Tag Archive | "State"

The State of Local SEO: Industry Insights for a Successful 2019

Posted by MiriamEllis

A thousand thanks to the 1,411 respondents who gave of their time and knowledge in contributing to this major survey! You’ve created a vivid image of what real-life, everyday local search marketers and local business owners are observing on a day-to-day basis, what strategies are working for them right now, and where some frankly stunning opportunities for improvement reside. Now, we’re ready to share your insights into:

  • Google Updates
  • Citations
  • Reviews
  • Company infrastructure
  • Tool usage
  • And a great deal more…

This survey pooled the observations of everyone from people working to market a single small business, to agency marketers with large local business clients:

Respondents who self-selected as not marketing a local business were filtered from further survey results.

Thanks to you, this free report is a window into the industry. Bring these statistics to teammates and clients to earn the buy-in you need to effectively reach local consumers in 2019.

Get the full report

There are so many stories here worthy of your time

Let’s pick just one, to give a sense of the industry intelligence you’ll access in this report. Likely you’ve now seen the Local Search Ranking Factors 2018 Survey, undertaken by Whitespark in conjunction with Moz. In that poll of experts, we saw Google My Business signals being cited as the most influential local ranking component. But what was #2? Link building.

You might come away from that excellent survey believing that, since link building is so important, all local businesses must be doing it. But not so. The State of the Local SEO Industry Report reveals that:

When asked what’s working best for them as a method for earning links, 35% of local businesses and their marketers admitted to having no link building strategy in place at all:

And that, Moz friends, is what opportunity looks like. Get your meaningful local link building strategy in place in the new year, and prepare to leave ⅓ of your competitors behind, wondering how you surpassed them in the local and organic results.

The full report contains 30+ findings like this one. Rivet the attention of decision-makers at your agency, quote persuasive statistics to hesitant clients, and share this report with teammates who need to be brought up to industry speed. When read in tandem with the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, this report will help your business or agency understand both what experts are saying and what practitioners are experiencing.

Sometimes, local search marketing can be a lonely road to travel. You may find yourself wondering, “Does anyone understand what I do? Is anyone else struggling with this task? How do I benchmark myself?” You’ll find both confirmation and affirmation today, and Moz’s best hope is that you’ll come away a better, bolder, more effective local marketer. Let’s begin!

Download the report

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SearchCap: Google launches video cameos, state of local marketing report & more

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



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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Backlink Blindspots: The State of Robots.txt

Posted by rjonesx.

Here at Moz we have committed to making Link Explorer as similar to Google as possible, specifically in the way we crawl the web. I have discussed in previous articles some metrics we use to ascertain that performance, but today I wanted to spend a little bit of time talking about the impact of robots.txt and crawling the web.

Most of you are familiar with robots.txt as the method by which webmasters can direct Google and other bots to visit only certain pages on the site. Webmasters can be selective, allowing certain bots to visit some pages while denying other bots access to the same. This presents a problem for companies like Moz, Majestic, and Ahrefs: we try to crawl the web like Google, but certain websites deny access to our bots while allowing that access to Googlebot. So, why exactly does this matter?

Why does it matter?

Graph showing how crawlers hop from one link to another

As we crawl the web, if a bot encounters a robots.txt file, they’re blocked from crawling specific content. We can see the links that point to the site, but we’re blind regarding the content of the site itself. We can’t see the outbound links from that site. This leads to an immediate deficiency in the link graph, at least in terms of being similar to Google (if Googlebot is not similarly blocked).

But that isn’t the only issue. There is a cascading failure caused by bots being blocked by robots.txt in the form of crawl prioritization. As a bot crawls the web, it discovers links and has to prioritize which links to crawl next. Let’s say Google finds 100 links and prioritizes the top 50 to crawl. However, a different bot finds those same 100 links, but is blocked by robots.txt from crawling 10 of the top 50 pages. Instead, they’re forced to crawl around those, making them choose a different 50 pages to crawl. This different set of crawled pages will return, of course, a different set of links. In this next round of crawling, Google will not only have a different set they’re allowed to crawl, the set itself will differ because they crawled different pages in the first place.

Long story short, much like the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings eventually leading to a hurricane, small changes in robots.txt which prevent some bots and allow others ultimately leads to very different results compared to what Google actually sees.

So, how are we doing?

You know I wasn’t going to leave you hanging. Let’s do some research. Let’s analyze the top 1,000,000 websites on the Internet according to Quantcast and determine which bots are blocked, how frequently, and what impact that might have.

Methodology

The methodology is fairly straightforward.

  1. Download the Quantcast Top Million
  2. Download the robots.txt if available from all top million sites
  3. Parse the robots.txt to determine whether the home page and other pages are available
  4. Collect link data related to blocked sites
  5. Collect total pages on-site related to blocked sites.
  6. Report the differences among crawlers.

Total sites blocked

The first and easiest metric to report is the number of sites which block individual crawlers (Moz, Majestic, Ahrefs) while allowing Google. Most site that block one of the major SEO crawlers block them all. They simply formulate robots.txt to allow major search engines while blocking other bot traffic. Lower is better.

Bar graph showing number of sites blocking each SEO tool in robots.txt

Of the sites analyzed, 27,123 blocked MJ12Bot (Majestic), 32,982 blocked Ahrefs, and 25,427 blocked Moz. This means that among the major industry crawlers, Moz is the least likely to be turned away from a site that allows Googlebot. But what does this really mean?

Total RLDs blocked

As discussed previously, one big issue with disparate robots.txt entries is that it stops the flow of PageRank. If Google can see a site, they can pass link equity from referring domains through the site’s outbound domains on to other sites. If a site is blocked by robots.txt, it’s as though the outbound lanes of traffic on all the roads going into the site are blocked. By counting all the inbound lanes of traffic, we can get an idea of the total impact on the link graph. Lower is better.

According to our research, Majestic ran into dead ends on 17,787,118 referring domains, Ahrefs on 20,072,690 and Moz on 16,598,365. Once again, Moz’s robots.txt profile was most similar to that of Google’s. But referring domains isn’t the only issue with which we should be concerned.

Total pages blocked

Most pages on the web only have internal links. Google isn’t interested in creating a link graph — they’re interested in creating a search engine. Thus, a bot designed to act like Google needs to be just as concerned about pages that only receive internal links as they are those that receive external links. Another metric we can measure is the total number of pages that are blocked by using Google’s site: query to estimate the number of pages Google has access to that a different crawler does not. So, how do the competing industry crawlers perform? Lower is better.

Once again, Moz shines on this metric. It’s not just that Moz is blocked by fewer sites— Moz is blocked by less important and smaller sites. Majestic misses the opportunity to crawl 675,381,982 pages, Ahrefs misses 732,871,714 and Moz misses 658,015,885. There’s almost an 80 million-page difference between Ahrefs and Moz just in the top million sites on the web.

Unique sites blocked

Most of the robots.txt disallows facing Moz, Majestic, and Ahrefs are simply blanket blocks of all bots that don’t represent major search engines. However, we can isolate the times when specific bots are named deliberately for exclusion while competitors remain. For example, how many times is Moz blocked while Ahrefs and Majestic are allowed? Which bot is singled out the most? Lower is better.

Ahrefs is singled out by 1201 sites, Majestic by 7152 and Moz by 904. It is understandable that Majestic has been singled out, given that they have been operating a very large link index for many years, a decade or more. It took Moz 10 years to accumulate 904 individual robots.txt blocks, and took Ahrefs 7 years to accumulate 1204. But let me give some examples of why this is important.

If you care about links from name.com, hypermart.net, or eclipse.org, you can’t rely solely on Majestic.

If you care about links from popsugar.com, dict.cc, or bookcrossing.com, you can’t rely solely on Moz.

If you care about links from dailymail.co.uk, patch.com, or getty.edu, you can’t rely solely on Ahrefs.

And regardless of what you do or which provider you use, you can’t links from yelp.com, who.int, or findarticles.com.

Conclusions

While Moz’s crawler DotBot clearly enjoys the closest robots.txt profile to Google among the three major link indexes, there’s still a lot of work to be done. We work very hard on crawler politeness to ensure that we’re not a burden to webmasters, which allows us to crawl the web in a manner more like Google. We will continue to work more to improve our performance across the web and bring to you the best backlink index possible.

Thanks to Dejan SEO for the beautiful link graph used in the header image and Mapt for the initial image used in the diagrams.

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State of Enterprise SEO 2017: Overworked SEOs Need Direction

Posted by NorthStarInbound

This survey and its analysis was co-authored with North Star Inbound’s senior creative strategist, Andrea Pretorian.

In the spring of 2017, North Star Inbound partnered up with seoClarity and BuzzStream to survey the state of enterprise SEO. We had a fair share of anecdotal evidence from our clients, but we wanted a more objective measurement of how SEO teams are assembled, what resources are allocated to them, what methods they use, and how they perform.

We hadn’t seen such data collected, particularly for enterprise SEO. We found this surprising given its significance, evident even in the number of “enterprise SEO tools” and solutions being marketed.

What is enterprise SEO?

There is no single fixed-industry definition of “enterprise” beyond “large business.” For the purposes of this survey, we defined enterprise businesses as being comprised of 500 or more employees. “Small enterprise” means 500–1000 employees, while “large enterprise” means over 1000 employees.

Industry discussion often points to the number of pages as being a potential defining factor for enterprise SEO, but even that is not necessarily a reliable measure.

What was our survey methodology?

We developed the widest enterprise SEO survey to date, made up of 29 questions that delved into every aspect of the enterprise SEO practice. From tools and tactics to content development, keyword strategy, and more, we left no stone unturned. We then picked the brains of 240 SEO specialists across the country. You can check out our complete survey, methodology, and results here.

Team size matters — or does it?

Let’s start by looking at enterprise team size and the resources allocated to them. We focused on companies with an in-house SEO team, and broke them down in terms of small (500–1000 employees) and large enterprise (>1000 employees).

We found that 76% of small enterprise companies have in-house SEO teams of 5 people or less, but were surprised that 68% of large enterprise companies also had teams of this size. We expected a more pronounced shift into larger team sizes paralleling the larger size of their parent company; we did not expect to see roughly the same team size across small and large enterprise companies.

Chart_Q4_170522.png

Interestingly, in larger companies we also see less confidence in the team’s experience in SEO. Of the companies with in-house SEO, only 31.67% of large enterprise teams called themselves “leaders” in the SEO space, which was defined in this survey as part of a team engaged broadly and critically within the business. 40% of small enterprise teams called themselves “leaders.” In terms of viewing themselves more positively (leaders, visionaries) or less (SEO pioneers in their company or else new SEO teams), we did not notice a big difference between small or large enterprise in-house SEO teams.

Large enterprise companies should have more resources at their disposal — HR teams to hire the best talent, reliable onboarding practices in place, access to more sophisticated project management tools, and more experience managing teams — which makes these results surprising. Why are large enterprise companies not more confident about their SEO skills and experience?

Before going too far in making assumptions about their increased resources, we made sure to ask our survey-takers about this. Specifically, we asked for how much budget is allocated to SEO activity per month — not including the cost of employees’ salaries, or the overhead costs of keeping the lights on — since this would result in a figure easier to report consistently across all survey takers.

It turns out that 57% of large enterprise companies had over $ 10K dedicated strictly to SEO activity each month, in contrast to just 24% of small enterprise companies allocating this much budget. 40% of large enterprise had over $ 20K dedicated to SEO activity each month, suggesting that SEO is a huge priority for them. And yet, as we saw earlier, they are not sold on their team having reached leader status.

Enterprise SEO managers in large companies value being scalable and repeatable

We asked survey takers to rate the success of their current SEO strategy, per the scale mapped below, and here are the results:

Chart_Q8_170522.png

A smaller percentage of large enterprise SEOs had a clearly positive rating of the current success of their SEO strategy than did small enterprise SEOs. We even see more large enterprise SEOs “on the fence” about their strategy’s performance as opposed to small. This suggests that, from the enterprise SEOs we surveyed, the ones who work for smaller companies tend to be slightly more optimistic about their campaigns’ performance than the larger ones.

What’s notable about the responses to this question is that 18.33% of managers at large enterprise companies would rate themselves as successful — calling themselves “scalable and repeatable.” No one at a small enterprise selected this to describe their strategy. We clearly tapped into an important value for these teams, who use it enough to measure their performance that it’s a value they can report on to others as a benchmark of their success.

Anyone seeking to work with large enterprise clients needs to make sure their processes are scalable and repeatable. This also suggests that one way for a growing company to step up its SEO team’s game as it grows is by achieving these results. This would be a good topic for us to address in greater detail in articles, webinars, and other industry communication.

Agencies know best? (Agencies think they know best.)

Regardless of the resources available to them, across the board we see that in-house SEOs do not show as much confidence as agencies. Agencies are far more likely to rate their SEO strategy as successful: 43% of survey takers who worked for agencies rated their strategy as outright successful, as opposed to only 13% of in-house SEOs. That’s huge!

While nobody said their strategy was a total disaster — we clearly keep awesome company — 7% of in-house SEOs expressed frustration with their strategy, as opposed to only 1% of agencies.

Putting our bias as a link building agency aside, we would expect in-house SEO enterprise teams to work like in-house agencies. With the ability to hire top talent and purchase enterprise software solutions to automate and track campaigns, we expect them to have the appropriate tools and resources at their disposal to generate the same results and confidence as any agency.

So why the discrepancy? It’s hard to say for sure. One theory might be that those scalable, repeatable results we found earlier that serve as benchmarks for enterprise are difficult to attain, but the way agencies evolve might serve them better. Agencies tend to develop somewhat organically — expanding their processes over time and focusing on SEO from day one — as opposed to an in-house team in a company, which rarely was there from day one and, more often than not, sprouted up when the company’s growth made it such that marketing became a priority.

One clue for answering this question might come from examining the differences between how agencies and in-house SEO teams responded to the question asking them what they find to be the top two most difficult SEO obstacles they are currently facing.

Agencies have direction, need budget; in-house teams have budget, need direction

If we look at the top three obstacles faced by agencies and in-house teams, both of them place finding SEO talent up there. Both groups also say that demonstrating ROI is an issue, although it’s more of an obstacle for agencies rather than in-house SEO teams.

When we look at the third obstacles, we find the biggest reveal. While agencies find themselves hindered by trying to secure enough budget, in-house SEO teams struggle to develop the right content; this seems in line with the point we made in the previous section comparing agency versus in-house success. Agencies have the processes down, but need to work hard to fit their clients’ budgets. In-house teams have the budget they need, but have trouble lining them up to the exact processes their company needs to grow as desired. The fact that almost half of the in-house SEOs would rank developing the right content as their biggest obstacle — as opposed to just over a quarter of agencies — further supports this, particularly given how important content is to any marketing campaign.

Now, let’s take a step back and dig deeper into that second obstacle we noted: demonstrating ROI.

Everyone seems to be measuring success differently

One question that we asked of survey takers was about the top two technical SEO issues they monitor:

The spread across the different factors were roughly the same across the two different groups. The most notable difference between the two groups was that even more in-house SEO teams looked at page speed, although this was the top factor for both groups. Indexation was the second biggest factor for both groups, followed by duplicate content. There seems to be some general consensus about monitoring technical SEO issues.

But when we asked everyone what their top two factors are when reviewing their rankings, we got these results:

For both agencies and in-house SEO teams, national-level keywords were the top factor, although this was true for almost-three quarters of in-house SEOs and about half of agencies. Interestingly, agencies focused a bit more on geo/local keywords as well as mobile. From when we first opened this data we found this striking, because it suggests a narrative where in-house SEO teams focus on more conservative, “seasoned” methods, while agencies are more likely to stay on the cutting-edge.

Looking at the “Other” responses (free response), we had several write-ins from both subgroups who answered that traffic and leads were important to them. One agency survey-taker brought up a good point: that what they monitor “differs by client.” We would be remiss if we did not mention the importance of vertical-specific and client-specific approaches — even if you are working in-house, and your only client is your company. From this angle, it makes sense that everyone is measuring rankings and SEO differently.

However, we would like to see a bit more clarity within the community on setting these parameters, and we hope that these results will foster that sort of discussion. Please do feel free to reply in the comments:

  • How do you measure ROI on your SEO efforts?
  • How do you show your campaigns’ value?
  • What would you change about how you’re currently measuring the success of your efforts?

So what’s next?

We’d love to hear about your experiences, in-house or agency, and how you’ve been able to demonstrate ROI on your campaigns.

We’re going to repeat this survey again next year, so stay tuned. We hope to survey a larger audience so that we can break down the groups we examine further and analyze response trends among the resulting subgroups. We wanted to do this here in this round of analysis, but were hesitant because of how small the resulting sample size would be.

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2016 State of Link Building Survey coverage

What does modern-day link building look like? Columnist Andrew Dennis explores the results of a 2016 survey on link building conducted by Moz, Credo and Page One Power.

The post 2016 State of Link Building Survey coverage 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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Sunshine State lagging behind in solar energy




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The Sunshine State residents realize that the exploitation of the abundant solar energy in Florida is not an easy task. Industry experts rank third in Florida in the nation in the potential of solar energy roof, but 13 in the amount of solar energy produced.

Experts in renewable energy and solar industry say Florida is being delayed because the state is one of four that require solar energy to be sold exclusively by utilities. This limits the options to go Solar financial commitment and increases in advance for consumers.

The Sierra Club sees the lack of consumer choice as harmful to the environment. Tea sees an attack on personal freedom.

These unlikely allies working on a ballot measure in 2016 that would change the Florida Constitution to loosen the laws of solar energy in the state.

Latest solar news

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The State of Pinterest: What Content Marketers Need to Know Now

Image of Pinterest Logo

The buzz about Pinterest seems to have calmed down a bit in the last few months, but it’s still a very powerful tool for content marketers.

According to a study by the social media analytics firm Simply Measured, 69 of the world’s top 100 brands now have Pinterest accounts, and Pinterest is still driving more traffic to websites and blogs than Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or YouTube.

For right now, Pinterest doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and the stats for marketers are still very encouraging. One in five Pinterest users have purchased something they’ve seen on the site, and when they do buy, they spend around $ 80 per purchase — twice that of Facebook buyers.

And now, Pinterest is shaking things up — there have been some very interesting changes to the service in the last few months.

Let’s take a look at some of these recent additions and modifications, and what they mean for content marketers.

Pinterest launches new tools for businesses

Pinterest has added new business accounts for brands who want to use pinning to market their companies. You can convert your current personal account to a business one, or you can start a brand new account as a business.

It’s easy to convert your account – just go to Pinterest’s new business center and click on “Convert My Account.” Or to create a new business account, click on “New to Pinterest? Join as a business.”

As a business account, your profile won’t look different than a regular Pinterest profile, and your boards and pins will still look the same.

Pinterest gives business account owners some new buttons, badges and widgets for their websites and blogs, as well as giving them access to some visual marketing best practices and case studies.

If you’re thinking about starting a business account, make sure to read over the new business Terms of Service before you commit — they are different than the regular Pinterest TOS.

What this means for content marketers …

While there isn’t a huge motivation to switch to a business account right now — it doesn’t really get you anything particularly earth-shattering — I do anticipate Pinterest releasing more tools for brands and business owners in the near future. I’m encouraging bloggers and business owners to go ahead and get (or switch to) a Pinterest business account.

Pinterest gets a new look

Pinterest is in the process of rolling out a brand new interface for users, and you can switch to the new look whenever you’re ready to dive in. But a word of warning — once you switch to the new look, it’s a permanent change — you can’t switch back to the old one.

Rumor has it the new interface is a little buggy (I’ve heard reports of problems pinning to boards after users make the switch), so consider this carefully before committing.

If you want to change to the new look, just hover your cursor over your name (or business name) in the upper left corner on any Pinterest window. Then scroll down to “Switch to the New Look.”

Pinterest will ask you to confirm your choice – click on “Get It Now” to confirm.



The new look gets you several new things:

  1. Larger pins.Once you make the switch, you’ll see that all of your pins are visibly larger. The bigger images are featured on your Pinterest home page, and when you click on a pin to enlarge it. Each enlarged pin is now 735 pixels wide (up from 600 in the previous version). Pinterest made this change to give you a cleaner, easier-to-view interface, but I’ve see some users complaining that the images are now TOO large — especially if you’re viewing Pinterest on a small laptop screen.
  2. Better discovery. When you click on the pin to enlarge it, you’ll see lots of new things, including related content in the area to the right of the original pin. You’ll see things like:
    • Pins from the same board — images grouped on the same board, by this user
    • Pins from the same source — stuff pinned from the same website)
    • Also pinned — images pinned by the same users who pinned this image)

    With these new discovery features, Pinterest is helping you find content that’s similar to the pin you’re currently viewing. Some users love this feature, and say it helps them discover new content on Pinterest they wouldn’t have found otherwise — other users say it clutters up their user experience.

  3. No more “repin” button. In the old Pinterest interface, a “repin” button appeared in the upper left corner of each pin when you hovered over it. Pinterest has now replaced the “Repin” button with one that just says “Pin It.”
  4. Settings are separated. Now you need to edit your Pinterest settings in two different places — account settings (like email notifications) are still in the upper right corner dropdown menu, and profile settings like your website and photo are in a separate place. To edit your profile settings, just click on the pencil icon in the lower left corner of your profile.



What this means for content marketers …

The new look is getting mixed reviews. I’ve seen reports of some minor and major bugs (everything from interface weirdness to not being able to pin to all of your boards) and unfortunately, the Pinterest help desk isn’t super responsive — so may not be able to get immediate answers if you have problems.

Pinterest’s new look makes discovery easier for users — this means the images you pin need to be compelling and interesting, so they’ll stand out and entice people to click on them.

Make sure to embed interesting and compelling photos and badges in your blog posts, so your readers will pin them to Pinterest (and you’ll get more traffic back to your site).

It’s also really important for you to pin original content to Pinterest (not just repin other people’s pins). Statistics say that up to 80% of content on Pinterest is just repinned from other Pinterest users — which means that when you pin interesting content from outside sources, it will really stand out and help you get followers.

Website verification and Pinterest analytics

You can now verify ownership of your website within your Pinterest account. When your website is verified, other Pinterest users see a checkmark next to your domain in your Pinterest profile.

Yes, verifying your website is a good thing to do — but it’s not absolutely critical (unless you are Oprah or Matt Damon). But verifying your website allows you access to other important Pinterest features, so it’s a good idea to do it.

If you have an HTML website, follow these directions from Pinterest to verify your site. If you have a WordPress website, use this plugin to add metadata to your site and verify it.

Don’t get tripped up with this plugin — you only need to enter a small part of the tag Pinterest gives you (the alphanumeric string in the content attribute).



Once you’ve verified your site and switched to the new look, you get access to a really great new Pinterest feature — their new Analytics module. Just scroll over your business name on the top right corner of any Pinterest screen, and select “Analytics” in the drop down menu.

This will take you to the analytics data page. From this screen, you’ll be able to view (and download) these stats:

  • The number of pins and pinners from your website
  • The number of repins and repinners from within Pinterest
  • The number of website visitors that were sent from Pinterest
  • Recent images that have been pinned from your site
  • The most repinned and the most-clicked pins
  • The total number of times your pins have appeared on the site and the number of times they were seen (impressions)

For a great video tutorial that teaches you more about using the new Analytics tool, check out the Pinterest Web Analytics page.

What this means for content marketers …

With the new Pinterest analytics tool, we can quickly and easily see data on our Pinterest activity, and we can tell if what we’re pinning is making a difference in traffic to our websites.

You’ll can tell what pins are doing well on Pinterest (and what’s not doing well). You’ll be able to tell what type of content gets the most repins, and be able to figure out the best time of day for you to pin.

It’s easier than ever to test different things on Pinterest and then measure whether or not they’re successful — so this Analytics module is definitely worth getting!

Pinterest is still a great tool for marketers

Last year, we published a post featuring a long list of ways to use Pinterest to market your business. You can still use all of those methods, and now with the newest changes to the Pinterest platform, you have improved ways of tracking your progress and charting your strategy.

Content curation is still the name of the game with Pinterest. People who do well on Pinterest (and develop a huge following) are good curators, which means they select the best content in their field, and share it on well-organized, attractive boards.

Pinterest can be an amazing source of traffic and engagement for bloggers and content creators. So take this visual marketing tool out for a spin, and track your progress to see how it works for you.

Want to know how to use Pinterest to drive more traffic to your site? Join me for my upcoming webinar, 10 Ways to Drive Massive Traffic to Your Website by Leveraging the Power of Pinterest on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 at 1 PM Eastern time.

About the Author: Beth Hayden is a Senior Staff Writer for Copyblogger Media. Get more from Beth on Twitter and Pinterest.

Copyblogger

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The State of Facebook: What’s Working Now

Image of Facebook Logo

You may have noticed some of your fellow business owners are getting just a little bit fed up with Facebook.

If you’re trying to use it to grow your business online, you may have joined them. You might be tired of the moving target that Facebook marketing presents. You might be annoyed at new “features” that seem to make the experience worse, not better.

And of course, lots of people are talking about the latest aggravation — the question of whether or not your Page’s updates, images, and links are reaching enough of your fans.

But there are things that are still working — and working well — on Facebook. So if you’re going to stick with it, let’s get into what does work.

Before we get into the details, let’s step back and cover a very important concept that will help you understand how the Facebook News Feed works: EdgeRank.

What is Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm?

You may have heard of EdgeRank. Maybe you’ve read that it’s an evil force to keep your posts out of the hands of your fans. And, in a way, that’s true. EdgeRank is Facebook’s proprietary algorithm that determines what goes into the News Feed of every person on Facebook.

The average Facebook user has 245 friends — according to a recent Pew Research study. Because a Facebook user is connected to a lot of Pages and Groups, the News Feed would be more like a Twitter feed if they saw every story that was posted from every friend, Page, and Group they were connected to.

(Stay with me, I know some people would like to see every single post, and I’ll get to that.)

Facebook is similar to Google in that it wants to show the most interesting things in the Feed just like Google wants to show you the most relevant items for a search. So Facebook keeps track of how you behave on Facebook.

Let’s take a look at the actual EdgeRank formula:

Before we get all freaked out about this mathematical equation, I’ll boil it down to one simple concept — fresh, interesting content wins. But there’s a little twist: you have to continue to be interesting. Let’s dive deeper and describe the three factors that go into this formula.

Affinity is a measure of how often a person has interacted with another person’s or Page’s content in the past. So I might Like, Share, or comment on every post that my friend Beth posts, and so Facebook realizes that I find Beth’s content interesting. Facebook makes sure that Beth’s posts go into my News Feed every time.

But Beth might find my posts boring and dull. She never Likes or comments on my posts. (Damn that Beth.) Facebook then does not put my posts into Beth’s News Feed. This works the same with Pages that you Like, but it’s more of a one-way street.

So Page owners need to make sure their content is interesting and they are encouraging Likes, comments and Shares so that their posts continue to show up in their Fans’ News Feeds.

Weight is a measure of how many comments, Likes, and Shares a post is getting — sort of a post “popularity contest.” The more popular the post is, the more likely that Facebook will show it in your News Feed, even if you haven’t had an “affinity” with that person or Page in the past.

Let’s say I’ve never interacted with the posts from the Denny’s Fan Page, even though I’m a Fan. One day, all my friends are commenting on one of their posts about Moons over My Hammy. Facebook decides that I may want to see that post too, and puts it into my News Feed.

Decay is basically how old the post is. Facebook usually shows recent content in your News Feed, but an older post that has a higher weight or affinity can beat a less interesting newer post.

Now that we have EdgeRank defined, I want to make sure that you know that it is a proprietary algorithm and no one besides Facebook can “measure” your EdgeRank. The best gauge you have for how much interaction you are getting on your Page is your People Talking About This Number.

The People Talking About This (or PTAT) number includes all the following activities that happen on your page over a one-week rolling period:

  • Liking a page
  • Posting to a page’s wall
  • Liking, commenting on, or sharing a page post (or other content on a page, like photos, videos or albums)
  • Answering a question posted to an event
  • Mentioning a page in a post
  • Phototagging a page
  • Liking or sharing a check-in deal
  • Checking in at a place (if your page has a place merged with it)

All of these activities equal engagement with a Page. They will all increase the Affinity between a Fan and your Page.

If you take your PTAT divided by your total number of Fans, then you get a number you can compare to other Pages to see how their engagement compares to yours. The People Talking About This number is public information.

A healthy Page typically has a PTAT percentage of 2% or more.

OK, now that we’re all on the same page (so to speak), let’s get into what’s working right now and address some of the Facebook conspiracy theories that are circulating.

Images get more engagement, text has more reach

Images are kicking butt by getting more comments, Likes, and Shares in general. One study by Hubspot found that photos were getting

53% more Likes than the average post.

And a little mind-blowing factoid is that Facebook users are uploading 300 Million images per day. That is a lot of cat pictures.

So does that mean you should only post pictures? Not necessarily.

A recent phenomenon has surfaced and been confirmed by many Page owners and number crunchers that Text posts have been getting much higher Reach. Meaning those posts are going into more of their Fans’ News Feeds.

If you look at your own Facebook Insights and sort by the Reach column, you can see if this is true for your Page. The green quote symbol next to the post indicates that it is a Text post.

So should you be posting only Text posts? Not necessarily. Now take those same Insights and sort by your Talking About This number to see which posts are getting the most engagement. You can also sort by the “Engaged Users” column, which measures the posts that people have clicked on the most. You will probably see a similar set of posts but maybe more Link posts.

So what should you be posting? Here’s the answer — variety. Since text posts are getting to more of your Fans right now, make sure you post some text posts. Since photos are getting more engagement, post some of those.

And since you want to link back to your blog or website to drive traffic, post links!

Just make sure you are watching your own statistics and not relying on what others are telling you to post. See what works for you.

The truth about Promoted Posts

Many people have been speculating that Facebook is deliberately not showing Facebook Page posts in the News Feed in order to increase advertising revenue.

The fact is, Facebook is a public company and does need to make money. I don’t think they’ll allow a mass exodus of brands and businesses away from the platform — I believe there will always be a balance between paid and free reach for businesses.

What we do know is that Facebook made changes to their algorithm in September that have resulted in a decrease in the Reach numbers of many Pages. Facebook continually tweaks their algorithm — another reason not to rely on them as the sole site for your marketing.

Facebook posts have never reached 100% of your audience. The important thing to remember is that if you have good engagement on your Facebook Page, you are going to reach more of your audience for free compared to Pages that have poor engagement. So be interesting!

But if you do want some of your posts to get pushed into more of your Fans’ News Feeds, the Promoted Post can be a good way to do that. The Promoted Post only goes into the News Feed of your current Fans.

By the way, I highly recommend you do not opt for the Friends of Fans option that is offered. There are just too many reports of posts going to untargeted people that make no sense for your Page to advertise to.

When should you use a Promoted Post and how do you get the most out of your investment? I suggest using them if your engagement has dropped off significantly, and for occasional marketing messages.

Make sure the posts you promote are fun, interesting, and valuable to your audience. Promoting content your readers don’t want just won’t do you any good. They can be a good tool to re-engage your audience, but you can only get a good response of Likes, Shares, and comments with audience-friendly content. Again, I would use them sparingly for marketing messages.

What about Interest Lists?

Maybe you’ve seen the posts from Pages telling their Fans to add them to an Interest List.

But does it help? Yes — sort of. But the reader does have to remember to click on the Interest List to see the posts from time to time, which many people don’t think to do. Once someone has created an Interest List, it shows up in the lower left corner of their Home page.

Once the user clicks on the Interest List, they see the posts from the Pages or people that they have put on that list. Even that isn’t perfect. If the list gets large, Facebook still does not show every single update. But you might as well educate your Fans on the use of Interest Lists, since it can’t hurt.

Facebook Pages Feed

Facebook recently introduced the Pages Feed on the Home page of personal profiles. This is similar to Facebook Interest Lists, but Facebook has automatically added all the Pages users currently Like onto this List. All you have to do is to click the Pages Feed to see a dedicated News Feed of Page updates.

This is not perfect either. (Starting to sound familiar?) I have found many updates missing, and they are often not in chronological order. But again, this can only help your Page be more visible to your audience, so let your people know about this option.

Facebook Page Notifications

Yet another fancy tool that Facebook has released is the option for your Fans to request a Facebook notification (the little world icon that appears in the top menu bar of Facebook) whenever a Page posts a new update. All you need to do is go to the Page itself, hover over the Liked button, and then click Get Notifications.

Once again, not perfect. People have to watch their notifications closely, and if they are getting too many notifications, they will miss your update. But I do get the notifications of the Pages I have requested. One more tactic for the “this can’t hurt” folder.

The magic formula for Facebook success

Here’s the magic formula — there is no magic formula!

Facebook constantly changes. Not all of those changes work the way they’re supposed to. And the user experience may not be the same from page to page.

Everyone’s audience is different, and responds to different types of content. So watch your own statistics, try different things, and track your results. The magic formula is creating the good content and engaging updates that your audience craves.

At the risk of repeating ourselves, the moral of the story is don’t rely too heavily on Facebook for your marketing. Make sure you are spending time and effort converting those Fans into email subscribers by offering them freebies, webinars, or other goodies.

And of course, make sure your posts are fun and interesting. It’s called social networking for a reason.

What about you? What’s working right now for your Facebook Page? What’s driving you crazy? Are you frustrated with all the changes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

About the Author: Are you ready to drink the Facebook Kool-aid? If so, Andrea Vahl has lots of handy tutorials on how to get started and how to effectively use Facebook, with the help of her alter ego, Grandma Mary. Get more from Andrea and Grandma here: AndreaVahl.com.

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Sneak Peek: The State of SEO & Internet Marketing in 2012 [New Data]

state of seo and internet marketingintroductory3

Are you hip to the current state of search engine optimization, internet marketing, and the marketing profession? In partnership with HubSpot, SEOmoz will soon release the results of its 2012 SEO & Internet Marketing Survey, in which more than 6,400 online marketers answered 54 questions about the state of the industry, their companies, and their work.

But even as the broader economy seems to falter, many companies leveraging internet marketing are growing and thriving, and the survey gives marketers a deeper look into the current state of a fast-moving industry. In fact, HubSpot Founder Dharmesh Shah and SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin will join forces for a live webinar this Monday, August 20 at 1 PM EST to discuss the full survey results (will you be joining them?). But before they do, we wanted to give you a sneak peek at some of the survey data to wet your appetite. In this post, we’ll share some of the survey’s key findings.

Social Media Is Going Strong

Not surprisingly, social media is a hot topic for online marketers in 2012. When asked about the services in most demand over the past year, social media led the way, with 72% of respondents reporting increased demand.

service growth resized 600Social media actions topped the list of tactics, too. The most popular inbound marketing action for 2012 was setting up a Facebook business page (76% of respondents). And setting up a Google+ business page was close behind (64%).

Google+ Is Holding its Own

While Facebook leads the way among the top social media sites used by marketers (88% of respondents) and Twitter isn’t far behind, Google+ also makes a strong showing, pushing itself into the #3 spot.

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Another newcomer, Pinterest, also worked its way up, making it into the #7 spot (21% of respondents). And video is clearly still alive and well in 2012, with YouTube coming in as the 4th most popular social network with our audience.

Content Classics Still Rule

Of course, not everything changes. Despite the hype over infographics and other new content categories, traditional forms of inbound marketing content still ruled the top 5.

content types resized 600

In fact, infographics came in at #8 (26% of respondents), trailing behind video and traditional, image-based content (such as photographs). Old standbys like guides and press releases are still popular in 2012.

Did any of this data surprise you? To learn about the full survey results, be sure to join Rand and Dharmesh for their live webinar, “The State of SEO and Internet Marketing in 2012,” this Monday, August 20 at 1 PM EST. Register here!

This is a guest post written by Dr. Peter Meyers (“Dr. Pete”), a cognitive psychologist, online marketer, and occasional rogue scientist at SEOmoz. You can find him on Twitter @dr_pete, because he still doesn’t understand how Pinterest works.




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Road to MozCon: The State of SEO in 2012

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MozCon 2012

The new edition of MozCon is getting closer. It will be three days of pure immersion into everything new in SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing, and CRO and a wonderful occasion of networking, meeting online friends IRL, and, maybe, giving your professional life a twist.

Twenty-eight speakers, an EMCEE, and Roger MozBot are getting ready during these days to make MozCon an unforgettable learning experience.

We decided to introduce the MozCon spirit with a series of interviews, which will try to offer the best exact snapshot of the state of things in SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing.

The State of SEO in 2012

Since July 29th, the last day of MozCon 2011, many things have changed in the Search Industry and in our profession as SEOs:

  • Panda got global (ruining half the world's vacations last August), and actually, we are at its release 3.7;
  • A Penguin has been unleashed free to kill any site with an over optimized link profile;
  • Google decided that only keywords referrals from organic searches were private;
  • Google started an aggressive monetization policy in strong industries' verticals (Flight, Hotels, Cars…), making even thinner the presence of organic results above the fold;
  • The Knowledge Graph had been released;
  • Google+, with some hiccups, has started having some traction and surely an increasing importance from an SEO point of view;
  • We all started talking about Author Rank;
  • And we are still discussing about the relevance of Social Graph in the SERPs;
  • Bing has improved its pro SEOs policy considerably;
  • Mobile and its importance also for SEO is not a niche for fews early adopters anymore.

Another 10 or more points could be added, but these are the main events we have lived through this past year.

But let's what our interviewees have to say.

The Google Spam Wars

Panda, Penguin, private blog networks, and SEO directories deindexations. It seems that Google, after a few years during which it seemed surrendering to the fact that Search spam could not really be won, have decided to give an answer to all those ones who were complaining about the quality of its SERPs.

Personally, even though Panda caused at first some collateral victims and Penguin somehow seems being an overly too black/white solution, I consider that these updates and the other actions against web spam at least had the positive effect of making our industry reflecting and reconsidering years of bad practices, used because they were working out well.

What are your thoughts about the hyperactivity Google showed along these last 16 months?

Annie CushingAnnie Cushing: Although I didn’t like the lack of ethics that underpinned the embryonic stages of Google’s sting operation on blog networks this year or the free pass it gave some bigger brands on egregious Panda violations that decimated smaller sites, I think both Panda and Penguin have engendered a net positive. 
 


Ian LurieIan Lurie: I’m happy that they’re finally taking positive steps against webspam. But I’m pretty discouraged about the way they’ve gone about it, which has left huge gaps and made it very, very difficult for companies who worked with lousy SEOs to get re-included. If you have 999 spammy links pointing at your site, and you get 990 of them removed, but Google’s re-consideration team finds the other 9 in their reinclusion spot-check, you’re rejected. That leaves businesses 100% at the mercy of the linking sites. With all the computing power Google has at its disposal, I’d think they could handle re-consideration requests in a more nuanced manner.


Paddy MooganPaddy Moogan: As a company who have always encouraged clients to not cut corners and use spammy techniques, it is somewhat satisfying to finally see Google taking more action against websites who have pushed things too far. We are seeing Google do something which up until Panda, they said they’d never do – update their algorithms knowing that some innocent websites may be hurt too. They always said they would use caution and would hold back on an update if they felt that innocent websites would be caught by accident. 

Panda showed they were willing to change this stance and they knew they were going to hurt some sites that wouldn’t have been. This is a brave precedent to set, and they have carried this on with Penguin; sites have been hit which shouldn’t have been. But Google are prepared to hold this tougher stance and want to make a point.


Wil ReynoldsWil Reynolds: I’m worried. This much change at once makes it harder to isolate variables, but I am assuming that Google has gotten much better at doing this. It like 3-4 years ago you could see a change, determine its impact, and adjust.  Now, with not provided, personalized search results with +1, rich snippet spam, etc, it’s hard to isolate variables, which is maybe what they want. Ultimately, it is GREAT though; this much movement continues to help Google hopefully move to a better and better set of search results.


Rand FishkinRand Fishkin: I'm curious to know what spurred this change on Google's part, and whether they'll continue to make forward strides on this front or rest on their laurels for another few years. I'm definitely happy about the moves. They show that Google's not merely saying "don't manipulate the link graph"; they will actually enforce their guidelines.


Richard BaxterRichard Baxter: Google’s development has really stepped up a notch in the past year – there are so many algorithm changes and product updates happening that it feels like a full time job just keeping track. I’m all up for change; the move towards filtering for *really* obvious link spam (and handing out penalties) has been interesting to watch. I do feel bad for the small companies who are fast going out of business because they’ve been working with very low quality SEO solutions. Anyone who knew anything about SEO stopped depending on link directories and article distribution a long time ago. So more often than not, Penguin has most impacted the ignorant, the little guys who just left SEO to their $ 600 a month agency.


Jonathon ColmanJonathon Colman: Personally, I love it. All of Google’s iterations help keep SEOs on their toes and make our work all the more interesting. And it’s clear that Google is working hard to close up all the obvious shortcuts and loopholes that we’ve been using as crutches for all these years instead of – you know – actually creating really amazing content and user experiences. So if a series of hard-core algo updates from Google is what it takes for marketers to start paying attention to their users’ needs and their goals rather than just driving traffic at any cost, then I’m all for it.


Dr Peter MeyersPeter Meyers: I’m glad Google woke up, but they’re like a bear who hibernated for two years and then suddenly started mauling people to make up for lost time. I strongly suspect that the collateral damage from Penguin is much greater than they originally predicted. It was a punishment, plain and simple, without regard for search quality (they’ve said as much), but the consequences were unpredictable. Since then, they’ve been making bigger changes faster than usual, and the side effects are getting worse. I think they’re trying to do too much, too fast.


Aleyda SolisAleyda Solis: Google is reasonably trying to get rid of the significant amount of spam it has in its search results. But even if the latest updates have been much more frequent and faster than before, with many iterations, targeting the “fundamental” aspects of its algorithm — strengthening the criteria that is taken into consideration to assess basic factors of content and links — what they have shown is:

A lack of effectiveness: With inconsistencies causing that some of the spam Google was targeting with the updates wasn't filtered out from its results, but some of the sites showing useful information were. This situation has additionally generated poorer results to users.

For example, I’ve seen sites being affected and then recovered from Panda without changing anything; a crazy amount of not-so-relevant sites from Latin America ranking in Spain; sites being filtered out because of a bad site architecture without a “spammy” intend behind them; and others that continue pushing the limits with no consequence thanks to their authority.

Current assessment incapacity

Google’s inability to effectively identify relevant, quality information that is popular thanks to real endorsement with the factors it has been using up to now. Because of this, it’s clear that Google needs to keep updating and enhancing these “traditional factors” but is also increasingly important that Google builds alternative mechanisms to assess information.


AJ KohnAJ Kohn: I see this as a natural reaction to the acceleration of digital content. We’ve got more people online and more and easier ways to produce content and much of it just isn’t that good.

Outside of this trend, I think Google realized two things. First, that users weren’t best served by simply matching queries with relevant content. Instead, the content had to be relevant and valuable. I appreciate what Google is trying to do with Panda, but I still don’t like that it’s domain based. It strikes me as very un-Googly.

The second thing they realized was that quietly neutralizing link graph manipulation wasn’t going to cut it. Because it took too long for Google to neutralize manipulation (if they found it), and in the interim, it encouraged those who might not have thought to go down that road to ‘resort’ to these tactics.

In short, many believed that you simply had to buy links to keep up with your competition. While this isn’t something I subscribed to, I know many felt this way, and the proof was, unfortunately, right there in the search results. That stuff was working.

So Penguin removes a lot of link manipulation from the landscape, but also serves to shut off the demand for these types of tactics. Sites are far more wary to engage in this behavior and risk a more catastrophic traffic loss.

I think Google still has a ways to go though, and I see some real problems with SERP domain diversity in the last three months. 


Rhea DrysdaleRhea Drysdale: Google’s updates do not feel hyperactive to me, just a product of the times and more transparent. Google isn’t more transparent in the specifics of updates, but more visible in blog posts, Google Webmaster Central correspondence, Matt’s videos, forum responses, Amit’s appearances, etc.

Do I think Google is giving up much? No. But, I do think they’re intentionally speaking up about search quality more than ever before. There is a lot to talk about–the speed by which Google can crawl and process data has improved, so the rate of updates has increased as well. Without being on the inside, I have to assume that it’s easier to test algorithmic changes and return sound results today than it was five years ago. That means there’s more for us to track as SEOs, but likewise, when an update hits we see things simmer down faster than before and we’re getting feedback on what happened. This just speaks to the speed with which everything is moving, and I think it’s great for job security.


Cyrus ShepardCyrus Shepard: As someone who loves the Internet first and is an SEO second, I champion any attempt to improve search results and reduce spam. To this end, I think the improvements by the Webspam team have been mostly positive, with the exception of asking Webmasters to jump through hoops to remove bad links and possible shift in plausible effectiveness of negative SEO.

Now, if only the rest of Google would only work as hard as the Webspam team to improve results by reducing paid results and links to Google properties, then the Internet would really improve!


Mike KingMike King: I suppose I have a different perspective than most thought leaders as iAcquire was directly affected by Google’s new aggressive stance, but I think it’s good.

Wil Reynolds made some great points in his post about how Google makes liars out of all of us, and it’s good to see them finally stepping up to the plate to remedy some of the glaring issues. I don’t think we’ve seen the worst/best of it yet though. There is still much work to be done, and I’m happy that content marketing has at least become trendy even though I’m not so sure too many people are able to sell it just yet.

Link Graph Strikes Back

When I am asked about the Penguin update, I usually answer that it is the most bitter confirmation that links still matter a lot, and that the Link Graph is far from being dismissed as others, maybe fascinated and dazzled by the effects that Social Graph and Author Rank may have on rankings, started preaching. I do not deny the correlation Social Media, for instance, may have on rankings, but I think that we are still at the beginning of what can be the evolution of a new Google based over Link Graph, Social Graph, and Author Rank.

What is your opinion about the current importance of backlinks and the evolution of Google that we are seeing?

Annie Cushing

Annie Cushing: I think that links will always matter; what’s changing is how Google evaluates them. I think, in the end, social signals will continue to provide valuable insights into that evaluation.
 


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie: Oh, links still matter a lot. But social is gaining, and the way links matter has evolved. Clearly the biggest change is that bad links can hurt you – that used to be true only in the most extreme cases. Links still matter – but Google’s introduced a lot of other factors at the same time, and that balances the equation a bit.


Paddy Moogan

Paddy Moogan: Backlinks as a ranking factor are not going away any time soon. It was the use of backlinks and anchor text which allowed Google to breeze ahead of their competitors all those years ago. The mistake they made was putting so much weight on anchor text, which, speaking frankly is not a good signal in reality. Most exact match anchor text links are built by SEOs – not users. It just isn’t natural for lots of users to use your exact keyword as anchor text, and it has surprised me how long it has taken Google to realize this. I still feel that exact match anchor text is working, and we can all see this from various SERPs. But the threshold to over-doing it has been lowered in my opinion.


Wil Reynolds

Wil Reynolds: I went into extreme depth on this topic in this post published previously this year on SEOmoz. It saddens me to think that several companies are going to get duped into believe that social is the new signal and that better rankings in SEO will be about social. Do I think its coming? You betcha, but is so far away from being prevalent NOW that I think we all need to realize that we still have a lot of time before the social graph starts to overtake the link graph.


Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin: Links are still very important, but the kinds of links that will count long term are changing dramatically. What works today and will likely keep working tomorrow is far closer to what we think of as content marketing, social media, public relations, etc. than what we've classically called "link building" in the SEO world. In all honesty, I care less about which particular metrics Google does and doesn't use directly vs. which tactics (i.e. holistic inbound marketing) get me the results I'm seeking.


Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter: Links are as important and valuable as they have ever been. It’s just that the situation is more complex. I think of social as reach. You could rank well in the SERPs targeting a limited audience for a competitive keyword simply because you cast a wide net socially, and lots of people happen to like your stuff. You still need links to reach the people who don’t know about you, yet.


Jonathon Colman

Jonathon Colman: Yes, I think that links are always going to be important. Remember that PageRank was initially based on the concept of citations in scientific papers. Those are still a mainstay of authority after nearly 150 years of use.

But how and when are links most influential? I like what I see coming from Justin Briggs on the subject of the ROI of link-building. He shows how links can be a good investment of your time as you’re ramping up brand awareness; but that ultimately, the best returns come from building awesome experiences, not just links (especially if those links are of poor quality and get devalued). It seems to me that the search engines are beginning to understand this as well, and we’re seeing them pivot the SERPs and rankings to reward sites that strike a balance between authoritative content by expert authors who earn high-quality links.

I also like what Ross Hudgens has to say about Google needing the “Manipulative Web” to supply better results to users because just plain content doesn’t rise to the level of findability and discoverability on its own.


Dr Peter Meyers

Peter Meyers: I think Google knows that no single set of ranking factors is going to solve the search problem in 2012. Links aren’t going to be replaced by social – they’ll be augmented. The algorithm is only going to get more complicated.

 


Aleyda Solis

Aleyda Solis: Links still matter a lot despite of other signals, such as social-related factors which importance is still too low in comparison to links. Google has relied in links up to now to identify popularity and cannot simply forget about them from one day to another. 

Nonetheless, Google also knows links can be easily manipulated and is having a hard time effectively assessing them lately so it’s increasingly important that Google builds alternative mechanisms to identify the “real” popularity of information, that shouldn’t be absolute, but relative to each user.

This is the idea with the Knowledge Graph, Schema, Author Rank, and Google+, and we’ve just started to see the real shift. 


AJ Kohn

AJ Kohn: Links are (and will be) a huge part of how Google understands trust and authority. The link graph had gotten rickety, in large part because the motivation to link was for SEO benefit. By measuring the link graph, Google ultimately changed it.

What I think we’re seeing now is a way for Google to understand whether that link is ‘organic’ or ‘inorganic.' They’re really only interested in the organic link graph. Better identification methods, the addition of social signals, and, down the road, authorship can all help to mend and improve the link graph, not get rid of it.


Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale: Links are still incredibly important, we just have more precautions to take and patterns to avoid. It’s further proof that we need to diversify link building efforts, focus on building brands (not rankings), and become less reliant on Google for traffic.

When it comes to the evolution of Google, I think we should be less worried about the traditional SERPs and more concerned with personalization. That’s where we’re seeing Author Rank and the Social Graph have the strongest effect.

When every search returns personalized results, we have to stop clinging to old metrics and reporting methods and develop a new standard for success. 


Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard: Instead of links, social metrics, and author rank, we might instead look at the situation in terms of popularity, relevance, and authority – 3 metrics which the search engines will continue to use, no matter what form they take.

Popularity used to mean links solely; now it means a mixture of other signals which may be more natural. Google’s evolution beyond links is forcing SEOs to work more like true marketers across all online channels. It’s harder now to fake popularity, relevance, and authority – and that’s a good thing.


Mike King

Mike King: Well, first I see Author Rank and the Social Graph as the same thing. Author Rank is basically a way to apply authority to the Social Graph much like PageRank is a way to apply authority to the Link Graph. In any event, links will never be obsolete simply because no one is going to tweet about “diarrhea medicine” or any other number of topics that pages will continue to need to be ranked for. Social signals may not be so powerful right now, but as Google gets better at connecting people to their content, you will definitely see a sliding scale of link value being passed based on how authoritative their data model appears for a given topic across Google’s ecosystem.

SEO: a tech or marketing discipline?

What seems sure is that now, on the one hand, user experience and, on the other, user involvement have become a key to the success of a site from an SEO point of view too, even more than just few years ago. This cannot but remind me how Marketing has been the forgotten facet of the SEO disciplines.

Do you think is it still – and maybe unconsciously – undervalued by the SEO community? How much an SEO should be a "real" marketer?

Annie Cushing

Annie Cushing: I think that’s probably one of the greatest outcomes of some of the changes in the past couple years. Having come from an editorial background, content was always king and the bedrock of marketing. It was disheartening at times to see some of the slimy practices that caused websites to rank. I’m glad to see that scale tip in a positive direction.


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie: The SEO community as a whole, and the folks who hire them, focus on stuff that doesn’t require site changes. That’s because getting site changes done is so damned hard. So link building and social media become the more expedient avenues. I don’t think the SEO community deliberately ignores site quality and/or on-site SEO. I think they’re forced to because it’s so hard to do anything else.


Wil Reynolds

Wil Reynolds: Oooh, you are hitting on another one of my themes: its more important than ever to be a real marketer. I started hiring SEOs in 2004, after years of doing it in an agency and an in-house environment. Even back in 2004, I hired marketers not developer/programmer types for SEO. I made the bet back in 2004 that marketers would win. This is not to say that devs don’t have a place in SEO; I am not saying that at all. But every dev I interviewed looked at SEO as a scale problem, oh I need links, how can I scale. It’s the way you are trained to think. So we hired our first dev in 2008, but it was to build tools to make the marketers more efficient so they could spend more time solving content problems, building links of real value, etc.

Marketers, since before search engines existed, thought about things like this:

  • How do I create content  people will want to share?
  • How do I connect with my audience?
  • How do I tell a story people can relate to?

If you met our developer Chris Le, you can watch him geek out on tech, but he’s great at bringing it back to marketing, adding value, connecting with the SEO team at SEER (his audience).

Just because some trick worked and scaled to create wins on Google 3-4 years ago, we knew that eventually marketing would trump scale. I’m just glad to see that time coming!


Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin: Absolutely. SEOs, because of the technical and often very tactical focus our practice involves, have often ignored the principles of truly great marketing. Creativity, user experience, branding, and many more have fallen to the almighty practices of keyword optimization and link acquisition. I've been plenty guilty of this myself, and it's been a frustrating, but eventually gratifying and educational experience to see what it takes to build a real brand and a successful company on the web.


Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter: SEOs should be (are) real marketers. Multi-channel, multi-discipline, technology savvy marketers who know where their audience is and how to reach them. I’d say the key point is that as a marketer, an SEO’s goals extend beyond classic marketing, i.e “I need to grow my links to compete for this term”, but that the SEO is using classic marketing techniques to achieve those goals.


Jonathon Colman

Jonathon Colman: Absolutely. SEOs should challenge themselves with the notion that they are not just traffic drivers, but also information architects and user experience professionals. But then we must also rise to the challenge of building breakthrough experiences for our users.

This is easier said than done; most SEOs – self included! – only scratch at the surface of these complex disciplines. So just as we challenge ourselves to learn web development and design, we should also challenge ourselves with structuring information and metadata, building taxonomies for content and products, conducting user research and testing (both online and in-person), developing user profiles and detailed personas, and so on. Folks like Vanessa Fox and Michael King already know this and have been doing it for a while.

Unfortunately, mixing SEO with user experience is sometimes a controversial idea, especially in organizations where domain experts are territorial about their disciplines rather than incentivized to work together for the benefit of the customer. IA/UX professionals can see the intrusion of SEOs/inbound marketers to their areas of practice as being a threat. And nothing riles an SEO so much as being accused of being a spammer who focuses on robots over people. So our goal will be to dispel these myths in order win them over with our understanding of users’ intent, our strong business cases, and our fluency in analyzing data.


Dr Peter Meyers

Peter Meyers:Look at the progression from on-page to links to social – it’s a progression that naturally favors brands and offline marketing. When SEO was strictly an on-page endeavor, anyone could create the right formula and succeed. Now, a powerful company offline could screw just about everything up on-page and still attract links and social mentions. I know it frustrates people, but there’s a certain logic to it; the online world is naturally going to reflect the offline world. Arguably, it should. Search is a representation of the world, with all of the faults and influences of that world.


Aleyda Solis

Aleyda Solis: SEO is online marketing. An SEO is an online marketer. If you haven’t been aligning your SEO strategy along your online marketing one, then you’ve been underusing SEO.

If you haven’t been taking into consideration your site's consumers or users and their experience in your SEO process then you haven’t been implementing a real SEO process but just doing independent optimization activities.

I think that you cannot understand SEO without taking users into consideration, since your main goal as an SEO is to attract those users through search engines’ organic results to generate conversions by providing what they’re looking with your site.  


AJ Kohn

AJ Kohn: I was a marketer before I began in SEO and think that experience and perspective helps me. Then again, I don’t view SEO as a narrow industry. My brand of SEO includes user experience, conversion rate optimization, product refinement, market and audience definition, information architecture, business intelligence, and more.

Sometimes SEO isn’t the best way to allocate your resources or accomplish your goals. A good SEO should tell a client just that. 


Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale: It depends on the SEO. I’m big proponent of not just building links, but understanding the business strategy behind everything we do for a client. Without the ability to inform enterprise-level marketing and even basic business decisions, I think we make our jobs more difficult as SEOs. 
 


Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard: There’s value in being a pure technical-minded SEO, but at a certain level you have to find your inner Don Draper. Ideas can be more powerful than spreadsheets.
 


Mike King

Mike King: I wholeheartedly agree that SEOs need to know more about marketing. SEOs are Marketing Technologists; we exist very much at that intersection of marketing and technology so if you don’t know at least the basics of both sides, you’re definitely operating at a loss. For example, I talk about personas a lot which seems to have brought valuable insights, but for people that have studied marketing that’s Market Segmentation 101. The very fact that these basics are not a prerequisite is part of why we don’t get the traction we deserve amongst C-level marketing executives. A lot of SEOs just don’t know how to speak their language.:  

The SEO organizations - Specialists and Head of Search

The previous question pushes me asking you about the evolution toward very specialized SEO professional figures: Local Search, Video & Image Search, SEOcial, Technical SEO, Link Building… Do you agree with me that this same specialization is making the old classic figure of SEO Consultant/Head of SEO even more important in any businesses and or agency?

Annie Cushing

Annie Cushing: The fact that marketers are becoming more and more specialized is a sign the industry is maturing. I place greater value on people in the industry I can trust to rock their specialty. I always want to stay relevant and informed in all things SEO, analytics, and social media, but specializing in a particular area of the industry adds shelf life to a consultant or agency’s portfolio, in my opinion.


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie: Definitely, as is an SEO’s cross-training as a marketer. Link building now means marketing. Panda-related SEO means marketing + tech. You have to be ready to wear a lot of hats if you’re going to lead an effective SEO team.


Wil Reynolds

Wil Reynolds: Once again, you are asking all the right questions here. So SEER used to be very SEO consultant centric, with each consultant having a specialty. Now we are still that way but for certain areas, like content and tech, we are starting to move away from that model. It doesn’t build expertise. I'm strong at link building and content generation, but average at technical SEO and editing copy. So for instance, wouldn’t it make sense for me to focus on my strengths and find others who love technical SEO and copywriting to help round out the BEST solution?

Now I will say this, we needed to get our SEO team to about 25-30 SEOs for me to realize this. Early on its impossible to try to get specialists in everything because you are just resource constrained, but now that we are big enough, its our goal to take certain parts of SEO and start to compartmentalize them. It also helps the people on those teams to have better consistency across the company. If you have two people doing all tech audits or all outreach management, then you end up with a consistency that a checklist can’t always provide as you get larger. A job I see on the horizon is SEO project manager, which I can see more and more clients needing an in house person who gets the big picture and plays traffic cop between the social, seo, affiliate, email channels, etc. As the specialists are doing the deep dives, but very often they go so deep that they don’t respect the other channels like they should meaning opportunities for synergies are missed. How often do SEO’s launch infographics or contests and NOT include those things in the email list? Or even worse tell their own internal teams about the content piece they may want to share.


Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin: Definitely. The specialized knowledge and constant changes/updates in these categories require a professional who can store, retrieve, and apply a massive amount of unique information about how these channels operate. Google's ongoing complexity and the broadening of the SEO field to involve other mediums and tactics (content, social, UX, etc) are big contributors to the job security of SEOs.


Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter: You need a head of SEO, an all-rounder who understands all facets of an SEO campaign and the channels that campaign should be delivered via. Most senior SEOs I know are extremely well-versed in this way. More and more though, we need specialists in our teams. I have someone to turn to with a video SEO question, a Facebook question, a Google Shopping question, etc. This just makes sense.


Jonathon Colman

Jonathon Colman: I’m a “Big Tent” practitioner, meaning that I’m happy to welcome and work with anyone who’s willing to support findability and discoverability, no matter who ends up getting the credit for it. I figure that when one of us makes an optimization that succeeds in helping users while growing the business, then we all win.

After all, the “killer app” for most SEOs isn’t their title in the organization; it’s their ability to keep learning and pivoting to where their users are – and where the search engines are going to be.


Aleyda Solis

Aleyda Solis: Indeed. Thanks to the multidisciplinary nature of SEO (content development, technical optimization, link building, etc.) and the verticalization of search (local, video, image, news, etc.), the SEO role is becoming more and more specialized.

This specialization also makes more fundamental the role of an SEO Manager / Head / Leader who has an integral vision of all of these activities and that can lead specialized SEOs from a strategy perspective and coordinate their work.


AJ Kohn

AJ Khon: If it’s a large enterprise then yes, I think having an SEO generalist who knows how to assess the quality of all the various SEO specialists is critical. More so to ensure that the left hand knows what the right is doing. 


Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale: It depends on the organization. In a company where search drives a substantial percent of the businesses’ traffic and conversions, yes, there should be a dedicated SEO. In organizations with less dependence on SEO, this can be managed fairly well by a more traditional Director of Marketing or Digital Manager who works with an outside SEO consultant to manage this channel, as they probably do with other channels like paid advertising, email marketing, etc.


Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard: I realized a couple years ago I could no longer be good at every aspect of SEO. I rely on the help of specialist at every turn. Doing so hasn’t hurt my career one bit.


Mike King

Mike King: I personally think overspecialization is a weakness just like being a jack of all trades. For example, at one of my former agencies, we had a team that specialized in optimizing Yahoo’s feeds and then Yahoo killed the feeds; some of those guys had to go to paid search or do something else presumably because feeds was all they did in organic.

Granted things like local search are becoming incredibly nuanced, and I wouldn’t want to come up against a David Mihm or a Darren Shaw in the SERPs; but I still feel as though every SEO should know enough to be able to adapt to that if need be. At the end of the day, nothing we do is that hard; you just have to have the patience to do your research and test things out.


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie:  I actually don’t like the move towards specialization. SEO is a marketing specialty. Further sub-dividing it doesn’t serve anyone well – you end up with folks who are so hyper-specialized, they can’t do any good. For example: Say I want to improve local rankings for a client. Yes, knowing local SEO is important. But I also need to understand link building, usability/marketing (to get reviews), and technology (to add markup). There are exceptions, of course. But I see a lot of folks specializing because it’s easier, not because it makes them more effective marketers. That’s bad.

Not Provided

The specialization of SEO is obviously a consequence of the "verticals" explosion and the vitality Google has shown also in fields other than SEOs (Social, PPC…). Many professionals complain the fact that old organic searches are somehow a species under menace of extinction.

What is your take about this topic? And what is your take about other polemic decisions done by Google, as the "not provided", or the paid inclusions in Products or, last but not least, Google hiding the social connection pages?


Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin: I see no reason to complain about Google or Bing changing the SERPs to include more verticals, and I'd think, as SEOs, we should be thankful they continue to make the practice challenging (job security!). However, on the decisions around "not provided," paid inclusion in product search, and hiding social connections, I'm, quite frankly, infuriated. Those moves suggest Google is abandoning its core values. Microsoft must be cheering, and I hope and assume many Googlers are thinking about new jobs. Going against values the company regularly espouses – transparency, serving the web, doing no evil – will bring about terrible things for Google, the web, and its users.


Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter: That’s two questions!

Yeah – if you’re an SEO, then your main aim is to drive traffic from any or all channels provided to you, not just organic.

As for (not provided) here’s how that feels…. [leaves blank answer]


Jonathon Colman

Jonathon Colman: I’m saddened by Google’s draconian and hypocritical decisions to both hide referring organic keywords as well as reduce the real estate that organic results use in the SERPs versus paid/sponsored ads. Their expressed rationale of acting in the interest of user privacy doesn’t hold up to even the slightest amount of scrutiny and – especially for an information-driven company – they should be embarrassed and chastened by their increasingly pitiful attempts at explanation. A misbehaving child would be more honest and direct, which is all I can really ask for from Google.

Which is why I’m actually pleased by their emerging tact of stating that they’re a business and that they need to compete with other businesses that are encroaching on their space. I think this makes all of their actions far more understandable and predictable, from moving Google Product Search from a free model to PLAs to cleaning up SERPs with Panda/Penguin so that publishers have incentive to either create higher-quality user experiences… or to open up their wallets for paid advertising.

So let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with Google earning money for providing great experiences (which they absolutely do, IMHO), and I certainly don’t expect them to be impartial or unchanging; no one can be held to that unattainable standard. But I do appreciate it when they’re straight with us and clearly let us know what works, what doesn’t, and what their expectations are. The awesome updates and iterations I’ve seen over the past few years in Webmaster Tools signals to me that Google’s trying really hard to do exactly that.


Aleyda Solis

Aleyda Solis: I understand vertical explosion as a consequence coming from the user need of more specialized results in specific formats with some particular characteristics and from the ability of search engines (not only Google) to identify and assess this information in order to provide a relevant result that fulfills this need. 

Another thing is what Google does with its vertical results, social presence with Google+, and any of its products, giving them more visibility in its results and try to keep users in its properties in order to increase monetization.

The same happens with PPC ads, that have been gaining more visibility in Google’s results pages. Google also only provides keyword referral data for AdWords traffic but eliminates it from organic visits arguing privacy concerns.

How far can Google go with these controversial decisions? It will depend on: 

  • Users satisfaction – How Google’s results fulfill users need of information.
  • Competition – The ability of an existing or new player in the search market to provide a qualitatively superior search experience and results than Google. 

If users are not satisfied with Google’s search results and a real competitor that provides a substantial enhancement to what Google is already giving appears, then Google won’t have the flexibility to make these controversial decisions as it has now. 


AJ Kohn

AJ Kohn: I like search because it is always changing. I might question what Google is doing or react emotionally when a client site suffers at something like Panda, but cooler heads prevail and then it’s a puzzle to solve. I like puzzles.

Specifically, I thought ‘not provided’ was a non-issue for the most part and may have actually helped raise the bar on keyword research and analysis. Mind you, if we get to 60% ‘not provided,’ I may think different.

Paid inclusion in Google Shopping is another non-issue for me. Maybe it’s my marketing background, but I never really understood why they didn’t charge in the first place. Google still doesn’t understand retail nearly as well as it should, but I think they’re finally starting to figure some things out.

And the social connection page is another example of what I see as SEO entitlement. It was never a service that Google promoted to any great extent, and I don’t think there was any expectation that it was a permanent repository that you could use.

They exposed the social public web to you. That was cool even though it showed that Google was doing many of the same things that got Rapleaf in trouble. Now it’s gone. So be it. Move on.


Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard: In the old days, you wanted to rank #1 for “shoes." Today, these shifts have caused us to focus more on quality traffic from a variety of sources than individual rankings, no matter the source. Multi-touch attribution reporting in GA is a perfect example of this. SEO is becoming much more holistic.


Mike King

Mike King: I think vertical specialization is very important especially in lieu of content marketing. How can you truly be awesome at creating content in a space that you don’t understand? I think market research is key. I believe in that so much that at iAcquire I grabbed a guy that spent 7 years doing market research for Nielsen. As far as what Google is doing… 'Not provided' is maddening. Paid inclusion is hypocrisy. Hiding social connections is corny, but that is public data anyway; if you really want that, you can scrape the web yourself for it. Hint hint.

Bing vs. Google

On the contrary, Bing seems strongly decided in becoming the SEO-friendly search engine, apart from potentially being the real social search engine thanks to its contracts with Facebook and Twitter. Do you believe Bing will really be able to have a stronger appeal on the public, professional and not, and become a real serious competitor for Google?

Annie Cushing

Annie Cushing: People are creatures of habit. To break their habit of Google, there will have to be a cataclysm of some sort that sends the masses running. I think people have made one thing really clear to Google: we want to still search with you, but we don’t want to rely on you for social. 
 


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie: Bing is saddled with a huge, non-search-dedicated company behind it. They have brilliant people over there, but I don’t see how they ever get out from under Microsoft’s cultural influence. And if they don’t do that, they can’t compete.


Wil Reynolds

Wil Reynolds: In a word. No. But if Google continues to launch new businesses (glasses, tablets, home music devices) they just might take their eye off the ball long enough for an upstart to come along.
 


Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin: I generally agree with Danny Sullivan, who noted that until and unless Google makes major missteps that cost it public trust and belief, they will continue to be the monopoly in the field. Bing has got some great features, and I've actually switched to make them my default engine recently (after being so disappointed in Google's abandonment of their own core values), but slightly better isn't enough to make people switch.


Jonathon Colman

Jonathon Colman: I sure as hell want them to be a strong competitor to Google so that both search engines continually challenge each other and get better and better at meetings users’ needs. And I know the folks at Bing are working hard at innovating and testing so that they can poke at Google’s weak points. I love a lot of the things they’ve been first to market with that provide incremental value for their users while acting as a wake-up call for Google.

That said, while I love that Bing’s actively reaching out to the SEO community, that’s not likely to help them build market share, which is what SEOs really need them to do. Bing’s challenge is to make use of all of Microsoft’s expertise and resources so that they can skate to where the puck is going to be in 2-3 years from now, not to where the puck is today. That’s what’s ultimately going to build sustainable awareness and traffic.


Dr Peter Meyers

Peter Meyers: I admire what the Bing team is trying to do, and I think they’re sincere, but they also have a vested interest in becoming SEO-friendly to demonstrate how different they are from Google. While I see good things from the Bing team and like Duane and his team, I’m not that optimistic about the larger Microsoft culture. Look at what Google spends on search vs. what Microsoft spends – it’s clear which company treats the industry as a top priority. Google has to compete in the social space to survive. Microsoft could give up search completely and still make a fortune.


Aleyda Solis

Aleyda Solis: It’s great that Bing provides SEOs with the information and features that Google doesn’t. Unfortunately, most of users don’t search with Bing, and we need to work with the search engine that is used by our target audience and not the one that is more SEO-friendly.

If Bing wants to become a real competitor for Google, then it will need to stop playing with the rules that have been set by Google since it started and develop something unique that can provide a different search experience and qualitative better results to users that will make them realize they need to shift their search behaviour and start using Bing instead.

Since searching the Web with Google is now a rooted activity for users, I believe the search paradigm will need to shift so people are opened to start using something else. For me, it’s not only a matter to start showing social related results, for example, but to change the way search is conducted.

Honestly, despite of Bing’s computational power, it hasn’t shown a real innovation capacity up to now, and since Microsoft is not very well known by this neither, I think that a startup with a new way to assess and provide information to users can have a better chance to become a real competitor for Google. 


AJ Kohn

AJ Kohn: No. I don’t think Bing has a chance to make a dent in the search landscape. The strategy to woo SEOs who will, supposedly, invest more time and effort in optimizing sites for Bing is interesting. Does the SEO industry really have that much clout? I don’t think so. And the social efforts are just too little too late. In addition, they don’t own that data, which makes it incredibly hard to build on reliably. 


Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale: Bing is doing a fantastic job of connecting with Webmasters. The new webmaster toolset is great. Their transparency is great. Their public ambassadors are great. Their social connections are great. Unfortunately…

I still haven’t made the switch to Bing, which may be anecdotal, but I also haven’t seen Bing make up a significant percent of organic traffic for our client’s traffic. I would love it if Bing sent our sites more traffic, because it converts so well, but for the last decade, that hasn’t happened even with Bing’s big budget product placement.


Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard: I’ve always thought the future of Bing rested on a good partnership with Facebook and hoping Google screws up.
 


Mike King

Mike King: No. Google has too much mindshare. People don’t “search the web for you”; they “Google you.” Don’t get me wrong, Bing has some awesome features, but I don’t think that’s realistic at least in the short term.

 

Google Plus

Google+ (and Plus One button). What do you think about it one year after its launch. Still thinking, as many did at last MozCon, it is a "third sock," or do you see it as something which will be able to really influence the SEO discipline?

Annie Cushing

Annie Cushing: Unless it finds an itch no other social network has been able to scratch, I just don’t see it taking off. It succeeded in making me more discontent with Facebook, so I’ll give it that. But it didn’t make me discontent enough to leave and go hang out with marketers.


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie: Google Plus has some nifty features, but it’s not attracting consumers. Until it does, it remains largely irrelevant to everyone except Google.


Paddy Moogan

Paddy Moogan: Like it or not, I think it is here to stay. Google have put far too much resource into Google+ to let it fail. They are still way behind Twitter and Facebook, and the general public do not seem to be embracing Google+ in the way that Google would like us to believe. There is a big difference between having an account and being active like you are on Twitter or Facebook.

Either way, SEOs should at least be preparing for Google+ to become more integrated with search and a bedrock of many Google products.  


Wil Reynolds

Wil Reynolds: Ignore it at your own peril. I am running tests now on doing a search, adding a company to my circles, and then doing the search again, and am seeing major rankings movements. Getting people to add you to circles (assuming you are really engaging in your social channels) is having an impact right now, and I am seeing it. Hope to have time to launch the research soon.


Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin: I've continued to find Google+ an interesting place for deeper discussions and a good hybrid between Twitter and Facebook. The +1 button still feels underutilized and underwhelming, but if it reaches critical mass, could get more usage in places that matter.

As far as influencing SEO, Google+ already does that in spades. I think a lot of marketers are being unwise to ignore what is already a hugely powerful channel, particularly when combined with AuthorRank and the practice of building a social community.


Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter: I think Google+ is a clear influencer on SEO. Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect. Google+ just feels like it’s a lonelier place, with fewer users (at least, fewer ordinary users) – and while +1’s have a clear benefit to the end goal, being a success on G+ is often an arduous task.


Jonathon Colman

Jonathon Colman: It’s already influencing our work in a big way. For example, look at all of the focus on consolidating authority on people (authors) instead of keywords. Frankly, I think that’s excellent and long overdue. Real humans aren’t experts on keywords; they’re experts on conceptual areas, and they often express this expertise in writing. So incentivizing these experts to create valuable content experiences while structuring their authorship/ownership is helpful to Google and users. It’s a win for users because they have a means by which to trust content authors/publishers, and it’s a win for Google because they have all of these experts and rich content in Google Plus.


Dr Peter Meyers

Peter Meyers: I think Kristy’s “third sock” metaphor is still incredibly apt. Google+ has some interesting features, and I want to like it. But even being in the industry, I barely remember to check in once a week. My friends and family are on Facebook, and my industry associates are on Twitter. I’m not saying that will never change, but even with G+ on my toolbar all day in Gmail (which I use religiously), I still don’t care most days. There’s nothing compelling yet, IMO.


Aleyda Solis

Aleyda Solis: Google+ and the Plus One button have already a visible effect in Google’s results with “Search Plus Your World,” and this is only the beginning. 

Although is true that Google+ hasn’t reached yet the massiveness of users, it’s something that in one way or another I expect to happen due to the way Google is pushing its use, since it’s clear that it plays an important role in the system Google is building in order to gain additional control and ranking mechanisms.

I’ve also seen the Plus One button to be included in far more sites than I had expected at the beginning, which is another challenge in this case.

So after what we have seen up to now, I would not consider Google+ as a third sock or an attempt to create a social network, but the identification platform Google needs to enhance its search results. 


AJ Kohn

AJ Kohn: I guess I’m a power user on Google+. Even if I wasn’t I think Danny Sullivan said it best. “If you care about search, you have to care about Google+.”

When you look at the Google+ Activity API, look at the Activity Streams framework, and think about the acquisitions Google has made in terms of understanding engagement, it seems clear that this is part of a long-term strategy to deal with the explosion of digital content.

Google+ is about gathering additional data than they can trust to make search better. And if during that process, they break Facebook’s stranglehold on attention, well, all the better.

So, yes, Google+ works if you work it. Like a lot of things, what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it. 


Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale: Google+ is difficult. It’s not a network I put enough love into, but I will preach the importance of it to anyone listening. When Google puts that much effort into something, it’s worth taking advantage of. We see Google+ affecting personalized SERPs a ton, and for reputation management, it’s a huge resource. 


Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard: Google is smartly forcing us to use G+ whether we want to or not. Local business are now integrated with Google+ and links to authorship and business profiles dominate the SERPs.

We mistakenly keep judging G+ as a social tool, but it is much more finely integrated as a search information supplement.


Mike King

Mike King: Google+ will definitely influence SEO, and Google is going to continue to force it down our throat; so if they keep forcing us to use it vis a vis Google+ Local, it will definitely have a large impact.

 

Google Author Rank

Author Rank. I consider it is surely going to be one of the fundamental elements of Google in the future, but I still doubt about its real influence as a factor in the ranking pot. What are your reflections about Author Rank, and have you seen a real attention in businesses about its implementation?

Annie Cushing

Annie Cushing: I’ve only really seen marketers and publishers rock it. I seriously doubt most business owners have any idea what it is, nor do they care.


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie: I’d have to see more application of it, and more clarity from Google around its use, before I said anything about its SEO influence. Right now it’s one more partially-implemented mystery factor. What is “Better quality content”?  I asked a Google Rep at SMX Toronto about a tag issue – my rel=author tagged content wasn’t being attributed to me – and he had no answer. That doesn’t inspire confidence.


Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin: Businesses and sites that embrace it and properly apply the strategy of content marketing are going to be in a good place with Google and with broader inbound marketing efforts for some time to come. But, Author Rank alone isn't particularly useful unless you're making serious content and social investments in addition to classic SEO.


Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter: Every client we pitch and existing site we work on revolves around core authorship strategy. We insist our clients have, at the very least, a meaningful content strategy. More brands need to think of themselves as publishers – establishing them as experts in their field, giving and adding value in support of their core propostion. This, in my world is critical to establishing trust and a serious brand.


Dr Peter Meyers

Peter Meyers: I think AuthorRank is in that dangerous phase where only SEOs really know how to set up attribution properly, and we’re exploiting it before regular businesses even know it exists. If that goes too far, Google will have to dial it down. I think the idea of the social graph and personal authority is critically important going forward. I suspect, though, that Google went out to strong on some social factors and will dial it back in the short-term.


Aleyda Solis

Aleyda Solis: Author Rank in theory can be a fantastic way to provide the additional mechanism Google needs to assess targeted or relative popularity / authority to use along the link graph.

The real challenge for the Author Rank is the inclusion of the authorship markup and its verification process:

  • Get users to create a Google+ profile, although this is already being pushed by Google and they will end-up, one way or another, getting users registration.
  • Get developers, site owners, and authors to implement the authorship markup on their sites. (Although, this can be accelerated by the implementation of other Schema markup and the visibility that can be obtained through rich snippets.)

Nonetheless, besides the most popular sites I haven’t seen at the moment a huge number of businesses to implement this already, mainly due I think because of its complexity, lack of interest in Google+ profiles, and even some privacy issues. So I think we will need to wait a bit more for this to gain strength and reach the critical mass it needs.


AJ Kohn

AJ Kohn: On launch, Authorship was framed as a two-stage process. The first was to highlight authors in search results, and the second was to use it to help rank search results. Google has certainly done the former, and I’ve had clients implement authorship with great results.

Google hasn’t yet implemented a true Author Rank signal. But I think they’re working on it and want it to work. You can wait for it to show up and get blindsided, or you can future proof your efforts and start doing what’s necessary and be prepared.


Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale: Search marketers are doing our best to prioritize authorship markup and claimed accounts across all of our and client’s properties. We see the value. Unfortunately, it is difficult to quantify which makes it difficult for businesses to work into their dev schedule.

Regardless, more and more implementations are happening, and I think it’s changing CTR in the SERPs for the better. I’m sure that with Google recognizing the value of Author Rank; it will simply grow in importance over time.


Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard: I’ve seen no evidence that author rank influences rankings at this time, but it seems like it might play a small role in the future.
 


Mike King

Mike King: I honestly haven’t been paying too much attention to how businesses have implemented it. I mostly see it used as a novelty by SEOs and then by a lot of blogs such as Mashable. I haven’t seen examples of a brand really getting behind it yet, but I definitely see it having bigger implications as it does get adopted.

 

Semantic Web

Somehow similar to the previous answers, it is this one: Schema.org and Knowledge Graph. Should we say "adios" to Google as a search engine and think of it as an answering engine?

Annie Cushing

Annie Cushing: I don’t think it’s that simplistic. I see it kind of like explaining sex to your kids: Little questions get little answers; big questions get big answers. There are times I just have a little question, and I’m quite happy when the answer is right there for me. But if I have a bigger question or the little answer I find in the Knowledge Graph spawns more questions, I’ll click through.


Ian LurieIan Lurie: Not unless consumers do. Which they haven’t yet.

 


Paddy Moogan

Paddy Moogan: I have no doubt that Google want to become an answers engine and want to keep you on Google properties for as long as possible. However, there is a line that they can’t cross when it comes to users. Users have flocked to Google because of the quality and depth of their organic search results; if Google compromise this by trying to hard to answer everything, I feel they may drive users away. However, there is little alternative out there right now, so Google can afford to push this line and take risks with testing new features because no one is really challenging them.


Wil Reynolds

Wil Reynolds: Depends on the query. If you used to get traffic from band names, actors, queries around what date is XXX Holiday, flight related keywords (with Google’s integration of ITA), I’d be careful, as the answers to the right are going to be there on desktop and inline on mobile for certain queries.


Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin: Probably not yet. The growth of Google's search volume and the ever-growing number of searchers still far outweighs the queries where Google's put "instant answers" ahead of external results. I also see only a few instances (concerning, but still small) where truly valuable clicks are being lost to Google's own answers. More often than not, these lost clicks are exclusively informational and won't cost much in branding or transaction value.


Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter: No. More of an engine able to get the right result into users without necessarily sending the click to an organic result. Impressive and scary at the same time.


Jonathon ColmanJonathon Colman: Ha, I still think that Google’s going to continue being both a floor wax and a dessert topping for some time. But it’s clear that having a semantic, meaningful understanding of language (Schema.org) is essential to its growth and future direction – if only because it’s essential for users! – and that linked data (Knowledge Graph) is just a first step down the road to connecting users’ needs with structured responses.

More than ever before, SEOs will need to have an understanding of information systems, data, and metadata (not just <meta>!) in order to build interoperable experiences that can transcend the traditional SERPs, not to mention the traditional desktop. We’ve seen early adopters like Best Buy and the BBC reap huge gains from being early adopters of the semantic web and even more advances are on the way.


Aleyda Solis

Aleyda Solis: It’s too soon yet to say goodbye to Google as we know it, but I expect that sooner than later we will. Google knows that it needs to move from the easily manipulated link graph system.

Schema has a long way to go to provide consistent information about the meaning of web data to Google — since it cannot be directly validated as the authorship — and unfortunately, its usage has been already manipulated to spam rich snippets and increase visibility in the search results pages.

This needs to be improved and some type of validation system needs to be developed in order to achieve the quality expected from this data.   


AJ Kohn

AJ Kohn: Just like the link graph, I think these type of answers based on entities are just ways to improve the search experience. 


Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale: No. Google is flirting with a slippery slope if they try to produce nothing but answers. Besides, they already failed at answers. ;)


Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard: A majority of tough questions are still answered by search. I think we have many years ahead of us still with “search” engines.


Mike King

Mike King: The Knowledge Graph is actually the coolest thing they’ve rolled out in the past couple years as far as I’m concerned. Stefan Weitz talked about how search engines are trying to move toward Object Oriented Search basically, and it’s cool to see this come to pass.

Google is definitely looking to answer more questions and cut down the time required to get to your answers so you’re going to see a lot more of that in the SERPs. Sites like whatismyipaddress.com are basically a done deal. I’m all for that, if your site doesn’t have a purpose beyond doing something a simple PHP script can do, then step your game up. 

The Future of Search?

Finally… Mobile, Siri, Google Voice Search… Are we all wrong not thinking of Apple as the real competitor of Google? And, should we start adding speech therapy (logopedia) to our SEO skills (irony… but maybe not)?

Annie Cushing

Annie Cushing: I’m not sure voice search will really change that much about how we do SEO, save to say there may be a great emphasis on holistic search terms because people ask full questions instead of typing in keywords. 


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie: Siri is a little different; it’s not employing the same crawl/index/search algorithm that Google does. But they’re providing a mobile alternative to Google, so yes, Apple’s a threat. I think they’re a bigger threat to Google than Bing is.


Paddy Moogan

Paddy Moogan: If I were Google, I would see Apple as a threat. The user base they have in iPhone and iPad is incredible, and with more and more people using mobile devices (even at home) to do common tasks online, Apple are in the perfect position to win market share from Google on the mobile front. I don’t think Apple will challenge Google with a desktop based search engine, but I can easily see them wanting to own the mobile search market. They already have a captive audience who use their devices, their biggest challenge right now is not messing that up!


Wil Reynolds

Wil Reynolds: If Apple bought Twitter and Bing, I’d be scared if I was Google. But I doubt that is happening. It's interesting to think about thought… It would give Apple the following:

  • 2nd mobile platform;
  • 2nd social network;
  • 2nd search engine (hey Microsoft, throw in Hotmail, and give them the #2 email too)

Because right now platform wise, Google has the following:

  • 1st mobile platform
  • 3rd and 4th social network
  • 1st search engine
  • 1st email platform

Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin: I'm not a big believer in Siri or voice search yet. Unlike the world of Star Trek, humans on Earth are trained to use silent input devices. A room full of workers talking to their computers isn't just distracting, it's less productive. People talking to their phones/devices in public or private will continue to be rare, IMO. Better input systems than a mouse and keyboard, I buy. Voice-activation, I don't.


Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter: Apple, having a serious market share of all things mobile search, are already enforcing certain search behavior, by way of default settings on their devices. That’s not to say they don’t allow their users to make a choice. Don’t forget, Google has some pretty serious voice recognition technology, and I (having watched IO live) believe that Google are way ahead of the curve when it comes to a direct comparison with Apple. Open source vs Proprietary? Google will win.


Jonathon Colman

Jonathon Colman: This is why information architecture and cross-channel user experience design are so important to the future of SEO: we’re not always going to search from our desktops typing plain text into a box.

As users and their search tools change, so must our strategies and tactics. And an SEO with a strong understanding of information retrieval systems, ontologies, and interoperability will be in a great place to pivot and innovate when these tools (and their successors, like Google’s Project Glass and their self-driving car) go to market.


Aleyda Solis

Aleyda Solis: On mobile, I would also consider Apple a Google’s competitor in search. Apple started with Siri, and now its highly expected new Maps app for iOS 6 that will be launched with local information from Yelp. We will need to see the features, type, and quality of results we get from it when it is launched and how it evolves.

Also, if the voice search functionality gets popular over time, it will be important to identify the percentage of searches that are conducted using this option, how it affects users behaviour when searching, and our own presence in these results. 

I think that this is also another step to strengthen and shape what the “Social-Local-Mobile” landscape will be when it becomes fully mature. I see this as an exciting moment to make the most out of a sector that it seems to be finally advancing as it should.    


AJ Kohn

AJ Kohn: The biggest advancements are going to be around human and computer interaction. Apple certainly has been making headlines, but Google hasn’t been a slouch either. In fact, I think Google is in a much better position. They own a dominant portion of the smart phone market and have used machine learning to materially improve voice search.

But think about Google Goggles, Google Glass, and Google Now. The ways in which we search are going to change considerably in the next 10 years, and the SEO community will adapt and help businesses to understand how to meet those changes. 


Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale: Should we see Apple as a competitor to Google? Yes. Anything that provides an alternative form of search is a competitor to Google. Did Apple consider Google a competitor when they started making phones? Yes!

I had this debate recently with a friend—is Google really trying to be Facebook in launching Google+? I said no because social media was a natural extension of search. My friend said that’s what an SEO says to justify their job. I still adamantly believe this though. Google is in the business of search. We “search” in many ways. Whether intentionally or not, Google is able to expand into new areas of search and justify new company growth in this way. But, they are still a search engine. Fundamentally, they help people find something.

With that in mind and thinking purely from an accessibility standpoint, voice search won’t replace traditional search. How many of us can/want to search with voice commands? It’s a fun party trick and convenient in a car, but we search through too many means to make this anything more than an extension of the Google search empire. 


Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard: Great question. For a decade now, ads in search results have been the driving revenue force for search engines, but this model is completely flipped on its head with mobile and voice search. I’m not sure even Google has an answer for this yet. Perhaps it’s Google Glasses.


Mike King

Mike King: Well I’m sure Amit Singhal sees Siri as his realest competition since he wants to make a Star Trek computer. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.


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