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The Ultimate Guide for Taking Full Control of Your Google Business Profile and NMX

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The Ultimate Guide for Taking Full Control of Your Google Business Profile and NMX

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Ready for a deep dive into 40+ common features found on Google Business Profiles (GBPs) and the New Merchant Experience (NMX)? Here we go!

You may feel daunted by the fact that GBPs are major assets you rent from rather than owning because Google has always taken a crowdsourced approach to vital information that represents your company. You may also be disgruntled right now because you had gotten used to managing your listings in the historic Google Business Profile Manager dashboard, like this:

And now Google has ousted you from the familiar dashboard and tossed you into the chilly, unfamiliar pool of in-SERP listings management which we’re calling the New Merchant Experience and which looks like this:

You might rightly remark that major change was the last thing you needed right now as a local business owner or marketer. But, deep down, you know you’re going to have to get the hang of this sometime, and this column is here to help you with that. After all, with estimates as high as 70% – 80% of local business leads happening right within Google’s interface, you can’t ignore GBP. Instead, you’ve got to learn to control every bit of it that you can. This article will take you through the most common features of these listings, explain what you can and can’t control on them, and teach you how to manage controllable features in the NMX.

If, after reading this cheat sheet, you find you just can’t stand the clutter of trying to manage your listings via the NMX amid the crowded organic SERPs, remember that listings management software like Moz Local still offers the niceties of a clean, organized dashboard for those who require a quieter workspace.

Core features on most Google Business Profiles and NMX interfaces

There is significant variation of Google Business Profile and NMX features based on business industry and category. For example, hotel listings have elements that aren’t included in listings for plumbers or grocery stores. Google is continually experimenting with new features while demoting others. This section will cover some of the commonest elements available to most businesses.

Before we look at our graphic and key, it will help you to know that you can access the New Merchant Experience by searching within Google’s organic SERPs for the name of your business, or the name of your business + its city, or for the phrase “my business” while logged into your Google account.

1. See Photos

When clicked on, this takes the user to both owner and user-generated photos in a set. Photos significantly impact CTR. Photos must be monitored for spam. You can also upload videos to your photos section, but try to post more than 2 videos so that you’ll get a separate mobile video subtab. It’s also important to know that previous versions of Google’s local product offered an analytical feature called “Photo Insights” but this no longer exists in the NMX.

Controllable?

Partly — photos are both an owner and crowdsourced element.

Where to control?

By clicking on the “Add Photo” link in the listing or the NMX, you will be taken to the following wizard for uploading different types of photos.

If you wish to view all your photos for the purpose of identifying user-uploaded spam, click on the image, itself, in the listing, rather than the “add photos” link, and you will be taken to the interface where you can both see and flag photos.

2. Maps

When clicked on, this takes the user to the Maps-based listing accompanied by map with pin. Be sure your map marker is correctly placed.

Controllable?

Partly — owner can correct misplaced map marker, but users can submit placement edits, too.

Where to control?

If your map pin is in the wrong place, click on the “Edit Profile” link in the new interface, then click the “Location” tab at the top of the “Business Information” pop-up, then click on the map.

3. See Outside

When clicked on, this takes the public to an interactive Google Street View visual of the business. When you are logged in, clicking on the feature takes you to this interface for uploading your own exterior imagery:

Controllable?

Partly — the owner can upload their own exterior shots, but cannot control StreetView. You can flag issues.

Where to control?

Click on the “see outside” section of the Google Business Profile to upload photos.

4. Business name

This must reflect the real-world name of the business and be formatted according to Google’s guidelines. If you’re marketing a service area business like a plumbing franchise without storefronts, your name should match what appears on your website.

Controllable?

Yes — the business owner provides, though the public can suggest edits to this feature.

Where to control?

In the NMX, click the Edit Profile link and mouse over your name in this popup to edit it in the About section:

5. Website

This link takes you to whichever page of your website you’ve designated as the Google Business Profile landing page.

Controllable?

Yes — owner provides, though the public can edit.

Where to control?

In the NMX, click the Edit Profile link and mouse over your name in this popup to edit it in the Location section:

6. Directions

This link takes you to the maps-based driving directions from the user’s location to the place of business.

Controllable?

No. This experience is created by Google. However, see earlier advice if you need to move your map pin.

7. Save

When a user is logged into their Google account, clicking the “Save” button brings up the above pop-up, enabling them to store the business in their favorites or other areas like places they want to go or are planning to travel to.

Controllable?

No — Businesses do not control whether customers utilize the “Save” function.

8. Call

On mobile devices, clicking the “call” button automatically triggers a phone call to the business. On desktop, it brings up this popup asking the user to pick an app with which to start the call.

Controllable?

No — beyond ensuring that your phone number is accurate, this is not an area controlled by the business.

9. Star Rating

Google uses a simple mathematical average to calculate the overall rating of a business on the basis of all the star ratings reviewers have given the business. The star rating is considered the #1 review factor that customers use to differentiate one local business from another.

Controllable?

No — businesses cannot directly control or alter the star ratings they receive. Providing excellent customer experiences is the best way to earn the kind of reputation that results in a high Google Business Profile star rating.

10. Review Count

This is a simple count of the total number of Google-based reviews the business has received. Surveys indicate that consumers can become suspicious when any local business has either too few or too many reviews compared to its competitors. When clicked on, the review count takes the user to the main review overlay, which we will cover in full below.

Controllable?

No — the business cannot directly alter the count of its reviews, but can implement a review acquisition program to increase its total number of reviews over time.

11. Editorial Summary

This is one of the more diverse elements of the GBP. In our initial example, a common format is shown of Google taking the primary category and combining it with location information, like this, near the top of the listing:

However, other iterations may also be considered editorial summaries, including this example which cites a third party like Wikipedia and may appear further down in the listing:

And there is at least one other version that may appear within the reviews section of the listing, specifically cite Google as the originator of the summary, like this:

The nomenclature for these elements is loose, and Google may well have unique internal names for all three instances.

Controllable?

Partly — in the case where the primary category is included in the summary along with location information, the business is contributing the information that yields that summary, and in the case of well-known entities that have control of a Wikipedia page, there would be some editorial control built into the source from which Google is deriving the description, but overall, it is Google who generates these summaries.

12. Further Directional Cues

This is a feature which only appears on some Google Business Profiles. In this example, the user is being given information about the walking distance to nearby major local attractions with embedded links to those venues.

Controllable?

No, but do be sure your map pin is correctly located so that Google can easily identify whether your business is located near to local attractions.

13. Address

For brick-and-mortar businesses, this line must display a genuine, physical address that complies with Google’s extensive guidelines. For service area businesses that don’t serve customers at the company’s premises, Google wants the address to be hidden, and instead of showing a street address, an “area served” section like this will typically be shown:

Controllable?

Yes — brick-and-mortar business owners provide their address, though the public can suggest edits to it. Google has a dedicated page of instructions regarding listing and editing addresses.

Where to control?

From the NMX, click on “Edit Profile” and then the “Location” tab to edit your address. This is also where the toggle is located to hide or display your address.

For service area businesses, the place to edit your information is also located in the “Location” tab of the NMX. You can add up to 20 locations describing your service area, but its overall boundaries shouldn’t extend beyond about 2 hours of driving time.

14. Hours of operation

One of the key ways in which Google Business Profiles provide customer service is via the presence of accurate hours of operation. Be sure yours are kept up-to-date at all times, so no customer is inconvenienced by arriving at your premises to be greeted by a “closed” sign.

Controllable?

Yes — businesses add their hours, though the public can edit them. Businesses can also set special hours for holidays.

Where to control?

From the NMX, click on “Edit Profile” and then the “hours” tab to edit your information. You will also find a feature there for adding further special hours:

15. Phone

You can add a primary phone numbers and additional phone numbers to your listing. Google prefers that you use a local phone number rather than a call center helpline whenever possible, and they want your listed number to be in the direct control of your business. Your number can be either a landline or cell phone number, and it’s a best practice to be sure that whatever number you list is answered by staff who say the name of the business when they pick up. It’s not a good practice to have more than one business share the same phone number. For example, if you own both a Christmas tree farm and a woodworking studio on the same property and are listing each business separately, each business should have it’s own phone number. Premium-rate telephone numbers that charge callers high rates aren’t allowed.

Controllable? Yes — the business lists their numbers, but the public can suggest edits to them.

Where to control?


In the NMX, click “Edit Profile” and then “Contact” to see and edit your phone numbers. Related to this, the NMX also has a button labeled “Call”. When clicked on, this button will ask you if you want to enable Google’s call history feature, which you can read more about here:

16. Further Location Information

In our example, Google is providing additional location information. Some listings will have a province or county listed in this area. Others will have a different special feature called “located in” that can appear when a business or department is contained within another entity, like the parts department inside an automotive dealership:


Controllable?

Partly — the information about your province or county relates to the physical address you provide, but the separate “located in” feature can only be edited via Google Maps. If you wish to edit this feature, find your listing on Google Maps, click the “suggest an edit” button, and look for the “located within” area of the editor:

17. Suggest an edit

This function is available to any member of the public who wishes to suggest an edit to the listing. For example, an individual can let Google know they think your address, or hours of operation, or phone number is wrong.

Controllable?

No. Unfortunately, the suggest an edit feature is a cause of confusion and stress for many local business owners who have no control over whether or not members of the public suggest edits to listings. The difficulty of the scenario is summed up well by this Diamond Product Expert in Google’s help forum:

18. Own this business?

If you see this link on a listing, you either haven’t claimed the listing in question or are not logged into the account you used to claim the listing. Claiming a listing is the terminology for verifying with Google that you are authorized to take control of the management of a listing for a specific business. If, however, you are logged in properly and have already claimed the listing, you should see this link, instead:

Controllable?

Yes — you can claim listings you have the authority to represent and once you have claimed them, you can use the edit link to be taken to the NMX to edit your listing at any time.

19. Products

You can greatly enhance your listing by adding products to it representing key offerings in your inventory. These can be physical products, like retail goods, digital products, like software, or intangible products, like home services. You can add a price, description, buttons, and links for more information.

Controllable?

Yes — you can add products.

Where to control?


In the NMX, click “Edit Products” then click, “Add product” to be taken to the product editor.

20. Questions & Answers

Businesses are permitted to use this feature to upload questions they commonly receive and answer them. The public can also ask questions and answer the queries others have submitted. It’s important to continuously monitor this area of the GBP to be sure that questions from the public are receiving timely, authoritative answers from your brand, rather than random answers from the public which may or may not accurately reflect the business.

Controllable?

Partly — you can ask and answer questions but the public can also both ask and answer.

Where to control?


To add and answer questions, click the “Q&A” link in the NMX and you’ll be taken to this interface where you can either ask or answer questions.

21. Reviews

Reviews and owner responses are some of the key features that turn a static local business listing into an interactive two-way medium. For deep insight into the best strategies for review management, read The Impact of Local Business Reviews on Consumer Behavior | SEO Industry Report, but in brief, reviews are the main online seat of local business reputation, they influence local search rankings, and ratings, review text, and owner responses all have significant impacts on customer journeys. To avoid reputation damage and litigation, all review management practices must align with platform guidelines, like Google’s content guidelines, as well as the laws, like FTC guidelines, governing your country.

Controllable?

Partly — you can request reviews and respond to reviews, but you cannot control whether customers leave you reviews and you are not permitted to review your own business or incentives others to do so. Fraudulent reviews can be reported to Google in hopes of removal.

Where to control?

The NMX has several different menu items related to reviews, including “read reviews” and “ask for reviews”. Clicking on the former will take you to the entire review overlay, with “reply” functionality so that you can respond to each review or rating you receive:

Clicking on the latter will take you to a popup that generates a handy link to your review profile, with prompts to share that link via vehicles like email, WhatsApp or Facebook:

22. Updates (formerly known as Google Posts)

This feature is like a microblogging function located directly within your Google Business profile. It enables you to post new content to your listing on a regular business.

Controllable?

Yes, most business types (with some exceptions) can write updates.

Where to control?


Click the “add update” link in the NMX and you’ll be shown three types of posts you can write: updates, offers, and events. The first lets you add an image, a description, and a linked button and will stay live for six months before being archived. The second includes all these fields, plus a date range setting for the period in which your offer is live, and additional informational fields to further explain the terms of your offer. The third type includes fields for information like when your event starts and ends. Some listings may also feature discontinued post types.

23. People Also Search For

This is one of those areas that makes it clear that local business rent space from Google rather than owning it. Chances are, if you owned your Google Business Profile, you wouldn’t feature your competitors on it, but this is just what Google does.

Controllable?

No — you have no control over which competitors Google shows in this section of your listing.

Additional GBP and NMX Features

Some business categories have unique Google Business Profile features or elements we haven’t yet covered. The New Merchant Experience also includes some other functions we’ve yet to explore. Let’s dive back in!

Categories


Categories may be the most important feature that you control when it comes to the search phrases you want to rank for, and categories also determine many of the fields you’ll have in your Google Business profile. Your primary category may appear on its own near the top of your GBP, but it also may appear as part of your editorial summary. In order to see all of your categories live, you have to head over to Google Maps. There, by using a Chrome extension like GMBSpy, you can see all the categories both you and your competitors are using.

Controllable? Yes — businesses can choose primary and secondary categories.

Where to control? Click on “Edit Profile” in the NMX and edit your categories under the “About” tab.

Attributes

This is an experimental area of GBPs to which Google is always adding so that both businesses and the public can further define the characteristics of the business. Attributes can include information about who owns the business, or amenities, such as whether a building has gender-neutral restrooms, or protocols, such as whether an appointment is required to visit a business, or layout information, such as the presence of wheelchair-accessible entrances.

Controllable? Partly — businesses can add a great many attributes by clicking the “Business Information” tab in the NMX and then going to the “More” section. However, Google also crowdsources attributes from the public.

Description

Local businesses can write a 750 character description of themselves.

Price Summary


Some business listings display a pricing overview of 1-4 dollar signs.

Controllable?


Controllable?

Unknown – Google asks reviewers to evaluate the prices they’ve paid at businesses, as seen above. There has been past debate over whether the prices published by local businesses on their digital menus influence these attributes, but Diamond Product Expert Ben Fisher has confirmed with Google that these elements stem entirely from UGC.

Menu links


Google offers a variety of menu options for businesses. Food and drink businesses have a standard menu that can link to a page on their website or a third-party platform, and menus can be created within Google itself, including menus with photos added to them. Additionally, some businesses can create service menus in Google.

Controllable?

Yes — where relevant, businesses can create or link to menus of goods and services.

Where to control?

With thanks to Damian Rollison, logged in owners of food and drink establishments should see edit menu links in the NMX, as shown above.

Businesses offering a menu of services can edit them under the “Edit Services” link in the NMX, including adding custom services.

Booking


Businesses can feature several different booking and appointment functions on their listings, powered by a provider. For example, this instance on the listing of a dental practice stems from ZocDoc:

Controllable? Yes, relevant businesses can add booking and appointment features.

Where to control?

With thanks to Petra Kraft for the screenshot, applicable businesses should see a booking button in the NMX, as shown above. Businesses wishing to enable booking and appointment features must follow these instructions and can learn more about the Reserve With Google system here. Also pictured here is the “Waitlists” function tied to the Reserve with Google program for managing queues of potential diners.

See what’s in store

The See What’s In Store feature shows up on the Google Business Profiles of companies that have integrated the Pointy device into their point of sales system.

Controllable? Yes, if you are in the US, UK, CA, IE, or AU, have an appropriate point of sales system, and vend items with standard barcodes, you can apply to become part of this program.

Where to control? Google’s documentation states that, depending on how you signed up to be part of their See What’s in Store program, you will either be managing your inventory directly via Pointy or within your Google Business Profile.

Order online

Some GBPs may feature an order online button . When clicked on, it brings up a list comprised of the brand as well as third-party services that facilitate taking digital payments in exchange for goods that can then be picked up or delivered.

Controllable? Partly — business owners can opt into this, but there has been considerable controversy over the years about whether third-party providers in the delivery business are more of a bane or blessing to local brands, and whether or not its right for Google to promote these types of services on GBPs.

Reviews from the web


This features a rating summary and links to relevant third-party review sources, determined by Google.

Controllable?

Partly — owners can’t dictate which 3rd parties Google chooses, but they can work to build up positive reviews on featured sources.

Profiles


Google business profiles can feature icon-based links to major social media sites where the company has established a presence.

Controllable? No — there is no field in the NMX for adding your social media profiles, but best practice advice is to be sure they are featured on your website so that Google can easily associate them with the business.

Popular times


This Google Business Profile information is drawn from users who have opted into Google Location History. It’s meant to help users plan visits. It’s conceivable that this could be utilized as a ranking factor.

Controllable?

No.

Chat/Messaging


This feature enables customers to leave messages for businesses and receive responses.

Controllable? Yes — businesses can choose to opt into this.

Where to control? Google’s branding of this feature is messy. In the NMX it is labeled Messages, but when opting into the program, you will be shown a popup asking if you want to turn on “chat”, and customers will see buttons labeled “chat”. You can read more about this feature here.

Performance

The performance tab in the NMX takes you to the analytics data historically known as Insights. This is where Google reports on how the public is interacting with your listing.

Controllable? No — apart from changing the date ranges in this interface, this is not data you can edit.

Advertise

This link in the NMX takes you to where you can sign up to run paid advertising.

Controllable: Yes — local businesses can opt into Google Ads.

Admission

Some attractions feature admissions information on the Google Business Profile, with price comparisons for tickets.

Controllable? Not directly, though attractions can be sure pricing information is clear on their websites. This is a controversial feature, because Google states the following:

“Tickets are ranked based on several factors, but mainly by price. Official tickets are given preference in the ranking. Ticket suppliers don’t pay Google to appear in these search results and can’t pay to influence their ranking. Prices are based on standard adult entry and may vary depending on the specific ticket types, dates or eligibility for other discounts. Displayed currencies may differ from the currencies used to purchase tickets.

However, as can be seen in my above example of the GBP of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, the official website of the attraction is being outranked in the Admissions results by an entity that is not official and is also more expensive, contrary to Google’s statement of how this feature should work.

Experiences

Some Google Business Profiles may included nearby experiences. This screenshot is also from the GBP of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, and is displaying other things to do in Golden Gate Park.

Controllable? No — this information is provided by Google, not the business owner.

Opening date

It has been some time since I have seen an opening date featured on a GBP, though I frequently spot them in local pack results, but businesses do have the ability to tell Google the month and year in which they were founded.

Controllable? Yes — businesses can provide this information.

Where to control?

In the NMX, click on “Edit Profile” and then click on “Contact” to find the field for adding your founding date.

Lodging listings


Hotel profiles are unique to the point of being almost a different style of Google listing. They feature many distinct elements including price comparison, environmental practices, availability-based booking, and other features.

Controllable?

Mostly — owners have a variety of features they can enable and manage, though Google pulls in many elements from third parties including the public.

Where to Control? Hospitality marketers should familiarize themselves with these guidelines from Google.

Summing it up

Hopefully, this guide will act as a trusty flotation device the next time you need to manage something in your Google Business Profile via the New Merchant Experience. What I’ve learned from writing it is that if you click around long enough in the NMX, you can find most things, with a few exceptions like those that have been noted by friends like Damian Rollison and the good folks over at BrightLocal and Online Ownership.

This column has covered what the main features are and where to control them, but if you’re ready to move on to making the most of each element, read the popular Beginner’s Guide to Google Business Profiles for optimization and marketing tips. If you want to understand where GBPs fit within the larger framework of local search marketing, read The Essential Local SEO Strategy Guide for nine chapters of free, expert advice. Or, if you feel you’d benefit from investing in a more guided experience, consider registering for our video-based Local SEO Certification. Google will just keep changing – that’s a guarantee! Our best strategy, then, is to embrace continuing education. With determination and knowledge, we can all swim these laps for the win!



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Alternative Search Engines: Why They Matter and How to Rank on Them

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Alternative Search Engines: Why They Matter and How to Rank on Them

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

12 billion, 3 billion, 1 billion. That’s the number of searches made in some of the top alternative search engines monthly.

While Google still holds more than 80% of the market share, ignoring search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo can make you lose out on relevant traffic. So don’t limit yourself to Google’s algorithm as you plan the next year’s SEO strategy.

In order to grow in the digital economy, we have to diversify our efforts. What better way to do that than by making sure that you rank on all the top search engines relevant for your audience?

Generally, there’s two reasons why your audience would choose an alternative search engine over Google: geopolitical reasons and/or privacy concerns.

As such, I’ve categorized the search engines below by global market share and by data privacy.

Top alternative search engines by global market share

When analyzing the global desktop market share of search engines throughout the last decade, there are a few small but mighty search engines that stand out. These are:

1) Bing

2) Yahoo

3) Yandex

4) DuckDuckGo

5) Baidu

These are the engines you want to give extra consideration if you intend to expand internationally. They all have their own unique search algorithms that are in many ways as complex and developed as Google’s.

Why they matter and how to rank on them

If you’re like me a few years ago, a die-hard Apple fan remarkably repulsed by Microsoft’s products (I’ve now converted to the seamless team of PC), you might think prioritizing resources to optimize content for Bing or other engines is a waste of time. What I failed to consider then, and what you might be overlooking, is geographic segmentation.

Do you want to reach the American audience using voice search? Consider Bing.

Are you expanding into China? Check out Baidu.

Each search engine matters because of its unique user types. Regardless of how small that market share might look on a global scale, if there’s regional search volume from your target audience, it’s worth the optimization.

Let’s go through them one by one.

Bing and Yahoo

Screenshot of bing.com, November 2022

Since 2018, Yahoo is exclusively powered by Bing Search. So as long as you rank in Bing, you’ll rank in Yahoo.

Bing Search, in combination with Yahoo, is without a doubt the strongest player after Google. Together, they have more than 10% of the global market share for desktop.

Now, some say that Bing’s market share will increase due to mergers and acquisitions, while others argue for its decline due to the death of Internet Explorer.

Still, all Microsoft browsers, such as Microsoft Edge Legacy and Chromium-based Microsoft Edge, have Bing as the default search engine, making Bing Search the natural choice for Microsoft product users. Yahoo, which is powered by Bing Search, is the default search engine for Mozilla’s browser Firefox, adding billions of impressions to Bing’s search results each year.

If we look at the United States alone, Microsoft sites own over 18% of the market share.

This is much due to their partnership with Amazon, where all voice-activated searches on Amazon Echo and Alexa are made with Bing Search.

Microsoft also pushes Bing further by offering easy rewards for searches and more advanced image search capabilities than Google.

Although the algorithms differ, optimizing for Bing search results is not much different than optimizing for Google. With a bit of fine tuning, it’s more than possible to come up with a strategy that allows for high rankings on both.

To rank on Bing, and thus Yahoo, make sure to do the following:

Infographic by AS Marketing, December 2022


1. List your business on Bing Places

Bing Places is the equivalent of Google My Business and is the fastest way to get your business ranking for local seo. Many even consider Bing Places to favor small business owners as Bing puts their information more prominently on display.

2. Upload an XML Sitemap using Bing’s Webmaster Tools

While the debate on how much sitemaps really do matter for Google SEO continues, uploading one with Bing’s Webmaster Tool for XML Sitemaps allows the algorithm to better categorize and manage your content, making it more visible and relevant to the search audience.

3. Match keywords in your content

Check that the exact keyword match can be found in your page titles, meta descriptions and overall content. It’s known that the impact of on-page tactics as a ranking factor is much greater in Bing than Google.

4. Keep your social media profiles up to date

Go social! Bing considers your social media presence more than any other search engine. The Webmaster Guidelines specifically states that Bing considers social signals from third-party platforms to rank your content. Bing might even extract certain information directly from your Facebook company page to your Bing Places display.

5. Use high-quality images to enhance your content

Bing’s image search is much more advanced than Google’s. If you want your landing page to rank, add high-quality design assets to showcase your offerings. If you want your blog to rank, attach too-long-to-read infographics to highlight your points. Like the one above.

Yandex

Screenshot of yandex.com, November 2022

Second to Bing is Yandex, having a total of 1.5% of the market share in global desktop search.

While it looks a lot like Google, its algorithm is different in many ways. Most prominent is the way Yandex indexes pages. Unlike Google’s almost continuous indexation, Yandex indexes pages sporadically. That means that you might have to wait around for a while before your site shows up on Yandex.

Despite this, it is still possible to rank on Yandex. You just need to have a bit more patience.

While waiting for your site to be indexed, take a look at the following:

1. Focus on tags over internal site structure

According to The Ultimate Guide to Yandex SEO, your header tag, title tag and slug are way more important than your internal site structure. In fact, it was only recently that Yandex started to support hreflang tags. Before that, Yandex only allowed the <head> hreflang implementation.

2. Consider search intent to rank

Some argue that Yandex meets search intent better than Google. The modern ICS score, which replaced the Thematic Index Citation, is determined by how relevant a site is to the query. Yandex uses its own version of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) test to determine relevance.

3. Eliminate toxic links

Many do not know this, but Yandex was actually the first search engine to roll out a link-based algorithm. Already in 2005, 7 years before Google’s Penguin algorithm, Yandex introduced the Nepot filter, which specifically looked at the impact of toxic link exchanges and spam links.

Baidu

Screenshot of baidu.com, November 2022

With over 3 billion searches daily, Baidu is the Google of China. If you want to do business in China, it’s the place to be.

While the site is available worldwide, the site predominantly favors simplified Chinese. So before taking any other steps, hire a native speaker to help you along the way. To win at global, you have to ditch translations.

Here’s a few steps to get your content ranking.

1. Localize your keywords and content appropriately

As with all multilingual SEO, you need to work with a native language expert to ensure proper keyword localization and content optimization. If your site experiences high bounce rates, Baidu will tank your rankings immediately. As with any search experience, localization matters.

2. Position relevant content and keywords to the top of the page

Baidu favors a completely opposite layout than the Westernized one. The sooner you get to the point the better. Therefore, it is important to position your keywords as early as possible in the text and introduce all relevant content already in the top of the page to rank.

3. Obtain a verification level and get certified

By registering and paying a small fee you can obtain a verification level to improve your domain authority and rankings on Baidu. If you want to secure top ratings, you can get certified and obtain an ICP license, which is much more difficult than getting verified.

Top alternative search engines by data privacy

While most of the search engines mentioned above are tied to big corporations or political forces, global initiatives are setting the stage for more privacy-focused search engines. Among these is DuckDuckGo, the forefront runner with over 130 billion searches processed since launch.

Why they matter and how to rank on them

In many ways, the movement is a response to Google’s invasiveness on privacy. Many are fed up with how they are capitalizing on personal data and controlling the narrative with targeted search.

On a macro scale, the European Union continues to protect data privacy with strict GDPR regulations and the California Consumer Privacy Act indicates similar trends for Americans.

From a micro perspective, documentaries such as The Great Hack shine a light on how global companies monetize on personal data. As a result, privacy-safe search engines continue to rise.

If you’re working for an innovative SaaS startup, there’s a high chance your ideal customer persona is using one of these search engines.

Let’s go through how you rank on DuckDuckGo and two alternative equivalents.

DuckDuckGo

Screenshot of duckduckgo.com, November 2022

Screenshot of duckduckgo.com, November 2022

DuckDuckGo aims to make your search experience as simple and true to its cause as possible, i.e. no tracking for personalized search results and filter bubbles. Instead it uses semantic search to determine search intent for your queries from over 400 sources.

Consequently, this attracts tech-savvy experts with a lower bounce rate. Once they commit to a search, they stay.

Here’s how to optimize for it:

1. Sharpen Your User Experience

UX continues to make an impact on SEO, not to mention for DuckDuckGo. Make your content easily scannable and stay away from intrusive pop ups that harm your users’ experience and ease of navigation.

2. Focus on High-Quality Backlinks

As with any SEO, high-quality backlinks play a huge role for ranking. If you already have a solid backlink profile from your Google strategy, you should be good to go. If your backlink profile has a high level of toxicity, do some cleansing.

3. Rethink Local SEO

Since there’s no location tracking available for searches, location-specific searches such as “services near me” don’t work. If you like to rank for these types of searches, include a specific location in your keyword strategy. Otherwise, you won’t be able to optimize for local seo.

Startpage

Screenshot of startpage.com, November 2022

Startpage could be my personal favorite among the alternative search engines. It basically is Google without the tracking.

And while many consider DuckDuckGo to be the forefront runner of the privacy-focused search movement, many forget how Startpage ‘blazed the trail in 2006’. Offering a search experience without IP recording or tracking back when it was more or less unheard of. Now, it is the common denominator among all privacy-safe search engines.

So, how do you rank in Startpage? Simple. You rank in Google.

SwissCows

Screenshot of swisscows.com, November 2022

There are many more privacy-safe alternatives to search engines than the two mentioned above. Perhaps one without equal is SwissCows – a search engine that prides itself on being the only family-friendly, privacy-safe semantic search engine available on the web.

This means that any intrusive search results, like adult entertainment or offensive content, is naturally censored from the search results. At the same time, they never store any data nor track user specific information.

SwissCows SERPs bring up organic results and paid ads directly from Bing so in order to rank in SwissCows, you need to rank in Bing. Just make sure to omit any content that’s not PG-13.

What do they all have in common?

In the end, none of these alternative search engines can replace Google. As an SEO, I’ll never advise starting out with anything other than a Google strategy.

But when you are ready to branch out and extend your reach, give these alternatives a try. Analyze where your target audience hangs out and optimize thereafter.

Many of the privacy-focused search engines require little optimization as they pull their search results directly from other sources anyways. Simply do a quick check to see how you rank on each one.

And who knows, perhaps Microsoft will continue to steal more of the global search landscape. If that happens, you’ll be there — ranking in first position, ready to reap the rewards of your diversified efforts in an ever-changing search landscape.

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14 Best Screen Recorders to Use for Collaboration

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For your team, screen recorders can be used for several reasons — from creating tutorials for your website to recording a recurring tech issue to sending your marketing team a quick note instead of an email.

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Master the CX trifecta: Data, content and tech

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One thing will remain constant throughout this period — customers expect excellent experiences when interacting with a brand. According to Acquia’s latest CX Report, businesses plan to prioritize customer retention over the next 12 months: 56% plan to improve customer experience, and 58% will focus more on customer service.

This should be a common goal. To weather a potential storm, businesses must keep customers by meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Register today for “Master the CX Trifecta in 2023: Data, Content & Tech,” presented by Acquia,  and create the foundation for CX success this year and beyond.


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About the author

Cynthia Ramsaran

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for CNBC.com and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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