plugin can be used at its best for schema implementations, such as Recipes, Events, People, Products, Articles and so on.

Using it will give more accurate information to search engines about your website, help your results stand out in SERP and give you a competitive advantage.

5. Rank Math

This plugin helps you optimize your content and outrank your competitors. One of the coolest things is that it supports schema-based themes and also AMP pages.

With Rank Math you can check lots of errors and get a lot of information for your website:

. easy setup using the step-by-step installation and configuration wizard;
. rank tracking option to follow your keywords positions and LSI keyword integration;
. advanced website analysis section to spot any errors that need to be fixed;
. a modular framework so you can have complete control of your website;
. smart redirection manager;
. 40 monitor that identifies and fixes any 404 pages;
. internal linking management and suggestion;
. Google Search Console Integration;
. Easy configuration for rich snippets and so many more.

6. All in One SEO Pack

Here’s an easy WordPress plugin for beginners and small businesses that want to improve their website and increase their rankings, but it does has advanced features and an API for developers; for example:

. XML Sitemap support;
. Google AMP support;
. Google Analytics Integration;
. Webmaster verification options for Google, Bing, and Pinterest;
. Automatically generated meta tags;
. Built-in API and compatibility with a lot of other plugins;
. advanced canonical URLs and many more.

7. SEOPress

This simple fast and very powerful SEO plugin has loads of features that you can easily enable or disable as per required:

. Discover your suggestion for your content through Google’s suggestion.
. Fine tune with a content analysis tool.
. You can track Google event and traffic from the dashboard.
. It is very easy to create and manage 301, 302 and 307 redirects.
. You will be able to check the performance of your site with Google page speed.
. It allows you to implement Google structured data, such as product, article, event, local business, review, video, course, recipe and so on.

Optimize Your Posts before Publishing

Posted by on Jun 18, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Optimize Your Posts before Publishing

Optimizing for SEO is a process of improvement/s, especially when it comes to your webpage or blog content. Here’s a list of recommendations on how to do that.

USE THE BEST TITLE FOR YOUR ARTICLE

You don’t want to write something with a title that’s boring or too long, so make one that’s instantly catchy but is also 50-60 characters long.

It’s easier than you think! If you search “Title Creator” or “Title Generator” you’ll be able to make plenty of good headlines for your post.

USE THE BEST PERFORMING KEYWORDS

This is easy to do as well! Simply go to Google’s very own Keword Planner Tool and find a keyword that’s not too short but not too long, and has plenty of search volume. After that, make sure to place those specific keywords in the title, the post’s URL, and the article body in the first 100 words or first paragraph.

MAKE SURE TO USE H1 TAGS FOR YOUR TITLE

H1 is the tag Google’s search engine looks for when forming its search results, so make sure your title has it! You really only want to use H2 and H3 for distinction within your article.

BUILD METADATA FOR ANY IMAGES / VIDEOS IN THE ARTICLE

Metadata explains an image or video to Google’s web crawlers. This info (in the case of an image) is the title, alt text and its caption. Metadata can also help site visitors should an image fail to load. WordPress is able to add all this in the Media Library.

MAKE IMAGE SMALLER TO MAKE IT LOAD FASTER

This can’t be stressed enough: make sure your post loads fast for viewers, and the best way to do that is to size your images properly.

MAKE CONTENT ENGAGING

Just like your title your content needs to be engaging as well. One way is to add links in your content.

MAKE PARAGRAPHS SHORT/SHORTER

Google and SEO experts say that shorter paragraphs are easier for Google to crawl for. It also makes reading easier too, because most readers scan the article before reading it. Make sure complex sentences are simpler to read (by using Grammarly, Ginger and HemingwayApp) but also highlight key points in your article.

MAKE SOCIAL BUTTONS EASY TO SEE AND USE

Social media are huge traffic sources to share content, so make sure such buttons are visible (nearest the top as possible) so users can share your posts. A plugin can do this automatically for you!

USE SEO PLUGINS

Yoast is a perfect example! It helps you form SEO-friendly titles and descriptions (metadata as well), recommends where to place your target keyword, and provides tips as you write.

Secure WordPress from Hackers

Posted by on May 28, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Secure WordPress from Hackers

According to WP White Security, more than 70% of WordPress websites are vulnerable to a hack attack! But don’t worry – it’s easier to deal with than you think!

INSTALL WORDPRESS SECURITY PLUGINS

Never is it a bad idea to find the security plugin that works for you! “WP All-in-One Security” is the one we use and recommend to clients because it has Brute-Force Protection, a File-Change Scanner, a Firewall, and much more! It even has a “Security Strength Meter” to show now secure you can make your site!

USE STRONG CREDENTIALS

Just create a password (even the one that can be auto-generated by WordPress) that’s at least 12 characters in length and doesn’t just use letters (regardless of capitals or lowercase) or numbers.

KEEP A CONSTANT WEBSITE BACKUP

This is a must-have regardless what happens! Use “BackWPUp” and have it run a backup at the very least once a month!

SCAN YOUR SITE FOR MALWARE

Plugins make it possible to scan your WordPress site for malicious code using a scanner like “Anti-Malware from GOTMLS.NET” – get it for free and scan your site immediately!

LIMIT YOUR LOGIN ATTEMPTS

“All-in-One WP Security” can do this too, so make sure to limit the number of attempted logins so a hacker can’t get in after a number of failed tries to break in!

CREATE A NEW ADMIN IF “ADMIN” IS YOUR USERNAME

Hackers will use the username “admin” because it’s the most commonly used username in WordPress. Make a new one with administrator rights and delete the old one so they can’t get in!

USE TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION

“All-in-One WP Security” does this too by adding a CAPTCHA, but you can even send you a verification code by cell-phone! This makes it much harder for a potential hacker to get into your site!

KEEP WORDPRESS UP TO DATE

This is easily done without you pressing a single button by adding this to your wp-config.php:

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true );

WordPress Security Checklist

Posted by on May 21, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on WordPress Security Checklist

We have discussed security on our blog at lenghth, but it can’t be stressed enough; do yourself a favor and check these must-do’s to keep your WordPress site secure!

USE SECURE HOSTING

First and foremost is secure hosting – don’t go for the cheapest package you can find; that’ll make it too easy for your site to be attacked and therefore make your hosting needs become a frustration.

HIDE WORDPRESS IDENTIFIERS

This means you have to make sure you hide anything that shows your site is that of WordPress. A perfect example is the “wp-admin” login page, which can be changed using security plugins like “All-in-One WP Security”. The ‘created on WordPress’ tagline is one you should remove ASAP as well.

INSTALL A SECURITY PLUGIN

This cannot be stressed enough because it makes security and management thereof so much easier. One way to find a plugin that suits your needs is Google search “WordPress security plugins for [INSERT INDUSTRY TAG HERE] websites”. For example, if your website is eCommerce-intensive, you can search “WordPress security plugins for eCommerce websites”, and as such might need more robust platform than just a free plugin can do.

The afore-mentioned “WP All-in-One Security” and “WordFence” are both prime examples of free yet secure options for most websites.

KEEP PASSWORDS SECURE

This is obvious but make a password that barely anyone would be able to guess. You do have to keep it in a safe place, though, so one free tool – “BitWarden” – manages all your passwords via “Master Password”.

PROTECT INPUT FIELDS

What we mean by this is, you should make sure everything such as your contact forms have a Captcha system, or some way to prove that such form submissions are not by robots in any way. This even includes your login page, where a security plugin (even a free one) can place a Captcha there so brute force attacks against your website become much more difficult.

GENERATE BACKUPS

This may seem obvious but this is a simple mistake to make and yet perhaps the most costly. A free plugin – “BackWPUp” – can take care of this for you right away and even can be scheduled to run entire backups of your site/s.

STAY UP-TO-DATE

Whether you see a WordPress version, theme or plugin that says it needs updating, do as soon as you can if not right away. It will go a long way towards keeping your site secure.

In fact, There is a way to do this automatically without pressing any buttons! Put this code at the bottom of your “wp-config.php” file:

         define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true ); 

Then, put this code at the bottom of your activated theme’s “functions.php” file:

         add_filter( 'auto_update_plugin', '__return_true' );
         add_filter( 'auto_update_theme', '__return_true' ); 

Multilingual Plugins for WordPress

Posted by on May 16, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Multilingual Plugins for WordPress

By sticking to just one language on your website you’re limiting your sales from around the world. As people find new ways to communicate instantly, you’re more and more likely to communicate with people whose first language isn’t English. You’ll be able to reach far more people by translating text into their language. Here are 4 plugins we recommend:

POLYLANG

With this plugin you can add as many languages as you need to every page or post that you’re working on. Although it doesn’t do the translation for you, it does make it very easy to scale your content for multilingual purposes – you don’t have to have multiple websites with different languages, because a user logging onto your site merely has to select a language of their choice.

LOCO TRANSLATE

This plugin does more than just translate posts – it uses the readily available variety of languages WordPress has and does the translation from there. It is $5.95 monthly but you can translate 2,000 words for free.

WORDPRESS MULTINGUAL PLUGIN (WPML)

This plugin lets you automatically or even manually translate your content. More than 40 languages are available for auto-translation. It will cost $29 for “Standard” and $79 for “Advanced” but it has a solid reputation.

GOOGLE LANGUAGE TRANSLATOR

Last but not least is the Google Language Translator. Not only is it free, but Google Translate has become substantially more accurate, and it can support over 100 languages!

Reading Between the Lines – Three Deeper Takeaways from John Mueller at BrightonSEO

Posted by on May 14, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Reading Between the Lines – Three Deeper Takeaways from John Mueller at BrightonSEO

Reading Between the Lines – Three Deeper Takeaways from John Mueller at BrightonSEO

Last Friday I had the pleasure of watching John Mueller of Google being interviewed on the BrightonSEO main stage by (Distilled alumna!) Hannah Smith. I found it hugely interesting how different it was from the previous similarly formatted sessions with John I’ve seen – by Aleyda at BrightonSEO previously, and more recently by my colleague Will Critchlow at SearchLove. In this post, I want to get into some of the interesting implications in what John did and, crucially, did not say.

I’m not going to attempt here to cover everything John said exhaustively – if that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend this post by Deepcrawl’s Sam Marsden, or this transcript via Glen Allsopp (from which I’ve extracted below). This will also not be a tactical post – I was listening to this Q&A from the perspective of wanting to learn more about Google, not necessarily what to change in my SEO campaigns on Monday morning.

Looking too closely?

I’m aware of the dangers of reading too much into the minutia of what John Mueller, Garry Ilyes, and crew come out with – especially when he’s talking live and unscripted on stage. Ultimately, as John said himself, it’s his job to establish a flow of information between webmasters and search engineers at Google. There are famously few people, or arguably no people at all, who know the ins and outs of the search algorithm itself, and it is not John’s job to get into it in this depth.

That said, he has been trained, and briefed, and socialised, to say certain things, to not say certain things, to focus on certain areas, and so on. This is where our takeaways can get a little more interesting than the typical, clichéd “Google says X” or “we think Google is lying about Y”. I’d recommend this presentation and deck from Will if you want to read more about that approach, and some past examples.

So, into the meat of it.

1. “We definitely use links to recognize new content”

Hannah: Like I said, this is top tier sites…  Links are still a ranking factor though, right? You still use links as a ranking factor?

John: We still use links. I mean it’s not the only ranking factor, so like just focusing on links, I don’t think that makes sense at all… But we definitely use links to recognize new content.

Hannah: So if you then got effectively a hole, a very authoritative hole in your link graph… How is that going to affect how links are used as a ranking factor or will it?

John: I dunno, we’ll see. I mean it’s one of those things also where I see a lot of times the sites that big news sites write about are sites that already have links anyway. So it’s rare that we wouldn’t be able to find any of that new content. So I don’t think everything will fall apart. If that happens or when that happens, but it does make it a little bit harder for us. So it’s kind of tricky, but we also have lots of other signals that we look at. So trying to figure out how relevant a page is, is not just based on the links too.

The context here is that Hannah was interested in how much of a challenge it is for Google when large numbers of major editorial sites start adding the “nofollow” attribute to all their external links – which has been a trend of late in the UK, and I suspect elsewhere. If authoritative links are still an important trust factor, does this not weaken that data?

The interesting thing for me here was very much in what John did not say. Hannah asks him fairly directly whether links are a ranking factor, and he evades three times, by discussing the use of links for crawling & discovering content, rather than for establishing a link graph and therefore a trust signal:

“We still use links”
“We definitely use links to recognize new content”
“It’s rare we wouldn’t be able to find any of that new content”

There’s also a fourth example, earlier in the discussion – before the excerpt above –  where he does the same:

“…being able to find useful content on the web, links kind of play a role in that.”

This is particularly odd as in general, Google is pretty comfortable still discussing links as a ranking factor. Evidently, though, something about this context caused this slightly evasive response. The “it’s not the only ranking factor” response feels like a bit of an evasion too, given that Google essentially refuses to discuss other ranking factors that might establish trust/authority, as opposed to just relevance and baseline quality – see my points below on user signals!

Personally, I also thought this comment was very interesting and somewhat vindicating of my critique of a lot of ranking factor studies:

“…a lot of the times the sites that big news sites write about are sites that already have links anyway”

Yeah, of course – links are correlated with just about any other metric you can imagine, whether it be branded search volume, social shares, click-through rate, whatever.

2. Limited spots on page 1 for transactional sites

Hannah: But thinking about like a more transactional query, for example. Let’s just say that you want to buy some contact lenses, how do you know if the results you’ve ranked first is the right one? If you’ve done a good job of ranking those results?

John: A lot of times we don’t know, because for a lot of these queries there is no objective, right or wrong. They’re essential multiple answers that we could say this could make sense to show as the first result. And I think in particular for cases like that, it’s useful for us to have those 10 blue links or even 10 results in the search page, where it’s really something like we don’t completely know what you’re looking for. Are you looking for information on these contact lenses? Do you want to buy them? Do you want to compare them? Do you want to buy a specific brand maybe from this-

This is one of those things where I think I could have figured this out from the information I already had, but it clicked into place for me listening to this explanation from John. If John is saying there’s a need to show multiple intents on the first page for even a fairly commercial query, there is an implication that only so many transactional pages can appear.

Given that, in many verticals, there are far more than 10 viable transactional sites, this means that if you drop from being the 3rd best to the 4th best among those, you could drop from, for example, position 5 to position 11. This is particularly important to keep in mind when we’re analysing search results statistically – whether it be in ranking factor studies or forecasting the results of our SEO campaigns, the relationship between the levers we pull and the outputs we see can be highly non-linear. A small change might move you 6 ranking positions, past sites which have a different intent and totally different metrics when it comes to links, on-page optimisation, or whatever else.

3. User signals as a ranking factor

Hannah: Surely at that point, John, you would start using signals from users, right? You would start looking at which results are clicked through most frequently, would you start looking at stuff like that at that point?

John: I don’t think we would use that for direct ranking like that. We use signals like that to analyze the algorithms in general, because across a million different search queries we can figure out like which one tends to be more correct or not, depending on where people click. But for one specific query for like a handful of pages, it can go in so many different directions. It’s really-

So, the suggestion here is that user signals – presumably CTR (click-through rates), dwell time, etc. – are used to appraise the algorithm, but not as part of the algorithm. This has been the line from Google for a while, but I found this response far more explicit and clear than John M’s skirting round the subject in the past.

It’s difficult to square this with some past experiments from the likes of Rand Fishkin manipulating rankings with hundreds of people in a conference hall clicking results for specific queries, or real world results I’ve discussed here. In the latter case, we could maybe say that this is similar to Panda – Google has machine learned what on-site attributes go with users finding a site trustworthy, rather than measuring trust & quality directly. That doesn’t explain Rand’s results, though.

Here are a few explanations I think are possible:

Google just does not want to admit to this, because it’d look spammable (whether or not it actually is)
In fact, they use something like “site recent popularity” as part of the algorithm, so, on a technicality, don’t need to call it CTR or user signals
The algorithm is constantly appraising itself, and adjusts in response to a lot of clicks on a result that isn’t p1 – but the ranking factor that gets adjusted is some arbitrary attribute of that site, not the user signal itself

Just to explain what I mean by the third one a little further – imagine if there are three sites ranking for a query, which are sites A, B, & C. At the start, they rank in that order – A, B, C. It just so happens, by coincidence, that site C has the highest word count.

Lots of people suddenly search the query and click on result C. The algorithm is appraising itself based on user signals, for example, cases where people prefer the 3rd place result, so needs to adjust to make this site rank higher. Like any unsupervised machine learning, it finds a way, any way, to fit the desired outcome to the inputs for this query, which in this case is weighting word count more highly as a ranking factor. As such, result C ranks first, and we all claim CTR is the ranking factor. Google can correctly say CTR is not a ranking factor, but in practice, it might as well be.

For me, the third option is the most contrived, but also fits in most easily with my real world experience, but I think either of the other explanations, or even all 3, could be true.

Discussion

I hope you’ve enjoyed my rampant speculation. It’s only fair that you get to join in too: tweet me at @THCapper, or get involved in the comments below.

How Often Does Google Update Its Algorithm?

Posted by on May 14, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How Often Does Google Update Its Algorithm?

How Often Does Google Update Its Algorithm?

Posted by Dr-Pete

In 2018, Google reported an incredible 3,234 improvements to search. That’s more than 8 times the number of updates they reported in 2009 — less than a decade ago — and an average of almost 9 per day. How have algorithm updates evolved over the past decade, and how can we possibly keep tabs on all of them? Should we even try?

To kick this off, here’s a list of every confirmed count we have (sources at end of post):

2018 – 3,234 “improvements”2017 – 2,453 “changes”2016 – 1,653 “improvements”2013 – 890 “improvements”2012 – 665 “launches”2011 – 538 “launches”2010 – 516 “changes”2009 – 350–400 “changes”

Unfortunately, we don’t have confirmed data for 2014-2015 (if you know differently, please let me know in the comments).

A brief history of update counts

Our first peek into this data came in spring of 2010, when Google’s Matt Cutts revealed that “on average, [Google] tends to roll out 350–400 things per year.” It wasn’t an exact number, but given that SEOs at the time (and to this day) were tracking at most dozens of algorithm changes, the idea of roughly one change per day was eye-opening.

In fall of 2011, Eric Schmidt was called to testify before Congress, and revealed our first precise update count and an even more shocking scope of testing and changes:

“To give you a sense of the scale of the changes that Google considers, in 2010 we conducted 13,311 precision evaluations to see whether proposed algorithm changes improved the quality of its search results, 8,157 side-by-side experiments where it presented two sets of search results to a panel of human testers and had the evaluators rank which set of results was better, and 2,800 click evaluations to see how a small sample of real-life Google users responded to the change. Ultimately, the process resulted in 516 changes that were determined to be useful to users based on the data and, therefore, were made to Google’s algorithm.”

Later, Google would reveal similar data in an online feature called “How Search Works.” Unfortunately, some of the earlier years are only available via the Internet Archive, but here’s a screenshot from 2012:

Note that Google uses “launches” and “improvements” somewhat interchangeably. This diagram provided a fascinating peek into Google’s process, and also revealed a startling jump from 13,311 precisions evaluations (changes that were shown to human evaluators) to 118,812 in just two years.

Is the Google algorithm heating up?

Since MozCast has kept the same keyword set since almost the beginning of data collection, we’re able to make some long-term comparisons. The graph below represents five years of temperatures. Note that the system was originally tuned (in early 2012) to an average temperature of 70°F. The redder the bar, the hotter the temperature …

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You’ll notice that the temperature ranges aren’t fixed — instead, I’ve split the label into eight roughly equal buckets (i.e. they represent the same number of days). This gives us a little more sensitivity in the more common ranges.

The trend is pretty clear. The latter half of this 5-year timeframe has clearly been hotter than the first half. While warming trend is evident, though, it’s not a steady increase over time like Google’s update counts might suggest. Instead, we see a stark shift in the fall of 2016 and a very hot summer of 2017. More recently, we’ve actually seen signs of cooling. Below are the means and medians for each year (note that 2014 and 2019 are partial years):

2019 – 83.7° /82.0°2018 – 89.9° /88.0°2017 – 94.0° /93.7°2016 – 75.1° / 73.7°2015 – 62.9° / 60.3°2014 – 65.8° / 65.9°

Note that search engine rankings are naturally noisy, and our error measurements tend to be large (making day-to-day changes hard to interpret). The difference from 2015 to 2017, however, is clearly significant.

Are there really 9 updates per day?

No, there are only 8.86 – feel better? Ok, that’s probably not what you meant. Even back in 2009, Matt Cutts said something pretty interesting that seems to have been lost in the mists of time…

“We might batch [algorithm changes] up and go to a meeting once a week where we talk about 8 or 10 or 12 or 6 different things that we would want to launch, but then after those get approved … those will roll out as we can get them into production.”

In 2016, I did a study of algorithm flux that demonstrated a weekly pattern evident during clearer episodes of ranking changes. From a software engineering standpoint, this just makes sense — updates have to be approved and tend to be rolled out in batches. So, while measuring a daily average may help illustrate the rate of change, it probably has very little basis in the reality of how Google handles algorithm updates.

Do all of these algo updates matter?

Some changes are small. Many improvements are likely not even things we in the SEO industry would consider “algorithm updates” — they could be new features, for example, or UI changes.

As SERP verticals and features evolve, and new elements are added, there are also more moving parts subject to being fixed and improved. Local SEO, for example, has clearly seen an accelerated rate of change over the past 2-3 years. So, we’d naturally expect the overall rate of change to increase.

A lot of this is also in the eye of the beholder. Let’s say Google makes an update to how they handle misspelled words in Korean. For most of us in the United States, that change isn’t going to be actionable. If you’re a Korean brand trying to rank for a commonly misspelled, high-volume term, this change could be huge. Some changes also are vertical-specific, representing radical change for one industry and little or no impact outside that niche.

On the other hand, you’ll hear comments in the industry along the lines of “There are 3,000 changes per year; stop worrying about it!” To me that’s like saying “The weather changes every day; stop worrying about it!” Yes, not every weather report is interesting, but I still want to know when it’s going to snow or if there’s a tornado coming my way. Recognizing that most updates won’t affect you is fine, but it’s a fallacy to stretch that into saying that no updates matter or that SEOs shouldn’t care about algorithm changes.

Ultimately, I believe it helps to know when major changes happen, if only to understand whether rankings shifted due something we did or something Google did. It’s also clear that the rate of change has accelerated, no matter how you measure it, and there’s no evidence to suggest that Google is slowing down.

Appendix A: Update count sources

2009 – Google’s Matt Cutts, video (Search Engine Land)
2010 – Google’s Eric Schmidt, testifying before Congress (Search Engine Land)
2012 – Google’s “How Search Works” page (Internet Archive)
2013 – Google’s Amit Singhal, Google+ (Search Engine Land)
2016 – Google’s “How Search Works” page (Internet Archive)
2017 – Unnamed Google employees (CNBC)
2018 – Google’s “How Search Works” page (Google.com)

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