SEO Articles

Google adds nine policies to three-strike Ads system

Google has added nine new policies to its three-strikes system that punishes advertisers who don’t follow the rules.

The three-strikes system was announced in July. Testing then began in September.

When the program was announced, Google said they planned to include more policy types to avoid. Now they have announced nine additional policies. 

When this change takes effect. It starts June 21. Google said it will then gradually ramp up over a three-month period. 

The nine new policies. Running advertisements on any of the following could earn your account a strike:

Compensated sexual actsMail-order bridesClickbaitMisleading ad designBail bond servicesCall Directories, forwarding servicesCredit repair servicesBinary optionsPersonal loans

What else to avoid. Google Ads has three main buckets for ads that earn violations, none of which are new. If you need a refresher, you can find them all here: 

Enabling dishonest behaviorHealthcare and medicinesDangerous products or services

Strikes and punishments. If your account receives a warning or strike, you will be notified via email and in your account. As a reminder, here’s what happens if your ads get flagged. 

Warning

Trigger: First time an ad violates one of Google’s policies. Penalty: Ad is removed.

First Strike

Trigger: Violating the same policy, for which you received a warning, within 90 days.Penalty: Account is placed on a three-day hold and no ads are eligible to run.

Second strike

Trigger: Violating the same policy, for which you received a first strike, within 90 days.Penalty: Account is placed on a seven-day hold and no ads are eligible to run. 

If you have received a first or second strike, but don’t violate Google Ads policies for 90 days, the strikes will expire.

Third strike

Trigger: Violating the same policy, for which you received a second strike, within 90 days.Penalty: Account suspension.

Why we care. Anytime Google updates its Ads policy, it’s important to know what’s changing. Knowing what the Google Ads policies should help keep your account safe and avoid earning any warnings, strikes or an account suspension.

The post Google adds nine policies to three-strike Ads system appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Beware of fake DMCA link requests by AI-generated lawyers

Beware of fake DMCA link requests by AI-generated lawyers

Have you recently received a DMCA copyright infringement notice through email from a personal claiming to be a lawyer? Well, that email might be a scam and the lawyer who emailed you might not be a real person, but rather an AI generated persona for a lawyer at a fake law firm. That is what The Next Web uncovered in a recent report about such a DMCA request.

What is a DMCA request. A DMCA request is when someone requests the removal of content or a web page due to copyright violations. DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act and it is used to have hosting companies, Google and web site owners remove content that infringes on copyright.

What is the scam. In this case, the fake machine generated lawyer is emailing sites claiming DMCA copyright infringement and instead of having the site remove the content, they are asking for a link instead. The email says first starts off threatening, as most legal notices sound, but it ends saying “our client is happy for their image to be used and shared across the internet. However, proper image credit is due for the past or ongoing usage.” The proper image credit should be done with “a link to” the site “within 7 days.” “Otherwise, we are required to take legal action,” the email continues.

In short, the scam is to threaten copyright legal action for a link to a site.

Here is a copy of the email:

Fake lawyers. It gets even more creepy, as this reporter dug into this issue, they investigated who Arthur Davidson Legal Services was. The law firms site looked legit but the domain name was only registered this year but the site claims the firm has been around for many years. He then dug into the profile of Nicole Palmer and learned that she never existed, that she was made up by AI, by a generative adversarial network, a deep learning model that can be trained to create faces, art, or anything else. This is her photo, notice how the earrings and other aspects don’t exactly line up:

It is just pretty wild how far scammers will go to manipulate the Google search rankings.

Why we care. Just beware of such legal threats, do your research to ensure the firm exists, the lawyer who emailed you is real and that this is not a scam. I can see many folks just reading the email, quickly adding the link attribution credit and emailing back saying this was done – without asking for more details or without verifying this is a real issue.

Online scams are only going to get more sophisticated and look more real with AI and machine learning at their disposal. So we all need to get more sophisticated in questioning everything we see, every email we receive and every request that is made from us.

The post Beware of fake DMCA link requests by AI-generated lawyers appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Brands plan to invest more in search in the next 12 months

With more people working from home, the lines between work and personal time are more blurred than ever. As such, a new report by Forrester, done on behalf of Microsoft, says there is a new persona that brands and marketers need to be aware of: the “workday consumer.”

What is a workday consumer? They are online more often than before the pandemic. They switch between work and personal to-do lists throughout the day. And they use work devices, tools and software for personal purposes. 

Why we care. Consumer habits and preferences have shifted. Brands already recognize this and are planning to invest more in search and other types of advertising, according to the report. Search continues to be an important touchpoint during multiple phases of the buying journey – from initial research, to produce exploration, to purchase (and everything in between).

Key search stats. 

75%: The number of respondents who said search has become more important to their brand’s online advertising strategies.70%: The amount of budget going to digital channels within the next 12 months, including search, social, online video and display advertising. (Before the pandemic, 58% of paid media went to digital).60%: The percentage of companies planning to increase advertising budget for search, online video and display advertising in the next 12 months.16%: The percentage of brand respondents who said their brand plans to increase its paid search advertising budget by more than 10% over the next 12 months.88%: The percentage of respondents who said their brand plans to advertise on three or more search engines over the next 12 months. Currently, 92% of brand respondents said their company advertises on two or more search engines.

Key recommendation for search marketers. Workday consumers research products and services in between work tasks. So if you want to attract, convert and retain these people, make sure your messaging, content and ads go beyond simple demographics and past behavior.

What Forrester recommends. “Brands must consider more nuanced cues such as working mode (e.g., desk-based or frontline, office-based or remote), mindset, activity, and emotion to understand and target workday consumers.” Also:

“Use existing demographic and digital-behavior analytics to deduce these cues and employ methods such as self-reported studies, observational studies, location tracking, and time-of-day data.”“Beyond planning for the workday consumer, develop other nuanced target personas by infusing emotion data into personas. Understand the facets of emotions including feelings, neurophysiology, social-expression, and behaviors along with the observable traits for each and the software that can help measure them.”

It has to be said. This report was shared by an ad network – Microsoft – and says you should spend more on advertising. All ad networks always want you to spend more on their platform. That said, paid search is a proven marketing channel. As with everything: test, analyze, optimize, repeat.

The report. The Workday Consumer Has Logged In

The post Brands plan to invest more in search in the next 12 months appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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The 5 most important YouTube metrics for SEO

The 5 most important YouTube metrics for SEO

Are you using YouTube to host and distribute your videos? Then one of the main ways you’ll want to drive views is through search. Not just search within YouTube itself, but Google search as well. In this post, we’ll go over the five core YouTube metrics you should be looking at on a regular basis to understand and measure how your videos when it comes to driving organic search traffic on both platforms.

Note that this is not an overview of how to measure YouTube marketing more broadly. For that, check out our post on how to use analytics to optimize your video. This post discusses the YouTube metrics most important for tracking and optimizing traffic to your YouTube videos. From both Google and YouTube search. Metrics that you can all find in YouTube Analytics.

Metric 1: Views from YouTube search

A graph showing views acquired from YouTube search

The first metric that you should look at is the number of views acquired from YouTube Search. This data is available via the Traffic sources report in YouTube Analytics. “YouTube Search” is clearly marked as a source distinct from other YouTube discovery methods. This data shows you how many people find your videos via search within the YouTube platform (i.e. website, apps & integrations). It does not include traffic from Google search or other search engines.

Views from YouTube search is really your headline metric for YouTube SEO (although not Video SEO, more broadly conceived). When this metric goes up, this tells you more people are discovering and watching your videos through YouTube search.

Metric 2: Views from Google search

A graph showing views acquired from Google search

This data is also available via the Traffic Sources report in YouTube Analytics, but within the “External” category. Here you can see “Google Search” as a source alongside other websites where your videos are embedded or linked to. Views from Google Search tell you how many people have reached your videos on YouTube.com or the YouTube app through universal Google search or Google video search. It does not, however, include users that watched videos on your website and arrived at your website via Google search. These are captured and referenced as other “External” sources.

This metric is extremely useful if you trying to optimize your YouTube channel for visibility on Google search. Particularly by ranking for unbranded informational keywords. You’ll typically find that this graph may show a spike if a new video starts to rank in a video pack within Google universal search for a high-volume keyword. So this is a useful indicator of whether or not your videos are appearing frequently within those rich results packs.

Are you seeing a significant number of views on your channel coming from Google search, but very few from YouTube search? This is a good clue that you might be better off moving your videos to a different platform. Especially if you have a website with good authority and reputation. That way you can drive traffic exclusively to your website, rather than pushing everything by default to YouTube. My post on YouTube vs your own site: which is better for SEO? can help you decide whether this is the right course of action for you.

Metric 3: Average percentage viewed

A graph showing the average percentage viewed for all videos in a channel.

The third YouTube metric I want to discuss is the average percentage viewed for all videos in a channel. This data shows you how much of your videos viewers typically get through. It can also be viewed on an individual video basis via heatmaps or as aggregated data for all your videos. While this data doesn’t directly speak to your video performance in terms of rankings, it is a good leading indicator of wider visibility. YouTube either directly uses average retention data to inform rankings, or it correlates closely with factors that do feed into the algorithm. As such, if you improve average retention, you tend to find that you get more views.

The average percentage viewed also tells you, essentially, how good your content is and how much it meets user needs. Although it’s important to note that longer videos have lower average retention figures. The aggregated view is helpful. A downward trend (as above) tells you something might be awry with recently published content in terms of quality or targeting. But it actually gets particularly helpful when you drill down into individual videos via the Engagement tab in YouTube analytics. This helps you see which have the highest and lowest retention rates after 30 seconds.

A summary of best-performing videos in terms of retention up to 30 seconds of watching

Metric 4: Views from non-subscribers

A graph showing views acquired from non-subscribers

Our fourth YouTube metric is the number of views from non-subscribers to your YouTube channel. Views from subscribers tend to come via notifications and recommendations within the YouTube platform infrastructure. Whereas sidebar recommendations, social media and search tend to be the engines that drive new viewers. 

As such, the number of views from non-subscribers is an important metric for search optimization. It holds particular relevance for those channels that have large engaged audiences and tend to use subscribers as the main engine of new views, but are keen to expand their reach.

Metric 5: Impressions click-through rate

A graph showing the average Impressions click-through rate for all videos

Our final metric is the average impressions click-through rate for your videos. This data tells you how many people click on your video when they see it presented in search results and sidebar recommendations. Although it only includes data from the YouTube platform itself and does not cover click-through rate as it relates to visibility in Google search. The metric correlates significantly with the number of views you are able to drive to your videos. And may even be a direct or indirect factor in determining rankings and wider visibility across YouTube.

More broadly, however, it speaks to how good your thumbnails and video titles are, and whether they match user needs for the queries you are targeting. You should be comparing this number to your own performance over time. Try to improve it as you create new content and further refine your channel value proposition. Small changes in click-through rate often lead to a big impact on the total number of impressions and views you can get for your videos. If you can move the dial by 1-2% over a number of months, this will have a huge impact on visibility and traffic.

While optimizing for impressions click-through rate on YouTube doesn’t necessarily translate into a better click-through rate on Google search, in most cases optimizing for one leads to a better performance in the other.

Use these YouTube metrics to monitor your organic traffic

In this post, I discussed five core YouTube metrics that can serve as a base for your SEO efforts. I hope it gave you some tools to monitor the performance of your videos when it comes to organic traffic. If you want to dive even deeper into the data to optimize your videos, make sure to check out my post on how to use YouTube analytics to optimize your video.

The post The 5 most important YouTube metrics for SEO appeared first on Yoast.

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Google Search launching Signed Exchanges for desktop users

In the coming weeks, Google will be launching Signed Exchanges in Google Search for desktop users. This primarily impacts sites that utilities dynamic serving with the vary user-agent header but should not impact sites using responsive web design or separate mobile and desktop URLs.

The announcement. This announcement was posted in the Google Groups by Devin Mullins of Google. Devin Mullins wrote:

Google Search is planning to launch SXG support for desktop users in the coming weeks.

Sites using responsive web design or separate mobile/desktop URLs don’t need to take action.

Sites using dynamic serving (varying by User-Agent header) will need to annotate their pages as mobile- or desktop-only, as documented here. For example:

Otherwise, desktop users may see the mobile version of the page.

We’re reaching out individually to SXG sites who we’ve found to use dynamic serving, but I wanted a broad announcement in case there are any that we miss.

More technical details. For almost all sites, since most sites do not use dynamic serving, no action is needed. Sites serving different HTML based on the user-agent header will need to opt out by adding a meta tag to your page. The meta tag is:

<meta name=supported-media content=”only screen and (min-width: 640px)”>

For more details on the meta tags, see this help document.

What are signed exchanges. Google defines them as “Signed HTTP Exchange (or “SXG”) is a subset of the emerging technology called Web Packages, which enables publishers to safely make their content portable, i.e. available for redistribution by other parties, while still keeping the content’s integrity and attribution. Portable content has many benefits, from enabling faster content delivery to facilitating content sharing between users, and simpler offline experiences.”

This is a solution Google came up with when publishers wanted to use their real URLs to serve AMP.

Why we care. If you are using dynamic serving and want to use signed exchanges, there is nothing for you to do. If you are using dynamic serving and do not want to use signed exchanges, you can opt out with the meta tag. If you are using another set up, Google says there is nothing changing and nothing for you to do.

Google also said it will communicate to those who will be impacted by this what is happening. So keep an eye out on your inbox and/or your Google Search Console notices for any messaging about signed exchanges for desktop.

The post Google Search launching Signed Exchanges for desktop users appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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5 ways to use the Wayback Machine for SEO

Sometimes a simple tool can give you incredibly powerful insights. 

The Wayback Machine is one such tool.

The Wayback Machine takes historical screenshots of web pages and stores them in its public database. Anyone can use the Wayback Machine to view previous versions of pages or entire sites. 

Here are five smart ways you can use the Wayback Machine for SEO.

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1. Find legacy URLs from old versions of the site

One of the most useful ways to use the Wayback Machine is to find historical URLs that have never been redirected.

The Wayback Machine collects information about your site throughout time. So it might have access to URL data from 10+ years ago. 

This is especially important for sites that have been around for a long time. It’s likely that the stakeholder who managed the site years ago has changed the company or left roles and may not have used SEO best practices during site migrations.

The Wayback Machine can be a lifesaver here. You can quickly find old URLs that were never redirected to live versions. 

For example, the “Headphones” page from Bose (http://www.bose.com/products/headphones/) from 2003 was never redirected:

Using the Wayback Machine, it’s easy to discover legacy versions of key content from previous site versions. You can then find URLs to redirect that you would have likely never discovered otherwise. 

Want to take this to the next level? Read Patrick Stox’s article on using the Wayback Machine API to find historical redirects. By querying the API, you can bulk export legacy URLs. This can be much more efficient for larger sites. 

2. Find previous page content

Website content changes over time. This happens for a variety of reasons (e.g., SEO, CRO, site migration or highlighting different aspects of a product). There is always an inherent risk of any content changes, especially if they’re significant. 

This is where the Wayback Machine comes into play.

If you’re seeing large losses in rankings after changing content, you can check the Wayback Machine to surface previous versions of old pages. Restoring the content to its original version could help your content regain lost visibility. 

For example, NYMag’s “Best Pillows For Neck Pain” article has lost organic visibility since mid-2020 for terms such as “neck support pillow.” This has resulted in organic traffic loss over time. 

Comparing the page to early 2020, we see that they have changed the content since then. The 2020 version included a quote from a chiropractor from the American Chiropractic Association in the introduction and kept the products above the fold. 

However, in the current version, they have added more content to the introduction, pushed the products below the fold and moved the American Chiropractic Association quote further down the page. 

While this might not be the sole cause of the ranking drops, looking back at the previous content during peak rankings could help them test restoring some of the content to older versions to see if this helps improve visibility.  

3. Finding old robots.txt file

Another great use of the Wayback Machine is checking how your robots.txt has changed from previous versions. This can be particularly helpful during a site migration if your robots.txt file has changed and you don’t have a version of the original file. 

Fortunately, the Wayback Machine crawls robots.txt files a lot. Just look at how many times IBM’s robots.txt file was crawled in 2012: 

Using this, you can analyze how the robots.txt has changed over time. For instance, IBM’s robots.txt file looks quite different from what it used to. Here is the file back in 2012: 

Looking at the site’s current robots.txt file, you can see that the commands have changed: 

Using The Wayback Machine can be an extremely effective way to lookup old versions of your robots.txt file. This is especially useful if the information has been lost during a site migration. 

4. What sections competitors are adding to their pages

Sites in competitive spaces routinely add or update content. For your highest priority keywords, your competitors are likely making frequent updates to their pages to try to improve their visibility. It can be difficult to track these changes. 

Fortunately, the Wayback Machine allows you to understand what types of updates competitors are making to their content.

For example, we can use The Wayback Machine to look at the best cast iron skillet page from Serious Eats on June 27, 2021:

Looking at the page today, we can immediately see that they have made some dramatic changes to the page: 

By reviewing the existing page, we can see that they have:

Added an “Editor’s Note” to the top of the articleMoved the “The Winners” section to the top of the pageImplemented internal links at the top of the first paragraphMade “The Winners” section more visualAdded an FAQs section

This is extremely valuable information to have when performing a competitive analysis. These changes can now inform the editorial strategy we apply to our own page. 

Determining the content differences can be difficult. It requires a manual review. However, you can use tools like Diffchecker to easily spot the content changes.  

5. How frequently competitors are updating content

Use the Wayback Machine to determine how frequently competitors update content.

This is especially useful if you’re in a SERP landscape where content freshness matters for visibility. 

For example, CNET’s high-ranking page for The Best Android Phone Of 2022. At the top of the article, you can see the timestamp for when the article was last updated: 

Because technology is extremely fast-moving, it’s likely that freshness matters for terms such as “best android phones” since the products are frequently changing. Therefore, we might want to research how often we need to update our own content to stay competitive. 

Using the Wayback Machine, we can construct a timeline of how frequently CNET updates these articles. By looking at the previous timestamp on the page, we can look up the most recent historical version of the Wayback Machine that precedes that date. For example, to find the update that happened before March 5, 2022, we can look up what the version on March 2, 2022, looked like. 

By repeating this process, we can develop a timeline for how frequently CNET updates this page: 

March 5, 2022February 6, 2022January 7, 2022November 4, 2021October 3, 2021

Based on the data, it’s safe to say that CNET updates this article on a monthly cadence. We might want to apply the same update frequency to our content to stay competitive with CNET. 

Back to the Wayback

In a world where the web is ever-changing, the Wayback Machine is invaluable.

You can use this tool in multiple ways to recover lost information and glean insights into the direction of competitor strategies.

Make sure the Wayback Machine is in your SEO toolkit.

The post 5 ways to use the Wayback Machine for SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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