Tag Archive | "Rank"

10 Basic SEO Tips to Index + Rank New Content Faster – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

In SEO, speed is a competitive advantage.

When you publish new content, you want users to find it ranking in search results as fast as possible. Fortunately, there are a number of tips and tricks in the SEO toolbox to help you accomplish this goal. Sit back, turn up your volume, and let Cyrus Shepard show you exactly how in this week’s Whiteboard Friday.

[Note: #3 isn't covered in the video, but we've included in the post below. Enjoy!]

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard, back in front of the whiteboard. So excited to be here today. We’re talking about ten tips to index and rank new content faster.

You publish some new content on your blog, on your website, and you sit around and you wait. You wait for it to be in Google’s index. You wait for it to rank. It’s a frustrating process that can take weeks or months to see those rankings increase. There are a few simple things we can do to help nudge Google along, to help them index it and rank it faster. Some very basic things and some more advanced things too. We’re going to dive right in.

Indexing

1. URL Inspection / Fetch & Render

So basically, indexing content is not that hard in Google. Google provides us with a number of tools. The simplest and fastest is probably the URL Inspection tool. It’s in the new Search Console, previously Fetch and Render. As of this filming, both tools still exist. They are depreciating Fetch and Render. The new URL Inspection tool allows you to submit a URL and tell Google to crawl it. When you do that, they put it in their priority crawl queue. That just simply means Google has a list of URLs to crawl. It goes into the priority, and it’s going to get crawled faster and indexed faster.

2. Sitemaps!

Another common technique is simply using sitemaps. If you’re not using sitemaps, it’s one of the easiest, quickest ways to get your URLs indexed. When you have them in your sitemap, you want to let Google know that they’re actually there. There’s a number of different techniques that can actually optimize this process a little bit more.

The first and the most basic one that everybody talks about is simply putting it in your robots.txt file. In your robots.txt, you have a list of directives, and at the end of your robots.txt, you simply say sitemap and you tell Google where your sitemaps are. You can do that for sitemap index files. You can list multiple sitemaps. It’s really easy.

Sitemap in robots.txt

You can also do it using the Search Console Sitemap Report, another report in the new Search Console. You can go in there and you can submit sitemaps. You can remove sitemaps, validate. You can also do this via the Search Console API.

But a really cool way of informing Google of your sitemaps, that a lot of people don’t use, is simply pinging Google. You can do this in your browser URL. You simply type in google.com/ping, and you put in the sitemap with the URL. You can try this out right now with your current sitemaps. Type it into the browser bar and Google will instantly queue that sitemap for crawling, and all the URLs in there should get indexed quickly if they meet Google’s quality standard.

Example: https://www.google.com/ping?sitemap=https://example.com/sitemap.xml

3. Google Indexing API

(BONUS: This wasn’t in the video, but we wanted to include it because it’s pretty awesome)

Within the past few months, both Google and Bing have introduced new APIs to help speed up and automate the crawling and indexing of URLs.

Both of these solutions allow for the potential of massively speeding up indexing by submitting 100s or 1000s of URLs via an API.

While the Bing API is intended for any new/updated URL, Google states that their API is specifically for “either job posting or livestream structured data.” That said, many SEOs like David Sottimano have experimented with Google APIs and found it to work with a variety of content types.

If you want to use these indexing APIs yourself, you have a number of potential options:

Yoast announced they will soon support live indexing across both Google and Bing within their SEO WordPress plugin.

Indexing & ranking

That’s talking about indexing. Now there are some other ways that you can get your content indexed faster and help it to rank a little higher at the same time.

4. Links from important pages

When you publish new content, the basic, if you do nothing else, you want to make sure that you are linking from important pages. Important pages may be your homepage, adding links to the new content, your blog, your resources page. This is a basic step that you want to do. You don’t want to orphan those pages on your site with no incoming links. 

Adding the links tells Google two things. It says we need to crawl this link sometime in the future, and it gets put in the regular crawling queue. But it also makes the link more important. Google can say, “Well, we have important pages linking to this. We have some quality signals to help us determine how to rank it.” So linking from important pages.

5. Update old content 

But a step that people oftentimes forget is not only link from your important pages, but you want to go back to your older content and find relevant places to put those links. A lot of people use a link on their homepage or link to older articles, but they forget that step of going back to the older articles on your site and adding links to the new content.

Now what pages should you add from? One of my favorite techniques is to use this search operator here, where you type in the keywords that your content is about and then you do a site:example.com. This allows you to find relevant pages on your site that are about your target keywords, and those make really good targets to add those links to from your older content.

6. Share socially

Really obvious step, sharing socially. When you have new content, sharing socially, there’s a high correlation between social shares and content ranking. But especially when you share on content aggregators, like Reddit, those create actual links for Google to crawl. Google can see those signals, see that social activity, sites like Reddit and Hacker News where they add actual links, and that does the same thing as adding links from your own content, except it’s even a little better because it’s external links. It’s external signals.

7. Generate traffic to the URL

This is kind of an advanced technique, which is a little controversial in terms of its effectiveness, but we see it anecdotally working time and time again. That’s simply generating traffic to the new content. 

Now there is some debate whether traffic is a ranking signal. There are some old Google patents that talk about measuring traffic, and Google can certainly measure traffic using Chrome. They can see where those sites are coming from. But as an example, Facebook ads, you launch some new content and you drive a massive amount of traffic to it via Facebook ads. You’re paying for that traffic, but in theory Google can see that traffic because they’re measuring things using the Chrome browser. 

When they see all that traffic going to a page, they can say, “Hey, maybe this is a page that we need to have in our index and maybe we need to rank it appropriately.”

Ranking

Once we get our content indexed, talk about a few ideas for maybe ranking your content faster. 

8. Generate search clicks

Along with generating traffic to the URL, you can actually generate search clicks.

Now what do I mean by that? So imagine you share a URL on Twitter. Instead of sharing directly to the URL, you share to a Google search result. People click the link, and you take them to a Google search result that has the keywords you’re trying to rank for, and people will search and they click on your result.

You see television commercials do this, like in a Super Bowl commercial they’ll say, “Go to Google and search for Toyota cars 2019.” What this does is Google can see that searcher behavior. Instead of going directly to the page, they’re seeing people click on Google and choosing your result.

  1. Instead of this: https://moz.com/link-explorer
  2. Share this: https://www.google.com/search?q=link+tool+moz

This does a couple of things. It helps increase your click-through rate, which may or may not be a ranking signal. But it also helps you rank for auto-suggest queries. So when Google sees people search for “best cars 2019 Toyota,” that might appear in the suggest bar, which also helps you to rank if you’re ranking for those terms. So generating search clicks instead of linking directly to your URL is one of those advanced techniques that some SEOs use.

9. Target query deserves freshness

When you’re creating the new content, you can help it to rank sooner if you pick terms that Google thinks deserve freshness. It’s best maybe if I just use a couple of examples here.

Consider a user searching for the term “cafes open Christmas 2019.” That’s a result that Google wants to deliver a very fresh result for. You want the freshest news about cafes and restaurants that are going to be open Christmas 2019. Google is going to preference pages that are created more recently. So when you target those queries, you can maybe rank a little faster.

Compare that to a query like “history of the Bible.” If you Google that right now, you’ll probably find a lot of very old pages, Wikipedia pages. Those results don’t update much, and that’s going to be harder for you to crack into those SERPs with newer content.

The way to tell this is simply type in the queries that you’re trying to rank for and see how old the most recent results are. That will give you an indication of what Google thinks how much freshness this query deserves. Choose queries that deserve a little more freshness and you might be able to get in a little sooner.

10. Leverage URL structure

Finally, last tip, this is something a lot of sites do and a lot of sites don’t do because they’re simply not aware of it. Leverage URL structure. When Google sees a new URL, a new page to index, they don’t have all the signals yet to rank it. They have a lot of algorithms that try to guess where they should rank it. They’ve indicated in the past that they leverage the URL structure to determine some of that.

Consider The New York Times puts all its book reviews under the same URL, newyorktimes.com/book-reviews. They have a lot of established ranking signals for all of these URLs. When a new URL is published using the same structure, they can assign it some temporary signals to rank it appropriately.

If you have URLs that are high authority, maybe it’s your blog, maybe it’s your resources on your site, and you’re leveraging an existing URL structure, new content published using the same structure might have a little bit of a ranking advantage, at least in the short run, until Google can figure these things out.

These are only a few of the ways to get your content indexed and ranking quicker. It is by no means a comprehensive list. There are a lot of other ways. We’d love to hear some of your ideas and tips. Please let us know in the comments below. If you like this video, please share it for me. Thanks, everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Why It Can Pay to Get Links from Domains that Don’t Always Rank Highly – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Contrary to popular belief, the top ranking pages aren’t always the best targets for your link building efforts. There are good reasons to chase those links, sure, but there are also drawbacks — as well as some hidden alternatives you may not have considered trying. This Whiteboard Friday delves into the pros and cons of targeting high-ranking sites for links and why you should consider a link intersect strategy, targeting sites that rank for broader topics, and earning links from publications ranking beyond page one of the SERPs.

Why It Can Pay to Get Links from Domains that Don't Always Rank Highly

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about why it may not actually pay to get links expressly or exclusively from the websites and pages that are ranking highly for your keywords. There’s a bunch of reasons why behind this. There’s a corollary to it, which is high-ranking websites may not always be the best link targets.

Are these the *best* links you can get to rank for “target keyword(s)”?

So okay, let’s start with this question of when you’re trying to rank for a target keyword, let’s say you’re trying to rank for “stylish sofas.” You’ve decided you want to replace your couch, and you want something stylish. So you search for “stylish sofas.” The results that come up, we’re not talking about the paid results. That would be a mistake to try and get links from those. They’re pretty commercially focused. They probably don’t want to link to you, and I’m not sure it’s all that valuable, necessarily, at least from an SEO perspective. But are these links, the ones that rank in the organic results top five, are they necessarily the best links you could possibly get? There are some reasons for and some reasons against.

In favor:

Let’s talk about in favor of why these are good link targets. The first one is pretty simple and pretty obvious.

A. These pages get lots of real visitors interested in this topic who may click on/visit your site (if it’s linked-to here)

These pages get a lot of search volume, get a lot of search visits from this query. If you’re somewhere in this page, if my website is linked to here, that’s actually a really nice thing. Maybe someone will click on the top result and then they’ll find me and they’ll click on it and they’ll go to my page instead. That would be great. So if it’s linked to there, you could get direct traffic from those pages, so nice link to have.

B. Google has put some trust/indication of authority in these pages and sites

Google has put some sort of trust and a signal of authority for this keyword by ranking it here. It’s saying, “Hey, you know what? This top result and these top results are all highly relevant and authoritative for this particular query.”

So those are absolutely true things, but I think they bias SEOs and link builders to think in terms of, oh, if I want to rank well for this, these are the only things I should be looking at or the first things I should be looking at or the best places to get links from.

Against:

Here’s why that’s not necessarily the case, so some points against.

A. Ranking is not actually an explicit signal from Google that these are the best quality links

By putting a page here, in the top of the results, Google is saying, “We, Google, believe that this page will do a great job of solving the searcher’s query,” not, “We, Google, know that if you get a link from here, you have a very good chance to rank for this keyword.” That’s not explicitly or implicitly said. It’s not an implication. Google has never stated that publicly. I don’t think it’s necessarily the smartest thing to do in their ranking algorithm to have this recursive system that looks at who that already ranks is linking to someone else and replace them. That would be poor for Google’s own user experience for a bunch of reasons.

B. Google and searchers expect that these pages that rank here are going to solve the searcher’s query themselves (not force another click)

Not they’re going to link to something that’s going to solve the searcher’s query, at least certainly not necessarily, and definitely that they’re not going to force you to make another click. Google wants to rank pages here that solve the searcher’s problem directly. So saying, “Oh, well, I don’t think they do that and maybe they should link to me to solve this aspect of the problem,” this is a spurious connection.

C. Of course, earning links from these pages, incredibly difficult

These people, especially if they’re ranking for a commercial, non-branded query, like “stylish sofas,” they really, really don’t want to link to one of their competitors, to someone who’s trying to actively outrank them. That would be pretty challenging.

I recognize that many times when link builders go about this, they look at, okay, this page is ranking. Let me see if I can find another page from this domain from which I can get a link. That’s not terrible logic. That’s a totally reasonable way to go about link building. But whether it’s the best or the only one is what I’m going to challenge here. I don’t think it is necessarily the best or only way that you should go about doing your link building for all these reasons we’ve just talked about.

Alternatively, links like these may be more achievable and provide more ranking value:

Now, what are the alternatives? You might be asking yourself, “Well, Rand, show me where should I be doing this if not from here?” I’m going to present a few alternatives. There’s obviously an infinite number of link building tactics you could pursue, but I think some of the smarter ones would be to think about some alternatives like…

1. Sites and pages that link to multiple high-ranking targets

For example, if one and three and four are all linked to by SiteA.com, SiteA.com seems to carry, not necessarily for sure, it could be correlation and not causation, but it’s certainly worth looking at as to whether Site A is relevant and provides high-quality links and could conceptually link to you and whether that’s a good resource. I think that link intersect concept is a really good one to start with. In fact, I think, from a logic perspective, it makes more sense that sites and pages that tend to link to these top results probably provide more potential power to your ranking authority than just the pages that are already ranking.

2. Sites and pages that rank well for what I’d call broader keywords/broader topics related to the space you’re in

So if it’s “stylish sofas,” you might look at keywords like, well, who’s ranking for “interior design” or “interior design magazines” or “interior design events” or perhaps it’s “decoration ideas.” If I can find the people who are ranking for those sorts of things, that probably is going to say those are the types of places that will link out to other resources that have more specific targeting, like targeting “stylish sofas,” and probably provide a lot of value there.

3. Influential publications and resources in the topic space that may not be doing good keyword targeting or SEO

I like going and trying to find influential publications and resources, that are in the topic space, that might not actually be doing good keyword targeting or good SEO, which means it’s hard to use Google to find them. You may find them ranking on page two, page three, or page four. You may need to do some other types of research, like look on Instagram and see what companies or what publications are using these hashtags and have lots of followers in this interior design or decoration or furniture space.

From there, that will lead you to influential publications in the space that maybe have lots of readership, lots of engagement on social channels or on their website, but haven’t done a particularly great job in Google. Those influential publications, I think Google is doing a very good job of identifying, “Hey, wait a minute. Here’s a bunch of publications that are in important in space X and they are all linking to this website, which is doing a good job of targeting these keywords. So, therefore, that’s who we should potentially rank.”

So hopefully, this Whiteboard Friday will help you to expand your link building opportunities and also to recognize why the top ranking pages might not always be and certainly aren’t necessarily the best link targets.

Thanks everyone. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Rank in 2018: The SEO Checklist – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

It’s hard enough as it is to explain to non-SEOs how to rank a webpage. In an increasingly complicated field, to do well you’ve got to have a good handle on a wide variety of detailed subjects. This edition of Whiteboard Friday covers a nine-point checklist of the major items you’ve got to cross off to rank in the new year — and maybe get some hints on how to explain it to others, too.

How to Rank in 2018: An SEO Checklist

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special New Year’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to run through how to rank in 2018 in a brief checklist format.

So I know that many of you sometimes wonder, “Gosh, it feels overwhelming to try and explain to someone outside the SEO profession how to get a web page ranked.” Well, you know what? Let’s explore that a little bit this week on Whiteboard Friday. I sent out a tweet asking folks, “Send me a brief checklist in 280 characters or less,” and I got back some amazing responses. I have credited some folks here when they’ve contributed. There is a ton of detail to ranking in the SEO world, to try and rank in Google’s results. But when we pull out, when we go broad, I think that just a few items, in fact just the nine we’ve got here can basically take you through the majority of what’s required to rank in the year ahead. So let’s dive into that.

I. Crawlable, accessible URL whose content Google can easily crawl and parse.

So we want Googlebot’s spiders to be able to come to this page, to understand the content that’s on there in a text readable format, to understand images and visuals or video or embeds or anything else that you’ve got on the page in a way that they are going to be able to put into their web index. That is crucial. Without it, none of the rest of this stuff even matters.

II. Keyword research

We need to know and to uncover the words and phrases that searchers are actually using to solve or to get answers to the problem that they are having in your world. Those should be problems that your organization, your website is actually working to solve, that your content will help them to solve.

What you want here is a primary keyword and hopefully a set of related secondary keywords that share the searcher’s intent. So the intent behind of all of these terms and phrases should be the same so that the same content can serve it. When you do that, we now have a primary and a secondary set of keywords that we can target in our optimization efforts.

III. Investigate the SERP to find what Google believes to be relevant to the keywords’s searches

I want you to do some SERP investigation, meaning perform a search query in Google, see what comes back to you, and then figure out from there what Google believes to be relevant to the keywords searches. What does Google think is the content that will answer this searcher’s query? You’re trying to figure out intent, the type of content that’s required, and whatever missing pieces might be there. If you can find holes where, hey, no one is serving this, but I know that people want the answer to it, you might be able to fill that gap and take over that ranking position. Thanks to Gaetano, @gaetano_nyc, for the great suggestion on this one.

IV. Have the most credible, amplifiable person or team available create content that’s going to serve the searcher’s goal and solve their task better than anyone else on page one.

There are three elements here. First, we want an actually credible, worthy of amplification person or persons to create the content. Why is that? Well, because if we do that, we make amplification, we make link building, we make social sharing way more likely to happen, and our content becomes more credible, both in the eyes of searchers and visitors as well as in Google’s eyes too. So to the degree that that is possible, I would certainly urge you to do it.

Next, we’re trying to serve the searcher’s goal and solve their task, and we want to do that better than anyone else does it on page one, because if we don’t, even if we’ve optimized a lot of these other things, over time Google will realize, you know what? Searchers are frustrated with your result compared to other results, and they’re going to rank those other people higher. Huge credit to Dan Kern, @kernmedia on Twitter, for the great suggestion on this one.

V. Craft a compelling title, meta description.

Yes, Google still does use the meta description quite frequently. I know it seems like sometimes they don’t. But, in fact, there’s a high percent of the time when the actual meta description from the page is used. There’s an even higher percentage where the title is used. The URL, while Google sometimes truncates those, also used in the snippet as well as other elements. We’ll talk about schema and other kinds of markup later on. But the snippet is something that is crucial to your SEO efforts, because that determines how it displays in the search result. How Google displays your result determines whether people want to click on your listing or someone else’s. The snippet is your opportunity to say, “Come click me instead of those other guys.” If you can optimize this, both from a keyword perspective using the words and phrases that people want, as well as from a relevancy and a pure drawing the click perspective, you can really win.

VI. Intelligently employ those primary, secondary, and related keywords

Related keywords meaning those that are semantically connected that Google is going to view as critical to proving to them that your content is relevant to the searcher’s query — in the page’s text content. Why am I saying text content here? Because if you put it purely in visuals or in video or some other embeddable format that Google can’t necessarily easily parse out, eeh, they might not count it. They might not treat it as that’s actually content on the page, and you need to prove to Google that you have the relevant keywords on the page.

VII. Where relevant and possible, use rich snippets and schema markup to enhance the potential visibility that you’re going to get.

This is not possible for everyone. But in some cases, in the case that you’re getting into Google news, or in the case that you’re in the recipe world and you can get visuals and images, or in the case where you have a featured snippet opportunity and you can get the visual for that featured snippet along with that credit, or in the case where you can get rich snippets around travel or around flights, other verticals that schema is supporting right now, well, that’s great. You should take advantage of those opportunities.

VIII. Optimize the page to load fast, as fast as possible and look great.

I mean look great from a visual, UI perspective and look great from a user experience perspective, letting someone go all the way through and accomplish their task in an easy, fulfilling way on every device, at every speed, and make it secure too. Security critically important. HTTPS is not the only thing, but it is a big part of what Google cares about right now, and HTTPS was a big focus in 2016 and 2017. It will certainly continue to be a focus for Google in 2018.

IX. You need to have a great answer to the question: Who will help amplify this and why?

When you have that great answer, I mean a specific list of people and publications who are going to help you amplify it, you’ve got to execute to earn solid links and mentions and word of mouth across the web and across social media so that your content can be seen by Google’s crawlers and by human beings, by people as highly relevant and high quality.

You do all this stuff, you’re going to rank very well in 2018. Look forward to your comments, your additions, your contributions, and feel free to look through the tweet thread as well.

Thanks to all of you who contributed via Twitter and to all of you who followed us here at Moz and Whiteboard Friday in 2017. We hope you have a great year ahead. Thanks for watching. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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How to Diagnose Pages that Rank in One Geography But Not Another – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Are you ranking pretty well in one locale, only to find out your rankings tank in another? It’s not uncommon, even for sites without an intent to capture local queries. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand shows you how to diagnose the issue with a few clever SEO tricks, then identify the right strategy to get back on top.

Diagnose Why Pages ranks for One Geography But Not Another

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about rankings that differ from geography to geography. Many of you might see that you are ranking particularly well in one city, but when you perform that search in another city or in another country perhaps, that still speaks the same language and has very similar traits, that maybe you’re not performing well.

Maybe you do well in Canada, but you don’t do well in the United States. Maybe you do well in Portland, Oregon, but you do poorly in San Diego, California. Sometimes you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, wait, this search is not particularly local, or at least I didn’t think of it as being particularly local. Why am I ranking in one and not the other?” So here’s a process that you can use to diagnose.

Confirm the rankings you see are accurate:

The first thing we need to do is confirm that the rankings you see or that you’ve heard about are accurate. This is actually much more difficult than it used to be. It used to be you could scroll to the bottom of Google and change your location to whatever you wanted. Now Google will geolocate you by your IP address or by a precise location on your mobile device, and unfortunately you can’t just specify one particular location or another — unless you know some of these SEO hacks.

A. Google’s AdPreview Tool – Google has an ad preview tool, where you can specify and set a particular location. That’s at AdWords.Google.com slash a bunch of junk slash ad preview. We’ll make sure that the link is down in the notes below.

B. The ampersand-near-equals parameter (&near=) - Now, some SEOs have said that this is not perfect, and I agree it is imperfect, but it is pretty close. We’ve done some comparisons here at Moz. I’ve done them while I’m traveling. It’s not bad. Occasionally, you’ll see one or two things that are not the same. The advertisements are frequently not the same. In fact, they don’t seem to work well. But the organic results look pretty darn close. The maps results look pretty darn close. So I think it’s a reasonable tool that you can use.

That is by basically changing the Google search query — so this is the URL in the search query — from Google.com/search?q= and then you might have ice+cream or WordPress+web+design, and then you use this, &near= and the city and state here in the United States or city and province in Canada or city and region in another country. In this case, I’m going with Portland+OR. This will change my results. You can give this a try yourself. You can see that you will see the ice cream places that are in Portland, Oregon, when you perform this search query.

For countries, you can use another one. You can either go directly to the country code Google, so for the UK Google.co.uk, or for New Zealand Google.co.nz, or for Canada Google.ca. Then you can type that in.You can also use this parameter &GL= instead of &near. This is global location equals the country code, and then you could put in CA for Canada or UK for the UK or NZ for New Zealand.

C. The Mozbar’s search profiles – You can also do this with the MozBar. The MozBar kind of hacks the near parameter for you, and you can just specify a location and create a search profile. Do that right inside the MozBar. That’s one of the very nice things about using it.

D. Rank tracking with a platform that supports location-specific rankings - Some of them don’t, some of them do. Moz does right now. I believe Searchmetrics does if you use the enterprise. Oh, I’m trying to remember if Rob Bucci said STAT does. Well, Rob will answer in the comments, and he’ll tell us whether STAT does. I think that they do.

Look at who IS ranking and what features they may have:

So next, once you’ve figured out whether this ranking anomaly that you perceive is real or not, you can step two look at who is ranking in the one where you’re not and figure out what factors they might have going for them.

  • Have they gotten a lot of local links, location-specific links from these websites that are in that specific geography or serve that geography, local chambers of commerce, local directories, those kinds of things?
  • Do they have a more hyper-local service area? On a map, if this is the city, do they serve that specific region? You serve a broad set of locations all over the place, and maybe you don’t have a geo-specific region that you’re serving.
  • Do they have localized listings, listings in places like where Moz Local or a competitor like Yext or Whitespark might push all their data to? Those could be things like Google Maps and Bing Maps, directories, local data aggregators, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc., etc.
  • Do they have rankings in Google Maps? If you go and look and you see that this website is ranking particularly well in Google Maps for that particular region and you are not, that might be another signal that hyper-local intent and hyper-local ranking signals, ranking algorithm is in play there.
  • Are they running local AdWords ads? I know this might seem like, “Wait a minute. Rand, I thought ads were not directly connected to organic search results.” They’re not, but it tends to be the case that if you bid on AdWords, you tend to increase your organic click-through rate as well, because people see your ad up at the top, and then they see you again a second time, and so they’re a little more biased to click. Therefore, buying local ads can sometimes increase organic click-through rate as well. It can also brand people with your particular business. So that is one thing that might make a difference here.

Consider location-based searcher behaviors:

Now we’re not considering who is ranking, but we’re considering who is doing the searching, these location-based searchers and what their behavior is like.

  • Are they less likely to search for your brand because you’re not as well known in that region?
  • Are they less likely to click your site in the SERPs because you’re not as well known?
  • Is their intent somehow different because of their geography? Maybe there’s a language issue or a regionalism of some kind. This could be a local language thing even here in the United States, where parts of the country say “soda” and parts of the country say “pop.” Maybe those mean two different things, and “pop” means, “Oh, it’s a popcorn store in Seattle,” because there’s the Pop brand, but in the Midwest, “pop” clearly refers to types of soda beverages.
  • Are they more or less sensitive to a co-located solution? So it could be that in many geographies, a lot of your market doesn’t care about whether the solution that they’re getting is from their local region, and in others it does. A classic one on a country level is France, whose searchers tend to care tremendously more that they are getting .fr results and that the location of the business they are clicking on is in France versus other folks in Europe who might click a .com or a .co.uk with no problem.


Divide into three buckets:

You’re going to divide the search queries that you care about that have these challenges into three different types of buckets:

Bucket one: Hyper-geo-sensitive

This would be sort of the classic geo-specific search, where you see maps results right up at the top. The SERPs change completely from geo to geo. So if you perform the search in Portland and then you perform it in San Diego, you see very, very different results. Seven to nine of the top ten at least are changing up, and it’s the case that almost no non-local listings are showing in the top five results. When you see these, this is probably non-targetable without a physical location in that geography. So if you don’t have a physical location, you’re kind of out of business until you get there. If you do, then you can work on the local ranking signals that might be holding you back.

Bucket two: Semi-geo-sensitive

I’ve actually illustrated this one over here, because this can be a little bit challenging to describe. But basically, you’re getting a mix of geo-specific and global results. So, for example, I use the &near=Portland, Oregon, because I’m in Seattle and I want to see Portland’s results for WordPress web design.

WordPress web design, when I do the search all over the United States, the first one or two results are pretty much always the same. They’re always this Web Savvy Marketing link and this Creative Bloq, and they’re very broad. They are not specifically about a local provider of WordPress web design.

But then you get to number three and four and five, and the results change to be local-specific businesses. So in Portland, it’s these Mozak Design guys. Mozak, no relation to Moz, to my knowledge anyway. In San Diego, it’s Kristin Falkner, who’s ranking number three, and then other local San Diego WordPress web design businesses at four and five. So it’s kind of this mix of geo and non-geo. You can generally tell this by looking and changing your geography in this fashion seeing those different things.

Some of the top search results usually will be like this, and they’ll stay consistent from geography to geography. In these cases, what you want to do is work on boosting those local-specific signals. So if you are ranking number five or six and you want to be number three, go for that, or you can try and be in the global results, in which case you’re trying to boost the classic ranking signals, not the local ones so you can get up there.

Bucket three: Non-geo-sensitive

Those would be, “I do this search, and I don’t see any local-specific results.” It’s just a bunch of nationwide or worldwide brands. There are no maps, usually only one, maybe two geo-specific results in the top 10, and they tend to be further down, and the SERPs barely change from geo to geo. They’re pretty much the same throughout the country.

So once you put these into these three buckets, then you know which thing to do. Here, it’s pursue classic signals. You probably don’t need much of a local boost.

Here, you have the option of going one way or the other, boosting local signals to get into these rankings or boosting the classic signals to get into those global ones.

Here you’re going to need the physical business.

All right, everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we’ll see you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SEO Above the Funnel: Getting More Traffic When You Can’t Rank Any Higher

Posted by Tom.Capper

Normally, as SEOs, we follow a deceptively simple process. We identify how people are searching for our product, then we build or optimize pages or websites to match searcher intent, we make sure Google can find, understand, and trust it, and we wait for the waves of delicious traffic to roll in.

It’s not always that simple, though. What if we have the right pages, but just can’t rank any higher? What if we’re already satisfying all of the search volume that’s relevant to our product, but the business demands growth? What if there is no search volume relevant to our product?

What would you do, for example, if you were asked to increase organic traffic to the books section on Amazon? Or property search traffic to Rightmove (UK) or Zillow (US)? Or Netflix, before anyone knew that true online streaming services existed?

In this post, I’m going to briefly outline four simple tactics for building your relevant organic traffic by increasing the overall size of the market, rather than by trying to rank higher. And none of them require building a single link, or making any changes to your existing pages.

1. Conquer neighboring territories

This is a business tactic as well as an SEO one, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for reasonably uncompetitive verticals adjacent to your own. You have an advantage in these, because you already have a brand, a strong domain, a website to build upon, and so forth. New startups trying to make headway in these spaces will struggle to compete with a fairly low-effort execution on your part, if you judge it well.

Start by ideating related products. For example, if you’re a property listings site, you might look at:

  • Home insurance
  • Home valuation
  • Flat-sharing listings
  • Area guides

Once you’ve outlined your list (it’s probably longer than my example), you can do your basic keyword research, and take a look at the existing ranking pages. This is a bit like identifying keyword opportunities, except you’re looking at the core landing pages of a whole vertical — look at their Domain Authorities, their branded search volumes, the quality of their landing pages, the extent to which they’ve done basic SEO, and ask whether you could do better.

In the example above, you might find that home insurance is well served by fairly strong financial services or comparison sites, but flat-sharing is a weak vertical dominated by a few fairly young and poorly executed sites. That’s your opportunity.

To minimize your risk, you can start with a minimal viable version — perhaps just a single landing page or a white-labeled product. If it does well, you know it merits further investment.

You’ve already established a trusted brand, with a strong website, which users are already engaging in — if you can extend your services and provide good user experiences in other areas, you can beat other, smaller brands in those spaces.

2. Welcome the intimidated

Depending on your vertical, there may be an untapped opportunity among potential customers who don’t understand or feel comfortable with the product. For example, if you sell laptops, many potential customers may be wary of buying a laptop online or without professional advice. This might cause them not to buy, or to buy a cheaper product to reduce the riskiness.

A “best laptops under £500,” or “lightest laptops,” or “best laptops for gaming” page could encourage people to spend more, or to buy online when they might otherwise have bought in a store. Pages like this can be simple feature comparisons, or semi-editorial, but it’s important that they don’t feel like a sales or up-sell function (even though that’s what the “expert” in the store would be!).

This is even more pertinent the more potentially research intensive the purchase is. For example, Crucial have done amazingly for years with their “system scanner,” linked to prominently on their homepage, which identifies potential upgrades and gives less savvy users confidence in their purchase.

Guaranteed compatible!

If this seems like too much effort, the outdoor retailer Snow and Rock don’t have the best website in the world, but they have taken a simpler approach in linking to buying guides from certain product pages — for example, this guide on how to pick a pair of walking boots.

Can you spot scenarios where users abandon in your funnels because of fear or complexity, or where they shift their spend to offline competitors? If you can make them feel safe and supported, you might be able to change their buying behavior.

3. Whip up some fervor

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have enthusiasts who know your vertical like the back of their hand, but could be incited to treat themselves a little more. I’ve been really impressed recently by a couple of American automotive listings sites doing this really well.

The first is Autotrader.com, who have hired well-known automotive columnist Doug Demuro from Jalopnik.com to produce videos and articles for their enthusiast news section. These articles and videos talk about the nerdy quirks of some of the most obscure and interesting used cars that have been listed on the site, and it’s not uncommon for videos on Doug’s YouTube channel — which mention Autotrader.com and feature cars you could buy on Autotrader.com — to get well into 7-figure viewing counts.

These are essentially adverts for Autotrader.com’s products, but I and hundreds of thousands of others watch them religiously. What’s more, the resulting videos and articles stand to rank for the types of queries that curious enthusiasts may search for, turning informational queries into buying intent, as well as building brand awareness. I actually think Autotrader.com could do even better at this with a little SEO 101 (editorial titles don’t need to be your actual title tag, guys), but it’s already a great tactic.

Another similar site doing this really well is Bringatrailer.com. Their approach is really simple — whenever they get a particularly rare or interesting car listed, they post it on Facebook.

These are super low-effort posts about used cars, but if you take a step back, Bring a Trailer are doing something outrageous. They’re posting links to their product pages on Facebook a dozen or more times a day, and getting 3-figure reaction counts. Some of the lesson here is “have great product pages,” or “exist in an enthusiast-rich vertical,” and I realize that this tactic isn’t strictly SEO. But it is doing a lot of things that we as SEOs try to do (build awareness, search volume, links…), and it’s doing so by successfully matching informational or entertainment intents with transactional pages.

When consumers engage with a brand emotionally or even socially, then you’re more likely to be top-of-mind when they’re ready to purchase — but they’re also more likely to purchase if they’re seeing and thinking about your products, services, and sector in their feed.

4. Tell people your vertical exists

I won’t cover this one in too much detail, because there’s already an excellent Whiteboard Friday on the subject. The key point, however, is that sometimes it’s not just that customers are intimidated by your product. They may never have heard of it. In these cases, you need to appear where they’re looking using demographic targeting, carefully researched editorial sections, or branded content.

What about you, though?

How do you go about drumming up demand in your vertical? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

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Mission SEO Impossible: Rank a Single Brand Website for a Broad, Plural Search Query with Comparative Intent – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Competing with comparison sites in the SERPs can feel like a losing game, but it doesn’t have to. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains the challenges and outlines five solutions that can help you begin ranking for those high-value comparative terms.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to this impossible edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about one of the toughest things that a lot of SEOs face, which is trying to rank for these specific types of queries that have a plural comparative intent behind them.

Some examples:

So I’ll give you a bunch of examples just to set the stage for this.

Let’s say I’m a hotel operator in Edinburgh, and I run one individual hotel, maybe a boutique hotel, and I want to rank for “best hotels in Edinburgh.” But that is nearly impossible, because if you look at the front page of results, all the folks there are comparative types of sites. They’re media properties. They’re hotel comparison shopping sites. So it’s TripAdvisor and Telegraph and US News & World Report, and This is Edinburgh, which is a media magazine there.

If I want to rank for “compare headphones” and I am the maker of one particular type of headphones, it’s incredibly difficult to outrank a PC Magazine, Forbes, HeadphonesCompare.com, CNET, Reevoo. This is an incredible challenge, right?

“Best Broadway shows,” if I’m operating a new Broadway show and I want to come up for this, which would be really meaningful for my Broadway show, which, by the way, most of them lose money. It’s an incredibly tough business. NYC Theatre, Time Out, Broadway.com, how do I get in there?

Or let’s say I’m in the software field. I’m FullContact, and I want to rank for “FullContact versus Clearbit.” There are lots of comparative types of searches like this. If you search for your brand name or your product’s brand name and “versus,” you’ll almost certainly come up with a bunch of suggestions. Well, it turns out neither FullContact nor Clearbit rank for this type of query. It’s Inbound.org and StackShare and Quora and Analyzo.

For “Android word games,” if I’ve come out with a new word game, it could be huge for me to rank for this term. But you know what? It’s going to be Android Central and Google Play, Tom’s Guide, Android Headlines, right?

If I have a new TV comedy, it would be fantastic because a lot of people are searching for “TV comedies” or “TV comedies on Netflix” or what have you. If I was Netflix or if I were some of these folks, I would love to come up here. But instead, it’s UPROXX and Ranker and IMDB. It’s comparative media sites almost always.

The problems

So what do we do? The first step is we have to identify the problem, like what is fundamentally going on. Why is it that these types of sites consistently outperform? This is not universal, but it’s close enough, especially on competitive head terms, like some of these, where it gets close to impossible or feels that way.

I. It’s really tough to rank without using the right words and phrases.

If you are a boutique hotel in Edinburgh, you might not be very comfortable using words like Hilton or Marriott or some of these other words that are branded terms that are owned by your competition. There could be legal issues around that, but it might also just be a brand guidelines type of thing. So that’s one part of the hard problem.

II. It’s really hard to rank without serving the searcher’s true intent.

In these cases, the searcher’s intent is, “I want to compare multiples of these things.” So if you have an individual hotel website or an individual headphone website, an individual Android word game, that’s not actually answering the searcher’s intent. It used to be easier, back before RankBrain and before Google got really smart with Hummingbird around their query intent understanding. But these days, very, very challenging. So that’s the second one.

III. It’s really hard to get links, hard to get links when you’re purely promotional or self-interested, you’re just one brand trying to outrank these folks, because these types of pieces of content seem sort of less selfish. The comparisons feel less self-interested, and therefore it’s easier for them to get organic links.

So tough challenge here. Three big issues that we have to address.

5 primary solutions

There actually are some solutions. There are some ways that some very creative and clever folks have worked around this in the past, and you can use them as well.

1. You can try separating your media or your blog or editorial content.

By separate, I mean one of two ways. You could go with a wholly separate domain. That’s pretty tough. You won’t inherit the domain authority. It will probably be a new domain, so that will be a challenge. Or you simply separate it editorially, such that it’s segmented from the promotional content. Moz actually does this, and, as a result, we rank for a lot of these types of queries. We even rank for a lot of SEO software types of queries that are clearly comparative, because we have that editorial independence in our editorial content. So this is one way you can go about doing that.

2. You could try a guest posting strategy or a guest contribution.

So if you can go out to the websites that are already listed here or ones like them, those independent, editorial, media-driven properties and say, “Hey, I will contribute to this as an independent author or writer. Yes, I work for this brand, but I think when you see my content, you will see that I’ve done my research and I am not biased.” If you can prove that to the editors at these publications, you can often prove that to the audience as well, and then you can earn these types of rankings.

You can actually see an example of this. I think it was, yes, I think the Forbes contributor here, I suspect they worked either with or for or at least in conjunction with a brand, because it seemed like they had a preference behind them and the author had a connection there.

3. You can commission independent research.

This is something that a lot of big companies will do. They’ll go out and they’ll say, “Hey, you’re an independent research firm that’s well-trusted. Will you do some research in our particular space?” Then hopefully it’s something that the press will pick up. It’s these press websites that you’re actually hoping are going to earn the rankings over here.

I will say while most of the folks doing this right now are very large companies with big research budgets and big advertising and promotional budgets, you don’t have to be. You can go and contract a single expert in the field, someone that you trust to do a great job, and you can say, “Hey, you already contribute to CNET, you already contribute to Time Out, you’re already a contributor to Tom’s Guide or Android Headlines or whatever it is. Could you do this independent research? We’ll pay you. Whatever the results you find, we’ll pay you regardless.” That can be quite successful.

4. If you need to do it yourself, but you don’t want to keep it on your own site, you could use a microsite.

So creating a site like if I’m Q over here and I’m XvsYvsQ.com, I’m not sure the exact match domain is precisely the route I’d take, but conceivably that microsite can perform well in these searches, and there are several examples, few and far between though they are, of this strategy working.

5. Win all the lists.

So if I want to rank in “best Broadway shows,” well, maybe I could just be “Hamilton.” If I want to win at “compare headphones,” maybe I could invent that patent on the noise-cancelling headphones that Bose have, which, by the way, win like three out of five of these. If I want to win the FullContact versus Clearbit, well, I need the features and the functionality and the things that these reviewers are using in order to win.

There’s almost always a bunch of objective criteria that you can identify by looking through these SERPs and related SERPs to figure out what you need to do. The challenge is it’s not just a marketing or an SEO or a content problem. Now it becomes a product and a positioning and oftentimes an engineering problem as well in order to have that win. But now you’ve got the strategies, hard though it may be. This is not impossible. It’s just difficult.

All right. Look forward to your comments and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SearchCap: Google AdWords ad rank, quality score data & SEO strategies

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Google AdWords ad rank, quality score data & SEO strategies appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Rank Checker Update

Recently rank checker started hanging on some search queries & the button on the SEO Toolbar which launched rank checker stopped working. Both of these issues should now be fixed if you update your Firefox extensions.

If ever the toolbar button doesn’t work one can enable the Menu bar in Firefox, then go under the tools menu to the rank checker section to open it.

Years ago we created a new logo for rank checker which we finally got around to changing it today. :)

Rank Checker.

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How to Rank on Google Home

Posted by Dr-Pete

Google Home, Google’s latest digital assistant, is part of a broader market experiment in voice-only search. While the hardware is new, Google has been building toward this future for a while, and one of the clearest examples is the introduction of featured snippets to answer questions in search. For example, if I ask Google: “What is a moonshot in business?” I get this answer…

In desktop search, Google also returns a set of traditional organic results, and, in some cases, ads, news results, Knowledge Panels, and other features. Featured snippets weren’t designed for desktop, though — they were designed for devices that only have room to display a small number of results (such as mobile phones) or even a single result.

Google Home is a single-result search device, and featured snippets were designed for exactly this purpose. The good news is that, if we can optimize for featured snippets, we can optimize for voice. Below are six examples that explore how featured snippets become answers on Google Home.


“How many people have walked on the moon?”

Here’s a question that should have a factual answer, but, for whatever reason, that answer is not available in Google’s Knowledge Graph. So, the answer is extracted from Wikipedia and presented as a featured snippet. It’s interesting to note that the answer (twelve) is pulled out of the paragraph and presented on its own…

How does this two-part answer “appear” on Google Home? Let’s find out…

Google Home starts with the short answer: “Twelve”. Then, it moves on to attribution: “According to Wikipedia…”. Finally, the device reads the snippet, but only the first sentence in this case. As we’ll see, Google may choose to cut off the featured snippet, but the logic of when and where isn’t perfectly clear.


“Who has walked on the moon?”

Let’s move on to the natural follow-up question — who are these people? This question returns a more typical, paragraph-based featured snippet…

Here’s how it sounds on Google Home.

In this case, we get attribution first (“According to Universe Today…”), followed by the full snippet. Even though this snippet is fairly long, Google Home chooses to read the full contents.


“How do I get to the moon?”

Hey, I’d like to be one of those people — how do I get in on this whole moon thing? I’m feeling starved for glory. Here, Google returns a list-based format. I’ve purposely chosen a messy example (notice how Google presents an ordered list but then repeats the numbering, e.g. “1. Step 1.”) to see how Google Home will handle it…

How will Home deal with an ordered list that includes a bit of mess? Let’s find out…

First, notice the attribution is different: “According to some information I found on Live Science…”. This may just be for variety’s sake, but I’m not entirely sure. Google Home then proceeds through the steps, but some are truncated. Step 1, for example, becomes simply: “Assemble the Pieces.” We’re left a bit unclear what we’re assembling the pieces of (the moon?). Google also reads the odd syntax (“1. Step 1.”) verbatim, but this is more of a problem with the featured snippet algorithm than Google Home itself.


“List all the moons.”

Let’s try a longer list, and a slightly different format. This isn’t a question so much as a command, but featured snippets handle it well enough…

What happens to the longer list on Google Home? Here’s what we get…

Google Home skips a couple of words in the list and pauses oddly in one spot, before finally ending the list with “…and more.” Clearly, there’s a length limit to the spoken answer, but that limit isn’t entirely consistent and seems to depend on the format of the answer.


“What kind of cheese is the moon made of?”

This one’s just for fun. We all know what kind of cheese the moon is made of…

Here’s the snippet on Google Home, which is structured just like our first example…


“List of ISS missions.”

Occasionally, Google formats a featured snippet as a table, generally extracting it from tabular data in the source page. Here’s an example…

Interestingly, this same search returns no results on Google Home. I tried a handful of tabular featured snippets, and either they returned no results or Google substituted a paragraph-based snippet. Obviously, translating a table into a voice answer is tricky business, and it appears that Google hasn’t worked out how best to solve that problem.


“What is Page Authority?”

How does this help you and your brand? Obviously, we’re not all in the moon business. While featured snippets are naturally focused on informational queries, questions are relevant to many aspects of our business and even our branded properties. For example, if I search Google for “What is Page Authority?”, one of Moz’s own proprietary metrics, I’m rewarded with a featured snippet…

Obviously, this isn’t a household term or particularly high-volume search, and yet there’s still opportunity to be had. Is the same question answered by Google Home? Yes, it is…

Google Home needs a little work on its pronunciation, but we do get back the full snippet and are even rewarded with “According to Moz…” and a bit of a brand boost.


“Where do we go from here?”

This is one question Google Home definitely can’t answer. The direct translation of featured snippets into voice answers means that Google Home does present clear search marketing opportunities. At the moment, though, it’s very difficult to measure the extent or the impact of those opportunities. How does a voice answer help us without a corresponding click? How will we measure voice answers? How will Google monetize voice? I don’t think even Google knows the answers to these questions yet.

For now, it’s worth exploring ranking for voice if only because winning featured snippets also positions you well in desktop and mobile search. As voice evolves, we can expect to see more interplay between devices, where a voice search saves a link in an app (Amazon Echo’s app already does this with Bing searches) or opens a page directly on a linked device. Our investments now will create opportunities over the next few years as the market for voice search grows.

Remember, Moz Pro can help you find and track featured snippets, as well as flag opportunities where you might be in a position to win a snippet. If you can rank in position #0, you can rank for voice and on Google Home.

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Game of Featured Snippets: How to Rank in Position 0

Posted by larry.kim

Google’s Featured Snippets are amazingly powerful. We’re seeing more snippets than ever before for more search queries. You need them.

We know this thanks to some brilliant articles and presentations from some super smart people in the industry, including Glenn Gabe (see: The Power of Google Featured Snippets in 2016 and a Google Featured Snippet Case Study – also, an extra big shout out to Glenn for helping me answer some important questions I had when writing this article!), Peter Meyers (see: Ranking #0: SEO for Answers), and Rob Bucci (see: How to Earn More Featured Snippets).

But even after reading everything I could find about Featured Snippets, one huge question remained unanswered: How the heck do you get these damn things?

:you know nothing about featured snippets meme.jpg

All of this leads us to today’s experiment: How exactly does Google’s algorithm pick which snippet to feature?

Obviously, Google isn’t manually picking them. It’s an algorithm.

So what makes Google’s Featured Snippet algorithm tick?

For example, if two competing domains both have great, snipp-able results, how does Google decide to pick one over the other? Take this one, for example:

:what is link building.jpg

Why does WordStream (in Position 4) get the Featured Snippet instead of Moz (Positions 1 and 2) or Search Engine Watch (Position 3) on a search for [what is link building]?

What we know about Featured Snippets

Before we dive into the unknown, let’s briefly review what we know.

:knowledge is power.jpg

We know snippets, like unicorns, come in all shapes and sizes. Your content must provide the answer in the “right” format, which will vary depending on the specifications in Google’s algorithm. Snippets can be:

  • Text.
  • Lists (ordered or unordered).
  • Images.
  • Charts.
  • Tables.
  • Knowledge Graph.

We also know that any website can earn a Featured Snippet. Large brands and sites have no advantage over smaller brands and sites.

Finally, we also know that winning a Featured Snippet lets you enjoy some spoils of war, including:

  • You get more website traffic.
  • You gain greater visibility in Google’s SERPs.
  • You earn trust/credibility.

So that’s what you need to know about Featured Snippets. Now let’s dive into the unknown.

Important disclaimers

Featured Snippets pose a few problems that really complicated the analysis.

For one, snippets are finicky. You can do a search right now and see the snippet. But sometimes you can conduct the same exact search an hour later and the snippet won’t be there.

For another, we’re all working with limited data sets. We’re limited to analyzing just the snippets we have.

Finally, snippets impact your organic CTRs. Some snippets will increase the CTR to your site – for instance, if you’re ranked in fourth position but you have the featured snippet. But other times a snippet can actually decrease your CTR because the searcher already got their answer – no need to click through.

Google isn’t much help either. Gabe asked Google SEO PR spokesperson Gary Illyes and got this frustratingly funny reply:

Theory #1: Snippets aren’t featured based on organic search ranking factors alone

This one is relatively easy to prove.

According to Gabe’s data, ranking position played some sort of role in whether you get Featured Snippets. Every single snippet was taken from a page that was good enough to rank in the top 10 organic positions.

If you look at Bucci’s data, however, he discovered that Google will take snippets from content that ranks on Page 2 of Google.

I found something a bit more incredible when I pulled a report of snippets – 981 in total – for my own website. Take a look:

  • About 70 percent of the time, Google pulled snippets from pages in positions 1 to 3.
  • About 30 percent of the time, the snippets “source” comes from positions 4 to as deep as 71 (wow!).

If Google’s algorithm were relying just on traditional search ranking factors (e.g., keywords and links), then Google would simply pick the first “snipp-able” content fragment from the highest-ranking piece of content every time. Google would never have to go to Page 2 or further (Page 8!) for snippets when other there are other perfectly nice formatted snippets to choose from which rank higher.

Clearly, this isn’t happening. Something else is at play. But what?

Theory #2: Having your content in a snipp-able format matters (but isn’t the whole picture)

Is it all about being the most clear, concise, and thorough answer? We know Google is looking for something “snipp-able.”

For the best shot at getting a Featured Snippet, your content should be between 40 and 50 words, according to SEMRush‘s analysis.

Without a doubt, format matters to Google’s algorithm. Your content needs to have the right format if you’re ever going to be eligible to be snipped.

But again, we’re back to the same question. How does Google pick between different pages with eligible stuff to snip?

Theory #3: Engagement metrics seem to play a role in snippet selection

To figure out what was happening, I looked at the outliers. (Usually, the best way to crack an algorithm is to look at the unusual edge cases.)

Let’s look at one example: [how to get more Bing Rewards Points].

This page shows up as a snippet for all sorts of queries related to “getting bing rewards points,” yet the source of the snip is from position 10. What’s crazy is that our page ranks behind Bing’s official site and all sorts of other video tutorials and community forums discussing the topic.

Why the heck is this happening?

Well, when I look at this page in Search Console, I notice it gets an unusually high CTR of 21.43 percent, despite a ridiculously low average position of 10.

This CTR is 10x higher than what you’d expect to see at this position.

The other thing I noticed was that the page had remarkably great engagement metrics. The time on site (which is proportional to dwell time) was an amazing 14 minutes and 30 seconds.

C:\Users\lkim\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML83e215.PNG

This time on site is considerably higher than the site average – by nearly 3x!

Note: This is just one simple example. I did this for more than 50 pages (unfortunately I was limited by data here because I was looking specifically for pages that rank poorly, yet generate snippets).

What I found was that the relative time on site for pages that were snipped from low positions on the SERP has incredibly higher time on page, compared to the site average.

:time on site low position snippets.png

Basically, what I think might be going on is something like this:

:how-featured-snippets-get-picked.png

Supporting fact #1: Marissa Mayer said it worked this way

In addition to this data, there are a couple more reasons why I think engagement metrics may be playing a key role in Google’s Featured Snippet algorithm. These examples indicate that Google has long-held beliefs around good engagement metrics reflecting quality content.

Does the past hold some important secrets to our current plot? Let’s see.

:watch listen remember.jpg

First, we’ll head back to 2007 for an interview with Marissa Mayer discussing the OneBox and how features like news, maps, and products would get promoted above the organic results into the OneBox, based on click-through rate:

“We hold them to a very high click-through rate expectation and if they don’t meet that click-through rate, the OneBox gets turned off on that particular query. We have an automated system that looks at click-through rates per OneBox presentation per query. So it might be that news is performing really well on Bush today but it’s not performing very well on another term, it ultimately gets turned off due to lack of click-through rates. We are authorizing it in a way that’s scalable and does a pretty good job enforcing relevance.”

Supporting fact #2: Google used the same algo in paid search a few years back

OK, now let’s go back to 2008 – back when Google still had AdWords ads on the right rail. (Unfortunately, with the death of the right-side ad rail, all ads appear above the organic search results now – a moment of silence for the right-side rail).

Google would promote three ads to appear above the organic search results. How did Google decide which paid search ads to feature above the organic search results?

Here’s what Google revealed in an AdWords blog post, “Improvements to Ads Quality“:

“To appear above the search results, ads must meet a certain quality threshold. In the past, if the ad with the highest Ad Rank did not meet the quality threshold, we may not have shown any ads above the search results. With this update, we’ll allow an ad that meets the quality threshold to appear above the search results even if it has to jump over other ads to do so. For instance, suppose the ad in position 1 on the right side of the page doesn’t have a high enough Quality Score to appear above the search results, but the ad in position 2 does. It’s now possible for the number 2 ad to jump over the number 1 ad and appear above the search results. This change ensures that quality plays an even more important role in determining the ads that show in those prominent positions.”

What’s important to know here is how incredibly important CTR is in the Quality Score formula. By far, CTR has the biggest impact on Quality Score.

So here we have spokespeople from both the organic search side and Google’s own ad system telling us that CTR can play a vital role in helping Google ensure that a piece of content or an ad meets a high enough quality threshold to qualify to appear in the very prominent and valuable space above the organic search results.

That’s why I strongly believe that Featured Snippets work very much the same way – with CTR and engagement metrics being the key element.

What does it all mean?

:game of snippets.jpg

Featured Snippets give us yet another reason to focus on engagement rates. This year we talked about how engagement rates:

Any one of these alone is good reason to focus on improving your CTR. But wait, there’s more: I believe engagement rates also impact the selection of Featured Snippets.

So in addition to formatting your on-page copy to meet the snipping requirement, follow the guides on improving CTR and time on site.

A call to arms

:more featured snippets data.jpg

One thing that’s hard about doing research and analysis on Featured Snippets is that we’re limited to the data we have. You need to have lots of snippets and access to all the CTR data (only the individual webmasters have this). You can’t just crawl a site to discover their engagement metrics.

Why don’t we team up here and try to crack this nut together?

Have you won Featured Snippets? What are your engagement rates like for your featured snippets – from the Search Console for CTR and Google Analytics for time on site? Do you see any patterns? Please share your insights with us in the comments!

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