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Generating Local Content at Scale – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by on Mar 27, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Generating Local Content at Scale – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by rjonesx.

Building local pages in any amount can be a painful task. It’s hard to strike the right mix of on-topic content, expertise, and location, and the temptation to take shortcuts has always been tempered by the fact that good, unique content is almost impossible to scale.

In this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones shares his favorite white-hat technique using natural language generation to create local pages to your heart’s content.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, folks, this is Russ Jones here with Moz again to talk to you about important search engine optimization issues. Today I’m going to talk about one of my favorite techniques, something that I invented several years ago for a particular client and has just become more and more and more important over the years. 

Using natural language generation to create hyper-local content

I call this using natural language generation to create hyper-local content. Now I know that there’s a bunch of long words in there. Some of you are familiar with them, some of you are not. 

So let me just kind of give you the scenario, which is probably one you’ve been familiar with at some point or another. Imagine you have a new client and that client has something like 18,000 locations across the United States.

Then you’re told by Google you need to make unique content. Now, of course, it doesn’t have to be 18,000. Even 100 locations can be difficult, not just to create unique content but to create uniquely valuable content that has some sort of relevance to that particular location. 

So what I want to do today is talk through one particular methodology that uses natural language generation in order to create these types of pages at scale.

What is natural language generation?

Now there might be a couple of questions that we need to just go ahead and get off of our plates at the beginning. So first, what is natural language generation? Well, natural language generation was actually originated for the purpose of generating weather warnings. You’ve actually probably seen this 100,000 times.

Whenever there’s like a thunderstorm or let’s say high wind warning or something, you’ve seen on the bottom of a television, if you’re older like me, or you’ve gotten one on your cellphone and it says the National Weather Service has issued some sort of warning about some sort of weather alert that’s dangerous and you need to take cover.

Well, the language that you see there is generated by a machine. It takes into account all of the data that they’ve arrived at regarding the weather, and then they put it into sentences that humans automatically understand. It’s sort of like Mad Libs, but a lot more technical in the sense that what comes out of it, instead of being funny or silly, is actually really useful information.

That’s our goal here. We want to use natural language generation to produce local pages for a business that has information that is very useful. 

Isn’t that black hat?

Now the question we almost always get or I at least almost always get is: Is this black hat? One of the things that we’re not supposed to do is just auto-generate content.

So I’m going to take a moment towards the end to discuss exactly how we differentiate this type of content creation from just the standard, Mad Libs-style, plugging in different city words into content generation and what we’re doing here. What we’re doing here is providing uniquely valuable content to our customers, and because of that it passes the test of being quality content.

Let’s look at an example

So let’s do this. Let’s talk about probably what I believe to be the easiest methodology, and I call this the Google Trends method. 

1. Choose items to compare

So let’s step back for a second and talk about this business that has 18,000 locations. Now what do we know about this business? Well, businesses have a couple of things that are in common regardless of what industry they’re in.

They either have like products or services, and those products and services might have styles or flavors or toppings, just all sorts of things that you can compare about the different items and services that they offer. Therein lies our opportunity to produce unique content across almost any region in the United States.

The tool we’re going to use to accomplish that is Google Trends. So the first step that you’re going to do is you’re going to take this client, and in this case I’m going to just say it’s a pizza chain, for example, and we’re going to identify the items that we might want to compare. In this case, I would probably choose toppings for example.

So we would be interested in pepperoni and sausage and anchovies and God forbid pineapple, just all sorts of different types of toppings that might differ from region to region, from city to city, and from location to location in terms of demand. So then what we’ll do is we’ll go straight to Google Trends.

The best part about Google Trends is that they’re not just providing information at a national level. You can narrow it down to city level, state level, or even in some cases to ZIP Code level, and because of this it allows us to collect hyper-local information about this particular category of services or products.

So, for example, this is actually a comparison of the demand for pepperoni versus mushroom versus sausage toppings in Seattle right now. So most people, when people are Googling for pizza, would be searching for pepperoni.

2. Collect data by location

So what you would do is you would take all of the different locations and you would collect this type of information about them. So you would know that, for example, here there is probably about 2.5 times more interest in pepperoni than there is in sausage pizza. Well, that’s not going to be the same in every city and in every state. In fact, if you choose a lot of different toppings, you’ll find all sorts of things, not just the comparison of how much people order them or want them, but perhaps how things have changed over time.



For example, perhaps pepperoni has become less popular. If you were to look in certain cities, that probably is the case as vegetarian and veganism has increased. Well, the cool thing about natural language generation is that we can automatically extract out those kinds of unique relationships and then use that as data to inform the content that we end up putting on the pages on our site.

So, for example, let’s say we took Seattle. The system would automatically be able to identify these different types of relationships. Let’s say we know that pepperoni is the most popular. It might also be able to identify that let’s say anchovies have gone out of fashion on pizzas. Almost nobody wants them anymore.

Something of that sort. But what’s happening is we’re slowly but surely coming up with these trends and data points that are interesting and useful for people who are about to order pizza. For example, if you’re going to throw a party for 50 people and you don’t know what they want, you can either do what everybody does pretty much, which is let’s say one-third pepperoni, one-third plain, and one-third veggie, which is kind of the standard if you’re like throwing a birthday party or something.

But if you landed on the Pizza Hut page or the Domino’s page and it told you that in the city where you live people actually really like this particular topping, then you might actually make a better decision about what you’re going to order. So we’re actually providing useful information. 

3. Generate text

So this is where we’re talking about generating the text from the trends and the data that we’ve grabbed from all of the locales.

Find local trends

Now the first step, of course, is just looking at local trends. But local trends aren’t the only place we can look. We can go beyond that. For example, we can compare it to other locations. So it might be just as interesting that in Seattle people really like mushroom as a topping or something of that sort.

Compare to other locations

But it would also be really interesting to see if the toppings that are preferred, for example, in Chicago, where Chicago style pizza rules, versus New York are different. That would be something that would be interesting and could be automatically drawn out by natural language generation. Then finally, another thing that people tend to miss in trying to implement this solution is they think that they have to compare everything at once.

Choose subset of items

That’s not the way you would do it. What you would do is you would choose the most interesting insights in each situation. Now we could get technical about how that might be accomplished. For example, we might say, okay, we can look at trends. Well, if all of the trends are flat, then we’re probably not going to choose that information. But we see that the relationship between one topping and another topping in this city is exceptionally different compared to other cities, well, that might be what gets selected.

4. Human review

Now here’s where the question comes in about white hat versus black hat. So we’ve got this local page, and now we’ve generated all of this textual content about what people want on a pizza in that particular town or city. We need to make sure that this content is actually quality. That’s where the final step comes in, which is just human review.

In my opinion, auto-generated content, as long as it is useful and valuable and has gone through the hands of a human editor who has identified that that’s true, is every bit as good as if that human editor had just looked up that same data point and wrote the same sentences.

So I think in this case, especially when we’re talking about providing data to such a diverse set of locales across the country, that it makes sense to take advantage of technology in a way that allows us to generate content and also allows us to serve the user the best possible and the most relevant content that we can.

So I hope that you will take this, spend some time looking up natural language generation, and ultimately be able to build much better local pages than you ever have before. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Top 10 Best St. Louis SEO Companies for 2020

Posted by on Mar 24, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Top 10 Best St. Louis SEO Companies for 2020

Looking for the best SEO companies in St. Louis to help you improve your Google rankings and organic search traffic?

You’re in the right place.

This is an unbiased list and none of these companies have paid for placement. Our detailed ranking criteria is below.

In short: it’s 100% based on publicly available data about each company.

Top 10 SEO Companies in St. Louis, Missouri

  1. Gotch SEO (30 points)
  2. Web Design and Company (29 points)
  3. St Louis Digital Media (22 points)
  4. SEO for Growth (20 points)
  5. Beanstalk Web Solutions (19 points)
  6. Clix (19 points)
  7. Timmermann Group  (19 points)
  8. Red Canoe Media (18 points)
  9. Clicked Studios (18 points)
  10. Kotton Grammer Media (18 points)

1. Gotch SEO

Gotch SEO St Louis

Yes, you’re on GotchSEO.com right now and yes, we’re #1 on this list.

While it may seem biased, it’s 100% based on data using the scoring system outlined below.

Gotch SEO is a St Louis SEO company founded by Nathan Gotch in 2013. Nathan is an internationally recognized SEO expert. His SEO blog attracts thousands of visitors every day, his YouTube channel receives over 500 views every day, and Nathan’s SEO expertise has been featured on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business.com, Search Engine Journal, and many other prominent publications.

Gotch SEO has two divisions.

Our SEO services division helps qualified companies improve their rankings and grow their organic search traffic. Gotch SEO works with local, national, and e-com businesses with annual revenue of $1 million+.

Unlike most of the other companies you’ll see on this list, we only offer SEO services. We know what we’re good at, and we stick to it.

The other division is Gotch SEO Academy, which is a complete SEO training platform with over 1,000 students. It covers everything from creating an SEO-friendly website, to promoting your content to acquire more backlinks. This has helped some companies see an 300% lift in monthly revenue for their business.

2. Web Design and Company

Web Design and Company

Data shows that Web Design and Company deserve the second spot on our list of SEO companies in St Louis. They’re ranking well for the term, have a high domain rating, and a bunch of do-follow links pointing to their website.

As the name suggests, Web Design and Company focus primarily on web design, but offer SEO services, too. They’re a great option for businesses who need help with other areas of their digital marketing strategy (like web development) alongside SEO.

They’ve been in business for 18 years, claim to have created 500,000+ Google rankings, and serve a huge range of industries (rather than specializing in one niche.)

Web Design and Company pride themselves on delivering SEO reports that are “transparent and thorough”—one of which shows a search visibility uplift of 28% for a previous client.

Plus, Web Design and Company have created a range of WordPress products—like the Content Generator and Search Engine Simulator. The goal? To help companies do their own SEO more effectively.

3. St Louis Digital Media

St Louis digital media

As the name suggests, St Louis Digital Media is a full-service media agency. Marketing and SEO forms a branch of their service offering, alongside website design and PPC management.

St Louis Digital Media was created by Kyle O’Donnell in 2012, a marketing and advertising expert with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He also holds a Google AdWords certification.

Kyle’s team offers a free marketing consultation and/or website evaluation for every enquiry. This gives you a chance to see whether their recommendations for your website are something you should consider taking action on.

LinkedIn shows they have a small (but specialized) team of seven, including account managers and content marketing specialists. Clutch.co suggests their hourly rate falls between $150 and $199, with a minimum project size of $1,000.

The offices of St Louis Digital Media are on West Port Plaza Drive, near Page Avenue.

4. SEO for Growth

SEO for Growth

SEO for Growth is widely known as being an SEO book. The book touches on various SEO strategies, including lead generation, the Google algorithm, and content marketing. It has glowing reviews from Brian Dean, Sujan Patel, Larry Kim and Ann Handley.

However, SEO for Growth has a different business model. Instead of being a standalone agency operating in Missouri, they offer SEO consulting, audits, and link-building services for businesses in specific areas—similar to a franchise business model.

The St Louis branch of SEO for Growth is run by Ken Tucker, an Inbound Marketing Certified Consultant. Ken previously taught social media marketing and content marketing classes at the St. Charles Community College. He is also an Inbound Marketing Certified Professional, and Duct Tape Marketing Master Consultant.

To become a certified consultant for SEO for Growth, you need to take their SEO certification. This is level one of their training; you need to complete further training to use their franchise-style system in a specific location.

5. Beanstalk Web Solutions

Beanstalk Web Solutions

Beanstalk Web Solutions is another company who focus on web design services, but also help businesses in the St Louis area with their SEO.

Tim Hebel launched the company in 2013, and has grown to an 11-strong team based on West Moody Ave. They claim to have completed 450 projects for more than 400 clients, and have won awards such as Best Marketing Firms in St. Louis’ 2019 and The Top 50 Small Companies in St. Louis by Small Business Monthly. They’re also a certified Google Partner.

Beanstalk Web Solutions offer a 5-step SEO strategy for businesses in the St Louis area, starting from keyword research and website audits, and ending with detailed reports on the activity taken. They also help with the technical side of SEO with website maintenance and analytics services for WordPress sites.

And, because they’re a full-service marketing agency, they can help with other areas of your strategy—such as app development or website design—alongside your SEO campaigns.

6. Clix

Clix

Clix have offered both generic and local SEO services for over 22 years. They focus heavily on the technical side—including site speed, validating website coding, and developing metadata—due to their experience with web design and development. They work with large and small B2C, B2B, and government businesses.

Their team has 60+ years of industry experience and have Google Partner status. They’ve also made their way onto the Inc 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies, and worked with a bunch of businesses in the St Louis area.

Clix was founded by Jason Hylan, a well-known blogger and national speaker in the marketing space. He’s also a Board Member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization in St Louis, Missouri.

They have more than 30 team members in their two offices in St Louis and Little Rock, all of which are specialists in a specific area—such as social media and copy. Again, this makes them a superb option if you’re in the market for more than SEO services.

7. Timmermann Group

Timmermann Group

Timmermann Group is another full-service marketing agency who offer services to companies in St Louis, Missouri. Their services include everything from photography and graphic design to branding and SEO.

They were recently voted as the best St Louis Marketing Firm, according to their website. And, they’re a certified Google Partner.

This agency was founded by Rob Timmermann in 2003, who has been voted one of the top St Louisans to know by Small Business Monthly. Now based on Locust St, they have a team of 22 marketing experts. They have continued to win awards like Best Marketing Firm and Best in Customer Service by Small Business Monthly.

Timmermann Group offers SEO services to both B2B and B2C companies. Their website shows they’ve worked with every industry from manufacturing and contracting to non-profit and healthcare.

And, as far as keyword rankings go, their website shows they’ve claimed some impressive positions for huge keywords. This includes “hospice services st louis” and “senior living services st louis”, which their client’s websites are ranking in the top spot.

8. Red Canoe Media

Red Canoe Media

Red Canoe Media is a marketing agency offering SEO services to businesses in Missouri who have annual revenues of between $2m and $20m/year. A small team of six, Red Canoe Media is headed-up by Will Hanke. They’re also a Google Partner agency.

Red Canoe Media also has an educational side to their agency. Their founder, Will, teaches monthly classes and runs coaching webinars about marketing through their St Louis Digital Marketing and SEO Workshops.

They also offer free online training you can take before enquiring about their services, host a Facebook Group for marketers, and a membership community to dive deeper into SEO-related questions.

However, one of the biggest differentiators between this SEO company and the others we’ve ranked so far is this: Red Canoe Media is owned by veterans.

Their founder, Will Hanke, served in the United States Air Force, and Will’s son is currently serving in the same force. This deep-rooted belief is shown in their agency’s name. The “RED” stands for Remember Everyone Deployed to show support for troops.

9. Clicked Studios

Clicked Studies

Clicked Studios is a digital marketing agency based in St. Louis, MO that serves B2B businesses and B2C e-commerce companies. However, they’re not a traditional SEO agency. Clicked Studios focuses on brand and app development—with SEO playing a role in that wider approach.

They offer monthly digital marketing services and charge between $5,000 and $15,000 for their design and development services, which includes everything from brand strategy and layout design to copywriting and mobile-friendly website design. Their award for Best Branding Agency in St Louis in 2019 backs this up.

Their founder, Frank Spohr, created the agency back in 2008. They’ve since grown to a specialized senior team of four and have an ever-expanding fulfillment team who have worked with local brands (like the St. Louis Auto Show), and huge brands (like eBay and Expressionery).

Clicked Studios works with House of Denmark. There was already a substantial amount of organic traffic coming to the client’s site, but those visitors weren’t converting. Since implementing their conversion strategy, Clicked Studios grew its email list by 460%.

Spohr’s LinkedIn profile states that they also managed to boost Clicked Studios’ website traffic by 106% after implementing their own advice on omnichannel digital marketing.

10. Kotton Grammer Media

Kotton Grammer Media

The final St Louis SEO company on our list is Kotton Grammer Media—a marketing agency that also helps businesses in 20+ other major US cities including Chicago, Orlando, and New Orleans.

Their owner and founder, Kotton Grammer, has been featured in sites like Forbes, Inc, The Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur. He also has a bunch of Google certifications that show proficient skill in Analytics, AdWords, and Video Advertising.

Plus, Kotton hosts marketing webinars for small businesses alongside the agency’s service offering. He claims to have generated $40,000,000 in digital products through these webinars, according to his LinkedIn profile.

In return for an enquiry, the team at Kotton Grammer Media offer a free report card. This free SEO audit includes important changes that promise to grow your traffic—a great way to spot whether you need help from their team to implement them. You don’t need to handover cash, nor commit to a long contract, to get their input.

Scoring Criteria

Ranking the best SEO companies in St Louis isn’t as simple as taking Google’s word for it. There are several things to take into consideration.

Granted, the SEO performance of the company’s website is important. But we dug deeper, looking at this alongside other key data—like their Google reviews, for example. Our scoring criteria also meant each company must be located in the target city.

We ranked the top companies using metrics like:

  • Whether they had an SSL certificate
  • If the site was mobile-friendly
  • If the site loaded in less than 3 seconds
  • Domain rating
  • Number of referring domains
  • Total traffic to the site
  • The total number of Google reviews
  • The average review score of each

These SEO companies were all given a score out of five for each category. We ranked them based on this score, with Gotch SEO coming out on top with 30 points, shortly followed by Web Design and Company with 29 points.

The final three companies, along with two others that didn’t make the top 10, all received 18 points. So, we ran a tie-breaker scoring system that ranked them from best to worst for their loading speed, number of referring domains, and total number of Google reviews:

Tie Breaker

You can view the scoring criteria here.

Start sending enquiries today

If you’re looking to hire an SEO agency in St Louis, use this guide as your starting point.

This guide is a comprehensive list of the best SEO companies in St Louis, based on actual data—not opinion. Each list we’ve shared meets key SEO criteria, and has proven experience that indicates they might be a great fit for businesses in Missouri.

The only thing left to do is to judge for yourself. Browse their website, read their case studies, and submit an enquiry. Use your own judgement call to pick the one most-likely to help you meet your SEO goals.

Revenue Quality & Leverage

Posted by on Mar 23, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Revenue Quality & Leverage

The coronavirus issue is likely to linger for some time.

Up to 70% of Germany could become infected & some countries like the UK are even considering herd immunity as a strategy:

“I’m an epidemiologist. When I heard about Britain’s ‘herd immunity’ coronavirus plan, I thought it was satire”
– William Hanage

What if their models are broken?

Many companies like WeWork or Oyo have been fast and loose chasing growth while slower growing companies have been levering up to fund share buybacks. Airlines spent 96% of free cash flow on share buybacks. The airlines seek a $50 billion bailout package.

There are knock-on effects from Boeing to TripAdvisor to Google all the way down to travel affiliate blogger, local restaurants closing, the over-levered bus company going through bankruptcy & bondholders eating a loss on the debt.

Companies are going to let a lot of skeletons out of the closet as literally anything and everything bad gets attributed to coronavirus. Layoffs, renegotiating contracts, pausing ad budgets, renegotiating debts, requesting bailouts, etc. The Philippine stock market was recently trading at 2012 levels & closed indefinitely.

Brad Geddes mentioned advertisers have been aggressively pulling PPC budgets over the past week: “If you have to leave the house to engage in the service, it just seems like it’s not converting right now.”

During the prior recession Google repriced employee options to retain talent.

In spite of consumers being glued to the news, tier one news publishers are anticipating large ad revenue declines:

Some of the largest advertisers, including Procter & Gamble Unilever, Apple, Microsoft, Danone, AB InBev, Burberry and Aston Martin, made cuts to sales forecasts for the year. With the outlook for the spread of the virus changing by day, many companies are caught in a spiral of uncertainty. That tends to gum up decisions, and ad spending is an easy expenditure to put on pause. The New York Times has warned that it expects advertising revenue to decline “in the mid-teens” in the current quarter as a result of coronavirus.

More time online might mean search engines & social networks capture a greater share of overall ad spend, but if large swaths of the economy do not convert & how people live changes for an extended period of time it will take time for the new categories to create the economic engines replacing the old out-of-favor categories.

[IMPORTANT: insert affiliate ad for cruise vacations here]

As Google sees advertisers pause ad budgets Google will get more aggressive with keeping users on their site & displacing organic click flows with additional ad clicks on the remaining advertisers.

When Google or Facebook see a 5% or 10% pullback other industry players might see a 30% to 50% decline as the industry pulls back broadly, focuses more resources on the core, and the big attention merchants offset their losses by clamping down on other players.

At its peak TripAdvisor was valued at about $14 billion & it is now valued at about $2 billion.

TripAdvisor announced layoffs. As did Expedia. As did Booking.com. As did many hotels. And airlines. etc. etc. etc.

I am not suggesting people should be fearful or dominated by negative emotions. Rather one should live as though many other will be living that way.

In times of elevated uncertainty, in business it is best to not be led by emotions unless they are positive ones. Spend a bit more time playing if you can afford to & work more on things you love.

Right now we might be living through the flu pandemic of 1918 and the Great Depression of 1929 while having constant access to social media updates. And that’s awful.

Consume less but deeper. Less Twitter, less news, fewer big decisions, read more books.

It is better to be more pragmatic & logic-based in determining opportunity cost & the best strategy to use than to be led by extreme fear.

  • If you have sustainable high-margin revenue treasure it.
  • If you have low-margin revenue it might quickly turn into negative margin revenues unless something changes quickly.
  • If you have low-margin revenue which is sustainable but under-performed less stable high-margin revenues you might want to put a bit more effort into those sorts of projects as they are more likely to endure.

On a positive note, we might soon get a huge wave of innovation

“Take the Great Depression. Economist Alexander Field writes that “the years 1929–1941 were, in the aggregate, the most technologically progressive of any comparable period in U.S. economic history.” Productivity growth was twice as fast in the 1930s as it was in the decade prior. The 1920s were the era of leisure because people could afford to relax. The 1930s were the era of frantic problem solving because people had no other choice. The Great Depression brought unimaginable financial pain. It also brought us supermarkets, microwaves, sunscreen, jets, rockets, electron microscopes, magnetic recording, nylon, photocopying, teflon, helicopters, color TV, plexiglass, commercial aviation, most forms of plastic, synthetic rubber, laundromats, and countless other discoveries.”

The prior recession led to trends like Groupon. The McJobs recovery led to services like Uber & DoorDash. Food delivery has been trending south recently, though perhaps the stay-at-home economy will give it a boost.

I have been amazed at how fast affiliates moved with pushing N95 face masks online over the past couple months. Seeing how fast that stuff spun up really increases the perceived value of any sustainable high-margin businesses.

Amazon.com is hiring another 100,000 warehouse workers as people shop from home. Amazon banned new face masks and hand sanitizer listings. One guy had to donate around 18,000 cleaning products he couldn’t sell.

I could see online education becoming far more popular as people aim to retrain while stuck at home.

What sorts of new industries will current & new technologies lead to as more people spend time working from home?

Categories: 

URL Structure. Dos, Don’ts and Best Practices for SEO

Posted by on Mar 20, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on URL Structure. Dos, Don’ts and Best Practices for SEO

Hey, we get it. The URL structure is a difficult SEO topic. It’s not easy to master, but not impossible, either.
In fact, we’re here to make things easier for you.

 

In this article, we’ll try to answer all your questions and provide examples for a better understanding of how the structure of your URLs influence your SEO strategies.

 

URL structure_cognitiveSEO

 

Even if you own an eCommerce website or are struggling with Local SEO and WordPress, after reading this article you’ll know how to set up your website’s URL structure for great SEO results.

So, keep on reading.

 

  1. What Are URLs?
  2. Why Are URLs Important for SEO?
  3. Does URL Structure Affect Google Rankings?
  4. URL Structure & User Experience
  5. URL Types: Static URLs vs. Dynamic URLs
  6. Click Depth vs. URL Structure
  7. Subdomains vs. Subfolders
  8. Trailing Slash vs. No Trailing Slash
  9. Best URL Structure for Local SEO & WordPress
  10. The Best URL Structure for eCommerce Websites
  11. URL Structure Mistakes
  12. Best URL Structure for SEO (Tips & Tricks)
  13. Does Google Plan to Get Rid of URLs in the Future?

 

 

What Are URLs?

 

A URL (short for Uniform Resource Locator) is the address of a resource on the internet.

 

You can think of it as a regular address, for a house.

 

Servers and browsers use URLs to access web pages and resources on the web. You type in an address, you reach a web resource. It’s pretty simple on the surface.

 

Now, of course, there are a lot of technical aspects to Uniform Resource Locators. However, most of them aren’t an issue for the regular web developer, since they’re handled well by servers and platforms these days.

 

url structure

source: https://sitechecker.pro/

 

Because platforms make it so ‘easy’, the URL structure of a website is often neglected. It’s not easy to understand and nobody tells you why you should pay attention to it.

 

People end up with big sites and bad URL structures and, unfortunately for them, URL issues are pretty nasty.

 

Why?

 

Because they require a lot of patience and double, if not triple check-ups to make sure nothing goes wrong.

 

If you mess things up, you can end up with a big drop in all your rankings.

 

So, it’s a lot better if you get things right from the beginning instead of fixing them later, when the site is big.

 

URL Web Address

 

Why Are URLs Important for SEO?

 

A lot of search engine optimization experts say that the URLs are very important for SEO.

 

So, are they?

 

Well… yes, they are.

 

A URL is important as it’s a link between the user and your content.

 

Google shouldn’t really care what your URL is as long as it’s compliant, indexable & unique. But what does this mean exactly?

 

google webmaster url structure

 

What’s really important is what’s behind that URL #thecontent.

 

Many say the URL needs to be short but, in my personal experience, Google handles long URLs just fine. And they can rank well too.

 

So, only “refining” your URLs constantly won’t help you very much to achieve true SEO success.

 

There are other, more important, OnPage SEO tasks to attend to.

 

What Google actually cares about in relation to your URLs is your site’s structure.

 

Structure is related to your URLs, but also to click depth, which we’ll soon talk about.

 

The good thing with URL structure is that you just have to set up things right once (for the bigger picture).

Then, just follow a simple list of best practices (which I’ll share with you soon) when creating new URLs.

 

 

Does URL Structure Affect Google Rankings?

 

URLs can definitely impact SEO.

 

There are a number of issues that are related to URLs that can affect your rankings. Two of the most important ones are keywords and length.

 

First of all,  you have to make sure that your URLs are valid. Only use the allowed URL characters. If you don’t know what those are, then the best thing to do is to stick to letters, numbers and dashes. Not underscores, but dashes.

 

As Google recommends:

 

Consider using punctuation in your URLs. The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html. We recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs.

 

Keywords in the URL can also help you rank better for a specific phrase. For example, if I want to write for “Site Explorer” it’s a good idea to have my URL as /site-explorer.

 

Having something completely irrelevant in the URL can negatively impact the rankings of that  page, as the URL should be descriptive of the content within the page.

 

So that’s  why it’s a good idea to do some keyword research before writing your URLs. You can use our Keyword Research Tool.

 

Another important factor is the URL length. This isn’t an official ranking factor, but there is a strong correlation between shorter URL length and higher rankings.

 

It’s a good idea to read this entire article to find out how to have the best URL structure for your website, as it can definitely have an impact on your rankings on the long term.

 

URL Uniqueness

 

A URL has to be unique. Well… there’s no other way around it, actually. You can’t have two of the same URL and not land in the same place.

 

What you need to understand is that there’s a big link between URLs and content.

 

Google likes mapping content to a single URL. That makes it unique.

 

Can You Have the Same Content on Different URLs?

 

Have the same piece of content on different URLs and Google won’t like it.

 

For example, duplicate content is mostly considered a content problem when, in reality, it’s strongly linked to URLs.

 

Don’t believe me? Let me show you what I’m talking about:

 

You have a product that fits two categories on your site. That’s perfectly fine. However, if your standard website URL structure is an hierarchical one, then the product might show on two different URLs (with the same content).

 

So we could have a plant-A in the category green-plants but also in tall-plants. If the URL structure is hierarchical, it will look something like this:

 

domain.com/tall-plants/
domain.com/green-plants/
domain.com/tall-plants/plantA
domain.com/green-plants/plantA

 

This way, domain.com/tall-plants/plantA and domain.com/green-plants/plantA both host the same content, which makes it duplicate content.

 

That’s why, for big eCommerce websites, it’s a good idea to separate the products from the categories. This way you could have:

 

domain.com/categories/tall-plants
domain.com/categories/green-plants
domain.com/plants/plantA
domain.com/plants/plantB

 

This issue above is strongly related to structure. If you structure your website in a hierarchical way without considering the above mentioned, you’re bound to have duplicate content issues.

 

Of course, sometimes you can use hierarchical structures to your advantage, such as when you have a simple local website with presentations.

 

domain.com/services/digital-marketing/ads
domain.com/services/digital-marketing/seo
domain.com/services/branding/logo
domain.com/services/branding/design

 

If you know that ‘logo’ and ‘design’ are bound to the ‘branding’ category and ‘ads’ and ‘seo’ are bound to the ‘digital marketing’ category, then there’s no issue in keeping them like that. It actually makes sense to do so!

 

 

URL Structure & User Experience

 

Many SEOs say that URLs are important for a user’s experience. Let’s see why. 

 

Usually, you end up on a website either through the root domain name or from another website, through a link.

 

You’ll rarely type in https://cognitiveseo.com/blog/category/case-studies/ in the browser to access that page.

 

Most probably, you’ll go there through the Google search results or via our navigation menu.

 

Even if it was for you to access that URL from another website, it would probably be under an anchor text, like this: SEO Case Studies.

 

Google has been making efforts to shorten/hide the display of URLs in the browser, if not removing URLs altogether.
(Yes, indeed… well talk more about this at the end of the article.)

 

Sure, a very long URL can look shady and discourage people from clicking it.

 

What would you rather click?

https://cognitiveseo.com/blog/category/case-studies/

or

https://www.google.ro/search?safe=active&sxsrf=ALeKk03mlWIPa2ZmKmvUqRUZXkcfViGLTQ%3A1583311321632&source=hp&ei=2WlfXsqWJI_ergSCv7BI&q=cognitiveseo&oq=cognitiveseo&gs_l=psy-ab.3..35i39l2j0l8.336.1502..1638…0.0..1.176.1258.9j3……0….1..gws-wiz…….0i203j0i10.0ZJhf6POO0Y&ved=0ahUKEwiK55GntoDoAhUPr4sKHYIfDAkQ4dUDCAY&uact=5

 

Well, if it comes from a reliable source (such as a friend), you’ll probably click it. But otherwise, most likely, you won’t. 

 

From what I know, the longest URLs on the web are Google search results pages and links with Facebook ID parameters. Please feel free to share your opinion on this matter on the comments section below.

 

URLs are, however, important for a blogger’s experience.

 

If you want to get backlinks, you want to make your URLs appealing.

 

You don’t want to discourage a blogger to share your post on social media or link to your site from their blog posts.

 

That’s what I think an ‘SEO Friendly URL’ means. So keep your URLs pretty.

 

URL Types: Static URLs vs. Dynamic URLs

 

URLs can be split into two categories. You have dynamic URLs and static URLs.

 

But which ones should you use?

 

Websites, especially eCommerce stores, have both static and dynamic URLs.

 

In fact, any platform which has a database probably has some sort of dynamic URL protocol.

 

So if I set up a basic HTML website, those would be true static URLs. When I have a platform with a database and I’m trying to pull information from that database (let’s say eCommerce filters, such as colors and sizes) the platform will generate dynamic URLs.

 

Static Vs Dynamic URL

 

In Google’s eyes, all URLs are ‘static’. Once they’re indexed, it’s done. Change it without a 301 and Google will consider it gone and derank it.

 

The issue with dynamic URLs is that there’s an infinite amount of URLs that can be generated. That happens because of filters.

 

If you’re not careful, you won’t be able to keep track of them easily.

 

It’s a good idea to avoid too many parameters in a single URL. Limit them to 2 or 3.

 

This usually occurs when people add too many irrelevant filters and index too many pages.

 

Most of the time, people index all the parameters, which is a bad practice. Why index a page if it doesn’t have any searches?

 

Make sure that the parameters you’re letting Google index actually have searches. So if you have a sweater in 10 colors, see if people search for all those colors.

 

If not, index only the ones that do have searches.

 

Thus, if people only search for ‘red sweaters’, then you will only index domain.com/shop/sweaters?color=red. This means that ?color=blue, ?color=black would remain unindexed.

 

Moreover, keep your parameters in an absolute order!

 

What does that mean? It means that if your user selects the color first and then the size, the URL will be ?color=red&size=small but if he selects the size first and then the color, the URL will still be color=red&size=small.

 

So the order of the parameters in the URL doesn’t change. It’s the better option.

 

Sometimes, it’s not easy to set up a proper faceted navigation that benefits both the user experience and SEO.

 

If you want to set up a filtering menu properly, read this article about Faceted Navigation & Filters.

 

Canonicalization

 

Keeping an absolute order is not always easy to achieve. You’ll need a good web developer.

 

In case you can’t keep absolute order for parameters, canonicalization is an easy alternative.

 

So if you have both URLs (?color=red&size=small and ?size=small&color=red) you can just pick one as the main URL.

 

Remember to also self canonicalize the main URL.

 

Therefore, if ?color=red&size=small is our main URL, it would have a rel=”canonical” to ?color=red&size=small and then ?size=small&color=red would have a rel=”canonical” to ?color=red&size=small.

 

Confusing, I know, but very important. You can find out more about canonical tags & URLs here

 

301 Redirects

 

I want to make sure I also cover 301 redirects in this article, because they’re really important.

 

If you simply move a web page from one URL to another, Google will just consider the old page gone and the new page a fresh one.

 

301 redirects SEO

Source gomage.com

 

This means that it has to rank it again, which means you’ll lose the rankings of the old one and have to put up all the work again to rank the new one.

 

To keep the rankings and make Google understand that the old page simply changed its location, you have to use 301 redirects.

 

You probably know all that, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to properly 301 when merging websites. This has catastrophic consequences, so make sure you properly 301.

 

It’s also a good idea to avoid redirect chains. So, it’s better to have A > C and B > C than A > B > C.

 

If you’re looking for SEO tools that can trace redirect chains, the CognitiveSEO Site Audit is a good choice. You’ll find what you need under Architecture > URLs / URL Chains.

 

Redirects & Redirect Chains

 

Click Depth vs. URL Structure

 

URLs are about technical SEO. Not so much user oriented. Click depth, on the other side, is very user oriented.

 

Remember when I said that click depth also matters in the site’s structure?

 

Your site’s structure reflects itself in the click depth and your users react to it.

 

The more users have to click to get to where they want, the less likely they are to convert.

 

Click Through Rate

 

The same thing goes with Google. The deeper the click depth to a page, the less important Google thinks it is.

 

Click Depth is also technical, but it reflects the human behavior, more specifically users’ interaction with your website.

 

Click depth matters for SEO. We could even say it’s one of Google’s ranking signals. In fact, Google official John Mueller said it himself.

 

Now if you read my stuff in general, you know I’m not a big fan of just going after what John Mueller says.

 

However, in this case, there’s a lot of proof to back it up.

 

Breadcrumbs

 

Breadcrumbs can be a sketch of your site’s structure.

 

There are multiple ways you can implement breadcrumbs on your site.

 

The first would be in relation with the URL and site structure and the second in relation with the user’s click path.

 

It’s better to implement the first one, in general. A user’s click path can also be followed via the back and forward buttons in the browser.

 

You also have more control on making the breadcrumbs useful to the user if you structure your site properly.

 

Breadcrumbs & Trails URL Site Structure

 

For example, if you list the featured product Tuna on the Homepage and the user clicks it, a history based breadcrumb system would generate Home > Tuna.

 

Not very useful if the user also wants to see other types of fish.

 

Instead, if I have the domain.com/categories/fish/tuna I can have Home > Categories > Fish > Tuna, regardless of where the user comes from on that page.

 

The breadcrumbs can (and should) be hierarchical, even if the URL structure isn’t.

 

This means that I can have domain.com/shoes/running/ and domain.com/products/nike-xyz

 

Home > Shoes > Running > NikeXYZ where ‘NikeXYZ’ would link to domain.com/products/nike-xyz, ‘Running’ would link to domain.com/shoes/running and ‘shoes’ to domain.com/shoes, while the Home breadcrumbs will link to domain.com.

 

You can see how the site’s structure doesn’t always reflect in the URL path.

 

Subdomains vs. Subfolders

 

When structuring your site, there’s always the option of using subdomains.

 

A subdomain is what’s before your root domain name. Thus, tools.cognitiveseo.com is a subdomain, while cognitiveseo.com/blog is a subfolder.

 

Subdomains act… sort of like separate websites.

 

Many say there’s no difference between using subdomains vs. using subfolders, but many have also brought proof that it’s safer to use subfolders.

 

If your internal links strategy is set up properly, subdomains should also work very well.

 

While subdomains can rank properly, if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s better to stick with subdirectories.

 

Trailing Slash vs. No Trailing Slash

 

I’m just going to keep this short: it doesn’t matter.

 

Just make sure you keep it consistent and properly 301 to the main version.

 

Google treats https://cognitiveseo.com/blog/23628/url-structure/ and https://cognitiveseo.com/blog/23628/url-structure as separate URLs.

 

If you don’t use 301, both pages will get indexed and they will cannibalize each other.

 

In the old days of the internet, most web pages would have an extension as they were all seen as file names (such as page.html).

 

The trailing slash would represent a folder instead of a file, but today that’s not the case anymore. Just be consistent and 301 properly.

 

Relative URLs vs. Absolute URLs

 

Links can be absolute URLs or relative URLs.

 

Absolute URLs include the protocol, subdomain, subfolder and everything else after.

 

An absolute URL would be https://www.website.com/page/subpage/.

 

A relative URL would be /page/subpage/.

 

It’s very important to use relative URLs only on your website and absolute URLs on other websites.

 

So, if you do link building to get backlinks, make sure you always use absolute URLs.

 

For Google, it doesn’t really matter which one you use on your website, but it can affect you if you want to change your domain name or switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

 

If you use absolute URLs as part of your internal linking strategy, when you change your domain, those absolute URLs will remain, thus still linking to the old domain.

 

Sure, you will have 301 redirects set up, but it’s always better to have the new domain in all your internal links.

 

So make sure that when you do internal linking, you use relative URLs if possible, so when you make any changes to your domain, the platform can take care of everything and you won’t have to manually replace thousands of links.

 

 

Best URL Structure for Small Sites, Local SEO & WordPress

 

Small websites can have hierarchical URL structures, as previously mentioned. Just make sure you won’t cause duplicate content issues.

 

If you’re targeting multiple locations, then you should have separate pages for each location you’re targeting.

 

I know, many might say that these are doorway pages and that Google penalizes them.

 

However, they’ve been proven to work countless times. There’s also no alternative to doorway pages.

 

Keep it relevant and Google will reward you.

Local SEO URL Structure

If you have a WordPress blog, then you most probably want to keep the pages immediately after the root URL.

 

We’ve separated our blog under /blog because we have a separate WordPress install in /blog which makes it impossible for us to place article URLs immediately after the root domain name.

 

You might also notice the numbers after the blog. That’s an identifier, which was a technical necessity some time ago. It’s better if you don’t have those.

 

So, if you can, go for https://cognitiveseo.com/url-structure/ instead of https://cognitiveseo.com/blog/23628/url-structure-seo/.

 

If you’re wondering why we’re not doing this, here’s the answer: We could remove them, but it would require a big effort mapping all the articles for 301 redirects and we don’t consider this would have a big / positive impact on your rankings.

 

Our website has multiple functionalities and is pretty big and complex. We have our tools landing pages in our root domain, so it makes sense to separate our blog in the /blog subdirectory.

 

If you just have a blog, then keep URLs immediately after the root. Brian Dean’s blog on Backlinko.com is a good example.

 

Avoid using the date in the URL if your post is evergreen. This will discourage users to click your result in the future and will also make Google think your content is ‘old’.

 

The Best URL Structure for eCommerce Websites

 

When it comes to eCommerce websites, things aren’t that simple with URLs.

 

The safest way to go for it is to separate each section in its own subdirectory.

 

This means that you’ll need a /blog/ or /articles/ prefix for your articles and posts, a  /products/ prefix for your products and a /categories/ for your categories and so on.

 

This helps you keep track of your pages. If you every crawl your website to analyze it… it will be a nightmare to analyze the information if all the post types were in the root domain.

 

Image result for site structure

Source: searchengineland.com

 

Make sure you don’t add too many subcategories. Remember, try to keep the click depth … shallow.

 

Take advantage of the breadcrumbs recommendations I’ve made above.

 

Make sure you know exactly which URL parameters/filters you index and which you don’t.

 

You should definitely read this article about Faceted Navigation for SEO

 

URL Structure  Mistakes

 

There are some things that you must definitely avoid when creating your URL structure.

 

Here’s a list of the top biggest mistakes that webmasters make when they create their URLs.

 

Changing URLs without 301

 

As you’re on a page about URLs, if your structure is bad or you’re contemplating on changing it, then I can’t stress this enough.

 

Your rankings will drop if you don’t properly 301 from the old pages to the new ones.

 

Remember, if you change the URL, you MUST use 301 redirect from the old one to the new one.

 

Having multiple variants

 

One problem that  many websites have is not properly redirecting all the variants of the site to a single one.

 

For example you can have HTTP and HTTPS and then with WWW or without WWW.

 

This results in 4 versions which Google sees as separate sites, in a way:

 

http://cognitiveseo.com
https://cognitiveseo.com
http://www.cognitiveseo.com
https://www.cognitiveseo.com

 

Make sure you pick one and 301 redirect all the others to it.

 

You can read more about which version you should choose in our article about WWW vs non-WWW .

 

Having multiple URLs for the same content

 

Sometimes, it can happen the different URLs have the same content. This is called duplicate content and it can happen often in eCommerce websites.

 

You can have, for example, two filter parameters such as ‘red’ and ‘small’.

 

However, if all your red products are small and all your small products are red, those pages will mostly be identical.

 

This is just a hypothetical example, but things can scale pretty quickly, creating hundreds if not thousands of very very similar URLs with not much value.

 

If you want to read more about how to fix this issue, check out our Faceted Navigation Guide.

 

Using ‘bad’ characters

 

Browsers only support certain characters in the URL.

 

Most content management systems know how to handle these and will strip them from the URL if you add them unknowingly.

 

It’s best to avoid parameters and complicated URLs, at least for the pages you want to be indexed and ranked well.

 

Google can handle parameters with numbers and other characters, but most of the pages you want to rank high for very competitive keywords should be static URLs with keywords in them.

 

Using too many subdirectories & categories

 

If you have an eCommerce website, try to keep things short. Don’t add hundreds of layered subcategories. Only add the important ones.

 

A good idea to know which ones are important is to do proper keyword research. If nobody searches for those terms, maybe don’t add them as subcategories.

 

You might have some granular structure that seems important, but if users only search for the 5th level, then maybe make it the first or the second and cut the other ones.

 

Keeping everything in root domain

 

When you create the structure  of the site, make sure to separate different articles

 

Some web masters consider that the shorter the URL, the better. But not in every case!

 

If you have a blog on a certain topic, such as Backlinko.com, it might make sense to keep everything in the root domain. You have very few pages and it’s easy to manage.

 

However, if you have a big site, and you have services, products, articles, locations and so on, it will be a nightmare to analyse the website after a crawl if everything is in the root domain.

 

Not using keywords or using too many keywords

 

Make sure you have some of the most important keywords the users are searching for in your URL.

 

Not having keywords at all is a very bad idea, especially if you have only numbers, or dates or so.

 

So if you have an article about really good rock bands don’t let your URL be site.com/03/03/2020/article-1523 but instead have it site.com/top-5-rock-bands-2020.

 

On the other side, it’s a good idea to not have the keywords too many times. It looks spammy and Google can pick up on that.

 

Avoid creating duplicate iterations of the keywords in the URLs.

 

This can happen often on eCommerce websites, when creating categories and not editing their URLs.

 

The content management system will just pick up the title of the page, and the hierarchical URL structure will look like this.

 

musicsite.com/drums/acoustic-drums/acoustic-drum-accessories/

 

A better option would be:

 

brandsite.com/drums/acoustic/accessories.

 

Best URL Structure for SEO (Tips & Tricks)

 

There is no clear best URL structure for SEO as this depends on very many factors. However, in order to maximize the search engine optimization benefits, make sure to follow these best practices for SEO friendly URLs.

 

Use Keywords in Your URLs:

 

Keywords are very important for SEO. It’s a good idea to add them in your URL. These URLs are called semantic URLs.

 

It’s more important to have your target keywords in your title tags and content than in the URL.

 

However, adding them in the URL can bring some benefits:

 

For once, if users look just at the URL, they’ll know what it’s about.

 

Secondly…

 

If you do link building to your page without using keyword rich anchor texts, the URL will act as the anchor text so it’s a good idea to have the keywords there!

 

You can simplify URLs by removing short or less descriptive words such as stop words. Here are some stop words examples: to, the,  how, and, for, it, a, why.

 

For example, instead of /how-to-jump-really-high/ you could just go for /jump-higher/ or /improve-jumping/.

 

You don’t always have to remove the stop words from your URL.

 

For example, you might have the target keyword “how to cook” where the URL domain.com/how-to-cook/ is just perfect.

 

It’s also a good idea to add the main keyword in the URL, if you have one and it also has searches.

 

In this case, it fits my article: people search for “url structure seo” and my URL is /url-structure-seo/.

 

But people also search for “how does URL structure affect SEO”. Why didn’t I choose this keyword phrase as my URL?

 

Because the first one has more searches 🙂 I’ll let you figure out the rest.

 

If you’re looking for SEO tools that can check that for you on a large scale, make sure to check out CognitiveSEOs Site Explorer. You’ll find what you’re looking for in the Architecture > URLs section.

 

Keywords in URLs SEO Tools

CognitiveSEO Site Audit URL Analyzer Tool

 

Keep the URLs Short:

The popular opinion is that shorter URLs rank better.

 

While I personally still have to investigate this matter, I still keep my URLs short and to the point.

 

Why? Because they are better for user experience. Here’s how our most important pages URLs are:

 

URL Structure SEO  Examples

 

On a WordPress platform (not our case for the main site), they would be generated using data from the post title.

 

Content management systems such as WordPress would strip  some elements that are incompatible, so they would be like this:

 

cognitiveseo.com/site-explorer-by-cognitiveseo-backlink-checker-link-research

cognitiveseo.com/1-keywordtool-by-cognitiveseo-keyword-explorer-content-optimization

 

Not… horribly, but not very good either.

 

And it’s also on the safer side to keep them short. If URL length does actually matter for OnPage SEO, better have it short rather than long, right?

 

While there’s a correlation between shorter URLs and high rankings, it doesn’t 100% mean it’s because of the shorter URLs.

 

Maybe very well optimized sites also like to have prettier, shorter URLs.

 

However, don’t try to make them too short. For example, some use /p/ instead of /products/ and /c/ instead of /categories/.

 

I don’t think that’s necessary. In fact, I consider it looks more spammy.

 

Too short might also mean removing some important keywords

 

Keep URLs Unique

 

Make sure you don’t already have very similar pages before you write and publish a new page.

 

If you do, it might be a good idea to better optimize the other page instead, or target a different topic/set of keywords for the new one.

 

Use Hyphens Instead of Underscores & Avoid Special Characters in Your URLs

 

Hyphens and underscores look very similar, but on the internet they’re treated pretty differently.

 

Google recommends that you should avoid underscores in your URLs. They can cause issues.

 

Underscores are treated as word joiners by Google, while dashes as word separators.

 

People are also used to dashes more. So your URL should be url-structure-seo not url_structure_seo.

 

Also, avoid any special characters in your URL, except the basic ones used for parameters and anchors such as ? & = #.

 

Most platforms won’t even let you do it but, if your URL contains characters such as , or ; or ‘, it can cause problems.

 

If you don’t know what a special character means or does in a URL, then it’s better not to use it.

 

Of course, there’s also the trailing slash /, which is ok to use.

 

Use as Few URL Parameters as Possible

 

Parameters can add to length and they also make a URL look 

 

However, in certain situations, they also add keywords in your URL which can be a good thing if people search for those keywords.

 

Remember to only index the pages people actually search for instead of every possible filter combination your site can come up with.

 

Prioritize & Think about Click Depth

 

Don’t add too many deep pages, such as subcategories inside subcategories #inception.

 

Keep it short and to the point.

 

If you do have a lot of deep pages which are important, make sure you use internal links in your blog posts or other sections of your website so that Google can properly find them.

 

You can also share these pages on social media or other websites from time to time.

 

Avoid Hierarchical URLs When You Have a Site that Changes Often

 

This goes mostly for eCommerce or any site that is very dynamic, such as news sites, car trading sites, events sites, etc.

 

You can use hierarchy if you’re sure a resource won’t change its parent.

 

Don’t Stuff Keywords in Your URLs

 

Keyword stuffing is bad in content, bad in title tags and bad in URLs.

 

Don’t do it!

 

Sometimes, people stuff in keywords in their URLs by mistake.

 

Example: randomshoeswebsite.com/shoes/running-shoes/running-shoes-for-women/red-running-shoes-for-women/nike-running-shoes-for-women/

 

I’m not sure it’s the best example, but I hope you get the point.

 

Instead, maybe go for something like: randomshoeswebsite.com/shoes/running/women/nike/red/.

 

Avoid Duplicate, Similar & Thin Content

 

Again, duplicate issues are mostly caused by poor URL structure implementation, bad canonicalization and indexation practices.

 

Make sure you don’t have very similar pages on your website or they will impact your overall website SEO performance.

 

If you’re looking for SEO Tools that can fix duplicate content issues, then the CognitiveSEO Site Audit Tools is perfect for you. You can find what you’re looking for under the Content Section.

 

Thin & Duplicate Content SEO

 

Does Google Plan to Get Rid of URLs in the Future?

 

It might be the case that, in the future, Google will pursue its dream of getting rid of URLs.

 

The first step would be not to display them at all, first in the search results and then in the browser itself.

 

However, getting rid of URLs 

 

This all started with Google AMP, where Google caches the resources on their web servers, therefore displaying them on their ugly URLs, which they then hid.

 

If you want to know more about the subject, read this article about Google trying to remove URLs.

 

Conclusion

 

The URL structure of your website is important. Don’t neglect it! You only have to set it up right once.

 

Once you structure things properly, just follow the best practices. Add your target keywords, think about URL length, avoid keyword stuffing, limit irrelevant URL parameters and you’re good to go.

 

How did you set up your URL structure? Let me know in the comments section below!

The post URL Structure. Dos, Don’ts and Best Practices for SEO appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

How eCommmerce is Being Impacted by Coronavirus and What SEOs Could Do

Posted by on Mar 19, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How eCommmerce is Being Impacted by Coronavirus and What SEOs Could Do

Covid-19 has had a noticeable impact on our economy so far, there is no doubt about that. Here at Distilled<>Brainlabs, we are doing our best to help our clients understand consumer insights and behaviors during this unprecedented time. With no surprise, e-com has been very affected by such circumstances, especially in geographical areas where the virus has been more prominent.

With this post, we aim to share some of the insights we have been seeing, with the intent to help other agencies and brands gather valuable insights to emerge faster from a time of crisis.

We’ve had many clients asking:

  • Is just them being impacted?
  • What about their competitors? 
  • What impact is this having across various regions?
  • How will regions yet to be “hit” be effected?

The main takeaway is that, from our current research, what we are seeing in the SEO industry is that traffic drops are drops in interest, not rankings.

Top level findings

Here you will find a list of top-level insights, gathered in the first two weeks of March. It is worth clarifying that most (not all) of the findings relate to the clothing e-commerce space, with a stronger focus on the luxury vertical.

  • As expected, luxury brands are among the worst hit by this uncertain situation. Traffic in Continental Europe is significantly down due to the anticipated change in consumer behaviour, which sees luxury brand searches considerably in decline.
  • Generally speaking, Italy is the country which has experienced the highest drops in traffic, followed by Spain, France and Germany.

Google Trends data for three brand queries of popular e-commerce websites in Italy, in the last 30 days vs the same brand queries in the UK.


While interest in these three brand queries dropped drastically in Italy after the events of the lockdown, we have witnessed very little to no change in UK’s trends for the same period of time – after Boris Johnson (the UK’s prime minister) addressed the nation on live TV, there has been a slight impact on such terms, which seem to be on the verge of a slight decline after the weekend.

  • China, a key market for most luxury brands, seems to show slow signs of recovery for some western luxury brands, with promising sales levels which match the country’s positive news regarding the slow-down of the virus spread (read more here). However, due to the rising concern about a second-wave of the virus, there is still a lot of uncertainty on how consumers will react in Q2.

Baidu Index data – a similar data source to Google Trends – for a series of luxury brand queries (selected based on Gartner data for China) in China since January 2020. [Enlarge image]

After a very large drop between mid to end of January, interest appears to pick up form mid-February.

  • While traffic driven by brand & transactional keywords is struggling, informational & navigational terms are showing good traffic numbers. Brands with blogs and content hubs have witnessed a similar if not more number of clicks to such sections of their site, based on our initial research.

We analysed the number of clicks recorded in Google Search Console (GSC) for the blog of a client of ours based in the UK, for the following period: 19th of February to 17th of March, comparing two weeks periods. We removed all brand & irrelevant queries while focussing on the top 500 informational & navigational terms in GSC.

As shown in the bar chart above, clicks driven by the keywords analysed have seen a slight improvement from 550 to 638 clicks.

  • A good portion of the current organic traffic to eCommerce sites seems to be originating from queries such as: “returns”, “exchanges” and more generic “online delivery” and “size guides”

What should you do to help limit this decline?

The list below contains a series of recommendations that can be applied to all e-commerce sites:

  • Despite the fact that conversions have been in decline (and are likely to be down for a while) due to the uncertain economic climate, users will still browse and consume tons of content – find out more in this post from the global web index. We recommend prioritising top of the tunnel and re-purposing your existing editorial content, in order to boost traffic to your site and engage users with more informational and navigational pieces.

See an example here – this is Nordstrom’s homepage: they have increased the visibility of their editorial content, easily accessible from the homepage.

  • Make sure the information on your online delivery (and size guides) are made more prominent and accessible from the homepage and navigation menu as people who would normally purchase in-store are now going online.
  • Monitor what products seem to be more in demand in this period, and update the homepage banners to promote such products, in particular items that encourage indoor consumption (for instance: games, home products, furniture, loungewear, craft and so on). Use your social media to support this strategy.

Nordstrom’s homepage appears to be a great example again.

  • Update your metadata (especially title tags) to highlight your online shopping capabilities and emphasise your delivery & return options.

See an example here – this is Zalando women’s dresses page

  • Consider making shipping policies more competitive. Some brands are offering free deliveries for lower order amounts (for instance: if you offered free delivery for orders over £100, consider cutting it to £50). Again, social media can help you emphasise this message as fast as possible.

See this Instagram post – the Italian clothing brand Gutteridge is now offering free delivery on orders over 30 Euros, while supporting the hashtag to stay at home during the lockdown.

  • Do not forget about any video content you may have already, that can help with the above recommendations (size-charts, deliveries, returns and more), using social channels to promote it even further – YouTube is your friend here.

See an example here – M&S has a plethora of sizing and buying guide videos on YouTube that could be used to reinforce their marketing message.

Should my SEO strategy change?

We do work in the SEO space but in times like these, it is important to be objective: differently from other channels, SEO has always been a long-term play. Learning from the 2008 economic crisis (Moz post on the subject is very interesting), it is worth considering how investing in SEO now while other companies aren’t, might help you be in a better position when good times resume.

Your SEO roadmap should probably change (see the paragraph below), but your overall strategy should not vary much. To reiterate what mentioned at the beginning of the post: what we are seeing in the SEO industry is that traffic drops are drops in interest not rankings, which means this decline is driven by a change in consumer behavior and not by Google.

What SEO activity should I focus on?

In terms of actual tasks and things to prioritise:

  • For the risk-adverse SEOs out there: it may be worth focusing on structural SEO activities, such as tech audits and health checks. Or simply pick up those activities that you never have time to do: review your analytics and make sure reporting is flawless, refresh your keyword research, update your structured data, and so on.
  • For the more adventurous SEOs: It is a good time to be testing “riskier” strategies, as they could be reversed with limited damage, given that less traffic is at risk.

No matter what approach you prefer among the two above, editorial content should be a priority. Yes transactional terms are experiencing lower interest (hence, traffic), but people have a lot of time to browse your site and most importantly, they have a lot of time to consume digital content – whether it is from social media (read how covid-19 has created a surge in social media usage) or from search engines. Repurposing / creating top of the funnel content, together with a strong social media strategy to support it, should be your focus.

See an example of two queries that are driving a lot of interest in the last week or so: “kids activities at home” and “home exercise”.

CRO is a serious opportunity

Consider switching your attention to conversion rate optimisation (CRO). It is worth evaluating what you can do to improve the likelihood of conversions, with the low(er) traffic available to the site. Experimenting with CRO (while keeping an eye on SEO) might be worth a shot right now.

Either focus your attention on pages that have the highest organic traffic or go for bolder changes on lower traffic pages/sections that you might be typically too risk-averse to try. Experimenting with CRO (while keeping an eye on SEO) might be worth a shot right now.

Consider using the new schema

Schema.org just released a new type of structure data to address the global response to the Covid-19 outbreak. In particular, two new types have been highlighted: “SpecialAnnouncement” and “eventAttendanceMode” which can support websites providing event updates in the SERP. The latter will specifically help those businesses whose events have moved from a physical location to online (find more on the event subject here)

Final Thoughts

To reiterate some of the key points in this post, we have also included a screenshot from Google initial findings and forecasts on the retail industry.

Undoubtedly, covid-19 is disrupting the digital marketing space, creating a lot of uncertainty for consumers and businesses. However, there is still a lot we can do to limit its effects, while waiting for the economy to recover. The companies that play their cards right and are digitally-forward thinking, will be better positioned coming out of these tough times, similarly to what happened after SARS (2003) and the economic crisis (2008).

What The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Means For Marketers

Posted by on Mar 18, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on What The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Means For Marketers

By now you have heard about the Coronavirus.

The sad reality is that it is spreading quickly and will continue to spread for a while.

Did you know that we are getting roughly 13,000 new cases a day and it’s growing fast?

No one really knows how many people will be infected (or will pass away sadly), but it has caused the global stock markets to crash, which means as a business (or even a marketer), you will be affected.

And because my ad agency works with hundreds of companies in all the major sectors and we have 7 offices around the world, we are already starting to see how it is impacting marketing (I’ll share the data below).

So what does this mean for you?

Well, before I go into that, let me be clear on what marketers should NOT do.

Don’t exploit the situation

The first thing we are seeing is people trying to exploit fear.

What I mean by this is supplies are running low around the world. From masks and toilet paper to hand sanitizer and other basic necessities… I am seeing marketers buying them and then reselling them on eBay or running ads and selling them for 10-50x the price.

This isn’t entrepreneurship and this isn’t marketing. I highly recommend that you avoid exploiting the Coronavirus situation to make a quick buck.

Not only is it wrong but it is also very short-sighted. Sure you may be able to make a quick buck, but it won’t last… you are better off spending your time on anything that is long term.

So now that we got that out of the way, what does the Coronavirus mean for marketers?

Businesses are going to struggle for a while

Even if the virus slows down fast as the numbers have dropped in China, businesses are going to struggle for well over a year because they will have to make up for their losses.

For example, in China the virus caused retail sales to drop by 20.5% and the unemployment rate jumped to 6.2 in February.

When companies like Apple shut down their stores to help reduce the spread, it means less income and less profit. Sure they are able to pay their employees during their temporary shutdown, but not all companies have their bank balance and most won’t be able to do the same.

Just look at the travel industry. The virus is expected to lose them 820 billion dollars. Virgin Atlantic just asked their staff to take an 8-week unpaid leave.

The ports are also empty and the first rounds of layoffs have already started.

It’s estimated that in total COVID-19 will cost the global economy $2.7 trillion.

And not only are people losing money but they are losing traffic and conversions.

Organic traffic is down in most industries

As I mentioned above, we work with hundreds of clients in different industries through my agency. On top of that, we also have tons of data because of Ubersuggest.

Before I dive into the data, note that we didn’t focus on any one single country, we decide to look at the traffic stats from a global perspective. We also didn’t include data from sites with less than 5000 visitors a month as they tend to have drastic swings from a percentage perspective even when there are no global issues or algorithm updates.

We also don’t have data on every single industry, for example, we don’t really work with many restaurants nor do we purchase data for that category as local restaurants usually don’t have the biggest marketing budgets. We have data on most of the major ones, but again not all.

Now, from an SEO standpoint, last week we saw huge drops in organic traffic for most industries we are tracking. Just look at the chart below (compares last week to the previous week).

If you are in the news industry or financial space, your traffic skyrocketed. 

And if you are in the travel industry, you saw massive drops in traffic.

You can’t tell by the chart, but e-commerce was a mixed bag, depending on what sites sold, traffic was either up or down. For example, if you were selling baby products like diapers or wipes then you saw a nice bump in traffic.

But if you were selling luxury goods like big-screen televisions you saw a drop in traffic.

Conversions were also down for most industries

From a conversion rate standpoint, we saw drops in most industries as well. Even the financial sector, which had big traffic booms in traffic, dropped in conversions.

Just look at the chart below (comparing last week to the previous week):

As for news (media) sites, they had a big conversion lift as many of them charge for people to read their updated information.

For example, you can only read a certain amount of content from the Washington Post for free until you see a message that looks like this:

People didn’t want to miss out on Coronavirus, political and financial information with the turmoil, hence news sites saw a nice lift.

And with some sectors like travel, they are currently offering massive discounts, which is helping counteract some of their traffic declines. Overall, they are still seeing a massive revenue hit.

Pay-per-click data

We don’t have as much pay-per-click data as we do for SEO as Ubersuggest is mainly used for SEO purposes, but we haven’t seen big shifts in cost per click… even for things like the travel industry.

We don’t have a big enough sample size, but as I mentioned, costs haven’t come down much.

For example, even though we saw big dips in the number of people searching for things like flights or hotels, we didn’t see a drastic drop in CPC but we did see a big increase in cost per acquisition.

In other words, you can still roughly pay the same amount per click, but the cost per conversion has been going up for most industries… unless you are selling necessities like toilet paper.

So what does this mean for marketers?

Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful

I didn’t come up with that saying, it’s actually a line from Warren Buffett.

You will see people cutting back because the economy is predicted to get hit by 2.7 trillion dollars and experts are saying that we are going to go into a recession.

You even have billionaire investors like Carl Ichan saying that the market has more room to go down and we should expect the sell-off has longer to go.

But what I’ve learned from going through two crashes (the dotcom crash in 2000 and the real estate crash in 2008) is that the best time to double down is when others are not.

During an economic downturn, you’ll find that you will have less competition, which means it is easier and faster to get results, and in some cases, you’ll be able to get deals, such as a potential reduction in pay-per-click advertising.

Just think of it this way: out of all the publicly traded companies in the United States, if the market keeps going down, many of them will struggle to pay off their debt, which has exploded to $75 trillion.

This means some companies will either go bankrupt, get bought out, or get bailed out by the government. Some may be able to cut costs enough to pay their bills, but for most, it will be too late.

Again, this just means less competition for you.

If you are lucky enough to be sitting on some cash during the recession this is the best time to buy out other companies. The ideal ones to buy are media companies.

The more eyeballs you control, the more power you will hold in the future. Plus, by controlling eyeballs, it gives you the ability to sell anything you want in the future.

It’s the reason I bought the KISSmetrics website for $500,000 a couple years ago. During their peak, they had 1,260,681 million unique visitors a month.

That’s a lot of traffic.

When I bought the site out, I was out a good amount of money for me, but the moment I merged it into the NeilPatel.com site, I increased my lead count by 19% and recuperated my investment in less than a year.

In other words, this is your opportunity to strike and gain market share.

So when you see your competitors closing down or slowing down on their marketing, the goal is to double down. You may not see the biggest return right away, but in the long term, you will.

Every time the market goes down by 20% or more it roughly takes 536 days to recover.

As we recover, you’ll see your revenue climb and the ROI from your marketing spend go through the roof.

Conclusion

Hopefully, the Coronavirus passes soon and it has minimal impact on lives. For the time being, try not to socialize with others too much or go into crowded places.

You should read this article by the Washington Post as it breaks down great simulations of how the Coronavirus will spread and what we can do to reduce the impact on the world.

And as for your marketing, this is the time for you to double down. Don’t be fearful when others are also afraid. Do what Warren Buffett does… be greedy when other people are fearful.

In other words, double down. 

How have you seen the Coronavirus affect your traffic?

PS: Please be safe and, if possible, stay indoors.

PPS: To help out a bit, I’ve opened up the keyword ideas report on Ubersuggest as well as historical keyword data. I know many of you may be facing financial difficulty, so hopefully having the data helps you save a bit of money on marketing.

The post What The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Means For Marketers appeared first on Neil Patel.

10 Silent killers that affect your website speed

Posted by on Mar 17, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 10 Silent killers that affect your website speed

Time is the most valuable asset. Nothing is more frustrating than slow page loading. A slow website kills conversions and impacts search rankings. Google stated that it is important to consider website speed when determining search rankings.

Here are some interesting website load statistics:

  • An Akamai study showed that 47% of customers expect websites to load in a few seconds or less.
  • One second delay on Amazon could cost $1.6 billion on sales every year.
  • According to Pingdom, 78% of the top 100 retail websites take under three seconds to load.
  • One second delay on your page load results in a seven percent reduction in conversions.
  • The average load time on the desktop is 1.286 and 2.594 seconds on mobile.

Optimizing your website’s speed is not a necessity, but a must-have, especially if you want to beat out the slower competition. Once you notice that your site is loading more than three seconds, it’s time to figure out things that can slow down your website speed and improve the overall performance.

Let’s discover lesser-known causes of website slowdown and find the best solutions to deal with each one.

 1. Caching issues

Browser caching is very important for repeat visitors. Every time users come to your website for the first time, their browser stores all the files like images, CSS, and Java files for a specified period. The next time the visitors come back to the web page, browser caching allows these stored files to be served quickly upon the user’s next visit.

Reducing the number of round-trips results in faster page load times and improve user experience. Caching can definitely help you speed your website, but it’s not without its issues. If you don’t set up caching properly, it can hurt user interaction. It’s essential to develop a solid caching strategy to maintain strong user experiences.

If you don’t use WordPress, you can add the Cache-Control and Entity tags (ETags) headers to HTTP response headers. ETags are used to validate whether the client has the recent version of a record. While Cache-control is used to define browser caching policies in client and server responses. As a result, these headers help you reduce the need for visitors to download the same files from the server twice and reduce the number of HPPT requests.

If your website is running on WordPress, you can use cache plugins for better performance. WP Rocket is a great premium cache plugin that includes a lot of extra features like lazy loading, database cleanup, CDN integrations, and many more. You don’t have any technical skills to set it up to have faster websites.

2. Overloaded database

An overloaded database can be a silent killer when it comes to website performance. One of the pitfalls with WordPress websites is that your database is overloaded with multiple post revisions, deactivated plugins, saved drafts, and others. Trackbacks and pingbacks don’t have any practical use in WordPress. Ensure to disable both of them because they clog up your database and increase the number of requests.

Make sure to delete other garbage files like spam and trash folders, transients, and database tables that can also slow down your website. As I mentioned above, WP Rocket is one of the easiest ways to schedule and clean up these files every week. You can optimize your database using the ‘Database’ tab.

database overload that slows the website speed

Source: Screenshot made by the author 

Using WP Rocket, you can also schedule an automatic database cleanup.

3. Outdated CMS

Running an outdated version of your CMS can slow down your website and cause different security vulnerabilities. Most CMS like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal let you know once any update is available. Having the latest versions of plugins and any software will result in faster load times.

In case you haven’t still updated your CMS or don’t get any notice, run a regular page speed test on different pages of your website to find out whether the latest updates or versions of the software are compatible with your web hosting or available fixes that can improve the overall performance of your website by making them faster to load.

4. Excessive usage of social media scripts

Social media has become a crucial part of every website. No matter how large your website is, you still need to connect social media to your site and make it easier for users to share your posts. The excessive usage of social media scripts and plugins can kill your site’s performance.

Limit the number of social media plugins and scripts that you don’t use at all and find alternate ways to schedule and automate your social media tasks. Zapier is a great website service that can help you automate these tasks and reduce the burden on server resources and your website.

When it comes to sharing options at the end of each post, it’s a great way to easily share your publications, but these options can add a lot of load to your website. Try not to use them at every single page of your website and include only the essentials.

5. The use of chatbots

Chatbots are great for handling customer inquiries. According to Salesforce, 69% of customers want to use chatbots to speed up their communication with a brand. But there are two sides to the coin. Chatbots can hurt your website speed in case the script isn’t implemented properly and can take your website longer to load.

It’s important to ensure that your chatbot is loading asynchronously. I mean when your chatbot performs any action on your website like initiating a conversation with a customer or sending pings, this action should be routed by external servers. So, make sure to use the right code that enables this action. Check whether there is any problem with a chatbot script using Google’s PageSpeed Tools.

For easier set-up and simple communication, you can use an out-of-the-box solution like Tidio that doesn’t require any coding skills and takes only a moment to create a chatbot. The best thing is the ability to communicate with customers in one simple dashboard. The tool also integrates with different third-party apps to provide better customer service.

usage of chatbots that slows the website speed

Source: Screenshot by Tidio

6. Broken links

Broken links are not only a pain for website visitors but a real drain on bandwidth. I’ve recently made a detailed analysis of one of my clients and have detected a lot of 404 errors in Google Webmaster Tools. Once I’ve fixed them, the average load time per user boosted from seven seconds to two seconds, and there was a huge decrease in bounce rate.

So, if you have many broken links on your website, you are just wasting resources. Moreover, they can hurt user behavior metrics and negatively affect your rankings. To detect broken links, I would recommend getting audit reports with the SE Ranking Website Audit. The tool sorts all your web pages by status code to view which ones are 404.

Source: Screenshot by SE Ranking

One of its major benefits is the ability to go deeper than others and find out crawl errors that other tools don’t. Once you get these broken links, you can fix or remove them for good.

7. Render-blocking JavaScript

Every time your website loads in the browser, it sends out calls to every script in a queue. That queue of these scripts should be empty before the website appears in the browser. If this queue is very long, it can slow down your web pages without allowing visitors to fully view the site. These kinds of script queues are called the render-blocking JavaScript and CSS files.

To make your web pages load faster, Google recommends eliminating render-blocking scripts. Before removing them, identify which scripts cause problems using Google’s PageSpeed Insights. 

Most website owners use different traffic and conversion analytics platforms to analyze and measure any type of traffic and conversions with one click. Most of them are installed by using JavaScript code that can slow down your website. The best way to track different events is to use Finteza whose main tracking script (downloaded from the Finteza server) doesn’t impact website performance and can be embedded into the page asynchronously.

Source: Screenshot by Finteza

8. Accelerated mobile pages (AMP)

Everyone knows that Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a Google project created to speed up web pages on mobile devices by adding an “AMP” stamp next to your mobile snippets. While the idea of having a fast mobile website with content sounds like a great idea, there are some challenges when it comes to AMP.

While creating AMP improves website performance, it removes all of the dynamic features that slow down websites. In other words, it changes the design of your website and provides less functionality for your visitors that can result in reducing conversions. According to this case study, Kinsta saw their mobile leads drop by 59% after adding AMP, so they disabled it.

So, use AMP carefully as it can lower your mobile conversions. If you still want to use them, do it properly (more instructions here). Make sure to validate AMP for Google Search and fix any possible issues.

9. Gravatars

While Gravatars offer convenience and easy customization to your user base, there is one drawback, speed. This is not really visible on smaller websites, but if you have a large website with a lot of blog comments, you will notice much of a slowdown. You have some options to fix that:

  • Disable Gravatars in WordPress
  • Remove comments that don’t have value
  • Use caching Gravatars like Harrys or Optimum Gravatar Cache
  • Reduce your Gravatar image sizes
  • Paginate comments in WP Disable

10. Invalid HTML and CSS

If you stop using invalid HTML and CSS codes, that will increase the rendering time of web pages and the overall site performance. Make sure to create HTML and CSS that aligns with the W3C standards if you want browsers to interpret your site more consistently.

Check your HTML through the W3C HTML Validator and CSS through the W3C CSS validator. One of the options is to validate HTML with the Grunt HTML validation package and Stylelint.

Bottom line

A slow-loading website is something that will turn your customers away before they can visit your website. To keep your site running well and loading fast, you need to focus on these web performance killers and do the best to prevent these issues and make your site more efficient.

Irina Weber is Brand Manager at SE Ranking. She can be found on Twitter @irinaweber048.

The post 10 Silent killers that affect your website speed appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Online Reputation Management Guide for Freelance and Small Business Owners

Posted by on Mar 12, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Online Reputation Management Guide for Freelance and Small Business Owners

A Guide to Online Reputation Management for Freelance and Small Business Owners

As a business owner or marketer, you already recognize the value of your reputation and probably work to manage it. Also, you have most likely been around long enough to witness the growth of online commerce and website profiles highlighting the world’s companies.

Now more than ever professionals and consumers rely on the internet. This means that as the world economy quickly digitizes its operations, online reputation management is more crucial to success than ever before.

Staying conscious of your online reputation should be no different from staying conscious of your real life reputation. They are, professionally speaking, one and the same and the benefits to giving just a little attention are worth the net gains you will see without costing them.

While online reputation management is more crucial than ever, it is also easier than ever. Anyone can have success and save time with a bit of education and a little help from industry friends.

We’re going to be one of those friends and in this article, we’ll breakdown the process and provide great resources for building and maintaining your brand reputation.

We hope to help people like you – small business owners and freelancers – recognize the untapped value and utilize the effective marketing tools needed to stand strong in an online universe often dominated by giant companies who have staff dedicated solely to reputation management.

First, what is included under the large umbrella of online reputation management? What aspects of online presence are vital for a successful and respected business?

Vital tips for online reputation management

I. Diversified digital marketing is key!

There are a ton of different ways to market online, but behold this one fundamental:

Frame your marketing around SEO by looking through the eyes of the people you hope to have as clients. Instead of only your perspective, ask yourself, “What keywords might others use to find my business?”

To do this, you’ll need some help from Google. Open up your Google Search Console account, click on search result under the performance tab.

There you’ll see the list of exact keywords your visitors used to find your business, no more guessing game.

II. The Power of the Press Release

Press releases are content-rich pieces of copy that provide news and updates and can easily be shared and spread far and wide. One great thing about the press release format is that it helps tie important keywords to your company. This increases visibility in search engines.

Backlinko shares an easy-to-read guide on how to write a good press release in 2020. This content from Fabrik is also helpful, we have also created quite some blog posts on the same subject, remember to check them out as well!

A few quick points for press release:

1. Just like any content, you need to have your keywords in there. Do some keyword research and make sure they are included in the headline and the start of the press release.

2. A press release should be straight to the point and no fluff. Press release ≠ sales letter, so facts only, no empty promises.

3. Keep the tone neutral. A press release is an official statement, it needs to read like one.

III. Activate and frequently update your social media

Become an active presence on social media platforms. You can do this by frequently sharing worthwhile content and engaging with followers.

Social media is where you have your two-way dialogues with your clients, potential clients, trolls, haters and more. It is also a great, free platform to build or ruin your brand reputation.

An example,

If you think that’s bad, here’s something worse.

This is what happens when your brand reputation through social media is so bad, someone makes an account on that same platform, just to make you look even worse.

Take control of your own social media presence, and don’t ruin it.

On a brighter side, a great example of social media brand-building win is everyone’s favourite double braided girl, Wendy’s!

Being sassy on their social media account isn’t just an entertaining way to portray their brand, it also translates into cold, hard cash. The fast-food chain grows its revenue more than 4 times in the same quarter when compared to the previous year, when they haven’t started this genius social media strategy.

A classic Wendy’s roast that paved their branding.

IV. Providing quality copy is the single most important part of digital marketing.

Sharing useful copy makes your business an authority on information within your respective niche. Quality and reliable copy brings you consumers that believe in what you offer and will think of you when it is time to spend money.

Good copywriting also strengthens online visibility by empowering SEO. Consumers may even look past weaker parts of your online presence (i.e. design, ease-of-use). Certainly having it all in in order will contribute to your success.

Do you want to know more about implementing strategies to build your reputation? You can find specific brand reputation management strategies in this Walker Sands article, but for ease, we’ve quickly highlighted 7 Ways to Build Brand Reputation from Marketing 91 :

1) Be Proactive – approach marketing with foresight and fast course-correction when plans need tweaking

2) Be Specific – “Under Promise and Over Deliver”! With so many alternative options, your business needs to be on its game with issues like delivery and customer service.

3) Be Authoritative – Don’t be shy when highlighting what makes your business or product better than the rest!

4) Be Consistent – Whether customer service, product quality, or sharing content, being reliable goes a long way.

5) Deliver Promises – If you say you are going to do something, do it!

6) Collect Feedback – Learn from your strengths and your weaknesses. Implementing quality feedback is vital for growth.

7) Indulge in Corporate Social Responsibilities Activities – Give back to society! Participate in worthwhile organizations and causes quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.

Free Marketing Tools to Boost Your Marketing and Reputation Management Efforts

Next, we will share a short marketing tools list that is sure to help your business level up. Effective marketing tools are the foundation of any high-level marketing success. Any job and profession are made better with the right tools.

Simply knowing what marketing tools are out there will give you an advantage. These tools will help you build and maintain an online reputation. They will also save you money in the long run because they’ll provide a way to be more strategic in how you spend your marketing dollars.

An underrated, but vital tool is a good copywriter. It’s either hire someone good or learn to write effective copy yourself! Copywriting is your first line of offense.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about Google. This super company offers three tools you can easily use to help maximize SEO and boost ranking and visibility.

I. Have you ever heard of Google My Business?

Google My Business is the program that helps you drive local customer traffic across Google Search and Maps. It is specifically powerful in helping business owners direct their marketing to ideal audiences and to fine-tune SEO presence.

An example of a local search result that returns the Google Map and local businesses directory.

We suggest Google My Business be apart of the online foundation of any business website. If you haven’t already, check out how it can help you improve your flow. Visit these sources for in-depth strategies and tips on how to optimize Google My Business.

More and more of us turn to Google when deciding on paying a local business a visit, if you’re missing your Google My Business profile, you’re missing out your first line of online presence and we’re not even talking about your online reputation yet. So make sure to claim and set up your Google My Business profile if you’re running a local business.

II. What about Google Analytics?

Google Analytics allows you to run web analytics and measure advertising ROI on your website and social media accounts. It is a very handy report system that calculates multiple considerations. It even allows business owners and marketers to fine-tune equations to reach the right people. This makes it a must have tool for every businesses with an online presence.

III. We can’t forget Google Trends.

Google Trends will give you access to the world of popularity and search queries. If you want to hone in on the perfect search words or industry phrases, this tool will let you. The applications are endless.

Once you have some ideas from Google Trends, you can use the last great SEO tool we will share to really make the best of your online presence.

IV. LSIGraph, your keyword research booster.

LSIGraph is a freemium service that helps you find the perfect keywords for your niche. Their websites boast that you will get the “most profitable, semantically related keywords for all your SEO and paid marketing needs”. We vouch for them.

One great thing I like about LSIGraph is that they acknowledge me being an SEO Champion.

Okay, jokes aside, LSIGraph provides me localized data on my keyword. For our global readers, they also support a bunch of other languages like Japanese, Hindi, Mandarin and more. So that’s handy.

Doing a good job on keyword research and targeting the right audiences is the basic of creating a good online reputation. So having a keyword tool such as the LSIGraph can be a major help.

So why does online reputation management even matter?

Do you remember that terrible, 2.5 minute Pepsi ad starring Kendall Jenner a few years back? Pepsi thought they would show how tolerant and open-minded they were, but their ad projected an entirely different message. It’s so terrible I won’t even show any screenshots here.

They spent a ton of money on a risky ad that was not rich in content and did not have a clear message. Their ad was like a Coca-Cola sponsorship because it didn’t inspire confidence in the Pepsi brand.

Had Pepsi taken proper preliminary measures, they may have prevented such a negative backlash. Reputation management is about cleaning up the past, projecting quality in the present, and carefully planning the future.

It matters if you want to be respected and remain limitless and unshackled in your ability to grow your business.

Here’s the Reputation Management for Dummies recap on what we covered today:

  • Stay Conscious of your Online Reputation by Managing It!Remember: Your online reputation is no longer separate from your personal reputation.
  • Diversified Digital Marketing Is Key!
    1. Press Releases are Gold!
    2. Improve your Social Media Presence
    3. Quality and Reliable Copy is King!
  • 7 Ways to Build Brand Reputation
    Be Proactive, Be Specific, Be Authoritative, Be Consistent, Deliver Promises, Collect Feedback, and Indulge in Corporate Social Responsibilities Activities.
  • Reputation Management should matter if making money matters!
  • A few effective marketing tools:
    1. Good Copywriting
    2. Google Products: Google My Business, Google Analytics, Google Trends
    3. LSIGraph

We hope this article, doused with high-quality resources, will be the fuel that flames your online makeover. May your steady and sincere effort to build and manage your online reputation pays off!

A brief history of Google’s algorithm updates

Posted by on Mar 9, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on A brief history of Google’s algorithm updates

These days, the way we do SEO is somewhat different from how things were done ca. 10 years ago. There’s one important reason for that: search engines have been continuously improving their algorithms to give searchers the best possible results. Over the last decade, Google, as the leading search engine, introduced several major updates, and each of them has had a major impact on best practices for SEO. Here’s a — by no means exhaustive — list of Google’s important algorithm updates so far, as well as some of their implications for search and SEO.

2011 – Panda

Obviously, Google was around long before 2011. We’re starting with the Panda update because it was the first major update in the ‘modern SEO’ era. Google’s Panda update tried to deal with websites that were purely created to rank in the search engines, and mostly focused on on-page factors. In other words, it determined whether a website genuinely offered information about the search term visitors used. 

Two types of sites were hit especially hard by the Panda update:

  1. Affiliate sites (sites which mainly exist to link to other pages).
  2. Sites with very thin content.

Google periodically re-ran the Panda algorithm after its first release, and included it in the core algorithm in 2016. The Panda update has permanently affected how we do SEO, as site owners could no longer get away with building a site full of low-quality pages.

2012 – Venice

Venice was a noteworthy update, as it showed that Google understood that searchers are sometimes looking for results that are local to them. After Venice, Google’s search results included pages based on the location you set, or your IP address.

2012 – Penguin

Google’s Penguin update looked at the links websites got from other sites. It analyzed whether backlinks to a site were genuine, or if they’d been bought to trick the search engines. In the past, lots of people paid for links as a shortcut to boosting their rankings. Google’s Penguin update tried to discourage buying, exchanging or otherwise artificially creating links. If it found artificial links, Google assigned a negative value to the site concerned, rather than the positive link value it would have previously received. The Penguin update ran several times since it first appeared and Google added it to the core algorithm in 2016.

As you can imagine, websites with a lot of artificial links were hit hard by this update. They disappeared from the search results, as the low-quality links suddenly had a negative, rather than positive impact on their rankings. Penguin has permanently changed link building: it no longer suffices to get low-effort, paid backlinks. Instead, you have to work on building a successful link building strategy to get relevant links from valued sources.

2012 – Pirate

The Pirate update was introduced to combat illegal spreading of copyrighted content. It considered (many) DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown requests for a website as a negative ranking factor for the first time.

2013 – Hummingbird

The Hummingbird update saw Google lay down the groundwork for voice-search, which was (and still is) becoming more and more important as more devices (Google Home, Alexa) use it. Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole search phrase is taken into account, rather than just particular words. Why? To understand a user’s query better and to be able to give them the answer, instead of just a list of results.

The impact of the Hummingbird update wasn’t immediately clear, as it wasn’t directly intended to punish bad practice. In the end, it mostly enforced the view that SEO copy should be readable, use natural language, and shouldn’t be over-optimized for the same few words, but use synonyms instead. 

2014 – Pigeon

Another bird-related Google update followed in 2014 with Google Pigeon, which focused on local SEO. The Pigeon update affected both the results pages and Google Maps. It led to more accurate localization, giving preference to results near the user’s location. It also aimed to make local results more relevant and higher quality, taking organic ranking factors into account. 

2014 – HTTPS/SSL

To underline the importance of security, Google decided to give a small ranking boost to sites that correctly implemented HTTPS to make the connection between website and user secure. At the time, HTTPS was introduced as a lightweight ranking signal. But Google had already hinted at the possibility of making encryption more important, once webmasters had had the time to implement it. 

2015 – Mobile Update

This update was dubbed ‘​Mobilegeddon​’ by the SEO industry as it was thought that it would totally shake up the search results. By 2015 more than 50% of Google’s search queries were already coming from mobile devices, which probably led to this update. The Mobile Update gave mobile-friendly sites a ranking advantage in Google’s mobile search results. In spite of its dramatic nickname, the mobile update didn’t instantly mess up most people’s rankings. Nevertheless, it was an important shift that heralded the ever-increasing importance of mobile.

2015 – RankBrain

RankBrain is a state-of-the-art Google algorithm, employing machine learning to handle queries. It can make guesses about words it doesn’t know, to find words with similar meanings and then offer relevant results. The RankBrain algorithm analyzed past searches, determining the best result, in order to improve. 

Its release marks another big step for Google to better decipher the meaning behind searches, and serve the best-matching results. In March 2016, Google revealed that RankBrain was one of the three most important of its ranking signals. Unlike other ranking factors, you can’t really optimize for RankBrain in the traditional sense, other than by writing quality content. Nevertheless, its impact on the results pages is undeniable.

2016 – Possum 

In September 2016 it was time for another local update. The ​Possum update​ applied several changes to Google’s local ranking filter to further improve local search. After Possum, local results became more varied, depending more on the physical location of the searcher and the phrasing of the query. Some businesses which had not been doing well in organic search found it easier to rank locally after this update. This indicated that this update made local search more independent of the organic results.

Read more: Near me searches: Is that a Possum near me? »

2018 – (Mobile) Speed Update

Acknowledging users’ need for fast delivery of information, Google implemented this update that made page speed a ranking factor for mobile searches, as was already the case for desktop searches. The update mostly affected sites with a particularly slow mobile version.

2018 – Medic

This broad core algorithm update caused quite a stir for those affected, leading to some shifts in ranking. While a relatively high number of medical sites were hit with lower rankings, the update wasn’t solely aimed at them and it’s unclear what its exact purpose was. It may have been an attempt to better match results to searchers’ intent, or perhaps it aimed to protect users’ wellbeing from (what Google decided was) disreputable information.

Keep reading: Google’s Medic update »

2019 – BERT

Google’s BERT update was announced as the “biggest change of the last five years”, one that would “impact one in ten searches.” It’s a machine learning algorithm, a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP). The name BERT is short for: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.

BERT can figure out the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it. In other words, it uses the context and relations of all the words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in order. This means: a big improvement in interpreting a search query and the intent behind it.

Read on: Google BERT: A better understanding of complex queries »

Expectations for future Google updates

As you can see, Google has become increasingly advanced since the early 2010s. Its early major updates in the decade focused on battling spammy results and sites trying to cheat the system. But as time progressed, updates contributed more and more to search results catered to giving desktop, mobile and local searchers exactly what they’re looking for. While the algorithm was advanced to begin with, the additions over the years, including machine learning and NLP, make it absolutely state of the art. 

With the recent focus on intent, it seems likely that Google Search will continue to focus its algorithm on perfecting its interpretation of search queries and styling the results pages accordingly. That seems to be their current focus working towards their mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But whatever direction it takes, being the best result and working on having an excellent site will always be the way to go!

Keep on reading: Should I follow every change Google makes? »

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the different names and years? Don’t worry! We made a handy infographic that shows when each Google update happened and briefly describes what the purpose was.

Google's algorithm updates 2011-2020

The post A brief history of Google’s algorithm updates appeared first on Yoast.

Schema Markup for SEO → The Complete Guide

Posted by on Mar 7, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Schema Markup for SEO → The Complete Guide

If you want to become a good SEO, you need to have a holistic view on all SEO related topics and there are some technical elements that you must understand, even if they’re not quite easy to digest. One of these topics is schema markup.

 

Schema markup and structured data had a role in SEO for years now and it seems that major search engines recommend them. But what exactly is schema markup? And, more importantly, how does it impact the SEO process?

Schema Markup for SEO

 

After reading this article, you’ll know exactly: what schema markup is, how it affects SEO & search engines, how to correctly implement it on websites and how it can help you get better rankings.

 

  1. What Is Schema Markup
  2. What Is Structured Data
  3. What Is the Difference Between Schema Markup, Microdata and Structured Data
  4. What Are Schema Markup & Structured Data in SEO
  5. How Does Schema Markup Impact SEO & Search Engines
  6. Schema Markup Types Supported by Google
  7. How To Implement Structured Data Markup On Your Website
  8. Structured Data Vocabularies
  9. Schema Encoding Types & Examples
  10. Why Doesn’t My Website Display a Rich Snippet?
    1. What is Unparsable Structured Data?
    2. Structured Markup Penalties
  11. Structured Data Myths
 

1. What Is Schema Markup

 

Schema markup is a code (semantic vocabulary) that you put on your website, with the purpose of helping the search engines return more informative results for users. Schema markup allows you to create enhanced descriptions that appear in search results, just like in the screenshot below.

 

cognitiveseo schema markup

 

Due to its standardized semantic vocabulary, schema markup added to your site’s HTML helps the major search engines understand your page’s information better and return richer, more informative results.

 

Schema markup has the advantage to be easily stored, retrieved, displayed and analyzed. In a nutshell, when Google doesn’t know if your information is about an artist or a concert of the artist, you can make things clear using structured data markup.

 

2. What Is Structured Data

 

Structured data (or linked data) is a way of organizing information for better accessibility. It might be hard to understand for some because of its relation to coding. However, in simple terms, it’s also called metadata or information behind the information.

 

It’s similar to a database, in which terms are stored in relation to other terms. Think of it as an Excel Spreadsheet, where you have the head of the columns as the terms and under them come their values. Together, this data forms a structure which defines something.

 

Structured Data SEO

 

For example, you can have a product in your store. The structured data could contain a list of terms and their values. The product can be “Lenovo IdeaPad 510” and it could have a list of the following items/terms, with their values:

 

Name > Lenovo IdeaPad S145

Rating > 4.2

Review Users > 925

Price > $239.99

Stock > In Stock

 

 

3 The difference between Schema, Microdata, and Structured Data

 

To make things easier, let’s shortly recap what these terms mean and what the differences between them are:

 

  • Structured Data is a general term that represents binding items to values to better structure information. It can be related to SEO as much as to anything else which contains information.
  • Microdata is a format and it represents the way the data is structured… in a ‘visual manner’, let’s say. In simple terms, think of it as text vs audio or video. You can say the same thing in both, but it will appeal to different people. You can have the same data structured in Microdata format or in JSON-LD format, for example.
  • Schema is a vocabulary that defines the terms and values. There are other vocabularies such as Dublin Core. In simple terms, think of them as languages. The good thing with Schema.org is that it has been accepted by very many platforms, making it the best option for multiple scenarios. That’s why many people use Schema Markup as a synonym for implementing Structured Data.

 

Here are some takeaways:

 

  • You can have data structured in multiple formats, such as microdata of JSON-LD.
  • You can define terms using multiple vocabularies such as Schema.org or Dublin Core.
  • You can use either vocabularies with either of the formats, resulting in your markup.
  • When people refer to Schema Markup, they generally refer to everything related to structured data, but using the Schema.org vocabulary.

 

 

 

4. What Are Schema Markup & Structured Data in SEO?

 

When it comes to SEO, structured data represents some markup that is implemented on a website which search engines like Google can use in order to display information better. SEOs very often refer to structured data as Schema Markup because it’s one of the most popular markups used to structure data. We’ll talk about it soon.

 

Using that markup, Search Engines can display what are known as “rich search results” or “rich snippets”. They are called “rich results” because they contain more elements than regular results, making them stand out.

 

The rich snippet/rich result for the example above looks really good when Google picks up the metadata and displays it properly.

 

eCommerce Rich Snippet

 

The code is a little bit uglier than that and looks something like this:

 

Rich Snippet Code JSON LD

 

It might look complicated, but if you read it, it makes sense. You can see things like “@type”:”AggregateRating” with the values and the review count, and then the “@type”Offer” with the price and availability. The code above is in the JSON-LD format, which is one of the more complicated ones to understand. We’ll talk about formats and which ones to use soon, so keep reading.

 

You can also use structured data to enrich a recipe search result. It can also have ratings but, instead of displaying the price, it displays how long it takes to make the dish, which is always useful when seeking for a recipe.

 

Recipe Rich Snippet SEO

 

These are just basic rich snippets, which affect the regular results you see in Google’s organic search results. However, Google supports a number of different types or rich snippets, some of them which I will present soon. But first, let’s talk about vocabularies and data markup.

 

5. How Does Schema Markup Affect SEO & Search Engines

To put it simply, structured data is not a ranking factor / signal. But if you’ve been doing SEO for a while, you know I’m lying and it’s not actually that simple.

 

You see, that’s the general consensus, or at least what Google officials tell us. In reality, opinions vary. Some say that it does affect rankings and some say it doesn’t. One thing we know for sure is that we cannot 100% trust what Google says. It’s not that they’re not transparent, but they have to keep the algorithm secret.

 

But let’s see punctually how schema markup impacts SEO:

 

CTR (Click Through Rate)

 

Structured Data might not be a ranking signal, but it sure can help with rankings, at least indirectly. You see, any modification to your search result will have an impact on your CTR (click through rate). A negative one will drop your CTR and a positive one will boost it.

 

With a higher CTR, your rankings will actually be higher.

 

If more people click on your search engine result, this sends Google a signal that they want to read your content.

 

To honor that demand, Google might rank your article higher so that more people will see it. This happens constantly, so don’t expect your article to stay there. Tomorrow, a competitor might change their title and their CTR might be higher than yours. Google will notice that.

 

Click Through Rate

 

Structured data can help you with CTR because rich results catch the eye easier than regular search results. Sure, those snippets usually display the information directly on Google’s landing page, but some of that organic traffic will still forward to your website.

 

This might sound counter-intuitive but, with all the rich snippets in the search results, you might end up having a lower CTR and less organic traffic going to your website.

 

Why? Because a user can find the answer directly in the search results and they don’t need to click.

 

For example, most nutrition websites have structured data implemented, which means most of them get rich snippets. If you’re in the top 3 results and all the results display the recipe duration, if your duration is the highest, users might decide to not click your search engine result and go for a faster recipe instead.

 

So, while you can get higher CTR if your rich result stands out (not everyone has rich snippets), it can also lower your CTR if everyone has rich snippets and the client browses based on that info.

 

Priority

 

You shouldn’t prioritize the addition of structured data on your website unless you’ve finished dealing with other, more important issues, such as keyword research, content optimization and other OnPage SEO factors.

 

Why? Because Google said it understands the content and the information required to display rich snippets without structured data, although it’s recommended that you use it.

 

Google can understand your content to display it in rich snippets even without the addition of structured data. However, it’s safer if you do use the markup.

 

So, for example, if you have some HTML with 5 stars and the text “Rating: 4.7 – 24 Reviewers”, Google might figure that out on its own and display a Review rich snippet even without structured data.

 

However, if you want to have a higher chance of the reviews being displayed, then add the SEO structured data so that Google understands the content perfectly.

 

But remember, prioritize! Keyword research, title and content optimization, website speed and quality backlinks are much more effective in ranking you higher. So if you don’t have those in place, you can postpone the structured data markup.

 

Personally, I don’t see how structured data can make search engines smarter. If Google wants its algorithms to better understand content more like a human, structured data makes it a disservice. The truth is that Google doesn’t want to rely on structured data in the future.

 

You should prioritize other things such as good crawling and indexation, keyword research and title/content optimization before going for structured data (the SEO Tools from cognitiveSEO can help you with that).

 

Schema markup isn’t (probably) the future of Search Engine Optimization & Digital Marketing but, for now, once you have finished other, more important search engine optimization tasks, you can make good use of it. Some studies even show that implementing structured data on your website can boost CTR up to 30%.

 

 

6. Schema Markup Types Supported by Google

 

You might be wondering what important types of schema markup are there? Well, there’s pretty much a markup for anything you can probably imagine.

 

However, there are only a limited number of rich snippet types that Google has developed and improved over the years, each unique in its own way.

 

Organization Schema Markup

 

The Organization Schema markup isn’t a rich snippet on it’s own but it is a very important part of it because it is found in almost all the snippets. It represents the author of the content so it can also be a single person, such as an author, for example.

This is good for making sure the content is associated with the proper brand / name.

 

Breadcrumbs Markup

 

The Breadcrumbs Schema Markup is crucial for representing website structure. The structure of the site is represented 

However, you can also point that out.

We know that Google constantly adjusts how the search results display.

BreadCrumbs Schema Markup

Review, Product & Offer Schema Markup

 

The most popular markup out there is probably the review & product one. I’ve presented it in the beginning of the article. There are multiple items that can be added to the product rich snippet, from the product name and price to details, such as the lowest price and highest price, or offer expiry dates.

Review Schema markup

Recipe Schema Markup

 

I’ve also shown an example of the recipe snippet above. You can specify things such as ingredients and how much time the recipe takes.

Recipe Schema markup

FAQ Schema Markup

 

The FAQ Schema Markup lists answers to the related questions around your topic / page in a drop down format. Neil Patel used this FAQ schema technique to greatly improve his search engine traffic. However, it seems like this can be abused and Google might fix it.

FAQ Schema Markup

 

How to Schema Markup

 

Similar to the FAQ Schema Markup. A drop down type snippet with step by step answers.

 

Q&A Schema Markup

 

The Q&A Schema Markup is specially designed for websites like Quora or Yahoo Answers. It can also  be applied in other scenarios, of course. Google recommends linking to individual answers (via anchors, for  example) to provide the best user experience. 

Q&A Schema markup

 

Article Schema Markup (related to AMP)

 

A carousel in which your article can be displayed at the top of the page that can be swiped, above ads and organic search results. Visible only on mobile devices.

AMP Carousel Schema Markup

 

Video Schema Markup

 

A visual snippet which displays the thumbnail of a video next the the title and description. It is very useful for organic video marketing.

 

Event Schema Markup

 

A visual snippet where the date is very visible and with quick access to Google Calendar bookings.

Event Rich Snippet Schema Markup

Local Business Schema Markup

 

If you have a local business or are doing local SEO for a client, then you might want to add local business schema markup to the website. The markup itself is formed out of multiple data items, such as Organization, Description, Logo, Address, Phone and even Reviews.

You can check a list created by Schemaapp.com of how to properly add schema markup for local businesses in this Google Sheet.

 

Other Types of Schema Markup

 

A list of full rich snippets that Google supports can be viewed here (browse them from the menu).

Also, note that different search engines such as Yandex and Yahoo! (Bing) might also use other types of structured data or schema markup on their platforms.

However, we do know that both Yandex and Bing accept and recommend schema.org, so it’s a good idea to only implement this one, unless other 3rd party apps that you use require other types of markup.

 

 

7. How To Add Schema Markup On Your Website (The Right Way)

 

If you’re interested in schema markup, you’re probably also wondering how to use Google structured data on your website.

 

If you want to use structured data markup on your website so that Google can pick it up, you’ll either have to code it or make use of some plugins / extensions that will add the structured data for you.

 

The thing is, you have to implement it correctly, otherwise it might do more harm than good.

 

If you implement structured data wrong, your rich snippets might display the wrong information, they might not display it at all and you might even get penalized for it.

 

Here’s how you can implement structured data correctly on your website, on different platforms:

 

How to add schema markup in WordPress & Blogs 

 

As you know, adding things on WordPress is generally very easy because there’s a ton of plugins you can choose from and, best of all, most of them are free. Implementing Schema Markup doesn’t make an exception.

 

To add Schema Markup to your WordPress blog, check out the structured data & schema markup plugins in the WP repository. Choose the one with the features you need and with good reviews. The SEO plugin also adds basic structured data functionality to most of your pages, so make sure you don’t have duplicate codes.

 

Note that these plugins implement basic structured data for your articles & pages. You might want to look for something specific if you have a recipes website, for example. If you have an eCommerce store on WordPress, the WooCommerce plugin already implements products structured data for you.

 

How to add schema markup in Magento & eCommerce

 

As for WordPress websites, most eCommerce platforms such as Magento, OpenCart or Prestashop will come with structured data already integrated.

 

If you’re not sure that your site has the proper structured data, use the structured data Google Structured Data Testing Tool. You should see something like this:

 

Structured Data SEO Tool

 

If there’s no Product section, it means your implementation is missing. There are always plugins and extensions so do a Google search and find what suits your platform.

 

Make sure to fix the warnings too, although they won’t stand in the way of your rich snippets displaying.

 

Local SEO structured data

 

If you have a local business, structured data can really help your local SEO. You can mark up your NAP (name, address, phone) so that search engines can better understand that information.

 

This plugin for WordPress seems to support structured data for Local Businesses.

 

Custom schema markup implementation

 

Sometimes, adding markup to your website can be more difficult. If you have a custom platform, you don’t have a plugin to simply… plug in.

 

Step 1: Find out the type of page you have and which type of schema markup fits it best. For example, informational pages go well with FAQ or How to schema markup. Products on eCommerce sites, on the other hand, go well with the Product schema markup.

 

Note that it’s important not to try to trick Google into making your result more appealing if it doesn’t make sense. So only pick what Google recommends from the types of rich snippets it supports.

 

Step 2: Generate the schema markup. Generating JSON LD structured data is pretty easy. You can use an online schema markup generator such as this one to easily generate your code.

 

However, you’ll have to manually add it in your head section. Which means this would be a static implementation.

 

If you have thousands of pages, that might not be easy. You’re better off developing a dynamic system with a programmer, where the platform automatically picks up the information from the database and compiles it into a JSON format to display it in the HTML for each product/page.

 

So although the template for the Product Schema Markup in the JSON-LD format stays the same the values such as Price, Currency, Product name or Rating might change from page to page and website to website.

 

Sometimes, you can also manually add schema into your HTML with Microdata. However, it’s best if you use the JSON-LD format, as suggested by Google. 

 

Step 3: Validate everything.

 

If you’re planning on adding markup manually, make sure to validate your code with the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.

 

 

 

8. Structured Data Vocabularies

 

For structured data, you need two things: a list of item names and a way to display them. So we have vocabularies and formats which, together, result in markup.

 

The list of items is called vocabulary. You can think of it as languages. Different words can mean different things in different languages and not everybody speaks every language.

 

There are multiple types of schema and vocabularies available:

 

Schema.org

 

Schema.org is the most popular vocabulary for structured data. Why? Well, because it has been accepted by major search engines and companies, such as Yahoo, Bing, Google, etc. It’s sort of an… international language, like English.

 

As I said above, because Schema Markup is so popular, SEOs often refer to structured data directly as Schema Markup. You could have structured data implemented on your website without Schema Markup, by using another vocabulary. However, you will use Schema Markup of your own free will 🙂 Got it?

 

The Schema.org Markup supports a very big variety of items and elements. You can view the entire list of supported items on http://schema.org. We’ll soon discuss which ones are the most important schema markup elements, which Google actually uses in the search engine results.

 

Open Graph

 

You might be familiar with Open Graph. It’s not used for search engines, but social media platforms, such as Facebook, use it to display titles and images.

 

Facebook Open Graph Markup

 

They are useful for SEO & Facebook Marketing because you can separate the regular <title> tag used for search engines from the Facebook title. This way, you can keep the keywords in the <title>, which is important for SEO, and you can also have a catchy headline for social media, which is important for clicks & engagement.

 

Dublin Core

 

Dublin Core is another vocabulary, similar to schema.org but much more limited. It’s probably the second most popular one. Unless you have solid motives to use Dublin Core, such as a 3rd party app your site is hooked to uses it, use schema.org vocabulary instead.

 

9. Schema Encoding Types & Examples

 

First let’s take a look at how the information for the address of an organization would look without any structured data, in plain HTML code:

 

The following information was taken from http://schema.org/address. You can view examples for most of the schema.org vocabulary properties there (some of them are still marked as “To Do”).

 

Address Structured Data Plain HTML code (source: schema.org)

 

JSON-LD

 

JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data) is a method of encoding and presenting structured data information using JSON. This is recommended by the W3C, which means it is standardized.

 

Here’s an example of how the above information would be displayed using JSON. Google also recommends using JSON LD for displaying structured data on your website. Again, it looks complicated but you won’t have to write it yourself, as it can be generated with tools we’ll soon talk about.

 

Address Structured Data in JSON LD Format

Address Structured Data in JSON LD Format (source: schema.org)

 

Microdata

 

With Microdata you can specify the structured data information within the HTML code itself, using HTML tag attributes. This makes it easier for many people to understand. However, while this is easy to add manually on a case by case basis, it’s difficult to scale and automatize when required for bigger websites (such as eCommerce ones).

 

Address Structured Data in Microdata Format

Address Structured Data in Microdata Format (source: schema.org)

 

With JSON LD, you’ll have a lot of standardized plugins for different purposes on most platforms. However, if the element you’re trying to specify isn’t included in the plugin and thus doesn’t display in the outputted JSON LD code, you can add it easily in the HTML using Microdata.

 

RDFa

 

RDFa is similar to Microdata, which means it’s also added through HTML tag attributes. The difference is that RDFa is older and more complex. It has other uses outside of the HTML realm and this means integration with other apps/platforms/servers is easier if they use the technology.

 

Address Structured Data in RDFa Format

Address Structured Data in RDFa Format (source: schema.org)

 

Whether you want to go with RDFa or Microdata is your choice, they’ll both do just fine. However, do it as an alternative. Using JSON-LD is the recommended way to go.

 

Notice how all the formats above, although different, use the Schema.org data markup vocabulary.

 

 

10. Why Doesn’t My Website Display a Rich Snippet?

 

So you’ve finished implementing structured data on your website, but the rich snippets don’t show up in search. What do you do?

 

Implementing structured data on your website correctly doesn’t guarantee rich snippets.

 

Unfortunately, Google picks up only what it wants. If it’s your Homepage you’re worrying about, worry no more! Google doesn’t display rich snippets for Homepages.

 

First, make sure that your code is implemented correctly by testing it. You can do this using the following tools from Google:

 

Google Structured Data Testing Tool: This is the most popular tool for testing out JSON LD markup and structured data.

 

structured data testing tool

 

 

Rich Snippet Validator: This is still in beta, but it’s useful. You can find it here.

 

Rich Results Testing Tool

 

10.1 What is Unparsable Structured Data?

 

Unparsable structured data is data markup on your website that could not be properly parsed (or understood) by Google. This, most likely, means that you have not implemented things correctly on your site.

 

In programming, parsing is the separation of a cluster of strings into separate ones. In other terms, the strings could not be correctly read or understood, which indicates an error in how the strings were presented.

 

These errors shows either in the Google validator as an error, or in the Google Search Console, under Enhancements > Unparsable Structured Data.

 

Unparsable Structured Data

 

Compared to the other validators above, it’s very useful because it will highlight errors for multiple pages at once, although it doesn’t highlight all the details of the issue.

 

Unparsable Structured Data SEO Search Console

 

Make sure you use Google’s SEO Tools to your advantage when implementing schema markup and structured data on your website.

 

 

10.2 Structured Markup Penalties

 

If you implement structured data wrong, you probably won’t get penalized. However, if you try to cheat, Google might apply a structured markup penalty on your website.

 

For example, if you just want the star ratings and number of reviewers, you can simply add them manually to your page. Your product could be 3 stars, but you might want to display 5 stars in the search engines. You could also add a smaller structured data price, while on the website, the real price is higher.

 

That’s not fair and the Google algorithm updates might punish you! 

 

search-console-manual-actions-warning

 

If you get a similar message in your Search Console or your organic traffic to all the pages with structured markup has suddenly dropped, make sure to read this article about structured markup penalties to find out how to fix things.

 

11. Common Schema Markup Myths

 

There are a few myths that go around regarding rich snippets and structured data. Most of them are simply implementation mistakes and misconceptions.

 

However, even though we’ve already talked about this and covered these topics above, it’s a good idea

 

1. Schema markup guarantees rich snippets: They don’t. Google will pick whatever it wants regardless of whether you have structured data on your website or not. That’s why it’s a good idea to implement other, more important things first instead of focusing on structured data.

 

2. Schema markup is a ranking factor: It’s not. At least, that’s what the Google officials have stated over and over again. However, CTR is a ranking factor and since Structured Data can affect the CTR, your rankings might improve. But Google won’t care if you simply implement markup on your website.

 

3. You need schema for answer boxes: You don’t. Answer boxes and structured data might have something in common since Google has recently implemented the Q&A markup but that doesn’t mean you can’t get an answer box without structured data.

 

Conclusion

 

Since major search engines recommend adding structured data, go ahead and add it, especially if you have an eCommerce website. Make sure to implement it correctly and validate it with the above-mentioned tools. However, you should prioritize other important SEO tasks first.

 

What’s your experience with structured markup? Do you use it in your SEO & digital marketing strategy? Does it help with your clickthrough rates? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

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