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What you need to know about Google Merchant Center identifier enforcement updates

The changes that can affect the visibility of your products in Google Shopping.



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5 Things You Should Know About "People Also Ask" & How to Take Advantage

Posted by SamuelMangialavori

It’s undeniable that the SERPs have changed considerably in the last year or so. Elements like featured snippets, Knowledge Graphs, local packs, and People Also Ask have really taken over the SEO world — and left some of us a bit confused.

In particular, the People Also Ask (PAA) feature caught my attention in the last few months. For many of the clients I’ve worked with, PAAs have really had an impact on their SERPs.

If you are anything like me, you might be asking yourself the same questions:

  • How important are these SERP features?
  • How many clicks do they “steal” from SEO?
  • And most importantly: who are these people that also ask SO MANY questions? Somehow, I always imagine the hipster-looking man from Answer the Public being the leader of such a group of people…

The first part of the post focuses on five things I’ve learned about People Also Ask, while the second part outlines some ideas on how to take advantage of such features.

Let’s get started! Here are five things you should know about PAAs.

1. PAA can occupy different positions on the SERP

I don’t know about you all, but I wasn’t fully aware of the above until a few months ago; I just assumed that most of the time PAAs appeared in the same location, IF and only IF it was actually triggered by Google. I didn’t really pay attention to this featured until I started digging into it.

Distinct from featured snippets (which appear always at the top of the SERP), PAAs can be located in several different parts of the page.

Let’s look at some examples:

Keyword example: [dj software]


Example of SERP where PAA is at the top of the page

For the keyword [dj software], this is what the SERP looks like:

  • 3 PPC ads
  • Related videos
  • 4 PAA listings at the top of the page
  • 10 organic results

Keyword example: [cocktail dresses under 50 pounds]


Example of SERP where PAA is in the middle of the page

For the keyword [cocktail dresses under 50 pounds], this is what the SERP looks like:

  • Shopping ads
  • 1 PPC ad
  • Image carousel
  • 3 organic results
  • 4 PAA listings in the middle of the page

Keyword example: [tv unit]


Example of SERP where PAA is at the bottom of the page

For the keyword [tv unit], this is what the SERP looks like:

  • Shopping ads
  • 1 PPC ad
  • 10 organic results
  • 3 PAA listings at the bottom of the page

Why does this matter to you?

Understanding the implications of the different positions of PAA in the SERPs impacts organic results’ CTR, especially on mobile, where space is very precious.

2. Do PAAs have a limit?

I’m just giving away the answer now: No-ish.

This feature has the ability to trigger a potentially infinite number of questions on the topic of interest. As Britney Muller researched in this Moz post, the initial 3–4 listing could continue into the hundreds once clicked on, in some cases.

With one simple click, the 4 PAA questions can trigger three more listings, and so on and so forth.

Has the situation changed at all since the original 2016 Moz article?

Yes, it has! What I’m seeing now is actually very mixed: PAAs can vary extensively, from a fixed number of 3–4 listings to a plethora of results.

Let’s look at an example of a query that’s showing a large number of PAAs:

Keyword example: [featured snippets]


Example of SERP where the number of PAA expands when clicked upon, and is not fixed

For the query [featured snippets], the PAA listings can be expanded if clicked on, which process generates a large number of new PAA listings that appear at the bottom of such SERP feature.

For other queries, Google will only show you 4 PAA listings and such number will not change even if the listings get clicked on:

Keyword example: [best italian wine]


Example of SERP where the number of PAA listings is fixed and does not expand

For the query [best italian wine], the PAA listings cannot be expanded, no matter how many times you hover or click on them.

Interestingly, it also appears that Google does not keep this feature consistent: a few days after I took the above screenshots, the fixed number of PAAs was gone. On the other hand, I’ve recently seen instances where the keywords have a fixed amount of only 3 PAAs instead of 4.

Now, the real question for Google would be:

“What methodology are they using to decide which keywords trigger an infinite amount of PAAs and which keywords cannot?”

As you might have guessed by now, I don’t have an answer today. I’ll continue to work on uncovering it and keep you folks posted when/if I get an answer from Google or discover further insights.

My two cents on the above:

The number of PAAs does not relate to particular verticals or keywords patterns at the moment, though this may change in the future (e.g. comparative keywords more or less inclined to a fixed amount of PAAs.)

Google’s experiments will continue, and they may change PAAs quite a bit in the next one to two years. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw questions being answered in different ways. Read the next point to know more!

Why does this matter to you?

From an opportunity standpoint, the number of questions you can scrape to take advantage of will vary.

From a user standpoint, it impacts your search journey and offers a different number of answers to your questions.

3. PAAs can trigger video results

I came across this by reading an article on Search Engine Roundtable.


Example PAA with video results

I wasn’t able to replicate the above result myself in London — but that doesn’t matter, as we’re used to seeing Google experimenting with new features in the US first.

Answering a PAA listing with a video makes a lot of sense, especially if you consider the nature of many of the queries listed:

  • What is…
  • How to…
  • Why is/are…

And so on.

I expect this to be tested more and more by Google, to a point where most of the keywords that are currently showing video results in the SERPs will trigger video results in the PAA listings, too.

Keyword example: [how to clean suede shoes diy]


Example of SERP for keywords that often trigger video results

Video results will matter more and more in the near future. Why is that?

Just examine how hard Google is working on the interpretation and simplification of video results. Google has added key moments for videos in search results (read this article to know more). This new feature allows us to jump to the portion of the video that answers our specific query.

Why does this matter to you?

From an opportunity standpoint, you can optimize your YouTube and video results to be eligible to appear in PAAs.

From a user standpoint, it enriches your search journey for PAA queries that are better answered with videos.

4. PAA questions are frequently repeated for the same search topic and also trigger featured snippets

This might be obvious, but it’s important to understand these three points:

  1. Most PAA questions also trigger featured snippets
  2. The same PAA question (& answer) can be triggered for different keywords
  3. The same answer/listing that appears for a certain question in a PAA can also appear for different questions triggered by PAAs

Let’s look at some examples to better visualize what I mean:

1. PAA questions also trigger Featured Snippets

Keyword 1: [business card ideas]

Keyword 2: [what is on a good business card?]


Example of PAA listings for case n.1

The keyword [business card ideas] triggers some PAA listings, whose questions, if used as the main query, trigger a featured snippet.

2. Different keywords can trigger the same PAA question and show the same result. 

The same listing that appears for a PAA question for keyword X can also appear for the same question, triggered by a different keyword Y.

Keyword 1: [quality business cards]

Keyword 2: [business cards quality design]


Example of PAA listings for case n.2

To summarize: Different keywords, same question in the PAA and same listing in the PAA.

3. Different questions listed in a PAA triggered by different keywords can show the same result. 

The same listing that appears for a PAA question for keyword X can also appear for the same question, triggered by a different keyword Y.

Keyword 1: [quality business cards]

Keyword 2: [best business cards online]


Example of PAA listings for case n.3

To summarize: Different keywords, different question in the PAA but same listing in the PAA.

The above keywords are clearly different, but they show the same intent:

“I’m looking for a business card by using terms that highlight certain defining attributes — best & quality.”

Small Biz Trends in the above screenshot has created a page that matches that particular intent. Keyword intent is a crucial topic that the SEO community has been talking about for a few years by now.

Why does this matter to you?

From an opportunity standpoint, your PAA listings can trigger featured snippets and also have the possibility to cover a portfolio of different keyword permutations.

5. PAAs have a feedback feature

Most of you have probably glanced over this feature but never really paid attention to it: at the bottom of the last PAA listing, there is often a little hyperlink with the word Feedback.

By clicking on it, you’re shown the following pop-up:


Example of feedback for PAA

Google states that this option is available “on some search results” and it allows users to send feedback or suggest a translation. Even if you do go through the effort, Google says they will not reply to you directly, but rather collect the info submitted and work on the accuracy of the listings.

Does this mean they’ll actually change the PAA listing based off of feedback?

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for this (I’ve tried to submit feedback manually and nothing really happened) but I think it’s very unlikely.

The only for-sure thing you get from Google is the following response:


Google’s response after feedback submission

Why does this matter to you?

From an opportunity standpoint, if you notice that PAA listings (for questions you are trying to appear for) are not accurate, you can flag it to Google and hope they’ll change it.

Now that we’ve covered some interesting facts, how can we take advantage of PAA?

Determine how deeply your SERP is being affected by PAA (and other SERP features)

This task is fairly straightforward, but I guarantee you very few people actually pay much attention to it. When monitoring your rankings, you should really try to dig deeply into which other elements are affecting your overall organic traffic & organic CTR.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What elements affect the SERP for my core keywords?
  • How often do these SERP elements appear?
  • How deeply are they affecting my organic results?

You might spot an increasing amount of paid results (in the form of shopping ads for products or text ads for services) appearing for many of your key terms.

Established tools like SEMrush, Sistrix, and Ahrefs can show you the number of ads, overall spending, & how the ads look at a keyword level.

Kw: [hr software]


SEMrush ads history graph by keyword

Or it may be the case that organic SERP elements, such as video results, are being triggered in the SERP for many of your informational queries, or that featured snippets appear for a high percentage of your navigational & transactional terms, and so on.

Recently, I came across a client where over 90% of their primary keywords triggered PAAs at the top of the SERP. 90%!

Which tools can help?

At Distilled we use STAT, which reports on such insights in a really comprehensive manner with a great overview of all the SERP elements.

This is what the STAT SERP features interface looks like:


STAT SERP features

Ahrefs also does a great job of allowing you to download the SERP features of the top twenty results for any of the keywords you’re interested in.

Understanding where you stand in the current SERP landscape & how your SEO has been affected by it is a crucial step prior to implementing any SERP strategy.

Tactics to take advantage of PAAs

There are several ways to incorporate PAAs into your SEO strategy. It’s already been written about many times online, so I’m going to keep it simple and focus on a few easy tactics that I think will really improve your workflow:

1. Extract PAA listings

This one’s pretty straightforward: how can we take advantage of PAAs if we cannot find a way to extract those questions in the first place?

There are several ways to “scrape” PAAs, more or less compliant with Google’s Terms & Conditions (such as using Screaming Frog).

Personally, I like STAT’s report, so I’ll talk about how easy it is to extract PAA listings using this tool:

  • One of the features of STAT’s reporting is called “People also ask (Google),” which is pretty self-explanatory: for the keywords you’ve decided to track in the tool, this report will provide the PAA questions they trigger and the URLs appearing for those listings, along with their exact rankings within the PAA box.

This is an example of how the report will look like after you’ve downloaded the “People also ask (Google)” report:


STAT PAA report

2. Address questions in your content

Once you have a list of all PAA questions and you are able to see which URLs rank for such results, what should you do next?

This is the more complicated part: think how your content strategy can incorporate PAA findings and start experimenting. Similarly to featured snippets, PAAs should be included in your content plan. If that’s not yet the case, well, I hope this blog post can convince you to give it a go!

Since I am not focusing (sadly, for some) on content strategy with this article, I will not dwell on the topic too much. Instead, I’ll share a few tips on what you could do with the data gathered so far:

Understand what type of results such PAA questions are triggering: are they informational, navigational, transactional?

Many people think featured snippets and PAA questions are triggered by heavily informational or Q&A pages: trust me, do NOT assume anything. heck your data and behave accordingly. Keyword intent should never be taken for granted.

Create or re-optimize your content

Depending on the findings in the previous point, it may be a matter of creating new content that can address PAA questions or re-optimizing the existing content on your site.

If you discover that you have a chance at ranking in a PAA with your current transactional/editorial pages, it might be best to re-optimize what you have.

It may also be the case that one of the following options can be enough to rank in PAAs:

  • Adding questions and answers to your content (don’t limit yourself to just the bottom of the page)
  • Using the right headings to mark up such elements (h1, h2, h3, whatever works for your page)
  • Copying the formatting of results that are currently appearing in PAA
  • Simply changing the language used on your site

If you do not have any content to cover a certain keyword theme, think about creating new ones that would match the keyword intent that Google is favoring. Editorial content with SEO in mind (don’t limit yourself to PAA, but look at the overall SERP spectrum) or simple FAQs pages could really help win PAA or featured snippets.

Depending on your KPIs (traffic, leads, signups, etc), tailor your newly optimized content and be ready to retain users on your site

Once users land on your site after clicking on a PAA listing, what do you want them to see/do? Don’t do half the job, worry about the entire user journey from the start!

3. Test schema on your page

The SEO community has gone a bit cray-cray over the new FAQs schema — my colleague Emily Potter wrote a great post on it.

FAQs and how-to schema represent an interesting opportunity for SERP features such as featured snippets and PAAs, so why not give it a go? Having the right content & testing the right type of schema may help you win precious snippets or PAAs. In the future, I expect Google to increase the amount of markup that refers to informational queries, so stay tuned — and test, test, and test some more!

Think of the extended search volume opportunity

Without digging too much into this topic (it deserves a post on its own), I’ve been thinking about the following idea quite a lot recently:

What if we started looking at PAAs as organic listings, hence counting the search volume for the keywords that trigger such PAAs?

Since PAAs and other elements have been redefining the SERPs as we know them, maybe it’s time for us marketers to redefine how these features are impacting our organic results. Maybe it’s time for us to consider the extended search opportunity that such features bring to the table and not limit ourselves at the tactics mentioned above.

Just something to think about!

PAA can be your friend

By now, I hope you’ve learned a bit more about People Also Ask and how it can help your SEO strategy moving forward.

PAA can be your friend indeed if you’re willing to spend time understanding how your organic visibility can be influenced by such features. The fact that PAAs are now popular for a large portfolio of queries makes me think Google considers them a new, key part of the user journey.

With voice search on the rise, I expect Google to pay even more attention to elements like featured snippets and People Also Ask. I don’t think they’re going anywhere soon — so my dear fellow SEOs, you should start optimizing for the SERPs starting today!

Feel free to get in touch with us at Distilled or on Twitter at @SamuelMng to discuss this further, or just have a chat about who these people who also ask so many questions actually are…

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The Troubled Truth about a Certain Type of Storytelling

We all love to make predictions about the future, don’t we? Whether we think the outcome will be “good” or…

The post The Troubled Truth about a Certain Type of Storytelling appeared first on Copyblogger.


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SMX Overtime: Your questions answered about Google penalties and their impact on websites

SMX London attendees asked SEO expert Fili Wiese a wide-ranging number of questions about penalties, indexing, crawling and more.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Majestic’s enhanced tool now gives SEOs a lot more useful context about backlinks

New “link context” visualizes where the link appears on the page, the surrounding text and associated link density.



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Inbound Marketing: Do you care about the quality of your brand’s content?

An exploration of quantity-driven content marketing approaches and the role that quality should play.
MarketingSherpa Blog

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When It’s Time to Get Serious about Your Content and Copywriting

We write a lot about the importance of creativity in content marketing. Generic, flavorless content has very little chance of…

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How to Explain Your Job as a Copywriter (and Feel Good about It)

Well, this isn’t going to be easy … I’ve been working as a copywriter for 40 years now and still…

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MozCon 2019: Everything You Need to Know About Day Three

Posted by KameronJenkins

If the last day of MozCon felt like it went too fast or if you forgot everything that happened today (we wouldn’t judge — there were so many insights), don’t fret. We captured all of day three’s takeaways so you could relive the magic of day three. 

Don’t forget to check out all the photos with Roger from the photobooth! They’re available here in the MozCon Facebook group. Plus: You asked and we delivered: the 2019 MozCon speaker walk-on playlist is now live and available here for your streaming pleasure. 

Cindy Krum— Fraggles, Mobile-First Indexing, & the SERP of the Future 

If you were hit with an instant wave of nostalgia after hearing Cindy’s walk out music, then you are in good company and you probably were not disappointed in the slightest by Cindy’s talk on Fraggles.

  • “Fraggles” are fragments + handles. A fragment is a piece of info on a page. A handle is something like a bookmark, jump link, or named anchor — they help people navigate through long pages to get what they’re looking for faster.
  • Ranking pages is an inefficient way to answer questions. One page can answer innumerable questions, so Google’s now can pull a single answer from multiple parts of your page, skipping sections they don’t think are as useful for a particular answer.
  • The implications for voice are huge! It means you don’t have to listen to your voice device spout off a page’s worth of text before your question is answered.
  • Google wants to index more than just websites. They want to organize the world’s information, not websites. Fraggles are a demonstration of that.

Luke Carthy — Killer Ecommerce CRO and UX Wins Using A SEO Crawler 

Luke Carthy did warn us in his talk description that we should all flex our notetaking muscles for all the takeaways we would furiously jot down — and he wasn’t wrong.

  • Traffic doesn’t always mean sales and sales don’t always mean traffic!
  • Custom extraction is a great tool for finding missed CRO opportunities. For example, Luke found huge opportunity on Best Buy’s website — thousands of people’s site searches were leading them to an unoptimized “no results found” page.
  • You can also use custom extraction to find what product recommendations you or your customers are using at scale! Did you know that 35% of what customers buy on Amazon and 75 percent of what people watch on Netflix are the results of these recommendations?
  • For example, are you showing near-exact products or are you showing complementary products? (hint: try the latter and you’ll likely increase your sales!)
  • Custom extraction from Screaming Frog allows you to scrape any data from the HTML of the web pages while crawling them.

Andy Crestodina — Content, Rankings, and Lead Generation: A Breakdown of the 1% Content Strategy 

Next up, Andy of Orbit Media took the stage with a comprehensive breakdown of the most effective tactics for turning content into a high-powered content strategy. He also brought the fire with this sound advice that we can apply in both our work life and personal life.

  • Blog visitors often don’t have commercial intent. One of the greatest ways to leverage blog posts for leads is by using the equity we generate from links to our helpful posts and passing that onto our product and service pages.
  • If you want links and shares, invest in original research! Not sure what to research? Look for unanswered questions or unproven statements in your industry and provide the data.
  • Original research may take longer than a standard post, but it’s much more effective! When you think about it this way, do you really have time to put out more, mediocre posts?
  • Give what you want to get. Want links? Link to people. Want comments? Comment on others people’s work.
  • To optimize content for social engagement, it should feature real people, their faces, and their quotes.
  • Collaborating with other content creators on your content not only gives it built-in amplification, but it also leads to great connections and is just generally more fun.

Rob Ousbey — Running Your Own SEO Tests: Why It Matters & How to Do It Right 

Google’s algorithms have changed a heck of a lot in recent years — what’s an SEO to do? Follow Rob’s advice — both fashion and SEO — who says that the answer lies in testing.

  • “This is the way we’ve always done it” isn’t sufficient justification for SEO tactics in today’s search landscape.
  • In the earlier days of the algorithm, it was much easier to demote spam than it was to promote what’s truly good.
  • Rob and his team had a theory that Google was beginning to rely more heavily on user experience and satisfaction than some of the more traditional ranking factors like links.
  • Through SEO A/B testing, they found that:
    • Google relies less heavily on link signals when it comes to the top half of the results on page 1.
    • Google relies more heavily on user experience for head terms (terms with high search volume), likely because they have more user data to draw from.
  • In the process of A/B testing, they also found that the same test often produces different results on different sites. The best way to succeed in today’s SEO landscape is to cultivate a culture of testing!

Greg Gifford — Dark Helmet’s Guide to Local Domination with Google Posts and Q&A 

If you’re a movie buff, you probably really appreciated Greg’s talk — he schooled us all in movie references and brought the fire with his insights on Google Posts and Q&A  

The man behind #shoesofmozcon taught us that Google is the new home page for local businesses, so we should be leveraging the tools Google has given us to make our Google My Business profiles great. For example…

Google Posts

  • Images should be 1200×900 on google posts
  • Images are cropped slightly higher than the center and it’s not consistent every time
  • The image size of the thumbnail is different on desktop than it is on mobile
  • Use Greg’s free tool at bit.ly/posts-image-guide to make sizing your Google Post images easier
  • You can also upload videos. The file size limit is 100mb and/or 30 seconds
  • Add a call-to-action button to make your Posts worth it! Just know that the button often means you get less real estate for text in your Posts
  • Don’t share social fluff. Attract with an offer that makes you stand out
  • Make sure you use UTM tracking so you can understand how your Posts are performing in Google Analytics. Otherwise, it’ll be attributed as direct traffic.

Google Q&A

  • Anyone can ask and answer questions — why not the business owner! Control the conversation and treat this feature like it’s your new FAQ page.
  • This feature works on an upvote system. The answer with the most upvotes will show first.
  • Don’t include a URL or phone number in these because it’ll get filtered out.
  • A lot of these questions are potential customers! Out of 640 car dealerships’ Q&As Greg evaluated, 40 percent were leads! Of that 40 percent, only 2 questions were answered by the dealership.

 Emily Triplett Lentz — How to Audit for Inclusive Content 

Emily of Help Scout walked dropped major knowledge on the importance of spotting and eliminating biases that frequently find their way into online copy. She also hung out backstage after her talk to cheer on her fellow speakers. #GOAT. #notallheroeswearcapes.

  • As content creators, we’d all do well to keep ableism in mind: discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. However, we’re often guilty of this without even knowing it.
  • One example of ableism that often makes its way into our copy is comparing dire or subideal situations with the physical state of another human (ex: “crippling”).
  • While we should work on making our casual conversation more inclusive too, this is particularly important for brands.
  • Create a list of ableist words, crawl your site for them, and then replace them. However, you’ll likely find that there is no one-size-fits-all replacement for these words. We often use words like “crazy” as filler words. By removing or replacing with a more appropriate word, we make our content better and more descriptive in the process.
  • At the end of the day, brands should remember that their desire for freedom of word choice isn’t more important than people’s right not to feel excluded and hurt. When there’s really no downside to more inclusive content, why wouldn’t we do it?

Visit http://content.helpscout.net/mozcon-2019 to learn how to audit your site for inclusive content!

Joelle Irvine — Image & Visual Search Optimization Opportunities 

Curious about image optimization and visual search? Joelle has the goods for you — and was blowing people’s minds with her tips for visual optimization and how to leverage Google Lens, Pinterest, and AR for visual search.

  • Visual search is not the same thing as searching for images. We’re talking about the process of using an image to search for other content.
  • Visual search like Google Lens makes it easier to search when you don’t know what you’re looking for.
  • Pinterest has made a lot of progress in this area. They have a hybrid search that allows you to find complimentary items to the one you searched. It’s like finding a rug that matches a chair you like rather than finding more of the same type of chair.
  • 62 percent of millennials surveyed said they would like to be able to search by visual, so while this is mostly being used by clothing retailers and home decor right now, visual search is only going to get better, so think about the ways you can leverage it for your brand!

Joy Hawkins — Factors that Affect the Local Algorithm that Don’t Impact Organic 

Proximity varies greatly when comparing local and organic results — just ask Joy of Sterling Sky, who gets real about fake listings while walking through the findings of a recent study.

Here are the seven areas in which the local algorithm diverges from the organic algorithm:

  • Proximity (AKA: how close is the biz to the searcher?)
    • Proximity is the #1 local ranking factor, but the #27 ranking factor on organic.
    • Studies show that having a business that’s close in proximity to the searcher is more beneficial for ranking in the local pack than in traditional organic results.
  • Rank tracking
    • Because there is so much variance by latitude/longitude, as well as hourly variances, Joy recommends not sending your local business clients ranking reports.
    • Use rank tracking internally, but send clients the leads/sales. This causes less confusion and gets them focused on the main goal.
    • Visit bit.ly/mozcon3 for insights on how to track leads from GMB
  • GMB landing pages (AKA: the website URL you link to from your GMB account)
    • Joy tested linking to the home page (which had more authority/prominence) vs. linking to the local landing page (which had more relevance) and found that traffic went way up when linking to the home page.
    • Before you go switching all your GMB links though, test this for yourself!
  • Reviews
    • Joy wanted to know how much reviews actually impacted ranking, and what it was exactly about reviews that would help or hurt.
    • She decided to see what would happen to rankings when reviews were removed. This happened to a business who was review gating (a violation of Google’s guidelines) but Joy found that reviews flagged for violations aren’t actually removed, they’re hidden, explaining why “removed” reviews don’t negatively impact local rankings.
  • Possum filter
    • Organic results can get filtered because of duplicate content, whereas local results can get filtered because they’re too close to another business in the same category. This is called the Possum filter.
  • Keywords in a business name
    • This is against Google’s guidelines but it works sadly
    • For example, Joy tested adding the word “salad bar” to a listing that didn’t even have a salad bar and their local rankings for that keyword shot up.
    • Although it works, don’t do it! Google can remove your listing for this type of violation, and they’ve been removing more listings for this reason lately.
  • Fake listings
    • New listings can rank even if they have no website, authority, citations, etc. simply because they keyword stuffed their business name. These types of rankings can happen overnight, whereas it can take a year or more to achieve certain organic rankings.
    • Spend time reporting spam listings in your clients’ niches because it can improve your clients’ local rankings.

Britney Muller — Featured Snippets: Essentials to Know & How to Target 

Closing out day three of MozCon was our very own Britney, Sr. SEO scientist extraordinaire, on everyone’s favorite SEO topic: Featured snippets!

We’re seeing more featured snippets than ever before, and they’re not likely going away. It’s time to start capitalizing on this SERP feature so we can start earning brand awareness and traffic for our clients!

Here’s how:

  • Know what keywords trigger featured snippets that you rank on page 1 for
  • Know the searcher’s intent
  • Provide succinct answers
  • Add summaries to popular posts
  • Identify commonly asked questions
  • Leverage Google’s NLP API
  • Monitor featured snippets
  • If all else fails, leverage ranking third party sites. Maybe your own site has low authority and isn’t ranking well, but try publishing on Linkedin or Medium instead to get the snippet!

There’s lots of debate over whether featured snippets send you more traffic or take it away due to zero-click results, but consider the benefits featured snippets can bring even without the click. Whether featured snippets bring you traffic, increased brand visibility in the SERPs, or both, they’re an opportunity worth chasing.

Aaaand, that’s a wrap!

Thanks for joining us at this year’s MozCon! And a HUGE thank you to everyone (Mozzers, partners, and crew) who helped make this year’s MozCon possible — we couldn’t have done it without all of you. 

What was your favorite moment of the entire conference? Tell us below in the comments! And don’t forget to grab the speaker slides here

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New Things I’ve Learned About Google Review Likes

Posted by MiriamEllis

Last time I counted, there were upwards of 35 components to a single Google Business Profile (GBP). Hotel panels, in and of themselves, are enough to make one squeal, but even on a more “typical” GPB, it’s easy to overlook some low-lying features. Often, you may simply ignore them until life makes you engage.

A few weeks ago, a local SEO came to me with a curious real-life anecdote, in which a client was pressuring the agency to have all their staff hit the “like” button on all of the brand’s positive Google reviews. Presumably, the client felt this would help their business in some manner. More on the nitty-gritty of this scenario later, but at first, it made me face that I’d set this whole GBP feature to one side of my brain as not terribly important.

Fast forward a bit, and I’ve now spent a couple of days looking more closely at the review like button, its uses, abuses, and industry opinions about it. I’ve done a very small study, conducted a poll, and spoken to three different Google reps. Now, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you.

Wait, what is the “like” button?

Crash course: Rolled out in 2016, this simple function allows anyone logged into a Google account to thumbs-up any review they like. There is no opposite thumbs-down function. From the same account, you can only thumb up a single review once. Hitting the button twice simply reverses the “liking” action. Google doesn’t prevent anyone from hitting the button, including owners of the business being reviewed.

At a glance, do Google review likes influence anything?

My teammate, Kameron Jenkins, and I plugged 20 totally random local businesses into a spreadsheet, with 60 total reviews being highlighted on the front interface of the GBP. Google highlights just three reviews on the GBP and I wanted to know two things:

  1. How many businesses out of twenty had a liked review anywhere in their corpus
  2. Did the presence of likes appear to be impacting which reviews Google was highlighting on the front of the GBP?

The study was very small, and should certainly be expanded on, but here’s what I saw:

60 percent of the brands had earned at least one like somewhere in their review corpus.

15 percent of the time, Google highlighted only reviews with zero likes, even when a business had liked reviews elsewhere in its corpus. But, 85 percent of the time, if a business had some likes, at least one liked review was making it to the front of the GBP.

At a glance, I’d say it looks like a brand’s liked reviews may have an advantage when it comes to which sentiment Google highlights. This can be either a positive or negative scenario, depending on whether the reviews that get thumbed up on your listing are your positive or negative reviews.

And that leads us to…

Google’s guidelines for the use of the review likes function

But don’t get too excited, because it turns out, no such guidelines exist. Though it’s been three years since Google debuted this potentially-influential feature, I’ve confirmed with them that nothing has actually been published about what you should and shouldn’t do with this capability. If that seems like an open invitation to spam, I hear you!

So, since there were no official rules, I had to hunt for the next best thing. I was thinking about that SEO agency with the client wanting to pay them to thumb up reviews when I decided to take a Twitter poll. I asked my followers:

Unsurprisingly, given the lack of guidelines, 15 percent of 111 respondents had no idea whether it would be fishy to employ staff or markers to thumb up brand reviews. The dominant 53 percent felt it would be totally fine, but a staunch 32 percent called it spam. The latter group added additional thoughts like these:

I want to thank Tess Voecks, Gyi Tsakalakis, and everyone else for taking the poll. And I think the disagreement in it is especially interesting when we look at what happens next.

After polling the industry, I contacted three forms of Google support: phone, chat, and Twitter. If you found it curious that SEOs might disagree about whether or not paying for review likes is spam, I’m sorry to tell you that Google’s own staff doesn’t have brand-wide consensus on this either. In three parts:

1. The Google phone rep was initially unfamiliar with what the like button is. I explained it to her. First, I asked if it was okay for the business owner to hit the like button on the brand’s reviews, she confirmed that it’s fine to do that. This didn’t surprise me. But, when I asked the question about paying people to take such actions, she replied (I paraphrase):

“If a review is being liked by people apart from the owner, it’s not considered as spam.”

“What if the business owner is paying people, like staff or marketers, to like their reviews,” I asked.

“No, it’s not considered spam.”

“Not even then?”

“No,” she said.

2. Next, here’s a screenshot of my chat with a Google rep:

The final response actually amused me (i.e. yeah, go ahead and do that if you want to, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you).

3. Finally, I spoke with Google’s Twitter support, which I always find helpful:

To sum up, we had one Google rep tell is it would be fine and dandy to pay people to thumb up reviews (uh-oh!), but the other two warned against doing this. We’ll go with majority rule here and try to cobble together our own guidelines, in the absence of public ones.

My guidelines for use of the review likes function

Going forward with what we’ve learned, here’s what I would recommend:

  1. As a business owner, if you receive a review you appreciate, definitely go ahead and thumb it up. It may have some influence on what makes it to the highly-visible “front” of your Google Business Profile, and, even if not, it’s a way of saying “thank you” to the customer when you’re also writing your owner response. So, a nice review comes in, respond with thanks and hit the like button. End of story.
  2. Don’t tell anyone in your employ to thumb up your brand’s reviews. That means staff, marketers, and dependents to whom you pay allowance. Two-thirds of Google reps agree this would be spam, and 32 percent of respondents to my poll got it right about this. Buying likes is almost as sad a strategy as buying reviews. You could get caught and damage the very reputation you are hoping to build. It’s just not worth the risk.
  3. While we’re on the subject, avoid the temptation to thumbs-up your competitors’ negative reviews in hopes of getting them to surface on GBPs. Let’s just not go there. I didn’t ask Google specifically about this, but can’t you just see some unscrupulous party deciding this is clever?
  4. If you suspect someone is artificially inflating review likes on positive or negative reviews, the Twitter Google rep suggests flagging the review. So, this is a step you can take, though my confidence in Google taking action on such measures is not high. But, you could try.

How big of a priority should review likes be for local brands?

In the grand scheme of things, I’d put this low on the scale of local search marketing initiatives. As I mentioned, I’d given only a passing glance at this function over the past few years until I was confronted with the fact that people were trying to spam their way to purchased glory with it.

If reputation is a major focus for your brand (and it should be!) I’d invest more resources into creating excellent in-store experiences, review acquisition and management, and sentiment analysis than I would in worrying too much about those little thumbs. But, if you have some time to spare on a deep rep dive, it could be interesting to see if you can analyze why some types of your brand’s reviews get likes and if there’s anything you can do to build on that. I can also see showing positive reviewers that you reward their nice feedback with likes, if for no other reason than a sign of engagement.

What’s your take? Do you know anything about review likes that I should know? Please, share in the comments, and you know what I’ll do if you share a good tip? I’ll thumb up your reply!

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