Tag Archive | "Updated"

Search Buzz Video Recap: Google Ranking Shifts, Google Snippets Shorter, Personalized Search Dead & Google News Updated

Earlier this week, we reported on more Google algorithm changes with web sites fluctuating in the search results. Google also confirmed they cut down the search results…


Search Engine Roundtable

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SearchCap: Google News updated, standout tag gone & e-commerce SEO

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.



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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How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing [Updated May 1, 2018]

Posted by sherrybonelli

Updated May 1, 2018

An important first step in any local SEO strategy is to claim and verify your local business’ Google My Business (GMB) listing. Getting on Google My Business can increase your chances of showing up in Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, Google Maps, and organic rankings in general. Qualifying local businesses can claim this free listing on Google and include information about their company, like their address, phone number, business hours, and types of payments accepted.

Additionally, over the past several months, Google has added some great features to Google My Business that companies should take advantage of that enhances your Google My Business listing and helps to grab viewers’ attention — and can increase how you rank in local search results.

If you haven’t claimed and verified your Google My Business Listing yet, that’s the first step. To get started, visit https://www.google.com/business.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Many local businesses just claim their GMB listing and forget about it. What most businesses don’t realize is that there are a variety of other features Google gives you that you can use to optimize your Google My Business listing and several reasons why you should frequently check your business listing to ensure that its accuracy stays intact. Want to know more?

Complete all the information Google asks for

There are a variety of questions Google wants you to fill out to complete your Google My Business profile. When done, your listing will have valuable basic data that will make it easier for potential customers to find more information about your company. And if you don’t fill out that information, someone else could. Many business owners don’t realize that anyone can suggest a change (or “edit”) to your business listing — and that includes your competitors.

When a searcher clicks on your GMB listing they see a “Suggest an edit” option:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

When someone clicks on that option they can literally edit your Google My Business listing (and make some pretty dramatic changes, too):

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

And these aren’t just “suggested” edits — these user-generated changes can actually be made live on your listing without you even being notified. This is just one reason why it’s very important that you log in to your Google My Business dashboard regularly to ensure that no one has made any unwanted changes to your listing.

Here’s how:

If you log in to Google My Business, you can switch back to the “Classic” dashboard here:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

In the classic dashboard, you might see “Google Updates” notifications.

If you see updates, these are changes that Google made to your business listing because either their algorithm found new information about your business (perhaps from another directory/citation site or a change they found on your Google Map) or a Google user submitted an edit that was published. (Yes, when people make “suggested edits,” they are not really “suggestions” -– the changes are often made live without you ever getting a notification or the opportunity to dispute the change!)

When you click on “Google Updates,” you’ll see a box that allows you to “Review Updates.” It’s here where you’re given the opportunity to remove incorrect information that may have been made by a troublesome Google user.

Now, Google supposedly sends out emails to the owner and others managing your Google My Business account when changes are made, but oftentimes those people never receive notifications about changes to their listing. So beware: you may (or may not) be notified by Google if changes are made to your listing. (For example, your business category could be changed from “criminal attorney” to the generic “lawyer” category, which could negatively impact your search rankings.) That’s why it’s extra important for you to log in and check your listing frequently (especially when, quite literally, some businesses have had their address and website URLs changed in their GMB listing by nefarious users.)

If you see a change that is incorrect and you have difficulty changing it (like a bogus review, for instance), create a new post explaining the situation in detail in the Google My Business forum and reach out to one of the Google Top Contributor volunteers for help.

Also, it’s important to realize that Google encourages people who are familiar with your business to answer questions, so that Google can learn more information about your company. To do this they simply click on the “Know this place? Answer quick questions” link.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

They’ll then be prompted to answer some questions about your business:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If the person knows the answer to the question, they can answer and then they’ll typically be asked another question. If not, they can decline.

Now, some business owners have cried foul, saying that competitors or others with malicious intent can wreak havoc on their Google My Business listings with these features. However, Google’s philosophy is that this type of user-generated content helps to build a community, more fully completes a business’ profile, and allows Google to experiment with different search strategies.

Just remember, after you get your Google My Business listing verified, continue to check your listing regularly to be on the safe side.

Once you have your GMB listing verified, now is the time to optimize your listing. (This is where you have a greater chance to outdo your competition!)

Google My Business Posts

Google Posts are almost like “mini-ads” or “social media posts” that show up in Google search in your Google My Business listing (in the Knowledge Panel and on Google Maps).

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

To get started with Posts, log in to your GMB dashboard and you’ll see the Posts option on the left-hand side:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

You can have fun with your Google My Business Posts by adding an image, a call-to-action (CTA), and even including a link to another page or website. If you’re using Yext, you can create GMB Posts directly from your Yext dashboard.

Not sure what type of Post you should make? Here are just a few Post ideas:

  • If you’re having an event (like a webinar or a seminar about your chiropractic practice) you can set up an event Post with a date and time, then add a link to the registration page.
  • Do you have a sale going on during a specific time? Create a “sale” event Post.
  • Does your latest blog post rock? Add a short description and link to the post on your blog.
  • New product you want to feature? Show a picture of this cool gadget and link to where people can make the purchase.
  • Want to spread holiday joy? Give potential customers a holiday message Post.

The possibilities with Posts are endless! Posts show up prominently in your business’ Knowledge Panel, so don’t miss this opportunity to stand out.

TIP: To grab a searcher’s attention, you want to include an image in your Post, but on Google Maps the Post image can get cut off. You might have to test a few Post image sizes to make sure it’s sized appropriately for Maps and the Knowledge Panel on desktop and mobile devices.

Want to have even MORE fun and potentially help your local SEO? Try adding relevant emojis to your Post. Google is beginning to index emoji-relevant search results. (In fact, you can now search Google by “tweeting” an emoji at it!) Additionally, people — especially younger people — are beginning to search (typically on their mobile devices) with emojis! So if a person is searching for “[pizza emoji] + nearby” and you own a local pizza restaurant and use the [pizza emoji] somewhere on your Google My Business listing — like in a Post with a special offer on a pizza order — you might have an SEO edge over the other pizzeria competitors in your city.

Not sure how to add emojis? If you’re using a Windows computer, you can add emojis by pressing the Windows key + the “.” OR “;” key at the same time on your keyboard. The emoji list of characters will appear and you can select the emoji you’d like to include (but don’t get carried away — one emoji is enough):

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

When people search using Chrome on their smartphones with an “emoji + near me,” you might be surprised by what they find:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

You got it! Google knew that I was looking for a great burger joint around my home! (Pretty cool, huh?)

Disclaimer: This strategy is still new and we’re not certain how adding emojis to your GMB listings impact these “emoji search results,” but if you have a related emoji that is pertinent to your business, you should definitely test it! (But don’t overdo the emojis — it gets obnoxious and doesn’t look professional if you go overboard.)

Posts stay live for seven days or “go dark” after the date of the event. (However, the old Posts still appear in your GMB listing — they’re just pushed down by the new Posts.)

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If you’re forgetful, Google is great about sending you reminders when it’s time to create a new Post.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

And remember, Posts show up prominently in mobile searches, so make your website stand out among search results by keeping your Posts “topped off.”

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

It’s important to note that at this time, hotels and B&Bs are not allowed to make Posts. That may change sometime in the future, so stay tuned!

Booking button feature

Google’s Booking button feature can really help your business stand out from the crowd. If you have any type of business that relies on customers making appointments and you’re using integrated scheduling software, people can now book an appointment with your business directly from your Google My Business listing. This can make it even easier to get new customers — they don’t have to leave Google to book an appointment with you!

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If you have an account with one of Google’s supported scheduling providers, the booking button is automatically added to your Google My Business listing. Take advantage of this integrated Google My Business feature if you use the booking providers, it’ll make it super simple to get new clients or customers.

Messaging

Did you know that you customers — and potential customers — can send you text messages? This is a great way to connect directly with people interested in what you have to offer, and a great way to engage with people looking at your GMB listing (and you know that Google is always watching engagement.)

To get started with Messaging, log in to your GMB dashboard and click on “Messaging”:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

You can then set up the message people will receive after they send you a message and your mobile phone number.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If you don’t want text messages sent to your personal phone number, you can download Google’s Allo app. When you set up your Allo account, use the same phone number connected to your Google My Business account. Now when someone messages you, the message will be sent to the Allo app instead of appearing alongside your personal text messages.

The Allo app is a great way to keep your personal and business text messages separate:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

This feature is still in its infancy, though. Right now, messaging is only available to mobile web users and is not available to mobile app or desktop users. People also won’t see the Messaging option in the Knowledge Panel or on Google Maps.

The ONLY way someone can message your business is if they perform a mobile web search on Chrome. (I expect that Google will expand the Messaging feature once they work the kinks out.)

Questions & Answers

Questions & Answers is a great feature for Google local search. It’s very cool! Just like it sounds, Q&A allows people to ask questions about your business and you can answer those questions.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

The Google My Business Questions & Answers feature is the perfect opportunity to hear directly from “the people” and you can respond to them. Win-win. However, according to a study done by Get Five Stars, 25 percent of locations on Google Maps have questions (and many of those questions are probably STILL unanswered).

Here are a few things to keep in mind about Questions & Answers:

  • On mobile devices, you can see, ask and answer questions on Google Maps on Android devices and when you search for your business on mobile browsers on both iPhone and Android devices. To use Google Maps on your Android device, download the Google Maps app and sign in with the email address you use for your GMB listing.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Ironically, you can’t see Questions and Answers on the Google My Business app.

  • No notifications of new questions show up in your GMB dashboard. To find out if you have new questions that need answering, you need to install Google Maps on your phone, log in, and check for questions/notifications. You can also go on a mobile browser, search for your business, and see if you have new questions that need to be answered.
  • Google has recently started sending out email notifications letting you know that a new question has been asked, but it’s possible that not everyone associated with your account receives these emails:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

This email notification is a BIG improvement over the lack of notification we’ve experienced so far with Q&As.

One thing you should do is be proactive and create a Frequently Asked Questions list to preempt people’s GMB Q&As. Check with your sales reps and your customer service staff to identify the questions people most often ask, then put those Q&A questions on your GMB listing.

TIP: Google has said that upvoting questions can make them more visible. If someone has a particularly important question, go ahead and upvote it.

WARNING: It’s important to note that just like “Suggest an Edit” on GMB, anyone can answer questions asked of your business. Therefore, you want to keep an eye out and make sure you answer questions quickly and ensure that if someone else answers a question, that the answer is accurate. If you find that someone is abusing your GMB listing’s Q&A feature, reach out to the Google My Business support forums.

Still have questions about Google Questions & Answers? You can read Google’s Q&A guidelines.

Google My Business online reviews

Unlike Yelp, which vehemently discourages business owners to ask their customers for reviews, Google encourages business owners to ethically ask their customers or clients for online reviews. (Yelp takes it to the extreme, in my opinion.) Online reviews appear next to your listing in Google Maps and your business’ Knowledge Panel in search results. Online reviews can help your business stand out among a sea of search results.

Additionally, online reviews are known to impact search result rankings, consumer trust, and click-through rates. According to BrightLocal’s 2017 Consumer Review Survey:

  • 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day
  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more
  • 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business
  • Responding to reviews is more important than ever, with 30% naming this as key when judging local businesses
  • 68% of consumers left a local business review when asked — with 74% having been asked for their feedback
  • 79% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year

If you follow Google’s guidelines for Google My Business reviews, you can ask your customers for reviews. (However, if you violate any of these policies, your reviews could be removed.)

Recently Google made some changes to their review guidelines. They have now changed it so that current and/or former employees can’t leave reviews. For business owners this is great news because it means that disgruntled and ex-employees with a grudge can no longer post bad reviews. Here is the new section that deals with Conflict of Interest:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Additionally, Google made some changes with regard to reputation marketing software. Reputation marketing software can help filter out people who were planning on leaving negative reviews so that they aren’t given the opportunity to leave that bad review online. (This is sometimes referred to as “review gating.”) Google wants to prevent that practice, so on April 12, 2018, Google updated their review policy to include information on this. In general, you don’t want to “Discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”

Also, whatever you do, do not offer a bribe in exchange for a review. Not only does it go against Google’s terms, it goes against the laws of reviews in general: do you really want to bribe someone to leave you a good review — or do you want to earn it?

When customers leave reviews for you — good or bad — make sure you respond to them. Not only does it show that customer that you appreciate their feedback, it also shows potential customers that you care.

So what happens if you get a negative review? First, don’t freak out. Everybody has a bad day and most people recognize that. Also, if you have a troll that gave you a one-star review and left a nasty comment, most people with common sense recognize that review for what it is. It’s generally not worth stressing over.

TIP: Asking someone to leave a review on Google is very cumbersome. To give your customers a direct link to your Google My Business listing so they can leave a review online for you, read and follow the directions in this post on How to Create a Direct Review Link to Your Google My Business Listing.

To learn more about strategically getting more online reviews, check out this article from Moz.

Photos and videos

The Internet used to be all about text and information, but more and more the visual appeal of the Internet is what grabs people’s attention — and that means photos and videos. Videos are so hot that you don’t even need sound. Studies show that as much as 85% of Facebook videos are viewed with the sound off.

However, many business owners are still under the misperception that to get into videos (or even photography) you have to hire a professional video production company or studio. Not true. Some of the best photos and videos are done on the fly — and with a smartphone!

Adding photos of your business is a great way to humanize your brand and let your customers get a “behind-the-scenes” look at what your company is all about… AND your customers can post photos on your Google My Business listing, too! (Surprise!)

AGENCY TIP: If you’re optimizing Google My Business listings for your clients, you know how difficult it is to get pictures from them so you can add them to their GMB listing. (Your clients are busy and often hard to track down.) There’s a new tool called localPics that solves that problem. This tool makes it super simple to send your clients text message reminders that it’s time to upload pictures. The owner (or whoever the designated “photographer” is) simply takes pictures or goes into their phone’s photo gallery, selects the pictures they want to upload, and the pictures are automatically uploaded to their Google My Business listing! What could be easier?

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

The ability to add photos to your Google My Business listing has been around for a while, but adding videos is a relatively new feature that Google introduced. Instead of being afraid, get excited! You can now add a 30-second video about your company that will grab people’s attention on the most popular place people go to search and find information: Google!

To get started, log in to your Google My Business dashboard. You will either see the “Add Videos” image on the Overview tab:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Or you can also click on the blue + sign to add a video:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

When you click on the “Add Video” button, you can either drag the video you want to upload or select the video from your computer.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

It’s super simple!

Google states that it can take up to 24 hours for the video to display, but most videos show up after just a few minutes. The videos should be 30 seconds long, but we’ve uploaded longer videos just fine. (Keep in mind that people have short attention spans, so don’t overdo it with videos that are too long — 30 seconds is just about right!)

Now, for you marketers out there that are salivating thinking of the great marketing and promotional videos you can upload, hold on for just a moment. Make sure your videos are taken at the place of business and are of people that work at your business or directly pertain to your business. (Google My Business is not the place for stock photos and marketing or promotional videos.) Google can remove the videos if the primary subject of the content is not related to the business location.

Owners who upload videos will be shown in the “By Owner” tab. When customers or clients upload videos, those videos will appear in the “Customer” tab. ALL of the videos will be displayed in the “Video” tab.

Google has given us some general Google My Business Video Guidelines to follow:

  • Duration: Up to 30 seconds long
  • File Size: Up to 100 MB
  • Resolution: 720p or higher

As a bonus, once you have two or more videos on your GMB listing, you’ll get a Videos subtab that shows up on mobile devices!

Business descriptions

Good news! Google now allows business owners to include a business description on your Google My Business listing. (And it’s about time!) Google recently made this announcement via Twitter and business owners were thrilled.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

As usual, Google has provided us with some guidelines to follow: Google Business Description Guidelines. It’s important you adhere to these rules because Google does review your business Description.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

You’re allowed 750 characters in your business description, but only 250 characters show up before they get cut off in the Knowledge Panel. So you want to make sure that you carefully create your business description and put the most important information and keywords — including your city — towards the front of the description.

Google really does review your business description to make sure people aren’t being deceptive or are spamming, so be sure to follow these guidelines:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

You only have 750 characters (and only 250 of those show up in the company’s Knowledge Panel), so you want to make sure that every character counts.

On a desktop computer, the business description appears in the Knowledge Panel towards the bottom, below your reviews. (It’d be great if Google would bump the business description up towards the top of the Knowledge Panel where it should be… Let’s hope they move it there soon!)

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

On a mobile device, you can only see a business’ description if you click on the About tab:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Services/Menus

If you sell services, like a spa, nail salon, hair salon, copying company, or even a holistic center, and have a “menu” of services, the new Services list in Google My Business is a great new addition. This feature is only available for food and drink, health, beauty, and other services businesses that don’t have a third-party “menu” link.

The Services list allows you to categorize and list out all your services (or food items) and prices so that potential customers can easily see what you have to offer.

This list itemizes out each service (or food item) you offer. To get started, log in to your Google My Business listing and click on Info:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Then scroll down and you will see the “Services” section where you can Add or edit your items:

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

This is where you can create categories, add items, and you can also add a description of each item (if you want to):

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

If you own a service business with set prices, I’d highly recommend you include your list of services and make sure you update these services and prices if things change.


Get more out of your GMB listing

Google is always looking at the engagement searchers and you, as the owner, are having with your Google My Business listing. The more interaction, the better your chances of ranking higher in the local three-pack and organic rankings in general. That means you need to keep optimizing your Google My Business listing.

As new features come out, plan on using them to keep your GMB listing fully optimized.

TECHIE TIP: If you’re managing multiple listings or franchises, you can use Google’s API v4.1 to more easily add Google My Business descriptions and Offer Posts. And if you’re really techie, you can even add “customer media endpoints” that allow users to retrieve photos and videos uploaded by customers at their business (normally GMB users aren’t notified of photo and video uploads).

Google has even introduced a new notification that alerts users who have opted in to receive alerts about newly posted media on their Google My Business Locations. Wow! (If you have someone on your team that can code, you’re at an advantage!)

Hopefully these features have given you a new reason to login to your Google My Business account and get busy! If you have any other questions about optimizing your GMB listing, let me know in the comments.

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Updated: A Breakthrough Resource for Your Content Creation

Way back in 2014, I wrote about a breakthrough resource for your content creation. Here’s what I had to say: “Finally, after years of clumsy, clunky automated tools for ‘spinning,’ scraping, regurgitating, and extruding low-quality content, we’ve found a solution. “This resource produces sharp, smart, audience-engaging content every time. Over time, it even calibrates itself to
Read More…

The post Updated: A Breakthrough Resource for Your Content Creation appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Updated: Google’s Ben Gomes expands role to head all of search as John Giannandrea moves to Apple to head AI

Role previously held by John Giannandrea to be split between Jeff Dean and Ben Gomes

The post Updated: Google’s Ben Gomes expands role to head all of search as John Giannandrea moves to Apple to head AI appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Troubleshooting Local Ranking Failures [Updated for 2018]

Posted by MiriamEllis

I love a mystery… especially a local search ranking mystery I can solve for someone.

Now, the truth is, some ranking puzzles are so complex, they can only be solved by a formal competitive audit. But there are many others that can be cleared up by spending 15 minutes or less going through an organized 10-point checklist of the commonest problems that can cause a business to rank lower than the owner thinks it should. By zipping through the following checklist, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find one or more obvious “whodunits” contributing to poor Google local pack visibility for a given search.

Since I wrote the original version of this post in 2014, so much has changed. Branding, tools, tactics — things are really different in 2018. Definitely time for a complete overhaul, with the goal of making you a super sleuth for your forum friends, clients, agency teammates, or executive superiors.

Let’s emulate the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which earned lasting fame by hitting on a simple formula for surfacing and solving mysteries in a most enjoyable way.

Before we break out our magnifying glass, it’s critical to stress one very important thing. The local rankings I see from an office in North Beach, San Francisco are not the rankings you see while roaming around Golden Gate park in the same city. The rankings your client in Des Moines sees for things in his town are not the same rankings you see from your apartment in Albuquerque when you look at Des Moines results. With the user having become the centroid of search for true local searches, it is no mystery at all that we see different results when we are different places, and it is no cause for concern.

And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and are in the proper detective spirit, let’s dive into how to solve for each item on our checklist!


☑ Google updates/bugs

The first thing to ask if a business experiences a sudden change in rankings is whether Google has done something. Search Engine Land strikes me as the fastest reporter of Google updates, with MozCast offering an ongoing weather report of changes in the SERPs. Also, check out the Moz Google Algo Change history list and the Moz Blog for some of the most in-depth strategic coverage of updates, penalties, and filters.

For local-specific bugs (or even just suspected tests), check out the Local Search Forum, the Google My Business forum, and Mike Blumenthal’s blog. See if the effects being described match the weirdness you are seeing in your local packs. If so, it’s a matter of fixing a problematic practice (like iffy link building) that has been caught in an update, waiting to see how the update plays out, or waiting for Google to fix a bug or turn a dial down to normalize results.

*Pro tip: Don’t make the mistake of thinking organic updates have nothing to do with local SEO. Crack detectives know organic and local are closely connected.

☑ Eligibility to list and rank

When a business owner wants to know why he isn’t ranking well locally, always ask these four questions:

  1. Does the business have a real address? (Not a PO box, virtual office, or a string of employees’ houses!)
  2. Does the business make face-to-face contact with its customers?
  3. What city is the business in?
  4. What is the exact keyword phrase they are hoping to rank for?

If the answer is “no” to either of the first two questions, the business isn’t eligible for a Google My Business listing. And while spam does flow through Google, a lack of eligibility could well be the key to a lack of rankings.

For the third question, you need to know the city the business is in so that you can see if it’s likely to rank for the search phrase cited in the fourth question. For example, a plumber with a street address in Sugar Land, TX should not expect to rank for “plumber Dallas TX.” If a business lacks a physical location in a given city, it’s atypical for it to rank for queries that stem from or relate to that locale. It’s amazing just how often this simple fact solves local pack mysteries.

☑ Guideline spam

To be an ace local sleuth, you must commit to memory the guidelines for representing your business on Google so that you can quickly spot violations. Common acts of spam include:

  • Keyword stuffing the business name field
  • Improper wording of the business name field
  • Creating listings for ineligible locations, departments, or people
  • Category spam
  • Incorrect phone number implementation
  • Incorrect website URL implementation
  • Review guideline violations

If any of the above conundrums are new to you, definitely spend 10 minutes reading the guidelines. Make flash cards, if necessary, to test yourself on your spam awareness until you can instantly detect glaring errors. With this enhanced perception, you’ll be able to see problems that may possibly be leading to lowered rankings, or even… suspensions!

☑ Suspensions

There are two key things to look for here when a local business owner comes to you with a ranking woe:

  1. If the listing was formerly verified, but has mysteriously become unverified, you should suspect a soft suspension. Soft suspensions might occur around something like a report of keyword-stuffing the GMB business name field. Oddly, however, there is little anecdotal evidence to support the idea that soft suspensions cause ranking drops. Nevertheless, it’s important to spot the un-verification clue and tell the owner to stop breaking guidelines. It’s possible that the listing may lose reviews or images during this type of suspension, but in most cases, the owner should be able to re-verify his listing. Just remember: a soft suspension is not a likely cause of low local pack rankings.
  2. If the listing’s rankings totally disappear and you can’t even find the listing via a branded search, it’s time to suspect a hard suspension. Hard suspensions can result from a listing falling afoul of a Google guideline or new update, a Google employee, or just a member of the public who has reported the business for something like an ineligible location. If the hard suspension is deserved, as in the case of creating a listing at a fake address, then there’s nothing you can do about it. But, if a hard suspension results from a mistake, I recommend taking it to the Google My Business forum to plead for help. Be prepared to prove that you are 100% guideline-compliant and eligible in hopes of getting your listing reinstated with its authority and reviews intact.

☑ Duplicates

Notorious for their ability to divide ranking strength, duplicate listings are at their worst when there is more than one verified listing representing a single entity. If you encounter a business that seems like it should be ranking better than it is for a given search, always check for duplicates.

The quickest way to do this is to get all present and past NAP (name, address, phone) from the business and plug it into the free Moz Check Listing tool. Pay particular attention to any GMB duplicates the tool surfaces. Then:

  1. If the entity is a brick-and-mortar business or service area business, and the NAP exactly matches between the duplicates, contact Google to ask them to merge the listings. If the NAP doesn’t match and represents a typo or error on the duplicate, use the “suggest an edit” link in Google Maps to toggle the “yes/no” toggle to “yes,” and then select the radio button for “never existed.”
  2. If the duplicates represent partners in a multi-practitioner business, Google won’t simply delete them. Things get quite complicated in this scenario, and if you discover practitioner duplicates, tread carefully. There are half a dozen nuances here, including whether you’re dealing with actual duplicates, whether they represent current or past staffers, whether they are claimed or unclaimed, and even whether a past partner is deceased. There isn’t perfect industry agreement on the handling of all of the ins-and-outs of practitioner listings. Given this, I would advise an affected business to read all of the following before making a move in any direction:

☑ Missing/inaccurate listings

While you’ve got Moz Check Listing fired up, pay attention to anything it tells you about missing or inaccurate listings. The tool will show you how accurate and complete your listings on are on the major local business data aggregators, plus other important platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Factual, Yelp, and more. Why does this matter?

  1. Google can pull information from anywhere on the web and plunk it into your Google My Business listing.
  2. While no one can quantify the exact degree to which citation/listing consistency directly impacts Google local rankings for every possible search query, it has been a top 5 ranking factor in the annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey as far back as I can remember. Recently, I’ve seen some industry discussion as to whether citations still matter, with some practitioners claiming they can’t see the difference they make. I believe that conclusion may stem from working mainly in ultra-competitive markets where everyone has already got their citations in near-perfect order, forcing practitioners to look for differentiation tactics beyond the basics. But without those basics, you’re missing table stakes in the game.
  3. Indirectly, listing absence or inconsistency impacts local rankings in that it undermines the quest for good local KPIs as well as organic authority. Every lost or misdirected consumer represents a failure to have someone click-for-directions, click-to-call, click-to-your website, or find your website at all. Online and offline traffic, conversions, reputation, and even organic authority all hang in the balance of active citation management.

☑ Lack of organic authority

Full website or competitive audits are not the work of a minute. They really take time, and deep delving. But, at a glance, you can access some quick metrics to let you know whether a business’ lack of achievement on the organic side of things could be holding them back in the local packs. Get yourself the free MozBar SEO toolbar and try this:

  1. Turn the MozBar on by clicking the little “M” at the top of your browser so that it is blue.
  2. Perform your search and look at the first few pages of the organic results, ignoring anything from major directory sites like Yelp (they aren’t competing with you for local pack rankings, eh?).
  3. Note down the Page Authority, Domain Authority, and link counts for each of the businesses coming up on the first 3 pages of the organic results.
  4. Finally, bring up the website of the business you’re investigating. If you see that the top competitors have Domain Authorities of 50 and links numbering in the hundreds or thousands, whereas your target site is well below in these metrics, chances are good that organic authority is playing a strong role in lack of local search visibility. How do we know this is true? Do some local searches and note just how often the businesses that make it into the 3-pack or the top of the local finder view have correlating high organic rankings.

Where organic authority is poor, a business has a big job of work ahead. They need to focus on content dev + link building + social outreach to begin building up their brand in the minds of consumers and the “RankBrain” of Google.

One other element needs to be mentioned here, and that’s the concept of how time affects authority. When you’re talking to a business with a ranking problem, it’s very important to ascertain whether they just launched their website or just built their local business listings last week, or even just a few months ago. Typically, if they have, the fruits of their efforts have yet to fully materialize. That being said, it’s not a given that a new business will have little authority. Large brands have marketing departments which exist solely to build tremendous awareness of new assets before they even launch. It’s important to keep that in mind, while also realizing that if the business is smaller, building authority will likely represent a longer haul.

☑ Possum effect

Where local rankings are absent, always ask:

“Are there any other businesses in your building or even on your street that share your Google category?”

If the answer is “yes,” search for the business’ desired keyword phase and look at the local finder view in Google Maps. Note which companies are ranking. Then begin to zoom in on the map, level by level, noting changes in the local finder as you go. If, a few levels in, the business you’re advising suddenly appears on the map and in the local finder, chances are good it’s the Possum filter that’s causing their apparent invisibility at the automatic zoom level.

Google Possum rolled out in September 2016, and its observable effects included a geographic diversification of the local results, filtering out many listings that share a category and are in close proximity to one another. Then, about one year later, Google initiated the Hawk update, which appears to have tightened the radius of Possum, with the result that while many businesses in the same building are still being filtered out, a number of nearby neighbors have reappeared at the automatic zoom level of the results.

If your sleuthing turns up a brand that is being impacted by Possum/Hawk, the only surefire way to beat the filter is to put in the necessary work to become the most authoritative answer for the desired search phrase. It’s important to remember that filters are the norm in Google’s local results, and have long been observed impacting listings that share an address, share a phone number, etc. If it’s vital for a particular listing to outrank all others that possess shared characteristics, then authority must be built around it in every possible way to make it one of the most dominant results.

☑ Local Service Ads effect

The question you ask here is:

“Is yours a service-area business?”

And if the answer is “yes,” then brace yourself for ongoing results disruption in the coming year.

Google’s Local Service Ads (formerly Home Service Ads) make Google the middleman between consumers and service providers, and in the 2+ years since first early testing, they’ve caused some pretty startling things to happen to local search results. These have included:

Suffice it to say, rollout to an ever-increasing number of cities and categories hasn’t been for the faint of heart, and I would hazard a guess that Google’s recent re-brand of this program signifies their intention to move beyond the traditional SAB market. One possible benefit of Google getting into this type of lead gen is that it could decrease spam, but I’m not sold on this, given that fake locations have ended up qualifying for LSA inclusion. While I honor Google’s need to be profitable, I share some of the qualms business owners have expressed about the potential impacts of this venture.

Since I can’t offer a solid prediction of what precise form these impacts will take in the coming months, the best I can do here is to recommend that if an SAB experiences a ranking change/loss, the first thing to look for is whether LSA has come to town. If so, alteration of the SERPs may be unavoidable, and the only strategy left for overcoming vanished visibility may be to pay for it… by qualifying for the program.

☑ GMB neglect

Sometimes, a lack of competitive rankings can simply be chalked up to a lack of effort. If a business wonders why they’re not doing better in the local packs, pull up their GMB listing and do a quick evaluation of:

  • Verification status – While you can rank without verifying, lack of verification is a hallmark of listing neglect.
  • Basic accuracy – If NAP or map markers are incorrect, it’s a sure sign of neglect.
  • Category choices – Wrong categories make right rankings impossible.
  • Image optimization – Every business needs a good set of the most professional, persuasive photos it can acquire, and should even consider periodic new photo shoots for seasonal freshness; imagery impacts KPIs, which are believed to impact rank.
  • Review count, sentiment and management – Too few reviews, low ratings, and lack of responses = utter neglect of this core rank/reputation-driver.
  • Hours of operation – If they’re blank or incorrect, conversions are being missed.
  • Main URL choice – Does the GMB listing point to a strong, authoritative website page or a weak one?
  • Additional URL choices – If menus, bookings, reservations, or placing orders is part of the business model, a variety of optional URLs are supported by Google and should be explored.
  • Google Posts – Early-days testing indicates that regular posting may impact rank.
  • Google Questions and Answers – Pre-populate with best FAQs and actively manage incoming questions.

There is literally no business, large or small, with a local footprint that can afford to neglect its Google My Business listing. And while some fixes and practices move the ranking needle more than others, the increasing number of consumer actions that take place within Google is reason enough to put active GMB management at the top of your list.


Closing the case

The Hardy Boys never went anywhere without their handy kit of detection tools. Their father was so confident in their utter preparedness that he even let them chase down gangs in Hong Kong and dictators in the Guyanas (which, on second thought, doesn’t seem terribly wise.) But I have that kind of confidence in you. I hope my troubleshooting checklist is one you’ll bookmark and share to be prepared for the local ranking mysteries awaiting you and your digital marketing colleagues in 2018. Happy sleuthing!

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How to Do a Content Audit [Updated for 2017]

Posted by Everett


This guide provides instructions on how to do a content audit using examples and screenshots from Screaming Frog, URL Profiler, Google Analytics (GA), and Excel, as those seem to be the most widely used and versatile tools for performing content audits.


{Expand for more background}


TABLE OF CONTENTS


What is a content audit?

A content audit for the purpose of SEO includes a full inventory of all indexable content on a domain, which is then analyzed using performance metrics from a variety of sources to determine which content to keep as-is, which to improve, and which to remove or consolidate.

What is the purpose of a content audit?

A content audit can have many purposes and desired outcomes. In terms of SEO, they are often used to determine the following:

  • How to escape a content-related search engine ranking filter or penalty
  • Content that requires copywriting/editing for improved quality
  • Content that needs to be updated and made more current
  • Content that should be consolidated due to overlapping topics
  • Content that should be removed from the site
  • The best way to prioritize the editing or removal of content
  • Content gap opportunities
  • Which content is ranking for which keywords
  • Which content should be ranking for which keywords
  • The strongest pages on a domain and how to leverage them
  • Undiscovered content marketing opportunities
  • Due diligence when buying/selling websites or onboarding new clients

While each of these desired outcomes and insights are valuable results of a content audit, I would define the overall “purpose” of one as:

The purpose of a content audit for SEO is to improve the perceived trust and quality of a domain, while optimizing crawl budget and the flow of PageRank (PR) and other ranking signals throughout the site.

Often, but not always, a big part of achieving these goals involves the removal of low-quality content from search engine indexes. I’ve been told people hate this word, but I prefer the “pruning” analogy to describe the concept.

How & why “pruning” works


{Expand for more on pruning}


How to do a content audit

Just like anything in SEO, from technical and on-page changes to site migrations, things can go horribly wrong when content audits aren’t conducted properly. The most common example would be removing URLs that have external links because link metrics weren’t analyzed as part of the audit. Another common mistake is confusing removal from search engine indexes with removal from the website.

Content audits start with taking an inventory of all content available for indexation by search engines. This content is then analyzed against a variety of metrics and given one of three “Action” determinations. The “Details” of each Action are then expanded upon.

The variety of combinations of options between the “Action” of WHAT to do and the “Details” of HOW (and sometimes why) to do it are as varied as the strategies, sites, and tactics themselves. Below are a few hypothetical examples:

You now have a basic overview of how to perform a content audit. More specific instructions can be found below.

The process can be roughly split into three distinct phases:

  1. Inventory & audit
  2. Analysis & recommendations
  3. Summary & reporting

The inventory & audit phase

Taking an inventory of all content, and related metrics, begins with crawling the site.

One difference between crawling for content audits and technical audits:

Technical SEO audit crawls are concerned with all crawlable content (among other things).

Content audit crawls for the purpose of SEO are concerned with all indexable content.


{Expand for more on crawlable vs. indexable content}

All of this is changing rapidly, though. URLs as the unique identifier in Google’s index are probably going away. Yes, we’ll still have URLs, but not everything requires them. So far, the word “content” and URL has been mostly interchangeable. But some URLs contain an entire application’s worth of content. How to do a content audit in that world is something we’ll have to figure out soon, but only after Google figures out how to organize the web’s information in that same world. From the looks of things, we still have a year or two.

Until then, the process below should handle most situations.

Step 1: Crawl all indexable URLs

A good place to start on most websites is a full Screaming Frog crawl. However, some indexable content might be missed this way. It is not recommended that you rely on a crawler as the source for all indexable URLs.

In addition to the crawler, collect URLs from Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, XML Sitemaps, and, if possible, from an internal database, such as an export of all product and category URLs on an eCommerce website. These can then be crawled in “list mode” separately, then added to your main list of URLs and deduplicated to produce a more comprehensive list of indexable URLs.

Some URLs found via GA, XML sitemaps, and other non-crawl sources may not actually be “indexable.” These should be excluded. One strategy that works here is to combine and deduplicate all of the URL “lists,” and then perform a crawl in list mode. Once crawled, remove all URLs with robots meta or X-Robots noindex tags, as well as any URL returning error codes and those that are blocked by the robots.txt file, etc. At this point, you can safely add these URLs to the file containing indexable URLs from the crawl. Once again, deduplicate the list.

Crawling roadblocks & new technologies

Crawling very large websites

First and foremost, you do not need to crawl every URL on the site. Be concerned with indexable content. This is not a technical SEO audit.


{Expand for more about crawling very large websites}


Crawling dynamic mobile sites

This refers to a specific type of mobile setup in which there are two code-bases –– one for mobile and one for desktop –– but only one URL. Thus, the content of a single URL may vary significantly depending on which type of device is visiting that URL. In such cases, you will essentially be performing two separate content audits. Proceed as usual for the desktop version. Below are instructions for crawling the mobile version.


{Expand for more on crawling dynamic websites}


Crawling and rendering JavaScript

One of the many technical issues SEOs have been increasingly dealing with over the last couple of years is the proliferation of websites built on JavaScript frameworks and libraries like React.js, Ember.js, and Angular.js.


{Expand for more on crawling Javascript websites}


Step 2: Gather additional metrics

Most crawlers will give you the URL and various on-page metrics and data, such as the titles, descriptions, meta tags, and word count. In addition to these, you’ll want to know about internal and external links, traffic, content uniqueness, and much more in order to make fully informed recommendations during the analysis portion of the content audit project.

Your process may vary, but we generally try to pull in everything we need using as few sources as possible. URL Profiler is a great resource for this purpose, as it works well with Screaming Frog and integrates easily with all of the APIs we need.

Once the Screaming Frog scan is complete (only crawling indexable content) export the “Internal All” file, which can then be used as the seed list in URL Profiler (combined with any additional indexable URLs found outside of the crawl via GSC, GA, and elsewhere).

This is what my URL Profiler settings look for a typical content audit for a small- or medium-sized site. Also, under “Accounts” I have connected via API keys to Moz and SEMrush.

Once URL Profiler is finished, you should end up with something like this:

Screaming Frog and URL Profiler: Between these two tools and the APIs they connect with, you may not need anything else at all in order to see the metrics below for every indexable URL on the domain.

The risk of getting analytics data from a third-party tool

We’ve noticed odd data mismatches and sampled data when using the method above on large, high-traffic websites. Our internal process involves exporting these reports directly from Google Analytics, sometimes incorporating Analytics Canvas to get the full, unsampled data from GA. Then VLookups are used in the spreadsheet to combine the data, with URL being the unique identifier.

Metrics to pull for each URL:

  • Indexed or not?
    • If crawlers are set up properly, all URLs should be “indexable.”
    • A non-indexed URL is often a sign of an uncrawled or low-quality page.
  • Content uniqueness
    • Copyscape, Siteliner, and now URL Profiler can provide this data.
  • Traffic from organic search
    • Typically 90 days
    • Keep a consistent timeframe across all metrics.
  • Revenue and/or conversions
    • You could view this by “total,” or by segmenting to show only revenue from organic search on a per-page basis.
  • Publish date
    • If you can get this into Google Analytics as a custom dimension prior to fetching the GA data, it will help you discover stale content.
  • Internal links
    • Content audits provide the perfect opportunity to tighten up your internal linking strategy by ensuring the most important pages have the most internal links.
  • External links
  • Landing pages resulting in low time-on-site
    • Take this one with a grain of salt. If visitors found what they want because the content was good, that’s not a bad metric. A better proxy for this would be scroll depth, but that would probably require setting up a scroll-tracking “event.”
  • Landing pages resulting in Low Pages-Per-Visit
    • Just like with Time-On-Site, sometimes visitors find what they’re looking for on a single page. This is often true for high-quality content.
  • Response code
    • Typically, only URLs that return a 200 (OK) response code are indexable. You may not require this metric in the final data if that’s the case on your domain.
  • Canonical tag
    • Typically only URLs with a self-referencing rel=“canonical” tag should be considered “indexable.” You may not require this metric in the final data if that’s the case on your domain.
  • Page speed and mobile-friendliness

Before you begin analyzing the data, be sure to drastically improve your mental health and the performance of your machine by taking the opportunity to get rid of any data you don’t need. Here are a few things you might consider deleting right away (after making a copy of the full data set, of course).


Things you don’t need when analyzing the data


{Expand for more on removing unnecessary data}

Hopefully by now you’ve made a significant dent in reducing the overall size of the file and time it takes to apply formatting and formula changes to the spreadsheet. It’s time to start diving into the data.

The analysis & recommendations phase

Here’s where the fun really begins. In a large organization, it’s tempting to have a junior SEO do all of the data-gathering up to this point. I find it useful to perform the crawl myself, as the process can be highly informative.

Step 3: Put it all into a dashboard

Even after removing unnecessary data, performance could still be a major issue, especially if working in Google Sheets. I prefer to do all of this in Excel, and only upload into Google Sheets once it’s ready for the client. If Excel is running slow, consider splitting up the URLs by directory or some other factor in order to work with multiple, smaller spreadsheets.

Creating a dashboard can be as easy as adding two columns to the spreadsheet. The first new column, “Action,” should be limited to three options, as shown below. This makes filtering and sorting data much easier. The “Details” column can contain freeform text to provide more detailed instructions for implementation.

Use Data Validation and a drop-down selector to limit Action options.

Step 4: Work the content audit dashboard

All of the data you need should now be right in front of you. This step can’t be turned into a repeatable process for every content audit. From here on the actual step-by-step process becomes much more open to interpretation and your own experience. You may do some of them and not others. You may do them a little differently. That’s all fine, as long as you’re working toward the goal of determining what to do, if anything, for each piece of content on the website.

A good place to start would be to look for any content-related issues that might cause an algorithmic filter or manual penalty to be applied, thereby dragging down your rankings.

Causes of content-related penalties

These typically fall under three major categories: quality, duplication, and relevancy. Each category can be further broken down into a variety of issues, which are detailed below.


{Expand to learn more about quality, duplication, and relevancy issues}

It helps to sort the data in various ways to see what’s going on. Below are a few different things to look for if you’re having trouble getting started.


{Expand to learn more about what to look for}


Taking the hatchet to bloated websites

For big sites, it’s best to use a hatchet-based approach as much as possible, and finish up with a scalpel in the end. Otherwise, you’ll spend way too much time on the project, which eats into the ROI.

This is not a process that can be documented step-by-step. For the purpose of illustration, however, below are a few different examples of hatchet approaches and when to consider using them.


{Expand for examples of hatchet approaches}

As you can see from the many examples above, sorting by “Page Type” can be quite handy when applying the same Action and Details to an entire section of the website.

After all of the tool set-up, data gathering, data cleanup, and analysis across dozens of metrics, what matters in the end is the Action to take and the Details that go with it.

URL, Action, and Details: These three columns will be used by someone to implement your recommendations. Be clear and concise in your instructions, and don’t make decisions without reviewing all of the wonderful data-points you’ve collected.

Here is a sample content audit spreadsheet to use as a template, or for ideas. It includes a few extra tabs specific to the way we used to do content audits at Inflow.

WARNING!

As Razvan Gavrilas pointed out in his post on Cognitive SEO from 2015, without doing the research above you risk pruning valuable content from search engine indexes. Be bold, but make highly informed decisions:

Content audits allow SEOs to make informed decisions on which content to keep indexed “as-is,” which content to improve, and which to remove.

The reporting phase

The content audit dashboard is exactly what we need internally: a spreadsheet crammed with data that can be sliced and diced in so many useful ways that we can always go back to it for more insight and ideas. Some clients appreciate that as well, but most are going to find the greater benefit in our final content audit report, which includes a high-level overview of our recommendations.

Counting actions from Column B

It is useful to count the quantity of each Action along with total organic search traffic and/or revenue for each URL. This will help you (and the client) identify important metrics, such as total organic traffic for pages marked to be pruned. It will also make the final report much easier to build.

Step 5: Writing up the report

Your analysis and recommendations should be delivered at the same time as the audit dashboard. It summarizes the findings, recommendations, and next steps from the audit, and should start with an executive summary.

Here is a real example of an executive summary from one of Inflow’s content audit strategies:

As a result of our comprehensive content audit, we are recommending the following, which will be covered in more detail below:

Removal of about 624 pages from Google index by deletion or consolidation:

  • 203 Pages were marked for Removal with a 404 error (no redirect needed)
  • 110 Pages were marked for Removal with a 301 redirect to another page
  • 311 Pages were marked for Consolidation of content into other pages
    • Followed by a redirect to the page into which they were consolidated

Rewriting or improving of 668 pages

  • 605 Product Pages are to be rewritten due to use of manufacturer product descriptions (duplicate content), these being prioritized from first to last within the Content Audit.
  • 63 “Other” pages to be rewritten due to low-quality or duplicate content.

Keeping 226 pages as-is

  • No rewriting or improvements needed

These changes reflect an immediate need to “improve or remove” content in order to avoid an obvious content-based penalty from Google (e.g. Panda) due to thin, low-quality and duplicate content, especially concerning Representative and Dealers pages with some added risk from Style pages.

The content strategy should end with recommended next steps, including action items for the consultant and the client. Below is a real example from one of our documents.

We recommend the following three projects in order of their urgency and/or potential ROI for the site:

Project 1: Remove or consolidate all pages marked as “Remove”. Detailed instructions for each URL can be found in the “Details” column of the Content Audit Dashboard.

Project 2: Copywriting to improve/rewrite content on Style pages. Ensure unique, robust content and proper keyword targeting.

Project 3: Improve/rewrite all remaining pages marked as “Improve” in the Content Audit Dashboard. Detailed instructions for each URL can be found in the “Details” column

Content audit resources & further reading

Understanding Mobile-First Indexing and the Long-Term Impact on SEO by Cindy Krum
This thought-provoking post begs the question: How will we perform content inventories without URLs? It helps to know Google is dealing with the exact same problem on a much, much larger scale.

Here is a spreadsheet template to help you calculate revenue and traffic changes before and after updating content.

Expanding the Horizons of eCommerce Content Strategy by Dan Kern of Inflow
An epic post about content strategies for eCommerce businesses, which includes several good examples of content on different types of pages targeted toward various stages in the buying cycle.

The Content Inventory is Your Friend by Kristina Halvorson on BrainTraffic
Praise for the life-changing powers of a good content audit inventory.

http://spot.goinflow.com/ecommerce-content-audit-toolkit

Everything You Need to Perform Content Audits

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Updated Google My Business guidelines disallows virtual offices as service-area businesses

Recently updated Google guidelines clarifies how virtual offices are handled for Google My Business listings.

The post Updated Google My Business guidelines disallows virtual offices as service-area businesses appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Google Updated Their Algorithm For “Did The Holocaust Happen?” Controversy?

Over the past week or so, Google has been getting some heat around various anti semitic and racist sites ranking well in their search results. One of those queries getting a ton of attention is [did the holocaust happen]…


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Updated: Google: Penguin Can Discount All Your Links, Good Or Bad

Gary Illyes from Google sent us this statement:

When speaking yesterday, a statement I made about manual actions was phrased in a way that sounded like I was talking about Penguin — that was incorrect and I apologize for the confusion…


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