How Will Google’s New RankBrain Affect SEO?

What Exactly is Rank Brain?

google-rankbrain You may have heard about Google’s new artificial intelligence (AI) system, RankBrain. Before visions of Skynet start coming to mind, we’d like to confirm that it’s not exactly that. RankBrain is actually Google’s latest effort to help better process search results. In short, it helps with the output of the “correct” answer when users input more long-tail and complicated questions. RankBrain is not a new system for ranking but now part of Google’s overall search algorithm. RankBrain does not “learn” in real-time (yet!), but rather, it is given historical data offline, where it learns to make future predictions and continues to “learn”.

How is RankBrain Tied to Google Hummingbird?

We all know about Google Hummingbird and how it is also part of Google’s overall search algorithm. Think about RankBrain as being a new part of the Hummingbird algorithm. RankBrain is so closely related to Hummingbird as its main purpose is to interpret searches, mostly questions. Even though the query may not contain the actual keyword or phrase, it’s RankBrain’s job to figure out what the intention of the search is – in other words, reading between the lines.

Will RankBrain Change SEO?

RankBrain is new and definitely important. Note that Google has deemed it the THIRD most important ranking signal. While they will not reveal the top two factors, it is a big deal that their emphasis on RankBrain is so public. While the thought of RankBrain completely changing SEO can be frightening, the reality is that organic SEO has been changing for some time now.

SEOs are probably very worried and/or intrigued about how RankBrain will affect organic optimization. Although we don’t have any definitive proof or information of RankBrain’s affect on SEO yet, the bottom line is still to optimize content and websites for the human user experience. That means writing naturally and staying away from rigid goals of keyword usage. It involves thinking about topics and concepts in an all encompassing manner, instead of just piecemeal, as it is done with traditional keywords.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or predictions about RankBrain, be sure to let us know!

 

What’s New with Google: October 2015 Edition

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What’s new with Google? Find out more about a new compression algorithm, a new warning for repeated violations, and a shake up in the Local Pack that includes paid (sponsored) listings!

Brotli and Compression

Yes, compression on the internet is a big thing and you don’t have to watch Silicon Valley to know that. Efficient compression is important, especially when optimizing for people and search engines. Named after the Swiss German ‘small bread’, Brotli is a new compression algorithm. In the future, hopefully most browsers will support this algorithm for faster page load times.

Repeated Violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

Moving on to penalty news. If website conversions are down and you suspect that your site may be affected, make sure to check out the Manual Action notification section of your Google Search Console. If your website has been affected, make sure to take all necessary steps to fix a penalty. This means complying with best practices and keeping things that way moving forward, even after the penalty has been removed! Some naughty webmasters may revert to their old ways after a penalty or manual unnatural linking action has been cleared. But be warned, Google is too smart to be outsmarted!

Google’s Frustrating and Shrinking Local Pack

Google’s Local 7 pack has been effectively shrunken down to 3 for some time now. This can be incredibly frustrating as this is where a lot of click-throughs occur, increasingly so on mobile devices. Though this has some heated opinions, Google has begun testing a new paid sponsored 3 pack in local results. They have been testing this in industries which are prone to spam and false locations, such as: plumbers and locksmiths. You can read more about that here.

Let us know what you think about this and more by visiting our Facebook page or emailing us at: info@emarketed.com.

Take Advantage of Schema Markup in Search Results

Describe Your Content the Right Way

schema-serps-example Structured data markup is an easy way to describe and annotate your content so that search engines have a better understanding of what your website is all about. Recently, web pages marked up with Schema markup have been showing up more in organic search results. Although search engines are very good and finding and categorizing information, structured data helps search engines better classify the most important parts of your website content.

Benefits of Stars, Ratings, and More

Structured markup such as star ratings and client reviews help a website stand out on a search results page. It can definitely help with click through and conversion rates, especially if your website prominently displays stars while competitors do not. Although Google officially states that Schema markup does not affect search rankings, it doesn’t hurt to implement this markup in the event that Google does want to display it. Make sure that each individual page and section is marked up accurately. Google is less likely to display structured data markup if it is the same across your entire website.

Is It Worth the Time and Effort?

Remember, the last time Google allowed markup to show up regularly in search results? That was way back in 2013, and then everyone started jumping on board, so that didn’t last very long. Implementing specific structured data on your website isn’t difficult or time consuming, there are plugins and generators that can help you get started. The window of time for benefits may be closing in, so take advantage of it while you still can because you never know when Google will change its mind and pull the plug again!

5 Reasons Your Web Pages Aren’t Indexed

slow-website-crawl Does it seem like Google is painfully slow at indexing your site, especially the inside web pages? There might be good reason to look into why your website isn’t being crawled, indexed, and cached as frequently.

1) Google Will Never Index All Your Pages

Plain and simple: Google Webmaster Trends Analyze John Mueller has publicly stated that Google will “never index all pages”. As disheartening as that sounds, there are just some things that are beyond your control. In the mean time, take a look at all the back end things that are within your control to make sure that you are doing everything possible to ensure the proper indexing of your website.

2) Check Your robots.txt File and Meta

Sometimes, after a redesign or website changes, funny things can happen to your robot.txt file or meta tags. This is especially true for WordPress sites where “NOFOLLOW,NOINDEX” can easily be applied to all or some of your web pages. Make sure that these options are disabled and that pages are set to FOLLOW,INDEX.

3) Domain or Partial Domain Penalty

If your website or some web pages have a penalty, the consequence is that they won’t show up or be indexed by Google. A good place to check for that is in the Manual Actions section in Google Search Console. This is extremely helpful for manual penalties but sites facing algorithmic penalties may have a harder time. If you still suspect some type of website penalty, check for duplicate and thin content.

4) Is Your Website Hacked or Infected?

Search Console is also a good place to check to see if Google thinks your site has been infected. If this is the case, Google has a legitimate reason to not index your website to prevent users from harm from the malicious content.

5) Not Enough Signals to the Web Page

If you have a really good, informative web page, it’s probably not the best idea to just add it to your website and have that be the end of things. Google will surely never see or find it that way. That is why it’s important to keep an updated sitemap and sitemap.xml file, to make it easier for Googlebot to crawl. Linking from the home page and relevant places in the navigation is also important. Aside from linking on your own website, it’s also necessary to link elsewhere: social media websites, third party review sites, relevant directories, and niche listings. The more helpful a website or web page is, the more likely it is that it will be linked to from a diverse amount of other websites.

People are Viewing Google SERPs Differently – How to Adapt

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Through the years, the way that Google has displayed search results has drastically changed. The space for paid ads have changed and been formatted differently (underlined, boxed, shaded, marked as paid ads, etc.) Local search results and the local pack has been making its way in and out of search results. Google Authorship photos have showed up and disappeared as quickly as they rose. Not to mention that organic results are pushed down more than ever. Because of the changing landscape, it shouldn’t be a surprise that user behavior has also changed when it comes to viewing Google search results.

Results of Eye Tracking Study

Examining user behavior in a recent study, the emphasis lies on debunking the myth of the “golden triangle” and a preference for horizontal scanning of results. In a study in 2005, it was thought that most users only look in the space that encompasses the top left hand side of SERPs, covering the top 4 organic searches and trickling down to form a triangle shape. This would skipping even the right hand section for paid ads.

The more recent study shows that eyes linger more on the first page of SERPs. Instead of just focusing on the left hand side, users start at the top left and gradually scan downwards. The scrolling back and forth behavior indicates looking at videos, local, maps, news, Knowledge Graph, and more in search results.

Less Time to Scan

Whether it’s due to experience or impatience, users are spending less time scanning. From the initial study 10 years ago, people would spend 15 seconds scanning. Now, that time is down to about 8 seconds. The difference is that users spend more time scanning vertically but less time before actually making their decision.

Takeaways from Search Behavior

As a small business, this information should be used to your advantage where possible. This means:
– Using short, concise, and straight to the point language in copy for meta descriptions and paid ads.
– Being relevant to the searcher. This means including geographic locations, phone numbers with local area codes, and important identifying adjectives to set yourself apart from the competition (free, best seller, highest rated, etc.)
– Expanding your brand reach and not putting all your eggs in one internet marketing “basket”. Focusing all your efforts into just one aspect of online marketing just won’t cut it anymore. In order to be successful, your business needs to diversify, including: organic, videos, local, social, paid ads, third party reviews, and more.

If you have questions about organic SEO and how you can improve your website’s visibility, call us at (323) 340-4010 for a free consultation and website review.

Google’s Core Algorithm Update: Summer 2015

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Notice a drastic change in SERPs this summer? Google denies a Panda or Penguin refresh or even an update to benefit sites that went HTTPS. The volatile update has been dubbed a core update to the algorithm.

Results of Update

Reports confirm that news and magazine sites benefited from the Google update. Sites like the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time and the Daily Mail saw a 11-20% increase in SEO visbility! Of course with all this shifting, many smaller businesses and brands were pushed down.

Freshness of Web Content

Since this update, there has been much speculation to what Google is trying to achieve. On one hand, it seems unfair that the bigger brands and news sources are getting a drastic push because let’s face it, a small business can’t compare with Time Magazine or Wikipedia. To continue with Google’s goal of satisfying the consumer, Google has been favoring recent and even real time news over static web pages and sites. In this way, it makes sense why they would prioritize reputable news sources and give them a boost with this recent update.

Assess Your Website’s Health

If you’ve suffered a drop in rankings or traffic, it’s time to assess your website’s health. Take a look at Google Analytics and Search Console to see if the drops coincide with the timeline of the core update. If the drops go back even further, your website may have suffered from the Quality update in May or even Mobilegeddon in April of 2015. Contact the SEO specialists at Emarketed today for a free site review and consultation. If you’re still suffering from a Google Penalty and aren’t sure what to do, we can help.

Will Your Website Make Google’s Mobile-Friendly Deadline?

mobile-friendly April not only marks the close of the dreaded tax season but something else this year. On April 21, 2015, Google will officially start use and expansion of a site’s mobile-friendliness as a website ranking factor.

They expect this change in SERPs to affect mobile worldwide and predict a “significant impact” in search results across the board. The reason? Google wants to improve the user experience when it comes to users finding and navigating relevant and high quality search results from their mobile devices.

Remember, websites are not “penalized” but mobile-friendly websites are given a boost in mobile SERPs. In other words, those who are mobile compliant will be rewarded. Also, this algorithm will be applied on a per page basis, not site-wide.

What Are Important Things to Know About Responsive Design?

  • Keep your design and vision cohesive across all devices
  • If possible, test to see how easily a potential customer can complete a “simple” task such as making a purchase or contacting your business
  • Remember that there are responsive website design options for all budgets
  • Stay organized from the beginning and it will simplify the process

Mistakes to Make with Responsive

  • Pushing off responsive until much later (especially if you have the time and resources)
  • Not analyzing or testing (bugs) on different browsers and phones
  • “Hiding” important content (this is where “read more” does not come in handy)
  • Using too much content at once (to much scrolling and text is not reader-friendly)
  • Setting videos and photos that in content to a set size so that they are not responsive

Thinking of Going Responsive?

Read http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search.html) today and let us know if you have any questions about responsive design for your website. Whether it’s a CMS or completely customized website, we’re ready to help.

Google Identifies Mobile-Friendly Pages

What you see on Google’s search results on a desktop computer should match up to what you see on a mobile device but the landscape is changing. For search results shown on a phone, Google is incorporating more local and mobile-friendly factors, making the actual results differ greatly from the desktop version, depending on your query and actual location. In somewhat big news, Google has taken the next step to actually labeling websites that are “mobile-friendly”.

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What Makes a Website NOT Mobile-Friendly?

Small text, big images, slow loading pages/sections, relying on Flash, are all things that make your website mobile-unfriendly. To Google, this means that your website is frustrating, not relevant and your website may be ranked under websites that are deemed “mobile-friendly”. You can see an example of the literal label here on their official blog.

What Adjustments Will You Have to Make?

Luckily, this mobile-friendly labeling has not rolled out completely yet and is expected to finish rolling out globally over the course of the next few weeks. Just another way of Google saying “Happy Holidays”, we suppose!

In order to be considered “mobile-friendly”, your website will have to meet these guidelines:

– Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
– Uses text that is readable without zooming
– Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
– Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

Check out your website here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ at Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to see what needs to be changed or fixed.

Make the Change Now… Or As Soon As Possible!

If your website is not mobile-friendly, this isn’t something to brush aside. The mobile audience only continues to grow and think of this label as the first step that Google is taking towards using actual mobile-friendliness as actual criteria for ranking!

Contact Emarketed today if you need assistance with a mobile or responsive website.

What is Google Contributor?

If you’re tired of ads on your favorite sites, Google has the perfect solution for you. And it involves you paying them!

How Does Contributor Work?

google-contributor

Deemed an “experiment”, it seems that Google is trying to figure out just how much users are willing to pay on a monthly basis in order to avoid ads. Users can opt in to pay Google $1 to $3 per month. According to Google, “The more you contribute, the more you support the websites you visit.” As a Contributor, you’ll be directly supporting your favorite sites since after Google keeps a portion of the fees, the rest will go to publishers. Just exactly how much goes to publishers isn’t clear yet either. After payment, in place of ads, you will see a “Thank You” note thanking you for being a Contributor.

What’s In It for Content Creators?

Although it’s not sure quite clear yet, Google also has plans to monetize this experiment for content creators and publishers. Popular sites such as Urban Dictionary, The Onion, Mashable and imgur are among the first few sites to be part of Google’s newest experiment. These high-visit sites signing up surely must mean that Google is on to something big and new, unless they just like taking a gamble…

Early Opinions On Google Contributor

Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable says, “I have strong doubts that this will work, strong doubts. I would have preferred to see this on the search ads, not the display network ads.”

Wired Magazine says, “But this approach may be too little, far too late. People are already used to getting content online for free. As much as they hate ads and ad tracking, they hate paying for free stuff even more.”

Want to Learn More?

This isn’t Google’s first venture into alternative means of income. YouTube Fan Funding was Google’s first foray into this arena. Viewers were given an opportunity to “Support” their YouTube stars in the amount of $1, $5 or more.

It might be awhile until something comes out of Contributor. Or it might be the latest Product to join the Google graveyard, along with: Google Buzz, Google Wave, and Google Answers. We’ll definitely keep our ears open and eyes peeled. Join the waitlist or read more about Contributor here: https://www.google.com/contributor/welcome/

5 Things Learned If Your Website Drops in Google

Imagine this scenario: your website had #1 rankings all across the board for years. You did anything and everything to keep it that way. This past weekend, those rankings dropped to page 10 overnight. Unfortunately, this does happen and will continue to happen. Google’s latest Panda and Penguin combo updates rolled out around the same time and as it takes weeks for an update to fully roll out, business owners everywhere were on edge. The Penguin refresh affected roughly 1% of queries, leaving some website owners seeing the full lifeblood of their online existence drain, literally overnight.

If this has happened to you, there are many lessons to learn. If this hasn’t happened to your site (or this time around), there are still some takeaways:

red-eye-penguin

1) Get ready for a long stretch – A drastic drop in SERPs isn’t going to be a quick and easy fix. The common misconception is that you did ONE thing that’s considered “wrong” in Google’s eyes and that fixing that ONE thing, will undo the drop immediately. In reality, unless you have a manual link penalty (and even then…), there are usually a number of factors that have caused the website’s drop in rankings.

This is a good time to set a plan of attack, set timelines, and evaluate how the drop in rankings will affect your bottom line.

2) Be careful in choosing your SEO company or if you take the DIY approach to SEO – Outsourcing your SEO is one thing, outsourcing it to a new or untrustworthy company is another. If your website has jumped from company to company, this may make pinpointing the problem even more problematic. While you can focus on on-page issues that are clearly in front of you, tackling off-page issues may prove to be more difficult.

While learning about the basics of SEO, dos & don’ts etc are commendable, you really shouldn’t be messing with on and off page optimization if you don’t know what you’re doing. This is where it helps to hire an SEO company or consultant, who has experience in white hat SEO and identifying and solving Google algorithm/penalty related ranking drops.

3) Don’t focus 100% on organic traffic – Putting all your eggs in one basket is a foolish thing to do, no matter what size budget your company has. It’s even more risky in today’s volatile Google landscape because not everything is transparent. Meaning that if you do encounter a problem like this, there isn’t going to be one clear answer.

Marketing basics stress the importance of a marketing mix, emphasis on the mix. It’s not a marketing ‘put-all-your-resources-into-one-thing’ deal. Luckily for online marketing, there isn’t just SEO. There are other channels to focus on: paid search, social media, traditional, video, email and more.

4) Consider a timeline for an ultimatum – You may be extremely tied to your URL but there may come a time when you have to ditch it for a new one. This ultimatum is hard but it can make or break your  business.

Depending on how you can meet your business goals without a website that is ranking it may come down to two choices: 1) Keeping the URL and trying for months (or years) to get it to rank again 2) Getting a new URL and spending months (or years) to get it to rank. This is a difficult choice and not a decision that should be made rashly. Consult with your SEO company on the best course of action and what is more realistic for your business.

5) No website is ever 100% Google Algorithm or Penalty proof – No matter how well a website ranks or how much business it brings you, you can’t assume that you’re completely excused from Google’s scrutiny. To assume that your website is perfect is dangerous and stubborn. Not to mention that being in this state of mind leaves you unprepared for a drastic rankings drop. There is always work to do on a website and legitimate, white hat ways to make it better. Don’t forget that!

If you have any questions about the latest Google updates or have a link penalty, read more here:
http://www.emarketed.com/google-penalty-removal/ and contact us today. You WILL NOT be charged until the unnatural link warning has been lifted from your website.