LSG Virtual Event – Store Locator SEO Teardown: Core Web Vitals Edition w/ Rachel Anderson

Posted by on Dec 8, 2021 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on LSG Virtual Event – Store Locator SEO Teardown: Core Web Vitals Edition w/ Rachel Anderson

What’s happening?

If you’re a multi-location brand, odds are you are licensing a store locator system for your website from a third-party vendor. We at LSG figured if you are going to use someone’s software on your site, you should be aware of how its performance could affect your SEO.

With that in mind, LSG is hosting our first ever virtual event on Core Web Vitals! LSG’s Director of Web Intelligence, Rachel Anderson, has performed an exhaustive analysis comparing different location page providers to see who is winning and who is losing. She will be spilling the beans in an interview you won’t want to miss. This research into Core Web Vitals allowed Rachel to help brands better understand what they should be looking for from a performance standpoint when choosing how to manage their location pages.  

Join our CEO, Andrew Shotland, and Director of Web Intelligence, Rachel Anderson, as they discuss the latest findings on some of the top location page providers and where they stand with respect to Core Web Vitals. If you’re a brand, a location page provider, or an SEO, this event is definitely for you.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are a key part of a winning SEO strategy for multi-location brands because they help Google determine ranking for websites and location pages. It’s not breaking news that page loading speed is important for Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) rankings. However, recent Google updates, like the Page Experience Update, have put three metrics, in particular, into focus as specifically impactful. These three metrics are Cumulative Layout Shift, Largest Contentful Paint, and First Input Delay.

Given the fact that most multi-location brands opt to use third-party services to create location pages, we thought it would be a good idea to see how they stack up. LSG’s Director of Web Intelligence, Rachel Anderson, has done two separate analyses over the past year to do just that. She compared the core web vital of location page providers including BirdEye, Brandify, ChatMeter, Rio SEO, SOCi, Uberall, and Yext. Rachel did the initial analysis in July of 2021 and then she pulled the data again to check if brands saw any improvements or updates over the past 6 months. Many of the results were surprising and have large implications she will be discussing in detail over the course of the interview.

Why should I care? 

It’s essential for multi-location brands and businesses with physical locations to have high-quality location pages. This means having a consistently fast and stable loading experience which is tracked by measuring core web vitals.

 Brands that suffer from poor quality or speeds may be in danger of being penalized by Google’s updated algorithm and losing their search position, which spells bad news for their SEO. This will impact user experience and the ability of brands to deliver useful content or convert their customers.

Who is this event for?

Multi-location/enterprise brands
SEOs, Developers, and really anyone with a website and different page types
Location page providers
Anyone interested in the cool stuff LSG is doing!

When is the event?

Dec 14, 2021, at 11:00 AM in Pacific Time
Dec 14, 2021, at 1:00 PM in Central Time 
Dec 14, 2021, at 2:00 PM in Eastern Time 

Where can I sign up?

The interview with LSG’s CEO, Andrew Shotland, and Director of Web Intelligence, Rachel Anderson, will take place over Zoom and you can register for the event here

The post LSG Virtual Event – Store Locator SEO Teardown: Core Web Vitals Edition w/ Rachel Anderson appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

How successful marketers plan paid media in a changing world

Posted by on Dec 8, 2021 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How successful marketers plan paid media in a changing world

“Think about how you handle planning or forecasting at your company: What does that process look like?”

Greg Finn, CMO of Cypress North, asked this question to two paid media professionals in his session at SMX Next. The presentation highlighted the planned media best practices that remain vital despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it brought to the landscape.

“Planning for us primarily stems from understanding the industry,” said Neha Divanji, founder of Growth Spin Limited, “We’re seeing if there are any persistent trends in the industry. We look for anything that has changed or anything topical that we would want to pay attention to, then we look at the competition.”

Andrew Lolk, founder of SavvyRevenue, highlighted his agency’s focus on goal-alignment and practicality: “We’re trying to figure out what is the goal here and what kind of limitations are we working within. Do we have any budgetary limitations? Do we have industry limitations?”

Putting together a planned paid media strategy is more important than ever in our changing digital landscape. Here are some tactics marketers should consider when building out these plans.

Consider using paid media planning tools

There are plenty of helpful tools available to help marketers plan their paid media efforts. Choosing the option that adapts to changes in the market depends on your brand, goals and competition.

“I use a tool called Similarweb extensively,” said Divanji, “It essentially pulls data from the competition and interprets which channels are the maximum traffic drivers for various competitors.”

“When we are looking at the campaign level and medium level data, we use Semrush,” she added. “It has options where you can look at specific competitor insights.”

Yet not all marketers prefer to use subscription-based planning tools. Some opt for a more manual planning process that brings all team members on board.

“We use few tools from a planning perspective,” said Lolk. “The only one we use again and again is Google Trends. It helps us understand new industries. When we see a little bit of a down season is key to start planning spend.”

Agency and client planning when things go awry

Failing to include clients in your paid media planning can disrupt your campaigns when things change. Marketers should share their plans regularly so no one is completely thrown off when adjustments need to be made.

“One of the key things that most clients and advertisers forget is sharing information,” Lolk said. “We’ve set up a process for how to proactively request and ask for all these things.”

Advertisers and clients miss out when these conversations are neglected. Their combined areas of expertise can serve as a solid campaign foundation.

“It’s so overlooked, just sharing insights,” he said. “It’s such a cliché when agencies say, ‘We have the technical know-how; you have the industry know-how. Let’s put it together.’ It’s the oldest cliché in the book, but it works.”

Adapt to changing advertising platforms

Aside from the many societal and behavioral changes, the biggest ad platforms continue to transform. And these shifts are often unpredictable.

“Nobody knows what’s coming out,” Lolk said. “We can’t guess what’s going to happen. So we focus on making sure we nail the basics. The basics have to be right and we have to be strong on strategy from.”

“From an agency perspective, it doesn’t matter what Google, Facebook, etc., throw at us. If you have the basics right, you’re pretty well off,” he added.

Marketers should have the basic practices, like gathering their own first-party data, in place, but aligning expectations with stakeholders will better prepare them for the changes to come. It’s the marketer’s responsibility to lean into their adaptability and let their clients know they’re prepared for each new status quo.

“As an agency, we know ground realities,” said Divanji. “We know what to expect. For clients, it’s important that their P&L (profit and loss) looks healthy, and that the agency and they are aligned with objectives, forecasting and deliverables.”

“As long as we can maintain that, I don’t see many problems: The P&L is healthy for the client, and your agency is delivering what you promised,” she added.

Watch the full SMX Next presentation here (free registration required).

The post How successful marketers plan paid media in a changing world appeared first on Search Engine Land.

The cost of ignoring website accessibility

Posted by on Dec 8, 2021 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on The cost of ignoring website accessibility

Search engine optimization and optimizing for accessibility are about doing what’s right for the user. While that is a shared objective, the business case for investing in SEO may be easier to understand than the case for improving your site’s accessibility.

Although the gains from enhancing your site’s accessibility may not be obvious, that doesn’t mean it isn’t crucial for your business and your audience. Many businesses have been sued over their sites’ lack of support for differently-abled users — a demographic that may rely on assistive technologies to navigate the web. When sites aren’t accessible, they are not only going to lose out on potential conversions from differently-abled users, but they also become vulnerable to legal action.

In a future article, we’ll take a look at exactly what SEOs can do to improve their clients’ accessibility, but for now, this article will examine the potential penalties businesses might face if they get served with an accessibility lawsuit, who is driving these legal actions, reasons why sites might get sued and how that has changed workflows for businesses and SEOs — all so that search professionals can adequately frame priorities for their clients.

The potential penalties

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires places of public accommodation and commercial facilities to comply with ADA standards. While websites are not specifically mentioned, a judge could rule that websites fall under this regulation. The number of lawsuits that search professionals mentioned in interviews for this article suggests that plaintiffs believe accessibility for websites is guaranteed by law and/or that defendants will simply seek to settle out of court, which seems to be far more common. The maximum civil penalty for a first violation under title III is $75,000, with subsequent violations being capped at $150,000.

The penalties that a business can incur seem to range greatly. “It was a $10K fine,” Jessica, a Minnesota-based SEO who preferred to remain anonymous, told Search Engine Land, adding, “They [the client] were also informed that if they did not fix anything by the time someone checked again, they would be fined $50K no questions asked.”

“[The] total suit was for $50,000 but these legal teams are mostly looking for a settlement,” said Eric Wu, VP of product growth at Honey, referring to a previous client’s case. “In this case, the fine was $200 per person impacted,” he said, noting that fine limits can vary from state to state. “The legal team who filed the lawsuit claimed that 250 people were impacted,” he added.

“There wasn’t a specific fine,” said Jackson Whelan, principal at Terrier Tenacity Design & Marketing, “They were looking for damages which would have been determined in court.” Whelan also noted that the aim of the lawsuit seemed to be getting business owners to settle out of court.

Law firms may be preying on sites with poor accessibility

Businesses might assume that end-users are the ones filing these legal actions, and that they’re far and few between, but marketers who have experienced accessibility lawsuits are pointing to a more business-driven motive.

“I worked with four different bike shops that were sued by the law firm in this article,” said Noah Learner, product director at Two Octobers, “The letters sent to each shop were almost identical in language and content, to the point that, had they not referenced accessibility, our clients would have taken them for spam.”

Pushing for a higher degree of accessibility is a worthy cause, but it seems that there is an industry of lawyers that are treating this issue as an opportunity for a cash grab. “The customer was one of about 50 businesses all sued by the same person in Denver using a law firm out of New Jersey,” Whelan said, “To the best of their knowledge, the person suing them had never been to their restaurant or contacted them to make a purchase or visit,” he added, meaning that this tactic may be adopted by any individual, not just your customers.

“My understanding is that there are specific law firms that work with sight-impaired folks who just scan the internet for sites that are in violation and file a lawsuit,” Wu said, noting that the lawsuit his former client was served with mentioned products in a completely different category than what his client sold. “A lawyer used an automated tool to find ADA issues on the site as part of a class-action lawsuit,” another SEO professional who spoke under the condition of anonymity told Search Engine Land.

The nature of these lawsuits presents an unfortunate conundrum: It seems business owners are largely in favor of making their sites more accessible, but they’re also being squeezed for settlements — and even if the plaintiff doesn’t seek damages, legal fees alone might place a huge burden on those businesses. What’s more, the cases seem to be driven by attorneys who are filing them en masse, potentially relying on businesses’ reluctance to go to court so that they can obtain a quick settlement, which places the compensatory aspect front and center, along with (if not overshadowing) the concern for accessibility.

“Most of us in the ADA community don’t really condone this behavior,” Emily Shuman, director of the Rocky Mountain ADA Center, told 5280, “We certainly want businesses to do everything they can to comply with the ADA, but no one in the community would want them to be hung out to dry.”

RELATED: Is your website at risk for an ADA accessibility lawsuit?

What sites can get sued over

The ADA doesn’t clearly define what constitutes an accessible site and that ambiguity may be something plaintiffs leverage for their own purposes. The W3C has published a list of common failures for its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 that search marketers and businesses can reference.

The marketers that spoke to Search Engine Land for this article cited the following factors as part of the lawsuits their clients faced:

A drop-down menu wasn’t fully keyboard-accessible due to some JavaScript.Insufficient text/background contrast.Site text was not scaleable.Image alt text wasn’t unique.Menu navigation did not properly support screen readers.There were no “skip navigation” options for screen readers.Password requirements did not support screen readers.Actions, like adding a product to cart, weren’t designed to support screen readers.PDF content was not able to be read in HTML format.Phone number on the website lacked a full description, potentially barring users from understanding what the number is for.Site information, such as the company address and hours of operation, were not labeled.

RELATED: 10 principles of digital accessibility for modern marketers

The impact on businesses beyond fines and legal fees

The penalties for businesses aren’t limited to the settlement or attorney fees — they also include the priority shift that is necessary to address accessibility as well as the opportunity cost that involves.

“The client was confused, and obviously frustrated, but did take quick action with their developers to make these changes,” Jessica said, noting that her client hired an accessibility consultant to create a checklist for their developers. “So essentially, the cost was the fine, the consultant fee, the hours for the developers to integrate those recommendations [instead of] other important tasks and the developer fee,” she added, “So, overall it was a significant chunk of change and time. This is what the client was most frustrated with.”

“The lawsuit really sidetracked a lot of other projects in order to get all hands on deck to correct the issues as quickly as possible,” Logan Ray, director of digital optimization at Beacon Technologies, said, adding that both agency and client-side processes have changed to address potential accessibility issues at the root.

Some businesses even made longer-term investments so that they could support users that rely on assistive technologies while avoiding future lawsuits. “Members of the UX team became subject matter experts in accessibility standards and ADA compliance,” said Kelly Stanze, a freelance digital strategist whose experience on this subject was gained in a past role as an in-house SEO at an enterprise company. “UX standards across the company were updated to reflect ADA compliance. This included some significant time investment in education across the organization, as these standards impacted the work of creative and technical resources upstream as well,” she said.

How SEOs adapted after the lawsuits

Although there is some overlap, optimizing for accessibility and optimizing for search engines remain largely separate objectives. Even so, clients’ experiences have search marketers rethinking their list of priorities.

“It’s making me think about our ‘low priority’ SEO audit recommendations and how we should be aiming to knock those out of the way as well as recommendations that move the revenue needle,” Jessica said, “Much of the time, we’re focused on improving the website from the ground up, with changes to technical and content elements, leaving elements like alt text to the end of our roadmap or as a ‘nice to have.’” “This has got me thinking about how we can forge better relationships with developers and other resources like ADA compliance consultants to bring the SEO industry up to speed with these ever-stricter guidelines,” she added.

“This was our first client to run into legal issues regarding accessibility, so it actually changed our approach in a very positive way,” Ray said, noting that his client training now includes guidance on compliance and that his agency now uses tools to scan for WCAG and Section 508 compliance, along with regularly scheduled audits to monitor for client-side changes.

In addition to revisiting sites built in the past and auditing them for accessibility, Whelan, whose client’s site was hosted on Squarespace, took an additional lesson from the experience: “It really needs to start at the top with platforms like Squarespace providing the tools their users need to not be vulnerable to legal action,” he said. Popular site builders, like Squarespace, may have limited accessibility features out of the box.

A focus on accessibility serves and protects businesses

The middle of the Venn diagram formed by SEO and accessibility is relatively narrow, including elements like headings, alt text, content organization and the proper labeling of information, but they’re enough to open the door for a greater conversation about accessibility — one that could save your clients tens of thousands of dollars while strengthening brand values and opening up a new audience for them to market to.

“My role as a content strategist and SEO consultant often serves as an introduction to that conversation,” Stanze said, “And, ultimately, the conversation always goes like this: You may NEED to do accessibility for legality and business reasons, but you SHOULD do it because it is the right thing to do.”

The post The cost of ignoring website accessibility appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Five Guiding Principles of Media Strategy

Posted by on Dec 8, 2021 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Five Guiding Principles of Media Strategy

There are five guiding principles that should be followed when developing an effective media strategy that’s set up for success.

How to write an SEO-friendly introduction for a blog post

Posted by on Dec 8, 2021 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to write an SEO-friendly introduction for a blog post

How to write an SEO-friendly introduction for a blog post

Google loves amazing content! We all know that, right? And what is THE most important part of a post or article? That very first paragraph! So, you should give that first paragraph some extra SEO love! The introduction of an article is of key importance to tell your audience what your story is about. Moreover, for Google, the introduction of a post is really important as well. But why is the introduction so important for SEO? And how do you make sure to write an SEO-friendly introduction? In this blog post, I’ll talk about the importance of the introduction and give practical tips on how to write an awesome first paragraph! 

Why you should write an SEO-friendly introduction? 

The introduction of any article is always the first thing people read. People usually start reading at the beginning of an article. Google knows that too. Google is trying to mimic a human. If your introduction is not compelling, people will click away. That’ll lead to a decline in your rankings. 

Because the first paragraph is the most important part of the article, it should be really well written and really well-optimized. The demands on that paragraph are just higher than the demands on the rest of your text. Your introductory paragraph should simply be top-notch.

What should a good introduction do? 

An introductory paragraph has a few functions. It is the start of your blog post. It has a specific task. Let’s look at the three major functions of the introduction to a blog post! 

1. Introduce the topic 

The first paragraph of any article introduces the topic. Just by reading the introduction, it should be clear what the message of your article is. What is it that you want to tell people in this article? 

In the introduction of the blog post you’re currently reading, the message is: ‘the introduction of your article is of key importance to your audience as well as to Google.’ That’s what this article is about. That’s what I want you to remember. 

Introducing the topic also allows you to use your focus keyphrase in the introduction. You should use the words you want people to find you on in Google. You should use the exact search terms your audience is using in the introduction. That’ll make your audience confident that your article will answer the question they asked Google. 

2. Get people excited to read more 

The second thing a good introduction should do is to get people excited about your article. You’ll need a hook. Something that’s fun or triggering. Something that catches people’s attention. The introduction should be written in such a way that people want to read more. Your audience should feel curious about what’s next and excited to have found such an amazing article. 

3. Set expectations 

The third thing an SEO-friendly introduction should do is set expectations. Readers should know just by reading the first paragraph of your post, what they can expect from your article. In newspapers, journalists tend to hide their content and not say people upfront what people will learn. But on a website, chances are very high people will click away if they don’t know what to expect from an article. 

Tips on how to write an SEO-friendly introduction 

Think before you write 

Your introduction is your most important paragraph. In many cases, it is the first paragraph you’ll write. Take a little bit of time to think about what you’re going to write. In order to write a good introduction, you need to have a clear view of who your audience is. What kind of people are you trying to reach? What will they learn from your article? Which problems are you solving? If you have a clear view of your audience, the problems they’re facing, and the solution your article brings to the table, it will be much easier to write your introduction (and the rest of your article ). 

An example: for this article that you’re currently reading, my desired audience consists of writers, bloggers, people that want to create content in order to rank high in the search engines. That’s their main problem: their content is not ranking as high as they would like it to (yet). This article serves them as part of the solution by giving them practical tips on how to improve their introductory paragraph. 

Focus on the problem 

In your introduction, you’ll always focus on the problem your audience is facing. People will recognize the problem and will want to read the rest of your article if that helps them to find a solution to their problem. In this article, I focused on the fact that a good introduction is important for your rankings in Google. 

Make it relatable 

Blog posts are generally not formal. Make your readers feel like you’ve written this post especially for them. Address them directly. Use ‘you’ and ‘your’ in order to get them to feel like it is about them personally. Asking questions is also a way to directly reach out to your audience. It’ll make them feel like you’re talking to them. 

Make it fun 

Use quotes, statistics, stories, and anecdotes in order to make your introduction fun to read. Quotes and statistics will help you to be more convincing, while stories and anecdotes will make your article more entertaining to read. An extra tip: if you use quotes, statistics, or stories in your introduction, I would always come back to those in your conclusion. It’ll make your article all ’rounded up’ and your readers will remember your story and your message more easily.

Use a different font

We’ve talked about how important that first introductory paragraph is. It should be well written, but it should also be well designed. Make it stand out a little and choose a different font. That’ll help your readers, they’ll immediately know which part of the text the introduction is. And, it will make it look important. And it should look important because it is really important!

Use that focus keyphrase! 

If you really want to write an SEO-friendly introduction make sure to use your focus keyphrase in the first paragraph. You want your audience to recognize the thing they were searching for in the search engines immediately. Use that exact key phrase in your introduction. That’ll convince your audience that they’re reading the right thing.

Keep it readable 

Readability is important for your entire article. But as the introduction is the most important part of your article, readability is especially important in the introduction. Don’t make that first paragraph hard to read. Use short sentences. Avoid passive voice at all times. An introduction should not be too long. One paragraph, containing 10 or 12 sentences at the most. You could divide an introduction into two shorter paragraphs as well. Don’t make paragraphs longer than 12 sentences.

Short recipe for an SEO-friendly introduction 

So, let’s make this practical. How do you write an SEO-friendly introduction? Let me give you a short and easy recipe for an awesome SEO-friendly introduction!

Start with a hook. A hook can be anything that triggers the reader. You could state a triggering or controversial opinion. Or ask a (rhetorical question). You could share a statistic. In this blogpost, I started with the fact that Google loves great content. I could have started with a statistic too. Or with an important statement: most people decide to read an article on the base of the introduction. Make sure to write two or three sentences that catch the attention of your reader. These first sentences are meant to entice the reader and get them to read on.Introduce the message of your article. After your hook, you’ll write two or three sentences in which you introduce the main problem you’re solving in the blog post. Write two or three sentences about what people can expect in this article. I always end my introductions with (more or less) the same sentence. It’s always a sentence like this: ‘In this blogpost, I’ll tell you about…’

Love your site and write an SEO-friendly introduction 

If you write a text, you want it to be read. You want the message to get across to your audience. You want it to rank high in the search engines. Make sure that the most important part of your text, the introduction, gets that extra bit of attention. Treat the first paragraph to a little extra SEO love. That could really make all the difference. And it’s not hard work. It’s just a little love. And let’s spread that SEO love! 

Read more: SEO love: Why you should add links to a new post as soon as possible »

The post How to write an SEO-friendly introduction for a blog post appeared first on Yoast.

How expired landing pages kill your Google rankings

Posted by on Dec 8, 2021 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How expired landing pages kill your Google rankings

How expired landing pages kill your Google rankings

A lot of landing pages expire every day when outdated information becomes obsolete, products are sold out, services are discontinued and entire communities sunset. How that expiring content is being handled from an SEO perspective can greatly impact the organic search rankings of websites. If its handling is floundered, SEO landing pages with expired content have the potential to kill the organic rankings of the website overall.

PageRank vs. user signals

A frequently mentioned argument made by website owners for maintaining landing pages with expired content, especially sold-out products, is to preserve incoming external PageRank to the website. It is a false assumption that a landing page must be maintained as indexable and by returning a 200 OK status code, even when a product or service isn’t available to users any longer in order to keep whatever authority or PageRank that same landing page has accumulated over time. Doing so effectively means creating a soft 404 landing page. A soft 404 is an error page with no relevant content which continuously returns a 200 OK status code instead of a 404 or 410 status code.

For a number of reasons, that strategy is a recipe for disaster. Firstly, the conversion rate rather than presumed PageRank accumulation ought to be the primary goal of a commercial website. After all, no publisher cares for their PageRank value, high or low, as long as conversions meet or exceed expectations. Secondly, PageRank can not be gauged by any degree of accuracy. PageRank changes continuously as Googlebot crawls the web and Google does not disclose the actual value for individual landing pages or websites. No external third-party tool can substitute that value in any meaningful way. Finally, product landing pages rarely attract lasting, high-quality, merit-based backlinks to begin with. Effectively, the perceived PageRank loss is debatable, while actual PageRank loss is negligible. 

Soft 404s are bad for user experience and therefore a thorn in the side of search engines, Google in particular. This is why maintaining expired content landing pages, especially unavailable product pages, considerably magnifies the risk of poor user signals. Google has become more adept in identifying negative on-page language and can accurately detect strings like “unavailable,” “out of stock,” “0 results found” or “sold out.” Frequently, yet not always, it will highlight the problem as soft 404 pages in Google Search Console. However, a major issue is that CTR is likely to suffer from snippet representation, highlighting information that services or products are unavailable to the user. Worse yet, if users are still compelled to click on results that turn out to be discontinued landing pages (also known as soft 404s), they are almost inevitably going to return to search results, look for an alternative and/or refine their query. Doing so, the users indicate with their click behavior that the individual user experience was bad for them. With this “bounce rate” growing, which is often mistaken for, yet unrelated to, the Google Analytics or on-site bounce rate, the relevance of the website as a whole suffers in the organic search rankings.

Negative wording in expired content leaks into snippets, adversely affecting CTR.

Although PageRank remains an important ranking factor, it pales in comparison with the weight of user signals which search engines collect for rankings. While emphatically denying the use of specific user signals, such as Google Analytics data or dwelling time, Google continues to favor websites that are popular with users. When compared against each other, the PageRank argument does not stand a chance. On the one hand, PageRank remains elusive and at best a means to an end. User signals on the other hand, directly and imminently contribute to the success of a website, with and beyond SEO.

The trends game

Google rankings, to a large extent, depend on SEO signal trends. For a large website, with many millions of relevant landing pages, a few thousand expired content landing pages are unlikely to trigger a ranking loss. They are relatively too few to decidedly tip the trend of a website’s signals one way. For a smaller website comprising ten thousand landing pages in total, a few hundred expired indexable landing pages can already pose an SEO danger. 

Expired content negative wording leaks into snippets, adversely affecting CTR.

Ultimately, the decisive factor is trends measured in percentages, rather than the actual total numbers of indexable expired content or soft 404 landing pages. Which website ranks well and which one does not depends on a number of critical factors. These include, among other factors, the total volume of crawlable landing pages, their content quality, the overall trends involved and, most importantly, the user experience signals trends indicating user satisfaction.

Soft 404s are likely to impact both CTR and bounce rate effectively dragging the website’s rankings down over time.

There are no fixed thresholds that must be observed. Instead, trends are front and center when SEO signals, and therefore organic search rankings, are to be improved. The question of how well a specific website fares in this regard can only be answered by analyzing the website’s specific data, especially its server logs. This is why commercial websites with a sizable and changing product database must regularly perform technical SEO audits. 

In-depth SEO audits are the only means of accurately gauging crawl budget management, or how long it may take for Google to re-crawl expired landing pages in order to register the changes applied. Only an SEO audit can help to identify whether expired content landing pages pose a problem and/or if it’s a serious one.

Trends are critical SEO indicators. Growing volumes of soft 404s are a potential risk.

Doing it the right way

Larger sections of a website that have outlived their usefulness but can’t be deleted, like sunset communities, can be moved off domain, thereby boosting the main website’s trend signal. In that instance, 301 Moved Permanently redirects must be established and maintained without an end date or return 404 status code so search engines know to discount the content. 

Expired product landing pages, however, must not be 301 redirected to other landing pages, thereby meddling with user signals. Instead, when products or services are no longer available, respective landing pages must return either 404 Not Found or 410 Gone HTTP status codes. Doing so, these status codes will signify to Google and other search engines that the landing pages no longer provide what they used to and strengthen the user signals of the remaining, still available 200 OK landing pages that continue to offer products or services.

There is, however, a possibility to legitimately capitalize on 404 error pages without taking the unnecessary business risk of confusing search engines or diluting user signals. That is by enhancing 404 Not Found pages, which still return this correct status code and supplementing the content of the error page with relevant, in-context information for users. These so-called smart or custom 404 landing pages must continue to address the fact that their main purpose, product or service is unavailable. But, they can be augmented with relevant product alternatives and/or the results of an internal search based on keywords from the request URL, enabling users to continue on their journey within the website — and for the website operator to potentially still capitalize on the lead. Custom 404 pages are not an SEO growth method, but much rather a means for maintaining user satisfaction and improving conversions. When applied, they pose no SEO risk as long as the status code is still a 404.

Ultimately, whether expired content landing pages return 404, 410 or a custom 404 response, it is important not to block the URLs in the robots.txt. Doing so inhibits search engines from crawling and understanding the changes applied and can have an undesirable effect on user signals. 

At the same time, internal linking to expired content landing pages must be updated and consequently discontinued. Internal linking is among the foremost important on-page signals indicating to search engines both relevance and importance from a crawl priority point of view, hence there’s no point in boosting content landing pages that have expired. 

Lastly, it is important to always keep in mind that 404 Not Found landing pages, no matter how numerous, will not impact a website’s organic rankings. No website ranks poorer or better because of, or despite, its 404 Not Found pages. Soft 404 landing pages, however, can not only impact rankings but also have the potential to drag down the entire website in organic search.

The post How expired landing pages kill your Google rankings appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Google’s December 2021 product reviews update was bigger than the April product reviews update, say data providers

Posted by on Dec 8, 2021 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Google’s December 2021 product reviews update was bigger than the April product reviews update, say data providers

Google’s December 2021 product reviews update was bigger than the April product reviews update, say data providers

On December 1, 2021, Google began to roll out the second product reviews update of the year, the December 2021 product reviews update. This was at the tail-end of the November 2021 core update that finished rolling out the day before, on November 30, 2021 (note, this is an important point for this story). RankRanger and Semrush, two SEO toolsets, sent us data that showed that the December 2021 product reviews update was more volatile than the April 2021 product reviews update — but there may be some caveats to that.

Please note that Google told us that this product reviews update will take approximately three weeks to roll out and we are only now in the start of week two. So, the data may change but generally when Google rolls out these updates, the bulk of the impact you would see from an update would be in the first few days of that rollout.

Data providers show December was bigger than April

RankRanger. The RankRanger team first sent us their data showing that overall, the December fluctuations and volatility “were substantially higher in the top three and top five positions,” the company said. This is across comparing the changes in the top-three, top-five and top-ten ranking positions in Google Search:

The April PRU is shown in blue and the December PRU is shown in orange.

This is also when looking at average position changes overall between April (in blue) and December (in orange) product reviews updates:

The company also broke down just the December volatility by niche across sectors by top-three, top-five and top-ten results. The company showed the top-five positions both retail and travel stand out as having the most fluctuations and in the top ten results, health and finance showed the most fluctuations.

And you can see, the RankRanger index tracker tool is now starting to show this update slow down a bit:

Top winners and losers were also provided by RankRanger, showing Tripadvisor, Choice Hotels, Agoda and Hotwire were the losers and Expedia, Kayak, U.S. News & World Report were the top gainers.

Semrush. The Semrush team first sent us their data showing that overall the December fluctuations and volatility also peaked at much higher rates than the April product reviews update. The company said that the volatility highs seen during the December update are far greater than what was recorded in the April update.

But Semrush said that if you look at the overall volatility, it would appear that the April update was 44% more volatile than the December update. That is likely because this year overall was a lot more volatile than previous years, sending the numbers a bit off overall. If you look at level of volatility as compared to what Semrush normally would see, the April Product Review Update was significantly more volatile. Here is that chart showing this data:

But again, this is not a normal year and the chart showing the peak volatility is probably a better measurement of which update was more significant.

Semrush also broke down this update by vertical for the top-five and top-ten search results. The shopping vertical seemed to have seen the most drastic movement with 6% of the top ten coming from positions 20+ — that would make sense, being this is a product reviews update.

The Semrush sensor tool is now starting to show this update somewhat slow down a bit:

Core update impact, if any?

Like I said above, this year overall was a lot more volatile than previous years, which may be setting some of this tracking off a bit. We just finished rolling out the November 2021 core update about 24 hours before the December product reviews update started to roll out. It is possible the tracking tools data may have some overlap. Between it being a crazy year with volatility in general, both in terms of confirmed and unconfirmed updates, and the confirmed updates being very close together, it is hard to say with 100% confidence which update was bigger.

Semrush did tell us that the November 2021 core update was bigger than the December product reviews update, but they are two different types of updates and that makes sense. In fact, The December product reviews update is not showing huge amounts of movement compared to the November core update, Semrush said.

In fact, Sistrix, another tool provider, told us early on that they did not see huge changes with this update and didn’t have data to share with us overall. They simply didn’t see huge changes with the products reviews update in general.

More on the December 2021 products reviews update

The SEO community. The December 2021 product reviews update, like I said above, was likely felt more than the April version. I was able to cover the community reaction in one blog post on the Search Engine Roundtable. It includes some of the early chatter, ranking charts and social shares from some SEOs. In short, if your site was hit by this update, you probably felt it in a very big way.

What to do if you are hit. Google has given advice on what to consider if you are negatively impacted by this product reviews update. We posted that advice in our original story over here. In addition, Google provided two new best practices around this update, one saying to provide more multimedia around your product reviews and the second is to provide links to multiple sellers, not just one. Google posted these two items:

Provide evidence such as visuals, audio, or other links of your own experience with the product, to support your expertise and reinforce the authenticity of your review.Include links to multiple sellers to give the reader the option to purchase from their merchant of choice.

Google product reviews update. The Google product reviews update aims to promote review content that is above and beyond much of the templated information you see on the web. Google said it will promote these types of product reviews in its search results rankings.

Google is not directly punishing lower quality product reviews that have “thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products.” However, if you provide such content and find your rankings demoted because other content is promoted above yours, it will definitely feel like a penalty. Technically, according to Google, this is not a penalty against your content, Google is just rewarding sites with more insightful review content with rankings above yours.

Technically, this update should only impact product review content and not other types of content.

Why we care. If your website offers product review content, you will want to check your rankings to see if you were impacted. Did your Google organic traffic improve, decline or stay the same? Long term, you are going to want to ensure that going forward, that you put a lot more detail and effort into your product review content so that it is unique and stands out from the competition on the web.

We hope you, your company and your clients did well with this update.

More on Google updates

Other Google updates this year. This year we had a number of confirmed updates from Google and many that were not confirmed . In the most recent order, we had: The July 2021 core updateGoogle MUM rolled out in June for COVID names and was lightly expanded for some features in September (but MUM is unrelated to core updates). Then, the June 28 spam update, the June 23rd spam update, the Google page experience update, the Google predator algorithm update, the June 2021 core update, the July 2021 core update, the July link spam update, and the November spam update rounded out the confirmed updates.

Previous core updates. The most recent previous core update was the November 2021 core update which rolled out hard and fast and finished on November 30, 2021. Then the July 2021 core update which was quick to roll out (kind of like this one) followed by the June 2021 core update and that update was slow to roll out but a big one. Then we had the December 2020 core update and the December update was very big, bigger than the May 2020 core update, and that update was also big and broad and took a couple of weeks to fully roll out. Before that was the January 2020 core update, we had some analysis on that update over here. The one prior to that was the September 2019 core update. That update felt weaker to many SEOs and webmasters, as many said it didn’t have as big of an impact as previous core updates. Google also released an update in November, but that one was specific to local rankings. You can read more about past Google updates over here.

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5 key themes shaping the future of marketing

Posted by on Dec 8, 2021 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 5 key themes shaping the future of marketing

5 key themes shaping the future of marketing

Marketers and business leaders came together at Zeta Live ‘21 to discuss the evolution to a digital-first world and trending topics on the future of marketing. From NFTs to first-party data to the Metaverse and everything in between, here are some of the conference’s most engaging themes that marketers can’t afford to ignore.

1. E-commerce enters the experience era

The last 20 years of ecommerce and the technological progress made within the industry have offered solely static experiences for consumers. Enter the “experience era.”

The experience era enables marketers to give consumers the branded experience they crave. In the What Comes Next for Social Commerce session, industry experts from Verishop, Snap Inc., ThirdLove, and Yahoo! explain what’s next, with emphasis on one-to-one interactivity, sustainability, the Metaverse, and livestream selling being the holy grails. 

2. Web 3.0, NFTs, and blockchain technology go mainstream 

Web 3.0 represents the next iteration of the evolution of the internet as we know it. Built upon the core concepts of decentralization, openness, and great user utility, the real value coming out of web 3.0 will be blockchain. 

At the center of this blockchain technology now sits non-fungible tokens, better referred to as NFTs. In our session 2022: The Year NFTS Take the Mainstage, industry leaders from TIME and CNBC weighed in on the ability of crypto technology to create a new type of relationship with consumers through exclusivity. Michael Rubin, CEO of Fanatics, supported this positioning in his session on Sports Marketing in The Digital Era, sharing why he is launching NFT trading cards to strengthen the fan experience. While we’re still a few years out, NFTs and other Web 2.0 products platforms will inevitably disrupt the MarTech industry as we know it.

3. The next wave of customer engagement in the Metaverse 

Despite an uptick in big news surrounding the Metaverse lately, the reality is that this shift to virtual experiences won’t come overnight. Bob Sherwin, CMO of Wayfair, noted in the session on The Future of Commerce & Creativity that the home goods brand has offered these experiences to its shoppers for years. Yet, the question of ‘when do consumers want to engage with it?’ still remains.

4. Identity plays a pivotal role in the digital economy

Identity-based marketing – especially through the use of first-party data – has become increasingly important as consumers accelerate their transition to digital for everyday conveniences, transactions, and social interactions.

In the session Navigating the Golden Age of Identity, marketing experts from Zeta, LiveRamp, AWS Data Exchange, and T-Mobile unpacked the significance of identity being the only thing that unifies the customer experience. 

5. CDPs become the marketer’s North Star

Whether it’s added complexity that slows down processes, or siloed processes that lead to mono-channels, marketers are breaking through these roadblocks by implementing a Customer Data Platform (CDP) to power their martech stack. In the session Technology Bets for the Modern Marketer, industry experts from Carter’s, Email Connect, Healthgrades, and SIMON weigh in on the importance of having such a CDP platform at the core of their marketing infrastructure. 

Access all the Zeta Live ‘21 session recordings until December 17th by navigating to the “theater” area of our virtual experience here.

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20211208 SEL Brief

Posted by on Dec 8, 2021 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 20211208 SEL Brief

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As SEO becomes more complex, it involves more considerations than SEOs enjoyed in the “ten blue links” era

Posted by on Dec 8, 2021 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on As SEO becomes more complex, it involves more considerations than SEOs enjoyed in the “ten blue links” era

As SEO becomes more complex, it involves more considerations than SEOs enjoyed in the “ten blue links” era

Search Engine Optimization remains the stalwart mainstay of digital marketing, with search driving around 50% of website traffic on average, according to an analysis of SimilarWeb data by Growth Badger.

But the practice of SEO has become more complex and it involves more considerations than SEOs enjoyed in the “ten blue links” era. Today, SEO includes everything from content marketing and distribution to user experience. Even the core job of gathering and interpreting search intelligence has become more challenging as the search engines continually change their display of results and port them over to other media like voice assistants.

This doesn’t mean that the well-established SEO best practices should be cast aside, however. Keyword research, page-level analysis, backlink tracking and acquisition, and rank tracking are still of critical importance, even as the environment continues to change.

MarTech’s Enterprise SEO Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide is your source for the opportunities and challenges facing the market for SEO as seen by industry leaders, vendors and their customers. This 66-page report includes the latest trends, profiles of leading vendors, and recommended steps for evaluating and purchasing.

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