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5 Top Google Business Profile FAQs From The Official Help Forum

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Google Business Profile has gone through quite a few changes over the past several months.

A name change, new features, the push to manage business profiles in different ways, and more.

Business owners and marketing agencies try to keep up with all the changes – but it can be challenging.

Plus, because of its nature, everyone who uses Google Business Profile will encounter issues or problems at one point or another.

And sometimes, those problems or questions turn into major roadblocks.

Here are five frequently asked questions on the Google Business Profile Help Forum – and the answers.

(Now, if you think that none of these pertain to you, keep reading anyway – you never know when you will experience one of these issues. I’m just sayin’.)

1. How Do I Start Managing My Business Profile In Google Search?

You’ve probably seen the not-so-subtle blue banner at the top of the “Info” section in your Business Profile Manager encouraging you to manage your Business Profile directly on Google Search.

Or perhaps you’ve seen the “nudge” on the “Home” section of your dashboard:

Screenshot from Business Profile Manager, May 2022Manage Your Business Profile On Search

Either way, managing your Google Business Profile on Google search is something most business owners will have to get used to.

If you only have one business/location, soon, you will only be able to manage your Google Business Profile on Google search or the Google Maps App.

This pop-up recently started appearing when you log in to your Business Profile Manager:

Google Business Profile Management Moving To Google SearchScreenshot from Business Profile Manager, May 2022Google Business Profile Management Moving To Google Search

If you’re an agency or business that manages multiple Google Business Profiles, you can manage them from the Business Profile Manager. However, it’s still a good idea to understand how to manage profiles in search.

When you manage your profile on search, you can essentially do everything you can in the Business Profile Manager.

The challenge?

Until you get used to where everything is, you may have to hunt around for the fields and options you’re looking for.

How To Start Managing Your Business Profiles In Google Search

Make sure you’re logged into the account you use to manage your Google Business Profile.

Then search for your business name on Google (sometimes, you may have to enter your city and/or state.) You can also search for “my business.”

If everything goes right, you’ll see your Knowledge Panel on the right and the Merchant Panel off to the left.

Here’s how the management area looks.

You’ll see your Business Profile/Knowledge Panel and the Merchant Panel, where you will do most of your editing and management work.

The Merchant Panel includes the Menu where you will find all the ways you can dig in and update your Business Profile and Chips, which are “nudges” Google gives you on extra things you can do with your profile.

Anatomy of Managing Business Profiles on Google SearchScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Anatomy of Managing Business Profiles on Google Search

From the various menus, you can manage your Business Profile.

Business Profile Menus in Google SearchScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Business Profile Menus in Google Search

Here’s a brief breakdown of what you can do in the various menus.

Edit Profile  

This is where you can edit your main business information, like your contact information, URL, business hours, and other information about your company.

You can also add and delete products and services and upload photos and videos.

Edit MenuScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Edit Menu

Note: It’s typically in the Edit menu where you will find information that Google changed due to data found online that conflicts with the business owner’s info or changes that users suggested and Google approved.

If changes were made to your profile, you will get an email.

However, in Google search, you will have to hunt around the various menus to find what changed – whether to your hours, business name, website URL, address, products or services, etc.

(This is almost like an easter egg hunt, in my opinion.)

You will find Google changes highlighted in blue.

Google Updates In BlueScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Google Updates In Blue

Promote

From the Promote menu, you can see your Google Business Profile insights, create a shortened URL that you can send to customers so they can leave reviews for your business, upload photos and videos, create posts, and more.

Promote MenuScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Promote Menu

Customers

In the Customers menu, you can look at the reviews you’ve received and respond to them, see inbound call information if you have the call history feature turned on, read and reply to messages, and even answer the questions people ask your business in the Q&A section.

Customers MenuScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Customers Menu

Advanced Menu

The three dots next to the main menu is where you will find the advanced features.

Advanced MenuScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Advanced Menu

You can do more advanced features from this menu like add and remove managers and owners, see your Business Profile ID, edit labels, store codes, and other more advanced settings, and even mark your business as permanently closed or stop managing the profile.

Manage Business Profile SettingsScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Manage Business Profile Settings

You can also manage notifications and add a new business profile and other features. If you can’t find something in the regular menus, chances are it’s in the advanced menu.

Chips

You will also see “chips” in the Merchant Center.

Chips give you hints on optimizing your profile and doing other things.

Chips on Google searchScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Chips on Google search

Keep in mind that you can also select edits and features directly from your Knowledge Panel.

So now is the time to start practicing using Google search to manage your Business Profile.

2. My Google Business Profile is Suspended. What Do I Do?

There is nothing worse than seeing that heart-stopping notification telling you that your Google Business Profile has been suspended.

Suspension Notification on Google SearchScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Suspension Notification on Google Search

For many small to medium-sized businesses, Google Business Profile is their only form of marketing (which is not a smart idea, by the way).

When you put all your eggs in one basket and your basket breaks, you are in big trouble.

That’s what happens when your company gets its Google Business Profile suspended.

There are two kinds of suspensions: A “soft” suspension and a “hard” suspension.

With a soft suspension, your Knowledge Panel still shows up in search results, but you cannot make any changes to your profile – it’s almost as if your business is no longer verified.

Soft Suspension Google Business ProfileScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Soft Suspension Google Business Profile

If you get a hard suspension, your Business Profile does not appear on Google at all and is not visible to the public.

Hard Suspension Google Business ProfileScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, Screenshot Credit: Colan Nielsen, May 2022Hard Suspension Google Business Profile

Google doesn’t tell you why your Business Profile is suspended. It’s up to you to determine that.

So what do you do when your Business Profile gets suspended?

First, when your Business Profile is suspended, you need to carefully read Google Business Profile Guidelines and restricted content and identify which rule (or rules) your profile violates.

(Many people don’t realize that Google updates these guidelines frequently. And it’s your responsibility to ensure you’re up to date on the rules and that you follow them.)

I always suggest that you read the guidelines line-by-line while you have your business information pulled up to check your profile against the guidelines as you’re reading.

Once you have identified the issue(s), you need to fix the problem with your profile and then fill out a reinstatement request.

Note: Do not fill out more than one reinstatement request.

When you submit your reinstatement request, make sure you explain what the problem was and let Google know that you fixed the profile issue, providing proof that you are a legitimate business. You can do this by uploading:

  • Photos of your permanent business signage – both outside and inside your building.
  • A copy of your business license.
  • Registration with the Secretary of State or other business licensing governing body in your country.
  • A photo of a company vehicle with signage on it (if you’re a Service Area Business).
  • Phone bill with your business’s name and address on it, etc.

Essentially, you need to prove to Google that you are a real and legitimate business eligible for a Google Business Profile.

After you submit the Reinstatement Request, Google Business Profile Support will need time to review the information.

It typically takes three days for support to review your information and reply with their decision.

Once they evaluate your reinstatement request information, you will receive an email from their support team with their reinstatement decision.

After the Google Business Profile Support team responds to you about your suspension, you will need to correspond with the support team via those emails moving forward.

There will be a case ID in the subject line – an important number to keep track of.

Here are some more resources you can go to to find more information on what to do if your Business Profile gets suspended or learn more about how to fix your suspended Google Business Profile.

3. Service Area Business Moves From One State To Another State – But The Business Profile Still Shows Up In The Old State’s Search Results

This is an odd fluke that doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it causes chaos.

Here’s what occurs:

A Service Area Business (SAB) moves from one state to another state – let’s say, the business moves from California to Texas.

The business owner changes the address in their Business Profile to the new address in Texas.

As per the guidelines, they then delete their address and select Texas service areas.

Everything should be good to go, right? In most cases, things are all good.

But in some situations, the Service Area Business still shows up in search results for the old location and not the new location.

In the example below, the business moved from California to Texas. However, when you search for their business category in their old service area, their business still shows up.

Service Area Business still showing up in search results for old locationScreenshot from search for [DJ service Escondido CA], Google, May 2022Service Area Business still showing up in search results for old location

And when you search for the business in their new location in Texas, their Business Profile is nowhere to be found.

Service Area Business doesn't show up in search results for new location -- city and stateScreenshot from Google for [DJ service Schertz TX], Google, May 2022Service Area Business doesn't show up in search results for new location -- city and state

Even when you search specifically for DJ Services and the exact company name and Schertz TX (their new business location), the company’s Knowledge Panel doesn’t show up – even though The Knot recognizes that they are in Texas:

Knowledge Panel Doesn't Show Up For Exact SearchScreenshot from Google for [DJ services COMPANY NAME Schertz TX], Google, May 2022Knowledge Panel Doesn't Show Up For Exact Search

Remember, according to Google’s Guidelines, if you’re a Service Area Business and you move from one state to another state, you need to update your Google Business Profile’s address, and delete that address (because Service Area Businesses cannot publicly show addresses in their Business Profiles) and then select service areas.

If you are not asked to re-verify your Business Profile when you change the address, you may find yourself in this type of situation.

If this kind of freaky thing happens to your Business Profile, Google needs to manually change your address on their end.

To resolve this, the best route to take is to go to the Google Business Profile Help Forum and provide detailed information about the situation and give the following information:

  • Business name.
  • New address and old address.
  • Website URL.
  • And business profile ID.

You will need to ask a Gold Product Expert or higher to escalate your issue to Google so they can manually fix the problem.

Keep in mind that Google can take a while to respond to these situations, so you will have to be patient.

4. How Do I Add Managers Or Owners To My Google Business Profile?

Adding managers (or owners) to your Business Profile allows other people to help you manage your Business Profile.

First, if you’re granting access to others, make sure you trust them – especially if you’re giving access to digital marketing agencies.

Never make anyone else a Primary Business Owner.

There can only be one Primary Business Owner – and that should be the actual business owner.

Keep in mind that you must be an owner to add (or remove) users.

To add managers (users), you need to go to the advanced menu on the Merchant Panel in Google search. Click on the three dots next to the main menu.

Click on the three dots to get the advance featuresScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Click on the three dots to get the advance features

Then click on Business Profile Settings:

Business Profile SettingsScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Business Profile Settings

There you will see the Managers option where you can add, edit, or remove Business Profile managers:

Click on ManagersScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Click on Managers

To add a Manager or an Owner, click on Add and you’ll be taken to a dialog where you can send invitations to the person you’d like to add to your Google Business Profile.

Click Add Managers and OwnersScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Click Add Managers and Owners

Enter their email address and select the role you want to give them: Owner or Manager.

The Owner role allows the user to edit, add managers, and transfer ownership of the Business Profile – so choose these users and roles carefully.

The Manager role is the most limited and perfect for a digital marketing agency or an in-house staff member updating your Business Profile.

Invitation to Add Manager or Owner to Google Business ProfileScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Invitation to Add Manager or Owner to Google Business Profile

The person you added as a Manager or Owner will receive an email to accept and confirm that they want to manage your Business Profile.

Once they accept the invitation, they can manage your profile.

5. My Postcard PIN Won’t Work

What do you do if you receive your Google Business Profile PIN postcard in the mail, but the PIN doesn’t work?

This is likely happening because the postcard PIN verification code is invalid for several reasons.

First, the PIN verification codes expire after 30 days.

If it’s been longer than 30 days since you requested the postcard, the PIN code has expired, and you must request a new code. You will then have to wait for the new/replacement postcard.

While waiting for the second postcard to arrive, do not request another postcard or make any changes to your Business Profile – just to be safe (you’ll learn more in a second).

Keep in mind that there may be other issues.

Each PIN verification code is unique to your business and the business address you listed when you requested the postcard.

It’s vital that before you request any postcard, you first ensure the physical location is correct/accurate and meets Google’s address guidelines.

If your address doesn’t meet these address guidelines, your company is not eligible for a Google Business Profile.

Physical Address GuidelinesScreenshot from support.google.com, May 2022Physical Address Guidelines
Service Area Business Address GuidelinesScreenshot from support.google.com, May 2022Service Area Business Address Guidelines

There are several other possible reasons your PIN isn’t working.

Did you request a new postcard while waiting for the first one to arrive?

Or did you edit any major information in your Google Business Profile – such as your business name, address, category, or other info – while awaiting the PIN postcard?

If you requested a new PIN code postcard while the current postcard was in route, or edited certain information in your Business Profile, Google will cancel the code on the postcard in the mail.

(This step helps protect the integrity of your profile.)

So you will have to request a new postcard.

Example: Only the PIN code requested for the address entered in your Business Profile when the postcard was requested and mailed will work.

If you change your business address before the postcard PIN verifies your Business Profile, the PIN won’t work, and you must request a new code.

Another important thing. When you enter your PIN code, make sure that you don’t enter an incorrect code more than five times. If you do, your verification will permanently fail.

You must remove the Business Profile from your Google Account and make a new profile when that happens. So you essentially have to start over.

Also, Google only allows a business a limited number of verification attempts over a period of time – and you won’t be able to update your Business Profile name until you complete verification.

These are the main reasons PIN codes may not work.

If you requested a second postcard and you do not receive that postcard within approximately 14 days of your resend request, please fill out the Google Business Profile support form.

Lots Of Questions

Google Business Profile is definitely making lots of changes.

More features are being added – which is always a good thing.

New ways to manage your profile are being pushed.

But all of this leads to issues, questions, and more complexity.

It’s best to keep current on the guidelines, follow the rules, and stay up to date on new features and any of the latest bugs that may be going on.

More resources:


Featured Image: STEKLO/Shutterstock

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Navigating The SEO Career Landscape: Degrees, Myths, And Realities

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Navigating The SEO Career Landscape: Degrees, Myths, And Realities

In the dynamic realm of search engine optimization (SEO), my career spans nearly two decades, starting in 2004 when I started working for an agency and just two years later moved to in-house SEO for a large company.

Since then, I’ve held various in-house SEO roles at esteemed organizations, including Classmates.com, Concur, Smartsheet, ADP (usedcars.com), Nordstrom, Groupon, GitHub, and my most recent role at RingCentral – experiences which have deepened my understanding of the field and allowed me to shape SEO within different business contexts.

I began my career as an SEO specialist at the agency; my role involved understanding website optimization, keyword research, and refining on-page and off-page strategies.

When I moved to management, I had to understand how to lead a team properly.

As my journey progressed, transitioning to roles like SEO manager involved overseeing SEO strategies, developing comprehensive plans, educating and leading teams, and ensuring alignment with overarching business goals.

These roles collectively form the backbone of SEO, showcasing its dynamism and emphasizing each position’s indispensable role in driving effective digital marketing strategies.

My journey isn’t that much different from that of many SEO professionals, aside from the fact that some SEO pros may decide to stay with an agency or focus on consulting rather than working for another company.

There are so many avenues one could go down when choosing their career path for SEO, so let me help break it down.

SEO Roles

As someone immersed in the SEO field for many years, I fully understand today’s many diverse SEO roles.

Let’s explore these roles, the average salaries in the US, and advice I have for anyone looking to move into these roles, considering both their nuances and the path ahead for aspiring SEO professionals:

SEO Specialist

Embarking on the SEO journey often starts as a specialist. In this entry-level role, one will dig into the complexities of optimizing websites to boost rankings.

As a specialist, my early days involved conducting keyword research, analyzing website performance, and implementing strategies that enhanced organic visibility for clients.

This foundational role serves as a stepping stone to grasp the fundamentals of digital marketing in both the agency and in-house environments.

  • Salary*: $63,699 per year (Indeed).
  • Duties: Focus on entry-level content optimization, conducting keyword research, and honing on-page and off-page strategies.
  • Advice: This is a great role to grasp the fundamentals, immerse yourself in various facets of digital marketing, and adapt to evolving trends.

SEO Content Strategist

Transitioning to a content strategist role within SEO reveals the creative side of drafting engaging, search-engine-friendly content.

Most SEO pros in this position are expected to sharpen their writing skills and plan and optimize content calendars based on comprehensive keyword research.

As an SEO content strategist, creating informative and captivating content is paramount to retaining readers and adhering to evolving SEO best practices.

Technical SEO Manager

My background in engineering has allowed me to focus heavily on the technical aspects of SEO. The position as a technical SEO manager requires a solid knowledge of coding, engineering processes, and database management.

The role of a technical SEO professional involves handling site structure, indexing, and resolving intricate technical issues that impact search performance.

Responsibilities extend to collaborating with engineering teams, ensuring effective communication, and mitigating risks associated with technical SEO.

This role requires a unique blend of technical acumen and collaborative skills.

  • Salary*: $99,548 per year (Indeed).
  • Duties: Tackle technical aspects impacting search performance, focusing on site structure, indexing, and technical troubleshooting.
  • Advice: Understand what goes into the development of a website, including the various coding languages (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Java, Python, React, Angular, etc.), database connectivity, and server administration, followed by the specifics of what Google expects and recommends for the benefits of SEO. In addition, SEO pros are expected to cultivate collaboration skills and have a solid understanding of using tools like Botify to aid in effective communication with engineers, which is pivotal for project success and seamless cooperation.

Link Building Specialist

As a link building specialist, the focus shifts to acquiring high-quality backlinks to enhance website authority and rankings.

This role demands persistence in building relationships, performing strategic outreach, and executing link-building strategies.

SEO pros interested in pursuing a career focused on off-site SEO must demonstrate the meticulous effort and specialization required in acquiring valuable links, making this role a dynamic and rewarding part of the SEO landscape.

  • Salary*: $63,699 per year (Indeed).
  • Duties: Acquire high-quality backlinks from relevant sites to enhance website authority, involving relationship-building and strategic outreach.
  • Advice: Develop persistence and relationship-building skills; the role demands time and specialization in acquiring valuable links while avoiding what could be considered spammy links. It would be very detrimental to a link building specialist’s career if they were to get a website banned by Google for using bad practices.

Local SEO Specialist

Optimizing websites for local searches can be a specialized avenue in any SEO journey.

Local SEO specialists manage local citations and Google My Business profiles and ensure consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) data for region-specific platforms.

This role highlights the importance of attention to detail and local nuances for businesses aiming to attract nearby customers.

  • Salary*: $62,852 per year (Indeed).
  • Duties: Optimize websites for local searches, manage local citations and Google My Business profiles, and ensure NAP data consistency.
  • Advice: Understand the nuances of local SEO; attention to detail and consistency are key for localized online visibility. Learn the various tools available to help manage these listings, such as RenderSEO and Yext.

Ecommerce SEO Product Manager

Working at ecommerce companies brings a unique challenge of its own.

SEO product manager roles require an SEO pro to specialize in optimizing online stores; the focus shifts to product optimization, category pages, site structure, and enhancing user experience.

Balancing SEO knowledge with product management skills becomes essential in navigating this niche, offering both challenges and lucrative opportunities.

  • Salary*: $117,277 per year (Indeed).
  • Duties: Specialize in optimizing online stores, focusing on product optimization, category pages, and user experience.
  • Advice: Combine SEO knowledge with product management skills; leveling up enhances prospects in this unique and lucrative niche.

SEO Consultant

My role as an SEO consultant involved advising businesses on enhancing online visibility. Analyzing websites, developing customized strategies, and offering guidance on effective SEO became integral.

The SEO consultant role offers relief when I find myself out of work in my in-house roles due to a layoff or if the company culture isn’t a good fit.

While my consulting is a second and infrequent role, many SEO pros decide that consulting is what they prefer to do full-time.

Either way, providing optimization services to companies neglecting SEO is a great way to make a substantial income.

  • Salary*: $63,298 per year (Indeed).
  • Duties: Advise businesses on improving online visibility, analyzing websites, developing strategies, and offering SEO guidance.
  • Advice: Gain diverse optimization experience; providing services to companies neglecting SEO can yield rapid improvement.

SEO Account Manager

Anyone interested in an SEO account manager role will experience the dynamic facet of serving as a bridge between clients and staff.

Meeting clients to understand their needs and relaying information for improved optimization efforts is the cornerstone of this position.

Performance-driven account managers could earn additional commissions, adding an incentive-driven layer to the role.

  • Salary*: $68,314 per year (Indeed).
  • Duties: Serve as a company’s point of contact, meeting clients and relaying information for improved optimization efforts.
  • Advice: Understand industry standards; performance-driven account managers can earn additional commissions, boosting income.

SEO Data Analyst

An SEO data analyst role involves collecting and interpreting website performance and search rankings data.

Using tools like Google Analytics, Semrush, and Botify while obtaining knowledge of running SQL queries provides insights to inform strategic decisions.

This role underlines the significance of data analysis, specifically focusing on SEO-related metrics and their implications.

  • Salary*: $76,575 per year (Indeed).
  • Duties: Collect and interpret website performance and search rankings data, offering insights for strategic decisions.
  • Advice: Know how to run SQL queries and manipulate data in Excel. Focus on SEO-related data analysis and understanding traffic from various search engines to improve decision-making.

SEO Manager

The majority of my roles in my career have been under the SEO manager title.

Those roles involved overseeing entire SEO strategies, developing comprehensive plans, managing teams, and ensuring alignment with overarching business goals. This mid-to-senior-level management position requires a diverse skill set.

  • Salary*: $74,494 per year (Indeed).
  • Duties: Oversee entire SEO strategy, develop comprehensive plans, manage teams, and ensure alignment with business goals.
  • Advice: Understand what it takes to be a team leader. Nurture your team, build relationships in the organization, and articulate the benefits of what you’re asking to accomplish SEO growth. Management books like StrengthsFinder 2.0: Gallup by Don Clifton and Radical Candor by Kim Scott are great resources for becoming a good leader. If an SEO manager can tap into effective communication and leadership, the senior positions can lead to higher earnings of up to $210,000.

Notes:

The salary for the link building and local specialist roles are the same as that of an SEO specialist, since they tend to be at the same level.

In addition, the SEO product manager’s salary is taken from what a standard product manager makes since the roles are very similar.

Also, note that consultants can make upwards of $200,000 per year or more as they decide what to charge clients and how many clients they choose to take on.

*US National average salary reported by Indeed.com as of January 2024

Is SEO A Good Career Choice? Debunking Myths And Realities

Having navigated the dynamic landscape of SEO for over two decades, I have found that, while choosing a career in SEO has been rewarding, there are many things I would have done differently if I had the chance to do it all over again.

The good part about the SEO career path is that it unfolds across various roles, each offering unique challenges and opportunities for growth.

Starting from entry-level positions to assuming leadership roles like SEO manager, professionals gain a diverse skill set and invaluable experience.

However, it’s crucial to understand that the journey rarely leads to executive positions like director of SEO in larger companies and even more rarely to vice president positions.

The salaries of roles that SEO pros work with (i.e., product managers, engineers, growth managers, etc.) are much higher than what SEO pros usually make. So if it’s money you’re after in an SEO career, then you may be on the wrong path.

Agencies often embrace SEO professionals in executive roles, highlighting the need for a blended approach to SEO strategy involving in-house and agency collaboration. Still, the salaries tend to be less than for in-house roles.

Most SEO professionals should begin their journey as specialists and envision their desired position in 5 to 10 years.

If aspirations lean towards engineering, take the initiative to learn to code and acquire the necessary skills expected of an engineer. Collaborate closely with engineering teams, expressing a keen interest in contributing to their projects to transition to an engineering role.

For those eyeing executive roles in large corporations, strategically plan a career trajectory that navigates beyond SEO and aligns with roles leading to executive positions.

Typically, chief marketing officers (CMOs) have backgrounds in product marketing or growth marketing, progressing from directors to VPs in those domains before making the leap to CMO.

While SEO expertise enhances marketability, transitioning from SEO to these roles can be challenging. Therefore, be prepared to undertake the necessary steps to facilitate a smooth transition when the time comes.

For those contemplating an SEO career, embrace the diverse roles within SEO, each contributing to a robust skill set.

Junior roles provide foundational knowledge, strategists refine creativity and analytical abilities, and managers oversee comprehensive SEO plans.

It’s essential to evaluate personal preferences – whether one aspires to be a specialist excelling in a specific area or climb the ladder to managerial roles.

Be aware that large companies might not offer executive SEO positions, leading to the importance of understanding the industry’s dynamics and considering agency opportunities.

Education In SEO: Unveiling The Reality of Degrees

After spending over two decades submerged in SEO, a formal degree is not a prerequisite for a successful career in SEO.

My journey began with college, where I majored in English and Art History. However, realizing the potential in web design and development, I dropped out to focus on freelance work.

The SEO industry thrives on practical skills and hands-on experience, making degrees less significant.

Numerous online resources and guides offer a wealth of information to aid in mastering SEO techniques. It’s a field where continuous learning is integral, and personal initiative often surpasses the value of formal education.

The insights shared by others resonate with my own experiences. SEO is a realm where proven expertise often outshines academic credentials.

The industry includes individuals with diverse educational backgrounds, from MBAs to those without formal education. What matters most is the ability to adapt, learn, and implement effective strategies.

For aspiring SEO professionals, the key lies in taking the initiative, exploring online resources, and gaining practical experience.

Whether starting a business or pursuing a career, hands-on learning and staying updated with industry trends are the real benchmarks of success. While a degree might be a plus, it’s not mandatory for carving a rewarding path in SEO.

The Diverse Paths Of SEO

The potential routes within the SEO career landscape are numerous, starting with opportunities at agencies that provide an excellent learning ground, exposing individuals to various aspects of digital marketing.

Alternatively, one could enter an in-house position at a company where guidance from an experienced SEO professional is crucial.

Freelancing or working as an independent consultant presents another viable option, offering flexibility in the work environment and schedule.

The SEO career path encompasses a spectrum of roles, from entry-level to junior roles, strategists, managers, and senior managers, each with distinctive responsibilities and salary ranges.

Agency

One significant route involves commencing the journey at agencies, which serve as excellent learning grounds.

Working at an agency exposes individuals to various facets of digital marketing, offering a dynamic environment where skills are honed through hands-on experience.

This path allows for a comprehensive understanding of SEO within the broader context of marketing strategies.

In-House

On the other hand, individuals may choose to embark on an in-house position within a company.

The crucial guidance characterizes this path experienced SEO professionals provide in the corporate setting.

The in-house route often entails a deeper integration with the company’s goals and strategies, requiring a specialized skill set tailored to the organization’s needs.

Freelancing

For those inclined towards independence and flexibility, freelancing or working as an independent consultant represents a viable option within the SEO career landscape.

This path allows individuals to shape their work environment and schedules according to personal preferences.

Freelancers have the opportunity to work with a variety of clients, gaining diverse experiences that contribute to their professional growth.

Conclusion

In this exploration of the SEO career landscape, I am reminded of the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of SEO.

From my humble beginnings as a freelance developer optimizing websites to my most recent work as a consultant, each step has presented unique challenges and learning opportunities, adding to my comprehensive grasp of SEO.

These experiences have enriched my understanding of various business environments.

I hope this article helps readers interested in a career in SEO carve out a path for themselves.

More resources: 


Featured Image: New Africa/Shutterstock

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Technical SEO Checklist for 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

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Technical SEO Checklist 2024 Comprehensive Strategies

Technical SEO Checklist 2024 Comprehensive Strategies

With Google getting a whopping total of six algorithmic updates and four core updates in 2023, you can bet the search landscape is more complicated (and competitive) to navigate nowadays.

To succeed in SEO this year, you will need to figure out what items to check and optimize to ensure your website stays visible. And if your goal is to not just make your website searchable, but have it rank at the top of search engine results, this technical SEO checklist for 2024 is essential.

Webmaster’s Note: This is part one of our three-part SEO checklist for 2024. I also have a longer guide on advanced technical SEO, which covers best practices and how to troubleshoot and solve common technical issues with your websites.

Technical SEO Essentials for 2024

Technical SEO refers to optimizations that are primarily focused on helping search engines access, crawl, interpret, and index your website without any issues. It lays the foundation for your site to be properly understood and served up by search engines to users.

1. Website Speed Optimization

A site’s loading speed is a significant ranking factor for search engines like Google, which prioritize user experience. Faster websites generally provide a more pleasant user experience, leading to increased engagement and improved conversion rates.

Server Optimization

Often, the reason why your website is loading slowly is because of the server it’s hosted on. It’s important to choose a high-quality server that ensures quick loading times from the get-go so you skip the headache that is server optimization.

Google recommends keeping your server response time under 200ms. To check your server’s response time, you need to know your website’s IP address. Once you have that, use your command prompt.

In the window that appears, type ping, followed by your website’s IP address. Press enter and the window should show how long it took your server to respond. 

If you find that your server goes above the recommended 200ms loading time, here’s what you need to check:

  1. Collect the data from your server and identify what is causing your response time to increase. 
  2. Based on what is causing the problem, you will need to implement server-side optimizations. This guide on how to reduce initial server response times can help you here.
  3. Measure your server response times after optimization to use as a benchmark. 
  4. Monitor any regressions after optimization.

If you work with a hosting service, then you should contact them when you need to improve server response times. A good hosting provider should have the right infrastructure, network connections, server hardware, and support services to accommodate these optimizations. They may also offer hosting options if your website needs more server resources to run smoothly.

Website Optimization

Aside from your server, there are a few other reasons that your website might be loading slowly. 

Here are some practices you can do:

  1. Compressing images to decrease file sizes without sacrificing quality
  2. Minimizing the code, eliminating unnecessary spaces, comments, and indentation.
  3. Using caching to store some data locally in a user’s browser to allow for quicker loading on subsequent visits.
  4. Implementing Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to distribute the load, speeding up access for users situated far from the server.
  5. Lazy load your web pages to prioritize loading the objects or resources only your users need.

A common tool to evaluate your website speed is Google’s PageSpeed Insights or Google Lighthouse. Both tools can analyze the content of your website and then generate suggestions to improve its overall loading speed, all for free. There are also some third-party tools, like GTMetrix, that you could use as well.

Here’s an example of one of our website’s speeds before optimization. It’s one of the worst I’ve seen, and it was affecting our SEO.

slow site speed score from GTMetrixslow site speed score from GTMetrix

So we followed our technical SEO checklist. After working on the images, removing render-blocking page elements, and minifying code, the score greatly improved — and we saw near-immediate improvements in our page rankings. 

site speed optimization results from GTMetrixsite speed optimization results from GTMetrix

That said, playing around with your server settings, coding, and other parts of your website’s backend can mess it up if you don’t know what you’re doing. I suggest backing up all your files and your database before you start working on your website speed for that reason. 

2. Mobile-First Indexing

Mobile-first Indexing is a method used by Google that primarily uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. 

It’s no secret that Google places a priority on the mobile users’ experience, what with mobile-first indexing being used. Beyond that, optimizing your website for mobile just makes sense, given that a majority of people now use their phones to search online.

This change signifies that a fundamental shift in your approach to your website development and design is needed, and it should also be part of your technical SEO checklist.

  1. Ensuring the mobile version of your site contains the same high-quality, rich content as the desktop version.
  2. Make sure metadata is present on both versions of your site.
  3. Verify that structured data is present on both versions of your site.

Tools like Google’s mobile-friendly test can help you measure how effectively your mobile site is performing compared to your desktop versions, and to other websites as well.

3. Crawlability & Indexing Check

Always remember that crawlability and Indexing are the cornerstones of SEO. Crawlability refers to a search engine’s ability to access and crawl through a website’s content. Indexing is how search engines organize information after a crawl and before presenting results.

  1. Utilizing a well-structured robots.txt file to communicate with web crawlers about which of your pages should not be processed or scanned.
  2. Using XML sitemaps to guide search engines through your site’s content and ensure that all valuable content is found and indexed. There are several CMS plugins you can use to generate your sitemap.
  3. Ensuring that your website has a logical structure with a clear hierarchy, helps both users and bots navigate to your most important pages easily. 

Google Search Console is the tool you need to use to ensure your pages are crawled and indexed by Google. It also provides reports that identify any problems that prevent crawlers from indexing your pages. 

4. Structured Data Markup

Structured Data Markup is a coding language that communicates website information in a more organized and richer format to search engines. This plays a strategic role in the way search engines interpret and display your content, enabling enhanced search results through “rich snippets” such as stars for reviews, prices for products, or images for recipes.

Doing this allows search engines to understand and display extra information directly in the search results from it.

Key Takeaway

With all the algorithm changes made in 2023, websites need to stay adaptable and strategic to stay at the top of the search results page. Luckily for you, this technical SEO checklist for 2024 can help you do just that. Use this as a guide to site speed optimization, indexing, and ensuring the best experience for mobile and desktop users.

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Why Google Seems To Favor Big Brands & Low-Quality Content

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Why Google Seems To Favor Big Brands & Low-Quality Content

Many people are convinced that Google shows a preference for big brands and ranking low quality content, something that many feel has become progressively worse. This may not be a matter of perception, something is going on, nearly everyone has an anecdote of poor quality search results. The possible reasons for it are actually quite surprising.

Google Has Shown Favoritism In The Past

This isn’t the first time that Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) have shown a bias that favored big brand websites. During the early years of Google’s algorithm it was obvious that sites with a lot of PageRank ranked for virtually anything they wanted.

For example, I remember a web design company that built a lot of websites, creating a network of backlinks, raising their PageRank to a remarkable level normally seen only in big corporate sites like IBM. As a consequence they ranked for the two-word keyword phrase, Web Design and virtually every other variant like Web Design + [any state in the USA].

Everyone knew that websites with a PageRank of 10, the highest level shown on Google’s toolbar, practically had a free pass in the SERPs, resulting in big brand sites outranking more relevant webpages. It didn’t go unnoticed when Google eventually adjusted their algorithm to fix this issue.

The point of this anecdote is to point out an instance of where Google’s algorithm unintentionally created a bias that favored big brands.

Here are are other  algorithm biases that publishers exploited:

  • Top 10 posts
  • Longtail “how-to” articles
  • Misspellings
  • Free Widgets in footer that contained links (always free to universities!)

Big Brands And Low Quality Content

There are two things that have been a constant for all of Google’s history:

  • Low quality content
  • Big brands crowding out small independent publishers

Anyone that’s ever searched for a recipe knows that the more general the recipe the lower the quality of recipe that gets ranked. Search for something like cream of chicken soup and the main ingredient for nearly every recipe is two cans of chicken soup.

A search for Authentic Mexican Tacos results in recipes with these ingredients:

  • Soy sauce
  • Ground beef
  • “Cooked chicken”
  • Taco shells (from the store!)
  • Beer

Not all recipe SERPs are bad. But some of the more general recipes Google ranks are so basic that a hobo can cook them on a hotplate.

Robin Donovan (Instagram), a cookbook author and online recipe blogger observed:

“I think the problem with google search rankings for recipes these days (post HCU) are much bigger than them being too simple.

The biggest problem is that you get a bunch of Reddit threads or sites with untested user-generated recipes, or scraper sites that are stealing recipes from hardworking bloggers.

In other words, content that is anything but “helpful” if what you want is a tested and well written recipe that you can use to make something delicious.”

Explanations For Why Google’s SERPs Are Broken

It’s hard not to get away from the perception that Google’s rankings for a variety of topics always seem to default to big brand websites and low quality webpages.

Small sites grow to become big brands that dominate the SERPs, it happens. But that’s the thing, even when a small site gets big, it’s now another big brand dominating the SERPs.

Typical explanations for poor SERPs:

  • It’s a conspiracy to increase ad clicks
  • Content itself these days are low quality across the board
  • Google doesn’t have anything else to rank
  • It’s the fault of SEOs
  • Affiliates
  • Poor SERPs is Google’s scheme to drive more ad clicks
  • Google promotes big brands because [insert your conspiracy]

So what’s going on?

People Love Big Brands & Garbage Content

The recent Google anti-trust lawsuit exposed the importance of the Navboost algorithm signals as a major ranking factor. Navboost is an algorithm that interprets user engagement signals to understand what topics a webpage is relevant for, among other things.

The idea of using engagement signals as an indicator of what users expect to see makes sense. After all, Google is user-centric and who better to decide what’s best for users than the users themselves, right?

Well, consider that arguably the the biggest and most important song of 1991, Smells Like Teen Spirt by Nirvana, didn’t make the Billboard top 100 for that year. Michael Bolton and Rod Stewart made the list twice, with Rod Stewart top ranked for a song called “The Motown Song” (anyone remember that one?)

Nirvana didn’t make the charts until the next year…

My opinion, given that we know that user interactions are a strong ranking signal, is that Google’s search rankings follow a similar pattern related to users’ biases.

People tend to choose what they know. It’s called a Familiarity Bias.

Consumers have a habit of choosing things that are familiar over those that are unfamiliar. This preference shows up in product choices that prefer brands, for example.

Behavioral scientist, Jason Hreha, defines Familiarity Bias like this:

“The familiarity bias is a phenomenon in which people tend to prefer familiar options over unfamiliar ones, even when the unfamiliar options may be better. This bias is often explained in terms of cognitive ease, which is the feeling of fluency or ease that people experience when they are processing familiar information. When people encounter familiar options, they are more likely to experience cognitive ease, which can make those options seem more appealing.”

Except for certain queries (like those related to health), I don’t think Google makes an editorial decision to certain kinds of websites, like brands.

Google uses many signals for ranking. But Google is strongly user focused.

I believe it’s possible that strong user preferences can carry a more substantial weight than Reviews System signals. How else to explain why Google seemingly has a bias for big brand websites with fake reviews rank better than honest independent review sites?

It’s not like Google’s algorithms haven’t created poor search results in the past.

  • Google’s Panda algorithm was designed to get rid of a bias for cookie cutter content.
  • The Reviews System is a patch to fix Google’s bias for content that’s about reviews but aren’t necessarily reviews.

If Google has systems for catching low quality sites that their core algorithm would otherwise rank, why do big brands and poor quality content still rank?

I believe the answer is that is what users prefer to see those sites, as indicated by user interaction signals.

The big question to ask is whether Google will continue to rank what users biases and inexperience trigger user satisfaction signals.  Or will Google continue serving the sugar-frosted bon-bons that users crave?

Should Google make the choice to rank quality content at the risk that users find it too hard to understand?

Or should publishers give up and focus on creating for the lowest common denominator like the biggest popstars do?



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